The past few years taught us just how rapidly economic conditions can change — and how agile enterprises need to be to stay ahead of them. Approaches to hiring, management, and growth have changed drastically in a short span of time thanks to said economic headwinds, and what worked six months ago won’t work six months from now.

In the past several months alone we saw: 

  • Enterprises, B2B tech companies in particular, move from a “growth at any cost” approach to a focus on driving operational efficiency at scale.
  • Fewer managers overseeing more employees with less time for one-on-one coaching.
  • Customer retention and upsell opportunities prioritized over attracting new business.
  • Buyer preferences turn toward rep-free experiences and self-guided purchasing, rendering traditional sales enablement tactics ineffective. In fact, almost 40% of sellers said they’ve closed deals over $500,000 without ever meeting the buyer face to face in LinkedIn’s 2022 State of Sales Report.

In order to meet this growing list of changing demands, enterprises will need to stay hyper-focused on engaging customers and achieving operational excellence. They’ll need to shift focus from a seller-first enablement model to a business enablement model that activates the entire organization.

Let’s dive into what business enablement is and why it’s the next era of enablement for B2B enterprises looking to stay ahead of mercurial markets and fierce competition.

Putting business enablement in context

Evolution has no endpoint, but business enablement is the next logical stopping point or plateau for sales enablement — at least for the foreseeable future.

Ten years ago, many organizations had sales training teams but very few enablement titles. Sales enablement was mainly a split between sales and marketing with the goal of creating sales collateral and/or implementing sales methodologies.

Gartner sales and revenue enablement chart

In recent years we’ve seen defined sales enablement roles emerge, become more strategic, and evolve to revenue enablement as the focus expanded to include more customer-facing roles.

Related reading: Breaking down the definition of sales enablement software

This next era of enablement, what we’re calling business enablement, stems directly from an economic environment in which mass layoffs and rising costs are the norm, and is driven by the need for organizations to become more and more operationally efficient to succeed.

The goals of business enablement

Whereas sales and revenue enablement connote focus on sales productivity and sales training, business enablement puts less focus on sales and more focus on the whole ecosystem that touches the customer and serving customers at a higher level.

I’ve described the 3 Pillars Of The Business Enablement Framework previously. For now I want to focus on how enterprise leaders can quickly pivot to a business enablement model using existing enablement technology to:

  1. Achieve and maintain operational efficiency
  2. Align the entire organization around the customer

Achieving and maintaining operational efficiency

The first step is building a strong core team.

Focus less on onboarding and more on coaching your existing team through changing strategies and challenging times to create and maintain that operational efficiency. Are your teams taking on more work or different responsibilities? Train them in those new skills now before they’re tasked with onboarding new hires who will take on those duties in the future.

With fewer managers and less time for direct coaching and mentorship, you need to rely on tech to help do that.

If you have a sales or revenue enablement platform, you most likely already have the tools you need (depending on the platform). Take advantage of features and processes such as:

  • AI and machine coaching which automates and personalizes the coaching process to free up manager time.
  • Scorecards that correlate learning adoption with CRM data to show how learning content is impacting revenue as well as who’s making an effort to learn and who isn’t.
  • Peer learning, a continuous training approach that leverages institutional knowledge and facilitates a method to share it so reps can learn from each other.
  • Easy content authoring that enables all your employees to quickly create video-based training content that can be updated anytime and accessed from anywhere.

Develop your current team’s expertise in these processes now so you are ready to scale when hiring and growth pick back up.

Aligning the entire organization around the customer

Companies can embrace true business enablement by preparing and upskilling the entire ecosystem that touches the customer. That means leveraging the power of all the resource touchpoints starting with sales and marketing, continuing to customer success, and all the way through to account managers and channel partners.

And it’s not about buying or building new software — sales and revenue enablement software is already primed to enable the whole business to serve the customer. It's about applying proven sales training methods to your entire workforce, including: 

  • Microlearning and microvideo, a short form video of about 30-60 seconds long that allows people or an enterprise to rapidly share information and get everyone on the same page with product updates, messaging, or other urgent information that impacts the customer experience (source: Aragon Research Top Ten Technologies for 2023).
  • A combination of audio/visual training tools and materials to increase knowledge retention and enable consultative selling.
  • Collaborative tools for cross-functional communication, which will overtake email as the primary way people collaborate outside of meetings by the end of 2025, according to Aragon Research’s Top Predictions for 2023 and Beyond.

It’s also not a complete overhaul of your KPIs. You’ll want to track the usual sales metrics like win rates, average selling price, time to first sale, sales cycle length, and lead and funnel conversions, but business enablement calls for more focus on:

B2B enterprises need to pivot to business enablement now to achieve operational efficiency and customer centricity so they’re ready to jump back into growth mode when markets rebound.

If you’re heading up revenue operations at your organization and you're looking to lay the groundwork for business enablement but aren’t sure where to start — let’s talk strategy. Book some time with me here.