Thursday, September 3, 2009

IDC's Sales Enablement Framework

Sales enablement continues to be an area of opportunity for marketers to improve their credibility in the organization and their impact on the bottom line. IDC defines Sales enablement (SE) as: "The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the right format and in the right place. . . to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward."

I'd like to invite Rich Vancil, VP of IDC's Executive Advisory Group, to share with you the sales enablement framework that our team (Rich Vancil, Lee Levitt, Seth Fishbein and me) has developed:

"Thanks Michael.

Sales people are knowledge workers and their preparation time is all about building their knowledge so that they can have the most effective interactions with their customers. We like to refer to these interactions as 'conversations'. A sales-person's conversations can be actual or virtual; written or oral; one-way or interactive; one-dimensional or multi-media. IDC's definition of SE centers on making these sales conversations more intelligent and engaging.

For early-stage management initiatives and emerging job roles, frameworks are helpful. Here is the IDC Sales Enablement Framework:
Starting on the left side of this Framework: IDC suggests that managers think about SE as starting in the marketing area (including Marketing Operations); and then moving to the Sales Operations area; and then into the actual selling functions.

Within the sphere of marketing activities, IDC research has found that over 40% of all marketing assets are not in use today, with some sales organizations reporting that as much as 90% of the assets created by their marketing peers are never used by sales teams. This includes assets that have been developed for sales, channels, prospects, and current customers. The top reason that assets are not used or that they are under-used, is that end-users are unable to access or locate these assets. Based upon anecdotal feedback from recent survey participants, the key root causes include: "too much material," old content and assets, and poor processes and technologies. The lack of relevance of content and assets is also cited as a reason for lack of asset utilization.

Sales enablement - from marketing's perspective - is more than simply using a content management system to get collateral and PowerPoint presentations to sales. It is the complete life-cycle management of content and marketing assets, including: content development; leveraging that content across the organization in a one-to-many fashion; collaboration with Sales Operations and the selling entities for the subsequent distribution and delivery of that content to sales (internal and external sales/partners); and the feedback loop from sales as part of continuous improvement.

Moving to the center of the Framework: this is Sales Operations' involvement in SE. An effective sales operations team should be ensuring that process excellence for SE is institutionalized for the entire selling organization. Sales Operations should seek SE best practices from all selling entities and share those practices company-wide. The sales operations team should take the lead on defining goals and objectives for SE; create and manage the processes and systems to meet those goals; provide overall execution over-sight and process governance; and then provide the measurement systems and reporting to track how SE progress is being achieved. As mentioned earlier, a key success factor for sales enablement is for strong collaboration between sales operations and marketing.

The final part of the SE Framework (right side) is the consumption and deployment of the content assets by Sales. The sellers should receive the benefits of the process and infrastructure groundwork that been built by marketing and sales operations. The first part of this is probably the most critical process-area of the entire Framework: How easy is it for the sales person to find the right content (in the right format), at the time that they need it, to help with a given sales conversation? The answer to this is one of the key levers in the Sales Productivity equation. More time in searching and seeking means less time in actual selling. As part of the reporting and metrics that Sales Operations is tracking to understand SE improvement, monitoring of this "searching" time should be an active metric - to reduce!

Effective SE also means that the content that Sales now has in hand, exists in the format or media that is appropriate for the conversation they wish to have. Does a PowerPoint presentation have all the content that the sales-person seeks, but the task of converting that into a Word proposal falls on the shoulders of the sales rep? Again, the definition of SE excellence has to include: "right time, right place, and right format".

Finally, the last step in this Framework is the sharing of SE best practices among the peer sales-people. This is perhaps the key litmus test of SE success. Sales people are smart and resourceful and seek expediency. If the marketing and sales operations elements of this Framework have been successfully deployed, the sales people will likely grasp and exploit it very quickly. Usage will become "viral" as SE best practices become quickly shared across the ranks."

Thanks Rich. Please feel free to email Rich directly at or provide your comments below.


  1. Comment by Martyn Etherington, VP Marketing, Tektronix

    Good insight as always but surprised to learn that one of the biggest sales enablers is segmentation. Enabling the sales teams to segment and find customers is a marketing role that is often not owned by marketing, embedded within the product line or loose segmentation veiled as a territory plan in sales. You allude to segmentation within your sales enablement definition “right place” but focus your dialogue and example mostly on content.

    “The delivery of the right information to the right person at the right time in the right format and in the right place. . . to assist in moving a specific sales opportunity forward."

    I absolutely support and concur with your model and tool view, but think we as marketers need to do a better job in helping our sales teams find opportunities. When the sales teams are at the right place then we collectively had better make sure we enable them to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time and for global marketers “in the right language”.

    Thanks for the model diagram very useful.

    Martyn Etherington
    Vice President Marketing

  2. Hi Martyn,

    Very helpful comments.

    You are correct, in this write-up we did focus most of our attention to marketing content and assets.

    In the Framework diagram under the marketing area, you will see that marketing's intelligence and support should include a "customer knowledge" component which would include segmentation and the overall job of helping the sales teams to focus on the right opportunities.I do agree with you that this should be a marketing-responsibility area, overall.

    Rich V.

  3. Very interesting perspective on the seller enablement ...

    Market Insights