Steve Mayernick gave his perspective on the purpose of sales enablement at the San Francisco SES. From observations on the changes in the role over the past ten years, to fantastic insights on how to get your reps hitting quota, Steve's masterful take on sales enablement is one to really sink your teeth into.

Here's what he said.

"Say you're walking through the market and somebody's handing out flyers.

You're probably met with a whole bunch of different emotions, anxiety, don't look, don't make eye contact.

It's something that happens to us almost every day, especially for those of you who live in San Francisco.

Last week, I observed this very thing happening. I sat back and watched it happen for a little while and was wondering why are people even picking up these flyers just getting thrown in their faces?

Not to my surprise, about 30 feet behind was a garbage can overflowing with the one sheets.

I had this epiphany.

This is how a lot of people treat modern sales enablement, content, content, content.

One sheets, data sheets, product FAQs, you name it, just throwing them in people's faces.

It dawned on me that you know where sales enablement was, compared to where it is today. It's changed a lot."

Sales enablement as a function is booming

"It's a great time to be in the role. CSO insights puts out awesome data and I recommend you check out the work in the Miller Heiman group.

They put out a survey that's at 59% of the respondents have a dedicated enablement function. This was in 2018. In 2013, that number was only 19%.

On top of that, they estimate HubSpot estimates $66 billion spent annually on sales training and enablement technology. So this is clearly a burgeoning field. There’s a lot of great energy around sales enablement.

But there's a giant disconnect. So when you see this investment into the role and into the technology, and then you look at the numbers, there’s quite a stark contrast.

From the CSO insights again, 77% of the survey respondents said salespeople don't understand their company's value to their prospects.

Toko also puts out awesome data, such as 71% of sales reps said they don't have enough knowledge to move deals forward. And then only 58% of reps are making quota. That's the killer. That's the big one. That's why we do what we do.

Just 10 years ago, the desktop was king. You had your desktop, you had your email client, you had one or two portals, you had your phone, that was it.

As enablement professionals, our reps needed to adapt their behavior to fit these technologies. Things moved much, much slower. There was a lot less information about your product out on the internet. Because of that sellers were really dependent on content to help educate their buyers.

Fast forward to today. If you open up your laptop, there’s guaranteed to be over 10 tabs open. Yes, a lot has changed. Now, the web browser is king. Everyone has SaaS applications. Everyone's living and working in so many different places. That's a real challenge for us in enablement.

It's a real challenge, because anytime we buy a tool, and we ask a rep, go there to find the thing. They're never going to do it.

Because that's the 11th, or the 12th, or the 13th place they need to go. They're prospecting in LinkedIn. They're in Gmail. They're in Slack. They're inundated with tools and information.

Things are changing, product updates, process updates, things are moving faster than ever. And I'm sure we're all familiar with this data point. But our buyers are more educated than ever. 60% of the buyer journey is completed before they even talk to our reps."

So what does that all mean?

"There are a lot of definitions of sales enablement. This one comes from Forrester, it is by far my favorite.

They define sales enablement as a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation.

All client facing employees? Not just sales reps, not a specific sales team. Anyone who can communicate with a customer.

What's super interesting about this as a buyer of technology as well, is I'm sure we've all experienced this firsthand. I think back to five or six years ago, I was really hot on this one particular piece of technology.

I'd done all my research, I was ready to roll. Lined up the introduction call, go through 10 to 15 minutes of discovery, solid discovery, and stop the rep. I said I'm bought into a lot of this, I get you have to do your discovery but before we jump into a demo, I've got three questions.

One, is your API going to work with our product? Two was a specific security question. And the third was around predictive analytics.

He couldn't answer those questions. I had to stop him and say ‘these are non starters for me, I need to know before I waste any more of your time with a demo.’

I ended up buying from a competitor. I had the demo the next day. That rep was ready to roll, had answers to all those questions, moved the conversation forward, kept me engaged, I ended up buying that product.

So we think about the conversation, and the role of the conversation and we get so tied up in prospecting, or pipeline management. Reps actually spend a third of their day talking to prospects.

And there's also interesting data that says in this world of email and everything else, 41% still say the phone is the most effective sales tool as buyers. Yet 85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their phone experience.

I'm fortunate enough to work with a great sales leadership team, and the other day, I had another epiphany when our Director of Sales guru said, content is a crutch, not for our reps, for our buyers. And a light went off. I've always thought of enablement as teaching reps how to fish.

But there’s six, seven people involved in every buying decision. How many of those do we have direct access to? How many those who we actually have on the phone, where we can ensure that our narrative comes across really crisp and clear that our differentiators come across that we're hitting on all the things that we're wanting, that we're injecting the customer stories we want?

If you think about enablement, we should not only be equipping our reps to have valuable conversations, but for buyers to have conversations internally.

You talk to any rep, give me the one sheet, give me the data sheet, another case study. All well and good. It certainly has its place."

I went to a Renwick Gallery in DC during lunch time and was excited about the stacks of paper that was used to create a huge mountain. This shot was exceptionally intriguing to me since it allows you to describe the image however you like.
Photo by Christa Dodoo / Unsplash

Knowledge is power

"But when you think about what is actually required to move a deal and a conversation forward, there's all sorts of knowledge that is often overlooked, that we don't think about in enablement roles.

Process knowledge, how do I prospect at this stage, I'm in Salesforce. I'm moving it from discovery into qualification. What do I do in Salesforce? How do I communicate that to our buyer?

Conversational knowledge, how do I handle this objection? How do I handle the competitive question? How do I handle that security question?

And then product knowledge. Things are changing so fast. How do we make sure that our reps are up to date on all the things that are happening around our product?

You can start to think about the internal and the external, across each stage of the buyer journey. So when you're an SDR and you're prospecting, you need your persona information, you need to understand the pain points and the objectives of that persona.

You need qualification questions in case they answer your cold call, then you move into discovery. You need a different set of discovery questions. You need sales playbooks. You need to figure out what the different demo plays are.

So you've done your prospecting, you've had a great demo, you've had a great conversation. You need content to cement and reinforce that conversation. That is the role of content in sales enablement these days."

Metrics and measuring success

"So how do we start to measure conversational success? So I'm sure all of us have data teams or work with data directly. If you take nothing else out of this, understand the power of cohort analysis for your enablement reporting.

Cohort analysis is basically grouping people into onboarding class.

So if you're onboarding five hundred reps at a time, you're capturing those as different cohorts. I joined a company five or six years ago. And one of the first things that the VP of Sales told me is we're going to hire, we're going to go from nine to ninety on the client facing side, you're going to have to onboard all of them.

One of the mistakes I made early on was not taking into account the outliers, there are always going to be reps that just come in, and, and do really, really well. At the same time, there's always going to be those that lag behind, those that don't work as hard, those that don't go through the training the same way.

What cohort analysis allows us to do is start to measure our success as an enablement function on a more holistic level. So we could actually see as we refine our onboarding process, as we refine all of our ongoing enablement, are we making a material difference from class to class?

Another thing I consider is defining some custom metrics. One thing that we love to do is scorecard our rep’s conversations. We can start to understand how well they're handling objections, how well they're actually communicating product value, how well they're injecting customer stories. This is not only a great measurement of conversational success, but it's also great to inform further enablement activities. A lot of great role playing inspiration out of that.

Measuring time to second deal is a really strong and powerful indicator. A mistake I made was measuring time to first deal. Some people get lucky, some get a deal handed to them on a silver platter. Time to second deal is a much better indicator of whether they’re having good conversations, are we engaging people, are we actually closing those deals?"

Deal velocity

"One of the biggest benefits to being good within the context of a conversation is we keep the deals moving.

Going back to that conversation I had with that sales rep. If he had been able to address my security question, if he'd been able to address the API question, we would have moved on.

He slowed that deal down. A few days later he sent me a one sheet on their predictive analytics. I don't even think I ever opened it. It didn't matter. He lost me.

The other is directly related to that number of calls held per closed one opportunity.

So if it's taking us 8, 9, 10 calls to close a deal in a certain segment, we can start to assess whether or not those conversations are more valuable if we're moving people down our funnel faster."

The conversational toolkit

"At the end of the day, we need to start taking on how to actually implement some of these. Some of it's just ideology.

But there is a core set of tools that really, really help think about enablement and measure enablement through this lens.

So the first is live chat. Live chat for sales was not a thing, even two, three years ago. Now it's a real opportunity and companies that seem to do that really well put themselves at a huge competitive advantage.

The second I can't recommend highly enough. Use conversational intelligence tools. Chorus and Gong are the two that I would recommend. The ability to to scorecard, to run playlists, to look for certain keywords if you think your reps are struggling, we just set up trackers to go and ping us whenever that comes up in a deal, we can just quickly jump to the point in the conversation where that comes up.

The third is real time knowledge management. Knowledge management is not something that enablement people think about very often.

Being able to get that just in time information in front of a rep, during that conversation is critical. Whether it be the competitive battle card, or whether it be a quick product FAQ, or, you know, 'are we SOC 2 compliant?'

Having that at the fingertips of a rep in the moment is absolutely critical. And that's the distinction between knowledge and content."

Para todo hay solucion
Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon / Unsplash

What's next for enablement?

"So, going back to that Forrester definition that I love so much. What we're starting to see is a huge trend, especially in smaller, faster growing companies of enablement as a function, starting to enable more than just sales, CS, account management, customer support.

Forrester also talks about a customer continuity curve. Tthe concept is, your buyers have questions. They don't care who answers them. What you need to do is ensure that all of your customer facing employees can have that conversation.

Whether it be conversational intelligence tools, live chat, knowledge management, thinking about how I can make them their best versions of themselves in that moment, answer questions, handle objections, move deals forward.

Again, they spent a third of their day doing that. Why not invest from an enablement standpoint and make themselves successful in those scenarios.

The role of real time knowledge management, sales enablement, as a category is very confused. And sometimes people will wonder why doesn't one tool do it all?

There's a lot of answers to those questions, but these are complicated problems that all these different tools are trying to solve.

It's important to understand that sales enablement is not a specific product. Though it is addressed as a category, there are many different types of products within sales enablement.

Content is king for content marketers, but conversations are the lifeblood of sales."

This article is adapted from a speech Steve gave at the San Francisco SES, Steve Mayernick is Head of Product Marketing at Guru