Episode 227: Cristina Patranoiu on Adult Learning Techniques for Effective Enablement

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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 Cristina Patranoiu, the partner enablement training specialist at RingCentral join us. Cristina would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Cristina Patranoiu: Absolutely. Hi everyone, I’m Cristina Patranoiu, a sales enablement professional activating within the cloud as we generically call it for an American company with an international expansion mindset. I am based in France and joining you all from here with my glass of wine that you cannot see, but there is no croissant this time, unfortunately. I joined RingCentral a little over 12 months ago to lead enablement for France, coming with about five years of sales enablement experience. If I was to go a little bit deeper here, I think my motivation for doing what I do began back about 12 years ago when I was starting my career as a junior financial analyst and I realized that I’m particularly interested in understanding how the things around me move and coming to place together and taking something complicated and making it simple for others to understand. It’s kind of been a roller coaster ever since.

SS: Well, I’m excited that you are here as part of that roller coaster ride to join us today. One of your areas of expertise is adult learning. Why is adult learning so critical to understand as an enablement professional?

CP: Yes, indeed it’s kind of what I specialize in. I often say during my training to the various audiences that this is not school and I won’t grade you and I won’t give you homework, but I am very set on making sure that everyone lives here having learned something from the time we spend together. Obviously, there are adults in front of me and they’re professionals and that really is my fuel for the programs I run and during the sessions I deliver. I believe we all learn differently today. Our attention span is so diminished since the internet and the cell phone took over and enablement nowadays is about giving your teams the information they need when they need it and is readily available. Very plug-and-play. At least the way I see enablement around me and the technology space if you want, it’s very plug-and-play. Adult learning really goes to the foundation of what we do because you have to really know what makes them tick, what they need, and give that to them the way they need. It needs to be very simple, very dumbed down if you want but extremely efficient like a cube that has all the nutrients but none of the fluff if that makes any sense.

SS: It absolutely does. What are some essential adult learning techniques that you’ve learned that you embed in your training programs?

CP: I do absolutely agree that adult learning is critically important to anyone aiming for added value in this type of role. A few tricks I’m using are actually modeling my sessions with a lot of storytelling inside. I think that would be the first tip that I would share with you. We generally recall stories six or seven times easier and for longer periods of time than we do stats or hard facts. It’s this native human connection that we have to stories that’s been inherited through our genes and every single time I try this it helps the audiences really pragmatically live with the messaging needed in their heads and it actually sticks with them longer, but it has the added benefit of leaving them enough space to make it their own. Storytelling absolutely every time I recommend it. If anything it is the secret ingredients that I put into all the training I deliver.

Secondly, what I recommend for adult learning and what I’ve seen that works extremely efficiently nowadays, especially because we are in an industry that has been over-engineered and creativity has been at the foundation of everything we do but we’ve done it so many times that it doesn’t really feel like we can do it anymore. I would say secondly it’s coaching. There is a very large subject to unpack here, but adults come with experience and various degrees of awareness and generally, they already have the capacity to be a lot more creative and find extra motivation when given the chance. I’m a big advocate for professional coaching to enable people to take ownership of their success and we can probably expand on this based on the questions you guys have, but last and probably definitely not least practice.

Now, there’s always time built into my sessions for sales to practice what I have just preached, so to say, be it the methodology we are using, certainly be it the new features we’re launching, Beit negotiating within a development program. Whatever it is that we’re doing, we always reserve time for them to practice what they’ve just learned. I always make it engaging so I interact a lot with the participants and I ensure that everyone is participating. You actually laugh if you saw me doing any sort of online training because I always have my agenda next to me and I keep a list of all the participants and I have like a little star for if they participate, like did this person say anything? Should I push them further? Did I ask a question of everyone? I always do my best to keep an eye on everybody participating and engaging in the session and with each other. I absolutely do that a lot and recommend it a lot. It is absolutely needed, especially in this digital world of video training and remote work.

SS: I think that’s fantastic. Now to build on that a little bit, as you just mentioned, participation is important. What career advice do you have to offer leaders to help them actually curate a more open environment where their sellers feel empowered maybe to ask questions or lean in and participate in the company culture, essentially?

CP: It’s funny to me that you would ask that because I actually find the US is extremely good at doing it natively. Like I think culturally speaking the way I noticed our sellers and our teams in North America, I find you guys generally being extremely curious and never feeling like you cannot ask. If I were to think about the advice I would give leaders, I would say to try to make your cultures as inclusive as possible and encourage yourself as leaders. If I look around me at the people we look up to within my organization and the people that generally have been very approachable, we can tell that the happiness in their teams is at the highest level and people are generally thriving in that environment of let’s say the leaders that empower their teams, they’re the kind of leaders that are vulnerable and human.

I think on advice I would have for leadership is to be vulnerable, and honest with the people in front of you. A lot of the time in the corporate world we portray ourselves as bigger-than-life, perfect professionals that have no flaws that know everything that knows the solution or the product, know the training, know the book, who read everything, and read all the news. It’s very hard to connect with that level of perfection so I think a culture that would let people be who they are is a culture that has leaders that are honest and vulnerable with the people in front of them, be their teams, be their clients, be any other stakeholders that they might have. People who can come to the table and say, hey, we’ve been struggling. It’s been a very tough two years because of COVID. We’ve lost money, we’ve lost people, but we’re still doing the best we can to innovate. We’re still doing the best we can to be there for our employees. We’re still doing the best we can to maybe offer that flexibility that our workforce needs. Whatever your situation might be, be open about it and that will get the people on your team to open up to you. It will get them to want to learn more, it will get them to want to be better for the product they sell for the company they represent. I think that would be my advice. I hope it’s not too cheesy. I know it sounds a little bit cheesy, but it’s really not, there’s a lot of strength in asking for help when you need it.

SS: No, absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. Now, you mentioned that you’re also passionate about enabling others to make sense of what more needs to look like for them. How do you help to also personalize some of the training programs that you create to meet these individual, unique needs of different sellers?

CP: That exact phrase, what more needs to look like for them, is actually a phrase that came from my coaching. I am a certified professional coach as well for the past three years and that’s really truly my passion, practicing enablement and training in general, and is the foundation of what I consider a job well done in today’s sales environment and industry if you want. More really can mean slowing down so we can speed up as one of my favorite colleagues in my team often says, and more can mean better team cohesion between the different stakeholders inside the group and it can very well mean more revenue or better empowerment for the teams or better and more efficient alignment.

What I personally did at the very start of my current role was to reach out to each of my stakeholders individually and find out what they needed to do a better job in their roles. After running through them one by one individually, we then gathered in groups by teams and decided on a few joint areas of improvement and focus that we wanted to build our relationship on, like the relationship enablement revenue if I were to consider sales revenue in general because depending on what kind of enablement you’re doing and what your industries, you’re going to have different levels of stakeholders so I called revenue everybody who touches revenue one directly or indirectly and with whom enablement needs to interact with. We basically got together to share expectations, create a shared plan and set up a schedule of how often we are going to meet to touch base on this and to see how things are evolving. That’s how I basically got to take this idea more, understand what it means for them individually, and then take it one step further. I can’t tell if this recipe would actually work the same everywhere. I don’t even really call it a recipe, but it’s my modus operandi, my M.O. because it looks like a complex system from both individual levels and as a total sum of its parts.

SS: I love that. I think that’s phenomenal. Now I want to dig into a little bit more about what you are currently focused on. Your focus is around partner enablement and training, what are some of the unique needs that maybe partner sellers might have, and what are some ways that you’ve designed training programs to meet those needs?

CP: As tough as training internal sales folk is because I was saying adult learning, they need everything super fast, they want to know the exact thing when they want to know when they need it and be done with it. With partners, the relationship is a lot more delicate. On one hand, you want to give them all the information you could possibly give them so that from an enablement standpoint, you feel you’ve done a good job and they’ve had everything they could possibly need to know in order to go out there and sell your solution, but on the other, you don’t want to overwhelm them. It’s really this fine line, this dance you need to constantly do of holding their hand, but also pushing them to do better and to ask for information that they need that might be very particular to what they do and how they understand the industry they’re an expert of. That’s why you have a go-to-market strategy that involves distribution and sellers.

Generally what we do is we work very closely with the channel account managers, like we try to make sure that the people who onboard those partners and realistically the people who interact with them more come to us for feedback before we plan any sort of session or academy or enablement day with any of the partners we work with and we take their feedback into consideration while building the content. We always go back and forth to make sure that it matches their needs. It goes to be very personalized for some of them and at least for me, because again, I work in France and as you might or might not know France has to be very particular with the way partnerships work. We do a lot for our partners, so we do this exact dance of holding their hands but not giving them too much and trying to give them exactly what they need when they ask for it. The exact answer for me would be to have a channel account manager or whoever is taking care of those partners step in and carry the load because they already have the trust and the relationship built with the partner.

Let them make it easy for you as enablement to bring in your message. Personalize as much as you can so the information you’re providing is the one they want to take out of the sessions and more than anything really listen. With partners, a lot of the times enablement I think has a tendency of pushing as much content as they can because we work so hard making it and we also work hard with marketing to have the pretty slides and the messaging and everything else we want to communicate, but we don’t spend enough time with partners so we get to really listen to them. My absolute advice and what we try to do mostly is listen to them when we have them for those sessions so we can improve it for future sessions or for the future partners or for whatever other programs are coming after. The same advice you would give your sellers in trying to make them better sellers apply to you as an enablement professional, sell yourself through those sessions the same way you want your sellers to sell your solution when they go in the field.

SS: Cristina, thank you so much for your time. I want to ask one closing question. Sales enablement obviously takes many shapes, sizes, and colors in the real world, and in various industries, there’s really no one size fits all, but what would you say that your key takeaways are moving from training into enablement?

CP: Oh, I love this one. Here’s how I would define enablement and kind of how I built it for myself. I’m trying the best I can to be the bridge between revenue and the rest of the business. I’m trying to be the catalyst for change or process change or any sort of thing that’s happening in the business, I try to be the first person bringing it to sales. I don’t want sales spending time doing anything else other than their job. I want to be the person bridging them to everything that’s happening, bringing that information to them, digested, explained with impacts, and with whatever they need to know distilled into the meaning of it to them. I think all in all be as much a bridge with the rest of the business for sales as you can. That’s my personal way of doing my business. Absolutely, everybody can do it differently. That’s not what works for them, but that’s how I perceive enablement. Generally, you need all that information for yourself anyway because you’re going to need to infuse it into your training and your programs and you need to know what’s happening around you. The more you do that and the more people you know so you can get the information the better and the more efficient you’re going to be.

I think one thing that I’ve learned and probably the hard way and I’m very sure a lot of people are going to relate to this is enable don’t save. In enablement, we’re a bunch of empaths, like we are the kind of people that are into this job because they care for others. They see them struggle, they see how hard it is selling today, they see how much people have to juggle, they see how tough the different industries are and they want to be there to help. We don’t become doctors, we somehow chose enablement, and we’re here today. A lot of the time the business will push on us, the things that are not necessarily within the enablement job description, because it’s so easy because we’re there and we always want to help so we will take more upon ourselves and we’ll do that deck and we’ll do that training and we’ll do that at the training and we’ll do the training for HR and we’ll talk to marketing and maybe just take the deck, but do it ourselves. There’s a lot that ends up being done by enablement that’s really not enablement.

My takeaway was how do I turn this into actually enabling these people and not saving them because saving them is literally giving someone a fish rather than teaching them how to fish. I will be honest, saying that I’m much, much better at saying no today, and switching this exact circumstance in my favor and getting people to fish for their fish and not get it from me, but it does require a lot of work and a lot of trusts built between the different stakeholders you’re gonna work for. Again, enable don’t save, It’s in your best interest, and it’s that’s exactly where the switch gets made where enablement is an investment, and it’s an actual part of the business that helps and not just this other department that we don’t really know what they do so let’s just get them to do this and that and the other thing, and let’s get them to do everything that doesn’t ever get done, because they will manage because they’re the training people. Don’t let them do that to you. It’s absolutely counterproductive.

I think, last but not least, this might be just my case because in Europe we tend to be a little bit behind where the US is in enablement wise, you guys are just more advanced, you’ve always been, you are the pioneers in this and we’re just following in your footsteps. What I would say is whenever you start a new enablement mission, be it in a new company, be it in a different team, whatever your case might be, try to look around you and figure out what the gaps are and do your best to fill them in as fast as you can by priority and impact. There are always gaps that are really why enablement is here. If everything worked perfectly and sales knew exactly what to sell and where to sell it and how to get the information and not have anyone do it and give it to them, we wouldn’t be here. There are always gaps. That’s really the point, you can go in get your big wins in the beginning and start establishing that trust with your stakeholders and build on a strong foundation of I’m here to help and I know what I’m doing and I got this because look, I know maybe you’re not moving from opportunity to closing fast enough, maybe the lead doesn’t turn into an opportunity fast enough, I can help with all of that, I can keep people happy, I can help with metrics, I can show you why enablement is worth the investment you’re putting into it if that makes sense.

SS: I think that is fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate the time.

CP: Absolutely. Thank you for having me, I’m absolutely grateful to speak to anyone that would learn something from this because as I was saying, I need people to learn something from 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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