The customer journey truly starts with the first sales conversation. Sparking those conversations is very difficult: there is so much noise in our daily lives that breaking through with a clear value proposition seems nearly impossible. Then nurturing that spark into a stronger flame requires excellent stories, conversations, and proof points. All of these skills are delivered via sales enablement. Sales enablement as a differentiator in business success has surged to the fore in recent years.
This surge has happened in parallel with the evolution of the biggest annual tech conference in the world hosted by Salesforce: Dreamforce. The challenge now at Dreamforce is to find your people amongst the almost 200,000 folks attending. Parallel conferences have popped up to serve communities that want to focus on specific topics and networking.
I had the pleasure of being on a panel this season at one such parallel event: The Sales Enablement Soirée. The panel, “From Sales Enablement to Organizational Enablement,” brought together sales enablement executives across industries including Gretchen Sleeper (Cisco Systems Inc.), Spencer Wixom (Challenger), Hayley Katsman (HighSpot), Shawn Fowler (SalesLoft), and Jennifer Lopopolo (Poly). I had never attended this 1,000+ person event before and was keen to learn as much as possible while also sharing my own experience. Two major themes made the day truly amazing: customer-centricity and content design.
Customer-Centricity: At Seal, our customer is our lens for all we do, including the four key areas of enablement: sales, customer, partner and internal. To optimize effectiveness and outcomes, Seal has consolidated the management of these four teams. It was my honor to be asked to take lead on this combined team. As a 20-year veteran of sales and customer success, I have a solid understanding of customers and the enablement journey, and this includes viewing enablement teams as fluid groups that can apply their knowledge across the entirety of the customer journey.
I spoke about this during my panel – and I was so happy to hear so many organizations focused keenly on customer-centricity. For me, this shared focus on customer-centricity was unexpected. Many companies out there give lip service to customer focus, but rarely execute that way. And sales organizations… well, we all know the stereotype of how salespeople behave, how they can be only focused on closing the deal and not what comes after.
A good litmus test for a sales organization is to ask which they talk more about: prospects and targets or customers and relationships. At Seal, we pride ourselves on being focused on the latter pairing. So, when attending The Sales Enablement Soirée, it was exciting to hear about sales enablement consistently from the point of view of delivering real value, creating long term relationships and an aspiration to truly put the customer (and not just the buyer or the prospect) at the center of how sellers work.
Thoughtful Content Design: We attend conferences with high hopes to gain knowledge and network with peers that are taking our professional best practices to the next level. Unfortunately, I’ve been to a wide variety of conferences over the past 20 years and have often been unimpressed. How often have you had this feeling like you didn’t take home anything we could put into practice?
The Sales Enablement Soirée helped me shed much of my conference bah humbug. First, the panels were diverse, being comprised of half men and half women, with at least one person of color. And this wasn’t a PC nod to inclusion, it was a representation of a very diverse profession. Our hosts were wise enough to capture their audience in microcosm in their speaking invitations.
Second, the content itself was refreshingly useful. The questions for each panel were delivered as actionable tactics that we all could take home and try out. My notes filled many pages, and other attendees confirmed their similarly long lists of things to try. Nothing could be more fitting from an enablement conference than to enable the guests with practical takeaways to improve their work.
In conclusion, it was heartening how keenly the sales enablement world is focused on customers, shared learnings and progress. The major trends all support customer-centricity and I’m proud that Seal is at the forefront of that movement. As other companies join us on this best-practice journey, I hope you feel the difference in working with companies that are good stewards of your time, investment and outcomes.