Ultimately, it comes down to enabling our salespeople to sell better, right?

Brenda Harris, Senior Sales Enablement Manager at Oracle gave a brief history of sales enablement and what it entails, before detailing how best to approach sales training and how to deliver the most effective strategies to get the most from your sales teams.

What is sales enablement? A brief history.

"If there's a business needing to sell to another business, there's sales enablement going on. In the 30's, it was all written.  

How to Win Friends and Influence People. That book was written in the 1930's. And it's still being sold today. People are still reading it. Because it's a sales tool!

Especially back then, it was really for those salespeople to understand ‘how do I engage with my customers better and build better relationships?’

Then we move on to the 1940s through the 60s where we have the traveling salesman. We sometimes think about selling encyclopedias, going door to door, selling vacuum cleaners and things like that.

But there's also the salespeople that go and visit other companies. They're on the road all the time, and they have very little technology. They have a landline but that's pretty much it.

Then we move into the 80's, where we start to come up with strategic selling. This was the first sales methodology that was ever created, I guess you could say. It was basically building a structure around what a salesperson needed to do in his daily job.

Also, the invention of the first cell phone was in the 80's. I think it was Motorola. Not all salespeople could afford a Motorola cell phone back then, but some of the bigger companies did and it really helped to improve the way that they were able to communicate with their prospects and customers.

Then we move into the internet being invented. Not only did sales people have access to customers information but the customer also is now able to get more information on your products and services.

So there's another element there that they have to deal with. They're starting to get more knowledgeable about what you sell.

Then we move into the 2000's, where we've got all sorts of new technologies. Companies started developing marketing tools, software that would interact with sales tools.

So it really started to change the way that those two functions would speak to one another. So we would have marketing campaigns that would be created and it would feed into sales solutions. The salesperson could have insights into both of those things.

Now we have more of a scientific selling process where we're bringing in AI, things like that. We're taking data from all different places, and we're analyzing it. And then we're putting it into a way that we can present it to the salesperson so he could better understand who they need to be selling to."

Challenges to training

"70 billion dollars is what is spent in the US on training. That's $1459 per salesperson.

That's one of the big reasons a lot of companies are now moving away from instructor led training into more of an e-learning to manage your customer base, as it's cheaper.

The other challenge arose from 2008. With the recession, companies really started to cut back significantly on sales training. They were spending way too much money.

Even now that things are better, there's still resistance to spend a lot of money on sales training. So that's another problem that we're facing.

The other is the rise of AI.

We have a lot of different ways that we can collect information about our customers and products. So that's something that we also need to think about.

Because of all of these technologies coming into play, it's really decreasing how many salespeople we can have."

Understanding and utilizing different content

"For us in product marketing, one of the key things to mention is sales plays.

It's really a play around how to solve a specific problem for our customer. It could be very industry specific or very solution specific. Although, solutions don't really get included into the method until the very end.

We care about what problem the customer is having and how we're going to solve that problem.

Battle cards, elevator pitches and customer presentations make up the key content that the salesperson can use.

Then there's product development, they're putting content together all the time and sharing it as well.

You have to be very cognizant of what they're creating and where they're keeping their content.

There's solution overview decks, as well as the customer success deck. They're very in touch with customers who are actually using our software. They get stories from them that they will actually share with other customers. That could be very valuable to to our salespeople.

They focus on competitive intelligence.

We know what our sales people should be aware of when they're going into a deal; where they're competing, against what competitor, objection handling.

Then of course, they're going to have information on the product roadmap."

Sales enablements' role

"What we do is take a collaboration of those two things and put together our content. It is orientated towards how to position that product or service to sales.

We take the corporate messaging, collaborating all of this content together to create an e-learning program for sales.

It could be a solution overview. It could be a sales play, sales play specific training and we do training for our SE's as well. We also do a little bit of instructor led as well.

We have two programs for our brand new recruits out of college or new salespeople coming into the organization. they go through a weeks training. For the most part, it's all e-learning.

This can vary with different companies, but this is the learning journey for our salespeople and our solution engineers.

When they first come in their onboarding they get an introduction of what it is that they're going to be selling. It's really more of an overview, then they move on up to product specific training. They need to understand all the products that they are allowed to sell.

There's a lot of industries, right. So in some cases, they only can sell to certain industries. So they need to be able to understand how they're going to sell to a particular industry.

I focus specifically on CX service and CX sales. That's what we call a particular pillar. A lot of it falls under the umbrella of cloud, then we start breaking it down to more specifics.

Then they can take all of that and then message it to the customer. It's all about the messaging.

The sales play packs we do probably every quarter, maybe three different play packs for our particular pillars."


"There's other ways to stay connected. We do a lot of on demand. We do a lot of webcasts. We started a program I used to host is called '5 and 15.' It's focused around five things that you need to know about a particular topic in 15 minutes.

Because salespeople have very short attention spans. If it's longer than that they're not going to pay any attention. It's only 15 minutes! It really boomed and it's still going today.

That was when I was in product marketing, but it's really a great way to and we do it every week for them to just get 15 minutes of really, really good, important information."

Metrics and measuring

"To measure, we use a learning management system so that we know; who's taking it, did they pass the assessment? In some cases, courses are required, learning plans are required. So that's a good way to measure who's consuming.

Also sales leadership can see ‘well of those that have been taking these courses, how well are they doing?' Or maybe someone that's not doing so well hasn't taken any, maybe we need to push him to start taking some of these courses."


"One of the key things is creating the sales enablement community. The mission really is for sales enablement communities to collaborate across all the lines of businesses.

All the lines of businesses that are important to this process. So it could be, your solution engineers, leaders, sales, leadership, product marketing, of course. In some cases product development.

The whole mission of this is to get all these people together. We do it once every couple of months to  focus on what's happening the next quarter. It needs to be done at least this often. It's hard to get a lot of time, but it's very, very important to do this process.

It's crucial to make sure everyone understands what the objectives of this meeting are. We're defining and coordinating products, solution training. Asking 'what's the next big thing that's coming up? Where are our gaps that we need to be able to fill?'"


"It can be contentious between these three groups, right? Because everybody has their idea of what they think it is that they need. It's so important for us as sales enablement leaders to make sure we're taking everyone's opinions into account and providing the best solutions.

Well, is it just a lot of talk? Or is there something really to it? How are you going to use that? What value is that going to give to you? It's good to get all these people in the same room to understand what it is they actually need.

Since we are focusing so much on e-learning, it's important for us to make it really engaging. It shouldn’t be  just a PowerPoint that you're watching so you fall asleep, or you're just walking away whilst letting it play."

Make it interesting!

"We're trying to make training more interactive and more engaging. One of the things that we have done is use a lot of video. We're not talking hours of video, because that's the same problem.

We use short clips, even doing some webcasts or a more engaging podcast style. And we put it on O-tube, which is our YouTube channel, so people can access and share the information.

One of the things we do for our yearly sales in our sales training, is make the sales people present back what they learned. They have to be able to stand and deliver whilst it’s being recorded. Their manager grades it. They basically either pass or fail and have to do it again."

Training tactics

"What are the things that we do? During our immersion training, we had sales come in and actually talk about how they want to make deals. We picked a variety of deals, one in Europe and one over in APAC, one in the US and we had them in the studio where they actually talked about how they won that deal.

I gave them  an outline like what I thought would be important that other other sales reps would want to know. And it was maybe three to five minutes each speech. We got great feedback from that.

We want to make sure that they understood the message, that they understood how it is exactly that they need to be talking to the customer. , a certain type of customer, , whatever the buying persona is, and that they understood and they and they grasp it.

They have to take a test as well, but the real test is them standing and delivering what they learned. Some sales managers will require them to do that more than once. That particular training we do once a year, but good sales managers will require them more often.

So being an international company, how do you deal with localization in your training materials? We have a company that we use to translate to simplified Chinese and there's a couple of other languages that we translate to.

Once the content is created by product marketing, if we don't do anything with it and a country requires translation, we'll pass it off to them, and they'll do it themselves, or they'll hire somebody and pay for it, themselves."

This article is adapted from Brenda's speech at the SES San Francisco