Episode 166: Beth Shuman on Creating Customer Value With Seamless Experiences

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m 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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Beth Shuman join us. Beth, I would love for you to introduce yourself and your background to our audience.

Beth Shuman: I am a sales enablement expert. I have been in the business for probably more years than I care to admit, but like many of us, we started out in a sales role, and found some success in those positions. Through those positions and our desire to want to help other people, we started to gravitate into roles that would allow us to help people become their better selves, at least in their professional space. I have had roles in positions such as a vice president of sales, sales operations director, as well as the vice president in sales enablement. You’ll find me in one of those three spaces.

SS: I love it. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Beth. Now, you’ve previously highlighted the importance of having value-based buyer journey conversations with customers and I think that’s such a critical topic. How can sales enablement help reps meet the buyers where they are in the buyer journey?

BS: Right. It’s really about being able to practice and help the learner or the salesperson with the various stages that a buyer is going through. Depending upon the company and how they identify the buyer journey, there are corresponding steps that a sales rep needs to be able to walk with the customer as they’re going through. It’s important that we match where the buyer is. If they’re not quite yet ready in let’s say, the evaluation stage, we really don’t want to jump into a demonstration, we want to slow down. If they’re really more in their vendor categorization stage, or maybe the inflection points of where their actual problems are that they want to solve, we want to stay there a little longer and make sure that we direct them to resources or provide them with resources that can help them in that stage that they are in.

The way sales enablement helps is to make sure that they can practice having those relevant conversations in each stage and help them with their discovery conversation with the customer to ensure they know exactly where the buyer is on their journey.

SS: Absolutely, I think that’s really critical. Now, you also talk about the need to refine the handoff between sales and client services teams to really ensure that there’s a solid and seamless customer onboarding experience. Why is that handoff so important and how, from your perspective, can enablement help to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible?

BS: Ultimately, we’re trying to validate that our solution does in fact solve the pain better than the other choices the customer had. That really happens after the sale is done and when we move into the implementation stage. Where enablement can help is to help the rep balance that pressure of needing to meet a quota and not rush too fast earlier in the conversations with the customer. They really need to be able to take a little bit more time and dive into a little bit more deep pain and potential value as to why the customer is buying the solution. If we, as sales enablement experts, can help the reps have more meaningful conversations and validate through the discovery stages earlier rather than rushing, as we talked about a few minutes ago, right into a demo, we’re going to have a better handoff process, or we will have a less watered-down handoff process when we put the customer into our implementation or customer success experts’ hands. What we want to do is if we’ve done this right, what the reasons are the rep said the customer is buying and the potential value will be mirrored when the customer service or the implementation team are asking these same questions.

Where we can help again, is to make sure that the reps balance that they are working on the best deals that are winnable deals. As we talked about the buyer journey, if a customer is too far down on their journey and they’re not willing to back up so that we as a vendor can jump in and talk about how we solve pains, if they’re too quick to do a demo, it’s probably not a winnable deal. These concepts and topics that we’re talking about really all dovetail together.

First of all, we might not win this deal. If we do win this deal, we may not have won it for the right reasons and we may not be able to realize the value that the customer is needing. If we do these things right, we’ll have a very sticky customer who will renew with us without much effort as opposed to it being a very difficult drawn-out process that may not happen or happen months or quarters after a renewal was expired. If we do it right, the customer will buy more licenses, buy adjacent products, they might be a good referral for us. If we get it wrong, they’ll do none of the above. It can be very expensive proposition for a customer and for the rep and to have to go find a new customer because we rushed.

Again, where enablement can help is that balance between, what are the right winnable deals? Are you working with the right customers that you jumped in at the right point with? Can we slow down and truly understand the value as to why they’re buying and what they’re hoping to realize so when they are with the implementation team, we can in fact realize that value?

SS: Absolutely. Now, you’ve also mentioned in the past, and I think that this is a really critical point as well, you mentioned how important it is to you use data to pinpoint gaps in some of those handoff processes. What are some of the metrics that you look at to understand where those inefficiencies might exist and how are you using those insights to refine your enablement programs?

BS: It’s a combination of systems. There are so many systems and tools from so many great vendors out there today, and the metrics. Some tried and true metrics are your retention rate. Are you getting the retention rate within the quarter, which implies that the customer has seen value when they quickly want to renew, and they can’t be without your solution?

If you’re not seeing a good, strong retention in the mid-nineties, if you’re not seeing retention that’s happening in quarter, there could be something else there.
If you’re seeing a customer who is adopting and adding more people or upselling to adjacent or cross-selling to adjacent products, these things can all pinpoint that we’ve done the handoff right, we have sold the solution right, we’ve shared it with the rest of the team that we’ll be working with the customer and the customer validates that there’s no difference.

Some of the things you can do certainly is the programming of your CRM to ensure that what the rep is telling us and what the customer success team is seeing are the same. When there’s some deltas, it’s that feedback loop with so many processes. If there’s a difference between why the rep thought the customer was mine and what the customer success team is finding, then that’s a great time to loop and have a conversation back. Was there something within sales enablement that we didn’t share with the reps? Do they understand the real products and the use cases? Do they know what we do and don’t do or how well we do it? Do they know when they should move forward with a deal or when they shouldn’t be there?

There’s a saying that says, sometimes you want to fail fast. We may not have the right solution for this customer and there are many other places where you may want to focus on your pipeline. What I would say is retention, your add ons, your upselling, things are moving at the clip at which you would expect, and that your systems like your CRMs can back them up and your revenue intelligence tools can also help the sales rep. Those are some great platforms that are available in the market today, and they can really help the rep understand whether they’re really hearing what the customer is saying.

Again, these are revenue intelligence tools that capture customer conversations, and enablement can help the sales team by listening to these conversations and really pinpointing what the customer is saying and seeing if it aligns with where you’ve put the customer in your forecast or in your pipeline. And helping them make sure that they’re not being too positive or too optimistic and maybe missing some of the cues from the buyer that says maybe there’s more work to be done. Again, a lot of this has to do with awareness, has to do with repetition, has to do with having a feedback loop.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. All of that is fundamentally critical. Another thing that you’ve talked about as part of your enablement programs for client services, you talked about how you utilize playbooks. I think sales enablement professionals have been using variations of playbooks over the years, and they’ve definitely come a long way. You’re using it in particular though, to focus on helping to drive retention. I would love to hear from you, how do you use playbooks to increase rep engagement, and also help enable those reps to improve customer satisfaction so that you can see that improvement in retention rates?

BS: I think that the customer success team is one of the last teams to actually get some of the care and feeding and nurturing that the sales teams have been getting. To your point, many of the things we’ve done for sales, we need to mirror for the customer success teams. They also need to have a customer success methodology, just like a sales team has a sales methodology. What are the steps that they need to go through for the adoption, for the initial handoff, the introduction calls, the training that needs to happen, getting people in the system and the adoption and then using it? When they’re getting challenges, this points back to one of our earlier conversations as did the rep sell it right or tell customer service why the customer’s buying them? When these things are wrong, there needs to be some playbooks here and some scenarios here for customer success to slow down, to go back over this information with the customer, make sure we get it right.

Certainly, there’s a feedback loop back over to sales if they got it wrong. With customer service, they need to know with the personas that have just acquired, the solution or the software, why did they buy it? How are they going to use it? If they’re getting sticking points, they need to have plays about what to say to each of the different personas, what to show each of them, what to do to help them over the hurdle, and making sure that they can handle objections just like sales do. Customers don’t always show up for their handoff calls, they don’t always show up for their training, so what are the plays that you give customer success to keep that adoption, implementation, and the use of the solution on track?

SS: Absolutely. I love that. I think we’ve looked a lot at the customer side of things, but one aspect to creating a seamless customer experience can also be that internal alignment. How have you gone about fostering alignment with key stakeholders in order to improve customer experience?

BS: The collaboration is so important. All of us are tied together. We need to have a common vision and common alignment if we’re going to be successful in the market. What I usually have done and would recommend to others is again, lots of conversation around our space in the market. How do we go to market? Is there an agreement between the product teams, the marketing teams, the sales teams, sales enablement, into customer success? The way that I’ve found works well is to make sure that everybody’s job description, if you will, has some of these elements in it.

For example, if sales enablement is going to be successful, we need the time of all of these groups, but if they are so busy and their job has already been defined, that leaves no time for us. One of the things I’ve been successful doing is going back to the head of each of these organizations and asking that they adjust their job description so that there is time to work collaboratively with sales enablement. If marketing gets a message out in the market with their brochures and all of the various good material they produce, the white papers, their webinars, what they’re doing on the website, but they don’t have any time to work with enablement to turn that into training, that’s not training if there’s not active participation, a chance to work with the material for a sales rep to actually practice it in a safe way and learn how to use it. For me, making sure that folks have time for enablement, to work with us, to take all the great material and messaging that they’ve put together and then help us actually turn it into training, that’s worked really well.

SS: I love that. I think that’s fantastic, particularly to ensure that they are getting the training they need. In your experience, what is the business impact though, of having internal alignment, both for your sales enablement function, but as well as maybe even from the lens of the customer?

BS: Right. Well, you get more of the right deals more quickly and you get a longer-term customer or more longer-term customers if everybody in the company is aligned, and we have the same shared vision and we’re working on it together. Again, that means more on-time deals, less lumpy forecast or quarterly revenue, if you will. For the customer, they get what they think they’re signing up for. If we are correct and accurate with all of their touchpoints, and we all know our products, we know the pains, we know the industry types and the customers and the personas, we’re going to be doing the right thing for that customer. They will be getting what they think that they’re acquiring and then they will then of course, as the years go by, be even more efficient and effective because they’ve gotten the right solution from the beginning versus having to start over and jump to a different solution.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve loved this conversation. I have one final question for you and it’s just really around the evolution. How do you envision buyer and customer behavior and expectations evolving over the next year, or maybe even beyond that? How do you see sales enablement evolving alongside them?

BS: Right. You know, it really has changed these last 18 months because you saw us in our home environments. You saw all kinds of things we tried not to let our public persona show. You see the kids in the background, you see the dogs barking. Whereas two years ago, if I was doing a webinar, it would be considered highly unprofessional if that dog barked. Now, you show them the humanity and that we’re all human. If you see a kid, a picture of them crossed behind me on my webinar, we’re all going through the same thing.

I think what’s happening is there are less pretenses. We’re actually taking time to care more about each other and we’re having more deeper conversations because of what the world has been going through, at least I know that’s true for me. I’ve also found that because the money is a bit tighter and companies need to make sure they are doing the best they can with the funds that are available for investments and new solutions to help with their business, I’m finding there’s more buyers in the decision process.
Where enablement can help is, obviously, it’s the tools. How do you use the tools? How do you use all of the various hoarding tools? How do you have the right backgrounds without making it fake? How do you get more buyer personas? Do you know more about their care abouts? New industries have come forward to us depending upon what solution you’re selling, especially if you’re offering remote capabilities, security capabilities, etc.

How enablement can help is obviously with all the technology, making sure that we’re having the right deeper conversations and uncovering new personas that maybe weren’t part of the deal in the past.

SS: I couldn’t agree more, Beth, thank you so much for joining us today. I enjoyed your customer perspective on sales enablement.

BS: It’s been my pleasure. 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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