Sales enablement means different things to different people. It’s a catch-all term that’s become important in many sales organizations. According to Brainshark, nearly 32% of companies now have a formal sales enablement department.
Sales enablement is well-established. But is it enough?
To enable means to make someone able or to make something easier. Giving people competence, authority, tools, technology and resources makes them more able to do their work. Enablement, of course, also includes equipping people through training, coaching, and tools.
But there’s something missing. Enablement isn’t enough.
To ennoble means to elevate and respect or to dignify. When we ennoble a person, we’re acknowledging their worth and dignifying the value of their ideas and work. Ennoblement is what we do to ensure others feel respected and valued.
Sales ennoblement is sorely lacking in many sales organizations.
What ennoblement and enablement have in common is the result: empowerment. People are equipped through enablement and motivated through ennoblement. If we want sellers to be ready for buyer interactions and strengthened to achieve their goals, we must use a combination of both enablement and ennoblement.
The success of a sales organization largely depends on the efforts of the sales team. I believe CEB’s definition of employee engagement says it best: “When employees feel an emotional connection to their workplace, they apply additional discretionary effort to their work.”
Research from “Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces” shows that specific leadership behaviors foster that emotional connection. Ennobling behaviors, such as recognition or empowering employees to make their own decisions, lead to emotional connections that produce increased discretionary effort. The results include higher levels of customer loyalty, increases in topline revenue, and improved profit margins.
Additional discretionary effort on the part of sellers isn’t something to be taken lightly. Most studies report that only 20% of employees are highly engaged, meaning that only 1 in 5 sellers is feeling ennobled enough to be emotionally connected in ways that drive results.
There’s another way that ennoblement matters.
Sellers must also ennoble their buyers. In Stop Selling & Start Leading, our research with buyers and stories from sellers explain exactly what sellers can do to boost their effectiveness by doing more to ennoble buyers. Here’s how one of the buyers in our study described what she’s looking for during the sales process:
“The ideal is when a seller promotes an innovative or cutting-edge product, doing their best to answer all the questions we have. Then they invite our input so they can make relevant adjustments based on our specific requirements. Sometimes this is achieved through brainstorming sessions where we give our input and, by the end of the meeting, our contributions are recognized and complemented. All this helps to build a strong relationship between our company and the seller that lasts for a long time.”
Ennoblement is far less expensive than enablement, and companies don’t need dedicated departments to deliver it.
The two biggest barriers I see are a lack of awareness about how important ennoblement is and a lack of sales manager training on why and how to ennoble sellers. This is a clear case where many sales managers simply “don’t know what they don’t know.”
The lack of awareness stems from the fact that we prioritize measurable outcomes and tangible solutions. We can prove how many minutes an enablement tool saves or how much ROI can be produced with good sales coaching. It’s more difficult (and takes longer) to show a clear ROI on behavioral shifts in the management team.
Without awareness and appreciation of ennoblement, sales managers likely won’t seek training or resources on how to become more ennobling. Instead, there’s a heightened focus on enablement alone. Some enablement tools are seen as “magic bullets” that will cure all that ails sales. Then, when enablement efforts aren’t as successful as expected, executives wonder what was missing. Often, the answer is that the work of enabling inadvertently made a seller feel a diminished sense of worth or value.
In 2018, sales organizations who focus first on ennobling sellers and buyers will gain a competitive advantage. In an age where AI and technology are all the rage, true and meaningful differentiation will come from making people feel valued, worthy, special, dignified and respected.