Considering that the purpose of revenue operations is to align go-to-market teams and maximize efficiency, moving the enablement function into revenue operations makes a great deal of sense. Many of us dedicate a large portion of our time to enablement efforts. Why not add a dedicated role formally?
An enablement professional understands adult learning methods. They know what motivates people and use that knowledge to build engaging material in a format that is appealing to end users. Enablement professionals have a knack for recognizing the skills that make people successful and finding creative ways to share those skills with the rest of the organization. They put a lot of thought into which new concepts should be rolled out in formal structured training and which changes would be better rolled out in small incremental sessions that are available on-demand.
Enablement can significantly increase the percentage of salespeople attaining quota and improve customer retention through standardization and skill building. This discipline has gone from nice-to-have to must-have for most sales organizations in the last ten years. The benefits are obvious, with 90% of organizations with a dedicated sales enablement professional reporting improved sales attainment and an average 8.2% increase in quarterly revenue.
This article is meant to help people responsible for hiring their first enablement professional and encourage people in revenue operations with a knack for enablement to consider it a full-time job.
Early-stage B2B SaaS startups tend to build out client-facing organizations and then add systems support and analysts. Enablement for each go-to-market department is typically (but not always) handled “in-house” by their respective go-to-market leaders. Sales managers teach their preferred sales methodologies, customer success documents their repeated processes and shares them, and marketing has people who specialize in various channels.
The result is many people mirroring different “best practices” that have worked well for those managers in past positions. These managers don’t have time to step back (or lack the experience) to reflect on what may work better for your organization in its current state.
There are many benefits to having an enablement team, such as:
Typically, a sales enablement professional is hired as soon as multiple sales managers are necessary to oversee a growing quota-carrying workforce. This helps streamline training for a single methodology. However, technical enablement may be required before that time if your product is highly technical and your customer success team needs help building customer-facing documentation. Enablement often oversees the standardization of pitch decks, help documentation, customer proposals, and other presentations. So, if you hear a growing demand for these resources, it’s time to consider enablement as your next hire.
Note that measuring the impact of enablement should be thought through before that enablement professional is hired. Check out our comprehensive guide to measuring the impact of enablement by clicking here.
The best enablement director I’ve ever worked with started out as a college professor. She had years of teaching adults under her belt before deciding to pursue a more lucrative income.
This professional not only understood learning theory. She knew salespeople were already overwhelmed. She monitored people’s performance, shadowed salespeople on countless calls, reviewed tech to organize and automatically serve content, and became a trusted voice for customer-facing roles.
She was what recruiters call a purple squirrel.
While enablement professionals don’t have to be tenured professors to make a massive impact on a company, they need exceptional emotional intelligence, a knack for technology, and a mind for numbers. Communication and collaboration are the names of the game.
If you have a large company, finding someone who has worked in an enablement field for at least five years and has a proven track record of improving efficiency is a great way to start building a department. They’ll likely need content writers and a creative designer to generate the collateral you need to keep your go-to-market engine running as smoothly as possible.
If you’re just forming the department, it’s best to start with someone with a few years of experience and hire more inexperienced professionals to support them.
Many enablement professionals start as subject matter experts or managing and training a customer-facing team. I’ve watched team members gravitate toward an enablement role naturally. They’re often the person on the team who gets frustrated by repetitive issues and solves them through documentation, training, and technology.
If you’re recruiting an in-house subject matter expert, ensure their communication skills are on point and that they’re interested in learning more about adult learning theory. Someone who hates public speaking and isn’t data-driven will be a poor fit.
An enablement professional must have a sharp eye for opportunities for improvement with the finesse to make people feel like changing how they do things was their idea all along. They should also be comfortable speaking in front of large crowds and can capture and hold their audience’s attention—which means they need to be able to read a room.
The enablement professional:
Big Bonus Points:
Q: What is the first thing you want to do to determine our organization’s largest enablement need?
Why it’s asked: I prefer to work with an enablement professional who values input from every level of the organization. I don’t want to hear that their only approach is to get opinions from the C-Suite and upper leadership because they aren’t always the most objective. Talking to people on the frontlines will often uncover product issues or inefficiencies upper management may not even be aware of (or be concerned about).
Example Answer: I think it makes sense to start with interviewing management, but ultimately, I’ve found that people in sales, marketing, and customer success have more intimate knowledge of what is and isn’t working. Usually, if multiple people say there’s a problem with an aspect of the product, it’s worth digging into. Sometimes, it’s a historical problem that has been patched. I need to know and spread the word if there’s a functional workaround or if the product team is aware of it and has a fix on the immediate roadmap. People also tend to be more candid about interdepartmental tensions, which helps me understand where we have problems during handoffs between teams.
Q: Which sales method would you suggest we use for a simple sale cycle that spans only a few weeks?
Why it’s asked: Some methodologies lend themselves better to complex sales cycles, while others are meant to qualify a prospect quickly. If someone suggests Challenger or MEDDIC here, they aren’t familiar with the tactic (unless they have a very abbreviated version they developed and provide ample explanation).
Example Answer: I would suggest SPIN, BANT, or NEAT methodology here. Here are a few examples of qualifying questions at each step...
Q: What kind of sales methodology would you recommend for a six-month sales cycle?
Why it’s asked: Again, this is just to confirm they know their stuff. It’s an easy verification.
Example Answer: Several methods could work depending on how technically complex the sale is. MEDDIC, Sandler, or a form of Challenger solution selling could be a good fit.
Q: Do you have a preferred pitch format?
Why it’s asked: I’m looking for specifics here. Are there certain people you follow? Do you prefer a deck, or do you prefer a more question-based approach? Why? – There isn’t one correct answer, but I want a clear reason for whichever methodology the enablement professional prefers.
Example Answer: Discovery is everything. I want to ensure the sales team understands the issue the prospect is trying to solve, what kind of pain that issue is causing (Lost revenue? Lost productivity?), and what motivates them to change now. While we think we’re all rational decision-makers, the inverse is true. We are emotional beings who rationalize our decisions, which is why it’s so important to nail down your prospect profile before you jump into a canned deck like a robot. It makes the prospect feel like you actually care about them, and I’ve found they’re twice as likely to be open to a second call.
Q: What are the key considerations when creating content for a knowledge base?
Why it’s asked: The first thing I want to hear from my prospective employee is “audience.” I want them to understand how critical it is to know who they’re supporting with the knowledge base before we dive into best practices.
Example Answer: Is this for a customer audience? Or internal knowledge base? How realistic is it for customers to resolve their own issues (How technical is the product and the buyer? Are we talking coding updates or UI clicks?)?
Q: Have you improved go-to-market efficiency in your past positions, and which metrics did you use to measure your progress?
Why it’s asked: Proving value is, unfortunately, a fundamental need for any role. If the enablement professional is focused on marketing, I expect them to look at lead volume, conversion rates, and pipeline generated. If they’re focused on sales, we want them to look at sales stage conversion rates, time to productivity from date of hire, and percent of sales force achieving quota. Customer success enablement should look at ticket volumes, which tier of support is involved in what volume of cases, and customer churn metrics.
Example Answer: In my last sales organization, we decreased the average time to productivity from six months to three months. We did this in three ways. We developed a hiring profile, we developed metrics to determine productivity early in the game, and we provided more specific product training. We focused on key objections instead of the features that, internally, we thought were cool. It was critical to focus on what our targets cared about, even if it wasn’t as sexy.
Q: What kind of metrics do you watch to gauge sales engagement?
Why it’s asked: I want to know if my enablement professional has a method they’ve seen work in the past for identifying sales reps who will churn.
Example Answer: Each company is slightly different, but we found at my last company that looking at a variety of pipeline, quote activity, and meeting metrics helped build a reliable picture. We knew that if people weren’t generating quotes, pipeline, or setting meetings were on their way out of the organization. An abnormally high number of quotes signaled a problem understanding the customer’s needs. Low pipeline generation either indicated the territory was very green, or the salesperson wasn’t balancing a need to keep their pipeline healthy while trying to close.
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Hiring an enablement professional or considering making a career switch? Check out the article for a sample job description, interview questions, and more.