A customer-centric strategy is essential to building a sustainable, fast growing company. The fastest growing B2B fin-tech companies have an intense focus on ensuring that the entire organization has a deep understanding of the customer. This is particularly important for the sales team.
Sales enablement programs help sales teams develop this customer-centricity…and it has a measurable impact on revenue. A recent study on B2B sales by Heinz Marketing found that 75% of the companies using sales enablement tools are seeing increased revenue. More than 53% of respondents using sales enablement saw greater than 20% increase in sales conversions. The data clearly shows that companies of various sizes and industries, see a substantial positive impact from implementing a sales enablement program.
Recently, I got to talk with Matt Heinz, who is an expert on the topic. Matt is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing. He has over 15 years experience in marketing, business development and sales in a variety of industries. Matt has published 7 books and is a nationally recognized blogger. He’s also a popular keynote speaker.
Matt is also a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers. He advises organizations like Morgan Stanley, Amazon, Seagate, and others, helping them fuel growth.
In this podcast, we dig into what is necessary to help an organization develop, as Matt puts it, “an intense, maniacal customer focus.”
Transcript for the Maniacal Customer Focus Episode
Candyce: Matt, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
Matt: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Candyce: So, I really want to have you talk about what a CEO of a small or a mid-sized company — especially in the technology space — what should they be thinking about if they want to become a high growth company?
Matt: It’s a great question, and I think it’s really easy to feel intimidated by a number of different places where you can drive growth. I think the two things that I found most consistently help companies grow; one is to maintain an intense, maniacal focus on the customer. Not only in how you develop products and services, but also how you market and sell. You really can’t afford to promote your own products and services until the prospect understands why they need them. And I’ve heard people describe this as, “You gotta sell the hole, not the drill.” I like to describe it as turning your sales process into two stages. The first stage is “believe”. The second stage is “believe in us.” A lot of companies go right to “believe in us”. They want to talk about their products and services and they assume that their audience understands them, they assume that their audience can translate the value prop and the needs.
I think the hardest part of the sales process, and hardest part for a lot of companies is to step out of that. To have the patience to build a foundation of needs. To dig into what the customer is already facing, and align their needs, their problems, their objectives with, ultimately, what you can provide as a solution. So you have to build that commitment to change first. So I think that customer-centric mentality throughout the organization — not just in bringing new customers on, but also reinforcing the “why” and driving loyalty and retention, is critical.
The second element is driving a revenue-centric culture throughout the organization. My perspective is, on the marketing front, there’s too many companies where marketing is still perceived as the “arts and crafts department.” I believe strongly that marketers need to adopt a profit center mentality. That doesn’t mean that every tweet and every blog post is going to have a pipeline metric attached to it, but it means that the overall focus of marketing is not to generate retweets, it’s not to generate leads; you can’t buy a beer with a marketing qualified lead. Your goal, throughout the organization — marketing sales, business development, customer service — everyone needs to understand what the business metrics are and how their role ties into that. The side benefit of doing that is you eliminate some of the traditional friction between organizations, between sales and marketing, when they both have the exact same end goal. They can work more closely, more collaboratively, more innovatively together to achieve the right results, and increasingly that means better results, more predictable results over time.
Candyce: So. during the webinar today you talked a lot about sales enablement and how important that is. And I was wondering, I see a lot of companies that get to the point where a lead becomes a sales opportunity and marketing stops touching it, and it’s now sales’ responsibility and marketing doesn’t even get a view of what’s happening. And I’m wondering what your thought is in terms of working to help that audience find value and translate that value proposition into their needs, and provide kind of that alignment between what they’re trying to accomplish and how your service or product helps to achieve that through the entire buying process, and even later in the customer experience, through implementation and helping to retain that client. What are your thoughts on marketing’s role in that responsibility? Is there a spot where marketing stops and sales begins, or should they be walking side by side all the way through?
Matt: Well increasingly, it’s side by side. I think marketing and sales can equally play a role at every stage of the buying process. I think the larger the organizations you’re going after, the more likely it is that sales and marketing is working together. I think it’s important you’ve got a single view of the customer, a single understanding, a unified and integrated understanding of the buying journey, and the content and the messages that prospects need to hear at each of those stages. If you don’t have that, conversely, the opportunity cost is that marketing says one thing, sales says another. Marketing generates a good, qualified lead of someone that has a demonstrated need or problem, and sales follows up and says, “Thanks for downloading the white paper. Would you like to see a demo?” Very few people answer “yes” to that question.
The other thing you have to have here is, if you’re selling a complex product, if you’re not doing a one call close, there’s a level of discipline and patience you have to have built into the process. We all want to talk to the C-level decision maker, we all want to get as quickly into a demo and a capabilities conversation as we can. But with complex selling, often times, three steps is faster than one. If you take the time to establish need, if you take the time to create a connection between what the prospect’s dealing with today and the outcome that you can deliver for them, if you help them quantify the cost of a problem they did or didn’t know that they had. If you have a rule in place that in the very first phone call with the prospect you’re not allowed to talk about your product or service, you have to focus entirely on their needs, their objectives, and establish some loosening of the status quo, establish some beginning of a commitment to change.
That is not going to get you the demo in the first meeting, but it will likely increase the urgency and interest level from the prospect in actually seeing how you’re going to solve for that. Similarly, from an organization standpoint, if you take the time to get the middle managers on board, if you understand what their needs are — and in some cases their motivation is to look good to their boss, to get a promotion, to get a raise — they will help you build consensus among their peers in that internal buying committee, and they will have far more power to influence the decision maker than you will externally. So these aren’t the most efficient ways to go about doing business. It’s not the straightest and the shortest line, but in many cases it is the most efficient line. It is the most proven line to get to where you want to go, and it is something you can repeat in scale across other prospects as well.
Candyce: How does a CEO start to think about his or her company from this new perspective and create that vision? And do you have any kind of a use case where you can point to where someone who’s done this successfully?
Matt: Sure, yeah. I mean, I think CEB talks about that there’s like 6.8 members of the internal buying committee now and only one of those people is the person who’s gonna sign the check, or sign the contract. So by definition, you got 5.8 other people you need to go and engage. We’ve seen in our business time and again, I would love to talk to the CMO of growth to mid market companies that are growing, that aren’t hitting their number, that aren’t sure how they’re gonna hit their number moving forward. You know, most of the time it’s the CMO who has the juice to say yes to the deal, but I don’t get that call first. Right? I’m talking to someone who’s on the line, who’s doing demand gen programs.
It’s a lot of fun for me to dig in on the campaigns they’re working and point out places where we’ve seen other customers do well. I’m focused on building trust and credibility with that person in the organization that’s doing the work; giving them insights, giving them ammunition to take to the rest of the organization to make themselves look smart. I mean, that’s how I build trust and credibility with a potential new account. And I can tell you, time and time again, down the road, it may be a week later, a month later, it may be two years later, they’re back for more information. Literally this afternoon as we record this, I’ve got a call with a head of a demand gen at a company and his CMO, and I’ve never talked to that CMO before. They’ve been on our prospect list for a while. If I would have gone direct to the CMO, I probably wouldn’t have got the time of day, but now I’ve got an hour.
It took a little bit of the long road but I got to where I wanted to go, and I see this with clients all the time as well. Because I run this company I’m able to sort of impart the level of discipline and patience we need to work that system, but I think that I’m seeing that with companies that are willing and brave enough to put that in place in their own organizations as well.
Candyce: How do you do that as the CEO, to get your organization on board to being patient?
Matt: Well, it’s through a lot of coercion and fear, for the most part. No, I’m kidding. I mean, we’re not that big, right? So, as we’ve grown we’ve really focused on a set of values that we hold important to ourselves. We’ve got a reward system in place internally that rewards adherence to those values, and examples of those values. We look for customers and partners that match those values as well. And part of that is a level of transparency and generosity that is part and parcel with our prospecting process. If you want to spend 20 minutes chatting about best practices around account based marketing or sales development, we’re all ears. We’re an open book for the stuff that we know, knowing that we’re not giving away something we could sell; we’re doing the opposite. We’re earning trust and credibility that can ultimately help us win more business. And so, I think we’ve been really picky in who we hire, not only to make sure we’ve got great people who can do the work, but people that also buy into the way we’re doing business.
I think that that same opportunity is clearly open to the bigger organizations. I mean, every company, when you get to a certain size, there’s a culture that exists. Maybe you defined it, and managed it, and grew it; maybe it created itself. But culture is a huge part of making this work. The people you have either get on board or they might not be the right people for the job. You think about people leading sales, leading marketing, can they work together? Is there too much damage? Is there too much scar tissue from their past experience that they brought with them to help them get around and really work together coherently to drive pipeline together? Do you have someone that came from a high call volume sales culture that simply can’t get around the idea that relationships over time is how you invest in the equity of your future pipeline?
It’s not for the meek. You gotta be a little hearty and brave to do that, but I’ve seen plenty of companies just put their foot down and say, “We’re going to run our business this way.” One of the advantages people don’t think about is, doing business that way is natural and comfortable to people. When you don’t feel like you need to close someone with every phone call, when you feel like you could be generous, when you feel like you can lean into the conversation the prospect wants to have or needs to have, that is a very comfortable call. And, I think, what I’m seeing is, retention rates of key marketing people, of key salespeople, of key sales management, is increasing at companies that are doing this.
Candyce: So in your study you found that 75% of the companies using sales enablement tools are seeing increased revenue. And I believe I saw that 40% saw greater than 25% increase in revenue by using sales enablement and having that practice. Is that something that you would recommend for all companies? And if so, how do they get started?
Matt: Yeah. So first of all, yes. The data clearly shows that companies of various sizes and industries, there are pretty uniform differences between those that are doing sales enablement and those that aren’t. I think what we also saw is, we saw the impact accelerates for larger organizations. The bigger the sales team you have when you’re doing sales enablement, you’re impacting the productivity of more people. One of the advantages of sales enablement is you can have a fairly small but dedicated team that can impact the results of 5 salespeople, 10 salespeople, 100 salespeople, 10,000 salespeople with better process, with better tools, with better content. So I think that it is a vitally important function of the business moving forward. I believe it sits in marketing. I’ve seen plenty of sales enablement programs that are run by sales and I think that’s fine. I see this as one of many opportunities for marketing to step out of their traditional comfort zones, to be part of the process beyond just generating the lead. And if you can do that effectively, and do that collaboratively, with the sales organization, the impact you can have on conversion rates, the impact you can have on productivity, and have that be perceived as a marketing driven impact, I mean, talk about a clear path to being perceived as a profit center in the business; it’s an enormous opportunity.
Whether the sales organizations manages it, or whether marketing manages it, the data is clear. Companies of all sizes and industries, sales enablement is working. And what we saw in this last research project, because we asked the same questions last year, is that gap is widening. The gap between companies that have and don’t have sales enablement programs, those that are seeing results and not seeing results, the gap is widening, the results performance gap is widening, the conversion rate gap is widening, the sales growth gap is widening. Look, I mean, it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon, but I think if you don’t have a sales enablement function in place; This isn’t about buying certain tools, this isn’t about adopting certain methodologies, but simply putting a focus around increasing conversion rates of your opportunities and leads and putting a focus on the productivity of your sales reps. That is enormous leverage, enormous ROI opportunity for every organization.
Candyce: I think this is the key for how a company can leap frog ahead of their competitors who haven’t figured out yet how to completely align marketing, inside sales, and field sales. And I would imaging also, that you’re seeing a dramatically shortened time span for getting a new salesperson or inside salesperson productive because they require less hand holding and they can get off the bench faster.
Matt: Absolutely. And I think your point about leap frog is absolutely correct. I think, a lot of companies, when they see an opportunity for growth or they need growth, their response is to throw money at it. “Let’s go spend more money on marketing. Let’s go buy more leads. Let’s go hire more salespeople.” And that can work, but if you have ineffective processes, if you have inefficient sales reps, you’re simply exacerbating that situation when you add volume. As opposed to, what in many cases is a far less expensive initiative — building a sales enablement function versus hiring a bunch of new sales reps — you may get the same, if not better, output from the exact same sales team by enacting a sales enablement process.
I mean, we saw that data in our research. We saw that revenue was up and that was great for those using sales enablement, but more specifically, conversion rates of their leads and opportunities and enclosed deals were up significantly. And that’s where, if you can take a rep that was closing 10 deals and they can close 13 or 14 deals in the same period, multiply that across your entire sales floor, that starts to have an enormous impact. And look, once you do that, now go double your sales team. Right?
Matt: Because now you got a system that is far more effective, far more efficient, that can be scaled. And your point about on-boarding, and training, and coaching is exactly correct. Ensuring that this isn’t just a “set-it-and-be-done” process, that there’s ongoing elements of this to be successful. That’s kind of like gardening — you’re never done gardening. You’re never done implementing sales enablement. The efficiency and leverage of that activity and of that effort, it’s just so significant.
Candyce: Well I think we are out of time for our 15 minutes. This has been phenomenal, Matt. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us about this.
Matt: It’s gone by fast. It’s a pleasure, and yeah, thanks so much for having me.
Candyce: Thank you.
For more information about Matt and his company, explore one of the links below:
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