Episode 136: Kevin Casey on How Revenue Enablement Enhances the Customer Experience

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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 they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Kevin Casey join us from Degreed. Kevin, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Kevin Casey: Hello, Shawnna. Thank you for having me. As mentioned, I am Kevin Casey, and I am with Degreed. I direct the revenue enablement function for degreed. So, within that capacity, we’re responsible for both the sales, as well as our customer service and customer experience organization. A little bit about Degreed – exciting company, fast-paced company, but a little bit of our background is one of the things that our founder came to realize about seven, eight years ago is that when we look across an organization, we have human capital management applications, we have a talent management tool, we have learning management systems and they’re all just built really separately from each other. They don’t really connect. They don’t talk, they don’t help an individual really grow their career. They’re typically just in place for just that right management versus the individual.

So, what Degreed allows an individual to do is manage their career. Which is understanding their core skill sets, looking for opportunities within an organization, being able to enhance their skills, being able to track where their learning really takes place. All this is done within a learning experience platform. So effectively we pull all of those disparate systems together in order for the individuals within organizations to manage their careers.

SS: Well, Kevin, I’m very excited to have you here. As part of your revenue enablement role, you’re responsible for enablement essentially to support all of the go-to-market and customer experience teams. I’d love to hear from you, how do you tailor your enablement programs to each of those different audiences?

KC: Wonderful question. One of our biggest challenges, right? What we first start to do is really understand what’s consistent across our go-to-market, as well as our customer experience organizations. What do they need to know? So, what are those core fundamentals as they apply to better servicing and educating our customers. Our next level is to look at a role-based enablement strategy, which can encompass our frontline salespeople. It can be our pre-call salespeople, so they all need a little bit different information in order for them to be effective in their roles. Then we look at post-sale, we have technical, we have client engagement partners. We have customer service managers.

What we look at is that role-based enablement, our strategies really do begin to hit that fork in the road, which is what does a technical team need to nail specifically? What does our customer engagement partners really need to know? They’re the front lines of that handoff from our sales organization to our customer experience. And it’s critical that that knowledge, all that’s learned throughout that whole sales process is handed over to our CX team in order for them to better service our customers. I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating for a new customer to come on board and have to answer all of the questions that they just spent the previous six months answering. So, that’s a big area that we focus on. We’re ensuring that handoff is spotless and it’s seamless for our customers.

SS: I love that. I think you’re right, that is one of the most frustrating customer experiences. So how do the means of these various teams intersect and complement each other? And then, how do you use that knowledge to help drive cross-team alignment through revenue enablement?

KC: Yeah, Shawnna, if I solve that, I may not have a job at this point. We’re a rapidly growing organization. We’ve grown tremendously over the past seven years. We’ve gone from about seven employees to over 600 as we’re at today. Oftentimes the processes are put in place following that growth. It’ll be wonderful. We could see ahead and understand what processes, in terms of how the different functions interact to better service our customers, how that would take place before it actually happens, but like most organizations, we’re following that growth. So, the enablement function has spent the past year since 2020, we had an acquisition. We’ve had new products and services offerings. The critical piece of what we needed to drive last year, and then looking ahead into this year is how those functions really do relate to each other.

I think, as with most sales organizations, we follow adherences to the salesforce.com. Are we utilizing the tools and processes that we have in place to their fullest? We’ll never be perfect. I don’t think many revenue enablement or sales enablement functions can claim that, or we have the ultimate profile, the ultimate way that we go-to-market as well as servicing our customers. Our ongoing challenge does revolve around always reviewing, measuring, and understanding where we’re doing well. Then where we have those gaps, we have to address those gaps in order to ensure that complete customer experience.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. So, who are some of the core partners that you need buy-in from, in order to deliver both successful revenue enablement programs, but also the best customer experience, and how do you collaborate with each of those partners?

KC: Great question. That’s the primary challenge. It is revolved around developing that relationship with the leaders of both our go-to-market sales, as well as customer experience. It’s understanding what their goals are as a function, as it relates to the overarching goals of Degreed, we need to be able to be in a position where we understand, and we partner with them to drive those goals. We need to be able to be proactive in terms of coming to those organizations with strategic vision of how we can help them deliver on that partnership is absolutely critical. That’s where our strategy begins.

Ideally, once we get to end of that, once we put those measurements in place to show our progress over a period of time, we can then reflect on what efforts were successful, what areas we still maybe have to look at and to rethink and drive through. We also have to partner with our product marketing teams, in order to ensure that we have the latest information around our product roadmaps, that we have the latest information about our positioning in the market, whether it’s competition, whether it could be the product enhancements, the product upgrades, it’s multiple pieces of the organization that we need to interact with on a weekly basis.

How I go about that, it could be the ongoing call cadences with the leadership team. It is an enablement partnership across the dread organization. We have a team that’s made up of product of marketing, of sales of the customer experience. They get together on a weekly basis to share information, to share calendars and to share updates. Some weeks those calls don’t take place, and those are great because we’re in a position where we’ve put together the insights and the processes, so that we’re in a position that we can direct our time to maybe other pieces that go to it. But that’s been a very proactive implementation across our leadership, which is that ongoing open communications and cadence.

SS: That’s fantastic. Now, Kevin, throughout this whole podcast, you have a very customer-centric mindset, which I love. How does your approach to revenue enablement help provide value to customers throughout the customer life cycle?

KC: Wonderful question. One of the areas in coming to Degreed, and I started just about a year ago this month. And one of the topics that I really wanted to incorporate into the Degreed mindset was the customer perspective in looking at how traditionally most companies go-to-market, they incorporate a sales process, which is very internally focused. I want to get some of the prospect’s time. I want to conduct a needs analysis. I want to conduct a demo. I want the contract signed. That’s the way sales have worked since the beginning of time, we need to have our sales process, so we know what we need to accomplish, but what if we turn that and we look at it from the customer buyer perspective, what does the customer need to do in order to make a purchasing decision?

The customer has to recognize that they have a need, or they have an opportunity to improve as an organization. The customer has to find a budget. They have to pull together a buying committee. They have to sell the idea internally. It’s a lot of work to make a purchasing decision in today’s business world. That’s just the way it is. So, what if we were to look at our processes from the customer perspective, thereby we’re facilitating a sale versus selling to the customer, the more we’re able to help them drive their decision-making process internally, the more that we’re able to help consult them. This might be something you should think about in order to meet the deadline that we have to close this opportunity. Hey, can we help you with the buying committee?

Does this have to go to procurement? If so, what’s procurement going to think about this. It’s really turning that on its ear and looking at it from the BI perspective versus the sell perspective and the same goes for our client experience team. When we bring a new customer on board, we have an endless list of things we need to accomplish in order to make sure that they’re onboarded correctly, they’re trained correctly. Their technical team is aware of what’s happening, that the contract is signed. What if we were to turn that around and look at the maturation of the usage of our products and services. As they begin to roll this out, how can we be consultative with them by understanding what they need to do to make this a successful purchase? And what we think about this right people’s names are attached to making big decisions and they want to make sure that this is going to be successful. What we want to help them do is not only be competent in their purchasing decision, but also make them the champion or the hero and what we have and what we know our products and services can do for them over the long run.

SS: I love that. I think that’s a great lens for the customers. What would you say a customer-centric approach is important to revenue enablement and from your perspective, what are some of the areas in which this is really impactful for the business?

KC: The impact to the customer is pretty straightforward. There’s the confidence that they made the right decision. It’s the confidence that this is going to be a solution that helps their organization grow, that ultimately helps their organization serve their customers as well as their employees. Those are the two critical factors. When I look at an organization, regardless of what the CEO has for their annual planning, for the annual strategy, it comes down to their customers and their employees. Those are the two primary components in that for our organization, what it does for Degreed, it helps point out where our gaps are. We’ll put in any number of metrics. We try and limit it clearly. Although some people would like to see those increased, but we do want to put metrics behind what our efforts entails so that we can see once again where we’re really driving change, where we’re really impacting both the go-to-market and the customer experience organization, and ultimately where we’re successful and where we’re not as successful.

All those metrics really go into understanding. It’s what is impactful and what’s driving the business and what’s driving the performance of our organizations because it’s all too often. When it comes down to the sales team, it’s very black and white. You got the sale; you didn’t get the sale with our CX organization. We retained a customer; we didn’t retain a customer. All of that is very expensive. Here’s where the payoff is in order for us to be successful, we need to be able to measure our efforts as they go into supporting both our go to market, as well as customer experience organizations.

SS: Now, for my last question, I would love for you to dig in what are some of the key metrics that you think are most important to demonstrate the success of revenue enablement initiatives?

KC: A couple that we’ve put some rigorous process behind it with, which has been a task that not always maybe the most fun. But it does give us an understanding of the impact of our efforts. So, I’m going to focus on two things internally. The first is onboarding with the growth of the degree organization. We’ve added any number of new sales and CX new hires in 2020, so we were quite busy with onboarding and with our remote onboarding that presented a whole new challenge. So how do we make it productive? How do we ensure that it’s engaging all the while we’re doing this remotely?

Within the sales organization, specifically for onboarding, we implemented a few metrics. The first is, what successful completion of the topics, insights learning that’s associated with the formal onboarding. Our formal onboarding is about four weeks. So that’s one of them. And we really challenged ourselves with how do we make this engaging so it’s not a passive learning experience, where people aren’t sitting back, not paying attention, doing whatever they’re doing. That was a challenge. The second is we wanted to see what their first 90 days in the field look like. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges and mistakes with onboarding is trying to give too much information too soon. Whereas what we wanted to understand in the first 90 days, what does the management expect of their sales team?

What are those skills, insights, resources needed? So that those first 90 days they can have a ramp-up experience. That’s going to be impactful again, versus for example, having them go through a four-hour, how to sign contracts session. That doesn’t make sense if they happen to get a sale in the first 90 days. We’re going to find a way for them to get that done. But overall, as much as they have to learn, we just had to scale that back. At the 90-day mark, we run a few reports and the metrics that we’ve found to be most impactful, one it’s around activity. I know for some sales leads, it’s kind of a controversial topic. Well, activity doesn’t really necessarily affect productivity. Well, in a sense, it does, we want to give our new salespeople look at what good looks like.

When we take a summary of our sales team, top performers, what their activity looks like, number of appointments, number of calls, number of emails, very tactical stuff, but it does give them something to react to and to drive towards. So that’s one. The second one is time to deal. This doesn’t have to be the enterprise deal. This could be a cross-sell. It could be an upsell, but how long does it take them to get there. The third one is around what’s that average opportunity size. So, we put those in place. And then at the end of the year, just a few weeks ago, we ran the report as compared to 2019. And the wonderful news is we dropped decreased time to deal by a full month. And you multiply that by 30 some new salespeople, that’s real dollars, right? That’s real money sooner for the organization. The average deal size, it dropped a little, it dropped by a couple thousand dollars. But what that indicates is that we’re better at expanding our footprint within organizations, right.

That stickiness that we always love to talk about. So, we’re expanding our footprint by cross-selling by upselling and renewing. So that’s of course, it’s going to be a little bit less in terms of ballers versus the full enterprise sale. So those are the three ones that are very effective in terms of the onboarding and our tracking purposes. For the sales team, it gets a little bit more detailed in terms of what we’re looking at. So, the first thing we’re looking at is what is the current time to deal close, right? From the time it’s a prospect all the way through signing the contract. Ultimately, we want to decrease that on average, we’re about nine months. We want to decrease that closer to seven months. So that’s one. Then, fully understand that we’re digging directly into an opportunity stage. The research we’ve done now is we see there’s two stages of our process that we get bogged down the most. The first is prospecting. That’s not a surprise, right?

From the time we find a prospect, we start making calls to start sending emails. We tend to have a lot of deals or potential opportunities in that stage. The second one, which is not as surprising either, it’s the middle of that process, where the customer has to make that go or no-go decision. That is where in most of the opportunities we get the longest part of our cycle. The key there is really understanding, determining what we’ve done, what we haven’t done, what we need to do, maybe something we’ve skipped, maybe something we haven’t asked. That’s where really need to dig in the opportunity to understand what is not happening here that needs to happen for the customer to make this decision, or in this instance, the prospect to make this decision, any number of things can be happening. That’s where according to the buyer sales process, we can look at it from their perspective versus our perspective.

Just think of the salesperson who’s going to keep sending emails or keep leading voicemails in order to advance that opportunity. When we look at it from the detailed bioprocess, we can see the customer needed to have budget that they have budget confirm the buying committee technology, looking at it from their perspective. It’s going to give us a better insight of what we need to do next. And of course, we have the old status quo of, they’re not going to make a decision because not making a decision is easier. So, we’re going to lose the opportunity to status quo.

SS: Kevin. Thank you so much for that very detailed answer. I think that’s fantastic and exactly what our audience is interested in learning more about. So, thank you so much, Kevin, I appreciate your time.

KC: Great. Thank you.

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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