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Sales Enablement Soirée: Effective Sales Guidance In An Ever-Changing Digital World, Fall 2020

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Panel_ Effective Sales Guidance In an Ever-Changing Digital World

Cassandra Tenorio: Welcome to our panel on Effective Sales Guidance in an Ever-changing Digital World. I’m very excited to be joined by our panelists today who are going to be talking about how they’re using sales plays and processes to really drive rep productivity. So I love for each of you to just go around, introduce yourself, say a little bit about yourself. Chester, let’s start with you. 

Chester Liu: All right. Thank you, Cassandra. So, just a quick introduction about myself in my career span. It spans many functions across a typical software organization. I started as a software engineer, believe it or not, did that for 10 years, moved into product management and user experience design. After that, I wore a product marketing hat for about five years and then six years as a sales practitioner. I got really intrigued by Allego, which is the company I’m at recently. They reached out to me last year and as a technology junkie, I can’t help myself but poke at every tool and company that comes my way. 

There was something really intriguing about Allego that clicked with me. And it wasn’t just about the people and the culture, you know, which is what I typically look for, but it was their philosophy about democratizing sales enablement. And, as a sales enablement practitioner, that really resonated with me because I felt like my hair was on fire each and every day. There’s always something to do some, some fire to put out, but what they really focused on and the way that they sold the role to me was that they’re about taking tribal knowledge, which is really locked up inside every one of our sales reps and institutionalizing that. So finding a way to make that very coherent, very organized, put it in a repository shirt with others as best practices and so forth.

So I joined Allego in February of this year, right? A month before the pandemic really sent all of us home. So I was fortunate to have a month with my colleagues before we left, but currently, my role is VP of growth. I know it’s a nebulous title, but what that means is that I’m finding and tackling anything that could help speed up growth at Allego. So, normally I am the VP of sales right now because that’s the best way to grow. And I guess we have accomplished that so far in the last number of months by increasing SDR productivity by 50% and our AEs are a hundred percent more productive than last year. So it’s definitely been exciting and it’s great to see the changes happen right in front of my eyes.

Cassandra Tenorio: That sounds fantastic. Rehmat, let’s move on to you. 

Rehmat Kharal: Hi everyone. Thanks, Cassandra. Great to hear about Chester and your background as well. It’s funny cause, I think as each one of us are leading sales enablement, we definitely come from unique backgrounds and my background is a little different as well. I’ve got my degree in marketing, but I was actually in sales prior to being in sales enablement. I did commercial insurance sales for Lloyd’s of London. So I’m Canadian and completely loved that, enjoyed it and then actually became a corporate trainer which was, I think, the title that sales enablement was called before sales enablement existed.

So I was a corporate trainer for Lloyd’s of London for quite a few years, and then moved to the Bay area where I was a part of one of the large tech giants, Alana, that I think you’re a part of now, Cisco, and I loved the value engineering team there. So on the sales side engineering side, as well as on the enablement side, and since then, I’ve been with a few different startups, Jasper being one of them, AppDynamics being another, Rubrik, and now currently I’m with BigPanda and leading the sales enablement effort here. So, I’m the senior director of sales enablement at BigPanda. Fantastic companies, very small startups, smallest startup that I’ve been at so far, but an incredible, incredible team with a fantastic product that’s got a ton of potential. So looking forward to today’s discussion. 

Russell Wurth: Hi, I’m Russell Wurth. I am vice president of sales and enablement at Showpad. So, after spending many years in product marketing and sales enablement, I’ve moved to recently join Showpad about six months ago. So excited to help enable not only the Showpad sales team, but a lot of our customers and partners.

Alana Kadden Ballon: My name is Alana Kadden Ballon and I am the head of sales go to market strategy at Duo Security, part of Cisco. I started my career answering the phones at salesforce.com, qualifying leads. And I also did outbound prospecting before becoming an AA. And the reason I was attracted to sales enablement, productivity, and go-to-market, is it really felt like I could have a scalable impact and both as a boutique consultant, with a small team. And now as part of Cisco over the past three years, it’s been an incredible journey to see how we can expand globally. We can activate the channel and make our sales team successful. So one of the things that I’ve been really excited about for this panel is to talk about how that’s changed over the past eight months and we’ve been doing some really unique things, so excited to hear what the other panelists have done as well. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. And so we have only 30 minutes for our panel and quite a full panel today. So, I really wanted to kick off this discussion by talking about understanding what effective sales guidance looks like today, especially in the increasingly digital world of 2020. So what are those key elements to successful sales guidance, especially in today’s world. Chester, why don’t you kick us off? 

Chester Liu: Yeah thanks, Cassandra. That is a really important question. When I first saw the title, I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot of words. How do I break it down?” And the first thought I had was, you know, what is an effective being? And what is sales guidance? What do you mean by that? And then every change in the digital world, but what has changed actually in our digital world. So when I broke it down, I thought about the notion that sales guidance now must be effective and it must be agile because the world is changing faster and faster. But I think all the panel is here, we work in hyper competitive environments and our competitors are changing. Our markets are changing, our customers are changing. So how do we deliver a sales guidance as relevant and how do we make it effective and deliver in the agile way? So what I think about is effectiveness.

What that means is that whatever guidance we give has to make a difference when it’s needed at that point of need. So whether it’s a customer interaction, email, phone call, whatever it might be, right. That guidance has to be useful at that point. If it’s useful in the classroom, but not useful in front of a customer, I would say it’s actually not useful at all.

That’s why we think how do you make guidance really effective and make a difference? I came up with a few ideas for you. So one is, it needs to be at your fingertips, which means it’s going to be a mobile device. It’s got to be very searchable. It’s got to be bite-sized right. I think we’ve all had experience of really long PDFs and other things where you can’t find anything when you need it. And now you’re kind of desperate. And then you go to like Slack or Microsoft teams or something to get answers from your colleagues? The next thing is content has to be reinforced. So if you think about when you’re in grade school, you know, man, if you have kids, I have kids, you go through flashcards, right? You’ve got to drill that information in every day. It was two times two was four times four. And I believe you, knowledge is saying the same thing for sales reps. If you aren’t drilling it in every day, and the studies show that most people forget 80% of what they learned in the classroom. Anyhow. So reinforcement is really important.

And then the third idea I have around those is it needs to be really relevant. And a lot of times when we think about relevance is that a lot of content is created in an ivory tower now as a former product marketing person, I totally get it. I used to live in an ivory tower and thought that whatever I created, it was simply the best thing since sliced bread. And why aren’t the sales reps using it? They must not get it. They must not be as smart as me. And that is, that was the way I felt and operated for a long time. And a lot of other people have. So I think that relevance has to come from crowdsourcing ideas from the field, and that has fundamentally changed the way we operate here in my last few companies and now Allego.

And one of the ways we do that is we have to at least elicit feedback from the field in terms of, what ideas do you want for content? What can product marketing or sales CDW produce for you? And as we develop it, they are code developers with us. So we don’t actually say, here you go.It’s all done on a golden platter. We absolutely say, please look at version one. Is it, how is it? Version two, version three, version four. So by the time it’s actually deployed, they felt like they had a voice in the creation of this content. That means the content gets used. The content is understood. And most importantly, the content is relevant to customers because the sales reps themselves ask for that. So I think that is really what makes sales enablement successful in today’s digital world. 

Rehmat Kharal: Just to add to that if I may. I think I totally agree with everything that you’ve said, Chester, I think in addition to that, it’s also about, consumption of the content. To your point, a lot of times there’s great content that’s created, but is it actually consumable? And is it consumable by the audience, right? Like how would an AAE interpret it versus an SDR versus an SE, and even customer success. So when you’re looking at things from an enablement point of view, especially in this digital world, you’re right. We have a ton of different LMS tools. We want to make sure people have knowledge at their fingertips to your point, but at the same time, let’s be very, very selective, as to what we’re putting in front of them.

What are some of the new challenges that our customers are facing, that our sellers are facing, right? When it comes to actually whether it’s delivering their first meeting deck or delivering a demo now, it’s doable. It’s just not the same. And so taking all the different content that’s being created and saying, “Okay, well, let’s break this down into bite sized pieces.”

Whether it’s analyst reports or marketing white papers, let’s pull out the relevant information and really point out and say, is this something that is going to be consumed by an SDR. And if so, what is an SDR’s relevant talking point? What are some objection handling points that are within this white paper? What are some quotes that we can pull out that can be used towards PG efforts, whatever it might be. And then I think again, making it consumable and then making sure our leaders are following up with their teams. So again, everybody is remote, things get a lot more challenging. It’s a lot more frustrating because you don’t have that one-on-one interaction where you can bounce ideas off of each other.

But now if you are creating content or pushing different trainings out there, make sure that you’ve got the backing of the leadership as well. So sales leadership backing, reinforcing that this training is going to help you throughout this part of the sales process or whatever it might be.

Russell Wurth: It’s a challenge. I think we’ve all acknowledged that, but first I think we need to accept that we have to be digital now, but we also have to be human. And we have to understand that humans aren’t really designed to be entirely digital. This is hard. People are used to being in person, being able to read faces and body language and develop trust. And it’s really difficult to do this virtual. The video screens help, but it’s still not completely natural and we can still get distracted by multiple screens. And I think Cassandra said things and things that came up when we were in some of these meetings. So, that’s really hard to say as to ensure that we have that human element and we’ve got to also find unique ways to help each individual that, you know, I take my role in an element seriously in terms of helping people adapt.

As some do it better than others, there’s a whole generation of folks that don’t know anything about smartphones, so they’re used to being completely digital for others they’re getting used to this new sense of digital. So we have to keep this in mind with our sales teams, as well as our customers and put ourselves in their position to develop the best experiences for sellers, you know, how do they best learn and do their job? It’s not always getting a lecture over a meeting that we get everybody together on a web conference and lecture at them. And for buyers, it’s not necessarily, again, popping up the screen and sharing something and doing demos. So we’ve got to have that human element to help our buyers buy, how are they going to evaluate and purchase, but then also those sellers, how can they learn to do their job?

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. I love that. How do you really successfully implement sales plays and processes at your organization? Alana I’d love to hear from you on this one. 

Alana Kadden Ballon: Well, it starts with what Rehmat was talking about, which is real close partnership with sales leaders. So when we plan for a future quarter or half, we start with exactly that. We sit down with the sales leaders in each region, each segment, and figure out what they want to focus on. We give them trends that we’re seeing in the market. For example, when COVID hit, we saw a big pop in expansion. People want it to stay with their existing vendors. So we guide them that way and we come up with the plays and we really make the sales leaders, the face of the plays in the background. There’s three elements to every sales play that we put forward to the sales team. And that target list we don’t make them hunt for who to go after we tell them exactly who we think the targets are for that play. We give them content that we partner with product and product marketing to create that they can take to customers and partners.

And finally the how to, and that how this role, like rural-based, as was mentioned earlier, what are, what is it? SDR BDRs role. What’s the AEs role? What’s the SCS role? What is the partner’s role? And for our environment, what’s the overlay role? Now, as we take that to the sales team, What’s exciting is throughout the quarter, we bring forward wins to show them how the sales play is actually working. So we’re tracking our KPIs at how much pipeline we’re creating and how much bookings we’re converting from it. But we’re also highlighting individual stories that makes it really tangible for them. And we’re refining that play. When we see what starts working.

Chester Liu: Yeah, I’d love to just add onto what Rehmat was saying about making content really relevant for the audience. I recall the days when whenever a Gartner magic quadrant or Forrester wave came out in our industry and our company was featured on it, we’d get so excited. I’d be like, every sales rep has to read the whole thing. Well guess what? I don’t think any sales rep ever read the entire Gartner magic causing report. Everyone looks at the graphic, and goes, that’s all I need to know. And I think what’s really important is activating that content. I think that’s exactly what you’re talking about. 

How do you make that relevant? How do you make it relevant for the ADR who is trying to just peak the prospect’s interests in the discovery call, right? How do you activate that for the account executive who needs deeper knowledge of the material in this magic quadrant or whatever analyst report is, and help them actually make a business case for their customers to, for example, buy your product. So I really love what you said about relevancy in that way, because content by itself doesn’t do a whole lot. It has to be interpreted for your audience. Yeah, 

Rehmat Kharal: Absolutely. Actually building off of what Alana was talking about. I mean, everything really is metrics driven, right. Whether it’s pivoting on the way that you’re positioning a campaign and integrated campaign with different parts of the organization, or it’s looking at the sales process and really saying, you know what, we’ve pushed this new PG campaign isn’t actually moving the needle. When we look at the metrics, are we more successful? Are we getting more discovery calls or new business meetings as a result of this new partnership or this new announcement or whatever it might be? I think always going back and looking at those metrics, but then using them as a point of, just a point to show people whether or not something is working.

So if you have your most successful reps utilizing the campaigns that you put in front of them, because I think there’s a ton of great work that happens in the background. Some reps are great at taking these different campaigns, these different templates, emails, whatever it is that we’re putting in front of them and running. And they’re super successful. So I think, metrics, if you can show that  X rep is doing fantastic because of, you know, they’re utilizing the new PG campaign we’ve put out there and now they have 12 new business meetings this month as a result of that, you know, I think it’s important to push that forward and not just share that within sales, leadership and operations, but let the field know that and show them on to be very transparent about that same thing.

When leadership is having meetings with their one-on-ones, with their reps that are maybe struggling, pull up those metrics again to show that. There’s a lot of thought that’s put into and a lot of strategy that’s put into these training programs that we’re putting in front of you. So how can you utilize them? I think it really comes down to the metrics, pulling out those numbers and being transparent with the field. I think sometimes leadership holds those metrics very close to the chest, builds other strategies around it. But I think sometimes it’s super important to just put them out there for people to see, and make their own assumptions.

Cassandra Tenorio: Fantastic. That really leads into the next point that I really wanted to talk about today, which was using insights to drive effective sales guidance. And so I’d love to hear from you all about how do you measure the success of your sales plays and processes, and what are those key insights that you look at to determine success? Alana, did you have any thoughts on this one? 

Alana Kadden Ballon: Sure. So I start at the top, which is philosophy and volume. Are we looking for this to be like very quick moving deals? Are we also looking for it to be a large volume of deals? Are they excessively small or big in some cases, especially if you are working closely with a board for pre IPO, you might be looking for particular industries. Or you’re looking to get a certain number of customers over a hundred K and ARR. And so you might even tie your sales place to higher level board metrics to keep everybody really aligned from a day-to-day perspective. We have an amazing pipeline team. They oversee and we look at. How is each team doing?

I loved what Chester said about relevancy and we really want to make sure that that content is relevant and it’s not just relevant and they’re using it, but we’re also seeing success everywhere. So sometimes we’ll see that in a geography, like in Europe, that we’re having a really good performance for a play, but one of the sales teams, maybe in the mid market is not having success with that play. So then we start to dig in on whether we need to adjust the motion or if there’s something going on with that specific team. So we try to make sure that we’re looking at both at the macro level, as well as at the micro level and to what Vermont said is like making sure that, We’re highlighting those individual wins, but also seeing, you know, which pockets were having success and then using the data and understand why are being successful there? Is it resonating particularly in that market or is it because that team is really the best at executing? 

Russell Wurth: Yeah, this is a great question. I’m an engineer. So in college, I always loved the fact that engineering could create these closed systems and we get a lot of great metrics on it, which were important to have, but with selling, you know, the human system is so much more complicated. We don’t have this closed system, so metrics are important, but sometimes we have to acknowledge they’re just difficult. We get stuck in this trap of what I talk about, that we measure, we improve what we can measure, but instead of measuring what we want to improve. And what I mean by that is we can measure how many times somebody viewed some content or shared something, which is insightful, but I really am starting to accept more and more feedback from the salespeople and the sales leaders on what’s really working. What some of those techniques are, now this can be backed up by data can be backed up by some of the video recordings that we do. Reps are practicing their storytelling or they do it live with a customer. We see some of those recordings, but let’s not try to measure too many things and get too focused on the metrics and really look at that human element and the analytics.

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. How do you really use these insights to implement any changes in your sales enablement efforts, Chester any thoughts on this one?

Chester Liu:  Yeah. Following up with what Alana just shared, you got to look at the big picture, but then you gotta look at the micro level and even down to the individual sales reps. Because if you want to drive change with these insights, you need to know at what level are you driving these changes? So I just want to share with you two insights, two situations that we were able to take an insight and drive change throughout our sales organization. So the first one was that we were not finding a lot of pain in the discovery call, we listened to this discovery call for our AEs. They were asking really quite superficial questions and not getting a lot of customer pain. I was pretty disappointed about that because they weren’t being inquisitive. They weren’t being curious about the customer.

And I believe that that is the foundation of sales. You have to be innately curious about other people to be successful in sales. So we use the Sandler methodology here, Allego, which has something that is called a pain funnel. And the idea of a painful noise should go from higher level pain to a deeper, more personal level of pain as the conversation progressed now, what we did was we were able to use these insights to turn this pain funnel from a nice concept into something that is actually practiced. So the natural question is how do we do that? We used Allego to train people on what the pain funnel is. And then we did a certification exercise where everyone who hadn’t recorded themselves, in a role-play doing this, then because we use call recording as well. We recorded their calls and then we had to submit their costs for a review by our sales enablement specialist and make sure that they are in fact doing a paid funnel. 

And there’s this whole, really dynamic process that has been very transformational because now I can go to any of our account executives and ask them what was the customer’s personal pain and this opportunity, and they can answer my question. Whereas three months ago, they couldn’t do that. So that was one example of taking insight, working with my sales enablement person to make all of this, transform our business. There’s one other insight, quick insight I’d like to also share as well, which is around messaging and messaging is really important, I think for every salesperson, because that’s core to our profession, getting it right, and making sure our sales reps can articulate it. So there was one time this summer I was sitting on some sales costs and I realized that my gosh, our sales reps just can’t articulate our messaging. The challenge was that they were taught a message, but when it didn’t resonate with the prospect, they just gave up and went on to a feature function demo, which is really not the way to go.

So I sat down, I put on my product marketing hat, which I still have from 10 years ago and I created a slide. It was pretty rough, you know, in PowerPoint. I tried it out on a couple of customers. I just told them, look, this is the first version of a slide. I didn’t even know if it’s going to work. Would you just give me your feedback? It seemed to work pretty well. So then I went back to the sales team, I published a recording that I had with that customer. I asked our top sales reps, I asked our product marketing manager to put in, give me their feedback. And based on the feedback, marketing was now able to take that little, see that little kernel of an idea, make it into a much nicer looking slide. Incorporate the input from the field. And now we have this slide as really one of the most often used slides at our company. All because we’re able to take field input and customer feedback and build that into something that’s really powerful. So I think that’s just an example of how you get out of your ivory tower and go live in the field, which is so important for all of us to be successful.

Cassandra Tenorio: I completely agree. Rehmat, I’d love to hear from you on this one.

Rehmat Kharal: Yeah, absolutely. For me, I think, you know, the inside stuff we gathered from the different plays that we’re putting out there on the different campaigns. I mean, for me personally, I’ve been using those metrics to figure out how to increase productivity, decrease the ramp of our different reps. So if we have these different campaigns in different places, you know, how can we help somebody onboard faster? So new reps that are coming, how can we arm them with the right, whether it’s the right messaging, whether it has to do with discovery, whatever it might be. How do we arm them with the right content, train them on the right content to increase their productivity?

So instead of it if our sales cycle is nine months, how do we decrease that to seven months? Because we’ve taken the time to really hone in and make sure that they understand the messaging properly. They know how to hone in on the pain and ask the right discovery questions. They understand how to present the FMD to the right persona. For me, it’s all about taking the successful plays that are working with our tenured reps and saying, “What can we do when we are looking at reps that are newly onboarding, that’s one way, and then again, to increase productivity of the reps. If we have certain areas, certain regions, sometimes our generic campaigns do better in certain regions and certain geographies than in other areas. Right. 

So figuring out what is a targeted campaign that we can do, whether it’s specific to a region because there’s it in that region, there’s a specific vertical that there’s a lot of like oil and gas and in a certain area, let’s just say, how do we now take that information that we’ve already created and say, what we really want to help our reps increase, how long it takes them from their first or second meeting to getting their third meeting with the economic buyer? Let’s just say that. So, how can we now use the insights we’ve learned, what’s working, what’s not working, and, and kind of iterate on those campaigns and then focus directly just on those regions. So again, when it comes to metrics and numbers, working with the operations team and saying, “We’ve got five different integrated campaigns, we’ve tweaked this one to really focus our messaging around oil and gas.” And those personas that we typically meet within the oil and gas industry, have we moved the needle here? A couple of different ways we do that. 

Alana Kadden Ballon: I liked what you said a lot about ramp. And I think that particularly right now, we’re very focused on making sure that we can maintain both our ramp and our productivity.

Especially with more of our junior sellers who are used to sitting in an office and being able to get some of that by osmosis, and really hearing what other people have to say. So we are doing a lot more of what Chester said, recording things, making sure that people are listening, really looking at those ramp metrics and seeing like, are we seeing them before even we see bookings, are we seeing the activities that level that we expect from a meetings perspective, emails, perspective? As well as, are we seeing that pipeline move through the funnel and are working with a sales leader the other day? And we were, and I was comparing different reps and where their deals were in the funnel.

And it was clear that we had a new rep who wasn’t moving deals from that discovery phase into technical proof. Right. And so by being able to give that kind of really targeted feedback to the leaders of how to compare the different reps, not just on overall pipeline and bookings, I think we can create a more in-person style experience.

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. I love that. Shifting gears a little bit here, I really want to talk about how sales guidance has really evolved this past year. So, have you seen any shift in what has been effective in this past year as so many teams have had to shift to a virtual environment? Chester I’d love to hear from you on this one.

Chester Liu: Yeah, absolutely enormous shift. And I think the biggest shift I’ve seen is around remote learning, very similar to what Alana is talking about the whole onboarding process, because everyone is home. How do you onboard people remotely after the lockdown started? I remember a lot of phone calls with our customers that were freaking out because they said, “Oh, our in house training has been canceled. I got 15 new hires coming in next month to onboard. What do I do? Can you help us?” Or they were saying like our national sales meeting has only gone virtual, and now I’ve got to plan a whole agenda over Zoom. Like, do I want eight hours of Zoom for three straight days? Is that how we want to run our sales meeting?

People were honestly panicking in the first couple months. I believe that the right answer around this shift and I believe is a permanent shift because there’s some benefits that we’ll talk about as well, is that the right answer is rarely contained and just one approach, right? You can’t just substitute one thing for another, something that we’ve seen really effective, and I think this is a concept that is worth noting down is thinking about which part of your training or sales meeting is knowledge transfer. Let’s say a product update, competitive update, things like that. What part of this knowledge transfer? And of course, private really is truly interactive. That requires a discussion.

What we have done at Allego and with our customers is basically moving all that knowledge transfer part because it’s dry. That’s what puts people to sleep on Zoom, basically move all of that offline. We moved that onto Allego video platforms so people can watch and absorb that on their own free time. Also, if you think about knowledge transfer in the way people learn, everyone learns a different speed. So if you’re all sitting in a training room together or sitting in a national sales meeting together, some people are going to get it just like that. Other people, they have to see the same slides we have four or five times before they really understand. So by moving all of this knowledge transfer stuff offline, what we find is that more people actually understand what was discussed from the virtual stage. Then if the whole thing was either online or in person. But that’s like the first aha moment for us is that it’s actually more beneficial to move this knowledge transfer offline.

Another thing that really made the difference was now we moved those now shards are offline. Let’s make the online part really fun, really engaging. So we think about our online onboarding classes and like things like that. Since people have done the knowledge transfer already before coming to class, we can not play games. We can have role-plays. We can do all sorts of really fun, interactive things using the knowledge that they already have. And that just makes the entire online experience way more interesting than sitting through eight hours of Zoom. So as we kind of think about this topic a little deeper, our customers are also asking the question, is there a ROI on this and is this here to stay or is it just a pandemic type of blip in our day to day work?

Right. What we’ve heard actually is there is a huge ROI to doing it virtually in this way. The big reason is that if you think about a lot of sales meetings, for example, guess who’s not invited a lot of the support staff. A lot of the marketing team who aren’t high enough on the totem pole to get there. A lot of other false yachts, let’s say customer success managers, because the support team there are folks who would love to be there and who would benefit from being there, but because of expenses, travel and all of that, they can’t be there. Well not by going virtual. The incremental cost is zero to add another person to your virtual meeting. So many of our clients have told us that this is here to stay because they have seen the benefit spread throughout their company. 

And then finally, if you think about separating knowledge transfer from the interactivity, that actually makes the entire meeting much less boring. So our customers are telling us that they want to do this for everything. It’s basically a reframing of how enablement is practiced. They want to look at not just sales meetings and onboarding sessions, but even monthly sales meetings, or even a manager talking with their team, “Hey, what can we do offline?” What we should do together is prompting an entire rethinking of the enablement practice, I think, which is really exciting.

Russell Wurth: Yeah, I think there has been this shift, obviously, but we still I think anticipate a return and I don’t want to call it a return to normal because normal is always changing. So who is left to the eye of the beholder. But I think unfortunately, you know, the past has gone the way of the fax machine. It’s still in use, but in rare circumstances. So back to being digital, we really have to acknowledge that human beings are adaptable. In the past 10 years, especially in the last six months, we’ve just seen change unlike any others in the past hundred years. So this change can take time. A lot of people can adapt very quickly. And some are going to take some time. This is again, our sales teams and our customers, but we really have asked ourselves, how frequently are we doing things like using cloud our office files versus cloud files? That’s an example of this transformation. So in terms of that shift in how we help people shift in that virtual environment, take time and give people that time and breaks throughout the day to recharge and rethink.

I’ve really worked hard to try to take phone calls more than video calls. Even though I work a lot with Europe, we’re on WhatsApp and I’ll be able to bring up my phone. Plug in my earbuds and that can walk around and have a conversation. It’s really hard to do in front of that video screen. So after we developed that trust through the video interaction, kind of like we did, Cassandra talked about Seattle, I’d rather just kind of pick up the phone and look at the sky. And I know you’re going to look at that beautiful skyline that you have in your view that I’m jealous of and have a conversation where we can be a little bit more human instead of just trying to be so digital in front of the screen all the time. 

Cassandra Tenorio: I think that it is no shock to anybody that I’m going to talk about this upcoming year being filled with so much uncertainty for so many sales teams. So really, how are you planning on updating any of your plays or processes or guidance to be flexible amidst all of this uncertainty? So, Alana, I’d love to hear from you.  

Alana Kadden Ballon: Sure. So I think when the lockdown globally first started a real differentiator for our team, both Duo as its own entity. And as part of the larger Cisco we’re huddling up, would be the first one, just getting really close cross-functionally to make sure everybody was on the same page about what we needed to do and doing it quickly. And the second thing, would be our corporate value being kinder than necessary. We did that very quickly, both things, everybody stayed true to our corporate values. One of the sales plays that we launched immediately, and this was because of customer feedback was an extended trial. Right.

We let people use our product for free for longer. We let our existing customers go over on their usage. We said, “Look, we’re going to do this for 90 days. Nobody really knows what’s happening.” Chester talked earlier about democratizing things and that is true for Duo, right? We want to democratize security and we didn’t want our customers to feel like we were hanging them out to dry because of this immediate need to support remote work, which we’re able to do. So we did this along with many other Cisco products like WebEx is a great combination, and we had a tremendous response. And I think that proved to our sales teams that we can be agile, even when we’re large.

And it proved that to the Duo sales team, the Cisco sales team, as well as our partner ecosystem and by supporting our partners whose businesses were also struggling through this time. I think we created a foundation that’s going to see us through the pandemic. So we’re continuing to gather customer feedback, a huge shout out to both our product marketing team, as well as, we have a customer advisory panel that we work with just for giving us the insights of what the market is asking for. And so continuing to respond to the need has been our focus, right? And now that we’re shifting more into what we’re calling long term business resiliency, we’re trying to build all of our campaigns and all of our target lists on that. So obviously there are certain industries unfortunately that are hit harder and in different ways than others. So to what Rehmat talked about earlier, thinking about which industries can we be successful with and can we support through this time has been tremendous. As we have thrown so many different things that our sales team like to go home, take all of your things home, be there indefinitely.

Right? We did. We’ve done things that we just continued, right? That resilience has been incredible. Our sales team in Asia Pacific all supported people in the US and that was people being flexible with their working hours to make sure that, similar to what Chester said about ramping, we had always had online components and self-paced components to our learning, but we took it to the next level. And then we added more bite sized chunks of check-ins so that everybody in every region was getting a pulse check multiple times a week. And we’ve seen real tremendous success in that global expansion. So I think that continuing to look at what’s new, what’s happening and to hold each other close and do it all quickly, have been the keys for us. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. Rehmat, I see you nodding. Do you have anything to add on this one?

Rehmat Kharal: I completely agree with what Alana just talked about, especially when it comes to meeting the needs of the customer, right? When the customer is looking for that extended trial. I mean, Big Panda is in the exact same thing by offering that to them, making it as easy as possible for both our customers and our pro prospects who are trying out the product for the very first time. So I think meeting the needs of the customers. 

To be very frank, when I think of this question, uncertainty, I feel like there’s always uncertainty in sales. You never know what you’re going to encounter. I mean, yes, right now with the pandemic things are, we’ve never gone through anything like this. I mean, nobody’s ever gone through anything like this. But at the same time, it’s bringing everybody along a lot closer. Right? Maybe not physically, but definitely virtually because you have to collaborate across all the different teams to ensure that whatever is being created. However, we can support our teams. We’re able to do that in a better manner. And I for one can say, having everything moved to virtual when it comes to training, I love it. I mean, I used to travel a ton and I feel like I’m a lot more productive this way. Does it become more challenging? Yes. Because to Chester’s point, a lot of people tune out, they don’t come prepared, they want to get, just do something more fun, more interactive.

So it is a challenge for us, but at the same time, it’s very telling, right? Because now we’re honing in closer onto what our audience wants, what the enablement audience needs. And that might be some of that one-on-one coaching that we didn’t have time for before, because everybody was jumping on a plane and it was in different time zones. But now that we have the conveniences of technology, whether it’s a WebEx or whether it’s a Zoom or whatever it might be, you’re able to utilize that time in a lot more productive fashion, I would say. So, one it’s on the uncertainty side of our customers is getting inside of their heads and saying, how can we be sensitive to their needs? What are our customers going to need? How do we have to pivot our messaging? So it resonates better with our customers that it still makes sense to them that they see it as a necessity and not a luxury. 

But at the same time, for me, on the flip side, it’s actually more important to say “okay”with the uncertainty because mr or mrs salesperson, you are commission-based, this is your bread and butter. And a lot of salespeople get into sales because of their charisma because of their personality. And they’re great at doing those one-on-one meetings. It doesn’t always come across on a Zoom or on a WebEx. So how can we help you build, do whatever we can to help you close more deals to make you more successful in the field. So I think for me, when it comes to pivoting on messaging and all that, that’s a must. It needs to happen both on the internal and on the external side, but I think it’s more pivoting on how we work and coach, anybody who’s on the sales side, whether you’re an AE, SC, a SDR, you know, BDR, whatever it might be, even on the customer success side, you know, what can we do to enable you to be better at your jobs?

Cassandra Tenorio: Absolutely. I love that. Well, this has been such a great discussion and we love to have all of our panels with one big takeaway for our audience. So if you have one takeaway that you want everyone to leave with today, what would that be? And Alana, why don’t we start with you? 

Alana Kadden Ballon: Can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Cassandra Tenorio: Love it. Rehmat?

Rehmat Kharal: I like Alanas, but I’m going to say transparency. I think transparency is key to success from the top of the organization all the way down to the bottom of the organization. Communication and transparency is key to success. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Yes, absolutely. Chester?

Chester Liu:  Yeah, I think it’s very similar to Alana and Rehmat’s. I think with the transparency, we also need to tighten that feedback loop between stark sales, marketing, enablement, and individual contributors. Because a lot of times we talked in this session about how we need to listen to people who are down there, they’re out with the customer. We need to give them coaching. And, I think that the feedback loop between all these functions has to become tighter and tighter for companies to succeed and thrive in this environment. Because as we all know, things are changing faster than they ever have. The market is changing faster. Competitors are innovating faster and we need to stay on top of that.

So, I think it’s more than just a biweekly check-in. I love how Alana shared with us about the Asia Pacific team. It’s bite-sized check-ins, it’s little short feedback sessions. That’s what’s going to make you successful. And I think that’s the real takeaway to being effective in this fast changing world.

Russell Wurth: I think I’m going to go back to a favorite book of mine, of Who Moved My Cheese. You know, nowhere has cheese moved faster and more dramatically in these past six months. So while humans, we get great because we develop some efficiencies of our process, those routines that we get really good at. And we have over the past five to 10 years in terms of how we sell, how we enable, how we market. So we have to acknowledge that this change is occurring. It’s not easy, but we have to move with it.

The only piece of advice I have is work in your community. You’re not alone. Like just be transparent, be open, be honest, others are going through this as well. And so the more we can acknowledge that it’s not easy and it takes a community the better we’re all going to change together. So I’m very adaptable that, well, I feel like I’ve changed. I could acknowledge a lot of people haven’t changed as quickly. And that’s okay. I’m just here to help move at their pace. Whatever they’d like to do, knowing we’ve got an ultimate goal in mind that we know we have to change, but it’s just that rate of change that we’ve got to be able to keep a mind on and doing it together as a community. 

Cassandra Tenorio: Well, this has been such a great discussion. Thank you so much to all of our panelists for joining today. We are going to open up to Q&A. So to our audience, if you have any questions, you can type those into the question section, and we’re going to get a couple of those answered today.



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