Definition of Sales Enablement and Conversation Enablement

Definition of Sales Enablement

This blog follows IDC‘s Michael Gerard’s definition of Sales Enablement as posted on his blog ‘Musings on the Science and Art of Selling’:

“The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the right format and in the right place to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward”

John Neeson also has an excellent definition:

“Channel and Sales Enablement. Provide sales (direct and channel) the tools that will give them access to the knowledge assets that support in-process sales pursuits. Foster sharing of information on a two-way basis as information learned in the field can be used to tune, refresh, and continuously improve the knowledge base. […] focusing on “searchability and findability” of information.”

Definition of Conversation Enablement

Building on Michael Gerard’s definition of Sales Enablement, Conversation Enablement can be defined as:

The delivery of the right knowledge(=information provided in context) in the right format
and the right questions to ask (“Conversations are about discovery”)
to the right person at the right time and in the right place
necessary to move a specific conversation forward.

Without sales enablement, there are inefficient processes, communication flows, and more required rework

Brian Lambert posted “Sales 2.0 impact on Sales Process, Sales Enablement, Sales Development”

From July 15, 2008:

“[…] As more knowledge is provided to buyers through the Internet, opinion sites, and more research oriented sites, the power-shift from the seller to the buyer will certainly continue as international competition increases creating new and emerging markets for many industries.

The changing landscape of the sales environment is not only found in the buyer-seller relationship, it’s also found within the sales team. Turnover continues to be high and the talent shortage continues to create challenges for even the best and most-reputable sales teams. Sales managers sit at a critical junction point between sales execution and sales strategy — yet many are not provided resources, tools, and (perhaps most importantly) the time necessary to ratchet performance over the long term. To compound the issues, the system’s approach required to address unique customer challenges, respond to the competitive landscape, and create an agile, responsive sales organization involves more people than just the sales manager and sales team. It requires the alignment of sales development and training efforts as well as Sales Enablement and operational execution. […]

Sales Process Execution (SPE) requires the complete alignment of company resources to facilitate a responsive and agile customer relationship.  Without sales process execution, there are no sales. SPE is enabled by Sales 2.0 largely through CRM, SFA, Knowledge Management Tools, and customer-driven communications such as knowledge bases and wikis. […]

Sales Enablement improves sales capacity of the firm overall. Without sales enablement, there are inefficient processes, communication flows, and more required rework. While Sales Process Execution is mostly focused on the external relationships and buyer-seller interface, Sales Enablement (SE) is mostly concerned with the internal efficiency of the company.  SE initiatives are most impacting when optimizing existing work flow, processes, and administrative tasks.  The goal of SE therefore becomes is to “substitute” as much of the sales team member’s work as possible. By providing adequate task substitution as a primary goal of Sales Enablement,  sales teams are more free to spend time with customers. Sales Enablement in Sales 2.0 is largely the world of large-scale CRM tools, company intranet tools, and peer-to-peer sharing tools. There is more room for Sales 2.0 to support the internal working of the organization especially on critical inter-departmental communication and alignment. […]

Sales 2.0 tools can help organizations synchronize to individual buying organizations while freeing up sales team members from routine administrative tasks. […]”

Alignment of sales and marketing organizations

Over at her blog “MarketSense” Pamela Hudadoff wrote about Success in a Sales 2.0 World – a Marketing Viewpoint. Alignment of sales and marketing organizations is one of two aspects of Sales 2.0 that she believes are essential for marketing’s success in today’s web-based business climate:

“[…] Alignment of sales and marketing organizations.

The customer’s buying process crosses the boundaries that exist between marketing and sales organizations. Sure, there are problems of transferring information about the customer from one organization to another. But more important is the creation of a seamless buying experience that builds persuasive momentum from the first customer touch. That seamless buying experience can only be achieved when marketing and sales tackle the design and implementation of the buying experience together. […]”

Conversation Enablement – Presentations are about delivery. Conversations are about discovery.

Mark S. Bonchek took the time to answer some questions I had asked as comments on his blog post “Can We Talk?”.

Here are his answers as published in his blog post “Conversation Enablement” from February 3, 2009:

“Commenting on my earlier post “Can We Talk”, Paul agreed that “conversation enablement is the way to go” and asked some great questions.  They were so good that I’m going to use them as the structure for this post.  Hopefully they will spark further comments … and perhaps a conversation.”

Who is a thought leader in that space?

“I actually haven’t seen many thought leaders on real conversation enablement in sales situations.  There are a number of thought leaders on conversational marketing, but they don’t really address what happens one-on-one with a buyer, nor how to enable conversations that a buyer has internally with stakeholders.  Some of the sales training companies like The Complex Sale or Executive Conversation cover the conversational dimension of selling, but they tend to focus on sales skills, not what needs to happen to enable the conversation. […]”

Where can I find an approach for Conversation Enablement that works?

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a systematic approach yet for conversation enablement.  Or at least I haven’t found one.  I think one of our companies, Truman Company, knows as much about it as anyone, but it isn’t yet systematized.  Perhaps we should start a stub on Wikipedia?”

Are we talking wikinomics and opening up of enterprise social networks to our customers to get the voice of the customer in our organization?

“I think this could be considered in a broader definition of conversation enablement.  In some sense, even the scripts used in call centers could be considered conversation enablement — whatever helps employees hold productive conversations with customers and buyers.”

Or are we talking about our internal sales enablement application having more web2.0 components and providing the sales force with more food for thought for better conversations?

“This is where my interest has been:  in B2B settings, enabling better conversations among sales people about how to sell, enabling conversation among customers, and enabling better conversations by sales people with customers.”

Should the conversation with the customer happen online more often and face to face less often to leverage the collective conversation skills of more of my employees?

“It depends on the level of the customer in their organization.  As you move up into the managerial and executive ranks, you need to have a much greater focus on face-to-face.”

Or are we looking for more dynamic client presentations that can be generated customized by audience, industry vertical, type of meeting, country, etc…?

“This is necessary but not sufficient.  And it leads to my main point.  A conversation is not a presentation, no matter how customized it might be.  A presentation can help to provide context and be a catalyst for a conversation.  But it is not a conversation.  In a presentation, you know where you are going.  In a conversation, you don’t.  Presentations are about delivery. Conversations are about discovery.

We are having a conversation about conversation enablement because I don’t know the answers. If I did, I could just give a presentation.  But for now, we’ll need to discover the answer together in the context of a conversation.”