Until recently, I ran the learning and development department for a sales company. We started with technology and systems training and smoothly progressed into sales training. But then we found ourselves needing assistance with the sales process for our reps in the field, and traditional training wasn’t solving our problems. Feeling boxed in by the words “learning and development,” I decided not to allow my title to limit how I could help my organization.
After this shift in perspective, I spent more time working with the sales team directly, looking to solve their biggest issues and drive productivity. Through this reframing, the sales enablement department within my company started to take shape, although I didn’t realize that was what I was creating. I wasn’t even really familiar with the term, but I started encountering it more frequently. And then as if the universe was listening, ATD offered a Sales Enablement certificate, and it all clicked.
While aspects of sales enablement have been around for years, the term itself is relatively new, and it’s an area that is still growing. Often, sales enablement teams have no clearly defined organizational structure, and the particular needs look different everywhere.
Although my team was performing enablement functions, we were still called L&D. Training wasn’t the right solution for some of the business issues we needed to tackle—creating new processes, investing in new tools and technology, and coaching. The needs of the business had expanded, and so did the focus of the L&D department.
Knowing I needed buy-in from leadership, I developed our group’s mission with our sales leadership team. Instead of presenting some grand idea, I brought others along on the journey, considering how this change could impact our business in a positive way. Through this collaborative process, we developed a mission for our sales enablement team: Provide the sales team the tools, processes, and incentives to sell better, faster, and more efficiently.
Today, our team focuses on four main areas:
- Talent selection and recruiting
- Learning and development
- Events, recognition, and incentives
- Territory strategy and optimization
Still in the early stages, we already have some small wins. Enablement is one of the most flexible muscles a business can develop. As the business develops, it evolves.
Don’t let your usefulness be limited by the words “learning and development.” Shift your paradigm to let your department elevate the business. Solve problems, and rebuild your goals to fit the business’s needs. That’s how you become who you need to be.