What is the sales enablement definition?

Depending on who you talk to, there are various sales enablement meanings. We define sales enablement as the strategic approach to unite stakeholders in sales, marketing, and operations around the common goal of providing salespeople with the right resources, content, processes, and technology needed to engage with prospects and customers throughout the buyer’s journey and sell effectively. Because there’s no globally accepted definition, here’s a look at how sales enablement is defined by industry analysts.

Sales enablement is a strategic, cross-functional discipline, designed to increase sales results and productivity, by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services.— CSO Insights

Sales enablement is the activities, systems, processes, and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with clients and prospects.— Gartner

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips employees with the ability to consistently have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s journey.— Forrester

What sales enablement is not

If you ask a handful of people, “What is sales enablement?” you’ll likely get a handful of different answers. And while many of those definitions may work for different people, organizations, and processes, it is extremely important to understand that sales enablement is not the same thing as content marketing, marketing enablement, or sales operations.

Sales enablement Sales operations Sales training
Process of proving go-to-market teams with resources, content, and tools for success Ensures everyday operational tasks run smooth and efficiently Provides hands-on learning that focuses on skills and information sellers need to do their role

Sales enablement vs. sales operations

Sales operations is your boots-on-the-ground team that is closely aligned with the daily activities of the sales team. They will be administering Salesforce (or your chosen CRM) and handling any issues that crop up because of that. They will help with lead routing, so sellers receive leads that fit their territory/solution.

Sales enablement is about strategically aligning people and technology behind a common goal: sales success. It helps organizations streamline sales cycles by improving buyer interactions with better, more relevant sales content and equipping sales teams with the tools they need to be more informed and productive sellers. When executed properly, sales enablement has a measured impact on time spent selling, win rates, and deal size. Learn more about key differences here.

Sales enablement vs. sales training

While sales enablement and training empower and equip sellers with the skills and resources they need to perform, it doesn’t mean that they can be used interchangeably. Sales training is the process of teaching skills, information, and strategies that will help them close deals. This takes form in both onboarding and ongoing sales training, and it’s  just one small piece of the larger enablement landscape.

The growth of sales enablement

Forrester: Steven Wright – How has sales enablement evolved over the last 25 years?

Sales enablement has quickly grown over just the last few years. Take a look at these numbers:

  • Back in 2017, there were 3,233 users on LinkedIn who had sales enablement jobs.
  • By 2022, that number has grown by approximately 2,000 users each year with more than 13,000 users with the job title
  • Additionally, while only 58% of companies had a dedicated sales enablement person, program, or function back in 2017, now more than 60% of organizations do so.

Why is sales enablement important?

Selling is more challenging and complex than ever before. After all, sellers spend nearly 60% of their time not selling but instead finding, creating, or editing content to send to buyers. But this content falls short with 78% of buyers stating that the quality of content they receive from sellers doesn’t meet their needs, it’s important for organizations to look for ways to improve the buyer experience.

Buyers are more informed

Buyers now can obtain product information, reviews, and pricing, embarking on as much as 57% of the buyer’s journey alone before ever speaking to a sales rep. Because buyers are more educated, they expect salespeople to present them with information that is tailored to the business and that will ultimately help them make a purchase decision.

Sellers need to be smarter

Without a customer-centric approach to selling, a sales force will not succeed. If a salesperson can’t show how a product will solve a customer’s business problems, the buyer will lose interest. Sellers must find new ways to engage with their customers. They need to apply their product knowledge to customers’ specific needs with detailed product capabilities from the exact perspective of a specific buyer.

Sales enablement technology also unlocks insights into content engagement and how it affects sales performance. This is crucial as 90% of marketers don’t even know how to measure the ROI of content or the influence on deals from sales. Salespeople have better conversations and act as trusted advisors which allows them to foster long-term relationships with prospects and customers.

What are the benefits of sales enablement?

Increases Revenue Improves Productivity Decreases Turnover
Companies with successful enablement see 32% higher sales quota attainment Effective enablement helps new sellers meet quota up to seven weeks faster Companies with great enablement have the lowest annual turnover

Sales enablement is about people and technology, and strategically aligning them both behind a common goal: sales success. Sales enablement helps organizations streamline and shorten sales cycles by improving buyer interactions with relevant sales content that is tailored and personalized. When executed properly, sales enablement has a measured impact on time spent selling, win rates, and deal size. Additionally, sales enablement:

  • Creates a central, single source of truth content repository that provides sellers with marketing-approved content they need to have conversations that improve win rates.
  • Delivers sales training and coaching that helps sellers learn essential skills and knowledge they need through videos, coaching, and certifications.
  • Streamlines sales communication that empowers sellers with relevant information from teams and departments.
  • Provides marketing insights so teams know what content is helping accelerate deals.
  • Aligns marketing, enablement, operations, and sales teams to yield lower costs, increase revenue, ensure brand integrity and compliance, and close more deals.

Who owns sales enablement?

Depending on available resources, headcount, goals, and priorities, sales enablement ownership will be slightly tailored to your organization. Typically, sales enablement includes alignment and collaboration between sales, sales enablement, and marketing departments.

Sales Sales Enablement Marketing
Ensures sales enablement strategies are implemented across the team

Provide ongoing feedback to sales enablement and marketing teams

Own the overall strategy for ongoing collaboration between sales and marketing

Manages content management, engagement, performance, and sales training initiatives

Develop effective and engaging sales content that sellers can use to accelerate deals

Review insights and analytics to improve strategy and develop useful content

Sales

If sales enablement is ultimately about helping boost sellers’ productivity and ability to close deals, shouldn’t sales should own this initiative? Sales enablement is called sales enablement for a reason. So, a sales-owned approach is best for organizations that want to improve on things like sales communication, sales readiness, and collaboration.

Letting sales own the overall initiative provides the added benefit of making the department feel more responsible for ensuring success. Rather than running the risk of sales feeling like sales enablement is just another marketing fad, they can truly be the architects of their own success. In a sales-owned configuration, sales will set the overall tone for strategy when it comes to the way sales and marketing can collaborate moving forward.

Sales enablement

As mentioned previously, many organizations are building sales enablement departments and hiring more sales enablement specialists than previous years. Not every organization will have the resources to build this function, but if sales enablement is a long-term strategic play, starting with a new function can set you up for future success.

Creating a standalone sales enablement department (or manager, depending on organization size) creates a neutral third party, which helps remove biases. After all, a sales enablement role or department can set expectations, own the project completely, and ultimately make things easier. This approach is best for organizations that are already running with sales enablement and want to continue to grow, organizations that are ready to invest in sales enablement and see it as a long-term investment, and organizations that want a neutral party to help foster sales and marketing alignment.

Marketing

Making sales enablement the responsibility of marketing is the classic approach because although sales enablement ultimately results in closing more deals in a more efficient manner, a lot of the work is done in improving marketing’s overall efficiency.

By embarking on a sales enablement journey, a marketing team is committing to revamping their entire relationship with content. They acknowledge that their content needs to be easier to find, speak more directly to buyers’ needs, enable sales to create their own approved, personalized content, and prove its ROI. Allowing marketing to own a sales enablement initiative is best suited for organizations that are looking to unlock new efficiency with their entire content process, as well as improve sales and marketing alignment.

What are sales enablement tools?

As we mentioned, sales enablement isn’t just about technology, however the tools and sales enablement platform you add to your tech stack is a big deal. And while many organizations rely on the “original” sales technology—the CRM—this wasn’t built for effectiveness in mind. Instead, today’s high-performing sales organizations are implementing a number of sales enablement tools.

A sales enablement platform reduces burden on salespeople, streamlines their workflow, and provides teams with valuable insights for improved performance and revenue growth.

Sales enablement technology was created to help a company reinforce and drive processes around their sales enablement strategy. It was built with the intention of helping companies open the lines of communications between the people creating customer-facing assets (marketing) and those charged to leverage these resources in deals (sales). Sales enablement platforms typically include:

  • Content management: A central, single-source-of-truth repository serves sellers the marketing-approved content and sales enablement materials they need to have the conversations that improve win rates.
  • Sales training and coaching: Sales readiness features help sellers by focusing on the time leading up to those customer conversations through videos, coaching, and certifications.
  • Engagement: These tools help sellers develop and foster relationships with prospects and customers so deals move faster.
  • Marketing insights: Teams have the information needed to know what’s advancing deals so the sales content creation process can improve and be even more effective.

What are the benefits of an enablement platform?

The best sales enablement tools provide a repository for sales collateral and marketing materials for all stages of the selling cycle. A sales enablement platform also provides teams with insights on content analytics and how it affects deals and sales performance. When used correctly, the best sales enablement platform can:

  • Create greater marketing efficiency with batch updates, reliability, and automation.
  • Boost sales productivity by surfacing the most impactful sales enablement content and materials while giving teams the power of customization.
  • Decrease risk mitigation with collaboration and effective content workflow management. This ensures content is on-brand and compliant.

How to build a business case for sales enablement

Before creating a case for starting or overhauling your sales enablement strategy, it’s important to understand what maturity your organization is currently at. Once you identify where you currently stand, it will be easier to create a roadmap of actionable steps that need to be taken.

The four maturity levels of sales enablement
Laggards Sales enablement involves ad hoc, informal processes, focusing primarily on the sales function. The go-to-market tech stack is also limited.
Novices Sales enablement processes are more defined, focusing on sales and marketing. Basic levels of metrics and reporting take place. The go-to-market tech stack is growing, but it lacks integration.
Performers Sales enablement is a strategic cross-functional priority. There is moderate go-to-market tech stack integration with some data sharing that is routinely analyzed and used to measure effectiveness.
Visionaries Sales enablement is a strategic priority across customer-facing teams with an executive level champion and investment. There is a robust and well-integrated go-to-market tech stack and seamless data sharing. Insights are used to power and scale best practices across the organization.

Creating an enablement framework and implementing a sales enablement tool is a large investment that will affect many people throughout an organization. As such, there will be a lengthy process for selecting the correct vendor and winning over decision-makers. Here are some steps to get started.

Survey sellers and marketers

Sales enablement aims to improve the life of both marketing and sales, but in the end everything and everyone is focused on one goal: better selling. Marketing works hard to generate leads and create content that will move buyers down the funnel, all in the hopes of facilitating better engagement and closing more deals. Sales, it nearly goes without saying, is always looking for the next best thing that will improve their efforts and engage buyers.

When building a business case for sales enablement within your organization, it’s important to gain a baseline understanding of how both sales and marketing operate. By knowing the intricacies of their operations, you can build a better business case that speaks directly to the areas that need improvement.

Interview the people who feel the pain

Once you have determined the types of problems your organization faces, set out to speak with people who feel these pains daily and acutely. Whether it’s someone in marketing who is swamped with content requests or someone in sales who wants to offer more personalized content, finding a person who routinely struggles with the problems you’re hoping to solve is key. Connect with as many people as you can and set out to learn where their pain points lie. Conduct interviews to specifically learn what parts of their job can be improved with a sales enablement solution. Asking pointed questions of people in various positions across both sales and marketing will give you a big picture view of the gaps in content creation, content management, engagement analytics, or usage statistics.

Survey the market and choose your vendor

Ideally, you will begin this process with a general idea of the sales enablement space. It’s important to have an idea of who the vendors are, the solutions they offer, and how they differ from one another before embarking on building a business case. But once it comes time to actually put together your case, it’s necessary to perform a deep dive on the platforms available, and then decide which one will perfectly fit the needs of your organization. To begin this deep dive into the sales enablement market, turn to trusted sources for honest assessments of the platforms in the space. Leaning on independent research will provide an unbiased picture of each solution, and allow you to be confident that you are making a well-informed decision.

Deliver your pitch

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, the ultimate decision may lie with department heads, a purchasing committee, or as far up as the C-suite. Regardless of who actually makes the decision, it will be necessary to have an air-tight case that will not only put their minds at ease but also make them excited about the prospect of a sales enablement platform.

Your presentation should tell an engaging story that paints the picture of why your organization needs a sales enablement solution. Those who are seeing the presentation may not even be aware of the problems that sales and marketing are facing. Bring in the people you’ve interviewed who can speak clearly and directly to those problems. Humanizing the ordeal is a great way for your business to make an emotional connection with its readers, and its decision-makers.

Enable your sales team with Seismic

Seismic is the industry leader in sales enablement and can help your business increase efficiency by better connecting with customers and buyers. Improve conversion rates, target your content, and unify the customer journey by creating a central location for customers to interact with the sales team. Empower your reps by suggesting relevant concrete -nt based on data from past sales, building momentum via key insights proven to increase sales. Seismic enables all this and more with our sales enablement tools. To learn more, speak to our team and get a demo!