B2B Sales Enablement Explained

Highlights

  • B2B sales enablement programs are designed to help sellers deliver relevant, differentiated and valuable customer engagement during the early steps of the sales process and thereby advance the buyer through the sales cycle and earn the sale.
  • These programs align the sellers' sales process with buyers purchase process and aid salespeople with content, knowledge and automation designed for each sales cycle step.
  • These programs are measured by their ability to increase top line revenues, grow customer acquisitions, increase staff productivity and reduce sales cycle duration.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

The volume of companies inquiring about B2B sales enablement consulting seems to be hitting a fever pitch. But executives first want to know if it is just more hype or can really accelerate their revenues.

Research and experience show these programs empower sellers to step up their performance and help companies step up revenue growth. However, they are not one size fits all solutions. So, to answer the above question for a broad audience, I'm going to define this business development method, explain the four core components, share a few best practices and identify when it's both useful and needed.

If you are not familiar, these programs have become mainstream for midsize and large companies and certain industries such as technology and professional services. While it's a relatively new concept, it's gaining increased adoption across all industries and company sizes. And for good reason, the payback is significant.

Even small gains in salesperson performance measures such as productivity and win rates deliver a linear payback when scaled across the salesforce. Research firm Aberdeen found that salesforces with successful B2B Sales Enablement programs achieved 23 percent higher lead conversion rates and 32 percent higher team quota attainment. Those kind of results are worth replicating.

What is Sales Enablement?

But to start some clarity is needed. This type of program may be the most loosely used or misused term in the sales industry.

There is no shared or consensus definition, but the concept is simple.

Sales enablement is all about providing sellers with the content, coaching, training and technology that helps them sell more effectively and increase revenue.

It's a systemic approach to orchestrate early-stage sales activities, information and systems. When done correctly, it delivers more effective interactions with customers and increases the productivity and effectiveness of sellers.

At a tactical level it delivers the right sales support to the right person on the right channel at the right time.

That helps sellers better engage buyers throughout the buyer journey and be more effective in every customer interaction.

The key to understanding this selling empowerment is to understand how each of its components improve customer engagement and sales performance. Those four components are illustrated below.

Sales Enablement
1

Sales Content

Siesmic reports that sales reps spend an average of 30 hours a month searching for and recreating their own content. That's a tremendous productivity hit. And it's a double whammy as content previously created by marketing and others goes unused because it's not found. Selling enablement uses content management to recover this lost time and  better leverage the company's artifacts by pursuing three goals.

McKinsey advises that salespeople waste 10 to 20 hours per week searching for content and then curating or recreating content because they can't find what they are looking for. The problem is exacerbated as SiriusDecisions reports that Marketing goes to great effort and expense to create content, but 60% to 70% of marketing's content goes unused because it's not found.

First, increase rep effectiveness by making content easily accessible. That happens by getting all content in a single repository with simple search capabilities.

Second, increase customer engagement effectiveness by tailoring content for each buyer role and industry. Even better, align content with the steps in the buyer's buy cycle to efficiently advance the buyer through each sales cycle stage.

And third, increase content effectiveness by ensuring it is consistent across channels, tracked for utilization, and rated for value by the recipients. Ratings are often as simple as the thumb up or down buttons.

2

Sales Coaching

Coaching applies structured conversations to develop each salesperson's full potential. These conversations seldom tell staff what to do and more often focus on developing the right skills and reinforcing the behaviors that deliver results.

When integrated with seller enablement, coaching is initially delivered as part of the onboarding process, continuously delivered as part of a recurring training program and with the help of sales automation, proactively delivered in a just-in-time format.

3

Sales Training

Training tackles the most challenging topic of customer engagement. Research results show training for customer engagement is more difficult and less effective than other sales training programs such as product, process, service or technology training.

That's in part because there are many types of customers with many types of challenges. That makes delivering the right message on the right channel at the right time a tough nut to crack.

Seller enablement aids this challenge with a combination of training, content and tools such guided selling, next-best-action recommendations and Sales Playbooks. This combination integrates the lessons into daily execution and makes training more experiential.

4

Sales Technology

The number of selling enablement technologies and productivity tools is sky rocketing. But rather than try to keep up with them, a better approach is to understand the categories of these tools and how each category responds to specific business problems.

For example, managing content can be aided with content management systems. Coaching can be assisted by integrating Sales Playbooks into the CRM system and using a push-based model to dynamically deliver coaching advice or Plays based on lead score, customer type, sales stage, products under consideration, customer business problem and similar variables.

Sellers should also be supported with buyer intelligence, enriched customer profiles (often created from Customer Data Platform (CDP) tools) and guided selling automation.

Other technology categories include, but are not limited to, lead management automation, buyer intent signals, customer sentiment analysis, collaboration tools, call management, computer telephony integration (CTI), social selling, chat, gamification and virtual meeting tools to name a few.

But the most overarching and empowering technology is artificial intelligence (AI). AI can detect customer sentiment or leverage buyer history or the history of like customers to improve customer engagement. It can surface in-the-moment buyer insights, suggest the best content or make highly accurate next best action recommendations.

Sometimes you may hear vendors or consultants suggest that customer engagement is a selling enablement component. Customer engagement is not a component, it's the goal for which all the components are orchestrated to achieve.

Technology optimization should start by designing the right RevOps tech stack. That's generally the result of a three-step process that includes technology strategy, modernization and simplification.

The goal is to use a centralized RevOps tech stack to replace departmental and piecemeal technologies with platform applications that better support enterprise-wide process automation, information reporting and scale.

RevTech Stack

It's not practical to acquire every helpful technology at once. In fact, that's probably too much change too quickly. So, the RevTech stack is designed as a multiple-year roadmap whereby the most essential technologies are acquired first. Their payback can then be used to fund the journey.

When This is Needed

Sales solutions work when they fix specific problems. The below challenges are prime candidates to be aided or fixed with Seller Enablement solutions.

  • Sales win rates are low or in decline. When prospects are exiting early stage sales cycle steps it's a sign that the customer engagement in those steps needs improvement.
  • Sales cycles are getting longer. This often occurs when sellers are reactive rather than proactive or when the sellers process is not aligned with the buyers purchase process. Selling enablement programs ensure proper alignment and provide reps with the content, knowledge and engagement to efficiently move prospects through the funnel.
  • Poor or declining productivity. Increasing salesperson productivity is a perennial goal. Seller enablement solutions aid or automate highly repetitive activities, so salespeople can spend more time selling.
  • Not meeting revenue targets. These programs can be very effective at replicating the behaviors and customer engagement techniques used by the top producers to the rest of the team.
  • Unpredictable revenues. This is indicative of salesforces with a few rock stars that usually carry the day but sometimes fall short. It's also indicative of ineffective or inconsistent selling processes. Combining seller enablement with prescriptive execution programs will help.
  • Not meeting quotas. When incurring quota variances across the entire team its time to redesign the selling process and apply productivity solutions. Equipping the salesforce with uniform content, knowledge and technology improves team performance and reduces the reliance on top producers to carry the load.
  • Unable to scale. Consistent and automated processes that deliver predictable outcomes are a prerequisite to scaling revenues.

The above challenges normally occur sequentially but are most often not noticed until several have accumulated. At that point the challenge can appear overwhelming.

The thing to keep in mind is that it's not a single massive challenge but several smaller problems that when isolated can be tackled with much more precision and much less time. B2B sales enablement implementation programs often start small and evolve iteratively over time.

See B2B Seller Enablement explained and the conditions for when it should be considered.

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