Episode 13: Measuring Enablement's ROI
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.
When enablement can effectively communicate impact, executive leaders are 230% more likely to think that enablement is well-aligned with their goals. So what is the potential business impact of enablement, and how can you prove its value? Stacey Justice, the Vice President of Revenue Enablement at HashiCorp is here to answer that question. Thanks for joining, Stacey! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your organization.
Stacey Justice: Thanks, Shawnna. My name is Stacey Justice and I am, as you mentioned, the Vice President of Revenue Enablement for HashiCorp. HashiCorp is a company that’s really focused on enabling companies to shift to the cloud operating model and we’re seeing that happen across the board with lots of organizations really moving from what we consider private data centers into the cloud and having quite frankly just kind of a hybrid mix of that. We work with organizations to help them better manage that from an infrastructure perspective. I joined HashiCorp about two years ago and I run the revenue enablement team. My team focuses on enabling really all the customer-facing teams except for support. We work from all of our SDRs all the way through to our customer success managers and services team.
SS: I’m really excited to have you join us today, Stacey. You have been a Highspot customer for a while and I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to work with you and speak with you now a few times around. Stacey, from your perspective and kind of given the macroeconomic landscape that we’re facing where many companies today are under pressure to do more with less, why is enablement mission critical for businesses today and how can enablement help companies overcome that challenge of being able to do more with less?
SJ: That’s a great question. Enablement is in kind of a perfect situation within an organization to help drive productivity. I think one of the things about enablement is that it should have the flexibility to align and drive programs that will impact ultimate key business metrics. An example of this, I would say, could be overall pipeline generation, which is obviously mission-critical for organizations today to ensure that they’re generating enough pipeline to be able to generate enough revenue. Enablement has the opportunity and becomes mission critical when it starts to align its programs, let’s say account planning and helping and ensuring that the field understands how to do effective account planning and when it starts to align programs like that to ultimate measurements of success. If you’re able to actually align those programs together from an enablement perspective, you can drive increased pipeline, let’s use that as an example, which is ultimately going to help organizations to be able to close more revenue, hopefully, improve overall productivity, which is the ultimate measure of success, and actually drive to enabling those organizations to do more with less. I think enablement is key there because it can look at those different programs that are going to influence the ability to drive productivity measurements, pipeline measurements, and ultimately conversion ratios that are so important for an organization to be able to succeed.
SS: Absolutely, I think that’s a fantastic way to think about it. Now, how can enablement practitioners go about showing that impact of enablement really all the way up to their executive leadership to help them gain buy-in and support for continued investment in enablement going into the coming year?
SJ: I think the first thing is that it’s starting from business impact. It’s understanding what’s needed in the business. If it’s needed in the business, let’s say, just to improve the ramp time of a new hire, enablement has obviously a really large role in that, assuming that they’re running new hire onboarding programs. If that’s the key, then understanding that those new hires and onboarding programs are going to influence something that’s really critical and then identify what measurement that is. When I look at that time to first deal, time to second deal and I look at the amount of time that it takes and hopefully, we can set a benchmark and then kind of work that forward and then put the programs in place that are going to make that happen.
If the goal is to decrease the amount of time it takes someone to close two deals by, let’s say a month, then align the program to that. Make sure that you’re enabling those reps with the skills, the tools, and the actions that they need to take to get there, and then make sure that leadership knows the influence that those programs are having. I think sometimes enablement teams get caught up in things like the completion or the program or the activities that are done and they forget to measure the actual business results and then they also forget to market it to those leaders. You have to tell those leaders exactly what work is happening, how it’s influencing it, and then kind of take that forward. I think that’s really part of the game as much as anything, just making sure that you’re illustrating that to leadership.
SS: Absolutely. Now, I’d love to get your perspective on this as well though, Stacey, because I do think we are at a really trying time from an economic landscape perspective. How have you seen enablement teams really differentiate themselves from being perceived by leaders as just another sales support function to really being seen as a key strategic function within the organization?
SJ: I think a lot of that comes down to partnership and so in organizations that I’ve been in or that I’ve led, I tend to have role-based teams. I have folks who are assigned and enablement managers who support direct leaders and I think the partnership with enablement and those leaders is really key. Leaders have a really defined set of needs and understand exactly and can help you understand and identify gaps in terms of what’s happening. Some of this comes down to partnering with those leaders that you’re supporting to make sure that that strategic partnership exists and that the focus is on improving those teams and obviously then ultimately the business metrics that you’re able to measure it by. I think that’s one area.
I think the second area comes down to then, again, aligning the programs that you’re doing to business impact. That’s just so key today, doing a program for a program’s sake is just not going to help enablement appear as a strategic partner in the business. So again, it’s consistently understanding what the business needs and aligning the programs to meet those needs with the partnership of the leadership that you’re supporting. Enablement just has this unique position in a company to do that, to be flexible to make that happen and then, you know, assuming the team goes in as the credibility of the folks that they’re supporting. I believe it has a true opportunity to really influence behavior that will help to achieve the metrics and the business outcomes that the business needs.
SS: I’d love to dig in just a little bit more on this. How can cross-functional alignment with some of those partners continue to further strengthen the business value that you’re providing through enablement? Do you have a few examples you could walk us through?
SJ: One of the things that I’ve always said is I think that enablement should be one of the most, if not the most, cross-functionally collaborative teams in the business. Part of that’s because a lot of times enablement is almost like the filter between a lot of those different cross-functional teams in the field. A good example of that is the relationship that enablement really needs to have with product marketing. That relationship needs to be incredibly tight so that information goes back and forth from enablement to product marketing, and vice versa around messaging, what’s working, what’s not working, how you take the messages that product marketing is creating, and then how do you apply that into the field. What does the field really need? I think there’s just so much opportunity for those teams to work collaboratively.
I think that’s the same case with other teams within, I’ll use another marketing example, but I certainly don’t think it’s limited to that. Demand gen teams. Working with them on things like prospecting days. I think there’s a really good opportunity for enablement to partner with those groups, ensuring that the field has all of the skills and tools that they need to effectively prospect and then running programs with demand gen, that can help actually directly contribute to the pipeline. Those are just two examples, but I think enablement stretches across so many different teams in the business and it’s important for that team to have as many cross-functional relationships as possible.
SS: Absolutely, now again, you and I have known each other for a while and I know that you are extremely focused on being a business impact-driven enablement leader, which I love. You even have it on your LinkedIn profile. What are some key metrics that practitioners can use to measure enablement return on investment and really demonstrate all of that business impact that we’ve been talking about today?
SJ: It’s a great question and again, it’s a question I think that everyone’s kind of struggling to understand I think there are some general things that enablement teams can do, but I also think that it depends on the company. Some of the general things that are truly breaking down, for example, new hire ramp time and really looking at the metrics that are going to impact the business. I always call them leading indicators that are important to me from an enablement perspective and lagging indicators when it comes to onboarding. Leader indicators are things like how quickly are they completing the programs, whether are they finishing the certifications, have they excelled within the onboarding program. Then, secondly, the lagging indicators are more around, what are they producing, how much pipelines have they created, how long did it take them to get to create a pipeline, how long it is to the first deal, and how long to the second deal?
I think that’s part of that example, just in terms of ramp time, but my philosophy is always my job isn’t to create a team that’s ready to go out and just likes to be able to succeed anywhere. I always focus on how we help the team succeed here. Not that I don’t care that these reps and these SDRs or whoever you’re enabling aren’t successful in the future, but what I care about is right now. I think the other thing about this is just like focusing on measurements that the company cares about, but also how do you help that rep be successful where they’re at, so if that’s how do I make sure that the rep on day one knows exactly what they’re doing and how they’re going to succeed here and what prospecting looks like at whatever company you’re working at, or down to the specific personas within that company and how they understand that or whatever that comes down to. I think having focused on how is this team successful here and then what that looks like from a business perspective of the company you’re at is really important.
SS: No, I think that’s fantastic. To the point around helping reps where they are, especially right now with how tough things are, do you have tips on optimizing your enablement tech stack to really help your sales reps improve productivity?
SJ: I have a few tips. I think the first is don’t overwhelm the field with technology. There are some key things that you have to make sure you have that I think are just foundational and fundamental today. A sales enablement platform, an LMS, an engagement platform, and then maybe a conversational intelligence. I’m sure there are a few other things, but these are the foundational tools that I think are there and are important to have. Don’t bog your field down with too many tools and then also don’t bog your enablement team down by supporting too many tools. One of the things that I’ve seen is you have to spend the right amount of time to set up a system so that it works well, and that takes time from sales operations, it takes time from enablement to really do it right, and then it’s the continued and ongoing maintenance of.
The more tools you have, the more your team has to focus on that, and the less they might be focusing on qualitative programs. I think that’s just that’s a really key thing. Also, ensure that you spend the time to set it up in the right way. I’ve seen it where systems have just kind of been rolled out to the teams and it’s just not done optimally from the beginning, so it becomes a mess at the end and not optimized, not adopted and it’s just wasting time. It’s a matter of prioritizing both the systems and the work that you want your teams to do and recognizing that systems take work.
SS: Absolutely and to close, one last question for you Stacey. I’d love to hear about how you have used Highspot to improve the business impact of enablement within your organization.
SJ: We use Highspot as an enablement platform and we’re constantly working to evolve and improve it. We use it in a few different ways obviously as our main sales enablement repository for all of our content, but I’ll highlight three different ways we use it. One is partnering with product marketing to ensure that the messaging and the playbooks and the work that product marketing does is located in a central resource, it’s optimized and leveraged by the field and the product marketing has a true action that comes from any kind of I would say involvement in how that’s done. We also use it for role-based pages. I mentioned before that my team is focused on specific roles and we have a lot of role-based excellence managers and they use it to kind of have those role-based pages that are going to serve up the content that those different roles need. It makes it a lot easier for someone to really find the content they need. Then finally, I think the biggest thing is ensuring that it’s an updated trusted resource and I think that’s been a really important thing for us. Making sure that it’s a key part of your technology stack because once it’s outdated and it’s not working well, then it’s not gonna help you. I think the other thing that we’ve done is really make sure that that resource and that enablement platform in the Highspot is up to date and is trusted.
SS: I love that and I continue to love partnering with you, Stacey. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast today.
SJ: Thank you so much, Shawnna. I really enjoyed this.
SS: To our audience, 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.