In our last CoreConnections Spotlight Profile we focused on what Sales Enablement life is like at a massive, very much established, organization with nearly 40 years of operating experience. So for our second profile I wanted to shift gears a bit and focus on a very successful yet significantly younger organization to see what challenges and opportunities they face on a day to day basis. Thankfully for me I have had the opportunity to not only work with, but also get to know, a fantastic sales leader in Hope Ruiz.
Hope is the Global Sales Enablement Manager at SailPoint. SailPoint is growing at a rapid clip in the independent identity and access management (IAM) space. They were also very lucky to find someone like Hope that hits the trifecta when it comes to experience. She started off her career in a direct sales capacity, spent time in marketing and brand management, and prior to SailPoint was the Program Director for Sales Enablement at IBM. It is very rare to find someone with experience in every aspect of the sales cycle. Which is why this was a fantastic conversation.
PR: To kick off I always like to begin with the same question: What falls under the sales enablement umbrella and what is your team responsible for at SailPoint?
HR: Well the two biggest are training and onboarding. We’re also responsible for developing and providing them with the most relevant sales tools, customer facing materials, and even tools to help them figure out ROI for prospects. On the training front it is everything from industry knowledge to general communication and engagement. Pretty much anything to arm the salesforce with what they need to be successful.
PR: This seems to be a recurring trend where more and more responsibility continues to fall on to Sales Enablement teams as the backbone of the sales organization. Which leads me to my next question.
Prior to SailPoint you were a Program Director for Sales Enablement at IBM. I’m sure this was a much different experience than you have at SailPoint. What do you see as the biggest difference working for a massive established organization like IBM and shifting to a high growth almost startup like atmosphere at SailPoint?
HR: The biggest difference is the speed and impact. The rate and pace at which we are able to create and roll out the adoption of new programs. I think it is a company dynamic here, in addition to size. The SailPoint leadership and sales professionals have a fantastic ability and energy to leverage their many years of Security and technology experience in innovative and efficient ways.
PR: Would you say that with that speed your focus or method has changed?
HR: I think it is more so our ability to take advantage of the momentum with the growth of the company and expansion of the portfolio. The salesforce is setup with the right client set and product set. So the focus is on making that better. Our sellers, for the most part have the luxury of satisfied customers and high retention rates. We’re strategically planning to avoid pitfalls but for right now we are more focused on growth. SailPoint has an amazing culture from the leadership team all the way down. So the focus is on making sure we bottle up the secret sauce so to speak and continue to develop the culture we have.
PR: That is a fantastic problem to have! So to flip it around what keeps you up at night?
HR: It would have to be maintaining that momentum and culture that they have built. So much positive energy and support from the leadership team around sales enablement. So how do we continue to drive that engagement and provide them with the best possible content and training, big expectations to answer.
PR: Another question that I am always curious about is around methodologies. Many sales leaders have a specific methodology that they subscribe to, is there one that you lean toward in terms of training?
HR: It’s a combination – Our sales team has been educated in many methodologies. When hiring experienced sales people, they come in with different training and levels. So the main focus is on building a cohesive message around the overall company and across the sales team. We want to allow them to have the flexibility but keep a seamless message across the team. As products become more complex and we grow even larger we will need to have a cohesive SailPoint methodology with more people involved. But for now it is all focused on the message.
PR: I am sure that is a place many high growth organizations find themselves. It starts with consistency in message. Which is interesting because I was a part of a recent LinkedIn conversation that was debating what amount of product knowledge vs. sales skills is most important. I think we would both agree that they are both crucial to success. You are in an interesting spot as you have a recent acquisition as well as new software being released. How do you balance these two elements?
HR: This is an age old challenge. Not something anyone can solve overnight. All audiences should have a base level of sales skills including sales engineers. Our direct sellers should also have a baseline of product knowledge. The key for us is knowing where the hand off point is and when to get their sales engineers engaged. We need to teach them both but more importantly help them to understand how to effectively leverage their teammates. You and your partner need to make each other look good and make each other shine.
PR: That is a unique perspective. I think it is one to highlight as we all know we need to engage our teammates but training on when and how to do so is genius!
So I’ve told you this before, I love your background. You’ve been in sales, marketing, and sales enablement. Over the course of your career what would you say has changed in terms of either the buyer or how you teach sellers to approach their buyers?
HR: Different buyers will think differently. It doesn’t come down to just what drives them. It’s also, what do they care about? What do they understand? It starts with knowing your audience and needing to do a very thorough discovery. They may understand aspects of security space and access, or may be more focused on risk assessment and a governance perspective. Knowing your audience is key and a very thorough discovery will get you there. However, it must be a conversation and not an interrogation. Once you know your buyer you can begin to sprinkle in thought leadership and bring up more relevant points along the way. They need this combination and that’s probably the biggest change.
PR: What is your #1 guiding principal or mantra to pass on to sales leaders?
HR: It actually aligns with SailPoint’s core values, The 4 I’s: Innovation, Integrity, Impact, and Individuals. Out of those it is so impressive to me how much stock the company puts into Innovation. The expectation is that I am always innovating and looking for the next best thing.
PR: I love that. I have been in organizations that are comfortable with status quo and it is the hardest thing to sit back and watch them waste opportunities and talent. So my last question is about general advice or maybe a best practice that you can share?
HR: Something that I remind myself of constantly is to recognize the importance of the sales relationship. We know that the customer’s connection and trust in their sales person is the biggest factor in their likelihood to buy. It’s important that our communication and training materials to the sales team give respect to their unique relationship building and encourage it.
Hope, as always it has been a pleasure! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me and share some best practices and experiences with our CoreConnections Audience.
I think a major takeaway from this conversation is for all of those organizations growing quickly is to prioritize and build consistency. The details will come and right now you need to focus on getting sellers up to speed and armed with the best and most effective messaging. The rest will come with time. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and engage with our CoreConnections Spotlight series. Please feel free to reach out and provide feedback on future topics and insights you would like to know more about.