Sales Enablement Guide

Part 3: Building a Sales Enablement Strategy

What components make up a successful and scalable sales enablement strategy? How do you even effectively explain what enablement is? Join us as we embark on a deep dive into all things sales enablement. You’ll come away from this guide with insights, actionable takeaways, and just maybe a refreshing take on the function of enablement as a whole. ‍

Introduction 

If you’ve ever Googled “Sales Enablement” to find out what it actually is, your results were likely an array of vendor-specific definitions, all framing enablement in an eerily complementary light to their own tools or products. We’ll admit it: Guru was probably among the brands that surfaced in those searches. So we took a step back and created this guide to give you a wide-scope understanding of what sales enablement means, how to make it work, and why you should even care. 


In this guide, we’ll tell you what sales enablement means to us here at Guru. Plus, we’ll share some of the best knowledge we’ve learned from customers who use our technology to power industry-leading sales enablement programs. 


By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be a sales enablement expert (or at least you’ll be able to explain what it really is). You’ll come away with the key ingredients for a strong enablement strategy in your back pocket— the right team, the right process, and the right technology— aka the recipe for success. 


So, join us as we embark on this deep-dive into enablement. Jump on in…the water's fine! 


Let’s start here…

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of enabling customer-facing teams to perform in their jobs and effectively drive revenue. Still, there are a myriad of explanations out there, and it’s easy to get lost in the jargon jungle, but this definition covers the bottom line. 


Pretty broad, huh? Exactly. It’s a broad and diverse discipline, cross-functional and difficult to define. Here are some definitions from other industry thought leaders that we find most clarifying:

“Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle” -Forrester
“Sales enablement focuses on building scalable, replicable programs vs. one-time training events, delivering the right help to the right salesperson at the right time.” -TOPO Group  

Here at Guru, we think of sales enablement as a means to drive revenue by empowering all customer-facing teams to be the best that they can be at their jobs. Successful enablement strategies center around instilling confidence in teams and equipping them with the tools and knowledge that they need to effectively engage with customers through every stage of the customer’s journey.

Effective engagement can only happen if your teams are armed with the knowledge that they need to have valuable conversations with prospects. We're firm believers that it’s conversations, not content, that closes deals. 

Regardless of which definition you subscribe to, the foundation of enablement remains consistent and clear: to empower people to be the best that they can be at their jobs. Sales enablement empowers teams, cross-functionally, to drive revenue and, at the end of the day, equips them with the tools and knowledge that they need to be confident in their jobs. 


Of course, instilling confidence in others is not a simple task and it takes a special and dynamic person or program to fit the bill. With only 54.3% of sales reps actually hitting their quota as of 2019, the need is there. So what are the ingredients of an effective enablement strategy? 

We’ve outlined 5 clear steps to design, implement, and scale a successful sales enablement strategy:

  1. Establish structure
  2. Define enablement for all roles  
  3. Empower valuable conversations
  4. Build out an intentional tech stack 
  5. Measure outputs 

Before we delve into each facet of successful enablement strategies, it’s critical to establish what enablement means to you. The reality is that sales enablement looks different at every company. Its role and function is entirely dependent on the organization and the specific pain points they’re looking to address.

Establishing what Enablement means for you… yes, you.

As an enablement professional, what are your company's top pain points that you'd like your strategy to address?

  • Learning and Development
  • Cross-Company Communication
  • Knowledge Management
  • Onboardings and Trainings
Learning and Development 

Your L&D needs a little TLC, huh? You’re not alone. Deloitte Insights ranked Learning and Development as their top trend for improvement in 2019. 86% of respondents to their global study indicated that they consider this to be a very important issue yet only 10% of respondents felt “very ready” to address it. So — how can you prepare yourself? 


L&D can oftentimes make up a smaller part of an enablement strategy. It can  be glossed over or outsourced to sales managers or other teams. On the other hand, some orgs consider coachings and trainings to be the primary function of enablement. Don’t let the position be siloed exclusively into the L&D or Trainings space. 

If you haven't already, consider implementing an LMS. We’ll dig deeper into this topic in the Tech Stack section of the guide. Here’s a few quick stats that can inform your LMS: 

  • You aren’t the only one looking to switch up your LMS. 47% of companies are looking to revise their current learning strategy. And with over 282 different LMS softwares available on G2, there’s no shortage of products to evaluate. Ensure that the system you select integrates with your knowledge management platform so that the information people are engaging with throughout these learnings can continue to live in an active space, keeping all of this available and top of mind even after training has been completed. 
  • Only 23% of companies have been using the same LMS for over five years. There’s a lot of turnover, meaning there is a lot of room for growth and change within that space. Keep an eye out for what's driving these frequent changes and make sure that you’re selecting a suitable software that will scale in the long-term. 

A lack of internal opportunities accounts for a large percentage of employee turnover. Turnover often costs money, slows down cycles, and hurts your organization as a whole. Own it! Asking your team members about their professional aspirations can be an extremely valuable part of an enablement strategy. Here are a few ways to fast-track your development initiatives and ensure your teams can visualize their futures at your org:

  • Include a goal-setting process as part of your coaching and development strategy
  • Put a career advancement structure in place 
  • Set up a recognition system 
  • Develop team feedback and appreciation systems 
Cross-Company Communication

Streamlining communication both internally and externally at your company is an integral aspect of a comprehensive enablement plan. 86% of executives cite lack of collaboration or inefficient communication as the reason for workplace failures. Enablement leaders should be considered the touchpoint for knowledge within your organization. That’s a huge lift for just one person to take on. But siloed communication might be hurting your organization’s ability to carry out initiatives, slowing down sales cycles, and limiting your team's ability to cross-communicate.

 “. . . you need to develop a team to work across traditional organizational boundaries and reporting levels within your company—and that’s a big challenge. But eventually, to be successful with sales enablement, you will need to break down the walls between organizational silos to get customers the information they need.” - Forrester report 

What goes into effective and transparent cross-company communication? 

Messaging platform: Implement tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams 

  • The move away from email and into messaging apps for internal company communication is now commonplace. Spending a good chunk of your day in Slack is the new norm and that’s great. It means you’re communicating. This constant communication is especially valuable for bicoastal or outsourced teams that don’t have the opportunity for those day-to-day interactions around the Keurig. 
  • As the enablement touch person, you should exemplify best practices in these applications. Be intentional about what threads you’re creating, keep conversations on track and noise down in your channels. But also…share that cat GIF and make someone in the office smile (positive culture and camaraderie enables everyone to be better in their jobs!) 

Don’t underestimate the value of face-time

  • We get it. Everyone’s calendars are overrun by meetings, debriefs, off-sites, one-on-ones…the list goes on. But as enablement professionals, you can’t underestimate the power of face-time (even if that’s done through a Zoom call). Allocate recurring meeting times to encourage alignment and run through enablement efforts. At Guru, we do that in a few different ways. 
  • Annual SKOs (Sales Kickoffs) provide a yearly time for our bi-coastal teams to get together, hear from our execs, align on roadmaps moving forward, and generally build company-wide morale to set ourselves up for success! 
  • Quarterly, we hold QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews). These are held in our Philly HQ, while our West Coast team joins by video call. Various teams present initiatives, and people come away from these two-day sessions with a better understanding of what we’ve achieved over the quarter, where our opportunities for growth are, and how we’re planning to meet our collective goals. 
  • Finally, we refer to our weekly meetings as Empowerment Sessions. They serve a few purposes:  Alignment across teams on company initiatives, product updates, messaging/branding changes, etc. Live Q&A sessions with team leads and customers 

Create or refine your knowledge base 

  • Strengthening your knowledge base is the backbone of your enablement strategy. Centralizing your collective knowledge in one accessible location will keep everyone in the loop. Here at Guru, we think that the best knowledge management solutions keep your teams within their workflows, delivering the important information to them, wherever they’re working. An effective knowledge base should ensure that content and information is consistently updated and verified. If teams can’t trust that the information they’re pulling from is up-to-date, the purpose of your knowledge base goes out the window. 
  • Select a tool that will verify knowledge on an ongoing basis, capture and document all changes made to information, and keep your internal content trustworthy. Check out  the Knowledge Management section for a deeper dive on how to build a strong knowledge base for your enablement strategy.  
Knowledge Management

Although knowledge management hasn’t traditionally been coupled with the idea of sales enablement, it can be a powerful tool that centralizes and informs your entire strategy. Products, particularly in the SaaS space, are increasingly complex, and rapidly growing teams are finding themselves siloed in their bubbles of knowledge. A strong knowledge management tool is a great solution. For example, a rep may have gone through extensive product training but when they get an incredibly use-case specific product question during a discovery call, they won’t have the recall to answer it in real-time. Eliminate “That’s a great question, I’ll do some digging and get back to you with an answer.” With a strong knowledge management system in place, your teams will feel armed with the trusted information they need at their fingertips. A great KM tool should keep reps in their workflows, help them to answer tough one-off questions, and ultimately set the foundation to drive stronger conversations and close more deals. 

‍Use these guidelines to find out how developed your knowledge base is: 

It eliminates the need for shoulder tapping

  • Making sure that internal knowledge is not trapped within silos will cut down on one-off questions. Keeping the answers to commonly asked questions readily available will allow everyone to work more efficiently and uninterrupted. 

It ensures that info is up-to-date 

  • The information in your knowledge base should be updated on a consistent basis to ensure that it can be trusted by your teams. 
  • Tools with an automated verification process will hold people accountable to check up on the information that they own to make sure it’s still trustworthy, and make the necessary updates if it’s out of date. Ideally, your knowledge base will also capture all edits and modifications made to pieces of information to give people the ability to track important changes. 
  • Without a verification process in place, you can expect your knowledge base to go bad in no time. 

It analyzes what content is performing well

  • Knowledge usage should be captured and analyzed to pinpoint exactly what information is most commonly referred to. 
  • Know what you don’t know: a good knowledge base should tell you what topics your team is searching for that haven’t been answered yet, shedding light on those knowledge gaps. 

It centralizes all of your content

  • This should be the touchpoint for access to all content, not just a hub for your salespeople to access marketing collateral. All internal and external knowledge, sales process information, product FAQs, etc. should live within this space.
  • Note: As as part of your sales enablement strategy, one of your key assets to include in this centralized base will be a Sales Playbook. This playbook should house all content, collateral, and information that informs your sales processes and empowers your reps.  We’ll break down what exactly should be included in your playbook later on in the guide. 

It’s accessible within workflows 

  • Accessing the knowledge your reps need to do their jobs should not take them out of their workflows. Whether they’re in their inbox, CRM, or a support ticketing system, the knowledge they need should be there too. Web browser extension capabilities and AI make it much easier to keep knowledge relevant and top of mind at all times. 

Its content is bite-sized 

It is searchable and intuitive

  • When your reps are on a call, they shouldn’t be sifting through your knowledge base to find the answer to a one-off question. The whole point of the knowledge base is the keep the needle out of the haystack.
Onboardings and Trainings

For rapidly growing teams, a tight, efficient, and thoughtful onboarding process is a must. Even when your onboarding is airtight, 70% of learning still comes from on-the-job experience so your process can’t simply start and end with a stack of training documents. 

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Strengthening your onboarding and training will get your reps meeting their quota more quickly and ensure that you’re retaining the best talent. 

‍

Here are some fast onboarding facts to keep in mind:

  • 1 in 10 companies are experiencing involuntary turnover rates of over 55% (the average is about 35%). 
  • The average time to ramp reps has reached 5.3 months.
  • Within this pool of respondents, 67% of reps are actually reaching their quota. 

Learning doesn’t end once the onboarding process is completed. Since so much of learning happens onsite, make sure your onboarding and training info isn’t siloed within the first few months on the job. This is an ongoing process so keeping training materials easily accessible will allow team members to continue their learning beyond that initial ramp time.

 

Reducing onboarding ramp time can have a significant impact on accelerating your sales cycles (which, of course, should be one of the primary KPIs of your enablement plan). Sales enablement plays a critical role in monitoring turnover and ramp time within the company. Find a process that will fit for you and ensure that reps feel heard, appreciated, and able to get up to speed as fast as possible.

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Onboardings and Trainings

For rapidly growing teams, a tight, efficient, and thoughtful onboarding process is a must. Even when your onboarding is airtight, 70% of learning still comes from on-the-job experience so your process can’t simply start and end with a stack of training documents. 

‍

Strengthening your onboarding and training will get your reps meeting their quota more quickly and ensure that you’re retaining the best talent. 

‍

Here are some fast onboarding facts to keep in mind:

  • 1 in 10 companies are experiencing involuntary turnover rates of over 55% (the average is about 35%). 
  • The average time to ramp reps has reached 5.3 months.
  • Within this pool of respondents, 67% of reps are actually reaching their quota. 

Learning doesn’t end once the onboarding process is completed. Since so much of learning happens onsite, make sure your onboarding and training info isn’t siloed within the first few months on the job. This is an ongoing process so keeping training materials easily accessible will allow team members to continue their learning beyond that initial ramp time.

 

Reducing onboarding ramp time can have a significant impact on accelerating your sales cycles (which, of course, should be one of the primary KPIs of your enablement plan). Sales enablement plays a critical role in monitoring turnover and ramp time within the company. Find a process that will fit for you and ensure that reps feel heard, appreciated, and able to get up to speed as fast as possible.

‍

header text placeholder

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Onboardings and Trainings

For rapidly growing teams, a tight, efficient, and thoughtful onboarding process is a must. Even when your onboarding is airtight, 70% of learning still comes from on-the-job experience so your process can’t simply start and end with a stack of training documents. 

‍

Strengthening your onboarding and training will get your reps meeting their quota more quickly and ensure that you’re retaining the best talent. 

‍

Here are some fast onboarding facts to keep in mind:

  • 1 in 10 companies are experiencing involuntary turnover rates of over 55% (the average is about 35%). 
  • The average time to ramp reps has reached 5.3 months.
  • Within this pool of respondents, 67% of reps are actually reaching their quota. 

Learning doesn’t end once the onboarding process is completed. Since so much of learning happens onsite, make sure your onboarding and training info isn’t siloed within the first few months on the job. This is an ongoing process so keeping training materials easily accessible will allow team members to continue their learning beyond that initial ramp time.

 

Reducing onboarding ramp time can have a significant impact on accelerating your sales cycles (which, of course, should be one of the primary KPIs of your enablement plan). Sales enablement plays a critical role in monitoring turnover and ramp time within the company. Find a process that will fit for you and ensure that reps feel heard, appreciated, and able to get up to speed as fast as possible.


Read next:

Part 4 of Guru's Sales Enablement Guide

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