What is Sales Enablement and How Can You Use it Within Your Business?

Written by Charlotte Powell
on June 25, 2018


We recently sat down with HubSpot’s Ben Cotton to discuss all things Sales Enablement. Ben leads Sales Enablement at HubSpot EMEA and as such has a lot of experience not just of how he runs things – what works and doesn’t work for a leading SaaS firm – but also how HubSpot’s clients are using Sales Enablement to grow their business. We wanted to go back to basics and get Ben’s take on how teams can use Sales Enablement tools within their organization. We’ll also be covering mistakes people make when implementing a Sales Enablement program and how the industry is developing in other blog posts, so watch this space.


Is Sales Enablement for every business?

The short answer to that is yes. I think every business can benefit from having a team or a person whose job it is to make the sales organization more productive and efficient.

The other question we are asked frequently  is when is the right time to invest. While each business is different my view is that you need to get the top and the middle of the funnel working  properly – you need to make sure the leads are coming in and being nurtured properly. Once you have that part of your funnel cranking, it’s time to invest in Sales Enablement.


What does that initial investment look like? Is it a person? A team? A tool?

At the very least it needs to be a person and they should have budget to invest in tools, technology and resources to help the sales organisation. But in reality sales enablement teams go through five phases of maturity, and what often happens is that someone within the company takes on a Sales Enablement role without necessarily being asked. Often they’ll have another job at the company already and they just do it because they’re a proactive person and want to help the business. They may not even call it Sales Enablement.

At some point the company starts to realize that the work this person is doing is valuable and then they’ll move  into that job full-time. What often happens next is that this person gets busy. They tend to be reactive, and very  very tactical. They will ask sales reps what they want, rather than trying to figure out what they need and making a strategic assessment. This can be where things start to unravel - the person is busy, but becoming less impactful.

Once this becomes apparent, the company will often hire an external person – maybe someone who has done the job at other companies, or who just has more experience – they  will come in and help build that strategy. Ultimately, you want the Sales Enablement team to be consultants in the sales organization, rather than order takers.


So is the main role of the Sales Enablement team – to provide sales organization?

Yes, and this takes a lot of different forms. The most effective Sales Enablement teams are problem-solvers and provide recommendations to help the sales organization overcome their biggest challenges.

At HubSpot we run programmes to equip and advise our sales reps so they close deals. At a tactical level this means we typically focus on four specific areas: content, training, technology and deal support. While content, training and technology are widely understood, deal support is less so - it is an on-demand service that reps can request. It’s made up of customer reference calls, competitor intelligence, and deal strategy, which is basically offering advice on how to do the deal.

In addition to those four focus areas, we also have a sales ops and strategy team, which takes responsibility for the CRM and the sales process. Those elements I see as the six fundamentals of Sales Enablement. It’s a broad role and while the exact scope of Sales Enablement is still being defined, I’m adamant they must help improve the productivity and efficiency of the sales organization.


Should the Sales Enablement team be separate from either marketing or sales?

I think  – where should Sales Enablement sit in the organization? is almost a moot question Some companies have Sales Enablement in sales or in sales ops; some have it in marketing. I think it’s less about the org chart and more about the Sales Enablement team. Are they aligned with sales? Do they share some goals? Are they communicating frequently? My boss is a Marketing VP, but actually I spend most of my time sitting with and speaking with sales.


Sales Enablement is still a relatively new term. Why do you think it’s gaining significance now?

Companies are wising up to the benefits of having a team whose role it is to improve the efficiency and productivity of the sales org. I think that’s come about because many SaaS companies have these highly engineered sales processes that are very deal stage oriented, so they might follow a six-stage process, for instance. Once you have everyone following that process, it’s logical to then hone in on particular stages to see how they can be improved. Companies have become a lot more organised in their sales process and technology is driving that.

There’s also a lot of money going into the category and many people working in Sales Enablement. I looked on LinkedIn recently and I think it was about 200 000 people with ‘Sales Enablement’ in their job title. And now we are also seeing the rise of the Sales Enablement Society (of which Ben is a founding member), so it’s certainly a sector that is gaining momentum.

The point to remember with Sales Enablement is that in many respects we’re still building the plane while we’re flying it. Nobody has all the answers today when it comes to Sales Enablement because there’s only a few companies, and people out there that are sharing their experiences and best practices. That’s slowly changing, and I think ultimately that’s what’s going to help us elevate the role.


Huge thanks to Ben for sharing his thoughts with us! You can read more of his insights into Sales Enablement best practices on his website, www.ben-cotton.com, or come back to our blog soon for more nuggets of wisdom!


If you were wondering ‘What is Sales Enablement?’, now you should know how it works and it’s rising role in organizations. If you’re interested in seeing how Sales Enablement tools could benefit your business, get in touch to book a personalized demo.


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