Episode 12: Proving the Business Value of Sales Enablement


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Jarod Greene
Jarod Greene
Vice President, Product Marketing, Highspot
Podcast Transcript

As recent research from Sales Enablement PRO found, 92% of organizations believe that having a dedicated enablement team has helped improve sales performance. But in a financial climate where organizations are trying to do more with less, how can teams actually prove that impact? Here to discuss the business value of sales enablement is Jarod Greene, the Vice President of Product Marketing here at Highspot.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Win Win Podcast. I’m your host, Shawnna Sumaoang. Join us as we dive into changing trends in the workplace and how to navigate them successfully. Thanks for joining, Jarod! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role here at Highspot.

Jarod Greene: Thanks for having me, Shawnna. I lead product marketing at Highspot. I felt in the space around 2014. I joined a tech company to lead their product marketing function and after spending 10 years with Gartner and before that I even taught seventh-grade math, so it’s a little bit of a nuanced, diverse background. I’d say that my primary role and responsibilities here at Highspot are really about forging connections. The goal is really to get everyone on the same page with regard to our product value message. We have to explain to our audience, both internal and external, what Highspot does, how Highspot does it, and how that is different than the way competitors and substitutes and alternative solutions do it and that’s why it all matters and we work to do that in the world where the product is going to change every 6 to 8 weeks, we do it in the world where competitor’s products change every 6 to 8 weeks, they make moves, they make changes, we adjust. I’d say there’s never a dull moment in the world of product marketing. That’s a little bit about me and what we do. I lead a phenomenal team of individuals who are passionate, who are incredibly gifted, and who embody the mission of making this discipline something that is not only well understood internally, but externally. As I said, there is never a dull moment in the world of PMM.

SS: Well, we’re excited to have you here because I think PMM is one of the closest partners to sales enablement, and I’d like to get your perspective on the market landscape. I’d like to focus a little bit on the current business landscape. What are some of the common pain points that organizations are experiencing in today’s climate and from your perspective, how can sales enablement help solve those?

JG: We have 100% seen a shift from earlier in the year, but it felt like the mission was going to grow at all costs to now where the mission is really focused on resilience and it really has moved to a model for efficient growth and really what companies that were talking to now are having conversations with us is about making sure that they get the most out of any investment that they make. Their purchases are under scrutiny, more so than ever. A lot of what they’re looking to invest in those across the CFOs desk in certain thresholds and it’s really difficult for an organization to understand in earnest where they should place debts and determine which investments are the most critical. They have to manage a couple of things. They have to manage their selling GA cost, they also have to manage the cost of goods so they have to answer some really difficult questions. Is this the time for them to double down on sales and marketing? Is this the time for them to invest in a product? Is this the time for them to invest in talent, particularly in tech where you see a lot of talent in the market now to unfortunately to layoffs, is this the time for customers and organizations who can maybe use and bring some of that talent into the organization? That obviously comes at a cost, or maybe put them in a different position on the other side of this recession.

I don’t envy a lot of these organizations, but being a leader in such an organization puts me in a different position to drive and have some of these conversations. Do we launch new products? Do we enter new markets? Do we think about a pricing model? There are so many options on the table, but I think at the end of the day there really shouldn’t be a debate about whether or not we need to improve the productivity of our sales teams, and when we talk about productivity, I think this has been a lot of debate. I always looked at it, as you need to make your salespeople more effective, and help them win more deals faster. I’m going to make them more efficient, help them navigate all the things that they need to do internally, make it easier for them to find the content, make it easier for them to take the training, make it easier for them to do a lot of the activities you’re asking them to do and that combination of making them more effective giving them time in the day back, I don’t think it’s ever proven to be a losing proposition.

To answer your question specifically, I don’t see where you can’t afford to not do enablement. This is what good enablement does. It makes the sellers effective, it makes your sellers efficient, and it helps you get the resources they need to help them be more successful more often with the notion that organizations doing enablement just perform better. When it’s done right, the sellers have the content they need, they have the guidance, they have the training, and they can achieve their goals more often. I also talked to leadership about ways to make sure that it can identify what you may have soft spots in your go-to-market execution. It may help you identify gaps in product confidence. It may help you identify weaknesses in certain geography or segments or industries, and you know, unfortunately, or fortunately it may even help you manage out your poor performers a little bit faster. You and I talk about this a lot. I don’t see how you can’t afford to have enablement in a climate where every dollar matters, every investment is critical and you really are relying on the sales team to do everything in their power to close as much business as possible.

SS: Absolutely. As you said, in today’s business climate, every investment matters. For those of you that might be a little less familiar with the audience, Jarod, I’d love for you to share why you believe enablement is a strategic investment for businesses.

JD: Yeah, 100%. I think whether you have 10 sellers or 10,000 sellers, you need those salespeople to know what to do. What they are doing on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and asking those sellers to understand your corporate or go-to-market strategy can be too big of a jump and quite frankly, probably not the best use of our time. What we find and what we found over the years is that your sales folks really do need the strategy broken down into the discrete actions that they can perform. In time and go-to-market leadership team, whoever owns go-to-market strategy and your organization, whether that’s sales, whether it’s marketing or this revenue strategy, whether that services to develop and execute that strategy and then measure the execution of that strategy in a way to make sense. You are informing your sales team on the best ways that you believe they need to go execute that and you need to be deliberate and specific about how that happens.

Too often we find that to go to market teams don’t really have insights into what is working so they end up doing everything. They end up asking sellers to do a bunch of events that to them, they feel random. They feel disconnected. They feel like they don’t necessarily connect the dots across all the things that they need to do. Those mismatches are when things get funky. Enablement really is the function that helps to put all those things in context enablement. I would say it’s like this Rosetta Stone of the go-to-market strategy. If things can go and be translated through enablement, who does a phenomenal job in contextualizing what the seller needs to do and what good looks like, again, I don’t see how an organization functions well in any market that is changing and dynamic where the ask of your sales teams change on a pretty fluid basis. To me, it’s the ability to drive change at scale, adapt to changes quickly, and the ability to measure what’s working. Enablement when done well, as you know, can do all those things.

SS: Absolutely. Now to some sales enablement is still a relatively new concept. I mean in comparison to some of the more traditional departments within an organization, like a traditional sales or traditional marketing department, which means that some business leaders may not fully understand its value. What are some of the key things that executive leaders should know about the power of enablement and its potential to drive business impact?

JG: Great question, and for product marketers, we feel that as well. A lot of times when we talk about the partnership with the product marketing team, and enablement team, we share a lot of the same war stories in terms of does the business understand what it is we do. I think where enablement has typically struggled is the evolution beyond just sales training or sales content. It’s so much more than both of those things. Typically beyond the marketing organization of the product marketing organization to create content to give to sales teams and typically the executive team has lost sight or context of whose job is it to distill and break that content down for the sellers.

I see this in a lot of sales enablement. This is the training function. This is just the place where sellers get on board the train, get the battery put in their back, and then sent it out to go execute. right? No, it’s a little more extensive than that. We’ve seen the world worth enabling and product marketing is more than just content and sales enablement is more than just training. Strategic enablement, as we can elevate the discipline, is about making sure all that content has the right context. It’s training, it’s making sure everyone understands that mission, understands what good looks like, and is prepared and ready to execute at a moment’s notice. The other big unlock that I think executives have to understand is it’s about coaching to reinforce those desired behaviors. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my Highspot tenure is that enablement lives and dies what if your front-line sales managers? When sales reps have questions, the first person they ask isn’t the marketing person who wrote the white paper, it isn’t to the enablement team, or the onboarding team that drove the training, it’s simply to the front-line manager and if that manager isn’t a line isn’t on the same page, there is chaos. I think that’s where the ability to tie together content, guidance, training, coaching, and analytics is the thing that the executive team should think about the enablement lines through.

It’s about outcomes. It’s not about rep satisfaction, it’s not about whether the plays are being run and the content is downloaded, it is about connecting the dots, showing the impact and the influence of the enablement program. I guess the outcomes in business want to drive otherwise you look like and will be funded like a call center, and so again that the challenge is for enablement to step up and meet the moment where you can effectively translate the enablement investment into the business outcomes that are desired by the executive.

SS: Absolutely. I mean right now I think a lot of companies are under pressure to not only protect the bottom line but also achieve more with less, so the ability to prove return on investment is essential. How can enablement professionals prove the ROI of enablement and just continue to reinforce its value?

JG: Yeah, 100%. I see this one a lot. I think it’s that linkage. The story and the context you want to provide is the one that says the reps who are doing the things you want, the reps who are consuming the content and pitching the content and coming to training and listening and being kind of reinforced and coached by their managers the right way are the ones that are performing better than the ones who aren’t doing those things. The ability to show that linkage may not seem easy, and again, I don’t think any investment in any program or any software is going to provide a 100% link, but your job and your objective as the person leading the function are to show directional causation. Generally speaking, do you find that the reps who are doing things that you asked them to do are performing better than the ones who aren’t? You’re closer to telling your value story by using the things that the business cares about.

They 100% care about whether the reps are happy, they 100% care about the content being used, downloaded and the train being attended, but they care about revenue performance a lot more. They care about, you know, reducing the churn rate a lot more. They are a lot more about reducing sales churn rates. There are a lot of things that they care about at the top level, like the things that they report to the board. It’s on enablement professionals and enablement teams to link their performance to those things. That level up becomes really critical, and again, when we’ve done well, the right set of analytics and the right set of insights, you may find validation on some of the challenges that you hear from the sales team, you might have a product problem, you might have a product market fit problem, you might have a narrative problem, but you might not have a sales problem in certain pockets. You might not have an enablement problem, right? That there’s something that is working for a certain cohort and that’s enough of a string to go pull to understand what you can do to continue to drive the right behaviors and reinforce the right values so that you can get those outcomes more often.

Those insights you get often become gold and I would just challenge now to try to boil the ocean but just get directional in terms of the influence of your enablement program on seller outcomes in a given cohort and then continue to double down in places that are working and then be honest and start to pull back from the areas that aren’t working as effectively, but you can’t do it without those insights or will continue to throw content over the wall, training over the wall, coaching advice over the wall, with no connection to bottom-line outcomes, which puts us back in a spot where we are just a very expensive cost center which none of us want to be the best.

SS: Absolutely. I think for enablement practitioners to be able to pull those insights obviously though they need to be able to optimize their tech stack including Highspot to maximize the ROI of enablement. I know we’ve talked a lot about sales tech mayhem inside of conversations we’ve had over the last year, but how can teams from your perspective maybe go about optimizing their tech stack?

JG: Just open and real is one of our guiding principles, you’re asking the market leader Highspot how to optimize the tech stack. I have a bias. I show it all the time, but I do think there’s a world where you recognize that the fewer tools you have, the easier it is to measure impact, and then coupled with some of the economic uncertainty we talked about a few minutes ago, you do see a world a mandate for a lot of organizations to just reduce the tech stack. There are solutions out there that claim to do a lot of things, and I think the tendency is to try to do a suite-based approach where one vendor promises the world and you can consolidate and get the data and get everything integrated. It’s a great promise on paper, but sometimes it’s difficult to deliver on.

What we tend to see is organizations doing more best of breed, but doing fewer best-of-breed purchases. What I mean by that is you’ll see typically for cohorts tool types. You won’t find any business that does not have a CRM system in some capacity, so I need something to manage my records, my opportunities for leads, contacts, and all that fun stuff. You need a CRM, no one’s going to delete that. You typically also need a system that gives you a kind of intelligence and insight around the ways that your sales team is managing those opportunities where you see tools like Clari that can help you with forecasts and pipeline management. Those are really effective intelligence tools that use AI to help you do a better job of predicting what is going to happen. You also see investments in things like engagement tools, so these are the tools that like the sales team perform a bunch of activities at scale with regard to the way they engage their prospects and customers. Those are phenomenal, they do a great job for one of the many touches and cadences. No one’s going to argue that those tools don’t make sense.

Then we see this kind of massive explosion in our own enablement space and I think we see that for two reasons. One, it’s the tool that drives behavior change that you need for the under three types of tools. So your CRM system is kind of records management, that system of record, you have the systems of insight which gives you intelligence, you have systems of engagement that let you communicate the scale, but none of those tools and sounds are the things you use to drive behavior around. I think enablement gives you a nice two-for-one and that you can absolutely say the change we need to drive is about the way we go to market, the way we sell, the way we position the way we market, the way we position, the way we package, the way we price. You can use enablement tools for all those things but a really fun cheat code is that you can also use enablement tools to do the training and enablement on the other tools you bought. Again, that positive correlation of teams that have the enablement function and can actually put programs on how to use the CRM tools, how to use the engagement tool, how to use the system of insight and intelligence tool, the forecasting tool, is a great way to not only drive kind of your foundational onboard but to also now create another set of analytics, another set of insights on the correlation between effective tool usage and sales performance.

So again, I’ll never sit here and say you only need four tools. You need to make the best decisions for your business, but at the end of the day, we see enablement as the one used to drive behavior change and not to see the impact of that change in behavior in ways that other tools don’t give you. So again, I am showing a little bit of bias here Shawnna, but I think part of what we do in terms of the value of enablement goes beyond just sales reform is just a lot of internal value. We see teams ascertained from it. That goes a long way to drive adoption from some of your other key investments in a climate where getting the most out of your investment is critical.

SS: Absolutely. I mean to echo what you said, how teams tell the story of their value can really make a difference in how that information is received, particularly by executive leaders, and presenting key metrics and data is definitely important but there’s a component of that storytelling element that is just absolutely critical. At Highspot, we always want to help our customers tell their stories. What advice would you give to our listeners on how they can begin to tell that value story to their business?

JG: Absolutely. To broaden our product marketing mantra, it’s all about the level of yes, absolutely metrics that the enablement team needs to improve performance. So absolutely a focus on whether or not the enablement contents are being used, whether the training is being attended, whether the pitch templates are good enough to date, and whether all that’s covered. That’s phenomenal stuff you need to run your business with. I promise you again, your boss’s boss doesn’t care about that stuff at the same level that You do. Your boss’s boss cares about revenue. They care about productivity, care about protecting the base, they care about making sure that churn rates don’t move into a place, that they don’t want them to move. The things that they need to report to their board of directors are the things that they care about. The job is to show enablement’s ability to impact those numbers, those metrics, and those measures in positive ways.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy to do. I’m going to tell you that there’s some work that needs to be done that positively influences the enablement activities with the business outcomes. When you have tools like Highspot, this becomes a heck of a lot easier, but ultimately the onus is gonna fall to your ability to tell that story. There are a million things you can measure across your platforms, but the ability to tie together the impact of the investments made in enablement. A dollar spent in enablement translates into 2, 3, 4, or 8 dollars for the business. It’s easier for other teams to do that. Sometimes it’s easier for marketing, sometimes a lot easier for sales, but enablement to use some of the same systems, the same techniques to show that positive correlation.

I think you and I both find that some of the best enablement practitioners we know come from those nuanced backgrounds. They didn’t go to college and major in sales enablement and just get into enablement. They come from marketing, they come from sales, they come from services, they’ve been executive and so their ability not only to understand how the soup is made and all the connection points, but their ability to tell a story effectively goes a long way. I encourage anyone to take advantage of the multiple resources out there within the enablement community work and network and connect with some of the folks who are doing this at a high level because I promise you, you’re probably doing some of the same programs and some of the same techniques and applying some of the same concepts. I’d be willing to bet that their ability to tell their value stories is probably a level higher, and I think it’s in the best interests of enablement professionals to level up to meet that moment and share those tools, share those techniques, share those templates to not only be better at that conversation but to up level, the entire discipline as executives come and executives go, the ability to really cement and staple enablement as a mission-critical function is everyone’s job. I just love what the communities within this discipline do to help every practitioner at every level tell the stories.

SS: Jarod, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciated learning from you how to position the business value of enablement. I appreciate the time.

JG: I appreciate your time.

SS: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Win Win podcast. Be sure to tune in next time for more insights on how you can maximize enablement success with Highspot.

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