Book Club: Darrell Amy on Enabling Trust to Empower Revenue Growth

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Olivia Fuller: Hi, and welcome to Book Club, a Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Olivia Fuller. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices, so they can be more effective in their jobs.
Many organizations today are missing out on opportunities for revenue. Whether it be focusing on just one end of the client life cycle or focusing too much on their own department, many leaders struggle to maximize client relationships due to misalignment across the revenue engine. In order to adapt to change in the business world today, stakeholders across revenue teams need to collaborate to unify the client experience. Enablement can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between sales and marketing to help reps establish trust with clients and grow revenue.

This is a topic that Darrell Amy explores in-depth in his book, “Revenue Growth Engine,” and I’m so excited to have him on the podcast today to share some of his key insights. Darryl, with that, I’d love if you could just introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Darrell Amy: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me here today, Olivia. This is going to be so much fun, I’m a huge fan of what you’re doing. I think it’s so awesome and I’m really excited. “Revenue growth engine” is about aligning sales and marketing to accelerate growth. After starting in sales in the early 90s and then also getting involved in starting a digital marketing agency in 2004, I’ve spent the last almost 20 years now with one foot in the sales world, one foot in the marketing world. I’ve been noticing that a lot of times you’re not heading in the same direction. I’ve also seen that when sales and marketing get aligned and focused on the same goal, amazing things can happen. That’s why I’m passionate about the revenue growth engine, helping companies build an engine to accelerate their sales and marketing growth.

OF: Fantastic. Well, again, I’m so excited to have you here with us, and I know I learned so much from your book. One of the core things that you discuss in this book is a common problem that organizations experience where they either focus on gaining net new clients or selling to existing clients, but not always both. In your experience, why might organizations only be focusing on one or the other?

DA: Well, we tend to lean on I think what we’re good at. If you’ve got an organization, and these are the organizations that I grew up in, we were hard-charging sales, go get the deal, ring the bell, let’s go land it, and we would get the deal and we leaned on that. My friend Mark Hunter says you don’t close a sale, you open a relationship. The mindset of sales is “I closed the deal.”

I remember my very first company I worked for, they used to have a policy that I actually have adopted, and it’s even in the book, called 100% sold. We would come back with the first order for a net new client, and we’d be like, “yeah, we got the new order,” and we’d ring the bell, write it on the board, we’d celebrate. Very quickly, about five minutes after this celebration, the sales manager would come up and go, okay, great. Now, what are we going to do with that client? The reality is for most organizations, you’ve got a wide portfolio of products and services you sell, just because you land a deal, that’s just the opening, that begins the relationship. The challenge is most sales-centric organizations are really good at landing deals, but they’re not necessarily good at expanding deals. They’re good at net new, they’re not good at cross-sell. They’re good at market share, they’re not good at wallet share.

What I’ve discovered, and this is what gets me really excited, and actually this is the key theme behind a book I’m writing this summer called, “Exponential Growth,” is when we get both of these going at the same time, net new and cross-sell, all of a sudden, we moved from linear growth to exponential growth. I’ll ask companies, are you better at net new or are you better at cross-sell? Great thing for all of us listening in right now, are we better at net new or are we better at cross-sell? If you get good at both, and I say put processes in place for the one you’re not good at, and if you can show modest growth in both net-new and cross-sell at the same time, it’s astounding what can happen. 12% growth in each of those areas can literally double revenue organically in 36 months. It’s amazing.

OF: Yeah. I’m glad that you brought up revenue impact. As you mentioned, focusing on one end of the client life cycle means that a lot of organizations are missing out on revenue. How can focusing on really the entire revenue engine help organizations grow revenue?

DA: Well, you know, it reminds me of the idea behind the book. I’m a strange person, I actually like to mow my lawn. The reason I like to mow my lawn is the phone can’t ring, I can’t check email, and I listen to great podcasts like the Sales Enablement PRO podcast while I mow the lawn. Anyhow, one day I’m mowing my lawn, I’m puttering across the lawn and I’m looking down the driveway and I see my car and I realized, my car has an engine and so does this lawnmower that I’m sitting on driving. It just so happens, the lawnmower, I looked it up later, it has a 27.5-horsepower engine. Now, if I want to take my lawnmower and drive from where I am right now to Seattle, it theoretically is possible. It’s going to take me a long time. I also have in the driveway a car with eight cylinders and a 427-horsepower engine, and I realized, every business has a growth engine, the sum of your sales and marketing efforts. The question is, how many cylinders are in that engine? The more cylinders we can put in place, the more power we bring to the engine.

When we’re looking at our companies right now, and this is what we tried to do inside “Revenue growth engine,” is hold up a framework for you to look at and go, okay, what cylinders are in place? What cylinders are missing? What would it mean to our organization if we were to add the missing sales and marketing cylinders in terms of driving results?

OF: I love that. Going back to the point that you made earlier around the value of relationships, you also talk in the book about building meaningful client relationships and the importance of really being seen as a trusted partner versus just more of a transactional vendor relationship. I’m curious, how can reps really establish themselves as trusted partners with clients?

DA: I love this question, and this is so critical. Right now, it’s funny you asked that because one of the podcasts I co-host, the Selling from the Heart podcast with Larry Levine, this is the topic we’re addressing right now and throughout the fall, which is trust. Trust is the most important commodity that any salesperson has. The problem is we live in a post-trust society. I mean, skepticism is at an all-time high.

Literally yesterday, and this is a fun exercise, well it’s not fun but it’s a good exercise, google the Edelman Trust Report and see what they had to say about salespeople and about companies and executives and marketing people don’t get off the hook either. Salespeople were just barely above politicians once again.

Trust is really hard, and I believe that trust comes out of relationships. Starting relationships is the ball game. When you look at enabling sales, we talk a lot about, obviously we need product knowledge. In fact, I was just on the phone yesterday with a sales enablement leader for a large healthcare company, and they were talking about four core initiatives. There’s a product knowledge initiative, obviously there’s a sales skills initiative, there’s a business process initiative, but then there was this initiative, which I was there to talk about, which was the soft skills. Which is kind of demeaning, but soft skills yield hard dollars.

One of the things we’ve got to get very competent at in enabling our sales teams to do is to be able to develop and sustain trusting relationships. I believe trust gets you in the door, loyalty keeps you there. This right now is really hard, and I don’t know that anyone has completely solved the problem because a lot of the things that we’ve leaned on, like independent market research reports, somebody goes, yeah, whatever, you paid to have that written. Even testimonials and things like that, case studies, people meet with such skepticism right now.

One of the things that I believe is critical in the next decade is enabling our salespeople to be able to develop relationships of trust with their prospects and clients. When I say clients, we know there’s multiple decision-makers in the B2B transaction, so you’ve got to be able to build trust. At Selling from the Heart, we call it speed to heart. How quickly can I get to that relationship? I think it’s the ball game. I think marketing can help in a number of ways.

Yesterday I put together the outline of a book on this because I think it’s so critical, but I don’t even know exactly everything that needs to be in that book. I think trust-building is the new frontier of sales enablement, and we’ve got to figure that one out together.

OF: Absolutely. As you mentioned, trust is hard. I think given all of the change that’s occurred in the last year and a half in the business world, from the economic turbulence to the shift to virtual that many of us went through for the first time, this has in some ways only gotten harder. What are some of the challenges that you saw revenue teams encounter in building trusting relationships with clients in the last year and how can organizations really overcome those challenges?

DA: You know, it’s interesting. That’s a fantastic question, with COVID, the pandemic, the moving to remote offices, distributed decision-making, and larger teams. I was on a podcast last year at the beginning of the pandemic and I was quoting Brent Adams, his work around there’s 6.7 decision-makers. It was funny, this is the world we live in right now, he actually chimed in live, and goes it’s 11 point whatever. I was like Brent Adams is here? That’s cool. Shout out to Brent, but the pandemic, I think it was the great revealer because I think a lot of sales teams discovered that the emperor has got no clothes. I mean, I’ll quote Larry Levine again, he likes to talk about the empty suit. When it came to relationships with clients, a lot of people began to realize, hey, we don’t really have great relationships with our clients. They’re just ordering from us.

Don Barden, another new favorite author of mine, wrote “The Perfect Plan.” I was having dinner with him a couple of weeks ago and he said, hey, look, when someone gives you an order, they’re a customer. It’s the second order when they become a client, and that’s when you know you’ve earned the trust. I think during the pandemic, what happened was it was like this big spotlight on, oh, wow. we’ve got a massive trust gap here. We’ve got a massive relational gap now. Fortunately, a lot of smart, proactive salespeople.

What’s great about sales is we figure things out and we get it done. A lot of sales professionals said, uh oh, and they got on the phone, and they started building relationships. They got on video, and they started building relationships. At the time I think there was this, well, I don’t know what else we can do because we can’t get orders, but I think that moment of realizing that relationships are paramount was really critical.
I think while a lot of people got caught with, uh oh, a lot of them stepped up, a lot of sales teams stepped up and actually developed that. Now, here’s the deal. Now that business is flowing again, are we going to begin to take the relationships for granted, or are we going to continue to invest in our network?

OF: You mentioned earlier, the role that enablement can play in enabling trust and soft skills to help reps engage with clients more effectively. From your experience, how can sales enablement best collaborate with revenue leaders to really maximize business impact?

DA: I think the sales enablement profession is, first of all, it’s just awesome. I mean, it is really awesome. The work that sales enablement people do is really critical, important, and impactful work. I don’t think sales enablement people get thanked enough. Sometimes it’s the exact opposite. I just want to go on record right now, thank you, keep doing what you’re doing. it is very, very valuable.

I think sales enablement people, especially in enterprise and in larger companies struggle because there’s a lot on your plate. Between all of the different training and product knowledge that needs to happen, the tech stack and all the training around that, it’s just so many different competing things happening with sales enablement. I think one of the things that we’ve got to do right now in sales enablement is get creative in terms of how we’re educating our people and developing skill sets.

Thinking of another conversation recently, everyone’s gotten back in the classroom now that some of the restrictions have gone down, and now they’re cramming a year and a half of training into these events. Some of it is necessary. Other organizations have been trying to enable and train their sales team through death by video. It used to be death by PowerPoint now it’s videos of PowerPoint. One of the things that we’re experimenting with at Selling from the Heart is we’re looking at hybrid coaching models with bite-sized chunks, not a classroom, on the go, and then operationalized throughout the week through virtual community-based coaching.

I think a lot of the things we’re going to need to do as sales enablement leaders is look for creative ways to take these core skills around product, sales, business process, and the soft skills, and be able to equip reps to do that. I think it’s going to take a lot of creativity. I don’t think we yet know the answer to that, but one thing I do know about the sales enablement community is we’re going to figure it out. To me, that’s exciting. It’s a lot though, and going back to the beginning of this segment, I just want to say huge shout-out to the sales enablement people because you’re doing great work. You’re working incredibly hard, and I just want to go on record saying thank you.

OF: Absolutely. Well, I know our listeners certainly appreciate it. Throughout this whole conversation, and I know definitely in your book, a really core theme that stood out to me is collaboration, particularly in that partnership between sales and marketing. Going back to what you were talking about a little bit ago with how sales and marketing both play a massive role in that revenue engine, I’m curious if you can tell us maybe a little bit more why it seems like historically these two teams are often at odds with each other? What really is the value of a strong partnership between sales and marketing?

DA: Why have they been at odds? This is a fun question. I’ve had this unique perspective for the last I guess now 18 years where I’ve been involved in sales and sales development and all of that, and then also been engaged on the digital marketing side through web search, social inbound, account-based marketing now and all of that. Where’s the gap? Oh, there’s so many different things, but rather than focus on the gap and the departments, how they’re silos, there’s not shared language, there’s this list of problems we could talk about for the rest of the podcast. What I discovered was, it’s so funny because even as I was writing the book, the book is titled “How to Align Sales and Marketing,” and even just the title of the book I’m like, do you put Marketing and Sales or do you put Sales and Marketing, who goes first? You can tell who’s leading based on how they do that, I could not figure out a way to do it without putting one ahead of the other one on top of the other.

The reality though, is it’s not about sales and it’s not about marketing. As much as I love selling, as much as I am passionate about sales and sales development and all, it’s an amazing career, it’s not about sales and it’s also not about marketing, as much as I love the incredible technologies and innovation. I love the challenge of marketing. It’s not about margin. It’s about revenue. The “Revenue Growth Engine” actually came about while I was getting ready to present to a conference of sales and marketing professionals. The marketing professionals had basically dragged the sales leaders to this conference and the marketing professionals were all excited about the technology, gadgets. Sales leaders were all in the back, they were in the back of the room, arms folded going, we could be out selling something right now. What I realized when I was preparing for that conference, nobody’s right or wrong here, but what’s wrong is the focus is not on our department or our discipline, the focus is on revenue and the focus is on revenue from ideal clients.

What we unpack in the book is how to get aligned around revenue goals for net-new and cross-sell, how to get aligned around who your ideal client is, and then the secret sauce that came to me while I was writing this book is not only is it about the ideal client, but the way we align sales and marketing is we actually look at client experience. If you go outside the sales and marketing world to the operations world, there’s this entire rich discipline called customer experience or CX. When I saw that and I started reading the “Experience Economy,” started getting to know Joey Coleman with “Never Lose a Customer Again,” I realized, wait a second, let’s stop focusing on sales and marketing, let’s start focusing on the customer experience. Then let’s ask ourselves the question, what do we need to put in place to make this experience awesome, frictionless, and create pipeline velocity? Now we put sales and marketing in the room, not to argue about who is right or who generated the lead or whatever, but we put them in the room to say, hey, let’s look at the customer experience and let’s collaborate to make this customer experience amazing. When we do, we are going to drive revenue and we’re all going to win.

OF: Absolutely, I love that. Well, Darryl, you have landed some fantastic points throughout this conversation, and I know I learned a lot from you and I’m so excited to have our audience listen to this as well. Thank you again for taking the time today.

DA: Awesome, thank you.

OF: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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