Welcome to this week's Expert Interview, where we're pleased to give the (virtual) stage to Jaren Krchnavi, Head of Sales Enablement: Siemens Digital Grid Software. Jaren shares his perspective on the future of sales enablement and the new 'digital normal', the importance of becoming a data-driven sales organization, and much more...
Hi Jaren, great to have you. Can you tell us a little bit around your background - how did you come to lead sales enablement at Siemens?
My career started in California, USA in sales and management in retail. I later transitioned to the B2B environment where I held positions in communications (media relations, digital and social media), to marketing for distribution system operators in the energy field, to sales excellence supporting 2,000+ sales reps globally in the energy management industry - where I had a strong focus on app development and competence management.
This background fits perfectly to leading sales enablement for Siemens Digital Grid Software Business, as I now have a unique skill set that helps align multiple departments for cross-functional collaboration to create successful initiatives, elevating our sales to the next level.
My education background is a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and Business Administration at Sonoma State University in California, where I had the opportunity to study in Spain and gain international experience. I continued my studies and received a Master’s in International Business at the Law School, School of Business and Economics Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.
Looking at the role that sales enablement plays within Siemens - has it been more of a recent addition or embedded for a while?
Many areas of sales enablement have been embedded in the company for some time such as supporting sales with onboarding, providing training, or creating and making sales material available. However, these tasks have been often performed in multiple departments such as marketing or by a team focused on creating training material. This often created a mediocre level of support for sales, as for example the training department would often be focused on multiple groups such as external customers, sales, and others. Same with marketing. With the sales enablement discipline there is a clear focus to support or get support from other departments for the sales organization. My belief is that only with a sales enablement department will a company be able to have their sales team reach the pinnacle of excellence.
Give us a quick overview of your main activities during the day. Where do you find yourself spending the most time and energy?
I have an interesting mix of activities that keep me busy. I have managerial tasks that involve keeping the team on track to meet the agreed-upon goals by the end of the fiscal year, as well as ensuring we are providing our sales the highest level of support needed so they can successfully prospect and turn leads into opportunities that can then transform into won projects.
My team and I are also driving multiple cross-functional initiatives. Current examples of projects are revolving around competence management, where we are continuously measuring the competence level of all our sales for portfolio knowledge and sales methodologies as well as ensuring those competencies are improved quarter by quarter.
We are also running a digital selling program with LinkedIn Sales Navigator and continually providing support to onboard new sales reps by empowering them to educate themselves, explaining how they can find sales material, and demonstrating how they can use sales applications to work more efficiently. We are in the midst of digitally transforming our reps to reach even higher levels of efficiency, for example through a proper CRM upgrade with the respective processes in place to have close to 100% data quality on defined KPIs. This is creating a more data-driven sales organization needed to be successful in these challenging times.
How do you ensure successful collaboration with the other teams?
Relationship management, or stakeholder management, is key to ensuring successful collaboration with other teams. I speak eye-to-eye with my fellow colleagues and clearly communicate the sales enablement strategy. I explain how their participation is needed in order to transform a sales organization from a mediocre one to one with best-in-class performance. I remind them how essential sales is if we want the entire business to stay in the pole position, as we are. By clearly communicating our enablement goals and their benefits to our business as well as the stakeholders’ roles and how they can support the strategy, we are able to ensure a collaborative working environment where everyone feels part of a bigger team. A team with purpose. If sales enablement “wins,” they too feel like winners.
As a follow up - do you have a go-to strategy to build and manage those relationships?
Yes, in more detail we continually communicate what we are working on with our community of stakeholders through regular meetings. We identify key people who will give us invaluable feedback and be sales enablement champions within the organization. We also have a clear strategy that has been communicated to the management to ensure top level support for our initiatives.
What’s been the one big challenge or roadblock that you or your team has faced during COVID-19, and how did you navigate that?
I was quite impressed by how Siemens handled the COVID-19 pandemic. They reacted immediately and were always one step ahead of the “safety curve,” making wise decisions that ensured the well-being of our employees. My team was able to quickly adapt and continue our projects as we do quite a lot of virtual meetings with colleagues globally. The biggest challenge for me was adjusting to full-time work from home where you can easily get lost in working too many hours, not going outside and seeing the light of day or finding a good time to leave the office because you are always at work. Luckily my two daughters and wife help pull me away from my computer to take breaks and end the day.
What do you enjoy most about working in sales enablement?
I couldn’t imagine a more exciting place to be at this point in my career. It will always stay fresh because there is an unlimited amount of ways to prepare your sales organization for the future. There is also a great amount of ingenious development going on with new digital tools and the integration of such tools to provide sales access to sales material. Also, just imagine all the data coming together from the vast array of sales applications! We are just around the corner from heightened levels of guided selling that will impress the best in the field. It’s hard to imagine what the new “digital normal” will be like for the next generation of sales enablement professionals, 10-15 years down the line.
In addition, the recent close collaboration with sales operations has been very exciting for me as we are now getting closer to having true transparency of our sales enablement activities, with high levels of data quality and dashboards that will not only help us, but many other departments make true data-driven decisions. And finally, I was not often in a position where I received real gratitude from my colleagues. When working in sales enablement, this can happen as the sales reps were not used to having a team that is fully committed to making their daily life easier.
And finally... if you had to choose the top three qualities of a great sales enablement leader, what would they be?
Stay curious, especially regarding the constantly changing digital landscape and the possibilities that data is making available to us; be a communication leader with a clear vision; and master the art of using resources from other teams to ensure your sales enablement strategy is a true success.