Amplify10 was formerly known as Featurewave

Fireside Chat: The impact of AI on Sales Enablement

This chat is particularly helpful for companies transitioning from the mid-market to the enterprise level.

Joe Parlett:
Hey everyone. Thank you for joining Featurewave’s Fireside Chat Series. This is Joe Parlett speaking and I’m joined here today by Barnali Bagchi. And for those of you that do not already know Barnali, she’s a very accomplished rev ops and go-to market leader who’s been responsible for teams, systems, products, building solutions to help make teams more effective. And she’s made her market companies like Freshworks, ServiceNow and Clari. Barnali, great to see you. Thank you for joining us today. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Bernali Bagchi:
Thank you, Joe. Thank you so much for having me here. I love speaking about ops and enablement and how do we optimize things. So thank you for having us here and really looking forward to this fireside chat.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. Likewise. And what we’re talking about today, the topic is AI is everywhere obviously, but using AI to transform legacy approaches to sales enablement. So we’ll talk and get into what we mean by legacy approaches. And obviously how AI can be used to augment, to compliment, maybe even reinvent our previous approaches to enabling teams to perform to their potential.

Common Challenges in Sales Enablement

And so we’ll go through a handful of questions in this talk here. Enablement can be difficult. It can be really challenging for a seller to become proficient so that they can perform to their potential. There’s so much to remember with what the products do and how the customers use them and the competition and the objections they’ll deal with and these industries that they’re selling into. There’s a lot to remember and it’s difficult to impossible.

But we do our best to try and enable teams to perform well and be successful when it comes to sales execution. But what are some of the common challenges, Barnali, that you’ve experienced with teams that you’ve been responsible for enabling?

Bernali Bagchi:
Before I even talk about challenges, I have to tell you there was a time … Since we talked about legacy a little bit. There was a time when enablement never existed. Enablement team never existed. It all started with this one person training reps and training customers. Being the jack of all trades. And how inconvenient or not being scalable at that, that’s when companies realized that they need a full-fledged or at least a small enablement team who could help the reps improve upon their execution strategy, their experience, and be better prepped for their sales calls.

But in general, the challenges that I have seen that sellers have experienced have been not knowing who are their target, who are their targeted customer. Not knowing the ICP well.

And obviously when you don’t know who are your targets, it’s going to be difficult to determine what to sell. What product to sell. When you have a platter of products, you don’t know what product to sell or what would be more attractive and impactful for your customer.

And of course— now followed by that— would be we don’t know how to pitch. We don’t know what content to use, where to find the content. There’s probably a whole laundry list of content or inventory somewhere lying there, but no one knows which one to pick up. And of course there’s probably no standardized sales play. An experienced rep would probably know how to engage and probably go further down in the sales cycle. But someone who’s new or has just started their career, they probably don’t know what are some of the standard plays that they should be going through in order to make an impact. Of course, we’ve seen customers not having data or metrics to measure performance against that. No clear engagement strategy. No strategy altogether.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. So it’s challenging for new reps to get up to speed and ramped and while they’re ramping costly things are happening. They’re not winning all the deals they should and extending deal cycles and doing smaller deals. Like you said, not knowing what products to position or how to position them. But then experienced reps as well. Everything is so dynamic now. Products are changing. Your products change. Your competitors’ products change. There’s new competitive entrants into the market as well. So it’s even difficult for an experienced or a tenured rep to keep sharp also.

Bernali Bagchi:
Absolutely. And you’ve been in this space for so long time. What has your experience been early on versus now? What do you think about the whole enablement journey in general?

Ramping Challenges in Sales Enablement

Joe Parlett:
I think the challenges have persisted. I’ve been that seller that has taken too long to ramp, that has lost deals that I could have won if I had been fully ramped and I could recall what was covered in training. I’ve been there. It’s taken me a year to ramp. I’ve lost winnable deals, I’ve done smaller deals, I’ve upset my leadership. But I think these challenges persist today as well.

Bernali Bagchi:
Yeah. Totally.

Joe Parlett:
I feel like a lot of the success of these programs, their success hinges on the seller’s ability to retain the information they learn in the enablement program, the training programs. And we forget a lot really fast. That’s why it takes us a year to ramp.

Bernali Bagchi:
And also I would say whether it’s smaller company or a large company, enterprise firm, I think these are all common challenges. I have seen, and I have been in the ops enablement space for years now, and I have seen that we have always been behind or have had difficulty catching up with the new trend, with the new product lines or with the new product launches, new use cases, new ways of selling.

We’ve always been behind and we’ve always had a difficulty in building that enablement strategy for the sellers. We’ve always had that challenge. I wish we could have advanced faster, but it’s a challenge for sure on our end as well.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. Yeah. And it lingers on. All right. So when it comes to enablement, the large enterprise has its challenges with getting people ramped up, keeping them sharp as well. What about smaller companies? What challenges do they face in this area of getting their sellers to be able to perform to their potential?

Challenges for Small Business in Sales Enablement

Bernali Bagchi:
Yeah. I think some of the key challenges overall that smaller companies experience are targeting. Not knowing their targets at all. They probably do not have a lot of documentation or sales content around. They probably don’t have a lot of services, a lot of solution options to offer.

But it’s primarily very basic and very foundational is some of the challenge. Like how to level up for example.

Since we’re talking about not knowing your targets. You have a contact. He or she could be a CEO or that you’re selling, or she could be an IT person or a data person, more like a mid-level leadership. You don’t know who’s a decision maker. You are just going by the contacts that came your way and you’re trying to sell. And this is just based on feedback that I’ve gotten from my sellers that we don’t know how to up level the game with regards to the feature functionality or with regards to the language that we should be using. It’s always been hard to have that impactful conversation when you are moving up and down in the decision making ladder.
So I think that’s the major challenge. And we all know that there’s no content, there’s no document, there’s nothing available for most of the smaller companies. And also people are not really data driven and they’re not looking really for data. But if we could help them with just basic plays, sales plays, and we could help them with basic ways of targeting or engagement, I think that’s good enough for smaller companies.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. These companies, across the board they hire a sales athlete. Somebody knows sales, but they get to the company. And so I think what you’re saying is that these smaller companies, they’ve got the athlete now, but what they don’t have is a well-defined program or process or content enablement to help ensure their success.

The Role of Sales Enablement in Scaling

Bernali Bagchi:
Right. And that’s part of growing, that’s part of scaling. So that’s understood. But I guess the most important area that I would probably want to stress on is how do we help them with basic engagement methodology or more structured sales plays, more structured messaging. What messaging at what point of the sequence? Help build that sequence and what messaging to go at what point of time? They need those basics before even we go further down into … We were talking about having tons of inventory and not knowing which one to pick up. I think in case of smaller companies, that’s not the area that we are talking about. It’s basically how do we coach them into building basic plays? What kind of messaging that is involved at different point of time in your outreach approach?

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. The sales teams at the smaller companies aren’t going to be overwhelmed with content, but we’ve got to give them better guidance than we have in the past. And even a well-structured thought out sales play is going to move the needle a lot for them.

Bernali Bagchi:
Absolutely.

Joe Parlett:
Completely agree. And then how do these enablement challenges … So getting somebody up to speed on the products and the competition and the industries and how our customers use the products, and then the systems that we use in the company enabling a seller. But what about how do all these challenges that we have enabling them impact their performance? Their actual sales execution?

The Direct Impact of Sales Enablement

Bernali Bagchi:
I think enablement has a direct impact on the conversion rates and win rates. It has a direct impact. One of the key performance indicators that we measure our sellers against are win rates, conversion rates, acquisition costs, customer acquisition cost. And I feel bad enablement or not having an enablement team, not investing enough on enablement has a direct impact on all of these three key revenue goals that companies focus on. Think of it this way. When you are spending a lot of time having multiple calls with your customer or prospect, not having impactful conversation, we lose the customer’s interest and trust.
And obviously in this process, your leads are not going to move any forward in the sales process. We talked a little bit about not knowing your target. So I think the most important area how enablement could help sellers having impactful conversation and execution is focusing on that ICP. Helping reps identify who are our targets. By helping them identify that by default, I guess as an organization, we know where to focus on, where we would have better impact, and then we could start building those foundations around the sales plays, messaging, the targeted audience, sequences, better outreach approach to have a more impactful data or rather have better insights into our performance indicators.

Joe Parlett:
So it’s got to be well structured.

Bernali Bagchi:
What is your thought? What has your experience been in this area?

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. A seller who is not well enabled, who doesn’t understand everything that they need to help shepherd the customer through their buying experience, they’re not going to have the results that they want, that their leadership is expecting. And yeah, it does obviously negatively impact sales execution. We believe that AI is needed to help the selling, the revenue teams in this area. It’s just too much information for a human to process and retain. And that’s why it takes them a year to ramp. That’s why it takes them going through 50 deal cycles until it finally sticks. You just can’t remember. Too much information.

How AI Can Impact Sales Enablement

Bernali Bagchi:
Absolutely. I totally feel that AI is probably the way to go, whether it’s smaller company or an enterprise. I think investment in AI and enablement is the way to go.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. At Featurewave, we agree with you. And so how do you feel AI can help to improve sales performance, sales execution, those KPIs that you talked about that are so vitally important?

Bernali Bagchi:
So as I was talking earlier, there are two forms of companies. Companies who have tons of content. Less impactful, high impactful, whatever that is. A huge laundry list of inventory, content, training documents, pitch decks, use cases. We’ve seen it all. We build it all. But which one to pick up at what point of time for what customer, for which segment, which region, which product is a huge challenge.

And typically, we see this challenge in companies when they’re moving out of mid-market and going towards enablement and want to up level their game. I feel AI is super critical in these scenarios. The way I see enablement, that AI could actually help navigate or identify, okay, I’m talking with customer A, AI could identify whether this customer really falls or matches my ICP profile. It could then say, okay, now yes it does. So now here are the list of challenges, potential common problems that maybe this customer in this segment is experiencing. So here are the products, here are the use cases. Let’s target on. And in order to do this, here are the list of contents that’s available. This is how we pitch. Here are the list of people that should be part of the deal room. These are the sales plays that we should be picking up and following through for having a better impactful engagement. That’s how I envision AI to help companies who are wanting to go up towards the enterprise world.

Knowing Your Target Market

And on the contrary, for smaller segment, the way I see … A little while back, we were talking about not knowing their targets. Not having enough strategy, like basic foundational strategy. So AI could actually also help in those basic foundations. And that is, for example, it could help with targeting. It could help with building basic sales plays. Like what goes what piece? We start with, oh, have your first call on week one, the next call two days later, three days later. So that kind of engagement, it’s relevant for any customer for whether it’s big or small. So I think AI could easily build basic sales plays, basic foundational process. And I think all companies could take advantages of AI and enablement.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. We agree with you. We’re aligned on that. And I believe very strongly that in order to solve the challenges that have plagued enablement and sales performance being where it’s been … It’s been a lingering challenge for years and years. And I think the companies are embracing AI. It will take a while for everybody to be comfortable with it. And there’s obviously a lot of different types of AI. We’re not talking here about just summarizing content necessarily. But what do I do in this situation? What story do I tell? How do I go through discovery? This person I’m meeting with, what do they care about and how can we help them? So there’s so much that goes into it. And without AI, a fancier learning management system, a better training program, I don’t think that’s going to cut it. We have to use AI to give the seller what I believe the guidance that they need in their time of need. Because we will, as humans continue to forget a lot of information. So we need AI to help guide us. What do I do right here, right now in this situation? How do I prepare for this meeting without taking three hours to do research?

Bernali Bagchi:
Right. Yeah. A lot of people might say that we don’t understand AI. That’s another school of thought that we keep hearing. But I think an AI model that could be customized based on our needs is probably perfect. In one of my previous companies we built a customized AI model that would work for us, and that’s primarily because we didn’t have a platform that could help enablement team. But today, I know Featurewave is coming up and we have options. People are talking about this. The whole awareness around AI and enablement. But I think what the next gen would be not only having that guided selling approach, but also something that we could seamlessly customize and seamlessly tweak based on whether it’s a mid-market, a commercial, a smaller segment, or in enterprise world. Because the enablement problems are way too different in a large organization versus a mid-market. There are a lot of talks, a lot of conversation today that’s going on on how AI could help in general. But I think the next gen, if we could help solve that problem, how to make it more suitable for different segments for different verticals, that would be the way to go.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. Completely agree with you. There’s so much information and it is so dynamic and constantly changing. We all need AI to help ensure that we can fire on all cylinders. Because without it, everything takes longer than it needs to. But we’ve got it. We’ve got it now. It’s been around for a while, but now we’re figuring out how to harness its power and use it to our advantage in a lot of areas of business beyond just writing an email or summarizing content. Very important. But there are so many other ways that we can leverage its power.

Bernali Bagchi:
Totally. 100% agree.

Joe Parlett:
Yeah. Well, Barnali, our speed dating is over.

Bernali Bagchi:
Thank you so much.

Joe Parlett:
Really appreciate your time. It’s always great to see you. Always great to talk to you. And I’d like to do this again. We’ll figure out another riveting topic, and we’ll do this again soon.

Bernali Bagchi:
Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Joe Parlett:
Bye, Barnali. Thank you.

Bernali Bagchi:
All right. Bye-bye.

Joe Parlett:
Bye.

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