Succeeding with Sales Enablement: Definition, Tools, and Strategies

October 17, 2019

sales enablement Sales Academy

What is Sales Enablement?

As you read this, sales enablement is on the minds of sales managers and executives everywhere. In competitive markets, smoother sales enablement processes can be one of the single biggest differentiators when it comes to edging out alternative solutions and winning business. Identifying the right sales enablement platform can be a pivotal difference-maker, and new technologies are continually transforming the landscape. 

Let’s take a look at what the phrase means today, and how companies are getting it right.

Sales Enablement Definition

At its core, the concept is simple: Sales enablement is equipping your sales team with strategic resources it needs to excel, from tools to technology to content and beyond. 

Even the greatest golfers in the world can improve their scores and rankings with the help of better clubs, superior training, and more intel surrounding the courses they play. This same concept applies to sales enablement, because even an extremely talented rep stands to benefit from the right support and structure.

In the modern digital setting, B2B sales enablement solutions are often buyer-focused, with an underlying goal of helping sellers target the right buyers and engage them effectively throughout the customer journey. It’s about removing any barriers that might inhibit smooth interactions and a seamless buying process. 

Given that selling is now fraught with arguably more inherent barriers than ever before, it’s easy to see why sales enablement is being prioritized by organizations worldwide.

Sales Enablement Benefits

If we work under the base assumption that most salespeople are capable in their jobs, and that what they’re selling is valuable, then sales enablement offers the clearest avenue for teams to gain competitive advantage and tap unseen opportunities.

Here are some primary benefits yielded by adopting a sales enablement platform:

Scaling Success

By uniformly equipping its sales reps with proven sales enablement tools, an organization becomes less reliant on traditional top performers to carry the load. This support helps laggards reach quotas, and propels middling sellers into the next tier. 

Stronger Sales Data

With so much B2B commerce now taking place online, sales enablement technology has rapidly gained prominence, and many of these solutions specialize in data — collecting it, organizing it, and activating it for the sales team. Insights around buyer preferences, pain points, and personas help sellers reach prospects with a more tailored approach, which is crucial at a time where 64% of B2B decision makers say they won’t engage a salesperson if the communication is not personalized.

Faster Deals 

From some perspectives, this is the foremost objective for sales enablement initiatives, and it is certainly a desirable outcome. With better data and tools at their disposal, sales reps tend to have snappier access to what they need, and superior intel leads to more purposeful conversations. A study by Aberdeen a few years back found that sales reps were spending up to 43 hours per month researching, pointing to widespread room for improvement.  

Better Alignment with Marketing

Optimal use of supporting content in the sales process is often a key component in the enablement equation. Salespeople are more successful when they can provide prospects and leads with the right materials at the right time. As such, strengthening the relationship and collaboration between sales and marketing is a major aspect of sales enablement — one with many branching benefits of its own.

Improved Company Reputation

Each time a rep interacts with an outside party, they’re representing the business and making a lasting impression on its behalf. When salespeople are informed, responsive, and helpful, it reflects well on their organization.

Sales Enablement Best Practices

Granted, the idea of giving a sales team what it needs to succeed is a broad and ambiguous one, but there are some overarching guidelines that can help you design a sales enablement strategy in our present landscape.

Focus on the Buyer’s Journey, Not the Sales Cycle

In a world where Uber and Netflix are conditioning people to expect tailored, on-demand experiences, adoption of the right sales enablement tools helps B2B companies align with the times. It’s no longer about pushing prospects through an archaic sales funnel. Enhancements to the sales process should focus on this fundamental shift.

As we’ve written here at LinkedIn in the past:

“Sales enablement recognizes that effective selling requires identifying key moments in the buyer’s journey, and building a strategy to reach the consumer with the right content at the right time. A best in class enablement solution helps organizations achieve this via targeted content with personalized sales messages.”

Provide Buyers with the Right Content at the Right Time

Borrowing a phrase from the excerpt above, B2B selling is really about being timely and opportunistic. Since purchase research is now more autonomous than ever, sales and marketing must work together to identify touchpoints and triggers, and then engage with a message that resonates. 

Measure Everything

Effective sales enablement isn’t only fueled by buyer data and insights, but also your company’s own internal data. This, in turn, allows you to improve and optimize by reinforcing what works and altering what doesn’t. Only 35% of sales teams track the effectiveness of their content, a fractional portion of the marketers that do so.

Best Sales Enablement Platforms and Tools

There are many different types of sales enablement software, and plenty of options within each category. Here are a few of the most prominent and popular productivity-focused tools for sales teams:

Sales Acceleration Tools

  • SalesLoft
  • Yesware
  • Outreach

Customer Relationship Management

  • Salesforce
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365
  • HubSpot

Sales Intelligence 

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Setting Up a Winning Sales Enablement Process

Most companies have some form of sales enablement in place.  According to the 2018 CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Report, more than 60% of companies now have a dedicated enablement person, program, or function. As recently as 2013, that number was lower than 20%. 

Not only is it increasingly common to see a dedicated role or function, but we’re even seeing full-on sales enablement departments emerge. 

But there’s always room to get better, and even organizations that emphasize this imperative miss out on important elements along the way.

Here’s a look at three vital steps to ensuring sales enablement success:

1. Imprint a Culture of Collaboration and Adoption

Yes, sales enablement software and tools are important, but the tools don’t matter much unless you get your people in order first. Take steps to maximize cross-functional collaboration, and make sure you’ve got the dedicated resources to train and acclimate your salespeople to any new solutions that might come into the fold. 

2. Choose Your Sales Enablement Tools, Content, and Practices

You’ll find a multitude of options out there, including those cited above. Finding the right fit depends on your specific business type, industry, operational structure, and sales strategy. We’ll cover a few of the sales enablement solutions offered by LinkedIn later on, but generally speaking, these are the common categories:

  • Sales CRMs
  • Sales Intelligence Software
  • Content Management/Sharing Platforms
  • Customer Experience Management
  • Sales/Marketing Automation Software
  • Sales Enablement AI and Predictive Analytics

3. Put a Team in Charge of Management and Oversight

As mentioned earlier, sales enablement solutions are only helpful if salespeople use them and understand how to get the most out of them. To this end, it’s beneficial to have dedicated people in place to keep things on track and running smoothly. 

Sales Enablement Team

Building off of step three, let’s go over makeup of a sales enablement team. As Seismic has noted, “simply increasing sales rep headcount is no way to address sales enablement issues. But building the right team, a team that’s dedicated to the strategic elevation of the sales enablement organization, will.”

So, how might this team take shape? It’s advisable to incorporate the following roles:

Sales Enablement Manager

This individual takes charge of sales enablement initiatives, taking ultimate responsibility for successful implementation and ongoing management. As Shankar Ganapathy puts it, “A sales enablement manager takes the lead in creating a consistent sales onboarding and training experience that is rigorous and data driven.”

In some cases, this duty falls upon a sales leader in addition to their existing managerial duties. In larger companies, sales enablement manager can be its very own position. 

Marketing Manager

Describing his experiences at HubSpot, Mark Roberge wrote that developing a modernized sales enablement process “requires an unprecedented level of sales and marketing alignment. We try to align every possible aspect of these two teams, so that our goals, pains, and processes are as similar as possible.”

To best facilitate such a collaborative environment, it’s helpful to have at least one marketing leader directly involved with your sales enablement team, serving as a conduit and voice to represent those goals, pains, and processes from the other end.

C-Suite Involvement 

As with any major business initiative, it’s important to set the example from above. We recommend having at least one of your organization’s C-level executives on the sales enablement team, participating in meetings and reinforcing the urgency. Ideally this will be someone with experience and proficiency in both sales and marketing, so they’re able to understand and bridge both sides.

Analytics Guru

Salespeople and marketers don’t always have the time or expertise to pore over data and maximize its impact. Because of this, many companies will assign an analytics specialist to the sales enablement team. 

LinkedIn’s Leading Sales Enablement Platform

At LinkedIn, we offer one of the most powerful solutions for modern selling:

Sales Navigator

Our flagship sales enablement platform. Sales Navigator helps your team access the full extent of LinkedIn as a platform for digital selling. Rated by users as a leader in sales intelligence software, Sales Navigator helps your team target the right prospects, understand buying committee structures, and engage decision makers with personalized outreach. 

A Comprehensive Sales Enablement Strategy

To recap all of the information covered here, a fulfilling recipe for sales enablement should include the following ingredients:

  • Shifting focus from the sales funnel to the buyer’s journey
  • A repeatable blueprint for delivering relevant content at each stage of this journey
  • Deep measurement and a data-driven culture
  • The right process for developing a robust sales enablement program: imprinting collaborative habits, choosing the right sales enablement platform and tools, putting a team in place to coordinate everything.

For more guidance on sales enablement and all other elements of a finely tuned sales strategy, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales blog.