Episode 71: Rebecca Bell on Customer Centricity in an Increasingly Virtual World

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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.

During that, there was a lot of conversation going on around how businesses have been adapting in recent years as sales becomes more digital and becomes more personalized and customer centric. In fact, that was a panel that you had moderated at the event. So, in your opinion, what does customer centricity look like today in sales?

RB: Wow. Well, I mean, I think the customer centricity point is one that’s not just about the customer that you’re approaching, but also about the person that you’re approaching or the people that you’re interacting with at that customer. And that means a heavy sense of personalization according to exactly who you’re talking about.

Marketers, I think, are really used to the idea of personas and thinking about their campaigns from a persona perspective. But I have a bit of an allergy to the word persona because it doesn’t sound very real. It sounds very kind of fabricated. It sounds like there isn’t a real, living, breathing person at the end of that thinking. And I think when you’re talking about sales, you have to think about the living, breathing person at the end of that conversation.

So, when it comes to customer centricity, it’s personalization to the power of one. It’s thinking exactly about the drivers of that individual within that company and how they interact with others within that company. And really thinking very carefully about the hierarchy, thinking about the order of things, thinking about the sales process and who’s going to be involved or who’s going to be influencing whom throughout that process. That’s what I mean by customer centricity.

And maybe IQVIA’s a bad example, since we really do focus on the life sciences industry as a sector. But when I worked at Cisco, for example, clearly core networking and collaboration and data center technology was relevant across every single customer sector. So, every single industry had challenges in this area. That kind of personalization didn’t really get beyond industry types or customer types. But I think it’s easier as we start to think about personalization. Certainly, when you dig into one industry, it’s really key to think about the individuals who are playing a part there.

So, that’s part of the work that we’re really trying to do at IQVIA now with our enablement is thinking very carefully about the individual and encouraging our salespeople to do that too. That’s the bit where you can both make a connection on the basis of understanding that individual and what their drivers are, but also of course, to knit together solutions that help meet some of their problems.

SS: I love that. And I love that perspective on personas, just coming out of the marketing realm myself, so that is a very good lens by which to look at it through. I think you talked about this a little bit, but I think on that front, buyers really have shifted expectations. I think that there are a lot of higher expectations when it comes to personalized outreach, specifically from the sales team. So, what do salespeople need to be more effective in engaging customers in today’s day and age?

RB: Well, I mean, I would probably have given a different answer to this than I might give today because engaging customers entirely virtually as we all are now is a really interesting task. And particularly, as I mentioned earlier in the sense of IQVIA’s sales force, often
that practice was visiting our customers in the office space, on their premises. And now they’re trying to make connections virtually. And that’s different.

Some salespeople are finding that transition okay and fairly straightforward. Of course, we all use a lot of virtual meeting technologies in our day-to-day when we’re not meeting with customers. So, maybe they’re finding that transition fine. Others are finding it hard to make the connection.

Even tactics around turning on your video when you’re using a video conferencing capability, the ability for somebody to see the whites of your eyes, to see the expression on your face, to understand the kind of the passion and the concern with which you’re addressing their problems, those are some of the things that we’re trying to encourage our salespeople to leverage right now.

And it seems super simple, but it depends on the culture. Some cultures in some companies find that more difficult. Some people don’t do that as a matter of course. So, even working out how to engage customers in an age of virtual connection I think is very, very different than a month ago or two months ago when we thought nothing of calling on the customer in their office. I think that’s the first hurdle to get over is how do you engage with the customer?

And then the second one is how do you therefore become adept at personalizing the message and engaging with their particular care-abouts and their interests and their needs when we’ve got multiple people joining on the call. It’s really difficult. I mean, we find it on a conversation like this where it’s just you and I talking, sometimes you might interrupt one another. Whereas if you’ve got four or five people with the customer on a video conference and you’re trying to present and you’ve got bunch of questions coming in, it’s actually quite awkward. It’s more difficult to do that actually than it is in a meeting space where everybody can see who’s about to talk.

So, there are tactics that actually make it hard to engage with an individual remotely. And I think those are other reasons why you want to do things like sending video and making sure that you understand what the key objectives are and understand what people really want out of a meeting ahead of time. I mean, these are very simple things to suggest, but they can sometimes make these virtual engagements more effective, and answer some of those personalized queries and problems.

SS: Absolutely. Now I want to talk a little bit more about how sales enablement specifically can help the teams they support be more customer centric. I would love for some specific ways that you’ve done this through your enablement programs in the past.

RB: Yeah. So, I think we’re quite guilty in sales enablement as an industry of churning out content. And so actually being customer centric means listening more, getting feedback. I mean, I just had a conversation with one of my sales leaders and we were talking about a meeting that he’d had with a large customer where they were introducing a new capability. I said to him, “you know what I really want to know is, how did the customer react to these messages?” Because we are sort of needing to stress test this. How do individual customers react? And therefore, how can we make sure that we’re customer centric in our message development and our evolution? He said, “you’re right, I meant to do your write up and say what the response was and what the reaction was to certain words and certain phrases and certain messages that he used in that pitch.”

Those are some of the simple techniques I think the sales enablement need to enact to be more customer centric. And that is to create the feedback loop. Not just about salespeople saying what they need, but also salespeople describing what customers need. Salespeople describing the customer’s reaction to our key messaging. Salespeople identifying where the gaps are. And only when we create that ongoing feedback loop, are we able to be customer centric in the content we provide.

Because when I hear customer centric, I think of two customers. One is my internal customers. The people that I serve with the stuff that we do, programs that we deliver, content that we create. But also, the end customer. So, how do we create the context whereby we can react to what customers need from us and that we can equip the salesperson to share that with them in a way that really makes an impact. So, I feel like we’ve got to think about it through to lenses because we’ve got two sets of customers here. One is our internal audience and then their external audience of serving the end customer here.

By the way, in the case of many industries, you’ve also then got your customer’s customer, which in my case, it’s a pharma company, a drug company who are producing stuff that’s then consumed by patients. So, we’ve got to think also about how they then deliver that benefit to the end customer too. It’s thinking about it through all of those lenses and not just being satisfied with kind of a once and done tick, “I’ve created this asset now onto the next”. It’s the evolution of content related to those pieces of customer feedback that I think will make enablement people like myself increasingly relevant.

SS: I love that and thank you for those very specific examples. Now, in closing, I would love for you to share with our audience how you envision sales enablement evolving in the next year and beyond.

RB: I think what is obvious is that we are moving to a much more virtual world, even on a semi temporary basis. As I used as an example earlier, practices that we’ve relied on – face-to-face events, kickoffs, trainings – those things don’t happen anymore in that same format. So, enablement people need to become increasingly adept at using technology that they have at their fingertips. We need to be able to deliver things in a virtual fashion. And those are harder to do.

It’s wonderful when you’ve got people in an event and you’re able to deliver wonderful impact on the main stage and entertain people and have guest speakers come in and wow people with wonderful video and fantastic hospitality. But when someone’s sitting behind their laptop as I am now, how do you keep people engaged? It’s really hard. So, I think the things I would say would be, we’re moving to a virtual world. Be prepared that virtual is probably going to be the primary media, at least for a few months.

The second thing is the use of the technology, therefore, in order to create experiences. And then the third thing would be creativity creates those experiences. So, enablement people need to think really, really hard and try really, really hard to deliver that impact. And that means amplifying everything. It’s everything on steroids. It means every presenter needs to be much more animated. It means content needs to be much more creatively thought through. It means formats need to be shorter, pithier. They need to be consumed in ways that we already consume content in our social media, and we’ve got to apply those types of techniques and tactics even more so in this virtual world.

So, I don’t really know what next year and beyond looks like, but I would imagine that those are the three areas that I need to start focusing more on with my team in order to create that engagement and that attention with our salespeople to help them be successful.

SS: Thank you so much, Rebecca. I really appreciate you joining us today and sharing your experience and expertise with our audience. Thank you.

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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