June 6, 2022
Updated: June 16, 2022

How Patricia Westfall of Kaiser is leading the move from field sales to virtual selling | Building Modern Sellers Blog Series

Meet Patricia Westfall, a Senior Manager for the Sales Capability Planning & Enablement team at Kaiser Permanente. In this interview, she shares how she and her team are adding value during virtual conversations with customers—and how they’re partnering with marketing to build curated content experiences.  

How has your role changed over the last year?

I’ve been at Kaiser Permanente for 15 years. During that time, my role has changed a lot—but so much more this past year. 

Pre-COVID, we were focused on providing a specific portfolio of tools that our sales people could use when they’re out in the field and when they’re engaging with customers. That model has changed drastically in the last year. 

My main focus now is building processes and engagement tactics around our use of technology for our sales teams. We are putting a hyper-focus on virtual engagement and investing in tech that helps us answer, how do our efforts really impact our conversations with customers

How do you make sure your sales teams are impacting customer conversations positively?

It’s been about making sure we are effective in presenting the value to our new customers, while at the same time bringing value to our existing ones. For both, it’s about finding new ways to follow up in this virtual world

The biggest transformation in the way we do business and uncovering the value in our engagements is having insights about our customers’ behaviors that we’ve never had before—things like how they engage with content. I don’t think we can do without this level of insight moving forward. 

Our role has started to expand, taking an even higher 30,000-foot view of our ecosystem to help us answer questions like:

  • Where are the gaps? 
  • How are we supporting the funnel all the way from the beginning through the end? 
  • Where do we find that value moment right at the beginning and bring it through the decision-making process? 
  • How do we begin building advocacy in our customers? 

You mentioned customer engagement insights. Can you share an example?

We have one story where a sales rep was dealing with a broker and the broker kept saying, “Well, the customer hasn’t made the decision yet.” 

Before moving completely virtual, we would have thought that “well, we sent all the information so the customer has to have what they need to make a decision.” But this time, we could actually see that the customer never even opened up the proposal

The opportunity came once the sales rep saw the proposal was opened up. The rep immediately received a notification and was able to quickly turn around to have a targeted conversation with the customer based on their interaction with the proposal. She made the sale and brought on 450+ new members. 

It was a huge success—and we’re hearing more and more stories like that. Now we just need it to become a part of our strategy as we’re thinking about future engagement opportunities, especially when we lose the nonverbal cues and other benefits of being in person. 

Let’s shift gears to talk about technology. How does technology support you in this new hybrid world of selling? 

We’re trying to change the way we prioritize and adopt new tools because it impacts our position in the market. There’s a lot of work happening right now to help us get faster and better at being responsive in the market—and theour technology we use plays a big role in that. 

We’ve had Showpad for a couple of years now. To be honest, in our first year it really was a soft introduction (“Hey, look at this new tool we bought, let us know how it works”). We were still in our growing phase in year two at the same time COVID hit. It actually became perfect timing for us because we were in the right spot to figure out how to realize Showpad’s potential and maximize its capabilities virtually. 

So 2020 became a year of training. I want to say we trained somewhere over 1,000 salespeople, and we ran 140 training sessions just to get people using the tool in a way that was going to help them. There was a huge demand for it. 

But we still wanted to make sure our people felt that they needed this tool to move forward with engagement and was successfully adopted. And they did. Showpad has really become an integral part of the way that we do business now. Yes, we’re still trying to figure out exactly what the data and dashboards are telling us (and helping other departments see the same), but that’s where we will really make an impact. 

It sounds like there’s a lot of great momentum going. Where’s your focus and who’s helping you get there?

We are working to build some new advanced experiences designed to change the conversations with customers and get to a deeper level at scale. Even simple changes we’re learning from, like moving from sending content in blast to sending curated content specific to a customer’s business need. 

We’re also working toward bringing our marketing team in. Our team is on the business side of the house, focused on sales enablement, sales operations support, and owning the tools. Marketing is becoming a big partner of ours from the go-to-market side, and we’re trying to blend the world of marketing and sales together as we develop a new digital communication strategy. 

First, we’re starting to work toward enabling marketing to build content in a way that maximizes the functionality within Showpad for our sales team. For example, the Shared Spaces capability is becoming a big thing for our salespeople to be able to have a microsite ready for their external customers. They’ve been asking for that for years and now we can deliver on that request. And it’s opening up doors for the way that we engage with broker firms as well as with our customers.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this function or keys or tips to success?

Be patient and focus on building relationships. In general, change takes time, it takes perseverance, it takes repetition, and it takes not giving up. It also takes strong relationships to help move the dial forward, and it’s been a big piece of why we’ve been able to accomplish some of the things we’ve been able to so far on our sales enablement journey.

I think often people get frustrated with implementing change within an organization because they’re not seeing the results they want to see in the time they want to see it—but results do come. Sometimes it just takes being personal with people and helping them overcome their barriers and hesitations. 

My approach is always to embrace the change and then just continue to help people move forward by explaining the reason for the change. We also do lots of pilots to test small things and then decide if we can continue to scale it. 

What in this new digital world of selling makes you most excited?

I am so excited about the insights that we get from Showpad and the power of those insights for our sellers.

Yes, it helps our marketing teams and helps the organization know which direction to head. But, coming from a sales background, I understand their pains. I understand their job and what they do. 

It used to take weeks to get the data and information needed to support conversations that we now get almost immediately. That excites me, and it’s something that I don’t think we can ever go without.