Of all the things I’ve ever done as a marketing leader, one of my favorites of all has been building out a successful B2B sales enablement function. There’s great joy in seeing your sales team bring deals across the finish line, and knowing that they came from leads your marketing team generated. But there’s an even more distinct thrill when you arm your sales team with the tools and content to do even more of that, at scale, more effectively than ever, and see it validated through actual improvements to conversion metrics and close rates. When you start to see major impact, and the revenue begins to add up, that’s when sales enablement work gets really exciting!
Why Marketers Should Embrace Sales Enablement
I know many marketers don’t enjoy sales enablement work. Some don’t even view it as part of marketing, and some even prefer that it live within Sales or RevOps (in larger companies) instead of within marketing. But for marketing leaders at smaller companies, creating a B2B sales enablement program is enjoyable, and I would argue, incredibly fun for marketers! It requires a deep understanding of the customer journey and the sales process, which can be both intellectually stimulating and rewarding. It requires a marketer to think strategically about the different touchpoints throughout the buyer’s journey and how to best support the sales team in each stage.
Creating a B2B sales enablement program also allows a marketer to be creative and strategic in developing content and tools that can help the sales team close deals. With so much of marketing being data-driven and metrics-led these days, the number of places where we can use our creative brain have been fading. Sales enablement work can be a great opportunity for marketers to flex our creative muscles and come up with innovative solutions to support the sales team.
Most importantly, a successful B2B sales enablement program can have a direct impact on revenue and growth, which can be incredibly rewarding for a marketer. Seeing the impact of the program on sales velocity, win rates, and deal sizes can be a great source of pride and motivation for marketers! Overall, creating a B2B sales enablement program can be a rewarding and challenging opportunity for a marketer to make a meaningful impact on the business. I also believe it’s vital for helping create strong alignment between sales and marketing (more on that later).
Sales Enablement Often Drives More Impact Than Just “Getting More Leads”
Very often, marketers focus considerable time and energy working with the CFO, trying to gain access to more budget and simply generate “more leads,” but in doing so, they often fail to remember to invest energy in the pieces that actually have the greatest short-term impact on the company’s top-line revenue growth. Sales enablement is often where you can see the biggest revenue impact and uplift, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of budget. There are several studies and surveys that have shown the positive ROI of sales enablement programs. Here are some statistics:
- A survey by CSO Insights found that companies with a formal sales enablement program achieved a 15.3% increase in win rates compared to companies without a sales enablement program.
- According to a study by Sales Enablement PRO, companies with a formal sales enablement program saw an 8.2% increase in revenue attainment compared to companies without a sales enablement program.
- The same study by Sales Enablement PRO found that sales reps at companies with a sales enablement program achieved quota 23% more often than reps at companies without a sales enablement program.
- Research by SiriusDecisions found that companies with effective sales enablement programs had an average 19.2% increase in sales productivity and a 15.7% increase in deal size.
- According to a report by Aberdeen Group, companies with a formal sales enablement program saw a 14.6% increase in the average deal size, a 21.8% improvement in lead conversion rates, and a 20.6% improvement in forecast accuracy.
These statistics demonstrate that implementing a sales enablement program can lead to significant improvements in win rates, revenue attainment, sales productivity, deal size, lead conversion rates, and forecast accuracy, ultimately resulting in a positive ROI for the company. While focusing on the quantity and quality of leads is important too, that is more of a long-term, continual effort for marketers. Boosting conversion rates toward the bottom of the funnel are what will give you the greatest short-term impact, to help you make your numbers this month, this quarter, and so on.
Why Sales Enablement Is Critical for B2B Settings
Sales enablement is important for both B2B and B2C sales, but it is particularly critical for B2B sales. Here are some reasons why:
- Longer sales cycles. B2B sales cycles are typically longer and more complex than B2C sales cycles. This means that salespeople need to have access to a wider range of resources and information to help them navigate the sales process and close deals.
- More decision makers. B2B sales often involve multiple decision makers, including executives, managers, and procurement teams. Sales enablement programs can help salespeople understand each decision maker’s needs, preferences, and priorities, and tailor their approach accordingly.
- Greater complexity. B2B sales often involve complex products or services, which can be difficult to understand and explain. Sales enablement programs can help salespeople better understand the product or service, as well as the competitive landscape, so they can sell more effectively.
- Higher stakes. B2B sales often involve larger deals and higher dollar amounts than B2C sales. This means that salespeople need to be well-prepared and equipped with the right tools and resources to close deals successfully.
Overall, sales enablement is critical for B2B sales because it helps salespeople navigate the longer, more complex sales cycle and make more informed decisions. By providing salespeople with the right resources and information, sales enablement programs can help them sell more effectively and ultimately achieve better results.
How to Measure the Impact of Sales Enablement Work
Some of the top benchmarks for success with sales enablement programs include:
- Improved sales productivity. This can be measured by tracking the time it takes for reps to close deals, the number of deals closed per rep, and the revenue generated per rep.
- Increased win rates. This can be measured by tracking the percentage of deals won, the size of the deals won, and the time it takes to close deals.
- Faster onboarding. This can be measured by tracking the time it takes for new reps to become fully productive, the time it takes to ramp up to full quota, and the percentage of new hires who meet or exceed quota.
- Improved customer engagement. This can be measured by tracking customer satisfaction scores, customer loyalty, and customer retention rates.
- Better alignment between sales and marketing. This can be measured by tracking the number of leads generated by marketing, the percentage of leads that are followed up on by sales, and the conversion rate of those leads to closed deals.
Companies that implement sales enablement programs typically see a range of results, depending on their specific goals and the effectiveness of their program. However, some of the typical results that companies see include increased revenue, faster sales cycles, improved win rates, higher customer satisfaction, and better alignment between sales and marketing.
The Basics of a Strong B2B Sales Enablement Program
Running a strong B2B sales enablement program requires a deep understanding of both the sales process and the customer journey. It involves aligning sales, marketing, and other key stakeholders to deliver the right content and tools to the sales team at the right time. Here are some key things you need to know to run a strong B2B sales enablement program:
- Understand your target audience. You need to have a deep understanding of your target audience, including their pain points, goals, and buying behaviors. This will help you develop content and tools that address their needs and help the sales team close deals.
- Develop a content strategy. A strong B2B sales enablement program requires a well-defined content strategy that includes a range of content types, including whitepapers, case studies, sales decks, and more. Your content strategy should be based on your target audience and their specific needs.
- Train your sales team. A successful B2B sales enablement program requires a well-trained sales team. This includes not only product training, but also training on how to use the sales enablement tools and content.
- Leverage technology. There are a range of sales enablement tools and technologies available that can help automate and streamline the sales enablement process. These tools can help you deliver the right content and tools to the sales team at the right time, and track their usage and effectiveness.
- Measure and optimize. It’s important to measure the effectiveness of your sales enablement program and continuously optimize it based on the data. This includes tracking metrics such as content usage, deal velocity, and win rates, and using this data to make improvements to your program over time.
Essential Content Types Every Sales Enablement Effort Should Include
There are several types of content that can be effective for enabling sales teams and helping them improve sales velocity and close rates. These include:
- Case studies. Case studies provide real-world examples of how your products or services have helped other companies achieve their goals. Sales teams can use these examples to illustrate how your offerings can solve similar problems for their prospects.
- Product demos. Product demos are a powerful way to showcase your products or services and highlight their unique features and benefits. Sales teams can use these demos to give prospects a hands-on experience of what it would be like to use your products or services.
- Sales scripts. Sales scripts provide a framework for sales conversations, ensuring that key messages are conveyed consistently and effectively. They can help sales teams build confidence in their sales conversations and improve their ability to close deals.
- Competitor analysis. Competitor analysis helps sales teams understand the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors, enabling them to differentiate their offerings and position them more effectively.
- Sales training materials. Sales training materials can include everything from onboarding materials for new hires to ongoing training programs for existing team members. They can help ensure that sales teams have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.
- Thought leadership content. Thought leadership content, such as blog posts, white papers, and webinars, can help establish your company as a trusted authority in your industry. Sales teams can use this content to position your offerings as the best solution for the challenges their prospects are facing.
Overall, effective sales enablement content should be tailored to the needs of the sales team and focused on providing them with the information, tools, and resources they need to have productive sales conversations and close deals.
Benefits of Putting Sales Enablement Under Marketing
While every company is different, here are several benefits to having the sales enablement program sit within the marketing function at a company:
- Alignment with marketing strategy. When sales enablement is under the marketing function, it is more likely to be aligned with the overall marketing strategy. This can lead to better integration of sales and marketing efforts, resulting in a more cohesive and effective approach to generating leads, nurturing prospects, and closing deals.
- Focus on content creation. Marketing is typically responsible for content creation, and having sales enablement under the marketing function can ensure that the content created is tailored to the needs of the sales team. This can help ensure that the content is relevant and effective in supporting the sales process.
- Analytical focus. Marketing teams are typically skilled in analyzing data and measuring the effectiveness of campaigns. Having sales enablement under the marketing function can ensure that the program is data-driven and focused on improving sales outcomes.
- Collaboration. When sales enablement is under the marketing function, it can lead to closer collaboration between sales and marketing teams. This can result in better alignment of messaging, improved targeting of prospects, and a stronger overall sales and marketing approach.
- Cost-effectiveness. Marketing teams are typically better equipped to handle budgeting and resource allocation, which can result in a more cost-effective sales enablement program.
Overall, having sales enablement under the marketing function can lead to better alignment, content creation, analytics, collaboration, and cost-effectiveness, resulting in a stronger overall sales and marketing approach.
Challenges of Putting Sales Enablement Under Sales
While having a sales enablement program run by the sales organization may work well for some companies, there are some potential disadvantages to consider. These include:
- Limited resources. The sales team may not have the same level of resources as the marketing team, which could limit their ability to develop and execute a comprehensive sales enablement program.
- Short-term focus. The sales team may be focused on achieving short-term sales goals, which could lead to a lack of focus on longer-term strategies such as brand building and thought leadership.
- Inconsistent messaging. Without a centralized content creation and management system, it can be challenging to ensure that all sales collateral and messaging is consistent and aligned with the company’s overall brand and messaging.
- Limited audience reach. If the sales team is responsible for developing and distributing sales enablement content, it may only reach a limited audience within the organization. Marketing, on the other hand, can help ensure that enablement content is distributed more widely and reaches a broader audience, including other departments and stakeholders.
- Limited creativity. Sales enablement programs may lack creativity and innovation if they are solely focused on short-term sales goals and do not take a strategic approach to content creation and distribution.
In summary, while there may be some advantages to having sales enablement run by the sales organization, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks and ensure that the company’s overall goals and objectives are being met.
Common Mistakes Companies Make with B2B Sales Enablement
Sales enablement programs can be incredibly effective at improving the productivity and effectiveness of a sales team, but there are several mistakes that companies can make that can limit the effectiveness of the program. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- Lack of alignment with sales strategy. A sales enablement program that is not aligned with the overall sales strategy can be ineffective. It’s important to ensure that the content and tools provided to the sales team align with the needs of the target customer and the overall sales process.
- One-size-fits-all approach. A sales enablement program that is not tailored to the needs of the individual salesperson can be ineffective. It’s important to understand the unique needs of each salesperson and provide content and tools that align with their specific needs.
- Focusing too much on technology. While technology can be a great enabler for sales enablement programs, focusing too much on technology can be a mistake. It’s important to ensure that the program is focused on delivering value to the sales team and the customer, not just on implementing the latest technology.
- Lack of measurement. Without proper measurement, it can be difficult to understand the effectiveness of a sales enablement program. It’s important to track metrics such as content usage, win rates, and deal size, and use this data to continuously improve the program.
- Lack of continuous improvement. A sales enablement program that is not continuously improved can become stale and ineffective over time. It’s important to regularly assess the program and make improvements based on feedback from the sales team and data-driven insights.
How Much Budget to Allocate Toward B2B Sales Enablement
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the percentage of a marketing budget that is allocated to sales enablement can vary widely depending on the company’s size, industry, and specific sales enablement needs. However, according to a 2021 survey by CSO Insights, a research division of Miller Heiman Group, companies on average spent 15.7% of their total marketing budget on sales enablement.
It’s worth noting that this number can be influenced by various factors, such as the maturity of a company’s sales enablement program, the size and complexity of the sales team, and the types of sales enablement tools and resources being used. As such, it’s important for each company to evaluate its own needs and goals when determining how much of its marketing budget to allocate to sales enablement.
How Sales Enablement Programs Bring Sales and Marketing Together
Salespeople generally have a positive view of sales enablement programs and the benefits they bring to their job. Here are some reasons why:
- Sales enablement programs provide salespeople with the training and resources they need to be successful. This includes sales training, product training, competitive intelligence, and marketing collateral. By having access to these resources, salespeople can better understand the product, the customer, and the competition, which helps them sell more effectively.
- Sales enablement programs help salespeople save time. By having easy access to the right content and tools, salespeople can spend less time searching for information and more time selling.
- Sales enablement programs help salespeople personalize their approach. By providing salespeople with data and insights about the customer, sales enablement programs can help salespeople tailor their messaging and approach to meet the specific needs of each customer.
- Sales enablement programs help salespeople build relationships with customers. By providing salespeople with content that is relevant and valuable to the customer, sales enablement programs can help salespeople build trust and credibility with the customer, which can lead to stronger relationships and more sales.
Overall, salespeople appreciate the support and resources that sales enablement programs provide, as it helps them do their job more effectively and ultimately achieve better results. But so do marketers!
Marketers generally have a positive view of sales enablement programs, as they understand the importance of aligning sales and marketing efforts to drive revenue growth. Sales enablement programs provide marketing teams with the opportunity to create targeted content and resources that can help sales teams have more effective conversations with prospects and customers.
In addition, sales enablement programs can help marketing teams better understand the needs and challenges of the sales team, and adjust their strategies and tactics accordingly. This can lead to more effective marketing campaigns that generate higher-quality leads and ultimately drive more revenue for the company.
Overall, marketers see sales enablement programs as an essential tool for driving revenue growth, improving customer engagement, and creating a more aligned and effective sales and marketing organization. Ultimately, this vital alignment between sales and marketing can be one of the most critical reasons to embrace sales enablement at your organization.