Bruce Campbell has built a Sales Republic.

Speaking at the San Francisco SES, Bruce explained what is meant by that term, why he sees sales enablement in this context, and how he executed his very own sales enablement republic.

Telling stories

One of the things I care very much about when I enable sales is to bring up a very, very concerted effort to make them better storytellers.

What are the main pieces of storytelling?

Whether you're a salesperson or Mrs. Williams, my third-grade teacher who put us in the corner and read James and the Giant Peach, it is metaphor, simile, and of course, analogy.

My title is about establishing your enablement Republic. If I think back to my high school civics class, a Republic is defined as thus.

It's a form of government in which the country is considered a public matter. It's not the private concern or property of the rulers for which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch, but an elected official.

Now, many scholars will say that the United States is more of a republic than a true democracy, because the definition of a true democracy is all of the citizens have a vote in every matter of state and the majority will rule and there are no elected officials.

Our framers decided to take more of a republic approach at this. So if I think about that, and I consider how a republic could be interpreted as a sales enablement organization, in other words, kind of doing a sales Republic metaphor, if you will. It might read something like this.

A sales organization governed by the hierarchy of managers (aka heads of state) that were elected by hire heads of state (aka vice presidents) to orient lead, train and ultimately get paid on an organization's ability to successfully generate sales revenue (aka moolah) based on their ability to retain, optimize master and ultimately flawlessly execute skills learned in said orientation and training.

So what does this all mean?

It means that there's one big axiom I have learned in a republic company that does have heads of state that can be somewhat democratic, but in some cases very non-democratic. And the thing that you learn as you're setting up an enablement practice is to start with the managers.

What are we really?

Well, scholars at the UCLA School of Law, consider us more of a constitutional republic than just a true Republic, meaning that there is a guiding document that lays out the course of the continuing with the analogy of the practice and charter of what you're doing. And that if you go against that, you could get in a lot of trouble or at least spawn some very serious dialogue with your heads of state.

I went ahead and put down what did I think in this republic of sales, that has hierarchical leadership that are sometimes elected by the citizens and sometimes appointed, what would a recipe for such a constitutional republic be?

The Republic

The first thing you want to do is to start with the managers, the heads of state, and interview them on what they define they need right now and don't even use the word enablement. Just say this is what I do.

Start with the highest head of state. Doesn't have to be a long conversation. But I'm telling you the benefit of doing something like that pays off enormously, even if what he or she says is gibberish.

You took the time to get their input and they will remember that maybe more than what they tell you. So that in the future when you want to go ahead and get an ally or if you want to go ahead and get something representative from them in the future, they'll see you as a collaborator, as someone who honors the head of state role and will not cause so much pain for you.

Next one, interview your head of state, who do you report to?

It doesn't matter if they're high up on the executive realm, or if they're just a middle manager or a senior director, whatever level. Do that job because they probably did write the job description, but many times they didn't.

They need to be able to chime in with their biases with their interpretation of that. And you might think that's not a big deal, but you'd be surprised at how many people have checked in with it have not really asked them what they expect when it comes to rolling out their enablement constitution, and the analogy continues.

Next, make sure that you poll the citizens.

This does not have to be a 2200 question poll. But it should be something they have to respond to that gives them a chance to think about their answer and come back to it.

So a conversation to a lot of the sales entities and even some of the marketing leadership, could probably get you the best information that you could use to combine with the other management information.

Put a 10 question survey down with a lot of open answers and correlate that information along with the manager input.

Don't forget there's someone else you have to interview too on this, and that is yourself.

If you're old as dirt like me, then you can look back at an entire career and see what helped and what didn't help and figure that is based on the feedback you got as well as what the company needs.

Now you have a constitution to guide your enablement practice so that when someone says 'we really need this', you can have this guide you to help work with your head of state to figure out which one is the right choice.

We the People
Photo by Anthony Garand / Unsplash

The Constitution

So here's what we set up for our constitutional republic of sales enablement.

We found that it's important to build a belief and a value system. From that you can have conversations that will net out your goals.

Belief systems and value systems are amazing, but if there isn't an outlet for what those are all about that is actionable and excretory then it's a waste of time.

So number one, this should be in a reliable place that everybody in sales can go to, for honest assistance and guidance without judgment.

We're not in your chain of command. Want to come and tell me about how your careers in the toilet and along you don't know what to do? Okay, I got 10 minutes for that. Make sure they know that you're there to help in any way you can.

Number two, they should have a place to be able to go for resources that they can find and they can trust. And that is important from a sales standpoint.

Because if they go to a place they don't trust, or they can't find something, then they may be looking at their systems engineer and saying, we got a long weekend because we got to create this thing when they could be one or two mouse clicks away from exactly what they need, and they just didn't know where to go.

Number three value or belief that we have is new hires should be treated with respect and they should be able to come into the company and be there just as excited as they were two weeks later because you have a systematic, organized way to welcome them, train them and guide them through their onboarding through their initiation to the Republic, in a thoughtful, understandable and efficient and relevant way.

Another one is we agree that people love to buy, but they hate being told how or what to buy. So you need to involve them in the decision process as you're learning and being enabled so that they have just as much if not more of a decision on this and are happy to ready to sign on the line that is dotted.

So, all those are great, but the biggest value that I have striven that I've striven to bring to a company because I've seen it firsthand is if you are guilty of 150% dedication to the success of your prospects of your existing customers, of your channel partners of your technology alliances, and are working to sell with them or to them with a purpose that is bigger than money, bigger than your self-interest, you will outperform the competition and reap between 300 and 400% the personal return than you ever thought possible.

I have a couple of testimonials to this.

The Story

A sales rep was asked "what goes through your mind when you have these amazing conversations with your prospects and your customers?"

She told the story of what changed her perspective.

I walked into the VA and I was wearing a company badge. This lady who was sitting over in a chair, who never walked, never did anything, bounded out of the chair, ran over to me and threw her arms around me.

I'd never met her before in her life. She said 'thank you so much.' To which I replied 'Do we know each other?'

She goes 'it doesn't matter. Your company developed the drug that got me out of a wheelchair. That gets me up on my feet. That allows me to stay on my feet for hours a day when I was in bed for hours a day, that gets me on an airplane flies cross country and I can play on the floor with my grandkids and it's your fault.'

That's what being a professional salesperson should be. Even though this rep backed into it, that is what should be the biggest thing in the mindset of the sales team.

Trust yourself to be the best for your customers and your channel partners and your alliances, and it will come back to you in spades. That is one of our biggest values. Almost every single sales leader I've ever talked to agrees.

So with all of those beliefs and everything that we're doing, how do I get to the goals of this enablement constitution? Well, these are the four goals that I've come up with for the current company that I'm in.

The power of three

Not one, not four, three. It's just the way the human brain is wired, retention goes straight down into the toilet if you add more than three.

So let's go ahead and take a look at some of the famous threes. In the governance of our fair country and state, you've got the executive branch, you got the legislative branch and the judicial branch. That's a pretty important power three right there.

But what if you take it down to the next level? You have your federal level of government, then you have your state level and you have your local level.

Well, it just aligned like the stars to me that when I heard the 14th person say, Well, if you're enablement, you must do everything and we don't have to do a darn thing. It seems to me that the best situation you can do and put together in your little enablement Republic is to embrace these very borderline analogies.

And put together how you would be able to make this happen in your enablement organization and why?

We are the feds. We're responsible for that platform, that framework, that one-stop toolset that will give you something that you can send across a lot of the other goals and a lot of the other levels of enablement.

This is where you also can work on the general high level stuff that's meant for most all of your sales teams. You do just in time training, it can be something as easy as a quote-unquote Lunch and Learn or can be the greatest new four-page competitive update on your number one competitor that just happens to go out when it's needed.

And it would make sense in some cases, if you are in charge of the content to put that down in this bucket too. So there's a federal level of enablement, the highest level meant for all citizens.

But what do I mean about state? Well, this is where your sales managers come into play.

The same sales managers who stood in the back of the room and said 'I thought you were doing all the enablement for everybody' was the first person who said 'I want to be able to clarify and connect my new hire to the things I find personally important in my experience. I want to be able to bring my perspective, my experience to what they're doing.'

I'm like, keep going. 'I want to be able to have team meetings, I want to be able to have internal communications that only my people know, sometimes only that one person knows, I want to be able to coach, I want to be able to enforce the expectations on me down to you, I have a very important job in the enablement of my people.' So we call that the state level.

And then, of course, the last one is the local level.

The local level would be defined, in this somewhat borderline analogy, as their peers, their colleagues and even other departments that make an effort to do some of this stuff, but not necessarily as part of the enablement constitution.

So this is experienced team members that when they go back to their office are sitting around them and have a shortcut to a Salesforce report that will help them figure something out immediately.

They're the ones that can provide the hints and the tips and the tricks and how to manage that manager and relegate stuff upward and work with other departments like marketing, to be able to find the things that may not necessarily be in certain holes on this constitution to feel a haven from people who are just like you.

They're just a little bit more experienced to give you that kind of information. And I cannot underscore enough the value of this right now. And I'm sure if you think about it, and talk to any sales rep you have, this would be a big deal.

They're in the trenches with you and helping you fight along the line so that you get better faster.

This article is adapted from a speech Bruce gave at the San Francisco SES, Bruce Campbell is Director of Sales Enablement at Sage Intacct