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Enablement’s Roadmap to Revenue – Soirée, San Francisco

| 53 min read


Tim Riesterer: I didn’t go to Fleetwood Mac either last night, but one thing I will say, the thing about panel discussions is you get just a little bit from a lot of people, just a little bit of smart stuff, and it’s like going to a show where your favorite band takes their best songs and turns them into a medley. And you get just a little bit of your favorite song and they move on to the next song. So, it can be a very frustrating experience. My goal is to make sure our panel is not a greatest hits medley, frustrating experience, but that we get a lot of wisdom from these folks.

Without further ado, I’m going to have them introduce themselves. So, they represent you, right? They’re sales enablement folks at their respective companies, and our topic is “Roadmap to Revenue”. And we’re really going to bucket our conversation in three areas. One, where are you having revenue impact? What measurements or metrics are you looking at? And then three, how are you demonstrating and presenting that? So, which things are you doing that you believe are having revenue impact? How are you measuring that? And what are you measuring? And then how are you presenting that? And who are you presenting it to? We’re going to take that track today.

We’ll do 30 minutes with the team, and then we’re going to open it up to questions for you. I’m going to have each person here first start out by giving you their name and then the scope of their sales enablement responsibilities. The other thing I’ve seen in sales enablement is some people are heavily focused on tech and tools, some are very focused on training, and L&D, and skills. Others are yet focused on content, playbooks, and coaching and things like that. So, each one is going to talk about their scope of work so you have a frame of reference for the context they’re talking about.

Lindsay, I’m going to turn it over to you to start and then we’ll work our way down.

Lindsay Ruiz: I am Lisa Ruiz. I work for Blackberry. I’m a senior director of sales enablement. Very briefly, the focus of my organization tackles three specific capabilities that combine digital enablement, direct sales enablement, and change enablement as the means to drive a sales excellence culture for Blackberry.

TR: Excellent. Michelle.

Michelle Kanan: Hi, my name is Michelle Kanan. I’m the director of sales enablement at Gong, and the scope of my role actually oversees both the sales side of the house as well as CS. And our focus is on onboarding, ongoing training, and education. We own the entire knowledge management focus as well as the go-to-market strategy for all of the products that we’re releasing. So, pretty wide breadth.

Shiladitya Mallik: You can just call me Mallik. I’m the chief business officer at Smart Winnr. We’re focused on helping customers drive sales revenue through sales enablement programs, specifically focusing on gamification, sales training, and sales contest in a holistic approach.

Sheevaun Thatcher: I run the global sales and services enabling practice at RingCentral, and we are involved in everything. So, we’re involved in strategy and messaging and go-to-market. We’re involved in content creation, we’re involved in sales delivery, we are involved in training and onboarding and all of that kind of good stuff. So we’ve got our fingers in every pie.

Bruce Sanchez: Good morning. I’m Bruce Sanchez with Dell Technologies, and I’ve got, Tim, kind of both sides of that portfolio. I run our field sales enablement for our North America enterprise team, so a fairly good, sizable chunk of the company’s revenue. And then I’m also leading a project where we’re re-envisioning all of our learning technology, so a bunch of intersection with AI and ML and really trying to bring relevance and context to that arena. So, yeah, good to be here.

TR: Alright, let’s talk roadmap to revenue. The first question I’m going to ask, and I’m going to give it to Sheevaun, talk to me about the programs you believe as sales enablers you are doing and applying that you think you’re seeing the biggest impact on revenue. Some things are like house cleaning and have to get done. So let’s narrow the scope for the purposes of this topic. Which things are you doing that you are seeing as having the greatest impact on revenue?

ST: I think the first thing is we run enablement like a business. So, we’ve got investors and supply chain and we’ve got customers. And our customers, of course, are the salespeople. We have a number of programs. Number one, of course, is our onboarding program, which ramps our people very, very quickly. It reduced ramp by a significant amount. We have what we call our lead program, which is our leadership enablement and development program. That one works with our sales leaders and teaches them how to coach their people through the sales process, pipeline forecasting, all that kind of good stuff. Then, we have our onboarding. We’ve got competitive training and certifications.

We’ve got big deal wins, which is a big one. I think the videos that our salespeople do, talking about the wins they’ve had are the number one watched thing and they have a big impact. There are playbooks, of course, right? Standard playbooks. Then we have our news program, what we call our modern selling program. So, we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and we have all of our people online now using LinkedIn to do the social selling, because that’s how they’re getting people’s attention these days. The program is going very well. In fact, we won an award from LinkedIn two nights ago, so that was awesome. I mean, just lots and lots of programs ongoing.

TR: Anybody else? Lindsay, how about you — programs specifically at your organization that you feel are moving the needle on revenue?

LR: Yeah, I was thinking about that also. We’re taking a slightly different approach. We’re definitely taking on a lot of the tools and capabilities you’d think of at a typical sales enablement organization, but where we’re going beyond and trying to accelerate the execution of our organization in terms of driving sales and deals and closing deals and things like that. It’s really back into the aspect of how are we driving change internally? How we’re focusing on the transformation of the culture to really drive the level of accountability that we want. For example, from a management level hierarchy in order to really take the ownership of coaching their teams and being leaders inside the organization so that when we’re introducing you to technologies that enable people to do better and be faster in acquiring assets and education on-the-go, they’re also being nimble enough to go back to frontline management to get the level of coaching and feedback that they need to put it all together before going to the clients. So, we’re really trying to drive acceleration by driving change at the human level so we get people out of the frustration on the early stages quicker so that they focus on it experimenting and driving decisions faster.

TR: Interesting. Michelle, do you want to comment on that?

MK: I think the program that we’ve deployed recently that’s had the biggest impact is actually trying to solve for a problem that most sales enablement folks face, which is how do you battle mind share. Right? You have all of these different programs that are coming from marketing that are coming from sales, that are coming from leadership and trying to figure out how you’re going to get your initiative across the line means that you have to battle for mind share across the company.

So, something that we’ve really focused on is our program of deploying our methodology. Instead of doing a two-day or three-day immersive bootcamp, we actually split it up across four months. We did a four-hour session per month, and then we took one learning. We picked one sole focus from that four hours to make that our focus for 30 days. So, every single sales manager and leader knew that was the piece that was going to be reinforced. And for every team meeting, one-on-one call review, that was going to be the focus for those 30 days, to actually implement that change. I think when we think about programs and driving revenue, we know we have to uplevel the skills of our people. And that really comes from having that singular focus.

TR: Yeah. I’m sure it’s a challenge in every organization. There are so many things you could do. How do you pick and how do you know that’s the one that’s going to have the greatest impact on revenue? So, process for you, changing the culture it sounds like for you. Mallik, what is it in your organization?

SM: For us, what we have seen be the thing that makes the most impact is a coaching program for the managers. So often, the managers get overlooked. We focus on the sales reps, but we realize that the actual pitfalls are the managers. So we kind of created a coaching program for the managers so that they can actually have the sales reps aligned with the vision of what needs to be achieved. That was a very strong airway for us.

TR: It’s really the only way to scale any of these ideas is to have that happen, for sure. Is it generalized coaching, like just how to be a good coach, or is it specified coaching on process or certain activities?

SM: It was kind of generalized coaching because that was lacking in the organization. So we wanted them up to speed. But now the next phase will be focusing on specific areas. One of the areas where the sales team lacks is asking for the business. They are very good at having the chit chat, having the discussions, having the demo. But you have to close the sale and closing the sale is often the most difficult area. So that would be one specific area now, which we are going to do as a follow-up.

TR: Yes. The dreaded constipated pipeline. We need a, a coaching ex-lax program. And that was early in the morning for that, I apologize, but at least that was the one you’re going to remember. You’re welcome. Bruce, how about you? If you had to pick something that’s driving revenue?

BS: Let me be a bit of a contrarian here and I’ll make a bold statement. I actually don’t believe that sales enablement drives revenue. Okay. Let’s say that this panel is ajorned. Sales enablement attached to a sales program drives revenue. Right? So if I go teach you something, I cannot directly link that to you’re selling something. However, if I teach you something that’s attached to a sales campaign that’s backed up by targeted marketing, that has dedicated compete assets, right? That is driven with a dashboard that allows me to measure how far you’re going to sell and how fast. Now I have a whole group of ad tools and people that are driving revenue. So I actually believe that enablement plays a very important role in driving revenue, but not on its own.

I think if you were to ask me that question, what programs, I’m going to talk to you about sales programs. I’m going to talk to you about a competitive displacement program that we’ve won. I’m going to talk about a tech refresh program. And I’m going to tell you the part that enablement played in that.

TR: Yeah, it is hard, right? So, some of the things you do in enablement are generalized skills training and process development and coaching skills that you just know have to be there. But at some point, if you’re going to measure it, it’s got to be attached almost programmatically. That makes a lot of sense to me.

So with that in mind, let’s sort of move to what things are you measuring? And I think Bruce kind of transitioned that nicely for us. Some of it’s programmatic results, like what programs, what initiatives are you running and how do you almost kit up an experience for your sellers and team to deploy that. That’s enablement, but other things in enablement are a little bit broader, like making sure everybody’s up to speed on process. So let’s walk down the line again. What are you measuring? What metrics really matter in your organization? I had Mallik first on this one, so why don’t you give us your thoughts there?

SM: It’s kind of a meta-question, you know, what are we measuring? And number one, measuring impact of sales enablement on revenue is a cross-functional exercise. And it’s also a multistep process, and the matrix will differ from organization to organization. So let me just give you meta answer in terms of what’s the process and how do you select the matrix? I always think about this in terms of building our chain, and there are three links to the chain.

The first is what we call the revenue metrics link. These are all the activities that directly contribute to revenue. It could be the product sold, revenue, deal size, anything which you can put a dollar value on. So that’s one bucket. The second important bucket is what we call the activity matrix. So these are all the activities which you need to do, which will drive sales. It could be number of calls, it could be a number of demos, number of customer visits. All the activities which lead up to revenue. And the third and the final is what we call sales enablement or the enablement matrix. These are the things which are under direct control of the sales enablement team, which could be your coaching, it could be your product training, it could be your sales asset, utilization of the collaterals, anything and everything, which is under the control of the sales team.

To have these three things and three data points together, what Bruce was also saying, it has to be attached to a program. Then you can actually get some of these KPIs and align them together to get the impact.

TR: So, if I heard that right, one layer is, here’s the stuff sales enablement does. We’ve run these programs, accomplish these programs, track that. Next is, what activities do the salespeople perform that it should generate, like they learned something. Now, do they do something right and then does that something produce hard, tangible ROI? So, you kind of measure on three levels, I heard.

Anybody else with measurements? What have you specifically done to measure, Sheevaun?

ST: In our company, the senior leadership said they care about two things that they want to see enablement impact. One is ramp, and the other is productivity. So we measure those things. That’s what they want to know about, right? I think as a company we measure 150 different metrics, but that’s what they care about. So with that, we measure things like the new hire ramp to quota. How long does it take for them to get full quota? We measure from the day they start, what happens? I mean, when we’ve seen things like two years ago when we started our programs, the average ramp for the first quarter was about 1% success. Last quarter it was 178%. So, we know the programs are working. That’s what they want to see. That’s what they’re seeing.

We have pipeline created. And the reason we look at pipeline as opposed to quota is because when I look at quota, anytime the model changes, the quota changes. And so our impact can’t be measured appropriately. What I care about and what I give back to my leaders is that the revenue is going up. I don’t care if your revenue or your quota is $1,000 or $10 million. Is it getting bigger every quarter? That’s what they care about.

The number of deals, right? What’s our win rate? Clearly, win-loss is very important, time to first deal, especially for new hires, and this is time to first deal from the time cradle degrade, they get the lead and they close it, so that’s good, but that isn’t really the measure that I care about. I care about time to second deal because the first deal can be a Bluebird, right? We’ve all seen those. You walk into a territory, it’s already gone. You say, “Hey, I got a new lead” and you close it in minutes. That kind of thing. They’re full month of first at full capacity. When are they actually contributing real revenue? They’re at full capacity, full quota, and they’re actually bringing the dollars in.

And lastly, is program participation. We have our new hire of course, but we also have all the ongoing programs like competitive certifications, watching the deal wins, new product outlays, and things like that. I mean, we use SalesHood as our platform, and in there we can do assessments. We track it very, very closely because what we do then is we say, who’s doing it? How are they doing? How are they scoring? Where are the gaps and how does all of that correlate with Salesforce, because that’s our CRM. And then we can show very clearly, here’s what they’re doing and here, here’s what they’re doing over here. How do the numbers and the revenue, how are they impacted by the learning culture that’s been created and the enablement culture that’s been created?

So, I do agree with you. I don’t believe that we can close. I mean, I always say responsible to, not for. Enablement’s responsible to sales, enablement is not responsible for sales because we can’t close a deal. That’s why the partnership with sales leadership is so important because you know, we’ve all seen it, right? You can lead a horse to water and you can have the best programs in the world and the most money in the world and the best team in the world, which I have, and still the programs will fail if you don’t have total support from sales leadership, first-line managers, all the way up to the very top.

TR: I’ve heard like a lot of things that can be measured, right? Onboarding, time, productivity, there’s a whole list of these things. I’m happy to hear any from anyone else, but I’m going to put another spin on it to try and focus it at some point. All of them are important, but there are a lot of dials. When you talk to management above you, who you’re justifying it to, which ones do they actually hone in on and do you find become your justification metric? Can it be a dashboard of eight or 10 or is it really one, two, or three? I would love to know if anybody has a comment or thought on that.

BS: Can I hop in? Because this is one that I think is highly important. There’s not been mentioned attrition and retention. So, there is a very strong investment. Many of the companies I’ve been in, and not just Dell, I’ve worked at Microsoft and Salesforce. We’re fundamentally investing in people. And giving them the skills and they need to be successful really does help drive retention and reduce attrition. So, if you ask some of my sales leaders, in addition to the sales results, we really think about our people a lot.

TR: That’s interesting. What I’ve seen the executives use — and we even teach this in one of our courses — is the three Rs for returns. Hard Rs, soft Rs and strategic Rs. Hard Rs would be like pipeline, ACV, and deal size. Soft Rs would be onboarding and productivity, because it’s not a direct number. And then strategic Rs are retention, reducing unwanted churn on your team. So, think of it as like hard Rs, soft Rs, and strategic Rs, the real numbers that you can put up there and go, those are numbers that everybody knows is revenue. Soft Rs are those things that support it, ramp time and productivity, and then strategic Rs are those things that are sort of overarching business goals, which is retention of good talent and things like that. Anybody got any others on the end here, Lindsay or Michelle? In terms of measurements?

MK: Something that we do that I think is really different is we make our onboarding program to be incredibly intense. And it’s to help us identify who’s going to be successful in the role. And I think a lot of companies, when we talk about retention, they try and keep people on because it’s such a big investment to bring them into the company to begin with. But sometimes you need to be really honest with yourself for the company’s sake as to whether somebody is not going to make it. So, we try and do that quicker. We have a ton of metrics that we kind of measure around that initiative to make sure that we’re saving the company money in the long run.

TR: Yeah. It’s both reducing unwanted attrition and accelerating wanted attrition. That makes sense.

LR: I have a perspective as well. Like I mentioned earlier, our focus, though we do have an enablement capability for my learning and development perspective, we collect metrics in terms of user generated content and whether people have been exposed to their learning effectively to drive appropriate conversations. Managers come in and help and support their teams develop and all that. Our approach is really, and these may sound some somewhat simplistic, but none of what we’re talking about really happens on this. You measure what people actually being exposed and they’re engaged and they’re participating in the sessions and the onboarding and the programs in the processes.

Something that we are trying to do more diligently is bring back that visibility of the individual level at the regional level, that we’re actually really truly driving global engagement, that people are attending meetings, that we can understand who was where so we can go back to their regional leaders and say, out of a hundred people that you have in your team, we were only seeing the same 30. Right? And so, I am of the thinking that everything that we talk about from a productivity perspective and everything that sounds so sophisticated really comes down to the point of, are people really listening to us or they’re really attracted to the programs that we have, and are they being supported to participate? So, that’s something we’re doing.

TR: So, we’re talking about performance indicators, but understanding adoption, because if you could get some performance and think it was because of your programs, but you look in, your adoption rates are really low. So, something else happened to drive performance. So, I do a little science on the side and we talk about correlation versus causation. I’m curious, as you tell your senior leaders, “here’s the impact we had on revenue”, how did they buy it, right? Or they go, “how do you know just because the revenue number moved, your program did that?” I feel like being able to measure the adoption and engagement levels of it would say, “so-and-so is a high adopter, and we saw their KPI move.” Right? At some point, you need both.

LR: It puts the accountability back on the leaders as well. I think that’s super important that not only do we drive all these programs and all these levels of efforts and trying to implement amazing training and all that, but I think if we don’t have the accountability back on their region, I have to understand what’s happening in their organization from a human perspective. All this stuff can go in a drawer and you don’t have the visibility you need to have, and they’re the ones that really step in and say, how come I have 30 people? I don’t want a hundred. Where are my managers? How do I mobilize all these people? So these programs continue to stick.

TR: So, Bruce, when we were talking before, he was the one who said, “dude, we got to talk about correlation and causation.” I said, “one, I’m not a dude, but two, yes, we should.” So, talk to me.

BS: Yeah, so I’ll tell you a very illuminating moment I had. Very early on in my career, I was working with the senior vice president of sales, and he says, “how are we going to measure the success of your enablement program?” I said, “well, I don’t know, net-new pipe generation.” He goes, “okay, great, my folks go through your training and their pipe goes up, you want to take credit for that?” I’m like, “well, sure.” He goes, “okay, if they go through your training and my pipe goes down, is that your fault?” And I’m like, “Oh, well, no, of course not.” You know? So, I think we have to be really careful.

Credibility with sales leaders is the number one value that we can bring. That trust. And so it is correlation versus attribution. I would never say, “I did this training, your pipe went up.” What I will say is I can correlate the investments we’ve made. To your point, use the word correlate with trends in your performance, right? I can take a look at that in time buckets. I can associate it with certain parameters and I can generally correlate that our investments are making a difference for you. That’s a very powerful statement and I think brings you a lot more credibility than, “well, let me tell you about all the best sales we helped you close.” Right?

TR: Right. It feels like there’s a leap and there’s something in between there that didn’t connect. Mallik, you looked like you had something to say.

SM: Yeah. So, I think when we are ruling out sales enablement programs for some of our largest customers, and when there is a disruptive program, right? What we often do is we follow the same method that the marketing folks use, which is AB testing. So, you have two cohorts who are performing at the same level and you make one of them go through a sales enablement program and the other team, they are the control group and you don’t let them go to the program. And then you can actually statistically measure what the effect is of the program. That often will tell you whether the program is successful or not.

TR: Okay. Anybody else on that one? Taking this to leadership and demonstrating correlation or causation. Anybody got any comments or thoughts on that too? Michelle?

MK: I mean, I hate to be that person, but we use our own product. We have essentially the ability to track what’s happening in the conversations. So, when we train, we make sure that we’re training on specific keywords and phrases that we can track that are coming up in those conversations. We can see pretty easily talking to our leadership team, is this actually being adopted and is that change permeating through the sales force in a way that we want it to be? So, I think it comes down to, we’ve done this there, the change management is happening and it’s a point of accountability to say, what’s going on with these other 30% that aren’t using the new language or aren’t talking about that new product? If this is the big push from our leadership team and they’re not doing it, what does that mean?

TR: I am hearing everybody say sort of the same thing. We can point to measurements or metrics and say those are the ones we’re targeting, and then we can say programmatically, this is supposed to do that. But I’m sort of starting to hear in the middle is, can we prove adoption and engagement so that we know that what we taught them wasn’t just a completed task? Are they using it? And then the performance follows. So, it feels like your ability to be able to show adoption, use, and engagement of your stuff, whatever it is — skills, content stories — is imperative to taking credit for some of these performance indicators. Because just completing a program seems like it’s a step too far.

BS: It’s a multivariate equation, right? I mean, think about compensation and territories and deal cycles, etc. There’s no way to net enablement out of that. Tim and I actually did a project a couple of years back where we actually had a true AB test group across multiple segments, reporting up through the same leaders, netting out for year-over-year variations. I mean, it was a gob of work. And that’s probably as close as I’ve ever come to be able to directly attribute. But even there, there was variability. Right?

TR: Right. Sheevaun, it looked like you had a hand in there.

ST: I mean, we’ve had some pretty amazing growth at RingCentral. When we started any of my programs two and a half years ago, the stock was at 21 and had been there for about four years. It’s now at 175, so it’s been a tremendous growth. But what has happened and where we do get the total buy-in from senior leadership is that their sellers are selling. Their sellers are not spending their time in administrativia. They’re not spending their time trying to find things. They’re not spending their time going back and having to learn over and over again about competitive and all of that. It’s all available at the moment when they need it based on the activities that they’re doing at the time, which means they’re spending 60 to 70% of their time selling. As opposed to 30 to 35% of their time, because those are the numbers you start to see in a lot of the analytics reports.

TR: Yeah, absolutely. Nice. So, in just a couple of minutes, I’m going to take Q&A. I just have one more question I want to run through the panel real quick. So, get your questions ready and be prepared to stand up, shout your name, company, and question as loud as you can. We’re going to try and get a mic to you, but it’s pretty tight quarters here. So, be thinking about your questions.

Michelle, I’m gonna start with you on this one. Who are the stakeholders you’re accountable to? And then I want you each to think about that one. At the end of the day, I feel like sales enablement starts as a self-defense mechanism. Marketing’s putting all this stuff into the funnel and sales is like, “no”. Let’s put sales enablement in the middle to filter it and make it work. So, sometimes it grows out of different needs, but it somehow came about almost in self-defense, I think. So, who in your organization — is it sales driven? Is it marketing? Is it both? Is it higher than that? Who are the stakeholders?

MK: There are a couple of different levels of stakeholders. At our highest level, it’s our CEO or CRO or executive suite. Clearly, they need to be bought into what enablement is there to do, and they dictate the kind of direction that we need to go in and the road we need to build. Then we have our directors and frontline managers, they’re the ones that are actually taking the baton from sales enablement, right? Like, we are partners. We can’t run the race alone. So, we really have to pass the baton to them to implement all of those amazing things that we’ve built. Then, of course, it’s the reps themselves, like we have to build that credibility with them. So, across the board we have stakeholders.

I think that’s what makes enablement so unique. It’s what makes it so fun. It’s what makes it challenging. We have to wield influence as well as work with almost every other department in the company in order to get our programs off the ground. So, it’s a very unique thing. I hate to say almost everyone is a stakeholder of enablement, but it feels that way.

TR: Okay. Anybody else? Like, how do you think of your stakeholders’ ecosystem in terms of who’s most important? Sheevaun?

ST: Our ultimate stakeholders are our customers. If they’re getting what they need from our sellers, that they’re able to solve their problems, then we’re doing our job.

TR: Do you survey that? I love that statement: “it’s ultimately our customers, and if they’re getting what they want”. Do you actually measure that?

ST: We sure as hell do.

TR: How do you measure that?

ST: We measure it through win/loss, we measure through a customer surveys, we do regular customer surveys. We do QA on phone calls: how are we answering the questions properly? We have NPS scores that we track. So, we track all of that very, very closely. Because if you don’t, if the NPS scores start going down, you have a problem. So, it is finding out, what does the pipeline look like? If we’ve got bigger and bigger deals, more and more customers, and more and more markets and verticals that we’re getting into, we’re doing something right.

TR: You could surmise that. I was just curious if you really even asked the customers, so you do.

ST: Everything that enablement does is customer-focused. Our sales process or sales methodology, everything is so that the salespeople can have conversations with the customers and ask open-ended questions to find out what they really need.

TR: Yes, that’s the value they add. Bruce, one more?

BS: Yeah. If you look at how Michael Dell measures the company, there are two key metrics there: CNPS and ENPS. So, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. From an enablement perspective, those are obviously critical, right? They’re mission-critical for the company. From the stakeholder perspective, if you look at my LinkedIn profile, it says that “in the end, we do one thing: we help our sellers make their number.” That’s it. You just never lose sight of that because everything else bubbles up after that. Things go well if people are making their numbers.

TR: Good deal. Alright. Questions from the audience?

Audience 1: Hi, I’m Cassandra Edwards. I’m from The Knot Worldwide. Michelle, I have a question for you. You said that you track phrases, terms, language to see if it is adopted. What is the software that you use?

MK: It’s our own software. It’s called Gong. So, the idea is that you’re capturing those conversations either over phone, email, web conferencing, and you’re able to analyze the information and then derive your insights to take action. And so, in many ways, the way that we do it is we put in our trackers. We then set up our saved searches and alerts for our frontline managers so they know exactly what calls that they need to coach to on that initiative. They score those calls, and then I take the great examples and plug them back into onboarding and measure whether or not their reps are actually adopting that initiative.

TR: Yeah, so recently we saw an instance where they rolled out a new playbook to a company inside of a company, a brand new playbook to the inside sales team. And they’re like, “yay, we launched it.” It took three months to roll it out. They turned on the Gong recording device to see if they were using it on the calls. 3% of them were using the new message. Now as a sales enablement person, you can no longer go, “I did my job. The playbook was launched. I visited 12 cities and I’ve rocked it.” And then you see 3% adoption in real-time. What are they really using when they’re on their phone and the tension’s live and they don’t use it? Now, this is what I mean by adoption seems to be the only way to correlate because just checking the box on that program is no longer enough. So, good question, good ask, nice plug.

Audience 2: Hi, my name is Mary Tafuri. I work for IBM. First of all, thank you, this is a very insightful conversation. I do run sales enablement for cloud and cognitive. There are a lot of products in our portfolio. My question is specific on what is the importance of who you recruit in enablement today to maximize the impact that you make in the revenue? I don’t think it’s just the leadership team, but who we have in the team. So, I’m curious to hear how you are focusing on making some changes in your teams and hiring the right skills to maximize that impact?

TR: Alright, so hiring the right skills to maximize the revenue impact. Anybody, any particular skill? Michelle.

MK: My team is here, so they’re representing. I love to hire skills that I don’t have. So, I’ve been at enablement for 10 years. This is everything. This is my world. But my background is not being an SDR. It’s not being an implementation person or a customer success person. So, when I build my team, I’m looking for those skillsets and that expertise to join because they provide a perspective that I don’t have. And in turn, they can teach a lot of the enablement pieces. But I’m looking for opposing skills and different skills than I have.

TR: You’re the culture warrior, Lindsay. So, how do you look at scaling or scaling up your a sales enablement folks?

LR: I can give you an example of what I’m doing today. Basically, I’m hiring currently to feed the design of my organization. So, I took a scale back to design how I want sales excellence from an organizational perspective to look like I design the capabilities that I want to blend together to be able to drive the much bigger objectives that I have. And then I’m hiring based on those capabilities. So, similar to Michelle, I’m looking for skills that can be brought in that we don’t have today. They are more within the design of the objectives of my roadmap so that I can have somebody who is very expert on digital transformation, somebody who can run the learning and development capability, so we’ll own a machine. Then, I have a change management lead that he’s taken on the umbrella of trying to introduce this into the organization. So, I’m thinking about it that way. Hope that’s helpful.

Audience 3: Scott Braxton from Informa, and good to see you again. So, what I’ve noticed in my career is that the amount of justification that you need is entirely dependent upon the C-suite buy-in. In other words, I want to learn how to take advantage of confirmation bias ahead of time. A former company I was at, the marketing team spent more than 50% of their effort trying to force sales reps to tag to campaigns to justify their value of adding marketing material rather than creating new marketing and implementing it. They spent all their time trying to justify that. I’m fortunate that I’m working with C-suite people who love this. So, my level of justification is did people take the courses? I’ve worked with other people that even if you show direct line revenue, they’ll tear it apart and say, “you can’t prove to a dime that everything was due to what you did.” How do we get in front of this so we really get the C-suite pulling for this so we have this great fertile land to deliver into?

TR: We jumped all around in terms of who we satisfy. Let’s just talk about the C-suite. What’s believable, viable in the C-suite to justify this? So anybody want that one?

ST: The C-suite is looking for reduced ramp and increased productivity. That’s what they’re after. I mean, you’re talking about a COO. So, are the operations working, is the investment they’re doing in marketing and they’re doing in all of these other parts and programs in the company, are they being effective? So, that’s one. And enablement is a big piece of that. There is the CFO, right? Are things going up? How much are they spending on programs? Again, there is the chief revenue officer. I’ll just tell a conversation I had with mine when I started at RingCentral, was he asked me one day, “your programs are all great, but what are you going to do if my people don’t do them?” I said, “I’m not going to do anything. What are you going to do if your people don’t do them?” And that set the groundwork that there has to be responsibility on both sides. And of course he chuckled and kind of pointed at me and went, “right, okay.” Since then, I’ve got their buy-in and they know I’ve only had to use it a couple of times, but they will come in right over the top and make sure that the programs are effective and that people are doing what they’re doing.

Audience 4: Hi, my name is Erez. I’m currently a consulting, but in my previous role, I was the global director of sales enablement at a company called Co-Fence. One of the things that we touched on here in the panel, and thank you very much, was certification and the actual continuation of that education. How are you guys bringing that certification to your organizations? Having that kind of pathway to make sure that people are engaged in your educational platforms?

ST: Can you be more specific on the certification you’re looking for? Are you certifying the sales enablement people are certifying salespeople?

Audience 4: Salespeople specifically. Enablement for me is across the board for an organization, but when you are measuring these kinds of programs, how are you guys actually getting those key benchmarks and are you guys building those certification programs within your organizations today?

TR: Yeah. I think that question ties into the adoption discussion, because doing a program but then certifying on it demonstrates a level of proficiency versus a level of, “I did it”. So, let’s just talk about that a little bit. I think it’s a great question. Bruce?

BS: Yeah. The companies that I’ve worked at are all about scale, right? You literally think of tens of thousands of people, and so that question takes on a very interesting dimension. Basically, most of the places I’ve worked, there’s some level of foundational learning that you have to have to be a functioning sales rep. I think the key is rather than mandating that, giving people options about how they achieve that certification. So, one is I took a course, I got a badge, whatever it might be. Another is test out, right? I can just show that I display the knowledge. Another is manager endorsement. In the end though, what I want to be able to say is we have a uniform base of knowledge across the sales force, and then we can build from there.

But the question is, again, let’s give some options on how to get there. So, I think certification and badging, if you kind of extend that, is a very important concept.

TR: Anybody else on certification or demonstration of proficiency?

ST: With the platform we use, we have them upload videos, for example, and then the managers come in and review the videos and give feedback. There are assessments that we do. I’m not going to call them certifications because certifications to me means there’s some kind of professional weight associated with it, but it’s much more of, ask a question that they can only get if they’ve watched the video, right? Simple things like that. And the other thing that we do, and this pretty much goes to what you were saying, is that when you’ve got your high performers, do not force them to do training. Get out of their way because they’re doing a really good job, right? So, you want to look at certifications and assessments much more on the folks that aren’t the high performers. Your mid-level, right? Those are the ones you really want to start tracking. And as you said, if you’ve got the high performers, just get out of their way.

Audience 5: My name’s Christine McMillan. I’m with Western Digital and this is the question for Sheevaun. I love how you have your onboarding dialed-in and on-point. I’m wondering how involved you are with the hiring and really outlining who are the right people to hire, number one, and number two, are you doing or considering doing assessments? In other words, looking at your high performers, people who ramp really quickly, what are those characteristics and attributes? And then how do I get in front of the onboarding and the hiring process?

ST: That’s really interesting, because we discovered fairly quickly when we started the enablement programs that our sales leaders were using a personality profile, or not even a personality, right? They were hiring people they liked. In a lot of cases, these people were washing out. So, we work very closely with our recruiting team and actually came up with the same thing. Open-ended questions, giving them a list of all the types of questions I needed to ask depending on what role these people were going to be playing. And then as we were in their hiring process, the people that were doing the actual interviews were given sections of this to ask so we could always revalidate. But when it comes to the actual hiring process itself, there was always one of my segment leaders involved in the hiring of anybody that’s coming into that segment. In fact, one of mine flew in the other day from Charlotte, and I’m sitting here and she’s sitting over here interviewing a new rep. She’s on the phone because we want to make sure that the folks that are coming in are in fact ones that are worthy of the $300,000 to $500,000 that’s spent every year on training these people.

TR: This is true. There’s going to be a lot of money spent here and you’re going to be spending it and doing it. Anybody else involved in the hiring process and determining and assessing?

MK: Yeah, so I brought up earlier that we have our program be really, really intense for a reason. It’s that reason specifically, right? So we’re looking to understand who are going to be our top performers, who are people that maybe are not going to make it. And we go through a program actually in onboarding, because we’re spending a lot of time with them, we’re flagging people for good or for bad. It’s really to provide the hiring manager an assessment of where they can coach to hopefully bring this person up to speed or make the tough call and say, “listen, it’s not working out.” But then what we do with all of that data is we actually go back to our hiring profile, revise it, talk and get our stakeholders — meaning the hiring managers — get their take on it and make sure that we get it to a good place.

Then, we take that to the recruiting team and we say, “based on these people who’ve really excelled and these people that we ended up having to let go, here’s what we found.” And so it’s an iteration. It’s a process, but that is one of the strategic focuses of the enablement team because nobody else in the company has that insight. It’s us. And it’s the reason why you can’t just move to a 100% e-learning system. I just don’t believe that that’s a good way to do it if you want to have the insight on performance to influence those hiring decisions.