In today’s chaotic, often obscure ad tech space, educating and training your salespeople to be trusted advisors can mean the difference between a mediocre organization and a truly successful one. If your salespeople aren’t sharp, your customers will look for better partners elsewhere.
No one understands this better than Jai Cheema, Head of Training at Quantcast. As a leader responsible for the training, coaching, and development of the company’s sales, account management, client services teams, he makes growth and education a priority.
We recently had the opportunity to work with Jai on a Global Pitch Certification, in which U of Digital Expert Network members that are on the buy side of the ecosystem were pitched 1 on 1 by Quantcast sellers, provided direct feedback on their pitches, and certified them. This program enabled Quantcast to raise the bar on its training effectiveness and make a serious impact on revenue.
We caught up with Jai about this initiative, and what goes into running a successful sales training operation.
What are some of the biggest challenges your sales force faces in today’s environment?
There are a few challenges impacting our salesforce. The most obvious being how to properly adapt to a digital working environment from home. The other challenge being how to sell brand new products, as they’re being built, in an industry where customers are demanding more results while pulling back on ad spend. On top of it all, we’re asking our sales team to keep up with an industry that changes daily, while simultaneously pushing information and training out to them at a rapid fire rate. I’m sure there are days when it feels like they’re drinking from a fire hose. How can we, with all confidence, know whether we were helping our reps or hindering their ability to be successful? “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention,” right?
Tell us about the new kind of approach you took and why?
Historically, a “pitch practice” training session is something we’ve done for as long as I can remember. It’s a simulated situation for reps to pitch someone internally in front of a room filled with colleagues and counterparts who then critique you afterwards. Not necessarily the most “exciting” session for reps to hear their classmates poke holes in their pitches but certainly a great exercise to help sharpen their skills.
But then we asked ourselves, “How can we make these sessions as close to a real pitch as possible? How can we raise the bar?” With the help of U of Digital, we came up with the idea of a Global Pitch Certification where we connect real buyers with real sellers for real-time training. We saw this as a great opportunity to certify each of our reps against a scoring rubric that was built to help properly identify their strengths and their gaps. We had our reps practice a live pitch with active buyers in our industry who then assessed them on things like – How were they at discovery? What level was their product knowledge? How did they conduct the meeting? How did they handle objections? Pricing? Value prop? If you thought it was daunting to pitch a room full of your colleagues, try adding execs from big brands and agencies into the mix. For our reps, it felt like their entire reputation was on the line!
What was the process like?
We developed half a dozen scenarios for the sales teams that included information on the brand/agency, their goals and challenges, current partners, competitors they’re considering, their timeline, etc. Each account executive and their respective account managers were given one of the scenarios to prepare for and present. They each had 30-45min to deliver their pitch with an additional 15 minutes reserved for feedback. They were then scored by their direct managers, U of Digital, myself, and the buyer in the actual roleplay. They needed to obtain a score higher than 80% in order to be pitch certified.
What type of results have you seen?
The results have been astounding. And not just for us as the educators getting this valuable data and the scores of each rep, but also for the actual sales team itself. They got firsthand, live feedback from these buyers, along with the opportunity to ask them unfiltered questions about their buying experience.
The biggest tangible impact we saw from this program was an increase in new product revenue. The biggest intangible impact was an increase in confidence among the salesforce. From this training we’ve experienced increased retention, attendance, and most importantly, data on the strengths and gaps we needed to address. It’s helped shape every aspect of our salesforce’ development including what industry subjects come next (identity, competitive landscape, positioning), what soft skills do we need to emphasize (negotiating, objection handling, discovery), and in what form do we deliver the information (live session, eLearning, one sheeter)? It has now become a reiterative process that allows us to reaffirm the level of investment our leaders have made into every single rep’s growth that stretches beyond Quantcast.
We plan to run this again, globally, later this year. I can’t wait to see what else we can add to the mix. There’s whispers of this program being built to cater to our non-English counterparts overseas!
What was your experience with U of Digital?
Full transparency, I came into the relationship when I joined the sales training team here. At first, I had hesitations as I normally do anytime we work with a “consultant.” Personally speaking, I am a very harsh critic at finding the value a consultant provides an organization so you can imagine I was equally harsh coming into an already decided relationship. I was relentless in my ask of U of Digital, whether it be with live sessions, follow up material, elearning content, access to market experts, you name it. Shiv and his team made it blatantly clear that no ask was too large. It wasn’t long before my hesitations were put to rest. We increase our commitment into the development of our salesforce with every opportunity we can. It became clear U of Digital was crucial to that. How do we uplevel our teams with the necessary skills and education from outside the walls of Quantcast and on top of that during a world going digital in the past year? The relationship became symbiotic. We demanded excellence from U of Digital and they demanded the same of our organization. That’s a long winded way of saying that the work ethic, open collaboration, and dedication to creating a cohesive learning environment made it easy for us to continue working with U of Digital.
Want to raise the bar for your sales team? Contact our team to learn more about our educational workshops and 1:1 training.