Episode 241: Rick Kickert on Designing Collaborative Enablement Programs
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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 Rick Kickert from Zscaler join us. Rick, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.
Rick Kickert: Thanks, Shawnna. I am the global vice president of what we call REV, which is revenue enablement and velocity. Zscaler is a cloud security company, and I’ve had the opportunity to be here for almost four years now. I have also been in the pre-IPO space, mostly with tech, doing a similar rollover at Rubrik and then over AppDynamics doing enablement, sales emerging technologies, and also had the opportunity of working on the business value consulting team there.
Before that, I actually spent about 10 years over at Blue Cross Blue Shield and I always give the same story during boot camps and training sessions and that I used to actually live on the other side of the fence. I would be what salespeople would call their economic buyer champion, and in my office, you’d walk in and to the right. I always have a whiteboard that would have our top 5 or 6 projects for the company. A sales rep would walk into my office and we would exchange pleasantries for the first five or 10 minutes and get to know each other. Then, I’d ask, how do we align with some of the projects there on my whiteboard? If we couldn’t, that’s fine, we’ll talk later, otherwise, let’s talk about how you can help me be more valuable in my business. I use that story all the time because I spent a lot of time talking about the buying journey and understanding how the buyer makes investments.
I’m a true believer that within enablement if we can help enable our sellers, partners, and customer success teams on what the buyer has to go through with the buying journey looks like, we’ll just be more successful on the other side of the fence from a selling perspective.
SS: Absolutely. In your role, you are uniquely positioned to focus on go-to-market, partner, and customer enablement, which you shared with us that you call the global revenue enablement service center. Can you walk us through this process and how it impacts your view on enablement?
RK: If you think about an automotive center for a moment, Shawnna, I am assuming you’ve probably taken your car to some type of automotive center before, right?
RK: All right. When you pulled up to that service center, there could be multiple service areas behind all those bay doors. There’s usually not just one bay door that you go to get your car serviced, there are multiple. Even though you might need different tools and services from multiple areas, you just go in the front door and go to the front desk. The front desk takes the requirements, they do the paperwork, and hopefully, something very efficiently and effectively happens in the back end and they drive your automobile back out and it’s all revved up and ready to go. That’s the perfect scenario, right?
In this REV Center, which is revenue enablement and velocity, the same analogy holds true. Our marketing teams, our product, and our engineering growth teams, all come to the front door of the REV center and we want to understand what they’re launching. We collect the paperwork, we make sure it follows a value framework that we’ve built out, playbooks, LMS and then we go enable the proper teams, whether it’s sales specialists, partners, customers, customer success, renewal’s professional services, all of that. Anything inside of go-to-market and external. You think about most things you launch and for enablement within a company, and it shouldn’t just only go to sales, we make sure that maybe there’s a play there for customer success, maybe there’s a play there for partners. Maybe there’s something we can do to highlight the customer training partner portal that also helps enable that launch. Maybe we’ve created a demo that can be leveraged for not just sales but also for partners. Getting everyone in the same boat and rowing in the same direction with full momentum’s goal. Just make sure everyone is enabled at the same time efficiently with some of the same tools and then using the same common measurements. That’s the vision that we built for this revenue enablement service center and why we’ve kind of married everybody together in that same model.
SS: I love that, but I imagine there are some unique challenges to building an enablement strategy that can fit all of the needs that are part of your role. How do you overcome these challenges as you design enablement programs?
RK: There is. It’s a lot of different bay doors if we’re sticking with that analogy, to try and make sure we get everybody enabled at the same time, but luckily I’m a pretty big fan of enabling the buyer, the partner, the customer success rep the same way we’ve been able to the seller. Putting the most enablement available out there in the market I think really helps engage people, help them learn about your product, your solution, and your use cases, and understand what they can solve for it. The challenge there is just making sure that you’re getting the right content to the right consumer at the right time. We always make sure we’ve got a pretty large bill of materials in place. We’ve built that consistency in place with the marketing teams and the product teams. Everyone’s prepared when they’re coming to that front door of the REV center what things need to look like and make sure that we’re able to launch all at the same time.
SS: What are some ways that you go about ensuring that you’re tracking the right metrics across the entire enablement program, today?
RK: Metrics are probably one of the most critical elements of a successful enablement program. Just rarely will you see me or hear me talk about the amount of training that is specifically consumed. How many people completed the training inside of our LMS or courses or webinar that we might have hosted? I’m a lot more around the measurable outputs of it.
Now that is a leading indicator and in a lot of cases training is consumed, but at the end of the day, if everyone consumed their training, but if it still didn’t create more visible opportunities or drive more new business meetings or create more pipeline generation or we’re not improving our win rate, we’re not selling more specific products, then who cares about the training consumed. I try to align all of our metrics with what business partners care about. What’s the most important to the CRO? What’s the most important to the CMO? Whatever their indicators are that are important to them, we want to make sure that we’re measuring the same metrics in the same type of success.
SS: I think that’s fantastic. You talked about the auto body shop analogy, how does enablement prevent and fix potential roadblocks that may happen within your organization?
RK: If you didn’t have that service center analogy, which we experienced initially also and I’ve seen this a lot of other companies, you might have a lot of training going over into specifically your sellers, but maybe the SEs didn’t get that same training or maybe your partners are not getting enabled with the same content at the same time for a new product launch or solution that might be coming out. Those are the roadblocks that you could potentially come across or some of the bottlenecks. Again, it’s making sure that you do all the prep ahead of time, understand that launches have an impact, what you want each team to be able to articulate from an enablement perspective, and build those business partners to make sure that we’re not having delays in making those teams each being very effective.
SS: I want to shift gears a little bit because you also focus a bit on partners and have a partner enablement background. You shared an article on LinkedIn about developing a robust partner enablement strategy and how that’s really a key to driving revenue. Why is partner enablement important to the business, especially in the current economic climate?
RK: Well, for one, it’s how you scale. I truly believe that you have to have a partner motion and the easiest way to be able to do that is by making sure that you’re enabling them. You think about it, you brought up the economic times of today and there are not a lot of companies that are still accelerating at the same headcount they had in the past, so you’ve got to look for other ways how to continue to grow your revenue year over year by 40 or 50%, or whatever the number is, you’ve got to continue that growth rate and partners are truly a great way to be able to do that. It’s hard for partners to be able to help you drive that kind of growth and be able to position your solutions if they’re not enabled and if they don’t understand how you integrate together with things that they might sell today.
They’ve got a book of business, they’ve got customers, they’re working with other solutions, they might be competitive, so helping them understand how that entire architecture goes together, how do they offer the best value to their customers, to their buyers with the solutions that we sell today? If you don’t put them in that position, it makes it really difficult just like it would your internal sellers if they don’t know how to position the value position, the right use cases, and be able to find the right buying personas, it makes things more difficult. I think partners have a unique advantage where they have trusted advisors to these customers.
I think about when I was over at Blue Cross Blue Shield, we leverage a lot of partners to be able to give us insight into if I want to be able to roll out new products if I want to be able to fix some of the problems inside of my company, what’re the best tools to be able to use? Partners are kind of that extension for a lot of business. I think today, in the current economic times, partners are a great way and a great extension of anyone’s business to be able to help, but you need to be able to enable them and teach them what your products do. I’ll even say; give them the same tools, the same demos, the same labs, all of that, open the door of enablement to them as much as you would internally.
SS: I think that is great advice. In closing, do you have any additional advice you’d give to organizations wanting to incorporate an enablement strategy with this model and their business?
RK: I think it’s about alignment. It took us a while to be able to make this journey and be able to get to this type of model. I truly believe that for efficiency it’s definitely a much better model to go through. If you can align and build business partners inside each area and show your metrics of success. Whether you think about customer success, I care about churn and enablement as much as you do, how do we help improve those things? I care about renewal and up, sell as much as you do, how do we measure and build playbooks to be able to support that from a partner perspective? We care about deal reg as I want to make sure that we’re doing everything in enablement to help drive that. Obviously, for sales and SEs, we care about success and demos, we care about success and POVs and again, your measurements and your areas of success are the same as enablement. If you can get to that type of relationship and kind of be kind of the same fabric together, that to me is the power behind being able to build a model like this that works and has everybody essentially rowing their boat in the same direction. If you’re doing that, you’re going faster and you’re going to beat the competition.
SS: I love it. Thank you so much, Rick. I appreciate the time.
RK: Absolutely. 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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