Episode 103: Cassie Hitchcock on Mitigating Crisis to Deliver Excellent Customer Experiences

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today I’m excited to have Cassandra Hitchcock from ChowNow join us. Cassandra, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Cassie Hitchcock: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. As you said, my name is Cassandra Hitchcock. I work for ChowNow. I am our senior manager of sales enablement. I work remotely from Chicago. And for those of you that are unfamiliar with ChowNow, we’re a SaaS platform within restaurant tech. What’s really great is we’re a mission-driven organization that helps restaurants thrive by providing them with commission-free online ordering, which has been very crucial, especially this year.

SS: Absolutely, Cassandra. I’m so excited to have you on our podcast today, so thank you for joining us. And as you mentioned, ChowNow is really providing an essential service right now, given everything that’s going on to help support local restaurants and businesses and even individuals over the past few months. So I’d love to hear from you how your sales enablement priorities have evolved to support ever-changing kind of business goals at this time.

CH: I would say that first and foremost we’ve remained nimble and we have tried new things and new ways. Basically, anything we thought we were supposed to be doing quickly changed, sometimes overnight. We became very good at solving problems on the fly and many of those were brand new to the organization that we had never seen before. An example of that was we actually had to reduce our client onboarding time because we had more restaurants reaching out to us to sign up on our platform than we had ever had before. And so, we basically needed to figure out a way that we could get more of our clients up and running faster than any other time in history. So, my team actually put together some webinars that were customer facing and we hosted them twice a day throughout the majority of March and April. This was something that we had never done before. We kind of just sat in a room, threw some ideas up on a whiteboard and decided, hey let’s just try it and see how it works. So that would be an example of one of the things that we tried.

Another thing that stood out to us was there was a response that needed to be made to help our restaurant partners in any way that we could. So, one thing we did was we created a product called Loyal Local and we brought that entire cross-functional team together. We trained the front lines and then took that all to market within a week which was something that ChowNow had never done before. It was really cool because that was an unbelievably quick timeline to turn everything around and everyone kind of threw their hands in together and made it work. So, it’s super exciting to be part of.

SS: That is amazing what you guys have been doing. And it sounds like you’ve been doing enablement both internally and externally. I would love to hear from you, how have you and the sales enablement team at ChowNow helped your company navigate the change that’s been occurring over the past few months.

CH: I would start by saying that I’m a huge believer in creating your own luck. So, in the middle of last year, I was hired as our first member of a newly created team called Revenue Operations. The team was actually formed to support our sales client onboarding and customer success teams. What we did was we really stretched the revenue organization as a whole to have a growth mindset. This really laid the foundation that I believe allowed us to quickly shift to support the demands that COVID-19 put on the team. Some of the things that we really had to bring the team together and get them on board were around foundational things like rolling out a sales methodology, we updated our sales stages, we built that framework directly into Salesforce into their day to day workflow, we created geo-based territories, we also optimized and change the commission plan. All of this happened literally in less than a year. So, it was change upon change that my team had to really just champion across the org.

Some of the other things that we have done have just been really around being solution-oriented and throwing out traditional timelines to make things happen faster than before. One of the things that was really crucial to build that I noticed really within a couple of days of being at ChowNow was the need for having a more traditional or process-oriented internal communications. We are really heavily reliant on Slack and it got to the point where you almost needed an assistant to keep up with all the slacks, because if you got up from your desk or now that we’re working from home if you got up for a few minutes, you would miss a lot of the updates that were coming through. So, we put together a weekly meeting that we host, and we bring together all of our revenue team leaders across sales, client onboarding and restaurant success. And then we also bring in our leaders from product and finance growth marketing, and we actually have a weekly meeting and we discuss what’s happening across the business that we really feel like the frontline sales team needs to know. And from that discussion, we actually create Google slides that we provide our leaders on the sales side. That really helps create the framework for all of their weekly team meetings. And we found that this has been super successful and keeping a consistent cadence across the org and keeping things from getting buried in Slack.

SS: That is fantastic. That sounds like a really great way to streamline communications with all of the frontline revenue teams. How has sales enablement supported these teams as they’re transitioning into new ways of working, as you mentioned a lot are working remote and having to interact with customers or buyers that are also facing kind of a unique situation being remote as well.

CH: Enablement is a constantly evolving team sport. There are new challenges that present themselves all the time. And I feel like the work is never really complete as you can always iterate and improve upon it. One of the first projects that we attacked early on was creating a central repository for on-brand and up to date content that the sales team could rely on to help them get up to speed on initiatives and products. This website was due to roll out April 1st, but due to all of the things happening with COVID-19 we were actually forced to move it up to March 16th to support a fully remote staff, that literally happened overnight. We’ve been really careful not to assume and try to meet people where they are. There are many reps that we had that were used to being in the field and they knew exactly how to conduct a face to face meeting, but then they were forced to use technology that they didn’t really feel comfortable using. So, in a fully remote environment, it’s really important as an enablement person to reach out across those lines and have conversations or send a Slack and show that you really care about them and help build that relationship because that’ll allow you to identify skill gaps and prioritize your enablement roadmap.

SS: Absolutely. And let’s drill in a little bit, what do reps need to be able to do in order to continue to drive impact with customers during this time?

CH: I think there are three things that are really important now more than ever before to be impactful to your customers. One is patience. People are wearing more hats than ever before. Some people became teachers overnight to their children. Some are dealing with a world where they don’t have that in-person connection that they’re used to. Maybe their summer vacation plans were changed or canceled. Maybe they’re navigating a job loss or a health scare. It just seems like there are so many things that are happening for people and having patience will really allow you to help reduce the stress and anxiety on both sides of the phone.

Another thing that will really help is empathy. It gives you the ability to see from a different perspective, and it allows you to really react with compassion with everything that’s happening. And last but not least authenticity is really important because it shows the passion that you have for what you’re doing every day. And if you’re selling with passion, there’s no one that isn’t better to buy from than that.

SS: I love those points that you just hit on. And a lot of those are things that reps haven’t necessarily had to fine-tune. For example, like understanding how to apply empathy as they’re also trying to navigate the sales scenario. And so, what are the ways in which maybe enablement can step in and help their sales teams understand how to really refine their skills on that front in a really rapid way, given everything that’s going on as quickly as it is?

CH: It probably would come down to just reaching out and making sure you’re making connections with people across your organization that maybe you don’t work with day to day that have different backgrounds or have different things going on. I think that everyone brings something different to the table and understanding from their point of view, just how they view the world is going to allow us all to be better off especially with everything that’s happening in the world.

SS: What are some of the largest challenges that you’ve experienced in navigating change and then on the upside, how have you overcome some of those challenges?

CH: I would say that I have never worked in an organization that believed that their communication was perfect. In fact, if you’re not working on improving communication daily, then you’re going to really lose your ability to earn trust and navigate change. So, in doing so when you’re thinking about how do you navigate change, it comes down to how are you preparing, and have you built a plan? And when you’re creating that plan, one of the most crucial parts of the planning process is creating a communication and training plan that supports the change. Another thing that you need to consider when looking at communication, especially if it’s a big change to the organization, you need to determine if that communication is going to come top-down, or if it’s going to bubble up from their peers. And sometimes it’s a combination of the two. Once you’ve hit your stride with messaging, you’ll know it because it comes off seamless and it comes with practicing and pulling in different groups of people to get their feedback and buy-in along the way.

When we changed our comp plan, it was a huge change to the organization. And it was something that we iterated on a couple of times, but we brought in different people at each step of the way so that we could get their buy-in feedback and really help craft that message so then when we rolled it out to the entire org at the same time it went without a beat and people didn’t even know that we had practiced as much as we had.

SS: That’s fantastic. Cassandra, again, kudos to the amazing pivot and agility that you guys have demonstrated at ChowNow given the challenging times that we’re facing. It is extremely impressive what you’ve done. So, thank you so much for making the time to chat with us today.

CH: Of course. Thank you for having me.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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