Sales Enablement: A New Role for Sellers

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In the same way, “sales enablers don’t just listen to what is literally said. They read between the lines and listen for subtext,” he adds. “Using this information, they should be able to provide a custom-tailored presentation for each and every prospect. If they feel that you truly understand their issue, they’ll be more likely to trust you and make the purchase.”

Since the customer is typically much further along in his decision to purchase, today’s sales cycle is much shorter, Mattson adds. The customer typically has already invested significant time in the process, something the salesperson needs to understand so as not to waste the prospect’s time and lose the sale.

“It used to be that you spent a lot of time building rapport with the customer,” he continues. “Now you need to establish rapport as you engage with the customer. You need to know what [competing products or services] the customer has looked at. You need to know where customers are in their research.”

One of the first questions should be how much time the customer has to discuss his or her product or service needs.

“Some customers just want to cut to the chase,” Mattson says. Others are willing to take the time to ensure the salesperson can fully meet their needs.

So today’s salesperson needs to know about the prospect’s history and problems and be able to communicate how the company solved similar problems for other customers, says Emil Dyrvig, North American sales director at Templafy, a document creation and template management company. “The salesperson needs to have a willingness to learn and needs to be able to absorb information quickly, and then take all of that knowledge and use it to adjust the presentation to the audience. You need to know what to say and when not to continue.”

Even if the prospect is fairly far down the sales funnel, he might not be the final decision maker, Mattson says. So the salesperson needs to uncover whether others are involved in the buying decision and attempt to engage as many of them as possible at a single time. “This is why you need to profile your buyers.”

While Mattson and other experts say it’s important that the salesperson fully understand the product, there can be times that questions get so in-depth that a more technical expert is needed. So the closer the salesperson is to closing, the more important it is to have others from the company available to answer such questions, Dyrvig says.

If a customer has the time, asking additional questions can help ensure the customer makes the most appropriate purchase, such as a slightly more expensive but higher-capacity printer for someone with higher-volume printing. It can also uncover needs for related products or services without the salesperson having to push products.


With readily available information, the potential customer likely knows not only about your product or service but also about the products or services of your competitors. Several experts point out that while past sales wisdom dictated avoiding mentioning competitors, today’s successful salesperson needs to be able to quickly discuss why his product or service better meets the customer’s needs.

Skynamo’s Howe recommends that salespeople have readily available fact sheets not only on their own products but also on those of competitors.

With research available at their fingertips, potential customers tend to be fairly well-versed on a product before a salesperson is ever involved. Therefore, pre-purchase questions tend to be more in-depth. They’re typically not the simple, very basic queries that any inexperienced salesperson could easily answer.

“Nobody ever became a great salesperson selling products that they didn’t believe in,” says sales consultant Pedro Campos. “That could have been true in the 1960s, when salespeople had all of the information. Now, with so much information out there, to stay afloat you cannot afford not to know what you are selling inside and out.”


Though the internet and technology have meant a change in where the salesperson typically engages a customer in the process, some sales basics are unchanged.

“People still buy from people,” Elastic Path’s Brenner says. “You need to look at how you can build a trusted relationship with the customer.”

Brian Deignan, vice president of sales at FastSpring, an e-commerce software provider, adds the following pair of tips:

  • Set smaller, personal goals: “Scheduling a meeting is great, but using this tip has helped me get more targeted prospects to agree to read my email.”
  • Have fun: “If someone hangs up on you, it’s their loss. Send a nice email and I bet they will take your call the next time. This tip has boosted my own drive and persistence, resulting in more sales.”

Skynamo’s report recognizes that “human relationships will always remain central to the sales process, [but] sales jobs of the future will put more and more emphasis on salespeople to make the transition from order-takers to consultants.”

Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at spenterprises@wowway.com.

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