Every now and then there is a discussion on the definition of Sales Enablement

Every now and then there is a discussion on the definition of Sales Enablement. I tried to capture some at about and here.

Craig Rosenberg (@funnelholic), author of the b2b sales and marketing blog funnelholic.com, started the discussion “How do you define Sales Enablement?”, on May 25, 2010:

A user called “ED” responded with the following interesting point amongst other points:

“[…] I don’t define it as sales enablement; rather I use “Sales Optimization”. I say as I had one rather perturbed head of global sales once say “My sales people don’t need enablement from marketing”. So I’m always careful as to how I position the effort. […]”

Ardath Albee from marketinginteractions.typepad.com wrote the following response:

“1. Sales enablement is the process for helping salespeople to have conversations with buyers that the buyers’ perceive as valuable because the interactions is focused on helping them to achieve a high-priority business objective.
2. Sales enablement puts the conversational tools, storyline and end-stage content at a salesperson’s fingertips to help them engage buyers by focusing on what their products enable buyers to achieve, rather than the feeds and speeds of the products themselves. I agree with ED’s idea above that every marketing program should have a sales chapter.
3. Sales enablement is jointly owned by marketing and sales. Unless both sides collaborate on what’s needed (content, conversational guides, personas, etc.), integrate it with top of the funnel programs and construct a seamless end-to-end process across the cycle, no one is enabled.
In fact, this process should actually be called “buyer enablement.” The focus needs to be on helping buyers buy, not selling them products/solutions. That’s what drives relevance. The kicker is that both marketing and sales have insights that must be merged to create the best overall process. Marketing and sales are not two separate functions – not for buyers.”

A user called “perramond” said the following amongst other things:

“[…] Customer 2.0 doesn’t need your data sheets, positioning docs, competitive matrix, etc. They can find all that stuff (as well as your competitors’) without your help. So when your sales people do engage, they had better come to the table with something relevant and timely, something that helps the customer move to the next step in diagnosing and addressing an important business problem (wherever they might be in their buying process, vs. where they fall in your sales process.) […]”

Tamara Schenk (@tamaraschenk) (Portfolio & Offering Management – Innovation Center; T-Systems International GmbH) wrote the following:

“Our sales enablement initiative is based on the broad Forrester definition. Important criteria from my viewpoint are: it is a cross-functional discipline, it is a strategic ongoing process and it has very ambitious objectives: to equip all people touching the accounts with the right information in a well-structured, reusable way at all stages of the customers problem solving process / the customers buying cycle. Most important in an approach like this:

Sales enablement will deliver measurable business outcome!
Who owns sales enablement: I’m always wondering when this question appears. Wouldn’t we overcome “functional silo thinking” with an integrated sales enablement approach? As I see sales enablement as a joined approach, there can be no dedicated owner. There will be major stakeholders and other stakeholders, and normally one business unit sitting in the driver seat. And that’s not necessarily sales or marketing – portfolio & offering management can also be in a leading role.”

Let me extend what Tamara Schenk said:

It’s a cross-functional discipline, it’s a strategic ongoing process and it has very ambitious objectives: to equip all people touching the accounts (more than just pre-sales and sales) with the right information (sales playbooks, campaign information, ROI calculators and alike, documents/links, contact details of subject matter experts, etc.) in a well-structured (what is applicable where, who authored what, what can be used for how long?), reusable way (output in different formats or even auto-generation of tailored content) across all silos in the enterprise and in the right language(!) at all stages of the customers problem solving process / the customers buying cycle.
Having been on the enterprise side and having seen how many marketing dollars go into content production and towards polishing the look&feel I want to highlight how important it is that the money is only spent on content that works (content planning, content intelligence like tracking usage and ratings/comments) and if possible can even be done in-house.

The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer

In the group “Sales Enablement Gurus” on LinkedIn.com Tamara Schenk (@tamaraschenk) (Portfolio & Offering Management – Innovation Center; T-Systems International GmbH) left the following comment on a discussion called “Sales enablement platforms – needs and benefits”, which is the name of a blog post that can be found at the BizSphere blog, my blog and the original source – the Solution for Sales blog:

“The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer.” Right! If we remember a holistic sales enablement approach we should be able to equip all our client facing people with the right set of resources that they are able to have valuable conversations with the customers at each stage of their problem solving process (also see Forrester Research’s sales enablement definition).

What does it mean for content producing people in Marketing and Portfolio & Offering management and as well for the sales enablement platforms as a content and knowledge management foundation?
Content needs to become well structured, re-usable and easy to be customized, definitions of internal and external resources or content types are a prerequisite, too. Not only one or two slide decks for sales are necessary. First you should have content according to the sales cycle respectively to the customers problem solving process. Second resources for different audiences are required, e.g. for C-level, for workshops, for second and third meetings.
Third, to deliver all these resources, a certain degree of structure, re-useability and customizing of sales content is required.
For sales enablement platforms it means a lot of flexibility regarding taxonomies, relationships, collaboration features and e.g. features regarding content structures, re-useability, generating content automatically.

And last but not least a lot of sales resources are focused on the vendors company and portfolio structure, but where’s the customer? Sales resources without specific business value for the customer are not really helpful, the customer will alway ask “so what, what’s in for me?” Being aware of delivering business outcomes instead of products or solutions will be key for success.

In the long run vendors who are able to address business outcomes instead of product features, who are able to create a shared vision with an interesting business case will win the deals.”