Sales Enablement Reporting Structures: Update 2017

Recently we launched our third annual CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Study to the open market. Also, I had the pleasure of attending the Sale Enablement Society’s Experience Sales Enablement conference in Dallas (search for #SESociety to get more insights). It was an amazing gathering, driven by a collaborative, creative, courageous, and innovative spirit to become a platform for enablement leaders, professionals, vendors, academics, and analysts.

Various tracks addressed all things enablement from different perspectives. I led a session as part of the enablement strategy track. As usual, one of the questions that is always discussed is, “Where should enablement sit in the organization?” Let’s look at some data.

There is an increasing trend that enablement teams report to executive sales management. 

In 2015, 52.5% reported to executive sales management. Last year it was 60.8%, and this year 72.5%. This is a growth rate of 38% (!) compared to 2015.

The more mature enablement becomes, the more likely it is that the discipline will report to executive sales management. That also requires a shift from driving productivity to impacting sales performance in a sustainable way.

There is also a decreasing trend of sales operations being a home for sales enablement.

In the same time frame, sales operations’ role as a home for sales enablement decreased quite significantly. The more mature sales enablement becomes, the more likely it is that ops and enablement will be considered parallel, with both reporting to executive sales management. As sales operations functions existed earlier on, it was in the beginning easy to put the “new kid on the block” called sales enablement underneath sales operations. Now, leaders understand more and more that sales operations’ role is focused on providing the infrastructure –processes, methods, and technology – as a platform for productivity for the sales force. Based on this foundation (which, ideally, will be scalable), sales enablement can equip all customer-facing professionals to be relevant, valuable, and differentiating in every customer interaction. Doing this, it’s incredibly important to have an excellent platform for productivity.

Marketing’s role as a home for enablement didn’t change much

The more mature enablement functions become, the less likely they are to report to marketing. They only do so when organizations begin with enablement, focused on content and messaging. However, that doesn’t mean that marketing has no role in more mature sales enablement functions. The opposite is the case. The more mature enablement becomes, the more orchestrating its role becomes. And that means that enablement has to ensure consistency and effectiveness across all enablement services, covering content, tools, training and coaching, but leaving the accountability for specific content assets (as an example) with marketing and other involved functions.

Do large organizations have different reporting lines for enablement?

Yes, they do. Organizations above $1billion in annual revenues have different structures. In these organizations, 52.5% report to executive sales management, but 37.3% report to sales operations. Also here, marketing doesn’t play a big role (6.8%).

Are world-class performers’ reporting structures different?

Yes. The more successful organizations are, the more strategic their enablement approach is, and the more likely they are to report to executive management. The average quota attainment of the 2017 sales enablement study was 57.7%. Those who report to executive sales management achieved 59.8% quota attainment. The study’s average revenue plan attainment was 86.8%. Those reporting to executive sales management achieved 91.4%.

Will sales enablement soon report to the CEO?

At the Sales Enablement Society’s conference in Dallas, there was a discussion about whether or not sales enablement should report to the CEO. Some stats shared at the conference supported this statement, for high-performing organizations. The foundation of this discussion was actually the huge economic challenges and the difficulties for many organizations to grow organically. So, the question becomes: who is responsible for growth in the organization? This was one of the questions raised and discussed by Scott Santucci, Robert Racine, Britton Manasco, Thierry van Herwijnen and me.

As our data suggests, there is a strong trend of enablement becoming more mature and more strategic in its approaches, making a tangible impact on performance. And that could also mean an impact on growth targets. We will continue our research to see if the impact will increase to the point where a reporting line to the CEO is justified.

Given the customer’s journey as design primary point for enablement and the huge need to design and tailor enablement services along the customer’s journey to be effective, an additional question I want to ask is: Who is responsible for the overall customer experience? And how will this role impact the future home for sales enablement that could soon transition into customer enablement?

Questions for you:

  • What’s the organizational home for enablement in your organization?
  • Are there discussions to change the scope and the approach of enablement?
  • Are you looking for a new home for enablement in your organization?
  • What are the reasons for your current enablement home?


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1 Comment
  • Peter Strohkorb
    Posted at 03:24h, 06 December

    Well, the trend to SE coming under Sales Management is clear, and it also makes sense (to me at least)…

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