What Actually Qualifies as a Sales Enablement Tool?

The term “Sales Enablement” covers a wide range of offerings, and has many definitions and qualifiers. But not everyone agrees on what it really is. Software vendors use one definition, CRM vendors use another, research firms use still another. You and your boss probably have different definitions. Your sales coach (if you have one) almost certainly has strong opinions on the subject. So, as a professional salesman—but decidedly not a sales theorist, here’s my take.

According to Forrester Research, “Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.”

This fits my personal definition, but it raises questions. Why do companies pay more for CRM licenses than they do for true Sales Enablement Tools? Do CRM vendors know something about human behavior that coaches don’t?

Using the Forrester definition, you can see the purpose of the Enablement Tool is to help make sure client-facing individuals are able to deliver consistent, valuable engagement to the right people. This is what good salespeople do before they interact with prospects or clients—knowing what to do on the first contact, second contact, etc. It’s all about knowing how to respond to a question or interruption. It’s about knowing to ask stakeholders what their vision of working together is. Above all, it’s to ensure you’re able to articulate the value of your product or service to each stakeholders—to allow the sales engagement to proceed.

The Forrester definition (and mine) is qualitative. Big, often expensive CRM systems are quantitative. A CRM is used for reporting and answering questions like:

  • How many calls did you make?
  • How many opportunities do you have?
  • What stage these opportunities are in?
  • What is the next step?
  • Who are the stakeholders?

CRMs serve a great need in understanding what is on the horizon, as well as what has already happened. You can better understand what email templates you used for what campaigns, but you can’t learn or understand the core selling skills that get you the meeting, that get you to the next step or to maintain control of the conversation.

So, is a CRM a sales enablement tool? I would say it’s more of a sales documentation and reporting tool. Your boss can look into an opportunity and understand whether or not a specific deal will close this quarter or not. (Well that’s assuming that you keep your CRM up to date for your manager to take advantage of the CRM.) But is that enabling the sale?

Tools like the Viddler Training Suite, and the Viddler Practice Workflow are more in line with enabling sales. It teaches and reinforces on a qualitative level—whether it’s a customer service associate handling an irate client or a sales person being able to articulate why their company’s pricing is 50% higher than the competition.

What I’m talking about are soft skills. For example, it takes practice to be able to handle a prospect interrupting you during a presentation—to ask about how your product works. That skill doesn’t develop overnight. You have to script out a response, and practice it over and over (like Michael Jordan practiced free throws) until it is internalized, and you’re able to perform and respond under pressure.  Only a tool with the right workflow and coaching or feedback will allow you to improve at human interaction. Just having access to data or reports or communication history will only make sure you’re speaking to the right person. It doesn’t prepare you to handle the human element of the sales process.

Remember, Practice Builds Confidence. Practicing the right moves will enable  you to perform under pressure.

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