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TechnologyAdvice Buyer's Guide to Sales Enablement SoftwareUpdated: Jan. 16th, 2019
This guide will provide an overview of sales enablement software categories, tips for making a purchase, and a case study featuring a leading sales enablement software vendor.
The Internet has forever changed the buyer’s journey, and with it, the discipline of sales. The average buyer has completed 67 percent of the decision journey by the time they contact a salesperson,1 but that doesn’t mean companies should stop being proactive, stop marketing and rely solely on prospects to take action. Of course, relying on an individual salesperson to determine what to send and when is a waste of their time and skills; according to research by SiriusDecisions, 65 percent of firms say their sales reps spend too much time on “non-core” activities.2 Organizations are becoming increasingly interested in tools that help salespeople increase operational efficiency and better serve their accounts.
Sales alignment with the marketing department is also becoming more important; organizations with well-aligned sales/marketing teams experience an average growth in annual revenues of 32 percent, compared to an average 7 percent decline in revenues at organizations with poorly aligned teams.3 This increase in alignment has spawned the birth of a new cross-functional discipline called sales enablement.
What is Sales Enablement?
The definition of sales enablement definition can vary widely from company to company. Is it a verb? Is it a noun? Is it a new discipline, or a new department?
According to this 2010 definition from Forrester Research:
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 lifecycle to optimize the return on investment of the selling system.4
In other words, sales enablement is a process that improves your employees’ ability to have relevant conversations with sales prospects, and to do so in a manner that can be tracked, optimized, and repeated. It’s the old adage, “If you aren’t selling, you’re supporting someone who is,” updated for the modern, technology-driven sales environment. Sales enablement software is a digital system that helps salespeople improve performance through content, content delivery, employee training, engagement tracking, customer service, etc.
Types of Sales Enablement Software
Sales enablement is a wide-ranging term, and sales enablement processes impact all areas of the business, from marketing through delivery and support. As a result, sales enablement software can include existing systems that should be familiar to your sales and marketing teams, such as CRM or Marketing Automation, and newer ones with which they’ll become familiar, including predictive analytics, sales intelligence, content personalization, and others. To help you choose from the vast array of vendors and solutions, we’ve divided the market into five major categories.
CRM (customer relationship management) software is the backbone of any modern sales team; according to recent numbers from CRM Magazine, 83 percent of sales organizations are now using a CRM.5 Salespeople and marketers alike use CRMs to track interactions with potential and existing customers, providing the entire organization with a single version of the truth.
For some organizations, a CRM is the only sales enablement tool deployed, and while tracking the complete customer history in a single, easily referenced location is a powerful tool for sales, it can hardly be called a full sales enablement tool by itself.
Increasingly, CRM vendors are angling to be the central platform for sales operations; software providers like Salesforce give third-party developers the ability to create and market add-ons to increase the functionality of the underlying system or encourage adoption.
To learn more about customer relationship management tools, including a market overview, common features, and some leading software options, see the full TechnologyAdvice Buyer’s Guide to CRM Software.
Usually implemented in tandem with a CRM, marketing automation software is quickly becoming a must-have for modern organizations. It helps marketers build campaigns that match each stage of the buyer’s journey, tailor content to specific actions or traits, and nurture potential customers until they’re ready to speak with sales.
According to marketing automation vendor Marketo, organizations that excel at lead nurturing produce 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a third less cost than organizations who struggle.6 It should come as no surprise that we consider marketing automation an essential sales enablement too. It not only helps automate the lead nurturing process, but it also captures data on how prospects interact with your content.
To learn more about marketing automation, including a market overview, common features, vendor list, and more, see the full TechnologyAdvice Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation Software.
Closely related to marketing automation, lead management software helps enable sales teams through tracking prospect interactions, qualifying inquiries, and distributing qualified leads to the appropriate member of your sales team at the proper time.
There is a fair amount of overlap between lead management and marketing automation — in fact, most lead management software is simply marketing automation paired with a customer relationship management system, but there are also standalone tools that connect with your existing database through API.
To learn more about lead management software, including an overview of the marketplace, lead management software use cases, top vendors, and a list of common features, see our comprehensive TechnologyAdvice Buyer’s Guide to Lead Management Software.
Sales intelligence is a relatively amorphous term that’s only recently entered the software lexicon. It has been used to describe some of the following functions:
- Software that tracks buyer engagement with emailed content
- Software that tracks user engagement with web content
- Software that captures contact information from email autoresponders
- Software that fills in incomplete contact information in your CRM
- Software that predicts customer behavior
The common thread? Sales intelligence software increases the depth or width of prospect information available to your sales team. To learn more, check out the full TechnologyAdvice Buyer’s Guide to Sales Intelligence Software.
According to research from RO Innovation, 65 percent of sales representatives say they can’t find content to send prospects.6 That probably explains why sales-focused content management software is one of the fastest growing subcategories of sales enablement.
A content management system provides a single repository of sales content that your reps can use to pull the articles, whitepapers, explainer videos, and other digital assets they need to answer inquiries and overcome objections during sales process. A content management system might be an all-encompassing platform that supports your entire organization — such as BlackMonk or ARALOC — more sales-focused, like Docurated, or focused on a specific content function, such as LiveHive, which tracks engagement with distributed content.
Creating Executive Buy-In
If you’re the one spearheading a sales enablement software purchase, you’ll need to sell it to your colleagues, management, and other future stakeholders within your organization. Whether choosing a traditional, on-premise system or a subscription-based SaaS tool, sales enablement software isn’t a small investment. You’ll want your executive leadership on board if you plan to be successful. Use the following talking points to win their support:
The leader of your company is most concerned with creating value for your internal and external stakeholders. Ask your sales manager for some numbers: lead velocity, number of touches required to close a deal, marketing collateral usage, time spent on non-core activities, etc. Identify problem areas, and estimate the impact your proposed solution might have. Use examples (such as the case study below) to strengthen your pitch. If you can show that sales enablement software will increase the efficiency of your sales representatives, the product should sell itself.
Your chief marketing officer’s number-one focus is probably delivering high-quality leads to the sales team. If you’re talking to the CMO, focus on the time-saving and revenue-tracking aspects of whichever sales enablement tool you choose. Marketers are increasingly focused on tying marketing efforts to revenue, and a sales enablement tool that can track buyer engagement with marketing assets and user engagement on your website can greatly aid that process.
Your CFO is less interested in the bells and whistles offered by the various sales enablement tools on the marketplace and more concerned with the bottom line. How will this software purchase increase revenue or decrease costs? What’s the best case scenario? The worst case? Creating a spreadsheet with a few possible outcomes will not only help answer the inevitable questions from your chief financial officer, it will also be a familiar way to approach an unfamiliar product. When estimating cost reductions, don’t forget to include any efficiency increases — time is money, after all.
Case Study: Xactly and KnowledgeTree
Xactly has turned incentive compensation into a science. Their software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform transforms data into highly effective incentive compensation solutions for their customers. That drives peak performance for their client base and has created a huge demand for Xactly’s products.
Xactly’s rapid growth requires world class sales processes and tools to keep their sales teams operating at peak performance. A key part of that sales enablement toolkit is content.
“Content that helps a sales rep understand and perform activities that move deals through the pipeline is very important,” said Brian Groth, sales enablement manager with Xactly.8
Content like pitch decks, videos, and case studies help demonstrate value to prospects and customers. Xactly also relies on internal sales materials to help their teams position correctly throughout a sales engagement.
The challenge, of course, is helping sales teams find that content. A standard sales tool repository isn’t enough. Salespeople need the ability to find “the right content at the right time,” according to Groth. Xactly’s sales enablement and marketing team has built a wealth of case studies, pitch decks, and sales process guidance material. But how do they make it easy for salespeople to find and use that content?
Xactly turned to KnowledgeTree. The KnowledgeTree sales enablement platform delivers recommended content to sales people directly in Salesforce.com. Xactly sales people don’t need to search for content. The most relevant and current content is dynamically matched to each Salesforce.com record.
Getting started was fast. “We got KnowledgeTree set up in one day, and got the initial pieces of content loaded into KT and exposed to the sales reps in about a day too,” said Groth. “It was all very easy.”
Xactly’s sales portal was failing to assist sales people with quickly finding the most relevant and effective case studies, pitch decks, and sales process guidance material. Content went unused, and incorrect or outdated content was utilized.
Xactly turned to the KnowledgeTree sales enablement platform. KnowledgeTree now delivers recommended content to sales people directly in Salesforce.com, dynamically matched to each prospect record. No need for reps to search for content ever again.
Sales reps love “being able to get the right content within Salesforce when viewing the opportunity they’re currently working on,” Groth added. Sales teams don’t search for content; they share it quickly with their prospects. That means effective conversations with prospects and a streamlined sales process.
Choosing the Best Sales Enablement Software
TechnologyAdvice has extensively researched the sales enablement software market. We’ve compiled product information, reviews, case studies, feature lists, and video walkthroughs to help you and other software buyers find the solution that best fits your needs.
If you’re curious about any of the sales enablement products, vendors, features, or concepts we’ve mentioned in this guide, we want to hear from you! Call one of our in-house Technology Advisors for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool above to get a custom list of recommendations.