Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 163 : Q & A with John Raguin @SeismicSoftware


Share on LinkedIn

By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Yet another great episode this time of Sales Pipeline Radio, live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

Check out the great guests we’ve had so far! We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. The show is growing like crazy.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at and subscribe on Spotify,  iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, or Stitcher

On this episode, “Defining Sales Enablement: Increasing Salesforce Efficiency and Effectiveness” we talk to John Raguin, CMO at Seismic Software.

“Sales Enablement” is a now a very mainstream category, almost table stakes for B2B companies but this wasn’t the case just four years ago.  I ask John how Seismic sees that.

Oh, it’s unbelievable The growth. So over, it’s exactly like you said, over the last four years, we’ve essentially had, we went… if you looked at LinkedIn, just on job titles, just looking at job titles, you’d find that there was 188-80% increase in LinkedIn search results for sales enablement, where people were searching in LinkedIn. And then 118% increase just in the last two years of people with sales enablement in their job titles. And the astounding part we even saw further, is that there are just about as many people with job titles that have sales enablement in it as there are open job wrecks. So that really tells you that sales enablement has… that’s one of many statistics that is important in looking at how sales enablement has become such a big thing and importance to organizations.

But I also ask John what is sales enablement? What does it encompass? When companies see it, what are the functions they should be thinking about?

Listen in or read the transcript below for this and a lot more.

Consider taking a moment to help ‘make enablement a word’ and sign the petition launched this week which aims to help the industry make ‘enablement’ a real word recognized in the dictionary.  

Matt:  Thank you all for joining us today. If you’re joining us live on the funnel media radio network. Thank you for joining us during the work day. Most of you I expect are joining us through the podcast. So thank you very much for subscribing. I think we’re over 80,000 downloaded subscriptions now continues to grow our listeners. I’m just surprised and humbled. It’s pretty awesome. So thank you very much for joining us and every episode, past present and future of Sales Pipeline Radio, always available at Today we have another great guest we are always featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing today is no different. John Raguin he is the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer for Seismic. John, thanks so much for joining us today.

John R:  Oh, great to be here. Fantastic. Thanks for having me.

Matt:  Absolutely. Well, I know we had talked a little bit about sales enablement. And it’s interesting, but you guys are right at the center of the sales enablement category with software. And I think, it was four or five years ago, we did a survey just trying to understand where companies were in the sales enablement world. And we’d literally, we found out we couldn’t even use the term sales enablement in the survey because there weren’t enough people had any idea what that meant. And here we are now, it seems like it has become a very mainstream category, almost table stakes for B2B companies. How do you guys see that?

John R:  Oh, it’s unbelievable the growth. So over, it’s exactly like you said, over the last four years, we’ve essentially had, if you looked at LinkedIn, just looking at job titles, you’d find that there was 188-80% increase in LinkedIn search results for sales enablement, where people were searching in LinkedIn. And then 118% increase just in the last two years of people with sales enablement in their job titles. And the astounding part we even saw further, is that there are just about as many people with job titles that have sales enablement in it as there are open job wrecks. So that really tells you that that is one of many statistics that is important in looking at how sales enablement has become such a big thing and important to organizations.

Matt:  So, what is it though? I mean, I’ve heard people just talk about sales enablement, sales engagement, sales automation, sales acceleration, it seems like sales enablement is a category term that has stuck. But what does it encompass? When companies see that, what are the functions they should be thinking about?

John R:  Yeah, I mean, first we’ll start with the value and then let’s talk with the functions. What I think companies are seeing is an increase in agility, meaning eliminating time in the sales process. That’s one thing that sales enablement helps do. The second is around efficiency, reducing the effort that sales people have to do and marketing have to do to hopefully get to close deals. Third is effectiveness, like extending the conversation, making sure you’re being relevant at the point in time. So what sales enablement at a broad thing is are all the things that marketing and sales training and other people do around the sales process, sales operations, and when I say other people sales operations do in order to help make the sales force be more agile, more efficient and more effective.

Matt:  I really like the way you described that because you didn’t go right into functions. You talked about, why it’s important and how to measure it. And I think for companies that are not excited necessarily about taking on more jobs, if you think about the impact that can have on your organization, I think, I heard a stat once that 25% of time for active, for B2B sellers is spent actively selling. So you never going to get that to 75 or 80%. But if you could go from 25 to 30%, active selling and improve the advocacy of that selling across your Salesforce, I mean, do the math, and that all of a sudden adds up to a pretty big number.

John R:  Absolutely, and you look at how inefficient they are. So let me give you a few examples of first where sales enablement. Some of the stats, we’re seeing that companies who effectively do sales enablement get, and then where are some of the challenges? Why is it that the organizations where are they getting these benefits from? So first of, CSO Insights quoted that organizations that effectively have implemented sales enablement across the organization and done things around the sales enablement have gotten 10%, 10.1% higher win rates. A second one is organizations that have implemented a sales enablement platform have seen a 13.7% annual increase in deal size. And you’d say where do they get that from? How do they get benefits? Look, the reality is that you can only make your eight reps that much better. You can certainly like you said, hopefully get them where it’s not 75% of their time is working not on a deal.

But the reality is your best sales reps probably find ways that they are spending 50, 55, 60% of their time on deal execution. But your B reps, your B minus reps, they’re the ones who are spending 75% 80% of their time because they don’t know what to use, they don’t know what message works, they’re probably in part of the sales process, and this is common. 65% of sales and marketing material produced for use by sales is never actually utilized. And obviously, that’s a fault of the people creating the content, but it’s also a fault of, that content isn’t finding the sellers at the right time, in the sales cycle. Because you may have great material or great training or great other pieces around sales enablement, but if it’s not used at the right time, then it’s wasted.

And keep in mind, just using marketing material, for example, a billion dollar company in annual sales revenue, can waste about a million a year in unused marketing material, a millions a year. So these are big numbers that can be used for other things, and it’s about, it’s like you said, it’s a little bit about making them more effective not just efficient.

Matt:  Well, and I think you bring up some really compelling stats, and I think hopefully make a lot of people sit up and say maybe this is something I should focus on. I think this can also be a hidden problem, right? I mean, if your presentations don’t look good, you can see that, if your conversion rates aren’t good, you’re like, okay, well, what can we do to improve that? But what are some things people should be looking at in their businesses to indicate how well or ineffectively, they’re enabling the team today? Are there certain key metrics inside of a sales organization, that companies that maybe don’t have sales enablement software yet should look for to identify the size of the problem they may have?

John R:  Yeah, so some of the biggest things that some companies have done is like you said, some of the surveys around how much of their time is spent on non actually client facing activities. It’s probably the first one that can indicate some A by sales enablement. Another is how much their time is spent searching or building marketing material. Some of the best ones, even some decent ones are spending 15%, 20% of their time searching for the right marketing material. That’s an indication that sales enablement can be improved across the board. Other pieces could be that you have large amounts of marketing material that isn’t being used. And some of that’s done by surveys of course, there are systems that tell you that, but putting aside that you don’t have a system, you can do surveys to find out hey, what’s being used and what in turn, what’s not being used.

So those are a few of the indications that you can determine that there might be some benefit of sales enablement. Obviously, some classic obviously ones are, you only have a small percentage of your reps hitting quota. If you have a small percentage of your reps hitting quota, that’s clearly an indication that it’s not necessarily your product that’s wrong. It’s how you’re enabling the rest of the sales team.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with John Raguin, he’s the CMO and Chief Marketing Officer for Seismic. They’re one of the leaders in the sales enablement category. And before we have to think of a quick commercial break here, Johnny, talk a little bit about category creation. I mean, you guys have been around since the beginning. You’re clearly one of the leaders of the category today, I know you’ve done that a little through acquisition but as the head of marketing, what does it take to get not only create a category but become a category leader, in what can be a crowded field?

John R:  Yeah, so that’s a good question. Because obviously for those of us it’s like you and I who’ve been in sales a long time. You remember, there was a day that CRM was not a term, everybody in marketing and sales knows what it is now, but it was a new term that had to be created. Same thing with marketing automation, that was a new term that had to be created and sales enablement is at a similar point, of early on, within sales organizations this probably it varies certainly by industry, but probably on average only five to 10% still yet fully understand what sales enablement is. So a bunch of it is trying to bring it out there to the masses, there’s actually a sales enablement society now. These group of take a bit like, it’s a nonprofit organization that actually runs as local chapters and meetings where they talk about sales enablement. And I think their current member base is well over 10,000 people not might even be 20,000 people at this point.

Some of the things we’re doing, our webinars that are industry focused to explain the different industries, how sales enablement can be effective for their specific industry. And we’re doing some events in local cities around the country that people can drive to and can be part of their work day yet they can really understand some of the benefits and how to quantify the benefits. Because the most important part is quantification. Like, hey, everybody has tags and pulls on their budget. So it’s so important to quantify.

Matt:  I agree. Well, we’re going to take a quick commercial break before we do that, I’m glad you brought up the sales enablement society would definitely encourage listeners to check that out. Even if you’re not really doing sales enablement formally today, I think it’s a great place to learn about it, find out from folks, that were in your shoes before and are doing it today learn about what works, what doesn’t work. And so you know mistakes to avoid and whatnot so definitely check out local chapters there. We’re up to a quick break, pay some bills we’ll be right back Sales Pipeline Radio.


Paul:  Okay, we’re back with Matt and his guest and they’re talking about the secret society the Sales Enablement Association. Is that a secret group? Do they have a secret website or do we know how to get in touch with them?

John R:  Well, you have a website if you just type sales enablement society into your browser, it’ll come right up, it’s the top one. It’s free to join, no membership, it’s locally run. They have different regional chapters and it’s fantastic.

Paul:  No secret handshake required or anything here knock on a door or anything just, they let you in.

John R:  They might have one but maybe they haven’t given it to me.

Paul:  Okay, well Matt probably knows, he knows all this.

Matt:  Secret handshake could be a good a fun way to create a buzz. I don’t know it could be good. Well, thanks very much for coming back on Sales Pipeline Radio, we got more with John Raguin. He’s the Chief Marketing Officer for Seismic and we were talking about, category creation before the break. And let’s expand beyond sales enablement. If we look at that sales and marketing technology, landscape, there’s several thousand companies competing for finite budgets, from sales and marketing operations, folks. How do you make sure that sales enablement becomes part of the table stakes stack. I mean, independent of trying to differentiate Seismic, as a category leader in that category. When you’re competing against that many companies and that many other categories, what’s the pitch to ensure people are focusing on sales enablement as a priority?

John R:  Yeah, I think the way to look at it is, you need three main systems within your sales organization. You have a CRM system, which is really you could think of the system of record. That’s the one that is going to house all your information about your contacts and your opportunities and what stages they are et cetera. And your sales stages. But the second is your marketing automation system, which obviously has to target, analyze and target and determine which opportunities are looking promising. And then you need a sales enablement system that really takes you from when the lead gets turned to sales, how are you targeting and making sure that you are recommending the right tactics around content and meetings and whatever at the right time in the sales cycle? And then how do you stay at the top? Why is that important? It’s the value, and I think we do some of that with some of our customers.

So great example is Alumina, which is a big medical services company devices and services. They saw, when they rolled that out to their organization, basically a 70 to 90% content standardization and reuse. They were able to cut the marketing collateral by literally 70 to 90% depending on the area or department. And then therefore made it much more effective for the sales organization to be able to go out and use the right things at the right time. Another example is Blackboard, they implemented our sales enabled platform. And they saw it, they actually saw it, grew their pipeline by 32%. And deals close to 14 days faster than they used to. And that’s one of the things we focus on is, again, this concept of agility and cycle time. When you’re cutting down cycle time, that’s obviously going to increase your pipeline. And also you get deals, essentially deals close faster. And as you know if time kills all deals, right, so if you’re closing deals faster, there’s less of an opportunity for you to lose.

So I think those are some of the ways that we’ve seen it, but people are using in different ways. there’s a fortune 500 food service distribution company that uses our software. So they have 25,000 restaurants around the country, about 6000 sales reps, and they’re not talking yield, their use of Seismic is really around how do I go into a conversation with my salespeople with all these restaurants, and make sure they don’t leave us. That they see the upsell, that they are buying, the best products that we think we can recommend. So they actually, in a push of a button can create a deck that helps them say, here’s what we see the trends in the market are, here’s what you have been purchasing. And here’s what we recommend going forward based on the trends in the market.

And it’s given them power that they never had before to go on these sales conversations, educated, up to date, showing value right out of the chute, not just a purely relationship sale. And that’s massive in that space where our margins are tight. So it is in the end about the value and when we talk to prospects and new customers, that’s, the value is the leading thing that keeps it high on the priority list.

Matt:  So we think about sales enablement as a category really the function for more advanced B2B companies. Where does that role sit? I mean, I’ve seen some companies have it in sales as an extension, expansion of sales operations. Some organizations, I’ve seen marketing really step up and own sales enablement to increase their impact on the broader funnel beyond just in margin. What have you seen the most success, where companies that have succeeded the most putting sales enablement in the organization?

John R:  Yeah, so that’s a great question. So far, sales enablement, typically, in most companies has actually been in sales. So these are reports parallel to sales operations. We’ve seen some cases where it’s in sales operations, but generally in parallel, almost like some of the product overlay teams might be next to sales. So that’s typically where it sits. It’s interesting though, it shows you how its evolving. Often the sales enablement organization doesn’t typically have a large budget yet. That’s where it’s still working forward, so often the budget though comes from marketing. So it is often a strange dilemma like the people who really use the system and would use it daily to help them, their sales processes are sales people and enabled by an organization which fits within sales. Yet often the systems set within marketing because they pay for all systems. So it’s often a funny balance.

Matt:  That’s interesting. Well, just a few more minutes here to wrap up on this episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. I want to ask you obviously Seismic is eating its own dog food or some people say drinking your own champagne when it comes to sales enablement. What are some of the things that you’ve learned by not just talking the talk but walking the walk as well? What are some things that maybe has evolved in your approach to their strategy to sales enablement internally that might be useful to others?

John R:  Absolutely. So, we do obviously eat our own dog food, use our own software heavily internally. I think the most important thing that we’ve learned is to push the analytics down to managers in the field. So if a sales manager, with six sales reps in a region, if they’re looking at the analytics themselves and going directly to their own team and saying, hey, why aren’t we using this or we got trained on this? And why isn’t this being used or that’s where the power comes in, because it’s those individual sales managers, and even sales people, that’s where they really can learn a lot about the analytics. And understand why certain pieces are being, things being recommended to them or et cetera as part of the sales process. So that’s probably the piece that I would say we found most enlightening is really pushing it down to managers and the individual reps to look at it and use it. And the crazy part is once they do they say, oh, this is fantastic. I can really use this all the time, even with our own software so.

Matt:  And where does these programs fail? If people are embarking on doing sales enablement, even maybe purchasing a sales enablement platform, where do they struggle and we’re into specifically around, how do we help people who are embarking on their own sales enablement journey, avoid those mistakes as well?

John R:  Yeah. So I think the places where they typically fail are first, when they consider sales enablement just training. Because we’ve all been in sales. I’d love to know your quote on the number of sales trainings, you’ve been to. And probably different companies, different methodologies that they pitch or the newest, latest and greatest. And that’s the panacea that doesn’t work. Because the reality if you have nothing to reinforce it all the way along, it’s not going to be effective. Right? So I think that’s one of the big pieces, not to consider it just training. And then the second piece, I’d say is also, it’s not just about, hey, I’m going to get something where my sales people can search for marketing collateral, but you want to do that you can just use SharePoint or something else, right? You don’t, that’s not what sales enablement is just giving your salespeople a better way to search for a thing.

It’s about recommending to them the right things to use at the right times in the sales cycle and what pieces work best and hey, if one customer already bought this product, they’re right for buying this other product. It’s that recommendation process that’s more important than we thought.

Matt:  Well, just couple more minutes here before we wrap up. And John, just want to ask you, we ask this a lot of our guests. Think back to the people that have been most influential to you, some of the people that you have learned from. They can be former managers, professors, authors, speakers alive or dead, who are some people that have had an impact on your career and learning that you might recommend others check out as well.

John R:  That’s a great point. So well, one person I’d say is a Marcus Ryu. He’s the CEO of a company named Guidewire. I worked there with Marcus for a long time. He’s a tremendous CEO, a tremendous speaker, great visionary, definitely someone if you ever read some of the things that, it’ll feel a little dry to a lot of people because it’s in terms of software and it’s not as flashy, but he is absolutely a fantastic leader and great to think about. That’s one of the people I’ve probably learned the most from. I’m thinking of how just one of my favorite, actually, I’ll give you one of my favorite books is the old and classic one. But I really believe that Geoffrey Moore and about Crossing the Chasm book. It’s an old book, I know, it’s probably 19, late 80s, maybe early 90s.

But there’s nothing that’s more important, I believe in bringing products to market. If you’re an existing big company, or if you’re a newer company and you’re trying to go to different industries. There’s so many use cases for Crossing the Chasm and understanding the importance of alignment behind that, how you do it. I think there’s so many lessons learned in that book. That’s one of my favorites of all time.

Matt:  Yeah, I would agree with you. And I think some of those books that really do stand the test of time that we talked about again, and again, we keep thinking about. Two of my favorite marketing books are written, I think probably older than that. You got Ogilvy on advertising, which is I don’t know what 60s maybe early 70s was written and what called Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins was written in 1923. Obviously very different time in marketing. There was not Google Analytics to figure out who’s coming to your website, but some pretty evergreen expectations and some good content there. Well, we have to wrap up here. I really appreciate everyone joining us really thank you again to our guest John Raguin. He’s the Chief Marketing Officer of Seismic you can check them out online. Also check out the sales enablement society if you want to learn more about the potential meeting groups in your area. And that’s all we got today, Paul.

Paul:  Okay, no secret handshake required.

Matt:  No secret handshake today. We’ll see you next week. On another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here