Apptio sales enablement leaders sleep better with streamlined project and event planning
Learn how Smartsheet helps Apptio deliver on its brand promise.
"I would recommend anyone who works with Smartsheet to go to ENGAGE... It’s the most productive conference I’ve ever been to."
Senior Manager of Sales Enablement, Apptio
Apptio’s brand promise is to help organizations make smarter IT spending decisions. To better equip its sales representatives with the information, skills, and mentorship they need to educate customers and close deals on its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, Apptio decided to adopt Smartsheet. With streamlined event planning and easier tracking of tasks and accomplishments, Smartsheet helps Apptio’s sales teams be more effective.
Sally Norred, senior manager of sales enablement at Apptio, is responsible for organizing the programs and resources that help sales reps improve their skills and stay informed about product and market developments. These include two annual in-person full-team meetings, a series of recurring weekly and biweekly live webinars, and a set of self-study programs.
The process of planning, executing, and evaluating each activity was cumbersome; Norred sometimes lost sleep worrying about whether she’d remembered to check off every planning detail to execute on time. She knew she needed a better tool than spreadsheets and email to manage the vast number of tasks required to ensure success.
“Waking up in the middle of the night was not fun,” Norred says. “When you have 400 people invited to a call tomorrow and you can’t remember if you sent the presenter invite, that’s very stressful.”
A tool to support sales coaching
As Norred began looking more closely at Smartsheet, one of the company’s sales managers asked her to help him and his colleagues find a better way to use their spreadsheet-based coaching tool. The content framework, a feedback matrix of 20 different sales skills in several categories, was a crucial tool for distinguishing skills coaching opportunities from sales performance. But the spreadsheet structure led to inconsistency as managers updated their individual copies of the document, making it impossible to measure status and progress consistently across teams and regions.
Norred worked with the sales managers to pull the coaching framework into Smartsheet. Now the program lives in one location, creating a single source of truth sales reps can easily access via customized dashboards. Sales reps can complete self-evaluations in defined competencies, and review their manager’s assessment and feedback. Managers can assign scores to more easily quantify and compare team and regional performance and identify the most important areas for additional coaching and support.
“Our Smartsheet solution brought sales competencies to the forefront,” Norred says. “We met with all the managers about what’s important to them. It helped bring the managers of all those different roles into alignment about what ‘good’ looks like and what we want to be scoring. This is not like an annual review. It’s used for coaching and helping people get better.”
Meeting planning made easier
Norred knew that the real value of Smartsheet would be its ability to simplify planning and execution of Apptio’s sales enablement webinar series. The live call-in sessions were originally created as informational or training presentations, offering regular opportunities to showcase new products, review skills needing improvement, or offer reminders of upcoming events.
Norred’s goal was to make the virtual Zoom calls more interactive and engaging, with polling, whiteboarding, Q&A, and breakout sessions, and to build in more focused topics that reflected participants’ needs or top requests. But preparation for a typical weekly call required 16 hours of preparation. Norred knew she needed to streamline that process before she could add fresh components to the calls, let alone add more calls to the calendar.
“There’s so much detail to remember; I made these manual checklists,” Norred says. “I only had a few calls and they were going so well, they were so popular, and we wanted to add more. We never could have added more calls without adding more people because you just can’t juggle all that detail in your head. It was painful; it’s not something you can continue doing. You can make a checklist, but if it’s not easy to use, you’re spending more time on the checklist than on actually doing the job.”
Using Smartsheet, Norred set up templates for each type of call, such as role-focused, regional team, or specific skills training. With just a few clicks to fill in the date code and time for a new event, a fresh checklist, email templates, and automated reminders now fall into place. Each sheet includes every required task, from updating titles to creating polls to sending out invitations, freeing Norred and her colleagues to focus on creating quality, effective meeting content rather than getting mired in the process. And they can click over to the sales coaching tool to identify both the skills that need reinforcement and the outstanding reps who can help train their peers.
“The calls bring the teams together and help them all be aligned on strategic business initiatives,” Norred says. “We need to help them sell better, and who else are they going to learn from except the other people who are selling well? We’ve been able to leverage the sales coaching tool to find the reps who are doing the best in certain areas, and ask them, ‘Will you come on an Enablement call and teach us how you do your meeting prep?’ It’s been super engaging.”
Even after adding new process steps and post-event tasks, such as digitally chapterizing a call recording and adding content tags, Norred says a webinar can now be completed in about half the previous time. As a result, the sales enablement team nearly tripled its calendar from three standard webinars to eight, without increasing staff working on them.
Calls and coaching are just the beginning. Norred uses Smartsheet to manage other projects, and is drawing inspiration from the Smartsheet ENGAGE’19 conference to dream up new initiatives that can streamline and simplify work for the worldwide sales teams.
“I would recommend anyone who works with Smartsheet to go to ENGAGE,” Norred says. “It’s improved my work life so much. I’m so jazzed about how I can help and bring in new ideas. I didn’t realize how much more I could learn and all the new features you had, and everybody was so helpful at the conference both years I’ve gone. It’s the most productive conference I’ve ever been to.”