Kristin McLerran: Let’s just start off with the big question: how would you define sales excellence?
Jerry Pharr: Sales excellence is about establishing repeatability, consistency, and productivity. You must ensure that you have the systems, processes, and talent in place to achieve the goals you want to achieve. And in order to repeatedly and consistently achieve your goals, your individual reps and entire teams must be productive.
There are two pieces to productivity: efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is about how quickly you are able to achieve your goals. But just doing things quickly isn’t enough; you have to make sure that you are doing the right things. So that’s where the effectiveness comes in. You have to be doing the right kinds of activities that are able to produce the right results. Neither one of them works without the other–they function in tandem. And if you have a team that is both efficient and effective–and therefore productive–they will be repeatedly and consistently producing the results you would like to achieve.
KM: So, what exactly is “sales enablement,” and what are your goals as a director in this role? How do you go about training your reps to be productive?
JP: There is no universally-accepted definition. It varies wildly from company to company. But I’ll tell you what it means to me, and what it means here at Outreach.
Sales Enablement is about ensuring that your team and reps have whatever they need to be efficient and effective.
I think of it in terms of four inter-related buckets that someone in my role is responsible for: training, tools, systems/processes, and content. I oversee training, which includes coaching, onboarding and ramping your reps. I have to include the right tools in my team’s sales stack, because in today’s world, you need some sort of automation tool in order to be productive. I have to put the right systems and processes in place to remove friction in the overall sales process and customer journey. And in terms of content, I have to make sure my reps have the right resources in front of them to have productive conversations, develop their stories, deliver our value, and include content in our emails and sequences. Content also includes collateral material, whether that means a case study, a white paper, or a video of some sort. Essentially, my job is to give my team the assets necessary to advance a deal.
KM: What is the sign to you, as a sales enablement guy, that you have achieved sales excellence?
JP: My goals are the same as the overall sales team’s goals. When my team hits their revenue targets, I have achieved my goals.
And here, when we think about goals, the term productivity has another meaning: rep productivity, or the percentage of reps that are hitting their quotas. Rep productivity is important to me because it is conceivable for a whole team to hit its revenue target, but have that be carried by only 1 or 2 reps. And that’s not an optimal situation. You want to have all of your reps–or as many as possible–being productive in their role.
I also have to evaluate time to value. From the moment a rep gets hired, it matters how soon they are fully ramped and hitting quota.
KM: What are the limitations of just doing “sales enablement”–of simply training your reps and then setting them free? How can you carry over the efforts of training and enablement into the reps’ daily, fully-ramped life?
JP: If you were to go ask 200 different sales enablement practitioners what they do and what sales enablement is, you would likely get 200 different answers. In most organizations, enablement usually covers only one or two of the aspects of my role that I described previously. So that would be the limitations of the usual sales enablement job–that you don’t have a role throughout the entire process.
I am fortunate enough that my job includes both these traditional functions and the aspects beyond just enabling and training. One of the big reasons I chose to come to Outreach is that in order to be truly effective, the enablement function must be seen as a strategic partner of the sales organization–and that’s what it is here. In order to be a strategic partner, you have to have responsibility and accountability for a broad range of things. So if productivity is the goal, there have to be a lot of levers you can pull to achieve that–and I like having my hands on as many levers as possible.
KM: How has sales enablement changed over the course of your career?
JP: If you’d searched LinkedIn five years ago for sales enablement, you would have had about 6 or 7,000 hits. Now you have hundreds of thousands of people who have it in their title. And that’s just in the span of about 5 or 6 years–so the function has expanded dramatically. In some ways, it’s just people putting a different name on something they’ve always done. But in the start-up world in particular one of your goals is to be rapidly growing and changing. And if things are changing really quickly, you can’t rely just on sales managers and sales leaders to do all of the strategic coaching, training, content and tools…you have to have a separate person who can oversee that, who is agile enough to see that today’s needs are going to be different two months from now.
KM: A huge part of success is giving your reps the tools to succeed–and providing the right tools has a huge effect on mindset. So how do you prepare your reps for the best mindset?
JP: You know, I think a lot of that mindset is innate and can’t be taught. I think you can reinforce it, and you can fan the flame a little bit, but if it ain’t there it ain’t there. I think the most effective sales reps are the ones who have just the right DNA for it. They’ve got the hallmarks of a great seller: street smarts, grit, and confidence. And then you get someone like me to sort of build the systems, processes, messaging, and structure to support that. And that’s when you have a winning combination: you have the right DNA, with the right support.
And candidly, I am a recovering seller, and the reason I am not selling anymore is because I didn’t have the right DNA. But I do have the right DNA to be behind the scenes and support sellers. If you look at professional sports, the top coaches were not necessarily the top players. It just takes a different skill set.
Our mission at Outreach is ensure your teams have the tools to establish repeatability, consistency, and productivity. We are passionate about sales excellence and delivering the best sales engagement platform in the industry. But technology is just a part of the solution. Delivering sales excellence involves strategy, process, and a new way of thinking.
We’re incredibly excited about Unleash, our conference for sales excellence. In June 2017 Outreach will gather with over 250 of the most forward-thinking sales leaders in the industry, the people who are pushing the boundaries every day and charting the course to the next era of selling. Unleash is the perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded leaders, gain new insights into sales excellence, and learn techniques for unleashing your inner sales hero.
Passionate about sales excellence? Join us at Unleash and become a part of the movement.