5 sales enablement best practices to help accelerate sales [2021]

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Why is sales enablement so important? The key goal of sales enablement is to make reps more productive and effective at closing deals, thereby driving more sales and revenue growth.

Even a small boost to your sales team’s effectiveness can significantly impact the bottom line. So, let’s look at some of the best practices we can implement for the ultimate sales enablement framework.

1. Senior leadership buy-in needed

In order for sales enablement to be effective, it needs to be regarded as a business enabler across the organization. Having a C-suite sponsor makes it easier to establish an organizational environment that reinforces good practices.

In addition, the sales enablement team’s KPIs must be aligned to specific business outcomes, including their commission being tied to business objectives. For example, KPIs can range from an increase in average contract value and deal closing speed to a reduction in customer churn rate or less time/money spent in litigation due to the use of non-compliant presentations.

This might mean a change management effort to transform these organizational practices, but without it, your sales enablement won’t be as effective.

2. Easily accessible content which aligns with the buyer journey

Firstly, your sales reps need to be able to find what they need, instantly. And the content they do find needs to fit in with where exactly the buyer is in their buying cycle.

2 A. Give sales reps easy access to sales content (even when offline)

According to the American Marketing Association (via a report by Kantar), 90% of content produced is never used by sales teams. Why? They simply can’t find it. Seems like an easily fixable problem, no?

Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure content is easy to find and accessible from one central hub (such as your sales enablement software’s dashboard). Your sales team should easily be able to find not only the right document, but also its latest version – on any device, be it online or offline. Navigating through complicated folder structures is to be avoided at all costs.

Whatever sales enablement solution your team is using, it should make it easy for your team to assemble content and organize it in the way that makes the most sense to your reps, all the while being continuously updated.

2 B. Ensure buyers get the right content at the right time

The goal for sales enablement content is to help sales reps build credibility, educate prospects and overcome any barriers to purchase during the sales process. As many as 95% of buyers buy from someone who gave them content at each stage of the buying process. Therefore, it’s crucial that your sales team is closely aligned with marketing so that your business can create the right content to answer questions from prospects and be able to close business quickly.

Both your selling processes and your content strategy need to be aligned with the customer’s conversion path in order to drive meaningful customer engagement. Research shows that win rates can increase by up to 16.6% when salespeople have access to the content they need from marketing and are trained in how to use that content effectively.

Each stage in the buying cycle (awareness, consideration, purchase and delight/repurchase) requires different types of content, which all needs to be aligned with the needs of your different buyer personas.

Don’t know what the right content is? Talk to your sales team and find out what types of content would be most helpful. Also, ask what might convince inactive leads to re-engage, and then produce a piece of content that warms up a cold contact – your sales reps will love you for it. This all seems straightforward, but being able to tell your brand’s story imaginatively, persuasively, and consistently throughout the buyer journey is not always easy, but it’s becoming an essential element for B2B sellers.

In today’s digital world, thanks to being accustomed to high-quality customer experiences by the likes of Apple and Netflix, even B2B buyers expect an engaging and personalized B2C-style experience.

Archaic, clunky enterprise platforms are (or, should be) a thing of the past. To be successful, customer-facing teams should be armed with consistent messaging to use throughout the buyer journey. The right content, at the right time, and in the right channel.

3. Employ effective coaching and training tools

A key challenge for sales people is that they often don’t know what to say to close deals, and end up “winging it”. According to Gartner research, B2B sales reps forget as much as 70% of the information they learn within a week of training, and 87% will forget it within a month. To counteract this, your business needs to provide ongoing coaching and training (no, it’s not the same*) so that reps know exactly what piece of content will be most effective at which point in the sales cycle.

If one of your sales reps is very successful in closing sales, chances are that the rest of your sales reps will want to know what they are doing to be successful. It’s important to identify the best practices of your top sellers and institutionalize them for the rest of the team to leverage at relevant points in the sales cycle.

A good sales enablement strategy (and tool) lets you create small bites of “just-in-time” (JIT) skill development tailored specifically to active deals in the pipeline. Your salespeople need to have the skills at the moment they need them, not three months before so that they have forgotten them by crunch time. These golden nuggets of training, tailored specifically to active deals in the pipeline, can be pushed through the CRM/your sales enablement solution based on different sales stages, deal size, competition and product set.

*Training is about transferring knowledge while coaching is about enhancing knowledge (or skills) – development, in other words.

4. Leverage technology tools and integrations

By not having the right systems working hard for you, sales teams lag behind. A study found that 60% of sales organizations report a longer sales cycle due to a lack of proper tools.

Don’t be scared of technology, it’s there to help. Using the right sales enablement tool will make your team more effective, and help boost the impact of your sales enablement plan. An advanced tool which uses AI and machine learning intuitively (for helping reps use the right content at the right time, automating tasks and contact management etc.) will save hours in your day.

Even today, many organizations struggle with legacy systems that prevent them from collaborating effectively across departments. The way around this is to utilize a well-integrated tech stack to augment the capabilities of sales enablement technology while extending its functionality into other environments.

Being able to integrate tools that improve effectiveness by, for example, integrating sales intelligence data into the CRM (and CRM data into your sales enablement solution) can uncover actionable insights and ultimately increase productivity.

In addition, integrating your sales enablement tool with office suites such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, and BI platforms such as SAP and Microsoft Dynamics, means everything is kept in one location, so it’s easy to keep track of any updated materials.

5. Use insights to scale best practices

Even though you know that content can be a revenue driver, you need to be able to prove it to make smart decisions and build effective content strategies.

High-performing businesses track how effective their content is and how it’s being used in their sales enablement tool through various analytics and metrics. Importantly, they use regular, formalized feedback to make sure that improvements are made and tracked (closing the loop with sales/marketing too). Your sales enablement tool needs to be able to track what content is accessed by buyers and sellers and which customer interactions with content drive conversions, as well as attribute content-influenced revenue and opportunities.

A good tool shows you insights on whether the content your team painstakingly produced is even being found by the sales team, which pieces are being sent to customers, and how customers engage with them. It connects usage of content with deal performance, tracking which items are touched by every customer and when.

Why is this important? It enables the business to take a data-driven approach to the sales cycle, measure how content affects sales and optimize on an ongoing basis.

What are the sales enablement best practices?

Leveraging the holy grail combination of 1) having C-suite buy-in, 2) giving sales teams access to the right content and the right time which aligns with the buyer journey, 3) timely and relevant coaching, 4) advanced technology using AI to future proof your solution, plus 5) actionable insights through relevant analytics; is what’s needed today to have a successful sales enablement plan.

I truly believe that all of these five elements are needed for success. Missing just one of these crucial elements means that your sales organization is not as well set up for success as it could be.

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