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:
- Many of our current approaches, methodologies, and frameworks are either too complicated or do not work.
- Sales Enablement is not viewed as a strategic must-have by many executives or Sales Leaders.
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:
- Strive for simplicity at all times. We do not need complex models that only the most sophisticated practitioners can follow. We need to simplify, educate, demonstrate, and collaborate.
- We do not need software vendors building closed and proprietary websites to promote their own “best practices.” We need investment in open and collaborative models.
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.
“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.“
“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.
– John Moore