Why Consider a Career in Sales Enablement?
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People crave careers with purpose. They want to impact change, to align their professional goals with personal values. The ever-growing field of sales enablement presents an opportunity to do just that — and more and more, individuals from a variety of backgrounds are finding their home in enablement careers.
With a career in sales enablement, professionals are at the forefront of driving behavior change across the organization, developing sales talent, breaking down organizational silos, improving culture, driving tangible business impact, and more. The massive potential sales enablement presents has led to staggering growth in recent years, meaning an increase in the presence and demand of sales enablement talent.
In fact, the number of people with “sales enablement” in their job title has more than tripled since 2015, and there are more than 7,000 LinkedIn job postings related to sales enablement today. As companies increase their desire to provide excellent buyer experiences, sales enablement’s trajectory will continue to accelerate.
“I think we are at a critical juncture with sales enablement,” said Mary Shea, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “We are at a place where this discipline is more critical than ever before, especially for organizations that want to put their sellers on even footing with buyers, and for organizations that want to deliver a world-class buyer-customer experience.”
In exploring whether a career in sales enablement might be right for you, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What am I passionate about?
- What are my professional development goals?
- What are my goals for career advancement?
- What is my ideal workplace culture?
If your answers to these questions align with the sales enablement career paths, skills, and business value outlined below, then sales enablement might be the perfect career match for you. As sales enablement becomes even more established as an essential business function, individuals with the right set of skills — regardless of experience and background — and a desire to help companies deliver more value to customers will find a fulfilling career as a sales enablement professional.
Diverse Paths to Sales Enablement Careers
Unlike other business functions such as accounting, engineering, or legal, there is no required educational background or set of experiences that qualifies candidates or leads to success in sales enablement. A uniquely dynamic field by nature, individuals from a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise are finding their homes in sales enablement.
In fact, CSO Insights found that 44.8% of sales enablement professionals come from a sales management background, 27.9% from sales, 25.9% from marketing, 23.4% from sales effectiveness, 17.4% from sales training, 15.4% from sales operations, 11.9% from learning and development, and 4.5% from human resources. This list of potential paths to sales enablement extends even further, with others coming from consulting, advising, teaching, and more. The diverse range of sales enablement responsibilities and its role as an internal consultant necessitates diverse backgrounds.
“Sales enablement can play a major role in helping all those different individuals with different needs, strengths, and weaknesses, be able to succeed,” said Edwin Castillo, global sales and customer enablement at 8×8. “More and more, I see folks who are successful in sales enablement in that they’re really more in touch with the field and they’re working side by side with managers and side by side with HR in terms of how to drive performance.”
Skills that Lead to Success
While there is no specific set of experience or education required to be successful in sales enablement, there are essential skills, values, and behaviors that can increase an individual’s effectiveness in a sales enablement role. Here are a few key attributes that lead to success:
Sales enablement professionals bring an entire organization together, breaking down silos and bridging departmental gaps to collaborate with cross-functional partners across the company. This collaborative nature is necessary to gather resources and insights from all levels, departments, and segments that can better equip sales reps to deliver valuable customer experiences.
“There is so much mutual benefit to a well-oiled enablement organization when it comes to the products we use, between the marketing teams, and the sales leadership,” said Heidi Castagna, senior director of global sales enablement at NVIDIA. “Getting excellent resources out in the field, getting those over the finish line is incredibly important, but also it’s not like pulling teeth because it is obvious where the shared benefits are.”
Sales enablement professionals need to be skilled at engaging with individuals and building trust with them to show them that their unique input is valued and leverage expertise from across the organization.
Sales enablement is a new focus at many organizations, meaning that there is no blueprint for success. Rather, the onus is on the practitioner to identify priorities and design solutions that will prove a solid return on investment for the company.
“You need to be willing to take risks and be willing to have something you try to fail, and then move on from that,” said Patrick Merritt, director of worldwide field enablement at Sumo Logic.
Practitioners cannot wait to be told what to do, and often, there may not be a clear answer of where or what to begin with. In sales enablement, professionals need to be tenacious about seeking out problems they can solve, working with partners and executives to prioritize those, and creating solutions with a defined outcome in mind.
Regardless of whether a sales enablement practitioner has ever been a salesperson, a deep understanding of how a salesperson thinks, behaves, and is motivated is required. Without that fundamental knowledge of the sales persona, it is difficult to design programs that will make salespeople’s jobs easier and more productive.
“Understanding what people are going through and what they need to do is key so that when we try to train them or we try to change whatever needs to be changed, we can do it from the lenses of the [salespeople],” said Maria Belen Eglez, sales enablement manager at Unbabel. “Because in the end, [salespeople] are our customers, so we need to make sure we understand them.”
Essential to the role is a natural, charming presence. As an individual that facilitates conversations, presents to large groups, and works across teams with a wide variety of personalities, sales enablement practitioners need to be confident, convincing, and comfortable up on a platform.
“Because of the cross-functional nature of the work, that ability to work with all types of people…and do it in a very effective way — having a warmth and a charm and a graciousness –comes in handy for a lot of these folks that are going to be in front of a room at some point, commanding that room,” said Sharon Little, author of SalesCraft.
Always a valid indicator of success, sales enablement professionals need the ability to perform excellently within a deadline, to be goal-oriented, and to have a high work ethic. To be able to design effective programs and successfully solve business problems, it is important to begin with the end in mind and define clear desired outcomes.
“The demands on sales enablement are significant, and you are driven sometimes to deadlines that are not flexible in any way, so an ability to get things done and get them done excellently according to a deadline is really important,” said Little.
The Value of Sales Enablement to the Business
Sales enablement is a maturing and ever-expanding field, with the State of Sales Enablement 2019 Report finding that 58% of companies with it have had it in place for longer than two years and more than half also have formal approaches to sales enablement.
Moreover, those companies that have formal sales enablement functions experience direct performance improvements. Moving past one-off sales enablement programs and having a charter, vision, and strategy revolutionizes business success, resulting in an average 12% increase in win rates, 35% improvement in quota attainment, 15% decrease in sales rep turnover, and twice the likelihood of participating in formal, cross-functional collaboration.
This means companies are now starting to fully connect the dots between sales enablement programs and overall organizational growth and success as it continues to prove itself as an investment with the potential for high returns. As such, individuals involved in sales enablement are often able to get in on the ground floor of programs and teams that will pave the way forward for the organization as a whole.
As sales enablement transforms from a “fix-it” mentality to a formal and strategic business function, it is gaining more authority. This rise translates to opportunity for more and more senior roles within sales enablement, meaning practitioners are better positioned to secure executive buy-in and budget, build rapport with cross-functional partners, and carry valuable feedback from the field up the ladder that will lead to improved business performance. Similarly, as sales enablement ascends to more senior roles, individuals that enter the field have more and more opportunities for career path progression and advancement.
Sales enablement is reaching a crucial milestone. With this new and important understanding of sales enablement, it becomes clear why companies care about growing their sales enablement and finding individuals capable of capturing its full potential. Now more than ever, individuals passionate about helping people be more efficient and effective in sales can be a catalyst for organizational success with a career in sales enablement.