Episode 15: Paul Butterfield on the Importance of Internal Alignment

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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 and sales enablement leader who is passionate about helping sales teams differentiate the companies they represent and themselves by how they sell. So, let’s dive in.

Paul, one of the things that you mentioned when you were on a panel at the Sales Enablement Soirée was around alignment. How do you make sure that you’re aligning core messaging to what a lot of us are thinking of as the modern buyer? Because nowadays, modern buyers don’t want canned messaging from their sales reps. How can enablement step in and really ensure that the things they’re getting from marketing to sales reps are actually resonating with modern buyers?

Paul Butterfield: You know, as a partner of the product marketing team, and here at least, our VP of product marketing and I have for a year now viewed our teams as extensions of one another. And I think that you need a relationship close to that to be successful in sales enablement. Otherwise, marketing is doing what they do in silos. For example, I’m out teaching an outcome-based sales methodology and telling reps how to go in and hold executive-level conversations about business challenges and results and outcomes, and marketing is creating a bunch of data sheets with features. So, to avoid that kind of disconnect is why you need that kind of partnership. We’re very lucky to have it here. Our product marketing team also thinks about the product, and most of our product team thinks about the product in terms of what problems does it solve, not features.

That’s part of it right there is building that relationship. And hopefully, you’ve got marketers that are open to that if that’s not how they are already approaching it. But I think my experience is if they understand how you’re teaching the reps to sell, how you’re teaching them to differentiate by how they sell, because every think tank for years now has been saying brand is going away. It’s customer experience, absolutely customer experience. And in our world, frankly, it’s customer experience and it’s employee experience. Business communications software platforms that customers buy from us can improve their employee stat as well.

Getting back to it – with marketing, if they understand that this is how we’re differentiating, that’s how we’re teaching, usually you can work with them to have the materials aligning to that type of process. Like I was saying here, it hasn’t been very difficult. In fact, I’ve just been lucky, maybe. I’ve worked with marketers the whole time I’ve been in sales enablement who get that. I remember when I was at inContact, which is where I moved into that first sales enablement role, our VP of product marketing had a sign up in their area, a big sign that said “How will sales use this?” which tells you right away how she was viewing what they did.
I don’t know if that gets to the heart of your question, but that’s what I think it is. It’s communication, it’s partnership, and it’s just helping them understand sales, assuming you have a sales methodology. Now if you don’t, it’s probably a little bit tougher.

SS: That is true. Beyond marketing, what are some of the other departments that sales enablement needs to have really close collaboration and alignment with, and how have you gone about building those relationships as well?

PB: Sure. From a collaborative standpoint, I look at it as a triad – product, product marketing, sales enablement – that need to work very closely together. Typically, the product group is providing the insights, the timeline, the data, and the content. Product marketing is going to take that and from sales enablement’s side, we’re looking at how do we deliver it. Is it a podcast? Is it a full blown LMS module? Is it sales meetings sessions? So, we’re figuring that out. Meanwhile, they’re developing, taking that content and turning it into the right deliverables that we then take to the sales teams together.

We very often will do new product launch training, that sort of thing, with someone from my team and someone from the product marketing team. The product team will sometimes participate as well, but that’s the triad that I look for.
Now, more and more of the organizations according to CSO insights have sales enablement report to a senior sales leader rather than a sales ops leader. I happen to report to our senior VP of revenue ops, who also happens to have a passion for sales enablement and has had sales enablement report to him in other companies. So, it works really well for us. But if I were reporting to a senior sales leader, sales ops would be a fourth critical relationship that I would want to have my team building out. It just happens to work because we’re peers with those teams.

SS: Absolutely, absolutely. And I don’t want to spend too much time talking about technology, but since you raised the sales operations partnership, I am curious from your opinion what of the sales tech stack does enablement own versus sales operations in your opinion?

PB: Again, that gets a little muddy for us because we all are one team. We roll up to the same senior VP. I’m trying to really think about that for a second. So, how are you defining owning, Shawnna? Is it the decision-making process, is it the administration and renewal?

SS: That is a good question. Let’s focus most on decision making. I think operations has to do the implementation and ownership of it, maintenance of it from that point on.

PB: Then I see that as it is jointly owned. What I’ve done in the time I was here as I started to identify tools that we needed for prospecting and social selling, right? I was on the front end of that, I was making the recommendations, I was negotiating with companies like ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, etc. to get these things in place. Then I was also dependent on them to help roll it out, train, and that sort of thing until we could get internal training capabilities up to speed.

Now, once that was done then it was handed off to my counterparts that actually do the sales ops tools like Salesforce, the same team that administers Salesforce for example in operations and administers these other tools. And things that have nothing to do with sales enablement as well, for example, Xactly and things like that. And they’re tracking with HR who is coming and who is going and they’re moving the licenses as needed, they’re making sure we have enough licenses in advance and that kind of thing.

But that front-end decision making I really feel like is sales enablement or sales enablement and marketing and ops together. It depends on the tool. For example, social selling was something that we were bringing new to Vonage at the time. So, there’s really only one big gorilla player, that market, that you would start with. That was a fairly easy choice, it was just a matter of figuring out the best way to go about it.

With other things we’ve done like data scraping tools, then there was more that we’d want to research and spend time on. And if it’s going to touch Salesforce then IT gets involved as well. And one of the things we’re doing is trying to push more and more of what our reps were providing for them right into Salesforce. They definitely own it at that point as well.

I don’t know if it’s a clean line, I think is what I’m saying. I think it depends on the nature of the tool. If I’m looking at content management that I’ve identified or my team has identified we need, that’s something I’d have to make a decision on along with our product marketing team because they’re creating and we’re helping so much of the content. At this point where we have a digital marketing team, if I were going to bring on something new in social selling and that sort of thing, I would want to partner up with them to make sure it’s going to align with what their digital marketing plans.

SS: Got it. You also mentioned at the Soirée that for all of the tech that you guys use, you want to make sure that one of the components is that you’re able to really track results and basically be able to track the return on that investment. So, I’d love to understand from your perspective, kind of thinking in terms of what sales enablement is responsible for, what are some of those core KPIs and metrics that you’re looking at to basically turn around and say “yes, we are getting a return on the investment areas that we’re making around sales enablement”?

PB: I look at it in a couple of buckets. Let’s start with new hire ramping. So, with new hire ramping, it starts with pretty basic stuff and that is: are they passing all courses, are they attending the class that they’re supposed to, right? You only really can focus on activity level stuff. As the first few weeks go by, then we would maybe start having them making live calls to low scoring leads. Things like that, where they can’t do too much damage, but you’ve got to start having that live interaction. And we’re able to record and do coaching and analysis and that sort of thing.

But now, you’re able to start tracking in Salesforce. As they find leads and potential opportunities, now you’re starting to be able to look in Salesforce and see. If they’re going through that first couple of months, we’re helping them build a pipeline and so you’re starting to measure that. It’s still activities: are they doing the calls per day, are they generating the right number of opps per week, all of those kinds of measurements. I think that’s pretty standard stuff. I don’t think we’re doing anything revolutionary here.

One of the tools we’re using I am really excited about and I don’t know if everybody knows about it. But as they move into their ramping and they’re going up to full quota, then the kinds of KPIs we look for, again I don’t think we’re doing anything revolutionary here, but I want to see time to first sale. Almost more interesting to me is time to second sale because it’s not uncommon for someone to walk into a deal that was ready to close anyway, right? So, what’s their time to second sale? I want to understand what their time to full quota activity is. And I would use leading indicators like I mentioned, doing funnel analysis, are they gaining the right mix of opportunities by stage and the right amount of revenue by stage in their pipeline.

A lot of sales organizations I’ve been in use a really broad number like you need 3x revenue in your pipeline at any given time. Well, okay, but what if that whole 3x is stuck at stage one and two? That’s why I want them to get more sophisticated looking at the mix by stage. So, we’re measuring them on that. And then, of course, full productivity, those are our leading indicators, and then when are they consistently hitting quota? Maybe not 100% every month but they’re just on either side of it and so they are evening out as a fully productive rep. Again, I don’t think there is anything new there, but maybe some of how we’re doing it is different.

The KPIs are critical. One of the commitments that I make to our sales teams here when I’m speaking in front of them is that we will never ask them to do any training of any sort if their leadership team and my team aren’t convinced that it’s going to make them more money when they get back in the field. And I challenge them that if we ever fall short on that, call me personally. Coming from such a strong sales background, I can’t look at it any other way. If it’s not impacting the number then we need to either dump it or revise it, but training for its own sake is not useful. The KPIs are our leading indicators to know that we’re getting there.

SS: Yeah, that’s amazing and those are a lot of good things to look at. So, I am curious because you have already mentioned one of the initiatives that you have for this upcoming year is really focused on the frontline. What are some other initiatives that you’re doing this year that you’re excited about and why? I’m sure a lot of other practitioners are looking at the year to come and trying to identify the projects that they think will have the biggest impact within their organizations. So, I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

PB: Some of the other things that we’re looking at is what I’m calling “mini MBA” for salespeople. For example, how many of our salespeople know how to go out and read financial documents or a financial statement on a publicly traded company? We tell them all the time that it is a great resource, but if they didn’t happen to go to business school, can they do it? So, how do we do that?

A lot of times for salespeople when you’re talking about terms of service documents, they immediately think “oh, we’ve got to go get legal involved with this” when in fact, much of what’s in a TOS document is really more business related than legal related. So, how do you as a sales rep understand it well enough so that you’re able to address the things that you can, you know what the difference is, and you don’t slow things down by having to go get the legal team to review? So, that’s how I look at, like I said, these mini business-related courses that help a salesperson be more successful in their jobs. I’m excited about that.

We talked about the ramping, but I guess I’m continuing to be excited about the sales methodology that we chose and have been implementing because we’re seeing some really good green shoots of success coming out of last year with that. I’m anticipating that’s just going to continue to build. I mean, we’ve had some great success stories roll in. When we had big deal reviews at sales kick-off two weeks ago, a number of reps that were doing the review onstage were able to attribute specific things in the sales methodology that helped them close that opportunity, either sooner or on time, and that sort of thing. And so I’m excited to see more of that coming as well. I’m trying to think out of the big things we’re working on. All the stuff we’re doing for ramping, it’s just going to be fun, it really is.

SS: Yeah, that sounds exciting. Very cool. Well, I would love to hear from you about if there’s anything that you can think of when you maybe started out in sales enablement, or maybe even more recently that you would have loved to be able to get feedback from other sales enablement professionals on or insights from other sales enablement professionals. I’m just looking for topics that will really resonate and help educate the market together. So, if there’s anything top of mind, just from your perspective, I’d love to know what those are.

PB: I figured this out for myself, but it’s advice that would have been great if somebody had been able to give me right up front and it’s the first piece of advice that I’d probably share with somebody getting into sales enablement. These sales teams and these sales leaders are your customers, and you need to treat them in every way that you would treat an external customer if you were still in sales or customer service. And like I said, I think I figured that out fairly early but it would have been nice to have somebody point that out and how you go about it.

But building on that is also depending on what background you’re coming from, Shawnna. So, I came from being a peer of the sales leaders that I am now supporting, right? I had lived the life, I understood what it was like to live under the pressure of a quota, and they knew that I knew that, right? But if I were coming in from another type of background into sales enablement, that is one of the first critical relationships that I would start. To get to know them, to get to know what are the barriers that they’re facing, and what do they feel that they need, whether it’s capabilities, training, tools, whatever it is, to overcome those barriers, and then start to build my program around that. As I said, I was lucky I had already been running a sales team in this company, I knew what our barriers were and so I was able to get a running start that way. But otherwise, that’s one of the first things.

And then the other groups that I mentioned, get to know your product marketing leaders and teams. Get to know your product teams. We are part of our product core teams. Someone from my team is sitting on those core teams from the point that it makes sense. They let us know. They love having sales enablement involved because we’re there early enough to start identifying what’s going to be needed and working with them. So I would get those relationships in place as well.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think sales enablement is absolutely critical because you guys are able to really almost bring the voice of the buyer back further into the process. I mean reps could, but they often don’t have the time or bandwidth to do that.

PB: Coming from my background, one of the things that I wished I had a better way to get up to speed on is things like adult learning theory, right? There’s a science side of sales enablement. I understand it from the sales side, I understand how those guys are wired, how they think, because I am them, right? But I was a team of one at first and we built the team. I had to figure out how to create certifications in our LMS and things like that. I knew there was a science to it, I knew that there was adult learning stuff that I should be applying, but I didn’t know it. I just had to run on what I knew from how salespeople think. So, it would be great if there was a resource for somebody coming from that kind of background to get up to speed quickly on that. Other than reading books, which I did, but sometimes the books weren’t useful and you don’t know that until you’re halfway into it.

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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