Episode 221: Richard Giorgi on Achieving Internal Alignment to Impact Revenue Growth
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. 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 that they can be more effective in their jobs.
Today I’m excited to have Richard Giorgi from Swiss Re join us. Richard, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.
Richard Giorgi: Thanks for having me on today. I’ve been in sales enablement and sales ops roles for over a decade now. I started out in direct sales as an account executive but after I finished grad school I made the jump to Sales Ops and Sales Enablement with a bit of marketing sprinkled in as well. I currently lead sales enablement in the Americas for a company called Swiss Re and we’re a global reinsurer. Essentially we allow insurance companies and other risk transfer providers to insulate their own risk by seeding a portion of that risk to us. In the most basic sense, we are insurance for insurance companies.
SS: Well, Rich, I’m excited to have you here on the podcast. You are uniquely positioned within your organization as a leader in sales enablement that’s reporting through marketing. From your perspective, what are some of the key intersection points between sales enablement and marketing?
RG: Aligning sales and marketing is something that I’m really passionate about. My first post-sales role was actually called Sales and Marketing Associate and I think we’re seeing it more and more today as companies shift to this revenue enablement and revenue ops nomenclature. The idea is that it’s not just sales and marketing being exclusive to each other, but they really need to be aligned and work together. Marketing is driving leads but sellers need the right content for things like follow-up. If a prospect doesn’t end up buying, the old way was for a salesperson to just nurture that prospect over time. In my first sales role I had lists of people who I had spoken to and it was my job as a salesperson to every now and then just send an email or make a phone call, but now you want to kick that back to marketing to help drive top of mind awareness.
Thinking about things like MQLs, measuring MQLs just really isn’t sufficient anymore. Those leads need to be connected to revenue somehow and ultimately sales is still a steward of the brand in the market. It’s important during onboarding to ensure that sellers understand this and they don’t have to create their own content from scratch that could damage the brand or cause confusion in the market, but someone needs to pull that all together and kind of be a referee, so to speak, between sales and marketing. I think that’s where sales enablement can play its most important role, at least in my experience. Ensuring anything that goes to sales is filtered through enablement. The marketing teams and the product teams are very clear on the needs of the sales teams.
SS: Absolutely, I agree. Now, how do you go about driving alignment between the sales enablement and marketing efforts within your organization today?
RG: As you said in the introduction, I’m pretty lucky that I report to marketing, so that’s a big help. Interestingly, marketing here also reports even higher up into strategy and I love that because it helps give me a bigger picture of the business. Strategy touches everything right from go-to-market initiatives to back-end processes, so having that picture of the business allows me to foster better alignment by ensuring that the enablement processes we put in place, support the most wins or the business goals of each team. In the past, in other companies, I’ve also reported up through marketing, but in some cases, I’ve reported up through sales, and sometimes what ends up happening with sales enablement or sales operations or any of those sales support roles, when they report to one or the other, there ends up being a pretty clear bias towards the people that they report into.
If you’re reporting to a CMO, you’re handling more marketing operations and maybe more lead management and things like that, whereas on the sales side you might be pulled into more of the CRM issues or process and methodology and things like that. Being in the strategy team overall allows me to kind of stay in the middle and really do what I like to do and foster the alignment that way because ultimately I’m not really beholden to our head of sales or our head of global marketing or something like that. I have that strategy team that’s giving me a bigger picture of the whole business.
SS: Absolutely. Now you’ve already touched on quite a few areas of potential impact, but what would you say the impact is of alignment between sales enablement and marketing on the business?
RG: Increased revenue and better customer experience. That’s number one and number two, but also hopefully less churn in the ranks and happier employees because they’re doing what they were hired to do which is sell and achieve their own target earnings and not have to create content or search on SharePoint sites are looking for whatever they need in all these different places and having a good understanding of which of their clients or prospects are being marketed to.
Just speaking from experience, when I was in a sales management role so much of what we had to do we had to create ourselves. It makes it difficult to do the things that you want to do, which is being in front of your customers. If you’re constantly searching for things, constantly feeling like you have to write your own content, that’s an impact on revenue and that’s an impact on all the goals that you want to achieve because you’re out there doing other people’s jobs, so to speak. I think sales enablement, being able to align marketing and sales opens up the sales team to do what they do best and what they were hired to do.
SS: Absolutely. On the topic of business impact as you said, your core responsibilities are really around driving revenue growth across the region you support and improving the customer experience. What are some of the key ways that enablement can impact revenue growth?
RG: Enablement exists in my view to make the lives of sellers easier, but also to enable that customer experience. My goal is to ensure that the right seller is speaking to the right prospect about the right solution at the right time. If any one of those things is incorrect or off, it could compromise closing the deal. Ensuring those things are as correct as can be all have an impact on revenue, we don’t want people speaking to companies that we can’t do business with. We want sellers to be able to ascertain the right product or solution that will benefit the customer pretty quickly and we want to make sure the timing is right and that we’re internally aligned.
I can give you an example from the side of a potential customer. This is a true story. When I started at Swiss Re we were in the market for a sales enablement tool and we went to a few different companies one of those companies first had a mid-market rep helping us. Now normally that wouldn’t matter to me as long as the person knows what they’re doing, but for them, I guess it did. When they learned more about Swiss Re they clearly moved us to an enterprise rep based on our company size and our company revenue and everything. We’re clearly an enterprise-level prospect. So step one, it is important to have internal alignment and understand your prospects so don’t split your teams by company if you can’t execute. Now I’m retelling our challenges to a new rep, meanwhile, their competitor has a sales engineer joined from the outset, answering my questions and sending me clear pricing. All in all, it was a much better experience and it was no doubt supported by a strong sales enablement team. One team ends up losing an enterprise-level sale worth six figures in ARR because their teams just weren’t internally aligned. Again, that alignment means so much in terms of impacting revenue.
SS: Absolutely. How can enablement leaders correlate their programs to revenue targets, what are some of the core metrics that you track today?
RG: This kind of goes back to understanding the business goals and being very in the know in terms of revenue goals broken down in some cases, all the way down to the individual seller. In a company that I was at prior to Swiss Re called Spectrum, selling our managed services products was a huge priority and how much quota relief came from managed services sales could affect a seller’s commission. We set up a very intensive program around managed services, a cadence of emails from our sales enablement tool, lead lists and CRM, both prospects and current clients who fit our customer profile, pricing incentives, and all of this aligned with marketing in a larger campaign around these products. We could say this is a lead that you’re receiving from marketing, here are all the companies with all the prospects on all your current clients in this list, and here’s what you can do and speak about when you call on these companies. In that way, two of the biggest metrics that I track today, are our conversion and deal velocity. I want our programs and the tools we invest in the training that we provide to help sellers close more deals, but I also want them to close those deals faster. What’s the impact if I can decrease the sales cycle from say 120 plus days to less than 90? Can we close one more deal a year, and what does one more deal a year per seller means to our revenue goal? Both of those metrics have a huge impact.
Another metric that we’ve taken to looking at Swiss Re more and more is qualified meetings. I said earlier that I think MQLs aren’t really sufficient anymore, and I think a lot of people, at least on the sales side, would probably agree with that statement. It’s great if you’re getting a lot of leads from one channel but which channel is providing the most qualified meetings because those are the channels you want to invest in to maximize the chance of getting the prospects who are closer to buying and that in turn speeds up your sales cycle, helps with your conversion and then again, really goes back to that core goal of mine, which is to help drive our revenue goals.
SS: Last question for you, how do you utilize data such as the impact of enablement on revenue growth to continue to also maybe even optimize your enablement programs?
RG: That’s a great question, and so relevant because data is everything. We look at all those metrics that I listed before and, of course, lots of others and we use that to create our business cases for a new program or an investment in a new tool. We can use it to show sellers where they should spend their time and we use it to tighten up what we’re already doing. We use that data to level set and adjust our programs as we go. It’s kind of funny, I like to use analogies and I like to cook. One of the things you learn when you start cooking is that you have to adjust your seasoning as you go through the recipe and kind of taste and adjust accordingly. Every time you add a new ingredient you have to adjust. It’s no different when you’re running a sales program.
At Spectrum, we ran across a sales program aimed at selling one of our managed services to our current clients because we wanted to drive that incremental revenue. We could find a way to add to our revenue goals, sort of that hat unplanned revenue, that extra revenue that you aren’t really thinking about because these are new programs. We were doing pretty well with it and we noticed that our AEs assigned to the healthcare vertical were struggling. There was like a minimal impact on their targets relative to their peers. We looked at the data, we looked at what we had given them, and one thing that stood out was we had decided to limit this program to companies that had less than 10 locations. A huge portion of our healthcare clients had more than 10 locations. They were big hospital systems like nursing home systems and things like that, and we basically delivered zero leads to these account executives. For this program, we had to use that data and reassess it for that team so we can make sure that we were delivering to them the same thing we were delivering to their peers. You’re just always adjusting and always using data to optimize those programs and ensure you’re on the right track.
SS: I love that, Richard. Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today.
RG: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is 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.