Here at Chorus, we parsed a lot of data in 2020. Among many takeaways — about sales enablement, forecasting, hiring, and more — one thing was certain: Sales has changed a lot since the pandemic began.
Our research suggests that the events of 2020 have made SaaS customers more demanding than ever. The instability and threats to survival so many companies are facing have resulted in longer sales cycles and increased executive presence on calls (up 53% from a pre-COVID-19 baseline). We’re seeing more meetings per closed-win and more buyer-side focus on how a product will immediately provide ROI.
In these conditions, without the right knowledge, tools, and team assistance at their fingertips, your sales reps will find consistent sales success hard to come by. That’s why putting plenty of focus on sales enablement will be crucial for 2021.
Sales enablement is the art of equipping your sales team with the things they need to articulate the value your product can bring to your prospect and their business. It’s about helping your sales organization do what they do best.
The Elements of a Winning Sales Enablement Strategy for 2021
Sales enablement is a process that stretches from end to end across the sales cycle, from prospecting to customer success. Making such an involved process work starts with strategy.
Generally speaking, an effective sales enablement approach will be held up by the following pillars:
- Knowledge: Knowledge of your prospect, your product, and your market — your sales reps need to have it all.
- Sales Tools & Best Practices: The right tools and best practices to put your theory of sales enablement into practice.
- Content: A helping of high-quality marketing content to fill up your lead pipeline.
- Motivation and Rep Care: The correct approach to keeping your reps together, focused, and burnout-free.
- Customer Success: Sales enablement is ultimately about converting customers who can derive value from your product. Customer success is, therefore, an important component of sales enablement.
1. Equip Your Reps with Knowledge
Knowledge is the foundation of all sales enablement. Your reps are going into an environment where they’ll have to answer a lot of questions to get stakeholders to buy in and close a deal successfully. Sales enablement’s job is to give them the answers ahead of time.
If you’re selling a very technical product in a crowded field, then you may want to focus your sales enablement on Detailed Information About Products & Services. To give your sales team the edge they need when nurturing and scoring leads, make sure they know your product inside and out. Nothing stalls sales conversations like a barrage of questions from a clued-up prospect that your sales reps can’t answer.
In the post-pandemic period, real sales effectiveness relies on your product’s track record of success. Make sure your reps have access to your full array of customer testimonials, social proof articles, and case studies. Your product’s win rate will be your sales reps’ greatest weapon in building up their own.
Have your top performers Share Best Practices in Sales. Building team spirit and mobilizing all the knowledge your sales organization has available is vitally important in post-COVID-19 sales enablement, whether or not your sales team is taking a team selling approach. Give your top performers the floor, and let them share their experience — everything from follow-up and social media selling strategies to the contents of their sales anecdote playbook. Your younger reps will appreciate the information, your stars will appreciate the spotlight, and knowledge will begin flowing around the team.
Focus on Skills Based Enablement by improving your sales teams’ capabilities in core areas. Show your sales reps the latest approaches to reach decision-makers. Make sure they know how to convincingly present and pitch your product or service through remote means — there’s unlikely to be much opportunity to rely on working the room in 2021. More importantly, your sales reps need to know how to deal with different buyer-side stakeholders (more on that later).
2. Be Aware of the Right Sales Tools and Best Practices
Giving your sales reps the right tools and practices is absolutely key to helping your sales team serve your prospects.
Sales enablement tools are getting better and better at providing the information required for personalized, tailored selling.
Find out which tools will best allow your sales team to engage their target buyers:
- Customer relationship management (CRM): A critical business tool, CRMs are used by sales teams to communicate with clients, manage your pipeline, log activity, and track deals through every stage. Almost any kind of company will benefit from a robust CRM, particularly because it can provide a foundation for other sales enablement tools.
- Learning Management System (LMS): This provides customized learning pathways for each of your salespeople, based on role and experience, while tracking their progress. It’s excellent not only for integrating different approaches to sales enablement in ways that suit your individual team members but also for recapping sales principles through features like quizzes and certification.
- Sales engagement: Excellent for sales teams chasing high-volume but low-value deals, sales engagement tools help you create a highly engineered, repeatable sales process.
- Asset management: With this tool, your team can better manage, personalize, and analyze your all-important content pipeline. They can see what is being read and shared and what is driving sales conversions.
- Sales coaching: Ideal for skills-based enablement, these technologies help salespeople improve key competencies, such as perfecting pitches, articulating a value proposition, or delivering a product demo.
- Sales productivity: Time is always the biggest problem for a sales team — and a lot of it can be tied up in chasing low-quality leads. Certain software allows your team to automate lower-value tasks, giving them more freedom to communicate with high-potential prospects and existing customers.
A well-combined tech stack is vital to helping your sales team save time and stay on top of a (hopefully) ever-growing client list. Then, make sure you’re combining the best tools with sales enablement best practices.
Begin by embracing team selling. Team selling involves parachuting subject matter experts from other teams into key sales calls. For instance, you may enlist a customer success specialist to explain the onboarding process to your buyer-side POC, or a tech lead to explain product maintenance to a buyer-side tech professional.
Chorus research shows that team selling
- increases creativity during selling,
- is vital for convincing buyer-side stakeholders of the ROI your product offers, and
- allows you to mobilize all of your sales organization’s knowledge.
Our research shows that C-suite presence on calls is increasing — and they’re hard to convince. A team selling approach increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to answer their questions more convincingly from a broader range of perspectives.
When selling in this environment, encourage your sales reps to lean on quantitative demonstrations of your product’s ROI. Social proof, testimonials from other customers in the same field as your prospect, and case studies are effective for these purposes. Show off rates of adoption, flattering time-to-ROI-target metrics, and evidence of the direct improvement your product has on key buyer-side departments.
A lot has changed in sales enablement since the start of 2020, but some things in sales never change. Leading sales conversations with empathy, basing your sales approach on storytelling, and focusing on creating engaging moments on calls were all shortcuts to higher rates of sales success, and they still are.
3. Build a Content Pipeline
Your sales enablement efforts should include putting your sales reps in sync with the messaging and sales content your marketers are using to sell your product. Content has become the “force multiplier” of the modern sales organization. Therefore, your content should flow at a consistent rate and be of the highest quality possible. Balancing the various content types (blog posts, white papers, webinars) will allow you to reach the customer and map your buying process in a scalable way.
At both the top and the bottom of the sales funnel, blogging and SEO are critical for creating inbound sales traffic and helping prospects answer their own questions before they talk to your sales team. SEO content might not seem immediate enough in its impact to justify spend at the minute, but companies who invest in it now will be reaping the rewards of their second mover advantage in the months to come.
Your marketing teams should use content to both articulate what your product can do and, crucially, show your potential customer what it can do for them. Building search traffic is key to high-performing content, and there are various tools available to help identify opportunities for relevant content that works. Content management is not your sales reps’ responsibility, but they should be intimately familiar with it to reprise the same tone and messaging when talking with your prospects. It all forms part of a wider sales workflow.
Higher-value assets like ebooks and white papers allow prospects with deeper interest to get a more rounded sense of the value of your product. White papers tend to focus on specific problems and how your product helps solve them, building trust and credibility. Similarly, an ebook gives readers a strong sense of both content value and your credentials as problem-solvers in your field, while guiding them more subtly to your product/solution.
Finally, shape your content strategy around key moments in the buyer’s journey with your product so that the right content reaches them at the right time. Blog posts, checklist articles, and white papers are great for building traffic. Case studies, webinars, and other marketing automations like email newsletters are good for getting leads. Then, when you’re ready to make that sale, you can turn to demos, assessment offers, and direct communication.
4. Motivate (and Look Out For) Your Sales Reps
Your sales enablement team should be as concerned about taking care of your sales team as they are about bringing them to new levels of sales effectiveness. Sales pro or no sales pro, it’s easy to feel stressed and alone in times like these. That’s why it’s important that your sales team feel like “we’re all in this together.”
Having a methodology for motivating and caring for your sales team is as important as having one for prospecting or content creation. Stephanie Benavidez, senior director of sales enablement at WellRight, emphasizes the importance of focusing on the well-being of your sales reps. When reps are well-rested, secure in their jobs, and equipped with the knowledge to do it, strong sales performance will follow.
Create a culture in which team members are encouraged to take part in remote activities. This will build team spirit and maintain a sense of fun in the remote environment. Monitor and moderate your sales reps’ hours — particularly during high-intensity phases in the sales cycle. Burnout has presented an increased risk since the move to remote, and sales enablement processes should take preemptive steps to avoid it.
Sales leaders should be advised to remember the needs of new additions when planning rep care. For instance, when onboarding new sales reps, practice “remote awareness.” Take a company like Smartsheet's “blended approach” to engaging remote onboarding.
This can include features such as:
- Zoom 1:1s
- Breakout rooms
- Polls, Q&As, and other features
Most of all, sales managers should focus on making themselves available. If reps know they can report the stress, thoughts, and concerns about the sales enablement programs they’re following in real-time, they can forge ahead with much more assurance.
5. Focus on Customer Success
Higher levels of customer success (CS) are the end goals of great sales enablement. Never has that been a bigger concern for SaaS companies. Our partners have reported that prospects now demand higher levels of optimization and “extreme ROI” than they did before. Your company needs to provide unparalleled quality of customer experience to new clients in order to cement relationships and prevent early churn.
A little like content management and marketing, onboarding and customer success are not the direct responsibility of your sales team. They’re still important parts of the sales enablement process because sales teams can maintain certain best practices to ease the handover when a customer has finally signed on the dotted line.
The easiest way to get your sales teams focusing on customer success is to bring your CS team into the sales process sooner.
To provide a high level of customer experience, a CS team needs to know the following:
- Key customer pain points (including areas of frustration with other solutions they’ve tried)
- Their precise needs, including the timeline in which they expect to see ROI from your product
- Which buyer-side stakeholders will be handling the product, and whether or not they’ve used similar products before
By bringing your CS team in at this early stage, they can make a note of key information for use during onboarding. If your CS team is too busy making your existing customers happy to attend calls, you can always use a tool like Deal Hub instead. Deal Hub makes it easy for sales reps to aggregate information on customer pain points for maximum visibility after handover.
Stay Together, Stay Winning
Perhaps needless to say, sales enablement is a key component of your overall approach to sales coaching. Your product, market, prospects (and their needs) are changing all the time. Your sales training approach needs to keep pace with these changes — including using the best sales enablement software and platforms you can get your hands on.
Beyond this, the key to sales enablement is bringing the various departments of your company together to deliver what your customers need. Your marketing teams, your devs, and your customer success specialists have knowledge valuable to the sales cycle. That knowledge then needs to be focused on your reps.
A rep who knows their product, knows how prospect behavior is changing, and knows their team has the ability to back them up is a rep who is truly enabled. They’re a rep who’s ready for the longer and more complicated sales cycles any company is likely to face in 2021.