Avner Baruch is the Director of Sales, Revenue Ops & Sales Enablement at Rapyd. He comes with over 15 years of experience in Sales, Enablement, and Revenue Ops that include building the enablement function from the ground up for companies like WalkMe and Imperva Incapsula. He’s also the founder of Project Moneyball, a strategic consulting and revenue intelligence firm.
In this interview, Avner shares his perspective on the state of sales enablement today and how a proactive approach using data insights and emerging technology can help elevate the role of enablement.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Enablement is a team sport
Sales enablement has changed significantly, especially in the last five years. Today, if you want to practice sales enablement successfully, you need to be a strategic leader. You cannot be someone who moderates content on HubSpot or manages trainings. More importantly, you need to think beyond the traditional scope of work in sales and be strategic.
Closing a sale depends on whatever happens before the actual sale. Other functions, such as customer success or account managers, depend on our success. So, enablement needs to:
- Expand responsibilities to include activities before the actual sale – including demand generation, lead generation, marketing-sales handoff, sales engineering, customer success, and account management.
- Enable every function that is talking to the customers starting from the initial touchpoint until the handover of the customers to the customer success team.
For instance, I focus on sales when designing and running boot camps for new hires and workshops for ongoing sessions. I bring in sales reps, managers, and account executives and develop an agenda addressing all possible needs and scenarios. While my focus was only on the sales reps, I realized that the entire revenue team is responsible for revenue generation.
This includes the entire journey from lead to cash to expansion ranging from marketing, sales, and sales engineers to customer success and account managers; it needs to start as early as possible. When designing boot camps or learning sessions, we must put everyone in the same space and get everyone to interact. Bringing in other people is vital to establish collaboration and a conducive working environment.
From sales enablement and sales leadership perspectives, nobody can afford a lack of productivity. Reps, managers, and everyone across the board must invest time and effort to improve their productivity and time management.
What worked well for me was not thinking out of the box but considering marketing operations, sales operations, customer success, and account managers. Put yourself in each of those roles and think about the following:
- What would you do if you were leading those roles?
- What would you need from sales enablement?
This is where you design your next step with each of those roles. Walk in their shoes, talk their language, and improve your go-to-market strategy to create, develop, and design for those roles.
Why you need proactive enablement
There might have been missed opportunities because of the reps’ lack of competencies in executing their go-to-market goals or insufficient tools to execute their KPIs. Whatever the scale of the business, enablement cannot wait until those annual or quarterly reports drop to realize what works and what doesn't. We need to become data-driven to provide help or guidance in a surgical manner.
Enablement needs to know which individuals or teams need help, when they need help, and why. We need to use in-app guidance to provide the required support when needed instead of asking someone to spend time outside the sales ecosystem.
However, we must first identify the gaps across our sales cycle from lead to cash to expansion. We need the system to work for us and alert us whenever the need arises to offer the required help.
The priority is to avoid a situation where it's too late. For instance, account managers, enablers, or even sales leaders park customer success aside because it's a different department. However, customer success has an incredible ability to generate revenue to retain and scale up the business.
Traditionally enablement focuses on the churn rate. We would have lost ‘x’ percent of customers by the time we found out the churn rate. This post-mortem approach is ineffective.
We need to design predictive models that will allow us to identify patterns across the sales cycle. By staying ahead, sales enablement can step out of the traditional sales cycle and help other departments that rely on sales and vice versa.
Most people in sales or enablement describe the sales cycle as lead to cash. However, the order of the sales process is expansion, marketing, and sales. First, we need to be able to expand. To that end, we need to derive conclusions and insights from what happens across our book of business. These insights are passed on to marketing for calibrating and fine-tuning the ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). This helps salespeople sanitize their pipeline and focus on what works.
Look closely at the leading indicators of sales success
When considering leading indicators, we are not waiting for customer success to lose the customer before we start working on them. It all begins with the ICP.
With a clear ICP, whatever happens later becomes more laser focused or improves. Traditional leading indicators are conversion rates, leads to opportunities, opportunities to close, and NLR. How much money could we generate across our book of business, and how many of those have converted to closed deals?
However, these indicators aren’t satisfactory.
For instance, in a previous role, I was responsible for 200 sales reps across different global offices. There were differences between segments and geographical locations. In some countries, sales reps focused on specific industries; in others, reps could sell a particular product to any industry.
If we want to be specific with our enablement approach to design surgical help, we need to break these traditional KPIs into a higher resolution of what works and what doesn't.
What are the sweet spots for the rep? Are they capable of selling the product to any market? If yes, we must find what works and replicate it across the board.
But in most cases, some reps are very comfortable with a specific market because of their previous experience. If they're coming from the pharma industry, they'll do better at selling the product to the pharma industry. Look at the traditional KPIs and redesign them to have a nuanced idea of what works and what doesn't, breaking those into segments, markets, or teams.
Don't sacrifice selling time with housekeeping
Sometimes, it's not an individual problem but a managerial issue. The only way to find out what works or doesn’t is to develop a higher resolution of KPIs.
Here’s how things usually happen without surgical help or in-app guidance.
Enablement will put together a self-learning program on the existing LMS and host long hours of self-learning. If a sales manager is currently facing an unfamiliar question - for instance, the prospect mentions the name of an unfamiliar competitor - the manager can improvise on the call and work their magic. This may or may not work.
However, when the call ends, they'll navigate outside the sales environment and spend time self-learning while sacrificing their selling time. This doesn't contribute to their success and puts everything at risk.
There's no way to correlate or cross reference the time they spend catching up on the competitive landscape or reading battle cards. It doesn’t help enablement provide self-learning for managers, especially when they feel confused on a call with prospects.
Today, technology has evolved to copilot applications. Let’s consider the same competitor example. The prospect mentions the name of an unfamiliar competitor. These copilot applications will mention what reps need to know to kill the competition or tackle any objections that might come up during the conversation.
From an enablement perspective, surgical help in these situations provides the assistance salespeople need inside the application. Enablement could do this through bite-sized information in a demo app or Salesforce.
As part of housekeeping, reps need to return to Salesforce to type the call notes after a sales call so others can catch up and leverage that information. Most reps fail to do this because they want to jump on the next call.
Today, sales technology allows reps to auto-populate these conversation insights automatically on the CRM. They have more time to prepare for the next call or spend on other selling activities.
Enabling reps just in time
Unlike a few years ago, today, several applications can serve as co-pilots on calls with reps. With AI-based guidance, reps can now proactively ask the right questions.
For instance, if a prospect brings up an unfamiliar competitor on a discovery call, the copilot menu on the screen would tell the rep what to ask based on the information predefined in the backend. This surgical, on-the-fly help through a side menu during the call with a prospect ensures reps stay on track based on pre-defined criteria in the backend.
However, if this is out of budget or these capabilities aren’t available, there is an option to guide reps within Salesforce. Based on sales capabilities to manage the monitors, sales reps can use specific areas in Salesforce on a side monitor to manage the entire conversation with the information on the second screen.
There is no one size fits all answer because it depends on the budget and the number of people who can manage the tech stack.
Streamlining the sales cycle
Enablement needs to be more proactive. It needs to leverage technology and data to understand what works and what doesn't across the entire sales cycle, but primarily the early stages because those are the blindspots for managers.
We need to uncover these blindspots during the early stages of the sales cycle, extract insights, derive conclusions, provide recommendations, and hand them over to tier-one managers. They can leverage this information in the later stages of the sales cycle and streamline it.
The critical mindset change that needs to happen is that nobody can waste time on end-of-quarter or end-of-month reports. We need to stay on top of what is happening within the sales cycle before and after the actual sale. One way to do this is through reports or indicators from within the sales cycle, such as auto-notifications or alerts. Don't rely on the sales reps’ willingness or motivation to do their housekeeping.
Automation allows progress without wasting time on processes, friction, emails, and notifications. Instead of pinging everyone to do their housekeeping, leverage the right sales and enablement platforms for in-app guidance to be on top of everything.
Reps need to be enabled to ask the right question at the right time with the right prospect. Automating the process and applying certain conditions is essential. This means reps can’t close an opportunity or move on to the next step unless a minimum level of information has been reached. This helps streamline the process without inserting noise into the pipeline and ensures sales reps fully execute their KPIs and ask relevant questions.
Spend time identifying what works and what doesn't and provide surgical help based on that information.