To kick off our brand-new SEC Expert Interview series, we sat down with Simon Gilks, Director of Global Sales Operations & Enablement at GoCardless - the company shaking things up in the recurring payments space by making it easier for businesses to collect Direct Debit payments from customers. From Simon's sales enablement journey to Zoom fatigue, we cover it all...
Hey Simon! Can you share a little bit around your background - how has your career path evolved?
I would always describe myself as a Sales Person, that is where my heart has always been. I started selling everything from cars to corporate hospitality and most things in the middle. That is where I cut my teeth as a salesperson, before spending my last 4 years as an account manager and then moving out of pure sales roles and into product marketing. That was my first interaction with this world, followed by Sales Operations and Enablement, and I have never looked back since - having now built two Sales Operations & Enablement functions at hyper-growth SaaS startups and managed the function at a large FTSE 100 company.
Looking at the role that sales enablement plays at GoCardless - has it been more of a recent addition or embedded for a while?
Neither Sales Operations nor Enablement really existed at GoCardless until October 2018 when I joined. We had two people doing their best and an amazing job, but they were only two people in a company doubling in size every year so were really limited in what they could do. Since then we have built out a team and I hired my first Sales Enablement manager little over a year ago, in June 2019.
Give us a quick overview of your main activities during the day. Where do you find yourself spending the most time and energy?
Most of my time and energy at the moment is being zapped by my children while in lockdown, or going from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting. During a more normal day, if we can remember what that looks like, I would have been working with my team on the various projects and activities to make buying from GoCardless as easy as possible and ultimately create more selling time for our individuals who are dealing with customers on a day-to-day basis.
Speaking of working with your team... how do you ensure successful collaboration with the other functions, such as Marketing and Product? Do you have a go-to strategy to build and manage those relationships?
There are two trains of thought to alignment and it is a chicken and egg scenario. The two elements, from my perspective, are relationships and planning. You need the plan to ensure you are aligned and the relationship normally helps the planning process and ensures you remain aligned. This is all based on the assumption that the top-line strategy itself is aligned and everyone is rallied behind it!
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?
As a team, I am very proud of the people that report directly into me but also of all the individuals at GoCardless that have continued to give everything they have to our mission to ensure our growth continues.
One of the two biggest challenges that I have personally faced has been Zoom fatigue, I have found it so much more tiring sitting on video calls all day than I would have ever anticipated. The second challenge is missing some of the contexts that you got from those 2-minute conversations around the office or at the coffee machine. Picking up or giving tasks is easy when working remotely, but that context is what makes completing them far tougher in this crazy situation we are all in. The only way around this is to talk more, which then leads to Zoom fatigue! So for me, communication is key, but sometimes just picking up the phone and doing it the old fashioned way is much better than another video call.
I think we're all experiencing a bit of video call fatigue! On a more positive note - what do you enjoy most about working in sales enablement?
I love seeing the impact you can have on someone's day-to-day life. You can genuinely have such an impact on whether someone is successful in their role or, more importantly, happy in what they do. The impact of Sales Enablement is often not seen because it isn’t always measured, but helping someone be happy or successful should be at the top of those metrics!
Last question… if you had to choose the top three qualities of a great sales enablement leader, what would they be?
They are natural communicators; they have the ability to make content understandable but more importantly useable; and they understand the importance of technology and data in a sales world.