In her session around “Enabler? I Hardly Know Her!” Melissa Madian explains what Sales enablement is, why it is important to the sales process today, and what it means to sales leaders and sales managers. In a sense, it is a ‘Sales Enablement for Dummies’ book, starting from the very basics, and progressing to how to successfully implement it within the organization, aligned to your buyer’s journey. Ultimately the goal of sales enablement is to realize revenue using the tools of enablement, while creating a great experience for the buyer, without spending millions of dollars.
Excited. You will know why. I mean, she is a very, very, very, what should I say, a person with whom you cannot not be excited. I mean, bad English, but pardon that. Here is a brief introduction before we get into the book.
Melissa is the Founder and Chief Fabulous Officer at TMM Enablement Services Inc. She was one of the first people to pioneer the “sales enablement” role and has spent the past 25 years perfecting the sales experience for revenue-generating teams. Melissa was also one of LinkedIn’s ‘15 Top Sales Influencers to Follow’ in 2020 and ranked 10th in the 35+ Most Influential Women Leading B2B Marketing Technology. “Enabler, I Hardly Know Her”, is a book about Sales Enablement. It explains what Sales enablement is, why it is important to the sales process today, and what it means to sales leaders and sales managers. In a sense, it is a ‘Sales Enablement for Dummies’ book, starting from the very basics.show more
It is possibly one of the most misunderstood terms. I mean, we all have our own interpretation, and I think this is a great opportunity to actually figure out what it is and how we should be thinking about it. Melissa, the stage is all yours.
Thank you so much, Subhanjan. It is great to be with you all live from Toronto, Canada. I am Melissa Madian, the Founder and Chief Fabulous Officer at TMM Enablement Services Inc., a revenue enablement consultancy. I am thrilled that Subhanjan asked me to participate in the first-ever Lit Fest, which is fabulous. It has been pretty lit so far, but I’m about to turn up the gas on that fire and talk to you about “Enabler? I hardly know her”.
But a little bit about me first. I went to school and became a mechanical engineer. So, I have a mechanical engineering background. However, through a combination of opportunity and a sparkling personality, I ended up in sales. I’ve done sales, I’ve done marketing, and I fell into enablement before it became a thing about 15 or so years ago. When I stumbled upon it, I really loved it. I have built and run enablement functions at small startups and large corporations. About five or six years ago, I decided to do it for myself and created an enablement consultancy, which is where I am today.
During the pandemic, I wrote a book called “Enabler? I hardly know her!: How to make the sales experience not suck.” The book is all about my experiences in enablement. I like to call it the Sales Enablement Book for Dummies because it shouldn’t be complicated. I wrote it because, to be honest, my experience with business books in general was not great. Not the books featured in this lit fest, of course. Subhanjan has picked the perfect books to represent the best in sales and marketing. However, when my manager used to tell me to read a business book, I would often think, “Oh my God, another business book? I’d rather be reading Terry Pratchett.” So I wanted to write a book that reads more like a conversation you would have with me if we were discussing enablement. It shouldn’t be hard; it should be a simple human-to-human conversation about the benefits and why enablement is crucial for a sales organization.
Outside of the executives, the sales team is one of the most valuable resources in an organization. What’s interesting is that unlike functions like development or OPS, there isn’t much training focused on sales. Many organizations assume that if they hire someone who claims to be in sales, they will magically be able to sell the solution. Little time and resources are actually dedicated to ensuring the success of these individuals in their roles.
My first job in sales was as a Sales Development Rep (SDR) during my second year of university at a manufacturing supply company. When I joined, I received a stack of product brochures, and my manager told me to read them. Then he gave me a book of manufacturers and instructed me to call through it. If I found someone interested in buying our supplies, I was to write it down on a pink piece of paper and pass it on to the salesperson.
How am I supposed to actually position a product that I just learned about to one of these folks who run manufacturing companies? So today, it’s not that different, which is kind of distressing. Now we have CRM systems and phone books. But if companies are still doing that, you’re not servicing this really powerful organization that you have in the best way to drive revenue.
So you can think about this book— if you’re in sales, if you’re in marketing, if you’re a sales leader, if you’re a marketing person, if you’re in enablement but are still trying to figure out what the heck enablement is all about— this book is for you. It’s up to organizations to get their salespeople up to speed as quickly as possible in order to help them achieve those targets they’re trying to hit. And it needs to be done in a way that’s easy because salespeople don’t have the time to take really complicated training and do all these things. There’s a bunch of different things that are going on, so you can think about enablement like— if human resources gets your people up and running quickly, and marketing generates all of this content, enablement is there to bridge that gap, so that the sales folks understand what it is that they need to do in the grand scheme of their things.
So you can think about enablement as a way of arming a revenue-generating organization with the process, the tools, and the training that they need in order to ultimately increase revenue while also building a great customer experience. And you can think about enablement in a way that if you’re selling something complicated— so you’re not selling toothbrushes, you’re actually selling something that’s quite complicated or your org is growing quickly or you’ve got a lot of products and services— that’s a good way to think about enablement. And if you’re really struggling, like where do I start? There are three main areas that you can focus on that a salesperson cares about— it’s what you’re selling, it’s whom you’re selling it to, and it’s how you sell it. And that’s really the three main things to think about.
So what are you selling? This is the analogy I use in the book— it’s what’s on the truck to sell. You’ve got a produce truck and if there are only oranges on that produce truck, you need to make sure that your revenue-generating organization knows that there are only oranges on the truck, so they don’t start selling strawberries or peanuts. But it’s not just that there are oranges on the truck. What your organization needs to understand is, yes, there are oranges on this truck, but what’s not important is all the specifics around those oranges, which is what I see a lot of organizations do. They like to throw product training at the salesperson. And assume that the salesperson is just going to understand how to position this. And really, it’s not that the orange has a certain thickness of skin or that it’s a particular color of orange. What the salesperson needs to understand is how does this orange solves my customer’s problems. So, if the customer looks like they are exhibiting vitamin D deficiency or signs of scurvy, then the salesperson needs to know, hey, what you need to do is go in there and say to your prospect— hey prospect, you seem to be exhibiting signs of scurvy, and boy do we have some oranges for you. It’s what the audience needs to do better or do differently with your product and that is what you are selling.
Then you need to know— your sales team needs to know, to whom are you actually selling? And typically what I hear is to sell to a decision maker, to sell to the C-level. Yeah, that’s great. But just because they have “chief” in their title doesn’t necessarily mean that they know they have a problem, or they care they have a problem. And so you need to get inside the head of your target buyer and really understand what they care about, what their day-to-day looks like, and how your solution, how your oranges, are going to solve that problem. So it doesn’t become a nice-to-have or a next-year kind of discussion.
And then there’s the third pillar, which is how do you actually sell. This is about behaviors. This is about the tools that you’re using. And there are so many tools and there are so many processes like there’s MEDDIC with two “D”s, there’s MEDIC with 1 “D,” there’s MEDICC with two “C’s and one “C,” and MEDDPICC and Challenger Sales. So many tools that are out there. And just tossing processes and tools at your sales team— it’s not going to make them more efficient. It’s like if you’re trying to bake a cake or a pie, if you just toss ingredients together without any kind of thoughtful processes about how you want that cake or pie to be baked, you’re not going to get a pie or a cake.
So I look at things like an engineer because I’m an engineer. Efficiency is measured by how much work or energy is conserved in a process. So efficiency is measured as energy output divided by energy input and expressed as a percentage. So if I’m trying to hang a picture on the wall, and I put 20 joules of energy into one strike of my hammer onto the head of a nail, the energy transferred that’s driving the nail into the wall is 8 joules. And then the efficiency of my hammer is 40 percent. 20 joules of energy in, 8 joules out, I get 40%.
Things can distract from that— like vibrations and energy loss. I can adjust how I hit that hammer to adjust my efficiency, but if I toss a screwdriver into the equation, it’s not going to change the efficiency level. And that’s kind of what’s happening with a lot of the tools and the processes out there. Just adding things into the mix isn’t going to make your sales team more efficient.
So you’ve got— what am I selling, to whom am I selling it, and how do I sell it? But a lot of enablement functions are like, where do I even begin? So that’s why I wrote the book, to make it super easy for you to figure out how to structure this. And you can bucket your enablement activities into three groups. You either get the right people into the organization, which is all about recruiting to the right profile. You onboard those folks in the right way so that they build those muscles really quickly and get them selling as quickly as possible. And you continue their education, so they’re constantly building those muscles as you add products and services, as you change behaviors, as you change processes. And if you just start there and eliminate all the other noise, you can actually create a really good enablement function or enablement program.
And so think about enablement in an organization— I view enablement, and I use this analogy in the book, kind of like the bouncer to a nightclub. If all of your sales and your revenue-generating functions are in the nightclub having a great time and doing their thing, there’s a long lineup of other departments that are trying to get in front of sales, like your product team, like your legal team. It’s like, well, I just got to do this one thing for sales. I just got to do this one thing for sales. And what enablement can do is be that bouncer that says, “Okay, product, you want to come in? You can’t come in wearing that shirt, and definitely you can’t come in wearing those flip flops. You’ve got to change what you’re doing so that when you do get in front of sales, it’s effective and it’s efficient for them.” So it’s sort of like enablement screening, so that only the most important information gets in front of the salespeople for them to consume and then interact with their target buyer.
And a big thing you’ve got to do here is get your managers on board. Your managers can be your best advocates, or they can be your worst nightmares. So if you don’t get your managers engaged and your managers aren’t behind the enablement, it doesn’t matter how much enablement you do— if they’re not bought in, it’s just going to go in one ear and out the other.
As an enablement function, if you’re new to enablement, learn about the metrics your managers care about. Review the dashboards they’re looking at, understand their world, and enable them as well. And whatever you do in an organization, you’ve got to amp up your enablement to make an impact in the organization because it’s all about driving revenue. Don’t just be reactive, be proactive and amp up those enablement activities.
So with that, I think I’ve got 3 minutes left. Feel free to connect with me on social media. I will warn you in advance, there’s going to be a lot of cat pictures on my socials, a lot of cat puns, a lot of meowing, but that’s my jam. I have a cat myself, and you’ll see him quite a lot on my socials. So feel free to connect with me on social media, and that summarizes my book in 20 minutes or less. I think we’ve got a couple of minutes for questions that I’m quite happy to handle.
What do we get?
Yeah, I mean, this was exactly as promised. Thank you, Melissa. Yeah, we have some questions. Let’s bring them up, and we will get going from there.
Okay. So, is sales enablement more about tools or processes? I would say it’s both. It involves processes, tools, and training.
You need all of these elements to improve the efficiency of a sales organization. Just providing tools without a proper process won’t work, and vice versa. Managing a process becomes challenging without the right tools to support it. Additionally, throwing tools and processes at salespeople without adequate training won’t lead to success. Training is essential for them to know what to do. So, sales enablement encompasses process, tools, training, and the fundamental understanding of what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and how to sell it. Focusing on these aspects helps eliminate unnecessary noise.
Thank you for the question.
Let’s see, research shows more buyers on the table. Oh yeah, how do you handle that? Yeah, because buying, it’s buying by committee now. And the best way to think about it, I see a lot of discussions around persona-based selling, and personas are important. It’s crucial to know who’s in the mix. But the interesting thing about personas, and there’s lots of research around this, is that they all kind of care about the same thing, even if they’re coming at it from different points of view. They all approach the use case and business value in a similar manner. They all have a problem they’re trying to solve; they just view it from different perspectives.
So, the way to think about it is: what is the challenge that the audience, these different buyers, have in common? And what does your solution do to address that challenge? And then, depending on who it is, you might need to adjust your words a little bit, but the challenge they all have is more or less the same thing. The use case they have is more or less the same thing. And your solution caters to that. You just might have to engage in a lot more conversations about it. Thank you for that question.
Should enablers be a different team from the frontline sellers? That’s an interesting question. So, your frontline sellers have a primary focus on selling and shouldn’t be distracted by anything other than selling because they need to drive revenue. I find it helpful if somebody in enablement has come from a sales background. It’s not a requirement. I just find that if you’ve done the job, it’s a lot easier to put yourself into the shoes of the frontline sellers. Quite often, I see SDRs or people who have been in sales moving into enablement. Again, not required, it’s just a nice-to-have. But if you are a seller, your primary focus should be on selling. That’s a bit old school, but that’s why you get paid. That doesn’t mean you can’t coach and help your colleagues along the way, but it’s better to have at least one person dedicated to enablement if you’ve got a larger organization and you’re trying to grow fast.
[Responding to chat]:
I agree, you can’t have too many cat pics, and I see marketing and sales alignment as so important. It is critical to have marketing and sales on the same page, and enablement can often be the bridge or gap filler between sales and marketing. I’ve worked at organizations, particularly Eloqua, where marketing and sales would have quarterly meetings to review metrics, and I would be involved in ensuring both parties had productive conversations focused on driving revenue. After all, the ultimate goal is to generate revenue and create a great customer experience that allows you to drive that revenue.
Any other questions, or is our time up? Are you going to move on to the next segment?
You have more questions. Well, okay, oops. I accidentally took myself off.
Alright. Yeah, Melissa, that was great. Thank you very much. I think this was very useful, especially for people who may not have had a clear understanding because we tend to overcomplicate things with all the discussions and make it more complex than necessary. Having a basic clarity about how to approach enablement and how it works was great. So thank you very much.
We will end this session and return with Carl Gold, who will talk about a different kind of book, “How to Fight Churn with Data.” It focuses on preventing customers from leaving after the sale. We’ll be back shortly.
See you guys.show less
Melissa Madian is the Founder and Chief Fabulous Officer at TMM Enablement Services Inc. She was one of the first people to pioneer the “sales enablement” role and has spent the past 25 years perfecting the sales experience for revenue-generating teams. Melissa was also one of LinkedIn’s 15 Top Sales Influencers to Follow in 2020 and ranked 10th in the 35+ Most Influential Women Leading B2B Marketing Technology. “Enabler, I Hardly Know Her”, is a book about Sales Enablement. It explains what Sales enablement is, why it is important to the sales process today, and what it means to sales leaders and sales managers. In a sense, it is a ‘Sales Enablement for Dummies’ book, starting from the very basics.