The Business Impact of Sales Enablement – Soirée, Europe
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Robin Griffiths: Thank you very much, and good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to what promises to be a very interesting session on the business impact of sales enablement. My name is Robin Griffiths, CEO of BPM Works, the selling knowledge and digital playbook company. And we have a great panel to get the conversation on this topic going, and I’m going to open up the discussion obviously to you guys and hopefully answer some of your questions. So, let me start by first asking each panel member, in turn, to introduce themselves and provide a little bit of background on their role in their organization. So, would you like to start?
Imogen McCourt: Yeah. I’m Imogen McCourt, I work at Argus Media, which is a price reporting agency. We also sell news and insights, mainly covering the commodities world. I’ve been there for about two years, and I think my title reflects how much they knew about what sales enablement might be. So, my title is global head of sales enablement operations, training and client success. I have a flip-out business card, it’s awesome. But, I do think that having client success actually gives me some of the feedback loop in the client insight stuff we’ve been talking about for a while through the day. Before August, I was at Forrester Research for a very long time and I set up their internal sales enablement practice at the same time as we were setting up our research house at Forester. Consulted at Riddle and off to August. So there you go.
RG: Great, thank you very much. Janet?
Janet Hand: Perfect. My name’s Janet Hand. I head up the commercial operations and enablement department at Emarsys. Emarsys is a marketing technology platform that helps e-commerce businesses now, soon to verticalize, personalize their communications at scale. Alright, so we used to be an email service provider, sending out 6 out of every 10 spam emails. Good claim to fame. Now we’ve realized that we don’t want those spam emails from Nigerian princes, and so needed to actually revolutionize our technology in order to be able to make sure that the communications are personal. Right? So, we have 17 offices around the world, 800 salespeople. Sorry, 800 employees, and about 150 salespeople.
RG: Thank you very much.
Kunal Pandya: Thanks, Robin. My name is Kunal Pandya. I’m responsible for global sales enablement at a company called Taulia. We are a San Francisco headquartered fin-tech company, and what we do is essentially help some of the largest companies in the world to unlock cash for working capital through their supply chain. I could go a lot deeper into this, but that could take all day. In terms of my background and experience, I come from SAP, where I was heading up the global partner solution consulting team. Speaking of lengthy job titles, my job title there was the head of global partner operations, enablement, and framework. So, framework, too.
RG: Very good, thank you. Haley.
Haley Katzman: Hi, I’m Haley Katzman. I’m the vice president of growth and account development. I used to have the longer title, it was growth enablement and growth operations, but I maxed out the business card so we just shortened it to growth, at Highspot. We’re a sales enablement platform, so really excited to be here. I think one of the things that have been really fun and interesting in my role is that we obviously provide a sales enablement platform, but I’ve built out the enablement and the operations organizations internally at Highspot, and it’s been a really cool experience being on both sides.
RG: Great, thank you very much. So, I want to start with what is probably a pretty fundamental question for us here on the panel. So, how do you measure sales enablement’s effect on a business? What are the metrics that you should actually be looking at? So, who’d like to start us off on that one? Janet or Haley?
JH: Yeah, yeah, I can. So, it hasn’t been a hot topic today. Not discussed at all. So really, to start it off, I think that it starts with the strategy and who is that strategic alignment within the organization. Because if sales enablement is rolling up into marketing, it’s going to have very different KPI’s, such as, potentially content consumption than if it’s a sales lead function. So, at Amarsis, I report up into the CRO. It’s very much aligned to, what is the business driving towards?
I also run the commercial operations, as well as enablement, so I am very much tuned into those numbers. Track them and benchmark them pre and post every initiative that the enablement team runs, so that we are actually able to measure our impact. Some of those KPI’s that we’re looking at are the very basics, from our onboarding programs, so time to first opportunity, time to first close, time to on quota, number of reps on quota, then our win rates, our average order value size, our sales velocity. So really looking at both the operational metrics that the business is looking at, but also how can, as an enablement function, we run different programs in order to impact those. We look after both the new business side, so the pre-sales, the SDRs, and the new business side, as well as success. So that means, we also look at our risk methodology and how do we run more enablement in order to be able to combat risk, as well as our retention rates and our growth rates. How do we ensure that we are having natural growth as assess platform, but also how are we introducing new feeds in order to be able to help our customers grow?
RG: Great, comprehensive answer. Thank you. Haley, I think you had something you wanted to say.
HK: Yeah, so I definitely think that the org structure plays a role in it. For us at Highspot, the growth team does not report up under marketing or sales, it actually reports up to our CEO. And the main reason that we decided on that is because we really wanted the function to be able to be as strategic as possible. And to look at the different audiences, kind of what we call our internal customers if you will, such as sales or our account development team, as our customer rather than the function that we report up to. And so, for the metrics of success and the business impact, what we look at is for each of our internal customers or audiences, we look at what their metrics of success are and then we are absolutely measuring that based on what our internal customer’s metric of success is.
And I know John brought it up too, we actually do compensate our enablement team based on those metrics and the performance of each of the internal audiences. So, to be even more specific, if I think about our account development team, kind of synonymous with the sales development team, one of the main metrics that they are measured based on is the creation of an SQL and then the conversion of that to a pipeline opportunity. And so, for our account development enablement team, that is a metric that we are looking at there. For our sales team, we are looking at win rates, we’re looking at velocity, we’re looking at ASP, and then we’ll go more granular on some of the programs that we run.
So, if we’re looking to increase our win rate, thus decreasing our loss rate, we’ll even break that out by competitor. And if we’re going to run a program around competitive differentiation around a specific competitor, then we’ll look at what that metric of success is related to decreasing the loss rate against that competitor. So, very much aligned with what the goals of each of our internal audiences are, even to the point that we comp out our team based on that.
RG: Would anybody else like to comment on that topic?
IM: If I may. I’ve set up two of these organizations twice. So, from a blank sheet of paper. And this time, I was brought in to set it up at August because they just had a huge PE investment, and the PE company said, “You need sales enablement. You need ops. You need to empower this organization.” I have 40% of my overall package on whether we hit our sales number, and I’m delighted today so, it has to be a big, chunky piece and I tell everybody in the selling organization that I have a big, chunky part of my wage on whether they’re successful or not. But, what does their success look like? It depends on what our go-to-market strategy is, it depends on who I’m talking to. Our global COO cares about our IBIT duration, that’s all he cares about because that’s how they’ll make their share prices that come out of it. But I track productivity, I track the cost of sale, I track the cost of sale versus each client sector, I track whether I can stop our lovely marketing and product team doing stuff, whether we can do the right stuff in the right manner, whether converting through the sale, I mean, you name it, I’ve got a clock running on it.
And I’m sure all of you guys are out there thinking about all of the metrics that you can be running as well. Employee engagement satisfaction, etc., etc. I think the key thing is to not be scared of the metrics. To accept them, to adopt them. But also, genuinely to recognize your part in this in driving those successes. I have a small sales enablement team, I have a large client success team. The only way I can get stuff done is to go to every single department in the organization and talk about how we can mutually move the needle on some things. So, if HR gets a benefit for something, awesome. They’re going to help me more because they got that benefit on something. Same with marketing, same with product.
I’ll be quiet in a second, but I genuinely believe, and you’re going to talk about change management next- but I genuinely believe my position is to be invisible moving towards an outcome that drives the success of Argus and therefore the sellers and everybody else involved.
RG: And how about the challenge of actually assigning the effort and initiatives and what’s going on in sales enablement to particular success in those metrics? Anybody got any advice or guidance on making that connection?
IM: One really quick follow up and I promise I’ll hand it over to you. So, 10% of our business is in consulting, when I joined Argus, apparently it took 13 days to close a consulting deal, we had a billion dollars in the book, and a 90% conversion rate. That’s nonsense. So, the first thing I had to do was break it up into a place where we could actually track data and start to show what good picture was. So, that would be my comment.
KP: I completely agree with all of the comments so far. When it comes to business impact, I think it was Steve in the last panel, the moderator, mentioned that his session was the main event, pretty much comes down to impact, right? So, it’s a critical topic. And in terms of what we have done and how we essentially measured our organization in a couple of ways. You mentioned, Janet mentioned, depending on where enablement fits. Is it marketing, is it sales? Our marketing function actually reports into sales, so we’ve got a blend of both. And the first aspect of that is sales enablement adoption. Are people adopting the content? Are they engaging the content? Are prospects engaging with that content? To what levels? And the second part of that is there a correlation between that engagement and sales KPIs, such as velocity, win rates, and so on. So, being able to measure that first aspect and see if there’s a correlation between the two is key.
Another thing we did, also, is start to look at correlation in a big way. Pipeline creation over a certain period of time was something that was quite important to us. And what we actually discovered ultimately was our top three salespeople had the highest levels of adoption when it came to sales enablement content, platform and those kind of things. But they also had, between the three of them, the biggest pipeline over a certain period of time, I think it was three months we used. The biggest pipeline between the three of them than anybody else put together.
So that was the first aspect. The second aspect was, what about deal velocity? So how far have those deals actually moved in that three-month period? And they actually showed that the fastest deal velocity from creation to, I think it was stage four or stage five in our cycle, compared to anyone else in terms of average and above days. Is it all because of sales enablement? Is it all because of the adoption? No. There’s plenty of factors in there. But do they demonstrate leading indicators of behaviors of patterns. If I can point towards that area, then yes, it is. That’s how we started to correlate the two.
RG: Very good. And are there any areas of sales enablement that don’t have a direct correlation with revenue?
KP: Oh plenty, yes. I look at sales enablement in two ways. The first aspect is operation enablement. All of the traditional things we’ve been talking about: learning, coaching, processes, tools, content, onboarding. All of those kinds of aspects which we all do. But there’s a second part to this, which is all around engagement.
Imogen touched on it a second ago. And this is something I’m actually quite close to personally. But it’s often overlooked from a sales perspective. The actual engagement of an employee within the sales team, to the company, and to the mission, to the vision, to the values and to our level of customer experience that we’re looking to do as well. And the fact remains that even a 1% increase in employee engagement, even 1%, has a direct, or an indirect correlation, I would just say, to revenue. One percent equates to around about 9.6% in revenues. So, could you imagine what we could do if we had a 10% increase in employee engagement and what that equates to? That’s millions.
There’s a really interesting story on this. It goes back a few years, a few decades actually, before my time, in the 1960s. When JFK, John F. Kennedy, announced that the state of the union, is addressed that we’re going to send a man to the moon and bring him back safely to earth. Later on down the line, NASA, the organization responsible to make this happen, are one of the tightest when it comes to employee engagement alignment. Alignment to the mission, the values, the vision, and what they’re trying to achieve. So, a few years down the line, before we headed to the moon, JFK visited NASA in Houston, Texas. And he met a janitor. And he asked that janitor, “So, what do you do here?” And the janitor responded with, “I’m sending a man to the moon and bringing him back safely to earth.” Why did he say that? Well, he understood the mission, he understood how he was aligned to the overarching strategy of what his department head was doing, to their department, all the way to the top. Sending a man to the moon and bringing him back safely. So, he knew what he was doing and why he was doing it. And more importantly, it made him productive. It made him efficient. It made him extremely tactile in terms of how we achieve his role and how we achieve what he needed to do. He essentially was the best janitor in the world.
Now, imagine if we could apply the same principles to our salesforce. What difference could that make? So that is why I believe employee engagement is one of the key aspects. There’s not a direct correlation to revenue, but certainly, an indirect; and in terms of productivity, efficiency, collaboration with a team, establishing best practices, sharing those and propagating those best practices across the team, communication, customer experience, and customer service, all play a part.
RG: Very good, thank you very much. When I first started working with sales enablement platforms, they first started to emerge as a term and started to grab people’s attention. People were using kind of time-saving for salespeople as a key metric for building a business case for sales enablement. I mean, what does the panel think? How compelling does senior management actually find this? Imogen, do you want to-
IM: Yeah, so time-saving is a really easy concept to grasp. It’s important when you’re thinking about training days or number of pieces of content or motivation and excitement and whether people are engaged. But if I was really asked to think about that as a metric, I could just tell my sales team to stay until 6:30 at night and I’ve immediately added an extra hour every day and, brilliant. I think that you need to think about the way that time is spent.
And I certainly try and build excitement and engagement around, have we got our sales organization doing exactly the right thing, with the right person, with the right content, to move that sales cycle forward? And if they don’t know where to find that information, or they don’t know what to do with it, or they haven’t got anybody coaching and reinforcing it, then they’re going to try it once, they’re going to fall over and they will try something else. So, yes, of course time selling is really important, but I think it’s more because it’s an easy concept for the rest of the company to understand when you’re trying to help them think about right content, right time- not just any content- something will stick or get a sale out of it.
RG: Because I often hear from sales leaders and senior management, “Well actually if they save time they’ll just spend more time playing golf.” Anybody want to comment on this? Is this a, using time-saving, is this now no longer or never was the right pathway to convince senior management? Do you want to start, Haley?
HK: I think that it was initially because it was something easy for people to grasp. But I think that saving sellers time kind of plays into the efficiency element, and there’s also an effectiveness piece. So, effectiveness is, what we were just saying, knowing the right thing, when to say it, who to say it to. Having that knowledge. Efficiency is about removing tedious work, removing wasted time finding content, removing time wasted logging administrative activities and CRM. All of those details, if you just increase efficiency without having effectiveness, then that’s what you run into.
What are they actually going to do with that time? So that’s one of the things that is so important to ask when you’re talking to sales leaders. It might grab their attention that they’re saving more time, but what are you going to do with that time? And so, if you think about some of the metrics that are in even the State of Sales Enablement report that just came out, the number one metric that sales leaders looked at is, increasing win rates. Competitive pressure is the number one thing that sales leaders are concerned about. And so, you have to know who the competitor is, what to say, when to say it, how to position, how to handle objections. And that’s the effectiveness play, and then making them more efficient on top of it allows them to, I mean, I actually think it allows them to do their job better, faster, but it also can really help reduce attrition in the organization.
There are so many companies that we see where salespeople that are top performers, a lot of even millennials if you’re not making it easy for them to do their job, they’re out. They’re going to go somewhere else to do that, and so it’s very important to be looking at that. But, I think it’s just more of an attention-grabber and maybe something three to four years ago, it’s much more rooted in effectiveness and efficiency today.
RG: Good, got it.
IM: I do really like win rates though. Because we talked a lot about, in fact, CSO Insights do some fantastic work on the no decision piece. And if you look at this, it looks like about half of the sellers’ time is spent chasing deals that are never going to happen. So, we really inspect anything that’s slipping, anything that’s running late, anything that, you’re telling us the buying signals, but what are you actually doing? And we have lots of coaching environments to say, “Okay, how do you know this is real?” So, if 50% of their time is wasted on stuff that they haven’t qualified properly, well that is a place we can go after and make a difference.
KP: I would also add, time-saving was probably overtaken by time spent selling, as a metric. Which has subsequently been overtaken by effectiveness. Mainly because of the behaviors and the working culture changing as well. It’s not about sitting at your desk and being on the phone. It’s about delivering. It’s about effectiveness. And that’s how we’re measuring people. The flexible, working nature of being where you need to be, do what you need to do, just deliver.
HK: Yeah, I’ve had so many people when we started building out the different functions within our org, the sales teams and even the enablement teams, it was like, “Don’t take them off the floor. They need to be out there making calls, sending those emails.” And, the value and the impact that we have from having a training session or going through best practices on a weekly basis, is so much more valuable than the time spent of them not knowing what to do and just picking up the phone and not saying the right thing. And I think that’s something, that you really have to get that buy-in all the way to the top of your organization, because if there isn’t buy-in around that, then you’re spinning your wheels.
RG: Okay, I want to move on. We talked all about actually what you measure, but how difficult is it, practical is it, to actually measure the impact of sales enablement investments on actual sales performance? And does anybody publish a good, credible case study on this or has anybody got any metrics? Who’d like to start on that? The reality of actually demonstrating the link.
IM: I mean, I can give you some of the metrics that I track and have. So, I joined Argus two years ago. We’ve seen a 3% productivity improvement year on year since then in an organization of about 83 sellers. But, you know, behind that story is also the fact that I’ve added about 50 non-quota carriers into that commercial organization. So, the 3% improvement in itself is great. The fact that we also have the appetite to pick up the client success organization to invest in sales enablement and ops on top of that, that’s really powerful.
I think to look at your numbers, so I contract that because it’s very obvious. How did we end the year? How many sellers did we have, or how many people did we have in the commercial organization? It’s a blunt instrument, but it gives you a starting point to defend investment. And we talked about score cards, score cards are really important but, know your audience. Know your why. Because my COO doesn’t give a monkey’s about how many training hours somebody’s done. They care about win rates, conversion, whether the investment is playing out in terms of stage management and whether we’re getting more productive sales organization. So, that’s what I tell him.
RG: Very good, would anybody else like to pick up on this point?
HK: Yeah, I mean we’ve done a similar thing. Knowing your audience is so important. We actually built out internally, instead of buyer personas, the external people that we are selling to, we built out audience personas internally. Because the way that we might work with our marketing team is going to be very different than finance, than the sales leaders. So, building those out so that we know how to do the discovery, what are the things that they care about, what are their metrics of success, are really important.
The way that we’ve actually been able to capture that, I mean, if you’re not collecting the data and getting those data points, then it’s going to be really hard to measure it. We actually look at it from, there’s kind of two big perspectives that we’re actually able to tie it to those metrics. One is from a content perspective, so actually looking at the influence revenue on specific pieces of content. What content was actually associated in the deals that were close 1 or moving it to the next stage of the deal? Then, on the flip side, you have the relation to sales attainment. And that could be in the onboarding phase, that could be post-onboarding, but what internal training and what customer-facing content and buyer engagement is being associated with the reps that have higher attainment? And we’re collecting all of that data and really can look at the impact in both of those areas.
RG: Right. One interesting metric I saw from the Lexus Nexus project I worked on, where they introduced sales enablement and playbooks and stuff, is they actually measured deal size and if you had any experience with that. And they actually saw a, they measured a 25% increase in average deal size for those deals where the salespeople had actually been engaging with the platform, the content, and what have you, the playbook and compared to those where they haven’t. Has anybody measured this as well?
IM: Yeah, definitely. And we do product mix, we look at who in the organization they’ve sold to, so how high we are, whether that’s a good measure of what we can do. There are lots of things that sit behind that as well. But deal size has to stay at the same velocity, so if you slow anything down, particularly in our highly transactional client segmentation, then we’ve done something wrong.
RG: Okay, does anybody else want to add a last point on this?
KP: Yeah, the last point I have just to summarize on that, is making sure it’s done. This is not a question, this is a mandate. We have to measure what we’re trying to do here from a business case perspective. And the second point to that is it’s not just about metrics, it’s about being able to defend those metrics as well. So absolutely be prepared to defend those metrics to the senior leadership team, where required. Without that, this thing can fall over and credibility can go down.
RG: Okay, I’d like to change topics a bit and move onto the issue of how we’re seeing learning and sales enablement kind of coming together, both from a technological sense but also an organizational sense. And does anybody have any insights, any stories, on the business benefits of deploying integrated solutions and building integrated teams?
JH: Yeah, definitely. I think the keyword that you mentioned there was integrated. And that, we’ve mentioned it before, that salespeople can get a bit distracted, maybe. They need to be able to keep it simple and they need to be able to find the right materials at the right time. At Emarsys, we really focus on just in time learning. Getting the right learning or content in front of the right person, at the right time, within that sales cycle based off who they are engaging with. So, the buyer persona, making sure, exactly what Tamara was saying, that it’s really a customer-centric experience for the salesperson in order to align that experience.
That, for us, has massive business benefits as because they are putting all of that information into the CRM, we can then analyze it and then turn it back into information for the product organization, for the development organization, for marketing, for HR, in order to really be able to build that business future. So, if it’s a learning management system outside of your CRM, you’re not going to have that cohesive learning experience and be able to feed that data back across the organization, which is so important for your own enablement and development.
RG: Thank you.
KP: Yeah, I’d add to that. One of the things that I keep hearing from my salespeople is, “Not another system. Not another application. Another login. Another place.” And, I remember the days when we just had Salesforce and one solution and it was a challenge to get people to log in just to that on its own. Now we’re talking about three, four, five, six, seven applications and tools in the marketing and sales tech stack.
So, integration plays a key part in making sure that ultimately, all of the business benefits we talk about are driven from one thing, which is user adoption when it comes to platforms and technology. User adoption. So, integration is critical to that. Seamless user experience and great user experience. As simplified as it can be: mobile, social, all those kinds of things. And if you’re going to achieve that, then yes those benefits that Janet’s been talking about can be realized.
RG: Thank you. Would anybody else like to comment on that topic?
HK: Yeah, I think it’s the biggest thing that we’ve done recently. The just in time training is absolutely critical and I think that historically, with a lot of technology companies have had to silo the internal training content and the customer-facing content because there is this, either it’s training just thought of as onboarding, or it’s very risky that the salesperson might send out something that they’re not supposed to. And I think that with the advancements that have been made in technology, it’s really transforming how you can build out a strategy to go out and enable the teams. Because just in time learning is so critically important, what you’re saying is that training has to be built more around specific selling scenarios rather than a product or just a persona.
It needs to be what selling scenario are they in and getting together all of the information, all the training, all the content for that specific scenario, rather than how marketing views it or how whoever is creating that content does. And I think that’s where if you don’t have an integrated training and customer-facing content, combined with coaching and best practices, that’s where there is a big miss because you can’t really provide that just in time training based on a specific selling scenario.
RG: Yeah, very good. Okay, thank you very much for answering those questions right now. I’d like to open it up now to the audience and see whether we have any questions that you’d like to ask this fabulous panel. There’s a guy over here.
Audience 1: I just wondered what the panel’s thoughts were about referrals, how to get them and how quickly should you respond? I’ve not heard anything about referrals today.
JH: Do you mean client referrals?
Audience 1: Client referrals, yeah.
JH: So, I think customer engagement is, it’s incredibly important. We have tried to run engagement processes where they’re rewarded for passing on those referrals. Not sure if that’s really legal in all places. But, I think the biggest way is that if you make your client happy, they will naturally just spread the word because it makes them look good. It gives them the ability. Everybody wants the ability to speak, so it’s really about understanding, what is your client trying to achieve? Making sure that they realize the value that you are providing and pointing it back to them and then asking that question, “Do you think that there’s anybody else that we could be able to solve the same problem for within your own network?”
Audience 1: Does the sales enablement have any coaching about how to ask for referrals?
JH: Oh, so we walk through this process with our success team. So, we do have that ability within the sales process, in order to offer that as a discount metric that they would be a client advocate. For example, as a case study and then within the success organization, they are training and enabled in order to have that conversation about pointing to the value and then being enabled to ask for that, and then those success managers would then be rewarded for bringing on those new customers, as well. So, they’re also compensated and rewarded for asking that question which- I believe it was an NLP tactic- that it is all about the reward and that people need to feel motivated in order to drive that.
IM: If I may, our sales organization sometimes seems absolutely petrified of their clients. They land the deal, they get the paperwork in and they’re just like, “Thank God I don’t have to talk to this person for a while and client success have to pick that up.” So, yes, we look for client referrals, but really I’m trying to build a cultural change around our commercial organization. Which is, you don’t land it, leave it alone for 9 months and then try and start the renewal process. And we have a product with a 95% to 96% renewal rate, so there is a behavior of just leaving that until the renewal. So-
KP: Yeah, referrals, typically since we have an account management function and that typically since, as Janet mentioned, have given us a success or customer success type function, which kind of is overlooked from a sales enablement perspective, you’re absolutely right. It’s a great question. One of the things we’re doing at our company currently is, well I’ve realized the success of the enablement function that we’ve put into place is to build something very similar within the customer success function as well. And to replicate almost what we’re doing in sales there. And that includes hiring the right kind of people to be able to upsell, to cross-sell, to manage referrals and those aspects as well. So, a little bit mature, maybe immature from that perspective, but it is something that is growing and as we get more sight of this, more will happen. But it’s a great question.
RG: Thank you. Next question, please. Okay, you go over there.
Audience 2: So, great insight into metrics and how it’s used upwards, and I got asked a question a few months ago whether I wanted to go on a schedule A and have my metrics associated with that, so we’re negotiating what that would be. But, my challenge I have is on training. So, I’ve got to create 3 training programs: one for internal folks, one for our customers and then one for our partners who are reselling our hardware. The challenge I have is when it comes to metrics is internally, we can show this person trained on this channel, this track, these are the results that we see from a sales perspective. But, for our resellers and customers, it’s really difficult. I’m showing a 200% growth on hours taken, or the courses taken, and the new individuals coming on, but trying to convert that into so, this person did this sale because of this training course. I’m finding it impossible, so just wondering from your experiences, what have you done in those scenarios or are you seeing similar challenges?
KP: Partnerships are hard. I’ve done partner enablement as well, and the largest scale part of enablement function that I built was at SAP for its cloud function, for its newly, sort of, acquired cloud function. One of the things we did there was essentially put together a framework, which was almost a give and get type framework for enablement and support. Partners need support to sell deals. Even resellers at the beginning, you need some support whether that’s presales or the typical account executive type selling process and handholding. So, what we essentially did was partners could request support from our organization, but in order to be eligible to receive that support, you must have undertaken certain number of enablement, X enablement, whatever that might be, whatever that level needs to be for that solution or type of company. That’s the first hurdle you need to jump.
Have you done the enablement, yes or no? Yes, onto the next hurdle. What sort of deal are you looking to support for? Does it meet the criteria, the qualification aspects? Fine. The third hurdle was in order to receive support, we need to go through a few cycles with this. The first sales cycle that you asked for support, we will drive. Take the car that you will drive and the partner will sit in the passenger seat. You’re shadowing us, you’re watching us. You’re learning from how we do it. The second engagement, again go for that entire qualification criteria, you drive and we’ll sit in the passenger seat. Meaning, we’ll be there, we might even sit with you in the meeting, maybe we’ll be on the call, and we’ll introduce or speak or whatever is needed, but you’re driving it. The third time you ask us for support, and we’re measuring and tracking this all the way, but the third time you’re asking for support, you drive, and we might even be in the back seat or just outside of the car. Meaning, we might be on the other side of the phone if needed. If you have questions, you ask us and we’ll walk you through it.
And once you put all of that data together, it starts to show us some correlation between partners who are enabling or been enabled and committing to that enablement and partners who are requesting support and then ultimately closing as well. And what we found when we did this was, we had partners in a certain territory in North America who were not really adopting our enablement. And they were the ones who were asking for the most support as well. So, there’s a clear correlation there. And once we have that data, we can take some, it essentially drives enablement strategy. What are they asking for? Why are they asking for it? Where are they asking for it? What do we need to do in that region, that territory, that solution, that market, whatever it may be. That’s hard work to put that framework into place. But if you can do that, you can be quite successful as we discovered at SAP.
RG: Does anybody else want to chip in on that? Making that very difficult connection between learning and what people have done and taken in learning and actual success and selling.
HK: From a partner perspective, I think that, so we’ve taken a very similar and a lot of the companies that we work with have taken a very similar approach to the direct team by looking at the content and the training that we’re providing to them. What is the overall adoption? So, are they looking at the content? Are they using it? And what you’re able to actually look at is, it’s very much a leading indicator to revenue. If there is no revenue and they’ve never looked at the content and they don’t know what they should be selling, then you know you have a problem. So, you can start to diagnose and identify who your champions are.
So, a big way to measure success there is that, okay we have all of these partners, we’re creating all of this content, which of it is actually getting viewed and which of it is getting leveraged by the team, and that has been a great way for us to not only look at it from a direct perspective but also from a partner channel perspective as well.
RG: Good. Do we have any further questions? Someone here.
Audience 3: Hi. Thanks for a great, interesting, insightful panel. My question is how do you overcome the challenge of proving the direct impact of sales enablement activities? So, in our function, we don’t sit under marketing, we don’t sit under L and D, we don’t sit under HR, so we’re all vying for sales people’s time. How do we prove- be interesting to see what your feedback is- and how do we prove that our activities having a direct impact on those KPI’s because they will argue what we’re doing isn’t proving that percentage increase?
IM: Yeah, so that’s real. That’s, everybody wants to have a piece of the pie, particularly if the pie is looking successful and it looks like you’re driving selling results. Okay, so as I said earlier, I don’t really mind but, what your point is, is how on earth do we track it back to sales and our own impact. Interestingly, when I joined August, the first person I spoke to said, “I didn’t realize how important sales enablement was until I came to a company that didn’t have sales enablement, but you can’t quantify that.”
So, we do look at things like, are we able to forecast more accurately because of efforts we in sales enablement and training have done and have worked with operations to deliver? And that’s an umbrella group that I own, so all of that is clearly ours. Are we able to diagnose and support the change to move conversion rates or to speed up the sales cycle? Again, that’s entirely mine because I can go out to my marketing partners and say, “We want to try this at this stage in the sales process with these people and if it doesn’t work, we can see that it doesn’t, and we back away from that. Or if it does work, brilliant. Marketing have contributed something brilliant, but the origination of the idea has come from my group.”
So, I don’t know if that exactly answers your question, it’s really tough, but where I sit, I still go at the highest levels and if they push then I will of course talk about what my group have done, but I will always embrace what everybody else has done, to move and lift the tide and move the commercial organization. But, I understand where you’re coming from.
RG: We were having a conversation right before we started that one more way would be to actually just turn sales enablement off for a few weeks and see what the difference. We’re not sure how that would actually go down. Does anybody else want to comment on that?
HK: I would say that if there is a lack of buy-in around the activities and programs that the team is doing, I think that something kind of before showing the metrics and proving them is really important. It’s actually the same thing that we teach our salespeople to go out and do, and you really have to go out and you have to understand your stakeholders. What are their pain points? You have to do discovery with them. What do they care about? And you have to get their commitment and buy-in before going and doing those activities, so that you have that mutual agreement before going into it instead of just coming at them with numbers like, “We’re doing it, we’re doing it. We’re trying.”
You really need to involve them in that conversation the same way that we teach our salespeople to show the ROI, get the buy-in, understand what really matters to them. You’ve got to go through that process first, otherwise any metrics that you show, who knows if they’ll even be bought into them. So, I think that’s a critical piece. If you can’t get them to engage in that conversation, then that’s another issue. But it at least tells you that going and throwing metrics at them isn’t going to solve it because you go to solve the other problem first. So, I think that would be the advice that I would have first.
IM: If I could, really quickly-
RG: Please do.
IM: If I may just add to that. So, we talked a lot about the quantifiable metrics, the numbers that we can track. There’s a load of soft stuff that you should be looking for as well. So, part of building the vision, part of how everybody buying into where you’re going is that an understanding of what that’s going to look like, what it’s going to feel like, what you’ll be doing, what people will be saying, what the experience of interacting with your marketers or your product or SME’s or whatever is, what that’s going to feel like. So, we lay out a vision of an organization where you can go to our analyst network and say, “Look, I’m in Propose, we’ve qualified in this manner, can you help me?” And the analyst organization will go, “I know where you, I understand. I understand what you’re doing now.” So we’re on ROI, I’m here, I’ll come into the meeting and I know what to say and how to say it. So, it’s not just about how do we talk about the metrics, although that’s insanely important, it’s also that soft stuff that makes a massive difference as well.
RG: Right, thank you. I think we have time for one more question in the front row here.
Audience 4: Thank you. Stella Round from NFU Mutual. We are really good despite our sales, so we don’t have a sales enablement team. We have some functional people who will drive change. We are really successful, we have a 98% customer retention rate. I’m sat next to one of our customers here completely by accident having a conversation. We, from a referral point of view, our business is doing very much by word of mouth. The biggest challenge I see that we have by potentially creating a sales enablement team is forgetting the things that we do really well because we feel like we need to change and move. So, we know we have to transform, we know that technology is really important to us and there’s a number of transformational projects. Is there any advice that you would give a company that is about to potentially create a sales enablement team without losing what that golden dust is that we already do?
RG: Yeah, how do you do that without breaking what you’ve already got?
JH: So, when we introduced sales enablement, the very first thing that we started to do was introduce why we win. And to start elevating those golden nuggets so they don’t get lost. And so, although it is incorporated more in terms of the different initiatives that have come from enablement and come from product and come from marketing and that collaboration, so really, I would actually go back to the L&D part of it and actually elevate and celebrate what they’re doing and bring in other departments into that, is making it a feeling of success. So even if a new competitor comes onto the scene and the numbers drop a little bit, we can still have that feeling of winning, which I think is really, really important and will keep the culture that you already have.