Kunal is responsible for the enablement of the global revenue team, including: SDRs, account executives, account managers, and strategic account executives.
He talked to us about maintaining a culture of engagement and collaboration as Director of Global Sales Enablement at UserZoom, creating a roadmap for onboarding new hires, and his three tips for enablement newbies.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your sales enablement journey, your background so far, and what led up to your current role at UserZoom?
A: Absolutely. I actually started my enablement journey around 14 years ago. That was at a Silicon Valley tech company called SuccessFactors, who along with companies like Salesforce and ServiceNow, was one of the pioneers for enterprise B2B Software as a Service platforms, which was pretty new at the time, if you think back 14-15 years.
Leveling up on partner enablement
Interestingly, my career within enablement actually started on the partner channel side of the business. I was actually responsible for the enablement of success factors for EMEA-based sales partners.
At the time, as I said, cloud applications were very new so I found myself having to enable our partners on the benefit of the cloud before the products and solutions themselves. To cut a long story short, we were very successful to the point where we were winning large enterprise deals against the likes of SAP and Oracle. As the entire software industry started to move and transition towards cloud-based applications, SAP swooped in and acquired SuccessFactors.
At the time, SAP was really heavily focused on their own transition to the cloud so they hand-picked a few individuals from their cloud acquisitions and placed them in various management positions within SAP itself. I was one of them. I subsequently was building and leading the global team responsible for the enablement of SAP's partners on the entire cloud portfolio, which included solutions like SuccessFactors, Ariba, SMP's customer experience solutions, cloud ELP solutions, and so on.
After a few years, I decided to move on to another Silicon Valley FinTech company, called Taulia. It was at Taulia where I really started my transition into the more traditional sales enablement role, focused on the internal salesforce as well as partners, which is on the side as well.
It was interesting, it's there where I learned enabling partners was actually a lot harder than enabling an internal salesforce, simply because the partner was not always directly incentivized to sell your stuff.
I found that winning mindshare was always the first step in enabling partners, and I effectively had to sell to them before really enabling them. So that was a key difference I found. But after a few good successful years at Taulia, I worked for another pretty explosive FinTech company called HighRadius, which was headquartered in Houston, Texas. Again, I was responsible for the enablement of its global salesforce.
Earlier this year, I was presented with another stunning opportunity to work for another rocket ship company called UserZoom. UserZoom, in a nutshell, is basically an experience insights management platform. What that really means is we help companies of all sizes to test their digital user experience, whether that's on the web, or mobile phone, or smartwatch, or any medium.
Our platform can actually tell companies what their users actually think, track how they behave, and objectively measure user experience performance, all to help them make their products better, increased revenues, and ultimately reduce their costs.
We're in an age, even within the enablement function, where we're all becoming more into the digital experience, how we serve information, how we serve content, what sort of engagement we provide to our end users. UserZoom is exactly in that business, and these aspects are pretty critical to not only our customers' growth but to their survival.
It's a great company to work for with a tonne of opportunities, and in terms of that opportunity, I'm actually responsible for the enablement of the global revenue team at UserZoom. That includes a full spectrum of roles from SDRs to account executives to account managers to strategic account executives.
Q: If you had to explain what sales enablement is in a nutshell, what would you say?
A: Good question. Because if you ask five people their definition, you might get six answers back and none of them would be wrong.
But, in my view, the sales enablement function's purpose is to ensure the immediate and long-term success of a company's revenue function. It does this by increasing competence, productivity, efficiency, and engagement within the revenue function as well as increasing alignment with supporting functions.
All of this really is to ultimately meet and exceed revenue goals at a company, at a team level as well as an individual level.
Q: What does sales enablement look like at UserZoom? Is it a relatively new function or already quite established?
A: Sales enablement at UserZoom is actually a relatively new function. I am the first dedicated sales enablement practitioner at UserZoom. But with that said, the existing revenue leadership team has built really an outstanding culture of continuous improvement at UserZoom. We call this Kaizen, which is named after the Japanese business philosophy.
Whilst the enablement function is very new, it isn't a blank page. I've got a solid foundation to build upon, and that's thanks to my colleagues. This all included the processes, learning hubs, content, competency frameworks, and so on and so forth. Certainly a lot to do, but a lot already has been done.
Q: Tell us a bit about your team: how are you guys structured, and how do you collaborate with other teams?
A: At present, as I said, I'm the sole enablement practitioner at UserZoom, but I am supported by multiple functions within the organization from the corporate learning and development function, and multiple subject matter experts across the business from product, marketing, and so on.
But as far as the revenue function is concerned, it's structured by teams focused on generating new business. From SDRs to account executives, to account managers who are responsible for the success and revenue growth from within existing accounts, as well our strategic account executives who focus on the success and expansion within our strategic accounts.
That's companies and customers like Google and Facebook, who we work for. But I also collaborate closely with some really super talented people within our sales operation and marketing functions. They support me to implement my vision from a technology, data, content, demand generation standpoint, as well as our product management teams where we, together, devise strategies and how to go to market and launch new products and releases.
Q: What's your strategy for encouraging communication between each team? Because it's obviously important to get alignment to grow revenue?
A: Yeah, for sure. Actually, at UserZoom, I'm pretty lucky because we have a very collaborative culture first of all. We talk a lot, and that isn't just because of the pandemic and working from home and lots of Zoom calls. But we have created a very good working practice around engagement, collaboration, and seeing projects through together.
This all starts really from the top of the company, our Chief Revenue Officer really has his finger on the pulse of virtually every project and every initiative within the revenue function. He uses that to drive effective communication across each of the teams within and outside of the revenue function.
But really, from my perspective, as an enabler, my success is very much dependent on these close working and collaborative relationships with the functions around the sales and revenue teams, and that includes marketing and includes product predominantly.
Q: What's been the steepest learning curve, or unexpected challenge in your current role?
A: I've been at UserZoom for just over four months now and so one of the steepest learning curves and I think unexpected challenges I faced was to onboard myself, and learn about the company's solutions. At any company that we join, you're not only keen to get stuck into the projects and initiatives, there's a lot of work to do, but the business also has its demands.
All of that can actually take focus away from actual onboarding, learning about the products, how to pitch them, how to sell them, how to demo them, and so on. I'm actually focused this quarter to carve out enough time each day to make this happen. But that time has to be blocked off.
Onboarding new employees - a learning experience
Having said that, this also raises the importance of onboarding new hires, right? Because whilst I am onboarding myself, I'm also learning and reviewing how we onboard and how we need to make time and how we should dedicate portions of our day towards it. It's been a good learning curve, but this was something that was unexpected. You do not have enough time to just onboard.
Q: Obviously, we've all gone through massive change over the past year, are you working from home full time? Talk me through what a typical day might look like for you.
A: I am working from home full time, yes. But in fact, I've been working from home pretty much consistently over the last 12 to 14 years. I'm quite familiar with it, I've got a good setup at home, and I'm pretty used to it.
But in terms of a typical day, and I know it sounds a bit cliché, but so far every day has been different. It really depends on the priorities for any given period. Initially at UserZoom, when I started here, I was speaking with all of our revenue leadership teams, and to as many sorts of individual contributors as I possibly could, learning about what they do, how they do it, what they see as the biggest risks towards achieving their goals and targets.
Identifying key priorities
This led to me defining the strategic enablement roadmap, which was the next phase of my day-to-day work, and the key priorities for the previous and current quarter. Now, we're knee-deep in the execution of these priorities, actually getting stuck in and getting things done.
Of course, there are a few surprises that come along the way, things change, just last week we announced a new acquisition that we had made. That came along and meant that there was something new to focus on. It really is different each day.
But in terms of COVID, it is a little strange coming into a new company having never met anybody. But as I said previously, we talk a lot, and we have a great collaborative culture and leadership. This really helps. Ultimately, when we're able to have a few drinks at the pub, it's going to be a pretty epic gathering. A lot to look forward to.
Q: What would you say has been your greatest enablement success so far in your career?
A: There have been quite a few successes. At UserZoom specifically, if I start there, one of my first priorities was to understand the company's people, the sales and revenue function. While I'm doing that, I'm also trying to establish a level of credibility with the teams.
Finding and executing some quick wins was key, and that proved to be a success. But in terms of general successes prior, across my career, obviously, there's too many to mention but in all seriousness, I believe that there are two types of enablement. There's traditional enablement, focused on learning, coaching, and training.
Secondly, what I call sales engagement. I actually really believe that sales enablement is a people function. It's about unlocking the potential in every individual to be the best that they can possibly be. In the past, when I receive comments from colleagues stating that I have helped to have an impact on their lives, how they think, how they work, and their behaviors, that's what I call success.
Achievements in revenue targets and quota are great, completion of projects and execution and all of that. But it's a different feeling when you positively impact an individual, and that's how I define it.
Q: How do you see sales enablement transforming as a function over the next few years?
A: Towards the end of last year, when I was speaking to a few companies about their open enablement positions, I saw two different types of enablement roles.
The first and quite commonly was where a company was looking to build an enablement function that was primarily focused on training. This is fine, but I truly believe that the returns are not as high as the second category of companies that I spoke to who were seeking to hire a practitioner to build out a strategic enablement function.
That strategic enablement function was focused on not just developing the salesforce via learning and coaching, but to improve the productivity, efficiency of the sales function, the effectiveness of it, increasing seller and buyer engagement, improving the buyer experience, as well as strengthening the alignment between sales and marketing and product teams.
Strategic revenue enablement is the way forward
This is ultimately where I see enablement heading more and more over the next few years, simply because there are just high returns with a strategic enablement function.
With that strategic imperative comes the way enablement is measured, as well. I see this changing over the next few years as well. Personally, I can see more and more companies adopting a metric-driven environment to measure the success of sales enablement. It won't just be about how many training sessions did we deliver? How many people attended?
Those kinds of things, but what impact did the sessions have on productivity, conversion rates, velocity, and ultimately revenue? As far as the pandemic's concerned that has changed a few things as well, of course, going forward and looking backward. But now we have some light at the end of that tunnel, I think that will drive a few changes too.
Getting creative with sales training sessions
If you think about pre-pandemic when we used to run enablement sessions face to face, it would be a big investment of time, resources, and budget. And on our basis, we probably weren't doing as many, as we're doing now, over Zoom, for example.
Personally, I'm very protective over one key sales enablement metric, and that is time spent selling. When I bring 100 reps into one session that, for me, is a last resort. Because that one session can take hundreds of hours away from time spent selling.
This also emphasizes the importance of getting really creative with your sessions, having more just-in-time learning available to ensure that they're engaging, interactive, using technology and apps to support all of this as well. The pandemic has taught us a thing or two about this, and it's forced us to get more creative in order to maximize ROI on enablement.
Q: Finally, if you had to give one piece of advice for someone who was looking to transition into sales enablement, or even go back in time and give advice to yourself, earlier in your career, what would that be?
A: I can give a few pieces of advice, actually, let's call it three key pieces of advice. If you're looking to transition into sales enablement, one of the competencies I really believe helps in doing that is knowing how to sell. I say this because part of enabling is also selling your vision, the concepts, topics, the things that you want people to do.
Secondly, another piece of advice I would always be giving out, and I continue to give this advice today actually, always start with the why. If you're not familiar with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle concepts, have a look at his TED Talk. Because I truly believe that a big part of my success has been the ability to communicate effectively and convincingly.
Whatever you say, whatever you do, when you start with the why, and keep everything simple, it gives you an instant head start, increases adoption, and you obtain mindshare. Start with the why.
The third thing I would say is, get a good grasp of the numbers, what they mean, what the numbers are, for things like revenue, pipeline, conversion metrics, all those kinds of things. And understand which levers to pull in order to impact those metrics.
What do I have to do to increase conversions? What do I have to do to increase revenue, pipeline, and so on? Having a good grasp of all of this as early as possible will really help.
If I was to go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be pretty much exactly what I just said, because some of those aspects are really career-defining. But other than that, I'd probably tell myself, buy some stock in Amazon and Apple and not have to worry about enablement.