Sales Thought Leadership: Brian Groth on Defining Sales Enablement

Written by Lucy Jones

Aug 7 2018

What is Sales Enablement, and how is it being defined today? In this video our Head of Content Lucy Jones speaks to expert and Director of Partner Programs & Sales Enablement at Planet, Brian Groth, to discover more. 

Interview Transcript

Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Brian Groth and I run sales enablement and partner programs at Planet. I have a broad background, which I think is useful for sales enablement since it touches so many parts of a company. I include sales enablement, sales operations, partner enablement, partner management, and direct sales; which is always very important when dealing with sales enablement.

What I really do is help enterprise sales teams and partners be more productive and effective when selling. That also defines or gives my definition of what I consider sales enablement, which is really making all customer-facing teams more effective.

Related: Why Sales Enablement is Key to an Account-Based Marketing Strategy

I help enterprise sales teams and partners be more productive and effective when selling. That also defines or gives my definition of what I consider sales enablement, which is really making all customer-facing teams more effective.

What Significant changes and challenges Are You Seeing Across the Buyer's Journey and Sales Process, that sales enablement is helping to address?

I think, since customers are getting smarter about finding the information they want online and companies generally share a lot of information about their products and processes, that buyers are just more and more informed. Which is both good and bad, and challenging for a sales reps sometimes.

But I've seen an increase in expectations when it comes to the implementation phase [of a solution]. So definitely you need to be on top of your game, know your value proposition, the return on investment and be able to explain what it's going to be like once [customers] actually purchase your solution. This is one of the things I try to train our salespeople on; to put yourself in the mind of the customer.

Purchasing is only a small step in a larger project plan; they're [the customer] of course, buying some software (for example, or whatever your solution is) to solve a problem. And of course, their project is going to go on far past purchasing. So [you want to be able to] help explain how you're going to implement [going forward], and how you're not going to just accept a check when it's done. So I definitely have been seeing that whole implementation phase and customer success as part of the discussion during sales.

You need to be on top of your game, know your value proposition, the return on investment and be able to explain what it's going to be like once [customers] actually purchase your solution. This is one of the things I try to train our salespeople on; to put yourself in the mind of the customer.

What sales Enablement best practices do you recommend?

A best practice is definitely creating a sales enablement charter. That can be true for any part of the company that you're in - you need to have a charter that clearly defines what you're doing, who it's for, and why. And [it's key that] you get your executive team, and very importantly your sales managers to agree to that, so everybody both agrees what's going on, but also understands it; and they'll support it moving forward.

Support's going to come into in many different forms. It could be support when you need to purchase something like a learning management solution for example, or support when you need your sales managers to start coaching on the things that you're training on. Or just when you need your sales managers and all your sales reps to actually start adhering to an improved sales process. So all those things are needed. But definitely you need to start with that charter and the buy off before you start figuring out what to go do.

Related: What is B2B Sales Enablement?

A best practice is definitely creating a sales enablement charter. That can be true for any part of the company that you're in - you need to have a charter that clearly defines what you're doing, who it's for, and why.

We found you through the sales process you posted on linkedin. Would you explain a bit about how you came to create that?

I used to work at a company called Xactly who do sales compensation, and I got to help really build that sales process with our sales operations and the sales managers, to pull together all the different activities. And what I saw was that other companies were doing similar things, especially in the SaaS space; where you have SDR's that are calling, a lead gen team, direct sales reps closing, and customer success.

I started thinking about that entire buyer's journey or that customer journey, and about all those different activities that everybody needs to do. But operations and enablement need to care about it from end to end. Everybody has their own silo when they start doing their job of different activities, and even different tools that they use, and different skills they need. But the whole process needs to work together smoothly. After having a charter bought off, getting that process right (or at least a good starting point) is probably the first thing to go do when building your enablement and operations.

The whole process needs to work together smoothly... getting that process right (or at least a good starting point) is probably the first thing to go do when building your enablement and operations.

Are there any Sales Enablement pitfalls that you think stand out for organisations?

The common pitfall is knowing who owns what in your organisation, and it's probably going to be a constant challenge for enablement, because it touches on so many parts of the company.

You really have to understand, say, who's creating sales content; and that can mean many different things. It can mean a product description - maybe your product marketing team is doing that, maybe not. It could be a sales presentation - and maybe your enablement team is building that, or maybe it's the marketing team or the lead generation team because they're the ones closest to the messaging and the customers.

But definitely getting clarity on who owns what, not just content, but different parts of the process; different workflows, how lead is handed off, how lead is accepted, all of those types of things[is something many organisations fail to do].  You really need clarity otherwise either something's missed when you assume somebody's doing something, or you have two people trying to do the same thing.

In terms of strategy and tactics, what would you say delivers the highest value in the short, medium, and long term?

I'd say certainly that right sales process, or at least one that everybody agrees that you're going to at least try for a while - because you're going to iterate on whatever you implement. That's certainly the most important in the short term thing to do.

Then, it's making sure your sales managers are having those discussions with their sales reps about coaching, improving, and mentoring them, and not just being the rockstar salesperson that they probably were before they were given a managerial position. And that I see is actually tough for a lot of sales managers; to step back from "I can go in and save a deal", or "I've got my own deals to work on, you go work on yours". It's getting them to step up and be that coach.

Then longer term, you have to really think about the right learning management systems, the right content management systems and everything to help you manage all the 'stuff' that you're going to be doing and producing.

Define that right sales process... That's certainly the most important in the short term thing to do.

are there any technologies that you would advise, or That Are impacting the way sales enablement is working?

Well first I'd say perform a bit of a needs analysis within your company to figure out what's working well, what's broken, what's missing, and let that guide you.

Most likely you're going to realise that you need a good way to manage content to make sure everybody's getting the right content at the right time. There are quite a few content management solutions out there.

But also if you're building training - and hopefully sales enablement is - you're going to need a way to not do just one-off trainings, like a sales kickoff, but ongoing training, especially as new people come in. So you're going to need a learning management system for all that.

Is there Any particular organisation size that sales enablement works best for, or is it something that everyone should be thinking about?

Definitely by the time your sales team is up to 50 people, you're probably suffering and you need [a sales enablement process] already. So before you get there, I would say think about hiring a sales enablement person. And at that point, if you have all the different roles of sales development reps; the pre-sales post-sales and sales guys, everything - it can be a lot for one enablement person to manage because everyones needs are different, and the content is different.

So definitely you're going to be building a team by the time you have 50 sales people across all those different functions. And certainly large organisations, they need teams of enablement people to manage it all.

Say a team wants to kickstart something today. What activities would you advise they Consider initially?

I would say one of the initial things to do is that gap analysis, while at the same time you're working on that charter to get buy off from the executive team. Part of doing that needs analysis, is talking to as many people as possible; individual sales reps, their managers, and also the executive staff. So when you're interviewing them on that; you know what their needs are, you can also be selling them on at least an initial stab at what your sale enablement charter is going to be. So they [the internal team] can see it evolve and hopefully feel invested in it, or at least that they've had some kind of influence.

You advise a lot of people with their processes. Have you seen any particular sales enablement success stories that you you'd like to share?

For me personally, Xactly. We went from nothing to having a really good onboarding program, really good ongoing sales training, good sales content, good messaging and all that. It was a lot of work and it wasn't just me; it was a really good partnership with the sales team and the operations team and the marketing team. So I'm really proud to be part of that. It was the whole company effort.

I think there are quite a few [success stories] out there. The content I see coming out of HubSpot for example, is just spot on for a lot of the stuff that enablement needs to do.

Related: Achieving Sales Enablement With HubSpot

where Do You Think sales enablement might be heading in future? What do you think Is on the horizon?

I think what's on the horizon are more mergers and acquisitions because there are so many players. If you look at list of sales stack companies or marketing stack companies, all those marketing automation solutions or sales solutions, there are so many of them. And so many of them are pretty small that we're going see more mergers and acquisitions.

So that's definitely one of the trends to be aware of. And it might not be a problem because a company probably won't just crush a product when they buy it; but it is something to be aware of; what would change if this company gets bought out.

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