Marne Chen (Le Roux) shares what it’s like to run Enablement in Africa

Marne Chen, Sales Enablement Lead for Africa at SAP, joined Regional Host Dave Nel to explore how she balances Enablement across more than 50 countries on the African continent.

To create a baseline of sales skills, with local competencies added to best support each market:

1️⃣SAP deploys Essentials Sales Learning globally through the four quarters of the year. This training is mandatory for all sellers in the company.

The goal? Upon completion of those modules, the sellers can speak to the strategy with one voice.

Regional and local leads are then responsible for ensuring their teams complete this training.

2️⃣Regionally, monthly meetings are held to discuss different aspects of Enablement, from onboarding through leadership training.

3️⃣Locally, every seller has a sales skills assessment test, which is combined with a manager-delivered assessment. This evaluation results in the creation of workshops and training to close the remaining skill set.

With this approach, every seller reaches a standard baseline and a localized set of skills to maximize their region’s value.

There is so much value in this conversation.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Dave Nel
Africa on a beautiful sunny afternoon and we have my dear friend Marnie, all the way from Johannesburg. What are you in Pretoria? At the moment? I’m not sure what part of Joburg thank you for joining us absolute pleasure to have you on the on the channel. And I’m going to jump right in and and hand over to you. I know you put the dogs away and things are quiet in the background. But it should be. It should be, if you don’t mind. And just giving us a little bit of an overview of who is this wonderful sales enablement person on the call with us today.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Right. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me, Dave. So I can proudly say that I work for SAP, and it’s a multinational software company, not the police, like many people have asked me. And so I joined in 2013 as an executive assistant. And then I moved into the sales enablement role in 2017. looking after our preferred pastor, and from all the companies that I’ve worked for, and from what I hear from friends, family and colleagues, ASAP is is honestly one of the companies who invest a lot of time, resources and money into to the employees as growth and development. In fact, they encouraged it strongly. And of course, sales enablement falls under this. And that is where I put in.

Unknown Speaker
Fantastic.

Dave Nel
We’re looking forward to learning from you today. And for those of you who don’t know, that South African police force in South Africa is abbreviated ASAP. So that’s why we are referring to that. So Monday, I guess, you know, this channel is focused all around enablement across across Africa. And when we early earlier we spoke and you just said it. Now again, you’ve got some unique experiences there as the head of sales enablement for a whole continent that falls, I guess, as part of a global organization. Sounds like a massive task to keep the balance, and then the focus around regional versus global. Do you have any tips or any stories to share what what’s happened in that space?

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Yes, so so so as a multinational, they’ll always be the sap global strategy, which then trickles down to all the customers worldwide. And every year that’s these what we call essential sales learning these sales enablement modules, which are mandatory, and they get rolled out globally throughout the quarters throughout the four different quarters. These modules are typically online training focuses on the broader aspect of the of the sap strategy and the message. And upon completion of these modules, for sales, people should then be equipped to convey the strategy and message to the market with one voice. And these are non negotiable. And all sales enablement spots globally, need to push the sales teams to get these completed within different due dates as they get rolled out. And so bringing it a little bit closer to home, we have monthly sales learning council meetings, where a broader team that includes him yourself in your north and any he we meet to discuss different aspects of enablement. So and that includes our global onboarding program, essential learning, leadership training, and so forth. So that’s regionally. And then when it comes to localizing the enablement offerings in Africa in the cluster, I do two things to identify the sales enablement needs. At the beginning of the year, every single person salesperson does a sales skills assessment, where they do an assessment of the sales skills, as well as the manager who does an assessment on Bain. And then from these results, we often get some some sales skills apps that are as my five and I will then prioritize the enablement plan to focus on on workshops that will will bridge these gaps. And then at the end of every year, I reach out to all the different sales managers across Africa. And I, I discussed with them what they would want to see in the upcoming year. And these these often correlate with the state sales skills gaps that were identified, and then more gaps that they that they pick up throughout the year within the teams. And so they will let me know what they need this day teams to be upskilled on

Dave Nel
and I mean, that’s that’s such a, I guess an important thing is having that that alignment to the business strategy for you. It’s alignment to a global business strategy, and making sure that that everybody has got that can i Call it bare minimum a foundational piece of cross

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
across 1880.

Dave Nel
Yeah, sounds like what you’re also doing, if I, if I’m hearing correctly is this still a little bit about creating your own identity as African sales enablement inside of this, this global global company? To give your guys a little bit of, I guess, autonomy and and not to lose the link? So are there any things that you’re doing? I know, you said you do some surveys and some research, but to really create that identity for your own part of the globe that you work in?

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Yes, so so so we have many global virtual live sales workshops, that that are completely voluntary. And that I promote throughout the year, I’ve seen our managers push it to the teams, if they if they feel that they need it. And and So apart from the earlier mentioned, essential sales learning, we honestly have free rein on what we deliver in the cluster. And but of course, I’ll always try and stick to the general SAP focus for the year. And tying it in to the specific requests I’ve received from our sales managers and leaders. And I often work with HR, if they have identified any any skills that they need our and often it leads into more into more than just sales. Our B cells are industry value engineers. And what I often do is brief the facilitators because they are they are international, they are from the Netherlands, from the US from Germany, UK all over. So I briefed them on any challenges you might be facing within a local master. And they slightly then adjust the the content and how they deliver that content to be more suitable to our pasta.

Dave Nel
I get such a strong sense that that link, right between, again, what the cluster needs, and then these these facilitators who descend on a on a region to facilitate and how important it is for the sales enablement head or practitioner to create those those links. Because otherwise the learning is

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
absolutely because I can honestly tell you that that what works in the Americas might not work yet. And so I always always, always have a have a brief call with with the facilitators just to just to make sure that the politics within the African cluster, and the politics within the sap Africa cluster. And so they’re just up to speed.

Dave Nel
I always call it I was content with, with a little bit of understanding with a little bit of context. So you’ve got to have content, that’s fine. But if you don’t have the content, it’s going to have that standalone whetstone. And I feel now you’re being very modest because they are over 50 countries in Africa. So I mean, not only do you have to take this whole global piece and make it relevant to your African cluster. Now, you’ve also got your individual 50 countries that that you working with. So how do you even balance that? Because that sounds like another layer inside of your your portfolio?

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Yeah, so so so I’m lucky that we don’t have offices in all of those 50 countries. We’ve got offices in southern Africa, lusophone, West and East Africa. And so so so typically, Western Africa have the same type of cultures and and you know, and so forth. And so I have learned through trial and error that some of the International vendors previously mentioned, who are recommended by our broader sales enablement team, and that they mess it up delivering a certain message wouldn’t necessarily be taken too kindly. In some of our regions. For example, in in 2019, I ran a workshop, where we’re a very progressive way of selling was being discussed and taught. And I wrote some I always set in my workshops, I heard some comments from from some of my Nigerian sales, eight years, this will never work in Nigeria, the customers will think it’s disrespectful. And so if I had to run this particular workshop again, in the future, I would recommend that our waste picker colleagues, do not attend that workshop. And so on every workshop also, that run I send a survey, everyone who attended, ask you for honest feedback, and through this often gain a bit of insight of what works and what doesn’t work in different regions.

Dave Nel
And I’ve picked up three things there that you’ve said which are so useful. The first one is a salesman element practitioner needs to really do a deep dive into your facilitators, your partners, make sure that you know them well and fit for purpose, right? Even if they can give good context to the content, you still have to match the personalities to the regions that that you’re working on.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Absolutely. Dave. And like I said, through trial and error, I learned this. And so so so I have I have, I have many vendors that I use, annually. I know how they run their workshops, I know that they have context about all our continent. But it’s always a bit daunting when I have a new vendor, and I’m not sure how they deliver their workshops. So yeah, yeah, it’s challenging.

Dave Nel
And and the other two things that you had said was, which is, again, useful is you sit in, in all of our most of your wanting to learn learning that happened, you know, you don’t outsource.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Absolutely.

Dave Nel
Yes, key. And then that feedback, you know, I think often we forget to get the feedback. But again, creating a, I guess, a system that people feel comfortable giving honest feedback in spider, modern, yeah, spot on,

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
I always, I always explained to my 80s that, that I asked for honest feedback. Because if, if you if they didn’t find any use, and in in the workshop that I attended, I won’t run it again, I don’t want to waste this IPS money. And I don’t want to waste the time in running workshops that they got no value out of. But I really do. And we have had amazing feedback from our 80s on how some of these suggestions on how the, the facilitators can can tailor some of the workshops to to benefit our, our Africa cluster, which is which is always great than just a thumbs up, or no, I didn’t like it, or Yes, I liked it. So they really give constructive feedback.

Dave Nel
Again, you know, we said content with context, it sounds like feedback with context is also useful, not just a thumbs up, thumbs down one out of 10. That doesn’t tell you anything, and doesn’t help you to repeat

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
a key.

Dave Nel
So So you’ve said, you know, you’ve you’ve had a couple of lessons by trial and error was the words that you use you your experience sales and Eggman predicted practitioner looks after a whole continent with a one or two things that they should share with as a man, I wish I knew this when I started, that there may be other guys are getting into similar roles don’t have to go through the trial and error part.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Yeah, absolutely. So so as mentioned above, when I started this role, I really wish I had a little bit more knowledge and understanding of the different cultures and sense of humor within the within the cluster. Because I’ve seen that that makes a massive difference. And the South African human how our customers might take something is very, very different to how many of our other countries might take it. So I wish I had the foresight to do a little bit more of homework before I started this, but like I said, with trial and error, I learned these things. But I would suggest that if you’re new in this role, and you starting out, do a little bit of research on the different cultures, within within your your cluster or your market unit or wherever you’re going to run workshops. And then I’ve learned that timing is everything. And during certain periods of the year, I simply leave the sales team alone. And I don’t add extra pressure with bombarding them with training, for example, the last two weeks of every quarter. During this time, in particular, the main focus is to close deals, even targets. So I I I take a little vacation, and I just I work on some admin things. And then as a whole day, I’ve learned that enablement is definitely not at the top of the priority list of any salesperson. They are there to sell, to make sure that their customers are happy, and as a result, make more money. And so I have really tried my best to to offer training that they need. And that makes sense for them to attend training that will address any of the sales skills gaps that might have good soft skills, product and solution or industry skills gaps, and which nations then helps them to sell better, as well as give them the opportunity to grow personally and professionally within the organization.

Dave Nel
Isn’t that it right at the end of the day. Why are we all here? We’re here to help people reach those targets make more money, but you just snuck something in there and also to grow Personally, you know, it’s not just about work, work work all the time. So there’s that other sides of the side of it.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Absolutely. Dave, I, I ran a workshop in 2020. Actually, the first one was 2019. And then I put our leadership team on the same workshop last year, and I’m running with the same company again. And it is very much. And because I sit as an observer, I personally grew from attaining that that workshop, so So for me, it’s not just about work, work, work, but also personal growth.

Dave Nel
Absolutely. And I want to volunteer you or ask you, maybe I should ask, before I volunteer, I want to ask, you know, any people who are coming into Africa, and are going to work in those regions that that you mentioned, I’m sure they can go and explore and find out about the cultures. But you know, you’ve been through it. So I’m assuming if anyone wants to reach out and say, Hey, I’m thinking about working in West Africa. And I’d love your opinion of like the sense of humor and what works and what doesn’t work. I’m assuming we can draw on you as one of our experts in that. Absolutely. I’m

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
more than happy to do that as

Dave Nel
well. You know, you know, this is an African channel, we’ve spoken so much about Africa and the different parts, is there any unique challenges that you see for enablement, in Africa, or in South Africa, even if you want to go go smaller?

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Dave, yes, as Africa is a third world continent, and we’re a tad behind a lot of our other clusters, in terms of the rapid pace of where technology is going. And so trying to convince customers to move their business to the cloud, at ease, and specifically, our public sector agencies may have had some challenges in trying to explain and or convince our customers what the benefits are, and that it’s safe to do so. So with this, we really have to focus on making sure our agencies understand what exactly it means for a customer to move a business to the cloud, the benefits there, the regulations, and like GDPR, because we’re a multinational company, and we need to think of GDPR and the bx well as being able to convey these messages and benefits of moving to the cloud, to the customers. So So that’s, that’s truly an SI P is taking an aggressive move, we’re a little bit behind, but we’re taking an aggressive move, and do to go to the cloud. And so I really, really want to want to want to upskill and make sure that our 80s speak it as one voice to the market. And they can they understand and can explain the benefits and and explain to the customers that it’s safe to do. So a good data is safe in the cloud.

Dave Nel
Yeah, telling telling people across Africa that that’s something that disappears, ads over here safe is is certainly a challenge. And what a lovely example of how enablement needs to be very, very close to what’s happening in the end clients world, because if you know that, then you know what kind of learning what kind of content to put in front of your sales people to help them make sense for clients. So otherwise, exactly. It’s just standard standard training at the end. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker
exactly.

Dave Nel
It has been amazing to speak to today. But I want to take just two, three minutes and let you brag, you’re part of a huge organization. I know you’ve got many, many people that you work with, is there something that you’re just incredibly proud of that you guys have done over the last few years that you would love to get a shout out to? And tell us a little bit about it? Obviously, not sharing any confidential company stuff, but you know, if there’s anything that pops to mind,

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
yeah, so last year, the the Africa customer was the first out of the whole of India south to complete all our essential learning modules. Now these are the essential those those mandatory ones trickle trickling down from global. And within the due dates, quarter after quarter. Africa was the first cluster to complete. And we previously struggled to get even 100% completion of these modules at the end of the year, and and so this, as well as the leadership training that we run, was also a KPI amongst many others. In the cluster of the year competition, sa p runs a cluster of a year. And Africa ended up winning that within yourself, and so that my persistent nagging via through emails, calls one on one meetings with the 80s and what is the relationships that I’ve built over the years with ourselves? Teams contributed to this and made a difference. So yes, it was it was amazing at the at the beginning of the year, when we had our customer success summit that we were announced as the class of the year, four years.

Unknown Speaker
Congratulations.

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
It really boosts the confidence and the and the lifts the spirit within an organization. Yeah,

Dave Nel
yeah. I mean, you, you’ve said two things there. One is how important recognition is in in a region, when things are going well, when people have done the things that you’ve asked them to do it boosts those those spirits. And then the other thing that you said was, well, I was gonna ask you, like, how did you get them to actually go and do all of this? Because, okay, he said, I nagged, I emailed, but it’s that I built relationships. You know, sales enablement, is not an island on its own, you’ve got to get it, you got to get your hands dirty, build relationships with the leaders, and really, you know, get them as part of your team or become part of their team, should I share the same

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
Dave, that’s such a good point that you raised. It’s so so so my first thing that I did is I worked with the with the with this person sales managers, because I need the backing. In essence, they have all of the respective teams that they manage. And if they, if they complete the essential learning, and they teams see this, you need to lead by example. So if your team sees Oh, my manager has completed it, let me get on this I don’t want to be the last one to compete with my team. So so I really I work with the with the sales managers very closely to get the backing to also motivate the they team members to do it in a timely manner. Because it’s one thing to say oh, you know, just do it. But we also needed done by a specific date.

Dave Nel
But I thank you so much for for joining us today. I’ve definitely learned a lot and I think we we have to have you back we have to have you back when you get the the prize again next year,

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
as the as the GT and are pushing on gunning for that I’m running for cluster the year again, I’m telling you that now,

Dave Nel
when I’ve got all the other regions around the world gunning to pass us that’s gonna be

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
harder to stay on top right.

Unknown Speaker
But I’m gonna try.

Dave Nel
And yeah, and I want I would also love to have you back once you guys have started to see some of the impact of that upskill means you’re doing with your your AAS around blinking that that question mark around cloud and moving to cloud and making clients feel safe. I think that’s going to be be an interesting challenge to hear about. And

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
yeah, I think I think another thing we could talk about is how COVID impacted enablement because we were used to classroom training, and now to keep 20 odd people on a call for two days straight. So maybe next time I can give some some some some tips and tricks on that

Dave Nel
to be lovely. Thank you very much and we will definitely have you back again soon. Thanks, Dave. Have

Marne Chen (Le Roux)
a lovely evening.

Unknown Speaker
This