It’s a hot topic, particularly in the world of sales. I often hear VP’s of Sales talk about it and pundits at large. A Google search of “Sales Enablement” returns over 1.1 million results. Everyone wants to be enabled – right? To some people, it also may sound better or more strategic than sales operations. So what is sales enablement?
There are lots of differing opinions around what it is and what it should do.
Some common themes in the definitions revolve around:
- Enabling technology
- Sales content/tools/aids
- Sales portals/drives/repositories/software
- Sales information, insights, and analytics
- Winning and closing deals faster
One definition from IDC is:
“Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.”
For most companies, sales enablement will have cross-functional ramifications in terms of marketing messages, sales tools/aids, and IT and enabling technologies. A sales enablement team would need to have some capabilities across a number of functions within a company to integrate the right content and enable the right conversations.
This recent article by Revegy, which is a software company that has developed a sales effectiveness platform, makes a distinction between static content for sellers (e.g., ROI calculator on a shared drive) and dynamic tools that are ostensibly built into a software tool … and probably their platform. Per the article, I think both Sales Benchmarking Index (SBI) and Revegy would both agree that sellers are enabled with effective and timely sales-ready content, but each might emphasize where and how it’s stored or accessed given their respective businesses. SBI is a sales and marketing consultancy focused on B2B sales but not a software company, per se.
Like SBI, we’ve built sales tools or aids that are not embedded within a software product at first, but had a path for being so eventually – think of a separate object/tab in Salesforce.com where you can replicate a checklist or discovery questions to unlock the value of the data vs. a tool in Microsoft Word that is attached to an account record. We’ve worked with some companies where the tool in Word is a big improvement with what they are doing today – they weren’t ready for a software platform. Not even close.
I think one of the other key messages in the aforementioned article is around how an enabling tool is used and applied. A tool is basically inert. It can help to provide insights or questions for an effective sales conversation, but it can’t have the conversation (not yet, at least) with a prospect or synthesize all the intangibles that are part of a typical sales cycle – e.g., the ‘real’ decision process, the underlying politics, the historical vendor relationships, etc.
Overall then, a sales enablement function or role will differ based on a company’s needs and what it can digest around enablement. It can and should flex based on the unique needs of the sales teams and selling situations. At a minimum, it should involve:
- Dynamic content (content should have an owner and be refreshed regularly)
- Sales-ready tools or aids (sellers should be involved in requirements, reviews, and pilots)
- An easy-to-use way to access or have delivery of the content/tools
- A process for when and how to use the content in a sales cycle/sales conversation
Given the rise of Insight-Based selling (aka – don’t be a walking brochure of marketing ‘fluff’), it’s more-and-more important for sellers to have the right content and conversation prompters to really add value to their sales calls. Neil Rackham’s, one of the foremost thought leaders around sales, simple question is a good test: “Would your customer write you a check for the sales call?”