Sales Enablement Soiree – Keynote: What Does “Good” Look Like?
1 Like | 55 min read
Peter Ostrow: So, let’s start with a bit of a philosophical discussion. And the philosophical discussion is why are we here? Why do we matter? I’m going to jump down because I want to get closer to you guys. How many of you guys have in your organization a written sales enablement charter or mission statement that your CEO is aware of? Not too many of you. How many of you think maybe you should? A lot more hands are coming up. So, maybe we’ll talk about that a little bit today. Also, just so you know, I am a certified, highly trained analyst and one of the things that they teach us is to always answer a question with a question. Or at least, “it depends.” So, when we ask the question, “why does sales enablement matter?” we answer it with an actual question.
Now, this particular question actually came from our 2018 sales talent study. I’m going to roam a little bit, so don’t get too freaked out if I’m in your grill. Mostly because that’s the way that I can see the screen. So, this is a question that we ask of a few hundred sellers, B2B sellers, across various industries and revenue bands. And – are there any recruiters in the room? That’s too bad, because the results are something that you’re going to like. If you’re a sales enabler, however, the results aren’t really going to put you in as much of your happy place. So, of every 100 of your sales people, 29 of them have looked for work in the last year. Hopefully not this person right here, because she sells for SiriusDecisions.
But this news actually gets worse. When we look at our high-performing versus low-performing reps – high performers were folks who were 101% or better of their number both of the last two years, low performers were 80% or worse the last two years. What does this tell us? Almost a third of your best reps have been looking for work in the last year. So, this is one of the reasons why sales enablement matters, because that’s a big problem. How are you going to give people the skills, knowledge, and process expertise they need if a third of them are actively looking at any given point in time or at least in the last year for a new job?
So, there’s another question that we put in that survey and we talked to a lot of reps in excruciating detail and we asked them, “What do you do with your time? How do you spend your time?” But then we put a little bit of a twist on that question and we added this part to it: “How do you feel you should be spending your time?” And the interesting data shows up in one of our big famous I-charts, but here it is. There’s a huge disconnect between how reps spend their time and how they want to be spending their time.
Now, before you start to answer, in your mind at least, I’m going to go ahead and answer the question. Yes, maybe you want someone to spend five times as much time taking care of customer issues or three times as much time on CRM input as they want to. Maybe that’s their job and darn it they’re going to do their job. But unfortunately, when we look at high-performing reps versus low-performing reps, the deltas between these blue and green bars are even bigger. So that’s another reason why sales enablement matters, to address the discrepancies, to address the conflicts, and to figure out how we narrow these gaps down and deliver the kind of competent, long-term, highly contributing reps that we want in our organization.
Then we also talked to enablement leaders and we say, “what’s important to you?” And apparently the answer is everything. Sales enablement leaders are doing a really bad job of prioritizing their priorities and that’s a problem, because do you have an unlimited budget? I know you don’t. So, nobody has an unlimited budget. The issue here, of course, is how do we pick and choose what we focus on? What can we work on, what do we have the bandwidth to work on, and what matters?
So, when we work with our customers we tend to break it down into three major components. Talent, asset, and communications management. And then when we run that back up against the numbers here it’s actually pretty interesting to see that the overwhelming prioritization among sales enablement leaders is about sales readiness, how good people are at their jobs. Now there may be folks here in this room who emphasize enablement just from a content perspective or running kick-offs. That’s perfectly fine. But the lesson that we learned here is that having reps who are super proficient at their jobs is the continuity between all of these priorities. Hence, that’s one of the reasons why enablement matters, because no one else is better positioned, no one else is more interlocked with HR and portfolio and product and everybody else to make sure that it can get done. How many of you folks have responsibility for enabling managers? Sales managers? A handful, 10 – 15% of you. This is something that we threw up on our screen back at our summit in May but you can’t forget that these are people too. Just because they were great salespeople doesn’t mean that they don’t have a different set of competencies, needs, and feelings.
Here’s what the data tells us. The vast majority of high-performing sales reps tell us that if they’re going to look for a new job, their future boss is extremely important in their considerations as to whether or not to take a job. The competency of that boss. And yet when we look at the high-performing managers, barely half of them actually tell us that they’ve received adequate training to be a manager. Great player, great individual contributor, just make them a manager. But it doesn’t work out that well because, in fact, the vast majority of high-performing managers also tell us that learning and ongoing development for themselves and their team members is crucial. This is the final reason why, to answer our esoteric question, sales enablement matters. It’s the only part of the organization that’s positioned to address all of these conflicts.
So, for today, we’re going to talk about four major pieces. First, we’re going to talk about content. And at SiriusDecisions we think about content around two different lenses. Activation content, the external buyer-facing stuff that we use to get buyers through their journey from education to solution and selection. And empowerment content, all the learning and development and internal things that sellers need, again, during the various stages of their sales cycle to help them do their job better. The technical term for this is actually just stuff. It’s the stuff that a rep needs to do their job, whether you call it content, assets, it doesn’t really matter. Then we’re going to talk about training, the specific context of all empowerment content. How do we teach and grow reps so that they are good at their jobs, great at their jobs, and don’t look for another job like 32% of the high-performers that we saw earlier?
We’re also going to talk about buyer engagement. The simple reason is, they’re the people who matter at the end of the day, right? Do you have buyers? So, we have to look at sales enablement through that perspective as well. And then finally, analytics, because I’m a nerd and there’s no way I’m not going to talk about the data. There’s also one more piece of our agenda today, you may have been wondering what this thing is. So, every time you see this slide I’d like you guys to shout at the top of your lungs, “what does good look like?”
Let’s start with content. So, 65% of the content – you guys may have seen this stat from us before. If you’re a marketer and you create 100 pieces of content this year, 35 of them are actually going to find their way to the buyer. Is that an efficient way to run your marketing business? It is not. So, we need to do something about this. But what gets in our way is that we salespeople are very crafty and innovative types. We figure it out and forgiveness is perfectly fine, we don’t need permission. So what do we do? We make our own, because there’s too much out there, we don’t know who owns it, it’s not right, it’s not customizable, it’s not personalized. So we go off, we work around, we do our own thing. But we haven’t really done it the right way. It doesn’t understand the actual buyers’ journey, it’s not persona-driven, and we’re breaking some of the good rules that at least the 35% of the marketing content being used actually has for us. At the end of the day, there’s also no data, there’s no input for what we’re doing. So, this is the problem that we have with content today. When we look at content, we also have to understand –
Crowd: What does good look like?
PO: So, let’s take a look at some of our survey data. We asked sellers, “What are the top things that get in your way for being a top performer, for hitting your number?” And when this particular answer was put in front of people, “One of the top three things that gets in my way of hitting quota is I can’t find the stuff that I need for the buyer-facing content.” Our research shows that those high performers, 101% the last two years, are 39% less likely than the low performers to actually tell us that that’s an issue.
There could be a couple of interpretations of this data point. Number one, high performers are much better at breaking the rules. I don’t really want to be walking around being in your face telling you that salespeople should break the rules, but sometimes you’ve got to do what it takes at the end of the quarter to get things done. On the other hand, we look at another piece here and we asked salespeople, “What’s the importance of the various technology factors that you consider from a stack and management perspective when you’re looking for a new job?” And when this particular long-answer option came up, basically: “The productivity tools, the things that help me spend more time selling and less time looking for stuff,” including sales asset management. We’ve got plenty of folks out there who are providing solutions around that. High performers are way more likely to say that that’s a very important consideration. So, who in this room honestly can tell me that when you’re recruiting new salespeople, you put the quality of your sales tech stack out there so that they think that it’s a really positive attribute of your organization? Okay, so maybe I should have answered it the other way, so that every single hand went up. But this is important.
Understanding your audience, that’s not new to any of us here. Your audience, whether they’re your potential salespeople or your current salespeople, especially if they’re good and you want to keep them around, those are the folks that we need to pay attention to. When it comes to the other kind of content, the learning and developmental content, we have some data to talk about how high performers versus low performers consume content at each stage of the sales cycle. Here’s the interesting thing. And we’ll let the animation do its fun thing. Your high-performing reps, the winners in your organization on average, are consuming 68% more learning and developmental content throughout the course of their buyers’ journey or their sales cycle than the low performers.
What’s actually kind of interesting here is when you break it down. At the early stage, high performers consume a third more content beginning at the early stages of the buyer’s journey. Why is this? Because they’re smart enough to know what they don’t know. They’re pulling a Donald Rumsfeld here. And they realize that before they go into the heat of battle, they ought to actually educate themselves about the persona, the buyer, the market, what they need to talk about in that particular conversation. Low performers just kind of jump right in and then they don’t do very well because they’re low performers and so at the end of the day, in the middle part of their sales cycle, they’re panicked – “Oh my gosh, I better learn something because I’m not doing very well here.” And then by the end of the whole process, they just give up. Your high-performing sales reps are actually consuming twice as much content even at the late stage of the buyer’s journey, compared with the low performers. For those of you who have instructional design responsibilities – sales training, sales development – make sure you’re thinking about your buyers – their personas, their learning personas, their learning preferences – and make sure that you’re tailoring the content to your buyer. In this case, the buyer just happens to be internal, they’re your sales rep. But you still are asking them to give you something; instead of money, it’s time and attention, and ultimately the outcome and the results.
So, you guys can read all of this text, right? This is actually the breakdown – early, middle, and late stage of the sales cycle, specifically the most commonly consumed empowerment or learning assets that sellers tell us they are involved with. The colored bar is our high performers and the gray performers are your not-so-high performers. Let’s break this down in a way that’s a little bit easier to consume. We basically have a couple of categories here. The shining stars, these are the learning and development pieces which are both the most popular and the most effective. We asked folks, “what do you use,” but also “what’s helpful for you?” You can take the shot, you can write it down, and we’ve got some of this available for you guys who are customers on our portal. There’s also a category we refer to as Hidden Gems. These are the items that are not used very often but are actually considered top ten most effective. It’s the thought leadership, “how do I knock out my competitors, how do I know more about the industry that I’m playing in?”
So, let’s also talk about another way we slice and dice our data. High-growth organizations – 31% or better growth year to year – they are doing something around sales asset management in particular, which is a solution that delivers, manages, curates, aggregates, and analyzes obviously both the external content and the internal content in many cases. Your high-growth companies are 16% more likely to figure out some sort of connective tissue between what we show and then what happens in the end. Did this piece of content actually help us win a deal? Only about a third of companies overall even know. That’s kind of sad, but hopefully, we’ll improve upon that. They’re 28% more likely to actually deploy a solution, which is great because we’ve got a couple of customers who are trying to build this on their own, but it’s pretty hard. It’s mostly a buy, but it’s basically a way to automate a lot of the things that we know we should be doing and so that’s where your high-growth companies check in. They’re also 46% more likely to limit how many hours per month a rep spends not doing their job. And twice as likely, by the way, to make sure reps have to look in no more than six locations to find the assets that they need. So, that’s content.
Do you guys want to talk about training a little bit? Is there anybody here who doesn’t care about training?
Audience Member: No, I had a question. Is that okay?
Audience Member: Alright. How many marketing organizations compensate their product managers and the people making up all this content based on the content that they get out versus the content that gets looked at and used and sent to customers?
PO: In my anecdotal opinion, too many. In my analyst opinion, I have no idea. It’s not my area of specialty. But it’s a great question. Does anybody here get paid by the asset?
Audience Member: Not paid, but measured.
PO: Measured by how many?
Audience Member: Marketing by the pound.
PO: Alright, marketing by the pound. Carmen, that’s a good one. Thank you.
Audience Member: You’re welcome.
PO: Let’s talk about training. And we will hopefully have time for more general Q&A at the end. Is this what your training looks like? So, who loves sales training? Alright, well I’m glad to see it. But who loves sales training when it’s done right? All of us, obviously. So, what is right is hard to know, but we will have a horn moment for what good looks like. But let’s talk a bit about sales training. Jim, you like this one?
Audience Member: Yes, I do.
PO: Alright. So this is our Sales Talent Lifecycle Framework. I bring it up because the lens of sales training is something that cannot just apply to “let’s onboard somebody and for three weeks, they’re going to be in boot camp, they’re going to learn everything they ever need to know.” We actually look at the Sales Talent Lifecycle as a continuum of when someone joins you – when you’re hiring them, when they’re onboarding, and when they’re developing on an ongoing and long-term basis. I know there’s a lot on this screen, but these are some of the things that our customers use to try to figure out where and how I fit in the learning. What do people need to know before I get my hands on them? What do they need to know when I’ve had my hands on them for two weeks? What do they need to know when they have been on board and selling for six months but maybe they don’t know everything, maybe they’re not certified in everything? Essentially, this is the way we help look at our customers’ competencies. Where have they figured out what good looks like for themselves? Again, we’ll have some ideas as to what good looks like overall.
We also have an Onboarding Execution Framework. When we onboard folks, or even when we develop ongoing learning and development content, most folks just start at “develop”. Like, in a reactive mode, “We just lost a bunch of deals. Let’s make up a bunch of PowerPoints, record a video or do a role-play and fix it just like that.” In our experience, and what our data bears out is our customers are much more successful when they take more of a methodical approach that starts with defining, “What do we want out of this onboarding or ongoing learning and developmental program? What are the objectives for our company? Do we want to get sold? Do we want to buy? Do we want reps to hit their number? Do we want to make money? Do we have stakeholders whose concerns matter more than everything else? And then what are the learning outcomes for the reps themselves? What does the experience look like and how are we going to measure whether it’s effective or not?”
Then we design the program. This is the pathway, this is the journey. What is the experience going to be for me as a seller learner that’s going to contribute to my ability to spend less time not selling, but more time selling effectively? Then and only then is it time to actually develop the actual PowerPoints. This is where most organizations start. It’s the simplest but most time-consuming part of the process. And then it’s followed up with the need, absolutely, to have a communications plan, a formal campaign, a pilot, a rest period, and then general release, which probably sounds familiar to most of you guys who sell software. It’s no different, it is a campaign and you need to measure the results and the outcomes.
We also talk about B2B learning through a different lens. How many of you guys are in Human Resources? Alright, so I can diss on HR? There’s nobody in the room? Alright. No, I sold to HR for many, many years and, you know, it’s an extremely important part of our enterprise but the fact is that learning looks very different from an HR perspective as it does from a sales management perspective. For most B2B roles, it tends to focus on a compliance and governance approach. “Did you do the learning? Did you check the box? Did you participate.” Some clients say onboarding is complete when someone has been awake in 80% of the classes. But the whole idea is that learning is very different for a B2B seller because there’s really no second chances. You’re applying your craft in front of your buyer, your own personal cash flow is more dependent on whether or not you not only have been certified on something but can execute it effectively in the field. I’m not saying that there aren’t jobs out there where you have to be perfect: surgeon, pilot, apparently not an NFL quarterback. I’m from Boston so there we have it. But that being said, learning is very, very different. And it applies both to the onboarding experience as well as the ongoing learning and development experience.
We have a piece of IP here which is pretty full but basically what it means is, for salespeople in particular, there’s a style of learning that you need to think about. We look at three levels of sales learning. Occupational – what do I need to know to do my job right now. Aspirational – what do I need to know and be good at to do my job when I’m at the top of my job performance or I want to move up in my organization. And if you’re Google you have the time for inspirational, which is “take 20% of your time and just think.” So, we don’t really worry about that too much with our customers because it’s just not realistic for most organizations. And you see the whole grid layout, but the green block is really where we tend to focus. This is how tell, show, do, reinforce, and own play out.
Overly-simplistically, I tell you what you need to know. I show you what good looks like. You do it in a controlled environment where I can give you coaching and feedback. I reinforce it over time to make sure you’re at or above competence level. And if you’re really, really good you’re going to own it to the point where if you’re a high-potential, not just a high performer, you actually can turn around and coach and manage other people to that exact same competency. And this applies to any specific competency: negotiations skills, a sales methodology, how to close a deal, how to run something through legal or the CPQ. It doesn’t matter whether it’s process, knowledge, or skill. This is how we look for ongoing development to take place. How many of you guys are this rigorous and measure it with your ongoing learning and development? Maybe that’s why we exist, but that’s sort of the way we look at it.
PO: So, when we talk about training, learning, and coaching, how many hours a year do you think average sales rep gets of product and solution training? Not skills.
Audience Member: We probably spend more time on the solutions.
PO: We spend more time, she said. So, 10, 20, 30, 40?
Audience Member: 50.
PO: 50. Okay. Survey says high-performing companies actually do 17% more. So, when we say high-performing organizations, just by definition, those are companies where 80% of their reps hit their number or more. Low performers, 79% or fewer of their reps hit their number. More training is good. But you have to do it right, which we just sort of went through, right?
Another way in which things look good is through the lens of buyer engagement. This is the third of our four chapters, so we’re moving along and we’ll have time for Q&A as well. Is there anybody who doesn’t know who Sam Walton was? You’re not going to admit it if you don’t. I’ve been asking millennials lately if they know what the term “jump the shark” means, and they’re like, “Oh, I know what it means.” And then I say, “where did it come from?” Is Haley in the room? Haley Katsman? She didn’t know. Last week at the Sales Enablement Society I showed her the Fonzi video of jumping the shark. Remember? I’m getting some blank stares right now. It’s like, “I just use the phrase. I don’t know where it came from.”
So, buyer engagement is absolutely what matters. This is our huge buyer study that we do every year at SiriusDecisions and the basic question is “What made you buy from the person you bought from?” And it’s kind of interesting, when we look at many of the answers, they fall into one lump: my knowledge of, experience with, thoughts about, the background of, and the reputation of your company. And then another batch actually has to do with the product. When we actually compare these, what’s interesting is that the vast majority of drivers that buyers tell us influence them are about their experience. And a very small minority of them are actually about the offering or the price. And 1% was “Other”, so hopefully that all adds up to 100%. By now, if it doesn’t, someone’s probably tweeted about it.
What does this mean for us? What it means is that we need to refocus our energies on enabling sellers around what really matters, which is the experience that they’re going to have with their buyer. Now, it’s not up on the slide deck today but we have some data that talks about how important the seller and the seller’s content are to the buyer. We actually know that buyers tell us, especially B2B tech buyers, that there’s actually a bit more emphasis that they place on the content, which we already talked about, than there is actually the seller themselves. But they’re both very highly rated, which means that the experience that the buyer has with you, the seller, and the content you provide and when you provide it impacts everything else that we’ve been talking about today.
A way to look at this is also thinking about what we asked our survey respondents in the buyer, “Why don’t you buy?” or “What slows things down?” Is there anybody in the room who likes to slow down deal velocity? Of course, the answer is no. This is what happens. Some of these things are for the most part out of your control. You could make an argument that a really, really good consultative seller can influence something like budget or the purchasing process. But these are the leading ways in which buyers tell us that the things that are mostly outside of our control are influencing them to slow down the process. But when it comes to the things that are mostly under our control, these are the things that matter. So if enablement wants to contribute where it’s going to have an impact, it’s kind of your answer, right?
There’s something else that we found out from our buyer study. There’s a lot of personas out there who influence the buyer. So, the number one is the vendor sales rep, but look at all of the others there. These are presented in diminishing order of importance but the lesson of this slide is that there are a lot of people that a lot of buyers interact with. And so, I do want to ask a really important question. How many of you guys enable just sales? Raise your hand if you enable more than just traditional sales people. Oh, okay, great. Thank you. We’re going to hopefully be presenting some content at our summit next May in Austin, Texas – it’s our user event – where we’re going to start to think of enablement as a little bit different. Think about it as almost a center of excellence. And we’re starting to see in some of our customers where enablement is supporting people who are traditional sellers – BDRs, SDRs, field reps, account managers, AEs, etc. – but also buyer-facing personas. People like customer success. People like partners. Sales engineers and solution engineers and people like that. So, that actually helps with some of my informal research and hopefully, we’ll get that slot at our summit next year. We’re calling it “Enablement is the New Black”.
This is what good buyer enablement looks like. This should look a little familiar, but this is seen through the lens of the buyer. They talked to us about the assets that they consumed directly from their seller. Not the marketing assets, but the selling assets directly from their seller. So here’s some interesting stuff. The average B2B buyer consumes 17.3 pieces of content given to them directly by the seller. It diminishes a little bit over time, but that number, 17.3, is actually the take-away here. That’s a lot of content. It’s a lot of opportunities to get it wrong, it’s a lot of opportunities to mis-time it. It’s also a lot of opportunities to get it right.
How many of you guys have your buyer-facing content segmented by early-, mid-, late-stage in the buyer’s journey? Let me ask again. How many of you guys have your content tagged and segmented by stage of the buyer’s journey? I can’t believe that was all. Does that freak you out the way it does me? Alright, you guys need to start working on that.
Let’s drill down a little more deeply. The colored bar is your buyers buying from the winning rep, and the gray bar is from the runner-up, the losing sales rep. So, I know these are kind of hard to read so we’ll break it down for you. But what are the most effective pieces of content that are used with B2B buyers? First, we start with our shining stars. These are the ones that are both popular and effective. Proposals and contracts, isn’t that something that just legal has to take care of? Well, actually, no. It’s a very effective and very popular selling tool. Third-party articles, analyst reports.
Then we look at the next category. And these are the hidden gems. These are the ones that are not used all that often, but that buyers tell us are top ten in terms of their importance and their impact on their final decision to buy. So, articles, demos, third-party. The consistent theme that we’re seeing here is thought leadership. People actually want to be educated. We all asked earlier, “who loves training?” Training for the buyer is not that much different from training for the seller, except that it’s probably voluntary and not mandatory. Sorry about being in your face here. And then finally, the fool’s gold. These are the pieces that are used quite often, but frankly, they’re not considered as effective. Nothing against brochures, I sold in the ‘80s. Nothing against videos, it’s a very, very effective medium, but they’re often not done as well as they should be done.
Let’s take a look at our last category. This is analytics and data. So, anybody know the name Edward Tufte? Alright, yeah. You know the whole Napoleonic War visual that he created? Look up Edward Tufte if you like cool visuals and data because he marries them better than anybody else out there.
If you don’t measure it – you guys know the rest of how that phrase goes. High-performing organizations, those with 80% or more of their reps hitting their number, are 23% more likely to take the time from an enablement perspective and figure out, “What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong?” Who wants to go on the record and tell me, how do you measure sales enablement in your organization?
Audience Member: It depends on what organization you’re measuring, but it can be a lot of things. It can be how many of your reps are hitting their quota – whatever quota means for them. If it’s onboarding, it can be time to first uninherited deal. It can be how well a whole organization is performing and retaining customers. It can even be retaining your top talent. It can be a lot of different things.
PO: So you mentioned four.
Audience Member: That’s an example. It’s not the whole list.
PO: It’s not the whole list. Is there anybody who measures enablement with one metric? You’re among friends, speak up. Nobody? Good, because there’s no such thing as measuring enablement by one metric. Evidenced by no other fact than only 41% of our enablement customers have the word enablement in their title. It’s just such a moving definition. Enablement is growing like crazy – we know that. But the whole point is you can’t measure something or manage it if you don’t have deep insight into multiple indicators. Leading, lagging, and learning.
So, let’s take a look at what high-performing companies do versus low-performing companies around some of the things that we’ve talked about today. When it comes to hiring great salespeople, how many of you feel like you do work with your talent acquisition team to bring in the best possible salespeople? Not too many, and that’s about what we see among our customers. We would like to see that change. And here’s why. High-performing organizations are 8% more likely than low-performing organizations to measure some or all of these things. How long does it take to hire? I mean, that’s pretty important if you’ve got an uncovered sales territory or an under-covered sales territory, right?
So, the idea there is why don’t we take some time and interlock with the learning and the talent acquisition team and make sure that they are clear on the competencies that we require for our sellers. Or, why don’t we introduce them to the SiriusDecisions sales talent recruitment waterfall – may sound familiar to some of you guys – which introduces a marketing-based concept of creating a better funnel of opportunities that we can nurture and then close? But they’re not leads, they’re actually human beings. And you’ve got all of these other metrics. The net-net is measuring high-performing companies a little bit more than low-performing companies.
Our friend over there said that there are eight metrics. Right now we’ve got four metrics for you. There are eight just for that single priority of talent acquisition. When it comes to coaching effectiveness, high-performing organizations again are more likely to measure a bunch of these things. Starting with the leading indicators, which is the activity. Enablement is probably doing a good job if these are looking good, if they change for the positive, not more or less, over time. But your leading indicators are also complimented by your lagging indicators. Is there anyone here who’s enablement team is judged by lagging indicators only? No one?
Sales enablement is judged by lagging indicators. Did we make our number, did we shrink our deal cycle, did we grow our deal size? There are correlation and causation, you guys have heard the phrase. You can have some relationship to these, but if you’re being judged by that, does everybody know exactly why a deal was won? Well, the rep is the reason a deal was won. Does anybody know why a deal was lost? Everything else. Lagging indicators versus leading indicators and learning indicators as well. How much coaching is done? For example, we know that high-performing organizations require more than twice as many field observations – manager and seller, or coach and seller, or team lead and seller, or overlay and seller – than low-performing organizations before they will certify a seller as ready for duty. The idea behind that is a mix of these different indicators is probably the best way to figure out, dashboard-wise, what’s best for your organization.
Another way to look at the coaching piece is – how many of you guys use a net promoter? Externally? So, how many of you use the equivalent of a net promoter internally to see if you’re doing a good job? So about 15 to 20% of the number of external. Why not? They’re your customers. They’re your buyers. You need to understand what kind of job you’re doing. And finally, coaching can be done in an informal fashion. So that’s the way that high-performing companies are 12% more likely than the underperformers to measure some or all of these different coaching types of indicators. For sales asset management, we’ve got all sorts of different things. And high-performing companies are 35% more likely to measure some of these. Now, seven of these eight high-performing companies measure them more often than low-performing companies. One of these low-performing companies measures it more than the strong companies. Take a guess. Which one is adopted more by low performers? Number eight, because finding out what actually contributed to a won deal is very much art and it’s not science.
Another way in which we measure success, even something as simple as sales kick-off. High-performing companies actually understand the need to not always connect the inputs with the outputs. The outputs are revenue and that could happen six, 12 months from now. They actually understand that the feedback on something like a sales kick-off is more important. By having that internal communication strategy in place that says, “did we do a good job and how can we improve?” Trying to say we had this number of meetings, this number of cocktail hours, this number of mountain climbing ice-breaking speakers and revenue at the end of the fiscal year – that’s correlation maybe and definitely not causation. High-performing companies measure stuff more than low-performing companies.
Now, how should sales enablement be measured? This is sort of our view on it. First of all, you’ve heard talk about the three major buckets. Sales talent management – hiring, onboarding, and long-term development. You’ve heard me talk about sales asset management – aligning the right content at the right time and delivering it to the buyer and seller around what to show and what to know in an activity-based sales enablement scenario. And we talked a little bit today about sales communications, it’s a bit of an up-and-coming priority. So, when we look at these, we start to divide them up into three sections for each, and I talked about attracting, onboarding, and optimizing the talent. These are some of the metrics that we suggest. So, there’s not one way to measure sales enablement, there are not four ways to measure sales enablement. As an analyst, I’ve been trained to measure as many things as possible, and then just make up the results. No, hold on. Jake, did I say that out loud or was I just thinking it?
Emcee: I heard it. I’ve heard it all before, too.
PO: No, you measure as much as you possibly can now, and then in six months, and then in 12 months, and you look for the trends. What is changing? Ultimately, can we reduce how much time our sellers spend not doing their core job? Can we reduce the amount of time it takes for them to be fully competent? I didn’t say onboarding, but to be fully competent at their jobs. Can we reduce the amount of time that we spend with uncovered or under-covered territories, working with sales operations and the chief sales officer to try and mitigate some of those issues? Ultimately, some mix of some of these is going to be how your organization can measure itself in terms of sales enablement success.
There is no magic answer, and the answer is really going to be, as every good analyst says – and one of you guys said it today – it depends. So, ultimately let’s wrap up and talk about our crystal ball. We don’t really tend to do the crystal ball thing here at SiriusDecisions, but we do publish once a year what we refer to as a planning assumptions document. And so for the six priorities that we cover in sales enablement, here’s what we’ve got. When it comes to talent acquisition support, you saw a data point earlier. The best sales reps out there care deeply about what their future manager is competent at and how they’re going to interact with their manager, their second-line manager, the CSO, the organization, and the culture as a whole. So, it makes complete sense to make sure that you’re hiring is at least complimented by your sales managers – assuming you’re part of the interview process – being familiar with situational, demonstrative, and behavioral interviewing. It makes sense that your hiring managers be aware of the competencies that are required, that your first-line managers for these reps know what’s expected and what’s not expected. Some basic level of involvement, not taking them too much away from their day-to-day, is absolutely essential for first-line managers.
When it comes to onboarding, we need to be re-thinking about when it’s done. We don’t like the boot camp reference at SiriusDecisions. There’s one element of it I like, which is in real boot camp, not everybody makes it out. And there are not a whole lot of sales hiring scenarios where somebody doesn’t make it out. We tend to soften up on some of those things. But when onboarding is done, because we get tons of requests, “Help me speed up onboarding.” Okay, what are you going to give up? “Nothing.” Do you understand there are laws of physics here? “We don’t care, these are my mandates.” So, we have these conversations. When onboarding is done can be a flexible, but still has to be a very defined concept. We think time to competency is the best metric for how well you’re doing at onboarding. Shrinking it, without sacrificing what competent looks like.
When it comes to ongoing learning and development, the idea of how people buy is pretty well ingrained in all of us, but what about how people learn? In our new sales talent study, we see that high-performing sales people react most effectively to shadowing someone else, going out one-on-one with their manager, interacting with their other learners. Even in a classroom setting, making it less lecture style and more interactive. What they like least are podcasts, they least like gamification. There’s very good science out there, not just our research but tons out there that helps us understand, how does the adult brain work and learn? And it’s very different in 2018 than it was in 1998. How that brain works, what the learner personas are of your sales people, should impact how you decide to train them and educate them.
When it comes to sales asset management, this nirvana of everything coming to me, in terms of what to show and what to know, is getting more and more a reality. And we need to see more and more of our customers adopting that. That should be the gold standard you guys aspire to. Moving from a pull environment where I go and look for the things that I need, to a push environment where my ones and zeros as exhibited by the opportunities that I’m working brings training, learning, developmental, and buyer-facing content to me.
Sales communications we haven’t talked about a lot today, but this is the governance that sales enablement is starting to take on more and more responsibility for. It has two flavors, delivery, and advocacy. Delivery is how do we control the noise that’s coming at our sellers. Advocacy is how do we actually always be listening. Everybody gets the reference.
And finally, when it comes to the sales enablement function itself, a lot of organizations are re-thinking what enablement means. We’re going to do this research, and I started it with you guys today, as to what enablement really covers and doesn’t. Not a whole lot of you have a charter written down. Why not? That’s what the big boy companies do for almost any function in the enterprise. And we suggest that you guys do it yourself. So, these are some of the things that we see coming up, and as they come to evolve either I’ll be proved completely wrong, or maybe some of this will be right. But we see these as some of the leading edge ways in which sales enablement organizations and high-performing companies are able to actually figure out what good looks like, not in general but specifically for each company. For yours, yours, and yours. So with that, thank you guys much. I appreciate your time.
Emcee: Excellent, excellent job. There was so much good content there I don’t even know where to begin. But I imagine some of you have some questions. So, we can take a few before you break for lunch. Can I see a hand if we have one? Right up here in the front. You had good restraint too, by the way.
Audience 1: Thank you so much for that. A question I wanted to ask based on the slide you showed is the partnership with talent acquisition. In sales enablement we’re expected to have a seat at the table, we have the ear of the sales managers, etc. But what are the best ways to have a seat at the table with recruiting and talent acquisition so that you don’t come to that problem where you can lead the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink?
PO: Yes, exactly. So the question is, what’s the right balance between us and the folks in HCM or talent acquisition to help them do their job as well as possible without really offending them, correct? Our answer is normally to bring it down to something that’s very factual, like the competencies. Everybody has job descriptions but that’s really just a marketing tool. “We’d like to have a meeting with you, just to talk about the competencies for our BDR role, the competencies for our account manager role. And let’s break it down in terms of skills, knowledge, and process. What are you guys looking for?” “Well, why are you asking?” “Well, because maybe we’re finding that when we onboard folks, we need a little bit more consistency around the incoming talent.” And then some organizations use that process to figure out their buy-versus-build formula needs to be adjusted a little bit. If onboarding has to be done faster, maybe we buy some of that talent. If onboarding has to be done better, maybe we change the way it looks.
But the onboarding and the ongoing development are impacted by that hiring piece. So, no, sales enablement is never going to be collecting biological samples from job applicants. That’s not the goal. The goal is to actually figure out how do we have, in an interlocked way, the best influence on what those guys are doing and give them some sort of view into what good looks like for them. Because if they hire great salespeople that we turn into even better salespeople, that’s a win for them as well.
Emcee: Another question.
Audience 2: Last time you had talked about scope creaking, which happened at our organization as well. One of those main ways I see scope happening is within product marketing, not sales enablement. Can you just talk about what you think is the best role and responsibility for those two roles in general?
PO: Yeah, so the question is, how do we create some sort of balance and not be the dumping ground for a lot of other things, specifically when it comes to product marketing. Which definitely focuses a lot on the asset piece, not so much on the training for skills and stuff like that. We go through an exercise with our customers that’s basically a two-by-two grid that says “what should I be working on?” and then another two-by-two grid that says “how can I possibly do it?” And what it ends up doing is breaking down sort of RACI-style, what are the things that we should prioritize, what are the things that we should watch over, what are the things that we should collaborate with, and what are the things that we should sponsor. It’s a way of just kind of the rules of engagement. And again, if you just write it down, after going through that exercise, most people will be respectful of it. And then when they need to break the covenant, they owe you a favor in the future.
Audience 3: Oftentimes the sales enablement person starts curating the seller’s time and saying we have 17 product organizations all vying for the seller’s time and attention and expertise, they’re all pumping out content and you have to curate the time spent. And there’s usually a variation in quality among the various channels. So, it seems like some organizations don’t know what good is. And I don’t want to dictate exactly “this is what it should look like” without quashing flexibility. But how do you ensure a relatively high level of quality while allowing for some variability for SMEs?
PO: Do you have a feedback mechanism so your sellers can tell you which content they love using and content they don’t?
Audience 3: Yes.
PO: Does that data find its way anywhere?
Audience 3: Yes.
PO: Is the data then acted on?
Audience 3: No.
PO: So, we have a different type of problem, right? It’s about the seats at the table. At the end of the day, selling in B2B is like water in my basement, unfortunately. It finds its path of least resistance. And I think paying attention to those outcomes is crucial. We do have a lot of organizations we work with where the folks who are creating the content are not as connected to the day-to-day selling activity as they should be. It’s a nice way of saying “why don’t you go out on a ride along once in a while and face the customer?” That might be one way to gently bring that together. But in terms of getting that mind share of sellers, again, they should be going to where their best opportunities lie. One of the things that we talk about with some of the technology-activated processes around pull versus push is to let the opportunities the sellers are working on dictate the types of content that they’re exposed to. If I’m selling into CPG, financial services, and high-tech, should I take two hours out of my day to learn about medical devices if I have nothing in my pipeline and nothing in my territory that is that industry?