Bryan Grobstein gave this presentation at the Sales Enablement Festival in October 2020, when he was Director of Revenue Operations and Enablement at Garten.
In this article, I’ll walk you through my personal approach to designing an enablement brand identity. It’s a bit different from your ‘traditional’ enablement program because, in my opinion, it’s no longer enough to have a defined sales process with measurable outcomes.
We need recognition and the appropriate amount of discussion around the importance of our programs and the impact we have. I’ll share why I believe a sophisticated approach comprised of a unique mission statement and documented vision with established enablement values within an enablement brand identity is the way forward.
I've spent the majority of my enablement career split between companies like Groupon and Mindbody but in this article, I'm going to spend some time walking through my personal approach to designing an enablement brand identity that is a little bit different from your traditional enablement program.
These are contributing factors to how you create a groundswell and buy-in for the identity that is your enablement program.
Traditionally, revenue enablement helps orchestrate and when I say traditionally, I mean always, my brand included, we orchestrate the necessary insights, resources, and knowledge base to create an effective and efficient revenue team.
But it's no longer enough to have a defined sales process with measurable outcomes and orchestrating 30 to 60-minute training sessions that cover a variety of topics to drive a greater amount of value for your programs and impact.
Equally as important for us is the recognition and the appropriate amount of discussion around how important your programs can be for the organization, we need to have a sophisticated approach comprised of a unique enablement mission statement, your documented vision or roadmap for how your programs are going to roll out, and making sure that you have established enablement values that operate within an enablement brand identity.
Similar to your company's mission, vision, and values, having a charter and a program that is defined by a culture of learning.
Alignment on all of these aspects of your strategy across many business functions, if not all business functions will ultimately impact how revenue teams and even teams that you don't support outside of revenue, adopt the concepts and adapt them to their own practical application.
Adopting the concepts and adapting them to the practical application of the job function.
This article will give you some of the framework, little tidbits of my framework, to define and design a collaborative culture-driven learning environment with both memorable and measurable outcomes.
Whether you are a team of one as an enablement practitioner, you're rolling solo, or you manage a larger enablement function, it's important to first identify the core principles that are going to make up your charter that will ultimately be the foundation for your contents development strategy.
So it can potentially impact your standard of modalities - how you're delivering the materials that you deliver through your program, and the cadence for your training delivery.
The methods of ongoing enablement are somewhat of that roadmap as well. All of those things being important variables for your charter. This sample of core principles I utilize when tackling anything from new hire curriculums, the onboarding process, to annualized product and pricing updates.
They are foundational to the coursework or the curriculum that I prescribe for team members.
Organizational, cross-functional contributions
It's extremely important to have hierarchical and cross-functional buy-in for your enablement brand and the content you deliver.
Enablement can be an influence on the initial trajectory of the GTM functions - your go-to-market functions, but the ultimate outcome of your enablement program is often mitigated by your leadership's contributions.
When I say leadership, I mean thought leadership, the hierarchy of the teams you support; managers, directors, VPS, executive team members. Their role is much more robust now than it has ever been.
Ideally, you're leveraging these partnerships for not just being champions or advocates for your programs and for enablement as a brand, but also for their subject matter expertise. They're the ones that are actually involved in content development. They're driving some of the delivery and participation, and constantly reinforcing as coaches from the top down.
Peer-to-peer content development and delivery
This second point is really the most pivotal thing for me, the lateral contributions that happen from peer-to-peer content development, delivery, and education.
Advocacy is paramount from the top down, but the most influential voices are those team members that are actually doing the job every day. Peer-to-peer learning will not only drive adoption of core competencies and alignment on ongoing change, but it also empowers top performers to be a bigger part of the solution, a bigger part of the enablement brand.
Whether they consider themselves senior in their role or just tenured, whether they consider themselves coaches or mentors, this level of involvement in enablement, development, enablement program design, and brand is going to expand the scope of your team, dotted lines if you will, that are implicit not necessarily part of your structure in the organization.
It's our job in enablement to give those people a voice and a platform to socialize their narrative, their wins stories, and how they've achieved what they have already and what they're intending to invest in themselves on an ongoing basis to drive and translate to repeatable revenue, which is the goal for everyone and largely is the driving force behind investment in an enablement team.
Inspect what you expect
Part of the brand identity will be something related to measurable outcomes, it always will be, it always has to be because data-driven decisions and performance-based assessments are the keys to ongoing investment in your enablement brand, both financially as well as resources.
Sometimes these can come from the form of certification through role-plays or call recordings. But it's often a knowledge check within the curriculum through your learning management system.
Most importantly, we need to assess if there has been an incremental improvement in performance based on predefined KPIs...
... maybe not at an individual contributor level as a benchmark for enablement success but at a macro level, where you can look at different cohort groups and ensure you're seeing greater ramped proficiency, to see you are seeing better scale of a particular product, or change in the go-to-market strategy.
At the end of the day, everyone should know the enablement charter, everyone should be familiar with the language that makes up the enablement brand, and how that brand and that charter play directly into the bottom-line performance of the revenue teams.
That's more of a macro, that's about the ideology.
Ground rules for learning
Now that you've established that ideology and those core principles that make up your charter it's important to help teams understand the standard ground rules that can be shared at the outset, beginning, and also the end or the culmination of their learning.
That can be at a very granular level, at the session level, or it can be at the curriculum level, or can just be as part of the breadth of your enablement brand. Learning objective slides as part of each learning experience is very different than your agenda.
Include learnings objectives early and often
Here's what I'm going to talk about - part of that old adage of "tell them what they're going to learn, tell them again, and then tell them what you told them they were going to learn", that intentional redundancy is extremely important.
Whether you're doing it beginning, middle, or end of a session, or the beginning, middle, and end of a curriculum. Part and parcel of that is making the session more approachable with expectations for behavioral change.
Growth mindset means “one big takeaway”
The learning objectives can be an amalgamation of the key things you want to see them put into practical application. I always actually frame it as having a growth mindset that you're going to take one big thing away from this session, this course, this curriculum.
That commitment to change is something they need to vocalize, to validate, to say out loud, to write down, to put on a post-it on their monitor, because that one big thing they commit to for practical application over the next 30 days, that one thing that is going to improve performance let's just say by 1% for each person within your team, expounded by multiple teams, will ultimately result in more bottom-line revenue, better performance, and a better ethos around a growth mindset in an enablement strategy.
Most importantly, it's about adopting concepts. You don't want to be pedantic in your sessions, you don't want to be on a soapbox saying, "Here's how you do it and there is no other way".
I'll talk a little bit about challenging the ideology within the framework of your brand, and your sessions further on. But as long as they have the idea, the concept of one big thing they're going to adopt, and then also adapt that approach healthily to their own style, so it feels organic and sincere, because that's the only way it's going to resonate with your prospects and customers.
That's the win. That's the huge win.
Most importantly, you want to keep it light and keep it concise, I probably don't need to say that to you reading as an enablement professional but it's important to outline short, interactive micro learnings over multiple sessions will have a greater impact on the adoption of your enablement concepts.
Also, it aligns your training philosophy with standard adult learning principles which seem to always include things like active learning environments, multiple modalities, and short recurring topical trainings.
If you're not having fun, and you're not doing it in an approachable and palatable way, that highlights a key takeaway for that session as the only thing that is going to be measured or metric'd and evaluated, then likely, it's a lot of dissent.
It's a lot of stepping away from the learning process and relying on "We don't want to know what we don't know and we're not interested in learning more". That's why having ground rules and exposing your learners and the organization to those ground rules as part of your brand identity is extremely important.
I really like intentional redundancy - I've already mentioned it once in this article but it's important to call out that it's not just redundancy for the sake of redundancy.
We've all taught the perfect practice approach, continue to practice, you're an athlete, a musician, you have a trade, all of those things take repetition to master.
But naming conventions and the characterization for the type of session you are going to be hosting helps ward off that mentality - for a particular type of learner, but it's usually pretty pervasive - that they feel like they took this training before, they've heard this concept before, they know what they're doing.
When you are structuring and communicating the structure of your enablement strategy, you're catering to different types of learners and that can be difficult. Particularly in a fast-paced startup, where it's often a training request from some part of leadership, some part of the go-to-market team, or a cross-functional team you work with like product or finance or customer service.
Those training requests usually result in a 30 to 60-minute subject matter-led virtual instructor-led training that will likely not change very many behaviors. It's often considered, either consciously or subconsciously as white noise.
I share early and often with the organization at large that we will touch on a topic, particularly a topic that's considered to be a core competency for the role, or the job function - we're going to be touching on that four times and each of those four times has its own naming convention, structure, and modality.
Rinse and repeat
Let's talk about all four.
Prework is typically a quick online microlearning accompanied by a task. This task is a little bit of them demonstrating their investment in their own learning but it also helps them come prepared to a discussion where there's going to be an opportunity for them to collaborate with their peers on what they learned and how they're going to leverage what they've learned.
The commitment, including the homework portion, should not take more than 30 minutes. The eLearning is plus or minus 10 minutes and the remainder, due diligence and documentation around the task or homework is up to 20. But never more than 30.
The teamwork session is really where a lot of the learning comes from. It's getting in a room together, whether it be a physical or virtual room, and you're discussing the concepts in much greater detail and a much more practical way. Because a lot of conceptual trainings are pervasive and applicable to all roles, responsibilities, companies, segments, verticals, things like that.
But we want to talk about it within the constructs and context of their role and their audience and their function. The teamwork session will take the homework into consideration, people will come prepared for the discussion, and they'll share examples of practical application.
The teamwork session is also an opportunity for learners to respectfully and professionally challenge the concepts so we can work through those challenges, those mental blocks together.
There will be people in the room that are 100% bought into the ideology or the concept that's been presented and there will be those that are dissenting, aren't in that growth mindset, or identifying areas of opportunities they have to improve.
Talking about that as a collective can be a scary proposition because there are some people that are going to be overly vocal about how it doesn't align with what they do, how they do it, particularly if that's a top performer.
But it's most important to surface those things in a structured environment rather than them being socialized outside of your control, where you can't control the narrative. I often encourage the challenging of the concepts being presented, it depends on your comfort level in orchestrating that conversation.
The last couple of segments of the structure are about that inspection, inspect what we expect - practicing more and creating redundancy. Because best practice is a knowledge check but it's more so for self-reflection, and honest self-reflection, and the perfect opportunity to fine-tune how they want to adapt the concept to their own style, but they're still adopting the principles that were shared in the coursework.
It can be them doing a recording with Zoom by themselves and sharing that recording with a leader, peer, coach, or enablement professional. Or it can be a roleplay often accompanied by some sort of rubric that helps them understand the different things they need to take into consideration when executing against this skill set.
Last, but certainly not least, is a certification. This certification is a notch on their belt, a badge on their arm that basically says they have a certain degree of mastery that shows they are leveraging it effectively in a customer-facing conversation.
I really like going above and beyond with this brand, providing them with badges that are for the core competency that might have a nuance to it that's aligned with your company culture.
Super exciting creative opportunity there to create badges that are values-driven, or skill set driven depending on the topical approach you're taking.
But all of this is part of your enablement brand identity. The prework, teamwork, best practice, certify approach is a functional cadence for you to create practice, create redundancy, create peer-to-peer learning, and a collective environment for a growth mindset.
It's basically setting the expectations that this is how we learn and grow here as a collective team.
In the same vein as peer-to-peer learning, you've heard me say this time and time again because it is one of those big things that make up my approach to my enablement brand. The best learning happens peer-to-peer - people will let their guard down and become more vulnerable to suggested changes.
Vulnerable sounds bad but just means they are open to suggested changes more so when the source of the information is a peer, a peer that is doing that thing within the same job function and they're doing it well.
They're a top performer. Their KPIs are within range of something you can aspire to do, the learner can aspire to do. Many organizations call these types of relationships mentor programs, I feel like mentor programs are typically orchestrated by an L&D team, people and culture team, HR, things like that.
Some of them are formal some of them are informal. Within the constructs of revenue enablement or sales enablement, I like to use it more as - and this is just my framework and my brand - but I call it a buddy program.
Usually, the buddy program is framed by whatever the naming of the company is.
- At Mindbody, I called it the Mind Buddy program.
- At Instawork we called it Insta Buddies.
Those reciprocal relationships are bi-directional, it's not mentor teaching mentee, it is helping tenure team members and newer team members (typically that's the dynamic) share learning, their experiences, their successes, and their wins stories.
Because even a newer person maybe without the same institutional context, has gotten to where they are, they've been hired by the company because they have those success metrics and because they have those stories.
Exchange and dialogue
There needs to be an exchange and a dialogue around what works and what doesn't. The tenure team member can sometimes feel like, whether it's acknowledged or not, it's a myopic view of the success metrics, what they're doing, why they're doing it, because they've just been doing it for so long.
Someone that's new can give them a fresh perspective.
Another thing these buddy programs can do is help with very small new hire groups. If your new hire class tends to be small groups of one or two, this buddy program is a great way to cultivate relationships that become sustainable, that become long-term.
They happen naturally with larger onboarding groups because the big group gets to know each other and they sometimes become friends for months and years because they always remember that start date together.
It's important to prescribe learning objectives during these mutually beneficial topical conversations, schedule them on the calendar, put an agenda on there, you want the conversation to happen organically but the conversation is topical to ensure they're getting something from the exchange.
The second calendar invite that goes out alongside this is your debrief session, and making sure there are key takeaways between you and the learners so they're getting something from the relationship.
But buddy programs are a pivotal part of my brand identity.
Last, but certainly not least, is creating that mission statement.
It should be holistic and perpetuate an ideology that can be applied to all concepts and all types of learners. The goal of a good enablement mission statement is to influence the mindset of your audience before exposing them to any of your curriculum, empowering them to show up to sessions physically and mentally.
It's sometimes a hard task, particularly when they are overwhelmed with change management, they're drinking from the firehose as a new hire. Moreover, I think creating the space for an honest self-assessment and their capacity for personal and professional growth is one of the harder things to do.
I bring some variation of this mission statement to address those fears of learning and those fears of being overwhelmed. I do it in a visual way, it's not just writing down the sentence that helps characterize my belief around corporate learning and enablement.
But it's skewing towards that visual and kinesthetic approach so we can jumpstart their confidence and comfort level and making the learning paths more palatable.
My four categories are sales acumen, product mastery, industry education, and institutional knowledge.
Sales acumen is usually associated with a third-party branded sales methodology like Sandler or Miller Heiman, or a proprietary sales methodology for your particular business.
The second is about mastery of the offering or the product or the service, whatever you're using to monetize the business, they truly have to be the subject matter expert, they have to be the consultant and the advisor, which translates to this third quadrant of learning.
Industry education is about identity and identification, which does not happen between buyer and seller unless you know intimately your ICP, your ideal customer profile unless you truly understand the buyer personas within those profiles and you can speak your industry vernacular.
Because people buy from people they like and they can relate to and speaking their language as part of that.
Lastly, one of the most overlooked categories that contribute to ramping reps ramped to proficiency and job satisfaction. I promise this is one of those things that will shut down someone's mentality and their openness to learning, which is that institutional knowledge.
Tech stack, tools, etc.
Institutional knowledge meaning things like the revenue tech stack, systems, tools, whether it's off the shelf things like your CRM, your SEP, or proprietary technology you have built internally - that can be confusing to a novice or someone that's new to the business.
Your buyer's journey is typically unique to your business and if they don't have the institutional knowledge to know the upstream and downstream teams, they're going to be interacting with this buyer, their funnel, and their pipeline if they're in sales, or their portfolio if they're in account management, that's an integral part of their success factors.
Internal team dynamics
Internal team dynamics and how to work cross-functionally, all of these things are integral parts of their success and it needs to be an integral part of your enablement strategy in terms of development, delivery, and orchestration buy-in of the enablement materials.
It can really have a boom or bust effect on your learners.
I would consider this image to be the best representation of my particular brand identity.
I present it on the first day of a new hire, I reference it in some way at the outset of continued learning paths, and frankly, I espouse it in casual conversations with my colleagues, with leaders, within the organization, with my team, and executives.
It is a visualization. It is a conversation that everyone should know intimately when they talk about having a growth mindset and a culture of learning at your business.
It really does become your enablement brand identity if you build something similar to this.