Episode 79: Driving Strategic Growth With Data and Insights


Shawnna Sumaoang
Shawnna Sumaoang
Vice President, Marketing -Community, Highspot
Graham Kilian
Graham Kilian
Senior Director of Revenue Operations, Talogy
Podcast Transcript

According to a study by McKinsey, organizations outperform their peers by 85 percent when prioritizing customer insights. So how can you leverage data and insights to drive strategic growth?

Shawnna Sumaoang:
Hi, and welcome to the Win Win Podcast. I am 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 Graham Killian, the senior director of global revenue operations at Talogy. Thank you for joining us, Graham. I would love for you to tell us about yourself, your background, and your role.

Graham Kilian: Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here and looking forward to our chat today.

I’ve been working in the go-to-market strategy and enablement space for about 12 years, starting out mostly in an integrated marketing capacity, doing a little bit of everything to drive business for a few different startups. And then that’s where I began with Talogy almost eight years ago where I’ve been incredibly fortunate and I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to learn, grow, and innovate as the company has grown rapidly and expanded across the globe.

And, really reflecting on my experience for our conversation today, I actually found it really interesting how closely Highspot is tied to my career journey, going from a marketing generalist supporting a very small sales team in Indiana to now leading a global revenue operations team that supports hundreds of people within our go-to-market teams in over 20 countries worldwide.

And, I say it’s interesting because Highspot came into my view through your team actually doing a very good job of practicing what they preach from the first touchpoint with one of your sales development reps sending me some thought leadership content about the rise of RevOps and the importance of sales enablement. And that was right around the time that my current boss – who’s now the VP of global revenue operations – was the vice president of sales, and I was in product marketing and we both started talking about how this was really a need for our organization.

And, through the thought leadership content that your team was sending me, and as I began to engage with your sales reps, that content really started to become the foundation for essentially my thesis for what RevOps could be for Talogy and really what helped me make my business case to become a department of one to start RevOps. And so that was three years ago. In that time, we’ve now built out the team, we’ve restructured, I think the global RevOps team now is about 14 people. And it’s crazy, here we are today. 

We’re glad that you’re here with us, Graham. Now, as mentioned in the introduction, gaining better insight into what works for your sales team was one of the key reasons why you initially implemented an enablement platform. How does Highspot help you take a data-driven approach to your enablement strategy? 

Really it helps us in multiple ways. We look to ultimately use data to help us make more informed business decisions, right? There’s a lot of data across the business. There’s a lot of content, especially for a business like us.

We’re the product of 16 acquisitions 16 different companies being brought together, a lot of different departments that have a different piece, whether it’s part of creating the actual sales-enabled content or creating guidance that goes into it and then ultimately actually having some firm data when it comes to what works and what doesn’t, so that we can better prioritize where we put our resources, where we allocate those resources. We’ve really used the data that we can gain from Highspot to be more strategic and more pragmatic in how we approach sales enablement, we’ve used it to really improve the experience that we can deliver to our clients.

So some of the data that we really look at when we’re considering the effectiveness of tools like Highspot is feedback from our clients. So we run a win-loss interview program. Something that our product marketing team heads up and, before Highspot, we were seeing data coming in through those interviews telling us, really pointing to some of the typical symptoms of silo syndrome – the things that you can expect when you take 16 different companies that all have multiple departments and you put them together.

And it was causing friction in the sales process and the customer experience, causing that pain that at times would cause buyers to not choose to buy from us, even if they liked the solution. And we’ve been able to leverage that feedback into what we do, and now we’re leveraging that feedback to validate that what we have done is actually working.

SS: I love to hear that. And how has this data-driven approach helped you scale your enablement strategy across your global teams?

GK: From the time that we really started looking at Highspot – and we’ve tried to seek feedback from our teams – so leveraging data on the very front end to understand what teams’ needs were.

So through surveys, through focus groups and interviews, really trying to put some hard data behind what our challenges are as a company globally, as well as then also understanding kind of the nuances that come with running a global business operating in ten different regions where there are cultural differences that may impact the way you sell and what’s really effective in your local market.

We’ve done a lot of work on the front end to make sure that we’re understanding that from our teams, and we’re also collecting feedback now that we have rolled this out to our global teams after we’ve implemented and we’ve had some time with them actually using it getting that feedback from them to see what’s working.

How is it improving efficiency and effectiveness across the business, and ultimately, how are we solving for the classic problems that all of the businesses like us have? Which is content is difficult to find across the business. It’s siloed in a ton of different areas, it lacks visibility. So there’s a lot of great content out there that people could be using but they don’t know where to find it when they need it – that just in time surfacing of the content that you really need. And then also, very importantly, is that content lacks guidance. How do you actually use that content to be effective in the sales process, position yourself as an expert as you’re selling, and really build the trust that it takes? When you’re not in commodity goods, we are solution providers. And so solution selling takes another level of that really good guidance where you can put the context and the content together and really create an effective influential experience.

SS: Now, Graham, I know global expansion has been a key strategic initiative for your business. What are some of the challenges businesses might face though, when trying to expand globally?

GK: Yeah, there really are a wide variety of challenges that you run into. So we are a global business, as I mentioned, we acquired 16 companies across the globe, so we’re in over 20 different countries. So with that comes a wide variety of different stakeholders, so scalability becomes incredibly important when you’re a lean mean enablement team, and you need to be able to support a very broad range of stakeholders with varying needs. For instance, every week we have sales enablement content in ten different languages to be able to support our teams in their local markets. So being able to make sense of that, being able to make sure that, your local teams have access to the content they need, but that you don’t create noise for your other sales teams that really don’t need to see content in Dutch, for instance. Very rarely does our America’s team need to see that content. And so being able to create a curated sales enablement experience becomes very important when you’re dealing with the challenges of there’s a lot of content to begin with and then you multiply that by language needs, it becomes exponentially greater to harness all of that content and really centralize it into one place.

For instance, we also have a lot of different siloed repositories where this content exists. Coming from different companies, from different departments, we have over 20 different content repositories aggregated into Highspot. So when you think about organizational change and trying to create efficiency it can be really a challenge to try to get folks who have maybe been doing things a certain way for a long time to change what they’re doing. It can be a big lift to try to consolidate 20 different SharePoints into one. But with a tool like Highspot, we don’t have to disrupt what people are used to manage content behind the scenes and allows us to aggregate everything into one central place for our consumers – our salespeople, our go-to-market teams – to really drive the efficiency for them without having to create a huge project to consolidate everything on the back end. So that’s been really beneficial.

Dealing with, you know, the cultural differences and being able to account for those things is certainly something you deal with at a global scale. And so being able to create resources at the global level for scalability purposes, but then also being able to support those teams with localization, which is really where we moved the needle in sales and in our local markets is really important. At times we might use Sales Plays to launch something globally, but then work with our teams to figure out where we might need to localize those things – where we need to make sure that we’re providing content pricing in their local denominations and their local currencies – and that becomes really important.

And then the last thing I think I’ll mention, which is probably one of the biggest challenges, is driving consistency and standardization, right? And that goes hand in hand with scalability. It’s very hard to scale what you’re doing from a sales enablement and sales training standpoint when you have eight to 10 different sales teams and they’re all used to doing things in different ways. And there really isn’t a whole lot of consistency in how sales enablement and training have been delivered historically. Really using Highspot as our conduit for this we’ve been able to start that process of standardizing the way that we frame our actual sales enablement and our training, the way that we deliver it to our teams and then the way that we actually analyze it by now having data. It’s very difficult to understand the effectiveness of a program when you don’t really have data in the first place. And so going back to the first question about how we’re leveraging data, really understanding. How our global teams are accessing and using content has become incredibly valuable, and that’s one of the things that we’re most excited about as we build more data about what our internal teams are viewing and ultimately what they’re sending to our clients and how they’re using content to influence the sales process. Very exciting stuff and only something that’s possible with a tool like this when you’re dealing with global scale like we are.

SS: I’m sure a lot of companies can relate with that. Graham, you have seen some fantastic results since implementing Highspot, including a 95 percent increase in rep confidence and a significant increase in efficiency. What are the key components of your strategy that led to these results?

GK: I think the answer to your question really lies in the close collaboration that really needs to happen in order to be successful with implementing something like Highspot. The whole goal of Highspot is to solve the challenges that your team is facing and also be able to bring together cross-functional teams, demolish those silos, [and] break down the sales barriers that there often are. And a lot of times that means being able to collaborate more closely with cross-functional teams than you typically do.

And a lot of what we were able to do, as I mentioned earlier, was collaborate with our sales teams on the front end to really understand what their needs were, collaborate with the content owners and the guidance owners to understand what their needs and their challenges were when trying to deliver that content to our sales teams, and then really be able to use Highspot to bring that together and to be the solution to many of those challenges. And really nailing those things down with the sales team on the front end allowed us to be very focused in what we prioritize when we created Highspot and in the design of Highspot and ultimately, I think that’s what has led to reps being more confident that they have the latest and greatest at their fingertips at all times.

And a lot of it also goes back to that visibility as they at least now feel like they have visibility into everything. And they also know that they have the team –  this cross-functional collaborative team of content owners across the business – that are focused on maintaining that repository for them and ensuring that it is truly, accessible. A single source of truth for the organization.

SS: Now, you’ve touched on it, but a major driver behind your success are Sales Plays. What are some of your best practices for utilizing plays, and how has this helped drive impact? 

GK: Yeah, sales plays are great, they really are. They are something that really brings more simplicity and cohesion to things that can often feel nebulous and complex and even disjointed when you’re bringing together all of the different puzzle pieces across the business from different departments that it takes to actually create a complete comprehensive sales enablement package for your team. So Sales Plays are great with that, they really helped foster that collaboration with cross-functional teams involved in both the content and the guidance creation and help bring it all together in one place.

I really love the simplicity of Highspot’s best practice framework of what to know, say, show, and do. And that is really something that we have adopted now as a framework for enablement as a business. So when I work with our consulting team or our product team, we talk about, which assets fit into which of those know, say, show, and do categories. And then we bring that all together into a Sales Play that’s organized in that way. And it’s just so simple that it makes sense to our teams. 

And so we actually just used that framework for collaboration on a very large global initiative. We just launched a new solution, our in-view leadership solution suite earlier this year, which was a huge cross-functional effort across the globe. A ton of work from a ton of teams went into it. And to make sense of all of that, to deliver it to our go-to-market teams in a way that isn’t overwhelming, is a challenge. And we used a global Sales Play to be able to bring together all of that content and context into one place. And that is how we launched it internally. We launched it through a Sales Play that was in our internal webinars as we were explaining what the solution was. We were also helping our teams understand where they can find the resources that they need. So much of this, like if you sit people down in a 1-hour webinar and give them a bunch of information, they’re going to retain a very small portion of that. So the main thing we try to train our teams on is where they can find those resources when they need that just-in-time ability to surface the content you need to be the expert in real-time when you’re having a conversation with your client and avoid the ever dreaded, “I’ll get back to you with that.” Even when it’s something that’s a seemingly simple answer, it can kill a sales process. 

And so Sales Plays are really good about making sure a salesperson has clear, curated guidance from end-to-end of everything that they need in a given selling situation. And it also helps because they know that there’s one place they need to go to find everything. And if they can’t find it, there’s usually guidance there to tell them either it’s coming, or who they can go to for help with that. So it’s a really comprehensive way of enabling a team, but also giving them a narrow segmented focus of where they’re selling and not allowing them to get lost in the noise of other solutions in the process.

So we’ve actually expanded the use of Highspot globally right before that launch so that we could get that Sales Play out to everybody. And it’s really been, we’ve had great feedback, fantastic feedback from our in-market teams. And the early results and the feedback we’ve seen leads me to say that it’s really been one of the most successful product launches in my time at Talogy.

I love that. And I’d love that one of the areas that you’re expanding into, or you’re in the process of expanding into, is around Pitching and Digital Rooms. How are you planning to leverage Pitch capabilities in the year ahead to continue building momentum with your teams?

GK: So Pitching is an awesome feature, it really is, and something that our salespeople have often dreamed of and didn’t think was possible. And so, there’s been a lot of early excitement from the sales teams that have gotten it. We’ve had great results with early adoption of pitching just because our sales teams love the abundantly professional deliverables that you can send to your client. And making that sales process easier, of course, avoiding a ton of emails and attachments and trying to send a client, whether it’s a recording of a call, or if it’s a pitch deck, that’s maybe too large and you can’t even send it via email. It solves a lot of just the basic problems that our teams have. And so that’s where driving the adoption of it hasn’t really been too much of a challenge.

It is something that is change management, it’s different behavior than a lot of salespeople were used to. But once you can train them on it and get them more comfortable with it, they really love the capabilities of what they can do. And we’ve seen a lot of this adoption of Pitching when it comes to how we present proposals and RFPs. If there isn’t a restriction on how the RFP can be delivered to the client, we build out a nice branded Digital Room, we host the actual proposal document with all of the requirements as well as any of the supplemental materials they might need, sometimes we add a personalized video. And it really personalizes the buying experience and we do believe that’s going to lead to more wins, right? At this point, our teams are really excited about what they’ve been able to deliver and then the insights that they get when they send it. One of the things that will drive salespeople and sales leaders crazy is once you’ve sent that email, what happens? I spent all this time putting together the perfect pitch, did they even look at it? That’s one of the questions that’s always burning in your mind.

Our SDR team uses it for prospecting, a great way to use Pitching capability. So when you’ve sent several emails to targeted prospects and you’re trying to prioritize, who do you follow up with when no one’s actually responded to you? Leveraging those Pitch analytics that just pop up to the top to say that so and so just viewed this piece of content, it just signals that’s a timely time to reach out. And so we really leverage it in that way as well, just to help prioritize where our salespeople spend their time every day, making sure that they are reaching out to people that might be warm, or maybe you did send a proposal several months ago and that client has gone silent. And then you see something pop up in your email, a notification that they’ve re-engaged. That’s a good time to maybe reach out and see if they need anything. And so we’ve had some really good experience now and some good success stories from salespeople who have had that exact thing happen and made that reach out and the buyers like, “Oh, that’s actually great time that you’ve reached out, we’re actually ready to move forward in the decision-making process.” So it’s a great tool.

SS: Last question for you, Graham. How do you plan to leverage innovation and enablement like AI to continue to expand globally and engage your clients at scale in the year ahead?

The rise of AI is certainly something that everyone has their eyes on. Highspot is really proving to be a leader in this space, and so I’ve been reading a lot of the thought leadership content, attending a lot of the webinars to stay up on what the options are, and trying to understand really what’s going be the best fit for our business. Where do we start with implementing some of these AI-enabled features, and then what can we maybe grow into over time, ’cause I think that’s always important. Implementing newer technologies, especially with things that are really on the cutting edge like AI. Some of the features in Highspot that I see immediate utility for are things like Instant Answers. So, being able to go to the search bar – intuitively type in a question that would normally go in an email to one of our consultants or someone in our R&D team – being able to just plug that into the search bar with a question mark, and then actually returning an answer that’s based upon.

Our content that’s in our system, I think is really important, right? When there are tools like ChatGPT out there, where you could have salespeople going and trying to ask a question and getting an answer back and not knowing if it’s factually accurate, I love the fact that our team can go into Highspot, ask a question at least about our content, about what we do as service providers, and be able to get an answer that’s just based upon the content that we have at Highspot is incredible.

It’ll lead to a lot of time savings. I think it’ll lead to some just natural upskilling of our team. When they have a quick question, they can get a quick answer. So it almost becomes like a knowledge check in that way. And then there are some additional exciting features that I know Highspot has, like AI knowledge checks, like AI coaching that are all things we hope to take advantage of in the long run. I think other features where AI and where these innovations can help us go back to what, you know, I talked about earlier being so critical, which is really helping our sales team when the sales process is so nuanced, [and] when there is such a vast pool of content that our sales team can use to position themselves as experts in the sales process. Using tools that can help them surface the right content at the right time is so critical.

And so tools like Highspot and being able to actually recommend the content to salespeople, depending upon where they’re at in the sales process, depending upon certain attributes that they’re tracking related to an opportunity in Salesforce is really powerful stuff when it comes to helping your sales team efficiently get to what they need. And then being able to effectively use it with their client to influence the buying decision. 

Graham, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time and your insights. 

Thank you very much. It was my pleasure. 

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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