Article | 20 min read

Sales enablement: Definition, strategy, and content planning

Learn how sales enablement empowers your sales team to sell effectively.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published July 26, 2021
Last updated October 19, 2022

Are sales pitches falling flat, causing your team to miss their quotas? Do new hires struggle to understand the full extent and benefits of your product? Does it seem like the clients you acquire aren’t the right fit and are constantly nickel and diming you? If so, it might be time to develop a sales enablement strategy.

Committing to a sales enablement strategy can help your team:

  • Prepare to answer any question a prospective customer asks
  • Understand your company’s ideal customer
  • Learn how to identify qualified leads
  • Set expectations with potential customers
  • Close deals in record time
  • Meet revenue targets

Sales reps today need resources to keep consumers moving down the funnel. They also need well-defined implementation strategies to help them make the best use of available resources (like marketing collateral and lead magnets) so they don’t miss out on valuable opportunities.

This is where sales enablement comes in. When you have a sales enablement strategy in place, you can empower your team to close more deals and boost your company’s bottom line.

In this guide, we’ll define sales enablement, explain how you can create an impactful strategy, and explore some of the most effective sales materials.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of giving salespeople (and other customer-facing teams) the resources they need to convert more leads. These resources can include content, tools, or any general information that helps your team sell products or services more effectively.

A well-planned sales enablement strategy can teach your sales team how to nurture leads and guide buyers through the sales funnel with more speed and consistency.

Purpose: When does sales enablement come into play?

Today’s consumers want to experience a seamless buyer journey, get top-of-the-line support, and receive a personalized pitch from their sales rep.

A sales enablement strategy makes this happen by detailing processes for every stage of the funnel, identifying specific tasks for each team member, and creating useful assets that reduce the time to profit.

Sales enablement overview

Sales enablement is the process of coaching reps and providing them with the assets they need to close deals. A sales enablement strategy is beneficial because it:

  1. Trains reps to sell better
  2. Increases win rates
  3. Integrates the sales and marketing departments
  4. Reduces time to revenue
  5. Creates processes for every stage of the sales funnel

By examining consumer insights, providing relevant content, and equipping reps with the tools and knowledge to act quickly, companies using sales enablement can develop the best approach to selling to their ideal buyer.

What is the core strategy behind sales enablement?

The goal of sales enablement is to align the efforts of your sales, marketing, and product development teams. This ensures that messaging across the funnel is cohesive and consistent, leading to more favorable outcomes.

You can create a more effective sales enablement strategy and develop content that yields better results by:

  • Selecting someone to carry out the implementation plan
  • Encouraging collaboration between the sales and marketing teams
  • Sticking to a single subject on each piece of content
  • Targeting a specific audience
  • Telling a story that keeps readers engaged
  • Using accessible language
  • Emphasizing benefits rather than specs or features
  • Incorporating a clear and compelling CTA (call to action)

Why is sales enablement important?

A strong sales enablement strategy is essential for any sales-driven organization because it outfits your team with everything they need to be successful and hit revenue targets. It also ensures your sales staff stays aligned with company goals and adequately educates buyers.

Sales enablement is important because it helps:

  • Reps focus on selling rather than scrambling for basic information
  • Keep marketers attuned to content performance
  • Marketers understand what assets the sales team needs to do their jobs
  • Track sales and marketing performance metrics
  • With data-driven decision making
  • Organize assets in an easily accessible way

Who is responsible for sales enablement?

At its core, sales enablement is a collaborative effort between a company’s sales and marketing departments. The product development team may also be involved.

Sales enablement team

Dedicated sales enablement teams generally:

  • Handle hiring, onboarding, and coaching
  • Hold ongoing training sessions covering effective selling techniques
  • Conduct research
  • Implement new sales tools, methods, and technology
  • Develop buyer personas
  • Create or improve sales pitches

What is a sales enablement manager?

A sales enablement manager is the point person who helps coordinate the sales and marketing teams. The person assigned to this role is responsible for:

  • Training sales reps
  • Connecting the sales and marketing departments
  • Documenting processes and best practices
  • Providing tools, resources, and marketing collateral

Sales enablement managers are generally skilled at project management and communication, and they have a deep knowledge of the sales cycle and methodologies.

Marketing team

The marketing team is generally responsible for:

  • Creating and refreshing content
  • Developing, managing, and tracking the performance of the content that sales reps use
  • Writing sales collateral and training materials

Sales operations team

Meanwhile, the sales operations team takes care of:

Sales operations vs. sales enablement

The sales enablement team creates a plan for operations to put into action. They also help by developing sales materials, coaching sales reps and helping them onboard new clients, improving accessibility and payoff across platforms, and increasing productivity.

The sales operations team uses those tools, plans, and resources to meet its acquisition goals. It involves a lot of strategizing, data analysis, recruitment, training, sales forecasting, sales process optimization, and territory design.

Important components of a sales enablement strategy

Your sales enablement strategy should be a well-defined approach covering how you plan to produce the necessary assets to help your team convert more leads to sales.

Once you have a solid plan in place, you can create an official charter. A sales enablement charter will define the purpose of your company and products, outline sales goals, describe the enablement team’s objectives and who they will support, and detail specific ways to achieve them. When you build out your charter, you should consider your:

  • Audience
  • Mission
  • Company’s capabilities
  • Onboarding program
  • Continued education
  • Sales goals
  • Metric analysis

Sales enablement best practices

It can be tricky to get sales enablement just right, but once you nail down the processes, content, and training, you’ll be off to the races. As you get started, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

  • Choose someone to drive strategy, planning, and execution.
  • Always tailor your sales process to the buyer’s unique journey.
  • Use data to determine what is and isn’t working.
  • Create content for prospects at different stages of the sales funnel.
  • Make sure the sales and marketing teams work together.
  • Regularly optimize your sales enablement content.
  • Investigate the activities of high-performing team members and make them the standard.
  • Never stop training your team or taking advantage of coachable moments.

When you’re ready to develop sales enablement content, be sure to:

  • Write clearly and concisely.
  • Organize the content in a way that makes it easy for readers to find the answers to their questions.
  • Deliver relevant materials to the right people at the right time.
  • Create assets for different mediums (e.g., email, web, and social) to ensure important information is accessible.
  • Craft messaging that reflects your company’s values.

Build a more connected sales organization

Transform your sales team by outfitting agents with the tools and data they need to offer better omnichannel support, improve interdepartmental collaboration, and close deals.

Types of sales enablement content

Content can come in the form of blogs, ebooks, demos, case studies, product spec sheets, and more. Sales enablement content is any material that helps prepare the sales team to pitch products or services to potential customers. Salespeople rely on various forms of content and marketing assets to inform prospective buyers, drum up interest, answer product-related questions, and close deals.

Supplying leads with insightful and informational content, such as case studies or industry reports, can move them a step closer to making a purchase—there’s no shortage of competitors trying to do the same thing, though. Your content needs to cut through the noise by keeping your ideal customers engaged and anticipating their questions.

To do so, map your sales enablement content to each customer stage:

the buyer's journey

Using detailed insights about your customer base and their phases of the buyer’s journey, your marketing team can craft content that corresponds to the correct stage. Your sales team can continue to engage and nurture leads with personalized content delivered on their preferred channels.

The stages are:

  • Awareness: Help consumers identify their issues and start providing information about solutions. Use PR, social media, your blog, and other accessible channels to share educational content without pressuring the reader to make a purchase.
  • Interest: Now that the buyer understands their problem, they’re interested in getting information about products and companies that can help. You can provide the necessary details through white papers, ebooks, webinars, and checklists.
  • Evaluation: This is the phase where potential buyers are willing to communicate with salespeople and want proof that a company’s products or services will solve their problem. Prove that you’re the best choice by presenting them with case studies, competitor comparisons, and pricing tables.
  • Decision and negotiation: The buyer has finally pared down their options and is prepared to make a purchase. At this point, they’re compiling a list of vendors and asking questions about the products or services. Your team can use assets like playbooks and proposals to entice potential customers to buy.
  • Sale: Once the team closes a deal, they can lean on onboarding materials to get new customers up and running. From there, user guides, webinars, and live training sessions can teach buyers the value of your product or service.
  • Renewal: If a customer has a positive experience with your company and its solutions, it will be much easier to persuade them to buy again. Keep them in the loop with newsletters and emails, and you can pull out your sales playbook again when it’s time for them to renew.

Blogs

Stage: Awareness, interest, and evaluation

Blog posts are a popular way of introducing potential customers to your company, often guiding readers to a product page on your website or encouraging them to connect with a sales rep. Blog posts can directly answer questions and provide detailed information about a topic, allowing you to gain credibility and impress a customer.

High-quality blog posts are essential if you want to:

  • Help potential customers find your website without using paid ads
  • Educate readers
  • Build brand awareness
  • Promote your products or services

You can make your blogs stand out and work as sales enablement material by:

  • Empathizing with a customer pain point and offering a solution
  • Answering a common question
  • Sharing useful and relevant information
  • Creating step-by-step tutorials
  • Highlighting customer success stories
  • Optimizing content for organic search
  • Linking out to product pages
  • Telling readers how they can get in touch with sales reps
  • Setting up ad retargeting

White papers

Stage: Awareness and interest

These research-centric documents are ideal for generating interest and establishing yourself as an industry expert. You can use them to educate your sales team and potential buyers—a win-win.

White papers are a worthwhile investment because they can help:

  • Readers make more informed decisions
  • Explain why your solution is more effective than a competitor’s
  • Sales staff educate buyers and make more sales

Some ways to turn your white papers into better sales assets include:

  • Only using credible sources
  • Collecting your own data
  • Creating easy-to-follow data visualizations
  • Addressing a real issue and offering a solution

Case studies

Stage: Interest and evaluation

Share your company’s success stories to show future customers the results they can expect. A case study is research-driven content that introduces a specific situation, analyzes the issue, presents a solution, and discusses the results.

Case studies can help:

  • Bolster credibility
  • Reveal unique use cases
  • Shine a light on customer wins
  • Demystify complex information

You can write a case study that serves the dual purpose of educating readers and assisting sales. Make sure to include:

  • Multiple scenarios with varying solutions and outcomes
  • Accurate and reliable data
  • Simple explanations that break down complex issues and concepts
  • Results that apply to your target audience’s industry

Ebooks

Stage: Interest and evaluation

Much like blog posts, ebooks educate readers and potential buyers about a specific topic or issue and provide a resolution. Oftentimes, salespeople aren’t subject matter experts, so having this material handy can be a valuable asset. If a prospect asks them a question they don’t have the expertise to answer, they can easily send the person an ebook.

Ebooks are a great way to:

  • Provide more comprehensive information
  • Prove your expertise
  • Build brand awareness
  • Generate sales leads

If you want to write an excellent ebook that turns readers into potential buyers, you should:

  • Focus on a topic that’s specific and relevant to your ideal customer
  • Incorporate visual elements
  • Use quotes from industry experts
  • Highlight key data or statistics
  • Create an organized outline and scannable copy

Tip: Break up topics into brief sections and keep text scannable to increase the likelihood that an interested buyer will actually read long enough to find the answer to their question.

Sales playbook

Stage: Evaluation, negotiation and decision, sale, renewal

Lay out a game plan for your sales team to help them meet their goals. A handy playbook shows your team how to navigate tricky situations and close more deals.

Sales playbooks are excellent for:

  • Outlining team responsibilities
  • Discussing approved sales methods and tactics
  • Planning out each step in the buyer’s journey
  • Training and onboarding new employees

You can write a winning sales playbook by:

  • Documenting your company’s sales cycle
  • Mapping out responsibilities for each member of the sales team
  • Sharing resources like tools and process documents
  • Discussing customer success stories
  • Writing checklists that walk you through the entire process

Sales proposals

Stage: Evaluation, negotiation and decision, sale, renewal

As a potential customer nears the end of the sales funnel, you’ll use a sales proposal to pitch them your offerings. This can be a print or digital document that:

  • Explains why the prospect should choose you over a competitor
  • Shows you understand the prospect’s pain points
  • Discusses your unique solution for their issue

You can increase the likelihood that your prospect will accept the proposal if you:

  • Keep it simple and brief
  • Reiterate key points from previous discussions
  • Personalize an effective template
  • Include customer testimonials
  • Present the proposal in person

How to develop a sales enablement strategy that works for you in 9 steps

As many as 32 percent of sales leaders say customers want reps to understand their business and the problems they face. Sales enablement provides sales reps with valuable context about their buyers, which allows them to personalize their touchpoints so customers feel they’re being heard.

The good news is that you can plan, implement, and refine a sales enablement strategy for your business in just nine steps. To create a robust strategy, you just need to start with a solid foundation so you don’t miss any important steps.

1. Review your current sales process

A sales process review helps you identify areas where your sales team performs well and where they need to improve. You might discover that:

  • It takes too long to convert early-stage leads.
  • Reps are wasting time on unqualified leads.
  • It takes a long time to become profitable.
  • Deals fail more often at a certain stage of the sales cycle.

Asking questions and identifying problems will give you goals to work toward. For example, if your sales reps aren’t qualifying leads correctly, you can work with the marketing team to build buyer personas. Or, if reps are slow to close deals, you can update your sales tools to automate time-intensive admin tasks.

Involve team members in this step and see if they have suggestions on how to improve the sales process.

2. Define your sales goals

Utilize data to better understand what reps need to meet prospective buyers where they are, current deficits in training or assets, and growth opportunities. From there, you can set SMART goals and work backwards to create an enablement strategy that ensures your team is able to consistently achieve them.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific: Avoid making overly broad goals.
  • Measurable: Be sure you can track progress, successes, and failures.
  • Achievable: Set realistic and attainable goals.
  • Relevant: Make sure sales goals align with company standards and expectations.
  • Time-bound: Set a deadline to achieve your goals.

3. Get to know your customers

Consumer data gives you critical information that can help you create content that answers customer questions and helps the sales team close more deals.

When developing customer personas, make sure they are targeted and bring you closer to knowing your buyer. Some questions you can try asking include:

  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What pieces of content convert the most?
  • What do prospects consistently ask about on sales calls?
  • What pain points are our customers experiencing most often?

This information allows you to curate marketing collateral and refine your messaging to help sales staff educate and entice buyers.

4. Collaborate across departments

Sales enablement isn’t a one-team job—it involves sales, marketing, product development, and support. But the Zendesk Sales Trends Report shows that only 41 percent of sales professionals collaborate with marketing regularly.

These silos mean that sales reps can’t always share relevant content with prospective buyers because they don’t have the right resources. The marketing and sales teams can align and mitigate this issue by:

  • Discussing shared goals such as revenue and pipeline growth
  • Working to integrate existing content into the sales process
  • Filling content gaps to cover all stages of the customer journey
  • Sharing customer data using sales enablement tools
  • Collaborating to improve existing content
  • Ensuring that content is being used consistently and correctly
  • Creating a content marketing strategy that fits into the larger framework and can help achieve business objectives

Joshua Feinberg, CEO of SP Home Run and a sales enablement consultant, advises teams to focus on “gaps in the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.” He also recommends finding and documenting the most frequently asked questions that reps encounter.

Allow your marketers to shadow sales reps on calls, listen to call recordings, or consult with reps so they can write better content for buyers and sales staff.

5. Ask your team for input

Involve your sales team in the process of choosing new sales enablement tools and software. It is important to explain why new technology is being adopted and how it will help them hit their goals.

You should loop in various departments for decisions and upgrades to ensure you have a 360 view of everyone’s needs. Be sure to request feedback, too. You can ask for input on:

  • Sales enablement training
  • Content marketing plans
  • Sales coaching
  • Cold calling scripts
  • Email templates

6. Improve old content or create new sales materials

Once you have a strong team in place and all involved departments have collaborated to come up with a content strategy to meet business objectives, you can start refreshing old content or creating new assets. To develop better content for salespeople:

  • Leverage information gleaned from sales staff.
  • Survey customers and internal experts.
  • Utilize a strong SEO strategy for digital content.
  • Keep information accurate, concise, and clear.
  • Understand client pain points and company solutions.

7. Adopt sales enablement tools

A CRM is a great tool for enhancing productivity, processes, and pipeline visibility. It allows you to monitor metrics from both marketing and sales teams, and it answers important questions about your target audience that help you build a buyer persona.

Heather Davis Lam, CEO and founder of Revenue Ops, recommends centralizing customer data and making it easy for the sales team to access. To do this, she suggests providing “a platform that is easy to use and minimizes the time required to complete necessary sales activities.”

A CRM tool allows you to:

  • Track interactions with customers.
  • Pull up call records for a specific time or topic.
  • See what questions sales leads ask most often.
  • Keep track of which stage a potential buyer is in.
  • Speed up the sales process.

Keep in mind that even the best content won’t see results if you’re not sending it in the right direction. Your CRM will be essential in targeting the appropriate audience with your content and delivering it over the proper channels. Plus, by leveraging data insights from your CRM, your team can craft highly personalized content that will resonate even more with your customers.

8. Train your sales reps

New talent can take months or even years to reach their full selling potential.

However, when you offer regular and robust training sessions, sales reps will be more likely to meet their quotes quicker and more consistently. These training sessions can cover anything you deem important, but some common topics include:

  • Sales skills development
  • Closing techniques
  • Sales technology
  • Performance metrics

Madhukar Govindaraju, CEO of Numly, points out in a Forbes article: “[Sales training] programs do not take into consideration the dynamics of the evolving market, products, and services, and neither do they consider the changes in customer interactions and how customers want to engage with organizations.”

He recommends a “coaching-driven” approach and advocates for enhancing certain key skills—such as empathy, critical thinking, and strategic thinking—to improve selling opportunities. Here are some ways you can implement this strategy:

  • Hold one-on-one training sessions for new hires.
  • Create a virtual database of sales techniques, courses, and tips.
  • Offer guides on best practices.
  • Provide pre-approved scripts and templates.
  • Encourage the team to share their ideas.
  • Adapt your coaching style to suit the trainee.
  • Give sales reps the space to learn independently.
  • Teach them how to identify qualified sales leads.
  • Allow them to shadow top performers.

Many businesses make the mistake of introducing tools or assigning tasks without providing adequate training. With some sales coaching, your team can learn how they can better implement your company’s approved sales enablement strategy, fully utilize content from the marketing team, address customer objections, and play into their unique strengths.

You can also incentivize your sales team to use new software to increase adoption rates and ensure everyone is comfortable using it.

9. Keep upgrading your sales enablement strategy

Never stop monitoring your enablement strategy or trying to improve it. It’s crucial to know where you’re succeeding and falling short so you can provide the best products or services to your customers and the right resources to your team.

Sales enablement tools like Zendesk Sell help integrate your company’s marketing, product development, and sales efforts by tracking the sales process from start to finish. By tracking sales wins and losses, content usage analytics, and other important metrics, you can continue to upgrade your sales enablement strategy over time.

Here are some great metrics and KPIs that you can monitor to determine where to make adjustments:

  • Time to revenue
  • Sales cycle length
  • Quota attainment
  • Content usage and performance
  • Attach rate
  • Number of closed deals
  • CTAs
  • Sales closing ratio
  • Win and loss rates
  • Onboarding time
  • Sales process adherence
  • Deal size

sales enablement

Seal the deal with sales enablement software

CRM software and other sales apps help customer-facing teams build strong relationships with buyers. By streamlining daily sales operations, automating administrative tasks, and analyzing customer data, these solutions give agents more time to focus on delivering personalized experiences.

Zendesk Sell is a must-have tool that you can use to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks and obtain actionable data. It offers useful features and resources that can help every member of your sales team close more deals. Be sure to implement insights from this platform as you take on cold calling, emailing, prospecting, lead-tracking projects, and more.

Build a more connected sales organization

Transform your sales team by outfitting agents with the tools and data they need to offer better omnichannel support, improve interdepartmental collaboration, and close deals.

Build a more connected sales organization

Transform your sales team by outfitting agents with the tools and data they need to offer better omnichannel support, improve interdepartmental collaboration, and close deals.

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