Episode 14: Paul Butterfield on Frontline Manager Enablement

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.

In this episode, we’re chatting with Paul Butterfield, the head of global sales enablement at Vonage. Paul is a proven sales enablement leader who is passionate about helping sales teams differentiate the company they represent and themselves by how they sell. So, let’s dive in.

Paul, we’re obviously seeing a lot of visibility and necessity for sales enablement, do you see that momentum continuing and where do you see things going in the future for the discipline of sales enablement?

Paul Butterfield: I definitely see an increase in it from the standpoint that– well, I’ll give you an example. When I entered sales enablement, I had been running sales teams and selling software and hardware myself for the better part of 20 years. The company where I was at the time was a SaaS company in the contact center space. How I got into sales enablement was, frankly, we had a new head of global sales come in. He really liked how I was developing my team because every manager was on their own, there was no enablement, there was no onboarding, there was nothing. One morning, I went in for my one-on-one and he mapped out on his board this concept of sales enablement. I had to go Google it later, Shawnna. I didn’t tell him that, I just nodded like I knew exactly– this is like 2011, alright? And so, he mapped out what he was looking for, what he needed, and he challenged me to go home for the weekend and think about it. Was I willing to take the challenge to build this program out? We were getting ready to triple our sales force and that sort of thing. So here we are today. It turned out I really enjoyed it, I was good at it, and that sort of thing.

From 2011 until now, I’ve been in it. It’s night and day. Now you’ve got organizations like Sales Enablement Society, you’ve got companies like Highspot, and all sorts of platforms that are built up to support and make sales enablement more efficient and that sort of thing. I mean, it’s just night and day. So, I definitely see it growing. And then what was the second part of your question?

SS: How do you see the sales enablement profession itself evolving? So, I think we’ve all seen a lot of sales enablement practitioners kind of grow up through maybe the sales training side of the house or maybe even from the marketing side of the house. But as sales enablement becomes this concrete profession, how do you see it evolving?

PB: You know, it’s interesting. If you go back to the early days of sales enablement, or maybe even pre-sales enablement, in my experience and having led sales teams for some time, it was really on the managers to figure it out. And I think that as sales enablement came on and got better and grew and people understood what it was, I’ve seen that there’s been almost a shift too much in that direction where frontline management now is stepping away and being too hands-off, and counting on the sales enablement teams to ramp up and develop their reps.

I think that that pendulum is coming back in the middle. At least in my own personal experience, it’s now coming back to center a bit where frontline management realizes they ultimately have to own this. They own the number, right? We can’t do that for them. And we’re able to have more balanced partnerships. So, that’s one of the evolutions I’ve seen. And I love that because I learned very quickly in doing this, we have influence without authority, is probably the best way to say it, right? And so, if frontline management isn’t bought into what we’re doing, and they’re not reinforcing it in pipeline meetings and those kinds of daily conversations and sales meetings, then it’s not really going to go anywhere, no matter how good a job sales enablement does. So, that’s a big change I think I’ve seen.

SS: No, absolutely, and actually on that, if you don’t mind us diving a little bit into that, another hot topic I think with a lot of sales enablement practitioners these days is to that exact point; figuring out how they enable frontline managers. Is that something that you’ve been working on over at Vonage?

PB: It is, yeah. It’s one of our big initiatives for this year. So, last year was a lot of blocking and tackling for us. Sales enablement didn’t exist at Vonage, that’s what I was brought in to do. I spent a chunk of 2017 figuring out what we need, digging into the different divisions because we have multiple routes to market, a global sales team, etc. And by late in the year, I came to the sales executive team with my proposed framework and strategy with sales enablement across routes to market. You’ve got to have a consistent experience for each set of teams, but yet they have different needs. So, you needed that flexibility with consistency.

We stood the sales enablement team up in January of last year. Some of them were already here as sales trainers in different pockets of the company, some folks they went and hired. But my point being, last year for us was all about blocking and tackling. We had a badly outdated sales academy. And it wasn’t relevant to many of the teams and that sort of thing. So now that we’ve done that, I feel really good about that blocking and tackling, and the ramping we’ve created and the development. This year, we get to start having fun with it. And I guess that’s, you know, the sales enablement geek in me.

We start to do these next level things. For example, to support frontline management better, we are becoming more prescriptive working with them. They’re becoming more prescriptive on what sales reps are doing, I’m going to say for now in the first 60 days. I know this is not happening overnight, we’re creating this, but they’re almost dotted lining to the sales enablement team. And so, we’re supporting the managers because it’s a challenge for a frontline manager to spend the time and focus on someone new and still help drive the business.

So, we’re working on some of that, we’re putting some software, some things, and some tech in place to help the team have the span of control so that we can start doing things like call coaching with these folks, even when they’re out in the field, and voice analysis, so we know how well they’re doing with their pitch. I don’t know if you’re aware, but right before we were at the Soiree a huge announcement came out that Vonage was acquiring New Voice Media, which is one of the darlings of Salesforce from a contact center standpoint. They were built in Salesforce for Salesforce. So, now that we have that capability in our portfolio, we can start recording reps, we can start doing an analysis of their pitches, voice analysis and that sort of thing. So, that’s the fun thing for us and that’s how we’re looking right now to better support managers.

We’re firming up our certifications so that reps are having to do capstone projects in their first 60 days to prove that they’ve got their pitch down, they’ve got their demo ability down, they know how to run ABM, all that stuff. And then we start a transition from day 31. Around day 60, we’ll start more of a soft handoff. So now, these folks have got their Iron Man suit on, if you will. They’re going to start transitioning — and the way our quota ramps, this works– that they start transitioning more and more over to their manager. But think of the wealth of data, not just showing that we’ve been trained and certified, but also being able to show this is what they’ve done, here’s the feedback on their calls, all that kind of thing. I look at this kind of as a soft handoff, probably over the next 60 days, and then the manager really has that relationship 100% from there on.

SS: That is very cool. That sounds like a really good place to start with frontline managers, so that’s awesome. I want to transition to the next question because I realize that you’re responsible for global sales enablement. I would love to understand what that looks like. I think there are definitely folks that predominantly focus on sales enablement on particular regions, but what is it like to have to do sales enablement at a global scale?

PB: So, the challenges that you’d expect, I think, or at least won’t surprise anybody is that your sales methodology translates well culturally. A lot of the way we do business in America, I think most people would agree, feels like sharp elbows, throwing elbows, in other parts of the world. So, you need to make sure that’s going to work. Do the tools that you deploy work globally? We have some fantastic tools, I can name them if you want, that work great in the U.S., but despite the company’s claims, their databases are weak in EMEA and in Asia. So, you have to take that into consideration and in some cases source different vendors that are appropriate for the regions. Those are probably the biggest things that I’ve seen, because the things we’re focused on are having a methodology and having the right tool stack that’s going to work across all of those teams, and being able to customize and pivot when you need to.

Now, we’ve been successful in finding a sales methodology that works that way. It has been practiced for the better part of 20 years all over the world. When I’ve conducted a workshop in Hong Kong, I can find local coaches from places like Taiwan, Indonesia, and India who’ve done business using that methodology in that region to come in. In fact, one of the cool things was that in one of my workshops, I had coaches from the region when we were in Hong Kong, and they were conducting the role plays in Chinese, which is fantastic, right? Because you know, everybody spoke English, that wasn’t the issue, but when you’re coaching someone at that one-to-few level, it’s being able to transition into the language that everybody shares and being able to talk business language. Because business language doesn’t always translate one-to-one, in one language to another, I should say. Those are probably the two biggest challenges that we’ve seen.

The other one isn’t as big of a deal, but my team right now is U.S. and U.K. based, so there are the challenges of offering the equal support needed by folks as far away as Australia. Right now, sales teams we support and the sales offices we support are in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and mainland China. So, differentials and the hours can be a challenge sometimes. But unfortunately, that just means that you work weird hours when you need to. We haven’t quite solved that yet, and I’m not sure if we’ll be putting someone from the team in that region. It’s a possibility but not on the immediate plan.

SS: Thanks for listening. For more insights, tips and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you want to know more about, let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

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