Lipika Subbiah is the Head of Sales Enablement for Linked In. She has recently kicked off a sales coaching program herself and shares her thoughts on how to operationalize it. Key takeaways

1) creating a peer-to-peer coaching system/ by introducing coaching to everyone and allowing them to experience it.

2) Coach the Coach – not just training sales managers, but creating a process to support them while coaching and make them stronger coaches

3) Process – Lipika talked about the ABC coaching program in their organization that is built to operationalize sales coaching.

Finally, when it comes to measurement. Consider this…Crawl, Walk and Run when thinking about aligning Metrics.

We loved her approach and her tips! We hope you do too. Give it a listen and stay curious!

Check out all the great sales coaching content available on Trust Enablement.
And let us know, how do you want to help improve the Enablement profession?
Audio Transcript

Pooja Kumar
So welcome to coffee collaboration and enablement for ASEAN and India, my name is Pooja and I am here I’m on a mission to create a place where sales enablement and business leaders can learn new ways of accelerating their sales team’s performance. I have here with me today, someone who inspired me lifting Lipica subarea. Oh, I said that incorrectly. So she’s going to correct me in a minute, I owe her some money. So Lipica is the head of LinkedIn sales solutions across Asia Pacific. And she inspired me in a conversation I heard with her I had with her and a talk that I had listened to her speaking in the sales enablement, collective. So Lipica, you’ve inspired me a lot, actually to change my entire content strategy, because you talk so much about micro learning, but also to to with what you what we discussed around sales coaching, and operationalizing sales coaching. I know it’s a hugely hot topic. And we’ve designed an entire month here at top trust enablement around it, because there’s so much to delve into. So I’m keen to hear your points of view and learn more from you. But before we go there, why don’t you introduce yourself and correct me with your last name as well, because I know I did that badly.

Lipika Subbiah
Pooja, thank you so much for having me. This is actually my first live podcast on LinkedIn ever. So I’m really excited to have the opportunity. And I continue to be, you know, inspired by you and your podcast series. So I think there’s a mutual mutual admiration there. Thank you, as you said, I lead sales enablement for LinkedIn sales solutions in APAC, I’m based out of Singapore, I help our sales organization be successful, be productive, growing their Koreas. And I’m a mum of two mindfulness practitioner and a very big dog lovers. So there’s a quick intro to me.

Pooja Kumar
Ah, wow. No wonder I like you so much. I love dogs, too. I’m trying to be mindfulness practitioner. I’m not quite there. But maybe you can teach me some of that. Anyway. So tell me just back to sales coaching before we do mindfulness? What role do you think sales coaching plays as part of your enablement strategy? And, and yeah, tell us a little bit more about sales coaching?

Lipika Subbiah
Sure. Thank you for the question. So since coaching is one of our four pillars of our sales excellence strategy, and from my perspective, it’s really the foundation of our entire sales excellence strategy. You know, as a company, from a commercial perspective, we know what coaching is good for, you know, 28%, lift and wind rates. And all of the metrics that are well published, there’s definitely that angle, we know what it does for performance. And from a cultural perspective, and one of the promises we make it LinkedIn is you leave LinkedIn, a better professional than you were when you joined. And so from a cultural perspective, you know, coaching holds this mindset of each individual being naturally creative and resourceful in whole. And so both from a commercial as well as a cultural angle. It’s so important to who we are as a company, and goes much bigger than sales enablement.

Pooja Kumar
And I agree with you, gosh, you just use those three words creative, resourceful, and whole. And that is psychoactive coaching. And it is absolutely right. In early on in my career, I was introduced to firstly sales coaching, when I started off my sales profession. And that helped me be so much more confident as a salesperson, but as as well as an individual. And then I was introduced to collective coaching to become a coach or to coaching to become a coach. And that has helped not just me individually, but it’s helped me help so many more people over the last 15 years of my career. So I can see, I can see why it’s so important to you and to LinkedIn and I love that it’s so part it’s such a big part of Your your, your enablement strategy as well as just your core value system. Tell me though, too, to be able to get in my, in my experience to be able to get the best outcomes of a sales coaching program. It’s important to operationalize it. How did you go about because I think that’s where we all struggle, we all know that sales coaching is important. And we all know that it is, you know, we go off and we train our sales managers, we’ve identified who we who are going to be the coaches. But we, I don’t know if we all have come up with an algorithm to operationalize it to the best to make it most effective. How do you do that?

Lipika Subbiah
So I don’t have you answered yet. If there’s anyone listening, that does give me a call, tell me, I think it’s a work in progress, you know, for all of us. And the analogy I would use is, I have a 15 year old daughter, and she is late a lot. And so I would often say, you know, it’s really important to be on time, and it’s how you respect other people. punctuality is important. And, you know, she turned around to me one day, and she said, I know why it’s important. I know, I need to do it. But can you help me to actually be on time? And so we talked about strategies of, Okay, I’ll send you a text and she said, you know, she’ll use the alarm on her phone, she said, she’ll ask a friend to remind her. And the way that I linked that to coaching is it’s the same thing, like everybody in sales, knows that, you know, metrics are out, we know, it’s important, you know, we teach people the grow model, and, and all of the core skills, and I just found that similar to kind of the story with my daughter, that it’s not just enough to go with the why and the what it’s like really getting down to Okay, now, how do we actually do it? Like, that’s where that’s where our programs fall down. And that’s, you know, it’s a similar experience to what we had. just sharing from what’s happening in our business line, we launched a coaching program for our managers. So frontline, second line, and leaders as well. Very strong participation, strong engagement, strong attendance, great feedback. But I didn’t really see a lot of change in terms of behavior. And so I got curious about that. And what I observed was two things. For one, we just launched a new solution. So the mindshare, the time, the energy of the managers was all around LinkedIn sales insights, you know, which is our new solution. It’s helping sales operation leaders to plan better with real time data. And so that’s what the energy was on the new solution that we were launching and going to market with. And the second thing that I observed was, we had launched methodology, we’d launched competencies, and we launched coaching quite close to each other. And so managers were figuring out Well, how do I put all of this together in you know, in my day, and you know, how it is when things are too complicated is much easier to say, Okay, I’m not, I’ll deal with it later.

Pooja Kumar
Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And, you know, you speak to having being a sales manager, and I’m sure you’ve had some experience there, too. There’s so many nice to have nice to be able to do things, sales, coaching, those critical to be able to do to move your team forward and get the results that you want. And certainly in my organization and all the organizations that I’ve worked with, and we implemented sales coaching, and you can see there are clearly the managers who spend more than 30 to 40% of their times coaching and, and I’m not talking about holistic coaching, but sales coaching, their teams are really getting great results, great retention, great buy and sold, you can see the numbers. But at the same time managers have got a lot on their plate. So I’m not sure if it should just be the manager. I’m not sure that it should be just it’s fair to say the manager should do all of the coaching. Or if we should give them some some help in this way. I do know it’s it’s more than training and you need to reduce some of those. Those obstacles like you just mentioned right? So understand what are the obstacles and reduce it? Yeah. So many thoughts. Yeah, yeah. What would you do? How would you operationalize that a little bit more? Any ideas?

Lipika Subbiah
Some ideas? Yeah. And so many thoughts come to mind, as I hear you speak. So the first way that I agree with you, I don’t think it should be all on the managers, you know, I was just having a conversation with one of our global sales enablement leaders just half an hour ago. And, you know, that’s that was exactly that was exactly his comment. Now, one of the things that my colleagues in Europe have done is they have created a peer coaching culture. So they have put through 500, individual contributors through a coaching certification. So rather than it just being all on the managers to drive a coaching culture, you know, my colleagues in in Europe have flipped that and have said, Let’s, you know, let’s start, let’s go to our customers first. And it’s just been so brilliant and inspiring that that’s something that I want to bring to, you know, Asia Pacific in my line of business. So that’s one idea. Not my own, but I’m stealing it from your reps.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, we steal everything. And I’m giving it away. So everyone listening, like steal away. idea.

Lipika Subbiah
The second idea, I’ll save the biggest one for, for last. So the second idea, and you mentioned this in one of your podcasts is, it’s not enough to tell the managers to coach, we need to give them coaching as well. You know, I was in a coaching conversation today, and one of the managers I was coaching, she said, I’m so glad we have this session, because now I’ve experienced what coaching is, like, I can take away some of the practices that I’m experiencing as a client, and I can give that to my team. So I love that you mentioned that in your podcast, because it’s, it can’t just be on the managers to do all the work. Like I think it’s part of my role to step up and offer that support to them as well, you know, I think I must have done 100 hours of coaching in in the last year and in some companies choose, you know, to hire external coaches, and like, that’s another way of, of solving for that. So I think that’s a second, I think part of operationalizing it is, is giving support.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, um,

Lipika Subbiah
and the big one that we did here in the region, it’s also something I took away from our other business line that had success with it is we help them with the process. So instead of saying, This is coaching, this is grow, go off and do it, one of the things we did was to break it down into smaller blocks. And so we created a process called the ABC, which stands for align, build and conduct. And this is a series of three important conversations that we want managers to have, you know, with their teams, and align is you would notice from co active, you know, where you set the coaching agreement, what are our expectations? What are the ground rules? What’s coaching? What isn’t it like? How are we going to engage with each other? And so we said, that’s one part of the conversation. So we went deep into that we gave them resources, we gave them a guide to help them have that conversation. That’s

Pooja Kumar
lovely. That’s really clever. Okay, then, sorry.

Lipika Subbiah
And then we and then and then we set the build the build conversation. Now we have nine competencies. And managers just didn’t know where to start. And so we said in the built conversation, what you’re doing there is to understand from your individual contributor, like, what is the competency based on their own self assessment and your assessment of them? What is the one competency that would move the needle on their three strategic accounts, so we said narrow it down, bring it to the top three accounts, that’s where the energy of the field is going to be. Look at pick the one competency that will move the needle on that, and then coach specifically to that to build a plan. So that’s the be the build part of the conversation. And then the third part is the conduct. So this is the follows through of actioning your plan and so breaking it down into you know, three, mini conversations, and giving managers guides of what that looks like recording coatings of what good sounds like like really breaking it down making it simple, providing support that was in that’s one way that we’ve operationalized it. And I think like I mentioned to you before we have a new solution, that’s where the energy is. And so we said, let’s focus our strategic accounts on this particular new solution. And so bringing those those things together, has really helped us to meet people where they are at, I feel like we can’t, when coaching becomes a separate thing to your rhythm of business. That’s, that’s not all, we can do our best work in sales enablement. And so that’s, I think, been been a really good learning.

Pooja Kumar
I love that I love align, build and conduct I love all of your so you shared three learnings over there. So create a coating culture through building it across peers. So everyone’s coaching everyone, that’s really fantastic actually giving the manager support by shadowing, so coaching the coach, I actually have run some shadow coaching programs that I wasn’t so sure about, but it had some great results. So I was watching the managers coach, and then you know, after after that, I’d give them some feedback. And, and, you know, you need to be a little sensitive on how you run that program, because with more than two people in a coaching conversation. But but that also is gave gave, it definitely showed some really great results for the managers. But I love aligned built conduct so and if you don’t mind, I’m going to try and steal some of this in my own coaching program. Usually, I also especially like build, because I think it is important to focus on one or two key things. And I think we try and boil the ocean, when we sales coaching, I want it all, as a sales coach, it’s really important to say you know what, I’m going to move the needle on this, and I’m going to move the needle on this within four weeks, or within six weeks before I go to this competency, and sales competency or, or talent competencies, whichever one it is that you’re focusing on, it is important to fix fit, find those one or two pieces. So I really love this the sound of the ABC methodology. And then did you say conduct was mainly about giving them the assets required? Did I get that right? conductors, mainly giving them the assets required to do the coaching.

Lipika Subbiah
So the conduct piece is the follow through of the competency development plan that you do and build. So for example, this may be where they have gone off and had a customer conversation where they have been focusing on the competency of understanding your customers business objectives. So this conversation, you would go deeper into how they did that, you know, what are the learnings? What do they still need to work on? So it’s the follow through of the build conversation? And each of those come with assets and with some with guides?

Pooja Kumar
Okay, fantastic. That’s great support, you’re giving your managers of a bit and tell me how and I know that it’s a fairly new program. So you may not have have a lot of data around this. But have you thought about how you’d measure success?

Lipika Subbiah
Such a good question. I feel like measurement is a hot topic for us in enablement, measurement and ROI. We’re really we’re all working hard to figure out how to do this. A couple of things on measurement and we are quite early in the process. So the first thing at LinkedIn we like to use the crawl walk run approach. And by that I mean you know, with a new program like this, we first want to see that people like it, they’re they’re using it, they’re doing it and so the measurement in this stage of the program is all about our people coaching because you and I know we get good at coaching by coaching like this. It’s like drive and you get good at driving by driving. I’m a terrible driver, but I’m a I’m an okay coach, so we’ll stick we’ll stick with what I can do.

Pooja Kumar
Good thing you live in Singapore then

Lipika Subbiah
yeah, so you know this, this is where we’re at at the moment, we want to see that people are coaching. And so what we’re looking at at the moment is, is volume. I mean, ultimately, we want to move to quality. So we’re hitting, you know, both volume and quality metrics. What we do have is a certification, a basic certification process for managers. So once they’re done with the program, you know, this is where you have your driver’s license, your perfect driver, but good enough to not harm anybody on the road, hopefully. And so we have, we have that. But ultimately, we definitely want to move to a place where nowhere, we’re coaching and really high quality, and we can measure the impact of that. Like one thing I think that could be very exciting is to get upward feedback. So where the coaching clients are giving up with feedback on how well Am I being coached? Because I think with the business metrics, like there’s so many things that go into that, right, if it’s win rates, or revenue, could be 1000 things. So revenue could be great, because we have the best product to help sales operations leaders, you know, plan. Too many things go into that it’s really hard to just isolate and say, Okay, this is because of coaching. And so from my standpoint, like, this is how I would go about thinking about measuring success.

Pooja Kumar
I like that, actually, because everyone goes straight to the metrics. But I think you’re very, absolutely right to say, all you need to first start with getting people coaching, and then getting that feedback. That’s actually a very niche idea, getting feedback from the coachee. on. I’m right, but you know, I think that’s brilliant. It’s, it’s important to do that is that I mean, even even for people like you and I to get a sense of whether or not this is is helping them move forward. I do have a question from Oh, gosh, I hope I say this right from Hans read, rent back. Hi, do you have a one pager off the ABC that you can share? I’m assuming

Lipika Subbiah
pants connect with me on LinkedIn and give me your email address, I will send you a one pager.

Pooja Kumar
Awesome. I hope you got that hands. Okay. Brilliant. All right. So we’ve talked a little bit about metrics. And you know, I really like your approach, because I tend to go straight towards numbers, because that’s what businesses require. But I do think I like your crawl, walk, run approach. And I do think it’s important to kind of stop first and check out volume and quality of coaching before you can get to those metrics. Thank you for that. Okay, I’ve just looking at my question set, set over here. Han says thank you very much. Okay, um, so his mum’s from Germany. I Hans, are you from Germany? I’m guessing you are responding a bit. For others looking to deploy a sales coaching program. And in your experience, do you have any tips, do’s and don’ts kind of things?

Lipika Subbiah
do’s and don’ts? Wow, that’s a really big question for the last five minutes we have left. Maybe I’ll just go with one do and one don’t in the in the interest of time.

Unknown Speaker
On do

Lipika Subbiah
I would say to ensure that you have an executive sponsor somebody high up in the organization that is really passionate about coaching that will mobilize resources that will build advocacy for you. So that would be my one do on the don’t there are so many and I only know because I’ve made all of those mistakes. Yeah. I think on the don’t I would say don’t just focus on theory. Because I mean, we know from from learning theory, you know, 10% of learning happens in formal learning and so just giving people a coaching program teaching them grow it’s it’s not really going to move the needle so I think that would be my don’t,

Pooja Kumar
I think you just hit my top two as well. My top my top don’t go to executive buy in I was going nowhere. And and make sure it’s it’s more support than just giving them the module to say this is how you coach, because that also goes nowhere. And Hans has come back saying he’s from Denmark. Hi, Hans.

Lipika Subbiah
Hans I in half Danish. So, yeah, looking forward to connecting with you on LinkedIn. My mom is from Oh,

Pooja Kumar
gosh. Okay, lipikar take a minute to brag. In all of your career, what are you most proud of?

Lipika Subbiah
in my career, what am I most proud of? In this time, I would say, I’m proud of the coaching that I’ve done in the last year. I think, unlike any other time in history, like managers have had to do so much innovate and how they do their jobs, you know, do their jobs with kids at home, and parents at home, and managers have gone through an enormous amount of stress. Yeah, and I don’t kill cancer. I can’t do anything. I’m not a physicist. But But I can coach. And I think I’m really proud of the people that I’ve been able to help during these times. Because managers have really struggled with, with workload, with burnout, with having hard conversations with prioritization. And so, and I think even just with mental health, you know, and so I think in a small way, I’ve been able to help help some people and, and I’m pretty proud of that.

Pooja Kumar
You shouldn’t be at that you’ve made a big difference. Gosh, it has been a hard 18 months has it feels like a lifetime. And really, I think coaches are just so important right now. To to understand to be the person to lean on, and move people forward. So well done good things. Now, apart from hands, who knows how to get in touch with you already? How do others get in touch with you? And can they if they have any questions,

Lipika Subbiah
they can absolutely get in touch with me, I work for LinkedIn, the best way to reach me is on LinkedIn, send me a connection request, I will accept and if you’d like to have a conversation about any of the things I talked about, I’d be happy to make the time and I’d be happy to learn from you. I think we can really help we’re all figuring this stuff out together. And you know, I love connecting with peers, I don’t do it enough. I tend to stay in my own in my own bubble. LinkedIn is a pretty exciting place. But we don’t have you know, all the answers. And so Pooja, I want to thank you because you’ve helped me achieve one of my goals, which is to connect with peers and to learn from peers. And so I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of your podcasts and, and learning from you and all the smart people out there.

Pooja Kumar
Fantastic. Yeah. What I love about the sales enablement community is that everyone is out to help each one of us. And yeah, if you follow trust in the enablement apart from just the coffee collaboration, enablement podcast, follow tech trust enablement, we have some very clever people and who share their insights and are always willing to help. So thank you Lipica for your time. I’m really really grateful. And I hope your your family are back now from wherever, wherever they’ve been banished from while you’ve been doing this live. And I hope to catch up with you soon. Thank you again for all of your insights. This has been really useful for me and I bet for the others as well.

Lipika Subbiah
Thanks, everyone for listening and Pooja. Thanks so much for the opportunity. It was it was fun talking again. And I hope this won’t be the last conversation we have. I have a lot to learn from you.

Pooja Kumar
Absolutely. We’ll get you back in on that micro learning strategy.