May 12, 2022

How an industry-by-industry approach revolutionized Panasonic’s sales enablement | Maestros of Modern Selling Blog Series

Rachael Pugh and Nathalie Vervaet have never met in person. Yet, working together, they’ve built a high-performance sales enablement function at TOUGHBOOK Europe—the European Mobile Solutions Business Division of electronics giant Panasonic.

They designed new industry research methods that include both customers and sales reps. They overhauled their sales enablement platform, building resource hubs around specific industries. And they put highly tailored sales content in the hands of reps, allowing them to hit sales meetings with little to no prep.

Here’s how they did it.

A brand new function … and a pandemic

The pair both joined Panasonic’s fledgling sales enablement function in April 2020. Although they had grand plans to collaborate in person, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in things.

“When I signed my contract, our manager said, ‘Nathalie, you won’t be able to start because it’s crucial that you’re able to travel to meet your colleague,’” recalls Nathalie Vervaet. Later, I received another phone call, and he said, ‘It’s not going to stay as a 2-week lockdown. We’re in this for the long haul.’”

Working remotely from their home offices—Nathalie in Lokeren, Belgium, and Rachael in Cardiff, Wales—they began to explore Panasonic’s sales enablement setup. They discovered, more or less, a blank slate.

Before 2020, Panasonic didn’t have a sales enablement team—at all. Nathalie and Rachael were the first dedicated sales enablement hires. Rachael describes feeling like a “pioneer.” She was exploring new territory and charting the unknown. 

The good news was that Nathalie and Rachael weren’t starting from a dead end. The technology giant had already decided to invest in a sales enablement platform, which was live when the pair joined. But there was still much more work to be done. While marketing was creating and organizing valuable content for sales reps to use, reps were often still unaware of what resources were available and how to best use them. That’s where sales enablement comes in.  

“We’re the bridge between sales and marketing, says Rachael, “We’re there to make sure the materials are more meaningful to our end users and our salespeople.”

Starting up a brand new function isn’t an easy task at the best of times. Throw a pandemic and enforced work-from-home conditions into the mix, and it becomes quite a bit harder. But Rachael and Nathalie weren’t phased by the challenge ahead of them. The pair tackled things methodically by systematically building out new processes, systems, and assets.

Quote from Rachael Pugh, Sales Enablement Specialist at Panasonic Connect Toughbook: "Enablement is the bridge between sales and marketing. We're there to make sure the materials are more meaningful to our end users and our salespeople."

Building sales enablement—one industry at a time

Panasonic doesn’t just ship products to its customers and move on. The technology company sees itself as a partner. “We want to make sure that we’re selling solutions that will bring our customers the most efficiencies and benefits to their business,” explains Rachael. 

But tailored sales and services are difficult to provide. A telecommunications business will have different needs than a waste management operation. An ambulance service and a manufacturing company face radically different challenges. And so on.

Rachael and Nathalie knew they couldn’t just build one generic sales enablement function. Instead, they had to personalize content, training, and coaching to key verticals.

They began designing their sales enablement platform around some of Panasonic’s most important verticals: Emergency Medical  Services, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals and Waste Management, among others. They kickstarted each new vertical project with a period of intense research.

“It’s all about the research,” says Rachael. “We research the sectors that our customers are operating in and use cases within those sectors. Then we shape information into valuable messaging and meaningful content.”

They pull together their research into dedicated resource centers for each industry. Then they build out supporting content like value proposition statements, shareable Pages, and content assets. Their goal is to give reps everything they need to quickly customize their sales strategy by industry and audience.

The process is collaborative, too. Instead of locking themselves away and working on industry pillars in isolation, Rachael and Nathalie reach out to Panasonic’s customers and sales reps, tapping them for valuable insights.

“When we hear the word ‘research,’ we think Google or market research,” says Nathalie. “But a lot of knowledge sits with individuals. In all honesty, the most beneficial information comes from our customers and our sales team.”

Quote from Nathalie Vervaet, Sales Enablement Specialist at Panasonic Connect Toughbook: "Enablement is really listening to the voice of sales and getting a very specific understanding of what they need in front of a customer."

Turning every rep into a rockstar

Before Panasonic’s sales enablement revolution, reps relied on a generic sales pitch and pool of resources. When a prospect required something more tailored or specialized, it was up to the sales rep to think on their feet. No matter how good a sales rep is, they can’t do that forever. It’s energy-sapping and eventually leaves reps feeling unsupported and burned out.

But with Rachael and Nathalie’s help, things are different. They’ve designed four vertical resource centers so far with more in the works. Now, reps have access to impactful content tailored directly to their target sectors.

“We’ve made a lot of sector-specific materials, which are easy to find for our sellers,” says Nathalie. “They can literally go straight into a meeting without having to do too much prep upfront. That means they’re attending more meetings and potentially closing more sales.

Sales reps are also empowered to easily create their own microsites for prospects with Showpad’s Shared Spaces. In complex selling scenarios, reps use Shared Spaces to house content for all stakeholders on the buying team in one secure, easy-to-navigate, and fully brandable microsite.

Reps can then look at the engagement analytics available within Showpad to understand if, when, and how buyers are engaging with their content. Armed with this information, reps can make insight-led decisions to tailor their follow-up approach. 

“Our sales team really appreciates the fact that they can set up a Shared Space for a customer, and then they can follow up on the specific materials a customer is interested in,” says Nathalie, “The interaction part—that buyers and sellers can comment and ask questions on the platform itself—is also something our sales force definitely uses and appreciates.”

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