In the past ten years, we’ve seen an incredible shift in the buying landscape. There’s so much quality information online — in blog posts and ebooks, on social media and review sites — sellers have a shortened opportunity to impact buying decisions. That means sales reps must make the most of every chance they get to interact with a prospect. Sales enablement, and sales enablement tools, help them do just that.
It’s no wonder that Gartner expects sales enablement budgets to increase 50% by 2027. Shayne Jackson, Sr. Director Analyst at the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice, says, “Sales enablement is the most critical function for navigating sales teams through the constant change that surrounds them, from economic headwinds to evolving seller roles.”
Sales enablement gives client-facing employees the knowledge and technology they need to have the right conversations at each stage of the sales cycle, elevate customer experience, and close more deals. We aim to improve sales productivity, team performance, and the business’s bottom line.
Three pillars of sales enablement
Sales enablement teams support the entire revenue organization, from business development reps (BDRs) in pre-sales to customer success managers (CSMs) managing customers post-sale and all the roles in between. We enable them in three ways that always roll up to our broader goal of helping them improve sales performance:
- Product enablement – how do we get sellers up to speed on new products and features and keep product-related content up-to-date?
- Process enablement – how do we streamline sales processes to make the sales teams more productive and create alignment between sales and marketing teams?
- Skill development – how do we make sure sales reps and their managers get the coaching they need to improve their skills consistently?
One of these pillars may be emphasized more than the other at any given time, depending on what’s happening at a company. For example, companies hiring less experienced reps tend to focus on skill development, while those with a more sophisticated sale focus on the process to provide smooth handoffs from one team to another. The focus may shift to the product pillar during a new product launch.
All three pillars rely heavily on sales enablement software.
Sales enablement tool types
A wide range of tools are used in sales enablement.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
The CRM is a master record keeper of the most up-to-date information and all prospect and customer interactions across an organization. Common CRMs include Salesforce, Hubspot, and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Salesloft integrates with all popular CRMs.
Sales content management tools are your sales team’s content library. They provide an efficient way for sales teams to access and share relevant content like emails, documents like case studies, videos, presentations, and more throughout the buyer journey. Some of these tools also allow salespeople to customize content on the fly based on individual prospects’ needs and interests. This helps reps create unique experiences that align with buyers’ expectations for a modern buying process. Traditional sales content management systems include Highspot, Seismic, and Showpad.
We use Salesloft, which allows our users to add content to the platform and surround it with the context and information required to send it to a prospect at just the right time. These might be entire emails saved as team templates or shorter snippets teeing up an ebook or pricing information.
Sales training and coaching
Sales training software helps new sellers quickly get up to speed on the organization’s sales processes. Ongoing coaching lets managers hold data-driven one-on-one sessions to build reps’ skills over time. Standout solutions include conversational intelligence, which records, transcribes, and analyzes sales calls for keywords, themes, next-best actions, customer interactivity, and more. Sales training and coaching tools include Mindtickle, Brainshark, and Salesloft.
Sales intelligence software is all about data. It gives sales teams the information they need to improve the quality and quantity of their leads. Depending on the solution, data may include contact information, job titles, firmographics, and even buying signals like recent funding. Good data is so crucial that at Salesloft, we use more than one sales intelligence tool — ZoomInfo, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and 6Sense.
Gartner defines sales engagement as “the various interactions (digital, in-person, phone and so on) that sellers have with prospects and customers. This technology enables sales departments to efficiently deliver high-quality interactions with prospects and customers at scale.” This efficiency occurs because of automation, prescribed workflows, and comprehensive deal management. Salesloft is the industry leader in sales engagement.
Sales analytics provide real-time performance metrics that help measure key indicators such as deal size, win rate, and average time-to-close deals, among others. This gives sales leaders visibility into how their team is performing against objectives so they can spot areas where improvement is needed and take action. Sales analytics may be built into any sales tool (like Salesloft’s Analytics & Reporting), or your organization may use a separate system (such as Looker).
Automation tools automate processes that sales reps would otherwise do manually. By automating mundane tasks such as data entry or lead qualification, reps spend less time on tedious tasks and free up time for more meaningful conversations with prospects.
The best sales enablement tools tend to wrap several of these functionalities together.
Sales enablement solution trends
In the last few years, I’ve noticed two significant trends in sales enablement. The first is a shift toward tech stack consolidation. In other words, using fewer software applications to complete the same work.
There are several reasons for this. Context switching — shifting from one app to another — decreases a seller’s efficiency. In fact, David Meyer, Ph.D. found that changing tasks can cost up to 40% of a person’s productive time, even when those switches only take seconds each. Other reasons include everything from increased difficulty in troubleshooting problems to feature overlap. You can read more about calculating the value of consolidation here.
The second trend has been particularly relevant this year: sales manager enablement. As the economy continues its volatility, and companies look to do more with less, they’re interested in ensuring their managers have the tools they need to be efficient. It’s important managers can coach effectively so salespeople hit their number — but also to keep reps happy.
These trends are exciting working at Salesloft since we were way ahead of the game on both. The core of our sales enablement tech stack has always been Salesloft. Though we bill it as a sales engagement tool, it’s so much more. It covers sales onboarding, training, and coaching (including conversational intelligence); sales prospecting; sales pipeline management and forecasting; and sales analytics. It also has integrations for all the major CRMs and customer lifecycle tools
When evaluating and selecting sales enablement tools, it’s important to analyze the current state of the sales process. Start by asking yourself:
- What are the steps in my team’s sales process?
- What types of data are they collecting and using?
- Are there any areas where more data or better organization would help improve performance?
By understanding the current state of your sales process, you can identify areas where an enablement tool could be beneficial.
In addition to analyzing your current sales process, it’s also important to understand your organization’s goals. Knowing what success looks like for your team will be key when evaluating potential solutions. Ask yourself:
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- What outcomes or behaviors am I trying to drive with a sales enablement tool?
- What metrics do I want to track and report on?
Next, evaluate how well a particular enablement tool fits your existing sales organization. Consider how easy or difficult it will be for reps to adopt and use a new system. Ask questions such as:
- Does this tool make sense for our team’s workflow?
- How user-friendly is it?
- Will our reps need additional training?
Considering your team’s size, culture, and capabilities will help you find a solution that works best for everyone involved.
Finally, make sure you ask critical questions when engaging with vendors.
- What is the implementation process?
- What is the average time to productivity for your customers?
- How do you help set us up for success?
Questions like these can help paint an accurate picture of what each vendor offers and determine whether their solution will meet all of your needs. Additionally, consider asking about pricing models, available integrations, customer support services, and other features to accurately compare options before deciding.
Considering these four factors — analyzing the current state of the sales process; understanding organizational goals; evaluating fit with existing teams, and asking key questions — will help you confidently select an effective sales enablement tool.
Salesloft for engagement — and enablement
Salesloft is a sales engagement platform. Our focus is always on our customers and providing them with the right content at each stage of the buyer journey. Doing that takes a coordinated sales enablement effort. Salesloft’s comprehensive capabilities – from rapid onboarding to ongoing training and coaching to targeted content delivery and beyond – make implementing our sales enablement strategy easy.
If you’re interested in learning how Salesloft can help with your sales enablement efforts, reach out to a team member today.