Episode 83: Stacey Justice on Building Alignment with Sales Leaders

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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 Stacey Justice, vice president of sales strategy and enablement from Workfront join us. Stacey, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your title, and your organization to our audience.

Stacey Justice: Hi, Shawnna. Thanks for having me. And I’m excited to be here. My name is Stacy Justice and I’m the vice president of sales strategy and enablement for Workfront. Workfront is an enterprise work management company and our mission is to help people do great work, no matter the circumstances. I’m proud to say that we have more than 4,000 companies as customers, including the world’s largest and most well-known brands. We help them do their work better.

A little background on myself: I joined Workfront about six years ago, and previous to that, I held positions in marketing leadership with a focus on sales enablement. When I joined Workfront, I started building and creating the sales enablement and strategy team here. And we are embedded within the sales team, which I think has made a big impact in terms of our effectiveness. We’re focused on really building a best-in-class enterprise sales team, helping our sales team overachieve their quotas, and ultimately, yearn for success.

SS: Well, fantastic. Stacey, I’m super excited to have you here to talk to our audience today. So, thank you so much for joining us. You were actually recently included in a list of 100 sales enablement best practices, and in that, you mentioned that it’s important for sales enablement practitioners to put sales leadership first. In your opinion, why is that partnership with sales leadership so critical to sales enablement success?

SJ: Yeah, I am a firm believer that sales enablement doesn’t work if leadership isn’t part of the solution. So, I’ll give you an example, and kind of how my team approaches this. Last year, my team rolled out a program to help the sales teams build more effective account plans. The program included typical sales enablement program training, online coaching, delivering an account plan to their peers, feedback from peers, enablement managers. It was what you would consider a really solid enablement program.

The follow-through, however, was in my opinion, the most important part of that. And that follow through included leadership ensuring that the reps we’re accountable to then go on and create account plans to leverage the skills, leverage the discipline, leverage everything that they learned in that program to just be better at that, to be more focused on digging into an account and understanding the strategy, the growth strategy, the champion strategy, the development that comes from that.

And I firmly believe that it was successful because of leadership engagement and because they were part of the process and part of the program in terms of really understanding what did we need to improve from an account plan development perspective and how could that take it forward?

SS: I think that that’s fantastic and really great advice. For those sales enablement professionals, though, that don’t already have a strong partnership with sales leaders, I think building trust can be a challenge across the board with anyone. How can sales enablement practitioners overcome that challenge and strengthen their relationship with the leadership team?

SJ: I think you have to take the time to understand what matters to the sales leaders. Over the course of my career. I’ve seen a lot of sales enablement professionals push their agendas with sales leaders. You have to remember that sales managers and reps’ livelihood relies on them making their quota. So, if you work with them to understand what their challenges are, and you make it clear that their success drives your success and your partnership and your programs, you can stay aligned with those goals better. And you’ll be on your way to building a solid partnership.

SS: I think that that’s really great. I think working with the leadership team closely is critical to sales enablement. What are some best practices for gaining buy-in from sales leaders for your sales enablement initiatives?

SJ: I’ve found three things that are critical to getting buy-in from them. The first is building that relationship and I do that by treating them as my number one customer. And the second is to take the time to listen to them. Like I said, understand their challenges, what are they facing every day? Honestly, spending time on a regular basis to just understand that helps.

And then third, which brings all of that together is making them part of the solution. So, working with them when you’re building a program, communicating with them before you roll out a program, telling them what you’re doing, what do you expect their reps to do? How is this going to help them? And then what can they do to ensure that it continues that their success with the program — that it’s not just, quite frankly, a one and done sort of element that just becomes a waste of time.

SS: Absolutely. I think frontline management, especially frontline sales leaders are super critical to supporting enablement efforts. You had also talked about the importance of enabling frontline managers to better support their teams. And I think you said you do this by “coaching the coaches”. I think that coaching is a very hot topic in sales enablement. And I think our audience would love to understand some tactical ways that you train your frontline managers to be more effective coaches.

SJ: Yeah, so we have a defined operating rhythm for our frontline team. The operating rhythm provides the direction on what they need to be doing every single week. So, it defines how often do I have one-on-ones with my reps? How often do I do a pipeline review call? How often do I do a forecast review call and the like? And then we coach them on another layer to help them execute a best-in-class element and execute best-in-class for each area of that operating rhythm.

For example, we worked with our leaders to create an agenda that standardizes what a weekly pipeline review meeting with each rep should look like. And then we took that agenda and we trained all of our leadership on how to run those calls and specifically then how to coach their reps through those calls. So, how do I take what I’m learning from my rep, if they’re struggling with creating pipeline, and how do I set goals with them? How do I follow up on those goals? What can really help? How do I get agreement from the rep that those goals matter?

By doing that, it helps all of their reps be more focused on what they need to do. For example, to build pipeline. It also helps the manager to have confidence in kind of what’s coming back because they’ve got agreement between themselves and the rep in terms of building it. That’s one example within our operating rhythm. But when we look at that, there are other elements. How do I have a successful one-on-one? How do I relate with my rep? A lot of times, what I see from frontline managers is they get kind of tied down into the end of a process or an end of a deal. And they help with the strategy negotiation and the frontline might be missed. We focus a lot on just helping them get in and coaching to help throughout that entire process. And that’s kind of one way that we do it.

SS: Absolutely. One thing I have heard from a lot of other sales enablement practitioners that are really trying to crack the nut on coaching is that it’s not just something that someone can do in a 30-minute block. Often, true coaching occurs over an extended amount of time and in real-time. How does coaching, from your perspective, differ from the other types of meetings that you mentioned just a moment ago, such as pipeline reviews and one-on-ones? How can managers ensure that they’re still able to address the pipeline reviews and the one-on-ones and the things that need to be covered, but also make sure that they’re spending adequate amounts of time doing coaching?

SJ: That’s a really great question. I think the biggest thing is that coaching can occur inside of those meetings, but coaching happens all of the time. When I think about what good coaching looks like, I look at it and say, good coaching is ongoing and consistent. So, it doesn’t just happen in those weekly meetings. It happens in the car in between client appointments. It happens on an airplane. It happens over lunch. Coaching should always be happening and it shouldn’t be complicated, if that makes sense.

I think sometimes we get into this and think there are a lot of coaching methodologies and there are a lot of ways you can approach it. But I think the simplest thing is just having open dialogue with each of the reps and a culture that supports that feedback. I also think that it is based on goals and the follow-up. There’s an element of providing feedback, which is part of coaching, but I also think there’s an element of circling back and understanding and kind of looking at what progress that person is making.

I think that’s one of the reasons that you’re speaking to the fact that it happens over time. Good coaching shows progress. It shows development. And if it’s not happening consistently, if there aren’t goals, if there isn’t a level of accountability that comes from it, then I just don’t think that you see that progress. To me, that’s the fundamental part of coaching.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Since you brought it up, I think a lot of sales enablement practitioners are struggling to understand what good coaching looks like. I think it’s because we are so metrics-driven just as organizations in today’s day and age, that we want to know what metrics represent good coaching, or indications of good coaching. I’d love to understand how you measure the success of good coaching.

SJ: I think good coaching actually shows up in the numbers. I’ll give you an example. When we look at this and we’re coaching reps and, I’ll go back to the pipeline example, we have a rep who’s struggling with creating pipeline, it’s breaking it down into what is the best next action that you should take to improve it. And I think if we’re looking forward and saying, if we make the mistake to look forward and look at the bigger picture and say, “you’re only at X percent of 50% coverage, you need to be at 300%”, that’s kind of daunting. But if you look at it from what is the best next action, and that best next action could be in a week saying, “you know what? I think what you should focus on is going out and finding two more contacts within your top three accounts that you can reach out to or setting up two onsite meetings in the next week”. And you take that step by step and look at those best next actions. I think that really helps.

SS: I love those suggestions. I think those are very actionable for our audience. Those are fantastic. Now, in closing, aside from coaching, what are some of the other ways that you partner with sales managers and really make them a part of the enablement process? And how can sales leaders and frontline managers help to scale the success of sales enablement programs?

SJ: First, leaders are my number one customer and my team’s number one customer. We work with them to create the programs and they’re aligned with everything we do. And I think that is a true key in it. There’s always an element of hesitation from sales leadership that someone’s going to come in and they’re not that frontline rep. And so, they may lack that level of credibility or whatever. Making them a customer, helping them understand that you’re delivering to them what they need to be successful helps. We help their reps get better when we rely on their input to identify areas where they need to improve. So, it becomes a true partnership.

Also, it goes back and it’s almost like a symbiotic relationship where we’re providing them input in terms of what we also see across the entire field. I think sales enablement has a unique perspective because you work across every single team. By delivering that level of value to the leaders, as well as pulling from them, what they need, this relationship can kind of coexist and you can provide value to each other. That’s how I think the programs improve, the relationships improve, and you can be more successful together.

SS: Right. I love that. And thank you so much, Stacey, for joining our podcast today. I really appreciate your time.

SJ: 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.

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