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Executive Interview – Cisco – Bill Lepage

Bill LePage, SVP Worldwide Sales Enablement, Cisco

Keynote Topic: Raising the Bar on Sales Enablement

Gary Tubridy: I am here with Bill LePage, Senior Vice President of World Wide Sales Enablement at Cisco. Bill, welcome to the Forum.

Bill LePage: Thank you, Gary. It is a pleasure to be here.

GT: It is great to have you. My first question is you has got this title with enablement in it.

BL: Right.

GT: Which is kind of interesting. Tell me about that.

BL: It is really interesting. I know that one of the themes here at the Forum is reinvention. Another word for reinvention for me is transformation. As Cisco was going through a company transformation about three, three and a half years ago, one of the areas that we were focused on was how we enable our sales force. It is much broader for us than training. It is operations, it is driving adoption in the field. It is training, it is inclusive of that. It is sales compensation, it is our digital sales platform. It is a number of different areas that consummate it. I would say in most companies it is probably called sales operations, but we have looked to differentiate that a little bit at Cisco.

GT: What you are also enabling is the sales force to do some different kinds of things, bring insights to the customers, are you not?

BL: That is absolutely correct; absolutely.

GT: Tell me a little bit about the insights that they are bringing.

BL: I would say one or two other areas that we are really kind of looking at is outcome based selling. Our customers are looking for that return on investment. From a business point of view, as well as from a technology point of view, which has been a real shift in terms of how our customers buy and our customers in a lot of cases, we see our buying centers start to shift from IT to the business. Vertical expertise and industry expertise is becoming paramount because, as you are selling to the customer and the customer is a business person as opposed to a technology person, they really do not care about the bits and bytes. What they really care about is what is this going to do for me to help me with my business?

GT: This shift from IT to owners of businesses and business problems is an interesting shift and I wonder how does Cisco discover the kinds of insights that these business people are most interested in?

BL: Absolutely, great question. I think, as any sales person would tell you, the best way is to talk to the customer, right? You talk to the customer, you talk to your partners and your resellers and understand what is going on in the market place. I think that we work with folks like your organization at the Alexander Group that provide us with a lot of insight about what you are seeing across our peers, as well as the industry. There are the research companies, like a Gartner or a Forrester that we work with as well that go deep sometimes with customers on technology. I would not say it is any one thing, but what I would say is you always get the best and most relevant information directly from the horse’s mouth, from the customer.

GT: I should ask a question, how are you provisioning your sales organization to deliver these kinds of insights? Any of the top tools or processes you care to share with us?

BL: Absolutely. One of the things that we are pretty proud of that came out of this transformation is our digital sales platform. We have just recently rolled it out in the April timeframe to our partners. Then we rolled it out to our sales force at our annual sales meeting in August. What we have done is we sat there and boiled down the sales organization to six roles and said okay, how do we customize how we deliver these services for them based on who they are. So that content, collateral, demos, training; any type of thing that they are typically looking for is going to find them based on who they are. We have had some phenomenal feedback from our partner community. In addition to that, we have had some independent feedback actually from Forrester, who is in the process of writing a research paper on the process we used to be able to get there.

GT: That is a remarkable story. I love the way that what you produced can serve both your inside sales community and your outside partner community.

BL: Absolutely. Well, one of the things that we have done is we have taken an outside in approach. It is very difficult to maintain that discipline because when you are the organization of a function that designs and develops tools and process in the sales force, and a lot of times the sales force does not really like tools and process and particularly, new tools and processes. They like what they know and if what they use is working for them, they do not want to go to the next new thing. As a result, what we did was we brought into my organization a couple of our top sales and SEs and basically, they became the people that helped us design and develop these tools. They were designed both by, with and for our sales force, our partners’ sales force as well. It is amazing when you actually listen to the customer, the reaction you get when you develop something for them. It is has been very successful, but I would say it is because we had not taken an inside out approach, we have taken an outside in approach.

GT: Wow that sounds like a home run.

BL: We feel, I do not want to say it is a home run, but I want to say we are feeling very, very good about the ability to provide meaningful value to our sales force and to give them more time back and hopefully they are looking at that time taking it back to the customer. When we first started this transformation on average, our sales force said we are only having about 20-percent to 25-percent of our time in front of our customer. Some of it was being able to find things for an RFP. Some of it was things like we just talked about on training or on our ability to deliver demonstration capabilities. Some of it was internal meetings. Some of it is the bag is a lot bigger today. We are feeling pretty good about the position we are in at this point in time.

GT: Outstanding. Bill, great story. Thanks for joining us here at the Forum.

BL: Thank you. I appreciate it, Gary.

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