Episode 19: Scaling Productivity With a Unified Platform
Productivity is crucial in our current business landscape, however, 43% of teams do not have a way to measure sales efficiency, according to research from Sales Enablement PRO. So how can teams maximize efficiency and effectiveness to make their investments worthwhile?
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 Lauren Hutton, the Director of Commercial Activation at The Trade Desk. Thanks for joining, Lauren! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role.
Lauren Hutton: Hi, my name is Lauren Hutton and I come by way of The Trade Desk. The Trade Desk is an independent media buying platform that helps marketers and advertisers reach their customers through a relevant ad experience. My role over here at The Trade Desk is to manage a team of storytellers who put the client’s priority first and try to understand how our solutions and technology and the open internet, in general, can really help them drive better business outcomes.
SS: We’re excited to have you here, Lauren. The Trade Desk has been growing rapidly. How are you using Highspots unified platform to stay productive while scaling?
LH: That is such a great question. When I first joined The Trade Desk, we were in a hyper-growth stage, as many startups, small companies, and large public companies go through. At that particular point in time, there were a bunch of different organizational tools that we were using for documentation, knowledge, and the stories that we make. It was organized chaos, I like to call it. There was a thought process behind the way that each team was doing it, but there wasn’t one central thought process.
When I joined, as a newcomer and someone who was going through onboarding, trying to learn everything about the platform, such as the stories that we tell and the way that we connect with our clients, it was really difficult to get a full holistic sense and to find examples of work. One of the things that we thought of almost immediately as a team, and one of the teams that makes a lot of content for our commercial teams, as we need to create a better way of doing this. We need to get people out of the ‘search’ mindset and instead into the ‘which piece of content is best for me to utilize and which is going to resonate most from my client’ mindset. We did a little bit of digging and we found Highspot and that’s really what the tool has been doing. It’s been acting as a central repository for every support team, and every marketing function within The Trade Desk and allowing every single person to access everything really at the drop of the hat.
SS: Prior to Highspot, what were some challenges your reps are facing as it relates to productivity and how has high spot helped you solve these challenges to drive productivity?
LH: That is another great question. There were quite a few problems that we were facing and one of the largest was reps downloading non-recent content. Because we didn’t have a central repository where all of our documents could be stored, reps were using a multitude of different places to pull down content. One of them was Slack, another one would be emailed. It might be just peer-to-peer, someone asking someone if they have something relevant to what they were looking for, and the problem with that is particularly a piece of work in our industry, technology, it is ever evolving and always adapting, gets old very fast and the material becomes outdated almost immediately.
By pulling things down through these disparate channels, we noticed people were using outdated content, not wrong, but definitely old, definitely no longer relevant, and not the most accurate. That was one of the biggest problems that we wanted to face, and Highspot with its API integrations into SharePoint was an immediate solution to the recency problem there is a multitude of other problems that Highspot helped to solve such as consolidation, easy searchability, the ability to tag things through a multitude of different ways so that we can search for things while layering on the different priorities or topics or subjects or verticals that one might be interested in finding something through. The recency was a problem that we’re most excited to have solved.
SS: Training and coaching programs can play a key role in helping teams improve productivity and The Trade Desk actually recently expanded its use of Highspot to include our training and coaching capabilities within our platform. At a high level, can you tell us about the value of training and coaching and driving sales productivity and really the role that Highspot played in helping you to do so?
LH: Absolutely. We had a learning platform that was being leveraged for both our internal teams and our external teams. While it is a great learning platform, what we noticed was that there was a disconnect between where all the information was stored and where all the information was being taught. What that disconnect really did was add a lot of manual labor and a lot of time spent connecting links, updating the material, updating links, and trying to connect the two. One of the problems that we saw that we could solve immediately was by bringing a learning system into the same system in which we are consolidating and containing all of the information the company needs, we could make it very easy to make sure that, again, the recency problem is solved for both and we take a lot of manual labor off. That is the external bandwidth solution.
When we look outside of ourselves and we look at our internal stakeholders, which are the sales teams, we’re solving a ton of problems there too. To consolidate them and create a singular platform that they can go to whether they need to learn about a new product through an auditory learning program, a visual learning program, or by simply finding one sheet or a case study or whatever sort of mechanism works best for their learning style, we’re creating something that works for everyone and we’re creating something that can scale. Those are the two most important things for us. We have a very diverse team, we’re global, we’re multinational and people learn differently. By creating a place where people can go that fits their style best, you’re resonating with them more, which means the material is going to be learned faster and better. We’re solving all this internal bandwidth issue that was being caused by having disparate solutions.
Additionally, we’re bringing internal teams together to work better cross-functionally. We’re understanding what the product team is doing better, what the marketing team is doing better, and what the commercial training team is doing better. The way that we’re teaching these things to clients externally and by creating that sort of symmetry, we’re also creating a more consistent message across every function within the company.
SS: To improve productivity through any tool, you need great adoption and you’ve built great momentum across multiple teams to drive the adoption of Highspot. Can you share some strategies you’ve used to drive adoption?
LH: Lucky for The Trade Desk we have a really great HBS, Harvard Business School, program that we put a lot of the managers through. One of the key areas that we learned in that program is change management. I had taken that before we decided to bring Highspot on and it really taught me a lot about building momentum, getting people on board, and getting people to understand the why behind the what and how is important. When we approached Highspot and the onboarding of a new tool, we very much followed that curriculum.
We first pitched it to the necessary stakeholders and helped them understand the significance of analytics, consolidation, and creating a singular one-stop shop for go-to-market teams. We got these leaders to be on board and then we pitched it internally to the app owners and those that would need to approve a budget for a new tool. We had to explain the differences and nuances between a tool like Highspot and what we already had to understand the value of paying for a new application. Once we got those individuals on board, then we started to build out infrastructure and the Highspot team here could tell you how many times we workshop different infrastructures.
We started with what was most recommended by Highspot, then we went a totally different direction and we landed somewhere in between because the reality is we’re a large team and we are ever-evolving, and something out of the box wasn’t going to fit what we needed and we also weren’t going to be able to adopt and adapt to every single tool and function that’s available within Highspot immediately. Recognizing that early on and deciding to take a step-by-step or crawl, walk, run approach really helped us get people on board faster.
A good example is we have not yet rolled out pitch functionality. We just knew that trying to get everyone to utilize the platform was going to be our biggest challenge. Once we had people hooked, rolling out additional functionality that would require some minor lift on their end, and some understanding and training would be much better served after that initial adoption. Our approach following the approval of the license and the infrastructure of our initial architecture was then to bring on a team of internal application testers. They are a global team of individuals that have been nominated across every single function and division as early adopters. We brought those individuals on board as well as a special nominated team across commercial and business teams to test. We beta-tested for a while, took a lot of feedback and we iterated, changed, and were very open to what the user experience was telling us was right and wrong. We made all of those changes before we went to GA.
When we went GA it wasn’t simply ‘here’s a new tool, go and get it.’ It was global training that led to office hours and regional training sessions. We were so excited from the initial training because there was a ton of participation, and questions and people were very excited about the platform. We had a natural momentum because we were solving a problem that benefited everyone, but we didn’t rely on that solely to make sure that it was successful. We’ve been incredibly impressed with the way that the team has brought Highspot into the field. Internally, we call Highspot “Lighthouse.” Everything at The Trade Desk is nautical-themed because we are west coast based and have a lot of avid beachgoers and surfers internally. We actually call the tool “Lighthouse”, we call spots “Harbors”, and we made it our own and we made it fun. I think that was just a cherry on top of a well-thought-out product rollout map that we had put together.
SS: How has the adoption of Highspot helped improve the productivity of your reps, especially when it comes to saving time and improving rep’s effectiveness and customer interactions?
LH: I think that answer is twofold. The first part of that is how are we saving time and time. Time-saved is a benefit to the company. It’s a benefit to the reps and it makes sure that our business teams are on the market. That was our number one priority because we need to get people what they need fast. The second priority, answering the second part of your question, is we need to make sure it’s right and recent and quality. When we thought of the infrastructure of what we call Lighthouse, the tool Highspot, was what are the ways that people are searching. We did a massive survey of the business teams and we went around to people and we asked when you are looking for something, how are you looking for it? What is the priority or the key question that you’re trying to answer?
We asked a ton of people and then we went through all the Slack channels of all the support teams when people were looking for something. We found that people look for things in three ways, they look for it by asset type, they look for it by vertical and they look at it by channel, at least internally for us. By that I mean people come to us and they say ‘I need a case study’. That’s an asset. ‘I needed to be for automotive’, that’s vertical. ‘I needed to be across CTV’, which is the channel. It was those three things and everyone sort of had a different variation of the order. Some people were like, I need to be smart about automotive and I’d love for it to come in the form of a pitch deck and, in particular, I needed to be Omni channel, which is every channel, but it was some variation of the three.
When we were thinking about the architecture, we were thinking, let’s think like someone on the business team because that’s who we’re solving for, those are internal clients. Who cares about how we want to support teams or want to organize it or what we think is best? It doesn’t matter what we think is best, what matters is that we answer the needs of our internal clients. That’s really how we set up the infrastructure and the homepage itself is structured that way. It says, to browse by asset type, browse by channel, and browse by vertical. We made sure that all of the tags in our system follow suit. We do have things that the internal support teams think about. Client priorities is a really good example where we say, is the client’s priority to reach their audiences? Then, the client’s priority is reached. Is the client’s priority identity, which is a way to future-proof your business?
We have those tags but if I’m being honest I think the tags that are most used are the ones that we created specifically for the business teams. By creating tags and filters, that will allow them to find what they need faster, we saved an infinite amount of time. That’s my more optimistic way of thinking about how the business teams are using the platform because the reality is they also just adore universal search. The universal search for everything, and we even have a tool internally that acts as a universal search across every single application that we have and store content in, including Lighthouse because your API is open for us to do so.
Universal Search is a huge time saver. People used to have to go into all of these different platforms. We had dropbox at the time, we were transitioning to OneDrive. We also had Slack, we had all of the different SharePoint folders that you would go into to find what you made, what you recently touched, or what was shared with you. By creating this consolidated approach, by creating filters that matter to the teams that were serving, and by allowing people to leverage universal search. I don’t have to sell Highspot, but I think we all know how great universal search and your tool are. The fact that it’s not just the tags, it’s not just the title, it’s anything in the content, anything said in a video, it was a real game changer and we asked about the time saved in follow-up surveys and it was significant. The impact was real. It’s felt by our team members, and the time that they do spend searching now is because they’re looking for what might be the most right for their client versus finding something at all.
SS: To dig a little bit deeper into adoption, a big win for your team was achieving a 90% adoption rate, particularly amongst new hires going through onboarding. Can you share advice on how you drive adoption from the start of a rep’s journey with your organization?
LH: Again, I think it’s really twofold. I think we wanted to roll out a learning tool until after Lighthouse became such a staple to the business teams and to everyone that existed there. When you come on board, naturally everyone’s talking about this tool that you’re going to use that’s going to help you find any piece of content, any piece of knowledge and information that you might need. There’s this innate necessity for someone to want to use Highspot or Lighthouse as we call it, and so that was the first piece. Once we saw the adoption of the platform in general, from sort of a collateral standpoint, making sure that it was rolled out from a learning tool standpoint was easier because it became such an everyday necessity to use it.
That said, we have a phenomenal commercial training team within The Trade Desk that is solely focused on really understanding their internal stakeholders and what their needs are. They think about the learning process, what’s going to really resonate with people, and what’s gonna make this fun. The previous learning tool that we had was just videos and you would sit there for hours and hours on end, just sort of zoning out at these videos they were well produced and they were fantastically written and said and scripted, but it’s tough to go through eight hours of video a day for your first two weeks and try to really take it all in.
One of the things that they loved about the LMS within Highspot was how interactive you can make it. You can watch a quick video and then take a quick question and then write a paragraph of your interpretation of what was just said and you can make it a much more interactive journey. I think that interactivity and the way that the commercial training team internally thought about their internal stakeholder is really the reason that it’s so well adapted. They made it fun, they made it custom, they made it thoughtful and they made it in a place where people are naturally going to go every single day no matter what.
SS: Lauren, what metrics do you track specifically to measure the success of your programs in driving productivity and what are the specific results that you’ve seen?
LH: Just like our approach to rolling out the platform, we decided from a metrics and KPI standpoint to really think about it from a crawl, walk, run standpoint. From a crawl standpoint, we just wanted adoption, we wanted users to come into the platform, leverage the platform, become familiar with it, and learn to adopt it. There are obvious metrics within Highspot that allow us to do so like user sessions and time spent. We were specifically focused on the teams which we considered necessary to be on the platform every day. We have a lot of departments at The Trade Desk, and some of them are there for very specific purposes. Legal is a very good example of a team that we do not expect to be in and out of the platform every day. They are there when we need them to review specific content and documentation and make sure that we’re following parameters in terms of what we can and cannot release externally and internally.
Among the business teams are core functions that we wanted to be in and out of the platform every day, and we saw fantastic adoption. We gave ourselves a check mark on that. The users are coming in, the users are continually coming in and they’re spending time on the platform, fantastic. The next phase of this crawling stage was how can we continue to improve the experience of the users once they’re on the platform. To us, that became a function of views on content and all of those great content analytics. How many pieces of content are on the platform that has been published for over 90 days that people aren’t looking at? Well, can we get rid of those and clean those up and make sure that this becomes an experience where only the content that people want to access exists and get rid of some of the fluff in the noise?
We started using analytics like that, we are constantly managing any flags or violating policies. We have really strict policies around what can be published, whether it’s from a quality perspective, whether it’s from a recency perspective, and we want to make sure that the reps have every piece of information available about every piece of content that they want to access, like who authored it, who’s the feedback owner, when was it published, what’s the description of it? All of these things ultimately improve the way that the users think about the content that’s in there. That was the crawling stage, I was thinking about improving the user experience or the analytics available, whether it’s through the maintenance of the platform and hygiene of the platform or whether it was just from understanding what content was resonating most with them. We did use some of the search functionality to understand what they are looking for and what has the highest click-through rate and where can we as support teams lean in and create more content around topics that aren’t being supported based on the search functionality metrics. That was another good one that we started choosing this phase.
Then this next stage that we’re about to enter into, I like to think of as the run stage. We’ve really thought about the internal user experience. Now, what about the client experience and the external user experience? We plan to be rolling out pitch functionality in the next quarter or so. Through that, our hope is to really understand, okay, well we know what’s resonating with our internal clients, what’s resonating with our clients? Where are they spending their time within the pieces of content that we send them to understand the profiles of our clients by creating an integration with Salesforce and understanding what content is resonating with which type of client, whether they be brand direct, whether they work at an agency, whether they’re high level or whether their hands on keyboard?
All of this stuff really matters and will ultimately help us create more custom-relevant and high-quality content that benefits everyone. It’s sort of a virtuous cycle between the support teams, our internal teams, and our clients. We’ve built the two first phases of that virtuous cycle. The last piece for us to really have fallen places is the client piece. We’re really excited and hopefully, I’ll be able to join you in six months or more and tell you all about how that’s worked out for us.
SS: Those are some impressive results. How do you go about gathering feedback to optimize your efforts and how does this help you improve your impact on productivity?
LH: Feedback is fantastic. Feedback means that we can improve, we can drive better quality, and we can drive better adoption through driving better quality. We ask for feedback in a multitude of ways. One of the ways that we obviously can easily get feedback is from someone just going into Highspot and clicking’ send feedback’ because we make sure that feedback owners are identified on every single piece of content, these users act as editors, they act as arbiters of what makes sense and what needs work and it’s been really useful. I got a piece of feedback this morning that within one sheet a link was broken because our knowledge portal is transitioned and that person said here’s the new link, can you update it. That not only saves our internal teams but our external clients to who we might have sent that one sheet. Feedback is instrumental in making sure that the content is right, relevant, and quality and that’s a big piece of it.
Another piece of it is we want people to feel part of the experience. We ask for people to submit pieces of content that they might have created outside of the support teams that they want to be published and we put it through a little bit of a rigorous identification and qualification process and then we publish it so that they feel part of the entire community. That’s really what we’re trying to create a community, then you allow for communication to go both ways. When you allow for participation that goes on both sides, you really create a symbiotic relationship with the people that you’re serving and create a community that people want to continue to foster and uphold and uplevel. That’s really what feedback means to us.
SS: Another important factor to keep reps productive long term is actually content governance, which I think a lot of organizations may not prioritize as much as they need to. Content governance can ensure that reps can efficiently find the right content. Can you share some best practices for driving outstanding content governance to improve the productivity of your teams?
LH: I think the biggest piece of the success there is that we created a group of individual leaders across each of the support functions, who essentially made themselves responsible for their teams. They are not only brought in, but they are also evangelizers, they are early adopters, they are proud app owners within their key functions and I think by having this core group who feels pride and pride and ownership, we created a really great cycle by which we don’t have a single person or a couple of people owning and governing this app, we have people across every single division, across every single function helping us to govern this app. It’s not a one-person job, again, it’s that community function, it’s that community feel and everybody holds everybody accountable. I think that’s one of the really big reasons it’s been successful.
I also think, that said, we do have individuals who have within their role and their function-specific time carved out to hold those who are newer and less familiar accountable in a kind and teachable way to uphold the standards in the longer term. It’s part of the onboarding process now for any of the support teams, there are coaching and mentorship opportunities for when we govern and we see mistakes consistently across an individual to have those individuals spoken to in a really thoughtful way and get them to understand the why behind the how and I think that’s all really led to just a positive communal experience within the platform.
SS: Last question for you, Lauren. In this current economic climate, I’d love to hear your perspective, on why is sales enablement so crucial to the success of your organization.
LH: I think it’s a scary volatile time for a lot of people. There’s a lot of unknown. There’s a lot of chatter about what’s to come, and when you think about this from a client perspective in our industry, our clients want a plan. They need a way to adapt and evolve and stay on top through what could be a very scary time. When I think about the way that we need to approach our clients, we need to be with them, we need to be talking to them, we need to be out of the market with them and we need to be understanding their problems, priorities, concerns and we need to be next to them in creating a plan that will help them achieve success even during a recession.
Even during a global pandemic, we need to create flexibility, transparency, and openness between our two companies and I think the only way that we can do that is by arming reps with everything they need to know and getting them back in the market fast. The only way to do that is to make sure that they can find what they need and that again they can find what they need fast and that what they find is recent, relevant, and quality and that’s what Highspot does. It enables our reps to get smart quickly, get back in front of their clients, and be there and be the partner that the client needs rather than spending days getting back to them on certain key questions or weeks putting together the right material to pitch them the right solution we’re helping them find what’s going to resonate with the client quickly and that’s the key to success for everyone. Again, it’s that virtuous cycle. We support our teams, then our teams support our clients and our clients then support our company by working with us and creating a partnership that benefits both.
SS: Thank you so much for joining us, Lauren, I really appreciate the time.
LH: Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a pleasure. Anything for Highspot. What you guys have done is invaluable and we try to be the best partner we can be for you guys in return.
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.