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Ep37 State of SE Panel 5: Sales Academics
Episode 3711th May 2020 • Inside: Sales Enablement • Scott Santucci, Brian Lambert, Erich Starrett
00:00:00 01:30:22

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Welcome to the Inside Sales Enablement Podcast, Episode 37

Hello insider nation we're excited to bring you yet another star-studded panel. This time it's a dedicated panel of academics covering the Sales Enablement space from Universities such as Johns Hopkins, University of Texas - Dallas, and Northern Illinois.

For many, the COVID Crisis of 2020 was a wake up call. The guys leaned into the Insider Nation to discover and learn their thoughts in response to the global crisis. Make sure you listen to episodes 27-31.

We continue our groundbreaking research on the state of sales enablement research project this panel.

In this episode, our guest panelists include:

  • Dr. Robert Peterson, Editor Journal of Professional Selling and Professor of Sales at Northern Illinois University 
  • Dr. Joel Le bon, Johns Hopkins University Digital Business Development Initiative
  • Dr. Howard Dover, Director, Center for Professional Sales at University of Texas Dallas

To view the research method, visit

Join us at to collaborate with peers, join Insider Nation, participate in the conversation and be part of the continued elevation of the profession.


Intro 00:02  

Welcome to the inside sales enablement podcast. Where has the profession been? Where is it now? And where is it heading? What does it mean to you, your company, other functions? The market? Find out here. Join the founding father of the sales enablement profession Scott Santucci and Trailblazer Brian Lambert, as they take you behind the scenes of the birth of an industry, the inside sales enablement podcast starts now.

Scott Santucci 00:35  

I'm Scott Santucci. I'm

Brian Lambert 00:36  

Brian Lambert and we are the sales enablement insiders. So hello

Scott Santucci 00:41  

insider nation, we have another special edition podcast. We're gonna get academic, we'll talk about that what that means in a minute. But what we'd like to do is recap on what we've been doing. So far. As you probably know, as a regular listener, we've been doing a variety of special podcasts around COVID COVID response, how to be a hero and leadership frameworks. What we've also done what you also knows that we've done a survey of many of you, and we're in the process of getting those findings, make sure you visit WWW dot inside and register for our executive briefing. We already have joined some of your peers, VP and director level people and companies like Verizon, Comcast, Microsoft, Amazon, boy, the list goes on and on comm vault, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we have a we're really, really delighted with the response that we're getting so far in that upcoming webinar, and of course, puts a lot of pressure on Brian I to make sure we deliver on that.

Moving forward to what we're talking about here today. What we're trying to do is, as part of our research process, share or be very transparent of how we're going about doing it. So we've mentioned that we did a survey, we've mentioned the idea about guest analysts. I mean, this is the kind of help that we're getting seismic TCV private equity, sales benchmark index, show pad, high spot, sales hood, or Ely, soar consulting, these are all businesses that are working to help us get the information to shape out where we're going. And that's really incredible. No one's putting any money to this. This is all just figuring out where this research takes us. So with that, we've already had a few panels, a few cohorts. As I learned from our from our distinguished panelists here, we've had a cohort around sales enablement experts, we've had a cohort around sales and eight sales leaders. We've had one around sales enablement, practitioners, sales enablement, practitioners with more of a training background. And now finally, let's hear from the academics.

So let's get let's get academic. So I'm going to introduce our panel. I'm incredibly excited. One of the things that's really fascinating for me, is I've gotten to know all three of these panelists pretty well, I consider them, I consider them my friends, where they really challenged me is looking at the world through through that different lens. So a lot of us can say, Oh, that's too academic. But you know what, if somebody doesn't look at it through that lens, maybe we get stuck in all of our thinking. So I'm going to ask you guys to pay attention and really put your be open minded and hear where they come from hat. We don't need to agree with them. What we need to do is we need to listen to them because they stretch our thinking. So I'm going to tell some stories about each one. So for I'm going to first start off and introduce Joelle Oban. Joelle is a professor and he's covering digital transformation. pretty relevant topic for the times, I'd say. I bet he's pretty busy right now at Johns Hopkins. Now Joelle I think I met you actually virtually from a maybe a moment where Dr. Dover was doing a video cast and I was maybe a little bit more liberal in my in my speech than I than I normally AM. And we've we've gotten connected and have had a variety of opportunities since he's been heavily involved in helping support the sales of a once society. You've probably seen around Joelle interest, introduce yourself and let insider nation know who

Joelle  04:34  

you are. Thank you, Scott. Thank you, Brian, for putting this podcast together in May, you know, academics talk and think because you know, talk and think is, is also very important for for us to understand what's going on, especially right now. You're right, actually, Scott, we met virtually, where you weren't a panel at Harvard numbers. I think there was a panel at UT Dallas, you were on or maybe a conference and you said pardon my French. And yes, that's right. Right. I like that. And I immediately put on your French, because I am partly French. So I'm a marketing and sales professor, Johns Hopkins University. And I'm also the executive director of the science of digital business development, which is an initiative and program dedicated to digital business development and by digital business development, I mean, combination of strategy, marketing and sales to facilitate companies organization go to market strategies, because obviously marketing strategy and sales, they have to work together, maybe just like for sales enablement. So this is why I'm I teach marketing, I teach sales, I do research in marketing and sales. And this is very much related to sales enablement. So glad to be on the panel. Thank you for the invitation.

Scott Santucci 06:02  

Excellent. We are looking forward to hearing from you. Next up is Dr. Robert Peterson. So I met Dr. Robert Peterson, I'd like you to imagine a little bit. There's a conference room that's on the on a Friday, at the meeting started at about one o'clock, the Friday before Thanksgiving in November 2016. There's a whole bunch of people in there most of I would say mostly VP and VP level executives from pretty large, competent companies and sitting together our doctor, Dr. Robert Peterson, and Dr. Howard Dover. And Robert Peterson, was one of the people who was at that initial founding meeting to decide whether or not we need to do the sales, the name was society in the first place. So I'm really grateful that he found a way to get there, I still still think that's interesting. One of my favorite stories about Dr. Robert Peterson is that we had a we had a really awesome conversation over a couple of drinks in San Francisco that one time and it's really awesome when you respect somebody and get a chance to get to know them too. And that's always always delightful. So Mr. Peterson, please introduce yourself, introduce yourself to inside our nation. Put a little bit of color behind your name.

Robert Peterson 07:26  

I've nothing but color. Let me tell you, thank you, Scott, and Brian for inviting me to the panel, the esteemed panel. Yeah, you know how we got to that place in the breakers. Um, that was beautiful. Thank you guys for inviting me to a six hour meeting that took three days because you couldn't get to west palm on a flight you couldn't get out of West Palm. So we were there for three days. So I got to meet a lot of people. But really what put that on the map for me that initial gathering of the sales enablement minded people was, um, you know, I saw Brian on LinkedIn talking about it. And I was like, Well, what is this? What is this mean? So I looked it up in the academic world. Now one thing was said about sales enablement. In any journal. It's like, Alright, well, maybe I asked, you know, I did a search term of the topic. In the title, nothing, sorry. Well, maybe I'll put that search term in the abstract, nothing, nothing, nothing. I'm like, Alright, I want to be part of nothing. So I, you know, Howard, I talked, we made it happen. The fact that Brian, essentially because I knew him from years ago when he was a young PhD guy. I said, Well, he's involved and this has to be legit. So yeah, that's how I showed up and haven't turned back since.

A little on me as I you know, I worked in sales. I was 100%. commission sales guy on the phone, financial industry. So income paper in Washington, DC, my first sales job. I'm the editor of the Journal of selling, which is an academic journal. I get I use improv in the classroom to get people thinking, get them engaged. And just don't assume that you know, some Pat answer, it's going to work you need to be thinking, so I'm just out here doing some having some fun. Howard and I have been doing some research that the academics have fought us tooth and nail, and told us we don't know what we're talking about in this whole customer journey thing. It's just terms we're making up and so it's been a good it's been a good fight, trying to talk to people about sales enablement, its role and its you know, how vital it can be for a company that embraces it correctly.

Scott Santucci 09:32  

So inserted nation, one of the things that I found so fascinating is in getting to know getting to know these guys a little bit. How the world of academia actually works is interesting. I think we need to do a whole podcast on the feedback that you get about what doesn't exist when we have a whole profession of 10,000 people doing things that don't supposedly exist in the academic world. I think that would be very, very fun. Fascinating of how we don't exist because we haven't been peer reviewed or anything like that. So inside our nation, that's going to be an interesting topic. Maybe if, if you guys want to hear more about it, I've got to tell it's a very interesting and fascinating story as we delve into that. So with that, I'm going to introduce our last panelist, Dr. Howard, over whom you've already met. Dr. Dover was on our COVID panel with Kunal and Lindsey earlier. And it's, it's always great to have Dr. Pan on Dr. Howard on our show. He's the director for the Center of professional sales and sales coaching at the University of Texas, Dallas. Howard, tell us more about about yourself or add some color to conversation, please.

Howard 10:44  

Well, I think, you know, it's fun to kind of connect the dots I remember. So to kind of connect, have people understand the relationship between Rob and Joelle and myself is that when we go out together, Rob and I are known as dwells bodyguards. So we and we literally will will say we're his bodyguards, if you if you run into us, so you see it as a conference come up to us and, and you know, Joel will be looking like the guy that could kill you. But Robin, I would have to take you out.

Scott Santucci 11:16  

So see Joseph, the smart one, he orders the hit pan. That's right, he does.

Unknown Speaker 11:23  

He has a boss like presence. And Robin, I look like the muscle. So that's an inside joke, but it gives relevance that we know each other. Rob and I have co authored several papers together. In fact, Rob didn't say it. But we we did manage to get the first paper of sales enablement, actually published in the last two months in the Journal of selling so and Rob really kind of drove that forward. But I met Rob, I met Scott at the breakers with, with Rob and Brian at the same time. And so my my job at the University of Texas, Dallas is too I'm the director of the Center, I founded the center. We also do some work around research in the area of sales enablement, and also the area of the core issue of efficiency and effectiveness in sales, specifically around sales tech stack technology, trying to see how technology is improving the performance of sales people including that's actually bled deeply into our curriculum as making pretty big impact out there in the world. As a fun note, I've picked up cycling over the last year and planned to do a 100 kilometer the hotter than hell 100 this summer unless it gets cancelled from COVID. So

Scott Santucci 12:57  

awesome. And you're a Pisces, and you like swimming and golf. I'm just kidding. Anyway, all right. So with that is, obviously we were all comfortable with each other. One of the things that I'd like you guys and at insider nation to point out, innovation doesn't just happen in business, these guys are all trying to innovate within the academic community. So whenever you see them, please link them, please give them our support, it is incredibly hard. And I want to stress it's incredibly hard to get coverage on new things in the academic community. So anything that we can do, to give them evidence that we exist as a role as a profession, would be incredibly valuable to them to help help raise the cost. So that having said Having said that, all of our panelists have been given the the survey findings, and we're going to follow the same format. We're going to go and ask breakdown in sections, we're going to have their feedback on each of each opening question. I'm going to direct questions to individuals in order, they're going to say their answer, and then they're going to respond to their peers. So getting into the meat of the meat of the question, we're going to start with you, Joelle or Dr. lavonne. Question number one, having looked at the survey findings, what are a few things that stood out for you?

Unknown Speaker 14:30  

Yeah, some very, very nice question, because there were very, very interesting questions in this survey. So of course, you know, when we look at our survey, we always look at the respondents, you know, who responded, what do they do, because, you know, somehow their response are influenced by the response. So of course, I look at that and we have 67% of sales enablement leaders in there. survey 47 out of 70 responded, you mentioned? And and of course, they're gonna they're gonna support the field because they also study women leaders. So it's good. First that, you know, they are engaged to participate into, you know, an initiative to understand what what's the feeling the function is about. Having said that, when I look at the survey and the response responses, I think. And I think what really was interesting for me is to admit somehow that the function, I don't even know if I should call that the function, but sales enablement, as not found its sweet spot yet, in terms of purpose and definition. And there are a lot of people are in fact talking about that, it is interesting to see that in our survey, we do have some people saying that it is in decline, and to look at the reasons why they think it is in decline, the rationale behind there, you know, they're rational. And, and one of the respondents said, we have not clearly defined what sales enablement is in b2b industry.

So, um, so I think I think that was interesting to see that even for those who are in sales enablement, of thinking that sales enablement needs to define better its purpose. And I really like also, some of the answers around it's something which is in transition. Even from those who say it was on the rise, it's still transitioning, which is very interesting for us in academia, because we can participate into the thought process of understanding what the function and the discipline is about. It is also interesting to see that a lot of people mentioned that the function is being influenced by technology, and hypergraph of technical innovation, if I remember one of the response. So so then if technology is driving a function and a discipline, you know, what's next, because technology is, you know, changing fast. And and I think that was, you know, the main the main takeaways from that the last one is, and I have to say, this is coming from an executive who actually said that even sales enablement departments, and he also say that it is on the rise. And he said that, his view is, we need to stop calling it a sales enablement. And for that person, it's more commercial enablement. And I thought that this this thought was was interesting as a way to envision what sales enablement is about or could be about

Unknown Speaker 18:05  

for the future. So that's, that's the takeaway I took away from, from from the survey.

Scott Santucci 18:11  

Awesome, deep thoughts already. I love it. So let's get Dr. Peterson's perspective. You had a chance to look at the survey results? What jumped out at you?

Unknown Speaker 18:22  

I would say that I totally disagree with Joelle awesome. No, no. Well, as a PhD, we have to disagree right about everything. Um, there was a bunch of stuff that that that as I as I look through, it's like, Hmm, that's interesting. So I'll get into my best, or at least the one that definitely rose my eyebrow the most, which was, who is the customer of sales enablement. And it kind of dovetails on what Joelle just mentioned about, you know, the purpose and the definition. And that was the article that Howard and I just published on, on, on sales enablement in the Journal of selling, which is free, if you want, you can, you can grab it. And we had baker's dozen, we had 13 definitions, starting obviously with your sky because you're kind of the grandfather of of the initial drive into initiative into sales enablement.

Scott Santucci 19:14  

With your 2010 definition. And by the way, I have some comments on Oh, I'm sure we're talking. Okay. I'm going to critique it.

Unknown Speaker 19:23  

So did the reviewers trust me?

Unknown Speaker 19:26  

Um, but it went from, you know, your 2010 to start it out, and it's obviously easy for me and Howard to take a retrospective and look 10 years after that and make some observations. You know, maybe you could have been more parsimonious But either way, you've got everybody in there, brother, I'm just looking at right now at the at the table. Everybody in their brother is trying to define it in some more sales, Ops, some more marketing, some definitely training, and then there was something a little bit more, you know, strategic in their, in their, in their, in their thinking. So what what what I find when I, you know, surprise, surprise, when we look at the survey results is,...