What We Learned at the Sales Enablement Society’s Inaugural Conference

Brian Williams, PhD

Sales enablement has arrived and making a difference across companies of all sizes. This is the biggest takeaway we learned at last week’s Sales Enablement Society’s conference. Yet, too many organizations think it’s just sales training. Positioned right, the future looks bright for sales enablement.

So, what happened at the Conference?

Through roundtables, debate, case studies and jam-packed sessions, we learned a lot. But the discussions often surfaced more questions than absolute answers. Four big questions stood out to us:

1. Where Does Sales Enablement Sit?

Sales Enablement can’t be placed into a well-defined box. At its best, sales enablement is cross functional, multi-functional, dynamic. Enablement must work with every function in the organization, so it can’t afford to be siloed into just one. Today, sales enablement might report to sales ops, the CSO, marketing or even HR. Surprisingly, 26% of sales enablers report directly into the CEO. More healthy debate to come on the organizational design and reporting structure of the function. Stay tuned for our forthcoming sales enablement trends report that includes organizational benchmarks.

2. Does Your CEO Get It? Is Sales Enablement to Blame If They Don’t?

At the end of the day, sales enablement is worthless if the c-suite isn’t on board. Lots of “talk”, but not enough “walk” about engaging senior execs. Many sales enablement leaders need to learn a new language. They certainly need to understand the bigger picture around the business strategy. And they must demonstrate how their activities do in-fact enable greater firm performance. We know CEOs are open to the conversation, but sales enablement needs to step up. So many sales enablers have roots in marketing or L&D vs. ops and strategy. Does this present communication barriers as they seek to engage the c-suite?

3. Where Are We Spending our Sales Enablement Dollars? Where Should We?

Tech vendors continue to grab budget dollars as the sales enablement tech stack expands. The conference included quite a few technology companies and demos. It’s easy to understand why so many leaders struggle to prioritize their budgets. As the breadth and depth of sales enablement expands, budgets are being sliced into more and more categories. Too much of this is happening in the absence of a clear, integrated sales enablement strategy. Looking for the next “thing” and being hyper responsive to every demand isn’t necessarily bad. But making budget decisions without an integrated sales enablement framework is an increasing risk.

4. What’s Your Next Move?

There’s a lot coming to the future of sales enablement. Artificial intelligence. Integrated performance tools. Better alignment to the customer journey. Much of this can come across as just more noise. In the face of these trends, how can sales enablement professionals map their plans? Especially in a world where so many fundamentals need addressing? Case in point, nearly 70% of sales teams still lack a sales manager enablement program. Prioritizing and sequencing sales enablement activities can be tough. Creating the multi-year roadmap, in the face of competing demands, is even harder. New ideas and tools are great, but can only make this job more challenging.

Brevet Partner Dan Perry and HP Enterprise former VP of WW Sales Steve King also co-presented. Together they shared their experience elevating HPE’s sales enablement. The key take-aways from this session were:

  • You need to enable your sales leadership, not just reps – this includes sales managers
  • Focus on activation – reinforcement is essential to any enablement program
  • Get practical and fundamental -- use bite-sized pieces to let the reps digest the information

Congrats to the planners of last week’s conference. As the halo of the event begins to fade, the real work begins. We’re excited to be a part of the continuing evolution of the profession. And we’ve love to help you translate the new ideas into action. Contact us to debrief the conference and continue the conversation.

Sales enablement is no longer just the training department. It’s a strategic and customer-focused function driving top-line growth. And it can make an enormous difference increasing your sales performance.

Our approach leverages the science behind how fighter pilots, first responders and elite athletes are trained. Check out our research to learn more about how situational awareness is the anchor to your sales process and sales enablement programs.

Brian Williams, PhD

Brian Williams, PhD

Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.