Episode 97: Aisha Wallace-Wyche on Designing Training to Change Behaviors

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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 that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Aisha from Diligent join us. Aisha, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Aisha Wallace-Wyche: Great. I’m so happy to be here, Shawnna. My name is Aisha Wallace-Wyche, and I am the VP of global training and enablement at Diligent Corporation. Diligent is a software company, we’re the pioneer of modern governance, so we look to empower leaders to turn effective governance into a competitive advantage by allowing them to leverage unparalleled insights from a team of industry innovators, as well as highly secure integrated SaaS technologies that streamline the day to day work of board management committees and support collaboration and secure information sharing.

My role specifically is to provide consistent, scalable enablement to our commercial teams and their managers so that they can add value in every customer or interaction. This encompasses leading training, coaching, content development, sales communications, technology optimizations, performance analytics, engagement tools, and process efficiencies.

SS: Aisha, I’m so glad that you were able to join us today. As you mentioned in your introduction, one of your areas of expertise is really around training and designing and implementing these training programs. I would love to hear from you, what are some of the core elements needed to make a training program successful?

AW: Well, there’s a lot of components. A few of the key things that I employ are getting a clear understanding of the objectives of the training, keeping in mind the purpose of training is to change behavior. That includes knowledge, skills, attitudes, and this requires that you identify questions to ask before designing the training. I use four levels of evaluation and I analyze those as part of designing a training program and also discussing issues that may prevent training from being effective.

Other things are ensuring you have a well-defined audience understanding of the desired level of mastery. So like, ‘in 20 words or less’, or, ‘this illustrates three of the four value propositions or with 80% accuracy’ agreement with your stakeholders on how success will be measured, and then getting buy-in from all of your key stakeholders, as well as the leadership of the team or teams being trained, and determining whether you have internal expertise that can produce and deliver the training, or do you need to seek external resources? And of course, timing, timing is also always key.

SS: Absolutely. I think those are great elements to touch on. Now, obviously, there are challenges with any sales enablement initiative, but what are some of the top challenges that sales enablement professionals face when designing and implementing training programs, and then do you have strategies that you would recommend for how to overcome some of those obstacles?

AW: Yeah, challenges. One of them is the inability to get stakeholder agreement on training objectives. Everybody thinks something different is important or key. Oftentimes you’ll have a lack of support from commercial leadership, unreasonable timeframes. I talked about timing and timing can be looked at in various different ways, but oftentimes as the enablement practitioner, we’re given unreasonable timeframes in which to prepare the content and materials for a training, lack of resources or budget, and a lack of learner participation are some of the challenges that I’ve come into before.

Some of the strategies I recommend overcome these is collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, communicate, communicate, communicate. Both of those are key. I would also say don’t be afraid to speak up and state that training may not be the answer. A lot of times sales enablement is looked at as the catch-all, you know, someone’s not doing something that you want them to be doing, or a team is not performing the way that you want them to perform. A lot of times, enablement is looked at as the person that is going to come and save the day and fix it, but in certain circumstances where performance is in question, training may not be the answer.

Oftentimes, it could be a systems issue, like lack of access or know-how for a system. Other times it could be compensation or incentive related, the commercial team may not be being incentivized properly, and that’s why you’re not getting the behavior out of them that you want. Then, a lot of times you have to look at your talent, you may not have the right butts in seats. So again, don’t be afraid to speak up after you’ve done some analysis and asked the right identifying questions to just simply state that training may not be the answer.

SS: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now, I do want to talk about the environment that we’re all kind of working in right now, which I think for a lot of us has gone remote. I’m sure that that has come with its own new host of challenges. I know that a lot of our audience – a lot of them are sales enablement practitioners – are trying to figure out how to address delivering effective sales training virtually. So, how have you and your teams addressed this need?

AW: Yeah, luckily we had completed the implementation of a skills development measurement and reinforcement platform in late 2018. So, we’ve had that in place, which during this time has proven invaluable, and this platform allows to easily create, distribute, and track information and trainings, and you can deliver a host of different formats through this platform. So, whether it’s simply a narrated presentation, or you can get more detailed with an actual course, and then you can also do curriculums and coaching exercises. We have been utilizing that during this time a lot more than we did in the past.

However, we also use our weekly commercial team meetings as an opportunity for training on different things as well, in smaller settings, smaller groups. Then, I still facilitate a fair share of instructor-led webinar trainings as well. And then for some of our teams, our trainings, we are also still utilizing external specialized resources to fill the gaps for training.

SS: Absolutely. I love that point on coaching and that you guys are actually able to do that even better now, virtually. I think a lot of organizations are struggling with that right now as well. So that kind of leads me into reinforcement of that training. How have you guys been able to do that and maximize the retention of knowledge learned in your training courses?

AW: Yeah, this is going to be a challenge as well, you know? So, I tend to think application is a critical component of any training program. You’ve got to make sure there is an opportunity for practice and application of new skills learned. Repetition is also key, so I liken it to a drip marketing campaign, so when I think about training, I tend to think of it as a drip campaign, whereby you may have an initial training, but then beyond that consider how you’ll deploy refresher or follow-up trainings that follow a certain cadence throughout the year so that you’re constantly re-engaging on that topic matter with the teams.

I think probably the most important is ensuring commercial leadership is equipped to coach to these new skills. When you’re deploying a training program, you definitely want to work closely with your frontline sales managers and make sure that they’re equipped to coach to these new skills.

SS: Absolutely. Now, I think it might be just my background, but I did notice on LinkedIn that you mentioned that product and marketing teams are some of your closest cross-functional partners. So, I’d love to hear how sales enablement can collaborate with product and marketing teams to really deliver more impactful training programs.

AW: Yeah, I think the obvious is leveraging the great content and collateral that your content and product marketing teams and product teams produce, and use that within your training so you’re not necessarily recreating the wheel or making things more difficult for yourself than they need to be.

Also, collaborate early and often with those teams to understand their goals and objectives as they pertain to the same parallel initiatives. This is going to better inform you about the objectives of the training that you’re designing if you are clearly able to understand what those team’s goals are and how to best design your program. So for example, what are the goals of the accompanying marketing campaign for which you’re being asked to design a training? Or, if it’s a product enhancement or feature that’s being released, what are the expected outcomes of that from the product perspective? So, all of those things are going to better inform you in designing the training program to make sure the behavior that you want is the result that you get out of the training.

SS: Absolutely. This has been a fantastic conversation, and I just have one last question for you. You’ve talked about some of this, which is making sure that you’re getting the behavior change that you want, but how are you measuring the impact of these training programs?

AW: Yeah, measurement in sales enablement overall is still a challenging concept because as we know, there is never just one thing that contributes to the success of the commercial team reaching their goals. However, as it pertains to training specifically, how to measure the impactfulness of a training program is dependent on the objectives of the training. You would tend to determine those at the beginning, before you even start design. At the most basic level, of course, you’re going to have a participation or completion metrics, so how many learners participated in our completed the training, and this serves as a leading indicator to the success of other things.

In addition to this, you typically have a level one measurement, which is more qualitative than anything else. This is just measuring the reaction to the training, so did the participants like it, similar to an NPS score, would they recommend this training to a friend? Then, there are additional levels that I look at, like two to four, that cover learning, behavior, and results. So, to what extent are the attitudes changed or knowledge increased or skills improved? So you would capture this from a pre- and post-test, along with having them demonstrate skills that they’ve learned.

Then there’s the behavior change that I talked about, and this has to be observed. This is either via peers or manager observation and feedback. So again, this ties back to equipping commercial leadership to coach to the new skills and being able to provide you with feedback that they are noticing behavior change with their reps. And then lastly, there’s the metrics, right? Again, all of these levels of evaluation are dependent on the type of training and what’s decided on at the beginning, but these metrics can be tangible, like higher ASPs, or they can be intangible, like employing more empathy during calls or better listening skills. If you’ve got the benefit of a conversation intelligence platform, then perhaps there’s some things that you can bake into that to better gauge whether that’s happening, or you can do it the good old fashioned way just by shadowing calls and again, observing behavior. But again, understanding what to measure is directly related to the objectives of the training, which again are ultimately going to inform the design of the training program.

SS: This is really solid advice. Aisha, thank you so much for joining us today.

AW: It has been my pleasure. Thanks for inviting 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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