Kristi McColgan is the Head of Global Sales Enablement Programs at Poly. In this conversation with The Collaborator, she explored her journey starting a new enablement career, moving from from Sales into Enablement, and how the first five months of her new career direction has gone.

During this conversation, we explored:

1️⃣ Her journey from sales to enablement how she discovered Enablement and prepared for this new career.

2️⃣ The award winning learning program her team has developed.

Give a listen and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Kristi McColgan
Colgan

Unknown Speaker
was gonna mess it up.

Kristi McColgan
I’m nearly Irish. It’s my married name. So it’s an exciting adventure for me.

Unknown Speaker
Congrats. How long have you been married?

Kristi McColgan
Just about a year so full on quarantine?

The Collaborator
Oh, my Lord, that must have been. Well, this whole past year has been it’s been an amazing year. It’s been incredible. Do me a favor beyond the fact that you’re relatively newly married. And I’m nearly 30 years in. So you got a ways to go to catch up. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what you’re up to?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to. So I’m based on the east coast. I live in Massachusetts, and I have a little rescue pup to keep me and my husband company during all this quarantine. We have a lot of snow on the ground. Right now. I’m a winter person. So I love the snow. I live in the right place for that. And

Unknown Speaker
you definitely do.

Kristi McColgan
For sure some people don’t like it. But I love it. I love the winter. And workwise. So I work for a company called Paulie. And I’ve been with the company almost eight years now. And I’m in a relatively new role on our sales enablement team. And prior to that, I spent a lot of time in the field as a seller in our organization.

The Collaborator
Oh, interesting. So you made an interesting transition that I know I would love to explore a little bit. What on earth prompted you to make that switch in the first place?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, you know, it’s kind of it has to do a lot with what I love about selling in general. And the part that I really like in talking to customers and getting out there and prospecting. Yeah, it feeds into my competitive nature a little bit, right, like, get out there, get the deal be the best, I really, I really do like that. But the part I like the most about selling in general is just, it’s the storytelling and it’s the teaching. And so what I really found a lot of joy from and value from when I was out there meeting in front of customers, and really helping them solve problems and helping them think about things differently. That’s what I drew a lot of my energy from, and if I was feeling tired or exhausted from going through our CRM and making sure my pipelines up to date and doing things like that, I would just go out and talk to a customer. And I feel like I got my mojo back. Right. And so

Unknown Speaker
that’s awesome.

Kristi McColgan
Yeah. So like, in general, that’s what I love about sales. And I think, you know, when I look back on my journey from moving to, from a seller to now on our sales enablement team, I think part of what drew me here is, it’s now instead of being the storyteller out there in front of customers, I’m helping craft the story. And I’m helping serve that up to other sellers to help, you know, sort of spread the good word a little bit more and make sure they’re having really great customer interactions like I got to have.

The Collaborator
That’s amazing. No, that’s cool. I love hearing how people sort of decide to follow that path over, did you when you were doing that and feeling so energized by talking to customers and and everything you just shared? Did you have in the back of your mind and awareness of this thing called sales enablement and same same job for yourself? I think I want to get there, it did a start to form as the months went along selling the years went on selling, or how did you how did you get that inkling that it made sense?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, absolutely. So actually, you know, obviously, I was aware of sales nealon as a function, we have a really strong and mature sales enablement function here at poly. And so I was the recipient of some of our wonderful programs and ongoing training and things like that. So I was aware of the sales enablement and kind of what their, what their role was, and helping me stay up to date on all of the key process and product info that I needed to be aware of as a seller. But I think, you know, once I started participating as like a sharing a case study, or you know, here’s an example about how I used our new, you know, challenger approach in a meeting, I started to get involved in some of our enablement efforts, where I was, you know, acting as a acting out of best practice in a training. And I really was fascinated by just this engine in the background of sales enablement, that’s helping gather all these stories, gather all these best practices from the field, and institutionalize that and really democratize the best practices. So we upskill our whole organization, you know, I love I love that saying, I think it’s like, a rising tide lifts all boats. Right. Exactly. Yeah. So I love that idea of like, you know, what, I feel like I have a lot to give. I feel like I have a lot of passion for it. You know, when I when I acted as a sales subject matter expert from the field in some of our enablement programs, I was like, You know what, this is really cool. So that kind of fueled a little bit of my intrigue and that intrigue burden into desire and here I am

The Collaborator
before before we go into sort of what you’re doing now, you know, five months down the path. Let me ask you this, did you when you want, how did you go about finding out more about the program? You know, if you’re somebody who’s out there listening in sales or another function, what would advice would you give them in terms of in how to learn about enablement? And how to get involved with it. Any any advice to listeners on that front? Yeah,

Kristi McColgan
absolutely. You know, I was really, really fortunate, I don’t think this would happen just anywhere, to have very good management and leadership in my sales role. And when I raised my hand looking to grow, they, they could not wait to help me even if that meant leaving their direct organization, right. So I feel so fortunate to have found some really, really great managers and leaders and women at that, thank you. To help me and really kind of guide me on my on my next steps career wise. And so actually, in partnership with our HR organization, my my sales leadership kind of put together a development plan and a wish list and actually helped broker some introductions around our organization to help me explore some of our different functions internally. And in the background, right, I was used to being on the front line talking to customers all external facing. So they actually really helped me explore some of our other internal functions. And you know, the rest is history, the timing ended up being right, as I sat in on some calls, I shadowed some people, it was a really, really cool experience. And something that I’m, I think it’s a special kind of poly magic thing that happened. And I’m glad that our HR had that kind of career development program. And I’m fortunate to have the sponsorship of my leadership,

The Collaborator
I think, you know, what people should take away from that is, if you don’t work for a company that’s willing to invest in their people, the way Polly clearly invested in your growth path, and what you wanted to learn and experience, you’re probably in the wrong place. So if you find a place that’s like poly, check it out. Sorry, I feel like

Kristi McColgan
we’re hiring right

The Collaborator
through though, because so many of us get in not so many I hopefully not many. But sometimes people get into positions where they’re just unhappy. And you need to raise your hand and find a path to something that you enjoy doing, if at all possible. So

Kristi McColgan
if you want to grow, I think, you know, you need to make sure you have the space to do that. And if you don’t feel you have the space to do that. And on your current team or in your current organization, you know, you have to get really, you have to reflect a little and think about what you want and how you can how you can get it.

The Collaborator
Now you are part of an award winning enablement function. I pretend I have awards all on the walls behind me, but I don’t have a single one. What did you win an award for? Tell us about that?

Kristi McColgan
Okay, so I have to give all the credit to my team, right? We’ve we’ve reviewed, I’m new to this team, right? I’m new to the enablement organization. But just recently, I helped nominate our impact program at poly, which is our ongoing learning. So all of for all of our existing sellers, all of the upskilling, all the new product training, we design quarterly learning plans for them, there’s all different, there’s a buffet of different training types, right, formal, informal bite size, on demand, everything you can imagine, in the program has grown so much over the past couple years. And like I said, I was a part of the program or as a seller, right? I benefited from it. And so we were recently recognized by sales enablement pro for that program. And one final word, it’s really cool. And I have to give so much credit to Maddie who is on my team, she runs that program, she has so much passion, and she really, you know, takes ownership and drives those results. And she partners expertly with some of our our awesome business partners throughout the organization. So throughout a question

The Collaborator
that I was thinking I was going to ask you Next, you know, his question was, you know, basically, what does your enablement team look like? How is it organized? How many people do you have? How many people you’re supporting, you know, is essentially way too out there? Because this sounds like a phenomenal program. And I’m thinking to myself, how many people would I need in place to build up?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, I can tell you. It’s deceivingly. Small but powerful. And when you think about our sales audience that we support, we’re a global team. Yeah, we support over 1000 sellers, right, which

The Collaborator
is an incredibly large number. I mean, that’s, we’re not like we’re supporting 10 people here. How many small but mighty teammates do you have?

Kristi McColgan
Okay, so my my direct team, I have four teammates, and there there are some more there as well, but the way we kind of organize our programs, we have someone who leads our onboarding In our kind of new hire curriculum, she does such a great job building, you know, a sense of community among them. And we call them cohorts. And they really are new teams, and they continue to build their relationships as they progress through their careers at poly. And then we also have someone

The Collaborator
working as a start interrupting Christopher, do they, like continue doing learning experiences together randomly after

Kristi McColgan
they do. So they continue, they have a team and, you know, they’ll chat and compare notes and ask each other questions. And we’ve seen some really cool relationships come out of that program with, you know, a sales leader in in Europe is kind of now like buddies with an inside salesperson in Latin America. And it’s like a really cool dynamic, and they compare notes as they go forward. So once they kind of graduate from our onboarding curriculum and our onboarding cohort program, then they’re ushered into the impact program, which is our award winning program. And that’s our plug,

The Collaborator
you need to be better prepared, we need to do this again, and you need to come with the award itself, our award winning the award.

Kristi McColgan
Maybe Maybe when you repost this, you can add in a little like,

The Collaborator
I’ll see if I can find something. They come out of onboarding to go into this impact program and and what does that look and feel like, if you don’t mind?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so the impact program has, as I mentioned, kind of like all different styles and types of learning opportunities, there are some that are mandatory. And then there are some that are optional. So the mandatory learnings that are part of that program are wrapped into a quarterly learning plan that we assign through our LMS platform. And so we kind of like keep track of it there. And we really rely on our sales leaders to help drive accountability. But we also kind of seek their feedback as we’re developing the quarterly learning plan. So it’s kind of this nice little ecosystem there. And so the the required trainings are a lot of like, you know, new product, formal product training on new product that’s coming to market, or if we have, like we did last quarter, some sales process change with CRM and things like that. We’re kind of expanding the best practices there through our quarterly learning plan. And then as well, if there’s a new tool that we’re creating, like we just recently created a new sales playbook, we might assign an item on the quarterly learning plan where they have to go through review certain things on the playbook, think about how they would use it with a customer and sign off that they’ve reviewed it, right. That’s how we make sure we’re really driving the adoption of some of these new tools that we’re putting in front of our sellers. So yeah, that’s the impact program. It’s, it’s powerful. It’s really, you know, when I think back like, this time last year, for our asked me anything sessions, which are like informal, optional sessions, that are a part of the impact program, the average satisfaction rating from those was like out of 3.9, last year, and this year, the average, I think we had over eight ama sessions in the quarter, and the average score was 4.7. So really, yeah, we’re seeing a huge increase, it’s definitely it’s definitely making an impact with the sales.

The Collaborator
From sales to enablement to marketing, because I think marketing is in your future.

Unknown Speaker
That’s my next guest,

The Collaborator
though. Tell me this, because I’m sure you know, like Sasha, who asked a question, and I know me, I’m thinking, how much training how many people have developing training for this impact program? Because I know Paulie is not like a single product company. Yeah, you’re supporting 1000s of sellers, 1000. sellers. It’s global. How much content? Are you producing it? I mean, you must have people 20 hours a day, creating 1000s of courses a month. I’m exaggerating, purposely, but But what does it look like?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so our team really relies on our business partners for some of those handoffs, right. So So our team, I went through kind of our onboarding, I went through our impact, like ongoing program, we also have a program manager for our technical sellers, like our SES and our essays. And then we have someone who looks after all of our platforms, our sales portal, our LMS, some of our selling tools. And so beyond the those, those people are really the program managers, right. And then we interface and collaborate with we have a enablement comms team, and they help with all of the communications and, and things like that for enablement. And then we also have the sales Content Strategy Team. And the Content Strategy Team does amazing work, working with our stakeholders across the organization to help make sure we’re like sales Finding all of the content we’re putting in front of sales. Right? So, so

Unknown Speaker
nice.

Kristi McColgan
Yeah. So if there’s a, you know, if someone’s looking to get their initiative in front of the sales team and train them up on it, the sales content strategy is like a little sales filter. And they they work some magic with the content that goes in front of sales. And we have, you know, all kinds of handoffs with other training functions within the organization as well.

The Collaborator
So it sounds to me, it’d be just sort of paraphrasing, it sounds to me, like you guys are running the programs and acting almost like the in a great way, the middle people, you know, pulling in what you need,

Kristi McColgan
now we’re in, we’re in the center, right? And so it’s, you know, it’s working with the SMEs, it’s working with our business partners, it’s making sure we’ve got the right cadence with them, to know everything that’s going on to help prioritize what’s important to get in front of sales. And you know, that’s another thing that I think is really a secret to our success is every time, you know, there’s a lot of competing priorities. So every time an organization is looking to get in front of our sales organization, we have to protect their time a little bit. And so we always try to tie something back to a global sales strategy or a global sales call to action, right? So we’re really in tune with the goals that our our sales leaders put out there so that we can help make really good prioritized decisions about how we’re spending time in front of sales.

The Collaborator
I love that. Let me ask you this. How, you know, what advice would you share with people to build this really collaborative partnership that you clearly have going and I know you, you’ve only been there five months? It’s a whole team effort and many people playing but but what lessons have you seen and learned that others can can borrow to try to have the same kind of success that you guys are clearly having?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, absolutely. It definitely depends on how how your organization is set up, right. But I think something that’s been critical that I’ve seen, the team does so well, when I came on board is they are so proactive with all of our different business partners, whether it’s Product Marketing, or sales operations, or product management, they are they have, we have cadences regular cadence is where we’re like, okay, like, what are you guys working on? What can we tell the sales team about that’s new and improved? And, you know, what do you got coming down the pipe, so we’re always kind of in the loop. And we can plan proactively for what’s coming. And then the other thing that I think is really critical is we have so and I can talk a little bit more about Paulie in general and who we are two, but we, um, the way we go to market is through the channel. And so we have a whole channel enablement team that we have handoffs, right. And so we make sure it’s kind of like, we’re doing a little Tango and making sure that, you know, we’re planning simultaneously and we’re having joint calls with stakeholders, and that were really in the loop with channel enablement, and what they’re doing to help enable our partner sellers as well.

The Collaborator
What kind of cadence do people typically find work successfully? And and it probably varies a lot based upon the teams and the level of work going on. But is it? Is it typically like their meeting every couple of weeks, every month? Is that a standard sort of Hey, a status meeting? Or is it up? Or you know, what can you tell us about that? But Christy?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so usually, it’s bi weekly. That’s kind of our default. Yeah. And then when there’s a big project, or a big launch or something like that, we might be meeting kind of more frequently in a little bit of a target like Tiger team fashion. Right.

The Collaborator
Nice. Nice. I love that. I love it. Let me ask you this. Five months in, you’re already won the Super Bowl trophy. So you’re probably going to Disney World or something like that. But what kind of challenges have you seen? I mean, nobody lives day to day everything’s wine and roses. I know you’ve only been married for a year. So it’s probably still wine and roses there but in our jobs, there’s plenty of strife that goes into it. What kind of challenges have you seen and how have have you and the team overcome those?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so you know, I’ve gone through a couple that really are challenges there are there’s so many kind of competing interests there’s so many of our business units that are looking to get in front of sales and and really kind of I don’t know tap into the the sales engine right to help accelerate their program or their initiative and we really have to prioritize what we are going to use sales time with. There are one of our most valuable resources in the in the company right there are moneymakers, and we have to be super intentional when we take time away from their selling. And so I think that’s one thing that we’ve you know, it’s it’s constantly a challenge. I think we’ve got we’re in a good groove where we’re, you know, we have a good balance. But that’s something that I think is always kind of on the radar is the challenge for sure.

The Collaborator
Yeah. And I don’t think there’s an enablement team out there that probably doesn’t struggle with that, you know, big or small, there’s just always 5000 competing initiatives coming at you, how do you? How does your team try to figure out, you know, what the right priorities are?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, well, you know, it’s my perspective, from being in the field is, is very interesting when when we think about doing that, and prioritizing, figuring out what might be important, you know, for a seller, our team also does a really good job just getting in the mind of a salesperson. You know, I was so impressed when I joined this team, just how much they think about, you know, how will this impact the salesperson, what is the salesperson thinking about, they really, really do have a good understanding of how our sellers think, and everyone on our enablement team is eager to learn new things about our sales team. So that is so cool to see. And, you know, I just think it takes a lot of, you have to tie it back to the strategy. So if you’re struggling with that, I think you need to make sure your company has a drumbeat. What is the drumbeat from sales leadership? Yes. What are they? what is important to them. And then when a priority comes in, you have to map it back to that drumbeat, those priorities, and you have to be able to measure it. So those are some of the baseline criteria we think through.

The Collaborator
I love that and so, so smart tie back to the business tie back to the business outcomes. Now Taylor just do a great question. And he was saying he loves the conversation around being sort of the center of the organization, the connectors, the translators, and he was curious on on how you’re defining or co leading on learning outcomes across the org, he’s like, Do you find that you have super clear ask coming up? You know, are people pretty clear about what they need? Or do you have to spend time clarifying prioritizing what to focus on? Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question, Taylor. You know, with that many different groups coming at you, how do you? Are they saying we need a training session on this new Polycom, 123? widget? Or are they saying, geez, we need to sell more? You know, how are you? What kind of requests Do you hear? And how do you figure that out?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, it’s different from some of our different business partners, they work different ways, right, some might have a better idea of how their initiative translates into what’s important about my initiative for sales to know. And then there are others that, you know, maybe we are a little bit more involved in translating that message. And so I think our team has found a very natural flow when we’re partnering across the organization of, really, we’re an expert on what sales needs and what needs to be in front of sales. But we’re also kind of experts on what are some of the other, you know, business units working on? What are our business partners working on, we kind of have to be not experts, but we kind of have to be in the know and aware. So you really have to make sure your internal network is hitting all of those key kind of centers of information so that you’re not, you know, taken by surprise. I mean, sometimes there’s a surprise initiative, right? I’m not saying we 100% know exactly what’s coming our way. But um, you know, I think we try to be as proactive as we can about that.

The Collaborator
You do have a standard? I don’t, and I should, it’s, it’s, I’m realizing I probably should, do you have a standard way of educating those that are reaching out to you for training on, here’s how we peel back the onion to figure out what the real ask is. And then the follow up is, is to try to align those across the entire organization, or his or each unit asking for such different things that you can.

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so you know, one of the things that’s interesting about Polly in our sales organization is we have several types of sales roles. And so we do organize our sellers into, you know, their function. And so certain types of training or certain types of, you know, topics might be more relevant for one of our poly sellers, who calls on channel partners, and it might not be as relevant for a seller who only has like, huge global named accounts. And so you know, we have to we one of the things we always consider is the audience and and that really helps that we have a good sense of, you know, what are our different sales roles, and how do we have to cater the program to them?

The Collaborator
I usually don’t ask about tech, but I’m kind of curious. How do you manage all of those projects and feel free to share software if you want I’m not asking you to but is it a basically a big project management piece of software they use and attracted all over? How are you keeping track of the insanity of it all?

Kristi McColgan
Yeah, so we have caught we do cross play. With the Content Strategy Team in our comms team, and, you know, the the program leads, I have to give them credit they are, you know, on top of their own program planning, right. And so we do have the team has a kind of a broad strategy that we all work on together. And, you know, the program planners are really empowered to be driving what needs to happen in their program. So they’re, they’re super empowered, and they’re really good team players, but also really self sufficient. It’s such a cool mix.

The Collaborator
That’s awesome. So they’re really staying focused on their teams. And it sounds like there’s probably some level of updating happening across the board. So there’s a general awareness of what’s going on. Wonderful. Yeah, absolutely. 28 minutes in Christy. And I feel like we just started but it flew by, it flew by, what did we talk about, we talked about award winning, which is wonderful. We talked about your journey from sales into enablement and your eventual pathway to marketing, I’m convinced is going to happen. We talked about before we got live that wonderful, glorious plant behind you. I think it’s beautiful from

Kristi McColgan
alive.

The Collaborator
So what what should we have touched upon that you want to share in the final couple of minutes? Yeah, you know, I

Kristi McColgan
just want to say, it’s such a challenging time right now in the world. And it really just feels like such a special time to work out Paulie, because we build collaboration tools. And people are collaborating and communicating and working in so many different weird ways right now, with, you know, kids doing remote schooling in the background. And all of a sudden, maybe you know, your husband’s working from home to in the next room. But it’s just, it feels special to be at a company like Polly, where we are providing tools that helped make that chaos a little bit easier, you know, to digest and we make it a little bit easier for you to join your another zoom meeting or another team’s meeting throughout the day and have the right headset where you can go off video and go grab water while you’re still listening to the call that kind of thing. So it does feel really special to know that we are we’re helping people as they remote work. We’re helping hospitals do you know telemedicine, we’re helping schools empower remote learning. So it just it feels like a privilege. And it feels like a really special way that we can help out during these times.

The Collaborator
You You have such a wonderful view, beyond just enablement. With everything you just said there. I think it’s great that you’re in the middle of an organization working in an organization that’s adding so much value in so many important ways right now. And I think it’s important to always keep that in mind. So thank you. Thank you so much, Christy, I loved this conversation. Clearly some others had some great questions, and I hope the answers were helpful. I hope all of you enjoyed this Krissy final question. If people wanted to reach out to you and ask you more, whether it’s about your journey to sales, we know from sales to enablement or about your award winning program or anything else that we talked about. Should they just reach out on LinkedIn?

Kristi McColgan
Absolutely. Yeah.

The Collaborator
Find me on LinkedIn. Awesome. Look for Christy she’s got lots to share. Christy Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day and water that land.

Kristi McColgan
I will get a reminder

Unknown Speaker
byoc soon

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