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Ep17 Set and Manage Executive Expectations: A Case Study
Episode 1730th August 2019 • Inside: Sales Enablement • Scott Santucci, Brian Lambert, Erich Starrett
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Welcome to the Inside Sales Enablement Podcast, Episode 17

In an earlier episode (#13), Brian and Scott discussed the very important concept of Stakeholder Management. When we published that episode, we received a lot of feedback from the Insider Nation. One of those feedback items was a person asking us for a more in-depth discussion on stakeholder management moving beyond the Chicken Hawk concept and asking us to breathe life into the idea.

In this episode #17, Scott interviews Brian and his recent work internally at a large company. As a Sales Enablement leader, Brian shares his learning and experiences in managing across the organization and managing up the organization. The guys walk through this important concept and dive into the operational challenges. They also talk about expectation setting approaches, and they explore the importance of managing the message to multiple altitude levels.  

Listen to the episode, and you'll hear what Brian and his team did to work up, down, and across the organization to: 

  • Communicate
  • Manage the message
  • Declare victories 
  • Handle push back and feedback from sales

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


Nick Merinkers 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 00:33

I'm Scott Santucci

Brian Lambert 00:35

I'm Brian Lambert and we are the sales enablement insiders. Our podcast is for sales enablement. Leaders looking to elevate their function, expand their sphere of influence, and increase the span of control within their companies.

Scott Santucci 00:48

Together, Brian, I've worked on over 100 different kinds of sales enablement initiatives, as analysts, consultants or practitioners. We've learned the hard way What works, and maybe more importantly, what doesn't.

Brian Lambert 01:04

Our podcast is different. We use a conversational format to help share the experiences that only people who've been there and done that can provide, as we have been pushing the envelope in the profession for over a decade. In this show, we're going to hear from one of our listeners and pick a topic and talk about it. What did you get Scott?

Scott Santucci 01:24

So, one of the things that's fantastic is that our listeners are becoming more and more engaged, and we're getting some, some emails and this one's particularly great. So hopefully you can tell that we're trying to include you all as as, as our audiences inside our nation. And I love this topic because what he did is share and I'm always protecting the names to protect the innocent, some points of view about what's important to him. Great. What he says is lastly my big my big big challenges as enablement practitioner are number one. stakeholder management and a pas and parental you started this and if you know what we're talking about, that's Episode 13. Or better yet our chicken Hawk chicken Hawk episode, but I think it's much bigger than any practitioner realizes we couldn't agree with you more. Number two prioritization process. I think it's different than stakeholder management. And this is often and then this and off of this is almost model a business case to justify investment enablement process. Number three is capacity planning, what it actually takes to do one facet of enablement properly. I think we all underestimate the resources, so be great to have some kind of strategy or formula for before taking on a project. That's very, very true.

Brian Lambert 02:54

That might take five or six.

Scott Santucci 02:56

Yeah, exactly. Oh, each of these topics might take five or six, right? Yeah. Number four, a strategy for general continued green reinvest in your function and selling to your CFO, your value. That's the business within a business strategy that we've talked to we're still trying to figure out how to introduce that one so, any ideas on how we can just get that topic going, we'd love to hear. Number five, how to say no without losing trust. And number six, it could be us here at insert company name here to protect the innocent. Innocence, but enablement practitioners to me are seemingly awful at reinforcement strategies.

Brian Lambert 03:36

That's a good one too.

Scott Santucci 03:38

Yep. So those are those are the topics and in the spirit of trying to give you what we want. This is this topic. We're going to go into stake holder management, or aka chicken Hawk. And with me we have we have Brian Lambert, who recently was with a he's under nondisclosure, so we can't say exactly what the company is. So just imagine I'm beeping it. I'm kidding. I'm not gonna say the name of the company was recently had a large fortune 500 company where he ran enablement function. And we're going to talk about the importance of stakeholder management. So, first question to you, Brian. On a scale of one to 10. How important do you think stakeholder management is as a sales enablement practitioner?

Brian Lambert 04:25

Well, 11. Right to 11

Scott Santucci 04:30

He's gone to 11

Brian Lambert 04:33

Yeah, how good how good am I? A Two. Yeah

Scott Santucci 04:38

it's a difficult it's a very, very difficult thing to master. But let's talk about a little bit why it's so important. Why would you say it is a 10? And why do we not hear about stakeholder management outside in the community of sales enablement? Why are we only hear about onboarding or coaching, or you know, tactics? How come sales outcome stakeholder management if you think it's 11 why isn't it getting a lot of talk out there.

Brian Lambert 05:03

I'm not 100% sure, maybe because nobody's got an approach to it. Because a lot of times, I think people inherit remit or the department and they just execute what has been going on. In this case, I think it's important to think about the transformational nature or where the function is going, and how disruptive it can be in a positive way to the success of salespeople. And when you think about that, it impacts a lot of people. And you have to do what salespeople do, and you have to map it all out. So maybe it's a quote unquote, a lot of work for folks to figure out but it has to be done.

Scott Santucci 05:44

Yeah, so I want to add comment a little bit there. Brian, you mentioned transformational. I think we would you agree that within the sales enablement world there are some people who like who believe sales enablement is transformative, but they're not doing it. Companies, there are some who believe sales enablement is tactical and it should be just tactical. And Aren't we all over the place in the community in terms of the flavors of sales enablement?

Brian Lambert 06:10

Yeah, absolutely. The flavors or domains of sales enablement, and then, you know, is it here to execute well, and optimize what we've been doing in the past? Or is it a transformative role that requires new ways of working or new processes and deliverables, if you will? Or outputs to help salespeople be successful to close some sort of gap? Yeah, you know, improve efficiencies, etc.

Scott Santucci 06:38

So, let's do this to help the listeners or help our audience or help inside our nation. I'm hoping guys that we can, you know, get behind that. So let us know like,

Brian Lambert 06:47

We might need a sound effect from Nick every time you say insider nation, right? Audio engineer, think about that one.

Scott Santucci 06:55

And I'm also thinking about if he does our listeners, just Hashtag insider nation out there and let us know that you like the term and let us know that you're out there. But back-to-back to this topic to help inside our nation known being able to identify with Brian's story. Brian, tell us a little bit about the scope of what your enablement function was. What was the impetus for what you were doing? What was the scope of role at a high level, just real lightweight with the business problem? Was this the size of your team? Where did you what what function Did you report into give us some of those demographics before we start talking about stakeholder management so that way somebody can engage in your organization and why stakeholder management be so important?

Brian Lambert 07:43

So ultimately, we reported into a shared service function. It was designed the Shared Services function was designed to support and enable the call center so the call centers or sales and service call centers. So, in that view, the group that I worked in had traditionally been an L&D group. However, the VP that came in was very transformational. We basically work together to sell a vision for evolving the function and from traditional l&d function into an enablement function, which means it had primarily two groups, technically three. So, I'll go with the three-legged stool, because these are important concepts. I think that we can work on later Scott with this business, a little bit business idea that you have, but the the first function was a solution in group, the group that would intake you know, tens of thousands of initiatives, we had quite a lot of feedback coming from the field, and also a lot of initiatives that we had to run so they would intake we would scope it we would architect with solution architects or in this case learning experience architects, as we call them. That was the group that I ran is about 35 people. That group broke into architecture and program project management or business relationship management and project management. So that was that was the one group. The second group was a Build Team, a build function writers, production folks, curriculum designers, creative specialists, etc. This was a group of about 80 people, they put finger on keyboards very technically skilled, very good at what they do to produce these types of outputs that reps would use in the field. And then the third groups analytics business analytics function to measure all that as we evolved our services over time. So that was my group was on the I ran the solutioning group, about 35 people. And this idea of stakeholder management is huge, because we were the group responsible for

Scott Santucci 09:55

Great hold on let me let me ask, I want to just make sure I'm clear here, Brian. So, the sales enablement function had three stools, a solutioning. Stool, a build stool, and a analytics tool.

Brian Lambert 10:11

That's right. Three legs of the stool, same stool. Right.

Scott Santucci 10:14

So, and they all report into a shared services function. Where did the Shared Services function report to?

Brian Lambert 10:19

Into the business units.

Scott Santucci 10:21

Okay, directly into the business units. So yeah, funding from multiple different business units?

Brian Lambert 10:27

Yeah, in a way it was. It was a fixed investment that they figured out at the top, and then we had our, our funding was headcount plus, get consulting dollars, if you will, professional services that we would go get, and we'll get an annual drop, if you will. And then we had, we actually increased that over year over year, but that's that's how we were funded. Gotcha.

Scott Santucci 10:50

So, what I'd like everybody to do before we start talking about stakeholder management imagine in your head, you know, just a box that's the sandbox that the organization is in It's a shared services function of which there are multiple business units with which, whom are more or less contributing to pay for this function. There are three components within that within that masterbox, three smaller boxes within it. So, a solutioning box, a bill box and an advisor, a advisor analytics box, our hero, Brian, our hero is in the solution inbox. And so, within the solution box, let's talk about why stakeholder management is so important. What I try to do is do might do the job of laying the land Tell me why stakeholder management is so important.

Brian Lambert 11:41

It is really sets and manages expectations when you have an enablement function that is evolving. And, you know, we made a lot of promises. We we had to sell it internally. It had to be stood up internally, it got carved out from existing groups, we took some headcount over in the process. We Just come through a merger environment. And it was one of those things where we had to release that and manage expectations. And I think that's ultimately what stakeholder management it's about on both sides, ourselves and what our people can do what we can deliver in the context of an evolution or a transformation, but also the impact business impact we can get over time. That was critical.

Scott Santucci 12:23

Okay, so the, to be simple about it because we started off talking about stakeholder management, using a Looney Tunes cartoon. Right to go back to go back to centering, centering principles and simplicity. The simple answer to stakeholder management is about setting and managing expectations. Right, right. That's right art is that then you said you said it was a two on how well you are? Because it seems so hard.

Brian Lambert 12:52

Yeah, I learned a lot. We broke it into three groups. So just to keep it you know, actionable here. You have to manage up, you have to manage across, and you have to manage down the managing down. I think we should park that maybe for another podcast and just talk about the up and across piece. Because I had to learn a lot there. There's there are a lot of landmines. There are a lot of expectations, as we talked about, and quite frankly, some politics right there. And that's something that even though I'd come from a sales background, is important to make sure that that we stay on top of proactively to build the right kind of relationships across because that's ultimately where your your power and your funding comes from. And then also above because of the pressure that they're getting from the executive team to transform the customer conversation.

Scott Santucci 13:46

Right. So so, let's let's Park this here for a second. So, we have stakeholder management is about setting and managing expectations, not rocket science. Well, now that now that you've broken that down one, one level further You have three different groups, you have up, across and down. Let's talk about up right now. Just point number one, what is managing up me? Who is the up?

Brian Lambert 14:12

In this case, shared services leadership, who really cares about, you know, business impact the number of customers we're serving internally, the volume of initiatives, the quality of initiatives, and, you know, the feedback that they're getting, to make sure that they're adding the right kind of value. And then our business unit leaders who really care about business impact of, for example, new hires, or knowledge management articles with processes in them to make sure that they're right and they want to make sure that they are ultimately serving customers the right way. And in this business environment, compliance driven, making sure that it's done legally correct, etc. So, there's a lot of inspection by the business units to make sure that we're equipping the right reps with the right content, message, processes, etc.

Scott Santucci 14:59

So Let me ask it this way. So, I'm being purposely challenging here. Because Brian and I both know that bringing up a topic like stakeholder management can be difficult and people can tend to assume that's too theoretical or too big or whatnot. You just say you said that you are we're in the solutions team. How is messaging, why isn't messaging up? just deliver to the VP of the Shared Services function? I don't understand. Isn't, aren’t you just managing expectations of one person? Is that a pen or a woman who's managing all the other relationships of all the other groups? Why are you involved in that?

Brian Lambert 15:42

Yeah, that's, that's a good question. But it's, yeah, I guess it's easy to miss. But it's one of those things where if you don't do that, you are pigeonholing yourself, with assumptions So in other words, people will assume and by people, I mean, leaders and sister organizations, for example, shared services in this organization, let's pretend there's eight groups. And we were, you know, one of eight. So, seven eighths of the sister organization wouldn't really necessarily know what we're up to other than the interactions that they have with our people. And that's I don't think it's a good expectation to expect that one leader would be able to handle all that. And we really had to be proactive and actually plan out how we would stakeholder manage these, you know, seven other groups, if you will, from a communication perspective, messaging, declaring victory, even for some wins, which is important. And also, being clear on when we screwed up and doing that proactively so that things didn't fester bubble up or turn into an issue.

Scott Santucci 16:53

All right, so let me I think I need some stakeholder management to manage talking about This. So, I, here's where I got a little bit lost. And maybe you can help provide clarity for me in my head, as I'm following along with you. And I'm actually, if you're listening, I'm actually using a sheet of paper to draw out these things so I can make it more concrete. I have in my head that there's a variety of different business units with whom are contracting or have expectations with your VP. Mm hmm. You said seven other sister organizations. What's going on in my head is I'm confused because I thought you only had two other sister organizations, the ops group or sorry, not the ops group.

Brian Lambert 17:45

Oh, the analytics. Yeah. So, enablement had three three legs of the stool, huh? That is one function of eight.

Scott Santucci 17:55

Got it. So, there are eight total functions, what were the other functions?

Brian Lambert 18:00

Things like policy procedures, a group that would translate the product and technology into what our what our sites needed to be doing. That was a second group of third group was quality QA. A fourth group was tools technology. Our group was pretty much specifically aligned to equipping sellers with content. So, messaging and training content knowledge management content, but we didn't do the...