Sales enablement supports a sales team in achieving its goals by providing it with the tools and resources it needs to win. The function also works to actively remove barriers to success. Because it’s an evolving discipline, experts find it difficult to agree on a common definition for sales enablement, though most agree that it spans sales strategy, sales training, coaching, content creation, process improvement, sales career development, and sales compensation, among other areas. Sales enablement reaches even greater levels of success when leaders work to more closely align sales efforts to those of marketing, human resources, finance, and product. While sales enablement most commonly reports to the head of sales, the function can also report to operations, marketing, or more rarely, human resources.
Sales enablement professionals may manage or work on a number of projects at any given time. Periodic gap assessments will reveal the areas of greatest need for the sales team and management, guiding prioritization of projects. Successful initiatives begin with a needs assessment to determine the current state of performance and the leadership’s desired outcomes. Sales enablement practitioners then design solutions that equip salespeople and their managers with the knowledge, skills, tools, or process to achieve greater performance.
Change management is also a significant focus for sales enablement professionals, who are responsible for ensuring that new initiatives and projects are rolled out smoothly.
Examples of sales enablement projects or initiatives are:
In some organizations, the duties of sales enablement are owned by sales managers. In others, the role of sales operations or product marketing may handle the responsibilities of sales enablement.
The responsibilities of a sales enablement professional span a wide range of areas. What do all these areas have in common? They directly contribute to a sales team’s ability to meet its goals. These areas can be broken down into three categories: sales force support, sales management and leadership, and sales effectiveness.
Sales Force Support
Sales enablement can help drive success within the field by defining, documenting, and providing ongoing development. They can do so with a focus on strengthening and maximizing core selling behaviors such as acquiring new accounts, expanding existing business, and developing solutions according to the needs of the customer. These efforts enhance the sellers’ knowledge, skills, and process to drive greater results.
Sales Management and Leadership
Sales enablement acts as a partner to sales leadership by creating an integrated strategy to ensure accurate forecasting, effective coaching, and management activities that make an impact with their sales teams. By working closely with managers, sales enablement can effectively deploy tools and resources in the right way at the right time to maximize success within the field.
Quite often, sales enablement is the group that owns (or is the caretaker of) the platforms and systems that impact a seller’s performance. This may include talent selection, talent development, compensation design, and the investment in sales tools. With the right structure, resources, and deployment plans in place, it becomes easier to drive adoption, maximize utilization, and fully leverage systems for selling success.
There is an increasing amount of technology available to assist in sales enablement efforts year by year. Common functions of these technologies include learning management, forecasting, content management, coaching tools, sales intelligence tools, and sales process automation. Sales enablement professionals are responsible for evaluating sales enablement platforms and software to determine which tools will produce the greatest ROI.
The Future of Sales Enablement
Sales enablement has significantly evolved in the past decade, and yet there are still many exciting possibilities on the horizon. While the full impact of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, on the sales function is still unknown, certainly sellers and managers will need to continue adapting and expanding their skill sets to achieve greater levels of success. As a strategic, forward-thinking partner, sales enablement will be the function to which organizations look to lead in growth areas and prepare sales teams to compete in the new landscape.
If sales is an engine of the business, then it follows that sales enablement is the fuel that keeps it performing at a high level. Sales enablement practitioners can and should be leveraged as invaluable problem solvers, committed to executing on the company’s strategic vision and priorities.
Since our founding in 1943, ATD’s focus has been to help talent development professionals succeed in their roles, applying best practices and improving organizational outcomes. In sales enablement, ATD curates the best content from the world’s leading experts in the field, providing opportunities for sales enablement professionals to learn the latest techniques using the latest technologies. Because we look at talent development holistically, our sales enablement content and resources focus on the leadership and learning aspects of the field.
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