Episode 129: Best of PRO 2020 – Culture Edition

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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.

It’s the last week of our series recapping some of the best expertise we’ve heard in 2020 and we’re diving into culture. Why does culture matter and what can sales enablement do to positively impact culture? What is the business impact of culture-based initiatives? We’ll discover answers to these questions and more in this episode.

First, let’s talk about why culture matters.

Radhika Parashar: I recognize that pretty early on, if we don’t create a culture of reps feeling comfortable — and I know the word vulnerable is used a lot — but truly feeling like this is a safe space, these are folks who understand them and are there for them, it’s really difficult for them to feel that unless you create those spaces. For me, it was trying to keep that door open from the get-go. In all of my one-on-ones, I let everyone know, feel free to email me, Slack me, if you need to call me, whatever it is, I’m your person. I like to describe the sales enablement role as a little bit of a sales therapist as well, where you will often hear about what’s going on and the inner workings and the inner team dynamics of a sales team. Being mindful and cognizant of that, but also very respectful of that and making sure that you create that safe space is really, really powerful. I created a dedicated Slack channel early on for sales enablement questions, sharing of resources. All of the regularly scheduled programs that we had, we made sure that we had regular updates in the Slack channel, of what had been published or what had been presented the day before so people had access to all of that information. Office hours have been huge for us as well. Just having an open time and an open forum every single week.

JP Mantey: A big thing about culture and how it all ties together– I think of culture as an organism in that the culture of an organization is like this organism that is super connected and paying hyper attention to any stimulus from external forces that threaten the organism or could help it thrive. As an organism, culture is trying to figure out how do we thrive, and/or survive? A lot of times that’s all about learning and making sense of things. So, when a new person comes into that organism, a big part of how they’re going to not only survive but thrive is how quickly can they learn how things are done here and the ways people work and what’s acceptable and what’s not. So, an easy way to talk about the pairing of culture and sales enablement is we’re trying to proactively lower the learning bar and capture, distill, and codify the tribal knowledge of the culture of the organization that has helped people be successful, that has helped the organization be successful.

SS: With the pivot to remote work this year, many organizations have had to figure out how to build and maintain culture virtually. Here are a few tips on fostering culture virtually:

Pam Dake: It really, truly is, from my perspective, a critical pillar for sales enablement. Because they defined it as supporting the unique needs of geographically dispersed in a very diverse organization of sales folks, it can be frequently overlooked because honestly, it’s not necessarily as tangible or as easily measurable as sometimes training and communication can be. With that being said, however, I still think there are very impactful and, quite frankly, measurable ways that we can help support the unique needs of many remote sellers.
They fall, from my standpoint, under three categories. The first one being creating and supporting unique groups of sellers and setting up ongoing ways that they can stay in touch with you as a sales enablement expert and with each other on an ongoing basis. So, communication being the key to helping foster that culture. This can be done in so many different ways. There are so many different things that we can leverage now with technology nowadays. You can have regular meetings in person, virtually set up ongoing IM groups, training sessions, and so much more. That way, they’re able to feel supported by other people within their similar roles and others that they don’t necessarily interact with ongoing because they’re in very different regions.

For example, the second one would be fostering a community with sales leadership. So very similarly, what I was talking about with your direct sellers and your sales reps, sales leadership and fostering that community culture with them is also critically important. And I believe you can do a lot of the same things with sales leadership and keeping them in touch with each other, as well. And one category that I think is really an important area to focus on with sales leadership, which really helps foster culture quickly with them, is coaching. Coaching is so many times an underserved area and overlooked area for making sure that our frontline sales managers are impactful in what they’re doing. They’re really helping our frontline sellers, and not always just jumping into deals, but instead are able to really help the frontline sellers be as effective as they possibly can be.

And then that third area, if we’re talking about ways that you can help support the many unique needs of remote sellers, would be aligning sales with customer success and other customer-facing teams. So much is being talked about these days with regards to customer success really being a critical point of engagement with your ongoing customer audience and how the tide is now shifting for them to potentially have a quota and be a part of that sales process. The more that you can align sales with customer success and other customer-facing teams, this also keeps them feeling connected to the company, to the culture, and with each other.

SS: Leadership is a critical component of ensuring culture consistent across the organization. Here are some expert tips on how leaders and managers can help to support or empower culture:

Marie-Louise Dalsgaard: In regard to empowerment and elevating performance, it’s not something that sales managers can do. It’s like the core function of their role. They need to do this. They have the people responsibility, and they’re the ones who ensure that there are growth plans and career trajectories for each of our people on the floor. I give them ideas and guidance and how to motivate their reps and put together actionable plans, but they’re the ones who actually progress it through to the end. I think the key thing for the sales manager role to elevate and empower their teams is to realize that they are the role models.

They’re the ones who lead their teams all the way. Their behavior is bound to rub off on their teams in good and bad ways. And we as a sales enablement team are much more of a supporting function to the reps rather than the sales managers being the actual rock stars of the shows, in my opinion. So, having spent time in that role for me really helps me understand how we can help the sales managers do this, it’s a really big role to be a sales manager. In my opinion, it’s a really broad role and you need to do a ton of things beyond just training and development. Understanding this as an enablement team helps us help the sales managers in a sense.

Chad Dyar: So, the challenge is always the same. It’s, “I have a number to hit. I need to be working on these deals. I need to be doing second and third calls and sitting in meetings.” And everything was really just all around the number. So, if you make the only thing, they’re responsible for doing be hitting the number, and that’s all they’re focused on, then they’re going to throw everything at that and they’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to help people grow along the way.

So, we really made it a part of the professional development path. It is, “here’s how you get to be a manager. Here’s what a great manager looks like, and here’s how you become a senior manager or a director.” And then we put the recognition piece in as well. We had events like the Coaching Olympics, and we made sure that managers that were doing all the things we were asking them to do, were getting the right recognition, the positive feedback, callouts in not just team meetings or department meetings, but in company-wide meetings to say, “Hey, this manager’s doing this new thing and it’s affecting us in a really positive way.”

I think you really have to change the culture. It’s just like when we built the coaching culture, it was a change. It was a change for reps to sit in meetings and get coached in their calls and have to listen to them and score them and bring them in. But once you get to the other side of that change and people start to see value in it, they not only adopt it, but they drive that culture forward.

SS: Culture does not solely apply to sales – and is a powerful driver for the entire organization. Sales enablement can help impact culture across the organization in a few different ways:

Sheevaun Thatcher: From a corporate perspective, imagine that you can take all of the programs that you’ve done with enablement that are being effective and really helping your sellers and make everybody in the company an enabled seller. You’ll get unity. You get consistency. You build that culture of learning through the whole company. You can create raving promoters of not only the programs, but the company as well. Productivity goes up, attrition goes down.

Daniel Haden: I do feel that my team needs to be much closer to that recruitment process to make sure we can bring in that fresh talent that’s going to plug some of those gaps and then use best practice sharing and learning reinforcement activities to share all of that knowledge across the organization to really improve the organizational culture overall. That’s what’s going to elevate the sales performance and really drive the sales results forward.

SS: If you want to get started in driving culture change within your organization, here are some tactical tips from our experts on steps to successfully steering culture change:

Murt Hussain: A few things we’ve done to really help this: number one, is to make sure that we are having those BDR mentors doing a lot of shadowing work with the new reps. What I mean by that is that we’re having mentors on a video call and they’re sharing their screen, and the newer reps, or people who just joined, are watching them with their workflow, their calls, how they’re conducting outreach, etc. It’s been a super massive success for us because as the mentor just kind of going away doing their job normal day to day, the new reps, the people who were in training are really learning a lot from that. So, that’s been massively successful.

We’re also driving big on team culture. And what I mean by that is we have purposely made sure that there are meetings every single day for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes, where they’re meeting with their teams, mostly end of day, talking about non-work-related stuff. We’ve seen a massive uptick in performance and engagement and enthusiasm energy when they have time to just let go of work stuff, talk about school activities or how life is going. It’s been really good, and it’s been helping them get on the training track a lot more.

And then lastly, we’re doing a lot of stuff with games. There’s a lot of great online games, like there’s jeopardy apps and there’s buzzer apps. We have like ‘survivor challenges’ based off the TV show where reps are ‘on an island’. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff like that. I think increasing competition, increasing games, making things fun virtually is a big part of this new environment.

Lena Chudasama: We have a few initiatives within the office just to help build the culture and make sure that people are interacting, not just on a work level, but I’m doing other things that are a little bit more fun. One thing that people have asked me about a lot is developing skills around presentation. It’s always presentation skills, negotiation skills. That’s what everyone wants to know. What I’d like to do is give people a platform to practice their presentation skills because it’s such a good transferable skill to have. It’s always going to help you.

So, I put forward an idea that we’re kind of working on right n ow in the office called “Showcase Your Side Hustle”. I know that a lot of people at work have some sort of a side hustle, whether it’s their own small business or a hobby or some way that they’re helping the community. And I thought it’d be really nice to have a platform for everyone to come together and share what they’re doing because you might find that there are other people in the office who might have a similar interest and might be able to help you or get involved. Also, that gives people a chance to practice their presentation skills, because we’ll give them maybe three to five minutes to talk about their side hustle and then maybe take some questions, maybe have a little panel. It’s a fun way for people to basically practice the softer skills, which are always important in sales.

SS: That wraps up the best of culture expertise in 2020. I hope you learned something new and would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment on our LinkedIn with how you’ll approach culture in 2021.

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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