Episode 98: Steve Goas on Sales Enablement as an Ambassador of the Customer Experience

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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 that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Steve from TD Ameritrade join us. Steve, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Steve Goas: Hi everyone, Steve Goas here. I am with the sales enablement strategy group here at TD Ameritrade in the institutional business. I’ve been in the job around three years and I’m hoping that this is a treat for your listeners because unlike most of the folks that I’ve met in enablement along the way, we do not do L&D. So, when we think about enablement, we’ve got content, coaching, and training all coming together. We are over on the content side, so we don’t really get into building learning curriculums or gap analysis or instructional design. We focus on customer-facing content and internal sales plays.

SS: Steve, I’m so excited to have you here with us today. Now, since you are on the content side of the house, and as you mentioned, the customer is central to that, I’d love to hear in your opinion, I’ve seen a lot of evolution in the market where businesses are evolving from being more product-centric to more customer-centric. I would love to hear your version of that evolution and how it’s evolved past being more product-centric.

SG: Yeah, so I would say evolving past a culture of product centricity is very difficult to do. And the reason why is because we’ve kind of been in this mode of product centricity for about a hundred years now. This goes back to the 1920s and Henry Ford’s assembly line, where he came up with this formula of you create a product, you bring it to market, you promote it heavily, you sell, and then you basically create efficiencies, reduce costs, and rinse and repeat.

And moving past this is really not easy. It requires a change in mindset and culture, even in organizational structure. So, a way that I’ve seen more customer-focused companies do it is with kind of reframing the KPIs that you’re looking at. So, one example would be customer equity.

Brand equity is and has been a buzz word and a key term out there for a while. Now, customer equity is the sum of lifetime values across an entire customer base. So, focusing on this versus just brand, and then also customer lifetime value. This one is the present value of future cash flows associated with a particular customer.

That’s a very forward-looking KPI and that’s basically the epitome of playing the long game and saying, how can we focus on not just any customer, but the right customer and the lifetime value over the course of years or even decades? So, I would say that getting this right really requires having the right design points and enablement that has the customer at the center.

SS: Let’s click into this just a little bit though, Steve. Why is product-centric selling and thinking no longer viable for long-term sales success, as you had just mentioned?

SG: For a lot of companies it’s worked well for a long time. I’ll use Apple as the example. I know a lot of other folks have before. They’re a brand that’s worth about $150 trillion, market cap at about $1.6 trillion, and that’s bigger than the GDP of a lot of countries. So, for them, there’s not a whole lot of reason to change, but now that we moved into the 21st century, the economy has changed, the way we do business is changing, and there are cracks in that foundation.

Customers today are kind of like little kids, their loyalty extends as far as their next passing whim, and customers hold more power now than they ever have before. So the cracks in the foundation can be traced back to a few factors. One of them is how fast tech advances and the speed at which tech can be created and be copied, duplicated, commoditized, etc.

Another one is globalization. Geographic advantages and strongholds have basically been washed away with digital selling and kind of a borderless environment. Another one is deregulation shaking up normally reliable industries, and the biggest and most profound one is the customer’s newfound ability to get what they want when they want from whoever they want.

So, these factors have reshaped the world of business, and it really can’t be ignored. Product centric sellers were operating in a stacked deck for most of the 20th century, and at the very beginning of this one we’re seeing that change.

SS: Absolutely. Now let’s focus this a little bit towards sales enablement. What does customer centricity mean in sales enablement? And from your perspective, why does sales enablement need to prioritize customer-centricity?

SG: I’d say for long-term sustainability. So, for me it means getting the design points right. These are going to be your anchor points for your programs, your content, your training, really all of your services.

So, one is your personas. These are not just your roles and a loose understanding of what someone does, but really a deep understanding and a way of learning that through your sellers. When it comes to your personas, the folks that are buying from you, what are they tasked with accomplishing? What are they accountable for? And who’s holding them accountable? What resources do they have? How do they actually go about their day?

Second thing, and that’s going to be an extension of the personas, is their pains. What are the business problems that they’re having? And normally, I would say, go with stated versus inferred. Go with something explicitly that they said versus inferring it from other comments that they’ve made. And pains kind of run the gamut. They can be financial, they could be political, they can be operational, even something like ‘if I don’t solve this problem, I’ll never get promoted to director’ or, ‘I’ll be an employee here, but I will never be a partner’.

Then, the third thing is going to be the buyer’s path. So, all enablement services have to be aligned along the buyer’s path because the conversations and the customer-facing stuff that you’re putting in front of customers at the top of the funnel are going to be very different from what’s at the bottom of the funnel or for an existing customer that’s established and been around for a while.

My point of view has always been that enablement’s job is to help drive the leading indicators and the conversions to help get first downs, versus swinging for the fences or hurling a 40-yard bomb down the field. Getting the win is always going to be the result of lots of different factors and cross-functional teams, but moving the customer along the buyer’s path by having your services aligned at the right place is a way to do that.

SS: Absolutely. Now let’s get a little bit tactical. How do you enhance customer-centricity through the design of your sales enablement programs that you’re building?

SG: So, our goal here is to create programs that don’t necessarily make them better salespeople. I mean, of course we want them to sell more faster, but our goal is really to lift them to the point of being business experts and partners.

So, we’ve taken basically an inside out approach whereby we start with the customer at the core and at the center of all the services that we provide. And that’s again, by having a really good knowledge of who our personas are, what are their pains? Where are they in the funnel? Or, if they’re an existing client, what life cycle stage are they in? Are they new? Are they mature? How loyal are they? And it’s through these things that sales stays relevant and is able to deliver value and from delivering value, that’s how you graduate to becoming at the status of a partner.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. So how can sales enablement practitioners help elevate their role to that of a business expert, a partner, or even an ambassador of the customer experience within their organizations?

SG: So, there’s a direct relationship between how effective enablement can be in any organization and how close they are to sales. That’s how critical it is that they be close to the reps, the top producers, frontline managers, and leadership, and the end goal there is to stay as close to the customer as possible.

When we talk about sales enablement audiences, you really get all different answers. I think the most common one that you get, which is the most literal one, is going to be your quota-carrying reps. A better answer, and one that’s more indicative of a more mature enablement function, would be all customer-facing roles. So, that includes your service and your customer success teams, your product teams, maybe even events. I really want to stress how important service is too, because sales might be the equivalent of your running backs and your wide receivers scoring points six or seven at a time, but your service people are quietly kicking the field goals that a lot of times decide the game.

It’s difficult for a lot of enablement functions to be able to get there. It requires scale, a big team, et cetera, but I wanted to take a moment just to stress how important those service people are because they are quietly winning and losing throughout the day, every day.

But my answer is actually neither one of those things. I think that enablement’s audience is the customer and that sales is essentially the channel. Not in the sense that they’re like email or social or a website, they’re a living, breathing channel, and to me, they are the best channel. Frankly, that’s why I went into this because I wanted to be as close to them as possible, and I wanted to be able to be closer to the action.

So, in closing, I would say that enablement needs to be closer to the customer. That’s how they’ll become good at creating services that add value. And that’s a key to graduating, to really becoming a trusted partner, one without whom major decisions are not even really made.

SS: Absolutely, and as a marketer in a previous life, I also viewed them as a channel, and again, to your point, a very, very powerful channel within an organization. So, I love that analogy. Now I have a closing question for you, Steve, at TD Ameritrade, how have you addressed the need to keep the customer at the center of your services through sales enablement?

SG: So, I’ll give you a couple of different examples there. The first two are behind-the-scenes sales plays and then the third one involves tech. So, let’s start at the top of the funnel. What we have at the top of our funnel are analysis plays. These are long-term plays here. These involve hard-hitting research, analysis, benchmarking, insights, trends, personal experiences, all of which are designed to help identify a problem and understand its impact.

So, the idea up here is that we want to create something that Gartner calls commercial insight. This goes way beyond thought leadership, which to me is basically a slightly different version of something that maybe you could have Googled your way to. This is kind of like an aggregator world whereby you pull together all of these things and add value by helping them ID a problem, including one that they didn’t even know existed.

I believe that in sales and in life, if you want to get, you have to give, and there’s no immediate puff for this. It’s like, here’s this valuable information that will help you identify a business problem. You can do with it whatever you want, you can use it, you can not use it, you can come back to me, but the idea is that it gives you credibility and gives you a seat at the table because from the very jump you have delivered value.

The second thing that I would say is product play sheets. So, for those of us that are football fans, we’ve all seen on the sidelines of an NFL game or a college game, those giant laminated play cards that coaches have that are covered in plays, you know, offense, defense, special teams. The idea that we came up with here was to create something like that for our sales folks to follow to get better at talking about product and to lead with value and not with product.

So, we go back to our anchor points. We’ve got our personas, our pains. We’ve got value messaging after that. So, it’s kind of like following a continuum left to right. Then we’ve got competitive positioning, which is how you can get this really from us and only us. And then validation– validation is usually through a customer success story and then a public-facing case study if we have it.

The older way of doing that would be just to jump right into features and benefits. I believe that that’s leading with product, not with value. And while we do get into value messaging and competitive positioning, which marketing is heavily involved in, without making sure that we get it in front of the right persona and that it’s tied to a problem that they’re having, you’ve really gotten nothing.

Without those anchor points, enablement’s value, and I believe by extension sales, the value that they can deliver, is really going to become limited. It’s kind of like an inside-out approach that we kind of go left to right on.

The last piece is going to be our sales tech. So, lots of sales tech solutions out there, and one of the best things that we have with ours is to have analytics and reporting with customer-facing touches like email. So, a problem that’s plagued sales and marketing teams for at least a decade, if not more now, is that there’s always been optics at the top of the funnel. So, you have your outbound emails, we’ve always had opens and clicks and other things, so we know what’s happening up there. At the bottom of the funnel, when sales has taken over and they’re trying to close the deal, it’s like you just send an email out and you never really know. Did they open it? Did they click on it? Do they have any interest? Am I wasting my time here?

Through our enablement software, we now have reporting at the bottom of the funnel, which comes back to customer-centricity, because if I’m your salesperson, and I send an email to you with an overview of a few different things, and if I can see what you’ve clicked on, what you’ve opened, what your linger time is, how much of a video that you viewed, I know what’s valuable to you. And this will help fuel future interactions. Therefore, it enhances my ability to bring value to the table. So, that’s kind of the tech way that we do it, but really everything comes back to how we can deliver for the customer.

SS: I love that combination approach. Steve, thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

SG: Me too. Thank you for having me.

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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