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Virtual Enablement: the Digital Enablement Transformation – Sales Enablement Soirée, Summer 2020

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CT: Welcome to our panel on Virtual Enablement: the Digital Enablement Transformation. And this is such a fantastic topic, super relevant to right now. I think that this is a topic that so many enablement practitioners right now are really trying to navigate. And so, we have a panel of really fantastic expert speakers to shed some light on what they’re doing at their organizations and what they’ve seen over the past few months. And so, we’ll just have each of you go around. So, your name, your company, and a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with Mary.

MT: Thanks for inviting me to this conference. My name is Mary Tafuri and I run sales enablement. I’m the chief sales enablement officer for cloud and cognitive software in IBM.

SH: I am Steve Hallowell. I’ve spent the last 10 years running sales enablement, ops, and strategy teams at Snowflake, MuleSoft, and then Salesforce and Responsys prior to that. I’m now at Highspot, running strategic services. So really helping our customers with their challenges.

DB: My name’s David Bloom, I’m the founder and CEO of Level Jump or an outcome-based sales enablement platform helping companies tie their enablement programs to outcomes and metrics in Salesforce.

TG: My name is Tashna Lilly Grey and I’m currently in a sales operations role at Lifion, which is an ADP company. I started in sales enablement over 20 years ago before the practice even had a name. We were kind of just a part of the marketing organization, but my focus was always on the seller. So, creating sales collateral, sales kits, et cetera. And it just kind of morphed over time and is sales enablement, or sales readiness we called it at the time. It’s developed over time and as the practice grew, I found other opportunities to kind of get really specific.

CT: Fantastic. I’m really looking forward to the discussion today.

And I think this is definitely a huge topic that so many people are talking about right now, especially as kind of the world of work has shifted in the last few months. And so, what I would love to do actually to start is level set with our audience and have a discussion about what great virtual enablement looks like.

TG: Virtual enablement is now a big thing because of the pandemic, right. People have been forced to, it’s now the default, if you think about it. Whereas before it was the exception, I remember in the past, there have been times where I’m in the middle of an onboarding program and there’s a major storm. And it’s like, okay, for the next three days, we have to do it online. And at the time we didn’t have the enablement technology to support that. It was more like, okay, first, email the presentations ahead of time. You’re hoping they follow along. I think virtually enablement now is a lot more effective if done right.

I think there are benefits to virtual enablement, but at the same time you do miss out on those softer things like networking, being able to read a room, et cetera. So, I think the key for virtual enablement is just making sure your audience, the salespeople, remain engaged and making sure that the content, because the attention span in a virtual setting is so different than in a room. So, you just have to make sure you’re hitting the mark with your messages or whatever it is that you’re trying to transmit through your delivery of content.

SH: I think my first foray into virtual enablement was the need to support a global team with a relatively small enablement team that had lots of different needs, lots of different times zones, et cetera. You know, really pushed us many, many years ago towards the virtual path, both for things like more formalized training, as well as, weekly sales calls and that sort of thing. And there are a couple of principles that I’ve found really hold. I think one, that the virtual medium just forces you to be really good at the basics.

You just can’t cheat when you’re doing it virtually. And so, it’s starts with having very clear goals and objectives for what the program needs to accomplish, having really thoughtful instructional design so that you’re delivering content in the most efficient, but also effective way. And we can kind of click into that if we want to. I think one of the hard things obviously about virtual is you got to, still put concepts into practice, role, play with peers, get feedback from managers, doing that naturally virtually I think it is a challenge and something to address.

And then last, I’ll say, I round it out with having the metrics. So, both metrics to see how your sales performance goals are being met and using that to tune future training, but also metrics about adoption. And I think one of the wonderful things about virtual is you can measure who’s doing what, but you also have to kind of decide what do I really want to measure?

And if you’re going to say something’s mandatory, are your sales managers really signing up to go drive compliance around that? And if not, probably it shouldn’t be mandatory. So, we can kind of wield that stick where useful and it’s a great way to really get adoption, but it’s obviously something that you want to only wield where necessary and in tight alignment with leadership.

MT: I very much agree with Steve actually. If you have a good foundation with normal enablement and even more rigorous enablement, then the virtual sense of enablement allows you to even more evolve. I would say we started, like Steve, as while I was mentioning this journey already a couple of years ago. If I can summarize, I would say that the virtual learning has to be maniacally focused on high quality. You don’t have a lot of time. You need to be sure that in the time that you engage digitally, there is high quality, very practical non-generic type of content. So, on one side, what is important is the format that you use, very modern, videos, microlearning. And the other one is the platform of course, and the tools that you use, and the ability to adopt any practice that allow you to apply what you learn very quickly. So that you can provide feedback to the sellers or the managers can use the platform to provide the feedback but have that kind of engagement constant.

Well, of course the content, the quality of the content is king. Has always been king. And especially on the virtual one, you don’t want to waste any space or any time with noise. I would say.

DB: I think virtual enablement should actually just be the same as regular enablement that we’re used to from previous times now. Obviously, there’s not going to be any classroom. But virtual enablement should really replicate the steps and best practices of in-person learning. So, it should include the things like peer to peer sharing, learning, content development, practicing or role play, showing what good looks like, and the best content. All the things we’re doing today. But I still think, and this is something we were very passionate about, is really emphasizing a clear tie back to revenue outcome.

CT:  I’d actually love to get you to expand a little bit more on the kind of revenue outcomes point that you mentioned. I’d love to hear about different ways that companies do that. And then also how important that is, especially now in the virtual environment, ways that companies can do that.

DB: Yeah. I mean, I think historically enablement, a lot of enablement programs have been tracked by consumption. So, did you take a course? Did you pass a quiz? Did you consume content? Did you share that content?

And that’s still interesting to track and, but that to me is the wrong indicator. I think when you’re rolling out a virtual enablement program, it needs to have a specific objective or an outcome it’s trying to drive. So, as an example, let’s say you have a BDR team as an example, and you want to enable them. Which is tricky virtual environment, because BDRs historically are entry-level roles where people are in a row and they’ve got their coaches and managers going up and down the row and they motivate each other.

Now to enable that, to enable that persona rather, they need to be given a very specific outcome they’re trying to drive. So, what I mean by that is it can say something like, ‘okay, here’s an enablement program to be more effective on the phone. And here’s some guidance of the things you should be saying if you get XYZ persona, but the outcomes should be while you take this virtual enablement program or do these enablement exercises by the end of two weeks, you should build five opportunities with that specific persona.’ So really define, not just take a course, or use them consume the content, really define what the outcome that is expected of that in this instance of BDR would be.

CT: Steve, you did mention something about clicking down into things like effective, instructional design. I would love to you to elaborate on that just a little bit for our audience.

SH: Yeah. I think finding techniques to create really engaging content has gotten a lot of airtime and it’s pretty important. And I think, picking up on some of Mary’s comments, part of that is about making it as punchy as possible.

You just can’t have fluff in that material. The way you get to a point that there’s no fluff is again being really clear about what are you trying to achieve and how do you help best help people achieve that? I think also then layering in how do you create engagement? And Mary, your point about getting people to apply things. And I think that that can apply even in, I just presented five minutes of content. How can somebody put that into practice even in a small way? I’m going to give you something now, what would you do with it? And by the way, as I’m designing that material, if I don’t really know what somebody would do with it, maybe that’s actually not so important to include in the training. So how do I kind of have that iteration between receive information and then for the learner, can I go apply that even in some very small way?

And then lastly, I think one thing that’s interesting that I’ve seen some, some teams do really well is, everybody knows the several-hundred-person zoom calls are pretty challenging environments. The more that instead you can have a local manager doing something with their team of like six or seven people instead of dozens of people is great. So how can you kind of create content that you’re then empowering the manager to deliver in a much smaller group versus all centralized push out from the enablement team?

MT: That’s a very interesting point. If I can comment on that, we realized the importance of the manager in a very explicit way maybe a year ago. And we created a program that is designated for the very first time, just for the managers. I always say the managers are the backbone of the organization, right? But if we don’t nurture them and we don’t prepare them, we can’t expect them to do a good job. So, we created this thing that is called ‘Coach For Success’. That is very specific for them. They are invited. We prepare them with best practices. And really to some degree, I see the managers like an extension of the sales enablement.

If we do a good job and we enable them, then they can coach their people, apply the techniques that we otherwise would just learn, not teach on an enablement session, and that’s what you want to infuse in your organization. So, you touched on a really good point, on unleashing the leadership team especially during this COVID-19 time. All the challenges, sales job is a very challenging job and the managers are there to help their sellers to cope through this and thrive.

CT: So, we’ve talked a little bit about what great virtual enablement looks like. And so, I would also love to hear from each of you about what the benefits of enablement that looks like? Especially in today’s world, as we continue to kind of work remotely work in this digital world, what are those key benefits that you see? And on the flip side of that, what are those challenges that we can also get to?

Let’s start with the benefits of this. I’d love to hear from you, Steve.

SH: You know, again, I think we, my teams made it really a push towards virtual enablement several years ago before we had to. Just because of the benefits and because of the flexibility and adaptability it gave us in supporting a large team with a very small team. And so, I think first and foremost, giving learners a lot of flexibility and in terms of how they engage. That I think when it’s, ‘Hey, you’re coming to this training for a week.’ You’re locked up in a classroom for eight hours a day. There’s very little flexibility in that.

On the other hand, providing you a set of materials that you can take on your own time or take on an as needed basis. You can really get that relevance up a lot higher and in a way that just in a physical setting, you just simply don’t have those options.

I think similarly it gave us a lot more flexibility. I’ll give you just a simple example of the transition. In a couple of companies, I’ve been in the transition from having a global all hands sales call, where you have sales, and SEs, and services, and customer success all in the same call and that’s kind of the one venue to communicate information out on a regular basis. To instead putting short, punchy modules out through our LMS that we could tailor to the certain team. So, this piece is just relevant for this group. This piece is relevant for this group. It seems like a small thing, but I think it actually created a big difference in terms of us just really being able to stay relevant and not waste people’s time with stuff that wasn’t relevant.

And obviously then let us have the data to track who is doing what, understand the quality of what we were putting out. And if there was something that truly was critical, that everybody got it we had a way to get there. And I think that that discipline throughout and as we’ve been talking about forced us just to get really good and really tight at how we were building those programs.

MT: I think of course Steve already implicitly mentioned it, but of course, the scale that comes with being virtual, being digital. The ability to. To be agile and quickly make changes. I think that’s another key benefit. Of course, the cost is another key one.

My CFO keeps reminding me that’s great, we are saving money because we are not having people traveling or in person or venue or catering. Of course, there are other benefits, but I would say the main one is focusing on quality, like we mentioned. So far, I think it’s forcing us to be more mindful about quality of the content and experiential, practical type of content and not generic.

DB: The beauty of virtual enablement is you can enable from anywhere and this isn’t something new. Doing things through technology and the cloud is not a new thing, but there’s no need to travel to be enabled or onboarded anymore. And you can really deliver the same experience anywhere in the world. That’s the beauty of virtual. Like you can have someone in Texas and someone somewhere in Croatia getting the exact same enablement experience, which is beautiful.

You can break out topics or themes into microlearning today and deliver them when they’re actually useful instead of cramming six months of enablement into a week of classroom-based training. And the other beauty of a virtual enablement is you can enable people asynchronously so people can really learn and be enabled at the time that it suits them.

TG: In one of my previous roles, at another company, I was responsible for doing our two-day enablement session and it was face to face. One of the challenges with that is we wanted folks to travel into corporate locations, to reduce costs from meeting a hotel conference room. But the challenge with that is a lot of our offices just didn’t have the capacity to accommodate all these salespeople descending on a location, right. And we hire salespeople remotely. So, not every salesperson is within two to three hour driving of an office.

So, we had to provide two options. So, if you’re within a certain radius, you would drive to the enablement event at an office. The rest of the audience had to take this online. What was interesting with the assessment after that, even though, we had smaller intimate groups in a face to face enablement session, we were able to reach so many people with the virtual environment. Because even after that particular day of the event, we had folks who were able to go back to those recordings in the virtual environment and have follow-up training sessions as a team if they wanted to double click on particular topics.

So, it’s almost like the way face to face session is it’s great for networking, etc. It truly is an event, right? You have almost a longer shelf life when it’s virtual because a lot of that stuff’s archived, but also, you’re able to just scale so much more to audiences you probably wouldn’t have even thought of.

So, in that situation, my primary audience was salespeople. But in my virtual environment, I was able to bring teams into that enablement session that support salespeople, my field marketing teams, my sales operations folks, my finance folks, deal desk. Folks who needed to understand what a seller goes through who wouldn’t have even gotten the budget to fly you to an enablement session that was face to face.

CT: And then as I mentioned, the flip side, there’s always challenges in executing, enablement that looks like this. And so, Mary, let’s start with you on what those look like.

MT: I love this question because it’s really still touching me on my skin.

I’ll share with you a little bit of a story in terms of challenges to me. Going back like three, four months ago, when all of this started, time was challenge number one. And time, I had some cultural shift very quickly, change offerings to be relevant to the new industry trend and client needs. And of course, creativity in doing these changes.

So, we at the beginning of the year, set of enablement kickoff in three geographies. The first one was in January, end of January, and in Vienna. And then the second one, it was middle of February in Las Vegas. Right then in Las Vegas, we were already in front of a key decision. Should we do or not do?

Because we had like 7,000 plus people are coming all in Las Vegas. It was already starting to be hard. I remember when I was coming back from a BNI in Paris, I saw so many people with the mask and they said, it looks like a hospital more than an airport. So, in US, we didn’t really have yet an appreciation of what was really happening, but quickly that came our way as well.

And so, just one week before Las Vegas, we had to decide what to do with Singapore, which was our last event in Asia Pacific beginning of March. And we decided to cancel and move to digital. So, we really had less than one week before Las Vegas to buy a lot of cameras and give all the sales enablement people, which is a small team like yours, cameras in and train them to record as much as possible.

So, we had some content that we could then reuse to quickly create a digital experience for Asia Pacific. Now, what probably doesn’t come across explicitly, is that what we do in our sales and enablement kickoff is very unique. It’s all focused on skills activation. It’s not lectures. We have already learned that the in person has be practical too.

I don’t, I know likely wouldn’t stand and deliver, but to practice in group, but we do a lot of gamification, a lot of youth games format to practice what we are learning and to provide feedback and coach, the participants. So, to create that kind of vibe digitally was really challenging.

So, we weren’t in front of yes, we have. So have some main meantime kind of situation where we have everyone joining the conference call. Okay. No big deal. I mean, make sure that all stands up. But then what do you do to quickly break down in different groups and the groups change depending on the activity, depending on the role, depending on the industry.

So, it was a maze to quickly navigate for my team, but in the end, we were very proud of the results. I’ll tell you this data. The previous two events, we had an NPS that was in between, 57-62. Which is stellar. I was so worried about that. In Asia Pacific, we ended up in having a 76 as NPS. 76!

Why that? Of course, because we very quickly took care of that geography. 3000 people participating. But we did it the other night during the US night and we split the event. Normally it’s three straight day, and we broke it into two and a half weeks. So that every night we were doing three hours, and different types of digital platform to engage.

And we were there for them. Of course, we had our technical problems. But they were so appreciative of the experience and the stretch and they were not left behind. And I think, yeah, that was an opportunity for us to act quickly, but also to learn a lot, because guess what? This here to stay.

And, we have to think to what to do next year with the three big events just happening at the same time with maybe 20,000 people. So, we have a lot of ideas that I will share a little bit more in detail to if we want to. But I think, like Winston Churchill says, “When you are an optimist in front of every challenge, you see opportunities.” And that’s how we need to look at these things that are happening as opportunities to elevate, innovate, and make a greater impact.

SH: I think Mary nailed it there. And I don’t know that I have a ton to add, but I think just there’s obviously things as much as I talked about the praises of virtual enablement, there are also things that I fought hard to keep in person for as long as possible. It’s not like in the past pre COVID, it was all virtual.

And it was really think about, well, what was it that drove those things? We said, no, these really need to be in person. You know, I think there is just magic in being in a room. That’s hard to replicate. The informal networking and relationship building are I think are key I think so often you hear people say, yeah, the training was amazing and all the things that happen outside of the training work, maybe even more valuable.

And so, I think just really learning to respect that is a universal part of getting people together. Now I think even just things as simple as they really good flowing group discussion that when you’ve got a good moderator in a room and you can kind of really make that happen. It’s tougher to do online, reading the room, how do you spot the puzzled looks? How do you identify when somebody is not quite getting it or something’s not quite landing? Also, a lot harder to do digitally and each of those things kind of calls out. Once you identify those specific challenges, then you can start to work towards it. But you know, there are real challenges with online.

TG: The face to face interaction. I think we can’t discount that because, and when I say face to face interaction, it’s not necessarily between the facilitator and the seller, but just the peer to peer learning that happens.

When you’re on a lunch break, after hours, that happy hour, it’s that cross pollination that takes place when your butt’s not in a seat looking at a presentation. I know in every enablement session I’ve either developed or ran when you get the feedback, no matter how great your agenda is, you always, there’s always a resounding feedback. ‘Make sure next time we would have liked to have more network time working earlier so we can have a team event.’ It’s those softer type of thing that I think you miss virtually. From an enablement perspective, what maybe missing for the facilitator of the session just is being able to read body language, being able to see on someone’s face when they’re lost, or you need to reinforce a particular message, or you might need to double click on a topic because they there’s still some question or confusion around that.

So, I think those are the types of things, little nuances that you miss, that you have to kind of make up for it in some other way.

DB: The challenges? Well, listen, virtual enablement is it’ll be more self-directed by definition, right? And that’s challenging for some sellers, especially if you’re onboarding new roles, BDRs, SDRs, who as example again, who are at their first job.

So virtual enablement of people in their first entry level jobs, that can definitely be a challenge. And then just the incumbents of not being able to be with people face to face for the quick question. You’ve got communication technologies like Slack, that you can answer these things, but I think the biggest piece is that it’s going to be more reliant on a self-directed experience. In terms of what we’re seeing, again, I think the real root of the solution here is to tie enablement programs to specific outcomes. So have a real clear expectation, not only of the program participation, but of the revenue outcomes that can truly be measured and attributed to those programs. So, you can see if people are participating and then you can also really tie it back to the impact that you’re looking for those enablement programs to driv.

CT: Shifting gears a little bit again and talking about marketing and sales alignment. Collaboration across the organization with all of the revenue teams, because enablement is so critical in really fostering that alignment in that collaboration. So, I would love to hear about how you’re doing that virtually with your teams to foster that alignment collaboration across the board?

TG: We’ve come a long way with the tools to support collaboration. Right? So, I feel like there are technology platforms out there that were built for this moment. So, where we’re using zoom right now, right? I think setting a framework where you could still have an opportunity to bring teams together is important. So especially when you have remote salespeople, I think engagement for any human is important.

Another way to collaborate is bringing folks together where they could share best practices. So just because we’re in a virtual world or travel is restricted, you could still have team meetings. You because they’ll make them. The same, just kind of pop it up a little where you engage more amongst each other versus having it just be kind of a one directional cadence call with your sales leader, a sales manager.

And the other way I’ve seen folks do it is you could do some contests too. Right? So, make it fun, make it interesting. Make it engaging where maybe you’re practicing your executive pitch or elevator pitch. And you have technologies that support that. Any way that team together, you’re speaking to each other, where no one feels like in this virtual world, I’m off in my own island. I think those are the critical pieces to keep folks engaged and interested, and you could get creative with some of the stuff.

MT: We’ve been adopting agile methodology. So, working in squads, small squads. For each offering we basically have a squad, a small group where we have the sales enablement, the sales representative, and then the marketing.

And the offering management and that allowed us to already practice a lot of this. Let’s say a duty in alignment. I think the main challenge in the alignment is always to consider the seats and implement as they need to keep it on a high quality. On the other side, you have people that want to kind of stuff the training with as much as possible.

And we always say less is more and that’s hard to do sometimes. And to push back because these people are very opinionated about their babies and they want to tell you all the details of their babies, but to send the baby, we don’t send the baby. But to sell the thing, you don’t really need to have a lot of information, but few that are very high impact for the business. Or yes, key needs of the team that to drive alignment on one side is adopt squads in small groups and trust the system. Micromanagement, it’s an enemy, I would say, collaboration and alignment. The other thing is gamification. I’ve been always a strong believer of crowdsourcing content.

Now more than ever to be fast and relevant, I need to have the information and the content from the field. So, I need to reward the people that want to share how they are dealing with a client that is a challenge and how they turn turned around. And that challenge is an opportunity. And then maybe the sound of the deal in three weeks.

Cause that’s the other thing, the velocity, how things are changing, is also changing. And another thing for the alignment is about influencing some decision making. There is a motion right now among these parties. Okay. Cost reduction. Everybody’s challenged with cost reduction, but I think it’s undermining ourself as a value as a sales enablement and as a company, we lead the conversation with cost saving.

I think we always have to lead the conversation with innovation but be smarter to say how this solution that we are proposing will be cost effective too, but always, always out for the client to envision themselves on how they can be more competitive in their market and not just save money.

And, yeah, that’s why I said earlier sellers need to think of themselves like they are innovators. They are the catalyst, yeah. Innovation with their clients.

SH: I like to the point about people trying to stop the Turkey. And I think one of the, one of the nice things, and we say, okay you have, you have 20 minutes and we have to get this segment done in 20 minutes and okay, that’s going to require a lot of editing down and let’s really drive towards.

What’s important that being able to just sort of put boundaries on those things is actually a really nice forcing function to get, get the content tighter and avoid stuffing the jury.

CT: All right. Well, we do love to end all of our panels at every single one of our soirées. And we have some folks on the line who know this, who’ve been a part of our soirée events before, but we love to leave our audience with a final takeaway. So, if you had one thing that you want our audience to know, walk away with today, what would that be? So, Steve, let’s start with you.

SH: Get the basics right.

CT: I love it. Love it. Very concise, Mary.

MT: Embrace that notion about the glass half full. I always say the glass is all full and just awful. The liquid in alpha air and the air is important. So, this is a very important concept. Here’s the simplicity, right? So, embrace this challenge. I know that it’s easy sometimes to think, I will never make my quota because the clients are struggling. They are closing branch offices. They are having so many challenges and you are the victim of yourself.

So, you can be the hero. It’s all up to you. We as enablement need to be the catalyst to grow that confidence with the right content. They’re truly delivered, but ultimately, we want to drive some cultural shift at the end of the day. We need to think big of our stuff as enablement as well. We are not just content provider. We need to drive cultural shifts and that’s very exciting to think of our sell faster energy around behind that. There’s a motion.

DB: Listen, whatever enablement you decide to do virtually you have to tie it back to revenue impact of some sort. Some type of business outcome, because consumption metrics when you’re, especially today, if you’re sitting at home, they’re very easy to fake. I mean you can basically hit play on a video and go take a shower. So, I really encourage enablers to have clear revenue objectives for each enablement program. So, you get a good feeling for what works and what doesn’t work, and then ultimately help using those to drive the outcomes you want to see.

TG: I always think about it as the way I think of enablement, I think of it as mice, the fields, my sellers are my customers. So, the same way I expect my sales reps to show up where their clients are. We encourage them to do things like chamber of commerce has joined organizations, join LinkedIn groups, where if you’re focused on the financial services market, you need to be a part of financial services groups, et cetera.

The way we have our sales reps study their clients and their markets and show up where they are. So, then they could be more relevant. I think that’s what we need to do as enablement practitioners with our salespeople. And we’ve seen that even more so now in this virtual space where with travel restrictions, we can’t always be in a room.

We can’t always have a quarterly enablement event or a training event. So, it’s important for us to not look at this as, Oh, my enablement plan is not effective anymore. You just have to think creatively and show up where they are. Those sellers are having team meetings still with their sales leaders, insert yourself into that place, insert yourself on that team call. So, you may not necessarily get us, have to think creatively and be nimble, with how we’re rolling out our programs.

CT: Well, that is all that we have today for our panel. However, we are going to stay on the line and answer some live Q and A. So, if anybody in the audience has any questions for our speakers today, type those into the chat, we’re going to get those answered for you.