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Which Sales Enablement Tools are Best? 7 Types to Consider

Sep 25th, 2019

When did sales enablement technology become so complicated?

As the number of companies with dedicated enablement roles has increased – more than tripling since 2013, according to CSO Insights – so too has confusion around the related technology.

One reason is that industry analysts and experts use different terminology to describe the many sales enablement tools and apps available today. (For instance, “sales asset management” and “sales engagement” both describe tools that serve a similar purpose.)

This lack of clarity is further compounded by the growing number of technology vendors serving the space. In fact, the market for sales enablement software was worth almost $1.1 billion last year, according to a 2019 research report, and is projected to reach $2.6 billion by 2024.

As a sales enablement pro, you’d be forgiven if you have a hard time keeping up!

What is a Sales Enablement Tool, Exactly?

The term sales enablement is broad. Likewise, there are many different types of technologies available to support today’s sales organizations. However, these tools all exist for the same reason: to make life easier for anyone who works in, or with, the sales function.

A sales enablement tool, then, is any piece of technology that supports a more effective or efficient sales process, with the end-goal of helping sales teams achieve their corporate objectives.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of variance: some tools are large-scale platforms that require a lot of internal administration (such as a CRM), while others might focus on one or two specific sales challenges.

While there are many different ways to categorize all this technology, what really matters is knowing how it can solve problems for your sales organization. Read on for an overview of 7 key types of sales enablement software, along with brief explanations of how they can help.

7 Sales Enablement Tools You Need in 2020

  1. Sales Content Management
  2. Video Coaching and Practice
  3. Sales Engagement
  4. Sales Intelligence
  5. Account and Opportunity Planning
  6. CRM
  7. Sales Management

1. Sales Content Management

The Challenge: Today’s buyers want great content that provides relevant insights into their business challenges. Your reps also want great content, so that they can better position the solution(s) they sell.

However, even if your marketing or sales enablement teams are producing the right kind of content, it might be hard to find or identify which content would best serve a particular buyer. It’s why you might see unsettling statistics like, “80% of marketing-generated content goes unused by sales teams.”

The Solution: Sales content management technology (also known as sales asset management tools) helps companies organize, find and promote the right sales assets. This includes helping reps effectively leverage content, identifying which content works best for a given situation, and tracking how prospects and customers engage with content.

From a sales enablement perspective, a sales content management tool would allow you to organize content into relevant categories – like product information, messaging guidelines, customer success stories, and so on – make the content easily discovered via search and add descriptions and instructions to help reps use the content. They also enable the organization to set permissions for each asset in the portal, ensuring that your reps only use approved, accurate, and on-brand content.

Some sales content management platforms also offer content authoring functionality that allows users to easily create engaging sales and learning content to improve rep effectiveness.

Examples: Highspot, Seismic

2. Video Coaching and Practice

The Challenge: Buyers expect reps to be knowledgeable and skilled enough to lead an outstanding sales process. Research from Salesforce backs this up: 79% of business buyers say it’s “absolutely critical” or “very important” to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor. Sellers who can’t add value to the buyer’s journey will have a tough time delivering results.

But while most companies recognize that coaching is important, sales managers often lack the time or the skills to provide useful, scalable feedback – especially if they oversee a dispersed team of reps. In addition, sales organizations often have no other way of knowing whether reps are prepared to succeed before they try (and potentially fail) in front of buyers.

The Solution: Video coaching tools allow sales teams to reinforce what is consumed during training, and then validate whether sellers are fully equipped to apply that learning in front of a client using video-based practice and coaching assessments.

Instead of simply guessing whether sellers can add value to buyer interactions, sales enablement and leadership can assess reps’ readiness before they ever engage a client, leading to a more prepared and productive sales force.

If the company is rolling out a new elevator pitch, for example, the sales enablement team could assign a video coaching activity to the entire sales force, to ensure reps can execute the updated messaging. Sellers could record “practice takes” of the pitch and share it with peers for informal feedback, or submit the recording to their sales manager as part of a formalized assessment.

The sales manager would then provide a grade and individualized coaching based on the performance. Some video coaching tools also offer AI-based machine scoring, which can help managers by automatically measuring speaking rate, coverage of key topics and phrases, emotions exhibited and more.

Example: Brainshark (That’s us!)

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here are 7 major types.

Note: Not all technology falls within just one of the categories listed here. Brainshark, for example, provides both sales content management and video coaching capabilities under the umbrella of a holistic sales readiness platform.

3. Sales Engagement

The Challenge: As sales organizations focus on KPIs such as conversion rate and average deal size, they want reps using the most effective outreach tactics. Perhaps more importantly, they’re also looking for ways to scale those high-quality buyer engagements.

This is especially true when you consider which tasks often consume a sales rep’s time. Case in point: Hubspot reports that reps typically spend 21% of their day writing emails, 17% entering data, and another 17% prospecting and researching leads. No wonder sales productivity is a struggle for today’s companies!

The Solution: Sales engagement platforms manage, measure, and optimize how sellers interact with your buyers.

They do this by scaling and streamlining all the ways reps communicate with prospects – email, phone, social, etc. – as well as providing actionable data that highlights which outreach methods are most effective. This allows sales teams to save time while converting more of their target accounts into customers.

For example, if a company just released a new product, SDRs and account executives could use a sales engagement tool to build email cadences and templates that can then be automatically sent to large pools of prospects. The software then allows reps to track clicks and open rates on emails sent, replicate the most effective templates for future use, and connect outreach/engagement to open opportunities in the CRM.

Examples: SalesLoft, Outreach

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here’s an overview of 7 major types, with examples.

4. Sales Intelligence

The Challenge: Buyers expect reps to share information that’s tailored to their business challenges. In fact, 93% of B2B decision-makers are more likely to consider a brand if its salespeople personalize their outreach, according to LinkedIn.

The average sales opportunity now involves as many as 6-7 buyers – each with their own set of roadblocks and preferences. As committee purchasing decisions (or “no-decisions”) become more common, personalized communication becomes tougher to scale.

The Solution: Sales intelligence tools enable sellers to find and track contextual insights into a prospect’s or customer’s business.

Using customized searches, you can identify ideal buyers, gain a better understanding of what these buyers care about, and know when to engage them based on data such as company size and revenue, job title, organizational/reporting structure, location, buying signals, purchase history, and other useful data filters.

This allows sales and marketing teams to find accurate contact information for new leads, update records for existing prospects, build custom lists to narrow the scope of searches, and uncover insights by sorting target buyers into helpful “buckets,” such as persona or industry.

Examples: ZoomInfo/DiscoverOrg, D&B Hoovers, LinkedIn Sales Navigator

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here are 7 major types.

5. Account and Opportunity Planning

The Challenge: To establish themselves as trusted advisors, salespeople need a firm understanding of the many factors that affect complex sales opportunities, such as recent industry trends, buyer objectives, and competitive threats. This is especially important considering the lack of clarity B2B buyers often face; Gartner reports that 15% of the customer purchase process is spent on deconflicting information.

But crafting effective account plans requires a strong grasp of key details and an ability to match the right information with the right opportunity – which not all reps possess. It also takes time, which is a problem when the typical rep already spends a large part of his or her day on non-selling activities, such as entering data into the CRM or filing pipeline reports. 

The Solution: Account planning technology helps bring structure to the planning process, ensuring reps have a road map for accessing power, uncovering revenue opportunities, and building an account strategy.

For example, a tool might visually lay out specific steps to take at each stage of the sales process, including specific sales plays and the content needed to facilitate each action. It might also leverage CRM data to guide reps and managers with in-context buyer data, deal-specific call planning and guided selling, as well as templates, org charts, and other visual tools.

The result is a more organized and seamless sales process that helps reps advance opportunities and identify high-potential accounts.

Examples: Playboox, Membrain, Playbooks

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here’s an overview of 7 major types, with examples.

6. Customer Relationship Management

The Challenge: Sales teams need a single “source of truth” for buyer contact information, sales opportunities, account ownership, and pipeline management. Marketing teams need the same for lead-gen activities such as customer segmentation, campaign execution, and other lead-gen activities.

But between sales, marketing and customer service, the average company generates a ton of business data. Without a way to structure and organize this high-volume data, organizations will not only struggle to harness it, but they’ll also have a tougher time keeping non-sales functions (i.e. marketing and support) aligned with sales.

The Solution: A CRM helps manage and organize a company’s client relationships and interactions. Of course, CRMs can do much more than that – from measuring key customer data and sales results via custom reports and dashboards, to serving as the integration anchor for other sales enablement tools in your tech stack. Marketing teams can also use the CRM for campaign planning and execution.

42.5% of organizations consider CRM as the anchor for all enablement technologies. – CSO Insights

On top of serving as the “system of record” for the sales team, a CRM also allows you (or your sales ops team) to track KPIs related to key sales enablement initiatives. For instance, if you’re trying to reduce time-to-productivity for new sales hires, you could partner with sales operations to track run-rate productivity or conversion rates for fully onboarded reps in the CRM.

Examples: Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here are 7 major types.

7. Sales Management

The Challenge: Sales teams are constantly looking for ways to improve rep efficiency, namely by helping them spend more of their time selling, and less of their time on administrative tasks, such as responding to emails or logging data in the CRM. Sales managers are also looking for ways to improve the accuracy of pipeline forecasts.

The CRM is critical for getting a handle on your sales data (and ensuring it’s accurate). But it doesn’t tell reps or managers how to apply that data within the context of the organization’s sales process. This can be a huge time-suck that’s only exacerbated by the pressures of hitting quota at the end of the month or quarter.

The Solution: These tools help sales leaders better direct the teams they manage by tracking KPIs and activity level and improving sales pipeline forecast accuracy.

These solutions offer intuitive, real-time dashboards that turn raw data into actionable insights around individual rep and team performance. They also leverage AI to project quarterly sales performance and recommend actions to take around specific sales opportunities using features such as automated CRM data capture.

For instance, how likely is a deal to close? Do your teams have enough deals in the pipeline to reach the quarterly or yearly number? What are the statuses of key opportunities in the pipeline, and where are they in the buyer’s journey? A sales management tool can help you answer these questions by providing a single place for leaders to monitor and track the entire sales process.

Example: TopOPPS, Clari

There are many ways to categorize sales enablement tools, software and apps. Here’s an overview of 7 major types, with examples.