Episode 177: Marcela Piñeros on 3 Enablement Shifts to Deliver Strategic Value

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m 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 a return guest with us, Marcela Piñeros, the Head of Sales Enablement from Stripe. Marcella, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Marcela Piñeros: Absolutely. Well first, thank you for having me. I love to be back here, and I love the conversations with you, Shawnna. I always walk away just a little bit smarter, so thank you for that.

I have the honor of leading the sales enablement organization at Stripe. For those of you that are not familiar, Stripe is a platform that helps us increase the overall GDP of the internet. It’s a really exciting company, dual-based in Dublin and San Francisco, and we’ve got folks all over the world that are really just helping everything, from small business owners to enterprise, grow their commercial space. It’s a really exciting time to be there.

SS: Well, Marcela, thank you so much for joining us. I feel the same way, I learn something new every time I talked to you. In fact, you recently wrote a LinkedIn article that I found really interesting, where you discuss the hamster wheel of content governance efforts. What are some of the challenges to effective content governance that sales enablement practitioners might encounter?

MP: Yes. I think one of the biggest challenges with enablement in general is just keeping up. Keeping up with the demand to generate content, keeping up with the demand to keep it updated, the demand to avoid skill fade, to future proof an organization, it’s a lot. Essentially, any content governance strategy really needs to ensure that materials that the field can access have three qualities: that they’re current, they’re accurate, and that they add value. If any of those three criteria fall apart, then it takes a hit, it impacts efficiency and productivity and seller experience. We don’t want that.

One major shift that I feel we need to make as enablement functions in general is to go from being content creators to being content curators. I say that because I feel that our expertise is actually in sales productivity and enablement, and we can’t, nor should we try to become experts in all things because that immediately puts us into a reactive mode. Instead, I tell my team that we need to be masters at sourcing expertise from the field, and we need to be able to enable our SMEs to create content that is accurate and valuable and current and that can be easily shared with the broader organization.

A lot of us do this work manually, so you know that the lift is enormous, and it does feel like a hamster wheel. You’re constantly trying to catch up and you can never really catch up when you’re talking about a hundred assets. You can potentially manage that content in a spreadsheet, but when you start thinking in the hundreds or the thousands, you really need technology to support you. You need to be able to lean on processes and tools that help you automate that toy. You can focus on more impactful tasks, like deciding what content you actually need to source to support key business priorities. I encourage everybody to get off the hamster wheel, shift away from being a content generation function and focus on what processes you can put in place to be a content curation function.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. In that same article, you offered some strategies on how to overcome these challenges by really shifting the enablement mindset. I’d love for you to give our audience some tips and tricks. What are these mindset shifts and how can they help move the needle and get practitioners off of that hamster?

MP: Sure. I think that the most important shift I talk about quite regularly is shifting the finish line. I got this from a book called “The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.” I ask all of my team members to read it. I actually gave it to some team members for Christmas, I really like it and it covers this idea really well.

The concept is, instead of saying that somebody has enabled and checking the box after they’ve completed a course or they’ve taken an exam, what if you actually shift the finish line and only consider somebody enabled when they’ve successfully done it on the job. If I pause for a second and think about what all of that entails, it’s not so much capturing data around completion rates and exam scores and consumption of content, it’s more, where are we on pipeline? Where are we on product attached rate? When you shift that finish line, you immediately take a broader and a more strategic view of enablement.
For example, if I’m rolling out a module on prospecting, I wouldn’t check the box and call somebody enabled until I see that they’ve hit 2.5x in their pipeline. Or an enablement campaign on multithreading, I wouldn’t say that folks are enabled until I see in Salesforce that they’ve met with multiple decision-makers and were kept.

By focusing on that, we are actually impacting the business and enablement becomes more of a campaign than a moment in time. You’re able to expand your view so you’re not just thinking about pre-work, but what touchpoints should managers be involved in? What performance support mechanisms do you have to have in place so that when somebody leaves a workshop, they have the opportunity to practice and reinforce and get recognition and rewards?

When the time comes for them to choose between doing what they’ve always done and doing what you want them to do, they actually choose a behavior you’ve trained them to do. That in my mind is when you get out of the hamster wheel, you step away from that and you become much more strategic, and you have a long-term view. You think of enablement as a campaign.

SS: I love that approach. Now, you talked about the shift a bit as well in your article, but one of those is the shift from this notion of onboarding to ever-boarding. I have started to hear enablement talk about this term ever-boarding even more. How does your approach to ever-boarding differ from onboarding and how do ever-boarding programs really help to equip reps with the skills that they need at every point in their tenure with an organization?

MP: I do talk about three shifts. The first is shifting from content creation to content curation, the second is shifting the finish line, and the third is that shift from onboarding to ever-boarding. I say that I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship right now with the entire concept of onboarding, and I say that with love for some many of my peers that are out there are dedicated to onboarding. The challenge I find is that onboarding tends to be a very content-driven architecture. It’s about getting topics out and about getting as much information into somebody’s head as early on in the job as possible. I think that many of us struggle to see how that retention sticks over time.

I find that new hires actually share two qualities. On one end, they have a greater sense of urgency to prove themselves and to confirm they made the right choice. On the other hand, they have more available time or tolerance than the people around them to dedicate to training. The kicker is we take those qualities of urgency and time, and we put folks in a room and try to spoon-feed them information. We know that if we’re lucky after the first week, they’ll remember 20%. If we’re lucky after the second week, they might remember 8%. In truth, it’s not the best ROI and it gets new hires in the habit of being spoon-fed information, which is rarely the reality when they leave the program.

I’m a huge fan of an alternative model, which is using customer ride alongs. My thought is if in your first 30 days, you do 20 customer ride alongs or something to that effect, you’re going to be able to observe in the wild what exactly is happening. Then if we’re able to give you the content so that you have access to it when it is relevant to you, then it’s going to be stickier. That pull of content based off of need is much more effective than an arbitrary, oh, this needs to happen on day 12 because it turns out that’s when we’re available.

It’s definitely a shift and also tied into that is we assume that depending on the program, whether that’s a 30, 60, 90-day, 180-day program, that at the end of it, folks are magically onboarded. It’s midnight on new year’s, boom, now it’s a new year. The truth is that there is no cliff for that. The alternative is with an ever-boarding program, the hire date that somebody has isn’t this key that magically opens a vault of information and disappears at your 90 days. Everybody has access to that vault. It’s an open door for everyone at all times, and it contains what people need to know or do to be successful in their job.

It’s definitely a different model at Stripe. We call it “spin up” and we’re piloting that customer ride along, that use a ride-along model, including masterclasses. There’s a whole other system of work that helps us scale while at the same time making sure that any time someone is spending in enablement is getting them closer to doing the job rather than closer to learning information related to doing the job.

SS: Absolutely. Now not to bring up onboarding because it sounds like, as you said, there’s a bit of a love-hate relationship there, but in our original podcast episode, which is episode number seven of the series, you were actually talking about the difference between metrics enablement can impact directly versus those practitioners can influence. I’d love to carry on this conversation and understand your evolution on this perspective. What are some of the key metrics that you use to prove enablement’s impact on the business, including both direct and influenced metrics?

MP: Sure. This goes back to when you shift the finish line. If you’re shifting the finish line, that means that you already have a measure of success in mind at the very beginning even before you start designing the enablement program. Let’s say that someone is sharing with you that we need to improve our forecast accuracy. It’s like, great. What is our forecast accuracy today? Where do we want that variance to be? What is the target? Then we backtrack from those metrics to design what the enablement campaign is going to be. What are the activities, the reinforcement to drive the behavior that is going to get us to the forecast accuracy we want? Just to use an example.

By shifting the finish line, you’re already thinking about the metrics that you can inflate. We know that forecast accuracy has a whole lot more involved than just whether or not people are practicing certain behaviors. You also want to be able to track the lead indicators that show that you’re trending in the right direction.

This applies also to onboarding where you can take a top performer and you identify, for example, how many high-value activities they have in the month? You can actually create benchmarks to those, and you can say, okay, then at the 90-day mark, let’s say as a top performer you’re holding 54 high-value activities or customer-facing activities a month. Then I could potentially say that your 90-day mark, you should be trending around 30 high-value activities. At your 60-day, you should be down to 20. At your 30 days you should be at 15 high-value activities. The intention is to have those mile markers so that you can show if somebody’s trending in the right direction, on their way to being a top performer.

You can actually take that same approach in all things. In an entire enablement campaign, you can figure out what is the end result and what are the top performers doing? Then you can backtrack with some metrics as lead indicators. Those are all from an influence perspective. From a direct impact perspective, we have the practitioners that are out there figuring out, okay, well, what can I actually directly impact. From that sense, I think that there’s everything from scorecards that you can track for your teams, you can track everything related to lead conversion, you can track account penetration, you can track quota attainment, you can track pipeline health. All of those things are really important. As an enabling function, you can look at it in terms of time. Time to quota, you can look at relevance scores, you can look at confidence scores. Are people more confident and does that correlate to the actual business results?

That correlation piece is really important. We clarify, it’s not causation. We’re not going to say that our enabling program led to a 25% increase in revenue. We can say that when people completed this program, they saw better scores or better results than when people did. My team is huge on A/B testing. We do that a lot where I’ll ask them whenever there’s a hypothesis, an idea, to run a small test over the course of two weeks. A two-week sprint or a month with a control group then with the new group trying this new model so we have indicators to know, yes, this is something that we want to do a lot more.

SS: Absolutely. I love that approach. Now, and this is the last question, you have always been a huge advocate for using data to establish enablement as a strategic function rather than a tactical one always on that hamster wheel. In your experience, how have you been able to communicate and validate the strategic impact that enablement brings to the business with your executive stakeholder?

MP: Well, first my word of advice to anybody out there that’s listening is get to know your business. Really get to know your business. Not necessarily your skills as an enablement professional, but how does the company make money? What are the biggest risks to revenue? What are the biggest challenges that are facing the company in the market? Really get to know and understand the business so that every conversation that you have with an executive stakeholder is grounded in that. That’s first and foremost, really key.

The other part is executive stakeholders care about being able to de-risk the organization. They care about efficiency, and they care about effectiveness. If you are continually assessing why top performers succeed and you’re continually assessing why someone is underperforming, then you can actually proactively create programs to intervene before it impacts the business. That’s part of de-risking.

We can also focus from an enablement function. We work very heavily on how do we collect and share those best practices across the organization so that we can increase the effectiveness of the organization? What is the infrastructure that we’re going to maintain as a sales enablement function to support people being more efficient?

If you’re able to connect your programs to risk or de-risking efficiency and effectiveness, those are the types of things that will capture someone’s attention far beyond volume of content that’s produced, for example, or far beyond satisfaction scores. Those really don’t necessarily capture an executive leader’s attention in my experience.

SS: Marcela, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Again, I always learn something new every time I talk to you. I think I learned a ton of valuable information out of this conversation, and I know our audience will, so thank you so much for taking the time.

MP: It is so my pleasure. Thank you.

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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