Sales Enablement for Startups: What, Why and How Is Sales Enablement just for the big guns?

The world of business is buzzing around sales enablement. Books, tools, experts and events centered around it are sprouting up each day.

Huge companies like IBM and Oracle have been very outspoken about the need to understand sales enablement. However, this has caused some discussion as to whether sales enablement is something only for the big guns.

Sure, in the startup world, tech startups creating tools for sales enablement are plenty. It’s become its own category on premier startup database Angel List, with 941 investors.

But startups are essentially businesses too right? Sales is crucial to their growth.

In startup evangelist, tech CEO and investor Mark Cuban’s words:

Sales cures all. There has never been a business that succeeded without sales.

So now, here’s the question.

Is sales enablement something startups need to embrace in their own sales teams?

What is sales enablement?

To find the answer to this, we first need to understand what sales enablement is. Since it’s a fairly new concept, different sources have different definitions for it.

Business research giant Forrester has been really aggressive in putting out content about sales enablement. So aggressive that a couple years ago, they put out a huge report on the subject.

This is how they defined sales enablement:

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 to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”

It does sound a bit like fluff, but we need to center on a few things to understand what Forrester is saying here.

Sales enablement…

is a strategic, ongoing process

If it’s strategic and ongoing, that means it’s not tactical and one-off. This tells us one important fact that a lot of people confused about sales enablement seem to believe. Sales enablement is not sales training. It is not event-based or pushed by a certain change inside the sales team.

It’s also not something to onboard once and left to run. Saying that sales enablement is strategic is saying that it encompasses the process on a high level: from planning to execution, from stability to growth.

equips all client-facing employees

Sales enablement is highly-involved in each phase of the sales process: from prospecting, to qualifying, to nurturing, to closing and delivering after the close.

consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation

Continued conversation is what moves clients along the sales process. All client-facing employees can rely on sales enablement in helping them deliver the right content at the right time.

The rest of Forrester’s definition is basically emphasizing the points made by these three phrases. Sales enablement is all about the customer. It enables all reps to have the right and enough understanding of important information about their product and the customer’s journey and background so as to say the right things, react the right way. send the right content.

This ultimately moves the customer further into the sales timeline or funnel.

Simple talk:

Sales enablement is the set of tools, knowledge and processes that enables a sales force to succeed.

The Sales and Marketing Alignment problem

Some argue that sales enablement is just glorified problem-solving of the sales and marketing alignment problem.

Sure, sales enablement is an answer to sales and marketing alignment. But the solution it poses is so much different than just internal tweaks and adjustments in sales and marketing departments.

Hear me out: What if the problem is that you’re trying to box in two things that will never be aligned?

The marketing department is very adept at communicating your brand’s vision and finding the right people you should be selling to. Once those people are attracted, the sales department steps in to make the close.

Now, customers are so much more smarter and informed. To simplify, customers are much more smarter than marketing and sales people. They know what they want and they know what they want to buy—it’s just that they know this by instinct or feeling and the decision making process makes these tastes and preferences fluid.

No matter how powerful your sales and marketing campaigns are, the last say is in the customer. Case closed.

The usual workflow for a lot of teams is to use marketing collateral in the sales process. Marketing has sharpened the message and now, sales just has to pass it on to the customer.

However, this is treating sales professionals as mere funnels where they just physically pass over the content to the customer, try to communicate as best as they can what marketing deemed right for the customer, and close from there.

This is what a lot of people have been saying about sales and marketing alignment:

1. The content is not available.
2. The content is not enough.
3. The content is not right.

Marketing and sales have two different objectives and solve two different problems. Why would they use the same content?

Sales enablement is what’s been missing all along. Since the alignment problem stems from some inadequacy in terms of content, the blame is mostly centered on the marketing department. Create more! Create better! Understand the prospects better!

However, when customers get past the prospecting or have opted-in, their needs drastically change. The way to communicate with prospects who are expressedly interested in your product is the sales department’s ballgame.

Shouldn’t content for sales be created by people more sales-invloved?

Quota-carrying and non-quota-carrying reps shouldn’t be pressured to come up with relevant content while on a call or during a meeting. This puts immense pressure on these professionals and veers them away from their job at hand.

Sales Enablement for Startups | A Need Not An Option

If you’re tired of losing sales in the end stages of your funnel or if you suffer from having customers abandon deals abruptly, sales enablement is what’s missing.

Here’s something bold for you: Sales enablement isn’t even optional anymore.

It’s required if you want to win.

In fact, according to sales enablement expert Sharon Little, startups are in the best position to begin with sales enablement-geared sales and marketing teams. Even if those teams are just really two people. You have the edge of being agile enough to try out a variety of solutions.

In this “how we got X signups in X days blog post” world we live in, it’s easy to get carried away by the numbers. There is no fault at being metrics-driven, but be sure to drive growth with the right metrics.

Sure you want a ton of leads and as many phone calls, demos and appointments as possible. Not to say that sales enablement stunts your numbers but it allows you to produce more without having to push out more leads, more prospects and more touches.

It’s about quality conversation at each stage of the process.

Three things it allows you:

1. Lower customer acquisition cost as you’re putting the startup in the position to make less touches before the close.
2. Eliminates the need to always add another sales rep to get more sales.
3. Lessens the inefficient hours spend offering content that doesn’t deliver sales-wise, less time making marketing people create

If you’re saying that sales enablement sounds just like sales readiness and you’ve read all the books, hired consultants and have had coaching for this for all your cofounders and employees, think again.

Readiness denotes that you’re not on attack. As a startup, initiative is your fuel.

Companies who can rely on stable MRR are companies that have MRR in the hundreds of millions at least. What you’re after is growth, and if you’re just ready to sell, ready to respond, ready to react, you are losing out.

You are in the special position of making sales enablement part of your startup’s culture right from the beginning. It gives you HUGE advantage and enables your sales department to not only make quota but crush the competition.

Sales Enablement for Startups | More Than The CRM

Businesses need CRM systems. You need a CRM system. In its core, CRM systems were developed for sales enablement. It makes life easier for the frontline sales personnel as it provides the quick access to the information they need.

However, most CRM systems pull information from what’s inputted into them. Sure, most marketing automation software now come with sales components and are mostly integrated with CRM. But don’t get lazy by relying entirely on these.

The truth is as we’re so reliant on technology now, we lose sight that tech supposedly optimizes what we input into it. As reliant as we are on technology, sales enablement needs people to understand the process of making selling easier and better for the sales personnel and use tech to make that change possible.

Tenfold itself is a sales enablement tool that will undoubtedly improve any business operation, however, a solid sales enablement strategy should be in place to reach your team’s full potential.

Some functions of sales enablement:

1. Provide client-facing personnel the right customer info and content at the right time. Your CRM and integrations can do this for you quickly.

2. Provide client-facing personnel the right content for each stage of the customer’s buying journey. Take what Marketing has created and translate that into something useful and optimized for sales.

3. Create and organize a database of different pitch styles, different approaches that have worked and haven’t, common objections even from the marketing level, customer feedback and visitor feedback and other qualitative data.

Ideally, you’d have someone full-time onboard to ensure that frontliners get all the support they need and that marketing and sales are in agreement. However, that’s not always possible depending on what stage you are in your startup’s growth.

It should be stated that getting a person in charge of sales enablement is something you should immediately gun for. You would be losing time and money running operations that have inefficient processes caused by the lack of a person to pull it all together. There’s also the choice of hiring independent sales enablement consultants.

In a future post, we will talk about staffing your sales enablement team and finding the leaders you need to help grow your business as fast as possible through sales enablement.


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Dan Sincavage

Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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