Episode 41: Driving Productivity With an Enablement Platform


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Bob Bortz
Bob Bortz
Director, Sales Enablement, Baker Tilly
Trula Hensler
Trula Hensler
Senior Manager, Sales Enablement, Baker Tilly
Podcast Transcript

Research from Sales Enablement PRO found that organizations that invest in a sales enablement tool are 25% more likely to be very confident in proving their team’s impact. So why is it so important to invest in the right sales enablement tools?

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 Bob Bortz, director of sales enablement, and Trula Hensler, senior manager of sales enablement and operations at Baker Tilly US. Thanks for joining, Bob and Trula! I’d love for you to tell us about yourselves, your backgrounds, and your roles. 

Bob Bortz: Hi everybody. My name is Bob Bortz. I am the director of sales enablement. My career has been in a number of different areas. I’ve worked in sales, sales training, leadership development, post-sale support, and now, most recently, sales enablement. Throughout the years, my focus has been on learning and teaching the sales process along with the activities and behaviors that support the sales process or support selling. That’s really where I’m at today with Baker Tilly. I have that main area of focus.

SS: Trula, tell us a little bit about you.

Trula Hensler: As you mentioned, I am the senior manager of sales enablement here at Baker Tilly. My career has mostly been spent in marketing and sales management. About five years before coming to Baker Tilly, I decided to dip my toes back into selling and spent five years doing that for a public media company. I loved doing that and then came to Baker Tilly. I spent my first nine years here with marketing and leading a team here that worked with our biggest industry practice. 

Then, from there, I got the opportunity to work with and develop the sales enablement effort that we were beginning to realize we needed at Baker Tilly. One of the cool things was about two and a half years in when our sales enablement efforts really took off, that was when we realized how much more we needed. Enter Bob Bortz. We went out and found the best to come in and be our sales enablement leader and to begin to take us into new areas, one of them was Highspot as a matter of fact. 

SS: I love to hear that. Bob, one of your key responsibilities as an enablement leader is to enhance productivity and ultimately revenue growth. How does enablement help drive productivity for your business? 

BB: I come from the belief that sales enablement and my job is the absolute most important job in the entire company. I hope everybody feels that way about their job, but I feel that way about mine. The reason is that, in the enablement arena, our job, our mission, and our focus is to generate revenue for the organization through sellers. We have to enable our sellers to do that. If they don’t do that then we don’t survive as an organization because we don’t generate the revenue. 

Within our team here at Baker Tilly, we created our own personal mission statement. We define sales enablement and our mission as a three-pronged approach. We provide education, information, and support to our sellers in a way that increases revenue and at the same time decreases the complexity of their job. When we think of education, we think about selling skills, and upskilling, we think about information, like the content, insights, and the changes that are going on within our firm and within the marketplace. Then we think about support and we’ll often think about things such as onboarding. We think about coaching and reboarding, and we put all of those together, which hopefully is a nice equation to do just that. This helps us to meet our mission, which then produces a positive ROI from our sales team to increase the revenue that we hope they will be able to generate for us. 

SS: Absolutely. I love that definition. In my intro, I mentioned that stat around the ability for tools to help really make sure that we’re confident in proving our team’s impact, especially for enablement. In your opinion, what role does an enablement platform play in helping to improve productivity, Bob? 

BB: There’s a number of things. The first thing that I think about when I’m thinking about a platform, it’s kind of a single source of truth. Can we get all of our sellers to go to one spot? We’ve got all the different variations and all the different locations and SharePoint sites and data that are saved to their computer. Having a single source of truth is a big win, just in terms of having the appropriate amount of content and the accuracy of the content. In addition to that, statistics suggest that people invest anywhere between 5 and 12 hours in a given week searching for things. You and I and everybody else, we’re online, we’re searching, and having a platform that has everything in one spot, generally speaking, should suppress the amount of time that we’re searching. If we can go to one spot to that enablement platform to find what we need and go there consistently, know how to use it and how it functions, that will help with that. 

Another element within a platform is the concept of being able to take your messaging and your content and being able to customize it for your seller. When you think about a marketer, in my view, how I think about it is marketing is creating a go-to-market approach. They want to get their products and services to market, and enablement is about going to sales who then will go to market. We’re a subset of that function. What we can do with a platform is we can take the go-to-market message, and we can tweak it and we can enhance it, we can provide the insights that maybe are not normally included in a go-to-market strategy to provide that seller and equip him or her with the insights that they need to be successful.

Then the last thing I would say about a platform is that a solid sales enablement platform is actually a revenue generation tool too. We use our tool for outreach, to pitch and share content, and to gain insights from our clients as it relates to what’s being consumed. It’s interesting, here’s a subset of that data that we find incredibly valuable, and that is when that data is shared with other people. When we share something and we find out that there are other people that are involved, that is a huge win for us because statistics also show that there are five to six different buyers involved in a typical purchase. Often we are calling on the decision-maker when in reality there’s a group of decision-makers. When we can find more of those stakeholders, it provides an awful lot of insight. Those are a few examples of how I see an enablement platform providing additional value and helping with productivity.

SS: I love that. Those are some spot-on statistics that you’ve been referencing as well. Now, Trula, to shift gears a little bit, you’ve been at Baker Tilly for about 12 years, working in both marketing and sales enablement. Given this experience, can you share a little bit about Baker Tilly’s enablement journey prior to investing in an enablement platform? What maybe were some of the challenges that were facing your team?

TH: I love this question because it brings back a lot of good memories and a lot of the memories in our firm. Over the years, we have come up with some amazing solutions and this obviously has been one of them. Having been a seller myself, and then working in marketing and working with the teams I worked with, some of the different areas that we were struggling with was, as Bob mentioned, that single source of truth. We had content everywhere. Being an accounting and business advisory firm, this is something that we produce a lot of. We have a lot of content and a lot of thought leadership, so content management became key. We needed an area where we could find our sales-related information as well as any marketing information that we wanted them to be able to share. 

Another thing that we found a little bit challenging was the ability to identify where we might have gaps. Those gaps might be something like do we have the collateral that we need in these areas? When a leader would look at it they knew that they had the collateral that they had created or the articles that they may have generated, but we didn’t have any one area where they could look at it and see, ooh, we probably need this for our salespeople, our practitioners, something further to help them be valuable. 

The other thing we really struggled with was certain teams were doing this better than other teams. That was what to know, what to say, what to show, and what to do. That was something that we really found challenging. Then, when we began to look at Highspot, it was right after COVID. COVID was still in motion and that really changed our landscape. It changed how we went to sales. It changed how we went to market, and now all of a sudden, we have to begin to figure out how we can be personable, have a relationship virtually, and more importantly, everybody and their brother was sending everybody an email. It became a waterfall of emails, a waterfall of information. Then our challenge became, how do we differentiate? How do we stand out? That was one of the challenges that we were dealing with. 

I will say that in our firm, we do a great job of onboarding. We really do. The difference is we have our firm onboarding, but then it is handed off to each practice or each area to train. In sales, our sales enablement charge was to be able to onboard and put together something that was really efficient. We put together a really great spreadsheet. Many, many tabs, but we had a great spreadsheet for onboarding, right, Bob? I got to onboard my boss, by the way. It was a great experience, but those were some of the challenges that we were facing as Baker Tilly at the time. 

SS: Got it. Very interesting to hear a look back in time. What led your team to decide to invest in Highspot, and how did that help solve some of the challenges that we’re facing in the business? Bob, I’d love to pass this one back to you. 

BB: Well, I’ll maybe ask for some input from Trula as well on this, but the bottom line is as an organization, we’re looking for ways to make the processes more consistent and at the same time, more effective. As Trula suggested, there was an awful lot going on in our organization and there’s an awful lot going on in the marketplace. To create a form of consistency around what they need to know, say, show, and do around sales place, around pitching and outreach, all of those things combined, it was an opportunity for us to make a difference for our sellers so that we can continue to grow and to generate the revenue that we hope to generate. Trula, would you add anything? 

TH: When I think about how Highspot’s helped with these challenges I think one of the interesting things to know is that it actually was on Sales Enablement PRO where I found Highspot and some other different options. The really cool thing about that was when we met with James Milligan, my sales rep from Highspot, and had a demo, it was like an epiphany. It was like, oh my goodness, we need this. When we brought in sales enablement and we began to use Highspot, it answered a lot of our questions. One of the things that we did was we began to use and see that Highspot could cover from our outreach, from the lead side of things all the way through the sales pipeline and that process. Number one, that was really important to us. That was going to solve a lot of different areas. 

The other thing it enabled us to do was put a lasso around that content chaos. It enabled us to be able to find things. No longer did we have practitioners, or salespeople, when they finally found something, they would save it down to their desktop. Well, we all know how that goes when it gets updated, all of a sudden, we’re not current anymore, and we’re out distributing stuff we don’t want to distribute. Highspot really helped us with that. To be able to have stuff changed on the fly is amazing. 

Another thing that we really appreciate is the ability to take the email templates. We did have them, but to be able to have them in an area that makes sense. In context, what to know, what to say, what to show, what to do. Our sales plays were wonderful. They really answered that question for us, and then the email templates that we would pitch, those two were another area that helped us conquer a problem that we had here. 

One of the other things I really loved also was we really needed a search engine. We needed something where you’d put something in search and actually be able to find it. Honestly, we’ve never had that like we do now and that’s something that Highspot has really helped us with. I guess the only other two things I might say, would be that I talked about that problem with differentiating ourselves in the market and in that barrage of emails, the video emails, the opportunity to create a video email and introduce yourself to a new prospect or even reintroduce yourself to a client it was game-changing. It allows us to stand out to be at least a little bit different than everything else that might be hitting that inbox.

The last thing, of course, I mean, who doesn’t get excited with the magic that happens with email analytics? All the engagement that happens when our sellers send out these emails as outreach and begin to try and help somebody through their business decisions daily. It helps us because when you get these analytics back, you can look at a particular page that they might have spent a little extra time on, and it might give you a little insight as to the value add that you can bring. Many times we offer three or four different options that somebody should consider. Sure is handy when we can kind of look at that and go. They were able to spend a little extra time on a particular value add service. Certainly helps us understand what we might follow up with. That’s what Highspot helped us really start to navigate in this whole sales enablement process. 

SS: I love that. I’ve also heard at Baker Tilly, you guys have been really thoughtful about how you’ve implemented Highspot. One of the core approaches to that was to ensure that you are aligning on the value with your sales and marketing teams. I heard that that was absolutely a key part of your strategy. What are your best practices for driving this alignment and conveying the value of enablement to those teams? Bob, I’d love to pass this one back to you again. 

BB: We launched Highspot just like any new tool, it wasn’t done in a vacuum. The whole organization didn’t stop just so that Highspot could get implemented. It was interesting that at that same time, marketing was going through a number of their own implementations, so they had a couple of things. One, they were implementing a new digital asset management system. They were trying to get all of their content from all these disparate locations and put it into one portal. Further, they were also doing a content refresh. They were going through a rebranding, changing some of our color schemes and what have you, so all their content was being updated. Then we came along on the sales enablement side and said, hey, we’d like to also throw something else on the plate, which is we want to incorporate this new platform, Highspot. We kind of set the table there, then what do we do? There is a high level of anxiety in implementing all these things and going through all these changes at the same time. 

The first thing that we did was actually not go to marketing. We actually leaned on our Highspot counterparts. I will say that Trula and I, we had not implemented a system like this before. This is our first enablement platform and we didn’t know all the ins and outs, the do’s and the don’ts, and Highspot did. We had a fantastic account team that would meet with us on a regular basis and to this day, we still meet regularly to ensure that we’re going down the path in the proper way and that we’re all set up for success. They also gave us insights related to possibly interacting with marketing in the best way to do that.

Our next step, Trula and I, was to engage the marketing team. They had questions like What is Highspot? They didn’t know what Highspot was. They didn’t have time to research Highspot. We actually took the senior leadership team through a demonstration of the tool. We coordinated it with Highspot as well. We were collaborating, making sure that all their questions were answered, all the proper functionality was shared, and we really positioned it from a point of view that as much as this is a win for us and our sellers on the enablement side of the platform, the reality is it’s a fantastic tool for marketing to validate what content is being used and it’s creating wins and not creating wins. 

We started to share all the data and the wins and the insights that they were going to be able to gain from it as well and rather quickly, they said, this is a good tool for us as well. We’re able to show the value, but the other thing that we did is we really own the implementation. It seems obvious, right? We’re sales enablement. We made this purchase. We should own it. Well, the reality is going back to that scenario, they had so many things on their plate that if for a second we thought that we could just delegate things back to marketing, it was going to get, you know, the talk to the hand. We do not have time. We do not have the bandwidth. We do not have the resources to help you out. 

To that, we said, we’re going to own this every bit of the way. We needed their help though. We didn’t own every bit of content. In fact, they owned all the lion’s share of the content, but what we did is we created a process of what needed to be done, such as by who and when. We made it goof-proof so that we could share it with marketing and then we could follow this and get it approved by marketing. We didn’t create it in a vacuum, this process. We used some stakeholders from the marketing team to say, hey, we’re good with this. Then not only did I socialize it or Trula socialize it, but we also had leadership from the marketing team socialize it with the different stakeholders on their side of the house. That just created a nice collective collaborative environment. 

However, there was one missing piece and there’s one stakeholder that was also critical to the success in addition to marketing and had to play with both enablement and marketing, and that was our IT department. We call them growth technologies, but our IT department ensures that all the effort and work that was going on with the digital access management system with the sales enablement platform, Highspot. The rebranding and content and other platforms that we had to collapse and coordinate some work with. They came to the table as well. A big win that we did, which was an investment, twice a week, marketing, IT, and sales enablement would get on a call and we would provide status updates to our project. We had a collective project plan that we worked through to ensure that the implementation was going smoothly.

Last but not least, on the enablement side of the house, we really ensured that we had enough time to do this job. Like anything else, we wanted this done yesterday. We wanted it done as quickly as we possibly could, but we set the table appropriately. We shared with our stakeholders that Rome wasn’t built in the day type thing. We needed to have the proper time to one, learn Highspot, two, partner with marketing, and three, set up the pages and that collateral so that it was successful for all. By giving ourselves that time, we were able to, and following some of those, those tactics or those steps, I think that we had a very successful implementation when it’s all said and done. 

SS: I would certainly say so based on some of the insights and data that we’ve seen as well. You also helped to drive the adoption of the platform by running trainings with all of the divisions you support and offering ongoing office hours. Can you share a little bit more about this approach and the impact that it had on the adoption of the platform, Trula? 

TH: Yes. We’ve learned a lot, to say the least. You don’t know what you don’t know, but we had a two-phased approach. The first was we had hands-on training and I say that because the Baker Tilly way of doing training is a little bit different than what we decided to do. We decided to offer the first phase anyway, ten different training sessions. Bob and I, put out all the information, how great of a tool this was, and we gave them the opportunity to sign up for the different calendar times that we had put out there. We probably got about half of our active users that we had given licenses at that point in time.

Bob and I came back together and it was like, gosh, we still got another half that we need to get active. We made a little change in that and we rolled out our second part of that. One of the things we did was we sent out to everybody who was offered a license three different times and we put them on their calendar and we said, they’re optional, choose one. Some people were intentional, went through right away, accepted, deleted, whatever. Some of them used it in such a way that it sat on their calendars and served as a reminder because they showed it as tentative. 

One of the things that we learned was that it was working a lot better for us. What I wanted to convey to my team was we need to do this again. We need to do another three and so that’s what we did. We did three more sessions and so we ended up getting the amount of active users that we needed to get by putting on calendar reminders. It’s crazy. It’s something simple like that would do it, but in our firm, typically it’s go and sign up and leave it in more of a passive way. 

The other thing that we did, we offered office hours and we did it as a drip campaign. What we did was we would tell them each week what our tip of the week would be. We had sent these office hours out on every salesperson’s calendar, so they could accept it or turn it down. We would tell them what that tip was and then one of the things we did was we would put those tips in that week’s appointment. By doing this you’d save it, it would remind them, it would go in and update on their calendars, and so that ended up being a great way to get people interested in different tips that we did on Highspot. 

The really nice thing, though, was every office hour, the first five minutes, ten minutes occasionally, was spent with us giving them a tip. We would record that, we would edit it, and then we would use that as our tip page. We would start with that video recording that they could watch. We also would build out a step-by-step process of what they could do that gave them directions. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and it would have a screenshot with it. The combination of the video and those plays worked great. They are still part of our learning sales university right now in Highspot. We were able to kill two birds with one stone.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that recently our office hours were given in such a way that Bob and I were discussing how we can make these better. We have salespeople and we have partners that have gotten very excited about Highspot and ways that it is helping them. One of the things that we are going to be doing going forward is bringing in some of our users, and some of our salespeople, and having them show a tip that they learned this week. What they easily found, if they found a new way to do outreach, a cool video, or just something else from the seller’s perspective. That’s something we’re excited to start doing here soon. 

The last thing I will mention is we also started Highspot Headlines. That is where we call out every week bite-sized pieces that they might have missed every week so that they can quickly glance at them and see, if is there anything that I want to know about. The Highspot Headlines have been very helpful in keeping everybody up to date on what’s going into Highspot, especially those that aren’t yet in there every day. It is something that is helpful going forward. 

SS: I love that. Those are excellent hands-on tips and tricks to get folks into the platform. It seems like it has been working. I will say we looked at some of your adoption metrics, especially for some of the different capabilities in Highspot, and you guys have seen a lot of success in a lot of areas. A couple I would love to get some insights from you on. You’ve seen a lot of success with the pitch. You guys have 95% pitch adoption. Can you tell us about your pitch strategy and how it has helped your team improve productivity?

TH: We are very proud of what we’ve accomplished here. This really gave us insight into the best way to train our sellers. It also gave them the ability to send their first pitch in training, and then we came around and challenged them to send a pitch after training so that that would be something that they would know how to do. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Some of the key takeaways that we got about the pitch area that we thought would help is that all of our attendees were able, during training, to send a pitch both using Outlook and using Highspot in two different ways. 

We also were able to take them the minute they sent it during training live, Bob and I would be there, they would send it to us and we would be on there right away engaging with that email for them so that they would get engagement metrics immediately. That began to start to sink in even more and people were getting excited about it. The other thing we did was in addition to those engagement updates, we were able to go in and show them in Salesforce. We said to look at how these records are automatically updating. I’m telling you, we got a lot of activity, but it was really good for them to see and see it all come together from the pitching to the engagement analytics to how it does their work for them in Salesforce.

The one thing we probably learned most from Pitch is that the biggest thing in our organization that we have had to help them get over is confidence. Confidence and trust in the system. One of the things that we offer to everybody is if you are doing this and you’re sending a pitch and you’re just scared to death because this is an important one and you don’t want to screw it up, we would always offer help. We would say hit us up on chat and we’re happy to look over your shoulder. We’re happy to help you send your first one. It began to give them more peace and comfort and confidence to do it because they were having to learn a new technology.

Pitching, it’s like being put in the spotlight, right? What if I send this wrong? What if I send it to the wrong person? What if something goes awry? We were able to spend time with them. And I think giving them confidence is one of the biggest parts of being ready to pitch and getting out there and doing it.

SS: I love that. That is a phenomenal offer to your field teams. Now, in a similar vein, you have achieved 81% adoption of your sales plays. Tell us a little bit about that. How are you leveraging sales plays to help drive productivity? 

TH: A couple of ways that I think have helped, and that is we are spotlighting our sales plays. We do it, as I mentioned earlier, in our Highspot Headlines. We also are spotlighting those. Honestly, and I think Bob would say the same, every time we have a conversation and Highspot is in it, we are evangelizing the sales plays because, for our firm, they are the one-stop shop. They’re an information bundle that they never had access to at this level. When they can go to a sales play and they can see what they need to know about it, they can look at the expertise we have and look at what they need to say, show, and do. The more that we continue to make these as robust as we can, I think they’re only going to continue to improve.

Another thing that I thought Bob did well is when we onboard our sales team now, one of the things we do are onboard from Highspot. We take them right into the tool. We’re showing them, number one, how to use Highspot and number two, about the sales plays. If that particular seller is coming in a particular industry, we can go to that industry sales kit, and show them what it is that is out there, what they have, what is being expected. It’s so much easier when you have everything in one place. It really does help navigate Baker Tilly because the one thing about our firm, we have a lot of service industry experience. We have a lot of areas and new products that are being rolled out. 

Nobody in this firm knows everything we do, and so by finally having a place where we can put everything in one place, these sales plays are just a hit. There’s something that people can use also as a resource tool, and that’s the last point I’ll make, is that we have received a lot of requests for getting into Highspot and looking at these sales plays because our resource managers, our marketing team, our learning team, and even our deal desk. They use our sales plays and other information in Highspot to guide them to help the rest of the firm and get them the information that they need. 

SS: I love hearing that. Now, we’ve also seen in our research that customers are experiencing some incredible business impact with Highspot, including an average 16% increase in win rate. Beyond the adoption of the platform, what are some of the business results that you’ve achieved since implementing Highspot? Bob? 

BB: I think that there are two things that really jump out. First is that we’re seeing that our content is being consumed with the tool, we’re able to actually look at the analytics. Just in the first few months, we had VR pitches, and we’ve been very successful at getting those implemented. More than 81 hours of our content is being reviewed by our buyers. In collective, that’s significant. That’s good news. We’re getting in front of the people and we’re sending it to stakeholders that are looking at it and reviewing it.

The other metric that I think is pretty powerful is the revenue number. Although I don’t have close numbers that I’m able to share, I can say this. In the first couple of months that we launched the tool, we had more than two million dollars in pipeline revenue influenced via pitch functionality by using Highspot. We’re able to get in front of a lot of potential business, and we’re actually able to validate that the messaging and the information that we’re sharing are being reviewed.

SS: I love that. Last question, you mentioned that Baker Tilley’s investment in an enablement team and technology is a competitive differentiator for the company. Why is an investment in enablement a competitive advantage in today’s market, Bob? 

BB: Well, there’s a couple of things that come to mind there too. The first one is you have to invest in enablement for two core reasons. In my view, number one is the velocity of change. Change inside and outside of the organization happens quicker than we can keep track of. If we expect a seller to not only sell but to keep track of that change, we’re probably going to set ourselves up for some disappointment. There are some that could do that well, but I think some that are the outlier. It’s not the majority. You need an enablement team to stay up with that change and to be able to filter through it so that we can get the appropriate information to the seller at the time that they need it, so they can be successful.

The second reason I think it’s really important to invest is because the buying process constantly evolves and it’s constantly changing. It’s becoming more dynamic. There’s more research and insight and information available to a buyer than there’s ever been before. If we are, again, going to expect the seller to stay up with all of those different types of insights and information, in addition to what they’re doing on their side of the house, what the buyers are doing, they’re going to really need to understand the why. I see many organizations use the Nike philosophy, just do it. Sellers just do it. 

The reality is many sellers don’t know how or what to just do. By investing in an enablement team, you will be able to separate yourselves from your competition because you’re going to be able to provide that education, that information, and support to your sellers so that you do generate revenue and at the same time you reduce the complexity of their job. I guess I stand by my belief that I said when I opened. Sales enablement, I truly believe, is the most important job in the organization. Without enablement, we’re not going to equip our sellers to generate the revenue that they potentially could. For those reasons, I think that enablement is a very worthy cause relating to investing or investments that should go from an organization.

SS: I couldn’t agree more. Bob, Trula, thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciated your time and your insights. 

TH: Thank you. 

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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