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Mavens of Modern Sales: Jerry Pharr

A Sales Growth Company
April 27, 2024

Welcome to our new interview series, Mavens of Modern Sales, where we go behind the scenes with top sales executives to get their insights on leadership, strategy, industry trends, and more.

In the inaugural edition, we talked to Jerry Pharr, Head of Global Sales Excellence at Varcient and the Founder/CEO of Sales Excellence Advisors. Let’s jump right in!

 

Appreciate you taking this interview. You’ve been super active on LI the past year, with some great content, can you take a second and tell us, what are your thoughts on the state of sales enablement these days?

I very much hope I’m wrong about this, but I’m not super optimistic about the future of enablement as a profession. I think the vast majority of in-house enablement orgs don’t deliver value that the business cares about or believes. In the glory days of ZIRP, the failings of enablement were masked by a growth-at-all-costs mentality that didn’t prioritize holding internal teams accountable for their impact. Now that we’re in an era that focuses on profitable growth, leaders are shining a light on enablement teams, and realizing that they’re not getting much for their money. 

 

Understanding your thoughts on where Sales Enablement is, where are you seeing sales enablement make the biggest mistakes?

Infographic titled 'Common Enablement Mistakes' by Jerry Pharr, ©2023. It lists mistakes in three categories: 'Priorities are identified in the wrong way,' 'Those priorities are addressed in the wrong way,' 'The learning is reinforced in the wrong way,' and 'And the impact is measured in the wrong way.' Mistakes include reliance on anecdotes over data, unaligned priorities, one-size-fits-all solutions, lack of follow-up on training, and measuring metrics like participation over business impact. The text emphasizes that sales leaders may not care about participation metrics and do not believe in impact measures that don't align with business results.

OK, now what about Sales Leadership?  Where are CRO’s putting gunk in the gears?

  • They think they know how to coach, but they don’t. Deal inspection and strategy, yes. Skill coaching, not so much. 
  • They think training is a magic bullet to everything – and they’re wrong. 
  • They don’t invest in building the infrastructure required to produce measurable performance improvement 
    • A reporting system that captures the leading indicators that are actually coachable
    • A collection of best practices / SOPs / frameworks / playbooks that describe their expected approach to various sales scenarios (e.g., cold calls, discovery, uncovering cost of inaction, multithreading, etc)
    • An expectation and a documented approach for managers to provide initiative-specific skill coaching to reps
    • Measuring the empirical behavior change for each enablement initiative
  • They don’t know what excellence looks like in enablement, so they hire the wrong kind of people as enablement leaders. They hire good trainers, which is almost always a mistake.

What are the 3 things that you look for immediately when you first show up onsite in a new company?

  1. Operating rhythm of frontline managers – the cadences they have with their reps and what actually happens during them
  2. Whatever methodology they say they have, what are the specific ways that the methodology has been institutionalized 
  3. The collection of reports and dashboards that each leadership tier looks at daily/weekly – what the CRO looks at, what the VPs look at, what the directors/managers look at, and what reps look at.

 

What’s the 1 thing about sales enablement that nobody understands that you wish they did? 

Stop training so much. It’s usually the wrong approach for the identified need, and even when it is the right approach, there’s almost never the infrastructure required to reinforce and enforce the training in a way that actually changes behavior.

 

Let’s end on a super positive note, what are sales enablement orgs doing correctly that you’d love to see more of?

Veteran leaders sharing their secrets with their peers – the actually nitty-gritty details and templates, not just a high-level description.

 

Jerry Pharr is a veteran sales enablement & operations leader at high-growth, pre-IPO tech companies. For more than a decade at companies like Outreach and Redis, he’s developed and refined a unique approach to sales performance improvement called Behavior-Centered Enablement, which is premised on the somewhat heretical notion that if an enablement initiative doesn’t measurably change rep behavior, it’s a failure. Jerry is one of the original founders of the Sales/Revenue Enablement Society, and is an advisor to various tech startups on their GTM and operational strategies. Currently he’s Head of Global Sales Excellence at Varicent, and runs a consultancy called Sales Excellence Advisors. A shortcut to becoming friends with him: offer him a coffee that’s not from a chain.

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