Ideal Team Roles and Structures for Sales Enablement
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Sales enablement as a defined function is in its infancy at many companies, if there is a dedicated function at all. In fact, the 2019 State of Sales Enablement Report found that 58% of companies have had sales enablement programs in place for longer than two years, with just over half of those practicing sales enablement considering their approaches formalized.
With a lack of consistency from company to company in what sales enablement is responsible for, team roles within an enablement function can often be ambiguous. In contrast to other well-defined functions such as marketing or sales operations, the expectations of sales enablement vary based on factors like company size, delineation of the sales organization, and stakeholder priorities.
For example, in a small start-up, sales enablement might be more centralized and rely heavily on cross-departmental partners to help implement enablement initiatives. On the other hand, a large company with multiple product lines might require more segmentation to oversee various aspects of enablement programs, such as a content specialist or instructional designer.
The truth is that there is no single team structure that will succeed in every company. To determine what roles would maximize the success of your sales enablement team, ask yourself the following questions:
- What problem is sales enablement trying to solve for the company?
- What are the stakeholder’s priorities? Are they currently being executed on?
- Who else does sales enablement rely on for help? Do they have capacity to help?
- What resources does sales enablement need to be more effective?
Once the gaps in your current strategy are identified, you can determine which team roles are needed to execute more effectively on your goals. Below are some common team roles within sales enablement; consider the benefits of adding each to your team based on your answers to the questions above.
Download job descriptions for each role at the end of this article.
Chief Enablement Officer
Executive buy-in is essential to sales enablement’s ability to be successful – and what better way to influence C-Suite support than to designate a seat at the table for enablement. Compared to the other roles listed, this position is relatively rare. However, it can be beneficial in streamlining the implementation and adoption of sales enablement programs across the organization with a true top-down approach.
A team structure anchored with a chief enablement officer makes sense in organizations with a large enablement team, spanning mutliple regions, sales disciplines, and go-to-market teams. In such a case, the chief enablement officer serves as the single authority to manage the strategies of all enablement sub-teams while maintaining alignment with the holistic company vision. In other cases, executive alignment can also be achieved through a vice president of enablement that reports directly to a C-level executive.
VP of Sales Enablement
Designating a vice president to oversee sales enablement can be critical to maintain a strategic connection to the executive stakeholders. Especially at larger organizations, a vice president can be necessary to keep the sales enablement strategy aligned to the senior leadership’s vision for the company.
Primarily, the vice president works on the overall strategy for sales enablement, while more junior staff executes on the tactical elements and actual implementation of initiatives. In smaller companies where executive alignment is more accessible or where sales enablement supports a low amount of reps, the vice president role may not be critical, as a director or manager may have more capacity to maintain the strategic vision for enablement while also overseeing implementation.
Director of Sales Enablement
In sales enablement, a director is responsible for translating the strategy into actual programs, including the management of budget, resources, and staff capacity. At large organizations, a sales enablement director may also be necessary to break down the various regional or product-based silos that exist within the sales organization or within the enablement department itself.
Regardless of size, however, an important aspect of the director’s job is to establish key cross-departmental relationships to recruit champions of sales enablement. For example, a sales enablement director should create partnerships with product marketing leaders, frontline managers, sales leadership, and sales reps to help elevate sales enablement initiatives in their departments.
Sales Enablement Manager
The sales enablement manager is a critical hire for every enablement team. This position is essential to stay embedded with sales reps and deliver sales enablement initiatives when and how it will resonate most with them. Managers are often directly responsible for deploying programs to the field measuring the results of those programs.
Depending on the size and scope of your sales enablement charter, program managers might be necessary to run each individual program that sales enablement is responsible for. For example, at rapid growth companies that are hiring new sales reps every month, having a sales enablement program manager dedicated to the onboarding program will be important to ensure that all training sessions are valuable and free up the rest of the team to focus on other sales enablement priorities.
Refer back to your charter and assess whether sales enablement is currently able to accomplish everything you set out to do. If bottlenecks in priority projects are blocking your ability to be effective, consider delegating a program manager to those projects to remove roadblocks and keep priorities moving forward.
The way adults learn and retain information is fundamentally different than how young people absorb information. Rather than assuming that people will remember everything they are taught in training sessions, courses need to be designed with special care to reinforce the information.
“I remember at the beginning of my sales career you went for two weeks solid and you were in competition with the rest of the people in your class and you were there to learn the products, and that was your goal,” said Liz Pulice, vice president of sales enablement at Brainshark. “Everyone believed that sellers were going to consume it by osmosis. We all know that doesn’t happen.”
Instructional designers will be able to assess the sales culture and create courses that resonate with reps. Even if your organization does not have the capacity for an individual solely focused on instructional design, ensuring that at least one person on the sales enablement team has training in the space will help you deliver effective sales readiness programs.
Sales Enablement Coordinator
Less tenured than the sales enablement manager, a sales enablement coordinator can help larger sales enablement teams stay organized and keep processes running smoothly. Coordinators take care of the small, tactical day-to-day details of programs while the manager takes the lead on rolling out the initiatives to the field and monitoring performance.
As sales enablement teams grow and take on more responsibilities, this is a key role to help the team stay on top of deadlines, requests, and next steps with each project. This type of position is also a great way to promote a high-performing seller or marketer from within that is interested in entering into the sales enablement field.
Sales enablement should undoubtedly partner closely with marketing to maximize the performance of sales content. However, relying solely on the product marketing team to create content for sales enablement can burden both departments, derailing product marketing from their other priorities and resulting in bottlenecks on the sales enablement side.
Having a content specialist dedicated to sales enablement material can be beneficial at large organizations where the such content is substantial. Or, this role might be necessary in small organizations that do not have a dedicated product marketing or content team. In any case, though, the content specialist should work closely with stakeholders to ensure the messaging stays consistent with other corporate communications.
Coaching is an integral part of sales rep’s professional development, and it is often an area that sales enablement works to optimize to help reps reach their full potential. While this can come in the form of training programs on coaching strategies for frontline managers, it can also be beneficial to have a sales coach within the sales enablement team.
“Salespeople like to circumvent about what the actual issue is and the problem they are trying to solve,” said John Dougan, director of global sales and productivity at Workday. “They often give you a lot of symptoms. Someone has to own that advisory component of helping them really, really define what their problems are.”
In this dynamic, the sales coach helps identify problems and advise managers on how to address those effectively with their teams day-to-day and also leads the strategy for all coaching programs and training sessions. At organizations with sales reps in many regions and markets, having this centralized sales coach within the enablement team helps ensure coaching is consistent and high quality across all teams.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all definition of sales enablement, there is no one-size-fits-all team structure that will work at every company. The key to determining the ideal team roles for your function is to understand your mission and vision and your capacity to execute against that with your current team. Then, assess where some of these common sales enablement roles can fit into your sales enablement roadmap to help you be more effective as your team grows and function matures.
Download job descriptions for each of these roles to start building your team today!