For decades, software companies have struggled to find the right buzzword to identify software intended to salespeople and sales teams.

The original buzzword (or "buzzterm" if you prefer) was "Sales Force Automation" aka SFA. (Warning: this post may contain more of these irritating acroymns).

The problem with SFA is that it implied that the purpose of the software was to automate the salespeople out of existence. Indeed, if you remember those old systems, they seemed primarily intended to turn salespeople into data entry clerks.

SFA was eventually replaced with "Customer Relationship Management" aka CRM.  While that didn't sound as stupid as SFA, it implied that the software could somehow do something that only a human could possibly do--have and manage a relationship. 

After a while, though, the CRM buzzword started to sound a bit creaky, so the vendors started calling their software "Sales 2.0."  This was back when computer industry pundits were talking about "Web 2.0," so "Sales 2.0" wasn't exactly a Herculean feat of imagination.

Anyway, the "2.0" craze disappeared more quickly than the ROI of an ERP project, leaving the software industry in a bit of a lurch.  With SFA, CRM and Sales 2.0 no longer fashionable, they needed shiny new buzzword... Fast.

Marketing groups throughout the industry went immediately to work, wracking their MBA-trained brains to come up with something, anything, that would make a glorified contact manager seem like The Next Big Thing.

Lest you think I'm making that last part up, let it be known that I actually sat in on a meeting where this issue was discussed with complete seriousness, as if the fate of the entire industry (or at least that company) rested upon getting the specific biz blab exactly right.

Well, after thousands of employee hours of intense brainstorming, the software industry has collectively decided that software intended for use by salespeople will henceforth be known as "Sales Enablement."

Say whut?

The "Sales" part is OK but "Enablement"?!  That is just plain heinous.

First, "enabling" is what families and friends for addicts and drunks. Attaching that term to "Sales" is like saying that selling is both disreputable and easy, like ordering hits of heroin on Amazon.

Second, "enablement" is one of those pointless abstractions that the software industry loves, like "empowerment" and "utilization." Turning the verb into a noun adds complexity without adding any meaning.

To make matter worse, half the time the word "Platform" gets attached to the buzzword, making it even more abstract and meaningless.

I mean, seriously, is a salesperson on the planet who doesn't think that, as buzzwords go, "Sales Enablement Platform"  is an eyeroller to end all eyerollers?  

A better question to ask, though, is why does the software industry keep feeling the need to keep rebranding this stuff?

The answer probably lies in the fact that CRM systems have an annoying habit of failing miserably, mostly because salespeople really hate using them.  

The real problem, in my view, is that the people who run software firms and especially the people who program these systems fundamentally don't like salespeople.

Your average programmer thinks salespeople are slimy and, truth be know, would be perfectly happy to create a piece of software that would render salespeople permanently obsolete.

Maybe I'm exaggerating here, but not by much.

I can't help but think that if "Sales Enablement" (or whatever) really worked as advertised, the vendors wouldn't feel it necessary to trot out a new buzzword every decade or so.

Published on: May 13, 2016
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