October 16, 2017
Updated: September 24, 2019

Enablement – The New Competitive Advantage

Every week I come across another news story about a massive company that I grew up with, shutting their doors. At first, I would be in disbelief and get nostalgic about the memories that company brought to my life. However, in the back of my mind, I knew that it had been years since I was a customer of that company and the value it provided me was only in the form of memories. After years of being surprised, we have come to expect stories like this, another major brand (Toys R Us, Kmart, etc.) filing Chapter 11. Being curious on what separates the companies that continue to succeed from those that don’t, there is one word that drives business success; it’s called Enablement.

Raw materials, shipping, manufacturing, software development, servers and hosting which were once the MOAT of companies, are now inexpensive and available to companies of any size. In a world where the infrastructure of businesses is being more accessible and commoditized, it’s the quality of your team, the ability to innovate, and the speed of change that creates the competitive advantage of your company.

Ten years ago, this concept was called change management and typically involved hiring expensive consultants for your company. Based on strategic ideas from leadership (a new acquisition, product launch, re-brand, new process etc.), these consultants would make it a reality through employee adoption, training and pushing that change. The bigger the company, the longer it took, ranging anywhere from 6 months to several years. This characteristic is now absolutely crucial for companies to embody internally and can’t be outsourced. The quicker and better a company can enable their teams, the more successful that company will be in the long run. Think about it: what separates Amazon, Tesla, Domino’s, Nike? Their ability to change in a very competitive market.

CEO’s who understand how to adapt to market changes are not focused on the past and the good old glory days. Rather, they are proactive, paranoid and focused on what is next because their product or service has a short shelf life. The concept of putting yourself out of business every year needs to be every company’s business strategy. However, it only works if the ideas and bets from leadership are quickly adopted by the their employees. If a company can master this process, then the company will be more successful at changing and innovating which results in them to lead the market.

Sales is the one department that is embodying the enablement concept. It makes sense since they are in front of the customer and executing on the business strategy. There are a growing number of technologies that focus on sales operations, learning and productivity to make your company successful. People with sales enablement in their job title went from 3,000 in 2016 to over 5,500 now (based on LinkedIn). It is part of the DNA of a sales team. Through my lens of running LearnCore, a technology that companies use to train and coach their sales team, we are starting to see some of the most innovative companies have a Head of Sales Enablement report to the CEO. Sales is just the beginning. I know we will see an increasing amount of enablement cover other departments such as account management, engineering, and operations.

Enablement is measurable and it needs to be top of mind for a CEO. The intangibles like brand, know how, and awareness help make companies successful for the short term, but the ability for a company to quickly adapt makes them successful forever.

Vishal Shah – Head of Corporate Development, Showpad