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Migrating to Revenue Enablement from a Sales-Only Mindset

Hang Black

Hang Black

VP of Global Revenue Enablement at Juniper Networks

Hang Black, VP of Global Revenue Enablement at Juniper Networks

Many sales enablement leaders are now faced with an expanded duty to venture beyond a “sales-only” mindset to support all revenue-generating channels and roles. Aptly termed, revenue enablement, this function of modern business is grossly important in our work-anywhere, buy-everywhere environment. 

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent, Britt Erler chats with Hang Black, Vice President of Global Revenue Enablement at Juniper Networks to discuss upcoming sales trends, and what that will mean for not only the future of work, but the future of selling. Hang provides expert insight and answers to the following questions: 

  • What is revenue enablement?  
  • How do you align sales enablement metrics across the business? 
  • What does the future of selling look like? 
  • How do you measure success in a changing environment?  
  • How can sales leaders succeed with expanded roles and larger teams to manage? 

Quartz Network: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your current role? 

Hang Black: Juniper Networks is one of the few companies who actually builds the infrastructure behind the internet. You’ve seen in the last year how important that is, from being the technology that drives our connections, our finance infrastructure, healthcare, and educational systems. What we like to say is that we power connections and empower change.  

As far as my role goes, I am the VP of Global Revenue Enablement. My job is pretty much to supercharge our sales teams, our services teams, how we connect to our customers and provide value to our customers. 

Quartz Network: Talk to us a little bit about your sales strategy and how it’s evolved. 

Hang Black: Part of my job is to make sure that we’re looking around the corner. I am constantly tapped into all of the research data: Forrester, Gartner, everyone. I take it and prepare for it so we’re prepared for tomorrow. When COVID hit, we were already preparing for a more virtual environment. Of course, that was accelerated with COVID. What we’ve done is made sure that we’ve been very digitally connected. We’ve really automated how we connect to our customers. We’re all video-on all the time. We’re automating our systems. We’re engaging with our customers, not only where they are because of COVID, but it’s also where they want to be. That trend has been happening for years. It’s one of the reasons Juniper has done so well during COVID. 

Quartz Network: Outside of the realm of preparing for a pandemic such as COVID, what are some other major benefits of having a sales enablement strategy in place? 

Hang Black: Without a strategy, I call it carpet bombing. My personal background was 10 years in engineering, 10 years in marketing, which includes product management and product marketing, and the last 10 years in sales. Now, what you find is there’s a temptation to think of enablement as just technical product training. But then we go in and we carpet bomb everyone. “Oh, you didn’t get my white paper the first time? Let me send it to you five more times.” Every time I say that everyone kind of laughs. But, I am one of those people who wrote those 50-page white papers. Guess who reads them? Only the author.  

The goal for me is to make sure that I’m kind of the flight control tower, where we’ve got all these different inputs, and it’s just not technical, it’s soft skills, it’s business skills, it’s sales cadence, it’s sales operations, it’s legalese. They’re all these things that sellers have to be aware of. I look at the content, I make sure that everything is in the right swim lane. Is this piece of content relevant enough to make the cut? If it does, does it belong on the Pony Express that comes three weeks later? Does it deserve its own handcrafted package that gets delivered door to door? Or does it belong in the Concorde?  

We’re very targeted in the enablement that we deliver. What it does is make the entire system a lot more efficient. We’re also giving time back to the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and they are creating the right content, and they’re spending their time where they should be, creating assets and information that the sales team is actually going to be able to consume. 

Quartz Network: How do you align your sales enablement metrics with not just your sales team, but also across the departments? 

Hang Black: You’ll see that we don’t call ourselves sales enablement, there’s a movement towards revenue enablement. As I mentioned, enablement used to be equated to technical product training. The reason we’re called revenue enablement is that I service my sales folks, my partner team, our external partners, and even our services team to make sure that they get the right content, information, and assets.  

Now, you’ve got one team that everyone goes to. You’ve got marketing and PLM working with us as well. We’re aligned on our metrics end to end as far as not only what revenue generation are we seeing, but also what deal velocity are we creating. What consumption are we getting from what we’re creating? How efficiently are our leads turning over? We are touching so many different teams, and the metrics that my team has measured touch each of those individual teams. We build councils that cross-leverage and collaborate with all those other teams as well. 

Quartz Network: As far as making predictions for the upcoming years, how do you see the future of work and the future of selling? 

Hang Black: As I mentioned, when we talk about looking around corners, I really do believe that if you prepare for today, you’re too late. People, at the very beginning of COVID, were talking about returning to normal. I don’t think we will ever return to normal, and I don’t think today is the new normal either. I’m constantly thinking about the next normal. In the next normal, I believe that we will have some going back to traveling and face-to-face meetings, it may just be a little bit different. What I mean by that is you still need to be able to make critical decisions, executive decisions face to face. You still need some level of collaboration. It will probably be less; we’ll be more efficient about it. There will also be a lot more hybrid environments.  

For instance, we may still be able to convene in an office. We may not all go to Vegas every chance we get, but what you may see is big collaboration spaces. Where we had conference rooms, and we shoved 50 people in and maybe only 10 people are in there, but we have Zoom telepresence with 30 locations with 10 people in them each, so people can collaborate in microsystems. I also think space management will have to be a lot more flexible. We are already seeing that companies are selling off their physical assets. They will still need some physical assets, for sure. Again, trends that were already happening, people will continue to engage on a digital platform.  

Did you know that according to Gartner’s latest data, 44% of millennials don’t even want to have a single interaction with their seller? That was already the case, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ever have a connection with them. They meant you just connect with them digitally. How do you do that? You pay attention to your customers on demand. What conversations are they having? What groups are they following? What thought leadership can you provide? Life will be different, but it won’t be this forever. 

What COVID has shown us, I was a remote worker for almost a decade, so I think it will allow us to bring in much more diverse environments. I remember people saying, “Oh, remote workers, there’s no way they can be as efficient,” and I completely disagreed with that. Now, what we’re seeing, as the whole globe has become a remote workforce, we’ve seen that not only are people as efficient, they’re actually burning out because they’re working so hard due to there being no delineation. I think that we’ll be able to be more open-minded about how we work and the hours we work. One of the detriments of being online is you may be able to have more attendance, but you don’t necessarily have more engagement. We’re going to have to be a lot more creative with how we engage and interact with people. When we do go back to being in person, I believe we’re going to continue to be hybrid, where we will maintain that kind of open infrastructure where anybody can dial in and watch, but we’ll have to uplevel the engagement of the people who actually do get to be in the room. 

Quartz Network: With these trends that we’re seeing and everything going virtual, how’s that going to affect your enablement strategy? 

Hang Black: I’m really focused on making sure that not only do I ensure translation of skill sets, but how do I measure practical application and adoption of it? What we’ll be seeing is not just a unicast of here’s everything you need to know to be great in sales, but conducting missions and badging as far as what have people learned, how are they applying it? Getting the managers engaged in how they’re coaching their people. That’s going to be one of my big initiatives. Now we’ve got the time to be able to be thoughtful about how I uniquely curate to my seller personas. I’ve got SDRs, I’ve got ANs, I’ve got PANS, I’ve got SES, I’ve got resident engineers, I’ve got a plethora of people that are very different, and they’re going to need unique enablement as well. 

Quartz Network: How do you measure the success of those metrics? 

Hang Black: With each of those personas, we have specific competencies that we’re looking for. We’ll have quantitative indicators, but also qualitative indicators too. Those qualitative indicators, we generally put rubrics behind them, so that everyone is grading correctly and fairly. The other thing is, we’re really looking at the tool stack, and how we look at it end to end from marketing ops, all the way through sales ops and sales enablement. How did those three pieces click into each other? Are they all using the same language? How do they connect with each other? How much can we automate? That will be how we also deliver our enablement, making sure that we’re giving our sales teams the right thing at the right time. 

Quartz Network: To kind of walk along that path a little bit more, what do you believe from your experience are the top five enablement tools? 

Hang Black: Hands down, a CRM. I don’t think anyone can even operate without that backbone connected to that CRM. We have sales readiness tools to make sure that we’re delivering the right content and assets. Then, we have a sales asset management platform. Those would be my three table stakes. Beyond that, digital engagement is really important, so a tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to make sure we’re connected to our customers and our partners. Beyond that, we’re really looking at AI-driven tools, specifically something like an outrageous sales loft and then call intelligence on top of that. That’s very selfish in the sales enablement arena. There are a lot more sales ops tools, as you know, and there’s a lot more marketing ops tools too. If I were to favor my top five, those would be the three that you just can’t live without and the next two. 

Quartz Network: Talk to me a little bit about how your team works with marketing, and why you think sales and marketing alignment is so crucial for the business. 

Hang Black: The good news is I came from marketing, so I kind of understand both sides of the coin. I used to think of marketing as the translation layer between PLM and sales. Now, I think of sales enablement as being the translation layer between marketing and sales. I work very closely with marketing. What I’m seeing now in the revenue space is almost where sales enablement used to sit under marketing, it then moved to under sales ops, and then it got big enough that it became its own thing. What I’m seeing now is a revenue engine getting created, and where it’s going to land? I’m actually not quite sure yet. I think a lot of people are still trying to figure it out. Does it belong in its own space? Meaning, you pulled together the operations engine from both sides and create one entity from demand gen through sales leads? Or do we create a virtual team between those three entities? I think there’s some experimentation to be done. 

My team works very closely. We built this pipeline where, of course, we work with PLM, but our main pipeline is through product marketing and the demand-gen engine. From there, we are the enablement team, and we create that connection between sales operations and our sales leadership. There’s still a lot to be told, but I agree with you, all the teams are working much more closely. I do think there’s value in centralizing some of the work. A lot of companies have sales enablement sort of sprinkled around, it’s a little bit of everybody’s job. Centralization of certain functions is going to be critical to figuring out how people are going to drive the next organizational structure around revenue. 

Quartz Network: What advice would you have for companies that are really starting to just build this relationship between sales and marketing? 

Hang Black: I would say, clearly defined swim lanes. There’s a gray area instead of building dual structures, which is where you start getting the friction. Define how can we get as specific as we can in order to diminish those shades of gray. For instance, where does the marketing ops tool end? And where does the sales ops tool begin? What’s the third Venn diagram around sales enablement? It could be that there’s specific responsibilities around certain tools, but somebody’s got to be the single owner of that one tool, of that one function, and other people are secondary. What are you primary for? What are you secondary for? What are you tertiary for? And vice versa between those three organizations. 

Quartz Network: What final pieces of advice would you have for leaders like yourself whose roles have expanded and have taken on a lot more people on their teams as they continue to grow? 

Hang Black: For enablement, it’s really important to define a mission and the boundaries of that mission. And, do you have the executive support as far as influence, but also resourcing and budget underneath it? I’ve actually become really good at ensuring that if it’s not in my swim lane, I will tell people to stop, and redirect them to the right organization.  

For instance, when that happens, marketing is very appreciative of it. To be more efficient, I always say I’m much more efficient if I’m spending 90% of my time getting stuff done versus 50% of my time. The more we can be thoughtful about the approach in a very collaborative space with the other teams that we’re working with, the more we’ll be able to get done. I actually love crisis, I think crisis is where innovation is born, where you can create amazing escape velocity, and create that competitive advantage. Because when everyone else is disoriented, that’s when you can move. 

Quartz Network: I know that you wrote a book as well? 

Hang Black: My book is called Embrace Your Edge with the subtitle of Pave your own path as an immigrant woman in the workplace. I think we often overlook these populations who have lived a life of scrappiness. Hiring these folks and understanding how to attract them can bring a competitive edge into your community, especially in the workplace. We’re missing cognitive diversity. It’s just an area where it’s meant to help support those women, and also meant to educate other people who are interested in learning about them. 

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