Conversation with Pat Ferretti – How Committed Are You To Sales Enablement?
With this month’s edition of the Rainmaker Minute, we continue our deep dive into the key ingredients in building a High-Performing Sales Culture. We recently connected with Pat Ferretti, a Sales Operations and Sales Enablement thought leader and a founding member of the Sales Enablement Society. Pat has worked in senior level positions with a variety of companies, predominantly in high technology.
Jenni: I shared with you 10 ingredients we have identified as essential in creating a High-performance Sales Culture. Which ones would you see as the 3 most important?
Pat: #1 would be Sales Leadership. To create a sales culture, you need to first ensure that it aligns with the corporate culture. Everything starts at the top and trickles down through the organization, so it begins with the leaders. Corporate strategy drives what is and isn’t in your sales strategy.
#2 Sales Process. Having a defined sales process drives the ideal behaviors. You don’t want one group painting the room red and another group painting the room in green. Defining and executing on a sales process drives consistency across the organization and reinforces the sales culture.
#3 Sales Enablement. Obviously, I connected on this one. Sales Enablement is that connective tissue across the organization.
Jenni: How, then, do you define Sales Enablement?
Pat: I define Sales Enablement as a strategic, ongoing process that provides all sales and customer facing teams with the right tools, processes and behaviors to be able to engage with their customers in business related, problem solving conversations. As a Sales Enablement Leader, I want to be outcome focused. It requires a cross functional approach to be able to align the needs of the sales organization with other groups such as marketing. As a leader, you need to understand that if I “press this button over here” what does that impact downstream to other groups like Marketing or Finance.
Jenni: Since alignment between Sales & Marketing is key, what best practices do you have in creating this alignment?
Pat: Find the common ground by starting with the corporate strategy. What is the 3-5-year plan for the corporation? That strategy drives the sales strategy and the marketing strategy. If those two are already misaligned, then you have an issue which will further drive challenges down the road. Next, look at what are the tactical elements that Marketing plans to execute on as part of their strategy. How does that align with what sales is looking at? What are the gaps? For example, let’s say Marketing is planning on launching 6 new products this year. Has there been a discussion with sales on the impact of this in regards to the sales function? Have they determined the impact to the existing customers? If those new products are for a different target market than current customers, what has been done to create prospects for a new type of customer? Are the existing customers ready for those launches? These are key conversations to ensuring alignment of Sales & Marketing, and Sales Enablement plays a pivotal role in ensuring this alignment.
Jenni: How do you find Sales Enablement similar and different than sales operations?
Pat: I see them as two sides of the same coin. I think it is very easy to blur the line between the two. Sales Ops is more of the science and enablement is the art. Example, with Sales Ops you think of compensation and reporting, where enablement is more about the knowledge transfer, process design, ensuring reps have the knowledge, skills and attitudes. Sales Ops and Sales Enablement must work hand in hand, working very closely together, supporting and leaning on each other.
Jenni: If you were starting from scratch with an organization that didn’t have a Sales Enablement team, what would be your recommendation on top priorities?
Pat: First things first, there must be buy in from the top of the sales organization (i.e. chief sales officer). The senior sales leader needs to be fully bought in and the champion to what enablement is about and what it is going to bring. In order to do that you need to have your own charter. I recommend you develop your charter in the first 30 days. Key is also talking to other functions to identify what the key challenges are and build that into the charter. This will help those teams understand what Sales Enablement is and isn’t. Then you don’t fall into Sales Enablement being the catcher of all things broken. This can very easily happen when you become a reactive organization. If you can be a proactive, strategic organization you will earn a seat at the table. Don’t approach it as we are just sales training, this is only one piece. Sales Enablement includes sales training, sales process, sales communication even some of the tools and Sales Enablement Platforms that exist. While the CRM is typically owned by Sales Ops, it should be the place where all things happen so you can see what is working, what isn’t and what needs improving.
Jenni: How would you measure the effectiveness of the Sales Enablement function?
Pat: Some common measures include:
- Onboarding of new reps with a focus on ramp up time
- Sales certification programs for products, processes and/or selling skills
- Success of Product Launches including market penetration and revenue by rep
- Salesperson Readiness via Sales Call Observation
Jenni: How does delivery of training for skill mastery differ based on the type of training, if at all?
Pat: I feel there can’t be a one size fits all approach to training. There needs to be individual options that align to the individual learning styles of sales reps. Having a large classroom training can’t be the only thing offered and the format needs to be more of an experiential workshop. Reinforcement is key to the transfer of knowledge and using real life role plays and activities to loop in the managers is important. We also have used hands on experiences with other departments as part of the process of learning the business, such as riding with service techs, a “day in the life”, touring other parts of the organization. Also, it is a great place to leverage certifications to determine mastery of skills.
Jenni: You hear a lot about “sales playbooks”. What type of online playbooks have you created?
Pat: I haven’t necessarily built a single playbook but instead created a sales methodology that is aligned to the buyer journey which helps us align the sales and marketing organizations. It gives them the steps and activities they need to do within each stage, the customer evidence that proves they are where they think they are. The buyer journey should drive the sales process which in turn guides the sales organization on what they should do as best practices to advance the sales cycle. Our sales are complex sales cycles and the reps need to pivot. We need to give them the tools and guidelines to make those conversations successful, not just regurgitating the features. We need to be able to bring value starting with the first conversation.
Jenni: Looping back to the start of our conversation, how would you summarize the contribution that Sales Enablement makes to creating the culture?
Pat: The Sales Enablement team is so cross functional. They can evangelize what the culture should look like both to the sales organization but also into the broader organization. The culture needs to be lived everyday with examples put forth every day. Sales Enablement can play a key role in this. Developing a culture doesn’t take hold over night – it takes time. I think every CEO should have been in sales at some point. That way they can truly understand how important the customers are to the business and how vital it is for the entire organization to support the customer.
Jenni: Thank you, Pat, for sharing your insights with us. Your passion for Sales Enablement certainly shines through.
Pat: You’re welcome. I certainly enjoyed our discussion!
About the Author
Jenni Wallace Radtke is Vice President of Sales Effectiveness, Inc. Jenni understands the needs of today’s modern sales force and her experience allows her to see the impact that sales efforts have on a company as a whole. As an accomplished professional, her consulting, sales and leadership transformation projects leverage her unique set of skills that she brings to her client engagements. You can reach out to Jenni at 980-234-2884, firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn