Earlier this month, SiriusDecisions held an executive summit in Seattle focused on the topic of sales enablement.  It was, in typical Sirius fashion, a morning packed with best practices, frameworks and great ideas to improve operations and results in any B2B sales & marketing set-up.

Following the event, I asked the presenting analysts – Jim Ninivaggi and Edge Coble – to talk more about sales enablement: how they define it, how it’s evolving in modern marketing organizations, and what it might look like in the next couple years.

Every attendee last week had a different definition of sales enablement. What does it mean to you? How should leading companies define and implement sales enablement?
At SiriusDecisions, we know that rep productivity is the combination of making reps more efficient and improving their effectiveness. Sales operations focuses on rep efficiency, whereas sales enablement improves your reps effectiveness. For example, efficiency improvements allow your reps to make more sales calls but they still need to be able to close effectively. This is the role of sales enablement.

Implementing sales enablement is not a quick fix that is addressed by a single tool or training program. The function will oversee and measure the assets, skills, knowledge, processes, and tools needed to make reps more effective. This requires commitment from all levels within the sales and marketing organizations.

Plenty of marketing organizations develop a ton of collateral and training materials, and figure they’ve enabled sales. Why isn’t that working, and what is the usual reaction to sales from this approach?
The ability to create and distribute content has increased significantly in the past fifteen years. Before that time, content was restricted by physical space and production costs limiting the total number of content offerings to the field. Marketing could easily tell what content was being used based on what was being ordered by the field and the content that wasn’t working.

The other issue is that sales enablement has been equated with collateral and training materials. In the best-run organizations, as mentioned in my previous answer, sales enablement oversees and measures the assets, skills, knowledge, processes, and tools needed to make reps more effective.

The lines between sales & marketing in B2B are blurring, especially as marketing organizations take on more revenue responsibility. How can more organizations move towards this kind of model, what are the best practices for it, and what also are some of the speed bumps to avoid?
In the past, marketing organizations where viewed as a necessary expense. Today, marketing organizations have a direct impact on revenue. For example, in the past, marketing would stuff as many leads possible into the top of the sales funnel. Today, best in class marketing organizations have a rigorous lead scoring process that has been developed with the sales organization. This tight partnership between sales and marketing is found in the most successful companies.

Your frameworks for sales enablement are great, but they can also be intimidating for companies that haven’t built up the infrastructure yet. How do you recommend companies get started? What are some of the most important, foundational components of sales enablement?
As sales enablement is a journey, it is less about the speed at which your company adopts sales enablement, but rather adopting the practice and making the commitment for change. If a company is just defining their sales enablement function we would recommend that company look at all the various departments that are currently enabling your sales team.

This can include HR, field marketing, product marketing, training, etc. Sales enablement should act as the conduit for all those activities by coordinating, partnering, or owning specific activities. Start with the processes that can be quick wins such as sales certification and asset management.

Do you think the idea of “sales enablement” will still exist in 3-5 years, or will it be blended into the core of how the organization manages the buyer journey and sales growth? Put another way, will we still need to be explicit about it, or will it be more naturally embedded in the organizational DNA?
Sales enablement is still a developing function. It is hard to say if in three to five years this will be part of an organization’s DNA. We do believe that it will be a separate function and are already seeing that practice with best in class companies.

For non-subscribers who want to learn more, what should they read or download to dig further into this topic?
I would direct non-subscribers to our research site and our blog.