Is sales enablement a person, a platform, or a practice?

The first sales enablement step most businesses take is simply defining it. Is it a role in your business—do you need a Sales Enablement Manager? Is it a technology or solution (as every vendor on the planet will tell you)? Or is it more of a methodology, a cornerstone in your approach to automating sales processes? The answers, as we see them, are: no; partially; and definitely.

Sales enablement: shifting definitions

In 2009—when they essentially coined the term—Forrester described sales enablement as a type of role in a company (they have since changed their thinking on it). And a recent study showed that the leading definition (>60% of respondents agreed) is that it’s a strategy development tool. (Our opinion is that “strategy development” is still pretty vague.)

Other popular definitions lumped in sales enablement with everything from creating assets to delivering training to providing a systems/support function. Frankly, the only thing the study made clear was that sales enablement appears to mean something different to just about every business, and some seem to believe it can do everything from lead generation to serving coffee.

And what was really strange is that 75% of the businesses surveyed—even though they had wildly different answers for what sales enablement means—said it made a “significant contribution” to their business. (We get the sense that some companies are making large investments, aren’t 100% sure exactly what their spend went toward, and prefer to say, “Sales enablement is going great!” rather than “We saw something buzzy and threw money at it.”)

sales enablement conversation

It’s all about moving forward

We define sales enablement far more simply: it’s about keeping a business moving forward, no matter who’s at the helm, who’s making sales calls, or who’s sitting at the front desk. A business truly practicing sales enablement is a business that has the systems and solutions in place to ensure no revenue opportunity is missed, no matter when it happens or who the players are.

And sales enablement means delivering resources and content upstream (leads, collateral, etc.) and downstream (invoices, reports), in a timely fashion and across the enterprise. It ensures every rep is working off the same script, has the same collateral, and, ideally, can be performing at the same level.

Repeatable, automated, accessible

In our experience, the sales-enabled business is also one reliant on repeatable processes, and this means technology: CPQ solutions (automated sales proposals and quotes), CRM systems (tracking and recording every customer interaction), analytics and reporting. Most importantly, the technology must be used and understood by all, and accessible by anyone from anywhere.

The benefits we have seen are crystal clear. When a business is truly practicing systematic sales enablement, new reps get on-boarded faster and hit quotas sooner. Deals in progress can be passed off to other reps with no interruption of internal processes and no disruption on the client side either.

Sales enablement is about automating as much of the sales process as possible, and equipping sales staff equally: all reps have access to the same technology and use the same content to sell; communication is constant, reporting is shared. It’s not a person, and not just a platform or process, but a practice—a practice enabled by technology, embraced by your team, and furthering your overall strategy (maybe “strategy development” wasn’t too far off the mark after all).