Episode 250: Chiara DiFede on Effective Channel Sales Enablement

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO Podcast. I’m 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 Chiara DiFede from Birdeye join us. Chiara, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Chiara DiFede: Hello, and thank you for having me. I am a sales enablement manager with a focus on partner sales at Birdeye. Birdeye is an all-in-one reputation management platform, and I currently support and focus on enabling our internal sales reps how to effectively sell to our channel partners. Sales ultimately found me like it does most people, and when I found success, I wanted everyone around me to find similar success.

I had an opportunity to dive into the enablement world, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m so happy I took that chance. I constantly seek to expand my own education and I have a multitude of certifications in product management, instructional design, customer success, and leadership development. I really crave to learn and I put myself in situations to learn new things as I find it important to understand what it feels like starting from the beginning and being in a new situation so I can bring that understanding to the programs I create.

SS: We’re excited to have you here. Now, one of the things that I loved about your profile and your background is that you refer to yourself as a behavior and process-focused sales leader. How do you balance both behavior and process in your approach to your enablement programs?

CD: Yeah, good catch. Personally, I find this is where the balance of equality and equity is important to achieve this approach. I recognize that individuals have different learning styles and needs when learning and retaining information in training programs, even if it is aimed at one unified common goal. With the training sessions and content I deliver, I always aim to tailor enablement programs to accommodate these diverse learning preferences by providing a variety of resources such as interactive workshops, eLearning modules, job aids, coaching sessions, and more.

I find when you offer a multitude of different platforms to learn in your programs, you get to see the reps retain their individuality which helps them sell, while still inciting the behaviors needed to succeed in their role. They can still follow that process roadmap needed for them to graduate and prosper at the company.

SS: Now, in your current role, you focus on enabling sales reps to sell to channel partners. What are some of the unique considerations for selling to channel partners?

CD: That is a great question, as it is a very unique role. In short, channel enablement is sales enablement, both for account executives and also for our partner sales teams. When I focus on our internal sales reps, and those account executives, it’s important to enable our AEs to understand the dynamics of the partner, their current operations, where products fit, and align our onboarding team with that structure. This ensures smooth implementation, partner training, and end-client adoption.

Ultimately, what makes it unique is having to go through that extra layer of teaching the AE how to sell and aiming to control the controllable. Not only are we ensuring our internal AEs understand our platform and best practices, but we also have to make sure they’re sharing the best practices with the partner just as we share and train our direct sales reps.

SS: From your perspective, what does good channel sales enablement look like? In other words, what are some of your best practices for enabling reps to sell the channel partners?

CD: To answer that simply, it comes from having a good solid framework and roadmap on what the AEs need to learn. As an enablement manager that comes from ensuring you have constant communication and cross-collaboration internally to set our sales teams up for success, especially when it comes to creating those training programs so that you don’t replicate our process from a direct selling. Partner sales are selling the idea of incorporating your company structure into their agency, not just the idea of products. The more that understanding can be fortified, the more successful AEs will be.

SS: That’s fantastic. Now on LinkedIn, another thing that I had seen that was really cool is that your ultimate goal as an enablement practitioner is to create a sales environment that values learning. How do you motivate reps to engage in learning programs focused on channel sales?

CD: That’s a great question. One thing I found in my career is that everyone I’ve come across is eager to learn, but it’s one thing to teach and provide resources and it’s another thing to have the attention and buy-in from the sales reps themselves. Most importantly, for reps selling into channel sales, the value prop of the training programs needs to be specifically tied to that target audience.

When the rep feels and understands the programs have value and impact on their role, specifically towards partners, and helps them sell to partners, the more engaged they will be. Plus, when reps find success in these calls with these training programs, it gives them a success story to speak to in further calls as well as enablement to utilize in trainings. That way we continue to gain that buy-in, that motivation, and participation from reps.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. What are some of your best practices for creating effective learning programs for sales reps so that they can also maximize their effectiveness with channel sales?

CD: Great question, and I’ll continue to reinforce how important it is for our sales reps to understand the partners they sell to and their business model. Throughout the sales cycle, it is important to encourage reps to get to know the partners, the size of their business, and the unique challenges they face. Understanding the characteristics and personas of the end customer is so crucial to ensure you have the proper information and are therefore offering the right solutions.

An effective way to encourage this, beyond regular scheduled trainings and resources, is by reinforcing this directly by providing feedback on the calls AEs will have with partners throughout the sales cycle. It is made even more helpful to use a call analytics tool that will allow it to be linked to the call directly for the AE to easily refer back to the feedback and that prospect that is exactly tied to it. This allows doors to open up for the AE and the company because, in addition to the coaching provided by enablement, these tools allow sales leaders and managers access to feedback, allowing AEs to have different avenues and perspectives for approaching certain calls.

Furthermore, when calls have feedback attached to them, especially those good calls, those could be used as examples for new AEs entering the company to have an idea of how to apply the knowledge from trainings on an actual call.

SS: Fantastic. Last question for you. What business impact have you seen from effective channel sales enablement?

CD: You will see reps establish more credibility in the sales process and ultimately more closed deals for the company. This really gives them success stories to speak on and use as examples in tandem with the training programs. Not only will you be able to continually add to training programs that you create, but you’ll be able to see the ultimate success, which is an increase in retention, upsell, and overall satisfaction from partners.

SS: Fantastic. Well, Chiara, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

CD: Thank you so much 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’s 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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