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How Sales Enablement Helps Reps Close Deals and Drive Revenue in a Downturn

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Nearly 70% of sales professionals say selling is harder now than before the pandemic, and 82% report having to adapt quickly to this new landscape. Despite these hurdles, and amid economic headwinds, sales teams must be the engine that keeps revenue flowing. 

Sales enablement is a key function to help teams navigate these challenges. It’s important that reps are trained and informed in the right ways so they can forge trusted customer relationships and maximize the impact of their work. This means acquiring a deep understanding of what they are selling and their customers’ needs. 

To see this in action, we spoke with Salesforce’s EVP of Global Sales Enablement, Jody Kohner, and learned how she tackles enablement to drive rep productivity with outcome-based solutions.

Q.  What is sales enablement?

At its core, sales enablement is anything that drives learning and increases productivity for sales reps, using content, coaching, training, and tech to ultimately give them the tools needed to close deals.

Q. How have customer expectations changed sales enablement strategies?

When the economy changes, so do customer expectations. That means sellers need to adapt too. They still have to be really knowledgeable about the industry in which they are selling and now, also be able to demonstrate how a product is going to drive productivity for their customers in the context of the moment. 

Sellers have to be able to position their product in a way that helps solve problems that weren’t top of mind a month or a year ago. 

Jody Kohner, EVP, Global Sales Enablement, Salesforce

They have to understand trends and unique obstacles because today, every customer is looking to maximize impact by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies.

When we create our training curriculum, our rule is 80-20. We want to prescribe 80% but leave 20% open for local teams to customize the content for what’s really relevant in their culture, region, industry, or team, now.

Q. What’s the next big step forward in sales enablement?

Sales enablement is really having a moment and rightfully so. We’ve seen a 300% increase in people on LinkedIn with sales enablement in their job title since 2015 and it’s evolving quickly.

Historically, sales enablement KPIs have been focused on consumption metrics: how many people took the course, what’s the CSAT score, how many clicks on a CTA did we get? But the business doesn’t really care about those things. They want to see how learning time converts to sales, which equals revenue. In the past we couldn’t identify those correlations.

That’s why we created the world’s first enablement accountability performance matrix – or APM. With the enablement APM, we are now able to run algorithms and compare people who took the course and those who didn’t, and show if the training helped the seller to generate more leads, potential revenue, or follow-up opportunities. 

With the enablement APM, we are now able to run algorithms and compare people who took the course and those who didn’t, and show if the training helped the seller to generate more leads, potential revenue, or follow-up opportunities. 

JODY KOHNER, EVP, GLOBAL SALES ENABLEMENT, SALESFORCE

That is a massive transformation for the sales industry. It transitions the entire enablement organization from being a cost center to being a mission critical revenue generator. It’s galvanizing the troops to generate success.

Q. Where did the inspiration for APM come from, and what technology are you using to power the app? 

When I came into this role two and a half years ago, I did not have a background in enablement – most of my career was spent in marketing and employee engagement. With that background, I believed data would be the best argument to explain how investments in sales enablement would yield more dollars. 

We have the world’s number one CRM and we have the world’s number one analytics platform. When you put those things together, we have tremendous data at our fingertips.

Jody Kohner, EVP Global Sales Enablement, Salesforce

From that, we were able to create an algorithm that built employee segments by tenure, geographies, or quotas. Then within those segments, we compared the revenue of people who took a certain training with those who didn’t.

Through that, I can directly see how consumption leads to upticks in revenue, and that is the ‘Holy Grail’ of sales enablement. 

Q. How do you equip your sales team to maximize their impact?

Traditionally, sales enablement was always delivered in person. Once COVID hit, we had to develop a lot of new experiences, whether that was on a vehicle like our free online learning platform, Trailhead, or experiential learning with simulated experiences. But some people are going to be better engaged with an in-person experience, so we’re going to do that, too. 

We have to focus on what is most relevant to a particular learner – individually, not as a whole subset. I cannot train someone in enterprise sales in EMEA the same way I train someone who’s in SMB sales in the United States. They’re selling the same products and all work for Salesforce, but the customer needs are very different. As we get more personalized and nuanced, increased pipeline and revenue should follow. 

Q. As we head into 2023, what’s your take on modernizing and evolving sales’ role within an organization?

Sales isn’t a solo effort anymore. There’s a lot of stakeholders we need to leverage in closing deals, like finance, legal, marketing, and product. We have to be really aligned to be productive and efficient, and in our recent State of Sales report, more than 80% of sales reps said that team selling leads to closing deals. 

We have a saying at Salesforce: tactics often dictate strategy.

Now more than ever, businesses must focus on what’s driving the greatest outcomes and make sure they have a well-defined and data-driven strategy as their foundation.

Jody Kohner, EVP Global Sales Enablement, Salesforce

Go deeper:

  • Get the State of Sales report and check out the latest Sales Cloud news.
  • Get access to Salesforce’s Sales Enablement demo here.
  • Find out how real-time data is impacting the 2022 holiday shopping season here.
  • Read “A Complete Guide to Sales Enablement” here.
  • Read three tips to ignite your selling engine here.
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