Sales Operations: Sales Enablement

How do the best sales organizations practice sales enablement? Is it a solitary function, or a part of sales operations? How do we define roles in a simple, intuitive way?

John E. Kosar, III

In a world driven by technology and content, sales enablement has risen to become one of the top areas of focus for sales leaders, and sales operations leaders. Some organizations have even eliminated the title of sales operations altogether, giving “sales enablement” the full responsibility for budgeting, compensation structure, and more.

But no matter how you slice it, at the end of the day, all the work needs to get done. So how are the most effective sales organizations practicing sales enablement?

What Is Sales Enablement?

We have seen a multitude of definitions of sales enablement. They seem to be getting longer, more complicated, and less intuitive. Our definition is simple:

The primary purpose of sales enablement is to help sales personnel sell.

This means that when we are talking about sales methods and sales methodology, we are talking about sales enablement because methodology is used and applied systematically in communications with customers.

When we talk about sales playbooks, we are in sales enablement.

Content that sales would use to educate customers is sales enablement.

Automated content distribution is sales enablement.

But when we talk about sales metrics and Gap analysis, we are not talking about sales enablement because this is back-end support. Sales metrics are tracked and analyzed outside of the conversation with customers. This data might be used by sales enablement to improve the playbook, content, etc., but it is not used directly in the conversation with customers.

The general rule of thumb is: if it does not touch the customer, then it isn’t sales enablement.

Is CRM a sales enablement tool?

One of the biggest challenges with CRM integrations is aligning sales personnel with corporate strategy. When sales enablement tools operate outside of the strategy, they can boost revenues and increase efficiency within sales, but they can also reduce profitability, customer lifetime value, and other non-sales metrics.

One example of this would be an account executive who lowers the price to make more sales. Revenues go up, and making the sale is easier, so efficiency goes up. But overall profitability decreases. This is one example showing the importance of sales operations as a moderator between sales and the corporate strategy.

But sales enablement tools, like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), have parts that support front-end and back-end. Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) are two other great examples. So, who is in charge of these? If sales enablement is in charge of helping sales sell, then it cannot be the only entity in charge of CRM.

We take the approach of Solomon. We find that splitting the software down the middle allows sales enablement to retain its primary focus, while at the same time taking guidance from the powerful analytics and dashboards that are so useful to management.

The short answer is: yes, some parts of CRM are sales enablement functions, and no, some applications and features are not.

Closing Thoughts

Many sales organizations are confused about how to manage sales enablement, due to its rising prominence and the amazing results some tools are able to achieve. We suggest clearing up this confusion by delineating primary responsibilities. Sales enablement, like the term sounds, focuses on enabling sales professionals to land more deals.

Sales operations helps to maintain alignment between Sales and the rest of the company. Both need to work together on the sales tech stack, so that software performs helps the business as a whole, as well as sales itself.

We hope this helps you to better manage your sales processes at your company.

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing research on sales operations, please email

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