Felix Valeda is the Global Senior Revenue Enablement Manager at Plume Design Inc, a company that builds self-optimizing, adaptive WiFi services powered by AI, cloud, and open-source technology for seamless digital ecosystems across homes, businesses, and more.
In this interview, Felix discusses the challenges of measuring the effectiveness of sales enablement initiatives, how to boost rep adoption, and ways to get the C-suite to give enablement a seat at the table.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Role of enablement today
The role of enablement has evolved in the last few years, acquiring a different dimension. Today, it's not just pivoting for sales but pivoting around all the teams supporting the sales teams.
The main aim of sales enablement is to equip the sales teams with the right tools, the right resources, and the right training to be at their very best and deliver their highest performance. However, sales enablement is not limited to just training and onboarding. It also consists of sales operations, revenue operations, marketing for demand generation, product, and customer success.
Sales Training is just one of our many hats, and the role of enablement revolves around other projects too. For instance, we work on cross-functional projects with other teams to understand what aspect of the sales process we can improve with sales operations. Or how we can optimize demand generation with marketing.
Enablement is evolving to a more central, strategic role than before.
The ROI of enablement
Measuring the effectiveness of specific sales enablement initiatives is challenging.
While the CRM is our core tool, and every single interaction is recorded there, we also have an array of integrated tools geared for the beginning, the middle, and the closure of sales cycles.
Each of those tools provides specific metrics.
For instance, we are paying more attention to the areas of improvement or the gaps in demand generation. You need to extract the report from a third tool to understand the number of calls/emails, the type of sequences and interactions, and the conversion rates running a set of demand generation campaigns at the individual level.
At the regional level, it will be a little different. Suppose you are based in EMEA and are focused on EMEA and North America. There will be two different approaches. The metrics you will apply in North America will be more homogeneous. For EMEA, you need to approach it case by case, region by region, because the approach needs to be based on the country or culture.
With the metrics mainly around demand generation, how can we see what we are implementing? Take one project and test it with different scenarios within an agile framework to understand the path to success.
For instance, do a short test with a particular message or communication channel for a distinct persona with a specific language and then test it.
What is the open ratio? What is the response ratio? To which type of email have they responded?
We then learn, repeat, and improve that methodology.
Also, when bringing in an initiative from a global perspective, we need to review main KPIs, such as:
- What is the pipeline you have generated?
- How many calls have you had with the customers?
- What is the revenue you have brought to the table?
Metrics to measure
The first metric that everybody will check is the revenue.
How much revenue and business are you closing? If you have yet to close many deals, C-level executives and sales leaders will check how much pipeline you have generated.
We check the metrics around the conversion rates and the pipeline that has been generated at a specific time. Then when drilling down, we can see the activity levels of engagement with new prospects.
What is the sales cycle? How long did it take to close a specific deal?
We need to consider many variables, but these are the main ones.
Another way to go about this is to leverage leading metrics such as adoption rates. For instance, when introducing new tools, what is the adoption rate, and what is the impact of those tools?
At the individual level, these are the main metrics we check. Based on the organization and the internal ecosystem, enablement will need to adapt and find different metrics to improve the performance of their sales reps.
These are the main ones, the North Star of every company. However, based on the company and the internal ecosystem, you will need to adapt and find different metrics to improve the performance of those reps.
How to drive adoption?
Adoption is a recurring challenge for all enablement teams.
Leaning on your frontline sales managers to drive the adoption, behavior change, or outcome of your initiatives is challenging because they are swamped.
Typically, 70% of the learning responsibility is on the rep (via training courses, eBooks, and other digital resources), 20% depends on the managers and peers within the team, and the last 10% comes from one-on-one coaching from sales enablement or direct training, which is more customized.
We can drive adoption in two ways.
- Get buy-in first: Get the sign-off from stakeholders every time you want to bring in a disruptive change or an improvement in processes or resources. You need to have this sign-off along with feedback from the reps.
- Parallel adoption: Another way is through parallel adoption, where you start with the end user. In this approach, you have the main requirements and the guidelines for what you are supposed to do for this new implementation regarding the tool and the process, in addition to constant communication with the manager.
The latter is tricky because managers simply do not have the time. That's why sales enablement’s role in this context is similar to a SWAT team trying to support the sales managers.
Sales managers are juggling closing deals, building better pipelines, and in some cases managing large teams of cross-regional sellers. Getting a buy-in from frontline sales managers to drive these initiatives is tough because it's a matter of time.
When sales enablement enters the coaching mode, we try to support these aspects. It entirely depends on how the quarter goes. If things are going well, they have more time and are more relaxed.
But if the quarter is getting tough, and they need to bring the numbers, sales managers need to prioritize that. Sales enablement needs to keep communication open across different channels and be persistent. What matters is knowing if the end users are adopting this new methodology.
It also depends on organizational size. It's easier to handle a compact number of teams than a large number of teams.
We need to adapt to the ecosystem within the company while keeping in mind the company's goals and resources.
Reinforcing knowledge and learning for sales reps
Today, sales reps need to retain a lot of information to close deals.
Typically, when sales reps join, their learning is quite steep. Fast forward a few months, and they forget most of what they learned or go back to their old habits.
Another common occurrence is that based on the seniority of the seller in the team, they bring diverse expertise. However, that's also a challenge when bringing in new knowledge. Do they want to adopt a new process or tool? Ultimately, it's not about the expertise or the seniority; it is the approach and the mindset.
What we want to bring to the table here depends on organizational stability and the strategy regarding any changes.
The more changes that occur, the more the sales and enablement teams will need to adapt. While we are bringing more disruption, the best way to reinforce that knowledge is to have stability with the strategy and structure of your sales teams for at least a year.
After the quarter or the fiscal year, everything changes. The best way to reinforce information is to understand that in today’s society, 70% of the population are visual learners. In comparison, 20% learn by listening, and the remaining 10% are kinesthetic learners who learn by being active participants. Based on how learners are going to absorb the information, we need to diversify those elements to engage the target audience.
We could reinforce the type of information we bring into a workshop session with graphics or flow charts, which are visual components. We can also bring in additional elements to make it appealing to different learners.
What matters is that we blend multiple elements to reinforce that knowledge. It's not easy, but you need to find the right formula depending on the region, the persona, and the experience.
Bringing value to sellers
Coming from sales, I am constantly trying to figure out how to bring value to sellers. We start by understanding their goals, whether quarterly or annual.
- What are their other KPIs or MBOs, beyond revenue demand generation?
- What are the resources available right now to achieve those goals?
- What do they need to achieve those goals?
- How are they planning to achieve these goals?
- What is their strategy?
By understanding these elements, we can provide better value.
One outcome of this is going ahead with advanced training. However, I am not fond of advanced training for large audiences unless it entails a special product release.
In the case of small groups, everybody needs to be involved. The smaller the group, the more beneficial for them because they can interact. These are more brainstorming sessions than training sessions. Giving people the option to bring their ideas so they can contribute and make an impact allows them to work better.
There is always room to optimize something. For instance, advanced training around specific topics such as a type of tool. Maybe a team from a particular region or a certain sales role has a gap in adopting a specific tool more suited to the beginning or the middle of the sales process. Enablement can provide value by creating customized, advanced training for that particular team.
What are the resources available to the team? Are those resources enough to achieve company goals? Do we need to expand those resources to build competitive intelligence, such as sales pitches or battle cards?
Maybe we need to rebrand some of those resources for internal consumption and sharing with prospects. That way, we are aligning the message on both sides.
Regarding the strategy, we need to go one-on-one. For instance, take a specific region, say North America. How are we planning to go about it? We could apply it as a general strategy or divide it into zones like the east, west, central, etc. However, if we consider EMEA, this will not be possible. The maximum we could do is segment it into the Nordic English-speaking countries, Central France, and the South.
In this case, we need to apply a different approach because each place has diverse cultures, languages, and contexts. While this aspect is complex, the beauty is that we can come up with different approaches to capture the attention of our prospects and engage with them.
Get the C-suite on your side
Want to impress the C-suite? The answer is simple - show impact. But the key question is how do we demonstrate impact?
Here’s how you can go about it:
- Align on priorities
The first step towards elevating the role of sales enablement with the C-Suite is understanding their priorities. We need to care about what they care about and align all our initiatives and programs around helping the organization achieve those goals.
- Measure metrics that show positive impact
After bringing in various measures to create impact, enablement needs to identify and measure the metrics to gauge that impact. These should include KPIs that the C-suite cares about too.
- Help leaders minimize risk
The C-suite is constantly evaluating the risk involved in every decision. What is the risk of saying yes or no? This is a perfect opportunity to bring agility and adaptability and demonstrate how sales enablement can mitigate or diversify the risk.
Sales enablement must ensure the company can respond rapidly to market fluctuations and evolving demands. We can also demonstrate how, with fewer resources, sales enablement can bring out the best in our teams and become a cost-effective team inside the organization.
- C is for champion
Typically, we teach our sales teams that the CRO or the leadership are the end buyers. However, we need to consider the C-suite as the champion. They are the internal promoters for your organizational projects, initiatives, and programs. Make them the champions for your cause.
We need to bring value and a positive impact to the C-suite. The best way is by aligning with their goals and understanding their current pain points, which helps mitigate risk.