Before we zero in on the important qualities of a sales enablement manager, we need to wrap our heads around the very definition of this role.
We all seem to know what sales managers, account managers, and business development managers do — but who in the world is a sales enablement manager?
What is a sales enablement manager?
The sales enablement manager is an essential element in the sales process and is responsible for equipping sales teams with the necessary information and tools to excel in their role.
The primary focus of the job is to understand the needs and preferences of potential buyers, and then to provide the sales people with appropriate resources and content to engage with those prospective customers.
Some key responsibilities of a sales enablement manager include:
- Acting as a bridge between the marketing and sales teams (as well as other business units)
- Identifying the most effective formats and channels to reach the target audience
- Providing training to salespeople on products and effective sales techniques
- Establishing and measuring the performance of sales enablement through defining goals and measuring ROI on a regular basis
- Equipping sales teams with software tools and technologies that can optimize their work
- Facilitating two-way communication and feedback between various teams for continuous improvement
Long story short, a business enablement manager is a go-to person for the entire sales team.
It’s a person who has the knowledge, resources, and leverage within the organization to provide the folks “in the field” with everything they need to engage prospects, nurture opportunities, and close deals in the most efficient manner.
Do sales enablement managers and sales managers have anything in common?
They sure do.
Both roles and their respective teams actively contribute to revenue growth and fulfillment of sales goals, but in somewhat different ways.
Sales managers are primarily focused on meeting KPIs and OKRs, working on streamlining the funnel, raising conversions at every stage of the process, pointing the sales teams in the right direction, and gauging/boosting the individual sales performance of each team member.
They work on the front line and make sure that deals are closed on a regular basis and according to plan.
In contrast, sales enablement managers are responsible for providing client-facing sales reps with everything they need to be successful.
Acting as a liaison between the sales team, the marketing teams, the presales department, and even delivery units, they purvey the required training, marketing collateral, software tools, channels, and process improvement ideas to those who sell.
Here is a simple illustration demonstrating the level of involvement of these two key roles, sales enablement professionals and sales reps, at different stages of the sales process:
As we can see, sales enablement managers are multidisciplinary procurement experts for the sales staff and have a wider area of responsibility, more functions, and, therefore, a broader set of skills and qualifications that have to be accounted for when seeking candidates for this role.
Now that we’ve outlined the business functions under their purview, let’s talk about the advantages that a sales enablement program brings to the table.
What are the benefits of having a sales enablement manager in your company?
Surprisingly, many organizations, even those with an army of salespeople, either still don’t have a sales enablement strategy and/or a sales enablement team or don’t really measure their impact correctly.
One of the reasons for this is that proper implementation of sales enablement as a continuous improvement process or even philosophy requires a bit of a cultural shift by sales leadership and other stakeholders.
In the majority of companies, sales enablement is responsible for several key processes/functions, which, in turn, are also the primary drivers for assessing its performance:
- Sales certification and recertification
- Ongoing sales training
- Sales onboarding for new hires
- Annual sales kickoffs
- Fostering a coaching culture
At the same time, the extent to which sales enablement contributes to the success of the entire sales organization is much more substantial and goes far beyond employee training and keeping everyone up-to-date at corporate pow wows.
This has led to a transformation of the sales enablement paradigm.
Take a look at the illustration below where Gartner lists the most important objectives of a sales enablement leader working with other members of the sales team.
Since sales enablement pulls out of the sales cycle at a much later stage than training and certification only would imply, it turns out it’s a far more integral part of the entire sales process.
The key benefits of appointing a sales enablement program manager and implementing sales enablement practices are diverse. Let’s take a look at some of them in greater detail.
Highly effective cross-departmental cooperation
Bringing a sales enablement manager into the mix translates into much better communications between the technical departments, marketing, and sales.
Acting as a mediator/liaison between all these parties, an SEM acts as a single point of contact for all of them and makes sure that the right information is delivered to the requesting party at the right time — all for the sake of faster quota attainment and higher revenues.
For instance, establishing a stable and clear channel of communications between the marketing team and the salespeople may help the latter to get a clearer view of the buyer’s journey and generate more targeted sales pitches.
On the other hand, having a similar connection with the product team (also supervised by a sales enablement person) will help gain a better understanding of the product’s USPs, killer features, and technical details, such as the tech stack or architecture — something not to be overlooked in conversations with the more technical contacts on the potential buyer’s side.
Better hiring decisions and career development scenarios
One of the most important tasks that sales enablement managers face from day one is the definition of a perfect sales rep that would require a minimum of training to start performing as expected.
On the one hand, they use their experience in the industry to help the hiring department find suitable candidates and produce lucrative job offers.
On the other hand, they constantly work with sales managers to define sales enablement metrics and monitor the performance of sales representatives.
If adjustments or additional training is required, they step in to work with a particular sales rep to help them deal with the problem and move forward.
And when they spot a leader that appears to have reached the limit of their current role, they come up with promotion scenarios.
Improved training and skill development
Sales enablement helps address one of the most common issues in the industry — a growing disconnect between the product team and the salespeople.
It’s not uncommon for them to be misaligned to the point where the sales team is using incorrect wording or placing highlights in all the wrong places and not selling for that reason.
Sales enablement efforts focus on bridging such gaps by conducting regular training sessions and joint meetings, as well as constantly producing the most relevant and up-to-date sales content that sales representatives can always access and present to their prospects.
Stricter observance of the process framework
In order for the entire sales mechanism to demonstrate consistently high sales effectiveness, it needs to adhere to rules and processes.
This helps avoid delays, misunderstandings, and “kinks on the hose” that block opportunities in the sales funnel.
The sales enablement manager role often includes responsibilities related to the creation, implementation, and ongoing improvement of the sales process framework, which is done in close cooperation with sales, production, and marketing managers to achieve full alignment on important matters.
Implementation of new sales tool and techniques
As we mentioned above, sales enablement managers are responsible for designing the overall sales framework, instituting new sales methodologies, and proposing new lead generation practices, among other things.
Once of the staple elements of the SEM’s work is to identify, vet, purchase and implement new sales enablement software, such as:
- CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems
- CMS (Content Management System) and digital asset management solutions with advanced visualization features (AR/VR)
- Document automation software
- Professional LinkedIn subscriptions
- Client discovery tools enabling various lead prospecting techniques
- Time management tools
- Marketing automation solutions for effective email campaigns
- And more
SEMs are supposed to do what SMs often don’t have time to do — explore the trends, find the best tools, map them to current business pains, and implement them across the sales organization in case of a good match.
Uninterrupted sales content creation
High-quality, up-to-date, easily accessible sales content coupled with a comprehensive collection of document templates is a fundamentally important resource for any sales team.
Anyone who has even been in sales knows how frustrating it is to not be able to quickly send a recently updated presentation or sales proposal to a “warming up” prospect because the numbers in the copy you have are off, the descriptions are outdated, and some sections are no longer relevant altogether.
Sales enablement managers effectively connect marketing, copywriters, production unit leads, and salespeople to regularly produce and update sales-ready materials that are technically impeccable and in line with the marketing strategy.
To that end, they use various software systems, including proposal management software, form data collection tools, eSignature services and more, all working in concert and integrated to form a streamlined workflow for every employee.
The essential qualities of a sales enablement manager
Now that we have a general understanding of the value and importance of having a SEM in any sufficiently large company, let’s take a dive into the sales enablement manager job description and identify the most important characteristics that a candidate for this role must possess to succeed.
First, what kind of person should you be looking for if you want to institutionalize sales enablement in your company?
A good SEM, at a very minimum, must:
- Know exactly where sales and marketing content is stored (and its current status)
- Devise, implement, monitor, and interpret various sales and sales enablement metrics
- Serve as a conduit between the marketing and sales functions
- Quickly and clearly process initiatives and feedback from sales to marketing and vice versa
- Proactively and regularly propose and implement changes to process, tools used, overall sales strategy, etc.
- Regularly review and update learning/training materials, style guides, document templates, sales strategies and approaches
- Have deep expertise with different CRMs (Salesforce, Hubspot, Dynamics, etc.)
- Have sufficient project management and time management skills
- Work closely with marketing and sales teams to formulate the customer journey, identify decision makers, approach champions, etc.
Next, what are the key personal qualities that make a good sales enablement manager?
1. Outstanding communicator
Since SEMs are placed strategically at the intersection of sales, marketing, and product development, great communication skills (a.k.a soft skills) are absolutely vital for this role.
The ability to listen very attentively to each party, process this information, come up with solutions, and mediate messaging between the parties is absolutely essential for a good sales enablement expert.
And since SEMs are also responsible for sales kickoffs and often work with large numbers of people, experience in public speaking is also a plus.
2. Affable, approachable, empathetic
For an SEM to be the go-to person for everyone, this person has to be likable and friendly, making them the first choice for reporting any sales productivity issues or discussing customer relationship hurdles.
Ideally, your sales enablement manager should be an extrovert with a profound sense of fairness and conflict-resolutions skills.
They are supposed to be the people who can persuade parties with a difference of opinions to go in the same direction and do so while remaining confident and thorough enough to see this collaboration through to completion.
3. Naturally curious with an analytical mindset
Again, as someone who operates in a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment, an SEM needs to be curious about what’s trending and well-informed about the state of things in each department, the industry, and the market.
In addition, their ongoing efforts to optimize sales operations and training programs must rely on the results of performance measurements and data obtained from all departments, so an analytical mind will come in very handy for putting this puzzle together.
4. Data-driven and tech-savvy
We’ve already mentioned the data-driven approach that all good SEMs should embrace, but another important success ingredient is the tech-savviness of potential candidates.
Today’s sales enablement tools can be complex and can be used in different combinations. In addition, SEMs should have a solid understanding of your business model, the nuances of your product, and your sales strategy.
At the very least, all of the above requires a bachelor’s degree and some background in the industry in the same or similar role. Make sure your candidate checks these boxes before sending out that job offer.
Sales enablement — bottom line
So what have we learned about sales enablement managers?
It turns out that they are really important — important to the point where they are steadily becoming an essential element of any organization’s sales framework.
By implementing sales enablement as a key practice and appointing a skilled sales enablement manager, you can secure a number of tangible advantages that neither you, your clients, nor your competitors will be able to ignore:
- Improved performance of the sales team
- Improved cross-unit cooperation
- Better understanding of your client cohorts and personas
- Ongoing staff training and continuous improvement
- Streamlined process of sales content generation and distribution
A great SEM must be an outstanding communicator, someone passionate about technology and people in equal proportions.
Self-organization, natural curiosity, and a knack for solving business puzzles are all welcome additions to a perfect sales enablement manager’s profile.
At the same time, even industry veterans can’t do much without the right software — for example, a comprehensive suite of sales enablement tools from PandaDoc.
If you are considering switching to a modern, cloud-based SaaS platform for all of your document management and sales automation needs, make sure to book a demo with us and let us show you how much everyday comfort you’ve been missing all this time!
Originally published June 28, 2016, updated May 24, 2023