Is your sales enablement approach driving revenue per sales head up, or is it an empty suit?
Joining us for today’s show is Andy Panos, a Vice President of Sales who knows a thing or two about maximizing revenue per sales head. Today’s article is focused using sales enablement to drive revenue per sales head up, and time to productivity for new sales hires down. Andy and I leveraged pages 319 – 322 of the annual report workbook as a guide to our interview.
SBI recently spoke with Andy Panos, Andy Panos, Vice President of Sales for G&K Services, a billion-dollar company with 175,000 customers across the US and Canada. G&K Services provides uniforms and facility service programs for companies that are focused on their image and safety. Andy’s responsibilities include leading the field sales and strategic account sales organizations, the CRM team, and the sales operations team. Andy is uniquely qualified to demonstrate how to drive revenue per sales head up, and time to productivity for new sales hires down.
My interview with Andy will take you through the journey his company has gone through to fully leverage sales enablement to drive revenue. For our readers who think you are ‘doing’ sales enablement today, take the time to review the transcript from my interview with Andy. Evaluate the concepts Andy shares to fine tune and fill gaps in your sales enablement efforts.
Why this topic is important? Getting an increase in sales head count is difficult, our friends the expense cops expect all the current sales reps to be at quote before they agree to add any new heads, and when new sales people are hired, there is little patience from the executive team members who want each to generate revenue as quickly as possible. The sales enablement function exists to onboard new sales hires and to drive revenue per sales head up, neglect sales enablement and forego adding head count in the future.
Do you believe in that, do you have a sales methodology?
Yes. To give you some background so it helps, we are 100% focused on new account acquisition, that’s what my sales organization does. A lot of the customers that we sign are smaller, they have a shorter sales cycle, so it’s typical in our industry to have a consultative solution-selling methodology, which is what we’ve adopted. I think most of your viewers would be familiar with the idea of focusing intently on discovery, learning all the expressed and pulling the unexpressed needs of our buyers out so we can understand if our differentiated value proposition is the right solution for that customer.
I know you’re telling the truth because you just mentioned a fundamental item of sales methodologies, expressed and unexpressed needs. Very often, as you know, the buyer sometimes or the customer doesn’t express their need, and a sales methodology, a proper one is designed to pull that out. That was a great answer, and for those in the audience that are reading right now, organizations that are focused on new logos, as Andy’s are, the role of a sales methodology as it relates to driving revenue per head up in this case by opening new accounts, or what we might call new logos, is particularly important.
A step-by-step process in getting the entire sales organizations to use it will take variability from rep to rep out of the equation, because your kind of have a way of doing things. That would be something for everybody to implement if they don’t have in place already.
How do you define sales enablement? Depending on who you talk to the term sales enablement has a different definition, and depending on who you talk to, it has kind of a different focus. What are the strategic focus areas for you in the area of sales enablement?
Yes, it does mean different things to different people. In the case of our sales organization, it means efficiency and effectiveness, and driving the efficiency of each sales rep and the effectiveness of the sales teams. We weren’t always there, we didn’t always understand that, and we had been adjusting and advancing a number of different business areas to drive our sales results, things that most leaders do, training, compensation, onboarding, all kinds of different things.
It was after we assembled the field advisory board, where we started getting strong feedback from sales leaders and sellers that it kind of hit us between the eyes that no matter how much we change those things or pulled those different levers to try to generate an outcome, for us, it seemed to be meeting up against a wall, we were kind of pushing a string up a hill. We realized that the job, we had made it too difficult on the sales organization. They didn’t have the right tools, it became very clunky, so we had to focus on those two things.
Tell me a little bit about the field advisory board, that’s an interesting topic. What caused you to do that, how is it composed, how often does it meet, what’s the outcomes of those sessions?
It really originated out of the idea that we didn’t want to have groupthink out of a corporate office. Even though we came from the field within all of us had carried a bag and worked our way through, that doesn’t mean that we really understand exactly what’s going on day-to-day in the car, on the phone, making those calls. We wanted the people who did that every day to be involved. Also, we in the past had felt that we had made decisions based on our best sales reps and their input.
Again, in this specific topic, we realized the folks we needed to help were the newer people, the ones that didn’t get by on their deep understanding of the industry and their great sales skills. These folks needed the job to be easier, they needed better tools, so we really valued their input and wanted to make sure we had a diverse group giving us input.
Roughly, how many people are in the field advisory board and how often do they meet?
About a dozen. We started out with some large meetings to explain the concept, and those were monthly meetings. Then we were able, after we started to gravitate towards a clear work path, we started to get into bi-weekly meetings, with a number of folks being involved in a virtual way.
How long you been doing this?
We started the FAB about, we call it the FAB, we started the FAB about four years ago, and then it really played the key role, it became the team that became the project team that implemented many of the sales enablement tools. Now we meet less frequently, but still invite that group to give us feedback on how it’s working.
You know it’s an interesting concept. I remember it from my days, I was a rep that participated on a field advisory board a million years ago, and I remember enjoying it, and I think that company is still doing it. You’re four or five years into it, can you point to any results from it, would you advise your peers to do something similar?
Again, I would, and specifically the advice is, “Focus in on what your priorities are, don’t create tools for the sake of creating tools, don’t adopt technology for the sake of adopting technology,” that’s an easy pitfall. Zone in very deeply and specifically on what it is that will affect sales results, and absolutely make that investment. We have seen an improvement in our turnover, and we believe that while many things contribute to the dramatic reduction in our turnover, we really think that it’s these tools that we put into place that have helped it mostly.
In terms of the organizational chart specifically around sales enablement and how it plugs into other areas of the sales team, so can you describe that for me?
Sure, it’s an evolution in progress. We’ll get there someday to exactly what we want, but we’re continuing to work on it. Greg, I would tell you that the key is we had to start out by defining and understanding the issues, and when we did that, we started to get clarity around where we were going. When we first examined it, we realized we were extremely parochial, and we were thinking very small I think, in a traditional way about who owns and develops sales tools, and who is driving this strategy. When we put the project together, that’s when we assembled a diverse group of folks, and then we arrived at where we’re at today.
Today, we have a matrix responsibility, I own it, as the VP of sales, but we have a matrix responsibility for sales enablement that involves members and leaders of the CRM team, the training team, the marketing team, and sales field leadership.
In many large business services companies like yours, the organizational model at the corporate level is a matrix for the obvious reasons. Is that the case for you, and is that why you chose a matrix for sales enablement as well, to be in alignment there?
Exactly, we are a matrix organization, to drive the objectives of the company, which obviously are focused on the financial success of the company. We feel it’s important for the P&L owners to own the sales responsibility, and strategically at corporate, to support them. Yes, it fits nicely along with the way that the company works.
Okay, fantastic. Let’s talk a little bit about content, sales enablement content, which can be a variety of things, can be content that our sales rep might share with a prospect on a sales call, it could be marketing content that you might use to prospect, or the marketing department might go out there. Usually sales enablement, maybe with a little help from something like product marketing, is responsible for creating the content. In your world, who creates the content?
In our world, we had to really battle this out among ourselves to understand where to land on this. Unquestionably, marketing creates content, but sales creates their own content sometimes as well. I’m sure that’s very familiar to several the folks watching. What we had to learn and land upon and agree as a leadership team is the marketing team owns content, period, they own the strategy. However, the marketing team needed to understand and agree that sales has a very large part in the tweaking of it, and in the prioritization of it as well.
We went through and understand that marketing’s ownership of the value proposition, marketing automation, digital, is again, indisputable. However, when it comes to content, sales has a larger play than in any of those other areas.
So, marketing owns it, but heavy involvement from sales, and sales is probably helping marketing decide what type of content they need as an example, but it is a centralized function within marketing?
The next question is regarding time to productivity for new hires. You mentioned that you’re running a large sales organization whose mission is to acquire new customers. I would imagine that that involves quite a bit of hiring, either through growth or through attrition, and therefore onboarding sales new hires is important. Can you tell me a little bit about how long something like that takes, and maybe what type of improvement has been made over the years, and maybe something about your strategy there?
Within our industry, it had been always discussed widely that it takes a year to fully onboard a sales rep. There are several reasons for it regarding the fact that there’s a bunch of different ways you can price in our business, and there’s some complexity there that you need to learn. There’s a lot of SKUs, and then there’s government regulations that you need to understand as well, so it can get a little complicated. Since the sales enablement program, we changed our thinking and started to realize that if the seller has the right tools in front of them at the right time, and if we can provide a guided enablement solution as part of it, not just content solution, then we can help these sales reps, again by making the job easier, more of a connect the dots situation.
An employee, the same technology that they use to figure out where they’re going to eat lunch, to figure out where they’re going to make their next sales call. It shouldn’t be easier to find lunch than it is the next prospect.
You mentioned “guided learning”, this is an area that is a personal passion of mine, I think, it’s a breakthrough for many organizations. Tell me a little bit about, first off describe what that means for our audience, some might not be familiar with that term, and tell me a little bit about your implementation of it.
Our interpretation of guided enablement means that when a seller is outbound and making those calls, that when they arrive in a selling situation, that the system, through some sort of intelligence, is delivering them the appropriate content, the appropriate training, helping them know what to say and know what to show in that selling environment.
It’s literally served up to them, depending on who they’re getting ready to call on?
Correct, it should help them in the preparation of the call as well. It really helps you drive your sales from a strategic point in segments. If your business is one that is very divided up specifically by segments, you can have almost an easier time really, of becoming more guided in how you enable folks.
How do you onboard a new hire? Lay out maybe an outline for us, that would be helpful.
We refer to it as a brick and mortar approach, the bricks being class-type learning, whether it’s virtual or onsite, and then the mortar being assigned work that you must complete either on your own or through the coaching of your manager. We start with a first class that teaches you about product, teaches you about the company, and so on and so forth, and that tees you up, and that’s a virtual training class.
The second class involves the training more of our technology and our tools, and how to use them. Then the last class is the selling methodology class. In between all that is the mortar of assigned work that’s in the learning management system, in the LMS. Of course, all of this can be accessed through the sales enablement tool, which was a big improvement. We could finally allow our folks to access this training at anytime from anywhere through mobile devices.
Do you have a program around training the tenured people around maybe some more advanced skills that’s different than the onboarding program?
We do. We have a by-invitation system, so our sales leaders are responsible for naming the folks that they would like to send to corporate for the next level of training. That next level of training focuses in on large account planning and selling. That’s where we believe the key skill-set development occurs that really helps drive the results. We also have additional training for folks that are segment oriented. We dedicate again, specific training based on those sellers in their areas, or where they’ve shown development.
In the first segment, we talked about a sales methodology, which is something that is typically used kind of up and down segments and up and down market sizes. Account planning, or strategic account planning is typically something that’s used going after those big accounts. I just heard you say that you use a large account management process of some kind. Can you tell the audience a little bit about that?
Yes, it’s another evolution in progress, and we continue to work on it. Where we are focused is again, creating tools, because on that one specifically, we really felt that the tool was the training. We lacked prior the ability to use one tool ubiquitously across the organization to land on being prepared and being ready for the negotiation for a large account. We really focused on just creating that tool. We, again, put a team together, used a lot of best practices, and looked outside of our industry as well, and now we basically train that tool.
The results have been tremendous Andy with a disciplined approach to build a comprehensive sales enablement program driven by input from a Field Advisory Board. Focus in on what your priorities are, don’t create tools for the sake of creating tools, don’t adopt technology for the sake of adopting technology, that’s an easy pitfall.
If you would like to spend time with me on the topic of driving revenue per sales head up, come see me at The Studio in Dallas. The Studio is SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center. Sessions at The Studio are experiential and are designed around the principles of interactive exercises, hands-on innovation, and peer-to-peer collaboration. The Studio is a safe-haven for learning and after just a few days clients leave with confidence and clarity your revenue growth strategies and sales and marketing motions to make your number.