L&D’s Role in Sales Enablement

What Every Learning Professional Needs to Know Today to Impact Sales Results Tomorrow

By Wendy Mack

First published on TrainingMag.com, March 2016.

If you are a learning and development professional who supports a sales organization, chances are high that your title and/or team name have changed recently. In the past few years, more and more companies have started to establish sales enablement functions—and the talent at the core of those functions is often the sales training team.

To be successful with sales enablement, you need to break down the walls between organizational silos to get customers the information they need.

— Forrester Research

What Is Sales Enablement?

Recently, Forrester Research defined sales enablement as “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.”

In other words:
Sales enablement is an approach that bridges the gap between the sales strategy and execution and provides the salesforce with all the information and resources they need to generate revenue.

Why Does Sales Enablement Matter?

The emphasis on sales enablement grew out of pain. Sales executives across industries report that one of the biggest challenges their people face is information overload. Sales executives say things like:

  • “Our internal functions are competing for our salespeople’s time.”
  • “Our salespeople receive conflicting messages from different sources within our own company.”
  • “I see time being wasted in training that isn’t relevant to my team.”
  • “We struggle to make sense of it all and our salespeople are wasting precious selling time.”

As companies sought solutions to this problem, people started to use the term “sales enablement” to refer to an approach in which all parts of a company work together to drive better sales results. Of course, it’s one thing to call a person or team “sales enablement”—it’s another to actually have a positive impact on sales performance.

My Title Is Sales Enablement—Now What?

It may be tempting to assume that L&D fits into sales enablement because L&D owns anything that has to do with sales training. This interpretation limits the potential for L&D to make a significant impact.

Based on Wilson Learning’s ongoing work in the arena of sales effectiveness, we have identified four elements that must be aligned with a company’s go-to-market strategy and integrated with one another in order for any sales enablement approach to be fully effective:

  1. Sales Processes and Systems
  2. Information and Resources
  3. Learning Strategy
  4. Leadership Practices

Integrating these elements requires dialogue, shared commitments, agreements, and accountability among multiple functions. That’s where we as L&D professionals come in. Rather than just reorganizing or renaming sales training, genuine sales enablement requires us to reframe our role and rethink our work.

1. Reframing the Role: Breaking Down Silos

According to a Forrester report, “. . . you need to develop a team to work across traditional organizational boundaries and reporting levels within your company—and that’s a big challenge. But eventually, to be successful with sales enablement, you will need to break down the walls between organizational silos to get customers the information they need.”

Improving the alignment of the core functional elements, the go-to-market strategy, and the customer experience is the ultimate objective of sales enablement. Accomplishing this triple alignment requires coordination across multiple functions, including:

  • Learning and Development
  • Sales Leadership and Management
  • Sales Operations
  • Marketing
  • Product Development/R&D
  • Legal/Finance/IT
If you ask top executives and sales leaders what they need from training, you are likely to hear, ‘help equipping our people to drive sales.’

Wendy Mack

Wendy Mack served as Director of Consulting Services for Wilson Learning Corporation. Wendy led the team that is responsible for diagnosing client needs and designing comprehensive solutions that result in sustained behavior change and performance improvement. Wendy’s work blended her expertise in learning and development with her extensive knowledge of human performance technology, change management, and communication. She was a popular speaker at national conferences and client events and has coauthored three books on the topics of learning, leadership, and change.