Sales Enablement vs Sales Operations: what are the differences?

In the world of Sales and Marketing -and everything in between- there are different roles and positions. If you work in this area you know that when people ask you what you do for a living, simply saying that you are in marketing or sales doesn’t cut it. And this is because on a day-to-day basis you can work in either or both areas. For outsiders, the nuances between the different roles can be tricky. Today, a frequently asked question is : “What is the difference between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement.”

For those who are up-to-date with Sales Enablement and the Sales and Marketing trends, this might seem like a simple question. However, it's a fast-evolving world and not everyone is following Sales Enablement’s every move. In this context, we will dig into this question and focus on how Sales Operations and Sales Enablement differ.

What is Sales Operations ?

Even though Sales Operations are more well-known than Sales Enablement as a function, its organization can be drastically different from one company to another.

Sales operations come as a support to sales people by optimizing the sales process. Their main focus is on activities other than the ones that directly involve interactions with potential buyers. Instead, their activities are related to more technical aspect of the sales process such as :

  • Territory and quota management
  • Administration of the CRM
  • Sales KPI reporting
  • Sales forecast management
  • Proposal and contract management

What is Sales Enablement ?

According to Forrester, Sales Enablement can be defined as “ 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.”

In other words, Sales Enablement is the iterative process providing salespeople with the right tools to improve their performance and efficiency. When we mention “the right tools” we mean the right coaching, training, processes, assets and technology throughout the entire sales process.

The main goal for Sales Enablement is ensuring that each sales representative has the skills and the knowledge needed to maximise their sales readiness. Moreover, the function also takes in charge content creation and management to guarantee valuable interactions with customers and prospective buyers.

Another important thing to note is that Sales Enablement is very different from one organization to another. In some companies, the role can be carried out by a single person that is a part of the Sales/Marketing team or in others it can be a whole department of its own. It all depends on the organization’s structure, size and vision.

Among the different responsibilities carried out by the Sales Enablement function we can name :

  • Sales onboarding
  • Sales training & coaching
  • Managing sales enablement tools and their adoption
  • Reporting on metrics related to sales readiness (productivity for example)
  • Equipping sales representatives with relevant content
  • Implementation of new sales processes

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What are the differences between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement ?

Now that we have taken the time to properly define each concept, we can list some of the main differences between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement :

  • Sales Operations aims to manage the sales tech stack and report on the overall sales efforts.
  • Sales operations is a more “tactical” role that helps sales processes to run efficiently and smoothly.
  • Sales Enablement helps with content creation, and sales readiness among others.
  • Sales Enablement is a transversal strategy that aims to improve both Sales and Marketing.

Despite their differences, it is important to note that both functions work best when they work alongside each other.

Sales Operations and Sales Enablement : the best of both worlds

Imagine that a company invests in a new CRM. The Sales Operations team will most likely handle the CRM’s setup and basic training : in other words it will get it started. Then, the Sales Enablement team will take the lead by coaching sales representatives and ensuring long term adoption. This is the perfect example to demonstrate how even though both functions have separate roles, they are just as essential for the operation’s success.

In other words, since both functions exist to improve sales productivity and performance, it inevitably creates an overlap between them and makes it essential to maintain a strong relationship.

An effective collaboration (and alignment) between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement enables sellers to go through the sales process more efficiently and drastically increase sales readiness.

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