Enablement for Go-to-Market, Not Just Sales
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chris Anderson, head of Community & Events at Guru. Our conversation turned into an exploration of how Sales Enablement has evolved, how technology impacts our work, what metrics to track, and how shortsighted it is to provide enablement for just “Sales” instead of the entire customer-facing Go-to-Market team.
Since these questions seem to be common ones, we thought we’d share the conversation below to shed some light on the subject.
The Evolution of Enablement:
So, Roz, you’ve been enabling and empowering sales and go-to-market teams for over a decade, but before that, you were a top performing sales rep and manager. What did Sales Enablement look like when you were a rep?
Sales Enablement wasn't really a thing when I first started in sales. My manager sat me down when I first started and explained to me how he approached deals and I remember taking a lot of notes so I could document what he said and refer back to it. I carried my notes with me wherever I went and would look at my notes when I need to use some of the knowledge.
I remember an in person sales call with a hospital director in the hospital admin’s office and he asked me a question that I couldn't remember the answer to. In my head, I debated if it would be unprofessional to pull out my notebook and look up the answer. In the end, I didn’t pull out the notebook and opted for the old, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” I hated saying that when I knew I should have known the answer and, worse yet, it was right there in my notebook had I been able to look it up. This signaled to me that there must be a better way.
What originally drew you to shifting into Sales Enablement, and what did your first role in that capacity entail?
When I was a sales manager I became very intrigued with ways to make my team successful. I realized that 1) not all reps were successful selling the same way and I needed to support each one to maximize their styles, and 2) that the reps needed to have a framework and resources that they can refer back to in their time of need.
I challenged myself to make each rep comfortable selling based on their own personality and tried to document as much as I could on the company intranet so that everyone had the information and resources they needed. The more I did that, the more I enjoyed the training and enablement over the day to day responsibilities of a sales manager.
My manager recognized my skill set and offered me the opportunity to move into a training/coaching role on a trial basis and see if it made an impact on team performance. At the time, the role was very much delivering live trainings and onboardings, followed by a lot of 1:1 sales coaching, and then it evolved from there.
What are some of the more notable ways that Enablement has changed over the past decade? How did you adapt in your roles over the years?
Enablement has evolved from mostly live sales training to full-on enablement, providing reps with the resources and tools to be productive. Training has become one of the pieces of enablement. As technology has progressed, the ability to offer scalable enablement resources has improved to include asynchronous and just-in-time resources as well.
Back in the day, I would have described myself as a sales trainer, then as Sales Enablement, and now I would say I focus on Go-to-Market (GTM) Enablement. The evolution continues in providing resources, process, tools, training, and coaching to all customer-facing roles.
Measuring Business Impact:
A lot of Enablement leaders struggle with how to best measure the business impact of Enablement. What are the most important metrics to track, from your standpoint, and can you share any tips on how to effectively instrument, measure, and report on Enablement KPI metrics?
The metrics to track will vary by program and initiative. Before starting on an enablement initiative, I always meet with the key stakeholders to understand what part of the business they are trying to impact by providing this enablement. From there, we agree on what metrics will indicate if that needle is being moved and the timeframe we will need to measure the delta for the enablement impact.
New hire onboarding: time to ramp, time to fist closed deal, etc.
Sales skills trainings: days in stage, deal size, sales cycle length
Product trainings: number of deals in pipe with new product, # of new product deals closed, size of new product deal
The challenge, in my opinion, stems from the fact that there are a lot of factors that go into a GTM team being productive, many of which are out of the control of the enablement team and those factors can impact the results of some of the enablement efforts.
For example, I remember doing product training for reps in conjunction with a new product launch. The training itself went well, but the reps really struggled to sell the new product. If you looked strictly at data regarding the impact to revenue based on closed deals from the new product, you could have surmised that the training was not up to par.
So I dug a bit deeper to see what was wrong. I wanted to determine what the root cause was. Was it truly an enablement problem and how could we fix it, or were other factors contributing to the lack of sales. I went back to see where the reps were losing the deals related to this specific product and it was almost always after a trial. The real problem was that the product was just not ready for prime time and when the customers got into a trial they figured that out, we lost the deal. Eventually, the reps lost confidence in the product and stopped trying to sell it.
This was not an enablement problem. This was a product maturity problem. We worked with PM and PMM, giving trial feedback to improve the product and, when ready, relaunched the product internally. As part of this relaunch effort, we did another training that was focused on showing the reps the improvements made to the product, sharing customer successes with the improvement and reinstalled their confidence to pitch the product. After that, the business impact showed.
I learned a few big lessons from this experience:
Don't do training before a product is ready and has been battle tested
Make sure the product is working with beta customers so there is proof of this
Use the successes of the beta customers to enable the reps to sell to real use cases, leveraging beta customers as social proof that the product works
Importance of GTM vs. Sales:
At your firm, Level213, you’re expanding beyond sales enablement to empowering the broader go-to-market or revenue team, including Customer Success, Customer Support, and Sales in many cases. Why is it important, nowadays, to expand the purview beyond sales teams?
Customers today expect anyone they interact with during their customer journey, both pre and post sales, to be able to provide the same level of service and knowledge. They don’t really care what the person at your company’s title is or if they sit pre-sales or post-sales. They expect everyone to be able to give them what they need, when they need it, with the same level of service/expertise.
I was once on a customer call with an AE, SE and CSM. The customer asked a question and the AE asked, “which one of us are you asking?” The customer responded, “I have no idea, I’m asking your company. I don't understand your internal structure well enough to know who can best respond.”
Additionally, if your product is solid and expanding, a happy customer will want to expand with you. The CSM teams are the ones that are having adoption and usage conversation and should be the eyes and ears of the organization for growth opportunities.
Support often interacts with customers when they are having trouble, which can turn into churn. They also are the ones discovering customers trying to rig the solution to be used in an unintended or ineffective way and can guide them to solve their problem with an add-on solution instead.
Therefore, enablement today should ensure that all roles in GTM have the knowledge, resources and playbooks to support customers, as well as knowing how and when to pull in other members of the account team.
Can you walk us through what the downstream implications on revenue are when you narrow the scope to just sales enablement instead of the broader GTM teams?
When you only focus only on Sales proper, you lose out on multiple other opportunities to impact your revenue numbers:
Missing growth and upsell opportunities that arise after the initial sale, which are often low hanging fruit for the company.
Churn and churn prevention can be a bigger factor. Even if your revenue is healthy, churn can eat into it. Back to the united company front, when customers do not experience the same high level of service post-sale, you run the risk of losing them and damaging your brand. We have seen first hand what happens at companies where the experience a customer has during the buying process is dramatically different than the post-sale implementation experience. This inevitably leads to high levels of churn, which can be prevented by enabling the post-sale teams, but the GTM and Enablement leaders need to make it a priority.
Without proper enablement for all of GTM, competitive threats will grow and become increasingly dangerous, eating away at market share and revenue.
How to Successfully Enable the GTM teams:
So with revenue empowerment across customer-facing teams, what do companies need to be successful in terms of the individual or team leading the enablement or empowerment program?
Companies should answer the question of, “What does each role need in terms of tools, process, resources, training, etc. in order to effectively engage with their customers at the point in the customer journey that they interact with them?” They also need to know how to share information across roles so everyone has access to customer interaction data and is aware of the playbook and process to work seamlessly as an account team. The more consistent and scalable the infrastructure is, the more agile and effective the teams can be.
It is helpful for the enablement lead to have been in a selling or customer-facing role. If you have a larger team, try to include individuals with backgrounds from all the disciplines the enablement function supports. Regardless of background, the enablement team needs to be able to put on the hats of the roles they support and consider the day to day functions and needs of those roles. From that standpoint, the enablement team needs to be the liaison between the front line management and other supporting roles in the organization, ensuring each role has the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to engage and support customers on a day to day basis. Not only do these people need to have an enablement specific skill set, they must be master negotiators and communicators within the organization, aligning stakeholders and priorities.
Sales reps, customer success managers, and support agents need all sorts of information at their fingertips to deliver a world-class experience for customers. Everything from their company’s offerings, to competitive positioning, product FAQs and troubleshooting guides, and the list goes on and on. These folks on the front lines need accurate, up-to-date knowledge to do their jobs. What is the role of managing all of this ever-changing knowledge in relation to enabling and empowering these teams?
In my experience, enablement should own this effort in partnership with SMEs and stakeholders from across the organization. Enablement are the ones that determine what the reps need and how it should be presented, as well as acting as the liaison with the greater organization to ensure the information is easily accessible, accurate and up to date. This process needs to be painless for the SMEs and stakeholders so that they can and will support it while they do their day jobs. When enablement provides the infrastructure to support this, and makes it easy for SMEs to provide trusted resources, everyone wins.
I fell in love with Guru when I realized the platform was the key to being able to manage this. The platform makes it easy for GTM teams to find what they need, when they need it, and be confident the information is trusted or reach out to the SME if they have questions or need more insight. At the same time, the SMEs can easily manage the content they own and ensure that the customer-facing roles have the knowledge at their fingertips to support the customers at all stages of the customer journey. The Enablement team can easily manage and monitor the process through the platform and be the liaison between the teams they support and the SMEs.
The Future of Enablement and What to Expect:
How do you see enablement/empowerment continuing to evolve over the coming years? What changes do you anticipate, and how can companies prepare?
There are two big factors that will impact this. One is AI and machine learning as they continue to evolve. They will impact the GTM teams internally and externally. The second is Generation Z entering the workforce in the next four years or so.
So let's start with AI first:
Externally: Some functions of the GTM employees will be automated and handled by AI and bots and humans will handle more complex aspects of the needs assessment and relationships. The humans will need to have far superior knowledge to effectively deliver on what will become the day to day functions of their roles. GTM will need to be set up to be strategic, critical thinkers and experts in their domains. Customers will expect more from the humans they interact with at the brands they do business with. Enablement will have to provide the resources, skills, systems, and knowledge to empower that.
Internally: Enablement should identify and support AI, bot and machine learning tools that the GTM teams can leverage to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. The technology should help the employees be strategic and guide the customer journey process through the moments that matter.
Enabling Generation Z will entail:
For Gen Z, technology has always been a fully integrated experience into every part of their lives -- and they won't think their work experience should be any different. They expect on-demand services that are available all the time and with low barriers to access. They will thrive when they are given the opportunity to have a fully immersive experience and will enjoy the challenges of being a part of the enablement solution.
SaaS organizations should be thinking about how they are going to enable these Gen Z expectations. For example, the traditional classroom training experience may not resonate with them and will need to be blended with different modalities of learning, mostly with the aid of technology.
Distilling a Take-Away:
We covered a lot of ground. If you could leave folks joining us today with one take-away, what would it be?
Think about enablement from the point of view of your customers and their journey. Ask the question, “What does the customer need and when do they need it?” Then back that into what enablement you provide your GTM teams in support of the customer needs. Think of enablement in terms of all the knowledge, resources and skills the customer-facing human will need to be on the front lines of your business.
How does your enablement program effectively support your entire GTM team? Does everyone at your company in a customer-facing role have what they need to effectively engage with customers throughout the buyer journey? Contact Level213 here and we’ll walk through these questions (and more!) so you can determine how to take your GTM team to the next level.
Roz Greenfield, Co-Founder & Chief Enablement Officer at Level213