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Sales Enablement Soiree – Panel: The Psyche of the Seller Behavior

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Shawnna Sumaoang: I’m really excited about this panel topic. We’re going to be talking about the Psyche of Seller Behavior, because I think that that’s something that sales enablement practitioners deal with on a daily basis. They want to ensure their reps have the right knowledge and skills and behavior to be successful in selling.

And right now, in the current climate, a lot of these sellers are having to learn new skills and new behaviors in order to be successful in what is actually a very, very tough selling environment. And so I’m excited about this panel. I’m excited about the panelists that we have joining us.

I would love for each of our panelists to briefly introduce themselves and their role in their organization. Lena, I’d love to start with you. 

Lena Chudasama: Thank you, Shawnna. Thanks for having me. My name is Lena. I work at Taboola. Taboola is the world’s largest discovery platform. I’ve been in enablement for over a year. I’m the Senior Sales Enablement Lead for EMEA. And before that I was actually an Account Manager. So I worked as an Account Manager at Taboola and previously at Google. I’ve always been really passionate about training. So I was thrilled to be able to transition into enablement in early 2019.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Fantastic. Mary. 

Mary Charles: Hi, thanks for having me today. I’m Mary Charles and the Director of Sales Enablement at Allego, which provides a sales and learning and readiness platform.  I’ve been with allego for the last year and a half. I’ve been in sales enablement for the last 16 years. Before it was probably called sales enablement. For both large companies like Salesforce and IBM, and then some other smaller companies as well. 

Rebecca Bell: Hi, I’m Rebecca Bell. I am the Associate Director of Global Sales Enablement for a company called IQvia. And IQvia is a technology provider and a data provider in the pharma and life sciences space. So actually a very interesting space to be right now where the healthcare industry is under so much stress and scrutiny.

I’ve been doing enablement, marketing, communications, and any combination of all of those things for about 20 years. Previously at companies like Cisco. At Iqvia my role is primarily focused on taking our technology salespeople into a solution selling space. And interestingly, right now I’m working on our virtual sales conference. So the necessity of moving from a physical environment into a virtual environment. So this is a really timely conversation. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Now there’s a couple of things I want to chat with you guys about, most commonly coming out of a survey that we did. Now, this was prior to the current climate and the current situation that we’re all faced with.

And interestingly enough, when we ran a survey to understand how companies were measuring sales readiness success, particularly sales training, one of the most common metrics was just the number of training sessions delivered. In your opinion, is that the right metric to focus on, and what are the metrics you use to demonstrate the success of sales training, especially in this entirely virtual environment now?

Rebecca, I’d love to hand this one to you. 

Rebecca Bell: Sure. The number of sessions attended is absolutely a depressing figure. If anyone’s measuring that as their sole figure of efficacy, I think it’s the wrong place to be. Box ticking and merely putting something on for people is no measure of how effective it is. 

And the problem is, I think, a lot of the time when you’re trying to get feedback from people, like ‘what was your experience? How did you enjoy it?’ Or indeed, how has your fluency and your capability around the messaging, or your knowledge; how has that improved as a result of the training?

Salespeople don’t really like filling out surveys and they don’t really like having those conversations either. So we’re trying to use a combination of things to try and get it the truth. For sure, we’re going to do surveys. We’ll always do surveys. And we’ll also look at some of the metrics coming out of virtual event tools that we use.

For things like engagement metrics, the number of questions people are asking. Well, of course, we’re interested in how many people have turned up as well and particularly looking at who’s turning up for what sessions over time. So it’s never just a single moment in time thing. But one thing we’re trying to do is to work with our sales advisory board as a means of trying to get into some more qualitative conversation around the impact of the training that we’ve delivered.

And, by getting into those types of conversations, we really learn what the experience was like, and we can also start to move into understanding how it affected their fluency. At the moment in IQvia, we’re at the beginning of the journey of thinking about things like sales coaching and helping people to do test and practice sessions and really reviewing and understanding their fluency. We’re just starting that. But I think generally that bold metric of, let’s just measure how many sessions we’ve had is not something that I would ever want to focus on as proof of the relevance of our industry.

Shawnna Sumaoang: I tend to agree. Lena, I’d love to hear from you though.

Lena Chudasama: I totally echo what Rebecca has said about that. We love when people come to our trainings. I really enjoy giving trainings, but it doesn’t mean people are actually listening. So yeah, it’s a similar thing. We have a lot of proof of learning after we’ve had a training. Whether it’s a quiz, an activity, or a role play. Sometimes we have ongoing coaching with their manager where they implement whatever they’ve learnt and then get feedback from their manager. 

In terms of developing this and making sure that we keep on measuring we look at; well at the moment I would say that our program is maybe not as developed maybe as Rebecca’s is. We’ve only really been doing it for just over half a year in our company, so it’s still quite new. I’m also happy to learn from other people here. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Thank you, Lena. Now you both touched on this, Rebecca and Lena, with virtual learning it can be a challenge to hold attention and get engagement during the sessions. How can sales enablement practitioners overcome that challenge to ensure that training really sticks, even when it’s delivered virtually? Mary, I’d love to hear from you.

Mary Charles: Sure. We’re all facing this challenge right now and learning as we go. One of the things that’s really important is when you’re doing these calls and you’re using Zoom or other technology, you tell people they need to be on camera, because it’s a lot more difficult to check out when people can see you on the camera.

That would be one thing I encourage people to do. The second is making those sessions shorter. If you’re running 60, 90 minutes, it is hard for people to stay engaged. Giving them pre-work before a session can help with that; to do some of the work before the session and some after.

During the session, let people know you’re going to call on them. Sometimes that might mean having smaller sessions for breakouts. One of the things we did with our company quarterly meeting (wasn’t enablement, but still really effective), was we started the meeting and they told us, “Okay, we have a series of short videos for you to watch. You’re going to go off and do that on your own and you’re going to come back after 45 minutes.” 

People really liked it. Instead of listening to people talk at us for 45 minutes on the screen, on your laptop, you’re able to take things in, rewind the video, go back to something you might’ve wanted to watch a couple of times.

So those are some of the things I suggest. And then obviously after the event, to find ways for reinforcement. Whether that’s doing small group video role-plays together, or quizzes, or whatever it might be. Whatever your enforcement activities might be, make sure that people really soaked up what you were delivering.

Rebecca Bell: Maybe I can add to that actually. We’re going through the process right now of taking our physical sales conference and making it virtual. So similar to what we’re seeing here with this event that was going to, of course, be an in person event before. And the challenge, I absolutely echo what Mary has said around the ambition about having an hour long session suddenly becomes very challenging because people’s attention span is generally shorter.

The idea of trying to shoehorn days of content into a much shorter time frame means that we’ve got to reframe a lot of the content and we’re making full use through the platform we’re working with and different tools. We’re really making sure that every session has polling, it has chat, it has Q and A and we’re using engagement techniques to actually measure people’s learning via quizzes and also give people rewards via a leaderboard for their engagement.

It may be a little bit cheesy for some people and they may not love it, and they certainly may not like to see their name at the bottom of the leaderboard. And we’ll give it a go. I have no idea how our sales teams are going to adapt to this switch to an internal learning environment that’s entirely virtual, but we’re going to make full use of all of those different techniques and it’ll be a really good case study to see how we do it.

Shawnna Sumaoang: I love that and I look forward to hearing how well it goes. Going back to that survey that I mentioned a moment ago, and also just from comments, Rebecca from you and Lena, 31% of the sales enablement practitioners measure their readiness through qualitative feedback on learning activities.

What are some of the ways that you’ve encouraged salespeople to share honest and meaningful feedback with you? How do you create those feedback loops virtually? Lena, I’d love to start with you. 

Lena Chudasama: Sure. Feedback, of course, is going to be key to understanding how well our programs are answering the needs of the sales org and we really welcome that feedback.

What I’ve personally done is, I look after the whole of the EMEA region, so Europe, Middle East, and Africa. And what I’ve done is developed my place as a trusted advisor for the people in my sales org by being really approachable and friendly and open to make sure that people feel comfortable to come up to me and directly give me their feedback.

I’ve also been at Taboola for six years now. So people know me and they’re comfortable to speak to me, and I think that that’s one really important part of our role, is to have that trust. Then people can just openly come and give feedback. So, I’d say that’s one of the biggest ways that I’ve created a feedback loop myself.

On top of that, we’ve obviously used tools like surveys. We have an anonymous monthly pulse check survey, where we ask people to rate from one to five how they feel in terms of sales skills, product knowledge, and various things like that. We can keep an eye on what’s happening and if we feel that the numbers are going down, like what can we do if they’re going up, we’re like, “okay, well we implemented this program and it must be helping.”

So that’s really valuable. And, finally I wanted to also mention that we try and keep a lot of contact with the managers because they’re obviously a key player for us to make sure that the teams are being trained.  I recently took over our week of onboarding training called Taboola U. It used to be managed by somebody else, but I took it over and then I surveyed the managers to ask them what they felt about it at the moment and if they felt that they had enough involvement. A lot of them actually said they didn’t. They’re like, the new hire would go off for a week and they wouldn’t really know what they were up to.

Based on their feedback, I made a few changes to keep them more in the loop. I told the new hire to send their manager an email every day just to let them know what they learned that day. I created a report card so the feedback would be written down and it’ll be sent back to the manager and give them an outline of exactly what was covered. That feedback was really valuable and the managers have been really appreciative that we’ve taken it on and actually made changes. So those are a few ways that we take on feedback within Taboola. 

Rebecca Bell:  At IQvia, one of the things we’ve done quite recently is enhanced our sales advisory board. Importantly, we’ve tried to evolve it from something where the noisiest, most confident, the loudest, the most vociferous salespeople are joining and telling us stuff, to one which actually balances with the people who actually may be the ones we need to reach more. When we have a conversation with our advisory board members, which it could be around the events that we put on or the content that we develop, or training courses that we might give them access to. Often the people on our board who are the most confident and not necessarily the people we really need to reach. Because it’s the people who are maybe struggling or who are confused, who might want to make better use of some of the materials and the enablement that we produce. We’re trying to evolve that panel right now, that advisory board, so we really get under the bonnet of different strata within the sales organization because they’re not all the same.

And there may be different needs according to the geography or then the local language that our salespeople have as well. So this forum is providing a really, really useful way of having conversations. There’s also other things that I do. For example, I hosted a webinar around a capability update that we’d done to one of our hero products last week and I looked very closely at the questions that were asked.

It wasn’t just the question, it was also who was asking them. There was one guy in particular, who is a Senior Tech Principal. So a very, very seasoned guy. One of our most trusted and admired salespeople. I was very interested in the question he asked and I went back to him about it. I gave him some more information offline.

And then I said, I’d like to develop something deeper around this cause clearly it’s going to be a need that we need to fulfill from an enablement perspective. Would you help me?  From that perspective, he was thrilled to help. It’s not just about testing and getting feedback. It’s also then using it and partnering with your salespeople to help better the material, the collateral, the training, or whatever it is you’re working on, so you can really make strides forward.

A lot of these tools or these techniques are really within our grasp. It’s not always about, “Oh my goodness, I’m going to stand up and advise you board. It’s really hard.” Sometimes it’s just about looking at who’s responding and reaching out to people because often they’re extremely happy to help.

Shawnna Sumaoang: I want to shift gears a little bit and focus on some of the unique metrics that sales enablement organizations are using to demonstrate the value of their sales readiness. Now, we did know in the study, that organizations that are measuring competency based metrics actually outperform those that do not. Reporting win rates were actually six points higher on average. What are some of the key ways you’re tracking sales competencies in your organization. Rebecca, I’d love to hand it back to you. 

Rebecca Bell: Yeah. We’re right at the beginning of this journey, so it’s not just about chucking content out there and putting loads of trainings on and hoping for the best.

It’s also about thinking about how people will utilize that. Testing and stress testing that with them. It’s also then about seeing them practice and role play. It’s also about working with the management level, the sales managers to assist in that, judging of how their salespeople are getting on.

So we’re looking at building this out right now. I haven’t got a magic bullet here because this is quite a long process of actually getting this right, but we’re looking at it through a number of different lenses. So there’s the onboarding piece obviously ramp time and yeah. How long does that take?

What does it look like? Bearing in mind that some of our solutions take quite a long time to fail. Actually many of the evidences of someone’s competence or their ability to sell something might take quite a long time to come to fruition. Then there’s the ever-boarding piece. So the constant churn of refresher of key capabilities and like many technology companies, of course.

The product life cycle. The roadmap, it develops all the time. So having the ability to both keep these guys up to date, but also then to test their continued development of their competencies is super important. And we’re also starting to look at specific topics to train people on and test people on.

Does that look like polls and quizzes? Does that look like coaching? Does that look like role playing or uploading recordings of their pitch where we’re looking at all of their stuff at the moment and the platform that can support that. So, I would really welcome advice from other practitioners who’ve done something like this because it’s a long journey to get this right; and not become too demanding of our salespeople and of the sales managers to constantly be checking how good someone is. Getting the balance right is really important. I’d love to get some tips from some fellow practitioners here.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, there were two other metrics that came up. time to first deal and time to ramp. I’d like to take these and discuss them separately. For time to first deal. there were about 34% of the sales nail and practitioners that were measuring that. and, and while it is an important metric, it can be a bit misleading due to all the variables that can impact a sales reps first deal coming right out of onboarding.

Especially, especially right now, especially at a time when many organizations are experiencing a lot of market uncertainty, so how can you assess a sales person’s ability to consistently close the deal? Lena, I’d love to pass this one to you. 

Lena Chudasama: Yeah. So I do agree that it can be misleading just to measure the time to first deal.

cause there’s so many things that could influence. It could be down to luck. They could have been handed a, a lead that was really good. They might have a friend who wants to sign an IO. I don’t think it’s quite, the best measure. I have a mentor at Airbnb and I. Their company, they measure either the time to second or third deal, which is maybe a little bit more reliable because at least at that point they’re starting to learn some of the competencies that we were just talking about and implementing them with real customers.

so that is. So that is what I’d say for the first part of that question. And I’d say what’s really important for consistency is to look at the pipeline. so obviously if somebody can be consistent with their pipeline, then it’s more likely they’re going to be consistent with their results. So it’s more looking at the inputs raw.

Not rather than, but also alongside the outputs. if there’s something in the inputs that we feel is not quite working, then we can always tweak that and build on that in order to improve the output. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Now, on the flip side, on time to ramp, that was actually the most common metric that sales enablement practitioners were measuring to gauge sales onboarding success.

In your opinion, is this the most effective way to understand onboarding success? And as organizations pivot to virtual onboarding, how can they continue to measure success? Mary, I’d love to send this one your way. 

Mary Charles: Well, yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think my answer is going to apply to what both Lena and Rebecca were just talking about.

I think measuring what we all do, things like. Role-plays and standards, liver and all that practice for onboarding. I’ve run lots of boot camps in person now we’re doing more virtual. but really when it comes down to seeing if they’re going to be successful, we have to know what they’re doing in front of 

Rebecca Bell: prospects.

Mary Charles: Cause I’ve done some great training 

Rebecca Bell: programs, which, 

Mary Charles: Oh, everybody rated it a five. And then the reps get out in the field and then a couple months later the manager says, the rep had no idea how to overcome this objection or how to talk about this competitor. Like. We did two hours on that and training, but they had forgotten.

Right. So reinforcement is going to be particularly important, now more than ever, to continue having sessions as Rebecca talk about ever boarding, but really for those new hires, continuing that, cadence, maybe weekly instead of just do it all at once and then send them on their way and, and hope that they have a good mentor manager to help them.

But the thing that we’ve done for both existing. Reps learning new skills and for new hires is the competency. What we do is we use live calls recorded and then we’re fortunate to use our own platform. I’m a Lego to go into those calls and actually have managers do point in time feedback. And using a coaching framework or scorecard to assess how they did against particular skills.

So the reps know, okay, my manager is going to be assessing how am I at pain probing? And on a scale of one to five, what does a five mean? What does it mean if I get a one? So they know what the managers are looking for. And then the managers give coaching to that. And what we did is we measured. Where people were baseline aligned with our sales skills and our our coaching framework, and then gave them coaching.

And then two months later took more calls in and looked at those calls and we saw a significant improvement in our, our biggest success stories. A guy that we were working with late summer, early fall, and then measured him. It was a two in some areas, and then he got to be a three and now this past quarter, he was number one rapid was over 200% of his quota.

So that measuring those competencies, having them focus on specific areas like pain probing, for example, and then having them really focus on working on that and improving, listening to real Paul’s and giving that coaching it. It just. I think, I don’t think there’s anything more impactful. If you have good coaches, who can do good coaching, that will help improve your reps performance, whether they’re a new hire or somebody who’s been around for a couple of years.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Yeah. Mary, I absolutely agree. Coaching is, is absolutely critical for reinforcement. Rebecca, Lena, I would love to hear from you guys, particularly as we moved to a more remote virtual world. How can you ensure that coaching happens and it’s still effective? 

Rebecca Bell: One of the things that we’re looking at at the moment is an entirely virtual platform. By the way, we were planning to start using this before all the crisis with COVID-19 started happening. This gives us the ability to measure and track this process. So it’s not just about a moment in time or asking sales managers or asking my enablement teams to check in and try and check up on people.

I think a platform based approach should allow us to do this. Like I said before, actually one of the challenges is, “How much do you spend time measuring versus how much do you spend time adapting or executing?” And I think we all as enablement practitioners have got that challenge. You don’t want to measure nothing because none of us are interested in checkboxes. But at the same time, how much time do you use and how much effort do you spend, providing that metric based approach, almost justify your existence and the improvements you’re making? 

I think there’s another interesting thing I’d say, which almost like the starting gun, had to start again at the beginning of this COVID crisis because it’s going to impact sales cycles. It’s going to impact the approach you need to take who the sales rep with a prospect. For example, bowling in now and trying to hard sell a customer who maybe had some of their budget taken away or who may be unable to progress in a project that they were hoping to do or everything’s gone on pause.

It requires a different type of sensitivity to your prospect and realism about where that customer is at. Some of the metrics that could have been in place and that we might’ve expected to be consistently applied had we not have this crisis. We almost needed a bit of a reset here and it’d be super interesting to see how that is impacting, but certainly from an  Iqvia perspective we’re very keen to avoid the hard sell. A lot of our customers are under immense pressure right now. Obviously many of these pharma companies, drug companies are heavy in the research area. They’re also trying to get drugs and products into the market. Their supply chain is impacted.

Certainly we can help them in lots of ways, but actually flogging them more stuff. It’s both not necessarily appropriate and neither is it the time and the place for them. There should be a bit of a viewer reset on some of the metrics, not necessarily what we’re measuring.

But our expectations of ourselves and of our sales teams and the salespeople who are going to be most effective in the long term as we weather this crisis are going to be those who are particularly sensitive to the customer scenario. Not just measuring how many calls they make and trying to keep plugging away at the same opportunities regardless.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Rebecca, I think you’re right. I think empathy is going to win, especially right now. In closing, I would love to leave our audience with a key takeaway around how sales enablement can really help our sellers and impact seller behavior. I’d love to go around and leave our audience with one takeaway. Mary, let’s start with you. 

Mary Charles: As I said before, I’ll repeat my piece on coaching. The more that sales enablement can provide support for managers and have more advocates in the field who are doing enablement and coaching the more successful our teams can be. Absolutely.

Shawnna Sumaoang: Lena. 

Lena Chudasama: My quick takeaway is to build training for what people need at the time that they need it. Instead of, for example, teaching them the intricacies of Salesforce on day one, just introduce them to the tool and then later add an operation. Teach them how to add an opportunity and keep teaching them bit by bit incrementally.

That’s what we found that works the best; when you’re trying to implement training and make sure that it really sticks. That’s my tip. Just build training for what people need when they need it. Absolutely. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: And Rebecca, let’s close out with you. 

Rebecca Bell: To add to that a little bit, I think it’s snackable content and particularly now when we’re all sitting behind our computers 24/7 and salespeople who might have been used to being out with customers and having variety, they don’t want heavy, heavy content. Our ability to create snackable content, that’s as Lena said, they’re in the moment for where that person needs it is really important. Then to put the measurement behind it, even if that’s a fairly small measurement of different metrics, start small.

Keep it manageable, but keep tracking your efforts, so you can always aim for improvement. 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Thank you ladies. I really enjoyed this chat and with that we’re going to go ahead and go into Q&A.