What happens when your sales enablement expert becomes a sales rep for a day?

How about three months?

Meet Emily Payne. For the past three years, she’s helped develop onboarding and enablement programs at Shopify Plus, and for one full quarter, she sat in the hot seat. Not only did she close three sales herself (and loved the feeling), but she used that experience to create an enablement program that resonates with reps.

Here’s what the Senior Enablement Programs Manager shared with us about all things enablement, onboarding, and culture.

Q: How did you get into sales enablement?

A: I kind of fell into sales enablement. I first started at NetSuite when I was in University, in an administrative role. When I graduated, I wanted to move into something more strategic, with more responsibility. A role opened up on the enablement team and I remember, when they approached me, I had to ask, "what's enablement"? Nobody could really give me a straight answer. We were making it up as we went.  

When Shopify Plus became a thing here in Waterloo, they wanted somebody to do more traditional learning and development. But once we grew out the learning and development team, then I could specialize in more strategic enablement initiatives.

Q: What was it like developing the onboarding program at Shopify Plus?

A: When I started, it was still an experiment. There was no, “here’s what good looks like,” or “we want everybody coming in the door to learn this.” We didn't really know what we wanted them to be masters at. We knew that, after a month, a process could change, or we would have a new tool. It didn't make a lot of sense to invest in a ton of up-front onboarding content because it could all change.

Now we have our sales org in place, we know what our process is, we have competencies, and we understand what good looks like. Now our onboarding specialists can be much more proactive and build long term onboarding solutions.

Q: Did you work with reps to get feedback and build the program?

A: That was a big selling feature when we were recruiting: you get to come in at ground zero and help us determine what this sales organization is going to look like. I definitely worked really closely with them, got a ton of feedback and shadowed a lot of their calls. That is where I decided, to make my programing even stronger, I want to really see what they go through. I actually immersed myself in sales for a quarter.

Q: After your experience in sales, did you make any changes?

A: I definitely made changes in the order of content, or what people have to learn upfront versus what they can learn on the fly. Before I had that experience, I had contract training within onboarding. But once I had to make contracts on the fly, under pressure, I wasn’t thinking back to my onboarding. So I knew I needed a quick reference for that step in the sales process, not a reliance on onboarding knowledge. I wouldn't have known that unless I was in the role and experienced how it feels.

Now I can better represent them. In my role, I have to design programming and provide strategic recommendations with their best interest in mind. If I didn't have that experience, I don't think I would be able to make sound decisions for them. Now I encourage all of our Enablement team members to find a way to build empathy for the team we support.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about culture. What kind of onboarding do you do for that?

A: Every two weeks the culture is different because there are new people joining the team. So, we can't say, “you're new, this is our culture, fit into it.” We adapt to fit, to help them, to allow them to create our culture with us.

I think the best way to have a new sales rep understand the sales culture is to really immerse them within it. So, when they go through onboarding, it's not just our enablement team that's presenting to them, it's reps who are doing it right. And we make sure to have sessions that aren't just about our sales process or our merchants, we have sessions like, “What good looks like,” talking about the attitudes/skills we're expecting people to have, and what qualities we see in really successful reps.

Every two weeks the culture is different because there are new people joining the team. So, we can't say, “you're new, this is our culture, fit into it.” We adapt to fit, to help them, to allow them to create our culture with us. — Emily… Click To Tweet

Q. What’s the difference between onboarding and sales enablement?

A. Sometimes people think that the enablement team just does onboarding but we really strive to be a strategic partner within the business. The Enablement Team believes that if there is a business plan that requires a change in behaviour or has a skill development element, we can add value. We do often work behind the scenes on multiple projects within the organization so we always want to focus on measuring the outcomes of those projects, which allows us to illustrate our value. On any given day, I could meet with team members from TA, HR, finance, culture, support or operations so discuss Enablement initiatives that impact the sales organization.

Questions and answers have been edited for brevity.

There’s lots more to learn from Shopify, like nurturing sales culture and navigating large growth in a sales organization. Here’s Mark Bergen, Head of Revenue, on those topics (and more)!

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