What challenges have you faced over the last 12 months, and how did your team deal with the adversity and handle the pressure?
In this article, I’m going to share with you Rackspace’s experience during an unprecedented convergence of events focusing on three important learnings:
... diamonds are made under pressure, great is the enemy of the good - no one wins alone, and leaders matters.
A brief introduction
My name's Uttam Reddy, I'm the Vice President of Global Sales Enablement and Strategy at Rackspace. A little about me before we get started, by way of introduction, I've been in the business for about 25+ years in a variety of companies from large to small.
I started my career at IBM as an industrial engineer, designing factories for them. I spent 14 years of my career at Dell in service delivery, sales, sales operations, and strategy. Later in my career, I really pivoted towards small privately held software companies prior to joining Rackspace this summer.
Alongside my professional journey, my wife and I have raised two teenage boys, you can see a photo from a recent fishing trip we took them on before the COVID shut down, and I have a golden Doodle.
There are three things I want you to think about as I embark on this article and the story that I'm going to share with you about Rackspace's experience. I'll touch on these at the end.
- Diamonds are created under pressure and I'll tell you what that means as I go.
- Great is the enemy of good - no one wins alone. And,
- Leaders matter.
These are probably the three biggest things I'd ask you to think about.
Along the way, as you think about these things, three questions you should be thinking about in the back of your mind as well are:
- What challenges have you faced in the last 12 months?
- When you and your team are under pressure how do you respond? And,
- How is your organization structured?
All of these will come into play as I embark on this article and share best practices. It starts with our CEO.
The CEO: fanatical customer experience
We were on a mission from 2019 all the way through to going public in August of 2020 with our CEO Kevin Jones to develop and deliver a fanatical customer experience to build upon the heritage and history of Rackspace.
In doing so, he challenged us to build a global sales enablement program and ongoing development program to drive global consistency in all the markets and customers that we serve. We had a very short time period to go do this.
Let's unpack this a little bit and start with the team.
The sales academy team: small but mighty
The team that did all of this work inside of Rackspace, the sales academy team - one of the teams that I have - is relatively small. Five program managers that not only design and deliver content, three business partners, a communications person as well as a coordinator.
A relatively small team given the size of Rackspace. If you aren't familiar with Rackspace, let me update you on what Rackspace looks like in 2020.
- We're 7000 Rackers strong,
- 125,000 customers,
- Two and a half billion in revenue.
- This sales academy team looks after 950 enablement customers inside the company across three regions.
- Customers have been at the foundation of our company since our founding in 1998 and we continue to serve and grow as we accelerate our progress as a company into 2021 and beyond.
Diamonds are made under pressure
Unprecedented convergence of events
We had lots of challenges, an unprecedented convergence of events going on in 2020. This is how we had aggressive challenges and what we did about them to build out our enablement program.
No regional consistency
First and foremost is really no regional consistency. We want our customers to have the same experience regardless of what market they're in across the globe. Consistency was an important point.
Response: executive engagement & global evangelizing
We started by internally focusing on stakeholder alignment, as well as the executive alignment and global evangelizing to make sure that everyone was on the same page in what our mission was.
Scope creep on audience and content
Scope creep in on audience and content was also a challenge. The original mandate and request was to do enablement and ongoing development for sellers. Along the way everyone got excited about this and said, let's do this for the customer success managers as well.
Response: create two tracks
Locking down the scope and building two distinct tracks to help both customer-facing roles - the seller, as well as the customer success person at Rackspace, was built and locked down.
In doing so we actually engaged 70 different subject matter experts across the globe.
Rackspace offices shut down globally
While we're doing all of this COVID hit, it hit us, it hit you, it hit our customers. Rackspace's offices were shut down globally and all Rackers were moved to remote work.
Response: rapidly pivot to 100% online instruction
We had to really rapidly on the fly pivot and reinvent ourselves by taking a three-week instructor-led training curriculum around what we're trying to do for enablement and making it 100% online and remote.
There were some challenges posed with that.
No global platform or budget
We had no global platform to do this with, we asked, how do we drive rapid adoption in a short timeframe?
Solution: evaluate and select a vendor
We said we need to make sure that whatever learning management system we pick is globally enabled, as well as has some elements of gamification to improve adoption and accelerate it.
What we had to do is really rapidly select, evaluate, and deploy a learning management system globally, as well as the content library.
Tracking progress globally for 950 Rackers
After we did all of that, we needed to track the progress of these 950 Rackers that we serve internally, our internal customers, and measure progress so that we can get this done on time to deliver the results the company wanted.
Solution: weekly scorecard/tracking to CEO
What we did was really develop a robust weekly scorecard. This was reported to our CEO and the senior leadership in the company every single week.
Enablement needed to support growth
The reason all of these things were converging was because we had a compelling event in August of 2020 - we were going public, and enablement inside the company is viewed as a strategic advantage and development and investment in our people to have better customer experiences and better outcomes.
Solution: maniacal focus on driving business outcomes
In doing so, we had a maniacal focus on business outcomes, but doing it the right way, and coaching up and developing our sellers to have a better conversation with our customers.
The diamond was formed: Race to Win Program
Out of all of this, the diamond got formed at the bottom, the Race to Win Program that I'm proud to say our team built out and delivered.
The Race to Win Program is really a four-tiered directed learning and development program for our customer-facing Rackers in the company.
It sits on top of a gamification platform that naturally promotes competition and adoption and makes it fun for the learner to go through this rapidly. In each tier, what we did was tried to make sure that we have a solid foundation for everyone in Rackspace, to make sure that they had basic keys to be successful, no matter what customers or what market they serve.
Race to Win levels
Racer was a foundational piece that 100% of the Rackers that were customer-facing had to go through.
We've recently just started with Sprinter, which is 90 days, self-directed, ongoing coaching, lighter weight on the curriculum, but more reinforcement in coaching.
It's also applied learning because everyone that's invited into Sprinter had to complete Racer, but they also have to self select three accounts they want to work on. It's actually practical in helping them in their day to day work of being successful at the company.
In 2021, in the future, we're building at Indy and F1. These are advanced development programs for our customer-facing sellers and customer success.
For the Indy program, you have to be sponsored by your manager, a top performer.
For F1 when that's available later in the year, you have to be sponsored by an executive in the company to be in there.
Five core competencies
All of these are underpinned by five core competencies that we value inside the company, which are:
- Business acumen,
- System and tools,
- People and process,
- Sales motion, and
What that means is really having better conversations with our customer, understanding your internal processes and CRM tools, engaging the right people at the right time in terms of sales motion, and being clear about what our portfolio of service offerings and solution offerings are in the company that we can serve our customers with today.
We underpin all of this content and program with two platforms.
- We chose MindTickle as the learning management system, which had the gamification built on top of it, which we love.
- We use Seismic as the content library to help enable that.
Our leaders really leaned into this on a global basis. To give you a real example of a scorecard, my weekly scorecard to the leadership was something like this.
This is actually a real one with the names removed. Each one of these dots represents a sales team at Rackspace around the globe. When we first started off, you can see lots of people in the lower left.
Good means being in the upper right corner, which means you've not only completed all of the program but you’ve adopted it. You're seeing it in your behaviors, pipeline, and outcomes.
We maniacally focused on this every single week with our leadership team and drove it all the way deep into the organization. A management system is critical when you're doing this kind of large scale deployment. If you don't measure and manage this day in and day out, week in and week out, it doesn't get done.
This was one of the big things that helped us be successful in a very short period of time - bringing focus to it on a frequent cadence.
So, what does 98% have to do with COVID?
The results get me to the 98% that you have probably been wondering what that's all about.
I'm proud to tell you that this team pushed so hard, we took 950 Rackers around the globe, you can see all the pins on the map below, and got 98% of them through all of that process in four months, during COVID.
In addition to picking up the LMS, including pivoting everything to online, we built out 155 different learning objects, distinct objects, reinforcing the five competencies, and you can see the results of the bottom.
18,262 training hours
You can see over 18,000 hours of training was consumed by this population.
37,176 learning modules
They completed 37,176 of the learning modules they were prescribed in their distinct learning path.
82 new sellers
We hired 82 new sellers along the way that went through the program as well.
These are all results that were in real-time, rapid adoption, the diamond being formed, and it really converged with having all these compelling events pushing on us, for us to act and act together and act quickly.
Internal learner feedback
But beyond being proud of our work, let me share some of the internal learner feedback that we got along the way. These are all verbatim quotes that we received from learners that went through our program. I'll just highlight a couple of these, but you can read them all in the image.
For example, the sales manager, 'I love the business acumen and sales motion competency sections, it's good to refresh on the basics'. This gets me fired up, it's exciting to hear something like that.
People that have been longtime Rackers, getting them the investment and development in them and letting them reinvent themselves, 'Even as a Racker of 10 years, I found it to be an excellent refresher on the basics'. I love hearing something like that from tenured Rackers as well as new Rackers.
If you look at customer success, 'I found the program to be hugely beneficial to a new recruit, especially the CSM related content, customer success'.
You can see across the board and across the globe a variety of feedback from different roles of people that went through the program. I'm proud to say this is probably the best validation.
Scorecards are good and getting everyone through the program is good. But seeing this kind of positive feedback shows that we're onto something and we delivered a high-quality product that's being consumed and adopted inside Rackspace today.
I started with the end in mind, and I'll close with the same.
- Diamonds are created under pressure. I asked you to consider what challenges you have faced in the last 12 months and how you responded to adversity. This is how we went after it and under intense pressure and a sense of urgency, we created a world-class program called Race to Win - a diamond that was our moonshot this year.
We couldn't have done it without a more experienced talented team that knows how to collaborate. That fits neatly into...
- Great is the enemy of good - no one wins alone. This didn't happen without deep collaboration. I mentioned we had 70 different subject matter experts working very closely with a very small core team in global sales enablement, to build out 135 modules, to deliver this high-quality training and enablement in a short period of time.
We also needed to trust each other, collaborate and be aligned, and not look for perfection. If something was good enough and high quality to our standards, we moved, we didn't wait for five decimal places. When we said it was good enough if it's 95% right let's do it. Let's book it and let's develop the module and complete the module. If we didn't do that, we would have never gotten this done in the period of time that we did.
- Leadership matters at all levels. This is not just about the CEO or the executive leadership at Rackspace. It's all the way down to the frontline manager. It's down to the individual contributor. It was up and down the entire stack and leadership matters at all levels. If we don't have everyone aligned and excited and energized about wanting to do this, this wouldn't have been done.
These are three things I would leave you with, as I asked you to think about. These are the things I wanted to share with you on what good things can happen when you rally a team around a common mission and sense of urgency.