Episode 230: Devi Madhavan on Implementing an Effective Sales Process Framework
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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 Devi Madhavan, a sales enablement expert join us. Devi, I would love for you to introduce yourself and your background to our audience.
Devi Madhavan: Thank you, Shawnna. It’s a real pleasure to be here with you. A little bit about myself, I’ve spent the last 20 years in business development, sales leader, and enablement roles at both enterprise and startup companies, with my last role being Vice President of Oracle Sales and Partner Academy. I also spent time as an advisor to a handful of startups, focusing on how companies can increase sales productivity. It’s very key to have a solid enablement strategy in alignment with the stage of company growth, which is largely dependent on product fit and customer demand. I’ve had the privilege of seeing enablement at sub 100 million in revenue and then at a larger scale. It’s my pleasure today to share some of those insights back with you.
SS: Tell us about your experience, transitioning from sales leadership to enablement leadership. How would you say that that background helped to inform your approach to enablement?
DM: Absolutely. Sales leadership is really focused on execution versus enablement is really focused on learning and having the opportunity to practice in a mock environment. When I was running a sales team, I was very focused on the day-to-day deals and pipe and closing them along with coaching my team members. There wasn’t enough time to be proactive and think about how to close the skill gaps ahead of actually being in that customer conversation. As I transitioned from sales leadership into running enablement, the biggest luxury was being able to translate what reps lacked into a curriculum and being able to identify where reinforcement training and coaching are actually needed.
I’ve also learned that being proactive in investing in the rep’s toolbox saves a lot of time instead of having them learn 100% on the job by trial and error because you don’t want to ruin your credibility in front of a customer. Time to productivity is much longer and at scale this chips away at revenue opportunities for your company. Finally, I’d say invest in your first-line managers and build training for them side by side along with anything that you do for your sales team that way you’re coaching them on the same vernacular.
SS: I think that’s fantastic. It’s so interesting to hear you talk about how your sales leadership background helped you to understand what were some of those areas where enablement could really step up and play a fantastic role. For enablement practitioners who maybe don’t have sales leadership experience prior to moving into enablement, what are some key things that maybe they should know about how to effectively partner with sales leaders?
DM: First of all, I’d say sales leaders don’t waste time at all. They’re very focused and they always prioritize their customers. They’re definitely not going to be spending time with enablement if they don’t see their agenda or enough of their footprint or the customer’s footprint, bringing value to add. When you’re having those conversations with your sales leaders, you really want to go in with a simple plan and avoid as much complexity as possible. Listen to them because good sales leaders know what challenges they’re facing and you actually can be really prescriptive with enablement to help solve those challenges specifically.
Finally, I’d say you really want to make sure enablement is not a policing function or something that is seen as busy work or training that the team has to do. The goal really is to spread out training so it becomes a part of a lifestyle and it also suits their calendar needs with enough flexibility. Some key things to keep in mind are don’t offer training a quarter end, and also structure your onboarding programs and sales kickoff as macro-events. Don’t allow those to be serving a training purpose. It should really be around launching what’s new at sales kickoff and onboarding should be about reducing your ramp time in your role. What you really want to do is take microlearning to reinforce after these macro events and turn those into learning opportunities with reinforcement. Leaders are very invested in ongoing development, so selling the value of that is really key.
SS: I think that’s a phenomenal way to think about it in some fantastic tips and tricks there. Now, with sales, and especially with your background in sales, I think that there’s a lot of deep empathy for understanding the importance of the sales process framework. With that background, how has that helped you to effectively build sales process frameworks on the enablement side of the house?
DM: I love that question. Something very dear and close to my heart is the sales process framework I really think of the sales process framework as something that’s living and you can change it and tweak it based on how your landscape changes. First of all, I think it’s key that it’s not built just based on your internal needs. It’s actually a customer-buying journey. It’s about their activities in the process and how you’re aligning with that, so not just about your company. This is the number one mistake I’ve seen companies make.
Second of all, I think a sales process framework is not as linear as we all like to think. There can be back and forth, so we make sure that there is fluidity and that we’re addressing what the customer’s needs are. You can structure phase gates but that’ll allow you to really come back and revisit areas to close the loop. Third, I’d say your CRM really needs to be in sync with that sales process so your team can record data and track their engagements in their own workflow. That synergy between your sales process and your CRM is necessary, so you’re minimizing ad hoc engagement and you’re able to use data-driven insights as you navigate the customer better. I would also say make sure that you have a champion for your sales process of the company and that there’s buy-in across your go-to-market functions since the sales process is not just about the seller’s role, it’s also about the support roles in the post-sales roles so that your handoffs really need to be well defined. Most companies end up taking some existing sales process frameworks and customizing them for their own needs and for a customer buying journey.
SS: I think that those are fantastic tips. Can you walk us through some actionable steps for implementing an effective sales framework?
DM: I would say outside of the cross-functional buy-in it’s really key that you’re looking at your sales motion. For example, if you’re selling in cloud or SAAS products, you know ongoing consumption and usage are key. Different types of customer engagement really need to be factored in as you’re implementing it in the CRM. Then I would say pilot any kind of process that you’re launching for gaps so you can keep iterating. As I said, it’s a living process that should be revisited every 6 to 12 months. Awareness to ensure that the proper checks and balances are there is key.
SS: I think that is fantastic. Now I want to take a slight pivot on this because I think given the current economic climate, a lot of companies are focused on trying to retain and maybe even expand within established customer accounts. How can enablement help reps that are focused on those existing customers to execute the sales process to move customers forward in their journey throughout their lifecycle?
DM: That is a great question and I would say very timely for what we’re facing as an economy. In general, what we’re seeing is that buying cycles are much longer because more internal approvals are needed from the customer and budgets are rapidly changing. The key is to really hone in on sales velocity and the way I like to measure sales velocity is you look at the number of your opportunities, multiply that by the average deal size and your win rate and then you divide that by the length of the sales cycle time. So that’s probably changing and as you understand each of those components, you have an opportunity to tweak and figure out where you need to actually isolate and pay attention to close the gaps. I think that’s key, really measuring your sales velocity and the impact of the extended cycle time in the sale.
Second, I’d say you still want to understand the budget, authority, need, and timing, BANT is the industry-known acronym for that, to really understand how the customers are thinking about those things. What are the internal processes that have actually changed in their own internal roadmap? It’s unlikely that you’re going to change any of their internal decisions, but you can understand what the challenges are earlier in the process and you can think through creative strategies as to how you’re going to keep the customer engaged. As always, finding triggers that can help them solve the challenges that they’re facing today is really key.
SS: I love that. Devi, I have one last question for you because we’ve been talking about a lot of things, particularly with regard to sales process frameworks. In order to do that, obviously you have to be almost like a change agent within your organization. I’d love to close with a question to you about how enablement helps sales teams adapt as they execute and as companies scale or are going through a lot of these change motions. What role can enablement play in helping the sales teams adapt?
DM: I think enablement can really be that change agent that you just described during a transformation. I think enablement has the opportunity to take a leadership role in that because the function is looking at multiple roles across the go-to-market. Bringing all that together with a succinct strategy and change management, I think it’s key that leadership buys into the role that enablement is going to play. Socializing that upfront and having that understanding is great. They can also actually train on the change and as they train on the change, they’re creating awareness, and change management is really key in that along with the communication plan. You can raise the level of awareness and empathy internally that’s needed for the organization as they go through this change by socializing the why and the how and helping everyone really get on the same page realizing what the outcome is going to be of the change.
SS: I love that. Devi, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate the time and insights.
DM: Thank you, Shawnna.
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.