Free Assessment: How does your sales & marketing measure up?

Get Started

Free Assessment:

How does your sales & marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.
Get Started
Sales Enablement  |   Inbound Sales

Sales and Marketing Alignment vs Sales Enablement: What's the Difference?

Kyle Bento

By Kyle Bento

Nov 30, 2016

Sales and Marketing Alignment vs Sales Enablement: What's the Difference?

If you’ve been around the inbound marketing community for a while you’ve probably heard the term “sales and marketing.” The concept is a way to make sure those two teams of your organization work and execute around a common goal -- revenue.

Now, there’s a new term being thrown around: Sales enablement.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering, “What is sales enablement?” “How is it different from sales and marketing alignment?” and “Why are all these marketers talking about sales?”

Well, let’s start at the top.

How does Sales Enablement work?

HubSpot said it best when they said, “sales enablement is seeing somewhat of an identity crisis.”

The fact of the matter is the definition of sales enablement is vast and it means different things to different people. To one, sales enablement is CRM software and implementation. To someone else, it’s sales content and to another, it’s training.

When I first started researching sales enablement, I was expecting a narrow definition and a succinct strategy on how to implement it. I quickly learned, however, it’s not that kind of thing.

Sales enablement is a concept, just like sales and marketing alignment or inbound marketing.  That concept of sales enablement is formed around a single assumption.  

“We can improve the buyer’s experience by improving how sales professionals identify, engage, explore and advise.”

An inbound marketing expert, Max Taylor’s, definition sticks out to me: “This is what sales enablement means to me: Give your sales team the knowledge, tools and content to deliver a more valuable buyer experience.”

If you’re curious why this matters, we’ll get to that, but before we do, let’s cover what I’m guessing is your biggest question:

Isn’t this just sales and marketing alignment?

To help answer this, I walked around the office and asked a handful of my colleagues what sales and marketing alignment was in their words.

Ok - I didn’t actually walk around, but I sent everyone a quick Slack and here’s what a few of them said:

“Having the two teams share their expectations of each other so that group success can be achieved. That’s as simple as understanding the expectations for lead hand-offs, when leads should be contacts, and what information marketing can use to produce better content (given from sales) to drive more qualified leads.” - Vin Gaeta, Creative Director

“When the two teams join forces to work towards an overarching goal; usually driving more qualified leads or closing more of them.” - Ramona Sukhraj, Content Marketing Manager

As you can see, sales and marketing alignment is all about sales and marketing working together.  Sales enablement, however, is all about improving the experience sales provide to their prospects.

Having strongly aligned sales and marketing departments helps sales professionals provide a more timely and relevant conversation, but sales enablement is much more than that.

Referencing Max’s definition, sales enablement is the knowledge, tools, and content you empower your sales team with. So, that begs the question, “why does this matter to you?”

Why are all these marketers talking about sales?

I was tempted to title this section, “Why should I care?” because that’s what I can see running through the mind of many marketers.  

I get it. The relationship between marketing and sales teams is generally not one that’s described as cohesive.

Inbound marketing exists because we have changed the way we buy. As buyers, we are enabled to do our own research when making a purchase and frankly, the sales professional has lost their leverage.

The question I want you to ask yourself is this: “Has our sales team adapted to this?”  

If your answer isn’t “yes” without hesitation, think of the implications that has on the leads you generate through inbound marketing.

Here are some of the examples of bad sales behavior:

  • leading with a pitch
  • not prioritizing leads
  • not engaging prospects on their timeline

And from the resulting perspective of buyers:

  • This salesperson is pushy
  • This salesperson is annoying
  • This salesperson isn’t there when I want them

We have all had experiences like this, yet your marketing isn’t like that.

The whole premise of inbound marketing is building a marketing strategy that empowers buyers.  Buyers see a blog that helps educate them and eBooks that nurture them. It’s the opposite of pushy, annoying, and tardy.

Now, over the past year, I’ve watched this become the weak link in organizations revenue generations strategies. While marketing has realized the shift in the typical buyer’s journey, sales needs to play catch-up in many scenarios.

So, the answer to “Why are all these marketers talking about sales?” and “Why should I care?” is the same -- because the success of sales lies heavily in the hands of marketers.

Marketers are recognizing that the sales strategies, tools, and content of the past don’t work for the modern buyer and they need to help their sales team’s better understand what will. They need to educate sales on the modern buyer and help them create and distribute the sales enablement content that they need to successfully connect and close.

Free Assessment:

How does your sales & marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.

Related Articles

The Secret To More Sales: Asking Better Questions

October 2, 2023
Chris Duprey Chris Duprey

How To Create Sales Enablement Content Your Sales Team Will Love

August 17, 2023
John Becker John Becker

Need More Results from Your Marketing Content? Give It To Your Sales Team

August 16, 2023
Zach Basner Zach Basner

The Best Sales Enablement Tools for Your Team in 2023

September 2, 2022
Kimberly Marshall Kimberly Marshall

5 Features of a Sales Enablement Strategy That Actually Works

June 27, 2022
Ramona Sukhraj Ramona Sukhraj

Sales Enablement Checklist: 5 Questions Marketing Teams Should Regularly Ask Sales Teams

November 30, 2021
Bob Ruffolo Bob Ruffolo

Virtual Sales: How To Improve Sales Performance in a Virtual World

November 15, 2021
Kimberly Marshall Kimberly Marshall

How to Get Great Sales Content from Your Marketing Team

May 3, 2021
Liz Murphy Liz Murphy

What is Sales Enablement? (Examples + Video)

April 11, 2021
Liz Murphy Liz Murphy

Why most people will fail at sales enablement in 2020

December 10, 2019
Walter Pollard Walter Pollard

When We Ask for Sales Enablement Content, This Is What We Want

September 10, 2019
Genna Lepore Genna Lepore

Sales and Marketing Alignment vs Sales Enablement: What's the Difference?

November 30, 2016
Kyle Bento Kyle Bento

Why Creating Buyer Personas is the 1st Step in Sales Enablement

May 5, 2016
Ramona Sukhraj Ramona Sukhraj

6 Team Tactics for Fostering a Culture of Sales Enablement

December 10, 2015
Ramona Sukhraj Ramona Sukhraj