What is the difference between sales enablement and sales operations?

A good sales strategy is necessary to offer employees the right tools and structures to be successful. Operations and enablement are crucial parts for a healthy sales team.

What are sales operations?

“Sales operations” or “SalesOps” describes the functional area of sales activities. SalesOps are often people who create the framework to ensure that sales as a whole runs smoothly. This can include strategy and processes, technologies, but also HR issues and role assignments. An often-mentioned focus for SalesOps is also on collecting, structuring and evaluating data. This helps to better plan the direction of sales processes, efficiently deploy resources and align sales with other business goals.

Often, the sales operations team also aligns with other business units, such as marketing, accounting, the legal department, or IT. Sales operations ensure that sales issues are taken into account in overarching projects and planning, thus establishing sales as part of the bigger picture instead of a closef-off unit.

Key skills for sales operations

Gartner has summarized six key skills of successful SalesOps, which are sometimes more sometimes less part of everyday life in sales.

  • Sales Analytics & Intelligence through reporting and dashboards, use of artificial intelligence, definition of metrics and data governance.
  • Sales force design and deployment by defining roles, creating customer segments and defining markets, for example.
  • Supporting sales leadership through sales performance management, strategy, and stakeholder management.
  • Operation and optimization of sales processes and systems, pipeline management and overview of the so-called “TecStack“, i.e. all sales technologies in use.
  • Management of Sales operations, i.e. strategy and leadership issues, structures and talent management.
  • Planning, setting up and measuring sales compensation (quotas, bonuses, etc.).

Since SalesOps can cover many areas, the team and its tasks will certainly look different in each company. In some companies, the focus may be on maintaining and leveraging the CRM system, while in another it may concentrate on leadership and strategy issues. Some SalesOps teams may primarily deal with HR issues, definition of roles and implementing incentives. How the many different topics are represented and weighed depends on the size of the sales force as well as the company culture and strategy.

What is sales enablement?

In contrast to sales operations, sales enablement is less focused on the fundamentals, framework conditions and goals. Instead, it deals primarily with the aspect of knowledge transfer, the production of content and information, as well as the planning and implementation of training measures and tools that support sales in their communication with customers and leads. Sales enablement therefore works closely with marketing.

This includes, for example, the provision of marketing materials, information and evaluations as well as aligning marketing tools and technologies to support sales in their interaction with customers and potential customers.

In sales enablement, the focus is on information and processes that are intended to expand, convey and use knowledge. For everyday sales, this can be automation tools for social networks or for curating information, AI applications to generate relevant content to leads and customers, or basic material to communicate on different channels for different campaigns and topics.

In addition, identifying, planing and executing necessary trainings, workshops, or even onboarding for new employees is also part of sales enablement, where knowledge is key.

Leadership vs. Enablement

In summary, SalesOps provide fundamentals for sales operations that lead and guide sales successfully. Overarching (strategy) and infrastructural (IT, set-up) issues play a major role. SalesOps also represent sales in cross-divisional projects and align their purpose and strategy within the company.

Sales enablement, meanwhile, supports sales in its activities with leads and customers. It focuses primarily on the preparation and provision of knowledge and material. This includes material for contacts and knowledge transfer for sales to develop and learn new tools, trends and topics. Accordingly, sales enablement works closely with marketing.

Ideally, SalesOps and sales enablement work with each other, regularly exchanging ideas and supporting each other in strategy and planning.

Both sales operations and sales enablement benefit from using the right systems to centrally manage and evaluate data and automate and link processes. Learn more about how you can digitize your sales on our new DIGITALL environment.

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