When Does Your Sales Organization Need Sales Enablement

Ryan Walsh, CEO and Founder
Ryan Walsh, CEO and FounderNov 8, 2019

When should start-ups, in particular b2b and/or SaaS start-ups, hire their first sales executive is a busy topic, full of opinions, and Googling it offers a plethora of valid pieces. But what about sales support roles? AKA “sales enablement” or “sales success” roles?

Say you’ve had a solid run of hiring account exec after account exec (and some managers), and maybe aren’t thinking about sales enablement. You may not even know what it is. We’ll break down what roles it will play and how to determine when to invest.

First, what roles does sales enablement play? In short, many, but we’ll highlight four of the most common roles that sales enablement will play in your b2b sales org:

— Onboarding and training new sales professionals (sales training).
— Supporting sales leadership with analytics and metrics (sales analytics)
— Ownership of the sales tech stack (sales operations)
– Administering sales compensation
— Serve as a technical resource on product demos (sales engineering)

In hiring your first sales leader, they should perform the first four of those functions, and do them effectively. The fifth will typically be handled in part by the sales execs themselves or other internal staff as well as the founders, depending on the product.

This will work fine for a while, but eventually the cost of time to have your head of sales manage these becomes a drag on productivity and it’s time to off-load some or all of these functions.

Let’s start with a sales team of 8 reps. If you have a sales team of 8 reps, it’s time to bring on a sales enablement professional, reporting to the head of sales, and supporting the org. Ok, cool, but every sales org is different, and some will need this role much earlier, while other teams can persist a while longer without it, so what about our org?

Here’s your straw-man consideration set:

  1. How technical is the sale? If the sale is very technical and demo heavy, this will drive the need to bring in support sooner, mainly for the sales engineering function, which will allow the sales team to operate more independently, without outside help. This could be as early as your second overall sales hire. If the sale is not super technical, you may never need sales engineering help, although that doesn’t mean you won’t need sales enablement
  2. How much automation will drive your funnel? High velocity sales requires systems that “talk” to each other. Someone has to manage those systems. Marketing automation, CRM, click to dial, etc. Who’s going to administer those systems? This also pushes the role to have oversight into both sales and marketing systems, and likely means they need to have some technical know-how.
  3. The velocity of the sale will also determine the need for advanced analytics – pulling sales funnel metrics out of the CRM, identifying key points and trends, and delivering them in a presentable and actionable format. If you’ve got a high ticket enterprise sale with a smaller pipeline in terms of deal count, then it’s more about the art of selling, not so much advanced metrics.

So to summarize, you either need sales enablement right now, or you will need it. There is an art to determining when you will need it, but this general framework should provide the foundation for your decision process.

Good luck out there!

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