Something quite remarkable happened in San Francisco this week. Counter to the tectonic norm in this amazing city, sales enablement came into alignment. How so?

Our team gathered with some 250 fellow SE professionals at our inaugural event focused on making those people in the role more successful. Over the course of two days, we talked about what buyers want from tech today, which is not tech but, rather, the end results that tech plays a role in delivering. We heard from George Colony, Forrester's founder, chairman, and CEO, that the majority of tech CEOs he interviewed don't believe their sales teams are keeping pace with their companies' strategic goals.

We learned from Principal Analyst Scott Santucci about outcome selling as a strategy to deliver on buyers' new demands for results, not more stuff. We shared stories about changing the focus of our efforts and investments in supporting sales by starting with customers' problems and using the sales conversation as the key design point. We shared stories about how to build consensus and win executive sponsorship for our initiatives and programs. We shared stories about things we have tried that worked — and some that didn't. We heard from some remarkable sales enablement leaders, like Marci Meaux of CISCO and David Irwin of Allant Group, both blazing a path of success. In the halls and into the evening, we compared notes, we traded cards and contacts, we learned, and we laughed.

In the end, what was clear to me from both the main stage and the halls is that:

  • The sales enablement role in the technology industry is emerging right now, and the energy behind that emergence is intense, given the evidence that existing practices are not yielding the sales results we expect as the same time that our opportunities for growth loom large. About half of attendees come from companies with a formal SE role, half not yet . . .
  • We need each other to figure out the right paths forward, whether we are starting this journey as a marketing, product, or sales leader. People were super engaged with each other at this event, open to sharing, and looking for insight.
  • It's early for many. "What is your title, who do you report to, what is the scope of your role?" were all common discussion points among attendees.
  • We are all in this together. There was a palpable community vibe among everyone there: vendors, analysts, and practitioners alike. Sales enablement feels like the problem we all want to solve, and the good ideas can come from anywhere.
  • We will be back. This felt like the start of something unstoppable, and so we will look forward to hosting the Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012 and seeing all of you who could make it this year back again, and many more who believe as we do that now is the time for sales enablement.

If you were there this week, please share your impressions and takeaways here. If not, see you next time, and feel free to share your comments on SE's emergence, too!