Monthly Archives: August 2018


Can I get fries with that? Avoid getting underserved by sales enablement.

If your company is already on a massive growth curve, this week’s blog isn’t for you. Yet.

I want to talk with the folks who are either struggling to grow and/or have plateaued and can’t seem to get past their current state.

And I’m not just talking to sales people here. These principles apply across industries and functions. They apply to both enterprise and start-up. And if you are still reading this, they apply to you.

My simple definition of sales enablement is getting the right people into the right conversations in the right way.

(Note: If you are not in sales, change “conversations” to “interactions” and keep reading.)

That’s actually a pretty loaded statement. Unfortunately, most organizations reduce what is involved in making this happen to the point of oversimplification.

Take onboarding for example.

Most organizations treat onboarding as an event that is akin to sheep dipping – grab someone new, push them through some training, and let them loose with the rest of the flock.

But if you’re stuck as an organization – and revenue is not growing – “fixing” onboarding is not your answer. At least, not all of it.

You probably need to evaluate your recruiting, and your sales methodology, and – most importantly – your clarity.

In other words:

  • If your recruiting strategy is not completely aligned to your onboarding, your recruiting efforts are experimental at best.
  • If your sales methodology is not relevant to your customers, you are wasting your time teaching it.
  • If you don’t have clear definitions of your goals and roles (both the customers AND your sellers), no training experience is going to fix it.
  • If your profiles, methods, and clarity are broken, what is the value of the onboarding experience?

It’s all interconnected. The only way you can ignore this truth is when your innovation is selling itself. You can afford to be sloppy.

But when your innovation is not as fresh as it used to be or when the competition is as close to – if not better than – your value, well…

It’s kind of like ordering the lunch special and only getting a burger. No side. No drink. Not even a glass of water. You’re getting underserved.

And the same principle applies to more than onboarding.

It applies to process improvements.

It applies to content development.

It applies to cross-functional alignment.

There are more bits involved than most people realize.

Great enablement looks at how all the bits work together. In sales enablement, it’s especially focused on Sales and Marketing, but also HR, Ops, and Finance. Frankly, anyone who impacts revenue and margin can be drawn into the discussion.

Here is the twist – doing this can be very complicated. Especially when no single person is actually in charge of the enablement.

You can certainly expect to get all of leadership on the same page and working together as a high-performing team. That truly happens. Some times.

More often, silos develop and functional leaders push their functional agenda over others, leaving the CEO to jump in and play referee for a function that could be set up on its own.

And when the CEO turns his/her back in these situations? Burgers all over the place. Of different qualities, quantities, and kinds.

Make YOUR story different.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

David vs. Goliath: How to beat the giants in your market

You know what’s really hard? Being the “little guy.”

And what I mean by “little guy” is being the smaller/newer/outsider competitor in the marketplace.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I left a global brand and went out on my own. Where I once had instant credibility with the famous logo on my business card, I now got blank stares. And silence.

If you are working for a smaller company, you very likely know how this feels. For some of you reading this, the giants can beat on you pretty hard. And make you feel totally ignored.

But, as the story of David and Goliath tells us, you can change the battle. Giants don’t always win.

So, this week, I want to give you three of my favorite ways to beat the giants in your market. In fact, I actually look forward to fighting against giants (cough, cough – McKinsey, Accenture, Deloitte) because these tips consistently work so well.

First, exploit their weaknesses. Every giant has at least one.

You will have to do your homework, but trust me when I say that the gaps exist. The key is to know everything that your customer is expecting. In other words, what will your customers complain about if their expectations don’t get met?

For example, the giants you compete against may be able to offer a lower rice, but their quality suffers. Or perhaps they have pricing models that are complex and difficult to understand. Or maybe their initial speed gets over-run by inefficiencies and require constant restarts.

But it will only matter if THIS customer on THIS deal wants it. You cannot rely on exploiting the same weaknesses over and over again. Giants figure out their weaknesses and address them. And because they are giants, this usually creates a weakness somewhere else (for example, their efficiency just went up – and so did their pricing). Stay on top of their weaknesses and never stop adapting to them.

Second, leverage your successes with the same clients the big companies have.

Big companies love to tout their big customers. Walking through the airport, I see all of their stories plastered on posters and billboards. What they don’t show are the numerous small customers that they have as well.

The chances are you also have some good clients to talk about. The key is to not simply display customer logos. Instead, talk about that customer’s challenge in a way that will resonate with everyone else. In other words, put your emphasis on the problem you helped solve and then drop the big logo as a side thought to reinforce your credibility. Make your message less about the big customer and more about the big problem – and how it got solved.

Third, execute really well.

Of all the things that you can do, this is arguably the most important. Why? Because it anchors EVERYTHING you do as a company.

Innovation will only get you so far. Your ability to execute is what will take you to the next level.

Big companies might have great innovation, killer marketing, and tons of money. But they struggle to execute. If you have ever worked with one of these companies, you know that they often get mired in bureaucracy, politics, and old-fashioned confusion.

However, when you ask your customers what matters most to them, they will likely care most about execution. Go back to thinking of all the things that customers complain about. How often did they say the innovation wasn’t good enough, the marketing was weak, or the supplier had too much money? Those complaints are minuscule compared to the complaints that we often hear:

  • They were late
  • They weren’t worth what we paid
  • They couldn’t address simple issues
  • They didn’t respond to my requests/questions/problems

I fully believe that if you can do this, you will be seen as an equal at the table your customers set for all of the big companies. In fact, you will be invited to that table every time.

So, which of these can you do now? If you were going to make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort, which of these tips would work for you first? Pick that option. And build up to being able to do all three.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Sales onboarding mistake #2: Ignoring how people actually learn

Last week, I talked about the most common mistake we see in the design for sales onboarding: emphasizing product over customer.

This week, I’m going to talk about why it takes so long to get ramped up after onboarding finishes.

According to CSO Insights, did you know that 40% of all sales people take 7-12 months to ramp up? And another 20% take OVER A YEAR to get up and running? Combined, that’s almost two thirds of all sales new hires. If you are trying to grow your business now, you can’t afford to wait that long.

Now, let’s be honest. Part of this is due to simply bad hiring. Some folks get hired into a sales role that they don’t fit and/or the hiring profile being used is broken.

But there’s an equal – and possibly worse – problem here.

What is that problem? The onboarding actually doesn’t help people sell. The onboarding experience is causing their learning curve to slow down.

Which brings us back to the opening topic – how can we increase the speed to productivity of sales onboarding?

Assuming that we’ve already tackled any over-emphasis on product (seriously, do this first), the next logical step is to change the objectives for onboarding from “make sure reps can hit plan” to “make sure reps can master their sales conversations.” In other words, shift the design and flow of the onboarding experience from teaching everything a rep needs to know in separate chunks of information (e.g. product knowledge, followed by selling skills, followed by selling tools, and so forth) into teaching ONLY what they need to do to successfully have sales conversations – from the most basic conversation up (opening a sales call) to more advanced conversations (handling objections or negotiating a close).

At no point in the onboarding experience does anything get lost from week to week because the information/skill is consistently reinforced, repeated, and built upon every week.

Now, are you skeptical of this approach? Let me offer you one simple test: how did you last learn how to do something new?

Since we can’t discuss your example in person now, let’s use a hypothetical – learning how to cook lasagna. You either:

  • Studied everything in separate chunks. You learned how flavor works first, followed by learning about ingredients, followed by how to use a stove/knives/spatulas/pans, then the actual techniques required to make the recipe from beginning to end.
  • Or blended studying with sequenced action – possibly using a video that explained/demonstrated everything so that you could pause/rewind/watch again until you were ready to go to the next step.  You learned only enough information to enable just the next step, but it was all kinds of information blended together for just that step (from ingredients to tools to techniques). The next step in cooking took the same approach, and so forth, until a lasagna was made and ready to serve.

Which method did you choose?

More importantly, which method are you using on your sales people?

If you liked our approach to onboarding, you have two things that you can do.

  • First, join the discussion and share your perspective. Comment below (and share/like this blog). We love engaging in a great conversation.
  • Second, be on the lookout for registration details for our webinar on How to Build World-Class Sales Onboarding with a panel of true experts on Thursday, September 6th, 2018. Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more…

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai