When sales enablement first arrived on the scene, the strategy was defined as a content management strategy centered on a specific goal: To arm salespeople with the right content at the right time. 

Today, content management is still a core component of any sales enablement strategy. But the function has grown to include much more. 

The definition of sales enablement has expanded to include the full spectrum of procedures in place to drive new deals and keep existing clients coming back — from continuous learning and communications to a hyper-focus on customer-centricity. 

As sales enablement evolves, sales enablement specialists must develop their strategies to keep pace with change. In 2020, we're starting to see formal enablement processes move beyond the well-trodden grounds of aligning sales and marketing teams around a unified content strategy. 

They're getting smarter about aligning high-value content with the customer's path, responding to market changes in record time, and arming all customer-facing employees with the content and training required to enhance the buyer experience well beyond the sale. 

As the function of sales enablement matures, sales enablement specialists need to look toward embracing new strategies that will help their teams keep pace and drive bigger revenue and productivity gains.

With that in mind, here are four resolutions for sales enablement specialists to focus on in 2020. 

1. Aim for tighter alignment between content and the customer journey.

It’s well-established that today’s biggest brands — Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber — have transformed the consumer experience, taking buyer expectations to new heights. 

In 2020, sales enablement specialists need to double down on customer-centricity as well. That means working with marketing and sales to align content to key journey touchpoints to better support buyers in their decision-making process. 

According to CSO Insights' Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, most organizations haven’t quite nailed content-journey alignment. Just 19% of respondents said their organization was engaged in what they call "dynamic alignment" between internal sales processes and the customer journey. 

This means that an organization implements the tools and processes (think analytics, marketing strategies, and sales plays) that allow them to adapt selling processes to changes in buyer behavior quickly. 

According to research from the RAIN Group, sales organizations that make value their top priority tend to generate more wins than those that focus their efforts elsewhere. Sellers need content that helps them articulate the value of their solution, or else buyers will look toward a competitor with a better grasp of their messaging.

Tight alignment depends on great data; inaccurate data means marketers create content for the wrong personas, and sellers focus on developing solutions that don't quite square with buyers. 

A few things that make a big impact on delivering value at every touchpoint:

  • A centralized storage solution. With data housed in different places, it makes it hard to determine when or where to drive action. If you haven’t already, adopting a sales enablement platform with automated delivery, guided recommendations, and integration with your CRM can make this process much easier.
  • A collaboration strategy. Specialists must make feedback collection a priority and develop a process for recording and implementing that feedback.
  • Data-interpretation training. Both sales and marketing teams need to fine-tune their ability to analyze feedback, content usage analytics, and online behaviors to extract actionable insights. You may need to adjust training to include data interpretation strategies and link them to real-world use cases.

Ultimately, it's up to the sales enablement function to take the reins when it comes to aligning content, strategies, and services to critical touchpoints in the journey, so salespeople can be better prepared to deliver the consultative experience buyers expect from B2B organizations. 

2. Sales enablement specialists should embrace revenue enablement tactics.

As sales enablement continues to evolve, sales enablement specialists bring revenue enablement strategies into their existing processes for a tighter focus on growth.

In case you’re unfamiliar, revenue enablement is a relatively new term, coined by SiriusDecisions, and can best be described as a process that aims to maximize revenue at each stage in the customer journey. 

Although it shares a lot in common with sales enablement, one of the key differences here is that revenue enablement looks beyond new deals — placing greater emphasis on streamlining acquisition efforts, reducing churn, and nurturing long-term buyer relationships. 

In other words, revenue enablement is a marriage between sales enablement and customer experience. 

With that in mind, sales enablement specialists should help their teams work toward the following goals:

  • Alignment beyond sales & marketing. Tearing down the long-standing wall between marketing & sales is only the first step. Today, enablement means eliminating all silos between customer-facing roles (read more on this further down the page) to create a consistent, value-driven experience for all customers.
  • Optimize for retention & loyalty. Closed deals and new leads are critical components of success, but driving revenue hinges on looking at the big picture and working to increase retention, prevent churn, and encourage repeat purchases by optimizing processes and refining customer-facing messaging.
  • Evaluate training & content based on the value they provide. Coaching, training, and content development should be part of the big-picture plan for driving revenue. Look at the tactics used throughout the buyer's journey. How do content and sales strategies contribute to the bottom line — be it a dollar amount or measured in terms of customer satisfaction?
  • Tighten up messaging. Sales enablement teams should focus on coordinating an effort to create a united voice that spans every touchpoint. While "omnichannel" communication has been getting more play in the marketing world these days, that consistency brings more control over the entire journey, allowing for more opportunities to drive revenue.

3. Take sales enablement beyond the sales team.

Building on our last point, customer success is moving from afterthought to bonafide growth engine. In 2020 and forward, sales enablement specialists should look beyond the sales team and work toward enabling other groups that play a direct role in driving the customer experience.

This includes customer success teams, field service technicians, in-house technical support teams, account executives, and more. 

While sales and marketing teams together are responsible for attracting, nurturing, and closing leads, customer service and other support staff are often the main points of contact after the conversion.

As such, all customer-facing employees can benefit from enablement strategies — built with retention, renewals, and excellent service as their guide.

To expand enablement into other areas, sales enablement specialists must first determine how each role impacts the customer experience. 

  • Which employees work directly with customers?
  • At which stages do they interact with buyers/customers?
  • And in what capacity?
  • Which processes are currently in place for post-purchase interactions like onboarding, service requests, field service, answering questions, etc.? 
  • What kinds of internal processes are in place for hand-offs between sales and customer service?
  • Do all customer-facing teams work from the same data set?
  • Which metrics measure success? 
  • What technology does each team use, and how do they use it? Are all of these tools integrated?

Audit all processes from a buyer's perspective. 

  • Where can you eliminate buyer friction? 
  • What hidden opportunities lie in the sales process — i.e., opportunities to upsell, cross-sell, or follow-up? 
  • Do you have the tools to make the required improvements?
  • Does everyone on the revenue team (marketing, sales, customer service, and support) have the training materials and content they need to drive optimal outcomes?

4. Training must keep pace with change.

Many organizations plan training initiatives a year out, building a plan against the company's annual budget, then implementing that plan. 

To put it bluntly, that's way too slow. 

Business is changing faster than ever, with new trends and challenges emerging each day. Traditional training models barely scratch the surface, while companies that do have modern learning programs need to make sure that those solutions prepare sellers for new situations as they arise.

Specialists need to focus on developing a dynamic training program that prepares teams to respond to change in real-time (or, at the speed of business). 

To do this effectively, organizations must embrace a holistic approach to continuous training that includes the following elements.

  • Mobile learning. Today’s salespeople are always on the move. Whether they’re working remotely or always on their way to the next big meeting, mobile learning solutions enable sellers to learn from anywhere. Sales teams can access training materials, assignments, and coaching sessions anytime, anywhere, regardless of connectivity issues, thus eliminating the need for in-person training and the costs that come with it.
  • Microlearning. Microlearning breaks training sessions into bite-sized, single-subject sessions that can be consumed in a few minutes. This allows sellers to make the most of their downtime and learn new skills before meeting with a client. The fact that microlearning happens on devices like phones or tablets offers a level of immediacy you just can’t achieve with a traditional training course — which means that sales enablement leaders can continuously serve up sessions that reflect product updates or changes in the market. 
  • Video Coaching. Put your team’s knowledge to work by creating video assignments based around real-world scenarios. Sellers can record themselves practicing buyer-specific sales pitches, product demos, overcoming objections, and more. Coaches can provide timely feedback specific to each learner and tailor one-on-one sessions and future assignments based on individual strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Gamification. Gamification applies game-like elements to sales training to increase engagement with learning content. Sales leaders can add trackable milestones and meaningful rewards into their training program, and use public-facing leaderboards to encourage friendly competition and recognize individual progress.  

Wrapping up

In 2020, sales enablement specialists must adjust their strategies to reflect the state of sales enablement today. The function is maturing, evolving, and as a result, companies need to take things to the next level.

Organizations are increasingly recognizing that sales enablement strategies go well beyond arming sellers with the right content, and in response, are shifting their focus on enabling the entire team to deliver revenue-driving value at every touchpoint.

For a deeper dive into what sales enablement should look like in 2020, click here to download this year’s essential guide.