What will be said about Sales Enablement?
People will say that Sales Enablement can be used to force customers to meet company goals, even if it doesn't help the customer. This can cause bad things to happen, like fire sales at the end of the quarter or salespeople feeling pressured to close deals even if it hurts the customer's experience.
How has the field of sales enablement changed over time?
Sales enablement used to be mostly about training salespeople, but now it has more responsibilities, like working closely with the Chief Revenue Officer. But most sales enablement teams are still more concerned with training than with getting results. Some practitioners are very strategic and focused on getting results, while others care more about keeping their knowledge than getting things done and getting results. The success of sales enablement also depends on how the organization runs and how it measures things.
How can sales enablement avoid putting too much emphasis on company goals instead of customer needs?
Sales enablement needs to be set up in a way that puts the needs of the customer ahead of arbitrary sales goals. This will stop salespeople from feeling like they have to close deals at the end of the quarter or do other things that put pressure on the customer. Problems like poor sales performance should be looked at from the bottom up. This means looking at things like bad hiring, bad training, and bad management. The goal should be to improve the sales process as a whole, not just to get rid of salespeople who don't do their jobs well.
Marcus Cauchi: Hello and welcome back once again to the Inquisitor Podcast with me, Marcus Cauchi, today, I've as my guest, Ben Elijah. Ben is someone who is very outspoken in the arena of sales enablement. We're gonna be talking about how sales enablement evolves, why it came about, and what's broken in it, and what we need to do to fix it.
Ben Elijah: Thanks, Marcus. Good to be here.
60 seconds on your history
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. Would you mind giving the audience 60 seconds on your history please?
Ben Elijah: Yeah, sure. Um, I'm Ben Elijah. I've been in the game of sales enablement now for, um, God, about 10 years or so. So I've seen, I've seen it evolve from what it used to be to what it is today. In terms of my background, um, I started out in the aerospace industry. I spent about eight years working at Apple, which is how I got into enablements. And I now work with companies, particularly in the tech space to improve their sales operation and make sure that their sellers, uh, are doing what they need to be doing.
What is sales enablement?
Marcus Cauchi: So for those who are [00:01:00] unfamiliar with enablement, what is sales enablement, first off?
Ben Elijah: Yeah. Yeah, sure. Well, sales enablement is the pr is the practice of making sure that sellers have the tools, the techniques, and the knowledge, uh, so that they can have, uh, what I like to call it, uh, the right conversations with the right customers at the right.
How does this differ from an internal sales training team?
Marcus Cauchi: So how does this differ from an internal sales training team?
Ben Elijah: It's a good question. Sales training is fundamentally about sales behaviors. So if you think about your traditional sales training or sales models, sales methodologies like Sandler Challenger, Miller Hyman, et cetera. Sales training is about how people can apply that. And sales enablement combines that and also applies, uh, or should be applying product messaging.
It should be applying tech stack and in addition, it takes on certain, uh, and we'll talk about this later, certain l and D functions as well, like sales onboarding.
Where did it start out and how's it ended up?
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. So talk to me about the evolution of sales enablement then. Where did it start out and how's it [00:02:00] ended up?
Ben Elijah: Well, I can, I'm, I can tell you about my journey with sales enablement, um, and how it's evolved as far as I've seen it.
Um, because different people are gonna have different perspectives on how it's evolved. You're gonna have some people in enablement now who started out as trainers, and you have some people in in enablement who started out as sellers. And their perspective on it is gonna be, you know, very different. My perspective, I started out in sales, so for me it's always been a very practical profession.
How it started out, I think, to be perfectly honest with you, it was really sales training by any other name is sort of how it started, particularly in the SaaS space. And then it evolved to take on more of these responsibilities. And it's quite interesting to see the growth of sales enablement with how the CRO role has evolved.
So the best sales enablement, uh, departments or teams, I should say, they kind of operate as the right hand of the CRO, how it's evolving now. However, um, [00:03:00] well, you know, will ignore the sort of top of the , the, the top, uh, tier enablement teams for the majority. It's really l and d by any other name right now.
So they're being measured on training activities performed. You know, they're thinking about, you know, putting people through the same kind of shit that l and d have been putting, uh, people through for 20 or 30 years now. And so it's evolving, in my view, in quite a dark direction. I know you are seeing that as well.
Marcus Cauchi: I mean, without being overly pejorative, uh, the majority of sales enablement, uh, folk I've come across, um, have been people desperately looking for an excuse to have a job. Now, that said, I've seen some phenomenal ones. So there are people like Rod Jefferson, Anita Nielsen, Karen Young, and they are so far apart from the average humdrum sales enablement practitioner.
And it's clear that they are a [00:04:00] strategic function and they're all about driving results. Whereas what I've seen from my engagements over the years with L and D, they seem to be fixated on things like knowledge retention. I don't give a damn. How much they remember. I, I care about how much they implement, whether the results improve.
If they haven't got the particular wording of an upfront contract or something like that. I, I don't care as long as the outcome is delivered. And there's generally no emphasis at all on reinforcement and practice of any real substance.
Ben Elijah: This is the key thing, Marcus, because a good enablement professional would be perfectly happy if people are selling, you know, dressed in a chicken suit, clocking down the phone.
If it's giving the customer a good experience and it's delivering the numbers that the bad enablement people are more concerned about, you know, to what extent have people done what [00:05:00] I told them.
Marcus Cauchi: So again, this speaks to something else, which is about the command and control mentality, and it also speaks to how organizations are led and measured.
How good enablement interacts with senior leadership to execute their vision within the sales team?
Marcus Cauchi: Mm-hmm. So talk to me about how good enablement interacts with senior leadership to execute their vision within the sales team?
Ben Elijah: Well, good enablement fundamentally needs to not be an order taker. That's absolutely critical. If we start out with how to do it wrong, you can be an order taker and work with sales leaders, but they're always gonna tell you to spend 80% of your time on the bottom 20%.
And you know, quite frankly, it's the 20% that they don't have the balls to fire. And that's a waste of your time. It's a waste of their time. And quite frankly, it's a, it's doing a disservice to the people who need to go find success elsewhere. The good enablement person is working as a partner with leadership.
So essentially they're their eyes and ears on the ground because they do understand the sales practice. They do [00:06:00] understand sales processes probably more to more of an extent or to a greater extent than sales leadership do. So they can say, Hey, here's this person. Here's my diagnosis, here's my prescription.
Let's work together on the treatment. So as far as interacting with the sellers are concerned. And then as far as the business is concerned, the other thing is around messaging and marketing. So do we make sure that we're equipping sellers with, how would you say, sort of if it's a tech sale, tech speeds and feeds, or are they talking to customers about problems and outcomes?
And enablement is in a position to work with leadership to make sure that a, people are talking to the customers about problems and outcomes. And if they're not, they can go ahead and fix the issue.
Marcus Cauchi: So in, in effect, I think I'm hearing you tell me, they're a bit like a knowledge transfer hub where they're pulling insights from the field and identifying what marketing, what sales, what leadership, what management input is required.
And then, [00:07:00] uh, going back to the sales team and equipping them with the tools, the resources, the talk tracks, and, uh, ensuring that they're practicing those skills. They're implementing what's required in order to deliver a safe buyer experience and to actually drive sales performance.
Ben Elijah: You've got it. You've nailed it.
This is, if I were to summarize it in a sentence, it's almost like being the customer's representative to the sales team.
Marcus Cauchi: Interesting. So
Ben Elijah: The good ones, that is
How do we prevent sales enablement from going native?
Marcus Cauchi: Basically an accusation that will be leveled back at you , um, which is that, um, you know, how do we prevent sales enablement from going native?
Ben Elijah: Hmm.
Tell me a little bit more about what that means?
Marcus Cauchi: Well, often I've heard in the past when a salesperson has been very strongly defensive of the customer. For the right reasons. They get told, you're not working for the fucking customer, you work for us. [00:08:00] And so as a result, there's this pressure from leadership to then go out and do stuff to the customer, put them under pressure at the end of the quarter, cannibalize the pipeline, all all the usual stuff that you see going on in badly run growth orient, brute force, growth orientated sales organizations.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm. Well, I think this is a deeper issue, to be honest. And it's something that enablement traditionally has not really been involved in. And I think it's moving in this direction, which is how do we organize sales activities so that they meet the needs of the customer instead of some arbitrary funnel that we are just gonna force the customer through, which is how things are being done at the moment.
And it's why you see behaviors like fire sales at the end of the quarter, and I think. Probably leading to some of the pressure that you are talking about here. If we are organizing our activities by saying, well, I know at this particular stage of the process this customer is kicking tires. What do I need to do to [00:09:00] give them the best experience?
Or, you know, they're at the stage now where, you know, maybe they're thinking about putting some sort of RFP together. What do I do to make sure they're getting a good experience? And then further and further along, and then you're able to say to them, well, look, there's no bloody point in me putting pressure to close 'em at the end of quarter three because, you know, they're still at this stage of the process.
They don't feel safe enough to do it. And yeah, fine, we can crash the, the margins, we can crash the product. But now I've, I've held the customer hostile to a decision that wasn't fully baked so that customer's likelihood of churning later on is much higher. So that's really down to the wisdom of how we organize our sales processes and our sales methodologies.
Are we starting with the needs of the customer or with our own needs?
Marcus Cauchi: I wanna pick up on something that you said earlier, because I want to shine a spotlight on it. When you have, um, the bottom 20%, which leadership are too gutless to fire. Actually what we should be doing is looking at the root cause of that problem.
The questions going through my mind [00:10:00] is, why did we hire those specific people? Should we have, did we set them up to fail through the pre onboarding, onboarding, training, accountability, their expectation setting, and how have we continued to fail them since then? Because the, these are people's livelihoods that we're talking about, and it's also about the company's reputation as an employer and as a result, what you will often find,
i, I, I was talking to one of my partners who's a recruiter and I work closely with her, and she turned down a piece of business with a vendor precisely because of the culture, the environment, the higher end fire mentality, the language that the hiring manager was using to indicate, well, if I make a placement here, I do my candidate a disservice.
And it's refreshing to see someone who is [00:11:00] willing to do that. But too often the salespeople are blamed, and God knows they do have 50% of their, uh, the responsibility for their own development. But if they don't know any better and they're operating scared, chances are they're just gonna comply. And if you set them up to fail, they'll fail, and then you'll kick 'em out and you'll feel a little bit smugged that you've done something to improve the business, when in fact you are just, you know, 20% behind where you should have been.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: Um, because of, uh, bad culture, bad leadership, bad management, bad onboarding, bad recruitment.
What's enablement's role to challenge active idiocy and self-sabotage within the sales and marketing operation and leadership?
Marcus Cauchi: So what, what I'm curious about, Is, what's enablement's role to challenge active idiocy and self-sabotage within the sales and marketing operation and leadership?
Ben Elijah: Yeah, that's a really good question. First and foremost, we need to examine a couple of assumptions because I think you, you've touched on something [00:12:00] very important, but I think we, we need to go a little bit further as well.
One of the reasons I do enablement is I want to see sales as a respect, as a respected profession like architecture or like medicine. Now, I want to see salespeople not embarrassed to advertise their profession at dinner parties. And unfortunately, that means that we need to be a little bit more exclusive. To get into architecture, to, to get into medicine, there's rigorous training. You need to be the best of the best one hopes. No comment. So there, there needs to be some element of selection going on here. The assumption that, oh, well everybody can sell. I'm sorry, it's not the case. It just isn't. You know, we can have conversations about IQ and EQ, but the fundamental thing is that some people are equipped to do it.
Some people can hit the ground running and just nail sales. Some people we can't. So recruitment needs to look for the characteristics that lead [00:13:00] to a higher probability of great salesmanship or sales personship, excuse me. So that's the first thing I think we need to say. Not everybody can do this. So we do need to be thinking about selection as far as the other practice that we sometimes see.
We can often, I mean, I see this quite a lot in organizations, particularly if they're a little bit more old school. They'll bring someone in who's been selling for 30 or 40 years, um, and they say, oh, he's got 30 or 40 years of experience. He knows everybody. Alright, does he have 30 or 40 years of experience or does he just have one year repeated 30 or 40 times?
And he might know everybody, but does everyone know him? So one question that's really good to ask in interviews when people start flaunting their address book is to say, ah, fantastic. So you know this person, wonderful. Hey, the last time he or she invited you for a coffee, what did you talk about? Uh, oh, busted.
So in, do you recruit that person or do you recruit someone who might not necessarily [00:14:00] have the contacts, might not necessarily have the experience, but they've got the raw emotional intelligence, they've got the capability and they've got the attitude and the will and the cultural fit.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. You, you hire for what you can't train.
Ben Elijah: Of course it's as simple as that. Now here's the other problem that you didn't touch on, but I think it's important to mention, sales is getting more and more complicated.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah, I mean, cer certainly within technology that's fair. I think there's still, uh, a lot of commodity sales roles, but those I believe are going to disappear through intelligent, personalized websites.
Marketing, uh, is making massive strides. AI, so I, I reckon 20 to 30% of all sales roles will disappear, uh, and be replaced by technology, probably more than that. Well, I, I, I think another 30 to 40% will disappear from vendors and they will move into the channel. Already today, over [00:15:00] 75% of all products sold across all 26 vertical markets globally are sold through the channel.
Direct sales actually is the, um, ginger head, ugly stepdaughter, and, uh, the channel is the golden child, however, The people in leadership positions have typically come from direct sales. Mm-hmm. , so that's where their emphasis is. And they have this command and controlled mentality, which causes them to favor the direct sales operation.
Ben Elijah: Well, you know, look, to bring it back to the point about, you know, about recruitment, about how, how do we avoid a higher and fire culture? I think it's important to acknowledge that someone might have been in your organization for 10 years and it was absolutely fine 10 years ago to be, you know, not to be pejorative about it, but to be an order taker, to be someone who just fills out, you know, 40 page RFPs all day long.
I don't think there's much of a future left for that way of. [00:16:00] No, right. So however we slice it, I think we're gonna be creating a situation where the distance between the top performers and the bottom performers is only ever gonna grow. So as sales gets more complicated, you magnify the differences between people's kind of innate capability.
And I think we need to acknowledge that because that's very difficult. And it puts mu much more of an onus on great recruitment where enablement steps in. Something um, a mentor said to me once is, higher slow fire fast to avoid higher and fire culture? So do you have a robust onboarding program with plenty of checks?
Do you have an onboarding program that's a, that is able to sort of simulate the most demanding sales interactions and say, oh, hello, we've got some alarm bells here. Let's think about some coaching. Let's give them, you know, another try. Let's try something different. Let's try it 3, 4, 5 times. And if we're still seeing alarm bells at this point, maybe we need to have a, a difficult conversation.
So we are not setting this person up for failure.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, I, [00:17:00] I think this is where expectation setting and, uh, clear consequences for both positive and negative behavior
Are clear an escalation process so that, uh, salespeople are not left in the dark. I think there's a, a model that I'm working on with Simon Burn at the moment, uh, around loyalty and along one spectrum you have mistrust to trust.
And then you have collaborative versus exploitative on the vertical axis, and those who are mistrustful, but collaborative will have a tendency to be quite conservative and be very contractual.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: Now you can kind of work with that, but that tends to be a fairly rigid type of relationship. Then you have people who are high mistrust and high on the exploitative spectrum and they have a tendency to be very protective about their territories.
They're not collaborative at all, and their primary driver [00:18:00] is to take, and that's where I think an awful lot salespeople have grown up. And those are the sorts of people that leadership has a tendency to hire because they are ruthless. They, uh, will do whatever they need. It's dog eat dog. They have the scarcity mentality.
They operate with a high degree of self-interest. Then you have the, uh, ones who are exploitative, but quite high on the trust spectrum and they will be, um, very controlling. They can be strong promoters, but again, there's an awful lot of control.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
People who are high on collaborative and high on trust
Marcus Cauchi: And that doesn't really feel like a partnership with the customer.
And then you have people who are high on collaborative and high on trust, and they become phenomenal advocates. They're people who serve and they're great representatives to have out in the market. And you need to listen to the language of the seller. When you ask about specific examples, and [00:19:00] I, I would tend to ask for half a dozen at least, and listen to the, to, uh, the sales tonality.
What is it that is being expressed in the underlying meaning of their message? Because if they're not people who are service orientated, then chances are as technology gets far more complex and the tech stack, I mean just in security, you're gonna have 12 to 20 different vendors. In sales and marketing technology, God knows how many, I mean, I've seen technology spaghetti with 15 different vendors.
You've got, you know, automation and marketing, you've got sequences, uh, you've got AI, you've got, uh, auto dialers and all this kind of stuff. If you don't know how to play nicely with others, even your close competitors, then I think your future in technology sales is extremely limited.
Ben Elijah: So you would suggest that we need to be finding people that are high in trust, high in collaborative, [00:20:00] so that they're able to then partner with other organizations, even competitors?
Marcus Cauchi: And internally they need to partner as well.
Of course. Yeah. Uh, if you can't get discretionary effort from your own team, and I, I remember interviewing a phenomenal saleswoman who, uh, at her last job did 43 million and they paid her 14 and a half thousand dollars. So she left.
Ben Elijah: What?
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah, exactly. Um, they, they would rather stiff the salespeople than pay the commission.
And now they've lost her and she's now working with the competitor and would be going after taking their customers away.
Ben Elijah: Right. Dar, it's Darwin is at work.
Marcus Cauchi: Marcus. Yeah. The, the, you know, the, um, survival of the stupidest seems to be the theme though. Now, she was, uh, really adamant that the hardest issue she ever faced through 25 years in sales was trying to get your own people to do what's necessary.
Ben Elijah: So here's the rub. I think what we need to be considering is what does sales enablement look like when the only [00:21:00] people who are in sales are those who are, as you would say, sort of most high on the spectrum on trust and collaborative. Because I think that world for enablement, I speaking about my profession here, is gonna be very, very different to what it is today.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. Well, I hope so.
Ben Elijah: Do you agree?
Marcus Cauchi: God knows it's needed.
Ben Elijah: Yeah, a hundred percent. Can I throw some ideas at you in that case? Cause this is something I've been considering, uh, very carefully and uh, you know, I'm very excited in particular. I know you always ask for book recommendations. Two of mine are gonna be sales Enablement 3.0 by Rob Jefferson.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah.
Ben Elijah: And Tech Powered Sales and the authors of which has escaped me with
Marcus Cauchi: Glen Tony Hughes.
Ben Elijah: Your encyclopedic knowledge of authors, I have no idea. In another life, you might've been a librarian.
Marcus Cauchi: The reason I set the podcast up, Ben, was cuz I wanted to interview great authors, . Um, so yeah, um, I better remember them.
Ben Elijah: I've got another, I've got another book coming out next year, but I dunno if I describe myself as a great author just yet. But, um, okay. [00:22:00] So look, I think, so if we are agreed that order takers are going to be a thing of the past and that sales is gonna be the preserve of, as we say, the most trusting, the most collaborative, the highest in IQ, the highest in EQ, the people that are able to deliver the most sophisticated outcomes
Marcus Cauchi: And, and PQ partnering quotient, the ability to collaborate, I think is gonna be a really critical.
Ben Elijah: Fantastic. So I think what those people need is very different. What you don't wanna be doing with someone like that is sitting through 13 or 14 bloody hours of recorded, you know, bloke in a suit, lecturing into a camera sales training.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, let, let, let me just make a statement here because it's really important. The gold standard for online training course completion, and this is the likes of Tony Robbins and chat homes and those sorts of people is 3%. Okay? The myth that putting training [00:23:00] online and, uh, calling it training frankly, is an insult.
And the, the problem here is that if you look at the way those training courses are structured, delivered, assessed, it goes in one eye out the other cuz people don't pay any heed to it. Behavior doesn't change. Results don't change. You know, the evidence is out there, the results are not.
Ben Elijah: Hundred percent.
Now, I, I don't reject e-learning sort of in principle, but I think it's the right that you need to do it the right way.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah.
Ben Elijah: Um, what Jefferson talks about the idea of a knowledge bite, and it blew my mind when I read it because it took what, like I used to take 90 minutes to train people how to do elevator pitches.
Marcus Cauchi: Mm-hmm.
Ben Elijah: Once I started implementing knowledge bias and combined it with some experiential learning principles, that became a video that I use now, which is exactly three minutes and 44 seconds long, combined with tests and not tests, [00:24:00] excuse me, assessments later down the road, because I know that most of the knowledge is not gonna come from the training.
Embed skills through repetition and practice
Ben Elijah: Most of the knowledge is gonna come from practical experience, followed up by coaching where it's needed.
Marcus Cauchi: And again, to back that up, Gartner states very clearly, 70% of learning happens in the field on the job, away from the training, uh, training group.
Ben Elijah: A hundred percent.
Marcus Cauchi: And the only way to embed skills is through repetition and practice.
And it's not just practice, it's deliberate, intentional, perfect practice makes perfect.
Ben Elijah: So I would invite every VP of sales, every CRO, whatever you call themselves, to look at the onboarding program that your sales enablement or sales training people have put together for your people. And ask us off this question, when does the, when does my onboarded member of staff first talk to a customer?
And I would argue if it's not within the first week, there's a problem. And then if you're putting training together, is every sort key message being assessed for whether it's being used, not [00:25:00] used, or whether it can be used competently in the field. You know? Cause what we don't wanna be doing is, is command and control, but what we do wanna be doing is making sure that if you are gonna train something that everybody thinks it's of practical value.
Marcus Cauchi: I'm not sure I hundred percent agree. I'm willing to be wrong. But I want my people, when I onboard them as a CRO to have put the time into researching their market, I want them to understand the moving parts and I want them to practice. So I'm CRO for a company called Mobile Practice. Yep. And we create small interventions, which are a few seconds to a few minutes long with clear instruction and a clear indication of how they will be evaluated.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: And then we can give direct coaching to them until they practice, until both sides are happy, we can then turn those into best practice videos. I'm using them in the recruitment process as well. Cause I wanna test for coachability. [00:26:00] And you coach what you see as a manager. So
How many people as a percentage are engaged in learning or engaged in their own self-development
Ben Elijah: How many, how many people as a percentage are engaged in learning or engaged in, in their own self-development, typically, do you see at the moment?
Marcus Cauchi: Uh, typically the square root of fuck all.
Ben Elijah: Okay.
Marcus Cauchi: Um, yeah, I mean it's, it's down to a, you know, maybe one, two, 3%. But this is where the on structured onboarding process and pre onboarding process is key. So I'm developing 30 day pre onboarding during their notice period so that they can learn, um, that you using tools like Refract,
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: Uh, to listen to other calls, see what great looks like, what not so great looks like. Mobile practice so that they can practice the skills. Um, I've come across another phenomenal AI technology called Second Nature, where it's an AI for role play. So you program in the persona of the buyer. Then you let loose five or six of your top [00:27:00] salespeople on Jenny, the AI, and then you let her loose on your sales team.
Now the beauty of this is people can practice in the safety of being anonymous and out of the spotlight, but get real life feedback and the AI learns and just gets better.
That's extremely cool.
Oh, it is brilliant. Um, and if you get, uh, to make the time look at the, uh, interview with the, uh, head of enablement for Zoom, who implemented this so phenomenal story.
Ben Elijah: I think we we're, we're saying the same thing fundamentally because my, my argument is that. If you're gonna train something for God's sake, don't just sort of lecture people, don't give it to them. No sort of command and control top down. You need to back it up by making sure that there's coaching and accountability.
Not because your objective is to make sure that they're actually doing it, but to make sure that people have the tools that they need. Um, well, in order to give you, to [00:28:00] give the success that you are being hopefully measured on. But here's the thing, if, if I finish the
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah, please.
Ben Elijah: I think if you don't do that, that works fine for the most engaged people.
But realistically it, and you need some sort of accountability because your engagement is gonna be, uh, measured on a bell curve fundamentally. So, as an enablement practitioner in the real world, you, you have to account for the fact that the majority of people are not going to, even with knowledge bites, you know, they're not necessarily gonna engage.
So you do need to make sure that there's some kind of coaching, some kind of accountability built into the system. But what you are talking about is, well, that doesn't necessarily have to be a human beating them with a stick. It could be this amazing AI that they're using to deliver that coaching feedback.
Is that a fair summary?
Marcus Cauchi: Yes and Rod, Jefferson and I are in the throes of writing a book, The Moment, which is the sales management apprenticeship. And the area that I [00:29:00] believe enablement really needs to focus on is management enablement.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: Uh, with mobile practice, what we find time and time again is, this is brilliant, but our managers don't know how to coach.
And the, your typical runway for being a manager as the usual, tap on the shoulder. We fired the idiot boss, Ben, you're now the idiot boss. Congratulations. Off you go. And what, what's interesting is that, cuz I, I've really put some thought into this, so if you'll indulge me for a moment.
Ben Elijah: Please.
Marcus Cauchi: Um, I, I think that it's easy to conclude that management and individual contributors as salespeople require a very different set of skills.
But as I've grown older and a little bit wiser, I think I was wrong. Ultimately, the functions and accountabilities are very different, but the underlying values and intent have to be identical at their best both require a service and leadership. Men, uh, mindset. The [00:30:00] best salespeople are strategic thinkers.
They care really deeply about the success of others, and they help their customers or their reports achieve a better future. They're able to paint a really clear. Which they develop with their prospects and with their customers and with their team. They're planners who put the time into thinking as their customer, as the salesperson.
They put the customer before the commission check. They put the, uh, direct report, um, ahead of taking the credit. Um, so they give the credit, they give trust. They possess amazing questioning and listening skills, and they understand that listening is the transfer of understanding and meaning. They translate possibilities into action and results.
They've got very low self-orientation, which is a fundamental building block of trust. They've got great partnering skills. They're collaborative, cooperative, committed to the suc [00:31:00] success of others. They're humble. They galvanize other people. They encourage massive discretionary effort very often from people who have no vested interest in the final outcome.
They're able to bring resources together, get them playing nicely. They think deeply, read widely. They're self-educated. They take personal responsibility for their own learning and development, and they share what they learn with others. Now, that to me, is the foundation of great sales and great management and great leadership.
I don't see that any of those qualities being exclusive to any one of those three. Now, the problem is that historically what we want in salespeople are people who are great on the phone, who are great closers, handle objections well. But what you end up with more often than not is a selfish, probably slightly [00:32:00] narcissistic, self-serving, uh, individual who's not a great team player.
And then they get put into management.
Ben Elijah: It's, it's an unprofessional, it's not a professional. It's an unprofessional, yeah. It's the antithesis. And then we are reinforcing it by bringing those people into leadership who are gonna recruit and coach and develop. Well, if you're lucky they're not gonna coach and bring more
Marcus Cauchi: of the same, they're not gonna coach cuz they'll be more interested neither carrying their own number or hero closer.
Ben Elijah: Yeah. Well it just re, the point is it just reinforces the unprofessional.
Yeah. You know, there's another piece to this as well, which is something we used to talk about quite a lot at Apple. and you can, um, you can find us on YouTube somewhere. It was, we used to use this when we were training. There was a video of Steve Jobs at the developer conference in 1997 who was back in those days, they used to do q and as with the audience.
And one of the audience asked him a question, sort of really, [00:33:00] really forthright question about, um, why Apple had killed some particular technology that this guy liked. And Steve Jobs said, and this will stay with me, that people fail because they start with the technology and then work back with, so the customer, they say, oh, we've got all this cool technology, we've got all of this clever stuff.
How do we sell it? And what Steve Jobs said was, what you'd need to do is start instead with the impact you wanna have on the customer and then work backwards to all the clever stuff. Yeah. . And I think that one area where we fall down, you can have the best messaging in the, excuse me, the best sales culture in the world.
But if you're talking to the customer about technology first, or the clever stuff first, whatever you're selling, and the customer is an afterthought, they will still remain. Um, I think you, you often describe it as dangling at the end of a chain of abuse.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. Forgo, I've forgotten, inconvenient, afterthought at the end of a chain of abuse.
Ben Elijah: Need to print that on a tal [00:34:00]
Marcus Cauchi: That, that might make me, uh, force me to wash out.
Ben Elijah: And I, I've been thinking about this quite a lot recently because messaging around the needs of the customer reflects a big difference in the culture of selling where traditionally the salesperson was the hero. They think of themselves as the person who's gonna go in and solve all of the problems and cover themselves in glory and, you know, return home with the pot of gold, so to speak.
and actually that the, the customer doesn't want you to be the hero. The customer wants to be the hero themselves. The customer doesn't want you to be Luke Skywalker. The customer wants you to be OB Wan.
Right. The customer doesn't want you to be argon. They want you to be gand off to go on. And that's a big difference.
So I think with enablement, one of the ne, one of the characteristics of successful enablement going forward is almost gonna be to combine with product or service marketing to say, okay, we've got all of this, these products and services. How do we create messaging that makes the customer the hero? How do you feel about that?
Marcus Cauchi: Uh, I agree. [00:35:00] What really pisses me off is the lack of alignment and communication. I think what Covid may give us is the opportunity to break down the traditional domains that have grown up over the last 40 years. Know at, at the end of, uh, wealth of Nations. , Adam Smith says that breaking the production down into areas of specialization ultimately is a bad thing, but turning sales and marketing and uh, customer success and all of that into a pin factory has meant that the customer has become forgotten.
as everyone is so fixated on the wrong metrics. I, I interviewed be Holland a couple of weeks back and what was really interesting from that conversation was just how wrong the definitions and the, uh, measures are around MQs, SQLs around, uh, the pipeline, [00:36:00] around the metrics that the business is trying to measure.
And I, is it any wonder that you end up with the waste that you have? We, um, as sales driven, We did a bit of research to look at the average amount of time that is lost per SDR because of the historic way people in that function, uh, operate, which is basically you give 'em a list, a list of 5,000 names, and they dial from top to bottom.
Well, on average they lose 120 hours a month per s d r. Now just think about that. There are 4.3 weeks in the month and three of them are lost to unproductive dead activity that will never, ever, ever yield any positive result. Then you add to the, uh, the amount of time that the AEs are now wasting on following up on so-called leads because an M Q L being thrown across when it's [00:37:00] actually unqualified and the wave funders.
So investors, vc, uh, private equity are fixated on pipeline. Pipeline revenue, new logos, and those three things are absolutely the wrong things to measure. You should be measured.
Ben Elijah: This is, these are the things that a VC's gonna care about if they're just using you as a pump and dump.
Marcus Cauchi: Absolutely. And the, the problem with that is that it fuels a litany of disasters.
The first thing is, uh, you put pressure on your customer. You're constantly cannibalizing your pipeline for next quarter to try and make this quarter's quota. Mm-hmm. That then creates an extra tariff on the, uh, s d R function and marketing to try and backfill the 10, 15, 20% that you've stolen. . Then you add to that the fact that you end up selling to people you shouldn't have sold to, which adds to the churn rate, an average of 15% churn is [00:38:00] shockingly bad.
Mm-hmm. , that means you lose 49% of your customers every three years. So you gotta replace them to stand still. This puts additional pressure on management, on the sales team, on the S d R team on marketing. So most of your money that you spend on salaries, most of the money you spend on marketing, lead generation is wasted.
Your cost of sale is astronomical. It takes roughly 3,240 touches to get to a second meeting. And on average, seven out of eight first meetings do not result in a second.
Ben Elijah: Well, it gets worse than that because they lose their promoters. They lose their, their core of customers. Biggest advocates thi think.
I'll give you an example of, I can give you an example of this. Um, if it's not gonna get you sued.
Marcus Cauchi: I can always delete it. .
Ben Elijah: So this is kicking off right now. There's, um, a company called Agile Bits. Uh, they produce a password management software tool called One [00:39:00] Password.
Marcus Cauchi: Mm-hmm.
Ben Elijah: And I've been using them personally for about 12 or 13 years.
Back when I was at Apple, they were the darling of everyone in be, well, no, I wouldn't say everybody, but you know, we would collectively have introduced them to thousands of new customers and they were absolutely a darling. And their, their growth was being driven by people like us who were promoting them to others.
Fast forward a few years, they've taken a bunch of VC capital, um, they've hired a bunch of salespeople. Feedback I've been hearing is that they're not very good. There's a fair bit of high pressure tactics going on because the only way they can grow is turning themselves now into an enterprise product.
In other words, to make the VC's investment look justifiable. Um, and they're getting absolutely destroyed. On social media on Reddit, because their next software product is gonna be a massive regression from what they've been shipping because it's the sort of product that's gonna suit, or maybe not even suit, but it's the sort of product that that might suit their target audience.
But it's gonna alienate the sort of people that have [00:40:00] driven their growth up to this point, I just sort of think to myself like, how dumb and toxic is the impact of a hundred million of VC capital? It needs to be short-term decisions.
Marcus Cauchi: De definitely read an article by Altos V for Victor, C for Charlie, called the Series B Trap and How to avoid It.
So I'll quickly summarize. You get pumped in a bucket load of money at Series B, and so your company's been growing and scaling well off and on, very little investment. Then you decide you're ready to scale and you raise millions. So you get a great big chunk of money having pitched these venture funds on a big growth story.
The investors pay a high valuation to get a good deal and betting on a continued fast growth track. Then what happens in order to meet the growth and revenue targets you hire and spend like you've never spent before. So you rush out, you rush a few key hires, you overbuild the team, [00:41:00] and immediately what you see happening is compromise on recruitment in sales.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: And in middle management, you ramp up your marketing spend and a few quarters in you realize that the product's not quite where you thought it would be, and you're not quite so far up the learning curve in sales as you thought, and your L T V and your, uh, cost of acquiring customer is suddenly down the loop.
But now it's too late to change course. You've got egos attached. You don't want the embarrassment. And after several consecutive courses of high burn missed targets, load expectations, you've lost a year, and now you're, you've spent 10, 15, 20 million and the investors are really peeved.
Ben Elijah: Hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: And then you fall into this death spiral, the head of sales gets replaced, replaced once, twice, three times.
The c e O gets replaced once, twice, three times. And then there's a down round financing, um, if you're lucky or you just tank [00:42:00] and you get sold off for parts. Now that is what you're just describing.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm. , it bothers me because, well, , it bothers me because of the human damage that's being done to the people that have been recruited
Marcus Cauchi: And their customers.
Well, and yeah, exactly.
Ben Elijah: But I mean, it's worth mentioning as well, because a lot of these companies are gonna be recruiting people that are relatively young. They're at the very beginning of their careers. They're gonna be excited and they're gonna end up being burned, and they're gonna end up leaving the sales profession thinking, I'm not doing that again.
Which I think is terrible.
Marcus Cauchi: The mental health. The mental health issues. Silka Ahrens and Martin Barrons run the mental health podcast. And that was fueled because of the pressure that they felt, but also the, uh, the burnout that they see in, you know, 23, 24, 25, 26 year olds. I mean, for god's sake. What, why is it the, the sales profession, uh, sorry, the sales management in sales believes that it's okay [00:43:00] to use human beings this way.
And thi this is why I have a real issue with the, uh, term human capital. It devalues human beings. Now, I'm no tree hugger, as anyone who knows me will, uh, will know, but it does seem immoral and it's obscene and there's no need for it. So it it, what baffles is the commercial model actually is underperforming dramatically.
I mean, I hate Milton Friedman's concept that every business is there to serve shareholder value or deliver shareholder value. Cuz I think shareholders come last. Your customers and your employees and your community come well before the shareholder and the shareholder benefits. If you look after those people and those stakeholders and, and the, uh, study that was done on the S and P 500 over six years shows that employees who are highly engaged [00:44:00] and having people dialed through a list of 10,000 contacts with only 2% of them being in the market to buy, is a soul destroying miserable experience.
Now where your employees are highly engaged, you get 430% higher per employee. But the really interesting, uh, statistic was the 316% year on year compound share price growth higher within companies that had highly engaged employees than companies that had mildly engaged or actively disengaged employees.
So if you wanna share, serve shareholder value, treat people decently, give them interesting work. I interviewed Alfie Cohen, who is the author of a book Every manager and Leader Should Read, and it's called Punished by Rewards. And it's looking at the data. On the actual impact of compensation schemes that have commission that reward people for [00:45:00] results because it focuses them on extrinsic reward rather than, than on intrinsic reward.
And so I'm going through this massive dilemma cause I have to let go of 35 years of thinking that commission is the right way to go. And, uh, instead look at how we can help reward everybody collectively, but not for doing their job. Doing their job should be rewarding itself.
Vision Link advisory groups
Ben Elijah: Have you seen Vision Link advisory groups work on this topic?
Marcus Cauchi: I, I haven't, no.
Ben Elijah: Yeah, check 'em out. It's really, really interesting. I might be butchering this, but they advocate pay everybody a very, very good basic up to the point that they're delivering on their target and their target should be completely aligned to the company target. So, you know, you're not saying, ah, your target is actually 150% of what the company's target would make it, make it fair and then give them a very healthy slice, 30 50% of any [00:46:00] value that they create above what would deliver the company target.
And I like that approach a lot because what it's incentivizing is obviously people to go, you know, to uh, to top performance. But it then leads to the sort of incentives like long-term customer health, you know, rete, customer retention, which really does deliver those, the better company values because if you're just targeting new logos and those customers churn, the also that you're actually gonna make any bloody money off that, off, off that customer very low.
Marcus Cauchi: I, I do a load of work in the tech space and what fascinates me is how it can possibly take 18 months to make a profit. It, it's not like you're selling anything other than electrons.
Ben Elijah: You just said that it's that your, that BDRs are only productive 25% of the time, and account executives are productive, God knows what small percentage of the time.
So is it that surprising?
Marcus Cauchi: Well, it shouldn't be, but it, I mean, the, it still, uh, amazes me that, uh, leadership and management when the, [00:47:00] the results are at, um, sorry, the evidence is out there, but the results are not as, uh, my pal Mark Schaffer says, I think we need to take a, a really good look at ourselves.
Sales A Force for Good
Marcus Cauchi: The, the reason you and I have, uh, established Sales of Force for Good, uh, along with others, is precisely to ask these gnarly, shitty, horrible, uncomfortable questions and slap leadership and management around the face with them so that they have to, um, pay heed and, and look at themselves in the mirror.
Because what I'm seeing consistently is blind, delusional, um, zombie management. They keep doing what never worked. And they're reinforcing it and they end up just doubling down on stupid. You know, if, if you want to double your sales, double your headcount, double your dials, double the number of demos, double the number of proposals, double your marketing spend, it doesn't fucking work.
It works for a handful of organizations, but [00:48:00] the majority, you would be better just pouring petrol on all that cash and, you know, running a generator, at least you'd get some warmth out of it.
Ben Elijah: Well, Marcus, this is a, this is probably a good segue for me to maybe sort of end on a sort of relatively personal note, which is the sort of final piece of what I think the future of enablement should be.
Marcus Cauchi: Please.
Ben Elijah: This is, this is, this is sort of very personal and emotive topic for me, which is, look, everyone in enable, everyone that's good in enablement should be able to earn three or four times the amount of money they're earning if they were actually in sales. I wanna. You know, suggest that I would be, um, myself, but I'd like to think so.
So they're doing this for a reason that is beyond money. The low, the, the bad ones are probably doing it just to get off the phone, but the ones that are good, they're doing it because they're motivated by some other factor. For me, I want to turn sales from an unprofessional to a profession. But one of the other reasons is I actually think the sales is a better education for young people than [00:49:00] university, in most cases.
Fine, if you wanna go study nuclear physics or medicine, fair enough. But I would love to see more young people learning the skills that are necessary to succeed in sales because it's gonna make them more effective human beings. And that's something that I love. That's what I get out of bed for.
And what I would suggest is, you know, look, we talk about management issues. We talk about structural reasons why companies are gonna fail. I'll be frank with you, that's way above my pay grade. What I see in these organizations where I go in, there's a lot of stuff that, you know, I can certainly talk about and observe.
That's. I look at the effect it has on these young people in these organizations. And I think, you know what, a good sales enablement person also needs to be, a little bit of a therapist, needs to be a bit of a coach and needs to be able to work with these young people and say, look, let's talk about how to get effective in the world.
Let's think about how you can succeed despite some of the crap that goes on in these companies. And the poor decision making. And I talk, I think, to myself about some of the kids I've worked with in [00:50:00] my time, I think about some of, like one young lady I, I did some coaching with, for example, two or three years ago, not in a good place, had come from a very, very bad background.
And she's now built a pretty solid career and is thinking about starting her own business. And that's all before the age of 25.
Marcus Cauchi: Mm-hmm.
Responsibility of a good sales enablement person
Ben Elijah: And I think to myself, all right, there's, there's some purpose here that goes beyond, you know, just, I mean, as much as I'm, uh, customer focused, that's gonna be the cycle of the next book.
That's another responsibility of a good sales enablement person. How do you feel about that?
Marcus Cauchi: In the last two weeks, I've had people from, uh, two to nine years ago who, uh, uh, that I worked with come back to me to thank me for, uh, helping them put their career on the right path. One of them, uh, contacted me with a message on, uh, a couple of Fridays ago that literally brought tears to my eyes.
He, in the, the last half year, he billed more than he did [00:51:00] in the previous full year, and I haven't worked with him for 10, uh, 11 months. And, uh, he's cleared all his debts. He's never been so happy, and he feels like he's in full control of his, uh, career and his life. He's applied these skills in his life, so negotiating with landlords, helping his girlfriend work through a difficult situation at work.
And you're absolutely right. Sales is a microcosm of life done well, and my favorite bit of, um, his, uh, voicemail was I've never done so little and got paid so much. And the, my, my entire philosophy is based on, uh, Greg McEwan's fabulous book, Essentialism, which is "Do less but better on purpose". And this is why all the stuff we've been talking about frustrates me.
If you think about one of the most important laws of physics in terms of the conservation of energy, [00:52:00] why are we not thinking like a physicist? Why are we not thinking, what can we do less of and get more bang for our buck instead of this ludicrous idea that you have to work harder? And Beck Collins said, uh, something really profound.
Final words before we wrap up?
Marcus Cauchi: Why is it that sales and marketing organizations are paying twice as much to get half as much done? And on that note, I think we should probably end. Any, any final words before we, uh, we wrap up?
Ben Elijah: Yeah. Look, just as there are big differences between performance and salespeople, there are gonna be big differences in the performance of sales enablement people.
And I would really encourage any senior sales leader to look at the work that your enablement team are doing and ask some serious questions. Is it aligned to the needs of the customer? Are we creating biosafety? Are we creating an environment where, quite frankly, you know, we're developing those trust [00:53:00] and collaborative behaviors that we need?
Are we involved in recruitment? If we're teaching things, are they being taught in a way that's seller friendly? Are we thinking of accountability? And if the answer to any of those questions is no, then you need to hold your enablement team accountable. Because what you don't want to create is the sort of sales L and D cause it just ain't gonna work.
But then on the flip side, you know, look at the way that your, your enablement team are working with those younger sellers that you have in the business. Don't treat them. And I made the mistake of using this phrase earlier and treat them as human capital. Treat them as your future top performers and ask what are we investing in their success in the longer term?
Marcus Cauchi: And I would add to that, that you've got to in parallel or even ahead of that, um, focus on enabling your managers, um, because Jonathan Farrington's study at the end of 2020 said that 94% of sales managers were not fit for purpose. And that's definitely the most pivotal point within your sales [00:54:00] operation.
And if those people are not, and never ever have a player manager, as soon as you can get away from that, you know, if you, uh, you know, turning over a hundred thousand, then get rid of the player manager and put the manager in charge of hiring the best people, getting the best outta them, making sure they have the tools and resources they need to do their best work every day.
Helping clear roadblocks and protect them from act of idiocy, from your senior leadership and manage inclusively. And train your managers and enable your managers rather to be managers. Their job is to hire the best people and get the best outta them. It is not to be hero closes. It is not to carrier a quota.
That type of idiocy is a false economy. And unless those two things happen in parallel, then I fundamentally believe great ideas that you've come up with are doomed to fail. Because if the managers are not party to all of this [00:55:00] and they are not equipped, everything will turn to shit and you'll still just, uh, depend on the two or 3% who focus on their own learning and development.
Ben Elijah: Amen.
What one bit of advice would you give idiot Ben aged 23?
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. Okay. So one, uh, final cheeky question. You've got a golden ticket. You can go back and advise the idiot, Ben, age 23. Uh, what one bit of advice would you give him?
Ben Elijah: Ooh. I would say get mentors. Don't be proud about it. Something. Absolutely something. I, um, you know, look, I, and I hope you don't mind me blowing a little bit of smoke up your backside, but, you know, I consider you a mentor and learning from people that are one or two years older than me is something that's, uh,
Marcus Cauchi: One or 200?
Ben Elijah: Oh, you're, you're a beautiful man, Marcus.
Marcus Cauchi: Thank you. I'm an all rounder. I'm very round.
Ben Elijah: Well, I've, I'm in shape. The shape I've selected is a triangle.
It's, it took me a long time to realize that I was much more effective as [00:56:00] Robin instead of Batman. And that would be the, the thing I would say to myself at 23 after slapping him about the chops a little bit.
Marcus Cauchi: Very interesting. Oh, sorry. There, there's. My guttering appears to be, uh, loosening, loosening load of stuff.
I think we need to clean them. So, okay. Um, you, you've mentioned a couple of books, uh, Sales Enablement 3.0 and Tech Powered Sales.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: Um, is there, uh, one other book around mindset, um, or belief systems that, uh, maybe you'd recommend.
Ben Elijah: Yes, but in a roundabout way? It's a, it's a bit heavy going, but I really recommend a book called The Hero with the Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
It's not a sales book and it's certainly not an easy read. It's a book about comparative mythology and he looks at different stories that people have been telling for thousands of years. And identifies, he calls it a mono myth. So, you know, the role of a hero, [00:57:00] um, as they go through their particular journey.
And as sellers, we need to think about that and think about our role on our customer's hero's journey. What are we doing? And if we are the, we are ourselves trying to be the hero, we might be playing the wrong role. So I'd really encourage having, um, having a go on the book. It's, uh, like I say, it's not an easy read, but uh, once you can get into it, it's mind blowing.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, on that note, uh, read widely. Read history, um, behavioral economics, psychology, read politics biographies. Don't just stick to your, uh, swim lane because the more widely read you are, the more connections you can make. And to build on Ben's earlier point, in future, you are going to have to be incredibly flexible and agile and you'll need to going to be able to synthesize ideas that come from multiple different sources.
One of my favorite, uh, audible courses is a course called From Yao [00:58:00] to Mao, and it's a 4,000 year history of China. If you want to understand geopolitics today and you want to understand influence and you want to understand how to manage complexity. It's a fabulous starting point.
Ben Elijah: Mm-hmm.
Marcus Cauchi: And the other thing I would urge all of you to do when it comes out is my interview with, uh, chap called Alexander Knapp.
And, uh, he specializes in solving wicked problems. And the stuff we are talking about is a wicked problem. It's complex, it's diverse, it's confusing. And when managing wicked problems, it's important that you understand. There are four fundamental rules. The first one is that the first solution will fail.
So capture data, analyze it, try and work out why. Secondly, stakeholders differ. The third is the rules change as you play. [00:59:00] And the fourth is there is no perfect answer, only imperfect options. So definitely keep an eye out for that one. Alexander Knapp, wicked problems. Excellent.
How can people get hold of you?
Marcus Cauchi: Okay, so Ben, um, how can people get hold of you?
Ben Elijah: My website is inc and ben.com. You can find me on, uh, on LinkedIn. Um, I theoretically have a Twitter account, but I don't use it. LinkedIn is probably your best bet if you wanna start a conversation.
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent, Ben Elijah. Thank you.
Ben Elijah: Thank you.
Marcus Cauchi: So this is Marcus Cauchi signing off once again from the Inquisitor Podcast. If you found this useful, then please like, comment, share, and tag someone who needs to hear this, the message contained in this episode.
And if you're feeling generous, hop across to Apple or Google Podcast or wherever. Uh, you normally listen and give the podcast an honest review and give feedback. If there's a way that I can improve it, then please let me know. Tell me the kind of stuff that you've particularly enjoyed [01:00:00] so we can get more of it.
And in the meantime, if you wanna get a hold of me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and happy selling. Bye-bye.