Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Roz Greenfield, Co-founder and Chief Enablement Officer at Level213, to talk about how legacy “enablement” programs are falling short and costing companies revenue. Roz is an enablement expert; after a successful career as a top-producing sales rep and sales manager, she spent 10 years in sales enablement for tech companies, developing and training superior sales teams at Oracle, Optimizely, and a number of other companies.
Roz and I covered a lot of ground, including how to empower all customer-facing teams (Sales, Success, and Support) to boost revenue and improve customer experience, tactical ways to measure the ROI of revenue empowerment, and the importance of centralized, verified, and easily accessible knowledge to empowerment programs.
For those of you who missed the webinar live, the recording is available below, along with a transcript of our conversation.
Thanks for joining me, Roz! You’ve been enabling and empowering sales and go-to-market teams for over a decade, but before that, you were a top-performing sales rep and manager. What did sales enablement look like when you were a rep?
It was a very different world then. Sales Enablement wasn't really a thing when I first started in sales. My “training” consisted of my manager sitting me down and teaching me how he approached deals and sharing ad hoc product knowledge that lived in his head. I had to take whatever insights I could get from those around me and apply them to myself. There was no resource center to search, nothing was digitized, so I carried around a little notebook full of the information I needed. Eventually, the training process evolved to include live trainings and QBRs, but there was certainly no full enablement function or resource center for us.
It’s so interesting to see how far things have come. What originally drew you to shifting into sales enablement? And what did your first role in that capacity look like?
When I was a sales manager I became very intrigued with ways to make my team successful. Working with a group of AEs with different personalities and selling styles, I realized that 1) not all reps were successful selling the same way and I needed to support each one to maximize their styles, and 2) that the reps needed to have a framework and resources that they could refer back to in times of need.
I challenged myself to make each rep comfortable and successful selling based on their own personalities. And I tried to document as much as I could on the company intranet so that everyone had what they needed. The more I did that, the more I enjoyed the training and enablement over the day-to-day responsibilities of a sales manager. Luckily, my boss at the time recognized that my teams were really well-trained and enabled, and he gave me the opportunity to move into a training/coaching role and I never looked back.
What are some notable ways in which enablement has blossomed and changed, and how have you adapted your role over the years?
Enablement has evolved from mostly live sales training to full-on enablement, providing reps with the resources and tools to be productive. As information became available at the fingertips of buyers, companies began to recognize that their sales reps needed to have access to information at their fingertips as well. It became clear that it was not so much just about the training reps need, but also about the resources. It evolved from “sales training” to “sales enablement”.
And now, it’s moving into “go-to-market enablement”. Companies are realizing that everyone in customer-facing roles needs to have the same level of enablement as sales people. Sales people were often the first people companies focused on enabling because they’re the revenue generators, but post-sales is revenue-generating as well and retention is just as important for revenue as what you’re bringing in the door. So, it’s evolved from sales training to sales enablement to go-to-market enablement, and companies are now looking at the full picture of what all customer-facing individuals need to succeed.
I think a lot of organizations are still trying to figure out who should own the enablement/empowerment of those different teams.
Should it be one empowerment team that services all of those customer-facing teams, or as we call them at Guru, the Revenue Team? Or should each component of the revenue team have a dedicated enablement function?
It’s interesting, because I’ve seen this evolve. What I often see is companies will start with just sales enablement and then the roles start intertwining, and all the sudden someone wonders “What about our CSM team? What about support?” and it evolves from there. They’re really looking at it as go-to-market enablement, and depending on the size of the company, it might be someone looking at the overall enablement function with different team members focused on individual branches. There are certain things that everyone needs to know, like onboarding, so it makes sense to start with a centralized enablement program that breaks off into role-specific training.
A lot of enablement leaders struggle with how to best measure the business impacts of their programs.
What are the most important metrics to track, from your standpoint, and can you share any tips on how to effectively instrument, measure, and report on enablement KPI metrics?
People in enablement think about this a lot because there are a lot of factors in go-to-market teams being successful. I believe that the stakeholders should be the ones to determine what in the business they are trying to impact, and what are metrics that relate back to that goal. The metrics to track will vary by program and initiative, but they should be something that the training can have an impact on and an area where we can see a delta between before and after and measure over time. The most important thing is to look at the impact down the road, quarter over quarter, not just in the short term.
From there, we agree on which metrics would indicate that the needle is moving and the timeframe we will need to measure the delta for the enablement impact. For example:
- New hire onboarding: time to ramp, time to first closed deal
- Soft skills trainings: days in stage, deal size, sales cycle length
- Product trainings: number of deals in the pipeline with the new product, number of new product deals closed, size of new product deal
So, you need to choose metrics that are measurable and have the ability to impact the business, but you also need to tell stakeholders to be mindful of the fact that there are a lot of factors that go into a go-to-market team being productive, many of which are out of the control of the enablement team. You need to maintain the bigger picture of why the numbers are what they are, because it’s not going to be 100% correlated to the training.
I’ve been hearing of teams using an internal net promoter score (NPS) to ask “Did the teams intended to benefit from this training find value in it?”. Have you seen qualitative measures like that work?
I’m really glad you asked that question, because you’re going to have the business metrics that I talked about, but you’ll also have subjective things like internal NPS and employee retention. How likely are employees to refer someone to the company? Do employees have confidence in the company? Are they proud to use the product?
A lot of companies use their onboarding program to attract good talent, by telling them “We will enable you. We will train you.” So yes, you definitely need to measure internal satisfaction as well.
Right, because there is a financial impact there. If you’re onboarding people and then losing them, you’re losing value and money.
Something I like to look at is lifetime value of a rep that we onboarded. If you have a 6-10 month deal cycle, a rep is probably not making any money for the company until they’ve been there for 8-12 months. If you’re consistently churning through people, you’ll never see the ROI through new hires. So, is the onboarding program strong enough that new hires can ramp and stick around and be productive 2 years later? How long people are staying with the company based on the resources we provide through enablement and empowerment is a really important metric to track.
Shifting gears a bit, a lot of folks think of sales enablement as just supporting the sales team. But your consulting practice really looks more holistically at all go-to-market or revenue teams and focuses on how we can empower all of them to be successful.
Why is it important to go beyond sales and empower all customer-facing teams?
I’m happy to say that the industry is evolving, and that companies are starting to look at it as revenue enablement and not just sales enablement. I think the reason why this is evolving is because the customer journey is an infinity loop. Customers are interested in your company, they do research and enter the sales evaluation, hopefully they become a customer, and then eventually hopefully they grow with your company. Over the course of this journey, customers speak to many different people in your organization, but to them, it’s just your company.
Customers today expect anyone they interact with during their customer journey, both pre- and post- sales be able to provide the same level of service and knowledge. They don’t really care what the person at your company’s title is or if they sit pre-sales or post-sales. They expect everyone to be able to give them what they need when they need it, with the same level of service and expertise.
Additionally, if your product is solid and expanding, a happy customer will want to expand with you. The CSM teams are the ones that are having adoption and usage conversations and should be the eyes and ears of the organization for growth opportunities. Support often interacts with customers when they are having trouble, which can turn into churn. Or, support speaks to customers when they are trying to rig the solution to be used in an unintended way, but their problems can often be solved with an add-on solution. Therefore, enablement today should include ensuring that all customer-facing roles have the knowledge and resources and playbooks they need to support customers, and know how and when to pull in other members of the account team. We need to make sure that everyone in our organizations are able to speak to the nuances of our service and provide that seamless customer experience infinity loop.
What are the downstream implications and risks associated with only focusing on sales enablement? Besides the customer experience?
The first one that comes to mind is growth: customers may need more seats of your product or additional features. Very often there is money being left on the table in terms of expansion and growth. Usually the people who are talking to the customers and working on adoption and usage are on the post-sale side of the house. That’s low-hanging fruit in terms of growth. You want to make sure your post-sale individuals are able to recognize growth opportunities and have the skills they need to play it out.
The second one is churn: if customers are dissatisfied with the product or not using it, are the people they’re speaking to in your organization trained to recognize the potential for churn and fix it?
If your company is not looking at these growth opportunities and recognizing churn before it happens, you’re not only leaving money on the table, you’re losing customers on the backend. Your existing customer base should be your biggest advocates. Existing customers are the first things that come to mind for me in terms of financial impacts of not enabling your post-sale reps.
For companies that don’t currently have an enablement function and are hoping to get started, how do you think about the skills and experience needed for an enablement role?
Companies should answer the question of what does each role need in terms of tools, processes, resources, training, etc. in order to support their customers at the place of the journey they interact with the customer. An enablement hire needs to share information across roles so everyone has access to customer interaction data and be aware of the playbook and process to work seamlessly as an account team. The more consistent and scalable the infrastructure is, the more agile and effective the teams can be.
It’s helpful if the individual has been in a customer-facing role previously. They need to be able to put on a support hat, a success hat, a sales hat. They have to consider the day-to-day functions and needs of each role, then be the liaison between the frontline management and other supporting roles to ensure that each role has the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to do carry out their day to support the customers day to day.
In addition to empowering the frontline folks (sales, support, success), how should people think about empowering the leadership team?
I love that question because I see enablement and empowerment having three distinct legs: the empowerment team, the individual being empowered, and the manager. Something I’ve learned to do when rolling out a new initiative is to train the leaders first. Get their buy-in and establish what they’re trying to accomplish. Training the leaders teaches them what it really takes to empower somebody, and if they’re not able to talk intelligently about what you’re enabling, the training will die soon after it’s introduced.
It’s also crucial for employees to see that something is important to their manager. When sales leader complete training alongside their reports, the lower level reps grasp the importance and think “If my manager found the time to do this, I have to find the time to do this.”
Where within the leadership team have you seen enablement sit and what are the implications of different organizational structures?
Very often enablement starts under sales and then evolves to a bigger role that sits beneath a Chief Revenue Officer, a Chief Customer Officer, or even a Chief Operations Officer. I think it’s really important that sales and customer success leaders see enablement as a partner, so I recommend closely aligning enablement with those two teams in particular. Having a CRO that oversees sales, success, support, marketing, and enablement makes a lot of sense.
Sales, success, and support reps need to have a lot of information at their fingertips. They need everything from competitive battle cards to new feature releases and everything in between.
Talk to me about what the enablement team’s role is in wrangling all of that information so it’s available on demand, not just in a training capacity.
I think the enablement function needs to own getting those resources available and give guidance on what is important. They need to work with subject matter experts (SMEs) to curate information, make it readily available, and keep it up to date. But the process needs to be painless for the SMEs and stakeholders so that they can and will support it while they do their day jobs.
I see enablement roles as museum curators: When you go to a museum, you have your artist who created the actual work, and the curator who strung it all together and fleshed out the backstory in a way that makes sense for the museum visitors. The artist doesn’t make the work accessible to patrons, the curator does. But without the artist, there’s no exhibit. The enablement role takes the SME’s art and curates the program. When enablement provides the infrastructure to support this, and makes it easy for SMEs to provide trusted resources, everyone wins.
And that’s why I use Guru. Guru is a platform for SMES to share content, keep it up to date, and keep it trusted. Guru makes it easy for everyone, but it’s my job to make sure the information is there.
Agreed. As your knowledge grows, making sure it’s up-to-date is immensely important, or else you’re going to lose the trust of your teams. If someone pulls up information and there are 5 out-of-date versions to choose from, trust in your resources will plummet. At Guru we also focus on making information directly available within reps’ workflows rather than forcing them to go on a wild goose chase for it.
Looking ahead, how do you see enablement continuing to evolve and improve?
With AI and ML becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, there’s going to be an expectation from the customer on the speed at which they get their responses. When customers aren’t leveraging a bot but talking to a human, that expectation for speed will be higher. We’ll need to make sure sales and support and success humans are so far superior and able to think critically and deal with complex issues. Leveraging AI and ML to enable functions and let your humans critically think and be efficient will be huge.
We’ve covered a lot of ground today, Roz. If you could leave viewers with one key takeaway what would it be?
Think about enablement from the point of view of your customers and their journey. Ask: “What does the customer need and when do they need it?” Then back into what enablement you provide your go-to-market teams to support the customer needs. Think of enablement in terms of all the knowledge, resources, and skills the customer-facing human will need to be the front lines of your business.
Couldn’t agree more. Our last question is a fun one: if you could be any fictional character - from a book, movie, or television show - who would you be, and why?
MacKenzie "Mac" from HBO’s The Newsroom: MacKenzie strives to return her station to the days of real news broadcasts and is deeply committed to objectively reporting accurate news not matter the consequences. I remember feeling a pang of jealousy for her passion and drive.
Great show! That will wrap things up for today, Roz. Thanks again for joining us. For anyone wanting to learn more about Roz and her company Level213, check out level213.com.
And be sure to tune into Guru’s next webinar on Thursday, September 20 with Will Foley, Director of Revenue Operations at Splash. Will and I will be talking about CX across the customer journey. Reach out to me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and I hope to catch you live next week!