You’ve heard it a million times: “Sales and Marketing have to work together.”
But what you hear a lot less often is that true sales enablement spans more than just these two departments. The best companies have an enablement process that involves the whole organization, roping in players from Product Development to Customer Success sometimes even the C-suite.
No matter how everyone’s doing it, we can all agree on one thing: to make money, your reps need to be busy closing deals.
That’s where sales enablement comes in—to make it easier for those deals to close.
In this post, we’ll cover:
What exactly is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is the process of equipping your sales team with the resources (like content, information, and collateral) they need to turn a prospect into a closed deal.
One of the keys to sales enablement is bridging the gap between the Marketing and Sales teams. In fact, SiriusDecisions found that businesses see 19% more growth when they foster better communication between Sales and Marketing.
In addition to these two critical teams, research shows that sales enablement is becoming a company-wide endeavor. SiriusDecisions found that across the board, dedicated sales enablement teams are also reporting directly to the CEO, Business Unit head, and Training or HR:
Ultimately though, because sales reps tend to rely heavily on content that Marketing spearheads (like case studies, ebooks, and how-to guides), it’s essential that both Sales and Marketing are on the same page when talking about an enablement strategy.
The difference that sales enablement can make:
- A SiriusDecision study found that only 28% of all respondents had 7+ full-time sales enablement staff, but this went up to 43% for top-performing organizations.
- Over 80% of sales reps on high-performing teams (aka. teams that increased revenue dramatically YoY) said that their company gave them the resources they needed to succeed.
- Reps at high-performing companies are more than twice as likely to say their company empowered them with resources needed to engage customers.
So now the question is, how do you actually create and implement a sales enablement strategy?
Here are eight steps to get you on the way to better collaboration, smoother sales, and more revenue.
How to create and implement a sales enablement strategy:
1. Find and destroy inefficiencies in your pipeline.
If we’re talking about enabling your sales team, getting rid of obstacles in their workday is probably a good place to start.
Whether you’re ready to implement a fancy sales enablement content strategy or not, sales pipeline optimization should always be on your radar. The tricky part is finding those inefficiencies.
Often, they seem to be little things that make you go, “Oh, that’s not great, but it’s probably just a one-off thing—we’ve got other, bigger priorities.” And if it were really a one-off issue, that would probably be fine.
But what if it’s part of a pattern?
For instance, a sales team might be awesome at presenting your product as a solution—but just can’t seem to close the majority of its leads.
This could indicate a breakdown in communication between your reps and qualified prospects. There might be a missing step (like a product demo, or follow-up, or pricing discussion) in your sales pipeline.
To start identifying possible inefficiencies, see which stage of your sales pipeline is giving you the lowest conversion rate. Where are the bottlenecks?
You’ll then need the big picture view—what’s the context for these issues? To get this context, do a detailed review of your long-term sales data. Do you know how long a lead typically spends in the various phases of your cycle? Do you know how long your reps take to close a prospect?
Something like a pipeline summary report can provide you with useful insights. For example, you can see how long a prospect spends in a certain stage of your pipeline. The longer the duration (without a good explanation), the more likely it is that you have an inefficiency on your hands.
A pipeline summary report lets you review your sales pipeline data and identify bottlenecks.
For instance, if a prospect spends too much time in the qualification stage, take a closer look at your leads—are you attracting people who are actually interested in your product and ready to buy?
Getting your qualification process right is critical. You don’t want your sales team reaching out to prospects who don’t need what you’re selling—it’s a huge time-waster.
2. Supply your sales team with the right content.
Content is an essential part of moving deals forward (and sometimes even closing deals), especially for more complex products that have longer sales cycles.
Here are the most common types of sales enablement content that brands use:
Case studies tell in-depth stories about how your product or service benefited your customers. Ideally, you’d have case studies for your most popular use cases (the most common ways people use your product)—which hopefully coincides with the type of customer that’s most profitable for you.
Pro-tip: Learn more about how to write case studies.
Generally, since each client is different, sales reps need a variety of case studies. You might organize your case studies by product feature or by industry (if your company serves more than one vertical).
At Copper, we use case studies to show how a CRM benefits our customers in various industries, and it's an incredible sales enablement resources for our team:
Ebooks are where you can really get into the details, with deep dives into use cases, features, and how to use your product. This type of content really demands collaboration—ebooks require considerable resources to make and you don’t want to waste your time and budget.
You may be creating something for Sales, but make sure that you’re also looping in Marketing and Product to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded perspective.
Customer service software company LiveChat uses ebooks to demonstrate how its product will deliver the solution that a prospective customer needs. Here’s one example:
As a sales enablement piece, the ebook talks about how livechat software can help prospects at every stage of the online sales funnel.
After reading this ebook, there’s a good chance that this potential customer will see LiveChat as a tool that can be used to do a lot more than just offer customer support.
Video is a big deal. According to Cisco, online video will soon make up about 82% of all consumer web traffic—15 times more than in 2017.
Videos are a great way to create meaningful and engaging content that helps overcome objections, build trust in your offering, and shorten your sales cycle. Here are a few ideas for how you can use them:
- Explainer videos - True to its name, these videos explain specific features of your product, including how it works and the benefits someone can expect from using it.
- Tutorials - These can give prospects a step-by-step guide to how to incorporate your product into their lives. Tutorial videos are also great for onboarding new customers and familiarizing them with your offering.
- Case studies - Showcase some of your customers who have seen exceptional results. Video case studies have the added bonus of humanizing your clients and really bringing numbers to life.
- FAQs - If there are certain questions that prospects keep asking, create a video that helps your sales team answer them—it saves them time and also makes your company look prepared and knowledgeable about your product.
In this video case study, Slack did a great job of telling a fun, entertaining story that showcases how they can help. The visual element also allowed them to show the benefits of Slack in real-world settings:
Blog posts are a convenient way to quickly communicate the benefits or uses of your product. The advantage with writing blog posts is that they’re (generally) easier and take less time to create.
From new product features to updates on the company and even quick educational guides, blog posts can be a versatile part of sales enablement strategies for small, agile teams.
For example, here’s a post from the Copper blog that was written to give our sales team an easy way to explain a new feature to prospects.
Competitive battlecards (download a template to create your own)
These are amazing because they’re essentially cheat-sheets for the Sales team. The best battlecards I’ve seen are a result of serious inter-departmental collaboration. Sales, Marketing, Product, Customer Success… all of these teams have crucial insights to contribute:
- They’re chatting with prospects every day and are the most familiar with their buying considerations, processes—and how competitive your product is against the other options out there. And besides, if you need to know what kind of sales enablement content to create, the Sales team will know best.
- Marketing / Product Marketing
- Marketing should be familiar with competitor websites and campaigns, and can help translate product features and technicalities into easy-to-understand messaging. If you’re lucky and have a Product Marketing team, even better—these marketers have super in-depth knowledge of your product and can bridge the gap between Marketing and Product.
- Sometimes overlooked, the Product team is a huge source of competitive intel—after all, their road map is probably at least partially informed by competitors’ products. Though their expertise is on the technical side, with a little finessing from Marketing, you could have some acutely powerful product messaging on your hands.
- Customer Success
- Similar to the Sales team, the CS team holds the key to handling tough questions about your product—they get them all the time from your customers. What is a good way of talking about that new feature? What do your customers love or hate about it? Out of all these teams, CS has the most immediate line to your current customers. Talk to them!
This is where having a CRM comes in handy—in other companies where I’ve worked, competitive notes were usually collected in Google Docs. The problem with that, of course, is that these Docs always needed to be shared with new people every week, people would make copies and add their sales notes and ideas... and eventually, every team would end up with their own Docs that not everyone had access to.
With Copper, things are (very) different. Win/loss reasons, competitive notes, all this stuff is logged in the CRM, which is automatically synced with everyone:
Copper shows you detailed notes for every opportunity, including when and why a deal was lost.
More on CRM 👇
Learn about the tasks that a CRM can help you do more efficiently with this free guide.
3. Create email templates and scripts.
Writing sales materials can be a beast of a task, but it's worth it. Giving your reps templates and scripts can make their communication with prospects (especially follow-ups) much more efficient.
According to the Harvard Business Review, reps who respond to prospects within an hour are seven times more likely to qualify the lead than reps who wait longer. Speed is crucial.
If you're using a CRM that’s hooked up to an email integration, you can load up email templates for every scenario in the sales process (like prospecting, follow-ups, referrals, addressing specific customer questions).
This saves your reps time and effort—instead of writing emails from scratch, they can start with a template and tweak it to fit that specific email conversation:
Copper’s integration with Gmail lets you choose a pre-built template as you’re writing a new email.
To speed things up even more, you can send customized bulk emails—yes, mass emails can be customized—using your CRM’s contact database.
Here’s how it works in Copper:
Say you’re sending a mass webinar invite to your contact database. With the “merge fields” feature, you can add any field in your database to an email, meaning if you type a hashtag like #FirstName or #CompanyName into the email template, that’ll automatically add that unique customer or company name to each email.
And if you’re wondering why you’d bother personalizing emails instead of just using an impersonal “Hi there” greeting for everyone…
- Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
- Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.
You can customize more than just the greeting in an email too—other merge field options generally include email, phone number, address, and other custom fields:
Need help creating email templates that win deals? Here are some templates for inspiration.
4. Provide content for handling prospect rejection.
Many new salespeople think that rejection (because of factors like price or product complaints) means that a sale is going south. But seasoned reps know that rejection often means a prospect is genuinely interested in your product or service—they just want to clarify that you’ll meet their needs before making a decision.
So, when your reps are getting rejected, rejoice! They’re one step closer to closing a deal.
One good way you can help is by crowdsourcing and systematizing how the Sales team handles rejections.
Here’s how to do it:
- Step 1:
- Track customer or prospect complaints (like price or product rejections). Again, your CRM is a goldmine for this data.
- Step 2:
- Share these with Sales, Marketing, Product, and CS teams—your Sales team can brainstorm solutions to each objection on its own, but the additional perspectives will help. For example, if Product is planning to release a new feature that addresses a common customer complaint, it’s useful for everyone to know that this complaint will soon be a non-issue.
- Step 3:
- Put these rejection solutions in a shared drive or send a copy to each rep on your team. If you’re using Copper, you can @mention to tag your teammates or leave notes for each other inside contact records.
- Step 4:
- Update these rejections and solutions on an ongoing basis to make sure they're robust and cover all your bases.
5. Automate, automate, automate.
When people hear “sales enablement,” they usually think of content—but there are other ways of enabling a sales team.
The less time that sales reps spend on administrative tasks like filling out spreadsheets and copy/pasting information, the more time they can spend on qualifying leads and closing deals. You should automate as much of your sales process as you can—here are a few ideas:
- Make sure your reps can dial prospects directly from your CRM.
- Use email templates that your team can customize (like we discussed in #4).
- Set up notifications in your CRM that alert reps when it’s time to perform certain actions, like following up with a lead.
Create automatic reminders for yourself or team to get notified when tasks are due.
Data entry and admin
- Use a CRM that auto-populates customer contact data and other information like job title, LinkedIn page, etc.
- Make sure reps can take notes directly in the CRM so that they don’t have to waste time switching between apps.
- Use an event-scheduling tool like Calendly that can handle scheduling meetings with prospects, so there’s no back-and-forth to set up calls or appointments.
A few sales automation ideas...
Copper’s Workflow Automation allows your team to automate many of the low-value, time-consuming tasks that can take up a lot of a salesperson’s day.
Using “if/then" statements, you can trigger automatic actions based on certain sales events. Here are a few examples of the if/then automation “workflow recipes” in Copper:
- If an opportunity moves into the "presentation" stage of the pipeline, then create a task to schedule a demo:
If an open opportunity is inactive for more than 14 days, then create a task to follow-up with them:
If a sales rep makes closes a $10,000 deal at 6% commission, then automatically calculate a $600 commission and update the opportunity’s commission field:
And this is just a sliver of what you can do to automate your sales process. Check out this video for a few more magical ways to save time and sanity:
Ideas for customizing and automating the sales process
6. Track and improve your sales performance.
Your entire process, from initial prospect outreach to dropped calls and big wins, should be recorded and reported on.
Reporting is an essential piece of sales enablement. If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it, right?
Make sure the CRM you’re using can customize pipeline and sales reports to fit your goal-tracking needs across the sales pipeline.
You should be able to easily access your relationship and sales reports—from high-level overviews to drill-downs into specific details. This gives you a clear picture of what’s working for your team and what can be tweaked for better results:
These reports and dashboards should be able to help you answer questions like:
- Which types of leads or lead sources result in the most conversions? Can we invest more resources into pursuing those in the future?
- What details do the most successful deals have in common? (Look at things like total time in the sales funnel, communication strategies and frequency, sales scripts used, etc.)
- What are major contributors to lost deals? Are leads poorly qualified or slipping through the cracks? Are certain objections insurmountable? Is there a leak in the sales funnel? (More sales funnel tips here)
In addition to reporting on what’s already happened, having the ability to view sales forecasts can let you know your “expected sales” based on past and current opportunities.
For example, Copper’s Sales Forecast report helps your team stay on top of open opportunities and track processes that are working well:
7. Give reps the help they need.
If you’re tracking KPIs and setting realistic goals and people are still falling short, it’s time to dig into how to help individual teammates improve. Everybody’s different, so one person’s learning curve won’t be exactly like the other’s.
You can use your CRM to track each salesperson’s performance, which can reveal valuable insights into where they’re excelling and where they could use an extra hand:
Copper’s Goals dashboard lets you set yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals, and see how everyone is stacking up over time.
Drilling down into activities can give you a better idea of where certain reps are getting stuck. Lots of demos, but not so many closes? You can look at how often they’re following up, which scripts or approaches they’re using, and other factors that influence conversions.
A report that shows sales pipelines by owners can show you what activities are in the pipeline for each of your reps and where they might be falling short:
Copper's Pipeline-by-Owner report
To improve performance, you can:
- Have regular 1-on-1 meetings where you discuss performance and make sure the rep has all the resources they need to be successful.
- “Partner up” reps and encourage cross-team collaboration. This way, reps can complement each other based on various skills, crowd-sharing their strengths and reinforcing their weaknesses.
- Track your team’s questions and write answers to the more popular ones. Keep answers in a shared drive or folder—this will save time for both reps and management.
- Hold workshops and training for all the tools your company uses for sales. Also, regularly train your team on new product features that they'll need to demo or explain to prospects.
8. Don’t forget the Product team.
Everybody knows that Sales and Marketing have to work closely together, but not enough people realize how essential the Product team’s input is.
This is especially true for tech companies—your teams might think that your product is easy to use and understand, but that’s not always the case for your prospects and customers.
This is where the Product (and Product Marketing) team will come into play.
They know your product inside out. They can explain the benefits of a feature without hesitation. And they can definitely contribute great ideas for use cases, blogs, and ebooks for your Sales team to use when selling.
Of course, if they’re using your CRM along with the Sales and Marketing teams, it makes things easier. This way, they’re able to easily access info like:
- What prospects are asking about the product
- Common questions, complaints, and compliments
- Common struggles during onboarding
All of these are valuable insights—for multiple teams.
In Copper, everyone can access past customer conversations while collaborating with specific members of each team:
A quick @mention can alert Product team members to a popular requested feature or give the Marketing team some ideas for new content.
Go forth and implement these sales enablement strategies.
For your sales org to perform at its best, it needs the best support. Create a system that helps your team achieve sales goals by:
- Streamlining and automating your processes. Use a CRM with email templates, automate email drips, and streamline your sales cycle for optimized performance.
- Providing sales with the content they need to close deals faster. Prospects need to learn about your product and its benefits — make sure your reps have the documentation they need to articulate that stuff.
- Tracking performance to improve performance. Make sure your CRM gives you the reporting customization and options you need. Use these reports to set KPIs and goals so that you can help folks who aren’t clearing the bar.
How has your company used sales enablement to improve sales performance?