What to do when demand increases 30X overnight?
Today we look inside Hilary Headlee’s world as she mobilized the sales team to handle our societal dependence on Zoom as we transitioned to a post-pandemic context. Hilary is the Head of Global Sales Operations and Enablement at Zoom as well as an LP in Stage 2 Capital. Have a listen. A brief overview of our discussion is below.
As Hilary reflects on her world back in March, she buckets her actions into change management and communication categories. On the change management side, she recognized the need to fulfill a quarters worth of effort in less than a week. There were three aspects to her change management execution:
- Gather: She balanced information exchange between high volume data insights, efficient note reviews in the CRM, and qualitative observations in meetings across a purposely varied sampling of the team. The key here was to replicate a representative balance of the changing needs between her front-line team and the market.
- Identify: This balanced information intake across mediums and sources enabled accurate pattern recognition that she and her team could use to form problem prioritization hypotheses and validate those hypotheses with trusted front-line sources.
- Anticipate: The pace and magnitude of these operational changes meant a “back-to-basics” expectation on the goals the team took on and the need to get ahead of major shifts as best they could. New customers and more customers meant new problems and more problems. The “new” aspects were most challenging. Time constraints meant the typical enablement path of well-formed documentation coupled with in depth training was not an option. Instead, the scope of successful enablement meant simply educating the front-line salespeople how to triage a growing set of new questions from new customer segments, leaning heavily on internal resources like support and billing.
On the communication front, the best sales enablement leaders I have worked with recognize that one-time group training often yields less than a 10% absorption rate. Instead, a multi-medium, repetitive communication design is needed to ensure front-line adoption. Hilary has always operated under this strategy and found it imperative during the task before her this Spring. She used team meetings, chat, email, and the hierarchical leadership structure to maximize accurate understanding and implementation of change management strategies. For example, the entire Zoom management team immediately adopted a trickle down daily communication structure. The executive team met daily at 8 AM, Hilary met with her leaders at 8:30 AM, and her leaders met with their teams at 9 AM. This frequency was critical to scaffold the gather, identify, and anticipate change management motion.
As a bonus, I asked Hilary about one of her favorite features in her own product, Zoom. Not surprisingly, the use of chat to reinforce meeting objectives and outcomes is among her favorite. She starts every meeting by posting the agenda on chat and documents key action items and decisions. This approach helps team members who are more visual learners to stay abreast with the meeting flow and serves as an additional checking mechanism so that decisions and actions are captured accurately.
For the entrepreneurs reading this article, I hope you experience a rapid spike in demand for your product at some point in your career. I’d like to thank Hilary for taking the time to outline her response framework. I also want to thank the broader Zoom team. I can’t imagine the effort required by every member of the team to transition so many of our societal norms, whether religious ceremonies, kindergarten, doctor visits, or a simple catch up with a loved one, I think we take for granted how well Zoom has stepped up to make those transitions as seamless as possible.