Podcast

Episode 75: Kunal Pandya on Building Your Sales Enablement Tech Stack

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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 in the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Kunal from HighRadius join us.

Kunal, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Kunal Pandya: Sure. Firstly, thank you for inviting me to speak to you about a subject that is very close to me based on what I do and how I do it. In terms of what I do: I am the senior director for global sales enablement at HighRadius.

And HighRadius provides innovative cloud AI-driven solutions that help companies to achieve their working capital and cash flow goals. And it does this through the automation of their accounts receivable processes. So, when times are tough, it’s very important for companies to be able to optimize their cash flow and working capital, and that’s exactly what we help them to do.

SS: Fantastic. Well, I’m so excited that you were able to join us. You and I have worked closely together over the years and I know that you are deeply submersed in the sales enablement space. As part of that, you’ve done a lot of evaluation into the supporting tech stack that a lot of sales enablement practitioners need to drive really tangible business results within their organization. I’d love to hear from you kind of what are some of those essential elements of a sales enablement tech stack?

KP: Sure. Firstly, I’ll assume that the company has a baseline CRM platform to manage the sales master data, right? So, things like leads, accounts, contacts, opportunities, and the associated reporting vets required based off of that.

When they think about driving results specifically, we can categorize into various KPIs. What do we mean by results? Things related to sales performance or sales proficiency, or perhaps even sales productivity. Those are the three sort of key KPI categories that I drive my results based off of.

What is deemed as an essential element of the sales enablement tech stack will obviously depend on the company’s challenges and perhaps what their priorities may be at that point in time. For example, for KPIs under sales performance where we’re talking about things like win rates, quota attainments, pipeline growth, and the ability to forecast as accurately as possible. Tools within the pipeline and analytics tech stack could be essential, and these are tools that allow your sales teams to obtain an accurate picture of the pipeline to forecast better using AI or predictive intelligence, as well as account-based planning. When it comes to pipeline solutions around database management, contact lists, relationship management, networking and account research and discovery, it could be key as well.

You also mentioned sales proficiency. Here we fell into KPIs around things like time-to-ramp, coaching sessions delivered, sharpening the source sessions, best practice propagation across your sales force. And that’s essentially all about tools that enable your sales teams to develop into consistent high-performance. How do we bridge the gap in terms of performance? That technology is all about learning and development, sales coaching, and onboarding, right? Pretty straightforward things, so I would classify that as essential as well.

And finally, I mentioned sales productivity and I guess this relates to KPIs such as time spent selling, adoption and measurement of processes, and content and playbooks. So, how can we ensure that our sales team is able to focus on those key activities that takes the most amount of effort and that actually can move the needle as opposed to tasks such as finding or creating content or struggling to understand processes, not knowing how to use the tools that they have, or perhaps even manual administrative tasks and so on?

There will be other areas such as sales effectiveness, engagement and experience, as well as customer engagement and experience. But I guess what I’ve described here covers the most common elements.

SS: I love that, and I think that that is a very good description of the sales enablement tech stack. Now for sales enablement professionals that may be a little newer to the profession or maybe are in the early stages of evaluating a sales enablement tool, what are some good resources that you’d recommend people look at to learn more about the sales enablement technology landscape?

KP: Yeah, that’s a great, great question. It can often feel like a minefield and I remember a time when I was evaluating vendors for a certain type of software, I was receiving 10 to 15 emails a day on new technologies I’ve never heard of. So it can get a little bit convoluted and it can become a bit overwhelming, but I guess I can recommend the two key resources that I’ve used in the past.

Firstly, if you’re out in the market evaluating sales enablement technology, make sure you’re a part of the Sales Enablement Society. This is a group of thousands of like-minded individuals around the world who are tackling the same challenges and requirements that you may have. So within the discussion forums on the society itself, you’re likely able to find the answers that you need. Well at least have the ability to ask the questions where people like myself and many of us can contribute towards answering them. So that’s the Sales Enablement Society.

Secondly, resources such as G2 Crowd are very useful to help you narrow down what you’re looking for. If you have a long list and you want to narrow it down to a short list, it can provide you with some good insights into the tools and technology you’re evaluating.

But ultimately, I feel that people are the greatest resource, so people with stories and experiences and even the battle scars, perhaps. So, having connections to other sales enablement practitioners is extremely valuable in my opinion.

SS: Those are three really great resources. Now I want to shift and talk a little bit about key criteria. So, what are some of the key criteria that practitioners should consider when they’re assessing solutions to find the right fit for their organization?

KP: That’s a great question. The first thing I’d say is base the criteria around the business challenges that you’re trying to solve. Let’s ensure that all of that criteria are focused on the task at hand and we’re not just listening to what we’re searching or what’s on a website or what vendors are telling us, but what are the business challenges you’re trying to solve? What are the KPIs that relate to those areas? That helps to boil it down to a company’s pure business requirements, and therefore the criteria you need. And that criteria may differ based on the type of solutions you’re assessing. Different software categories, solution categories may have different criteria, but I guess I can probably recommend some common themes across all solution categories.

The first one I’d say is vendor credibility and that relates to things like the buying experience. What has been your buying experience so far and how would you evaluate that? Things like their response rates. Also, what does a customer base look like? Do you feel that they’re focused on perhaps the large customers or small to midsize customers, depending on who you are.

Another important consideration for vendors is the ability to innovate and the frequency of innovation delivery to their customers. Is that vendor ultimately delivering innovation on a recurring and frequent basis, which will enable you as an organization to take full advantage of that innovation? New things, new functionality and new products, new features, and so on–keeping things fresh. That’s extremely key.

A second aspect I would say is integration. Does the solution that you’re evaluating integrate with your existing sales technology stack, especially the CRM? This helps to drive adoption through things like a good user experience, as well as helps to provide a centralized data platform for the purposes of reporting analytics and all of the analysis that may need to happen. How do we keep things together, essentially?

Another aspect I’d kind of just mentioned there was user experience, and this has to be key as well as a criteria. The questions to ask ourselves is: is the solution simple? Does it require minimal training? Is it intuitive? Is it overly complex? Does it require a lot of individuals to configure it, to customize it, to tailor it, to get you to maintain it? Those are some key questions as well.

I think the last thing I’d mention is configurability. What do I mean by that? No two sales processes are exactly the same. Every business may do something slightly different from one another. Ensuring that the new solution is able to adapt to your business and maybe even how you want to be doing business going forward is vital as well.

SS: I love that, and I want to come back to that topic of adoption for sure. But before we go there, you know, the procurement process for any new solution can be pretty rigorous depending on the organization, especially with the number of stakeholders that are now involved in any purchasing decision. What are some steps that practitioners should take to build a really solid business case and secure stakeholder buy-in for these new solutions?

KP: Sure, that’s a great question. Securing stakeholder buy-in is probably one of the toughest things to weave into a purchase cycle that somebody may be running.

As I mentioned previously, aligning the sales enablement function performance indicators (KPIs) and then building a business case based on how you will impact those KPIs is key. KPIs are something that everybody understands from the sales leadership all the way to company leadership. How does what you’re proposing impact those KPIs? But at the end of the day, we have to remember that the dollar signs speak volumes. So, ensure that you have compiled as comprehensive a return-on-investment study as you can, which clearly demonstrates how the solution will impact those KPIs that you’ve outlined and ultimately how that then translates into revenue. That’s what people would understand. That’s where the key stakeholders will clearly understand and be aligned to.

The point is, when it comes to producing ROI studies or business cases, the vendor should be able to support you with this. If they’re not able to, if they’re reluctant to do so, then I would question that personally. Essentially, that’s what I would say is most important to building a solid business case.

SS: I love that. As far as tech stack ownership, who within an organization actually owns the technology and the implementation from your perspective?

KP: Yes. This depends on the structure of the organization, perhaps even the size of the organization and the complexity of the individuals in the organization hierarchy.

Ultimately, I believe sales enablement should maintain a level of ownership on the tech stack that it has helped to select and implement and deliver. The delivery of the value will remain a close criteria for any sales enablement function. Sales enablement should stay close, but also IT and sales operations have a responsibility to ensure the maintenance and optimization of the stack.

So, these processes and delegations need to be clearly defined in my opinion, and along with SLAs that align to vendor SLAs, key counterparts at your company and the vendor to make sure that they’re connected and aligned. And ultimately, if you are on the market for a new solution, these aspects need to be defined upfront and those individuals need to be part of the process and bought into the process as well. The other thing I’ll say in addition to that is it’s always healthy to have a level of ownership from the line of business. So if the end-user of the solution perhaps is within the sales team, then having a champion account executive or solution consultant, whoever the end-user may be, is something that I’d also recommend as part of this.

SS: I think that’s a good round-up of folks that you need in that crew. Now, going back to that adoption conversation that you started just a few minutes ago, how can organizations drive adoption of sales enablement technology across the fields? I think our audience could really benefit from any actionable advice or tips that you have.

KP: Absolutely, I completely agree. One of the key impacts to the return on any investment when it comes to technology and the purchase of that technology is adoption. I can give a few tips to help drive adoption based on my previous experiences.

The first thing I would say is keep it simple, keep it absolutely simple. Be wary of the fact that the more complexity you introduce to a process or a workflow, the higher the resistance will be to actually adopt it. Keep it very simple.

The second thing I would say is, make it engaging. To make sure you have a barometer on end-user engagement when it comes to the adoption of these solutions. Also, find ways to ensure your end-users not just have to use a solution but actually want to use a solution and enjoy using the solution. And that comes by then clearly seeing the benefits and the value that a solution brings, not just from a long-term perspective in terms of results or numbers, but also on a day-to-day basis. So yes, today this solution has helped me save an hour, two hours by automating this task or providing this information or doing this task or activity for me as opposed to me doing it manually, perhaps. Make sure that that is engaging as it can be but also make sure that those benefits are clearly visible and highlighted, right? As part of the implementation and ongoing maintenance of it.

The third thing I would say is perhaps a little bit of a curveball, but I’ve seen a lot of companies doing it in the past and it’s something that I have done in the past as well–is gamification. Salespeople, as we know, are fierce competitors. They like to win, they don’t like to lose. Think of innovative ways to create a competitive environment that pitches a sales force against each other, perhaps, and obviously in a friendly way but in terms of adoption.

An example I can give on this one is in the past I once created a league table of account executives who used a solution to deliver content to their prospects. And the more they sent, the higher the points they received. The more prospects that viewed their content, the higher the points; the more prospects that engaged with them, the more points they got.

It got pretty competitive at one point. But the key question here is, what impact did this have? When we started this adoption and when we drove adoption, what we found was we were able to correlate adoption with actual performance of sales, and there was a clear correlation between those individuals who were showing the right behaviors in terms of adoption. They were also the same individuals who had created the most pipeline within that period of time we were measuring, so it can actually work.

SS: I love that, and I love that example. In closing, this is the last question for you, Kunal. With so many sales tools available today, I think one of the valid concerns is just that there’s a challenge for organizations with the proliferation of tools. How can sales enablement professionals help reduce some of that complexity and help sellers get the most out of the technology that’s available to them?

KP: Yes, another great question. Software is eating the world. Again, we can drown in software and especially as a sales enablement practitioner, we see new software innovations coming to market very frequently and we feel like, “yes, that’s great. I would love to have that, but I’ve already got six, seven, eight, nine, ten pieces of software in my test stack already. So, where does it actually fit in?” Going back to the points I made earlier, it’s very easy to buy into a new solution or tool and we can get very easily excited by something new that’s out there and want to buy it, but always keep your KPIs in mind.

Always keep the KPIs in mind and ask yourself: How will this tool impact the key business or sales levers that I’m tracking and trying to pull? How will it add value to the business and what problems will it actually solve? What I found is by applying the first principles method to how you think you can peel back the onion and until you get to the core of the problem, sometimes that problem doesn’t really need a solution. Sometimes it just needs a new process. Sometimes it just needs maybe some training or perhaps it’s a change in behavior that’s required from your end-users.

In addition to that, what I would say is don’t lose focus on why you implemented the software in the first place. If you define the KPIs upfront, as we talked about earlier, based on what it was supposed to impact, keep an eye on that and ensure that it’s delivering what it needs to and maybe that will uncover some process deficiencies, barriers to adoption, training requirements, and so on. Ultimately, that will help us to reduce complexity and make sure that sellers can get the most out of technology that is already there without overloading them with more.

SS: Fantastic. Kunal, thank you so much for joining us today. I greatly appreciate your time.

KP: You’re welcome. It’s been a great pleasure.

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.