What Is Sales Enablement Versus Disablement


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sales_enablementBusiness is full of all sorts of stuff. Some of which is very brown and smelly, yet despite its unpleasantness certain beliefs get passed around like they’re absolute truths, never to be questioned.

Sales is one of those areas that’s under increasing pressure for all sorts of reasons and it’s often not helped by the company that employs them.

“Rubbish” I hear you say, sales people are just lazy or incompetent or what ever other excuse you want to lay down on them.

So what would you say if I presented you with the following statistics:

  • Over 40% of salespeople fail to hit quota.
  • 30% of reps turn over each year.
  • It takes an average of seven months to ramp up a new sales person.
  • 65% of a sales rep time is spent NOT selling.
  • Salespeople spend 30 hours a month searching for and creating their own selling materials.
  • 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales.

If you’re speaking at this moment then you’re probably saying something like “Oh Dear”, only a little more colourful. And if you’re not speaking I bet you’re feeling a little uncomfortable.

Well these stats are exactly the numbers Jeff Ernst now with Forrester Research uses to open his book on sales enablement, which you can read here.

If you’re one of those lucky business not faced with any of the challenges I’ve mentioned above then I’m sure readers of this blog would love to hear from you, so please share and post your comments about that below.

Of course I’ve got my own opinions on the matter having served in the front line and leadership roles in sales and marketing so I know what its like from both sides of the fence.

In my experience most companies make it considerably more difficult for their sales team than it needs to be because of old rules that don’t fit todays buying habits.

Instead we need some new rules and I’ve consolidated the 5 rules from Jeff’s book which are great and aligned with many of my own.

Conversations, NOT Collateral – The goal of Marketing and Sales is to create conversations, not push information at people or make it difficult for them to access or understand. Most sales teams have too much information and its typically not aligned with real selling situations or made practically useable and accessible, the same goes for the customer on the receiving end.

NEW RULE: Sales enablement is about ensuring salespeople are able to have valuable conversations that help buyers advance through their buying process.

Information by itself doesn’t help people, however when its placed in context and aligned with real life situations and delivered in a way that fits with the daily routine things get easier for both sides.

Experience BEATS Expertise – 90% of the “stuff” that the folks in corporate give salespeople is ignored because it rarely conveys what salespeople are actually doing to win deals.

NEW RULE: The most effective selling content, messages, and strategies are discovered from experience with buyers.

Sales want to know what works not what people say will work.

PROVEN Plays – For too long its been believed that “if we implement a new sales methodology, trick or tactic, that every salesperson will become a top player”. Yeah right! That brown and smelly stuff is wafting back up again and we all know that it doesn’t work like that else we’d all be the top of everything after reading a book or going on a course.

NEW RULE: Any salesperson can improve performance by following sales playbooks that are proven to work in winning deals.

Practical approaches that work in specific situations, not just methodologies or processes, that’s what salespeople are looking for.

Value OUT, NOT Data IN – You’re not helping salespeople by holding them to ransom, forcing them to fill in sales systems like CRM or opportunity analysis or what ever else you call it which doesn’t provide the salespeople with anything valuable in return, other than allowing management to interfere with deals and not aid in their closure.

NEW RULE: Adoption of sales enablement applications should be driven by the value a salesperson gets out of it, not the data they key in.

Activity metrics and forecasts are worthless unless the real substance that helps deals get closed is in place first. You can have all the activity and grandiose forecast in the world but it won’t amount to much long term growth.

Act NOT React – With business under increasing pressure sales and marketing teams are being scaled back, less investment is being made into enabling them, travel and tools get reduced and more sales from fewer customers are being expected. Businesses want more from less, when it had less from more previously.

NEW RULE: During times of economic crisis, it’s even more important to invest in knowledge that enables your salespeople to perform.

In a hurricane, even a turkey can fly and with buyers scrutinising every purchase and sales and marketing teams being pushed to the limits you’ve got to spend more enabling people. Its a question of priorities.

Those people that figure our how to grow revenue during tough times will be the ones that become leaders during the next economic boom.

Photo credit insideview from Flickr.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Nic is so right, the number of times I come across CRM, Playbooks and Sales Intranet solutions that have been implemented with the best intentions but ignoring what is really needed to support a sales team is uncomfortably high. If these organisations sold in the same way as they implemented sales enablement solutions they would be out of business in a heart beat. See http://lnkd.in/6yTXcQ for an article I wrote on the people side of sales enablement for more detail on the change aspects that help to address the above issues. Dave

  2. great post. i work with 1.6 million IT buyers every day. the alignment of sales and marketing into a conversation based approach will be critical.

  3. I love posts like this and this data set supports what I experience to be true on a daily basis. As such, I still think there is a certain arrogance from leaders this is not their responsibility. Generally, I think most executives are far to complacent and have not taken the time to understand how sales and marketing is changing in this post-industrial era.
    Do you have any nuggets that resonate with business executives that makes them aware of what they don’t know and how complacency and ignorance is impacting their business?


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