Episode 254: Nicholas Gregory on Driving Productivity With a Sales Methodology
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO Podcast. I’m 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 Nicholas Gregory from Qlik join us. Nick, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.
Nicholas Gregory: Thank you so much, Shawnna, for the opportunity to speak to you and to speak to your audience here. My name is Nicholas Gregory. I started my career in sales after university. Specifically with a cybersecurity company called McAfee about 15 years ago, where I was given an opportunity to fulfill a very personal and professional goal of mine to work in Latin America, which is a different conversation for a different day. Nonetheless, the powers that be at the company, knowing my aspirations to work in Latin America, tap me on the shoulder to be a new member of a new global team of sales consultants placed regionally across the globe to deploy what we would call ‘enablement services today’ in a globally consistent manner.
I was brought on to that team to lead their Latin America efforts from a sales enablement services perspective and that’s where I found myself in enablement. Since that time I’ve led a regional, and most of my career now, global sales enablement teams for technology organizations such as Symantec, Veritas, Sabre, and Couchbase. Currently, I’m the global head of sales enablement and effectiveness at Qlik, and we’re a business intelligence, data analytics, and data integration company where we help organizations to better understand their data, whatever that might mean to them, to run their business and help turn their data into action.
SS: Well, Nick, we’re excited to have you here joining us with your wealth of experience. One of the things that caught my eye about your background was the focus on improving sales productivity, which I think is the ultimate goal for most folks in enablement. In your opinion, what is enablement’s role in helping to drive productivity for the business?
NG: Enablement’s role in improving sales productivity is very multifaceted. To answer, first, I’ll speak to what I feel is important to share with the audience, which is my opinion on what are the four key principle enablement services that enablement should provide to the organization itself. that we’re working for. This is from an end-to-end strategic discipline perspective. Those are four in this order. Technology services, so that is, we may not own the sales tech stack or most of the sales tech stack, but we train on those particular tools, let’s say, or in partnership with whoever might own those tools, whether it’s marketing or other parts of organization, and also in some cases, we own part of the tech stack as well, where we are from an admin perspective, but we’re here to train on those tools, no matter where they reside and who funds them on how to be more efficient and effective with those tools. Whether it’s a conversation intelligence tool, a prospecting tool, whatever the case may be, or your CRM whatever the case may be, we’re here to help support being more effective.
Number two, training services. We can’t forget where we came from in enablement. We’re born out of training, but that is a key component to the four services, training services. That is your onboarding, methodology, product training, business acumen training, industry training, and everything in between.
Number three is coaching services, which is a critical component and often doesn’t get funded as much as it should with organizations today, especially in this changing buyer-seller landscape. Any of the investments we make that are imperative for the organization, be the actual organization itself or the sales organization, we should be supporting the organization through coaching services to protect those investments we’re making, whether those are financial investments from an enablement perspective, or be it that it’s like time, a soft cost investment, whatever the case may be, what’s the most important to the organization, we should be coaching to the sustainment of those investments.
Last but not least is content services. A lot of times we create content and if you look at the research, sales themselves create a lot of content that they use in front of the customer or send to customers. Also, we work with partners in marketing that create a lot of content as well. Wherever the content comes from, we need to make sure that it’s synthesized for sales so that they make the most of that content and they’re not reinventing the wheel or having to edit a lot of that content that is being dispersed. Whether that’s through the technology services that I talked about before, integrated into the CRM, or however they get their content at their organization.
That’s just to provide a perspective of the four key principal enablement services that I feel are most important that we drive from a strategic perspective. Second, let’s agree on a high-level definition of sales productivity. If we can agree on that, it means how we measure how the organization leverages those enablement services I just spoke about to achieve organizational outcomes while reducing the time and costs to acquire new business. No service that I just talked about is more important than the other on its own, it’s how many of these services work in concert to drive the outcomes, to achieve those results that we’re looking for across the organization.
From my team’s perspective, the net on all this is that either we implement these services ourselves or work in partnership cross functionally to improve the efficacy and efficiency when using our sales tech stack as a part of our technology services, or reduce ramp time for new hires as a part of our onboarding to full productivity, or implement and drive adoption of the sales methodology that we might purchase from a methodology provider, or concentrate on the opportunities that will yield the most likelihood of winning or developing our most strategic accounts. That will increase selling time by focusing on those opportunities or on those accounts that matter the most as a part of training services.
What I mentioned about coaching services, keeping our sales skills sharp and reinforcing the most critical programs and initiatives so that leaders and reps know what to focus on. Lastly, content services, whether we create the content ourselves or work in partnership with product marketing as I mentioned before, it’s about providing the right content to the right people at the right time internally so that they can then turn that content into Action or into customer-facing content through customer engagements, and they’re wasting time to find that content that might be outdated, not relevant, or requires a lot of updates from the sales reps as I mentioned before.
It’s often these services working in concert to drive maximum productivity gains as much as possible, and we should always be measuring everything, whether it’s leading or lagging indicators across all these services. Especially at the cornerstone of productivity, whatever productivity might mean for you and your organization.
SS: I love that. I love how crisply you’ve defined what productivity means within your own organization. Now, one way that we’ve seen enablement help enhance productivity is by enabling reps with a sales methodology. Can you walk us through why a sales methodology is critical for success?
NG: First and foremost, you have to read the headlines over the last many years now that buyer expectations have dramatically changed and really sales, I would say more on the, maybe the B2B selling side, that our profession has truly changed and that what those buyer expectations are and the sales skills to keep up with those buyer expectations. It’s truly creating a gap. You can look at research to help show what that really looks like out there in the world today.
Sales reps are having a difficult time keeping up with the exponential change on the buying side, so, in my opinion, sales methodology is one of the best investments a sales organization can make to help close the gap between the buyer expectations and the selling skills to make sure that we’re driving those predictable and repeatable results across the organization at scale. It provides that center line where we can be consistent in how our sales reps prepare for customer engagements through call planning or how they strategize on their most important opportunities, or the region’s most important opportunities, or from a global account manager perspective of the world’s most important opportunities for our organization and how they manage their most important and strategic accounts.
With selling time at a premium, we can all agree that we’re not seeing more and more selling time across a given week, month, or quarter. When you establish a common way to operate. Internally away from the customer, as well as from an external perspective with the customer, a common language that is spoken by the entire sales force by the way of a methodology. Having a common scorecard to evaluate in a very succinct way, the most critical opportunities on the likelihood that they’ll close those opportunities that are worth pursuing the priorities from the organization on the opportunities that we should pursue now or later.
After we look at the higher and higher sales methodology adoption rates that have higher and higher adoption rates of the sales methodology they institute or implement within the organization. Typically high adoption rate is anything above 75% of the organization adopting the sales methodology. This is according to Korn Ferry Sales Performance Research. Organizations start to see double-digit improvement and win rates on forecasted deals or opportunities and a double-digit increase in sellers, achieving quota and an increase in revenue attainment all the while decreasing voluntary turnover.
More people making money, more people hitting quota, less and less likely to leave that organization. This is a very critical investment by the company to drive results that are most important to the organization. Oftentimes it gets overlooked in the place of more product training, or specifically just skills training or onboarding. They are all important, but if we don’t know where to place that new knowledge on skills training in a strategic way, through methodology, then it’s really missing a part of the formula to drive improved productivity across the organization.
SS: I think that is fantastic. You talked about some of the key elements of key services of bringing enablement to life in terms of improving productivity. A couple of those were things like training and coaching. What are your best practices for training reps to effectively leverage a sales methodology?
NG: I talked a little bit about the methodology as a whole and what it means to the organization, but in order to really start down a sales methodology journey, first and foremost, we have to understand that at the highest level, at the executive level, there has to be a commitment to change. That is demonstrated not only from a communication perspective, what is written and shared across the organization from senior leadership, but it’s also from a say, show, do perspective and leading by example. At the cornerstone of all of this is that leadership commitment shown across the organization way in advance of, hey, we’re moving down the sales methodology path of deployment.
Let’s say we’ve got that buy-in from a sales leadership perspective. We are going to invest with a true sales methodology provider that is very wide in nature from focusing on how we engage with customers, how we strategize in our most important opportunities, and how we manage our most important or strategic accounts, full end to end, not just deal scorecard or things of that nature. Then it’s about making sure that we have that commitment from the top shown through communication. What are we doing, why we’re doing it, and what KPIs we are looking to improve?
Also, a part of this before we even get to deploying the sales methodology is if we’re fortunate to have the funding to invest in a sales coach or a sales coaching team, a practice within the enablement team to help with not only deployment from a facilitation perspective, but ongoing reinforcement and sustainment adoption through the sales leaders as well as working one on one or one to many with sales teams.
That would be a key component of this as a part of the investment. Then, we’re looking at deploying the sales methodology and we’re providing that center line of skills and behaviors and a framework. First and foremost, I’m a big believer in beyond the communications that really provide that fertile ground for making sure that we have some semblance of pre-work, whether that’s provided by the sales methodology provider, or we develop it internally or a mixture hybrid of both. We need to make sure that everyone is on a common playing field, if you will, before we head into what would be the next portion of the deployment and best practice is having the actual formal workshop.
We have a coaching team, we commit to leadership, and we’re deploying pre-work that’s required before showing up at a virtual workshop, or if possible, an in-person workshop or various workshops to make sure we take care of the entire globe where they’ll apply their newly acquired knowledge. They got a lot of that knowledge from pre-work and they got a lot of that knowledge from the leadership commitment from communications and calls and things of that nature before deployment.
Now it’s applying that knowledge, not just with hypotheticals, but if we’re talking about opportunity strategy as a part of our methodology, applying that knowledge with real opportunities for the sales team as a part of this workshop. If we’re talking about preparing for our most critical engagements, it’s about preparing for real customer engagements that we’ll have the buying side, leveraging the new methodology. If it’s about managing our most important accounts, it’s about applying that knowledge by using our real accounts. It’s establishing those skills and behaviors through workshops by using what’s real to the sales team.
Also, part of this next is to establish a bi-weekly or weekly deal review. Now, a lot of companies already have that or should have that as a part of their operating cadence, but that being said, establishing a methodology is about providing a new way of going to market. It’s about providing a new way to strategize and opportunities. We should embed the methodology into what already exists and their deal reviews. We’re evaluating those deals through the methodology framework or a new method by which we strategize on opportunities.
We’ll have a lot of success stories over the next three, six, nine months. Let’s syndicate those success stories as a part of this process and best practices across the organization. Let’s not make them isolated within one territory or one region of the globe. If we’re a global company, let’s syndicate those across the entire globe of the success stories of how the methodology is adding value to be more productive, reducing the admin time, and improving and increasing the selling time that we might have to give it across a given week or month or quarter.
The number one thing when we’re thinking about those best practices I just mentioned is we have to define who was a part of this methodology as well. That goes back to the very beginning in some cases and what we’re going to deploy across the organization. While we call it a sales methodology, it’s truly an organization-wide commitment in many regards. We need to ensure that we are onboarding all members of the account team to the methodology and all of what I just said before, as far as those best practices are concerned. Most, if not all the people I’m about to mention should be a part of this journey, whether that’s through the full end-to-end methodology deployment experience or a subset of the deployment, depending on an individual’s role.
Let’s take B2B technology sales for a moment that might take the form of fully implementing the methodology across account executives, solution engineers, partners, account management, teams, professional services, and customer success. Also, of course, all levels of leadership across those teams. Those are the core teams that engage with an interface with prospects and customers. Then we take the perspective of who else supports the account team across the company and my interface with customers from time to time. We may be on board to a lesser extent, marketing teams such as digital or social teams, field marketing, legal, procurement, and others who often, like I said, interface with prospects and customers throughout the sales or customer buying cycles. Sometimes those teams contribute in a variety of ways to opportunity and account-level strategy. Implementing a sales methodology is truly a cross-functional deployment, not just specific to the sales team.
Number two, the last thing I’ll mention, Shawnna, is about partnership with marketing. While they will be going along the journey with us in many regards, maybe to a lesser extent from a full onboarding experience, we have to make sure that we support the sales team by partnering with marketing that supports us and enablement services so much and engages with sales directly with content and other ways. Our ongoing partnership with them shall provide that center line as marketing to engage with prospects and customers strategizes on those opportunities. They help us manage some of those most strategic accounts in a globally consistent manner.
As our internal language shifts, so should the language that marketing uses externally and internally to be more customer outcome-driven, less product feature function-oriented. Therefore any content they’re creating that is customer-facing or sent to the sales teams internally, or like I said, in some cases, externally should evolve as well. That partnership with marketing to ensure alignment on content, the new language that’s used the intent of the content has to change with it. Whether that’s sales play content, competitive battle cards, or ongoing support through the creation of discovery questions to be used throughout the entire, that sales cycle, no matter the asset, it should change and align to the methodology in that common language.
SS: I love that. You also mentioned coaching earlier a few times, actually throughout that. What role does coaching play in helping reps to effectively leverage a sales methodology?
NG: Coaching, or the lack thereof, is one of the most critical determining factors if an investment is worthwhile. It truly is an investment financially in most regards, unless you’re fortunate to build one internally. Coaching can and should come in many forms. Coaching can come in the form of practice from a coaching practice perspective. If we’re fortunate to have a coaching team, like I’m fortunate to have here at Qlik, this team is dedicated to sales to the sales professionals, their leaders, and their leaders leaders and their remit is to coach leaders in the sales teams on the key imperatives for the sales team, the organization, such as methodology in this case that you asked about.
Sales professionals can provide coaching themselves. It can come from not only the first-line, second-line leaders, a coaching team if we’re fortunate to have one, but also sales reps that are, I mentioned those success stories before. Sales can coach sales. I’m a big believer that sales learn best from sales. This is a great opportunity when we’re having success, We call out those sales reps to bring them into a pseudo-coaching role where they’re actually helping coach their peers from within their own teams, within their own region, whatever the case may be.
Also, we can look at successful leaders who can request that other leaders, let’s say, provide a community of coaches from across the leadership teams where those leaders are not only developing and coaching their teams, but they’re also helping develop and coach other teams around on an ad-hoc basis, or maybe even a more formal basis, as well across the region or across the globe. That ongoing and effective coaching drives sustainment, adoption, and reinforcement of the methodology investment that can be very expensive on top of the commitment to change. It can be very expensive from a financial and soft cost perspective. Coaching is critically important to longevity and the likelihood of success as I mentioned before.
On top of my coaching team being certified, I’m going to mention this point. Their responsibility is to facilitate the methodology training workshops and provide their own reinforcement in a variety of ways. My coaches are laser-focused when deploying a methodology to help those first-line and second-line leaders become better coaches. Oftentimes you’ll hear so many sales consultancy firms talk about how they are the most underinvested people in the sales organization with some of the most difficult jobs. That upward pressure from their teams, and downward pressure from leadership, but we provide little to no investment in them to be better coaches.
A lot of times they weren’t really trained to be sales leaders. They were an individual contributor on a Friday promoted from within, let’s say five, 10 years ago, and they’ve just been in this leadership role for quite some time. Maybe successful, maybe you know, plateauing a little bit here and there, but they’ve never been invested in. It’s my team’s job to help them be better first-line and second-line leaders underpinned by the methodology.
Sales organizations that have a sales methodology coupled with an ongoing and multifaceted coaching presence that I mentioned before, can see upwards of 28% of higher quota attainment and 32% higher win rates versus organizations that might have a methodology that made that investment. Leave coaching up to the leader’s discretion as I mentioned before, where they weren’t invested in their sales leadership career to be better coaches. This is an opportunity to have a coaching team drive true coaching in a consistent way, underpinned by the methodology to drive those results I just mentioned before.
SS: Wonderful. In both training and coaching on methodology, I love that there’s this leadership-first mentality. Can you tell our audience about this approach and the impact that it’s had on the effectiveness of your training and coaching programs?
NG: There are a few aspects to this that are top of mind and top of my list when deploying a true sales methodology. Let’s say that the org, as I mentioned previously, and the senior leadership have stacked hands, that there is a commitment to change, and that there are results that we’re looking to change and move the needle in a variety of different areas. From that commitment, we’re going to partner with a true sales methodology.
Now, in order for that leadership-first mentality, you spoke of to really take hold. Number one, we need to bring leaders along with the pre-deployment journey. It can’t be something, hey, this isolated vacuum, we decided as a part of a senior leadership team that we’re going to be investing in a sales methodology and then all of a sudden it’s about to happen and they don’t get much of an advanced warning or awareness on from a change management perspective itself. We got to bring them along that pre-deployment journey to help with the change management side of the house because this is a huge change management initiative, a transformation.
I think we agree that implementing a sales methodology is a big change management and transformational exercise. We need to work with those first-line leaders across all of the sales segments and across the cross-functional partners that I mentioned previously to help set expectations. What is their role during the actual implementation from a training perspective? What is the post-deployment? What are the expectations on how the leaders will reinforce, drive adoption, and sustainment?
Sharing what the plan is, end to end, early and often prior to deployment, and what KPIs we’ll be measuring so that there are no surprises there. Gaining their commitment, now that’s not a hundred percent always going to happen there are going to be detractors. I think we can all agree that nothing that we do from an enablement services perspective or program or strategic comparative gets a hundred percent commitment, but that being said, let’s take the majority and get that commitment where possible. What changes should they expect there will definitely be changes moving forward. Also, what communications in some cases we would like these first-line second leaders to send out to their teams, to the region?
A lot of those communications could be ghostwritten by us or others in the organization, but nonetheless, we need to make sure they put their voice behind the change that’s about to take place. In this regard, over-communication and constant engagement is key. With leaders, just as much as the individual contributors that report to them.
The second is through the deployment from a training perspective. I’m a big believer, especially when it comes to methodology deployment or any large imperative for that matter, that leaders go first. What I mean by that is that leaders go through the same mandatory pre-work that their individual contributors or teams will go through. I typically have leadership-only training workshops. They go through pre-work first, then they have what we have. Leadership-only workshops where the leaders are trained ahead of their teams. They go through the training as their team is about to go through throughout the deployment. They go from learner now going through these leadership-only workshops to a second time going through the training because they’ll now be going through the training workshops with their team. They turn from learner to coach the second time around.
As a quick recap, they take the pre-work, they go through leadership-only workshops, and they go through the workshop again with their teams when we deploy to the field at large, going from learner to coach. From that point, the individual contributors or field workshops become those coaches and start to reinforce and drive that adoption. That’s so critical during the workshop in real time, sitting next to their teams or at the same tables, if you will, or in a virtual setting with their team.
This approach is where it’s front-loaded per se from a training perspective, but the large focus of leaders is critically important because they truly are the force multipliers when deploying a methodology or again, any large investment, because they’re the ones within the organization. That decides if typically a large investment like this, whether financially or soft cost-wise, is going to be successful or not. It really falls on their shoulders. We have to take that extra work, that front-loaded work during the rollout, prior to the rollout, and then of course, through any deployment or any sustainment or adoption reinforcement activities and exercises moving forward.
Last but not least, this is for a very special group of leaders. In some cases, there are a handful of leaders who accept and go on a specific methodology deployment journey in a unique way by way of getting certified on the methodology themselves. While I’m a big believer in the enablement team, if we’re fortunate enough to have a coaching team or others across the needle, be certified to become facilitators. If we partner with an external methodology provider, sometimes these leaders also invest in themselves, their team, and the organization. by going through a very similar path that many of us go through an enablement to get certified in the methodology themselves.
I may not be up to a facilitation grade certification if you will, but that being said, they go on some assemblage of that journey by being trained on the methodology in a unique way beyond the workshop by partnering with the methodology provider. Then going on this journey for this very special group shows commitment. In some cases, we can lean on those leaders because they’ve been on this certain journey up to a certain point to support other efforts within their region or globally based on their subject matter expertise and dedication to knowing the methodology at a deeper level than let’s say a traditional leader going through a leadership workshop only, as well as the workshop with their teams to drive that coaching. This is a special breed, if you will, of leadership that ops in and we partner with to help them on going through that unique journey to drive a different level of results.
SS: I love that leader’s first mentality, Nick. Thank you so much for joining us. I enjoyed this conversation and I think it’s fantastic the work that you guys have been doing to increase productivity at Qlik.
NG: Thank you so much Shawnna for the time and look forward to a conversation in the future.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s 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.