When it comes to sales enablement, how do you:

  • Explain what enablement is - and what it isn't?
  • Measure success?
  • Encourage collaboration with other teams - like product and marketing?
  • Reimagine sales onboarding and coaching for increasingly distributed teams?

PandaDoc's Senior Manager of Sales Enablement, Gail Behun, answers all these questions and shares the wisdom she's gathered during her career.

Q. Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and how you came to work in sales enablement.

A. I actually came into sales enablement, like a lot of people, through sales. I started out as a programme manager running programmes for clients, grew into a more direct sales role carrying a quota, and into sales leadership. At the time, I did a little of everything in sales leadership: onboarding, training, managing, and enabling.

Over the years, sales enablement has grown into its own practice, so I had the opportunity about eight years ago to specialize in it.

I love it because I find that, when we empower people with the right skills and the right attitude, they can really excel at their work. They're going to have this great competence to build revenues and build their careers - that's really what drives me and sales enablement.

Q. How would you define ‘sales enablement’?

A. It really centres around creating repeatable, predictable processes for success by cutting through the clutter and focusing on metrics and results. There's so much information coming into our sellers. There are so many numbers, different pricing features, product features and competitive analysis.

Enablement is really here to parse that information in a way that gives our sellers what they need to be successful when they need it, and really focus on that long-term success.

Q. What does sales enablement look like at PandaDoc? Is it relatively new, or was it already established when you came on board?

A. We had a great sales trainer on staff at PandaDoc, and a definite need for more resources. Coming on board as the senior director, I've had the opportunity to bring a team together and start to build out enablement as a practice from the ground up. It's been really exciting - PandaDoc is a very fast-moving company. We've got a lot of initiatives that are just starting now, as well as initiatives that we're going to be rolling into later this year.

It's been a really good opportunity for me to really get my arms around all of the different ways that enablement can empower this rapidly-growing team - because we've got a steep growth curve this year.

Our number one focus right now is onboarding and making sure that we're really setting ourselves up for success, but also providing more clarity around key issues like pricing, ICP and personas. How are we making sure that we're all using those tools effectively, to enable the team to sell as effectively as possible?

Q. What are some of the tactics you use to encourage collaboration and communication between different teams?

A. When looking at an enablement project, we make sure that we're always rolling in the key team members that are going to have influence, whether it's product, whether it's RevOps, whether it's marketing, and making sure that all of our enablement is tied to their overarching goals.

We are creating a new product, we're not creating a new pricing plan. We're helping our teams understand what that new product is, what that pricing plan is and have them use it.

We need to make sure we're constantly synching back to the project owners, so that what we're doing isn't just in line with their expectations, but takes our expectations and exceeds them by making it really powerful for the sales team.

Q. Obviously, you work really closely with sales. But what other functions? Which other teams or departments do you work with on a day-to-day basis?

A. It's kind of a split between product and marketing: marketing give the words to the salespeople and create the cadences; they help us with the market research to understand how we're going to resonate with our buyers. And that's a critical feature coming out of marketing.

Product helps us to understand exactly what we are selling. How does it work? What are the use cases? What are the roadblocks? What are those questions? We rely on both product and marketing to make sure that whatever we're training our team on, empowers them based on the objectives of those groups.

Q. Over the past year, the whole world's been turned on its head. What has that meant for you and your role in enablement?

A. I think we are, as a sales enablement community, thriving, because we have an opportunity to really structure our learning in a way that is conducive for different types of sellers. We're taking a lot of different types of information and empowering them in different ways.

I think we've had an opportunity for a little bit of trial and error that maybe we wouldn't have had without Covid, because we've had a little bit more of a runway. We're seeing a lot of really great enablement projects coming through in the industry, as people are understanding how to leverage conversations, how to leverage video, how to leverage different video tools, so that we're really communicating effectively with our teams.

We're also finding that having more smaller touch points is very powerful. Instead of doing a launch that takes four months to prepare for, we're doing a little bite-size pieces of it, and kind of course correcting as we go. It's much more iterative.

I think for our sellers, it's easier because they're just smaller pieces of information, rather than trying to bring out the entire project at once - that's been a really powerful lesson as well.

Q. So does that go for things like sales kickoffs, as well as onboarding and ongoing training?

A. Obviously, we've had to reimagine everything. We can't do a sales kickoff that lasts eight hours, three days in a row on Zoom - that's just not going to work. Our attention spans aren't that long. So we've had to boil down that information into much more concise pieces, we've had to do some breakouts so we can have smaller groups that are interacting with the information that's most necessary to them.

Unfortunately, I think we're taking a little bit of the pomp and circumstance away from the biggest KOs, but we're replacing it with more consistent touch points, which allow for more discussion; it's a lot less top down, it's a lot more bottom up. And I think that that can be powerful, too.

Q. What would you say has been the steepest learning curve of your sales enablement career?

A. Oh, there's so many! But I think the steepest one in sales enablement, because the practice is relatively new, was really learning how to effectively manage up within your organizations as well as manage down.

We have to have the type of alignment that allows sales enablement to bring forward really clear smart messaging on a consistent basis. And that isn't always available. That path isn't always there. There's a lot of grey areas.

So I think the steepest learning curve, for me, has been learning "how do I get rid of the grey and get to the black and white that our sellers need to be successful"? And sometimes that means, you know, asking the same question three different ways until you get the answer you need, and sometimes it's making sure that the person you're asking really understands what you're asking and what you're going to do with it in order to get that clear direction.

Q. Can you give us an example of that?

A. We worked on a launch relatively recently that was presented to enablement as, "we're going to roll out this thing, it's going to be pretty simple for our sellers to get their arms around, it's really not very complicated". As we dove into it as an enablement team, we really realized that the perception that this was just a small change wasn't really met out by what the sales people expected.

There was a disconnect between what product thought we needed to bring to the sales team and what the sales team was going to need to actually do it. So it was just expectation setting to make sure people understood, "we're going to do a survey, we're going to see what the current understandings are, before we start creating new trainings or new materials".

And there was a delta between the understanding of what the current state was and the actual current status, which is pretty common, especially with a fast moving sales organization. Part of our goal is to make sure that we're level setting before we start to say, "what do people understand and what don't they understand"? So that when we are bringing the training to the team, it starts from  where they are, rather than where we think they are.

Q. Do you carry out research to get a high level view of what the current understanding is, before you build out trainings?

A. I think there needs to be some kind of research before you do any kind of training, whether it's serving the entire team, we're talking to sales managers and taking a pulse check of certain sellers - you have to start with that.

Making sure that we are meeting and exceeding those expectations begins with understanding what the expectations are, absolutely. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in enablement is presuming that you know where your seller's head is.

So yes, we always start with that, and we also always make sure that we do a survey at the end to make sure we achieved what we expected, "do we know if this training was complete, are we going to have to do another session to enable it further?" Maybe there's a role playing session that comes after the information session. So being very prescriptive, but also being flexible, and understanding that, as much as we try to make things crystal clear, they never will be.

And that's  not a product of the virtual environment. That's a product of the fact that the work that we do is complicated.

We have to be able to provide the information - but we also have to provide space for good questions, we have to provide space for the role playing, we have to provide space to make sure that we are following that back up in a month, two months, three months.

The metrics of what we expect, and being able to report back to the sales team whether we are hitting those expectations, and why, is also really important. So the idea of having a really good outline, and then being able to fully supplement it in an iterative process, I think is incredibly important - be rigid and be flexible at the same time.

Q. What do you think is most important for sales enablement to measure? Is it sales success, or sales enablement success?

A. Sales enablement success is sales success. The number one thing for us to measure is the overall quota attainment: our reps hitting where they're defined to be - again, we're not defining the quota, we're working towards it. Then, as well as the big number quotas, we have small numbers we're also looking at: the percentage of reps that are hitting quota attainment is one, but we also want to look at time to ramp time to first sale.

Those are key metrics that tell us whether we're effectively onboarding our team. If we're bringing out new initiatives, those new initiatives need to have a measurable component, even if it's not necessarily a revenue component. So whether it's being able to comfortably sell a deal with these new parameters, that's a metric. It's not a metric that is going to have a huge dollar value attached to it, but it shows us that the training that we did became something that was measurable, and that we gave them success skills to make that happen.

We have to measure everything but we also have to get context behind the measurement and really utilize what we're measuring in a way that makes it powerful, otherwise, it's just more fluff.

Q. What are the key metrics that you've always got your eye on? Leading indicators or lagging indicators?

A. I think we have to look at both. But I'm always afraid of lagging indicators, because it means maybe we've missed something. I want to look at leading indicators as much as I can, because it's going to help us see what we need to be doing going forward.

But I'm going to look at those lagging indicators, again, to see if we miss something, but also to understand, okay, if we've had a shift in sales team, if we're doing some reorganization within the environment, those lagging indicators are going to help us understand where are those alignments are maybe not synching up the way that we expected them to. Then being able to either organize around them, offer support around them, or train for them so that we're making sure our teams are quick to do what we're asking them to do.

Very often, sales teams are really excited for new initiatives - they're excited for new pricing, they're excited for new products to sell - so those leading indicators, how fast they can get to selling it, that's great.

But when we're not seeing the long-term progress, we're not seeing a continual or the repeatable process, then we're looking at those lagging indicators, and really trying to understand where it is that what we've done isn't sticky, or isn't deep enough.

Q. What would you say is your greatest success so far at PandaDoc?

A. I would say two things. Really being able to align the existing enablement team around a vision of what enablement is and what it can do. Then, to really show the internal team, the sales, leadership teams, those line managers, "here's what enablement is going to do for you and your teams". I think it has been a really big success.

Success starts with level setting, and helping the teams understand what enablement does and doesn't do, and helping them see that through coaching cadences, through better onboarding practices, we're really going to be able to have a big effect on their business.

So part of it was confidence building, but the biggest part of it is really level setting. We also did a launch recently that was done very differently than information had been passed out in the past. It was very interactive, rather than static, it was very communicative, rather than top down. I think it really set the tone for how I want to see enablement at PandaDoc in the future, making sure that we have those interactive touch points are really critical.

I came out of the meetings and events industry, and adding interactive elements was always something that we wanted to do as a best practice.

We know people retain information 40% more, when they're interactive in a session rather than just listening. It becomes something that they can access, utilize and save themselves. So they have to be able to talk during those sessions.

Doing smaller sessions, shorter sessions, fewer sellers, more interaction becomes really, really important, especially now that we're all remote because it's very easy for people to get kind of stuck in the background and literally not have their voice heard.

They can be unwilling or uncomfortable to ask questions, so bringing forth those interactive elements really helps people feel empowered to ask questions, to visualize themselves making that sale, visualize themselves interacting with a client and seeing the results.

Q. What is something people wrongly assume about sales enablement that you find yourself having to explain?

A. I like to say that we want to be the proactive engine for not just onboarding reps, but giving them the best path forward. So I think one of the most important elements of enablement is developing reps, working with them on ongoing skills, giving them the skills to become great managers, being able to see different career paths.

That development piece is almost sometimes treated as a secondary element. But for me, it's really not because we want to see our teams not just excel in the short-term, but in the long-term. We see sales rep turnover is incredibly high in the industry. So I think enablement has a big part to play in making sellers feel like they can build a career within the organization and they don't have to leave. And that dovetails into what sales enablement isn't.

We don't want to just be brought in to work with a rep once they're on a performance improvement plan, we want to be able to work before it becomes a critical element, we want to work on coaching with the rep, when we're seeing those habits that are not going to lead to long-term success.

Sometimes that's as obvious as missing quota. Sometimes it's not, sometimes reps might be hitting quota, but they're not doing it in a sustainable way. Or they're hitting quota, but they're only selling a tiny portion of the overall product book, which means that, long-term, they're not going to be able to grow past where they are right as their quota goes up, they're not going to be able to stay with that quota, because their skill set is only is only working in a certain part.

So we have to look at more than just that one quota attainment number. That means, a lot of the time, leaning on our team leads and our sales leads to be able to help us to diagnose when we're seeing a trend with the salesperson whose numbers may be green, but their behaviour is yellow.

We don't want to be the emergency squad, we want to come in and help people and work with reps before they get to those critical stages. The other thing I would say is enablement is not it's not moving information from point A to point B, right? We're not here to just clarify what you're doing - we want to make it actionable.

So you know, when we have conversations about "what is enablement to do with this information"? It's having a conversation about how do we take this information and give it to the reps in a way that they can action? And I think that that's a really key difference for organizations to understand what enablement is doing.

You can listen to this interview with Gail as part of our Sales Enablement Innovation podcast series - or catch up with all our previous podcasts here.