Where’s the line between sales and sales enablement? In this episode, Nick and Andrew cover:
- The difference between sales and enablement, and why former reps make perfect enablers
- How sales enablement goes beyond training to become a staple of culture building
- Why revenue enablement’s biggest challenge is often finding the reason ‘why’ something is worth doing
- How to break into sales enablement from a traditional sales job
This episode is for anyone looking for the deeper impact that revenue enablement can make on teams, and gets pretty inspiring at times.
Nick: Hello everyone and welcome to Mind the Gap, Enablix’s only podcast about sales and marketing alignment. I’m your host, Nick Ziech-Lopez and today I’m joined by Andrew Gray.
Andrew, how’s it going?
Andrew: It’s good, Nick. It is good. How are you?
Nick: I’m doing well.
Right before we hit record on this, Andrew was talking about how he just gave his puppy and an ice cream lunch to stay down.
So I think we have the 20 to 30 minutes we’ll need, was it ice cream or frozen?
What was it?
Andrew: So we get frozen.
It’s like wet dog food. We get this frozen food, we put it in this little cup and we’ll freeze it, put a little treat on top and it’s normal.
It’s kind of like a puzzle. It takes her probably 15, 20 minutes to eat it.
And because she’s eating, using her brain at the same time, she normally goes down for a pretty hard nap afterwards.
Nick: All right.
And that’s better than just freezing the dog food and the can, and then the can is the puzzle.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t know if I’d recommend that.
You might get some sharp things on the dog, so.
Nick: Yeah, no, I hear dogs like that.
No, so Andrew, we know you’re a dog lover.
What else can you tell us? Tell us a little bit about your background.
Andrew: Yeah. So I’m a lover of life in general. I guess you could say, I often consider myself a kinder nomad spirit.
If you are not familiar with digital nomad communities, it’s probably made a staple of who I am as working with digital nomads and getting to travel and see the world learn from different cultures.
I consider myself a lifelong learner and that’s probably what led me to enablement ultimately.
Nick: That is pretty cool.
We got to talk about that later because I’m considering working from another country for a few months this year.
Andrew: Do it. Don’t consider it, just do it.
Nick: So Andrew, tell us, what do you do? Where do you work?
Andrew: So currently I am the Director of Sales Enablement at an AI company called SambaNova Systems, where we are enabling enterprise artificial intelligence today.
And super exciting, great opportunity to be with. The company is doing a lot of very innovative things in the market. I’m just happy to be along the journey with the organization and help build out this team from the ground up.
Nick: And you were the Director of Sales Enablement.
What’s been your road to enablement? Did you come to enablement? Have you always been in enablement? Have you been in sales? What was that like for you?
Andrew: It’s interesting.
I don’t have, I guess the most straightforward path I’ve gone through a couple of different motions in my career from being a retail sales associate at T-Mobile, to being a field sales manager with a massive OEM phone provider, small company, you may have heard of them. It’s called Samsung.
Back in the day, there was an incident that made me decide maybe I should switch over to the home appliance side because it felt a little safer at the time. I think that’s also…
Nick: Was that the release of the iPhone?
Andrew: No, no.
At Samsung, we had the saying of “loved opponent.” I honestly loved every time new iPhones came out because it just drove the innovation at Samsung to keep going.
I jumped over to the home appliance side to be a national trainer. And that’s what entered into my enablement background I guess you could say. I’ve been a very historic sales until then and got into the national training side. I loved being on stage. I loved just helping other people, but ultimately I found my intrinsic motivation factor there, which is seeing other people be successful and playing a part in that.
I had a really good leader, his name’s Jonathan Cooper. I think he’s still at an OEM phone provider, but an awesome leader. He sent me aside and he said, Andrew, you are hitting on all cylinders. You’re doing the job really well. What do you want to do in your career?
And at the time, I didn’t know the answer to it. All I could think of was well being a sales manager I’ll make good money. And his response to me was, look, money will come and go, but find what intrinsically motivates you. What makes you happy? And he kind of put me on a path, let me play around and do some stuff.
We came to the table and decided that it was probably training. And he was right. You know, it’s, it’s honestly what keeps me going. And if you focus on your top line, your bottom line will follow and this career path is no different.
Nick: You know, it’s interesting the way you say that.
Because you said that what you like is to see other people be successful.
And previously you’ve told me that you think that sales enablement, the term might be missing what you need to do. And it’s more about sales empowerment.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you see enablement versus empowerment?
What’s the same, what’s different?
Andrew: Yeah, it’s a great question.
And probably one of my passion topics on this one, because you see sales enablement everywhere. It’s ever present. But if you go look at 7, 8, 9, 10 years ago, it wasn’t a broad term back then.
And now you’re starting to see, especially in SAS organizations, software, just technology in general, you see this term sales enablement. You get a lot of people who gravitate towards this as a function. But it’s much deeper than that.
You know, sales enablement, isn’t just training. And I think a lot of people who look at this as a function don’t realize that, and that’s kind of where my passion starts is enablement.
You know, I used to work with a guy. He had an awesome way of putting this. Sales enablement is the mortar between the bricks of an organization. We work with product managers, product marketing, sales leaders, demand generation, customer success, customer support, legal teams. We work very cross collaboratively to essentially learn what it takes to achieve revenue at this business and how do we empower people with that information to remove roadblocks for them?
So honestly I love the term just revenue enablement. And then what I typically like to say is my job is to empower revenue, wherever it may hide. Whether that’s on customer retain, whether that’s on the partner side, whether that’s on internal sales side, if there’s a role to be played for revenue in our business, my job is to make sure it’s either streamlined, maximized, delegated or minimized.
That’s how I view enablement.
Nick: That last part sounds like you’ve thought through it.
But no, I liked that. And so that kinda leads me to my next question of how do you see enablement or empowerment as different from sales itself? How do you draw the line? There is because it sounds like what you’re saying is you’re optimizing revenue that sounds like sales.
Where do you see the difference?
Andrew: The difference really comes down to being customer facing and carrying a quota or not. And a lot of sales enablers, I think the reason a lot of enablement efforts may land short is because you have to look at enablement as if you have carried it back? Do you understand what it means to carry it back?
Do you just have an operational viewpoint of this or are you thinking about its enablement? You have to put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re building programs for. If it’s for partners, have you looked at the partner selling motions, what they’re going through, and thought about what it means to sit in their call center or at their agency to understand what they’re going through and what they need? Have you looked at account executives or sales executives and said okay, what is it like to be a road warrior with my bag in the backseat, driving from office to office, trying to do these meetings or waiting in a lobby for 10, 15 hours just to offer someone a cup of coffee or right up on an elevator?
The elevator pitch, it comes from the elevator. The elevator pitch is called that because of the old school stock exchange. People would wait in the lobby and write up the elevator with these investors and give their pitch to them. That’s where the term elevator pitch came from.
So are you building programs that empower that? That’s really the difference. Sales enablement is not just training. It’s changing the culture of knowledge and an organization to know its maybe its assets. Maybe it’s helping understand cadences and flows. Maybe it’s optimizing a sales process where I’m not responsible for a sales person.
I work very collaboratively with my sales operations, counterparts, marketing operations, huge collaboration, understanding that leads to cash process, then optimizing it. So the sales team understands these different motions, these milestones, the flow of the whole process so to say.
And that they know exactly what it takes to get a customer from clicking a link on a website to actually purchasing and converting to a long-term customer for us and that’s enablement. It’s raining a salesperson to get them right now, information it’s whether it’s, you know, sales knowledge, sales tool sets, sales skill sets. It’s going across these spectrums and making sure the sales team has what they need to obtain that revenue.
Nick: So that leads you to the question, because I think what you laid out there, it makes sense to me.
Maybe you like sales, you like the idea of sales, but are you the kind of person that wants to carry a bag and have a quota, or are you the kind of person that is processed minded?
And you’d rather at this point, help enable and empower others.
Andrew: Great question.
Nick: And the question to me is how can you do one well, without the other?
Can enablement be firing on all cylinders and reps missing quota, or as enablement, are you tied to the success of the reps that you were empowering?
Andrew: It’s a good question. It’s pretty broad.
I think there’s a number of ways you can look at it, right?
When you look at enablement programs and quota attainment, you kind of think of it like a bell curve. You want to focus on the enablement efforts of this middle performer, cause you want to pull those middle performers up and then you have to be able to identify whether it’s low performers and you’ve got to coach those people up to bring them along with you. It’s all about finding out how we can move that mass further up into the right of quota attainment.
Now, if enablement is firing on all cylinders and we’re still missing quota attainment, you have to start looking deeper, which is where that collaboration comes from sales enablement. Because then it goes to accountability factors. You have to have your inspection points in your inspection tree. Are people taking the courses just because the enablement producing them is a huge part about this is adoption.
Just because we produce it doesn’t mean that someone’s going to get value out of it unless it meets them where they’re at, where they’re living, and where they’re breathing. And if they don’t perceive value in it and they’re not going to adopt it, then obviously that’s a shift on enablement. And if enablement, you go through the shift and you think like hey, this course is the bee’s knees. I’ve got top performers who are taking it and they’re loving it.
I’ve got mid performers who are hit and miss. They’re not going all the way through it. Then you have to partner with sales leaders and hold people accountable to it and say hey, these are the metrics we want to get. Not as an I got you metric or to wave the stick at them and threaten them, but just to say hey, we want to bring you along with us. Like you’re leaving money on the table, man.
How do you not leave money on the table? That’s what these programs are.
You know, and that reminds me of something we were talking about before we recorded our upcoming, like a sales kickoff or a sales summit or something like that.
And I think what you just said could be perfectly applied. You’re going to have a huge sales kickoff. You can, you could blow out the money on renting out the Ramada Inn or whatever you do. I don’t know. You’re going to have big presentations. And if sales don’t take away something from it, what was it really for?
Right. Like that’s just like and that’s just one instance of hey, enablement did something, but did it really help?
Andrew: This is again, you’re hitting on some passion topics for me. Because I think a lot about executive teams, especially in a COVID world. You know, we’re getting back to in-person events for the first time in a couple of years, and executives are looking at us and going, what’s the ROI?
What is my return on investment after doing a sales kickoff? Three years ago, it’s a no-brainer. Yeah, we have to have a sales kickoff. It’s approved. Go for it. Now it’s looked at a little bit more under the microscope. Do we have to bring all these people in? What role do they critically play to revenue attainment? Do we want to spend all this money on these things and I think sales kickoff again, how do you think about it in ways that you get value? The first thing you always need to do, in my opinion, is to do a pre-survey. You know, what do the people want to see out of a sales kickoff? Before you go plan an agenda, one of my Cardinal rules of enablement, know ivory tower enablement, find out what is going on at the field level, survey them, talk to them.
I had some advice a couple of years ago, someone gave me said, Andrew, let me give you the best advice. Here’s your sales enablement Ted Talk, you ready? He said okay, go talk to your customer. And I was like, my customer is, and he’s like, no, who is your customer? I said the sales team and he said, go talk to them and talk to them every day. Best advice.
The sales kickoff, your planning, it finds out what the team needs. How do they feel, what’s going on? And sometimes the sales kickoff may just be in alignment, right? It’s the comradery. The best kickoffs I’ve ever been to are ones where I left and I was like, I feel connected to this business.
You know, I may only get to see this colleague once a year because they are in Australia, but that is one of the best relationships I have because we shared beers on a rooftop bar in San Diego two years ago.
By the way, I would love to hear the full Andrew Gray TedTalk. I feel like it’s going to hit on a lot of different issues that I’d love to hear about. But you’re right.
I think that I’ll send you it, I might even put it in the episode notes of this one, but we talked about what I say the first step is exactly as it is, find your why?
I think because like you said so many so much, so often we’re used to doing things together in the same place with the shift that are digital, the shifts are remote, which means doing things together might be more expensive, might be more time intensive. So just getting people together to get them together it’s more expensive. And maybe that’s still worth it, but you have to know why you’re doing it.
And I think that so much of not just sales, but a lot of things it’s just doing things to do them. I feel that was something that enablement can do really well or empowerment or whatever that is question what is the benefit of doing these things with the sales team, with the marketing team, but just really find why are we doing each thing we’re doing and then take that time to maximize them.
Andrew: That’s it. You know, there’s a small remote island off of Japan and they have this saying called an ECA guy.
And an ECA guy, most simplistically, it’s the purpose for being. And it’s the Simon Sinek. Find your why, right?
This statement of an ECA guy, what is your why? You know, no matter if it’s a program, if it’s a career move, whatever it may be, you have to understand what’s in it for you. But ultimately what’s in it for us. You know, with who? You have to establish that if we’re going to spend money on something or if I’m going to make a calculated risk in my career, why am I doing this?
Ultimately you know, is it a benefit to life of itself?
Nick: Have you ever been to Japan?
Andrew: Not yet.
You know, it is a bucket list item for me.
I was talking to my leader as I joined this organization and we were talking about some of our Japanese team and building that function out. And I was like yeah, I haven’t been to Japan.
I really want to get out there. I’m really excited to get there one day. Have not been to Japan yet though.
Nick: All the sudden you see all these three times yearly sales kickoffs in Japan pop up be like wait, what does he know?
Andrew: Ah, sneaky. Sneaky.
Nick: Exactly. You’re like it’s on this island off the coast. It’s going to teach us about it. No.
I want to take a step back because you talked about your journey coming from a literal sales person, maybe traveling all the way, finding your way into enablement and now embracing it, and going into empowerment and finding revenue where it may be.
I think this is, we’d brought it up earlier, how some people would rather carry a quota. Live and die, higher highs, lower lows. Some people I think are more processed minded at this point in their life and want to help run the process.
Can you give any tips for people out there that might be listening on how to go from sales to enablement, whatever that means?
It’s a really fun topic to discuss. If you’re an enabler, find out you know, the best enablers you can hire are the ones who’ve been selling at your company and if you can get them promoted up into enablement to work with you to achieve better results than you thought possible, that’s the way to do it.
If you are currently in a selling role and you’re holding it and maybe there’s different reasons people leave sales, whether it’s the stress of it. Because it is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Selling is not easy. Being a sales person, a lot of people get a hard time for it, but cells are not easy.
Being able to navigate complex organization challenges, political landscape of the buying cycle, there’s a lot of things to do to keep up. If you’re interested in leaving sales, talk to your enablement team, talk to your training team, talk to some of your corporate team.
I’m a firm believer, the best enablement strategies are very collaborative. There’s an opportunity for you to go mentor other people. 70% of our training comes from on the job learning. No matter how many programs we put, how many training protocols we put in place, 70% of your skillset comes from on the job experience.
And the best salespeople know that, and they collaborate with other people who are going to elevate that experience. So start with enablement there. If you want to jump into it, start mentoring, leadership enablement. It’s not a title, it’s an action. It’s a thought, it’s how you treat yourself and your colleagues.
There’s nothing that stops you from being a mentor.
Nick: I’ll hit you with a quote. Leadership comes from passion, not position.
Andrew: That’s it.
Nick: I have no idea it was on the back of a shirt I had in college, but it’s exactly what you’re saying. You can enable and then the title change or whatever the official job change comes over time.
Andrew: Is each focused on your top line? Your bottom line will follow.
Nick: That makes me think of I’m sure you know revenue enablement, it’s taking the world by storm. But what is it like? At least a third of mid-sized enterprise companies don’t have a revenue enablement department or organization.
And so it feels like if you’re in a situation where you feel like a rep, things could be better and there’s no one’s job to make things better, that could be your job. We’re seeing it happen a lot in product marketing. People look around and be like, I think what we need is product marketing and I think I can do it.
I think the same thing happens with sales enablement of, I think it should be someone’s job to focus on the cracks where the mortar should go. And I think I can be that.
And it’s true and ironically, it’s actually how I fell into sales enablement.
In my last role, I was brought on to be a product and the ultimate manager. We had multiple suites of products that had just come out.
My original job description was to build programs for these individual line products. And our director, when I started the director of sales enablement, he went to another opportunity, which was fantastic for him. He’s doing great things now. But this was at the start of the pandemic. Like literally the week of lockdown is when our director left.
And the fallout of that, it was kind of like, well, there’s this massive void. And I said look, you know sales enablement, it’s sales enablement.
We can transform more and hey, we can handle this. We don’t need to hire another director right now. Let’s get this up and running. And I had a technical counterpart in Australia. Honestly, like a lot of what we did, I could not have done with out him.
But we built this grassroots from the ground up and they will meet programs at that organization because we saw the opportunity and need to happen. And, you know, we just got to work and made it happen.
And then afterwards, they were like, hey yeah, you’re the manager of sales enablement now and we’re going to invest in all this stuff. And we were like okay, cool like, let’s keep going.
You know there’s two of us, how can we force multiply? Two becomes four, four becomes 8, 8 becomes 16, and let’s see where this program goes. Right.
But it’s it starting at that ground level and understanding what are the deltas in the business and how can you, if you see these things happening, right? You don’t have to have formal approval for someone to say hey go forward and do this. If you see some deltas in the business, you want to enter into enablement, just say hey, I’ve got this idea.
At our current organization, our CEO thesis and signals. I have this thesis that if we do these things, it will improve these areas.
Here are the signals I’m looking at to prove that out, go execute it.
Nick: You know, I think that might be the title of this podcast of this episode.
Do the job, then get the job, how to grow an enablement with Andrew Gray?
No, but I mean it’s one of the few places.
But, it feels like there’s so much opportunity in that area and that space.
And as we are coming to a close here and we’re running out of time, I’m interested in your mind. I think the last five years of enablement have been a different world and I’m very sure that the pandemic added to that.
I’m very sure, but it feels now like there’s so much growth there. When you look ahead for the next five years of sales enablement or revenue, what are some things you think we’ll start to see either small things that’ll become trends or things that we’re not even seeing now that will start to pop up?
Andrew: I think in sales enablement, you’re going to start seeing micro functions more clearly. Whether it’s sales enablement specifically for an audience type like SDR enablement connected to a broader strategy. Not just SDR training, but SDR enablement. You’re going to see these programs and these teams build out in large numbers.
I think another trend that we might be starting to see in sales enablement is we’re going to start seeing it more closely tied to revenue performance. But right now it’s a lot, it’s tied to some kind of training and like, I don’t track hours. I don’t track the number of hours that we want reps to train on. I think it’s an arbitrary number. I look at what are the metrics that get us our results as a business, and then let’s look to the right, the signals that are incorporated into that. I don’t track the number of hours, trains. We hire adults, we train adults, we work with adults, they can do that.
And I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more of enablement tied to revenue performance of organizations. I think you’re going to start seeing enablement more ingrained into a cross-collaboration where it’s going to shift.
Last couple of years, I started to see this shift where it’s heavily focused and starting to report into products. Right now there’s kind of three main lines enablement reports to it’s either a CRO as CMO or some kind of CPO chief product officer. I think we’re going to see those lines start to formalize a little bit more where we’re going to see it to where hey a lot of the path leads here.
A CRO is a good path for enablement and reporting. We’re starting to see this paradigm shift into product, which I personally think is great. Because you’re a level disconnected from the sales side, you’re connecting to the product side. So you have your peers who are product managers, the ones who are actually writing the things that the organization is producing.
I think that’s maybe a trend we start seeing. I know I might get some nasty InMails on that one. Because people will say no, it needs to belong to the CRO.
Nick: Hey, can I hit you with a weird one?
Nick: I think HR.
Andrew: Oh no. Oh no no no.
Nick: Here’s the nasty InMail.
I think when we talk about it from that perspective, and this is when we talk about like oh, things that could happen. I think that oh, we have SDR enablement, AAE enablement, and CS enablement.
And so it almost becomes enablement becomes this horizontal thing of well, what if there were performers? And then people that make people better. And what organization you can. Okay. Maybe operations, but what organization sits outside of other operations?
Because then there’s, unless we’re willing to say that enablement specifically only applies to revenue facing roles, in which case I say maybe that doesn’t apply, but I don’t know if I’d buy that.
Andrew: It’s funny because I have had this conversation with a couple of people.
It does enable them to belong to operations and like hey, operations is a pillar. I can’t do my job without a strong operational person sitting next to me.
But if we report in the same place, now you’re operationalizing everything in enablement and you focus less on programs that an actual salesperson needs and you’ve operationalized this thing.
Nick: This goes hand in hand with, and I should say the other part was targeted with Erin Sarris a few weeks ago, she believes that as enablement, you’re your job. She kind of disagrees with revenue only because she’s in a bigger organization where it’s really hard to tell why revenues are going up and down.
But she said that you should be responsible for making the reps that you enable happy.
So she said, now this is getting weird. It could get weird and political, but she said things like a mixture of, are you hitting comprehension on tests? And are you rating? Are you saying hey, I’m happy with my enablement?
And she said it well, if that happens then what you just said, can’t happen because you have to make these people happy, you have to make them feel empowered and you can’t sit like no ivory tower.
You can’t sit because your job depends on them feeling like they have what they need.
It’s complex obviously.
Andrew: So not to you know, boast on some other content here that is not yours, but…
Nick: No, please do.
Andrew: For that conversation, I would refer someone if you’re looking at enablement. If you’re looking at program metrics and measuring the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation. There’s four levels of evaluation. Where one is behavior. Do you enjoy this behavior?
But if you want to actually change, you have to hit level four.
And yeah the first period, the first pillar is yes, did they enjoy it? Great. Now did the enjoyment actually cause them to go do something and produce an action out of it? Did this action drive a change in behavior? Did this change in behavior drive a result?
And that’s ultimately enablement. You’re looking for a change in behavior to drive results. If we’re only scratching the surface on hey, do you enjoy enablement? I mean not to be brash here, but my job is to drive an impact, not to make people like me.
Now, typically I have to make people like me to drive that impact, but at the same time don’t just sell yourself short of that.
I had a really good chat with one of our directors a little bit earlier today. I said hey, Andrew just be comfortable in your own skin. And he kind of gave me a checkup from the neck up. Because you know, enablement can be a grind too. Not everybody’s going to agree with what you have to put on the table. Not everybody’s going to agree with your program. Sometimes they won’t be fast enough. They won’t be responsive enough and you’re going to take some hits.
It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but be comfortable in your own skin and have that confidence that you’re doing the right thing as you continue doing the right thing.
The results will come.
Nick: Do you have anything you’d like to plug, anything you’d like to show the people too, that you’re excited about right now?
Andrew: Okay. I’m gonna do a shameless plug.
Nick: Alright, let’s go.
Andrew: So as we kind of wrap this up Nick, I just want to give a little bit of a shameless plug here.
At SambaNova Systems, I personally came here for the impact that. I firmly believe that AI is the future.
It was funny during my interviews, I kept getting asked, why are you willing to make a change?
And I was like I’m actually not looking for a job.
But I can’t say no to the future, which is artificial intelligence.
And a shameless plug for my team here. There’s a lot of really cool things happening. We talk about revenue enablement. We talk about increasing profitability. It may be worth a conversation to see if you are thinking about profitability and how you can be competitive in the marketplace? Not only today, but tomorrow 10 years from now by using artificial intelligence to help you achieve that.
Are your teams thinking about this? Whether it’s understanding documentation, analyzing it, or not replacing the human capital in your business, but augmenting those skill sets, using artificial intelligence to help you achieve the future.
We have a saying at SambaNova: AI is here. AI is now and we’re ready to go.
So as you know, as you think about everything with sales enablement, make sure you’re also thinking about the technology that’s going to empower the future of things like sales enablement, marketing, or like financial services or manufacturing, understanding, deep, deep, defect detection along the line.
Or as you’re looking at oil and gas and you know, how do we make sure we’re getting things in an optimized efficient way. Is your company thinking about these things right now?
Because if you aren’t, I promise you your competitors likely are.
Nick: Chills chills.
That was a lot that we covered.
Enablement, empowerment, the road to, and the road from.
The next episode we will be recording Andrew’s Ted Talk, so get ready for that.
But thank you so much for being on the show. I truly enjoyed this discussion. Thanks.
Andrew: Yeah, no, it was a pleasure.
I appreciate it, I think it was Gaurav who originally reached out or maybe I reached out to him. I don’t, I don’t know how we got here.
But I am just very humbled to be a part of the journey.
I hope this helps you guys. Let’s not be strangers.
Nick: Director of Sales Enablement and Kendra digital nomad, Andrew Gray.
Andrew: Thanks hippy. It’s old.
Nick: This has been Mind the Gap, a podcast about sales and marketing alignment put on by Enablix.
My name is Nick Ziech-Lopez. Thanks for listening.