Where Does Enablement Belong? Debunking A Myth

Nikolaus Copernicus was the first scientist who suggested that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of our solar system. His thinking was exactly the opposite of what the authorities at this time, the churches, believed and preached. But many years later, Galileo proved that Copernicus was right.

In enablement, the question that is asked and discussed all over the place, often in a very opinionated way, is this:

“Where does enablement belong: in marketing or sales?”

Now, we have brand new data at hand. Our inaugural CSO Insights 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study provides interesting and thought-provoking data. This study is the first global study of its kind, with more than 500 participants from both small and large organizations, and from many different industries.

So, we evolve from opinions to facts. And it turns out that we have to change the question first. The question is no longer whether enablement belongs in marketing or sales. Instead, the new question is:

Where, in sales, does enablement belong?


More than three quarters (77.8%) of all organizations we surveyed placed the enablement function within the sales organization. Only 7.1 % indicated their enablement function reports into marketing. Another 15.1 % said enablement reports into various functions such as product/portfolio management, training, human resources and others. Now, the question becomes: Where in sales should enablement be located? More than half of the participants in our study said their sales enablement function reports to executive sales management (52.5%). The next most common placement was within sales operations (25.3%).

Enablement maturity determines the organizational allocation

Analyzing the organizational data in detail, and mapping the data to goals, priorities, and enablement maturity, the results are no longer such a big surprise. Putting the data in the context of the CSO Insights enablement maturity model and its different stages – required, recommended and world-class – is instrumental in understanding the data point. Let’s analyze how the organizational question evolves from the required level to the recommended level:

Required level with content focus:
If enablement begins its journey in the content domain, the program or function often reports into marketing, often product marketing. At this early stage, that can be quite the right placement. However, the scope of the enablement function is determined by the scope of the marketing organization. That means the enablement scope is often primarily focused on the earlier phases of the customer’s journey – on content and messaging services, including, for example, playbooks or guided selling scripts (“what to sell”). If training is also offered in this marketing constellation, it’s mostly focused on product training that ideally integrates value messaging.

Required level with training focus:
If enablement begins its journey in the training domain, the program or function is often in sales, or in L&D, etc. The focus here is mostly on “how to sell” training services that cover skills and competencies, methodologies, process and CRM. Enablement programs or functions in sales are often referred to by names such as sales training, sales effectiveness, and sales or field readiness.

Even though these programs or functions are not called enablement, they are clearly providing enablement services.

Recommended level of sales force enablement: Integration and effectiveness – in sales:
Sales enablement at the recommended level is defined as a scalable platform for productivity that is focused on integrating content and training, addressing frontline sales managers with coaching services, integrating enablement technology into CRM systems, and most importantly, executing a customer-core strategy. The more an enablement program or function has already delivered on its sales efficiency goals (that’s often the focus at the required level), the more it will be asked to improve sales performance and effectiveness, to create tangible business impact. To deliver on ever-more-demanding performance and growth goals, enablement must be built on a scalable platform, integrating content, training and coaching services, based on a customer-core framework. The best place to do this is in the sales, with the customer’s journey as the main design point. Where in sales? That depends on the culture, the size and the maturity of the sales organization.

The evolution of enablement clearly shows that the more mature an enablement function becomes, the more the function belongs in sales.

Where is enablement in your organization?

Do you plan to move enablement within your organization?

If so, what will that move look like?

Related blog posts:

What is Maturity in Sales Enablement?

Sales Enablement: How to Get to the Required Level?

Enablement Maturity: Reaching the Recommended

We All Need Ambitions: The World-Class Level in Enablement

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