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What is Sales Enablement

by on October 4, 2013  

grow sales through sales enablementSales enablement is much talked about and often misunderstood or misrepresented. Just what is sales enablement and how does it affect the organization as a whole?

This week at DemandCon  I saw one of the best presentations about Sales Enablement I’ve seen given by Jerry Rackley of DemandMetric.

So what is sales enablement?

It reminds me of my many sales positions in small, midsize, and large companies where we all knew what the “sales prevention” departments were. But who was ever charged with a focus on growing sales, other than the sales leader?

For purposes of this discussion, sales enablement is developing strategy, creating assets, reporting, training, measurement, analysis, coaching, cross-functional involvement, and on-boarding. It supports the notion that growing revenues in a company is not done just by bringing in sales training and hoping the reps will adapt. It is instead, the creation of an ecosystem that supports enabling selling to happen regularly and methodically.

DemandMetric conducted research to learn more about the topic. They found a wide variance on what organizational leaders think sales enablement is and also correlated some interesting results based on how it is thought of and incorporated in companies. They went to 380 participants (more marketing than sales roles responded, and 65% B2B companies). Some key findings were:

  • 54% of survey participants indicate that the function is either very or primarily operationally oriented as it exists in their organizations.
  • Of the organizations that have Sales Enablement, 75% report that it makes a moderate or significant contribution.
  • Where Sales Enablement is effective in terms of contribution, 76% of survey participants report that it is also well or very well understood.
  • 47% of organizations where Sales Enablement is not effective in terms of contribution have no measurements in place for the function.

What is helpful about this research is that they separate those that are more effective at it than those companies who are not, and it really shows some best practices your organization can look into if you want to improve the ability to create more sales at your organization.  See all of the results here.

This brings up some questions your company should be thinking about –

  • Who ultimately “owns” sales enablement in your company?
  • Have you defined it?
  • How do you measure success?
  • Do you think of growing sales as an ecosystem rather than hiring in or creating and delivering sales training?
  • How involved is leadership in this process?
  • How often do you measure effectiveness, if at all?
  • Why does marketing have a different understanding of the sales organization than sales does?
  • How can that be brought closer into one mindset?
  • What would you add or change to improve results?

A best practice that was uncovered in the survey should not seem too shocking but appears in the under-performing organizations –

Communication about what your Sales Enablement function does, how it works and how to engage it is important.  What you put in place in your company around sales enablement needs to be internally sold to the rest of the company for support and championing. If other teams don’t understand what you are doing and why, they won’t embrace it and results will suffer.

If you are not familiar with the Demand Metric website you must check it out. They do one of the nicest jobs of creating a no-cost, welcoming community on behalf of marketing and on some sales topics.  Also see JerryRackley’s post and link to the original data.

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2013″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2013″. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals. You can email here  lori@scoremoresales.com

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  • Karin Bellantoni

    Great post Lori. The face of Sales Enablement has changed and the opportunities are staggering. This is really almost an internal consultant position where objective views of sales can be measured. The tools aren’t the answer until they are tested and rolled out properly. Without a great Sales Enablement function companies spend big money buying tools and tricks that don’t get adopted or used properly.