Episode 118: Matt Sustaita on Overcoming Learning Barriers with Instructional Design

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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 Matt from Snowflake join us. Matt, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Matt Sustaita: Yeah, my name is Matthew Sustaita. I am a senior sales and enablement content strategist at Snowflake. So, I’ve been with the company for about five or six months now. So pretty new to the team, but definitely having a lot of fun.

SS: Yeah, you definitely joined Snowflake at a fun time. In your current role I know that you kind of helped to oversee a bit of the content governance for sales enablement and given that snowflake just went through an IPO from your perspective, from a sales enablement perspective, what was it like to help prepare the company for that process?

MS: Yeah. So on the content governance side, part of the big issue, especially as a company scales and grows and obviously goes into the IPO stage is to make sure we’re all beating to the same drum as it were, and making sure that what is being communicated is what we want to communicate. And so a lot of what I did, especially my first few months, just before going IPO, is making sure we’re rolling out the right call tracks and scripts and things that we want our salespeople in all levels to do and say, and then, you know, take the extra step to train to it and support them and provide managers support. So, they’re getting feedback on what they’re saying and then getting it in, but they need to make it clean, make it accurate, and make it meaningful for the customers that they’re trying to prospect to.

SS: Absolutely. Now, in addition to your current role at Snowflake, you’ve also have quite an extensive background as an instructional designer. So, I’d love for you to talk to us a little bit about what that looks like when you’re creating a new training program. What are some of the key things that you consider when designing a curriculum?

MS: Yeah. So, the biggest thing to really consider is getting into that analysis or that discovery phase and doing a really good job. I think the challenge that I see a lot of companies, and even in my own organization, it could be a challenge where you see a potential problem or you think there’s a solution that’s going to solve for it and you just go, and you start building. But in reality, just like, you know, any good salesperson you want to make sure you do a really good discovery to really identify what it is that businesses are struggling with, where do they really need help? And so, on my team, something that I really pushed back on is if you get a request for a problem like negotiation or discovery questions, or what have you, any different aspects of training that salespeople might need?

I really like to slow down the person asking for, and really identify where the real problems, what are they doing today? What do we actually want them to do what barriers are in the way and stopping them from actually being able to perform an act the way that we want, and then what do we want them to do at the very end of this training? Right? What behaviors do we want to see changed? Because putting people in front of content is great and all, but what are you really measuring? Right? Where’s that really going at the end of the day? So that’s something that I really slow my team down on. So, before we even start designing or start rolling out a solution, really understanding the specific problem we’re targeting for, and then build to that solution.

SS: I love that. Now I want to talk a little bit about in a corporate setting. How can you help design learning experiences that entice participants to pay attention and stay engaged, especially right now while they may have distractions, as you mentioned in a COVID and remote world, there’s definitely a ton of those around us right now? So, how do you help them learn during this time?

MS: Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s very challenging because you kind of have to think through the barriers that people are experiencing in their own life and kind of flex and be willing to just accept them such as life challenges, kids being at home, the environment’s different, there’s all sorts of different, unaccountable variables that you really can’t do much about. I have to take that into consideration and think through what barriers are my people or the salespeople going to experience with our own ecosystem.

So, if we have all of our various resources on Google Drive sitting on somebody’s drive somewhere. Well, that’s a barrier. What happens if that person leaves, what happens if I need access to it right away? So, part of what I do is really think through the entire organization and the entire user experience from the person sitting in the seat as a learner, to what they need to do to be able to get access to the information they need. So, designing a course is great and all, but you have to think about the whole journey almost. Just like we have a customer journey for our customers, you have to think through the learner’s journey, what they’re going to experience. So, part of what I do is put myself in that, like see and have that empathy, but then think, okay, what do I need?

So, if I’m putting a course on an intro portal somewhere, how can I make it clean and simple and super easy for them to navigate that intro portal and get to the information they need and then, what are some of the other supplemental supports or information they might need that might not pertain to that course, or might not be involved in that course or that content, but be something beneficial for them that they could also go research and a little more about on their own. So those are the kinds of things that I think through as I think about the engagement and the content and distractions. I’m really not a big fan of just putting people in front of something and saying, devote an hour or two hours to this. It’s more about, what can I put in front of you to make sure you have what you need at the time that you need it? And then how can I make sure that’s easy and accessible for you and digestible so you’re not spending hours looking for it or just giving up really quickly because you’re running into a barrier.

SS: I love that. Now you have experience with a wide range of curriculum designs. Everything from instructor-led, you know, you talked a little bit about web-based and blended learning. So, what are some of the pros and cons of each of the different structures?

MS: So, the way that I typically approach what kind of solution we’re going to have, whether it’s an instructor-led, web base, et cetera, really goes back to those objectives, right? What do I want the user, the learner, to be able to do by the very end of this training and to be frank sometimes, especially in certain realms, like I worked with a utility companies where it’s very hands-on clearly you kind of have to have some component of instructor-led training. If you have hands-on solutions, and sales, it’s a little harder to sell that because typically you can demonstrate capability without actually being in the office somewhere, and so that’s kind of the way that I approach it is to think through what are the actual objectives? Where do I, what do I want this person to be able to do by the end of it? And then how do I assess for competency? How do I say they have mastered this objective that I said is that we’ve agreed on is important, and how do I show that they can, they have proved that capability to do it?

Sometimes that might require some virtual input. So, if I need feedback for a manager, typically try to use videos and try to do something else so they can demonstrate it and then get feedback from their manager, with guidance on a rubric and whatnot, and other times it’s just using a more blended approach where you can have that component that’s online. And then hopefully when you go back to the real world and connect, you see each other again, you can do more demonstrations in class. But for now, it really starts with your terminal objective and where you want to go and what you want to see them do. And that’s going to drive the kind of solution and the kind of output you’re going to have.

SS: Absolutely. Now, how do you go about deciding which design approach will be more, most effective in the various situations?

MS: Yeah. Great question. So, that does tend to go back to, I hate to say it again, it’s in your analysis, right? Identifying the problem, identify the behaviors and the barriers and challenges, looking at where they’re at today and where you want them to be tomorrow or where you want them to be in this end solution. And that’s really going to drive the kind of design for the solution. I’m a big fan of being as in real life or in world as possible. So, if we have an inter portal and we have a lot of information that is built by many teams on there, I tend to find a way to kind of curate that information and put them in a nice little learning path if I may, especially for people that clearly don’t have time to go fish out the information and find it themselves.

I like to put it in a nice neat row if I may. So, they can really tackle the content in ABCD, a sequential order, and then point them to more resources if they want to learn more or give them extra support. That’s kind of the way that I designed or approach some of the trainings, but it always depends on that light objectives in that role. So, for instance, when I was working on a particular project all about negotiating and working on negotiation, I had thought through, okay, what’s going to get buy-in for these people. How do I get them eager to dissect and practice and reinforce these skills? In the sales world, I call it a WIFM, what’s in it for me. That is a really good way, especially with salespeople to get them involved is because if they see if this other person over here did X this way then they received 110% or close a huge deal or whatever, maybe there’s merit to me trying this out too. So, it’s part of, it’s kind of leveraging the stories that are out there and leveraging this solutions way that we think people should go and getting that buy-in early on. And it’s a lot easier to get them eager to try it out and practice on their own and incorporate the entire thing or aspects of it into their own sales strategies or sales tools and then kind of go from there.

SS: Matt, this has been a fantastic conversation. To kind of close out this particular topic, I’d love to understand how do you reinforce knowledge or skills after a learning experience to ensure that it really sticks long-term?

MS: Yeah, there are two things that I like to do to reinforce skills. So, the first is to really leverage and use the managers. So, in our case, if I have some sort of skill that I want the salespeople to demonstrate, I typically work with the rest of my sales enablement team to craft like rubric a coach’s guide. Just something, sometimes it’s just as easy as an infographic, right? It’s something super simple, one-pager, the managers can use to provide that ongoing support, that ongoing feedback and to really look down to that specific behavior and skill that we’re looking for because I think, if you leave it general and leave it open managers don’t really know what to do so they get very general ambiguous feedback. That’s not very helpful, versus if I say, these are the objectives from the course, right? You’re going to be able to do X, Y, and Z. And then I’ll craft the rubric for the manager to specifically look at X, Y, and Z, give feedback on the areas that we want to give them feedback on, and then help them to kind of craft that response to their AEs or to the people that support.

I find that to be the best way to kind of like get that initial feedback and the initial support from the user side at the end of the training. So, leveraging the manager is the first step, and then I’m a big fan of like, you know, stealing from marketing here, doing a more kind of drip campaign, right? Because if you look at the way people learn, I believe research shows that about 60 to 80% of what you heard or what you like got from some sort of lesson is lost in the first five or six days. So that’s a pretty big chunk of information gone, so if you don’t continually reinforce it and continue to kind of drip some more learnings or some low digestible chunks or some reminders or some wind stories or what have you out to the field, they ended up not applying that training. So even if it’s really, really good and you get great NPS scores and everybody loves it at the end of the day, it’s useless. It doesn’t do anything if it doesn’t really impact your bottom line.

The way that you approach that as using that kind of drip-style, where you put out your big training, put out some extra material a week later, and then some more in two weeks, and then maybe some sort of follow-up a month later, but continue to keep it top of mind and continue to focus and practice in the skills that you’ve identified are big issues within your organization.

SS: I love those two tips. Thank you so much, Matt, for joining us today, I really enjoyed our conversation.

MS: Me too, it was great. Thank you so much 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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