Episode 231: Julie Cecilio on Changing Seller Behavior to Drive Transformation

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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 Julie Cecilio from Collibra join us. Julie, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Julie Cecilio: Great, thank you so much, Shawnna. Thanks for having me. As you said, my name is Julie Cecilio and I am the vice president of go-to-market revenue enablement here at Collibra. I am coming up for two years, and have been in high-tech for quite some time. I was previously at VMware and before that at Cisco all in various roles supporting the sales organization’s effectiveness.

SS: I’m excited to chat with you because, in addition to organizational effectiveness, one of your areas of expertise for you is also around change management. So I’d love to hear from you and your perspective. Why is change management an important area of focus for enablement leaders?

JC: Yeah, it’s an interesting inflection point, isn’t it? I actually started out my career in marketing and have a graduate degree in marketing and found out that I didn’t want to be quite that removed from the people that I was trying to engage with, but the principles are very much the same. You’re trying to change buying behavior, right? You’re trying to build a brand, and you want somebody to buy more of your products and services, so it’s a very similar formula to sales enablement. I worked my way from marketing into a change management role at Cisco where we were trying to support our services sales organization in how we were selling services with customers and partners, and we rolled out a lot of change, whether it was the pricing and packaging or the systems that they had to work with, and so I was able to apply a lot of what I did on the marketing side to change buying behavior to that change management approach with customers and partners at Cisco.

That was my first foray into change management and what I really learned from that was you have to take a very good look at what is the delta of the behavior that you’re trying to change and how much effort is it going to take to get that change to stick. When I morphed over into the sales enablement side, it’s really again the same principles. You are trying to drive transformation within a sales organization, most likely. I’ve been in high tech as I mentioned for a number of years and we’re always evolving and changing quickly and trying to keep up with or ahead of the market.

The pandemic is a great example of this. Sellers had to learn how to do things virtually, much as these podcasts have just mushroomed into something really important for people to be able to connect with others and do things like thought leadership. It’s like, okay, well how do we reach our customer base in a different way? Virtual selling skills are an example of how we had to adjust and so then you have to look at well what are the things that are changing, what are the tools, the technologies, the skills, knowledge, behavior and then figure out where people are now and where you want them to be. Based on that you put an enablement plan together also known as a change plan to get them from here to there and then track your progress along the way and look at the business results. It’s kind of a nice through line between changing customer buying behavior to changing seller behavior all about driving transformation for the company.

SS: Absolutely. I think it absolutely is a critical thing that enablement and leaders need to be able to impact, but change can be hard. I’d love to get some advice from you. What are some of your best practices for effective change management?

JC: Great question. We’re actually working on this right now at Collibra. One of the big things is sponsorship. Making sure that you are aligned with your strategic initiative or strategic plan for the company for the year for the three-year plan, whatever it is that you’re rooted in and then make sure that you’ve got that sponsorship upfront for the initiatives that you’re driving and then create those early successes in those wins. The best way to create that sponsorship is to be clear on where we are and where we want to be and make sure that’s aligned and then clear on what it’s gonna take to get from here to there and maybe even some of the risks and obstacles that you’re facing and get that help. Then work with the leaders to establish some of those quick wins and those success stories that you can highlight as proof points, because sales and sellers, even our partners, often are motivated by the shortest route to closing, closing the sale, but oftentimes that doesn’t drive the right behavior, which is, let’s say we want to drive and NPS with the customer or we want to drive an expansion behavior with our customers and so we want to make sure that we are thinking long term and we’re not thinking short term as an example. How would you get people through that knothole of like well sort of the bird in the hand versus having the whole flock with you is kind of the way to think about that.

SS: I’d love to drill in a little bit more on that because you hit on a really key point and that is the long-term adoption of behavior change. What are some strategies that practitioners might be able to use to motivate behavior change amongst reps to get that long-term adoption?

JC: Having those early successes really helps. Making it tangible to people so they can see that they’re getting better, win rates, bigger deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, so understanding what your KPIs are and then reporting back on those on a regular basis. We do some things around dashboards that allow managers and senior leaders to be able to see the impact of the change programs that we’re running otherwise known as sales enablement training every quarter and so they can see that, okay, we said we wanted to shift to this new sales methodology let’s say and why? Well because we’re seeing those who are applying the knowledge and the skills are seeing the impact to their deals. They’re seeing their quota attainment come sooner, they’re seeing their customers having a higher sat rate etcetera. So connecting the two dots for people so they can see that it’s going to benefit them and the company right and our customers ultimately because we want them to be happy and using our products and services as well and making that really tangible for folks and keeping it front and center about these are the KPIs this is how it’s going to make our customers happier you more successful and the company is going to be able to reach strategic objectives.

SS: I love that. I want to shift gears because I noticed too that on LinkedIn you mentioned that authentic leadership plays a key role in enablement’s ability to inspire teams to achieve high performance. Now I love that because I feel like we all need an extra dose of inspiration nowadays, but can you tell our audience about what authentic leadership means to you?

JC: I just led a breakout session on this last week because I also lead our women of Collibra employee resource group here and back to being virtual again, we don’t have a lot of time with each other. We’re always running from one meeting to the next. We don’t have the opportunity to get to know people on a more casual basis to identify commonalities and I think we just have to create space for that. Allowing people to bring their whole selves to their job every day is really important for a couple of different reasons. We know that diverse workforces on whole are more productive and more impactful, and so we want to encourage that diversity. We don’t want people to mask that we’re all looking the same, doing the work the same, and approaching the work the same, and part of that includes encouraging people to bring their whole selves to their job every day. Again, I think back to the pandemic a little bit, it sort of forced this. We all saw each other’s animals, children, spouses, and whatever was happening in the background because we were all trying to figure out how to adjust. So we were sort of pushed into it a little bit.

We don’t want to walk away from that in my opinion. We want to continue to encourage people to bring their whole selves to work and that’s when I can understand that somebody is having a great day and they’re getting a lot done and we can really give them some shout-outs for that. Then there are times when they’re struggling a little bit and then maybe need a little more air cover or support or leadership there. I think it’s really important to do that yourself and that’s what authentic leadership is to really lead by example. So making sure that I’m clear with my team and my coworkers because one of the things I love about enablement is we work probably one of the more cross-functional teams in the entire company. Whether I was at VMware or here at Collibra, I found that pretty consistently and leading by example is important. I’ve had several people reach out to me offline to ask for guidance or support asking how did you do this. You just do it, you just do it, and don’t be apologetic and be clear that this is coming from your heart and in a good place and people will build trust with you, and then you also create that opportunity for really diverse viewpoints and approaches to things and in that way you build more trust. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. That’s my experience.

SS: Yeah. Now, to tie it back though, how does an authentic leadership style help you effectively drive change as an enablement leader?

JC: Yeah, great question. At the end of the day, in both cases, I think trust is the big word and on the change management side, you build trust by understanding that change, communicating it, identifying the successes, and then tying it back to outcomes. Oftentimes you’re asking people to take a little bit of a leap of faith with you. It’s like, yeah, I’ve got a plan and I know what I expect to get out of it and I want you to get in the boat and go with me, but I’m gonna point out all the sights along the way so you can see that we’re working our way towards that end goal of that end journey, but there’s trust there and the same thing with leadership, in general, is creating that that space of trust and allowing people to feel safe. There’s a new newish more common topic that gets talked about a lot, which is around, you know, safety, emotional safety in the, in the workplace and I think people feel like they need that connective tissue to kind of go with you on that change journey in order to really do their best work every day.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Now, last question for you Julie. As a broader business landscape changes we’ve seen with the recent economic environment, customers are often experiencing change right alongside our reps. How can enablement help go-to-market teams support customers as they navigate these changes themselves?

JC: So I think some of it is a continuation of the previous topic, is really extending your authentic self into those customer conversations, helping the customers understand what the success could look like with your product and service and how that’s going to help them and their company achieve their goals and objectives because at the end of the day, that’s really what we’re trying to do in most cases, is to help other organizations achieve what their stated goals are. We all have a piece of skin in that game, whether we are on the buying side or the selling side. So I think that’s one thing, is just to sort of encourage those mindsets and those behaviors.

The second is to have a closed-loop idea of what the customer buying journey looks like. Enablement should be able to connect the dots all the way from a lead generation where our marketing organization drives a lot of that digital interface and we know more and more customers are preferring a rep-free or a seller-free quote-unquote buying environment. So that connection between the customer’s digital experience and then their live experience, whether it’s in person or virtual, needs to be seamless. What we can do is help connect those dots to make sure that the programs, the messaging, the tone, the tenor, the knowledge, everything that’s up, you know, on our websites and through our emails and the way we engage with customers digitally feel continuous when the customer comes into buying engagement with a live person, whether that’s an SDR BDR or it’s a strategic major enterprise sales rep or your SCs or your professional services team when we come through the implementation. So making sure that we’re helping to connect the dots all the way through and staying really focused on those core values that are important to our company and that we extend those all the way through to our customer engagement.

SS: I love that approach. Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I appreciate your insights.

JC: Thank you very much for taking the time. I appreciate it

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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