What is ‘sales enablement’?

The term ‘sales enablement’ has emerged in recent times as a hot topic in the world of sales. However, it can have as many interpretations as there are sales teams, which leaves people feeling somewhat confused about what the term really means and entails.

Here are some people’s interpretations from online sales forums:

  • Sales enablement means being given the tools to sell… simple as that…
  • A practice/culture of telling the client what is truthful and deliverable so that an informed buying decision is committed to by a money input from the buyer, this is effective sales enablement.
  • Sales enablement is strategic, but a lot of tactical steps are necessary on this thousand mile journey.
  • Sales enablement is one of the catchphrases that have emerged based on the Sales 2.0 movement. Many of the 2.0 technology vendors use it in their messaging.
  • Sales enablement is the ongoing objective evaluation (and remediation – if required) of sales execution and support activities, to ensure the optimum balance of selling behaviour effectiveness and efficiency is being achieved with the customer, and is reflected in KPIs, results and customer satisfaction.
  • Without a doubt, sales enablement is marketing responsibility. In fact marketing responsibility is almost everything involved to make sure that a sale can happen (minus the actual field sales work).
  • Sales enablement is providing the right information and marketing assets to the right people at the right time to accelerate buying cycles and to increase revenue.

You can see my point about the confusion.

Well, hopefully this will be put to rest on August 28-29 at the fourth annual CSE Sales Leadership Conference where the theme is: Sales Enablement – Accelerate Sales Growth through Excellence, Execution and Innovation.

The conference speakers will endeavour to define the concept of sales enablement and present case studies that show how it can be executed effectively.

To give you some insights into this topic, Barrett’s sales strategist, Dr Peter Finkelstein, a key note speaker at the conference, has kindly provided us with a mini preview of his 11-page white paper presentation. Enjoy.

Peter Finkelstein says that sales enablement is a prize worth going for. Being the first organisation in a sector to get it right gives you (or if you hesitate, your rivals) an advantage that competitors will have difficulty matching. And best practice in sales enablement, when implemented effectively and for the right reasons, delivers handsome bottom line results.

So what is sales enablement?

Sales enablement – at Barrett we prefer to call it “Sales Fitness” – is the enterprise-wide discipline of creating an environment that helps salespeople sell more effectively by providing them with insights into buyer motivations, organisational behaviour and sales segment activities.

It’s about allowing sales managers to lead their teams to higher levels of performance. It’s about creating a structure that promotes an extrinsic view – placing customers at the centre of the organisation – rather than on the fringe. It is also about having the right sales hygiene, effective sales governance and the appropriate use of technology.

Sales fitness is as much about ensuring well-structured sales support, as it is about removing the shackles that inhibit sales performance. It is about encouraging salespeople to perform all of the tasks that collectively make up the function of “selling” in the most efficient way possible, with the least risk to either the corporation or the customer.

The effective deployment of any sales fitness initiative doesn’t rely on technology, but certainly uses it. However, those systems that inhibit flexibility and restrict the latitude salespeople now have to be replaced with technology that enables salespeople to sell more effectively.

Success in implementing sales fitness initiatives will really only be realised when management acknowledge (as Peter Drucker pointed out some decades ago) that: “The purpose of business is not to make a profit, but rather to satisfy customer needs. The consequence of satisfying those needs is an increase in profits…”

For sales fitness to deliver the kind of results expected, sales and marketing have to forge new, stronger and more meaningful partnerships, with both recognising the value of the other.

In my view, the greatest inhibitor to sales fitness lies with management’s lack of real understanding of sales and selling. The reality is that most senior managers, with all of their education, have only a theoretical understanding of selling. Just consider some of the major business degrees – even an MBA or a BCom – very little time is spent on the subject of sales and selling. In most, the concept of selling is mentioned as part of the marketing mix, not as a vital part of the value chain.

Sales fit organisations have learned that the real target is share of mind, not share of wallet. They know that if their salespeople are ‘Enduring Resources’, rather than product/service vendors they stand a better chance of forming meaningful partnerships with their customers that then results in incremental business on a sustained basis!

Finally, it is about ensuring that sales becomes an equal part of the value chain: If you really want a sales enabled/sales fit organisation, stop disrespecting the people in the sales function. Instead, invite sales to be part of the primary activities of the value chain; involve them in finding solutions, not simply being the problem; respect their insight and learn to trust and use the feedback to continually improve the way you do things.

The Barrett team will be attending the conference and, as always, we will report back on the key finding from the conference.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au

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