Episode 218: Lauren Metheney on Enablement’s Role in Coaching Reps

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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 Lauren Metheney from Blend join us. Lauren, I would love to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Lauren Metheney: Hi Shawnna, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it. I’m Lauren Metheney and I’m located in Chicago, Illinois. My background is primarily in tech sales. I started my career as an account executive selling for about three years and then I was a sales manager for almost six years before coming over to my current company, Blend. At Blend, I’ve been here for about 4.5 years now doing sales enablement and operations. Just to give some background on Blend, we are part of the financial technology industry or a lot of folks refer to it as FinTech for short. We are a cloud-based banking platform used by banks, credit unions, and independent mortgage brokers and we streamline their workflows as well as transform the experiences for their customers.

SS: Fantastic. Well, Lauren, I’m excited to have you here with us because on LinkedIn, you talked about your passion for coaching and how that was really a key factor for your career pivot, which you just talked us through a little bit from sales to enablement. How did you develop your passion for coaching?

LM: I’ve always enjoyed helping others both personally and professionally. It’s very rewarding for me to see individuals learn, grow and succeed as a result of my mentoring them along the way. After a couple of years as a seller, I had the opportunity to start mentoring other sellers as a team lead. It was like a player-coach type role where I still had my own book of the individual business, but I was also responsible for managing and mentoring a small team. It was that particular experience where I really discovered that I truly enjoy coaching other sellers and as a result helping them achieve their goals as well as mine too since I had my own personal goals. Actually, for the next five years after that I spent managing sales teams and it was a great challenge, I learned a lot and there were some great team memories of course along the way, but after a while, I was looking for a change and took a step back to think more about what I wanted to do and what I enjoy most about what I’m currently doing.

I was wondering how I can do more of that — so coaching, mentoring, and helping others. That’s what really got me excited about work each day. That was interesting because sales enablement at the time as a career was fairly new or at least the role itself was fairly new, and the definition of sales enablement definitely varies between companies, and it actually still kind of does today. With that, I started networking with some folks that I knew in the sales training space or ones that I knew that had recently moved over into a sales enablement type role. I just wanted to learn a bit more and so just speaking with them, I quickly realized that’s what I wanted to do. Fast forward a little bit, I landed over at Blend, which is obviously where I’m at today as their first enablement hire and of course, the rest is history from there.

SS: I love that. Now, in your opinion, why is coaching so important in sales today?

LM: Yes, so to me it’s important because whether you’re brand new to sales or have been doing it for 20 years you can always be better. A great example is back when I started selling, people still made a ton of cold calls, which I know is almost archaic these days, which sounds crazy, but folks would still make a ton of cold calls and prospects would actually pick up the phone or even on a very rare occasion return a voicemail. There was no such thing as networking tools online where you could message a prospect or other emailing tools that you could send out your prospecting emails to try and schedule calls. There was no real automation type of thing back in the day and so today it’s just much different than it was 10 years ago and even it was more different 20 years ago, so that’s one thing.

While that’s just one example of why it’s important, it’s always good to get feedback from your peers, managers, outside sales coaches, etc to get those different perspectives and so I encourage all sales folks to have some sort of regular cadence scheduled to get that feedback. It’s funny, I have to mention because my husband is actually in tech sales as well, and he’s been doing sales for 10 years but he’s always soliciting my feedback so I’m even coaching him at home each day, that’s what it seems.

SS: Oh goodness, you can never leave work behind when it comes to coaching. Now, what is enablement’s role in coaching within your organization and how do you partner today with sales managers to effectively coach reps?

LM: We have a few different what I like to call coaching phases within Blend. The first of course is the onboarding which is for new hires within the sales organization. There’s not a lot of true coaching going on here, however, it’s more training on how to use the various tools and such. Sales enablement also likes to be a part of the new hires and provide mentorship and make them feel like they can come to us as resources and we want them to be able to give us feedback, not just on the onboarding process, but also just how their first few months at Blend are going and we just want to make sure they’re comfortable and thriving in their new roles.

So the next phase I’ll call structured sales coaching. So we use the specific sales methodology at Blend and while a lot of folks have used something similar in other organizations, we want to make sure that everyone uses it the same way we do within our sales organization. There are specific trainings on the methodology which involve role plays, feedback, and all that good stuff, and then as part of that we practice it in our day-to-day, and we provide additional coaching and feedback. So the sales managers actually play a huge role in reinforcing the methodologies and their conversations with their sellers throughout the deal cycles.

Then, the last phase which I would say is ongoing, just like the sales methodology is, is the training phase. So whether it’s training on a new product, brushing up on existing products etcetera, we have many different formats in which we can train. Some are structured sessions led by saying a product manager for example or even modules within our learning management tool.

SS: I love that. I’d love to dig in because you have again as we talked about a background in sales, both as a rep and as a manager and how has that informed your approach to coaching as an enablement practitioner?

LM: It’s interesting because one of the reasons I wanted to pivot into enablement is at the time I noticed a lot of enablement folks did not actually come from a sales or sales management background as I have. A couple of my mentors and former sales trainers came from a sales background and I was able to connect with them on a deeper level at work than others because they understood what it was like to be in sales. They’ve carried the bag, they’ve done it themselves, right? So that’s why I love what I do because I know what it’s like to be in the position of the people I’m coaching and they know I understand where they’re coming from. In addition to that, I help create operational efficiencies for our sales org so I’m working with folks that don’t have that sales point of view and it’s really cool to take lead in creating those different processes that I know in the end will benefit our sales org, so they can do their jobs better while giving the internal stakeholders what they need as well.

SS: I want to shift gears a little bit, what are some of the key metrics that you track today to understand the impact of coaching and to help optimize your programs?

LM: From a coaching and training perspective as it relates to sales methodology and such, we look at are the reps constantly following the methodology for each deal and for the deals where the methodology is used, how long was the deal cycle, and what are the win rates for those. Then, on the other side of things, for the deals where there was no methodology or the methodology was inconsistently used, what do those cycles and win rates look like? Also, another huge factor that informs who we coach and what specifically is why we lose deals. There are all different types of factors, but in some cases, there may be trends with a certain rep where we identify there are areas where they can be coached to increase win rates, whether it’s product knowledge, methodology, engagement with the prospect etcetera.

We also, of course, have insights where we can coach reps on their calls as well. We can learn if they’re talking too much, what kind of questions they’re asking, and also how they are asking those questions, how they handle objections, and so on. We work with the managers to leverage these insights so they can track progress as we coach the sellers. I could go on and on about different metrics, but one more that stands out is the quality of the deals. There are all kinds of sellers out there as we know and every deal is different, but you may have some sellers who close a ton of deals but maybe have a high churn rate, or on the other hand, there may be a seller who doesn’t close as many deals but has a very low churn rate and high growth of those customers over time. These are all things that we look at to determine what that sweet spot kind of looks like and try to coach our sellers accordingly.

SS: I love that. The last question then for you Lauren, how has technology changed how reps engage with coaching just over the last few years, I’d say especially with the rise of virtual and hybrid teams and environments, and how we think coaching will continue to evolve in the near future?

LM: Yeah, I love this question. I just think about how fortunate to have all the tech that we have these days, it definitely makes my life at work a lot easier. I can’t imagine what it would have been like 10 years ago even in a non-virtual world, but even in the 4.5 years that I’ve been in this role at Blend, technology has blown up in the sales enablement community. Whether it’s tools to help sellers become more efficient in their day-to-day while also giving insights to sales, enablement managers on productivity, or coaching tools to help sellers become better or learn faster. It’s all amazing. I love it. I literally feel like there’s a tool for everything these days which is maybe a good and a bad thing because it can be overwhelming, but especially now that we are a remote-first company at Blend, I can’t imagine life without some of these tools, they are life savers.

To answer your second question as far as the future goes, I feel like as new ways to sell evolve, the technology will also adapt as well as how we are coaching sellers. I think some foundational things will still exist, so for example, coaching methodology I think those are going to stay pretty consistent. Those haven’t changed too much over the last 20 or 30 years but the way and how we sell may change and of course, there are going to be more tools that exist that I couldn’t even think of today, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the tools.

SS: Of course. Well, Lauren, thank you so much for joining us today, I really appreciate the time and the insights from you on coaching.

LM: Thanks so much Shawnna, I really appreciate you having me, it’s been a 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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