Episode 45 Dec 16, 2021

Sales Reps are Critical to Customer Experience

Digital commerce and self-service channels may grab all the headlines, but your B2B sales team remains critical to building a satisfying customer experience, in both manufacturing and distribution. Yet it’s becoming tougher each year for sales reps to live up to that responsibility. With the so-called ‘great resignation’ upon us, how can you ensure continuity despite attrition? How can you best onboard new reps to succeed while providing customers with the service they expect?

Kerry Hudson, vice president of North America sales at Conga, has a unique vantage point on the topic, as she runs a large team of sellers that bring sales and revenue operations products to market. Kerry joined Zilliant Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Duran for a candid discussion on the people, processes and products that enable a modern B2B sales team to develop mutually beneficial customer relationships in the digital era.

Featuring
Kerry Hudson

Kerry Hudson

When we look at the performance of our top reps, we clearly understand that they understand how to use the tools that we put at their fingertips to really automate their processes. So they spend the time with their customers, not on manual tasks. 
- Kerry Hudson, Conga

Episode Transcript

Kerry Hudson: So it's really spending the time and not only understanding the tech stack, but then also spending the time to make sure your team understands how to utilize it most effectively. Because when we look at the performance of our top reps, the things that we clearly understand is that they understand how to use the tools that we put at their fingertips to really automate their processes.

So they spend the time with their customers, not spend their time on manual tasks.

Lindsay Duran: B2B companies are facing increasingly complex business environments and disruption putting significant stress on legacy systems and methods. Taking a fresh look at how to gain strategic control of pricing and sales performance will be the differentiator between the leaders and lack of. B2B re-imagined is a bimonthly podcast with a rotating host of experts.

Each brings decades of experience using data science and technology to address B2B commercial challenges. [00:01:00] Join us as we explore the challenges in dynamics across a unique mix of industries, walk away from each episode with practical tactics and strategic advice to reimagine the commercial approach in your business.

Welcome to B2B. Reimagined. My name is Lindsay Duran. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer at Zilliant. And I'll be your host for this episode. I'm joined today by Kerry Hudson, Conga VP of North America Sales, Carrie, welcome to the podcast.

Kerry Hudson: Thanks for having me Lindsay.

Lindsay Duran: Kerry, why don't you take a moment and tell our listeners a little bit more about your background and your role at Conga.

Kerry Hudson: Yeah. So I have been in the technology industry, SaaS industry for the last 15 years, which means I'm dating myself, really found in my career, like many sales leaders as an SDR, and grew my career through a stint at McAfee and then a couple earlier stage startups and then came to Conga about three and a half [00:02:00] years ago.

And I've been leading the commercial sales organization since then.

Lindsay Duran: Excellent. Our listeners also like to get to know our guests personally as well. So why don't you tell us something that maybe we can't learn from your LinkedIn profile? What's one surprising or interesting fact that you.

Kerry Hudson: Yes. So from LinkedIn, you can see that I played soccer at the collegiate level, but a fun fact was that I went to a really small high school.

I transferred in my junior year. They didn't have a girl's soccer team. So I was kind of left out in the cold. So instead of just playing on my club team, I tried out for and made and became the captain of the boys varsity team.

Lindsay Duran: I love that. That's so fantastic. Thank you for sharing that.

Well, we

are thrilled to have you here today to talk about B2B sales.

Let's start off by talking about what you see as the chief concern for sales teams and their ability to serve customers. As we [00:03:00] reached the end of 2021 and head into 2022.

Kerry Hudson: Yeah, that's a great question. And I think if you had asked me that question last year, it would be a very, very different answer.

I think last year there are some similarities the complexity of sales that we continue to have and the inherent focus on customers, but with the, the great resignation that's going on, it's really how you can focus on your people. Both new and tenured employees and help them ramp so that you really can create that polished customer experience and making sure that you have continuity all the way through your processes.

So if you do have attrition that you're able to ensure that you still have that positive customer experience,

Lindsay Duran: And certainly with that attrition comes the need to hire new sales reps. Right. And it's always hard to onboard new reps and get them up to speed. How do you track and motivate sales reps to accelerate their performance?

Especially when they're new.

Kerry Hudson: [00:04:00] Yes. Great question. And I feel really fortunate because Conga is a revenue operations organization. We really get to focus on that and it's our core competency, but you know, my foundational principles are people process and product. And so when you talk about the enablement of people, it's really focusing on their development and really creating a strong enablement program.

That's not just for new hires, but how do you continue to develop them and motivate them through their own learning? So they continue to grow as individuals and reps, and what that allows them to do is it actually allows continuity for long-term growth within an organization. So do you have the career pathing that allows an individual to really see how they can go from BDR to SDR, to inside sales rep, to commercial rep, to enterprise to strat rep, and really create a career at an organization, opposed to just seeing it as a role.

And then you go to, how are you creating those innovative processes to allow for [00:05:00] that customer experience? Making things easy and seamless so that you can transact not only your deal, but more importantly, create an easy to do business with organization. The final thing are products that can help enable reps. You know, if we look at Conga and Zilliant together, it's super powerful to look at how do you create a pricing model that then you use Congo CPQ to create a really seamless quoting experience for your customers, but then there's also, how do you position it to your customers?

And you can use solutions like Gong to really show here's how you effectively pitch. And here's the response from the market. So really ensuring that reps and leaders have access to the right tool and the right technology stack to manage that process and manage those key learnings.

Lindsay Duran: I think that's a great point. You know, I was a sales rep once upon a time.

And one of the things that I know was frustrating for me is when I had to do a lot of manual tasks that I didn't think were [00:06:00] necessarily focused on generating revenue as an example. So for your own team at Conga what types of tools do you use in order to reduce that manual effort for the reps and increase the amount of time that they have to spend on revenue, generating activities?

Kerry Hudson: Yeah, we have a pretty great tech stack. As I mentioned, we're a revenue operations company, so not to plug Conga, but it makes it fairly simple because our tools go from helping reps go from proposals to quotes, to negotiating and executing, to managing fulfilling. Upselling and cross-selling the customers and of course renewing.

So we have a platform that creates automation through that entire revenue wheel, but there's also other great solutions out there that will help support that when you start talking about prospecting. So how do we create efficiencies within that key functionality? You know, we use outreach. How do you support enablement? So reps can both do self enablement [00:07:00] as well as listening to each other's and we use tools like gong. So it's really spending the time and not only understanding the tech stack, but then also spending the time to make sure your team understands how to utilize it most effectively.

Because when we look at the performance of our top reps, the things that we clearly understand is that they understand how to use the tools that we put at their fingertips to really automate their processes. So they spend the time with their customers, not spend their time on manual.

Lindsay Duran: I think that's so important.

So it sounds like you're using the same tools that you are in many cases selling to your customers.

Kerry Hudson: Yeah. We consider ourselves customer zero, which is a really fun place to be because not only do you get to hear the feedback from your customers, but we also go to the, our product team with our customer's feedback, as well as our own feedback.

And we get to see how it's impacting and it's part of our core culture. Innovating on our products because every day our business gets to see how it impacts and helps our [00:08:00] business scale and hit our growth trajectories that we have in front of us.

Lindsay Duran: You know, we have a lot of listeners on the podcast that come from more traditional industries like distribution or manufacturing or more business or industrial services type businesses that may not be in the software industry.

And in many cases have reps that aren't necessarily used to using a lot of technology to sell. How do you see Conga solutions and even Zilliant solutions playing a role in helping those companies really accelerate their sales rep performance?

Kerry Hudson: I feel very fortunate because we have focused on this vertical as one of our key verticals for both of our organizations, is that we've really been able to create a crawl, walk, run model to think that you're going to automate everything on day one is something that is going to take too long. It's not speed to value. And then it really does not support adoption. But what Conga has done is really focused on those end users and meet them where they are. So we have [00:09:00] solutions that really help to mirror where individuals are. So we have a product called Grid that really mirrors Excel.

So it makes an easy point of entry. So people start to adopt a platform and makes it easy for them to kind of move along in this journey together. And as an organization, we really focus on meeting the customer where they are and where they want to grow to opposed to the holy grail of here's everything that you need and you want in a future state

Lindsay Duran: Great point. And certainly something that we see on the pricing side as well, where perhaps companies are looking more to get started with more basic price management and looking at how to automate some of the rules-based pricing that they have in their business. As opposed to looking forward to automation and that certainly industry and specific business dependent, but we see some of those same challenges for sure.

And certainly the role of the salesperson has shifted [00:10:00] dramatically over the course of the past two years with the pandemic and just the acceleration of digital transformation. How have you

seen the role of sales change and what do you see in terms of shifting priorities? When it comes to digital transformation and really sales growth through those more digital led channels?

Kerry Hudson: I think that things have changed, but they've also stayed the same. And what I mean by that is people buy people. They don't buy product. So as we transform businesses into this new digital world, we also have to keep focus on the customer experience and making sure that our people are always at the forefront.

So what we spend a lot of time on is what does that digital experience need to look like, and it's not just about hitting your revenue goals. Yes, that's, that's important, but we actually take the focus on how is that going to affect your customer experience and make that better so that you can continue to drive revenue for your organization.

So everything that we do is through the lens of the [00:11:00] customer, whether we're selling to you and, or we're talking through your processes, we're always going to try to understand it from the customer's perspective and then talk through how transforming that is going to make a bigger and better impact for that experience.

Lindsay Duran: I think customers are increasingly looking for kind of more self-serve capabilities, the ability to turn around quotes faster so that they can get a price faster and speeding up the sales process and getting the right information to customers is key. What are some of the things that you generally see slowing down the sales process or really not leading to that great customer experience?

Kerry Hudson: I would say it's individuals not understanding what their customers want and need is that if you have the right tools in place and the right processes in place, it should be fairly simple. And, and I'm in a really unique and fortunate position because revenue operations is what we do.

But where we see [00:12:00] blockers is when we haven't done the right discovery and we've got to go reconfirm pricing or reconfirm a package. So I really implore and we train our teams a lot on, is making sure that you're spending time with your customers really to understand what they need and why they need it so that when you're packaging things up, you're doing that in the most effective and efficient way.

And the customer has a clear understanding of what they're about to purchase.

Lindsay Duran: How do you Zilliant and Congo work together to better enable our joint customers? We've mentioned a couple of times on the podcast that we are in fact partners and our solutions enable several customers to more effectively price and quote.

Kerry Hudson: Yeah. You know, from my perspective, it really is a a great marriage between the, the back office and the front of the office is that Zilliant helps with the price setting optimization so that from a pricing persona perspective, we have had a clear understanding of how we're going to price how we're going to package.

And then once you go to the front of the office, where the sales persona and [00:13:00] our CPQ fits into the model is that they can effectively price and package and execute order forms. So without one, you're going to have friction. So what you need to do, and what we've done really effectively is bring these together so that we're removing friction in the sale and creating a seamless market experience.

Lindsay Duran: I think that's great. Yeah. Without having a a place to consume the prices in a way for salespeople to be fully enabled, certainly you'll get much less traction on a pricing project, which is why the partnership between Zilliant and Conga CPQ is, is so powerful. Kerry I've got one final question for you.

We'll take a little bit of a turn here. I think you and I both have the privilege of leading teams at two technology firms and as a female leader in sales, what advice would you have for other women in tech?

Kerry Hudson: That's a great question. And this is something that I'm very, very passionate about. You know, my biggest piece [00:14:00] of advice is find your own voice and there's a lot of imposter syndrome going around and sometimes that can be difficult.

And so what I have been really fortunate is as I've found both female and male leaders and have sponsored me and really work with me in trying to find my voice and rounding out skill sets. So I would seek out those leaders, whether it's internal or external, to really help you find your voice.

Lindsay Duran: I think that's a great point. And certainly something that I've also found very useful in, in my career. I've had a number of mentors, both male and female that have looked to give me opportunities and help me find my voice as well. So that's fantastic advice. Well, Kerry, I want to thank you again for taking the time to have this conversation with us and sharing your perspective.

Kerry Hudson: Well, it was great getting to connect to I'm really enjoyed this time, but also enjoy the partnership.

Lindsay Duran: Excellent.

And I'd also like to thank each of our podcast listeners for being with us today. Be sure to check out the [00:15:00] link in the show notes for an on demand webinar from Zilliant and Conga, that showcases how our solutions integrate together to deliver a positive sales rep and customer experience.

We're committed to your success.

And if you need assistance or would like to talk about how we may be able to help in your business, please reach out to us at zilliant.com. Please also rate and review the show as it helps us to continue to put out great content. Thanks for joining us for B2B Reimagined and we hope to see you on the next episode. .

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