This article might help you if you’re looking for an unbiased view on what sales enablement is. You might have noticed that people often describe sales enablement in a way that suits their own situation. So, I researched many sources and pulled together the best explanation I can.

To save you 5 minutes of your life, I’ll summarise what I’ve found below.

TL;DR

Sales enablement is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of salespeople.

That’s it. We’re done here.

It’s not just about one part of the sales cycle. This is why you’ll find so many people have a different way of describing it. Sales enablement is incredibly broad.

Looking at sales enablement technologies, this broad definition means that lots of different software platforms exist to support lots of different challenges in different industries and different sales phases. E.g. training, lead nurturing, content distribution and virtual selling.

Because sales and marketing people increasingly need to work together, sales enablement tools are increasingly covering marketing aspects too. Many tools exist purely to close the sales/marketing divide.

My personal view is that “sales enablement” is not the most useful phrase. It’s too broad and has evolved beyond the original set of challenges it was set out to describe. Furthermore, the term was invented to evangelise a consultancy approach which isn’t widely understood. Could it be just called “Sales effectiveness”? Or, if selling digital sales solutions, why not just call it “Sales Technology”?

Now for a bit of background if you have more time to read.

Some context

Buzzword terms usually set off my internal alarm bell. So this post started when I wanted to see what sales enablement really means. I’m not sure why I haven’t looked at it sooner to be honest, it’s pretty interesting.

Just to give you some context. I run a small business and I am one of 4 sales-people selling deal sizes from £10,000-£300,000. Let’s call it high value sales, according to Spin Selling. I’ve received quite a bit of training and worked with Sandler qualified folks.I have some basic marketing knowledge too – mostly thanks for Seth Godin books and some practice in my business. I’m also a software guy, and have been creating software to help sales people for over two decades. Stuff such as CRMs, price calculators, eDetailing tools. That kind of thing.

Enough about me. Let’s start with a quick look at where the term sales enablement originated.

The origins of sales enablement

It’s hard to say for sure, but Kudos to Brandon Vasciannie at Bigtincan for putting a decent explanation together (see sources), which is roughly:

In 1999, John Aiello (formerly brand manager of Miller Brewing) and Drew Larson (telecoms consultant) took a new approach to sales with the goal of tackling these problems.

  • Sales and marketing giving out different messages to customers
  • Sales people giving customers inaccurate product information
  • Sales people lacking a repeatable process

I believe they coined the phrase Sales Enablement to evangelise how they improved the efficiency and effectiveness of salespeople struggling with these challenges.

In 2005, organisations started making technology to collect sales data, make sense of it, and then use it to drive better sales interactions during the sales lifecycle. This is where sales enablement software and technology come into play.

That has led to the world of sales enablement technologies we know today. It’s predicted to be a $5billion market this year (2021).

Small side note – based on my own limited experience, I’ve seen marketeers and product managers struggle with the above challenges, they’re very real even in 2021. This is pretty surprising to me, and indicates that sales enablement is more of a people thing than a technology thing.

So, with that out of the way, I took a look at different definitions from around the web. They are quite varied, as you can see. I won’t drop names, but some authors even give it different definitions within the same article.

What do experts think sales enablement means?

Here’s some quotes from several experts in sales enablement. It should give you a balanced view of how different people view it.

Sales Enablement ensures buyers are engaged at the right time and place, and with the right assets by well-trained client-facing staff to provide a world-class experience along the customer’s journey.

Sales Enablement Society

…the ongoing process of maximising revenue per rep by ensuring sellers convey the right idea using the right content throughout each stage of the buying process

Mark Magnacca, trainingindustry.com

Effective sales enablement is all about providing salespeople the tools they need to succeed. 

Matt Millen, regie.io

Enablement is talent activation. My philosophy is to find the people that have the most potential to make an impact on the business and help to make them successful in their endeavors. If you do that, you are doing a great job.

Patrick Aitken, Skedulo

Sales enablement is about accelerating, improving, and making things more efficient

Aurav Harode, Enablix

…the various cross-functional groups within the organisation giving sales the tools they need to sell.

Randy Frisch, CMO, Uberflip

Interesting spread of definitions, eh? So what is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is… err.. pretty broad

If you think that sales enablement is about a particular part of selling, then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not.

I looked at all the common themes and it turns out, sales enablement is all about using technology to support pretty much all of the sales lifecycle, and also its’ growing intersection with the marketing lifecycle too.

Here’re a broader list of the common themes from the various sources:

  • Helping salespeople be successful
  • Tools to sell faster
  • Tools to win more deals
  • Tools to get more leads
  • Virtual selling (particularly post COVID-19)
  • Alignment of sales and marketing teams
  • Training, learning and coaching
  • Continuous learning
  • 360-degree analytics and data-driven decision making
  • Sales and marketing collaborating to create content
  • Accessing and deploying sales and marketing content
  • Measuring content effectiveness
  • Enabling Productivity

In my search for a decent definition of sales enablement, there is a strong emphasis on

  • Better collaboration between sales and marketing
  • Getting the right content to people at the right time
  • Facilitating learning and coaching

Bringing a bit of clarity to all this

So, there’s some wild variance in definitions of what it is and what it’s about. Here’s my best stab at clarifying it:

At the top level, the varied viewpoints boil down to one thing; sales enablement is solving the challenges that sales and marketing teams have to make them more effective and efficient.

It’s not a technology thing, it’s a people thing. But in 2021, technology plays a big part.

There are lots of definitions of sales-enablement because it means different things to different people. And that’s probably because everybody has different challenges.

For example, if you are marketing and selling medical devices then compliance might be one of the big issues. Sales enablement might be about making sure up-to-date product information is shared with customers to avoid misinformation fines. From a technology perspective, this is where mobile document distribution tools and content libraries might help.

Another one. If you’re selling coffee machines, one of your biggest challenges might be getting a lot of cafes into the top of your sales funnel. So content marketing and lead generation might be your challenge. This is where content hubs and virtual selling platforms might help.

This “multiple definition” problem isn’t unique to sales enablement. You see it with the term “digital transformation” too. I once phoned five clients and asked them “what do you think digital transformation is?”. Two hadn’t heard of it and the other three had different views of what it was. This is to be expected I think, and it’s ok.

Despite all that, if you have a particular challenge in sales, there will be sales enablement solutions to solve them. I do wonder if sales enablement software should be just called SalesTech? Would that make it less confusing for us all?

Hope you found this interesting and useful!

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Since you made it this far, I might as well mention where I think PocketMEDIA fits in to all this. So, the main challenges it’s going to help out with is:

  • Helping everyone have the right content
  • Making sure that everyone has up to date versions of that content
  • Making sure that content is available all the time, even without a network connection
  • Providing analytics so that you can understand what content is used (down to page level)

That’s about it. There are hundreds of tools out there that can do this. If you need one that is particularly simple and cost effective, and won’t try to disrupt your sales processes, then PocketMEDIA might be worth a look.

Sources

2021 will be the year of sales enablement

100 modern sales enablement best practices

What is sales enablement and why does it matter?

A very brief history of sales enablement

Sales enablement: best practices and strategies for 2019