Sales enablement solutions have blown up over the past few years, and continue to rise, as more and more companies jump on the SaaS bandwagon. While sales enablement strategy has undeniably become something of a hot topic, it’s worth pointing out that sales enablement didn’t just materialize out of thin air.
While it’s taken nearly two decades for sales enablement strategy to hit the mainstream, it appears that it’s here to stay. Here, we’ll give you some background information on sales enablement and nail down a definition for those who aren’t super familiar with the hot topic.
Sales enablement strategy: A little background
We can trace the origins of sales enablement back to 1999, when John Aiello, a former brand manager at Miller Brewing Company, and Drew Larsen, a telecom consultant, took a new approach to sales operations and management.
Aiello and Larsen set out to solve the problems that have plagued sellers for decades, including:
- Incomplete, inconsistent brand messaging, particularly between sales and marketing
- Lack of accurate information about products and customers
- Unrepeatable sales processes
Sales enablement consultants and sales trainers made gradual inroads with early adopters, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that an interest in sales enablement strategy began to take off.
As more organizations became eager to implement sales enablement, software vendors developed technology to corral the volumes of data generated by buyers and sellers. Analysts began using reporting tools to make sense out of all that data, and from there, used it to pull actionable insights from reports to help sellers improve their interactions with leads and prospects.
Word spread as sales analysts joined forces with firms like Forrester, Gartner, IDC, and SiriusDecisions — and in 2013, the Sales Enablement Society (SES) was born, which solidified sales enablement’s status as an official profession.
A recent study published by CSO Insights found that today, 60% of sales organizations “have a dedicated person, program or function for sales enablement.”
According to an article on salesandmarketing.com, the number of vendors offering sales enablement solution doubled in the ten-year period between 2005 and 2015, creating a $700 million market projected to hit the $5 billion mark by 2021.
What we’re saying is, sales enablement has officially arrived.
While most organizations can recognize that yes, sales enablement is “a thing,” not everyone knows exactly what that thing actually is.
The Sales Enablement Society, or SES, defines sales enablement as follows:
“Sales Enablement ensures buyers are engaged at the right time and place, and with the right assets by well-trained client-facing staff to provide a world-class experience along the customer’s journey.”
John Moore, The Collaborator, VP of Revenue Enablement at Bigtincan and recognized Enablement thought leader, has defined Sales Enablement as:
“Sales enablement is the process of making sales teams able to efficiently move customers through the sales process to the point where the customer can make a buying decision.”
Regardless of definition, Sales enablement is designed to empower your sales team by giving them the tools and training they need to become better sellers. This includes access to content and information that they can use to create a better experience for buyers as they move through the journey — be it hyper-targeted content or an AR presentation that shows a complex product in action.
Sales enablement software, like Bigtincan, offers simplified collaboration, asset management, and mobile-first access to information, from articles and training sessions to the materials that help them sell to buyers.
What is the difference between sales enablement and sales operations?
Sales enablement and sales operations are two terms often used interchangeably, though they actually represent two different functions. However, when it comes to explaining the differences between sales enablement and operations, it’s important to first consider the similarities. Both have the same goal: To increase selling success.
We’ll quickly go over the definition for each:
Sales operations is the day-to-day tasks related to selling — this includes activities like cold-calling prospects, managing CRM records, or meeting with clients in-person. In other words, these are the things that a sales rep or sales support person does during an average workday.
Sales enablement, by contrast, represents the overarching strategy that defines how marketing and sales teams can work together to inform their strategy, achieve alignment, and close more deals.
- Sales operations focuses on managing sales activities like setting quotas, finding and setting up a CRM, tracking sales metrics, and more.
- Sales operations is all about managing sales-specific processes.
- Sales enablement is a big-picture strategy that aims to align marketing and sales teams.
- Sales enablement covers activities on both sides, including collaborative content creation and management strategies, sales readiness, analytics, and an understanding of buyer behavior, pain points, and goals.
Sales enablement best practices put the buyer first
So, what is it about sales enablement that makes it the belle of the SaaS ball all of a sudden? Or, perhaps more importantly, why is a sales enablement strategy now at the heart of an organization’s entire sales process?
To answer that question, you’ll need to zoom out a bit and consider the changing B2B buyer. This graphic quickly glosses over the bullet points of the shift from buyers relying on sales for information to the modern buyer taking matters into their own hands.
While going into detail here is best reserved for another post, here is a quick rundown of the key sales enablement best practices all teams should know:
- Embrace new selling strategies — this means making sales training and onboarding a bigger priority.
- Gain an understanding of what the sales team needs to better address customer questions and pain points.
- Bring marketing and sales together to develop content together.
- Create relevant content that combines marketing analytics with sales’ first-hand experience with real buyers.
- Make technology investments a priority — today’s sales process depends on access to data, automated tasks, and a connected view of every interaction with customers and leads.
The point is, buyers have hijacked the sales process by researching every nuance of a product or service online before ever speaking to a salesperson.
In many cases, especially when a buyer has investigated a niche product by a company that offers a wealth of options, the buyer may be more informed than the seller. The right sales enablement strategy allows sellers to connect with an increasingly sophisticated audience with high expectations.
Giving the upper hand back to your sales team by way of smart technology and a smarter sales enablement strategy is more crucial than ever.
While your organization might have a unique set of sales enablement best practices that help your reps connect with buyers, there’s no doubt that this technology is changing the game for sellers as they navigate an increasingly complex, data-driven sales environment.
Enablement teams must partner with sales managers and individual sellers to ensure they are delivering the right value to the organization. Use our Sales Enablement Survey to determine the questions to ask them to ensure you are meeting their needs.