EP 25 – Enablement & Your Customer’s Sales Process – Matt Cohen
Presentation of the episode
He explains why enablement isn’t just training, the differences and how to set the buyer at the center of the sales process.
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Hi everybody, I’m really happy to be with Matt Cohen, senior manager, revenue enablement at Clari. Could you please tell us what Clari do?
That’s great. And you have written a great article in a GTM mag about the enablement horizon. First, could you share with us a clear definition of enablement?
Yeah. So you know, a lot of people, I think, start off on the wrong foot, assuming that enablement is training. And that is understandable given the foundations of where enablement started, it really came, it was born out of sales training. But enablement is now, you know, across the entire revenue org, the entire buyer journey, which we’ll get into in a little bit. So I’d define it as the proactive identification of gaps in that buyer journey and aligning people process and technology to ultimately accomplish priorities that you are setting with the rest of the organization and with leadership.
Great. And could you come back on, on these terms about this buyer experience, the priorities of people, process and technology?
Yeah. So, so first off I think this is where it really is important to consider where enablement is in the organism, where it sits and this is another thing that a lot of organizations I think get wrong for understandable reasons. Given that description that I just gave, when I say that a lot of people go, wow, that, that sounds almost like the CRO well, that’s intentional really. You can think of enablement as an extension of the CRO. It’s a very similar mindset. No other function in revenue and go to market, whatever the organization calls it is as centralized and connected throughout that entire department. So when I say proactive, I mean, there’s a balance between that traditional enablement scope of just, you know, taking requests from the field and being reactive, and also using that holistic view from across revenue to shape those priorities I alluded to earlier and say, Hey, we see this gap. Let’s say from handoff, from pre-sales to post-sales. What do we do to, what do we do to address that here’s our recommendation. And then you surface that with leadership and scope it with other priorities. That’s what I mean by proactive. As far as the buyer experience goes, I touched on this a little bit. Sales enablement has grown out of necessity. Given the complexity of B2B sales from start to finish. It’s no longer just getting to close. You want to create advocates ultimately, right? So that requires collaboration from across your entire revenue org. And it requires the enablement team to be aligned to how the buyer thinks the buyer doesn’t think one day they’re talking to sales one day, they’re talking to customer success, right?
They are just talking to the organization. And so that’s the way an enablement should be aligned. And that’s where buyer experience comes from. Optimization of people process technology. So I think this is where a lot of times people focus too tactically and start to talk about training. Training is just a mechanism really, by which we optimize people, process technology.
It could be argued as another mechanism by which we do this really. So there’s other definitions floating around out there. Eli Cohen has one that I. He just focuses on the alignment of people, process and priorities. Those are his, the three Ps. And so that’s really what we’re focused on, tools, training, all that other stuff, where a lot of organizations like that’s where enablement should be focused.
Those are just, those are just vehicles. And so those are examples to give an example of a process, for instance, right. Enablement team may, and I’ll get into this. Map out the sales process and alignment to your buyer journey. That may be something that they do. They may work in collaboration with marketing on a content audit process, something a little more tactical, right?
So there’s different examples there technology can include LMS. It can include content management and conclude conversational intelligence. Right? All that kind of core sales could
It could include Clari too I believe?
Yeah, like Clari. So what difference do you make between enablement and ops because the two seem to be included one in each other now.
Yeah. So that’s a good question. Enablement is often, and this is a bit reductive. I will say there are exceptions to this, but the easiest way I’ve heard it put is that ops. They have a charter toward efficiency. And enablement has a charter toward effectiveness. Is there overlap? Of course you know, there’s strategic and tactical elements to all jobs.
There’s when you think about technology, for instance, I just touched on some of those examples. You collaborate with ops on that, right? And there’s some efficiency elements, but ultimately enablement wants to drive the effectiveness, they want to get their teams to as one former coworker of mine put at peak performance. Right? And so ops is more of that kind of relentless incremental improvement, right? Constantly tweaking the tech stack and processes in collaboration with a number of teams to make their teams more efficient and faster. Right.
So for you, you still see those two teams working together, but not being the same.
Yes often that is one of the better alignments of enablement in the org that I’ve seen is under ops. I still think it should report directly to the CRO for a number of reasons. But yes, ops and enablement should be tightly aligned. Yeah.
Okay. And what would be the first things to do to set up an enablement strategy?
Yeah. So I alluded to this earlier. I think the first thing is mapping out your buyer journey. And this is where you know, even the most progressive of enablement functions, they may start with the sales process. The reason I go a step further and focused on the buyer journey is because you’re aligning yourself to that buyer experience.
Right. And so you want to start with them, the customer in mind. So when you map out what they are doing from the time they start to consider a solution within your category. They’re just researching the market all the way to a close and beyond them. As I mentioned earlier, becoming customer advocates, becoming champions, what are all the things they have to do?
Talk to your most experienced revenue leader. Talk to your top performers, get different perspectives. Talk to customers, validate it with customers, right? Once you have that mapped out, that’s the hardest first step, but it’s the most important. Once you have that mapped out, you can then focus on your internal activities and align those to that buyer journey.
Okay. This is what we typically do to close the deal. Well, are we out of alignment with what the customer’s doing and stage two, three, right? Maybe we have to realign to be a little more effective. And then once you have that map out. You have a really good picture of what it takes for a rep to take a deal from lead to close to renewal.
You’re talking pre-sale post-sale depending on if you have a hunter farmer model and all that good stuff and you can group that thematically and you start to have skills, core skill areas that you need to develop in the organization. And so once you have that it becomes a lot easier to build an onboarding program because you can say, okay, these are our skills, these are our levels of fluency for each of these skills.
This is the content we need. It’s easier to build continuous development, right? You build your onboarding. You’re like, okay, well, what do our existing reps where their biggest gaps in these skill areas when you’re selecting a sales methodology again, how can we support the biggest gaps in those skill areas? All in service of being aligned to the buyer.
I totally agree with you. Since I have published a 300 page book in France acquisition strategy designed for those that are watching the videos, you can see it behind me. It’s a collective intelligence methodology to formalize the buyer journey through an acquisition canvas.
We have designs that help participants to our workshop, ask themselves the right question to understand what’s their buyer and then formalized their buyer journey. This formalization being the foundation to designing the acquisition plan that will make the buyer progress at every stage of the journey. So we are very aligned in the way we do. And we have created the tool for…. It’s still in french, we have started to translate it, but it’s with my marketing agency, but it’s really aligned. And if we follow on how do you create a sales process starting with the buyer journey or do you put the buyer in the center of the sales process?
So. I would say you put the buyer at the center of it. You know, when I touched on validating with customers earlier, validating that buyer journey, I think that’s, I kind of breezed by, but that’s a really important step. It kind of defeats the whole point of the exercise if you create what you think is the buyer journey and a silo with your internal lens, right.
Even if it’s someone who let’s say you’re working with a leader, who’s worked with a bunch of customers at your company. You still have to talk to the customers directly and validate it. That’s something that we did at Clari and it served us really well. Right. We are obsessed with our customers. It’s one of our six values being one with customers.
So I think consulting with them is just as important as talking to your most experienced leaders and top performers.
And you make it in a kind of research and analysis way, or do you make it at every sales meeting saying, okay. We understood your journey. We believe that you went through the step, do you agree? And this is the next step we want you to follow.
So I think what you’re starting to get into and, all kind of differentiate the two is a mutual action plans. We, so when we were going through this exercise of mapping out the buyer journey. You have kind of like focus groups. You have really focused meetings to validate that journey with customers. You don’t really conflate it with a sales conversation or a deal. Usually there are people who recently signed that’s a good idea, cause they just went through that experience and they are already going, starting to work toward renewal. That’s a good idea. Another option would be someone who has that advocate who has gone through the entire journey with you, right?
As far as speaking to the journey in the course of a deal, you need to make sure. And this is really the continuation. You’re asking you to whole order of operations here. You need to make sure that all of this is operationalized. So, it needs to be operationalized in terms of a sales content strategy. You need to have, you need to work with marketing closely on aligning your top assets for each of your core asset types, right? Presentations, one-pagers product, race, et cetera. However you classify those. What do you send on stage one? What do you send in stage two to make sure that your sellers it’s always, it’s not always going to be super.
We know that, right. But it gives the sellers guidance to do it the right way. And then as far as aligning with the buyer we have a solution for this it’s called Clari aligned and we use it internally. And so, you know, others may call it mutual action plans if they have another solution for it, but it’s integral in giving the buyer an idea of what that process is going to look like working with you, and then constantly checking in throughout that process, right? Not talking again, not talking about stage one, stage two, stage three, you know, Hey, now we’re in discovery or evaluation, right? That’s not how they’re thinking, put it in their language, make sure they understand where you’re at in that process. And that’s going to serve them a lot better in the long run because ultimately B2B sales has become buyer enablement in a lot of ways. I’ve seen this floating around and I love this idea.
Yeah, I recorded a podcast two days ago really on the topic of, buyer enablement and co-documenting to help buyer enablement. Yeah. So it’s a pretty great topic.
Yeah. You have to create a champion and enable them for an internal sale. If you don’t help them make that internal sale, you’re not going to make your sale.
Right. That’s just as important as you convincing them. And so anyway, mutual action plan is a big part of that.
Yeah. Great. In your article you make a difference between sales process and sales methodology, could you clarify for us?
Yeah. This is another one I think often gets confused. Sales process are the actions you take at each stage they are tactically. How you execute a deal. A sales methodology is more of your sales culture. It’s more of what you value. The kind of the less tangible aspect of it. Right? And so when you’re selecting a sales methodology, for instance, I think this helps illustrate the point.
You know, you have your biggest skill gaps kind of identified and all that. You know, do you have a rather inexperienced Salesforce that really needs help kind of defining what are the objective criteria to close a deal? Well, med picks a great fit for that med picks a great fit in general, I think, but you know, that’s a good use case for that methodology.
If you have a kind of trouble, your sales culture lacks that ability to push back in a respectful kind of intellectual informed way. Challenger could be a good fit. If you are getting caught up in feature function conversations, and you feel like you’re getting commoditized, it’s other people in your space, right. Value selling to be a good fit, the list goes on and on. So that’s examples of how you can think about the two different process and methodology.
And so in your process, you implement a methodology. Is that true? Is that the right way to express it?
Yeah. And, you know, for instance, let’s say med pick right. You may align finding different parts of med pick in different stages. You may not all, you may not get all of that often. You don’t right off the bat on that first meeting. Right. In fact, you don’t want to, you don’t want to just sit there and fill out med pick, right? So you would have that at different points in the sales process. And the same is true for other methodologies as well.
Great. Did you use see something else to add to our conversation? Because we are getting to the end of the interview.
I would say you know, there’s a lot of conversation about what enablement is and what enablement isn’t. And I would, I would just say if any, you know, revenue leaders are seeing this, or you’re thinking about hiring for enablement, it is so important to position enablement the right way. Not just for the people who do enablement. I mean, sure. This is, of course there’s a bit of a self-serving nature to this. I’m in enablement and I want the function to continue to grow, but it’s better for the organization. You know, it’s, I had a former colleague who kind of put it this way. If you position enablement the wrong way. It’s kinda like, you know, converting, it’s like driving a civic instead of a Maserati, you know, if you, if you and I have a civic, by the way, so not to offend anyone, you know, it’s just like, you’re not implementing it the right way.
And it’s not going to ultimately serve your organization as well as it could.
And what is the right way? What is your org chart that would be the ideal?
So I am reporting directly in the CRO. I mentioned that part, that aspect earlier. I think you know, tying it to some sort of support ratio. There seems to be a consensus growing right now, and it depends on a lot of things. It depends on the complexity of your product. It depends on the size of your organization. So, but I’m hearing more and more about this kind of 40 to 50 to one ratio in between there. So make sure you know the audience that you selected has a proportional number of enabling people aligned to their audience and make sure that your org chart, any enablement team, as you build it out is built thoughtfully.
And what I mean by that is you can do one or two things. You can build it, you know, domain expertise where you can have people focused on tech stack on product enabled. On manager enablement, et cetera, et cetera, or it could be more audience driven where you have someone focused on pre-sales. Someone focused, maybe even more specifically on AEs and then someone focused on SIs. Someone focused on post-sales you get the idea but just make sure that you have it set up that way. Otherwise, you know, if you have kind of people just doing enablement as a part-time thing, as part of their job, decentralized enablement, you’ll hear it called it leads to a lot of confusion and double work and rework because you’re not treating it as the function it is and should be.
So if the revenue enablement is directly under the CRO, you also have it at the same level, that’s head of sales and all those type of function and where would be the sales ops?
And that would be appear as well. But let me caveat with. I have been in organizations where enablement reports directly into the head of sales. I’ve been in organizations where enablement reports into ops. Those can work. Those can work, especially if you’re not at the point, enablement’s not built out enough to warrant reporting directly to the CRO. That’s a goal right. There are different options. There’s just trade-offs right. Org charts matter. I think a lot of people try to say, ah, you know, especially in startups, like we can all just work together and reporting lines don’t matter that much. They really do. Because they impact your priorities. So depending on where you are. You know reporting directly to sales, you may be overly focused on just, you know, coaching and deal execution, which is really one aspect.
If you’re in marketing, you may be focused too much on content. If you’re on ops, you may be focused too much on tools. Right. So that independence is where I’ve seen it work the best.
Great. Thanks a lot, Matt. 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 enjoy today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback, share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don’t miss anything. This episode was brought to you by Salesdeck.io, the virtual selling platform that increases your sales team efficiency and sales readiness enables remote management and vemps sales operational excellence. Book your Salesdeck.io demo today. And thanks a lot Matt. Goodbye, Matt. It was a pleasure.
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