Sales Enablement in the Age of Customer Centricity – Soirée, Europe
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Rebecca Bell: Thanks a lot. So, it’s really great to be here at this event. I’ve been to a few enablement events over the last couple of years and rarely have I seen such a great depth to the audience, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the day. And hopefully, this panel is going to contribute to the quality of that discussion.
So, I am Rebecca Bell. I am the marketing director of a company called The Floow. It is an Insurtech company in telematics. We’re selling to insurers, a small and nascent commercial organization with sellers to enable alongside the rest of my marketing tasks. And I have moved my career, I guess. I started in PR, I then moved into Marketing, I went into pure Sales Enablement, I went back into Marketing and actually throughout all of this stuff, I have accumulated some experiences of some of the activities that we’ve heard some of our speakers and panelists talk about today. So I’ve touched on so many different elements of what you might describe as enablement whilst accepting, of course, that we all have a slightly different view of what it might be and the actual practice of it, as I’m sure we’ll hear today may be different in many different organizations. So, it’s great to be here and we will introduce the panel in a second. But let’s talk about this topic, this topic of customer centricity.
When I walked into Starbucks this morning to get a coffee because I had so little sleep because the commercial road is very noisy at night, I found, I was able to, of course, order my coffee completely my way. What I wanted, my sugar-free hazelnut syrup or whatever the hell I wanted to put into it, and that’s completely acceptable. And as a consumer, I can demand what I want, and when I want to buy a new car and I go onto the mini website, I can indeed select, if I wish, my wing mirrors to have a Union Jack and the roof of my car to be pink. And that’s completely acceptable for me to select and that is totally in my control as a consumer. So, if we now move into the business sphere, the buyer in the business sphere is expecting that level of personalization on steroids. Why the hell couldn’t I have something that I want? Why shouldn’t I have it my way? And this presents a bit of a challenge sometimes.
I was having this discussion with the commercial team in the company I work for yesterday, and we were ruminating on why it was that sometimes we come to blows with our technical team. The technical team considers that we oversell and that we position stuff that’s not available. And the commercial team says, yes but it’s what the customer is asking for. They don’t want every color as long as it’s black. They want it their way. And so that’s the tension. That’s the kind of environment that sales enablement professionals are operating in.
So, it is becoming more difficult then to enable the seller to prepare for that personalization on steroids conversation that their customers are expecting to have. And with that in mind, we are going to move into this discussion, which is sales enablement in this age of customer centricity, and to start off I would like to invite the panel to just introduce themselves and they have, not very helpfully, not sat in the right seats. Almost. I’m going to have to keep looking behind me because I’m terrible with names, but Nicola, let’s start with you.
Nicola Bain: My name is Nicola Bain and I lead global sales enablement for a company called Infovista. Infovista enables both communications service providers and enterprises, large enterprises, to drive more effective and efficient networks. I am a salesperson and I will always be a salesperson. My role within Infovista is to drive behavior change and to drive revenue growth.
Vrahram Kadkhodaian: Thank you for having me. My name is Vrahram Kadkhodaian. I’m the CEO of a company called Prolifiq, and at Prolifiq what we do is we provide sales enablement solutions, specifically key account management and digital content management, native inside of Salesforce. So, we build all of our products with a Salesforce code base, so that it’s plug and play within Salesforce. I am also a salesperson and I will always be a salesperson, which is probably why we built the product the way we did. Thank you for having me.
Scott Barker: Hi everyone. I’m really excited to be here. My name is Scott Barker. I run partnerships and revenue at a company called Sales Hacker, and we are a media company and a community for sales professionals. We write a lot of both, sales enablement, sales technology, and up-and-coming best practices. I also run Partnerships and act as an evangelist for Outreach.io, who recently acquired us about nine months ago. And Outreach is a sales engagement platform that is going to allow you to automate a lot of those mundane tasks that salespeople do in their day-to-day and personalize at scale. That’s what we’ll be talking about more today, and I am also a salesperson through and through. So, yes, excited to be here.
RB: This is like a kind of AA meeting. Are you a salesperson, Michael?
Michael Fox: Yes, I am. I have been a salesperson. I’ll always be a consultant. My name is Michael Fox. I do a number of things. My main job is I work for VMware. I run the enterprise business for Northern Europe. There is a bit of a transition to that role from my enablement role at VMware, where I ran enablement for all of EMEA, and we can get into the reason for that at another time. The main task that I have is really to ensure that our enterprise salespeople can generate higher value deals, and this means taking a much more strategic approach to interacting with customers. That doesn’t mean more product knowledge. It means understanding what our customers need and why, and then responding to that. So, it’s a very big job. We’ve had a lot of success, but we can get into that as we go through.
RB: Awesome. And Sam.
Sam Robinson: My name is Sam Robinson. I am head of sales enablement for the UK and I work for Sage, and I also am a salesperson. I started off in sales. I moved into training by accident. When I was at Xerox, it was part of my management development at the time and they put me into training for two years. And I thought I was going to come out as a sales director. That was the idea because I thought what I wanted to do was develop people. As I went through the management development assignment and training, I realized what I was enjoying was developing people. I didn’t actually care whether they reported to me or not. And so, I decided to follow a pathway which has brought me here to this, and with sort of a myopic focus on the customer.
RB: Awesome. Well, my first question then has nothing to do with the ones that are here. I’m just going to ask you all because it’s more interesting maybe. Do you think being a salesperson or having sales credibility is critical to being successful in sales enablement? That’s yes then. Okay, I’m going to go to the first question, the real first question. If sales enablement really is about providing support for the salespeople that we serve, how can you make a program of sales enablement more customer-centric? Let’s start with you, Sam.
SR: By focusing on the customer. It sounds like it’s an easy cliché to throw out there, but what’s the opposite? The problem is we tend to get sucked in and focusing on our product and solution and not actually what the customer needs. So, for me, from a personal standpoint, I’ve been involved in delivering a program that is based around the cycle of human decision making and in applying that to a sales environment. So, if you start to understand why people make decisions or what motivates them – they had a colleague on the earlier panel talking about leading with insight – it’s getting those insights and relating them to that customer business.
When someone picks up the phone and says “hi, I’m Sam from Sage,” it’s not a surprise to them there’s a bit of software at the other end. So, let’s pop that and let’s actually focus on what the issues are. And when we do things in Sage life deal reviews and account reviews, what we tend to find is there’s a great deal of focus on the solution and presenting the solution to the customer and not as much focus on the drivers that got the customer to that point in the first place, partly driven by technology, partly driven by the sort of internet age, and you’re seeing these statistics where people say that 80 percent of customers research your solution before they ever engage you.
The problem with this then is that the lazy seller wants to just push it down the line then. Let’s get them to the end and make a decision, without taking that pause and going back and saying what drove you to actually click on in the first place? What was the thing that was happening in your organization that made you want to look at us and then from that driver, saying what’s the gap? Where are you now? Where do you want to get to? Because you’re like most of us here. You have a software stack that has a number of options that the customer could take. Because they’ve done some research on it doesn’t mean to say it’s the correct research. So that’s taking it back to basics. As you and I were discussing before we came on here, that being myopic a bit, but make sure they execute the basics.
Just in closing, I’ll say for any of you who watch any sports program, watch any sports coach because in sales we’re great at giving sports analogies. If you listen to any sports coach who has done well always says that my team or an individual executed the basics really well and from that, we were able to build out from there. Equally, when they fail or when they’ve been beaten, they say we failed in executing the basics. So, let’s go back to the basics. Sage Institute was a program of having a myopic focus on being world class at the basics, and those basics include starting with what is the customer wanting. And what they don’t want is a bit of Sage software. Ultimately that’s what they’re going to get, but what they want is a solution to a business or personal issue that they are facing.
RB: Nicola, do you want to add to that?
NB: I will. I love what you talked about as back to basics. It is something that I believe in and I could talk about that. But also, you’re right. No client wants software. The software is expensive. It’s difficult to maintain. Certainly, when I was looking at management systems, for example, it was solving a business problem for me, and I think that’s what is really, really key is enabling salespeople with the skills to have really, really good conversations with the client.
For a customer to buy, they need to have business issues and they need to have problems. They need to do something different. They all have budgets. You know, when you think of the CIO, he or she has a budget and they are going to spend that money on the highest priorities. They are going to put that money on the biggest problems that they have that they need to solve, and we need to understand what those are and align solutions to that.
There is no point in aligning a solution to something that doesn’t really solve a problem because that becomes a nice to have, and the deal will stall, and it won’t happen. It is difficult. So, having those conversations around the solution, helping the client understand the value of that solution to their business. You know, the business value of it, the softer stuff, but also, we’ve spoken about on the panel earlier, about quantifying that value. Because that goes into helping them buy, helping them justify their business case. So, it’s those back to basic skills. If we can enable our salespeople to have the right conversations, then I think we are a long way there on the journey.
RB: Excellent. The opposite of what all of you just said, of course, is that sometimes when I walk into a shop and I just want to buy something quickly and scoot out and some sales assistant kind of leaps on you and starts talking to you and, you know, being very British, I absolutely cringe and run away. But what happens when a customer doesn’t really want to have that level of kind of outcome-based conversation, when they’ve got a pretty clear quite transactional view about what they want to purchase? And that’s a different kind of enablement we need to exercise, isn’t it? So, Scott, do you want to comment on what does that look like? What kind of different types of training or enablement activities might need to be delivered in order to enable that customer to get what they want?
SB: Yeah, that’s an awesome question, and something that I see becoming more and more common. As we all get more conditioned in our B2C lives, I can go on Amazon and click something, and it shows up at my door tomorrow. So, I want things to happen, I want them to happen now and I want my challenges fixed right away.
It reminds me of just two weeks ago. So, taking off my sales and sales enablement hats and putting on my buyer hat, I had a problem, an immediate need. I needed a LinkedIn Live streaming service for one of our VPs and I, like most buyers, today, did my research, I reached out to my network and said: “hey, who’s fixed this problem before?” I talked to a few people and was like okay I know exactly what I want, I know the company that is going to provide it. So, I go in, request a demo and me again wanting instant gratification, they didn’t get back to me within five minutes, so I tagged one of the VPs on LinkedIn, and I ended up getting a demo right away, which was awesome. And we go through, perfect, this is exactly what I need, here is my credit card basically. And the rep was like, “oh no, we’ve got to onboard you, we’ve got to onboard you tomorrow, and I need to be live tomorrow so how can we do it?” Then we negotiated further, and I also wanted a set price that was a little bit different, and he told me I needed manager approval and etc. After a while we talked, and he was actually able to deliver on this. He got both of it in that same day, which if he hadn’t I would’ve 100% gone to the competition, for sure.
The point I’m trying to make here is we talk so much as enablement professionals about adding value, we’re always adding value, how can we get our sales team to add value? And I think we now live in a world, in this customer-centric world, where it is just as important to remove friction as it is to add value. So, that’s one point I would leave you with that story. How important that was to me. I didn’t care about the value he was adding. I had my own value: I did my own research. But it was so important that he removed the friction and allowed me to get to what I wanted.
NB: I was just going to say. I mean, in that situation, say there was a competitor that had a better solution that wanted to approach you. For them to do that at the right time, they would really need to know what was the challenge that you were trying to overcome. If they didn’t really have an in-depth knowledge of that, they couldn’t present a solution that might be slightly different but potentially better. To pose that anxiety question, are you sure that with the solution that you are looking for that you are going to be able to meet this requirement of your business? Instill just a little bit of doubt in your mind so that you might say, “well, okay, just tell me a little bit more about that.” Just so that they can maybe sway you somewhere else, but you’ve got to really intrinsically understand the problem or challenge the client is trying to solve.
RB: Michael, I think you might have one or two comments to make.
MF: It is fascinating hearing from everyone. I think one of the realizations I had is that being shared. You know we are talking about many different scales of the transaction and the transactional business is a more enterprise scale of business, and your original question was, what do we need to change in terms of sales enablement content or training? My answer would be I don’t think we do need to change. I think if we have a customer who could in our situation be an IT practitioner who wants to buy a Global Advisor licenses from VMWare, fantastic. And if it’s that or nothing, then we’ll take it. That’s great. But we will use that as a pathway to a conversation to a bigger opportunity. So, the training would build.
The training is not inside a product or in something else. It is about the product and then gets to something else. They are all connected and ultimately that is all driven by mindset, the mindset of the account executive. If the account executive is not inspired to want to explore the customer and understand what their opportunity is, we’ve got the wrong AE in place.
RB: I guess it’s the kind of emotional intelligence of the sales rep to say I can recognize that I need to deliver what they want – in your case, frictionless, now, just take the pain away because I know what I want – rather than trying to overcomplicate or see big dollar signs down the road that might make it bigger. Actually, that might end up turning the client off, the prospect off, and they may never spend money with you again. So, it’s that kind of emotional intelligence, which is a kind of sales skill rather than do you have the content.
Okay. Let’s talk about the notion of customer centricity. I guess I’m an accidental marketer and you might say that thinking about the customer is something that I should be doing all day long. I do. But there’s also the customer success professionals who are into this now, and salespeople of course, and enablement professionals. So, what role should the enablement professional play in this landscape? What should they have ownership of or what should they contribute to? Who wants to take this question? I think maybe this was your question. You didn’t want to answer this question.
SR: What role should we play? For me, there’s a fundamental role that says our job is to upscale and help them drive performance in the business. That’s what we need to be doing. Whatever programs or things that we put in place are our own driving performance. Actually, what we do and what we deliver is not a product or solution; we deliver a conversation. We make them more effective at having that conversation, and there are three conversations that we need them to be more effective at having to drive customer centricity. It is the conversation between the senior leader and the leader, between the leader and the seller, and between the seller and the customer. And I use the word seller broadly. That could be pre-sales, it could be post-sales, it could be me, it could be whoever is involved in touching the customer.
If you are touching the customer and not moving either the deal or the account forward, then get out of the way. You shouldn’t really be there. And so, therefore, that’s what we should be doing. We should be embedded with the leadership teams in helping to drive that, not only if there happens to be an enablement topic in the leadership environment, but we should be there just to wholly understand what our organization is charged to do. Because it is easy to say that let’s have a myopic focus on the customer. Of course, we should have. But in the real world we’re actually there to sell a product or service, so therefore what we do has to be here. It’s a customer-centric view of driving a product and a service, and that’s where we need to get to. So, it’s not just the running of the program; it’s making sure the program is embedded.
For example, I have to go see the EVP of Sales for Europe and Ireland this afternoon and the first conversation I had with him when I joined sales, we were talking about enablement and developing people. He said, “enablement is not something you do to other people. It is something that you’ll get some skin in the game.” And if you can’t show me the outcomes of what you’re asking me to deliver will be built into the management or sales process, then I really need to question what’s the point in delivering it? Because it’s not going to affect the customer and it’s not going to drive performance.
RB: Nicola, did you want to add?
NB: I’ll just add to that because I agree it’s about having those conversations and the thought of a salesperson going to a prospect meeting with a deck of 40 slides and talking at the client. You know, that would just be a disaster. So, it’s important that we have the content that they can tap into and use so that they can pull bits from it to make it relevant to the client. But it’s being able to help them have those conversations. And I really love David from Challenger in a previous panel who spoke about those data points, because that really helps the salesperson be credible. So, when they are working with the client to work on a solution, it is real. It is powerful.
RB: So, next question. Let’s change gears a bit. Earlier James talked about this notion – actually it’s buyer enablement instead of seller enablement – and decided to throw that grenade and then run off rather than get into the debate about what that is. But there is certainly a lot more chatter about the concept of buyer enablement in the industry, so should we be focusing more on the customer? Is buyer enablement the thing? Vrahram, do you want to take this one?
VK: Sure. That’s a great question. That’s a tough question. But from my perspective, I agree with everything Sam – rely on the basics and the fundamentals and we have a lot of sales professionals at Prolifiq. It kind of brings me back to a conversation that I had last week with one of our sales professionals who was going to meet with the CEO of another company that is now a customer. He was talking to me about all the things that he wanted to say and all the things that he wanted to do and all the things that he wanted to show the CEO because he really believes that our product is a great fit for them. And he asked me what I thought: “so what do you think, Vrahram?” Well, there’s not a lot that you can say that’s going to impress this guy but there’s a lot that you can say that’s not going to impress him.
So, I think the whole concept of simplicity in delivering that engagement with the buyer is part of the fundamentals that we need to focus on when it comes to sales enablement. Are there any neuroscientists in the audience? I had a great conversation with Tanya Kunze last night and she’s on a panel later today, but what she speaks to is the simplicity behind the mindset of a sales rep. How can you help that sales rep think a lot clearer, a lot more effectively and a lot more efficiently in the conversations that they are having? Because that’s what the buyer wants. They have all the information for the most part at their fingertips that they want to make a buying decision. There’s a lot that you can say that’s going to sway them the other way. Like in your personal experience with LinkedIn, less would have been more, right? Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity, simplicity with respect to the buyer, which goes in hand with fundamentals and the basics.
RB: When we think about the range, I guess the different size and scale of some of the buying audiences that we are addressing as sales enablement professionals, and you touched on it a minute ago, Michael. The needs of let’s say a C-suite executive who might be involved in a portion of that buying journey versus a product owner or somebody who’s looking to develop a proposition using your solution, what is the sort of different profile of your audience and how do you take that into account when you are planning your enablement activities?
MB: I’ll be very brief. So, you’re absolutely right. We generally look at four profiles across an organization. Traditionally we sell to the IT practitioner, which was everything we taught sales reps. Look at the website. All of the material that we have is IT-oriented, so it is natural for a sales rep to respond to that and talk about it in a knowledgeable way. Fantastic, but we want to move things along.
The next level up would be the more senior level IT decision maker. They have to go up to the CIO, maybe a VP level – a little bit less worried about feature function, more concerned about meeting goals in terms of cutting costs so the CFO is off the person’s back. The next level up is a line of business owners, and we will, I think they will all know about shadow IT, for example, where line of business owners don’t want to wait for IT. They’ll go out to Amazon Web Services, give them a credit card, they get what they need. A lot of CIOs still dislike that, others see it as an opportunity, but that’s a different conversation. And then, as you mentioned, the top end of the scale, CXO, three strategic initiatives for the year, how do we get these done, how do we impact Wall Street? It’s a completely different mindset.
In terms of enablement alignment, it’s very clear. If we have AEs who are just able to sell the product, that’s great. Put them in front of the IT practitioners. We have seen at VMware definitely a group of breakaway AEs who have taken it upon themselves to actually read the annual report, to do some research, to understand that it is actually more about the customer than about the product that we want to sell. And if we have the faith and confidence that we have a good product and we don’t go in trying to pitch something, but we go in trying to advise the customer on what they could be doing better, we do get bigger deals.
So, enablement is quite different. Just one last point on that. It has taken us five years to get from starting a program where we were showing AEs how to speak to CXOs and some of those sessions ended in tears. It was quite interesting. It has taken five years to actually start that process to a point now where we are actually being invited in by the C-suite in many big organizations. But it takes time. You can’t flick a switch. You can’t give somebody an iPad and expect it to work. This is a long-term program.
RB: I am profiling your sales audience, so there’s the head of the millipede close to the brain, get it? There are people at the back of the millipede that never get the message. So, profiling not just the audience or who you are selling to, but to your sales team, is important. I know we have five minutes left. Before we move to the final question, I’ve got one more for Scott and for Vrahram. Customer loyalty is incredibly important because we all know it’s much, much easier to sell to an existing customer and expand an existing customer than to find a new one. So how do you turn customers into advocates and is that part of the sales enablement role to do so? How do you enable sales and customer success to try and do that?
SB: This is very, very top of mind for me right now and I think it should be for everyone in this room. I just did a webinar last week with Trish Bertuzzi, author of The Sales Development Playbook. She’s got some strong ideas about why customer success is the new sales frontier. And she did a survey that says it is 25 to 40 percent more expensive to go out and acquire a new customer versus keep the customers that we already have. So how do we turn those customers not into repeat customers, but into advocates? And there are a lot of cool ways I am seeing companies do this.
Right now, at Outreach, one of the ways that we are doing this is through our investments in different communities, so not just your typical user group community that has been around with Marketo and Salesforce for years, but outside of that. You know, looking at organizations like Pearl’s Club which is looking for more women in sales technology jobs and investing in them so they can go out and educate. It gives actually your customers a platform to have a voice that’s outside of your organization. Of course, they doubled down with that with the acquisition of Sales Hacker to really do way more peer-to-peer learning in these outside communities. That, you can kind of start to influence and weave in your messaging, your verbiage, which is going to make them more loyal and hopefully turn them into advocates. So that’s one way.
RB: Is that an enablement person’s job or is that a marketing person’s job?
SB: It’s everyone’s, right? I think it’s the enablement person’s job to make sure the entire organization can articulate that vision of community, peer-to-peer learning, so I would say that it’s everyone. But I would say enablement needs to start taking a more active role in post-sale.
VK: This is near and dear to my heart. I have to talk to Wall Street about this. Our business is all about renewals. It’s all about making sure that our customers are happy, they are using our product, they are renewing, they are buying more, and so on and so forth. This is the lifeblood of our business, and I agree with you, it’s everyone’s responsibility. But what I find fascinating is sales professionals are always trying to sell, which is great. That’s not ever going to change and that shouldn’t change. However, they are not asking questions about success enough. And what we found, especially in our customer base, if I pull up a list of our customers and I talk to our teams, what did they want to solve when they bought our product or service? How has that evolved and changed? When was the last time we had key KPIs that we managed and tracked against to ensure that this customer is on the right path?
So, growing the account is fantastic, but if we don’t know what makes this customer tick or why they bought the product in the first place, what the service was that they wanted because they trusted our partnership out of the gates, we are going to lose that customer. Maybe it’s not this year, maybe it’s not next year. It may be two years from now. So, having conversations around why did you buy us, are we still delivering on that promise, are you seeing the value. Consistently redefining what that looks like for the customer is so important.
And so, I also think that sales enablement’s job is very easy for senior leaders to say this is who we are as a company, this is what we do, this is the value we deliver, this is the service, this is the product we deliver. But who is reinforcing that? Who is onboarding new sales professionals and team members and keeping it simple for them so that message resonates from all the senior leaders in the organization and permeates throughout the company? That is where I think sales enablement can really help, especially when it comes to that frontline interaction with the customer on a day-to-day basis.
RB: Q&A. I’ve got one more question, so when we get to the end, can I ask a quick question?
Emcee: All right, we’ll do it at the end. So, that was brilliant. I want to invite the audience to see if any of you have any questions for anyone on the panel. I’m going to start down here and if we could do the same thing again. So, choose your question and then choose the panelist that you would like to answer it.
Audience 1: Thank you very much. My question is for Sam. What happens when you’ve got a group of people that have been in a company for an excess of ten years, they are in a sales role, they are comfortable, they’re bored, they’re just doing it. How do you get that group of people motivated? You’ve spoken about people enablement being a big focus of yours and a passion.
SR: That’s a great question. There’s a massive difference between ten years’ experience and one year ten times, and therefore that’s why you’ve got to start looking at the mindset. You look at skill set, mindset, structure, and the idea is to look at that stuff and the science of marginal gains. Do you want to get better, and I know it’s a cliché, but change the people or change the people. If they’re not going to change and they don’t want to get better, then you have to move on.
Quickly a story on that, because we often think that this only happens at an enterprise sales level, that’s where the value is built. I was buying a TV. Mrs. Robinson and the rest of the family convinced me that big TVs were the way to go. So, I went in there, I bought the TV, about two hours of looking at TVs. I didn’t do the right thing, which was to research it before I went in. So it was a nice Sunday, as I was about to leave, I foolishly thought that buying a TV came with sound. Apparently, that’s not the case. So, your man comes along, he says “I need to introduce you to Gary – he’s our sound expert.” I thought here we go, another half hour of decibels and subwoofers and tweeters and all that stuff. His first question floored me. He said, “Mr. Robinson, nice to see you. Can I just ask you, if were you thinking about an orchestra, what sort of instruments would you associate with deep resonant sound?” All of a sudden, I’m on the back foot and I’m going maybe cello. My mind’s saying go with cello so I said “cello and double bass,” and there’s a wee voice inside of me going, no, try a clarinet, try a clarinet. So, I said, “clarinet as well.” He said, “absolutely Mr. Robinson, and what are those made of?” I started to sweat, and I said “is it cedar, is it redwood…the clarinet is definitely ebony. It’s definitely ebony. Wood, it’s wood.”
Long story short, half an hour later I’m walking out the door and my wife says to me, “do you realize he sold you the value of wood?” I said, “yes, but he was really, really good at it.” Because what he had done, he had researched the marketplace, there was obviously an incentive going for them to sell this – it was a Scandinavian company, but I can’t remember the name of it – but it was basically made of wood. And I spent the whole journey back home with the women telling me, “and two weeks ago you threw out those wooden speakers.”
If somebody at that level can be motivated, somebody with ten years’ experience can be motivated. And if they can’t be motivated, time to go. Because I think I saw it on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago, the customers are learning faster than sellers are evolving. So, if that seller is not evolving, that’s not good for us.
Emcee: Great story. Thank you very much. Do we have a question at the back? Okay. We’ll stay down here.
Audience 2: Hi. I’ve got a question for Nicola. Do you have a client review board at all, or does anybody? Where you take some clients and then talk to them regularly with perhaps an independent chairman to get their view on the ground?
NB: To get the view of the actual opportunity itself or what the clients think of our solutions?
Audience 2: Just the view as Vrahram said about how it’s going and are you going in the right direction because you think internally you are, but actually the customers would like you to go in a different direction.
NB: We don’t have that so it would be difficult for me to talk about it. I am heavily involved in reviewing opportunities and my team is reviewing opportunities with salespeople, but that is on particular live opportunities as opposed to once we’ve sold. I mean, the marketing team within Infovista, because we’re always looking for those case studies and sometimes we build that into the negotiation process so that we can capture those, and then to get the ROI for our solution because it can take upwards of a year, so you are waiting awhile. So, we’re not doing a great job, but I do think we could definitely do a better job.
Emcee: Actually, yes. I would like to open that up to the rest of the panel. Is anyone else using any kind of customer advisory board? Okay.
SB: Yes. We have a client advisory board that we meet with on a quarterly basis and we will fly them out. We get about 40 or 50 people in a room, so we get a large amount across different personas, different industries and it helps us with our roadmap, but we also dive into the enablement piece. Like how was your buying experience? What did that look like? How could we do it better? And then the same on the post-sale side. I think it’s extremely important.
NB: I’m sorry. Are they honest with you?
SB: Probably too honest.
Emcee: I have a quick follow up on that because I think it’s quite common to see customer advisory boards for product management or product marketing. Are you using the same customer advisory board for your enablement team or do you have separate boards of customers for different purposes?
SB: So, I’m not sure if we have an enablement person present at the customer advisory board, but it would certainly trickle down when we asked them.
Audience 2: Just a little bit of a comment there. We’re not just using the customer advisory board in my company just for road mapping and feedback but we’re also using it as part of the sales cycle. So, we’re actually bringing in prospective clients as well, so we’re trying to provide the sort of engagement and it’s also very much peer-to-peer. We’ve got customers that talk to other customers and so that’s just a little bit of a best practice.
Emcee: Thank you very much.
SB: Just a question about that because it’s a great idea. How are you incentivizing the customers to get in front of prospects and share their experience? Is there any incentive for them?
Audience 2: Honestly, they love talking about their experience and so I think that when we make them feel special, they are very willing to come on board. So, we don’t pay them, we don’t incentivize them. No, not at all. They are also helping to shape the future of our company, our roadmap. But we’re quite a small company. We’re not a big conglomerate, you know. We’re 300 employees so I think that might be much more challenging in a larger organization. Yes, I work for 1E. it’s a software company.
VK: That transparency permeates your culture better than anything else, in my opinion.
Emcee: Okay. Another question.
Audience 3: I have a question for Michael. I think you said you’ve moved from sales enablement to sales leadership, is that right? So of course, we try and roll out enablement programs starting with sales managers to help with the adoption, but that’s where I see it failing a lot because of constant reinforcement and making sure that it is being adopted is always a challenge. Have you got any tips that you would share now that you’ve switched that would help us to overcome that challenge?
MF: Yes. There is no perfect answer, first of all. A lot of it is down to individual personalities. We found that if we try to get AEs to perform in a different way by training them in a different way, that works to some degree. So, we thought we need to do a better job than that. So, then we started to train first my sales managers to try and have the discipline and you know where I’m going with that. But we found that even then, as long as a territory was achieving its number on a quarterly basis, we kind of turned a blind eye to how they did it.
So, then we have recently taken another step up to a regional leader or a VP of like Northern EMEA or wherever it might be to get them to share their approach to running their team from the very top down. So, we have a GM for EMEA. He has three VPs who run the various regions within EMEA. We’re talking at that level now. We have the GM saying what the activity needs to be trickling down to the AEs. We’re even getting to a point, we thought this would happen naturally, but we have to get to a point now where we go to a first-line sales manager and we say, we expect ‘x’ number of deals of a certain value this half year. And what that does then is they will then go to the enablement team and say we’ve got to do this, here’s all the training we need to achieve it, so it actually has helped in some ways to get the desired effect. But there’s no single right answer.
Emcee: Thank you very much. So, I’m going to hand it back to you, Rebecca. I think you had one final wrap-up question for the panel.
RB: I did. A quick-fire question to end on for everyone, please. So, what one thing would you say that sales enablement professionals could or should be doing in order to become more customer-centric? Don’t all rush at once.
NB: To me, it’s something that I really champion within our organization and it’s a strong sales methodology, consistently right throughout the organization. That is not just a sales organization. It is the whole organization from the executive committee, research, and development, product management. Everybody needs to understand the methodology for the value proposition that our solution delivers.
VK: Mine is pretty simple. Listen to your sales professionals. I think no different than any great sales professional listens more than they talk. I think sales enablement professionals need to listen to what is happening on the street and those people that engage with the customer on a daily basis can give you all the answers we’re looking for, so really, really listen to them because I think they can help.
SB: I’m going to go kind of super tactical on this one because I see this notion of self-serve becoming much more popular and I think sales enablement professionals need to notice that trend. So almost everyone here probably has an onboarding guide, especially if you’re in tech that’s pretty common. What I would urge you to do is go and create a self-onboarding guide. That would be a great exercise for you to go through, like how can our buyers actually do this themselves and it will be extremely helpful for those people that we talked about earlier like myself who know what they want and they just want you to get out of the way.
MF: I would say we spoke briefly about our tendency to train sales reps on products. If we want them to be more customer-centric, train them on what makes the customers successful. Train them on customer use cases. Look backward. Where have our customers had the biggest impact? Train them on that and then they will take them to the customer.
SR: Corporations, the bigger they are, are almost systemically designed to resist change, so the effort is really quite difficult to make a company customer-centric. Even at Sage, one of our goals is customer success. It’s really hard to do that. For me, it’s back to basics again, world-class basics. Just focus on understanding better the psychology of how customers make a decision, any decision whether that’s a coffee or software, I don’t care. The better you understand that, the better whatever methodology you have in place and in Sage, similar to what the previous colleague at Xerox said, there’s half a dozen different methodologies but the better you understand how a customer makes a decision, the better you can integrate that methodology and therefore become more customer-centric.
RB: Fantastic. Well, thank you all. I think we’re done.