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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, May 31, 2018 11 min read

Sales Training Versus Sales Enablement – What's The Difference?

Sales Training vs. Sales Enablement, What's The Difference?

It’s A Little Like The Difference Between Blockbuster And Netflix

Sales Training vs. Sales Enablement, What's The Difference?If you’re running a sales team, you should be thinking about what you need to do to improve the team’s performance. The goal is continual improvement. There are always tasks, activities and practices that can help the team improve its ability to exceed your revenue goals.

If you’re hitting your goals month over month, your goals are too low. If you’re missing your goals month over month, you should be looking at all kinds of improvement ideas, including setting more reasonable goals. But the question of whether you need help with sales training or sales enablement might be a tricky one that requires more education, thought and consideration.

Let’s make sure that you know the difference so you can make the best choice for your company and your sales team.

What Is Sales Training?

To some extent, the answer to this question is in the eye of the beholder. What I think sales training is might not be exactly what you think sales training is, but let’s attempt to define it anyway. When I think of sales training, I think of the standard classroom training sessions that companies invest millions of dollars in each year. It could include social media training, such as how to use LinkedIn to close more new business. It could include calling techniques, closing techniques or questioning skills, or it could involve training designed to help sales reps get to power, uncover that one key pain or apply a specific qualification methodology.

Mike Shultze from the RAIN Group writes his blog article 7 Reasons Why Sales Training FailsAccording to ES Research between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. He goes on to identify why traditional sales training is historically so unsuccessful, but that doesn’t mean sales training doesn’t have its place if deployed more strategically.

Sales training can also take the form of rep-specific or leader-specific training. In some cases, this is actually a better approach. By tailoring the training to specific reps or sales managers, you get a more personalized approach that helps the learners hone their strengths and work on their weaknesses. But you also end up investing money on the worst of your salespeople and leaving your top performers to “just do what they do.”

Some sales training experts suggest that you should be helping your best people get even better and rotating out your bottom performers. I think there is a place for regular sales training, but only as a component of a more strategic approach to sales that focuses not on the rep, but on the system.

What Is Sales Enablement?

Ssales enablement servicesales enablement, sometimes called sales execution, is all about the system. Sales enablement involves looking at your sales process and making it better, faster and more efficient. It involves all aspects of the experience your prospects have with your sales team.

Its also highly metrics-driven, and typically starts with understanding your current sales performance metrics, defining the baseline and creating the aspirational metrics you need to hit your sales goals every month.

Sales enablement includes reviewing, assessing and potentially upgrading ever touch point from the time a prospect asks to speak with a sales rep all the way through to the time the ink is dry on the signed agreement. It would also include any proactive outreach your sales team might be executing. The goal is to make your sales efforts as effective and efficient as possible.

Start thinking about your sales process like a ride at Disney World. The goal of the ride is to entertain your guests. The goal of your sales process is to help them make the best buying decision for their company. That means you might not be the right and best choice for some of them. Your sales team has to identify those prospects early and move them out of your process, so your reps can focus on highly qualified opportunities.

We refer to this as off-ramping unqualified prospects. You want to do this elegantly and gracefully. They might be ready for you later, or they might leave and go to work for another company that is qualified, so treat everyone with respect.

This might mean you have to think differently about even your very first conversation with a prospective customer. Instead of talking about you, talk about them. What are their challenges, why did they download that whitepaper? Show your knowledge of their business by highlighting challenges other prospects have mentioned to you: Do they have those same challenges? Try to NOT talk about your product, service or company.

Sales enablement includes all the tools you need to rework your entire sales experience. Some of this might even stretch back into marketing, such as lead scoring and lead management. What leads go to sales? When do they go? What is the attribution or behavioral model that dictates a kick-over to sales? How qualified do you want leads to be before sales gets involved? The answers to those questions will be different in every company.

Blending Sales Training And Sales Enablement

Most companies don't need to choose between sales training or sales enablement; they need both. How do you redesign a sales process that closes new customers more quickly and more frequently? How do you arm the sales team with more content, so they can educate their prospects better? How do you create a sales experience where reps are adding business value and asking great questions instead of pushing a demo?

Even if you revamp your sales process, you’re going to need ongoing training. You’re going to need to reinforce concepts more than once, and you’re going to need to give team members new tools, train them on how to use them, reinforce the usage and check back on their uptake.

The pace of change in both sales and marketing is dramatic these days. If you’re not teaching your reps new skills, new techniques and introducing them to new tools, you’re falling behind your competition. This might be one reason why you’re not winning more new customer deals.


Sales Hacker has an article that highlights some recent non-CRM sales tools for you to be aware of. The speed at which new sales software tools are being released is breakneck and its keeping a lot of sales leaders busy assessing the tools and deciding if they’re worth the effort.

One of the most interesting new tools is Smart Rooms (Journey Sales). It drives engagement and achieves higher sales performance by growth-hacking the experiences you create for your customers. Running as a native feature on Salesforce, Smart Rooms empowers your team to build hyper-personalized and guided experiences that positively affect customers’ buying behavior. Use Smart Rooms to deepen existing relationships with key accounts and organically ramp up your upselling and cross-selling campaigns.

But keep in mind that no matter how big or sophisticated your sales effort is today, you need CRM as a platform technology to keep all the touches, all the content, all the data and all the reporting in one place and accessible to everyone in your company. CRM is like financial management software for your business. You would never run a business with a notebook and pen or simple spreadsheets. You can’t run your business without CRM either.

The key is to create a strategy before you start buying services or administering training. What is your sales team good at today? What do they need to be better at tomorrow? How do we get them there? Our sales enablement practice always starts with an assessment down to the rep level, so that we can provide strategic direction before we start incurring costs associated with consulting, training or redesign work.

This is a solid approach for any sales team, whether you have three reps or 30. If you want to improve your results, you have to know where you are today, so you can get where you want to go tomorrow. 

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.