“Unlike established corporate functions like accounting, finance and marketing, sales enablement is still evolving, and the term means different things to different companies.”
That quote came from a 2013 blog post by then-SiriusDecisions analyst Jim Ninivaggi. A lot has changed since then – for one, Jim is now SVP of Strategic Partnerships here at Brainshark. Yet while many organizations today now have some sort of sales enablement function, a common, universally accepted definition of what it means still eludes us.
What is Sales Enablement?
Sales enablement is "a strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology."
That definition comes from research firm CSO Insights. One of the reasons we’re partial to it here at Brainshark is that it’s inclusive of the most common responsibilities of the sales enablement function (sales readiness and content management) while emphasizing the role technology plays in making it all happen.
Of course, this is still just one definition – and there are plenty of others out there, each with their own take of what makes sales enablement tick. To help tell the full story, I’ve dug up three other explanations from the web and detailed what I think is particularly interesting about each.
1. “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.” – IDC
This definition from IDC has been around for a few years now, but it really does cut to the core of things. I particularly like how they stress not only the information necessary for enabling sales, but the format it’s delivered in as well. To me, this point is important for two reasons.
First – training. Whether you are onboarding new hires or providing resources for existing reps to access on the go, you need to create content that’s engaging and promotes learner retention. For example, since people are generally better at retaining information they can both see and hear, our customers have found on-demand video to be a valuable training asset when used along with other in-person and traditional learning formats.
Second – you have content as a selling tool. The more assets reps have at their disposal, the more prepared they’ll be to effectively engage with prospects and customers. Once again, video can be a powerful tool for nurturing opportunities and on-demand communications, but whitepapers, data sheets and other content types are also useful. Similarly, approved and compliant PowerPoint presentations or product demonstrations are especially critical for live and in-person conversations.
2. “Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue.” – The Pedowitz Group
While this is hardly the most complete explanation out there, the fact that it starts out with a sales-marketing alignment message shouldn’t be overlooked. Keeping that line of communication open and healthy is a key component of sales enablement. Not only does it help reps become better informed on the company’s products, customers and overall brand messages, but it also helps ensure that the content generated by marketing is relevant to reps and aligned with their sales conversations.
3. “Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips sales teams to have consistently effective engagements with prospects and customers throughout the buyer’s journey.” – Highspot
One of the keys here? Sales enablement is an “ongoing process”. In other words, sales enablement is never done. For example, while onboarding new hires is a core component, it certainly doesn’t end there.
The Highspot team expands on this concept further: “By thinking strategically and holistically, and by applying best practices in the critical areas of content management, training, playbooks and sales processes, sales enablement can drive astounding results and transform sales effectiveness.”
Here are a few examples of how sales enablement (powered by technology) continuously makes sales teams more effective:
- Connecting sales teams to the most relevant content for each opportunity in the buying cycle
- Enabling sellers to get the training they need and measuring how effectively that training delivers bottom line results
- Communicating updates to the sales force (content alerts, product news, etc.)
- Empowering managers and peers to coach reps in way that reinforces training and promotes best practices
- Providing flexible ways to present content to customers
- Delivering real-time visibility into whether customers find content engaging
- Applying advanced analytics so pitches and content can be optimized
So while we may not have a universally-accepted definition of sales enablement just yet, the common threads and components presented above are becoming clearer every day.
For details on how you can improve your sales enablement strategy, download a free copy of our eBook, 14 Hacks to Upgrade Your Sales Enablement Strategy, or visit our Solutions page.