Episode 251: Bana Kawar on Driving Sales Performance Through Everboarding

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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 Bana Kawar from AWS join us. Bana, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Bana Kawar: Thank you very much, Shawnna. Hello, everyone who’s listening to this podcast, and a shout out to all enablement professionals all over the world. My name is Bana, and oftentimes people think of a banana without an A to remember my name here in the UK. I look after the UK public sector enablement here at Amazon Web Services. I have been with the company for seven and a half years now in different functions and different countries. I currently spearhead the enablement function here in the public sector and help the organization grow to what it is today and reach our organizational outcomes.

Apart from work, I have a huge passion for ID&E. I try to call it IDEA where possible, where A stands for action. It’s inclusion, diversity, equity, and action. I’ve co-founded the EMEA chapter, along with two other Amazonians to reach where we are today. I love to mentor and empower different leaders on different topics. I’m a career coach as well. That’s a bit about me, Shawnna. I look forward to our discussion today.

SS: Absolutely. Likewise. I look forward to digging into that with you as well. Now to get started, for our audience and sales enablement, which I’m sure they can all relate to, you are extremely passionate about driving excellence in sales performance. I’d love to start there. From your perspective, how does enablement strategically influence sales performance?

BK: A lot of organizations, including ours, are focused on growth. I truly believe as an enablement function, we have key responsibility, and also a pleasure to be part of that journey as well. If I look at my current role for the UK, we’re trying to hit 1 billion business this year, and enablement is helping to drive insights that would help sellers in different orgs and different roles from ISRs, account managers, business developers, partner teams, etc, to drive those valuable conversations with their customers and help them on their key missions. I really think when enablement is aligned to the business and also aligned to revenue ops or business ops, depending on how organizations define it, you can influence strategically as well.

The last piece that comes to mind is how enablement can play a role in reducing time to market. When you’re enabling teams to be more adaptive versus reactive, you are already helping in reducing that time to launch and ramp up faster. Finally, the downstream impact of this is having more time and more focused resources to drive high-velocity decisions and build better products from there. In a nutshell, that’s three different ways, how I see enablement playing a role in the business strategy.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. One of your areas of expertise is really around building everboarding programs that continue to align with those organizational goals. I’d love to hear more about your everboarding programs. What are some of your best practices for building everboarding programs that drive sales performance? In other words, what does good everboarding look like?

BK: I really believe in the power of everboarding because it also shows that you’re a learn it all organization versus a know it all organization. I truly believe in any function, learning does not stop when you hit that 90-day mark that oftentimes is the industry standard for onboarding. That continuous learning journey is ongoing in so many different ways and functions. To build a good everboarding program I think you could look at it and dissect it into different ways.

The first one is the discovery piece. Truly understanding what are some of the problem statements that you’re solving for. In today’s world, we have a tsunami of information, and people are overwhelmed with how much they should get up to speed on. An everboarding program should sometimes also be a refresher. We have recharge programs here and I really think some of those key skills that a lot of people learn in their early selling journey are needed very much in everboarding programs. Examples that come to mind include prospecting, objection handling, mission understanding, and negotiation skills. Those are key to any seller in any role, and sometimes those refreshers can be absolutely valuable to drive those customer conversations and reduce time to ramp.

The second piece that comes to mind is making sure you’re always up to date with what’s happening in the market. That brings me to the second point product knowledge and market understanding. A lot of SaaS companies have so many solutions and products that they’re trying to bring to market and one way to really do that is certifying reps and making sure that they’re actually going through the knowledge check and getting certified on a specific use case. I’m a firm believer in having certifications on any new product releases and also on new market trend understanding because that also shows your customer that you are meeting them where they need you to be as well.

Last but not least, an everboarding program, or as a matter of fact, any enablement program, should align with business objectives. That includes successful OKRs to measure their success and iterate from there. If I zoom out, those are the three key things I would look at from an everboarding perspective and build from there.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. Bana, what would you say the importance is of having everboarding programs rather than just onboarding programs?

BK: One of the things that are important in any organization is staying agile and moving to a learning journey continuously. As I mentioned before, the learn it versus know it all, because of the pace and the agility that the market is moving towards. I think having everboarding programs is not nice to have, it is an absolute must-have, in my humble opinion, to be successful and have your position in the market lead and truly help to solve one customer problem at a time. A beautiful way to do that is to help grow the business and grow your own knowledge as well, whether you’re a seller, a partner, or even someone in enablement because I believe that you should enable the enablement org as well. You do that through creating everboarding programs to maintain that high performance, and retention, and also hit your OKRs at the end of the day.

SS: Absolutely. Everboarding is increasingly important, especially as you try to make sure that you’re maximizing the productivity of your in-sync sales team. Now your everboarding programs have reached upwards of 400 employees globally. What tips do you have maybe for our audience who are also trying to create enablement programs on a global scale?

BK: I really believe that scale happens a bit easier than what we expect when we’re solving the right problem. What I’ve noticed at Amazon, as an example, is that the problem statement is often shared across different functions and across different geographies versus only the actual customers that you’re looking after. That brings me to the first part of problem-solving, which is ensuring that the discovery phase is done really well. What I mean by that is what problem to solve first, and from there, you move into the solution.

Enablement could and should, in my opinion, spend a bit of time on the discovery phase understanding first, is that problem statement shared across? Is that a global or regional problem only? You do that by asking the same set of questions as an example across the board to understand who’s the customer at this point. What are some of the key missions that they’re solving for? Who are the customer profiles that they look at at the moment? What is their impact on the industry? What vertical do they sit in? What are some of the KPIs that they’re assessed against? More often than not, sellers have similar metrics, but different numbers that they need to hit. That’s one way how to approach it when you’re trying to scale as well before you move into build mode.

The second part that brings me to the ID&E is any perspective because I’m a huge believer in getting different perspectives and getting content reviews and content even being created by different people across the company and having that cross-functional and cross-pollination happening to build the best products you have so they get that impact that they need.

The third piece, if I’m thinking of the power of scaling, is what happens afterward. How do you make sure that you tie in your input with your output through what we call a mechanism? That’s when you build through iterations and have a phased approach and a very clear feedback process built in and weaved done and you hold yourself and your stakeholders accountable to make sure that whatever you’re building is insisting on the highest standards and also really impacting the end customer and helping them move faster towards their mission. If you put those 3 things together, that’s when a beautiful Venn diagram is shaped and you see the impact of what we think of as the power of scaling.

SS: I think that is amazing. You have done a phenomenal job building these programs at scale. Now, as you mentioned in your introduction, you are also a co-founder of the EMEA inclusion, diversity, and equity chapter. I think you also had action at the end of that at AWS. How do you incorporate ID&E best practices into your enablement programs, and what would you say is the impact of doing so?

BK: I love that question, Shawnna. Thank you for addressing it, especially in today’s world where ID&E is really helping a lot of customers understand what is important and how to create that diverse product line, and best programs, and build better. To achieve this, in my opinion, the first thing you could also look at is how you could address some of the biases we all have. Everyone has biases, including myself, and those are just the mental shortcuts you have in your programs and the content you produce. The first thing that I try to address when I have a new program is to build an advisory board and have different people with different experiences and backgrounds to help build this up.

You can cover it from different angles. If we focus on and double click on the enablement programs, you could also have people from different functions that you look after, like sales ops or biz ops, who should be part of that. The other pieces, having different and equal representation from your customers, for example, different geographies that you cover, different countries, different verticals, different personas, et cetera, bring that experience that you actually need to build that best product. If anyone wants a practitioner tip, one of the things that really helped me uncover some of those biases and understand them better is the Harvard Project Implicit Test to uncover some of those biases and address them.

The second piece you could do is also have diverse speakers when you build those programs. Building the content and having the content reviews and the advisory board is one thing and then you move into the build phase. That’s where diverse speakers can help refine their program, and bring that message to different folks. That can already embed representation within having different levels of seniority and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups throughout the process versus just calling it global and having speakers from one country, as an example.

The last topic, which is a dear topic to my heart and something that I’m trying now to learn more about is neurodivergence. A lot of products that we create sometimes have technical jargon and not the simplest visual aids that people should understand. We can take a step back and think from different perspectives and throughout that advisory board that you build, you can understand the different needs. For example, how do you build for people with visual impairment? How do you build for people with dyslexia? Understanding your neurodivergent customers in different sectors can be overwhelming at the beginning, but it is an absolute must to have that inclusive and best product. Those are the three key ingredients that come into play for enablement.

The key ingredient from all of that is woven in through communication. When you have communication flowing, bottom-up, top-down, and sideways, you make sure that you’re also using that inclusive language and embodying inclusion throughout to make adjustments where you need and stay humble. As I mentioned at the beginning, the A part comes into play. It’s not enough to say we care about ID&E, but not embed ID&E throughout the content and the programs that we build. Every seller deserves an equal chance to have the best impact they could have on their customer, and it starts with the enablement team to do that. That’s my two cents on ID&E and enablement, Shawnna.

SS: I love that. The last question for you, recently I saw a post from you on LinkedIn about how generative AI is really transforming businesses, including some of the ways that it influences the ID&E space. How do you think I will influence how you create and deliver enablement programs in the next year and maybe even beyond?

BK: I really believe that in today’s world, we have far more accessibility on the topic of AI than ever before, thanks to generative AI. AI has been around for a while now, and whether we thought about it or not, it has shaped how we learn in different ways. Whether we think of it in person-wise self-learning and customized versions of learning, into chatbots, which is quite prominent in today’s world, having virtual assistance, simulated learning has been around for quite some time in today’s world.

What I believe is important is how we’re using it and the ethical framework around it because it’s here to stay. I really think those tools can help us if used right, and if it’s a stress test and the accuracy is measured that it can help us be more productive. It also can help us reduce our time to impact our time to market. When we have that embedded in our processes, for example in our text summarizing that we could leverage, for example, generative AI for it can already have an impact on our sellers, and that will have the dominant effect on the end customer that we are already helping them on their mission.

I do believe that AI and generative AI can absolutely personalize learning experiences and provide real-time performance insights, let alone automate content delivery. I really think it’s important to develop those mechanisms and I would also stress the ethical framework around it to build for impact and build for performance. I’d like to tie that with what I mentioned in one of my answers earlier today about having a more agile and adaptive selling team. You do that when you use the resources that are available to you to help your learners grow in their own journey and remain obsessed with the right technology at the right time and the right way.

SS: I think that is phenomenal. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your insight.

BK: Thank you for having me, really enjoyed listening and having that discussion with you, Shawnna.

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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