An Interview with Debbie Farese,
Senior Manager, Sales Enablement at HubSpot
We spoke with HubSpot Senior Manager, Sales Enablement Debbie Farese about the intersections of Sales and Marketing and the future of Sales Enablement. As technologies further mature and impact the role, leaders have to adapt to more data, more opportunities, and a greater ability to shift sales performance.
CommercialTribe: We actually just attended the Forrester Forum for Sales Enablement, where the theme was in part a shift from Sales Enablement to Marketing. Do you see a closer collaboration, or perhaps even cohesion, between the two roles in the future?
Debbie Farese: I think we’re going to see a lot more collaboration between Marketing and Sales in general, not just Sales Enablement.
For example, we use the term “Smarketing” in HubSpot to describe direct alignment between Sales and Marketing. We not only have monthly all hands meetings between the teams, but we also have a SLA to track MQLs delivered to the sales team by segment.
The way we view Sales Enablement is the bridge between Marketing and Sales.
Our team physically sits with Sales, because it helps us see the sales process in action and create tighter relationships with the reps. But we organizationally fit with Marketing, because a lot of the work we do requires strong marketing skills – we create a lot of content.
To the broader question of alignment, one way you see it is through what’s happening technology platforms. People are realizing that we need to have one clear view of our customers and our future customers. With software like HubSpot, sales people can use that and see how a future customer is interacting. It’s also why we’re introducing a CRM – it’s really important for Sales and Marketing to be aligned and have one unified platform.
"The way we view Sales Enablement is the bridge between Marketing and Sales."
Sales Enablement and Marketing are intrinsically connected. Upskilling and developing reps is often driven by content and messaging, and Marketing is tasked with creating these messages and driving adoption and market use.
CT: You came from a product marketing background. Is enablement, in your opinion, more effective when tied into marketing processes?
DF: Organizationally, our Sales Enablement team used to sit within Product Marketing, since a lot of the work that we do is quite similar. However, broke out of the Product Marketing team to align with our Funnel Marketing team. The content that we create doesn’t only have reach through to sales reps, but it also feeds into other marketing channels.
Also, we support a large sales team. It’s important for them to have a few points of contact – our real job is understanding what type of content we can create that can help support sales people when they’re working with prospects, as well as looking at the buyer’s journey as a whole and understanding what prospects are doing when they’re not talking to people.
As reps in technology companies shift more from product sales to solution selling of complex digital products, the needs of the organization in training increase. This not only requires a change in content and messaging, but in how we deliver training and stimulate practice.
CT: The technology sector is famous, or infamous, for requiring reps to “upskill” toward highly technical products and more complex software sales. How does this change the approach to enablement? Is the process required to be more ongoing?
DF: We spend a lot of time training our Inbound Marketing Specialists on the products, not only knowing how to navigate through the product, but also understanding our buyer persona and why our software matters to them. Before they ever even get into a technical conversation, they have to understand marketers’ pain points and the opportunities for growth and to go into each conversation from a very consultative perspective.
From there, they need to be able to translate how they can help a marketer achieve their own individualized goals. When it comes to getting more into the technical pieces, we have a Sales Engineering team to bring onto calls.
CommercialTribe powers the onboarding process that HubSpot new hires use to train and practice.
CT: You have an extensive curriculum that new hires must to engage with, certify on, and master to be able to sell. Do you find that onboarding and training is required to continue after that first day or week and follow a rep’s tenure, or that reps reach a point when they’ve mastered it all?
DF: We work in technology, so everything is always changing! So there’s never a point when someone’s learned as much as they can learn. When it comes to core skills, like demoing or qualifying, the good reps do reach a point when they have their own methodology that works.
We have to focus on continuing education, and that’s why I work closely with the onboarding team to try to understand the best way to update them on what’s happening in the market and overall market analysis. Our own product is constantly changing and growing as well, so we need to continually train and update them on the platform so that they can effectively share it on the phone.
"...there’s never a point when someone’s learned as much as they can learn"
CT: What particular technologies are you using to reach this large of a sales team and really help them gain knowledge?
DF: We use CommercialTribe in onboarding, and beyond that, we rely on live training. Most of our sales team is located right in our office in Cambridge [MA]. For those who are in our global offices, we use Webex and virtual meetings, phone chats, and screensharing to connect with them. We have an internal Wiki, and post all of our training content there. It’s been great for enabling two-way conversation and for sharing tribal knowledge. We’re also starting to leverage Sidekick for Business, which is one of our beta products that pairs with the CRM. We use it to help sales reps find the right information at the right time and for the right future customer.
One of the biggest challenges we face today, and why we’re moving to some of our own beta software, is that we don’t have the tracking or reporting capabilities we want. I’ve never been able to say, “what are the top reps doing? What content are they using?” We want to know what happens after content gets posted – from who is downloading it to how the prospect reacts to it.
Data is the result of 21st century technologies. As we inject more data about our sales practices, we continue to learn how to draw stories and lessons from the numbers.
CT: Metrics are really permeating into everything we think about in sales. Do you see that as a trend in Sales Enablement as well, that data is ultimately going to empower the next generation of the field?
DF: Yes – I’m actually just about to write a post about measuring Sales Enablement!
It’s hard – we really haven’t had great technology to do that, but we’ve found a lot of ways that we can get a proxy. The one biggest thing is that we use lead to customer conversation rate as our guiding light. There are a lot of factors that go into that – lead volume and the effectiveness of the sales reps themselves. We still find it to be a really good guiding light in terms of the effectiveness of our team in enabling the sales team.
The second helpful thing about that number is that it helps us to find which projects to prioritize. There are a lot of gray areas, especially since our Marketing team has grown, and we are the front-line communicators to the sales team. They’ll often ask us for things that are really more related to demand generation – I can ask myself, “will that impact our customer conversion rate?” If not, I think about how to pass that request on to the appropriate team.
CT: What no longer works in the field of Sales Enablement?
DF: At the heart of HubSpot is inbound marketing. We just see such higher success rates with inbound marketing tactics. Interrupting people and old cold emails just don’t work anymore.
Constantly trying to be helpful to a marketer and provide value, even if they aren’t in the position to purchase, is the way to go.