How do you make sales enablement strategic, while still executing on your vision? In this episode, Nick sits down with Felix Krueger, Chief Executive Officer of Fast Forward and creator of the podcast Sales Enablement, to discuss strategic sales enablement, and bold predictions for the future of the industry
Can you consult for sales enablement? How much of effective SE is strategy, vs execution? In this episode Nick sits down with Felix Krueger, CEO of Fast Forward and creator of the podcast Sales Enablement, to discuss:
- The key differences between standalone sales and sales enablement
- Key mistakes sales enablement leaders make when starting an organization
- Bold predictions on the future of sales enablement
This episode is perfect for SE practitioners and sales people alike.
Nick: Hello everybody and welcome to Mind the Gap, Enablix’s only podcast seeking sales and marketing alignment.
I’m your host Nick Ziech-Lopez and today I’m joined by a fellow podcast host, Felix Krueger.
Felix, how’s it going?
Felix: Nick, thank you so much for having me.
I am excited to be on the show. I’ve been listening to the podcast for a while and I’ve been following Enablix for a while, so I’m very excited to dive into it.
Nick: Yeah, and I liked that you’re friendly. I thought this was going to be a bit of a duel seeing as you have your podcast and you’re on ours. If you did well enough, would you then just become the host of this one? I thought this is how it works.
Felix: So I think it’s called hostile takeover.
Nick: Hostile takeover. That’s actually the name of my new podcast.
But so for the people that don’t know you, Felix, I assume you go by Kruegs. I’m assuming. We haven’t talked about that. Tell the people what you do and a little bit about your podcast.
Felix: Yeah, sure.
I run a consultancy business here in Sydney, Australia, which was called fast forward. We are specialized in sales enablement, and we essentially work with companies mainly in the B2B tech. space. Tech. and media broadly speaking on enabling their sales team to perform on a higher level and to generate a more sustainable revenue.
At the same time, I also run my podcast on sales enablement, where I interview sales and sales enablement leaders and business leaders from around the world on the topic of sales enablement. Different angles, their experiences, real world insights, case studies and so on. I’ve been doing this for a year or so now and it’s been a blast. I can understand why you run this podcast. There’s so much learning that you do when you run a podcast and there’s so many interesting people that you meet. Yeah.
For anybody who is interested in learning more about sales enablement and can’t get enough out of Nick’s podcast, I can also highly recommend tuning into mine.
Nick: All right. We keep plugs to the end here, Felix. All right.
Felix: Hahahaha. I wanted to get it in there early in case you cut me off.
Nick: Hahaha yeah, at the 25 minute mark, we just go dark.
So the first thing I want to talk about is like you mentioned you have your sales enablement consultancy. So first of all, I believe that you said you’ve been doing that for a year now.
Why sales enablement now? Can we start there?
Felix: Yeah, sure.
So my business has been running for almost three years now, actually. I have a background in sales enablement and that’s why the sort of work that we’re doing initially in my business, which was at launch, more positioned as a B to B marketing agency.
The work that we were doing always gravitated towards sales enablement. So we had a very strong focus on actually impacting sales in a positive way with a sort of marketing work that we were doing. It was not an isolated view on marketing. There was always a view on closely collaborating with the sales team of all clients and eventually this whole work gravitated so close to sales enablement that for the last one and a half years or so, essentially 90% of the things that we were doing were sales enablement.
And that’s why we relaunched now in January as Fast Forward. We essentially fully focus on sales enablement consulting, and creating an impact for our clients’ businesses on that front.
Nick: So I find that interesting.
My background is in mostly enterprise sales and marketing environments. It’s interesting to me the idea of, can you tell me a little bit about what sales enablement consulting looks like?
You’re obviously, you’re coming in and you’re learning, I know a lot of revenue operations and sales enablement they feel like they gotta be in there. You gotta be in there for a long time to really make an impact. Can you tell me what the consultative look looks like?
Felix: Yeah, sure.
So there’s essentially two parts to it. So the number one reason why clients work with us is because they want to accelerate their strategy development because they realize that sales enablement is such a big opportunity for their business.
There’s a lot of case studies and research out there to prove what sort of impact sales enablement can create for businesses. And a lot of clients realize that if their competitors are investing in sales enablement or are considering investing in sales enablement, there’s no time to be wasted.
What we do is we essentially come in and develop a strategy based on a very detailed audit. So we audit all components that inform the strategy. So that includes interviews with the go-to-market leadership, that includes interviews with the actual sales reps., that includes interviews with clients. We observe their whole technology stack and all revenue performance to date. We look at CRM data and so on.
So we essentially attempt with this audit to paint a picture that is as close as possible to reality. Yeah, because if you only speak to one person, you get their reality, but you might not get the reality.
And then we move on to doing the actual strategy work. So based on that audit, we extract certain insights and more often than not immediately identify opportunities for improvement.
But then we also developed a strategy. The way that typically looks is we map the buyer journey as a basis because that’s not very often done in organizations believe it or not.
Surprisingly a lot of organizations that have considered themselves to be very customer centric, don’t actually go through the exercise of mapping the buyer journey. So that’s what we do with them. We then overlay the sales process, identify how the sales team actually supports buyers, and make better decisions as fast as possible for their business.
And again, identify whether there’s gaps or not, whether customers could be served better through the sales process. And then identify all the different areas that contribute to the sales process and what is needed to set sales people up for success. That then feeds into the plan for the execution.
So we map out initiatives that then improve certain components of that sales process, according to the buyer journey, and then roll those things out and support the execution.
Nick: You know you’d mentioned you said, hey you can look at case studies. You could see how important sales enablement is to a sales team. Why is that?
Well, what is it about sales enablement, especially I think in the last five years that has made it so important. We talk a lot about sales, a lot about marketing, so far haven’t spoken to a lot of sales enablement leaders. How do you see it as so critical?
You have to realize that most technology businesses spend 20% of their revenue on sales and marketing. That’s a very significant business investment for a business. Considering that investment being made, you really want to make sure that you get the biggest return on investment and that’s exactly where sales enablement comes in.
Essentially it protects the investments being made on the sales front for our business and optimizes the performance. But that’s on a macro level.
On a micro level, when we look at individual reps. and you look at the environment, a sales rep. operates in and we essentially set them up for success.
Yeah. If you think about the worst case scenario where no sales enablement is being done where sales managers are essentially just monitoring revenue performance, passing on spreadsheets, and there’s no active effort being done to support sales reps. Sales reps are pretty much left on their own. They have to figure it all out. They have to bring their own knowledge from previous jobs into the role and work on their personal best way to sell.
If you’re a good sales rep, that can be a recipe for success. But at the same time, it’s not very fair to the individual. One sales rep will be set up for success in a way that you align all components contributing to sales performance in a way that they have the best possible chance to hit their revenue targets.
And sales enablement, dust that across a whole lot of different areas. So the areas that we would typically look at are buyer acumen, the sales technology stack, south content, and coaching and training. All of these components we combine to empower the sales reps as much as possible to ensure that they hit the personal targets.
Then on a larger level the business hits the strategic revenue goals and creates an environment where the revenue performance can be achieved in a sustainable way.
Nick: I’m thinking about it now because what you described is basically like you said, make it helping reps to succeed. But you could look at it like that at any stage of the business, like CS.
But even going down into product and engineering, do you see and maybe it’s a bit of both. I don’t mean to box you in here. Do you see sales enablement being kind of like the tip of the enablement iceberg?
Are we going to see CS enablement and then like ops enablement and product enablement? Or is it that it’s different for reps because they have a revenue number to hit and that makes their job different than everybody else would?
How do you see that?
Felix: Yeah, absolutely.
I think we’ve already moved to the conversation from sales enablement to revenue enablement. Revenue enablement including customer success as well. So essentially aligning all the factors on that front that’s customers remain engaged with the product, that customers hit their personal strategic goals, and remain long-term customers.
So that conversation has already happened. I think the reason why enablement is a function that is currently so close to revenue to market-facing teams is because it is directly correlated to revenue. Companies are very happy to invest in that area.
But to your point, are their other areas within a business that can benefit from enablement? I think this is as you said, literally the tip of the iceberg.
So I think if you think about engineering departments or HR, the principles of enablement, meaning that you set those departments up for success, that you align all the resources within the business to make sure that they can succeed. I think that is very beneficial to a business to explore. And I think that there will be the evolution of sales enablement on the track.
But at this stage, I think a lot of businesses are still very busy with getting sales enablement, rides, and revenue enablement rides. I think we’re just at the start of the whole development.
But I do agree that it will probably spill into other departments of the business as well.
Nick: Well, let’s go into that.
I personally haven’t thought about this as much, but what you just said kinda kind of did inform me. So sales enablement in your mind rolls up to sales or marketing or another department in an organization?
Where should that live?
Felix: So it should certainly live in sales. So you have to be as close to your internal customers as you can be.
The most important customers are obviously your customers, unless you’re close to sales. You understand what sales reps need and you have the support from frontline management or nothing will happen, right?
You can’t sit in your office on another floor and only talk to sales on the phone or over zoom these days. Not being seen as being part of the whole setup, so you have to be close to them.
But when it comes to other departments, sales enablement collaborates with all other departments within the business. So if you think about hiring the right staff for the sales team, you collaborate closely with HR. When it comes to implementing sales tech. and systems that help to create efficiencies in customer faces, and eternally you would in those scenarios, collaborate with IT. Marketing, obviously super important from a content point of view.
But also in the other direction of actually enabling marketing by passing on information about the customers and sort of conversations that you have in the market as well, all of those departments are connected through sales enablement.
But the ultimate focus in terms of the outputs of sales should always be the revenue performance of the sales team.
I know I like what you said that to be effective sales enablement has to be in the trenches. It can’t be far away.
Other thoughts though are like you said, sales enablement is helping sales, it’s helping marketing and as you mentioned, revenue enablement we’re going to grow it.
Does enablement become a function of HR, like a broad multi-team, multi-discipline.
Like hey, you are responsible for enablement and right now it’s revenue.
Do you see that happening or do you see that always being within the teams themselves?
Felix: I think there are some scenarios where sales enablement sits really close to senior executive leadership, too close to the go-to market strategy. Depending on the size of the organization, it would certainly be a function that very closely collaborates with the CEO. In small organizations the CEO would be the person developing the go-to-market strategy and sometimes even be the sales manager having sales reps reporting straight into them.
So in those kinds of scenarios, it’s more of a centralized function that then feeds into the sales team. But in large organizations, I think still the majority of the time it sits within the sales team.
But, I think down the track that could also be a scenario where it’s a centralized function that proposed straight into senior executive leadership, but that then services all parts of the business and essentially make sure that all the factors within the business are aligned to generate the strategic outputs that the senior leadership has set out for them.
Nick: So, it’s interesting you say that because at Enablix something I believe we even have a blog, one of our better performing blogs is marketing should own sales content enablement or sales content management.
That’s the party line, right? That’s outside of this podcast. But the thought being if sales owned sales enablement, how do you know if what’s going right or wrong?
Can enablement be doing really well, and sales be doing poorly? Or on the other hand, if sales is doing well can enablement be doing poorly? Where do you draw that line? How do you know what’s working or not working between sales and sales enablement, if they’re all kind of near the same team?
What are your thoughts on that?
Felix: Yeah so I mean the ultimate north star should always be revenue.
I think in a lot of organizations, sales enablement kind of grew out of the sales training space. There’s still a very heavy focus on sales training and onboarding and not considering things like sales tech platforms or contents too much.
I think in those kinds of scenarios, sales enablement is still incentivized mainly on activity. It comes down to how many training sessions have been run. How many participants have you had and so on?
But if you think about sales enablement in a strategic way, and you sit down with the chief revenue officer of your business at the end of the quarter and you tell them how many training sessions you have run, you probably won’t get any excitement from that person. If you tell them all the sales reps have attended the 20 training sessions that we have run.
What the chief revenue officer ultimately cares about are revenue related metrics and that is the baseline revenue of course. The absolute revenue figure being brought in, but also revenue related KPIs. So that’s things like win rates, that’s metrics like time to first and second revenue for new hires, how fast they actually start generating revenue for the business that is average deal size that has revenue companies as a composition in terms of what sort of products have been sold to what sort of customers and so on.
I think it gets more fragmented beyond revenue, but revenue should always be the north star for sales enablement.
To answer your question, whether it was sales enablement can do really well and sales at the same time, not do well. I don’t think so.
So if revenue is the north star, both should have the same goal and both sort of should be aligned on that front.
Nick: You know that if there’s a good meme out there and you can make it if you want.
The second breakfast meme from Lord of the rings, you see the movie, it’s like yeah we had seen first revenue, but what about second revenue?
That’s like your idea, time to second revenue there.
So you see the industry from a pretty broad perspective seeing companies specifically B2B tech, which I think is like most of where a lot of sales enablement and revenue enablement is happening right now. Obviously everywhere else, but B2B tech, huge.
Can you think of common mistakes you see made?
Earlier, you’d mentioned things like they think that they’re following a buyer’s journey, but they’re actually not starting with the buyer or the customer. Are there other things that you know?
Felix is hot tips, which is another name for the podcast we’re going to have.
What are common mistakes you see people just being made either through ignorance or not knowing?
There’s a few things that typically come up.
I think number one is attempting to blow the ocean, I think it is a big one.
People get all excited about sales enablement. They want to launch that function within the business, but then they try to do too much and they suffer from analysis paralysis and they take off a half a year to a year to develop that strategy. But by that time, everything in the market has already changed. The customer behavior has changed. They’re the sort of issues that you have identified within the sales team have changed and so on.
So moving fast on the sales enablement front is crucial to actually capture the moment and really make smart, strategic decisions that really have an impact on the things that you do.
The second big mistake that I see is that there is no attempt to overcome silos.
Especially if sales enablement sits within the sales team as an internal function, there’s sometimes the dynamic where there isn’t a lot of collaboration happening with other teams. So I think good sales enablement builds bridges between those other departments and really makes sure that sales benefits from all the resources available across the business to really perform on the highest level.
Then I guess the third issue that I typically see is the measurement side of things. I touched on it earlier. I think the biggest mistake that you can make is measuring KPIs that are related to activity. Activity doesn’t pay the bills unfortunately, and that’s why revenue related KPIs are really important.
Then it’s really important to understand that sales enablement is not solely responsible for revenue of course. Otherwise they would be picking up the phone and calling the customers. But sales enablement has a very big role in allowing revenue to happen. I think we’re lacking revenue related KPIs that should be tracked as early as possible to assess the impact of sales enablement has for the business.
Nick: I mean I like your three-step plan there.
I’ve been guilty of number one in the past of being like all right, we’re going to do it. We’re going to do a sales enablement, we got to do it right. Then you wind up a few weeks later like ah, we’ve done almost nothing.
Felix: Yeah. Exactly, exactly.
I think you can start very small, you know. I’m sure there’s some sort of technical term for it, but if you want to get started with a task or if you want to complete a task, just do it for five minutes so you get into the swing of things and you complete it.
I think it’s the same with sales enablement. The more you can start being super-small in a structured way and a focused way to really try and make a difference, but the most important thing is that you start to build momentum and to really move things forward. Procrastination is real and thought of not only individuals, but also businesses as a whole suffer from it.
Nick: Yeah. The quote I always think of is if it’s worth doing it’s worth half assing things. Obviously you want to do it right, right. If it’s worth doing it’s worth getting it done. Right. But if it’s worth doing, at least do a bad job at first to just start doing it, and then you’re going to do a better job.
But you have to start and don’t expect perfection, but just start.
Nick: I’m going to be the Shelia Buff YouTube guy soon to say, just do it.
But so we started the episode talking about how important sales enablement has been over the last five years over the last time horizon I want to talk about. Looking forward, we’ve seen a few things happen over the last, I’ll say two or three years, correct me if I’m wrong the really rise of rev ops as being this really important part of sales and sales enablement.
These learning and coaching platforms are really taking off and being critical to how people see the success of their sales platforms.
As we look ahead, can you think of anything that is within sales enablement? I mean where is it going?
Do you have any predictions for the future and anything in your mind that will help?
We talk about “mind the gap,” what will help bridge the gap in 2, 3, 4, 5 years?
Felix: Yeah, I think the number one thing I would say is, as we touched on earlier, that sales enablement will become enablement periods and it will be a function within the business that’s responsible for empowering all the departments and setting departments up for success by aligning all the resources that help them to do a better job. That’s number one.
I think that’s the ultimate future of enablement that will become normal on the track. I don’t want to lock myself into a time prediction because of people listening to this, in five years time they will expect that.
Nick: Hey if people are listening to this episode in five years time, we’re doing pretty damn well Felix, so I’m okay with that.
Felix: I hear you’re pretty good at SEO, so we’ll make it happen. We’ll make it happen.
But I think that will be the ultimate goal. I think there will be a time where that is the standard and people will think back to today and just check their hats thinking there were really businesses out there that weren’t enabling their sales staff or anybody else.
I think that will pretty much become the gold standard. I think apart from that sales enablement, as a function within a business will mature, meaning that the best practices will be shared across the whole industry.
The definition of sales enablement that you currently have, which can vary wildly. It can be anything from sales training, in some cases it’s just content creation, or it’s just training or it’s just a certain technology tool.
I think the definition of what enablement is will become much more specific and the body of knowledge around the things that work and don’t work and possibly also academic courses for universities will also become available that actually teach what sales enablement is and really become a professional in itself.
Nick: So, I mean that is a bold prediction. I’m going to hold you to it. So it’s February 9th. We are recording this on February 9th, 2022. Can I get a firm yes or no, February 9th, 2027 if I set my calendar, will I be able to find a major in sales enablement at a university at that point?
Nick: Okay. We’ve got it. We’ve got a hard prediction. That’s what we needed. I will mark my calendar if I have an app that goes that far into the future. Okay so I really appreciate your thoughts on that one.
Before we go, I want to let you plug your stuff. No, no.
Tell it to the people, do you have anything going on that you want to point the people to?
Felix: Yeah, that’s right. You can check our business out at goffwd.com which is all websites.
So my business, Fast Forward, is a sales enablement consultancy that works with sales leaders and sales enablers in technology and media on fast tracking their strategy development and guides the implementation of sales enablement initiatives.
So if sales enablement is on your radar, you don’t necessarily want to invest in a full resource or you want to make things happen quicker for your business. Please reach out to us.
Otherwise connect with me on LinkedIn as well. So Felix Krueger, you can look me up. I think I’m one of the only ones. There’s another one in Germany. I’m the one in Australia, so you can find me there.
And of course, like I said earlier that’s the double plug now, the state, name, and podcast. You can find us on iTunes and Spotify and all major podcast streaming platforms.
We talked to sales enablement experts around the world about the topic of sales enablement. So if you’re interested in learning more about it, please listen in, subscribe, and rate us on iTunes.
Nick: Well, I didn’t expect a plug for some guy named Felix Kruger in Germany. That was the strangest plug I didn’t expect, but it’s your time. You could plug whoever.
Felix: People might not see me. They might only listen to me, so they can’t quite see who it is. There’s a lot of catfishing going on out there. Be careful.
Nick: There absolutely. I do want to mention, you do also accept inquiries from companies outside of Australia, I assume.
Felix: Yeah, that’s right.
Nick: No, the time difference must suck.
Felix: That’s right. No, no.
We deal with companies pretty much between Australia and Chicago and between Australia and Dubai. So we are dealing internationally, so we’re not restricted to just Australian things. Thanks for pointing it out, Nick.
Nick: It felt important. It also feels important that you go west from Australia to get to Chicago and east to get to Dubai. Otherwise you got like 70% of the globe that goes uncovered there, but we’re going to leave that alone.
Felix: That’s right.
Nick: Exactly, in the next episode, we’re actually just going to cover geography. You and I.
We just could be geography Enablement. But no, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I really appreciate talking to you.
Ladies and gentlemen, Felix Krueger, the one from Australia.
Felix: Thank you so much, Nick.
Nick: This has been Mind the Gap, a podcast about sales and marketing alignment put on my Enablix.
My name is Nick Ziech-Lopez. Thanks for listening.