Episode 35: Building a Winning Enablement Strategy With What Good Looks Like


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Peter Zink
Peter Zink
Senior Director, Revenue Enablement, Sprout Social
Podcast Transcript

Research from Sales Enablement PRO found that practitioners who leverage a sales enablement platform for their sales teams report win rates that are 7 percentage points higher than those who do not. So, how can teams leverage Highspot to go beyond what good looks like?

Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Win Win Podcast. I’m your host, Shawnna Sumaoang. In the quest to drive sales productivity for your business, you’ve likely asked yourself: What does good look like? This month on the podcast, we’re helping you answer this question by exploring best practices on how you can deliver strategic enablement with Highspot. Here to discuss this topic is Peter Zink, the senior director of revenue enablement at Sprout Social. Thanks for joining Peter! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role. 

Peter Zink: Hi Shawnna. It’s great to be here and tell a little bit about our story around Sprout Social. As you mentioned, I head up revenue enablement here at Sprout Social. I’ve been doing it for almost three years over here. I think like many people, I got into enablement probably a little bit by accident. I started off as a sales rep following a career as an intelligence officer in the army and I just had a really big passion for wanting to help others.

I was in a sales role and I started at a small insurance company where we had done a couple of acquisitions and they needed to build an onboarding program. That was my foray into enablement and that was almost nine years ago. I did that for a little while, and then I decided that I wanted to help other companies with that, and I joined a company called Sirius Decisions where I was a consultant helping other organizations with their sales enablement programs.

Sirius was acquired by Forrester and at that point I decided to move back into the practitioner space I have found myself here at Sprout Social and we’re having a really fun time over here and enjoying what we’re doing.

SS: I love that, and thank you so much for joining us. As you mentioned, in your background, you’ve helped hundreds of companies from Fortune 100s to high-growth startups, and you’ve helped them design and deploy sales enablement programs. I’d love to get your perspective on what does a good sales enablement strategy look like? 

PZ: First of all, it was just a really great experience to be able to do that. I got to see over a period of time how enablement evolved and how a lot of different companies were sort of shaping this space. What really struck me was that there are just universal challenges out there that no matter what your scale, a lot of enablement organizations struggle with. When we think about driving change management within our own organization, distilling priorities, and scaling enablement effectively, that’s something that I saw everything from a startup to a Fortune 10 organization that we would work with. 

When I think about what shapes a great enablement strategy, I think the most important thing is that you really need to come in and define and scope the role properly with your go-to-market leadership. I find that many people throw around the term enablement and it means a lot of different things to different people, so I think the most critical thing with your strategy is to come in and define both the scope of your department in terms of what you will do and what you cannot do. I’ve always tried to align resources around some large strategic priority in the business. I think it’s really critical for enablement to always be seen as your strategy is activating over whatever is most critical for the business. 

For example, in terms of scope, when I first came in, enablement was really focused on training exclusively. We had our new hire, we had regular ongoing training, we had training for our managers, and I just recognized that there were a few opportunities out there. For example, we had a new brand story that we were rolling out at the time called See Social Differently, and there was an ask from the floor to anchor our company around that consistent story in sales calls and they needed slideware and storytelling to kind of accomplish that. 

When I thought about our own strategy, I realized that this was a huge priority for the business and that we had to own the delivery and the co-development of those assets around the brand stories of the sales team. That’s where we got into a whole stand to deliver certification with our organization. We ended up becoming a very collaborative partner around the development of those sales collateral assets, and it was critical for us to align with a big initiative like that. At the same time, we also defined what we didn’t do when we came in. In our particular case, I’ve seen it before, where enablement-owned sales tools, for example, are covered in our revenue operations function today. We established some clear lines too in terms of where it was most meaningful for enablement to be effective. 

In the end, I think a good strategy really comes from defining and scoping what to do, what you do, and what you don’t, aligning whatever your support is on the most important priorities of the business, and don’t be afraid to leverage those opportunities to partner on the most critical initiatives that are gonna impact your revenue team to get there. 

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Recently the enablement team at Sprout Social received the sales program of the year award from Forrester, which again, incredible achievement Peter, to you and your entire team. Can you tell us about how the enablement strategy at Sprout Social was formed and what makes it so effective? 

PZ: Yeah, absolutely. In this particular case, the sales program in the year kind of drilled down on a specific aspect of our team big shout out to Morgan Momcilovich, who runs this team, but she was really the program of the year winner that set up what we call our field coach program here at Sprout Social. That program, I’ll get into here in a little bit more, I think in a bit, but I’ll just say that that was an evolution of our overall enablement strategy. 

When I talked about strategy a minute ago, I would say here that the field coach program is something that is a good example of a program that emerged based on aligning to those most important priorities. We had our broad-based enablement around our product and our campaigns. We had that down really down pat, and we recognized that we needed a role that was closer to the field that serves as that sort of last line of enablement with reps and managers in their organization. We’ve had a lot of success with this program because we’ve hired a lot of people with sales and success experience to then step into this role where they are very much in the day-to-day support of our sellers and our success roles here at Sprout.

I think that’s been again, just identifying a way that we can sort of scale our programs and bring it down to the field and make it relevant is what’s made it so successful and why we were recognized through the program of the year as well. Another cool fact actually, is that the program has been valued so much that we actually even had some quota-bearing headcount transferred to us in order to be able to expand that program effectively.

SS: That is very cool. I want to ask a little bit more about the program that you guys were recognized for with that award. As you mentioned, it is all about the impact of the field coaching program, and you also have a core enablement team. Can you share how you created a unified approach to enablement spanning across these programs?

PZ: Absolutely. A little context today, our centralized enablement team consists of eight people, including myself. The way we structured it basically is, I look at it in two ways. Think of our organization as sort of two structures. I’ve got something called a center of excellence model, so that’s what you just mentioned, Shawnna, about delivering broad-based enablement to the entire organization at once. Think of that as our core plays, such as our new hire program, the rollout of a deck that’s associated with a particular campaign or skill broad-based e-learning that anyone can take, even communications to the field so we try to consolidate what’s hitting the entire sales and success organization at once in a thoughtful way. 

That’s very much like our center of excellence model, and that’s really when I talk about the unified approach to enablement and spanning things across, you’ve gotta start with that. You’ve gotta have that model in place that is applied to the broad audience and the entire company to kind of try to build your base of support.

Then the second leg of that stool, so to speak, is what is that go-to-market enablement team, what we’re just talking about with those field coaches. With the go-to-market enablement team, it’s all about aligning key leaders in our go-to-market organization to some tactical enablement support. The responsibility of these roles is to take a lot of the great work the Center of Excellence group does and make it something that they practice and coach on, on a small team basis, really bringing it to life as it’s relevant to each role.

You think about that brand story earlier. That feels different if you’re having a new business conversation versus a check-in for an executive business review with an existing client. There’s a lot that they can do to really bring the material to life and they’re also working on a lot of the fundamental skills that those roles need to be successful. We keep a real, even division and clear responsibilities between these two teams. They even align to different parts of the business a little bit more closely. If you think about the COE, that’s somebody who’s a lot closer to our product org, our marketing organization, and the field coaches and the go-to-market enablement side, they’re really attuned to what’s going on across the sales and success leadership within our org.

SS: I love that you guys have that unified approach. Now, to shift gears just a little bit, I’d love to understand what things look like before, and Peter, I know one of your strengths is around really taking a strategic approach to enablement, and I know that you like to examine the business issues and really kind of come up with an actionable enablement plan to address those issues. With that in mind, what were some of the challenges facing your business prior to Highspot, and how have you overcome them since implementing the platform? 

PZ: Absolutely. Just a step back, like when you talk about strategy and what I sort of assess when I come into an organization, and probably things that you’ve heard before, Shawnna, but I assess what is our talent development strategy. That’s a lot of the training that we’ve just talked about. Another aspect that I look at is our assets, so the collateral, the content, not even just the customer-facing content, but the tools or the job aids that our sales and success people can use in their roles. That’s another big area of assessment.

I bring all that up because it kind of talks about the pre-Highspot era. When I came in the training was really quite solid and we had a lot of great stuff to build on there. The asset side was an opportunity for us to get a lot more involved. From what I saw, there were a lot of inconsistent materials that were being shared with the sales organization. We had multiple instances or places where people were going to get what they needed, and usually, that consisted of a shared drive that a particular manager or leader might have been able to consolidate over time. 

As I mentioned with the center of excellence earlier, we really stood up a good partnership with marketing on just getting a handle on what decks and sales collateral should be associated with what was rolling out. That was a problem right away that I felt that we could get our hands around and do, and do a better job on. We had a couple of platforms where the content was residing, even though at the time we did have a sales content management tool that was in place. 

What I noticed with the tool was that no one was clearly owning it at the time, so we saw it as an enablement tool that we should own, so we took ownership of it, we cleaned up the environment, we streamlined a lot of things within that tool itself, but it was something that had been around for a while. It was something where reps were familiar with existing ways of doing things, and I saw that we had an opportunity to potentially pick a platform where it was frankly a better experience for our reps where we could get better analytics and insights and where we could just have the opportunity to really reset our entire content environment as a company as well, and rethink it. That’s not always easy to do when you have these existing tools in place, so that was the start and kind of where we were with Highspot, so just a few challenges there.

SS: Just a few, but you guys have been making some amazing strides. Tell us a little bit more. It sounds like you guys made a switch from a previous enablement platform. Why did you decide to go with Highspot? I know at a high level you identified a few areas, but I’d love to hear it in your own words.

PZ: It’s interesting. I identified a few high-level issues right off the bat, like when I said, gosh, I would love to find a platform that’s got better analytics, for example, around content. Could we get to a world where, besides knowing what is the most used content, I can actually start to associate content with opportunities and revenue? Highspot appeared to give us a path to get there as an organization with some of the Salesforce integrations and other work that we’re doing, so that was very appealing to me. 

I’ve known Highspot for a while, obviously, from being at Serious Decisions and Forrester, and there’s a tagline that the marketing team has at Highspot or did at one point, and that was Reps Love Highspot. I had this as part of our evaluation, but it’s something that’s become very clear as we picked up the tool, the user experience, and the ease with that reps are able to find content and even just quickly get what they need is critical and isn’t something you really know for sure until you actually load your own instance and put your content in there and see how the environment is working with the team. 

I think what’s interesting with Highspot is, I don’t know if you know this, Shawnna, on how we launched it, but we launched it at the start of the year and the way we did it was we had our revenue kickoff, which was virtual this year. You had to use Highspot to go to kickoff. I mean, you couldn’t attend sessions, you couldn’t go to breakouts, and you couldn’t even get into the Zoom room unless you clicked around and actually used the content in Highspot. That was literally our onboarding experience for our reps into Highspot, and a big testament to Highspot is, yeah, we had some training and stuff you could take on Highspot, but most of our team has elected not to do that because it’s so intuitive that they’re able to get what they need right off the bat.

That’s just been a big win. From realizing that when things like search work correctly, when the platform is fast and snappy when it’s very intuitive for people to find things, it just naturally leads to good results. We see that in our calls and in our conversational intelligence on just the level of content that people are using, what’s being shared, and the level of engagement. Even people leave reviews on content. There are just a lot of signs that the user experience of the tool has become a key reason why it’s been a big win for us to have a platform like Highspot versus what we had before. 

SS: I love that. On that note on usage, you have at Sprout Social an 85% recurring usage rate, which is again, just a testament in itself to how well you have implemented Highspot within Sprout Social. What role would you say Highspot plays in your enablement strategy? 

PZ: I do think the percentage is a little higher if we took out marketing and a few executives as licenses there, so I know it’s good, but I bet I think it’s even better, to be honest. We are really proud of our rate and people are going back to it all the time. When you talk about Highspot’s role in our enablement strategy, I see it as more than a content management platform. It is true if I try to hit this holy grail of the one place sales can go and success can go to find what they need, it’s Highspot. Whenever we think about launching something, whenever we think about where we want to point people to learn, we think about where people want to find information that’s relevant to their jobs to be successful. Highspot is the tool that we really want to use to drive people there. 

It’s funny, with our last tool, we really just focused on putting buyer-facing slides in there, but we’ve done all of our event management. If we have a big training event management where you need to sign up for a flight or go book a hotel or something like that, we’re using Highspot for that. We’ve developed a whole bunch of stuff around our sales process that I’m sure we can talk about at some point that Highspot helps us push and deliver really relevant content in there. It’s key to everything we do. 

Essentially, when we come up with an enable and play or a launch or anything, the end vehicle that we’re going to use is Highspot to deliver that. That’s because it’s got that superior search experience. It’s easy to use. From what I’ve seen, it’s something that our reps feel like they could go in there and engage with and it’s not a painful experience. 

SS: Let’s avoid pain at all costs. 

PZ: Yeah, no pain at all.

SS: Now, Peter, I love how you really jumped into Highspot and really immersed yourself in a lot of the core features. One of the ones that you have adopted within your organization is Sales Plays. In fact, you guys are in our top quartile there at 99% sales play adoption. You’ve lightly touched on a few examples, but can you tell us more about how you leverage sales plays and also the role that they play?

PZ: I’ll give a little context for the audience, which I think it’s mostly Highspot customers, but just kind of explain why the sales play so critical in the vehicle that we choose to use. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Highspot, the spot is like the container where you put your content. You put a theme around that. There are different themes of these spots and you can put filters. It’s great. You can add whatever filters you need on that particular spot to help drill down and help people find the content that they need. 

That is all great, but the cool thing about the sales plays is the sales plays are these pages that allow you to be very prescriptive with the sales team or any role in what they’re supposed to do. We use a play for a variety of things, but the most obvious is anytime that there’s a rollout of a new product feature or major campaign assets that we want the sales and success of or to leverage in conversations, we develop these plays.

The plays provide guidance around all sorts of things. They provide the ability for us to really give some nice talk tracks and messaging that people can use in conversations, they give us the ability to put and house and surface the content that’s most relevant for that sales motion right on one page. A good example is just today actually, we just launched a campaign where our CMO is talking about the impact that social has on our CMOs. We’re able to, on the backend, pull together all kinds of great assets associated with that campaign that our sales and success team can then go into conversation with. They get some talk tracks and guidance around what they’re supposed to do, but we’ve got things segmented in those plays by role to give a lot of guidance around that as well. They have the materials right there where they can share those with any customers or prospects that they’re engaging with. 

Basically, the play systematizes and makes it very clear what a rep or a CSM is supposed to do in a particular situation. It provides the context behind all of the great content that’s already housed in Highspot if that makes a lot of sense. We use them all the time. It doesn’t have to just be a marketing campaign either. I am very proud of the team and building what I call playbooks. I feel like the word playbook is another one that’s been thrown around for years. We have built some really cool things with sales plays where no matter where you are in the sales process, no matter what you’re doing with a customer, these plays provide a lot of really great guidance and resources on how to exactly do your job.

In fact, we’ve had people change roles at Sprout and use these playbooks to onboard onto their new roles, which is really cool. We have used sales plays to take our sales methodology content and distill it down and provide some really focused guidance on what they’re supposed to be doing with the sales methodology at any one time. It’s been a big hit, and like you said, Shawnna, we’re at a 99% play adoption rate. I don’t know what it would take to get to a hundred, but I’m very happy with that number. 

SS: It is a fantastic number. Now, you talked earlier too about how you guys have taken these plays and created even playbook spots, and I know that your enablement team has partnered and aligned really closely with your marketing team. Can you tell us more about this partnership and the importance of alignment with marketing? 

PZ: Sure, I’ll kind of talk about the marrying of the playbooks and the marketing materials like you just kind of mentioned there. I think this is probably the best way to tackle that question. As I mentioned, we built these playbook spots and what that essentially means for those of you listening is I’m sure your company at some point has produced a card or gone through and mapped your entire sales process, and if not, I’m sure that’s something you want to do. Once you have that mapped and you can put that on a card, that’s not enough information or enough guidance for how people can be successful in their role. 

What we did in Highspot is we built this really cool experience where we mapped out the sales process in Highspot and you can click into this experience and get a lot of great details like example calls, videos from their peers, materials, and collateral that should be used during the particular play. That’s where the marrying of the sales process and marketing come together. 

In the example that I just provided earlier, we’ve released this new campaign about the impact that Social can have on our CMOs and all the great content associated with it. What we have done with that is in addition to having the play about that, we’ve then segmented that content out. We bring that marketing content into our actual sales process to suggest where you can use it. That’s right within Highspot. If we’re in discovery today, even though this campaign launched just yesterday already, somebody’s going to see when they go in there and start looking at discovery and asking themselves, what is it that I should be using with a CMO? The great content that marketing produces is something that’s available to them right within that sales motion. Highspot has allowed us through these playbook spots and to really align our marketing collateral to the sales and success motions that are necessary to be successful. 

SS: Very cool. Now, as you know, Highspot has a really strong partner ecosystem and I had actually heard that one of the ways in which you guys leveraged playbooks was around your rollout this past spring of the Challenger Methodology to your entire sales team. I would love to hear more about how you integrated with Challenger and the impact that that’s had on your sales team.

PZ: It was funny, it was not a driving reason why we selected the Challenger Sales Methodology, but it has been so great to work with the third-party integration that’s associated with Highspot. It’s been a big win for our organization. Basically, our organization decided to invest in the Challenger Methodology, and Shawnna, I think we were able to do it in less than 24 hours. We were able to work with the Highspot team to basically activate a whole set of challenger content that was directly piped into the Highspot environment. When I say that, I mean e-learning, a lot of collateral that’s associated with Challenger training aids, everything that you could think of that you need to activate a challenger, we were able to turn on immediately within Highspot.

We took that, and of course, it’s a lot of content, it always is, but we took the content that came on with Challengers. One thing I’ll say is it is super easy. We literally just flipped in and I don’t have to tell people to go to a different environment. I don’t have to tell people that, hey, log into the Challenger website and follow your path there and we’ll email you this content or put it on a Google Drive. It was right there in Highspot. 

That goes back to the mission of trying to centralize as many resources in one spot with Highspot. We went in there and we were able to use the sales plays we just talked about to tailor that content and deliver some prescriptive guidance to our sales teams on how to best use the Challenger methodology. Obviously, anytime you bring on a new methodology, there’s very much a foundational set of training that you have to do. We used the sales play feature within Highspot to really call out what people needed to do from a foundational standpoint to be successful with Challenger, and a lot of that was e-learning and some reading that they had to do before we did our live training.

We’ve got some manager resources that we’ve been able to house who are playing there as well. The marketplace integration combined with the ability to give some prescriptive guidance on the challenger training through plays has been really critical for helping focus the attention of our team and rolling out this methodology. It’s frankly key for us and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed working with.

SS: Amazing. Now, what are some of the key business results that your enablement team has been able to achieve since implementing Highspot? 

PZ: I think here in enablement we’ve got to look at a lot of leading indicators. I think before we start to see the business impact and results that kind of comes down. What I can say today for sure, versus what we had before is we are seeing much more consistent behavior from our sales, DEV, and success organization in terms of the content and assets that they’re supposed to be using in customer conversations. It’s very obvious to us that there is a lot of sharing going on, that there’s a lot of viewing what’s going on with the platform, that there is a lot of engagement with what we’re delivering with Highspot, and we have gone upmarket as a company as well over this last year. 

I feel like Highspot has helped us to win a lot of deals that are more upmarket and give people the materials they need to go in and have a higher quality conversation than they had eight to 10 months ago with this tool. It’s been critical in that respect.

The other things are too, I would just say from an adoption standpoint with our methodology and how we get consistent in terms of executing as a business, there’s no doubt that we have delivered a lot of clarity around what we should be doing in our sales process and what we should be doing with our customers through the guidance that we’ve been able to provide through Highspot. That’s been a huge win for just unifying our organization and delivering a consistent motion and helping our organization move up the market more and more as each month goes by. We’re really excited by that and we think that’s going to lead to contributing as well to the growth and the great performance that we’re having here at Sprout. 

SS: Fantastic. Last question, Peter. A lot of organizations are having to do more with less and be really thoughtful about the investments that they make. What would you tell organizations thinking about investing in the Highspot platform?

PZ: To your point, we are investing less today. I think that Highspot is a productivity multiplier, so think about all of the time that is being wasted in your organization right now. If your reps are building content, finding content, maybe even not engaging with the training or the right materials in the first place because it is a lack of intuitive experience at your own organization on how to do that. I think what Highspot has allowed us to do is we have found a platform that we’ve been able to build an experience for our reps that is a lot more pleasant and a good user experience than what they’re traditionally used to. That has led to high adoption, and I think it’s been a big win for our organization for people to be able to stay on message and be consistent and achieve better results in their business.

I consider Highspot’s mission-critical, and it is a tool that is needed if you’re going to scale and grow as a company, even if you want to simplify the existing workflows and content that you have today and make it digestible for your sales, you do it. In my mind, it’s absolutely mission-critical for the organization.

SS: I love that productivity multiplier comment. Love to hear that. Peter, thank you so much for joining us today. 

PZ: Thanks for having me. 

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 go beyond what good looks like with Highspot.

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