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Lish Gates on Strategies for Scaling Enablement and Being Customer-Centric

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Lish Gates is the Senior Manager of Global Revenue Enablement at Algolia, a fast-growing SaaS startup that helps clients deliver tailored, quick and scalable search and discovery. Gates brings to enablement a lot of passion and a few unusual credentials—she boasts a bachelor’s degree in music and is a veteran of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Here are some ways Lish thinks about optimizing sales training, kickoffs and opportunities:

On the unique career path that inspired a move into sales…

Joining the New Zealand Navy was inspiration from my mother, she was in the British Army in her late teens. I trained with divers, who are trained to be the fittest in the Navy given their role. I carried logs, sandbags—you name it— and survived physical training twice a day. I cried a lot! The Navy established discipline, and allowed me to be a part of a team. Ultimately, it paved my way into the world of sales, sales ops and sales enablement – my new favorite sport!  

On the keys to building enablement at scale…

After six years of sales, sales ops and sales enablement at iHeartMedia, I walked away with an understanding of how to do things at massive scale. 

1600+ Account Executives. 157 offices. You have to get creative. 

First and foremost, every change requires an army of champions. I created a team of them, they were my change agents. I’d meet with them and give them a training kit of sorts:  Here’s the plan, here are all the tools you’ll need, now go forth and succeed! For every change, we measured adoption with a matrix. When there were indicators that illustrated a lack of adoption, we would prioritize based on revenue impact across regions. 

At Algolia, the business has fewer layers and a faster approval chain for change management. While there are differences with a hyper-growth company, many key principles remain the same: relationships, hyper-communication, healthy feedback loops, and great products that support coaching and training. When you are part of a global team that spans numerous time zones, products like WorkRamp and Chorus.ai help you share best practices when you can’t be everywhere at once.

On strategies for building a global enablement function…

At this stage, it appears that we’ll likely end up with program leads as we scale. However, regional leadership is important to support the teams that often span many time zones. When we began the search for our EMEA manager, I knew we needed someone with passion for enablement, desire to help people be successful, and aligned with the Algolia enablement plan. Enablement is often a new function in EMEA, and sourcing the right professional had its challenges. We were extremely fortunate to have Maria Belen Egléz join the team. The love for enablement is thriving at Algolia, and it’s something you can’t teach. When you have that, and the right team, it’s much easier to accomplish your goals. 

On building sales onboarding for a complex product…

Algolia is a technical product, by nature it requires more product training than the norm. Especially when we’re selling to technical personas. During the first few weeks of onboarding, we focus on getting the nomenclature down. Once the new hires have mastered the basics of product, core role functions, how they win, how our custom revenue methodology and sales process works – we do a deeper dive into product training through customer stories. We realize that it can be a lot to learn confidently in 90 days as there’s many use cases for Algolia. Therefore, we specifically spread that product training out. 

Based on my experience, arming new hires with the right a customer centric learning program ensures they can deliver value to our customers. We do this by sharing how we’ve helped similar companies create delightful search and discovery experiences. This allows us to identify similar situations with prospects and share tailored solutions. 

On best practices for running a memorable sales kickoff…

First of all, keep the agenda simple. Fact: Stakeholders will want to cram so much into two days. Reality: people are only going to take away three things—if you’re lucky, in this instance, less is more. Don’t be married to the agenda; it’s going to change a hundred times. Get comfortable with the fact that it will change all the way up until the night before and the day of the event. The most valuable thing we did at our kick off was include customers. We had two of our top customers join us via Zoom. Learning how to be a partner and not, “just another vendor” from your customers is GOLD. No one can tell you how to be more customer-centric than your customers.

A big thanks to Lish and Algolia for chatting with us and sharing their best practices.