Planting the Seeds for Sales Enablement Led Growth – Soirée, San Francisco
1 Like | 54 min read
Angela Earl: Like many of you, I’ve been looking forward to today. As I was getting ready, I did some research on some sales enablement statistics. That’s what we do, right? As moderators, we do our homework. I read that 292 professionals on LinkedIn have sales enablement in their title. And that justifies the event, now we know why we’re here. But I also read that 35% of salespeople feel like marketing knows what they need. Just over a third. So this alignment that we’ve been striving for is somewhat elusive.
Even more surprising to me was that the statistic that 38% of sales leaders are not confident that they’re going to hit their numbers this year or this term. Not even half, not even 40% are confident about hitting their numbers. I lead a sales organization myself. Statistics like that kind of stop me in my tracks and make me think if we’re living in a world of all this data, all this technology, all of the supposed alignment, how do we get to that confidence?
And so with that, I’m super excited to have the panel next to me today to answer that question as far as some other hard questions that they’ve kind of cracked the nut on, they’ve overcome some of these odds. They’ve got some great stories themselves about how they’ve used sales enablement to drive growth in their own organizations. And so join me in welcoming in no particular order: Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training; Gop Rao, chief strategy and marketing officer at MindTickle; Chad Dyar, director of sales enablement and strategy at Hearsay Systems; John Doogan, global director of sales enablement at Workday; and last, but certainly not least, Pam Dake, senior director of sales enablement at Accela.
So with the formalities and the titles and the companies of the panelists, what I’m going to ask you to do is briefly introduce yourself so people can put those names to your faces, but also share with the audience how long you’ve been in and around sales enablement.
Chad Dyar: I’m Chad Dyar. I am the director of enablement and strategy at Hearsay Systems. I’ve been there for a few months. I came from a company called On-Deck in FinTech for a few years before that, where I actually got to build out the enablement function. They supported the function, we were able to help the company grow. And I had a team of seven by the time that I left to move on to my next role. So, I’m really passionate about enablement, understanding the function, and growing the team. Also, I’m an author. My second book came out this summer called “Bring Your Best Self to Work”, and it’s about the importance of authenticity and professional relationships, which I think is a critical part of enablement, building those critical relationships with your partners across the company.
Pam Dake: Good morning. My name is Pam Dake and I am coming to you from Accela. I am now six weeks into my position at Accela, but before that, I spent four years at a company by the name of Forge Rock, where similar to you, Chad, I built a team from the very beginning. We were only three and a half strong, but we got a lot of success and a lot of focus on really making sure that we were aligning as much as possible the actions, activities, and behaviors that we were doing in enablement to those things that really made a difference and an impact with the executive suite and really driving revenue or saving costs and making sure sales teams were effective.
And so it’s very much a passion of mine. I’ve been involved in sales enablement since before sales enablement was a term, in sales training or sales communications. It’s very much a passion for me and I really do love it. So, I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
David Mattson: I’m Dave Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training. I’ve been there — it’s just going to make me sound old now — 30 years. I was a client, loved it, and then ended up working there and then ended up buying it. We train about 31,000 people a year in a couple of different areas. In sales, anything from social selling to strategic selling, sales, leadership, customer success. And I’m not in sales enablement per se, but we certainly work with thousands of companies to help sales enablement drive the productivity and success that you’re trying to achieve with the people that you serve. So that’s what we do.
Gopkiran Rao: I’m Gopkiran Rao, I go by Gop. I manage growth marketing and strategy for MindTickle. We are a platform for modern sales training and coaching. My journey with sales enablement probably began about 20 years ago. In some ways, I would say it began when I was born. Like many of us, we learned to sell. But the first cries we make, looking for attention, and then you move up your Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and you’ll come to a point where you’re working for a living. And selling becomes such an important aspect of how you engage your customers. Whether you’re an inside salesperson, a field seller, a customer success manager, professional services person. I’ve been fairly fortunate to sort of sit in a variety of these organizations over time. And for me, enablement I think represents such an important part of what makes all of us successful in the B2B arena, particularly as the forces of how we engage as sort of B2C buyers start colliding with the modern forces that are shaping B2B sales.
Hopefully this conversation here today is about how we bring the knowledge, the skills, the infield execution together in the context of what drives better outcomes for our businesses. And I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts on the topic.
John Dougan: I’m John Dougan. I’m with Workday. I’ve been there for about two and a half years. Prior to that, I spent 14 years in the Miller Heiman ecosystem. So I hope that David doesn’t fall out with me on this panel. I look after our delivery and adoption team, which is effectively the backend of enablement, looking at our sales training, our sales coaching, and then all of the senior sales change management initiatives that the business owner takes.
AE: Awesome. I’ll just jump right into the questions and I’ll call on you guys individually if I have someone in mind. Otherwise, please feel free to jump off of what other people are saying. Make it interactive. Let’s entertain these fine folks. So, John, I’ll ask you the first question. We talked about 292,000 people in sales enablement. Why do you think sales enablement is such a growing and strategic function for so many companies?
JD: So, I think that sales movement is growing for one reason, really. And that’s because the job of selling is getting a lot harder. I think organizations expect performance. And in fact, if you look at that incrementally, they expect better performance time over time. So we’ve got the expectations of an organization going one way and the amount of sellers that are actually performing going the opposite direction. I think that there needs to be somebody who strategically looks after that as a responsibility across the business, whether or not that’s predictability in your customer engagement strategy. Perhaps it’s the productivity of sales actions, but there needs to be somebody who wakes up every single day and goes, how am I going to move the needle on the sellers who are no longer performing for a variety of reasons?
AE: Awesome. Chad, just to tack onto that, talking about so many ways, what are some of the ways that you’re bringing sales enablement to your leadership teams?
CD: I think one of the challenges a lot of us would probably see in our careers are all the different orgs are separate and they have separate KPIs and they have a separate mandate. And I think enablement has become a function that brings a lot of those together as we’ve moved into more of a strategic role in the company. I think early on we had sales trainers and we had people that were just kind of in a room with people doing a thing and that’s all that we thought that was going to be. And now enablement is a strategic partner.
And one of the things that I get to do, and I’m actually doing it in two weeks, is I lead a 2020 strategy session with all the heads of the departments. I basically am the moderator of that session. I’m listening to all their goals, I’m drafting all their plans and I’m trying to find some through narratives to bring all of them into one place so that we have a North Star that guides us as we move into 2020. We tie those objectives together and then we create a set of KPIs that enablement is responsible for across the organization instead of just these units. This is what marketing’s going to do. This is the sales number. And really understanding how all those work together. So, I look at enablement as a function that really ties together the heads of all those different departments. And I try to be a confidant and a strategic partner.
AE: Speaking of metrics and KPIs, Gop, what are the metrics that your teams are looking at and how do you tie it back to revenue?
GR: I would answer in two parts. As someone who’s responsible as an executive for the growth of our own company, one of the exercises we went through about a quarter ago is we said, “let’s take a step back and look at the strategy we want to drive.” What are the outcomes we’re looking to get to? Before we even talk about what the measurement of sales enablement is. The mission statement we framed was that we want to drive customer access to the most comprehensive solution in the market while following best market practices of fair market practices. This basically meant that every seller that was in the field had to demonstrate superb product knowledge, technical skills, understanding of methodology, process, pricing, packaging, etc., and most importantly, customer engagement.
Now, all three of these things had to be ultra-demonstrable. So, the first thing we said was, we need an overarching measure that gives us over time, across space, how capability — we call it sales capability measurement — is going to trend over time. And that became our Holy Grail. It became the equivalent of day sales outstanding if you’re in finance or cash-to-cash if you’re in supply chain.
And the second thing we said is we’re going to break this down into the three core components of what we consider a market-ready seller. Does he or she have the knowledge, which is a learning component? Does he or she have demonstrable skills? And most importantly, do they have the ability to execute in the field, which is stand and deliver? We gave every one of them weight and then we went back and looked at all of the content we had in our system. Right? MindTickle for MindTickle, a content repository, the stuff we were doing with ILT. Even for us at that size of company, we said we are going to tag every piece of content, every module, with a competency tag. As we measure people over time, we’re going to get a very clear leading indicator of whether or not they are ready to demonstrate — that customer-ready behavior.
I think it comes down to starting with a top-down view of what it is that you’re focused on, which is driving best practices, best behavior in the market. And from a bottoms-up perspective, it’s about aligning activity, completion, certification, measurement practice, and then showing the correlations in terms of your productivity curve with your capability curve and moving that to the right. That’s, to me, how I would best describe metrics and outcomes, at least as an executive
As an individual seller, I think from a bottom-top perspective, I need to have my own nonstop. It’s the first thing I see when I log into my system every morning, which says here are the three or four gaps I have that I need to sort of remediate or I need to reinforce. And that’s where the coaching piece comes in because that gives your managers something measurable, quantifiable that they too can work with. That is probably how I would best answer that question.
AE: Yeah. And getting to that point is definitely a process. Chad, you talked about being in the sessions and taking the notes and getting all of that. What are the departments or who needs to be in those conversations to get to what Gop is describing?
CD: Honestly, I had this answer locked and loaded to come in this morning, and then something really changed in my role the last couple of weeks. So, I’m going to shift a minute. One of my really important partnerships right now is our people team, because one of the things we’re thinking about for the future is what is the template for the next generation of salespeople we need to hire and bringing enablement into that.
Since we’re responsible for onboarding and upskilling those people, letting us be a part of the hiring process, building out the template, building up the job req so that we put a description together of the type of salesperson that we think will be successful in our environment has become critical. Making the last couple of hires and being a part of that process, they’ve onboarded faster. That makes us look good when somebody comes in and they’re successful really quickly cause they’re like, “wow, enablement, you’ve got them up to speed.” But we’re choosing better people.
I think that’s a strategic partnership that I haven’t really had that much in the past. I’ve been subjected to whoever sat through three interviews and got a “yes” and a thumbs-up and came in and they were like, “well, you can make it work.” And that’s not as fun of a model for me or for us as I’m a part of that process. I helped design it. I interviewed in it. I made sure that they were going to be able to be coachable, to adhere the process piece, and not just come in and be a lone wolf, or be super creative, and also to identify what makes our business different in sales than other businesses. You could be number one somewhere and come over somewhere else and not be successful just because of the change in the culture and the change in the process. I think I pulled it way down to just one example, but that’s one that’s been really important to me lately, and I’ve seen success getting involved in that end.
Then I think across the business, all the other partners are important as well. I mean, you have to work closely with marketing. They have their KPIs, you want to make sure salespeople are doing the right behaviors. And then coaching with the sales managers is critical as well. Telling an aligned story.
AE: Yeah. John, I’m going to direct this one at you. You talked about sort of the backend enablement, right? And the systems and the tech. How do you differentiate between tactical execution and strategic vision? Especially when you’re talking to leadership, who has that across department view?
JD: We’ve got a pretty clear taxonomy on initiatives that are made up of programs that are made up of projects. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enablement considering themselves to be tactical in execution so long as they can draw that common thread across the initiatives that it impacts. And I think those initiatives are how you should effectively sell to sales leadership. Beyond that, we have a little bit of a rule, right? It’s based on a book. Will it make the boat go faster?
But the truth is, so many organizations, so many people in sales enablement are bogged down by what I’ll describe as just jobs. I just want you to do that. I just want you to do this and can you please do that for this particular reason, I think when you have a very clear vision, a very clear charter of what enablement does for your organization beyond just training, then you can define the terms. You can actually say, I’m not going to do that because it doesn’t contribute to this, and it’s not a priority because it’s part of the larger initiative that we’re looking at, and this is what we’re going to achieve this year. You’re just having better conversations with your leaders.
So, I think really having a set of standards or criteria where what you’re being asked tactically contributes to a strategy, will give you a good benchmark in terms of who you are within the organization and the credibility that you have with those leaders.
AE: That’s good. I haven’t heard it said that way before. I really liked that. Pam, if that’s present day, where do you see us going from here? Where’s the trajectory for sales enablement?
PD: I honestly think sales enablement being that key liaison to break down silos, break down barriers, to be able to have those really impactful conversations that will make a difference for the entire organization. It’s driving not just to sales, but expanding then to customers and really being able to better enable those customer relationships because you’ve connected to those different departments that have very different KPIs. Marketing is very much focused on exactly what they’re doing. Sales is focused on exactly what they’re doing. Customer success is also a very important part of sales enablement.
In general, where I see sales enablement going is continuing to expand the ability to have much more impact on the entire enterprise and driving toward the customer and really making sure that you’re having the best impact with your customers. On the flip side, being able to hear what their concerns are and being able to synthesize, adopt, and mold as a business, where you’re moving forward because you have that better connection with your customers.
I think it’s one of those things that as a natural expansion and natural growth for sales enablement, it becomes much more enterprise enablement because people start to see, “why should sales have all the fun?” Why should they be the only ones that really have the full insight to the company when we’re here for our customers? And so that’s sort of the growth and the trajectory that I think that sales enablement is heading.
AE: That’s awesome. And John, your name’s not on this one, but I see you nodding down there. Anything you would add to it?
JD: I do see the rise of the specialist. I really do think for a long time we’ve had people that have come from a training or a consulting background or an ops background, and they’ve fumbled their way into an enablement role as a result. They’ve tried to master all of what it means to be an enablement professional.
I think that structurally, enablement teams need more definition. Both from a credibility perspective and then moving to that execution model. I think the rise of the specialist is a reality. We’re going to see people who are competency experts. We’re going to see people who are training experts in specific areas. We’re going to see people who help tackle content. We’re going to see people who look at tools from a systems perspective. We’re going to see people who are main-set specialists and understand the psychology of selling.
That’s where I think the trajectory of enablement is going. But it’s such a broad question because nobody five years ago would have sat in this seat and said we would be where we are today.
AE: David, Gop, Chad, anything you guys would add to that?
CD: I agree with Pam in a big way. I think it’s all gonna all going to be about the buyer’s journey, and I think it’s going to be about us understanding all of it from end-to-end so that we can influence the pressure points we need to. Because we think about the marketing content they’re receiving, the SDR and sales process, the CS process, and we’re able to look at the full cycle from more of a macro perspective of what’s happening. We can isolate and say if we tweak this in marketing, there would be less of a pain point in sales. Or if we got this information from sales, CS would be able to make their relationships more actionable and drive more engagement.
I don’t know who is in charge of looking over the course of all of it and connecting those. I think that makes sense for the future of enablement to enable the customers to have a more streamlined buyer journey experience as customers. I think it’s a good place for us to add value. It’s a good place for us to drive ROI for the company.
I also agree with the specialist piece. I think there’s going to be layers. I mean, I was able to build a team of seven because we needed different layers and they were all specialists. I had enablement technology who owned the tech stack and were able to think forward to bringing marketing and sales tech together. I had an effectiveness person, which was our training arm. And then I had a process and analytic side of enablement to not only drive the ROI, but be able to report that back up to the topline executives in the company to say, you’re spending all this money on us and here’s the good that we’re doing for the company.
So, I agree, I think we’re going to be able to drill down in all those areas. But you’re going to need to find enablement leaders who own the division and strategy for the company. And I think that’s what is so great about working with people like this. We have one of the best communities around that. I’ve been in ops and I’ve been in sales and I’ve gone to conferences for decades, probably the same as all of us. But I’ve never worked with a more collaborative group of empathetic people as the enablement groups that we’re putting together and the teams like this right here.
AE: David, is it sales leadership? Is it another set of leadership? How important and which leadership is it that’s involved in the enablement function?
DM: Well, from our perspective, we do a lot of training. We work with a lot of organizations. We want to have people succeed. That’s what we do. We also know that we don’t want programs called “this too shall pass”. Those like, “Operation Delta” this week. And then next week it’s this, and people are our hostages in our programs. I think to me, what makes or breaks anything that we do in enablement is sales leadership, because they have to drive it. It’s like if you use the analogy, we can send our kids to school, but ultimately we have to raise them. We can send people to what we’re doing, and I agree with the specialist. I agree with that. But at the end of the day, the managers have to reinforce it and they’re going to have to sustain and build that culture that we’re creating because otherwise it’s not going to happen.
And the problem’s going to be that sales managers are under serious time compression. They’ve got a lot of things to do. I don’t think that they’re in the people business anymore. I think they are actually in the admin business, and so it’s hard. That’s almost been outsourced to enablement. You do the people stuff, and I think that’s just a mistake. That’s where they throw them over the fence and say, bring them back and make sure that they’re better. To me, sales enablement probably should even be called sales manager enablement, because if we were to spend all of our time and energy there, I think the ripple effect would be far greater, to be honest with you.
I think what happens is sales leaders want the end result. We’ve got a quota, we’ve got a number, we’ve got a goal, whatever that case may be, and we’re going to drive, drive, drive that, and that’s great. And if I don’t spend enough time with you in any given day or a month, then I’m only looking at the results. I’m only looking at the numbers when the reality of the world is that you can’t control that. You can only control your behavior.
So for sales managers, we’d start working on yes, technique to get to your goals, but also the attitudes and the behaviors necessary to get to the technique, because when we just do technique, it’s short-lived. You’re going to get a spike and it goes right back down because you could have great technique and not do it often enough, or you could do it a lot, but your technique is no good. Or you don’t think you have equal business stature or you’re caught in a comfort zone of some sort. There’s a million things going on, right? I shouldn’t be calling on that person. They’re older, they’ve got a different title than I do. I think you compound that with the fact that there are a lot of people that aren’t going to make quota, over 60%. Most sales managers would tell you that they were not onboarded properly.
So, how are your sales leaders getting promoted these days? Here’s what typically happens. We have an opening because somebody either left or didn’t hit their numbers and so the senior leadership looks around and says, okay, who’s the stud that we would like to have the rest of the sales force replicate? And then we go to them and we say, we’ve had our eye on you for a long, long time. You are the person, we’ve been waiting for this day, so we’d like you to come and replicate yourself. If you could do 300 yous, life would be good for the organization. And that’s called onboarding.
We say we have an open-door policy, but please only call if you need me. And none of that would be okay if you didn’t call them. And it’s that type of thing. And we all learned by mistakes and fire. I think if we were to spend more time on that group, the acceleration of success would go through the roof, in my opinion.
AE: That’s good. A lot of heads nodding. Anybody want to add, add to that or speak specifically to their onboarding experience?
GR: I just wanted to pick up on these very insightful answers. Maybe from a technologist perspective, I think the reason we have so many waves of CRM implementations, pricing implementations, quote-to-cash implementations, is because the folks in this room, your counterparts, are expected to go build machines that turn out widgets of the same size and the same shape year after year, quarter after quarter, national sales meeting after national sales meeting, onboarding program after onboarding program. And the problem is you’re designing these systems. And I don’t mean by systems, I don’t mean tools. I mean the combination of people, process, data, technology, right? You’re designing them for delivery at scale, and delivery in a very cost-efficient way.
The problem is you’re ignoring the biggest variable in the room, which is the person. No two people are the same, which is the point David and John made. I think Pam and Chad elaborately talked about it earlier. You can’t put two people through the same machine or the same training regimen, the same LMS, the same program, and expect them to come out sounding, speaking, smelling the same, right? It doesn’t happen with school. It doesn’t happen at the university. Why would you take someone who’s either 20 years of age, 29, or 50 with all of their life experiences shaping them and expect they would come out of that machine looking like your corporate template? Personalization, adaptability, and dynamic engagement become so important. I think that’s the business case for enablement.
We have the unique opportunity to understand that every individual is different. And what you’re really doing is building a machine that understands each person and context, understands the competencies they need to deliver, understands where they are relative to this competencies today, and you’re working with methodology, you’re working with learning, you’re working with the best thinking in terms of onboarding and upscaling and alignment and execution. And you’re building those programs that also deliver at scale in a cost-efficient manner. If you’re positioned that way, you uplevel the value profit of all of us as enablement professionals versus being the people who are operating the production line. That’s my overarching takeaway.
DM: They manage teams but not the people individually.
GR: Exactly right, exactly right.
CD: We put together a professional development program for new managers that’s based on questions we asked them. I think one of the things a lot of people do is they lay a template in front of you and this is what you’re supposed to do and here are the steps. And when you finish the steps, you will be a sales manager. And a lot of them are the superpowered salespeople that when they hold a bag and they’re off in the corner being a lone wolf, they’re super successful. When they try to make other people do their method, it doesn’t work. Maybe it doesn’t work because of their personality, because of their aptitude, because of their process.
But when you ask them a certain series of questions, you find out what kind of manager they’re going to be. And then you build a program to their strengths. We need different kinds of sales managers because we have different types of salespeople. It also gives you a really great idea about how to build the teams out, because you know when this manager’s super process-oriented, you put people through onboarding and you see who adapts to the process. That’s where they go because they’re going to succeed with that manager who’s going to take their skill, apply it, and they’re going to go 10x further versus the, “I have a great personality. I build great relationships, I have empathy. I’m going to be able to do that.”
You put them with a person that can coach that out and get it to the nth degree. So I believe the manager development program really just needs to be strengths-based. We need to be able to add to where their weakness areas are over time. But that’s ongoing. You want them to hit the ground running. So if you look at the bottom, they have 10 skills and you start focusing on number 10 they’re going to feel like they’re not doing that great. But if you start focusing on number one, you’re going to get their confidence up and then you can start attacking some of those other things that they’re not as great at over time.
PD: Chad, I think the other thing that it does is it really fosters a community of the managers, which I think is also a huge piece of enablement, is making sure that as a community you feel connected. Our sales teams, a lot of them are very dispersed geographically, working from home. The office is also very diverse from the standpoint of if they come from 20 years’ experience, if they come from two years’ experience, if you’re talking about inside sales or lead gen folks. The more that you can foster that community, I think the more you’re able to be impactful because then they can help themselves from that standpoint.
I think of sales enablement in three main pillars and those pillars being training things that you would automatically assume. Training on skills, training on products, communication, making sure that people are informed or on a regular basis. And then that third piece is that community, which I call culture. Fostering that culture of the sales organization that isn’t outside your organizational culture per se, but it’s actually really just fostering that network so that people really do feel connected. Again, you’re helping them help themselves and being an extension of them as sales managers and leaders.
CD: It also keeps them around longer. How many people have a problem with turnover? How many people can’t keep a salesperson longer than a year or two years? I think that’s the other part of it. When you make people feel special, feel good at their job, build on their strengths, and make them feel like they represent something that’s great, they want to stay and they want to be that beacon in the company. I’ve worked with sales managers that we’ve got a long tenure out of because they felt like the leader in their area and they were dialed in and their team was successful. When you’re winning, you want to stay. So, creating a team that can win creates longevity in the company.
And it makes our jobs easier because we only want to onboard when the company’s growing. We want to bring new people in to support because we’re hitting our number and we’re going to grow. We don’t want to backfill our best people that left with people that don’t know anything yet, and we hope we can get them up to speed in six months. So, getting people energized and having that sales culture where people feel like, I know how I contribute, here’s my moniker. We have little stickers of birds that we represent depending on our personalities and we’re able to look and be like, “Oh, that’s an owl. That’s the wise one. That’s the one that has the answers.” But little things like that help build the culture because this is the person I go to for this because they’re the best at it. And identifying the strengths in the office gives people something to own. Ownership makes people stay.
DM: I think in addition to all that, which I 100% agree with, is because of the differences and the people’s strengths. I really think you should focus on your playbooks. I’ve seen a million playbooks and the majority of them aren’t that good. It’s just an expanded ops manual of some sort. How do you create all those best practices?
So, I can be the best of the best quicker. I can get onboarded. And we may be different, I get that, but if I know what you’re doing that’s successful, then I can adapt it to myself. I think if you look at your playbooks, most of them need some work to get everybody to be the best they can be based on the success that others are having. Then, I can put my own personality into it.
JD: I think it’s really interesting. You asked a question about the role of sales leadership in enablement, and we defaulted immediately to frontline managers and their capability or lack thereof. I think it’s interesting. A really good pressure test that we’ve adopted is we actually asked our frontline managers, what is your job? What is your role? What came out was exactly what you’d probably expect in this room. “It’s my job to hit my team number.” That’s not true. It’s an AEs job to hit a number. It’s your job to make sure they’re inspired, motivated, see a sense of utility, and feel confident enough to do their job. That intern will naturally hit a tag number.
If I then flip to the other side, which we didn’t address, which is the role of executive sales leadership within these pieces. We’ve redesigned our entire enablement organization to have a scoping and solution definition piece upfront. I could probably count out the amount of major initiatives that we’ve undertaken in the last year that didn’t have the right level of stakeholder engagement or impact analysis in the very beginning and fail as a result. I do think that frontline enablement and having a coaching or manager component to everything that you do is vital. I think driving accountability from senior leadership is equally as important.
AE: Yeah, that’s great. Well, we want to leave just a few minutes for the audience to ask some questions. Do we have a microphone?
Emcee: Thank you panelists. Big hand for our panels. Thank you, Angela, for moderating. That was wonderful. I think we could have renamed that, not just planting, but cultivating. I heard a lot of good tips about how to actually build a growth-led sales enablement practice. Let’s go to you guys questions out there and we’ve got Gabby in the back who also has a microphone for you.
Audience 1: Hi. Good morning. I love the conversation about manager enablement and the time that you spent there. I think my question is around the importance of onboarding a new manager. How do you help your organization see the importance of ring-fencing some onboarding time for your sales managers? I think oftentimes new sales managers join the organization because a vacancy was created, either because someone left or because someone was asked to leave. So, they step into a very fast, they step onto a very fast-moving train. How do you help your organizations see the importance of taking time to onboard your sales managers properly?
CD: I put together core competencies for sales managers that we address, and then we measure them on that as they’re getting started because they’re not going to be in a classroom for two weeks or two months. That’s not a thing that you’re ever going to be able to do with the sales manager. They have to get on the floor. They have to be with their people. So, we build core competencies. These are the things you’re supposed to do. We measure things like coaching so that we’re able to see what’s your coaching style? I sit in on plenty of coaching sessions where I’m in the back of the room, fly on the wall, just watching what they’re doing and giving them feedback and making sure that the VP of sales or other sales leaders are doing the same.
It’s a competency focus and it’s something that we lay across the whole team and we measure over time. One of the challenges you have is if you only measure sales managers by a number. They either hit or miss it, and there’s not a lot of why around there. And they can always point their fingers to the people on the team. And this person was out sick and this person had the best month ever, and this person had a bad month, and the accountability falls away from them. But if you put it back onto the competencies. Here are the four or five things that you’re responsible for doing in your role. Here’s what great looks like in that, and we’re going to measure you every quarter and we’re going to go back and have that conversation with your sales leader to say, this is where you shine, this is where your opportunity to grow is, and we start that at the onboarding and then we keep it going over time so that they understand this is what a sales manager role is at this company, and this is what success looks like outside of the number I’m responsible for.
DM: I would do a couple of things. One is I would make that public so those who want to aspire to a sales leadership role can start that process earlier on. They should be able to know what the experience is. To me, it’s a search model, right? It’s what skills do I need? What experiences should I have? What mindset should I have? What results should I have? And habits. If you just think about that, then if I knew that, and then I could start to get those experiences and develop those skills if I was a rep trying to get into management, so I wasn’t surprised day one. Then everyone else would know too, which by the way, creates that culture versus, “they were hired because they know X, Y, and Z versus this.” And I think you can shorten your onboarding, whether it’s management or sales. There are four things that you can actually cut down by half. If you will make a list of things that you want your people to be great at, what is it?
Number two, should give them an example, right? I’m going to use a sales example. It’s true with anything. You should have a great 30-second commercial. But that means everyone’s making up their own. So, here’s the example of what we would like you to say. Tthe third thing is you put them in order of priority. So, you don’t need to know everything day one. And I think that’s the problem. We stack everything to an individual day one and they get confused and therefore it’s overwhelming. We do nothing. So you can say in month one, you should know these things. Month two, you should know these things. And so on. And I think the last thing you should be doing is testing it out. I’ll use that example 30-second commercial. You should know it in the first week. Let me hear it. And what you’ll find is that if people know you’re going to come and ask that question, they’re practicing, right? They’re doing all the things that you want them to do. And if they’re great at it, competence and conviction. If they’re okay at it, coaching, right? It’s a coaching and training moment. The people who bail out on you who shouldn’t be there. You should get rid of them as quickly as possible because they’re not willing and able to do the things that are needed to be successful at your organizations. Those four steps will change your life.
Audience 2: Hi there. I’m Liesel with Confluent. Pam mentioned the importance of hearing from customers and I agree completely. Do you have to really help prioritize? Do you have some best practices that you utilize to collect the feedback and then distribute it out to the field and the team internally?
PD: I would say it’s still, for at least my experiences, it’s still kind of in its infancy and is still owned by those folks who are either more in customer success or more in touch with the customers on a regular basis. It’s helping align the sales and the other internal stakeholders to be able to hear that information. And so for me, it tends to stem back to the framework for facilitating collaboration and communication throughout the enterprise. That’s where I was talking about in sort of breaking down silos and having the opportunity for sales to feel more connected with corporate and the rest of the organization. Then, that spreads out the other direction too. Now that sales has that knowledge, then that extension is customer success. The extension then is the customer. Then it becomes a more natural network. But when you’re thinking of exactly how to facilitate that process, it tends to be about how you frame-up what you’re doing in an enablement function. Are you putting together regular opportunities to have ongoing communications within other internal departments? Are you facilitating opportunities for not just sales for others, but others in the organization to hear and learn and train as well, so that then they’re sharing their knowledge, their information, their experiences from the customers as well? It’s still to be built from my perspective, from my experiences, because the teams that I have had have been way more focused on “let’s get the enablement function built out and driving to sales and reaching the customer.” But let’s make sure that we do set in place those programs as it continues to build.
Audience 3: Thank you for the panel, that was fantastic. I think we have a good understanding of the different types of salespeople, and I think you mentioned the lone wolf. We know the people who look at it like project management. There are people who kind of delegate, find resources, right? So, as we move into the specialist sales enablement professionals, how do you look at the different types of sales enablement leaders when it comes to the way they operate and make decisions?
GR: I think it comes down to the classic consultant two-by-two. I think there are two types of companies that fall along one continuum, which is complexity of solution and product. The other one is the velocity of transactions, and I’m making this up in real time. If you look at that in sort of a two-by-two, you’ve got high complexity, low velocity companies, right? Very complex solution-based selling, lots of discovery, needs analysis. No two products or solutions are the same. Everything’s highly customized. And you’ve got the highly transactional, fast-paced commodity market, right? Widgets. Services, etc. And so your sales organization, your product marketing, your value proposition, your packaging, your pricing, everything should be aligned fundamentally in terms of that market space in which you operate. Your product market fit should be aligned.
The first thing you have to decide is the space you operate in. My buyer, going back to Pam’s point, is going to have a particular buyer journey, right? All the way from awareness to interest, evaluation, selection, purchase, and renewal and expansion, and therefore all of your customer-facing teams should be appropriately aligned in terms of being able to work with complexity. Let’s take life sciences as an example, right? If you’re selling into pharma, you’ve got today six different unique buying teams, not a team buyer, but six teams. They’ve got a PTN committee. You’ve got a KOL, a DOL, you’ve got a managed care team, you’ve got a government purchasing team, and you’ve got the chief compliance officer. Right there. If you didn’t understand any of those terms, that basically tells you that the enablement professional that has to work with that team has to know those terms. Those personas do. ICP is inside-out because they are a partner to the sales team, whether it’s an MSL or a field seller.
So, I think the short answer at the end of the diatribe is that I think to some extent, if enablement is to be an equal partner to those customer facing teams, whether it’s the person doing the virtual face-time with a patient or with the physician, or to one of the buying committees, you have to have a really good understanding of the buying motion, the sales motion, the methodology that you bring into bear in terms of how you engage the compliance and certification model that sits underneath every interaction with the customer. The market context, the competitive aspect, and that’s how you assemble essentially that highly personalized, just-in-time, just-in-context, just enough enablement experience for that team, which will be very different from the team that’s down in that bottom quadrant. They are more velocity, more transactional, where your emphasis is on getting people in and out quickly. Here it’s ever-boarding, here it’s more onboarding, as an example.
CD: You want to hire for diversity across the team as well, and not just diversity of people, but diversity of ideas and experience. Because a lot of enablement people are like, I came from marketing, I do enablement, and they’re bent to that side. And I’m the opposite. I came from sales and went to enablement. So, I’m like family to the salespeople, but sometimes I’m on the outside of the other crew. In my last sales team, I hired two marketing ops people first and put them in sales enablement roles. So, they’ve said that we had communication on both sides. And then I brought a person from our BI team over for analytics. And what happened is we had, we had a greater reach across the organization because the relationships that we could build based on our skills. I think when you’re building a team, really think about diversity. You want some empathy on your team, you want some process specialization on your team so that they could tackle different types of projects even if their roles are not super specific. Sometimes they just want to hire enablement specialists and who even knows what they’re going to do. They’re just going to be pointed at whatever projects you get. And having that diversity on your team will help you tackle more and be better at it.