Episode 221: Roderick Jefferson – Unlocking Sales Success with AI and Sales Enablement
Roderick Jefferson joins us on this episode to explore the correlation between AI and Sales Enablement. He explains how AI can increase revenue by simplifying processes, automating tasks, and giving personalized coaching to empower sales reps. Learn how it improves efficiency, enabling sales professionals to concentrate on relationship building, making data-driven decisions, and closing more deals. Don’t miss this insightful dive into the future of sales success.
Roderick Jefferson is the CEO and Fractional Sales Enablement Leader of Roderick Jefferson & Associates, an award-winning sales enablement practitioner, global keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book “Sales Enablement 3.0”. With over 25 years of experience in sales, leadership, and productivity, our conversation with Roderick promises to offer you exclusive insights.
Roderick Jefferson 00:02
One of the biggest issues we have right now is showing that value consistently, regardless where you are, to me, it’s about where you are in the maturation cycle of your company. And it varies, Right? It can be about onboarding, it can be about ever boarding, consistent, consistent tools and such, it can be about leadership coaching. But at the end of the day, it’s really about helping optimize revenue by making sure that we can streamline and we get all of the tools and all of the programs processes platforms in place to make our sellers far more productive.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast featuring the Top Voices in Sales, Marketing, and Business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show!
Brynne Tillman 01:02
Welcome back to Making Sales Social, We have such a special treat today. Roderick Jefferson is a friend of mine, we have presented in the same places we’ve been connected since 2016. I follow him, he is the best-selling author of sales enablement, three dot . He’s a keynote speaker and he has over 25 years around sales, leadership and productivity. And he’s going to talk to us today about sales enablement and AI. Hello, My friend.
Roderick Jefferson 01:40
Hello, Brynne. Always good to catch up with you.
Brynne Tillman 01:42
Ah, this is so this is such like, this is fun, right like this. When we’re together, first of all, we can talk forever. Yeah, I really consider you and we’ve been connected for over seven years. But, you know, in the last, since the pandemic, even I feel closer and closer. And I really, I can’t wait to see you in person.
Roderick Jefferson 02:08
I’m so looking forward to being back in the same room together and getting up and giving a big bear hug. I cannot wait.
Brynne Tillman 02:15
Oh, I’m ready for that one for sure. So we’re we’re I’m beyond excited. All that said, let’s talk a little bit about and I think this is the topic you may be talking about. Right? AI and Sales Enablement? Absolutely. Yeah. So first of all, for our listeners who may not know, share a little bit about what sales enablement is responsible for what they do.
Roderick Jefferson 02:39
Sure. And you know, the interesting thing is, I started my book this way, Brynne, and that is if you ask 10 people, what sales enablement means, you’ll get 12 answers. And look, none of them would be wrong. But at the same time, none would be specifically spot on. And that’s, I think one of the biggest issues we have right now is showing that value consistently, regardless of where you are. And to me, it’s about where you are in the maturation cycle of your company. And it varies, Right?
It can be about onboarding, it can be about ever boarding, consistent, consistent tools. And such, it can be about leadership coaching. But at the end of the day, it’s really about helping optimize revenue, by making sure that we can streamline and we get all of the tools and all of the programs, processes platforms in place to make our sellers far more productive, faster. That means accelerating speed to revenue, increasing productivity per head, and ultimately, that we build customers for life.
Brynne Tillman 03:39
Oh, I love that love that you have spoken about in the past when you talk about tool stack. And all of the things that sales has kind of thrown on top of sales leadership is thrown on top of the sales folks, and it’s not always the right stack. So talk a little bit about that and how AI will fit.
Roderick Jefferson 04:03
Sure, why don’t we go back to the future first, Right? And let’s talk about the traditional tool stack. And I call it de mas demystifying dark matter if I can say it, right, it’s about aligning technology resources. And I think there are six categories, right that must be in place, previous to AI, in order for companies to be successful, things like learning and content management systems, the prospecting and sales reporting tools, the marketing, automation tools, all of the plethora of communication tools, the sales and Agent engagement platforms, and then finally, the revenue intelligence tools.
And while those are great, think of it as a house that you’re building that is just the slab right now. You’ve got to put the framing, the blank paper, the windows and all that. And to me, that’s what AI does now gives us an opportunity to leverage the technology to increase sales efficiency and productivity. But look, let’s not put in any misnomers out there. To me, I look at AI as a productivity tool, no different than PowerPoint, Word, Excel, it’s something that will make you more productive, Right?
And so I think when I look at it now, from a productivity and efficiency perspective, I think about things like lead scoring, right, let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the sales cycle and the buyer’s journey, let’s get away from the sales cycle. Let’s talk about the buyer’s journey, right, all the way back right to streamlining that lead scoring. And that means being able to prior prioritize those leads based on likelihood to convert, allowing them to focus on their efforts. And then finally, what’s going to turn into the most promising opportunity.
Next is around automating the mundane tasks that we’re asking salespeople to do, Right? Right now with AI, we can automate those repetitive tools, things like you know, data entry, appointment, scheduling, follow up emails. That way, it frees up more time for the sales rep, to focus on those what I call high value activities, right? Like building relationships with prospects, and ultimately, closing deals. Imagine that the next is, and you know, me, I’m about my analytics, and not the smiley sheets and butts and seats, right? But what are we really doing to help move the needle?
And that means providing reps with real time analytics and insights into their ongoing sales activities, that will help them then identify some of the areas where they can improve their performance and ultimately make data driven decisions. The next is one that is not talked about nearly enough. And that is, and I’m gonna stress the word personalized sales coaching, right. And that means providing that personalized coaching, to sales reps based on their individual strengths and weaknesses by a leader, not a manager, but a leader, really analyzing those sales activities, things like emails, calls, meetings, interactivity.
And also, I think that’s the genesis of building that next level of leaders. And it may not be sales leaders, it may be leaders in general, broadly, they may want to go into product marketing, they may want to go into enablement, I think it’s about that succession plan being wide enough to give them an opportunity to where they can utilize their skill sets best. Finally, it’s about putting more efficiency into the sales process.
You know, things like proposals, contracts, sales docs, all those things, where reps today are spending more time doing than actually selling, we want them out there selling and having those conversations, not giving presentations, but having those conversations, right. So we can help to streamline that sales process, we can help to reduce the time and help them ultimately close more deals. But besides that, I know nothing about how AI can help.
Brynne Tillman 07:59
So I think that pretty much is how I can help it. Let’s break it down. Sure. One of the areas that you help companies with is when they have a very long sales cycle. Absolutely. So how does AI shorten that cycle?
Roderick Jefferson 08:17
Well, you know, I think, again, let’s go all the way back to the very beginning. It starts in the onboarding process, right. And that means that we can now get the right information to the right people at the right time, via AI, whether it be personas, the competitive landscape pieces, it can help to condense that piece so that we’re not trying to give them everything and and boil the ocean, if you will, Right?
And then moving forward, can use AI to do things like no role plays, and I know of a team that actually sits on their board. And they actually do AI based role plays. And what it does is depending upon how you answer, it actually takes you down a different road.In some cases, it’ll actually take you down a rabbit hole. So now it can give not only sales recommendations, but it gives you that roleplay scenario around discovering qualification, objection handling, etc.
And get those things done in house because if you’re gonna slip and fall, we’re far more forgiving at home. Right? So that’s a couple of things. The other is around content generation, right? I mean, everyone knows about ChatGPT. It’s amazing that people think that’s the only AI out there, but I digress on this piece.
Brynne Tillman 09:30
A great job of marketing.
Roderick Jefferson 09:34
It is. And now it’s about using it to really streamline that value prop creation, or personalized emails, or dare I say, and you’re gonna smile, big social media templates, Right? So you can get consistency and also clarity around messaging and positioning. And then the next piece to me is how do we use AI to collaborate more? That means the ability to share more best practices and capture those things like personal development.
I say it earlier succession plans, as well as the scoring and feeding or excuse me feedback tabulation, which if you’re in enablement, how long it used to take to do that, that scoring and that feedback tabulation piece, right. And then finally, sales templates, you know, generating our ICP specific call scripts, proposal templates, the old mutual success plans, sales, as well as demo scripts. And then finally, sales reporting that now leads into, as we were talking about briefly and just a while ago, around the metrics and measurement.
Brynne Tillman 10:44
So I love that. And you know, one of the interesting things that I’m starting to see a I do around, let’s say, sales scripts, is that there is a standard script. But there are some variables that fill in the blanks. Absolutely. Right, maybe add a link to the website of the person you’re going to talk to. And then AI can customize the template based on the person you’re going to be speaking to.
Roderick Jefferson 11:11
I love that right. And the more we can feed them, them being the sellers, with qualitative and quantitative information. I also think, again, going back to that very beginning, it also helps with a deeper level of prep. As far as pre call planning, Right? Think about all the things that we used to have to go and find, it’s now at your fingertips. And if you’ve got a streamline process, and you’ve got something that’s scalable, repeatable and automated, you’re already ahead of the game.
Now you can focus on selling, or let me step back helping, helping solving Absolutely, one of the biggest issues we have right now is showing that value consistently, regardless of where you are. And to me, it’s about where you are in the maturation cycle of your company. And it varies, right? It can be about onboarding, it can be about ever boarding, consistent, consistent tools. And such, it can be about leadership coaching. But at the end of the day, it’s really about helping optimize revenue, by making sure that we can streamline and we get all of the tools and all of the programs, processes platforms in place to make our sellers far more productive, faster.
Brynne Tillman 12:25
I love this. So talk to me a little bit, you are a keynote and people are reaching out to you now I think more than ever before with the sales enablement and AI being the most the most talked about topic right now. Talk about what sales leaders are coming to you with and say this is the challenge we need to see, this is what we need you to speak about. What are you hearing?
Roderick Jefferson 12:54
It’s about consistency and driving, Right? How do we move that along? That’s one piece. Second is? How do we now tie all of our conversations back to the buyer’s journey, instead of trying to shoehorn them into our sales processes, methodology, etc. Right? And accelerating sales efficiency and Providence productivity? Ie How do you convert prospects into customers faster? I think there’s that kind of thing. One is the revenue acceleration, how do we accelerate the speed to revenue, Right? And when I look at it, it’s about how we all know the ICP. Right?
Ideal Client Profile, it’s about going back and looking at your ICP, your ideal employee profile or your seller profile. Because as your company grows and matures, it changes right, you may need to uplevel that talent that you have, you may need to look at things differently. It may not be about going after the sellers from your competitors, it may be literally going to find people outside of your space, your industry that bring a deeper level of business acumen. Different from where you were before. Excuse me.
The next is around how you can help to increase revenue but also renewal rates, Right? That starts with consistent onboarding of your now customers that are no longer prospects, right? It’s about that deal velocity, and it’s about literally building rapport and relationship. Because no one wants to hear from my CSM, 90 days before it’s time to re-up and now you’re suddenly my best friend. Now, take that same level of caring that you had of your prospect and move that along. But that also means not just kind of handing it off to a white lab coat that your CSM, bring them in early as you’re starting to close this and say, “This is another person a part of the team.”
I’m not going away. But this is going to be the person that’s going to be your point. So I want to make sure that you’re comfortable together. Here’s another one that a lot of companies don’t think about. And I want to talk to my marketing folks for a moment about consistent messaging and positioning. How do you help your sales folks evangelize and become true sales professionals? And it starts with marketing and sales sitting down together and defining where we’re trying to go.
And coming up with a clear, consistent nomenclature and conversation. And language, if you will, that translates. And then finally, it’s about communication, collaboration, then finally, orchestration. And I know it sounds marketing and cool, but at the end of the day, it’s about building stronger partnerships across all of the different lines of business, to make sure that things are cohesive, consistent, and scalable, and everything flows back and points back to that buyer’s journey.
Brynne Tillman 15:43
That’s so powerful.
Roderick Jefferson 15:45
Brynne Tillman 15:46
And yeah, I mean, I love alliteration. So that’s great. But I think I think that’s absolutely vital. And I think that’s probably something a lot of teams have gaps in those areas. Now, one of the things that I hear in my world that I know you talk about with AI is lead prioritization. How do we take the leads that are coming in from the website or, and identify use AI to identify who we should be spending the most time with?
Roderick Jefferson 16:24
Well, again, we see AI as that tool, that productivity tool. Let’s go back to the human part first, right. And a lot of conversations I have with companies, and it starts this way, and I’ll have marketing, I’ll be sitting down. And marketing says, no surprise, the old adage, we give sales all of these leads, but they don’t do anything with them. What does sales say? We don’t use any of your leads, because they’re garbage? Well, I think now it’s about getting down to the root cause. And before you can put any technology, AI or other tools in place, the rule and I think the value of enablement is that we are kind of the dead, the purveyors of dialects and languages, Right?
And we speak both of their languages. So I’ll ask marketing, has sales ever really defined? What a sales qualified lead meet? No sales? Do you understand in their mind what a marketing qualification is? Oh, yeah, of course they do. Can you articulate it for me? Well, yeah. And it’s really usually not the same answer that I got from Mark, they’ve been scored a certain way. Absolutely. Because they, and I hear it all the time, marketing things that it’s a lead where it’s actually just a contact, it’s an opti. Well, let’s go sit down at the table. And let’s define these pieces.
And let’s put in not just the lead scoring piece, but let’s put some rules of engagement around this and what this really means. So that when you’re handing it off, it’s been stamped and validated. And now that means that it helps the customer, these prospects move faster and closer towards us being able to help them. And until we do that, regardless of what tools you have, what technology you have, if that’s where the root cause of the break is, you can’t move forward. Alright, so let’s assume now that that’s fixed. Now, what that does is opens up the opportunity to say, here’s what we’re looking for, here’s what we need, here’s what we don’t need, Right? Just because you get a ton of things coming in, say you’re doing a convention or conference.
Everything that’s gonna come in doesn’t fit. All right. So once we both agree on this, let’s whittle it down. Now, when it does whittle it down, then all of those other pieces I was talking about earlier around lead scoring, and all that, that falls into play, but it’s no different than being a salesperson and doing a lot of pre call planning. To me, that’s what you’re doing by sitting down with marketing, sales, sales, that’s what you’re doing with marketing, Right? And marketing transversely here pre call planning so that when this thing starts to move, it can take off like a snowball.
Brynne Tillman 18:58
Though, Interesting. So I prioritize, and AI, just go one step deeper. How do we now take AI beyond the scoring, right, because that’s not AI, the scoring, it’s, it’s collecting data? Certainly, what can I do to help go beyond the scoring?
Roderick Jefferson 19:17
Well, I think after that scoring now, what AI can do is help to make sure that the right information is going to the right ICP at the right time in their language. Right. So that, okay, gone now. So now I can say we’ve got the right case study, we’ve got the right white paper, we’ve got those, we’re going to connect them with the right reference, right, because that’s still a real thing.
And as they start moving into the different stages of the sales cycle, again, if it’s tied back to the buyer’s journey, now they should keyword should correlate and flow contiguously now out, What content do we get them? What asset do they need? What’s the timing around it? What’s the touch point? And ultimately, what does success look like? And each one of those stages, that’s where AI can upstream.
Brynne Tillman 20:13
Okay, got it? I mean, it’s a lot.
Roderick Jefferson 20:16
It is a lot. Absolutely.
Brynne Tillman 20:18
So you know, you go into companies as a fractional sales enablement profession. How do you assess what tools or what AI tools they should be using?
Roderick Jefferson 20:30
I start with what tools they have of the traditional level, first of all, and then I, the next step is, how are these working for you? How are they being utilized? And what’s the success rate and criteria look like? The next piece is and this is always one that opens eyes. Forget all the tools you have right now. Forget all the cool sexy tools you’ve heard about from your friends in your compadres, right? If you had a whiteboard, and let’s talk about outcomes, not tools. What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see happen faster? And what pieces of this? Would you like to see it pulled out of completion?
Brynne Tillman 21:10
Oh, I love that. Begin with the end in mind for real?
Roderick Jefferson 21:14
Absolutely. And don’t talk about tools at all? Don’t talk plus process platforms programs? How are you going to use it? No, no, at the end of the day? What does success look like? And what are these pieces that go into it? Then you can step back and go great. Now I can see how all of these various tools can come into play. And there’s a ton of them out there. And that’s the other thing. Everything ain’t for everybody. Right? You may be in a place where you’re not quite ready. They’re not. You may be in another place where you really need to get there yesterday.
And so that’s where I then start to leverage my ecosystem of partners to come in and say, here’s what you have. Here’s where you can move on to. It’s kind of like, you know, crawl, jog, walk, run, right? Everybody can’t go straight to running. And no, and I don’t think you should go straight there. Right, Because there are going to be bumps, which will in turn, create soft spots. And in some companies, and also industries, it’s going to create brakes. And I mean, because now you gotta shift your mindset along with your toolset.
And that’s the harder piece sometimes, Right? And so the biggest thing we want to do is and when I say we, I’m talking about myself, and usually my direct contact, which is the sales leader, I say the one thing we have to learn to do is we’ve got to you’ve got to help me kill this is the way we’ve always done it. Because if we don’t always want to kind of creep back over into the tool that they are comfortable with. If there’s one thing that I learned coming out of COVID that I think was absolutely amazingly wonderful. It made all of us get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Brynne Tillman 22:57
Hmm. Yeah. Coming out of your box, or whatever that is, was status quo.
Roderick Jefferson 23:06
Brynne Tillman 23:07
Oh, this is great. Okay, so Roderick, what’s the one question I didn’t ask you that I should have?
Roderick Jefferson 23:13
Um, the one question. Oh, that’s a good one. I think AI, here’s the big one. I keep hearing all the time. enablement is draining. How is enablement and training different? Right, and especially as we start to move forward, because AI actually fits into both of those buckets. But I think that there’s an opportunity to fit it into a number of different pieces along the entire enablement, whether it be sales enablement, revenue enablement, go to market, whatever it may be, right.
And so to me, training is literally a part of enablement. Because to me, training is a sprint where enablement is a marathon. And I want to talk about from a waterfall perspective of where AI actually can touch every single one of these buckets. It’s in talent, acquisition and assessment, the obvious right, with resumes and such, with so many people applying, it helps to, for better or for worse, it helps to narrow down to what your ICP is that you’re looking for for that role.
The next piece is onboarding, and how that plays into completely different than the way we used to onboard which leads into ever boarding that continuing education piece of getting the right people the right information at the right time. The next is content and learning management, asset management. It’ll tell you at a moment’s notice what’s working, what isn’t working, what are your top 20 bottom 20 and what needs to be adjusted, and it also takes the emotional piece out when I’m talking to marketing and product marketing.
It’s no more I think, or I feel or here’s what I’m hearing. No, let’s talk and talk with hardline facts and figures, right? And so we’re going to do that. Let’s utilize that across the entire span. The next is leadership coaching and reinforcement. Right? No more peanut butter going out there, folks. It’s literally about leading with empathy and humanity these days, as well as sharing.
And when I say that, I’m talking about those old salty dogs that now need to learn something a different way. Get comfortable before you become a dinosaur is what I always tell them. The next is the metrics and measurements once we’ve talked about. And then finally, it’s the succession planning. How are you using tools to literally start planning to create more leaders and less managers?
Brynne Tillman 25:41
Oh, my gosh, that’s like a whole book, in and of itself. That may be the next book right there. Yeah. Or maybe we’ll do a podcast just on that. I’d love to do that. Oh, my gosh, that’s magic. It’s fabulous. Oh, I wish we had more time. But I learned so much. I’m excited to even go back and listen to this again, because you had so many golden nuggets I like I can’t even remember, usually I get one or two in there out of the 15 or 20 in there.
Roderick Jefferson 26:16
This is what happens when we get together.
Brynne Tillman 26:17
I know. But I’ll tell you there is no question for companies out there for businesses out there that have sales and marketing teams and don’t have a sales enablement person to kind of toggle between them and ensure that they are not siloed anymore, right to make sure that you’ve got that orchestrator of of the both areas I think is critical.
And what you do, I’ll let you know the plug really is if they don’t have sales enablement, you don’t need to hire a $250,000 employee with benefits to fit the role. Roderick is a fractional sales enablement leader. And I think it’s enough from many companies that have 3040 50 sales reps that you can really fit that in or I don’t even know the size of the companies that you work with. But I would assume that somewhere in your sweet spot is.
Roderick Jefferson 27:18
It is definitely right in the wheelhouse. Thank you very much for that.
Brynne Tillman 27:22
So you know, I’m gonna say and I don’t typically do this in podcast, but if you have, you’re struggling to get your team to adopt the new tools to leverage the investments that you’re making, and even start to use AI efficiently. Just just talk to Roderick, how can they get in touch with you?
Roderick Jefferson 27:45
Thanks so much as I always say, Brynne. If you can’t find me on social, you’re not really drying. So on LinkedIn at Roderick Jefferson can find me on Twitter and on threads now, at the voice of rod. Yes. Pardon me.
Brynne Tillman 28:02
Twitter is now x.
Roderick Jefferson 28:03
That’s right as of yesterday, so now I’m going to make my change on X or on threads. Either way, add the voice of rod can find me on Instagram Roderick underscore J underscore associates or on my website at roderickjefferson.com.
Brynne Tillman 28:18
And I’m gonna throw in if you go to Roderick’s profile on LinkedIn, there’s a link to his link tree that has all those at all right there. Has it all there so go to his profile file. Roderick Jefferson I think you’re yes and and connect. Thank you so much.
Roderick Jefferson 28:38
Thank you my friend.
Brynne Tillman 28:39
I can’t wait to meet you in person.
Roderick Jefferson 28:40
Oh, I can’t wait.
Brynne Tillman 28:41
And for the listeners out there when you’re out and about don’t forget to make your sales social.
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