Although I am a marketer through and through, I am a firm believer that marketing’s role is to grow business and drive sales. Everything we do in marketing should, directly and indirectly, lead to a conversion. Often, a sale.
The role of the marketing team and their campaigns, initiatives, and programs deserve to be a part of the sales enablement discussion.
Very often, sales teams are likely to only associate demand generation activities with marketing.
If we look at marketing in a broader sense, many marketing programs have the essence of sales enablement; channel partner marketing, co-marketing with key partners, e-mail marketing, loyalty programs, affiliate marketing are all part of marketing outreach to support sales.
So, what is sales enablement, anyway?
If you look up “sales enablement” online, you’ll find more than 2,000,000 results, so I took it upon myself to do the research and define this term as a marketer since sales enablement IS also marketers’ jobs.
With its extensive discussions with senior executives and vendors, Forrester defines sales enablement as
“a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”
It focuses on setting up a systematic process to assist the sales team to have productive conversations with relevant prospects and existing customers.
CSO Insights, a research company specializes in sales research, has the definition which is widely recognized and accepted in the sales enablement field:
“A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology.”
This definition centers on providing essential technology-based training, onboarding, and coaching, and map that your customers’ journeys.
Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey, authors of The Sales Enablement Playbook, defined
“sales enablement is the concept of extending a prospect-centric mindset to all departments within an organization.”
In their book, they shared a reality that I could relate: “The sales enablement position in most cases is like the ‘Special Projects’ role in large organizations, and often it devolves into ‘Director of Broken Things’ – without influence, without a budget, without accountability, and without a charter.” “Sales enablement isn’t a position; it’s an ecosystem.” An ecosystem that is “crosses all functional and hierarchical boundaries.” Although their book mostly covered training, onboarding, coaching, content, and prospecting which is similar to CSO Insights’ definition, they stress sales enablement is everyone’s job.
Reza Sisakhti, the author of Success in Selling, is much more specific than (WHO?) in his definition:
“[Sales enablement] consists of sales professionals who are not customer facing and are engaged in an ongoing process of recruiting, selecting, hiring, onboarding, developing, equipping, motivating and rewarding the sales force and sales management to achieve business results.”
A sales enablement team may include various roles spread over different divisions within organizations such as human resources, training and talent development, sales operations, information technology, even product development in business units. That point of view also aligns with CSO Insights, Bray and Sorey. “Depending on the size and maturity of the company, these professionals might reside in their functions while they are supporting the sales organization in a part- or full-time capacity.” The key difference is that Sisakhti expanded the function of sales enablement to include recruiting, hiring, motivating and rewarding. He also further clarified the ‘ecosystem’ defined by Bray and Sorey.
Rather than providing a written definition, Jason Jordanand Michelle Vazzana used a graph to illustrate the sales enablement process.
From the book – Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance
They stressed that “First, management should structure the organization in a way that provides its salespeople with access to the resources they need to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively.”
Then, recruit and hire to staff your sales organization. Once you complete these two key tasks, you can enable the sales force by continuously improving the capability of training and coaching sales’ skills and knowledge, assessing sales performance and equipping with the right tools. Jordan and Vazzana also highlighted coach, training, and onboarding, but they underline the importance of structuring your organizations in a way that it’s easy for a sales team to access internal resources or support customers on the ground.
Hubspot’s sales enablement definition dialed up in technology and process.
“Sales enablement is the technology, process, and content that empower sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity.”
In summary, there are six common elements in these definitions:
At the end of the day, it’s all about making the sales team efficient and effective so that they can close sales.
Through the lenses of a marketer, I believe that sales enablement is:
Deliver a positive customer experience by equipping sales with knowledge, skills, processes and digital tools through cross-functional collaboration to increase sales velocity and productivity.
Most definitions I shared above focus on supporting sales and facilitating the purchase process. They are written as one internal team (marketing) supporting another internal team (sales). In a digital-first, transparent marketing environment, it’s crucial to deliver a positive and consistent customer-experience both online and offline.
That is why it’s vital to add a customer to the sales enablement definition. Without customers, there are no sales.
In my definition, knowledge, and skills signify content, training, and onboarding. The process suggests documented sales processes and methodologies. Digital tools mean technologies. To increase sales is important, but sales enablement’s role is to increase sales velocity. Sales velocity is defined as how quickly a product is sold or a deal is closed. By equipping the sales team correctly, we’re aligning them with the goal of increased conversions, thus, directly impacting sales results. An effective sales enablement team will, perhaps indirectly, increase sales velocity by removing barriers and frictions. Marketing plays both a role and a task as part of the sales enablement process.
In my future blogs, I’ll share how marketers can better support sales efforts.