Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2022: Aligning with Revenue Objectives for Organizational Success
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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winner Laura Valerio from Vodafone. Learn more about the European Enablement Executive of the Year award recognition below.
Sydney Lee: I’m excited to announce the winner of the 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award for People’s Choice on European Enablement Executive of the Year. Congratulations to Laura Valerio, head of Global Sales Enablement at Vodafone. I’m excited to be here with her today as she shares how she delivered programs that have had a direct impact on the business driving organizational success at Vodafone. Laura, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role and your organization.
Laura Valerio: Thank you, Sydney, I’m really excited about this announcement. So, it’s during many years of direct sales experience that I discovered that I have a big passion about enabling teams at their highest potential. And that’s why six years ago, I moved from Sales to Sales Enablement and enjoyed transforming sales organizations across three different companies with a measurable impact at a global scale. And now I lead Sales Enablement for Vodafone, which is a telco with a strong ambition to transform to a tech company by 2025.
SL: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And thank you again so much for being here with me today. So first, I’d love to get started on this topic of the impact of your efforts at your organization. And so, to start off, how have you structured successful enablement functions to become a critical arm for any organization success?
LV: So, sales enablement is about building sales competency at scale to boost sales effectiveness, and there are three areas that you need to consider when you structure a Sales Enablement function. Number one is about strategy. Your strategy needs to be aligned to the revenue objectives, and the first thing you need to do is to understand your revenue objectives and the elements that might be a blocker to achieving them. The second element is about value centric. You need to provide value to your sellers through on time, actionable content, training and coaching. The pandemic has accelerated the need for your sellers to know more about your customers and think strategically about the development of their business, the channels they use for their interactions and programs like enabling strategic account planning help sellers increase in your pipeline much faster. And the third biggest element is about technology. There are many technologies to choose from, and it’s really important that you select the best enablement technology which is fit for your business, and you can use it as the accelerator of your growth. And especially to improve internal efficiencies and boost customer satisfaction. It’s not just about sales content management, it’s a real time knowledge that makes sellers more effective. It’s a powerful tool for better coaching, forecasting, and it’s really a modern way of liaising with your customers. But you know, how does this all translate into practice? And so, when I joined Vodafone, what we did, the first step was about rebooting Sales Enablement by recalibrating the mission and the value. We optimized the team structure. We assigned specific responsibilities and metrics to drive action and being able to constantly measure the impact on the business just from the beginning, from the start of each of the programs. Based on the business needs we defined four areas to drive excellent execution. We had content and communication, go-to-market enablement, sales coaching or sales activation and sales processes. Each area collaborates very closely with the sales team and across the functions, and work together to join the dots across projects to simplify and provide the sales team with all the information, the tools, the coaching that they need to be more effective. For example, for the launch of a new product, we would start with a communication campaign. We would engage with them. All the Sales Leadership Team have the buy-in, and only when we have their buy-in, we would start training their teams on what and how to sell and then show them the fast way through our processes and digital tools. We also measure the impact at each stage of the process to quickly refine and optimize the approach for a better impact. Measuring the impact is really a fundamental element to become a critical arm for the organization success.
SL: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And I’d also love to know what initiative was most impactful to the success of the Vodafone Global Enablement Team this past year and what specific behaviors resulted from the implementation of your initiative?
LV: That’s a difficult choice. We launched five big programs last year. I’d like to highlight two. So, the first one is about a centralized communication and content strategy, which was then accelerated by the launch of a Sales Enablement platform. The biggest impact we can make with an aligned communication and content strategy is to help sellers to find personalized information easily at the time they need it to be more effective with their interaction with customers. It also improves internal efficiencies and it boosts customer satisfaction. When I started my journey at Vodafone, finding the right content of information was taking an average of six hours a week per Sales Rep. Communications were missed and sales had the feeling not to be up to date, and they were not confident about pitching our solutions to customers. So, what we did, we started working across functions and we aligned on a clear communication plan where the role of Sales Enablement was centralizing, orchestrating and simplifying all communication to sales. We curated and organized seven thousand pieces of content that were across twenty five, more than twenty five actually repositories, and we uploaded about three thousand pieces of content into one well-governed Sales Enablement platform. So, what we noticed six months after the implementation of this new strategy and the launch of the platform was a big change of behavior across sales, functions, but also customers. So, from a sales perspective, there was an increased confidence and higher effectiveness. So not only they had more time to sell, having access to customer engagement data, they also moved from a reactive to a more proactive behavior, which helped them accelerate the time to their first appointment and also to their first opportunity created. From a functional perspective, having all the content in one place and the data on content consumption helped them to improve their efficiency. So, for example, they can now see how much of the content is used and they can best plan for the resources allocation and focus on really creating good quality content that drives value to customers. And finally, from a customer perspective, what we saw was higher engagement. We had such a good feedback from customers, especially the ones that started receiving like 60 seconds personalized videos. They really liked the new approach to them. And actually they were writing to us saying, hey, I really like your new approach. So really big impact of this initiative on all the three fronts of sellers, internal functions and also our customers. And the second program I would briefly call out is the social selling upskilling program, where in four months the team not only embraced a new way of working, improving their presence on LinkedIn, but they managed to generate a three-digit million pipeline, big success. So what we did is we upskill the team and on their ability to leverage social selling to find relevant contacts and to get to their first meeting quicker, but also on how they could use social selling to close the deal faster. We worked there with a third party who’s methodology was very effective because they were combining the theory with the practice while working, and the behavioral impact from our sellers was immediate and the success was measurable. If we think that, according to Gartner by 2025 80% of customers’ interaction will be digital. Being an expert on social selling can really help companies growing their business much faster.
SL: And I would also love to know what was the biggest challenge your team faced and how did you overcome it in the past year?
LV: Yes. So having worked with three organizations, the biggest challenge I found is the lack of understanding of what Sales Enablement is, its value and the complexity of the work that is done behind the scene to orchestrate projects across functions. People often confuse its role with training or operations, and so to be successful, it’s important to elevate the function to strategic and to educate about the critical role of Sales Enablement as a revenue accelerator and to focus more on where we can make the biggest impact. So to overcome this disconnect and to elevate the function, we took three different initiatives. One was about building trust and to build trust we strengthen our collaboration with the Sales Leadership Team across the functions at all levels. And also, we looked for better alignment and coordination of projects. So building trust is the first step. The second one for us was about role clarity. So, this is really key for an effective collaboration, especially when you work together on different programs or initiatives and where you want to drive innovation. For example, we launched the new onboarding program in collaboration with many functions. To name some, there was LND product operation marketing and the way we organized it, making sure that we were clear on each objective and each roles and responsibilities provided to be very successful. And it was a really impactful program because so about six months after launch, we realized that we have half the time to the first opportunity created and to the first opportunity won. So, role clarity when you work across functions is really important. And the third one is about communication, communicating the impact and to always show the value that enablement brings to your stakeholders. So, to overcome the above challenges can take a very good investment of your time, but it’s really worth the effort and for me, a big success was when I saw that instead of being one way enablement to go towards a function, I saw some functions coming directly to us looking for our support and our proactive collaboration. So, it means that we’ve really managed to create a new culture across the company.
SL: Absolutely. I love that. And then I’d love to get into the second part of how to drive effective enablement initiatives in your organization for success. So first, I’d like to start off, how do you measure the effectiveness and success of the Global Enablement Function at Vodafone?
LV: So there are three ways that we measure success of the Enablement Function. One, we look at the deliverables. Two, we look at leading indicators that help us understand if we manage to have the behavioral changes we want it to have. And the third one is the impact on the lagging indicator, so the revenue generating, the quota attainment. So most companies want to see the revenue impact right away, and the majority of the Sales Enablement practitioner might have heard this question many times. So how much revenue, how much pipeline has this initiative generated and coming from a sales background, I have to say I’m very much stimulated by achieving tangible goals, and I share the same impatience to get to them. But the truth is that the impact on revenue or the impact on pipeline can take time, and it depends very much on the sales cycle. So, thanks to the introduction of a Sales Enablement platform, we could add leading indicators to the deliverables and to the anecdotal feedback and start measuring tangible behavioral impact from the start. We then build a correlation between these data with the lagging indicators which were already in place. So, the way we operate is the following: For every initiative we launch, we think about the metrics and how we’re going to measure the impact from the beginning. And this is not only a great way to prove the value, but it is also a fundamental way to get the commitment from the stakeholders to collaborate and to the success of the projects that you launch. And here is an example of how we measure our success. We have just launched a new process to help sellers speed up the implementation of a new product, reduce escalation calls and increase customer satisfaction. So, to measure the success of this initiative, we will look at leading indicators like content consumption, training enrollment opportunity created correctly into the CRM, and then we will measure the speed to revenue generated. So, it’s by monitoring these indicators that we can really track the behavioral changes since the beginning, and this enables us to optimize our approach as we go. And that’s how we accelerate our impact on the business. We take very much of a iterative approach where we constantly measure to learn what works well and what generates growth or efficiencies versus what we need to stop, because it’s also very important to understand when do I need to stop and focus on what generates value?
SL: Absolutely. I love that. That’s great. And a little bit more on alignment. How do you align with other leaders at Vodafone to drive by and for enablement?
LV: To get aligned, you first need to understand the objective of each function. Enablement is a function that needs to speak different languages and help the peer organization to achieve common goals and being enablement a relatively new function, especially in Europe, selling enablement is a constant job. And this is not just unique to Vodafone. I invest a lot of time in liaising with different stakeholders across the organization to really understand their priorities and their challenges. Having a background in sales is really helpful because I think about them as my customers and I put myself into their shoes to understand their struggles. And so, I then build a blueprint and show how enablement can help them achieve some of their goals. And I adapt and flex my approach to their approach to make it easy to understand. And also what I want to do is always find a common ground to build trust. But as for when you learn a new language and sometimes you don’t get it right. And what I found from my experience is that getting alignment requires practice. One of the biggest learning I had in the past was a presentation I did to a product team, and I had to convince them to change the way of working and embrace a new one that I had designed for them. It was a complete disaster and one of the biggest learning in my career. And in fact, I learned a lot that one of the most successful initiatives we ran at Vodafone about a year ago was a roadshow that we organized for the implementation of the sales of the new Sales Enablement platform. And it was approached across all functions at all levels, and we got their buy-in thanks to the fact that we were able to show them the value for them. But we also co-created a new way of working together. So big learning there and big success when we went through this roadshow.
SL: Absolutely. And how has enablement positively impacted organizational objectives and driven business impact?
LV: Very good. So, Vodafone’s goal is to transform from a telco to a tech company by 2025 while driving growth and improving internal efficiencies. So, I’m going to tell you three big achievements that are driving business impact. The first one is about digitalization. So, a digital transformation always starts with a new way of thinking and creating a digital culture that spans from how sales consume information, upskill themselves or interact with partners. And the way we have driven the impact is that in six months, our audience has consistently adopted a new digital way of working, new digital tools, new processes and it’s proven to be really successful. As we can see from the examples that I’ve shared with before on social selling, for example, or the adoption of a new Sales Enablement platform. The second biggest impact is around growth, and there are many examples on how we are impacting growth. I mentioned the new onboarding program and how we have managed to halve the time to revenue, the social selling. But also, it’s worth to mention that about from 75 to 80% of the overall pipeline is generated by the most digital savvy users and the ones that are using the tools and the systems and the ones who are adopting this new way of working. And the third one, when we think about how do we drive operational efficiency? So, measuring the impact on the internal efficiencies generated by enablement can be really hard. And mostly we collect anecdotal feedback. But if we want to again mention a tangible impact, which I like, the tangible piece of it. So, since we implemented the Sales Enablement platform, we could provide a lot of data to marketing, and for the marketing team knowing that only 40% of the content is consumed by sellers and customers is actually a big plus for them because it helps them to prioritize projects, resources and really focus on quality and content effectiveness. So again, a big win and really positive feedback coming from those teams to us.
SL: That’s great. I love that so much, and I’d love to go into this third part of key considerations for 2022. And so first, I’d love to know what was your biggest learning in the past year and how will this impact the team in 2022?
LV: Another really good question. So as a Sales Enablement Leader, I learned that nothing is constant and actually the pandemic has elevated the importance of Sales Enablement, where the digitalization process will continue to expand and accelerate in 2022. In the last two years, there has been a massive change in buyers’ behavior. So, according to Forrester, 63% of the purchases have seen more than four people involved and they can include also multiple departments and the number of buyers’ interactions have multiplied by 10. So, with customers becoming more and more savvy about products, there is a need for sellers to become better at articulating value and how products and features help them in solving their challenges or developing new opportunities. So thinking about the future product enablement is the next big focus area for Vodafone business. With the scope of building what is needed to boost the knowledge and the effectiveness for our Sales Team. So, we need to understand our customer much better, and the interactions need to be much more effective, more effective than ever. And this is why companies who invest in sales enablement set themselves apart from the ones who don’t.
SL: Absolutely. I love that concept of just setting you apart and into the last question now that 2022 is in full swing. What is the plan for Sales Enablement as we continue to face a mixture of virtual, in-person and hybrid work environments?
LV: Another very good one. So, Sales Enablement is about accelerating an acceleration of growth, and it’s about enabling sales elevate their performances. In the past 18 months, we transformed the way we work to be more digital, working across channels and adopting new tools for collaboration. We invested time and effort really in building strong relationships virtually. So, we have become a real expert in working in a hybrid work environment, shifting from video to in-person interactions. And we now know both the benefits and the convenience of the virtual interaction, but also the collaborative strength and productivity of the face-to-face meeting. So, when I think about this year, it’s all about accelerating our reach and value to customer, which will be fundamental to pave the way to become a successful tech company by 2025.
SL: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And that’s all the questions we have for today. Thank you so much, Laura, for joining us and for sharing your expertise and congratulations again for being our 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award winner.
LV: Thank you very much, Sydney. A pleasure to be here with all of you today.