Master Framework for Sales Enablement
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Emcee: Without further ado, a big hand for Byron Matthews, CEO with Miller Heiman.
Byron Matthews: Okay, is this on? Can you guys hear me okay? Yep? How are we doing? Yeah! Let’s do it! Here’s what we are going to do. We are going to talk about 3 things. First, we are going to talk about what is going on in the world of selling and why so much change? Before we just jump into sales enablement, I think it is important to talk about the context of why is this actually the fastest growing trend in selling right now? Kind of what’s going on. And then how are sales organizations responding? A bit of a spoiler alert: it’s sales enablement. But what’s really going on and how are they responding? And then finally, as we look at what the world’s best organizations are investing in, what are they doing, there are kind of four things that rise to the top and I want to talk through each one of those four things; give you something to think about as you leave.
Okay, so what’s going on the world of selling? Some of this is really obvious to all of us. There is a lot of change going on in the buyer side. And yes, that change in the buyer side, which I will talk briefly about, causes a lot of change in sales organizations. And from Miller Heiman’s perspective – we deal with 4,000 to 5,000 clients a year globally – we have never seen so much change. So we certainly feel it from our client’s perspective. They are investing in change. They are making a lot of change inside their organization. And obviously, that’s because buyers are changing.
But there is also some stuff going on in the overall marketplace that is causing change too. I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but there are some things going on that are putting pressure on selling organizations. For one, obviously digital distribution. Completely changing business models, right? Supply chains are changing. There are new players. The technology is allowing for collaboration in a new way that is creating a lot of impact on how sellers sell. That is kind of an obvious one.
The second one is urbanization, and especially for our global clients. Did you know that 65 million people a year are living now in urban cities? So 65 million people are migrating towards urban lifestyle, mostly in emerging economies. So think about that. That is like – I’m from Chicago, so I’ll do this – that is seven new Chicagos every year. Alright? Think about that centralization in urbanization population. So to be honest, if you are selling globally, it is much different when you are actually selling inside of an urban population. There is a lot more competition. There is pricing. There are a lot of things to think about. Local competitors. It is causing a lot of anxiety, if you will, with some of our global clients and some of the global sales organizations out there.
Productivity and the aging workforce. So we know this to be true: there are going to be less people in the labor market in the next 50 years than there were in the last 50 years, right? Productivity requires labor, so if the labor market is going down, that means that is going to increase the pressure on efficiency and productivity. So there’s quite a bit of impact as it relates to need to sell more. We need to get more out of what we do.
And then finally, invisible sector boundaries. There are tons of examples here. I was just with a client a couple of weeks ago in Australia, a telecommunications company that now they are entering the health care space. So these very clean boundaries that happen in industries are starting to get broken down. Companies are starting to compete across sectors, now partially because of the first thing up there. But again, that impacts selling organizations. That impacts the sophistication of what’s required of a seller in that environment. So these are just important kind of macro things as it relates to why selling organizations are changing and why it is harder for them.
Now, this is the stuff that we all know about. The buyer is changing, okay? Some basic stuff. 23% – we had this big buyer study where we go out and study the preferences of buyers – and I think it reconfirmed what we all know to be true, right? Buyers are engaging us less, engaging sellers less – 23% of buyers actually think of salespeople as the primary source of information. That was totally different 10 years ago. We can all agree on that. Twenty years ago, it was about providing information as a seller. Now it’s about providing inspiration. It’s totally different. It’s a different type of engagement model. So buyers are completely different.
The number of buyers – we did this study, and now when it’s a complex sale it is up to 6.4% or 6.4 buyers in every complex sale. There are more people involved, right? There are more processes involved when there are more people, which obviously means there oftentimes is more politics involved in decision-making, which makes it harder to navigate all that. So complex selling has just become a lot more difficult.
Now, part of that same study, we wanted to look at engagement, so I guess 23% of buyers only looked to a seller as a primary source of information, but when are they engaging sellers? Is it up front to understand needs and have these great discussions around their concept and what is going on? Not so much. 70% wait until after they have fully defined needs, 44% wait until they have identified their solution, and 20% to just lock down the deals. So that just means that the level of engagement is much, much lower than it ever has been.
So again, it goes back to that it’s not about information; it’s about inspiration. Your at-bats, your number of opportunities to engage a buyer are a lot less than it ever has been because they are obviously more informed than they ever have been. Now, does it mean they are better informed? It means they are more informed. That is a big change on the buyer’s side in terms of the dynamics and the capabilities now required of a selling organization.
Audience member: I just have a question. I’m sorry to interrupt.
BM: Go for it.
Audience member: (inaudible)
BM: I just made them up. I was really hoping no one would ask that question. She asked, where does the information come from? So Miller Heiman Group, we purchased a business that operates separately called CSO Insights, and it’s entire purpose and charter is research. So it conducts studies every single year on a variety of different things, and what we decided that would be most important recently is to do a big study on our buyers and what’s going on in the world of buying. So that’s where this data is coming from.
Audience member: (inaudible)
BM: Absolutely. So across industries and geographies as well. Good question. Feel free to jump in.
Okay. Here’s the good news, right? So in that same study, we were asking about engagement and we’re like, that seems like really bad news that people are just engaging us a lot less. Is there any good news in it? And there is good news – 90% of buyers will say, you know what, I will engage you if a scenario makes sense, if it is really risky to us, if the stakes are high in this decision. Now, this might be like, yeah, that totally makes sense, but it is interesting and really important to understand. If it is risky for them, if it’s complex, if it’s new, they engage you more. That needs to be in the mindset of the seller when you do engage. So it changes the behaviors of sellers and that sophistication and that understanding needs to be baked inside of your sales process because where you understand, engagement can be high if you operate differently.
This level of sophistication is really, really important. A lot of organizations just have a one size fits all in terms of how we engage. The other big thing here is that success looks different. What things used to be is you would show up, you would ask some really good questions, and you would get the customer’s needs and then you would pitch a solution. Or even before that, you would just show up and pitch product, right? There was product pitching and then that kind of moved to solution selling and I would argue that Miller Heiman in the ‘70s kind of pioneered this notion – was one of the pioneers – of solution selling. But that’s actually not good enough anymore. That doesn’t actually work anymore.
Today with the amount of content and the amount of information and the amount of lack of engagement – all the things we talked about earlier – you can’t just show up and do that. You have to inspire. You have to actually, what we call, add perspective inside of the sales process. In that same study where what were buyers looking for related to success and what a good engagement looked like, you can see here providing them insights and perspective, right? Obviously understanding their business and needs were still important, but you will see this new trait around educating me now becoming a really, really important part of the sales process.
So, how are organizations responding to all of this? I’m going to provide a framework for you to think about related to performance. We have taken all of this over many, many years now mapped 1700 organizations against a very simple framework to think about performance. It has two dimensions to it. The first is how your selling organization engages with your customer, your client. A simple way of thinking about it: do you walk in and pitch product? You’re a vendor. So when you think about it, that’s the way you interact. Preferred supplier is you just do that and you are a preferred supplier of that product. So, yes, you still pitch the product and you still interact through a product lens but you understand how your product adds value because you are a preferred supplier. You are there a lot. Those two are very different than the next step.
The next step is this idea of a solutions consultant, which means you show up and you ask good questions. You understand their needs. To be honest, that’s where a lot of people have been trying to chase for many, many years. How do I become a good solution consultant? How do I get my people to go in and really understand the needs before they just start pitching something? That’s in the middle. Makes total sense. It’s been a pervasive selling methodology for many, many years. The next two are totally different because the next two is not only do I understand their needs – important – but I am adding value to them. I am actually contributing to their business in a different way, not just about selling my product but in some broader and bigger way.
A good example of this is Papa John’s and Pepsi, Pepsi being the preferred supplier of brown sugar water for Papa John’s stores. Well, they aspired to have a different connection with Papa John’s. They knew that Papa John’s wanted to go to Latin America. Well, who has more demographic data than Pepsi? Maybe Coke, I don’t know. They know where every single human being is and exactly where to put stores, so they went in and showed them how to think about moving into Latin America and they partnered together on that expansion. That is a trusted partner. That is actually contributing to a level that transcends just selling a product. But that level of sophistication to go in and engage a client in that way is profound. It’s different. It’s hard. But that is important.
Think about it – 1700 clients – we kind of map them on that. How do you engage? So when we mapped everybody, 33% of the organizations are in the middle – solutions consultants. It kind of makes sense. That should be where most people are kind of at, where you get a little bit less at the top, and still, up to 50% of people are selling a product, just pitching product. Okay, I’ll put this together in a second. The next dimension is okay, I get how you connect with the client, but how do you operate as a business? What does your sales process look like? How do you execute as an organization? Real simple. Random process means you’re just as good as the person out there, right? There is no rep process binding them together. Your reps just go out there and sell and you are as good as that person.
The next one is an informal process – it’s my favorite one – it’s where everything is documented. I actually have a sales process, it’s got funnels, it’s got stages, it’s got gates, I understand what we must do, I understand what my client must do before I get to the next level, I’ve got playbooks, I’ve got content, I’ve got all this stuff but no one really uses it, or not everyone uses it. So it’s informal. Sometimes it’s used, but it’s not a formal process, where you have organizational execution around a methodology; around a way of selling, where everybody operates that way. And then finally, when you actually have organizational execution around a methodology, you now can actually predict learning. You can predict things that would provide more value, so you are very analytical driven, which then you modify your process, your playbooks, your content, your steps, your activities quickly, because you have the confidence of what is working because everybody is actually operating the same way.
So when we mapped everybody here, this is how this distribution unfolded. You can imagine, and we would agree, that informal process would be the dominant one. I mean, everyone is striving to get to this but it is really, really hard. That’s hard to do. So, why is this all together? When you put the two things together, this is the distribution of companies of those 1700 companies. And again, I don’t think anyone here would say, “ah, that makes no sense, everyone should be over at dynamic.” Informal process solution consultant – that is really what a lot of firms are, where you aspire to have organizational execution, not quite there in the adoption, you really want your people to be really good solution consultants in front of their customers, right? And that is again the kind of predominant place we are landing.
This is interesting. Here is if it’s important. It’s only important if, as I go that way, our company is more successful. That would make it actually important. This is interesting. So of those companies, we actually got all of their metrics and their data, and what you saw is across a couple of key metrics, as you go northeast, you get better. It shouldn’t be that big of an “aha”. That would mean if you have organizational execution and you have strategically evaluated your client, I bet you will be more successful. Hard to do, again. Common sense but not common practice, because it’s hard. Now, what does that mean? That is the reality of kind of how we looked at performance and why things are kind of impacting and why companies are trying to change. They are trying to change to get better process orientation, to get better execution. They are trying to change to add value inside of the sales process. We are seeing a lot of that.
Given all the buyer dynamics that are going on, there are kind of three things that we are seeing companies really doubling down on. One, honestly: organizational structure. We are seeing selling models change. We are actually seeing a trend – a lot more inside sales, outside sales. Why is that? Well, if engagement is low – we’ve established that – does it mean that clients aren’t engaging to learn about you, they just aren’t doing it through your sales organization? So you are seeing a big trend in a lot of various types of channels that connect with customers.
We’re seeing a big shift there. We are seeing – we’ll talk about this later – we’re seeing a change in methodology. It is not just about asking questions anymore. It’s about adding value. Well, that’s a different way of doing things. That Pepsi rep had to think differently; had to pull together content, had to engage differently, had to ask for a different type of meeting. That is different than just showing up and trying to understand what they need. And obviously lots of companies are chasing subscription models, which is fun, but of course, that puts a big demand on account management discipline. So we are seeing selling models change.
You are also seeing a big gap in talent. As more pressure is on sales organizations, talent has become an issue. We did a study – CSO Insights did – around talent. 16% of organizations think they have the right talent for the future. Quick math – that’s a bunch that doesn’t, right? So, what does all that mean? That means there are a lot of talent issues out there related to sales, and we’ll talk about that in a second.
In the context of this last one, that fastest growing trend that we see going on is sales enablement. Why does it keep going on? Why don’t you guys write a book on that? I mean, geez. Because it is this immense trend that is happening. People are trying to understand how we are going to sophisticate our business, how are we going to get them to become value drivers, how do we get organizational execution? Sales ops is not the answer. Sales ops supports that, for sure it does. It is a big part of that. But it is not the only answer. It is this new cross-functional discipline that is really charged with closing this gap. Closing the gap that buyers are getting better at buying faster and sellers are getting better at selling. That gap is real. All of our data would suggest that. Sales enablement is that function that’s trying to close that gap.
Okay, so what is sales enablement? Here’s one way of looking it. This is a little equation here. Think of it very simply as, it’s the effectiveness and the efficiency of the stuff that goes through your pipeline or your funnel. It is creating effectiveness and efficiency of what goes in. How do you do that? Well, you need A – any idea what A is? Activity. You need people doing stuff. You multiply that, that gets amplified by Q. Anybody? Quality. So it’s got to be good stuff, right? If it’s a ton of activity but it’s not good, you’re not going to get effective or efficient. But you divide all that by T. Anybody? Time. If it takes forever then you’re not going to get a lot of that activity. Now, this is the hardest one – you divide all of that by D. Anybody? Distractions. If you distract your sales organization by just a bunch of new stuff or a bunch of technology or a bunch of this or a bunch of that, you are going to get distractions. They’re funny people, right? You’ve got to be careful. And so this is what you chase mentally as a sales enablement leader.
Now, we have done a lot of research here. We’re on our fourth year of studying sales enablement. That’s why we ultimately came up with the idea of building a book because there are some really common themes of what good looks like. One of the common themes is what are they really focusing on? Now again, as you can imagine, there is this discipline popping up so fast. Almost 80% of organizations have some level of an enablement function. You get many different flavors of it. There’s not a thing out there three years ago that said exactly the 101 of building a sales enablement function. These things happen organically and they happen fast. But the thing that threaded around success that we saw was training services, coaching services, enablement technology, and content services. These four things were a pervasive trend in not only sales enablement organizations, but the ones that were successful.
So you are seeing a large amount of sales enablement organizations today, and again interesting or important is, are they more successful than the ones that don’t have it? And the answer is yes. But here’s the thing that we are seeing; we are seeing a little bit of dip in part of that. Partially that is why, we think, is because it’s exploding so fast that you’re starting to see some maturity with the ones that have been out there a couple of years, but the ones that have popped up fast haven’t quite hit their stride yet, so it is dragging down some of the numbers.
Okay, now I want to talk about the four things that we see sales enablement doing and we see strategies in general that are driving success inside of selling organizations. Now, we’ve already talked about some of these so I am hoping as I go through each one of these, you will understand why we are seeing this as a big trend. One, we have this idea of a “value engineer”. Salespeople should be considered engineers, engineers of value. Not just people asking questions and getting good answers. But they are actually value engineers and that is hard to do. Why? Because talent needs to be thought of differently. What a sales professional looked like yesterday is not what is going to be required for tomorrow. I’ve got some data to show you some of that. And finally, what used to be a differentiator – remember that SRP matrix where that one set of process that went from random – what I used to say, yeah, formal process now, that used to be your big differentiator. We’ve put in a methodology and we are all operating the same – that now is required as a circuit breaker for success, because as things change, as you’re asking them to do more, as they need to evolve, they have to operate together. You have individual autonomy if you’re a lone wolf in terms of a single individual and that’s what you are counting on, you’re not going to find success. And finally, there’s this enormous amount of technology, tons of technology out there now trying to solve the sales equation. It is really important to deploy a thoughtful strategy around this, so we will talk about that.
Okay, so let’s go through the first one. I’ve mentioned this before. I’ll give you a little bit of framework for it but I’ve already talked about this. You used to show up and you used to show a solution. That’s great. Now you’ve got to show up and understand needs, but you’ve got to really mentally enter your client or your customer’s world. You have to have the salesperson think about, what’s the relationship between my customer and their customers? What’s actually going on there? Is there anything I can learn about that that could better inform my next conversation? What is going on with their competition? What is going on with their growth drivers, with their differentiation, their employees? What is happening in their world that provides me context? Pepsi did the same thing. They realized, well, they want to go to Latin America. Okay, I can now broker some capabilities. I can – four value drivers – find parts of my company that have nothing to do with me selling soda but bring demographic data into the conversation. That is a mindset shift. It takes capability, it takes muscle, it takes sometimes technology, content. Hard to do, but there are four value drivers that you can think about as you enter that client world. There is, what problems, what unrecognized problems are my customers not thinking about? What are the opportunities they don’t see – anticipated solutions they are not really thinking through, or what other capabilities can I bring to bear? We spend a lot of time with our clients taking this value driver concept against this notion of a client’s world across this dimension, and getting salespeople to think differently about their next interaction. What are or why can you bring to the table? What unique conversation can you have that is different from just selling a product in question? That is the future.
Second thing – in order to do that, we believe talent needs to look a little different. One of the businesses we bought over the last couple of years, Miller Heiman has integrated different businesses together, and one of them was this company from IBM we bought called Talent Analytics. And essentially, it’s a big analytics business with tons of assessments, okay? Millions and millions of assessments and you go through all of these assessments and are kind of filtering through it, you start seeing a trend. I was like, that is really interesting, and that is the traits of high performing salespeople.
Now if I were to tell you, and I’m being really general here, to say this is predominantly a successful person. But I took all the traits and put them into two categories: EQ and IQ. EQ – think about this – persuasion, relationships and emotional intelligence kind of stuff, right? So it’s like building relationships. That was the predominant trait in successful salespeople of the past. I can connect with you. I understand how to navigate situations and I’ve got great EQ. That was a really hard thing to have. Over here – it doesn’t mean IQ isn’t important – it just wasn’t the dominant trait of success. Analytical skills, problem-solving, learning agility. Can I learn things really, really quickly? Again, important, but not the dominant trait. What we have started to see is a shift where actually, in a world where engagement is a lot less, it is not about providing information, it is about providing inspiration. It’s about providing a perspective to a client. It is about entering their world, understanding what they are trying to do, getting insights, getting data, getting ROI analysis, bringing that to the table, having a conversation with the client, living in a world where it’s a lot more technology rich with data all around me, IQ becomes an important trait. Again, it’s not the whole thing and we’re not saying that is the single thing that you need now, but it is important now as sales environments have become more sophisticated.
So that shift is happening. As part of how we work with our clients to assess talent, we take their high performers and we understand what makes them click and kind of model from, this is the kind of people you want to hire and these are the kind of things you want to think about with development. So it’s kind of four categories. Pretty basic stuff that anyone would understand; how they execute, their focus, their persuasion, their responsibility, their discipline. It’s important for salespeople, right? Discipline, their motivation, their confidence level. Are they competitive or not? Those are important traits. Interaction. Are they networker? Individualizer? Work in team environments? And the one that is starting to fire off the most success is this idea of this cognition – the way they are thinking, the way they process. Do they learn quickly? If you give them an ROI analysis, if you provide them content that they should provide the client, if you help them think through a situational fluency of a certain discussion you’re going to have and you want to add perspective, can they understand that? Can they process that quickly and can they translate that to a really impactful conversation? That’s an important trait now.
It is something we are seeing becoming more and more important. It’s not the whole thing by any means – please don’t take that. It’s just becoming another important of the equation. That is why you see more STEM backgrounds entering sales than ever before. You are seeing more people with STEM backgrounds entering sales, and that is why in some of the research you will actually see that acquiring talent is harder because now it is more competitive to find people with this type of mix. And actually getting someone from start to finish, taking nine months – hard to do. Then you’ve got onboarding. So, the decisions are a lot more serious related to your recruiting.
You’ve got another question.
Audience member: So, this looks like the perfect person. But how about putting that together as a team?
BM: Yeah, so, all that matters. I’m not even sure you’ll find someone with all this stuff. This was my attempt to say these are the different categories, these four categories, of traits, of talent, and here are some of the traits that are needed in each category of which you have to measure and monitor. I would never say that it’s perfect to have it in one situation. Actually, what’s perfect is to understand who your high performers are, what mix they have, and then say, “okay, now that is it” because they are already working in that team in that culture. Because your point is, which is a great one, that culture matters too in terms of the team environment you work on, in the culture of your clients, all of that stuff. So it’s contextualizing. It needs to be contextualized for sure. The thing I wanted you to walk away with is to say that there is an extra category of traits that we are starting to see becoming important, and that is the idea of this cognitive thinking.
Process maturity. This goes back to that thing that was going left to right in the SRP matrix around your process. A lot of people think about the process as training. Well, there’s a big difference for people who care about this. There are process and methodology, and then there are skills, and a lot of people mix these things up. Process, which is, what are the things that I need to think about and go do to be successful? So if I’m chasing a deal, there are five people involved in making that decision. Who are they, what do they think about us, what are their win results, what mode are they in? I’ve got to think about all those different things. What don’t I know? Who haven’t I gotten to? And there is a huge list of things that I could go do next.
A methodology helps you figure out what is the best leverage of the next three things I should go do. But, you’re going to need skills to go do those things. It might say, “yeah, you should go get to the person that makes the decisions.” You should go to that person. Great. I’ve got to go pick up the phone, I’ve got to go make that call, I’ve got to convince them to meet with me, I’ve got to prepare for that, I’ve got to ask questions, I’ve got to respond to objections – skills. So when I talk about process excellence, what I’m really talking about is having the methodology that the entire business has the mindset and operates under, okay? That is process. But you’ve got to have the skills obviously that you invest over time to make sure that works at an optimized level. Think about our individual rep working at an autonomy level vs. having organizational execution, our research at CSO Insights would suggest when you have organizational execution, 23% are more successful.
I haven’t seen them pull me off the stage yet, so I’ll share a quick story that in my world, gave me this really big understanding of what this means to have organizational execution. My first big career was at Accenture. I worked there for a time and my first big – I didn’t want to just consult; I wanted to actually do it – so I took a sales leader job at Mercer. Mercer – actually, I may have a colleague in here from my old Mercer days, I thought I saw someone – is a big, five billion-ish professional services business across a lot of different lines of businesses, and it was a sales leader job and it was a big transformation because I had to roll out a whole bunch of changes from plans to new roles, technology and there were methodology and executions as part of this. And we rolled it all out to 6000 people and the last program that we ran and the big roll-out was in Asia. We came back in 2008 in October, we came back and, boom! The economy goes down, and a third of our business were assets under management, which meant really bad news.
So all of the value of a third of our business goes down overnight and so we’re in the room and we’re thinking what are we going to do? What should we do? And everyone is coming up with ideas and a lot of them are stupid, like let’s start a bankruptcy practice – that’s not smart – you can’t just start a practice. But literally, I said, “I’ve got an idea, let’s do this.” I was a newer guy in the room. Let’s outsell everybody. Let’s just do that. I mean, we’ve just made this massive investment. We’ve transformed everything. We’ve said it was important to all of them and now we’re up against the wall. Let’s say the only thing we do next year is outsell everybody. You can imagine these technicians in the room, right? They were like, “this kid’s an idiot.” That’s not a strategy. Sales is not a strategy. So they told me elegantly that was not a good idea and I didn’t say anything. So, okay, it’s not a good idea. The conversation ends, the CEO says, “you know what, I’ve heard nothing but let’s outsell everybody.” So our 2009 strategy is sales excellence. We’re going to outsell everybody. He looked at me and said, “we’ve got to make this happen.” I said, “got it.”
And so 2009 happens, it’s March, we’re right into the year, a big test comes, a huge RFP, Fortune 5 company. This thing would be game-changing for us, but we’re not the incumbent. So the team fills out – any actuaries in here? This is important because I will make fun of you. I would be careful. This is good. I’m giving you freedom here. 1, 2, 3 – worst people ever. I mean these are totally nerds of nerds. These guys were really into the details and they filled out, I kid you not, the RFP response was in the 700-page range. The presentation to go in there was 120-ish slides, and it had a density that was mind-boggling. This is the good thing about it. Incredibly smart, right? These people are brilliant. And they pulled me into that deal at the last minute where we’re going to go present this thing the next morning.
We are meeting at night in the hotel room, they showed me all the stuff and I was like, no way. No way are we going in with this. I said our process, our execution, our methodology says, and we all believe in, that we know nothing about this client, we’ve been able to share no insights, we’re just following a process, and we are not going to do this. So what I think we should do – they gave us three hours – I think we should start the meeting and say thanks for inviting us but we are not going to waste your time, and we would like to give you all the time back, unless you would like to have an opportunity to engage with us and we can learn more about you, and we can share some things that we think matter and then we will come back at another time and present what we actually think will move your needle. And they looked at me like, no way are we doing that. No way are we doing that. So, big argument, go to bed.
At the time, we had – it wasn’t Blackberries, it was…it doesn’t matter, not as cool as our phones now, I’ll put it that way. And I just remember seeing the emails where they escalated right to the CEO, email, email, email, this guy’s crazy, he’s insane, this process sucks, they don’t know how to sell in our environment, we’re different, our industry is different, he doesn’t get it – you can imagine all these different things. She doesn’t respond to any of them. I wake up in the morning and I say, “guys, I’m not going to do this. I’m sticking to our process. This is how we actually are going to make a difference.” So they say, “I’ll tell you what, you do that and you’re fired.” I was like, “alright, fine.”
We start the meeting. I literally believed something different was going to happen. But this is actually what happened. So we start the meeting and – oh, god, I’ll never forget, so it’s like a theater almost and they are all in the back and they are watching us on this like platform – and we are presenting. We’ve got this massive deck and we only have 3 hours to just rip through it. I start the meeting and I say exactly what I said I would say, to the word, and one guy in the back – didn’t know who he was – is laughing his rear-end off. He is laughing at me, and head of procurement stands up, was just furious, and says, “wait, are you telling me you are not presenting?” And I said, “no, no, no, I would love to engage with you and spend the time together but no, we’re not just going to walk you through our presentation.” And he said, “then get out.” This was actually not what I thought was going to happen. I thought nothing was going to happen. Or they’d be like, well what do you want to know and let’s talk a little bit. None of that part happened.
So everything that I thought was bad happened. I mean literally. We get kicked out of the room, the people I was with were unbelievably fired up, and so I’m on a plane home. Now I hadn’t thought through any of this, really. So it’s true my wife is pregnant with our first kid. And I’m on the way home and it’s Thursday. I’m thinking this is not a good environment to get a job, not good. I’m kind of stressing. It builds up a little bit more. Emails start showing up about how I screwed up. Still no response from anybody. And I put everything down, didn’t want to deal with it over the weekend, to try to survive. I wake up in the morning on Monday and I was headed to New York. I land in New York and, sure enough, CEO in my inbox – “come see me.” I’m like, damn. I get there and figured like done and done, no job. So I show up, open the door, she comes in, super nice. I’m like, okay. She just said, “you know what, congratulations, I just wanted to spend a couple of seconds with you to say congratulations.” And I had no idea what was going on. So I was like, yeah, totally good, right? Did you see all those emails? And she said, “you don’t know what I’m talking about?” I said, “I have no idea.” She’s like, “the CFO of that company was the guy in the back of the room laughing and he called her to thank her on Friday for the courage to not pitch on something so important to them without knowing their business, and has completely redesigned the process, and asking and begging if we can come back where he will take control of the process on an overall deal.”
Long story short, we did all that and won it, and it represented in that year we grew sales 6%, our competitor dropped 20%. The point about process execution is on my way out, she looked at me and said, “this is going to work. I think it’s going to work.” And I said, “yes, as long as we all operate with principles as an organization” and she’s like, “I got it.” And it was that minute I knew the power of organizational execution vs. at times, it feels like, individual autonomy. And getting to organizational execution really matters. Okay. Long story, but it is what it is. I just wanted to share that.
Final one. Final one. Digital enablement. So, it’s crazy time out there. There’s so much stuff. Everyone is chasing digital solutions to do one kind of primary thing. We bucket all seller’s time into kind of two things: non-selling time and selling time. Tedious vs. ingenuity, and tedium is the non-selling time. Tons of data about this. Salesforce has its research, we have our research. It is all directionally correct, plus or minus a percent or two, which suggests the vast majority of time people are spending is not actually selling. Not actually providing perspective, not actually in the client’s world, not actually being a value engineer. They are doing other things. So, what do you get? Something that looks like this. Which I am sure you have seen versions of this, right? And this is probably even old, I mean, I don’t know. A few years ago, there were a hundred of these things. Now there’s like 500. They keep popping up. Now they are all trying to do the same thing, which is really around making my job better and easier.
Now, I want to focus on one thing, which is we are here this week, I want to talk about CRM for a second. We believe in the one slice of CRM of digital enablement – we think there’s an evolution coming. I think there’s a big change coming in this space. A little dicey given where we are this week, but let’s go through this. Let’s talk about the history of this thing, CRM. Where did it start? With the Rolodex, okay? Before any technology, of course, people had contacts and stuff that they were actually tracking. They just didn’t use a computer. And it was fine. The people that did it were human beings. Then what happened? CRM 2.0. Love the innovation. Siebel, Act – they had kit packaged software. Let’s actually have something that you could screw inside these really expensive servers that you own. We will customize the heck out of it, it will cost us so much money, but it will give you a pipeline. It will give you transparency into the black box called sales, and so that was great. And it was really successful. Problem is what? It cost too much. You can’t put all the stuff in the server, so who invents what? Salesforce comes and says, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s put it up in the cloud and charge a per fee.” And you don’t need servers that are super expensive, just turn it on.
Great idea. It worked, solved a technical architecture problem. Not solving a process, person. What’s in it for me? You know, not fun to use. You’ve got to be careful. So what we end up having is a situation where we are very much in a, CRM is working, it is providing great transparency. Adoption is not quite – people are still not quite there, but it is getting better. But it is still built and thought of for the leader, for the manager, and there has been great innovation lately around some AI stuff that we will talk about in a second. I’m yet to find the person who says, “we would not have won that deal if it wasn’t for my CRM system.” You will find ops leaders and sales leaders that wouldn’t come up for the forecast if it wasn’t for that. Or I wouldn’t understand x, y, and z about the organization if it wasn’t for that. Inside the deal, it still lacks the magic for the salesperson. And we think that’s going to change.
So we think that, again, what matters in a seller? What actually makes – what changes results that impact the entire organization? What impacts results is behavior or the things I choose to go do. I’m going to make this call. I’m going to have this meeting. I’m going to communicate a certain way. I’m going to provide perspective, value, insights. Behavior changes results. So, what facilitates behavior? Like we said earlier, the process part. How you operate as an organization. Like I gave my example. That was a very specific process. The behavior is in our model, we understand the needs and add perspective – at the time, we called it insights – before we pitch our deal. That’s at a macro level. That was a silly example but a big example of kind of what that means.
CRM 4.0, which we think is coming, is a completely different engagement model with the user. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have pipeline anymore or forecasts, but inside the deal, the user interface of your CRM will be contextualized based on how you sell, your process. The “what’s in it for me” as a salesperson is it augments how I behave. It helps me think about what to do next. That is why I want to use it; not to fill out a form, not to fill this thing out, but because I want to understand what to do next. And again, there’s a lot of people doing things here, including ourselves, but obviously, you’ve got things like Einstein that’s popping up that kind of works around the deal a little bit with forecasts and opportunity scoring. But ultimately there’s a lot of AI and a lot of things that are going to help re-engineer the user interface between a seller and a CRM system. Sales enablement will play a huge role in understanding where this market goes. We believe that.
So I’m getting the hook. These are your four things that the best companies in the world are investing in. I really hope this helped. I enjoyed the time and I appreciate it.