Episode 10: Best Practices to Reinforce Behavior Change
Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi and welcome to the Win Win Podcast. I’m your host, Shawnna Sumaoang. Join us as we dive into changing trends in the workplace and how to navigate them successfully.
Driving behavior change in a sales organization can be notoriously difficult, and yet, it is critical to keep pace with buyer needs. It requires not only training your reps on the right behaviors but also coaching them to demonstrate those behaviors effectively with buyers. In fact, research from Sales Enablement PRO found that when behavior change is a core objective of training and coaching efforts, average rep quota attainment increases by 7 percentage points.
So how can you drive lasting behavior change within your organization? We invited Annie Lizenbergs, the Senior Director of Enablement for Learning & Development here at Highspot, to share her advice. Thanks for joining Annie! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role here at Highspot.
Annie Lizenbergs: Thank you so much, Shawnna. As you mentioned, my name is Annie Lizenbergs, I’m the senior Director of Revenue L&D here at Highspot. My background spans two careers, both within the education space. First, I was a middle school history teacher and then made my way into both sales and sales leadership and then really found my niche within the learning and development space, really specific to revenue teams. It’s been great to navigate and watch the industry of both sales learning and also sales enablement grow into being such a strategic lever for organizations. Prior to coming to Highspot, I was actually a Highspot customer, so I had the opportunity to see firsthand the way that technology can aid in a company’s ability to drive strategic initiatives and to really set those foundational learning programs.
SS: I am excited to have you here and we’re lucky to have you at Highspot. Kudos, I didn’t realize you had been a middle school teacher, I have the utmost respect for teachers so that is impressive. Now, in terms of learning and development particularly within Highspot, can you tell us how you define what behavior change means?
AL: When I think about it, behavior changes are really being able to connect the right knowledge sets with the skills to be able to put that into action. Teams really need to be confident that they have the knowledge and the ability to go execute. One without the other really creates gaps and what you’ll start to see is inconsistent execution or siloed execution because there’s that lack of confidence. It’s the ability to really put those things together that makes learning an accelerator for the business.
SS: I love that definition. Why is behavior change often necessary in sales? What would you say are some of the ways that you’ve encountered it as a learning and development leader?
AL: Change is constant and really required for our business to thrive. As the market changes, buyers change, and as companies innovate, the business has to be agile enough to pivot and really keep pace with that change. From a learning perspective, it’s often referred to as learning agility. It may be that the organization is moving into a new market or launching a new product, but the ability of the org to really learn faster together gives them that sustainable competitive advantage of being able to capitalize on those new market opportunities.
For example, it may be something as simple as a product demo that might feel really cut and dry, but at Highspot we are shipping new innovations every six weeks. If we aren’t able to evolve the way that our teams demo the product, then our reps really aren’t able to demonstrate the full range of value that we can drive for the customer. We need to change behavior, we’ve got to deliver that new knowledge and really empower them with the right skills to drive the right results for the business.
SS: Absolutely. How can leaders within an organization recognize when there is a need for a change in behaviors?
AL: I always like to look at the sales pipeline. I feel like it’s a great barometer for the health of the business and can help identify when behavior change is going to be required because if your pipeline is down, you’re going to see the impact of that somewhere between two and three quarters from now. You need to diagnose what change is needed and be able to start acting on that right away. With change though, we have to be careful because it can start to feel like the flavor of the month, change really has to be deliberate, it has to be tied to results and irrelevant why and you have to be able to give that change the time and space to land and embed within the business in order to see those right results.
SS: I love that. It’s not the flavor of the month, I think that’s fantastic. What are some of your best practices for identifying some of the winning behaviors that lead to success in sales?
AL: We really focus on leading indicators of success. With any initiative that we’re running, we outline both the calls to action for our team, like what we want them to do, and the outcomes that we’re looking to drive, so how are we measuring whether or not this is a success? It’s those behaviors and activities that let us know if we’re trending in the right direction. Identifying the leading indicators really requires a deep understanding of our audience and their process. It could be things like the number of above-the-line contacts, multithreaded into account or the number of new opportunities added, or the number of new pitches that were sent out to clients. These are all things that we can measure and if those numbers and activities are headed in the right direction, we believe we should see the business outcomes that we’re looking for. Our ability to define and understand those leading indicators gives us the ability to predict success and also to tweak our learning approach as necessary so that it’s never stagnant and it’s never one size fits all.
SS: I think that’s phenomenal. How do you take that information and then design and implement training programs that are aimed at instilling those winning behaviors amongst the sales teams to drive that change?
AL: When we think about the design and development of training programs, we recognize that it often requires a layered approach. There’s no silver bullet to behavior change which often we wish there was. We are often balancing both formal and informal learning strategies to ensure understanding and create routines that drive repetition and execution. For example, with new product innovation, we have a three-part approach. The first can be pretty formal and includes courses and live training, the details, the value, and the differentiation of this new product. The second is the ability to have ongoing and evergreen training content that the reps can refer back to. No one will remember everything from a particular training. I always tell our stakeholders that it’s not for lack of trying, it’s just science and they’re likely not going to go back to a course that they took to try and find something, we don’t see that happen. It’s not really within human nature because when you’re looking for recall, you’re looking for those fast reminders about what you learned.
The number one skill that our reps need is to know where they can go for information when they need it, but without that repository of the always-on learning resources that can be grabbed and go, reps are often having to fill in the blanks. We really put a priority on creating that long tail of learning that they can always go back to. The last piece is the certification which is really measuring their ability to go out and put this learning into practice and it gives managers the opportunity to both inspect and coach and creates accountability to that learning as well. The thing I love about Highspot is that it gives us a platform in order to do that at scale, both the formal and the informal, but you really need both in order to drive that lasting change.
SS: Absolutely. I think our audience would definitely agree, behavior change can often be a difficult process and some reps may even be resistant to change. How can leaders motivate or ease the process of change for their teams?
AL: That’s a great question. Reps really need to know the why behind what they’re doing. In terms of the way that adults learn, it has to be hyper-relevant and hyper-actionable, otherwise, adults will just deprioritize it in their minds. Learning has to be put through the lens of why it matters and where they will apply it. It allows us to create that connection between what they’re learning and what they’re asked to go and do. This really allows us to better really measure the results as well because we’re clear on what those calls to action for our team are and the results that we’re trying to drive so we have clear markers along the way as to whether we are being successful.
SS: I think that’s phenomenal. How can behavior change be reinforced over time beyond an initial learning experience or training program?
AL: I mean that’s so critical. I will shout it from the mountaintops, I fully believe that front-line managers are the linchpin to success. They really become the arms and legs of any initiative and really drive that sustainable change. It’s their ability to really coach to what good looks like that allows reps to move from proficiency within any skill or knowledge set to mastery. Mastery only comes through practice and real-life application and learning along the way. That’s the only way. Our managers have the ability to support and encourage that process every single week.
SS: I love that you brought the frontline managers up. How do you go about helping frontline managers navigate and reinforce some of these behavior-change initiatives?
AL: We take enabling our managers really seriously because we know how important they are to the success of any initiative. So first and foremost, whatever the initiative might be, we are always enabling the managers ahead of our reps. We want to make sure that they feel confident in the knowledge and skills that are required in order to be successful. Beyond that, we’re also giving them the tools that are needed in order to go and inspect and coach. Those might be coaching kids, it might be ideas for things they can do in team meetings and conversations that they can have in their one on ones.
We use Gong to help inspect calls and make sure that the way that it’s coming to life with our customers is on point and gives them the opportunity to coach to real-life situations. Even within our own platform, whether it be practice submissions or testing along the way, we can give our managers rubrics in order for them to be able to consistently measure what good looks like from their team. Then it finally goes back to the reporting, the ability to have the reporting of those ongoing behaviors and activities and the business outcomes that we’re looking to drive, that gives them those indicators of whether or not their team is being successful.
SS: I love that and on that note actually my closing question relates to the metrics and reporting component. How can leaders leverage analytics to understand whether behavior changes are occurring and how it’s impacting the overall business performance?
AL: It goes back to defining those calls to action in the business outcomes that you’re looking to drive up front. What are the behaviors and activities that they’re asked to do coming out of a particular learning program or initiative enablement session? Reps really need to understand what success looks like and be able to have benchmarks along the way. That roadmap of success is really important to adult learners because they always want to check in on where they’re at and what progress they’re making.
We really have to be ruthless about measurement to ensure that the learning strategy is on point and that we can continue to adjust and scale to ensure that the behavior change doesn’t just live and die within a particular quarter, but that you can absorb it into onboarding, you can embed and reinforce it with rep guidance and create supports for recall that really make it become part of the fabric of your organization. You can measure if the behavior and activities are driving the right business outcomes and then learn from that strategy to inform the next initiative or change that your business is facing.
SS: I love that, Annie. Thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a ton from you on the behavior change front.
AL: Thank you so much, Shawnna.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening to this episode of the Win Win podcast. Be sure to tune in next time for more insights on how you can maximize enablement success with Highspot.