Episode 205: Catherine Young on Driving Digital Sales Transformation

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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 Catherine Young from Worldline Global join us. Catherine, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role and your organization to our audience.

Catherine Young: Thank you, Shawnna, I’m so excited to be here. So my name is Catherine Young as introduced already and I am the director of sales enablement at Worldline. I work for a particular go-to-market division so I’m very close to the front line and I’m helping the salespeople sell by the usual sales enablement tricks of sorting out the contents, the data, the training, the communications, the CRM, the whole gamut. It’s a really fun place to be.

I’ve been in sales enablement since 2014 when I joined Xerox and I was a global sales enablement lead there and that was a bit more of an HQ role, so it’s fun to come back to the front line, but the other interesting thing is in my whole career I’ve realized, I have always operated at that interface between technology and humans and so that’s been the theme that’s run through my career.

SS: I’m very excited to have you join us today. Now, Catherine, I’ve known you for a while and one of your areas of expertise is driving digital selling transformation. In your opinion, how has digital selling evolved, especially in recent years, and why is it becoming increasingly important for sales organizations today?

CY: Yeah, I think digital selling has always been and continues to be about connecting with people, learning about them, what matters to them, and helping them, and by doing that you nurture your deep and strong relationships. This continues even through evolution. So, the sort of fundamental principles remain, but what is changing I think is that seven or eight years ago digital selling was a support to the face to face selling. It was used well by both business development representatives and account managers, but usually in the interim between the face-to-face encounters. Of course, during the pandemic, we didn’t have that face-to-face bit, we only had the digital engagement with prospects and customers and influences. Now that we’ve left the pandemic and we’re moving into a hybrid world, I think that digital selling has become equally important to in-person selling.

I think one of the reasons it’s becoming so is because digital-first is the new normal. We mean that in both the sense of the younger generation who are coming through into the buying positions that are digital natives, so they’re going to go digital-first. Even the other generations, everyone in the buying community uses the internet and social networks to educate themselves and they will gen up on everything to do with your products, you, your company, and your competition and they do all this before they even want to have a sales conversation. For salespeople to actually connect with buyers, they have to be online. I think it’s just the compulsion to be a digital seller has become greater than it ever was, but if they do that, then the seller becomes a beacon by sharing their knowledge, guiding their buyers, and creating two-way conversations and they will be successful in selling so they can emulate some of that face to face stuff that they used to do using digital selling techniques.

There is a wonderful statistic that floats around in the sales enablement world about the fact that 74% of buyers choose a company that first adds value. It’s increasingly important for our salespeople to be online in these digital spaces. Being engaging and helpful because that’s where they’re going to add value and therefore they will get the sale a bit further down the line, if we don’t, then it’s simple, one of your competitors will come along and sweep the buyer off their feet.

SS: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. You touched on this a little bit in that response, but from your perspective how are buyer expectations shifting alongside the digital selling transformation?

CY: It’s so interesting because this has been talked about for a while in our space but I think we have to come back to the fundamental reason, which is to think about what you experience in your personal life, in your day-to-day lives. We’ve got On Demand TV, we’ve got hyper-personalized news feeds in our social platforms, recommendations in every website we visit, and even adverts. We can get the answer to any question you can imagine just with a few chosen words typed into the right place. More recently we’ve got things like the rise of the same-hour delivery of groceries. If you live in cities, I mean within an hour you can get what you need to your door at a click of a button. I was doing some sightseeing recently and I was just reminding myself that I’ve got in the palm of my hands a personal guide to the city. Somebody to tell me where to go, which road to take, which turn to take and it’s giving me information about the city as I’m walking around. These are all things that have become intrinsic in our experience of the world, but we sometimes as B2B professionals or B2C professionals, in the business world, we sometimes forget that the people we are selling to are still the same people who have access to those great features, functionalities, and experiences.

The buyer’s expectations are shifting towards this sort of speed and this personalization and this digital and everything in the palm of their hands. We have to try and be there in our selling capacity doing the same. We can be present, we can be digital, we can be personalized in the experiences we deliver, answer questions, you know, be there, be the guide, be relevant and that’s what digital selling is to me.

SS: What would you say digital selling looks like today? And how can enablement really effectively prepare reps for this type of environment?

CY: I think if we go back to thinking about those expectations of the buyers, we can certainly talk about what digital selling should look like. To answer the question more directly, the good proponents of this are doing what I’m about to say, and then the rest of us can perhaps catch up, but think about this on-demand expectation. We can’t as human beings be on-demand 24/7. We have to think about other ways of achieving that, so what about asynchronous methods of communication like personalized video messages. In fact, what I like about something like giving the buyer a message through a video means that they consume the information when it suits them best. Not necessarily when it suits you best, but I love the fact that they can stop, rewind, speed up, whatever suits their circumstances. What’s fascinating about this is that it’s actually something that’s only possible with video, not even possible in real life. So maybe that’s even better than a live meeting if we believe that the buyer should be the one that is in control of the experience.

Then talking about providing answers to questions. Well, that’s really easy for social sellers to achieve on social platforms and they do it in two ways. You can do it by sharing your knowledge, sort of broadcasting it out there, the 1 to many so that you are, again, I used the word beacon earlier, you know, you’re this beacon of knowledge and helpfulness that people will be attracted to, but also by responding to queries. People do ask questions on social platforms. They do seek help, advice, and recommendations. So the secret for a successful social or digital seller is to be there. Be there to hear that those questions are being asked and then be able to answer them.

The same hour delivery, I mean initially you think, yeah that’s never going to happen, in the B2B world, so, okay, I’m not asking for a salesperson to be on your doorstep within one hour, but what about thinking about providing your buyers with more of a self-service or self-directed experience? You’re allowing them to get the information they want when they want it. I mean they couldn’t really be more immediate in your delivery than that, I’d say. Good salespeople have always been the trusted guide, the one that helps the buyer navigate their complex or unfamiliar environments. I just see that like a mobile phone guiding me around a foreign city, not only are you helping me make decisions at each junction, along the way you’ll give me those tips and recommendations that further enhance my experience. Of course, we can and should personalize the content we deliver to our buyers to get that hyper relevancy that they expect and to be frank they deserve.

So, digital selling looks like these things to me. It looks like using the platforms, the tools, the content in a more agile way, in a way that can be repackaged to personalize the journeys for the buyers and to give them what they need when they need it. Sales enablement is basically there to support all of that. So we look at the platforms, the content, the data, the training, the processes. All of those things need to be aligned to help the salesperson operate in this digitally agile way and then the salesperson is unable to deliver the experience the buyer wants and therefore the buyer gets a great experience and that to me actually encapsulates what sales enablement is.

SS: Absolutely. Now as there is a shift to digital selling, obviously that adds in a bit of a layer of complexity for sales reps. From your point of view, how can enablement help reduce friction for reps, especially as they navigate transformation in the sales landscape?

CY: I thought about answering this in many different ways because to me almost my raison d’être is to reduce friction. So it comes in many different forms. It comes in my day-to-day activity and supporting the salespeople, but also in what I do to push back into the organization to improve the way that the organization interfaces with sales. I think it’s sort of summarized by sales enablers who see the big picture, they join the dots and they orchestrate. They orchestrate all of the different elements that impact upon the seller’s ability to do their job and to do their job. In other words, we help salespeople sell. When we talk about removing the friction, I think it’s a lot to do with orchestration or coordination.

Working with other departments to deliver things in an organized way, in a structured way, so that the salesperson isn’t bombarded by many different voices and many different messages. Perhaps we start by coordinating it and that can be really simple things like setting up a training academy that has set dates and times for any sales training and having a calendar that if you want to go and deliver training to the salespeople, you come and fit into the next available slot in the calendar. It’s a really simple idea, but it really reduces the amount of tension that you can get between the sales teams and the other departments.

In a similar way, emails. There are so many emails that get sent out there and everybody says, oh you must know about this thing and I’m going to send an email to hundreds of salespeople and dozens of departments are doing this every day and it gets very noisy. So another simple solution is to create a digest newsletter, put everything that they need to know in one place, but combine the messages from the product team, the operations team, marketing, even from sales leadership, so that it becomes an easy to read message and one that you can go back to as well. Then sales enablers are working on big projects that help to reduce the friction. A sales enablement platform integrated into the CRM becomes the single focus point for the salespeople. Not only does that remove so much wasted time, it makes things quicker and easier. It reduces friction, which improves the sales experience and therefore that translates to improving the buyer’s experience.

One final point of friction that I’m enjoying dealing with in my current role is the relationship between sales and the wider company. This is important because we all perform better if we are joined together in our objectives and we understand each other and what we all do. So you can start with data. You can’t always get people to talk to people but you can start pulling data from around the business and sharing it with one another. That starts to help, for example, products to understand what’s being sold. Even also things like where we lose sales, why are we losing those sales, and feeding that back to the different teams, pricing, product process operations. Legal wants to understand what is the role of an account manager or business development manager because they’re looking at contracts for a customer that the salesperson has sold a product to and they’re just looking at words on a page, unless they can start to understand what’s going on in the sales world and vice versa. Obvious things like sales need to be aware of the marketing campaigns that are going on and operations need to know how many new customers are going to come knocking on their door in the next few weeks or months so that they can resource up.

I think for me, what I’ve done is I’ve taken a formula and if we can make improvements in each of the elements in that sum, then we get a better outcome. The formula is visibility plus efficiency plus consistency equals repeatability and predictability. So what I mean by that is visibility comes back to this data point. Just get information out there and share it widely and share it with each other and don’t be siloed in who sees the data and be as transparent as you can because that way lies understanding. Efficiency is reasonably obvious and this is another area where we reduce friction, looking at ways to improve processes to improve collaborations and cross-departmental communication wherever you see something being inefficient, a sales enabler should step in and try and turn it into something that is efficient.

Consistency is about creating that consistency so that you’ve got your processes, your structure, your content platform, whatever it is, but it’s built-in a consistent way so that it’s understandable and more importantly it’s scalable and that equals repeatability and predictability. If we can get all of this line then we can create a world in which we know what’s happening, things like sales pipeline forecasting and like I said about operations knowing what customers are coming, we can predict what’s happening with confidence and the repeatability is important, if we want to scale, if we want to bring new people on new hires or even expanding people’s knowledge and understanding. If we can do it in a consistent, efficient, visible way, then we can get that repeatability. So for me this is where performance comes from, is nailing down that repeatability and predictability and that’s where if we’ve done that by reducing the friction.

SS: That’s amazing. I want to shift gears a little bit. You wrote in an article that the three must-haves for sales enablement are sponsorship, empowerment, and resources, particularly when it comes to driving change initiatives like digital selling transformation. How do these three factors influence the success of it?

CY: Well, these three elements are essential to have an effective sales enablement function, particularly a formal sales enablement function. As enablers were often operating with some but not all of these, but if that’s the case, what you tend to be delivering are random acts of enablement and we all know in our hearts that random acts of enablement do not improve business results. It’s been proven time and time again with statistics that organizations that have a formal, structured, and supported sales enablement function have higher win rates, higher quota attainment, and quicker time to revenue. What quicker ramp-up time whatever your KPI is because random just doesn’t move the needle enough it’s just 1 firework. It’s just pretty for a while, but then it all fades away. If we think about things like the fact that sales enablement is by its nature across collaboration function then, of course, we can use our charm and our influence to persuade others that they should work with us, but this can be exhausting and it doesn’t always work, so something like sponsorship which was one of those three key elements we need to step in.

I’ll give you an example. I ran a campaign to drive up the adoption of a sales tool a few years ago and the first thing I did was engage the senior VP for sales. Once I got his advocacy, I was able to use his name and his photo, and a quote from him in the launch email and it said that he supported this initiative and that he expects everyone to sign up. This is so much more motivating to the salespeople than receiving an email from me who is an unknown from HQ. More importantly for me, it motivated the sales directors and the sales managers because they knew their boss wanted this to happen. So it didn’t rely on me going to them and saying, please, please, please, will you help with this? It just had the boss’s name at the end of the letter so they made it a priority and they put the effort in to support the project. Now I supported them to support the project. That’s what enablement is. This was a key factor and through all of the different parts of the campaign, the success was that the adoption rate went up from 20% to 80% within six weeks. These things are essential to influence the success of both individual initiatives, like the adoption campaign, and the overall business results, like win rates, quota attainment and time to revenue.

SS: This has been fantastic, Catherine. In closing, I have one last question for you. How do you think digital selling will continue to transform in the next year and beyond and how can enablement help organizations really stay ahead of these changes?

CY: I think the first part can be answered quite easily, which is digital selling will become digital experience selling. Another statistic I found was that 89% of consumers buy based on their overall sales experience regardless of price and functionality. We know from our out-of-work lives that a great experience is what we seek. We don’t just want functional factual interactions and maybe it’s because we’ve been through two years of being so removed from one another that we do crave that human element. We also like hybrid working, we like the flexibility of online encounters because they’re easier to arrange, less costly and take up less time. So we want the human element, but we also quite like doing it from our own living rooms or dining rooms.

I think that means what you need to do in the digital selling world and it is that you need to make your online encounters as good as your face-to-face encounters used to be. So that’s what I mean about digital experience selling. All the characteristics of digital selling remain that we talked about earlier about connecting with people, listening and learning about them and helping and guiding them, but adding to that, providing a smooth, engaging, effective digital experience to the buyers. So this is the thing, allowing them to self discover information or maybe the salesperson helps guide them, like the fruit from the palm of the hand, and they explore those options together, but what’s shifted is that the buyer and seller are more side-by-side in this way of working rather than face to face.

I think it’s important that the experience should be however the buyer prefers it to be. Where the sales enablers come in and it goes back to the basics, you know, it’s providing the platforms that allow these experiences to be designed, built, and consumed. I think we need to use the data to know and understand what is meaningful to the buyer so that we can continue to evolve those experiences and we need to allow our content to be flexible because we tend to create content in quite a structured way, but it needs to be more snippets so that we can use the ingredients in different ways to create different outputs and that’s what supports the many different journeys. Of course, if we want our salespeople to operate in this new world, they need to be trained and coached and supported, and I think that’s what’s going to be so important over the coming year or two in sales enablement.

SS: Catherine, thank you so much, I learned so much from you in this conversation today. I really appreciate the time.

CY: Thank you. You’re most welcome.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is 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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