Kevin Micalizzi: Today, we'll be discussing how the sales and marketing relationship has changed with Sangram Vajre. Sangram is an author, speaker, co-founder at Terminus, and founder of FlipMyFunnel. Welcome, Sangram.
Sangram Vajre: Thank you so much. Excited to be here.
Micalizzi: For our listeners who are not familiar with you would you share a little bit about yourself?
Vajre: Sure, happy to. I think there are lot of things that have been happening in the last couple of years for me personally, but I ran marketing at Pardot very recently and went to the acquisition of ExactTarget and Salesforce so I'm very familiar with Salesforce from that instance.
And then co-founded Terminus a couple of years ago with the hopes that we can change the way sales and marketing work forever. Along the way had an honor to build a community called FlipMyFunnel, and that community has just exploded to four or five thousand people now doing conferences all over the nation. And really speaks to the volume that sales and marketing are no longer living on different islands. They actually are tied at the hip, and people need to recognize it.
Micalizzi: Fantastic. So I'm Kevin Micalizzi, Product Marketing Senior Manager at Salesforce and Executive Producer for the Quotable Podcast. I'm joined today by my co-host, Jim Hopkins, the Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Salesforce, and one of the brilliant minds behind www.quotable.com. Welcome, Jim.
Jim Hopkins: Hi. Thanks.
Micalizzi: So Jim, do you want to kick us off and ask the first question?
Hopkins: Yeah. Sangram, over the last 15 years you'd alluded to that sales and marketing has changed. That relationship has changed a little bit. Can you describe the way that you see it since maybe even at the beginning of your career how things have changed with sales and marketing?
Vajre: Yep, I'm going to start dating myself with this. If you think about 2000 where email marketing was hot. You think about even ExactTarget. That's when it got started. Fast-forward 15 years, it's still hot. What's going on?
But if you go back, email marketing was the first thing that actually marketers got excited about. Sales got excited about, and everybody said, "Let's send these emails because we're going to get 80, 90% open rate." Remember those days?
Hopkins: Yeah, right.
Vajre: That was fantastic, but as always, marketers would ruin it because they would overdo it. So fast-forward five years, marketing automation came about, and they said, "You know what? All those emails that you're sending, let's capture those leads." And that's how marketing automation was born.
But then sales came about, and sales was like, "Great. We want leads. We want leads." So marketers started to do a ton of marketing through e-books, and content, and all those great things that marketers do today. We got really, really good in the way of creating leads, but then sales said, "Those leads are crap."
That's when marketers really had to figure out, "Wait a minute. Not all leads are equal because we have to figure out what fits your ideal customer profile. Not every single lead that has passed through sales, sales is not going to jump on it." So in 2010 and onward, if you fast-forward, that predictive came along. And they said, "You know what? We're going to help marketers and sales identify the right kind of leads."
Well, what hasn't changed in the last decade and a half, Jim, is that email has been the cornerstone of marketing, and that's really where everything has been focused on. And now, customers are realizing that email is important. Absolutely important, but then people are engaging on different mediums like right now, in a podcast. People are listening. On the videos, people see the video technology really going up.
You start seeing that direct mail is back. Who doesn't want a direct mail back in your office? That's something that you want to open with your friends and everybody in the office. You think about all the different ways of getting in front of you because you're online so all these things are changing. And I think marketers or sales are finally realizing that we need to work on this together.
We can't have somebody following and doing Twitter on their own while sales is still trying to go and start calling. It has to come together, and that's the evolution that I'm seeing in the marketing and sales world.
Hopkins: Yeah, for sure. When you were talking I was reminded of a recently created email address that's for my kids. They're like seven years old.
Hopkins: You have to explain what it is. They don't have any idea what that is obviously, but it kind of made me wonder, "I'm going to create these for them. Are they even going to use them?"
Hopkins: "In the future?"
Vajre: They'll actually have a Snapchat before you know it.
Hopkins: Right, right, right. So yeah, things are definitely changing. How do you feel like the attitudes of sales toward marketing and marketing toward sales maybe has changed or maybe has stayed the same? What do you think?
Vajre: Yeah, I think if we can visualize this I'll ask everybody — if you're not driving — close your eyes for a second and visualize this. Visualize a triangle, and the two ends of the triangle are marketing and sales.
And at the top of the triangle is a customer. Let's just visualize this for a second. In the last decade and a half we have been working really, really hard for marketing and sales to come closer. But if you think about a triangle you really can't bring those points together. That's not how a triangle works, but if you move marketing and sales up toward the customer, magical things happen. You actually have marketing and sales come closer to each other.
So I think that's what fundamentally needs to change. The attitude has been wrong is not because sales and marketing hate each other. They are being asked to do different things. Marketers feel like they need to provide more leads so they're doing e-books and lead-generation things.
And they feel like sales are not taking advantage of all of it because they're calling some of those leads crap. Sales feels like those accounts that I'm working on, sales is not doing anything to influence them. So they don't feel as much appreciated on that part.
But if both of them start focusing on the customer and saying, "We're going to create content. Not for sales, but for our customers." Sales, "I'm not going to look at a video testimonial that we just got from the marketing team. I'm going to listen to it, and when I pass that video testimony I'm going to tell people that, 'go to second minute and listen to the last 15 seconds of this video testimonial. That's the problem that you were talking about. Here is the video testimonial that will change the way you do stuff.'"
So now, we're just thinking about customers on every piece of content; everything you do will work in the favor of the customer, and everybody wins. I feel like this whole tension between sales and marketing has been very much driven by what marketing wants to do and what sales wants to do. And if it changed the narrative I think magical things will happen.
Hopkins: Well, cool, so you play a big role in an account-based marketing company. Your FlipMyFunnel community is largely focused on being oriented toward account-based marketing. So talk to us a little bit — maybe for those who aren't aware of account-based marketing give them a real quick primer on that.
Hopkins: And then maybe we could talk a little bit about what sales' role in account-based marketing is.
Vajre: Sounds great. I'll just share FlipMyFunnel. What that real funnel looks like. So everybody is very familiar with the traditional funnel, which is broad at the top and narrow and skinny. I think about that as an infomercial. Get skinny fast. That's the funnel that we see, which is you have tons of people at the top but very few turning into customers at the bottom. You flip it, and that's what I call FlipMyFunnel. It's really four different stages.
Identify, expand, engage, and advocate. When you think about identify is that if you're in a B2B and if you're selling and marketing as a B2B company or professional, you better know who you're targeting. There are enough number of tools and data available out there that you need to go seek out so you can figure out which companies you're targeting. That's the number one step.
No matter what you're doing, no matter what era you're in, this is the time where it has never been easier and more efficient to figure out which companies to go after. So that's identify.
The expansion, this is where I think marketing and sales got it wrong in the last 10 years, which is everybody tried to close Joe, or Sally, or John, but we all know that accounts close, people don't. So there are more people in the decision-making process. So expansion is about getting deeper in the account and trying to engage all the decision-makers.
The engagement part, the third step, is really to engage people on their terms. This goes beyond just a 9:00 to 5:00 call and email: "How do I engage people beyond that?" And finally, advocacy, which is my favorite, which is, "How do you turn your customers into advocates?"
They can be your advocates way before they become your customers because you are treating them well, and you are creating content that matters to them. The reason I went through the flip funnel, and the idea around that, is because it's fundamentally changing the mindset of how B2B and sales and marketing companies and professionals are actually thinking about it or should think about it.
Canvas marketing to me, in a single word if I have to define it on the spot, I would define it as mindset. It's a change of mindset because once you start thinking about identifying the accounts and expanding them, you haven't even created an e-book. You haven't even created a message. You haven't spent any time doing what we like to do as marketers or sales, which is create content or fire up email. "It's so easy. So fast. I want to do it every day. Hundreds of emails. That's what I like to do, or hundreds of calls I want to do."
But then if you take a step back and say, "You know what? I'm going to spend time to look at the accounts. Look at which accounts are hot. Which accounts I'm going to go in and then I'm going to take the time to craft a message that matters to that account or that person.
And then I'm going to send it.” That takes effort. That takes time, which means you're not going to have a scalable, repeatable, very fast process. It is one of the most unscalable, unrepeatable processes. But if you talk to any amazing salesperson they will tell you that sales is not repeatable.
That you cannot have the same call with every single person. Have the same result. It just doesn't work, so I feel ABM and the primer on that is that it's a mindset of how incredible, amazing leaders in sales and marketing have done incredible stuff. It's because they have not made things super scalable because you cannot personalize and be scalable at the same time.
Hopkins: So a lot about quality versus quantity?
Hopkins: That mindset.
Micalizzi: So I'd actually love to ask a question.
Hopkins: Yeah, go for it.
Micalizzi: Just going back a little bit to the sales and marketing coming together around the customer. What approaches are you finding companies taking to make that happen? Because you're really changing a very entrenched mindset.
Vajre: Yeah. Yeah. I'm so glad you asked this question because it is not the market or the sales who is the problem here. The problem is, actually, the executives on the team like the CEO or the GM of that group.
So if the GM or the CEO goes and tells the marketer, "Hey, go get 10,000 because the spreadsheet that we created, we need 10,000 leads to satisfy these 50 salespeople that are hungry, and they're waiting for you. So you need to go and create 10,000 leads." That is what the standard is, so once that sentence is said there's not a lot that marketing can do. What we need to do is educate upstream the expectations of sales and marketing needs to fundamentally change. I'll give an example of it.
At Terminus we have a campaign called "Terminus 500." Which means there are 500 accounts that sales and marketing together have identified as our best-fit accounts. The very first step. And now, we have identified at least four to five people in each of those accounts that we want to reach out together. No marketing, no sales has happened to those. This is what they have done for the first two weeks. Nothing else but really identify.
Once they did that they now started to send emails and calls, but at the same time do advertising and direct mail with these accounts. So now, everybody is vested in getting these accounts. The salesperson is actually doing videos to send out on those accounts.
They would never do that because it's not scalable, but now, they're doing it because they have 50 accounts that they can really focus on, and it's high premium. They know the value prop. They have the content that they need to send out to them, and they want to personalize it, and they're excited.
They're excited to work with marketing so I think that's really shifting. That's really changing, but the message really, to answer your question, needs to start from the top. My expectation shouldn't be different for marketing and different for sales. I need to look at this as a revenue organization. As like, "How do I drive more revenue?"
Hopkins: So part of that, I think, and I've seen it, too, part of that is dealing with FOMO. Fear of missing out. Have you seen that, and what do you tell customers? How do they combat sales' desire to close everything? Everything is a nail to a hammer.
Vajre: Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. I heard that, I think it was Jill Rowley, Maria Pergolino, and Koka Sexton on a panel at Revenue Summit. They mentioned the fact that data is very, very important, but what's more important that people don't think about is intuition.
Data is great because you need to go look back and see what worked. What didn't work, but then you have to have the intuition, and this is what Koka is really getting into is that to figure out, "Can we try different things and test?
Try and test. Try and test. And fail." That's okay, but we need to do that, and if you don't do that you're going to miss out on all of those opportunities so you're right. The FOMO is real, and if you're hiring leaders from organizations who have actually proven that there's a scalable model of hiring more reps to get more demos set up and all that stuff, it's really hard to change that.
But what we are all seeing is —and I think everyone, everyone has gone through this — where you've heard from customers or people that they have decided to not buy from a company because of the salesperson or the marketer.
Because they have said, "If I get one more email from this company or if I get one more call from this guy, I'm not going to go with this company [anymore].” So what we're really doing is we are hitting up customers so much that good customers, great customers that can be your biggest advocates, that can bring in the new revenue, they are getting hit so badly because we're asking the sales team and the marketing team to just keep hitting them that you're going to lose them for life. And that's revenue.
Hopkins: Yeah, so then essentially, a salesperson won't give up.
Vajre: And then you get these cute breakup emails and all that stuff. And then if the breakup email is cute and you get "opened," "Oh, that person opens. I'm going to send them again." So no good deed goes unpunished.
Hopkins: Thinking about what sales can do to support account-based marketing, we talked about the steps. Sales obviously is a part. You talked about expanding into specific accounts, but let's break it down a little bit further. What's the role of a sales manager in account-based marketing versus maybe a front-line rep?
Hopkins: Let's talk about each of those. What's a manager's job in account-based marketing?
Vajre: That's a great question. I think it's very important, and we're seeing that. We're actually seeing people hiring account-based salespeople. And if you think about it, if we take a step back, nobody has ever hired a lead executive. Everybody always has hired as an account executive. So sales have already got the idea of account. I think what has changed is the SDR team. Let's just talk about SDR for a second.
The SDR team when they think about their role is demand generation. Their job is to get number of demoes. If you have territories for your SDR team now, they have only a finite list of companies they want to go after. And at that time they need a lot of air cover. A lot of personalization there because they cannot go beyond that unless it's a green-field opportunity.
If they only have not the entire North America, they just have the East side and maybe only two cities or three cities now, you're talking about salespeople who are strapped for any kind of information, and they will do whatever it takes. Which means either they're going to go heavy on those 50 or so and really ruin everything with those accounts in hopes of getting something happen or they become strategic.
So what I'm seeing more and more managers do is that, "Hey, let's not focus on volume here. We just can't because we are not focused on a territory that you have which has a very limited number of accounts. Let's actually figure out, 'What can we do?'" And whoever does that and thinks about the managers, they're [forcing their deals to] come to the marketing team and say, "We need help here. We need air cover.
My team is great. My sales team can go and have great conversation, but you need to help us open the door." And for that it might mean that you've got to have an event that is local in that region that needs to happen with prospects and customers — like dinners. Steak dinners still work, but somebody needs to help organize that. Orchestrate that and get that play going. And I think that's what sales managers are doing. They're starting to orchestrate a very methodical play for their sales team to have an edge in the marketplace beyond the emails and calls. And whoever is doing that actually drives more revenue, and we see that over and over again repeated.
Micalizzi: Cool. Well, it definitely lets you go after the optimal customer profile as opposed to just spray and pray, and mass email as many people as possible.
Micalizzi: And not necessarily even targeting the right folks.
Hopkins: Yeah. In that scenario I think that's definitely a good approach and wise. In that scenario I can hear maybe some traditional SDR leaders or SDR thinking, “But what do I do all day if I'm not focused on how many calls I make? If I'm not focused on volume what should I be focused on?”
Hopkins: So you have any thoughts on that?
Vajre: No, that's good because that's what they're measured on. I think that's what gets measured gets done. How do I measure if this is not what they're going to do? That's the [formula]. That's like, "Am I doing my job right," because the general manager starts to think and question. And then other people are asking, "Well, you haven't sent enough demoes. What is your team? Let me see your metrics." And the metrics are not going to point up and to the right. They're going to see a flat lining there.
I think that's where the leadership comes in in setting expectations up front that this is not going to be immediate, but once it's hit, and we have seen this over and over again which is the first month or so is not awesomeness. It's hard work. Everybody has known that the greatest things that happen to you are the people who get lucky. Well, because they worked hard, and that's why they get lucky.
So the first month and a half or something of anybody who is trying to do account-based marketing — especially at the SDR level — is hard work, which means they need to identify the account. They need to identify four or five people in that account.
They need to see what their likes are. Let's see if they're on social or not, and let's connect on social. Let's figure out where they're going. What events or organizations are they part of? Let's go and meet them at those events or those organizations.
All that stuff is not automated. It's not readily available. It takes time for research, and that's what that first month and a half, two months, is. But once you know that, imagine that level of sophistication your SDR team is going to have because they know Joe or John really well now, and they know exactly what their likes and dislikes are. The conversation and the emails are so much more different like, "Hey, Joe, do you want to meet so and so at this company who is also our customer who would love to connect?"
One thing I learned really very interesting recently is that there was a dinner that we were planning. SDR would send a ton of emails to the marketer on the other side to invite them for the dinner. And the person is like, "I don't get it. Why am I sending them? I know they're going to be there, but I don't get any response from them." And then it hit us. It's because you are the one who is sending it.
Why would they come to a dinner with you? Why not we do this? Maybe the email should come from me or somebody else on the marketing team, and maybe it should say, "Hey, John, I'm going to have three marketers. Here are the names of these three people at this dinner, and love for you to come and meet them, and network, and hopefully, you guys can learn together."
As soon as he sent that email he got a response immediately back. So a lot of it is it's not the tactic, it's the thought behind it. What thought have you put in so that you show that you care for their time? And their time is valuable, so the same dinner that has been completely wouldn't have gone anywhere now, became one of the best conversations that person had. And then from there on, the salesperson can take it on.
Hopkins: Right. Demonstrating value.
Vajre: Big time.
Hopkins: Cool. So we've talked about sales development a lot. What would you say about a field rep or a senior account executive? What's their way to reach across the aisle to marketing and embrace account-based marketing in that way?
Vajre: Yeah, I think pipeline velocity is a big play. I think marketers are finally getting to it, and I think AEs are recognizing. So there's a lot of organizations where as soon as an opportunity is created it's in the hands of AE.
And they would say, "We don't want anybody touching it. I got it. I'm going to take it to the finish line." And you always hear this thing, too, which is, "I don't know what happened. The deal was supposed to be closed, and it didn't close. It fell through the cracks."
And everybody is like, "Well, you said in blood that this was going to happen," and it didn't happen. Everybody has gone through that, and it happens all the time. I think that is a phenomenal time for sales and marketing together for several reasons. One, it's an opportunity that person, that company that is wanting to get your business, they've already raised their hand, and they said that they are interested in you.
They also said clearly that they're going to buy from you or they're going to buy from your competitor because they are looking, so they're going to be evaluating if they're any good company. More than one vendor.
And three, and probably the most important thing, is that if you're an AE you know what your deal size typically is, and what your timeline is to close a deal. It's a 60-day, 90-day sales cycle and all that stuff. So we have so much information. Why not use that information and put marketing to work?
I'll say AEs need to put marketing to work big time. And the way you do that is say, "Marketing, here are my accounts. You can clearly see this in my Salesforce instance, for example. And these are all the accounts I'm going to close in the next 90 days. What can you do to me?"
They need to ask. They need to demand this question to the marketing team like, "What can you do?" Marketing's job at that time should be about, "All right, let me look at this. Is it geographically based in one area or close by? Maybe there's an event that I need to do." Or do an air-covered advertising campaign so that they just know about the brand across the board. Or maybe they need to do a direct mail of some sort, but they need to get in it. This is where marketing and sales work together.
One thing I learned as part of doing a startup is that sales and marketing is a one-line item. I did not understand or know that ever before, but sales and marketing is a one-line item in a financial statement.
Hopkins: Yeah, the cost of goods sold.
Vajre: The cost of goods sold. It's a sales and marketing efficiency, so marketing is not a winner if sales is not a winner. And I think marketing is starting to understand that, but I would say the AE needs to demand marketing to give them air cover. Demand that they need help here.
And once you acknowledge that, that you need help, as opposed to saying, "I don't need it. I've got it," say, "I need help." I think marketing can play an amazing role to help accelerate the velocity.
Hopkins: Yeah. What do you think that is? Do you think it's sales maybe wanting to take credit? I've heard them say before, "We don't want marketing to mess it up."
Hopkins: So maybe there's some truth to that.
Hopkins: A little bit, but do you think it's a credit thing? Do you think it's actually the chance that marketing might mess up a deal? What do you think is behind all that?
Vajre: I think that behind is trust. I think it really comes down to that. I don't think sales in some cases, in some companies, trusts that marketing understands what the value proposition is, and how to help them close a deal. It actually, really comes down to trust.
That's really the reason why some organizations work well, because the leaders at the top have incredible trust among each other and then it permeates through the entire organization. Or they don't have trust at the top, and you can see that happening at all levels because of that. I feel like it's all about trust.
Your customer needs to trust you, that you care about them. Your sales team needs to know the same thing from marketing — that marketing, you care about what I'm about to go do.
I feel like sales is one of the hardest jobs out there. Any marketer I ask, every time sit next to an SDR for a whole day, and see them pound phones, and do emails, and see how hard it is. We can talk all about strategy and stuff in the marketing world, but the hardest job in the world is a sales SDR job.
So once you figure out that appreciation, a trust starts to form, and once you have trust then it's okay. Right now, this deal that the AE is working on, it's his livelihood or her livelihood. If he or she doesn't close X number of deals in that amount of time they're going to not have a job. Very different on the marketing side, so they're overprotective, and I don't blame them.
So it's a job of the marketer to create that trust and respect that: "You know what? I'm here for you. I'm going to take you to the finish line, and we're going to go there together." I think that will change it.
Hopkins: Yeah, so it's on marketing to earn that trust.
Hopkins: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Vajre: They absolutely have to earn it.
Micalizzi: I'd love to talk a little bit about the technology because I think traditionally, marketing, technology, and sales technology have been evaluated and purchased in vacuums.
Micalizzi: So entirely separate. What do you recommend for companies who want to bring that together?
Vajre: Yeah, I do think the technology should be separate in many ways because let's just take Salesforce as an instance. The Salesforce [that lives] and takes a lot of time updating and keeping everything they want to keep in Salesforce, and I think that makes sense.
Let them do that. We shouldn't force that behavior because there are other parts which is the major part of it of — just selling. Then you spend more time on that, and we don't want to add on more tech.
Marketers, they have more time than salespeople because they can strategize a lot of these things so they can work on more tools and technologies. But they have to figure out how it integrates with the Salesforce and that ecosystem or whatever ecosystem that salesperson is on.
It doesn't really matter at that point, but whatever that ecosystem is I think marketing tech needs to align with that. Because their job, I fundamentally believe marketing's job in B2B, is almost like taking an actor and giving them an audition. That's the job of a marketer.
A marketer's job is to give an audition. Help a way to get their sales team an audition with whoever is the company they want to get in and talk to.
Hopkins: Like agents.
Vajre: They are agents. They're the change agents. And if they think about it from that perspective, then they start thinking about, "Well, what do I do?" Well, you create a great resume for the person. Your actor.
Hopkins: Head shots, right?
Vajre: Head shots, right? Make them look good. Give them real stuff. Give some insights into that account like, "Hey, when you talk to this producer here are the insights about it." When you start figuring out that your job is to give them an audition, that's your number one task; technology becomes a secondary thing. It becomes the process of getting there.
Hopkins: Very cool. Cool. You talked about advocating. We've talked a little bit about how an AE takes a deal through the cycle. What are some other plays that where account-based marketing can be effective in the sales cycle? In the lifecycle of a customer, and maybe even further on. Maybe even after they've become a customer.
Vajre: Yeah, I think there's a framework that we could call as the ABM framework. Accounts spread into three different parts which is demand generation, pipeline velocity, and then customer marketing. If you think about it, those are the three phases.
Most companies and most marketing and sales organizations are fully based on this early stage, which is really the demand-generation stage. And I feel like today there's an incredible opportunity for both sales and marketing to think about the customer marketing part of it.
If the salesperson starts thinking when they're talking to a prospect, whoever that is, an account, and they think about, "Are they going to be speaking on our behalf a year from now?" If you start thinking about it from that, "Is this the customer I want to speak on our behalf so that they can actually bring in more new customers?” Because they will be an ideal customer. Your language changes. Your everything changes.
And so, how do we educate sales to think about that not from a quota perspective, but from a lifelong customer perspective? And how can marketing start to influence that? And saying that, "You know what? Here is the criteria to think about the best-fit accounts."
Not every single person you talk to is a best fit. Not every single account that we close to sometimes is a best fit, but how do we think about customers that we're trying to sell to as a lifelong customer that you want to put on a stage?
And if you think about it from that perspective, I think a lot of times you'll change the deal. You would figure out what you want to do. You'll start figuring out how to help them, and you want them on the stage talking about you and your product. That's beautiful.
Hopkins: Yeah. It becomes more of a partnership, right?
Vajre: Big time.
Micalizzi: Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us in the studio.
Vajre: Thank you so much.
Micalizzi: And Jim, thank you for co-hosting today.
Hopkins: Thanks a lot. Great discussion.
Micalizzi: And for those of you listening in, if you want to keep up to date with everything Quotable, please subscribe at www.quotable.com/subscribe. And if you loved this episode, please share it with your customers and your peers. Thank you.