The Role of Sales Enablement in Overcoming Data Overload

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The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make a quality decision – that’s what most sales operations leaders would say, at least. While data and research are important to making informed decisions for a business, too much can become noise. Data overload is a real issue for decision-makers, where it becomes difficult to distinguish between the wealth of charts and graphs in front of them to determine what to respond to with action. This is where sales enablement becomes essential.

The Origins of Data Overload in Sales

Sales enablement grew from within sales operations because sales leaders needed more insight into their business to help ensure its long-term success. At most large organizations today, enablement has grown into its own function that operates as more of a sibling to sales operations rather than a subset of it.

However, operations teams are still getting four times the headcount than enablement teams. That’s largely because many senior leaders at sales organizations are tenured salespeople with decades of experience working to achieve operational excellence. Its purpose is familiar to them. Enablement, on the other hand, is still relatively new, so sales and operations leaders still may not fully understand enablement and what it is capable of.

With more resources in sales operations, organizations are investing in giving sales leaders more insights and data in real time. By investing in enablement, however, organizations give their sales leaders a coach to help them understand the data and create programs to change the outcome of that data. There needs to be balance within organizations between the two so that sales leaders are not so inundated with insights and data points that they can’t make effective decisions to manage their business.

Sales Enablement as the “Personal Trainer” for Sales Leaders

To put this in perspective, think about wearable technology for the purpose of personal fitness – for example, FitBits or Apple Watches. These are equipped with tools that measure all sorts of health activities, from steps to heart rate and amount of time spent exercising daily. And the devices are incredibly popular. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine recently forecasted it as the top health trend for 2019 based on a survey of more than 2,000 health and fitness professionals. While they succeed in giving people valuable insight about their health, they lack in providing guidance or coaching on how to improve the data points and reach health goals.

To provide that coaching and guidance, investing in a personal trainer that can create a plan and programs based on the areas that people want to improve in their fitness will be more effective and efficient in helping them reach their health goals. At the same time, it will help them build better habits to maintain success long-term.

Think of sales operations as wearable technology and enablement as the personal trainer. It’s incredibly important for sales leaders to have data and insights to know where they need to improve, but more doesn’t always mean better. To bring real value, they also need a personal trainer – in the form of an enablement specialist – to help them build programs that address the areas in need of improvement and create habits that will help sustain the health of the business.

The Responsibility of Sales Enablement

The key difference in approach comes down to accountability. Sales leaders are accountable to annual sales revenue, which means they are often moving too quickly to be able to spend time ideating and designing programs based on the insights in front of them. At the same time, sales operations are accountable for identifying areas where the sales process needs to improve to affect annual revenue. It’s enablement’s job to design the programs to help the sales leaders reach their goals and hold them accountable for implementing the programs in their teams.

The reality is that sales operations are still investing just one-quarter of the resources allocated to providing data to sales leaders than enablement programs to help guide them. Sales enablement needs buy-in from sales leaders, but it also needs support from sales operations leaders in order to get the resources it needs to be effective and reach alignment on goals. With understanding from the operations side on the role, sales enablement can play in helping sales leaders reach their goals, enablement can be positioned as a consultant to sales, or in other words, a coach.

Sales enablement is essential for organizations and sales leaders to overcome data overload. In an age where organizations are obsessed with data and giving leaders insights on strengths and weaknesses, it can be easy for people to become so overwhelmed with data that they just ignore it rather than act on the information. Sales enablement combats this by helping to identify the leaders and programs that are needed to change the results of the data.

To bring about true value and transformation, organizations need to invest in both analysts to curate data and specialists to create action from the data to alleviate pain points in the sales process. Sales enablement professionals are the personal trainers that can dig deeper into areas that need improvement based on data. Without them, essential projects to improve sales performance can become bottlenecked by the sales leaders that are juggling too many other priorities that require their attention and expertise. By shifting the focus from data only to data and coaching, organizations can reduce data overload and empower sales leaders to be effective in transforming processes to reach their goals.

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