Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2021: Rising Sales Excellence at Advanced

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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winner Nick Pilditch from Advanced. Learn more about the Rising Sales Enablement Star award recognition below.

What was the challenge you were facing?

Nick Pilditch: I’m head of sales enablement and M and A integration at Advanced. Historically I have worked in sales, so I was previously a sales director, business transformation experts, and I joined Advanced around 18 months ago now. It’s been an interesting journey, especially with joining and then having to ramp up a team during a pandemic, but it’s been positive. It’s been a good journey. Prior to lockdown in the UK, we were working on a number of reactive projects, mainly because sales enablement is reasonably new at Advanced. So, we were focusing on giving our community the right tools to be able to be successful. So we were reviewing, launching, and rolling out a number of new tools, such as SalesLoft, Quip, Sidetrade, and building out new methods of account planning, peer-to-peer reviews.

Now we already had issues prior to pivoting to virtual that was solved quite quickly, that actually ended up being quite low hanging fruit. So for example, in a sales community and the 200 people, they were already spread out quite geographically. So, that was both in the UK and further around the world. So it also meant that it was suddenly easier to get time in people’s calendars as unfortunately customer visits stopped almost instantly. The sales enablement team was also very centralized prior to pivoting to virtual at one site, right in the center of the UK. Although one key member of the team did leave to go on maternity leave and where we usually would have replaced her from somebody central, we decided to recruit from another team elsewhere in the business at the other end of the country. And we wouldn’t have done that prior to the pandemic. So personally, I think we got a little bit lucky with the timing of a number of things to be completely honest.

What was the process of shifting your strategy?

NP: We’d already begun working on a number of projects that were built around moving to virtual in order to support growth and scaling up as part of our business growth plans. So that was definitely on our side. The business had already planned a rollout of Microsoft Teams to replace Skype for business that we were using before. So that program was accelerated and this helped plant the seed of change and prepare the sales community and the wider business for new ways of working. So again, with another stroke of luck, we were already in discussions with Vista Consulting Group, who are our parent companies, consulting division about rolling out a new sales methodology. So when locked down here, it was a perfect opportunity for us to put place holders in people’s calendars for remote delivery, which actually probably saved me a day or two of planning logistics. And then obviously I saved the time of having to travel to offices around the country to deliver classroom-based training.

We then unfortunately had the same challenge that many businesses faced during the pandemic, which has been very cautious around recruitment and scaling right at the start. So I suddenly found ourselves without a new sales training head that was originally planned to come into my team in order to deliver the training. So, obviously that fell on me because I’ve got a background in sales training as well. But my team really stepped up to be honest. So they stepped up and they took on a number of other projects that I was working on, on top of their own workload. So we all had very long days last summer, a strange summer to be honest. I think my team are the real stars of this as they helped to deliver over 30 value creation programs of varying degrees across that timeframe.

The methodology was originally designed to be delivered in the classroom as well. It was spread out across five short sessions. So it was already looking like a bit of a nightmare trying to facilitate five sessions across two weeks, across 200 salespeople across a number of different teams. So the team and I worked very closely with VCG and we redesigned the training that we were working on. We condensed it down to one and a half days. And the idea was we were going to deliver that across two consecutive days. Well sort of one full day and then half the next day. I then planned in around two per week by the time we finished, we also trained a number of other departments in our go-to-market function as well, the managing directors and most of the C-suites in the business. So we eventually ran over 30 of these one and a half day sessions. And that’s not including the additional ad hoc reinforcement sessions we did.

The coaching training sessions that we brought out to the sales managers we followed a model of executive sponsorship. So we worked closely with our CSO, Roy Wood, and the sales directors. And then to be clear, we really relied on the content to do the important part and that showed the value of it and it helped to drive adoption. So the content that we brought up was excellent. That was mainly led by Tim Silverman, Vista Consulting Group. So big thank you to Tim because the content did all the heavy lifting here. By the end of the last session, we’d received over a hundred emails from various sales people around the business with positive feedback. So some of the early feedback that we had, that wasn’t as positive, we tried to take that feedback and then incorporate it back into the design of the program so that we could very quickly be reactive to what was coming in. Thankfully the majority of them were just identifying typos and ways in which I delivered not being ideal, which were quick fixes, but there were also some really constructive comments as well from the sales teams as to how we could really land the message and resonate with them as well.

We then went through a certification program with the sales managers. And this was to ensure that the whole sales community had the skill sets, and tools to be able to reinforce that methodology after course delivery. And again, I’m lucky to be surrounded by such high performing sales managers and directors who saw the immediate value. One of the most difficult things is that reinforcement. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just delivering something and hoping it’s going to work. But actually using the sales managers really helped drive that message home and show value. Each sales person worked for a live opportunity as part of the sales methodology training.

What are some of the business results and impact as a result of your efforts?

NP: We saw immediate positive and negative results. Mostly positive, thankfully 95% of them were. I think there were four instances during the training where individuals realized as they were building out their opportunities, that actually they weren’t as they previously thought or expected and sort of decided to either take a separate approach with my support as well and the wider team.

We just decided to drop that one, decided that it wasn’t worth it, probably wasn’t the right time. Wasn’t the right solution. If we couldn’t find a way to really articulate the value of it, we also have a number of opportunities that were actually accelerated and won ahead of that original forecast today. So we started to see some early indications of a reduction of the sales cycle, which was one of the key things that we were looking at. Unfortunately, as much as we saw a number of other things, there’s a number of other reasons and factors that we can’t necessarily quantify. So we saw an upturn in conversion rates, although, because there were so many changes with what was going on in the world, it’s very difficult to draw a direct correlation between that and the new methodology. So I’d certainly like to think so. But it suddenly became easier to get hold of customers because they were working from home. I think another big positive that we had, that was also a huge factor is we saw a big upturn in spending in the health and care sector during COVID-19 and it’s one of our largest markets anyway.

I think that helped to really pull forward some of the deals that we were working on in that sector. But one of the big things that came out of it is that we saw a real appetite for training from our Salesforce and as a result of that shift that we’re building on from now are building on the success of that. We’re currently working towards wrapping everything together in a new sales development model that we’re hoping to launch on the 1st of March. And that’s going to pull together all of our sales training programs into one model with a couple of new additions that I’m quite excited about. So I just want to say thank you to you guys at Sales Enablement PRO for everything that you’ve done for me and the wider sales enablement community. I’d also like to say thank you to my team and colleagues at Advanced as well. As I mentioned, they’ve done all the heavy lifting. I get to do the fun stuff like this since then. So thank you.

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