Insights and thoughts on where Enablement is heading in 2021 and beyond

Rebecca Bell, Director of Global Sales Enablement at IQVia, joins the show again, this time chatting with UK And Ireland Regional Host, Jeremy Noad, Phd.  Rebecca shared her insights on a variety of topics, including where she sees Enablement moving over the course of 2021 and 2022.

Rebecca shared her insights on a variety of topics, including where she sees Enablement moving over the course of 2021 and 2022.

1️⃣ Continue to help our sellers thrive in a hybrid world with a mix of virtual and in-person selling post-pandemic.

2️⃣ Enablement needs to take a deep breath and transition to a more strategic view, less random acts.

3️⃣ Moving to being able to demonstrate impact in a measurable manner.

So much in here.

Give a listen and remain curious.

 

Audio Transcript

Dr. Jeremy Noad
hey so hello and welcome to this edition of the coffee collaboration in one podcast i’m your host jeremy node and in this episode we’re talking all things an ailment with the fabulous rebecca bell hi rebecca thanks for our guest today

Unknown Speaker
thank you great to be here

Dr. Jeremy Noad
cool excellent really excited about this so first things first where do you think are you tell us a little bit about yourself and the business you’re in

Rebecca Bell
sure so i am currently working at a company called ikea as a global director of sales enablement and i cavia is a leader in data and life sciences technologies and so we’re trying to i guess navigate this pandemic era helping our customers who are you know generally life sciences and pharma companies for whom everything has changed and obviously we’re trying to help ourselves people navigate that change too bit on my background so i’ve had a real varied career and actually if you think about it and then people sometimes say gosh your your cv is a bit of a mess or your linkedin profiles all over the place and it’s because i probably have quite a short attention span i like change and my first part of my career was spent in pr i moved into corporate communications executive comms i then moved into strategic planning then into marketing and as part of that i started doing a lot of sales enablement and so i kind of stumbled upon this accidentally i really enjoy the kind of energy of the commercial organization sales organization and i can bring a lot of those skills in communication audience engagement and change management i guess into the work that i do so i’ve kind of fallen upon this area which suits me really well because it’s very very varied fast moving of course and opportunity to make a difference and see an impact which you know frankly at the end of the day is is what matters to me

Dr. Jeremy Noad
yeah excellent thanks it is really good point yeah i think the opportunity to make an impact particularly in this sort of revolving space around sales noma is key as a global director of how do you get it to scale across the different business units in your organization and

Rebecca Bell
yeah it’s it’s tricky i mean i guess we have to focus on a few things so there are the global initiatives that are looking at sort of scale and impact and here we’re looking at things like methodologies leading practices and capability and fluency around the capabilities and solutions that we sell and of course supporting things like global events so there’s the kind of global flavor that we’re trying to impart and then there’s obviously local flavors and priorities and sales plays which are specifically relevant to an rbu or a regional team that we might be supporting so we’re going through a bit of a transition organizationally to try and fix this at the moment because i think this kind of broad brushstroke of enablement say everybody do it this way yeah it doesn’t necessarily work so it’s a sort of bifurcated model where you’ve got the standardized piece which is the global wrapper and then trying to support the regional teams to focus on the things that matter to them and it’s quite tricky it’s quite tricky and i’m not i’m not gonna lie we’re going through some discussions at the moment around you know how do we do that better because this isn’t about just saying do you understand this solution and can you talk about the speeds and feeds of this capability i mean yeah but can you actually have a conversation with a salesperson with it with a customer as a salesperson can you drive the sales process effectively can you identify opportunities can you close effectively you know a can if you’re a sales manager can you coach and support your team there are so many bits to it that make it impossible if you’re just thinking about you know solutions fluency

Unknown Speaker
yeah that’s

Dr. Jeremy Noad
really good point because i think just going back to one of the first points about the sort of best practice and standardization you know in my experience was around sort of do we want to sort of try and hammer these regional business units to say this is the one way or do we sort of define what the one way should consist of as an airman and leave them the latitude to sort of engage a little bit more by having their own touch on it So rather than saying the best practice solution is eggs, right, you say the best practices are, and whatever you do should match those best practices.

Rebecca Bell
Right? I mean, I think looking for the leading practices out the regions is a great way of doing it. Because also, you know, honestly, sales teams don’t really want to have it imposed on them. Right? You know, that when we told this is the way must do this replicate this otherwise, you know, we don’t think you’re doing a good job. It’s interesting, because I keep your is quite a democratic organization in that way. It’s, it’s pretty open is quite, I don’t want to say on structured, but, you know, there’s a lot of opportunity for the regional teams to decide how they want to do things and where they want to focus. And, and oftentimes, that’s surprising. But I think part of our job has to be about listening, extracting those leading practices, looking to replicate them. And to make it as easy as possible in order to do that, you know, with data with, you know, properly constructed plays, that would enable a salesperson to easily pick it up and take action, and maybe have the freedom and fluency to, to adapt it. And it’s interesting. I mean, I was having this conversation this week, actually, around content. And, you know, as much as we like to think, oh, look at my lovely deck. And here’s my playbook is the content. I’ve spent hours poring over. Don’t you love it? Yeah, you know, we know that at the end of the day sales, people very rarely pick that up and cookie cutter, apply it in their sales conversation. And it I mean, this, this notion of trying to police the fields in what they might be doing or using is ridiculous. You know, what we’ve got to do is listen to the fields and understand why they’re not using something, why it doesn’t work for them. And yes, to give them the freedom and the liberty to be able to adapt to what they need, because they know it better than us. We as a global organization can’t sit there and say, Well, I know what’s happening in Asia Pac better than you do that. That’s nonsense.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Okay, cool. Yeah. So I think the tools instructions, so I’m taking from this. So listen to your background at the start with sort of the the PR, the columns and pieces like that. Do you see that sort of? Is that a key skill that enablement should have in terms of getting the message across internally to drive the change?

Rebecca Bell
Well, I would say so yes. But I would also acknowledge the fact that enablement attracts people from all sorts of different functional backgrounds. So you could come into it via sales, or you could come into it via an operational route, or even an HR, for example, from a training perspective. And each organization has a, I guess, a unique flavor and definition of enablement. And I think there’s no point in trying to say there is one definition, it’s what you need it to be for your organization, I guess. And people have been very successful coming into this functional area from all sorts of backgrounds. So for me personally, I think the reason why I think comms is an interesting background and relevant is, I really think that enablement is like communications on steroids. Because normally, you know, when I came from, when it came from, like PR and comms into this type of a role, normally, you’re used to sort of imparting a message, maybe executing a small dialogue, short dialogue. And the same with marketing, right? I mean, okay, you want to nurture and, you know, manager, a customer through the cycle, if you can to, you know, identify them as a potential customer in the long term and expand them. And marketing can play a good role in that. But sales enablement. For me why it’s comms on steroids is, it’s like that multi quarter, multi phase dialogue with a customer via the salesperson. So like, how do you enact this dance through the sales cycle and beyond? Cuz, you know, it’s all been about particularly my SAS world, you know, renewal and expansion. So, you know, the story isn’t, isn’t over when you sign the initial deal. So for me, it’s like this kind of multi phase communications dialogue, which is a brilliant challenge, because, you know, what are the what are the different techniques you’re using at each stage? And how do you communicate with impact and how do you progress that dialogue? That for me is like the almost like the ultimate challenge in communications, because sometimes it can be it could be lasting months or even years. So I feel like understanding audiences understanding how change happens how understanding how to drive change, and urgency. These are all things that are really cool. To successful enablement. So that’s why I think my, my background in this is useful. It’s certainly, it’s not just about Can I critique produce a very pretty PowerPoint deck or, you know, a lovely piece of copy? Yeah, sure. That’s also important. But it’s thinking more broadly around the dialogue with a customer. And you know, how a salesperson can drive that. And those are all communications techniques.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Perfect. Yeah, totally agree. I think communication. It’s the sort of triggering point to this change management, isn’t it, just want to move on to a slightly different topic. In terms of sales enablement. As a functional area or a new professional, it’s it’s relatively new in terms of the packaging of all these different attributes together into sales enablement. So where do you think as a focus area? Where should we be going with sales enablement? And the second one, which might be slightly left field is I know, it’s on the back of you know, it’s March, we’ve had International Women’s Day? How do we ensure that we get the right levels of diversity and inclusion in sales? enablement? Because we’re just starting the journey. And we haven’t necessarily got the structure, the barriers, the glass ceilings that you know, sales that’s been going for hundreds of years, or certainly 100 years is going forward. So where we focus on sales enablement? And where do you think we can do more around diversity and inclusion?

Unknown Speaker
Wow,

Unknown Speaker
big question. Well,

Rebecca Bell
I think that diversity one is a challenge in any industry. And, you know, you read some of these things around, you know, just pay gap. And it amazes me that large organizations, large, you know, grown up organizations still have this and that this is a, this is an issue. So it’s not just about, you know, our women or other diverse groups getting the opportunity. It’s also like, when they’ve had the opportunity, are they even recognized and renumerated for it is a huge problem to unpack. I mean, in enablement. I don’t know. I mean, I’m part of the sales enablement society and kind of founded the founded the chapter in the UK, we’ve now got something more than like 300 plus people who say they interesting kind of self identifying as enablement aficionados of one way or another. So there’s a large and growing community. And I’m also on the board of trustees globally for the sales enablement society. And so I kind of getting to see quite a lot of different practicing in both in the UK but also in other other countries and markets. And, you know, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say that diversity is a, particularly the we’re in a particularly bad place as an industry, from what I see that that may be a very broad brushstroke, and Ill informed impression, but from what I see, I, it seems to me that we, we don’t necessarily have always the same problem that I might see in a sales organization, for example, where, you know, particularly in tech, classically, heavily male dominated senior leaders, most likely male, you know, fewer of the other diversity groups kind of represented potentially. So I think maybe we’re doing a little better. Maybe that’s hopeful, I should probably go and check that out with my sales enablement society, global colleagues to see what our impression but I think, you know, the good thing and maybe this comes back to the comment I made earlier around attracting people from different backgrounds. Yeah, um, you know, because there are many roots into this type of a functional role. And as a result of that, you will see people from different backgrounds, and I think that that and with different ideas, so it’s not just diversity of age, or gender or whatever. It can also be around diversity of thought. And I think that’s a really powerful thing about what we do here is that, you know, you’re going to hear from people who’ve got a background in HR or operations or finance or sales, and bringing all those things together is quite a powerful mix. So actually, I think we’re, we’re probably in an OK place. I’m sure there’s room for improvement.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, I think Yeah, kind of maybe From now on, you’re just sort of front of my mind at the moment because what I was doing is I was doing similar ones here. Yeah. Very much broad brushstrokes, but you look across it and you know, sales he sort of said and it said industries you see certain patterns there. Were as well I see is when you sort of people who sort of self Identifying the sales name and do have this rich background. And we do have a level of diversity. Again, I agree that we need to do more always need to do more. But I think that this seems to be a route into sales that has a better a better than average level of diversity. And it’s about thinking about those backgrounds, I think it’s really key just being open. Rather than saying you can only be in sales neighborhood from sales or marketing, you can come from anywhere and bring those experiences strengthens it all. Yeah, where would you see the priorities for sales enablement, as a professional or functional area to carry on this journey and sort of 2021 2022?

Rebecca Bell
Obviously, we’re a really interesting point now, because, you know, whilst we’re still in the pandemic era, and will be no doubt for some time, there are pockets, and hopefully us in the UK, we’re sort of starting to move out of the worst of it now, for now. I’ve had my first job, so I’m very excited. That’s great. But But as enablement people, we’ve obviously had to help us sales organization to transition overnight. I mean, the industry that I serve in healthcare has traditionally been one where salespeople call upon their target customers. So that is a change, therefore, a big change. So the move to kind of digitization has been accelerated hugely. And so that kind of typical sales business model in pharma has changed overnight. And so from an enablement perspective, we need to continue to assist our salespeople to thrive in a virtual or potentially hybrid world. So what does that model look like? So I think there’s an immediate kind of need for folks in sales enablement to consider the role and the practice of the salesperson in this kind of almost post pandemic world. And obviously, that’s going to be different in different markets, according to how far they’ve come across the vaccination program or whatever, you know, like, where are they at. So I think that transition to hybrid sales, engagement is a really important one. Because although I think lots of people are desperate to get back to an in person kind of environment, at the same time, I think their audience, their recipients, their customers, are potentially much more favoring a digital experience and that certainly research that IKEA my employer have been doing recently around healthcare professionals. And it’s like, they actually were quite happy with being targeted virtually. So how do you do that? How do you thrive in a kind of omni channel environment? And so I think, enablement, people need to definitely be engaged in that piece. And how do you help a sales person thrive? Very important, number one. Number two, I feel like we’ve come out of this kind of like, panic mode, you know, everybody in this kind of under demand under pressure environment, I mean, I don’t think I’ve worked harder in my entire career than I have in the last year. And so I think, like the lot of the busy work that kind of pressing demands, the emergency must do this must provide that feeling. It’s been quite intense. And it feels like it’s probably resulted in some cases and a lot of random acts. So what are these kind of random acts of enablement? Which may seem like a good idea, but where do they fit? You know, what are they for? So I feel like, almost like enablement, as with many parts of business probably needs a bit of a risk, set a bit of a deep breath exercise to say, like, where are we are and where, you know, what actually, what is the plan moving forward? And that really goes hand in hand with that kind of transition to this hybrid environment? And then thirdly, I think, I mean, you talked about enablement as a young industry. And I kind of agree, agree and disagree, because there’s people in our environment who’ve been doing enablement for like, 20 plus years. It just wasn’t called that. Yeah, I remember when I was first. I first moved out of when I was working at Cisco’s in comms and strategic planning. And then my SVP said, Hey, do you want to like lead marketing? Yeah, I’ll give it a go. Why not? You know, always the best opportunities come when you just take them off the table. Even even work out what it is when you when you’re in it. Yeah, and I mean, that was that’s so he’s been the fun thing about you know being prepared to be open to different opportunities as part of that i sort of said well what do you think marketing is then because what do you want me to do you know what are your priorities should well a lot of it is enablement and that was huh that was probably

Rebecca Bell
huh 13 years ago so you know i was i’ve been doing it for a long time i just haven’t sort of almost badged it or named it so i feel like i feel like this is something of a kind of coming of age of enablement right now and it’s not just about are there lots of textbooks and podcasts like this one or or content out there it’s also around how we show up as a profession and you know how we demonstrate our impact so for me this year is also personally and i think it’s an organization around demonstrating impact to be able to move the needle and to have that kind of quite grown up view of the impact of what it is that we do and to be able to prove that and and i think that’s really important because you know if you’re in a cost center as we are you know people costing money doing stuff delivering stuff that cost money you know you have to be able to demonstrate the ultimate impact on the sales organization or that or the number and so i think being able to measure what works demonstrate that kind of method and be able to build upon that is super important and not every enablement function is able to do that or focuses on doing that and i think it’s something that’s really important for us to demonstrate our worth and also for the business to know where they should be placing their precious dollars

Unknown Speaker
yeah

Dr. Jeremy Noad
so it’s about sort of showing where the value is being created for for us all and how they sort of this is making an impact to the organization and then downstream to the customer and therefore yeah i think continued investments in as you said cost centers yeah every year the finance guys run through all of that and then say coming for this and that sort of thing i think yeah it’s almost like you know having a budget to carry on it is a level of validation but actually making a stronger case to say this is the value we’re bringing and we could do a little bit more if we’re less sort of worthy i think he called them the random acts of an ailment sort of more focused on is really key okay cool so i think we’ve reached the top of the time so firstly thank you so much for joining really appreciate this if people want to know more about you and your work and i think you mentioned the sales moments society the uk chapter where can they find out more about you

Rebecca Bell
well firstly i’m i’m horribly active on linkedin so and and honestly i just think anybody in this industry who’s not learning and engaging in those types of social media platforms you know you’re missing out on your learning and your ideas because most of what i’m like thinking about right now and getting doesn’t just come from myopically focusing on what i do for a living it comes from engaging with colleagues and peers in the industry that we’re in so linkedin find me there i think my my name is like rebel rbbb e ll which used to be my be my my the best ever email address i ever had it so yeah i know i was i was i was cool once and so find me on linkedin for sure happy to engage with anyone and really want to you know get involved in dialogue and then the sales enablement society free to join right now i think certainly free to join our uk group on linkedin we have a private group so just find that sales enablement society uk i think and i’ll kind of add you in there and we are we get together virtually quite a lot and have a series of sessions coming up over the next few months so we’d be delighted to have a dialogue with anybody who wants to kind of get involved there’s no there’s absolutely no selling involved in this environment it’s just about learning for me and i would honestly say that i’ve learned more around the function and practice of enablement over the last three or four years from being involved in that community than i have in the last 13 years of doing it so you know join in learn in a nice and organized function as we’re all part of that’s how you learn honestly

Dr. Jeremy Noad
perfect so yeah learn together and improve together perfect so my Thanks to Rebecca today and thank you all for listening to the coffee collaboration and enablement podcast. Goodbye.