Nick Salas is the Senior Director of Global Revenue Enablement at Sirion, where he built the enablement function from scratch. He is also a founding member of the Utah Chapter of the Sales Enablement Society.
In this interview, Nick highlights the value sales enablement brings to the organization and why enablement deserves a seat at the C-level.
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Elevating the role of sales enablement
There is much debate and discussion in the enablement community on whether enablement deserves to be at the C-level. Interestingly, I have a completely different viewpoint. At Sirion, I was asked to report directly to the C-suite, which gave me a first-hand understanding of what the C-suite expects from the enablement function and what they care about. Here's what I learnt from this experience.
Enablement and the C-suite
The C-suite deeply cares about coaching. To them, coaching is not just about checking boxes and moving on to the next item on the agenda. They believe in creating a measurable impact through the training efforts of our sales reps and other go-to-market teams. I agree with this perspective.
It’s not about the number of training initiatives or enablement programs we launch. Instead, it's about the outcomes from these initiatives and the impact on revenue. So, we need to align our initiatives with what the C-suite cares about.
Enablement leaders must also change their perspective and drive initiatives with more measurable impact.
1. Set the right goals and measure the right metrics
An excellent way to elevate the enablement role today, especially when resources are scarce, is to build competency frameworks. Once that competency framework is set, you can prioritize your enablement programs. You’ll get stronger support and alignment since, at this point, you're not guessing what the organization needs. You can back it up with a very structured framework.
If we can show that we're having a measurable impact on the competencies that the sales leaders care about, our function becomes a profit center. We can start linking these revenue-generating activities to competencies that we're helping the teams to elevate.
2. Focus on building competencies
It’s hard to turn on a sheet of paper at the end of the quarter with a grade where we can prove what we did and how we made a measurable impact. It's on us to get creative and come up with dashboards and data points that would resonate with the C-suite.
Enablement leaders need to figure out the lagging and leading indicators we can start reporting on. And we need to do this while still doing our day-to-day job. It is hard work, but it’s crucial to do it, especially in today’s time, where our role is being scrutinized, and we have to build a case for enablement and the value it brings to the table.
Enablement leader needs to balance their time between revenue-generating activities and enablement activities. And it’s not just true for the enablement team but for the sales reps, as their roles are heavily scrutinized. So, the onus lies on both the enablers and the sales reps to ensure these activities are worth their time, which will move the needle and have measurable outcomes.
Without a measurable outcome, we are just an extension of the training department.
3. Get the ball rolling with frontline sales managers
There’s no point launching a bunch of enablement initiatives if the frontline managers aren't going to implement them. So, instead of building training courses around assumptions, a better approach is to identify gaps where the sales reps need help and build courses to address these gaps.
But how do we do that? The best approach is to have legitimate conversations with the teams supported by the right data points.
Involving frontline managers in content creation and encouraging them to take the lead can make a big difference. They can take an active role in the training process or be a subject matter expert if they have competencies in specific skills. Remember, when you involve them, they act as an advisor for their entire team. As a result, you’ll notice buy-in and a better adoption rate.
To make collaboration easy, enablement leaders need to create a culture of openness where teams can crowdsource ideas, share knowledge, and brainstorm together. Enablement leaders need to facilitate bringing the learnings from one team to the other and create a culture of building one united sales team.
If you can build this kind of work culture, rest assured, you’re working towards building an impactful enablement program.
Tenured reps already have baseline competencies. They know how to navigate a sales conversations, perform a demo, handle a sales objection. As sales enablement leader, my responsibility is to remove roadblocks by building processes and bringing teams together to align on the rules of engagement so that I can get this deal done.
Most of the work is around breaking down the internal barriers, removing frictions from the sales process, and making it easier for them.
Training is not enough— focus on reinforcing learning
Training your sales reps is not enough because they might need to be able to retain all the information and implement it effectively in their day-to-day job. So, sales enablement leaders need to focus on reinforcing the learning.
Developing a culture of listening and engaging with field activities can help us determine how effective an enablement program has been and devise a reinforcement strategy accordingly. Also, consider the concept of space reinforcement that involves delivering small chunks of knowledge for an extended period of time. It can help dissect the reps’ sales process and understand if the message is being delivered accurately, if objections are handled effectively, etc.
All of these are important for the reinforcement of learning. I emphasize reinforcement because the behavioral change we aim to drive won’t happen unless the information is retained. And if there is no behavioral change, we won't be able to show relevant outcomes in front of the C-Suite.