Article | 13 min read

What is sales enablement? Definition, strategies, and tips

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

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published July 26, 2021
Last updated March 22, 2022

Imagine you’re a B2B sales rep trying to convince a prospect to make a purchase. The prospect asks you for specific stats on how your product has helped other businesses, but your mind draws a sudden and terrible blank. The opportunity passes you by. The prospect is not impressed.

Sales reps today need resources to keep consumers moving down the funnel. They also need strategies for making the best use of those resources 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 help your team close more deals and boost your company’s bottom line.

In this guide, we’ll provide a comprehensive sales enablement definition. We’ll also describe how to create an impactful sales enablement strategy and explore an example of sales enablement in action.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is about giving salespeople (and customer-facing teams) the resources they need to convert more leads. It connects sales reps to the right content, tools, or information at the right time, empowering them to nurture leads and move them down the sales funnel with more speed and consistency.

Today’s consumers expect a personalized pitch from sales reps. 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 agents with valuable context about their buyers, which allows them to personalize their touchpoints so customers feel they’re really being heard.

Supplying leads with insightful and informational content, such as case studies or industry reports, can move them a step closer to making a purchase. Sixty-three percent of respondents in a Demand Gen survey said a huge differentiator in the buying process was the provision of helpful content by sales agents.

Who is responsible for sales enablement?

At its core, sales enablement is a collaborative effort between your sales enablement, sales, and marketing departments.

  • Sales enablement teams handle the hiring, onboarding, and training on effective selling techniques, research, and tools.
  • Sales teams use enablement methods and technology to deliver personalized content to buyers and improve their pitches.
  • Marketing team members develop, manage, and track content that sales reps use to move buyers further down the funnel.

What is the goal of sales enablement?

The ultimate objective is to ensure agents deliver positive end-to-end customer journeys. 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 are the different components of sales enablement?

Typically, sales enablement involves the following:

Using sales technology
Customer relationship management (CRM) software and other sales apps are designed to help customer-facing teams build strong relationships with their buyers. By streamlining daily sales operations, automating administrative tasks, and analyzing customer data, these tools give agents more time to focus on delivering personalized experiences.

Implementing effective learning sessions
New talent can take months or even years to reach their full selling potential. Regularly offering robust training and coaching sessions will help sales reps reach their quotas more consistently. They can learn about everything from crucial sales skills and closing techniques to sales technology and performance metrics.

Leveraging data to make better decisions
Knowing how well you’re performing is always a morale boost. But it’s also essential to know where your sales process is failing your customer. Being able to quickly analyze data and create reports enables you to try new tactics and measure their success in real-time.

Delivering high-quality content to the right leads (at the right time)
Customers have no shortage of content competing for their attention. Your content needs to cut through the noise and keep your ideal buyers engaged with your brand, not the competition. Using detailed insights about your customer base, your marketing team can craft content that will appeal to them, such as blog posts, white papers, and industry reports. Then, your sales team can continue to engage and nurture leads with personalized content delivered on their preferred channels.

What is sales enablement content?

Sales enablement content is any material that helps prospective buyers gain a better understanding of your product or service so they’ll be more motivated and enabled to purchase. Content can come in the form of ebooks, demos, case studies, product spec sheets, and more.

The best content for sales enablement is:

  • Organized to fully and clearly answer common questions
  • Delivered at the right time
  • Accessible on the mediums your customer uses the most (email, social media, phone, etc.)
  • Crafted to reflect your company brand and values

Each piece of content has its own specific goal—to entertain, persuade, inform, or instruct—but you don’t always have to stick to one. You can tick off multiple objectives in a single piece of content. The best content often achieves several goals at once, reducing the number of times you need to engage in order to seal the deal.

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7 steps to develop your sales enablement strategy

Here are seven steps for building a sales enablement strategy that defines your company’s unique processes and resonates with your ideal buyers.

1. Review your sales process

To create a great sales enablement strategy, you have to make sure you’re building on a solid foundation. If the steps in your sales process are broken, it will be nearly impossible to enable your sales team.

A sales process review helps you identify areas where your sales team performs well and where they need to improve. You might discover that your reps take too long to convert early-stage leads. Or, you may find that they waste time on unqualified leads.

Asking questions and identifying problems will give you goals to work toward. For example, if your sales reps keep failing to qualify the right leads, you can work with the marketing team to build a buyer persona. 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. Know your customer

Successful sales enablement is built on customer data. With these key insights, you can better understand what reps need to meet prospective buyers where they are.

Consumer data provides you with critical information, like which leads you should target and what content to give them. It elevates your efforts, taking them from wild stabs in the dark to accurate decisions based on data.

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 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. When asking questions, make sure they’re targeted and bring you closer to knowing your buyer. Your questions should include (but not be limited to):

  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What pieces of content convert the most?
  • What information do prospects consistently ask for/about on sales calls?

Based on the data you gather from interactions with your customers, you can create an effective sales enablement strategy.

3. Collaborate across departments

Sales enablement isn’t a one-team job—it involves sales, marketing, and support. But the Zendesk Sales Trends Report shows that only 41 percent of sales professionals collaborate with marketing regularly. And 41 percent of marketers aren’t sure what content the sales team wants them to create.

These silos result in sales reps not sharing relevant content with prospective buyers. Marketing materials might even exist, but leads don’t see the content because sales and marketing don’t interact.

Marketing and sales teams can align with each other in regular meetings where they discuss:

  • Shared goals, such as revenue growth and pipeline growth
  • Existing sales content and how it can be integrated into the sales process
  • Sales content gaps
  • Shared customer data in the sales enablement platform

Working together unites individual department efforts and brings them closer to achieving their goals.

4. Audit, organize, and create sales content

Audit existing sales content to find content gaps. You want to have enough content to cover all stages of the customer journey so that the sales team always has relevant information for potential customers.

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. Identify these questions by shadowing sales reps on calls, listening to sales call recordings, or asking sales reps and support agents what content they wish they had on hand while speaking to customers.

With this list of questions, you might be tempted to immediately create individual pieces of content to answer them. A better approach would be to integrate the new content assets into your content marketing strategy. The marketing team should determine how each piece of content will fit into the larger framework and how it helps achieve business goals.

Improve the quality of content created by involving the sales rep directly. They should work with the marketing team to write or record pieces of content since they know the sales process best.

Sales content is no good if it’s never used. Keeping it visible and accessible is vital. Lam says, “Businesses should create a repository for sales assets that can be easily searched and distributed. The ability to access the latest version of a piece of collateral quickly saves time. It allows the team to provide valuable assets to potential clients, which can lead to closed business.”

5. Adopt sales enablement tools

Sales enablement software provides reps with information about each buyer, helping them stay prepared and have better sales conversations. It also automates manual tasks that take away time from selling. This type of software can also identify the pieces of content that exist and the ones that will provide the best value to customers.

Make sure to involve your sales team in the process of choosing a tool. It is important to explain why new technology is being adopted and how it will help them hit their goals.

Many businesses make the mistake of introducing tools without providing adequate training on how to use them. Sales reps must be trained to use sales enablement tools effectively. Going a step further to incentivize your sales team to use new software would increase adoption as well.

6. Improve sales training

Teaching your reps how to adapt to the world of sales is as important as providing sales enablement technology. Unfortunately, traditional sales training might not be enough. The sales process is constantly evolving, and old tricks from sales playbooks won’t work like they used to.

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.

Your sales team should be able to access the information they need with a click of a button. So, creating a virtual database of sales techniques, courses, and tips is essential for effective sales enablement.

If your sales team works remotely or is distributed, you also need to provide them with best practices on virtual selling and collaboration.

7. Evaluate your strategy and reiterate

Implementing your strategy isn’t the end of all your efforts. Your sales enablement strategy needs to be reviewed and optimized consistently to improve performance.

Track progress by asking these questions:

  • What did we do well? How can we improve on what we did well?
  • What did we not do well? How can we improve in those areas?
  • What factors enabled us to succeed?
  • What challenges made us fall short?

Sales enablement managers who work with large sales and marketing teams should consider using a survey. Armed with the answers to your survey questions, you can take steps to refine your sales enablement strategy.

After redefining your goals and enhancing your strategy for the future, it’s time to implement your new-and-improved strategy.

Sales enablement and CRM software in action

Now, let’s take a look at sales enablement in action. We’ll combine the components and strategies mentioned above to illustrate a specific example of how sales enablement helps businesses provide better customer experiences and increase sales:

Your company’s pricing plan just got a lot trickier to understand due to the complexity of a new product. In the CRM reports displayed on your dashboard, you notice a new pattern developing in your pipeline—leads are dropping out just as they’re getting close to the end.

Before sounding the alarm and shaking up your sales force, you decide to investigate and listen to call recordings of customer interactions. Using your CRM, you’re able to pull up call records within your chosen time frame and on specific topics. In the recordings, you discover that leads are asking a lot of questions about pricing—and it doesn’t always seem like the answers are providing any clarity.

Your leads are obviously confused about how to purchase your product. In short, you haven’t enabled them to purchase your product. You must eliminate that confusion in order to keep those qualified leads in your pipeline.

Now when your leads get closer to the end of the pipeline, your sales reps proactively send an e-pamphlet that clearly illustrates your pricing options. This enables more leads to get the information they need to make a purchase—without having to ask for it.

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.

Is CRM part of sales enablement?

As illustrated above, CRM is a tool that can be used for sales enablement. But unfortunately, many sales reps aren’t working with the necessary resources to make this happen. According to the Zendesk Sales Trends Report, 36 percent of sales teams say they’re not equipped with the materials they need to sell.

That’s a lot of missed opportunities—and that’s why it’s so important to find the right sales enablement strategy and tools.

Empower your reps with the content they need to help buyers. Incorporate sales enablement best practices into the company culture. And choose a sales enablement tool like Zendesk Sell that provides full visibility into the sales process, integrates with the rest of your tech stack, and scales with your business.

Request a demo today to see how our modern sales CRM can help your sales team sell more efficiently and effectively.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most from their teams.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most from their teams.

Learn more