Guest Post by Melissa Madian, Founder at TMM Enablement Services @MelissaMadian

Sales Enablement. It’s a role that is both confusing and so hot right now.

If you are in Marketing, your definition of Sales Enablement may sound something like the ability to provide Sales with the content they need, when they need it. Sales enablement software platforms have generated a lot of buzz around this definition of Sales Enablement, understandably so since they are trying to create a market in which to sell things; but content is only a small portion of what Sales Enablement is all about.

If you are in Sales, perhaps your definition of Sales Enablement is training. Train the sales team, run new hire bootcamps, make sure they are consuming their learning packages and get their managers involved if they are not taking their training. Except learning materials are also a small portion of what Sales Enablement is all about.

At its true core, Sales Enablement is about providing the revenue-generating functions of an organization with the process, tools and training they need to create and develop customers, with the intent of building customers for life. It is in practice focused on Sales’ ability to acquire new customers, although I’d maintain that Enablement on the Customer Success side is equally important, as keeping and growing current customers is critical to the longevity of an organization.

The content and training in Sales Enablement should encompass three major categories:

  • Knowledge – What is “on the truck” for me to sell as a salesperson.
  • Skills – What skills do I need to be successful as a salesperson at this company.
  • Behaviours – The process by which I drive my opportunities to close, and the tools I use to facilitate that process.

These three categories cross multiple departments and that is where a Sales Enablement function can really provide value; by being that connective tissue between departments to help develop, consolidate, and deliver the materials, training and processes that Sales needs to be successful.

Imagine your Sales team are all in a fabulous night club with your prospects and customers. In front of that club is the Sales Enablement function, acting as the bouncers. Any department trying to get into the club to give something to Sales – content, training, knowledge, tools, a new process – must go through the Sales Enablement bouncer who determines whether the information is something Sales can use at that moment in the club. If not, the department needs to get in line behind everyone else trying to get in.

Which means that Sales Enablement should sit under the Sales department, as the gatekeeper to all things for Sales.

Having the function sit under Marketing is not a bad thing; it’s just not the most effective place for Sales Enablement to live and thrive. Remember that the customer for Sales Enablement is the Sales team. If the function sits in Sales, then Enablement is viewed as an extension of the Sales team – Enablement has direct access to what Sales needs, and why they need it, and can translate that back to the departments who provide content, training or support.

Plus, there is a credibility play here. Sorry Marketing, but a Sales Enablement department’s street cred goes WAY up if they sit under Sales. If Enablement sits in Marketing, the function will only ever be viewed as a Marketing resource responsible for content and product information.

The key thing to determine in your organization is to what metric are you holding your Sales Enablement function accountable? If the answer is external content consumption and distribution, with a splash of training, then you probably have a Marketing-centric view of Enablement. Instead, consider holding Sales Enablement accountable to metrics that matter in Sales – effects on pipeline growth, deal velocity, deal size – these metrics force a Sales-centric view of Enablement, designed to encourage the creation, retention and growth of customers.

About Melissa T. Madian@MelissaMadian

Winner 20 Women Leaders to Watch in Business in 2018.
Ranked 10th of the 35+ Most Influential Women Leading B2B Marketing Technology.

Melissa has spent the past 20 years in sales, customer experience, and developing corporate frameworks to make sales and customer success teams more effective.  She was one of the first people to pioneer the “sales enablement” role within an enterprise corporate structure, and loves seeing teams grow personally and professionally by leveraging training and coaching.