The Adapter’s Advantage: Mark Lonzo on the Future State of Enablement
Not that long ago, sales enablement tools were nice-to-have products. If your organization didn’t use them, your sales team could still win deals and retain customers. That’s no longer the case.
Buyers’ needs and expectations have changed. Today, buyers want customized, convenient, and comprehensive experiences. And your sellers must be able to provide them or risk losing the deal. That’s where enablement tools come in. As Mark Lonzo, director of sales enablement at The Hillman Group, points out in his Adapter’s Advantage interview, organizations must adopt new technologies to improve sellers’ efficiency and effectiveness.
That realization came to light when Lonzo discovered the company’s learning management system (LMS) was not user-friendly and was unsustainable. In his search for a better system, he entered the world of sales enablement where he discovered enablement solutions like Allego that not only helped with learning, but also sales content management and sales training. Lonzo knew then they had to make a change.
“I looked at our current state and envisioned a future state. … I then mapped out how Allego would fit into this future state, consolidating training, content management, and collaboration,” Lonzo said. “Allego became our single point of truth, a gateway to everything else, streamlining the process and saving time. Interestingly, our team members started seeing Allego as an essential part of their workflow, even though it was just one part of the whole system.”
Scroll down to learn more from Mark. Listen to the interview or read the Q&A. In our conversation, we explore the pivotal moments and strategic decisions that defined The Hillman Group’s path to innovation. From the adoption of digital sales rooms (DSRs) to the seamless integration of mobile technology, Mark’s insights offer invaluable lessons on the importance of embracing change, leveraging technology, and prioritizing the user experience in shaping the future of sales.
Episode 60: Embracing the Future State of Enablement | Mark Lonzo
From This Episode:
Mark Magnacca: Hi, I’m Mark Magnacca. On behalf of the Adapters Advantage podcast, I want to welcome my next guest. It’s Mark Lonzo, the director of sales development from The Hillman Group. Hello, Mark. Welcome to the podcast.
Mark Lonzo: Hey, Mark, how are you doing today?
Mark Magnacca: Let’s jump right in, Mark. When people meet you and see your Hillman Group shirt, and they ask what’s The Hillman Group and what do you do, how do you respond?
Mark Lonzo: Well, I’m the director of sales development at the Hillman Group. We are the leading distributor of hardware home solutions, personal protective gear, and robotic kiosk technology. Our strategic partnerships include Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply, and other leading companies in the U.S. I’m responsible for training our sales team, working on sales initiatives with our leadership team, and continuous improvement projects.
Mark Magnacca: So, if you walk into a Lowe’s, what are some of the things people might notice that the Hillman Group supports?
Mark Lonzo: We have 1,100 sales and service people throughout the US. In a Lowe’s, if you’re buying nuts, bolts, and screws, that’s all Hillman. Our team merchandises, maintains, and places orders for our stores. We’re heavily service-oriented, and we cover a multitude of lines within a store. Our sales and service team is the secret sauce that makes Hillman successful.
Mark Magnacca: You know, it makes so much sense when you think about the business element. I recently had a broken screw on a hot tub and went to Ace Hardware. The experience was quick and efficient. It’s interesting to think about outsourcing part of a store’s management.
Mark Lonzo: Yeah, it’s really convenience-oriented. You have a problem, you go to your local hardware store, and the solution is there. The industry has changed over the years, but it’s still about selling and solving problems for customers.
Mark Magnacca: Mark, I want to pivot to sales enablement, which many of our listeners are experts in. What separates someone like you who can switch from an old way to a new way? How important is having a vision in deciding to pursue a new course of action?
Mark Lonzo: A vision starts with a need. There’s a Thomas Edison quote, “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” I believe excessive perspiration leads to inspiration and innovation. If something is inhibiting our people from working efficiently, we need to find a better way. That’s where the vision starts. Then we work towards that vision and bring people in to buy into it.
Mark Magnacca: Was there a specific tipping point at the Hillman Group that made change a priority?
Mark Lonzo: Yes, in early 2021, our vice president of sales, Brett Hillman, asked me to get our onboarding in order because of anticipated retirements. I found our learning management system user-unfriendly and unsustainable. This led me into the world of sales enablement and solutions like Allego, marking a turning point where we knew we had to make a change.
I found our learning management system user-unfriendly and unsustainable. This led me into the world of sales enablement and solutions like Allego. …
—Mark Lonzo, Director of Sales Enablement, The Hillman Group
Mark Magnacca: What you just said is interesting and echoes what we often hear in learning and development (L&D) and sales enablement. The traditional learning management system (LMS) was never really designed to support learners. It was more about organizing live training. In sales enablement, we often ask if there’s a better way. How did you engage sales leadership to support making this change?
Mark Lonzo: That’s a great question, Mark. In late 2020, we conducted an employee pulse survey, which highlighted some pain points, particularly around finding information. Brett and I took these concerns seriously and realized we needed to find a solution. This was a key factor in getting the attention of our leadership team that something different had to be done.
Mark Magnacca: It seems like it’s about recognizing and acknowledging a problem. For example, many companies use SharePoint, but it often isn’t user-friendly. It’s similar to a waiter making unnecessary trips back and forth – a waste of valuable time. Did you need to make a business case for the change?
Mark Lonzo: Yes, I looked at our current state and envisioned a future state. I created a spreadsheet with columns representing different business areas. I then mapped out how Allego would fit into this future state, consolidating training, content management, and collaboration. Allego became our single point of truth, a gateway to everything else, streamlining the process and saving time. Interestingly, our team members started seeing Allego as an essential part of their workflow, even though it was just one part of the whole system.
Mark Magnacca: That’s a major breakthrough. It’s like having one portal, like an iPhone, where you access everything you need. Your approach of comparing the present state to the future state and using Allego to streamline processes is an innovation that sales enablers should hear about. It simplifies access to essential tools and information, focusing only on getting to Allego for most needs.
Mark Lonzo: Exactly. It’s about creating a system that simplifies access and brings everything together in one place, making life easier for our team.
It’s about creating a system that simplifies access and brings everything together in one place, making life easier for our team.
—Mark Lonzo, Director of Sales Enablement, The Hillman Group
Mark Magnacca: That’s really cool. What was the biggest concern when you were making a case to switch to a new system? What did Brett or other leaders think?
Mark Lonzo: From their standpoint, there wasn’t really a major concern. My main concern was about our legacy information in SharePoint and how to integrate that with Allego. I started by categorizing our content in SharePoint, deciding what needed updating or deleting. After evaluating and consulting with segment leaders, I ensured we had clean data for Allego.
Mark Magnacca: Yep.
Mark Lonzo: The key was our customer success partners. Carolyn, for example, shepherded us through this process, helping us build channels and use Allego effectively. It was a smooth transition, thanks to regular check-ins and guidance.
Mark Magnacca: That’s great to hear. Our customer success team is essential, and it sounds like they played a big role in your transition. Once you had vetted the data and moved it over, how did you ensure it was organized and easily accessible?
Mark Lonzo: Exactly. We created a system where everything was logically organized, ensuring easy access and avoiding recreating the problem in a new place.
Mark Magnacca: In terms of research and evaluation, how did you go about finding the right sales enablement tools, and what led you to choose Allego?
Mark Magnacca: Right.
Mark Lonzo: I didn’t want our team to feel like they were using just a nicer version of our old system.
Mark Magnacca: What about the mobile usage among your sellers? How does Allego support them in the field?
Mark Lonzo: In a store, probably about 90% of our sellers use their mobile devices. The interface is similar to Netflix, which they’re familiar with. For instance, our vice president of sales, Eric England, used Allego at a trade show recently and found it extremely helpful. The ability to pin channels and save favorites on mobile devices is a game-changer, offering quick and easy access to vital information.
Mark Magnacca: I love it, Mark. You showed the present state and the future state. How has the future state compared to what you promised, especially in terms of day-to-day operations?
Mark Lonzo: The current state has our team accessing information just in time, rather than struggling to find what they need. They can pull up information instantly, even while out in the field working on equipment like key machines. The addition of digital sales rooms has transformed our business, offering deeper engagement for customers. It’s about adapting to the rapid pace of today’s buyer experience and providing information as quickly as possible, much like the efficient delivery we see with online shopping.
Mark Magnacca: It’s incredible how quickly people expect information these days, isn’t it?
Mark Lonzo: Absolutely, and I was amazed by the rapid expectations. Now, we use digital sales rooms to provide immediate information access. This is a game-changer in the industry, where the traditional approach might suggest sending an email and waiting.
Now, we use digital sales rooms to provide immediate information access. This is a game-changer in the industry. …
—Mark Lonzo, Director of Sales Enablement, The Hillman Group
Mark Magnacca: That really is a breakthrough, similar to the first time we saw technology like the iPad. It became clear that it was a better way to interface with technology. How have you found the response to using digital sales rooms (DSRs) in your industry?
Mark Lonzo: It’s been incredibly positive. Everyone I’ve shown the DSR to has understood its value immediately. It’s far more efficient than sending multiple emails with attachments. The DSR format, familiar to most through web browsing and online shopping, simplifies the process.
Mark Magnacca: Right, it’s about finding better ways to do things.
Mark Lonzo: Exactly. And it’s not just about the buyer experience; it’s also about the employee experience. Having quick access to information is crucial for our employees, too. It shows we’re investing in their time and success.
Mark Magnacca: Spot on. Mark, for listeners contemplating a change, perhaps moving away from something like SharePoint, what advice would you give them?
Mark Lonzo: My advice is to look for the need. Observe what your people do daily and identify the barriers they face. Time is our most precious resource, so find technologies that save time and provide easy access to information. At Hillman, with over 60,000 items, having immediate access to information in the palm of your hand is revolutionary. Listen to your people and look for ways to remove barriers to their success.
Mark Magnacca: Thank you, Mark, for a fantastic conversation and for being part of the podcast. I’m excited to continue this discussion as your journey unfolds.
Mark Lonzo: Thank you, Mark. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
About The Adapter’s Advantage
Our podcast features leaders from sales, training, and industry who share their personal journeys of transformation and how they are adapting to an ever-changing environment. As your host, I’ll introduce you to some of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve met over the last 20 years.
The conversations dive into the ups and downs of their journey. Our guests focus on inflection points—the aha moments that, in retrospect, had a critical impact on their success. These interviews will leave you with practical, real-world advice that you can apply to your life.