What is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement solutions integrate and coordinate all customer-facing digital content communications across the various geographies, industries, organizations, and personas that a selling company may be targeting as part of their sales strategy.

Digital content marketing is not a new strategy, but the prevalence of its use is seeing widespread adoption and digital content today plays a key role in the sales cycle. Digital content marketing is a popular inbound strategy supported by very effective legacy technologies like Marketing Automation, SFA, and CRM.

Content marketers are often tasked with creating sales support materials, and though this isn’t new either, the combination of:
1) digital content online for lead generation
2) outdated sales support material strategies

is leaving a gap in sales rep effectiveness. Buyers are using inbound content to self-educate and to guide their own decision journey while sales reps are left with lackluster content and smarter buyers to contend with.

This is where sales enablement comes into the picture! Sales enablement provides a technology platform that facilitates and enhances the creation, distribution, and analysis of digital content for sales reps and end-of-funnel sales interactions.

The primary goals of sales enablement are:
1) the enhancement of communications effectiveness
2) a reduction of wasted processes.

These goals are primarily achieved with platform integration because the selling company can enhance the sales process without making changes to existing platform investments while at the same time, maximize the current skill set of employees within those platforms.

The core functions of sales enablement include:

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Sales enablement software is a platform which allows all sales reps to access the complete database of digital content assets needed for selling purposes. Key features include:

Device Agnostic Accessibility

Sales enablement allows any user to operate any device using any operating system for the purpose of making a sales call. Every content asset is accessible from this platform, and even offline, because sales calls can happen anywhere.

Content Search Customization

Every content asset can be uniquely customized by an individual sales rep. Tags and comments can be added that personalize the search function, and make finding content easy and painless.

Content Updates & Relevance

The benefit of a single, centrally controlled library is content that is always up to date. Sales reps don’t need to worry about having the right content, because only relevant content populates the library.

Content Design

Sales reps should not be creating content, but they do tailor it to a specific buyer. Sales enablement allows sales reps to compile personalized content assets for any buyer.

Sales Playbooks

Perhaps the most important tool for a rep in the sales call is the playbook. Playbooks allow sales reps to consolidate the content library into folders that are tied to buyer personas. Playbooks can be controlled by both marketing and sales teams.

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Digital Sales Calls

The advantage of using digital content is the capacity for digital sales calls. Digital sales calls are sales interactions that occur online, or virtually. Unlike traditional phone calls, sales enablement allows the sales rep to guide a conversation similar to an in-person sales presentation.

Content Sharing

Sales enablement creates an environment that allows the sales rep to share any content asset to any buyer at any time on any platform. Breaking down the barrier of device and content accessibility, sales enablement pulls the focus away from technology restrictions and back to the sales call.

Group Collaboration

The sales call can include many actors like decision makers, gatekeepers, influencers, specialists, engineers, financial officers, lawyers, etc. Sales enablement software allows the sales rep to bring everyone into one common environment for a unified discussion. This also eliminates duplication of effort.

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Distribution Controls

Not every piece of content is made for every sales rep, and additionally, seasoned sales reps may have access to more content than those who are being onboarded. Sales enablement software allows marketing teams to control distribution by geography, industry, company, user, buyer, date & time, etc.

Campaign Integration

Marketing teams know that content isn’t just files and images- they are the integral pieces of a larger integrated marketing communications strategy. Sales enablement allows marketing teams to quickly tag content to data tracking metrics for instant awareness on a global frontline scale.

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Rich Multimedia

Sales enablement software combines content accessibility with JavaScript APIs to unlock customized multimedia content creation. This includes custom landing pages, signature & order capture, 3D vector files, etc. An investment in sales enablement means the elimination of unnecessary 3rd party apps, and allows for more streamlined interactions.

Integration

Sales enablement integrates cloud storage for instant library transfer. Marketing automation integrations allow for full end-to-end lead generation to close analytics while CRM integration allows content consumption to be tied to buyer personas. Finally, SFA integration allows the sales enablement software to operate within the SFA environment, further increasing efficiency.

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Content Consumption Insights

Sales enablement provides full content awareness from the end of the sales funnel. Sales reps have automated tracking of all consumption, and CRM integration eliminates the need to manually update CRM.

Buyer Usage Rates Insight

When sales reps share content with buyers, the insights from those interactions become real-time data that sales reps can use to tailor future communications and enhance the buying experience.

Global Sales Force Awareness

Marketing teams and executives have real-time awareness into the global operations of their sales teams as it relates to the communications they are having. Managers can coordinate strategies that work using that real data from the frontline.

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Why Use Sales Enablement?

A sales enablement software solution is the final component of an integrated digital content communications strategy. Sales enablement technology streamlines customer-facing communications while aligning the interactions of sales and marketing teams for maximum communication effectiveness.

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Collaboration between Sales and Marketing

Marketers are the primary creators of content, where sales reps are the primary consumers of content as it relates to the lead nurturing-to-close process. Marketing teams with sales enablement software have a greater appreciation of the influence that their content has on the effectiveness of closing.

Organizations with a greater commitment to sales enablement are 33% more likely to often/always include sales teams in the creation of customer facing content. Those who do include the sales team are 250% more likely to share key consumption data for improved content creation. Overall, users of sales enablement software are 43% more likely to note improvements in sales and marketing alignment strategy.

Service Level Agreements

Sales reps only spend approximately 35% of their week in direct selling activities (ROInnovations, 2015) with many unnecessarily investing time in content creation. Companies with sales enablement are far more likely to see marketing teams fully own content creation, with 84% of respondents indicating so (36% more than companies without sales enablement).

Enhanced Content Creation

Digital content marketing is all about the decision journey, and companies with sales enablement see a 38% increase in content being tied to buyer persona stages. Furthermore, the feeling that digital content lacks value drops by a staggering 74%.

Better use of Content

As content libraries grow in size, new and potentially valuable content can easily get lost in the clutter. Over half of users with a dedicated content platform found that their content is both more current and more relevant to the buyer.

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Easier Content Dissemination

Almost half of all sales reps organize their content in email attachments and/or a cloud storage system. This makes it impossible to guarantee the right content reaches the right people. Companies with sales enablement were 55% more likely to indicate that all content was fully searchable and findable.

Eliminate Device Restrictions

Not every device can open every type of content and not every piece of content operates similarly on all devices. Companies with sales enablement were 63% more likely to indicate that all content types are usable by all sales reps, and 25% less likely to indicate device restrictions as a challenge.

Create Omni-Channel Sales Reps

It no longer matters what device you use, it matters what device the buyer is using. The sales rep must always be able to meet the buyer at their level. Companies with sales enablement were 40% more likely to indicate that they could share with and engage buyers through any channel using all content. There was also an overall reduction in the challenge of getting the right content in front of the right buyers.

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Unlock Rich Multi-Media Functions

The sales call involves more than PowerPoints and PDF’s, and often requires the use of complex digital media formats like signature capture tools and custom landing pages. Sales reps want to ‘WOW’ the buyer and close the deal. Companies with sales enablement utilization were 58% more likely to indicate that sales reps used rich media tools to appear savvier. (Aberdeen, 2015)

Eliminate 3rd Party app Suppliers

Rich media apps are always delightful for the buyer, but often require multiple programs which can complicate the sales process. Sales enablement software plays all content types, including any multimedia, while also allowing the sales rep to customize the communications for a more branded experience.

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Better Understanding of the Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s decision journey always changes, and requires continual learning and understanding. Without end-of-funnel insights, the feedback becomes anecdotal at best. Meanwhile almost 60% of sales enablement users indicated a better understanding of the buyer’s journey overall.

More Accurate Market/Competitive Knowledge

You can’t use the same tactics and sales presentations in every industry, and these insights for what works and what doesn’t often comes from the sellers on the front line. Companies equipped with sales enablement are 42% more likely to indicate having accurate market and competitive knowledge.

Actionable Data Insights

Content consumption awareness that provides actionable insight is the reason that sales enablement software can steadily deliver strong ROI. Companies with sales enablement functions are 96% more likely to indicate strong analytics into every aspect of content consumption, like who viewed which content, when, etc. (Aberdeen, 2015)

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Improved Sales Training

Training and learning is more about contextually relevant material than formal classes and structured lesson plans. Sales enablement isn’t just limited to sales calls, and 28% of sales enablement users indicated faster onboarding of new sales reps.

Shorter Sales Cycle

Managing the decision journey is all about getting the right information to the right buyer at the right time. Doing so in an effective manner limits wasted interactions where 33% of sales enablement users noted a shorter sales cycle as a result of their sales enablement software.

Improved Content for Lead Generation

Sales enablement doesn’t directly generate leads, but it does help you understand what influenced end-of-funnel interactions that led to new customers. As a result, 78% of sales and marketing teams with sales enablement felt that their content was effective for lead generation, as compared to only 49% of those without a sales enablement solution.

Improved Content for Closing

Marketers should be the creators of all sales content, and thus require sales insights that are effective at suggesting content creation that actually helps to close deals. It comes as no surprise then that only 21% of respondents felt their content was effective for closing, as compared to 54% of sales enablement users – that’s a 157% increase! Furthermore, companies with a total commitment to sales enablement software were 32% more likely to indicate conversions rates from lead to customer as a benefit of their sales enablement software.

Avoid the Content Cliff

Our analysis of over 75,000,000 sales presentations has revealed a common ‘content cliff’ where material simply loses value and usage. Companies with sales enablement functions were 84% more likely to indicate that they had analytics into content usage rates (Aberdeen, 2015).

New Product/Service Ideas

Consumption data from customer facing interactions create an abundance of possibilities once analyzed. Companies with sales enablement software were 92% more likely to indicate new product and service ideas from their sales and marketing collaboration.

Integrated Management Platforms

Sales enablement is all about reducing workloads, automating consumption insights, maximizing selling time, and creating single-views of the customer. Companies with integration functions like those found in sales enablement were 186% more likely to indicate data quality integration for single 360-degree customer views (Aberdeen, 2015).

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Who Benefits From Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement isn’t only a sales tool. Equipping the sales team to perform better inherently adds value to many other areas of the business. The groups who benefit from a sales enablement investment include:

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Digital content marketing is like a double-edged sword for buyers. While it has allowed buyers to be more empowered, it has also diminished the value of a sales call, and has left buyer’s wanting more.

Buyers have indicated that only 24% of sales reps possess knowledge about the buyer’s specific business, and even fewer felt that the sales rep could relate to the buyer’s role or understand the buyer’s unique issues that had to be addressed (TheSalesWay, 2014).

Sales enablement software helps sellers to understand what the buyer wants to know while empowering marketing teams to create content that buyers actually want to see. The outcome is an improved sales process, and the results speak for themselves (Aberdeen, 2015):

  • 23% improved lead convertion rate
  • 14% improved number of sales reps achieving their quota
  • 5.1% annual increases in average deal size

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Marketing teams will continue to be the primary creators of digital content for sales and marketing. Though content is generally very effective for lead generation, it often fails to delight the buyer at closing. In addition, sales reps are avoiding content created by marketing.

Interestingly, both sales reps and buyers share identical issues with content created by marketing. They both feel that content is:
1) too self-serving or blatantly selling
2) lacks targeted value or is too generic
3) is overly technical
4) overhypes the product/service rather than focusing on solutions.

Sales enablement software informs marketers about the content that they should be creating by integrating the consumption data from sales calls into the marketing automation system for content creation that inherently takes into consideration the needs of the buyer. The results prove this outcome:

  • 64% of companies with sales enablement solutions indicated that they include sales reps in the creation of customer facing materials
  • 54% of respondents felt that marketing content is effective for closing when sales is included in the conversation, as compared to only 21% of those who do not include sales teams
  • When marketing teams use sales rep content consumption data, 78% of respondents indicated that content is effective for lead generation, whereas only 49% indicated so without content consumption data.

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Sellers are managing the growth of content and empowered buyers with tools not suited for the task. Like trying to build a house without the right tools, sales reps are compensating by spending more time in non-selling activities in order to prepare for sales calls and navigate a content flood.

As of 2013, sales reps spend less than 35% of their week in direct selling activities, this is down from 47% in 1998. Sales reps openly admit to spending half of their day conducting activities such as searching marketing materials, creating presentations and other content, and searching for materials that relate to the customer (ROInnovations, 2014).

Sales enablement software takes the leg work out of content searching and empowers sales reps with consumption data that informs about the interests and motivations of the buyer. The result is exactly what sales reps are looking for:

  • 1/3 of sales reps using sales enablement experienced more efficient time utilization, shorter sales cycles, and higher conversion rates
  • 1/4 of sales reps using sales enablement experienced faster onboarding, more proposals/RFPs delivered, and higher quota attainment.

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Corporate executives are well aware of the value that is inherent with digital content marketing. Digital content is easily tracked and is able to provide ROI figures more effectively than traditional media sources.

Consequently, proving ROI from marketing activities was the highest rated objective in Hubspot’s ‘State of Inbound 2014’ report. Unsurprisingly then, strategic mindset, customer insights, and analytical orientation far outstripped innovation, digital expertise, creativity, and financial acumen as key desired skills of future candidates (Marketing Charts, 2014).

Sales enablement software is all about integration and putting insights into the hands of decision makers. Whether the selling company has marketing automation or not, sales enablement provides end-of-funnel insights for any size of company. Consider these findings

  • Companies with sales enablement who saw improvements in sales and marketing alignment were also 250% more likely to indicate effectiveness in content usage data sharing
  • 186% improvements in effective and actionable 360-degree views of the customer (Aberdeen, 2015)
  • 39% improvements in possessing real-time analytics and forecasting capability (Aberdeen, 2015)

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Who Uses Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is no longer a specialized solution for multinationals. The challenge of content growth and empowered buyers is hitting every industry across the planet. Sales enablement is a proven business practice that delivers strong ROI and actionable insights.

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New Growth in Smaller Business

Prior to 2013, over half of all companies under $25 million in annual revenue indicated no investment in sales enablement functions. Today that number has dropped significantly with only 10% of companies under $25 million annual revenue indicating no sales enablement investments.

Prevalence of Sales Enablement

Currently, as many as 83% of companies have some level of investment in sales enablement. 24% are totally invested with either a 3rd Party application such as Skura’s SFX, or their own in house platform with a dedicated team of full-time maintenance staff. About half of companies are partially or mostly committed to a sales enablement solution, with the use of smaller piecemeal applications being coordinated in unison across different platforms, or an internal system with simple content management functions being maintained and upgraded.

Common Challenges with Adopting Sales Enablement

It’s worth noting that common reasons for avoiding sales enablement exist among those who do not currently have any investment in the area. While largely unfounded, these include:

Budget

Sales enablement software delivers ROI returns that outweigh the cost of a sales enablement investment. Creating a system in-house is highly technical, but vendors do exist with a variety of options available. Sales enablement is typically a solution that is scalable, meaning that you purchase per user rather than per company, thus controlling cost.

Technology

Sales enablement is a technology solution that enables users to integrate all existing platforms and leverage existing technology. Often this challenge revolves around the user’s understanding of sales enablement. This solution breaks down barriers and consolidates technology with comfortable and familiar applications.

Management Support

Managers require ROI and attainable value. Sales enablement is about empowering the sales & marketing team from day one with insights, accessibility, and integration for automated workflows. Sales enablement overall reduces the management burden of poor information awareness.

Awareness

Sales enablement is a platform for coordinating front-line digital content sales communications. Even lagging industries are now entering the fold, and a growing content library will reveal a gap between content creation and the effective use of that content by your sellers. Sales enablement fills this gap by integrating all of your automation and CRM platforms for a closed-loop system of creation, distribution, and reporting.

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Sales Enablement Success Series

Chapter #1 of our Sales Enablement Success Series is available NOW!

Sales is not a fixed science. Developing a skill-set to keep up with today's empowered buyer is essential to a sales team's success.

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Peter Ostrow


Peter Ostrow – Vice President And Research Group Director
21st Century Selling Comes of Age
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