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How Andela’s enablement team shortened sales cycle times by 33% with Gong

Coaching Deal Execution Strategic Initiatives Commercial North America Media & Internet

The challenge

Andela already had Gong, but there was an opportunity to further maximize its use. When Andela renewed Gong, the enablement team began to own the platform, which gave them even greater visibility into what they needed and how the team could achieve it.

The outcome

Through Gong, Andela was able to gain visibility into customer interactions which led to increased efficiency and improved decision-making. They also saw an improvement in rep knowledge, reduced time to ROI, and cut sales cycles by 33%!

headquarters

New York, New York

founded

2014

company size

1,500+

industry

IT Services and IT Consulting

Written by
Kieran Smith, Past Senior Manager of Revenue Enablement @ Andela

I spent more than a decade as a sales leader. But the further up the ladder I went, the less fun I had, and the further I moved away from what I loved doing: coaching and developing people.

I used to work as a professional football coach (soccer for the North Americans out there), and there are many parallels to coaching people on and off the field. I liked to develop people into their best selves, improve their skills, and even help them with career path mapping. When I transitioned off the pitch into sales, the most rewarding part was constantly revising and reworking sales processes and methodologies to get the best results from my sales reps. While I liked the strategy element of leadership roles, it took me away from people on the frontlines who needed coaching.

Coming out of the depths of the pandemic, I made a conscious pivot from sales leadership into sales enablement, and joined the team at Andela.

Andela is a global talent marketplace that connects leading organisations with highly skilled technologists in emerging markets. As a Senior Manager of Revenue Enablement, my focus was onboarding and coaching AEs — exactly the stuff I like to do. But first, I had to address several challenges around remotely onboarding a sales team with an ever-evolving sales process. 

Better visibility was the #1 key to empowering our sales enablement team

Ramp times and our time to ROI had room for improvement. Between a newer sales team and shifting sales messaging, our reps struggled to hit the ground running and adapt to changes in the sales process. All of this led to slower sales cycles and knowledge gaps.

To get our reps up to speed faster, I needed better visibility into their customer interactions. I needed to tap into Gong.

I had bought and implemented Gong at another company, but left before reaping its benefits. Fortunately, Andela already had Gong, but there was an opportunity to further maximise its use. When Andela renewed Gong, I took ownership of the platform. The following month I was promoted to run the enablement team, which gave me even greater visibility into what we needed and how we could achieve it.

Gong is much more than a conversation intelligence tool; it’s a Revenue Intelligence Platform. The platform’s value and efficiency come from how it helps leaders analyse customer interactions at scale. For someone in an enablement position who helps drive strategic initiatives, such as new messaging rollouts and price changes, with adoption and coaching, the data and the insights from those interactions are critical. 

Andela’s sales team had more than doubled during the pandemic, so our onboarding and communications needed to change if we were going to remain efficient. We could no longer rely on sharing anecdotal experiences to inform our strategy. Gong’s true differentiator is empowering teams to harness the voice of the customer by uncovering data and insights that shape how a company moves forward, and that’s what we needed most.

Gong revealed and corrected gaps in rep training (with a 188% improvement rate!)

In 2022, I listened to 2,238 customer interactions in Gong. The number isn’t as significant as the information that came from that data. I pride myself on understanding the full context of customer interactions: what’s being said and by whom, at what level, and for which segment. Gong gives me what I need to reach that level of understanding so I can plan the next best step.

Andela previously had a “ride-along” culture, where managers would sit in on random calls with their sales reps and base their understanding of that rep’s performance on their call behaviour. But of course, people behave differently when their manager is there. The truth happens during interactions when the manager isn’t there. Gong enabled me to learn what happened when managers weren’t in the room. And it revealed a lot about the gaps in our training…

One trend I noticed in listening to these calls was that reps passed a number of difficult questions to their manager. That meant reps were rising through the ranks with knowledge gaps.

That said, we did some things well — our enterprise team was growing by ~4% week over week — but we also missed some of the basics, like setting agendas. When I asked the manager whether reps were setting agendas, they answered, “Yep.” But Gong revealed that agenda setting happened on only 17% of calls. Managers were shocked, but there was nothing to debate. We did a sprint for two weeks, where we ran through how to set an agenda and set expectations. After the training, agenda setting jumped from 17% to 49%, which is great for such a short time. It’s a 188% increase!

Data-backed insights make it easier to separate assumptions from the truth.

Sales enablement is a catchall term, but I view myself as an internal strategic advisor. In other words, I have influence without authority. Objective numbers make it easier to assert that influence because it’s hard to argue with what’s there in black and white.

Gong provides the data-backed insights that separate assumptions from the truth. It improved our efficiency and our decision-making at the same time. 

Call Libraries improved rep knowledge, reduced their time to ROI, and cut sales cycles by 33%

Once I had a solid understanding of our situation, we revamped our onboarding program to integrate Gong as early as possible. With each new group of hires, we introduced Gong earlier and earlier. One of the first touchpoints is a best-practice Call Library split by segment, role, call type, and element of the call. This makes it easier for new reps to find the exact information they need.

Our SDR library, for example, is split into folders for booked meeting calls and prospecting calls. The prospecting folder has six subfolders for each piece of the conversation in the SDR playbook, with call snippets for each element. That might include call openers, insights, permission, insightful questions, objection handling, and closings. Not everybody needs to work on every part of the cold call. Someone might be really good at asking questions, but not so good at objection handling. Gong makes it really easy for our reps to listen to 15 examples of objection handling or 20 examples of how to close a meeting. Whatever they need, whenever they need it.

We also implemented a certification for all roles. As part of the preparation for that process, reps need to do a Gong exercise in which they listen to previous certifications and offer feedback. With more exposure to best practices through the Call Libraries, the standards of certification went up, from a score of 3/5 to 4/5 (a 33% increase). And when those reps finished training, they ramped up a lot faster. We cut our ramp time for SDRs by 50%, which is notably good. We also reduced the time to ROI for AEs to 12 weeks, and shortened our sales cycle by 33%. 

Gong-focused incentive program upleveled  managers’ and reps’ coaching skills

My dedication to coaching was important, but also led me to a big mistake. I knew the value in developing people, and assumed other leaders did too. I also assumed they knew how to do it well, but I was wrong. Not many people actually get management training. Our sales leadership team was growing quickly to keep pace with the growth of our reps, so it made sense to boost Gong adoption with more tenured team members through the managers. We created a leadership development program focused on sales coaching, and set minimum expectations for managers to review one customer interaction for each rep in Gong and provide a Scorecard and feedback.

After that, we encouraged reps to use Gong to listen to their own interactions with customers, as well as those of our top reps. At the sales team’s Monday standup meeting, we introduced a Gong leaderboard that showed the previous week’s stats for SDRs, AEs, and client partners. We started noticing that the people who listened to the most calls were high on the leaderboard, so we augmented the leaderboard with our “Gong Star of the Month” program. Managers would nominate a call each month, and I would choose a winner for each role, with the winners receiving $250 plus some Gong swag. It was a chance for us to celebrate excellent performance and demonstrate our commitment to this platform.

Nothing sends salespeople into a flurry more than hearing, “We’re going to do some call coaching,” because it usually means criticism. And I know what it’s like — your manager is critical about one bad decision and you never hear about anything else. Instead, we reverse-engineered a feedback loop by creating a self-reflective Scorecard. We asked reps to tell us two or three things they thought they did well, name where they felt they could improve, and provide suggestions for strategies they might try the next time. Reps submitted their Scorecard and the specific customer interaction for their manager to review in Gong. Then a conversation began between the rep and their manager. We taught our managers how to coach more effectively using Gong as a coaching solution, which led to improvements for the team.

I worked with one woman who started her journey near the bottom of the leaderboard. Using this self-reflective feedback, she was soon second from the top. She just needed that interactive feedback process, and Gong helped us deliver it.

Clear data made it easy to track the success of training programs for new business lines 

The world changed while I was at Andela. As everyone went remote, Andela was in high demand, and we had to change our sales approach. We needed to talk about our story, boost engagement, and discover which points now resonated with prospects. We changed our slide deck four times, but we always looked to Gong data to refine our strategy.

Andela’s core business involved front-end and back-end engineers. During the pandemic, we strategically started moving into what we called practice areas, for people with more specialised skills. As we introduced these practice areas, we used Gong Trackers to highlight key words. For example, every mention of “data” or “cloud practice” would alert the practice leader to listen to that particular interaction. Trackers were a huge part of Andela’s growth strategy. Using Gong meant we could hone in on growth areas, identify practice gaps, and easily alert practice leads so they could jump in straight away. We also added practice area calls to our Call Library, so sales reps could listen to Salesforce calls before talking to a CRM director, for example. 

Gong data offers specificity, allowing leaders to be more confident and conscious about how they help individuals and the team as a whole. 

Over 18 months, I noticed an improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of changes we made to our sales approach. Gong allowed us to create more bespoke, targeted training. Rather than ask a manager what the team needed to work on, we could look at objective stats in Gong to see what needed work. We could develop group training if the entire team scored low on a pain point, or create more targeted training in a particular area if it was warranted. After training, we monitored those areas to determine whether there were improvements. Gong data gives us that specificity, allowing us to be more confident and conscious about how we help individuals and the team. 

The best coaches (and engineers) use a data-driven approach

Whether you’re a world-class football coach or sales leader, you should use data to analyse your performance against your chosen methodology. That analysis informs how you train for the rest of the week, month, and year. Whether you’re working with an athlete who can’t break out of 1:1 coverage or a salesperson who always avoids a pointed question, you have to go beyond “my opinion versus your opinion” and look at the data to see what really happened. Only then can you influence strategy and direction for your team.

Embracing insights from customer interactions will enhance every aspect of your sales cycle.

Sales is one of the most objective industries there is, because your revenue number is your revenue number. That makes sales ripe for a data-driven approach. The best thing you can do is embrace the data-driven insights Gong generates from your customer interactions. They can enhance every aspect of your sales cycle.

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