Aaron Evans is Co-Founder and Head of Training and Enablement at Flow State, as well as one of SEC’s ones to watch for 2022!
Aaron has worked across the UK, Australia, and North America, and is at the forefront of modern enablement. He is constantly evolving and modernizing his enablement techniques and strategies, and he’s always eager to share with the wider community, so read on to find out his thoughts on:
- Differences in sales enablement across the world
- Sales and sales enablement metrics
- Enablement as a change agent
And more below!
Q: Are there cultural differences in how sales enablement is practiced in different countries?
A: The best way of looking at it is to actually work backward from selling. If selling is different, and the culture in which you're selling is different, then naturally, sales enablement will be different as well.
What I found is, take a culture like Australia for example. It's a huge landmass with very few people in it, about 22 million people living across five or six different big cities.
You find it’s much more of a community sell, so it's about getting to know the person you're selling to with softer tactics. There’s a lot more building rapport and building relationships first.
Whereas if you look at London, for example, it's a very small place with a lot of competition and millions of people in it. What you'll find there is that it's a lot more benefit-focused. They're going to get 15, 20 calls a day, and they just want to hear where the value is.
So naturally, that starts embedding itself in the way that you enable salespeople as well. The tactics that you use to help them sell, the types of content that you create, the touchpoints you have with clients, the sales process, the qualification methodology, all of this feeds into it.
So I'd say that there are idiosyncrasies within different countries and different cultures that absolutely affect sales enablement.
Q: What metrics do you use to measure yourself, and measure how the sales reps are doing?
A: There's obviously the golden metric, which is around revenue. It's an important one and we can't hide from the fact that you want people to hit their targets.
But there's also ramp time, so we have a ramp target that we expect new starters to hit because we're responsible for the onboarding and that falls under us.
We score a lot of our reps and we certify a lot of our reps too, so we’re responsible for all the certification through the sales process, product knowledge, market knowledge, competitor knowledge, and so on.
We've also got a scorecard so, when people are doing demonstrations, or are running part of the sales process, we can score them and expect to see month-on-month improvement with those reps as well.
It’s always an interesting one, talking about how to manage the success of a sales enablement team.
A piece of advice I always give is what Einstein said:
“Not all that counts can be counted, and not all that can be counted, counts."
That's very much what sales enablement is like. You can't always put a direct dollar value on the work that sales enablement does, but I can tell you now that there'll be an intrinsic difference between an organization which doesn’t have sales enablement versus one that does.
I’m willing to put money on the one that I think will be more successful, and I’ll always bet on the one with sales enablement.
Q: What have been some of your steepest learning curves?
A: There's some lessons that I’ve learned in sales enablement that have served me so well. The first thing is that the buy-in that you get from stakeholders in the business is really, really important.
By definition, sales enablement is a change agent. You're going in there to change things, either to make them better or to put a new process in place. But fundamentally, you're changing something.
People don't always like change, and sometimes people lose out in that change too.
In one of the organisations I worked in, I had to embed a new negotiation structure or a new authority matrix, where people were used to making up their own prices. When you go in there and do that, and people realise they can't make their own prices anymore, you feel like you're directly taking money from their pocket.
So it's important that you explain the context of the decisions that are being made, why they're being made, how it’s ultimately going to help the business. You let the person you're training, or the part of the organization that you're training see the bigger picture as to why these changes are being made.
That was a very steep learning curve for me, because you find yourself sort of vehemently defending the company strategy, and you're not looking at it from the perspective of the person who you're asking to make the change.
That's probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned, if you can get buy-in from people, and they understand why you're making change, they're more receptive and more open to change.
Q: Do you see sales enablement becoming fully automated through AI programs, or is there a human element that will always be necessary?
A: I think there'll always need to be a human element. It depends, obviously, as sales enablement is different in different organizations.
If you've got a coaching or a training element to what you do, you'll always need a human being there. Because an FAQ page isn't going to answer all the questions people have on certain topics, or regarding certain issues that they have.
On top of that, by definition, coaching is helping someone think about things in a different way. So to coach effectively, you need to be present, or at least be able to look the person in the eyes to question them, help them, and guide them through the different thought processes. Such a large part of sales enablement is coaching.
If you distill it down, you're there to make changes and make sure people understand those changes. But that’s only really the tip of the iceberg of what we actually do.
So much of it is about the human touch, the personal touch, and changing perspectives. So no, I don't think it'll ever be fully automated.
One thing I think sales enablement can do with the technology is that it can start demonstrating the value it can bring, and maybe even start putting a dollar value on it as well.
So if you're serving up the right content, at the right time, to the right people, in the right part of the sales process, then you can see that. So I think it will become a lot more ROI-driven, and easier to see that ROI as well.
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