In the past, we have written much about sales enablement. However, one of the things we have not talked about is how to create a sales enablement program. This article will answer questions like how to get to an effective sales enablement program, the best practices, and how do you implement this program?
But before we get into the strategy, let's align on the basics.
What is sales enablement?
If you'd ask us to describe sales enablement in a single sentence, it would be: "An iterative process providing a company's sales organisation and salespeople with resources they need to become more relevant to buyers and close more deals." It might be good to emphasise that resources do not just indicate sales content like case studies and presentations. These resources can also be playbooks, email templates, smart sales automation, or intelligent limiting manual data entry.
Sales Enablement vs Sales Operations
With the above definition, a question might arise "what about sales operations?". Sales enablement and sales operations are sometimes used as synonyms. However, there is a difference. When people talk about sales operations, they focus on the logistics, structures, and the 'behind the scenes'-work. Sales enablement, however, is more directly related to the sale – making sure that the reps have the tools and resources needed to be relevant, improve relationships and close more deals.
Why is sales enablement essential?
What' sales enablement' essentially does, is that it helps sales reps to get back to basics. By creating a more effortless, less-manual, and more productive sales process, the sales reps can focus their time on thorough pre-call planning, agenda-setting, call execution, consultative skills, and improvisation, thereby achieving better results. In the article 'Why is sales enablement important', Anders explains this in more detail.
Steps to an effective sales enablement program
Now that we've established the what and the why let's look at the how. How do you get started with sales enablement, and how do you keep going?
1. Create your team
What sort of people should be involved in the sales enablement program? In this ancient post (2013), the CMO of HubSpot explained how he hired people for his team; they had to be DARC. This stood for Digital, Analytical, Reach, Content. I've changed the definitions a bit from the original for each element.
- Digital means that the people on this team should be tech-savvy; they should be quick to learn a new tool, assess its value, and think in a techie way about the problem. "Hey, I can build a workflow for that!"
- Analytical means they like to measure what they do and make decisions based on data. Not only that, but they also think logically and are comfortable with creating schemes, flowcharts, and process overviews.
- Reach means they have an easy time reaching other people, growing their network within the organisation, connect with people on different levels.
- Content means they are naturally a content creator, like it, and are good at it.
2. Gather input & data – create your plan
Once you have your team in place, start creating your plan for the program. As in most situations, start by listening.
- Talk to the sales reps; you take care of new business, talk to the account manager who takes care of upsell, and talk to the SDRs who take the initial conversation and source leads. Get their input, and suggestions, listen and see where they need help.
- Assess the process. Hopefully, there is a documented sales process available. If not, now is the perfect time to create one. Layout the steps and tasks and understand where you will add value to the process.
- Look at the data. In an ideal world, the process will also come with data on the current conversion rates from step to step, and the average amount of time it takes to move a deal from stage to stage. Try to find benchmark data and compare it with your own. This should give you a clear indication of where to focus your time & energy.
Create a plan of action to improve the processes, where you can add value, where sales reps have indicated that they are missing content or other resources. Log it all in a sheet, map it out on potential impact and a demonstrated effort, and prioritise accordingly. Use the decision matrix that Martin created for this.
3. Create resources
Once you have your processes laid out and clearly understand where and how you can add value, it's time to start the actual work – creating the resources; as said before, these resources might vary greatly; does your sales team need a better presentation? Do they need a 30-second video? Do they need a case study for a specific industry? Or maybe is all this sort of content already in place, and is it more that they need email templates, sales automation or sequences, perhaps an easier way of creating quotes?
When starting this creation process, make sure to make a well-mapped inventory of the existing assets and resources. For example, maybe you don't have a written out case study right now, but you might have a recording of a customer that spoke at your event – that would make an excellent basis for your case study.
4. Streamline the tech stack
With this bullet, we might come a bit into the area of Sales Operations; nonetheless, it's important to mention here. As part of your sales enablement program, you want to ensure that you also help the sales reps in their work on a technical level. You can do this in many ways; it can be as simple as managing the CRM integration or data cleaning. But it could also be proactively looking for the areas where sales reps are still doing mundane, manual work and finding technical solutions to implement this. A fun recent example that I came across was that reps copy-pasted their LinkedIn messages into the CRM. A small investment into linkedintohubspot.com solved their problem.
5. Measure, optimise, improve
Sales enablement is a continuous process. There will always be new requests and ideas by sales reps on making their work easier. This makes it so that it becomes easy to continue producing and fixing without looking back, evaluating, learning and optimising accordingly.
There are a few ways that you can measure. You can measure internally (how much is this specific resource used by sales reps), externally (do we see an improvement after using resource X, or can we see a difference in sales velocity between deals using resource X or resource Y?). It's essential to measure both because you want to know if what you create is apricated by your colleagues, and on the other hand, you want to see if it's impactful what you've created.
When you've measured, optimise resources accordingly and use this new information to prioritise when creating resources more accurately.
In this article, I've described the steps for starting and running a sales enablement program. However, if you are interested, other articles on the Onlinification Hub are available that I can highly recommend around this topic. In addition, Anders has published two pieces that would be good to read before you get started:
- Sales enablement: Best practices for success gives you an overview of 7 best practices to follow while running your sales enablement program.
- How to manage a sales enablement implementation in your organisation, this article talks more about getting and keeping organisational buy-in for the sales enablement program.
I'm sure you will enjoy reading these two articles as much as I have!
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