Irina is currently serving as Director, Global Enablement & Training at Percolate in New York, building their global enablement function for sales, customer success, and external channel partners. An accomplished enablement and sales leader with 10+ years of international experience, Irina has a proven history of pioneering new internal training and enablement initiatives for sales and leadership, driving positive employment cultures, and coaching top performers.
Irina serves as a mentor and enjoys connecting with other enablement professionals through conferences and networking events.
Accelerate: Tell us what sales enablement means to your organization?
Irina: At Percolate, Enablement is so much more than just a ‘job’. It is an interactive connection point between ALL departments in our business to cultivate a mature ecosystem that drives professional growth, productivity and ultimately revenue.
Accelerate: What is one enablement tool that is a must-have for your team? How do you measure its effectiveness on your sales enablement efforts?
Irina: Enablement platform; we use Highspot. Main use cases are content mapping and the pitch functionality that allows us to track content and its effectiveness. We measure internal/external views/downloads of content that is produced by Enablement, Field and Product Marketing as well as external pitch volume.
Accelerate: What is your definition of a sales coach?
Irina: In my view, a sales coach should support an individual to develop their skills and competencies around a specific activity in order to accelerate their personal and professional development. Close observation, asking open-ended questions and providing constructive and positive feedback will allow a sales coach to understand where the individual currently stands and meet them ‘where they are’. A great sales coach quickly understands gaps vs. strengths and is able to create an environment by where the individual is clear on action items and approach without having all of the answers provided to them.
Accelerate: Typically who’s responsibility does coaching fall under?
Irina: Sales leaders should generally own the coaching of their employees, unfortunately, many sales leaders have not been properly trained themselves and thus lack the necessary skills to do so. Personally, I am a strong believer in sales leadership development and I have been an advocate for teaching coaching methods & skills to sales managers for many years. There is nothing more powerful than a leader feeling confident in their ability to assess strengths/weaknesses and develop effective solutions as well as action plans WITH the employee, not FOR them. In my current organization, all sales leaders are fully trained and run their own coaching efforts with support from Enablement. The reality is, its unlikely that a sales leader will be able to drive sustainable revenue and growth if he or she is unable to coach and educate sales staff.
Accelerate: How do you measure the success of coaching?
Irina: There are several ways to measure the success of coaching activities when feedback, solutions and action plans are captured and tracked over time:
- Running several coaching sessions and observing the same activity allows the coach to see where the coachee has improved (this can easily be tracked if a feedback and action plan template is used during the coaching session).
- If an organization notices significant skill gaps across the sales workforce, coaching can be a good way to address those gaps. If all sales leaders coach on the same topics off a set coaching menu on a weekly basis, improvements on those gaps can usually be observed within a given period of time.
Accelerate: How do you ensure sales management is continually coaching all members of their team and not just the lower performers?
Irina: Education is key when introducing coaching to your organization. I strongly believe that once coaching is used for low performers ONLY or primarily, it can create a culture of fear. Employees will perceive coaching as their last chance to prove themselves.
It is crucial for leaders to understand that coaching should be seen as a pro-active development tool to create a culture of personal professional growth for ALL employees (A, B, and C players). Once employees ‘request’ coaching from their leaders, you know you have done the right amount of education on the benefits of coaching.
Accelerate: What are your tips for helping coach a sales manager that pushes back against coaching?
Irina: Throughout my career, I have coached hundreds of sales managers and employees at all levels. When receiving push back from sales managers on being coached, I have often reverted back to teaching them how to coach first, so they see the benefits first hand. Doing this allows me to coach them learning this new skill, observe behaviors (and blind spots) right when they occur and provide constructive and positive feedback. In many cases, this approach helps break down barriers and creates a healthy and open environment to coach and be coached.
Accelerate: As a sales enablement leader, what are your top tips for coaching sales managers?
Irina: First, it is imperative to create clear communication and education:
- What are we doing
- Why are we doing this
- How is this helping you and team
- What are the expectations
This can be communicated through a simple email announcement, on regular all-hands calls, training/enablement sessions and so on.
Next, your coaching model or method must be consistent. Ensuring all coaching sessions are conducted the same way for all employees takes away insecurity and makes it a more positive experience, particularly when coaching is a brand new initiative at your company. This also helps drive the message that coaching is not only a development tool for ALL, but an inherent part of your company’s culture and not looked at as a performance management tool creating different coaching experiences for low and top performers.
Accelerate: If an organization doesn’t have a coaching strategy setup how would they go about creating one and what are your tips for success?
- Decide if you leverage an internal resource that is experienced or whether to hire an external vendor.
- Decide on the audience: who should be coached or who will learn how to coach.
- Determine the coaching approach and methodology, create branded content needed and find a centralized spot to make it accessible to the audience.
If coaching is taught to leaders rather than just being executed by Enablement:
- Build a timeline for completion.
- Build and deliver a training session to learn the coaching model/method.
- Schedule a coaching session with leader and coachee and observe the execution.
- Provide constructive/positive feedback. Ensure all takeaways are captured.
- Go back and shadow another coaching session about 4 weeks later.
Accelerate: How did you get into the enablement field?
Irina: I have a deep passion for people and helping businesses drive productivity, effectiveness as well as sales/revenue growth. While working in Singapore, I took the initiative to move from a sales leadership role in building a brand new Learning and Enablement function for the Asia-Pac region. I’ve had the opportunity throughout my career to work with some very talented and dedicated people which gave me a strong foundation from which I was able to develop my career in this field.
Accelerate: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who was looking to join the enablement field what would it be?
Irina: Make sure that you have actually done the job your audience currently does. If you have never sold, go and sell for a year. Having credibility and being able to put yourself in a sellers shoes is key to be successful in this role.
Accelerate: How do you see the enablement field changing over the next five years?
Irina: I believe there is still a lot of confusion about what Enablement does and where it falls within an organization, it often gets mixed up with Learning & Development (HR). Because of that, many companies view the function as a ‘nice-to-have’ or a luxury. I fully believe that in 5 years, Enablement will be recognized as a revenue driver and a ‘must-have’ for every disciplined and successful sales organization.
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