Episode 186: Céline Laffargue on Role-based Learning to Drive Productivity

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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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Céline Laffargue from Salesforce join us. Celine, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Céline Laffargue: Thank you Shawnna, I’m very happy to be with you today. I’m Céline Laffargue, I’m a sales enablement leader for all the delivery in Europe, EMEA to be exactly precise, for all the content for our own sales leaders at Salesforce. I joined the company more than four years ago. I started after 20 years in tech as a seller myself, I was a sales leader and a global account manager. I started at Salesforce as an account executive, so a salesperson at Salesforce, and I had the chance and the opportunity to move to enablement, in which I have been working for three years now and I’ve moved from different roles. As you can hear by my voice or maybe by my accent, I’m French, so first I was working with French teams for all the sales, also solution engineers, and all the onboarding for every person at Salesforce France. Now, I’ve got to wider role dedicated to sales leaders, but only for EMEA.

SS: Well, I’m extremely honored to have you here. I’d love to dive in. As you mentioned, one of your core responsibilities at Salesforce as you got started in enablement was really around onboarding new hires. From your experience, how does onboarding help amplify sales productivity for new hires?

CL: It’s an excellent question, Shawnna, because we know onboarding is key. From the first moment, first minute, first time you’re in a new company, you first need to be really welcomed. I think this is also key to understand the culture of the company. For us at Salesforce, it’s something we really focus on a lot. Onboarding is always at stake because we know different people are joining the company, different backgrounds, there are different ways of learning. It’s important to remember this.

Today, Salesforce is providing a tremendous platform. Of course, for our customers, but internally we use the platform to train and to onboard all the employees. We have digital content as every company has today, we believe, and we use this platform you may have heard about called Trailhead, which is a public platform where you can be trained on Salesforce. We use our Trailhead, called My Trailhead internally, to train people, to onboard them, to help them understand what their role is in the company. What is the product? How are we organized?

Everything is of course accessible for everybody at any place. It’s a virtual world today, it’s important to have this ability to do so. We use our tools to train and to onboard everybody. Of course, it depends on what your role is. I mean, role as in if you are an individual contributor or a leader, but also in which business unit you will belong to at the end. We don’t have the same paths of training and learning for someone who is going to be a solution engineer and run demos to customers as for an account executive who would be a seller and needs to understand what the methodology of selling at Salesforce is and how he can, or she can succeed in the role.

SS: Absolutely. What would you say are some of the key components to an effective onboarding program? How do you go about delivering onboarding programs to really ensure that there is a consistent experience for new hires, and it really starts to drive towards that consistent performance that you were talking about?

CL: So first you asked me about the key component. The key component is really the first thing we do at Salesforce. It’s explaining the culture of the company, our core values. We have four core values and it’s really completely embedded in the DNA of anything we do.

The first one is trust, and trust is key to everything we do. It is for customers, but it’s also internally. It’s the trust of people you work with, trust in the fact that you can talk about what’s happening for you and you can make your points. It’s very important. The second one is customer success. Everything is driven for customer success and designed to help this. The third one is innovation, and I think Salesforce has shown year over year how innovative we can be. We try to find every new solution. I believe you heard about the fact that Slack is now a Salesforce company. Embedding a company like Slack makes big changes for our customers, but obviously it does internally too. The last one’s the last but not least value, which is equality. We want equality to be seen at every level of everything we do in the company. We can say we have a fifth core value, which is sustainability. It’s not written in the same way, but it’s also in everything we do because we are a net zero carbon company today and we keep on working on this.

First of all, the key component of onboarding is to understand that those values, it’s not just something written on a wall, it’s really something we do and embedded in every action we can do. Then for the onboarding itself and how we can succeed, the best design people already do the job, so it’s really something that we can validate with them because the results you see in the field. I mean, you need to see what’s happening with your customers to see how you grow your business to make sure that what you learn is bringing you value. Obviously, we have the best design depending on the role you have to play in the company.

We use, of course, our data because our platform is full of data and we’re able to follow up on every personal journey of learning and onboarding. We have a dedicated webinar for all newcomers and then you be sorted by role. If you are a manager, not a manager, if you are a leader, not a leader, whatever you do, you will have dedicated webinar and dedicated content to absorb and to understand.

At the end, we are working on an analytical way of understanding what went well, what didn’t go well, what can we improve. We are running different types of programs and at each program, you can be sure that we ask for feedback. We are very keen to know what is the CSAT of the session, and we ask all the attendees to our trainings to our enablement moment to understand, what can be done differently? What do we need to enhance? Where do you think there is room for improvement for our team for enablement? We want to understand what they’re really looking for to get what the real outcome is that they want. We are very happy because we have very good CSAT coming from the content we deliver today, but we keep on an answering, and we keep on moving forward because we want this to be a great success.

SS: Absolutely. It sounds like a very impressive program, and I love the way that you guys really tailor the learning experience and learning journey, I think as you called it, for every new hire. It’s quite impressive. Now, beyond just improving new hire productivity, you had also focused on training as a key lever to drive overall sales productivity. How can training programs reinforce skills and performance expectations?

CL: This is exactly the point. We are always trying to find a way to link that what you learn in a program is really driving your day-to-day success and the overall success you can get in a year. I’m talking mostly about sales because this is the population I’m working with; all of my audience is mainly sales and obviously sales leaders today.

How do we make sure that it’s linked? We are using lots of tools today. The virtual world opened many new perspectives on this type of usage and apps. We do a lot of simulations, and you use simulations to really have people active during the training. We know that today, just delivering your content when you have a speaker and people listening is not enough. You need to have the interaction, you need to have people involved, and you need to use all the tools you can. Today we use Kahoot to make it fun with quizzes and learning, which is a tool that everybody’s using around the world. We use all the facilitation tools in Google Meet or Zoom because we need to also be able to send a poll to drive people in breakout rooms.

We try to use the technology as nice tools to have and nice tools to use to make it more interactive. We use simulation tools to help people to learn by being active. They need to listen, they need to watch videos, they need to answer questions. They will get the results of the questions they ask at the end as a gathering of information we had, and then they can learn because sometimes you need to make mistakes if you want to learn about it and if you want to change the way you’re doing things. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to know that you’re learning something because if you don’t jeopardize what you thought was the right way to do things, you don’t learn a new way of doing. We are in a technology business, and technology business is moving very fast. We change every day. I mean, business is changing every day, so we need to also help our leaders, ourselves, and everybody at the company to make it more in a wider way, but we need everybody to be able to change, to learn differently, and to use all the tools.

We really love when people can practice because this is where you really try it out. We do practice with pairs, we try to set up sessions where people can be two, three, or four, and there is a role play with a scenario at the beginning. Everybody will be in a different role, but everybody will go through the role he or she is supposed to have in the company, for instance a sales leader, and practice understanding how questioning can be important, how doing things differently can bring value. This is, I think, where making people active in the way they learn can make a difference and can really bring great learnings, and sometimes a breakthrough. We have feedback from learners who say it’s great because I never thought doing this thing like you told me to or like you explained to us and it’s really making a difference for me today.

SS: I think that is phenomenal. Now, you also have a bit of experience yourself from a sales professional background. What are some of the challenges salespeople might experience in applying what they learned in training to day-to-day roles to improve performance, and how can enablement help salespeople overcome these challenges?

CL: We hope they are practicing what they learn. This is a very good point. I mean, the biggest part of my life I’ve been a seller, so going through the roller coaster of emotion you can have with a customer when you need to fight for deal. You need to be very bold; you need to be creative; you need to find ways to sell differently. I’ve been there and I can really tell you what Salesforce is offering, and the methodology of sales is tremendous. I say that because I’ve been to different companies, I’ve seen different ways of doing it, and I can really tell you it’s really fantastic.

How are we making sure they learn? This is exactly what I was saying before, we ask them to practice in a training session to not be shy to do the same in a real-life situation. When do we do this practicing moment, learning moment, we will ask them, what will you do in real life? This simulation, it’s exactly when you’re a pilot for a plane, you don’t fly a plane the first day you start to train as a pilot, you go through a simulation. This is exactly the same. We tell them to use a simulation but do it like it’s a real-life decision you’re making. It’s a big difference because if you take the simulation on saying, oh, it’s a simulation, I don’t care, you won’t get a lot out of it. If you really see the simulation as a point where I can do and try things that I’m not really sure that I can do in the real life because I will be taking a risk, this is wonderful because you practice differently. You are bolder in the decisions that you make and then you can see the result. Sometimes the result is not the one you want it or the one you expected. It can be good, or it can be bad, but at the end you’ve tried, and you learn because you’ve tried.

SS: I love that approach. Now, how do you ensure salespeople have the right resources and content to continue learning and reinforcing their knowledge beyond just the initial training events that you provide?

CL: We are working at Salesforce, specifically the global enablement team is working on a basis of what we call a 2-2-2 model. I will explain what it means. We will, as per any company, every quarter you need to achieve a quota, you need to do some a different type of business. I won’t explain to you how the business is working, but ever quarter we apply the 2-2-2 method saying we only give an element of training on no more than two days during the two first weeks of the two first months of the quarter in order to have free time for ourselves and our teams to close deal sand be with customers at the end of each month. Of course, the last months of the quarter must be focusing on customers, on closing, and on deal-making and not enablement.

What we do during those two days, we assign automatically some content to people depending on their role, global content for the company. I will give you an example, which is the corporate pitch Salesforce is providing to customers, to the world is something we work on every year. Everybody needs to go through the corporate pitch, and this is something for the whole company, for instance as an example.

On the other hand, personalized content for sellers. If I can give you an example, we ask them at the beginning of the year, the beginning of the year at Salesforce is February 1, we will have revised new content to offer. We are currently working on them, about, for instance account planning. All the sellers will have to go through a training, so virtual training, exactly what I was talking about, simulations and quizzes and questions you will ask, and they will do the training about account planning at the beginning of the year. Why? Because it’s the first quarter of the year and you need to build a strategy that you want to deploy to your customers.

This is how we make sure the content is really personalized and is also I would say time personalized, meaning we don’t do the same with our customers at the beginning of a new year as we do know in the first quarter of the year, which is focusing on closing the deals.

SS: Absolutely. That makes 100% sense. Now, just to close us out Céline, this has been a fantastic conversation. I’d love to understand from you with productivity being one of the key goals for your onboarding and training programs, what are some of the ways that you measure how productive salespeople are and the impact of your programs on that productivity?

CL: For the productivity, first we did tremendous work and the global enablement team worked on the new methodology that we started a year ago. By using this new methodology, we were able to reduce onboarding ramp up time. We moved from around five or six months to something closer to three or four months to really get everything you need to know, and you need to learn. I will always say the best way to learn is to go into the field, to see the customer, and to do it. Practicing is the only way to learn. You can make mistakes, but that’s fine because you have tools, you have assets, you have everything available for you to know exactly what you should do at each step with your customer. This methodology is a fantastic foundation for everybody to understand and to learn.

Of course, first we can see the productivity and time it takes to be enabled and to understand. Then we will also have very dedicated tools for following a customer opportunity. Then we use scorecards, which can help us to see exactly, what are the questions you need to ask to your customer? What are the key points or the key meetings you need to have to move forward the stage on your opportunity? If you don’t do it, we can see that using the scorecard can really help the account executive and their sales leaders to have a great vision of where they stand with the opportunity and what are the next actions that they need to take to make it a success and to win the deal at the end.

This is also very visible because we know today by using this kind of scorecard, it’s times three on capacity of winning the deal and it’s more deals won at the end. We are able to see that by using the data and this is why Salesforce is so fantastic, which is the fact that everything is embedded in our platform. All the information is in the same place. It’s a single source of truth and it’s moving forward every day because people or the teams are adding activities, information, and they feed the information in the platform. That’s why and that’s how we can have great data dashboards and vision of the result.

SS: I think that’s phenomenal. Céline, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate you joining us and speaking to our audience.

CL: Thank you so much. I’m very honored to be with you. Also, I the hope that many people will be interested to know more about Salesforce.

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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