Sales enablement can be a tricky concept to explain. It’s not a term many people hear every day - even in the business world - and it can be a difficult practice to justify even to senior management, despite the many benefits it provides to an organization.

In some ways, it can be easier to first explain what sales enablement isn’t, before you explain what it is.

Here's what we'll cover:

Enablement isn't about fire-fighting - it's about sales success

Enablement isn't transactional - it's about sales strategy

Enablement isn't just a one-off activity - it's about empowering reps

Sales enablement achieves results

As Gail Behun, PandaDoc’s Senior Manager of Sales Enablement has explained, sales enablement isn’t just about coming in and starting to work with a rep when they’ve been put on a performance enhancement plan. It isn’t about solely providing short-term help to get a rep back on track. It isn’t about seeing a rep do badly, and telling them how to improve.

What gives sales enablement its value is its proactive nature. It involves coaching a rep, working alongside them to ensure they are working in the most effective way with a view to long-term success.

Behun explains this with an example: A rep who is hitting quotas through selling a small portion of the overall product book may look good in the short-term, but as quotas increase and the need to grow increases, they won’t be able to keep up.

If a rep is hitting their quota in an unsustainable way, enablement provides the coaching and support to help them maintain their performance long-term, as opposed to only working to pick it back up once it begins to drop off.

Enablement isn't about fire-fighting - it's about sales success

Sales enablement shines in these situations, when it can diagnose a problem before it starts having a negative effect. The best way to do this is to look beyond quota attainment figures, analyse these advanced figures, and act proactively based on the analysis.

As Behun says, sales enablement shouldn’t be the ‘emergency squad’ that comes in when things go wrong.

Working with sales teams to analyse trends of salespeople “whose numbers may be green, but their behaviour is yellow” is key because it allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive. What’s better than fixing a problem as it arises? Fixing it before it becomes a problem at all.

Enablement isn't transactional - it's about sales strategy

There’s another important thing to remember when considering what sales enablement isn’t. It isn’t about simply moving information from one place to another, from point A to point B. It isn’t about just clarifying what a rep is doing.

Sales enablement adds another dimension to the way organizations approach sales strategy. Behun says that the key is making sure the information is practical and has a use for the rep. In her view, “it's having a conversation about ‘how do we take this information and give it to the reps in a way that they can action’?”.

Enablement isn't just a one-off activity - it's about empowering reps

It’s important to remember that sales enablement goes beyond onboarding new reps - it can enhance an organization by providing pathways for progression and development of reps. Without a solid structure, it’s much too easy for reps to be left to their own devices after onboarding, and while they might do their current job well, it’s easy for them to get stuck in a routine which limits their potential.

Meanwhile, having great enablement in your organization can allow for a lot of reps to reach a higher level of self-fulfilment. If you can provide continuous training and support for your reps, you’re providing a strong motivator for future success.

Behun says “one of the most important elements of enablement is developing reps, working with them on ongoing skills, giving them the skills to become great managers, being able to see different career paths”.

Sales enablement achieves results

If you can emphasize these benefits, as well as making it clear what sales enablement isn’t, you’ll be able to get your organization on board, even if it seems difficult.

It’s important to consider that sales enablement isn’t about adding to an already heavy workload or complicating hierarchies. Rather, it's all about facilitating and maximising existing structures in an organization, and it achieves this by increasing communication between departments and developing the existing talent already in the organization.

Enablement increases effectiveness, increases communication, increases profitability, and increases retention. It doesn’t mean adding to business costs or disrupting the current setup.  

Ultimately, that’s the goal.. It allows you to get better production from your reps and your entire organization, without creating complications.

Sales enablement isn’t going to make running your organization any more difficult. It will bring many benefits, and you’ll see the improvements from top to bottom.

Sign up to SEC's newsletter, Revenue Pulse, to get insights delivered to your inbox, every month 👇