From Sales Enablement to Organizational Enablement – Soirée, San Francisco
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Spencer Wixom: I’m going to have each of these individuals introduce themselves and the organization they’re from. We’re going to have a conversation here for about 30 minutes. Then we’re going to open it up to the audience, and as we take this dialogue more broadly, please, as you’re asking questions of this group, lead with your name and your organization. We’d love to get to know you, as well. So, let me just start by introducing the concept and then I’ll have each of the individuals on the stage introduce themselves as well.
Interestingly, sales enablement has grown up quite a bit in the last five years, as we all know. According to CSO Insights, five years ago, only 20% of organizations had a sales enablement function. Now over 60% do. And that number continues to grow, manifested by how many people we have at this conference. What’s interesting is we have a new kid on the block here in many organizations that other functions are trying to figure out how most effectively to play with. We’re going to focus broadly today on two questions. Very interesting questions. Number one, looking at sales enablement, how do we define ourselves, position ourselves in the organization and how should the functions outside of sales enablement that we liaise with perceive or look at at sales enablement. So it’s kind of how do we position ourselves relative to them looking in. And then also how do we extend beyond our boundaries as sales enablement and support, benefit, lift, and strengthen other organizations. In a common goal, we’re all working together to try to achieve the same thing. Those are the general questions that we’re going to explore. Let’s introduce our panelists. We’ll start here with Haley. Do you mind? And then we’ll just move down.
Haley Katsman: Yeah, absolutely. Hi, I’m Haley Katsman. I’m the vice president of growth enablement and operations at Highspot. In my role, we enable all of our customer-facing teams, so our account development representatives, our AEs and services team, across all of our global offices. We’re a hyper-growth technology company. I started at the company five years ago and we’ve gone through a really rapid growth phase. So, I’m excited to kind of give a little bit of perspective from building out a team from scratch and expanding it globally.
Gretchen Sleeper: Hello. My name is Gretchen Sleeper. I am the sales enablement automation platform owner for Cisco Systems. I enable not only our internal sales force of close to 40,000 people, but also our entire channel and I would say our customer success team. We also are on that journey as he was mentioning previously, to really expand broadly throughout Cisco. Currently we have about 54% of the entire company using the sales enablement platform that we have deployed.
Shawn Fowler: Hey, I’m Shawn Fowler. I am vice president of sales enablement at SalesLoft. I teach salespeople to sell sales software to other salespeople. So, it’s a pretty great job for me. We have a small team. I have two people on my team. I started about a year and a half ago. There were around 200 people at the company when I started. We are a little bit over 450 now. We’re doubling revenue year over year. So there’s a lot of focus on just getting people ramped up and ready to go so that we can continue our growth. Prior to joining SalesLoft, I worked at IBM. I ran sales enablement for the Watson customer engagement business unit. We had 23 products. We had a worldwide sales team. I had 50-something people on my team. I actually like being at SalesLoft better because I get to roll up my sleeves and do a little bit more work now. That’s me.
Jennifer Lopopolo: Hi there. I’m Jennifer. I work at Poly. If you don’t know who Poly is, Plantronics headset company bought Polycom video conferencing over a year ago and now together or called Poly. I just joined the company only six weeks ago. I’m in the process of defining that charter and what it looks like to partner across our whole organization to ensure that we’re putting in the best mechanisms to educate our sales and field team. I’m the head of South sales and field enablement. Before that I’ve worked at companies like Cisco, Adobe, and even a small company, most recently called 24seven.ai.
Wynne Brown: Hi everyone. Good afternoon. My name is Wynne Brown. I’m the global head of global enablement. I actually oversee sales enablement, partner enablement, internal enablement, and customer enablement. So basically my role is whoever needs to know what when, and I need to make sure they know it. Seal Software is the global leader in contract analytics. So you think about all the contracts you have and how everyone in this room probably scratched their head at some point in their career and said, where is that? What does it say? We help companies pull all of their contracts together into one repository and get smart about it. So, create visibility so you can see where you can optimize revenue and reduce risk. We are very high growth. We’re a startup, so we are growing more than 50% every year. We’re only 250 people and we only play at very large scale enterprise. So we have like half of the Fortune 20 as our customers, plus a lot of others. But we work at scale, so tens of thousands of contracts, that’s interesting. Do you have a hundred thousand or a million contracts? That’s where we play best.
SW: Cool. Thanks, Wynne, and thanks everybody else. Look, here’s where I want to start because what’s interesting about this panel here is we have individuals doing sales enablement in the high growth emerging companies, and we have individuals doing sales enablement in large, mature global organizations. I’d like to see if we can find sort of similar or contrasting definitions to what sales enablement is. And we’re going to do this as kind of a quick question round so we can move on to some other things, but Wynne, if we can just start with you and move back this way. Just in a few words, define for us what sales enablement means as a function in your organization, and let’s just explore that in all of these to set some context for where we go in our questions.
WB: Almost everybody in our company talks to customers at some point in our customer journey. What you’ll hear me talk about a lot today is customer centricity. I make sure that everybody knows the stories of the value we provide whenever they’re touching the customer. We’ll get more into that, but that’s my top line.
SW: Good definition. Very, very broad mandate. Jennifer.
JL: Yeah. The way that I see it is that the field enablement team is really kind of a quarterback if you’re playing football because I see enablement as a team sport. Somebody else said today, and I really liked it, it was more about orchestrating. I see us as the orchestrator to make sure that all the internal teams understand what the requirements are for all of the people that engage with the customer from the field, and that we’re coordinating together to determine how we’re going to deliver on those requirements. And then field enablement is kind of that funnel of information, coordinating all these pieces to get it out in a way that it can be consumed easily and is relevant to them.
SW: Interesting. Shawn, your organization?
SF: The official definition in our charter is that sales enablement is improving a sales performance for the company through individual sales productivity, the training processes, tools, and content, right? In reality, I see my job as being someone who finds problems and fixes them. That’s really what it is. And in a lot of ways, I think sales enablement is essentially glue that finds cracks in the organization and fills those cracks. A lot of times it’s not directly related to the immediate and measurables of my job, but if I want to be successful, I have to fix these underlying conditions.
GS: The way we are currently looking at sales enablement at Cisco is really very customer centric. I’m accountable for making sure that everything that anyone who’s touching the customer, but not just those teams that are touching the customer, those teams are supporting our sales and our channel, have everything they need to delight the customer at the end of the day. Because that is our purpose, is to make sure our customers are delighted with the solutions that we’re providing to them.
HK: Yeah, really similar. So, we think about every single engagement that anyone that is customer-facing in our organization has. And that’s where we focus. Looking at what is our business strategy and how do we turn that into actions through the most effective conversations with customers, no matter what function they’re in. The key focus areas for us are content, guidance on when and how to have those effective conversations, training, onboarding, ongoing training and coaching to reinforce that. And then, how those customer-facing teams engage. So content, guidance, training and engagement, all around customer conversations.
SW: Cool. Thank you. I think it’s interesting, the common thread that I heard in all of this was being that customer centric, right? We serve the customer, we serve the experience with the customer. We are not the only sort of customer centric function in the enterprise. And Gretchen, I want to start with you on this question. Given large global organizations like Cisco, there are a lot of other departments in Cisco. What do you see as the department’s most key to liaise with for sales enablement as that function has grown? Who is it most important to connect with? And if others have perspective on this as well, I’d love to hear that.
GS: Well, the natural, obviously, that everyone’s going to think about is marketing. It’s really important for sales and marketing to be absolutely on the same page around the messaging and around the customer and that customer journey. Many may know, we’ve recently really stood up a customer success practice at the company. It’s really important for us to engage with them, to understand and define that customer journey. We have some surprising organizations that we’re really reaching out to and partnering with as we try to simplify this process. Not only for our partners, but for our customers as well.
And I want to throw a sort of a strange one out there is finance. Our finance team are the ones that approve our deals, and if we can get them on the same page to understand how our customers are segmented, how our customers go to market, what are the solutions we’re trying to position to those customers, then we’re going through that whole deal cycle process. They start to think about, “Oh, public sector actually acts like this.” Those deals are going to look a little bit different versus our enterprise customers, or a commercial or small business. So we already have those engagements with marketing, with our product groups, with our sales ops, and sales teams. But what we’re really looking at is what are the other teams that really help, as you call it, the glue, really create that glue for our sales teams to make everything go smoothly, not only for sales teams, but of course for our customers and our partners.
SW: Does anybody, other than those that Gretchen mentioned, are there other departments that are critical to liaise with for other panelists?
SF: I think it depends a little bit on the strength of the product marketing organization where you are. I’m fortunate that I have a very, very strong product marketing organization at SalesLoft, so we partner pretty tightly on things. If that wasn’t there, I think I would have to engage really heavily with product. At IBM, I did. In fact, we were the primary conduit for information to get from the product development team to our sales team. It was a little bit of a challenge because there’s a power struggle there sometimes. Now, I get to let somebody else have that power struggle.
SW: Here’s the interesting question. We liaise with these other departments. We work cross-functionally with them. How do we know we’re doing enough? How do we know? How do we measure the effect of that collaboration with those departments? Haley, do you have a perspective on that?
HK: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been really exciting kind of going through this process in our own organization. And I think that one of the things that’s really important is that you have to kind of start with what are the key business metrics that the executive team looks at and cares about. We actually outlined foundational evergreen metrics as well as more growth or strategic initiatives that are more timely in nature. And then what we’re able to do is actually map enablement activities to those business metrics around what turning that strategy into action through making sure every customer facing person has what they should know, what they should be saying, what they should show. And measuring that engagement, being able to tie that back to those business metrics. We’ve seen a lot of success in doing that, being able to show the actual impact that enablement has on the organization.
SW: That’s really cool. Any other kind of key metrics that you find? Very specific metrics that these other organizations are interested in?
WB: Can I be the counterpoint? Instead of saying metric, I’ll say that we have none. Because of the nature of our very large enterprise approach, being anecdotal in nature, being qualitative, is far more important to us as thing quantitative. We’re never going to have a kind of enough volume or enough kind of of a high density of data to predict anything. So, we do a lot of sharing of stories. You can tell we’re very story-based.
We do a biweekly meeting for all-hands. It’s not just for the field, it’s not just for sales, SEs, CSMs, our AEs, it’s the entire company. We come together and we tell stories of successful sales cycles. Our sales cycles tend to be nine to 12 months, and there are dozens of people involved in these sales cycles. So for us, we’re actually that other side of the spectrum where we see and discuss, in a postmortem fashion, what was the breakdown? Did we need an extra expert on GDPR? And we didn’t have them pulled in soon enough in the cycle, therefore it was elongated. We do a lot of debriefing based on qualitative measures, much more than in quantitative.
SW: Can you just clarify for a second? How do you communicate those qualities? And maybe I’ll ask the same question to the quantitative measures as well. So, we track either quantitative elements or qualitative elements, and I think that’s a really important point. How do we effectively communicate that out to sort of build that recognition of the work sales enablement is doing?
WB: Yeah. My whole career up until the spring was on the revenue side. So, I was running sales teams. I was a seller myself at first and account manager, running sales teams, running customer success organizations, and I was brought over to this side because we needed somebody to be the glue, that kind of fulcrum of this type of storytelling, throughout the company. For us in our organization, it’s the force of personality. So, me making sure that I’m checking in with all the different groups, the leadership in those groups, going down to the grassroot levels, it’s about Slack. It’s about these biweekly meetings where we tell stories where basically we have created a culture around clear communication and that we really enforce question asking. For us, it’s really a cultural play, that customer centricity, the story base measures that we have put in place and it’s very tribal.
So our big challenge is how do we scale that? We’re 250 people. We’re at that kind of travel tipping point. Are we going to lose that ability to have that kind of storytelling communication? We’re going to lose that ability of having people raise their hand to ask the questions when they see a gap. So that’s kind of our challenge right now, is how do we keep growing and retain that. I hope that answered your question.
SW: It did very much. And then on the quantitative, do you have another perspective?
HK: Yeah, I mean, we definitely look at both quant and qual, but one of the ways that we can communicate that out, and actually even before that, we go through the prioritization of what kind of the enablement activities should be, is that we have a stakeholder meeting. Think of it almost as kind of an internal advisory committee for the enablement stakeholders where we identify what the initiatives are, what are the priorities, and in that meeting and that cadence, we will also go back and give results on what’s worked and not worked.
And so if you think about something like, if we were going to go and cross-sell a new product as an example, usually, most organizations will historically have to wait until you see the revenue number if that was successful or not. And so what we really focus on, there are all of the things leading up to either missing or hitting that number so that we can iterate at a faster rate and make changes and adjustments, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative feedback. But we really like to have that venue and have a good sense of what things we’re looking at to understand if the content landed, if the talking points and the coaching landed, if the content that they’re sending out externally landed with the buyer so that we don’t have to wait to see the revenue number, we can change things ahead of time.
SW: That’s interesting, and that gives sort of accountability and interest to these other departments. They just haven’t handed something over a wall to sales and to sales enablement. They’re seeing what’s happening and can step up as well.
HK: Basically, it lets you kind of debug, right? So if you see that something’s not working, it’s well, why is it not working? And a lot of times you might just get people pointing fingers at one another, but if you can get the insights into, okay, let’s understand what’s not working so that we can go and fix it and let’s fix it fast enough before we miss the number, before we don’t hit our goal, then you can be much more strategic and iterate faster and be more competitive as an organization.
SW: That’s cool. Wynne, I want to go back to you just with a one more thing. You talked about the qualitative, and this is kind of qualitative reporting back to the organizations that you already have a relationship with or the functions you already have a relationship with. Let’s talk about building new bridges. How do you use some of those stories and some of those anecdotes to kind of go further in the organization and build relationships with new functions perhaps that aren’t as closely connected to sales?
WB: Yeah. I think for us it really is about spotting those gaps and knowing how to fill them in. So a good example of that is we had an acquisition two Junes ago and we brought in a consultancy that was basically implementing our software platform so expertly that we really needed them to just be part of us. And one of the things that we had identified as a gap was a real need to bring in expertise. So typically, you have these incredible experts behind the scenes and when you get to delivery after the sale, you have them kind of go to ground building on all the promises that your sellers have said during the sales process, whether that’s your SE, kind of this whole kit and caboodle. And what we realized was there was some misalignment between how much our platform could do. It was actually usually you have people doing like vaporware sales and you get to implementation and they’re like, “Oh no, we actually don’t do that. We’re going to do that in five years.” It was the opposite where our customers were like, “wait, you could actually do so much more”. And it was this wonderful opportunity to reform that group of experts to deploy them. Of course, still for post sales implementations, but what we’ve done now is brought them into the sales cycle.
Now, we’ll do a paid POC or even unpaid pilot, and we’ll implement one of our solutions. You have these banks who have, I don’t know if you’ve heard people did shady things with libor, the overnight rate in between banks, and all these financial institutions have to remove from their contracts any reference to libor. What we do is we bring in our library experts into the sales cycle and take some of their contracts, a subset, maybe a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, and actually show them ahead of time and leverage our expert. So now our salespeople, instead of maybe even underselling a little bit, thank God not overselling, but now they’re able to actually just let the platform show itself. That’s an example of how we’ve kind of reformed that group and deployed them actually earlier in the relationship with our customers.
SW: That’s great. Sometimes there are barriers to engaging some of these groups and working collaboratively with these groups. Shawn, do you have a perspective on how we break those barriers down?
SF: A little bit. I’m happy to be on this panel because this topic is something we are debating a lot internally in our organization right now. I report to our CRO. I’m responsible specifically for sales enablement, not other business units. As you mentioned, a lot of times sales enablement, it’s a little bit farther ahead than the other business units when it comes to enabling their org. Typically when there are barriers, they fall into two categories for me. One is people are asking me to do something that I can’t commit to because I’m already overextended from a capacity perspective on my team. That’s the most common one, and the other one is people who want me to stay in my lane. Because I don’t think they’re doing their job the way they should be. I start kind of doing it the way I think it should be done.
That one’s a little more challenging. But with the first one, we started an intake form and we have a handful of questions we ask and there’s no shortage of good ideas in sales enablement or in general in business. And there is a shortage of time. Right? That’s reality. Especially when you’re in a high growth company and the biggest risk and sales enablement is becoming a juncture, right? I ask, who’s requesting it? Who benefits from it? Who does the work? How do we operationalize it? Because that also gets forgotten a lot. You have this project and you did this project, and now this project occupies five hours a week of somebody’s time forever. You can’t keep adding on top of that. This allows me to prioritize what we will and won’t do going forward.
The other thing that I pay a lot of attention to is, I sit down with the other sales leaders in our organization and I look at the conversion rates from stage to stage in our funnel. And I say, okay, did we all agree that it’ll be fixed? Our stage two to stage three conversion rate? It’s more important than anything else we can do this quarter. And I get agreement on that. And that’s also agreement for me to say no to a lot of other stuff and then allows me to go to other organizations and be like, “Hey, do you want to hire that new marketer? We need to make money to make that happen. Why don’t you help me fix this rate?” We can get aligned on stuff. And sometimes what we get aligned on is actually not something that’s directly sales enablement. Sometimes it’s me helping the marketing team take care of one of their initiatives or me helping the CS team prevent churn. And doing some coaching. In fact, that’s one of the things we’re discussing right now is me being more involved in the CS team to help prevent churn so they have better talk tracks and you can get ahead of things a little bit more.
SW: You make a really interesting point, and Jennifer, I’d like you to kind of expand on this a little bit too. By adding sales enablement into the organization, we’ve got one more hand reaching into the pie, right? A finite pie of resources, both capital resources and human resources and all of that. How can we be good stewards of those resources and collaborate with others in the organization to show that we’re finding synergies, we’re finding ways to conserve resources and use them as effectively as possible?
JL: Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, everybody really should be lining up against the sales goals and the sales strategies, right? So when marketing gets their KPIs, finance gets their KPIs, sales enablement gets their KPIs, channel gets their KPIs, we’re all trying to move the same number. And so often the resources in the organization that need to provide the subject matter expertise that drive the deliverables for sales enablement are the same. And they are so overburdened that if you don’t put processes in place to make sure that we’re really optimizing their time, I think you’re going to fail.
So one of the things that I’m working on at Poly that I really feel passionate about is how do we put together some sort of a joint planning process so that when we sit down at the table, we all are in agreement on what we’re delivering so that you’re not being bombarded with last minute requests, or at least you’re minimizing them, because we’ve all agreed that these are the things that we’re going after as a collective team. We’re not necessarily separate. We’re all part of the same initiative, the same goals, and we’re all trying to drive the same numbers. And that’s just how I believe. And I’m hoping that I can implement that. I’ve seen it work effectively at other organizations.
SW: That’s great. Does anyone else have a perspective on resources, how we most effectively use them?
HK: So I think that one thing that’s really important is that there, a lot of the organizations that we partner with don’t have the full picture or perspective and sometimes even empathy to how many requests or initiatives or things that are trying to be driven through the customer-facing teams. And I think one of the areas that enablement can provide a lot of value to the business is giving visibility on all the things that are trying to be pushed through the customer-facing teams and helping drive that alignment by saying exactly what you just said. What are the things that we’re going to focus on? Let’s agree upon those together. And doing that inherently allows you to prioritize a lot more and focus your time and resources.
But if you don’t have that alignment across the org because people don’t have visibility or empathy into what every other function is doing, then you just get so many ad hoc requests and it’s very hard to not be reactive and to be more strategic. So I think it’s really about giving that visibility and being really, really strict on getting the business to prioritize. That doesn’t mean enablement decides on what’s prioritized, but it’s bringing all the people into the room and driving that alignment.
SF: Just following up on that, a few months ago, we kind of locked down access to the sales team because we would have this situation where the sales team and the managers especially are like, leave us the hell alone. We’re trying to close.
HK: And you lose credibility.
SF: And then the really important stuff I need to train them on, they don’t have capacity or attention for. Then you have the other problem, which is the product team or the CS team and the marketing teams are like, we sent an email, why haven’t they paid attention? I’m like, well, because you sent the email in the last week of the quarter.
We have a Wednesday meeting at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon. Anybody who wants to get something in, we have a weekly sales all-hands. Anybody who wants to get something in that meeting or we use Lessonly for the weekly lesson. You have to go through the 4:30 meeting to do it. I’ve only had to slap a few hands.
SW: No, that’s great. We’ve just got a couple of minutes here and then we want to open it up to, to the group out here too. It’s kind of a final question. I’d love everyone’s perspective. And Gretchen, I’d like to start with you. Where do you see sales enablement going as a function in the next 12 months? Just so we can start to think about what these other functions have to prepare for it, right? Like where are we going? What are we pushing for in the next 12 months or even further on the horizon, if you’ve got it.
GS: We’re really looking at taking a journey on what we call hyper-personalization. We as consumers expect, I go to Amazon, I expect to see those recommendations. I expect you to know what I’ve done in the past. And what we’ve done with our sellers is the exact opposite. We peanut butter spread everything across them. So, now we’re trying to do is we have these amazing insights about our customers. We know what competitive sites they’re on, we know what they’ve bought, we know where they are feasibly in the adoption journey. Why don’t we take this amazing information we have and flip it and go, we should be building individual seller personas as well. We know what training they’ve taken. We know what’s in their pipeline, we know what they’ve sold. We know we have all their customer data.
So, instead of coming to the platform or anything around sales enablement and we just give them everything, sort of cough up everything to them. Why don’t I go, “Hey, good morning, Spencer. I see you have these 10 things in your pipeline. I see they’re about security. You’ve never sold security before and you’ve never taken a training on security. Hey Spencer, how do you think those are going to close?” Why don’t I serve up to you the information you need to do your job instead of making them look for it. We’re calling it hyper-personalization and we’re trying to take what we’re doing in the consumer and do it the same way and treat our sellers and our partners with the same respect that we treat our customers.
SW: That’s really cool. That’s great. Other perspectives? I love it. Next 12 months, kind of things you’re excited about in general.
JL: Well, I’ve been in sales learning and development or sales enablement for many, many years, and I think that the goal has always been for that role to be a performance consultant for the organization. And I see enablement finally coming into that role where we’re able to really understand the seller’s needs, their behaviors, understand what’s impacting them in their role, whether it’s that they don’t have training or it’s their rules were poorly defined, whatever that is. We as a sales enablement are probably on the front line best to assist them. Those performance issues and then coordinate within the rest of the organization to get them resolved. We already are having a bigger seat at the table, but I think that’s just going to expand.
I love the idea of personalization, by the way, but I think that sometimes it depends on the stage that the organization is in, their size and how advanced they are in enablement to begin with. We’ve got a lot of blocking and tackling we still need to do, but personalization is definitely on the horizon.
SW: Cool. Well, let’s go out to the audience. We’d love to have questions. As a reminder, please share with us your name and the organization you’re with.
Audience 1: Brianna Sabella, SEC Electric Company. We’ve been talking a lot about how sales enablement interacts with other functions in the company. My question, and maybe this isn’t what your sales enablement functions look like, but in a dream world, what functions would actually fall underneath that sales enablement umbrella versus being a group that you collaborate with?
SW: Interesting. It’s power grab. What do we want?
SF: I’ll kick it off. Sales enablement, obviously. Right? I would also want CS enablement. I think it’s a mistake to have those things separate, to be honest with you. And then, sales strategy is really the big one too. I mean, I think one of the things I’m happy about is everybody on this stage seems to have a lot of authority in their organization. I talk to a lot of people at varying levels of their career in sales enablement, and most often when it’s done wrong, it’s because the person in sales enablement is basically just taking orders from somebody else and it’s never going to work that way. You’ve got to have a high enough level of authority in your organization in order to identify flaws proactively. And then set the strategy internally to execute on them. It’s almost legitimately an organizational behavior or an organizational change role. And those are the things that I think are most tightly wound that allow you to still be close enough to actual sales enablement revenue at the same time.
GS: Adding onto what he said, I agree with everything that he said, but also, at least for us, either very strong influence or ownership of the actual digital strategy for your sales team. Because otherwise you end up with a massive proliferation of a disjointed journey for your sellers. I’ll be transparent. We have 256 tools and applications for our sales force. It’s not scalable. It’s not providing our sellers with the right experience. And recently, we’re starting to get a little bit of that ownership just so we can simplify what they’re doing. If you tell anybody outside of the room that I told you the number, I’ll deny that I just said it. But everything he said, but I think you’ve got to also have either a heavy hand in it or absolutely own the digital strategy for your sellers.
SW: Yeah. There’s some great Gartner research from a few years ago that shows the digital presence and the sales presence throughout that buyer’s journey. And they both have a presence of beginning, middle, and end, and if you’re not in sales enablement influencing the digital message, then there’s going to be disconnect. Do we have other questions?
Audience 2: Yeah. I listened to what Gretchen said and I love it. So Gretchen, what platforms are you using to bring that personalized experience in? Because I’m trying to figure out some of the same stuff, and I don’t know if you bought Highspot from Haley and some other stuff, but I’m curious what platforms you’re finding that can help you bring that forward, because it’s really hard.
GS: It’s going to be multiple platforms. Of course, because we’re Cisco, we believe we can build everything. I should say I’m new to my role. I took this role over in December at Cisco. I came from sales and strategy. I am a formally trained change manager. So, convincing my IT team and convincing our leadership that yes, we are great, but we really aren’t great at everything and there’s some things we need to buy and some things we need to build. I’m more than willing to go into more detail around the complexity outside of the big group room about how we did it. I don’t want anybody to get upset about what my answer is, but I’m more than willing to talk to anybody about the journey we’ve been on and what we use internally and what we use externally.
SW: Cool. I would just, we don’t have to list particular vendor names and such, but I’d just be curious if there is from the group up here, anything that’s kind of on your Christmas wishlist, a new concept or technology or idea that you’d say, this is the one we’re getting excited about.
GS: I’m super excited about the possibility of what video coaching could do for guidance in the moment. Things around, we go to market with a brand new product. I’d love to launch a virtual pitch room with a countdown clock. Here’s all the content, we’re adding to it every day, and on day one when that product is ready to release, all of our sellers and partners, partners are so important for us. 80% of our revenue comes through partners. For our partners to be able to go in and just do pitches, and then we can rank them and we could see who’s got the best pitch in APJC, who’s got the best pitch in EMEA? And sort of virtually launch these products together with our channel. We’re super excited about everything and I’ve seen a lot of people with solutions.
SW: What I love about that too, and it just came into my head as you were saying that, is sometimes sales enablement can be the seedbed in the organization for a technology that’s then used in other functions, right? So, video coaching becomes popular with sales enablement, and all of a sudden customer service is like, we need a technology like that too. Or you see these technologies spread into marketing, into finance, other parts of the organization, and you get the credit for it, which is great, but bringing the fire, right? Any other Christmas wish lists or things you’re excited about?
JL: Personally, I’m a fan of the applications that can link content directly to opportunities in Salesforce so that when I’m planning for our call, I know that I’m going to a specific vertical or I’m going to be there looking for a particular product, then I can pull up the spec sheet, I can pull up training on that product. I can pull up whatever I want. So, I’m not mentioning names, but I love those kinds of applications.
HK: I think what we’ve been really excited about is that guidance and moment of action has been huge and the challenging piece is that you have to get a lot of people in the organization to kind of change the way that they think. Because the customer facing team thinks about action. They think about conversations. They don’t think about a content campaign. They think about, I’m talking to a persona, or I have to handle an objection, or I’m up against a specific competitor. And so what we’ve really focused on is, how do we create plays or package together training, content, talking points, video coaching, all those things for a specific action and get it to them where they live? Whether it’s in your CRM, wherever it is. But that I think has been really exciting. It’s a challenge though, because you do have to change the way that a lot of teams think because it’s not natural for people outside of sales or other customer-facing teams to think about that specific trigger action, because most everyone else in the organization is thinking about one to many interactions and enablement has to focus on one-to-one interactions. And so that has been really exciting for us to have an actual vehicle in which we can deliver that guidance.
GS: It’s also getting your different BUs to stop thinking just my product, especially if you’re trying to do a sales play, and start thinking the complete customer solution and then bringing them all together. Solution plays.
SW: And nudging them to consider that. That’s really exciting. Great. Other questions? There’s one up here.
Audience 3: Hi everyone. I have a quick question about coaching because this came up quite a bit and I firmly believe from sales enablement standpoint, yes, we’re doing great things, but I want our sales leaders to own it. I want our sales leaders to own the training, coaching, and such. So what kind of tools do you provide to your sales coaches, your sales leaders. So, all these playbooks are being implemented or something like courses being heard and used and video coaching’s happening. What do you provide and when do you provide and how do you provide to them?
HK: I mean, I won’t answer from a tools perspective, but one thing I think that’s really important is we have a manager enablement program. Before we roll out anything to our customer-facing teams, we enable our managers on it. And I think that if you skip that, I mean that’s who they report to. That’s who they’re going to be listening to. And that is who you have to partner with from a coaching perspective. But I would say that before even a tool perspective, you want to look at how are we enabling the managers to be great leaders, to be able to develop people, but also to take the programs that we have and land it with our customer facing teams? It sometimes makes you go a little bit slower. So, I might have to wait two Wednesdays instead of one, because I’ve got to do the manager enablement first. But I’m seeing more and more organizations that have a dedicated role to manager enablement. I think to the earlier conversation that we were having of where’s enablement going, I think that’s a critical piece of it. Then there’s lots of tools and things that you can use, but yeah.
SF: I’ll walk through mine really quickly because increasingly, it was becoming my job, because I hire more headcount. I’m taking over the manager enablement portion. This is not sustainable, but I sat down last year with our managers for every role and we defined a set of skills and competencies and we all agreed on them. The senior executives agreed on them. And I defined what a one means and what a five means with very clear objectives, measurable behaviors. And every month I have a meeting with every manager where they’ve ranked every single rep on one to five. Across all of those skills is 12 to 13 for each role. We talk about the one skill that each rep needs to improve that month, and we develop an individual plan for them to develop that skill. Sometimes it’s, I want them to read two books and provide a one page summary for their entire team. Sometimes it’s, you only get to level one pain and you need to get to level two and three pain during your discovery calls. So, I’ll have them use a scorecard to score five calls from two different incredible reps and then they score every single one of their calls and they review those with their manager.
It’s been really effective so far, but it’s about to kill me because it’s a lot of meetings. So, I’ve been going to hand off to some of our SDRs, there are five managers on the SDR team. I’m actually handing that off to the director now, and so when a new manager comes on and gets promoted for the first two months, we’ll do it together, but then she’s going to own it going forward. It’s been really effective so far.
SW: Yeah. Okay. Another question up front here.
Audience 4: Hi, Cassandra Edwards from The Knot Worldwide. I just want to better understand what manager enablement really means because I’m not too familiar with it. Recently we just started to do manager previews so that way we could give our managers the first chance to hear whatever training we were going to provide to their sales reps and also allow them to help poke holes and anything that we might’ve been missing, but is manager enablement much greater than that?
HK: I think in the same way that enablement as a function has evolved and there’s many different definitions and people think about it in different ways, I think manager enablement is the same way. The preview element that you talk about where it’s almost a communication piece, you’re letting them know what’s happening before it happens. I think that that’s an element of it. But I think that I kind of split it up into two areas. One, I think that the more that you can get buy-in, feedback and involve them in the enablement process and what success looks like, the more effective you will be at landing it. But then there’s also actually enabling them to do their jobs effectively. So, if you take the competencies for them being in the manager role, are they able to develop, are they able to manage pipeline? Are they able to coach? All of these things, whatever it means for your business and even for that specific role, like services managers are going to be very different than an AE manager, as an example. So you have to identify what does success look like in that role and how can we set them up for success in doing that?
In addition, how can we bring them into the enablement process of their ICs?
WB: Another thing, if I can just jump in, sometimes the elephant in the room is that your best sellers are going to end up being your worst managers. It’s just important to be very watchful for any management enablement program that you have. If it’s an internal hire, and the doors are closed so we can talk in confidence, be very skeptical that they need to know everything. Everybody starts out early in their career with a boss, right? And we have good ones. We have bad ones. We learned from watching them. But when you have that first moment, especially as a sales manager where you’re hiring really aggressive people, hopefully who want to have great conversations, you just want to do their own thing.
Being a sales manager is a really unique role, and they often need much more enablement than they might say they do. So, knowing how to hold a one-on-one, knowing how to give effective feedback to really have a formal program, right? When you are a seller, we enable them to sell, to have great conversations, manage a pipeline, all those same things. And a sales manager has other skills, to your points, that they really need to be crisp on and probably want to confess behind a closed door, “Oh my God, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve always aspired to be a leader. I’m scared,” right? So you’ve got to support them with really a new toolkit for their new success in their new role.
SF: How do you go from closer to coach? A lot of new managers are super closers and that’s not sustainable.
GS: We’ve really flipped it on its head at Cisco. We no longer call our managers, managers, we call them leaders, and our HR team has really taken an approach over the last year to really change the mindset of every manager at Cisco, whether they’re in sales, whether they’re in marketing, within product, it could be you. And they really understood that gap of, wow, someone’s moving from an IC position to a leader role. What do they need? And they’ve built learning tracks. They’ve invested in individual manager, leader coaching. Depending on where you are. Are you new in the role? Have you been in the role for a year or two? Have you been in the role for five years? Because believe it or not, even if you’ve been doing it for 10 years, it’s new to you. You do need to invest in it. So, they’re making a heavy investment where they pull all of the leaders across the globe. We pull everybody out for a day and we do what they call a leadership day, where you’re doing hands on workshops, you’re doing difficult conversations.
The last one was all about how do you have a difficult conversation? Most people would rather avoid it and we can’t do that, and it was hard. It was role playing. By the end of eight hours, I personally was exhausted. I was exhausted, but the whole day was around difficult conversations and personas and building your leadership skills because they’re really focused on, you’re a leader, you’re accountable, whether it’s your job, someone else’s job. If you see a problem, the signs out there, if you see something, go fix it.
SW: Yeah. Wonderful. Well, look, thank you so much. I think unfortunately we’re out of time.
Emcee: Thank you so much to our wonderful panel. Thank you, Spencer, for guiding a great conversation. Give them all a round of applause.