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Defining Sales Enablement

31 March 2011

I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders. This is the first of three excerpts from my interview with Sharon Little, director of field marketing communications for VMware.

Anneke: You have a mission statement for your sales enablement group. What is it?

Sharon: To deliver high-value consumable information that builds competency, drives culture and enables performance for the field.

Anneke: Isn’t that Marketing’s job? What’s the difference between what your group does and what Marketing does?

Sharon: We do the translation and packaging of information created by Marketing and other sources. Our job is to make that content prettier and more actionable for the sales team. For any content, we can determine what’s missing and fill in the pieces to make information worthy of the sales person’s time.

Anneke: What’s the difference between Sales Enablement and Sales Operations?

Sharon: In my view, Sales Operations sits between Finance and Sales, while Sales Enablement is the liaison between Marketing and Sales. Sales Operations works on behalf of Finance on things such as budgets, compensation plans, metrics and technology to make sales people more productive. I believe that, over time, Sales Enablement will provide the same service for Marketing.

Anneke: What are the most important words of advice you’d give sales executives looking to implement a sales enablement program?

Sharon: I would start by asking them to open up their perspective on how they view sales enablement. This is about transformation — not just training, communications and kickoff. Every sales leader must be thinking about how to prepare their teams for the next hurdle — a well-articulated sales enablement operation is strategic on many levels. At a minimum, sales leaders must insist that programs and tools be consumable, actionable and easily absorbed by the sales team, and in a format that can be put to use with a customer immediately, without hours of modification. Equally important, they should be integrated and aligned with the rest of the tools the sales organization uses on a regular basis. They should tie together, support each other and just make sense. I call this, “The golden thread of sales enablement.”

I truly believe that, five years from now, every sales executive will insist on having an experienced sales enablement team at his or her disposal. Sales enablement is the key to solving sales and marketing alignment issues, and it is the lever sales leaders need to drive performance. Sales operations measures what you are doing and predicts future performance. Sales enablement makes it actionable.

Read the full interview with Sharon Little in the Resources section of this website.