Insights on Operational Enablement with Christopher Kingman

Christopher Kingman is the Director of International Enablement at TransUnion.  In this conversation with The Collaborator, Christopher will share his thoughts on Partner and Operational Enablement.

Christopher walked us through the contract signing process to explore how to improve processes.

1️⃣ Take a look at the process from end to end.

2️⃣Don’t focus on segments of the process in isolation from the whole system.  You may “fix” an issue in one area only to make the overall process work, or worse for people involved with other aspects of the process.

Remember, it’s possible that the process you are analyzing is solid but people are not properly following it.  Dig in and find the root cause.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Christopher Kingman
Good to

The Collaborator
connect. I’m so excited about this man. And before we went live, I was I just want the audience to know I was asking about that picture back there. You said that Orlando in 18. What you’re

Christopher Kingman
downtown Orlando in 1884.

The Collaborator
I love that kind of stuff. I live just outside of Boston up here. And I love looking at like the old pictures of Boston. Heck, the town I live in used to be a I think it used to be a garbage heap, you know, you go back 200 years ago. And that’s literally what they built this town upon. So if you go far enough back, you don’t want to just explore all the stories. I’m

Christopher Kingman
originally from Massachusetts. So I want to ask why don’t he boonie insults at you, you know, prepare my town two years.

Unknown Speaker
Where were you from?

Christopher Kingman
Framingham?

Unknown Speaker
Grammy, I’m

The Collaborator
a nice, I’m in Winthrop. I’ve been here for about 30 years, I grew up in Vermont and then moved down here, man, my wife and never left.

Unknown Speaker
There you go.

The Collaborator
That’s the story. Hey, do me a favor, take a few minutes and tell people about who you are, what you do, and all of that good stuff. Sure.

Christopher Kingman
So currently, the director of international enablement for TransUnion. That’s a really long way to say that, you know, I get to help out seven regions across 33 countries, with anything that kind of evolves or excuse me involves revenue or sales enablement, whether that’s tech, whether it’s training, sales, or even go to market strategy, you know, I can kind of put my spoon in a whole lot of pots there. You know, I’ve been doing this for internationally for three years. And before that, I ran one of the enablement teams for their US based tech startups that they

Unknown Speaker
acquired.

Christopher Kingman
On top of all that stuff, founding member of sales enablement society, and now I serve on the board of advisors as well. So they certainly keep me engaged and active in the community. And it’s a great, it’s been a great ride since the very first meeting.

The Collaborator
Yeah, as I say, You’ve long been somebody I’ve respected and paid attention to in terms of what you share out there. Tell us a little bit though your team. So TransUnion, you’ve been there for a long time. It sounds like, Yeah. How does the enablement structured in at a high level? I don’t mean the details.

Christopher Kingman
Sure, sure. So what a lot of people don’t know about TransUnion. And my guess is maybe your audience is probably skewed to the US. So everybody thinks about their credit score when the Eritrean union, right, and certainly, we’ve been in that space for a very, very long time. But internally, we’ve got kind of three pillars, where we focus our teams, we have a healthcare division, and we’re very big in the healthcare space, a lot of people don’t know that. And we have, you know, that’s kind of its own thing. It’s so it’s has a lot of its own resources. And then you have the US and you have international. So I was in a portion of the US business, based on an acquisition in 2013, of a technology company down here in South Florida. And after, I think it was about five years post acquisition, I was invited to join the international team. And that’s where I focus my efforts. And the way that the enablement structure exists, is you have a team that represents sort of all of the you. Which, you know, depending on the part of the business, and the needs of that part of the business, they kind of try to address those needs, but that’s, um, it’s a tall order, right? It’s a fairly large company, I think we got like 8000 people, we’ve got a good sized sales organization. So it’s, you know, getting getting very specific is challenging. I represent the international side. And so I oversee a lot of the enablement activity that happens there. And under that sort of international umbrella, we break the businesses into seven regions, right. So 33 countries, seven regions, and each region has their own enablement needs. And my role is to work with the regions and see what have they created? Or what are they doing? What are their needs? And then go to the US and say, here’s what this portion of the business needs, what do you have? What are you working on?

Unknown Speaker
Yep.

Christopher Kingman
And if we they can’t meet the needs, then it’s between me and the business to come up with the best way to address it. So do we outsource this? Is this a universal challenge? Or a region specific challenge? What have I created in the past? What can I source? What can you know, what can I come up with, with the resources in the regions and they’re all different? And then we we address the challenges that way. And it’s a it’s a great, you know, it’s it’s not a it’s not a rigid structure, it’s, it’s pretty fluid. So if something that’s coming out in the US just is not really applicable to most of my markets, we can we can just say, you know what, that’s not really what we need, or if something is applicable, but it needs what we call localization. We’ll get a product or a program or you know, a set of resources that are like an 80% Intel completeness. And we’ll partner with a region to make it much more localized and applicable, depending on the market, what we sell our position, etc. With

The Collaborator
the size of the organization, the number of countries and regions you’re working with, you must be non stop with 5 billion requests coming through how in God’s name, do you prioritize all

Christopher Kingman
that? Well, I work with a lot of talented people, there is always a benefit. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by people that work very hard and are much smarter than me. And I just I just connect the dots, you know. So we do two things, we take a macro view, and we look at all we’ll just say, we’ll say all TransUnion first, and we’ll say what are the consistent themes in sales that we need to address? You could probably rattle off five, and chances are, they’re all five are the same that we’re dealing with, right? It’s, uh, you know, it’s pretty same across the board in the enterprise space. But between the US and myself, we’ll look at these challenges and say, Okay, how are we going to address these, so let’s say sales leader developments, always in the

Unknown Speaker
top five,

Christopher Kingman
of every survey every year, so that maybe they’ll take on that portion of it. And we’ll say, we need this to, we need to prioritize it. Let’s partner and let’s get it done. And then we’ll go through the motions, you know, maybe we’ll find the budget, or maybe we’ll source stuff ourselves, like, I’m certainly not a stranger to generating content on my own. And then we can also take a micro view and say, you know, maybe one of our regions that is, it’s smaller. So you know, maybe it’s a, it’s under a certain million dollar cap or whatever, they don’t have an enable, but dedicated enablement resource, or somebody in that capacity. We’ll, we’ll also see what we can do for them, maybe we’ll just advise and say, Okay, if you need, maybe you need LinkedIn training, here’s Volume One, here’s Volume Two. And here are a couple of checklists that we’ve created. If you want, we can walk you through this, all you do is find somebody to spend the time with your people. And that’s it. Right?

Unknown Speaker
Okay, yeah.

Christopher Kingman
It’s kind of sort of patching the small holes that you can patch that don’t require a huge investment of time or energy, but also looking for, you know, where, where can we get these big scalable wins? Where

Unknown Speaker
can we launch

Christopher Kingman
launch big and launch small, and sort of meet in the middle in terms of how we support organizations and their needs? Now,

The Collaborator
so do do each of the regions? Or do many of the regions have their own dedicated resources? Then Chris,

Christopher Kingman
it all depends on their size, some have maybe two or three, some have none. Yeah, and you’ve got, you know, people wearing two hats. And, and those people, they work their butts off, and it’s great. And that’s when maybe what will make the call to say, okay, you know, what, we’ll have to advise them, we’ll create the content for them, we’ll help push it to them, here’s what to do, here’s what to say, and here’s how to make sure it’s successful. Go do it, come back to me. And then let’s look back at 30 6090. And make sure this is successful. Versus, you know, maybe one that’s got resources in somebody whose sole sole responsibility at that business is enablement and training, will just hand them the stuff, give them the guidance, make them go through the train the trainer, and then you know, report back in when you’re done.

The Collaborator
That’s cool. None of that’s really cool. If it’s, you know, if I can take a specific example, just for a second. So like the sales leader development example that you threw out there, and you’re right, we all, we all have that challenge. sales leaders are hard, working smart, dedicated people, but often in over their heads, depending on how they came up. And they need our support as much as anybody. When when a need like that is identified. Do you then sort of partner to get the resources in the region, like you just described for, you know, for the other example? or Are you hiring trainers in each region to go in and do it? Or? Or how does that actually work? Do you have like a big old fashioned Rolodex of calls?

Christopher Kingman
So, you know, one of your biggest challenges when you’re working in the international space is time, right? It’s time zones?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
You know, certainly

Christopher Kingman
no stranger of late nights, early mornings. And that’s fine. You know, it’s, it’s in the, in the contract when you sign up, per se. So we’re very conscious to, to find the right people that can cover multiple areas. So I have a colleague who lives in Mumbai, and Mumbai is is you know, within the same sort of time zones, as most of Asia Pacific, they can cover the UK, depending on time, they can cover South Africa too, right? So it’s a good it’s a good position to be in and so on. We’ll take somebody in that low cow, and bring them up to speed on the program and have them delivered across multiple areas. Nice. So, you know, one of the things I’ve been striving for over the last few years and kind of a concept, I’ve been trying to explore the enablement spaces enablement shouldn’t be rigid. How you measure things, how you deploy things, how you approach them, and like you asked sort of how do you prioritize, it should all be fluid, it should all be organic. And you sometimes you have to make the decisions or that one part of one part of your business is not going to get the full level of support that another part is, but you’re going to bring it as far as as you can write, there’s only so much you can do because you’re limited. But it doesn’t mean that you at a bare minimum, you can’t expose people to new ideas, new content, new ways of doing things, new technologies, it just means someone’s not going to Well, maybe not anymore, someone’s not gonna sit right next to you and walk you through how to do it right or, or sit face to face and coach it. Yeah, not that those days aren’t aren’t ever going to come back. But the those are some of the, those are some of the trade offs. Now, in the environment we’re in now, it’s a little bit less hectic, right? You know, you still got people working the same amount of hours, but it’s spread out across a larger timeframe. People are more willing to, you know, meet you at a better time, maybe it’s later or maybe it’s earlier because of where they’re situated and what they may have going on, you know, trying to get those kids to school at exactly nine o’clock in the morning is not conducive to business, right. But we’re able to still by being fluid and arranging the right people still meet a lot of our sellers needs

The Collaborator
now. And that’s an important one a lot of flexibility in just in terms of how we do things in terms of how we prioritize and everything these days. Do you do you? Typically? And I’m assuming the answer is yes, to some degree. But do you pull in data to help you do the prioritization process? Or is it? I know, it’s not purely who yells loudest? I know it’s not that for you, but we all have a little bit of that, too, is reality do? How much? What is the balance of like for you and your world?

Christopher Kingman
So it really depends, right? You think of sources of data. And the best source of data to me is the loudest one in the room. You know, whether that’s their personality, whether the problem is really that bad? That’s fine. Let’s look over there. Let’s see what it is and what’s at least make sure that person feels hurt. Now what let’s say hard data you can collect from CRM, or from content management, you know, usage, emails, calls hard data like that, you know, it varies, it really varies. Because, you know, some people don’t have soft phones, right? And so your telephony systems all based on hard phones back in the office that you’re not in anymore. Some people aren’t the best, the CRM, and maybe their notes aren’t that good. And their opportunities aren’t as up to date as you would like them. That’s fine. I’m okay with subjective and anecdotal data, as an enablement person. Professional, it’s, it’s sort of been the thing that I’ve noticed is taken, taken whatever you can take in anecdotal stuff take in complaints, because it’s going to lead you to where you need to go in terms of figuring out a what’s the problem be? What’s the real problem? What’s the underlying cause? Right? Is, is the problem really just a symptom of the problem? Yeah, and see what’s, what’s the holistic view of how to fix it. And then you take all of that data. I did this a lot in the US business, I would just just subjectively ask people to questions. And I’ve mentioned this on a few podcasts before. My favorite approach is just tell me what sucks is Tell me everything about your job that sucks. What’s keeping you from being as successful as you think you could be? And this produces a whole bunch of, you know, results, a person’s going to vent? Well, if they know you well off, they’re going to vent they’re going to tell you what’s bothering you how clean that language is. to

Unknown Speaker
you. Yeah.

Christopher Kingman
profanity laced, tirade, maybe, but you’ll get some good stuff out of that. And so you take all that data, take abundant notes, write it down, record it, whatever you got to do, and then ask them, okay, so you got a magic lamp, you rub the lamp and this problem goes away, what does that look like? And chances are the people who are steeped in the problem who live the problem know the way out or they have an idea, right? And that’s, that’s kind of use that data because somebody’s doing the other they’ve done all the thinking for you, right? collect all of this data and it’s on you to just figure out okay, I’ve got a lot of data. I got a lot of complaints. Let’s look for commonalities. Let’s look for themes. Let’s really figure out what what the real issue is. And you may have follow ups, you may have a lot of questions. And that’s great. That’s exactly what you want. You never just want to be okay, they talked and here’s the problem. It’s, it’s really never that simple for a real problem. Take all that data, and then you you rank it, what’s what’s the most important problem to solve to?

Christopher Kingman
What’s the least and the other thing you do is what can I solve quickly? Yeah. And you just prioritize it and attack it that way.

The Collaborator
I know, you spent a lot of really great stuff in there, Chris at and things that I just wanted to spotlight is you have data sometimes, but you still have to balance those with the conversations, you know, you have the qualitative and the quantitative data available to the conversations, the data from CRM, and you have to listen to both and figure out what the hell’s going on. I also really love that you said, it’s not simply about you going off and saying, here’s a solution. Because your solution may be a crappy one. It may work in practice, but it may not actually work in reality, and whether you sold or not, unless you’re actually doing it every day, your solution is going to be somewhat distant from the reality of what they’re going through. So I think those are excellent points. Talk to us a little bit about operational enablement, I have super excited. I get super excited when people talk about improving processes. You What does it mean for you? How do you focus on process improvement around what you were calling operational enablement?

Christopher Kingman
Sure. So I think of it this way, right? There’s a lot of roads to revenue, there’s a lot of way to hit your number in sales. You know, you can just pick up the phone and literally fall in a pile of cash and find somebody that just got a challenge, or that has never

The Collaborator
happened to me. But I mean, either

Christopher Kingman
somebody, I’m sure somebody has,

Unknown Speaker
I’m sure, yeah.

Christopher Kingman
You can hustle like most of our sellers do. And, you know, try to bridge the gap between either you have a challenge and you know about it, or there’s a challenge that exists and you don’t know about it. And by the way, we might be able to help you. Or, you know, there’s a lot of ways to get to revenue. And there’s also a lot of ways to prevent those actions, right. And when you think about your sellers, they’re really like the the goal, and I heard this the other day, it was Bryan Adams, and he says they’re not focused on selling activities, they should be focused on buying activities, what’s going to drive the buying process? I thought it was great, great quote. And when when I think about operational enablement is how do I remove all the roadblocks from the buying process. And the the big challenge that, you know, an enablement professional can come across is, the buying process is not exclusive to sales right there, you got a lot of partners in your organization, that they may never speak to a customer. But if they don’t do their job, contracts aren’t getting signed, you know, quarter they’re getting hit and checks aren’t getting cut and is bad. So you want to look at it from that perspective, I think if if I had to give a couple pieces of advice on how to approach it, the first thing is, take take any process, and I like picking on the contract signing process, because it’s usually complicated wherever you go. So you take this process, the first thing you have to do is look at it end to end, end to end always end to end, how it enters, where whatever function you’re looking at, and how it exited, exits, and where it where it goes through the whole thing. So if you think about a contracting process, it goes to sale it goes to legal goes to billing and finance, it may go to your product and solutions team to it touches a lot of hands. So you have to understand it front to back. And the reason you want to understand it front to back is you don’t want to get into siloed thinking you don’t want to get into Okay, well if I solve the contracting process for sales, we’re fine because that contract may originate in sales, but it leaves sales goes here comes back to sales goes there it comes back to sale, and then anywhere in that it may break and it may break outside of sales or it may break in sales, you may fix it but it still not may improve the project. So

The Collaborator
you are you may or may not work for somebody else down the line.

Christopher Kingman
So that’s that’s certainly another another thing I’ll touch on here in a second is first, you have to understand the process holistically front to back and down how it impacts everybody. The second thing and I touched on this earlier is you have to understand what the real problem is right? So the contract process takes too long is not a problem. That’s a symptom. It just takes too long. Why does it take too long? Well, it could be it could be a handful of factors. So you have to sort of look at this problem that you’re trying to solve operationally, at every component through every everything that it touches to see where it breaks down, and the lat and that way, when you go to address it, you address it holistically. So the process front to back is intact and saved. And the other pieces, you want to do that, because it prevents what I call the Hydra effect, in what you just touched on is, I may fix it for sales. Yeah, but it may create two more problems down the road, right? off one head, and two shall replace it. That I’ve seen that so many times. And I’ve, you know, when I talk to other practitioners, it’s like I’m having a hell of a time fixing this process, can’t get this to work can’t get this to happen is like, well, how far did you look? You know, where did you go? How you follow the contract? Follow the breadcrumbs? where, how, how much of this process? Did you figure out and understand in order to solve it? And those are kind of the things to look at? And you go back to the prioritization, maybe, maybe the contracting process is actually fine. And it’s a lack of education, maybe your sellers don’t know how to do it. It’s always a complicated process. It’s this why pick on the contract, when it’s always easiest one to pick up? Maybe they don’t understand it, or, and I’ve seen this to people just don’t follow it. And that’s, you know, airtight process is great. But if no one wants to pay, I

The Collaborator
don’t want to follow the process, right?

Christopher Kingman
I mean, I don’t have any rogue agents in my organization, I don’t know, I don’t know about, you know, not everybody wants or twice that sales, people may may or may not follow process accurate. And so you get all of those things that if you don’t understand the process, process holistically, you don’t look at symptoms versus root causes. And you don’t fully think through the impacts of you know, flipping lovers here and there. Yeah, you won’t be in the right mindset or the right position to fix a process.

The Collaborator
You know that? And what a great process you picked, as you pointed out yourself, because it’s always complicated no matter where you go. If you’re one, you said a couple of things along the journey that I just wanted to get your further thoughts on it from a buying perspective. I mean, at the beginning, you were talking about fixing it from the buyers perspective, how do you get into the shoes of the buyer in any meaningful way? To say, oh, we’re actually making their life miserable. And we could have actually fixed that process. Do you have any thoughts on how you how to do that? Well,

Christopher Kingman
certainly, you know, if you’ve got the budget, get a company to Secret Shop you, they will give you the unbiased feedback of how bad you’re doing. Now, that, lets you know, let’s let’s take all of our friends in sales, tech startups or whatever, probably don’t have the budget for that. So get on your phones, get on your personal PCs, and just try to go through the process and see where it fails. It’s always important, and you should revisit that concept quarterly or anytime any kind of changes made. You know, chances are, you’ve got a lot of people in the back end testing things ua, T, all of those things, but they’re they’re putting on their engineer hats, they’re not putting on their customer hats. And, you know, I’m pretty pretty big stickler for like terrible customer experience, you know, if I if I have to go through one, there’s a really good chance I’m not going to do business with you moving forward. And as finicky as that sounds, it’s it’s just I want to represent what I’m trying to do, you know, what I think my organization should do is make the easiest, most seamless, painless, and even can be pleasurable or good experience when making a, you know, a purchase from you it doesn’t

Unknown Speaker
it, it should, at a minimum

Christopher Kingman
just be an exchanger or I don’t want to use the trend term transaction to devalue what you’re doing. But it should be an exchange like that. Nia doesn’t mean you can aspire to make it great. You know, certainly a lot of online vendors a lot of purchases, sometimes you you know, you buy something, and it actually it’s a better experience than you think super quick. Everything’s auto populated, somehow the screen, the interfaces are all seamless. And after you’re done, you get an abundance of pieces of information that you know that we’re all used to because we’re super impatient. So here’s your tracking number. We created a label. It’s sitting in our warehouse, we’ll let you know when it’s moving. By the way, here’s a coupon all of those things, right that’s on the better end, but it all starts with go Going through it as if you were a customer. And you should do that. Even better take somebody take a friend, a colleague and say, hey, I want you to go through this, we won’t call you, we won’t email you. This is a test, just try and buy something from us and see how it goes stop at the purchase screen. Stuff like that is always it’s a quick, easy and get you enough information to make small improvements. And sometimes small improvements go very far.

The Collaborator
Yeah, great, great tips there. Great tips customer. Let me ask you this, we’re almost 30 minutes in and I’d like to keep it about 30 minutes. And you should a lot of really great insight. What happened? We talked about that, you know, around any of this, they like, jeez, john, I really wanted to mention this, because because we just missed it. And I know when you and I chatted ahead of time, you said Oh, geez, you know, I don’t think there’s anything else necessarily that I would bring up. But are there things that we didn’t touch upon around the process improvement specifically, that you feel is worth bringing up? That Christopher?

Christopher Kingman
Well, you know, what I would I would say, um, I have a I have a kind of a comment on what’s going on in our space right now and what my colleagues, your colleagues are probably handling, right? And I guess this is, this is sort of an idea I’ve been working through on enablement. So, you know, I read, I read a LinkedIn post that tech consolidation is happening, and chances are, that’s probably a result of the economy taking a beating, right. And we’ve been predicting it, everyone’s like, oh, big, big year for tech consolidation. Here it goes, yep. Whether that happens or not, right? A lot of our colleagues are in this space where they have to pivot their people to digital space, right, you got to be proficient. As much as much as zoom fatigue is very, very real, you still have to be able to show up for your people, you still have to be able to drive and drive enablement strategies for your people. And what you focus on now needs to be impactful in a digital space, which it is different than in person, right, this is not the same. And so I think one of the ideas that I’ve been working through, in trying to get it on paper is for all of our colleagues, you know, who are going through this and are struggling, I think, I would say one thing to consider is, you know, there’s a lot of tech out there that can help us be more proficient in this space. And you know, certainly always looking at it and always entertaining things. And that’s great. There’s a lot of process improvements that you can make. And now’s the time to look at it, right. Because there’s there’s more time in the day, there’s less travel, there’s less, I don’t think meetings have slowed down. But you know, there’s more time to sort of be reflective on how are we doing business. So there’s an enablement professional, you should be looking at that you should be looking at technology. And now’s the time to double down on your training, whether it comes out of your own head, or you borrow something from share slide or LinkedIn, or, or five, six podcasts like this. And that’s great. The one thing I’ve come to realize is all of those things in combination are great, and you should focus on them. But the one thing that you always need to keep in mind is the piece of technology you’re competing against is quite outdated, and rather old. And that’s, you know, the human mind. And no matter how much training you create, no matter how awesome your CRM interfaces, you also have to focus on the people that you are enabling. Uh, so, you know, we’re now living in our homes, some people can’t even leave, and they’re locked down for the third time this year. Yeah, um, I would say as an enablement professional, now’s the time to connect with each person on your team that you’re supporting, turn on the camera, talk to that person, make sure that they felt heard, they understand what you’re trying to do, you are their resource. And you may be stretching yourself thin, but I’m pretty sure you can fit it in. And just keep that in mind is that you have to, you have to work with kind of the outdated operating system that we’re all handling. And, you know, people’s people’s lives and what’s going on everywhere else is probably impacting how they’re working. But being that resource is just another aspect of sort of being that enablement, professional and then the excellence that we can bring to an organization, I think this is that time to show up for your people. And, you know, be be that resource or that you know, light in the dark, if you will, to help them be successful and navigate these very, very stressful times.

The Collaborator
You know that that’s a set of thoughts that are both wonderful and you should absolutely get them on paper. So, get them get them written down because those are amazing thoughts. And there’s so right on we’re all human At the end of the day, we all have our individual struggles or individual views on what’s happening. Be there for your people one way or another. So I think that’s great advice. Hey, thank you so much for taking time out of your day. I’m sure it’s like 85 and beautiful sunny weather in Orlando. And you’d rather be anyplace but inside on the computer. So thank you so much for taking the time today. And thank you everybody for listening. If you have follow up questions for Christopher and I don’t mean, trying to sell them products and pitching products. I’m sure LinkedIn is probably the best place to reach out. Definitely. Alright, so do me a favor, reach out to Christopher pick his brain, but don’t try to sell them products. I I hate that when people tell me Oh, I got 10 LinkedIn emails right afterwards, and they were all where you buy where you buy where you buy. Anyway, thank you so much. Have a great weekend, everybody. Take care, and we’ll be talking to you all again soon. Bye. Bye.

Christopher Kingman
Thank you, john. Thank you.

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