Revenue Enablement organizer with words revenue and sales

The Case for Revenue Enablement Over Sales Enablement

Much like the Age of Enlightenment that was popular in Europe during the 18th century, Enablement is undergoing its awakening. With more significant numbers of people participating in the profession, with the continuing growth of the Sales Enablement Society, and with a software segment worth billions of dollars, it is being discussed and analyzed like never before.

Much like the Age of Enlightenment, intellectual and philosophical debates, combined with a healthy dose of research, are leading to advancements and a more in-depth understanding as to what works. During these times, disagreements are growing out of these insights and experiences. The future of Sales Enablement is one of those areas where debate is raging onward because of the challenges sales organizations face creating an enablement strategy, implementing that strategy, and measuring the metrics that define success.

Consequently, revenue enablement has begun to gain popularity as an alternative to empower every customer-facing role within an organization and channel partners to improve every customer interaction.

As the recognition of revenue enablement increases, here are a few viewpoints to consider.

Some Feel Sales Enablement Is a Bad Investment

As I have written elsewhere, the growth of Sales Enablement has stalled as a measure of businesses adopting the profession. As I noted in that article:

“According to the latest CSO Insights Sales Enablement Report, the number of businesses making use of a Sales Enablement function has been flat over those three years. In 2017, 59.2% of companies surveyed had a Sales Enablement team. In 2018, the number inched upward to 61.0%, and it crawled slightly higher to 61.3% in 2019.”

There is worse news. You can read the details in the linked article, but I also note that based upon the research:

“Only 27.5% of the total study’s population met or exceeded their stakeholder expectations. Remember, it is this group that is achieving significantly better results.”

Said another way, 72.5% of all teams are either not moving the needle at all with their sales enablement strategy or, worse yet, negatively impacting business performance.

This is our current reality. While there are many lessons to be learned from the 27.5% that are doing things right, it is also essential to recognize that:

Sales Enablement is not a bad investment, but in many situations, the investment is not paying off.

Is your #SalesEnablement initiative increasing sales? Many companies aren't moving the needle with their #sales enablement strategy because current approaches are too complicated or do not work via @ACollaborator of @BigTinCan.… Click To Tweet

Some Feel Sales Enablement Is All We Need

Sales Enablement works when it is data-driven, has executive buy-in, is defined by a clear charter, and has strong execution. We know this based upon research from organizations ranging from SiriusDecisions/Forrester, CSO Insights, and others.

Unfortunately, too few organizations are doing it well. This leads to a severe branding problem for the profession, and the viewpoint noted above that it is a bad investment.

For Enablement to grow and thrive, we need to take an open approach to provide a baseline of best practices, education, and processes. We must:

Sales Enablement is not dying off, nor is it the future alone. Current approaches have led to hard-to-replicate models, inconsistent results, and stagnation. It is time for something new to enhance the good and eliminate the bad of today’s current models.

Revenue Enablement Is the Future

In 2019, in recognition of the research by SiriusDecisions, I embraced the term Revenue Enablement and formalized the definition and defined three key tenants. The goal was not to play buzzword bingo but to begin a movement towards the open and collaborative world based upon experiential and research-based guidance.

Before I dive in, I want to address a counter-argument I often receive:

“The term revenue enablement is a little controversial. Some argue that it’s another buzzword. The customer doesn’t care about our revenue; they care about solving their problems. ”

I agree that the customer doesn’t care about how we drive revenue. Nor do they care about our sales, our growth, or anything other than who can best help them solve their business problems.

However, why not choose an entirely different name? Enablement is not a widely recognized word. Is there a better one? Maybe we should incorporate buyer, customer, prospect, or some other language altogether? Here is why I am sticking with Revenue Enablement.

The term Revenue Enablement comes from recognized analysts at SiriusDecisions. I could waste my time and yours, arguing for a different name, or I could embrace it and collaborate to ensure we build a better model than we have today. Instead of fighting for control of a new term, I’m going to embrace what smarter people have already put forth.

People who wish to argue semantics versus looking to create a better future for businesses and individuals can continue the argument if they so desire. Those who are serious about formalizing Enablement to develop real business success are already joining in the conversation; that’s where I will continue to focus.

What I have defined is not final; it will grow and evolve as an open and collaborative concept does. Nor is this definition perfect. It will improve over time as additional research-based data becomes available and as others partner to create, document, and share how Enablement functions in their organization to drive revenue.

#RevenueEnablement is the future! This strategy is customer-obsessed and empowers all customer-facing employees to focus on #CustomerSuccess. Learn how from @ACollaborator of @BigTinCan. Click To Tweet

Revenue Enablement vs. Sales Enablement

Lets begin with the definitions first, then we will take a look at various aspects to more fully compare and contrast. These definitions were published on BigTinCan.

Definition of Sales Enablement

“Sales enablement is the strategy and processes for helping sales teams efficiently move customers through the sales process to the point where the customer can make a purchasing decision with a higher likelihood of buying their solution.“

Definition of Revenue Enablement

“Revenue Enablement is the process by which you most efficiently acquire and maintain customers, maximizing revenue gained through each stage of a customer’s journey with your organization.“

Who Does Each Support?

Sales Enablement is sales-focused and supports your sales team. While teams support marketing and sales alignment, the alignment is driven primarily by the needs of the sellers.

Revenue enablement is customer-focused, with the customer at the center of all decision making. This obsession with the customer experience enables each member of an organization (not just those in sales) to focus on customer success.

What Processes and Life Cycles Are Supported?

Sales Enablement covers the period from which a prospect becomes a sales qualified account or opportunity through the time that they make a purchasing decision. The goal is to enable sellers to more effectively engage these potential customers through the sales cycle and close the deal.

Revenue Enablement covers the entire customer journey, not just the sales process. It includes everything from building awareness through the customer lifetime and then, if customers leave, through the ongoing nurturing to try and win them back. Sales Enablement is a critical aspect of Revenue Enablement, but still just one piece of the puzzle.

I wrote an article on the LinkedIn® Sales blog titled How a Revenue Aligned Organization Embraces Today’s Complete Buyer Journey which goes into greater detail about the role of Revenue Enablement across the buyer journey.

How Does Each Team Support Its Customers?

Sales Enablement teams create, curate, and deliver content to the sales teams. They also support the sales reps with onboarding, ongoing training, and supporting effective coaching efforts. These tools are provided to sales reps throughout the sales cycle to improve operations.

Revenue Enablement teams provide these same job functions to the broader organization as appropriate to support customers moving along the buyer journey. Training, content, and coaching can be delivered to marketing, sales, customer success, finance, and other teams to streamline the customer experience for these buyers.

Revenue Enablement is also a form of process-based management, which means these teams are also responsible for identifying, documenting, and streamlining, in partnership with appropriate internal teams, all touchpoints along the buyer journey to improve the customer experience.

What is #RevenueEnablement? While #SalesEnablement is sales-focused and supports your #sales team, revenue enablement is customer-focused, w/ the #customer at the center of all decision-making. Learn more from @ACollaborator of… Click To Tweet

Continuing the Revenue Enablement Conversation

Sales Enablement is still maturing and the industry as a whole needs to work more closely together to ensure best practices and education are open and freely available. Doing so is essential to the success of the function overall.

Revenue Enablement is no different in this respect. SiriusDecisions is already providing tremendous research demonstrating the success of businesses using this broader approach. We need to take a broad, and open, approach to sharing these lessons, educating practitioners.

I look forward to continuing our conversation.

5 thoughts on “The Case for Revenue Enablement Over Sales Enablement”

  1. Okay, here’s the deal:

    A rose by any other name… We’re getting wrapped around the axle of nomenclature. That said, I’ll play along here for just one moment.

    The term “Revenue Enablement” could, in many peoples’ minds, further exclude customers from the human to human interaction which we inappropriately call “sales”. Revenue Enablement drives focus toward revenue generation as the end goal, rather than placing the customer first. By the same token, calling it “Customer Enablement” doesn’t work either, for the exact same reason – it de-emphasizes the supply side of the market.

    Economics and economic equilibrium, whereby supply and demand intersect and a transaction occurs, is in the final analysis what we’re talking about here. Focusing on either side for very long is going to drive economic dis-equilibrium and sub-optimal conditions, or, in simpler terms, either the supplier or the buyer gets the shaft. So, let’s get off the nomenclature merry-go-round and get to what really matters – finding the most effective and efficient ways for us to get what we have into the hands of those those who need and/or want it.

    My two cents –


  2. Bob, nothing but huge respect for you and your thinking.

    This goes beyond nomenclature though, as Revenue Enablement is a much broader function than Sales Enablement.

    We know that Sales Enablement growth has been stalled (based upon research from CSO Insights) in large part due to poor implementation, education, and collaboration.

    We must all come together to share best practices and seek to educate and mature the profession so that the impact is consistently positive across the board. At the same time, it would be a mistake to fail to understand the research and findings from organizations like Sirius Decisions. We must share what we know and learn from what we don’t.

    The Collaborator

  3. John,

    Let’s start with where I agree with you.

    I agree 100% that the current state of the sales enablement marketplace (which I will include: vendors, practitioners, academics, and subject-matter experts) has taken the two words “sales enablement” and turned it into a very tactical term that is at risk of meaning nothing.

    I also agree that the real business problem – developing an “execution fabric” to lay across the various functional silos and orchestrate resources to be more customer-centric is the root cause business objective.

    I also agree that people who run a function with that scope should be far more strategic than how the overwhelming majority of how sales enablement practicioners behave.

    Where I strongly disagree with you is trying to change the definition. The word “sales” can easily be used to mean “bookings,” “the sales force,” the “process of selling,” or even a “transaction.” This word should be based on the vision of a given sales enablement leader.

    For example, a company that views sales enablement as only onboarding – the SALES really means enableing new hires to be more productive faster.

    However, sales can call mean “bookings”. I know about a dozen very strategic leaders who have 200-500 plus organizations who use the word “sales” to mean “how do we drive bookings”.

    Why and I so strongly against “revenue enablement” as a term?

    Two reasons.

    1) There are already people who have worked hard to develop the kind of internal messaging you are advocating for under the banner of ‘sales enablement”. They have learned to create messaging like “sales is a team sport” to build alignment.

    In all of these cases, the term “revenue” is off-putting to the 100’s of people (yes, 100s) they need to gain internal buy-in. Why? Revenue is an accounting term. Please, look it up.

    2) Talking about revenue invites scope creep. What do I mean about that? Well – one of the nasty things we don’t talk about (sales and marketing leaders avoid talking about complexity like the plague) is revenue recognition. If you spend time talking to CFO’s (I do often) one of their frustrations with sales organizations is the lack of understanding about how complex revenue recognition is. Please visit the SEC site and read the regulations associated with revenue.

    Here is the deal. I very much want to support you on what I think your objective it – elevate the role, get people talking about the strategic benefits of “enablement” and make the messaging far more accessible to the c-suite.

    If that is true, I can get behind that 100%.

    I cannot support “revenue enablement”.

    I think it alientates too much of the foundations that have been built and it invites a whole different level of internal debate.

    I’ve covered this space for over 10 years. There are many suppliers who have come in and tried to carve out and lead a big picture lens for sales enablement and ALL have massively devalued their businesses.

    Some examples:

    Inside Sales

    Again – I want to be clear in my feedback.

    I support what I think your objective is. I think your message is dangerous and will not help you get to your objective.

    I hope you take my comments in that spirit.

    Scott Santucci
    Founder, Sales Enablement Society
    President, Growth Enablement

  4. Thanks, Scott.

    Sales Enablement is seen as tactical, and the growth has stalled (per CSO Insights latest research). You named your company Growth Enablement and I see smart people like Tiffani Bova using similar terms. I refer to Revenue Enablement as an uber function, encompassing Sales Enablement and adding more.

    It is clear that many of us see the need to be more strategic and to raise the profile of our profession. On that point we all agree.

    It is on that point, which is the one that is most important, that we all move forward to try and achieve better outcomes for the future for individuals, businesses using enablement, and vendors alike.

    Thank you for the feedback and let us continue working for that better future.

    -John, The Collaborator

  5. Scott Santucci,

    First, great respect for the Sales Enablement Society and its mission and for your acknowledgment and agreement with John’s critical points.

    So let me start with your disagreement with John’s “definition”. It does feel like your “grip” is a little too strong, particularly when you counter with the fact/argument that “people” have spent so much time and energy internally building “sales enablement” messaging and buy-in. What doesn’t make sense with this counterpoint is the fact that you agreed that 72% of those people waving the sales enablement banner aren’t getting the job done. That’s not good for any society. I think the definition and the charter of those driving enablement, has to change.

    To support John’s direction with “revenue enablement”, let’s go right to the high-growth/race to the IPO industry of SaaS where the “society” has an incredible opportunity to change the game….and the banner.

    Executive leaders at SaaS companies are buying in early to build enablement processes to support…if they are doing it right, their CUSTOMER JOURNEY. That means that their enablement leader/team is converging with Marketing to identify the challenges the CUSTOMER faces with buying decisions and helps to create/curate the tools/content to account-based marketing, sales, channel, and customer success/service to ultimately enable those customer-facing functions to help drive the customer’s decision-making journey forward. This requires the enablement team to manage and prioritize inputs from product development/evolution, marketing, sales, customer success, and service.

    In short, and in support of John the Collaborator, this requires enablement beyond the sales and sales process. Do I think by changing the name from “Sales” to “Revenue” changes the game? Absolutely not. But the thought process behind “Revenue Enablement” and its definition is something the society should be moving towards at a much faster pace. Moving towards adoption of a new definition will go a long way to empowering your society and help to change your brand.

    My final thought is a side note again from the SaaS world…Sal or Sally can call themselves the Chief Revenue Officer but Joe or Joan can’t be in charge of Revenue Enablement because the “society” has spent too much time marketing the “sales enablement” banner? I know you don’t believe that…but I truly believe that the society should take a step forward and encourage Joe/Joan to embrace the definition AND the name.

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