Episode 194: April Logan on Enablement as a Business Partner to Sales Leaders
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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 April Logan from the Reuters News Agency join us. April, I would love for you to introduce yourself your role, and your organization to our audience.
April Logan: Hi there, and thank you so much for inviting me to participate. It’s great being here. I’m originally from Scotland, but I have been living in London or around London since 2010. I currently live on a small farm just outside London with my husband James, son Edward, and we have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Zula. In terms of my character, I would say I am a driven individual and I think lots of people in enablement are, and I always have been. I think I started working for a pound an hour since I was 11 years old, and I’ve thankfully progressed since then.
I studied events management at Leeds Beckett University, which is North Yorkshire sort of northern England. I started my career organizing conferences globally, which was suitably fun in my early twenties, and then I pivoted into the charitable sector where I was responsible for fundraising events. In the end, I found that my passion was actually in learning and development or helping people in that way through training or coaching. I started working for training organizations such as MindGym and Euromoney Training before I joined Thomson Reuters, which is where I am currently.
I work within the Reuters News Agency side of Thomson Reuters, and it’s the largest, most trusted news source in the world. I think that in terms of its culture, it’s an incredibly inclusive organization, it has a huge amount of talent and opportunity, and it’s been a fantastic place to work. I lead the Sales Enablement Team for Reuters News Agency, and I tend to break down my role and remit into a couple of pillars. We’ve got learning and development, which includes sales coaching and soft skills training, as well as product accreditations. We then pivot to the second pillar, which is around sales talent and recruitment. This includes anything from sales onboarding through to competency assessments during the recruitment process and, of course, measurement of performance in their first 30, 60, 90 days, internal communications, and asset management. I own the sales leadership operating rhythm, which also includes the performance or the strategic review, feedback and analytics, both internal and customer feedback, go-to-market to ensure that our sales are ready, and then our sales tools as well. A really broad remit. I’ve got an incredibly talented team; we are small and we have a global audience.
SS: I’m excited to have you here, April. Now, you mentioned that you are a sales leadership business partner and that you act as the conduit between departmental teams and the senior sales management. How is sales enablement uniquely positioned within the business to really be that core business partner to sales leaders?
AL: Thanks for that. First of all, I think there’s a trend where sales enablement is starting to be part of that executive committee. We are very much in the center. What I mean by that is every department such as legal products, finance, even billing or marketing, they all support the commercial organization. I believe that to be true within most or any business. Sales enablement is uniquely positioned to be able to facilitate developments from any supporting team. Whatever they’re working on, we’re able to take that, translate it in a digestible way for sales, and then we can roll out those developments in a way that adds value to our customers. Having a sales enablement function is incredibly beneficial to sales, but also to any supporting team that helps businesses accelerate the rollout of any enhancements or changes or new processes being put in place.
SS: Absolutely. I’d love to understand from your perspective, what are some strategies for successfully bridging the gap between the departmental teams and sales leadership to really create better alignment?
AL: Great question. I think alignment is incredibly important, particularly in sales enablement, but also with your cross-functional team. One of the main strategies that I have worked on recently was looking at the go-to-market strategy and process surrounding it, and I worked with two other colleagues, and we designed a tier system.
Tier one is being a big launch that has significant commercial value or strategic importance. Tier two and tier three are enhancements or smaller upgrades still super important, but not as much as tier one. We defined those tiers, we mapped out deliverables against each of those tiers, and we were able to get the buy-in and alignment from the executive committee, which meant that everyone was very clear on what enhancements or launches were considered tier one, tier two, tier three. We were able to then deliver that to the rest of the organization, make sure that we had everyone’s buy-in and that everyone could see value in this new process. When we look at our product roadmap today, it’s incredibly clear what is required for each launch, whether it be big or small, who is responsible, accountable or informed at each stage across the different departments, and it clearly defines opportunities for focus for the sales team and our customers. That’s an example of where alignment can work incredibly well, and we’ve seen some great success since its launch.
Other examples of strategies could be on having consistency around sales methodology. Absolutely, the sales team need to know what your sales methodology is from an internal perspective and how we want to be communicating to our customers. I think we could also consider the supporting functions to be involved in that, so proposition marketing or integrated marketing or products. If they are creating collateral for the sales team and for our customers, it should be in line with the sales methodology our sellers are embracing to ensure that there is alignment and consistency around how we are delivering things to sales and fundamentally to our customers.
SS: Now, another thing you mentioned that you are responsible for is managing the sales and sales leadership operating rhythm. To start, I would love for you to define how you think about the operating rhythm, but I’d also love to understand how you go about analyzing the most efficient rhythms for the overall sales or to operate within, especially when there is so many moving parts?
AL: Thank you. First of all, when I talk about operating rhythm, I’m thinking about what is it that the leadership and sales team need to focus on and how are we going to be able to plan out the year and their operating rhythm for the year to ensure that we are focused on the right things? I think it can mean different things and in different organizations. I’d say I don’t know about everyone else, but every year for me is faster than the previous one. Change is constant and it’s relentless, and that’s all being part of an enablement team.
The operating rhythm at Reuters is a crucial part in ensuring that we deliver things timely. When I say we, I mean, the sales organization are on track to hit targets and our goals and the team are motivated and learning from one another, as well as them feeling informed of any changes or developments coming their way. It’s a crucial part. Certain items in the operating rhythm happen quarterly, such as quarterly business reviews, whereas other items are monthly given the mass volume of product changes or enhancements or market insights that we may want to share with the sales team.
Some aspects of this as well could be mandatory, whereas others are optional, it’s important to identify what they are. As a sales team, time is precious, but we trust the team to pick and choose what’s right for their needs. If we’re doing lunch and learns or if we’re posting podcasts, then they aren’t mandatory to listen to, but they’re going to help some of the individuals, for sure.
Sales tools are fundamental to the success and speed in which our sellers can find content and collateral to support customer engagement and conversations. Whether it’s a content management system or a social tool to support an advocacy program, all of this and all of these ways of communicating with sales are part of the operating rhythm. Lastly, it’s important to always speak with sales, ask for their feedback and respond to feedback, to ensure that we, as a team, are hitting their needs. In terms of that final part of your question, how do we ensure what’s most efficient, it’s just keeping close on what we are delivering and how it’s impacting the sales team.
SS: Absolutely. What would you say are some challenges to maintaining a consistent operating rhythm? How often do you go about re-evaluating these workflows to keep up with all of the shifts that have happened in the business, especially as you said in the last two years?
AL: There is a lot and I think we always start at the beginning of the year with a schedule of meetings, deliverables and calendars. I think gone are the days where individuals have annual goals. Most of us now have quarterly goals because things change so quickly, so we need to be able to continuously pivot or adjust the operating rhythm to align with the business priorities. Of course, that can be a challenge.
One of the other key challenges for my team is the global nature of our audience. Our sales team sits across 33 countries and therefore we need to be mindful of some individuals missing out on some of the developments that we’re doing. We tend to ensure that we have two options in place, that we’re thinking about the global time scale, not just US-focused or a UK-focused, it’s really got to be central and thinking about the entire sales team. Of course, with every global audience, there comes a challenge. I’d say that’s another challenge for us, but we navigate it, we flex our errors accordingly, and we double book most things. If we are having a training program, then there will be two of them. If we have a monthly sales call, there will be two of them, just to ensure that we are supporting all parts of the business.
In terms of re-evaluating and measuring, we measure the following areas. I’d say, do our sellers have clarity on the strategic execution or operational goals in our business? If yes, then great. Are we seeing business improvements or are we speeding up the sales cycle? Are we selling to more new customers? Are we retaining more of our customers? Is our NPS score improving? How is our internal health index doing? Are our sellers motivated? Are they happy? Lastly, we can monitor activity across sales tools. Are the team using them? That also includes leadership dashboards. Are our leadership team coaching the sales team to help them retain the information that we are pushing out to them? There are just a couple of areas that we look at in terms of measurement.
SS: Now, I want to shift gears a little bit. You called out the importance of supporting sales leaders through performance management. What are some of the key performance metrics you track to help inform the strategy and decision-making of the sales leaders?
AL: Yes, we do support the leaders, but I would say most importantly, we support each and every salesperson and the entire sales team are the sales enablement customers. When looking at performance, the sellers that I work with are some of the smartest people I know. When it comes to performance, there are many things to consider and offer leadership support on.
A few examples could include we’ve got coaching tools available for the sales leaders, dashboards that they can use in their one-to-ones to reinforce key messages or behaviors, we can look at competency levels to help identify things like skill gaps or even personality gaps within a team. It could be at an individual level, a team level or even regional level and implement training programs to support those gaps. In terms of other performance-related items, the market could change, someone might have personal circumstances. In terms of matrix, it really does depend on each and every single situation.
SS: Alright April, last question for you. How do you go about ensuring your programs within sales enablement are really rolling up into the larger business initiatives and priorities across sales leaders in the executive team? How do you go about really demonstrating the impact of enablement on those key business priorities?
AL: I love this question because I think genuinely, over the last four years, sales enablement is increasingly becoming and being part of that strategic executive team. I feel like it is not as if that we need to roll up because I think we are already there. Actually, it’s not uncommon now for enablement to recommend areas for focus to the executive team to then consider. I’d say sales enablement tends to have high presence across the business because the majority of our projects or the work that we all do, it is high profile. We are getting exposure because we are making an impact on sales or the growth of our business.
In terms of what success looks like or impact, I’d say sales enablement demonstrates – my team certainly demonstrates their impact by directly influencing the growth or achievements being made by our sales team. When a new proposition reaches target in record time, we can attribute that to our sales enablement program, or if we are seeing more new joiners close their fast sales quicker than previously, we can attribute that to mid-year sales onboarding program. Then we could look at something like the sales process. Is it faster because of the latest tool that we have launched and rolled out across sales? In terms of our impact and how we align with the executive team, I think we are definitely seeing us having a seat at that table more and more and more.
SS: April, thank you so much for joining us. I learned a ton.
AL: No worries. I hope it was helpful, loved being part of it. Thank you.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you would like to share or a topic you would like to learn more about, please let us know we would love to hear from you.