Crafting an Effective Virtual Onboarding Experience – Sales Enablement Soirée, Summer 2020

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CT: Welcome to our panel on Crafting an Effective Virtual Onboarding Experience. I’m very excited about this topic because onboarding is something that’s typically done in person for a lot of sales reps. So, I’m excited to hear from each of our panelists. Today about the way that they’re executing onboarding in a virtual fashion.

And so, I’ll just have each of our panelists to say their name, their company, a little bit about themselves and area. Let’s start with you.

AR: My name is Arielle Rosati and I’m responsible for global sales enablement at a kind of a mouthful Dassault Systèmes, Biovia. Just so systems in terms of what we do develop for 3D product design, simulation, manufacturing, and many more applications. In terms of scope, it’s the second one, just software company in Europe. So, our base or our headquarters is actually in France. We have 20,000 employees and 140 countries. And we work with more than 250,000 customers. So, this is a massive company. And within this, because I mentioned Biovia specifically at the beginning, but you’re right is one brand or one subset of does. So, by that, what I mean is just so has grown immensely through acquisition and Biovia is one of its more recent acquisitions. So, in response to some of these questions, you’ll find there’s kind of a push pull because we’re still fully integrating within the corporate or Dassault system.

LW: I’m Lori Wilbanks and I run our global sales onboarding at Equinix.

MC: Hi, I’m Mary Charles. I’m the director of sales enablement at Allego.  Allego happens to be a sponsor of the right, but I’m here as a practitioner today and our solution provider, a learning and technology platform to help companies improve learning collaboration, onboarding among other things. So, I’m hoping I can offer a lot of value today.

CT: So, we’ll just jump right into some of these panel questions here. Firstly, when we have, is kind of around this report, we recently did that found that sales enablement teams that really prioritize competency improvement. they experienced win rates that are three times or percentage points higher than those that.

And so, I would love to know what some of those things that sales enablement practitioners have really, they have to consider when prioritizing competency improvement, in their onboarding programs. So, Arielle would love to hear from you.

AR: Yeah. Certainly. So, as I mentioned with Biovia still going through a sort of integration process within our larger company this is a really interesting question. Because when I inherited the, at least it wasn’t even a full-blown onboarding program, but when I inherited them, at the beginning or the start of an onboarding program, we were missing things. So, we are missing things just in terms of knowledge, like we were missing market knowledge, we were missing some basics in there.

We were really only covering product knowledge. So, if you think of competencies in terms of skills, knowledge, behavior, all the things that should be threaded throughout some of those basics weren’t even in place. So, I kind of had to go back to them beginning and, I think it is incredibly invaluable when you’re talking about an onboarding program and all the components and what kind of competencies you want in there and you want to be measuring.

And of course, everyone likes to talk about 30, 60, 90 days, but in this case, it goes beyond that for us, because it’s a slower ramp time. But I think sitting down with the executive stakeholders, right, and getting their buy in and understanding what fuel sellers need to be successful. And also talking with more tenured sellers, people that have been there a long time and asking them what they do, I would have liked to have a front or earlier on, or what has led to their success and reverse engineering that, but as I mentioned, there were a lot of, and I’m not putting down what we have in place, but there were things lacking.

And even when we at kind of our larger culture, if you will, we have Skype that that’s our big communication platform, if you want to call it that, but no one turned on their webcams. Now that we’re talking about our virtual world, suddenly the power of video obviously is so core to everything we do. And so, when you think about certain skills, again, knowledge, behavior, the things that go around that, I mean, even just basic skills.

Setting expectations with your customer, that you’re going to be on video. First impressions, what that looks like, how you should be dressed, appearance. We might want to believe appearances don’t matter. That’s not true. Energy level, providing value right away. How you’re engaging your audience leaning on visuals more. And of course, when we’re trying to teach people about how to use video effectively, and how we should engage with their customer on it, that also had to be. We really had to pull apart and deconstruct what would have been initially our onsite sales boot camp.

Right? So now of course, it’s the Fertrell sales boot camp and really think about, really rethink the whole thing. And I can talk about some of the things that, that needed to be there from the beginning. And weren’t there. And again, these are things when you’re talking about supporting application concepts and moving from theoretically, this is how you should do it to realistically, this is how you actually execute. We really had to deconstructed, rethink, I will say because there are so many pieces of our onboarding program that need to be. Maybe not rip and replace, but we really needed to rethink. Anyway, this was a really good opportunity. It was three months ago now that we did our first onsite sales boot camp virtually.

And that was when we really got to implement some of those things that I wanted to implement anyway and going virtual was the perfect opportunity. I could probably go on and on about this, but things like things we know, I think most of us know, short and focus lessons are better than going on for four hours. We know that, right? These, these are new things, but I think these things are so much more important when suddenly you’re expecting people to just be sitting in front of their laptop for extended periods of time. Pre-work, providing participants with the training material in advance setting expectations, constantly reviewing the information that’s being shared throughout the day.

things like, like I said, I could go on about this for a couple of days. Cause I love talking about this, but when you talk about setting expectations, asking participants to create a personal action plan, right. And that personal action plan is going to look very different now than it did six months ago when they were going to be onsite and had certain expectations as to what they were going to learn and how they were going to learn.

Even things like, and we pulled this one out, I think two onsite boot camps ago, but rather than just having people do round robin introductions, we had people build group resumes. and this will actually go to a later question about multi-generations and how do you get different generations with different strengths to come together and really benefit from each other’s experience. But, a lot of the group activities, the role plays, but all that stuff had to be rethought. Obviously when we went for chewable. So, there’s a lot more work to be done, but I would say it’s been a lot of going back to square one, to be honest, right? Because it’s not that a lot of these competency competencies or the skills or the knowledge or behavior, not all that has to change but honestly, a lot does, and we have to pivot really fast.

LW: I think first is to have some kind of a structure for what you’re assessing. I think that’s the number one thing to start with is what skill are you assessing? And then how are you going to rate that and then sharing that with your, with your, your students, if you will, because they have to know what it, what is it that they’re being measured on? Right. So being able to provide a good structure for that. Also having, showing them what good looks like. So, they know, okay, now I know how I’m going to be measured. Now, here I can watch one of my here’s doing this. So, videos are really helpful in having peers present. What good looks like for that particular skill?

Let’s say objection handling for example, and then giving the opportunity to practice a lot of practice on their own. Our team does this using our solution and video and it makes a huge difference because otherwise standing in front of a mirror or what are they doing? Right. And when you practice with peers, that’s really helpful. But recording that and hearing yourself back is critical. So, having a structure, giving opportunities for practice, and then letting people know what does good look like? I think those are some of the keys you think about.

CT: Something that we do want to talk about, which is this multigenerational work? So, I would also love to just hear from you about how you really tailor onboarding programs for reps of different tenures and generations.

LW: We actually address it in multiple ways, so we address it before they come on board. So, when they actually receive, we have a 30 day start kit and we give that to individuals who, in various roles. And so, we have seasoned people and we also have people straight out of college. So, we have a customized learning plans for those individuals. And so, we address it there.

We also address it in our types of content. So, the different medium that we actually offer. So, we have shorter segments of training. We have a lot of gamification in our virtual workshop. We also have, a lot of networking as well. And I think that along with practice exercises, so we’re doing what we were doing as in the traditional workshop, but virtually we now actually do it, a lot more games and keeping people interested in shorter pieces and the contents moving very quickly.

I think one thing I’ve thought about a lot, when you think about expectations and what people bring to the table, I think one thing that really can help unite across generations is really not just having clear company values but making sure that those are apparent throughout the onboarding process and that people can and actually articulate those.

We were all new once. And though my role is not customer facing I found when I joined, I wasn’t that clear on the company values. So that tells you something, even if you’re not a sales rep going through onboarding, if you’re a little hazy on what the company stands for and how you’re going to contribute to it that’s a problem. And so that really did make me think about when we did this again, not a total rip and replace, but when we started to think about how we needed to pit pivot and shift our sales onboarding program, how are we going to make sure that company values are really apparent? And I think again, thinking back to this comment about working with the key stakeholders and getting their buy in to ensure that you’re clear on competencies and what success looks like when you have them front and center and involved in the onboarding process.

And you also have them presenting day one. And they’re very clear on this is what our company stands for. This is where we see you being involved. I think that does help unite across generations. then of course, when you start to look at. How can the different groups benefit from one another? That’s another story, right?

Cause you’ve got the baby boomers that have this wealth of business experience and knowledge, and I think you really want to leverage that. And when you look at generation X, you look at millennials, even generation Z, you look at them, they want mentorship opportunities. They crave that they want, they want to learn. So, pairing any of them with a baby boomer, for instance, with all, again, all their business experience, their wealth of knowledge, that’s gold. But I think, again, going back to being very clear on company values their contributions.

When you look at someone like a generation X-er they really want to know what to expect from leadership in the organization. And they want to know 90 days what their success should look like and what they should be doing specifically and how they should be working with their manager and how they can benefit from enablement exercises or enablement initiatives. So, I have all these things in my head and obviously when you look at like buddy programs, mentorship programs, so those things can be built in a little bit, but it is an interesting question, especially when you talk about technology adoption, because you do have that sort of delta, I mean, this is a huge generalization of course, but you do have some baby boomers that aren’t as comfortable with technology.

So how do you get them to feel comfortable with technology? Maybe not partner them with someone who’s so, tech savvy that they almost feel like if they’re lacking somehow. And so, I have, like I said, still work in progress, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about when I create group exercises, who’s paired with whom and how they can benefit.

And depending on the conversation, especially when we start talking about, just so stems by specific processes. Right. Where can certain pairings benefit certain people depending on their strengths and weaknesses, kind of shifting gears a little bit. We found that time to ramp is really the most common, kind of measurement for onboarding success.

CT: So, I’d love to hear from you just on how has time to ramp really been impacted at your organization in the last few months?

AR: We hadn’t experienced and I’m sure Lori probably did as well. And everybody where we had a program in place for onboarding and ramping people up and we had some people who were in the middle of that process who worked out of our office. So, it was a face to face experience, plus some things that they did self-paced, but within a couple of weeks, they had been in the onboarding process and then they were virtual. That was really hard. And definitely. Slow to sound a little bit. but what we found since then is this virtual program. And I think Lori alluded to this a little bit, is that it’s almost accelerating the pace because you have to be so lazy focused on what content you’re going to have. People will review if they’re doing that in a self-paced fashion versus where you would have had them for a whole day in a class classroom.

So, we’ve actually, we have some new ones, for example, right now who are going to be onboarded. They’re about to complete their initial onboarding and they’ve done that in three weeks instead of four to five weeks. So, they’re actually ready sooner because we’ve intensified the onboarding with laser focus on the areas, they need to do their job, doing things like we were just talking about assessing skills frequently. Making sure that they’re doing all the things they need to do, but really connecting with them every day in a very mindful way and keeping them on track and motivated too, to work from home and onboard from home it’s certainly been impacted. And talk about time, right? When we’ve all had to pivot, you’ve had to really rethink our roles.

We’ve had to rethink our direction and we all, I shouldn’t say we all, I think a lot of us love our formalized enablement packages, right. We like everything all tightly buttoned up and that just hasn’t been the reality maybe the last couple of months. Cause we do have to keep refining and keep rethinking what we’re doing, which I think is a great thing.

It’s challenging, but it’s really great. So, ramp time has been interesting because for example, for sales reps that got onboarded, we’ll say about three months ago, their ramp time is still on track in a lot of ways, but what’s happened is we’re actually now enabling a whole different group of salespeople.

So, and I don’t know when I confuse too much. Cause again, this goes to Dassault Systèmes corporate and lots of systems and layers and a matrix organization. But traditionally we’ve onboarded and developed enablement programs specifically for our brand specialist. So, people with a Biovia, which is a lot easier now we’re going after sales generalists.

So, some of them don’t even know what Biovia does, which might sound a little odd given that they’ve worked for them, the same company, but again, that’s the interview that’s still occurring. So, ramp time for them, when we look at that, that has changed significantly because, suddenly there’s a hunger that they need pipeline. There’s a hunger to learn more and to find out, can I pull pipeline from somewhere else, but they don’t know enough about our brand to actually act or execute. So suddenly, and I’m sure you can appreciate this, right, but there’s this constant like flow or kind of flux between onboarding and ongoing initiatives and ongoing enablement.

And I think when we look at ramp time for these sales, or just call them sales generalists to be honest, they were never onboarded. So how can you build on a zero-onboarding program? but if I want to think of them as. Getting new exposure or recently being exposed to Biovia. We want to think of that as the start of a ramp. Right. It’s going to be a long ramp because they need completely different things, but we’ve traditionally enabled or onboarded. So that kind of got thrown in the mix in the midst of shelter and COVID-19 cropping up and it’s been really interesting, going a little bit different than strict ramp time.


CT: But it speaks to suddenly what success metrics look like and what we have to do as an organization to build and grow revenue and kind of going back to that report that we had talked about earlier, we found that 46% of sales enablement practitioners actually measured time to productivity to gauge onboarding success.

So, I’d love to hear about what you are doing at your organization to really shorten that time to productivity metric?

LW: Our overall program is a six-month program and we start with our pre-work our 30-day kits, which I alluded to earlier. And then we also have the virtual workshop, but I really believe in the reinforcement piece.

And so, enforcement is key for us. So, we don’t end after the workshop. We also do 12 weeks of reinforcement, with individual topics, whether they were pieces of information that were from the workshop or also pieces that we want to give them now that  they didn’t really need in their first 30 days, we also put Equinix, puts a big emphasis on manager coaching, and that has really helped our productivity.

So, the fact that we have coaching guides for the managers too, that are related to the 30 day start kits. So, we send those to the managers upfront and they’re actually coaching their new hires individually one-on-one each week. And we found that that’s really helped improve the productivity rates.

MC: I think I would just echo what Lori just said. I’m a strong believer that the number one most impactful activity you can have an improving productivity for sales reps is good coaching. And one on one coaching is a luxury, but it’s something we have to prioritize. And I know I personally did that a lot in the last six weeks. I think I did 32 one on one coaching sessions, which is intense, but as a payoff, I mean really seeing improved results. I would agree with coaching is most impactful. So, I would say the biggest thing we’ve done. And in an ideal world, of course, we’d have such efficient processes mapped to the customer journey roadmap, and it would be beautiful and seamless.

And it’d be so simple to train someone on that. But as mentioned, our company is matrix. It’s very complicated. so even when you start to talk about the ability to price, well, people aren’t just pricing one product. In fact, sometimes their pricing. 25 products across basically four brands. It could be 10 brands.

So, 10, basically 10 subsidiaries. So, when you look at that complexity, I always get my favorite little sort of phrase is keep it simple, stupid. And I think we’ve had to, because I can’t change some of these processes, right. They’re not going to go away anytime soon. And there’s certain layers of approval that exists within pricing or within contract, contract negotiations, those kinds of things.

They’re not going to go away. So, for me, it’s just, how can I make all the tools and resources and people as accessible as possible, or as a fillable, as possible to a new salesperson? As mentioned in an earlier response, it helps that I’m newer because I know what it felt like to try to figure out where do I go for X or Y and just trying to understand the broader landscape, because this is such a massive organization, it really is about. How do I navigate effectively? And how do I pull in the appropriate resources? So, a little bit different. I think then traditionally the way I would think about, onboarding and how to shorten time to productivity, but it’s really not for us.

It’s not about. You know, how many did someone close X deals by the state? Right? It’s not that simple at all. because the kinds of deals that exist in the kinds of industries that exist in the kinds of customers exist, varies so significantly. So really, it’s just about kind of a path to process success, if that makes sense.

And that’s just what I would call it. but it’s, for us, it was creating this roadmap that allows someone to navigate this massive organization and figure out how to get what they need as quickly as possible.

CT: I think that one of the things that this virtual world, it’s brought a lot of different, unique challenges that we’ve never had to face, and a lot of practitioners haven’t had to face. And so, I’d love to hear about some of the onboarding challenges that each of you have faced and how have you addressed them? Lori let’s start with you.

LW: There’s quite a few. And I think, just, I think one of the biggest pieces express was networking, networking when they came to the workshop at headquarters.

I mean, they that was really where they love to meet individuals. So, what I found with running it virtually, I really needed to put a big emphasis on creating a network for them. and whether it be. just short networking segments within the virtual workshop or, I’ve actually also created networking opportunities afterwards for each of the classes to meet once a week and just I break them out into like small teams. I give them a topic, or I do things like two truths and a lie game. So, it’s not a heavy content topic. It’s just more of a content. In order to get them to start talking to one another. And that I’ve seen that actually really improve the networking from even from our may class to our June class.

When I implemented more networking, I really saw a big increase with that. I also believe some of the challenges we have were. Accompanying our global workforce. So, it’s a global program. And so, we needed to find a time that worked for everyone. And as you know, it does not work for everyone, a good time specifically.

So, some teams made some sacrifices. Our AsiaPac team is logging into a two and a half to three-hour workshop at around 9:00 PM at night, but the West coast for example, is logging in at 6:00 AM. So, we’re keeping the segments smaller as well. So, keeping it at a maximum of three hours and really moving between practice exercises to keep it going so that zoom fatigue is not it’s a real thing. And I think that that’s actually been one of the big challenges. I think the other challenge I can think of is a culture. Just making sure they really feel our culture and feel welcome. So, I’ve tried hard in order to think about different ways that what we would do in the workshop itself in person, what could we do actually, virtually that’s also bringing them together and giving them the culture. I actually have our culture and diversity team come speak with them. And then we break out into teams and talk about what they’re doing, out in there, in their world in order to help organizations. So, they bring it count with that. And, I also do a fun thing, I thought, in our introductions. I brought in a digital illustrator to come in and so, one of the questions that I have people ask is, everybody has to introduce themselves and say if time and money were no object, what would you be doing? And then illustrator actually takes that answer and illustrates it. So, then the whole class gets a picture of their 50 attendees afterwards, it’s really fun. And I think it just bridge that culture together.

MC: Well, Lori, those are great creative ideas and maybe steal a couple of those. I think the biggest challenge right is echoing what Lori said, but also really the work from home is a big issue. It is for me personally, it also is for the folks I’m onboarding. So, we provide as much flexibility as possible in how they consume materials. Making sure it’s bite sized. We used to have something called windshield time where people could listen to podcast type of things, but instead, now we call it walk time.

And I say, I encourage you for this section, go out and take a walk while you’re listening to this content so that people are not tied to their desks. So, some of those things we’ve learned along the way, the connection part is really important. Feeling connected to people. So, when new hire start, we have a variety of welcome videos from our CEO or head of sales, variety of people in the organization.

And then making sure a variety in general, as part of the program like Lori described, but making sure there’s self-paced work, there are activities that they’re doing their practice sessions. They’re getting lots of coaching and feedback. So, keeping that really interesting because engagement obviously is challenging.

And, it’s hard for all of us to feel connected in this virtual environment. We’re all getting better at it, but I did a clap, a classical we’ll call it, a drawing class on Zentangles, which I highly recommend to people. And I kind of taught that session just informally to a group of 10 people. Half of them were not new hires and the other half were newer and it just helped them connect. Right. So, it’s something that you could do creatively to help people feel like they’re part of the culture part of the organization and that they start to form relationships within the company.

CT: And so, for anybody that has not joined a Sales Enablement Soirée panel before we like to end all of our panels with the key takeaway that each speaker would like to leave with our audience. So, you could get each of you to go around and just say one key takeaway that you want everyone to leave with today. Arielle let’s start with you.

AR: Sure. that’s a hard one. I would say for me, and this is just a personal thing based on the different organizations I’ve worked for. Always adjust your view of what enablement is and value up. I think it’s been really interesting so far. One company, I work with had a very clear vision of what sales enablement was going to be for that company. They saw it as a strategic function and boy’s that a lot easier when the CEO is backing you and is pushing a sales enablement function or department. But sometimes you’re not always that lucky. And sometimes you think you’re that lucky and you walk into the organization and you realize, they actually don’t know what sales enablement is. And I guess the beauty of the journey is that sometimes you realize you have to go back to the beginning.

LW: You just have to work completely from scratch and just kind of start with us. So, sales enablement, one-on-one pitch and a branding exercise. And you still have the ability to build value in sales enablement and make it something strategic. But I think for me being such a perfectionist, it’s not being afraid to get your hands dirty sometimes and challenging the status quo.

MC: I think staying connected to your new hires and making sure you have a level of intensity with connecting to them as frequently as possible. And getting to know them virtually will help them succeed. I think differently when you’re creating your virtual onboarding experience, doesn’t have to be the exact same experience that the classroom environment was. Really look at what you’re trying to achieve and then work backwards from that and make it, and people rise to the challenge. They’ll do whatever creative thing that you’re actually going to think through.

CT: All right. So, we’re going to open it up for Q and A. So, if anybody has any questions for our speakers, please feel free to type those into the chat below. And we’ll give you all a moment to do that.


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