Q&A With Daniel West, Vice President Informatica University And Enablement At Informatica

Many people who set out on the quest to evolve from being the steward of broken things to a more strategic role of a sales enablement leader often ask me, “What should our bill of materials look like?” or “What kinds of deliverables should we be producing?” That’s the kind of thinking that begets more “broken things.” The question I tell our clients they should be asking is: “What are the kinds of ongoing services you can define jointly with sales leadership, develop and continually improve, and that you can demonstrate the business value by producing measureable results that matter to leadership?"     

Given that backdrop, I am delighted to have Daniel West, vice president of Informatica University and Enablement speaking at our Sales Enablement Forum.  Daniel and his team at Informatica have made some outstanding progress to elevate the function from an afterthought to a critical and strategic function within their company. One of their focal points have been to move away from creating many different training programs or toolkits measured by the number of people who took the course or the number of tool downloads to something far more impactful. They focus on creating and delivering a few services that are measured by an agreed upon metric of success defined jointly by Daniel and their executive leadership.   This is the kind of game changing approach that makes Daniel a HERO.  We recently had the chance to ask him some questions and share his thoughts as he evolves his role.

Questions:

  • How has your leadership’s view of Sales Enablement changed over the last year or so?
  • Do you have a metric or two for your team that you put the most weight on and why?
  • What do you see in 2012 for the Sales Enablement profession?

 How has your leadership’s view of Sales Enablement changed over the last year or so?

Informatica began the transformation of the Enablement function about 18 months ago, in July 2010, and during that time Enablement has gone from being a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for the Informatica executive team.  Enablement has been recognized as a key factor to growing revenue and is therefore critical to support Informatica’s transformation from category leader to an industry leader.  We are now perceived by Sales Leadership as a ‘trusted partner’ as opposed to a ‘service provider’ which allows us to have a much greater influence and involvement on go-to-market and sales strategy.  Recently, the role of Enablement was elevated even further to the point where progress on key initiatives is reported to the Board of Directors.

The factors that drove the need to transform the Enablement function can be summarized as:

  • The desire to transition from a territory to a customer-centric sales model drove a need for sales reps to bring an “outside in, not inside out” perspective to everything they do – how they think, the way they interact with prospects and how they communicate with customers. This dramatic, yet necessary change, required Enablement to drive alignment across Sales, Marketing and Products to build problem focused messaging and value propositions – we became the bridge between strategy and execution, which was no simple task considering the amount of individuals involved, company structure, previous patterns and habits, etc.
  • With eight acquisitions over the last three years, the expanding Data Integration Platform offered by Informatica now addresses the needs of far more buyers with multiple sets of business and technology problems, introducing significant complexity for Sales.  This complexity demanded that we change the Enablement model. No longer can a sales rep sell just one single product and hope to be successful at Informatica or make their quota. 
  • Finally, buyers today are far more informed, educated and evolved than ever before.  Sales people must be able to truly understand, empathize and discuss pain points with a customer’s business and technology challenges at the top of the agenda to provide the value desired by technology buyers.

Do you have a metric or two for your team that you put the most weight on and why?

Defining the right set of metrics and measurements is key to creating a ‘culture of accountability’ within the organization.  This ensures that there is alignment between the goals of our stakeholders (i.e., Sales) and our priorities and that there is a mechanism to measure progress against stated objectives. Our goal is to move from “Consumption to Impact” which means that we have a variety of metrics associated with the consumption of Enablement programs (e.g., # of students, accreditations achieved, etc.) as well as sales productivity metrics that demonstrate impact in the field (e.g., change in conversion rate, ramp velocity, change in cross-sell rate, etc.).

What do you see in 2012 for the Sales Enablement profession?

Enterprise technology companies need to achieve two main goals in 2012 – deliver value to a growing and increasingly complex set of buyers and influencers in order to win business; and drive profitable revenue to provide a return to their investors. 

Executing an effective Enablement Services portfolio that is aligned to the goals and objectives of the sales organization, measured with the correct set of metrics and delivered with the relevant buyer and value focus is critical to achieving those two goals.

As such, my expectation is that Sales Enablement roles and functions will continue to propagate in technology and other sectors where complex selling is required. The role of Enablement will continue to be elevated as organizations recognize the gap between strategy and execution and realize the benefits Enablement can deliver across the entire value delivery system.