Episode 72: Sheevaun Thatcher on Pivoting to Virtual Sales Enablement Programs

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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 Sheevaun Thatcher from RingCentral join us. Sheevaun, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Sheevaun Thatcher: Sure. I’m Sheevaun Thatcher and I’m the head of global sales and growth enablement at RingCentral. I’ve been there about three years, created the enablement program from scratch, and now I have an amazing team that’s in support of all the enablement programs at RingCentral.

And RingCentral is an application, a tool, if you will, that allows people to message, call, meet, engage – all in the cloud. It’s not on premises. And it’s a wonderful application. We use it for everything we do in enablement.

SS: Well, Sheevaun, I’m so glad that you’re able to join us right now. And I think just kind of given the background of your organization and kind of the current climate of what’s going on right now, sales enablement is evolving with a lot of need for digital technology. On LinkedIn you shared a post about how RingCentral is starting to address this remote work situation by providing virtual onboarding. I’d love for you to talk to our audience about what this virtual onboarding program looks like now.

ST: Sure. So, our onboarding program is made up of three pieces. A fair amount of it is already virtual, and it’s done with self-learning and whatnot. So, what we call our pre-work, which is what we call “Fight Club Foundations”, the foundations work is all self-learning. And then we have the instructor-led. And until a couple of weeks ago, instructor-led was everybody coming into a single location and having a week of face-to-face, very intense, lots of roleplaying, lots of interactivity, and the end result being at the end of the week, a stand and deliver, so to speak. And so it’s very much involved in that.

And of course, as we all know, the shelter-in-place came down, and so we had a very short amount of time to update our instructor-led training to go from a live face-to-face to live streaming. So, the woman that’s in charge of it at RingCentral, her name is Melissa, and Melissa is likely one of the most creative people I’ve seen when it comes to doing these. Within a week, she created a program that not only took all of the role playing, all the interactivity, and made it live-stream capable, but she also did something else, which I thought was just amazing.

And that was, she created a box, essentially a FedEx box that went out to all the participants that included the normal swag they would normally get if they were coming into the location. But it also included a separate surprise bag per day. So, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. In each of these surprise bags, it had something in it that had to do with whatever the lessons were for that particular day.

On the first day when they started out, everybody opened up their Monday and inside the bag were beads, like New Orleans beads, and the beads were different colors. She used that to say, what color bead did you get? And based on the color bead you got, tell me something about your life that the color reminds you of. So, it immediately got them involved.

From there, she had things like balloons. On the day that they did an objection handling, normally there are a couple of chairs at the front of the room and they take turns beating each other out and jumping into the chair and all that kind of stuff. Instead, she sent them all little chalkboards, and so they wrote their thing and showed it on the screen. The fact that one of the hardest things to do, and I’m sure everybody in enablement knows this, is to be able to keep people’s attention when you’re live streaming. She had their attention the whole time.

And then on the last day, as I said, which is the day when we do the stand and delivers, we’ve always done them where the managers attended remotely and so that didn’t change much. But what it did do is it showed us very clearly that even though it wasn’t face-to-face, the live streaming was still very, very effective. It takes the right enablement person with the right level of energy and the right creativity to keep people involved.

SS: Oh, I love some of those creative ideas that you just covered. I think that those are fantastic ideas and keeping your new hires engaged. So, that’s amazing. And the fact that she pulled that together so quickly is very impressive.

ST: I mean, my message to her and her boss’ message to her was, “look, we’re not looking for perfect. We’re not looking for great. All we’re looking for is good. Just make it good.” And she made it great. It wasn’t perfect, there were a couple of bumps, but she made it great. And the feedback from the folks that took it was very similar to the feedback we’ve received when she’s done the live face-to-face in the same room. So, the ability to have breakout rooms, for example, and have them be able to break out into small groups while they’re live streaming was critical to what we did to make sure that the role playing and the interactivity was maintained as well.

SS: I love that. I love that. Now, you alluded to this a bit, that there are obviously challenges when you shift to a more virtual-based environment. Perhaps you could talk to our audience a little bit about some of those challenges and things that you guys are also putting in place to overcome some of those.

ST: So, there are a few things. The first thing is, we are having a lot of contact. We’re contacting and getting in touch with each other more than we did in the past. Every day I check in with my team and see how they’re doing. How are your families, how are your friends, always checking in because you don’t know what people are dealing with. We’re dealing with our own personal situations. We’re dealing with our professional situations, and it can be very, very focused on ourselves. And as leaders and enablement folks, we need to not only get involved with our enablement teams, but we need our enablement teams to get involved with the sellers as well.

In the past, we’ve done a lot of live streaming like we’re doing here, but what we’re doing now is we’re insisting that people turn the cameras on. I’ve had a couple of folks, of course, they’re like, “Oh, I look horrible.” And I’m like, you don’t look any worse than anybody else. Trust me. And in fact, I find it even more engaging when I’m on with folks and you see them and a child wanders through the room, or a dog barks or a cat insists on getting attention, or a husband walks through in underwear. I haven’t had that, but I’m sure you’ve all seen that clip on Facebook, right? So it is really engaging and I think it’s really brought us a whole lot closer together, to understand that this is what’s happening for all of us, and to be able to just keep moving forward, right? Life doesn’t end. The world doesn’t end because of this. We will come out the other side. And it’s making sure that you think of everybody just kind of virtually holding hands and saying, we’ll get through this. You’re not alone.

SS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, in addition to virtual onboarding, what are some of the other enablement initiatives or programs that you guys are beginning to shift to a more virtual-based delivery?

ST: So, the QBRs, right? When you have QBRs or you have the meetings that they normally get together with, we have to have them virtual now. So, preparation for it is a little bit more involved because again, you have to be able to keep people’s attention. In the past, you’ve just gotten into a room and you have regular breaks and everybody gets to stand up and do their thing. Now, we have to work with them to make sure, number one, the PowerPoints they’re creating are good PowerPoints, right? Now more than ever, you need to make sure that your PowerPoint is engaging, that people will actually get something out of it. So, that’s critical.

Making sure that your talk tracks are controlled so that you’re not going on and on and on and on, because you’ll lose people. It has to be to the point, it has to be engaging. Cameras have to be on. Then you have to have a set agenda. That’s the other thing – if you don’t have an agenda and you don’t stick to the agenda, things will go off track fairly quickly. It’s a lot easier to maintain that if you’re all in the same room. It’s a lot harder to do that if people are watching. You have to have regular breaks so people can get up and move around. Right? Now, we are sitting in our chairs more than we ever have, and it’s really important.

The other thing is we tell people we don’t care where you do it from. If you want to do it from your backyard, if you want to do it from a desk, if you want to do it in some other location, that’s fine. Follow all the rules, but do it wherever you feel comfortable.

SS: Now, the last question that I wanted to ask you on this front was originally going to be around the metrics and how are you measuring that the shift to virtual environments is working well for enablement. But I also think I’d like to expand on that a little bit and just talk about all the ways in which enablement can show its inherent value to organizations right now, if organizations are struggling with this potential change management within their organization as they move to a more remote workforce. I’d love your perspective on that in its entirety.

ST: So, we’re doing a number of things. We’ve always done a fairly good job, but now it is making it much more purposeful on how we are interacting with people and how we’re helping them understand. In my team, especially, we’ve done a lot of work from home, right? A lot of remote. And our jobs enable us to do that. So, we’re used to this. We’re not used to being locked down, but we are used to working remotely. What we’re finding is a lot of the teams that support us and support the salespeople don’t have that experience. So, we are helping them understand how best to do things, how to get up every morning and get dressed anyway. Don’t do it in your pajamas, right? Make yourself feel like you are actually at work as opposed to just sitting in a different chair.

We are teaching them again about the PowerPoints, how to make the PowerPoints right. We’re teaching them how to use the tools that are there. How do you take the best advantage of RingCentral meetings? How do you do breakouts? How do you do whiteboarding? How do you record them? How do you share it? How do you make sure that you get people’s attention? All of that is something that we can share in the way of the programs that we’ve got.

Again, our programs haven’t changed that much because we’ve always delivered them pretty much in a remote type of fashion. But it is, again, how many times we ask questions. We teach people when you’re doing web delivery, for example, that you need to ask questions on almost every slide you’re presenting. You’ve got to make sure people are still paying attention and you do that by getting them engaged. So, it’s teaching them the interactivity of the tools. It is teaching them to use the tools. It’s making sure that they turn on their cameras. It’s teaching them what type of hardware and software they need to purchase in order to make it the best, right? So, for example, I’ve got a hanging mic that I use when I’m talking now because I’m doing a lot of talking as opposed to just using my headphones, right?

There’s a lot of different things that you can do. Lots of sharing, a lot of successes. Every time we have a success in one of the programs, we share it out. There is a lot of activity going when it comes to things like online happy hours. My team did that. We took a snapshot of it. I published it all over LinkedIn, published it on the internal websites. One of my guys over in the UK was a UK junior champion at chess. And so, he is taking his lunch hour teaching people around the world how to play chess. Right? It’s things like that. It’s getting people involved and understanding that there’s still a lot of things that you can do, even though you may be sheltering in place.

SS: I love that. Thank you so much, Sheevaun, for taking that detour and talking to us about kind of the latest and greatest going on right now.

ST: It was my pleasure. Thank you very much. And stay safe.

SS: Oh, absolutely. You as well. And same 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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