What organization can say no to “sales enablement”?

Who in the C-Suite would ever look you in the eye and say, “We don’t find sales to be all that important. Thanks, but no thanks?”

Such is the beauty of the term “sales enablement.” Enabling sales is something every organization should do. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around what it means to actually “enable sales.”

Defining “Sales Enablement”

To be useful as a concept, “sales enablement” should be clearly recognizable and easily defined. Towards that end, in The State of Sales Enablement: Eliminating Ambiguity, Aberdeen defines the practice of sales enablement as:

A strategic alignment of resources and actions to produce effective, efficient sales operations.

While this definition is still somewhat far-reaching, it sets clear parameters for sales enablement. Specifically, it calls for anyone doing “sales enablement” to answer two questions:

  1. What resources do effective sales operations require?
  2. What actions best support effective sales operations?

Building on this simple framework for understanding sales enablement, sales leaders can more easily choose appropriate metrics for evaluating the success of sales enablement initiatives.

Resources allocated to sales enablement can be analyzed in terms of ROI and profitability: Did the resources provided produce measurable (and, positive!) returns?

Tactical actions prescribed for sales enablement can be analyzed in terms of compliance and effectiveness: Were these actions carried out, and if so, did they work as intended? If not carried out, or effective, why not?

Categories of Sales Enablement

Of course, even organizations that share the same definition of sales enablement can and do execute sales enablement efforts in different ways. That’s why, in addition to a definition, it’s worthwhile to clearly categorize sales enablement efforts.

Based on what we see in the market, Aberdeen Group has identified three categories of sales enablement:

  • Content-based sales enablement: Providing sellers with targeted collateral and sales assets that enable effective sales conversations with buyers.
  • Technology-based sales enablement: Providing sales reps with tools and technology that enable improved sales performance.
  • Training / education-based sales enablement: A process whereby sales reps are trained, educated, or given access to knowledge that enables them to sell more effectively.

Among Aberdeen survey respondents, 52% practice content-based sales enablement, 40% practice technology-based sales enablement, and 38% practice training / education-based sales enablement. Naturally, this means there’s some organizations practicing multiple types of sales enablement.

The fact that, even within the same organization, sales enablement can take on different forms, may be one reason for the confusion around the term. What one person may call sales enablement, pure and simple, another may understand as a single form of it (content-based, for example).

All-In Sales Enablement

For organizations practicing all three forms of sales enablement – what I’ll call, “All-In Sales Enablement” – the value of doing so is apparent. As we can see in Figure 1, these organizations fully outpace their competition when it comes to sales performance.

Figure 1: “All-In” Sales Enablement Practitioners See Better Results


Is your organization practicing “all-in” sales enablement? Or, are you still playing around with this or that flavor of it?

If you fall in the latter camp, what’s your hesitation?

To find out how your sales enablement efforts stack up, read the full report: The State of Sales Enablement: Eliminating Ambiguity.

Image Source (Creative Commons): The U.S. Army.