Buying has evolved - and so has selling. That means we need to be enabling everyone that interacts with customers or touches revenue, whether they're sales or technical, or part of the post-sale motion, says Juniper Network's VP of Revenue Enablement, Hang Black.
Enablement has gotten fairly complex and, quite frankly, she tells me, a lot more interesting...
Q. You've got quite a varied background in sales enablement, business development, product management, marketing, and engineering. So which of these disciplines do you think has prepared you the best for your career in sales enablement, and revenue enablement?
A. I think they've all contributed, but I have to say product management, because we do a lot of work between understanding the engineering behind the product, and then how we actually need to position it in the market. The next step is translating this for sales and marketing.
Q. You're passionate about equality and the empowerment of women from minority backgrounds, in fact, you've just published a book on that subject. So what would your advice be to women who might be just starting their career in the industry?
A. I think it's really important for anyone who faces obstacles to understand that you're not alone. The point of sharing the story is to ensure that we don't individually feel insane; we can collectively understand that we're here to support each other.
If I were to give advice to my much younger self, I would say, meritocracy works for a while. But that makes it easy to fall into the trap of, "if I'm not excelling, I'm just going to work harder".
What women and immigrants often overlook is the need for access. So we can talk about diversity and inclusion. But without access, you really can't break into the leadership ranks. And part of that is understanding if you are in an environment that will nurture you. The other thing is understanding your own limiting beliefs and behaviors. For myself, I was so proud of being able to do things the hard way that I underestimated how I could do things the smart way, and I thought I was that good, when in actuality, I was only that arrogant.
Q. So what would you say is the difference between the hard way and the smart way? And how do you recognize that you need to make a change?
A. I'll give you an example. If you are to scale a mountain, there's a lot of ways to come up. As people progress through their own talent and diligence, they can progress up the mountain quite well. The question is, "what's the summit, what are you looking for?".
A lot of people aim for the summit. But what about the different vistas along the way? When I say 'going up the hard way', as you're navigating up, you'll notice over time that there are a lot of ways to scale a mountain. Some people have a jet to take them up, some people have a helicopter. Some people have access to tools that you may not have.
For people like me, there are many, many obstacles. But what we have to do is recognize when people are throwing ropes down for us. When you're trying to break past that first rung in the career ladder and escalate up the management ranks, it's not about working harder when you're on a circular path.
It's about finding the people who not only know who you are and what you do, but they know what you're capable of doing for others. You need to find that person who can give you the key to the secret door that leads you up the secret path.
Q. Over the past year, all of us have faced complex challenges, and this is still ongoing. What opportunities have you found in the face of this?
A. Being a tenacious immigrant, I love crisis.
When we were using the analogy of navigating up the mountain, what I discovered was I was navigating in the dark, but I didn't even know that I was blind because I couldn't see. Now the good thing is, I'm used to operating in the dark, I'm used to operating in chaos. So when the lights shut off, and everyone is disoriented, that's my normal speed. When I happen to be in an environment where the lights turn on again, I can even see further because I've got all the tools of being resourceful, and excelling under adversity. That gives me a competitive advantage.
During this Covid experience, as much as it sucks, I've never been more simultaneously busy and bored. It gave us a lot of time to be able to innovate. We were already curating our enablement portfolio to be very hyper prepared for the digital world so, when Covid struck, we were able to turn on a dime and virtualize everything.
On the personal front, I was able to write a book that had been kicking around in my head for about 15 years. I like to joke that my 'Covid baby' took about as much time as my real babies did!
Q. Your nickname is Black Ops - tell me more about that. How did that come about?
A. Well, that was kind of fun. As we mentioned, I was in engineering for nearly a decade, then I was in marketing for nearly a decade. When I switched over to sales, I had been in certain support roles, but I had not 'held a bag' yet. There were about two years where I had my own consulting agency, anything sales and marketing, whether it was sales ops, marketing, sales enablement, field marketing - you name it, I did it.
I consulted for about 30 different companies. I would go in and 'lay the patient on the table', identify where the gaps were, asking, "what do we need to replace, what do we need to fix?", and curate a very unique experience. My clients would say, "gosh, you're like, 20 people, you come in here, create a hurricane, and you leave - and everything's better.
So I was nicknamed Black Ops, in reference to my name, but also it's special to me because my father was military. So I have a lot of appreciation for the diligence and surgical precision which military operations execute.
Q. What's the best way that you found to align the process, the sales process to the customer journey, and particularly when the customers B2B?
A. Well, what we found, especially the last year or so, has been that sales relationship is no longer just a one-time spike. We've got first contact in marketing, and then you've got nurture.
But 44% of Millennials don't want to interact with the seller, even one time, so we're nurturing in the digital space, we're continuing that relationship in our digital thought leadership.
Then, once you have that point of sale, we transfer you to, for example, our sales engineering team to curate the relationship. Then, once we sell, we'll hand off to our global services team. And then there's the upsell, cross-sell - it's a continuous lifecycle.
We're no longer selling like we used to - buying is evolved, and therefore selling has had to evolve as well. And we're really looking at not only being the trusted adviser to our customers, but really being there with them in the decision-making process as well.
We need to continue that lifecycle management - what my boss would call an infinity curve. Customers can enter and exit at any moment in time, and we've got to earn the right to be there with them every step of the way.
Q. How do you think the roles of sales and revenue enablement have evolved over the years?
A. Well, sales enablement, as a job role, has existed for about 30 years, but it's drastically changed, especially in the last six. You see that with all the different sales enablement functions and tools and organizations that have popped up in the last few years.
What used to be a technical product training focus, I think of those singular assets as pieces of cargo. But when sales enablement started to arise, we began seeing different vehicles for the delivery of that cargo: planes, trains, automobiles, if you will.
The sales enablement function as it exists today is more of the flight control tower. Yes, there will be some assets that are very specific to certain verticals or certain markets that you have a handcrafted package that's on Etsy, or that's delivered door-to-door, but what are the mass delivery motions? For me, enablement rose up through a singular function; the cadence and the prioritization is all one complex motion.
Where it used to be just sales enablement, or just technical enablement, we're now enabling anyone that touches revenue, whether they're its sales or technical, whether they're with partners, internal or external, and whether there were services in the post-sale motion. So it's gotten fairly complex and involved and, quite frankly, a lot more interesting - just like our customers have gotten more interesting.
Q. Which teams do you interact with most on a day-to-day basis, apart from sales and sales operations?
A. I would say that our highest interactions are with the partner team, because Partner and Channels are such an integral part of the process, especially in the enterprise space. Also, aside from Sales and Services, I would say with our product marketing team, because they're our first interface into the rest of product management, who are then interfaces to engineering.
We try to make sure that we have a streamlined approach, and not everyone is touching everyone at the same time, because then you get too many voices. We work very, very close with Product Management on the content and messaging side.
Then, obviously, we work very closely with not only our Sales Ops, but our Marketing Ops wing as well, to look at demand gen, because again, we're not necessarily looking at just pre-pipe or post-pipe anymore. It's one lifecycle - one infinity curve of a lifecycle.
Q. Do you think that sales and revenue enablement are as valued as they should be - among the C-suite, for example?
A. I think it really depends on the company and their investment level and understanding of what true enablement is. I'm hoping, quite frankly, that a lot of C-suite undervalue it because our team highly values it, and we hope that it gives us a competitive edge!
Q. How do you see enablement evolving and developing at Juniper Networks within the next few years?
A. The revenue enablement role at Juniper really has only existed for a couple years, so we're still growing and evolving the team. I see revenue enablement as looking behind corners, I'm constantly in touch with Forrester and Gartner to kind of see where the market is moving to, not where it is.
Because if we are preparing for today, we're already going to be behind for tomorrow. What we're looking at is outcome-based selling and how we ensure that our sales team are outcome-focused for our customers.
Then, on the talent side - just like in Salesforce you don't want to have just data, you want to have good data - we don't want to just bring in talent, we want to bring in really good talent with highly diverse with a lot of cognitive diversity.
So we're really going to be looking at our talent intake engine, to make sure we've got various backgrounds, so that the people we bring in can make sense of larger sets of data, not just developing relationships with their customers, which is really important, but also being able to curate all the data there for our customers and, and be a thought leadership partner for our customers.
I talked about being very close to my Marketing Ops and Sales Ops functions: we look at their toolset, end-to-end, to make sure that we're not just attracted to the latest bright, shiny object. Every tool that we bring in has to be fit for purpose and enhances the revenue engine, versus mandating bad behaviors.
Q. What has been the steepest learning curve in your career?
A. I've had a fairly circuitous route. Each transition has been difficult, but challenging, in a way. I would say the most difficult piece has been learning how to articulate enablement as a function that really hasn't existed, and explain something new to an industry that has been around for a while. Really, even becoming a trusted adviser to the other teams within the corporation, to derive that value from revenue enablement.
I have been accused of being not only an entrepreneur, but an intrapreneur. And what's very rewarding about it is when you're able to articulate it, and people finally understand what you're trying to create, and the value that it brings to the business, there's nothing like it to have everyone rowing the same direction.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your role?
A. I would say the creativity that it gives me, because we touch so many different groups. In my global team, there are quite a few of us that speak multiple languages, and we have to be able to communicate with the people that we represent, we have to be able to be creative, and 'quote unquote', speak in the language of our stakeholders.
In Asia, how you communicate is going to be very different than in Western cultures. What we communicate, how often we communicate - we have to find different ways of translating information to people that they need, at the time that they need it. So it's incredibly collaborative and incredibly creative. And, you know, and I get to do that in a high tech space.