Sales Guidance: Plays and Processes for the Digital World – Sales Enablement Soirée, Summer 2020

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CT: Welcome to our panel today on Sales Guidance: Plays and Processes for the Digital World. So, this is such an important topic, and I’m really excited. I need to hear what each of our panelists have to say because sales guidance is such an important component of navigating an unfamiliar environment.  I think that this topic is super relevant to today.

I’ll just have each of our panelists go around, introduce themselves. Let’s start with Ryan.

RV: Hey everyone, Ryan Vaillancourt here. Director of sales at a ringDNA. I support a group of, account executives at ringDNA and, come, come into sales after an early career in journalism, which is actually where I got my start.

AS: Hi, my name’s Andy Solomon director of sales training for Associated Materials, Inc. I’m responsible for supporting our US sales team as well as our Canadian sales team, within the field sales training, product knowledge, et cetera.

AE: Hi, I’m Arianne. I’m done. I am the client delivery leader for DSG.

RK: My name is Remy Khoung. I am the sales enablement strategy lead over at AWS, Amazon Web Services. Prior to, AWS, I was leading, global sales enablement over at TripActions and then prior to that, I spent about a decade leading sales and go-to-market strategy for early stage startups. I live here in the San Francisco Bay area with my wife and my one year nine-month-old daughter. Definitely, just blessed to be here with my family and excited to be here with you guys today.

CT: So, we’re just going to jump right into the questions today. So, with so many teams working remotely, as we’ve seen with the shift in the last few months, I would love to know just how plays and processes have really needed to shift to really accommodate this change in the last few months, Ariana, this one to you.

AE: Sure, to build an and deliver effective sales plays today, you first really need to be thinking about the degree of change that’s required from your reps and their managers and the hierarchy. The higher the degree of change, the more enablement and reinforcement that’s going to be required. So, our customers have found that packaging up the guidance around remote selling into a video playbook is a great way to think about the content tools and training that reps are going to need to lead a compelling virtual conversation.

RV: It’s a really good suggestion. So, when it comes to iterate and plates, I had mentioned my background as a journalist. I love this quote from the former US Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis. He said, “There’s no such thing as good writing. There’s only good rewriting.” And I think this has always been true of sales playbooks.

I think it’s especially true now because as I mentioned, things like that, the business world is changing, and it continues to change. It’s changing really fast. So, to keep up with it, I think there are really two important shifts that groups can make. One, sales organizations that have not yet really centralized they’re like playbook operation, making sure that’s really kind of controlled in a decentralized way really need to look at that because going to have sales reps, even good ones who, if they are right now allowed to, to create their own plays, their own sequences. Right there on messages. Some of them are invariably going to make mistakes that miss how this world is changing. So, by all means involved sales reps and sourcing material and messaging from the front lines, but make sure that messaging is really, kind of controlled and vetted and analyze on a central level.

And then the last thing I’d say is, especially in the past three months or so there there’s so much change happening in the world, not just because of the shift to remote work, but just impacts on the economy, even everything going on in the world. With regard to social justice movements, these are affecting companies in different ways.

We’ve got to make sure leadership and businesses are more involved in these plays than they are necessarily marketing, sales, anybody customer facing. Because while the sales team is thinking about what’s going on really on the front lines every day and providing good feedback to the business, it’s those executive leaders who should be at the forefront of figuring out how go to market is changing. So, to make sure they get involved actually in this iterative process and are part of that feedback group.

CT:  Arianne, you talked a little bit already about kind of sales plays.  I would love to kind of know how are you really using sales plays at your organization to really enable virtual reps?

AE: So, every organization has what I call selling motions, which are just really a collection of the typical paths that sellers use to engage buyers and in a business as usual environment. Those motions are probably enough to get the job done, especially for a strong, experienced seller, right.

But when there are changes in the operating environment, whether it’s a competitive take out or a new set of regulations or a global pandemic that we weren’t expecting, launching a set of really prioritized plays is what’s going to help cut through the noise and create focus for your team. In our work with customers today, the play has really shifted to what is the remote selling experience and are your teams replicating an experience that worked in person, but is not as effective? Yeah. When you just transitioned the same slides and the same intro that you would have done, in an in-person meeting to a virtual environment.

RK:  We’ve talked about launching a really focused play in a big way. The way we’ve talked about thinking about enablement as a collection of what reps need to know, do, say, and show to execute the play and making sure that the reps have the enabling resources. So, do they have the email scripts? Do they know the talk tracks? Do they have something compelling to show on screen that can guide a conversation as opposed to just advancing through slides?

Have they built in pause points for validation and discussion or are they just dominating the whole meeting in the virtual environment? So, there’s a lot of small adjustment that teams need to make today, both to execute a play virtually, but also just to realize that the skills that worked six months ago are really different from the ones that are going to make us successful going forward in the short term.

CT: Absolutely. I’d actually love to flip in a little bit deeper than that. And talk just generally about what does effective virtual guidance look like for sales reps? I know that you’ve talked a lot about this already, so if anybody also wants to jump in, but I’d love to hear from you Arianne.

AE: Yeah. One thing to share there is that it’s really helpful for reps to have an example of what good looks like.  If you are just describing the behaviors you want reps to change and you’re not modeling those behaviors it’s going to take longer for the change to take effect. Think about ways that you can leverage role-playing and remote video capture to show examples of, this is what a compelling virtual selling conversation looks like in today’s world. And using your team members. So, people who your sellers respect and look up to, showing that, this is our team who you’ve seen. So, in a face to face environment and who are now mastering the same, a purchase in a virtual world.  So just making it really easy for salespeople to learn from other successful sellers and enablement marketing sales leaders.

It’s our responsibility to kind of look for those pockets of excellence, pull them together, package them in a playbook and make it easier. For the rest of the team to replicate those behaviors.

CT: Shifting gears a little bit here. sales frameworks are. A very key vehicle for really delivering effective sales conversations. How are you using sales frameworks at your organizations to really enable virtual reps right now?

from my experience previously as a seller and then also as an enablement leader, what I’ve recognized is in order for reps to actually use what we’re enabling them we have to distill what we’re doing down into simple frameworks that they can remember and simple frameworks that on the fly; it will kind of trigger in their minds. Oh, I should use this particular framework or that framework to address this objection, handling or, or abduction rather, or to address this way of, positioning my solution. The way that, in what, what I’ve done to kind of distill some of our talk tracks down into simple frameworks is one framework that we used, in my past life, we created it and I called it spins Z, which is a situation problem, a need. solution and impact.

So, we start with what’s the situation and it’s really, it’s really a framework to apply challenge or sale. We hear about challenger sale often, and we hear about like, how do you know, how do you reframe and how do you like get the customer to understand where, where they are today and where they need to be tomorrow.

But we hardly ever hear exactly how do you put that into action?  This framework takes the challenger sale and puts it into action. And it starts with the situation today. Hey Mrs. Or Mr. Customer, the way you’re doing it today is X, Y, Z. The problem with the way you’re doing it today is, is this the problem is where you’re doing it takes a while.

A lot of man hours, it’s slow. It takes, X amount of head count for you to achieve what you’re doing. It’s costing you millions of dollars. And these are the challenges with it, from what we’ve seen working with customers, just like you. So, these are the problems. What you really need is a solution that’s going to help you do X, Y, Z.

What you really need is a solution that’s going to help you to sell faster or sell more effectively or a solution that’s going to help you Do more with less, I’m just making this up on the fly, but this is what you really need. and this is what we, this is what we offer to customers just like you. This is how we help you. X, Y, Z. And at the end of the day, this is why it matters to organizations like yours. This is the business impact. This is how it’s going to impact your key metrics. This is how it’s going to help you drive your key business outcomes. So that’s been easy. And then we follow it up with evidence, which is a customer story.

So, we’ve helped the customer, just like you and your space who is experiencing the same challenges and we help them solve it by XYZ. And these were the results that they gained from that. That’s the evidence. So that’s one framework that we used spins Z with the customer story right after it to really, illustrate the, or to really put the challenger sale into action.

AS: You know, first the key is just making sure that we have everything that they need, packaged in a nice bow, so to speak so that when they’re going into these conversations, there’s a limitation to where they need to search and find things.

We want to make kind of pre call planning as simple, as easy as possible. So, for us, is putting together our frameworks in a way that first we can assure that they have the knowledge that they need to go into the conversation around the problems that they solve and what solutions they have to offer.

And then any responses they might have to any common objections and just kind of having some of the common knowledge around that put together and then following up on Ariana’s points as far as is making sure that, we haven’t mapped out for them on what to know, what to say, what to show.

And I liked the area and I added what’s due, in there as well. Cause that’s always a key part to a framework as well as you’re following through it. But enabling them also to know the questions that they can ask of a certain person through talking to you or what questions are going to help drive the conversation as far as who they’re talking to. And then also following that up with a virtual role play. So, we’ve been doing quite a bit of virtual role play, just to make sure that they’re comfortable and confident going into a sales conversation virtually. Yeah. Our industry historically is like we’re in the construction industry. So, we’re like tech averse. We’re late adopters of tech overall. So, getting our sales team up to speed on the tools that are available to conduct these virtual trainings and then making sure they’re confident in delivering on that framework through role play has been key.

CT: Love that answer. And I do just want to have you expand on that a little bit, since you did talk about people being a little bit more tech adverse. Is there anything that you’ve done recently, especially as people are working remotely and we’re working with virtual teams, to really foster adoption among maybe virtual tools and stuff like that?

I’d love to hear thoughts.

AS: So, we had to pivot all of our sales training to a more virtual setting as well, because we were conducting a lot of face to face classroom training. I was traveling to different areas to conduct training. So, pivoting to a zoom is what we’ve been using to. Launch a new product and conduct our operations.

Virtual training has helped create some familiarity around the tools and in order to kind of get people up to speed on the tech, instead of us trying to create the content to be able to do that, it’s just curating the content that’s already out there. That enables our sales reps to learn the technology.

So, here’s a video, how you download zoom. Here’s a video on how you utilize zoom and then getting them the speed that way. And then when we get into the classroom setting, they’re kind of already knew how to navigate it a little bit. And then as we’re going through the training, they can see how we conduct a sales training or how we conduct the conversation through zoom and utilize the different tools as far as sharing the screen, et cetera.

So, they’re kind of learning as we go through the training as well. And then taking that out into the field and what they’re doing.

RK: I think there are lots of amazing tools, lots of amazing solutions out there. Highspot being one of them. Charlotte’s Highspot but of course there are other tools, that, I’ve used in the past, Gong, into Horace in terms of conversation, revenue, intelligence, there’s your MindTickle and WorkRamps of the world and just tons of tons of solutions out there.

And I think it’s helping the enablement practitioner become a lot more efficient with what we’re doing and, a lot more impactful with what we’re doing. Cause now we’re able to actually gather data and really understand, how are our sellers executing? How are top sellers? What are they saying? And what are they doing? And how can we replicate that across the board to all the folks that are coming either as new hires are coming on board or for our existing sellers who are looking to be part of that top five or 10%?  There are, I think there are lots of technologies to be able to help drive that.

However, I still think we are in the early stages. I think we’re still in the early days. I think there are lots of room for us to innovate and improve. I envision technology enabling us to gather, not just conversational data, but also data in terms of activities that our sellers are doing, meetings that they’re having. All these different pieces of data to truly understand what it really takes to serve the customer to help the customer in their buyer journey to help them with their evaluation, to help them to educate them, and to make that whole experience great for the buyer.

So, I think we can leverage this data and then use it in both our onboarding and ongoing enablement. So, on onboarding side, we can all help us sequence out onboarding so that we’re delivering the right content at the right time and to the right sellers. So, they can use it on the job to actually drive to business outcomes.

And we can use that as well for our ongoing existing sellers to help them understand what’s working really well. What are the activities that drives success? And what are the approach? What are our top sellers saying that are actually driving business results?  I think there’s lots of room for us to be able to take all that information by machine learning to it. And you hear the buzzword AI, but I think there’s a definitely an opportunity there.

CT: So, to round us out a little bit, I love to hear what those key metrics that you’re looking at to determine the effectiveness of your initiatives. Everyone’s talking about metrics especially now. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

RK: Yeah. That’s a great question. When I think of metrics, I like to distill it down to your leading indicators, your, I guess I’d call them kind of your midway indicators, and then your lagging indicators. Right. And if we’ve worked backwards from the lagging indicators, so we think of things like at the end of the day, what’s the lifetime value of a customer?

What is the ARR or the annual recurring revenue that we’re going to be driving? And we think about then we think about win rates and deal size and the sales cycle. So, all these important metrics, all these business outcomes that we’re trying to drive from a revenue standpoint. So, those are kind of your lagging indicators.

And then if we work backwards from there and we think about all the things that kind of drive those lagging indicators, as I’ve mentioned earlier, all the activities that are that map to those lagging indicators. And usually we can identify a few key parts in the sales cycle of sales motion that we can just focus on that will give us the biggest bang for our buck. For example, in my past life, we’ve identified that usually the first meeting or the first call has the greatest impact on the sales cycle. If you optimize that first meeting or first call, typically you could bend the curve to ensure that you’re getting a higher win rate overall.

We focus really on the first meeting that our sellers are having with their customers and how we can make that a better experience. Whether it’s the discovery questions are being asked, the insights that are being shared, customer stories that are being shared. Or how we’re helping the customer engaged with us after that first call in terms of ensuring that there’s a mutual action plan or there’s a joint evaluation plan or there’s kind of a path forward that we’re guiding them towards based off what we’ve seen as success, helping other customers just like them. So, to answer your question there, there are a few kinds of key activities and drivers that map to those liking indicators and those are the things that we’ve measured.

We’ve measured a stage by stage conversion. So, how are we converting from stage one to stage two, stage two to stage three, and so on and so forth. And then you have you’re very early leading indicators as well. So those are all different metrics, that I’ve seen from more of an ongoing perspective.

And then from an onboarding perspective, I’ve measured things like time to first closed deal, time to third closed deals to see if that behavior is being repeated, time to full productivity. And again, we can, we can even go we can go a little bit earlier ahead of that and look at when was the first meeting created or when was the first pipeline generated?

So, we met all the way backwards. Look at the numbers that are either our fast ramping sellers are doing or top performers as they’re doing it, then be able to provide benchmarks to all of our sellers.

CT: We’ve talked a lot about kind of the virtual world that we’re all living in. We’ve all pivoted to.  I love to hear what some of those common challenges you’ve all been facing when kind of I’m providing guidance to reps virtually? And then kind of how are you addressing those challenges at your organization?

So, Ryan, let’s start with you.

RV: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I’ve got two thoughts. The first is less about a common challenge and providing sales guidance in particular and more about providing guidance to group of people that, that you’re used to interacting with more in, in person. It’s a, just a, it’s a challenging time, right?

To be a human. Now, you’ve got parents at home trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their kids now that school is canceled in many states. Mine among them. And this is the reality is that a lot of the people that I support, that’s what they’re thinking about for half their day. And it makes sense.

So, I just think it’s worth naming that. You know, the reality is business and life absolutely do mix. You can’t separate them. And if you’re not taking the time to be intentional with your people about checking in with how they’re doing as a human, then you’re sort of both going to be blocked from getting to the business results specifically in the context of providing sales guidance.

It goes back to what I said at the top. We are part of it, which is that. Okay. Everything continues to change so fast. The challenge for me is that the priority sort of feedback that is relevant for a group of people, it’s just shifting faster than usual. So, one example may be in two, one, a big priority for my group had less to do with messaging or value prop of our particular product or products and the overall skill of listening.

We know salespeople want to be better listeners. It’s another thing to learn how to do it. I mean, it’s a skill that can be taught. It can be worked on and we’ve made tremendous progress with that. Now it’s about keeping up with shifting messaging. What is that? How is the value prop emerging and shifting in different industries?

If you serve different industries and for different people with remote work, and the way that we’ve been attempting to keep up with that, is really emphasizing something that we’ve always aspired to be great at as a company. It’s something that our actual platform helps with, but it’s just listening and listening and listening to actual sales calls.

It sounds obvious, but to scale that we’ve been involving other stakeholders in the business, not just sales managers, directors like myself, but personnel and marketing, getting people listening to calls more. So, we’re more likely to figure out quickly, why new plays that we’re rolling out, maybe aren’t as effective as they could be.

And that’s certainly happening. So, we’re learning a lot by just listening more. And the last thing I’ll say, (actually, I said lastly before, I mean it this time,) if you don’t have a way to keep track of how much listening you’re doing in the business, try to figure that out. It’s a really, really helpful metric.

You know, how much time are we spending as a business actually listening? And learning because you can set benchmarks for yourself.  We’ve, I don’t know, 4Xed the amount of listening we’re doing as a company in the past three months, and it’s made a huge difference in our ability to rapidly shift and iterate or rewrite those plays.

AS: I think I shared a little bit of our challenge in the last question, as far as getting people up to speed with not just the fact that how to be more empathetic to what our customers are going through during these times, but just how to utilize the tools that are available to you in the first place.

So, kind of how we’ve been addressing that. I shared how we’re kind of curating some content around being able to do that, but it’s also identifying who within our sales team is ready and willing and able to jump in to a virtual sales process maybe quicker than the others and making sure or getting them to play is that they need to support that growth and get them kind of off and running as fast as we can.

And it’s also enabling them to be aware. They help their customers, because in our industry, we’re a face to face industry.  This has been a huge shift for the construction industry, moving to a virtual setting, even for our customers. It would typically go in the home and do in-home sales consultations and in-home estimates.

So how are they able to use virtual as well? So, it’s educating our customers on how they can use a virtual sales process and provided the use cases to be able to do that and the support to be able to do that.

CT: We do like to end all of our panels, for those of you who haven’t been to a Sales Enablement Soirée before, with one key takeaway for our audience.  I would love to get one key takeaway from all of you that you want to leave our audience with today. Remy let’s start with you.

AE: Sure. I loved what Andy said about curating the content you already have. What I love about that is so many people start with content when they’re trying to pivot and enable their sales team.

And that usually looks like reinventing some things and undoubtedly going to be better. Cause it’s the next iteration, but it’s probably an incremental change. Instead I really encourage you to start with the outcome you want and not just immediately start building content, but ask yourself what actions do my sellers need to execute if they’re going to achieve that outcome?

And have I created the enablement resources with those specific actions in mind or have I created something brand new that I’m hoping the reps can interpret and then apply? And have I been clear about what good looks like? So, I think if you start with the outcome and not the content, and you start thinking about the behaviors that have to shift both for the managers and the reps and you’re really feeling focus on those behaviors. Yeah. We’re going to figure out what you need to reinforce and what you need to incent. And you’re going to build kind of self-reinforcing structures that make a really great environment to introduce new plays into in the future.

AS: What I’d like to leave the audience is what we we’ve found within our own industry. That’s what I know the best was for that kind of speak to the best is kind of understanding what the use cases are for moving even to a virtual or a video type of meeting, versus not to, I think it can become inundated and kind of have a zoom fatigue so to speak with the amounts of meetings that you can move into. So, there’s a lot of good use cases. There’s a lot of benefits as far as pre discovery and using it for discovery calls, qualifying, certain opportunities making communication more personal.

You can also reduce travel time as well by moving virtual. So, it’s helping define what are the use cases. And then. Having the playbook or the frame to go into that use case and be most effective at utilizing it, but not to go into everything thinking you got to move everything to a virtual online meeting.

RV: There’s no great writing. There’s only great rewriting. So, as we work on shifting into this new world, in a make sure we’re in a position to understand whether it’s working sort of, what are Anne’s talking about? Like what are the outcomes? And if we’re not meeting them and getting them quickly, we’re not hitting the outcomes you want within say a week of launching a new place.

That’s fine. Are we do we have the feedback loop in place, stand where the improvement can come, and put ourselves in a position to deliver on those changes in the sales team?

RK: I think enablement is evolving. I think is evolving very, very quickly, and used to be a function where we provide training. We provide sort of the, virtual or in classroom experience. And then it became a little bit more about processes and systems and tools that we can provide. And I think right now it’s evolving to a point where we’re taking all that. We’re combining it with technology and we’re really trying to figure out how can we better serve our customers. So, we start with the customer and work backwards from there.

How do we better enable our customers? How do we then better enable our sellers and how do we just create that amazing experience so that we’re driving win-win and greater business outcomes for everyone.  That’s really my takeaway. Things are evolving and I’m definitely excited about what the future holds for enablement.

CT: We are going to open it up to Q and A. So, if you have any questions for any of our speakers today, feel free to take those into the chat below. And I will make sure we have time to answer those for you.

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