Here’s episode 2 of my interview with Bethan Hostetler (“B” below) from NAVEX regarding the highly effective process they follow when deploying new technology to the Sales team (including ReferenceEdge). Episode 1 may be found here. In this episode we discuss:

  • End-User Training (tool and reference use)
  • Management buy-in
  • Maintaining exec engagement
  • Incentives for Sales
  • Cultivating a team approach to advocates
  • Establishing a stakeholder feedback loop
D) There’s more than just “How do I do this in the system?” training, right? You take every opportunity to teach process and effective reference practices as well. Do you have some examples?

B) “It has been a great to have some of those conversations of “Hey, what kind of resources are you and your team using and at what point are you bringing references into the process? Or are you getting better at feeling out—if the person’s still a little bit on the fence—when might be a good time to suggest connecting the contact with a reference so they can get a little bit more of an outside view. So, yes, we encourage using references as a tool to help accelerate the deal process, and doing so with a mindful approach.”

“Salespeople need to manage prospects’ expectations. It can be a little stressful when you think you’ve got a deal closing, and your prospect comes back saying, ‘I need three references by tomorrow.’ At that point, the pressure is on to deliver and close the deal. We’ve had a lot of discussions around what that dialog looks like for sellers to go back and say ‘Hey, you know, we have a process for requesting references’ so that we’re not putting last-minute asks on [our customers]. But we can definitely reach out and we’ll see what we can get. Sometimes that helps relax the mood a little bit. And almost every time, the prospect or customer is pretty understanding. In the end it makes [the salesperson] look good to our customer, because it’s clear that we care about our customers. If the prospect ended up down the line wanting to be part of our program, they would know that we would give them the same respect.”

Takeaways: Educate salespeople on the process you support, and help them manage buyer expectations.

D) I really admire your everboarding mentality. The most successful programs have persistence in their magic formula. There’s coaxing, reminding and sometimes correcting; and making sure the managers are tuned in.

B) “Manager buy-in has definitely helped. I work closely with our managers and reps and so being able to send a quick Teams message saying, ‘Hey, I just noticed you did this; let me just show you a better, more efficient way. Let’s hop on a quick call.’ I will usually try to—especially with new people starting—take a more one-on-one approach because at that point it’s something that can usually be addressed quickly.”

“It’s about staying consistent with them to help them see the value of the program. These procedures are in place, the way they are, for their benefit. Yet, it can be challenging because the reference system may not be a technology they use every day, so it can be like ‘out of sight, out of mind. Because nominating [advocates] isn’t usually top of their minds, we approach the situation with multiple resources and support systems. Managers are on the front line, prepared with things to look out for. And, we just did a short refresher presentation in one of our all sales [meetings], which also allowed us to catch some of the new people that have come in. Our goal is to make sure we keep the program in front of them, so they’re aware of it, even if they’re not living in the system every day. Once something comes up and you need to request or nominate, then we use that as a moment to push the idea forward a little bit more.”

Takeaways: Use a multi-prong approach in promoting and educating end-users.

D) We talk about the importance of not only securing exec support at launch, but keeping them engaged, reminding them of what the program is doing for them. How do you handle that?

B) “The CRO gets updates, which I think is really important because not only are we showing him some of the activity and ROI of the platform, but also our timeline for what’s coming down the pipeline in future quarters. We also cover any challenges we’re having; as an active partner, he wants to understand those and know how he can assist in removing any roadblocks.“

“We also share with national VPs the new features we want to enable, explaining we only need five minutes of their time to explain our roll-out approach, the value and is importance. They were completely onboard! Taking an approach where we present for 10 or 15 minutes in their team meetings every few months, has worked out really well. The value comes through clearly.”

“When we do our All-Sales training with product updates, it’s often the CRO as well as the rest of the Sales executive team, sitting in on those calls. If you’re on one of those calls, it’s understood that what’s covered is something that’s set in stone and coming your way, and leadership is behind it.”

Takeaways: Communicate to managers: detailed enablement plans, and the value proposition and you’ll get the necessary time that ensures success.

D) How do you incorporate user rewards, if at all?

B) “We had talked about rewards initially. We really want to dial in and find where the [reference] gaps are, whether it’s market size, whether it’s by country or by product, and figure out where we don’t have many resources for our sales reps. We see [rewards] as a fun way to get an extra bump up in what we’re bringing in [through nominations]. We have some amazing nomination activity coming from our CSMs, and from some of our Sales teams. But, Sales as a whole isn’t quite really where we would like it to be. You know salespeople, they’re obviously competitive, being able to see everyone’s involvement and who’s really topping the charts; I think that’ll be fun.”

Takeaways: Gamification is useful in encouraging and accelerating behavior.

D) A lot of program managers make the mistake of thinking (and projecting) that they are a reference team of one. We believe customer advocacy is a team sport, and certainly salespeople are the largest part of that team. How do you maintain that relationship?

B) ”Being aligned with Sales makes a huge difference. I get different insights into what’s going on in the daily backyard of Sales. I’m able to work within those relationships knowing that we have something coming up that we want to do, but we need to figure out the right time to execute on it. Because it’s sales—it can change day by day.“

“When it comes to reference gaps in the system, it’s been so great to see how everyone has banded together – including product, solution engineers and implementation team members. For example, if we have a new product with just a few customer references, and we know the resources are limited, it can be a catch-22: you don’t want to burn out the few customer references you have and you want to make the sale. So, we’ve worked together as a team. The reps have been terrific in understanding there will be limitations, especially for new products. We use this as a learning experience: ‘What are some of the other resources we can put together until we’ve got a good base of references in the database? What other teams can help?’ The thing I’ve noticed a lot over the years is that once you’ve built relationships with them, they really trust that you genuinely want to do everything possible to help them be successful, and move those deals through. It creates much more of a partnership, teamwork.“

“It aids in the whole process once they see you’re really trying to help them. It makes them more keen to participate in the processes as we’ve defined them for the sales teams. Last, I’ll note that it was great when they started to come to us for help with deals. Sometimes we have to think out of the box because that’s just reality. There’s not always going to be the exact reference needed. They trust the process more because they see us as the experts. As a result, they don’t waste time trying to find something else that’s not going to work any better.”

Takeaways: Program should be viewed as a team sport, trust in the process and program team.

D) An effective program is ever-evolving. How do you make sure you’re providing what your stakeholders need on an ongoing basis?

B) “At NAVEX, we have a culture of continuous learning and improvement and we apply that to our ReferenceEdge program as well. We are continually looking for ways to grow the program’s effectiveness, identifying and rooting out any gaps. For example, if there is a team that isn’t using the system, we will dive in and find out why. Is it lacking management support, or is there something we don’t know? The ongoing learning, trying to discover just how we can help people adapt more, is an ongoing initiative.”

Takeaways: The program never stops adapting to stakeholders’ needs Establishing a continuous feedback loop keeps the program relevant and useful.

D) Now that you’re up and running, how will you address training for both new users and existing users who may need help from time-to-time?

B) “New people coming on board get their first introduction to the platform through their onboarding training. That’s when they will first be introduced, but we keep in mind that there’s so much information coming their way [at that time]. They’re taking in a lot so we have one-on-one touchpoints after initial onboarding where we have a conversation. If there are any reference gaps, that’s usually where we’ll try to address them.”

“If a new person is onboarded and they’ve reached out to their teammates or their managers for a reference, they have been really helpful in referring them to me so I can guide them on the process. It’s really quick, it’s very intuitive; a very seamless process. And then if they have any additional questions in the future, they know they can come to me or my counterpart in marketing. We have had hardly any issues with new people coming on because they’re directed to the correct place and they start those habits correctly right off the bat. This is a measure I’ve been using to ensure each and every rep maximizes the program for their individual success.”

Takeaways: Training needs to be consistently provided for new hires, when they’re most malleable. But long-term users need access to refresher learning since they don’t use reference systems every day.