What Is Sales Enablement? Process, Structure and How to do it right?

October 15, 2019 / By Brayn Wills

Sales enablement is not just another buzzword. It is an essential process that B2B companies across industrial, manufacturing and other sectors can use to sell effectively and generate revenue.

Over time, B2B selling has become difficult. Sales teams are struggling to meet sales targets in a changing market characterized by changing buyer behavior. Customers are more demanding, and salespeople must be focused on providing value to buyers as opposed to hitting targets. The outcome of this struggle is missed quotas.

A report by Aslan shows that in 2018, over 50% of salespeople were unable to meet their sales targets. More than ever before, B2B companies are looking for ways to make their sales teams more productive, skilled, and knowledgeable to help them reach their goals. The way to achieve this is to provide salespeople with the tools, resources, and materials they need to turn leads to customers, close deals, and increase income for the business.

Sales funnel

So how can B2B companies ensure that their sales teams have the resources they need to increase conversions and drive leads through the sales funnel? Sales enablement is the simple answer.

Statistics show a significant increase in the number of businesses that embrace sales enablement and make it an integral part of their structures, from 19% in 2013 to 59% in 2017, according to a CSOInsights report.

Grown blog

What is Sales Enablement?
According to Forrester, "sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system."

Across the world, B2B businesses that embrace this process provide their sales teams with resources such as tools, knowledge, content, and information. This enables them to sell products or services to target customers more effectively.

For instance, if you are a manufacturing firm, it would be wrong to say that your sales team will have complete information about the products you make. Since they have not played a direct role in developing the products, they will need some assistance so as not to fumble and sound under-confident while dealing with prospects.

This is where sales enablement plays its part. It provides them with the right knowledge to pitch products with confidence.

Of importance to note is that sales enablement is not single-sided. Instead, it involves other staff working within the sales function and outside of it - especially the marketing department. This means the process is domiciled majorly in the sales and marketing departments of an organization.

However, in manufacturing firms, the engineers are also sometimes involved in the process to get direct insights into the products that help in building useful content for the sales staff.

Role of Sales Enablement in B2B
In manufacturing and industrial firms, sales reps face a wide range of challenges, including the widening product portfolio, rising competition as a result of global expansion and product commoditization.

Despite these challenges, manufacturing and industrial organizations usually, expect the sales team to sell all the products in their suites. This means the teams must have sufficient knowledge of each product to be able to respond to customer queries.

This is where sales enablement comes to life. Its role in empowering salespeople may be classified into five key aspects, such as:

  • Onboarding the sales team and bringing them up to speed.
  • Providing knowledge to sales staff and help them sell effectively
  • Facilitating sales team collaboration by ensuring continuous process efficiency
  • Optimizing buyer journeys to ensure customer happiness

Health and surgical equipment manufacturer, Stryker is a classic example of how companies in the manufacturing and industrial sectors have integrated sales enablement in their operations.

This company converted printed brochures into soft versions and placed them on a digital platform to fast track the content creation and distribution processes. By doing so, the company took a huge amount of information and turned it into a tool that its sales teams could use.

As a result of this change, the company reduced production costs by 80% and the timelines decreased from three months to just three weeks. Most importantly, Stryker facilitated strong adoption of these changes among sales reps, who then had access to a simple solution that met their needs.

B2B Sales Enablement Team Structure
Unlike traditional departments like Finance whose structures are well established in B2B companies, sales enablement's structure is evolving and varies from one company to another.

When the concept was shaping up, sales enablement was viewed as a subset of sales operations. Some B2B companies even considered it as a function to be performed collectively or singularly by other business divisions such as marketing, sales, and customer service.

But this is changing, and firms are beginning to place a high value on sales enablement processes. A 2017 brief by SiriusDecision showed that companies that have a high turnover tend to establish sales enablement as an independent function. According to the report, 83% of companies with an annual turnover above $750 million have or plan to deploy independent sales enablement teams.

Sales enablement 2

B2B Sales Enablement Process
Like the structure, the sales enablement process is still developing. Even so, it is clear that in B2B companies, the process has two distinct sides - the customer's side and the seller's side.

On the customer's side, sales enablement processes should involve the following:

  1. Creating alignment between the sales process and the customer's buying journey
  2. Closing the feedback loop with customers and prospects
  3. Customizing customer engagement tools, marketing content and sales communication to the various buyer personas that the company is targeting

On the seller's side, the sales enablement process should:
  1. Facilitate recruitment and onboarding of talented salespersons into the company
  2. Allow for continuous coaching and help sales teams hone their skills and build knowledge to increase customer conversions and sales
  3. Deployment of technological tools that shrink the sales cycle, enhance team conversations and generate insights that can give a firm an edge over its competitors
  4. Facilitate the assessment of sales team performance through the use of performance indicators and feedback mechanisms that show the efficiency of individual reps to achieve targets and highlight the areas of improvements 

Getting B2B Sales Enablement Right
As an ongoing process that requires focus and commitment, there are several things B2B companies can do to increase their success chances in sales enablement. These include:

  1. Determining what the company wants to achieve with sales enablement
    While the goal of sales enablement is to empower the sales executives, it helps to have specific objectives that can drive the changes a company seeks. A B2B company can have specific objectives such as fast track the selling process, increase sales revenue, or update its technology stack.

  2. Aligning sales teams with marketing teams
    B2B companies that want sales enablement programs to work must create alignment between their marketing and sales teams. This is absolutely important because sales reps use content developed by marketers. The two teams should be intertwined if companies are to deliver a seamless customer experience.

  3. Making buyers the focus of sales staff
    In the digital economy, power has moved to customers, effectively making customer-centricity a critical success factor for businesses. To succeed, B2B companies need to ensure that their sales enablement programs are in sync with customers' buying journey, and every engagement is designed to provide exceptional experiences.
  4. Making a sales enablement platform accessible to all who need it
    If every person who serves in the sales team is not able to access the sales enablement platform when they need to, companies will not achieve their goals. To it work, B2B firms should ensure that their teams are aware of the sales enablement platform and have the required skills to use the assets offered by it.
    One way companies can do this is through training and effective communication to optimize sales enablement utilization by the sales team.
  5. Improving sales enablement program regularly
    Since sales enablement is a process that is evolving, B2B companies that want to reap its benefits should remain open to changes.

    Sales enablement changes may be occasioned by the changing customer behavior, needs, or mindsets as well as the emergence of new technologies and methodologies that improve existing capabilities. To stay on top of the game, manufacturing companies need to improve their sales enablement platforms regularly.

    Pharmaceutical company, Sunovion is an example of a manufacturing firm that has improved the sales enablement program to increase efficiency. When the company started using the sales enablement program, it was based on the ‘kitchen sink’ approach, which made it difficult for sales team to get what they needed.
    But this has since changed. With time, the company realized the problem. It narrowed its focus on what its salespeople need and improved the program to provide relevant content.
  6. Building a collaborative work culture
    Sales enablement thrives on collaboration. To succeed in sales enablement, B2B companies should work towards maximizing collaboration across functions. This means making resources available to train salespeople and marketers and acclimate them with any emerging solutions that the company may adopt. 

The Bottom Line
Business competition continues to get fierce. For B2B companies, this means finding and utilizing processes that generate the desired results to stay ahead of the competition. Sales enablement is one such process. Companies that view this process as a deal-breaker set themselves up for success.

To reap the benefits of sales enablement, B2B companies need to see this process as a revenue creator - not a cost center. This mental shift enables companies to leverage sales enablement to the fullest, equip sales staff with the right knowledge and clock more sales.

This is a guest post. We welcome guest posts about helping manufacturers increase sales and/or advance their marketing function. Send in your idea and you too could be a guest blogger on MMG.

Guest blogger - Brayn Wills currently holds the position of knowledge management manager at ProProfs. He is responsible for creating unique and relevant content on ProProfs Knowledge Base and keeping track of the latest developments in the realm of knowledge management. In his free time, he is either reading a new book or exploring offbeat destinations.

Manufacturing Marketing Group Louisville, CO US 303-953-4361