What Is Sales Enablement? Goals, KPIs, And Tools
Have mercy, it’s your everything.
For a long time, sales leaders thought that the way to give sales teams a leg up was to help them target the right buyers in the right ways. Tons of software came along to do that quite effectively in recent years. And yes, it’s been helpful.
But if you thought that gifted reps and some targeted marketing would get your team to the top, pull up a chair. Sales Enablement is about to become your priority (if it isn’t already).
Let’s start by answering this simple question: “What is Sales Enablement?”
What is Sales Enablement
Your sales reps have natural abilities, which is all well and good. But Sales Enablement is everything else that boosts their skills and helps your team win more often.
Some of those things are tangible, like technology and sales funnel content. And some are intangible, like a learning culture; the knowledge provided in onboarding, training, and coaching; and insights into how your strategic initiatives do IRL.
Sales Enablement moves you forward and shapes how that happens.
So, what is Sales Enablement? It’s what you use to improve the numbers for every rep on your team.
Sales Enablement definition
Sales enablement in a nutshell. Ready?
Sales enablement is the ongoing, deliberate process of equipping the sales organization with the content, tools, services, and software necessary to be more effective in their roles (sell more and increase revenue).
To be a truly effective sales enablement team, there needs to be a lot of focus on collaboration and communication. The best of the best work with not only sales, but also Marketing AND HR AND Finance AND Customer Success to get a 360-degree understanding of the product/service, the industry, and the customer.
Good, two-way communication and trust with sales are obviously critical. The sales enablement team ultimately rolls out the strategy and tactics sales will follow. If there is no mutual respect for each team, it can be a challenge to implement the plan.
It’s also essential to have a system or tool or (wink wink) revenue intelligence platform to capture customer and prospect conversations. We can help with this.
According to Gartner (and Gong and most others), sales needs resources to help them sell more effectively.
Gartner put these resources into two bucket:
- Content sales shares with buyers
- Content that will be consumed internally by the sales team.
- Training and development: providing salespeople with updated, timely, and revevant training programs on the product/platform/service AND on any new technologies
- Usability: Sales enablement should help everyone in the sales organization -— not just a handful or small group. Ensure all resources are easy to find and implement.
- Measurement: Be sure your team can track all of the important sales-related metrics including, but not limited to average sales cycle length, average deal size, etc.
And that is sales enablement… in a nutshell!
And here’s what it’s not…
Don’t confuse Sales Enablement with Sales Operations (Sales Ops). Their focus is different.
Sales Enablement works to improve things on behalf of buyers, through your reps’ work and interactions.
SalesOps, on the other hand, focuses on improving the buyer’s journey through process improvements. They create efficient processes across sales teams so the buyer can move smoothly and efficiently through your company at every stage in their journey, from pre-sales to customer success. So, for example, they ensure that buyers don’t have to repeat their story, needs, and challenges every time they encounter someone new at your company.
SalesOps generates revenue by serving the buyer’s needs in the sales process. The Sales Enablement team drives revenue by boosting your sales team.
Wondering how it does that? Read on.
(If you want to really test your knowledge of revenue generation, dig into this extracurricular goodie that answers, “What is RevOps? How does revenue operations drive growth?” There’s even a section on how it differs from sales operations… just to keep you on your toes.)
Sales Enablement has goals
(Its parents are proud, and you will be too.)
In the most general sense, your Sales Enablement team works to give you a competitive advantage over the competition. It helps you dominate the market by turning your team members into superstars and your go-to-market function into a revenue-generating beast.
More specifically, it wants to onboard new sellers as quickly as possible, and ensure that onboarded reps earn more and more closed-won deals. It’s also there to make sure your big-bet strategic initiatives succeed, even if it means changing tack part-way through them.
They do all of this by equipping your sales organization with the insights, data, culture, tools, and knowledge it needs to sell better.
This approach works because it lifts all the reps on your team so you don’t need to rely so heavily on your top reps. Everyone gets to move up the ladder with enablement’s support, and your initiatives get the attention and insights they deserve.
(PS: Already itching to jump to the 5 Must-Have Elements Of A Winning Sales Enablement Strategy? Go on then. See you back here in a sec.)
Implement Sales Enablement properly and you’ll see changes in your sales team’s most important key performance indicators (KPIs), like these…
The KPIs you’ll tackle
Let’s start at the beginning, alongside your new hires (who will also likely ask, “What is Sales Enablement?).
Ramp time: Sales Enablement begins as soon as new reps start onboarding. The Sales Enablement team watches two KIPs for every rep: how quickly they land their first sale and how fast they hit quota. That’s collectively known as their “ramp time,” or how long it takes to bring them up to speed.
If a rep hits those numbers quickly, they’ve been enabled (and onboarded) appropriately. If they struggle, it’s time for Sales Enablement to move in with support.
Why is ramp time so critical for new reps? Every day, week, or month a new rep doesn’t hit their quota, your team loses revenue. The faster they get up to speed, the faster you get a return for bringing them on board, and the faster they generate profit for your organization.
Once you have fully functioning team members, Sales Enablement switches tack to watch KPIs on sales effectiveness, or how consistently reps hit several key metrics. Here they come…
Quota attainment: At the end of the day, is there anything sales leaders care about more?
And sure, you want your team to hit its collective number, but if that’s because one or two rockstars dominate the sales board, you carry a ton of risk if they leave the team. That’s why you need everyone to hit their numbers.
Sales Enablement watches the group as a whole in case there’s a trend happening across the entire team. Say trouble starts brewing in deals right after you introduce new messaging. Then it’s time for Sales Enablement to dig deeper to find out what went wrong and correct it ASAP. And if an individual rep lags or has a sudden drop in their numbers, it’s time for an individually tailored approach.
Win rates: Again, these can be as general or as specific as necessary. Your Sales Enablement team should watch win rates based on your team’s strategic focus at any given moment. They may look at a specific use case or they may watch numbers related to a segment, product, or competitor. It really depends on where you, as the sales leader, have focused your team’s energy.
Sales velocity: How quickly do your deals move from qualified opportunity to closed? The speed at which deals move through your sales cycle (i.e., their sales velocity) is very important because the slower they are, the more limited your revenue opportunities. Your reps can only work so many deals at one time, so if they’re stuck working the same deals for ages, they tackle fewer opportunities overall.
Sales velocity can be slow for a number of reasons. The first step for Sales Enablement is figuring out whether it’s happening across the entire team or for just a couple of reps who pull down your average. Once enablement knows that, they can hone in on the root cause. (Maybe your reps aren’t multi-threading or they’re dropping the ball on follow-ups… or a myriad of other reasons.)
How exactly will they know what’s going on? The data. It’s key to figuring out why sales cycles take too long and whether it’s a one-person problem or a while-team problem. A top-shelf Sales Enablement team tracks the data that matters so it can understand what’s happening and find solutions quickly.
Average deal size: Boosting this number might not be on your radar, but it should be. If you move the needle on deal size — even a small amount — for most of your sales reps, you’ll have an outsized impact on your revenue.
You may be wondering how Sales Enablement can help with this one, because from afar, it doesn’t seem like deal size would be up their alley. But it is.
For starters, the data the Sales Enablement team tracks can reveal pockets of untapped revenue. Are your reps missing out on opportunities with current customers? And are there better strategies for selling to larger buyers? If so, do your reps know them?
Sales Enablement can answer all of those questions. (If they can’t, it’s time for a sit-down.)
At this point, you’ll have a pretty good answer if someone asks you, “What is Sales Enablement?”
The next question to answer is this…
Do you need Sales Enablement?
If you’re struggling to figure out how to invest in a growing sales team, we get it. Here’s some help… if the statements below sound familiar, it’s time to look into Sales Enablement:
- Some of our reps ramp in four months, others take eight. Any major gaps in ramp times are a sure sign that something is off in your onboarding. With the right training, everyone should get up to speed quickly, without massive differences in ramp time. Sure, there will be a few reps who hit their first sale or quota a few days or weeks before the others, but the gap shouldn’t be months.
- Our best reps always hit quota, the average performers rarely do. Yikes. The gaps that existed in your onboarding now live in your every day. It’s time to help your average performers, who, BTW, make up most of your team. (There’s always a top 20%, a middle 60%, adn a bottom 20% on sales teams.) Get your “middle of the pack” the help they need to lift their numbers, and the entire team will soar. Tactics should include peer-to-peer coaching and self-coaching using best-in-class call recordings.
- We know some reps don’t adhere to messaging, but whatever they’re doing, it works for them. Even if they hit their numbers, this approach is a problem. It’s full of risk (and finger crossing) and could collapse at any time, including during a rep’s biggest deal. What’s more, it means you can’t track which messaging works for your market and which doesn’t. When there’s no consistency, there’s nothing to measure. That means you can’t pin down best practices and share them across the team. Nor can you adjust your messaging if you know it’s not working. You’re just taking endless shots in the dark.
- Our market is very competitive, so our win rates go up and down all the time. Again, if you’re analyzing your talk tracks, you’ll have amazing insights into how your messaging lands. Use it to focus on the competition. How often do buyers mention competitors? What do they say and when do they say it? And perhaps most importantly of all, which objection-handling strategies work to soothe their questions about the competition? Even in a market where your competitors and their products change rapidly, this information IS trackable.
(PS: As a little gift for making it this far, grab Gong’s fill-in-the-blanks “battle card” template for free! It even comes with instructions on how to use it to win more deals out from under the competition. Can I get a win, win?”
- We’re moving into a new vertical/segment and our sellers are still struggling to find success. Use that same tracking approach from another angle. Plan your next strategic move based on what the market is already telling you. Craft your messaging accordingly, then, watch how your buyers react. It’s okay if you need to adjust your messaging. Better that than continuing to use something that doesn’t work optimally. What’s more, you’ll be able to use this as a test case to understand what went wrong. Even if you had the greatest plan and messaging in the world, maybe it wasn’t clear to your reps. Have Sales Enablement look at whether their training and content was a flop.
These sales enablement materials are absolutely necessary
If you are running a sales enablement team, you need materials. Stuff. Things. Content. Assets. Whatever you want to call ‘em, you will need ‘em to be successful.
Here are the various categories of content that will be essential to your organization
Case studies. Customer stories. Success stories.
At Gong, we refer to these as Revenue Intelligence success stories of our Raving Fans. These “success” stories are housed under the /case-studies landing page. So, see? Even we use the terms interchangeably.
Sure, there can be a case for all three being different, but it’s nuanced and unimportant for this section. So let’s move on!
Success stories are an essential part of your sales enablement team toolset. They tell a story about a particular customer in a specific industry or segment — how they used your product or service to save money/be more efficient/make more money/save time, etc.
It’s a story of their success, thanks to you.
Most case studies are dry and dull.
Pro tip: MAKE YOUR CUSTOMER STORIES FUN AND ENTERTAINING (and useful and helpful and insightful). Not dry and dull.
The goal of a killer case study is to have the reader (preferably your ideal customer) nod their head as they consume the content, while thinking — or even blurting out — this sounds like my situation!
Your sales team will be ecstatic if you can publish case studies that customers will read and ultimately lead to a new deal.
This may seem obvious, but a pre-recorded product demo can go a long way to move a prospect close to a closed-won status.
And not all sales teams have these demos at their disposal.
If you can, create various product demos — some long, some short, some showing a specific feature, some handling an objection, some specific to an industry or persona.
Product slide decks
Product slide decks are exactly what they sound like. Slides (PPTs, Google Slides, etc.) that showcase your product or service.
But beware about when (and how) you used these slides. Using slides on discovery calls decreases success rates.
When sellers rely on slides in discovery calls, the number of questions they ask drops by 21%. And (spoiler alert) you want buyers to ask questions during discovery calls.
Here’s a sales presentation template to get you started.
Your team are going to need them.
Share your top rep’s best practices with your team (or steal these data-backed sales templates) to save time AND boost sales efficiency. Win-win.
Whitepapers & eBooks
Whitepapers and eBooks. eBooks and whitepapers They are sometimes used interchangeably, but are different.
A whitepaper tends to be more formal, more “case study” like.
An eBook tends to be more fun and playful and often leans a bit heavier on design.
Both are valuable tools for sales enablement teams.
There has been a many decades-long debate whether to make your pricing public or keep it close to the vest. We live on the later side. Either way, your sales team needs to know your pricing!
Competitive intelligence briefs
Sometime called sales battlecards, competitive intelligence briefs are imperative for a sales rep to understand how to (a) compare to the competition (of course) and (b) handle objections.
Note: These must be updated on the regular!
Last, and certainly not least, videos are an important sales tool. Remember: Not every buyers learns in the same way. Weaving in videos can be helpful to move your deals forwarded.
Now that you know the essential sales enablement materials, it’s time to step up to the big leagues. Here’s how it’s done.
How do you up your game?
If you want to explore Sales Enablement tools, there are three categories to choose from, and we explore one each in turn below:
Learning Management System (LMS): This is your baseline for Sales Enablement. Use LMS software to create, deliver, and report on training programs (sometimes called ‘learning and development’ programs). It focuses on learning as the main way to improve your organization, via your reps. Think of it as souped-up e-learning; a way to identify training and learning gaps using analytics. It will up your game when it comes to your reps’ performances… but it won’t be able to tackle your deal data or make connections between your deals and your reps (or your market).
Call Recording Software: This technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. It lets you record, share, and track your reps’ calls across your team, and listen to calls after the fact. There’s nothing as effective for new reps as listening to a playlist of your team’s best calls across a sales cycle. It’s more effective — and a thousand times faster — than having new hires shadow your current reps. While it’s a great boost for sharing best practices, it won’t point out trends across calls (for individuals or the whole team), or link what’s happening on calls to deal outcomes.
Sales Enablement Software: Welcome to Gong’s home turf! Think of Sales Enablement software as a corral for every tool and resource that matters to your sales team. You’ll be able to see important data about key initiatives, market responses, and your team’s productivity in one view (in top-shelf software, that is). Plus, sales and marketing can collaborate here to ensure alignment on content they share with customers. Top Sales Enablement software is the full VIP treatment in terms of tracking, sharing, and gaining insights.
How do you boost Sales Enablement?
Short answer: You get Gong.
Long answer: You consider your team’s needs and the pros and cons of each type of technology we mentioned above. Being an evidence-based decision maker, you opt for software that does all of the following:
- Assesses your baseline
- Tracks reps and initiatives in real-time
- Points out opportunities for improvement
- Catches at-risk deals before they go sideways
- Blows leadership’s minds with your win rates and data tracking
(Like we said, you get Gong.)
Looks like you’ve come a long way from, “What is Sales Enablement?” to taking the big plunge.
That’s right, it’s demo time!
Want to see what Sales Enablement can do for your team?
Get ready to be impressed. It’s going to take you to new heights: