"Build vs Buy?"
Before exploring the advantages and disadvantages of building or buying your sales enablement function, let’s define what exactly can be built or bought to effectively drive sales performance.
Today, it’s no longer viable to have a single-purpose sales enablement function. Modern sellers expect strategy, systems, and skill support to create the greatest opportunity for engagement and conversion. Management requires transparency, massive ROI, universal adoption and utilization of tools, and consistently accurate revenue projections.
While a few companies have the time and resources to build these core capabilities in a job function, many companies have taken to buying these services and components because market speed and execution are essential.
Core elements like onboarding, sales playbooks, learning management system content, tool utilization and optimization, role-based certification paths, and even training of Sales, Customer Success, Sales Engineers, and Manager Coaches are necessary to compete effectively and keep pace with scale expectations.
“Sales enablement is the concept of extending a prospect-centric mindset to all departments… ”
- Cory Bray & Hilmon Sorey
Hiring and “owning” the sales enablement function can be an attractive solution. It takes clear role and competency definition and time to find the right candidate, and many businesses may find it in their best interest to do so. For example, if a company is in a unique market with an obscure target persona and customer there may be competitive advantage to hiring someone to develop special expertise. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when building sales enablement internally.
Companies that decide to hire sales enablement in-house have complete control over the specifications of the role, and how resources are allocated and utilized in service of sales initiatives. Companies can develop deep subject matter insights to address customer challenges and differentiate from competition.
Hiring a sales enablement professional internally also gives you complete control over the your program. You can more easily introduce updates, product releases, and ad hoc changes that may be desired or required by the marketplace.
An internal sales enablement hire becomes a member of your team. Navigating your internal org structure becomes easy for the right hire, and access to stakeholders and subject matter experts is immediate.
Building world-class sales enablement requires specialists who can dedicate their expertise to creating a fully specified and proven program. Without these resources it can be challenging to develop credible, impactful programs. Companies that do have the resources and expertise to create a quality sales enablement program may still run into the problem of not having enough resources available to dedicate that to an initiative.
Building takes time. Every minute spent without well-supported team costs your company revenue that could have been generated if you had a successful program in operation.
While a new hire may get a lot of energy and buy-in out of the gate, many companies find that the demands of scale quickly overwhelm the role. Behind the 8-ball, the enablement hire becomes “special projects coordinator” and ends up challenged to make an ongoing impact.
Often the programs developed by an internal manager are just-in-time and lack the ability to span departments or support the growth of the team.
Whether it be lack of time, resources, expertise or knowledge, many organizations choose to buy over build. Partnering with a expert firm allows for sales enablement programs to drive impact faster, more efficiently and more reliably. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when partnering with a sales enablement firm.
One of the inherent advantages of partnering with a firm is that the market has already tested the effectiveness of their programs and solutions. You avoid the long and painful process of development, trial, error, and the iterations that exhaust the sales team and managers.
Partnering also offers you the opportunity to get to market faster. Experts understand how to fold your subject matter expertise, market context and workflow into frameworks to be used by the entire team.
A fully fleshed-out program should also have a fully fleshed-out support infrastructure in place. From implementation support, to customer success programs, audit functions, and training teams. In addition to this, rigorous reinforcement materials (video, books, cheat sheets, guides) should be readily provided by your partner.
A unique advantage of partnering on components is having the option to leverage an sales methodology or framework. If you have already invested in a component of sales enablement instead of replacing it, expert firms are able to provide bolt-on support to extend your investment.
Partnering also offers you the opportunity to get to market faster. Experts understand how to fold your subject matter expertise, market context and workflow into frameworks to be used by the entire team
Partnering with an enablement solution provider requires that a company undertake an initial capital investment up front instead of annualizing a yearly salary. This initial investment can be quite substantial, and many companies may not be able to support it.
When using a third-party partner, you will be reliant on that company to integrate systems with your organization, navigate stakeholders, and create energy around sales enablement initiatives. Your risk culture fit mis-matches, and the danger of a partner firm being perceived as less credible than internal teams.
For most companies, it seems more economical and effective to partner with an expert firm than to hire in-house. With the ever-increasing demands of sales reps, buyers, and an evolving marketplace building internally can be expedient with long-term adverse consequences.