In an increasingly competitive sales landscape, throwing out the playbook may seem like a bold strategy. But that’s exactly what Scott Santucci, president of the sales enablement consulting firm Growth Enablement, has been advising his clients to do. Commercial systems designed even as late as 2019 are likely full of complex trainings, outdated information, and other sorts of friction that can slow down the actual sales process. Instead, businesses should focus on systematically reducing the obstacles that stand in the way of sales progress to accelerate enablement.
In today’s episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Scott about how he’s viewing the evolution and current state of enablement, and how he’s adapting the traditional customer-centric approach to unlock value at a faster pace for both businesses and their customers. In addition to actionable tips on accelerating the sales enablement process, Scott walks us through combining perspectives from sales, marketing, and product to create a route to value. He also shares his strategies for simplifying metrics to measure commercial health. Lastly, he breaks down the importance of including diverse stakeholders from across the organization in the process of creating a new sales enablement playbook, and his top tips for salespeople just starting out.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to use the sales and marketing efficiency ratio to improve commercial health across an entire organization
- The importance of having multiple perspectives in the room to improve sales enablement
- Ways to identify the right route to value to clarify sales messaging and training
- Tips for aligning organizational economic value with the needs of your customer base
- Actionable strategies to eliminate friction in the sales process
To hear more on this, settle in and press play.
Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Kunal Mehta: It’s my pleasure to introduce Scott Santucci to Growth Hacks. Scott is going to be presenting a bunch of Growth Hacks today. I met Scott when he was a research director at Forrester, where he founded the enablement practice, led research around executive buying, and built frameworks to give people a common language to talk about sales enablement, and sales productivity. After Forrester, he moved into more commercial roles, helping companies transform not only their sales process, but simplify their go-to-market. How awesome it is to have Scott Santucci in our metaverse. Welcome to Growth Hacks.
Scott Santucci: Thank you so much for having me, Kunal, and I just want to plug Growth Hacks. Having been in the research business for so long, the way that you are tackling these issues and being reflective and asking questions about what’s really happening, not what should be happening, it’s just really fantastic. Thank you for having me as a participant on your show, and I’m definitely a listener.
Katja Gagen: That’s awesome. Glad to hear that. Where does this podcast find you today, Scott?
Scott Santucci: I’m in Leesburg, Virginia, suburb of Washington, DC.
Katja Gagen: Scott, you’ve done a lot of research around sales enablement, and our listeners are excited to hear about this. Tell us in a few words, what is sales enablement, how has it evolved and why does it still pique your interest today?
Scott Santucci: To be simple about it, Katja, what is sales enablement? If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 15 different answers. So let me give you sort of two schools of thought. One would be sales enablement is about doing something for salespeople to help drive more revenue or more sales. That could be in the form of training. It could be in the form of leads. It could be a form of content, those kinds of activities.
Another school of thought is that sales enablement is about creating the overall system, including customers. Figuring out sales and marketing and product and making sure that environment is thriving better.
The reason I’m so interested in that bucket, and what makes me so compelled is that the world that we live in today is so interconnected that we have to have different strategies on how we optimize sales and marketing. To me, they’re directly related of looking at the ecosystem or the buying networks that we’re connected with our customers with.
Those are the things that I concentrate on and that’s where my research has always been. It’s that sales and marketing exist in order to drive growth, and we drive growth by making sure we’re always understanding what our customers are looking for, what kinds of problems they have, and also what stands in the way from them getting the value from our products and services.
Kunal Mehta: Scott, you have been an analyst, a practitioner, a consultant. You have talked to thousands of people. You are at the center of enablement. I’d really love to get your meta view on the state of enablement today.
Scott Santucci: I think the state of enablement today is the state of a lot of businesses. This is a adopt or die kind of situation. And I hate to be so bold but let me give you a headline of what I mean by that.
If you are following the practices of before either 2008 or before 2019, you are probably arming or gumming up your commercial system. You are probably producing lots of activities that are overly complex, like a training class or a marketing piece, rather than recognizing how much information salespeople have to synthesize and make it digestible for lots of people inside their customer network.
If you have always been a person who believes you work backwards from customers first, that’s never going to change. What’s different is how interconnected selling activities are today. How fast things move, how many people are involved and how those situations make the old strategies not suitable for 2021 and beyond.
Katja Gagen: That’s interesting Scott. Since you’ve been in the enablement business for some time, what’s an example of things working and where can companies miss the mark?
Scott Santucci: What works is creating things that actually take stuff away. Here’s a perfect example of a really great enablement program. Going in and identifying all of the obstacles that stand in the way, say, to produce a price quote and just systematically eliminating them and replacing it with something simpler. You would think that doing something like that is no big deal, but taking stuff away is not in most people’s muscle memory, so to systematically reduce things that stand in the way of making progress is great success.
Another example of something that’s great success is getting people in the room that have different backgrounds, to collaborate on a shared vision. It might be a picture, a map, a diagram of what the future could look like for customers. Having multiple perspectives involved and the discipline to get it on one sheet of paper means that picture is going to probably be more accessible to more people in those customers.
Those are two examples of things that work. I put them in the bucket of synthesis. Things that don’t work are more detailed training, plotting the Salesforce out, doing another heavy training activity to teach them more and more sales technique.
Kunal Mehta: Got it. Scott, I want to start with something we are both really passionate about, which is the sales and marketing efficiency ratio, or something you refer to as the commercial ratio and how you are using it to measure the health of sales and marketing. Scott, maybe before we get rolling into it, you could just explain what it is.
Scott Santucci: The commercial ratio is a measure of the overall health of a commercial system. That includes the revenue coming from customers, includes the spending that’s done for sales, and the spending that’s done for marketing.
The calculation is pretty straight forward; we got that from you guys. It’s the revenue growth divided by total sales and marketing spend. That gives you a ratio. Which gives you a relative health of how efficient the sales and marketing investments are.
Now that’s the calculation. What is it measuring? It assumes that the money spent for sales and marketing, its purpose is to drive revenue growth. There are situations where you would spend sales and marketing money to retain customers, but that’s what its focal point is.
Kunal Mehta: What was your aha moment when you first learned about it?
Scott Santucci: Having been a consultant for so long, one of the things that has always been challenging is how much data companies track about sales and marketing. One large client, they track over 5,000 different metrics for their sales organization. If you are tracking that amount of data, you are tracking nothing. What I’m a big believer in is, what’s the one metric that we can work backwards from that we want to move the needle from?
When we arrived at that commercial ratio from talking to other people inside your company, to have that one metric. The metric says to me, how do we, as a company work better together? How do we team up and be on the same page to go find more efficient ways to attract customers?
Where it became an aha moment to me is how do we stop the internal bickering to circle the wagons, go outside, and compete in the market and not compete inside our company.
Katja Gagen: That’s really interesting Scott. How do you use that ratio to bring people together or align them around a common goal?
Scott Santucci: That has been interesting. I think step number one is, let’s help everybody get on the same page behind it. Some people will reject it because it is not a ratio that they are familiar with, or it sounds like something that’s coming from finance.
I think step number one is let’s understand what the meaning of it is and step number two is to recognize that there is a sequence of events to get there and that we can get there together. By having a plan of stopping to do things that don’t work and finding ways to invest in things that do work. Having that narrative helps a lot.
I think what’s important though, is making sure you meet all of the different folks that would be involved in teaming together. You’ve got to meet them where they are first and then help them connect the dots, second.
Kunal Mehta: Scott, maybe you could just give us a practical example of how you’ve rolled this out at one of your customers now.
Scott Santucci: Let’s take a business with about $500 million in revenue in the security space, a SaaS company in the security space. Using the commercial ratio, as a way to say, if we want to improve the overall health of sales or profitability, let’s look at how we’re doing today. And using that ratio to say, what would it be if we went from .55 to .60, to .75 to 1.0, and why don’t we ask those questions of what would it look like?
Let’s simulate what that would look like in terms of our financial performance, what it would look like in terms of our organizations and help people envision what that would look like. In doing that process, what’s interesting is people move off the thing that they have to do right now in that moment, and they can start envisioning making incremental change.
Then from there could be doing things differently, and where should we start? Let’s look at your business like a portfolio of different revenue streams, and let’s segment it out differently and look at these different buckets in their own isolation.
What we’re looking to do is optimize or create the most value out of each of these revenue streams, and we want to take out as much friction as possible so that we make it much easier to do work and make sure that people agree with that. Then the next part is, let’s pick one of those things and work on something to tackle.
Katja Gagen: Right. And in the end, it’s all about value creation, right?
Scott Santucci: That’s right. Yes, exactly.
Katja Gagen: In that vein, you talk about the route to value, and how you combine what sales and marketing do to deliver that value. Give me an example.
Scott Santucci: That’s a great question. Let’s pick that same example that we were working backwards from, one of the things that we highlighted. So now that we have these different portfolios of revenue streams, and we have a good understanding about where their friction is. The idea of a route to value is a different way to think about a sales messaging and sales training.
A basic metaphor is to say, let’s recognize that we’re in the value creation business, to your point. What we want to do is help our clients along a journey from where they are today, the bad state, to where they want to get to, an envisioned future state that our company can take them.
We need to figure out what that journey looks like. We call that a value map, that’s where they want to get to. Now what the route to value is, is to say, let’s figure out what the change agent and the executive sponsor need to do to buy into that picture, and then help guide them through the decisions, the predictable decisions that they’re going to need to make through that journey.
It’s like plotting out a movie, in that there are predictable scenes that you can work backwards from. Then once you have that, you can determine, do we want our salespeople to be security subject matter experts? Or do we want them to be decision-making brokers, decision-making champions?
If you make them decision-making champions, things become a lot easier. You give them less materials; you can define very specific scenes. For marketing it’s capturing stories that match to each one of those scenes that you already have and organize that information to help salespeople.
A route to value is writing a future movie of where you want to take your customers. You are casting your clients as the heroes. Therefore, you are also casting your salespeople as the guides and then marketing is there to equip the salespeople with the tools that they need to help the clients, to navigate all of those different variables that they’re going to run into inside their organizations.
Katja Gagen: I like that. Scott, I’m getting my popcorn ready here for the movie roll out. After you’ve brought everyone in the company into this value creation, how do you make sure the economic value is aligned with what the customer wants?
Scott Santucci: The process of building a value map is very challenging. There’s a technique that we like to call model map match. The model part is, let’s model our customer’s world, what we’re looking at, isn’t interviewing customers about what products they want. That’s way too late in the game.
What we want to do is figure out what challenges do individual companies have that meet certain patterns. Let’s find out what’s the profile of the human that’s most likely to drive that forward. We call that person a change agent.
What do they look like? What’s their profile? You know that that person isn’t going to be successful unless they have an executive sponsor. If we understand what problems exist and we understand who these types of people are then the next thing that we can figure out is how do we build the information that they need to figure out why they need to change in the first place? And why now?
If you don’t have those things figured out, we put the burden on salespeople to figure it out and that’s really hard to do. When you have that information then Katja, it becomes pretty simple to figure out whether your value proposition matches those predictable conditions.
And then you have a scorecard and then you keep the validation from it by how well it’s testing in the field and how well it’s resonating. But you can always tweak it by bringing customers in to talk and react to it so there’s always ways to keep it fresh.
I think the challenge is just having the discipline to build it outside-in from the get-go.
Katja Gagen: I love that, Scott. Thank you. As always, we will finish our podcast with some rapid-fire questions. First one, what’s your go-to book?
Scott Santucci: I wish I had one go-to book. There are three books that I’ve read, and I keep reading over and over and over again. One is The Chaos Imperative, which is about embracing disruption and turning it into innovation. Another one is Antifragile, which is about turning disorder into a strategy. The third one is Switch, which is about how change actually happens and how you have to plot it out. You know how you can manufacture it and create an environment for change, rather than putting on the backs of individual people.
Kunal Mehta: Hey, Scott, what’s your biggest pet peeve?
Scott Santucci: My biggest pet peeve is for people who say salespeople should do X, Y, and Z, and they haven’t done it themselves.
Katja Gagen: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in sales.
Scott Santucci: Be curious. It’s not about you. It’s about the customer. Find out everything there is to know. What they think, find ways to be relatable with them. That’s the easiest path to being successful.
Katja Gagen: What was one thing you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
Scott Santucci: What I learned about myself during the pandemic is that going back to your roots of what you know and finding ways to challenge certain questions. So, doubling down on being more curious, what I did is kind of threw out my old playbook, I just threw it out and I decided I need to build one from scratch. I’m so grateful I did because a lot of the things in my old playbook just won’t work today, and I don’t think it’s coming back to where it was before.
Katja Gagen: Well, thanks for being with us today, Scott.
Scott Santucci: Thank you.
Katja Gagen: Thanks for listening to Growth Hacks. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. To learn more about us and TCV’s CEO and founder podcast, go to TCV.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.