Sales enablement departments are being hit particularly hard in the recent rounds of tech layoffs. Which is hugely ironic. At a time when businesses need more revenue drivers why would you show the sellers less support?
To understand what’s really going on here we need to unpack a bit of the history and evolution of Sales Enablement.
First, what is Sales Enablement and why does it exist?
Sales Enablement serves critical revenue-generating roles in the business. It supports the people doing important, customer-facing work, impacting areas that are integral to a successful customer journey: Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service/Success.
I believe that Sales Enablement was born out of the frustration of sales leaders who, despite the pile of tools and content that gets pushed their way, just don’t get what they need, when they need it, in away that connects to their sellers’ needs.
If there is one sure thing about salespeople, it’s that they don’t waste time. They won’t put up with marketing’s shiny branded glossy if it doesn’t resonate with their clients; they won’t listen to your online learning if its generic and based on theory; and they WILL get the support of leaders who agree that time spent on anything that does not directly impact their success is time wasted.
Enter, Sales Enablement.
The second thing we need to understand is where Sales Enablement sits in the organization.
Sales Enablement is very often led by the CRO or VP of Sales. Though you might also find it reporting to Marketing, or HR, or sometimes Operations. The consensus of most people is that it is most effective when it reports into Sales and has strong alignment with sales leadership. Often time leaders in Marketing, HR or Operations don’t have the best knowledge for what Sales Enablement needs to do.
So what's going on with Sales Enablement today?
Since its inception, Sales Enablement has seen a meteoric rise, having been immediately and widely adopted in the tech world and every other industry. It’s become a familiar title on LinkedIn and is commonly mentioned as one of the top career-growth categories. In 2021 it was growing at a rate of 200%.
Currently Sales Enablement has been hit hard by layoffs, and we continue to see reorgs happening around the function.
Why? My theory: it’s because Sales Enablement practitioners primarily come from three different areas: Sales, Marketing (primarily Product Marketing), and Learning and Development – and the latter two of those areas have been historically ineffective. So, we’re starting to see a lot of the same issues as from the fast and tremendous growth of the role as we did when Sales Enablement was coming from Marketing or Learning and Development. And even from Sales, for that matter. The content that these groups generate has historically failed to resonate with the sellers and doesn’t provide the relevance they need.
Consider this a wake-up call from someone who has felt the sellers’ pain for well over a decade:
Start doing things differently by having empathy for your sellers on the front line, and the daily, real-life obstacles they face. Listen carefully to what they need and understand how they experience and use content. Serve this all-important audience in creative ways that work for them, (and acknowledge that repurposing marketing glossies or lengthy L&D programs do not.) And be clear on the services and tools you do offer, as well as your methods for prioritization, approach, and measurement.
Don’t let your Sales Enablement practice slide backward and become the wasted efforts that sales leaders battled for years to get away from.
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Juliana Stancampiano has been in Sales Enablement since well before it ever had the title. She is a founding member of the Sales Enablement Society formed in 2016 and was the Board President from 2019-2022. The Sales Enablement Society is the largest non-profit organization created to evolve the role of Sales Enablement. As President of the board, she has watched it grow from a few members to more than 11,000 in a few short years.