For organizations that use content marketing to promote their business and spread awareness of their brand, sales enablement is all about aligning sales and marketing teams in order to propel the sales process forward. While that requires having team members work side-by-side to improve efficiency, it depends heavily on technology to bring those processes together.
There’s a significant payoff in having the right technology; a study by Forrester Consulting found that companies who use sales enablement technology are able to increase the speed of closing deals by 43% and boost company growth by as much as 60%.
Implementing technology is an important step, but it can only be done after you know what processes it needs to serve and what you expect it to do. Once you outline your processes, you have to identify what types of sales technology stack will support and further them, then ensure that everyone involved knows how to use that technology to its fullest.
After all, the greatest technology in the world is only effective when it’s being used properly. If you don’t believe that, hand a smartphone to your grandmother and see what happens.
The Role of Technology in Sales Enablement
As with other aspects of sales and marketing, being able to monitor activity and measure results is crucial for knowing what’s working in your sales enablement strategy. Technology can improve collaboration, and it's critical for automating simple tasks and making sure they are repeated on time. It also makes it much easier to track and analyze responses.
When this information is shared between teams, it builds a powerful platform that streamlines efforts and achieves the overall goal of increasing collaboration and, ultimately, boosts sales.
Let’s look at four technology components that should be fueling your sales enablement strategy:
1. Content Management System
In many organizations, content is developed in silos, which means it’s the marketing equivalent of Las Vegas: what happens in marketing stays in marketing. The same goes for sales and, all too often, content is shared between the sales and marketing only on an “as needed” basis. Not only does that mean the two departments may be duplicating efforts, but they’re also missing a huge opportunity to combine their expertise for better results.
In sales enablement, the wall (real or imagined) between sales and marketing is torn down, giving both teams equal access to content. While marketing is usually viewed as the primary source of content, the reality is that sales reps spend up to 40% of their time creating content. Recognizing this allows marketing to take some of the burden of content development away from the sales team and let them get to what it is they do best: selling.
A great content management system, such as HubSpot's CMS, is essential to your sales enablement strategy because it makes sure that everyone has access to the content that’s being created. This central hub of content lets you manage, publish, organize, update and even remove the content your teams have created.
Traditionally, the CMS has been the domain of the marketing department, but in sales enablement, that changes. It becomes a shared system and the sales team needs to understand what is stored there and how to access it easily so they can find content relevant to their prospects or needs.
Sharing this system also allows sales to see where there might be gaps in information, allowing them to work with marketing to create new content or update old information.
2. Customer Relationship Management System
An effective sales enablement strategy also depends upon the right customer relationship management (CRM) tool, which serves as the storage “brain” for all things sales-related. It is valuable for storing information on customers and prospects, but also offers a way to automate sales processes, keep track of customer interactions and help users connect with customers throughout different stages of the buyers journey.
Look for a CRM, such as HubSpot or Salesforce, that works with email marketing software and your email provider so you’ll be able to schedule emails and cut down the tasks associated with doing that manually. A good CRM will also help with reporting and forecasting, and when both sales and marketing tap into the many features of the CRM, they’ll improve communication, reporting and follow-up.
3. Sales Technology Tools
This covers a broad range of technology, and the number and types of sales tools you need will vary according to the size, scope and mission of your organization. Sales technology tools can include (but are not limited to) contract lifecycle management, email management, tools for lead generation, productivity and prospecting, sales engagement and analytics.
The emergence of sales enablement software gives companies the ability to buy software that is specifically geared toward the processes being implemented. There are now many different options to compare and choose from, with some of the more popular choices being Showpad, Chorus and Highspot. However, the large number of choices can be daunting, so it’s best to define what you need first and then look for sales tools that meet those specific needs.
Much of the sales technology provides automation to simplify and expedite tedious tasks and to make managing contacts, content and information easier and more streamlined. But sales tools also are helpful in conducting research, enhancing daily productivity, improving SEO efforts and much, much more.
When both sales and marketing understand how to leverage the different aspects of sales technology, it provides a goldmine of information that can be used to develop richer, more targeted content and help sales continue to move customers quickly through the pipeline.
4. Team Communication Tools
An effective sales enablement strategy depends on constant communication between the sales and marketing teams. They must be able to stay connected and share information and assets in real-time, so they can provide each other with feedback, ask questions and maintain a collaborative environment.
The right team communication tools can help organize workflows, integrate audio, video and file exchanges and work across platforms, including mobile devices. Slack has become one of the leading options in the business team communication space.
When choosing your team communications technology, make sure it will integrate with whatever necessary apps you use and look for cloud-based options to make it easier for team members to access files and messages on the go. It should also be a closed space that team members won’t be able to use for chatting with friends, family or customers.
Developing Best Practices for Sales Enablement Technology
After you’ve chosen your technology, follow best practices to ensure that your entire team is using it to its fullest. Following sales enablement thought leaders’ blogs and social media will help you fine-tune your strategy on a regular basis to keep it current and effective.
Five best practices to employ with your sales technology strategy are:
- Make sure your platforms are integrated. It’s not uncommon for organizations to use multiple tools or have more than one portal where content and data is stored. Invest time to make sure all of your resources are integrated; that will pay off later by saving time and improving efficiency for your teams.
- Track the right data. Sales enablement relies on accurate measurement to inform teams about what’s working, what needs to be improved and the effectiveness of each process. After clearly and carefully defining which metrics are relevant to your organization, use tracking technology to see how effective your programs and processes are. (Conversion rates don’t lie.)
- Use technology, but don’t forget the human touch. Technology is a time-saver and a way to automate those oft-repeated tasks in the process. It can help you keep track of data, content and call logs. All of that is important, but always remember that there are real customers behind that data. Keep the buyer and the buyers journey in mind, and remember that technology is just a tool; it’s no substitute for the actual connections you want to create with customers.
- Never stop observing, evaluating and improving. While you’re tracking data, see how teams are working together and what could be done to improve interactions. Look for opportunities to provide more training and provide your teams with new resources; make ongoing education on the role and value of sales enablement part of your regular training.
- Let your technology (and your processes) evolve. As good as your technology is, there will constantly be new developments, breakthroughs and improvements that can expand on your current capabilities, so keep your ears and mind open. As the needs of your customers shift or the market changes, always watch for new methodologies that can further your processes.
As with all technology, when you select which platforms to use for your sales enablement strategy, make sure that they have the flexibility to grow with you in the future and meet (or exceed) all of your company’s current security standards. They should be accessible from all devices and be easy for your team to learn and use.
Recognizing the value of technology in the sales enablement process and making decisions based on your individual processes will ensure that you get the tools your team needs to supercharge your sales enablement strategy. And, as your ROI improves, you can continue adding to your sales technology stack — and to your success.