Episode 63: Guiding Reps to Effectively Navigate Change


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Kris Richardson
Kris Richardson
Sr. Director, Sales and Partner Enablement, Apptio
Podcast Transcript

According to research from Gartner, only 34% of change initiatives are a clear success. So how can enablement leaders help sales teams effectively navigate change and overcome challenges?

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 Kris Richardson, the senior director of sales and partner enablement at Apptio. Thanks for joining us, Kris. I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role. 

Kris Richardson: Sure, thank you, glad to be here. I’ve been at Apptio for about eight years. My role is I’m responsible for all of the sales training, not only for our interns or sellers but also for our partners.

My background is actually in sales, I started years ago. Instead of going to med school, I started with a company called Nextel selling phones to businesses. I found myself interested in training my customers and from that, started into sales training, and I’ve been in this side of the business for about 25 years now.

SS: Well, we’re excited to talk to you, Kris. Apptio has been a long-time customer of Highspot, but before Highspot, your team leveraged a different enablement platform. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience and maybe some of the challenges that your team faced at that time?

KR: Yeah, it was quite the experience. It was not a good experience for our sellers. It was a very, what I call, bland interface. So, it was a poor user experience. They couldn’t navigate very well. The search didn’t work very good. For anybody that was trying to create content, which was mostly our team and the marketing team, it was very, very clumsy.

It would take sometimes hours just to stand up one little section with, some text in it, in a link. So, that was very difficult. And then, we didn’t have a lot of analytics. We couldn’t see, what are the things that our sellers were looking at? What was driving them to certain pages or certain content?

Without that information, we didn’t know what was working. So, we were just putting up everything we could every day and hoping that our sellers were clicking into it. 

SS: How have you been able to solve some of those challenges that your team is facing since implementing Highspot?

KR: I think the biggest was the ease of use. Our sellers love the internet-style paging, they’re used to that. They’re always searching on their phones and on the internet themselves. Seeing the buttons, and being able to click on an image or a button and get to what they need. Being able to just navigate, and search super easily.

The search engine with Highspot is so powerful that we can tag certain items and it will populate exactly what a seller is looking for whether they put in the right information or not. And then going back to what I said in the previous question is that for our folks that are building “spots”, what Highspot calls their pages, it’s really easy to stand up a new spot.

You can literally copy something else that happened a few months ago, change a few things and you have a new version of that that looks refreshed and updated. And then finally the biggest is that we have the analytics to see what our settlers are looking at and what they’re not looking at. So we can take that information, it allows us to promote the items that seem to be really popular, and then archive the items that aren’t being used.

SS: Amazing. Now, as a little bit of background, I think Apptio recently went through an acquisition, and I think we all know MNAs can often present a lot of change for sales teams. What were some of your best practices for helping your reps really navigate that change? And, and how did you leverage Highspot to help?

KR: The first thing we did was stand up a page directly related to the acquisition, a lot of questions, a lot of moving parts, so we made on our home page, the landing page when folks come into Highspot. Our sellers see a big banner that basically says, “Hey, here’s where you need to go”. Once they click into that, we had all of the relevant guides, any calls that were held.

So the recordings of those calls, any PowerPoint decks or slides that were used in those calls, any relevant guides related to the acquisition. So it was super easy for them to find that just by going to the homepage, they could click in there, and get what they need to, to stay up to date on the changes.

SS: Absolutely. And even throughout all of that change, Apptio had a fantastic recurring usage rate with Highspot. I think you guys were at consistently 80%. What are your best practices for driving adoption? 

KR: Well, we put almost everything that a seller needs on Highspot. With my background in sales, we always think of where would a seller go to find this? What would they search for? And we promote and serve up the things that they’re going to use most often that that’s going to be most useful for them in their day-to-day job. So anything critical gets put onto the homepage. That could be any call that we have any content that we want to promote.

And then we have a series of enablement calls. We have at least one a week. Sometimes we have three to four, they could be role-based calls. They could be regional calls. They could be sales skills or process calls. But every time we do a call, we promote. On those calls. Hey, what’s new in Highspot? We have slides and we talk about what’s new and what they can find. And then as soon as that call is over, we post those links to those calls and those decks right there in Slack, and through email. So everybody knows if they need to find something, they go to Highspot. So, I think that’s what drives the usage for our sellers.

SS: That’s amazing. Shifting gears just a little bit. One area where you guys have also seen really high adoption is sales plays, and you’ve touched on them a little bit. You guys have 69% adoption. Tell us about your sales play strategy. How are you leveraging plays to effectively guide your reps on how to land a lot of your key strategic initiatives in the field?

KR: It really starts with onboarding. Sales plays are a key part of what we call our Ignite and Spark seller onboarding. And so every time somebody goes through onboarding, one of the key elements is we point them to the sales place. We want to get them used to it right away, going to find content on Highspot.

Some of the activities might be, go look at a certain piece of content on the sales play and then go apply it, whether they do a role play with a mentor or their manager, maybe they are filling out some seller prep content and they’re sharing that with us through onboarding. So they immediately know to go to Highspot because of that. Anytime we also have a product change or maybe there’s a new persona that’s buying the products that we’ve never really dealt with before, perhaps a new competitor that has emerged those sales plays get updated. So anytime there’s new information out there, we try to get to the sellers through the sales place.

And again, continuing to promote anytime there’s updates through Slack calls, et cetera. And then finally, I’d say we use the sales plays a lot of times for prerequisites for training. For example, we have our sales kickoff coming up in two weeks. And part of that is, “Hey, we’ve updated the sales play for this product, or that product.”

Go review that before you get to the sales kickoff. So again, driving that, that a constant need to go there to get the information they need has been, I think—one of the factors for success with the adoption of reviewing sales plays.

SS: Absolutely. And you touched on this a little bit, but as your business has experienced a lot of change, how do you keep the plays updated and optimized over time?

KR: Well, I think we’re lucky in that we have a product marketing team and they have very specific folks that own each of those sales plays. So they tend to be the people that are in the know. So they know when there is a new competitor. Maybe there’s new objections that are coming out. They know when, you know, new personas, they know there’s new updates to our products.

So they’re the ones that can make those changes as soon as possible. We also filter feedback from our sellers. So if the sellers are seeing stuff, those get filtered right to the product marketing team. And again, they have that ownership. The other thing is we’d like to pull the data to see. What are the sellers doing on those sales plays?

What are they looking at in those plays? Are they remixing any of the content? Are they pitching any of that content? And if they’re not using some of that content, can we just get rid of it? Can we move it off there? So the sales plays nice and clean and constantly looks refreshed. So I think that makes it, makes it easier when sellers can get in there.

There’s not, they’re not overwhelmed. They see the information they need and know they’re going to use, and they can also say, Hey, that’s, that’s new content that’s updated. And so they constantly go there to find that new information.

SS: I love that. On the topic of optimization, I noticed on LinkedIn that you mentioned you focus on moving the needle against key business outcomes, such as win rate and quota attainment. How do you measure the impact of your efforts on these types of metrics?

KR: I mean, I think in general, it starts with onboarding. We make sure that our sellers complete their full onboarding program, that Spark or Ignite program that I mentioned. We also make sure that we review their activity. What are they doing and how does that correlate to the pipeline that they have?

And then ultimately, how does that correlate to win rates and their success? We want to make sure they’re not just getting lucky, that they’re doing the work. They are learning, they’re honing their craft, honing their skills, and they’re applying that by having calls, conversations, meetings, et cetera, pitching things from Highspot so that the pipeline, the activity, the knowledge results in those win rates and, and quota attainment.

SS: How has your usage of Highspot helped you influence some of those metrics, and do you have any wins you can share? 

KR: Yeah, I mean, I would say as it relates to Highspot, one of the big things that we look at is the scorecards. Are reps active in Highspot? What are they doing in there? Are they reviewing new content? Are they honing their skills? Are they building their knowledge? If they are, we know that they’re more likely to succeed. They’re more likely to close deals because they have the knowledge and skills to be able to do that. We want to make sure, are they remixing content. Are they downloading content?

Going back to the pitching, that’s super important. Are they pitching content? What’s working? What’s not working? Then we can share that information with other sellers so that we can say, “Hey, look, Bob over here has been pitching this particular set of materials. And he seems to be getting a lot of meetings.” It’s, it’s great for us to share that. So I think looking at those metrics helps other sellers in addition to just the ones that are really active in Highspot.

SS: Amazing. Chris, since we have just turned over to a new year, as a closing question for you, looking at the year ahead, what are some of your team’s top priorities, and how do you plan to leverage Highspot to help you achieve these?

KR: Yeah, I would say Highspot is critical. As we mentioned, we were acquired by a company in September. Some of the organizations, not all, have gone through what we call transfer of employment. So some of us are actually employees of that company. That gets to be difficult when not all of your employees are. So we’ve got to make sure that everybody’s on the same page. Again, that’s why we put everything on Highspot that’s why we’ve stood up this page in particular about what’s happening, what’s coming, what’s new. But we’re about to go do a transfer of business. That means everybody in the company will be employees.

Everybody in the company has to operate under this new company’s guidelines. And so I think the good thing for us is all of our sellers know that our processes have been consistent. Our sharing of information has been consistent and that’s been through Highspot. By putting the information in Highspot, sharing it in Highspot, they know they can always go there to make that change management a little smoother. I say us personally as a sales enablement team,  and a partner enablement team, our goal is to really improve our search results and that goes back to tagging, and sharing like content. We do a pretty good job of it, but we have a lot of authors, and we need to get them better at it. We have a whole, what we call governance committee that gets together, an author committee making sure that they are doing the things that our team does to make sure the search is great, that sellers can find what they want quickly.

And then finally, it’s really about getting rid of stuff that’s not being used, archiving content, because if you don’t stay on top of it, you could have a huge library and people are finding stuff that’s not relevant. So making sure that everybody that is authoring stuff is archiving old stuff, and just keeping the new stuff front and center.

SS: Wonderful. Well, Kris, again, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. 

KR: Yeah, thank you so much. This has been great. 

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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