What are your biggest challenges in enabling global sales teams, and how do you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is working with all the other groups vying for seller attention and helping them approach it with empathy and working for the greater good, versus what they think is best. But the responsibility here isn't all on them - enablement has a responsibilty to also present the full list of requests and pull cross functional groups together to prioritize them together.
Sales reps are busy. Sales managers are even busier. It's not easy to convince these busy folks to take an hour out of their day to sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture. And when your team is global, the odds are that this one hour comes at an inconvenient (EMEA) or impossible (APAC) time for a rep or manager.
Some of the things we've done are - (1) region-specific enablement sessions, (2) tapping sales leaders and influential sales reps to lead some sections of enablement sessions, especially those related to competitive positioning or deal reviews, and (3) emailing or Slacking bite-size videos or small slide packs that have to deal with topics that are "hot" at any given moment.
One last initiative that I'm a big fan of, which I call Proactive Product Marketing, has to do with ensuring that the right content gets into your reps' hands at the moment they need it. You can achieve this by setting up rules in Slack or through Salesforce to push content to a specific rep's email or Slack if, for example, they move an opportunity in Vertical X where Primary Competitor is Company Y to a certain stage, you can push them collateral like "Your_Company for Vertical X" or "Your_Company vs. Company Y internal battlecard". This is again an easy way to scale your enablement while keeping it personalized.
In general, the bigger a sales team gets, it gets harder to serve every single rep and manager all at the same time, so my preference is to try to serve smaller groups or to tackle smaller topics (and just do these activities more often).
Regarding enabling sales teams in general, please check out some of the other answers I’ve posted here in this AMA, but specifically for the global aspect, here’s my take: there’s a good chance that a lot of your program and material will apply globally, and you might even think you don’t need to do regional enablement because of how good and wide-reaching it is. However, I would highly encourage you to ditch that school of thought and lean into regional-specific enablement. First, you might learn something. These regional teams will have good insight and feedback into what is/isn’t working, new competitors they are facing, regional industry trends that are creating headwinds/tailwinds, etc… Second, creating smaller segments for your enablement often means higher attendance rates and higher engagement. This leads to higher retention of the material and better application of it in market. Third, let’s face it, we’re all human, and we want to be heard. Every company is going to have a “center of gravity” based on where they are headquartered or where the majority of their business takes place. Over time, this can lead to global teams feeling like they aren’t heard or aren’t getting the support they need to be successful. And that is bad for everyone. Take the time to focus on each of your key regions, commensurate with the goals of each.
This is particularly relevant to Visa given our global nature and the 200+ countries we operate in. The biggest challenge I encounter is how unique each country / market is, and by extension how that influences the customer mindset and how sales should engage with them.
That said, although different customers in different countries may think about things in different ways, there are always common denominators. Most companies with global sales teams have some notion of regional hubs or regional HQs.
Lean on your regional counterparts / leads to better understand and align on what these common denominators are – and design your sales support model and content you develop to service what is common vs. what is completely unique to a given market.
The important word in this question is "global"---the challenges of scaling enablement efforts across the world are primarily across 3 buckets:
-language: scaling localization of core assets and training
-insights: scaling understanding of regional markets so that nuance informs the approach to that market
-bandwith/HC: to really be effective, you need in-market specialists (pmm and enablement) but that's not always feasible and often in-market marketers are tasked with every marketing function.
How to overcome them:
-Language: Hyper prioritization of assets and languages.
-Insights: Asking regional sales leaders for feedback (via survey or qual) in a one-off data-gathering effort
-bandwith/HC: Patience! Do the best with what you can. It's an incredibly difficult thing to do and will take time to fully scale to do it "right" but if you do the things above you can do enough to get it "right enough" for right now.
Enablement tactics and tools that work for a team of 50 reps need to be adjusted when you deal with a team of 500 globally dispersed reps. Some common challenges I have seen include:
- Multiple enablement/training tools and portals making it confusing for reps to know where to go
- Breaks in communication and lack of localization of content
- Failure to take local needs into account
- Changes in personas and competitive environment
- Prioritization of requests
Product marketers should work with their sales enablement counterparts to identify best practices that can scale and centralize communication and access to content and tools. While the company may use multiple LMS systems for training in general, enablement should decide on a single sales enablement and training platform. Ideally, every sales team will use it so you can track effectiveness and consolidate reporting.
Product marketing also needs to be in touch with the sales leaders across the different regions to better understand local needs from a product, messaging, and content perspective. Adjustments in persona-based messaging and sales decks will be required.
The best advice I can give for PMMs working across global teams is to always ask themselves: will this work in EMEA, APAC, etc. as well or do we need to adjust? When in doubt, talk to someone in the region to make an informed decision and take this into account when building your plan.
Regional needs differ. We tend to look at things through a US lens and that's a mistake. Buyers in EMEA vary even within that region. Southern and Northern Europe are different. UK is different in its own way.
If possible in person meetings (QBRs) are one of thr best ways to understand local needs.
Its impossible to meet every regional variation so I like to break out assets by stories that will stay consistent across regions and then areas that need to be adapted. Core value drivers aren't going to change. But the use cases will vary based on regional needs. Use your local sales engineering team as a resource that can adapt use cases regionaly. But work off a common messaging framework.
I would love to say that you can enable global sales team with technology, localization and ensuring they have access to all of your HQ resources. But that is just not the case.
Here are the true challenges (and solutions) when enabling global teams:
1. Resource Constraints: You have $100 worth of bandwidth but mainland brings in 80 to 90% of the cash. Do you proportionally help the global team? Answer: No, you still need to enable them as if you were enabling a local team. You can do fewer programs with them, but you can't half do the ones you pick. It will take disproportionate investment to make global teams work. Specially if you are in HQ and you don't have field marketing or local PMMs.
2. Product Limitations: Your product may have limitations in the broader market. OR The global market may be too complex for your local product. Either ways, you will need to spend the time to truly understand what the product-market fit is for that market. You have to tackle the objections for local buyers before that market will be a success.
3. Cultural DIfferences: I have often been impressed in the depth to which European teams and buyers go into for SaaS products. They are not satisfied with the Solution and ROI-based sale approach many American buyers will be satisfied with it. That has to be understood and solved in the sales cycle.
In summary, enabling global sales teams is not just about enablement. It is a strategic initiative. You have to put a lot of resources in before you get value out. And you may not get enough value out, this isn't deterministic. It has to be approached as a new market problem.
Back when I was at Medallia, a lot of key heavy hitters across departments moved to Europe for 1-2 years to truly make that office(s) a success. I believe that is the right way to do it.
It depends on what your global challenges are. From experience, some challenges may relate to selling into different markets. I would segment your Sales Enablement approach to speak specifically to the pains and challenges of different markets instead of going for a "one-size-fits-all" enablement approach.
I have a couple of points to make, as this is an area I've done a lot of work.
1. Number one challenge is the logistics of travel. Cost. Time. Personal commitment. The best way to teach people to sell is to go out on calls with them. This obviously doesn't scale, but you use the activity to drive content and training. You make sure you're at 10 customers a day if you travel, so it's a good use of time. Good sales leaders will make sure their teams keep you busy when in region. In those calls, you're training sales and presales... out of those calls, you're using the people you've trained to explore field marketing opportunities, etc. Most companies won't make this investment over the length of time needed.
2. Enablement teams often things everything needs to be perfect to start training. No. You need to know your USPs and go. Hammer them home. Hammer home personas. Customer stories and measurable results. Use your USPs to drive competitive differentiation and POC use cases.
3. Figure out a way (systems, processes, and culture) to do JIT, just-in-time, enablement. Sitting in a classroom and going over everything doesn't stick. Everyone's distracted. I once had a manager who had a monthly enablement call, and an item four months out was "complete" (or could have been, we knew all we needed) but it wasn't on the schedule for FOUR MONTHS! Build it, launch it, make it self-serve, and then get on the phone. And, enablement calls... materials ahead of time, track who's doing the materials, and get together to discuss (not present them).
There's more, of course, but each of these challenges the normal way of doing things in ways that make leadership uncomfortable, and as such, have the potential for outsized results.