Sales Enablement vs. Sales Operations: What’s the Difference?

Shakespeare once asked: “What’s in a name?” As it turns out, the answer is: “A lot!” At the very least, names serve as important labels that identify people, places, and things, as well as provide clues about their unique attributes. Two “names” that get thrown around a lot in the business world today are sales enablement and sales operations. On the surface, it may seem like both of these terms refer to the same thing. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that there are some significant differences between the two.

Let’s examine these two labels in more detail. And find out what each term covers, how it works, as well as how these two terms are different from each other. We’ll start with sales operations.

What are Sales Operations?

Put simply, sales operations are the technical activities that reduce friction for sales reps on a daily basis. Sales operations may include the maintenance of your team’s CRM, data tracking and analysis, setting up new hardware or software for your reps, and so forth. In a sense, you can think of your sales operations team as a combination of management, IT, as well as “customer support” for your sales reps.

The Responsibilities of Sales Operations

As you’ll see, sales enablement does include some technical activities needed to improve your team’s performance. However, it is by no means limited to those activities. Here is a sample of the different responsibilities handled by sales enablement teams:

  • Content creation and management
    Sales enablement specialists want to equip reps with valuable, relevant content for each stage of the sales funnel. They realize that when sales reps have to spend precious time searching for valuable content on their own, they’re actually being sidetracked from the more important work of selling. Therefore, these specialists ensure that reps have easy access to a centralized library of high-value, impactful content.
  • Alignment between marketing and sales
    In some companies, interactions between the marketing and sales departments often deteriorate into a game of he said, she said. In many cases, each team has different goals, and neither one is receiving constructive feedback from the other. A dedicated sales enablement function can eliminate such issues, and ensure that both departments are aligned toward a common goal. When marketing creates content that’s truly helpful for sales reps, and sales reps provide ongoing feedback for marketing, then the company as a whole will benefit.
  • Onboarding and training of sales reps
    In order for your sales team to become and remain effective, they must participate in a continuous program of training and upscaling. This program falls under the sales enablement umbrella. Your sales enablement team will ensure that all sales reps have access to valuable training content and events. And everyone is regularly scheduled for learning and development sessions.
  • Sourcing and deployment of sales technologies
    The sales enablement team is always on the lookout for innovative tools that can help reps to save time and sell more effectively. Once they find new technology, they work closely with the sales operation team to deploy it within the company’s CRM.

What are the Differences Between Sales Operations and Sales Enablement?

We’ve discussed what each term means and what it encompasses. Let’s review some of the major differences between sales operations and sales enablement:

  • Sales operations tend to be more “tactical” in nature, whereas sales enablement is more of an overarching strategy.
  • Sales operations are almost exclusively concerned with the sales team, whereas sales enablement involves both sales and marketing.
  • A sales operations team manages and maintains the tech stack for sales reps; a sales enablement team identifies new technologies to implement, and then collaborates with sales operations to make their vision a reality.
  • The sales operations team manages compensation plans and incentives for reps; the sales enablement team analyzes performance levels and looks for ways to improve them.
  • Sales operations typically don’t include content creation, whereas sales enablement assists with the development of an effective content creation strategy.

Of course, it’s important to note that despite their differences, the sales operations and sales enablement teams function best when they work together. For instance, imagine that a company invests in a new CRM platform. The sales operations team may work to set up this new platform for each rep. While the sales enablement team may spend their time training reps on how to use the CRM. Different roles to fill? Absolutely — but both of them are essential for success.

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Author: Rick Kranz

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