Sales Enablement Soiree – Panel: Sales Leaders on Effective Enablement
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to our panel session on Sales Leaders on Effective Enablement. Sales leaders today are facing unknown economic times and dealing with maybe brand new remote sales teams. They are leaning on enablement more than ever before. And I want to talk about some of the ways sales enablement can partner closely and align to sales objectives.
I’m excited to have the panel that we have together today. I’d like for each of them to introduce themselves.
Christina Bowe: Hello everyone. My name is Christina Bowe and I’m the Senior Director of an enablement group called The Sales Factory in Oracle’s cloud SaaS applications for EMEA and JPAC.
Julie McJunkin: Hi, good day everyone. My name is Julie McJunkin. I’m the Senior Manager for Sales Enablement Operations at Brainshark. My areas of focus include: sales onboarding for new hires and utilization of tools and technologies leveraged by our sales team.
Aaron Evans: My name is Aaron Evans and I am the Sales Management Director for a business intelligence company called GlobalData, which is listed on the London stock exchange and operates in 16 different marketplaces.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Now to level set. I’d love to understand where sales enablement reports into within your organization, if it is into sales, marketing, or direct into the C-suite.
Christina Bowe: Oracle, as a whole, is a large company, has sales enablement as part of our training organization. My group is a complementary group that rolls up directly to sales.
Julie McJunkin: Interestingly enough here at Brainshark, enablement rolls up through our Chief Sales Officer.
Aaron Evans: Well, it’s going to say we’re in a privileged position where (doesn’t always feel privileged), within our organization, we report directly into the CEO. Which is actually really valuable because, in my opinion, I think it is a very strategic arm of the business.
The quicker you can align to the overall business strategy, product strategy, the more effects you can have, the quicker you can make that effect as well. So, yeah, we report directly into the CEO.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, within your organization, what are the key things sales leaders often ask of sales enablement? And what are you doing to address this in your organization.
Aaron Evans: That’s a really good question, actually. What we’re always really keen to do is managing the expectation of sales leaders. I think particularly in sales, there’s an outcome focus, which is “how do we get someone ultimately turning results”.
Whereas, what we try to ask sales leaders to do is to concentrate on the right behaviors first, and then we’ll find the right results will eventually come. A large part of what we do is actually managing the expectation of the sales managers. The types of things they ask us for is really important. They want us to support with typical things like understanding the weaknesses and the strengths of their reps, understanding how they can maximize their skills while minimizing their weaknesses, or helping them do the basics of a sales function.
We’re quite unique in the sense that sales enablement actually drives the sales process as well. Sales enablement is responsible for lots of different facets within the sales function. We’ve come up with a sales methodology and the sales process. Obviously we do training, we do coaching. We’re still very hands-on. We actually have a large part of the management structure which we’re responsible for as well. It depends how we dovetail that with sales to make sure that it’s aligned to sales processes, sales systems, and the operations that we run as well.
In many ways one of our key stakeholders is sales leaders. What we find is that we touch other parts of the organization as well, whether that’s revenue operations, whether that’s the product function as well. When a new pro part of the product comes out or a new product comes out, we need to know what products are important to marketing, to make sure that’s being conveyed to the salespeople and they’re delivering the right message is quite interesting.
We’ve got real diversity in our role, but we’ve also got quite a stake in what we can deliver and what we choose to deliver as well. We’re trusted to make sure that the processes, the systems, the content, the tech that we’re putting in place is supporting not only the sales function, but actually, the overarching business goals as well.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, what are some of the challenges when it comes to working with sales leaders and how have you overcome those within your organization to build stronger relationships that those leaders, having worked for global organizations?
Julie McJunkin: The biggest challenge I faced was communicating with varying personalities and sales leaders across the globe. While you might encounter your corporate headquarter in one location, the process of doing business in any one country can differ exponentially. It means taking the time to understand the impact of even one process improvement change and the impact that it has for an individual or a team.
I’ve gotten around that by really listening during team calls. Understanding what the challenges the field is encountering and then hands down working with the leader to overcome those challenges. And of course, all while still meeting the needs of the pipeline in the forecast.
Aaron Evans: For me there’s definitely a timeline of maturity for me individually, within sales enablement. When I first started, (and I was quite young when I first started in sales enablement,) you’re quite conscious of your own abilities and you’re conscious of people turning around to you and saying, “well, can you do it? You should go and do it.” One of the challenges I found was having the confidence and also the peace of mind that what I was training was the right thing to do.
And what I was helping people develop was the right thing to do and it was going to have effects on the organization. Now that I’ve been doing it long enough, you know what the right thing to do is. You’ve worked in enough organizations and businesses that you can know what you’re doing is fundamentally the right thing and your radar’s much better than it was before.
For me a large part of sales enablement which is really important in terms of what we need to manage yourselves leaders, is that we don’t become this kind of a crutch or this babysitter function where the management structures aren’t doing important parts of their role to make sure that the reps are being developed.
Whether that’s day-to-day coaching where sales enablement needs to be involved in, but I think it’s a management discipline and a management function. Whether that’s, stuff from the CIO is in what, what tech stack you’re, you’re deciding on, or what particular sales enablement tools or LMS is, or the structure of, of, of Salesforce or whatever your CRM is and how that fits in with what sales and Edmund’s doing.
You always need to bring these stakeholders together. Like I mentioned before, there might help them on some, that you’re part of this project, but you’re not the only thing that’s. In this project, you need to collaborate with different business units. Use a really simple example. In the last organization I worked in, we were very much used as a, almost like an outsource function.
Whereas if your rep needs training, go and see sales enablement. Whereas really it should be a collaboration between the sales enablement team and the sales managers or the sales leaders to help identify the competency that the sales person is struggling with and to build a plan together. That’s executable and the rep can stick to that plan with ultimately the rep succeeding out in the back of it.
The biggest issue I’ve had with working with sales leaders to summarize it, is helping them go on the journey with us of realizing that if we collaborate on this, it’s far more effective. If the manager or the sales leader policing it locally after helping as well to deliver the same message and the right message, the rep typically wins much quicker at the back of that.
Shawnna Sumaoang: This might be a little bit of a generalization, but sales leaders can often be skeptical of change since they’re responsible for constant month after month results. But given the times that we’re currently in a change is something that every organization is experiencing and having to navigate. How have you successfully worked with sales leaders to enact change within the organization?
Aaron Evans: There’s, there’s, there’s lots of different soft and hard skills you need to lean on to take those sales leaders on a journey. Now, firstly, the key point you have to get across is that, by definition, sales enablement is a change agent. Your job is to go in there to even make things better, make things more effective, improve things.
That’s your whole function. Being honest from the outset is really, really helpful. But also, I think in itself is a sales role. Our internal customers, be that the sales leaders, the managers, the reps, or the CEO, the C-suite, these are our customers, so we have to sell to them as well.
The key thing is starting with the why. If we can talk very, very crisply and clearly, what it is that we’re trying to achieve and why we’re trying to achieve it, often the sales leaders start to understand the inherent benefits of doing it. But there’s quite a strong basis for that as well. If you think about it, we need to articulate it from a company point of view of why the company’s doing it.
But sometimes the sales leader or even the sales individual doesn’t see the benefit for them. In many ways it’s about taking them on the journey with the overall mission, vision, and values of the organization. By coming on board and getting involved in that change, it’s going to have long term effects for them.
I mean, as an example, telling a salesperson or sales manager who’s cleaning their target, I’m making an absolute ton of money in the process that you’re about to come in and make wholesale changes to the way they’re doing things often is going to be creating the skepticism, and I don’t blame them for being skeptical, but again, if we can crisply and clearly articulate why we’re doing it and the long term benefits of doing it, it makes it a lot easier.
You’ve also got to empower people and make them accountable in that process as well. What do I mean by that? It’s about painting a picture of what it’s going to look like once these changes have been made and explaining any past experience you’ve had and the effects that it’s had by making those changes.
One of the examples that I’ve used is in the last organization I was at, there wasn’t an emphasis on a particular deal value. There wasn’t even a right called, for the last organization I worked at. We transitioned the whole organization globally, I’m from not having a right car. That’s pretty much making up their pricey.
Then having a right call. As you can imagine, this is a tremendous change in the landscape of a sales manager, a sales leader, and even the rep selling at that end. Nope. If you think about what they’re losing, they’re losing the ability to just have complete autonomy and control of of that particular offer or offers that they’re putting out.
They’re also being brought in minimum standards you can’t pitch below, or you can’t make an offer below this, which they’ve never had before. So strike one of those constraints, which can make a rep feel that it’s more about compliance versus buying. But what we did very, very simply as we explain the overall effectiveness of the organization, that if a customer spends more money on your propositions, they’re more likely to use it.
If they’re more likely to use it, they’re more likely to get value from it. The more likely to get value from it, the more likely exit are going to renew to the subscription that you’re offering. By helping them walk through that process and also explaining the fact that they can probably now do less deals, but higher revenue means they don’t have a huge pipe that they’re working through in chocolate.
Again, by explaining the benefits long term to the rep, we start seeing those changes behaviors, in a positive way. The last thing I’d say about this, which I think is really important, is to find positive examples and use them very, very quickly as the kotem or the shining light of what you want to be projecting to the organization. If you’ve got a rep, or a team, or a manager who’s doing the right things and you can tangibly demonstrate the results that that’s happening straight away, you can start talking about what it is that you, the changes that are being made.
The effect on not a challenge, but the outcome of that change and the time it’s taken as well. And those examples are often enough for reps to jump on board and go, “actually, we can see that this is a winner. I need to start changing behavior.”
And again, we can’t expect to see change overnight. This is a gradual process of drip feeding information, coaching, coaching, coaching. Really helping the rep go through this process as well. It’s not like a light switch that you turn on. It can be a free six month challenge. But that is what happens when you’re putting big organizational or structural change in place. It’s like an oil tanker. It takes a bit of time to turn around.
Julie McJunkin: I think the biggest factor to enacting change is truly understanding the why. I often see sales leaders are looking for that magic wand that says, “if we do this, this should happen”. The explanation needs to be driven from that top down and with conviction.
And the why it’s important, relate to the sales rep, right? And ultimately the overall sales organization, I like to approach it with a sales cycle, actor, right? Execute on the qualification, and discovery, and anticipated outcomes, right? It speaks to their language and translates to the larger audience.
Christina Bowe: When it comes to changing, I often think of what we’re trying to change, what we’re really trying to change behavior there’s often a lot of good intent, a lot of very smart people, a lot of a good experience, but it’s still really tough to actually change that behavior. One of the things that we’ve been working with at Oracle is emotional intelligence because when you tap into someone’s emotions, you can see the driver behind that behavior and those behaviors impact other people.
And other people’s behaviors impact you. Building habits of why they stick, why they don’t, why we change our behaviors is often rooted in something that’s fundamentally, more about the human being than it is about the material we’re learning or the skill we’re trying to teach. Yeah.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Christina, if you don’t mind, I’d love to dive a little bit deeper.
I think behavior change is something that a lot of sales enablement practitioners are very interested in understanding. I would love to understand how you have approached behavior change within your organization.
Christina Bowe: Well, there’s several components, but two key ones I’ll highlight here. One was the connection behind what’s driving our behavior.
You see, people have fantastic abilities, and skills, and experience. But yet not necessarily exhibiting the right behaviors. And we’re curious about that. So we look at what’s behind that and what’s driving that behavior and how people are tuned in to where they’re at and their levels of confidence, let’s say, or their level of skill and relationship building. Perhaps their level of empathy, which is allowing them to listen to others and truly understand what they’re saying. So we try to correlate some of the components of things like emotional intelligence with the behaviors that we’re looking for. If we’re talking about discovery, then we’re tapping into empathy because that’s all about curiosity, which is asking questions.
It’s about listening. So you can hear those answers to those questions. I listen to understand, not listen to respond. It’s also about creating an emotional connection. And all those things are empathy. If you take that label off, that sounds like emotion. We’ve actually just defined good discovery.
Another thing that we do is look at what it takes to be excellent as a sales manager, as a really good forecaster, or someone who coaches their teams to learn. You can tap into a lot of those human skills and try and get that behavior change. So that’s the first element. I’d say the second one is truly follow up.
And I know most of my friends on the panel and colleagues will have experienced this as well as the half life of classroom learning is getting shorter and shorter in our age of distraction. To be able to have regular followup, even if it’s just touch points or things that reinforce learning, I think is really key to behavior change.
Shawnna Sumaoang: The next question we have is based on a survey that we’ve done recently where both sales leaders and sales enablement leaders said that reaching new buyers is one of their top challenges. In today’s climate, I imagine that’s only getting harder. How can sales enablement and sales leaders work together to help reps in overcoming the challenges of reaching their buyers?
Aaron Evans: Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic question. I often look back to when I first started in sales and I wasn’t fortunate enough to have the different modality of contacts that reps have nowadays. When I first started LinkedIn barely even had 100,000 users.
So it wasn’t even the case. We used to have the old yellow pages you’d flip for it and find contacts that way. Nowadays, the way in which reps can get hold of people and the modality that they need to use needs to lean on more and different skills. First of all, the way that you construct emails and the message that you’re getting across over email, the way that you’re using social media and are (now, I’m not saying anything that’s particularly revolutionary here) the key thing is the paradigm shift needs to be around what we say.
We’re living in a world now where I can comfortably wake up and get a hundred emails in my LinkedIn, someone looking to sell me something. But the reps that are winning and the companies that are winning are the ones that are going in there to help educate the customer, give them something that they’ve not heard before or help them with a piece of insight that’s going to help them day-to-day. Nowadays, the necessity to give a lot more before you ask for things.
As has never been more important, particularly now, right? What we’re finding in our organization, we’ve pivoted very quickly into COVID-19, so we’re building a lot of reports. We put a lot of information, a lot of intel on what’s going on. Not only are we speaking the language of the people talking to them about what they care about, but we’re coming to them with some insight.
We’re coming to somebody that didn’t know before they spoke to us. Now, this is what’s going to help them remember you. And eventually when you do need to ask for something, whether that’s an appointment or to do a demonstration or even for a referral, they’re more inclined to do that for reciprocity.
Now. The best way of thinking about this is whatever you have to offer a customer they do not care about or don’t care about you. They don’t care about your organization. What they really want to know is what you’re going to do for me. And the quicker you can make that quick, you can get that across to the customer in a very, very credible way that you know that you’re talking about.
The shows that you know what you’re talking about. The more likely you are to engage with that customer, but it’s gotta be authentic. You’ll see a lot on LinkedIn at the moment where people are positing questions or they’re copying & pasting stuff that clearly shows that they don’t know what they’re talking about.
We’ve got to use the right language with the right message to engage these customers. So that’s one way, helping them with the way that we actually reach out to these customers. And that paradigm shifts around not talking about us, but talking about the customer and what the customer cares about.
The second part of this is I find a lot of organizations are still clinging onto this old school way of new business generation, which is you’ve just got to make a thousand calls. Well, you’re right. You do need to make a lot of calls. There needs to be a lot of effort, but it’s important to distinguish between hard work and effectiveness. Running around in a circle for eight hours is incredibly hard work, but it doesn’t achieve anything. Effectiveness is really what we’re looking for. That’s why we’ve seen programs like Outreach is a really good example where using lots of different modes to contact people with lots of different little changes in the message.
I suppose you’d call them, multiple, very little testing and the message you’re trying to get through to the customer. It’s about doing more with the time of day-to-day and using that key sales time a lot more effectively. Things like gifts, giving someone something is a really good example. Where if it’s a piece of insight, just showing that you’re on the customer’s mind, you’re thinking about them. I’m talking to them about their overarching strategic goals. Empathizing with them over social media. LinkedIn’s great in the sense that we can comment on what the, what the, The people are what our potential customers are talking about.
We can add insight that way as well. I guess one of those is structural and one of those is a mindset shift. If you’ve gotten the processes in place to use different modes, the concept people, but then when you’re contacting them, you’re talking about stuff the customer cares about, not about yourself, it’s definitely going to help.
The last thing I’ll mention on this, which I think is really important, is the expectation of the manager. Now. Sales managers, the pressure is often around revenue, which is fully understandable, but the revenue is a byproduct of doing the job, right? What do I mean by that? Is that we try to focus reps on outcome all the time.
Go and book a demo or generate some revenue, or get five leads. Now these outcomes, or we need to talk about his behaviors, like booking a demo is really easy. I mean, I could call my mom now and ask to set a demo and she would, but it’s going to be an ineffective demo.
The objective should be to go and find a customer challenge. If you can go away now and call 10 customers and find one’s challenge, that’s good. Because then we know what we’re solving. And the outcome of that is going to be a demonstration. So the KPIs are there and they’re important for a reason. But that mindset shift with a rep is really important.
Particularly young reps, if you’re getting new graduates or first jobbers. Like they’re going to be putting themselves under a lot of pressure about results. Really what we want to analyze is, are they doing the right thing? Are they coachable? Are they reacting well to training? Are they putting the effort?
And then the results will come as long as they’re demonstrating the right behaviors, the right results will always come there.
Christina Bowe: Definitely we’ve seen a change in the way people buy. And partly that’s because, we’re moving to more and more of a service economy. Even if you’re selling products, what’s the experience of buying that product?
What’s the experience of enjoying that sales cycle and what’s the experience of working with that company as a partner is more and more important than just the product you sell. Or for companies like Oracle that have moved to selling cloud services, we are selling something very different. And the fact that we’re selling something different means that buyers procure that in a very different way.
We have to adjust to that. For some of our buyers, they’re adjusting to that new way of buying as well. They may have had processes that were very suited to buying products and now they’re buying a service and that’s very different for them. And they’re adapting. We also have seen more collaborative buying experiences as well.
I’m more conscious on the side of the client, more people that you have to influence and get on board. probably less discrete or absolute decision makers. There’s always the rubber stamp at the end, but I think we’re seeing a little bit more of that as well.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, what are some additional ways that you’re preparing your sales leaders and their respective teams in this rapidly changing world?
Christina, I’d love to ask this some back to you.
Christina Bowe: Well, I touched on it a little bit, but the use of emotional intelligence to try and tap into the human being. So it’s an old cliche, but “people buy from people”. If you look at our most successful salespeople, and you look at them as they move from company to company, or when they join your company, they’re going to go back to the people that have bought from them, not necessarily the companies.
They’re the ones that will create relationships and create trust with individuals and know that they can listen to them. If they’re going to position or sell something to them, that client has the trust that they really understand them. One of the other things that we’re doing is actually how do you create trust within a transactional relationship? Or how do you move that transactional relationship to a trust relationship?
There’s no magic answer to that, but what are the behaviors that inspire trust? We’re digging into that a little bit and seeing if we can try and enable our salesforce that way with the traditional things that they need.
They need to be able to message. They need to be able to pitch. They need to be able to understand how to navigate the company’s processes and they need to understand the competitive differentiators that we have. But if they have all that and they don’t inspire trust in their customer or prospect, then we’re not going to be successful.
Julie McJunkin: I think Christina put a really valid point in terms of trust, right? It is that expression that people buy from those they trust. It is establishing a bond, right? We’re in a business world where people do move from entity to entity and you keep those connections close. I think it is all about that initial relationship that you create that bond.
Once you have that advocate or that champion it’s opening that up to, again, something else that Christina said, where it’s not just an individual buyer, right? There is certainly more consensus in buying and that lends to credibility.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Absolutely. If you guys don’t mind me adding on a question, because I, I’ve heard both of these terms throughout the conversation, and that’s really around empathy and trust, especially in today’s current climate. I would love to learn from both of you, how do you work with sales leaders and the respective sales teams to teach them empathy and to teach them how to build trust? I would love for any tips or tricks you might have for our audience.
Julie McJunkin: So Shawnna, I think, it is something that both Christina and I said earlier, it is about listening. We need to take time to sit back and we know that people have challenges and offering that you are selling. It’s don’t necessarily pitch the sell in the forefront of the conversation. Take the time to listen, understand what their challenges and their needs are, and just offer up those suggestions as opposed to putting that hard pitch.
Christina Bowe: Absolutely, couldn’t agree more. We can never underestimate the power of listening and never also underestimate the amount of effort we have to make to do it well. Especially in these busy, crazy, distracted, multi-device always on times. We have even more challenges. Having the space to listen and giving others that space to be heard, it’s an actual practice. That’s the tip I have in terms of inspiring trust or, showing empathy, is you have to practice.
It’s like going to the gym, we don’t doubt for a second that day. I want to lift weights and I want to increase my abilities. I’m going to have to start slow and do multiple reps. Over time I will improve. Well, our behaviors, and our emotions, and our gray matter, and our brain plasticity are all the same. We have to practice empathy, in little bits and little spots and do it in a mindful way. Do it over and over again, and you will get better. It’s not just, “today I will be empathetic”. Maybe that’ll work, but it’s practice.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Now for the last question, I would love for you to leave our audience with one of the biggest takeaways that you would like them to be able to go back into their organizations and better connect with their sales leaders.
Aaron Evans: The Strat is of sales leaders, right? So if you’re talking to a CRO or a European Head of Sales or a Global Head of Sales, they should know the value you’re bringing. day-to-day, they should see new names popping up at the top of the leaderboard. They should see ramp time going down. Should take less time for people to ramp. They should see more reps hit the target. We should see more proposals going out. So the very, very top of a sales organization should have an understanding of the value that you’re bringing.
For me, it’s the big heavy chunk of mid-tier management that’s the issue, convincing them on a day-to-day basis that the value that you’re adding is ultimately helping their reps because the reps know the value add. If you’re training them, you’re coaching them, you’re delivering content, you’re delivering the right message. The reps always love having sales enablement.
If they’re earning and learning, they’re fine. It’s that next starter up of managers who can fall into the habit of using you as like an outsource training thing. Just to engage reps and keep things fresh. They’re also responsible for policing your trainings at a local level, so they have to be bought into the methods that we’re training, the processes, the changes.
Lastly, you’re impacting their owning directly because the message that you’re getting across to their reps. If you can do anything, it’s about very, very quickly in that big chunk of middle management on board to the value that you’re bringing. How it’s going to enable their reps to succeed and ultimately how it’s going to make them better as well.
That would be my last thing. Advice. Oh, and have confidence in what you’re doing. It’s so important to believe in what you’re doing because it’s easy to think that when things aren’t going well, it’s because of what you’re doing.
Christina Bowe: I’m a firm believer that people want to achieve, and especially salespeople. To really think about how do you inspire achievement and how do you get people to achieve? One of the things I’ve found is to look at them as a whole person. We’re very fortunate in most of the industries that we work for, that we hire very well educated, experienced people or else people with high aptitude and good education, and who are driven and want to achieve.
That’s fantastic clay to work with. So step back and think about what do we do to help a person want to achieve. And what could be the things that we’re doing that we might need to stop doing that could hinder people from achieving?
Julie McJunkin: Interestingly enough, this has worked for me time and time again.
We’re constantly communicating with our sales leaders around sales enablement. But I look at as identifying a real champion. Whether it is someone on the sales leadership team or it’s someone within the overall sales organization, so they’re your sounding board, right?
Because, we need to hear it from them. I need to hear their thoughts and ideas, and what that might impact, especially when we think about change management. Yes, we have our managers, but I always want to align to somebody, so that I can have that go-to person.
Shawnna Sumaoang: Well, thank you so much for your insights in today’s panel. We are going to open it up for live Q & A from our audience. If you guys could hang tight, we’ll go ahead and get those questions.