In organizations of all types, in every imaginable industry and vertical, sales enablement processes are used to help sales and customer-facing teams improve customer interactions and add value to every customer touchpoint with the business.
Empowering customer success this way – also known as customer enablement – is a constantly evolving discipline that lies at the intersection of sales and customer support.
However, it also requires great user onboarding, intuitive product design, and the smart use of metrics to bring about meaningful results for both you and your customers. Here, I’ll talk in more detail about everything you need to know about sales enablement and customer success.
First, let’s start with sales enablement and take it from there.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement encompasses everything you do to help your sales teams sell more effectively. It includes providing sales teams with the data and tools they need to do their jobs well, teaching and training them on how to better engage with and understand users, and knowing what best practices they should follow to shine in the customer success role. The term “sales enablement” is something of a misnomer, in that it is not really about sales but is more about the customer.
Sales enablement requires you to provide your sales teams with everything they need to engage with and close existing customers and would-be buyers.
In most cases, you must provide them with information such as sales content, but you must also provide training, best practices to follow, and communication and collaboration tools. Furthermore, you must provide them with training on how to use the information and tools you provide them with. Usability training for tools and content should be easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to apply. Only create, disseminate, and promote high-quality training that can be used time and again.
Once it is established and has run for some time, you can optimize your sales enablement program using feedback on the program itself so that you have a better idea of what works and what does not and what is used by your sales teams, and what they disregard or do not need.
Finally, remember that a critical component of sales enablement is data and metrics. Some of the metrics that you should track include sales cycle lengths, representatives who are (and are not) hitting their quotas, and the average size of closed deals. You can add additional metrics as you go along.
You must have a deep understanding of your buyer before launching a sales enablement program. These programs are very customer-centric, and you must know your users, how to reach them, how to talk to them, and how to convince them before attempting to do any of those things.
What Is Customer Success Enablement?
The main goal of customer success teams is to facilitate users to achieve the goals that they purchased or are using your good or service to achieve.
To put it another way, customer success teams try to expedite the process of users using a good or service and reaching the “Aha!” stage of realization in which they immediately see the benefit of using your good or service for a specific end-goal. It is a wide-ranging business function that includes great onboarding, ongoing user and team training, and building effective feedback loops so that you have the data you need to iteratively improve your offerings based on user comments or concerns.
Therefore, in the simplest form, customer success enablement is about recognizing what your customer success and sales teams need to do the job you want them to do, which is to improve customer success at the end of the product or service chain.
Many organizations look at enablement primarily from the perspective of sales or customer success teams. If those teams are empowered to do their jobs well, customer success will logically follow. Examples of how these teams can be facilitated include giving them the tools and training they need for their line of work; documenting and then following processes; and gathering actionable data and extracting insights from that data to drive business decision-making.
Then, what is Customer Success, and Why Is it So Important?
Customer success should not be made more complex than it needs to be.
What it involves is simply helping your users achieve their desired outcome – whatever it is – when they interact with your company. It shares many goals and features with customer support, but customer support tends to be reactive. Your customer support teams help customers after they come to you with an issue or they open a customer support ticket. On the other hand, customer success is proactive.
To enable customer success, you cannot wait for problems to arise; you must anticipate issues before they happen and address them before it is too late. We can define “too late” as whenever a customer has a problem. That is a high bar to reach but one worth aiming for!
As such, in the SaaS world, here are different places you can see the importance of customer success in action:
- Streamlining the new customer signup process
- Making it a breeze to set up a complete account
- Quickly demonstrating the value of your product or service
- Have systems in place to gather actionable feedback (preferably in real-time) to guide decision-making
- Bumping trial or non-paying users into paid or higher tier plans
- Maintaining customer satisfaction with your services
- Turning casual users into paying customers or even ambassadors
- Building value into your product based on customer needs
- Improving revenue lines and reducing churn every step of the way
Businesses of every kind use customer success strategies, but for SaaS businesses, customer success is more of a must-have than a nice-to-have. Times have changed from when software companies could sell a product and be profitable while only maintaining a basic customer support function. Today, SaaS companies must go to great lengths to keep their customers happy and to make profits, in part because of low switching costs and many substitutes from which to choose.
The fact that many SaaS services are provided via subscription models (instead of an up-front, one-time lump sum) means those services must continually deliver value if users are to renew or maintain their subscriptions. If they ever feel like they are not getting the value they expect or are unable to achieve the goals they are paying or using your service to achieve, they will stop using your services or offerings.
These facts are why customer success is so important, and it is driven, in part, by the data you have. SaaS companies typically enjoy access to a great deal of customer data. They have better insights into how their services are used when problems come up, and what can be done (often in real-time) to address customer pain points.
Getting Started with Customer Success
Where and how you launch your customer success initiatives depends on your company profile.
However, some of the key principles you should build into your customer success plans or strategies are as follow:
Develop a detailed roadmap for your program.
You need to outline what needs to be done – and how – before you can get the ball rolling with customer success.
You must clearly define what you need to do and what tools you will use to do it before embarking on a new strategy or deploying or rolling out a new initiative.
Educate users upfront.
User training is critical to customer success. How can customers use your products or services and derive benefit from them if they do not know how to do so?
Product education can occur in many places, from your company home page to FAQ pages, customer support videos, documentation, and more.
All new users will be novices in terms of using your product or service the first time around, and there is always some kind of learning curve involved.
Make it as easy as possible for your users to derive the maximum benefit possible from your offerings. You should develop a smooth, seamless, well-designed, and thoughtfully orchestrated user onboarding sequence to show off your features, train users on how to use them, and reduce the time people will spend contacting customer support.
Streamline inter-team collaboration and communications.
Customer success is a team game.
Everyone in your company is working toward a common goal: building great products and empowering users to use them for good. To do this, you must get many different things right on the company and admin side of things. Sales and marketing should have the information and tools required to create content that can educate users. Sales (perhaps along with a data science team) must be able to gather, clean, and analyze customer data to identify customer pain points and extract other useful nuggets of wisdom about the customer. Design and IT teams must use data from sales, marketing, and support teams to improve your offerings or release updates so that each product or service iteration is better than the last.
Finally, all teams must have the tools needed to contact, communicate with, and collaborate with their peers toward the common goals you are all in business for.
Improving Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success
So why do customer success and sales enablement matter to SaaS companies, and how do they tie-in with marketing and sales?
Sales enablement is more than just a system that can make the lives of your salespeople easier. It goes hand in hand with customer success and can boost customer success as well – if you do it right. The key point to keep in mind here is that your customer success teams must be integrated with the sales enablement process. These cross-functional teams are working towards the same goals, so help them work towards them together.
Working on customer success and sales enablement is important because:
- It can make your people more effective at closing deals and achieving results.
- It can help your team get back to basics if your teams – over time – stray from good selling practices.
- It can help perfect worker execution in many relevant areas, including pre-sales planning, setting agendas, executing calls, and improvising when needed.
- Buyer behaviors have changed substantially over the last decade or so, but good sales practices are still the same, so formalizing them is always a good idea.
- With a formal sales enablement program in place, you can focus on creating clear and effective training. Doing away with inconsistencies in messaging, tone, and content can make life easier for everyone in marketing, management, sales, and support.
Sales and outreach programs aimed at improving customer success are long-term initiatives and are not meant to deliver quick and easy wins, but the long-term returns of effective enablement programs can keep you ahead of the pack for years to come.
It is also important to note that the benefits of sales enablement will affect more than sales. Anyone who deals with buyers – even non-sales staff – can benefit from sales enablement. Sometimes termed front-line enablement, you can equip all front-line workers with the tools and competencies needed by sales for them to excel at their respective roles as well.
Some of the areas that your sales enablement initiatives and your customer success teams can quickly hit goals and achieve initial targets are as follows.
- Improving and expediting user onboarding.
- Evaluating existing processes and developing new or improved ones.
- Enhancing training and overcoming organizational inertia (or resistance) when it comes to adopting new ways of doing things.
Customer Success: Is it a Sales Role?
One of the central responsibilities of customer success managers is ensuring that their teams have the training and tools they need to do their jobs well.
Some of the responsibilities that customer success enablement professionals must have include:
- The ability to design, develop, and maintain onboarding programs that customer success teams and managers can use.
- Building and rolling out professional development programs for customer success staff.
- Understanding onboarding and building effective onboarding into relevant training and programs.
- Ensuring that all customer success staff are familiar with relevant client relationship histories.
- Ensuring that customer success staff know how to use sales enablement and customer success tools and training you provide them with.
- Identifying gaps in training or programs and developing solutions for inefficient or ineffective processes.
- Collaborating with relevant stakeholders regarding what customer success enablement and sales enablement mean for them, your organization, and your customers.
Customer success and sales enablement managers can be expected to have the following skills or experience:
- Professional work in customer success or customer relationship management.
- Experience working in client-facing positions.
- Effective problem-solving and analytical skills.
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Experience with customer account management and conflict resolution.
- Hands-on experience in training program design.
- Experience in developing and deploying customer onboarding programs.
- Ability to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and other teams.
These competencies give us a good idea about what customer success and sales enablement entail and how it is so central to one of the most important of all business functions – getting the last mile of delivery right and closing deals for your SaaS product.
Is Sales Enablement About Marketing?
Sales enablement has sometimes been thought of as the process of aligning sales and marketing, but it is actually more about effectively sharing information (usually data and training) with your teams.
Doing this typically requires an effective central platform via which sales, marketing, and other teams can collaborate and share and/or store data. (We talk about the benefits of an integrated CRM later in this post.) Every team needs certain data, resources, and decisions at the right time. If you can launch a customer success and sales enablement program that provides key teams and workers with such data, resources, and decisions, here are some of the obvious benefits you will enjoy:
- Better handoff between sales and customer success teams. Your sales teams already have answers to many critical customer questions, such as what their short- and long-term goals are and what they need to succeed. Having your sales team provide answers to these questions to your customer success teams can make things considerably less irritating for customers who would not want to have to answer the same questions again and again to different teams or individuals within the same organization.
- Improve cross-selling. Your customer success teams can promote multiple products and can be trained to recognize when a buyer may be ready to buy or move on to a new product or tier. Sales enablement helps customer success teams do more of what sales teams do all the time: closing customers.
- Improve business value. Customer success is all about proactive outreach to your customers. A great way to reach new people is by offering something that has value to your target. Think of asking a customer “How are you today?” versus saying “We have a great deal (or a new report with insights) relevant to your industry, so would you like to see it?” The first question is great, but the second one offers more value.
- Reuse effective content. Sales and marketing already have troves of data and content that they use to close customers. It can’t hurt to share that data – whether infographics, whitepapers, content posts, or otherwise – with customer success teams for repackaging and reuse without the downtime (and additional cost) of developing such content from scratch.
Integrating Customer Success and Sales Enablement
You cannot design or roll out an effective sales enablement program overnight.
Getting it right demands that you have a well-thought-out strategy and know how different teams working toward the common goal of ensuring customer success can get things done. It requires, amongst other things, having an effective leader, establishing clear roles and goals, incentivizing sales and marketing, establishing and then following operational guidelines and processes, and setting ambitious yet reachable goals.
It also requires you to think about how you can do the following:
- Make customer success an integral part of every customer (and sales) conversation.
- Establish workflows for everything from prioritizing content requests and closing deals to reaching new customers and quickly and effectively responding to unique customer needs.
- Have the tools in place needed to gather the data needed to understand customer interactions and how your teams are doing.
- Determine what measures matter and then integrate all the information you gather into a comprehensive CRM. You can only make use of your data and improve performance and processes if you are gathering and then measuring and analyzing the right data.
What Business Leaders are Saying
Many of the world’s most recognized names, brands, and leaders have shared their thoughts over the years on customer success and sales enablement – though they sometimes do so using terms different than we have used here. Consider the following quotations that underscore the importance of customer success (and, by extrapolation, sales enablement as well).
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation but 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”Warren Buffet
This clearly emphasizes the importance of getting every customer interaction right, because one bad experience can make a life-long critic out of that customer.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”Bill Gates
Although the saying goes, “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken,” you cannot fix something that is broken if you simply do not know that it is broken! Finding gaps or shortcomings in your processes, operations, or services via customer interactions or feedback is an important source of learning and guidance for the astute customer success manager.
“People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
Take this advice to heart and build exceptional (and unforgettable) experiences with every aspect of your services.
“We’re not competitor-obsessed, we’re customer-obsessed.”Jeff Bezos
The evolution of Amazon from a small online bookseller to the behemoth it is today is well-documented, and one of the primary drivers of Amazon’s success has been its attention to detail when it comes to the customer, from getting the placement of buttons right to providing users with information such as recommendations and comparisons just where they need or expect them.
The kinds of customer success enjoyed by Amazon and others must be built into your organization’s DNA, but it is certainly something that can be learned over time.
All it takes is a few strategic decisions at the right time and acceptance of the fact that the customer must be the focus of all of your efforts. Once you have established this in the minds of everyone in your organization, generating positive results across all teams – whether your customer success team, sales enablement project managers, front-line workers, or product designers – will naturally follow.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Sales Enablement software?
A Sales Enablement Software helps sales teams sell better, by enabling them to establish precise and top-tier outreaches; educating and training them to be better in their sales efforts.
Which industries are using Sales Enablement technologies?
Especially software and SaaS companies utilize sales enablement to improve their sales efforts.
Why is Sales Enablement important?
Sales enablement is crucial to especially software businesses because it encourages sales teams to improve their individual and team processes regarding outreach and lead nurturing.