How Important is Sales Enablement to Your Organization?

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Sales Strategy Image What exactly is Sales Enablement anyway? Well, there are two really good definitions that I like to quote. The first definition is provided by the Forrester Group: “Sales Enablement is 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 eco system.”

The second definition is from IDC, which defines Sales Enablement as: “The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place to move a specific sales opportunity forward.”

I really like what “The Sales Enabler – Jeff Ernst” talked about in his article New definition of sales enablement – April 15th, 2009. Jeff said that “before defining what Sales Enablement is, let’s consider the desired outcome of Sales Enablement. A well-enabled salesperson can:

  • Get access to the key stakeholders in the buying process
  • Understand the customer’s marketplace and business issues
  • Help the buyer envision solving their problems using his or her products and services
  • Get stalled deals moving again
  • Sell newly launched or acquired products, and cross-sell within his or her organization
  • Frame the buyer’s evaluation criteria so that the competitors are at a disadvantage
  • Help the “buyer champion” justify the purchase and sell within his or her organization
  • Overcome objections raised by the buyer
  • Respond to the tough questions immediately and with credibility
  • Do all of these within three (3) months of being hired rather than seven (7) months” 

I would like to take this opportunity to dissect the first definition because there is a lot in it. First, they say that Sales Enablement is a strategic, ongoing process (Strategy or strategic refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal). So, Sales Enablement is an ongoing plan of action. This isn’t just a one-time thing, it is an on-going process. Second, it is designed to equip all client-facing employees. I think this is an important statement because they don’t just say sales people, instead they include all client-facing employees. This could include everyone in your organization who interfaces with the client. So, it isn’t just sales, it could be accounting, customer support, sales support, technical support, marketing, etc.

Next, they talk about equipping these people 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. This is a very strong and important statement because they talk about how those client-facing employees need to be able to talk to different people (stakeholders), who may be in different departments and have different levels of decision making/influencing roles and responsibilities. So, they need to be able to consistently and systematically talk to each of them and have a valuable conversation with each of them at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle.  They are talking about providing those employees with all of the knowledge, experience and information they need in order to talk and engage all of those people at their stage and level. This will require a lot of experience, tribal knowledge and collaboration among everyone in the organization so that these people will be able to tap into and access that knowledge when they need it.

Last, but not least, is the bottom line to optimize the return of investment of the selling eco system.  So, in other words, they want to make sure that everything that was used to create and deliver that selling eco system will have a payback and, better yet, a profit.

The IDC definition is pretty straightforward, which is getting the right stuff to the right people, when and where they need it, to help them do their jobs and close more business.

Many of you will say that you are already doing bits and pieces of this in your organization now, which I would be surprised if you weren’t. But, how structured of a process do you have in place to capture, catalog and deliver that information, knowledge and experience?  If you said we have a CRM in place that does that for us, I would question your knowledge and understanding of what your CRM really does. Since CRM’s are more about collecting historical information about a company, contacts and opportunity, they really aren’t designed to provide the type of sales enablement processes outlined above.

So, if your company doesn’t have an ongoing Sales Enablement process in place now, then it probably isn’t seen as that important. Those organizations that have implemented a Sales Enablement process are considered best-of-class organizations and tend to outperform those organizations that don’t. At least that’s the way I see it.  What say you?


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