Episode 212: Simon Gilks on Breaking Down Silos and Driving Collaboration

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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 Simon Gilks from Ometria join us. Simon, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Simon Gilks: Thank you very much for having me today. As you said, my name is Simon Gilks and I work at Ometria. I come from a background in sales. I spent about 12 years in sales before doing a short stint in product marketing and then have spent the last best part of 10 years in that sort of sales, revenue operations, and enablement world. Currently, I lead our global revenue operations and enablement function. We support primarily sales marketing and our customer world, but in reality, I’m a service provider to the whole business. At Ometria we have a single mission. Our mission is to create marketing experiences that our customers love. We’re a customer data marketing platform and what we try to do is help retailers increase customer loyalty and CRM revenue by essentially sending personalized marketing messages throughout the entire customer journey.

SS: Really excited to have you here. Now on LinkedIn, you mentioned that you act as a cross-functional conduit. How are you able to break down the silos between different departments to ensure strategy alignment?

SG: With difficulty but essentially I see my role here to ensure that we have that accountability and sort of synchronicity around the goals and activities that each of the functions that are responsible for driving revenue. So like I said, we are a sales marketing and customer organization, I do this by really enforcing that sort of accountability, but probably more importantly the visibility to making sure that everyone’s goals are visible. All the activities that we’re doing are bringing that together in a single plan. No, it’s not always easy, but that’s what we need to do. I think the easiest way to make sure we are all aligned is actually bringing it back to the customer and standing in the customer’s shoes and understanding what they need, because if we all align behind what our customers doing what our customer needs, what they want from us, then hopefully that aligns us all behind that single goal, which makes my life significantly easier.

As a business, we have an underlying sort of methodology that we use that comes from a book called the Four Disciplines of Execution and it’s about WIGs. So WIGs stand for Wildly Important Goals and as a business, we adopt this methodology. We have a single wildly important goal as a business and then every quarter, each function within that business has a wildly important goal and it must roll up to the overall company’s wildly important goal. My role is to make sure that we all have that visibility, we are all aligned, and we’re really thinking about it from a customer perspective, and then using this 4 step methodology really helps to make sure that the silos are brought down and that we are all aligned as departments.

SS: Absolutely. Now, in your experience, Simon, what is the impact of having strong cross-functional alignment on project and program execution?

SG: I think strong cross-functional alignment is essential. Without it, I believe that projects will either fail or their success will be severely limited. I think the world we’re operating in now, this post covid world, where we’re not necessarily in the office as much or we don’t have an office or we’re not seeing people face to face as much as meaning, that this is even more important. When we were in the office, you would bump into someone at the coffee machine, walk down the corridor, hold the door, and you’d have those Ad Hoc conversations, you would be talking about what you’re working on your priorities and it may have been a very informal conversation, but what it did do was it helped you communicate with everybody what you were working on, which actually subconsciously really helped with that cross-functional alignment.

We have to be really more conscious about what we’re going to do, we have to make an effort to really focus on this alignment. We have to make sure that right the way from the planning of the project to the execution, everyone is involved, all of the right stakeholders to maximize success. So really, I do believe that the cross-functional alignment is essential to the success of any project or program, but not necessarily just for this one, what it will do is lead to much higher engagement because we know that whatever happens with this project, there’s always going to be another one and another one and another one. That sort of cross-functional alignment, that engagement, that success, will only lead to future projects being even more successful, so for me, it’s absolutely critical and has to be one of the really strongest parts of any project.

SS: I’d love to talk about how we bring this to life. What habits do you instill in your reps to promote teamwork and collaboration and how do you reinforce the value of cross-team alignment?

SG: Again, this is so much tougher in a post covid world, but I believe it really starts at the top. This is actually about the culture of the organization. I believe this absolutely starts at the CEO and works its way down. You find some organizations really thrive on people just working in the silos and putting their heads down and just doing stuff. I think in a SAS startup or a scale-up like I operate, working together and this collaborating is essential. I don’t have all the answers. I need to work with people. I need to bounce these ideas off each other so we can get to that best place. For us, we’re really fortunate because our CEO and our entire executive team really support and encourage that collaboration working together to the point we all work remotely, but once a month we try and get everybody into the office in that one place just to get together to encourage that working together. Also, the WIG process really really helps us here. So we have teams, BDRs, partner managers, we have multiple teams but we need to come together as a single team to focus on what’s most important.

For example, as I said, I run the revenue operations and enablement team. Last quarter my team was split in two, so we had one team but then we had a WIG team for operations and a WIG team for enablement, and the enablement team was actually joined by the product marketing team. We then formed a single WIG team because that was the best thing for the business for us to get together and collaborate on the single most important thing we could do to help the business. I think in summary, this starts at the top, it trickles down and our methodology really helps this but my personal role, my responsibility here is to support and encourage and really ensure that everyone understands what we’re doing and why. It comes back to that plan at the beginning as well. So having that plan, having that methodology, and then as a leader continuously encouraging that and then correcting if you need to but hopefully there shouldn’t be much correction required.

SS: Absolutely. Now Simon, in your experience, what are some ways that you leverage technology to enable cross-departmental communication amongst your teams?

SG: Whenever we talk about technology, it’s a dangerous subject, right? Especially in a startup or a scale-up because my experience is you get some funding and you normally go out and buy loads of technology because you believe it’s going to automate or it’s going to help this process or help you collaborate more and your tech stack swells and it actually really confuses things and makes things 10 times harder because you end up with five project management tools and everyone’s working differently in a different tool. So for me, you have to be really, really careful when it comes to tech. You need to understand exactly what you need and why you need it and how you’re going to use it. What problem is it solving? If you can’t articulate that really quickly, then just forget it. You don’t need that piece of technology. Project management tools are probably a good example because you’ll find some people prefer one tool because they like the way that was laid out and another one prefers this and another one likes that. That’s a really dangerous way of looking at collaboration.

I think from a technology point and what’s been really successful for hours are probably two prime examples. An RFP tool, you sort of think about an RFP to how’s that going to enable collaboration, but we’ve got our product marketing team talking about our value proposition and our strategy, we’ve got our sales engineers that deal with the technical requirements, we’ve got our BDR team generating the opportunities, the AE’s closing them. All of them work on RFPs and actually by bringing in a really good RFP tool, it’s given them a platform where they can all come together, collaborate on a single RFP using all of the resources available, and actually what that has meant is we’ve been able to turn around RFP so much quicker, better aligned and with a much better response rate from our customers, hopefully leading to more business. When you talk about collaboration and communication, you wouldn’t normally think about an RFP tool, it has been extremely successful for us.

Another example is, I know I said project management tools is a bit of a dangerous area to go, by deciding on your single project management tool, we’ve been able to get a tool now that we integrate our core CRM system, our CSM team uses it, our professional services team use it, our onboarding team uses it, and our customers use it. They all collaborate on a single project where we’re all working together in real-time and communication leading to a much better posts contract project, whether that’s onboarding or an additional sort of integration or whatever that may be, that those types of tools, thinking slightly differently to a standard communication tool has really helped us communicate and collaborate so much better.

SS: Absolutely, and this is a question I think our audience is often very interested in understanding. How do you measure the enablement role in driving impact on cross-functional priorities?

SG: Yes, I think measuring the impact of enablement is always quite a difficult one. A lot of people talk about enablement and their gut feel is like, I’m going to focus on time to ramp or percentage of people hitting quota, which yes, you can absolutely measure those but they’re very much lagging indicators and they’re not necessarily within your control. So for me, enablement has to really start with the metric and you have to be really clear about what you’re going to try and impact. Now I’m a massive believer in the sound velocity equation, so focusing on a number of ops you are working in, times the value, times your win rate divided by a sales cycle because ultimately those four levers are the only levers you’ve got to drive revenue.

The way enablement comes in for me is when we’re working on any cross-functional priority, which one of those levers are we going to impact. If we think about the product team introducing a new product or a new feature, well, which lever are we impacting? Are we trying to unlock more revenue? Are we trying to make it easier for someone to buy, therefore shortening the sales cycle we are offering? This is a must-have feature, therefore impacting the win rate as long as we understand that we’re able to measure it, and then you’ve always got the anecdotal measurement as well. So using potentially a core intelligence platform to understand how are our sales reps position in this new feature, how is the customer responding to it, how is that landing in the marketplace, and then flowing that through to the win rate or the average order value and that’s where enablement has to come in because we’re the conduit that’s going to bring that product into the system, into the sales people, out to the customer, so we have to be really clear on what that measurement is and then we need to be the conduit that brings it all together at the end.

SS: Last question for you, what is the impact of cross-functional alignment on the buyer experience and how would you say it can help teams keep up with changing buyer needs to continue to really deliver value?

SG: Yeah, I think cross-functional work is when it comes to the buyer actually it exposes you to significant risk. I pride myself on always thinking about it from the customer’s perspective. Yes, we are a business. Yes, we have certain things we need to do. We’ve got processes we need to follow, but ultimately we’re here to provide a service to our customers and to our buyers and we need to make it as easy as possible for them to buy from us. Now, our sales process means that we have BDRs in the process at the start, then we have AEs, sales engineers probably coming at some point, then we have on board and then we have customer success. There are probably partnerships and leadership. So there are so many people involved in this process and actually what that does is that gives a customer a natural break point in a buying process. It makes it really easy for them to get out. So for us, by understanding the customer, therefore being able to make sure that we’ve got the right person involved at the right time, therefore hopefully exceeding the customer’s expectations. So actually being really clear about that breakpoint and say, hey, you know, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to hand you over to this person because they are the best, they’re the best person to work with you on this topic. That means that we’re constantly listening to the customer and making sure that we’re giving them the resource they need to make that process as smooth as possible and hopefully maximize the buyer’s experience so that when they buy from us now they buy again, they stay with us or if they go to another company, they continue to buy from us because we make it really, really easy by ensuring they’re always talking to the right person at the right time.

SS: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the conversation today, thank you for sharing your expertise.

SG: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a real pleasure.

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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