Sales Enablement Strategies: What it Takes to Create World-Class Teams

by Felix Krueger

Introducing Roderick Jefferson

Roderick has over 20 years of experience, working with some of the most iconic brands in B2B enterprise technology including Marketo, Oracle, NetApp, Salesforce, and more. He has recently been awarded the Sales Enablement Lifetime Achievement award by selling Power Magazine, and has also been named one of the top 10 LinkedIn Sales and Marketing influencers. His recently published book, Sales Enablement, 3.0, is a blueprint for sales enablement strategies that has achieved instant category bestseller status.

He started out as a BDR (Business Development Representative), dialling for dollars. Once Roderick started proving himself, he was offered the position of sales leader, which he promptly turned down. At the time he absolutely loved the process of selling more than taking down big deals. So, as any good salesperson would do, he talked himself into a new role of regional trainer. His pitch was fairly simple, “What if I could take all of my tools and templates, (which were pretty rudimentary at the time) and spread that across the entire region?” 

This newly created job was his first foray into training. Roderick Jefferson has run enablement at Siebel Systems, Network Appliance, Ebay, HP, Oracle, Salesforce, and Marketo. 

But what was the next step? 

Despite all of the incredible opportunities, he missed being part of a leadership team, training them, and most importantly, seeing the actual results of the projects he was involved in. 

Coining and Scaling Sales Enablement Strategies

As the man who invented the phrase “Sales Enablement”, Roderick has invested most of his life to developing and customising this idea for his clients, and any leader looking for resources to grow. 

He generally takes a global-regional approach. He looks to train someone in the region, because self enablement is about being a part of, or an extension of the sales team. They’re literally a partner that sits in on meetings, conversations, and plays an active part of the QPRs. 

These people are meant to become the eyes and ears of the company, to find the pain and diagnose it. They are that glue that keeps all the program managers together and makes sure that everyone is working collaboratively, cohesively. Because of that, Roderick doesn’t see this role as an internship or an admin for the program- they are actually the ideal people to groom and eventually move into one of those program manager roles when the need arises. 

Communication Between Departments

Communication is a really essential, soft skill to have, especially in larger organisations. Most assume that these basic communication skills come second nature, which couldn’t be further from the truth, and in large organisations, basic communication skills aren’t enough for the nuanced, day-to-day complications.

In his book, Roderick identifies a Holy Trinity of interdepartmental success:

  1. Communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Orchestration

Sales Enablement strategies require team members to be the hub connectors that spoke out to every other part of the organisation, using their translation skills for the languages of product marketing, product management, etc. 

Once companies start using this tool, it can be hard to figure out where to start- like so many roles that are meant to bring a group together more cohesively, they can do nearly anything, but can't do everything. 

That being said, it’s important to combine both talking with the sales and marketing teams, listening in, gathering information, and focusing the energy of the company through prioritisation. Build the framework, and then sit down with everyone and make sure you get their input. 

This way, you can start building up that ecosystem of partnership with all of the other lines of business, and you also can show that their impressions, opinions, and input matters. That's the best way to gain buy-in.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Startups

Roderick has been involved in several mergers and acquisitions throughout his career. In Salesforce, he came in through a little tiny acquisition, a company called Jigsaw, and they sold B2B contacts. When he made his way into Oracle, they were essentially an acquisition, but he  sat in Oracle Marketing Cloud, the first ever standalone company inside of Oracle.

During the acquisition process, sales enablement strategies help navigate challenges like cultural shifts, and even team restructuring at times.  

When a merger or acquisition is still in the early stages, Roderick focuses on indoctrinating the new team into a “culture of learning”, which is how to start onboarding the team into a mindset, and pursuing role specific enablement and leadership coaching. 

You've got to figure out quickly how to get everybody up to speed in a quick manner, without skipping over the personal, individual factor. Changes must be explained to them in a nice, caring manner before easing them into those changes.

Sometimes, these changes come from events that are out of our control. One of the biggest cultural changes in recent history (in sales, as a profession, etc) has been the pandemic. This brought about social distancing, and changed the way business is conducted.

One of the positives that came out of COVID was that it forced those in sales enablement to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Technology has shifted over the last 15-20 years, but the way that many professionals go about enablement hasn't changed very much.

Previously, there was a lot of face-to-face interaction- creating the warm and fuzzy connections, because that's what enablement practitioners do best. But when the pandemic happened, it made everyone stop for a moment, rethink strategies, and discover better ways of doing things. 

Content in Sales Enablement

Content is a huge part of sales enablement strategies, in that because they don't get to deliver content the way that they used to, they also don't have as much flexibility and leeway. The availability of content is more readily available today than another time. 

Where enablement and product marketing work hand in hand is identifying the Ideal Client Profile (ICP), and making sure that it’s globalised (or customised) to allow for cultural differences.

Now, taking that and translating it into sales-speak is where enablement comes in. Virtual selling is not going to go away any time soon, which means we need to be paying much more attention to doing it effectively.

How do you build an onboarding system for new hires, virtually? And then, how do you enable your legacy team members to ensure that there's always continuing education? 

This is where enablement really gets to shine, and Roderick has shared four ways to accomplish these two things. 

  1. Virtual Rapport

First, rapport is built differently. We don't get to go out for happy hours anymore. You can't go play golf and close deals now. You have to find a way to naturally cross the virtual space between client and team member so that it comes off as authentic and real. The answer is actually pretty simple, but it's harder to do: stop selling products. Stop selling solutions, stop selling platforms, and if you're going to sell, the only thing you should be selling is the experience that this prospective customer can get only by partnering with your company.

  1. Virtual Community 

It's now imperative to have a content management system where your sellers can go to one location for everything, not four or five. As you implement and review new platform assets, it’s just as important to seamlessly “sunset” the older options. You want it to be as fresh and new as possible. 

A rating system can be incredibly helpful for this process. If you can get a five star rating system installed, when you go back to product marketing as an enablement practitioner, you can use that data as direct evidence and support for making a change.

  1. Virtual Fatigue

Everyone is on multiple zoom calls a day, and the wear has started to show. Just because you can make yourself more comfortable in meetings from your home office doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and rainbows. 

Because traditional leadership has a hard time knowing how to lead without physical presence, working from home can lead to over-working and burnout. Leadership anxiety/stress spreads to the employees, and employees have a harder time making boundaries. Trying to rest in the same space you work is a recipe for disaster, and it has had consequences. 

Clients are dealing with the same issues, even though they have different leaders. Meetings or content has to be engaging to keep them healthy, invested, and interactive, otherwise we're inviting them to mentally unplug and multitask.

Still, business is business, so finding the correct balance between Educating and Entertaining is key. You've got to give them content to keep their attention, keep them involved, and keep them invested. Prizes are always a great way to accomplish this, but it’s great to keep in mind the culture you’re working with.

Competition might be a better hook than prizes in certain parts of the world. 

  1. Customer Service 

Because so many things have changed in the ways we are able to interact,  content plays a much bigger role in customer service than before. 

Even if you've got direct relationships with buyers, the sell cycles can be really long, and for a salesperson to continuously add value, you need to utilise them like a direct content distribution channel and be able to continuously provide content.

In short? Keep it warm and efficient- let them know that you value their time by not wasting it. 

Evolution of Sales Enablement Strategies

Roderick believes the next stage for sales enablement will be getting away from being viewed as the “fixers of broken things”, and instead being viewed as coordinators, schedulers, or even just high-quality trainers/coaches.

Enablement has an opportunity to play a huge role in the go-to market strategy of the company, and if it’s done from the top down, it's no longer a sales enablement initiative, it's a go-to market activity. 

Enablement also has the potential to decrease time to revenue, and to increase productivity, but more importantly, they have the opportunity to create programs that can help prospects and customers maintain the customers that they already have.

From a technology point of view, AI will be a big piece in machine learning, and it's happening right now. Companies are taking things from a metrics perspective and tying AI into it to better track trends. 

There was a time when everything in that area was manual, but now it can be fed in through the system and it automatically organises the date.

There's also going to become a static set of tools stack, what Roderick calls “demystifying the darkness”. This allows you to align all of the different technology resources, and simplifies keeping track of the operating systems you’re working with.

The fun is just getting started for sales enablers!

For Beginners

For any fresh blood in the field, Roderick has a few parting words:

1) Never give sales what you think they need.

Always ask questions and build along with them. 

2) You are the hub that spokes out to every other part of the organisation. 

Make sure that you build relationships with each one of those individual lines of business. 

3) You can't hope that you've got the right tools.

You can't hope that they're going to understand what you're looking for. You can't hope that they're going to believe in you. You can't hope that you're going to be successful. Why? Because hope is not a strategy.

To hear more from Roderick, you can connect with him on LinkedIn, take his incredible course, or visit his website.

Connect with Felix Krueger on social media:


Podcast, Roderick Jefferson, sales enablement, Smarketing

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