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What Is The Role Of Sales Enablement?

by David Brock on July 21st, 2017

I always hate to start a post with a disclaimer or an apology.  This post may seem like I’m bashing the sales enablement function and sales enablement professionals.  Taken in its most broad context, it’s a critical function.  Sales enablement professionals have a tough and important job.  Many of the most important initiatives focused on improving sales performance come through sales enablement.

Additionally, initiatives like those of the Sales Enablement Society are critical in driving learning among sales enablement professionals, and the ability to standardize practice and increase the value sales enablement professionals and the function provide within the sales function.


I’m increasingly concerned about some of the things I hear and read about sales enablement.  Perhaps it’s not the discussions themselves, but it’s what’s absent in the discussion.

Yes, sales enablement has a role to help sales people sell better, maximizing revenue per rep.

Yes, sales enablement has to provide training, tools, systems, programs, content, onboarding, to help the rep at every phase of their development.

What’s missing in the conversation is that sales enablement isn’t alone in this mission.  Every function in the sales organization has the mission of helping the front line seller sell better, to perform at the highest levels possible, to maximize the revenue each sales person produces.

Every person in the sales organization that is not a front line seller has the mission of serving those front line sellers so they can be better and sell more.

Front line management’s sole responsibility is to maximize the performance of each person on their team.

Senior sales management has the responsibility of maximizing overall sales organizational performance in executing the company’s strategies.

Sales operations has the responsibility of identifying and removing roadblocks to sales effectiveness.

HR has the responsibility of helping make sure the right talent is on board, that managers and others in the organization are doing everything possible to retain and develop that talent to achieve their full potential in the organization, both in the short term and long term.

It doesn’t stop with the sales organization itself, marketing, product management, customer service, finance, even manufacturing and development all have roles in helping sales people sell more–better.  (Though some of this is indirect)

It’s the absence of this recognition in many of the discussions around sales enablement that, in fact, diminishes the impact and effectiveness of sales enablement.

For example, I recently read a very good and impassioned article on the role of sales enablement.  There was no mention of any other part of the organization.  More alarming, there was no mention of the Front Line Sales Manager.  The impression, perhaps unintentional, was that it is sales enablement, alone, that would drive the performance of the sales people.

Even more alarming is an emerging trend for sales enablement organizations to take over sales coaching.  The intent is good, it’s a clear reaction to sales managers not coaching or doing it ineffectively.  But the solution to that is not displacing this responsibility from sales management, but to teach, train, and enable them to do their jobs.

Stealing a phrase from another author, “it takes a village” to drive sales performance.  It is not sales enablement alone that will drive sales performance.  It’s the focused, collaborative efforts of everyone sitting behind the front line sellers that will drive sales performance.

Perhaps, I’m being a little nit picky.  But the sales enablement function is too important to front line sellers and to the organization to isolate itself from the rest of the team driven by the same mission.  In many cases, sales enablement professionals are fighting for a seat at the sales executive’s table–and they should be there.

The way we do this (and I’m including myself as a sales enablement practitioner, if not a professional), is by being more inclusive in the way we present ourselves and in the actual implementation of our strategies and programs.  To recognize that sales enablement, alone, cannot achieve this goal.  Perhaps, even to provide leadership in dragging others into the development and execution of their strategies/programs (for example front line sales management.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great sales enablement organizations and leaders.  They recognized their real mission is to catalyze the entire organization around driving sales performance, not viewing it as a sales enablement only function.  They set the model of sales enablement performance excellence for all others.

I know that is the intent of great sales enablement professionals, yet the absence of this in the conversations we have does not serve us, what we want to achieve, or our “customers” which are the front line sellers and the rest of the organization.



From → Performance

  1. David, I know this post is old but I am slow in finding this one. Sadly, while I think we have made positive progress in and around Sales Enablement, we have not overcome all of the concerns you raise here.

    However, I think we do see positive movement in some of the conversation, and some of the practices, from where we were two years ago. While the Sales Enablement function is still poorly understood and too many people are struggling, I am seeing pockets of success.

    With all of that said, we still have a long way to go. I’m doing my part at the Sales Enablement Collaborator, stop by and weigh in, we could use your voice.

    • John: Thanks for the comment. SE is a critical function, we are making progress in what SE does and how SE works with the rest of the organization. I do worry, with the conversations about the function and it’s position in the organization. These discussions have little to do with what sales people need.

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