Episode 179: Jeff Fedro on How Enablement Brings Science to the Art of Selling

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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 Jeff Fedro from FedEx Office join us. Jeff, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Jeff Fedro: Very good. Well, I’m glad to be on the call. I have been with this great company for almost 29 years. I’ve held various roles. I’ll tell you it’s gone back to my college days when I was just a part-time cashier with this organization, moving up to where I am now holding roles from operations to learning and development now in sales. I really think that the amount of experience I’ve been able to gain over the years has really allowed me to be able to connect better from a sales enablement perspective and really being able to bring a lot of that experience to life, so I have thoroughly enjoyed the 29 years. I’ve always told them, I’ll always stay on it as long as you keep me, and they’ve held their end of the bargain and I’m holding my end of the bargain. We’re having a great time.

SS: I love to hear that. Now, I would also say that the sales landscape has also been evolving, especially in the past two years, and enablement itself has experienced a lot of transformation. How has your approach to sales enablement evolved in recent years? How has this evolution helped drive innovation for your enablement program?

JF: Well, I have to tell you, we have several great leaders in our organization, and one of them just the other day said this great statement. It’s been out there for years, but “what got you here, won’t get you there.” We had to really step back and even though the pandemic was the worst of times, it’s allowing us to really have a great vision for what could be the best of times. It has given us a clear line of sight on how we need to move forward from a sales enablement perspective.

We really had to step back and say, you know what, we need to look at our channels. With our organization, those are the various levels of sales that we have within our organization. We had to say, whether they’re regional or national or whether they’re strategic or tactical. we had to look at it from a customer perspective. How are we going to be able to get in front of our customer moving forward? Like you said, the landscape has changed. We had to step back and say, let’s re-look at the competencies that we have put out there and for our teams and where are the activities standards now versus the way they were? Then how is that driving a new set of key performance indicators? All those things will start to work together for a complete sales enablement landscape, giving us a readiness score, giving our teams where are they from a readiness perspective to say, how can we continue to move them forward and develop them along the way?

Again, they’re learning just like we’re learning because the pandemic has changed the way we go to sales. We have to meet our customers where they are and at the same time, we have to meet our sales team where they are. Keeping all this in mind, if you don’t have a good set of systems to help drive that behavior, you’ve got to step back and say, how are we going to allow all those items I just said to be built into the system to really know that selling is an art, but we have to bring the science back to support it.

SS: I love that approach. I think that’s fantastic. Now, another thing that you focused on is the importance of cross-functional strategies to drive business success. Now, in your experience, how can enablement help build bridges across the organization?

JF: Well, I tell you sales enablement is not on an island on their own, and in order to get a full sales organization moving and headed in the same direction, you have got to have business partners bringing in their key level experience of where it’s needed for the plan that you’re putting in place. Sales must feel that alignment. If they feel that you are putting programs out there that no one else across the organization knows or understands, they’re less likely, obviously, to act upon it or have trust in it. You can’t design a program without all the applicable individuals across the organization being aligned in one approach.

We as sales enablement teams and you as a sales enabler, you are the director. You are the one that directs and creates that strategy and plan, but you also are the one that is the voice and the advocate of that plan across the organization. No one’s going to be more passionate about that plan than you. If you can express that passion across your business partners, they will align with you to allow you to truly activate that plan to show that all the talents coming together is now putting this one plan in place to help push a sales organization forward and to really support the field sales team.

SS: Now, in addition to cross-functional collaboration, sales enablement also must partner with teams across different regions. I know that you do globally as well. What are some of your best practices for scaling your enablement programs across regions?

JF: Well, our regions are really broken up into different channel types. As I stated earlier, we had to really step back and say, you know what, it’s not a one size fits all approach. You’ve got to understand your landscape within your organization, and again, now not only are you meeting your customers where they are, you’ve got to meet your team where they are.

We have a group of national sales individuals, we have regional sales individuals, we have tactical individuals versus strategy individuals. How do we make sure that we are conveying our messages and developing the programs that are very elastic in nature, that can expand across many different channels to be able to fit them all? It doesn’t mean you have to customize every single thing for those individuals, but what it does mean is that whatever you’re doing for one group, you need to step back and say, does it align to them, or do I need to tweak it for their absorption? That’s why it’s crucial that you have to step back.

Sometimes it’s easy. Hey, let’s just develop a program that’s absorbable by everybody and move on and then hope for the best. You just can’t do that. Nowadays times your teams are meeting and delivering in many different ways, and we’ve got to make sure that we are meeting and delivering them in many different ways at the same time. I think it’s crucial that you’ve got to look at your regions as individual customer types, and then how are you going to deliver to them specifically?

SS: I really like that approach of looking at them as individual customer types. Now, I’d love to talk about driving consistency across teams, especially as your processes and your programs have been evolving. A lot of sales enablement practitioners will leverage sales plays. They see them as a critical tool for enablement practitioners, but how have you utilized sales plays to improve sales behavior and what has been the impact of doing so?

JF: Well, I would tell you that sales plays are a true sales guidance tool. A lot of times when you think of sales plays, you think of a specific product or a specific initiative that maybe you’re putting out there. We look at it as an all-up solution. What is a solution that we can provide our customers at the time of need? We’ve really started developing the sales plays for that particular purpose.

We have found that obviously it gives a central point of reference for our field sales team and allows them to build a solution, not only at the opportunity level, but also at the customer strategy level. We have layered in our sales plays in many different facets to be able to really ignite our sales organization for quicker absorption and allows us to really measure that information quickly. The quicker you can get information absorbed, the quicker you can get them moving forward on a particular solution allows them to build a specific customer communication strategy that allows that sales play to be a key component on how they move forward.

We all know how they’re structured. It’s crucial that we always put in front of them, what is it you need to know? What is it you need to say, show and do? If you can keep that same formula, it becomes very predictable and whenever a sales play is in front of them, they’ll know exactly what to look at, how to look at it, and how to activate upon it. It has been a valuable tool that we’ve been able to utilize and really reinforce and getting our teams moving forward.

SS: That’s fantastic. Well, while we’re on the topic of business impact, what are some of your strategies for gathering insights on how enablement is impacting performance?

JF: Well, I have to tell you, data is key. I’ve really had to step back and say, what type of data do we have? I saw this great illustration the other day on LinkedIn. It was all in Lego format, which was fun, and it was the formation of data. You have all these pieces jumbled up together, and then how do you go about sorting and arranging and presenting that data in a logical manner that allows you to truly create the full story. That illustration showed, like I said, the pieces in one area, then they were sorted by color, they were stacked by color, and then at the end they actually saw house being built by those Legos. It just gives a great illustration for you to know that data can be your friend and can also drive success and gives you a great formula of success of how you move forward.

Creating a national enablement program, you’ve got to always start with the end goal in mind, and then how do I then move that goal forward? How do I utilize data to assist me in developing that story and improving the overall health of the sales organization? Again, short term performance is great, you’ve got to have that. You’ve got to have those quick wins and what’s happening and allow the data to say it, but then you also got to step back and go look at making sure that long term sustainability performance is the goal by ensuring that we have sales linearity for a consistent set of results.

That is one of the key areas that I have looked at and have found again, going back to the very beginning when I said bringing science to the art of selling, that is true. You hire sales individuals to do what they do best. We as sales enablers bring together and format what they do on a daily basis, and present to them in a story approach to say this is not only what you’re doing, but this is what you can do to even make it better as you continue to move forward.

SS: I love that particular point. Jeff, as my last question for you that is a follow on to that, how can enablement practitioners leverage those insights and analytics to continuously improve the enablement programs and increase that business impact?

JF: Well, as I stated, you have to have the end goal in mind to create the clear vision. A lot of times we try to hit the ground running with the problem at hand, and yes, we can always fall into that pit, but we’ve got to step back and say, okay, here’s the problem, but why are we having that problem? Let’s start digging in and doing a scientific approach to unraveling and finding out the key “why’s” of something that’s occurring so that we can redevelop or develop a new program that may be able to be a better fit.

Again, once that occurs, you’ve got to have sales leadership alignment across the board. Top down and across. If we do not have the full support of sales leadership, again, you can’t get off the ground running. You are the advocate for your sales team. As a sales enabler, you are the one that must sell that program and how it will benefit the individual, but also how it will benefit the organization. That’s where you bring those sales leaders along the way. Again, systems must be orchestrated in a way that they deliver data in a clean, organized manner.

They cannot be a jumbled-up pack of Legos. You’ve got to be able to show the clear story of what the expectation is, and if your systems aren’t able to drive that clear set of data, you’ve got to step back and say, what is it that I can do to make sure I’m conveying that information in an organized fashion so that my sales team can act accordingly and then deliver it in a good, better, best format?

You’ve got to either have that 60:40 or 80:20 rule. I’m either going to be able to deliver 60% of it right now and continue to develop the other 40%, or either 80, 20. From a good, better, best approach, know that you’ve got to get your items out there, your programs out there, and get them activated, but you’re never going to have that nice bow. A lot of times we like to deliver things that are a nice bow, but by the time we get the bow tied, the market has changed, things have moved on. The way that the market is changing today, we’ve got to make sure that they can at least see the ribbon. Here’s the ribbon on how we’re going to tie that bow, and here’s the vision on how we’re going to get there and here’s the steps we’re going to take. Keep them aligned. Keep communication in front of them. Ensure that you are staying and knowing that you’re right there along with them so that at the end, the bow is tied, they can see what the finished product is, and you have not missed a beat as things change along the way.

SS: I love that analogy. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us today.

JF: Sure. Thank you for having me. It was a great pleasure.

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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