What does it take to start or scale a successful, strategic sales enablement program?
In this guide, I’ll cover the four areas of focus that are essential to a program that drives real results:
1. Scope and focus
When you hear the term “sales enablement,” what comes to mind? I’m guessing training and support for sales teams.
But a successful sales enablement program does more — much more — than training and development.
The focus of sales enablement is to enable sales in whatever way it can. That includes:
- Sales content
- Best practices
- Management of technology
The truth is, sales enablement isn’t just a role or department. It’s an activity that everyone in an organization should be participating in. After all, the revenue brought in via sales is what pays their salaries.
The truth is, sales enablement isn’t just a role or department. It’s an activity that everyone in an organization should be participating in.
But someone needs to coordinate that effort.
That’s where sales enablement comes in.
Related: How to Use AI for Sales Coaching
With this in mind, let’s expand our understanding of sales enablement. Not only does it resource and empower sales, it coordinates the efforts of the entire organization to support the sales team. It also creates a culture of learning, where everyone shares their expertise with one another, and in particular, with sales.
What does this look like in practice?
Sales enablement leaders develop sales enablement strategy, optimize its execution, and provide governance. They also lead and coordinate the support of sales, engaging other teams and individuals as needed.
Marketing may participate by creating sales enablement content that can be used to move prospects through the pipeline.
Subject matter experts from all departments can contribute their knowledge to up-level sellers.
The sales team, of course, does their part by committing to apply these efforts in the trenches, win more deals, and drive more revenue.
The scope and focus of sales enablement is to empower people. Let’s not forget that as we home in on strategy and execution.
2. Sales enablement strategy
The head of a sales enablement program is responsible for developing and writing the sales enablement charter. This document is the business plan for the enablement team, spelling out their goals, deliverables, responsibilities, and the scope of their work.
Your sales enablement charter should includes:
- The business case
- Mission statement
- What success looks like
- Metrics and key performance indicators
- Implementation plan
As you develop your strategy, here are some things to consider.
1. Start with your business case
The business case is a rough framework that communicates the value of the sales enablement program, why it’s needed, how it will operate, and who will have responsibility for its various functions.
This document is developed first, before the charter is drafted, to ensure the program will align with the company’s key strategic priorities and make the biggest possible impact. Not only does it give you executive air cover, it helps you stay on track, pushing the initiatives your executive team cares about most.
2. Define your mission
Once the brief is approved, you can craft your mission statement. This short statement describes the purpose of the sales enablement function in one or two sentences. It then becomes your north star, keeping you and your team focused on what matters most.
Here are two examples:
To provide the sales organization with the information, content, and tools necessary to streamline sales processes.
To deliver continuous learning and growth to customer-facing teams.
3. Align both up and down
A successful sales enablement program adds value to the business, leadership, and customer-facing reps. To do that, you need to align both up and down — understanding the problems of people at every level and finding ways to help them all reach their goals.
It’s important to understand the challenges or problems that management wants you to solve. But you also need to speak to employees to identify the problems they face.
From those conversations, you can identify the divergence between management and employees, which will help you understand what’s needed and how to set priorities.
4. Identify your subject matter experts
Sales enablement works best when it’s collaborative. In many organizations, Enablement is a small or one-person team. You don’t have the bandwidth to fulfill your mission without help from internal stakeholders and leaders.
For example, Mark Eckstein was once a one-man team supporting 40 on the sales side and 15 in customer success — and every new hire went through 2-week or 1-month training.
There was no way he could run all the sessions himself. So he relied on subject matter experts throughout the organization.
It’s important for sales enablement professionals to network within the organization. Meet with people. Get to know them. Build relationships with people you might need to call on.
Build trust with your experts. They need to understand that you’ll help make them successful. To do that, you need to make small investments. Set the stage for what enablement is, and assure them you won’t create more work for them, that partnering together will actually make their life easier.
5. Decide how you’ll measure success
You need to track two sets of metrics. Programmatic metrics tell you whether you’re hitting your team’s goals. Growth and revenue metrics tell you how well you’re impacting the organization’s goals.
In each set of metrics, you have a lot of options. In a minute, we’ll cover specific metrics that might help you track results. But ultimately, it depends on your program, your organization, and the challenges you’re trying to solve.
3. Sales enablement execution plan
Execution is about fulfilling your charter and achieving the results you’ve promised. It involves:
- Designing training and content
- Testing methods of delivery
- Continually organizing, updating, and optimizing content
- Managing technology and tools
- Coordinating with experts and other teams within the organization
- Getting feedback to understand what’s working and what’s not
You’ll need to set priorities and systematize as much as possible, so you can drive the outcomes you’re looking for even if you have a small team. Here are some tips for running an effective sales enablement program.
1. Make it accessible
Accessibility involves more than the format of your content. Content should be well organized, so it’s easy to find. It needs to be delivered in a way that facilitates learning. And it needs to be easy to consume.
When it comes to sales enablement content, always remember that less is more.
Your reps are busy. They don’t have time to stop everything and consume a 20-minute video. They want snippets of content that answer questions quickly, with no fluff.
Eckstein does that by producing “slices of knowledge”:
I take live calls from all the top salespeople across the organization, each selling to different sales stages. I’ll cut their conversation into snippets. After I’m done, I’ll end up with 400 of these knowledge slices. They’re just two minutes on average.
So I may have, say, 14 examples of different salespeople talking about integrations. Reps can watch how each rep sells across personas, company sizes, sales stages, and how they talk pre-pipeline, during negotiation, and after the close.
Listening to these snippets one right after another, it’s easy for reps to understand how they might handle a similar situation.
Your training videos should also be short. Think 8-minutes max for each video. Then, to help reps apply what they’ve learned, give them a quick recap and a checklist or cheatsheet.
Make sure you accommodate different learning styles. Whenever possible, you need to provide training in multiple formats: video, text, and tactile.
But you can also accommodate different learning styles within the same program. When you’re making an important point, show it on the screen and repeat it aloud several times. Tell a story to illustrate the point. And if possible, develop an exercise for tactile learners.
If you teach live, consider teaching to small groups of people with the same learning modality — one class for visual learners and another for tactile learners, for example.
2. Create short feedback loops
Not all of your initiatives will work, and there’s no way to know until you test them. Because of that, you need to build short feedback loops into your workflow.
If something isn’t working after the second cohort, update the program or pivot to provide more value and achieve the results you’re looking for.
3. Think of yourself as an information broker
Bottom line, sales enablement professionals are information brokers. You need to stay alert to trends, what’s working across the industry, and what’s not. You also need to understand the challenges your team is facing.
Go to all standups and forecast meetings. If you can target where reps are getting frustrated, it’ll be easier to provide workable solutions.
Look for what’s going on outside the sales team as well. Soak up everything going on in the customer success or marketing orgs, for example, so you can see what’s going on before and after the sale.
Here’s a tip for large SE teams: Assign members to different groups in your organization. Then ask them to meet regularly with their assigned group to stay abreast of best practices and trends.
4. Knowledge management
Ideally, you want to capture new ideas and lessons learned from the field and other groups, so you can share them across the organization. And at first, it’s relatively easy to organize and tag your content. But as the program scales, content itself can become a problem.
It’s important to find the right technology for hosting content and making it accessible to everyone. As you consider options, don’t just evaluate your current needs. Make sure your technology can scale with your program.
5. Leverage success
It’s not enough to deliver training. You need to prove that your training and tactics can turn reps into high performers.
When someone implements your training and starts outperforming everyone else, make a point of celebrating their success. The rest of the team will take notice — and you’ll likely get more buy-in to your program.
4. Sales enablement governance
Governance is about measuring and evaluating your program’s assets and outcomes. You need to validate you’re fulfilling your charter and that Sales’ performance is improving. You also need to ensure your content is updated and relevant.
Key governance issues include:
- Updating outdated content
- Demonstrating value
- Tracking results
1. Keep sales enablement content fresh
As a sales enablement program grows, it becomes more difficult to govern all your links, connections to other data sources, and the content itself. It’s vitally important to set up systems and processes for reviewing and refreshing your content.
If content is moved, you need to make sure links leading to that content are also updated. If content becomes outdated, it needs to be updated — or retired, and all the links pointing to it removed.
2. Demonstrate value
Everything you do needs to fall within the scope of your charter and have a measurable goal. This allows you to track outcomes and show that you’re meeting your organization’s goals.
Through success stories and reporting, you can demonstrate value to the organization, leadership, and reps.
3. Track and measure results
As mentioned above, you need to track two sets of metrics: programmatic metrics that track your program’s success, and growth and revenue metrics that measure your impact on the company’s goals.
Here are the sales enablement metrics that Jefferson recommends.
To measure your program’s success:
- Accreditation and certification scores
- Biannual needs analysis
- Program-based surveys
- Communications deployed
- eLearning statistics
- Percentage of completed enablement requests
- Sales enablement content usage statistics
To measure the impact of your sales enablement program:
- Average deal size
- Collateral use and frequency
- Deal velocity
- New pipeline created
- Number of closed deals
- Quarter over quarter
- Annual quota attainment percentage
- Speed to revenue
- Win and loss rates
Getting a handle on sales enablement
As a sales enablement professional, you’ll put your own spin on the function, creating tactics that drive growth for your organization. But no matter how you approach it, your program will need a strategy, an execution plan, and good governance.
By focusing on these three areas, you’ll be able to continually improve your program and drive real results that make your organization more profitable.