Does Sales Training = Sales Enablement?

In recent months I’ve noticed a significant increase in the attention focused on the enablement of Sales organizations.  In Silicon Valley alone I find several online postings for positions for a Sales Enablement Director or VP being sought today.  This has prompted me to further think about the sales enablement challenge resulting in the following observations.

Sales enablement is a subset of the sales operations profession.  Sales enablement can be one of the more impactful aspects of our scope of responsibility but it is often incorrectly confused with sales training.  According to the Sales Leadership Roundtable of the Corporate Executive Board, sales enablement encompasses these elements:Process Flow Chart

  • Sales Process Development
  • Sales Process Adoption and Compliance
  • CRM Development and Processes
  • Sales Tool Development
  • Sales Training
  • Sales Force Communications Management

Notice that only one of these six elements is sales training yet many folks don’t clearly differentiate between sales training and sales enablement.  Also note that the other five bullets relate to policy, process and technology.  While that’s the sweet spot for sales ops, too often this leads to a training program focused as much on process as it is on products and selling skills.  Is this wrong?  Maybe.

In some selling environments such as inside sales where the sales resource is exercising these processes on a frequent basis it is essential that they understand and use the processes correctly.  Training focused on process is definitely warranted.  However, this is generally not the case with enterprise field reps who may only book a handful of orders (or less) each quarter.  When they need to exercise their knowledge regarding a process too much time has passed and too many other competing considerations have taken higher priority.

So, while traditional training can address the needs of the high volume inside sales organization what do we do for the enterprise sales person who only occasionally needs these skills?

I would offer that both high and low volume users of your processes and systems benefit by the integration of necessary training in the very systems they use.  One could consider this a “just in time” approach to training.  I’ve also heard it called “guided selling.”  Either way the goal is to present to the sales resource with context sensitive guidance regarding his/her next options according to the prescribed process.  This concept is extensible way beyond process training into sales playbook and sales methodology.  If you are an SFDC user interested in embedding guidance in SFDC you could look at Ontuitive, SalesMethods or WalkMe among several possible providers.

We could take a lesson from the B2C side of business.  Have you ever ordered a product from Amazon?  Did you get any training on their policies or read the Amazon instruction manual?  Of course not!  The completion of your order was made possible by the guidance provided to you in the UI, not in a PowerPoint presentation you saw several months ago as is typically the case with sales training.

Transferring this concept to the systems used in selling would be effective in optimizing the efficiency of your sales team.  Thinking about your processes with this in mind can also result in process simplification, which is a huge factor in improving productivity.

As a sales operations practitioner how great would it be to never again get a desperate call from one of your Account Executives who needs a quote, discount approval, credit approval, contract, deal structure, etc. and they can’t figure out how to do it in your CRM system?  That would be a big win!

What ideas do you have to improve the efficacy of Sales Enablement?


Bob Bacon


About Bob Bacon

I work with global B2B high tech Sales leaders to help them enable and optimize the effectiveness of their organization Find out more about Bob here:
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