Ed Staten jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
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Tom: Welcome to a very special episode of Sales Ops Demystified. We’re joined by Ed Staten, who previously has had eight years experience in sales operations at 3M. Now, I didn’t actually– I don’t know if you heard of 3M, but I wasn’t really aware what 3M actually did. I was researching them this afternoon, and I realized that, actually, they do a lot of stuff and have quite a lot of employees.
It’s going to be super interesting to dig into that experience. Ed has now left 3M and has moved on to consulting in sales operations. I think there’s going to be many insights for all the listeners here. Ed, welcome to the show.
Ed: Thank you. It’s good to be here and appreciate the brief intro for my previous experience with 3M. You’re right, 3M is a big company that people don’t often know about. It’s kind of behind the scenes. My specific responsibility was focusing within the healthcare area of 3M, which is– Sometimes, people know 3M for tapes and various different other things, but obviously, they have a very big healthcare division as well, too.
My role was really developing and growing and managing the specific sales operations program within a couple specific areas within that division. What’s interesting, and this is something that I think we talked about before, was I had an interesting experience working with them, which is we had, during that time, an ERP integration, where we were merging over to the SAP.
We had the pre-SAP, and then we had the post-SAP. I kind of break up my experience with respect to sales operations, especially with my previous experience with 3M as pre and post. Definitely, both of them were great learning experiences.
Tom: Fantastic. Before we jump into the questions, I just want to understand the kind of size of sales operations the sales ops team was responsible for. You said healthcare within 3M. I know 3M has something like 60, 70,000 employees.
Tom: What kind of size were you talking?
Ed: The size that I was managing was approximately 1.2 billion in US dollars, which was essentially mainly focused on the United States, but I also had some involvement with the international as well, too. Basically, within that specific area of 3M, it was about that amount of volume. Obviously, a lot of volume that went through various different distribution and channel partners.
Tom: Got It. In terms of the size of sales organization that was supporting that revenue, you’d have to give us the exact numbers.
Ed: I think it was around 300.
Tom: Cool, and then you [crosstalk]–
Ed: Exactly. Within my team– This is something, too, that people ask me a lot about. What’s interesting is is that we migrated to a couple different models, and that had its pros and cons with respect to how we did it. Originally, the team that I managed was all specifically within our division. I had a couple different people that supported data, obviously, administration, various different things regarding the compensation programs, and various different other operational programs that tie into sales operations.
However, when we went through our business transformation, as I called it, when I was with 3M, there was a decision, as we called it, it was business transformation, where we basically made the decision to basically more centralize a lot of the programs and services, kind of the best in class of trying to centralize it. I was working with a couple different centers. We centralized some of the operations and programs, and then from there, really work forward to really optimize those programs.
It was kind of a hybrid mixture that I had never really heard before. It definitely did have its pros and cons. I say that because, in the course of my discussions now on my– As I migrate to my new position and new roles, a lot of people ask about that, especially when they’re large organizations that may have multi divisions. Is there a value of having a sales operations program that is more centralized? I say, it really depends, depending upon what your objectives are.
Tom: Nice. When we say more centralized, you mean a large company could have five different business areas, it could have five different sales operations team, or they could have one sale operations team that serves for business [unintelligible 00:04:32].
Tom: Awesome. Good to get that context. Let me move into the questions. Let’s go into question one, which is how you first got into sale operations.
Ed: Sure. It’s an interesting dynamic with respect to how I migrated to sales operations. The way I always look at sales operations and how people get into this area is, there was– My background is sales. I’m a little bit different than a lot of people who may have a background in finance, et cetera. I was sales. I was in national accounts. That’s an area that I’m focusing on right now.
What I really had is a good analytical background, an analytical band as I call it here in the US, where it really had a focus on that. When I came on board with 3M, there was– I find this, and I laugh because so many people can relate to this, is that there was a lot of different people that were doing the role of sales operations, but it wasn’t in a centralized area.
I started out working with a very small division within 3M healthcare, and over the next couple of years, I started to integrate a lot of the different programs into one cohesive program, so that we could work together on developing the common needs for data, compensation, forecasting, all the various different other pieces, as well as the application management area, such as– I manage the roll out of Salesforce to our team.
We had previously worked with Oracle in the past, and then we went to Salesforce from there. It really is a matter of– I hear this a lot. Again, I’ll repeat myself to what I said before is, a lot of our organizations do have a very loose organization, but then basically, then they started integrating a little bit more cohesively. That’s where I worked with it.
Tom: Got it. I know you don’t currently sit within 3M, but the technology you were using when you were at 3M, you’ve mentioned FAP, you mentioned Salesforce. Are there any other tools that you guys were using?
Ed: Sure. There was a lot of different– Obviously, from a contracting perspective, we had good contracted price tools that we had into place. We had some sales forecasting tools that we had integrated in as part of the SAP package. We were really using a lot of different pieces. In Salesforce, I really focused on the basics of utilizing Salesforce. There’s a lot of great tools, the add-ons, various different things that can be aligned to how you’re using Salesforce.
Early on, I said, “Let’s try to maximize the functionality, so what Salesforce can offer, before we start seeing about some of the add-on pieces to that. Basically, my role was really focusing on that to maximize the effectiveness of Salesforce.
Tom: Get it. We have a question from the audience– Zach. What is the biggest challenge in your role? I think we should switch off to what were the biggest challenge when you were at 3M?
Ed: The biggest challenge– Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s a large company or it’s a small company, is alignment between the different teams. The way I look at sales operations, it’s a bridge. I saw a real funny teacher the other day on – I think it was LinkedIn – that talked about– Sales operations is basically the epitome of the go-to person when it comes down to managing so many crucial pieces.
For me, it was really getting alignment with all the various different people that sales operation touches when it comes down to the sales field, when it comes down to finance, when it comes down to the VP of sales. It really was making sure that everybody was aligned to what we wanted to do from a sales operations perspective. Great question, Zach.
Tom: How did you– Many people have come on and said that – and I totally get it – how if all these disparate teams in the sales operations is like the glue, do you have any tips for that stakeholder management? How do you keep everybody happy when you only have limited resources?
Ed: It comes down to the consistent communication and coming down to what are the definables that everybody will be happy with. For example, one of the things that I did, and this wasn’t necessarily with 3M, but in a past life, is we used to get a report every Monday that was 20 pages of data. There was always some people who certain pieces fit, some people didn’t, but the reality of it was 90% of it wasn’t being used.
What I did is I worked with the different teams and said, “Listen, let’s let’s figure this out. If 90% of this isn’t being used, why do we work? Why did we get this report out? Let’s figure out one standard template that everybody will be comfortable with, that we can use as our basis, and then work forward from there.” That was one case where I really worked with all the various different team members to really say, “How do we develop the most effective teams to develop all of these programs together?”
That really was– It comes down to it, because you’re right, especially when you have different folks who have different objectives, different targets, it is tough. I think that when you build the relationships, you build the consistencies, that’s where you start developing the success. I was a big fan, and I still continue to be a big fan in my new role, is developing good processes that everybody is comfortable with.
For example, with Salesforce, I didn’t want Salesforce to be a tool that was just turning out reports. I wanted it to be a tool that the sales team used, and I wanted it to be a tool that leadership had as well, too. What I wanted to find was that balance. I put together a playbook that everybody could use that really said, “Here are the things that we’re all going to agree upon,” and that made it a lot easier so that everybody was happy with how we are managing Salesforce.
Tom: Nice. Data quality– I can only imagine the complexity of different stakeholders and data within your Salesforce org at 3M–
Tom: The guy responsible for maintaining that, and [crosstalk]–
Ed: Yes, exactly. My historical role was– Again, I’m sure a lot of people can relate out to this. We had multiple channel partners that were sending across data information. Some of it was going through well-established portals, such as GA checks. Some were going through very historical means. We were still getting some information that was still being faxed to us. At one point, I think that I was managing about 300 – and this was pre-SAP – 300 different channel partners that was sending in information.
You’re right, it was a challenge. Some of that information– The good thing is I had to look at it in two ways. I think that, with most people who listen to this, is the same way. The reality was was that I would say about 90% of my data was coming through maybe top three channel partners or top three customers. That’s a reality. That’s what I see with most people as well. I basically worked through really making sure that the data quality for my top partners were the ones that was as clean as possible.
I think that anybody who is out there who’s listening to this, and you’re getting data from a variety of different sources, it is impossible to be able to get the data 100% clean. As I have to say to other people, data can be very gray. As much as we say data is data, it sometimes can be a very gray process with respect to how you manage it.
I really focused on that and really made sure that the core data that we were getting in, the core information, was as clean as possible. I work with the other partners and the other teams doing it to see what we could do working through that.
Now, when we went post-SAP migration, which I’m sure there are some people who’ve gone through that as well, too, is– SAP, the benefits of that, it was a lot more streamlined. There’s a lot more rules in place. We did have to make sure that beforehand, as part of our deployment, that we had all this built-in. That made, in some ways, a lot easier, but some cases, it made it a little bit difficult, too, because for our smaller channel partners, if they weren’t able to be compliant with that, we had to make special allowances for them to get that information in.
Tom: Got it. We already spoke about stakeholder management. I want to talk about, specifically, one group of very important stakeholders, which are your salespeople. When trying to get them to do something new or something different, what were your strategies to do that, and how did you get them to buy in to the thing that [crosstalk]–?
Ed: Exactly. It is all about– Again, this is where I think my background in sales comes handy with that is, is really identifying, first and foremost, how is it going to benefit them? Where is it going to be the positive? Earlier, we talked about Salesforce. I was very happy with our deployment. I think the way I measured it, we were about 90% compliant with respect to our sales team utilizing it. This is including some, obviously, very well-tenured people that had never used a program such as that before.
What you have to do, and what I did, was really define out very concretely what the positives are with something such as Salesforce. What are some of the positives with respect to anything that we’re doing with respect to what we’re asking about? For example, the other thing that we were rolling out was specific campaigns, marketing campaigns within Salesforce, and the campaigns that we were rolling out was in coordination with the sales team to ensure that they knew what the value was of it. I think constant engagement is key.
The other thing, too– This is where I balance it between the carrot and the stick approach, because there, I’m talking about the carrot. The other thing too, that I talked about with leadership was, if we had an expectation for them to build in a specific KPI or specific objective in terms of what we do, I did ask that that bill be built into their MDOs or their specific definables within that’s expected of them.
In all organizations, I’m sure they have performance reviews. What I recommended was, as part of their performance review, if there was some specifics built into that. I think that’s a very big thing to build into it, because yes, you may have a sales rep that is exceeding their quota, but what we would then build into it is yes, but did you also make sure that Salesforce that you were keeping your pipeline up to date? Were you working on a specific campaign? Were you focusing on this other important initiative that we’re doing?
That was something that was really important that you balance between that, what’s in it for them from a positive perspective, how it can support growing their business and working with the customers, and how is it, internally, going to be important for them to be able to, at the end of the year, achieve what’s expected of them from a core performance review perspective.
Tom: The carrot and the stick– quickly moving on to sales forecasting. Within your pillar or area of 3M, was your team responsible for actually forecasting the sales, or were you guys giving the sales managers or leadership the tools to do that?
Ed: Both. I think that we had tools that helped identify in terms of what was going on in the marketplace, whatwere some of the growth factors. One of the things that we were also– Sometimes, too, what’s interesting for anyone who works on different ones, we got a lot of forecast information from them as well, too. It really was a close integrated working relationship. That’s why I love sales operations so much is because you are working with a lot of different people.
We were providing– at least I was working with the various different team members to align with forecasting, to make sure that what we were doing was aligned with it. Sometimes, finance would come and say, “Hey listen, we need a such and such percentage growth factor.” Then, we’d work together and say, “Okay, this is what we think we can do for this particular product area. What can we do with respect to overall growth for a specific area that I had responsibility for at that time?”
Tom: Got it. One more question about that. On a micro level, say you are working with an individual rep on their forecast, do you take into account the bias that rep may have? You know reps are super optimistic, and every week, every month, he over-forecasts, do you do anything to their forecast to modify that?
Ed: My approach was actually to work with a manager. What we built into Salesforce – and it was a good question – and what we built into working with their various different, is developing a cadence of looking at what they have in the pipeline. You’re right, if they’re saying that they’re going to be closing $1 million next month, and the average sale is $25,000, then obviously, that is a question. Then, you have to do that. That’s something that what we would do is not necessarily go to each different rep, we would basically look at it and say, “Manager, this is how your funnel is looking,” and then they would work with respect to rep.
The other thing that I would pull into Salesforce, too, is looking at– Obviously, I had standard templates, standard reports that I would look at. If something did stand out, then obviously, yes, if someone was saying that they had this huge one, and then the next sale was 85% less than what that one was, then we would, obviously, then work with the rep to see–
Sometimes, too, as we all know, there’s mistakes. That’s where we really have to develop that cadence. What we liked, and what I liked doing, was making sure that the managers were developing that weekly review to ensure that what people were entering in was the most accurate as possible.
Tom: Got it. Onboarding salespeople, do you have any best practices or things that have been around for [crosstalk]?
Ed: I’m a member here, so if any of you are familiar with, here in the US, the Twin Cities as we call it, St. Paul and Minneapolis area. It’s really a hub of probably the biggest concentration of various different small manufacturers, device manufacturers, and things like that. They’ve really encouraged a lot of growth. What we’ve built here is a sales enablement society to really focus on onboarding tools and various different things.
We’ve talked about onboarding. For me, what I historically have done is really looked at it in four phases. The first phase, when you talk about any onboarding program, is ensuring that whoever is coming on board, that you have a well-defined plan laid out for them. One of the things that I want to make sure of is that they know week-by-week, what they’re doing in terms of the various different training portions.
I divided it into four main focus portions. One is– This is something, too, that the sales operations program basically developed a little bit more. Again, it’s based upon some historic programs that were set up within 3M healthcare. It was also, too, looking at best practices across with other companies. The four phases was phase one, which was a basic onboarding program, which was getting the person on board, making sure that they’ve got all the tools they need.
Sometimes, it’s a simple thing that if they got an iPhone, or if they got a new phone, we want to make sure that everything is set up well. We also give them basic training on that. I think any– One of the biggest mistakes that I often see is that, when someone’s hired is, you want to make sure you have that personalization. When you have that personalization and you’re bringing them on board, the comfort level helps them to be happier, in terms of being more adjusted.
The second phase of this was the onboarding training of the new product services, various different types of things. What we did is we did a lot of e-learning. As we all know– I follow the 70-20-10 rule, which is people learn by doing. Any training that we were doing, we were bringing them in, we made sure that it was being practical in terms of they were learning by doing. We focused on microlearning, which was no session was more than 20 minutes. We kept them up and moving. We would work at that.
The third phase was field training, so making sure that we had a very defined program, where they were working side-by-side with field mentors, side-by-side with people who understood the industry, understood what they were focusing on. Usually, they would be out there for almost a full week. That was probably one of our most successful aspects of it.
Then, the final program was really bringing them back. Weally, as I call it, was the bringing it all together, which was incorporating everything that they’ve learned from the last time that they were going through their basic fundamental trainings, integrating some advanced onboarding training. Again, I use various different training programs for business. Then, I also did advanced product training, so that when they came back, we had a very well-defined program. Again, still using the auspices of microlearning. Even after they got done with this, what we were doing was we still had a plan, week-by-week, to make sure that every week, they knew what they were supposed to be doing.
That’s really the program that I’ve continued to focus on, especially in my new role, as I’m working forward on this, is really making sure that we have that type of integration, which is making sure that there’s the person-to-person, there’s the e-learning, as well as there is and in-face, and then all the other different programs that really transpired to be an effective sales training program.
Tom: Got it. We’ve onboarded the salesperson. In their role, how were you making your reps at 3M more productive?
Ed: There were a lot of– I hesitated here because when I was thinking about it is, there’s good tools, and then there’s tools that they don’t need it. Very early on, I think working with all the various different team members– Again, this is one of the reasons why I love sales operations so much is, you work with marketing, you work with the various different development team members.
When we onboarded any new sales rep, any new person that was coming on board that we had responsibility for for onboarding, we made sure that they had a couple different tools that could give them access, as quickly as possible, to not only the products and services, but also the support people. We rolled out a specific sales aid that had all the products and services on an iPad, and they made sure that they had access to that at any given time.
Then, continuous reinforcement of the training was also a key portion of that. I talked about the syllabus we would put together is that we’d have consistent tools, different things that we would send out to them on a consistent basis on new training, new different programs. Then, the other thing, too, is that we would make sure that we are working with marketing and any other people that were supplying new product information about continuous onboarding and continuous education about new things that people have learned about the product, new things that they’ve learned about– obviously, solutions, new approaches to customers, working through various different options such as that.
Tom: Got it. What is your favorite sales KPI?
Ed: Define a little bit more when you mean sales KPI, because that’s an open-ended question [unintelligible 00:25:07] ask?
Tom: The question I’m supposed to ask, or the question I normally ask, is what KPIs are you tracking for your reps? I switched it up. You don’t have to give me your favorite, but what do you think is an important metric to track?
Ed: Good. The easy answer is – that’s why I asked you about that – if they’re making plan. If it comes back down to, if you gave them an 8.5% growth target, and they’re doing it at 9.6% growth target, then great. That’s an easy answer. That’s something that every organization– At the end of the day, it comes down to is, what is definable goals, and are they achieving it?
For me, KPIs take it a little bit more in terms of, we’ve talked about the value of Salesforce, we talked about the value of various different other things they can do in terms of that. I have a lot of experience in the SAS area as well, too, working with solution software systems. With solution software systems, again, some of these things take two to three years to materialize. Some of the KPIs that I’ve built into it is specific definable metrics or milestones that you need to have to do to make sure that the sale is progressing the way it does.
There are a lot of different ways of building KPIs. It really depends on A, the type of product that you’re focusing on. If it’s a simple– Again, I’ll say commodity-based product, where you know that you’re going to see a definable volume on that, or if it’s a software solution that you know that’s going to take two to three years to materialize, developing those specific metrics, guidelines that you know that you’re going to have to keep on tracking. There’s a lot of different ways of tracking it. Again, it depends on what type of product or portfolio you’re managing at the time.
Tom: Got it.
Ed: I’m going to say I’ve worked with a couple different ones. I think the metrics that I’ve always felt really comes down to how you, as an organization, are looking at what your desired outcomes are.
Tom: Got it, and then that determines what your favorite or most important metrics–?
Ed: Exactly, because I’ve looked at a lot of different systems, programs, various different things. I really try to keep it as simple as possible. Going back to the data component of it is understanding at the end of the day what is your desired outcome. Once you have an idea of that, then you start building from there.
Tom: Got it. To round everything up, who has taught you what you know? Who would you like to take a lunch in related to Salesforce?
Ed: There are a couple of different people that I’ve really had the benefit of working with. One of the greatest people that I’ve started to work with now is the people– Again, it’s an individual who’s starting to take– When we talk about onboarding, we talked about sales enablement. There’s a gentleman that I’m starting to work with that is talking about, how do you take sales enablement and sales enablement programs to the next level? How do you develop specific metrics on what you’re doing?
For example, the previous question you asked me was about onboarding. Onboarding is something that– How do you know if you’re successful? Is it six months? Is it are they hitting quota within the first months? Are they delivering the milestones? Those are the different things. The individuals that I’m working with now, and the one that I would like to take to lunch and looking forward to it, is how are those people continue to take sales operations and sales enablement to the next level?
Tom: Got it. Anyone pushing the boundaries, you would like to take out?
Ed: The organization, for example, that I have been focusing with is Liquid Smarts is someone who’s really saying, what is it that we need to do to not just take training, but take it to the next level with respect to various different onboarding training programs, things such as that. That’s where I think it’s really critical, when we talk about addressing such a key portion of under the sales operations banner, which is sales enablement, onboarding, training, whatever you call it with respect to that.
Tom: Got it. Let me share a couple of things that I thought were quite impactful. Because I know you have a background in sales, you notice, or you realize, you have this [unintelligible 00:29:57] bent, and that helps you [unintelligible 00:29:58]. I picked up on that. Sales, also, being the bridge between all these different stakeholders. The 80-20 rule– You don’t say that, but that’s what I got– Incoming data is not always going to be perfect. It’s a gray area. Your top three sources focus on those.
Then, finally, something we haven’t had before, was the carrot and the stick method influencing salespeople, understanding what’s in it for them, but also, actually, working with C-level or higher stakeholders to tweak performance metrics [inaudible 00:30:34] the stick pot. That’s a pronged approach.
Ed: Again, it’s interesting when we talk about compensation programs, because this is where– I’ve had a lot of experience working with various different types of compensation programs– is I think to have a successful compensation program, you do need to have that alignment with– not only in terms of if they are a sales-driven organization, what you’re doing, but if you have other objectives, in terms of growing the business, that’s not as numbers-oriented, but you still need to have their engagement.
That’s where it’s critical that you build those things into it as well, too, as part of performance reviews. I don’t think there’s any company, at this point, that does not have a very structured performance review process that incorporates not only just how you go from a metrics perspective, but the other things from whether you call an MBO process or anything else.It really comes down to how you’re building those in so that every sales rep or any person who is under that program knows exactly what they’re supposed to be focusing on, and they know what they’re going to be judged on at the end of the year.
Ed: Thank you.
Tom: Ed, a fountain of knowledge. Thank you so much for your insight. I’m just above this video, if you’re watching on the blog, or type s.[unintelligible 00:31:51] into Google, you’ll come to the landing page, and you can click through to Ed’s LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions–
Ed: Certainly happy to help, Like I said, I appreciate the time. Please feel free to reach out to me. I think it’s an exciting time for everyone as I talk with different organizations. Sales operations, sales enablement, all these different areas continues to explode. I’m working with a lot of different people now, and it’s very exciting. Please, anyone who wants to reach out to me on my LinkedIn profile, I’m happy to do so. Again, with my other partners that I’m working with right now, happy to, obviously, be able to support any way I can. Thank you.
Tom: Ed, thanks so much for your time.
[00:32:36] [END OF AUDIO]