Episode 232: Elena Beletsioti on Delivering Effective Enablement Programs at Scale

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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 Elena Beletsioti from Yokoy join us. Elena, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience. Jonah, thank you very much for having me today.

Elena Beletsioti: Hi Shawnna, thank you very much for having me today. As you said I am Elena Beletsioti and I’m responsible for sales enablement at Yokoy. Yokoy is a spend management solution for midsize and enterprise companies. What we do is bring together expense management, invoice processing, and smart corporate cards in one platform and we really aim to transform the way companies do spending from the ground up. If you look at my background it is somewhat atypical for a sales leader or sales enablement specialist as I was in consulting before and supported startups on their founding and scaling journeys before I joined Yokoy in April.

SS: I’m excited to have you here. You have a ton of experience helping companies grow and scale, particularly startups. I’d love to start the conversation understanding from your experience, what is the enablement role in helping teams really scale effectively.

EB: If you think about scaling, one of the most important factors that impact that is a sales function. I mean think of a company that is growing and is hiring more and more salespeople in order to scale the business across different countries. Now if each and every member of the team has its own approach to selling, replicating success and scaling the company can be very difficult. In contrast, if all members of the sales team can follow a proven sales process, it is so much easier to scale the business more quickly, more efficiently, and much more successfully. Thinking about when we implemented one of the predictable kinds of processes within Yokoy, we were able to also predict and forecast so much better. I think sales enablement can really help with that. We can create a strong sales process, set up playbooks, constantly train and coach the team on each and every step along the customer journey and bring the relevant content at the right time to the team.

SS: Absolutely, I think enablement can play such a big role in those areas. What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered that companies can face as they scale and how can enablement really help to overcome some of those challenges?

EB: That’s a great question. I mean when you’re small and you’re growing fast, you’re under a lot of pressure. Sales managers are especially under a lot of pressure to hit numbers. This can hinder skills coaching not an intention, but usually, it gets in the way. For example, they see sometimes when a crucial deal is at stake, then the sales manager will very often kind of take over the call instead of providing the background sales coaching that he intended to do right. In other words, you’re very tempted to give your team just the fish for the day instead of teaching them how to fish by themselves.

What I see as the biggest challenge when you’re growing very fast is that you think you don’t have time to worry about right now, about soft skills, about coaching, about exactly those things are the things that enable us to scale so much faster. As a sales enablement person within Yokoy, I do care about revenue and hitting quotas, however, I do have the luxury to step out of the deal and I know that my focus is clearly on teaching the reps how to fish. I have tried a little bit around and I found different ways to support that says leadership here, I think it touched on this a little bit before, but supporting with a playbook with a very clear understanding on what are the essential steps along the customer journey, but also things like training and storytelling, the most common objections, how you would anticipate those, that is also very helpful for everybody.

Once you have laid out these, the second step would be kind of a framework over a scoring model on what good looks like, for example, for a discovery call or for a demo. This helps the sales managers and myself in my role in enablement to know what to look for, to benchmark, and to coach against this. Another point maybe is to really pick and focus on one skill at a time, I am sure you have seen that kind of manager who tries to find all the flaws and all the mistakes in one call and addresses all of them at once. Yeah, that usually doesn’t work, that’s too much. If a sales rep needs to know how to ask strategic questions to better understand the prospect then the coaching effort should be really focused on this one specific skill. Only when that specific skill is kind of built up only then we can move on to the next one.

SS: I love that. I think that there are really three key areas. Now, I have a bit of experience in startups as well and I can say that when you are running lean, oftentimes collaboration and partnerships are absolutely keys to success. I’d love to understand from you who are some of the key teams that you collaborate with across the business to really ensure that you can deliver effective enablement programs at scale.

EB: I absolutely agree with you. Sales enablement is not the responsibility of one person, it’s a collaboration across different departments and actually, they cover the whole customer journey. I think there is one important area where sales enablement in the marketing team comes together and that’s content. Whenever there is content created for the sales team, we really need to put it in the sales language, make it digestible, but also ensure that there is consistent messaging, which is aligned then with the marketing team. I do have various touchpoints with the product marketing team when it comes to product knowledge, to new product launches. I also talk a lot with the sales operations team, especially when it comes to sales processes, and technology commissions, all of that sit within the sales operations team with Yokoy, so we have some touch points there. I think one of the departments that are very often overlooked but super important for me is learning and development. Top of mind, I would also say I align a lot with the customer success team to make sure that we have a smooth handover but also to gather feedback from customer success on what a successful customer looks like and how we can leverage that kind of knowledge,

SS: I love all of those areas now. The one that you hit on, that I would love to elaborate on a little bit more, is a partnership when it comes to scaling around learning and development. Why would you say that partnership is so important in startups?

EB: Great question is enablement, as we all know, about skills reinforcement, onboarding, training, field observations, and coaching. All of these are what L&D is doing with the broader organization and therefore there is a lot we can leverage from that partnership. Let’s say how to define learning goals, I didn’t know how to do that in the beginning, how to facilitate an effective training session with 50-plus people, how to measure the effectiveness of a training program after this has happened and then to give kind of numbers and crunch it down for the leadership team or even evaluate, let’s say the stickiness of it.

One specific thing I learned from learning and development that helped me a lot personally is to focus on the challenges that the sales reps currently have to understand the revenue pressure they’re constantly having and use a more empathetic approach so you can create a safe space for them to learn. Only when you have created this safe space, the reps can bring real-life questions into the training or role-play their worst client scenario. I would really like to think of myself or my role to be considered kind of neutral. I don’t judge them if there are knowledge gaps for the product or if somebody is feeling very uncomfortable doing something. I just want to push them and challenge them to practice and learn a little bit more, or at least help them work through their challenges.

SS: I love that. I think that is such a key value that enablement helps to drive. Do you have some best practices for our audience around collaborating really effectively with some of these cross-functional teams to maybe build out shared programs to help the company overall scale?

EB: I wish there was a silver bullet there. I think my personal advice would be communication, communication, and communication. At Yokoy, we try very hard to keep each other informed and aligned, especially when it comes to relying on the learning goals, and the content and we really try to get everyone on board quite early in the process. However, regardless there are still things that kind of will slip through the cracks and it could have been better to have aligned with somebody else, with another team before we rolled out to the whole organization. I mean this will happen with a startup, we’re scaling up, it will happen, but it is very good and this is what I learned personally. After we have kind of a shared program altogether, we just regroup together, do a debriefing and discuss what went well, and what could have been better, and put all of these learnings in a kind of blueprint for the next program so we can learn from that.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Now, Elena, last question for you, for companies that might have a lot of silos between departments, what advice would you give practitioners to break down these barriers and begin to establish stronger cross-functional relationships?

EB: That’s a very interesting question, I believe the very first step is to sit all at the same table and the line on the goals of the business and then jointly break down the business goals into the department goals. If you openly share and discuss those kinds of goals, usually you will very, very quickly see how they intersect, sometimes how they even complement each other, or how many dependencies there are between those different departments. I believe sales enablement plays a role in making sure that we have that kind of visibility, that we’re aligned, that we really thinking about it from a customer perspective, and that we are communicating along the way. As I speak one last piece of advice that comes to my mind, I would say when you ask for something, try to offer something as well. Usually, that helps to build kind of trust and establish a relationship with your key stakeholders in the organization.

SS: I think that’s fantastic advice to close us out. Thank you so much. Elena, I really appreciate your time today.

EB: Thank you for having me.

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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