What is Sales Enablement and How is it Changing in 2020?

9 min readJune 16, 2020

Great salespeople all seem to have one thing in common: they are fiercely dedicated to self-improvement. The best sellers I’ve ever worked with are never content with just making quota. They are willing to do whatever it takes to hit their numbers out of the park. And while salespeople have a responsibility to self-educate and consistently improve, businesses have a responsibility to their sellers, to enable them to perform at their best. 

While the definition of the term sales enablement might have originally referred to functional processes like CRM optimization, the term sales enablement has taken on new meaning lately, and has evolved into a movement. 

The Definition of Sales Enablement in 2020

Andy Paul Definition Sales EnablementAccording to Andy Paul, host of The Sales Enablement Podcast, sales enablement in 2020 refers to “everything that enables salespeople with the information, acumen, skills and tools they need to have more knowledge-based sales interactions that are valuable to buyers.”

The last three words in Andy’s definition are key: “valuable to buyers.” Because in 2020, sales enablement is not just about enabling sellers, it’s about enabling buyers to make more informed decisions. 

Sales has evolved. Once ubiquitous high-pressure closing tactics are now relegated to used car lots, where they belong. The buyer’s journey has shifted dramatically. As Google told the world in their now-famous Zero Moment of Truth whitepaper, buyers are doing way more research up front. And when they reach out to a salesperson, they are often armed with intelligent questions, buying criteria and well-thought-out potential objections. 

To successfully influence this new breed of buyer, salespeople need to align their sales methodologies to each individual decision maker’s buying journey.

Sales Enablement = Buyer Enablement 

Definition of Sales EnablementAt the core, sales enablement and buyer enablement are two sides of the same coin. The goal of sales enablement at any company should be empowering sellers to better understand their customers. By understanding buyer personas, and predicting the various questions and objections that could surface in each conversation salespeople can knowledge-based interactions that result in positive outcomes for buyer and seller alike. And by leveraging content that maps to personas and stages of the buying process, salespeople can overcome buyer objections and help buyers through the customer lifecycle faster.

When the right sales enablement process is in place it can seem like magic. But getting there requires deep collaboration between various departments including Sales, Marketing, IT and more.

How Companies Can Enable Sales in 2020

As I mentioned, sales enablement is not a tactic, it’s a movement. Depending on what your company is selling, tactics and priorities are bound to shift. But to help you get started, I’m going to outline some proven ways to enable sales reps to provide buyers with more value. 

Map Sales Enablement Content Across the Customer Lifecycle

What is the buyer's journeyAs Director of Lifecycle Marketing here at ringDNA, one of my top focuses is ensuring that our sales team has content that resonates with buyers across their entire journey. To do this, it’s necessary to know exactly who the personas are. It’s also important to track, in your CRM, where buyers are at in the customer lifecycle. We know that a VP of marketing at a Healthcare company who is deep in the evaluation stage doesn’t want to receive the same messaging as a sales operations manager who just found our product in search. 

Here are some different types of sales content that can be used at different stages in the customer lifecycle to move deals forward. Remember that nearly all marketing content should be used to enable sales in one way or another.

Awareness/Discovery Stage

In this stage, it’s safe to assume that your prospective buyer knows little-to-nothing about your products or services. The goal here is customer education.

  • A killer website
  • Display ads that build brand awareness
  • PPC
  • Search engine optimization
  • Awareness emails from marketing

Consideration/Engagement Stage

At this stage, buyers are already aware of their pain points and have begun researching solutions. They are likely aware of your product. As such, the name of the game is building brand equity while ensuring that salespeople are enabled to have the right conversations with prospects. 

  • Premium content: ebooks, infographics and webinars
  • Call scripts/talking points for discovery calls
  • Engagement email copy for sales reps
  • How-to videos

Decision Stage

During the decision stage of the customer lifecycle, buyers are often actively looking at competitive products and, in the case of B2B sales, building consensus among other key decision makers. During this stage, it may appear to customers that marketing has “taken a hike”, as interactions are handled by sales. However, the truth is that Marketing should be heavily involved in enabling reps during the decision making process with:

  • Battle cards vs. specific competitors
  • Buyers’ guides
  • Case studies
  • Sales Decks

Customer Success

Sales enablement does not stop once a prospect becomes a customer. It’s important to ensure that customer success reps are enabled with messaging that can help them retain customers as well as up-sell/cross-sell additional offerings. At this stage, sales enablement content might include:

  • Customer newsletters
  • In-app messaging/offers
  • LinkedIn and display ads highlighting cross-promotions
  • Awareness emails highlighting new features and offerings

Enable the Transfer of Knowledge to Sales

Providing sales people with the right external messaging and sales content is mission critical. But it’s just as important to have a process in place for facilitating the transfer of internal knowledge. Here are some key categories of internal knowledge that companies should be enabling their reps with.

Tribal Sales Knowledge

How can sales share dataRamping new reps is no easy task. But some of the most successful sales organizations have taken onboarding seriously, and they’ve taken some key steps to catalyze the onboarding process. Having a repository of the best calls, organized into categories can give reps the ability to self-educate. Enabling reps with the ability to learn from how top reps have solved pain points and overcome objections is a great way to pass on tribal sales knowledge, scale success and help reps reach their full potential faster. There are lots of ways to set up a library like this. But our conversation intelligence tool ConversationAI delivers one right out of the box.

Product Knowledge

Companies that have a lot of different products or companies that offer complex software solutions need to make sure that reps are always up-to-date on which product capabilities are GA and which are right around the corner. Far too often, product teams work in silos and reps have little insight into which features are in development. This is unfortunate, because knowing which features are right around the corner can sometimes make the difference between winning deals and losing them.

As an example, imagine that you’re selling a solution for hosting virtual events. Now suppose a hot prospect at a key account has a requirement that it integrates with Zoom. Suppose your solution doesn’t currently integrate with Zoom, but your product team is working hard on building an integration andon it and it will be done in a month. Imagine the difference between your sales team knowing this information and not knowing it. It’s likely the difference between winning a deal and losing one.

Competitor Knowledge

In B2B sales or high-ticket B2C sales, it’s important to enable salespeople with the requisite information that they need to win deals against competitors. Salespeople should know exactly why your company has won or lost historical deals vs. specific competitors. They should also be armed with battle cards that reveal each competitor’s weaknesses (not to mention strengths!). And outline the best strategy for beating particular competitors.

One trick that I’ve successfully implemented at companies is competitor tracking in Salesforce. Reps should be enabled to easily mark which competitors they are going up against on each deal. This allows marketers to track which competitors are most closely associated with closed/won and closed/lost deals, as well as which competitors are coming up most often. They can then prioritize battle cards and other content that helps enable salespeople to win deals against competitors.

Customer Knowledge

One of the best ways to enable salespeople to succeed is by letting your customers do the talking, so to speak. Building up a repository of customer testimonials and case studies can help reps make their case. After all, the best salespeople are masters at building trust with clients. But they’re still salespeople. Highlighting customer testimonials helps companies see how similar companies have achieved results. In terms of format, I’ve found that videos are especially powerful, but case study one sheets can get the job done. And as your marketing team builds a library of case studies, it helps to organize them by industry, company size, competitors mentioned and other factors that can enable salespeople to find the most relevant case study, testimonial or customer reference to help move each particular deal forward.

the 90 day inside sales success plan ebook download

Help Reps Build Business Acumen

Early in their career, salespeople might have an awesome set of core competencies: great storytelling, listening skills, rapport building and helpfulness. But business acumen, that ability to understand a customer’s business model and pain points well enough to be seen as an expert consultant, that’s something that tends to come with time. However, the best sales coaches can help their teams build business acumen faster. There are several key sales enablement tactics that I’ve seen work wonders for helping unseasoned reps build business acumen.

Role Playing

Role playing is a powerful tactic in sales. The idea is that the sales coach can take on the role of each key persona. They can present the rep with a series of industry- or role-specific pain points and objections and give the rep the opportunity to try to book a meeting or close a deal. After each role playing exercise, the manager should offer the rep constructive feedback that can help them better position themselves as a subject matter expert and informed consultant.

Peer to Peer Call Reviews

Recording phone calls should be a key part of any sales enablement program. Once calls are recorded, try having sessions where reps review each others’ calls. This can help them work as a team to share expertise and build business acumen faster.

Lead by Example

When we recently brought in a new class of sales reps to ringDNA, one of our lead sales managers did something I’d never seen before during an orientation. He gave a real demo to a real prospect. Live. As it turned out, the call went well. And in the process, he showed the new reps his approach to selling. It’s one thing to talk about your approach to selling, but leading by example is a fantastic way to help reps learn which behaviors to imitate in order to have successful calls.

Enable Reps with Sales Technology

A key part of sales enablement revolves around giving reps tools that empower them to be more productive and more effective. But sales enablement technology isn’t just for sales reps. It’s just as important to ensure that managers have tools that help them do a better job of prioritizing their efforts and coaching reps to success.

There are lots of different sales enablement tools that can help sales teams succeed, including:

  • Sales dialers that help reps dial more prospects each day while logging vital data in CRMs automatically.
  • Local Presence helps reps maximize connection rates by dialing prospects from local area codes
  • Guided selling tools help reps follow cadences, sequences and sales playbooks. These tools can help reps focus in on the next best action they should be taking at all times to move deals forward.
  • Sales analytics can help managers identify which reps to coach in order to hit monthly, quarterly and yearly sales targets.
  • Conversation intelligence can automatically surface important phone calls so managers can know which call recordings to listen to first. Great calls can also be added automatically to best practice libraries so reps can learn how A-players are beating key competitors and handling tough sales objections. 
  • Chat bots can use artificial intelligence to talk to pre-qualify leads before they speak to human reps. 
  • Meeting Schedulers can be used to book more meetings. Reps can make it easy for prospects to choose a time that works best for them. These solutions often integrate with the rep’s calendar.

These are only some of the existing sales enablement solutions that are available to sales teams in 2020. Each year, new sales enablement solutions surface, offering powerful opportunities to remove friction from the sales process.

Sales Enablement Resources

For more sales enablement tips from top sales leaders check out:

B2B Target Buyer Persona Template ebook download

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About the Author

Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingringDNA

Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at ringDNA, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 9 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.