From sales to marketing, product and HR, few roles touch as many different business functions as sales enablement.
It’s why Roderick Jefferson, CEO of sales enablement consultancy Roderick Jefferson & Associates, compares the profession to a tire hub, with different spokes connecting it to various other parts of the organization. He says sales enablement leaders must be savvy communicators that can translate complex information into “sales speak” and collaborate effectively across the company.
“Sales enablement can’t be reactive,” Jefferson says. “It has to be a full-blown strategy that’s woven into the fabric of the company.”
Jefferson speaks from experience, having held sales enablement roles at Marketo, Oracle and Salesforce – among several other companies – before launching Roderick Jefferson & Associates earlier this year. The consulting firm provides a range of services to SMB and midmarket clients, including onboarding, continuing education, tools advisory, resource planning and sales effectiveness.
As part of an ongoing Q&A series, Jefferson recently caught up with Brainshark to discuss the evolving role of sales enablement, the keys to effective collaboration, and where he thinks the function can improve in 2019.
What do your clients struggle with most when it comes to sales enablement?
There are several areas. The first is the lack of consistent onboarding for their new hires.
The next is the inconsistency around sales messaging and positioning. They have something in place, but there’s no way to measure it. There’s no accreditation or certification tied to it. It’s the lack of continuing education or a long-term strategy in place for sales enablement.
Further upstream, we’re seeing the need for someone to come in and provide an assessment around organizational alignment. Sometimes it’s in multiple lines of business. Sometimes it’s between sales and marketing, which is where we know there has been friction. I love that sales and marketing are finally starting to connect the dots and grow closer as sales enablement matures.
How can sales enablement best collaborate with sales, marketing, product, engineering and HR?
[Sales enablement] is the hub that spokes out to every other part of the organization, which kind of makes us the translators of languages and dialects. We have to be able to speak marketing, product marketing, engineering, HR, etc. We don’t expect them all to speak sales. We work with them to translate their content and information into sales speak. And we also deliver feedback from the sales organization to the marketing, product, HR and engineering functions.
That means we meet with prospects and customers. We get feedback. Maybe you find out that the corporate pitch is great, but around slide 7 or 8 it starts to get fuzzy. We go to product marketing and say, ‘how can we clean that up? Or do we need to pull this out, because it tends to be lengthening the sales cycle?’ We hear the same requests for features and benefits from customers. We go back to product management and say, ‘how can we move that up on the release cycle and get that pushed out?’
We talk about the ‘ICP’ – the ideal customer profile. Working with HR, we need to start talking about the ‘IEP’ – the ideal employee profile. As companies shift, change and grow, all these things impact the type of seller you may bring aboard. If you were a volume velocity sell, and you’re now upstream as an enterprise sell, you can’t hire the same kind of folks.
How do you formalize cross-functional collaboration when it comes to content creation?
Start by creating a sales enablement council that meets once a month to ensure everybody’s on the same page. It’s not just marketing. You want product, the sales engineering organization and the partners and alliances organization on the same page, because there’s nothing worse than the surprise of, ‘I need some content in the next 24 hours.’
It creates alignment. It balances the playing field, because there is no hierarchy in that room. Everybody has the same mission. We’re all trying to do the same thing – sometimes we’re all trying to do it at the same time with different tools.
What are some ways to ensure salespeople stay engaged with enablement?
It’s a team sport. It’s a hip-to-hip engagement between the sales enablement professional and the sales leaders. We own the tools, the programs, the processes, the framework and the infrastructure.
The execution and adoption [of sales enablement] should sit with the first-line manager. The rubber really meets the road with those folks. We’ve got to be hand-in glove with them to understand what sales’ needs are, because those are forever shifting. It’s understanding how to help them from a coaching perspective, and that may mean something different in each company – how you coach and what you coach on.
We can give them the best enablement programs, processes, tools in the world, but if they don’t own that day-to-day piece of making sure the adoption and execution are in place, we’re dead in the water.
Where can sales enablement leaders collectively improve in 2019?
It starts with creating a defined charter, which is the engagement piece with the other organizations in the company. It defines what sales enablement is responsible for, and what it isn’t.
Make sure the sales organization is taking care of resources and staffing ahead of the hiring curve, so that the company is really prepared to bring these new salespeople on board. We’re not trying to enable 600 people with two resources.
The lack of alignment between sales and marketing is the biggest problem. We have to be more of a collaborative team in terms of [marketing] owning content, and [sales enablement] delivering content. They should be integrated.
How important are technology tools when it comes to the success (or failure) of sales enablement efforts?
They’re critical. We focus on tools advisory, because people are asking, ‘what are you seeing out there?’ The technology piece has become exponentially more important.
How can we make things more consistent, scalable and repeatable? You bring in automation, tools and innovation to ensure that happens.
What’s one essential app you rely on during the work week?
It’s Calendly. Making sure I have an automated way of getting out my calendar for meeting requests. It really has helped from a productivity perspective. It eliminates back-and-forth emails; instantly I’ve got it done.