Episode 62: Pam Dake on Sales Enablement as a Vehicle for Growth

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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 Pam Dake, senior director of global sales enablement from Accela, join us. Pam, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your title, and your organization.

Pam Dake: Thank you so much, Shawnna. My name is Pam Dake, and I am the senior director for global sales enablement here at Accela. Accela, just to provide you with a little bit of information, we provide a platform of solutions that help state and local governments build strong communities, help businesses grow, and deliver citizen services. Our SaaS offerings offer a way to level the playing field for our small and medium governments so that they can be better enabled small agencies and take advantage of big city technologies, if you will.

SS: Thank you so much for joining us, Pam. And you actually also recently participated in a panel at the Sales Enablement Soirée event in San Francisco, and you had mentioned that you see sales enablement as being a key liaison to breaking down silos across an organization. From your perspective, how does sales enablement’s purview help to facilitate breaking down those barriers?

PD: Oh, I absolutely agree that this provides the perfect opportunity for sales enablement to have a strategic impact organizationally. The idea and the concept of sales enablement was really born out of the need to help bridge the gap between sales content users and marketing, the content creators. And as time has progressed, sales enablement has seen a lot of real traction because its evolved significantly from its initial days of being equated with sales training. It’s now being a strategic partner with executive leadership to help drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction.

And honestly, all of this can only be possible if the role of sales enablement is clearly defined and agreed upon throughout the company. The way I describe what sales enablement encompasses a lot of times is to talk about it falling under three main pillars, and those three pillars being training, communications, and culture. Training, to define that, is the skills and knowledge on your products or services, and skills on sales, as well. Communications to support the training, internal programs, and help sales keep in touch with internal stakeholders and keep them informed of new processes.

And then the third one being culture. This is the one, honestly, I get the most questions about. But what it means is to support the unique needs of a geographically dispersed and very diverse organization of sellers that can only be supported if your enablement approach is predictable, consistent, and repeatable. Therefore, it can be relied upon to become what I call, “the source of truth”, and allow a lot of home office team members to feel more connected with corporate, each other, and the overall momentum, if you will, of the business.

SS: Fantastic. And I also think sales enablement plays a very huge role in the customer’s experience with an organization. How, from your perspective, can breaking down silos help improve the customer experience?

PD: The bottom line is that all companies exist to serve our customers. And without customers, there honestly wouldn’t be any reason to be in business. I’m not saying that to be coming from a doom and gloom approach, but instead, because it sets the stage for how important it is for the entire company to be focused on the same goals, with each department understanding their impact and their role for where their job starts and stops, and then how the handovers happen from team to team, and then how those handoffs impact that process. And therefore, I think it drives better engagement with initial prospect meetings through those ongoing successful customer relationships.

SS: Absolutely. We know that sales enablement has a huge impact on the customer experience. But let’s take a lens inward a little bit, because I think you also had mentioned on the panel that sales enablement has a responsibility to foster the culture of the sales organization. I’d love to hear from you some ways that sales enablement can do so.

PD: Absolutely. Thank you for asking a follow-up on that because again, I know a lot of people tend to have questions about what do you mean by culture? And so I’ll go a little bit further down the path of defining that because it really, truly is, from my perspective, a critical pillar for sales enablement. Because they defined it as supporting the unique needs of geographically dispersed in a very diverse organization of sales folks, it can be frequently overlooked because honestly, it’s not necessarily as tangible or as easily measurable as sometimes training and communication can be. With that being said, however, I still think there are very impactful and, quite frankly, measurable ways that we can help support the unique needs of many remote sellers.

They fall, from my standpoint, under three categories. The first one being creating and supporting unique groups of sellers and setting up ongoing ways that they can stay in touch with you as a sales enablement expert and with each other on an ongoing basis. So, communication being the key to helping foster that culture. This can be done in so many different ways. There are so many different things that we can leverage now with technology nowadays. You can have regular meetings in person, virtually set up ongoing IM groups, training sessions, and so much more. That way, they’re able to feel supported by other people within their similar roles and others that they don’t necessarily interact with ongoing because they’re in very different regions.

For example, the second one would be fostering a community with sales leadership. So very similarly, what I was talking about with your direct sellers and your sales reps, sales leadership and fostering that community culture with them is also critically important. And I believe you can do a lot of the same things with sales leadership and keeping them in touch with each other, as well. And one category that I think is really an important area to focus on with sales leadership, which really helps foster culture quickly with them, is coaching.

Coaching is so many times an underserved area and overlooked area for making sure that our frontline sales managers are impactful in what they’re doing. They’re really helping our frontline sellers, and not always just jumping into deals, but instead are able to really help the frontline sellers be as effective as they possibly can be.

And then that third area, if we’re talking about ways that you can help support the many unique needs of remote sellers, would be aligning sales with customer success and other customer-facing teams. So much is being talked about these days with regards to customer success really being a critical point of engagement with your ongoing customer audience and how the tide is now shifting for them to potentially have a quota and be a part of that sales process. The more that you can align sales with customer success and other customer-facing teams, this also keeps them feeling connected to the company, to the culture, and with each other.

SS: So, I think that those are some great ways in which to foster that culture. How can improving sales culture impact the business? Because you had actually mentioned that at the very beginning, that there are some measurable ways. I’d love for you to explain to our audience what some of those might be.

PD: Oh, absolutely. Improving the sales culture, I believe, can have a direct impact and be very measurable, because you’re also affecting the overall momentum for sales and the business because people feel supported. And they feel in-the-know with what’s happening in corporate and within their other teams with which they work.

In addition, it can help break down those silos back to what we had talked about in the beginning, because sales teams now become more connected with each other. And via ongoing group meetings or communications or training sessions, they have that opportunity to stay connected. So that’s sort of repeating what I said in the last question, but back to really what you had asked, how do we impact the business and how do we showcase that?
And the importance of measuring is key.

When you take a look at the activities that you’re doing as a sales enablement team, I’ve typically called them “engage in enablement” engagement. And what that is meaning is it’s the consumption of programs, training, or communications. It’s all of what you and the team are producing for enablement, but then aligning that to how the business is being measured.

How are the board and the executive team measuring the success of sales? How is the board and the executive team measuring the success of the company and aligning your progress, aligning what the sales enablement team is producing to those measures? And showing success is where you can really see the momentum and the impact of fostering that culture.

SS: Absolutely. I think that sales enablement is definitely in a position to help organizations with growth, just full stop. I’d love your advice on how sales enablement can position itself as a function though for strategic growth within an organization.

PD: I think this is a great follow-up to your last question because I think the answer to this one is all about proving your worth in what you’re doing from a sales enablement function with quantitative data. Like I mentioned in the last question, whether that be around quota attainment, pipeline generation, revenue attainment, the more that you’re able to align that to your specific drivers for what you’re doing for enablement and following those trends over time. Meaning, are your sellers consuming your enablement programs? Are you seeing over time that they’re finding value because they are generating more pipeline, because they are driving revenue forward?

And showcasing over time that the more of your sellers are engaged with your programs, the more they are attaining and meeting business measures that we’re looking to drive forward. The more you’re able to then set the stage and set the tone for the team, feeling supported, getting value from what you’re providing, and honestly allowing yourself the opportunity to grow as an enablement function.

All of this, however, really needs to start with a strategy. And a strategy that defines not only what and who you are, but also then takes it further down the path of, that’s great to set the strategy and the tone for who you are and talk about enablement from a theoretical perspective, but honestly, it’s the details for how you’re going to tactically execute against milestones to make sure you achieve your strategy that are going to become critically important.

And the more you’re able to carry those messages forward, not just with sales, not just with marketing, but also with your other customer-facing teams, to be able to all be in alignment so that your strategy isn’t a strategy in a vacuum, if you will. It’s a strategy that encompasses all of the other teams that serve your customers. It becomes a very successful motion for what you’re doing, that aligns truly to what the business is looking to achieve.

SS: That’s a fantastic response to that question. And I think while sales enablement absolutely is a lever by which organizations can have strategic growth, I think it’s interesting that sales enablement also as a function within the organization is kind of experiencing its own rapid growth and is being elevated to a strategic function within a lot of organizations. I would love to hear from you some of the challenges that come along with this rapidly evolving function of sales enablement, and how sales enablement teams that are in this position can continue to grow, but scale with excellence.

PD: You’re absolutely right, Shawnna. Sales enablement is becoming more and more ever-present, and more and more you hear companies establishing formal sales enablement programs. Honestly, the reason behind that is because sales enablement has started to get traction. Companies are able to prove via a lot of the ways that we had talked about a little bit earlier in our time together, with how you measure what you’re doing from a sales enablement function. And the challenges that really exist when companies bring on a new team – or one person even as you get started to focus on sales enablement – is first and foremost defining what truly is and isn’t sales enablement. That’s where I find a lot of challenges exist for sales enablement teams that are just getting started.

This is almost back to the beginning of our conversation, but we had talked about the fact that sales enablement in the very beginning had typically equated itself with sales training.
Everyone said, “well, sales enablement equals sales training, so if we just train the sales teams, they’ll be fine.” And that clearly is not going to be the answer. And that’s actually why the term sales enablement came about and why it’s really important to define what falls within and what falls outside of sales enablement.

The way that I’ve been able to do that is by articulating those three pillars and carrying that message forward time and time again. It helps really better define whether or not a program or a focus area is something that’s going to fall within sales enablement or it’s going to fall outside of it and maybe be more of a marketing program or be something that’s going to be with ongoing customer relationships in how you’re servicing them from a customer success standpoint.

I would say my words of advice, if you are someone getting enablement started within your organization, first and foremost, have someone fully dedicated to sales enablement. Sales enablement is not a part-time job. And then once you have that established, defining it and articulating with all of your internal stakeholders, time and again, exactly what sales enablement covers. And I truly think identifying those and articulating what falls within those three pillars of training, communications, and culture and driving those forward is a great way to get started so that you have less frequent challenges as you look to grow and expand what you’re doing relatively quickly.

SS: I think that’s fantastic advice. Pam, thank you so much for joining us today.

PD: Absolutely. I very much enjoyed it. 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.

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