Conor Gilligan interviews Daniel Kongstad Sebenius about sales enablement and his experiences in training.
Reading time: 4m 30s.
Tell me a little more about sales enablement and how you got into it.
I have been working with training and development in different capacities for the last 15 years. At its core, sales enablement is a component to help businesses realise potential and increase performance. I am fortunate to engage with something I love doing, every single day.
My professional career started out in sales, and I spent quite a few years with a global technology company where I was working in different sales positions.
The sales enablement piece really happened by chance when I was working as a technical sales rep, aiding a team with sales support for server and storage products. I found that we missed sales opportunities in our conversations with customers.
We did not ask the customer the right questions. To change this, I started to bring the team to huddles, and training sessions, to equip them with the right questions. As a result, sales started to pick up, and we helped our customers get the right solutions.
Sales enablement conversations are starting to get more strategic, with the significant difference that leaders know and understand the active part they need to take for a successful outcome.
This was a vital experience for me and my career, as it helped me understand how I could have an impact on people’s personal and professional lives.
What are you excited about at the moment in sales enablement?
I’m seeing a change of mindset with the leadership teams I engage with. We are starting to move beyond the quick-fix training expectations, and instead having conversations about how to transform as a business, with a focus on how we help our customers achieve success.
We discuss leadership responsibilities, change behaviour, the importance of consistency, and how to make sure the team works as a unit.
I see leaders go first, setting examples for their teams, and at the same time displaying a vulnerability and authenticity I haven’t really come across before. In other words, the sales enablement conversations are starting to get more strategic, with the significant difference that leaders know and understand the active part they need to take for a successful outcome.
Tell me more about your sector and the role sales enablement plays for you.
I have been in the technology sector for the majority of my career working for hardware, software, service and SaaS solution providers. Despite the change in technology platforms, there has been one common thread: the product needs to be sold and for all tech companies – there is a strong passion for the product and its technology.
In this, the development team are often so proud of the product that technical features become marketing messages. The sales enablement teams responsibility is to help sales to translate these worthy, yet complex, technical features into a value-based language.
Understanding of the technology is important, but understanding of the customer is vital to be able to have meaningful conversations. You become successful when the sales team can articulate how the product can make a positive difference with the customer.
My recommendation for anyone interested in a sales enablement career in the technology arena is to assess if developing individuals and businesses is important to you, in addition to your technology interest.
How do you track the results of sales enablement?
There are a few elements that have proven to be successful. The priority is to ensure that the entire organisation you are supporting is looking at success in the same way.
This is key to be able to link back and to adjust the activities you are putting into place, with-buy in from the leadership team, as well as the frontline management, who need to carry out a lot of the actions. Classic KPIs are relevant, as margin, revenue, units etc. are easy to measure.
In addition, I recommend looking at the strategic items we are really trying to address. For most organisations, this would be a change in behaviour, and this often takes time.
You would look to identify indicators to determine if you are on the right track: the number of customer engagements, additional contacts in the CRM, change in communication (oral and written), and the inclusion of more resources from your own company in order to help the customer.
These would be a few things to monitor. And again, here is where the sales enablement team really need to work closely with managers, as your job, by definition, is to enable people to drive the business, not to take on all the actions yourself.
Where do you see sales enablement in the future?
With new generations entering the workplace, there is a major paradigm shift on the expectations of leadership. We are expecting more from the people we are working with and for. Most of us are looking for business with a meaningful purpose too.
I think sales enablement teams need to work even more closely with the human resources department, as the traditional HR / training borders are washing away. The competencies business leaders need to master to be successful in sales in the future are very much the same as before.
I believe that sales enablement teams, who are generally closer to sales than HR, need to be able to include leadership competency conversations, and train and coach these skills, for an even stronger impact on the business we are supporting, in cooperation with the HR team.
And obviously, I am following new technologies and how they can help us be even more successful in the future, and in particular I have great expectations to augmented reality and how it can change to the way we work.
About the interviewee