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Sales Enablement Optimization in 2016: It’s Time to Get Strategic

It’s about time to address the biggest elephant in the room at enterprise organizations: sales enablement.

Despite sales enablement being a top priority for executives, sales enablement programs are still struggling to meet strategic organizational goals due to a lack of formalized processes and technologies surrounding the initiative. There’s no doubt that organizations need sales enablement, but the way sales enablement is being addressed, implemented and bolstered by sales technology needs improvement.

In order to better understand how organizations adopt and implement sales enablement, especially at the enterprise level, Seismic has sponsored the 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study from CSO Insights. The study, while validating organizations’ need for sales enablement and the benefits surrounding it, found that even with this understanding many enterprises are still facing major challenges:

  • Only 22 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations have a formal sales enablement process in place, with 68 percent reporting an informal or ad hoc sales enablement process.
  • Over 50 percent of respondents state the quantity of content provided to salespeople doesn’t meet expectations, and 56 percent claim that quality is lacking
  • 43 percent claim that salespeople are responsible for creating their own materials to share with clients externally
  • 61 percent of sales enablement teams report directly to executive sales management, yet 56 percent of sales enablement programs are failing to meet organizational goals.

It’s no surprise that sales enablement is struggling to meet respondents’ organizational expectations such as increasing revenue (68%), increasing win rates of forecasted deals (44%), increasing new account acquisition (41%), and shortening sales cycles (36%), when it can’t effectively commit to being a formalized, strategic process.

The good news is that the shift towards a more strategic sales enablement function and process is happening: 15 percent of respondents claim to set sales enablement priorities through a formal enablement charter, while another 75 percent apply a vision—formal or informal—to these priorities. This departure from regarding sales enablement as a one-off project or box to check off during training shows an optimistic future for sales enablement’s strategic longevity. Further, 55 percent of organizations are dynamically or formally aligning the sales process to the customer journey, while only 19 percent of respondents’ sales processes were fully aligned with the customer journey in 2015.

The most poignant conclusion from CSO Insights’ Sales Enablement Optimization Study is that informal sales enablement programs simply do not facilitate enterprise success. Treating sales enablement as an equivalent to training or as a one-off checklist item for your sales kickoff will not only impede your enablement program’s success, but the overall success of your entire sales organization. Thierry van Herwijnen, host of the Sales Enablement Lab, recently told me that sales enablement must be thought of as a “strategic, cross-functional discipline” that equips all sales individuals with the right tools and resources to engage buyers in order to succeed. Organizations that agree on a formal vision for sales enablement, create a charter that maps business goals and determines the scope of enablement, align the sales process to the customer journey, and break down the walls between sales, marketing and operations with the right technology and people investments are the ones that will see success in enablement. Thinking about enablement in a strategic way is the only way organizations can meet or exceed their expectations of shortening sales cycles, acquiring new accounts, and increasing win rates and revenue.


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