By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne BlackAaron RossJosiane FeigonMeagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

About our guest: Jim Ninivaggi is senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Brainshark,Inc., a leading sales enablement solutions company. He has three decades of experience studying and driving sales productivity. Prior to Brainshark, Jim founded and led the sales enablement research practice at research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions – publishing hundreds of research briefs, reports and blog posts during his 10 years at the firm, and helping shape and raise awareness for the sales enablement space.

 Listen in now or read below:

 

Matt:  We are surfing from San Francisco. Boy is it a beautiful fall day down here! I am down here for the first stop in the ABM Ignite tour. There is a number of companies that are involved in account based marketing, account-based selling that are putting on a short little roadshow here in the fall starting in San Francisco this week.

If you are listening from Boston or New York you can join us next week and the week following you can join us from Chicago, home of the world champion Chicago Cubs.

Paul:  Boy I never thought anybody would say that in my lifetime here.

Matt:  Well, as a lifelong Cubs fan I alternate Paul between being an optimist and fatalist and there were many moments of oscillation throughout this playoffs as well as in the five hours of that game last night.

Paul:  How about when they call it for the rain tied in the 10th inning here, oh my goodness here!

Matt:  How does suspense get any worse than that then you are a fan; when you blow a three run lead, you are going into extra innings and now there is a rain delay. We could spend the whole show today just talking about that. If my voice breaks it’s because of that game last night staying a little too late celebrating with some friends and then getting on an earlier flight this morning down here for this event. But excited to be here, thanks everyone for joining us here today on Sales Pipeline radio and we are live every week at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern with topics throughout the world of sales and marketing focused on B2B Sales Pipeline growth.

You can find all of our past episodes at www.salespipelineradio.com as well as subscribe to our podcast at Google play and the iTunes Store and we’ve been featuring guests and experts from throughout the sales and marketing world. But we are very, very excited for guest today Jim Ninivaggi who is the senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Brainshark and spent a number of years before that really as sort of the voice… I don’t know Jim, I call you the voice of sales enablement from your time at SiriusDecisions. I don’t know if it’s fair or not but hey, you are the guest of the show, might as well make you sound as impressive as possible. But Jim, thanks very much for joining us today!

Jim:  Hey Matt Heinz, it’s great to be with you and I guess I was one of the voices, let’s say that and congratulations to your cubbies. As a lifelong Red Sox fan I feel your pain and your joy. It’s a great feeling to get that burden off your back so congratulations.

Matt:  Thank you. What’s funny is like you said last night, I’ve had a number of people congratulate me and I did nothing but sit, drink beer and pace back and forth behind my couch last night. So if I did anything to support the team I guess that’s good. But yeah, I think I talked to a lot of Red Sox fans last night, a couple of Indians fans as well and Joe, Joe Pulizzi who at the Content Marketing Institute is a good friend and certainly pulling for his hometown Indians and they will have their day, a couple of young teams last night.

But Jim I know we could talk, we could probably spend a whole half hour just talking about baseball and that would be super fun. But those that are listening in live and those on the podcast probably want to hear we talk at least a little bit about sales enablement.

So I can’t think of anyone better; and you can be as humble as you want but I can’t think of anyone better to talk about sales enablement than you. And I guess I want to sort of start with where did all this come from? Where did this sales enablement evolve from? Did this really just come out of sales operations? And how do we get to where sales enablement is today?

Jim:  Yeah, so… And prior to joining Brainshark, I had the opportunity to actually launch and run the sales enablement practice at SiriusDecisions research and advisory firm; for instance, sales and marketing product. And I will never forget the day that John Neeson and Richard Eldh came to me, the two founders of SiriusDecisions and they said hey, I would like you to run the sales enablement practice. I said fantastic. What sales enablement? Literally, six years ago I really hadn’t heard the term.

So I have been very fortunate in that I’ve had a front row seat to watching the development and evolution of the function and it continues to evolve. I think if you asked 10 different people from 10 different companies to define sales enablement, you are likely to get 10 different answers.

But looking back, six years ago I would say actually it was more a function in marketing and it was focused primarily on Matt, what I call the content problem, right? Companies had thousands of pieces of content marketing creating all this great content, they are sending it to sales and they lose complete visibility; they don’t know what the reps are using, they don’t know what the reps are not using. And on the sales side you had salespeople saying well I can’t find anything when I need it so I just grab what I like and then that’s what I use, right?

So the function involved primarily in marketing to start to solve that content problem and that’s where you saw the rise of the sales content management software players; companies like Highspot, and Savo and iCentera which is now Callidus, Seismic.

Over the years as first the term and “sales enablement” became much more common in organizations, you started to see it begin to evolve into more than just content. I think companies recognized that hey yes, it’s great that our salespeople can find the right content when they need it or better yet, the content is finding them when they need it but a deck is just a deck. It doesn’t become a presentation until you have a really talented salesperson who is able to convey a message that is on target to that buyer.

So you are starting to see the evolution of the function more towards starting to evolve to a broader aspect of training, on boarding and more focused on sales effectiveness.

Matt:  Talking today with Jim Ninivaggi you who is the vice president of strategic partnerships at Brainshark and spent a number of years really helping to sort of evolve and shape the sales enablement space for B2B companies. And you raised the question of who owns this function and I think if sales enablement has any legacy in sales operations, sales operations is typically been, traditionally been a sales function.

What you are describing in terms of more prescient access to content, more of the right content and even providing sort of training coaching capabilities. I mean I could easily argue that that’s the purview of marketing especially if marketers are focused on increasing conversion of their leads and just generally providing more support through deeper into their pipeline.

Are you seeing… I am sure you are seeing people on both sides. Do you have preferences or pros and cons to marketing or sales voting, sales enablement?

Jim:  It depends on the sales organization. What I used to tell my clients when I was at Serious is it really doesn’t matter where it resides as long as it’s clear in its function and it’s clear in how on how you are going to measure success. So I’ve seen it and at Brainshark we recently did a study to see where is the function residing today and I would say it’s split, you see it you know… And the trend is less in marketing frankly moving more into operations, sales operations.

And then where we are seeing it coming out of operations becoming its own function. So you’ve got sales operations, sales enablement both reporting into the chief sales officer. But what’s really important I think I’d when I look at where the function is today regardless of where it reporting into, I am seeing that it is focused in three key areas, the first is well I will call it sales talent optimization. So it’s responsible for hiring of salespeople, on boarding of salespeople, the continuous development, transformational efforts, things like that and really owning the entire lifecycle from recruiting right through to retirement.

The second area is, I will call sales asset management or you can call it sales asset management which is that okay we’ve got to do a better job of helping our salespeople find the right content when they need it so that they can find the buyers when they need it in their buyer’s journey. But assets, I use the term assets because it could be content or it could be using a sales engineer at the right time or using a resource like an executive briefing Center and making sure that that’s all coming to the salesperson at the right time.

And the third area that we are seeing and this is probably in a minority of sales enablement functions but I call it sales communications management and that’s where they are managing all the communication coming from corporate. So you think of large company where the salespeople have to sift through hundreds of emails, that’s a huge productivity train. So the function is basically becoming, I don’t think a filter if you will, managing all the communication coming from corporate which includes emails, which includes product updates so that the reps aren’t getting 18 product updates at the same time; so basically helping to manage the communications so the salespeople are getting what they need when they need it and also making sure that they are getting it in a way that they can digest it.

Matt:  We are talking about sales enablement here on Sales Pipeline Radio today and Jim you mentioned some companies that are getting to a level of maturity with sales enablement carving this out as its own function, I think that makes a ton of sense. I think for people that are listening, if you have been taking notes I would encourage you to go back and sort of put a checkmark next to those different key areas that Jim just talked about. If you are not taking notes go back and listen to it again I think no matter how you organize, organization is a little less important in my mind than function. So addressing those functional areas to help the sales team be more effective, more efficient is really what’s most important.

Before we had to a break here Jim, I want to talk a little bit about the idea of sales productivity as a function of sales enablement; I mean literally helping the rep spend more of their time active in selling. And I know active selling time is something that you put a lot of focus on or just talk a lot about during your time at SiriusDecisions. How important is that as a component of sales enablement and in a couple of minutes we’ve got to take a break here, what are some things people can do to start to put a focus on that in the organization if they are not it already?

Jim:  Yeah, and productivity, they are two levers you can pull to improve productivity. You can make reps more efficient which is all about giving them more active selling time to your point but also making sure that if they are not doing active selling, that they are at least doing high-value activities like their pre-call planning, researching their accounts, doing training and you want to minimize or eliminate low value activities like doing expense reports or having to redo the same proposal over and over again because there is not a more efficient way to do that.

But the second lever is effectiveness and that’s really where enablement needs to focus, they need to own and that’s all about making the salespeople better at those high-value activities, so making them better at understanding what to research, how to research, how to prepare for calls and then making them the best that they can be on every interaction whether that’s email interaction, phone interaction, web conference interaction or a face call that that person has the knowledge, the skills and the key processes to maximize that interaction.

Matt:  All right, well we are going to have to take a quick break here. We are talking today with Jim Ninivaggi who is the senior vice president of sales partnerships at Brainshark. We are going to talk a lot more about sales enablement, talk a little bit about how companies like Brainshark fit into that and lots more when we get back from the break. Thanks very much for listening! This is Sales Pipeline radio.

[Break]

Paul:  Okay, back to Matt and his guest!

Matt:  Yeah, Jim and I were just talking during the break, we are just going to talk about baseball for the rest of the time Paul if that’s all right with you.

Paul:  That’s okay with me, it’s an amazing year I will tell you you’ve got two teams that haven’t been there in 1000 years and either way it was an amazing story.

Matt:  Yeah, it was. Now we are going to talk a little bit more about sales enablement here with Jim Ninivaggi as we come back from break.

I want to encourage you, Jim has been sharing a lot of great ideas, definitely take advantage of the recording of this our show that will be available on www.salespipelineradio.com in just a couple of days and you can always catch every episode on the podcast as it is available every day in real time at Google today and the iTunes Store.

Join us next week as we are alive again next Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. We will have a guest host Paul. You don’t have to listen to me, I will fortunately be predisposed at the inbound conference that’s put on in Boston but we will have Robert Pease who runs our pipeline performance group and he will be talking about lead management, lead scoring; if your company doesn’t necessarily have a lead prop but it has a conversion challenge opportunity, we will be talking a lot about best practice around the lead opportunity, lead conversion.

I want to pick up where we left off Jim on the sales productivity side, a company called Highspot which Brainshark has partnered with, I want to talk about that as well. They did a study earlier this year to try to identify areas where sales reps spend more time than they may be should when they are not selling and the three biggest areas of non-selling time focus are number one – time in CRM. Number two – time creating content and number three – time searching for content.

Now the third one was actually pretty surprising to me but given your time in the field and your time at Brainshark I am sure you see examples of all three of those on a pretty consistent basis.

Jim:  Absolutely! I think the creating content and again, searching for content again goes back to that legacy of why the sales enablement function was created in the first place. But also spending too much time in their CRM, the issue there is that they are spending too much time in what I would call low value activities.

If I am in my CRM system and all I am doing is updating my forecast, I am updating my pipeline and I updating notes but I am not getting any value from that, it’s not helping me sell any better, then that’s a low value activity. You can make it a high-value activity however if you are embedding, and we can do this with Brainshark, you can embed right into Salesforce, the learning that that salesperson might need to prepare for a call.

You can provide them with the guidance on how to do a really effective pre-call plan, something I am always shocked how few companies actually have a structured pre-call planning process. And also within the CRM you can start to gather analytics around content usage both that content that’s being consumed by the salesperson to make them better but also the content that they are activating with buyers to move that buying process along.

And you mentioned our recent partnership with Highspot. We are really excited about that partnership and one of the key reasons is they have terrific analytics that will enable our clients who are using Brainshark and Highspot to essentially get a 360° view of that content both from a – what’s being used, to enable the salesperson and also what content is being used effectively to activate with buyers.

Matt:  We’ve seen again, across the board, the issue of content continues to come up as a stumbling block for a lot of organizations overall. I have seen stats that say as much as 90% of content created for sales goes unused. And so I think a lot of companies are saying well, let’s create 90% less content. I don’t know if that’s the answer because if you start to create the same content for everybody like generic content for all these unique buyers and unique roles and situations in even stages of the buying journey, that common content won’t necessarily work as well. It seems like the challenge here is content discovery, making sure your reps have up process at how to get a that and knowing through that analytics package, which content is working, which isn’t so you can throw out the bad and do more of the good.

Jim:  Absolutely! I always say that if you want to fix the content problem you do, when I was in sales you do what… How they handled content back then, you printed it. I don’t want to give away my age here but I sold the sales training for what used to be Xerox Learning Systems back in the early 90s.

And I was working out of Manhattan office and we had something that was called a Sales Closet and it was a cubbyhole where we got our content. So you go in in the morning, right? And depending on who you are calling on, if I was calling on a financial services company, I’d pull down the case studies from financial services about. If I was calling on a farmer company I would pull down those case studies on the farmer company. I would grab my latest white papers and my product spec sheets and we had maybe 90 pieces of content to choose from and marketing knew what we were using because it was the stuff that we were reordering. So they knew what we were using and what we weren’t using based on the reorders and life was simple back then.

You fast-forward to today, you need a very large sales closet to fit most of what companies are producing today. It’s not uncommon to see organizations that have content libraries in the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands for their sales organizations.

It is about the content but it’s also about making sure and we use that word activate, it’s sort of a fancy buzzword but really to me, to activate means I can take the same presentation and deliver it differently to two different buyers and based on my understanding of their needs, based on the persona or based on the nuances of the personalities that I am talking to I can make that presentation much more impactful as a salesperson because of that and that’s the effectiveness part that makes the activation… That’s where the magic happens, is making that content relevant to that buyer. A deck is just a deck, right? It doesn’t become a real presentation until that salesperson brings it to life for the buyer.

Matt:  Well, it’s more than just that customization of the content, right? I think the format of that content tends to play a role as well. I mean just relate it to… Paul I don’t know if we told you this but I was at the conference a couple of weeks ago and literally was just sitting at a random table for lunch and someone looks across and says your name sounds familiar hey wait, do you have a podcast? And she pulled out her phone and in between the Wall Street Journal, Comcast, and something literally from Howard Schultz at Starbucks was a Sales Pipeline radio on her podcast. She was the CMO of a pretty significant company that was listening to this – so exciting! You know audio, video, multimedia formats can certainly help diversify the approach you take and in some cases reach people that aren’t otherwise going to be reached by other PDS and other collateral.

Jim as we wrap up, we are talking to Jim Ninivaggi from Brainshark, they are doing some amazing stuff on the sales learning and sales training side, you can go check them out at www.brainshark.com; talked a lot about the things that people are focusing on that are related to sales enablement. Where are they not focusing? What are the things that people aren’t looking at enough today that you think especially as we head into the new year sales enablement professionals and those who care about sales enablement on the outcome of the sales enablement should be paying attention to?

Jim:  Yeah, so I think… I certainly saw this as an analyst, I am certainly seeing this at Brainshark as a key use case for using Brainshark. And for those of you not familiar with Brainshark essentially gives you the ability to create very easily, dynamic learning content that you can deliver a variety of ways to your field force.

So the typical use case and folks will look at Brainshark, a lot of times it’s about on boarding, right? That seems to be a hot topic today. I was recently at a sales enablement function out in San Francisco where we had 18 sales enablement leaders, I think 16 of the 18 named on boarding as a key issue. And that’s what he continued to be a key issue.

But I think what organizations really need to start thinking about is post on boarding, that continuous learning that needs to happen. There is all this focus on from day zero to day 180 or 90 or whatever you name your on boarding process. And a couple days ago okay well we are done, you have been on boarded, go forth and be productive. And it doesn’t work that way. It typically takes a salesperson, depending on what they are selling and their tenure, 12 to 24 months to become really productive.

So the thing I think that the sales enablement function and the sales enablement group as a whole needs to focus on is those months between 12 and 36 because that’s where you are going to see a lot of turnover, a salesperson comes into a company, they try it out for a year – they go I am not sure I’m going to make the money I need to make and they move on, right? And if you look at the turn over rates for organizations, typically 12 to 36 months is where you are going to see the highest turnover rate and a lot of that is voluntary turnover; reps saying I am not going to be successful here.

And when you lose a rep in month 18, it’s a huge cost to the organization. The costs that you’ve already invested into that individual, there’s the lost productivity that they can perhaps could have been producing if they had been supported properly. And something companies really don’t think about, it’s the lifetime value. So what could that salesperson have produced if we had been able to keep them? So when I look at going on for the next couple of years, that focus of continuous learning, how do we provide our salespeople with what they need in order to be successful after the on boarding and also what do we need to provide our managers so that they can coach effectively, that’s a key area for sales enablement going forward.

Matt:  Yeah, amen to that. I think that your point about a systematic ongoing means of training and coaching our sales professionals is key. I think it’s not only for retention which is for effectiveness, consistency, predictability of results we need to hear and see I think too many companies just fall into the trap of random acts of training and coaching.

We are out of time! I really want to thank or guest today Jim Ninivaggi who is the senior vice president of partnerships at Brainshark. Definitely check them out at www.brainshark.com, they’ve got a lot of stuff. You can also learn about their partnership with Highspot on the content and analytic side.

Jim I was really hoping that we would see it Cubs/Red Sox World Series this year, it didn’t… We thought that Wrigley Field and Fenway Park would have been a lot of fun but hey, we are only 150 days away from spring-training; not that I am already counting. It’s been 108 years since we won a World Series and am I looking for repeat – why not? Vegas already favors the Cubs so we will continue to talk baseball on Sales Pipeline radio going forward.

If you want to hear more from Jim, you can definitely check out our replay of our show today on www.salespipelineradio.com. You can also check it through the podcast available at Google today and iTunes store and then get a transcript, a shortened version of the Q&A that we had today with Jim on HeinzMarketing.com.

Join us next week Thursday life 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. Robert Pease our pipeline performance practice leader will be talking about lead scoring, lead management. Until next time until our next episode of Sales Pipeline Radio this is Matt Heinz thanks for joining us here at Sales Pipeline Radio!

Paul:  You’ve been riding along on the Sales Pipeline surfing the latest waves and Sales Pipeline development growth with Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing!

 

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Ways to connect with Jim Ninivaggi and learn more about Brainshark:

  • Brainshark, Inc. (www.brainshark.com) – a leading provider of sales enablement solutions for training, coaching and buyer engagement, helping companies close more deals faster.
  • Brainshark Integration Engine – newly announced, this connects all the content, data and applications in organizations’ sales enablement ecosystems.
  • Continual enhancements to Brainshark for Coaching, Brainshark’s award-winning sales coaching solution. Brainshark for Coaching empowers sales managers to coach their teams anytime, anywhere – so reps are prepared to capitalize on every sales interaction.