Malvina is the Director of Revenue Enablement at Oyster, a company making it seamless for growing companies to hire, pay, and care for employees anywhere in the world.
Carly Lehner is the Senior Director of RevOps & Enablement at Andela, an organization specializing in helping highly skilled, global technology talent connect with leading companies.
In this interview, Carly and Malvina talk about the importance of aligning with leadership on goals and KPIs and share tips on how to elevate rep performance.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Enablement needs to be insights-driven
Every business wants to generate more revenue, increase its average order value, improve its win rate, and win more deals against the competition.
You start by looking closely at your entire sales process. What does that journey look like? Knowing where to focus our efforts requires awareness of what happens at every stage. The win rate may be suffering this quarter or has been consistently down over the past few quarters. It comes down to analyzing why we aren't winning those deals.
Are we losing because we don’t have the right features or capabilities? Are we pushing deals through to proposal too quickly when the buyer isn't ready yet? Or are we being ghosted by the prospect for some other reason? We need answers to these questions.
If you consider the win rate, many different elements go into it. Once you analyze and determine why the win rate is down, enablement can ensure that sellers understand the value proposition, know how to articulate the strengths and benefits and link them to customer challenges.
Many leadership teams question the low pipeline or reduced win rate in the current economic environment. If you have a robust tech stack, you can tell the leadership why things are happening or provide insights into why it's potentially happening.
Few revenue teams will have that capability without an enablement function dedicating time to dig through call recordings and other data points. Enablement will review all the lost deals from the last quarter for insights. They may find conversations where reps didn't handle objections well or didn't build a strong narrative against competition.
These insights will define the enablement needed to elevate rep performance.
If you can't measure it, don’t work on it
Any metric important to a revenue organization should be important to an enablement team. When the leadership team says, “Here's a project for you,” ask them what metric they want to improve. That's your qualification question back to leadership. You shouldn't work on it if you don't have an answer.
With everyone trying to link enablement initiatives to business goals, strategies, and outcomes, it's essential to know the metrics you're looking to improve and show the impact enablement has had on those metrics over a given period.
For example, while enablement is not solely responsible for the win rate or average deal size going up, it can influence those metrics based on the programs you run. Enablement needs to tie back their work to show impact on the metrics aligned with the business goals.
Internal communication is fundamental to this. Be aware of what others are working on. Discuss with the executive team and be involved in conversations about what's important to them. If you don't know where the focus is or where the business is struggling this quarter or this month, that's a big problem.
Cross-team collaboration is key
Enablement is seen as the expert in everything. We are not.
When there is a challenge internally, it gets thrown over the wall and becomes an enablement problem. Let us consider Business Development Representatives (BDRs).
Enablement may be trying to improve the reply rates or the cadences. However, that responsibility isn't solely on the enablement team. We can give guidance on everything within the revenue organization, but we're not experts.
This makes close collaboration with the rest of the team essential. Everyone in the organization must be fully invested and know their role if anything is to work and become a success. Unless you're a sales team where you're consistently hitting targets month over month, quarter over quarter, I'll leave you to it. But if that's not the case, you should be working with enablement to improve.
If you're a sales leader or a sales manager, your success is based on your team's success. If your team isn't successful, you need to understand why they aren't hitting their targets.
- Why are they struggling this month or this quarter?
- What can we do together to help them?
It's about more than having one session with enablement or going through three training programs. Reps might retain some knowledge, but most of it is forgotten unless it's constantly being used or reinforced in some other way. Leadership managers must ensure that whatever the reps learn is utilized. For instance, they must get reps to use the same language in all conversations, show what can be done, and lead by example.
If reps attend a course or session that enablement is rolling out, but their managers don’t care about it, what message does that send to the seller?
“If my manager doesn't care, I don’t need to either.” This is often the first battle that enablement has to fight.
Before bringing in something external or launching a training, you must touch base with the management team and share the problems you’ve identified.
- Is this a problem they see as well?
- Is it essential for them that you solve this problem together?
Demonstrate the impact of not solving that problem. Leadership will then realize they have to solve it. You need to ask, “Will enablement have your support when we devise a plan to solve this?” If they say yes, you return to that when it's time to release the program.
Every other week, you and your team could meet with all the frontline managers, including sales and account management. This is a great way to discuss current problems, brainstorm ideas, and run preview training with the managers so they feel they are in the know well in advance.
This way, enablement will have support. If enablement doesn't have support, you can return to these meetings and ask where we went wrong here. It's crucial to bring managers along in the process. Otherwise, it turns into managers sending their reps to enablement as if they're going to boot camp training. Reps then return and believe they are ready to go.
It's not the way it works.
It’s necessary to bring managers along and get them to recognize the importance. Leading by example is essential. When you start your career, many habits and things you pick up along the way are through looking at seniors who've been in the company for a long time.
The importance of collectively using and applying concepts is underestimated. Reps learn by example, seeing how their manager acts, behaves, and communicates. When managers and leadership use the same language and vocabulary and continually reference the training and teachings, reps also buy in.
How to drive rep adoption
There will always be initiatives that don’t work out. There isn't a single enablement leader out there who can say every single initiative they've rolled out has always been a success, and adoption has been 100%.
If you exist and are out there, please let us know who you are. For the rest of us, here are a few best practices that can get us closer to our goal.
We just want to talk!
1. Start with a blank canvas
When enablers assume their reps already know what they want to teach, things usually go wrong. It may sound basic or self-explanatory, but you must go through it.
Suppose you take that approach in meetings that ‘X’ isn’t a significant change because it's simple. However, upon finishing the session, you realize by the number of Slack questions that you need to go back to basics and explain things in baby steps.
Never assume that something is simple. Always treat everything as a blank canvas. Even if it seems fundamental to you, don't assume the same for everyone else in the audience.
2. Repetition is key
If you launch a new tool, initiative, or process, doing a one-off training session on Zoom won’t fix the problem. From an enablement perspective, you have to do repetitions. Bring examples and use cases to show reps how it applies to their day-to-day role.
These examples and their applications need to be tangible so reps can see and understand how they can leverage specific tools or techniques. A Zoom session is not enough to master concepts.
3. Make learning fun
Reps think it’s only a Zoom session, and they don’t have to pay attention. But they do. Enablement can help by making these sessions more fun.
It will break the norm if you can figure out a way to make a mundane rollout enjoyable. Do something that will change the day for a salesperson—for example, setting aside a budget for prizes or gifts in your presentation or using an internal recognition platform.
For instance, if someone speaks up or volunteers and answers in training, you could send them points. Reward the behaviors you want to see more. Halfway through, do an activity - create smaller breakout rooms, play Jeopardy, Bingo, or a quiz on Kahoot. Use what you can to break the monotony and make learning enjoyable.
Using different methods of learning is essential. A 45-minute Zoom session is not going to cut it.
The role of enablement today
Even if the organization isn’t hiring right now, enablement should look at the various levers in the sales velocity equation and analyze if this is where you want this metric to be. If you're a mature sales organization, chances are you have a win rate target.
Look at where it is now and where you want it to be. How many more deals per quarter do you have to win? How will you achieve that if you have the same number of deals? These have nothing to do with training and everything to do with analysis, finding trends, gaining insights, and interviewing reps.
There's plenty of background work that goes into it. Training, process improvement, or reinforcing existing processes are potential solutions. There might be several ways to solve it, but enablement typically falls into the trap of, “Oh, we have new hires.”
All the metrics you want to improve, such as increasing your win rate or the number of opportunities in your pipeline, have nothing to do with onboarding. If there aren’t any new hires, companies believe they don't need enablement anymore.
The answer is no.
However, now is when enablement needs to look at the metrics and goals of the revenue team and determine if reps can hit those numbers if things stay the same today.
What needs to happen/change to hit those numbers?
If the CRO has worked with mature enablement organizations, they probably know what enablement can do. However, if the CRO hasn't had enablement partners to help them think that way, they are probably not considering enablement’s involvement.
Here’s where enablement leaders need to be proactive, raise their hands, and inform where enablement can help reach those targets.
“While we are not hiring right now, this is what we should work on instead.”
When you think of enablement, you think of onboarding. However, onboarding happens once. It eventually becomes everboarding when you determine how to improve specific skill sets, win rates, and the process as a whole.
Consider the reps who joined the company two to four years ago. What kind of support are they receiving? How are you actively working with them? Onboarding is but a small fraction of enablement. It's like driving a car down the highway, but you have to make changes. You'll have to change the oil, or you may have to change the wheel while the car is moving. Enablement helps you figure out how you can go faster. How can you be better? How can you be more efficient?
Imagine if the car is already on the road, en route to its final destination, and you have new hires coming in. The focus will be on the changes because you want the reps to be happy, have an incredible experience, and learn and grasp the information.
Enablement involves communicating with the business and deciding what you can do to continue improving each time. Sometimes, when multiple things are happening simultaneously, you want to focus on improvement and efficiency. In an ideal world, you could just shut down for two weeks, fix all the issues, and resume. That's never going to happen.
Enablement is constantly multitasking, prioritizing, and making changes while the car moves. That's simply the nature of the job.