ISEs3 Ep5: Craig Nelson​ – SES Fore-founder and Entrepreneur

Hello and welcome to OrchestrateSales.com‘s Inside Sales Enablement Season 3 Enablement History. Where we hop in the Enablement Time machine and explore the past, present, and future of the elevation of a profession.

On Episode 5 Sales Enablement Society Fore-founder and Entrepreneur Craig Nelson joins Erich Starrett in the OSC Studios to go in the wayyy back machine to a coffee shop in 1998 when he registered the domain Sales Enablement dot com and remembers wondering “do I reserve it for one year or three?”

He breaks his journey down into three generations of Enablement history:

  • Gen 1: Centralized Sales Content Thing (2003-2013) 
  • Gen 2: Content Packaged with Training, a Sales Thing (2013-2023)   
  • Gen 3: Sales Execution Across Buyer Journey, a Sales & Customer Success Thing (2024 – ) 

Please take a listen (and subscribe to!) the podcast to hear about all of the above, and so so much more.

Let’s Elevate Enablement TOGETHER!

Join in the journey at OrchestrateSales.com/podcast

Transcript
Speaker:

Erich Starrett (Studio Mic): In season three, we hop in the enablement

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time machine and take a look back with those who had a role in or

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contribution to enablement history.

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Then pause in the present to address a few modern themes and finally shift

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our focus to the future and what it may bring for enablement teams.

Erich Starrett:

On today's show, our time machine is going way back, well before

Erich Starrett:

what is now the seven year anniversary of the founding of the Sales Enablement

Erich Starrett:

Society to the even earlier days before those two words, sales and enablement,

Erich Starrett:

together were even really a thing.

Erich Starrett:

They were just in their beginnings.

Erich Starrett:

And the guest to take us back, sales enablement pioneer Craig Nelson, who

Erich Starrett:

takes us all the way back to 1997, when Craig was a director of sales

Erich Starrett:

engineering, enablement, using the word back then, and operations for NetIQ

Erich Starrett:

all the way up through 2003, where he led sales engineering, sales ops,

Erich Starrett:

and global training organizations, and was responsible for enabling

Erich Starrett:

the All customer facing roles.

Erich Starrett:

He's been doing it since the beginning.

Erich Starrett:

, then in 2003, he began his own company as CEO and co founder of iCentera, which as

Erich Starrett:

you may have already heard mentioned by Sales Enablement Society founder, Scott

Erich Starrett:

Santucci, in the first episode of season three is a company that provided a sales

Erich Starrett:

enablement SaaS solution that scaled to over 150 customers and to profitability.

Erich Starrett:

And in 2011, Isentera was acquired by Kalidus Cloud.

Erich Starrett:

I never, how do you, how do you say that?

Craig Nelson:

Well done CallidusCloud..

Craig Nelson:

You got it.

Erich Starrett:

I got lucky and ultimately SAP.

Erich Starrett:

We've all heard of that one and I can say three letters Since then

Craig Nelson:

You're a roll, Erich.

Erich Starrett:

yeah, hey, I'm on a roll man Since then craig has both led global

Erich Starrett:

enablement training and operations for SAP themselves As global VP, probably through

Erich Starrett:

that acquisition and started up even a few more companies, of which I will hand the

Erich Starrett:

mic to Craig in a minute to let him speak.

Erich Starrett:

But in that process, Craig played a role in pioneering the sales

Erich Starrett:

enablement market, creating two U.

Erich Starrett:

S.

Erich Starrett:

patents for providing intelligence centers for marketing and sales.

Erich Starrett:

Just to name a few.

Erich Starrett:

Why not?

Erich Starrett:

So, Craig, enough out of me.

Erich Starrett:

Let's jump into the first question, and you can fill in the blanks on anything

Erich Starrett:

I may have missed as we travel to the past, then present, and then the future

Erich Starrett:

through your sales enablement lens.

Erich Starrett:

So, let's start with that.

Erich Starrett:

, when did you first hear the words sales and enablement

Erich Starrett:

and what do they mean to you?

Craig Nelson:

So, Erich, uh, thanks for having me, first of

Craig Nelson:

all, and thanks for teeing it up.

Craig Nelson:

It's kind of fun to hear, the memory lane.

Craig Nelson:

Interrupt me at any point.

Craig Nelson:

Whenever we come across something where you're thinking to yourself,

Craig Nelson:

you know what, we actually learned something from that.

Craig Nelson:

That's why I go back in time, right, to not repeat mistakes.

Craig Nelson:

If there's something I say that sounds like a real learning point

Craig Nelson:

and kind of a juncture in enablement.

Craig Nelson:

Let's stop and go down that road

Craig Nelson:

because to answer your first question, we were using the term

Craig Nelson:

sales enablement in the late 90s.

Craig Nelson:

. And the company was a company called Mission Critical, merged with

Craig Nelson:

NetIQ, and we were going for it.

Craig Nelson:

We felt that we'd be able to scale that company from 50 to 500 reps.

Craig Nelson:

That was after going from five to 50 reps.

Craig Nelson:

So, we kind of went through the been there and done that of the growth

Craig Nelson:

of the sales organization direct.

Craig Nelson:

We went from no channel partners to thousands of channel partners.

Craig Nelson:

We looked at sales enablement as the secret sauce.

Craig Nelson:

I'm doing that in air quotes here.

Craig Nelson:

And when somebody would ask, how are we going to do this?

Craig Nelson:

We're going to hire another 25 reps.

Craig Nelson:

Are we going to ensure their success?

Craig Nelson:

Well, that's today's sales onboarding.

Craig Nelson:

How are we going to ramp another 1000 partners?

Craig Nelson:

And not have a contribution rate of 10%, but maybe, 50 percent that

Craig Nelson:

weren't just taking the paper, but actually doing the selling.

Craig Nelson:

So we felt confident myself and a couple of other founders of the company called

Craig Nelson:

iCentera, which little known fact , Erich iCentera stood for Intelligence Center

Craig Nelson:

for a New Era of Marketing and Sales.

Erich Starrett:

Oh, I love it.

Craig Nelson:

So there, there's actually some meaning behind that.

Craig Nelson:

The idea of that was we felt confident that this was for real.

Craig Nelson:

We registered, the domain sales and avid.

Craig Nelson:

com in 98.

Craig Nelson:

Uh, I still remember sitting in the coffee shop, uh, Erich, the question

Craig Nelson:

was, do I reserve it for a year or three?

Craig Nelson:

You didn't want to, to outspend, right, what you were willing to invest time

Craig Nelson:

wise, but I went for three and, and, you know, happy that I did because over

Craig Nelson:

the coming years, each of the companies that we worked with, didn't see us as a

Craig Nelson:

word or a definition, they, they saw us as a discipline and for those that I've

Craig Nelson:

had a chance to, to work with over the years, you mentioned Scott Santucci, I

Craig Nelson:

remember connecting with him and Brian Lambert, out in, Northern Virginia at

Craig Nelson:

their offices there and, and it went from a, a two hour meeting to, the balance of

Craig Nelson:

the morning and lunch because we had that same passion that was, I would say 2007,

Craig Nelson:

2008 . So this is before the SES, and I remember even way back then wondering.

Craig Nelson:

Is Dreamforce going to do it for us, or maybe we should have our own home?

Craig Nelson:

Right?

Craig Nelson:

And then Scott was , that passionate person that was out promoting enablement.

Erich Starrett:

So you registered sales enablement.com in 1998.

Erich Starrett:

Like what was, were other people saying that?

Erich Starrett:

Or was that in the iCentera circles?

Erich Starrett:

Was that Salesforce related?

Erich Starrett:

What solidified that enough to hit go on go daddy?

Craig Nelson:

I think , the term just kind of made sense.

Craig Nelson:

I remember getting a lot of grief from people that said,

Craig Nelson:

you realize that's not a word?

Craig Nelson:

And, uh, and, and so, you know, I said, well, somewhere in Great Britain, it is.

Craig Nelson:

I'm, I'm, I'm certain of it.

Craig Nelson:

So, one of our co founders was , from London.

Craig Nelson:

And, so the, the more important part, if we get past the term sales enablement,

Craig Nelson:

, we went out and test marketed the idea, Erich, , and I found a company

Craig Nelson:

called Ventaso, if you really want to go back in time, Tim Reister, Ariel

Erich Starrett:

I was going that's Riesterer!

Craig Nelson:

I remember going to a show in San Francisco and they had a booth

Craig Nelson:

presenting this Ventaso technology.

Craig Nelson:

And what it did, I can still remember it because it really made an impression

Craig Nelson:

on me with that, it assembled content on the fly specific to a particular proposal

Craig Nelson:

or whatever was needed by the sales rep.

Craig Nelson:

I looked at that and I said, it's about time.

Craig Nelson:

Right.

Craig Nelson:

There's something that, you know,

Craig Nelson:

CRM was there, right?

Craig Nelson:

Siebel and pivotal and all these old technologies before salesforce.

Craig Nelson:

com,

Craig Nelson:

so the question was what salespeople actually need to be better.

Craig Nelson:

I saw them, I saw the Savo group.

Craig Nelson:

Not necessarily talking about the term enablement or the technology

Craig Nelson:

then they weren't using the term sales enablement, but it

Craig Nelson:

was doing sales enablement.

Craig Nelson:

Capabilities.

Craig Nelson:

And that was the more important part at the time.

Craig Nelson:

Talking about, CRM isn't enough for sales success.

Craig Nelson:

More was needed.

Craig Nelson:

Once you go out to the market, I think in a sense that other people are thinking

Craig Nelson:

about it, , late nineties, , that gave us the energy and sort of the passion

Craig Nelson:

to, to launch our own companies.

Craig Nelson:

And, you know, firsthand launching companies, it's a bit of a risk.

Erich Starrett:

Yeah, I've heard of that risk.

Erich Starrett:

That's such a helpful snapshot in time.

Erich Starrett:

Because I hear SAVO discussed in those early days, late

Erich Starrett:

90s, um, and Ventaso for sure.

Erich Starrett:

it's just interesting to step back in that time space with you when Craig

Erich Starrett:

Nelson, registered SalesEnablement.

Erich Starrett:

com, a great piece of enablement history.

Erich Starrett:

You were influenced by the Siebels, Pivotals, which is fun to say those

Erich Starrett:

out loud now, whatever 20 plus years later, and SAVO and Ventaso.

Erich Starrett:

So those were the core, you were inspired by to go down the

Erich Starrett:

iCentera with your partners.

Craig Nelson:

Yeah.

Craig Nelson:

And the question was, what was missing?

Craig Nelson:

And I think we have learned the old fashioned way that sales

Craig Nelson:

onboarding, which is pretty common today in terms of use cases.

Craig Nelson:

Wasn't as common back then, but we felt early on that, it was less of a art, more

Craig Nelson:

of an art and a science selling was, so there was things that we could repeat.

Craig Nelson:

We felt from the very beginning that the one week sales onboarding, remember

Craig Nelson:

those in person sales onboarding.

Craig Nelson:

out at corporate, we, we, we learned very early

Erich Starrett:

thick binder, of course.

Erich Starrett:

That lot of dead trees.

Erich Starrett:

Yeah.

Craig Nelson:

we always wondered how far those binders made

Craig Nelson:

it from corporate, right.

Craig Nelson:

To home.

Craig Nelson:

We felt about half of them made it to the airport.

Craig Nelson:

So, we felt early on that there was more to it, things like continuous

Craig Nelson:

learning , and then you launch a product and you're back to the drawing board.

Craig Nelson:

for the first decade, you know, one of the big conversations is what's the term?

Craig Nelson:

What's the definition?

Craig Nelson:

But I think more importantly, how does it work with CRM and other technology that

Craig Nelson:

was sitting on the desktop of the rep?

Erich Starrett:

That's a great snapshot.

Erich Starrett:

And you'd broken down with me beforehand that you'd put the early days of

Erich Starrett:

sales enablement in a couple of buckets.

Erich Starrett:

I believe you called generation 1 kind of from 2003 to 13, which is where

Erich Starrett:

we've been hanging out for a minute.

Erich Starrett:

Centralized sales content

Erich Starrett:

. As you move from 2013 to present generation two was content

Erich Starrett:

packaged with training and it became more of a sales thing.

Erich Starrett:

Can you talk a little bit about why you chose those headlines and how

Erich Starrett:

that plays into what you just shared?

Craig Nelson:

Yeah, the early days we, , 2003 launching iCentera,

Craig Nelson:

2005, six, about 30 clients.

Craig Nelson:

These were small companies that, in a sense, couldn't afford an intranet,

Craig Nelson:

I'm really going to date myself here.

Craig Nelson:

couldn't afford some kind of discussion forum.

Craig Nelson:

And we were bringing that to small business.

Craig Nelson:

not unlike what salesforce.com was doing.

Craig Nelson:

And when we came across them, we felt, there's, there's a

Craig Nelson:

great go to market partner.

Craig Nelson:

We also found another company at the time, Eloqua.

Craig Nelson:

And we felt that if you were to, combined up, we, we felt it was a dream team,

Craig Nelson:

CRM, demand generation, sales enablement, but those three combined would be

Craig Nelson:

something special to an SMB, which is trying to make a name for themselves.

Craig Nelson:

That's where we focused, but for the first five years, when we looked

Craig Nelson:

at our deployments, so many of them were a content store for sales

Craig Nelson:

pitch decks for maybe brochures, a couple of customer facing things.

Craig Nelson:

And a single source of truth was a positive term, and we, felt

Craig Nelson:

pretty good about it, single source go there, you get the latest,

Craig Nelson:

but the first decade, it was really hard to, to see these

Craig Nelson:

clients just take advantage of it as a central place to store.

Craig Nelson:

So that's why I call it, you know, a central content store thing

Craig Nelson:

it wasn't a educational thing, training thing at that point or

Craig Nelson:

coaching thing, but it needed to be.

Craig Nelson:

And that's where I see in about 2011, 12, 13, some of the players we know today that

Craig Nelson:

are in market with enablement solutions.

Craig Nelson:

They began to embrace this idea that when you deliver the content, deliver

Craig Nelson:

a bit of training, deliver a bit of coaching, you know, deliver something

Craig Nelson:

so that frontline person can do better on the first pass, can improve over time.

Craig Nelson:

I see the segue from it being a content thing to a sales thing

Craig Nelson:

over that first 20 year period.

Erich Starrett:

I love that you brought in, , Eloqua.

Erich Starrett:

, Jill Rowley has come up on pretty much every single one of these, and in fact,

Erich Starrett:

she's one of our guests in season three.

Erich Starrett:

You had also mentioned a, a combination of a connection with her and the current

Erich Starrett:

CEO can you share that with the audience?

Craig Nelson:

Yeah, many years ago, when I was talking to the, CEO of

Craig Nelson:

Eloqua, he said, look, let's do a partnership, let's use one another's

Craig Nelson:

technologies and really begin to differentiate from the major CRM players.

Craig Nelson:

You remember back then, Siebel is actually the main CRM player.

Craig Nelson:

Salesforce is wanting to, you know, beat them at their own game.

Craig Nelson:

And they were working with companies like us, so yeah, we went to market together.

Craig Nelson:

We formed alliances.

Craig Nelson:

There wasn't the SES at the time.

Craig Nelson:

Tim Reisterer, might smile about this.

Craig Nelson:

American Marketing Association.

Craig Nelson:

It was his firm , and Eloqua and my firm at the time that, that said to the

Craig Nelson:

AMA, you know, let us go to your, your client base and let the marketeers know

Craig Nelson:

that we're going to take your content.

Craig Nelson:

We're going to bring it to the frontline.

Craig Nelson:

We're then going to get discussions going, ratings going.

Craig Nelson:

We're going to look at, , not just the sales pickup, but the

Craig Nelson:

customer pickup on your content.

Craig Nelson:

We're going to tell you what white papers are needed and

Craig Nelson:

which ones should be disposed.

Craig Nelson:

I'd say this is a, a big pitch for the SES if it wasn't for this network,

Craig Nelson:

the enablement industry could have went south, at any point it could

Craig Nelson:

have been, gobbled up by, by one of these major players and been less

Craig Nelson:

a discipline, more of a technology.

Craig Nelson:

But, it really was a combination of us.

Craig Nelson:

Going to market together our clients were asking, you know,

Craig Nelson:

why wouldn't you come together and deliver, a SaaS solution combined.

Craig Nelson:

So that's what SaaS did for us.

Craig Nelson:

We were able to combine our solutions , we got together at Dreamforce as partners.

Craig Nelson:

I remember talking to people like Jill, she was very social and

Craig Nelson:

online and, being able to learn what she was learning from clients.

Craig Nelson:

Cause in the end, that's what we're all trying to figure out what's next.

Erich Starrett:

I love how you brought that all together.

Erich Starrett:

It is a strong story of how much of a role vendors had in

Erich Starrett:

evolving, , sales enablement.

Erich Starrett:

, and Jill as the social selling queen , helped y'all get the word

Erich Starrett:

out in many ways you just combined so many incredible stories into

Erich Starrett:

one in a way I've never heard it.

Erich Starrett:

So question two how, when, and where does the then sales enablement society.

Erich Starrett:

And now as of a couple months ago, revenue enablement society, and we'll

Erich Starrett:

talk about that in a little bit fit into your timeline and professional journey.

Craig Nelson:

Yeah, I'll pick up on the point about working with

Craig Nelson:

Brian and Scott Santucci because they gave us vendors at the time real

Craig Nelson:

energy, to say this thing is for real.

Craig Nelson:

when I heard from Scott a number of years later, that There was going to be

Craig Nelson:

a get together right down in Florida, enablement professionals, most of us

Craig Nelson:

made it down there on our own dime.

Craig Nelson:

We went down just to see what was going on and where it was headed.

Craig Nelson:

I think it was an important meeting because, you know, some of the people

Craig Nelson:

we had worked with over the years, did a lot convey the disciplines.

Craig Nelson:

I'm taking sort of a walk down memory lane from a technology standpoint,

Craig Nelson:

Erich, talking about the tech vendors.

Craig Nelson:

But there was all of these other content players, system integrators,

Craig Nelson:

we've worked on deals with some of the largest Accenture and some of the

Craig Nelson:

others with these deployments, they were, full on enablement deployments,

Craig Nelson:

but for many, they weren't full on enablement deployments and they

Craig Nelson:

were used as a content store, right?

Craig Nelson:

It's a central place for, you know, your marketing material.

Craig Nelson:

Well, that's just not enough.

Craig Nelson:

And we felt that sales enablement society was going to bring it to the next level.

Craig Nelson:

And you think about all these roles showing up in companies, one of our

Craig Nelson:

worries early on was we were going to be pigeonholed as sales trainers,

Craig Nelson:

as opposed to something strategic.

Craig Nelson:

So to, to me, the SES over the years has really done a great job of

Craig Nelson:

saying, this is not a sales thing.

Craig Nelson:

It's not a marketing thing.

Craig Nelson:

It's a company thing.

Craig Nelson:

Some of our early clients, I'll give a shout out to Thomson Reuters.

Craig Nelson:

I remember the first division using us over there.

Craig Nelson:

, it was a small division, tax and accounting, and they just took off, and

Craig Nelson:

then another division, and then another division, but with each one of those

Craig Nelson:

divisions, they, they positioned it, not as a central place for marketing

Craig Nelson:

content, they positioned it as that next thing to launch a new product.

Craig Nelson:

To launch new sellers, partnerships.

Craig Nelson:

I think SES did a great job of promoting the role, the discipline.

Craig Nelson:

Pretty much each quarter we have a local user group here in Twin Cities.

Craig Nelson:

I'm in Minneapolis.

Erich Starrett:

Shout out Lori Gross

Craig Nelson:

she did a great pitch, , at her last, , meeting,

Craig Nelson:

you know, Jessica Ryker and Jocelle.

Craig Nelson:

I mean, they, they've really taken the Twin City chapter to the next level,

Craig Nelson:

it's going strong, it's nice to have these local chapters Erich because

Craig Nelson:

then you can , have a beer and talk about things in less serious, mode

Erich Starrett:

That's where it happens, right?

Erich Starrett:

And what a great crew you just named in the Twin Cities.

Erich Starrett:

It might be cold up there, but you're keeping warm with

Erich Starrett:

those beers and enabling folks,

Craig Nelson:

Yeah, , each one of those companies, , Erich,

Craig Nelson:

they're the passionate companies.

Craig Nelson:

They believe in this discipline.

Craig Nelson:

They have a group, . That's responsible for enablement.

Craig Nelson:

Many people that go to these local chapters, they're it, right.

Craig Nelson:

They don't have a group.

Craig Nelson:

They're the enablement person.

Craig Nelson:

And then they're the ones that I think benefit greatly by seeing these teams.

Erich Starrett:

I'm really interested when you talked about going to Palm

Erich Starrett:

Beach in, November, 2016, you said, we, and you've been telling a great story

Erich Starrett:

about all these interwoven and, going back to the late 1990s, who was the

Erich Starrett:

we that you headed to Palm Beach with?

Craig Nelson:

I don't know that everybody made it to Palm Beach

Craig Nelson:

on that particular meeting.

Craig Nelson:

But if you look back Tamara Schenk throughout this entire journey.

Craig Nelson:

She's been one of those that you're thinking to yourself, I wonder about

Craig Nelson:

customer enablement if that's going to be the next thing, , who do I

Craig Nelson:

think of, I think about calling Tamara and she's got such a great balanced

Craig Nelson:

understanding of the discipline and the people and the human element.

Craig Nelson:

She was one of the individuals that we worked, over the years with

Craig Nelson:

Joe Galvin from Sirius Decisions, when you said walked on memory lane.

Craig Nelson:

If you go back to the early days of the demand gen waterfall, then

Craig Nelson:

you had Joe over here at Sirius Decisions talking sales enablement.

Craig Nelson:

A lot of people that were your go to, to test an idea.

Craig Nelson:

Because the enablement discipline, one could argue, 20 years,

Craig Nelson:

why aren't we further along?

Craig Nelson:

That's an important question a lot of people have asked over the years.

Craig Nelson:

If you look all the way back to 2007, eight, that was a

Craig Nelson:

breakout year for us, Erich.

Craig Nelson:

Not because of the siloes in the companies.

Craig Nelson:

These companies suddenly need to get better at selling.

Craig Nelson:

We, need more compelling events in history, I think, to drive enablement

Craig Nelson:

when you go to that next level, enablement becomes a company thing.

Craig Nelson:

That was the discussion at that meeting that was down there in Florida, how are

Craig Nelson:

we going to make sure the discipline is for real and the role respected so that

Craig Nelson:

we had a seat, you know, seat at the table not just the, sales QBRs, but the

Craig Nelson:

company, BRs and the Partner QBRs.S, we had to be in those meetings, be because

Craig Nelson:

we didn't want to be some afterthought.

Craig Nelson:

We wanted to be, at front end of the strategic thinking and then from that,

Craig Nelson:

put into place a discipline of enablement.

Erich Starrett:

You just nailed it.

Erich Starrett:

And you've used the word so many times throughout this, but strategic, a

Erich Starrett:

strategic function, not just doing, doing, doing, fixing, fixing, fixing.

Erich Starrett:

Fixing sales, putting out the next fire.

Erich Starrett:

And so exactly that point, question three is your relationship

Erich Starrett:

with the founding positions.

Erich Starrett:

My cards are on the table.

Erich Starrett:

I'm a big fan of the three that you and your 99ish fellow fore-founders of the

Erich Starrett:

sales enablement society put together as a cross functional group of all different

Erich Starrett:

walks and industries and areas of focus.

Erich Starrett:

I'll start with position 1, that sales enablement is a strategic

Erich Starrett:

approach to eliminating friction across the commercial process.

Erich Starrett:

The subset to that there are different flavors of enablement.

Erich Starrett:

There's a message enablement in marketing.

Erich Starrett:

There's talent enablement in onboarding, the sales operations side of things.

Erich Starrett:

And the, delivery aspect of it and the entire customer

Erich Starrett:

life cycle, just to name a few.

Erich Starrett:

A discipline that has alignment with each of the corporate functions.

Erich Starrett:

And if you didn't strategically address the friction in each the

Erich Starrett:

whole thing could fall apart.

Erich Starrett:

It wouldn't be orchestrated,

Erich Starrett:

what did that mean to you at the time?

Erich Starrett:

And where are we now?

Craig Nelson:

To sort of regroup your generation, one first 10 years of

Craig Nelson:

enablement, a lot of focus on centralizing marketing material and, and sales content.

Craig Nelson:

Generation two was a combination that, and training that was good.

Craig Nelson:

, but it wasn't great.

Craig Nelson:

when we think strategically and we think about one of the big

Craig Nelson:

inhibitors of enablement success.

Craig Nelson:

It's been the silos within companies

Craig Nelson:

when you look at some of the deployments and you see sales training

Craig Nelson:

handles the new rep here, and then management handles them here, don't

Craig Nelson:

we all manage the success of reps,

Craig Nelson:

all these silos that were in place.

Craig Nelson:

It was really getting in the way of true enablement.

Craig Nelson:

If you really want to think strategic, think about becoming part of the

Craig Nelson:

planning process for the next 3 to 5 years within your company so that

Craig Nelson:

when you're scaling sales, expanding into new markets, think enablement.

Craig Nelson:

How is enablement going to play a role?

Craig Nelson:

When when your company makes a decision, and it's usually a conscious decision

Craig Nelson:

to grow, not just organic, but also through acquisitions, think sales

Craig Nelson:

enablement or now revenue enablement.

Craig Nelson:

When you think about launching new products, launching partnerships, and

Craig Nelson:

don't even think about doing partners without having partner enablement.

Craig Nelson:

shift the mindset from, enablement being an afterthought, Oh no, we better get

Craig Nelson:

the training squared away for the new sales organization, that new product.

Craig Nelson:

No, it should be at the front end of planning.

Craig Nelson:

So the strategy, the company has for the next three to five years, enablement

Craig Nelson:

should be in that conversation.

Erich Starrett:

So through the lens of those corporate silos.

Erich Starrett:

Do you feel like certain silos are being addressed better than others?

Erich Starrett:

Where's the opportunity?

Erich Starrett:

, Craig Nelson: early days, we had about 150 deployments in the end

Erich Starrett:

with our commercially available SaaS platform, , and there was no doubt if

Erich Starrett:

you could align sales and marketing to get this discipline going in the

Erich Starrett:

company, that was your first opportunity.

Erich Starrett:

And historically, and maybe even still today, those two groups.

Erich Starrett:

You went to them and say, let's do sales playbooks.

Erich Starrett:

Well, we don't do sales playbooks, flash forward now 20 years.

Erich Starrett:

And the group does do playbooks.

Erich Starrett:

Now the question is, are they used?

Erich Starrett:

I think today as we think forward about revenue enablement, generation three,

Erich Starrett:

let's say, and we think about the broader, all customer facing roles, just like

Erich Starrett:

sales have been using CRM, customer success has been using some CX products,

Erich Starrett:

but it's still not enabling their success.

Erich Starrett:

So we should be thinking about that.

Erich Starrett:

So those silos are pretty firmly in place between sales and services.

Erich Starrett:

They don't necessarily don't like each other.

Erich Starrett:

They don't know each other.

Erich Starrett:

What's interesting about sales and marketing is they may not like each

Erich Starrett:

other, but at least they knew each other.

Erich Starrett:

They might not have agreed in their positioning on certain things and what

Erich Starrett:

work needed to be done, but they knew each other, but sales and services

Erich Starrett:

don't always, especially if you're doing the work through channel partners.

Erich Starrett:

So how do we bridge that gap?

Erich Starrett:

Right?

Erich Starrett:

In a service world, if you don't bridge that gap, the term we use many

Erich Starrett:

years ago, land and expand, right?

Erich Starrett:

You land that new opportunity.

Erich Starrett:

You make them successful.

Erich Starrett:

You know, you expand.

Erich Starrett:

If that handoff doesn't take place and it's not repeatable and you're not doing

Erich Starrett:

things like wind loss reporting and you're not doing things like taking a

Erich Starrett:

look at, what are the first 30 60 90 days,

Erich Starrett:

something that that was mentioned the other day from a client , Why wouldn't

Erich Starrett:

every one of our clients be referenceable?

Erich Starrett:

And that should be the goal.

Erich Starrett:

So I think there's plenty of opportunity there.

Erich Starrett:

Every customer should be a reference.

Erich Starrett:

And of course, I've got the sales hat always on Erich,

Erich Starrett:

every customer should buy more,

Erich Starrett:

and tom Pisello, you know, the ROI guy, when you go from pre to post

Erich Starrett:

and making sure that value isn't just pitched value is realized.

Erich Starrett:

And that too is a discipline, not just a technology.

Erich Starrett:

So ultimately I think the name of the game is, how do you break those barriers

Erich Starrett:

down and have the company thinking it's a company thing, enablement,

Erich Starrett:

not a sales or a marketing thing.

Erich Starrett:

Love that.

Erich Starrett:

And, from the beginning throughout this, you've used the word partners.

Erich Starrett:

And, as I'm sure you're well aware, Jill Rowley's new focus,

Erich Starrett:

nearbound is surrounding the customer and how do you do that?

Erich Starrett:

Partners who already have a relationship, right?

Erich Starrett:

And I think there's a newfound interest in enablement and that being

Erich Starrett:

a silo that goes from forgotten much like CS to in the spotlight.

Erich Starrett:

So position 2, that sales enablement needs.

Erich Starrett:

to be an effective, strategic, cross functional business within

Erich Starrett:

a business in order to accomplish the mission of enablement.

Erich Starrett:

Any further thoughts on that?

Erich Starrett:

You already reinforced it a bit,

Craig Nelson:

think the one thing , we learned with our strongest

Craig Nelson:

deployments, companies that, that understood it wasn't just technology

Craig Nelson:

that they had to have a process.

Craig Nelson:

And then there's always this great debate, I'm like, I don't care which

Craig Nelson:

sales process you pick, just pick one.

Craig Nelson:

If you have a process thing, have a content and then have the people, when

Craig Nelson:

you had a champion within a company that understood that it was people

Craig Nelson:

process content, then technology, those were our strongest deployments.

Craig Nelson:

These were people that were not afraid , to ask in to that, QBR

Craig Nelson:

meeting , and if they were perceived as being the sales trainer and

Craig Nelson:

they'd say, why would you be here?

Craig Nelson:

Because as you're selling, we're going to be helping you get better.

Craig Nelson:

I like that business within a business, if they felt it was a

Craig Nelson:

business, they would attend various meetings across the organization.

Craig Nelson:

Ultimately, it wasn't just the scorecard is the technology being adopted it was

Craig Nelson:

a, what impact are they having, our clients, not just being landed, but also

Craig Nelson:

expanded and are they being successful,

Craig Nelson:

We also had a couple of clients that over the years.

Craig Nelson:

For as fast as they were building content, they were retiring content.

Craig Nelson:

They kind of got it, right?

Craig Nelson:

More wasn't more.

Craig Nelson:

So you always look for that person that wanted to build a business,

Craig Nelson:

but want to do it in a smart way.

Craig Nelson:

Those are the best deployments.

Craig Nelson:

Those are deployments that, a decade later, they were still in play.

Erich Starrett:

Those are the deployments that stopped and thought like a business.

Erich Starrett:

Who are our key stakeholders?

Erich Starrett:

What do they want?

Erich Starrett:

And if I help this silo get what they want, will they understand if I bring

Erich Starrett:

them all together cross functionally to nod their heads in the same room?

Erich Starrett:

I don't know.

Erich Starrett:

Maybe a center of excellence.

Erich Starrett:

Right?

Erich Starrett:

So maybe can you talk about those concepts

Erich Starrett:

? Craig Nelson: Yeah, I think, with ice and terror, right?

Erich Starrett:

Intelligence center, we felt that if you could get more of the organization

Erich Starrett:

bought in to the discipline.

Erich Starrett:

There's been those companies we've come across where the, executive team felt you

Erich Starrett:

were either in sales or enabling sales.

Erich Starrett:

It might be a little bit of a stretch for, for some businesses to think about, but I

Erich Starrett:

think now that we're in more of a customer centric world, why wouldn't you work with

Erich Starrett:

sales and partners as part of your routine to understand the inflection points that

Erich Starrett:

are in the field where you're learning,

Erich Starrett:

a lot of companies talk customer centric, but once the last time did a

Erich Starrett:

ride along and listen to the client and it wouldn't be a ride along in person

Erich Starrett:

today, it's more in web conferences, doesn't matter, by the way, it's, it's

Erich Starrett:

really understanding, great discovery.

Erich Starrett:

Some disciplines are still for real, right?

Erich Starrett:

Question based selling, you know, ask a lot of great

Erich Starrett:

questions and learn from clients.

Erich Starrett:

Yeah.

Erich Starrett:

And then go to the next town and learn from a different client.

Erich Starrett:

I think more and more today, it's building that center of excellence.

Erich Starrett:

I'm back, leading sales and we're looking at one vertical at a time, but the

Erich Starrett:

first question might be, is that in that vertical that you're doing really, really

Erich Starrett:

well in, where you have clients , who's the best out there, who are the people out

Erich Starrett:

there we can go to market with or go to customer, that understand that market,

Erich Starrett:

because a genErich question is good, a question to that specific vertical, be

Erich Starrett:

it healthcare, manufacturing, financial, you know, great set of questions,

Erich Starrett:

great content, great messaging, but you really have to go to the thought

Erich Starrett:

leaders in that respective place, right?

Erich Starrett:

That vertical, that market,

Erich Starrett:

one of the things that we've learned over the years that, selling on the West

Erich Starrett:

coast was different than the East coast.

Erich Starrett:

Which rest assured is different than it is in Minneapolis, St.

Erich Starrett:

Paul.

Erich Starrett:

So it's just different.

Erich Starrett:

And then you go abroad to Europe and it was different there too.

Erich Starrett:

In the end it was, more of a consultative conversation.

Erich Starrett:

The hope being is that, and I do think that more and more people are talking

Erich Starrett:

about go to market partners and selling through them, learning about who they're

Erich Starrett:

connecting to because they've got the credibility and you most likely don't.

Erich Starrett:

So why wouldn't you reach out?

Erich Starrett:

But it's an investment of time and it's also a bit of a strategy call.

Erich Starrett:

Do you want to hire all these roles or do you want to, work with

Erich Starrett:

partners and go to market together?

Erich Starrett:

It's a different approach.

Erich Starrett:

So position three, by design.

Erich Starrett:

If you're promoting and elevating a function, it's elevating to something.

Erich Starrett:

So the aspirational state that was position number three was that

Erich Starrett:

sales enablement would evolve to be chief productivity officer.

Erich Starrett:

What are your thoughts on the evolution of enablement?

Erich Starrett:

Is it a role in the C suite

Erich Starrett:

? Craig Nelson: I'm not concerned about the title of the role, uh, as

Erich Starrett:

I, as I would be the passion of that individual who's leading enablement

Erich Starrett:

within their respective company, being able to reach the right people.

Erich Starrett:

and be able to overcome some of the obstacles that, that the

Erich Starrett:

company is putting in front of you.

Erich Starrett:

It's one thing to say, you're going to be customer centric.

Erich Starrett:

It's something very different to, do ride alongs and then with

Erich Starrett:

this information we gather from the field, actually do something

Erich Starrett:

,, it's good to have that, executive title.

Erich Starrett:

But I think most importantly, it's the better you understand the market

Erich Starrett:

you're selling into you , that's one of the things with enablement

Erich Starrett:

early on, we had some big ideas, but the clients weren't ready for it.

Erich Starrett:

Enablement maturity, Right.

Erich Starrett:

I love the term that's got coined many years ago, random acts of enablement.

Erich Starrett:

And when he said that, I'm like, finally, somebody put a term on something

Erich Starrett:

where we tried to nail down for years.

Erich Starrett:

Usually somebody that's, somebody who's super passionate that's able to step up

Erich Starrett:

in these meetings and say, all right, before we recruit another hundred

Erich Starrett:

partners how do we do with the last 100

Erich Starrett:

Right.

Erich Starrett:

Yeah.

Erich Starrett:

And I like what you said earlier, too, about a strategic function.

Erich Starrett:

And I'll add a little bit to that.

Erich Starrett:

An organization looking through the lens of cross functional enablement

Erich Starrett:

when there's an economic downturn, it's not the first function to go,

Craig Nelson:

and let's, let's talk about today, you know, 2024,

Craig Nelson:

I'll go back to my, my earlier positioning around what enablement

Craig Nelson:

is, if you're thinking about retaining clients, think enablement.

Craig Nelson:

The selling organization, a lot of companies have reduced that

Craig Nelson:

group as well to me, that's a bit of a beginning of the end.

Craig Nelson:

You know, that's, that's your lifeblood of your company.

Craig Nelson:

But right now, maybe enablement is going to be making sure your customer

Craig Nelson:

success organization , make sure they're enabled, make sure they understand,

Craig Nelson:

not on an annual basis when they come to the renewal, make sure they

Craig Nelson:

understand week by week, month by month.

Craig Nelson:

Are these companies taking true advantage of our solution?

Craig Nelson:

how many deployments have you gone in to look at after a couple of years

Craig Nelson:

and they're just not that far along.

Craig Nelson:

why wait, right, for that annual review?

Craig Nelson:

I'm saying something that I think most companies have already figured out.

Craig Nelson:

If you can't keep these clients and expand them, It may not

Craig Nelson:

ever be profitable revenue.

Craig Nelson:

There's a real reason to retain because those same companies will be buying again.

Craig Nelson:

, and you've got some credibility within that organization.

Craig Nelson:

Hopefully that, CS professional is still there with that relationship and

Craig Nelson:

you're proactively coming into them.

Craig Nelson:

Giving them customer stories.

Craig Nelson:

Giving them ideas on how they can do better.

Craig Nelson:

You're bringing ideas to them.

Erich Starrett:

And what I hear there is not only is the customer service and

Erich Starrett:

delivery team landing the desired business outcome that was promised by sales.

Erich Starrett:

Why?

Erich Starrett:

And how is it promised by sales?

Erich Starrett:

The entire sales ecosystem was strategically set up to have a consistent

Erich Starrett:

value message that everyone from the BDR initially in identifying the opportunity,

Erich Starrett:

and then the salesperson and bringing it home and landing in those couple desired

Erich Starrett:

business outcomes that resonate with that client, then the customer service is

Erich Starrett:

landing those desired business outcomes.

Erich Starrett:

This is one Jacco over at Winning by Design . I went through his

Erich Starrett:

Revenue Architecture course and what they landed on is impact.

Erich Starrett:

recurring impact.

Erich Starrett:

And I think that's the perfect way to put it landing the desired business

Erich Starrett:

outcome, seeing the impact, ensuring the client realizes the connection of

Erich Starrett:

what they've been bringing to the client and how it relates to that impact and

Erich Starrett:

continuing that relationship and looking for new opportunities to drive impact.

Craig Nelson:

and, customer centric.

Craig Nelson:

What does that mean?

Craig Nelson:

A company has a sales process.

Craig Nelson:

Why wouldn't you have a buyer journey?

Craig Nelson:

, it only makes sense.

Craig Nelson:

And then why wouldn't those two come together?

Craig Nelson:

Where are, decisions formed on, is that vendor any good?

Craig Nelson:

Interesting enough.

Craig Nelson:

There's some surveys that say it's during the sales process,

Craig Nelson:

Did you make it easier for them to learn about you?

Craig Nelson:

Did you make it easy for them to buy from you?

Craig Nelson:

Are you thinking about sales execution where it's not, three

Craig Nelson:

weeks till a proposal sent out?

Craig Nelson:

Are you personalizing it for that particular buyer?

Craig Nelson:

So let's say you nail the front end of the cycle, Erich, then you got

Craig Nelson:

to nail the back end of the cycle.

Craig Nelson:

And if you don't do the back end of the cycle, again, you might land and

Craig Nelson:

have the unprofitable deal in place.

Craig Nelson:

They don't even want to keep.

Craig Nelson:

Salesforce taught us a lot about that in the early days of, isn't a winnable deal,

Craig Nelson:

are they going to keep it?

Craig Nelson:

Are they going to expand,

Craig Nelson:

now the question is, if you look at customer enablement and CX.

Craig Nelson:

It's the experience of the seller.

Craig Nelson:

It's the experience of the partner.

Craig Nelson:

It's the experience of the buyer.

Craig Nelson:

That's increasingly going to matter, I think, in the next 10 years.

Craig Nelson:

have you made it easy for them to, to buy from?

Craig Nelson:

And have you made it easier for your sellers to sell?

Craig Nelson:

They'll stick around.

Craig Nelson:

it's interesting when we were interviewing sales reps, five, 10 years ago, they

Craig Nelson:

were saying, do you have enablement, ? Are you thinking about our success?

Craig Nelson:

What's like, all right, we finally have arrived, right?

Craig Nelson:

They now know that.

Craig Nelson:

Why would they want to come in and draft all the materials they knew they needed?

Craig Nelson:

Well, it's already there.

Craig Nelson:

I think today, if we look forward, it's got to be a company

Craig Nelson:

thing going to summarize here.

Craig Nelson:

, you got to look at that entire journey.

Craig Nelson:

, you've got to cut out the friction.

Craig Nelson:

You really got to think about the experience of the seller, the partner,

Craig Nelson:

the buyer, , not just the financials, because that experience, it will matter.

Craig Nelson:

It's what differentiates companies.

Craig Nelson:

There's a whole slew of new A.

Craig Nelson:

I.

Craig Nelson:

companies coming around the corner.

Craig Nelson:

That's what's fun about this industry.

Craig Nelson:

We know they're coming, but what they better do fairly quickly is find a use

Craig Nelson:

case and a business problem to solve.

Craig Nelson:

And then find a, go to customer, go to market strategy that aligns.

Craig Nelson:

Because the best technology, as we've all figured out, doesn't always win.

Erich Starrett:

Especially if it's an empty shell, right?

Erich Starrett:

Without enablement attached.

Erich Starrett:

Yeah,

Erich Starrett:

. Craig Nelson: believers.

Erich Starrett:

We're believers, Erich.

Erich Starrett:

But yeah, if you don't do the enablement part, you know, it's just a big idea.

Erich Starrett:

And what did you say the other day?

Erich Starrett:

the ideas are for free, you just put them out there.

Erich Starrett:

Dreaming's free ideas are free and you can turn

Erich Starrett:

them into impact if you do it right.

Erich Starrett:

As you know, the Sales Enablement Society, at the time, announced

Erich Starrett:

at the Global SES Experience in San Diego that they were evolving to

Erich Starrett:

become the Revenue Enablement Society.

Erich Starrett:

Curious, your reaction to that announcement how

Erich Starrett:

does that land with you?

Craig Nelson:

Yeah, I'm glad we're ending on this because there's

Craig Nelson:

many crossroads and people have written about this, over the years.

Craig Nelson:

I think right now that the fact that enablement is a profession isn't seen as

Craig Nelson:

a, standard role within these companies and a standard discipline is an issue.

Craig Nelson:

And I think Making this about revenue, not just a sales thing,

Craig Nelson:

is going to give us that seat at the table that we've longed for.

Craig Nelson:

I think it's going to put into perspective, hey, the enablement team

Craig Nelson:

should be part of the planning cycle for companies, once you're revenue.

Craig Nelson:

So, short answer is, absolutely.

Craig Nelson:

I think this is long overdue, Erich, in my opinion.

Craig Nelson:

, that it become revenue enablement, but for those companies that think of

Craig Nelson:

enablement as all customer roles should be enabled, they've already been doing this.

Craig Nelson:

I think this opens up, more conversations.

Craig Nelson:

It opens up a journey now that we can tackle.

Craig Nelson:

It's not going to be any one company, in my opinion, that's going to tackle it.

Craig Nelson:

It's going to be a collection of companies.

Craig Nelson:

It's kinda funny, we always wanted to be, you know, the single source of truth.

Craig Nelson:

There's only gonna be one data store.

Craig Nelson:

I haven't seen it yet, you know, nobody still have stuff up on

Craig Nelson:

YouTube and LinkedIn and you name it.

Craig Nelson:

So, certain ideas, ultimately don't fly.

Craig Nelson:

But I think certain use cases.

Craig Nelson:

Once across the organization, once pointed at enabling revenue and repeating

Craig Nelson:

success in revenue and profitability, I think this discipline is going to

Craig Nelson:

be here, beyond the next 10 years

Craig Nelson:

where we're testing the market today is, is going out to the field and asking

Craig Nelson:

that question, " how big a deal is the customer enablement customer experience?"

Craig Nelson:

That that's part of our sort of list of questions we asked.

Craig Nelson:

And how can we make a, not just a better environment for sellers and partners,

Craig Nelson:

better environment for the customer during the cycle of buying and deploying.

Erich Starrett:

I hear a resounding yes there.

Erich Starrett:

, it makes sense because where you started was talking about enabling the

Erich Starrett:

entire customer facing frontline, let's shift from focusing on sales on the

Erich Starrett:

front lines to everyone who touches the customer, making sure we're including

Erich Starrett:

customer service, including partners, including sales overlay, if that hasn't

Erich Starrett:

been done to date sales engineering.

Erich Starrett:

And that's what you've been naturally doing for more than a decade or

Erich Starrett:

two, right, which is beautiful.

Erich Starrett:

So we've been in the past.

Erich Starrett:

We've landed in the present, a good bit, everything that you've been talking

Erich Starrett:

about that we've need to focus on the customer and the impact and an additional

Erich Starrett:

emphasis on customer success, that's the here and now in this current economy.

Erich Starrett:

What about the future?

Erich Starrett:

You shared generation three, which is 2024 and beyond.

Erich Starrett:

And I think the headline you shared with me was sales execution

Erich Starrett:

across the buyer journey.

Erich Starrett:

A sales and customer success thing.

Erich Starrett:

Whereas Gen one was marketing and getting everything consolidated,

Erich Starrett:

single source of truth.

Erich Starrett:

Gen two let's enable the Salesforce, get sales and marketing working

Erich Starrett:

together with that value message

Erich Starrett:

and three being sales and customer success coming together in alignment

Erich Starrett:

with marketing Where are we headed?

Craig Nelson:

That's a great summation and also kind of summarizing the years.

Craig Nelson:

Most of the ideas that I've talked about today, if not all of them

Craig Nelson:

have been tested in the field at a local chapter SES meeting.

Craig Nelson:

With a client.

Craig Nelson:

And what we're testing out in the market today is how do we

Craig Nelson:

enable the entire buyer journey?

Craig Nelson:

how do we leverage technology,

Craig Nelson:

the technology you have today it's how do we use the analytics and all the

Craig Nelson:

behavioral understanding of the sellers, buyers, and customers during selling?

Craig Nelson:

You're not waiting to the end of the quarter to see, Hey,

Craig Nelson:

what content made a difference?

Craig Nelson:

You're looking at your platform for enablement day to day to see who's selling

Craig Nelson:

what, where, what products are working.

Craig Nelson:

What's not, you don't want to wait until after a quarter, after a year to say that

Craig Nelson:

new company we acquired isn't selling.

Craig Nelson:

And here's why you want to see during execution, what's happening.

Craig Nelson:

So I think there's going to be a tremendous amount of analytics

Craig Nelson:

that now are bubbled up.

Craig Nelson:

You can use your AI engine to go through it.

Craig Nelson:

Most of us are using AI daily to sell, because it can be

Craig Nelson:

leveraged to take a thousand leads down to a hundred that matter.

Craig Nelson:

To take, a thousand lines of, messaging and take it down

Craig Nelson:

to the 50 words that matter.

Craig Nelson:

So I think AI is going to play a role, but I think more important, it's , , you

Craig Nelson:

want to understand the sales people, the partner people and the customer every day.

Craig Nelson:

That's the execution part and execution would fit underneath revenue enablement.

Craig Nelson:

And, , it doesn't stop when the sale is completed.

Craig Nelson:

It never ends,

Craig Nelson:

one last story for you,

Craig Nelson:

We went to a CRM show in 2002, we purposely got a

Craig Nelson:

booth next to the Siebel booth.

Craig Nelson:

We spent three days at a CRM show, trying to figure out, how are we going

Craig Nelson:

to add value, and then find a set of go to market partners, and we're there

Craig Nelson:

sitting at the booth and the Siebel people kept coming over saying, all

Craig Nelson:

right, who the heck are you guys?

Craig Nelson:

What is this enablement about?

Craig Nelson:

And, because they were in sales, they got it.

Erich Starrett:

On behalf of the audience, thank you for your time, your insights.

Erich Starrett:

And for being not only a forefounder of the society, but

Erich Starrett:

the guy , who got sales enablement.

Erich Starrett:

com.

Craig Nelson:

You can find me up on LinkedIn under Craig Nelson.

Craig Nelson:

, I lead today a company by the name of Triptych, and I lead marketing and sales.

Craig Nelson:

. I love it.

Craig Nelson:

It's a discipline enablement that we see at the core of our work here.

Craig Nelson:

, Erich, thanks for inviting me today.

Craig Nelson:

It's been fun to go down memory lane,.

Erich Starrett:

So look him up.

Erich Starrett:

And continue to be on the cutting edge of sales enablement history being made.

Erich Starrett:

Thanks so much for the time, Craig, excited to keep in touch and have

Erich Starrett:

you back one day soon in the future.

Craig Nelson:

Yeah.

Craig Nelson:

I look forward to it.

Craig Nelson:

Thanks, Erich.

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