How to Build a Sales Enablement Function

How to actually assemble a sales enablement function

So exactly how do you start an official sales enablement function?  

You probably started playing around with sales enablement a while ago, you have notched some successes and maybe a failure or two. But how do you take it to the next level?

As I said in my predictions for 2017, an official sales enablement function is going to be a big trend for this year. It’s up to you to make this a reality. It all starts with this simple guide.

Find an Executive Sponsor

Pretty much any project requires an executive sponsor.  First of all, you need to find an executive that not only believes in the sales enablement point projects, but also sees the changing landscape of sales.  Sell them with the charter, and how you can connect the pieces to drive greater efficiency.  

Who would make a good executive sponsor?  The CMO, sales or sales ops are the most likely candidates. If they aren’t interested in this, try to find a regional sales lead or marketing vice president that is anxious to get promoted. What is especially relevant is that they know what sales enablement is, and they believe the value it will provide for the organization.  

It does raise the question, is your executive sponsor the leader of the organization? Or is that you? Well it’s difficult to navigate company-specific politics in a blog post, so I will leave that with — it depends. On you, and the state of your career, and your executive sponsor.  

Officially Define the Charter of the Sales Enablement Function

For a function to be official, you need to make sure you know the scope of the organization. What could those be?

  • Sales Training – Sales training offers a natural fit for any sales enablement organization and a key function in almost any b2b organization.
  • Content Management – What organization manages the explosion of content?
  • Sales Tools – If your organization is larger or has a high ticket price, you might have sales tools like value calculators or business case tools.
  • Analysis Function – If you read this blog, you know I suggest doing analysis on rep behavior and content usage. No sales enablement function can be a success without a team dedicated to this.   
  • Sales Enablement Tools – Well d’uh, a quasi IT function handling tools is a must in a sales enablement org. They need to understand the tool and make sure features are being adopted.
  • Other things: content marketing, cross sell team, sales coaching, maybe even sales operations are natural fits.

Find the Location of the Organization

Easier said than done!  Where exactly does an official sales enablement function reside?  Well, it’s probably org specific. Here are some options you might want to consider:

  • Marketing – Since MarTech projects ideally should originate out of a marketing organization, it makes sense for your key MarTech project (sales enablement) to sit in marketing. A marketing org will be a good spot for creating content, and doing things in scale. But isn’t so close to sales.  It’s a good fit if your sales enablement effort is about content, but maybe if it’s not about changing sales rep behavior.
  • Sales – Well, it is sales enablement not marketing enablement, why wouldn’t it be in sales?  Well, sales poses a few risks, first they are easily distracted and often every available resource gets applied to pipeline/close, so it’s easy to get distracted. Sales teams are increasingly driven on margin too, so investments in sales enablement might be put aside to maintain margin. Accordingly, sales represents a great place for the organization if you  focus on changing rep behavior and training.
  • Stand Alone Organization – If you possess the right executive sponsorship, this works, a blend of sales and marketing.  Focus not only on enabling reps with the best content, and giving them tools to be successful but also incorporate behavior modification and sales training.  Of course, without the right charter and leader this type of organization can quickly be made irrelevant.  

Assemble the Pieces

Use your executive sponsor to make this a reality! Of course, co-opting resources especially something like sales training might be a bit challenging. Hopefully your executive sponsor helps move this along a bit, by networking for you.  

Socialize the New Org

Too often, an email is all that is done to announce a new organization, especially in a large bureaucratic organization. However, a sales enablement organization is only as effective as the teams it supports. Don’t assume that sales VPs or marketing VPs know what you do and the value you bring – remind them….again and again.

What are your experiences in building a sales enablement organization? Contact me through comments, twitter, or our contact page. I would love to hear your tale, and maybe even feature you in this blog.

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