Sales enablement quickly solidified itself as an essential function in well-run organizations. Now, almost as rapidly, enablement is evolving to take the entire revenue-generating side of organizations under its supportive wing.
Few are better placed to speak about it than Christi Loucks, current Head of Revenue Enablement and Operations at SecZetta Inc.
Formerly Director of Revenue Enablement at Chainalysis, and Senior Manager for Sales Enablement at Ping Identity, Christi has seen the evolution happen firsthand, and knows exactly how to approach the respective enablement branches.
Read her thoughts on:
- The difference between sales and revenue enablement
- How content and training differs between revenue-generating teams
- Creating great training and enablement content
- Making training stick
Q: What's the difference between sales enablement and revenue enablement as you see it?
A: The enablement function is shifting. It started by focusing on account executives and quota-carrying sales reps, and I certainly spend a lot of my own time with those teams.
But the reason that my title is called revenue enablement is that the work that I do in enablement spans beyond just the quota-carrying reps. We work with customer success, with the business development team, pre-sales engineers, all of who are driving revenue but not necessarily sales reps by title.
I would say that's definitely the difference in my mind, between sales and revenue. Revenue is more all-encompassing, and addresses all the different pieces of the organization that brings dollars in.
Q: What's different in the training and content that you deliver to your quota-carrying sales team and customer success team?
A: I think it comes down to looking at the buyer cycle and when those different teams step into the process.
Sales reps are obviously involved from the very beginning. From when the sales development rep hands over an opportunity to the seller, the seller takes it from there and runs all the way to the close/won status.
I would say customer success certainly plays a part in the latter end of the sales cycle, as the rep is figuring out how they're going to be successful with the product and talking through all the different offerings that we have when it comes to the post-sale portion of the cycle.
But customer success truly steps in once the deal is closed and really ensures that our customers are happy with the product, successful with the product, that they're using it in the way that they intended long past the time the opportunity is close won in Salesforce.
When you look at it that way, it kind of helps to determine how to train and what to train on. Sellers need to be articulating value from the very beginning, they need to be negotiating from the very beginning, they need all the tools and resources to get that deal won.
Customer success needs many of the same things, but they're really focused on the nurturing, the customer satisfaction, and so on. So they just need different skills, different resources to be able to do that effectively. That being said, I would say there is a lot of overlap.
Q: What are your tips when it comes to creating effective training and enablement content?
A: The best tip that I have for enablement practitioners who are creating or delivering training, is to really focus on making it engaging and fun. Sellers and those in the revenue organization are typically very focused on their quota, and on bringing in revenue for the organization.
Training doesn't always look like it helps in that particular endeavor. The more you can really show salespeople that training can assist them not only with their job, but can also be fun, that really helps make those types of programs successful.
It makes them effective in helping salespeople take what they learned in theory and put it into practice.
I've done some ridiculous things when it comes to making training fun, like wearing costumes, creating wacky videos that go along with it. Maybe it's just part of the creative process for me, but I think the more you can really grab attention within those training programs themselves, the better off they'll be for the team.
Q: In terms of reiterating and reinforcing the learning points, how do you go about doing that?
A: I think, in general, what I try to do is take a look at the processes and cadences that exist that salespeople are used to.
Let's say we're doing a training on negotiation, and we want to reinforce some of the concepts post-training. I would then go back into Salesforce, I would go back into account reviews, I would go into opportunity reviews, I would go back into all of the cadences that our sellers are used to, and see where I could potentially reinforce those concepts along the way.
I think it works, not in all instances, but in many, to embed those reinforcing mechanisms into what exists today as opposed to creating entirely new cadences or new learning systems or what have you.
Sellers are usually, or hopefully, have standardized processes, and they know what to expect as they go along the sales cycle. The more you can just push reinforcing items into that, I think the more natural it is. That's really how I always approach it.
Q: It's important to align the sales process and the after-sales process with customer needs on the customer's journey. What's best way to do that in your view, and do you see a disconnect between the two processes?
A: I'll tell you my observations. What I'm seeing now is that it's a much less linear process when it comes to the customer's buying cycle. It's not that people just know they have a problem and they go, boom, boom, boom, through these steps and they find a solution.
There's a lot of internet research upfront. There's a lot of circling around through networks into finding recommendations and then having internal conversations and then going back to do more research.
It's a more fluid process and potentially circular, as opposed to going from point A: I need a solution, to point B: I have a solution.
I've seen some sellers get frustrated with that. I think that sellers have a very rigorous sequential process that they go through, and it's like: "Okay, I'm in Salesforce, we're in the discovery phase, I flip my opportunity to whatever the next stage is."
They go through these stages and I think it can be a conflict when the sellers' stages don't necessarily align with that buyers' winding path towards a solution.
I think it's all about making sure those touchpoints add the most value to the customer, so you stand the best chance of them seeing your product as an opportunity.
That way, when the buyer and the seller do connect, they get maximum value from that conversation, those touchpoints that you have are no longer always about you selling something to them, or you advising them on how your solution can solve all of their problems.
It's about providing something valuable that they're not getting from your competitors. Maybe it's teaching them something that they need to know about whatever solution it is you're selling. But I also think it's about forming a trusted relationship, and adding value wherever you can.
Q: What kind of metrics and measurements do you use to demonstrate the impact of revenue enablement at your company?
A: This is such an interesting topic for me, and one that I'm constantly exploring. When I first started enablement, I started reporting on the number of people taking training, on new hires who had completed everything on their new hire checklist, or what have you.
After thinking it through, those activities are good and those numbers are good to show, but they don't necessarily point directly to the revenue.
I can't necessarily say that because I did X, Y, and Z in a training program, that seller was able to close a deal. There are so many other factors that go into sales success, like, what's your territory? If I'm a new rep, what open opportunities did I just walk into? What's the competition in that territory? There are just 1000 factors.
When I was at Chainalysis, I partnered with our sales ops team. What we did was use, mostly from the sales enablement perspective, the sales velocity equation.
That's your number of opportunities, your win rate, your average deal size, and then the average deal length, the cycle. What that does is it spits out a number that you assign to an individual seller. What I then care about is picking apart that sales velocity equation.
If I see that we are consistently low on the win rate, or if I see certain patterns related to it, that informs me that maybe I need to go back and do more competitive positioning training. If we see that sales cycles are taking a really long time, is there an opportunity for us to go in and do more training on moving sales through the process effectively and efficiently?
I think it informs a lot of our activity, as sales enablement practitioners, and then what we can do is report that up to the executive level and say: "Here's what we saw and here's what we're doing to accommodate it."
Q: How do you see sales and revenue enablement transforming over the next few years?
A: I think that in sales enablement we will always be focused on onboarding, on content, on continuous education, training, we will always have these main buckets that we focus on.
But as the world shifts, as technology shifts, and as buyers continue to transform with their knowledge of what's going on in the world, I think that we'll have to really tap into soft skills that I've seen fall second in priority to all of those other buckets that I mentioned.
We need to focus on teaching our sellers our value proposition, our messaging, our competitive positioning, our sales process and our opportunity qualification. All of those things are standard, they won't go away. But we're going to have to add to it.
Things we're going to have to add are probably even harder to understand, like how do you really connect with your buyers? How do you become a trusted consultant in a world where there's information parity, and everyone has access to much of the same thing? I think that as we evolve that's the direction we're headed.
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