Although it’s relatively new to the B2B scene, the Sales Enablement function has quickly gained momentum and is having a measurable impact on business growth. When done right, sales enablement has the ability to improve sales conversion rates 10%-20%, or more. And as a result, 53% of organizations in our Sales Enablement Practitioner survey have a dedicated Sales Enablement team today.

Because a separate Sales Enablement team is new to most organizations, its hierarchical order within the organization has raised many questions, especially in relation to the sales operations team. There is potential for conflict between these two groups, as the two roles evolve and sometimes overlap. As a business leader, it is critical to clearly define the roles and responsibilities—and opportunities to collaborate—for each group, to ensure all teams work together effectively.

The fact is, both Sales Enablement and Sales Operations are critical to supporting the sales team’s success. So, how should growing companies organize and charter the two teams for maximum effectiveness?

We get asked this a lot, and have seen how hundreds of companies have organized the two teams. A few models rise to the top as the most effective and productive, and they generally start with a logical look at what each group does best. There will always be exceptions and differing models, but a look at their similarities and differences illustrates where division of labor makes the most sense.

Commonalities of Sales Enablement and Sales Operations

  • Overall goals: Both groups are charged with increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales team
  • Reporting structure: Usually the two groups share in their reporting structure; most commonly up to the head of sales. According to CSO Insights, 53% of the time Sales Enablement reports to Sales, and 25% of the time Sales Enablement and Sales Ops are the same group, creating an independent reporting structure.
  • Accountability for Performance: Both groups share a responsibility for analyzing the performance of sales–in their own areas of expertise

With their common ground and goals established, let’s dive into the details of how their roles are most commonly defined:

Sales Operations Responsibilities:

  • Sales rep operations: Territory planning, deal routing, account assignment, team design
  • Sales administration: Proposal and contract management, contract governance
  • Compensation optimization and administration
  • Forecasting reporting and accuracy maintenance
  • Systems and data management: CRM, CPQ, SPM
  • Performance analysis related to the above

Sales Enablement Responsibilities:

  • Sales training, including content, process and training events (SKOs)
  • Content planning, mapping, management and analysis
  • Sales process, including process performance analytics
  • Sales communication
  • Customer engagement tools, processes and analysis
  • Increasing sales efficiency through process, tools and training
  • Technology in these areas
  • Performance analysis related to the above

As you can see from their responsibilities above, there are clear high level commonalities but practical differences. From this we can draw some broad generalities that may prove useful in organizing the two roles.

Differences between Sales Enablement and Sales Ops

  • When they get involved: Sales enablement is generally focused early in the buying process, focusing on training, content and sales process, whereas sales operations tends to focus later in the buying cycle during the negotiate and close stages. (Sales Ops also covers many areas that are orthogonal to the buying cycle such as territory planning, compensation, and systems.)

Sales Operations & Sales Enablement

  • Specialties: The Sales Enablement professional tends to focus on broader issues such as message and content quality, training, and effectiveness of the whole team. Sales Operations tends to have many responsibilities that are very detail oriented such as ensuring that CRM data systems are accurate, forecasting is done properly, and contracts and closing process are executed correctly. Success in these roles requires vastly different skill sets that can complement each other when properly aligned.
  • Deliverables: Sales enablement provides training, content, sales process enhancements and customer engagement strategies, while sales operations is focused on contracts, compensation (configure, price, quote or CPQ), and ensuring that the closing and recording process is followed properly.

As you can see from the below graphic, some overlap tends to remain in the space where a solution is being proposed—and this can be a successful overlap if both teams understand their place in the solution design.


Three steps to a high-performance partnership

To be successful—and have the greatest positive impact on sales performance—these two teams need to work in lock step to root out inefficiencies and continuously drive process improvement.

Ready to get some consistency around your end-to-end sales process workflows? Try this:

  • Talk it out. Get sales enablement and sales operations leaders together to discuss common goals and expectations. Audit deliverables. Is duplicate work occurring? Does one side feel very strongly about why it should or shouldn’t do something? Open and honest dialogue early in the process will lead to better results down the line.
  • Write it out. Create a roles and responsibilities (R&R) document that clearly outlines what each organization does, where there’s overlap, if any, how to provide constructive feedback to each team—and be sure to assign KPIs. Leadership buy-in of this document is critical for long-term success.
  • Roll it out. Share the R&R document with members of both teams: Have a joint meeting as well 1:1 discussions, deliver via email and other company communication vehicles, and be sure to let all other ancillary teams know how you’ve organized. You’ll need to reiterate the message every so often to help encourage teamwork and prevent unnecessarily territory wars.
  • Work it. These are evolving roles as market dynamics and technology are constantly changing the demands on the sales organizations. These two teams need to work together to enable, support, hone and optimize sales teams to greater productivity. Good communication and collaboration is key, but small gains in sales effectiveness when scaled across a global team can have huge impact on business growth.

Teams operate most effectively when they have clarity on their roles and expectations, clear KPIs, and a way to provide feedback to their business partners. Implement these three items and you’ll be well on your way to a positive partnership—and improved sales.

Read more: Sales Ops: Take The Lead On Sales-Marketing Alignment