If you want to increase sales and marketing capacity without defaulting to adding headcount, sales enablement is where you should focus. As your startup begins to scale, you’ll feel the pinch if you haven’t given a thought to enablement, but you’ll thrive if you have.
We asked Tom Karemacher, VP of APAC at Procore Technologies and former VP of Commercial Sales at Salesforce, to talk us through the tools and processes, when to hire for sales enablement and sales methodologies for enabling revenue functions to prosper from day one.
Sales enablement tools and processes
To get started, you need effective tools and processes to support sales enablement as your startup grows. Tom breaks these down into 3 buckets: Collateral, Training and Systems.
Good Fit Account definition
Firstly, you need a “Good Fit Account” definition. When marketing, business development and sales aren’t aligned on what’s a good account fit, you’ll see inconsistencies in the pipeline, resulting in friction between functions, wasted opportunities and no deals closing.
“There’s never a shortage of opportunities. But with the limited resources you have, you want to know what are the good fit accounts, and where you can win those battles,” says Tom. “Provide collateral to the team early on that outlines a clear qualification criteria of what is a good fit account.”
Discovery questions go hand-in-hand with your qualification criteria. To help team members new to your product or industry, have a basic list of discovery questions that captures the 101 information and allows them to assess whether this is a good fit opportunity.
Best practice for forecasting and pipeline management starts with clearly defined sales stages. This will help you assess how the pipeline is developing and maturing and give everyone an objective criteria of where they should place deals based on where they’re at in the sale cycle.
First call pitch deck
Give your new hires and team a first call pitch deck that is the 101 of what you do so they have the confidence to go out to market and start to present to prospects.
“If they have to make it up themselves, your messaging can be hit and miss in those early days,” warns Tom.
Customer reference slide & stories
Customers are your greatest selling asset and provide instant credibility. “The better your team can tell your customer story, the faster you get in the door, particularly when that customer story resonates with who you’re speaking to,” says Tom.
Once you have a couple of customer wins, turn those into case studies that your team can reference when talking to prospects.
In Tom’s experience, the best salespeople have a high level of business acumen and are comfortable talking about financial metrics, business impact and how it will deliver ROI. But he’s aware the majority aren’t comfortable there.
Creating an ROI document (or an ROI calculator to take it to the next level!) enables your salespeople to calculate basic return on investment scenarios to explain how your product or solutions benefit the customer’s business.
Most early-stage startups don’t have the luxury of solution engineers that can present to customers alongside sales teams. If you’re relying on your sales team to demonstrate your solution, giving them a 101 document on what the demo flow should be will get them off to a fast start.
When it comes to training, Tom believes the sooner you can get a learning management system in place that delivers online training, the better. You can then upload recorded sessions and best practice to onboard new hires and scale training across the team over time.
Tom is also a proponent of stand and deliver training to ensure new hires are customer-ready, on message and know how to handle objections.
You’ll rarely find an enablement resource that’s also strong in sales, which is why the Sales Manager is the best person to deliver sales training. A great Sales Manager is constantly pushing hard and stretched for time, so leaders need to make time for managers to run training sessions and drive accountability around the frequency by giving them a KPI on this per quarter.
Industry, product and value training will be ongoing exercises:
- Industry training: depending on how unique your industry is and how easy it is to hire people with industry experience will determine how much time you need to spend on it.
- Product training: you can’t rely on just your technical team to be enabled in product. As Tom said, “Everyone’s been sold to by a salesperson who has no idea what the product does – and it’s not a great experience. If a salesperson has credible product knowledge, it will make a big difference to your close rates.”
- Value training: incorporating value training into your business helps your team start to speak the customer's language. You can narrow this down to the top three business drivers as to why customers buy from you and get the sales team to understand and articulate that in the customer’s language.
There are endless options for systems, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out your tech stack. To keep it lean, Tom’s top choices are:
- Chorus: for recording top performers and sharing the best examples of what a customer meeting should look like.
- MindTickle: is a learning management system where people can self-learn and watch recordings.
- Highspot: most advanced sales enablement tools and software
- Pricing calculator: this can be built in Excel/Google Sheets or a more advanced webpage.
- Salesforce: as a CRM and pipeline management solution.
Hiring for sales enablement
For early-stage startups looking to hire someone specifically for sales enablement, Tom shares that the best place to start is with a Solutions Engineer.
“Solutions Engineers are usually the most credible resource in the room when selling. They naturally apply attention to detail, and they’re a safe pair of hands to rely on to enable the team on what your product or service does,” says Tom.
As you scale, give your Solutions Engineer a KPI of spending 25% of their time enabling the sales or marketing team, depending on your go-to-market strategy.
When thinking about the ideal hiring profile for an enablement resource, Tom looks for the following:
- A strong facilitator
- Great people skills
- Passion for coaching
- High level of drive
- Can deliver the 101 training
An enablement resource doesn’t have to be someone’s full-time role from day one. If you have someone in a revenue or operations role, you can make enablement part of their responsibilities. As enablement starts to become 50-75% of their role, this is typically the inflection point where you can assess whether a full-time headcount is required.
Many startups hire enablement resources once they’ve hit the growth curve and then it’s too late – get someone in before you start experiencing rapid growth to set up processes that will scale. It will make the ride a lot smoother!
If you’re trying to figure out which sales methodology is right for your startup, Tom says the key thing to consider is what area of the market you’re targeting – are you going after SMBs, mid-market or enterprise?
Here are the pros and cons of 4 methodologies and the segments they are well aligned with:
The Sandler Selling System emphasises qualifying accounts by asking the right questions rather than focusing on closing and pushing a product on someone who doesn’t need it.
👍 Good for: Emerging and mid-market teams with lots of pipeline
✅ Pros: Prescriptive list of questions and training on how to ask those questions
❌ Cons: Aggressive qualification criteria
The MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, and Champion) sales qualification process helps you identify and qualify prospects.
👍 Good for: Mid-market and enterprise deals
✅ Pros: Easy to apply
❌ Cons: Tracking and documenting changes
TAS (Target Account Selling) is an approach to sales where teams create structured, well-researched strategies for specifically targeting a set of highly qualified leads.
👍 Good for: Strategic accounts with an 18-24 month sales cycle
✅ Pros: Detailed methodology that focuses resources on leads with the highest potential value
❌ Cons: Administrative burden for accounts that aren’t highly strategic/multimillion-dollar transactions
If you’re not ready to put a methodology in place, there are fundamental questions, or “Must-Knows” from Tom’s experience, that sales reps need to know to be effective. These include:
- What is the business driver?
- What is the impact to the business if they do nothing?
- What is the catalyst for the decision?
- Do we have access to the right people? (Ideally 4 people in the organisation)
- Why and how would we lose this deal?
- How does the business make decisions?
- How do they buy/what is the procurement process?
“After doing extensive analysis, we found that most of the time, not knowing the answers to those questions is why deals slip,” says Tom. “If you train your team on the must-knows, you’ll start to see close rates improve significantly.”