Episode 65: Unifying the Rep Experience to Enhance the Buyer Experience


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Mark Callahan
Mark Callahan
Senior Director of Product Marketing, Strata Identity
Podcast Transcript

A survey conducted by McKinsey found that businesses prioritizing personalization in the sales process saw up to a 75% increase in market share. So how can you create consistent growth by personalizing both the rep and the customer experience? 

Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the 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 Mark Callahan, the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Strata. Thank you for joining us, Mark. I’d love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role. 

Mark Callahan: My pleasure, thank you for having me on. And, as I think about how I came to be where I am today, I think about myself as a consummate storyteller by background. I have always been in technical marketing, but I realized that my knack was really around making complex stories seem more simple.

In doing so, I’ve been in both the identity space, spent almost a decade at Twitter on the developer platform, and now back in the identity space, once again, hopefully making the internet a little bit safer for people to use it. 

SS: I love that. And Mark, the identity space is a little bit of an emerging market and you are focusing on creating its own category, which means your strategy is probably constantly evolving. What are some of the unique challenges that your company faces in this environment? 

MC: Great question. Strata Identity is pioneering a new type of approach to identity itself, and it’s called Identity Orchestration. And as you look at identity as a whole, not to correct you directly, but identity when it comes to application access, usernames, and passwords have been around for quite some time.

What’s changing is how the different services are connected on the backend to make them all work together seamlessly. And, as we look at identity orchestration, it’s honestly a little bit of like identity glue. It’s making all these disparate services work together at runtime. In creating this new category, one of the hardest things to do is you have customers or prospects who are trying to pattern match.

So a lot of times we come out and we start telling our story and they say, “Oh, you mean like this?” “Or, you mean like that?” And it’s not that we get into competitive knife fights. What we really get into is, “Oh, that feels like this thing.” And so really, the important things for us as we’re making the market is owning the message and the share of voice and really doing a foundational definition of what the challenges are and what it is that we’re solving for.

One of the hardest parts about what we’re doing is our biggest competitor is honestly the status quo. It’s either doing nothing or do it as they do today. And so it’s helping people to see that there’s another path forward. Even if it’s one that on first brush seems almost a little magical and too good to be true.

SS: You guys are definitely on the cutting edge. And how does Highspot help you overcome some of these challenges with your buyers? 

MC: I was a Highspot user for many years at Twitter, and it was an excellent product for us. In those worlds, it was very much around competitive knife fights and selling advertising sales.

I happened to be on the developer and data team. Nevertheless, in realizing how easy and accessible it made content, what’s important for us at Strata is that our sales reps are looking to help set that definition that I’ve talked about: that foundational definition and owning what identity orchestration is, ensuring that they have consistent messaging at their fingertips.

And there’s almost a way that if you’re just using Google Drive or some other homegrown content management system, you always run against this problem of people keeping their own version of things, something that worked well for them; it’s the desktop storage. What we looked at with Highspot is ensuring that they always have the latest messaging at their fingertips and that they’re able to find it in a very quick fashion.

And so it’s like we get rapid development and feedback of our content, just as you would do with code. As you think about rapid development methodologies, we do the same thing with our marketing messaging. Because it is changing a lot, and so one of the coolest things I think we found in Highspot that makes it really easy for us is the visibility into what’s working.

So the analytics on how long are prospects spending with a particular piece of content, on what page, and in what section? What aren’t they using? So that we stop focusing there, and just continue to iterate and refine our materials. In a lot of organizations you create a solution sheet, let’s say, and it becomes a static piece of content for six months until you have time to cycle through it again.

We sometimes update these on a monthly basis and with Highspot, we ensure that the latest and most effective and impactful messaging is in the hands of the SDRs at any time. And they’re not just falling back to sticky notes on the screen or, whatever they have at hand. 

SS: Absolutely. We’ve been talking a little bit about rep usage, but you actually brought Highspot on as a solution for really your entire go-to-market organization, supporting teams from marketing to operations and sales.

How do these unique teams utilize Highspot and what is the value of having them all in one solution? 

MC: As we looked at this, one thing that we didn’t have a good solution for other than a homegrown option ourselves was an intranet and availability of all the different internal documents and resources that an organization needs access to.

Sure, we had Google Drive and we were able to share things that way but as we run on Highspot initially, we looked at it as almost an intranet of sorts. So it wasn’t just the impact that we would have on our external audience. It was also for internal sharing of documents and files and internal enablement across those teams.

And we came in with an incredibly niche use case, which is that in using Google Drive to store. presentation files. If you put Keynote or PowerPoint native files up into Google Drive, Google being Google, even if you aren’t intending to look at them in Google Slides, it will actually open each of those files to do a quick search and index the content, so that if somebody else came up to grab that file back down, It actually would sometimes break our formatting and break some of the things.

So it actually is not a good file storage solution if you intend to use a non-native format. And so what we’ve done is, across the team, we’re using it in different ways. Of course, the sales team is using it for the go-to-market external messaging, but internal with services and others. We’re using it for, as a product marketer, how do we talk about our new products that are coming to market and the new functionality? And so we use it as a teaching platform and internal enablement as well. 

SS: And on the teaching front, I believe you all recently decided to expand your use of Highspot to include training and coaching. How has this helped you streamline workflows for your teams and bring them into a consolidated solution?

MC: Alright, at risk of sounding like a commercial directly for Highspot, I actually do have something that was very legitimate, and that is the fact that our sales and go-to-market team spend their entire day in Highspot. We realized that if we were going to bring new training materials to them we really needed to meet them where they were.

It wasn’t log out of Highspot, go try this other LMS platform, and lose track of things. And then in the process, they’re already juggling Salesforce and other CRM-type tools for this. We really wanted to meet our sales team where they were. And so we wanted to have this aspect of almost like stumble upon learning.

Where it felt like, Oh, I was searching for this, but I actually learned something else. A little bit of that shiny object squirrel. Hey, I could actually learn something in the process of doing this. And so it’s really great having it in a single platform that they’re already comfortable with when it comes to searching and finding the content they’re looking for.

It’s also where we’re delivering the training materials. And as, as I think of training, a lot of our training is based on that external. Materials and assets as it is, so it stitches it back together into an embedded experience instead of a new window, a new tab chance to lose somebody as they’re doing that. So it really keeps this very cohesive view of things for them. 

SS: Absolutely. The more you can help reps by keeping them all in one system, it makes. Their lives just that much easier. Now you guys, for that reason, probably, but I’m sure others as well. I know that you guys have really strong buy-in and your reps have really become power users of Highspot, which is reflected, I think you guys have 83% recurring usage.

What are your best practices for driving overall adoption among the teams that Highspot supports? 

MC: Shawnna, as we think about it, I think that celebrating the internal success that other users are having with it becomes a lot of, “Wow, I want to have that success as well.” And so we have a dedicated internal Slack channel that’s simply for Highspot wins.

As the organization is saying, “Hey, I use this in a pitch and I had this type of success.” We do a lot of celebrating the feedback that we get from prospects and customers around it. Celebrating that success early on was huge because I think the other thing that comes out of that is salespeople.

I’m never one to call a salesperson, a lazy person, and I will not do that. I promise salespeople are my best friends. But, a lot of times they like to be efficient. And being efficient, they want to draft off of what’s already working. And so in doing this Slack channel, we’re able to create pitches where people are saying, “Wow if that works so well, can I use that and replicate it in my own world?”

And so there’s a lot of travel sharing of pitch formats and delivery styles as well. And so I think it’s really just celebrating those wins and every once in a while, I’ll actually give out like a spot spiff if somebody has a really incredible internal win. Nobody’s gonna turn up their nose at a quick gift card, but it’s celebrating those successes early on.
So they know it’s not just another platform or just another app that they have to use, that this materially makes their jobs easier. 

SS: I love that. And to drill in, because you mentioned some of the great examples, including Pitching. One capability you all have seen very strong success with is the Digital Rooms that we have, which again, you guys have 67% Pitch adoption, which is fantastic.

What are some of the key ways that you leverage Digital Rooms? 

MC: I think that the digital sales rooms are probably one of the most powerful things that we do use. And the reason for that is that Strata is a relatively small organization. We’re, in the 60, 70 person headcount, but our customers to a T count themselves in the Fortune 500.

And so we’re always selling upmarket to very large enterprises. And it’s a multi-step sale. And so this isn’t something where an SDR or one of our solutions engineers gets off a call and yep, take my money and let’s go. This is an ongoing process, and the digital salesroom, instead of having this threaded, embedded attachment world where things get lost across whoever’s presenting the information, it creates this very cohesive place where we continue to build out what the narrative is for the prospect or customer ahead of time, and that can be shared internally for them. And I’ve had a couple of customers even ask, “Wow, this is really cool. Did you guys create that yourselves?” And of course, it’s branded Highspot and I never want to take too much credit, you want to be like, it does make you look that much bigger than you are.

And it creates a really personalized experience. It makes it feel custom to the prospect. That’s had a lot of impact on it, and I can tell you, we had a a Fortune 20 CPG organization. Their CISO told us, this makes you easier to do business with. And when you hear that kind of feedback, that says something, and that’s all around the digital sales rooms themselves.

Can’t live without them and we love them. And one other thing that we do with those is it’s not just a pre-sales motion. Because we get the muscle memory of the customers so accustomed to the Digital Salesroom, Once we go into the post-sale world and there’s onboarding and our services team takes over, we actually continue to use the digital sales room as a content central, so to speak, hub for them to find all the materials they need.

So as you’re transitioning between teams that you sold to and the implementation teams, the Digital Salesroom becomes a really portable way to share the artifacts and keep them in a cohesive vaulted way to share across teams. 

SS: I love hearing that. Now, you talked about how you leverage Digital Rooms in a lot of your enterprise sales motions.

I’d love to understand because I think as, enablement and product marketing professionals, we’re always trying to make sure that we can correlate the work that we’re doing back to tangible results. How have Digital Rooms influenced some key business results for you all? 

MC: One of the things that it does is, as we’re selling to these enterprise buyers and these enterprise customers, they have expectations of what their vendors should potentially look like and feel like they’re not looking to work with a two-person startup.

They want somebody who’s established and has the professional polish that proves that they are a peer organization. And so I think it really up levels are the way that we look externally to a T. And it just makes us look honestly a little bit bigger than we actually are, which is wonderful. I talked about the fact that it really personalizes the experience for the prospect who’s receiving the digital sales room.

The content in it might be reused across a dozen other prospects, but it actually builds into a story that’s unique for that one prospect. Based on the content that you choose to use within the digital sales room. And so instead of having to customize a proposal or a presentation every single time, we’re able to do so with the choices of content that we share with them.

And it feels very personalized for the for the buyer. 

SS: I love that. I have two final questions for you. In your last business review with Highspot, you’d actually mentioned that your goals include expanding new logos for account managers and really decreasing your sales cycle. How are you leveraging Highspot to help achieve these goals? And do you have any wins you can share with us?

MC: Of course, everyone’s dream is that you’ve shortened that sales cycle. And as we look at the enterprise buying cycle it’s always a multi-month scenario. As you think about all the different teams who need to sign off on the materials.

As you think about an enterprise sale, especially as you are looking at identity and security software, then you also have security teams that are involved. And there’s all these different groups. And honestly. The speed with which people can get access to content really is materially speeding up the process.

It’s not oh, we’re waiting a week for this particular file that you said you would send, and it’s three emails later that just keep building upon it. The individuals and the sales, I’m sorry, the buying teams that we’re speaking with Always know that they can go look at the portal and find everything that they’re looking for there and find the most recent versions of all those things.

As a seller, you always worry about version control. Oh, hey, we made some updates. Here’s the new version dot two. On the other side, you don’t want to be putting your name behind a very expensive purchase on out-of-date information. So it’s also making sure that you always have the most recent things there.

I can tell you that in that CPG deal that we actually went from, we almost halved our traditional buying time. Now causation correlation, I can’t directly attribute all of that to Highspot, but nevertheless, it was about half the length of the time that it usually takes for one of our deals to come to a close.

SS: I love that. And that is a fantastic win. Now, you mentioned one of your favorite parts about your partnership with Highspot is that the platform is really evolving alongside your business. My last question to you, Mark, looking to the future, how do you plan to evolve your use of Highspot to support your key business initiatives this year?

MC: I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that of all the different software vendors that I’ve worked with, in all my different roles and all the different jobs in my career, not making this up: the onboarding experience at Highspot has hands down been the best single experience that I’ve ever had.

In fact, it’s one to be emulated and one that we actually want to model ourselves after as well. The onboarding team just hands down ensured our success throughout. And in doing that, it made us feel very confident in using the platform and almost coming up with use cases that we were like inventing things on our own.

“Hey, could we use it for this as well?” And there was that thought of, “Yes, you could.” And it was proof positive that we had done our job in the onboarding experience. And so an example of this is as you start looking toward more channel sales mediums, whether it’s a technical partner that you’re working with for co-engineering, or it’s a channel sales motion, we’re going to be leveraging Highspot for partner portals and partner enablement materials and the like.

And I think also as a product marketing manager, I’m always looking at ways to up-level our internal knowledge of our offerings. So it’s become my new de facto training platform and teaching platform. So as a storyteller, you want that soapbox to stand on. And I actually found it in Highspot.

SS: Fantastic. And I’ll have to pass along those kudos to our onboarding team, they’ll love hearing that. Mark, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate the time. 

MC: It was my pleasure. I really enjoyed it, 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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