Episode 22: Aligning to Seller Needs to Drive Efficiency


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Shelly Walshe
Shelly Walshe
Director of Sales Enablement and Operations, Delta Dental
Podcast Transcript

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.

Research from Entreprenuer.com found that companies lose up to 30% in revenue each year due to inefficiencies. In this current economic climate, the importance of rep efficiency is at an all-time high. So, how can enablement leaders focus on helping reps maximize efficiency to make every interaction with a buyer count? 

Here to discuss this topic is Shelly Walshe, the Director, Sales Enablement & Operations at Delta Dental. Thanks for joining, Shelly! I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role. 

Shelly Walshe: You bet. A little bit about my background. Right out of college, I went right into retail sales and marketing. After a few years there, I leaped into healthcare, which was really different. I was on this sales training team and from there, I was promoted into a sales leadership role where I took those marketing skills, those training skills, and people development skills into selling. I found some success there and then moved into a solely learning and development training readiness function. Apparently, I did well enough there with problem-solving and developing people that my team was built out along with really the trends of bringing efficiencies, effectiveness, and enablement into organizations. For me, that thread that I’ve had throughout my career of being creative and solving problems, and developing others is a perfect fit for this role.

I’m responsible for a national team with lots of readiness, preparing our sales kickoffs, teaching ways to prepare the field to be at their best in front of the customer, along with some of the less sexy and fun things like our sales incentive program and even some other work with events out in the market. So that’s me and I bring my creativity and developing others and problem-solving to my work all day, every day. 

SS: I love that. I think that those are essential skills for anyone in enablement. Now, you’ve mentioned that you’re constantly working on trying to innovate essentially systems and processes to help impact sales achievements and everything that they’re able to accomplish within your organization. How has this approach helped you to drive efficiency amongst your sales reps? 

SW: What I know about, and being a frontline seller myself, is you’re in the deal, you’re in the moment, and if you can’t get what you need to cross the finish line or move the deal forward. I bring that and I look for leaders and members of my team that have that same mindset. Not what we need to tell our sellers to do, but what we need to make them at their best, make them really ready in front of the customer. Efficiency is a perfect word. How do they find things fast? How are they ready at the moment? Do they get them out of digging in an email, phoning in a friend, or having to come back to the customer the next time? I think that’s a place where we have done our best. We’ve got the solution where the rep is working at the moment. If they’re in an email, we’ve got something for email, they’re going to be in the field, and we’re getting them ready in the field. 

Time is, especially after the pandemic, it’s hard to get in front of a customer. It’s hard to even get them on Zoom because they are a little fatigued. You need to make the most of what’s happening. When you’re with your customer and when you’re in front of them. I love technology to do that and I am pretty passionate about what we’ve brought about with Highspot because that’s meeting our needs in even more ways than I would’ve anticipated.

SS: That’s always fantastic to hear. What are some of the innovations you’ve been able to achieve since implementing Highspot and what impact have you seen from those innovations, especially when it comes to efficiencies? 

SW: It’s very obvious that Highspot can deliver content. It’s pretty obvious that it can speed people up from the bottom of the funnel to find the right document and find the correct version, but we’ve dug a lot deeper there. I don’t wanna bypass that and focus on some of the cool things we’re doing. The fact that our sellers can find what they need fast, it’s a minute here, it’s a minute there, it’s having to go back to the office and find it, waiting for a response. 

Not only are our sellers getting what they need at the moment, but so are our customers. It’s just so easy to find what they need with a couple of clicks to the point where our sellers are asking for everything to go into Highspot. If we have an asset that comes from our people org, they ask if we can put this in Highspot. They want this to be their home base and I think that’s pretty exciting. We’ve done some unique spots and pages and assets that really aren’t about content delivery, but it’s making it easier for our sellers.

One example is our company is getting bigger. There’s a lot of demand on time and capacity, and our cross-functional partners are creating intake forms and seller forms. They ask that they fill out the form to get the request for new forms or updated forms. They asked us to put it in Highspot and we just put the links in there because they’re working in Highspot through either Salesforce or Outlook and when they need to connect with our brand and creative team on an intake form we find it in a Highspot and that offloads time. So, am I creating time? Maybe. Creating capacity? Sure. I am speeding them up, making them more effective and efficient, and making sure what they deliver in the market is as right as it can be, is big. 

SS: I think that is fantastic. I’d love to understand, Shelly, I am curious, have you come across challenges when it comes to improving efficiency, and maybe what are some of those challenges that you come across, even within your own organization, in the perspective of the economy?

SW: Some efficiencies that have been brought about, particularly related to Highspot, is our ability to get our particular proposals in front of our customers. We do about 700 new business proposals. It’s a lot. They go in all different directions. They hit email and people have different capacities in their email boxes as they’re receiving it as a customer or broker, and we are transitioning into using Highspot to deliver proposals.

So what does that do? First of all, it saves reissuing, loading files in a different space or content tool or Google Docs, or some of the security issues that we run into. It makes it fast and efficient and the best part about that is that this piece of delivering something in a way that’s really good for the customer, but good for us and good for marketing is that prospect opening the proposal. We’ve had anecdotes where our rep says, I sent something and the buyer says, ‘looks great,’ but I know they haven’t opened it or they come back to it in a week. They are gaining this intelligence about how to now approach the deal in new ways that they’ve never had before.

Instead of in the moment getting a call back from that buyer asking a question, they’re already beginning to prepare, because they are noticing the buyer is spending time on this page or they keep going back to the price. They can be more ready for the next steps in this negotiation or deal-making. That’s been just groundbreaking. We sent it by email and didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes, or who else was getting involved, and our reps are saying that this is setting them up for success and making them more effective when they’re in front of the customer the next time. 

SS: I love that. I know that your team has seen a lot of great success from engaging their buyers through Highspot, particularly through the pitching capability. In fact, I’ve seen that you guys have achieved an 84% adoption rate of pitching, which is amazing. Fantastic work on that front. You talked a little bit about some of the pitching strategies and how it’s helped your team improve efficiency. I’d also love to drill into understanding some of your best practices for driving the adoption of pitching in Highspot and some of the results that you’ve seen as a business because of leveraging pitching.

SW: I think we started with my readiness team. I loved Hamilton, so I’ll say talk less, listen more. Put ourselves in the shoes of the seller. When you tell them you must pitch, you must enter into Salesforce, you must do something. There’s a lot that comes their way as a seller, and that’s just not the mindset for them. They’re driving business, they’re energized, and they want to do, do, do, and go, go, go. To be told what to do is sometimes in conflict with what you want to achieve. 

My team does a lot of listening. What do you need? What would be helpful? While it wasn’t our end game where we wanted them to do the pitching. You pitch a product, pitch a new way of doing things, pitch a sale prospect. I mean, that’s really what initially you think of what Highspot will do for you. We had sellers tell us, customers don’t want us to be dental experts, they want to learn about wellness. This is important to them. That might not cross the finish line on a deal, but it sets us up as a quality healthcare company that really is committed to oral health and will do well with the members that join us. We started with some thought leadership webinars that were new to the company. We were getting out, like telling our story of why oral healthcare matters and why we care about it, so we created webinars. 

In the past, our process was not an idea. We did engage marketing with some campaigns, but that didn’t help our sellers. They’re kind of blind to campaigns. They don’t really know what’s going on. They don’t know who’s going. Our campaigns may not even touch the person the seller wants to connect to the event. Our first launch in pitches was a really thought-provoking webinar to people that the sellers want to show value to, and they loved it. Our adoption rate has even grown since you got that stat. We are now at 90%, which is unheard of for anything I do with sellers to get them to come along. 

Once they had the results and the engagement and I could see the data, I think we’re over 5,000 attendees in the last two quarters at these wellness webinars. In the past, we’d be lucky if we had 10 or 12 attendees in a quarter, so the results are there, the customers are thanking our reps for inviting them, and it’s just been a terrific way to introduce them to Highspot. Now, they’re saying, what else can I do? How else can I use this tool? We invited them in based on what they needed first, and that set us off and running.

I’ll add, we’ve learned in a big way with ours. Highspot professional services team. We meet with them weekly, they know us, we know them, and we invest time with them. It’s one of those meetings where I think others might say something came up, and can’t make it, but we made it a priority because we gained so much from those calls, whether it’s for a new idea or we have a problem to solve. Our partnership is like none other I’ve ever had with a vendor. I have a dedicated staff and my readiness team actually hired someone for the role. I was adding a new training position and we sought out someone that had experience with tools like this and that tech brain that she brings to the job really advanced us as well. It got us to where we are now faster because she could really walk both sides. Not only can she be tech, but she’s also really embedded with sales, so she knows how to navigate very well.

Lastly, to that adoption rate and the use of pitching, they run a set of office hours once a week. They just invite people in and ask them what they want to try out, and what do you want to ask us. Whether the reps just use these office hours for one campaign, one idea, or one event, it gets people using the tool very hands-on. It’s ongoing and it’s how we’re doing business now. We are not launching a tool and hoping that people will use it and sending out reports that call them out for not using it, which is oftentimes how sales leaders will say we bought this, but you’re not using it. Get in there and you better use it. This is a totally different approach, and I think it’s working very well. 

SS: Absolutely. Different approaches for different teams often this is the case. Now, I want to shift gears a little bit and we talked about some of the less sexy components. I know though that your team has seen some really great results when it comes to governance within Highspot and I think a lot of enablement practitioners don’t immediately think about how important governance is. Can you share more about your best practices for governance and how that has helped your team optimize efficiencies?

SW: The partnership with marketing has been essential. This is a tool that we bought in for enablement, and our marketing group, like many, is just busy. They’re chasing, they’re doing campaigns, but their measurements weren’t necessarily aligned with ours. Sales would get frustrated because they had no idea what marketing was doing, and why sales were not getting what they wanted from them. We brought in our brand and creative partners alongside. We pitched them by saying, it’s ours, we’re going to run it, we’re going to own it, we’re going to manage it, but we want you to come along and see what it’s like. 

We are a few weeks into implementation and I don’t think we’re going to ever shake our marketing partners because they can see the value of the tool. They are using Highspot themselves to find content because it is easier than where they’ve been housing it on SharePoint. We have users outside of sales that have learned about the tool and where to find content. We’re just really selective and smart about what we link to and curate a very logical organization based on the sales cycle and the seller’s needs. 

Instead of masterminding or copying the current file system or organization, because my team is so close to sellers, they ask how do you look for something? What do you call it? How are your customers asking for content? The outcome that we didn’t expect is that marketing is learning more about frontline sellers and what they need and what customers are asking for simply by how we’re organizing our spots and our content into Highspot.

Now, we’re a little more than a year in and it is time to begin to review content that’s not being used and sunsets those pieces. The data stats are coming in right now. We just had our sales kickoff and our new leader of brand and creative, saw some of the data points. For instance, our video views are viewed well over a hundred percent, sometimes 200%, meaning customers and the receivers are watching it multiple times or sharing it with others. That was not necessarily a priority for our brand and creative team, but I looked at him across the room and said I think you need to go make some more videos. We don’t need the flyers and the slide decks, we need video. 

Again, where do you spend your time and invest? Everything doesn’t need to be there. It’s what the seller needs now, and we have those listening posts and those office hours and being really connected with them in other ways that it’s just an always thing that we’ll do for sure because that’s how you make it’s best. It’s reacting to what was happening in the market, and you can’t do that if you’re not always engaging with those peers cross-functionally and always hearing from your sellers.

I love the input or feedback feature. That had never existed in any of our content. In the past on the SharePoint site, after you picked up a document and you saw a mistake, you didn’t know what to do with it. That’s been a win that I wouldn’t have put down in my requirements when looking for a tool, but it’s helping my team where there might be some learning opportunities, but also bringing about some quick wins for our sellers to get documents updated or changed. That’s efficiency. All the little pieces really add up.

SS: I love that. Recently your team decided to expand your use of Highspot to include training and coaching. How have you been able to improve the efficiency of your sales team with a unified enablement platform that incorporates training and coaching? 

SW: It was one of my highest priorities when I saw a single solution with everything we needed. So, bringing about what the reps need, where they’re working, whether they’re in Salesforce, on the road, or in email. When a customer asks you a question about a topic you learned about at your sales kickoff three months ago, where’s the information? What should I say? What do I show them? What am I supposed to know? 

We’re evolving and getting everything into Highspot. In fact, my training leader has that in her, in her signature line, ‘Wondering where something is? Did you look in the Highspot?’ Everything’s there that you have a single source of information, so when you are about to pitch a deal and they’re asking about our effectiveness with equality, they can say ‘I know there was something great and I know there’s some phrasing that was really terrific, but I need to brush up my skills’. That content is ready for you. The search brings up not only the flier or the video that you might send but also serves up, right in front of you, everything that you need to know so you can refresh. 

You can imagine emails, storage of files, and where it is. It’s not likely that a fast-paced, fast-moving seller is taking the time to stop, dig through emails, or ask someone. Sometimes I call it the legends and stories and make it up on the spot where you need to move fast and they don’t have time to do all their research, but we serve that up for them in Highspot, even if they’re not thinking they should refresh their learning. There it is for them. 

We’re seeing some nice engagement. We’re just getting started and learning and bringing them along, so we’re going to get our onboarding going, but man, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I just wouldn’t. It’s all in one place. That’s driving adoption as well. While I might not need a collateral piece, I want to answer a customer question. Let’s say an email comes in with a customer question. I can ping an answer, but our reps are now behaving where they go to Highspot to get the learning, and while they’re getting that learning, they’re like, Ooh, I didn’t see this marketing collateral piece. It’s really cool. I didn’t even know it existed. Let me not only answer the question but support it with a really good answer. 

That wouldn’t have happened without tying those two pieces together. It is just simply the awareness of what’s available through that easy search. Talk about efficiency, right? Not only efficiency, but the quality of the rep in front of the customer, and then the customer’s experience, like they’re getting the best set of information at the moment.

SS: I think that is a fantastic grounding principle, Shelly. To close, I’d love to hear about how you and your team are going to continue to drive the innovation that we talked about at the onset of this podcast to improve efficiency and how you plan to leverage Highspot to help in the coming month.

SW: We have such big dreams of where we want to go. One of my favorite little nuggets that came out of some creative thinking on my marketing events team was using QR codes and linking to a spot. I built these really beautiful landing pages for customers who are engaging with us at a conference or out in the field. In the past, we would hand out stacks and stacks of paper that probably didn’t make it past the hotel room on the way back to people traveling home. The QR code experience linking back into a spot means so much more efficiency.

We have a rep who created his own landing page with a kind of his business card, like who he is, and a couple of his favorite assets, and he printed that QR code on a T-shirt. He wears it at events and when he’s out in the field and it says, scan me. He’s seeing that after the event, engagement by customers and prospects back into his site and his page, so he can ping them and check in on them.

There are efficiencies for our team not having to track shipping content, collateral pieces, and then lots of information that they can get. There are also more learning opportunities we want to build in so that we’re moving our sales new hire onboarding into the learning platform, and we’ve dabbled in video recordings and competence checks, and capability checks. We want to do much more of that. We’re not quite at the spot where we’re able to tie results to analytics. That’s on my plan for later this year. We want to find the magic that Highspot is creating for our reps and build that out even more for others, whether that’s building best practices, more learning opportunities, and so on.

I mentioned creating more videos. That is going to be a direct link to the data that we’re getting from Highspot that builds the case. Building video with our brand and creative team is pretty taxing on their time and they didn’t have a big commitment there. Now we can see directly how that resonates in the market and how important that is for sellers to get their story across. That’s a place where we’re going to help them improve their efficiency out in the field to get what they need that works the best and that tells our story for them so that they’re priming that prospect for the moment that they can be in front of them. 

I can’t wait to see what we deliver by the end of the year because we’ve done so much so quickly and uncovered along the way things I never thought were even possible and didn’t even think we could do. I’m sure some unknown results will be seen and maybe I’ll be back in a year to toot my own horn over here about how great we’ve impacted our team’s efficiency by getting them what they need, when they need it, and making them even better when they’re in front of a customer.

SS: I love that and I love how you guys create this culture of creativity and innovation over there at Delta Dental. Thank you, Shelly, so much for joining us today on this podcast. I really appreciate your insights. 

SW: You bet. It was a pleasure. 

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.

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