Episode 41: Glenn Clark on Ingredients of a Great Salesperson

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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 are here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.
Today I’m excited to have Glenn Clark, the Director of Sales Enablement at Smartsheet with us. Glenn, I would love for you to just introduce yourself, and a little bit about your background.

Glenn Clark: First of all, I’m excited to be here. I have been in sales enablement for at least ten years. It probably feels a little bit longer than that. I started out in sales. I think a lot of people in the sales enablement profession started out in sales. But I recognized pretty early on in my career that I definitely had a passion for helping reps be more successful, more productive, and so I made the switch over to training back then, which now has evolved into sales enablement. And I really have spent the bulk of my career in tech, so I have the luxury of being able to work in tech and in sales enablement.

SS: Well with that background, I would love to talk to you a little bit about your work at Smartsheet. You recently led the deployment of your sales methodology. What are some of the steps that you took to ensure that the process ran smoothly and what advice or tips do you have for other practitioners that are also responsible for deploying a sales methodology within their organization?

GC: Sure. That’s a great question. What I have found in my experience in rolling out methodologies, which I have rolled out a few at different companies, is that the first thing you need to do is make sure you have leadership buy-in. The methodology will not get off the ground if leadership is not bought in and doesn’t understand what the methodology is. So, when I roll it out, what I typically do first is do the research on what I believe is the methodology that’s going to work best for that sales organization. Then from there, I enroll sales leadership early in not only vetting the methodology, but also understanding what those methodologies are and what they mean to the sales organization. From there, at Smartsheet, we actually worked with a vendor to really center the roll out around making sure that it felt tailored and specific to how we sell. Because what we didn’t want to have happen is that we introduce this methodology and the salespeople feel that it is so much of a departure from how they sell that it would never get off the ground. And then finally, we trained the managers first, because in order for the methodology to be used every day and top of mind, you have to have the managers able to speak to it, to coach to it, to drive the utilization of it through their teams. And the approach we took was to actually trained them first and then we had them help us build the content that we then went on to train the reps, so that the reps were seeing their managers in front of the classroom training on the methodology that they were going to go on to use, and that was wildly successful.

SS: The importance of frontline managers and utilizing them as a strategic partner within your organization is absolutely critical. I actually want to talk about that a little bit because I think frontline managers and coaching really, really go hand in hand. I also understand that you are currently working on an initiative focused on coaching for skills development. What does that program look like and how is data used within your coaching framework?

GC: That’s a great question. So simply put, it’s based on first identifying that we have ten sales competencies that we worked with sales leadership to create. And so again, kind of what I said before, getting buy-in from the sales leadership team early is critical. So, we shared what we thought the competencies were, but also gathered input from the sales leadership team to land on those competencies. From there, what we typically do is we actually have the reps do a self-evaluation against those competencies, we have the managers evaluate the reps, and then the managers also observe reps in their natural habitat– whether it’s on calls, how they manage their time, etc.–so that once we have rated the reps on those competencies, then we have the beginnings of what do we do from either a coaching or an enablement perspective. What enablement will do, based on what we’re seeing in those evaluations and those observations, is we will actually provide a series of recommendations, whether it is coaching approaches or reinforcement content, that managers can then go on and recommend to reps to help them improve in those areas where they are deficient. Also, for coaching, we actually leverage the help of a local consultant who actually worked with us closely to help the managers better strengthen their ability to coach, but also built development plans, of course, not in a negative way but more in a constructive way, so that the reps felt as though the manager was dialed in on where there were areas of opportunity. So the manager was able to help not only focus on the skills that reps exhibit on calls, but also skills that they exhibit more broadly to be successful as salespeople. It is ongoing, so one of the things I’ll let you know is that if you check back with me in a few months, I can definitely give you some more input in terms of how it is going. The good news is that once they have gone through–here are some coaching techniques, here are the evaluations that you can leverage–we can quickly operationalize it so that so that managers can not only have the conversations, but also document them– document the plans that they landed on with the reps and any sort of action items that are time-bound. And doing that framework in our tool allows for enablement and senior leadership to have visibility to opportunities to create even more skill improvement programs or help individuals on their personalized plans or help teams at scale.

SS: Absolutely. So, you talked a lot about kind of skilling up and coaching your sales team to competencies that they need to be really good in their jobs. One of the things that I think has been interesting is understanding the DNA of what makes a good rep, and I think that there are some things that can and should be coached. I know that you’ve done a lot of work to really understand what makes a good rep profile for your organization. I think that there are a lot of sales enablement professionals that would love to be able to do something similar within their organizations. Can you talk to us a little bit about that analysis that you did and the pros and cons of doing something like that?

GC: Sure. So, let me talk about the pros and cons first. So, one of the risks you can run into if you choose to land on a finite number of competencies is that it is not inclusive enough. And so, one of the things that we did to try and overcome that is we didn’t land on just five; we landed on ten. And we felt like ten was a good number because we weren’t trying to cover everything, but we were trying to cover most of what we think are the attributes of a great salesperson. How we landed on that with the leadership team is we first came to the table with our observations. So, my team and I have the opportunity to be on the floor, in the trenches with reps, and making observations that we capture. We also have a sales background as a team. Being salespeople, carrying a bag, so we know what we believe are the ingredients of being a great salesperson, and so we led with that. And then what we asked the sales leadership team to do is decide–based on what’s important to you in terms of success of the business, in terms of revenue–would you adjust these? What would you add? Is there anything we missed? So, I love that approach because what it does is it allows for us to come with an initial recommendation helps increase our value, but it also gives managers an opportunity to weigh in and say ‘I think I would tweak this’ or ‘I want to add that’. So, we’re gaining buy-in while we’re getting their input so that when we launch it, we actually have a consensus across enablement and senior leadership. And sales reps because their managers have input also tend to buy-in on that as well.

SS: Very, very cool. I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to talk about another initiative. So, we have talked about sales playbooks and that is a very hot topic among sales enablement professionals. It can also strike fear in a lot of sales enablement professionals because depending on how long they’ve been doing it– they may think of a sales playbook as a three-ring binder that becomes outdated the minute they hand it to a rep, which I hope the three-ring binder no longer the case with today’s technology. But you recently went through the process of revamping and deploying new sales playbooks, so what were some of the core aspects that you addressed when you developed a new sales playbook for your organization?

GC: The first thing we had to do is we had to make a distinction between sales methodology and sales playbooks and the reason I do that is because some folks, they actually take the sales methodology and put it in the sales playbook and then they roll it out. Whereas for us, what we wanted to do and what our sales reps were asking for, were tactics, the tangible things that they could leverage as they engage with their customers. Once we made that distinction between sales methodology vs. sales tactics, we then set out to build that out. And I was one of those professionals that thought about sales playbooks as okay, well we launch it, we print it, we spend lots of money, it gets put on the shelf and gathers dust. So, we went with a digital route, and the cool thing about that is with it being digital, we have the option to go in and update rapidly. I will tell you that we still experience folks that do set it down after they’ve kind of gathered all the information or they’ve memorized it, and we understand that that’s a natural part of leveraging a playbook. But what we do to try and keep it top of mind for even the tenured reps is, because it is digital, we can go in near real-time and make updates. So, if there are changes or updates in the research or on a methodology, we can take some of those tactics and plug them in. If there are updates on branding or messaging that we want to incorporate, we can plug those in. If there are new use cases or scenarios that reps can use as they engage with their customers, we add that in. So, we try and refresh the content to make it relevant and topical so that even those that may have memorized previous versions still feel an impetus to go in and leverage it.

SS: So where do you see the future of sales playbooks going, though? If you could have the perfect playbook, what are some of the functionality you would want it to have? Besides just being digital and real-time, what are some kind of core aspects that you think would really help elevate the usefulness and adoption of sales playbooks?

GC: Sure. That’s a great question. Off the top of my head, if there was a way in which you could create a feedback loop that based on rep utilization–they could easily say ‘I think we need this’ or ‘we could include this’–then that would help drive adoption because reps love to hear the successes and what’s working from their peers, and so creating a channel where that information can make its way into a playbook, I think, would be really cool to see an advancement in how playbooks are done.

SS: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I love talking to you about sales methodologies and sales playbooks. I also know that you led a lot of the effort to build an onboarding ecosystem at Smartsheet, so I would love to have you talk to us a little bit about what it was like to be onboarded at Smartsheet before that, and then what you’ve done to improve that whole process.

GC: Well, I can speak to that from personal experience, because when I came to onboard at Smartsheet, I was THE only enablement person. My number one charter when I came in was to revamp the onboarding program. I’m excited to say that the onboarding program that we started was in Smartsheet–so we were using our own product. But it was an assembly of topics that various managers thought were relevant for salespeople and they just kind of organized it in a sheet. I applied adult learning principles, making sure that reps had an opportunity to learn key content when they needed it. Because in some cases folks say, I know you need this and I’m just going to put it in there. Whereas what we found is that reps also can benefit from the right information being provided at the right time. So, I restructured the onboarding program and I added new content that was more contextual, because in some cases if you have a rapid bootcamp then what they do is they give you the essentials and then they say, go be successful. Whereas what I wanted to do is I wanted to create an experience that number one, set the tone for your success at the company, but that also felt like it gave you context so that when you have the random questions that come in, having seen it or heard it before helps you tell the story or engage effectively with your customers. I’m somewhat of a linear person, so one of the things that I did is I actually organized it in a linear fashion so that anybody that comes in, they can see the sheet and they can say, okay this is what I need to be doing when, and how long it’s going to take me. I can get some context around what the topic is. I can even review the decks in advance if I want to. If there is a recording of it, I can watch that. I can provide some input or comments. So, it became this tool that reps went to and still go to today as their number one resource as they go through their onboarding. What we also did is we created a dashboard for managers and senior leadership and enablement to track the progress, and this isn’t a lift for the reps at all, they’re just going through their onboarding. But on the backend, all the things that they’re doing are being translated into a dashboard, so their managers can, at a moment’s notice, see where the rep is in their onboarding, they can see how they’re doing on their scenarios or any of the programs they’re being certified on, or even their readiness or calls that they’re on. So they get to see that as a manager in a dashboard view and quickly identify where there might be opportunities for them to come back and say, ‘hey I’ve noticed that this might be an area of opportunity’–so can we double down again with the rep on this. So, it’s been really cool. One other thing I’ll say on this is we started on this program over three years ago. We’ve matured as a sales organization, as most do, and so we do in fact use our learning management system today, but we’ve done it in conjunction with the original onboarding program, so you still go to that sheet to manage your onboarding, but you link out to all of the things that you need to consume in a learning management system. And I’m thrilled to say that that program has been so successful that Smartsheet has actually turned it into a product that can be sold outside the company. I didn’t set out to do that. I love Smartsheet so I went in and I said let me design it this way, but it’s great that others have recognized the value that that approach brings, and Smartsheet is willing to create a product around it.

SS: That is very, very cool. I have to ask because you did land on the word success, what is the best way to measure success of a sales onboarding program from your perspective?

GC: That’s an interesting question because depending on who you talk to there may be some challenges around how do you accurately say: ‘yep, we impacted onboarding’? I will start first by saying from my perspective it starts with how you organize the onboarding. So, there are various different lengths of time that folks consider onboarding. For us, it is 180 days. So, I started with what do we want to accomplish by the end of the first 180 days. I mentioned this earlier, we have ten competencies, so we use that as the nucleus of what are we striving for to accomplish in this 180-day onboarding is excellence in those skills. But the other thing that we look for is productivity numbers. It we can help those that are on ramp exceed that ramp, then that’s additional revenue that the business didn’t anticipate. If we can help reps who usually exit onboarding or ramp and then there’s a little bit of a drop, if we can help get ahead of that drop and keep reps productive, keep them performing, and strengthen their wings, if you will, as they get kicked out of the nest, then coming out of onboarding, the managers have more confidence that they will sustain that high level of performance. So that’s how we measure the successes. Can we influence how much they exceed their ramp and can we create an army of salespeople that are performing highly before they exit onboarding so that there’s a good confidence that when they are on the latter half of their first year, they are still being successful and performing.

SS: That’s excellent, excellent. Well, you are doing some very impressive and forward leaning things at Smartsheet, so thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today about these.

To our audience, thank you for listening. For more insights, tips and expertise from sales enablement leaders, please visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you would like to share or a topic you want to learn more about, please let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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