Episode 181: Christie Spain on Recruiting and Developing Sales Talent

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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 excited to have Christie Spain from LaunchDarkly join us.

Christie, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Christie Spain: Great. Hi, my name is Christie Spain, and I’m the sales enablement business partner for our field sales team at LaunchDarkly. At LaunchDarkly, we help companies release new features faster and safer by separating deployments from releases through the use of feature flags.

In non-technical speak, what that means is simply a “dark launch.” It just means that you have control over your releases because you can deploy a new feature without it being live to all users.

SS: Well, as someone who manages our updates to our community site, I can tell you, I love having a feature for that. I’m also excited to have you here, given your expertise. On LinkedIn, you actually mentioned a quote from Zig Ziglar, which is “you don’t build a business, you build people, and they build your business,” which I love. How do you find this quote though, to be true in sales enablement and, and how does sales enablement contribute to organizational development?

CS: Yeah, great question. I actually love this quote. I first heard it from my manager back in college when I did a door-to-door sales job, and I learned firsthand working with him and building a team. At that time, what was a volunteer army of salespeople working on straight commission that the people on your team should really always be your biggest investment and that if you help enough people be successful, you really secure your own fate of also being successful.

I believe that the inverse of this is also really true. At times, I had to learn this the hard way. I think that we sometimes leave managers and a culture. That’s not working, not the business and it’s not always the case, but it is a lot of the time. I think how this applies in sales enablement, it really looks a little bit at every business based on where the company is at in terms of size and scale. In fact, I think if you were to line up 10 of us in sales enablement across 10 different stages of companies. We’d all have a slightly different take on it. Right? Our priorities would look a little different, but I do think at its core, we can all agree that sales enablement is about really increasing sales productivity.

Now, there are a lot of layers to that statement, but helping teams be more productive really requires me to wear a lot of hats. It could be mobilizers, synthesizer, trainer, or coach. But really, the goal while wearing all of these hats is to understand what’s needed and then put together the right team to go make that happen. Really, when you’re working to improve productivity and scale a business, at some point, you need a certain amount of repeatability and sales enablement is a really critical business partner for that.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Now, you also mentioned that one of your specialties is talent recruitment and it is an extremely hot market for talent right now. In your opinion, how can sales enablement though add really unique value to the talent recruitment process?

CS: I think that sales enablement has a really unique vantage point in the business in that we’re working across all segments. We see not only what’s working really well on one team, but across all the different teams, as well as what’s not working right. Having worked in recruitment for part of my career.

I know that helping someone have a fast start in a new role has so much to do with expectation setting. I’m a big believer in radical transparency in the recruiting process, and you can still recruit great talent even if your team or business is going through a low period. As long as you’re honest about it and you’re equipped to share what they’ll be gaining by joining you, I think this is where sales enablement can align and really equip hiring managers with these insights in order to build that value story.

SS: Absolutely. What are some of the key skills or characteristics that you look for when you’re hiring sales reps?

CS: I think the specific skills needed vary by business, but there are three that are universal: curiosity, a problem-solving mentality, and good old-fashioned grit.

SS: I think that those are great characteristics to look for in reps. Now, once new reps are hired though, and this is where sales enablement definitely comes in, how do you help ensure that they have the tools that they need to become productive quickly? How do you balance that with the need to also ensure that they have a positive employee experience as they join a new company?

CS: We are in the process of improving our onboarding experience. Without giving too much away, there are two things that really stand out here. One of our reps said to me recently that A’s are expensive. So, get us a minimum viable product and onboarding so that we can do our job quickly and just come back to the rest later. This is something that we are really focused on in those first 30 days, ensuring that we can do just that. Also, we want to ensure that those 30, 60, 90 milestones are clearly defined and understood. The more you can eliminate the question in that first quarter of what to spend time on, it’s just going to help them build pipeline faster, which is ultimately what we all want to get to.

SS: Absolutely. I could not agree more. Now, final question for you. How can sales enablement not only help to bring in the right talent and get them ramped through the recruiting and onboarding process, but then also help to retain that talent long term?

CS: I’m going to reiterate the importance of transparency here. I think that reps can have an incredibly positive onboarding experience and have a fast art. Even if you don’t have a comprehensive bootcamp or onboarding experience fully built out, do those things help? Absolutely. Yes. At a certain time, they are necessary to scale quickly, but even before you get to that point, definitely do not underestimate the value of just setting the right expectations.

SS: Absolutely. Well, Christie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. I really appreciate it.

CS: You’re welcome. Thanks 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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