Episode 81: Jennifer Wahl on Best Practices for Professional Services 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 really excited to have Jenn Wahl from Informatica join us. Jenn, I’d love for you to just introduce yourself to our audience.
Jenn Wahl: Hi, everybody. I’m Jenn Wahl. I’m the director of enablement for professional services at Informatica.
SS: Jenn, as I was just telling you, I’m super excited to have you here for our audience today given your particular focus in services enablement. I would love to understand from you, what does an enablement function need to include in order to best serve the professional services department? And from your perspective, why is it important to have enablement specifically focused on professional services?
JW: I think what you should bring to the role of professional services enablement is really a creative spirit and the ability to drive innovation. Professional services is a little bit different than the sales and presales enablement function. And the fact that we are customer-facing, we are high-revenue producing for the company, but the role is highly technical. These are the individuals who are coming in often onsite to a customer location and interfacing with the customer and ensuring the fact that what the customer was looking to have delivered is exactly what they want. With that in mind, the enablement is a little bit of sales, a little bit of presales, and a whole lot of professional services.
SS: I love that. What is the impact of segmenting enablement activities between pre and post-sales, from your perspective and in your experience at Informatica?
JW: It’s really important to bring all the different organizations together. At Informatica, we actually have a group of enablement professionals who are responsible for sales and presales. And then we also have a group responsible for customer enablement. Then my team is responsible for professional services enablement. So, the linkage or the interactivity and the community that we create has to stay highly connected and engaged with each other because we leverage each other’s resources.
I’ll give you an example. The sales organization just recently did a sales kickoff. It was phenomenal. Out of that came the latest messaging and positioning for the sales organization. So, presales is going to use that, and professional services uses that because we all need to ensure the fact that we’re sharing the Informatica product set and the solutions that we’re offering in all the same context. So, by sharing those resources, we ensure that continuity.
SS: Absolutely, and I think you’re spot on – that continuity will provide the customer with a more seamless experience throughout their entire journey with your organization.
I think that’s absolutely critical. I would love though for you to dive in, because you obviously have an expansive background in many different types of sales enablement, including sales, partner, and technical services. I would love for you to explain to our audience who may not have experience in some of these other areas, how does your approach to enablement differ for each one of those audiences?
JW: It’s really important that you understand what the outcome of what it is that you’re trying to do from an enablement perspective for a sales persona. You want to ensure the fact that they’re confident in front of the customer, that they understand what they’re offering to the customer and the business value.
When you look at a professional services individual, they’re usually consultants or principals, they’re working with the customer to understand what it is that they’ve purchased, how it’s going to align with their business objectives, and ensuring the fact that they’re talking up the business value of what it is that they’re doing for the customer. So, not from a technical perspective, so that way you’re alleviating the concerns that customer might have related to, “what is this going to do to my environment? How is this going to help my data?” And so forth and so on.
So, in a lot of ways, to dovetail the enablement aspect ensures the fact that whoever is communicating to the customer, regardless of where they sit in the sales cycle, is in the right, in the right way, to ensure the fact that they give the customer confidence in what it is that they purchased as well as confidence in the partnership that they’re establishing with the firms that they’re purchasing from.
SS: Fantastic. And I want to go back to what you alluded to just a moment ago. But I want to dive a little bit deeper and understand from you specifically, how does professional services enablement help enhance the customer experience?
JW: So, when you purchase a SaaS solution from Informatica, you’ve worked with your salesperson. You’ve developed that rapport; you’ve cut that state of work. And then all of a sudden, you have this team of individuals who’s coming in and implementing that solution. So, the fact that these are highly trained individuals in the technology is one, because that drives customer satisfaction levels. They know what it is that they’re implementing.
Number two, the customer gets a sense that they’ve made the right decision in their purchasing because the individuals who’ve come in are professional, articulate, and can communicate with the customer about what’s transpiring. That all comes back to the customer satisfaction survey. Were they happy? What was deployed? Not necessarily what they bought, but what actually they’ve received.
So, with that in mind, that level of competency for that professional service person drives all of those elements, because if you have a bad experience with your implementation, it reflects that you don’t have a good experience with the company. The fact that professional services drives a lot of revenue and the potential for additional pipeline, it really is paramount to that customer satisfaction level.
SS: Absolutely. Like I said, I could not agree more. Now, I want to pivot and just talk a little bit because obviously Informatica is a very data-driven company. How does data play a role in the enablement programs that you deliver?
JW: Oh, we use data and all kinds of ways. We use it specifically within our LMS system. We use it to assess what our success rate is, what our retention rate is, in addition to the level of technical competency. That information actually goes to our resource management office, our RMO. So, they actually know who to assign as a resource to a particular project based on their technical competency. We use it in that way.
In addition to that, we use it from a partner perspective. So, the amount of enablement that a partner consumes is actually recorded in our LMS system, as well as our partner program.
And that determines what level of competency that partner might have. We can partner up with them for implementations around the world.
Then last but not least, we also ensure the fact that the quality of the delivery of the enablement itself is actually evaluated. That data feeds back into our infrastructure to determine, should we take a different approach to our learning? We’re starting to do that right now in the sense that we’re moving to nano and microlearning, because we got feedback that our training was too dense, too depth oriented. We need to break it up into more manageable, interactive chunks.
In addition to that, offering peer-to-peer learning opportunities through community settings so that they can share their best practices, taking the tribal and actually putting it into a means in which other people can consume it quickly, because creating enablement takes time. However, using the latest tools and resources, podcasts, for instance, communities, and nano and microlearning, you have the ability to put in just-in-time information into the hands of the individuals who need it faster.
SS: My ears perked up when he started talking about nano and microlearning, because I think that is a very hot topic across to enablement in general. And a lot of people are trying to figure out if it makes a lot of sense for them, for their organizations. So, I’d love to ask the question in two parts. One, how did this surface within your organization as something that the organization could benefit from? Then two, how did you go about structuring the program and rolling it out so that way you got broad adoption?
JW: In terms of why we’re doing it, we’re a global organization. There’s a lot of disconnectedness amongst what we’re doing in one theater versus another theater. We have some phenomenal best practices that are coming out of the field. And quite frankly, the individuals who have that best practice in their head, if you ask them, “Hey, can you work with me to develop a training session?” They’re like, “I’m a billable service. If I’m out of the field, I’m not creating revenue for the company. Would love to help you, Jenn, but not going to happen.” I said, “okay, if I get on the phone with you and we record a Zoom and you can share with me your best practices, can you do that? I just need 20 minutes.” Then the answer is absolutely. So, I’ve gone from, “no, I cannot do this” to “I’ve got 20 minutes”. Then essentially scripting out for them, let’s talk about what we’re going to get out of this conversation and ensure the fact that we can offer it to the field. So, that’s one flavor.
Another flavor is we use Yammer. We’re just introducing that into our professional services organization, because we get a lot of questions from the field about “how did you do X?” “How did you do Y?” This way, individuals are posting to Yammer. And from there, they’re actually getting the fields’ responses. “Hey, this is how I did it once before. This is how I did it again. Here’s the document that I used.” That’s another way.
We’re also moving to incorporate our trainings, which are four days of the technical training, to break it up in a modular fashion with two, 10-minute sessions. So, that way professional services, they don’t have 40 hours that they could dedicate. They’re getting things when they can. So, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks and making it referenceable. I attend a session on a product that I don’t deploy for six months. I have the ability to go into those modules and say, “how was I supposed to do this” rather than consuming all the training again.
We’re also looking to adopt decision trees. We’re using them in the same way. You’re starting at a piece of the implementation process and you say, “I forgot what I’m supposed to do here”, click. And it says what you’re supposed to do there. That’s another way in which we’re going to be using it.
Then also using simulations where we actually spin up live instances and using those as well.
So, we’re really evolving the way in which our delivery mechanism is going to be totally different from a lecture-based to more interactive learning to, can I get what I need just-in-time?
SS: I love that. And I think that those are phenomenal, solid examples of exactly how you’re going about doing that for the professional services industry. I am, if you haven’t already guessed this, going to ask the same question though, about the peer-to-peer learning project that you’ve been working on that you just mentioned. It’s also something that I think is of high interest across the enablement function in general.
But I’d love to learn specifically for professional services enablement, how have you gone about structuring the peer-to-peer learning program? What are some lessons learned, things that maybe haven’t gone so well, and then the things that you’re seeing really work well with it?
JW: Right now, I’m in the midst of what Informatica calls a “wave event.” A wave event is where we train and enable our professional services organization. We actually bring them on location, but we’re starting to have to adapt because of everything that’s happening right now. For Bangalore, we’re doing two sessions in which we’re going to be delivering those via virtual learning. So, it’s live instructor-led, interactive, but we’re also ensuring the fact that we’ve got subject matter experts also part of those sessions. Even though they’re remote for the North America sessions, we’re adopting the sessions even more.
We’re moving from product-based training to use case training. And using individuals who are in the professional services organization to tag team instruct. There are these instructors, the information’s coming from them, and my team, the enablement team is acting more as a facilitator, ensuring the fact that the content delivery is engaging and informative. It’s not blah-blah-blah lecture, lecture, lecture. There are interactive aspects to it, where you get a little bit of information, then you discuss information as a group and do something with it.
This is very new for Informatica. We’ll be doing four sessions in parallel on four separate use cases, all using subject matter experts as the instructors. So, for anybody who is asking questions or want more in-depth information, these are the people who actually implemented the solution. Then we’re going to record that, package it up.
Then also after the session, there is an eight-week, incremental training, three hours per week that builds on that level of expertise in which there’ll be advisors for the team who are building out the implementation so that they can go to and say, “I’m stuck. I need some assistance. I need a best practice here.” And so they’re providing that level of information. As enablement, we’re orchestrating, but we’re also stepping back and saying, we’ll help you facilitate, but we actually want the knowledge to come out of the subject matter experts who are coming out of the field.
SS: I love that. Thank you for letting me take a little bit of a tangent, but you mentioned two really exciting areas for our audience, so I knew they would want me to drill a little bit. Thank you for letting me do that.
Jenn, in closing, the final question for you going back to that previous data question, what are some of the key ways in which you measure the business impact of professional services enablement within your organization today?
JW: It all comes down to the customer satisfaction. When the customer fills in that report, they’re not only evaluating Informatica as a whole and the solution that was delivered. They’re also evaluating the individuals who are delivering it. So, when you work that backwards, the level of skill, their ability to have a conversation from a business value perspective with the customer is paramount. If the customer doesn’t feel like they have an advocate within that implementation process, we failed. So, in terms of measuring the success of the enablement, it’s to ensure that the professional services individuals come in confident, well-prepared, able to communicate, and work with the customer to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution to their problem.
SS: I love that. And I think that that’s a great objective, Jenn. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it and enjoyed our conversation.
JW: I enjoyed it too. So, thank you very much.
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.