Why Sales Enablement Content Does NOT Turn Reps into Paper Pushers

August 21, 2014 | Brendan Cournoyer
Why Sales Enablement Content Does NOT Turn Reps into Paper Pushers

Sales enablement continues to be a popular topic these days. But while there are lots of people talking about it, not everyone is saying the same things.

There are lots of varying definitions out there, for example, and new posts and opinions on the topic seem to hit the Web every day.

I came across one of these articles recently on the Business2Community site that immediately captured my attention – but not in a particularly positive way. The post (which I believe originally appeared on the Revegy website) asks the question, Is Today’s Definition of Sales Enablement Turning Reps into Paper Pushers?

Using SBI’s definition of sales enablement as a template, the post argues that basing a strategy around content only enables reps to “inundate prospects with information,” adding that “there is an assumption that giving a rep the perfect content at the perfect time is enabling them to be successful – and it’s wrong.”

I obviously couldn’t disagree with that last statement more, and the article goes on to take what (in my opinion) is a seriously skewed position in regards to the role content plays in the sales enablement process. This prompted SBI’s Drew Zarges to leave a comment in response to some of the assumptions made in the post, and to her credit, the author responded in respect to his points.

Despite Drew’s response (which I thought was absolutely spot on), the article comes to so many questionable conclusions that I wanted to add my own two cents to the conversation as well. To be clear, this isn’t an attack on the author in any way. Sales enablement as a concept is still evolving, and I’m sure there are other misconceptions out there about the role of content.

So let’s try to clear up a few of them.

“The problem with aligning sales enablement strictly with content and content delivery vehicles is that you’re having a one-sided conversation and ultimately reducing your sales reps to paper pushers.”

The argument here is that utilizing content negatively impacts a rep’s ability to have a real conversation with prospects. In fact, the opposite is true. Sales enablement content isn’t just a collection of documents with the words “SHARE ME” stamped on them. These aren’t resources for reps to simply throw at prospects and hope for the best.

The right content at the right time can be anything the reps need to be successful. It can be just-in-time training content on the latest product releases or messaging. It can be reports that educate reps on different industries and personas so they can better understand the pain points of the people they are selling to. It can be approved slide decks to ensure consistent or compliant messages during sales meetings. And yes, it can be content resources for reps to share with prospects at different points in the sales cycle.

The point is, the right sales enablement content doesn’t create a one-way conversation; it enables a more productive dialogue.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to find a piece of paper that gives me access to power.”

For some reason, the article is very interested in finding an accurate definition of “enablement”, yet it has no problem limiting its definition of content to “pieces of paper or files” like whitepapers and PDFs. (To be fair, it does call out audio recordings and ROI calculators as well, but the bulk of the post seems to use the word “paper” very literally.)

Sales enablement content – as with marketing or training content – can really be almost anything. It’s not limited to what you can print out. Video presentations are an obvious example and a great way to engage prospects indirectly, but there is really no limit to what can constitute a valuable sales content resource. Infographics, customer testimonials – even a tweet can be a powerful content asset in the right hands. The post itself references “scorecards” and “qualification checklists” – both selling tools that fit comfortably under the content umbrella.

“If your company’s definition of sales enablement includes the word content – perhaps it’s time to rethink the limitations of your program.”

Like I said at the top of the post, there are lots of different sales enablement definitions out there (and I’m actually a big fan of how SBI positions it) – but almost ALL of them are built around the importance of content and communications. In fact, as a counter to the quote above, I don’t see a way to possibly have a definition WITHOUT including the word content.

A more accurate way to look at it is to say that sales enablement isn’t only about content, which is obviously true (Drew references important pieces like training, certifications and rep talk tracks, for example). But if you broaden your view of what content can do outside of simply pieces of paper to push to prospects, you begin to see how it really is the fuel that powers the entire sales enablement engine.

The article elevates the "art of the conversation", and ends by saying that a content-based definition "ultimately means the limitation of your reps to have the meaningful interactions necessary to get deals done."

To that I would completely agree with the first point – for reps, it IS all about the conversation. But without the right content, what would they have to say?

What do you think? What role does the right content play in your company’s sales enablement process? Sound off in the comments below!

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