The Showcase Workshop Blog

What Is Sales Enablement? (And Why Should You Care?)

In my previous post The Missing Link Between Sales Enablement and the Sale, I pointed out that sales enablement isn’t just industry jargon anymore. It’s a critical discipline that marketing and sales teams alike must master to drive sales today.

Sales and marketing working together to grow sales. It sounds a bit idealistic. Right?

But the reality is, that alignment is crucial today. Buyers are more educated. They have access to almost all the same information that sales reps do, and because of it they’re less willing to give up their precious time to sales reps.

This is where sales enablement comes in.

I still like Brainshark’s definition best: “A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations.”

Note the word “conversations.”

Sales meetings – especially face-to-face ones – are no longer centered around the pitch.

To be successful, sales meetings must be conversations.

Conversations where we salespeople are helpful resources.

Sales enablement is the emerging practice that helps us be those helpful resources.

Some companies are creating entire sales enablement teams for this reason. But most companies approach sales enablement from a collaboration standpoint. They may officially assign the task to the team that has the budget for it, but the responsibility still falls across both Sales and Marketing.

In either case, sales enablement requires a blend of expertise. Like the perfect martini recipe with just the right blend of gin and vermouth, sales enablement is a recipe requiring just the right ingredients from both the sales and marketing teams.

In my experience, there are three ingredients in a successful sales enablement recipe:

Sales Enablement Ingredient #1: Communication

The first step to sales enablement is keeping the lines of communication open between sales and marketing.

Marketing keeps Sales informed of the company’s products, brand messages and customer data.

Sales provides Marketing with real-world customer insight gathered from sales conversations.

An open dialogue between the two teams means a deeper knowledge of the buyer on both sides – and it means the second ingredient, content, will be a more effective contribution to the sales conversation.

Sales Enablement Ingredient #2: Content

Empower your sales team by providing the right content to give the buyer at the right time.

The knowledge sharing that happens when Marketing and Sales collaborate helps the marketing team create content that is relevant to reps. Content that serves the customers and helps salespeople to be helpful resources.

There is sales enablement content for every stage of the sales funnel, including:

  • White papers
  • Brochures
  • Spec sheets
  • Case studies and testimonials
  • Blog posts
  • Slide decks
  • Onboarding assets

Some experts argue that interactive content such as assessments, quizzes and surveys are also powerful sales enablers. Two reasons for this: 1) they move the buyer further down the sales funnel, and 2) they give sales reps insight into what the buyer is feeling, thinking and experiencing.

Sales Enablement Ingredient #3: Analytics

Many marketers readily use analytics to improve the effectiveness their content. In fact, Marketing probably uses analytics more than most other functional groups.

But believe it or not, analytics is the ingredient that many marketing teams leave out of the sales enablement recipe.

Like trying to bake a cake without sugar, forgetting the analytics ingredient will leave sales reps and customers with a bad taste in their mouths.

Analytics allow marketers to do two important things:

  1. See how sales teams are actually using the content
  2. Optimize the content and iterate for bigger impact

These two things will put you miles ahead of the competition.

First, of course, you need to be using a sales enablement tool that tracks how the content is being used. Once that’s in place …

  1. Take a closer look at how high-performing sales teams are using your sales enablement content versus how mediocre-performers are using it. What content are they using, specifically? Are they sending it directly to buyers? How often do they use sales enablement content in the field? Use this insight to coach those mediocre performers, and watch your sales results soar.

  2. Take a closer look at the content that is being used most often by your top salespeople. What format is it in? How long is it? Does it have a lot of graphics, or is it text-heavy? Is it interactive? How are the reps using it (sending it to customers, using it for emphasis/support during sales conversations)? Now take that knowledge and use it to optimize all of your sales enablement content. And when you’re done, start the process all over again: test, analyze, optimize.

The Perfect Blend for Sales Enablement

Sales enablement requires input from both Sales and Marketing. It’s an effective way to empower salespeople during sales conversations, a chance for marketing to show ROI, and an opportunity to align the two teams.

With the three ingredients of communication, content and analytics, sales enablement can be a recipe for more successful sales meetings … and more sales.

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Wellington, New Zealand
Millie is president and co-founder of Showcase Workshop. She helps sales and marketing professionals capture customer interest and make more sales. She rides a Pashley and makes a mean potato salad.