Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2022: How Slack Reinvented Enablement Amid Change

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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winner Bradford Jordan and the Slack team. Learn more about the Enablement Evolution award winning initiatives below.

Sydney Lee: I’m excited to announce the winner of the 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award for Innovation on Enablement Evolution. Congratulations to Bradford Jordan and the Slack team. I’m excited to be here with Bradford today as he shares how the Slack Enablement Team has continued to reinvent sales enablement and make their mark with the recent Salesforce acquisition. Bradford, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role and your organization.

Bradford Jordan: Thank you so much, Sydney and hello everyone from Brooklyn, New York. Welcome to my apartment. My name is Bradford Jordan. I am the Director of Sales and Success Enablement at Slack, and I accept this award, Sydney and the Sales Enablement Pro Team, on behalf of the incredible team at Slack today. 27 human beings who have poured their hearts and souls into making the last year a success. I couldn’t be more grateful for such an extraordinary team.

SL: Absolutely. Again, we’re so excited to have you and thank you so much for being here today, and so I’d love to get started on the topic of the impact of you and your team’s efforts at your organization. So, to start off. How do you structure your enablement function to continue to evolve through constant organizational change and growth?

BJ: Yes, that’s a great question. We think about the way that we structure the team, I think across a few principles. The first and always to me the most important is proximity. An enablement organization, which, as it grows, also grows more distant from the field is an enablement organization that ultimately starts to lose touch. So fully half of our organization is Sales or Success Leader or role-aligned enablement that is out there in the trenches with the field in forecast calls, in strategy and planning calls, with Sales and Success Leaders working in concert to develop an enablement strategy for their teams. And we mirror this across both in America, and the regions across the world. Just as important are our horizontal functions, so we’ve invested heavily this year in global scaled program support for largely role agnostic, but critical field enablement efforts across competitive persona enablement, leader enablement, product systems and tools and more, and building out an operating model where we are both scaled, broad and role agnostic, as well as deep, specific and role aligned. It’s super important to us.

SL: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And I’d also love to know what enablement initiative was most impactful to the role of an enablement function in the midst of change during an acquisition and what specific behaviors resulted from the implementation of this initiative?

BJ: Yes, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that the most important program we ran this year was the Salesforce Integration Program, which in many ways was a number of programs. But upon acquisition close, our teams had been spending months actually in preparation with the Salesforce Enablement Teams and stakeholders across both businesses to create a learner journey that would set you up, whether you are a BTR or experienced specialist or anything in between. To make the most of what is the single most strategic technology acquisition in the history of the world, if I do say so myself. Slack and Salesforce coming together holds enormous, in some ways obvious manifest potential. But where the rubber really meets the road is a Salesforce AE and a Slack AE prepared to engage collaboratively across a unique go-to-market and sales motions with different assets and different histories. And our program to manage that change, introduce these teams to each other and create collaboration programs which accelerated their ability to collaborate and bring the joint value of Slack plus Salesforce to their customers. This is the thing that I am proudest of from the last year.

SL: And also I’d love to know what was the biggest challenge your team faced and how did you overcome it?

BJ: M&A is hard. M&A is hard. It’s hard in the way that a marriage is hard. It is two families coming together with a shared goal of being better together than they are independently. But actualizing and operationalizing that means having a commitment to working through the challenges, and some of the challenges are as sort of small sounding but ultimately deeply impactful as having different email addresses or being in different Slack workspaces. And the way that we have overcome that, and I don’t even necessarily like using the word overcome because it’s not in the rearview mirror, I think just like with a family or with a spouse, you’re always working on the relationship, you’re always building rituals, communication pathways and shared values that are the foundation of that relationship. So, I think that that’s our work. Honestly, that will be our work forever. And we’re very grateful to be in Salesforce’s family and to have them in ours. But I think that is work that will forever be ongoing and it’s work that we love and it’s important.

SL: Absolutely. I love that. And I want to go to the second part of how enablement delivers programs that drive innovation. And so, to start off, how do you measure the effectiveness and success of enablement at Slack? And how does this continue to evolve with the recent acquisition?

BJ: Yes, I think in many ways this is the question that enablement professionals spend their careers trying to answer. And so, to everyone out there who is a Leader of an Enablement Team or an Enablement Professional, I don’t think that Slack has anything to share that hasn’t been shared before except to say it’s hard. But one thing that I love about Slack and that we hold to be sort of a core value for us, is that we don’t put metrics in front of the employee experience, and that is especially true when going through an acquisition. It’s important to know all the things that everyone in enablement wants to know, participation, completion, sentiment, behavior change and revenue impact. And we do measure those on the back end, but the most important thing for us always is are we pulling people into targeted learning journeys that are going to help them be more successful? And is our program and our comms and the packaging of those journeys at all times, very clearly targeted and bringing value to the learner rather than compliance to the organization.

SL: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And I’m also curious to know how do you align with Sales Leaders and Cross-Functional Teams to continue to innovate and evolve enablement at Slack?

BJ: Yes, it’s a great question. This year, as we entered the integration, it became clearer to us than ever that Enablement Sales strategy, sales programs, product marketing, sales leadership, executive programs, value consulting, field marketing and so many more parties would have to be rowing in the same direction and singing from the same songbook to use, to overuse terms in or out. And so, we put together a number of cross-functional tiger teams around key programs and enablement, provided a lot of the program management and leadership and visionary muscle there to drive towards shared outcomes and shared prioritization. I think the hardest thing as an organization is growing is there is an introduction of a lot of new ambiguity, in some cases new leadership, new goals and new people. It can become easy to feel like you have to protect your own, and at Slack and our Enablement Team has oftentimes and will continue to play the role of connective tissue, of co-creation and a vision sharing and vision joining, so that as we build out our project plans, as we build out our enablement journeys. And as we pursue our objectives that those are always shared objectives.

SL: Absolutely. I love that. And I’m also curious to know how has enablement positively impacted organizational objectives and played a key role in managing transition through change?

BJ: Yes. One of the coolest things about Salesforce is that the Head of Enablement at Salesforce, her name is Jody Connor, she is in the room where it happens as you might say. She is tied at the hip to Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor, and very much look to as their guide for what is happening in the field and where the business needs to go. And I couldn’t be prouder to be part of an organization where enablement is recognized as the compass as arguably the most salient perspective on what’s working, what isn’t working and where we can go next. And I think we’re seeing more of that in the market, but I, as part of Slack and Salesforce, think that we really are leading the way in terms of saying enablement is not an add-on, it’s not a nice to have. It is a core strategic part of how we action on what is more and more the constant state of change.

SL: Absolutely. I love that, and I want to move into this last topic of key considerations for enablement evolution in 2022. So, to start off, what was your team’s biggest learning in the past year and how will this impact the team in 2022?

BJ: This is going to sound self-serving Sydney, and maybe it is, but I don’t intend for it to be. But in the last year, Slack, the product, has evolved in really remarkable ways, and we’ve calibrated the product roadmap and product features to really serve as what we’re calling in digital HQ for organizations around the world. And part of what that means is rethinking what communication can look like both synchronously and asynchronously. And on my team, we’ve taken that as a clarion call to say the way that we bring learning, the way that we bring change management and the way that we encourage and usher teams through new needs to be rethought as well for the world that we are living in. I’ve been so excited this year to hire team members in Austin, in Denver, in markets that we never would have been able to hire from before. And that has really reset the way that we think about enabling with Slack. So, this year has been the year of asynchronous enablement, of short video enablement delivered in-channel, of bot-driven onboarding journeys, of dashboards and onboarding guidance delivered in real time or in the moment of need. And I think there’s a world in which we could have said, there’s so much change going on, let’s force people through e-learning after e-learning, but instead what we’ve said is, there is so much going on, how can we reduce the cognitive load while making the learning and change experiences as personalized in real time feeling as possible? And I don’t think we’re all the way there yet, but I do think that Slack as a product is pushing me and my organization to think differently about how we communicate with our sales and success teams.

SL: Absolutely. I love that. And now that 2022 is in full swing. How are you planning for the upcoming year as we continue to face a mixture of virtual, in-person and hybrid work environments?

BJ: Yes, I think honestly my answer to that is probably, my prior answer, which is, I think to sum it up, there is a higher bar for synchronous learning. And if we are going to bring people together into a synchronous learning environment, the requirement is that it be a social environment. If I’m going to put people on a webinar, it will not be a unidirectional sage on a stage experience. We have to respect people’s time. More than that, we have to respect people’s autonomy better than that. If we’re going to bring people together for synchronous learning experience, it’s about being with the people that you’re with synchronously and creating moments for engagement, for learning, for activation, for questions, for simulations and scenarios. And that, to me, is so exciting and in some ways, honestly so liberating to say there’s so much we can do async. There is so much more trust that we can put in the cellar, so much more trust we can put in the CSM to consume the learning that is going to help them, because they too want to be successful. And when we choose moments to bring folks together on a Zoom call or into a room that we know we’re doing it for the purposes of activation and social learning, rather than imparting kind of speeches or emptying the mind of an expert into theirs.

SL: Absolutely. And I love that concept of trust that you talked about. And so that’s all the questions we have for today. Thank you so much Bradford, for joining us and for sharing your expertise and congratulations again for being our 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award winner.

BJ: Thank you so much. Thank you, Sydney. And if I may just one more shout out to the incredible Slack Enablement Team. You’re all a bunch of G.D. heroes doing the hard work every day to make us successful and to everyone in enablement out there, I see you. I appreciate you. Thank you so much.

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