The Success Behind Zoom’s 90-Day Onboarding Program for New Sales Managers
April 12, 2021
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“If you want to grow your team and drive revenue, you have to think about who the real levers to that success are,” says Rich Adams. “Most people think it starts with sales reps—it actually starts with sales managers enabling those sales reps.”
We’ve long understood the importance of enabling sales teams, and have witnessed how aligning reps with the right training, tools, and resources can lead to a more successful sales org. But with so much attention paid to enabling sales reps, we often overlook the unsung heroes of the sales org—sales managers.
Rich Adams, Sales Enablement Manager, Manager Execution at Zoom, is on a mission to change the way we look at enabling our sales teams, starting with a top-down approach to training. In this exclusive conversation, Rich Adams shares how Zoom launched its first Sales Manager Enablement Program in a year of record growth for the company.
Viewing managers as the multipliers of success
Rich began his path in sales management after a handful of successful years as a sales rep. While working at a fast-paced startup, Rich stepped up when his sales team needed someone to take on training responsibilities. “I always wanted to manage. Coaching is a big passion of mine,” says Rich. “I loved teaching other reps what I knew. I started seeing more satisfaction out of teaching salespeople how to win a deal than I would have experienced winning the deal myself.”
Although he was enthusiastic, Rich says he didn’t understand the full scope of what the job would entail. “Once I started in the role, the first question I asked the Director of Sales was ‘What does the onboarding process look like?’” reflects Rich. “He looked at me like I was crazy. He said, ‘just do what you’ve been doing in sales, and help your team do it.’”
For far too long, Rich has seen organizations overlook the importance of onboarding and training programs for sales managers. “Sales reps follow their manager’s advice, whether it’s good or bad,” says Rich. “We should be investing time in the knowledge and leadership skills of the frontline manager, they are the multipliers.”
Paving the 90 day path to manager excellence
At Zoom, Rich runs the Manager Excellence Program to support both new-to-the business management hires and freshly promoted managers. What had started as a one day workshop for new managers has transformed into an extensive 90-day program. “We quickly realized that we needed to offer managers more training to reinforce concepts,” says Rich. “But, we needed the right cadence of learning. We recognized that managers have big teams, big quotas and big commitments.” Therefore, the 90-day format was born.
Zoom’s three-month onboarding program for new sales managers is split into three sections, each supported by a mix of live training programs and eLearning through WorkRamp. Each of the three 30-day segments of the program begin with online training, “WorkRamp gets the conversation started, so when we have live workshops, managers have foundational learning and aren’t starting from scratch.”
Live workshop sessions which are scheduled throughout the 90-day curriculum are hands-on and highly personalized to the topic at hand and the group participating, “one size does not fit all,” says Rich. Through role-play activities, interactive workshops, panel discussions and guest lectures with subject matter experts, new managers learn the core competencies that make for a successful sales manager at Zoom. Across cohorts and global teams, new managers are taught how to use sales tools, how to coach and manage, how to measure success, and foundational sales skills.
In the era of remote work, there is additional attention paid to the challenges associated with managing virtual teams. “Now managers face a unique challenge where it’s either their first time working remote or most of their team is working remote for the first time,” says Rich. “A big topic throughout all of our training is how to adjust and coach differently in a remote world.”
Building an impactful curriculum
In expanding new manager training from a one-day workshop to a 90-day journey supported by eLearning, fine-tuning the perfect formula of program offerings involved a bit of trial and error. “We needed to find the right balance of live training and eLearnings,” says Rich. While self-paced training through WorkRamp has become key to setting the stage for live training and teaching managers technical skills around using sales tools, the intention of eLearning is to spark manager engagement, not overwhelm audiences with too much information.
Zoom has learned to optimize the value of their WorkRamp instance by creating bite-sized videos, challenges, and learning guides that require a low time commitment—each intended to take just 10 or 15 minutes to complete. Rich has become quite intentional about building online training content that serves to teach specific core competencies, rather than offloading as much content as possible about a given topic.
Relying on external and internal experts
Online pre-work sets the stage for live, interactive sessions, which are intended to offer managers new perspectives on coaching, leadership skills, and the foundational principles of managing others. In the spirit of offering new insights, Rich plans panel discussions and guest lectures hosted by subject matter experts.
Partners and vendors are often enlisted to discuss industry best practices and advice. “The goal of bringing in a vendor or external speaker is to help drive a message and provide a new perspective,” says Rich. “Then we’re able to layer in the internal piece and coach managers on the tools we use at Zoom to achieve our goals.”
Sessions are also facilitated by existing sales managers. “On the enablement team, we think of ourselves more as the behind-the-scenes architects,” says Rich. “Our managers are the most skilled and experienced sales professionals at our company. It makes sense for them to train new managers the right way to do things.”
Program Mantra – “1:1’s are the job”
Internal experts are often enlisted to share their best practices around hosting 1:1 meetings as managers. For sales managers, interpersonal skills are crucial to success—especially in a time of remote work. “So much of being a sales manager is being a ‘drive by’ coach,” says Rich. “When you’re in the office, you have tons of opportunities to interact with your reps, coach them, mentor them, and get to know them on a personal level.”
But in a virtual environment, many of those casual connection points are lost. “When you’re working from home, 1:1s become the real, and often the only, opportunity to connect with your reps. It’s your chance to help develop that individual, pack in a ton of coaching and mentorship, and dial in and see what’s happening in that rep’s life,” says Rich.
We help our managers architect 1:1s by offering a framework that ensures they’re having the right conversations. Yes, you can talk about all the business stuff – pipelines, deals – but you should also make time to talk about what’s going on in their lives. What’s something that’s slowing them down? Is there an opportunity for them to step away for a few days and clear their heads? If you jump on a 1:1 and someone starts harassing you about your top 3 deals and blockers, you’re going to tune out. That’s not the right mindset. A lot of our 1:1 frameworks are around uncovering behavioral stuff.
Enhancing the program and learning along the way
When Rich reflects on the most impactful aspects of the Manager Excellence Program, what sticks out are the moments where he was creating learning moments behind-the-scenes. “We put a big emphasis on peer-to-peer learning, because it’s where we see the highest engagement from managers,” says Rich.
Peer-to-peer learning is implemented into all aspects of the Manager Excellence Program—for learnings both live and on-demand. Most live sessions incorporate breakout rooms where managers are encouraged to share with one another what they’re learning, what they’ve experienced, and advice. Peer-to-peer learning is even incorporated into WorkRamp guides, where peers review one another’s challenges and practice coaching.
These learning moments offer a space for managers to practice empathy and vulnerability, which are crucial to the job. In group exercises, Rich will often encourage managers to share their personal experiences and lessons learned over the years. Rich finds incidental learning moments between peers even more critical in a virtual environment. “In remote work, it can be challenging to get a group of managers into one room,” says Rich. “Those opportunities are really cherished by managers.”
Striking the perfect balance of learning options
Rich flags one key landmines when training sales managers. As mentioned, finding the right balance of eLearning content and live training was a challenge when first executing the 90-day program. “At first, we offered too much self-serve content,” admits Rich. “Our salespeople are some of the busiest people in the organization, so our instinct was to offer an abundance of self-serve e-learning.”
Though the intention was to create self-paced learning options, the amount of content was too overwhelming and engagement suffered. “Managers loved the training guides that were offered, but they just didn’t have the time to look at everything. We really had to strike the right balance between having live sessions while also allowing time for self-paced learning,” says Rich.
“Balancing live and on-demand training is very much a work in progress and it’s going to look different at every company,” says Rich The best way to achieve the right balance for your team is to tune into learner needs and engagement, or as Rich suggests, “meet learners where they need you.”
Elevating excellent managers–and creating program champions
Involving existing managers in the Manager Excellence Program has proven beneficial for both learners and tenured members of the organization. “We like to spotlight managers that are doing a phenomenal job in the field and bring them into the mix to help facilitate live training sessions and create learning materials,” says Rich. Whether the manager has expertise to share in managing remote teams or 1:1 coaching strategies, their perspective enriches the learning experience for new managers.
These guest lecturers have quickly become program evangelists, or as Rich lovingly calls them “Manager Champions.” “We’re finding that when we give these managers an opportunity to have program input and a spotlight to share their skills, they feel that they’re making a direct and visible impact,” says Rich. “You’re basically building a mini field army—they’re out there promoting the program and giving us great feedback to make it even better.”
Expanding program impact and creating more learning moments
Despite his success, Rich believes that the Manager Excellence Program is a constant work in progress. With insights shared by manager champions and program participants, Rich often finds himself contemplating ways to improve the program for each 90 day cohort. Knowing how beneficial learners find peer-to-peer learning, he’s exploring ways to make future cohorts smaller and include more opportunities for connection and collaboration between groups of new managers.
As Zoom’s organization continually expands in a moment of unprecedented company growth, Rich also collaborates with global offices to create a personalized onboarding program unique to each international office. “Even though we are the ‘owners’ of the Manager Excellence Program, we work with regional partners to understand the nuances of the challenges that their managers face,” says Rich. “We want to build an inclusive program that really creates a consistent experience for all of our managers and sellers, while being sensitive to nuances across regions.”
As the Manager Excellence program evolves and expands reach, Rich is enthusiastic about what’s to come. “I truly believe the sales manager is the force multiplier of the sales team,” says Rich. “The chance to focus on manager excellence full-time at Zoom really is fantastic.”
Special thanks to Rich Adams for sharing the strategies behind Zoom’s Manager Excellence Program with us.
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