Six years ago, sales enablement mostly didn’t exist at Iron Mountain, a Boston-based provider of information management solutions.
“We had a blank canvas in terms of where we were going; anything we did was going to be an improvement,” said Kevin Starner to an audience of sales and marketing professionals at SiriusDecisions 2017 Summit in Las Vegas.
At the time in 2011, Starner had only recently stepped into the role of Iron Mountain’s vice president of sales enablement. His task was to identify and address the pressing issues affecting sales productivity, which included a lack of consistency in areas like messaging, communications, and (notably) new hire onboarding.
Over the course of the 45-minute session, Starner described Iron Mountain’s six-year sales enablement journey, detailing the company’s sales training evolution, and the pivotal role technology has played in the process.
“The earliest partner for us, was Brainshark,” he said.
A new approach to sales onboarding – and the technology to support it
While the number of dedicated sales enablement roles has soared over the past few years, it was still a relatively uncommon function when Iron Mountain launched its initial charter in 2011. In those days, incoming salespeople were issued “base camps;” a series of physical manuals designed to help new hires learn about the business.
“From an onboarding perspective, it was basically, ‘Here you go. We hope you’re going to be OK – good luck!’” explained Starner. “There was very little consistency. Every sales manager did his or her own thing. [Onboarding] was one of the first issues we knew we needed to solve.”
The team started by looking for ways to ‘bring more life’ to their training material and provide a consistent vehicle to continuously deliver that information. “Salespeople have very short attention spans,” said Starner, a former salesperson himself.
With Brainshark, Iron Mountain now has a way to create more engaging, interactive training content in the form of short Brainshark video presentations. The content is then distributed as short, bite-sized learning modules that won’t overwhelm the sales force – which Starner compared to a water balloon being overfilled too quickly.
“If you fill a water balloon too fast, it’s useless,” he told the audience. “Think of that from a seller’s perspective as well. If you give them too much information too fast, you burn them out. They can’t do anything with all that information; it’s too much. We know if a seller wants to get that sales readiness, they’re more likely to invest four or five minutes than 30 or 60. Brainshark has been great from a learning perspective in helping us get there.”
Over time, Iron Mountain’s onboarding process has continued to evolve. The company now takes a blended approach that combines classroom training with on-demand eLearning, and has implemented role-based onboarding for different selling teams.
“How we got there is really through the use of enablement technologies. We took a look at Brainshark, and we never looked back,” Starner said.
Sales enablement and training: “It takes a village”
“Our sellers were thirsting for more info; we couldn’t produce enough fast enough for them,” Starner explained.
Brainshark has helped Iron Mountain by not only simplifying the content creation process for sales training, but also accelerating the delivery of that content. New training resources can be uploaded to the Brainshark platform quickly and sent out to reps. According to Starner, this ease-of-use has played an important role in empowering others at Iron Mountain to become a bigger part of the sales enablement process.
“It takes a village to enable a salesperson,” Starner told the audience. “We are all enablers of sales – from the execs all the way down to the front-line employees. If you take on that mantra, then you recognize that you have a lot of good people that have a lot of quality things to say to the sales organization. Brainshark gave us an easy way to do that.”
He added: “If you can create a PowerPoint and you can talk, you can create a Brainshark [presentation]. We were able to exponentially increase the number of content creators and distributors because of that.”
Getting smarter about sales messaging and coaching
Back when Iron Mountain’s initial sales enablement charter was formed, the organization also had another challenge to address: messaging. The team had found that without a formal selling methodology, too much of their sales and marketing messages were overloaded, undifferentiated, and not presented from the buyer’s point of view.
“It was the three deadly sins,” he added. “We needed to get smarter about our messaging, and start to deliver simple, differentiated and memorable messages that focused on the buyer’s point of view.”
The company adopted the Challenger sales methodology to help address its messaging challenges – mostly. “I wouldn’t say we took everything from it, but there were a lot of things that made sense for us,” said Starner. They also implemented a product and messaging certification program that required sellers to demonstrate that they could apply the knowledge they had learned during training.
The process called for reps to record a video of themselves giving a product pitch, for example, which they would have to ‘pass’ in order to receive their certification. The video would be uploaded and reviewed by managers, who would provide feedback as necessary. While the strategy was sound, without a technology solution to support it in 2012, it became impractical to continue.
“It started with the best of intentions, but it created such a mess that sales leadership decided, ‘We can’t go down this path,’” Starner. Today, Brainshark’s sales coaching solution makes this process much simpler. “If we had this back then [in 2012], it would have been so much easier,” he said, expressing excitement about the possibilities the technology holds for the sales force at Iron Mountain.
“Brainshark continues to grow and evolve, which we love,” he said. “We do not have an office where every single salesperson comes in to work with their manager. We have a very distributed sales force. And Brainshark provides us with a way to coach them effectively.”