I recently attended the monthly meeting of the Denver Sales Enablement Society (Twitter. SES Website). I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and even agreed to join the board. One of the topics that generated an interesting side conversation was around the notion of what exactly is sales enablement? The conversation at the meeting centered around how everyone seems to think of sales enablement differently. Is it tooling? Training? Tooling and training?
I majored in philosophy in college, so normative questions are always quite interesting to me. When I say normative, I mean how something should be. If you are going to focus on a space almost exclusively, you really should continually think about how to define it.
My definition of sales enablement
To start with, my definition is rather short and somewhat broad. Sales enablement is anything that helps a sales rep be more efficient or effective. I have used this in my posts, and even pondered this question previously. I decided to do a bit of research and share with you how others define sales enablement, and possibly revising the definition.
Santucci: What is sales enablement?
The first I look at is Scott Santucci, former Forrester analyst and a founder of the Sales Enablement Society. He spends a lot of time thinking and acting around sales enablement, so it makes sense to start there. This is his definition when he was at Forrester.
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.
Looking at his definition, I have to say I really like the fact that he includes the client facing staff in there. I have a strong employment history in technology companies, and customer success is so vital these days. And his definition includes that. I also like the term problem-solving life cycle. With that said, his definition is pretty long and complex. In addition, client facing employees might include things like customer support staff that typically sales enablement doesn’t support.
Gartner: What is sales enablement?
Next, I turn to Gartner, who defines Sales Enablement as:
The activities, systems, processes and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with client and prospects.
I like the simplicity of Gartner’s definition. It lays it out, is less academic than Santucci’s definition. I also like that the scope specifically calls out activities, systems and processes. So it could cover whatever a sales enablement team might do. With that said, I do find that missing out on the client facing aspect and restricting it to sales is limiting. When I reflect on my definition, I leave that out too but thinking of sales enablement as larger than just reps. In addition, it adds a qualifier around knowledge-based to sales interactions. This is severely limiting and would eliminate productivity tools which are actually a big part of sales enablement these days.
I wanted to include Sirius Decisions in this but, I couldn’t find a succinct definition from them on their website. They have one in their content that you have to pay for, but I don’t have rights to distribute that so I chose not to include.
I will highlight two vendors for sales enablement. Vendors are driving much of the activity in sales enablement right now. There has been a proliferation of vendors focusing on a variety of topics, and they drive the discussion.
The first place to start is SalesForce, as they are the dominant vendor in CRM right now. Sales enablement is IMHO part of CRM, so they should be the place to start. Plus, they actually do a really good job on thought leadership.
Their definition is a tad more casual than the above.
Basically, we found that sales enablement is a collection of tasks and tools that are intended to improve the execution of key sales activities—activities like making sales calls, pursuing opportunities, managing major accounts, and targeting top prospects.
While informal, I like that they have multiple sales activities listed including managing accounts. Unlike the other definitions, it is restrained to sales. With that said, I think tasks is too small of a term. Mowing the lawn is a task, sales enablement is a process.
I raved on SalesForce thought leadership, but they really have nothing on Hubspot. Hubspot consistently churns out great content and leadership on how to sell and market. If you don’t read their blogs, you really should. As such, I include their definition:
Sales enablement is the technology, processes, and content that empower sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity.
Other than the somewhat hokey “higher velocity” I think their definition nails it. It is larger than just sales reps (i.e. Sales teams, which should include things larger than just reps). It also includes technology and process along with content. Content is something that drives much of complex B2B sales cycles, so calling it out is quite nice.
So looking at my original definition, I have to say there is a lot I can improve on:
- Make it larger than sales. My definition lacks elements like account management or customer success that some of the other definitions contain.
- Make it more specific, my definition is a little too broad.
So this leads me to…
Sales enablement is the content, knowledge, and tools that systematically empower account teams to sell efficiently and effectively.