Episode 16: Improving Sales Productivity in Global Teams
A report found that 71% of businesses say that measuring productivity is important but more than half of C-suite respondents believe that it is difficult to measure. So how can enablement help teams maximize productivity, especially at a global scale?
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. Here to discuss this topic is Andy Champion, the Vice President & General Manager, of EMEA and ANZ here at Highspot. Thanks for joining, Andy! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role here at Highspot.
Andy Champion: It is lovely to be here with you. My name is Andy Champion and I lead Highspot’s business outside of North America. For a bit of context, right now, that’s just over 100 people. We have offices in Paris, Munich, London, and Sydney as well as a presence across North America. I’ve been in technology sales now, just short of 25 years. I promise you, if you could see a picture of me right now you would see my lack of hair and I’ve also got a few scars to show for it as well. I’ve lived through the Martek Revolution and more recently the exciting evolution of sales technology. Most of my experiences, as you can probably tell from my accent, are in Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa and I’ve led teams of various sizes in various markets, which is my expertise. I’ve been fortunate enough in recent months to take on my next challenge and that’s been opening our office in Sydney, so I’m now getting exposure to the APAC region, which is pretty exciting.
I’ve been an ADR, BDR, and SDR, so I’ve had to drive demand. I’ve been an AE, I’ve been a first-line manager, and then worked my way up to my current position where I am fortunate enough to have a remit across the broader go-to-market business, looking at our strategy as well as day-to-day responsibility for the execution.
A slightly unusual fact about me, I came into my career in sales through a fairly nontraditional background. I started out in the British Army and I spent seven years serving in the military. I went through Sandhurst, was commissioned as an officer, and then served in places like Northern Ireland, and the Falkland Islands, and then I finished out with a couple of years back in the UK.
SS: Well, we’re really excited to have you here, Andy, so thanks so much for joining us from halfway across the world. To start, here at Highspot, we are always talking about how sales enablement is mission-critical. From your perspective and being in EMEA, can you share your insights on how this is perceived in your market?
AC: I think if we look back in recent months, the last 6 to 9 months have reminded us all about the need to drive efficient growth, not just in the technology sector, but much more broadly. We’ve got to control costs, we’ve got to improve profitability, and for many businesses that translates into perhaps cash flow being a more immediate measure as well. For companies large and small, one of the biggest levers we’ve got to achieve is the productivity of our sales and our marketing teams. For most companies, sales and marketing are one of the biggest investments we make. The thing about sales enablement is that it impacts both marketing profitability and sales productivity.
We did a study here just at the tail-end of last calendar year and we went out to about 700 sales and marketing professionals across Europe and 71% of them reported that a lack of alignment between the two functions was having an impact on revenue. As sales enablement professionals, the fact is that we’re right at the heart of this problem. We have tools and methodologies, and technologies available to us to solve that problem for me is very exciting.
We touch on marketing content, what content is working, and what content is not working. Why is it not working and is it because the sales teams aren’t adopting it or perhaps is it not resonating with our customers? We touch on sales execution, so how do we empower our salespeople to understand what good looks like? How do we empower them to understand what to know, say, show, and do in a given situation, in those really precious moments that we get in front of customers and prospective customers? How do we drive that customer experience? So not only in the limited time that we’ve got available with them, do we differentiate from the competition, but then how do we follow that through the full customer lifecycle to keep our customers engaged and to help reinforce the value that we drive? Ultimately, if we do that well in the world of sales enablement, it results in revenue and it has a really demonstrable impact on the top line.
SS: I couldn’t agree more. Andy right now, improving sales productivity is definitely top of mind for a lot of organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about the importance of productivity in the current economic environment?
AC: Productivity, right now, is a topic that is being discussed in every boardroom. From every corner of Europe, back into North America, South America, APAC, and beyond. Productivity is a key focus. Now, many people will argue, well, it’s kind of always been there, but I would say for much of the past 10, 15 years, investment has been relatively easy and relatively cheap. It’s been relatively easy to raise money to raise funds and the focus has very much been for many businesses to grow at any cost. One thing we’ve seen over the last six months and nine months arguably is that it has changed and it’s almost changed on a dime. We’ve had to go from very rapid growth with in some cases fairly high cash burn to a position in a matter of months where cash burn is very tightly controlled and growth is still there but it’s at a more moderate level.
As I mentioned in my previous answer, for many businesses, sales and marketing spending and investment are one of the biggest lines on the P&L. It’s naturally one of the first areas that any business leader is going to go to look for efficiencies. It’s an area that we’re going to look to constrain budgets while still making sure that we don’t choke off the lifeblood into those really important areas that drive customer demand, that drive brand awareness, that drive sales productivity. From top to bottom across the board, every sales leader that I speak to, every business leader that I speak to, every CEO, and certainly I’m speaking to a lot more CFOs than I ever used to, the commonality to all of them is the question, how do we drive greater sales productivity and how can that impact my business’s top and importantly bottom line?
SS: I couldn’t agree more. Andy, I would love to hear from your perspective, how do you see enablement helping organizations really improve their sales productivity?
AC: There are a number of areas, and let me build on them using the framework that I’ve just been discussing. Firstly, before the marketing function, you talk to most CMOs and they’ll often joke with you and say they know half of their marketing budget is working, but they just don’t know which half. Sales enablement can answer that question. We can empower CMOs, marketing directors and marketing managers with the knowledge, data, and analytics they need to understand what content and specific pieces of collateral are working in specific markets with specific personas in specific industry verticals. How is it being engaged with by your customers and which of your content is or is not being adopted by your front-line salespeople?
We can quickly help marketers understand where to double down on their investment and perhaps accelerate the rollout of a piece of collateral that’s working in one market that could be working across other markets. We can also help point them to areas of opportunity either to retire content that is just simply not working, it’s not being adopted by the sales team or it’s not resonating with customers, it’s not driving revenue so that they can then use that time and use that budget to A) perhaps to save a little bit of cash, but B) more importantly, to reinforce the things that are working.
From a marketing perspective, we can really start to provide some deep insight into some of the challenges that have been with us for quite some time now. From a sales perspective, we can do a number of things. Firstly, we can help describe to salespeople what good looks like in a particular situation by helping them understand what to know, what to say, what to show, and what to do in a given situation. What do I mean by that? Well, during my time at DocuSign, we moved from being a single-product company that predominantly was around the electronic signature that many of us are aware of, to being a portfolio company, looking at much more than just the signature. What were the tools needed to prepare a contract? How do we share that contract and redline the contract and get it signed? After we got it signed, how did we implement all of the aspects of that contract?
What we found when we acquired the technologies was that salespeople were really struggling to take these new capabilities to market. When we looked at it, there were a number of factors. Firstly, these were new products and they hadn’t been trained and empowered and coached on what those products were, and the value impact that they brought. More importantly, we hadn’t helped people understand the new stakeholders that they would be exposed to. Selling signatures is very different from selling a large-scale digital transformation product. What we found is we had to help people understand who these new personas were when they talked to a chief legal officer, what did she or he really care about? What were the things that kept them awake at night and how did that differ from somebody that might buy a signature? The fact is when we started to put these pieces together, we found that we needed to help people understand the background of these individuals so they could engage with them competently, but also with confidence.
A lot of what I think separates good salespeople from great salespeople is, yes, a level of humility, but also confidence in their product. Confidence in their value proposition. By helping distill behaviors, activities, and skill sets down into a framework of understanding what to know, what to say, what to show, and what to do, sales enablement can really help accelerate the learning and execution of salespeople. So again, we’re right at the heart of what our marketers most care about. They care about driving revenue and they want to know how all of their work, their campaigns, and their collateral drive that and then what the sales care about. Sales care about having meaningful conversations that drive to the valley with the various personas that they need to deal with every day. Sales enablement is right at the heart of those two things.
SS: I love that. I couldn’t agree more. What are some of the challenges that teams might face when it comes to improving sales productivity?
AC: As I said, last year we interviewed over 700 sales and marketing professionals across Europe. What we found was that 46% said that they found one-off training to be disruptive and they very much wanted to see, from enablement, a series of trainings over time that built upon each other and the work was continuous rather than interrupting in its very nature. 37% of sales professionals also said that just in their day-to-day work, they weren’t confident that they had the most up-to-date information and collateral and that they were wasting four or five hours a week finding that collateral, sending an email to somebody else in the sales team, and contacting the marketing department.
I don’t know about you, but when you think about that at scale, let’s say it’s on the lower side of that and it’s maybe three hours per salesperson per week. You add that up over the working year, and then you times that by the number of salespeople that you have and that’s a very significant amount of hours that could be spent on other things like driving pipeline or being back in front of the customer, driving the sales.
Just getting the right collateral in front of the sales team in and of itself will often more than pay back the investment in sales and marketing, let alone when we go on to discuss areas like improving win rates, improving that marketing investment, and the likes. I think it’s about taking these small steps, and one of the first places that we often see people start is just around that simple scenario that I talked about in terms of making sure that the content is available and at the fingertips of the salespeople.
SS: To dig into that a little bit more, how would you say Highspot can help overcome some of those challenges?
AC: When it comes to overcoming some of these challenges, I always think that a great place to start is with simple quick wins. As I said previously, one of the first areas that we can impact is by providing a single source of truth. A single place that salespeople can go to and be confident that they’ve got quick and easy access to the most recent information.
Let me give you an example from one of our customers, Siemens. Prior to joining Highspot, Siemens had literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of product, information, and collateral that a given salesperson might need in different languages and different product lines. That content was spread across thousands of different share points. It was taking their sales teams hours and hours and hours to find the information that they wanted and sometimes they weren’t even sure that it was the most recent information. When you’re selling very complex and technical services, that’s really important. This is something that Siemens continues to this day to measure, post the implementation of Highspot, Siemens frontline people now find the content they need in their moment of need on average in 19 seconds, which if you think about where they come from is a complete game changer.
Of course, it’s not just the salespeople for our colleagues in marketing, we want to make sure that the content that we produce is highly adopted and also, of course, when content is retired, we want to make sure that we’ve got good governance so that when we retire a piece of content, it does not continue to live out there in the wider world.
For our marketing colleagues, Highspot also brings a really strong and powerful solution. Just like salespeople, marketers also have one place to publish their content. One place where they can go to govern that content, and importantly in their work with sales enablement, they’ve also got one place to go to help salespeople understand how to position that content and to drive the adoption in the training. So we help marketing, we help sales, but we also help our enablement colleagues drive that coaching, that training, and that reinforcement around the products and all of our value propositions.
SS: Of course. For companies where leaders may not be as familiar with enablement and its value, how can teams start to gain buy-in from their executive leaders on the importance of enablement to drive sales productivity?
AC: The place I’d start here would be to understand where your sales teams are spending their time to isolate the most significant problems, and stroke opportunities that you might have. As I say, a good place to look quite often is around the consistency of execution. A good place to look is how much time, on average, it takes for salespeople to find the content they need to prepare those presentations prior to going into those moments of truth for the customer. Once you’ve done that, start to build a business case around it. That’s certainly something that we at Highspot can help people do. We’ve got a lot of information there across many thousands of different engagements that we can bring some norms and help set expectations and we can help turn that into actual dollar values as well and provide evidence from customers that have done that in the past.
SS: You landed some really fantastic key points there. I think equipping sellers with the right tools to hit the ground running can help save time and money. What advice do you have for sales enablement practitioners who are trying to find the right tools for their teams to increase productivity?
AC: The first place, which may make some people smile, is that technology is not always the solution. I think technology is a great enabler, but if all you do is amplify bad practices, then it’s probably not going to get you to where you want to be. First off, I would go back to understand what are the problems that you’re trying to solve. Do you have a pipeline generation problem? Do you have a closing opportunity to maybe drive up your win rate? Then, within that, understand what separates those people that are doing it well from those people that are not doing it well.
What I mean there, specifically, is to identify the skills, the structure, and the behaviors that your top performers are exhibiting versus those people that perhaps have good intentions and they’re trying their best, but they haven’t quite figured out what that recipe is. Once you’ve understood your top performers, what are their behaviors, skills, and structures, you can then start to break that down into something that I call sales plays.
Sales plays are just a very simple framework that allows you to help those people in sort of the mid-performers start to adopt the behaviors, start to learn the skills, start to bring in some of the structures that those top performers have, and the fact is if you can start to bring that in, particularly with your mid-performers, what we see is a very significant lift in revenue performance across the business. In fact, it makes much more sense as a commercial leader to focus on something that I call the frozen middle than it does to focus more heavily on your top performers or your bottom performance. The secret here is to focus on those mid-performers and help them make movements toward the structures and the skills and behaviors of your top performers. If you do that well, you can then amplify that through sales enablement platforms and that’s where the magic really starts to happen.
SS: I love that advice. What are some of your best practices for understanding and measuring the productivity of your own sales teams?
AC: One immediate best practice, Shawnna, that the listeners can bring in is that I am a big fan of his sales plays. I’ve discussed at several points earlier about the anatomy of a sales play and that is basically understanding what to know, what to say, what to show, and what to do.
Now, why would somebody want to do a sales play? Well, let me give you some numbers. A tech validation study found that by introducing sales plays, companies could reduce onboarding time by 24% and they could increase the number of salespeople hitting their quotas by 19%. Now, I don’t know about you, but there are many sales leaders that I speak to these days that would give their eye teeth to have a reduction in ramp time of almost a quarter and an increase in productivity of 20%. Where do we go to get the information to build that sales play? Well, as I said, just now, the answer lies in our best performance.
When they’re going into a given situation, what is the knowledge they’ve got about that industry, about their persona? When they’re in those magic moments with the customer, how are they positioning our value proposition and what are the things that are particularly resonating with our customer? Many technologies are out there that allow us to look at that, whether it’s something like Gong or Zoom. We can also build on that by understanding what are the activities and what people do around these magic moments with the customer. How do they follow up? Could we build that into a template and provide that to our salespeople? How do they particularly prepare for those conversations?
Sales plays are an immediate tool and what I would say for the companies that aren’t yet doing these, you don’t have to start big, you can start small. You can start with one area of your business with one product. Part of this is going to be about learning what works for you and what works for your organization. What I would say is don’t wait until you have technology, instead, the place to go is to look at your top performance.
SS: Fantastic, Andy. From your perspective in EMEA, how does sales and marketing alignment really drive productivity?
AC: I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique about the EMEA market and how sales and marketing need to drive alignment here. Of course, there are nuances in EMEA. We have to deal with many more languages than perhaps our colleagues in North America, but the fundamentals are the same. For us to be effective across sales and marketing, we need to align on common goals. We need to agree on what our measures will be. We need to discuss and agree on what our strategy is and then we need to turn that strategy into initiatives and calls-to-action for ourselves and our marketing teams. At its heart, whether you’re in North America or whether you’re in EMEA, it remains the same. It’s all around alignment, it’s all around healthy, honest, and open conversations and it’s around aligning on the things that you are going to do to turn your business strategy into calls to action, into coaching, and into enablement plans for yourselves and marketing teams.
SS: Andy, thank you so much for joining us today. To close out, one last question for you. I’d love to hear how you personally use Highspot to increase the productivity of your teams.
AC: It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m in Highspot every single day. There are a number of areas that I particularly like. I like our rep scorecards, but I also am a huge advocate of learning and I spend time every week on our platform going back over training that I’ve done in the past. I try to both develop my own skills and refresh my own skills. I also very much use things like the rep scorecards and the like to understand how my teams are consuming the information that we make available to them. I’m also very interested in looking beyond that to understand, particularly when I work with my marketing colleagues, what the campaigns that we’re doing are really influencing revenue. What are the campaigns and collateral that are being consumed by our customers and prospective customers, because the beautiful thing about that, unlike win rates and other lagging indicators, is that consumption by our prospects and by our customers provides me with a leading indicator of where opportunities might be. I’m in there every day as a learner, but also as an executive getting data to help me make smarter decisions.
SS: Thank you, Andy. This has been fantastic. I always love your insights.
AC: Thank you.
SS: Thank you 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.