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Looking at just the past few years, formal sales enablement roles have become far more prevalent in sales organizations. In fact, the number of companies with a dedicated sales enablement role has more than tripled since 2013, according to CSO Insights.
Among those who have transitioned to the profession is Sandra Nangeroni, a sales enablement and marketing leader based in the greater Boston area. She does project consulting work, is a board member of the Sales Enablement Society’s Boston chapter, and has previously worked as Vice President, Sales Enablement at True Influence as well as Senior Director Sales Enablement at TechTarget.
As part of our ongoing Q&A series, Nangeroni discussed her path to sales enablement, shared advice for aspiring practitioners and outlined some of the biggest pain points affecting the function today.
What was your path to sales enablement, and why were you drawn to it?
I have been fortunate to work for leading Fortune 500 companies in marketing, customer, training and pre-sales roles that interfaced closely with sales and customers. Enabling sales and customer success was something I was always drawn to, and it was a natural fit because sales enablement touches sales, marketing and other customer-facing roles.
My experience in those roles has helped me better relate to salespeople and customers, facilitate smarter selling and provide more innovative ways to engage buyers through their buying process. It has also given me a holistic view of how to approach enablement from the customer’s perspective, and then deliver it to sales in a way that sticks.
What's a piece of advice would you share with someone who wants to transition into sales enablement?
For those coming from sales, it’s a transition from being on the front lines – often focused on individual success – to more behind-the-scenes work where you’re influencing, orchestrating and corralling across the organization. It’s about enabling the entire sales team and delighting in their success. For those coming from marketing, it’s adopting a sales mindset, understanding sales processes, how sales consume information and what they face day in and out. Ultimately, you need a strong partnership with sales in helping them be the absolute best at what they do.
Regardless of your background, sales enablement will mean different things within organizations. It’s essential to understand what the objectives and key drivers are from the top. Priorities will build, compete and change, so it’s important to be adaptable, agile and have a clear sense of how impact will be measured.
If you were a new sales enablement leader or joining a new organization, what would you need to be successful?
Out of the gate, I would want to understand the revenue goals and growth plan, the sales inhibitors, the state of sales and marketing alignment, and have visibility into the sales funnel. I would want to identify, based on the problems we’re trying to solve, whether we have the right tools and systems in place. From a training and capability standpoint, you need to know what the onboarding strategy and sales training roadmap look like. From an efficiency standpoint, where is sales spending their time and where can efficiencies be improved? Finally, you need a system to measure enablement’s impact and tools that can help measure it.
What has been your biggest sales enablement accomplishment to date?
During my time at True Influence, I implemented a formal training roadmap and curriculum covering everything from new hire onboarding to a continuous learning model. Topics ranged from the product, pitching, skills, social selling and more to ensure sales was armed and ready with the knowledge and skills needed to sell. We built in certifications and milestones and, over time, saw major improvements in sales readiness, adoption of new selling skills, effective pitching capabilities, and higher rep confidence levels.
What's the biggest challenge in leading a sales enablement function today? How should companies address that challenge?
The sophistication and power buyers have to access information anywhere and anytime, and research without interacting with sales, has made engaging with them so much tougher. This is where sales enablement can really help sales pave that path by developing strategies focused on earning a buyer’s time and attention, and permeating it into customer-focused content, training, and sales nurture streams to increase buyer engagement.
Another challenge is keeping a balanced focus on priorities. Sales enablement covers a lot of ground and while it’s scope expands and sales teams grow, resources often stay flat.
Juggling sales needs and priorities is constant, and sales enablement has to be a catalyst for deploying enablement initiatives as a shared responsibility in the organization by enlisting other functions to be sales enablers, too.
As Jim Ninivaggi said previously, “there are 100 things you want to do as a sales enablement leader, and there are another 100 that other people want you to do.”
Editor’s note: Over 80% of sales enablement leaders indicate that they have more than 10 critical initiatives to undertake in the next 12 months, according to SiriusDecisions.
Where do you see sales enablement trending in 2019? Are there any specific trends on your radar?
Sales enablement will continue to evolve and become more specialized. Today there is a growing demand to have a more dedicated focus within teams, such as partner enablement and sales manager enablement. Analysts from The Aberdeen Group have also defined other forms of sales enablement practices, such as content-based, training-based, and technology-based enablement, to help companies eliminate ambiguity and determine how sales enablement can best address their organizational needs.
As a practice, more standards are in place regarding “what” to measure, so I expect we’ll see more investment in tools that will help with “how” we track and measure. Tools that can streamline content sharing, that can remove the guess-work from sales readiness assessments, and can use data to demonstrate clearer impact with senior leaders will become more prominent.
What’s your favorite quote or mantra?
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
How did today's great sales enablement leaders break into the field? Download our special report for insightful answers to that question and much more.