A New Framework for Sales Enablement

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bee.flippedIs “sales enablement” just another buzzword? Yes, and no.

Yes: A quick Google search returns just over a million hits, and many are insipid. (“Is ‘sales enablement’ the new black?” I’m paraphrasing, but you know what I mean.)

No: In a 2010 blog post, Forrester’s Scott Santucci described the struggle an executive roundtable composed of VP-level sales and marketing executives representing 16 blue-chip companies had to define the term, way back in 2008. They asked “Is sales enablement a role (a function within a company) or a task performed by people (things people do already, like build sales presentations). As of 2010, they’d determined that –

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 system.

Scott further noted that “to be successful with a sales enablement program, you need to develop a team to work across traditional organizational boundaries and reporting levels within your company — and that’s a big challenge.” (The italics are mine.)

It’s still a big challenge.

Now, in April 2014, we have a hot-off-the-presses Demand Metric Research Corporation report:”Sales Enablement: Best Practices, Case Studies & Insights.” Demand Metric defines sales enablement as the “processes, practices, technologies and tools that improve the performance and productivity of the Sales organization,” and says offers a succinct closing line: “Bottom-Line – Sales Enablement drives revenue by directly impacting a sales team’s ability to close more deals.” Here’s a timeline of the practice’s acceptance:

sales enablement timeline

As it stands, anyone who’s using marketing automation or almost any other modern marketing strategy or tactic is practicing an aspect of sales enablement, but the practice is much broader than marketing. The whole sales enablement concept takes the essential purpose of sales and marketing alignment (which, bottom line, is awareness and action to help sales close more deals) and takes it cross-organization, aligning other departmental objectives with company sales goals. That’s certainly ambitious, but there’s a worthy payoff.

Demand Metric says that while often sales enablement is considered one vast landscape with many vendors competing for the same dollars, budgets and customers, it’s more advantageous to think of it as six key categories.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation (MA) create the foundation of the technology infrastructure for sales enablement as well as represent large market segments of their own. The other four categories are:

  • Knowledge Management (KM)
  • Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
  • Sales Intelligence
  • Communications Solutions.

Here’s a snapshot of how roles, processes and technology all roll up to form a sales enablement framework:

sales enablement framework

Demand Metric’s report continues on to discuss sales alignment and organizational impact in depth, including the metrics of who uses sales enablement…

who uses sales enablement.2


…and how effective they find it to be.

sales enablement results

Sales enablement is not for the impatient; time spent is a major factor in results.

sales enablement payoff timeline

And, finally, the report notes the six steps for sales enablement implementation, and offers an action plan with links to useful documents. The six steps are:

1. Get approval for sales enablement. This means making it a priority within the organization, getting senior management buy-in and dedicating resources to sales enablement

2. Prepare your company. Focus on sales enablement by assessing your organizational readiness and identifying gaps between marketing and sales. Pay careful attention to the areas of sales support, organizational alignment, content and assets, and missing job functions and skills.

3. Select solutions. Sales enablement is a fast-growing segment of the market and new vendors are appearing every week. Demand Metric reviews the top vendors in the market in the Solutions portion of this section.

4. Create a playbook. Your playbook will include the key resources that the sales team needs to increase sales productivity including customer personas, content, messaging and positioning statements, and collateral.

5. Launch to sales. Once all the materials are in place, you can launch to the sales team. Demand Metric recommends starting with a pilot group of experienced sales reps before rolling it out the entire Sales team.

6. Measure and evolve. It is critical to incorporate success factors into the sales enablement initiative from day one.