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Greg: Hello, everybody. This is Greg Alexander, CEO and founder of Sales Benchmark Index, and welcome to this week’s edition of the SBI podcast. Today we have a very special guest. We have Rick Balkind, who leads the sales enablement efforts for Pegasystems. Rick has 21 years of sales experience having spent the last decade or so at Pega. I thought he would be a great guest because during this time in the last 10 years or so, Pegasystems went from a small company in an emerging market to a company with an estimated 500 million in revenue and over 2,500 employees.
Because of this remarkable growth story, a need for a sales enablement department emerged and Rick became the leader of that group and as a result of that developed several things that many members or many listeners of this podcast are interested in things, such as lead-generation process, an RFP response team, new sales rep onboarding program, the design of a sales process, implementation of a sales methodology, and enablement of the sales management team which is quite a long list of things. I wanted to get Rick based on that broad experience on the podcast to share his wisdom with the rest of us.
With that, Rick, welcome to the podcast.
Rick: Thanks, Greg. I’m delighted to be here and share my experience with you and your listeners.
Greg: Fantastic. The topic today that I wanted to speak about is near and dear to all of our hearts which is, as a leader in the field of sales enablement, you have a set of prioritized programs that you roll out. Sometimes getting consistent rep performance across those programs can be difficult. Normally, new initiatives follow the standard bell curve we have, 20 percent A players that no matter what you roll out it’s just part of that personality they’re going to adopt in and go full force and you have the middle of the bell curve if you will, which is 60 percent and they take a … They don’t say no, they don’t say yes. They take away and see mentality.
Then you have 20 percent on the other side of the equation that they dig their heels in. They’re never going to change. They’ve done it their way forever and they just resist openly all new initiatives. This can be real problem for sales enablement teams because adoption of the program is critical. Have you experienced that? If so, what have you done to try to overcome those issues?
Rick: We’ve absolutely experienced that. One of the things I did in the recent past probably little over 12 months ago was as we were thinking about our manager enablement we did a little bit of research about who our managers were. It’s interesting. They really fell into 3 camps. There were the very savvy-experienced managers who were new to our organization. Then we had another group that was promoted from within. They’ve been experienced managers here but had lots of experience with the company. Then we had a relatively smaller group of newly promoted managers.
What’s interesting is understand the personas of these different people because when you talk about adoption, we realize pretty quickly with the seasoned managers who had 20 plus years management experience but were new to the company, we couldn’t be too prescriptive in what we told them to do. Basically, we had designed programs that allow them to take all their experience and knowledge and apply it within the framework and that would meet the outcomes that we expected, so that was one.
Then for the people who were here who were managers and experienced with Pega, they’ve been through so much in the 10 years of growth and they’ve seen so many new initiatives. We realized that we had it really peer back the initiatives that we deliver to them. We couldn’t give them half-baked programs so the idea was narrowly aperture, do less change and make that change more thorough, more thought of with more tools. Then we had at the same time make sure for the new hires or for the newly promoted sales people and to managers we had to give them all the structure they needed to be successful.
When we choose on our programs we really look at those 3 different personas, those 3 different audiences and made sure that the programs we designed were in line with their expectations and their needs. By doing that it really helped with adoption. I think one of the biggest things that we took out of it was let’s do less and let’s do less but do it better.
Greg: Interesting. I love the concept of creating internal personas. Most of our persona worked with our client base any ways which has been creating personas. They represent your buyers and those are used by sales and marketing right in different ways you created internal personas. Now with the creation of these personas, was it just based on experience in tenure or was it based on other elements as well?
Rick: I look at experience. I look at tenure. I look at team size. There was a couple of other attributes that we look at but really when it boiled down to the differences were experience and tenure.
Greg: It makes perfect sense. If I’m a sales manager with 20 years experience but I might be new to Pega, here comes this somewhat sophomore program that maybe I did 10 years ago in my career I’m just going to ignore it. My hats off to you guys for being aware enough as to who your audience was. That’s great.
Let’s talk about how … As the year moves on, so let’s say … I don’t know. You emerge out of Q1 and you’re going into Q2; the numbers. What numbers do you look at? How do you know that you’re having an impact across the sales force as the year progresses? Sometimes we come out of sales kickoff and we’re all excited. We roll out the new initiatives and then enthusiasm wanes over time.
Rick: I think for us we’re trying to have laser focus and we follow something I think I’ve heard on other podcast from your organization the idea of leading and lagging indicator. We’re really focused on the leading indicator for us and we’re at this point maniacally-focused on pipeline growth, so that’s really our key metric that we’re focused on.
We have plans. We just had our sales kickoff. The entire kickoff was really built around a pipeline-generation plan. We do a second meeting midway through the year and we’ve set up some targets where we’re going to measure ourselves against pipeline growth. We’re really looking at very focused key areas where we want to compete and we’re going to see how our pipe grows in those specific areas.
Greg: Interesting. You used the word maniacally focused on pipeline, so I have to ask; that’s pretty strong word, why the laser-focused on pipeline?
Rick: We turned the growth of the company at a pretty fast clip. We’ve had 20 percent growth for 6 or 7 years now and we’re trying to turn off the dial on that. We’re finding that our pipeline is not growing at the same pace as our revenue and we know that to meet our long-term revenue growth plan we have to grow pipeline. We can’t go on to this each quarter scrambling to find a deal so it can help us grow. We want to have more enough deals to support the growth and the only way to do that is to have the pipe at the right size.
Greg: Now Pegasystems is the quintessential enterprise software company where you sell big ticket items to major corporations that have long sales cycles. Has that changed or is that still the case? Based on that answer, does … Pipeline has a whole new meaning. If you have 6 quarter of 18-month sales cycle, you’re building pipeline at the end of 2016 right now.
Rick: Agree. It hasn’t changed much. We’ve carved probably 20 to 25 percent out of our sales cycle but it’s still 200 plus days. It is … We are thinking about the future growth, but it still needs to be done the growth plans. The growth plans are …
Rick: Yes. 20 percent sounds good but it isn’t we want to do twice out of weekend.
Greg: Interesting. We’re talking to Rick Balkind, who leads the sales enablement efforts at Pegasystems, and we’re talking about sales enablement and getting consistent rep performance and adoption of the prioritized sales enablement programs. We’re going to take a quick break here and when we come back from the break I’m going to dive into the role of sales enablement and how that role emerged at Pega, how that role is different in sales ops, et cetera. Come back after the break.
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Greg: Welcome back, everybody. This is Greg Alexander with SBI. Today we’re speaking to Rick Balkind, who leads the sales enablement efforts for Pegasystems. Just before the break I introduced a topic that I wanted to spend some time with Rick on and that is this role of sales enablement. In the enterprise software business, this is a trend in the last couple of years, for the longest time it was sales ops and sales enablement was a part of the sales ops job. Then as time has moved on sales enablement has grown in enough importance that there’s separate full-time position and in some companies it’s all team of people.
Rick, since you’ve been there for 10 years and you’ve seen this growth, how did the role of sales enablement evolved over time?
Rick: I can tell you it’s a lot different than when I started. I think my onboarding process consisted of a bunch of printed out PDFs and [an empty Q 11:13], so we’ve come a long way since then. Probably a couple of years into my tenure, they formed the sales operations team, which was a new group here, and pretty quickly they put a sales enablement function under that.
At that point it was 1 person who is responsible for doing the onboard training and that was conducting a series of classes. It was pretty standard onboarding process. Everything is dumped of everything you need to know for someone who started. We quickly evolved from a 1 person show to having … We had 1 instructor and we had a director of the group. We had the logistics person and now the function that as we’ve grown into developing and learning and manage a training, product and messaging enablement, we now have a team of 6 or 7 that are focused on enablement.
It’s really gone from a very tactical techno-box, make sure that new people know something about the company to really a strategic way to differentiate ourselves. We’re really thinking about … When we think about enablement it’s cross functions where we now have cross-functional leadership team that meets on a quarterly basis that looks at enablement and how does the entire organization support enablement, not just 1 person thinking about new hires.
Greg: Let’s talk about that cross-functional evolvement and this quarterly meeting that you have. I’m glad that you brought that up because I have high hopes with the sales enablement function. I think they can make a huge impact in the B2B sale organizations in the world. Sometimes I’m finding unfortunately that they’re understaffed. They’re underfunded and they’re their own saddle. You need collaboration from marketing. You need collaboration from product. You need collaboration from sales, in some cases from finance and even human resources. Tell me a little bit about the composition of that team and walk me through the content of their quarterly meeting.
Rick: Sure. The group is it’s marketing. It’s sales. We have a group called the business lines and product management. We have leaders of each of those organizations come together and really, really it’s just about figuring out how to go from still the force term random acts of enablement to more coordinated effort. What we found was everybody was working on enablement. It wasn’t an issue where people didn’t think it was important. It was just an uncoordinated effort.
I like to compare it to 15 people in the rowboat. Everybody is rowing really hard but until you row in the same direction you don’t get anywhere. Essentially what that meeting consist of is we go through our objectives of what we’re trying to accomplish and then we look at across the functions, how are we going to support those objectives, how are we going to contribute to the overall enablement effort and how do we stay in alignment with each other so that we’re not rowing against each other.
Greg: That’s huge, it really is. Unless that cross-functional collaboration is happening then sales enablement efforts aren’t very successful. I tell people … I agree with what you just said is that sales enablement is happening in every company whether you know it or not. I guess you have all these groups and they’re all trying to do their thing and sometime sales enablement improved dramatically just by centralizing it and having cross-functional collaboration.
Let’s talk about the used case of prospecting and in the context of this cross-functional quarterly business collaboration. The whole firm is maniacally focused on building pipeline because you want to accelerate the growth beyond the current rate of growth, which is 20 percent. You’re an enterprise software company that could have even with the reduced sales cycles still probably a year or so. Let’s break this down by groups. You mentioned product management. What is product management’s contribution to this maniacal focus on prospecting?
Rick: A lot of this will get into … We might get into some of the deeper strategy but I’ll give it a shot.
Greg: Don’t say anything you’re uncomfortable with.
Rick: Sure, sure. The way we’re going to market is we want to provide applications and really there’s 5 areas that we’re focused on. We’re focused on sales and onboarding, customer service, operations, and our platform in marketing. Those are the 5 areas and from a product manager perspective if we’re going to go to market and have these applications it’s incumbent upon the product management organization to have the finish needed to compete effectively, so that’s an example of if we’re going to … As part of our focus on growing pipeline and we’re going to focus on these 5 areas then we need to make sure we double down the efforts from a product management perspective and make sure that they’re at the right level.
Then of course the marketing organization has to support that with the go-to market and the awareness and then the sales organization has to make sure that they’re focused on their selling efforts in those areas. Enablement has to make sure that we’re enabling people to have the value conversations across those. It’s really that’s the type of alignment that we’re talking about.
Greg: You went really faster. I just want to unpack some of that because some members of our audience their sales enablement program isn’t as advanced as yours. I started with product management because I believe that this is a supply chain and there’s links in the chain and it’s sequential and it needs to be. For example, as you mentioned, you have applications. Product management’s job is to apply the finish to those so that is actually something to go talk to a prospect about.
Then the next link in the chain is marketing. Marketing now needs to go create demand for these products and there’s enablement content applied at the top of the funnel, maybe even middle of funnel to make that happen. Then you get sales, so now I have a prospect who’s willing to take a meeting with me and have a conversation around these new applications. The words that come out of my mouth at that point actually matter so I have to be enabled to make that happen and then after you sell it you’ve got to deliver it, get it implemented. There’s probably professional services component there, maybe customer services, success management have you. They need to be enabled as well so this customer has unique experience.
I heard from you directly and in-depth on product management which is great, so let’s back up and talk about marketing. Does sales enablement sit in marketing or sit in sales?
Rick: Recently, it’s in marketing. We were in sales operations until beginning of this year and then we’re now in the marketing organization, which is a little bit of a change for me personally, but actually I’m finding it to be a very beneficial change. It’s interesting to be closer to the messaging part of it, because I think one of our biggest challenges was message alignment that the messaging from marketing was and always in alignment with what we are trying to sell and now we’re able to really control that like we never have.
Greg: You moved from … Sales enablement moved from sales ops to marketing and the reason for that was messaging?
Rick: Yes that was the main thing is that we needed to make sure that we were able to really give the value story like can we tell the value story for our solutions.
Greg: Your role there, you, the voice of the fields into marketing to make sure that the content and the messaging is coming out of marketing is things the field wants to use?
Rick: I’d say that’s part of my role for sure.
Greg: Does it go the other way too, so bottoms up from sales and then toss down for marketing?
Rick: That’s probably more tops down for marketing. We’ve done a lot of … We really repositioned the company in the past 6 months. We’ve done a lot of work on really narrowing down our focus to these 5 application areas that I mentioned and then developing the … from marketing developing all the personas within those 5 applications and then developing the messages for each one of those personas. Now really we’re looking at … We’re moving from the traditional sales funnel to a more customer-decision journey that really marketing is focusing on the awareness and the consideration parts of it which will drive them into a sales funnel. I think most of the work on the messaging has come from the marketing organization.
Greg: Very good. We’re talking to Rick Balkind, who leads the sales enablement efforts for Pegasystems. We’re going to take a quick break here and when we come back from the break we’re going to talk about keeping the momentum around this initiative or initiatives. In Rick’s case it’s this maniacal focus on pipeline. We’ll be back in just a short second.
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Greg: Okay everybody, we’re back and we’re talking to Rick Balkind, the sales enablement leader for Pegasystems. Before the break I introduced a concept of the next topic that I wanted to discuss which is, so you have your kickoff. You have this maniacal focus on prospecting. Obviously, you guys probably invested heavily in enabling the team to prospect. For every lead that’s or let’s just say for every 10 leads that’s generated in your world, how many come from marketing and how many come from sales?
Rick: Today that’s probably 2 from marketing and 8 from sales, but that has to change. That’s a big part of what we’re looking to change in 2015 and beyond.
Greg: It makes sense. I can see why that is an enterprise software sales. It’s usually that case in most enterprise software companies, but you’re right it is changing for sure. Probably it will never be 100 percent one way versus the other and it’s probably maybe a 50-50 point there. I’m thinking about your enablement initiative of prospecting. Did you train the sales force on how to do their own prospecting?
Rick: Yes and no. We hire really seasoned folks. We don’t do the firm-handshake-look-me-in-the-eye training. We’re more focused on how do you message to the right person, how do you identify an opportunity, how do you know when to leave the opportunity, so that’s more of the type of prospecting that we focus on. Plus we have a very targeted approach. Most of our reps are assigned between 1 and 3 accounts. They know who they’re going after and they know the 5 or 6 applications that we sell.
Really it’s a matter of developing a strategic account plan to build awareness, to work with partners and how are you going to go from this being a grain-field account to something where we have real relationships where we can drive a customer’s vision towards a solution that makes sense given the Pega solution.
Greg: That makes perfect sense. I was a little confused by the term pipeline development, but now I have great clarity your sales team with 1 to 3 accounts. They’re actually developing pipeline at the account level versus prospecting at the market level.
Greg: Got it, very good. That’s really interesting and there’s some buzz around this term account-based marketing, which is consulting speak for pipeline development unfortunately as consultants try to make things overcomplicated at times. Therefore the account plan I would imagine is essential document. How do you measure at the account level that this pipeline development is taking place?
Rick: We’re doing a few things. First is every quarter each rep has to complete an account plan and that’s going to be reviewed and scored by a sales manager.
Greg: Wow, it’s actually scored.
Rick: We like to think if it’s not measured it’s not managed, so we score them. We determine what quality of a plan it is and then we’re also tracking we consider … We’re calling it white space. If you think about we can map out since we have these accounts we know what applications we want to sell. We can draw our grid and say, “Hey, look. Look at all the white space where we haven’t sold it yet.”
That’s really where we’re very focused on on going after and that’s when I say these maniacal focuses. We want to see that white space gets filled in over time with active opportunities and we’re measuring that. We’re going to come back. We’re going to develop our plans. We’re going to make sure their A-quality plans and then we’re going to let 6 months go by and then we’re going to look at the penetration against the targets where we want to go as far as active opportunities and just determine are we actually hitting our numbers, are we hitting the metrics that we need.
Greg: Rick, that’s a piece of insight right there. For the sales enablement professionals that are listening to this podcast, how many of you are actually scoring an account plan twice a year? If the score is not great, actively partnering with the account teams as a sales enablement professional define white space opportunities. That’s fantastic that you guys are doing that.
Let me ask you a little bit about and I hate to get tactical, but I know I’m going to get a million questions about this once we release this podcast. What is the score based on? Is it like 0 to 100 or is it letter grade in A, B, C or is it pass, fail? How does it work?
Rick: It’s 1 to 25 and there are 5 sections of the account plan and each of them s on a 5-point scale. It’s looking at relationship mapping, partner strategy, marketing strategy; I don’t remember all of them, but it’s along those lines.
Greg: That’s fantastic. Did you guys develop this methodology in house or is this something you licensed from a training company?
Rick: As far as I know, we developed it in house.
Greg: Interesting, very cool. We’re going to take one more break here. We’re talking to Rick Balkind, who leads sales enablement efforts at Pegasystems. When we come back we’re going to ask Rick to explain a little bit about his personal career and how he evolved into this role as sales enablement leader and where he thinks the profession of sales enablement is gong from here. We’ll be right back.
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Greg: Welcome back, everybody. Rick, we have 1 more segment left here about 3, 4 minutes or so. We were talking earlier about how sales enablement evolved over time there in Pega and how you guys have gotten to the point you’ve gotten which I would consider to be quite a bit above average. Let me ask you some questions about yourself. Obviously, you didn’t begin your career in sales enablement, correct?
Rick: I did not. I was a sales guy.
Greg: Then you moved from sales guy into?
Rick: More into an operational role. I came into Pega and was doing some sales and right after I joined we realigned from a geographic model to this target account model that we have. As the result of that reorganization I found the team that I was on, got reassigned and I was looking for an opportunity and I found an opportunity to join the sales ops team. At that point is where I took on the lead management process, the RFP process, the internal communication process. I just happened to be pretty good with different tools that we need a different that we had. I needed something to do and they needed something gets done so I jumped in.
After a little while of doing that I found that I was spread really, really thin across probably 5 or 6 functions and we found that we weren’t doing any of them justice. We grew the team and I narrowed my focus and really begin to focus on just the enablement piece. I’ve always had a knack at explaining technology. I think that was part of the reason I did pretty well in sales and I took that and I ran with it and started leading our onboarding training courses.
Greg: Very good. In conclusion, here are the things that Rick shared with us today. First off, he started his career at Pega in sales, which I think is a very important thing, because he understand what it’s like to be a sales person that he moved into sales ops, which I think is also great, because he learned both the efficiency and effectiveness side of improving sales productivity. Then as the company grew, they had a need for hyper-specialization and they went to sales enablement. He took on that leadership job and now recently sales enablement he’s left sales ops and he’s gone into marketing for a variety of different reasons.
I think that evolutionary path is the best practice. I think for those that are listening out there and are experimenting with sales enablement, wondering how much to invest, who to staff with, who would you report to, over what time period should you become a core capability, I think Rick’s story in Pega is really important, so that’s the first big takeaway.
The second takeaway, which is really the primary purpose of this podcast, which was how to get consistent rep adoption across these prioritized sales enablement programs. We heard a great used case from Rick and that is they’re literally driving their number 1 initiative, which is pipeline development by scoring individual account plans every 6 months; 1 to 5 scale, 25-point grading system broken across 5 key areas focused on white space development that’s just spectacular. If you’re a sales rep in Pega there’s no place to hide so speak. I think maybe that’s why you guys are growing as well as you are.
Rick, before we jump off the call, is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t asked you anything you want to share with the group?
Rick: The only thing I would touch on and something that you mentioned is the future of sales enablement. Where I see this going is I see enablement really morphing from some point in time type of exercise to enablement surrounds the rep. My personal vision is to have a contextual sales enablement system, which is the same as our CRM system so within the context of your selling opportunity.
We are proactively pushing content, making recommendations, really trying to add the intelligence so that reps don’t have to hunt and pack and search of the information they need that everything is really dynamically pushed to them in the context of the opportunity that they’re working. That’s where I see the future going and our challenge is to build the systems and infrastructure to support that.
Greg: I totally agree with you with the future and I’m really excited about that future and it makes the life of a sales rep that much easier. If an opportunity is in an all-state’s 3, proactively the system produces the best piece of content based on historical win-loss analysis. Deals that closed use this piece of content at that stage for that type of customers solving that type problem in that industry that contextualization is fascinating. I tell you it’s going to tough to pull off, not only is the technology a little immature in that area although there are some applications that do parts of that.
The real trick there is content creation, content creation by stage and then buyer’s journey and keeping the content fresh so you know I’m replicating failure. If you’re pushing a piece of content that doesn’t have a historical success rate and you keep pushing it, you’re doing harm, not good.
Rick: I agree.
Greg: Have you guys experimenting with this at all?
Rick: A little bit. We’re starting to … We use a Pega sales force automation internal tool that we built that were taken to market. We’re beginning to use it to contextually push information over, but I think we’re probably maybe a little bit of the published children where we focus more on our customer’s implementation instead of our own. It’s not where it needs to be but we’re getting there. We’re starting to do some of that stuff.
Greg: Cool. Maybe as time moves on, as you guys progress on that, we can have you back on the show and talk about it.
Rick: I’d love to. I’d love to. It’s been great, Greg.
Greg: Rick, thanks a bunch for sharing your experience with everybody. We really appreciate it.
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