Episode 234: Chuck Marcouiller on Bridging Capability Gaps Through Enablement

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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 Chuck Marcouiller from Freightwaves join us. Chuck, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Chuck Marcouiller: My name is Chuck Marcouiller and I’m the Vice President of revenue enablement for Freightwaves. Freightwaves is an interesting space. We are sort of like the Bloomberg of the supply chain in that we’re a media company as well as a technology company, software as a service company, that supports the shippers, carriers, and brokers on anything that moves by ship, road, and rail. We’re sort of like the database that says what it cost to move anything, where you go for business, and the analytics on anything within the supply chain. I’ve been with them for just about a year, but as far as enablement, I’ve been in pre-IPO SaaS and sales and sales enablement for about 27 years plus. That’s a little bit about my background and where I’m working right now.

SS: You and I have known each other for a while and I know that you have focused on building enablement programs broadly across sales, marketing, and customer success teams. I’d love to understand, what are some of your best practices for tailoring your programs to meet the needs of each of those roles.

CM: That’s a really interesting question. I’ve really built a career in pre-IPO SaaS companies over the past 10 years and as I’ve been doing revenue enablement programs, meaning working with everything from marketing to demand generation to new logo acquisition and then into CS, I’ve learned that as I’ve gone from company to company no size fits all and what I have to do when I come into a company is really sit down with senior leadership and figure out how we are making the cake here. I need to understand what is the program and what is the process we’re doing in order to be able to deliver the revenue and the buying experience for the customer. It always comes down to the buying experience. How are we trying to bring in the customers and what is the experience we’re trying to give to the customers in the product and the process that we’re trying to do and then back engineer into the sales process and make sure that we’re getting a scalable repeatable process that our sales teams can deliver to.

That’s what we’re really trying to do with enablement is how do we put in a program and a process that we can train our people to and then we can measure against to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our teams and ensure the overall success of the program and the people and the company as a whole. My best practices really sitting down and first analyzing, then sitting with my leadership and then putting together sort of a hypothesis of how we can take it to the next level and really understanding what’s there first and then bringing in best practices of how do we take that to the next level and what should we be measuring and what are the outcomes that we’re trying to deliver to and understanding that each role has a different piece to play, but every role is interlinked in order to bring that success for the customer. The customer really doesn’t care what each role is, as long as they’re getting the end outcome that they’re looking for and as long as we’re staying focused on what the customer is trying to achieve along that whole lifecycle from first look to full impact, it’s how do we sit there and engineer together to make sure that that’s achieved for what the customers are coming to us for.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Now you mentioned briefly that when you’re starting the creation of a new program, you really sit and analyze the current situation at the onset and try to understand maybe what are some of the gaps between the current capabilities and the desired capabilities. How can enablement practitioners identify some of these gaps? What are some tips or tricks that you have about how to approach doing that?

CM: Well, it’s two parts. First, I come in and I say do we have a defined process? It’s funny when I come into a lot of different companies, I find that they really have a very loosely defined process. First of all, is there a documented process at all as far as the sales process, and then are they actually adhering to the sales process? This means oftentimes there’s something in a playbook or something that’s written down for a sales process and then I like to sit down and what I like to say is my listening tour is I’ll sit down with reps and with leaders and I say, so, how do we do this here? You know, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
What is the experience that we take a customer through? Show that to me. I love tools to listen to the sales calls themselves to see what is actually happening in the street. Then I take my notes and I say, okay, so now that we’ve seen this thing, what’s actually happening and then we go and say, alright, now that we see what’s happening, I go back to sales ops and say show me the stats, how are things going along this process and what’s the conversion rates from the steps that we’re seeing within Salesforce?

It may sit there and say that, oh, you know, on paper, we’ve got a seven-step sales process from the first look from SQL to close won or close loss, but when you look at it in the actual feed on the street, they’re actually doing three steps. We do a first meeting, we do this long demo, we throw out a bid and then we start negotiating whether they’re actually going to go forward and go through some sort of legal process before we try to close them. That’s not what we’re trying to do and so we have this abysmal conversion rate and they wonder why the business is working or it’s not working, and we go, okay, well this is what the numbers we’re seeing from Salesforce and this are what people are saying is really happening in the street and well here’s what the paper process said that we were going to try to do, so how do we sort of get this all working together? Then we sit down and we sort of back engineer and say, alright, salespeople, why are we doing this deviating from what the standard we said we wanted to do, and then we pull it apart and then start building best practices back together. This is what I’ve been doing from, from one team to the next, and we say, okay, so here’s what we needed to do, and then here’s what’s really happening and we start pulling the skills and processes together.

One of the things that I found as we re-engineer the sales process to the buying experience that the customer is really expecting so that we can have success in what we’re trying to sell is looking for that domino rep. So, Shawnna, are you familiar with the term domino rep, what that concept is?

SS: No, love for you to tell me more.

CM: So one of the mistakes that I made early on in my enablement career is looking for a process and then saying, okay with leaders, here’s a process, let’s roll it out, and let’s see if the field adapts to it. You can train a process and then say, okay, here’s the slide deck, here’s the training, go forth and do great things. Then it goes out, and the sales reps try it, but it really doesn’t stick. What I found is that in any team, there are one or two reps who really are sort of the heart of that team, who everybody else looks at and says is she or he doing it? If they’re doing it then, are they having any success with it and if they’re having success with it, well then I got to try to. Those are your domino reps, those are the ones who everybody else looks to say, is it going to work or is it not going to work? If they can do it and if they’re doing it then it really does work.

I found that with my programs, one of the things that I’m going to try to do is I’m going to try to get that one or two reps that everybody else looks to and I’m going to co-op them early on in my process to have them look at my process and be part of the design process, have them try it and help me get the rough edges off it before I train and roll it out to anyone else. I find that when I train and put the process together and have that domino rep as part of the initial rollout, then it goes so much smoother. I get better feedback from the field and a lot better field adoption when we roll out the new process.

SS: I love that approach to getting reps on board with your programs. How do you go about partnering with other senior leaders, maybe in sales, marketing, customer success, and maybe even operations to align enablement programs with their priorities?

CM: I think you can’t please everybody with your enablement programs and I think one of the things right off the bat, you’ve got to figure out which master you’re going to serve and what you’re going to try to achieve right off the bat. You have to tackle a few programs and tackle them well and then make sure that you’re building the right partners along the way in order to achieve those. On a quarter-by-quarter basis, I sit down with my CRO and say, all right, what are the things that you want to move the needle on and why is this important for us to move the needle on? We can’t do everything, but what is the big bet that we have to have? We announced that together and built a consensus committee with the others and made sure that it was aligned with the same big bet that they were trying to make with my marketing partner or my partnership partner or the other senior leaders. Then, we are aligned on our QBRs as to what the big bet is, and we sit down and we say, okay, we know what the CRO wants us to do, or the CFO wants us to do, and then we can say, okay, so this is my project, here’s where we overlap, can I get your support and partnership on this and what do you need from me? We do a little horse trading. If I work on these things for you, will you help me with these things here?

That goes a long way because everybody understands what each other is trying to do and what support is going to be needed, what resources are going to need in order to make sure that all of us are successful and it’s not done in a vacuum. I know what my marketing partner is trying to achieve and they know what I’m trying to achieve so that I can make sure that she’s successful and she can make sure that I’m successful, but we’re all hearing it at the same time from our boss as to what they’re trying to move the needle on and we’re all working towards that same goal. It’s that goal alignment, when the goal alignment is done together, then we stand a chance to achieve it, but when we are each trying to do these things in a vacuum and we reach popcorn in each other going, hey, I need your help here or hey I need your help there and no one knows what each other are doing, that’s when we sort of get into conflict with each other.

SS: I really do like that approach of bringing all of those teams together. Now to ask a slightly different question, since you are building a lot of these learning programs for many of the revenue-facing teams from onboarding to ongoing training and coaching, how do you design the programs to maximize real role effectiveness across the different teams you support?

CM: Role effectiveness is one of those ongoing things that you are always trying to chase. I think it’s one of those things where you’ve got to sit down with your leaders and say, okay, what are we trying to tune, and why are we trying to tune that thing? One of the processes that I’ve adapted from my partners at winning by design, I brought an outside group in and I like what we call REKS. What are the results, efforts, knowledge, and skills? We sit down and we say, all right, instead of the lagging metrics of achieving quota, we say what is a leading metric, what is a leading result that we’re trying to do? Say for example, I’ve been working with my demand generation group and we want to increase the SQL to SAL, meaning the qualified leads to the accepted leads conversions and we say in order to be able to do that, that’s the result that we want to get, so what are the efforts that we have to do in order to do that? We list a bunch of efforts to do that and then we say, all right, what’s the knowledge that they have to have in order to be able to do that well, and then what are the skills that they have to do in order to be able to do that. One is the knowledge and then the other is the skill to be able to do it.

We break that down on a couple of things that we want to measure and we want to move forward in their overall ability and we pick one to two per roll and we try to work on that on a quarter-by-quarter basis with each of my leaders, them identifying and having, again, the domino reps help us identify how to do that. That kind of program of documentation and working on that as a whole has helped us get into a better routine of figuring out, not trying to boil the ocean, what are a couple of things that we can work on and build programs around to help everybody improve and feel like they’ve got a say in it, but also have things that we can achieve and have tangible metrics that we can go back to our senior leadership and say, hey, the investment that you’re making enablement in the investment that you’re making in skills and tools is having tangible results on the ultimate outcome that you want to have, which is sales.

SS: Absolutely. Now, speaking of tangible benefits, I’ve seen something that you shared on, LinkedIn about applying “sales-as-a-science” principles to designing enablement metrics. Can you walk us through that approach?

CM: Sales, by its very nature, you know, both art and science, the individual art of the delivery, but there’s always the measurements of each stage within your process to say, okay, as I go from stage to stage, what are my conversion rates as a whole within the team and then as an individual. How far off is the individual deviating from each stage within the steps of the process? We can measure those within the tools that we have, whether it’s conversations to appointments booked, from appointments to discovery calls, discovery calls to whatever stage is with the process, and we look at those and we say, okay, so what’s as a whole, within the team over time, is the team getting better, is the team getting better because the skill is getting better, is the economy getting better? What are the factors that are going into it? Then, what are we making as a leadership team, a bet on our investment within tools or programs to help our reps be more successful and who are we applying it to? Then we’re listening and coaching within tools such as Gong or Chorus to say, all right, what are we hearing, is that improving overall, and are we seeing within numbers?

There’s the balance between designing a program, rolling it out, coaching to that, and then measuring the overall effectiveness of that within the systems that we have to say, are we seeing an outcome to it, and then what does that mean? Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not successful and we have to go back to the drawing board and use the science of the data to say, what is this telling us, and then what are we going to do about it? Then we adjust. The whole art and science is adjusting to the reality of the numbers and making sure that we’re not waiting too long to make an adjustment.

SS: I love that. Last question for you, Chuck. What are some of the core metrics you track to determine success and how do those maybe vary by the different various teams that you work with?

CM: We have a tendency where we want to sit there and look at the metrics of quota because, in every role that we have within the sales team, we have some sort of end quota goal, which is the lagging metric. The key metrics on the front side are a few key activity metrics and I found success in making sure that we’re looking at quick key weekly metrics, such as when we look at the SDRs, what are the activity metrics, and are we seeing enough of the input metrics to give them a chance to hit the output metrics or the lagging metrics that we measure on a monthly basis and is there a decent, are they adhering to the conversion rates that we expect to see? This is an early indicator of if there is a chance for them to be successful or if we see some gaps in their skills. When we look at the AEs, when we’re looking at the new logo sellers, we sit there and analyze if there are enough conversations and enough meetings that they’re having in order to have enough deals within the funnel, and if are they converting at the pace that we expect to see within the team in order for them to have a chance to be able to hit the quota on a month by month, quarter by quarter basis.

On an individual basis, what are their numbers telling us? Then diving into their calls to say, are they delivering what we expect to hear skill-wise, or do we need to work with this individual person on a coaching basis to deliver their skill back up into the areas that we expect them to be in in order for them to be successful? On the CS side, we sit there and we look at, are seeing them having success, bringing them in, and then are they having the kind of conversations that we expect in order to be able to get ahead of churn and be able to delight and deliver the impact that our customers expect? Are they touching base? What is the sentiment of the conversations when they do have conversations with our customers? Are they able to retain the current renewals and dollars that we expect and is that allowing us to, again, look at the metrics with the individual reps to say, is there a skill gap there or are there opportunities for us to put better processes in place in order to expand the revenue with their existing customers?

SS: I love that, Chuck. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your insights.

CM: My pleasure.

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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