Episode 144: Hannah Ensler-Rivel on Building Purposeful Enablement Programs at Scale

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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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Hannah from Red Canary join us. Hannah, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Hannah Ensler-Rivel: Sure. My name is Hannah Ensler-Rivel and I’m the director of revenue enablement over at Red Canary. Red Canary is a security company focused on the endpoint and investigating, detecting, and responding to threats there as well as being a security operations ally to our customers.

I was hired as a sales enablement manager, the first enablement hire for Red Canary, in October of last year and recently was promoted to the director role, which is going to give me oversight into all of our revenue-facing folks and think about all the enablement they might need and start growing our enablement team over at Red Canary, which I’m really excited about.

SS: Well, we’re also excited to have you joining us today. You mentioned on LinkedIn that you recently rolled out a new onboarding program. I would love to hear from you, what does that program look like?

HER: Yeah, so not only was I new to the role, I jumped right in and built a brand new onboarding program because we hire for sales in cohorts. We were hiring for this next fiscal year in December, so in December we hired about 30 new SDRs and account executives. I spent January and February onboarding all of them in our new program, which we called Flight School. It’s been interesting approaching that challenge in such a high-growth environment.

I think the framework I really wanted to think about was building purposefully for the virtual space. I think last year, most enablement professionals, we very suddenly and spontaneously had to make all of our enablement programs virtual, and most of us just took our in-person content and put it on Zoom and did our best. But now, a year into this pandemic and looking ahead to the future of work, which I think is going to look very different, I really wanted to build for doing onboarding virtually for the future.

I really focused on really three things. One was lots of short sessions. It seems like a simple thing, but the human brain cannot do more than 90 minutes or so on Zoom. Even though it made the logistics a little more complex and it made the program a little bit longer, it was important to me to do a lot of shorter sessions. Each session was outcome-driven around a specific theme. Which made it really easy to check into the learning and know exactly what was going to happen.

The second thing I was focused on was really utilizing the flipped classroom style of learning. This is something that I think became a little trendy when I was maybe in middle school or high school. I don’t know if a lot of schools are doing it anymore, but I always found it really appealing. Instead of doing your lecture in class and your homework at home, you flip the two. So, you do your lecture notes, readings, watching videos on your own. When you come to your classroom, in this case, your Zoom room, you’re doing the activities live together and getting immediate feedback. I found it to be a really effective way of teaching sellers because they get that immediate interaction, and they get to work with each other. I had them build a lot of resources that they were going to use in their day-to-day roles that way. I think it was a really effective way to make that virtual learning interactive.

The third thing is just really including the voice of sales. I was brand-new to Red Canary. I learned quickly, but I certainly didn’t have the experience of some of our longest-tenured sellers. So, getting their buy-in to help and be co-facilitators and work on content, and we have such an incredible team here that really jumped in to do that and bring that voice of sales throughout. All of those were really important to figuring out a successful onboarding program, which we just finished, and I think went really well.

SS: Congratulations on that. It sounds like a fantastic program and three very key areas. How can you ensure that the knowledge and skills that are learned in the onboarding stick long-term and really lead to the right behaviors?

HER: Enablement doesn’t end with onboarding, although it’s such a vital part and it’s the first part. It’s so important to focus on it, but we have to continue that otherwise everything learned in onboarding is just going to fall by the wayside. I think it’s important to have an enablement brand, just like we have a Red Canary brand about allyship with our customers. We need an internal enablement brand aligned with similar values of allyship with our sales folks. For me, that brand is about being expected, repeatable, and consistent. With expected, that’s about when we’re doing enablement. We have our monthly all-hands, we have our QBRs, we have our regular newsletter and other channels of communication. So, sales always knows when they’re showing up to learn and can be in that right headspace with those correct expectations.

From a repeatable standpoint, that’s to ensure everyone’s learning the same behaviors and that we’re really making sure to be consistent with that. To run enablement at scale, you really need to have that repeatable content, and that’s somewhere I really leverage content creation like videos to make sure we’re always using that repeatable enablement content.

Finally, consistent. Every session we do, every enablement activity, has outcomes. Then, the content is driven by those outcomes. Also, it’s important to me that everybody who’s coming to speak to the sales team speaks in the sales voice. That often means I’m doing some translation for our product teams or our marketing teams or our engineering teams, anyone that wants to talk to sales. I want them to bring their knowledge to the table and then I want us to convert that to, why does this matter to me as a seller? How does this impact my pipeline tomorrow? How do I talk about this with a customer? There’s a fair amount of translation that needs to happen. That’s such a key role of enablement. I think focusing on those three things as the enablement brand ensures that everything you learn in onboarding continues to be reinforced throughout your Red Canary career.

SS: That’s fantastic. Now, as you mentioned, Red Canary is growing rapidly. How have you gone about building enablement programs that are able to support the revenue teams as the company’s scaling?

HER: We’re growing like crazy. We basically doubled our sales team this year, which has been really fun, but it’s also happening very quickly. There are a couple of things you need to do there. One is the right people. As I start to build my team, I’m thinking about this. One of the things that I really love about the field of enablement is that it’s so new. It doesn’t necessarily require or demand a particular background. It really harnesses a whole variety of skills, and those skills can come from a lot of different places. I was a teacher and then I was in recruiting and then I was in event management, and somehow all of those things added up to getting an opportunity in sales enablement, where I do apply all of those things. But I had that opportunity and I got to enter this world.

As I take on a leadership position, it’s really important to me to be able to provide those same opportunities to others who might be coming from different backgrounds than we expect. Maybe not from sales specifically, but bringing incredible diversity and creativity to the table. When we do that, I think we really are able to reflect within our enablement team the diverse partners and customers that we serve. Enablement’s a really high visibility team and a driver of so much communication and collaboration. Having those really diverse, interesting teams I think is an important part of the puzzle of scaling – getting those right people in those roles.

I think another part is the right tools. There’s a lot out there. Figuring out the right sales enablement tools for your business is really key to operationalizing and scaling what you do. You can create great content, but if you can’t figure out how to share that meaningfully, it’ll never get seen. Picking your tool stack is really key.

Then, I also think just encouraging the right conversations. Figuring out how to capture institutional knowledge is such a tricky part of enablement, but so important, especially now that we’re all working remotely. All those opportunities that sales folks used to have to learn by osmosis just by sitting next to great other sellers and hearing their calls and turning them and saying, “Hey, can you look at this quote? Does this seem right?” We’re missing a lot of those opportunities now, especially when you come in brand new to a company. How do we capture that and make sure it resonates?

Something we’ve done here is we built the Red Canary Rep Council or RC-Squared, and that’s made up of six of our longest-tenured sellers who are committed to being coaches and facilitators for a six-month term. They teach a lot of Flight School. They do a lot of coaching on pitches, feedback on our certifications, they’re the voice of sales for other organizations that need to understand what people are seeing in the field. I think that’s helped a lot for our new sellers to feel immediately plugged into smart people who’ve done this for a long time. All of those I think are helping scale this but there’s certainly a lot more work to do as we continue to grow at this rapid pace.

SS: One other way organizations can scale success is through partners. Given your experience overseeing partner enablement programs in the past, I’d love to get your perspective. What are some unique challenges of delivering enablement programs to partners and how have you overcome some of those challenges?

HER: Yeah, I’ve certainly come across some challenges with that. I think the first challenge, the biggest one, is every partner’s going to have a different knowledge base, different expertise, different resources, and a different level of commitment to the partnership. You could have a partner who’s basically just selling your products and an extension of your team. Then, you could have a partner who can sell 300 different things and is not focused specifically on your organization or product. Determining how to build enablement to account for all those different levels is really a tricky part of partner enablement.

I think the way you do it is you have to make your content really flexible and adaptable. You have to build really brief self-paced videos and quizzes, you have to build in-person delivery that your channel account managers or other folks can do, you have to build some comprehensive technical courses as well to cover those folks that really want to get in-depth in your product. You just need to give partners all the different options to learn all the same things at the pace and level that they need to. If you make your content way too deep, you’re going to lose people who are only selling it 5% of the time. And if you make it way too high-level, you’re going to lose those deeper technical people who really want to get immersed in your product. A flexible, adaptable, wide range of content is really important.

I think the second challenge is you can’t always just lift and shift your existing enablement content because the partner perspective and the partner voice are different. It’s different depending on what side of the table they’re sitting on: are they looking at integrating your product with a variety of other ones? You have to make it applicable to their mindset. Keep it simple, keep it connected to their day-to-day. One of the best ways to do that is to ask them. When you have great partners, ask them, what’s the best piece of content you’ve seen? What’s the best partner enablement course you’ve been through? Can I ride along with you while you’re selling our products and hear what’s going well and what’s not? Once you form some really good relationships, asking them what they need and what’s working will really help you adapt your existing sales enablement content for what they need to be doing on a day-to-day basis.

SS: I love that term “lift and shift”. How do you ensure that you get broad adoption of your enablement initiatives with your partners? What are some tips to gain mindshare with partners for some of your enablement programs, given that it can be hard when partners have a lot of competing priorities?

HER: They certainly do. The first thing is really being an ally to them. This is something I love at Red Canary. It’s so important to our brand that we are a security ally to our customers and to our partners. It’s not just lip service. It’s really something we provide in the knowledge share we do in the community at large. Establishing yourself as an ally overall helps a lot with this, showing your commitment to partners so they can count on you. But there’s a lot more you need to do as well. The first is really to demonstrate your value. When you have wins together, when you have enablement content that helped lead to sales, when you have certified partners who helped do the services, you need to highlight those wins publicly with your partners and show them how much they mean to your business.

I’ve also found a lot of success partnering with internal marketing teams to do that. I’ve had a lot of success with partner marketing, working hand-in-hand with partner enablement to do events and to do various challenges and things we can do to build the overall brand together. That’s been really successful for me too. Really, it’s just showing that commitment to your partners, so they understand when they invest in you, it’ll be worth their time.

Sometimes that’s just going to meet them where they are. Last year when the entire world shut down, I was actually in Australia on a two-week tour of all of the partners down there and going into all of their offices and walking through all of our content. It was a big investment on our part, but it was so important because we were able to show them how important they were to our business by going to them, not asking them to take time out to go to a conference, but saying, “we’ll come into your office on our own dime and teach you what you need to know.” It’s really just about demonstrating that commitment throughout the entire enablement experience.

SS: The last question I have for you is one many of us often have to think about which is to be able to demonstrate the impact. How do you measure the impact of your partner enablement efforts?

HER: It’s definitely something we all struggle with in measuring enablement impact. It’s really so hard and I think it’s something I still am learning as I gain more experience in enablement. One of the things that’s great now at Red Canary, I actually sit on our revenue operations team. I think that’s becoming a more popular model for enablement, but it’s the first time in my enablement career I’ve done that. I have a real bird’s eye view into all the metrics that are being tracked across the organization and what’s important to all the different teams, what they’re asking of our sales operations specialist and managers, what our CRO is asking for in dashboards. As a result, I can see where the trends are. I can see where the concerns are, and I can try to map what I’m doing in enablement to what those metrics are.

On the partner enablement side, I think you can do the same thing, where you’re tracking how the enablement engagement is happening when it’s happening and then looking at when deals are coming in. Did we do a big enablement session? Then, did we see an increase in pipeline from that particular partner? That’s one of the easiest, most straightforward ways to track it. It’s a little bit of causation versus correlation, but I think again, if you can demonstrate that both to partners and to your internal teams, you get so much more buy-in for your programs that you can show it directly led to pipeline.

I think one of the key things is just being in lockstep with your operations team. Even if you as enablement or partner enablement don’t sit on the revenue operations team, still really being connected to the folks on that team, to your sales operations manager and understanding what’s important to them, and then getting to map your efforts to that, that’s been really helpful to me. I sit on the same team as our great sales operations manager. I talk to him all the time about how do we track what we’ve just done in onboarding to what’s going to happen as these folks bring in their first deals. We are able to work together to build some of those dashboards. Collaboration with your operations team helps a lot with figuring out the impact of enablement.

SS: Hannah, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. I learned so much from you today and I really enjoyed the conversation, so thank you again.

HER: Thank you, Shawnna, for having me. I really enjoyed it as well.

SS: To our audience, 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’d like to learn more about, please let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

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