Sales enablement isn’t a one-person job. It can’t be. There’s just too much to plan, execute, track, and optimize for one person to go solo.
That’s why the next installment of the LevelJump Sales Enablement Summer School is all about building your sales enablement team that will help you accomplish the mission.
In the previous installment, we talked about laying the foundation for sales enablement, and it’s that foundation your team is tasked with building on. Make no mistake: without the right personnel and structure in place, even the best-laid plans will go awry.
There is no “typical” sales enablement structure, but how organizations get the job done today tends to fall into one of three types:
Each org type has different advantages and disadvantages we’ll get into in a bit. First, we’ll give you a brief overview of each.
This common model features one person who presides over all of enablement, like a director of enablement, and several team members under them who specialize in specific areas. These can include functions like onboarding, product enablement, coaching, and curriculum design.
The advantages of this model is that you have a team of experts who really understand their specific areas. Each function also gets a dedicated focus, so you can ensure it’s being fully supported.
The disadvantage is that you need a bigger team to make sure you cover all your bases. Alignment within the rest of the organization can be challenging, too, since it’s easy to have people become isolated in siloes. For example, the product enablement team might be working on a training program for a new release, which would of course be relevant for the onboarding team, but that might not be communicated.
Finally, there can be duplication of effort, as a particular function may overlap with another department (i.e. content with marketing).
The organizations that best use the centralized/specialized model are enterprises with mature sales and enablement functions, or those that have at least 8 enablers on the team. It also benefits orgs that have pretty complex products and processes that will require that higher level of specialization.
In this model, instead of having each team member specialize in a specific area or function, you have generalists who correspond to sales roles.
So, you can have a team member enabling BDRs. You can have another enabling AEs. And one for Customer Success, Solution Engineers, and so on.
You can also have coordinators under these team members that may handle specific functions within those roles.
This model very much aligns with the sales team as it is structured. And, it’s very flexible, since everyone can do anything that needs to be done. It’s also a great way to start small and then scale up, and you can add roles as your business needs change.
The downside is you’re trading specialized expertise for utility and flexibility. That pesky work duplication issue is also present, as is the tendency to silo - except this time, an entire sales role team can be isolated from the rest.
If you’re starting a new enablement effort, or if you’re a scaling startup that is going through growth and you have a small team, the generalist by role structure might work for you.
The third and final framework is the hybrid model that is designed to offer the best of both worlds.
The hybrid model is essentially an evolution of the generalist model, where you align your enablement team to the specific demands of the business, first with project prioritization and later with who you hire.
This enablement team can have people who specialize by function area, or by geography, or by role - whatever your business needs.
For example, maybe the sales org really wants to emphasize enabling business development. So, you have coverage for the BDR role. And maybe you’re growing and moving into new markets in, say, EMEA or APAC. You can actually create an enablement effort for those areas.
There’s also room to bring in a curriculum specialist, or a sales coach, without having to invest in an entire specialized team, which can cut costs.
Another pro with this model is that you’ll better match the needs of the business than any other model. You don’t have to worry about rolling out a full-scale enablement team by function or role unless that’s what your organization needs. You can still support sales without having to overcommit resources that aren’t necessary.
Cons include the fact that a hybrid model is really more of a reactive build than a proactive one. You’re responding to the business instead of trying to build something more forward-looking.
It’s also easy to be very disorganized. It’s a lot to keep up with. “Wait...who are we enabling again? Who’s doing what?” There’s less of a clear, symmetrical hierarchy.
Finally, there’s not really a clear path to consistent, sustainable, and predictable growth without the need for a re-org down the line, so that’s something to consider.
Teams that are scaling and have specific use cases - including unique team structures - can benefit from the hybrid model. It also fits that spot between a small team and a big one, so it’s ideal for 5 to 8 enablers.
Figuring out what team structure you need - and therefore, who you need to bring on board - means thinking about three key things:
It’s important to mirror what your organization looks like and know what they require. What are the functions that matter the most to them? How many people are we talking about? What’s the ramp time and churn rate?
It’s better to ask and answer those questions than to go in with a preconceived notion of what a sales enablement team looks like. That way, you’re not trying to shoe-horn in someone else’s structure that may not fit.
Above all, remember that building a team can and should be fun. Keep in mind the goals you want to achieve and the thrill of putting together a great group of people who all pull together to achieve them. That’s really the secret of a successful sales enablement team at the end of the day.
Stay tuned for more lessons from our Sales Enablement Summer School, and if you want to know more about how our products help you apply what you’re learning, you’re always free to check out a demo.
Spencer is the product marketing manager at LevelJump. He comes from the world of content and loves helping B2B SaaS companies find exactly the right people who love a product, and figuring out exactly how to tell that product story so it resonates and compels action. You can find him on LinkedIn.