Episode 94: Murt Hussain on Enabling the Business Development Engine

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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 trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Murt Hussain from Celonis join us. Murt, I’d love for you introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Murt Hussain: Yeah, thanks for having me Shawnna. So, my name is Murt. A lot of my friends and peers call me that, it’s up to you. I’ve been working at Celonis now for three years, and most recently as a sales enablement manager, training our North American sales organization with a concentration on our BDR/SDR team.

A little more about me, when I’m not at Celonis, I work as an artist selling paintings and creating murals internationally. It’s been pretty cool how each job has given me insights and tremendous help on the other job, so it’s been awesome. And just a little about the company, Celonis is a process mining software company that’s helping companies remove friction from their business processes and helping streamline customer experiences for everyone.

SS: Well, Murt, thank you so much for joining us. Before your career in sales enablement, you also did a lot of work in business development. Can you tell us about how your experience as a BDR guides your approach to sales enablement?

MH: Definitely, that’s a good question. I think it means a lot as an enablement manager, you know, teaching ramping, onboarding topics and discussions around something I’ve done for many years before I was a manager. So, I started off as one of the BDRs, one of the first BDRs in the company in 2017 and rose up to a senior role. From the senior role, I was tracking on bigger accounts, and during that time we were really scaling, and so I really enjoyed the training aspects of it when I was getting new reps coming on board and up to speed, being a coach, helping them exceed records and numbers and all that fun stuff. So, at that point, my boss at the time, Ryan Gold had crafted this hybrid player-coach position, where I was not only holding my own bag, but I was carrying and helping create a complex enablement program that had a foundation from what Ryan had built.

So it was my responsibility to make them more complex, scalable, have a way to track everything, make it fun, a unique experience for new hires and be a very continuous engine that is helping our North American region. And now, I have fully transitioned into the enablement role under Dick Dunkel, who, where I’m now trained, not only BDRs, but the sales North American team with a focus on the BDR/SDR function.

SS: Oh, fantastic. And that’s a ton of growth in such a short amount of time. I noticed you mentioned the notion of new hires, so you tend to focus heavily on onboarding and training. Can you share with us how your organization strives to implement successful onboarding programs?

MH: Yeah, definitely. I think there are two main principles that I personally really strive and implement when it comes to our onboarding and training. Number one is teaching the important topics in five different ways. So, I understand people learn different ways. My background is in art, so I’m a very visual learner, but there are people who might learn better in a classroom setting. They might learn through an LMS course. They might learn through a mentor, right? So I have ways to implement the “have-to-know” topics in five different ways. This can be through an LMS course, through a classroom style discussion.

I create podcast episodes internally, so maybe a podcast episode while they’re going for a run or working out. We do it through games, we do it through guest presenters, through BDR mentors, through guest speakers. With these topics, I’ve really gotten a lot of love through five different ways and hope it’s helping these new reps understand and hone in on the topics in different channels.

And then number two is making sure that everything is tracked. I heard a really good quote from an enablement manager that says that says ‘if it can’t be tracked, it doesn’t exist’. Which is really true, because you have to always gauge what success means to you and the organization for your reps. I try to keep a pretty ‘zero ego’ mentality, I guess you could say, when it comes to surveys, when it comes to feedback, where if reps are like, ‘Hey, Murt, this doesn’t work or this wasn’t the best way to learn something’.

I’m always evolving and changing things up and it’s super important for me to realize that constantly changing is the only constant we have and the enablement world.

SS: I love that. Many sales teams and business development reps can often be earlier on in their sales career, so how do you help ensure that they’re set up for success with the right skills and knowledge through continuous and ongoing training?

MH: Yeah, this is a good one because when it comes to new reps, it definitely takes a little more time for them to get used to it because it’s a whole new world for them. They’re speaking to prospect for the first time, a lot of times over the phone, sending out personalized emails, building a muscle for social selling, following a workflow that really enhances their strengths.

That can be done through numerous channels, but I think there’s definitely a fine line between reps being in training too long, and reps not getting enough training. And what I mean by that, it’s a super fine line that is sometimes hard for managers to really understand. You can train them on workflow as much as you want. You can role play. You can have them demo forever, but it isn’t till they’re actually doing the job and getting thrown in the water, as you can say, that they learn the most.

We have a very specific three-phase program at Celonis, and it’s not like we’re just throwing them in the water saying, ‘Hey, good luck, have fun’. We’re out there still with trainings twice a week. Even when they’re on the phones. Even when they’re sending emails out, they still have, after that, once a week. And occasionally there’s one-on-ones after that as well. We’re letting go of their hand slowly, but comfortably. They’re doing the job, gaining autonomy, but also having us as a resource when needed.

I think my biggest advice for leaders of new reps is, don’t be afraid to let them go early, or be comfortable with the pace that you have right now, because that’s really going to help you and your reps against the water and learn quickly.

SS: You’ve mentioned a mentorship program now a few times, and I’d love to learn a little bit more about how that’s structured and how you measure the success of that.

MH: Yeah, so this is something that’ BDR leadership, and enablement came together on. BDR mentors or sales mentors are like tenured reps who are mentoring someone who’s newer or someone who just joined the organization. It’s been a massive success. I mean, instead of asking questions to enablement or leadership for every small little thing, their mentors are really challenging them to really understand themselves like, ‘Hey, good question. What would you do in that situation?’ or ‘Great question. But I would check our FAQ for that’. So, they’re in that position where they’re still holding their own bag and selling, but they’re also being a mentor to them as well, which is a massive uptick because they know the current, right-now moments, the struggles, the challenges, the good stuff. It’s been great.

SS: That’s fantastic. I know a lot of practitioners out there are very interested in setting something up, to help in addition to the coaching that they should be getting from their frontline managers, to get that peer support. Right now there’s definitely been a heavy pivot to remote work environments, given everything that is going on in the world. What are some strategies that you’ve implemented to conduct really effective training in this more virtual environment?

MH: Yeah, I think it’s an understatement to say that training has obviously been affected. It’s a little more difficult to do everything virtually, right? I mean, enablement, coaching, continuous training over video, doesn’t quite always translate the way that you can do it in person, obviously.

A few things we’ve done to really help this: number one, is to make sure that we are having those BDR mentors doing a lot of shadowing work with the new reps. What I mean by that is that we’re having mentors on a video call and they’re sharing their screen, and the newer reps, or people who just joined, are watching them with their workflow, their calls, how they’re conducting outreach, et cetera. It’s been a super massive success for us because as the mentor just kind of going away doing their job normal day to day, the new reps, the people who were in training are really learning a lot from that. So, that’s been massively successful.

We’re also driving big on team culture. And what I mean by that is we have we purposely made sure that there are meetings every single day for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes, where they’re meeting with their teams, mostly end of day, talking about non-work-related stuff. We’ve seen a massive uptick in performance and engagement and enthusiasm energy when they have time to just let go of work stuff, talk about school activities or how life is going. It’s been really good and it’s been helping them get on the training track a lot more.

And then lastly, we’re doing a lot of stuff with games. There’s a lot of great online games, like there’s jeopardy apps and there’s buzzer apps. We have like ‘survivor challenges’ based off the TV show where reps are ‘on an island’. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff like that. I think increasing competition, increasing games, making things fun virtually is a big part of this new environment.

SS: I love that I’m going to have to check out some of those apps for my team.

MH: Definitely.

SS: This has been a great conversation. In closing, I’d love to understand, how do you measure the success of your onboarding and training programs and demonstrate the impact that sales enablement is having on the organization?

MH: Yeah. So, the obvious answer is how fast are reps hitting quota? How many opportunities are they creating? How are their metrics like their phone-to-pitch or pitch-to-close ratio. All that is good. But I think one big one, personally for me is, I want reps to not memorize stories or memorize use cases or value props or information, but I want them to really understand it and I want to know how they’re understanding it and using it in their day to day operations. What I mean by that is, during our three phase onboarding programs, we have certifications to make sure reps know the materials, stories, use cases, and based off the answers, it’s telling them how well the enablement program is doing for them post-onboarding. So based on the results, it’s really a great indicator.

It’s a compass as well for me to focus on those areas. I’ll give you an example. I had a class pass the certifications and they were doing great in the role, but one thing to manage and expressed to me was that their Salesforce hygiene wasn’t as great. So I looked back and I’m like, okay, so, we used to do sessions more around workflow, our CRMs, our extensions, and focus more on that, not only in the onboarding, but on the certification as well.

When the next class came around, we focused more on those areas that the managers had expressed, and they killed it. They were doing great post-onboarding, post-training. So, we really are adjusting our KPIs as needed, and it really helps that we’re having these transparent conversations with management and leaders on the sales organization side as well.

SS: I love that. And I love that you guys have built that agility and Murt, thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed this conversation.

MH: It’s been great. Thank you so much for time.

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 want 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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