Episode 58: Jennifer Lopopolo on Defining Clear Foundations for Sales Enablement Deliverables
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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 Jennifer Lopopolo, director of global sales enablement at Poly join us. Jennifer, I’d love for you to just introduce yourself, your title, and your organization.
Jennifer Lopopolo: Yeah. Great. My name is Jennifer Lopopolo and I work for Poly. I joined the company about three months ago. I lead the sales enablement, sales and field enablement, practice here at Poly.
SS: Excellent. And you also recently participated in a panel at the Sales Enablement Soirée in San Francisco, and you mentioned the importance of putting processes in place to align on KPIs with other departments. Why is it important from your perspective for other departments to have visibility into sales enablement deliverables and vice-versa?
JL: I believe that at the end of the day, we’re all trying to achieve the same goals. Normally you have a sales leader and the CEO who are defining the go-to-market strategy and the operations requirements. What we’re going to need to do in order to be successful as an organization. And every organization in the company really needs to align with those goals.
So, what I find often happens is that we’re all going off after the same things. And so it’s important to distinguish between what we’re going to deliver and how that’s going to help make the number, differently than maybe say marketing or channel, and how we’re all playing a part in bringing those numbers to bear.
I think a lot of people try to say that enablement is going to lead to greater revenue, but it’s really hard to measure that and then show that your team or your deliverables were the ones that made that impact. So, I believe that understanding what specifically your team’s going to do that’s going to influence those numbers and understanding what others are doing really helps you all align to where you’re playing that role and how you contribute to the overall goals of the organization.
SS: And you had also mentioned during the panel that one of the ways that you’re trying to tackle this is by creating a joint planning process. Now, I would love for our audience to get some really tactical tips and tricks from you here on how you’re building that process and what that process includes.
JL: Well, it’s maybe changing a little bit because we just had a new sales leader join the organization and there’s been some shifting of rules. But the concept ideally is that as the organization is defining the go-to-market strategy that’s going to support that, the annual operating goals, that enablement would be part of the deliverables that are defined to support that so that we’re not an afterthought. We’re part of the solution to meeting those goals.
And I’m hoping that the way that we’re going to do this is that my direct manager, who’s now leading advocacy and sales enablement, she has briefing centers as well as my function and the content strategy team, that she’ll be an integral part of that planning process. And as part of that, we’ll be looking at what the enablement outcomes need to be to support the plans.
SS: I love that. And you had also mentioned just now that enablement can often be an afterthought. They often have a lot of competing priorities. How have you gone about determining what sales enablement priorities should be for your team and what advice would you have for others that are trying to identify their own priorities?
JL: Well, it might be harder in a large organization, but you know, we’re a $2 billion organization, so we’re kind of in what I consider a medium size. So, it’s easy for us to have direct alignment with what’s going on at a quarterly basis from a sales perspective. And we get direct insight on that to understand what sales motions we’re going to need to really influence in order for us to meet our numbers. I mean, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all trying to do. So, if we know that our theaters or regions are having difficulty in a particular area, we would then want to prioritize the deliverables for that quarter.
So that’s how we look at our business and we really think, where are we having challenges in our sales cycle and meeting our numbers and how can we close those gaps with enablement?
SS: I love that. And I’d love to ask the question because you mentioned this earlier as well, that it’s hard to measure sales enablement directly to revenue correlation. But in the example that you just gave, I love how you were already talking about how you are going to kind of measure whether or not sales enablement was moving the needle a little more. Broadly speaking, outside of that specific initiative, what are some of the ways in which you think sales enablement should measure its impact on the business? Maybe beyond just revenue.
JL: Well, it depends on the program that you’re delivering, the enablement program that you’re delivering. For example, onboarding might have a different measurement than your continuous learning model. That’s because you’ll have specific goals for that program. So, one of the things that I’ve been working with my team on is to really understand why we’re developing that program to begin with. What is it that sellers need to be able to do, at the end of that program, and then being able to map back to that to show the effectiveness of it?
If it’s onboarding, it’s time to performance. How are they performing today? What does performance really mean? Is it that they’re able to articulate the value proposition? Is it that they’re increasing their pipeline more quickly than they would’ve if they didn’t go through the program? So, really getting a little bit finer insight into what that program is designed to do.
SS: I love that. It sounds like you are making a strong effort to really set these and establish the foundation of good initiatives at the onset, so that’s fantastic.
JL: Yeah, I think it’s important because the other reason that’s important is because how do you know what to develop or deliver? If you haven’t defined that well, you could just be shooting at anything. It’s not as clear what those deliverables should be, or what they should look like. So, I think it’s really critical.
SS: Absolutely. And something that I’ve spoken with a few other practitioners about now is it’s really making sure that everything that you’re doing as a sales enablement function is laddering up to those big core initiatives for the sales organization. As you mentioned a moment ago, that’s something that you guys do at Poly. So, I think you guys are definitely on the right track from that standpoint.
JL: Yeah. I feel like we have really good alignment. Excellent.
SS: Excellent. On the topic of alignment, I think sales enablement’s role is also critical to breaking down silos and coordinating cross-functionally with other departments. What are some of the ways in which you’ve done that within your organization?
JL: Well, I’ve been really fortunate because I just started in this role. I think there were some good programs in place and everybody knows generally who our stakeholders are. We have some regular cadence of meetings that were already established with these stakeholders before I joined the organization. But one of the things that I did personally was I went out and I scheduled 30-minute meetings with the key stakeholders, the people who have a stake in providing content to the organization or maybe supporting a different audience other than just the direct sellers. And I tried to understand what they felt was working today and what they wanted to see differently.
And then it’s not just about collecting that information from them, it’s about going back and sharing with them what you learned across the different teams and what you’re going to do about it. I think so often, people go out, they collect information, and they go back to their team and they start doing without closing that gap to realign people to what solutions you’re recommending and getting agreement that those are the right things to be focused on, that you heard them well. So it’s really about building those relationships, building some credibility and trust that you’re listening to them and we’re all working together towards the same goals.
SS: Absolutely. And I think just touching on, on that point, I think goal alignment with a lot of those cross-functional stakeholders is, is absolutely critical and continuing to build that relationship and that trust. What are some of the cross-functional teams, that might not be as common?
So, you had mentioned marketing earlier on, which is often a stakeholder to sales enablement. What other teams within the organization do you find sales enablement is frequently partnering with and how do you align goals to those departments that might not naturally work as closely with sales enablement?
JL: Yeah. I would say the channel partner organization, the SE organization, the CSM team, all of those teams have similar needs and inside sales. Even though we often lead with just selling motions, we tend to forget that our partners have to solve what we have to offer as well.
Then oftentimes, you’re throwing things over the fence to the partner organization that they need to redo. One of the big things I’m focused on right now is having better alignment with that channel team and it seems to be working so far. I initially set the charter with them, let them know how I saw our role in the organization, and we had some agreement on where the break-off was when I’m designing processes so that when we kick off an initiative for training, we include them at the very beginning to define how our channel account managers need content that might be in the same area, but designed just a little bit differently. And how we might be able to create those content elements so that they may just have to add on another little piece or just customize it slightly so that it can be leveraged for the partners.
So, I think everybody’s anxious to utilize our resources better. And if you as an enablement person can show how you’re optimizing resources and still allowing them to drive their own requirements and initiatives, but you’re working together to solve the same problem, it’s a big win for the team.
SS: Absolutely. And just as a closing question, I suppose given all of these cross-functional teams that you work with, they obviously often come to enablement with requests as well. So, how do you go about optimizing the sales enablement resources that you have to really be able to tackle all of those initiatives across the various teams?
JL: Well, I’ve organized my team by program and audience primarily. So, I have one person who’s dedicated to the SEs and the SAE training, but he also has responsibility for our sales and presales certifications that are used both internally and for our partners.
I have someone else who is focused specifically on selling skills. And then I have an individual who’s responsible for our just-in-time learning or continuous learning. So, the regular cadence of product updates, industry updates, competitive updates, as well as then an onboarding person. That’s a very good, cohesive team and I just try to keep us all together.
When the requests are coming in, we look at them and prioritize them against what we might already be doing and determine if we have a need to shift priorities. And obviously that’s not just my decision. I’d be working collaboratively with my manager and our extended team of content strategy members who would also weigh in on those decisions.
SS: Excellent. Well, I know that you’re new to the role, but Poly is very lucky to have you join the sales enablement team there. Thank you so much for joining us here on this podcast today.
JL: Thank you.
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.