An expert panel of sales enablement leaders joined Scott and Brian on the 35th Episode of the Inside: Sales Enablement Podcast. This panel focused on sales enablement leaders who have been in the sales enablement profession for at least 15 years. Panelists included:
- Sheevaun Thatcher, CPC, Head of Sales and Global Enablement, RingCentral
- Imogen McCourt, Sales Enablement Leader & Advocate | Delivering the ‘Business of Sales’
- Doug Clower, Head of Enablement, MicroFocus
“I find it very interesting the paradox between the title of leader vs the initiatives they are running. In looking at the operational excellence vs innovation answers, there is a lot of tactical answers, when in a time like this we have to be very innovative”– Doug Clower
Working at the Intersection of Company, Product, and Teams
The lifecycle of sales enablement within companies is ever-evolving and changing. Throughout the lively panel discussion, the guest analysts provided very thoughtful ideas of the intersection points they see and manage on a daily basis including:
- Where is our funding coming from and how do our “customers” perceive us?
- Are we a sales enablement business that others want to invest in?
- What is the impact on our customers?
- Who provides the components to help salespeople be successful?
- Where is the intersection of strategy and tactics?
- What are the perspectives of sales enablement teams and leaders?
- What’s the impact on the boundary between our company and our customer’s organization (those who buy)?
- How do we manage the intersection of attrition and churn with the investments we need to make?
Feedback loops are really important and collaborating means we’re more than the sum of our parts. We can reflect that on the day-to-day feedback that’s coming from our clients. Remember, customer conversations are our product. That’s what we’re selling to executives internally– Imogen McCourt
To the panelists, Sales Enablement leaders must take action to :
1) Create Impactful Two-Way “Learning Loops”:
The panelists explored the concept that sales enablement isn’t just one-and-done when in reality sales enablement is always on. The idea and understanding of feedback are critical. Many people look at feedback as a one-one transmission of an idea, where, feedback to the panel is a two-way bi-model approach where multiple groups create a learning opportunity for all as they pursue an outcome and goal.
This was really driven home when all 3 panelists revealed that they do not have a professional learning background. Why? Because they believed many L&D professionals think learning is a 1-way moment, where sales enablement leaders must have a more 2-way bi-directional feedback loop approach to constantly learning that helps them adjust on the fly.
That conversation between the customer and salespeople is what sales enablement teams are engineering. This is highly impactful to their company because, on one hand, the company needs to profitable. And on the other hand, the customer needs to be successful. This is where our value is as sales enablement professionals. This is the ultimate breakdown of sales enablement leaders today. This is where they fail.
To that end:
- Our salespeople are being bombarded to talk about products.
- Salespeople are getting that product technical “speak” from their own company
- The sales enablement team has to de-fragment the technical product knowledge and help salespeople bring something more simple to the customer
2) Coordination Powers the Value of Sales Enablement
Coordination is required and many times sales enablement leaders find themselves in the mix of different perceptions and areas of contention. While friction can indeed exist, the sales enablement leaders on this panel focused on the synergies created by bringing together multiple perspectives. And that’s where learning happens.
The panel of guest analysts discussed this idea of coordination in great detail. That concept was sales enablement as “inter-connector” to the many departments involved in helping sales teams sell. To the guest analysts, that means sales enablement leaders must be empathetic of the teams they are working with and understand where groups like product, marketing, and sales leadership are coming from. Sales enablement leaders need to be curious about how they are integrated into the goal, which is to help the customer be successful.
With that in mind, these inter-connections are always evolving. Meaning there are no silver-bullets in sales enablement, it’s not linear and leaders can’t mandate great conversations. There is much work to do — and that’s the value of sales enablement.
Throughout the discussion, several key points surfaced including:
THEME 1: Sales Enablement Leaders Have Permission to Go Beyond
- The future orientation and future frame in the panel discussion were compelling. The panelists through deeply and broadly about “why” sales enablement is important to their internal stakeholders. They used terms like orchestrate, blend, inter-connect, team, learn, feedback loops, and outcomes. These are not terms said within the sales organization where it’s much more focused on individual sales tasks. Sales enablement leaders can go beyond reacting to sales leaders tactical conversations to helping people think differently, sell differently, and win differently That means they have to become more integrated as leaders.
- To lead the enablement function, the panel encouraged leaders to think of themselves as an “eco-system architect”. While this may seem overly strategic, it’s a critical skill. The panel encouraged sales enablement leaders to think about the roles and departmental value and blend that value together with process, content, skills, and tools to make sure it’s wrapped up in ways that sellers can embrace
- To that end, there is a difference in IT systems and eco-system thinking. There is a science to eco-system thinking and good sales enablement leaders are able to embrace this complexity to orchestrate outcomes with others. Find out more with this video
THEME 2: KNOW AND EMBRACE YOUR VALUE TO SALES CONVERSATIONS
Thinking about products puts us intoa tactical approach. We have to help sellers know how to use products to benefit customers. — Doug Clower
- The value is not in your product or project. It’s not found in your personal skills. Know your value to the sales conversation. Try saying: “I am valuable to the sales conversation and we’re going to fight Productitis” on a daily basis
- It’s important to empower and equip sellers. That may sometimes means sales enablement leaders will not get “credit” — and that’s ok. Remember you must be able to explain to the executive teams what your impact is through data and progress towards the goal.
- Customers are inflicted with “Productitis”. What is Productitis? It exists in reporting to the street, in finance, and in product groups. Nobody owns how it comes together at the customer’s desk and the bias is massive. We need to go beyond our siloed departments to help the company understand they have Productitis. For example, when marketing is providing content, where specifically is that content useful in the sales process.
THEME 3: BLENDING PERSPECTIVES CREATES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR LEARNING
- Data is important, but the data must be in the lens of what’s actually working for salespeople.
- Blending cross-functional groups is critical, there is no one “only” answer. Data is just a measure, and it’s critical to understand why the data is important and you have to help leaders contextualize it. The panel explored this as the concept of being a modern-day “mission control” and what it means to get someone to the moon. The analogy was great to explore because planning is required, multiple functions are required, and the goal/outcome is critical. Not only are there safety challenges in that challenge, but there are coordination, integration, and orchestration challenges in that as well.
- Blend perspectives to elevate, do not blend to comprise. This is the role of sales enablement leaders – to use data and feedback loops to blend these capabilities together to ensure the mission is achieved — for salespeople and customers.