What is Sales Enablement? 7 Ways to Hack it for Your Team

What is sales enablement? It’s a seemingly simple question, and yet there are so many different answers out there. There are tons of sales enablement tools, platforms, and expert opinions available online, so it’s easy to get swept up in it all. The truth is, the “what” of sales enablement is simple. It’s the “how” part that’s tricky.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the process of enabling your sales team to do their best work. That’s it!

How can I make sales enablement work for my team?

That’s a harder question to answer. It depends on your team, your customers, and your goals. Is your team’s best work closing more deals, or making more meaningful connections? 

And in our increasingly virtual world, experts at sites such as LinkedIn and SalesHacker suggest that your ideal solution might include sales enablement tools or a sales enablement platform. But there are so many—how do you know which tool is the right one for your team?

Check out our top tips for making a sales enablement process work for your team.

1. Take a deep breath

Seriously! Your team does great work. Sales enablement is not the be-all end-all of your team’s success—it’s a process meant to help you succeed even more. You’ve got this!

2. Scale for success

An enablement strategy for a company of 10 is going to look very different than it will for a company of 10,000. Larger companies—especially remote ones—tend to see better results when they use a software tool or program to streamline their process. That way, no one person has to carry the mental load of managing the process.

3. Teach your people what they need to know

While excellent learning isn’t the only key to sales enablement, it’s a really important one. If your sales team doesn’t know what they need to know, then they can’t do what they need to do. And if there isn’t a central source of knowledge, everyone’s approach will be different, which leads to inconsistent results.

4. Reduce friction wherever possible

When your people don’t use their resources, it’s not because they don’t care—it’s usually because they can’t find them, or they don’t know how to apply them, so they don’t bother. When it comes to training materials, focus your energy on creating high-quality materials that are easy to use and easy to apply

5. Let your reps build relationships

Often, making a sale is all about getting the right content in front of your customers at the right time. This means you have to focus on the customer’s journey—their feelings, their needs, their processes—even more than you have to focus on your own sales cycle. A good enablement process allows for your reps to recognize that and factor it into their decision-making.

6. Play the numbers game

Once you have a sales enablement process that works for you (or even if you don’t yet,) it’s crucial to establish metrics and track meaningful data. It’s the best way to know what impact your process is having on sales. Some data points that can be helpful to track:

  • Average sales cycle length
  • Number of reps achieving quota
  • Average deal size

7. Strategize, share, unite

Your sales team is not an island. Successful sales enablement often hinges on involving other teams in the process, especially marketing. When everyone’s aligned, everyone gets results. It’s a team, after all!

One last question…

The “what” is clear. The “how” is beginning to make more sense. But you might still wonder “why?”

The answer is this: The sales world is moving forward, and fast. As life becomes more digitally-oriented and customer needs shift rapidly every day, you owe it to yourself (and your team) to have a simple, well-thought-out process that enables your sales team to do their best work.

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4 Sales Onboarding Trends You Need to Know

What factors influence salesforce productivity (SFP) at your organization? More than ever, sales onboarding is viewed as the answer to improving productivity, employee retention, and as a key driver in meeting revenue targets. 

But we’re not talking about the typical data dump during an employee’s first few days. Modern sales organizations are spending more time and resources on creating structured, organized onboarding programs that provide comprehensive training to new hires and beyond. And hard work pays off: research from Glassdoor found that organizations with strong onboarding programs improved new hire retention by 82 percent. 

Are your onboarding strategies doing enough to prepare new sales hires for success? Here are four top sales onboarding trends that you should know.

Sales onboarding that’s organized and consistent

There’s plenty of data on the advantages of a strong onboarding program. The Sales Management Association found that organizations with organized sales onboarding programs had ten percent greater sales growth and 14 percent better sales and profit objective achievement. So what sets these organizations apart? 

Like many sales processes, consistency is key to successful onboarding. Every new sales hire should walk the same path and share the same foundational knowledge about your organization, selling process, and other key learnings. It all starts with identifying goals for your onboarding program by asking a few simple questions:

  • What does everyone in the organization need to know in order to be successful?
  • How will they learn what they need to know?
  • How will you know if the program is successful?

We’ve just described the three key components of a strong sales onboarding program: content, structure, and measurement (yes, the platform you use to execute all of this matters!). Formalizing a consistent program not only gets everyone on the same page, it also makes better business sense. The average US employer spends $4,000 and 24 days hiring and onboarding a new employee, while the average cost of replacing a sales rep is a whopping $115,000. 

Data-driven sales onboarding

One of the greatest gifts of technology is the abundance of data it puts at our fingertips. You’re probably using all kinds of data to improve your sales process and customer experience, but don’t overlook onboarding data. Check out the analytics dashboard on your sales onboarding platform—how can you use that information to make onboarding sales reps more targeted and efficient? 

That unsuspecting analytics dashboard holds a treasure trove of information about onboarding sales reps (and if it doesn’t, find a better sales platform!). As new hires progress through your onboarding program, you can keep tabs on their performance and identify learning gaps in real-time. When they struggle to pass an assessment, you can intervene early and provide personalized training support. Plus, you can use onboarding data to zoom out and connect what skills and strengths lead to high-performers—those are the learnings you want to reinforce throughout the organization.

Onboarding sale reps and beyond with microlearning moments

Here’s the reality: studies show that people forget as much as 65 to 70 percent of what they learned within 24 hours. That means sales onboarding can’t be a one-and-done event: you have to reinforce, repeat, and refresh what you’re teaching. But onboarding a new sales hire requires significant time and energy, so how do you keep what they’ve learned top of mind?

Microlearning is a new, tech-driven strategy for supporting new hires well beyond their first 90 days. You can think of microlearning as bite-sized training opportunities, delivered on-demand via your sales enablement platform. The whole idea is that training is always within reach and short enough that it never throws off a rep’s productivity. It’s a self-driven approach to training that makes short videos, relevant articles, quick exercises, and even coaching available when your salesforce needs it most.  

A library of digital content

The top sales organizations know that the future is accessibility. During onboarding and beyond, your salesforce can easily search for the resources they need by keyword or subject matter and find it instantly,  they can take advantage of a more structured approach via folders, or they can lean on AI recommendations.

Your digital content library is all about empowering salespeople to keep learning and seek out the information they need. Whether it’s pitch variations, market research, or games that put their skills to the test, your salesforce won’t use it if it doesn’t have a great user experience. Look for a platform that is mobile-ready, available offline, and allows for custom navigation. 

There are so many exciting ways to upgrade your sales onboarding program, and all roads lead to stronger results for your organization. When you build a program that supports new sales hires as individuals from the start, selling confidence will soar—and you’ll cultivate a happier, more productive salesforce.

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Cost of Sales Turnover — What Does It Really Cost to Lose a Salesperson?

The cost of sales turnover is high. It’s no secret that the first 90 days are critical to a new hire’s success, especially in the demanding world of sales. But it’s also true that many companies struggle to get onboarding right—or invest in it at all. So when an increasing number of reports point to insufficient onboarding as a major factor in high salesforce turnover, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots. If turnover is a problem in your organization, onboarding should be part of your solution. 

No one likes to see a team member go, especially if it’s a great salesperson. But there’s also a hefty price tag associated with losing and replacing a sales rep, from acquisition costs to wasted time and lost sales. That’s why top sales organizations are using onboarding as a tool to shorten the path to productivity for new sales hires. Human capital is your most valuable asset, and it’s worth it to understand what high turnover means for your organization and its bottom line.

So, what does it really cost to lose a sales rep—and how can onboarding help boost salesforce retention? Here’s what you need to know.

The hidden cost of sales turnover

Did you know that the cost of sales turnover is $115,000? That’s a scary number, but it’s the average tab when you factor in separation costs, replacement costs (including lost time in the field), and costs for acquisition and training. Formulas for replacing a salesperson vary widely, but the cost is significant no matter how you look at it. For example, Hubspot reported that the average cost of recruiting, hiring, and training an employee is typically 200% of an employee’s annual salary.  

Think of it this way: it can take awhile to replace a rep, and most organizations average between two to six months. As reps come and go, you could lose clients, struggle to hit quarterly quotas, and see a decline in morale–all of which directly impact the bottom line. 

What drives sales reps away?

Now that we know the cost of sales rep turnover, let’s dig into why they’re leaving in the first place. Here’s the good news: salesforce turnover is a preventable problem. Reps will always come and go, but there’s a lot you can do to retain more team members. The market research firm IDC found that 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 90 days. The same survey also uncovered a correlation between the strength of an onboarding program and employee turnover. Organizations with low turnover had an onboarding process designed to target retention. 

That tells us that not only do new hires crave a strong onboarding program, it could be critical to their success in a new setting. According to Gallup research, when employees decide to leave, their reasons are pretty consistent. Predictors of turnover haven’t changed much over the years—the top five reasons employees cited in the survey included: the immediate manager, a poor fit with the job, coworkers not being committed to quality, inadequate pay and benefits, and a lack of connection to the organization and senior management. When you understand the factors driving sales reps away, you can take informed action to fix it.

Building better onboarding programs to reduce sales rep turnover

So, if onboarding is the solution to reducing the cost of sales turnover (acquiring and training new reps and maintaining sales momentum), why isn’t everybody doing it? The best organizations are, but it’s easier said than done. According to a study from the Sales Management Association (SMA), 62% of companies consider themselves ineffective at onboarding new sales hires. Let’s take a minute to demystify the goals of an effective onboarding program. 

When you get it right, your onboarding program will: 

  • Speed new hires to productivity
  • Create commitment to the organization
  • Reduce the stress and cost of sales turnover
  • Lead to success and job satisfaction
  • Create more effective long-term employees

Consider the top reasons employees cited for leaving—sales managers and leaders can influence every single one. When you commit to creating a consistently stellar sales culture, everyone you bring onboard will be better equipped for success. Focus on building a program that trains new reps on your customers, products, processes, and culture. And keep in mind that onboarding isn’t a one-and-done event: you can keep training going even after onboarding is over.

Effective onboarding is your best line of defense to reduce the cost of sales turnover. Even more, it’s an investment in your most valuable asset: your people. Get it right, and you’ll boost salesforce retention, morale, and productivity.

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Sales Onboarding Best Practices — 6 Awesome Examples

Sales onboarding best practices have to be considered if you want to make the most of your team. You’ve recruited a great new candidate, you’ve asked them all the right questions, and you even have the thumbs-up from their future colleagues. The hard part is over, right? Along with recruiting and screening top talent, onboarding new sales employees is one of the most important ways for organizations to maximize the success of their salesforce. In fact, according to research from the Sales Management Organization, companies that get onboarding right and follow best practices for onboarding sales people enjoy 10 percent greater sales growth rates than organizations without effective programs.

If you’re looking to make improvements to your onboarding program, it comes down to developing a set of sustainable, strategic sales onboarding best practices. Successful onboarding programs master three key elements: content, structure, and measurement. You can think of content as the “what” of onboarding and structure as the “how,” while measurement tracks the overall effectiveness of your program. 

This all sounds great on paper, but what does effective onboarding look like in action? Let’s take a look at practical examples of sales onboarding best practices at organizations around the country.

Sales onboarding best practices: content

What are the goals of your onboarding program? For most, the objective is for new hires to walk away feeling prepared for their jobs and like they’re part of the team. That means you need to stock your program with the right content to help new team members understand your culture, your customers, and how you do business. It’s a tall order, but the ROI of onboarding sales people well is well worth the investment.

“Day in the life” training

Set new salespeople up for success by starting orientation before they even walk through your doors. At Hubspot, new hires are invited to experience a day in the life at the company before their official first day. The idea is to start giving them context and information before the onslaught of tasks that come with a new role. Take a page from their playbook and bring new reps in for a day of observation, shadowing, and meet-and-greets before the real work kicks in.

Informal learning opportunities

Your new hires will have plenty of formal assignments on their onboarding to-do list, but leave some room for self-guided learning opportunities. This is the kind of content that new hires will seek out on their own to supplement their interests and address pain points. 

For one of our medical device partners, their approach to sales training and enablement is a mix of ongoing and regional training events, plus podcasts, marketing videos and mobile-friendly learning modules that reps can use on their own. Another idea? Make internal and external coaching available to new hires. Especially for more experienced or executive-level hires, a personal touch and experiential learning is critical for long-term success. 

Sales onboarding best practices: structure

Want to retain new hires for at least three years? According the Wynhurst Group, new employees who go through a structured onboarding process are 58 percent more likely to stay with the company for more than three years. But how do you structure your training for both productivity and retention? Here are a few examples from high-performing organizations.

A 60 to 90 day training period

It’s easy to want new hires to be productive right away—and some organizations, like Facebook and Google, take that approach successfully. But for most, it’s more effective to think of an employee’s first 30, 60, or 90 days as a training period. Research shows that when employees are prepared and trained properly, they’re more productive and engaged long-term, all of which means they’re more likely to stick with your organization. 

Take AccountingDepartment.com, a virtual company that provides outsourced accounting services to small businesses and entrepreneurs. The company views a new employee’s first day as the first step, not the last. In fact, new hires don’t interact with a client at all for at least thirty days. Instead, that time is entirely devoted to learning company processes, getting to know colleagues, and learning the methodology through a mock client account. Everyone has time to thoroughly learn the ropes before they dive into the daily mix.

Step-by-step onboarding

One of the most common emotions that pops up during onboarding is a feeling of overwhelm: too much to do, not enough time to do it. That’s why structure and organization is key to effective onboarding. At Fog Creek, they use Trello to build a step-by-step process that breaks down onboarding into a series of manageable tasks. 

Likewise, Quora sends all new hires through the same 10 onboarding talks to ensure everyone has the same foundation for success. At LinkedIn, onboarding sales people is organized into weekly guides that ramp up new hires over the course of 90 days. Across the board, organization is the name of the game.

Sales onboarding best practices: measurement

Measurement is a critical part of successful onboarding. How much should a new salesperson learn, and by when? And how do you measure success? Milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are great staples to help you track your goals and identify issues before they become a problem. But top organizations are also getting creative with how they use their people to measure success, too. Here’s how it works. 

Gather feedback

What’s the first thing that you do when you notice performance issues with new hires or a spike in turnover? Most companies run to the boardroom to run diagnostics with the executive team. In reality, your first move should be to ask frontline employees for feedback. 

At Sibson Consulting, gathering feedback is one of their top best practices. Whether you’re noticing red flags or not, make it routine to ask for feedback when new hires complete onboarding. Ask them what was most useful and what they wish they had learned. Sibson conducts anonymous surveys as well as focus groups to gather a diverse range of feedback on how onboarding is going.

Pay employees to quit

When retention is your top priority, the idea of paying a new hire to quit sounds totally counterproductive. But consider this statistic: a BambooHR survey found that 31 percent of new hires had quit their job before their six-month anniversary. And the longer that someone who’s not a good fit stays on board, the more it costs you. 

At Zappos, onboarding focuses on culture so that new team members know exactly what to expect moving forward. After one month, any new employee who doesn’t feel aligned with the culture and values is offered $2,000 to quit. The quicker you transition out employees who aren’t a good fit, the sooner you can get the right person through the doors instead.

Now that you’ve seen how other companies add their own creative twists to the fundamentals of good onboarding, take a look at your own program through the lens of these sales onboarding best practices. There’s a science to effectively onboarding new sales employees, but it’s up to you to master the art of it by finding the right tools and strategies for your salesforce.

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Sales Enablement Software Democratizes Sales Success

Sales enablement software could be a game changer. Do you have over-achievers in your sales organization? We all have top performers who stand out from the crowd, but are we depending on them too much to meet team quotas? It’s easy for organizations to get in the habit of letting star sellers take center stage, but we leave money on the table when we let other reps fall behind. That’s why sales enablement (SE) is so crucial to equalizing and scaling your salesforce. 

At its core, sales enablement software works to democratize sales by providing all reps with the information, content, and tools to help them sell more effectively. It’s all about giving every salesperson the potential to improve their performance and the chance to excel. Even more, sales enablement brings critical sales metrics out from the shadows so that all salespeople know the real numbers behind their performance. 

Your team deserves to have more than just a few superheroes on board. Let’s break down how sales enablement democratizes success—and how to use it to create your own team of sales superheroes.

The right sales enablement software could mean sales success for all

Today’s sales environment is filled with more distractions than ever, which means training and enablement often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. The first sign of trouble is usually a decline in people hitting their sales goals, which often results in overburdening top performers to pull everyone over the finish line to meet team quotas. 

If that sounds familiar, sales enablement can get your entire team back on track. Sales enablement is a solution for large-scale knowledge sharing: it allows you to give all team members the best practices, tools, and resources to be successful. But there is a catch-22 to sales enablement: you run the risk of drowning your sales managers and reps in too many tools and too much content. For that reason, it’s better to work smarter, not harder when it comes to a sales enablement software. Pick a single, integrated platform and work with managers to prioritize and focus on the activities that matter most.

Content access and data transparency

Another goal of sales enablement is to distribute and provide clear access to content. Too many sales organizations have poor content distribution, organization, and version control. A great piece of content could be buried because the sales enablement software doesn’t support sharing of content data such as usage. Data transparency is just another way sales enablement democratizes the selling process. After all, how great would it be to know the best piece of content to support your next sales pitch without digging for hours? Content transparency empowers salespeople to make informed decisions for how to best use their prep time. 

Another benefit of open content access in your sales enablement software is that it empowers salespeople to take ownership of their current knowledge and growth. When you provide the right sales enablement software sales people see that they are trusted enough to have a role in shaping their own success.

Empowered, informed coaching

Coaching is the final step of sales enablement to bring it all together. Equipped with the right tools and backed by data, sales managers and trainers can engage in strategic, informed coaching. Without sales enablement software, many organizations resort to a copy and paste approach to coaching. That might be sufficient for your top performers, but it overlooks the variables of experience, confidence, and personality that exist across any team.

Instead, sales managers can build their team’s capabilities by using the learning pathways, video practice tools, and AI powered content recommendations. If a sales rep needs to focus on a specific area for growth, a well-oiled sales enablement software will have the resources and pathway to success ready for enrollment.

The right sales enablement strategy can help eliminate inequality and create more high performers. When everyone has access to the resources and coaching they need, your team’s engagement (and their performance!) will soar. Multiply that individual transformation times the number of reps on a sales team, and you have a force for change of seismic proportions.

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