Before we recorded this episode of our podcast The Revenue Formula, I discovered something.
It’s called Bravado, and it’s an anonymous sales community.
As you can imagine, the conversation is very… direct.
The first thing I looked at was marketing (that was a mistake), but then I stumbled upon a post about sales enablement:
“the title is basically, sales enablement sucks and they’re a bunch of fake teachers.
First paragraph is something like: I feel like sales enablement doesn’t know what they’re talking about 95% of the time.
They either have never sold, have little to no experience in sales, or they sold for six months, five years ago. (…)
What annoys me is that on top of offering zero value, they’re the ones annoyed when I am the one doing all the busy work, instead of focusing on what really matters. Lastly, they don’t do anything but talk about adding decks and saying hi to new hires.
They’re even worse than marketing.” (02:32)
Wow! That was kinda crazy considering sales enablement is there to help.
To top it off, it was followed up by this poll
So our aim with the episode we recorded (and this article) is to help make sales enablement useful.
What is sales enablement
But first, are we actually clear about what sales enablement really is?
Sales enablement is the process of equipping sales teams with the necessary resources, tools, and information to engage with customers and close deals. The goal of sales enablement is to streamline the sales process, improve sales productivity and effectiveness, and ultimately increase revenue.
And as Toni puts it:
“Generally speaking, you start thinking about sales enablement once you listen to your sales reps and are like, why is she pitching that? What is going on in my sales team?” (04:17)
But what’s the goal?: “it’s about sales efficiency, right? So you wanna basically make sure that people are trained on the best practices for your company in terms of how to pitch. Obviously, which deck to use is also in there.”
“Which questions to ask, which objections to be prepared for, and what competitors to have in mind and so forth. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to happen and needs to land in someone’s brain.
And the problem is when you have 10 AEs and a sales manager, you’re basically gonna run into this issue of the sales manager being really busy, closing all the deals, versus onboarding and teaching and doing all of that stuff with your sales reps. And you know, if you don’t do that, then you end up in this [bravado situation].” (04:30)
What next level sales enablement looks like
In spite of what anyone over at Bravado says, sales enablement is important for a couple of reasons.
You want to a) ramp reps, b) train reps, c) retain reps – all to impact revenue. This involves ongoing training, coaching, improving sales performance and much more.
“Instead of just making this a sales enablement piece, it should be a revenue piece.” (09:14)
And that’s exactly the mindset we tried to carry as we discussed what elements are key to ultimately impact revenue.
As the market and product evolve, it’s essential to keep training your sales team and supplying them with not only material, but an approach.
“Then you have an ongoing flavour to it around the training, ongoing, product training, ongoing competitor training, which is simply necessary due to the fact that your product is evolving, the market is evolving.” (09:55)
And if you have an ongoing approach, what will happen next is this: “I’ve heard a lot of reps basically say this makes me a little bit happier in my role” (10:19)
Maybe that’s a small step to start patching the relationship. But think back to the revenue impact. If you’re unable to articulate the value of new features, or tackle new objections, you’ll be less efficient in your sales approach.
“So let’s just say either you are rolling out MEDDIC or MEDPICK, or you know, some of those concepts. So to reinforce that it’s being lived and breathed.
So, and this is actually where we’re starting to get into like, but wait a minute, isn’t that like a sales manager, sales director kind of responsibility – and it is. But you know, this is one of the areas that I would say it’s shared” (10:49)
Listen to calls, obviously?
We can read the deal history in any CRM, we can see the conversations and listen to the calls. But you need to go a step further.
“if their main medium of receiving information is Gong or other versions of that (…) try and make one little tweak, try and make them jump on actual sales calls, live. Introduce them. And have them participate in that pitch and not necessarily lead it.” (28:09)
The pressure will instantly shift. When going from passive to active participation, things change. If you need to use the deck you created, or tackle the objection you’re training a team on – things are just very different.
“when you’re in it versus you’re just listening to the radio, a lot of more things will pop up in their brain like: this is broken, this is broken.” (28:44)
And the beautiful part, the reps will trust you more:
“They got the same reality check I got. Now I can trust your output a little bit more because I know now we are a little bit closer aligned than you sitting in theory land” (29:17)
And last but not least, you’ll be much more in tune with the reality the sales team face on every call.
Onboarding and training:
If you can ramp a rep faster, that’s a major efficiency gain in your performance. However, it can also be a drain if it takes longer to get new team members successfully out of ramp.
“If someone has been in Salesforce once and then in Salesforce again, sure. That’s doable. But think about Salesloft and Outreach for the SDRs, that’s very complicated and having lots of new folks joining who haven’t dealt with those tools before, think about all of those data tools that you might have, Zoom, Cognism and so forth.
There’s a lot of that stuff that needs to be taught and understood.” (12:27)
There’s a lot to cover in onboarding, and everyone will be at different stages in their experience. That’s why sales enablement has to have a clear plan to successfully onboard new team members fast.
And as Toni points out: “if you have the luxury to specialize your sales enablement team (…) then the way to go about it is for the onboarding and ongoing training on product and on the sales methodology” to be carried by one person (13:15).
Another area where many struggle, simply because “who earned the right to do the coaching?” (15:45).
And the problem really is a result of not hiring the caliber needed to successfully coach the team. While the sales manager should definitely be coaching, there’s just a limit to how much coaching that person can do while managing a team and closing deals.
So why aren’t you getting the right people?
Well simply put, “you don’t have a competitive package at all, usually a terrible package. Usually it doesn’t carry any prestige.” (17:32)
“which then leads to something that I call negative selection. So who goes for that role? Yeah. It’s reps that aren’t successful in the first place.”
Who would wan’t sales coaching from someone who wasn’t successful in selling? You’ve guessed it. No one.
So how do you create a scenario where there’s a good coach that reps actually seek out for advice?
“What Gartner’s actually doing, they are offering their best sales reps to become a coach for a year. And they’re basically paying them, the OTE that they hit, last year.” (18:15)
What’s great about this scenario is that reps will actually want help from that person. And think about this:
“because of the competitive setup of those plans, because of this clear deal ownership thing, because (…) there can only be $1 paid for $1 earned, so to speak. Not multiple times. It’s like, well, if someone wants to help you on your deal, you usually need to, depending on the help, you need to kind of give some percentage up.
So what happens? It doesn’t happen, and the only person helping you is your manager.
And that manager probably is busy with all the other stuff going on. So now you introduce that sales enablement person, suddenly it becomes like an awesome free resource. Do I need to share my deal with that person? No. I’ll take it.” (20:29)
And as Toni puts it, in this scenario you have “a sales enablement function on steroids” (21:50)
There’s just one caveat, “you will have someone running around doing that stuff that’s being paid $250,000 a year (…) And you need to be prepared for that number.” (21:57)
Performance improvement plans
Being put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) is in many companies the mark of death.
“It’s kind of common practice that after some underperformance of a rep, you put them on a pip, you know, performance improvement plan. And in many cases, this is just the heads up, we’re gonna fire you in two months” (29:58)
But in an ideal scenario, you consider investing resources in actually improving performance (provided that’s the issue). The simple reason being: You’ll have a very concrete gap in your team. If it’s an SDR, you’ll get fewer opportunities and in effect create a gap. If it’s an account executive, you’ll distribute more deals – but your closing capacity doesn’t change. Meaning: Sales efficiency will drop.
“I think with good sales enablement, you can actually create a bit of a stronger case for improvement. You put someone on a PIP, and then you’re paired with resources.” (30:26)
“if you don’t give them any help, neither from the manager, because the manager in many cases is like, yeah, this is kind of wasted time. Now I’m gonna spend my time with my high performing reps instead. Then you’re creating the self-fulfilling prophecy.” (31:11)
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