There are currently more than 350 vacancies in the UK listed on job search website Indeed with ‘sales enablement’ in the role title or description. This number will no doubt rise as the kind of relationship B2B buyers want to have with vendors continues to evolve.

A relatively new discipline, sales enablement is fundamentally about equipping teams with the tools, content, knowledge and skills they need to build engagement with buyers, and sustain it through the sales process – and even beyond purchase. Digital alignment of systems, from CRM to marketing automation and sales tools, is also essential for success as this empowers real-time activity and reporting through AI.

Today’s B2B buyers are more savvy and demanding than ever. They want a high quality, personalised and interactive buyer experience that inspires as well as informs.

Having speedy access to information at precisely the right time is a vital part of this, due to the rising complexity of the sales process. There are more stakeholders involved in buying than ever: 21% of B2B buyers who responded to a recent study carried out by Showpad said more than five people had a role in making purchase decisions at their organisation. More than half of the respondents said their path to purchase had got longer over the past 12 months.

B2B buyers also do a substantial amount of research into a product or service on their own, with three quarters saying they undertake up to 20 hours of solo research before even contacting a salesperson. Despite this, however, they still want to interact with a salesperson – and their expectations of that individual are remarkably high.

More than a walking, talking brochure

To build the high calibre experience buyers demand, sales reps must be able to add value that goes far beyond the information they can find online. Reps should be able to guide buyers to and through the most relevant content, and make it easy to understand, navigate and share.

But they also need to have the capabilities to perform as a knowledgeable and consultative partner who can bring the unique value of a product or service to life. Here’s where sales enablement comes into its own.

There are three main areas to focus on when building a sales enablement strategy that will drive effectiveness and, ultimately, results.

  1. Content is king

Vendors need to equip their sales teams with content that will provide value to the buyer during each stage of the sales process, and tools that will enable them to quickly and easily find and personalise what is most relevant.

This is vitally important because, after price, respondents to the Showpad survey said that content which is insufficient, confusing or irrelevant is the number one barrier to making a purchase decision. A lack of high quality information is also the primary reason buyers choose not to work with a particular vendor. Good content, however, motivates them to come back for more: three-quarters of UK B2B buyers say informational content plays a very or extremely important part in deciding to become a repeat customer.

As well as helping to successfully close deals, enabling teams to quickly find the content they need reduces the length of the sales cycle. Reps only spend 34% of their time actually selling, according to a 2018 Salesforce study. Providing a single source of on-brand and current content – organised by business area, product or persona, for example – will increase active selling time.

A single source of content will also make it easier for reps to personalise the selling experience, and deliver tailored pitches by curating information and resources that address the buyer’s specific business, project, questions, needs and use cases.

  1. Training and coaching drive results

To empower sellers to improve their effectiveness and engage better with buyers, vendors must also provide industry-leading sales training and coaching.

B2B buyers want reps to be authorities on their business and industry, not just the product or service they’re trying to sell. They require a partner who will show them new solutions to problems they’re anxious to solve, and demonstrate how to create ROI – connecting the dots between what the customer thinks they need, and what will actually save them money and generate growth.

This is consultative selling. Reps need to develop the skills, techniques and expertise that will enable them to embody this approach, and understand how to apply it to motivate prospects to buy.

  1. One unified platform accelerates results

To fully leverage the power of sales enablement, content delivery should be combined with training and coaching on a single platform. Not only will this equip sales teams with everything they require to increase their efficiency and performance, it will also reduce the number of tools they use. As a result organisations will be able to lower costs, while increasing user adoption and results.

Integrating analytics and AI into the platform supports decision making by providing data on how prospects are engaging with content, and which pieces are most successful in helping to close deals, so that reps can optimise the information they deliver accordingly. Built-in analytics can also be applied to provide comprehensive data on interactions. This will allow sales successes and the highest performing reps to be tracked, enabling companies to create tailored training programmes that will boost the performance across the whole team.

The ingredients of success

A high quality buyer experience will become essential for growth. An end-to-end sales enablement process will set early adopters apart from the competition, and accelerate the sales cycle for improved returns. It will transform reps into trusted advisors who are ready to provide useful and relevant content in real-time, as well as engage and motivate buyers by bringing the business value of what they’re selling to life. Sales enablement also allows organisational data to be fully leveraged through analytics and AI, to drive effectiveness and performance insights.

Given the complex buyer journey and increasingly competitive markets, there’s no wonder organisations are starting to invest more and more heavily in the discipline.

Authored and contributed by: Jim Preston, Director of Sales at Showpad