Episode 45: Kristen McCrae on 5 Steps for Data-driven Sales 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 they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today I’m excited to have Kristen McCrae with us from Intuit. Kristen, thanks so much for joining us. I would love for you to tell our audience a little bit about yourself, your role, and your organization.

Kristen McCrae: Absolutely, thanks so much for having me today. I’m Kristen McCrae, and I work on the sales enablement and performance team here at Intuit.

SS: So glad to have you. So, you and I met at the Sales Enablement Society’s annual conference recently, and you had a presentation where you talked about having a data-driven mindset for sales enablement. In your opinion, why is that so critical?

KM: It’s such a great question and I think the answer is a little bit tricky, but when I was thinking about why data-driven enablement is so important, it really stems from these statistics that I’ve come across. So, CSO Insights estimates that about 60% of organizations have a sales enablement function, but of those, only 34% of respondents indicated that enablement was actually meeting a majority of their expectations. And I’ve heard similar statistics like this over the past few years, and I started thinking about, as enablement grows, how can we make sure that we have a seat at the table, that we’re respected, and that we’re adding value?

I think that one of the reasons that enablement can be tricky is we wear a lot of hats. We can be the trainer, the go-to person when it comes to product marketing or content, but a lot of the things we work on don’t always impact success. There’s data everywhere, but you have to really find it and track it. And so, when it comes to that data-driven mindset, we have to find a way to quantify our impact – especially if one-third of our audience is feeling like they haven’t seen our impact yet. So, my challenge to every sales enablement practitioner is starting to think about what are you working on, how are you prioritizing it, and how are you measuring success to make sure that data-driven enablement has a seat at the table and is a highly respected field.

SS: I couldn’t agree more, and I do think it is landing on the expectations of what success looks like. So, from your perspective, what are some of the core things sales enablement should track to really demonstrate the return that organizations are making on their investment in sales enablement?

KM: I think it’s also a great question and I think it really comes down to understanding your business and how your business measures success. Every business is going to measure it a little bit differently. Like I said earlier, there is data everywhere, but sometimes it’s hard to find. So, you’ve got to make a commitment of how am I going to find this data, who can help me find it, and what story does it tell? And committing to the fact that with that data you are able to find, you are able to draw conclusions and you’re able to make sure that every single project that you work on has a before and after state when it comes to data. So, specific things that sales enablement should track I’m hesitant to answer. I think it’s more about uncovering what data is out there, what story does it tell, and what are you going to do about it, showing a before and after state of that data.

SS: Absolutely. And you’ve said this a couple times, but with so many potential metrics to measure, how can sales enablement determine and prioritize the right metrics for their business?

KM: Yes, there is so much data to track. And I know a really popular one is time to ramp, as an example. But there is so much more data out there, so you’ve really got to think about where can I start? What I would encourage folks to do is dig in, find metadata, and find how that metadata relates to a core KPI. This for me is what changed the game for me in enablement, when I was able to connect metadata to core KPIs.

Those core KPIs for a business, for a sales leader, might be things like conversion rate, win rate, attach rate, average deal size, time to ramp. You want to look for things that your sales leaders are constantly pulling data about and that your executives with their board are constantly mentioning. Those are things that are top of mind for the business, so what can you do to impact that?

You’ve got to drill into what metadata would correlate or cause here, and how can I find that metadata? What impact does that metadata have on that core KPI. I like to think of it as an onion. There are so many layers to the data. The biggest layer is that core KPI but peel those layers back and there are a lot of things that impact it. And that’s where you want to think about how I can impact that metadata to impact that core KPI.

SS: Absolutely, and I think one other thing too, just because you mentioned it, I think defining certain terms within each organization is also important. You mentioned time to ramp, and I know I’ve had a lot of conversations with different sales enablement that all define even just the word “ramp” a little bit differently. So, I think that you are right, finding a way to ground it in the organization’s core KPIs is really critical.

KM: Yes, it’s so true. There are so many different definitions of data and what it means, and then again, the metadata. So, be very specific in what you’re looking for, what type of data you’ve found, and again, it’s like an onion. If you’re measuring specific coaching data, you can start with coaching effectiveness. Well, how are you measuring that? How can you drill down deeper and deeper? The more you drill down deeper the more you are able to really identify the root cause, like what is causing this, positive or negative? And that’s where enablement gets really exciting, because you can start to build plans around creating results that ultimately impact that core KPI.

SS: Absolutely. So, I know that you’ve done a lot of work on this. How can sales enablement use data strategically to truly quantify impact? Do you have an example of how you’ve used data to craft a compelling message?

KM: So, in terms of how sales enablement can use data strategically to quantify your impact, it all starts with what’s happening now? Where’s the gap? And, how does data tell that story? Every enablement initiative should have a before and an after with a plan that drives that success.

So, as an example of that, I always want to quantify current state, and what I did with one organization is I observed the time that managers were spending. There are so many amazing analytics out there that show correlation between sales coaching and performance. So, we know the more that managers are out there coaching, the more performance will come about. What I did was actually quantify how much sales managers were coaching, and what I found is that on average it was 5-10% of the time. I aligned with my sales leaders and showed that core KPI, that core conversion win rate that was being impacted, and said, what sales coaching percent do you want our managers to get up to and how do you see that impacting your core KPI of win rate? They got really excited and said we should really see managers coaching at least 30-40% of their time, and surely our win rate will increase.

Through this initiative, again from that before and after state, I was able to say right now managers are coaching 5% of the time, through this initiative they are coaching 40% of the time. What we saw was not only an increase in conversion rate, that win rate, that core KPI, but we actually saw a 30% increase in RPC. So, for this specific organization that’s revenue per call, basically average deal size. So overall, we saw substantial increase in both core KPI metrics and what that led us to do was develop future enablement strategies around sales coaching and coaching effectiveness. Because I had that before state and that after state and how I was going to measure success, and that measurement was dictated by sales leadership, I had their buy-in, I had their endorsement, I had their excitement, and I was able to show how sales enablement strategically helped to drive that initiative forward.

SS: That is a very impressive initiative, just kudos on that front. You mentioned alignment, right? So, who are some of the core stakeholders that enablement should partner with to both identify and track the right metrics?

KM: I’ve learned that the more, the merrier with sales enablement. And that’s the tricky part about enablement, there are so many different people you can collaborate with. The more that really play a pivotal role, the better. When it comes to sales leaders, sales ops, marketing, I even try to work with product and engineering. Those folks in product can speak to the product in a way that no one else in the organization typically can. You can learn so much about the product, about the strategy, how it helps customers, and in return you can actually share it back and create that feedback loop with product and engineering about what you are actually seeing from the customers in the market.

So, what I’ve learned with enablement is have as many seats at the table as you can, have one-on-one conversations with folks from every branch of the business, because everyone can offer something really unique, compelling and insightful to help develop your enablement strategy.

I had the pleasure of sitting at a dinner after the Sales Enablement Society gathering, and we were talking about how teams measure success. So often in enablement, we think about sales leaders, sales ops, marketing, product, engineering, and customer success, and they are all these kind of separate silos in the organization, but what happens when those organizations actually share a KPI. And how can enablement be part of that? So, from this really insightful conversation, that’s what I’ve been really focused on lately is what are the shared KPIs across teams that can drive results that everyone is going to be excited about. Enablement really isn’t just sales enablement, it’s go-to-market enablement, it’s company enablement, it’s product enablement. So, what core KPIs can we drive together with a cohesive approach? And that’s just something that’s top of mind in partnering with other stakeholders in the organization.

SS: Definitely. And on developing a sales enablement strategy, you shared in your presentation a 5-step process to execute sales enablement with a data-driven mindset. I’d love for you to disclose those five steps to this audience.

KM: Yes. So, this five-step process is something that I’ve found to be very helpful in starting, building, and executing on a sales enablement initiative. Step one is observing and it’s my favorite spot. Basically, what you do when you observe is you become a sales rep. You ask questions. You want to relentlessly understand your customer and understand the current state. And not only that, but you want to understand what are the gaps and how can you fill them? Once you start to uncover common trends and gaps, you want to quantify that. Where are the gaps, what gaps being filled would drive the biggest change in output? And what can you do about it?

Step two is all about aligning. Share these data-driven observations with your leaders and with your key stakeholders. Have an interactive discussion on why these gaps might be occurring, and bring a few plans, bring a few options to the table on how you might address it.

Once you get their endorsement on “this is a gap that needs to be filled and this is how we can do it”, step 3 is development. Put together a really solid structured plan, and involve those executives, involve those leaders throughout the process. Also, involve key collaborative partners in the organization. The more people involved, excited, and bought in who really understand what their specific role is in driving this project’s success, the better. So, you develop out and you share.

Step four is execution and this is where things can either go very well, or very poorly. The key to execution is make sure that those leaders who were bought in from the start have a key role in that execution. Whether that is sending out emails of enthusiasm, whether that is introducing you when you run a workshop, whether that is constantly reiterating the message you want to send across. Those key leaders need to be bought in and excited, and a key part of the execution.

What I’ve found is that when you quantify and you are data-driven, and you say this gap is going to fill this core KPI, they are always involved and these are the things that they love to do and don’t have enough time to do in their day-to-day. So, it’s something that they are typically excited about being a part of, along with those other stakeholders. They all want to have a piece of the puzzle, and the more excited you get them, the more they understand clearly what their role is and how their success is measured, the more bought in they are going to be.

Also, enablement can be tricky. Sometimes you are asking people to change or try something new or different. So, when you have leaders there, they are really able to help you navigate that change management process. If you get pushback, whatever might happen, the leaders have your back, and you can really to work together to continue forward.

Step five is the really fun part, it’s quantifying. So, you’ve observed current state and you’ve quantified it – did those results happen? Why or why not? It is not a failure if you don’t have the results that you expected. That’s a compelling story in itself. So really dive deep, commit to understanding the metadata and the core KPI. What happened, what worked really well, and then build upon that as a foundation.

Make sure that when you quantify, you don’t just put it out in an email, but you have time committed with those leaders who have been bought in from the start to give yourself credit. It’s okay to give yourself a pat on the back. I think the really exciting part about this is if you are really able to quantify your results and your learnings, then you are really able to justify your ROI. So, going back to an earlier point in the conversation, you’re able to say I brought value to the organization, here’s how I was a part of doing that – of course with many other folks involved. That’s where you get a seat at the table, that’s where you generate your ROI, and that’s where you’re able to build your team, become a highly respected business partner of the organization. I think that should be every sales enablement professional’s goal, to have that seat at the table through quantifying your impact.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. And thanks so much for sharing your tips and tricks on how to get there. As my closing question to you, I would love – and I think I have a guess on how this will go – but as sales enablement continues to evolve, you do you envision the success metrics for sales enablement evolving?

KM: It’s a fascinating question and one I love thinking about. I think that metrics are going to become a core responsibility and part of sales enablement. When a company is looking to hire a sales enablement professional, being stat-driven is going to be a must-have. And quantifying your impact is going to be an absolute ultimatum. I think it is so critical that we start to focus on those success metrics that tie to those core KPIs, and enablement is going to be part of that. When I talked about those shared KPIs earlier, enablement is going to get a seat at the table, but enablement is going to be responsible for showing here’s what I did that helped impact that core KPI.

My advice would be, when you think about what you can work on tomorrow, how you can become more data-driven, stay-focused. Enablement can be tasked with so many different things in an organization, but just because those are the things you are tasked with now, doesn’t mean those are the things you’ll be tasked with tomorrow. Stay focused on just a few things you can deliver, really be methodical and strategic, develop that five-step process around an enablement initiative, and show your results. But focus, dive deep, and have more of a singular focus that wearing many hats. That allows you to really define enablement within your organization as a strategic function, and help drive future success, also help really impact the future things you are able to work on.

So, when I think about success metrics, I think they are going to be tied to KPIs, but I think we’re going to have to stay really focused on what can enablement do, how can enablement be a strategic business partner, and what is the meta-data that we’re impacting that impacts those core KPIs.

SS: Phenomenal advice. Thank you so much, Kristen. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

KM: Of course, it was really fun.

SS: To our audience, thank you 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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