Episode 53: Giorgia Ortiz on Linking Competency and Performance

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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 they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Giorgia join us from Lever. I’d love for you to just kind of give us a brief introduction to yourself, your role, and your organization.

Giorgia Ortiz: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I am the global director of sales enablement here at Lever. We are a talent relationship management company and we pride ourselves in really providing the software platform that encourages and enables a best-in-class experience both for companies and candidates looking to join a new company. So, happy to be here with you.

SS: So, at the Sales Enablement Soirée, you talked about an initiative in which you identified four competencies that are indicative of what good selling looks like for your salespeople. I’d love for you to share with our audience kind of what those four competencies are.

GO: Absolutely. So, the initiative was born from a very simple question that the team was not able to answer, which was how are our sales reps onboarding? And it seems like a simple enough question, but, if you don’t have a framework in place, it’s difficult to give real metrics around it. So, the team huddled and the competencies that we came up with were born from the work that we did. And looking at what does a successful salesperson at this company do, and when do they need to do these things or know these things in their 90-day or so onboarding?

The four competencies that we came up with were their ability to demonstrate the product, their ability to articulate the first call deck or call it your value proposition, their ability to identify a champion and then further test and validate that champion, their ability around sales execution, how well were they able to manage both the internal workings of our company as well as manage the sales process from the prospect’s point of view.

SS: I think that those are definitely a good top four for people to keep in mind. How did you actually go about kind of identifying those as the core competencies that lead to success within your organization?

GO: Many, many whiteboard and post-it note sessions. So, it was interesting to have these kinds of conversations with my team. I was fortunate to have a really great team that ran our sales bootcamps and was very involved in the post-bootcamp certifications. They understood the amount of work that went into getting folks ready to be in the field.
And what came out of those initial conversations was a realization that at the end of the day, a person’s ability to nail that first call deck was not going to be a clear indicator of their future success. In fact, first call, and that was actually one of the criteria. The early criteria was their ability to handle a first call or first meeting, really how they manage that.

Then once we understood that, we took a step back and said, “okay, well what are the things that sales reps need to learn and do as part of a sales process?” So, what I did is I mapped out our actual sales process and then we asked ourselves, what are folks actually doing and saying throughout the sales process.

That’s how you came to the competencies. So, for example, in order for someone to be able to give a good first call pitch about the company, they have to have a clear understanding of our messaging, what it is that we do, a comfort level with the problems that we solve, and a good understanding of the people that we sell to.

Then you start mapping out, when do they need to know this by? And then you move on to, now they’ve engaged this prospect and they’re interested. Now they’re going to need to show them something. So, what do they need to do and know in order to do that? And that’s when you move into their ability to demonstrate. It requires them to have a keen understanding of our product, how to use it, a good feel for navigating the product and how to tell the story around it. And we just continued along this exercise and basically modeled our sales process as the single source of truth and then mapped that out over a three-month period.

The nice thing about competencies is, I’ll tell you that from a scoring perspective, we were very transparent with our new hires and with the sales managers that this wasn’t a means of performance management, but rather it enabled us to hone in on the areas of opportunity for growth within their onboarding.

What that meant is that when we’re hiring folks, not everybody’s coming in with the same competencies or experience. So, you may have some people that are much better at the product that they are messaging. Or, they’re really good at sales execution and champion building, but not yet quite where you need them to be on messaging. You’d bring them through their a bootcamp or sales camp, whatever you’re calling it. At the end, we sit down with the manager. They would sit down and they would score the new rep on a scale of one to five, where were they on these five competencies? And then every two weeks or a month, depending on your sales organization, you keep scoring.

What happens then is you might have someone that is really good at one particular competency early on, and so you begin to focus your efforts on the areas that they really need help in. And so that way it’s not a catch-all for everybody, but you can begin to customize this person’s individual onboarding within a very clear framework.

What we found is that when we first launched the criteria or the competencies to the sales managers and we asked them to begin scoring, the first couple of scorecards that we received, we knew were not going to be very accurate because the sales managers for the first time were being asked to observe their people through a specific lens. And so now when they were observing their people, they were thinking about, “Oh, okay, we’re in a demonstration. Let me be mindful of this criteria.” Then they are able to better understand and report back on how they actually are doing in a demonstration. Or I’m having a one-on-one with them on a deal review, and the champion building came up. So, let me be mindful of that so that I can better score them and know whether they are at the level that they should be or if this is something we need to work on. All of a sudden it created a greater awareness and framework for the managers to be able to really start to understand where their sales reps needed greater help. That’s how it started.

SS: I love that. And I think you touched on this quite a bit, how important the partnership is with frontline sales managers. Now, how do you ensure that the frontline sales managers are really holding their salespeople accountable to those competency expectations?

GO: This is something that we in the sales enablement profession, I think, think about a lot because you’ve probably heard this said many, many times. There’s a difference between being responsible for sales and being responsible to sales. Sales enablement as a function is responsible to sales, but sometimes that line gets blurred.

So, to the extent that my job is to ensure that the sales managers have the tools, the knowledge, and I try and facilitate as much as I can, their desire to want to hold people accountable. At the end of the day, it’s really up to them. And that falls kind of under the purview of sales management.

Now, what I will tell you is the way that I incentivize them or keep people motivated to do it is kind of tap into that competitive nature that they have because this is all very transparent and non-performance focused. You’re able to share it as a team and if you have tools, where for example, you’re recording calls or there’s an opportunity to stack rank people or have contests, then all of a sudden they become a bit more engaged around how these skills actually show up in performance, how they show up in contest, how they show up in deals that people are winning or losing. They start to get interested.

And I find that with sales managers, the further I can move away from enablement and training and more into the actual functional aspects of their jobs around how does this impact my ability to help my rep make their number? Everything has to go back to how is this going to impact them, make their number, how do we impact revenue? How do I increase productivity, all of that. And so as long as my programs are aligned to that shared goal, it’s usually pretty easy for them to hold their reps accountable, because it’s not about the competency itself. If you focus on the competency, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. What you should be focusing is on the end result or impact that a high functioning person on that competency should be exhibiting, because that’s really the trigger or the goal. If I have a sales rep that’s five across the board and on a PIP, who am I helping?

So, what I want to see is that reps that are exhibiting the right kinds of behaviors are the ones that we determined to be right. That there’s a direct correlation between that competency level and their performance. So, you have to have that performance as the flip side of that coin. Otherwise, it’s just enablement patting ourselves on the back that we put out this great framework or we did this great training. I don’t care about any of that, to be honest. I want to see a link to bottom-line results, real measurable business results. And that’s what drives me as an enablement leader. And also then it creates a much easier relationship with my sales managers because honestly, we’re on the same page.

SS: I think that’s perfect. And I want to come back to that point around kind of linking some of these efforts to performance. but let’s talk a little bit first about kind of the personal element of developing training and the importance of empathy.

You had mentioned at the Sales Enablement Soirée that it’s really important to leverage empathy when developing training. So, what are some best practices for ensuring that training programs are resonating with your audience?

GO: First and foremost, know who your audience is. Be aware of the calendar cadence of your company. It would be crazy for me to be scheduling trainings or anything of importance the last week of the month or week of the quarter, end of the year. So, I want to be mindful of timing first and foremost.

Secondly, when I think about empathy, it’s about understanding what’s in it for the people that I’m going to be providing a service to. From that point of view, I have a much better chance of delivering content with real value because it’s not about the content itself. Again, it’s about the outcome. So, I always coach myself and my subject matter experts. What is it that you would like for your audience to know or do as a result?

And if I find that the result that they’re looking for really has nothing to do with the audience and really more what they want to get out of it, then I can coach them into finding, is there really something that is a value for the sales organization? Or is this something that is really more what management needs? And sometimes you need to do that as well, but it enables me to frame it differently.

That’s really when I talk about empathy is, it’s not putting my function as an enablement leader before the needs of the sales organization or of the organization as a whole and really removing myself from the equation and leveraging the people that I’m supporting as much as possible. In many cases, really working with them and putting them in front and me and behind them, supporting them. And I found that to be a really great way to build good, empathetic, cross-functional empathy and collaboration because it really shouldn’t be about us as individual enablement leaders or enablement teams. We should almost be transparent to this organization that is really coming together and doing the work and you’re there facilitating it and really curating it for them.

SS: I love taking that lens through it. I think that especially with a sales audience, the whole “what’s in it for me” framework really often works well with them. In addition to that, how do you help ensure that the salespeople actually retain what is learned during a lot of these training and onboarding bootcamps?

GO: I think every topic is a little bit different in terms of how you can validate that they’ve come away with something or that they are actually going to have to do something. If it’s a tools training or a skills training, generally what I’ve found is, if you’re lucky enough to have enablement tools where you can, for example, if I’m launching a new messaging or deck that’s coming from marketing, having the sales reps be able to record themselves and then be coached on it. And then that’s phase one.

Then phase two is creating trackers in one of your recording tools, to be able to then validate that in the field on a prospect call, they are practicing those same principles that they are saying the words that we need them to say. That’s the in-field validation that means the most, because folks may or may not perform well in a curated environment, like a training environment. Their ability to do it really, really well in a session or in a recording to me may not necessarily translate to their ability to do it live on a call. That second validation where they’re doing it in the field is tremendously helpful.

And technology supports that a lot, because in the past we really needed to rely heavily on our sales managers because they’re the ones that are on these calls. Not all of them, but many of them. The problem with that is that when sales managers on calls, unless they are purposefully attending that call to be the observer and coach for their sales rep, they’re not really paying attention as much to that. And their focus is more on how do I move this deal forward? So, my ability to be able to listen to calls. Validate that they’re doing it. Provide coaching while the sales manager is doing their role, kind of enables us to work in parallel. That’s really how I currently manage.

And so, technology is incredibly valuable. There’s lots of ways that you can do it without, but it certainly makes a big difference and I feel accelerates our ability to get people where they need to be and validate that they’re actually doing it either through recording their screen when they’re doing demonstrations or giving them, “ Hey, I was on a call, I heard this objection. How would you handle it?” And then have them come back to you with that response. it needs to be experiential. It needs to be real. It needs to feel like something that the sales reps are going to be able to do and use. That’s how I like to validate that they’re actually doing it.

SS: Yeah. I think that that’s very valuable. And I also think, going back to what we were talking about, linking competency to performance improvement. I’d love to kind of just close out this conversation by understanding how you measure the success of your training programs.

GO: I think there’s two parameters. There’s my own personal validation that I’ve been successful if I’ve set out to build an onboarding program or put together learning series. So, there’s the basic function of enablement. Have I set up those frameworks? But the most important part and the part that I really work to focus on is actually the expected outcomes of the programs.

For every initiative that I put out, particularly the bigger ones, the smaller ones, not so much, what am I expecting to see as a result? And they should be hard metrics, whether it’s a reduction in ramp time or an increase in ARR. Or if you build a really strong onboarding program, I would like to be able to see a reduction in a regrettable turnover, right? Does my program have an impact on our attrition rate, good or bad?

For me, in a successful enablement program, I want to be able to see measurable impact on the business. Because like I’ve said, at the end of the day, the number of people that have been through an e-learning or the number of people that have sat through different webinars or trainings, those are important statistics to have, but they don’t mean anything if I can’t correlate those activities to real measurable business impact, that’s how I judge myself.

I am first and foremost always a salesperson. I started in sales and I never left. And so I have this love and passion for the profession and for the people that continue to do it. And that’s what drives me. I continue to be very focused on business results. And I aligned my program with that. That’s where actually I start.

SS: Well, I think that’s great advice for our audience. Thank you so much, Giorgia, for joining us today.

GO: It was my pleasure. 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’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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