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5 Sales Enablement Myths Debunked by Thierry van Herwijnen

If you’ve been following along with the Sales Enablement Shift podcast so far, you’re largely familiar with our mission to bring some clarity to the increasingly confusing sales enablement industry. One major challenge when it comes to clarifying and elevating the role of sales enablement is finding a universally accepted definition of sales enablement. Without a clear definition of sales enablement as a role, function and process, it’s incredibly difficult—if not impossible—to successfully plan and measure the program itself.

In our newest episode of the Shift podcast, Seismic’s VP of Marketing, Daniel Rodriguez, sits down with Thierry van Herwijnen to nail down a definition of sales enablement that reflects today’s industry standards and, most importantly, the needs of enablement practitioners and organizations as a whole. In addition to giving this definition, Thierry broached other significant topics surrounding sales enablement, and even addressed some common misconceptions typically accepted by the enablement industry. Below you’ll find five sales enablement myths debunked during Episode 3 of the Shift podcast, but be sure to tune in to hear what Thierry has to say about content governance, getting executive buy-in for a sales enablement initiative, and the greatest challenges still facing enablement practitioners today.

  1. Myth: sales enablement is easy to define.

    Despite its growing importance in the market, sales enablement is evolving every day, and with this constant evolution comes constant redefinition. But from his own experience, coupled with insights from Tamara Schenk and CSO Insights, Thierry gives his definition of sales enablement:

    “A strategic, cross-functional discipline that is designed to increase sales and enhance productivity through an integrated selling system that equips salespeople and managers with the right tools and resources to engage buyers at the right time with the right content.”

    Thierry is also quick to point out that sales enablement—in theory and practice—is going to mean something slightly different to different organizations and individuals. However, his definition is a great starting point for organizations currently building their sales enablement foundation and practitioners working to elevate their role in organizations.

  1. Myth: sales enablement is synonymous with training.

    While sales training can be viewed as a component of sales enablement, the scope of sales enablement reaches much further than initial training and onboarding. There is a current misconception in the world of enablement that it is just training rebranded. But enablement includes much more than just training, such as content, hiring and coaching, opportunity management, and “delivering the right content and tools to both managers and salespeople,” as Thierry explains.

  1. Myth: Sales enablement should function separately from the rest of the organization.

    As sales enablement continues to evolve, there isn’t a definitive place where sales enablement must report within the organization, so long as it’s working closely with sales, marketing, and operations. “When [an organization is] starting out with the enablement function, it should align it to an executive sponsor…who can give sales enablement a platform to have an elevated conversation about its role and scope within the organization,” Thierry advises. So while it doesn’t matter where enablement lives organizationally, it’s imperative that it’s closely aligned with sales, marketing and operations to break down the silos between these teams.

  2.  Myth: Salespeople shouldn’t create their own content.

    “Salespeople will always create their own content—the most powerful thing salespeople can do is create and tailor content specific to the customer,” Thierry explained when asked what his opinion is of salespeople creating content. “It’s all about finding the right balance. Marketing or sales enablement can provide salespeople with 80-90% of their content, and then allow them to customize and tailor the last 10%.” What’s most important, Thierry says, is paying attention to what reps are creating and using most frequently; if you have hundreds of reps creating the same deck for all of their client-facing interactions, something is off-balance.

  3. Myth: Sales enablement practitioners don’t have a seat at the executive table.

    Thierry predicts that, similar to the not-so-distant progression of the accounting role to CFO, enablement roles will continue to elevate to executive leadership positions as the technology evolves and the demand grows. “In five years, we’ll probably have [a role] like the Chief Value Officer, who oversees a lot of functions [like sales, marketing and operations] and brings them all together in one lens that focuses on the customer.” Sales enablement practitioners are not the VPs of Broken Things, but rather are the strategic overseers who have the power to connect sales, marketing and operations to better serve sales and drive revenue.

Many thanks to Thierry for his valuable insights and fun conversation. You can listen to his own sales enablement podcast, the Sales Enablement Lab, on his website. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Shift podcast on Soundcloud, iTunes, and Stitcher!