EPISODE 575: Optimizing Sales Training User Experience with JM Wilke

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, is a special Women in Sales Episode and was hosted by Gina Stracuzzi and featured an interview with JM Wilke from Scott Leese Consulting.]

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JM’S TIP: “Start looking at the metrics. One of the big things that has actually changed in training is how much data we have at our fingertips, the tooling that we have available in order to see what people need help on. You have conversation intelligence, you have, whether it’s your like a high spot or a guru, some sort of enablement repository where people are searching for things. What are people struggling with in the data?”


Gina Stracuzzi: My guest is Jean Marie Wilke, and she is Director of Sales Operations at Scott Leese Consulting. Welcome, JM.

Jean Marie Wilke: Hi, Gina.

Gina Stracuzzi: I’m looking forward to this. JM is going to talk to us about making sure we’re not doing any more boring trainings and we’ve all sat through those. This will be a great conversation, because the world’s changed a bit and training has adapted, so I’m sure JM is going to have a lot of great things to tell us. Before we get started, JM, why don’t you give us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?

Jean Marie Wilke: A little bit of an interesting background here. It started off in sales, was an AE for a while, then made a transition into the startup world, where I was the first AE at a company that eventually became 800 people and moved into sales management there and then transitioned into SDR management, and then transitioned full time into what some might call the dark side into the revenue operation side of things. Really done a little bit of everything in sales and just have very special place for it in my heart. I’m excited to talk today a little bit about how can you make trainings more relevant and just enjoy your job and learn at an accelerated rate.

Gina Stracuzzi: Wonderful. It sounds like you love what you do, which is exciting. Training is great because you get to meet lots of new people. I know when I do the forum, I feel like I learn as much as I teach quite often, as I interact with the participants. I’m really excited to hear what you have to say. Let’s just start off about perhaps how training has morphed over the last couple of years. What do you see people struggling with in terms of training themselves and their teams?

Jean Marie Wilke: Training has obviously morphed because now we’re in this virtual world. However, my perspective, the same issues still exist. It’s hard to engage at times, it’s hard to keep people engaged. It’s hard to make sure that people are getting something out of it. I’ve seen so many trainings where it’s, okay, we only have this one little time because we have to do this remote training and we’re teaching 27 different things at the same time. You can’t expect your team to walk away with too much. So, how do you adapt to that training? It’s a matter of what are the things that we need to train on?

One of the big things that has actually changed in training is how much data we have at our fingertips, the tooling that we have available in order to see what people need help on. You have conversation intelligence, you have, whether it’s your like a high spot or a guru, some sort of enablement repository where people are searching for things.

A lot of these technologies now you can see, what do people want to see? What are people struggling with in the data? So, looking at the specific metrics. Then also just having to be a lot more proactive with pulling your team. You can’t walk up and say, “Hey, what’s going on? What can we help you with?” Or just listening in on calls is a little bit harder. You have to be a lot more intentional now on a lot of things.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s interesting that you talk about keeping people engaged because I wonder now, I know that everyone I talk to is just so over video. I don’t know about your own company, but I know for the training that we do for Women in Sales, it started as a regional in-person program and now it has moved throughout the country and into Europe and beyond. There’s a lot of value in the fact that we’re virtual, but it’s also hard to keep people’s attention.

Jean Marie Wilke: Think of it right now, there’s probably somebody that’s listening to this and they’ve seen and they’ve gotten a notification from Slack or a text message or something on their phone, it’s easy to draw out. In order to really make trainings more effective, there really has to be important ground rules that are agreed upon and an agreement between the person that’s coming to the training and what they want to get out of it as well as the person.

There still used to be that, it’s just it looks a little different. Little things like, I want to make sure that I can see everyone’s hands. When I’m doing or listening and I’m having conversations with clients, I try to really make sure that they one, know that if we are giving a training on something that it’s, hey, by the way, I might be taking some notes. But then otherwise, I make sure that all right, let’s show our hands or we all agree on these certain things.

Then also, it’s a matter of how do I make sure that I’m calling on people? All too often I see in the virtual trainings where someone turns their video off or someone’s just sitting in the corner and still hasn’t been called on. A lot of cold calling on people in the training is definitely my MO and what I think makes people, “Oops, oh, wait, I wasn’t paying attention.” You weren’t paying attention, so let’s rope it back in and let’s make something more interesting for you so that you can get something out of it.”

Gina Stracuzzi: I would think it’s one thing if you’re doing an in-house training for your own team and you have a trainer on staff, let’s say. But when somebody is your client, as the women in the forum are my clients effectively, I find it a little harder to hold their feet to the fire. I can gently remind them that we have a speaker and you should be paying attention to the speaker. But at some point it feels a little bit awkward. How do you deal with that?

Jean Marie Wilke: That’s a really good point on people that are struggling to engage. Is it perfect? No. You’re always going to have an element of that, but it’s how many pattern interrupts can I do to make sure that people are engaged? Again, going back to one, what are the things that you’re doing in order to do those pattern interrupts?

It can’t be the same thing every time. It can’t just be cold calling on people every time. It might be having somebody present that’s different than you. Especially internally, they’re not just listening to my voice which they’re probably annoyed at, at this point in time or whatever it may be there.

The other thing too is, I like to and I do this with a lot of different things but, I call it like a little bit of a hype squad. Getting people and working with all the teams whether we’re doing a massive training for an entire 100-person org or doing individual team trainings. It’s a matter of, how do I make sure that one, I know what people want to get out of this? I want people to believe that there’s a reason that we’re doing this.

I think that training, a lot of times, it’s a four-letter word. People don’t want to do trainings a lot of times. They want to train because training is something usually that people are pushed down. How do I make training less of a four letter word? Is it even something as simple as a rebrand and calling it a workshop? Or is it asking them for ideas and then making sure that you’re incorporating those things? How do you really make it this group effort? Because it’s when people are getting the most out of it and you’re really working with them on making sure that they can, that’s how you’re going to really get more and continue to grow as a person. Forget the organization, that’s important, but the whole reason we do it is so that we can grow as individuals and continue to do better in our lives and in our careers.

Gina Stracuzzi: Right. That is one advantage I have in the forum over regular training because this is a personal growth event kind of thing. The women are generally engaged, but it’s the multitasking that I find difficult when I see it happen. Because we have trainers that come in and I’ve always been someone that maybe goes back to my parochial school days or something, but you have to give your full undivided attention [laughs]. I struggle to watch it, even if it’s something that’s not even mine. Like, I’m on another workshop or something and I see people not giving the trainers their time and energy, and it just flabbergast me that people do that because I find it very rude myself. I give you a lot of credit for finding ways to work around it.

Jean Marie Wilke: Again, like I said, it’s not perfect. I think people are always going to struggle with it. If there was someone like that and I know that they are here for a reason, I’d probably follow up with them after the training, like, “Hey, what can we have done? What would you have liked to have seen more in the training?” I always give a survey, but I’d want to follow up individually and actually have a one on one conversation.

Maybe there’s something going on in that person’s life, and they just are drawn away or whatever it may be, we don’t know. Maybe they’re taking notes. Sometimes like I used to feverishly take notes, and people would think I wasn’t paying attention. That’s why I call it out. Another great way too with trainings to really make sure, not only are the pattern interrupts a big one and being creative every single time and how you do that, but also, following up with, “Tell me one of the three takeaways that you took away from this training,” and then going and sharing that.

An example was, I’d take notes or have somebody that would take notes on a training. People would give their feedback as well as their takeaway and then from there you can build things like, what are things most people saying? Like, “Hey, here’s what you’re saying,” and then coming back and circling back with that feedback really helps people know that you’re doing the training for a reason. You hear them, and you’re going to continue to grow and mix it up. But again, the biggest thing is, you got to mix it up, you got to figure out ways to make sure that that messaging sticks. Otherwise, you should just save everybody’s time.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. Message sticking is a big thing because we all know that so much of the time when you do training, as Fred used to say when we would do live programs, by the time you hit the beltway you’ll forget half of what you just heard. There’d be this effort at the end of the program, like, what you just said. What are the three biggest takeaways? What can you work on today? What’s one thing that you can do from this training?

Are you finding that there are particular modes of presentation or ways in which you deliver the training and which messages stick better than others? I mean, are there things that have changed? What advice do you have to keep it really exciting?

Jean Marie Wilke: This might be an unpopular opinion. I don’t think that that’s changed. I think the same principles in teaching exist. You still need to have different ways that you can convey the same message for a variety of these reasons. I might hear something and it may be harder for me to hear something than it is for you, and so seeing it in a different way.

The big thing for me, though, throughout everything that I do is simplicity. The biggest thing that happens with people in training is they try to train on too much, and so no one walks away with something. I’ll even say depending on what type of training it is, I might even say, “This might be a little bit more of a boring training. We’re going to have to work on this together and we’re going to do different things to figure out how to make this so that it’s not the bane of your existence today.”

Then the other thing too is, I’d follow up every single training with, let’s say that it’s a training on better presentation skills or mutual action plans. I’m going to my conversation intelligence software, and I’m going to set up trackers and share it with them and have them be able to see how they’re actually improving on that. I’m going to help the managers have the tools so that they can actually track that. Then I’m going to also show any reporting metrics that might be some of the indicators that these things that they’re working on are actually – and there’s a reason that we’re doing these different workshops with them, so that they can then see how they’re improving or see maybe, “Maybe I needed to do that one differently in the training”, and then sharing examples that are great as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: That all sounds wonderful. I love how holistic it is. Talk to us a little bit about the conversation intelligence. Is that post-training, something you review? How does that work?

Jean Marie Wilke: Conversation intelligence and how I’m speaking about it is more of like the tool that’ll sit on top and they’re listening to everything that you’re saying. Whether they’re listening to recordings, they’re listening to live calls that are on Zoom. Then they’re obviously transcribing it, but they’re pulling out different trackers, different points of interest, and then all sorts of slew of other things that might go along with it.

Then on top of it, it’s what are you saying in your emails? What are you saying in these mutual action plans and then knowing how does that change the days to close for you? How does that change the time in that stage to progress it? Because sales is all about, how do we continue to make sure that things are progressing? Because once they stall out, that’s when you tend to see things go downhill.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. Talk to us a little bit about Scott Leese Consulting and the kinds of trainings that you do and specifically, the value of these kinds of trainings for sales teams. Not so much in like a 90-second commercial for Scott Leese Consulting, but talk to us about the kinds of sales training that you do and why it’s so important for sales teams.

Jean Marie Wilke: Yeah, and I’d say I do a little bit less training to teams because we’re working with smaller teams than I did when I was supporting 100-person teams and things like that. Different kinds of trainings that we do today are going to be operational trainings. How do you get the most of a tool? It could be one that is very tactical and I leave it at that. Then there might be another one that is, let’s talk about what do you want from the tool and what the purpose of the tools and how you can really make the most of it. A little bit higher level.

Then let’s talk about how you can track the success. Again, it’s taking that whole holistic view and then I like to break it up because one, people are busy. Two, people’s attention spans, I was reading recently that the average attention span is like eight seconds now. It’s insane, like a goldfish. How do we make sure that we can keep their attention and it’s taking in to bite sized pieces.

Then the other thing too, is also what we will do is we’ll have sit down sessions where we’re going and doing live cold calling but we’ll be the prospect, or somebody at the organization will be the prospect and then that person will cold call on them or demo them with their script and then we’ll give live feedback in front of a group. Those kinds of things are another way that really is impactful as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: Wow, that’s really interesting and it made me think of this conversation I had with a woman at a conference not too long ago, and they are using all this artificial intelligence to orchestrate sales conversations for young adults that are in college in sales curriculums which are becoming hugely popular.

Jean Marie Wilke: Finally.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yeah, exactly. She was talking about like how then these kids go into competition and they’re just blowing salespeople away because they’re just learning in a different way using artificial intelligence to come up with all kinds of objections. They come out ready to hit which is really exciting. It’s like you’re saying, it’s a long time coming but it is a big thing now.

Jean Marie Wilke: Yeah, and that’s exactly right. That’s another great point too, having great trainings and we’ve said this, but it’s doing it in different ways. A different way might be, let’s pull up a tool and actually go through how we can use it, or let’s pick a part and say somebody does an analysis in advance that says, “The people that are the top revenue generators are saying this at this stage in the conversation, so let’s go and let’s do a role play and we’ll break out into groups, and then we’ll come back as a team.” There’s different ways that you can mimic these types of things but again, the key is just how do you mix it up and then also keeping it simple at the same time with a really clear action plan and then clear takeaways.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yeah, I agree. Let me ask you this question. Are there things training-wise that you think sales organizations could be doing that they’re not doing or not doing enough of?

Jean Marie Wilke: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of different things. In terms of what organizations are not doing enough of, again, I’m going to go back to this holistic approach. I told you before I’m a simple person. I sound like a broken record at times. But the first thing is, what are the tools that you have at your disposal and the metrics you’re able to track telling you?

Whether it is a tool that you can see what people are searching for. Like, you see that somebody’s searching to learn about X piece of your product, or you see that they’re trying to look up a training on Y because they don’t know how to do it. Things like that, as well as what is your conversation intelligence telling you? What is your Salesforce or HubSpot telling? What are all these metrics telling you?

Taking that, then also trying to understand, what do people want to see more of? It’s really easy to miss this piece. I see a lot of people doing it maybe once a year, twice a year, but how do you do that on a consistent basis? It’s just like sales. These people are your clients and so how do you make sure that they’re happy? What does happiness look like in somebody that’s walking out of a training?

Really understanding that will then help to have better training. You’re going to now have better content, you’re going to have better ways that people can retain the information. Then it’s a matter of how do I mix it up and get a variety of people who excel at what they’re doing to bring it in to have these great trainings in different ways, and then what’s that follow up as well? What’s the feedback on again, going back to the happiness?

It’s like NPS. You can love it or hate it because you can just be like, “Oh, I was just upset that day, so I gave that personal one.” But what are the things that you can actually be strategic about in terms of how somebody is reporting on the success of it, and then what’s the feedback? Then following up one on one with the select few people as well on these larger trainings. That’s not super scalable if you’re doing a variety of them, so it’s figuring out what that balance is.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that makes perfect sense. Well, we’re at that point in the conversation where we like to ask our guest for one piece of action advice, something that people can put into place, listeners can put into place to advance their careers. In your case, it might be, what is something that an individual or the VP of sales can do to advance their training? Whatever piece of advice you’d like to give us.

Jean Marie Wilke: Use all of the things and all of the tools that you have at your disposal and don’t overly complicate things. That’s it.

Gina Stracuzzi: Wow. No, that’s good.

Jean Marie Wilke: Then use all of the things that you have instead of just one little thing or what you think is the reason that they need training on. Just use that whole thing and then keep your customers happy and getting that feedback loop as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: Good. Let me just ask you this real quick and it’s a little off script here a bit. But if somebody works for a company that they don’t feel like they have great training, or it’s lacking in some respects, what advice would you have for them?

Jean Marie Wilke: That’s a great question. There’s a few different things. You can do the same thing to figure out what’s the training that you need for yourself. You can start looking at the metrics. You have to take a little bit more ownership on it. Then you can find great places that are going to have great trainings, great programs like what you do, and so really, you’re going to have to seek it out on your own. It’s the same thing with finding mentors. We don’t always have that in our organization for one reason or another. You have to take that onus of doing what somebody that is in that role might be doing and looking at all those different things, and then probably seeking it out in other things, whether it’s a community or a program or podcasts, whatever it may be.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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