February 16, 2021
Updated: February 20, 2021

From the Sales Floor to the Boardroom: Why Your CEO Cares About Sales Enablement

Over the last few years, there’s been a significant increase in both interest in and deployment of sales enablement programs and technologies. From global companies with huge sales teams and complex portfolios of physical products to enterprises focusing significant resources on how their go-to-market teams operate, sales enablement has shown to be a crucial factor in virtually all competitive markets from life sciences, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing to CPG, financial services and technology.

Not surprisingly, enablement started and remains strongly focused on the sales organization.  What might have started simply as having someone from the sales or marketing team take on a side job to provide some assistance to the reps has — in many cases — expanded to specific functional units whose sole purpose is to ensure the sales team is properly prepared and performing at peak efficiency and effectiveness.

Forward-thinking companies were the first to deploy and realize benefits from sales enablement platforms for their sales teams. It quickly became apparent there were related benefits for the entire go-to-market team.  

Coordinating efforts between the two improved sales content management, training, coaching and analytics. It also drove smarter, data-driven decision making around content strategy and improved sales performance evidenced from faster rep ramp time to accelerated deal cycles.

Enablement impact across the organization

This led to two developments.

First, enablement has moved from simply a sales-centric focus. In addition to enabling marketing, companies have seen how many of the existing capabilities of their enablement platform can drive performance elsewhere across their organizations: from customer success to professional services to business development, among others. Sales enablement is expanding across the entire go-to-market domain.

Second, sales enablement is moving swiftly up the ladder from a functional specific solution, somewhat siloed, to a strategic initiative. How is this demonstrated? No longer simply in the purview of sales leaders, sales enablement is being recognized by the C-suite as having enterprise-wide impact.

Executives now see how enabling go-to-market teams is imperative to achieving financial and operating targets in highly competitive environments. And in our newfound world of virtual relationships, CEOs understand the importance of arming teams with the tools they need to succeed.

Quarterly earnings calls welcome sales enablement

While we’ve seen and heard executive interest across the growing Showpad customer base for a number of years, sales enablement has increasingly been explicitly called out on companies’ quarterly earning calls.

CEOs are demonstrating that enablement technologies are no longer a “nice to have but a “must have” for any company looking to dominate its sector and meet growth targets.

One company (and Showpad customer) leading the enablement charge is info security provider Zscaler, which helps thousands of global organizations transform into cloud-enabled operations. Its CEO, Chairman and Founder, Jay Chaudry, highlighted the importance of sales enablement to Zscaler’s results over the last several quarters.

On a recent earnings call as Chaudry highlighted key initiatives, he dove into how sales enablement was driving impact for Zscaler.

“We implemented our new sales enablement program. This program is having a great impact on the consistency and quality of execution across the entire sales organization. We expect this to enable our new hires to ramp faster with quality activity out of the gate. We implemented new AI-based tools and systems to provide visibility into leading indicators, such as sales activities and key go-to-market metrics.”

He added how enablement ties to providing greater visibility across the sales organization and the resulting benefits.

“And a lot of enablement, we are doing in the systems we are putting in place is to make sure there’s better visibility and more effective engagement with the customers for a better ramp up. So things are being done to provide faster ramp and have better productivity over time.”

Chaudry also touched upon how Zscaler’s new sales reps are getting up to speed faster and being more productive.

“As we are hiring these new reps, we’re seeing that in the first quarter, they’re having better sales engagements, because we are measuring those engagements and some of the enablement and some of the tools we have put in place is helping us. So I feel very, very happy about it.”

Lastly, Chaudry emphasized how sales enablement is a key factor in larger, more complex deals.

“The other thing that’s going to help on our execution in large deals is, large deals have complex sales cycles. There are lots of stakeholders and our enablement process is actually helping us do a better job. So, I feel more confident in our ability to handle larger deals now.

One factor supporting Zscaler’s strategic emphasis on sales enablement is the proven benefits they’re seeing. Rick Kickert, Global Vice President, Sales Strategy & Enablement leveraged the Showpad platform and built a powerful revenue enablement engine for his organization. His team has led the way in enabling reps faster (i.e., getting them up to speed and selling) while also getting them more opportunities to pursue.

In fact, pipeline generation is a key element in his team’s enablement efforts. I recently had a conversation with Kickert where we discussed successful approaches he’s taken. He said reps “put small ‘microcontent’ in Showpad, organize the content, sends it to prospects from the platform and then track when/if it’s opened or shared.” This is done by the entire sales team. 

“With our systems in place, we train our people faster, while opening more doors for them; that’s the secret sauce. We remain focused on how we can continually train them faster and get them more opportunities.”

Importantly, Kickert can share with Zscaler’s leadership team exactly how they’re increasing pipeline and reducing rep ramp time quarter over quarter. He regularly updates them with specific enablement metrics so his CEO has visibility into exactly how the enablement team is directly impacting financial performance.

In fact after deploying Showpad, he’s seen gains four quarters in a row.

“The time to close deals has decreased, our rep ramp time has decreased significantly and the number of new business meetings we’re setting has increased significantly. For us, it’s all about enabling revenue velocity.”

Zscaler is just one example of the increasing importance of investments in sales enablement technologies. Other CEOs are also referencing its importance during earnings calls.

Alteryx, a data science and analytics software company, also places a strong emphasis on enablement. Chairman and CEO Dean A. Stoecker said this approach is key to its go-to-market performance, particularly in a work from home environment.

“To address this specific challenge and restore overall sales and marketing efficiency to historical levels, we are or have made the following operational adjustments: we’re improving sales enablement and further refining our learning and development capabilities to help reps ramp-up at the same levels they have historically. We have adopted a new learning platform, adjusted sales playbooks to account for our additional offerings and are creating enhanced content to foster learning in a fully remote environment.”

One last example comes from cybersecurity provider FireEye. According to Frank Verdecanna, CFO & CAO, FireEye “invested heavily” in sales enablement in previous years and realized significant, quantifiable results.

And this investment paid off handsomely: in one quarter, FireEye added 354 new customer logos, a 19% increase from the year earlier period.

Sales enablement’s time to shine

These are just a few examples of the impact that sales enablement technology has across a range of companies. With CEOs and executive teams increasingly under pressure to deliver earnings, it’s critical all facets of their businesses are doing everything to meet aggressive targets.

Soon companies will be divided into two types. Those that have properly enabled their go-to-market teams with the latest technologies and best practices and are reaching their goals, and those that are stuck in an old school mindset with outdated tools and processes, and disappointing results.

So, when it’s quarterly earnings season and your CEO asks about your enablement strategies, what side do you want to be on?

Want to learn more about the importance of your C-Suite buying into and championing sales enablement? Download our eBook, The Executive’s Guide to Empowering Sales Enablement.