Christian Palmer is an industry veteran and a revered voice in the enablement community. He currently works as the Global Revenue Enablement Manager at RISKIFIDE. This firm enables e-commerce companies to have frictionless transactions during the checkout process for a smooth customer experience.
In this interview, Christian talks about the evolving role of sales enablement during a hiring slowdown.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Elevating the role of enablement with the C-suite
Most people today, especially business leaders, are not well aligned with what support function enablement is and can be. As you speak with more people, you will find that different interpretations exist. So, the first thing to do is create awareness around what enablement can do. We can then do a number of things to get senior stakeholders' buy-in.
1. Be a part of high-level meetings
I empathize with those folks who are getting laid off now. The best thing we can do is focus on conversions. How can you help drive wins for your current team of reps? Throwing headcount at a problem can result in more bottlenecks and ultimately lead to more layoffs. I've seen this happen firsthand.
Instead, involve yourself in high-level meetings. Of course, becoming part of such conversations is easier if you're in a smaller, more scrappy organization. Still, you could leverage any of your leaders within the enablement function (or outside) if it's a larger company.
2. Focus on elevating sales readiness
Sales readiness should be a weekly rigor. So, whenever there's a sales management meeting or a team meeting, and they're going over things like forecasting or pipeline, talk about rep productivity. How are we doing? How can we get reps to be more productive with their sales cycles using their tools, including internal and external materials?
Typically, enablement comes in to help reps who are at a deficit at the deal level. However, if you can tie sales readiness to actual company outcomes (ideally, North Star metrics for the company or revenue goals for that year), you have much more to stand on.
3. Set the right expectations
Also, consider how you can go beyond training, coaching, and onboarding. In the context of C-Suite's understanding of enablement, how can you showcase your value across an entire organization?
Often, the C-suite may need somebody to create an onboarding program. This is something you’ll see in many job descriptions, too. But how do you show them you can do more than just training and onboarding? You need to create awareness around all the other facets of enablement. So, there’s an element of building rapport there with C-Suite. More importantly, it is about showing them actionable insights you can tie back to revenue goals and thus demonstrate value.
Metrics that matter
It is important to have alignment on the metrics that enablement can influence and are worth measuring. Some easy ones are always on the minds of the C-suite, such as time to first deal, ramp-up time, or the time a rep takes to meet quota. If you can reduce any of these metrics, you demonstrate there is a faster vehicle for getting reps up to speed and conducting their role effectively. That’s always of immense value to the C-suite.
Although this is harder to measure, you can show off the soft skills that tie into the revenue goal. For example, are they communicating effectively or listening actively? Are they making a proper discovery call? Some call recording tools do an excellent job of showing useful insights – such as how long your longest speech was or what your percentage of speaking was versus the prospect. Such metrics can guardrail around revenue goals. Once they go through a training or a course, measure these metrics again and highlight the delta.
Enablement beyond onboarding
Beyond the usual onboarding, there’s a lot enablement can do. But how do we go about it? Here are a few places where you can start.
#1 Centralize your communication
Often, organizations have content all over the place - which is neither easily searchable nor quickly digestible by sellers. So, first, get all of your information in one place to be easily accessible by a rep if not available currently. A good CMS solution can solve a lot of these challenges.
There are also solutions like digital sales rooms that centralize your interactions with prospects. You can deliver content, control the flow of information, chat with them in real-time, and form mutual action plans.
Many deals require multi-thread communication where they must go after other business leaders or stakeholders. So, centralizing communication ensures emails don’t get lost. It can create a massive difference if reps find what they need in time. It can also offer several learning opportunities.
We need to understand that we're not business training experts. We're business transformation experts, and training is a part of that. So, we need to empathize and walk in the shoes of the product, marketing, and data analytics teams. So we can translate what matters most to the sales leaders and reps.
No doubt, it’s incredibly challenging. But know that being that person can help bridge the gap.
Right now, the enablement is looked upon as just training and onboarding. But taking up such initiatives will make you that agent of change, which is incredibly valuable in this economic environment.
#2 Drive knowledge retention
My father taught me that no matter what you're learning, you need to understand it in such a way that you can learn it on your own and then put it into practice. And that learning has stayed with me to date.
While you integrate training through multiple methods like short form, just in time, or any form of learning that’s less than five minutes, reps spend more time implementing the knowledge.
As a best practice, I send a follow-up email to any session I put together. I still do a one-pager but segment part of the session into an easily digestible summarized video. Reps can look at the recording or deck if they want more information.
I also follow certain change management protocols – like constantly improving my content and revamping the onboarding program to ensure it's up to date in terms of our products and so on.
Together, these empower the learners when they know they have resources to fall back upon. It’s also essential to measure enablement's impact. When you can show the impact, it also improves the culture around business learning.
Finally, the success of this whole plan lies around the rapport you build with your internal stakeholders. To implement this learning culture, you need internal buy-ins. When you build a strong rapport, these stakeholders become your culture drivers and produce results indirectly.
#3 Get buy-in from front-line sales managers
It’s easy for enablers with previous sales experience (especially recent experience) to get the support of front-line sales managers. They can build rapport and understand the challenges they face as a new manager.
Many organizations don't have good management training. They push people into management who are not necessarily ready. But it is the next logical step, and they learn as they go. The key here is to upskill them both from an emotional standpoint with their reps and tactically.
How can you use the information or the data you're reviewing on Salesforce daily to your advantage when speaking to reps? Show them the insights, make the connections, recognize things that may not have worked or are currently not working, and then quickly pivot.
It’s a two-way street. There’s no magic formula for this to work. Meet the managers at the level that resonates with them most. It helps if they feel heard.
Also, make sure that you're tying in results that benefit you and them. While they echo your enablement sentiments, ensure you echo their management sentiments.
Enablement support for tenured reps
When I started training, I had a ton of imposter syndrome. Why should a tenured rep listen to me when they have double or triple the time in an individual contributor role than I do? They've made more money than me and may have more product experience, too.
However, I found over time that leveraging them is crucial. Start by understanding what their skills and knowledge gaps are. Tenured reps might have some more advanced-level issues. For example, they might be selling to organizations requiring more tact and tenacity than a smaller organization.
I try to understand if there’s a need for continuous training and at what point that delivery will be helpful – 6 months, one year? I also try to look for gaps. For example, how has the sales cycle changed from when they came in? What are they doing differently that the younger reps are not doing? It’s difficult to grow the function if tenured and younger reps are not selling the same way. So, use your tenured reps as a resource.
Doing most of the legwork is advisable so that the tenured reps can come in and talk during training. Shout them out as great examples and discuss their playbook's best practices. This helps create a harmonious relationship between the enabler, the less tenured, and the tenured reps to work together.
The way forward
Adding to your tech stack mindlessly is not the answer. There are a few tools that I know usually get overbought. Lead enrichment is a big one. We need to determine if the tenured reps utilize those tools or are doing their work through referrals. Similarly, when we look at content – see how it's published and shared, and look at analytics to understand how well it is utilized.