Episode 31: Improving Your Training With Cross-Functional Collaboration

Speakers

Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Adam Payne
Adam Payne
Sales Training & Enablement Manager, Redox
Elizabeth Ojo
Elizabeth Ojo
Product Marketing Manager, Redox
Podcast Transcript

Research from LinkedIn Learning found that the #1 way organizations are working to improve retention is by “providing learning opportunities.” So how can sales enablement create learning opportunities that will lead to more capable, engaged, and productive employees?

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 are Adam Payne, a sales training & enablement manager, and Elizabeth Ojo, a product marketing manager at Redox. Thanks for joining, Adam and Elizabeth! I’d love for you to tell us about yourselves, your backgrounds, and your roles.

Elizabeth Ojo: Thank you so much for having us. My name’s Elizabeth and I am a pharmacist by training actually. I’ve been in the health tech industry for a number of years, and something that I’m really passionate about is bringing more clinicians into this space and working on the software side to improve what the clinical experience is like for clinicians as they’re trying to take care of their patients.

For three years I worked as an implementation manager at Epic Systems in Madison, Wisconsin. Since leaving that role, I’ve been expanding my responsibilities in terms of working more in the product space and digging deeper into how and why the software is created, and moving away from more of the implementation.

In my role here at Redox, I’m the product marketing manager for our core product, as well as our clinical network product. What I’m responsible for is making sure that when our really smart developers here at Redox create new products or create new features and want everyone to be really excited about it, what I’m really good at is telling that story of the product.

Our developers are really good at coding and developing and figuring out the what and what it is, and getting all that out the door, but what I’m really good at is breaking down those technical concepts and making it really easy to understand and digest for both my colleagues within the sales department, customer success implementation, but also for the average consumer, the average end user who’s looking to Redox for new features and products.

Not everyone’s a technical persona and they don’t necessarily understand that, so what I really enjoy is breaking down those really highly technical concepts and making it super digestible and super easy for people to understand what it is and why they should care.

SS: Wonderful. Thank you, Elizabeth. Now Adam, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your role, and a little bit about your viewpoint on your expertise?

Adam Payne: Well, first off, I claim no expertise. I’m still very much learning, but I will do my best to share anything that might be helpful. I’ve been at Redox for about a year and a half now, and I came here from Gartner most recently in the research space. I spent about 12 years primarily in sales and sales management at the combination of Gartner and CEB, which Gartner had acquired. I went from competing directly against Gartner, selling a different IT research product to working for Gartner. That was always a fun experience. I spent a little bit of time in a new hire onboarding training facilitation role before moving into this job at Redox.

I am still very much growing into this role. This is actually the first time, especially being a team of one in sales enablement at Redox, that I’ve been responsible not only for facilitating training but also for designing it and measuring it, and building the whole stack.

SS: Wonderful. Well, I’m excited to have you both here. I’d love to hear from each of you, given your different backgrounds, what does good training look like to you? Adam, maybe I’ll pass this one back to you.

AP: Absolutely. One thing I’ll mention is good training is really only as good as the reinforcement that it gets. That’s actually one thing we are specifically working on getting better at Redox. I wouldn’t say that historically we have mastered that by any means, but we tend to, as I’m sure many startups could relate, very lean teams, with a lot of different things going on so we tend to move on to the next thing as soon as we’ve delivered the last thing before we get a chance to fully embed that previous concept.

It’s something we are working on slowing down a little bit, but that’s probably the biggest thing for me is how much of it gets reinforced. I know there are plenty of data points out there that something like 90% of training gets lost within 30 days or something like that if it’s not really embedded and reinforced.

SS: Elizabeth, how about you?

EO: That’s a great question. As a clinician, I’ve received a lot of training on software and I’ve also been able to give a lot of training on software at this point in my career. What I notice when training is good is when the teacher or the trainer is assuming the audience is coming in with little to zero background on the topic. What I cannot stand or what I find frustrating at times is when you’re expected to absorb concepts or take on new understanding, but the person who’s doing the teaching is making assumptions about where your base knowledge is or where your assumptions are.

Of course, enforcement is super important, but if the training itself isn’t accessible or isn’t in understandable terms in the first place, it doesn’t really matter how often you repeat it. It’s more important to get to like that base level and come to the level of the learner to make sure that they have the adequate context and base knowledge necessary to learn whatever new concepts you’re teaching. What I like to do is assume when I’m building training that this audience member or this learner is someone who’s basically a new hire with little to zero experience in the industry, making sure that we’re, we’re not using highly technical terms and then when we are explaining those terms.

Once we’re able to speak at the level of the learner, you know, get to their level, that’s when we can start measuring the adoption and doing the reinforcement and seeing whatever the subsequent performance, like what’s changed after the training has been adopted. I think that’s just so important. I think people don’t necessarily consider it. They assume people are coming in with the same base knowledge that they have, and that is not true the vast majority of the time.

SS: Absolutely. Well, thank you both for sharing what you’ve envisioned as good training. I love that. Prior to Highspot, what did your training programs look like and what does training look like now with Highspot? Adam, I’d love to hear your perspective on this one.

AP: Prior to Highspot, especially for new hire onboarding, our reps were given a spreadsheet with a pretty comprehensive list of tasks, a lot of videos to watch people hunt down in the organization and talk to, and lots of things along those lines, and it did actually get the job done surprisingly well, at least for the size organization that we were at the time.

From late 2021 through most of last year, we took our sales team essentially tripled its size. We went from about eight to 10 reps to about 25 or so. We had to pretty quickly revamp a lot of the onboarding materials and so on that topic specifically, so we kept a lot of the content from the spreadsheet that was still very relevant but built it into Highspot as a four-week onboarding program that was a hybrid approach of e-learning lessons and live sessions that we would schedule on their behalf to happen via Zoom. We’re a fully remote company, so we’re not necessarily getting in-person for these events, but that approach has worked really well so far.

The other piece, thinking beyond new hire onboarding is for a while we were running weekly or biweekly sales training sessions where either I would lead it or I would bring in another subject matter expert on whatever the topic of the day was. It wasn’t necessarily following a cohesive narrative to have a theme ongoing. It was basically just kind of a whack-a-mole approach of whatever the topic that people were yelling about lately and needed some training on was what we would train around.

Instead of that, and especially with the product pivot that we’ve worked on that Elizabeth will touch a little bit more on, we’ve shifted instead to several short e-learning lessons throughout the week, Monday through Thursday, and then have a live session on Friday for Q&A office hours to reinforce some of what they went through in the e-learning. That’s been working surprisingly well for us.

SS: Fantastic. Now to that point that you made, Elizabeth, can you share advice on how product marketing and enablement can partner together to develop really effective training?

EO: The PMM team working with Adam has found really great success by bringing to the table where our expertise lies and focusing on frequent – very frequent, including last-minute – communications and updates that are necessary. The way we look at it is that product marketing brings product expertise. We have spent lots of time developing these, updated new materials, these products, and we know what we want to emphasize, and Adam, coming from the sales enablement side, knows the audience extremely well. He is the sales expert, knows their process, knows what their priorities are, but also knows where his team’s gaps are. He knows the front end and we were on the back end with the product.

In addition, we were very, very lucky to have Adam as a partner because he knew the platform very well. He was very comfortable with Highspot. I think in some ways, he is really like a Highspot ninja, you know, being able to take this bulk data that we were coming in from the product marketing perspective and understand the most digestible way that we can present this information so that it’s not giant blocks of text that we’re asking people to consume.

We really leaned into where our knowledge areas were and what we had a process where product marketing would have a deadline or a timeline for getting the data in its raw format and also into like a slide deck presentation so that Adam could then take that information and put it into the appropriate format of Highspot.

This was a process where we would have workshop meetings multiple times a week, where we would just spend that time on the meeting saying, Hey, does this format look great? Hey, I needed clarification on this content, how can we create better quiz questions and things like that? So lots of check-ins throughout the week and really leaning into where our expertise was in product marketing, being the product and with sales enablement being the audience, as well as what the audience’s capacity was for certain pieces of data. I think that’s really what led us to a lot of success in this project.

SS: I love that. You recently rolled out a five-week product and pricing training. I’d love it if you could share what your process was for building and deploying this training and maybe even some of the results that you’re seeing. Elizabeth, can I pass this one back to you to start us off?

EO: Yeah, absolutely. I look back on this five-week training and I’m so proud of the work that we’ve been able to do to execute it. I’m only laughing because I remember our vision back in January and February, initially, we thought the whole scope of rolling out the new products, the new packaging, the new pricing, those three topics could be contained with three one-hour sessions over the course of one week, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We realized very quickly that there is actually a bunch of information in here, and the tolerance for our audiences, it’s just not going to work to jam-pack all of this information into three really intense sessions over the course of one week. By the way, we were quickly seeing that the content would be more than just three hours worth of content.

We had a suggestion that instead of trying to jam-pack everything in one week, what if instead we did chunks every day for a couple of weeks and each week would have a specific theme? What we would only be asking our audience to do is to digest no more than about 15 minutes of content each day, Monday through Thursday, and then as Adam said, we would have office hours on Friday where we would have interactive content based on the week’s information.

That completely transformed the way we looked at things. Not only did it give us room and space to focus on week one and the week two content, since that would be first, but it also put a lot of autonomy on the learners, because on Mondays we would roll out about an hour or an hour and a half worth of content with recommended dates that they should digest the content, but it would be up to them to figure out a time during the week to review it before office hours and the in interactive contents on Friday.

I think that was key because it’s pretty intimidating to try to say, I have to find an hour in my week or an hour and a half in my week to review the session, but it’s really easy to say, I just need to find 15 minutes each day before Friday to get this done. I think that that truly just transformed our approach and as what has lent itself to a lot of success versus what our previous approach would’ve been.

SS: I love hearing that. Adam, how about you from through your lens, how did it go?

AP: I’ve actually been really impressed with how well it went, and I echo everything Elizabeth said in terms of the background on that. In terms of even some of the results, one of the more under anticipated items was sometimes I was building the training lessons late at night and was probably a little sleepy and got in the habit of weaving in some random jokes when every time I would caption an image that would be in there. That ended up getting a surprising amount of traction in our internal Slack and got some discussion going. That was one really cool result to see out of that was just being able to engage people with humor, even though I didn’t put a lot of thought into it at the time.

We also launched this primarily as a soft launch in terms of the product itself and still gave people the option to sell on our old packaging at the start. Elizabeth, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe nearly everyone almost immediately jumped into quoting prospects and customers on the new platform because they felt so comfortable with it and it was such an improvement over what we were doing before.

SS: You guys have also seen some amazing results, Adam, as you said. You actually have 84% active learners in your training and coaching programs. What are your best practices for driving the adoption of those training programs?

AP: I think in that particular case we were fortunate that we got such a big spike thanks to Elizabeth and others on running that product pivot. There was a lot of momentum. There was a lot of hype around that. It was such a large thing for the organization to go through, and by the time it happened, the entire company knew about it. Even people who weren’t necessarily mandated to complete the training were coming to me to ask for Highspot access so that they could go through the training on their own time.

I think we were then able to seize on some of that and we were now getting much more mature in our efforts to build out sales plays in Highspot to reinforce some of those concepts and those are starting to get really great feedback. The hope is we’re already seeing a spike as well in the number of salespeople that are sending content to their prospects via the Highspot pitch function. It’s already bleeding into other net positives and hopefully that continues from the training side of things as well.

I think in general the most important thing for us in driving adoption in the training is probably pretty tactical, but we just provide a lot of frequent completion reports to leadership and then help lean on them to stress the importance of it with their team. So again, I’m a team of one, Elizabeth’s part of a very small product marketing team, and we operate from a position of influence but not authority. We do our best to illustrate to people why this training is going to help them make more money. If that isn’t enough, then we lean on their leadership to help enforce it as well.

SS: That’s fantastic. Adam. How do you ensure that training sticks, especially when it requires behavior change? Adam, I’d love for you to give us some of your perspective on this one.

AP: One recent example is we’ve just switched our conversational intelligence tool from Chorus to Gong and I’m really excited to spend a lot more time with what I believe are more mature tracking capabilities to be able to highlight and share best practice customer call snippets with our reps. We’ve already done some of that recently. This is a brand new tool for us and so that’s one thing that we’re looking to drive a little bit more organic sharing of best practices in that sense.

Then the other piece, when it comes to the challenger sales methodology that we started rolling out late last year, we’re still very early in that journey. We’ve gone through some of the training and it’s a lot of reinforcement of some of those concepts. Some of it is building a coaching culture within our sales managers and their teams to embed that in their day-to-day, but driving behavior changes. I’m very much learning the hard way, it is not something that can be done instantaneously, so I’m learning to be patient with it too.

EO: That is everything Adam said, you know, plus, plus, plus. We’re actually currently in the process of making sure it sticks. We’re currently capturing what the post-training metrics look like, as well as evaluating what our follow-up training will look like throughout the summer. It’s never just a train once and you’re done, it’s always about repeating it multiple times.

One thing that is also a big philosophy for me is making sure that we are meeting the learners where they’re at. Adam and I make lots of assumptions about what the best kind of training modality or method or location will be and then the learners actually get to use it, and then they give us really good feedback about what’s working for them.

Maybe we go out and seek the feedback, but we do get feedback on what’s working for them and what isn’t and it’s so important just not to take it personally and actually be flexible and respond to the feedback that we’re receiving. It’s more important that we are responsive to the needs of our audience rather than trying to protect whatever assumptions we had made at the start and we just end up being incorrect about what the sellers actually needed. It’s really about meeting people where they are and really trying to penetrate into people’s assumptions or muscle memory.

One thing that I love to do in previous training, for example, is I’ll get people to un-bookmark all of the outdated materials because they have new ones now. People are just used to certain routines or get stuck into certain ruts and it’s until you actually remove the outdated materials, sunset it and actually follow up and reinforce the new materials. Only then start to just get it.

SS: I think that is fantastic advice, Elizabeth. Thank you, Adam. You guys use the Challenger methodology in your training, which is actually one of Highspot Marketplace partners. I would love to hear more about how you integrated Challenger into your training programs in Highspot.

AP: I was really excited to notice it as part of the Highspot marketplace so that we could embed everything into Highspot instead. That’s one less login to ask people to remember, and it just really allows us to make sure that we can embed Challenger content, not just in the e-learning courses as part of a learning path or something along those lines, but we also do a lot of work to integrate it into our sales process spot and tie in lessons and Challenger templates and things along those lines. Many of our sales plays will incorporate the Challenger resources as reminders and reinforcement that way too.

There’s the training side, which is delivered very well via Highspot, and then I think for me, the added bonus is really not having to have people log into a separate training platform when you’ve already got one. The second aspect was to be able to just embed it throughout Highspot to reinforce it in lots of different places.

SS: I love that. Now, two more questions for you both. We talked a little bit about the metrics from some of the projects that you guys have done, but I’d like to broaden that out to look more broadly across the overarching programs that you guys are running around training. What are some of the key metrics that you look at to determine the success of training? I’d love to hear from both of you on this one.

AP: I can start. This is again, admittedly, very much a development area for me personally. It’s something that I’m still growing into. A few of the things that we do look at are obviously completion percentages that we then share and discuss with leadership to make sure that they’re seeing the action that they want from their team. We are also starting to look at some of the positioning that we’re rolling out. We can quickly see how well that is being used on customer calls and this is pretty new for us. Over time we should also be able to see the impact that might have on win rates and things along those lines as well.

The other piece that I’ve just started weaving in, and Elizabeth I’ll let you jump in next, is on sales play adoption. As we’re building more and more corresponding sales plays to go along with a lot of the sales training with some of the materials embedded there, it’s really great to be able to see for all of those related materials, how often are those getting interacted with, sent to prospects and things like that.

EO: Definitely looking at the sales play adoption, and I really also love to see whatever engagement our audience has with the materials, even after the formal training period is complete because it shows that they’re returning to it, they find it valuable, and even after any sort of required first pass through, they’re engaging, maybe not what the initial trainings, but the resources that have been linked out from those trainings.

Continual engagement with those materials and also any sort of adoption of new language after the training also shows us that it’s really being picked up and that the training was successful, which is again, why I am super excited about our new capabilities using Gong to be able to sort of review these sales calls and try to find instances of how and under what context our seller’s languages have changed based off of the training.

SS: Fantastic. Last question for you both, and thank you so much for all the insights you’ve shared today. How does training influence not only your enablement and marketing goals but also top business priorities and what’s some of the business impact that you’ve seen? Adam, I’d love to hear from you to start and then Elizabeth to close us out.

AP: Great question. I think for some of the top business priorities, Challenger in particular is an important component to the success of several of those. We sell a very technical product typically to a very technical audience at Redox and a lot of the shift in mindset that has been a year plus in the works is taking that conversation much more to a business level.

Even if we might be talking to a software developer about some of the technical workflows that they need Redox to help them drive, we still want to get a much deeper understanding of why they’re trying to do those workflows, and what’s important to them and what’s at risk if that doesn’t happen the way that they need it to. Challenger has been a critical component in helping us adopt that mindset and get our sales team to have that conversation as well.

We don’t necessarily hire people in sales for their technical expertise, so there can be a pretty large barrier, especially at a confidence level to run some of those conversations independently without having to bring a solutions engineer or something into support at a more technical level.

Our space is getting larger and more competitive so in order to continue to grow at the rate that we want to, this is something we really need to master. Challenger in particular is just kind of woven into several of the company’s strategic priorities around launching some of these new products.

EO: Thanks, Adam. I appreciate that. I have a slightly different perspective coming from the product org, which is one of our top business priorities or one of the major impacts that we’ve been looking to make from Redox is allowing our customers, as technical as they are, to build composable experiences. To be able to use our tools and our products to then improve their own product and make sure that their end user, being providers and patients, can have an end-to-end complete experience.

What that means is being flexible and modular so that our customers are able to build these custom workflows depending on what their goals are. Those themes of being flexible and modular and responsive are what this product pivot was all about. I previously mentioned how we initially had scoped three one-hour training sessions and now it moved into 15-minute chunks over five weeks. I mean, that’s the definition of going from one kind of mode and then becoming more flexible and modular.

I feel incredibly happy with the work that we’ve done through that training, but it could only have happened because we had taken those lessons of being more flexible and responsive and modular, and we also had like a corresponding tool to be able to move into that direction because that’s where we’re trying to go, not only in the training but in our goal for building composable experiences for all of our customers. If we’re telling them that they can use our tools to be as flexible and modular and composable as possible, that has to start with how we train our own sellers to be able to do that.

SS: Absolutely. Elizabeth and Adam, thank you both so much for sharing your expertise on our podcast today. I really appreciate it.

AP: Thank you for having us. This has been fun. I appreciate it.

EO: Yeah, same here.

SS: To our audience, 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.

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