In a recent blog post for SiriusDecision, Jim Ninivaggi wrote, “Unlike established corporate functions like accounting, finance and marketing, sales enablement is still evolving, and the term means different things to different companies.”
This assessment couldn’t be more spot-on (he even points out that the word “enablement” isn’t technically a word at all). While nearly every organization today has some sort of sales enablement function, only some are formalized as such, many report into different departments, and almost all are different.
This has left us without a common, universally accepted definition of what sales enablement truly means. At Brainshark, we define sales enablement as:
The key to all of this? Powerful content and communications.
One of the reasons we feel confident in this definition is because so many others in the industry agree. Check out some of the other sales enablement definitions floating around the web (and there are many), and each is bound to reference the importance of strong communication.
Of course, one of the challenges of nailing down a single definition is that sales enablement is such a huge topic that involves nearly every other business function. To help tell that story, I’ve dug up three unique explanations from the web and bolded the parts that I think are particularly interesting about each.
#1. “Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.” – IDC
This definition from IDC has been around for a few years now, but it really does cut to the core of things. I particularly like how they stress not only the information necessary for enabling sales, but the format it’s delivered in as well. To me, this point is important for two reasons.
First – training. Whether you are onboarding new hires or providing resources for existing reps to access on the go, you need to create content that’s engaging and promotes learner retention. For example, since people are generally better at retaining information they can both see and hear, our customers have found on-demand video to be a valuable training asset when used along with other in-person and traditional learning formats.
Second – you have content as a selling tool. The more assets reps have at their disposal, the more prepared they’ll be to effectively engage with prospects and customers. Once again, video can be a powerful tool for nurturing opportunities and on-demand communications, but whitepapers, data sheets and other content types are also useful. Similarly, approved and compliant PowerPoint presentations or product demonstrations are especially critical for live and in-person conversations.
#2. “Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.” – Forrester Research
This is another popular definition, and Forrester has certainly done plenty of research into what sales enablement looks like for businesses today. That they specifically call out “all client-facing employees” is especially significant in my eyes. It drives home the point that sales enablement is about more than just those with the word “sales” in their titles.
Marketers, business development teams, customer service and support reps – all of these people communicate directly with potential and current customers. As a result, they all have an impact on the organization’s ability to drive new revenue and maintain existing business, which makes them important pieces of the sales enablement puzzle.
#3. “Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue.” – The Pedowitz Group
While this is hardly the most complete explanation out there, the fact that it starts out with a sales-marketing alignment message shouldn’t be overlooked. Keeping that line of communication open and healthy is a key component of sales enablement. Not only does it help reps become better informed on the company’s products, customers and overall brand messages, but it also helps ensure that the content generated by marketing is relevant to reps and aligned with their sales conversations.
Though not a definition per se, marketing consultant and speaker Matt Heinz recently blogged about what sales enablement means to him. In his post, he writes that “a tactical definition of sales enablement that fits all companies – sizes, industries, cultures – would be next to impossible,” and instead opts to define it as more of a guiding principle.
While I agree that a universally accepted definition of sales enablement is difficult to nail down, the common threads and components presented above are becoming clearer every day. For more on the critical role content and communications play in the process, visit our What We Do page and check out the additional resources below.