Defining sales enablement roles and responsibilities

February 10, 2020

A great deal of modern business processes require the right division of labor to function. The sales cycle is not an exception to this rule, and by extension, neither is sales enablement

In fact, sales-related processes may benefit from the clear delegation of duties across the team more than any other aspect of services (as opposed to something like account management, which can be somewhat more fluid). 

Establishing a clear blueprint for specific members of the team to handle particular aspects of sales enablement best practices will give your organization a better chance of overall success. In this blog post we’ll take a closer look at the responsibilities that should be left to each segment of your department, as well as those that will actually be handled (at least in part) by corresponding units of the business, like the marketing department. 

Adopting New Approaches: Sales Rep Responsibilities for Enablement

At the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of the sales rep whether or not a deal goes through (on the business side, the other most important factor is obviously the customer). Without them there would be nothing to “enable” in the first place. 

With that being said, it’s also critical to acknowledge that there’s more to the sales process than helping bring deals to a close, both before and after that critical point. Reps first kick off their participation in a given organization’s sales enablement strategy days, weeks, and sometimes even months before the initial conversations with a prospect take place. During this early period, sellers are consumed with conducting research into prospects’ general backgrounds, as well as any past or present interactions they have had with your organization, engagements with marketing efforts and/or plans for future deals. 

These and all other aspects of gathering business intelligence are parts of what Brent Adamson, Cristina Gomez, and Nicholas Toman referred to as “a proactive, prescriptive approach” to sales in a March 2017 piece for Harvard Business Review. 

This is an alternative to the classical sales strategy of hearing customers’ needs and being immediately responsive to them (which, as the HBR article’s co-authors pointed out, can actually be detrimental to a sales enablement program). A sales rep and customer alike will, in the long run, be best served if the former anticipates the needs and issues of the latter far in advance of full-fledged sales negotiations. 

Sellers should provide potential buyers with key details and service options up front, presenting clear possibilities that a prospect can seize upon, instead of adjusting offerings on the fly in response to the shifting tenor of a sales call. The latter, improvisational approach can work in a pinch, but for the sake of good sales enablement, it should not be a go-to for reps. 

Would-be buyers, often as not, want to feel confident that you know what’s best for them. This helps validate the initial interest they took in your organization when they were first filling out contact forms or interacting with your marketing materials. Sales reps are the only individuals who can ultimately take on responsibility for these central parts of the overall sales enablement strategy. 

The Bigger Picture: Sales Enablement Specialists

Sales reps are bound to the quota attainment demands of their individual workloads. Although they play major roles in the success of teamwide enablement by simply doing their jobs, they are not necessarily able to tackle broader aspects of the enablement strategy equation. 

That sort of wider-ranging responsibility lies with sales enablement specialists. This isn’t always these professionals’ exact title; “business development executive” or “sales strategist” are common alternate job descriptions that basically mean the same thing. 

Such individuals almost always start as reps and may even run point on some new sales from time to time, but they are more important for their contributions to the overall team’s process. For example, one enablement specialist may be an expert in go-to-market strategy, whereas another might be especially adept with the specific sales enablement platform that your organization uses. Still others may serve as liaisons to the departments lateral with (and complementary to) sales ops, such as marketing, social media managers, account management, or finance. 

Yet what unites all of these disparate specialists as key contributors to departmental sales enablement processes and strategy is their focus on supporting buyer retention. They help to ensure that the most high-level transactions always go through – sometimes by directly assisting reps, but more often by working constantly on the development and maintenance of pivotal sales enablement tools. 

Oversight, Onboarding and Training: Sales Managers and Directors

The sales reps and enablement specialists who make up the lion’s share of the department can do plenty on their own, but they nonetheless require strong and sure-handed leadership. 

This is where managers and directors come in. Depending on the size of your particular sales organization, there may be multiple managers who report to a director, or a singular department head who chooses one term or the other as their title. Having both allows for better division of labor – e.g., managers supervise the day-to-day operations while directors work to shape strategy in broader strokes – but it isn’t necessarily an option for SMBs or companies still in the startup phase. 

Managers must also take on the responsibility of sales onboarding. At first, this entails running newly hired reps through the various processes the team adheres to and training them on any tools used, such as CRM or sales enablement software

Later on, after the novice sales reps have been around for a little while and proved their mettle by closing some deals, the onboarding process fades out and is replaced by coaching. 

Unlike its more prescriptive and hands-on counterpart, the essence of coaching lies more in enabling reps to find solutions to their problems than telling them what to do: For example, a coaching scenario might involve your team of reps demonstrating their individual “scripts” for sales pitches and sharing feedback with one another on what does or doesn’t work. You, the manager, aren’t telling them what’s right, wrong, or somewhere in between – instead, you’re creating an environment for them to explore possibilities and arrive at a successful conclusion. Such a practice exemplifies the essence of effective sales enablement.

Complementary Content: The Role of Marketing in Sales Enablement

Some of the most important work that factors into the overall picture of sales enablement isn’t handled directly by anyone on the sales team. 

Long before reps even receive leads to pursue, the professionals in the marketing department are working on enabling sellers to (eventually) do their jobs by creating content: everything from blogs, white papers, and case studies, to even more dynamic material like infographics, video, and animation. Then they distribute that content for general access – via your social media pages, website, email blasts, and in-person at trade shows – and sit back to monitor the engagement it brings. 

Beyond determining who (and, by proxy, which organizations) are most engaged with all of that content and sending those leads to sales, marketing personnel also do some of the more granular work of assessing lead viability. For example, an account-based marketing specialist can reasonably project that a prospect who downloads your white papers and other high-level materials most likely has serious interest in doing business with the company, and merits a strong push from reps.

Putting Together the Sales Enablement Puzzle

All of the elements described above – and the members of the sales or marketing teams responsible for executing them – are pivotal to fostering strong sales enablement and bottom-line revenue generation in your organization. But in the interest of streamlining, it’s also critical to have a comprehensive tool capable of handling everything from the onboarding program new reps go through to ongoing efforts for improving the sales process. 

Showpad’s sales enablement platform is well-suited to serve as the foundation of your team’s enablement, in terms of both strategizing and day-to-day execution of pertinent best practices. Equipped to empower reps and support managers – from the start of training to the trials and tribulations experienced while trying to close high-level deals – Showpad may be the solution you need to recognize your vision of optimal sales enablement.

Annual Sales Meetings Best Practices Survey

Annual Sales Meetings Best Practices Survey

Your annual sales kick-off (SKO) is the best time to gather reps to review the past year and set expectations for the next 12 months. In this survey from Sales Management Association, you will gain insight into emerging trends and best practices for a successful SKO.