Inc. recently published an article calling ‘enablement’ the worst buzzword for 2018. With our feathers suitably ruffled, we decided such a post deserves a response. So here it is: a defence of the word ‘enablement’, countering all of the author’s criticisms.
1. ‘Enablement’ is not hokey
Sometimes it feels like the popular response to any new idea is cynicism. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to roll your eyes. The truth is, the field of Sales Enablement is full of enthusiastic people earnestly trying to help salespeople by improving processes and providing the best possible working environment. If that meets your definition of hokey, then so be it. We happen to think it’s cool to care.
2. Sales Enablement professionals are not ‘enablers’
It’s true that we traditionally think of ‘enabling’ as a negative thing. The article points out: ‘In the psycho-babble from whence the term originated, "enablers" are people who make it easier for people to self-destruct, typically through some form of addiction. Why would this be a good thing?’
Well, it’s not. But there’s probably a great deal more people out there enabling their family and friends to do wonderful things that don’t generate any psychological research. Enabling is just helping. And I can’t imagine anyone would like it any better if we called them ‘Sales Helpers’, as if they were a team of elves firing off emails in some fairytale grotto.
3. Sales Enablement is active, not reactive and definitely not passive
The Inc article accuses the term ‘enablement’ of being ‘strangely passive’. We’d argue exactly the contrary. Sales Enablement (done well) uses strategic thinking to anticipate the needs of both the sales department and the customer, providing the appropriate tools, training and content to streamline the buying process. It’s either active or it’s not working.
"Enabling" something implies that somebody or something is standing outside of the process and--what?--removing barriers to that process? That's not very impressive; it doesn't sound essential or even necessary.
This sort of thinking is really frustrating. It’s not about being impressive. It’s about utilizing the tools at your disposal to get from A to B more efficiently. A bit like using Google to do your research instead of going to the library.
4. Enablement is as enablement does
‘Vague’, Inc. calls it. While it’s true that the precise parameters of enablement are ill-defined, those fuzzy edges are also beneficial. Every organization can set up their Sales Enablement strategy and department to provide the exact services that they need. The most important thing is that the organization itself has a defined scope for its Sales Enablement team and that all relevant parties understand it. They don’t need to worry how everyone else defines it.
5. Enablement is designed to simplify, not complicate
The article criticizes the overuse of the term ‘enablement’, picking on a marketing email that referred to sales collateral as ‘enablement assets’. We agree this is pretty unnecessary. But it’s unfair to say that the use of the word ‘enablement’ always adds confusion. The whole movement towards a sales culture that utilizes Sales Enablement is designed to streamline sales processes, not complicate them. We’re not adding in additional deal stages or creating unnecessary admin. We’re learning more about the customer and using that knowledge to provide a better service. That’s what Sales Enablement is.
So, what is Sales Enablement? It’s the tools, resources and practices that help salespeople empower their customers to make the best decisions for their business. No more, no less.