Among the sometimes-vague sales terms that get tossed around, sales enablement may be one of the worst offenders. Sometimes, it's a code word for a sales operations group; other times, it's code for sales training. CRM can come into it, as can other technology. So what does "sales enablement" really mean?
In the research that led to our best-selling book, Cracking the Sales Management Code, we discovered how broadly people use this term. Then, in order to clarify it, we organized some of this information in the infographic below.
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. But our research also revealed that these tasks and tools all fall into one of four categories—categories that interestingly mirror the lifecycle of an employee.
First, there are Sales Enablement activities meant to improve the Recruiting and Hiring of a sales force. These are focused on ensuring that ‘the right people are on the bus,’ so to speak. In addition, sales enablement involves keeping all of the seats on the bus filled, so the sales force is operating at full capacity. These activities can be owned by sales, HR, consultants, or any one else, but the goal here is clear… Hire the right number of the right folks.
The next group of Sales Enablement activities falls into the category of Training and Coaching. Once the right sellers are onboard, a lot of effort is focused on improving their skills and knowledge to enable better execution of the sellers’ key activities. Like Recruiting and Hiring, these activities could also be distributed across organizational boundaries; the goal is the same, too: improve the sellers’ ability to sell.
The third bucket of Sales Enablement activities are focused on Equipping the sales force with supporting tools. Whether CRM, Internet portals, or other selling aids, an organization Equips its sellers with the tools to collect, structure, process, and report information that enables better selling. Whether high-tech or old school, Equipping the sales force to improve its efficiency and effectiveness is at the core of Sales Enablement.
And the final group of Sales Enablement activities is Assessment. These activities determine how well the salespeople and sales managers are performing their respective duties. Are the sellers skilled? Are they effective in their roles? Are they producing at their anticipated levels? Assessment activities essentially measure how well the sales force is performing across a range of performance criteria. And if the performance is sub-par… Back to the other Sales Enablement activities.
So ‘sales enablement’ is a term that gets a lot of use, but we’re not certain it’s been viewed with a lot of rigor. Our research revealed a simple way to think about it—as a collection of activities intended to enable better sales execution. And we start doing this by Recruiting and Hiring the right folks. Then we Coach and Train them to higher levels of proficiency. Then we Equip them with tools to support their selling efforts. And finally, we Assess their performance to ensure they’re on track to succeed.