Episode 207: Rebecca Reyes on Building Rep Competence and Confidence

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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.

I’m excited to have Rebecca Reyes from IBM join us. Rebecca, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Rebecca Reyes: Thank you so much for the opportunity. My name is Rebecca Reyes. I come from a diverse background of different skills, which I think represents many in the sales enablement space. I started with a background in finance, international marketing, and computers, which led me eventually to IBM where I spent time in the marketing organization, in our software group, and today in our sales enablement organization. IBM, as many of you know, has been around for more than 100 years. We are working with our clients to solve tremendous problems of digital business and working with our partners and our clients together to navigate that new space.

SS: Rebecca, I’m excited to have you on the podcast today. Your LinkedIn profile actually caught my eye because on it you mentioned that enablement at IBM focuses on giving reps the competencies, confidence, and data currency to spark innovation. I’d love to drill into the components there and I’d love to start with what are some of the key competencies that you focus on instilling in your reps?

RR: You nailed the big one. Our reps talk a lot about relationships and making sure that we listen first and lead with client needs. I think sellers have the coolest job in the world and at IBM we really get to help businesses that support the way the world works and think about how to solve problems in a whole new way. We deal with everything from world banks to providing micro-financing to very small individual clients who would normally be able to secure funding for farms or banking. We work with giant shipping companies to make sure that we can understand a supply chain and how it can work better and have confidence in the materials being what you think you purchased. There are so many parts of the business that IBM touches and it sounds so hokey, but our sellers get to really work with our clients to really make those dreams a reality. I just think it’s amazing. It’s so important that our sales teams take the time to really listen to what our clients feel are some of the major challenges or opportunities that they’re facing. That’s the big one.

SS: I love that. I think that’s a fantastic one. I’d love to get your perspective, how are competency and confidence related, and what are some of your best practices for improving rep confidence?

RR: Confidence is a really important part of how we show up and it’s one thing to learn something, but it’s another to really have confidence in what it is that you learn. We spend a lot of time with multiple stages of learning and practice because practice is a big part of how we operate. There’s a tremendous amount of resources available for self-study and we encourage any seller in our business to take the training that will help them where their clients need to go. From an enablement standpoint, we also have a solution that lets our sales teams practice the story. They hear first from a sales coach who will tell a story and then we have a forum and a practice for the sales teams to record their message, and then have SMEs ready to give feedback on the individual seller’s delivery of that message. Practice is a really big part of developing confidence. We want to make sure that we poke any holes possible before we get to meet with a client.

SS: I love that. If we can double-click into that a little bit, how do you track and measure confidence improvements? How are you correlating that to the business impact of having highly confident reps?

RR: The data of skills is a constantly evolving space in our field. I will say that we’re making great progress here, but we still have a lot to learn and discover. We are practicing it as we go. One thing we do measure is how many people participate in the content and the sessions. The second thing we measure is the quality of those practices that I mentioned, so as you do your stand and deliver, what capability or score are you having? Some of those sessions are done in an asynchronous model where they’re uploaded online and then scored later. We do have a standard rubric for feedback against that so that they are scored and the sales reps do get the feedback on the participation.

In our onboarding program where we have people who are new to our business and new to representing the products, we have a stand and deliver practice as part of the exit from the onboarding. Those sellers who go through that part of the experience go in front of a live panel and get feedback against that rubric. Again, feedback is really important to build your confidence in the work. It’s a pretty rigorous experience, they really don’t like it and they love it at the same time. We find our stand and delivery practice to be one of those things where the reps stay up late the night before to make sure they are really ready. They get sweaty palms when they are delivering, but then they are so happy that they went through the gauntlet at the end and the feedback helps them be better in front of the client.

Confidence is not something that has a number next to it though. What we do see is success in our clients and how they feel about the IBM reps that they work with. We measure things like NPS scores from our clients, and we do measure the success rate for the individual reps and compare that to those who haven’t gone through the training. We also look at how many of our sales reps come back to participate as trainers in our work. It’s one thing to be a student, but it’s another thing to have the confidence and capability to be able to share that story and teach the next round of peers.

SS: That’s phenomenal. Now on the third element that was mentioned at the onset of this podcast, the data aspect, what are some of the key metrics that you aim to arm reps with and how does data help your reps achieve high performance?

RR: 90% of the world’s data is untapped. I think it is just such a rich field that lots of people are looking at how it can be better. We have data about our clients and what they’re searching for, we also have data about their own history with us and our history with comparable clients. We like to benchmark some of our top clients against each other in a positive way. We can know that banks in a similar size or in a similar market are interested in exploring certain capabilities, but more than that, we can pair market insights with particular clients and we can put an aggregate of data together in ways that are really interesting.

Let me give you an example. It’s kind of table stakes now to know that someone has landed on your website, maybe clicked the chat with me button on the side and had a conversation, or perhaps downloaded a white paper. If 10 different people from a client did that and two of them downloaded a trial, and they used that trial several times and someone else attended one of your marketing events, now you have multi-touch different experiences that are not all measured through the same system. In aggregate though, that can really demonstrate that a client at the firm level has a huge interest in a certain capability. What we’re working to do is to analyze the data not from an individual but from the aggregate and what that can teach us about the opportunities or the needs. What are people researching and experimenting more about your target account?

SS: I love that. I think that’s very cool. Now how do you also leverage data to measure the impact of your enablement programs on the business?

RR: Measuring the impact of enablement on business is a combination of things. We have to look at the tooling investment that we make and look at the return on investment there. We look at the training, of course, as we attend our SKO events or kickoffs and the others, there’s often a pretty large return on investment measure from that. We have to look at how many people participate in different training. Again, we look at the comparable results of sellers who participate in the training versus those who don’t. We can see a highly engaged workforce and we look at those who have higher yields. We look at the rate and flow of opportunities as they move through the pipeline and close wins faster when they have the training, so the velocity of opportunities. We also look at the retention rate. We look at how many of our top talents are really happy with the opportunities they have with IBM and how they engage our clients and that they stay. It’s really looking at the whole human and what are the things that interest them.

SS: I think that’s phenomenal. Well, Rebecca, last question for you before we wrap up, do you have some best practices that you can share with our audience around communicating and proving enablement impact back to your key stakeholders?

RR: One thing we do is test a lot of our messages with a subgroup ahead of time. We do have a panel of executives that we work with, but we also have a panel of ground sellers and we rotate them through in a six-month basis, so they’re giving us feedback before we launch anything to the field so that we’re sure of what we’re creating is what there’s actually a need for. In large enterprises like IBM, it’s pretty easy to get far away from the field and it’s important that what we create has a practical need to help them engage with their clients faster and better. We also love to lead with data, we mentioned a little bit today how data can change how you work, so whether that’s using tools like LinkedIn or some of the other providers we have from a content management or learning management system.

Being able to show the stories of peers is really important. We try to feed out messages that we hear from the field are important. We try to make sure that we listen more and talk less and we try to make sure that any message we deliver is first delivered by peers, and if it’s not delivered by peers, we try to get it as close as possible. Oftentimes it’s not the global leadership team that’s delivering the message, but it’s someone in your market, part of your leadership team so that you really see and hear and feel it coming from someone that you trust and who is driving your own business and performance. Those have been pretty important components in our success.

SS: Fantastic. Well, Rebecca, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today.

RR: 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 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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