If you’re wondering what the difference between sales training and sales enablement is, you’re asking a common question.

I like to think about it this way: Training conveys information about how you should do something. Partner enablement gives you help, support, and guidance while you do that thing. To train partners and their salespeople, you can send links to training courses, or get salespeople in a room together and present to them. You can even give them a test to see if they retained the information. This is a part of many supplier certification programs.

To Onboarding and Beyond!

On the other hand, sales and partner enablement begins when a new partner or partner employee is onboarded. Think of onboarding a new salesperson as the process of building “StarShip Sales Enterprise”! 

How exactly does one get started assembling their very own rocket ship to sales success? We recommend beginning with these steps: 

  • Start with scaffolding

We build scaffolding around our sales starship to provide support while under construction. It’s crucial to bring the necessary materials, product briefs, use cases, economic analyses including total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) calculators. We bring sales slicks, reviews and relevant reports, and any tool a salesperson might need. This is the start of partner enablement: the provisioning of tools.

  • Add booster rockets

The best thing we can do for a new salesperson is to speed their first journey to the completion of closed sales, so we attach booster rockets to help them lift off and rise. These can include sharing effective presentations, elevator pitches, pre-planned demonstrations, and other processes they can immediately employ in their earliest adventures. These booster rockets may also include early well-qualified leads or co-selling support from a seasoned supplier salesperson. 

  • Engage, engage, engage

While this may have been Captain Picard’s instruction to launch the ship, it carries much more meaning when it comes to sales enablement.

Training usually ends with sending the salespeople out to do their thing, but when it comes to enablement, we’re in for the whole ride. We truly need to engage with those we’re enabling to make sure they have everything they need to be successful. And that does mean everything!

When any of our collateral materials are updated, everyone’s best interests are served when we make sure salespeople are made aware and have the new updates available. Same with discontinued products that are replaced with new models. A mechanism must be in place for constant enablement. It may be your channel account managers (CAM), your marcom department, or your To-Partner Communication platform, but it must be there in the right place at the right time in order to be effective. Our new sales starships need to be able to reach all the way to StarFleet Command!

Remember, instilling sales enablement is a continuing process that goes on throughout the life of your partner relationship.

Co-Selling: Tag Team or Training Wheels?

Even though they include the word “training” in their name, training wheels are a good metaphor for our initial enablement efforts. We keep them on, and we stay closer than usual to the new salesperson until they feel confident in their ability to successfully close sales.

Even then, our enabled salespeople may need further assistance down the road. Vendors have different names for it, and varying definitions for those names, but whether it’s “buddy calls” or “co-selling” the practice is the same. Salespeople sometimes need a representative of the product they’re selling to join them in addressing customer questions, making presentations more effective, or just increasing the customer’s confidence that the necessary vendor/partner relationship is alive and well.

So, the answer to whether co-selling is more tag team or training wheels is that it’s a bit of both. Once the training wheels are off the sales professional will still often want their partner by their side.

It Isn’t Just About Becoming “Self-Sufficient”

Self-sufficiency is an important goal of enablement. Eventually, scaffolding must come down. This is when the booster rockets peel off and economies of scale can be realized. The truth is, however, the market changes, our products and services evolve, and most importantly relationships don’t sustain unless they are nurtured. And because of this, our enablement is never truly complete. 

Smart channel executives view channel partners as true extensions of their organization, and smart channel partners do the same of their suppliers. The most lucrative partner relationships are strategic. In an ideal world, partners and suppliers work together to improve the buyer journey. This means constant and collaborative work on demand generation, sales, and delivery which require resources at every level in both organizations. Everybody enables everybody to enjoy greater success for supplier, partner, and customer. 

That may not be “where no one has gone before,” but it is where everyone wants to go!