We're in a time where it is almost trite and cliche to say that most of the sales touch points and interactions today are remote. With every touch point across the buyer journey, we’re either pulling prospects towards us or away from us, based on the experience we offer.
Sales enablement is one such buyer experience layer as well as a critical component of revenue operations (RevOps) where there is a lot of scope for improvement for most companies. The experience we deliver in the form of sales enablement has a direct impact on revenue.
Therefore, as sales leaders, it’s important to realize that sales enablement needs to consciously evolve (if not already) into enabling revenue. In short, it means enabling prospects and customers across their lifecycle (before becoming a prospect to after becoming a customer), rather than merely focusing on helping your sales team to advance a prospect from one stage to next.
Wait—what’s really the difference again? How is revenue enablement different from sales enablement as we see today?
Is revenue enablement a new buzzword for sales enablement? Why is it important—and why now? What are key focus areas that will help us transform sales enablement into enabling revenue?
These are exactly the kind of questions we hope to address through this blog post.
How does sales enablement typically work?
In a typical SaaS environment, sales enablement is the process of regularly providing your sales team with the resources they can use to engage their prospects and advance deals in their pipeline. And that means sales enablement includes people working in as well those outside of sales.
So what does that mean? Who really owns sales enablement in SaaS?
As far as I’ve seen, it’s mostly owned by both marketing and sales. Marketing equips the sales teams with a variety of resources they need across the sales stages—where the resources include blogs, ebooks, case studies, videos, product guides, and more.
Though marketing is generally a one-to-many function, sales reps share these resources in a one-to-one manner with their prospects based on what’s the best fit for their stage to help them advance in their sales conversations.
The real collaboration between sales reps and marketing is when reps share feedback with the marketing team on the resources that are missing, so that they can enable their prospects better. Sometimes, it might happen that the content resource exists, but the sales reps aren’t aware or don’t know where to find it.
Therefore, you need someone in the sales enablement group to understand the sales process, the kind of questions sales reps or AEs may get during different stages of the buying cycle, equip the sellers’ repertoire and continuously update them about the newly-added resources.
If you think about it, overall approaching sales enablement this way is very reactive.
Why shift from sales enablement to revenue enablement?
Over the last few years, there’s been a big shift in the way customers discover solutions they need to solve their business problems.
Customers increasingly come in prepared for a sales discovery and demo conversation, which means the reliance on gathering information from sellers as a primary source of information has changed to digital channels.
Because of the change in how customers buy, the old school sales enablement of supporting the sales team alone with the required resources is not enough.
The Heads of sales enablement need to evolve their approach to support the various touch points across the cycle making it a revenue enabling process rather than just enabling the sales team.
According to SiriusDecisions, revenue enablement is defined as:
Revenue Enablement is the process by which you most efficiently acquire and maintain customers, maximizing revenue gained through each stage of a customer’s journey with your organization.
As customers increasingly research solutions on their own and make purchases through digital channels, it’s time for us to realign our go-to-market (GTM) approach. For instance, here’s an interesting list of observations from a SiriusDecisions study:
Similar to the above listed factors, we at Avoma realized that some of our customers like to try the product on their own, whereas some of them prefer a salesperson to answer their questions with a show-and-tell demo.
It helped us come up with two key GTM models:
- Completely product-led (PLG) GTM motion
It's a process where customers directly sign up to trial our product and end up being a paid customer without ever talking to our sales team. So, in theory— at least—the product-led sales process diminishes the role of sales from the sales process. And this is why taking a PLG route is a tempting choice for many SaaS companies.
- Product-led and sales-assisted GTM motion
Going completely PLG is not practical in most situations where every customer is different. Sales-assisted is NOT the usual flow of prospect signing up for the demo of your product and going through the sales motion. It’s about offering a personalized customer experience from the get-go—and “assisting" the prospect in their self-discovery without being salesy. The whole point of offering a 'sales assisted' experience boils down to removing any friction from their buying journey.
The above story is to say that enabling revenue is more than just enabling sales and support teams with content, but enabling customers based on how they like to buy.
So what does the shift from sales enablement to revenue enablement really mean?
Sales enablement serves the sales team, whereas revenue enablement serves the prospects and customers by improving workflows across all customer-facing touchpoints which includes functions such as sales, customer success, support, as well as the product-led nurture.
Revenue enablement extends beyond your internal teams and product-led enablement too. For example, it involves training, offering tools and all the resources to all the collaborators in your ecosystem such as channel partners, resellers, and system integrators.
By doing that, you ensure:
- A consistent buyer experience across all your channels and no room for miscommunication in terms of messaging related to your solutions
- More visibility into the buyer journey so that you can continuously optimize your enablement efforts
- Alignment across your internal functions as well as collaborators in your ecosystem
How is revenue enablement any different from sales enablement?
- Wider catchment than sales enablement: Revenue enablement has a wider catchment area compared to sales enablement as it enables all types of revenue–sales, retention, referrals, renewals, upsells, and cross-selling. It looks at all the ways a customer can contribute to business revenue and aims to support each and every touchpoint.
- Customer-centric than sales-centric: Revenue enablement is focused on helping the customer, removing friction in their journey (the product-led & sales-assisted model discussed above is a great example). To be clear, with revenue enablement, it is not just about enabling the prospects, but also about customers and anyone who interacts with your organization in any way by offering them the best possible experience.
- Enabling revenue is full cycle: It engages the target audience long before they become prospects and continue to engage in the later stages of the customer lifecycle too. On the contrary, sales enablement starts only after a lead lands on the marketing or sales radar and is primarily focused on advancing prospects to the next stage of the sales cycle.
- The metrics are very different: While sales enablement measures metrics such as deals closed in a particular time period, time-to-close, etc.; revenue enablement measures customer metrics such as customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction numbers, and retention rates.
Overall, it’s about moving from being a system of information and engagement, to a system of collaboration on top of the existing layers. Here’s an example of how we at Avoma have gone about building a system of collaboration.
Key focus areas to optimize sales enablement for revenue operations
There are three key pillars to optimizing sales enablement for revenue operations, namely:
As an extension to understanding the gaps in the buyer journey and technology investments, the next logical step is to identify the gaps in the customer experience delivered across teams involved in the revenue generation process. It makes a lot of sense to regularly train them and align the teams on a common set of metrics to measure the impact.
While one of the key components of revenue enablement is creating sales enabling content and reviewing existing content, it is also important to make sure that the content is centrally available to all those involved in revenue generation.
In fact, at Avoma, we have an internal process where the entire revenue team and the content team catches up once a week to go over the content strategy, alignment, and the recently created content so that everyone is on the same page.
However, remember that revenue enablement is more than just enabling your internal and external teams. The core purpose is to enable your customers and prospects to have a seamless journey with your brand.
And that could sometimes even mean helping your teams extend the brand experience for those who have not yet engaged with your brand—for example helping your SDR team with a LinkedIn strategy.
The first step is to map out the entire buyer journey to understand the touch points and sales enablement gaps. Once you do that, you can take stock of the sales, marketing, customer success, and customer support technology across the lifecycle. The goal at this stage is to eliminate the redundant and unused technology, invest on newer technology based on the gaps identified, and integrate sales, marketing, customer success, and support enabling a seamless customer lifecycle. Then expand it to your network of partners and other external enablers.
Implementing revenue enablement: Step-by-step
While sales enablement is a great starting point, the evolution to revenue enablement needs you to have a clear plan to enable revenue across all touchpoints. Before you get into the planning phase, you first need to outline the mission, vision, and goals to the revenue generation teams.
The planning phase includes asking yourself questions such as:
- What are the teams that need to be supported?
- Who are the key revenue enabling stakeholders across functions teams that we need to take inputs from, share outputs to?
- What are the key revenue enablement goals?
- How will the revenue enablement efforts be measured?
- What does a well enabled team look like?
2. Design the process
Once you have clarity on the goals and what to measure, the next step is to design a process for revenue enablement. The process design includes:
- Understanding the customer journey completely and mapping the touchpoints
- Designing the right inbound and outbound programs including the KPIs to measure within the organization as well as the extended enablement ecosystem such as partners and resellers.
- Designing the selling process so that it’s very clear as to—at what stage does the SDR team come in, when does the AE take over, when does the customer success handoff, and what each of these steps look like
- Mapping the right content for the right programs, identifying content gaps, etc.
- Establishing a cadence for content, events, training, onboarding and feedback loops
3. Create playbooks
The next step after establishing a process is to create and document the plays across your internal and external ecosystem. For example—your internal ecosystem includes sales leaders, sales managers, AEs, SDRs, customer success managers, and more. Here’s an example of the playbooks that we have established internally for sales and customer success.
Similarly, you can also create playbooks for your external ecosystem including partners, resellers, and more.
4. Implement the right tech stack
Now that you have clear plans, processes and plays in place, the next step is to build a tech stack that can drive scale, automation and efficiency. To build the right tech stack for your team, you can refer to the mapping of your customer lifecycle and identify the steps that can be simplified, automated, shortened, or streamlined.
Some questions that may help in this stage are:
- Which of the current processes can be removed or streamlined?
- How comprehensive are the tools in terms of their features?
- What integrations do they support?
- Is it better to go for an all-in-one platform that enables cross-functional collaboration vs best-in-breed solutions?
- What functionalities do you need out-of-the-box vs. what are your good-to-haves?
Typically, a revenue enablement stack tends to have:
- Sales engagement tools like Outreach or Salesloft
- Conversation/revenue intelligence platform like Avoma or Gong
- Content management system
- System for product adoption analytics
- Project management tools like Asana or ClickUp
- Customer success management tools like Gainsight or Totango
5. Ensure alignment and measure outcomes
As you begin building your revenue enablement techstack, ensure that you have alignment on your product messaging across your internal and external enabler ecosystem.
From our experience, we can tell you that it makes a lot of sense to have regular catch ups on the story, the way customers are onboarded, what the brand experience should look like, etc. It really helps to establish a cadence to regularly update the stakeholders and collect feedback.
And finally build a process to regularly measure, manage, and optimize your programs based on their effectiveness. Setting up dashboards to capture the effectiveness of your program across the stages of the customer lifecycle helps you see where the ball gets dropped and improve those areas continuously.
Revenue enablement isn’t revenue at any cost
To sum up, for anyone who engages with prospects and customers at any stage, be it a discovery call or troubleshooting an issue—it’s all about enabling the customer and building positive experiences. Though the term “revenue enablement” may sound like it’s all about enabling revenue creation, it’s not revenue at any cost. It’s about strategic growth, which at its heart is—revenue as a result of delighting prospects, customers and anyone who interacts with your brand at every turn.