Episode 217: Chris Neal on Making Enablement Engaging for Reps

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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 Chris Neal from Blue Prism join us. Chris, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Chris Neal: Hi Shawnna and thank you for inviting me. I’m Chris Neal and I am the director of global sales enablement at Blue Prism. I’ve been with the company for about three and a half years. We have a team of eight people to do sales enablement for a sales force of around 500. I oversee the global programs and am excited to be here to talk about those today.

SS: Fantastic. Well, we’re excited to have you here as well. Now, one of the things that I know you’ve referenced in the past is really around how to make enablement programs successful and in order to do so, rep engagement is absolutely critical, but I think getting that engagement can often be easier said than done. In your experience, what are some of the common challenges that you’ve experienced in getting reps to engage in enablement programs?

CN: Yeah, a good question to start, it can definitely be a challenge. I’ve seen it before and I’ve run progress before they have done really well and reps have been really engaged and there have been others not just in Blue Prism but in previous roles as well, where you really struggle to get engagement. For me, it comes down to two things. It’s about awareness and communication. So they have to know what the program is, how to get engaged with it, and what the expectation is on them, so they can’t use the excuse that I didn’t know about it. That’s the basic one.

The more critical one is alignment. If you’ve got an enablement team with a review from headquarters about what you need to learn this month, if that’s not aligned with the goals that your first line manager has for you as a sales representative for that month or that quarter, then there’s a conflict you’re being pulled in two directions. You’ve got your direct manager measuring you on one thing and a corporate sales enablement team saying you’re going to be measured on something else and that’s where you can get a challenge. So for me, it’s mostly about working with sales leadership all the way from Chief Revenue Officer down to first-line managers to make sure that the initiatives and programs that we develop and run are as aligned as possible with what field teams need in order to be successful.

SS: Absolutely. How have you overcome some of the challenges so that you can encourage higher engagement?

CN: The best way to do that is to consult with sales leaders from the get-go. As soon as an initiative is conceived and you’re thinking of building something, we need to bring sales managers along for that ride, along that journey. Let’s say the Chief Marketing Officer has a new set of messaging and they want everybody in sales to learn that new value proposition presentation for example. That’s important, and I’m sure if you had a conversation with a sales leader, they would agree that it’s important, but if you don’t talk to me about it in the right way and then position it in the right way, it can come across as a demand from HQ, that, as I said before, doesn’t directly align with what people are needing to do out in the field. So, it’s important to start with why, I keep going back to the Simon Sinek book, “Start with Why.” Let’s start with why we’re doing this and what we’re trying to achieve and how it’s going to help everyone, not just enablement, but sales leaders and sales reps themselves. Let’s make sure everybody understands that and then build that into the cadence so that by the time we roll out the program, the rep is hearing about it and being driven to do it, not by a corporate sales enablement team, but by their direct manager.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now, you mentioned that aligning with what matters most to your audience can help improve the effectiveness of enablement programs. Now, when you’re developing a new program, how do you ensure that it’ll both be relevant for your reps and also make it easy for them to consume to reduce maybe some of that complexity?

CN: Yeah, good question. So, take the first part of that question first. How do we ensure that it’s relevant? I think this comes down to how you introduce it because quite often an enablement initiative or it might be a training course or it might be an assessment or something like that is coming from a group or department in the company, like a product management function or something like that where the presenter or the subject matter expert delivering the training is not necessarily looking at the big picture of why this is important for sales. So if you just record something or you just put something out there and you put it directly in front of the SME, it’s not always easy for them to join the dots and see that relevance for themselves. So, a good job that sales enablement professionals can do is to bookend that presentation or that training module with some scene setting. So, I would go on and I would explain to them that we understand the challenges that they face, what it is that they are being asked to deliver for the company in terms of revenue, and position what they’re about to see in the context of that and talk about how it’s going to help them and then we’ll come back on at the end and kind of summarize what they just heard and relate it back to their role. So that helps them see the relevance, even though the meat of the presentation itself may not. That’s part one of your question.

The other one was about how we can make it easy to consume to reduce some of the complexity. If we’ve got an initiative or a program we want to roll out, then what we do is there’s a number of ways you can do this, and the platforms are all over the place. There are digital sales enablement platforms, there are all kinds of platforms you can use to host multimedia material. We use one of those and what we do is we break it up. If it’s learning a solution from beginning to end, including how to position, how to present who the competition is, which personas to talk to etcetera. We break that up into individual modules to make it a bit more bite-sized so that we’re not asking them to take a whole day out of the field to learn, we’re asking them to do like 30 minutes a day. Something like that, and then as we go along, we have a little mini-assessment. So instead of saying, do this six hours of self-study and then take this huge exam, it’s 30 minutes and a five-question test or 40 minutes in a four-question test. And at the end, we could even do something like a video pitch back where they actually present back and their manager gets to see that.

SS: I think that’s phenomenal. Now, what are some of your strategies for showing reps the whole picture though, from maybe the beginning of your enablement program so that they can see that smooth path to success?

CN: There’s a couple of things here, one of which we’re already doing and another one that I would like to do that we haven’t done yet. The one that we’re already doing, again I’m not mentioning product names here, but we have a sales enablement platform that all of our reps have access to. We can basically draw a pick of all of the things available and present it to them in a way that’s easy for them to navigate and browse around and that enables them to kind of see the big picture when they go in and then they double click here, double click there and they dive into the specific product or the specific service offering that they want to learn more about. It’s almost like an online encyclopedia if you like. That’s the thing we’re already doing.

The thing that I think would be just as useful, but I’ve never quite managed it yet, is if you work for a company that has a number of products that it sells, a portfolio of products rather than just one thing that they sell, then what’s really useful, because if you have multiple products and then next week we’re doing a training on Product A and the week after that we’re doing training and Product B, and the week after that we do training on Product C, that can get kind of overwhelming and confusing for them because they don’t always necessarily know how A relates to B relates to C and how they all fit into the bigger picture. So the thing I’m talking about here is what I call a solution picture and you can think of it almost as an infographic that shows the whole world of what your company does and what it sells and how it helps customers. Each product and piece of the jigsaw would be a small item on that infographic, and that way, if you’re doing a training on Product B, firstly, why are you training Product B? Because version two is coming out and it’s improved over version one. Well, what are the improvements? And so you end up with showing the big picture and then zooming in on Product B is one of the capabilities and then talking about how the new features change the overall picture of what we’re selling and if it doesn’t then we probably don’t need to enable it. So that’s something I’d like to do, but I haven’t actually gotten around to you yet.

SS: That’s fantastic. Now we’ve discussed a lot of ways to create effective enablement programs. I’d love to dig into what effective enablement means to you and how do you quantify the effectiveness of your enablement programs?

CN: Yeah, this is a tricky question. It always comes up and if you are in sales enablement, you’re regularly asked by sales leaders and others, how you make success. It’s difficult to measure success in real hard numbers because while there are specific numbers that sales can measure like revenue, win rates, discount, and quota attainment, all of those things are hard numbers that you can measure, but the role that sales enablement played in achieving those numbers is much harder to quantify because there’s a number of factors that contribute to a good or poor performance. Sales enablement is just one of them. So it is quite hard to do. There are a couple of ways that you can look at that. One is to step back from those numbers and just look at the reason why you’re doing an enablement program in the first place, making sure everybody’s clear on what the objective is. What is it we want sales reps to be able to say or do differently as a result of this program and then you assess their ability to do that?

So going back to my earlier example, if you’ve got a brand new value proposition PowerPoint deck that’s come out, then the behavior change you’re trying to instill is you’re getting people to get confident and credible and proficient in delivering that new presentation. So you can teach them how to do it. You can show them an expert on video presenting it. Then you ask them to have a go and you ask their managers to review it. If all of that’s done and they have a good go and the manager gives them a good review, then that’s a good way of measuring the effectiveness of that program. It doesn’t necessarily give you a direct impact on the bottom line or the following quarter, but it’s as far as you can get.

The other thing you could do and I was at an event recently where I attended another session by another sales enablement professional and it was very interesting. They talked about sales velocity and so sales velocity includes things like the length of the sales cycle and how many opportunities and the average deal size and your win percentage and so on. If you’re starting with Y at the beginning and you’re linking activity to a virtual knob you can turn to increase the number of opportunities or to increase the deal size, maybe increase the deal size by positioning services. Those are things you can measure. So changes to metrics that affect sales velocity can be directly attributed to the enablement that supported it if you see what I mean.

SS: I love it, Chris. Thank you so much. I enjoyed this conversation in the insights that you provided today.

CN: You’re welcome.

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’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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