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What is Sales Enablement Anyway?
Blog / For Sales Pros / Sep 24, 2019 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 748 

What is Sales Enablement Anyway?

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In the last few years, there has certainly been a lot of talk about sales enablement—it’s one of those trendy terms that came around and has definitely remained.

There certainly is no sales enablement “magic bullet”—you utilize it and bang! instant results! People today will jump on any train when they hear it will bring immediate positive painless change—even as they’ve known there is no such thing. It’s like trying to win a gold medal without doing any training, even though you know that can never happen.

So what is sales enablement, really, and where is it going? Is it just a buzzword that becomes an umbrella for various solutions?

Compartmental or Holistic?

In my opinion, the number one problem with sales enablement is that we firmly place it in various company departments or divisions. In actuality, it should be a strategic leadership goal. Enabling sales should be done not just for the sales team, but for the entire organization, because every organization, in some form, needs to be enabled to sell.

We hear today that companies survive as well as they treat the buyer. We hear it over and over—the buyer! The buyer! The customer! The customer! Well, where exactly does the customer interact with the organization? Is it just in sales?

Let’s look at air travel. A passenger can have a wonderful experience in the pre-flight lounge, with boarding, and with the service during the flight. But that whole experience can be ruined when one of the links in the service chain is broken: the passenger has to wait 2 hours for their luggage! What will the passenger’s memory of that flight be? They will most like totally forget they had a very nice trip—simply because in their mind that experience is measured holistically, not in parts.

So when we’re speaking about the important factors in sales enablement, we need to view the whole customer experience—it’s not simply the charge of the VP Sales, or just for Sales and Marketing. It crosses the whole company, into support, customer service, accounts payable, and everywhere else.

It’s interesting that there is another buzzword that’s cropped up in the last couple of years: customer-centric. Well, what does that term mean? It certainly does not mean “customer-centric” in only one or two departments. It has to happen everywhere.

You must realize that your customer doesn’t view your company by the department. They’re not sitting there seeing “XYZ Company Sales” and “XYZ Company Delivery.” They view it as “XYZ Company”…period. If one department creates a mediocre customer experience, it colors the whole company.

Combination of Factors

As stated earlier, there is no single approach to sales enablement—“One thing, and we’re there!” No, it’s a combination of factors:

  1. Sales enablement has to go in from the highest level of the company.
  1. Sales enablement has to go in across every department.
  1. Sales enablement is a mindset—and cannot just be a mindset of 1 or 2 groups, but must be the mindset of the entire company.

In this way, I disagree with all my other colleagues on the subject, as their focus is strictly on salespeople. The whole company must be enabled to sell the product and satisfy the customer, and it is the task of management to produce value for customer satisfaction.

Of course, we want to enable the sales team—but why not see it holistically, and realize that a support person could be instrumental in sales? That doesn’t mean the support person is immediately selling, but they have the mindset to service the customer, and not just automatically shove them over to sales.

This single-department-focus mindset can be extremely frustrating for customers—just ask any American about calling their bank. In order to speak to a representative who will actually help them, the customer must navigate a maze of automated robots. They end up (at least I do, and I know I’m not alone) pounding on the “0” key to get a live person.

The Right People

In this series of articles, I’m not going to try and cover the entire broad aspect of sales enablement, as we’d be here forever. For example, sales enablement begins with finding and hiring the right people. I’ll be writing here about enabling “the right people” that are already there, and willing.

You can only really enable the sales team and others when you have someone who is the “enabler.” With a great football or soccer team, that person would be the coach. You can have the best players in the world, but if you don’t have a good coach, it won’t work. So in addition to having the right salespeople and the right team members, I’m also speaking from the viewpoint of having the right coach.

What It Takes to Win

American football season is about to start, and I’m a big fan of the New England Patriots. What will it take for them to win the Super Bowl again? As the season starts, they’ll certainly be asking that question. They have the coach, they have the team. How can these components be optimized and enabled to win?

For a company, what does winning mean? It means a satisfied customer. For there is one factor that is too often overlooked in business: winning a new customer is not easy. That’s why keeping the customer is crucially important, because it’s far easier to sell to an existing customer—extend, cross-sell, upsell—than to win a new one.

The Right Gear

In football, part of winning is the right gear. A gross example of this is, could you imagine a football team trying to play in sandals? A little rain and that field gets pretty slippery, so sandals won’t cut it. When the receiver has no gloves, they can’t catch the ball. With no helmets, they’re going to get pretty banged up.

In companies and in sales, this analogy translates over to having the right tools. Some companies “play the game” of customer satisfaction with gear this crude—Excel spreadsheets instead of a truly enabling CRM solution such as Pipeliner. What’s sad is that they might have decent team members and a good coach, but they cannot compete in this big, broad business world without the right gear. They’ll slip when it rains—and as we know, in real life, there are more rainy days than sunny ones.

Because the proportion of losses is generally high, I strongly believe that we need systems with which we can learn from losses. Lost opportunities can be accurately analyzed, and insights gained to enable sales and the rest of the company. If you don’t know why you’re losing customers, how can you enable sales and others not to lose them? It’s a contradiction. (Hint: Pipeliner CRM, with its Archive feature, totally provides for such analyses.)

Importance of Enablement

However we define it, sales enablement is very important today, and will become more so in the future. Why? Because even if you have a top performer, how much better are they going to be if they have the right shoes? How much more capable will that receiver be with gloves? And the defense if they have helmets?

Today’s business world is more competitive than ever, and becoming increasingly so as time goes by. There is more knowledge, better gear, and better preparation. We’ve certainly seen that in sports in the last 50 years, and it’s just as true in the business world.

In this series of articles, we’ll be focusing on enabling your sales team, and the rest of your company—arming them with the right tools to be effective and efficient. With the right tools, you can get in the game…and win.

Join me!

    About Author

    A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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