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