Keynote: Sales Enablement Grows Up, But Not Fast Enough – Soirée, Europe
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Tamara Schenk: Thank you! So how was your lunch break? Are you ready to go? Are some of you still digesting food? Yeah, a few of you. I see that. So, do me a favor, just take your two hands on your ears, and then start to massage your earlobes downwards. And then take them to the sides and keep massaging. And just pull them to the left and to the right. Now how does that feel?
So, that’s a very simple exercise that allows you to tell your brain that information is now coming you want to take in. So, it’s great for anyone in an enablement role if you want your audience to listen to you and to be prepared for what you want to share, that’s a great way to get started. So, sales enablement grows up but not fast enough. So that’s the topic of my session. We jump right into it, we should, I see now it’s coming. We just look at some basic data, how did sales enablement evolve over the last couple of years? So, when we asked this in 2013, that’s now 6 years ago, 19% of organizations said, “Yes, we have something we call sales enablement, a person, a team or a function.” It was one-third in 2016, and then we had a huge uptake to 2017 to 59%, and now to 61%. So, the growth is leveling down a bit as sales enablement is now more maturing and we see that in a couple of data points and observations I want to share with you.
And also, to tell you this is actually good news. However, sales enablement is more relevant in a.) In larger organizations beyond $215 million in annual revenue simply because there is a lot more to orchestrate. Even a small company, you own sales and marketing and product, it’s easier to get there even if the work has to be done. But in larger organizations, which is why it’s so important to a.) have it as a strategic discipline and b.) to focus on this orchestration role of enablement. So, we’ll talk about that a bit more in a few minutes.
The other area that’s important is that sales enablement is more relevant in some industries than it is in others. So, high-tech industry, IT services, professional services, in those organizations, more than 80, almost 90%, of organizations have something they call sales enablement. Simply because they experience a disruption of their business models early on. On the other side of the spectrum, is somebody here from the oil and gas industry? For a reason, because sales enablement is not important there at all, so the percentage was 22%. Yeah, so that’s oil and gas, they’re still figuring out if there is a customer behind the meter and other industries had to reinvent their whole go-to customer model.
Based on the observations we have from the last couple of years, in terms of the research that we are doing and all of the research I have as a sales enablement leader, there are a few lessons. One is really, sales enablement, yes, it’s growing, it’s growing fast, it’s more maturing. Lesson number two, there are key prerequisites you have to have in place to be able to achieve significantly better results. One is, run it as a strategic discipline. It has to be connected to the organization’s strategic initiatives to be able to create value. Measurable value. And the other one, equally important is, and we had a great panel on customer centricity in the morning, focus on the customers first. That means, whatever you design in sales enablement, look at it backward from the customer’s path. Because that’s what matters. We can only be successful with our customers. And number three is there is a lot of sales enablement technology out there and that is great and technology can help us to be a lot faster and better in many different ways, but there is no technology panacea. So, we still have to do our homework to be able to leverage technology in the right way. So, before we dig deeper, show you a little bit about our insight, where it comes from.
So, CSO Insights is the research division, the independent research division of Miller Hyman Group. We are focused on everything in a B2B sales space on performance and productivity. So, we do a couple of studies every year, sales enablement is, of course, the flagship steady. I am the lead analyst on, we have sales performance studies, world-class studies, and we did two others that are quite interesting for you in enablement, sales, and marketing role. And one is the bio-preference study we did last year. So, just go to CSO Insights and download it. It simply shows what’s relevant to buyers. We heard about this in the morning, and it simply shows that database.
Buyers don’t buy products. They don’t want to talk about products. Executive buyers are interested in learning something new, how to get better, how to solve their problems. Means perspectives, insights, all these kinds of things are really important. What’s really, really important is they don’t buy products, they buy the value to solve the problem. And for those of you who have to deal with sales, tell them, who has sales enablement responsibility? Anybody? Okay, a few. So, we also have a nice talent report that might be interesting for you as well to download it. And of course, there is the book. So, if you want to have my signature in the book, just let me know. Happy to do that.
So, I’m, as you can hear, I’m German. I’m living in Lisbon in Germany. I’m in this role since 2014 and I’m in this role as an analyst because I did sales enablement a couple of years early on. And initially, I started my career with sales roles, with consulting roles, with business development roles, strategy consulting, all these things. And then I joined T Systems, a big IT services company, a Dutch telecom company in 2005, and I had a couple of roles there. And in 2008 and 2009, we had a big sales force transformation. I had the pleasure or the pain to collate that, what perspective you want to look at it. At the end of the day, we moved out a bunch of salespeople and the quota increased for the remaining ones. And I started to wonder, “Okay, so what are we actually doing to help them to do that?” And I learned we actually didn’t do a lot. What we did was not orchestrated in any way.
So, I started in the content because there was the biggest problem because we also had a totally disrupted portfolio. Everyone in the company had a different understanding of what our product and service portfolio would be. Anyway, so we had 35 different places where salespeople could find content. And then I asked our A players what they were using. They weren’t even aware of any of these 35 places. So that just shows the magnitude of the problem. So, wherever you start, the training, the content area, it doesn’t matter. You will at some point merge these 2 areas together. So, this is the long and short of why I’m in that role. I’m now focused on connecting the experience, what I’m learning working with clients and what I see in the data.
Now let’s dig deeper and let’s try to answer the question of what organizations should be doing so that they really see a significant return on investment of their sales enablement investments. Um, basic question, does it matter? Does it matter to have a sales enablement function, yes or no? The good news is, it does. So, who has the greater business case in the room for sales enablement? We’re going to try to serve quite a few. Excellent. That’s one of the money tryouts, please feel free to use it. Simply, the simple message is, organizations without sales enablement function, initiative, program, whatever, they have quota attainment rates and win rates that are even maybe low to studies average.
So, if you have a quota attainment of 46%, I mean that’s not a good place to be in. The industry is already down at 53%, it’s now getting a bit better again, but that’s not where you want to be. And win rates around 45%, that’s also not a good place to be, and actually, it’s better you go gambling in Vegas. That’s around 47%. So, win rates 45%, that’s not a good idea. But, as you can see, organizations that indicated “yes, we have a sales enablement function. We do something we call sales enablement,” they have an average much better quota attainment and especially win rates in the 52% range and whoever had to manage win rates, you probably know one or two percentage points make or break the fiscal year. So, these are all good numbers if you have to create a business case.
Then, we asked our study participants, so the group that said “yes, we have sales enablement”, we asked them, “Okay, how are you doing when it comes to meet the expectations of your stakeholders?” And that’s a very different picture because we see that only one quarter, the 29% and the 5%, it’s around one quarter, said “Yes, we met the majority or all of the expectations” or some said, “We’ve also exceeded our stakeholder’s expectations.” And they had significantly better results. Here you can see results in win rates, six points better win rates, that’s a huge improvement.
So, the challenge with this chart, and while we’re showing that sales enablement is growing but not fast enough, is there’s a big group of 61% to 62% that said “Hmm, we met some of the expectations,” and this big group actually did not achieve significantly better results. So, we don’t want to be there. And this group is bigger than the year before because the other group, and that’s actually good news, that said: “We only met few expectations” was 10% in 2017, which is only 2% in 2018. So, we’re seeing the discipline of organizations is getting better, we just have now a lot of organizations in that big dark blue area, that said, “Yeah, we invested in it but we don’t see significantly better results.” Why is this difficult? Because at some point, a finance role will come around and say, “Hmm, what are you guys doing? Do you matter? Do we need you? Yes or no?” And if you don’t have measurable results we can really connect to these initiatives, we simply have a difficult position. So, we want to help you to get out of this so hopefully next year, we’re just recruiting for the 5th annual study that more organizations are in the group that said, “Yes, we have significantly better results.”
So, the rest of the session is all about, what are the organizations that are a successful group actually doing differently? So, one thing is that they understand, and there is a way you have to get, from a rough diamond to a cut and polished diamond. So, there is no organization that is not doing any kind of sales enablement activities. Usually, the reality is most organizations, they do a ton of things in parallel and consistent and push all this stuff to the sales force. Because everyone wants to help sales. So, marketing is pushing content out, L&D has new programs and they’re just wondering why nobody attends. So therein lies programs for sales managers. Marketing has a new value messaging campaign. Sales operations implementing a new CRM. And they did something in the sales process area. Somebody else is implementing a new methodology and the list goes on. The receiving end, imagine you’re at the receiving end in a seller position. You just switch off the noise. It doesn’t make any sense at all together.
So that means, you have in all of your organizations, a lot of good things, and you have all of the lot of things you should stop doing. And that’s about cutting the rough diamond. Of course, before you start cutting you should have, what? A Strategy. You should have a plan. That you want to catch because that’s if it’s cut it’s done. So, organizations who are really successful enablement, they have a strategy. They really know what they’re doing and they learned to say “no” and to stop doing certain things. A cut and polished diamond, that’s a valuable thing. That’s a shiny object everyone wants to have. It’s definitely more valuable than the rough diamond. So, this is where we want to get to. The cut and polished diamond in a framework version, that’s the diamond.
So, in fantasy, you can see that’s the diamond behind it. And that simply tells you what sales enablement is all about as a strategic, collaborative discipline to drive predictable sales results and be doing this by providing integrated concentrating and coaching services for customer-facing professionals and their managers. So that they can be relevant, value and differentiating in every buyer interaction. So, in order to do that, having the customer that’s the primary sign point, what I said, is a thing that we want to focus on. And having a strategy on how to do that and executive sponsorships, these are the cornerstones you should have in place to be able to make all of the other things successful.
Then in the middle, the green area, this is actually what your audience receives from you. What you provide in terms of tools, of training services, of coaching, of content. Whatever it might be. And then there are other services that are more the inner workings of sales enablement. This is how you set up your team for success. Did you organize how you collaborate with all of the other functions? It is way more than sales and marketing. Don’t believe it’s another word for sales and marketing alignment. This is not the case. You have to work with operations, with product management, with marketing, with event management if you have to run the SKO. You have to talk to IT, to your sales management, L&D teams. And all of these functions contribute in one way or another to what you’re actually going to provide for your audiences. So, this is not working in attack mode. It has to be organized in one way or another that people simply know for certain enablement services, marketing has a lead for another one, product management is the accountable role, and maybe for playbooks, maybe sales enablement is the accountable role. It just has to be defined and you also need a process on how to do it, and you need metrics on how to measure success.
Now let’s have a look at the five critical success factors to be able to get better sales enablement results from your investments. So, this is an overview, very quickly. Number one, it’s a charter, the sponsorship thing. Number two is the customer’s path to make them the main design point. You see the number charter 19% better win rates. A charter, the customer’s path as a primary design point, about 9% better quota attainment. Customer engagement, to drive more customer engagement with integrated concentrating and services, and coaching services, has a huge impact on two digits. And of course, how we leverage technology. So, these are the 5 critical success factors I will walk you through now.
First of all, is the charter, I think we talked about this morning. A charter can look like this. Let me tell you, the charter is not about filling in a form. That is a byproduct of the entire process you should go through. Having a business plan or a sales enablement charter, however you want to call it, this is all about, how do I get senior executive buy-in? And this is not by, I want to talk about my new program, or my new content initiative, or my new whatnot. This is not the language of senior executives. They care about business issues. They care about the strategic initiatives they have in their minds. They are measured on. So, sales enablement is a lot about selling internally.
Most of you come from a sales role, it is not different. And selling internally, as we know, is most of the time, harder than selling externally. So, this is all about, how do I create valid business reasons so that my senior executives, who only have 30 minutes for me, so that I can talk to them. What do they really care about? What is it they’re missing? What are their challenges? Where is the strategy going? What are the biggest problems from their perspective? So, all of these conversations help you to define the scope in your organization. What are really the problems we have to solve now? And where do we want to be? So, this is the balance between being tactical and being strategical. So, you just should get this right.
And then you can derive the goals, all of the activities, the enablement services you need to provide to be able to solve the problems you identified. That’s just very important, and at the end of the day, you can fill in that form. And you have it in your hands. There are some people that tell me, “Ah, this is just so much work and we don’t have the time, we don’t want to do that.” Then I usually ask, “Okay, if you are in a sales enablement role at the moment, how often does it happen that somebody comes into your office and asks you to do something for them?” Everyday. Everyday. You know, “we’re so special, we need this presentation a different way, we need the worlds to collide for this industry, and this is not how we do things. So we need to do this in a different format, and by the way, the flow here would be different in this way, and we need another model training here and whatnot, and we need a tool here, we’re not supported, whatnot.” If you don’t have your clear strategy, what you’re going to do with the charter, you have a hard time to say no. But you can say, “Oh no, I see your point but actually that’s available here and that should work for you and we don’t do it this year.” Period. Or you can say, “Oh yes, that’s what we do next quarter. Got it. It’s in our strategy.” It’s really important for you to have a compass. Otherwise, you work 24 hours a day and you do a ton of things, just to achieve nothing in terms of results. I want to get out of this hamster wheel to do a lot of stuff and not achieving the required results.
The next thing is about making the customers a primary design point. It actually means to work along the customer’s path in everything you’re doing. We heard it in the panel this morning. Customer centricity, we’re living in the age of the customers. We really have to set up things in a way that we serve our buyers, our customers, in a way they want to buy. And they do a lot on their own, but it depends on the buying situation, if they do it and how they do it.
So, this prerequisite simply means, if you look at your selling processes from marketing to sales to service, what would you say, how well is this process landscape aligned to the customer’s path as relevant to you? Do you have reflected all the different steps and gates your buyers have to go through to make decisions? Do you see that in your internal selling processes? No? We don’t see it? A few, yes? That’s really critical because that’s the prerequisite that helps you to avoid buyer-seller misalignment. Because enablement services have to be connected to a process. It cannot exist in a vacuum. That’s one thing.
The other thing is if your coaching process is set up in parallel to the customer’s path and to your selling processes, then you make sure that sales managers ask all these questions to avoid buyer-seller misalignment. But, if we don’t know what our customers are going through, we don’t ask the question and we still think we’re about to close a deal, and actually, it’s not even a qualified opportunity. So, many think, “Yeah, it’s not my job, it is not mine, sales operation is doing it, marketing is doing it, whatever, customer experience is doing it.” Honestly, it doesn’t matter. You have to do it. You have to do it. If you want to see results, then sit together with sales operations, with your marketing colleagues, and say we need this foundation. And I mean, you will have all of the data in the world to make the case that you need that. Focus on it, because the result really matters. Only 20% are doing it, so we have some room for improvement here. 9% better quota attainment. This is a kind of foundational thing to have that in place, and it will help you with a lot of things; with everything we’re talking about now.
Customer engagement. So, if we come from the age of the customer, with a customer-centric approach, we want to drive customer engagement. The first prerequisite is done. We have aligned all of our process landscapes through the customer’s path. That is great. And now the question is, how do we interact with buyers along the customer’s path? And is this all about how to make sure that our sales professionals can really engage customers? So, there are many different practices to get to. And this is only the high-level I can show you here. And there’s a lot more in our fourth annual study, feel free to download it at csiinsights.com. Just the highlight of it. You can, of course, work on verticalizing content of different industries to make sure that you speak the language of the industry in your content and your messaging. It is always a combination of content and training so that all of the people feel familiar to speak this language.
Then it’s, of course, about tailoring content to the different phases of the customer’s path, because if the customer is in the earlier renter’s phase, they are about to understand the problem. We want to educate them about the problem. This is not about talking about a product as a cure, to cure the disease, because they don’t even know the problem and its impact. So, all the content you provide early on is more on the business level to build a shared vision of success with them. The content you use later, along the customer’s path, can be more product-focused but always in the context of the problem you are solving. And then, of course, we want to tailor content to buyer-roles. So why is this important? We heard this in a panel this morning about talking to IT people, being familiar with features, functions and so on, especially in the IT industry.
A couple of years ago, all of a sudden, the CFO roles became a new buyer-role and said, “it’s nice but I’m actually more interested in how that fits into my optimization program.” Very different question, very different approach. You actually need to fill in the line in the CFO’s business case. Very different things, you need different content and messaging. And of course, we’ll leverage social media if you have all the ducks in a row. Only around one-quarter of organizations are actually doing it.
So, as nobody is living in an abundance of resources, if your resources are limited, just focus on these two. Because these two practices make the biggest impact. It’s tailoring your content to the customer’s path, and problems you’re going to solve, and to the buyer roles. And this always connected to the related training. So, there is no content without training and the other way around. So, people have to learn to get familiar with new kinds of conversations. So, Michael said this in the morning, some of these exercises ended in tears. And it’s very familiar because it is hard to change. It is hard to change habits and only practice helps. Practice helps and then coaching, which is why we come to coaching in a minute. These are remarkable results, so it makes sense to think about these practices. Now, before we come to sales coaching, let’s talk about one element in the middle.
Between customer engagement and the results you’re looking for, the missing key is seller engagement. Of course, that’s a different topic for a different conference for another day, but just to have that in mind for you, what we usually mean when we talk about employee engagement is this emotional commitment of a person to the company, its purpose, and its services, and the problems they can solve and the value it can create for their buyers. For a salesperson, this emotional commitment has to go in two directions, to their own company and then how to put that out to their customers. So, seller engagement is really, really important. You cannot do all of this in a sales enablement role, and you shouldn’t do it, but you should know about it.
But one element you can influence is how your sales managers coach your salespeople. So for us, it’s always, and it’s based on data, sales coaching is one of the most effective enablement services. However, you run sales coaching in your organization. But that is the aspect you can tackle from a sales enablement perspective. Now, let’s get to coaching. So, coaching is getting better. So, a couple of years ago, almost 50% of organizations said, “Oh no, coaching is left up to our managers. They know what they’re doing.” You know what, the reality is it’s just an excuse for nothing will ever happen. So that’s not working. And we see it in the data organizations run coaching on our sales managers know what to do, it’s not working. They have performance results way below average.
So, you want to be in a position, what we call a formal approach to coaching or a dynamic one. That means there is a sales coaching process in place. Sales managers have to be trained on and developed on. They are required to use it, they are required to coach their sales teams. And you also look at the results. The dynamic aspect of it would be that you design a coaching service in a way that it’s actually a reflection of the enablement services out there for salespeople.
Your coaching approach can immediately drive adaption and reinforcement. The long and the short of it, 40% of organizations see results because they follow a more formal, dynamic approach to coaching. But 60% don’t see any advantages because they don’t care enough about coaching. Because they leave it to managers or it’s currently in an informal stage. These are the results, they speak for themselves. It definitely makes sense to care about sales coaching if you can drive your win rates in a 2-digit manner. If you can improve them by almost 17%. And we have 2-digit improvements year after year in that study. Also, the cost of doing nothing, I mean 11% decline in win rates, I mean who can afford it? I don’t know any sales lady who would be able to afford that.
So, then quickly, sales technology. I said it early on, there is a lot of technology that can help us to be more productive. To be better at what we are doing. But there is no tech panacea. And, we looked at two aspects of it here. How enablement technology is integrated into an organization’s enterprise architecture, here specific to sales architecture. And the message here is integration matters. So, if you have 10 or 12 point solutions out there, and you have an issue with adaption, you won’t get better at it adaption. You have to integrate these systems. So, we simply see the numbers. Making the CRM the anchor of your enablement technologies is really a good idea. And also having analytics and if you use AI tools integrate and that makes a big difference. It simply sets up your organization for better productivity.
Then, our specific aspect we looked at is how do organizations share content with their sales forces and does it make a difference compared to the numbers? And we can see, yes, it does make a difference. To me, it’s just not understandable why almost 50% of organizations are still emailing content to salespeople. Or have it in multiple repositories, share drive, what not. I mean nobody is going to these shared drives. It’s not engaging. And if something is not happening in an instant for a salesperson, they won’t use it. They don’t have the time to.
So, invest in whatever technology you have or if you want to do it on your own, which I wouldn’t recommend, but enablement content management solutions really help a lot. Not only how you provide it to your salespeople, but also the management of the whole issue becomes much easier and the results speak for themselves. The small group of 23% said, “Yes, we have it in an integrated way. We use enablement content technology integrated with a CRM,” they have much better win rates.
Very quickly, that’s just what we went through. The five critical success factors of sales enablement so that next year all of you can be in a successful group or organization that achieves significantly better results. It was about sales enablement was growing but it’s also maturing. So, it’s steadily growing and maturing, and not fast enough in all of the areas that we’ve seen. We looked at these five different success factors, and I hope you can take a lot out of it and go implementing one or two of them.
And, you find a lot at CSO Insights. There is a lot of content for you to download. There is also a blog. We blog on Tuesdays, and my blogs are always on Thursdays. And last but not least, one final question and ask I have for you to be able to provide research content in such a manner, what we do, we need once a year your help. We need, once a year, 10 or 15 minutes of your time so that we can get back to you next year with the latest data, or even later this year. So, you can take this QR code and get directly to our 5th annual enablement service. We’re happy to partner with Highspot on this one, and you can also find the link on our website. Thank you!
Emcee: Great, thank you very much. I love seeing the data applied to our space. I can see lots of phones taking photos of slides as well, so I think it resonates with the audience. I do have one question. So, the earlobe thing, do we have to do that when we walk into every sales meeting now?
TS: I mean, why not? It can break the ice.
Emcee: Alright, we can do some audience Q&A. So just use your format, if you have a question, please raise your hand. I think this gentleman over here was the first.
Audience 1: Hi, my name is Alex. Thanks very much for the presentation. I have a rather critical question. The problem with a lot of the data, which I think is probably correct, saying the correct things, is average over some very different organizations with very different products, very different markets, very different sales organizations. So, if you’re selling paper or if you’re selling nuclear power stations, you’re going to have quite a different setup. So, isn’t there a danger you’re going to actually lose some really insightful stuff by working off of those particular percentages? For example, you might reduce, sorry increase, the win rate, by just throwing out some bad prospects, but that doesn’t increase sales. But for certain organizations, that may or may not be the right thing to do. So how do you take the generality of the average customer, and if you get down to the difference?
TS: Great, great question. So, what you see in our reports is, of course, the very high level, the very, very high level few. So of course, what we do with customers, we go back into the industry segment they’re in. And we look specifically how to put that into that context. And that’s my message to all of you here. What you hear from me or show from others, always reflect it back. What does that mean in your context? So, if you, for example, run a complex deal team that has win rates of 60 or 70% simply because they only get a few deals, the really big ones, and they have such rigor to qualify everything on, they are not able to win in any way. So, I don’t throw that win rate into it. And you would say, “Oh, I don’t need to do anything. I’m already at 65%.” But for you, the benchmark will be, okay, maybe in the industry for complex deals, it’s 70%. I just make that up just to give you an idea, we always have to put that into our context.
Audience 2: My company does multi-million-pound deals, a 500-million dollar deal they got last year in the U.S. Now they’re trying to go down to smaller customers, and I’m trying to persuade them to have different measures. Their win rate is fantastic, but moving into a slightly different market sector, you need to adjust because they won’t actually gain business unless they actually…
TS: I would not change the ambition for the win rate. I would focus on what is the right how-to-sell approach for that buyer group in that segment and then work backward from that.
Emcee: Great, do we have any questions from the back of the room here? Okay.
TS: You here, I’ve seen you. So, we’ll get to you.
Audience 3: Hi Tamara. Just a quickie. While talking sales enablement, what’s your opinion or have you seen any data insights around content and sales tools actually becoming a disabler? Because I feel what happens often is, a lot of content is provided, we see tools like Showpad which are great for standardizing presentations, and salespeople get hidden behind technology gets in the way. As opposed to, stop at the beginning of the meeting, shut down and talk to the customer. As opposed to, look at the tech, look at the slides. Any thoughts around that?
TS: Yeah, so that’s a great question. It goes to me in the area of how do we empower salespeople so that they make, in that specific situation, the right decision how to run that meeting. And this is what you usually see with A players. They are totally prepared, they go into the room, they tune in and say it’s not working. Their channel is not working, we just changed it, and they change the whole meeting, they were highly successful and drive everyone else crazy. But that’s where you want to have your A players and others be able to learn from that. So, what I want to say with that, a lot of the content, I always like to make the distinction between, there is internal enablement content that should help the sales professionals get prepared for the meeting, the call, whatever the interaction might be.
And then there is customer facing content I can use in the conversation. But if I’m already in the conversation, I say, “Oh, it’s going fine”. I get my message across, and the person is actually more interested in talking to me, then why would I open the laptop? Why would I do that? But this means people have to be empowered to do that. It’s not about, I’m a big fan of principles that keep people accountable and responsible, and not following rules, but I was told so. It’s like the system said so. LinkedIn forced me to do so. No, no tool is forcing us to do anything. We have to master technology and not the other way around.
Audience 4: Hi, as part of the sales enablement when you put up the statistics and everything else, you said that formal and dynamic coaching massively improves the sales team, but it was less than 40% are actually doing that. Do you think that’s because there’s a lack of understanding between coaching and training and people don’t, and leadership and management don’t understand the difference?
TS: Yeah, so it’s just I could run a whole day on sales coaching. So, the first thing is, it’s misinterpreted. I get this, “Oh, we’re doing this.” And then will you just tell me how this conversation works and it’s actually activity management. So that’s not adding value. You know, if you are my boss and you tell me, “Tamara, you don’t have enough pipeline.” I mean, I know that by the time we’re sitting together. “What is your number?” I know my number. This is kind of checking boxes, that’s not coaching. That’s really a structured conversation and questioning technique. To me, it’s a leadership style. How to leverage every person’s potential.
That requires that every person is coachable. If I’m not coachable, you can do a lot of stuff to me and if I shut up, it won’t work. That to me is hiring criteria, how coachable is someone in that role? And we have seen that in Michael’s story. It is hard to go to the resistance in these organizations. I’ve had that, too. I was trying to, and finally, we got to run a sales manager coaching program in 2013. You know what the approval on the broad level, my boss forced me to actually sell a thing I didn’t know what was in because the world cared about what are they doing. They just looked at the numbers, just simply because we still have a lot of sales leaders and now in roles, they will not coach themselves. And as I made a great career, I mean I was never coached, what’s all this shit?
You know, we had a CEO at that time who was actually the best salesperson in the company. I’ve never seen somebody who could tune into a buyer’s mind, and so, in a few seconds. He didn’t get the whole idea. I mean, why are they not just doing this? He didn’t get it because it was natural to him. So, and then sales leaders, they have to sense, if they started with sales coaching from the front line, it will affect how I’m leading these guys at some point. They sense that. They will never tell that to you, but they sense that. I have a blog post out there on exactly this problem. Role-playing in a sales meeting, what coaching is not, helps a lot, everyone will laugh but they say, “Okay. They mean something different.” That will help a lot. And then, of course, there is a lot of data, not only from us, but also from others that prove that point. And then really seeing, if there’s a performance issue, let’s say, “Why don’t you allow me to start a pilot?” And you always find sales managers that know how to coach from elsewhere, or they’re just natural coaches, and run a pilot with them. And then show the results and then you will get your rollout. And that’s a sensitive topic, I know.
Emcee: I think we have time for one more question.
Audience 5: If I’m a CFO implementing strategy, do I start with technology, or polishing the diamond, or coaching the coaches?
TS: Polishing the diamond. No, great question. So, there is no absolutely right answer to it. So, if you start from scratch, I would always focus on the biggest problem. Because that ensures investments and executive sponsorships for these reasons. If that’s not the case, you would start with a whole exercise to get your senior executive buy-in to do all of the strategy and the charter, but that’s usually not the case. So, for instance, in my role, I started with technology and the content area. Was it, from today’s perspective, was it the right thing to do? No. Was it the right thing to do in that situation? Yes, because it was the biggest problem and I had a sponsor. So, then you work your way from there.