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Convincing the C-Suite: Executive Buy-In – Sales Enablement Soirée, Spring 2020

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to today’s panel on Convincing the C-Suite and Getting Executive Buy-In. I’m excited to have my panel of leading sales enablement experts with us to discuss how to have your C-Suite be not only your stakeholder, but your champion during today’s economic times. I’d like for each of my panelists to briefly introduce themselves.

Sophie, let’s start with you. 

Sophie Paternotte: So, Sophie Paternotte and I’m leading the Sales Enablement team within Vodafone Business. Vodafone Business represents roughly 30% of Vodafone group’s revenue. It’s really considered as the gross driver and innovation engine for the entire group. It’s also going through going from a telco to tech comms company at the moment.

And I think what’s interesting is that sellers are actually going through that same transition. 

Simon Rider: Well, I’m Simon Rider. I’m the Global Director of Sales Enablement at Jones Lang LaSalle. Mostly known as JLL, one of the world’s largest corporate real estate companies. We turn over 17 billion and have got in excess of 90,000 employees globally.

My job is particularly around the corporate solutions area where we’re selling to enormous clients, multi tens of millions of dollars of contracts. We’re a small team, but it’s a global focus and there’s a lot of challenges right now. So a lot of things I can share with you. 

Louis Jonckheere: My name is Louis Yankee. I’m the Co-founder and President of Showpad. Showpad is a sales enablement platform. So we sell software to midmarket and enterprise companies across the globe to help their sellers find, present, and share the right content and bring their coaching and training to the next level. So I’ve been in this business for about nine years, and I’ve been in lots of conversations with customers, with executives about the value of sales enablement.

So very excited to be here. 

Nick Pilditch: My name is Nick, I’m the Head of Sales Enablement and M&A Integration at Advanced. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Now originally, when this was going to be an in person event, we were going to kick off this discussion covering a stat that we did that came out of a study we did a few months back that showed that executive leaders view and keep increasing sales win rates and optimizing revenue as their top sales enablement goal.

I still want to discuss that, in just a moment, but given how much things have changed in the past few months; what has become the burning priorities with your executives given the current climate and how has sales enablement stepped up to help? Simon, I’d love to start with you. 

Simon Rider: Well, things have changed quite quickly.

Just to be clear, I started my role in the middle of January, so I barely got my feet under the desk and identified some of the priorities when the coronavirus hit. However, hopefully I had already put in place a whole bunch of stuff around bite size learning, using more e-learning pathways and really trying to make sure we have a culture of continuous learning across the organization. That wasn’t there before.

Luckily my boss showing tremendous foresight had signed off some budget. So we’ve been able to do a few things fairly quickly. We’ve done a big deal with LinkedIn Learning. We’re now mapping that into our learning management center. We’ve also invested into Articulate Software, so that we can create more learning courses faster in house.

The model up to now has been to outsource. So this has been really kind of changing things. We also typically run Miller Heiman as a sales methodology. So there we’ve had to go to Miller Heiman and say, what can you do virtually? And that’s been a bit of a challenge because they’ve only just moved to doing that.

But again, they kind of stepped up and we’re going to be early pilots in some of their software. It’s kind of built on top of where I was going, but I’ve had to do it faster and obviously with, you know, staff being furloughed and different things, but I’m glad that I’ve had the support. 

Louis Jonckheere: I think if you look at the recent weeks we can, we can all see that the world has changed.

I think sales enablement, by talking with customers and prospects, proves would be extremely important during those times. First of all, we’re all going through a lot of change. Every company out there is currently changing its messaging, rethinking its products and packaging, rethinking how they engage with customers.

And every time you have such a change, you need to make sure your revenue teams are aligned and can march to the same drumbeat. We believe that sales enablement really can play a big role. There is to make sure that everybody can change to this new reality very quickly. 

So there’s the preparation aspect of it and then buyer engagements, suddenly everybody became a remote seller overnight. And so I think there’s a lot of discussions out there, like how do you enable remote selling team? How do you manage a team like that? How do you coach them? Because for lots of companies out there, that is not the norm.

So I think like there’s a lot of questions out there in sales enablement to help with the preparation side, keeping people aligned, but also making sure they can actually engage in a real digital way. So I think there’s lots of opportunity there. 

Sophie Paternotte: Have you seen, what’s top of mind for our executives is that their customers have everything they need. And obviously now being part of a telco, what they need at the moment is connectivity. We have to enable a lot of workers to work from home. For some of them, this was actually the first time they did that. So there, there are definitely a lot of things to be done on this front. And what that means then for our sellers is, they need to understand what they can sell right now.

So I think where sales enablement and can really help is to give them the right information about those products, those solutions. But I think about the other aspects. Which is what, Louis touched on a little bit, which is on how to sell it then. Obviously they’re not used to selling remotely.

So then all the things like social selling, how do you enhance your digital personal brand and that is really important. But also, the tools that you need to actually be successful and what you need to sell in a virtual selling environment. How do you sign a contract electronically? How do you order solutions virtually, et cetera. 

And then finally, it’s about managing the relationship with the customers. So how do you run virtual workshops, for example? We started doing that last week. There are a lot of things that sellers need to understand. 

The other thing for me that was quite important is we now have the time, in a way, because we know that once this is over (or at least when the locked down, we never know when it’s over but when the lockdown will be over), sellers will want to go and see their customers. I guess now is the time that we have to be able to upskill the team. And, you also see that there is a need for them to stay connected.

We launched engagement programs, for example, for sellers where they could all go together, at the same time, to learn about a product or solution. We’ve also done virtual role plays. So we know that those are very effective for coaching between, for a manager as well. So all these types of things.

I think it’s really about getting them the right information, but also about how they can sell it. 

Nick Pilditch: It’s a bit of a tricky one because at the moment it’s still quite a fluid situation. Nobody really knows what direction this is heading. What we are trying to do is adapt as much as possible.

Our main ethos at the moment is around adapting and making sure that our customers don’t have any or see any differences in their service whatsoever. From a sales enablement perspective, what we’re trying to do is support the sales teams to make sure that they’ve got the tools, the correct training, and everything else that they need to make sure that we’re delivering a consistent message to our customers and also our interdepartmental teams as well.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Fantastic. Thank you guys so much. I do want to go back to that stat that I referenced just a minute ago. Where, in a survey, executive leaders did say that increasing sales win rates and optimizing revenue is their top goal for sales enablement. I would love to hear from a few of you on whether or not those are the same goals that you have for sales enablement.

And if they are, how are you bringing those insights back into your leadership teams? Sophie, if I could hand it back to you. 

Sophie Paternotte: Although I think they should definitely be goals, I think they’re still a lagging indicator. And the reason why I’m saying this is because we all want that to be maximized, but at the same time, if I look at how much we can influence in sales enablement, there are a lot of different things that are influencing those goals and it’s not just about sales enablement. Also depending on where you are in your sales enablement maturity, sometimes it can just be too early to start doing that only. 

I like to look at it as a pyramid where you have on the top you have the revenue with is obviously the lagging one, and then the leading one, sales performance, win rate pipeline, et cetera. But really then what I find really important at the bottom, you have things like efficiency, how can you increase selling time?

And I think those are the things where we can really influence our effectiveness. So how can we ensure that what we give to sales is actually effective. Obviously trainings, et cetera, but ultimately, if we can test their product knowledge, their sales skills, knowledge, et cetera, I think those are really what I would, I would focus on first and then go higher in the pyramid. I would say. 

Simon Rider: That’s really interesting. I used to work in the telecom industry, so it’s very interesting seeing what Sophia’s saying there. Contrasting, we don’t go for volume sales in our world. We’re actually looking at flipping the other way in terms of what we’re really interested in sending fewer, but larger deals.

So we’ve used part of this time to kick off a win-loss analysis program to go back over some of the deals over the last 12 months. Find out why we won and why we didn’t win, so that we can adjust on from there. Which has been a really interesting and slightly difficult program to kick off, but when you actually get the right questionnaire out with your customers, you start to get some of the real juice coming out.

One of the things from that, and you’ll hear me talk about this again later on, is we actually need to be far better, ruthlessly working out which deals we pursue. One of the challenges we face is it’s very, very expensive to deliver the bids that we do. These are huge documents and we actually want to reduce the number, but ensure we’re only proceeding forward on the deals that we genuinely think we’ve got a shot at winning.

Just got a slightly different angle on it.

Louis Jonckheere: I really liked the pyramid that Sophie talked about. I think what I see with customers, especially executives, is that on the one hand you have the sales efficiency, how can we make sure that sellers save time to have more customer facing time? And while that is definitely a big driver of sales enablement, I believe that sales effectiveness, what you actually do with the time you have with the customer, that is even more important. Because the biggest challenge we see salespeople facing today’s the inability to articulate the unique value to their customers, and if they’re not able to do that, then the customer will not buy.

I think that’s where sales enablement really helps. If you’re selling to executives, make sure that your sellers know what to say, how to bring it, and tell a compelling personalized story. That will drive true success. 

Nick Pilditch: So within our sales enablement department, we work to six main goals.

The first one is to increase conversion rates. Arguably the most important, but it depends on who you speak to and what function within the business they’re from. I think three out of the remaining five or work towards optimizing revenue as well. They are, increasing pipeline velocity (and reducing sales cycles where possible), increasing cross-sell across our business units (we have quite a complex organization and a number of products), and to also increase the selling time of salespeople where possible. So I think what that means is 60% odd of our goals actually support that as well. So that aligns quite nicely with the executive priority. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: As part of the survey, what we did was we took a look at the difference in viewpoints between sales enablement professionals and their executive leadership.

For sales enablement professionals, they were 52% more likely than executive leaders to say that one of their top sales challenges includes onboarding new hires. Now, why do you think this is? Especially as many organizations are trying to pivot to virtual onboarding programs or remote training. What can an enablement do to help leadership teams understand the importance of sales onboarding and training?

Sophie, if I could hand this to you. 

Sophie Paternotte: Yes. So I was actually quite surprised by the stats. But obviously always bias by where you come from. If I look at Vodafone specifically, I think onboarding is actually something that is very important for us and even executives find it very important.

So I think how can we ultimately help to bring this topic to the leadership table. And for me, it’s really about showing the data and the benefits of doing a good onboarding program. And ultimately the data is quite straightforward, right? You look at ramp time, look at higher productivity, and quota attainment much faster. You look at higher win rates, reduce sales turnover, and also, one that is very important, especially right now, is engagement and NPS or employee NPS. 

Finally, in that same vein, is the manager satisfaction. So obviously the manager wants to be involved there as well and wants to make sure that their employee or a salesperson is well onboarded. And with having a good onboarding program where roles and responsibilities are clear, that’s probably usually what you achieve. So I think it’s really bringing that data, which exists out there, and bringing that to the table. 

Louis Jonckheere: The point that Sophie made on the NPS and employee happiness or sales rep happiness is one to think about, right? Because there’s a very big correlation between a great onboarding program and sales rep attrition. The most expensive cost you can have in a company is to lose a seller in which you’ve invested a year or year and a half. And I think a great onboarding gives them many more chances to be successful.

This is one of the unspoken big problems we have in sales organizations, is that sales people leave, and we all know that sellers truly add value the moment they’re completely onboarded, they’re completely ramped and losing them before that happens is very, very, very expensive. And sales enablement definitely helps effective onboarding. 

Nick Pilditch: It supports our employee retention, and it increases velocity and the ramp up time. If you’ve got quite a quite large salesforce that ramp up time can be really, really important. Whether it’s measured in days, weeks, months, and depending on what that end goal is. When you consider someone rammed, whether it’s time to first deal, time to second deal, or time to consistently hitting targets.

If you scale that up across a whole organization, potentially you’re saving months or years of customer facing, selling time or quota carrying sales time, if that’s done efficiently. Some of the downstream benefits, as well, of effective onboarding can mean improved conversion rates because you’re instilling those skills earlier on within that individual’s career, increased revenue and even things like net promoter score or your NPS. Which can be quite a big KPI for a lot of organizations at the moment. 

I’m reasonably lucky actually, with my own leadership team, that they really understand the challenges. They’re fully involved with what we’re doing from an onboarding perspective. And we’re currently building out a new program at the moment. What it has shown me today is how much resource goes into a program, like an onboarding program, having gone through a number of them myself in my career. I don’t think I actually realized how many different departments are utilized, how many different inputs there are, and how many different outputs actually are also necessary from onboarding. 

Simon Rider: I’ll give you a slightly different angle. We don’t have a terrific staff turnover, but in the last two roles that I’ve worked, one of the big things that has come across is that they don’t spend enough time training the existing staff.

In both organizations, people have changed roles and you’ve got people from a non-traditional sales background falling into a sales role. How do you address that? One of the things I’m looking at doing is re-onboarding every sales person, every year. One of the proposals I’ve got right now is that every January people will do a minimum of eight hours training. So only two hours a week for the four weeks of January. 

If you don’t finish that course of learning, you don’t get to go to the sales kickoff in February. Because we spent all this time, and often you find some of the newest staff are the keener ones, the ones that are more open to ideas because they’ve just had the best of what the company has to offer.

So why not actually offer that best training to the existing employees who’ve been there a long time? That’s a slightly different take. Exactly the same things apply, you know, but I’ve got some real old dogs I’m trying to teach some new tricks too. And that’s also a challenge. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: I love that, Simon.Thank you so much. 

All right. The next one is an even bigger gap between sales enablement and their executive leaders. Where sales enablement is 170% more likely to say that ineffective sales content is one of their top challenges in comparison then their executive leadership team.

Now we know content can be challenging and oftentimes you can address it as your sales enablement initiative without leadership support. So how can you communicate the importance of effective sales content to your leadership team and gain their buy-in for content related initiatives? 

Louis, let’s go ahead and start with you.

Louis Jonckheere: First, you should point out to your executives how much money you are already spending on content and how ineffective that spend actually is. Marketing organizations that spend more than 30% of their budget on content is no exception. I think that’s only increasing, but I think then making to realize that nobody’s using it, nobody’s liking it.

And even more importantly, the customers don’t value it. And we think once you’ve made that point, then sort of like selling a program where you create content where sales and marketing collaborate come together and actually develop something that sales people will use, but more importantly, customers will actually like to receive and then to get value out. I think that’s very important. 

So there’s a lot of ways to make it better. It doesn’t particularly have to be more expensive, right? Create less content, but make sure it’s valuable. And then of course, think about your customer experience. Customers consume more and more content to make their buying decisions. Make sure that that experience is great.

So that’s how I would approach it. 

Nick Pilditch: I think probably the best way is to ask them when they last made a large purchase and ask them what tools they use in order to do that. I think most people will struggle to say that I impulsively bought a car or a house. That only helps to point them in the direction of content and sales content in particular being quite a driver for those purchasing decisions.

And again, if I take the same analogy, you’re buying a car and that car is in front of you and you have the sales person walking around it. If they hand you a brochure that has exactly the same car, but it’s in a different color to the one you’re looking at, are you still gonna start flicking through the brochure and looking at the specs? Or are you just going to hold on to that, look at the car, and then maybe reference that when you get home? Whereas, I think if you look at that and it’s exactly the same car, exactly the same spec, exactly the same color, I think you’re going to be flicking through it and going, “Oh, wow, it’s got that as well”.

That’s a personal perspective, but I think we see that across a number of areas as well with a number of our products. The final point on this is, if you work with the marketing team correctly and you offer your support to work collaboratively and you approach leadership together, you’re much more likely to get the sort of desired outcome. That cross-departmental collaboration is huge. I think it’s key for sales enablement anyway. It opens up additional perspectives and ultimately it means you end up with better output because of it. 

Sophie Paternotte: What we’ve done is we’ve looked at sales surveys and content and their rating feedback was pretty poor, at the time. So salespeople didn’t really trust some of the content that we’re providing. Also, due to the fact that they didn’t have one central place to find it. And therefore that leads to content not being updated, et cetera, et cetera. So there were a lot of problems with content. Ultimately, every leader wants to listen to their salespeople, right? So that was probably one of the things that we did. 

The other thing, for me, is involving other functions. As we mentioned, it’s a good collaboration between sales and marketing ultimately. And, what we had is marketing already started and led the way with content management platforms and with a lot of initiatives around content.

So then it was easier to promote initiatives around content effectiveness. And then finally, this is Louis’ bread and butter here, but if you look at some of the benefits of those platforms: the efficiency, win rates, et cetera. I mean, it’s very difficult to argue against those. So ultimately, focusing on the win rate increase here and how that is tied to good content.

I think that’s really key. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Fantastic. Thank you, Sophie. Now, last question on this thread and kind of the inverse. Sales enablement was 72% less likely to say that consistent branding is a top challenge for them in comparison to the executive leadership team. Now, in your opinion, does sales enablement have a responsibility to ensure that branding and messaging is effective? And given today’s climate, how can sales enablement help their organizations strike the right tone with buyers and customers?

Simon, I’d love to start with you. 

Simon Rider: It’s a really key role of sales enablement because if people would put the effort into the brand and the presentation of the company. You can’t have, what we all suffer from, the black market of what’s on people’s hard drives of old logos and old messaging. It’s a really key thing just to address and take care of.

How do you change it? You’ve got to get executive sponsorship at top level. I report directly into the chief revenue officer. So does marketing and so does product. So we can very quickly just get everybody together. We talked about something recently called the revenue river, how money flows through the organization. It starts with product development, then it’s into product marketing, then it’s marketing, then it hits sales enablement, before it even gets to sales.

I was positioning the sales enablement function is absolutely critical in the way that that messaging flows the right way through the business. So absolutely, we have a responsibility to do it because better people than us have spent hours and hours developing brand and presentation and the way things come together.

We have to represent it out to the company as well. And if we don’t do it, why? Why are the salespeople going to do that in front of our customers? 

Louis Jonckheere: So great. Great question. I’ve recently had a meeting with one of our customers and I had the honor to sit with the CEO of the company and he asked me to explain the value of sales enablement.

And that’s an interesting question to answer, but basically how I approached it was “you spend a lot of money on your websites?”, and the CEO said yes. You probably are a hundred percent in control of the message that is being put out there on the website? Yes. Yes, he does. Okay. He also understands what people are doing on that website, with which messages they are interacting. Yes. I mean, total control. Great experience. 

Then I asked him how many sales people he had. Well, 11 thousand. Well then imagine that those salespeople are 11,000 salespeople or you have no control on what they’re seeing and you absolutely have no idea about what they’re talking about. I said, that is what sales enablement will help you to do to make sure all of them speak with the same message.

And even more, you’ll have the ability to understand what they’re doing with their customers. I think that’s as simple as you can explain it. What sales enablement was going to help you to do is to ensure that you have control over the brand and message, but then can also analyze what’s happening to improve that message and to improve your customer experience.

Nick Pilditch: I think it’s tricky to say a responsibility is in a binary, yes or no. I think the responsibility for branding will generally sit within a marketing department. However, we know from sales enablement, the buyers are up to 57% of the way through the purchasing process before they actually engage suppliers.

The only way you stand out in that 57%, if you’re not entering that buyer cycle sooner, then branding really gives you a step up. And, if you get that right, you can give an immediate impression of trust, quality, what to expect from a company. And it can also do the opposite if it’s executed poorly.

I think branding is definitely a huge, huge part of sales enablement. And I think we have to understand that being part of that, messaging has to be consistent, branding has to be consistent. Because ultimately we want to create that mutual trust that develops throughout the sales cycle. I think we should ensure that anything that is externally facing and supports the customer has to have a consistent message that if it’s delivered whether from sales, from marketing, or from sales enablement, it’s gotta be consistent and that brand power is huge in this day and age.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, in closing, I’d love to leave our audience with a key takeaway on how they can go into their organizations and really secure executive buy-in, in today’s climate. I’d love for each of you guys to provide just one big key takeaway. Simon, maybe we could start with you. 

Simon Rider: The one big takeaway I would say to any sales professional is always have a briefing deck ready to go upwards. Always. And refresh it all the time. I have my standard deck, but I have a bunch of slides beneath it of the things, ideas, I’m just doodling out. And I’ve always tried to walk in my exec’s shoes and think about what’s on their mind. So I try to almost always come up with more ideas than they’re expecting because I know some will get shut down.

But my value in the organization is in challenging what’s going on and trying to make things better for the salespeople on the street. So I’m trying to be their voice in the organization, but do it in a way that you’re prepared and you’ve got some clear messaging that then makes the executive you’re speaking to makes them look good in front of their peers and on from there.

So always have a deck ready. That’s it. 

Louis Jonckheere: Especially in these times having alignment between your revenue organizations has never been more important than sales and marketing service. They all have to speak the same language and the sales enablement platform as well, will bring that together. I will ensure that those departments collaborate, work together, and can communicate through a single product. So that’s a really key today. 

Sophie Paternotte: For me, it’s all around communication. I think you could have asked this question to anyone, not just on sales enablement. But ultimately I think it’s really around spending time with the leadership team, but also with sales managers as well, who usually are your biggest advocates in some of the initiatives, and communicate to them what the, what year they’re going to get from your, they’re in it. From those initiatives, sorry. And I think really it’s all around communication and I agree with Simon, it’s about, making sure that you have one message that goes to the top, but also to everyone, sales managers as well, including, 

Nick Pilditch: Ruthless prioritization.

We found ourselves, in sales enablement, trying to juggle a number of projects. When you put them all out, whether it’s on a Trello board or whether it’s on a whiteboard or a computer monitor, if you can take those key projects and focus on delivering those, then the smaller projects can sort of slot in afterwards. So focused on getting a smaller amount of key things done properly. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Thank you so much for your insights on today’s panel, we are going to open it up for live Q and A from our audience. So if you guys could hang tight, we’ll go ahead and get those questions.