Forrester coined the term ‘sales enablement’ back in 1999. Ten years later it was everywhere you looked – splashed across global telecoms companies, at the heart of new freelance consultancies, in website headers for guys I swear had been plain old sales trainers the week before.
But another ten years on (nearly), and it’s a goner. Limping on in organisations big enough to move that slowly, wiped out in smaller, more agile sales organisations.
Sales enablement’s big problem was an identity crisis. Enablement’s remit, structure, purpose, methodologies and tools varied so much from organisation to organisation that it didn’t mean anything.
For some it was about creating and distributing sales content – one foot firmly in marketing, the other in sales. For others it was a sales training team, designing and delivering courses, managing external speakers and events. It sometimes had a foot in product marketing and development, sometimes in digital, sometimes something else entirely.
There are no true sales enablement professionals. Outside of individual companies the term is just a loose umbrella phrase. It doesn’t mean one thing, so enablement gets staffed by a mix of sales leaders, marketers or comms professionals who want to move sideways in their company, or spot an opportunity to bypass their standard promotion structure and move up quickly.
In 1999 Forrester called sales enablement “A strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system”. Jesus.
It was always too loose, too hard to define, too weighed down to react quickly in the ways organisations needed it too. It’s good to be burying sales enablement. It’s even better to be moving on to leaner, more targeted tools and methodologies to help sales and marketing teams socialize and share their ideas…
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– Tom @WSL