What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

I’ll be honest. When I transitioned from my frontline sales career to sales enablement operations, I didn’t know sales enablement was going to explode like it has. I was just intensely curious about the tools in our tech stack that helped me stay on top of customer engagement. So much so that RFPIO noticed and asked if I’d like to take ownership of it. “Don’t mind if I do!” I replied, and it’s been a rush ever since.

A recent Smart Selling Tools survey revealed that use of sales enablement tools grew by 567% in a one year period. Why? Well, there are many gears that have to sync before achieving a successful sale. Even the deals that close because you feel like you were in the right place at the right time are a product of a lot of work that has gone on behind the scenes. What’s the Richard Branson quote? “There are no quick wins in business—it takes years to become an overnight success.”

How can you make the sales process smoother? The answer to that question is sales enablement. The value prop for sales enablement is to make sure those gears behind the scenes are fully lubricated and precisely machined, no matter how unpredictable your product, market, or customer may be.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the ongoing, strategic process of equipping sales teams with the right resources in order to effectively close more deals. We complement the sales cycle and help reps do what they do best: Sell. There are myriad ways companies can provide these resources, like through knowledge management software, training programs, and other types of support.

Mind you, sales enablement isn’t just for the rookies. Sales enablement adds a layer of support for reps of all levels, from senior leaders to new hires.

Without enablement, there’s a lack of alignment between process and training. Sales professionals are hard chargers who want to succeed. If their organization doesn’t enable them, then salespeople will go rogue to find ways to succeed on their own. While this is admirable in a proactive sense, it can result in long-term issues with team dynamics, inconsistent messaging, and loss of native expertise when your strongest sales people leave the company. Because along with a penchant for seeking successful outcomes, great sales reps want to be in environments where there are as few barriers to success as possible. If they can be enabled elsewhere to greater success, they’ll leave.

With sales enablement, you can have an open line of communication between all stakeholders—from sales development reps to account executives to account managers. Only then are you able to develop a list of goals that can link the sales team’s needs with business objectives. Of course, goals will vary depending on roles within the sales team. For example, account executives want to rely less on others and have more control over meeting their quota, but other members of the sales team may be looking for ways to share resources faster so that everyone can succeed and better manage revenue streams.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales enablement can scale the work of sales teams and can also improve collaboration across sales and presales. With these areas of the business communicating to each other, you’re able to formulate a sales enablement strategy that can improve business goals more efficiently.

I don’t believe that every deal is just another number. As the owner of sales enablement at RFPIO, I strive to make every customer journey an experience in partnership with RFPIO. I want to create a sense of community. The support we offer the sales cycle will provide dividends in the customer experience as a whole. If we can drive competency levels with demos, strengthen the sales team culture, and simplify knowledge management, then deals close faster and customers are more satisfied. Reps always want to sell better, they’re always looking to improve, and we’re their biggest cheerleaders.

As sales enablement matures, it can help with so much more behind the scenes, from prospecting to demos and deeper dives, including:

  • Reinforcing knowledge through training and coaching
  • Breaking down silos for sales team roles
  • Documenting best practices for the sales tech stack
  • Delivering the right content at the right time
  • Keeping communication open so sales teams know what they need to know to close deals smarter and more effectively

What is sales enablement strategy?

A sales enablement strategy is the business approach put in place to provide sales with the resources that they need to effectively sell. Not all sales enablement strategies will be the same, as it is unique to your business and its needs. The sales enablement strategy should include data on how to improve sales and an analysis on current sales tools to determine where improvements can be made.

Sales enablement strategy is what bridges the gap between sales leadership and sales operations. Sales leadership sets revenue goals. Sales operations has to meet those goals. Sales enablement strategy determines the technology, content, and support sales ops needs to execute their business development strategy. Sales enablement strategy also evaluates the sales tech stack to make sure it’s optimized to give leadership full visibility and ensure deals aren’t shrouded in the mystery of reps’ own records. It’s about finding ways to make internal relationships more efficient so they’re not detracting from time spent on revenue-generating activities.

7 sales enablement best practices

Sales enablement is important because it plays such a key role in scaling the organization. By providing all salespeople with a level playing field and equipping them with knowledge on demand, sales teams should thrive. I recommend following these seven steps to get the most out of your sales enablement strategy.

  1. Define objectives: The key to sales enablement is that every team involved is on the same page. What is our goal? How do we get there together? What is in our way? I drive and execute on the sales enablement strategy at RFPIO, but I don’t develop it single handedly. Strategic development falls on a combination of leadership from sales, marketing, IT, contracts, and operations.
  2. Understand your buyers: Empowering the sales team also involves empowering your buyer. Make sure that your buyer journey is mapped out accordingly in order to maximize sales enablement and customer experience outcomes.
  3. Continue training: Sales enablement is not a one-and-done solution. Adequate and frequent training will need to be incorporated into the company culture in order for veteran sales members to stay up to date on the trends and new sales members to learn the ropes.
  4. Create valuable content: There are two layers to this step.
    1. Work with marketing and/or your content development manager to provide assets like case studies, white papers, blog posts, webinars, and other content that sales teams can utilize to develop relationships. The best websites and products can bring in their own leads with content and branding, making it easier for sales to close the deal.
    2. Make sure the content that the sales team needs to do their job well is always up to date and accessible. This can include sales briefs, training materials, product roadmaps, and any other knowledge they need to have in order to build trust with a customer. At RFPIO, we actually conduct and record sales enablement sessions on everything from product updates to contracts to ongoing customer support to train anyone in the company who’s interested.
  5. Manage sales enablement processes: This doesn’t mean micromanage, because no one likes a micromanager. However, this process can be new to sales teams. Take the time and effort to ensure sales is enacting the strategy. Check in to ask if anything can be improved and gather feedback.
  6. Use tools effectively: Don’t just give answers. Show the sales team where they can find answers so that they can take control of the process.
  7. Document (v.): Too many sales processes only exist as word of mouth, especially in startup environments. Sales enablement can own the documentation of these word-of-mouth preferences to convert them into manageable, trackable processes. Take handoffs from one team to another, as an example. Sales enablement can smooth out these traditionally rough patches. Rather than nurturing or babysitting handoffs, document how those handoffs need to take place to make sure there’s a smooth transition for customers. This is the type of help that keeps sales teams focused on selling instead of getting distracted by vague operational details.

Empower your sales team

When you empower your sales team with the tools they need to succeed, they will return the favor with better performance. From presales to sales leadership, improved outcomes will leave all team members happy.

On-demand access to knowledge and content is essential to sales operations and sales enablement. Operationalizing your sales tech stack with AI-enabled software that drives more self-service experiences can remove many dependencies that have become frustrating pauses in the sales cycle. It can also increase revenue by up to 20%!

To learn more about how RFPIO can help with knowledge management and how RFPIO® LookUp can grant sales teams access to all content from almost anywhere, schedule a demo today!


Abby Smith

Abby Smith is the Sales Enablement Specialist at RFPIO. She's worked at RFPIO since 2019 and is passionate about helping sales teams (and otherwise) put their best foot forward. When she's not enabling sales teams, you can find her practicing yoga, cooking new recipes and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Connect with Abby on LinkedIn.

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