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Sales Operations vs. Sales Enablement: What You Need to Know

Apr 17, 2018
4 min read
Both sales enablement and sales operations are key to a successful sales organization. Here's what you need to know about the two teams to drive performance.

Sales operations and sales enablement are two sides of the same coin allowing your sales team to hone in on the actual selling motions rather than focusing on the back-end processes, tracking down training material, and optimizing the sales teams' CRM. While there can be some overlap between the two teams’ organization and responsibilities, overall, the two teams tend to serve consistent functions, regardless of the organization.

Understanding the differences and similarities between these two important teams, and how they interact, is key to setting up your sales team for success.

What is Sales Operations?

Sales operations, or sales ops, teams tend to have a more focused scope than sales enablement. Primarily, sales ops focuses on analyzing historical trends such as how the number of booked calls relates to sales velocity and in-the-moment trends, such as the relationship between current quota attainment and quarterly sales forecasting.

Sales operations has the large responsibility of designing, implementing, and monitoring the company’s sales compensation plan. Having a wide variety of sales teams and strategies can make plan design a challenging task. They must take in a high volume of data and present it to stakeholders at every level of the company, including executives, sales reps, and the sales enablement team in a way that makes sense for each group and their needs. This is why it’s important to build a sales operations team with the right key players.  

For example, executive staff needs to know if their overarching quarterly forecast is attainable, whereas a sales rep may be interested in a specific action they can take to increase their sales and commission payments. In addition,  the sales enablement team would need to know actionable trends across the sales organization.

The sales operations team performs best when it is credible. They are often responsible for the administration and maintenance of a company’s Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) and ensuring the information contained within is updated in a timely fashion. They also help ensure that leads get pushed to the right sales teams at the right time, depending on the sales funnel.

Understanding Sales Enablement

Sales enablement teams tend to have a broader and less defined scope of responsibilities, but the job is no less important than sales operations. The sales enablement team is chartered with receiving input from around the business and ensuring the sales team has the right tools, training, and support to guide leads through the sales funnel and close deals.

A strong sales enablement team will have the ability to ensure your sales team has important information at their fingertips exactly when they need it, which is where an integration with the marketing team is a necessity.

The sales enablement team often works closely with marketing to create marketing documents, such as product sheets, blogs, and webinars about a new product launches and key selling points. They also help manage sales onboarding and training.

The sales enablement team should also be prepared to communicate with wide cross-section of the business and tailor their communications to them. They may need to tailor messaging so that each team can understand how changes and sales plans will affect different departments.

Sales Ops vs Sales Enablement: Building Successful Teams

When building a sales operation team, you will ideally look for a diverse group of team members with a deep understanding of data analytics, company goals, and key sales drivers. Ideally, your team will have key players from different departments to ensure company, executive, and departmental needs are all met in the sale plan.

A successful sales enablement team should also be a diverse team. This allows for innovation and ideas with team members with different backgrounds in training, product management, consulting, etc.

Given that a significant portion of the role is sharing institutional knowledge to a team, sales enablement should focus on communicating effectively and have a good understanding of the sales incentive plan to emphasize the benefits for sales reps. Relationship building is key in this role to ensure all of the relevant material is processed, and sometimes that requires knowing the right person to talk to at the right time.

The stakeholders for both teams are similar and need varying levels of high level, impact-driven communication. To be able to be effective both teams should have a clear understanding of the most important deliverables in their roles and the best communication methods to keep stakeholders in the loop.

How Sales Ops and Enablement Should Work Together

Together, sales ops and sales enablement must work hand-in-hand to ensure your sales team has the tools and materials they need to sell and communicate the state of the business with your executive team. Sales operations should drive a consistent stream of information to the sales enablement team to inform their priorities around training or product needs.

For example, if sales operations finds there is a drop-off in conversion at the qualifying stage from a particular team, it could be a signal to the sales enablement team that they need some additional training. The sales enablement team should also work closely with the sales operation team on any new overhead work to ensure it is meeting company needs without bogging down the sales with administrative tasks.

In Conclusion

A successful sales team needs both sides of the coin working together to succeed. When sales operations and sales enablement work cohesively, the ultimate goal of giving sales people the power to sell more can be achieved more easily. While there may be some overlap between the roles, together, they help drive sales and arm them with the tools they need to close deals. Need help organizing your sales operations and sales enablement teams?

Schedule your personalized strategic services consultation today!

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Xactly News Team

The Xactly News Team reports on the latest product, events and market trends taking place within Xactly and throughout the revenue intelligence industry.