Episode 119: Lisa Hammack on Advocating for Recognition in Sales Enablement

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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 extremely excited to have Lisa, the director of sales effectiveness at Cornerstone OnDemand join us. Lisa, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Lisa Hammack: Fantastic. Thank you so much for inviting me on the podcast. So, my role is I lead global sales enablement at Cornerstone OnDemand. We are a SAS company focused on talent management. My role encompasses supporting inside sales, direct and client sales, sales consulting, and our customer success teams globally.

SS: Lisa, I’m extremely excited to have you join us today. One of the reasons why I was excited to have you join us is an area of focus in your current role is to obviously improve sales productivity and effectiveness to drive sales growth. I’d love to understand how you’re tackling this through sales enablement programs, and how do you then correlate those efforts back to improve productivity?

LH: Oh, that’s a wonderful question. So, there are a number, I think we could, you could go about a hundred different ways on how to improve sales productivity. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about what we’ve been focusing on in the past year. And really, we’ve been looking at a lot of our sales processes and really figuring out the best way to simplify that sales process for our reps, so that the simpler we can make things for them, the more productivity we’re going to see come from them. That includes not only how they interact with our sales systems, but also really standardizing and globalizing our sales methodologies and best practices that they follow as they’re working a deal.

What we found by doing this, it really helps in a variety of ways, including helping them identify which deals they should be working and even sometimes which deals they should be walking away from based on best practices and which ones are probably not going to turn out to be a win. So, that way they’re really focusing on the deals that we can win, which again, increases your productivity. Some other ways we do this are really by making sure that they’re given the information and enablement and training in the flow of work. So, we’re incorporating that into the tools that they’re using and making it easy for them to get the information they need.

SS: Absolutely. Now, one component of that, that latter part is the virtual environment that we’re all working in right now as well. There are tons of distractions that are kind of in the way of productivity. So, how can enablement maybe either help remove or reduce some of those distractions and streamline to your point processes to help reps be more successful while they’re working remote?

LH: That’s a great question. So, you know, in one way, we were really lucky because we are, you know, a SAS company, we didn’t really, like, we were at a hundred percent productivity, you could say technically, right. But as we know, it’s still different. And so, one of the first things, obviously we had to think about was, yes, you can sell remotely, but you’re dealing with a lot of different things too. So, we had to think about the personal challenges people were going through, and the fact that a lot of them had kids and their families at home. And mostly our people were used to traveling and visiting their clients and customers.

How do they now move that to all this, this virtual environment and how do they connect with their clients that way? For us, we have a really experienced sales team, but we also made a major acquisition at the very beginning of COVID. So not only were we trying to figure out how to just deal with being virtual, but we also had to figure out how to integrate two companies together. So, it was a double whammy of challenges for us. But luckily, we were able to really focus on working with our sales managers and really focusing on them and how they can best support their teams. So, some of the things we did is obviously making sure that they had the right communication tools and ways to support their teams, not only on a professional level, but also on a personal level. And secondly, we rolled out a lot of enablement on what you call remote selling skills. And with that, because it was very new for, our reps were used to going out and visiting and doing in-person meetings.

So, we did a lot of enablement. We did a lot of some pitch challenges. We did a lot of practice and assessments on how to move those engagements to a remote environment. And we also extended what we call our, we have a practice, we call wind rooms where we will have a kind of a sales guru, a coach, come together with an extended sales team and really work with them on strategy, around a deal. We’ve even extended that to include their sales presentations and really coaching them and giving them feedback on making sure that, you know, in a much more condensed environment, they’re able to get those sales messages across to the client.

SS: That’s awesome. Now, in addition, I want to pivot a little bit because in addition to supporting sales teams at Cornerstone OnDemand, you have also discussed the importance of supporting women in tech, on LinkedIn, which is something that is very near and dear to me, personally, myself, having come up in the tech world. And you’re involved actually in a women’s group at your current company. So, I’d love to hear from you, how can women support each other in professional development and career growth, particularly in the tech industry.

LH: Well, this is a great question because like you, this is really important to me. I’ve been very excited to say that the women at Cornerstone is actually, we’re in our first anniversary. So, we actually started this organization about a year ago and we’ve been celebrating the whole month of October, kicking off with our CEO presenting to the group. We’ve had some external speakers and just yesterday we had a panel with the women on our executive leadership team. So, we have a lot of support internally. Which is extremely important as well. But I think from a personal level, it is so important for women to support each other. And one of the most important ways to do that, I think one of the things to do is to find a mentor, find somebody that’s going to be honest with you, and that’s going to push you to grow in whatever your career is.

And I think many of us have really had to learn to pivot in our careers. And often have ended up in places that we never knew we were going to be. You know, my career is a perfect example. I would have never imagined that I would be running sales enablement at a SaaS company because quite frankly, neither one of those positions, like SaaS didn’t exist and neither did sales enablement when I started my career. So, I think what you have to do is not so much look at what job you want, but what your skills are, and really look at that and try to grow those skills, and then the jobs will come. I also think, you know, we’re lucky here. When I joined Cornerstone four years ago, we had, I think, two women out of eight in our executive leadership team, and now we have four.

So, I think the best thing we can do is really encouraged each other, always be authentic and vulnerable. And take the time to know those strengths and not be afraid to speak up even when it’s awkward sometimes because let’s face it sometimes when you’re in a room with a group full of men, it feels awkward. So, I think we have to challenge ourselves and our fellow women coworkers to not be afraid to speak. Another thing I think is too, I think sometimes we are afraid that if we are outspoken, that if we’re assertive, that we might come away as sounding arrogant, but I think we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes. And it’s really up to us and our teammates to encourage each other and consistently find ways to give each other feedback and to really, to pull each other up.

SS: Absolutely. Now you mentioned, kind of a recognition of skills and I know one of the things though that is definitely prevalent is imposter syndrome, amongst women in the business world. So, you know, I’d love to hear from you how you’ve overcome imposter syndrome in your own career.

LH: That’s a great question. I think it really goes back to like what I said about really women supporting each other, and as I said, I didn’t start out thinking that I would ever have this particular role but I was able to really think about what my transferrable skills were and how they apply. And that, I think, that’s how you get out of the imposter syndrome. For me, I’m a born helper and an orchestrator. One of my teammates calls me the mayor because we did a skills assessment and they said that I would be a perfect mayor, which kind of cracked me up because I love to bring people together to collaborate. All those skills absolutely apply to this role. So, I think you just have to take the time to really, to get to know yourself, the types of things you like to do. And then you get out of that imposter syndrome because you see that it fits.

SS: Absolutely. I think you’re right. I think that’s definitely something you evolve into. Now, on LinkedIn, you shared a post that really resonated with me because it discussed some of the struggles that women can face in getting proper recognition for their strategic contributions. And, I have to emphasize those last two words, because I think women often don’t get recognized for being a strategic player within the organization far too often. And I’d love to hear some strategies that you found useful in advocating for you and your team’s work in kind of proving that strategic impact.

LH: That’s a great question. So, I think for my team, I really focus on trying to give them stretch assignments and really give them opportunities to run global projects and to get involved in things in the company that gives them opportunities to work collaboratively with other departments. So, they’re getting to know other people there, they’re really stretching themselves and getting that recognition that maybe they wouldn’t get if they stayed in their lane. Another cool thing that our company is actually in the process of rolling out right now are what we’re calling internal gig assignments. So, these are actually opportunities internally to apply your skills for projects outside of your own department. So, you’re actually able to go in and apply and some of them are maybe a couple hours of work, but it’s another great way for you to gain exposure and recognition.

So, I’m really encouraging that on my team as well. And then for myself, I think it’s important to give yourself recognition and not be afraid to speak up. And I know sometimes I think we feel, “Oh gosh, they’re going to think we’re bragging.” You know, if we give ourselves recognition, but I think if we find ways to position it as, “Hey, just an update,” versus, you know, bragging on yourself that you can still find ways to promote the things that you’ve accomplished. And I also think it’s super important too, to not be afraid to volunteer for assignments and, and feel confident about it. It’s so funny because I keep reading, I don’t know why this keeps coming up, but everybody keeps talking about having gravitas. Right. And that’s being confident and positive, and I think those are things that’ll take you a long way.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now I want to bring these two conversations, together with a closing question, just as you know, I’d love some advice from you for young women entering the sales enablement industry like where would you recommend, they get started? What are some key foundational things that they need to do to get off on the right foot in this space?

LH: Yeah, I think I would recommend that they find ways to first volunteer to assist them in enablement efforts. For us, we’re always looking for subject matter experts. We’re always looking for sales reps, sales managers that want to be involved in our initiatives. So, I would definitely recommend that they look for ways to get involved, to find out like, is this something that I would want to do as a career? For myself, I started out, I had a couple jobs in business development where sales enablement was just a little piece of what I did, but I fell in love with it. And so that’s where I kind of determined that that’s where I wanted my career to go. So, I would just recommend looking for opportunities to get involved, to kind of check it out before you actually jump in with both feet.

SS: I love that. That’s great advice, Lisa. Thank you so much for joining us and talking about this today, I enjoyed the conversation.

LH: All right. Thank you so much, too.

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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