Sales Enablement’s Identity Crisis


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Like a great bacon burger, it’s taken me some time to appreciate and digest the rich content from the recent Forrester Sales Enablement Forum. I’m coming out of the food coma and that burger has now turned to energy burn on helping you solve your sales enablement problems. News flash – you have LOTS of them.

If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that you’re either following some of Forrester’s experts in enablement or you are following others who are also following this space. I’m hoping you are either a current leader in enablement or one looking to emerge as one because what I’m about to tell you should make you want to jump out of your seat no matter which profile you are in. Your company, your teams, your technologies, and YOU are confused. It’s a miracle that you are doing as well as you are given what Scott Santucci and Forrester customers and partners shared openly with us at the Forum. We are SO confused; we don’t even have a common language in which we can talk about our ‘issues’ in sales enablement and how we are solving them.

As a technology and service provider in the “sales enablement space,” we are having trouble telling you how we can help you solve your problems because we don’t have a common language or set of issues we’re actually able to consistently say need to be (or are being) addressed. We can’t even all define what sales enablement is because we all have our own definitions of this ‘art form.’

Isn’t it sort of ironic that hundreds of sales enablement professionals showed up at a conference only to find out they – or shall I say ‘we’ – have an identity crisis?

Sales Enablement has an Identity Crisis

Beyond not being able to talk about sales enablement and what it means, we also acknowledged we can’t consistently answer questions like “Who are you selling to?” and “Why are they buying from you?” Again, how are some of the world’s highest revenue-generating companies achieving such great results without even being able to answer these kinds of questions and talk about how they are doing it?

Have I painted a picture of chaos yet?

The Chaos of the Sales Enablement marketplace

Now let’s add spend to the picture. The average annual spend to enable a sales person is ~$135,000. My first reaction as a software provider was, “Wow! How do I get a bigger piece of that to help you solve your problems?” Once my cash register ran up and I settled back down, sobriety hit me again; to do what? How can I in good conscience take your money and solve problems you and I actually don’t understand. Feels too much like a malpractice suit waiting to happen – “Sir, I’m going to give you Tylenol to keep you comfortable.” While knowing full well, your problems aren’t understood and I’m treating your symptoms vs. prescribing you something more nuclear to cure your “condition.”

Without the common language and acknowledgement of issues we are experiencing, how can we solve the problems around sales enablement? And, how are we going to make sure that you are effectively spending your $135,000/year per rep on enablement.

Have I now painted a colossal picture of potential waste?

Wasting money

Introducing the Inaugural Sales Enablement Council

After two days of this exposure and digestion, a group of us joined Scott’s inaugural Sales Enablement Council discussion. We are a group of companies charged with defining a set of standards to help develop common language and business requirements associate with the sales enablement space.

Here are the 4 things I’m excited most about our charge:

  • Developing a common language so we can even talk about the challenges related to sales enablement. Translation – I want to stop talking about how we need to treat your head cold if you actually need a full lobotomy.
  • It’s practical and time based – this isn’t a research project, there are real business results on the other side. With the average tenure of a VP of Sales being 18 months or less, we need to put the pedal to the medal here and start the lobotomies now.
  • Buyer focus – this isn’t just about how we (providers) can take your money to solve your problems. Or about you solving your internal problems. This is about being able to answer that million, billion $ question “Why are your customers buying from you?” and providing them with an experience blending process, content and technology that is going to make them have a better experience and want to buy more from you.
  • Higher-level perspective – we are solving SO many little problems today that, when mounted together, probably aren’t amounting to moving the needle that much or at all. We’re getting focused at a higher level with this council. Time for a Creed cover in my opinion – “Can you take me higher?”

As we develop this selling system together, I look forward to sharing the evolution with you, testing it with you and eating more great bacon burgers.

Bacon cheeseburger

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Karen Meyer
Karen sets the product vision and leads the product management team at Qvidian. She's responsible for conceptualizing unique product ideas and delivering product roadmaps that provide significant value to sales and marketing organizations. Karen holds a B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts & Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


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