Episode 226: Kasey Stinson on Building Collaborative Relationships Across the Organization

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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 Kasey Stinson from Co-Op Solutions join us. Kasey, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Kasey Stinson: Thanks so much for having me. I am Kasey Stinson, Vice President of Sales Enablement and Product Marketing at Co-Op Solutions. For those of you unfamiliar with Co-Op Solutions, we are a financial technology organization that exists to help credit unions in particular grow and compete with other financial institutions. I have about 15 years of experience in sales, sales leadership, and now in sales enablement and product marketing which I have been doing at Co-Op Solutions for the past 3.5 years.

SS: I’m excited to have you here, Kasey. As a leader for both sales and product marketing, what are some of the key points of intersection that you see between those two functions?

KS: In my organization at Co-Op leading both sales enablement and product marketing really makes sense from a strategic perspective. It enables me to have oversight and control of product positioning throughout the entire product development process. From start to finish we have very close alignment on that positioning with our sales team and, of course, with our relationship teams as well. Once that is all established and the product is through the product development process, it’s then a really easy transition from that product marketing and positioning into messaging, which then informs our sales tools and our sales training.

Just to note though, I do have two distinct teams. I have a product marketing team and a sales enablement team, but the product marketing team members are absolutely critical partners in helping to inform our sales enablement strategy and they have very strong relationships and understand the needs of the sales team through their work with them during the product development process when they’re constantly weighing in for their feedback on how we should be positioning the products and then what tools and training we need to support those.

SS: Absolutely. You touched on this just a moment ago, but you talked a little bit about alignment. What are some of the challenges that organizations can face when they’re attempting to drive alignment between sales enablement and the greater organization?

KS: When I started at Co-Op Solutions 3.5 years ago, the sales enablement function was in its relatively early stages. Co-Op started a sales enablement function in about 2016 of which I was along for the ride in 2016 when I was doing some consulting work, but even when I started in 2019, I often had to ask to have a seat at the table or be a part of a meeting or I would hear a sales team meeting was going on and we weren’t invited so I’d raise my hand and reach out to my sales leader counterparts and say, Hey, can I tag along to that? Then once I got that seat at the table, I had to prove the value that I brought through our sales enablement function and how we could enrich their meetings and enrich their tools in training.

Fast forward 3.5 years, and now we’re absolutely missed when we’re not at the table and brought in right away. I would say they rely on us as true partners, but it’s required work, it’s required the building of trust and those challenges exist really early on when you’re not connected or collaborating as a team. Then, I would say once we really established ourselves with the sales organization, that expanded into different areas of the organization as well. We have tools and training that we make available for our executive-level management team, leaders across the organization, and other departments, like our client service organization and more, so we’ve been able to overcome some of those challenges and then expand our value and our impact on Co-Op solutions.

SS: That is fantastic. If you could share some of your best practices for breaking down the silos between sales enablement and the greater organization. What were some of the things that you did?

KS: I briefly alluded to this, but building relationships is really number one. My advice to others would be to find out who the influential and maybe outspoken partners in the organization are and I would say regardless of their role or position we all know that there are influential people throughout the layers of management of an organization and its key to understand their needs and build trust with those people. Once you’re able to forge those relationships, they’ll advocate on your behalf and tell their friends and tell their coworkers and speak to the value that you really bring to the organization.

I would say even just taking that one step further, once you are able to earn that trust, you can start pushing and that’s where the magic begins. You can push the envelope to get the team outside of their comfort zone and suggest new ideas and you’ve built that trust so they’re more willing to be open and have a growth mindset for new ideas for sales tools, maybe some new strategies. We’ve been able to do this with our tools and training, expanding the topics that we train the team on, having maybe new and different sessions at our sales meeting, and really encouraging the growth of our organization along with the growth of the market and the industry as well.

SS: That’s fantastic. As you said, relationship building, that’s absolutely number one. Can you share some advice on how you’ve built strategic partnerships with other leaders throughout your organization?

KS: I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that investing time is critical and it does take all of that time to connect with people. Once you have that time established, listen. If you are a truly active listener and you’re able to understand their needs and typically these might be verbalized in the form of pain points they’re experiencing, maybe experiencing in front of their prospective clients or their clients, and you’re able to help them overcome some of those pain points and provide value in helping them overcome, then you’ve really begun to build your value as that strategic partner that they’re looking for.

The other tip I have is to incorporate processes. We have needed to build processes around incorporating the voice of the sales team and that ensures that we have a very consistent and reliable set of touchpoints to allow for this feedback throughout our work in whatever it is that we’re doing, whether it be the sales team meeting or sales tools or sales training or that positioning of the products that I spoke about, we want to make sure that we have high performing rep voices or sales leadership voice is always at the table so that they become active participants and were able to build those relationships and prove that we always have their best interests in mind.

SS: I love that, I think that’s fantastic. You have really been working to essentially drive a culture of collaboration, so what are some of the ways that enablement practitioners can help drive a similar culture throughout all levels of their organization?

KS: It really goes back to what I just hit on which is listening and understanding needs and finding ways that you can partner to provide value to those teams. Usually, at the end of the day in organizations, everyone’s working to achieve common outcomes so if you’re at the table sharing out your plans and ideas and you’re asking for collaboration and input and you have your go-to people, you know what your team can bring to the table, and you’re listening and partnering, then it really helps to drive that culture.

Two other things, one is we joke that we have something called the awareness carnival. It’s just our internal sales enablement term, but we want to make sure that we are sharing value and being strategic partners with other cross-functional departments. We’re continuously having this awareness carnival of what we bring to the table and how we can partner. That drives a culture of collaboration, we drive excellent conversations through some of those discussions, and we are constantly pressure testing our work to say how can we do this better, what input do you have?

Secondly, I think it’s important to know what your team is known for, almost the brand or identity of your team, and lean into those to find points of collaboration. There are very few pieces of the work that we do that are really key points for collaboration for our organization. We lead the strategy and production of our sales enablement webinars and those are such great opportunities for collaboration because they drive participation from all facets of the organization. We might have a guest speaker from our pricing team, we might have someone leading a cross-functional presentation on sales strategy and internal and external strategy and how that comes together to be a consultative partner. We’re always looking for ways to drive engagement from different teams across the organization to present to our sales team.

SS: I love those. Last question for you, how can cross-functional alignment and collaboration ultimately impact the key business priorities and really drive results against perhaps some of the organization’s more strategic goals?

KS: The strategic goal that really comes to mind for me outside of we will say a revenue impact or renewal in and retention of existing clients would be a client impact. We are striving at Co-Op to always have happy clients and clients who want to do business with us. When you have more engaged teams across an organization, they are supported with more training, more knowledge, strong expertise, a high level of strategy, and really effective tools, they are able to provide our clients with a consistent experience and have a very high level of knowledge and are able to be strategic partners and also, of course, help navigate anything that may come to the client that we can provide support on. I would say more engaged teams even above and beyond, just sales, expanding into other departments, any client-facing teams, and we really are able to make a significant impact on our clients and their experience with our organization.

SS: That is fantastic. Kasey, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.

KS: Thanks 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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