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Sales enablement comes down to preparing your team for effective conversations with customers. Join Dan Darcy, SVP of Global Enablement at Salesforce, as he reveals how he equips his team with the right information and training at the right time to succeed. Like other fast-growing companies, Salesforce faces the massive challenge of preparing new sales reps. Learn how Salesforce solves the problem with a smarter journey scaled by technology and paced for human success.

Sales enablement is getting the right information and the right training to the right person at the right time.”

Dan Darcy | SVP of Global Enablement at Salesforce

Kevin Micalizzi: Today we’ll be discussing building an enablement motion with Dan Darcy, SVP of Global Enablement at Salesforce. In this episode, we’re going to dig in with Dan on how he built up an enablement arm from the ground up to support a worldwide sales army. So welcome, Dan.

Dan Darcy: Thanks, Kevin.

Micalizzi: Dan, would you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Darcy: Yes. So I’ve been at Salesforce for about nine and a half years. For the first five to six years of those years I was in product marketing, leading our technical product marketing team where we’re responsible for all the demos on stage for all of our events around the world.

And then I did a couple of years in our product organization running our UI and UX team, and that was an incredible experience. And then the last two and a half to three years I’ve been creating this sales enablement arm for Salesforce. So it’s been an incredible and exciting ride here at Salesforce.

Micalizzi: Excellent. Before we jump into it, this is the Quotable Podcast. Quotable is a digital magazine featuring proven selling advice to inspire and empower sales leaders, managers, reps, and those who support them.

It’s created by Salesforce. I’m your host, Kevin Micalizzi, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce and Executive Producer of the Quotable Podcast. And I’m joined today by my cohost Lynne Zaledonis. Lynne’s a VP of Product Marketing at Salesforce. Welcome back, Lynne.

Lynne Zaledonis: Hi, Kevin. Thanks for having me back. And, Dan, really happy to be in the studio with you.

Darcy: Same.

Micalizzi: Let’s just start with the baseline: How do you define enablement? What does it include in your world?

Darcy: It’s a great question because a lot of people define enablement in many different ways for their company. And at Salesforce, enablement meant a lot of different words to everyone. It meant everything to everyone when I first took over this job. So a lot of that was really defining what is enablement and what is not enablement. And for me, it’s a very simple task: It’s getting the right information and the right training to the right person at the right time.

And I know it sounds a little cliché but it really is about just unlocking all the great information at Salesforce amongst all the incredible people that we have and then getting them to — getting the account executive or the sales engineer or the customer success group person to find that information very easily so that they can have effective conversations with our customers. And that is, — really, the high goal is the quality of conversations that we have with our customers — is the ultimate goal for us.

Zaledonis: That’s awesome. And so what is the scope of enablement at a company like Salesforce? What were you tasked with? It sounds like account executives.

Darcy: Yeah. So great question. I’m responsible for all of our customer-facing roles, which includes account executives, sSales engineers, or solution consultants, and customer success — our customer success group. And so that total population is pretty much a large chunk of our force, and it’s been an incredible team to work with.

Zaledonis: Great. Well, you know, you and I have worked together for a long time.

Darcy: Yeah.

Zaledonis: So I’ve been on this journey with you. And I was an account executive and an RVP myself. So I’ve been enabled, and now I’m on the marketing side of the house. So you were in this role further in your career. Why? Why this big push for an enablement? Why — were you enabling 10 years ago?

Darcy: Yeah. So I mean, enablement is obviously a continuous thing that everyone always does. And every one of you out there probably enables folks in some way or another. And so enablement, like I said, is kind of a loose term.

And so how do you think about that? And we were at an inflection point at Salesforce where we were continuing to scale and grow at an amazing clip. And there were pockets of enablement teams all across the company. And it just wasn’t a repeatable or scalable or programmatic way. So what happened a few years ago was we brought all of those teams together under one umbrella. And it was an interesting experience because everyone did the same thing multiple times over.

Zaledonis: Right.

Darcy: So we really had to figure out how do we bring everyone together as a team and find the right roles and responsibilities, and then really set up the team for success. So I mean, it was interesting because if you think about it, I think about it like the way enablement used to be was it was like a children’s soccer game where everyone is around the ball, trying to kick it — kick the ball.

Micalizzi: Surround ball.

Darcy: Exactly. And what happened is then everyone’s doing a duplicate of work. And so how do we flank out to our roles and responsibilities and really play an effective game of soccer. That’s how I thought about it.

Zaledonis: Yeah. I like that. And so how did you build that team? Did you align by role? Did you align by geographic area? How did you divide up your team?

Darcy: Yeah. So I think I try to simplify things in a way that make it super simple and easy. I thought of it in three major groups, okay? We have our product enablement group, which are aligned with folks like yourself in product marketing who really think about the product curriculum and the product journey for a lot of our account executives.

Then I have the global center of excellence team, kind of the global [hub] team. And that includes folks like — who run our onboarding and global programs, our technology operations, content strategy, content building. I mean, that’s where our Trailhead content team is based. And then on the kind of the other side of the coin, I have the field enablement team. And the field enablement team is really aligned with the business. And we aligned it by kind of senior vice president.

And those people are responsible for the curriculum and the learning journeys for that specific group of folks. And so that’s all up and down for sales, in our SE organization, and our CSG organization. So again, at a high level, the three groups are product enablement, field enablement, and in the center you can think of them as like the supreme center of excellence. They really help run and make sure that everyone is consistent across the board. It’s also regional. We have our folks in Japan, EMEA, and APAC, and also America. So it’s pretty awesome.

Zaledonis: Yeah. The alignment of the field’s interesting because, as somebody who was an account executive, any time I’m in training, I’m not selling, right?

Darcy: Yeah.

Zaledonis: So your manager doesn’t want you there. You might not want to be there even though you know it’s a necessary evil. So how do you do that?

Darcy: It’s crazy because there are so many competing priorities, right? And not only do we have the corporate level priorities, we also have the regional leader priorities, as well as the, I’ll say, area vice president priorities, and then your first-line manager priorities, right?

So imagine all of that being in the mix together. And so what I love about that is it really comes down to the field alignment and making sure there’s a balance between corporate priorities and the folks that are really trying to drive the regional priorities, and then the local priorities. And so — and that’s up on the field enablement and the sales leader agenda to figure out how are they going to solve for these things, and is it something that is just mandatory or is it optional?

I think a big thing for us, too, that we’re starting to look at is making more data-driven decisions, which I think is pretty exciting. We have such a huge product portfolio, and I’m sure we’ll get into this a little bit more, is just how do we make sure that these AEs are getting the right agenda because maybe, for instance, we’re trying to push our customer service product. And maybe some AEs in a certain patch are just killing it in the customer service area, and they don’t really need the training.

So how do we up-level their game more, and/or should we focus on something different? And these are questions that are always a constant negotiation and a balance between what we’re trying to achieve.

Micalizzi: It sounds like this was clearly an executive top-down decision to build out this organization. For listeners who are in situations where they don’t necessarily have that, why is executive sponsorship so important, and how do you sell it? How do you pitch it?

Darcy: Yeah, so I’ll answer that question in two ways: So first, I was thinking about why I was also excited about this initiative. And part of me is, I’ve been at Salesforce for such a long time; I love the culture at Salesforce. And one of the challenges that Marc, our CEO, gave to me was how do we continue to scale and grow and drive the culture at scale and really get our folks trained up and skilled up really well and maintain our Ohana culture?

And I thought that the way I could effect that change is by joining this team and driving that. And obviously, the sponsorship from the top — I mean, Keith Block and Marc — to really centralize enablement was huge because it really bought everyone into what we were trying to accomplish. Were people happy at first? Absolutely not, because their resources were taken away, and they had it pretty dialed in for what they wanted.

And so they were like, “What does this mean for me, and how am I going to get my kind of — that contract, that kind of that trust contract back up?” And so that took a little bit of time, and there were little scrapes and bruises along the way. But I think we’ve come to a place where that contract and the trust between sales and the enablement team is there. And I think that’s a huge thing, and a kudos to our team in getting to that contract.

But I can’t stress how executive sponsorship really matters. And that actually is a huge theme through everything that we do in terms our training, not only obviously in centralizing and building an enablement org, but in terms of the training that we provide, the content that we provide, and whatever it may be, really has to have fingerprints by sales leaders and their kind of sponsorship into what we do.

Zaledonis: How are you bringing culture into training? Training’s training.

Darcy: So, great question. The way we think about it is, obviously, culture is just an impact of who we are, all right? And how do you — you can’t really train on culture. So embodying the four values that we have of trust, growth, innovation, and equality really come out in what we’re trying to drive because, at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do, what I was saying earlier, was impact the level of the high-quality conversations that we have with our customers. How does that training really help drive that Ohana culture into these conversations that we’re trying to bring to our customers?

So I mean, it’s an element of fun. It’s an element of really understanding why we’re doing the things we’re doing at a high corporate level from an Ohana perspective, and really, really trying to drive that into our curriculum. And so you see that come out, actually, when we talk about customer stories and certain things like that that we err on these types of things that I feel are kind of an X factor above and beyond what normal other companies would be doing.

Zaledonis: Yeah. I think I remember seeing a bunch of people dressed in disco attire once at one of your trainings, so — [laughs].

Darcy: Yes, I mean, absolutely.

Zaledonis: Good example of fun [laughs].

Darcy: I mean, so it’s all about the experience, right? And so if you treat the training like a normal training, then it’s just going to be, kind of like, so-so, right? But if you really put it into an element that you think about — the [butts and seats] that are happening for the sales army — what you want is, you want to entertain them, and you want them to grasp the knowledge that you’re trying to drive.

And that is that where you really want to put, make it a larger effort, of fun and really give them a show that they can really understand and take home and then drive as a competency that they go moving forward.

Zaledonis: Mm-hmm. And I’m sure there’s a lot more that comes out of that than just enablement, right? Team bonding —

Darcy: Correct.

Zaledonis: — feeling like they’re part of the Ohana.

Darcy: A hundred percent. I mean, and that’s — to that point, everyone is working their butts off on a daily basis. This is a chance to come together.

And that in-person time is so valuable. And I’m not saying that all training should be driven in person all the time. It is just one of those things that is the most valuable time and training, and how do we learn from each other, and how do we coach each other, and how do we build on each other, that really helps everyone.

Micalizzi: Definitely. And creating training that really sticks is so challenging. You bring culture in, you’ve got the camaraderie, you’ve got a lot of things that come with it. But really creating a program where it’s not a one-and-done, where they’re going to remember and apply and really live what they’re learning.

I know you talked in your Quotable article about creating personalized journeys. Would you share a little bit about that?

Darcy: Yeah. So I think about Tony Rodoni, who’s also a Quotable contributor, says, “Try to make everything that we do a 10 out of 10 for that specific person.” And that is a really difficult task if you think about it because there are so many segments — tenure, regional, cultural differences, age, everything.

And it’s really a difficult task. But the way we think about it is by trying to incorporate a collaborative process with sales leader sponsorship, and also focus grouping around that content. Now, creating a personalized journey is definitely a very difficult process. But what we try to figure out is, what is the baseline that we all try to achieve from a learning objective?

And then based on segment of the market — mid-market, GB, or enterprise or small business or where they are in their learning journey and tenure in their workforce — we try to figure out what that content is and drive a personalized journey. Now, here at Salesforce, when people start new at Salesforce, there is a very specific onboarding journey that we have called the Trailblazer 180, which is six months of an onboarding process. And, yes, what we’re trying to do is assess where you are, to kind of say, make exceptions on certain things that you can maybe jump over those certain areas that you want to go on your journey.

So then you can bypass that. It’s kind of like a testing-out phase. And that’s how we figure out what that journey’s all about, because it’s all mapped around really defining what does it take to make a model account executive. And let’s just take the account executive as an example, because the model account executive can be made in a lot of different ways. It can have a lot of different definitions. And it depends on, again, the segment and tenure in the role, and what do we expect out of the outcomes of every account executive.

So that becomes our roadmap and our North Star for everything that we build. And then at that point, then we put that on a six-month journey, and we think about it. And it goes beyond six months, and what is that personalized journey? And so we really try to look at the individual, based on who they are, to put them on that journey. And we give them trail guides, which is really exciting — it’s like mentors that help them around the process. And not only that, we have our — we have a great onboarding team and a field enablement team to really welcome them into the Ohana and kind of help them drive that forward.

Micalizzi: Six months is a huge commitment. [At] a lot of the companies I’ve looked at, six weeks would be a long time for trying to get someone through that onboarding and training.

Darcy: Yeah.

Micalizzi: Did you start out thinking a six-month process, or did that evolve?

Darcy: No, no. I mean, and it goes beyond — I mean, that’s just kind of the start of our journey. I think, obviously, there’s no finish line when it comes to learning, as we all know this, right?

Micalizzi: Right.

Darcy: And so it started off with 30 days. We have a Bootcamp program. And everyone tried to cram everything into these four days when we see people on their very first week at Salesforce. And at that time, obviously, everyone’s — you’ve all been there. We’re a deer in headlights. We love Salesforce. It’s very much — or you love the company where you are. It’s very much a — you’re into the culture. You’re super-excited, and you’re pumped. And then all of a sudden you get out into the real world and, in a sense, you’re naked and afraid, right?

Zaledonis: You’re on your own [laughs].

Darcy: Yes. And you’re on your own. What are you going to do?

And so the way I think about it is, like, the four days of in-person training is all about teaching you kind of a simulation experience of what you’re going to experience when you’re out in the real world. How do you find the right tools and processes and the people and the experts to help you? And then when you’re out in the real world, you’re starting to like — you’re starting to get into it more. You’re starting to understand more. And then when we hit you at certain points with webinars or some emails to do certain things, it makes more sense to you. And that’s kind of why it’s more of a spread out process.

It’s not such an intense six-month journey. It hits you at the right times of, like, when you should experience these certain types of things or, oh, hey, by month three you should be experiencing this stuff. And you have the conversations with your mentor, and [they] make sure that they are helping you guide you along the way and other questions that come up. And so onboarding could even go to a year. It sounds silly, but, I mean, I really do think it can go out to that year. And we’re just kind of figuring out — right now we’re just — we put a stake in the sand with six months.

We’re going to measure it and track it and see how effective things are and really fine-tune that process before we move on further in the journey.

Zaledonis: Mm-hmm. So six months onboarding, lifetime of learning. I heard you talk about in person. I heard you talk about webinars, emails. How else are you touching people, because enablement doesn’t mean that I have to go to the classroom, right?

Darcy: Correct. A hundred percent. So I think about it in three simplistic ways: I think about — I mean, there’re so many different modalities and mediums of how you do training.

And training is not just a one-and-done type of culture where it’s like, okay, just get this training and it’s done and check the box. For me, it’s really a continuous reinforcement throughout time. And the way you do that is if — let’s just take an example of learning about a particular product and just the introductory process of, like, getting folks to prospect properly on that product. Well, there’s certain prework stuff that we want to take off the table before we bring folks in person. So that prework is all based online.

We do that a lot through Trailhead. We have internal trails that we drive folks to. And what I think about that is that they take the PowerPoint to death and put that into trails so that you learn the concepts online, okay?

Zaledonis: Right.

Darcy: And I think that’s pretty effective because — and I know people are like, “Oh, man, I have to, like, read this.” But it’s really good because then what’s going to happen in person when we bring folks together is that we are going to reinforce the concepts you learned online.

And these in-person trainings are great, but you can also do that virtually via webinars or Google Hangouts, etcetera, and you can work as a team to do that and kind of practice. And I call it getting at bats with trying those concepts out and figuring it out. And then at the very end — or, kind of, [to] really master that competency, we do something here at Salesforce which I think is really special, and we call them “Stand and Delivers.” And it’s a mock situation of whatever competency or outcome we’re trying to achieve with our learner.

And we make them do that “Stand and Deliver,” and we act as the customer, and the learner acts as obviously themselves in their role. And we have a scoring rubric based on certain things they have to do. And if they don’t do well, then we make them try again.

Zaledonis: Wow. In the hot seat.

Darcy: So — yeah. Yes. And then, that’s how actually people really learn at the end of the day — is the mock situations, so —

Micalizzi: “Stand and Deliver” — you’re definitely getting away from that using the PowerPoint as a crutch. You either know it or you don’t.

Darcy: Correct.

You know one of the first programs that we launched here was called the Salesforce Advantage. And it’s basically, how could you talk about Salesforce and how do you learn Salesforce? How do you know what Salesforce is? And you should be able to do that with just a dry-erase pen.

Micalizzi: Right.

Darcy: And what we had folks do was whiteboard their situation of what Salesforce is about and what does that mean to the customer. And so that is exactly 100%, because, like, what is that elevator pitch? Or if you had more time, instead of PowerPointing our customers to death, we should be able to own that content and be able to draw it out for them, so —

Zaledonis: You talked about — I’m hearing a lot of technology being involved in some of these new ways that you’re enabling. It sounds like you have a whole team dedicated to just making sure the technology part of the enablement goes well.

Darcy: Yeah. Well, I mean, I know there are a lot of companies out there that may not have the resources.

Zaledonis: Right. That’s what I was thinking.

Darcy: But there’s definitely a technology. And I think about it this way again, the simplistic view: people, process, and technology. And the third leg of technology is all about, how do you drive that scale?

And so we have two kind of major technology tools that we use. Obviously, one is Trailhead where we drive a lot of our course-learning, online course-learning through Trailhead. The second piece that we have, then, is really a centralized resource where all content lives. And we call that Trailhead for Distribution. And basically, it’s kind of our content library. And I hate using the word library because it just seems very academic. But it’s a way that you can use the search bar.

And it’s kind of like a Google search bar where you can just type in whatever you have. And everything is tagged. And it will produce the right pieces of content for you right at your fingertips. And I think that is an initiative that I’m trying to drive even further this year, which is more, I kind of want what I’ll call like a knowledge base of articles to really pop up. And I’m calling them Trail notes. And that initiative is called Ask Astro, which is what I’ll call just-in-time learning. And Astro is obviously our Trailhead character that leads the way.

But you can ask Astro anything, and right at your fingertips you can be like, “Oh, I need this customer story for this region, for this customer, this industry,” and it should pop up that information to you right at your fingertips and you can be able to look at it, understand it, have a commanding presence of it, and then have the conversation with our customer.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Zaledonis: I wanted to ask you about your team. So what kind of background and skills do you look [for]? Is there a perfect ideal fit, or are you looking for a band of merry men here?

Darcy: No. That’s an incredible question because, obviously, my background is not traditional enablement or learning curriculum. And I really appreciate — I supplement myself with a lot of those folks where I think design curriculum is definitely a need — I think storytelling folks, I think folks that have also been experienced in those roles. So I’m very fortunate because we have incredible talent from our kind of account executive and customer success and sales engineering army that want to really take their career to another level and get out there and start helping new folks come on board.

And so a lot of our onboarding team is made from former account executives, sales engineers, and customer sSuccess folks. And that’s incredible. So there are a lot of different aspects. And then from the product kind of enablement side, the folks who are really technical but can understand what sales is trying to achieve and drive that, kind of very much like yourself, Lynne.

Zaledonis: Mm-hmm.

Darcy: We work incredibly so much with the product marketing team that we want to bring that kind of DNA as well of — I think that the product enablement team as product marketing, but it’s just marketing to the internal roles and really helping them understand how the products are positioned and get out there. And so we have a myriad and a cross-collection of different talents across the board. And it’s funny you asked that question because we do something called the disc profile, which is like —

Zaledonis: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Darcy: — the personalities and kind of where you are.

And there’s a great mix of diversity around the different personality profiles because you do need a lot of different personality profiles. It’s not just the folks who are always standing in front of a room and can actually deliver a lecture or deliver a training. It’s the folks who are really thinking about things from the strategic process or everything like that. So it’s pretty awesome.

Zaledonis: Yeah. Creative aspect, yeah.

Darcy: Exactly. There’s just a — it’s a whole myriad of talent that’s out there.

Zaledonis: And that probably aligns better with the fact that you have a very diverse audience , like you talked about before — 10-year roles, region, cultural — that you’re addressing, so that probably helps.

Darcy: Yeah.

Zaledonis: You’re a global organization, right?

Darcy: Yes, yes. Global organization. And so — and I always think the 80–20 rule: How do we try to drive 80% of, like, the standard across the board, but then give it to the different regions and the different segments to really customize it to make it their own so that it really speaks to the learner.

And that’s kind of the, what we’ll call “the Tony Rodoni 10 out of 10 of content” for everything that you’re doing.

Zaledonis: Because, you know, we’re headquartered here in the U.S., but I’m sure for the different regions culturally what having the disco party for a training might not translate in those other countries.

Darcy: Right. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. And so it’s like what —

Zaledonis: Who doesn’t love disco? [Laughs]

Darcy: — is that — what is that level? Yeah, exactly. Who doesn’t love disc? Exactly.

Micalizzi: I love it.

Zaledonis: Good.

Micalizzi: Dan, I want to ask you our lightning-round question here:

Darcy: Okay.

Micalizzi: If you could take all of your current experience and knowledge and go back in time to the beginning of your career and give yourself advice, what would you tell yourself?

Darcy: Ooh. So I don’t want to — I just — this is such a cliché, but I know, it’s a shame. I mean, but I would say it’s just always to stay curious. I mean, for me, I mean, if you look at my career, I’ve always been just on top of like wanting to learn more and more and more.

And I mean, I could stay in a particular function and do really well there and learn everything I can. But I’m just a learning [mongerer]. I just want to know and kind of get out there and ask the questions — why do we do that, why do we do that — and, like, see if I have the skill sets. And if I don’t, I realize where my strengths and weaknesses lie. But for me, I would say it’s: Continue to stay curious. And I feel like, there, when I was younger, I stayed too long in some aspects of certain roles because I just was afraid, and I didn’t know what to do, so —

Micalizzi: I think that’s a great answer.

Zaledonis: Well, good.

Micalizzi: Nothing cliché about it.

Zaledonis: Great advice. I think a lot of good advice. Yeah, nothing cliché. I think that’s good advice for people for their personal careers, but I also loved all the real practical information you shared about your journey to create this amazing organization. I’ve [benefited from] it from when I was in a sales role, and I’m continuing to benefit from it because my counterpart — I’ll give a shout out to Scott — my counterpart helps me make my job easier to enable people about my product line.

So hopefully a lot of our listeners out there will have some clear steps on the importance of enablement in their organization, and you’ll help them grow theirs.

Darcy: Yeah. I mean, for me it’s like I don’t know everything, obviously. And so I have to trust the team that they have their experience to bring to the table for this. And it’s one of those things, that driving that curriculum and driving that knowledge into our AEs, is actually — it’s just such a fun — it’s fun. I really love it. It’s excellent.

Micalizzi: Thank you so much for carving out some time to join us, Dan.

Darcy: Well, thank you very much, and I hope everyone got something out of it.

Micalizzi: Definitely. And Lynne, thank you for cohosting.

Zaledonis: Yeah, of course, Kevin. Thanks.

Darcy: Great to see you, Lynne.

Zaledonis: You, too, Dan.

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