By Jerry Rackley
Sales Enablement seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Recent Demand Metric research paints a picture of Sales Enablement that is both a paradox and a panacea, depending on the organization in which it exists. A marketer from a high-tech firm with over $100 million in annual sales shared, “I have not heard of Sales Enablement.” Similar comments came from a number of others who participated in the Sales Enablement benchmark study Demand Metric recently completed. Others, however, have a very clear vision for Sales Enablement, and they report that it contributes significantly to their revenue goal attainment.
Sales Enablement is a new and emerging function that organizations are embracing with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment. Like all emerging arenas, the definition of Sales Enablement shifts depending on the perspective of the company, user and implementation. For this reason, it’s important to develop a foundational definition of Sales Enablement that clarifies the value proposition of the function, and provides direction.
Demand Metric defines Sales Enablement this way: the processes, practices, technologies and tools that improve the performance and productivity of the sales organization. In other words, Sales Enablement enhances the ability of the sales team to increase company revenue through sales. The bottom-line: Sales Enablement drives revenue by directly impacting the sales teams’ ability to close more deals.
The definition above is a great starting point for orienting the Sales Enablement function. Let’s build on that definition with further detail and best practice data to help structure a Sales Enablement function that truly helps drive revenue.
Sales Enablement is Strategic
It’s easy and even tempting to put Sales Enablement in place with a simple charge to “help the sales team”. When you do this, however, what usually results is a Sales Enablement function that is a slave to the sales team. This isn’t ideal, but neither is having Sales Enablement function as the master of sales. Instead, what is needed is for Sales Enablement to have a Sherpa-like relationship to the sales team: a wise-experienced guide that helps carry the load, choose the path and avoid the perils while letting the sales team lead.
What this looks like in practical experience is a Sales Enablement function that stays close to sales, develops a deep understanding of the sales process, and then recommends techniques, tools and assets to facilitate sales success. Too often, however, Sales Enablement exists as an order-taking entity that fulfills requests from sales for assets: presentations, brochures, proposals, etc. This latter arrangement may seem convenient for the sales team, but Demand Metric research makes clear that this operational orientation doesn’t create favorable results as well as when Sales Enablement works strategically.
From our research, examples of what this strategic Sales Enablement orientation looks like includes but it not limited to:
- Recommending, providing or administering systems and support to facilitate sales
- Providing sales effectiveness training
- Integrating new channels into the sales process
- Offering coaching to members of the sales team
- Flattening the organization to secure internal resources needed to support sales
Sales Enablement is Understood
Our research reveals what seems obvious: Sales Enablement is far more effective when it is understood. Who wouldn’t understand what Sales Enablement is? As it turns out, a surprising number of organizations don’t really understand the Sales Enablement function that exists within their walls. What is occurring is that an organization rightly perceives that Sales Enablement is helpful, but in the zeal to implement it, overlooks the need to communicate what it does and whom it is for. This oversight is serious enough to develop into a fatal flaw.
To implement Sales Enablement by assuming everyone involved intuitively understands what it is and how it helps is a serious mistake. Fortunately, this mistake is easy to prevent and even correct. Sales Enablement, like any function, needs a vision to drive it. A clear, articulated vision, however, is not enough. It’s also imperative that the sales team understands exactly why Sales Enablement exists and how it will help, so they will perceive it as an ally and not a threat. Good, clear communication early in the process of building the Sales Enablement function sets it up for effectiveness and success.
Sales Enablement is Measured
Like any function, Sales Enablement needs a set of success metrics that are tracked, reported and used to improve the process. The Demand Metric Sales Enablement benchmark study reveals that almost half the organizations reporting that their Sales Enablement function isn’t contributing have no measurements in place for it. Those that do have effective Sales Enablement not only measure it, most are using some combination of a financial measure (e.g. sales or profit) and a productivity measure (e.g. assets created, training hours delivered or some other measure of throughput). Selecting a relevant financial and productivity measurement provides an effective tool for managing Sales Enablement, as long as those measurements are taken and used.
The current reality is that the destiny of Sales Enablement is entirely in the control of the organizations that have the function. It is either highly effective, a failure or somewhere in between. What determines its position on this spectrum is the vision expressed for it, its strategic orientation, the resources provided to it and how it is measured and managed. When Sales Enablement is implemented using this model, it contributes significantly to revenue goal attainment.