Does Your Company Need a Head of Sales Enablement?

July 23, 2015 | Brendan Cournoyer
Does Your Company Need a Head of Sales Enablement?

Who leads your sales enablement strategy?

If you’re serious about increasing sales productivity, that’s a question you need to answer.

Last year, SiriusDecisions released a report that made the case for a “centralized sales enablement” function within B2Bs. The study showed that the average sales enablement budget doubled between 2012 and 2014, which makes total sense when you consider how the popularity of the term itself has skyrocketed during that same period.

The problem is, as SiriusDecisions states:

  • “Without a centralized sales enablement function, the intended means of increasing sales productivity remain inefficient,” AND

  • “Many functions strive to increase sales productivity, but best intentions do not always create best practices.”

In other words – investing more in improving sales enablement and productivity is great, but who’s managing the strategy?

A perfect storm of sales UN-productivity

These data points and perspectives align closely with a recent post from Forrester’s Peter O’Neill, in which he describes the sales enablement perfect storm. Peter is a leading analyst in the sales enablement space (I was lucky enough to see him speak last fall), and the point he makes is basically this: simply INVESTING in sales enablement technology isn’t enough; you need someone to drive this thing.

Sales Enablement Perfect Storm

“It became clear to me that I also needed to highlight an urgent requirement for SOMEBODY, or a group, to take ownership of sales enablement investments in an enterprise,” he writes. “Otherwise many of the investments will end up, after a year or so, being labeled as ‘rogue, random, and redundant’ (probably not a great career move for those executives who signed off on the investments).”

The perfect storm metaphor comes from the fact that without this single head of sales enablement (or multi-person “charter”, as he describes it), the result will likely be random acts that go… well… nowhere. Specifically, he highlights three driving factors:

  • Sense of urgency within the sales organization that “something must be done”

  • Opportunistic technology purchases (i.e. choosing a few piecemeal offerings with no strategic long-term strategy)

  • Self-service tech purchases by individual reps that don’t scale to the entire organization.

Put all of these factors together, and you’re in for a storm that not even George Clooney can save you from. (Spoiler alert: He couldn’t save himself either.)

If this is a storm – who’s steering the ship?

It struck me how the random acts of sales enablement described in Peter’s post sound so similar to other “random acts” described over the last few years. This is not an isolated issue – when there’s a problem with sales productivity, everyone will try to help in their own way, and that’s not always a good thing. A defined sales enablement leadership role is critical to coordinate these efforts and ensure the “enablement” piece actually enables someone.

At the beginning of the year, we asked experts to share their top sales enablement predictions for 2015, in which Kapost’s Jean Spencer said she expected “an uptick in people with VP of Sales Enablement roles as the need for senior leadership in that area increases.” That prediction appears to be dead on, both in terms of the number of open roles being promoted as well as the needs of the position due to the challenges described above.

At Brainshark, we’re fortunate to have our own sales enablement “charter” (including our principal Wendy Goeckel – check out her blog posts here!). We also understand that investments in sales enablement technology alone won’t deliver the long-term results you need without a strategy behind it. (This is why, for our Brainshark Sales Accelerator customers, we provide implementation services tailored to each company’s needs and requirements, to ensure they see the most value as soon as possible.)

In a separate resource, SiriusDecisions describes the top four activities of the B2B sales enablement function as:

  • providing guidelines for using sales assets

  • sharing enablement best practices

  • building sales assets

  • developing product training

With the rapid increase in sales enablement solutions hitting the market, I’d easily add “help manage and prioritize technology spend” to the top of that list as well: someone who can identify the right solution, get buy-in from sales and other stakeholders, and of course, ensure a successful implementation and adoption in a way that increases sales productivity in a measurable way.

Sales enablement technology is an invaluable asset for any B2B organization, but the most successful companies also need someone(s) to keep everything moving in the right direction. Which brings me back to same question from the top of the post – who’s leading your strategy?

Do you have a head of sales enablement at your company? Are you looking to make the hire? Sound off in the comments below.

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