What is Sales Enablement?

Who do you think of as an enabler? When we consider the term “enable,” it’s often in a bit of a negative light. It’s usually used to refer to that friend who encourages us, or rather challenges us, to do things that we would normally hesitate to do. Come to think of it, I rarely hear the word enable used outside of this colloquial sense.

Yet over the course of the past year, sales enablement has become an increasingly relevant concept in the realm of sales management.

Sales enablement sounds like it could be something sneaky, or redundant. After all, if you’re a salesperson, you should already be able to sell, right?

As we enter a new year, it’s time we demystify sales enablement and explore what it entails as part of a pragmatic sales management strategy.

 

What Is Sales Enablement?

Sales enablement is actually a broad term for the consistent implementation of a number of practices, and this all-encompassing nature makes it difficult to nail down. Roderick Jefferson, who has 20+ years of experience with sales enablement and productivity, laments that “the biggest problem with sales enablement is that there is no globally accepted definition.”

The relative novelty of sales enablement is part of why it is currently a challenge to define. Ben Cotton, leader of sales enablement for HubSpot, describes it as “a concept still in its infancy,” which is why you will hear different explanations of it depending on who you ask. In fact, SiriusDecision’s database shows that only 46% of companies have sales enablement under the sales umbrella. 32% leave it to marketing, and 18% have their sales enablement unit reporting to other corporate departments.

Don’t worry, there is still hope for a succinct description of sales enablement here. Specific definitions may differ, but among the multitude, there are a few common threads.

 

Does Not Stand Alone

Sales enablement is a combination of different sales practices that you’re probably already familiar with. Sales enablement always happens in conjunction with those; It never works alone. If you strip sales enablement of its counterparts, there’s little left to it. It’s almost as if sales enablement itself is enabled by other strategies.

That said, sales enablement is ultimately the result of strategic combinations of sales optimization, training, coaching, communication, and collaboration. It focuses on the use of all these to the benefit of your ROI, which is why it also includes data analysis.

Roderick Jefferson warns that sales enablement “may encapsulate different sets of functions” from one company to another, but that its goal is to orchestrate these intersecting elements to “optimize value for both the buyer and seller over time.”

 

Enhances Productivity

Regardless of company specifics of sales enablement, a sales enablement strategy is almost always concerned with enhancing productivity in all facets of the sales process. This doesn’t necessarily mean making the sales process go through the pipeline faster--though that would be nice. Instead, it is concerned with the efficiency of the process, creating a more effective pipeline overall.

Sales enablement also includes cultivating effective coaching strategies to enhance the productivity of reps individually. Furthermore, it includes onboarding and recruiting practices that focus on hiring reps whose talent can be cultivated, and who could not foreseeably dampen company growth. Thus, the individual rep themselves is enabled through coaching, and the company is enabled to grow and succeed through consistent talent management.

Scales Growth

Just like any other sales strategy, the work of sales enablement should be measured and monitored for growth. This may seem like an impossible task considering all of the variables enablement entails. However, sales enablement is most commonly focused on utilizing all of those variables to impact ROI.

Sales enablement scales growth most often by paying special attention to ROI, and also includes using tools to monitor the data that impacts ROI on both individual and institutional levels. For example, sales enablement concerns itself with sales coaching and productivity that “enhances rep’s relationship to their content,” which is key to enabling reps to sell more effectively.

Jefferson notes that on an institutional level, sales enablement is distinct from sales operations, though both are integral to the success of the business overall. Sales enablement, while focused on productivity, does not concern itself with the “daily grind” of sales as much as the overall process, and so it measures growth according to the ultimate results of all the processes that it entails.

 

Focuses on Long-Term Efficiency

Finally, sales enablement evidently focuses on long-term efficiency no matter where it is applied. The efficiency of specific everyday practices is still significant but left to the sales operations circle. Sales enablement is almost always centered around the big picture of both buyer and seller experience, and how to enhance those for a more efficient and pleasant sales process.

 

Are You an Enabler?

So yes, in this circumstance, it’s totally okay to be an enabler. It’s even encouraged! Bring your sales optimization strategies together from all corners and make sure they’re working well with one another. Enable those processes to succeed through practices that enhance the sales experience for both your reps and your customers, by optimizing productivity and efficiency that will benefit your bottom line and the quality of your team.