'What is sales enablement?' Asked Scott King at the San Francisco SES.

Not only asking what, Scott took us through specifically how to make sales enablement better at doing what it is supposed to do.

From insights on what exactly to be training reps on, to the metrics you should be focusing on, Scott gave a thorough run down of all things sales enablement.

Here's what he said.

Defining Enablement

I look at it as the investment of the selling system.

I don't look at it as salespeople, they're interchangeable. There are different skill sets that are required, depending on the go to market. There are different ways that you can attack the market.

I look at the selling system, and by that I mean, we've got engineering, Product Management, Product Marketing, legal, comms. We've got A number of different groups that interact in the selling motion as we go to market.

Any inefficiencies that we find in those different groups as it relates to a customer journey slows down our selling motion. And those inefficiencies, meaning that those customers, those prospects have to like us that much more to continue down with down the road with us, right.

I look at my role as a coach and an advisor to those different groups as to how it relates to the selling motion. And I try to provide data to that outside of the forecasting.

How do I measure sales performance?

I take a look at the competencies of my sellers, what behaviors, what are their skills?

What I want to do is drive seller behavior. I don't get distracted by other things, it's really kind of focusing on the behavior that I expect, given the go-to-market that I have.

Below that I track their skills.

I want to be able to measure your sales skills. And by sales skills, I'm referring specifically to a very regimented approach to how do I show my executive presence in front of a client?

That's presentation skills, am I using a sequence of events to manage my proof of concepts to close?

Then I care about the product/solution, knowledge and context.

So we have a tendency to want to train our salespeople on the product. I think that's dead wrong.

What I need to understand is whose ears are supposed to hear what message?

I'm supposed to be able to speak to capabilities as it relates to pain points that the customer might have or innovation that they might want to take advantage of.

So we don't spend a lot of time training our sellers on the specifics of the products.

That's why I have product management and why I have sales engineers.

How am I breaking out competencies?

I care about their abilities, and I care about their behaviors as it relates to competencies.

Do they have the behaviors and the skill set that I expect them to have?

What are their skills and do they have the knowledge to do what I expect them to do?

What are those sales activities that we're measuring? What is the weekly, monthly and quarterly cadence that we are measuring our sellers?

If I'm only going to my sellers, and I'm asking them what's in their pipeline, what's in their forecast and what's in their commit, then I'm really only measuring the tail end of a sales cycle, which means we're not adhering to a selling motion at all.

And that's what I find to be the most consistent kind of flaw that has emerged.

We don't really have a strong understanding of what our pipeline actually looks at, we kind of just take a whack at the first 60% of a selling motion when it gets to 60%, we'll start paying attention but I think that's wrong.

Then I care about actuals.

I want to see three times pipeline, I want to see their forecast accuracy and I want to see their year to date performance.

What I want to see is a consistent flow from 20%. lead conversion, I want to know that they're converting inside of the selling motion in early stage, that's going to tell me where we're going to be six months from now. That gives me my performance matrix.

Business Application

So it seems kind of simple, but really what this does is allows me to have a conversation internally with my business owners.

I use this in the measurements that I collect, to kind of begin to diagnose what I think the problem is.

So then I come down here and I say, do we have the activities that we're expecting to see? Are we doing enough inside of our selling motion to drive the pipeline? How many proof of concepts? How many presentations? How many client meetings? These are the things that we should be measuring.

That should tell me whether or not we've done enough work to get the growth pipeline.

If the answer is yes, we've done enough activities, but we still don't have the pipeline, then I jump down to the skills.

Well, maybe we're just shitty at doing it.

In which case, I want to know if they understand which ears they should be talking to. Are you taking a technical pitch and we're spinning over to a strategic buyer? What are we doing inside of there?

Do we demo well? Do we present well? Are we following the skills that we expect?

If the answer is we don't have the skills, or we need to work on our skills of our sellers I think what can I do to grow my sellers?

Depending on where their gap is, it might be faster for me to rip those sellers and replace ones that actually already have the competencies in place.

The next piece I do, and this is kind of how I align it to the business, is I use this five-tier, so I pegged everything against the customer buying cycle, the end of the day, everything we do should be pegged against that customer journey.

So what are the sales steps that we follow to meet the needs of the customer, depending on where they are in the selling motion?

It's pretty basic at progress, we use solution selling to do it.

What are the steps that we need to see as it relates to what the customer would expect? Then below that is the competencies and the skill set.

So what I want to do is measure how good we are at any one of those steps below that, it gives me the ability to be very specific about the sales and marketing content requirements to feed those sellers, where they're strong, where they're weak, what do I need to feed them in order for them to execute effectively, in that segment of the sales cycle.

Then I measure it through skills assessments, 360 reviews, content consumption and things like that.

Content Strategy

This is what it looks like at a team level.

So you can start to see gaps, where they absolutely don't feel comfortable, which means if I have leads that are coming in, and I'm handing it to them early stage sales cycle, I can tell where they're going to drop off and their conversion rates aren't going to be good.

I can see with this particular team, that they're struggling in a stage that I would expect a proof of concept.

Do they understand how they're preparing for negotiations? Do they have a technical win? How are they defining closing and the competencies they're in?

Well, let me know that if I have deals that are in the pipeline between 40 and 60%, those deals are at risk.

We're not converting them at a comfort level we would want to be at. So how do I begin to solve that problem?

Well, in the short term, maybe I can solve it with some subject matter experts. Maybe I throw engineers at it to make sure that the deals that are sitting in those stages for that team are getting an extra eye.

But do I train these guys? Do I give them content? How do I begin to fix their problems?

In order to get more consistency in my pipeline, you can also see that if I was to move this team from inside, and I was all of a sudden decide that there are enterprise sellers, and they can go do that.

They don't know how to identify an opportunity, and they don't understand the market trends. They haven't taken the time to learn that yet.

Not to say that they can't, not to say that they shouldn't. But it wasn't effective for what they were doing before. They didn't need it before.

So how do we begin to solve those problems?

So instead of sitting everybody down for four days and running them through solution, selling training, or CB and spending half a million dollars to get my guy sat down and then say, all right, it's all done, check that box.

What we want to do is we want to be very specific about the problem we're trying to solve so that I can go in the pipeline and I can show conversion rates have gone up for that particular step.

They're only ever going to walk away with tips and tricks anyway. I don't know how many trainings I've sat through, I had no idea how expensive they were until I sat in the seat.

"I got a great tip out of that one. Well, that was an expensive tip."

So by using the competencies, it allows me to have a common common language for management discussions. It's a 360 review.

So I'm getting demonstrated skills out in the field. And it helps the individual sellers develop, or come up with what their individual development plans are.

But it allows me from an enablement perspective, to take a look across all my teams and see where we're weak inside of the selling motion.

Opportunities for growth and development

My belief is that your sales team should spend 50 hours a week in front of customers during the selling time of the day. That's what I want them to do. I know it's an extreme.

But every ebook that I want them to read to learn about the product is taking time away from their ability to go out and make the phone calls to the customers, which is when they're only profitable to us.

So what I want to do is I want to take on training opportunities, I'm going to take on content opportunities, but I really want to keep in mind that I do not want to distract the horses that are supposed to be running and driving revenue.

So what can I do to begin to fix that without disrupting them?

So the first thing I look at is process enhancement. So in the case that I showed you earlier, what we found was down here with the technical when what they weren't doing was using a sequence of events.

The idea is, do we have a formal way that we're managing our customers expectations, kind of through a proof of concept or a technical proof case?

It's just a process. Are we following a process?

So what I do is process enhancement. I'm not distracting my sellers. I don't have to train them on anything. I can preach you it, and I can feed it to them that way. And I haven't disrupted anything. My sales managers aren't pissed, and I'm good.

The next one is on the job training.

So how do I begin to work through? How do I deliver this content and then on the job format, once again, I'm not disrupting the sellers they're using in the context of their selling motion.

I'm putting the weight on the sales managers to partner with enablement to do on the job. I want them staying on the phone.

The next one is mentoring and coaching. mentoring and coaching is kind of expensive, right? It's tough to do the one on one. It's tough to do small teams, but once again, not distracting the sales teams. I have something specific that I'm targeting. That's where I go.

So what kind of content can I build? What am I feeding them now? I am distracting them.

I'm also making them a little bit more self conscious because they feel like if they don't have the information, they can't make the calls.

That's absolutely not true. All right game of numbers, get out there make the calls, there's only one way to learn it. But I'll feed them content.

The very last lever I pull is any type of formal training.

Formal training is expensive to develop, it's a pain to keep up to date. And at the end of the day, I'm pulling the sellers off the line to come get trained.

And the instinct of sales management, the instinct of sales or of organizations is to pull everybody in and get a one size fits all.

So I can't be as precise. So it's literally the last lever that I pull is to pull people in to do formal training.

This article is adapted from a talk Scott gave at the San Francisco SES, Scott King is Head of Global Enablement and Commerical Strategy at Progress Software