Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2021: Delivering Powerful Sales Proficiency Engagements at Poly
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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winners from Poly. Learn more about the Sales Proficiency award winning initiative below.
Kristi McColgan: Thank you. My name is Kristi McColgan and I’m the Head of Global Sales Enablement Programs at Poly. And today I’m joined by Jennifer Adams. Who’s the Senior Director of Sales Experience and Enablement Programs, and also Maddie Sabbag, who is the Global Enablement Associate Manager. We’re really excited to talk to you about our Impact Program at Poly. And just by way of introduction, our company Poly, is born from two communication and collaboration industry giants. So Plantronics and Polycom have come together. And our combined heritage of audio and video innovations really lets us offer our customers a wide range of collaboration solutions. From headsets, personal speaker phones, conference speaker phones, desktop phones, video room systems, and all of the cloud management and services to light those all up. And I’m actually relatively new to our Enablement Team. I joined the team in October, but I spent about seven years in the field as a Poly seller. So I’ve been on the receiving end of this amazing Impact Program. And so I’d love for Jennifer and Maddie to walk us through some of the highlights as they built this program over time. So, Jennifer, can you walk us through the state of sales learning before building this program up and some of the challenges that you faced
Jennifer Adams: Thanks, Kristi. Poly’s journey has been a really interesting one. I think the biggest shift to our sales teams was the coming together of Plantronics and Polycom, like you mentioned. These were two equal sized companies that came together about two years ago. The good news is that we had a robust set of sales enablement programs going in and in place. We had a new hire sales training program that was really setting the foundation for our salespeople. We allowed them to move into an ongoing learning, which, you know, we call the Impact Program. And then we also have a program specifically designed for technical sellers – our systems engineers and solution architects – and so the programs were robust. Our main challenge was enabling salespeople from two legacy companies. So training became important because we couldn’t assume baseline knowledge. Suddenly it felt like everyone was a new hire. I felt like a new hire. It was a really unique time. And I’m sure Kristi, as someone who is in the field at that time, you have your own point of view on that. But we knew that there was a huge opportunity to get more engagement from the sales team, to grow our numbers, to evolve our program and really to focus and meet the needs of a salesforce whose portfolio had doubled overnight. So we sat down with sales leadership and we basically said, ‘What can we do? What do you need?’ And they really helped directionally guide us toward where we needed to take the Impact Training Program. So Maddie, as you mentioned, is the lead for the program, and I did want to just take a minute to say congratulations specifically to her for the award. This is a great testament of all the great work that she’s done. And she can share a little bit more about impact.
Madison Sabbag: Thanks so much, Jennifer. I’d love to talk about the Impact Training Programs. So it’s quite a robust program made up of multiple different components. And one of them that I think is the most valuable to our sales organization is our quarterly learning plan. So this is a curriculum that we think of as a checklist for our sales team, and it’s all of the mandatory components of their learning for the quarter. So in order to develop what’s mandatory and what’s optional, we partner directly with our sales leadership team to understand the sales priorities for the quarter and what’s really going to drive the revenue. And so in addition to our mentor learning plans, we also have a component of the learning plans called Ask Me Anything Sessions. And these are optional sessions that typically revolve around reinforcement. These could be around promos, new product introduction, our alliances, they cover a wide base of topics, and sellers really get to determine their own schedule around these. So then at the beginning of the quarter they take a look at all of the mandatory training and they can really determine their own schedule, if they want to attend these optional sessions, what they need help with, and what they don’t. So we aligned directly with our sales leadership team to ensure that our sellers are getting this mandatory training assigned to them at the beginning of the quarter.
And then throughout the quarter our salespeople managers can look at a manager dashboard to ensure that their salespeople are taking the courses throughout the quarter and not waiting until the last minute to just check off a box. We really want to make sure that they are getting this knowledge when they need to, so it’s kind of a just-in-time learning approach. And in order to measure that we have to partner directly with our leadership team. So we send emails to our regional directors. We have articles in our sales newsletter, anything we can to just make sure that our sellers are aware of the programs in place.
Jennifer: Yeah, I would just add to that, that as a sales enablement organization, as a whole, we really do make sure to set goals and revisit them every quarter across all of our programs. So we also try to cross pollinate between our program managers, because we know that salespeople are moving between these different programs every quarter. We do a quarterly business review with our leadership team to review how our programs are going, and we have a pretty robust set of metrics that we use across all the programs. We also do a lot of surveys. So we look at surveys after some of our mandatory trainings, we survey our sellers twice a year to find out what’s working and needs to be updated across all of our programs, including impact. And for Maddie, we were really focused on how to improve impact and we used the quarterly learning plan completion rate as kind of the success criteria or the measurement. And Maddie can talk a little bit more specifically about that measurement piece.
Maddie: Yeah, I’d love to touch upon the success that we’re seeing with the reinforcement of the learning plans. Sellers really appreciate understanding upfront what is being assigned to them into the quarter. This is something that we used to do, but now we’re being much more active about it at the beginning of the quarter, letting them know exactly what is expected of them from our sales enablement organization, but also from our sales leadership team. And some statistics that we can share with you and some metrics is between 2016 and 2018. We saw that about 50% of our salespeople were completing our quarterly learning plans. And just last quarter, we had 70% of our global sellers complete our learning plans. And this is about a 10 item checklist usually, it’s about eight hours in the quarter. So this is really excellent, and we’re looking to improve these even more with the buy-in from all of our leadership organizations.
Kristi: So Maddie, could you walk us through how you designed the elements in the learning plan?
Maddie: The way we design our learning plans is we align directly with our subject matter experts and we actually proactively meet with them on a bi-weekly schedule to understand what their initiatives and their objectives are for the sales team. And sometimes those are conflicting, so we actually have to serve as a gatekeeper for our sales organization to make sure that they’re not bombarded with information coming from twelve different places. So it’s a very interesting role that we have because we have to partner directly between the sales leadership team and the subject matter experts to make sure that our salespeople can make their revenue and make their quota. Jennifer, would you like to talk a little bit about the content that we create?
Jennifer: Sure. So as part of being a gatekeeper and, you know, making sure that sales time is effective because as most sales organizations, any time that the field is out of the field, we need to make sure that we’re making the best use of their time. So what we’ve done is we really tried to apply more rigor around the content review process. So we want to really view content from the eyes of sales, not necessarily from the subject matter experts. Now, some of our subject matter experts are very good at seeing the sales point of view. But some of them are much more focused on product or solution areas and they may not be able to bridge that gap for the salespeople. And so we have a content team that partners really closely with all of the program managers. And the goal of that team is to really make sure that the content that gets in front of our sellers is relevant, that it has a clear call to action, that it is not too content heavy, that there’s enough time for Q&A in our sessions. Some people really like to get going and talk when they present, because they’re passionate about their subjects, but really being able to bring in a content team to partner with the program leads to say, ‘Hey, we want to make sure that we set goals around improving our content.’ So that’s one of the scores that we actually look at and track, is not only the overall value of our trainings, but also the value of the content, the performance of the speakers themselves, which is a continuous improvement that we can come back to them and work with them on. And so I think that’s made a really big difference as we’ve started to see our content scores going up as we’ve been applying the content team to this effort.
Maddie: Absolutely. And I’ll add on to that. Jennifer. One thing that we’ve really had to teach our subject matter experts is they don’t have to go through all of the nitty-gritty details of a new product. We have a data sheet that our sales team can refer back to at any time. We really want to focus all of our new product introduction trainings on positioning and how our sellers can prospect and pipeline generation. It’s really about the sales process and less about the products themselves. Another thing I’ll add here is that we’ve taken all of our content and we really figured out what type of learning will be best fit for that type of material. So we have activity-based learning, we have on demand learning, and we have live virtual sessions where sellers really get the face-to-face interaction with those subject matter experts.
Jennifer: One of the things that I think it would be fun to talk about Maddie is, we did something different, last quarter where our Chief Revenue Officer basically, in one of his all-hands decided he was going to set a challenge to the sales organization, and he asked them to complete two Poly Experienced Center Visits, which is what we call our EBC program. And we had an opportunity as an enablement team to come in and find a way to measure that and make that part of the quarterly learning plan. So, Maddie, do you want to talk a little bit about how that was kind of a new element that you added to the Impact Program?
Maddie: Yeah, absolutely. Before that our activity based learning was less actually an activity with other people. It was more like a worksheet or something that the sellers filled out. And this was a really interesting goal and initiative that our Chief Revenue Officer initiated and really had to spark our sales enablement team to think creatively about how we could track and measure this. And we were able to do that in our learning management system, Saba, through what we call Poly University. And our salespeople were able to go to the PEC visits and then in their quarterly learning plan, we were able to meet automatically. So from our perspective, the sales enablement team, we took on the burden, it was manual for us, but for the salespeople, it looked like an automatic check off their list. That’s another thing that I really really think is a valuable piece of input that we’ve had to learn as a sales organization, is that sometimes it becomes more manual for us, but looks easier and feels easier for the sales team. And they really do appreciate that. So that’s something that we have to do sometimes – take the burden off of them and put it on to us.
Krisiti: I love that, and that helps reduce all of the sales friction. So you’re doing a very important job with that program. I’d love to hear about some other business impacts from this Impact Program.
Jennifer: Yeah, so one of the things that we were looking at is how is pipeline going? You know, that’s obviously a metric that a lot of sales leaders are very interested in because you know, a robust pipeline is what’s necessary to make sure that you continue to drive toward your numbers. So, we actually saw 11% more pipeline for our primary product portfolios from the first calendar quarter to the second. So that was really exciting. And 25% more in the same product categories from the second calendar quarter to the third, so great momentum. we’re hoping that we can continue this through the rest of our fiscal year. And I really think that the engagement and the numbers of sales attendees to some of our trainings have really grown. And I think that that shows that they’re getting value from it. So that should also be something that, you know, given the fact that they’re all working hard and they’re really driving more pipeline, they’re still taking the time to attend our trainings and participate and complete their quarterly learning plans. And I think that’s a really great showcase for all of our program managers, and Maddie in particular for impact. It’s working and sales is finding value in it. And you should just be very proud of what you built.
Maddie: Thank you. It was absolutely a team effort and I’m so thankful for our Poly sales enablement team. And we’ve all worked and collaborated together to make this happen.
Kristi: So Maddie what’s in store for the Impact Program, as you continue to make improvements.
Maddie: Great question. We’re always looking to improve our program. And as Jennifer mentioned, we survey our sales team two times a year to get their honest feedback on all of our programs, not just Impact, but obviously I take that into account because it is the program that I run. So the things that I am looking to improve for the Impact Training Program is adding some more informal training with the subject matter experts. So one thing that we’re brainstorming right now is this concept we’re calling office hours and we’re really distinguishing this between our ask me anything sessions, because these will have no content whatsoever, so no slides, but they will have subject matter experts and salespeople having direct face-to-face contact. We’re thinking of having these for about 30 minutes once a week and picking one subject and just having it be just like a college class where you go in and you talk to your professor and you get all the help you need. We’re looking and we’re brainstorming to see how we can do that with our subject matter experts, but still make the most of everyone’s time, because we know that these will be really popular and we don’t want one subject matter expert with 80 salespeople – so we’re working through the details around that. Another thing that we’re looking to improve is just continue our engagement with our channel enablement team. Our channel is an extension of our salespeople, and we want to make sure that we’re partnering directly with our channel enablement team to see how we can flow our content from our internal sellers all the way through to our channel.
Jennifer: Yeah, I think those are really important and valuable improvements. And I think that, you know, as we’ve kind of done a role-based approach to our learning plans, we’re always revisiting and thinking, ‘Do we need to further tailor? Is there more that we can be doing for certain roles? Is there maybe an objective that a specific team has that we can better support?’ And so I think Maddie does a good job of really keeping her finger on the pulse of what sales management is looking for and different ways that we can evolve the program.
Kristi: Well, as someone who benefited from the program in the field, I’m just glad our sales organization has access to enablement engines like this. So congratulations, Mattie! Congratulations, Jennifer! And thanks for all the hard work you’ve put in to develop this Impact Program.