Earlier this year Jim Ninivaggi, the Service Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at SiriusDecisions, wrote a blog post analyzing the term “sales enablement.”definitionofsalesenablementgoogle He noted, “Unlike established corporate functions like accounting, finance and marketing, sales enablement is still evolving, and the term means different things to different companies.”

His assessment is exactly right. Do a Google search on “definition of sales enablement” and you’ll get an astonishing 79,700 results (a number which I’m sure will be even greater by the time you read this). Even leading analysts on the subject vary on their definitions of the subject:

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.” – Forrester Research

Getting the right information into the hands of the right sellers at the right time and place, and in the right format, to move a sales opportunity forward.” – IDC

“Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue.” – The Pedowitz Group

Why is sales enablement’s meaning so cloudy?

As Ninivaggi explains, “sales enablement’s mission, where it reports, how it is funded and what it is responsible for vary from company to company.” This phenomenon has unfortunately left us without a common, universally accepted definition of what sales enablement truly means.

As such, DemandMetric, a leading marketing research and advisory firm, recently surveyed 380 marketing and sales professionals to learn more about the topic. While they too found a wide variance on what organizational leaders think sales enablement is, the research did reveal some key findings:

  • 54% indicate that the Sales Enablement function is either very or primarily operationally oriented as it exists in their organization.
  • Of the organizations that have Sales Enablement, 75% report that it makes a moderate or significant contribution.
  • Where Sales Enablement is effective in terms of contribution, 76% of survey participants report that it is also well or very well understood.

From this research it is clear organizations that excel with Sales Enablement have a common thread (even if their definitions vary): communication about what the sales enablement function does, how it works and how to engage with customers is clearly understood, supported and embraced throughout the company.

At RO Innovation, we have taken this best practice and applied it throughout our own organization and technology solutions as well.

What’s Our Definition of Sales Enablement?

At RO Innovation, we believe a company’s most successful sales asset is a happy customer. We know when you empower customer advocates, business accelerates. That is why we make the “voice of the customer” the core component of not only our business, but our business practices and technology solutions too.

Thus it should come as no surprise that our definition of sales enablement centers around this business philosophy as well:

At RO Innovation, we define “sales enablement” as the systematic ability to leverage a company’s best asset – happy customers – to engage customers with the right content at the right time and close more deals.

Whether the right customer content for a salesperson’s selling situation is a video, case study, press release, presentation deck or testimonial quote, we believe it is critical for a sales enablement technology to provide a salesperson with the ability to:

  1. Easily search for the most relevant customer-related assets.
  2. Activate the right customer assets for use in the sales cycle at the right time.
  3. Track the usage of those customer assets to let salespeople know WHEN to follow up with their prospect and with WHAT message.
  4. Provide the salesperson with the capacity to do everything mentioned above WHEREVER and HOWEVER they sell (i.e. Desktop, Laptop, Blackberry, iPhone, Tablet or iPad).

What’s Your Definition?

We’d love to hear your definition of sales enablement, thoughts on our definition, and your plans for sales enablement initiatives at your company. Contact us today…we’d be honored to have a discussion with you!

Nichole Auston
Nichole Auston is the Director of Marketing at RO Innovation. With a background in digital marketing and nearly a decade of experience managing marketing programs for a variety of SaaS companies, she’s passionate about sharing insights, best practices and stories about sales enablement and customer reference management, and the people and technology that power it.