Sales Enablement.
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What is Sales Enablement?

Almost everyone has heard of sales enablement! This topic has something to do with sales, while the term "customer journey" also seems relevant in this context. But what exactly is this sales enablement that everyone is talking about? One can also roughly characterise sales enablement as sales promotion.

Thus, selling a product, an application, or a solution should be made possible or easier for the seller. That sounds plausible and understandable – but hold your horses! That simple translation is not precise enough. The definition of the market research company IDC suggests that there is a lot more behind the term sales enablement. It argues: "Sales enablement means placing the right information, at the right time, the right place, in the right format, and into the hands of the right salespeople to drive the sales opportunity."

Holy moly, there is a lot that must go according to plan so that sales enablement is successful and achieves a higher turnover – at least according to the IDC. As extensive as the topic might be, it is always a good idea to remind oneself that, in the end, it's all about the customer. That's why the term customer journey is relevant in this context. The entire buying process should be accompanied and be as straightforward and pleasant as possible.

A successful buying process is not only about the customer's final purchase decision but also the customer's complete satisfaction regarding the buying process. The cooperation of several departments in the company is required to be able to interact with the customer constantly and to ensure the customer's satisfaction.

The subject of sales enablement, thus, not solely relates to sales – as one might think in the light of the wording – but is cross-functional and includes sales and marketing to the same extent. Therefore, marketing and sales staff work closely together regarding sales enablement. Of course, it is crucial to define responsibility areas while distributing responsibilities accordingly. Especially at the beginning of the sales process, the marketing department is responsible for piquing the interest of potential customers.

With the introduction of tracking software, this sales cycle phase has changed over the years, and marketing teams can now precisely broach target groups and manage leads. As the sales process progresses, responsibility moves from the marketing team to the sales team. The sales team focuses on closing deals and generating revenue. And here, too, digitalisation makes things easier: to effectively engage buyers, sales enablement software provides support for salespeople.

Why Sales Enablement is Pivotal.

Sales enablement is pivotal for companies to maintain their position in the competitive market. In today's digital age, buyers are much more educated about products, solutions, and applications than they were only a few decades ago. Everywhere and in seconds, a buyer can get information online. That is why sales can no longer be just about sharing pertinent information. It's much more about the added value that sellers present to their customers and, thus, help them in their decision to buy. Therefore, it is necessary that sales and marketing align to ensure that all content is up-to-date.

That might sound easier than it is: Since the sales enablement subject arose in the late 1990s, it is evident that with digital structures that have experienced organic growth, sales-relevant content has spread throughout. After all, it's no coincidence that an all-encompassing tool which enables genuine cooperation between marketing and sales was developed at the beginning of the digital era, and with time, the designing of various portals and platforms followed. These continuously adapted to the current issues. Today, we face the outcome of these ad hoc solutions: a lot of marketing and sales content can be found everywhere. There are various digital filing locations where one can find different versions of sales presentations, which can be downloaded and then saved on the individual hard disks of the salespersons. How is one supposed to keep track of everything like that? And how are the different departments supposed to know who works on what and how?

These structures, which have grown in the past, need to be standardised, as sales enablement will continue to play a vital role in the future. In their book "Vertrieb und Marketing in der digitalen Welt" (Sales and Marketing in the Digital World), the established management consultants Hartmut Biesel and Hartmut Hame make the following forecast: "In the future, the market and customers will behave in an even more disruptive way, they will dispose of what they are used to due to the possibilities of the digital transformation." If companies want to continue to be successful and bring their sales forward, there is only one consequence: using the opportunities of digitalisation through a holistic marketing and sales approach! After all, technology enables more efficient action!

Klaus Steven, who frequently publishes articles in the trade journal "Sales Excellence", also predicts a future role for sales organisations: "Salespeople must be able to offer added value and perspective, in addition to a precise requirement analysis and a solution tailored to the customer's organisation. To be ready for future competition, sales organisations need a new, comprehensive approach to sales: sales enablement."

If we think of well-functioning sales processes as a delicious cream cake, then it should be clear by now that sales enablement is not just the decorative cherry on top. Sales enablement is the cake - or rather, the recipe itself!

But what resources must one use, and which steps must one take to create an optimal customer journey? These are the questions that sales enablement answers. So don't just bake away and wonder why your bee sting cake has only turned into pudding mush. Take a holistic approach. Work out a strategy and use sales enablement to achieve the desired result.

The Five Pillars of Sales Enablement.

In order to achieve the overall goal, which is to make sales more efficient and effective, one must consider different areas of the company and integrate them into the process. More specifically, it is about enabling, fostering, and strengthening the collaboration of all customer-oriented teams. The best practices of sales enablement can be split into five pillars. Those pillars include:

  1. Strategy
  2. Training & Coaching
  3. Content
  4. Tools
  5. Controlling

The first pillar of sales enablement revolves around strategy. Thus, one can only effectively use these pillars if they align with the company's vision and core message. To develop a successful sales enablement strategy, it is essential to first deal with the company's goals, target groups, and sales teams. Once it has been ascertained in which areas the sales team needs help, concrete measures can be embedded in the overarching strategy. Moreover, sales enablement can only have a tangible effect when used strategically.

The second pillar of training and coaching ensures that sales staff strategically communicate when talking to potential customers. Depending on the sales cycle phase, one needs to implement different strategies and set various goals in each case. Should the potential customer first be excited and informed about the product? Does the customer already know the product inside out, and is it only a matter of closing the deal?

It depends on whether it is about existing customers who are to be informed about new products or whether it is about first contact. Naturally, one must follow different communication strategies. Therefore, sales staff must be trained and coached to act appropriately in each situation.

The third pillar, the content pillar, revolves around the content relevant to the sales process. Content in this context means the content that the sales team uses to address customers and convince them of the product. This content can be, for example, product brochures, email drafts, blog posts, e-books, white papers, or case studies. The more specific the content is, the better salespeople can use it in their customer communication and thus make the sales process more efficient. It is also pivotal that the sales content is regularly updated and is accessible to everyone all the time.

The fourth pillar – the pillar of tools – Includes the tools that one can use to facilitate the various procedures in the sales process. Therefore, sales enablement tools include very different technologies with different focuses: Content management, communication between marketing and sales, predictive tools, CRM, or sales management tools. On the one hand, many can facilitate the sales process, but on the other hand, many can also inhibit it! The key word here is ‘moderation’. Because only sales enablement tools that are needed and implemented extensively in the company make things easier.

The fifth and final pillar contains the performance data. It is used to monitor the success of the strategy and the implemented measures. Some key indicators are the average sales cycle length, the average size of a closed deal, and the sales productivity as a team and individually. Only if sales performance is checked through controlling can these be changed and adjusted if necessary.

One can structure this vast topic with the help of the five pillars of sales enablement. Each can be considered and worked on separately, even though they influence each other and are by no means independent of one another!

The Road to Success with Sales Training and a Sales Software.

The three pillars of training, content, and tools revolve around the concrete measures that are used in sales enablement. Therefore, it makes sense to take a closer look at them. In addition to the negotiation strategies already explained, the second pillar of training and coaching is about understanding the customer's overriding motivation for their purchase decision. In addition to communication strategies, one must acquire the knowledge of the customer's intrinsic motivation to enter a deal during sales training. Only when one has reached such a comprehensive understanding can one apply negotiation strategies correctly. Another vital aspect in the context of the training pillar is individual feedback. Salespeople need to give coaching feedback that highlights what helps them. And training managers also need to give back feedback to the salespeople so they can constantly improve. As managers, they must be able to provide the correct training at the right time. Sales staff needs coaching when they are about to close a deal and not simply when the plan calls for it. Hence, year-round planned training schedules are becoming obsolete. The road to success lies in coaching adapted to the employees' individual needs!

The two pillars containing 'content' and 'tools' are closely related because many sales enablement solutions should sort, organise, and provide up-to-date content relevant to the sales enablement process. Modus is an example of such a sales enablement software. Here, content can be grouped, shared, monitored, and made available to the customer in a shopping cart. Monitoring the provided information is interesting because the sales employee can see precisely what the customer is interested in. For example, when and how often do they look at a certain product in an online catalogue? If the sales representatives know this, they can specifically approach the potential customer and react optimally to the customer's needs. Modus can bring enormous benefits and considerably improve sales performance when integrated into a well-designed sales enablement strategy. Modus creates a sales enablement initiative that differs significantly from other sales enablement platforms: Simplicity. While other platforms are cumbersome and require training to guarantee efficient handling, one can use Modus intuitively. You could say that Modus is the Netflix of sales. After all, no one needs extra training to choose movies or series on Netflix.

The Advantages of Sales Enablement at a Glance.

To conclude, we should summarise the advantages a good sales enablement plan can bring once again. First of all, there is the matter of saving time. For example, sales staff who must search for the latest version of a sales presentation at length are unnecessarily losing valuable time. With well-implemented sales enablement technology, however, sales staff can access the content any time they need. Another benefit of sales enablement is the exchange between sales and marketing regarding content performance.

Without sales enablement technology, marketing staff often do not know what the content performance of distribution is and thus cannot meet the needs thereof. Nevertheless, with sales enablement technologies, performance data and insights are available in data format. Instead of relying on multiple platforms to access, customise, or share customer content, this inconsistent way of working is simplified, as these different matters merge on a sales enablement platform. When a single platform unifies sales requirements, from training to content to analytics, it makes greater efficiency possible. In addition, sales enablement platforms can also generate clear performance metrics that provide insight into success and failure. It means that marketing and sales align strategies that also increase turnover.

Thus, to improve sales operations, sales enablement is indispensable. Sales leaders should take the initiative and address the issue of sales enablement. Using the five pillars as a guide, developing a well-thought-out strategy, offering training, content and platforms and tracking development is the right approach here. Which platform is best to cover the exact arising sales needs in a specific company is not always the easiest task. With Modus, however, you will cover all areas of sales enablement! If you have any questions about Modus and what it can do, or if you would like more information about sales enablement in general, please don't hesitate to contact us.


More information is available from:

Sascha Schmidt

Consultant (Strategy)