Episode 70: Rebecca Bell on 4 Actionable Tips for Virtual 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 they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Rebecca Bell from IQVIA join us. Rebecca, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Rebecca Bell: Well, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. I’m Rebecca Bell, and I’m an associate director of global sales enablement to IQVIA. And I’ve spent a lot of years in sales and communications and in marketing, and I bring all that together in my role at IQVIA. And some of you may never have heard of IQVIA. I certainly hadn’t before I started talking to the company with a view to moving here about eight or nine months ago. IQVIA provides data as well as a lot of technology services to pharma companies. So, in today’s current climate, it’s probably in a very, very relevant space to help those life sciences and pharma companies help to achieve better outcomes for patients.

My role is I’m looking to help develop the team and the capabilities and solutions that we bring to our customers, so really help the sales teams understand the capabilities as well as ensure that we follow the right sort of sales processes and help them to develop their sales practices as well.

SS: Fantastic. Rebecca, I’m so excited you were able to join us. We’ve known each other now since the Sales Enablement Soirée in Europe last year, so I’m excited to get the chance to talk to you again. Thank you for joining us.

In a recent LinkedIn post, you had actually talked about, your experience primarily working remote for the past year, which you mentioned just a moment ago. In today’s current climate, that is a very important topic for many companies as they transition to remote work. I would love for you to give our audience some of your strategies for collaborating with your team and cross-functional partners virtually.

RB: Yeah, it’s a really interesting one because, I actually started working remotely probably about six or seven years ago, and I suddenly found it incredibly stressful being in an office.

And really, it’s about what your personality is like. Although I may come across as being relatively gregarious and extroverted, actually, I really like quiet time. So, in my working practices, I really like to be able to dig in, to be able to focus on what I’m working on and I don’t like to be distracted. Although we have lots and lots of calls, of course, we all do virtual meetings, the opportunity to work remotely has enabled me to do that. But I understand that not everyone’s the same.

So, to your question, how do you, enact the right strategies to collaborate across the team and also with all the people that I help and work with in my working day, it really is about understanding how people like to work. Some people find it really, really difficult to be on their own. We’re finding that some members of our team are really finding the move to remote working quite challenging, whereas others like me, enjoy that time. I think it’s about conversation. It’s about communication. It’s about understanding how people like to work.

I think the thing about our technologies these days is we’re always on, we’re ever-present. It’s almost overwhelming to sit at your desk and to look at your laptop and see the IMs coming in, the number of emails coming in, number of calls, text messages. And I think that the thing to understand is that everybody is different. So, there is not one strategy to collaborate with your team. It’s about trying to spend the time understanding how people like to work.

We’ve spent some time in IQVIA, and many of you might have done this in your own roles, doing things like DISC profiling, where you really understand what the key drivers are behind someone’s personality. We’ve applied this across our team and we understand that some people are more analytical, some people are more extroverts, some people love to talk, some people like silence. Doing things like that can really help you to understand using your team and how best to get out of the loop of getting work done across your team when everybody’s different.

SS: Absolutely. I love that you guys are taking that into account for all of your employees. Now, I want to talk a little bit about how sales enablement practitioners should go about effectively delivering programs in this new remote workforce. I think our audience could really use a few actionable tips from someone who’s been in this space and doing it for a while now.

RB: Yeah, and it’s super interesting. I spent nearly 10 years at Cisco, and as you would imagine, they have huge amounts of technologies and quite a very forward-thinking view on how to collaborate and how to enable a very diverse workforce. Going to different companies and working with different companies, both as a consultant and in moving into IQVIA, I really understand that the culture of the organization will really determine how the sales teams react.

In IQVIA, we have quite a lot of salespeople who still, primarily visit sales teams face to face or customers on-site. So, it’s quite challenging for them to suddenly be having to do their customer meetings and conversations remotely rather than visiting the customer on their premises. What we’re trying to understand is, how do these guys like to receive information? How do they like to get tips? How do they like to access information in real-time?

And certainly, the culture in IQVIA and the company that I’m in right now suggests a few things. Number one, whilst we all live in email, people hate emails. They don’t like to have really useful information buried in email, that’s for sure. They actually like to behave and to interact with short-form messaging and communication, be that text messaging, for example, or IM, or something similar. So, trying to really adapt to the fact that people like information in short, sharp bursts in this company is really important. As far as an actionable tip, don’t just kind of chuck up a ton of information at people, because they’ll really, really struggle to consume it.

The other thing I think is another tip for working with a remote workforce is really focus on that feedback loop. This kind of one-way dissemination of information and sending a lot of stuff out or putting lots of information into your learning repositories or your content repositories, that really won’t work as far as understanding what your field needs. We’re trying to spend quite a lot of time listening to feedback. And sometimes it’s a bit awkward to get people to start responding, but you have to be repetitive and you also have to be very responsive. So, when people do ask you questions, setting yourself a really tight SLA for getting back to people makes it clear that you’re there for them and that you’re listening. So, I think listening to feedback is the second one.

I think the third one is really finding the waterholes. So where are your salespeople hanging out for information? How are they communicating amongst themselves and to whom are they going for insights? And it’s not always what you think. We’re at the moment doing a transition. We’re primarily Microsoft house, and the majority of that is to do with compliance and the need for very careful, compliant communication and sharing of data. So, we’re not necessarily heavily cloud-based in a lot of the solutions that we use. What we find then is that we’ve had a very kind of standard approach to communication in a lot of ways. So, lots of email into people’s inboxes. And we’ve used Skype for a lot of years in this company. We’re now transitioning to Microsoft Teams, which I must say I’m super impressed by, as a platform for communication, for a platform for content sharing, and for getting projects moving really fast across multiple teams and people.

So, we want to try and use that as a kind of watering hole for our salespeople. And we understand that it’s going to take a bit of change management to get them there. But that’s I think the third area that I would suggest people really need to focus on. Find the watering hole, understand how and why people would want to communicate with you there.

And then the fourth area really is around innovation. The biggest enemy to successful programs is we’ve always done it this way. Particularly in a virtual world, I think people as they have in their own consumption of media, are really transitioning fast to short, sharp information. For example, more use of video. We’re transitioning away from very heavy, documents. I was reading a FAQ that I found online, which has 32 pages, and I was imagining that none of our sales team would particularly like to troll through that much content. So, really finding innovative, fresh ways of imparting information to our sales teams is very important.

So just to summarize those four areas into actionable tips for the team. Number one, keep it short. Number two, listen to feedback. Number three, find those water holes. And then number four, innovate.

SS: I love those four tips. Those are perfect, Rebecca. Now, I kind of want to round out this conversation in regard to remote work, but also a lot of the recent climate changes. How do you think that those will impact sales activity long-term and, more importantly for our audience, how do you think sales enablement can help address those changes?

RB: Yeah, I mean, this is so top of mind for me at the moment. Last week I was meant to be in Orlando at our global sales conference, which not surprisingly, like so many of our peers have had their events canceled or postponed. So, that event didn’t happen. We’ve had to pivot as a team to a virtual conference format, and we’ll be executing upon that in about one month’s time. It’s tiring for the team. We were focusing on getting a big global, physical event executed, and now we’re having to almost start again on a completely different format and learn a different format as well.

I think that it is a very important role. In fact, enablement is more important than ever in that we’ve got to work to assist our salespeople through what will be a transition that we don’t know how long this will take and we don’t know what the world will feel like, or the sales practice will feel like once the immediate crisis of this pandemic is over. I can only imagine that it will affect and change things in some ways for good. And therefore, I think the practice of sales enablement will need to change. I expect there’ll be far fewer physical events moving forward and people will have found solutions for problems like big sales conference just as we are right now. They’ll have to find a different solution or a different set of ways of doing things. I think if those are successful, it might change things forever.

So right now, I feel like sales enablement is really, really relevant to the success of the company moving forward. I thought we were anyway, but now today, with all that’s going on in the world, I feel like we’re even more relevant because we’re having to find solutions and new solutions for problems that didn’t exist a few weeks or months ago. I think that’s really important.

I think there’s a second thing that it’s really impacting with how we enable is tone of voice. I don’t know about you, but I had a ton of email into my inbox from every single person I’ve ever signed up to or accidentally registered my email with, and they’ve all got some comment to make. Some of them are trying to make profit out of this terrible situation we find ourselves in with this pandemic. And I think most companies need to think very, very carefully about their tone of voice right now. It’s not appropriate to be profiting out of a crisis. We should be helping our customers of course, that doesn’t mean that the sales process ends and that no one’s relevant or ready to buy. And certainly in the healthcare sector, which I’m part of with IQVIA, there’s still sales conversations happening every single day. So, things have not stopped at all. But I think we need to really be careful around the tone and how we encourage our salespeople to have appropriate conversations with their customers and their prospects right now, because the hard sell feels wildly inappropriate right now.

I’d just summarize on those two points. We’ve never been more relevant than we are today. But we need to encourage and help our salespeople to make this transition, and that also includes being careful and subtle about the messaging and the approaches that they use to their prospects.

SS: I couldn’t agree more, Rebecca. Thank you so much for touching on that definitely timely but sensitive topic with us. I appreciate it.

RB: It’s a 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, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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