Who Owns Sales Enablement? Sales? Marketing?
- by Elay Cohen
- June 11, 2020
SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform
The number one goal for any sales enablement team is to empower effective sales. Ideally, this is done on every level in the company – although your first knee-jerk reaction might be to turbocharge the sales team only, and have sales enablement be grouped with sales teams.
The fact is that the whole organization benefits from a great sales enablement team, but there is much debate about where the enablement team should “live”.
What constitutes a typical living arrangement?
Every company is different, and all sales organizations are different. Every company and organization is structured differently – can you think of any two companies that are exactly alike and function the same? Even if they are similar, their goals, employee skills, internal politics, sales goals, and values will vary.
Who owns sales enablement should be decided on many factors:
Your company structure, sales process, and internal culture will all play a role in deciding who owns it. The most important thing to remember is that sales enablement can live anywhere and be owned by one or many teams.
It just all depends on the above factors.
Let’s have a look at the different best practices when deciding on who owns sales enablement in your organization.
Should it be the sales team, marketing, HR – or should sales enablement be shared for the best results?
First, let’s talk a bit about how the sales enablement team should be structured. This depends on the size of your company. Let’s say you have a very large company, with over one thousand employees across many departments. Your sales enablement team would have to branch out in order to have a powerful and meaningful impact.
In such large organizations, sales enablement needs a lot of supporting pillars that coordinate with each other and every other department.
They will be involved in:
All of these different support pillars would have a competent and motivated leader that reports to a central head of sales enablement. This can be a separate entity, or this role can be taken over by anyone close to one of your main teams. The structure of such a team would look something like this:
Likewise, in small companies that cannot yet devote the same amount of resources to a complex sales enablement structure across all departments, sales enablement can be “owned” by HR, sales, and marketing.
It’s nature vs. nurture when it comes to every living thing, sales enablement included. While the nature of sales enablement is to uplift, enable, and drive success, it’s where get’s nurtured that will have an effect on how it will act and it’s the success rate in driving sales. and enabling the whole company’s culture.
It’s to be expected that if sales enablement reports to the CRO, their focus is going to be revenue, and if they report to the CMO they’re going to be more marketing-focused. What is best to focus on in your organization?
Don’t think that sales enablement has to stay in one place all the time – as it’s role changes throughout the company structure, it’s perfectly okay to move it from let’s say sales to the HR department if your expectations change. It’s important to communicate your goals clearly to everyone involved.
It’s important to understand that the success of the sales enablement team, whoever owns it, depends on the individuals you have chosen to lead the project and be responsible for its performance. You have to match the tasks with the leader’s understanding of goals, priorities, best practices, and company needs.
We’ll give you the right answer before we go on any further: sales enablement can live anywhere and be owned by anyone. Sales, marketing, HR, and it can even be a company-wide initiative. It can report to a dedicated sales enablement officer, or the CEO, CMO, or CRO. It all depends on who your people are, what your goals are, and how you work.
The most important question you should ask yourself when securing a place for sales enablement is “what stage is my company at right now, and what do I need sales enablement to accomplish?”.
This might seem like an intuitive thing to do – after all, sales enablement enables sales, so the best place for it might be at the same table with the sales reps. There’s a lot of obvious benefits to this choice. When sales enablement is owned by sales, they become a mean, lean sales-focused machine.
This is the most common solution. They have direct contact with the sales team and focus on what really matters to them. Having sales enablement in the sales department helps to align the enablement team with the sales leaders, and streamline applicable solution to the sales reps.
Alternately, there are cons to this choice. You are in danger of excluding the rest of your organization and being pigeonholed in the same box as sales. The focus of sales enablement should be on the whole company, and the most successful teams work across the lines. It’s harder to make other departments be involved with sales enablement – most of them think that “it’s not about them”.
There is a false sense that sales enablement is only done for sales, which is not true because some of the best success stories of sales enablement include other departments and holistic growth.
Speaking of “holistic” – what’s more holistic than human resources? After all, they are involved with all other teams, tend to take a leadership position, and are able to use their channels to train, onboard, and properly introduce sales enablement throughout the whole organization.
The human resources team is a great place for sales enablement to live if you want to concentrate on education and assessment of your whole staff. HR is very good at getting to the roots in your organization – from the ground up. As a given, they have the necessary tools to change company culture and will use them in order to make sales enablement an important backbone.
If you associate human resources with boring training videos and safety protocols, you should take a look at how human resource departments are rebranding themselves. They are game-changers, driving company philosophy, and enabling employees by nature. If you have a passionate HR department, they might be one of your best sales enablement secret weapons, getting sales and marketing, staff and management alike hyped up and ready to make meaningful changes across the whole organization.
Of course, sometimes the cons of switching responsibility for sales enablement to HR is that the whole process becomes more about training and getting everyone on board rather than enabling in real-time. Human resources have an interest in onboarding, training and are great at scaling – but sometimes they can get too wrapped up in that and not focus on the competitive side of the sales teams. Sales and marketing teams tend to be dismissive of human resources as not hungry enough, or aggressive. This might hurt the overall credibility of a sales enablement team that reports to HR.
When sales enablement reports to marketing, there are many things that can go right – but there are also some things to be wary of. Marketing is an exciting department, full of stories, deadlines, goals, and dreams. They seem to have a life of their own, and there is a lot of good work that can be done in sales enablement with a marketing team at the helm.
Some things that can be a true success when marketing is in charge include:
Marketers are natural content creators – this can be used as a powerful tool for sales enablement. Sales enablement ties all the best aspects of sales and marketing together in order to supercharge your sales process. This type of enablement best works for an organization that has a very complex variety of products or services.
The more great content generated about these products and services, the more knowledge and sales training can be applied to not only the sales team but the whole organization. Having just-in-time knowledge about the right product at the right time can translate to immediate progress for the salespeople.
The only thing to watch out for is that while awesome for sales training and content creation, an enablement group that reports to sales is in danger to being streamlined to serve marketing itself more than sales.
A great marketing department sometimes becomes like Narcissus – they focus on themselves a bit too much. There’s a danger of the sales enablement becoming misaligned with sales and revenue and too focused on the needs of the marketing department.
The takeaway is this: it depends. There is no right answer to this question because every organization is different. We can all agree that sales enablement is about coaching, learning, and selling. There are different people, teams, and people in your company that specialize in each one of these things, sometimes even more than one.
You can put an emphasis on any and all key aspects of your operations by deciding who owns sales enablement. It’s always best to aim at the right person, with the right experience in the right position – someone who has experience in all aspects of sales organizations will be less likely to leave one of the teams out of the loop, and make everyone feel like they are important contributors in the company’s successful sales enablement story.
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