Create a winning B2B sales enablement strategy: Your go-to guide
Shah Rukh Khan
Let’s face it.
Sales is hard, and it is getting harder as buying patterns evolve, product differentiation dies, and consumers become more informed than ever.
Sales enablement helps your sales reps navigate through this complex selling journey. It equips them with the knowledge, guidance, and resources to advance prospects through the sales pipeline and drive revenue.
But being still in its infancy, sales enablement is often misunderstood, or worse, misperformed. If you’re considering building a sales enablement team or just looking to equip your Sales team with the right sales enablement tools and strategies, this guide is for you. So let's dive in:
What is sales enablement?
First things first, what the heck is Sales enablement? Sales enablement, as the name suggests, is the art of enabling your sales representatives to sell better. This involves providing them with the training, content, and tools they need to engage, nurture, and convert prospects effectively and efficiently.
But is not limited to your Sales team only, it is a cross-functional discipline that unites stakeholders in sales, marketing, and operations to increase sales results and productivity.
Here’s how industry analysts define sales enablement:
“Sales enablement is composed of strategies, tools, and processes that provide sales reps with the ability to boost their productivity and revenue generation.” - TechTarget
“The sales enablement function is designed to evolve new seller skills, provide content that directly enables buyers, and teach sellers how to connect customers to the best tools and resources to assist in the completion of their critical buying tasks.” - Gartner
“Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.” - Forrester
What sales enablement is not?
Even within the sales community, sales enablement is a concept that has several myths and misconceptions associated with it. Ask five different sales reps and leaders, “What is sales enablement?” and you are likely to get five different answers.
And while those varying definitions might stand true for individual sales organizations, it is important to understand that sales enablement is not just another name for content marketing, marketing enablement, or sales training and operations. This visual below provides some context on how these functions vary from each other.
To truly understand what sales enablement is, it makes sense to first learn what sales enablement isn’t:
- Sales enablement is not a reactive action
Sales enablement is about working towards sales success proactively. It is not about fixing a problem after it arises. Instead, a B2B sales enablement strategy focuses on improving sales performance in a sustainable manner.
- Sales enablement is not a one-off activity
Sales enablement is not just about onboarding and training new sales reps. It goes beyond this by providing a clear framework for the progression and long-term success of the sales organization. This is achieved through continuous training and support as well as ongoing evaluation of the sales processes.
- Sales enablement is not transactional
While providing sales reps with high-quality, hyper-personalized content to share with prospects is a key element of sales enablement, it is not the only thing that forms a sales enablement strategy. A solid sales enablement strategy is also about using the right content formats and platforms to make sales enablement content easily and readily accessible to sales reps.
Why businesses should care about B2B sales enablement?
B2B buying has become more complex than ever. It involves a variety of stakeholders (often six to 10 people) with diverse purchase objectives. Each of these stakeholders spends a great deal of time comparing products that are more or less similar, conducting their individual research, and reaching conflicting results.
To navigate through this very complex and difficult journey, buyers need help. And this is exactly what businesses can achieve with B2B sales enablement.
Sales enablement not only improves the productivity of your marketing and sales organization, but also helps sales reps build information authority, guide buyers through the purchasing journey, and win them over.
Here are some key reasons why businesses should start taking sales enablement seriously:
1. Make maximum use of the time with buyers
The modern B2B buyer spends a whopping 67% of time researching independently or meeting the buying group. Only 17% of the buying journey is spent on meeting potential suppliers.
You would not want your sales reps to spend this precious time struggling to find essential content with the prospect. With sales enablement, sellers can have quick access to what they need, when they need throughout the buyer’s journey.
2. Promote cross-functional collaboration to drive revenue
Sales enablement acts like the hub that speaks out to various departments of the organization, ranging from product and engineering to sales and partners and alliances.
With a robust sales enablement strategy in place, all the departments are aligned on commonly agreed-upon strategies, tactics, and goals that can propel a higher number of leads toward closing and drive revenue.
3. Enable marketing to create hyper-targeted content
In a traditional sales organization, marketing has little to no visibility into how content performs once it has been handed over to sales. As a result, marketers struggle with tracking the performance of their content and remain unable to deliver what sales and customers really want.
Sales enablement focuses on creating high-value content that works. This is achieved by gathering complete analytics on content consumption by both sellers and customers. Having this crucial data readily available, marketers can create content that helps reps close more deals.
4. Improve the consumption and ROI of sales content
Without sales enablement, marketing and sales content remains scattered and siloed within multiple repositories, ranging from CMS to email inboxes. This not only impedes the consumption of content but also impacts the ROI of content marketing.
When sales content is available to all the stakeholders, both internal and external, via a single repository, such as a sales enablement platform, both the consumption and the value derived from content increase manifold.
Best practices of creating a winning B2B sales enablement strategy
A robust sales enablement strategy can help you keep up with high customer expectations. However, creating one requires a thorough evaluation of your current sales operations, the behaviors of high-performing sales reps, and a review of customer needs and market trends.
Here are 3 best practices that you can follow to create an effective B2B sales enablement strategy for your business.
1. Optimize your sales operations to be buyer-centric
High-performing sales enablement teams use tools and tech stack that can help them learn more about their prospects and use this information to deliver a hyper-personalized buying experience to them. Moreover, sales teams should be willing to bend to what works best for their prospects and helps them reach their goals.
This means that sales enablement teams need to spend more time on buyer research and optimize sales processes to create a more fulfilling experience for customers.
2. Leverage cutting-edge sales enablement tools
Technology is a key enabler in delivering customer-centric experiences. Businesses should conduct an audit of their sales tech stack and determine their need for sales enablement tools, such as sales engagement, sales readiness, and sales automation solutions.
Sales and buyer enablement platforms such as Emlen improve the effectiveness of sales processes by automating sales and allowing sellers and marketers to collaborate on content more closely. Using such tools, sellers can also track the prospect’s consumption of sales collaterals and use this feedback to determine the closing potential of a deal.
3. Keep up with the rapidly-evolving buyer needs and market trends
With remote selling and end-to-end digital buying experiences becoming a norm, sellers need to work extra hard to keep up with the ever-changing buyer needs and market trends.
Your buyers prefer to self-serve, and therefore, your entire buying journey should be designed to make purchasing quick, easy, and simple for the prospects. Keep your sales pitches ready, but don’t deliver them unsolicited to a buyer who prefers to gather all the info by themselves.
What should sales do then? Work on designing a personalized digital sales room where buyers can find all the information, share it seamlessly with the buying committee, and interact with the seller to get the support they need to make a purchasing decision.
What to look for in a sales enablement tool?
A sales enablement tool is an essential element of any effective revenue software stack of a sales organization. It works as a unifying force that brings marketing, sales, and other revenue-focused functions to work smarter with prospects and customers.
In order to deliver the desired ROI, a sales enablement tool needs to deliver the full spectrum of enablement capabilities, from allowing marketing to publish, organize, and manage content to allowing sales to predict the closing potential of a deal based on the prospect’s interaction with sales collaterals.
Here are some key capabilities that a good sales enablement tool should offer:
1. Content management
Content is the lifeblood of not just marketing, but also sales enablement. Your sales reps use content to not just nurture leads into customers, but also to improve their understanding of your business and market.
Throughout the sales cycle, content is leveraged by sales and marketing in a variety of formats, ranging from sales scripts and email templates to presentations, product sheets, and eBooks. You would want these collaterals to be well-organized and easily locatable at a moment’s notice. This can be achieved with a sales enablement solution that offers advanced content management, personalization, and publishing options.
Look for a tool that allows multiple people to collaborate in the content authoring process, so all the relevant individuals can bring their insights and experiences to create a piece that can drive tangible value for your organization. Easy content personalization and editing are also essential to deliver a buyer-centric experience.
2. Analytics and reporting
This is the most crucial feature that you would want in a sales enablement tool. You should be able to get detailed analytics about content usage, engagement, awareness, and freshness. Together, these analytics can help you determine the business impact of marketing and sales content and understand if specific collaterals influenced wins, drove revenue, or resulted in conversion uplift.
Content awareness, usage, and engagement metrics also come in handy in determining the likelihood of a deal to close, its potential value, and the members of the buying committee that are most likely to get influenced and turn into champions.
3. Real-time collaboration and communication
Decreasing the time to conversations is paramount to sales success. Your sales reps should not only engage with prospects at lightning speeds, but also use the channel that the prospect prefers.
With an increasing number of B2B buyers ignoring cold calls and emails, you would want your sales enablement tool to offer support for live chat and text messaging. In addition, screen sharing, notes, and asynchronous video meetings are great to keep communication productive yet personal.
Sales enablement tools with personalized digital selling features can help achieve a lot more than just collaboration or content sharing. Look for a solution that allows you to create a completely custom-branded digital sales room for every prospect.
You should be able to customize font, colors, logo, and even domain to create a personalized environment for your prospects to make them feel welcome.
5. Security and compliance
When evaluating a sales enablement tool, you should determine if the platform conforms to the data laws of different countries. You would also want to ensure secure and authorized access to digital sales rooms with an additional password or email authentication.
The sales tech of an average organization comprises of 4 to 10 tools. You would want your sales enablement tool to easily integrate with your enterprise toolkit and allow seamless data sharing between your sales engagement, readiness, automation, and CRM solutions.
In addition, since sales enablement is a shared effort of marketing and sales, the tool should allow out-of-the-box connectivity with content management tools that your marketing department utilizes.
Sales enablement and buyer enablement: Either-or choices or must-haves?
Sales enablement has existed for a long time, with many enterprises having well-structured enablement teams dedicated to ensuring that sales reps have access to all the essential resources and training they need to propel a prospect through the buying journey.
On the other hand, buyer enablement is a relatively new term and dates only a few years back. But as a concept, buyer enablement has been in practice for years.
Difference between sales enablement and buyer enablement
Considered to be the flip side of sales enablement, buyer enablement is about providing buyers with the information they need to complete the critical buying job.
The question is: are sales enablement and buyer enablement different? Do you need both or can you make a choice between the two?
The basic difference lies in the mindset. Sales enablement is to help sales reps sell, while buyer enablement helps buyers buy.
But the useful, informative content you use to achieve the goal of sales enablement and buyer enablement is fairly similar. Think persona-based, solution-focused content that provides a deeper level of detail around the solution and how it addresses the specific pain points of the buyer.
More practical differences become apparent when you audit your buyer journey and see how easy it is for your buyers to learn about your tool on their own, weigh it against your competitors, measure how it will impact the problem they are trying to solve, what kind of financial commitment would they be making and lastly, how quickly and seamlessly they can buy and implement your solution.
For reference, this is how your buyer would look like if all your focus is on enabling Sales and none of it on your buyers:
Should you have both?
There is no question about whether a sales organization needs sales enablement or buyer enablement. These are must-haves for the long-term sales success of an enterprise.
And here’s why:
A B2B buyer spends only 5% of their buying journey with your sales rep. The rest of the journey is spent meeting other potential suppliers, researching solutions independently, and discussing potential solutions with the internal buying committee.
Dedicating all the resources to sales enablement means that you are essentially influencing only 5% of the buying journey. The remaining 95% remains untouched.
Buyer enablement allows you to scale your sales efforts by influencing buyer behavior even when they are not actively engaged with your sales reps.
Buyer enablement allows your sales professionals to curate and map enablement material to different iterations of the buyer’s journey and make it easier for the buyer to perform different actions that ultimately lead to a purchase. This includes every stage from problem identification and solution exploration to requirements building and supplier selection.
This not only creates a sales flywheel but also lifts off the unnecessary burden from your frontline sales staff and allows them to spend more time having high-value interactions with the customer.
And as a bonus, when you enable both your Sales team and your buyers, everyone can end up looking like this:
Enable your sales team AND buyers with Emlen
The B2B space is getting more competitive than ever. We all can feel the pressure. And while investing resources in enabling reps to communicate the value of your product is crucial, you cannot expect them to drive extraordinary results with a technology enabler.
Empower your team with a solution that offers them the capabilities, control, and visibility they need to engage with buyers in a meaningful way. Leverage emlen to deliver impactful buying experiences that can attract, engage, and convert your prospects.