A (Very) Brief History of Sales Enablement

Posted on October 12, 2018 11:26 AM | Updated on Nov 13, 2018 6:07 PM

Sales enablement didn’t suddenly wash up like a life raft on our shores. We’re still waiting for the definitive history on sales enablement, but we can trace its origins to 1999. That’s when John Aiello, a former brand manager at Miller Brewing Company, and Drew Larsen, a telecommunications consultant, began touting a new strategic approach to sales operations and sales management.

Aiello and Larsen’s goal was to clean up longstanding problems that have plagued sellers for decades, such as:

  • Incomplete and inconsistent messages across functional areas, especially Sales and Marketing
  • Unrepeatable sales processes
  • Lack of accurate and easy-to-access sales tools, including product information
  • Poor insight into customers and their behavior

Sales Enablement Gains Traction

Sales enablement consultants and sales trainers made gradual inroads with early adopters, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that interest in the concept really took off. As more organizations became eager to implement sales enablement, software vendors developed technology to corral the volumes of data buyers and sellers generated. Analysts used reporting tools to make sense of that data to provide sellers with insights that help improve their interactions with leads and prospects.

Word spread as sales analysts were joined by tech analysts at firms like Forrester, Gartner, IDC and SiriusDecisions. In 2013, the Sales Enablement Society was born, anointing sales enablement as a profession. In a recent study, CSO Insights showed that 60% of sales organizations “have a dedicated person, program or function for sales enablement.” According to an article on salesandmarketing.com, from 2005 to 2015, the number of vendors offering sales enablement solutions doubled, creating a $700 million market that’s predicted to hit $5 billion by 2021.

Sales Enablement  Driven by Disruptions in Buyer Behavior

So why has sales enablement recently become the must-have guest at the party? More importantly, why should it inform and underpin your sales strategy? The answers lie in the past decade’s disruptions in buyer behavior.

Sales Enablement History blog table

Buyers have hijacked the sales process by researching every nuance of a product or service online before talking with a salesperson. In many cases, especially when a buyer has investigated a niche product by a company that offers a wealth of options, the buyer may be more informed than the seller. Clearly, the times they are a-changing, and giving the upper hand back to your sales team is more crucial than ever. Thankfully, Sales Enablement is here to save the day.

Like what you saw here? This is just a sneak preview of some of the content that will be in our Definitive Guide to Sales Enablement, debuting later this year.