At the beginning of the Enablement journey in DACH

Regional Host and Trusted Advisor, Britta Lorenz, sat with Thomas Mahler, Founder of SalesOcean, an Enablement consultancy in Germany.  Thomas shares his insights on the current state of the enablement journey in DACH.

They explored several topics, including:

1️⃣ The importance of starting Enablement with a specific strategic mindset -> customer centricity.

2️⃣ Enablement is a whole-company effort, not simply something the Enablement team does.

3️⃣A recognition that Enablement is still in it’s earliest stages in DACH.

There is a ton of great insight in here.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Unknown Speaker
Good to go.

Britta Lorenz
All right, Hello, and welcome everyone to our live show of coffee collaboration and enablement in the region. I am absolutely happy to welcome Tomas malar. With me today in the show and speak with him about enablement, sales enablement in the region. And what are his takes on the current status of sales enablement and major challenges we are facing. So Thomas, welcome to the show.

Thomas Mahler
Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks. Beautiful invitation. Yeah, more than happy to be here, and to discuss a couple of minutes about suits and a bunch in my experiences in that area.

Unknown Speaker
Great super.

Britta Lorenz
Well, before we start, Thomas, do you mind sharing with our audience who you are? What’s your background, your business, you’re in what your work? Give us some insights about your person.

Thomas Mahler
Yeah, of course, more, more than happy to do so. So I started my professional career by spending some time doing a technical study. So I’m an electrical engineer, giving my educational background. But I never worked really in that kind of profession. So I changed directly. My head after my, after doing my diploma, I’ve learned, okay, that’s not my job for the next 40 years. It was interesting, it was challenging everything. But I felt not really comfortable in this in this profession. So what search for something, which, which gave me the chance to do some still some technical work, but still, but as well, facing customers connected to people, etc. So I spent a couple of times in product marketing, which was at the end 5050, between technical profession and sales orientation. I did this a couple of years. And after that I’ve, I’ve learned for myself and being reflected from colleagues and customers, if I should not change to sales, because they they thought this could be a good profession for you and said, Yeah, why not? Let’s give it a try. And since then, so that’s more than 20 years, I’m doing sales in various roles in various industries, with various responsibilities. So I’ve been international key account, I’ve been regional sales manager, I’ve been shadow manager for sales. So I’ve took different roles, different hats in different industries in big companies and small companies. So I assume I learned a lot about sales and marketing processes, and pros and cons of organizational topics. So yeah, that’s more or less my my CV to say, Wow,

Britta Lorenz
great. It’s wonderful and super diverse background. Which leads me to the next question, Thomas, if you have to define sales enablement, how would you define it? And second question tied into that. Your diverse background? How does it support sales enablement? From your point of view?

Thomas Mahler
Yeah, for me, say sales enablement, you, if you Google it, you will find nice, nice explanation what it means. And it’s mostly about data and content and whatever. So it’s all important topic. But for me, sales enablement starts with, let’s say, mindset. Also, I do not like to speak in passwords, but mindset is, I guess, the best word for it. So what do I mean with that? So sales is not a role, which is defined for a certain part of the company. Sales is for my understanding, a role which is defined for everybody working in the company, because customer centricity is not just in the sales team. It’s in the marketing team, which is the service and technical team, in the boutique and everywhere, there should be a kind of customer centricity approach. So for me, sales enablement, is not just enabling the sales team into itself, but enabling new processes, new way of thinking working with with our clients and customers. So that’s a little bit broader aspect of sales enablement for me.

Britta Lorenz
Well, it’s really great to see that you think it’s all companies, it’s an inclusion of the whole company into one concept. So when we heard your diverse background before, how would you tie that into the enablement? What tips and tricks can you add in from your background and experiences here?

Thomas Mahler
yet and I think about the last 20 years is that, as you said, I have a quite diverse, diverse background, in sense of the industries and sense of company size because the understanding of doing sales in a large company is completely different than understanding a small startup or scale up. You have a different mentality and a different way of approaching the customer. So I’ve seen a lot, mainly in the b2b market, so I’m not a b2c guy. I’m a b2b guy. So I saw a lot of ways of trying to be successful in sales to say. So I guess it’s really helpful for for myself and at the end for my clients to make use of this experience.

Britta Lorenz
Great. So when you say, sales, sales enablement, it’s a state of mindset, which goes across the company, and everybody should have this mindset to be supporting for the customer. Where do you see at the moment, and also based on the experience from the last couple of years of maybe also from last year with the big shifts? Where do you see sales enablement in in the region, especially?

Thomas Mahler
Let’s say it’s just starting. So there are various of aspects. So as I said, if you if you learn a little bit about sales enablement, and what it means, generally speaking, you’re ending up quite fast at the kind of database data related enablement or content related enablement. So it was a really specific approach in thinking about the enablement and that that approach, making use of data and content and customer centricity for me enough, we are just starting. So cultural wise, let’s say, we are kind of product focused, we are technically focused, we are focused on data sheets. So I can recall a lot of meetings in the past where the sales guy just setting the table and reading more or less through the datasheet. So what’s my service? What it is precisely, and what’s the hardware, what’s the software service about, but we are not really a cultural eyes thinking in value for the customer. And that’s a, that’s a big difference. And especially since you said that our landscape is changing, yes, it’s not just changing because of COVID-19, which makes it different. It changed already in years, years ahead, when when transparency pro by the internet, helped our customer to educate them by themselves. So I kept saying to my team, please take care that your customer is not more informed about the product than you are because they have all the information if a customer is using the product, and he asks you he already 60 70% down the road. So he knows already your data sheet, he knows already the hotfix. So you need to argue, in soft fix in values. And that is I I believe that it’s not really a common understanding of the Duff region now, but that’s more of a cultural belief. I think. So I guess in the US, for example, if you see a couple of companies, there are a lot of successful companies not just selling because of the print and trend is emotion. And they’re not selling technical features. They’re selling a story. And I guess we are not so strong into that in the region.

Britta Lorenz
Great. So if you take the evolution path from crawling, walking to running, we don’t even speak about flying yet. Where would you position it in? in those terms? If we put it into the doctorate? And where do you think we are

Thomas Mahler
somewhere between crawling and walking? So I guess we are we are now trying to raise up. We understand we need to change. Most of the people do not actually know how some are reluctant to do so because it’s it’s difficult. It’s, it’s easier to if you have a revenue problem, for example, a lot of companies still think Okay, so we have a revenue of whatever, 10 million euros, we have 10 people, we want to raise our revenue, we just put two more sales guys. So the kind of quantitative approach. So we just enhanced the sales team who have directly more revenue for our company. This does not work. Maybe that were 20 years ago. But But now it does not really work for my understanding. So you need to be more in order to approach and there we are, as I said, between crawling and standing up and walking.

Britta Lorenz
It’s a wonderful picture. I think that’s a great metaphor for the status right

Unknown Speaker
now.

Britta Lorenz
So Thomas, you mentioned the dark region is more from our point of view focused on product versus storytelling and selling the emotion. What are the big challenge challenges do you see are we facing in our region at the moment?

Thomas Mahler
Okay, so not not talking about COVID especially talking about Changing sales environment. And so the, I guess everybody knows what a sales funnel is. So I guess everybody learned it at some stage, what a sales funnel means or how, how a demand of the customer evolves over the time when working with sales and marketing. And in this sales funnel, first of all change now as much as set as the people are pretty much informed. So you have different methodologies to grab customer’s attention via social media, LinkedIn is a good good example or other ways of raising the profile of your company and your products. So the sales funnel, when it’s, let’s say, on a scale between zero and 110 years ago, it started at zero, ending up at 100. Today, it starts as I said, something like 60 or 70. And then this changes the way of, of working with our customers. Definitely, very much and this is difficult to understand and difficult to change your behavior in the market. If you didn’t do your job since 10 years and you do it quite well. Then things are changing and Richard up yourself that’s not easy as a change management process. And it’s difficult for lawsuits to and difficult for the for the company itself.

Britta Lorenz
Okay, so when we speak about implementing sales enablement and and overcoming all those hurdles have boundaries in departments and those silos. What do you think companies and organizations should really think about when they start to think about implementing SS enablement concept? also taking in consideration the change of funnel and that customer buyer journey?

Thomas Mahler
Yeah, so I guess it’s, it’s, it’s mainly about training and coaching and having the right data and tools in, in in place. So sounds pretty easy. Again, it’s not easy. So we are, now we are in a situation, we have plenty of possibilities to collect data from the market, about our customers about our industry you’re working in with so many ways of doing it. But the real challenge is to bring the right interpretation. So that’s the first challenge. second challenge is content. So to create really valuable content is a really big hurdle for a lot of people. And this brings me to the point of collaboration between for example, sales and marketing, because the the most of the cases, they are still separate in organizational wise, which is not a threat. But the threat is that the separation is not just in the organization, it’s in the mindset again. So still a lot of companies sales and marketing are running in parallel. So and then they are not combining the forces. So there are a lot of fights between the two, two departments. But at the end, they have the same target, they want to serve our customer the best way possible. But they are not really interacting, that strong that it should be. And it’s not just sales marketing. As I said, it’s depending on your business model service, technical people, whatever. And there needs to be a kind of collaboration platform at the end, it can again be a tool or the tool, as it said, is just a tool. So you need to have the right processes, you have to get the people trained, you have to explain why you are doing that and explain why the landscape change and what necessary steps to take. So it’s not just to put there a new process and to you need to explain to people and to and to train them to coach them on a regular basis to bring them up to speed.

Britta Lorenz
So, you mentioned now, the data that we have to learn how to read data and interpret them correctly. Train and coach our team and organizational wide and as well as the collaboration between sales and marketing and all the other customer facing teams, which implies having a mindset it also has to have a change with it because we are moving from isolated traditional way of working to a collaborative, orchestrated way of working. Yeah. So change management, from my point of view also plays a really crucial role when we are implementing sales enablement. How do you see that? How do you see change management and important and how can we make it even more present for especially SMEs in in our region that change management is not a threat. It’s actually something that supports

Thomas Mahler
Yeah, that’s that’s a good question and maybe one of the biggest challenges we have because all all what we are talking about is ending up in a In the change management process, change management process. As, as you might know that it’s not a matter of four weeks, that’s a matter of weeks, months and years to go, really, if we’re change management process, and it needs the support for management needs to support from top management because change management, if it’s done correctly, it might end up for example, in a, in a dip of revenue for a certain period of time, because you’re changing your habits, your training, maybe you’re changing your, your target customer base, you’re changing your products way of selling. So this might have an impact, and you need to be aware, and then this just something measurable. But of course, it does a lot of things which are not measurable. And that’s, again, happening in the mindset of the people. So so you need to define clear targets, you need to define clear mission statements. And for most importantly, you need to explain why. Explain to your people why you are doing this change management, because it will cost a lot of time, a lot of effort. It will not be in the sense of everybody. But you need to do it. top down in that case, although I’m not really 100% convinced from top down approach, but I guess in that way you you need to do a top down and but you need to explain why you’re doing it.

Britta Lorenz
And explaining the why becomes easier if your sales enablement strategy and settlement plan is aligned with the overall company strategy and mission vision. And if you can also show how it interlinks and what impact it can have, if done correctly, as you said before, it has to explain the why. So one message to the audience, please make sure you always communicate why you’re doing something, you’re not doing something because you want to be a pain in the butt. You really have good intentions when you’re trying to change something. And yeah, we know from experience change can be hurtful. But in the long run might be one of the things we have to do in order to succeed. So it was really, really great.

Thomas Mahler
If I can can can add this. It’s it’s transparency all over the process. Because change management it takes whatever 1218 month, whatever it is, you need transparency all over the process. If you’re not informing your, your your teams on a regular basis and communicating transparent what is happening currently, where are we is the targets still the same? What are the next steps. So transparency is as well, really, really important. Because it will help to get trust from the people that you are doing the right thing and you are ready to share and everybody’s part of the story and all that stuff. And this really helps to get all the power on the street.

Britta Lorenz
Great Again, the why communication, transparency, building the trust, it’s such a big factor, which brings us back again, that we have to bring in the human factor in the whole process. Because at the end of the day, it’s people working. We are all there working as humans, no matter if we are there physically or remote, as the situation is right now, but we are human. And if we understand why we are doing something, and we always get informed about the next steps to change management might be a little easier to handle in this way. Yeah,

Thomas Mahler
definitely. Definitely.

Britta Lorenz
Great. So we heard a lot already, Thomas, and I really love the conversation. But what are three things to consider today? What would you share with our audience to say, if you want to go down the road of sales enablement, if you want to implement it, or you are already a step further, what are still three things they should consider.

Thomas Mahler
I guess we we all mentioned these already, but as a kind of summary. So so for me data and content, that’s that’s key. So make, make every information your sales team needs available at any time at any place. So meaning, ensure that you have data and content on on the tool and whatever Yeah, you can choose the way you do it. But be sure that your your your sales team has all the information in hand in a smooth way, in a smart way in helping our customers the best way possible. So that’s the first thing so that’s kind of thing which you can grab. So that’s a tool that’s content and you can work with it and you need to facilitate the process for the auto sales team. Second thing for me one of the most important points I mentioned already is collaboration need to make sure that the sales team is integrated in all of the processes and vice versa, as well, the sales team is not just taking things from the company, but giving back so meaning giving feedback from the customers, for example, to the marketing team, so the most important thing is, say it’s telling the marketing team, what’s happening actually in the customer. So why is my customer asking for that? What’s the reason so to again, bring transparency understanding between the various departments, mainly, as I said, sales and marketing, but of course, a couple of others more. And this is for me, the headline of, of collaboration, again, that’s probably in the people’s mind, and partly tool based, or whatever to facilitate again. And the third point, most importantly, I mentioned it a couple of times is, again, mindset. So you need to make sure that people understand what needs to be done to be successful in the market, and why other things happening, how they’re happening, and what the company is ready to do to support the sales team and the rest of the company.

Britta Lorenz
Great, great. Thanks for those three wonderful tips, Thomas. So what did I fail to ask you, Thomas? What did I miss,

Thomas Mahler
but not too much. So what what was really important for me when we prepared this session today was the why but we already discussed about it. So that was something which is really, really important. Because people tend to forget about it, maybe it’s it’s a tough topic as well, because as I said, we are kind of really more focused on facts, facts and figures than on soft facts. But we need to understand why things are happening and why we are changing our organizations, our way of working, so this needs to be explained really, really closely to the team. And that’s, that’s one of my, let’s say, key messages. The second one could be that’s more generic about sales, I, I see, of course, a lot of organizations, so I saw it in my CVS, I said, I learned a lot. And in my current role, I see a lot of organizations, and still a lot of organizations the understanding of a sales role still, let’s say poor. So a lot of people still believe that sales is defined by how many meetings you have, how long you’re driving the highway, how often you are, therefore drinking a coffee or whatever. But it’s much, much more and to to raise, let’s say the role of a sales professional in the company. It’s really important, of course, I’m 20 years in sales. So I believe strongly in the in a strong sales role within a company. And I believe if this is established role in a company, that sales is not just somebody going to the customer treating coffee, and that’s it, but really doing some wonderful and valuable work for the company, if this is under common understanding processes and way of working between the organization’s will be much much easier.

Britta Lorenz
Okay, great. So I know we didn’t speak about that. But it just came to my mind now when I heard how important the wife for you is, and the mind set change. Do you have any tips and tricks from your experience on how you actually facilitated this shift and the communication of the why and made sure that the team you’re working with Understood? What the Why is the Can you share maybe a hands on example of how to facilitate this? transitions?

Thomas Mahler
It’s, it’s, yeah, why? To explain the why is first of all, to set a target. So we need to know where we are heading for. So that’s the first thing you need to have a kind of mission statement. So it’s a stupid question. But what is your plan for next five years? So that’s what you learn in every every job interview or something? Yeah, but but it shows, okay, I have a plan, I have a mission, I know what I want to achieve. So that’s the first point that people see management is aware of, they’re not just doing the job, but they are aware where they are going. And they are aware that we need to change something, whatever it means, and to show the people the consequence of doing things or not doing things in a transparent way. I guess it’s key because you can build scenarios. Okay, if you’re working like that, this will be the consequence. If we are changing our way of working and this or that variation, this might be the consequence. That’s, again, transparency is a headliner, to show what the different ways could be and how it works and to involve people into this process to ask people, what do You think, not just to say we, we have three roads and we choose road B? Yeah. So get them into the boat. Ask them, what is your experience? What do you think? And you will be much more successful.

Britta Lorenz
I love the fact of the inclusion of the team, what do you just mentioned? Because again, that really target storage, collaborating and working together. And by having that done the Why should or might come more natural and more transparent and understandable, because it’s a one mission for everyone. They have been in the boat to work on it together. I think Thomas, that’s a wonderful point for us to finish off with this conversation, because I also want to be cautious of the time especially taking consideration we are already after hours today. If anyone from our participants in the audience wants to be in touch with you, how can they reach you, Thomas, how is the best way to get your ear and your eyes

Thomas Mahler
in since seems to be on LinkedIn, I guess the best, most pragmatic way just to drop your private message on LinkedIn and real and we can exchange some more than happy to to get some interesting context and to exchange about sales enablement. So just drop me a private message on LinkedIn and get in touch.

Britta Lorenz
Super, thank you very much, Thomas for your time and sharing your valuable insights with us and the audience. And yeah, thank you again, have a wonderful evening.

Thomas Mahler
Thank you.

Britta Lorenz
And I’m sure we’re gonna speak soon again. Thank you, Thomas.

Thomas Mahler
Thank you.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you.