Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2021: How Salesforce Delivers Effective Sales Leader Enablement

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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winner Phil Cleary from Salesforce APAC. Learn more about the Training award winning initiative below.

What was the challenge you were facing?

Phil Cleary: My name is Phil Cleary. I’m a current run sales enablement for the APAC region for Salesforce. APAC for us runs all the way from India and the West, through Asia, China all the way through to Australia and New Zealand. So quite a wide time zone area that we cover here. I’ve been with Salesforce for about 16 years here altogether. And I started in sales with them all those years ago, back in Dublin, in Ireland, where I’m from originally. Then I moved into enablement in 2008. So right in the cusp of when sales productivity, sales enablement, sales effectiveness was coming into Vogue. And so, I’ve been doing it for a number of years.

I relocated with my family to Sydney in Australia, about nine years ago now altogether and have been running enabled material across the APAC region for that period of time as well. I think with a lot of these very innovative new programs where you may necessarily get recognized as being a really good program. We weren’t being constrained by previous programs that existed like this as well. So we had a bit of a blank sheet to do this. The reality was particularly in my region, the limit to sales leader enablement was really focused in their onboarding phase. So we had a very rigorous and robust onboarding program for them. They would join it within their first 30 days or so that we’d attend a leader boot camp program. And that will be a globally run program as well. They would attend for an entire week. They would meet with other sales leaders and learn best practices about hiring and managing and forecasting and using our tools and our culture at this boot camp as well.

After that, there wasn’t a huge amount that we did specifically in the region that supported our leaders. It was a bit ad hoc. It was a bit more reactive than an a that really could have been as well. Now we certainly knew that there were some further deeper programs getting developed at a corporate level. We had a bit more of a brain need for the APAC region working with local sales leadership, quite closely. Like we do, uh, we identified quite a brand needs, like I mentioned. We felt we needed to be able to spin up something ourselves locally, run it with a local flavor. One of the key animals that we could talk about today is it was very much a program by the people for the people as well. It was quite a unique opportunity that we had. There wasn’t much there beforehand. Now I would say that the challenges that we encountered kind of fell into probably two different categories altogether, one set of challenges were about what was happening in the business and the business priorities and the challenges that we needed to address with that. I think the other category that we can get into is the challenges around designing, building, running, executing, reinforcing that leadership enablement program itself.

But thinking about those business challenges. We would have probably in and around 200 or so frontline sales leaders here across the APAC regional together, like I mentioned before, spotting all the way from India through Asia and then Australia and New Zealand and also leaders at different levels in their careers and levels of experience. Industries that they’ve worked in, et cetera. Some managers will be managing small to medium business teams or mid-market general business teams, or what would be enterprise teams. So we potentially had 200 different managers to different ways of leading, coaching, forecasting, monitoring, pipeline of hiring best practices. We uncovered that was just a lot of diversity. Which is a good thing, but also that leads to a lot of lack of consistency around how we do things. And so it was leading to things like longer ramp times for leaders and for our account executives as well. It was leading to different best practices around forecasting and the consistencies around that.

Then potentially as a sales person, account executive and the business was growing their career, moving up through the different levels, they would work for one manager who won one set of best practices, and they would move into that. And another team potentially within another manager within another set of best practices. So we have 200 potentially different styles of managing and coaching, which created its own problems for us as well. Also, we knew that it wasn’t very well resourced here from an enablement of leaders focused perspective as well. So for us, and we knew we needed to be able to add, to work cross functionally, cross collaboratively, across a lot of different teams. We had to build an actual workforce around this and I brought in a lot of different individuals around this, so that created some of its own challenges as well. People have their day jobs and people are focused on executing and what they were doing already. We had challenges around time zone awkwardness. We had to run things that worked for folks that were in India, people that were in New Zealand at the same time, which created its own problems for us, tried to hurt sales leaders and into both helping us to create design and deliver content and also getting them into the session consistently as well was always going to be challenged.

I think there were a lot of things we were dealing with upfront and created some challenges. But the great thing was, like I mentioned before, we were kind of running around rules around this. We had our own guidelines and we could build something that would really help us to deal with all the challenges we were facing there. I think the first thing was really realizing we had the problem, having that regular and deep level of dialogue with our sales leadership to know that this issue existed in the business, that we needed to be able to see what to address it and approve, but it wasn’t that we were in a really bad state, but it was really that we could get much better at it in the first place. I think our first step was to resource that executive sponsorship and make sure that we had the backing of the local business to be able to execute on this as well. We then set forth and talked to lots of different people. We talked to our executive leadership team, we talked to a lot of people outside the company. We did lots of industry research around what other companies are doing around leaders.

We talked a lot to the first-line leaders as well, particularly those that have joined the company more recently. And we talked to our salespeople. What was it like to be managed and coached by these leaders? What was their experience, how do you have some great leaders in the past and what the difference was? So I think that the early conversations were already key. We then made sure to stand up at a task force around this. And so we had some centralized enablement people that had the experience around building curriculum and designing content and all syringe delivery and the engagement level with sales leaders. We had to bring in other people into the business, other sales leaders that were maybe subject matter experts around the topics that we wanted to cover. So have some key leaders that would help us to build them designed on, to execute on the content as well. And then we had to work at what’s our overall framework. How are we going to do that?

What was the process of developing this initiative?

PC: This we knew. If you think back to me of 2020 last year, we weren’t that long into the COVID-19 pandemic and people were certainly still working from home. Everyone was still getting used to Zoom calls and working virtually and learning virtually and engaging with customers virtually as well as we had to design something that would work for us that way. So establishing the technology that we’d execute it on and then also what the overall cadence of our sessions would be at the end. We decided and executed on a cadence of one hour per day. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday across the month of May. So that ended up being actually 15 sessions altogether. We made one of those sessions at a two hour session, but we wanted to establish a framework around that as well on our executive sponsor at the time, Shareaza, an incredible framework that he had been using for a number of years within his teams which he called the four P’s. The four P’s stood for people, pipeline, process and performance. The concept of the four Ps at arc really is if you hire and train the best people, I train them to be as good as they can and ensure that they are capable of on the econ, providing them high quality, a well qualified pipeline, and give them a consistent, scalable, repeatable learnable methodology, and a process to apply to the pipeline.

The happy accident off the back of that is hot as a performance in terms of revenue for the company, hard performance across at forecasting accuracy, and deal size is increasing at win rates, increasing, et cetera, winning more market share. So all those performance metrics, those lagging metrics that we think about and sales were really just a result of focusing on those three initial peaks of great people and high quality pipeline and a solid process and methodology to apply to as well. That was our process. Every Monday, every week was focused on people. Every Tuesday was focused on pipelines. Every Wednesday, it was processed. Every Thursday was a performance. Across all those four sessions that we ended up building, we would have different sales leaders. So we had enabling make for sensation. We would open, we would manage the questions, we would produce the online virtual webinars that we did. We would have as subject matter experts come in. Typically former sales leadership, or senior tenured sales leadership that would deliver that session and it might be about hiring best practices or performance management door and prospecting or data pipeline analysis, execution of ASAE’s methodology or analyzing and driving performance.

How was the rollout and adoption of the new initiative?

PC: So, that was our overall framework. That’s what we settled on. It was fast. We kind of stood that up pretty quickly and got it going and brought in a lot of different people into the boat with us to make sure we’re all rowing in the same direction, which is obviously important. I think what was really good and we can talk about this, but later on, is that because it was really owned by the leaders and they were very heavily invested in the success of us that it drove attendance, that it drove participation that drove reinforcement, and consistency because we were running this right the way across all of APAC. It meant that we could run a single session and on everything. It meant that we drove number one, consistency, number two, add quality, so we have the best speaker that we could find for that particular topic, delivering that session for everybody. The great thing is, and I’m sure a lot of your audience realize that when things are virtual, you can hit that record button on its preserves and focus areas forever. And you can put it into a library and people can go back and review it again. They can use it for our new leaders that come in. It’s now part of their onboarding framework and journey.

I think it’s great to bring people together from a networking perspective and that was to net them into what we did as well. However, it being virtual led itself to a lot of upside as well. So I think some great lessons learned for us around the power of virtual on how we can leverage that to our advantage as well. And we talked a little bit about that road and the structure of the framework for it. It was Monday to Thursday, every week for four weeks in a row, we had 15 sessions all together in terms of the road, eyes and the technology that we ended up settling on was quite important. Our corporate standard is actually not Zoom, it’s Google Meet. So we resolved to use that and we needed to be quite clever about how we managed breakout rooms. We were very specific about the groupings and what breakout rooms people would move into that Salesforce we’re very keen on. I learned, applied share models, so I learned something that I can apply to my territory or a business on my team. And then I share the success and best practices that I’ve uncovered and deploy a particular new technique or scalable process.

We heavily used breakout rooms. So we would always have an opening and they would learn something. They would break out into breakout rooms. They would execute and apply what they learned and come back into the main room, share their learnings and successes around that. And we did that right away across the four weeks of really driving that high level of reinforcement. We also thought about other technology that we could plug in as well. So, I mentioned before about networking being really important for us on how we drove that we were very keen to bring people together that hadn’t met each other before. We tried to replicate if it was a live event and everyone was flying to the same location and they were all staying in the hotel. We were having networking mixers. What would that look like in a virtual environment as well? So we deployed some tools like icebreaker, which was great for creating connections for people that hadn’t met before and drove some uncovered, some great conversation and best practices. And we leveraged tools like Hoop for quizzes to drive interaction. I had some prizes of unspeakable value and some great swag, and we were able to send that to people as well. We leveraged other tools like Mentee and polling, et cetera, to drive interaction.

You can go without bringing people in and getting them to think for themselves and to interact and to break out and to be part of a bigger audience. I think the technology we use is really key. And of course, guess what feedback and that was really key for us as well. So we use survey tools to be able to understand. Well, how well did you like that session? What was good? What could we do better about it? And get those scores at a five. I don’t understand where we were strong, where we maybe dropped the ball a little bit on a session, how we can improve it for the coming sessions in the coming weeks as well. So that was some of the academies around the technology for the road as well. And as I mentioned, before it was really contact by the people for the people. So, we leverage heavily our business operations team and our customer success teams on our solution engineering teams and on obviously our sales leadership teams as well, to help us to build and execute and deliver it that gathers content and monitors those sessions as well. So that was some of the key elements around the roadmap.

I think the other thing we were very conscious of as well, particularly in this remote environment was wellness and volunteering. And so every day at the beginning of the day, before we started the sessions, we would do some level of like 15 or 30 minutes of wellness together. That might be meditation together or breathing, an exercise we do together or Zumba, or it could be yoga or there were different things that people could sign up for and do to kind of get them and really being in a good sort of like mental area to be able to go through what they were about to learn as well. I mentioned volunteering. So again, we had about 250 people altogether that attended in the end. And all of those folks did a couple of hours of volunteering, something that was virtual. There’s lots of opportunities to be able to volunteer, not in person. So that’s been a big focus on this, you know, the company over the last year. We ended up giving back something in the region of about 500 hours of volunteering as well, which I think everyone loved that again, because they got to work together in teams on different things. People they hadn’t met before. Understanding each other’s culture and also that great feeling of giving back a voluntary as well.

What are some of the business results and impact as a result of your efforts?

PC: I think there’s a number of different business metrics that we still improve. It was important for us to take a baseline before we started on the measure that immediately after the program a month, two months, three months out as well over time, and I mentioned we’ve run this program across the month of May. Last year, we saw a 61% increase in adoption of tools and very specifically some of our internal dashboards, that were really about driving pipeline quality and forecasting accuracy. So the tools that we had already rose out, we did so much deeper enablement on them that we had a huge spike in an uptick, overall in terms of adoption of those particular tools, we saw a 6% increase in forecasting accuracy at that first line leader level. Obviously forecasting accuracy becomes super important as you write it through an organization becomes more impactful, but I thought first line leaders, where they might have eight or 10 salespeople reporting into them. We saw a forecast, the accuracy improved there because they were better at analyzing pipelines. They were better at coaching on the deals to better understand what was happening at a deal level and have their own opinion on their quality and capabilities you were forecasting as well as for us.

Then the other aspect was around talent retention. We ended up seeing a better 12% increase in retention of our salespeople because our leaders ended up being number one. They were hiring really well. Number two, they were coaching in a far more effective way. And number three, our salespeople were being overall more successful themselves anyway, and in the first place. Our tuition reduced, we’ve had our overall tenure episodes. People have increased as a result of this as well. So I think there was some good sort of like tangible business metrics that we can attribute back to the program as well. I think there were some knock-on impacts, other parts of the business, other processes, obviously. It’s improved our overall sales person performance and career coaching, and we’ve seen people move up to unit three different levels of the organization. As a result of this, our big deal methodology has been approved. Usually we’re seeing more baked deals come through and less lumpiness in our forecasting around that as well. Our forecasting best practices have overall improved. Also how we actually assess before is that our business has pivoted slightly. This is partly because of COVID partly because of the results of this program.

One of the things that we were very focused on in 2019 or 2020 was productivity, and that essentially means revenue per rep. So I might have a team of reps and have 10 reps overall. If they brought in a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, that means their productivity will be $10,000 each. Just some numbers as an example, most visitors and proximity was important. And it was a measure of the effectiveness of the sales teams. We pivoted much more to this concept of a participation instead. What became important to us was not that lagging indicator of revenue per rep, but that leading into that was real about activity. So making sure that everybody was participating in prospecting activities, that everybody was having bees with customers that everybody was and having empathetic listening conversations with customers at the time.

Remember, again, it was the middle of last year. Who’s actually generating the building pipeline and who uses closing revenue? I’m making sure that wasn’t just certain individuals in the team that were lifting everybody up. It was everybody was participating in. So participation is becoming a much more important metric for us here in the company as well. I think the final area of results and impact from this program has been just overall faster onboarding, faster ramping for everybody, our leaders around arriving and are faster to onboard because all of their peers they’re at other first line leaders on second line leaders up through the business are much better themselves now around best practices and run a coaching. So they’re helping each other much more effectively in the first place. Like I mentioned before, recordings of everything are available, so we have a new hire manager. They have 16 hours worth of content to review when they join the organization on top of what they may be doing with their leader boot camp as well. That just needs faster onboarding for us, you know, at tighter forecasting, more quickly as well on overall guests, happier workforce, our sales reps are happier. They’re being coached more effectively. They’re seeing more success themselves and the businesses are in a much better place off the back of this.

I will say that this took a village. It was just the enablement team. We worked very tightly with our strategy teams. We work with our business consulting teams. We worked with sales development. We worked with solution engineering and we work with a lot of people marketing of course, the organization to get this done. There are a number of key individuals that looked on social media when we announced this award and we can talk about how they have all contributed long hours, a lot of energy and commitment went into this as well. So I think that was really key. One of the things I think that led to two really strong feelings of camaraderie across both the committee that ran this, but also across the broader audience was also this concept of swag as well. So that was something that we really focused on was how do we get everybody to have that feeling of belonging apart from it being that they’re building the content is delivering, is it also all about how do they feel that they’re part of the same journey all together.

A key part of that was sending out T-shirts and caps and water bottles and socks and different animals that were branded in the same way so that we can have this strong feeling of we’re all in this journey together. And we’re all moving in the same direction. At the end, we had a big picture. Everyone took a picture of themselves in their swag. We built a montage together of it all. And so it was a really nice kind of like a cornerstone to the program was this key thing of belonging, of camaraderie and like I mentioned before in the boat, I’m rowing in the same direction together.

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