March 3, 2020

Sales enablement vs. sales operations

Sales operations (sales ops) and sales enablement are terms used often within an organization. But how do they contribute to sales productivity and overall business performance?

Sales reps need support to drive growth and increase likelihood of success, whether they’re going through initial onboarding, working through the buyer’s journey or collaborating with marketing. Both operations and enablement strategies function to enhance the sales process, allowing sales managers to effectively lead and coach their teams and reps to meet their goals quarter after quarter.

In this blog we will discuss the differences between sales enablement and sales operations, the roles they both play in the sales cycle, and how they can work together for a more impactful overall strategy.

Sales Enablement versus Sales Operations

Sales operations and sales enablement are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are in fact many clear distinctions between the two. Put simply, sales operations handles the logistics of team organization to drive plans forward, and sales enablement uses those logistics to put plans into action. We’ll get into unique responsibilities of each later in this article. 

While these two functions handle different aspects of the sales process, there is some cross-functional collaboration. First and foremost, both closely partner with sales managers to support reps through every touch point of the sales cycle. Both are also inherently involved in the buyer’s journey. While enablement typically comes into play from the beginning, working with marketing to assist sales professionals through learning and prospect interactions, operations teams up with sales leaders to establish methodologies and stepping in for final negotiations and deal compensation. 

So, what roles do operations and enablement play in the process?

Sales Operations Roles and Responsibilities

Sales operations teams work behind the scenes to ensure the team structure is optimized for sales productivity. The key strategic functions of sales operations include:

  • Hiring and training new sales reps 
  • Developing sales and revenue strategy
  • Setting territory structure
  • Establishing compensation plans
  • Managing sales tech stack 
  • Optimizing sales processes

A major responsibility that falls in operations’ hands is to evaluate and select sales productivity tools that streamline the sales process, allowing reps to focus on selling activities rather than administrative tasks. These tools include CRM and solutions for time, lead and prospect management.

Ops also works with sales leaders to implement methodologies, training, compensation and employee incentives and much more.

Some organizations designate a sales manager to handle operations duties. However, these responsibilities are typically spread across various roles including entry-level operations representatives, analysts and managers. How the team and workload is divided will depend on the size of the company and the sales team structure. The most successful operations are made up of individuals with a wide range of specialties and experience.

Sales Enablement Roles and Responsibilities

While sales operations handles team organization and logistics, sales enablement work applies more directly to the sales force — providing tools and resources needed to improve buyer relationships and shorten the sales cycle.

A sales enablement strategy consists of an impactful onboarding program, training content, buyer-facing marketing collateral that addresses leads at various stages in the buyer journey and performance analysis to identify and resolve gaps across the salesforce. When establishing and maintaining a sales enablement program, enablement specialists will collaborate with sales managers, reps and members of the marketing team. 

Sales enablement specialists — also called sales specialists or business development representatives — handle the broader elements of enablement, focusing on anything from overall team performance and go-to-market strategy to sales effectiveness and use of an enablement platform. They may also serve as points of contact with sales ops to optimize the sales process.

What does the typical sales enablement job description look like? Check out our example for a sales enablement manager.

How Sales Operations and Sales Enablement Should Work Together

Operations and enablement can and should work alongside and in conjunction with each other to set up the sales force for success. With both teams tasked with supporting the sales team, it only makes sense for them to collaborate and ensure both are working toward the same goal without stepping on each other’s toes. 

Each team should have the full picture of what is going on with the sales team to fulfill their responsibilities, discussing how they can best support one another and contribute to a lucrative sales strategy. Operations should share its planned sales strategy, including the end-to-end process and success metrics established for the sales team. On the other hand, enablement must remain transparent about marketing initiatives, as well as content used for training and customer interactions. Communication should be ongoing as the sales organization evolves.

Let’s take a look at an example of the two teams working together. When an organization decides to implement a new tool, such as a CRM, sales operations will set it up for the sales force, creating accounts for reps and building dashboards with the necessary information and metrics. Enablement then develops and provides training content to onboard reps with the new tool. Over time, both teams use performance metrics to continue improving the CRM to ensure it’s adapting to provide long-term support.

Operations + Enablement = Sales Growth

A thorough sales strategy — that includes both operations and enablement — drives success across the team. Together, both teams can help the sales force close deals, achieve team goals and drive organizational growth.

Sales operations evaluates and manages process solutions that allow sales reps to work smarter and perform better. Sales enablement technology provides additional support for sellers, with tools for content management, sales training and sales and marketing alignment. 

Showpad is the leading sales enablement technology that delivers the training, coaching and content managers and reps need to engage buyers, optimize workflows and close deals. Learn more about the Showpad platform by requesting a demo today.

5 Ways to Boost Sales Enablement Success in 2020

5 Ways to Boost Sales Enablement Success in 2020

Organizations with a formal Sales Enablement program have seen a positive impact on performance — but simply implementing a strategy isn’t enough to reap the rewards. You must continuously improve and optimize to deliver the best buyer experiences.

This eBook explores how to establish a Sales Enablement program that drives ongoing success for managers and reps.