Last year, we recognized leaders in the sales enablement community with the first Sales Enablement Star Awards. We’re excited to continue this annual tradition and recognize this year’s group of sales enablement standouts!
What is a Sales Enablement Star?
As sales processes become more complex, our Sales Enablement Stars recognize the need to bring sales and marketing together to drive successful customer engagements. These pros use creative thinking, people management, and technical understanding to help make marketing and sales team members more effective.
The awards recognize Sales Enablement Stars in these seven categories:
- Sales Tech Mastery
- Sales Readiness
- Sales Communications
- Process Innovation
- Customer-First Focus
- Cross-Department Alignment
- Account-Based Strategy
With their skills and expertise, the Sales Enablement Stars are shaping the industry by pioneering new processes and establishing standards in sales content management, training, and customer engagement.
Please join us in congratulating the 2018 Sales Enablement Stars! Thank you for inspiring us!
Meet the 2018 Sales Enablement Stars
We had a chance to spend time with several of the winners to better understand what they have done to excel in these categories. We’ve included a few notable best practices and sage advice that we wanted to share with other sales enablement professionals below!
What approach do you take with your sales team around the tools and technology that you’re using to enable them?
Jenna Reed: Salespeople have so many tools at their disposal. It’s important to take the time to evaluate how often sales is actually using the tools, how much is being invested in those tools vs. how much value the business is getting from those tools — these are just a few of the things we looked at in a recent tools audit. It’s also important to create the documentation and training for each of these tools so your sales people have the proficiency needed to get the most impact from those tools. There’s a balancing act because with every tool you add, you’re also taking them away from the selling function for tool trainings. At Zendesk, we believe having a great tech stack is super important. We want to make people efficient. We want the salespeople, in particular, to focus on selling and building relationships with our customers, and not get hung up with the different tools and systems that they’re using. At the end of the day, efficiency, proficiency, and adoption really matter when it comes to your sales tech stack.
What is one of the biggest challenges to modern sales readiness?
Abby Nicol: Bandwidth, two-fold. Bandwidth from a creation standpoint, and being able to build it all and deploy it all with a lean team is a challenge. But also bandwidth from the folks receiving the information. Sellers need to be out selling, they need to be having conversations with clients, and they can’t be attending a two-hour internal training webinar everyday. We’re very cognizant of time, both the amount of time the training will take and how impactful our time will be with the sellers, so if we can do something in a quick five-minute video and it ultimately produces great return, that’s huge for us, but if we have to take sellers out of the field for an hour, then it better produce a really great return or it might not be worth it. The ‘air traffic control’ piece is definitely a challenge, but that’s a huge part of sales enablement — to be able to take a look at everything we’re doing in the business and then prioritize accordingly — where does it fit, how big should this be, how small can this be, and how can we be as impactful as possible.
Any ideas you can offer regarding ongoing improvement of sales communications?
Sanjot Harsoor: On the simipler side, forums. Every week, we have a global forum to cover sales communications items; for example, changes in process, technical product updates, enhancements to value propositions, new partnerships, new initiatives — quite a plethora of information that is provided week after week to build in that foundation. On the more complex side, an internal ecosystem. In the past, we did not have a single portal that we could use to collaborate and share content and communications. We built out a single place where sellers can find everything they need to be successful in the field in a very visually appealing and easy-to-use location. Our reps are at 95 percent adoption of this portal because it makes it very easy for them to find what they need when they need it.
Breton Caplan: Communication is an absolute imperative of sales enablement. Clarity is key for all internal communications, building trust and developing a collaborative network in support of sales. But it’s number one in demonstrating the partnership you will have with a prospect once they become a customer. People don’t purchase based on a sales pitch. Buying decisions factor in the seller and their ability to communicate in a way that sets the stage for an ongoing business relationship.
How did you get into the sales enablement profession?
Bill Ball: My dad. Coming out of college, I was more excited about playing in bands — I never thought I would go into sales. But I was very interested in technology, and my dad had been in sales for his entire career — and so I basically grew up learning about sales. I’ve done inside sales, field sales, retail sales, and even a bit of consulting. Over time, I became passionate about organizational development and began putting most of my effort into working with reps, coaching reps, and really trying to turn the company culture into a coaching culture. I was also passionate about recruiting, and actually took on the recruiting department for a while and built out the processes to help that run more efficiently and effectively. Those efforts really opened the door to focusing more holistically on process innovation and continually trying to refine business processes. That’s when I first found the term “sales enablement” and thought, “Is that me?”
What advice would you give how to improve sales enablement processes?
Bill Ball: Ensure you have the right foundation. You can’t just barge in and start building stuff. That isn’t role-based enablement. You’ve actually got to get out there and spend time with reps to understand what processes will actually work. Once you understand the reps, you can go back and work with leadership to define what “good” looks like across sales, marketing, management, and even workflow. Then you’ve got the foundation for building scalable processes.
What have you done to pivot on a customer-first methodology and why is this an important focus for you?
Mark Roberts: From very early on, I was blessed to work with Jim Sankey, an amazing entrepreneur who even in the late 1980s and early 1990s wanted sales in front of customers understanding what customers needed. These meetings resulted in many new proprietary products as well as increasing the sales of current products. Last I heard, as many as 70 percent of salespeople missed their quota last year. I promise you that the 30 percent who hit it and the 10 percent or so who exceeded it did so by giving buyers what they needed and they helped connect their product and or service to one of their customer’s business drivers for creating value. I have been blessed to have a number of mentors who stressed to take care of the customer and watch sales come in. Often the hardest sale is internal, not in the market.
What advice would you give on how to improve cross-department alignment?
Tracy Meinke: One of the first things that I did in this sales enablement role was survey several departments within the organization to better understand if any gaps existed. With that data in hand, I was then able to bring that to the leadership for both sales and marketing to secure executive support in breaking down the barriers that existed. Finding a common focus and initiative to begin to bridge departments is a great place to start.
Sona Jepson: In order to improve cross-department alignment, it’s imperative to start from a common ground. Ensuring not just individual and team goals but common cross-department goals has made a huge difference and ensuring that people are growing in the same direction. Even more importantly, it creates an environment of tremendous collaboration and support that gets provided to each other since leader and employee development, performance, and compensation are tied to their colleagues’ success. And then, finally, recognition for good work, great results, and also epic failures is celebrated. It’s important to keep testing and trying things in an effort to stay fresh, creative, and innovative.
Wendy Braham: It’s not all about execution. Succeeding in sales enablement requires a solid balance between strategy and execution. Yes, you have to have a workforce mentality, but to be successful you must also able to plan and strategize and think ahead by two to three quarters, at least, at all times. You also have to realize that you’re going to hit some snags and those are just going to be learning experiences, but not failure.
How does sales enablement impact organizations with an Account-based strategy?
Tracy Eiler: Do you know the number-one contributor to conflict between sales and marketing? Accurate data on your market and target accounts. With so many companies moving to an account-based focus, being able to get your teams aligned is critical. ABM is a terrific ‘forcing function’ for sales and marketing alignment. Enabling our sellers to understand our Total Addressable Market (TAM), select the right accounts, and then orchestrate our outreach is increasing our performance in every way.
Be on the lookout for future blog posts based on interviews with our winners. Congratulations to the 2018 Sales Enablement Stars. You inspire us all!