Elevating the standard for sales enablement tools

For marketers operating in a B2B space, sales is the most consistent and critical channel to reach your audience. So, it can be tempting to inundate your salespeople with research and content, but that inevitably gets in the way of their process, and in turn, the bottom line. 

One approach that can help you deliver your work to customers while enabling sales teams to succeed is packaging your content as a dedicated sales tool. However, it’s not as simple as throwing your ideas into a playbook and watching the magic happen. Building a tool that performs as imagined can be a challenge, which is why so few organizations are pleased with them when they launch. 

We’ve helped to improve sales enablement efforts for clients across multiple industries and customer segments, so we’ve pulled together some best practices and lessons for building effective tools. 

Less is more.

It can be tempting to stuff all your learnings and tactics into your sales tool so you can put it in front of customers. But in the end, that defeats its original purpose.  

Instead, prioritization is critical to avoiding content overload for your sales teams and their end customers.  

Begin by clearly defining the true purpose of the tool. Is it codifying a process? Creating more consistent messaging? Shifting to focus on new audiences? Let that idea be your north star throughout your content development process. 

Remember: As your focus tightens, your impact grows.

Also, your tool needs to be built to be digestible from the ground up. Promoting adoption means delivering something your teams can see and understand entirely.  

Experience is just as important as content.

For a tool to live up to its name, it needs to be functional. That’s where UX becomes critical.  

Identify and focus on what actions are going to be used most. It pays to be iterative here. You can’t necessarily anticipate how the tool will come to life in entirety, but you can listen to your sales professionals and tailor it to fit their workflow.  

If it’s about more consistent messaging, they might be trying to actively refer to it when communicating with customers, so you’d want to ensure they can access things like templates and supporting materials for emails and meetings. If it’s about accelerating the entire pipeline, make sure there are clear action steps and milestones, so salespeople remain focused on progress. 

You should talk directly to the users. Do they prefer to consume information as they go, in bite-sized moments, or do they prefer to spend more time on the document preparing for a call? That can shape everything from information architecture to functionality. 

Sales isn’t linear. Your tools shouldn’t be either.

At Sullivan, clients come to us because their businesses revolve around decisions of consequence—they take time, consideration, and often involve multiple stakeholders. If you’re working in high-value B2B sales in industries like tech, your sales cycles can take months, if not years. 

Your sales tool needs to reflect the reality of your salespeople’s experience. Sometimes that means it’s two steps forward, and one step back. If you build your tool assuming an idealized and linear sequence, it becomes harder to implement and for salespeople to adopt intuitively. 

This means designing for multiple entry points, and making sure you have a flexible navigation system that allows users to jump between many different points in the experience. It also means acknowledging to salespeople that they will not be successful every time, and the tool is only meant to make them better—not perfect. 

Get close to your CRM, very close.

The most used tool is the one that already exists where your salespeople spend most of their time. For most organizations, that is most likely your CRM. Integrating your tool with those systems is a higher technical challenge. But it can be accomplished in a few ways: you can build a custom tool directly within the CRM, you can integrate your CRM with an external tool via API, or you can choose a pre-built tool that has a native integration with your CRM.  

That additional effort will result in greater benefits. First, you can directly integrate CRM data into your sales practices, allowing you to set up different expectations based on individual segments and situations. It also allows you to deliver resources, messages, and other tips to sales professionals at the right moment. And most importantly, you can automate some of their content creation, which frees salespeople to have more thoughtful interactions with customers. 

The tool that everyone reaches for.

The ideal tool for your organization won’t resemble the one used at another company. But if it’s successful, chances are that it was built following these principles. In the end, you can find a balance that helps improve sales enablement, helps audience audiences understand your brand with ease, and pushes you closer to your goals as a marketer.