EP 9 – The History of Sales Enablement – Saskia Jeneson

Presentation of the episode

On the ninth episode of The Virtual Selling Podcast, Saskia Jeneson, director global sales operation and BDR manager at Powell software, tells us about the history of sales enablement.

She talks about sales enablements before the internet even existed and its evolutions up to now.

About Saskia Jeneson

To learn more about Saskia Jeneson and Powell Software, click on the links below :



With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal. We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organizations, KPIs.
Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast, we address these issues in depth, twice a week, with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablement of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared. Find out how you can shorten sales cycles, convert more leads and increase customer engagement. Virtual selling is here to stay. And so is sales

Hi, I’m very happy today to invite Saskia Jeneson, director global sales operation and BDR manager at Powell software to speak about the history of sales enablement. Hi Saskia.

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Hello Gabriel.

How are you doing?

I’m fine. Thank you. And thank you for inviting me.

Yeah, it’s a real pleasure. It will be very interesting. Could you tell us first about, a little bit about Powell software and what you do there?

Yeah, well Powell software is a French company, but based in almost nine locations all over the world. We are a Microsoft gold tier partner.
And what we do is we deliver a lare on top of SharePoint and Microsoft teams, thus making Microsoft SharePoint more valuable for the companies that are using it and on teams having an easier way to do the governance, the life cycle management of the roles and the ever-growing potential of Microsoft teams.

Great. And what you do for them?

Well, I have two roles. One role is because when they asked me to come in, it was really because they needed a transformation. As your intro says, it’s about virtually selling and how to implement virtual selling more into the day to day business or whatever commercial company.
So when they asked me to come and it was like, we need that transformation. We need to move away from, let’s say, feature selling into solution selling. And at the same time, we need to revisit our sales processes, our sales methodology. And since there was one person who worked with me seven, eight years ago, and I need my technology here in France, he said, well, my approach, the approach with Suskia is so direct.
You will be maybe a little bit afraid in the end, but it will give you results. So that’s how I entered into Powell software. That was July, we’re now April. So let’s say full six months and already things are up. And I’m very proud of them because it takes courage to ask someone here is the sales, do your things.

Yeah. And we had a first discussion where you have a very strong vision about your role and about how directive you have to be for the sales team to follow the right process.

Exactly. Exactly. Because you can’t skip the step and it’s so difficult for, well, whether it’s salespeople or even marketing or BDRs to skip a step.


It’s very seducing, but you can’t and yes, I know I’m old and maybe I’m also a little bit traditional, however, sellin through the ages and actually the decades has never changed.

True. And it’s one of the main reasons for SalesDeck. It is really not to miss this step but to find the right way to use it and to play with it.
What I wanted to speak with you is about, you said you’re old, you’re not so old, but it’s a long time that you are doing sales enablement and were doing sales enablements before even that sales enablement was existing. The term wasn’t existing. So could you tell us a little bit what is sales enablement and how it started and how do you live with this job since 2 years?

Okay. Well, back in the eighties, and it’s really a long time ago, we didn’t have all these sophisticated tools, we didn’t have a CRM, it didn’t exist. People had a Rolodex on their desk. They were running around with, you know, the cahier everything to write in. Well, if you empty their pockets in the evening, there was a stack of business cards.
It was even before the mobile phone. I mean the internet didn’t exist. So it’s almost a prehistoric times of selling and still you came in, especially while it didn’t actually matter what vertical it was, but you had to be trained. So there were training program. It didn’t have to be rewarding, it was, you know, introduction and then you had to go through whatever trainings programs with an exam, and then you were Chuck certified and you could start just selling. And it was only in 1999 that there were two American guys named if I remember is John Elliott who said let’s do something to make it a little bit more modern.
And that in a way was the start of sales enablement as a role. It really started in the US. Now it’s everywhere. And the role is a very diverse one. When you look at the different job descriptions, it is like from doing this developing training, et cetera. But a lot of companies are forgetting that sales enablement is a strategic role and it should be the CEO of each company together with his chief of sales to drive the initiative of sales enablement, because otherwise you will be the nice girl coming. You’re going to develop some trainings. And then the sales leaders, all the country managers, and even the sales can say, I don’t need this.

Yeah, sure. It’s always important to have, you know, the CEO support.

No no no Gabriel, support is not enough. They need to drive in it’s them who need to believe in sales enablement, because otherwise you will become that training lady or the one who is doing knives workshops, and you need to work. And that is also where the role needs to sit. It needs to say that the same level as the sales leaders or country managers reporting into the chief of sales, people should not see it as a threat, but as a strategic choice to empower to enable their sales people, but also marketing BDR, even presales to have a better understanding of the sales process and guide them through those processes. Because the only reason you want sales enablement in your company is to improve your numbers. That’s the only vision that matters.

And you told me that it’s important to have a global sales operation and BDR manager.

Yeah, they are going hand in hand because in a way to BDRs is the testing field.


Secondly, a BDR management asks for, I won’t say empathy. But in a lot of companies, the BDRs/SDR/daily sales are almost considered as the wastebasket of the company.
Yes. They need to do these many calls per hour and blah, blah, blah. But that’s not what they need to do. Their role is to get those qualified opportunities, which you then will enter the sales process and the sales with ability to be a closed one at a certain time. So real pipeline generation, which is a huge part of the responsibility of sales enablement that starts at the very beginning. And even before that, with the MQLS of marketing.

True. I know this part as a marketing agency in France. Just go back to 1999. What was the modern way to do sales enablement in 1999?

In 1999, it was very became, you know, the sales methodology came above. I mean, I remember that in the eighties, we didn’t do sales cycle steps or sales stages.
It was like, okay, this is what I’m doing with this prospect. And this is what I need to do to move it forward. But my way could be totally different from my colleague’s. So what one of those guys did in 1999 was they started to say, you need to follow a methodology. Sales is an art, but it’s also science. And you will need to be able to put the art, which is in the person, in the sales himself. And you need to connect it to the science. And we all know that salespeople are even way lazy. They don’t like methodologies that much because they think, Hey, I’m a good sales, so I don’t need all that crap. And yet, you know, our mother and time and when they started in 1999 was just starting to write down things .

But at this time IBM or Xerox…

Yeah. It was certainly IBM who started and then Xerox started to cooperate with it. Everybody, especially in the IT knew that if you could get a sales coming from ranks Xerox, especially ranks Xerox, they were the best trained sales in the world.

And it was in 1999. It was not before that?

No, no.

Ok. Great. And, rank Xerox, they made an art out of sales methodology.
It was very harsh. And then of course later, IBM started with that. And then we had Oracle and we had all the big tech companies saying, oh yeah, let’s do it. And there were these definitions, like spin, and then you needed to be smart, you know, DSM, RG, or you had to do brands qualifications, but still they didn’t do sales enablement. It was again still training. So then in let’s say…

and what were you doing yourself at this period?

Actually, what I did back then, I still lived in the Netherlands and I had my own company. And in that company I worked with women. So I was also, I’m also feminist because women in the IT in the Netherlands, the moment they got children, there were pushed out because you could only work full-time. So those women had the knowledge or in this case, a very technology vertical, but they also had the charm and the wit, the art of being a BDR in a way. So what I did, it was like body shopping. So what I did, I placed those ladies into those companies as a BDR. The only difference was they could work from home.
And that is where this sales enablement started with the BDRs. And then of course the company they asked me, Saskia can you do some training? And then it was, can you do the guidance of the sales, how to convert opportunities in qualified into whatever next stage depending on their methodology. It still wasn’t called sales enablement.
I was like those consultant on sales, but I didn’t consult on sales. I consulted on how do you look at an opportunity? How can you qualify them? What is a better way of qualifying don’t waste your time, but also account executives need to do their own pipeline generation. So that was the start of it. And it was, well, it was a lot of training and it was being in a role model in a way. But still it wasn’t called sales enablement.

So how did it evolve?

So yes, it evolved over time because then of course we got the first CRM and of course Salesforce made the biggest change because they were internet based. I don’t know if you still remember, let’s call it SAP. I mean the Siebel BARR that still works at IBM. Or you have, for instance, Microsoft dynamics, which back in the day was horrible to work with. And Salesforce made such a huge difference to be the first one to put it in the clouds and it was accessible for you and you could share all that rich information on prospects and customers.
And now, as you know, Salesforce is surrounded with surface now, all kinds of dedicated applications, fully connected with the metric, methodology, well it’s not a methodology it’s like it’s a how to, so there’s a lot of enrichment and that came of course after let’s say 2005/6.

And at this time the word sales enablement started or not yet?

Yup. Yup. And then the role started to come up in job vacancies.

So it came with Salesforce and the CRM and as a way to enable the use of Salesforce and to, so it combined training and also…

And guidance. And then it was, what did the company, because still now we have those very well-known training agencies. Carl Hammer is I think one of the most known.

Which one?

Carl Hammer.


And they even have some local BDR here in France, but the problem is the people who are doing the training do not sell the solutions of the company they are training. So you need to have embedded people who know what is the solution, what is the market and who are able to work or messages, commercial ones work with product marketing.
So it’s also a cross the board role. It’s not, you’re sitting in a silo as a sales enabler, and you’re being very creative. It is really being fully embedded within the company with again the structure of reporting as a strategic role. And that is what I see now, that is growing as well, where it started it was, we were looking for someone who could lose some sales enablement, and then you would sit in like a trainings department or a marketing, whereas I feel it should be above whatever department. And now you see the role involving in its own value.

And so what has are the change in the role since 2005?

Well, it is actually, it is about messaging, what message to use when you write an email or when you do social selling or working together with product marketing to say, okay, these are the features. How can I make them salable? What kind of questions that qualifying questions do I need to build around it?

So it’s really also scenarios for BDRs and no black scripts, like in the old days, but really like, okay they said this, how do you answer? How can you connect it to whatever next sentence you’re gonna do? So it is really more a very creative role. But it also plays with how to tell a story. How do you learn young allies to tell a story, the use of reference cases?
It might sound all very, as I said, a little bit old fashioned, however selling itself has not changed. People still buy from people. So you need to be well, for instance, selling through teams or zoom, or like in a virtual environment is a bit different than when you’re meeting with people sitting face to face, where they can see you better, or you don’t feel awkward to speak.
So you need to emphasize the sales for the salespeople, the real values, which is storytelling instead of hiding behind a presentation or a PowerPoint deck.

Yeah. I totally agree with you about storytelling in sales. I’ve read an excellent book, I’m sure you know it, it’s seven story every sales person must know. I think it’s an Australian guy and it was an amazement for me because there is a lot about storytelling in marketing and I come from marketing, but it’s so much efficient in sales and in marketing because you are bonding with a human and it’s a personal story and not a corporate story, and that make a difference.

And even I’m currently working on a story-telling board for Powell software for one of our solutions, and it starts with the story of one of our oldest customer.
Because what you want is that your prospect starts recognizing himself in your story. And now he wants to be the hero. I love, especially the heroes ones, because you do not put yourself as the hero but your prospect, but before you can do that, you need to know where he sits in the sphere of influence.
Is he an influencer, stakeholder, an employee, or just a user? Or is he my champion? So there are a lot of things sales enablement can bring to a company to say, okay, who are we focusing on, our buying personas, for instance. And that is so important that you know, who is our buying audience. Imagine that we are doing this recording and I’m, again, I think you’ve already the invitation, but we do it for our audience in high school.
We totally told them to the wrong people. And that’s also something Gabriel that I miss in a lot of young sales. Because you, I truly believe sales, you’re being born with sales DNA. And a lot of people say, yeah, but Saskia try to make a good sales out of him. I tell you now, and I tell the audience, don’t. You can’t.
Because sales has so many aspects in it, so many factors, and it’s up to a sales enabler to recognize them and to build that person based on the fact that he already has, on his capabilities.


Instead of, okay, today, we’re going to learn how to move an opportunity from qualified to proposed. It’s yes, you can teach that, but it’s the same like when you take some… I’m now thinking the French word, but let’s say you want to harvest oats or mice and you go to a Rocky underground and you start, you know, throwing out all the little seeds. It won’t grow on rock. And it’s the same with sales enablement.

I agree with you.

You can train, but if it is on the wrong sort of person who doesn’t want to have it, a company should ask, would this be a good sales to me? And that is, so sales enablement also works very closely with HR. Again, something that wasn’t around in the last 30 years, this is something I start to see in the last two, three years. So first.

Collaboration with HR?



Yes. Because a lot of budgets on training are going through HR, talent matrixes are going through HR. So, how can you do a talent matrix when you don’t know? And I’m talking especially about the bigger companies.
So when you look at the development of sales enablement, which in the eighties didn’t exist but we didn’t have the tooling and it was all networking. Then in the nineties they were some small starts off sales enablement, but still under the pretext of training and still the Rolodex because we remembered the technology support from laptops, from CRM, the internet that made the roles, sales enablement, really rich.

Great. And we are close to the conclusion, what you want to add about sales enablement in 2022 now? What is the new hype in sales enablements, new things that the job is including you. You just talked about HR. Is there…

Well, then again, that is more on the sales itself and the development of pipeline and it’s called sales velocity. Calculate, so in a very mathematical way, you look at your numbers. Number of opportunities, closing rates, how long was it in the sales cycle? And you have an average and that’s the closing rate, the number of money a region or country, and that person brings into the company. And is it enough? These are all kinds of mathematical calculations almost artificial intelligence coming out of your CRM that are becoming richer and richer. How to connect that with are we really targeting the correct audience? So you see an enhanced and improved collaboration between marketing and sales. A lot of CRM possibilities on the intelligence part and then creating this is the money we want to bring in as a company, because that is what it’s all about. You want to make profit. This is what we bring in, now how shall we do it? So it has become an upside down pyramid. Whereas first it was just a long line. And the pyramid is upside down because the investment is in the top or it’s not the smallest part, it’s the big line at the top. And then it gets refined and refined.
And that is why I ask any company watching this video is that they put sales enablement in a strategic part of that company, reporting directly into the chief of sales or even better on the management board, because that’s the only way it will fly.

Thanks a lot Saskia. It’s very clear. This episode of the virtual selling podcast is over.
Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode, with new stories and challenges of giants in the field. If you enjoyed today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback. Share this show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don’t miss any episode. This episode was brought to you by, the virtual selling platforms that increase your sales team CVR and sales readiness, enable remote management and vemps sales operational excellence. Book your demo today to discover how you can close more deals with engaging and better preps customer meetings. Thanks a lot Saskia, it was a pleasure.

Thank you very much, Gabriel. Bye-bye.


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