#096: Jennifer Hicks – What Happens When Companies Do Not Have a Customer-centric Focus

#096: Jennifer Hicks – What Happens When Companies Do Not Have a Customer-centric Focus

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My next guest originally began her  career looking after the crown jewels   at the Tower of London. After a career shift,  she moved into sales, discovered a passion for   coaching. She has been working for a number of  SaaS technologies, coaching and scaling the SDR   teams to success. Welcome to Scale  Your Sales Podcast Jennifer Hicks

Really good to be here, as I know you've been  chasing me down for a while, I have been you   have no idea, people I've been wanting, it's  actually been about 18 months, isn't it? Remember I know it's shocking this is how impressed,   there's not a lot of people  I harass for a whole 18. In fact, it's more than 18 months because  it's almost 18 months in lockdown,   it's about two years, there are not many  people, you're all already in for a treat. Let me talk to you about your  view on the way B2B Sale,   if it's shifted to be customer-centric enough? It's a really interesting question, funnily  enough, it's something that we obviously   chatted a little bit about  goodness a couple of months ago,   I thought wow what a really interesting  question to pose. From my perspective, I think   it's a really interesting thing because I  think there's a lot, we can learn from B2C.   There's a very customer-centric focus,  it's very much about being driven   by what the customer wants, how they perceive your  product, what direction they want it to move in.

For the B2B market, I think there is this  tendency that you can get very het up in   say the marketing aspect of the sales aspect, it's  quite interesting to see a lot of new companies   going back to their roots and really thinking  about what is it I'm delivering to my customer,   how am I delivering it, what channels do I  have available for them to give me feedback,   just to continue building on what  impressed them in the first place. We were just talking off-camera about the  event that's going on for your company   at the moment as well. Talk to us about   how your organization is remaining close  to the customer, how are you doing it? Oh goodness, for those of you that haven't  pre-googled me before the podcast, I work for a   company called Gearset. We're leading in the space  of DevOps solutions for salesforce users, at the   moment, I'm very naughty because I've just snuck  out of our second ever DevOps summit which is   going exceedingly at the moment. One of the things  that I'm always really impressed with Gearset, is   how we keep an ear to the ground for our customer  feedback. At the moment while that event's  

running, there is a very active chat going on  but pretty much. I'd say about 90% of our company   are on that chat, listening to the feedback,  responding to customers, and answering questions. We try make ourselves as transparent as  possible to have that ear of the customer,   we have everybody on our in-app chat, you might  get responded to by some from customer care,   it's an interesting enough question that's going  to get pinged up to our CEO and co-founder,   those were the guys that built the product, they  want to hear what our customers have got to say. I would imagine there's a lot of potential  co-creation and innovation that comes out of   creating a space where people  can ask questions, facilitating   the innovation of ideas, if you're holding that  space this could be your next product innovation. That's right, I think it's just really  interesting to see how an end-user does something,   when I joined the company, I was very honest about  my levels of technical skills with salesforce,   I'm definitely not a newbie by any  stretch of the imagination, but   I wouldn't want to hold my own with maybe a  developer that's been doing that for 20 years. I had a really interesting experience where I was  using our tool that we sell; everyone goes through   a training program to make sure that they're  really up to skill and really knowledgeable about   our product. I had one of the engineers jump on  me using it because he said that would be really  

interesting for me to see somebody who might be  new to the tool, what might they be experiencing,   what things might they click on  that doesn't make sense to them. There's always that sense of what can  we keep doing to keep being innovative,   to really try and think very broadly  about who our end-user base is going to be That reminds me I worked for a customer experience  consultancy, that's where my focus on customers   in sales really came from because I realized  that they are the best innovators and creators. I remember setting up a customer experience  journey for AOL, we had their engineers marketers,   it was really across the functions sit with  customers, the customers had a journey,   they were not allowed to say anything. All  of the engineers came back said we didn't   design it that way but the customers found the  loopholes, the quickest and best way to do it,   we hadn't thought about that, it can put  completely blew their minds. They're thinking,   well we're the technical team, we know  what we're doing. Customers they don't  

work logically but it doesn't mean that's the  shortest method, it's often the quickest route. It's really interesting to actually have  that as part of your development system. Definitely, I think I've mentioned this  to you before I really love it when   there's the opportunity for customers  to get in touch with a sales team via   non-traditional means. Now maybe I might speak  to somebody who's been in the sales business  

longer than me, they'd say oh non-traditional is  LinkedIn for me. We have a lot of people speak   to us via Reddit, speak to us on Discord,  I have used Discord for computer gaming,   I never would have considered using it as part  of a business but it just really works for us. That's been really interesting, there are some  great conversations going on there as well,   we're very fortunate, we've got an amazing  marketing team who are constantly manning   these channels to really keep that ear to  the ground, see what's going on, but it   sort of puts a new spin on that idea of social  interaction with your customer base exactly,   no limitations to it, we'll go wherever the  customer wants to have the conversation,   we'll actually put investment behind it to  make sure that we are supporting it as well.

I was on over the weekend, I just decided I wanted  to just pay off this a bit of a credit card,   it wasn't very much but they have an app, I went  onto the app, it said that you could do this,   I kept coming up with a block, it  just wouldn't do what I wanted to do. On Monday, I rang the telephone line, they said  to me, oh that's why we have a dedicated team of   people to take payments, they know that the app  doesn't work very well because a lot of people   like me come through it, you think well why  would you frustrate your customer in that way?   They were thinking they're doing a great  job for the customer but actually do   not create something that doesn't work,  you're only frustrating your customers. You think of the additional investment that they  need to have; they think it's quite logical to   actually do that they're doing a great job but  it really is madness. Let me ask you about your   practical strategy that you would offer listeners  to enable them, to enable their buyers to buy? I'm slightly biased obviously  as I'm an SDR manager,   my answer to this is always to have a  really dedicated, invested team of SDRs.   I will caveat that it's not always appropriate for  necessarily a startup business, you're often going   to build that out with an account executive,  but I think some of these rules still apply   for me. Personally, I want every interaction  that my business has to reflect that highlight  

level customer experience because it's going  to be a touchpoint on that buyer's journey. For me having an SDR team who shares that same  passion of ethos as the people in your customer   care team, in the marketing team as the account  executives or the direct sales that doing the   demo, they're really going to make that journey  a partnership for the customer, rather than just   ship them up, package them up,  off to the next person, which   I think is the sales experience  that we all least enjoy pretty much. How does that happen? I think a big part of it is don't  take yourself too seriously,   there are far too many salespeople  that want to have an interaction   with a potential prospect with the end  goal of I'm going to get the sale in there. Yes obviously, we are salespeople, we're going   to want to have that chat thinking  am I going to qualify this person,   am I going to qualify this person out? But  there's also nothing wrong with having a chat,   getting to know that other person as a human  being as well. Because that's really what's   going to build up that trust barrier where they  then see you as a consultant for the business. There's an analogy that I always use with my  SDRs, which is imagine you go to a fairly generic   branded store that is selling computer equipment,  I could go in and want to buy a laptop, I could   have the salesperson that comes up to me, says  hey you want to buy a laptop there, this one's on   sale for 450 quid, now showing that I don't know  how much a laptop cost, you should buy this one.

They don't really know anything about me,   whereas yourself a salesperson's like hey you've  been wandering around for a bit, can I help you?   I'd like to buy a laptop, I'm going to university  next year, oh really, lots of students buy this   laptop do, why it's got really good security  settings, it's got extended memory, you'll   probably need that because otherwise, you're  going to have to buy memory sticks upgrades etc. Now suddenly I've had a completely different  experience, but that second interaction really   felt like somebody just wanted to get to  know me because I looked lost, then I decided   to share some additional info, and it creates  because you're sharing that additional info,   it creates the opportunity to upsell  the person, because you're more able to   align what their needs are as opposed to just  selling something because it's quick and easy. That's right, I think it is a part of  an understanding because I would say,   I've probably dealt with hundreds maybe nearly  thousands of prospects in my time back when I   was in SDR, I could probably remember a good 40 -  50 percent of them, the great conversations I had. I really wanted to get to know  them as a person, because of that   I would then feel terrible if I knew, I'd push  the solution on them that wasn't a fit or I hadn't   had a really transparent experience with them, it  makes again that upselling process so much easier   because what you're telling them is going to  bring them success, help their business to expand.

You're not doing a hit and run like if  they've got a problem because maybe the   technology is a little bit more advanced,  they need additional support or something. You're not going to not answer the call because   you absolutely believe that is  the right solution for them. There's always a certain amount of onboarding,  you welcome that person as a customer,   that's right, I have a small analogy  for this it's not a great one. I'm sure my dad is going to listen to this  podcast at some point, be like oh goodness Jen,   I can't believe you said this, but the one I like  to think about is sometimes we're in quite a rush   to do something, especially in the B2B space  where it's another company it wants to purchase   really fast, you're standing in this space where  you think I don't want to be friction to that   purchase, but equally I know that this company  is going to have a terrible experience, if they   don't go through probably quite a significant  discovery process with us, it's frustrating. I like this to learning to drive a motorbike if  you already have said a car driver's license,   some people might think oh a motorbike is a bit of  a new thing for me, I want to have some training,   I want to have a little bit of coaching, then I  know how to drive on the road I know the traffic   signals, etc. or they might be a little bit like  my dad, who loves to turn his hand to new things,  

would say I've got a car license, I'm  going to give this motorbike a go. Let's hope that nothing goes wrong,   i would be the salesperson in that  instance saying maybe we should just do   a bit of practice and do a bit of training and  onboarding before you give that motorbike ago. I can imagine your dad racing down the road on his  motorbike, i think he would love it at the moment   especially in this nice weather, but you're  probably a bit bundled up in all the safety gear Definitely lovely, what is it about coaching  that fires you up because I know that you   love to develop your team what is it? I think it's lots of things really,   funnily enough, I would have said  that when I first got into sales,   I didn't necessarily know that coaching was going  to be my bag, the thing that I enjoyed so much,   but I started to just really get a kick out of  the people I worked with, watching them develop   or really overcome a hurdle that was something  that was grating on them for a long time.

I decided to invest in going on a couple  of training courses, I read a couple of   great books which was amazing, I still cannot  recommend more the book by Kim Scott Radical   Candor because that is amazing coaching tips  in there, that's just grown alongside the role. I think part of the reason I ended up in SDR  management was I tended to work with a lot of   grads, who were straight out of university.  This really was a chance not just to impact   what they were doing now but help coach them for  the future as well. I hope a lot of my team would   agree with me that many of the conversations  we have, they're not just about them being   successful at the company they're at the moment.  But should they decide to move on or maybe move to  

another country, take on another job, how could  they be successful in a new role there as well? When you made the shift into sales?  How did that actually happen? Almost by accident I will say, I had left the  tower, I decided to take a bit of a sabbatical,   I'd gone straight from education to work,  I thought maybe I'll do the reverse,   I'll earn a bit of cash, I'll travel around a bit  ended up not traveling around a bit was helping   out a few people at home, then decided what  I think I might just move my industry around. There was probably a level of  arrogance there that I'd done some   operational leadership, because of just  the place that I worked it didn't really   translate very well on my CV, I thought what  let's just see what industries are out there. I got the typical spiel Jen, you're quite a  personable person, why don't you give sales ago? I was like I can do this, went to  a couple of horrific interviews,   my goodness I went to one of those  sneaky interviews where they say   it's a marketing job, it's a knock on  the doors one that was a bit naughty. Then I went to a really amazing sales recruitment  day, it was wonderful if anyone's looking for   a company to help them support recruit SDRs  thoroughly recommend BMS, they're a really great   partner, they educate people throughout the day as  well as get them on to interviews, I went through   that process, I found my previous employer event,  I had a great time working for that company,   really grew up there through that SDR got to  learn the business before moving into management Fantastic, that's where we met at Tert's event,  it is at the end of women in leadership day,   that's it absolutely, talking  about women in leadership. Let's talk about diversity what's your view on  because if we were having a big conversation   about that, I'm really interested what's your  view on diversity and in the sales industry,   what do you think where we are,  what more needs to be done? I definitely feel there are a lot more needs  to be done but for me, diversity can just mean,   many things I think depending on who you  ask they might pinpoint a particular aspect,   you may speak to one company, they'll say  oh we need to have more women in sales   but it can even be some stuff that's quite  hidden like maybe we need to have more people,   who didn't graduate from a university  that went for apprenticeship programs,   maybe we need people who come from a different  part of the country or come from abroad.

There's just so much varying perspective that you  can bring to an organization through diversity.   One thing I have to say I'm  very passionately against   is those exams that you have to take  where they do a personality assessment   before your interview but then the outcome of  the interview is solely based on that assessment. I think those assessments are a great tool once  you've onboarded, somebody to really understand   how you can get the best out of them, how  they need to work but if you're hiring   an entire group of people that fits  just one particular candidacy model. You're never going to hear what the problems are,  you're going to bump up against the same friction,   I'll be honest, I'm a bit of a victim for this  myself when I first moved into management,   I probably hired a lot of people that I thought  hey they have a really similar personality to me. I mean this was 12 odd years ago, you just think  after you've unfortunately had to let maybe the   third or fourth person go, why do I keep doing  this to myself? It was a kick in my backside to go   because I'm not thinking about  what diversity truly means.

Now anytime I'm interviewing I really like to  make sure that I've got other people there,   I get a broad 360-degree perspective  on candidates coming through,   I really challenge any unconscious bias  that I might be bringing to the table. My HR team knows that I'll pretty  much telescreen anybody that wants   to interview for our company because I really  want to see who's going to put in the effort,   come through the door, bring the next great  thing is, a lot of those assessment tests are   actually biased that even though  hr. people don't really realize. I remember when the testing that they did for my  masters, I was so furious because they had things,   it was like an international audience but they had  things in recognizing the UK or British landmarks. there are some psychologists that  thought this was a great idea I   would have felt that why don't we  use language or signage as well,   what is unusual me in one culture  is not unusual in another,   so many of those tests are actually biased,  they're created by Oxford or Cambridge Deans. They have the same group think, they can be quite  dangerous can't they can be, my recommendation is   anyone who's maybe got roles advertised, at the  moment that they're concerned that they're not   attracting a diverse pool of candidates is I would  say put it out there to some other organizations.

A colleague of mine from the US reached  out on LinkedIn a while ago, said   I'm really looking for more women to  apply for this role, they just aren't,   I hit him up privately and said have you  sent this to any women that doing this job   or other companies, ask them what they think  of this job spec because they may turn around,   tell you something that you can't see,  I can't see that's putting people off. I think that that can be  something really powerful,   I think that's a brilliant idea, thank you  for sharing that because we don't know our own   bright blind spots, we just can't see them  that's why they're called blind spots, that's it   in my case it means walking into doors and  lampposts but in terms of business it could   be something a little bit more dangerous that's  all the people looking down at their phones Who is your hero or shero? Let me ask you that Oh goodness well it's a soppy one for me,  my shero is my partner Ann, I could not live   without her. Honestly, she's the yin to my  yang. Why would I say that I think because   she's the perfect complement to my personality,  which is great, all of us are looking for that   one person that picks up everything that they  do badly, then they support that other person in   things that they necessarily don't do quite well.  We're a really great team, I think we also broke,   I don't know if you can say, it's an old adage  but we met at work, there's this thing of like   oh no two people that are in a relationship  can't work together, we were awesome.  

I know that if I was on a desert island  or something with her, she'd be organizing   me building a shack, we'd always have food  to eat and clean water. I know I'd survive If you were taking going on a desert island  on your own, would your item to take be Ann? It would be if I wasn't allowed to take a  human, I'd have to take something I could play   audible on. I'm a big audiobook fan, I do love a  cheeky podcast as well, that would keep me going Brilliant, it's been an absolute pleasure,  tell listeners how they can get hold of you? The best way to get hold of me is on LinkedIn  because at the moment I'm a bit rubbish at   replying to emails in my inbox for you, lovely  salespeople that have been messaging me, catch   me on LinkedIn. I try my best to reply to every  message, I'm logged as Jennifer Hicks SDR manager   as I'm sure there's a few other Jennifer Hicks's  out there or you can catch me floating around at   Gearset, if you're ever in the Cambridge area  please come, say hi, I love meeting new people. Excellent, thank you, finally I've got  you, I'm trapped now, we've just got to   hope that everything I've said is awesome, it  doesn't get heavily edited in post-production.

It won't be at all; it won't be at  all, you are absolutely brilliant Thank you for being a guest on  Scale Your Sales Podcast Jennifer No worries, thank you so much Janice

2021-08-05 16:28

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