Is It Sales Enablement, Buyer Enablement or Both?

Are you working in a sales enablement role? A buyer enablement role? Is your role called something else (and you don’t even care), and you are equally focused on driving sales performance and the specific sales results that matter most for your organization?

Let me share a few thoughts and data to put this discussion into perspective of what really matters. To do that, we’ll go back a few years in the short history of sales enablement.

Is buyer enablement really such a new idea?

There currently are a few discussions out there that could make people think the term “buyer enablement” is the latest shiny object in the foggy sales enablement sky. I can tell you with 100% certainty that this is not the case; instead, the discussion around sales enablement and buyer enablement is already a few years old.

Between 2010 and 2013, a group of sales enablement leaders—all early adopters in the tech industry—discussed this very topic. Most of these early adopters worked with Scott Santucci, who at the time was leading the sales enablement practice at Forrester Research. Scott always advocated a customer-centric approach; in fact, the term “go-to-customer” was created in his group. At the time, I was leading global sales enablement at T-Systems and wrote on my personal blog about the idea of buyer enablement back in 2012. Of course, my thinking has evolved a lot over time. The point here is that buyer enablement is not an entirely new idea.

Let’s first establish a sales enablement foundation so that we are all on the same page.

Step one is about getting clarity on the term “sales enablement.” At CSO Insights, we define sales enablement—sales force enablement, to be precise—as a strategic, collaborative discipline designed to increase predictable sales results by providing consistent, scalable enablement services that allow customer-facing professionals and their managers to add value in every customer interaction. Click here to review the background of this definition and how it has evolved over the past couple of years.

Step two is to have a holistic framework such as our sales enablement clarity model, which reflects all facets of sales enablement that have to be addressed over time to build a strategic sales enablement engine that drives the necessary transformation in your sales organization to meet modern buyers’ preferences.

Sales enablement and buyer enablement are actually two sides of the same coin. (click to tweet)

If you understand sales as a profession that’s genuinely focused on solving customers’ problems rather than pushing products, then there is no separation between the two. In fact, effective sales enablement efforts, based on this understanding, will lead to buyers who are perfectly enabled to make their best buying decision. This way, sales enablement does engage, equip and empower sellers in a way that makes them relevant, valuable and differentiating in every buyer interaction.

And if buyers perceive an interaction as valuable (I understand how to achieve my outcomes), relevant (this is really what we need in our context and where we are right now) and differentiating (that was creative and didn’t sound like all the other vendors), then they are enabled to make their best decisions. Looking at the discussion this way, you do one to achieve the other. But that requires we set up sales enablement the right way.

Principle 1: Whether you call it sales enablement or buyer enablement, customers have to be your primary design point. (click to tweet)

That’s the core issue of the discussion around sales enablement and buyer enablement: Many organizations still set up their enablement functions with a product-pushing perspective, organizing all of their enablement services based on their products while they ignore the need to tailor their messages and services to the customer’s path. Although these organizations claim to be very customer-centric, the data speaks a clear language:

  • Organizations that align their selling processes to the customer’s path in a dynamic way (only 20.7% do that) improve their quota attainment rate by up to 8.9%. (click to tweet)


  • Organizations that align their sales enablement services to the customer’s path, buyer roles and their business problems improve their win rates by up to 11.5%. (click to tweet)


  • Organizations that don’t care about the customer’s path pay high costs of doing nothing, decline their win rates by -15.2% (!) compared to the study’s average win rate. (click to tweet)


Principle 2: Your sales force and its specific challenges are sales enablement’s secondary design point. (click to tweet)

This principle means that the sales enablement services you provide should be designed with the customer’s path in mind while addressing your sellers’ and their managers’ specific challenges. As an example, if you implement a new value messaging approach, you might update all of your content assets, your playbooks, tools, etc. That value messaging approach contains different messages for different customers’ path phases, different buyer roles and problems you solve.

In parallel, you might know the challenges your sellers face in having conversations with new buyer roles in a different way. And then there are new messages. So you will provide sales training services that allow them to learn and practice these conversations to gain confidence and fluency. Additionally, you might tailor your coaching services for sales managers to teach them how to coach along those lines.

The key to success is to design your enablement services through the lens of the customer’s path while addressing the sales force’s specific challenges. (click to tweet)

Stay tuned! Next week we will add another term to the discussion and talk about revenue enablement.

On a related note, we just launched the survey of our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study. Thanks for taking 15 min of your time to participate in this survey so that we can continue to help you! Click here to get started.

What’s in it for you? You will be among the first to receive the full report, before it is open-market. And, you can download exclusive members-only sales enablement research right after completing the survey, and become a member of our research community.

Thank YOU!


Questions for you:

  • What’s your function called? Sales enablement? Another name? Was the name changed recently? If so, why did that happen?
  • What’s the main goal of your enablement efforts?
  • Is the name of your function impacted by the function you report to?


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