Episode 180: Amanda Romeo on Planning Effective Training Programs for 2022

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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 so they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Amanda Romeo at DailyPay join us. Amanda, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Amanda Romeo: Thanks, Shawnna. Thank you so much for having me as well. Yes, my name is Amanda Romeo. I am the Senior Manager of Revenue Training and Enablement at DailyPay, which is a hyper-growth New York-based technology company. To put it simply, what we do is provide an industry-leading service that enables employees to access or save their pay as they earn it without having to wait for that traditional pay cycle.

SS: Very excited to have you here, Amanda. You’ve been a core partner to Sales Enablement PRO over the years. In fact, you have extensive experience around building training, onboarding, and coaching programs, and were awarded our award for Initiative of the Year based on those programs at DailyPay last year. As the work environment has continued to evolve since then, how are you planning and designing your programs and preparing your reps for success for the coming year in 2022?

AR: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much again for that award. It’s probably the nicest trophy that I’ve ever gotten, and I have it up in my office. It’s such a nice reminder that hard work pays off.

Moving into 2022, a lot of things coming up. First, to start with onboarding, as the new year approaches my team is currently going through extensive curriculum health assessments to identify areas of opportunity for our onboarding program so that we can help our new hires ramp quickly. With that said, one of the things that we identified is the need to stretch our onboarding program. Most go from about three to six weeks depending on the role. We’ll want to extend that through their full first 90 days of their onboarding so that we can provide more reinforcement, timely learnings, things such as that.

With the timeliness of learnings, another component of our 2022 plan is furthering our just-in-time learning. Things like releasing more micro learnings, utilizing our training and coaching platform a little bit more extensively, self-service learning such as microlearning videos, we’re actually starting an internal podcast series which I’m super excited for, and e-learning modules as well.

The third component would be our coaching programs. Something I think that’s a little unique to our team is that in the last month of every quarter we essentially have a blackout period. What that means is that we want to keep our reps hyper-focused on closing out the quarter strong, but to supplement that and continue developing and supporting our teams, we do one-on-one coaching sessions with the reps that they can request to help role-play or strategize or go through decks or whatever that may be. That’s something that we’ll continue to do throughout 2022 and then something that’s a little bit newer to our org, or my team specifically rather, is furthering our leadership development in enablement. As our company’s growing really rapidly so is our leadership team, so we’re going to be focusing on more leadership enablement in 2022 to help drive success of the enablement initiatives through that frontline management team.

SS: I think that’s very cool and awesome that you guys are focusing on helping to develop leaders within your organization. What would you say are some of the key challenges though that you anticipate and how can practitioners overcome those challenges when planning their training programs for the year ahead?

AR: Yeah. To that point of the leadership enablement, it’s no secret to any enablement practitioner that having the support and reinforcement of enablement initiatives from the management team is mission-critical. The second piece of that is navigating a hybrid environment. While I think that we can all agree that we’d hope that this would be a non-issue going into 2022, we need to figure out the most scalable way to service both in office as well as the remote employees, and I believe that the programming for those two populations will need to look different in order to be effective. Manager reinforcement and that hybrid environment I think are probably going to be the two key challenges that are top of mind for me, so really looking to extend the program development for both of those components.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Now, you’ve touched on this a little bit in your last two responses around that buy-in that you need from leadership and that was also something that was mentioned in that award spotlight, how critical it is for driving that adoption. What are some of your best practices for gaining buy-in for your new enablement programs?

AR: Yes, I wish there was a silver bullet here, I really do. My personal advice is communicate, communicate, communicate. I often joke with my own management team that I sound like a broken record. I’m totally fine with that. The truth is, and from my own management experience, there’s just a lot going on all the time, especially at a startup. First and foremost, you need buy-in from the executive leaders because without them holding that frontline management team accountable, adoption of initiatives will always be an uphill battle.

The second piece is to build relationships with the leadership team that you’re relying on to carry the rest of the way. I always tell my team that the client-facing teams that we support are our customers and it’s up to us to provide them a great customer experience. Hyper communication with emails, slacks, announcing of new hires, announcing of classes, and just constantly having a cadence that they can rely on to receive the information around the training programs and the enablement initiatives is something that we’re going to continue to scale out and something that I think we’ve gotten to a pretty good repeatable pattern at this point.

SS: That’s fantastic. One of the ways that your approach to training has changed in the past year, as you mentioned in that article, is expanding the scope to cover the entire revenue team. I think there are sales enablement teams that are starting to take that remit of supporting the entire revenue org. What is the role of on-demand learning in helping you to scale your training programs as you expand across the entire revenue team, and how have you delivered this on-demand learning?

AR: Yeah, that’s a great point. We’re seeing the term sales enablement turn into revenue enablement in more ways than one. I see it in job descriptions, I see it in all sorts of platforms. We’ve done a few things through our training and coaching platform. We’ve launched a few product demo certifications in that same platform, we’ve sought to leverage it for onboarding to help create that stickiness with the content by allowing new hires to revisit their learnings as they ramp up and start to get that real-life experience once they start interacting with prospects and clients. We also partnered with a third-party online learning platform, and we’ll distribute a weekly e-learning to the team on various topics anywhere from selling skills to professional development just to keep those skills sharp, like remote presentation skills or things like that.

We also went through a few system launches in the past year, which anyone that’s launched a new system can probably relate to the struggle to get our teams to adopt that system. From a micro-learning perspective, we really leveraged videos to help support that launch because when you do an instructor-led training on a new platform launch, it can be difficult for the teams to really envision the issues that they’re going to come up with. Having those videos and that just-in-time learning piece to refer back to as they begin to use the system, I think has been really crucial.

Those are some of the things that we’ve done from an on-demand learning perspective to support this past year. Like I said earlier, we’ll be ramping that up in a few different ways throughout 2022.

SS: Well, ramp is definitely a great segue into my next question. As outcomes of training and onboarding, I think the velocity of ramp and productivity are absolutely key and something that a lot of enablement practitioners look at. What are some of your best practices for really optimizing ramp time and assessing rep productivity?

AR: Yeah, measuring the effectiveness of enablement initiatives is definitely a passion of mine, I’m very results-driven. Specifically, as it relates to optimizing ramp time, we structure our onboarding programs to identify the first step in a new hire’s role and get them to start doing that as soon as possible. For example, in the case of our account executives, the discovery call is traditionally the first thing that they’ll do as a new hire. Within that first week of their sales training, which usually comes around week three of their tenure, we’re going to train and certify them on that discovery process so that way we can get them doing their job as early as possible. Of course, we continue training beyond that for the next few weeks, but we taper that schedule off, meaning that after that initial certification we want to find a good balance between learning and productivity, a.k.a. doing their job.

We’ve also found that this approach allows for more practical learning scenarios. Because the reps are starting to do their job, they are coming to training with real-life questions, objections, scenarios that they’re encountering on their calls, and we can help them work through it. You could probably think of a scenario where you were learning something new recently, when you can practically apply that to your everyday life or your past experience, that learning becomes stickier in your brain. Those are a couple of ways that we’re accelerating that ramp time while still maintaining a continuous learning environment for our new hires.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. We talked about coaching at the early onset of the interview, and I’d also love to understand from your perspective, how you think about measuring potentially productivity improvements as it relates to coaching?

AR: Yeah. One thing that we’re doing, like I said, I feel like this is a little unique to my organization, but it’s something I feel really passionate about. When I started at my company in the beginning of 2020, I was a one-woman show and now I’m lucky enough to have my team, but one of the things that we identified early on was we were getting people ramped up, we were getting them onboarded, they were starting to do their deals, but we identified people were interested in coming back and saying I know we learned this in training, but I just got this on this call, can I set up time with you and go through this? We were seeing such progress with the new hires, and they were really able to do their jobs so much more effectively that I really became an extension of the leadership team. When I started to hire my team, it was really important to me that they also build those relationships with the reps where they were comfortable coming back to us from a training and enablement org and saying, hey, I need help here.

We usually send out an email at the beginning of each month saying, okay, we have five coaching sessions available this month, and usually they’re “sold out” within the first day or two of that email being sent. That just speaks, I think, to the effectiveness and the impact that the enablement team is able to have on those. We are really seeing, and something that we’re going to be tracking in the next couple months and into 2022, is if we’re coaching on a specific deal with a specific rep, is there a way for us to tie ourselves to that revenue because we’ve been able to help coaching with that deal specifically?

SS: Absolutely. Last question for you. How do you gather insights on the effectiveness of your training and coaching and onboarding programs? What are some of the key analytics that you measure as you plan your programs for the upcoming year?

AR: Yes, great question. Like I said earlier, I’m very results-driven. I’m a big fan of the Kirkpatrick model for measuring effectiveness and I presented on this topic with some other enablement groups. Simply put, the Kirkpatrick model is broken into four levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Reaction, simple satisfaction surveys. Did you like the training? Did you like the content? What would you change? Things like that. We are constantly polling our team at DailyPay on what they want from enablement as well as what they like and don’t like.

The second component is learning, and this is achieved through written tests, certifications, so on and so forth. One thing to note is that for reaction and learning to be really telling, you usually want to pair those two results together. For example, if they liked the training but didn’t learn anything, it wasn’t necessarily an effective initiative. Now, usually this is where I hear a lot of practitioners stop. When I’m interviewing or working with some of my peers in the industry and we talk about measuring effectiveness, it’s usually a satisfaction survey or a certification. Where I think we really get the business’s attention is beyond that when we talk about behavior and results.

Behavior change is hard to measure, I will be the first to admit it. Like I said, I usually hear a lot of people stopping here because it gets a little grey, but when you get to behavior change and looking at the results components, so those last two stages, the one key piece of this is benchmark data. For behavior change, you can leverage a conversation intelligence tool to measure rep performance before and after an initiative. For results, you can look at benchmark data for ramp time before implementing an onboarding program and after implementing to see if the program was impactful.

For example, when I started at DailyPay in January of 2020, we looked at the time to first sale for all of the reps that had not gone through the program that we launched, and then looked at the ramp time and the time to first sale for all of the new account executives that had gone through that program. We saw a pretty large decrease in that time to first sale because we were able to have that benchmark data. Not every organization has access to benchmark data, so that can be difficult for some practitioners to nail down, but that comes with maturity of the organization.

For the year ahead, we’re going to continue to look at the time to first sale, time to second sale. The new one I’d like to focus on, which I’d mentioned earlier, is that deal impact. If my team or I find ourselves in one-on-one coaching sessions when they are deal-specific, I’d like to find a way to attribute the enablement team’s involvement in that deal to the revenue that it brought into the company. That’s something that I’m going to be looking at a little bit more closely as we move into 2022.

SS: Well, I think that’s fantastic advice to our audience about how to actually and practically measure against behavior change by benchmarking. I think that’s fantastic. Thank you, Amanda, and I’m very excited to understand how the deal impact metric pans out for you over the coming year. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, I always learn a lot of new things whenever we get a chance to connect and chat.

AR: Amazing. Thank you so much again for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

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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