Typically, marketing and sales teams look fairly similar from one organization to another. Depending on your headcount, the average business will have a linear progression from entry-level positions to the most experienced personnel.
But what about the more recent trend of enablement teams? Positions and responsibilities vary widely and employees often possess myriad backgrounds that range anywhere from learning and development, to business and sales operations to instructional design. How do you know who should have a seat at the table?
Lucky for you, we’ll tell you!
Recently, we sat down with RingCentral’s Sheevaun Thatcher, VP of Global Digital Learning and Enablement, to discuss this very topic. Below is Sheevaun’s advice for anyone looking for insight into the best practices to build a winning enablement org.
The evolution of enablement teams
The enablement profession as a whole is still relatively new, as Sheevaun’s current role didn’t exist as recently as 10 years ago. Today, RingCentral’s enablement team has 130 people, but Sheevaun began her enablement career focused around onboarding. While onboarding is a critical part of the enablement puzzle to get sales reps up and going, the approach is unique to every organization and can range anywhere from one day to six months. This breeds a mixed bag of results, making enablement teams even more important to effectively train employees.
(Here’s our guide to create an effective onboarding program )
Enablement within an organization often acts as an extension of the sales team, with sales enablement leaders bridging the gap between sales and marketing. But according to Sheevaun, “Enablement should not stop at the doors of the sales team. There’s more to enablement than onboarding; it’s for everyone in the company.”
Is it time to reevaluate your onboarding program?
Sheevaun’s initial onboarding program was similar to many others in that it lasted two weeks for new employees and included a trainer reading slides. That becomes incredibly hard to measure and is often ineffective, as the classroom-style approach to learning rarely generates outstanding retention . This led her to re-evaluate their onboarding content and change the way it was offered to employees.
“If it was something they could read, that goes into self-directed learning. If it was interactive or role-playing to get people to try it, that is where instructor-led training would come in.”
“We also created a one-stop-shop for sales people. All of our competitor information was on the laptop of the competitive analyst. She could never get anything done because she was constantly answering questions. We decided to put it all in one place so that people could go there and get that information."
Enablement is more than onboarding
“Enablement is more than training or assets. The enablement leader can also be a strategic part of a company’s go-to-market plan. Your enablement program should go beyond teaching the specifics of job duties and instead, help employees understand the value of what they bring to the organization.
To be truly effective, sales reps need to understand the GTM strategy, as do the enablement teams who are responsible for creating the content. Before you can measure its effectiveness, you’ll need to ensure your enablement content is easily accessible and determine if sales reps can find it and are using it correctly.
How can I get buy-in from stakeholders to build a team?
When trying to assemble an enablement team, shift the focus away from training and more toward enabling. The leader’s role will be to enable employees to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively for the long-term, rather than just train them on a tool or process.
Know your audience
Before you ask for a budget increase carte blanche, Sheevaun recommends knowing your audience and speaking their language. Investors have different needs versus partners or customers, and therefore, the conversations will vary from audience to audience. Don’t use the same dog and pony show for each stakeholder you approach.
“If you go to a senior sales leader and talk about rubrics, taxonomy and cohorts, they may understand you but they won’t care about that. They care about attrition, performance and quotas.”
Present your case by showing the business impact to each area and what they will get out of it. This quid pro quo approach helps others understand what’s in it for them. By using their language and showing how your team will improve their specific programs, you’ll be better positioned to receive buy-in.
Don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring effectiveness
It’s always a good idea to measure revenue, quote attainment, ramp time and average deal size. Even more, Sheevaun also recommends measuring the second deal after starting up because knowledge and retention go beyond closing the first sale. Further, having a quiz or certificate won't always provide the most insight into who is learning.
“We learned very quickly that we could not associate training on an app with a sales rep’s performance. It’s non-proportional, as a lot of high-performing sales reps aren't in the training system very much because they are always selling. Instead, we just tell them where to access the content they might need to learn.”
What type of roles or teams are recommended?
Within Sheevaun’s org structure, enablement encompasses a part of everyone in the company. Customer training, partner training, innovation training, curriculum design, the sales onboarding team and the team that onboards the company as a whole, all fall under her direction.
RingCentral’s enablement organization is fortunate to have leaders over each segment. From enterprise to upmarket (Mid) to SMBs, they all have their own enablement teams who oversee the efforts for each audience.
Also within Sheevaun’s organization is a unique role that serves as a liaison between sales leaders and the marketing team to develop the most effective sales enablement content for the various segments. This position ensures that all content is created to drive adoption among the sales reps, which can be a challenge for some marketing team.
“Sales reps don’t want brochures. That’s more customer-facing. They want content that will help customers buy from us. They need something that doesn’t teach them how to sell but instead, teaches how to close.”
This role is a gatekeeper who oversees the creation of the sales tools and ensures they are tailored to the right audiences .
Pro Tip: When considering sales enablement content strategy, it’s important to ask
- What content do we need and what is the format?
- What technology do we need to host and deliver it?
- What is the strategy and who do you need for each segment?
How do you articulate the value of enablement?
Sheevaun reports to the Chief Digital Officer, who is responsible for digitizing operations. With the new mix of hybrid and remote workplaces, everything is now digital and data-driven. Every learning enablement team within RingCentral has a measurable outcome depending on their various roles. It’s Sheevaun’s job to create a dashboard to show how every team provides value.
“With metrics, look to see if everyone speaks the same language. It’s important to articulate the “why” behind what you do to create harmony. Our innovation team was the hardest to get on board because they didn’t understand how it all fits together. But now, they’re our biggest advocate.”
“It’s up to the sales managers to make sure the programs are executed, but the sales enablement teams are the ones held accountable that the programs actually deliver on what was prioritized.
How do you hire right and scale?
Whether you’re looking to assemble a small team, or one as big as Sheevaun’s, hire stakeholders who can speak the same language as their customers.
“Look for people who will take risks and have big ideas, not a replica of yourself. Set a vision and be realistic. Sales people can’t do everything, but figure out who can.”
“Regardless if you're hiring solution engineers, sales people or CSMs, as long as they understand the challenges and efforts required to do sales. That’s what is important, instead of spending 40% of their time learning. You want them spending their time selling, not attending training the last week of the quarter.”
“If you’re looking to hire a customer training position, look for someone who understands customer relationships and how well they know that audience. If it’s a channel-facing position, look for someone who knows how to find new partners and knows how the channel works.”
Enablement is for everyone
Today, regardless if you’re a small business or large enterprise, if you view enablement as a company-wide initiative and not just for sales, you’ll see bigger and better results throughout your organization. To learn more, watch the full conversation between Sheevaun and Spekit CEO Melanie Fellay. To see how digital enablement solutions like Spekit’s just-in-time learning platform can simplify sales enablement and drive digital adoption , sign up for a live demo.