Keynote: What Does “Good” Sales Enablement Look Like? – Soirée, Boston
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Peter Ostrow: Well, today my friends, is my wedding anniversary. Thank you. This picture was taken across the river in Harvard Yard in the Memorial Chapel, after which, my new bride and I went right over there and had some pictures taken at the Public Gardens and then over to the Lennox Hotel for a very memorable reception. So, you’re probably thinking, “Why is he spending the time with us instead of with his wife?” Well, we’ve had a lot of anniversaries, and while I love Lisa Ostrow dearly and with all of my heart, I’m really passionate about sales enablement. So, again, it’s been 31 years, we’ve had a lot of these, and she’s working today so I got a free pass.
When this picture was taken, some of you may not have been alive, but one thing that definitely did not exist at the time was sales enablement. I stand before you, 31 years ago on June 11, 1988, as a professional B2B sales person, which is what I was at the time. What I wasn’t at the time, was enabled in any way, shape, or form. We figured it out. We took some tribal knowledge and in a startup environment, which is where I was at the time, it was basically “figure it out as you go”. To this day, we still see high-performing salespeople enjoying the opportunity to sometimes figure it out as they go, but obviously, they’re enabled quite a bit more effectively and efficiently than they were at the time.
So, enablement itself, as you guys all know, is a relatively young, way younger than me, younger probably than all of us in the room, as a formal function. We’re still trying to figure out what it means, who should do it, where should its reach extend, and we’re going to talk about some of that today. We’re going to start by looking at a few data points that help us understand where enablement’s place sits in the world of supporting our frontline sellers and other buyer facing personas.
So, in our sales talent study that we conducted last year to try to figure out what the reach is and what the import of sales enablement is all about, we asked a simple question. And that question was, of individual contributors, when’s the last time you looked for a job? The percentage of folks that told us they had in the last year was 29%. Do we have any recruiters in the room? Professional recruiters? I didn’t think so, because that’s really the only person that would be happy with this statistic. I think we have a lot of professional sales enablers in the room, and this is not a happy statistic. It means that somewhere near about one-third of the people who are working for your organizations are interviewing for other jobs. Given the fact that we’re at a 50-year low in the unemployment rate, given the fact that our research shows that most of the people who are looking to come to work for you in a sales position are low performers, not strong performers, this can’t be a happy statistic.
But it gets worse. When we compare the high versus low performers in our research, high performers are folks who have been better than quota in the last two years, and low performers were at 80% or worse against their number the last two years. We see that the delta tells us that almost a third number of your best salespeople are spending some time on the job working for you not selling for you, not taking care of your customers, but interviewing for another position. That’s kind of depressing. It’s not really what one should do on one’s wedding anniversary, but I’m just kind of putting it out there for you guys.
We ask another interesting question in this particular survey, and this actually yields one of my favorite data points from this data set. We simply ask folks, high performers, low performers, all individual contributing salespeople and sales engineers, how do you spend your time? And we gave them about 20 different options for where they spend their time. But we also asked them, how would you like to spend your time? Now, if we’re talking about all salespeople, if we’re talking about underperforming salespeople, maybe we don’t care that much about what they want. Maybe, maybe not. But if we look at the high performing salespeople, people who have been at 101% or better against their number in each of the last two years, look at these incredible deltas in the green, where they are spending their time, and in the blue, where they want to spend their time. Do you guys see some the differences between these bars here? I’ll point them out for you.
Look at how much more time your best salespeople are spending compared to what they think they should be doing on customer set, on data entry, on forecasting. Now, it doesn’t mean that these tasks are unimportant. It doesn’t mean that these activities should have zero time in their activities during a given week. But clearly, if these are the best performers, we should be paying some attention to what their desires are all about. Now, where do they want to spend more time that they don’t have the opportunity to do so? In front of their buyers. And, believe it or not, building out the top of their own funnel. SiriusDecisions research actually shows that 80% of the average company’s pipeline is sales generated, the other 20% from marketing. So, the fact is that your best performers are spending not enough time in front of their buyers, that your best performers are not giving themselves enough time to make sure that they have enough of a pipeline in place. But they’re spending it on data entry, on forecasting, on pipe. This signifies one of the big reasons to us why sales enablement is so important.
When it comes down to it, we are the function that interlocks and quarterbacks all of the other different players, in portfolio marketing, in product, in field marketing, in human resources, in learning and development, the folks who bother us with all of our IT changes on a week-to-week basis. Enablement is uniquely positioned to quarterback the opportunity for your best salespeople to spend more time doing what they want to do and what we all acknowledge we believe they should be doing as well.
So, from that information, we then talked to sales enablement leaders themselves and we asked them: What’s important to you? Well, apparently, when we ask sales enablement leaders about what’s on their mind? What are they prioritizing? They’re prioritizing every priority. Look at this list, this is kind of crazy. All the different things that sales enablement leaders and our benchmark study tell us they’re spending time on, we tend to group most of these responsibilities into three categories: sales asset management, talent management, and communication management.
If we connect the dots between these most frequently seen responsibilities of sales enablement leaders and these buckets, you’ll actually notice that the vast majority of the things that folks are spending their time and resources on are about skills and competencies and readiness. Not so much making sure reps know what to say about our newest product. Not making sure that reps comply with the most important new regulations they need to be aware of. Those are important, but actually, the core skills and knowledge and process awareness to do their jobs exceedingly well. This is part of the problem that we have with enablement is that, while we have the opportunity to serve as that clearinghouse and that circuit breaker for where and how reps should be spending their time, we’re probably over-pivoting on how much we’re putting on our plate.
So, let’s take a look at four different pieces of our agenda today, and narrow down what good looks like for four major areas that we believe is where most enablement folks should generally be spending their time. First, it’s about content. And when we refer to content, we’re actually talking about two different flavors: activation content and empowerment content. Activation content to us refers to all of the things that you give your sellers and provide to them for them to use externally with your buyers. Empowerment content is all of the things that you use for your internal buyers, your internal seller customers. And that has to do with all of your training, your job aids. We see content or assets as uniquely blending these two different types of content and assets that folks can use to do their job better, preferably in real time.
We’ll also talk a little bit today about training, and that, of course, is related to the empowerment component of our content. Training, development, and learning is very, very hot right now. There’s a lot of terms that folks are throwing out: readiness, competencies, what do all of these mean? And what do high-performing organizations do to make sure they’re enabling their sellers and other buying facing professionals accordingly.
We’ll spend a little bit of time about those buyers themselves. We can’t forget that salespeople need to understand their buyers, their buyer personas, and what’s important to the folks who are going to hopefully become their customers over time. And, being an analyst, we can always have some fun with some analytics and some data, and in this context, we’re going to talk about how sales enablement might consider measuring itself and suggesting to the organization itself how to hold sales enablement culpable for knowing whether or not we do a good job. Is this okay with you guys for an agenda? Let’s move in.
So, we’ll start with content. I love this quote, “Write when drunk, edit when sober, marketing is the hangover”. Alright, so let’s take a look at some of the numbers around content. We refer to it as sales asset management, and our research bears out some interesting findings about the marketplace. So, what do these numbers mean? 62% of organizations in our research indicate that they have at least a half of dozen places where they make reps go look for stuff. Some of you are thinking, “I wish mine was only six.” Right? That’s usually what we hear from our customers. I saw a couple of nods and hands going up.
So, the core number of repositories really doesn’t matter if you’re managing your sales assets appropriately. What matters is the ability to find them, or have them pushed to your sellers and other buyer facing personas in the appropriate context of the deals that they’re doing. I can tell you that high performing organizations, those where 80% or more of the reps hit their number last year, they actually have 12% fewer locations for where reps have to go looking for stuff. 47%: that’s the percentage of organizations who tell us that their reps spend, on average, at least 20 hours a month, and you’re reading this right now and I’ll interpret it for you, not doing their job. Looking for things, manipulating content, trying to figure out which version, which logo, which slide, which copyright date, all that stuff that shouldn’t be their jobs.
The average number of hours is about 16 or so that typical B2B sales reps spend looking for things and not doing their job. And what’s the 33%? We know that only one-third of companies actually can connect the assets that they’re using to sell, with the outcomes of those sales activities. That’s kind of crazy, right? Two-thirds of us are creating content, pushing content, developing assets, but we don’t know whether it actually has an impact, indirect or any whatsoever, on the final dispensation of the deals. We do know that high growth companies do this 16% more often. So again, these are some aspirations that you guys should consider around the asset management piece.
We have some interesting research when we look at the different types of content and the different quantities of content that sellers and buyers engage in at different stages of the buyer’s journey and the seller’s cycle, which we all know should be pretty well married together. What we know about the empowerment content, the learning and development job aids, the battle cards, the FAQs, is that early, mid and late stage in the buyer’s journey, there’s a difference between your high performer sellers and your low performer sellers. Overall, your best salespeople actually spend more time learning from more pieces of training and development content than your low performing reps.
The story here is essentially that early in the buyer’s journey, your best sales reps are smart enough to know what they don’t know, and they take some time to educate themselves with an average of five different learning or development assets, before they go too far interacting with their buyer. Your low performing reps, they just sort of dive right in. By the middle of the buyer’s journey, we see the number gently decreasing over time throughout the journey for your high performing reps. Your low performing reps, because they’re low performers, aren’t doing very well. They freak out. They’re like “Oh my God, I’ve got to figure something out here.” And they start consuming more, but it’s too little, too late. So, by the end of the buyer’s journey, they kind of give up. They actually consume half of the amount of learning content that high performing sellers do.
So, what is our lesson here? Should we produce more training content and throw it at our sellers? Sort of, kind of. We know that they consume more, but the quality and the timing of that content needs to be thought out with much more precision. Overall, however, anybody that still is operating in an environment where some of the leadership thinks, just give someone the selling stuff and let them go, well they’re definitely operating maybe as far back as 1988. When we talk about sales assets in a little bit more detail, this is the slide that you cannot read.
So, we do some pretty extensive research into the early, mid, and late stages of the buyer’s journey, as I said. Of all of the different asset types that we can use to support our sellers with their learning and development, obviously we know you can’t read all of the X-axis labels here, but we’ve summarized them for you. The colored bars are the high performers and the grey bars are the low performers. So, you’ll notice that at the middle stage, you’ll see that the grey bars are higher because they consumed a little bit more content and then by the end they just kind of give up, right? 50% as much as the high performers. Well, let’s summarize for you what we see in a couple of different categories.
We have, first of all, our shining stars. These are the asset types for internal learning and empowerment that are both popular as well as, according to high performing reps, successful and helpful to them. So, if you’re thinking about what are the most important pieces of content or assets that I can create to help sellers internally prepare for and execute on their customer-facing responsibilities, these are the things that are the shining stars. And, they’re complemented by the hidden gems. These are the items that are not used all that frequently, but they overachieve in terms of their popularity and their significance. So, these six bullets represent from our perspective, and this can vary industry by industry, the best learning and empowerment assets that sellers who are strong performers tell us are most helpful to them.
Let’s move onto training. Einstein told us that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what has learned in school.” Having never gotten a graduate degree myself, I’m very happy with that phrase. So, how many of your sales learning and training and development environments look like this? Or you won’t admit it if they do. But we know that learning and development has taken a title shift lately. Most of us, we’re selling in a world where creating stuff and throwing it at sellers when it was convenient for the creators was basically SOP. Today, that is no longer the case. We know from our research that high performing sellers are much more in demand for real-time learning, development, and training. They’re also expecting a lot more from their sales employers when it comes to permanent paths towards career development, better competency development, and skills, right from day one on the job.
And you guys are responding. We’ve talked to multiple customers, for example, who bring such an important part of their corporate culture into the onboarding that they insist on a full day of community service as part of the first week or two of sales onboarding. It’s great to see that, but it’s also responding to the demands that more and more of our sales employees, especially those that are part of the millennial generation, are demanding from us. So, we look at this from a standpoint of why sales learning and development is different from traditional other personas inside the enterprise.
Most of the learning and development that’s conducted for non-sales positions tend to be about: did you do the work? Did I take the course? Did I pass the course? Did I get certified? And the drivers behind that are often governance, risk, compliance, and of course, employee development. But in sales, we really only have one chance of this, don’t we? Can you do it? Can I do it before I’m in front of the buyer in a practice environment where I can be coached? But then, can I do it in front of the buyer when I don’t get any second chances? And this is why we see sales learning and development as a unique animal compared to all of the other types of learning and development that HR and L&D functions inside most organizations tend to deploy.
We play this out in a couple of different ways. First of all, this fairly busy slide here talks about our view of the entire sales talent life cycle. The sales talent life cycle to us refers to the entire life span of an individual seller with your organization. And we see the responsibilities of enablement as stemming from attracting, to onboarding, to optimizing that talent over the long term. The unifying theme for us that ties these three together is the competencies piece. To us, a competency is a skill, a piece of knowledge, or a process awareness that I as a seller need to be able to do my job well. It can apply to multiple competencies for multiple personas, but we see this as the unifying tie that binds all three components of the sales talent life cycle together.
A lot of our customers don’t start helping their sellers until they get to the onboarding phase, but they complain to us that the people that they’re onboarding are sometimes not the cream of the crop. Well, that’s because of the economy that we’re in. We know that only about 7% of high performing sellers are actively looking for work, but 26% of low performing sellers are actively looking for work. Do the math, guys. Four out of five of the people you’re seeing are not good at their jobs.
So, if you want to have some influence over the long-term achievements and value that your sellers bring to your organization, think about how you can help the HR folks, and the recruiting folks, and the talent acquisition team. Not by taking over their jobs. Nobody wants you to start doing interviews and reference checks galore. But we do see organizations who are leading edge, thinking about enablement’s responsibilities as extending further back into that sales talent life cycle and helping the HR team with defining competencies for every single role, as well as teaching their first line managers a little bit more about recruitment and interviewing. We know that high performing sellers see their first-line manager as one of the most important influencers on whether or not they decide to take that job.
Well, when we talk about learning and development, the onboarding piece after the attract phase is done has a lot of interesting components. And we summarize them this way. We talk about this cadence of define, design, develop and deploy. But when you’re building an onboarding program, or really any ongoing learning and development for sales personas, most folks jump right into development. We have a new product, let’s make a PowerPoint. We have some new pricing, let’s make a little bit of a micro-learning experience. This is a mistake.
What we know when we look at high performing organizations is they follow a more thoughtful cadence that starts with the “define”. What is the outcome for us an organization? What is the outcome for the seller or learner themselves that will happen as a result of a great onboarding or ongoing developmental program? What does that map look like? Then it features the design phase. What is the learning path? What will the experience of the learner be? These are not entirely complex parts of the process, but they represent pieces of the pie that a lot of folks will often skip out on.
Once we know what we want to occur for us, the organization, and for our learner, and we know what their experience is going to be like, then we can finally develop all of our PowerPoints and our micro-learnings. Then we can launch it and deploy it and think about it through the lens of an internal campaign, just as you would launch a product externally, thinking about ways to make sure that we are testing and piloting and making sure that we’re refining the onboarding or ongoing learning piece as it goes along. We’ll have some time for Q&A at the end, but I encourage you guys to think about this as well as during cocktails tonight, about whether or not this reflects the way you guys are building your onboarding and ongoing sales learning.
So, back to the charts. This is again one of the fun charts that I find to be really fascinating and our customers do as well. This may not be a metric that you guys are using in your organization, but in our benchmark survey we ask folks: How many field observations does it take before you’re willing to certify a new seller as ready for action? Now, a field observation doesn’t equal a meeting. You could have five or 10 field observations in one specific meeting, but the idea here is that first-line managers or coaches or anybody who is trying to do so should be actually watching your sellers do what they do in front of buyers, early in their field-based tenure. And as you can tell from the math, with all the green stuff shoved over to the right and all they red over to the left, high-performing organizations require more than twice as much in terms of validating someone’s competency to do their job before they’re ready to release a seller to the field. Is anybody using this metric? I saw one or two hands.
Audience 1: Can you talk about how this works virtually and across distance?
PO: Talking about how it works virtually and across distance – we’ll make you our first question at the end because, like a good sales onboarding program, I am on a clock. We also have, for continuous learning, a way of approaching best practice. For us, continuous learning for salespeople especially is represented by this, our continuous learning framework. Now, what this basically boils down to is three different styles of learning or three different approaches. We look at occupational learning, which is, “What do I need to know to be able to do my job right now?” We look at aspirational learning as, “What do I need to know to be able to do my job so well that I’m promotable or I’m a superstar or I go to winner’s circle?” And inspirational, “What do I need to know to do some other kind of job or great accomplishment in the future that may not have that much to do with my day to day?” That is fairly inspirational, it’s not really within the purview of a lot of enablement organizations.
When we talk about the green block there in the learning strategy, that’s typically where we focus for the occupational and aspirational. The cadence here of tell, show, do, reinforce and own applies to any competency. Learning how to sell a new product, learning how to negotiate, being able to convey pricing or packaging. Whatever the competency might be, first off, you need to tell someone what they need to know. Then you need to show them what good looks like in a way that matches their learning persona – hopefully multimedia.
After you’ve told and shown them, they need to do it over and over and over again in a practice environment until they get it right and you’re ready for them to face the field. Then in the field, you can reinforce it with a kind of coaching that we discussed earlier in terms of the number of field observations. And finally, if someone is so good at a competency that they can actually teach it to other folks, they own it. And those are your folks who are not just high performers, but they are your high potentials. They’re the folks who are worth promoting, or considering promoting, to field coaches or management positions. Not just the people who knocked it out of the park year after year.
Are you guys ready for the third component? This is buyer engagement. We’re going to share some statistics with you here and Sam Walton talked about there’s only one boss, that’s our customer. Although, given the fact this is my wedding anniversary, I might think there’s another potential boss out there for me. And my actual boss is sitting in the audience today, so Sam might not have been right after all. Buyer engagement comes from our buyer study that we do every year. We asked a really interesting question of a very large number of B2B buyers. Basically, why’d you make the choice? And the results are really interesting and here’s what we have for you. A bunch of different reasons why somebody made the decision to buy from a provider, and another bunch of reasons why someone made the decision to buy from a provider.
But why are these two grouped together thusly? Here’s why. The vast majority of drivers for the B2B buyer’s decision making is not about the product or what I paid for it. It’s about who I bought it from, what I’ve heard about them, the references, their reputation. My experience with the selling organization or other people who have bought for this organization. Now, this should be pretty good news for anybody who is thinking about, “Wow, sales enablement, product marketing, portfolio marketing…where should we be putting our budget?” I mean, these numbers are pretty dramatic, right? The vast majority of drivers for B2B purchases, according to this research at least, were based on the experience that the buyer had more so than actually what I’m physically buying in terms of goods or services or the price that I’m paying. It doesn’t mean that negotiation skills for pricing aren’t important. It obviously doesn’t mean that the product that I’m buying isn’t relevant. What it does mean is that the preparation and readiness of our sellers and everybody who faces the buyer needs to be of tantamount importance to our organizations.
Now, when we talk about who faces the buyer, here are some other interesting data right here. What we discovered in this research is that it takes a village to buy, and this is why our new demand unit “waterfall” is so popular, but it also takes a village to sell. And in descending order of importance when we ask buyers, who from the selling organization had the most influence on your decision in a positive way? The vendor sales rep came first. But, you have marketing folks, you have solution specialists, you have product people, you have executives, a whole bunch of personas. This makes us start to think about, is sales enablement really responsible for just enabling that first bar? Or should sales enablement be thinking about enabling anyone who faces the customer? Or perhaps anyone who influences the interactions that we have with our customers? So, more about this in about eight minutes or so, but it starts to make you think, doesn’t it? There are a lot of people involved, especially if you have a highly complex sell – if you have a team of sellers, if you have a team of buyers, you have influencers, you have committees, you have ratifiers. This gets a lot more complex and it’s more work for us, but it also extends the capability we have to enable folks super, super well.
Regarding buyers, we have a similar type of data that we showed you around sellers’ consumption of learning and development data, associated with buyers. If you’re interested in what kinds of content are most popular and most effective to B2B buyers at different stages of the sales cycle, we’ve got that information for you. And as our fun little animation moves forward, you’ll notice that the average B2B buyer consumes 17.3 pieces of content from their seller throughout the course of their journey. This excludes the content that they may have consumed for all of the marketing-sent stuff, right? This is 17+ pieces of content or assets that I, as a buyer, consume from you, as the seller, throughout the course of the journey. That’s a lot.
So how does it break down? With a gorgeous slide just like this. #AnalystLife. That should be our hashtag for today. Let’s break it down for you. We actually have three categories. We have the shining stars and hidden gems like before, but we also have the fool’s gold. So, what does this mean? The shining stars are both popular and effective. The hidden gems are not used that often, but they are very effective. There are your six bullets of the most popular types of content and the most effective types of content that buyers receive from their sellers. Now, the fool’s gold are fairly popular but not as effective as indicated by buyers. So, if you’re in the business of promotional videos and sales brochures, shift your gaze more to the left. That’s our data.
Let’s wrap up with our last component today, which is the analytics. Anybody ever hear the name Edward Tufty? I don’t really know how to pronounce his last name. He’s a wonderful visualization expert on data. So, he said, “The goal is to provide analytical tools that will last students a lifetime.” A very large acquisition announced yesterday tells us about how valuable those analytical tools are. So, we look at a lot of different ways in which measurements are being done, and analytics are gathered. And just a couple of hints at what we’re seeing out there.
We talked about sales asset management earlier, so look at all of these different stats where, on the whole, high performing organizations measure these 35% more than low performing organizations. Again, to reinterpret, the most successful sales organizations out there, as judged by a lot of reps hitting their number, are measuring stuff about their content and assets a lot more. Some of this is easy, some of this is hard, but on the whole, that’s the relationship between your high performing and your low performing organizations.
Another way of looking at measurement is sales coaching. And we talked earlier about how high performing organizations demand way more. 129% more field observations to certify their sellers and we look at a bunch of different indicators of leading, lagging, learning, leaning, and look at all of these things that on the whole, high performing organizations measure 12% more often than your low performing organizations.
We have one more look at measuring, and this is about sales enablement itself. A lot of discussions has been held and we’ve recently published our model on measuring sales enablement. The line in the sand that we at SiriusDecisions are drawing is as follows: We believe that there is not and should not and cannot be one single metric, especially if it’s a lagging indicator, that is used to judge whether or not sales enablement did its job well. You can be paid on the lagging indicators of, did we make our number? That’s fine. But from an NBO’s perspective, we look at it more not as a functional measurement, but as the sum of different initiatives.
We look at these different priorities. Three from sales talent management, the sales assets and the comps piece that we talked about earlier, as ways to measure sales enablement and our model kind of looks like this. We believe that the best way to measure sales enablement is on an initiative-by-initiative basis. So, let’s say you’re responsible for sales onboarding or sales asset management initiative or product rollout. You can have one or multiple initiatives, but we believe you should first be measured by activity. Did we onboard people as required? Did we roll out the technology? Did we implement? Did we run the SKO? Whatever the activity might have been? By itself, that’s not a great metric, but sometimes that’s all you have room for in your resource allocation.
Did we do the work, is followed by, did they like the work? Did our internal customers like what we did for them? And you can garner that through feedback, through surveys. So if we did the work and they liked the work, are they using the stuff that we did for them? What about adoption? Now don’t get me wrong, no one ever got promoted from VP of east sales to CRO because they drove adoption of the sales force automation tool. But adoption of what enablement has used means that the onboarded content is showing up in our opportunities in the SFA. The technology that we’ve implemented is being used to drive deals or to drive down the amount of search time that reps have that they’re reporting to us.
And ultimately then, what is the impact? We believe that measuring sales enablement based on lagging indicators like quota attainment or deal size change has too many inputs forward. What we believe is that the impact that sales enablement solely controls – sales rep productivity, learning more effectively, getting onboarded faster, becoming competent more quickly on new rollouts – these are measurable and attributable only to enablement initiatives. Therefore, these are the things that enablement should be measured by. Now, this is maybe to some folks controversial, if anything can be considered controversial in our world. I’m happy to talk to you guys about this during our Q&A, which is happening in one minute, or tonight during cocktails, come on over and talk to us.
So, a lot of folks ask analysts, “What do you see coming up ahead?” Our crystal ball tells us that there are a few trends to look out for. Number one, when it comes to sales talent acquisition, that first-line managers who we know are so important to newly hired reps need to be better involved and more aware of how to interview and promote those job opportunities to your sellers.
When it comes to onboarding, the idea of one-and-done boot camp and then someone is ready to go needs to be rethought. And that gives us the opportunity to think about which competencies need to be delivered in onboarding. Which can be moved into after someone is in the field but delivered in the context of the deals that they’re working? For ongoing learning and development, we need to understand more about the learning preferences of our sellers and the people who face our buyers. And think about, how do they want to learn? We have some new research that delivers some shocking news to a lot of traditional sales training professionals.
When it comes to sales asset management, the idea of delivering just-in-time enablement, the assets, what to show and what to know in the context of folks’ real opportunities, is becoming a reality with a lot of our customers. Sales communications we see. You know you’ve heard about ABC, Always Be Closing, this is always be listening. And we see sales advocacy, listening to our reps, gaining their insights and feedback as a much more popular topic in our inquiry with customers just in the last few quarters. So, this is a hot commodity.
Finally, with sales enablement itself, from a design perspective, we’re seeing more and more organizations realizing that they need to have a charter in place and a plan in place because everybody’s throwing all their stuff at you. If we can’t figure out who to do it, throw it at enablement. That will actually destroy your ability to be effective at the other priorities if you’re spreading yourselves too thin, as you saw from that earlier slide.
So, in closing, I’d like to talk about one more trend. The term sales enablement implies that we do what? We enable sales. And most of us would agree we enable salespeople. But I have a question for you guys. How many of you guys are enabling not just traditional, quota-bearing sales reps, but channel sellers? Indirect sellers? A lot of you. How many of you are enabling solutions or sales engineers? There are hands going up. How many of you are enabling customer success folks? And this might be a stretch, but how many of you are enabling marketers? So, this starts to make us think.
We’ve been seeing this for about a year now in the marketplace, that sales enablement has the ability to deliver competency development and readiness to folks who directly interact with our buyers, or folks who influence those interactions with our buyers. So, while we are not standing here today advocating for a change of title, or a change of today’s event name, or a change of the society, or a change of anything else, maybe in thinking about how sales enablement truly quarterbacks all the different departments and people who drive the revenue engines for our organizations, that we need to start thinking about whether our responsibilities are actually something called “Revenue Enablement.”
So, tonight during cocktails, I’d appreciate anybody coming up and talking to me about your experiences enabling these other personas, and you never know, at our next Soirée in the fall in San Francisco, maybe we’ll have a little bit more to say about this topic. So, I thank you guys very much for your time today and let’s do a little bit of Q&A. We have a few minutes.
Emcee: Please give a big hand for SiriusDecisions, Peter Ostrow.
I think we have time for a few questions and I know that we had one over there. Thank you for waiting patiently.
Audience 2: So, going back to the idea of real-touch coaching, if you have a worldwide sales force, how do you cross time and distance for real-time in-field observations and coaching?
PO: That, of course, is difficult. You guys heard the question, how do you do in-field observations of sellers’ interactions when it’s a very widely geographically dispersed sales force. In a case like that, we see our customers usually relying a little bit more on the practice piece and, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice, and doing as much of that as humanly possible. Asynchronously, when necessary, synchronously, when possible. There is no easy solution to that in terms of, how to do it at the same level as you would a highly centralized sales force.
We are, however, seeing the rise of a role called the field sales coach, and we’re seeing more and more organizations deploy this role as kind of an in-between job, between seller and manager, that allows someone who has recently been a practitioner in the field to become a floating coach who delivers enablement to and gets feedback from the sellers. They kind of have one foot in the world of management and still one foot in the world of selling. This is a role which, if you think about the reaction that a lot of our C-Suite executives have, we need to sell more. Just hire more salespeople. Well, if you could think about all the different open reqs that you have for sellers, what if you just turned one or two of them into coaches or overlays? That gives you a little bit more opportunity on a geographic basis to see what folks are doing in front of customers instead of guess about it.
Audience 3: It’s just an add-on to that. Where do you typically see that role sitting? Do you take those field people that you take those heads and put them into enablement? Or do you leave them in the field sales organization?
PO: We often see enablement sponsoring it and developing the competencies for that role. To me, it doesn’t matter that much who they report to. I mean, we would lean towards enablement, but if someone has reported up through the sales hierarchy, and then they’re reporting to enablement, and then they’re going to go back as a manager and report to the sales hierarchy, you could probably make an argument for either way.
Audience 4: I’m curious about what patterns you see in how organizations are investing and tying resource to this revenue enablement function. Is there a certain entry point and how does that grow as an organization grows, or as the industry, any industry segments that you see a particular commitment to it?
PO: Yeah, so right now a Google search on revenue enablement gets you nothing. And we’re tracking it, and it’s kind of easy right now because it’s at zero. So, we don’t see it as a function yet. And it may or may not ever be one. We see revenue operations growing a little bit faster. Both of those pieces of the pie really support the revenue engine that we talk about, which is just aligning your marketing product sales and CS. We see it really like an extension of what enablement is good at, which is helping folks become better at their jobs. And if the skills, the knowledge, the process that a salesperson or a customer success person needs to adopt and learn to become successful are enabled in a fairly similar way, then why shouldn’t the good work that we’re doing in enablement be applied to the those?
Right now it’s very anecdotal. Full disclosure. We’re hearing a lot more about it. We’re going to be conducting a bunch of reverse inquiries with our customer over the next couple of months to try to find out what they’re doing. It’s still too early to gather data about it, but it’s just something that our little sniffers are sniffing and that’s why we’re talking about it.
Audience 5: What about the sales enablement story? Is there a size of company where they start to invest in it?
PO: Is there a size of company where enablement starts to get investment? We try to gather data on that and it’s very difficult, candidly. Enablement means so many different things to different folks. I mean if an organization has 20 or 30 or 40 sales reps, we don’t typically see a full-time enablement person. If somebody has 200 sellers and they have no enablement person, it’s usually a cause for alarm.
Emcee: Peter, thank you again. I know that there are a lot more questions out there, but as Peter mentioned, he will be here this afternoon at the cocktail hour, so I’m sure he’d be happy to have conversations then. Peter, thank you again. And happy anniversary.