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Sales Enablement vs Sales Engagement and the Future of Selling

First let’s answer the question of what is Sales Enablement and how is it different from Sales Engagement – an emerging category that every sales and marketing team needs to consider for their digital selling efforts.

What is Sales Enablement?

Defined concisely: Sales Enablement is equipping a sales organization or salesperson with the tools and information needed to perform their jobs effectively. Sales Enablement is a specific and specialized role in many organizations, typically reporting into Sales Operations or the Marketing department. The Sales Enablement role focuses on both the sales process and customer journey, bridging the gap between marketing, sales, and customer support.

There are two broad categories of Sales Enablement tools: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and communications technologies. The most popular CRM systems are Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics – which are both cloud-based solutions. Additional CRM offerings include SugarCRM, HubSpot, bpmOnline and others. CRM is traditionally focused on enabling the sales reps to track accounts and opportunities, as well as provide sales leadership the reporting they need to forecast revenue and track activities.

For communications technology, most companies enable their sales teams with point solutions, including web conferencing, screen sharing, audio (dialers and voice conferencing), video, and email tracking. A key Sales Enablement challenge is that many of these tools are single-purpose and disconnected. According to Aragon Research, the average sales rep uses between 5-8 different tools every day. Managing this complexity and the lack of integrated technologies is costly and impacts sales rep productivity.

SiriusDecisions, a leading global research firm that focuses on Sales Enablement and Content Marketing, recently published some statistics on how a wide range of organizations view the Sales Enablement function – what it is and what are the responsibilities. Here are the results:

78% – Provide guidelines for using sales assets

73% – Share Enablement best practices

71% – Build sales assets

68% – Develop product training

Other functional responsibility for Sales Enablement include:

  • Delivering sales effectiveness training
  • Selecting and deploying sales technology
  • Managing sales communication
  • Onboarding sales reps

Nearly half the companies in its database (46 percent) have the sales enablement function reporting into sales, 32 percent into marketing and 18 percent into one or more business units. Sirius Decisions believes that Sales Enablement will increasingly report into Sales as the function broadens its roles and responsibilities – but with greater alignment with Marketing.

Although it can be characterized as both a process and role or function, Sales Enablement is an ever evolving term. It has largely morphed from solely a sales support role to include training, onboarding, and guided selling.

Sales Enablement is more than just a buzzword. Many of the leading analyst firms have research and consulting focus areas for Sales Enablement. While there are slight differences in their definitions, it is clear that Sales Enablement is increasing strategic to many organizations.

“Sales enablement’s goal is to ensure that every seller has the required knowledge, skills, processes and behaviors to optimize every interaction with buyers.”

“The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right place, to assist moving a specific sales opportunity forward.”

“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.”

“The activities, systems, processes and information that support and promote knowledge-based sales interactions with client and prospects.”

“Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide sales people with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process.”

CSO Insights
“A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey powered by technology”

Sales Enablement to Sales Engagement Platform

Sales Engagement and Sales Engagement Platforms

What has changed in the last few years is that the customer is far more control of the buying process than ever before. In fact, buyers are two-thirds (or more) of the way through the sales cycle before speaking with a sales rep – just “enabling” sales reps is not enough.

In addition, with the emergence of tracking and analytics tools that are integrated into sales processes, we are now able to measure how engaged customers are throughout the sales cycle and how likely they are to buy (and continue to buy). This new dynamic has led to the rise of the term Sales Engagement, which builds on – but is different from – the traditional focus on Sales Enablement. Where Sales Enablement is narrowly about enabling the sales rep to sell, Sales Engagement is all about facilitating and enabling true engagement between sellers and buyers. Sales and Marketing are both responsible for engaging customers.

Aragon Research, a leading global analyst firm, recognized the emergence of Sales Engagement Platforms:

“While Sales Enablement is the current buzzword in the sales space, the Sales Engagement Platform (SEP), a new Digital Selling Platform that integrates with CRM, is the key to empowering sales professionals in the digital era.”

Indeed they have also predicted Sales Engagement Platforms to experience tremendous growth over the next 4 years: “Currently a $780M market, Aragon Research predicts that Sales Engagement Platforms (SEP) will grow to U.S. $5 Billion by 2021.”

Sales Engagement Platforms such as ClearSlide, combine traditional Sales Enablement tools with engagement data into an integrated platform, providing sales teams with content, communication, guided selling, and actionable insights at each step of the sales process.

Read The Aragon Report Summary

Digitize the Sales Force: Leverage Sales Engagement Platforms to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Aragon Research Report