Sales Enablement Clarity Step 1: Establishing a Common Understanding

No doubt, sales enablement is a very fast growing discipline. Our annual studies show that in just five years, the percentage of organizations that reported having a sales enablement initiative or function discipline grew from 19% to 59%. In parallel, the confusion about sales enablement has also grown, because many people got into enablement roles in a short time. So, it comes as no surprise that the Sales Enablement Society is growing even faster than the discipline itself.

I’ve observed over the last few years that misconceptions often arise from differing functional perspectives. No, sales enablement is not another word for sales training, nor is it another word for sales content. And no, it shouldn’t be confused or mixed up with sales operations.

Understanding enablement requires a different perspective. We need to begin with the customer’s perspective at the center, not the various, “inside-out” functional perspectives.

Because this is what still happens in so many organizations: various functions push “random acts of sales support” (quoting Scott Santucci) over the fence to (or often at) the sales force, creating more confusion, more frustration, more inconsistency, with no adoption and business impact whatsoever. That’s one of the key reasons why we evolved our sales enablement definition from 2015, based on our research and our experience working with clients, first published in our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study. Our goal was increased clarity. Here you go:

Sales Force Enablement — 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.

  • Sales force enablement: Yes, we stick to sales force enablement, because a full blown enablement discipline enables all customer-facing professionals, and that also covers sales development and business development professionals as well as service associates and, most important, their managers. See also the revisited target audience: customer-facing professionals and their managers
  • Strategic: No doubt, the more strategic, the more effective: Enablement teams that follow a formal vision and a dedicated enablement charter set a foundation for a 27.6% improved quota attainment rate.
  • Collaborative: We changed “cross-functional” to “collaborative” because of the increasing impact of a formal collaboration model that has to cover internal collaboration partners, such as marketing, service, product management, sales operations, IT, L&D, and more functions, as well as third-party providers that help with technology, content, messaging, training and other services.
  • Predictable sales results: We added this adjective because senior executive sponsors want sales enablement to orchestrate all enablement efforts in a way that leads to more effectiveness and also to more predictability of their sales results. And yes, it’s about sales results, defined as a set of clearly defined KPIs an organization wants to achieve.
  • Consistent, scalable enablement services: We have summarized enablement services (such as content, training, coaching) and focused on what they need to be: consistent for salespeople and scalable from an organizational point of view. Also here, we wanted to cover senior executives’ expectations regarding scalability. Often, senior execs expect their enablement teams to onboard the sales force of an acquired company as fast as possible. Speed and adaptability are only possible when enablement teams have defined processes and procedures, and a portfolio of well integrated, consistent enablement services that can be easily scaled.
  • To add value in every customer interaction: We decided to address the customer’s path as primary design point for enablement with what truly matters and leads to the expected sales results: adding value (and being relevant and differentiating) in every customer interaction and along the entire customer’s path.
  • At the end, we have skipped the old “powered by technology” because now, it’s obvious that every single enablement service is based on some kind of technology. Instead, we wanted to focus on what really matters: to add value in every customer interaction.


The main purpose of a definition is to serve as a frame of reference. It gives all stakeholders a common understanding of what a sales enablement discipline is and allows enablement discussions to be more productive. However, neither our definition nor any other is a sufficient guide for creating an enablement practice that allows you to achieve your desired results.

Next week, in part 2 of this series, we will look at our sales enablement clarity model, a framework that will help you build and evolve your enablement practice.

Questions for you:

  • How did you define sales enablement in your organization?
  • How many different viewpoints did you have to manage?
  • How did your definition over time?


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