WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement

Why Sales Enablement? In order to uncover the answer, a week or so ago in my initial article I invited you to travel back in time with me — to the founding of the Sales Enablement Society itself. To Palm Beach, Florida the Friday before Thanksgiving 2016, where a congress of around 100 sales enablement professionals participated in “The Birth of the Sales Enablement Society.”

They came to consensus — and signed into existence — the core doctrine for the global SES, including the foundational vision, principles, and positions. My hypothesis is that these founding positions, in part, hold answers to “the WHY?” of Sales Enablement …and are ripe for further exploration and collaboration by the engaged and curious.

In this article we will unpack Position #1 together in the search for Sales Enablement’s “why:”

Position ONE: Sales Enablement Leaders did not see themselves as having a defined role, so in order to grow as a community and elevate the function, they identified four “Flavors of Sales Enablement.”

I see a huge opportunity (or three) to better answer “WHY is SE?” in SES Founding Position One.

Right out of the gates this position, by design, shifts the focus away from “WHAT is Sales Enablement?” — arm wrestling ad nauseam over a definition and identity — to an opportunity to even MORE deeply identify as a community.

I defer to Scott to say it even better…

“Why? We want to avoid dogmatic debates given the emergent nature of the function, embrace the diversity of our community and create an inclusive culture.”

Excerpt from SES Founder and President Scott Santucci‘s Letter to SES Members April 2017

There’s that WHY word right there in writing!

And it also shifts the question from “WHAT is…” to

…WHICH flavor do I identify with as an enablement practitioner/leader?

…HOW can we as a group of “peers of a flavor” work together to strategically address the sources of broken things – of “functional friction” – in the corresponding sales system(s)?

And maybe even …WHO am I …what is “MY WHY” (shoutout to that Simon guy) — my gifting that I can bring to BOTH to my company AND to the Enablement Community? 

To identify as a specific “flavor” of Enablement leader. On a mission to take the friction out of that flavor’s sales system. Creating an environment to better enable the customer facing front line. Confronting those realities more fearlessly and strategically, alongside their peers.

And, even a click deeper than that!

This “flavor” approach might not only unlock the opportunity for individuals to collaborate as peers in the primary flavor they identify with. It could also open the doors to share insights across the flavor spectrum. Cross-collaboration even within Enablement to elevate each flavor of the function. Tasty!

Okay, enough of that from me.

So… whaddaya say we get back on track to unpack the flavors further. Now where were we…

Rather than engaging in dogmatic debates about the “definition” of Sales Enablement the ~100 SES Fore-founders decided to embrace the diverse nature of the function and think more strategically about the role by grouping functional “flavors” of Enablement and then engage in workgroups to get things done.

Those four Flavors of Sales Enablement were:

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement
Sales Talent Management

Flavor 1. Sales Talent Management

This flavor is arguably what Sales Enablement is most known for. Training and coaching employee new hires from hire to retire. Sales Readiness. Ensuring that the customer facing front line is ready well equipped to carry a value conversation vs. pushing products and features.

THEN ensuring that those same folks are kept up to speed on shifts in how the company is going to market. Better yet, how the front line can best meet the customer where they are. To understand executive level business issues clearly articulate how to solve them.

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement
CREDIT: Primary Research of ~1500 VP or C-level executives by Scott Santucci, Growth Enablement

That is a trick! As I called out in the earlier “What makes a good Sales Enablement person?” post, recent research done by Scott / Growth Enablement reflects that ~1500 VP or C-level executive decision-makers said this happens ONLY 11% of the time. This flavor has a high hurdle to climb in that respect, but it is not only on them! We have at least three other flavors to leverage..

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement
Sales Messaging

Flavor 2. Sales Messaging

This flavor addresses the friction between core marketing and sales. The fore-founders framed the flavor with Messaging, Personas, Content Marketing, and Buyer Journey as sample activities.

So this stage is set perfectly to put part of the above conundrum in the spotlight and solve for it “within flavor.”

A discussion addressing the need to balance the messaging framework and strategy. In what respect?

To provide the customer facing front line a messaging approach that strikes a balance between being up-to-date on products / features vs. empowering them to craft the story as seen through a given customer’s business issues lens. For them to be able to clearly articulate how only your company has the answer as to how to solve those issues, possibly without even mentioning products / features!

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement
Sales Administration

Flavor 3. Demand Management

This flavor is, in part, born out of the best known, longest standing family feuds underneath the corporate corral. My personal favorite as a straight-out-of-college salesperson whom has also held multiple marketing roles in the many moons since. The friction between Marketing and Sales when it comes to leads…

Sales: “The leads are weak!”

  • Marketing: “You didn’t even follow up on them!”

I’ve been in both pairs of shoes, and I’ve seen both proven right first-hand! So again, why not put down the revolvers, leave the N-O-T O-K corral, set the dogmatic debates aside, and collaborate!

Then bring in Sales Ops and HR and add in some of the other sample activities mentioned: Improvement of win rate and Opportunity Management. As someone who has also held multiple sales ops role (although not yet HR,) I feel that I can say, with empathy and authority, that having a Demand Management strategy that is inclusive of a cross-functional Sales Enablement viewpoint is key.

I can only speak personally (can’t wait to hear from the community!) and as for me, a huge foundation for my passion for Sales Enablement was rolling out Salesforce.com (SFDC!) globally. I was on the sales ops side, but concurrently functioning as what I would now call a “cross-functional sales enablement advocate.”

WHAT exactly does that mean? My team and I had two enablement-related mantras at the time.

  1. “Key it ONCE!” – Work to ensure that the information (let’s go with something as simple as “company name”) keyed in on a lead (on an iPad at a trade show for instance) would be the SAME information that had been handed off – within SYSTEMS …without a SINGLE SWIVEL CHAIR (re-keying manually from PC to PC.)

This was, clearly, more of a pure play SYSTEM design issue. But it makes me smile that my cross-functional team was in “fix the sales SYSTEM, not the sales PERSON” mantra mode all those years ago. Emphasis on the cross-functional, of course.

  1. “Do Everything With the Intent to Improve Productivity in ‘A Day in the Life of a Sales Rep.'” – And don’t worry, we emphasized sales management too! In fact I remain on a mission to close the Sales Management Enablement gap. More on that another time.

My team worked with each functional group whom would be “front line” users – sales, sales management, field marketing, sales engineering, strategic opporunity managers – to ensure that, for instance, the screens that were specific to their role profile contained (or could capture) the kind of data that would make them most productive in their role …and therefore more prone to actually adopt the tool into “a day in the life!”

WHY is Sales Enablement? Position #1 of 3: The Flavors of Enablement
Demand Management

Flavor 4. Sales Administration

This is where I hands down have the least amount of experience. I’ve done my time working on reports, and in quoting systems and on RFPs, but especially when it comes to legal redlining or corporate policies this flavor of Enablement is mostly a mystery to me.

Which brings us FULL CIRCLE to… the POWER of COMMUNITY! What an asset it would be for *ME* to be able to tap into fellow Enablement professionals who have “unconscious competence” in this final flavor!

So to wrap Position #1 up with a bow, let’s run with that…

Position ONE: Sales Enablement Leaders did not see themselves as having a defined role, so in order to grow as a community and elevate the function, they identified four “Flavors of Sales Enablement.”

So WHY is Sales Enablement?

To answer, let’s imagine for a moment what it would look like if we took our time machine into the near future. Even one with just SES Founding Position #1 in place.

One where Sales Enablement leaders / practitioners were collaborating…

  • Internally – as an Enablement team within the company.
  • Externally – with Enablement peers of the same flavor in global community.

…working from this same foundational framework — dividing and conquering by flavor?

…learning to remove ourselves from our own biases with empathy gained from seeking to understand our peers of other flavors?

…talking that next click down into leveraging “flavor level” tribal knowledge and core competency to curate more informed and integrated strategies to serve sales?

Both by design internal to our companies, as well as by design externally as a collaborative global community?


So WHAT if we HAD the opportunity to collaborate within curated Enablement workgroups as a global community?

  • Would the original four “flavors” still hold true?
  • Did our Fore-founders miss a few? (Maybe they need a few edits too?)
  • Would that community include you?

I’m fiercely curious to hear and learn more from the Enablement community! If ANY of this sounds about right (or doesn’t!) PLEASE step loudly out into the light and join in the continued conversation! And MANY of you have – thank you!

I have had some great conversations with current SES leadership too. As we solidify opportunities to collaborate, I’m excited to share them with you! (And for my ATL SES Chapter SE family …a part of if it will be coming to a venue near you!)

Let’s Elevate Enablement Together!


Acting ATL Sales Enablement Society Chapter President

Pavilion Executive Envoy

Enablement Ambassador


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