Episode 1: Cameron Tanner on Measuring Impact on Revenue
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales Enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we are here to help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs. Today we are joined by Cameron Tanner, who leads sales enablement for strategic accounts at Amazon Web Services. Cameron has several years of experience working with sales leaders to help drive productivity and empower their sales teams. Hi, Cameron. Thank you so much for joining us today.
So Cameron, one of the first things I wanted to talk to you about was actually along the same veins as your panel at the Sales Enablement Soiree. It was really around revenue and whether or not it’s enablement’s responsibility. So, the first question, and it is really kind of a long-winded one, but within our community of sales enablement professionals, it is believed that revenue is enablement’s responsibility. However, tying revenue impact directly back to some of sales enablement’s kind of areas of focus like sales training and development can be a little bit difficult for sales enablement practitioners. So, what advice do you have for measuring enablement’s impact on revenue?
CT: It’s easier to start with what not to do than what to do. I think the easiest thing to do wrong is that you think there’s a problem or you hear there’s a problem, but have you dived deep enough to have the data that there’s actually a problem? And I think where people go wrong is that they don’t have that before they start. There’s a really lovely lady by the name of Amy Pence and she said once in an interview that if you’re enablement, the first step is don’t do anything until you’ve baselined. And I think that’s the number one thing where I see people going wrong is that we want to jump in and help, we want to jump in and be busy and be doing great work, but it’s very easy to jump out of the gates and say like, have we baselined where we’re at? It’s a “what not to do” and it’s a “what to do” in order to be making sure that you’re getting the right results.
What do I mean by that? This conversation could go a million different ways. You know, it’s obviously very topical around onboarding and people say, “we want ramp.” Sales leaders are very quick to say what they want as an outcome, but they aren’t quick to say what they want as activity that produces the outcome, because getting activity that produces the outcome is actually very scientific. It changes as you’re trying different activity and it doesn’t always produce the desired result. So, you’ve got to press on your leaders and ask, “what activity do you want to see?” And then once you know what activity they want to see, you can implement training that creates that activity.
Often, you will end up in a conversation where people are saying they want revenue, or pipeline, or ramp, or improved sales productivity, or bigger deals, or more market share, or a certain percentage of that product sold. That’s great, but that’s not really helpful to enablement – in my view, anyway. And the sales leaders might argue differently, but you have to – and again I could be accused of using words that are a bit firm – but you’ve got to dig your heels in, and you’ve got to say what does that mean in activity. We’re very good at creating the micro-skills that produce activity and we can’t design a program until we’ve got commitment from the sales leaders and sales managers that they are going to hold their sales teams accountable to those activities.
That’s kind of a long answer, but the reason I’m breaking it down like that is because in terms of measuring impact on revenue, it’s a symbiotic relationship. You need sales managers holding their reps accountable to those specific activities that drive revenue, and then you hold enablement accountable on if the skills that we’re developing create a spike in activity. Then, it’s a symbiotic relationship, or it’s a true relationship with sales because you’re sharing in the risk and you’re saying, “is what I’m trying to develop to get some boost in activity actually yielding on the other side?”
SS: I’d love to understand a little bit better from you how you’ve gone about getting buy-in from executives – what are some steps that you’ve taken within the organization to make sure that you have stakeholder support for all of your initiatives?
CT: I always say before you do anything have a baseline for data, but you’re asking a great follow up question which is, before you do anything, make sure you have stakeholder buy-in. It’s a very topical conversation and it’s one that I’m going to explore further to help enablement practitioners do this year, so I’m really inspired that you’re asking this question.
I think all sales leaders, in some shape, understand enablement, but they are stronger at understanding “deliver results”, and stronger at understanding “drive people.” They don’t have time to sit and wait and develop because they’re accountable, right? So, you see that sales leaders have a much bigger tendency – the successful ones – to just execute. They’re not interested in stopping to think and design and ideate on performance, they really leave that to enablement. That’s the conundrum – you have leadership who are investing in the sales enablement function, arguably because they don’t have the ability to really slow down to speed up because they are so accountable. The quickest way for them to keep going is just to keep executing.
If you are an outsource model for doing that for them, you can very quickly become not aligned because you need to make sure that they are aligned with what it’s going to take to improve overall performance. I think the biggest challenge we have right now is that we have senior sales leaders and VPs that grew up in a time when we couldn’t measure performance in seconds and we couldn’t develop reps in real time, and we didn’t have the data and insights on behavior that we now have. And there’s a huge delta between what’s possible today and what they know produces results. Then the question is, how do you then get good sales enablement leaders aware of some contemporary art and practices that can really change the organization?
So how do you get sponsorship? And I’m teeing that up because it’s really important in context. You’ve got to figure out what kind of leader you’re dealing with and you’ve got to be very empathetic, that we have time to study that craft of enablement and learn the language and frameworks and contemporary tools and they don’t. They are busy executing, which is what makes them successful and it’s what they should be doing. However, some of them are more aware than others. I think you are right in the article that talks about what you do when you don’t have a leader – and I am still trying to figure that out myself.
The first thing I would say is you have to have a cadence in which you’re reviewing results together with your leader. I think a lot of sales leaders say, “hey, I’ve got this enablement function, it’s helping me train and it’s doing all this activity, great.” But it’s very easy for them to say they have this enablement function without maximizing the return of it. If you have a cadence in which you are reviewing sales performance together with your sales leader, all of a sudden you become a business partner to changing performance.
So, number one is figure out what kind of leader you’ve got, two is to make sure you’ve got a cadence with your leader, and three – as corny as it sounds, it’s something I’m going to start doing – is you’ve got to educate them, and you’ve got to be on a journey together. Something I’m going to start doing is saying, “hey, Fridays at 4 p.m. I’m going to send you this article on this topic once a month.” If you do it any more frequent than that and it might sound like noise, but I think you have to go in with the assumption that they need to be educated, too.
The fourth thing is to start small and expand. Maybe you can’t get your leader’s full attention with going from zero to hero right away, but find one thing that they care about in one team that’s hurting their business. Something is hurting somewhere – whether it’s compete scenarios, speaking with the right people, engaging executives or selling wider in the business. And then you’ve got a little bit of leverage because you can say, “I’m going to grab that one thing by the horns and I’m going to provide a little scenario.” Then, you can earn trust quicker because you aren’t just asking them for attention, you’re coming back to them with value.
SS: Thanks for listening. For more insights, tips and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you would like to share or a topic you want to know more about, let us know. We would love to hear from you.