C-Suite Perspectives: Metrics That Matter – Soirée, San Francisco
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Doug Landis: Cool. Right on. What’s up? Hi, everybody. We have the good fortune of being right before lunch, so we’ll make it interesting and fun. And I also have the great fortune of actually knowing everybody here really well. So, we’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to talk about things that really matter.
I loved the last discussion. I happen to be one of the few people that has actually jumped ship and gone to the dark side. I am a partner at a venture capital firm called Emergence Capital. We do early stage, series A/B investments in B2B enterprise SaaS companies. We were the first investor in Salesforce, Box, Yammer, and Viva, etc. But before that, I ran sales productivity at Salesforce, Box, and at Google. I was a chief storyteller at Box. So, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart because at the end of the day, this idea of revenue acceleration, go-to-market acceleration, also now known as sales enablement — which I hate if you know me because enablement is not a word. Look it up in the dictionary. But the reality is, as at the end of the day, in order for us to really matter, we have got to get the C-suite’s attention. We have to understand what data and insights we can use to actually get them to care.
So, the good news is we’ve got an amazing panel of both practitioners and executives that are going to help unpack this subject. To kick it off, why don’t we start off with a quick little introduction of our panelists. Tell us about who you are, what you do, and what organization you’re with.
Mary Tafuri: My name is Mary Tafuri. I work for IBM and I’m the vice president of sales enablement for cloud and cognitive. I’m based in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m Italian, I’m still working on my Southern accent as you can hear, but yes, I’m very happy to be here with you and share my experience.
David Bloom: I’m David Bloom, the founder and CEO of LevelJump, and I am based in Canada and still working on my Italian.
Jodi Maxson: My name is Jodi Maxson. I’m head of sales productivity for Bill.com. We have three channels, about nine different types of sales teams, and I think the hardest thing I just want to take one quick second on, is before you even get to give metrics to the C-suite, you have to get their attention. And I found this book and I thought I’d share it with you. Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty never made calls. All the sales leaders with strictest of tone couldn’t get Humpty to pick up the phone.
DL: Where’d you find that book?
JM: I happened to find it at this booth outside called LevelJump.
DL: Nice creative plug for David. Awesome. Mr. Gilman?
John Gilman: So, John Gilman, chief revenue officer of People.ai. I joined about nine months ago as the CRO, and spent about the last five years running enterprise sales at a company called New Relic. Then before that, 15 years at Salesforce. It’s nice to be at Dreamforce, but not be at Dreamforce.
DL: A conference within a conference.
Brian Trautschold: I’m Brian Trautschold, I’m the co-founder and COO of Ambition. Ambition is a sales coaching and gamification platform for enterprises. I don’t have a long tenured career, all my startups before Ambition failed, but it’s good to be in front of Doug. We had a panel last month, you were on a panel at our conference and took over. So, it’s good to see you actually doing the moderation now instead of taking over from the chair. You kind of stole the mic last time.
DL: Wow, the heat is on. Hey, by the way, congratulations to Jodi, because I know Bill.com just got their S-1 to go public. So, give it up for Jodi. Of course you can’t talk about it, so don’t mention it.
JM: Thank you.
DL: So, now you’re on the hot seat. To get things started, help us understand, and this is for all of you. I want your response on the nature of your relationship to the C-suite and your organization. It’s really interesting because we have a variety of sizes of companies here, but what’s your connection to the C-suite? What is the nature of your relationship there?
MT: C-suite is not always sweet. It depends, if it’s a CFO, of course. I mean, we do work with all of them. Of course, the CFO, not much during the year, but especially for four or five months, like now when we are preparing for our sales enablement kickoff, which is our major spending. She wants to know how much we’re spending and what is the return on investment? Later on we’ll talk a little bit more about that, but our chairman, really this year focused a lot on skills. And that’s why we interact with her on a regular basis, reporting on the progress that we are making, the impact that we are making with the sales enablement to make our sellers smarter and more confident.
DL: At a huge company like IBM, one of the things we’ll talk a little bit more about is how do we actually get their attention? How do you get your chairman’s attention? How do you get her to care? How’d you get her to actually talk about it? Besides being really creative with your marketing efforts.
MT: So, we’ll talk a little bit more about that.
DL: Sure. David?
DB: Yeah. We spend a lot of time speaking to enabling people to try to get the attention and think about how we can empower by giving them metrics. So, we spend time asking C-suite people, what do they want to hear about? What kind of metrics do they want to hear? I won’t give one example because it’ll come out through the discussion, but every C-suite has their priorities for the year, depending on the stage of the business. And I think the key thing we’ll get into is figuring out how to tie the enablement projects and programs and initiatives to whatever that C-suite initiative is to start. There’s no right answer. But if you start with that as a rule of thumb, I think that will trickle down.
JM: I have the fortune, good fortune of working for a CFO and a CEO that are really both CFOs. So, numbers is their game. It used to be that revenue was enough. What’s the revenue? Did we hit our number? But it’s not. It’s what’s the revenue? What did it cost? How fast did we get there? So, it’s really, like you said, tying them to the overall objectives. How do you want to grow units, dollars, whatever, but also showing that I can deliver an increase on efficiency and productivity, and what does that mean to that revenue number?
JG: Yeah. As CRO owning the growth strategy for the company, I report to our CEO. But when I think of C-suite, I also think of the board, as well. In some ways it’s very simple. It’s either revenue or cost. And to your point, it depends on who you’re talking to. For many companies, the go-to-market investment is one of the biggest expense line items for a CFO. How do you make sure that the CFO feels good about that investment? Basically showing them what are they getting for their money.
I think that’s one way on the CFO, but for the rest of the company, growth is ultimately the health of our whole business. A lot of organizations rely on the growth engine. Product teams can’t hire more engineers if the growth isn’t there. In many respects, it depends on who you’re talking to. The VC’s, obviously the board members, they want to see their investment pay returns to their LPs. It kind of depends on who you’re talking to, but it’s either growth or costs. Making sure you have a plan to leverage those investments and then basically show repeatability and measurement of how are you proving that you’re making progress.
BT: I’ll just echo what David said. I think that what we hear now is all of these enterprise companies we work with have a number of initiatives. What enablement sometimes can struggle with is how are we going to tie a distinct objective metric to that initiative that’s going to get us attention, that’s going to get us funding, that’s going to get us the tools we need to execute. It’s a lot of education that’s becoming an advocate for the enablement person to say, “here’s a great initiative that the C-suite has pushed down. Let’s figure out how to prove that you’re affecting it.” And you go to work on that every day. But David, I think you said it perfectly, it’s all about the initiative.
DL: So, it clearly sounds like there needs to be some linkage from whatever the C-suite calls their strategic priorities for the year, and then what specifically you guys are going to do as practitioners, right? There has to be linkage there. It has to ladder up and has to trickle back down. I think one of the biggest challenges though, at least for getting the C-suite’s attention, is making sure you have the right metrics to share with them. Mary, talk to me, especially at a bigger organization like IBM, how do you get access to the right metrics? How do you get that right level of information so that you can ladder it back up and show the kind of impact that you’re having on the organization?
MT: I think that the first thing, and this is especially a challenge at IBM, less is more. We are not in a game of a volume, but in a game of value. So, the very first challenge is to find what you want to really showcase in terms of impact. And then from there, from the purpose that you have in mind, understanding which are the metrics that matter. The challenge after that, after you are clear with what are the few things that are high value impactful, where do I find that information? Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time, at IBM we have way too many tools. So, abundance of data. The challenge becomes, where can I find exactly what I need and how can I correlate what used to be a volume game? Sales enablement historically to show their impact was how many workshops I did, how many people attended, the what is in the NPS. That’s what I call volume game, and it’s not what really makes an impact.
So, it all starts with a purpose. Then define how you will measure the impact to that purpose, which is obviously very much connected with the sales plays and the go-to-market strategy very tightly. And then I think you need to have the right skills in the team, like a good data scientist, to kind of make sense of the data that you have and only extract the data that you need. Then you can showcase, “I’m making an impact”, but it has to be all this by design and not “let me figure out how I can create a nice slide to impress my CFO, my CIO, my CEO”. That’s not the way it works.
And at least in the 18 months since I started to work in this role, these are all the shifts that I started. We were talking earlier about complexity. When you work in a big company like IBM, that goes by inertia a lot. And you come and you want to kind of shake because we talk a lot about the digital transformation is the word of the mouth of everybody. Our clients are still into this kind of tsunami and for us to bring value to our clients, we need to modernize the sellers, but to modernize the sellers, we need to modernize sales enablement first. To do a good job, you need to know how to, not because you are reporting this with the C-suite, but because you as a leader of a sales enablement, you need to know what kind of programs and techniques you need to put in place. Which ones to stop and which ones to amplify. So, it’s not to please somebody else, but it’s first of all, for you, at least that’s my point of view.
DL: Yeah. Clearly IBM is a huge company, you have access to so many resources. And I think one of the challenges we face if we’re at a smaller company, is access to the right resources to help us pull those metrics out. So, Jodi, at a smaller company, how do you get access to the right level of metrics so that you can ladder that up to the attention of both sales ops and the finance department? Because sometimes there are two different stories and getting them working on how they’re aligned and how we present, but it’s building relationships with those particular departments.
JM: I just started in this role in January. There was no onboarding program, nothing. We hired salespeople, and so they were assigned to their manager. Fortunately, I’d been consulting at Bill.com through the Bridge Group for three years, and just kept working on basically productivity projects. But the first thing I did is build the onboarding program. And out of that was people saying, “Oh, wow, I’ve never had an onboarding program like this. This is great.” That’s not good enough. That’s anecdotal data. It’s like a sales rep telling you, “I called in. I didn’t do that.” If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist, you know? So, it didn’t do any good. It’s showing the difference and getting those numbers from the other departments too, agreeing to them, “This is what happened with the people that came in in January. This is the units they sold in month zero, month one, month two, month three. This is what happened to the next cohort. This is what happened to the next cohort.” That single chart. Like you say, less is more, with enough to get the attention to get more investment, more tools, more whatever.
There are a lot of places I want to go: CAC, lifetime value, different things, productivity. That’s the one I think that’s the hardest to get to. Everyone loves to talk about increased sales productivity, but, well, what does that mean? So I have to find other ways. Using numbers to show it.
DL: Yeah. John, what’s the one single metric that you have to report to the CEO?
DL: How do you report repeatability? What does that look like?
JG: I mean, it actually starts with a success. For most companies, that’s kind of the heart of the growth engine: are your reps successful in being able to take whatever your message is, whatever your value proposition is, identify pain, and then ultimately, turn that into a customer? Unless you have kind of repeatable motion, it’s very difficult to scale a team. It’s very difficult to retain a team. And if you have that kind of revolving door of talent, you’re just going to be treading water forever and ultimately die.
I love what Mary Shea said the other day, that enablement is having its moment, which I think is so true because we’re at this tipping point of all the technology that we’re all using. But also realizing that the technology is great as an enabler, but you also need the data to go along with it because it’s really the behavior patterns that you’re trying to influence and repeat. Create repeatable behavioral patterns of success. I think it all goes along with enablement, which is how do you identify, what does good look like, and then how do you basically build that into your playbooks and your enablement plan so that then you can go ask your CFO, “Hey, I need to double my head count because we figured it out and now we just step on the gas to go build a repeatable motion.”
DL: Pattern recognition. We’re all in the business of pattern recognition, period. Take your top performers and how do we rinse and repeat, rinse, repeat. And ideally, the impact of that will actually increase overall rep productivity, which is hilarious, because in the early days in Salesforce, everyone would talk about it, but no one actually knew what it meant. The reality is, it’s just dollars per head. Are we actually generating more revenue out of each rep every single month, every quarter, every year? Period. That’s rep productivity. Measuring that is really hard, especially with Salesforce. I know where at Dreamforce conference, but they don’t make it all that easy.
JG: And I think you also have to watch how much you’re filtering through your sales team because it’s the tip of the spear for your go-to-market. You get product people wanting to talk to sales, marketing partners, and so I think that’s the other thing that I see people do too much of. There’s almost sometimes too much enablement. Where it becomes, you can only retain so much. I think you’re striking the right balance of enough to make them successful, but not overburden. Then overload them is like the right balance that I think people struggle with because I think now enablement is such a hot topic in the C-suite as the growth engine and a way for transformation that you have to kind of make sure you’re better balanced.
DL: Yeah. It becomes the vehicle of shoving everything you can in front of the sales organization.
JM: That’s a really great point. I wanted to drill down just a little bit more because prior to putting an enablement role in, everybody went to the VPs of the sales department. One of the first things I did was stop product. Product was trying to throw spiffs at them, marketing was giving them all this messaging. And I think that is an excellent point that everything that goes to the sales reps are funneled through the enablement team.
DL: Brian and David, you guys both run companies. First of all, this question was asked earlier, and I’m curious to your point of view on this. When do you start to put in this sales enablement function or productivity function? In particular too, once you do that, what metrics in particular are you looking for from those teams or from that individual that’s building out the program in your companies? What are those core metrics and what are you going to measure them against? I think that’s the other thing for all of us that are practitioners. One of the challenges in the role of being a revenue accelerator or sales enablement or whatever you’re going to call it, is how do you get measured. Are you measured against rep productivity? Are you measured against the payment? What are they holding for you as far as the carrot and stick? So I’m curious how you guys unpack this since you guys are both executives in your company.
BT: I like what John said there about scaling and we’re going through a scaling motion right now in our go-to-market teams. What we do and what we advocate for our customers to do is create really simple scores that touch all of the actions reps are supposed to do on a day-to-day, weekly, monthly basis. And all of the objectives they have, whether that’s quota attainment, pipeline creation, opportunities created, and we try to build a repeatable, achievable scorecard that those folks can hit on those two numbers. And we put it everywhere. It is on a TV next to the CEO’s desk. It’s on the TV next to my desk. Anytime I’m walking by, I can tell, are people productive? Are they effective? Are they doing the things that we believe are going to be scalable and repeatable?
And if they’re not, then we need to dig into the numbers. We need to figure out why are we not hitting that, what our best rep was doing, is it that they’re so much more skilled? Or is it that we’re not training down and letting everyone else know, here’s how you go do X, Y, and Z. For us, it’s distilling it into two simple numbers that everyone knows: activity score and objective score, and then put it everywhere so it’s clear, it’s transparent, it’s visible.
DL: That’s great. Great suggestion by the way, an activity scorecard and objective scorecard. And then you can unpack that and start to identify where the dials are.
MT: I really like that. Sellers are really competitive, so if you are open and transparent about it, I think an effective way to achieve that scrutiny of engagement.
DL: Well, clearly activities are a leading indicator as to whether or not someone’s likely to perform, but it certainly is not the only one. So, David, what do you require from your teams as far as the core metrics that you care about?
DB: I think the important thing is, it also depends on the stage. So, whatever stage your company is, you have to act your stage or act your age.
DL: What age do you act?
DB: I try to act as young and silly as possible in all areas. For us, we’re under 10 salespeople. I think at that stage, when you talk about the early stages, what would you have done in the early days that can help create repeatability and scalability as soon as possible? So, the metric I actually focus a lot on is more understanding why things happened, which is not measurable. It’s less than 10. Is your conversion rate X?
Did you book this number of meetings? Understanding the why in that early stage. And I think of that early stage, that’s accurate age because the volume is not there. The data’s not there to be so relevant. If you start saying, “Oh, our close rate against competitor X is we lose all the time because you lost one deal”, that data’s not quite there.
Then when you move from 10 to 50 and you’ve grown up a little bit, and I think a big struggle from an enablement is always acknowledged. What age or stage is your company at? The end, that’s when the next group of metrics comes in. What I’ll be measuring is going to be very different than what Brian’s measuring or what John’s measuring, where our companies are different ages, different stages. There’s a great talk that you, Doug, actually did. He did it at SalesLoft where you define three ages or stages of companies and the metrics at each of those stages change. If you’re a hundred-plus reps on the path to IPO, the metrics that you want 46 people being accountable on are fine. If you’re going from 10 to 50, because you want to go raise a $50 million series C, you need metrics that can convince an investor stakeholder that says, “if you give me that $50 million, this is the formula. This is our sales productivity formula that for your $50 million. I’m going to spit $150 million out the other side. That becomes that metric at that point. And then as you go public, things definitely change.
DL: Then at IBM, listening to what everybody just said, what are the metrics that matter most to the C-suite there? Once you’re this size, post-IPO, massive company. Clearly different stages and there is variability there. So, what matters to your C-suite?
MT: Well, of course, productivity.
DL: Okay. Have you defined that?
MT: Oh yeah.
DL: Okay. How do you define productivity?
MT: In the previous panel, I think they talked about correlation, and that’s what I basically need. And that’s why I had to hire a data scientist because I had it in my head, but I didn’t have the skill to make it happen with the tools. And you need a little bit of engineering because in enablement, we do different programs. Like I said earlier, when you want to know what is impacting more than other stuff. And so tagging in our CRM, it’s forced those programs to see what is impacting and what is not. But in the end, I think everybody may say, “if you have high skills, you are more productive.” But you can not say I’ve got the feeling, you can not quantify.
But I managed to, with this correlation to show that essentially more than 70% of the revenue is generated by 12% of the sales reps that are level four, level five to do the work. It’s just scary. It’s scary. So, my boss, when he saw that, said, “okay, can you get 35% or 40% of my organization to level four or level five?” And that’s where the challenge would become because some of them can cause our closer proximity, but some probably will never. And so what do you do with that big portion of your state’s workforce? What can you do to amend their productivity? They will never be level four, level five but how fast you can get to level three.
So, it’s like in any team management and performance management, you need to kind of get underneath all the ages and the seniority and how they are wired. Are they capable to reinvent themselves? Because we need to modernize a lot. Like I said, insights and implement. That’s what they want to see, the productivity, and they want to understand ultimately, dashboarding. And the other thing I am really big about, we shouldn’t be the one creating reports ad doc for each review. The dashboard is self-sufficient. You click the new, see what you need, and you can slice and dice the way you want.
DL: By the way, really interesting metric for all of you guys to go talk to your teams about what percentage of your revenue is coming from what percentage of your reps, right? So as she just said, what 70% of their revenues coming from 13% of the reps. That’s bananas. How do we make it 50% of our rest versus 13% that’s a great driving factor and that’s a great, that’d be a great statistic to take to your C-suite. Be like, “Hey, by the way, it’s no longer 13% generating 70% of our revenue, but it’s now 40%.” That’s something you could actually hang your hat on.
The other thing that was also mentioned up here is this notion of what’s called engaged selling time. How much time are you reps actually talking to customers, moving deals, identifying deals, and moving them forward? Right now, industry average is 25%. That means all of us are spending way too much time doing other stuff, like one-on-ones, training, etc. Trying to learn product knowledge. We’re not actually talking to customers so that we’d have to continue to think about the things that we can do to get our reps freed from the bondage of the internal stuff, especially the big companies like IBM. And get them out in front of their customers.
And then I’d say the last thing too, and this is actually where People.ai and Ambition can really help, but I’m curious and then we’re going to open this up for questions. This idea of sales velocity, I call it the sales equation, is something that everybody here should know, and every single one of your AEs should know how they perform across the four different drivers of the sales equation. How many people here know what the sales equation is? Raise your hand. Okay. That scares me. Alright, here it is: average number of ops that you need in order to get to your number times your average deal size, times your win rate, divided by your sales cycle. Everyone needs to know what those core metrics are for every single segment. So, if I’m in commercial sales, or if I’m an enterprise rep reporting up to John, how much should I have in my pipeline, what’s my average win rate that I should be targeting, divided by to my sales cycle, and then what’s my average deal size? So then I can look and go, my deals are supposed to be $45K but I’m coming into my deal size around $30K. Well, then I know what to do. I can get my deal sizes up. And so as practitioners, we can actually start to turn the dials. It’s the hardest part is actually getting that data out of your CRM so you can measure against it. That’s the challenge. But I do know that our companies like Ambition and People.ai can really help. There’s also Salesforce, this thing called Einstein, if it works.
JG: I think kind of going on Mary’s point, she’s talking about moving the middle, right? Like how do you move the massive middle? IBM’s middle is bigger than probably most of our sales teams combined. And so to do that you have to get data. I love the idea of having data science as part of enablement. I think the whole sales profession is becoming more of a scientific process because now the technologies are here where instead of having to beat people over the head of entering your CRM, you can just take the data and free them up to go do more selling time. And that’s the beginning of how you can now make this more of a data-driven profession.
Then instead of feeding the beast, so to speak, actually give them something back, which I think CRM has never really given the seller real productivity back. I think that’s where a lot of this is heading, is kind of a next best action type approach where they don’t have to think, and hunt and peck about all the things that they can go do.
DL: Most sellers, what do we want to do? I want to have conversations. I want to talk to you about how we can help you, help your customers. I don’t want to enter information into CRM or go to training classes, or do one-on-ones. I want to just talk to customers. So, however you can think about ways in which we can further advance that. I love the idea by the way, of how thinking about in your sales organization, having a data scientist as a part of your sales organization, it’s really interesting. I know at certain size of companies you can afford that as part of the resources, but why not actually start thinking about doing that earlier on in the process? Because data is so important to driving the overall effectiveness of all the programs that you’re doing, which of course you’ve got to go fight for dollars for, right? So, it kind of feeds the beast.
Alright, well, we’re going to open it up to questions. One requirement, please say your name and where you’re from as you’re asking a question. We’ve got incredible panelists here. Fire away. What do you got?
Audience 1: My name is Cindy and I work for a startup called Acapella Space. It’s a very small company, 60 people in total. The sales team, we’re talking AEs, strictly about five of them. So, my question is probably for John, because you’re the CRO at the company. How do you suggest that, with such a small team, how should we do sales forecasts? Do you think we should look at commit, upside, pipeline, or should we assign some sort of probability percentage and look at expected revenue because it’s so small and there’s no data for me?
JG: I mean, I have a perspective on forecasting and here’s kind of the Genesis of your question. I was talking about this with someone last night about stages and then the expected value. These probabilities. Just kind of a funny thing if you really think about it because it doesn’t really have a lot of bearing on what’s actually happening. So, I tend to look more about, it depends on what you’re selling, but the personas that we’re engaged with and engagement in general. Are we spending our time with the right person that matters to us and are we multi-threaded if it’s an enterprise sale? Because oftentimes if you think about what most times goes on in a forecast call on a Thursday or Friday every week, it’s an anecdotal story about all the things that happened last week. All the great reasons why the deal’s going to close, how much they love us, and all these things. But a lot of that is not very scientific or data-driven. And so I’d rather know what is the actual data saying about our engagement with the personas that we care about. That statistically are the personas and the engagement that have led to close deals. I think that’s a better indicator of if it’s going to close, then just a stage, in my opinion.
DL: By the way too, I’d also recommend, if you’re in sales productivity or enablement, you sit in on forecast calls for your CROs and for your heads of sales. If you don’t do that already, do it now. Because that’s when you’ll better understand their ability to forecast. Because part of it is in the early days you got five people, it’s got a finger in the air. I think it’s going to close, but we don’t have enough data to actually back that up. Largely, you need to get actually in there and listening to them talk through the deal health so you can better understand what’s actually causing these deals to slip? What’s causing us to lose them? What’s causing us to actually close them faster than we thought.
JG: I’d also advise on the stages. A lot of times stages are your company’s view of the world versus how the customer actually thinks about it and how they buy. So I think that’s another thing, is to kind of make sure that the stages actually align with how someone would buy your technology or product.
DL: We call those customer verifiable outcomes.
BT: Make them binary. The rep has to know, is it actually in contract review? Is it actually talking to procurement? Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, it’s pending or it’s close to close.” It’s things that are like very wishy washy and you have reps with very optimistic eyes when they’re typing that in. You want it dead simple where it’s like, “yes, they told me legal is reviewing it.” That’s the stage it’s in.
DL: That’s also where products like Chorus and Gong can help because you can listen. Again, as practitioners, we should listen in on their calls and go, “alright, well what are they doing?” Are they saying, “yeah, it’s committed”. It’s like, alright. But then we didn’t actually unpack what that really meant. It’s up to you guys to really understand what the reps are really meaning because our job is largely translators.
Alright, another question in the middle.
Audience 2: Yeah. I’m a Bill Macy from Looker Data Sciences. I run a field enablement and I’ve done it at several different companies over the years. And one of the things we always struggle with is not only what are the right metrics and what are you actually measuring, what does that tell you about your business and problems in your business? But how do you mitigate other factors that affect productivity? You have no control over comp plans, hiring attrition, the market competition. At business objects, we lost 30% of our pipeline in one day on September 11th. That’s an extreme example, but those kinds of things are going on all the time in the marketplace. So, from an executive’s point of view, do those really matter? How do you mitigate that to make sure that you are giving the right kind of productivity numbers?
DL: Yeah, that’s a great question, because there’s so many things that impact reps productivity, if you will.
MT: I think you need to focus on what you can control. You can’t fix the world, so to speak. So for me, it’s about making sure that your sales are engaged. You maximize the level of engagement in the workforce so that if you have problems of attrition, we talked about this on the previous panel, or other challenges that are like divestiture, and there are many dynamics that can all of a sudden destroy a lot of what you’re doing. But I think keeping a very engaging series of programs. We do gamification, for example, which are games to kind of drive some behaviors. When I started this job, nobody was doing it. Nobody even understood what that was. I saw that working in many different environments. So, I imported into the sales enablement and I started to see how you can create peer-to-peer learning and other ways to create an ecosystem, a sense of community. And so when these storms happen, I think you can manage better organically, or let’s say, because you create an infrastructure where people at the core are a little bit stronger.
JM: I also think that our jobs don’t start with the sales process. The sales rep getting on the phone, they start at who are you hiring? How do you hire? Is the experience any good? I mean, I was really surprised to find that before I could even think about an onboarding program, I had to go back and retrain and look at the criteria that we were sharing with HR. We had to modify the whole hiring process and set that up differently. And then also it’s not just when the sales close, but do you retain it? What’s the churn look like? So the breadth of what we do, you have to prioritize where you’re going to focus first, but you can’t just look at the middle.
DL: I’m going to throw another component in there, but everybody in here also has to have a hypothesis about what’s going on, right? You can look at the numbers and be like, “Oh geez, we just lost 30% of our pipeline. What’s our hypothesis?” Is it rep execution? Is it the market? Is a competition? Is it pricing and packaging? Is it how we’re actually going to market? So, you’ve got to have a hypothesis and then you have to go back into the data. You get a data scientist to help you understand, well, are we losing more to competition? What are they doing? Did they reduce their pricing all of a sudden, and all of a sudden we’re considered the Lamborghini of the solution? So it’s about kind of unpacking the different hypotheses and not always going, “our reps suck”, right? Let’s just not default and say, “our rep suck.” Because it could be a number of other factors that could be impacting the business.
BT: One thing about that too is I think you have to get that data and those trends as close to the actual sales process as possible. Then the managers need to see that in the trenches because they’re going to be the first ones who say, “our productivity just fell off a cliff, and I don’t think all of a sudden all my reps started sucking last week.” So something that happened outside of our office that we need to know about, and if it does, you’ve got to readjust and you’ve got to get smart and you got to figure out competition change, the market change, Black Swan events. That is my managers saying, “Oh, we’re still doing the same thing we did last week, but it’s not working to the same level” and they can act. And so I think when that data gets siloed away in some sales ops or a productivity suite, and they’re like, “Oh, we’re having an off month,” the managers are like, “No, we’re doing the same thing we did last week. It’s just not working”.
DL: And then we can take information back to marketing leadership or back to product and say, “Hey, guess what? Here’s what’s really happening out in the market. It’s not just a reps issue”. And then now, guess what? All of a sudden our role becomes way more strategic because we’re feeding information back to the rest of the company that they can then take action on. And now all of a sudden you have way more value in the company because you are like Switzerland. You get it all in the best possible way. Alright, one more. I think one more question.
Audience 3: Rachel, with InsideView, and Jodi, you just sort of touched on it, but how do you, when you have a very small enablement team, how do you work with the C-suite to make sure that the priorities are set very clearly? How do you prioritize when you’re dealing with onboarding, but also trying to lift the middle, but also trying to maybe bring in some from the backend teams like CSMs and all of that? Where do you focus and how do you kind of guide that ship, or are you led by the C-suite?
JM: I’m led by the C-suite to the point that I follow their initiatives and then it’s my job as a practitioner to decide what’s going to get there first. And what’s going to get their attention. When I sit and I see interviewing happening where they bring somebody in and they send them around at two or three sales managers and a couple of AEs, and they all ask them the same questions. I’m like, “God, no wonder we can’t hire anywhere”. So this isn’t going to take that long to fix. I call ClosedLoop or somebody and they come in and sometimes it’s using outside people. I can’t do it all, but it’s finding those that can help you. So, we fixed that, you know?
And then it’s okay, finish onboarding. You might already have an HR system with some E-learning in place that you can replicate. It’s using everything at my disposal to get those metrics. And it’s pretty clear if your company has four or five or six corporate initiatives, when I look at what they are, it’s pretty clear what I’m going to focus on.
DL: Your job also, too, is going to be able to say, “no.” Seriously, you guys have to be able to say no. John comes to me back in Salesforce days, and this is actually a real story. So, our reps are terrible, we can’t seem to win. Our close rates are down”, whatever. It’s like, “Oh, great, cool. Let me just go hire CorporateVisions and do an executive training program. And oh, by the way, I’ve got a hundred other asks from the rest of the organization.” So, how do I prioritize? Well, I’m like, “cool, John. Fix it. Best of luck to you.” I’ve got other things I’ve got to go solve that are actually that ladder up to the overall corporate initiatives. Part of our job is actually learning how to say no and to use what Jodi is saying, to help us prioritize.
DB: And Doug also, I mean, you’re on the investment side now. You kind of are alluding to, what if you’re not quite sure what their priorities are? Like, maybe the C-suite doesn’t. Find out, inside these backed by investors, if you were invited to the next board meeting and the CRO said, “Hey, c’mon in, and you have one slide to come to the board meeting to talk about.” Forget the C-suite. What do you think your investors want to see? Those are the ones, because remember C-suite, the investor’s money is in the company. That is a marriage with a planned divorce. And sometime in the future, the C-suite can let go at any point in time if they’re not performing. So if you’re in line with a C-suite that is unclear, find out what to do. However you can get some visibility into what happened at the last board meeting, to the extent they can tell you, and maybe even call an investor. Ask them to say, “Hey, I’m curious, can I ask so-and-so on our board? I would love to ask their thoughts on what we’re doing from a go-to-market perspective.” And even take it above the C-suite, because those are the people that are really looking at the metrics for your business.
JG: Yeah, and I think the whole profession of enablement, it’s really sky’s the limit of how strategic you can become. And I think that comes with the cross-functional alignment because really you’re the tip of the spear for the growth engine. Right? And so who wouldn’t want to listen to you or whatever strategies that you’d want to go implement. And so I think cross-functional alignment is super important so that you can be a bridge to the head of sales to what is marketing thinking about. And then, you know, you can be a very good coach, for the head of sales.
DL: And it’s all about being proactive, not reactive, and not doing random acts of enablement, if you will, but actually having a real strategic impact.