I adopted the definition of Sales Enablement by Bray/Sorey, which is: “Sales Enablement is not a position in a company. It’s not a job title. It’s not that person who does your new hire onboarding. It’s an ecosystem that crosses all functional and hierarchical boundaries.” - Cory Bray/Hilmon Sorey, The Sales Enablement Playbook

Well… I googled it too, to see what definitions are out there, and the first hit was Zach Bolt’s article from the Presales Collective blog!

Back to Bray/Sorey definition, I like the descriptor: Ecosystem, a complex network of interacting systems, that has no functional and hierarchical boundaries.

What are the components of these systems? I like to break down complex ideas into digestible chunks. So let’s think about this with the People - Process - Tools (PPT) framework. In this blog article, I will focus on the People aspects, which are arguably the most challenging.

When we think about enablement in the traditional sense, we tend to think ONLY about enabling our internal team members, our AEs/Sellers, Sales Engineers/Solution Consultants (SE/SC), Customer Success teams, etc. We seldom think about the Enablement function’s responsibility as an enabler of our buyers to be able to make effective buying decisions (buying from us!). Okay… the buyer enablement will be another blog article!

Enablement Ecosystem from the People Perspective

Below is a very simplified picture. I did not draw all the arrows between all teams to keep the picture clear. But you can imagine there are arrows between the Product teams, the PMMs, the Specialists, etc. And all the arrows within the enablement organization, the sales enablement, customer success enablement, tools team, and so on.

What I like to highlight is that even in this simplified view, even without all the various relationship building and communication that takes place between these groups, the ecosystem is incredibly complex.

So how does Enablement manage this complex ecosystem and provide value to the PreSales teams?

Let’s zero on the consumers. I separated the individual contributors from the managers. Because enablement needs to serve these two groups differently. The individual SCs would need to deepen their product expertise, their sales acumen, and their domain expertise. While the managers need to be trained on how to coach their teams effectively to perform in the field and win more deals. And of course, with the individual contributors, we need to serve the new hires differently than the tenured employees.

When I joined Zendesk as a Global Enablement leader serving the PreSales and Professional Services teams, my first goal was to launch an onboarding program for the new hire Solutions Consultants, measure success, and optimize the program. The second goal was to create an onboarding program for Professional Services. The third goal was to create a learning framework for tenured SCs. Those are lofty goals, especially when you have a very small team. One of my team members is focusing on running the PS enablement programs, and my other team member is creating reusable self-serve content for our LMS. It's an ongoing journey toward delivering on our goals and one lens that helps guide us forward is the empathetic one.

Empathy is Essential

Having deep empathy for the teams we serve is essential to be successful in Enablement. I feel the pain of the new hire who is overwhelmed with the content given to them to consume. I know how wonderful it is when I have a new hire Buddy (mentor) who I can go to every day when I have questions, or want to do dry runs before my demo certification. Yeah…walking in their shoes is critical to delivering successful enablement programs.

Building great relationships with all teams in the ecosystem is critical. Again, if we are looking at the consumers. Get to know the new hires. Participate in their demo certification panel, help them and their buddies to have a great onboarding experience. By doing so, you will know everyone in the organization, who you have touched, and positively impacted. Building that level of trust is priceless. I feel I can reach out to anyone in the PreSales if I have questions, or I need their feedback or opinion, etc. The truth is in the field. I know we are onto something when I get validation/confirmation from the individual contributors that certain training is necessary. Building a great relationship with the leadership team is equally important. Constantly focus on how best can serve them and their organization.

Building relationships with the supplier teams is critical as well. They are the ones with the deep technical expertise. With larger initiatives, I prefer to bring together team members from all teams, including SCs to review content and make sure it will resonate with the SC audience.

Keeping in mind the “Less is More” mantra. Mark Twain said: “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Our job in enablement is to help the teams we serve to reach their goal. To win more deals, to provide solutions to their customers. We need to take the time to write a short letter!

Zsuzsanna Tuell is an Enablement Leader at Zendesk serving the global Presales and Professional Services teams. When not wondering about how to optimize existing programs, she can be found on the trails preparing for the next ultramarathon adventure. Connect with Zsuzsanna on Linkedin!

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The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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