My name's Werner Schmidt, and in this article, I'm going to talk about sales enablement and technology. I'm very passionate about it and have always been curious about technology and what we can do with it to be more effective.
How can we be more effective with sales enablement and technology? It's a journey we're on, as sales enablement professionals. It's not just a switch that turns on and we've suddenly got this great enablement, it takes time, which we're all aware of.
My journey started back in 2000, I was fortunate to start working with a company out of San Diego, a high growth. It was interesting when you started to have this very high growth, organic revenue, where you've got to sustain it, and we didn't have a lot of the technologies in place to be able to do it.
I'm going to be covering all of that as I go through this article, in which I'll be discussing:
First I want to give you some numbers of the organization I'm in now.
Sage in numbers
I work for Sage, it's a big company, the second-biggest software company in Europe, biggest software company in the UK.
We have 13,000 colleagues, market leaders in Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Spain, and South Africa. We've got a strong presence in the US, that's where we're focusing a lot of our attention now.
We have a presence in 23 countries. Our market cap is at £8 billion now. But what's really interesting is when we get to the financials. We're doing £1.8 billion now in turnover and there are two very important metrics we focus on.
- 83% of our total revenue now is recurring revenue. If you looked at the stats, that's been growing at about 50% over the last few years, that's how fast we've been transitioning the business from an on-premise business to cloud.
- 52% of our customers are on subscription.
I'm giving you the stats because I want you to start thinking about the enablement that needs to happen to make this happen.
We've got 2 million customers, a lot of customers, and that means we've got a lot of small customers. So how do we look after those customers' service? And how do our sales organizations do that as well?
Over 28 million people are paid on our Sage payroll, that's one in every third person here in the UK. In our software, we're moving 4.2 trillion annually. It's a big business and it's really starting to move at pace now as we move to the cloud.
Purpose, vision & strategy
This is the Sage strategy, which enablement needs to align to.
Our purpose is to transform the way people think and work so their organizations can thrive. Our vision is to become a great SaaS company. Everything we do is about SaaS within the business. And what's important is it’s for our customers and colleagues alike.
If we think about the three strategic pillars we focus on its customer success, its colleague success, and its innovation.
I'm going to be spending time on those buckets because when we think about sales enablement, it's how do we align to the corporate strategy to make sure we're going to deliver on these goals?
If you think about the sales enablement function, right now I report to the Chief Marketing and Enablement Officer, under marketing. The reason for that is we're driving the change of what needs to happen and sales enablement is critical to that.
Everything we do has got to align with these pillars because if we're not successful in this, the company is not going to be successful.
What's important towards the end there is you're going to see the metrics and I'm going to talk about metrics a bit later because it's important. So if we think about enablement and technology, it's got to be underpinned by the metrics and how we measure ourselves.
NPS, we all know NPS well.
Renewal rates - thankfully, at Sage, we sell mission-critical software so our renewal rates have got to be at 100% or more.
We focus a lot on voluntary attrition and eNPS. We've got surveys that go out regularly to gauge the employees within the company and what we need to do to improve things.
This is core and key to the whole strategy as we move all our customers to native cloud products or our connected cloud solutions.
2006: Salesforce appexchange
Going back now to 2006, one of the greatest things happened, which I'm still very thankful for today: Marc Benioff, the Salesforce appexchange.
I don't know if everyone remembers it but that was a big day. That opened up the whole SFDC platform. I don't know if anyone actually knows the story about salesforce.com but Marc went back to his CTO and told him, "I need you to open up the whole platform".
He goes, "Why would we do that, that's all our IP?" Marc says, "It doesn't matter, you've just got to do it". They went back and opened up every single point on salesforce.com. The whole reason was to launch the app exchange so that everything could plug into it.
I was grateful for that because I was working with some much smarter people than me in IT and they were able to take what I was thinking in my head, and actually then go build it in Salesforce.
That really started to change the game on how I thought about how we could enable things using technology and enablement. It allowed us to start moving at speed and that meant we could keep up with the growth we were seeing within the company.
It was just the beginning, it was still early days, there was a lot happening. You'll see as I go through this article, the technologies we're using today have only really come out in the last few years.
But it absolutely gave us the foundation, and the thought process to start thinking about how to enable sales colleagues, customer success colleagues, and even customers with technology? Now we've got the technology starting to get to where we need it to be.
The Pyramid of Learning
This is the science behind how we learn and this stuff is really interesting.
It's all well and good we can put all this great technology in place, but if we don't understand how we learn, how do we know that we're putting the right technologies in place, or the right programs, what are we doing?
I want to reflect on this because I think this is critical to everything in what we'll do.
- If we lecture, your audience is only going to retain 5% of this information.
- If they're reading the slides, that's another 10%.
- With audiovisual, they're going to retain about 20%.
That's not a lot. Think about it, your audience will walk out of the room and remember a fifth of what your whole presentation and conversation was about.
- If we're doing a demonstration, you'll be at 30%.
That's still not a lot. That's a lot of resources tied up in doing demos and presentations in front of a lot of sales colleagues over a number of days throughout the year. What I'm interested in is what's below the line.
That's discussion groups - how do you start enabling when you have discussion groups? Because then they're picking up 50% of what we train.
Practice by doing
But if you can practice by doing, you're up at 75%. That's what's interesting if you think about enablement and why role play is so important.
When I look at our regional directors, and what they roll out within the regions it's very quick training sessions. Remember the days when we used to pull in a whole lot of sales colleagues for a three-day event? That's how we thought, and we thought a lot of people would train that way.
I remember going to get a sales methodology and bringing salespeople and doing that. If I had known this, there's no way I would have ever done that because that's not how we learn.
It's the practice by doing and you've got to be practicing, so short snippets.
But what's really big is teaching others, so how do you get your sales teams to start teaching, to be super users, and do that? Because that's where you're going to retain all the information.
I highly recommend you look at something like the pyramid of learning, look at your enablement functions, and ask what are we doing today? And how does it align with what science is telling us?
Deep business linkage is key
We know training gets us predictable results. What happens before and after has more effect on the impact than during what's really important is there's got to be deep business linkage.
I've always found with a sales organization, if you start training them on, "Well, this is the new product we're selling, this is what we're going to be doing, this is how you need to position it", if that team can't understand how that links to what we're doing as a business, you lose the team.
You've got to create that business linkage. What are the business challenges we're trying to solve? How's it going to benefit? And to a sales team, how you're going to make more money out of this.
Accountability & expectations
Training transfer happens when there's a sense of accountability and expectations, you've got to set the right expectations.
Accountability increases when manager engagement is high
Lastly, but super important, is a sense of accountability increases when the manager is engaged. For me, the last point is critical in everything we do.
We can do all the enablement we want in the world, if a manager does not reinforce it, we're done. It just doesn't happen. Their job is to make sure they create the environment for the sales colleagues to do what we need.
If they're not going to create that environment for their sales colleagues, the enablement is not going to work, all that great stuff we do is not going to land. Managers are critical to it.
Moving on to metrics, I wanted to touch on this because metrics have got to underpin everything we do. We've got to be able to measure what we're doing in enablement.
It's hard but over the last few years, I've changed my thoughts on what we actually measure with enablement. Sirius Decisions have helped, they've got some really interesting frameworks about how to measure our impact.
So we can manage upwards which we need to do, but also so we can actually understand the impact we have on the organization in a way that makes sense.
This is the data we used for FY20:
Onboarding & training NPS>55
When we think about onboarding and training if we aligned to the strategy of what you saw earlier, why don't we measure it by NPS? So that's what we do now.
Any onboarding we're doing, or any training we're doing is all done by NPS. We check on our NPS score.
The best in class is 55. Any training you're doing should be over 55. If you're not, you need to look at the training landing, is it working?
Certification completion rates
We've got sales teams that sell software, okay, great. So if you're selling software, where's the certification for that software? Has everyone completed this certification? And what are those completion rates?
I'd love 100%, it's not really realistic but if you've got 90% of your sales team selling a product certified on that, you're pretty confident they know how to position that product and they know what to do. They know how to handle objection handling, and so on.
Maintain SSI above 60
I'm going to talk about LinkedIn Navigator in a bit. We just want to maintain SSI above 60, globally. Probably could get higher, absolutely. But this is global, we're on 62-63.
Interestingly, with that stat with LinkedIn Navigator, before we had the right programs in place, we were down at 41. That's a very tough conversation I had to have with my boss on why we were spending the amount of money we spent on LinkedIn when we were driving an SSI score that low.
So set the right levels of where you believe your organization should be.
Maintain sales content usage
Content usage, that's here from Seismic. What's interesting about that is, how do you make sure you maintain your usage?
What I look at is, we're not looking at what's being downloaded right now and how effective it is because we don't have that technology in place yet, but what we are looking at is, is the usage maintained month over month, quarter over quarter?
We've got a year of data now, are we still seeing people hit those same pages at the same levels that we did? Interestingly enough, when they're not hitting those pages, it's a red flag.
And when we go look into it, we find there's old product content on there, even to the point there was an old product sitting there, but you could see it straight away. Just simple ways to measure what's happening.
SFDC releases I'm going to touch on in a bit. This is about I've got a team focused on SFDC effectiveness, this team looks at how Salesforce works within their environments and we release.
We used to release about every two to three months, we now do our releases in Salesforce every two weeks because we need to move at speed and pace, especially as we roll out Salesforce across the organization.
eNPS, which I spoke about earlier, is super important to me.
Sage foundation days
Sage is very big on how many days we give back to the communities, five days per year, I'd like all of the teams to be able to do that. But it's important we track this.
It's not just about the metrics in sales enablement, it's about the sales enablement team as well. That's why these metrics are up there.
Is it a metric that sales enablement can control? In the past, I used to use sales productivity as the metric for the sales enablement teams. But when you look at it, we have an impact on it but we don't control all of it.
There's a number of variables to it. Should we be looking at it? Absolutely. Because it's guiding us on what's happening and where we go. But I think if you have your teams and you say, "I'm going to tie myself to sales productivity, and that's how I'm going to measure my team", yes, you can do it but is it the right thing to do? That's why I have it last.
I'm not saying it's not important, it is, but we don't directly impact that. That's been my mindset shift. I always used to do it by sales productivity and now I'm saying there's a lot of things above that we should be looking at that we have a direct impact on.
Sales productivity (by tenure)
Looking at the data, when you take your sales productivity metric, you've got to look at it over time and also you've got to look at it by tenure.
Interestingly, every time I've done this, looking at a sales organization, it's year three when sales productivity is highest. I'd think okay, great, that means year two would be second-highest, and year one would be the first?
Interestingly enough, year two is the lowest. What's happening, how come year one is my second most productive year out of the first three, and in year two it falls?
When we looked into the root cause analysis, the top performers leave after the first year because they don't feel they're making enough money or they're not happy. You have your mid-segment now getting up to speed, hence why in year three, they get more productive.
But wouldn't it be great if we could actually get your year two more productive than your year one? Because a lot of time and effort goes into people leaving and so on, that's when you need to start looking at attrition.
So sales productivity, looking at it over time and by tenure is really important. To that point, if it's not going up, there's something wrong.
When we talk about sales productivity, it's a simple calculation, you take in the number of salespeople you've got, and you divide it by the bookings or the revenue. It's an average. Because it's an average, it's really difficult to move.
That's why over time you need it to be heading in the right direction.
Structure, skillset, mindset
You've got to have your structures in place, you've got to have the skillset, and you've got to have the mindset.
You'll be in conversations where it's "You just need to change the mindset of the organization". It's not that simple because you've got to have the right structures in place and you've got to have the right skillset.
When you've got that, that's the combination that leads to the performance equation.
What do we mean around the structures?
Altify is guided selling, some new technology over the last few years that integrates with Salesforce, native on Salesforce, that helps guide salespeople through your sales cycle.
You set milestones, it helps you with political maps, it helps you with the comp plan. It does a lot of good stuff. In our medium segment, we've now integrated Altify in the last year.
Salesforce is what we use and that's what we now are rolling out across the organization.
6 Sense is intent data, very, very smart technology that looks at what customers are doing without them even realizing it. Have they been to your website? What keywords are they searching?
It's a very smart technology that's looking at the intent data of when a customer might be in a buying cycle, it then uses that, and then it can predict when we should actually contact that customer.
Very powerful stuff, if you run any ABM strategies, you need to be looking at 6 Sense.
I'm blown away by how powerful this platform has become over the years. It really is worth the money when you get it to work the way it needs to.
We're in the process of integrating with Salesforce. The latest version of LinkedIn Navigator can tell you if that person is still in the company or not. How nice is that?
Your contact, you can not automatically see if they're still there or not and all the workflow and logic you could put behind that.
Saleshood is now our enablement platform. Very powerful because what Saleshood has done is allowed us to build repeatable, scalable enablement by a very basic concept called huddles.
So you can create a huddle, you put up a video, watch the video, go do something, go take an action. This is really powerful when you think about, how do I scale organization? How do I get the same training that we've just delivered, rolled out across the world to all our 2-3,000 salespeople?
Saleshood gives us that capability so very powerful. It's really focused on video storytelling and I'll get to the innovation we've been doing around it.
In-app learning, not necessarily guided selling but you're just helping someone through, "Okay, you need to go do this, you need to go do that." Again, taking away that work of where you have to go to someone or email someone about how to do something.
WalkMe can do it. What's important about WalkMe is you have to have the right type of person that knows how to write the stories or use the right language, so you can guide someone very smartly through the system. That we're in the process of rolling out now.
How to integrate and make it land
All the above technology we've done in the last 18 months. There's a lot happening within the organization and actually Xant we've also just rolled out to our leadership teams and we're thinking about that from a process flow standpoint.
Enablement, for me, it's how do you integrate that with all these technologies and make it land? Because when you look at that, that is a lot to take in for your salesperson. It's got to work properly. You've got to be thoughtful about it, have a strategy, and sequence the work.
For our skillset program, we've got Selling Through Curiosity with Barry Rhein. I call it a sales skills promo, I don't call it a methodology. The reason why is because all of this for me is the sales methodology, everything we're doing here.
Barry Rhein, whichever sales skills program you choose, that's what we've selected and that's just being curious. We're rolling that out across the organization at the moment.
With the mindset, we use the decision-making cycle. This is really the psychology around how a customer makes a decision. We really push for outside-in thinking, it's not just all inside-out.
Everything you see there is all inside, and we think and go hold on, what about the customer? When we get to mindset, it's called the decision-making cycle and it's the psychology of how a customer makes a decision. Back to science, you can't argue with science.
We all make decisions, we generally think we use the rational side of our brain, it's not, it's the emotional side that makes the decision for us. That's important because that's why for our sales teams it's so important to connect with the customer. That helps us with the mindset.
That's how we think about the enablement journey and sales enablement and technology and really driving that Performance Equation for high impact and high performing sales teams.
Innovation is critical to everything. We've got to be predictable. It's got to be repeatable, consistent, and scalable. There's no way in the Sage organization, we'd be able to run enablement if we're not able to do all this. That's why innovation is critical.
We've got to innovate. So what have we done?
We've taken things a bit further, we've taken Selling Through Curiosity and fully integrated it into Altify, the first time it's ever been done.
When you look at Altify now, it's got STC completely embedded in the guided selling map we do. We worked with Altify and Selling Through Curiosity to do that.
6 Sense and LinkedIn are working together to see how we can do the political maps, but we're driving these engagements, we've gone to these vendors and said, "We need you to integrate, we need you to do this because we need to be more efficient and effective on our side".
That allowed us again, to be predictable, repeatable, consistent, and scalable.
Motivation to effectiveness
One important part before I finish is motivation. People have got to be motivated, it's very difficult to enable if someone's not motivated.
That all comes down to knowledge, skills, and a really big thing for me, attitude. You've got to have the right attitudes in your organization. If people don't have the right attitude it's very difficult.
I used to work with a sales leader and she always said to me, "As long as they've got the right attitude, we can train the rest". It's true. If people have the right attitude, that's what we do, we're in enablement, but if they don't, and you've got a bad apple, that's a problem.
You've got to get rid of the bad apples or make sure everyone's motivated.
England won the rugby World Cup in 2003 and they won because the basics were done right. I still remember a lot of those games and that’s really what it was, they didn't drop balls, it was the basics.
In 2019, South Africa won the World Cup.
But what's interesting about the story is how games have evolved. In a statement by Rassie Erasmus the coach explaining how South Africa won, from his point of view, he said:
"It's been scientifically proven at the end of the game, more oxygen is being used to keep tired bodies moving than their brains thinking clearly. I believe it is at this critical stage that a game is won and lost."
So what did he do? You've got substitutions you can make throughout a game. In the last four games of this World Cup, and three of those were the knockout stages, you normally change five of your forwards and three of your backs as your eight subs.
He said, no, I'm going change six because if my forwards are working more then my backs are going to be working. And he did that because this is what he believed in the science.
If you look at those games, South Africa outperformed each time. If you look at the stats behind each of those games, each time he made the substitutions.
It was just that switch from what the norm would have been to what he did. That allowed he believed, South Africa to win the World Cup.
We've got to look at the science, use the technologies, and make sure you develop programs that will land in your organization that uses all this great knowledge we now have.