Why Sales Enablement? Viewpoints From Venture Capitalists – Soirée, San Francisco

2.2K Views | 45 Min Read

Mary Shea: Morning, gentlemen. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for coming today and I’m so excited to talk about this. As you know, it’s one of my favorite topics, sales enablement, and since I’m from Forrester I thought I’d probably start with some numbers and then we’ll go forward and do some introductions. But as you all know, sales enablement is having a moment. And it’s a big, big moment. There’s so much more visibility on the function, the role, and it’s more critical than ever before, primarily as a result of some of the different dynamics that are happening with business buyers. In preparation for this, I had some of my researchers crunch some numbers for us. We did a report in 2018, called the Sales Tech Tide. And in that report we looked at 17 sales technology categories, and within that we highlighted the best companies, the top companies of all those categories. And interestingly enough, we haven’t captured everything, but within those categories, only in the last year, the investment was $15 billion and 585 venture investments there. So, it’s really exciting to see what’s happening in this space. And we look forward to hearing from the experts on the panel around why they’re investing and why they’re so excited in the space. Let’s start off with some introductions. So, Rajeev, please.

Rajeev Dham: Hey everyone. Rajeev Dham, managing director at Sapphire Ventures. Sapphire Ventures is a kind of expansion to late stage venture firm investing in predominantly B2B and enterprise software companies. We’re managing about $5 billion in capital today. And I would say this topic is near and dear to my heart. We have invested in a bunch of companies and that kind of go-to-market tech stack. Companies like Highspot, Outreach, Clari, amongst many others. So, excited to chat today.

Tim Porter: Tim Porter. I’m a managing director with Madrona Venture Group. We’re based in Seattle. We invest in early stage companies, predominantly in the Pacific Northwest. We led the Series A at Highspot and had been involved in that company for a long time. Madrona invests in both B2B and B2C companies. I spend all my time on B2B companies. We invested in sales and marketing tech for many years as well as next generation cloud infrastructure and machine learning. And it’s been really fascinating and gratifying to see how the sales enablement category has just burgeoned over the last number of years.

Joydeep Bhattacharyya: Joydeep Bhattacharyya, general partner at Canaan. We are an early stage from A seed to Series B, based in the Bay Area. We are pretty eclectic across various segments. But I focus 100% of my time on enterprise software. We led the Series B at MindTickle, which is one of the companies featured here, and are super excited. It’s great to see sales enablement by itself becoming a large driving force. So, looking forward to the conversation here.

George Bischof: I’m a George Bischof, partner at Meritech Capital. I’ve been a partner in the industry for 20 years now. Meritech, like Rajeev’s firm Sapphire, is an expansion later stage fund. So, typically we’re leading the third venture round or later. Think of companies with $10 million or more at the stage we’re investing in terms of revenue. SaaS has been a big part of our franchise historically. We’ve invested in Salesforce, NetSuite, Kupa, Outreach and others.

Matt Garratt: Matt Garratt, managing partner for Salesforce Ventures, a strategic investment arm for Salesforce. And as you can imagine, we’re investing in all things relating to CRM enterprise software. We have about 260-some portfolio companies globally with offices and a team here, London, Japan, and a team in Australia, and have invested in companies like MuleSoft and Twillio and Zoom. I’m really happy to be here, so thank you.

MS: Awesome. Thank you, Matt. Thanks everyone. I think most everyone knows who I am, a principal analyst at Forrester. I focus on the B2B sales space and I spend a lot of my time really working with the world’s leading brands to help them really bring the selling motion closer to the buying motion and help organizations understand how to evolve and modernize their go-to-market process. Simultaneously, I also work with the leading vendors in the sales tech space, so all of the companies that were just mentioned, I know very intimately and follow them on a regular basis. So very, very excited to be here. And let’s kick off with a question. I’d like to start with you, Rajeev. Tell us a little bit, in your estimation, why is sales enablement so hot right now?

RD: Yeah, I mean, I think from a venture capital dollars perspective, needless to say, but we invest in companies that are growing fast, and it’s been remarkable just over the last three-four years, the number of high growth companies, 100%, 200% growth that we’ve seen. It’s almost where kind of marketing tech was five or seven years ago, and I think there’s been this transition or maybe an addition. Where you saw the MarTech landscape, people bringing data and science and software into marketing, people are realizing in sales, you can definitely do the same thing on top of or in addition to the core CRM systems. So, you’re seeing a lot of that addition.

I think also, we like things that touch revenue, these software tools kind of touch and drive revenue. So, the hope is that in good or bad macro environments, these are going to be platforms and tools that are still going to remain very important for businesses. So, all of that’s exciting.

MS: Yeah, absolutely. Joydeep, want to add as well?

JB: Yeah, I agree with everything Rajeev said and to add to that, I think from the venture world, since we invest so early stage, the companies that we love are companies that have really large market sizes. Which is applicable to almost every company. And these are becoming rarer and rarer as SaaS is becoming more mature, right? And in sales enablement, you have this beautiful thing where every company in this planet needs sales, and every sales team needs enablement. So, basically your market size is almost every company in the universe. And that’s why we expect this ecosystem, not to produce one company, but multiple, very large companies with very large revenue streams. I believe that’s the reason why you’re seeing so many investors kind of channeling their dollars towards this.

RD: Yeah, absolutely. And one more thing just came to my mind, when I was doing diligence on I think it was an Outreach or one of the companies in the space, I was asking around budgets for just sales tech tools. It goes to your point around size of market and availability. And this was more of an enterprise field sales rep budget, but I think the budget was about $1,400 or something around there per month per seat for just sales tech tools. And if you think about the CRM, I mean, Matt can tell you, but the CRM seats cost $100-150. And so that leaves a ton of room, as you think about other sort of technology platforms to buy around that. At least at this point. That was a fascinating point.

MS: Yeah, absolutely. At Forrester, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at market size. It’s not where our expertise is. So, it’s great to hear how you all are thinking about it. And I’d like to maybe even put a thought out that the market is even larger than what you’re thinking currently, because right now we’re kind of thinking about the sales user or use case. But when you really think about sales enablement or enablement, however we want to call it, it could really be extended to anyone who interacts in a customer facing way from marketing to sales to success to, I mean, even legal, right? They’re interacting in the final stages of deal and negotiating. Have you all thought about the market size?

JB: That is exactly point-blank in terms of how we’re thinking about it. I can talk about MindTickle a little, because in terms of thinking about this enablement, we are even thinking about this as a revenue enablement, right? So, I mean, one of the use cases is retail store associates. When they’re talking to their customers, how do you make them ready to do a better sale, which is even outside any of the inside sales or field sales reps.

MS: Right. It’s really interesting because there’s a lot of debate about what the terminology and nomenclature is, right? So, I really am starting to like revenue enablement. I know our colleagues at Sirius has been talking about that quite a bit. When we were doing some of the research around enablement, we were debating internally, do we call it sales enablement? Do we call it buyer enablement? We call it just enablement. We call it revenue enablement. And one of the things when you think about sales enablement, it’s sort of very focused on the direct seller. But I think 2020 is going to be the year of the indirect channel getting enabled in the way we’ve been focusing on. So, I would suggest that market size is really even more robust than we’re currently thinking about it today. Yeah. So, awesome. So, Tim, I’m going to ask you to put on your Forrester hat and envision where this category goes in two years, five years, further down the path. Where do you see things going as VCs?

TP: We don’t just get to invest in what’s growing quickly. We have to think about where it’s going a little bit too. Well, we have seen this period of really rapid adoption, but I think we’re just getting going. So, I think the next couple of years are going to be marked by even more acceleration of adopting, driven by several different things. I think one, you’re starting to see a much clearer picture of ROI in the space and really understanding how saving reps time, saving marketing teams time, ramping sales reps more quickly leads to higher sales, etc. I think that will drive additional adoption. Even though there has been a lot of adoption, I think some of the research you’ve done, it’s still only like half the companies and B2B that have sales enablement in place. And less than 10% are at any degree of maturity. So, I think we’ve seen a lot of expansion. We’ll see more. I think we’ll start to see that in an even broader set of industry verticals. I think tech and financial services have tended to be the early adopters in this space, and we’re seeing that really expand beyond it.

I think the other thing is that in part and parcel to why you’ll see more adoption is the visibility inside organizations I think is getting much more senior. And so that it’s not just a sales professional or marketing professional sort of leading enablement, but that it’s a CRO, maybe even a CEO, and that sales enablement is really viewed as critical and really indispensable to achieving your strategic goals as it relates to sales. How do I increase my win rate? How do I increase my ASP? How do I effectively cross sell? Sales enablement, I think, is increasingly being viewed as a means to doing that. And I think particularly, well, what does that mean exactly? I think this notion of sales enablement as a path to provide real sales guidance, really guided selling so that whether it’s a salesperson or your customer success person or someone else, that if you’ve got an objection, what’s the right piece of content? What’s the right action that I give to the right prospect at the right time? And sort of being that strategic enabler for organizations, I think is increasing the visibility. You’ll see that really be a big kind of move as this expands over the next couple of years.

MS: Yeah, thanks. I 100% agree with you. I think the visibility that the function and people are actually practitioners have is going to continue to increase. And when you think about what a CEO cares about, really, they care about top line growth. They care about margins, and they care about the customer experience. And when you think about some of these sales enablement tools, they’re touching and driving efficiency, effectiveness, and experience for buyers, sellers, and marketers. So, it does start to become more of a C-level conversation and have much more visibility into the C-suite. So yeah, 100% agree. I’ve actually had the pleasure, I’m not sure if that’s the right word or not, of being an operator going through the due diligence process with folks like yourselves. I think it’s a really interesting process to go through — a little bit stressful, I will say. I wonder if, George, if you could just sort of illuminate if you’re interested in a company, how you start to initiate that due diligence process. What kind of research do you do? Are you talking to customers, analysts? What does that look like?

GB: Sure, good question. I’d say there are multiple factors in our process. We really rotate hard on market size. How big is it? Where are the macro drivers, is this going to be a strategic space? Is it solving a major pain point? What’s the growth rate in the market? So, market’s one. I’d say we spend a lot of time thinking about product and technology. Usually there are several vendors in a market that we’re looking at. But which company is product first? Who’s invested in their architecture, who has the scale security and roadmap that seems like they’ll be the winner over time? We spend a lot of time talking to the management team, not just the CEO and CFO, but other people who are making it happen. It’s one thing to have a vision and a start in a good market, but ultimately these companies need to grow really quickly and do so in a way where all the customers feel like they’re scaling with the customers, which is really difficult to do.

Then I’d say we spend a lot of time looking at financial metrics just to make sure that the performance is consistent with what we see in all of this, really just to identify who is the likely leader. The leader takes about 75-80% of the market value over time, so we really need to get that right. We want to make sure that our checks on the market match our intuition. We spend a lot of time talking to customers. You all may have been hounded in the past by cold calls from some of us. But when we’re in our office, not as practitioners, we rely heavily on the feedback from the field. Ultimately you all are the best assessors as to are you getting value and who is the likely leader in the market? And we also talked to folks like Mary who have a different perspective than you all, but a valuable one.

MS: Yeah. Awesome. We get so focused on the technology and what the technology capabilities are, but you touched a little bit on the management team and the leadership team and the founders, and I sometimes see that venture capitalists will reinvest and invest in the same team or the same founder. How important is that cultural match and your assessment of the visionary leadership that the CEO provides?

GB: I think it’s critical, right? I mean, a CEO is usually the vision leader, but sets the culture for how attractive a place it is to work in right now. As you all know, it’s so hard to hire people. There’s so many different options. And so having a place that just feels special and unique, it makes a big difference. And most of the companies we’re investing in are growing, adding 200 people a year off of a base of maybe 200. So, you really need to set the culture to attract the talent you need to scale these things.

TP: I would just chime in on two points that came up there. I’ve been so impressed seeing some of the folks on stage here with their level of due diligence and how that is kind of matured over recent years and the ability to both assess and add value to a company through the due diligence process. I think there’s some art around that. You’re not only talking to people like yourselves. And by the way, it’s sort of like coming into meetings saying, “Hey, we’ve already talked to 30 of your customers.” We had one firm say, “Hey, we already have done NPS scores on you and your three competitors and here’s how you did, and then here’s some others that you might want to go talk to. And here’s our point of view on the market around that.” So, I think the very best investors like these folks are able to come in and both assess and add value with the teams kind of right off the bat.

On the founder point, we love to invest in multi-time founders and we’ve done that multiple times. You have shared value, alignment and goals for the company and a working relationship. On the other hand, how many great iconic companies were created by first time founders? And so we’re always thinking of this mix of, you don’t just invest in people that you know, you invest in people that have the hunger, the new insight, who are going to just go run through walls and make it happen. I think having that mix, and in fact it ends up across the whole portfolio, is skewing a little bit more towards the first timers at the early stages.

MS: Yeah. Interesting. So, we didn’t touch on this, but let’s start to spark this thought, which is just as it’s a competitive marketplace for folks to go work at some of these amazing technology companies, some of your founders have lots of options in terms of where they get their funding from. So, there’s some competition as well. And I’d love to delve into a little bit more around how you actually position yourselves to add value. Is it, there’s networking, you’re connecting to talent, other companies in your portfolio, that there’s synergies? What do you do to really add value to that founding team and position yourselves to win in the deal as well? Anyone want to take that?

JB: I can take a first stab. I think all of us are, I call it, it co-petition, cooperation and competition. All of us want to be in and out in the same space, partnering with the same companies. I mean, Tim was doing Series A, I’m doing Series B and in that other company, his team is going to do Series B. I’m going to do Series A. And then Rajeev and George and Matt are going to come in. So, all of us are kind of working around similar companies, but at the same time, it’s very, very competitive. I think in the early stages, at least that’s where we do a lot of the work. It is important for founders to really find someone that they could really relate to and trust. I think you definitely need to add value, but at least from seed to Series B, there is not a lot of data points at that stage out there because customers are very early. We cannot, at least from the point of diligence, really do a lot of numbers in terms of customers. We can get the sentiment of the customers, but that’s about it. So, in the early stages, it’s about building that relationship, being there in the hardest moments of the companies, and then helping them think through and hire people as growing to the next stage. That’s kind of our rule in those early stages.

MS: For some of your founders, what do you see after they get that traunch of money, some of the biggest challenges that they’re going to face? Is it getting talent? Is it scaling? What do you see as some of the biggest challenges there?

MG: I think it’s all those things. Talent’s obviously very hard. When you come in, what are the most valuable things you can do? Help recruit, provide access to talent, and then help coach, provide advice, guidance, provide people that have been through this, done that to help get them over the hump. And then, customer introductions. The more you can help win customers, throw customers at them and help accelerate that business, those are three of the most helpful things you can do.

MS: Absolutely. 100% agree. And I think sometimes we don’t talk about the HR function as much, right? We’re always thinking about revenue generation and sort of professionalizing and operationalizing HR I think is really important. I’m assuming you all can add a lot of value in helping your founders sort of work through some of those issues. Want to weigh in, anyone?

TP: Everything from the initial investment and through scaling, one of the companies that a few of us worked together on, each board meeting starts out with a whole section on people. It’s literally the first thing we talk about, across all dimensions, hiring, diversity, key needs, attrition, culture, all those things. Every company says, “Oh yeah, it’s about the people. It’s about our culture”. And then the ones that are truly great can truly operationalize that and scale it throughout the entire organization.

MS: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s shift gears and kind of go back to the technology. As you see all of these new companies that are coming up and being able to provide more and more functionality and put sellers in positions to succeed, Matt, what’s the role of CRM? Where do you see CRM going? How does Salesforce think about that in relation to some of these other tools that we’re talking about and platforms?

MG: I wear a hat and then I get to see both what’s going on with Salesforce and what we’re seeing in the startup community. And the two pretty much marry each other. Breaking it down maybe into four components, first it’s really making it easier to use CRM and that’s making it easier to get information in and out. So, using AI, machine learning, voice so that you can talk to your CRM, put information in. Then, getting information out, things like Highspot, which we’re an investor in. And so make sure that you’re surfacing the right content at the right time. We just announced an investment today in Automation Anywhere. How are you automating the processes? We know that we use Salesforce to run our business. Every partner meeting, I hound our team and say, is it in Salesforce? We actually have dashboards, we have metrics, and I’m hounding the team. Make sure you have your information in Salesforce. So, I know people don’t like putting information in the CRM, so the more you can automate that through things like Automation Anywhere, that’s kind of on the front end.

And then what you’re also seeing is focusing on specific workflows and automating that as well. So, things like inside sales, you have companies like Outreach. We have a high velocity sales product. And so it’s a very specific use case to where that sort of dashboard and that workflow didn’t exist a few years ago. And taking it to where you can automate that, take someone off the street and kind of get them up and going pretty quickly, and making that more efficient. Or using AI and voice to coach people. That’s kind of like the workflows and user experience.

And then the last two I’ll hit on is getting more value out of your CRM. If you can automate it and people are getting more data in, you can drive more value in your analytics. So, we acquired Tableau. There’s a lot of great analytics solutions out there, but if you don’t have really good data in, and it’s really hard to get the good data, you will find you have a lot of gaps in it. If you don’t have that data, then you don’t get as much data value of the analytics.

Then I’d say the last piece is, with the proliferation of software and all this data that’s floating around, you have the opposite challenge now where as you have too much information, it’s all being siloed. So, how do you connect all this? Are you connecting workflows so that your sales can see what your marketing, what your customer services are doing. But then to make sure that all the data from these disparate systems of record are being unified and then being pushed up into the analytics layer. You’re really seeing the investments people are making in voice and AI and machine learning and data science to do all this data wrangling really come to fruition to really make a much better experience for the user.

MS: I think it’s so exciting what’s happening with AI and automation as it relates to CRM because we get to take sellers out of that sort of the data entry game that they’ve unfortunately had to do. What do they call that, Salesforce Friday? When everyone has to spend hours and hours of entering data into the CRM.

MG: We like to shame everyone. You get called out.

MS: I have to say, when I was a chief revenue officer, I never had a problem with data integrity. And it was because I used a stick and a carrot very heavily, but not everyone does that. And so now I think we’re going to get to the place where, thank God, we’re beyond that. And that CRM is going to really be something of value for salespeople, not just sales managers and people who have to forecast. I think it’s a super exciting time to see what’s going on. I think we’re ready for some questions for the audience. So, thank you guys for answering some really phenomenal questions here, but let’s see what’s on the minds of the folks who are here today.

Audience 1: I’m curious, how do you see executive leadership coaching is an element of an organization’s growth and scale in the early stages of companies? For example, CEOs who maybe are challenged with fundamental business practices and as an element of trying to avoid firing that individual, actually having executive development as an element of your offerings?

TP: I think it’s important for sure. One of the roles that we feel like we play on the board as investors is to be that coach and to be the person who can help talk through different things. However, being an investor is also different. And so, I think it varies by CEO, their level of experience, what they think their blind spots are, the way they want to be coached and learn. We like to try to have a kind of a stable of different coaches who have different styles, one on one, team, etc., so that as CEOs get to that point where they say like, “Hey, this would be a good idea”, or we want to suggest, “Hey, this might be a good idea”, that there’s some different options that you can find what’s right for you. I’d say we definitely don’t have a one size fits all playbook, but you want to know that there’s different ways that we could help the founders as the company scales.

RD: And sometimes it’s actually encouraging. There are groups, which I’m sure you guys are aware of, bringing sort of CEOs together that are at the same stage and roughly the same kind of space that might be going through some of the same challenges with their business or otherwise. And I think a CEO can be a very lonely job. So, sometimes even talking to your board members, it’s helpful and we can provide guidance, but it’s nothing like connecting with other CEOs. There’s someone else that might have a really good perspective. They might be at the same revenue run rate or a stage, and they can really hash things out and kind of be real with each other and come with their problems and present that. There are those organizations that exist that I know Sapphire works with pretty closely.

MS: Yeah. Fantastic question. I don’t know if anyone’s read “The Founder’s Dilemma”, but it sort of talks about some of the qualities and attributes that an early stage founder has isn’t necessarily going to be helpful as you get further and further down the path. So I think the coaching and the groups and the mentorship are really of critical importance for sure.

Audience 2: So, two part question. The first part is, at what point in their growth do you recommend your company’s take on a formal sales enablement function? And the second part is how do you as venture capital firms support them in making good decisions?

RD: I’m happy to take on the first part. It’s interesting. A lot of times, at least in Sapphire, I think generally, there’ll be companies, and we’ll look at companies that are sort of $4-5 million in revenue, and they have three or four sales reps and they’re all working, they’re all hitting quota. And I think the conventional wisdom is, “let’s go in, let’s pour in $20 million and hire another 10 reps. Let’s blow it out on marketing. And we’re going to go from five to 30 in two years.” Right? And I think what you see is most companies don’t have that up and to the right trajectory. And it’s quite bumpy along the way and many tap out.

I think when you dig under the covers it’s oftentimes not that the product is bad or the market somehow ran out at that small of a revenue run rate. It’s actually what we call it at board meetings, execution. And we talk about go-to-market execution. We talk about in our investment, it’s talked about obviously as a generic term, but what that term really means is actually enablement in my view. It’s enablement, it’s rev ops. It’s how do you get the consistency or the performance of those initial reps to the rest of the organization and not just sales, but SDRs and pro services and customer support and marketing and what have you. I think it actually is going to start moving earlier and earlier in terms of hiring that first enablement and rev ops function to where you have maybe a handful of reps. I think historically it’s been even in training and education, it’s been more of an acute problem much later, maybe 20 reps, 30 reps, onwards. But I could see it moving earlier and earlier.

MS: I also agree. I think that as soon as you start to move from opportunistic sales to trying to get repeatable, scalable sales processes in place, your sellers are going to need more help. And I think you touched on something really important, like in the past, we always used to think $1 million, another headcount, but now it’s really about sort of strategic tooling with strategic hiring to get to the numbers. The other thing to consider is with a SaaS or as a SaaS, as a service business model, these types of tools are available to downmarket companies that could never get access before. Any other questions?

Audience 3: Hi, I’m Linda Sharpe. I’m the CEO of CRV Tech, which is a DBA of our parent company, Relevance. And my question is about your funding mechanisms. We have an accredited investor in a safe agreement. Are you doing safe agreements, simple agreements for future equity? I’m just curious whether any of you are interested in that kind of thing or not.

JB: Safe agreements for those here that don’t know, these are, is it going to convertible notes and convertible notes should be a debt instrument that ultimately converts into equity at a specific term. They are quite popular in the early stages. I think whether a convertible debt instrument makes sense or eventually an equity investment makes sense depends on the real situation of the company. Sometimes if you want to get the funding done very fast, if it is in the early stages and it’s hard to really figure out what the exact valuation of the company is, then we would typically do safe notes, but typically kind of the seed stage investments. Then eventually at CDC, when the real first institutional round is, you’d convert that into a specific valuation. We do safe notes all the time. But at the same time, there has to be a reason for doing that versus an equity priced valued round.

MG: We tend to not like doing safes because they’re not priced. We’ve found that we’ve ended up getting hosed a bunch on safes. So, we tend to, if you want a convertible note, we’ll do a convertible note. I mean, we will do safes, but we tend to not like to do safe. You find yourselves upside down. We’ve had companies sell and really not hold up their end of the bargain. If everyone holds up their into the bargain, it works out. But we’ve seen it happen a lot where it doesn’t.

TP: About a third of our investments are seed and safe notes. They’re very popular, but we also tend to not like to do them as much as pricing rounds. We’re all institutional firms. Part of what we do is invest a little bit more and to have a point of view and how to price the rounds. And part of the reason you do a convertibles is because no one wants to price the round. I would just echo Matt’s point is that for entrepreneurs it can be great. It can be fast. But be cognizant about what happens when these things all convert about what it means down the road. And sometimes, you’d be surprised, entrepreneurs get caught off guard and not realize how much dilution that they actually had amassed on these different safe notes.

Audience 4: We’ll go back to the beginning. You made a very cogent and relevant point about strategic hiring. When I asked the gentleman on the stage, is there an ROI attached to each hire, and strategically, how do you convert that value in terms of the scalability of the organization and are you putting key performance indicators on that to get to a core competency that the organization has?

JB: It’s a very beautiful question and maybe I should think more often on that ROI. I can speak for myself and the boards that I’ve been involved with. Very few times have we actually quantified the ROI in very solid terms. But in general, as we are thinking from moving, because we get involved with a company. It’s very early stages. We go through like three or four cycles of executive upgrades, if that’s how you’d like to call it. And every time, we are kind of thinking about what’s the next 24 months, 18-24 months? What kind of competencies? It’s more about competencies that we think about, but less in terms of quantitative ways. But we always think about what the executive has done in the past and how that executive is positioned to help this specific company grow in the next 18 to 24 months. But that’s the overall framework.

GB: I’ll just layer on, it’s kind of ironic in today’s data-driven world, it is very qualitative at the executive level for the most part. We are looking for those capabilities, the ability to scale, to get along well, and can they build teams? Ultimately, is the company making their numbers? And there may be OKRs that people can kind of look at a little bit more objectively, but there are few departments like sales where you can attach a number to a person. We’d love to get more in that direction. I think it would take biases out of the equation. And it would be good for many things. But I think the level of granularity we get at measuring sales reps now is very fine tuned and one of the things that’s driving the whole sales enablement space, because these markets are big, but then the companies usually have to add the capacity to achieve the potential. And that’s usually headcount and with ramp times. Potential misfires cost a ton in terms of you achieving your growth targets. And again, as Rajeev said, we’re all about growth. So, we spend so much time just trying to make sure that there’s a good ROI on sales reps and this is a category that’s helping make that happen.

MG: Maybe one other thing too is as you’re adding new functions, one of the hardest things for a CEO is to hire certain functions, because they’ve maybe never done that function. When you’re adding a product marketer, for instance, or inside sales teams, instead of just kind of going out and over hiring, take someone who has that capability. As you start to feel that pain a little bit and you really know that, okay, we really need that function, and you get a better sense of what that profile is for that person inside your company. I think it also makes it easier to know what you’re looking for and what the right profile is, the right stage of the company. If you feel that pain a little bit as opposed to going out and over hiring too many people in someone that’s not right for the role.

MS: Yeah, really interesting responses. I think you’re right. I mean, we’re so fine tuned on what good looks like now for the rep, but it is a little bit squishier as you move up to the C-suite. So I guess what you’re saying is that the softer skills do matter and you look at that more qualitatively at that level.

Audience 5: Rob Peterson. I’m a professor of sales at Northern Illinois University. I want to stay on the same theme here. Very good question. You have a portfolio and you’ve met all these seed type people and whatnot. Have you found somewhere along the line of sales enablement, since we’re at the Soiree here, have you found some sales enablement person who’s like, wow. They’re not the C-level, but they are some person making it happen. And who was that and why do they stick in your mind? What were they doing?

GB: I can say there are some people that exceptionally stand out in our group of portfolio companies. There’s not one blueprint, as I try to line them up visually, where it’s like two or three characteristics, but I mean, I do think the few that do line up are ability to lead, ability to look at data, ability to adopt technology. We are in a world where this space is so dynamic. If you embrace it, you’re likely to continue to stand out further from the pack. But that’s uncomfortable for people, right? Change is not everybody’s second nature. So, I do think people who lean in and are assertive about constantly improving and listening, there’s something that’s a common trait.

RD: Yeah. I would just add to that, I feel like historically sales enablement and maybe even ops to some degree, was a very separate silo in service of the revenue organization or sales organization. So, the folks that are able to actually elevate themselves and be thought partners and strategically work with the sales reps or marketing or whomever it is, I think that that takes a special something. I think George said leadership and begin thinking strategically, things of that nature. Because at the end of the day, the adoption is critical, right? If it’s training or education or content and using it, adoption by the reps is critical. So, you need to be able to elevate yourself, which we all think enablement and ops should be elevated in order to get that adoption from them.

TP: I agree with all those points. I would just add two things. One is that I think the people that stick out, they know the playbook and they run the playbook with discipline and rigor. But especially in a newer and emerging space like sales enablement, they understand that our company’s a little different and where do we innovate around that playbook while still staying disciplined on running this core set of processes? And so that can be a tough one to specify. It’s sort of thinking ahead a little bit and are able to innovate but still be disciplined. And then the other thing is how they hire. And the team that they build in innovating comes to how you’re finding great talent and how you build them in your team and how you retain them. So those are two of the huge areas.

MS: I think the world of the sales enablement professional has really changed dramatically and is taking on such a strategic role within the business. So, anyone who has the ability to break down organizational silos, who has ability to drive collaboration, who has the credibility from the sales organization, but the ability to also view data like a marketer, those types of things are going to be more and more important as we move forward.

MG: Yeah, I mean, that was one of the keys to Salesforce success. There’s a guy, Jim Cavallari, at Salesforce, and a lot of his role was like taking a lot of Mark’s thoughts and ideas and putting that into playbooks. This is before you had any of these tools, and I mean, it was immensely critical to the success of Salesforce. You didn’t have good blueprints for this in software solutions. His ability to work with executives like Mark and then make these quantifiable playbooks and enable the field were immensely helpful.

MS: Awesome. Well, sadly, I think we have to wrap up now. Thanks for all your contributions to the panel.

Be great at what you do.

Get started - it's free.

Must be 6 or more characters

By signing up, you accept the Privacy and Terms and you can manage your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Sign In

Forgot your password?

Please provide your email

You've earned points!

Site Interaction