What is the difference between sales enablement and sales operations?

Both sales enablement and sales operations are vital parts of an organization, but although the two are often confused or mistakenly conflated, they fulfill very different roles and provide value in different ways. Here’s how:

Sales enablement vs. sales operations

To put in the simplest terms, sales enablement equals strategy and sales operations equals support. We’ll explain what that means now.

Sales operations personnel provide the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month support and guidance that sales reps need to do their job. This can include managing, monitoring, and reporting vital business data on opportunities, leads, and deals. Sales operations activities can be as granular as simply giving a sales rep a list of leads and corresponding contact details.

Sales enablement’s responsibility, meanwhile, is the overarching strategy behind sales processes – as well as the technology that facilitates them. Sales enablement ensures sales teams don’t just have the information they need for an individual prospect or sale but the right data, tools, and processes to make the most of every opportunity and sale.

You could look at sales operations as being composed of many individual processes. Each of those processes is working to make a sales team as effective as they can be. On the other hand, enablement is one continuous, constant, iterative process. An organization’s sales enablement process is always working to enhance and streamline the way that all sales happen and equip all salespeople with the most effective means to make sales – all the time.

So, to put it another way: sales enablement is optimization and sales operations are what is being optimized. Sales enablement makes sales operations as effective as possible.

Sales readiness 

On a final note, sales enablement shouldn’t be confused with sales-readiness. Sales readiness vs sales enablement is a topic which we won’t delve far into here, except to say this: where enablement covers a broad range of strategy and methods, readiness is more focused on ensuring salespeople have the specific skills and knowledge required when they come into contact with prospects and customers.

Sales readiness arguably comes under the sales enablement umbrella, and sales enablement training is one of its facets that facilitates sales-readiness – ensuring salespeople are equipped with the best tools and information to do their jobs. But the full scope of sales enablement is much wider.