By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
A few years ago we started a weekly podcast, Sales Pipeline Radio, which is live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
Sports and weather seem to always come up but, we actually cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
Our most recent episode (recording and transcript below) is called, Style vs Function: The Importance of Design and UX in B2B Applications.
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I think when you think about the conversation you have with your customer, you know what’s produced from marketing is just a fraction of what actually gets communicated and so creating integration across the company to improve consistency and value of that conversation is one thing. Getting feedback from the field, feedback from those people that are in front of the customers more often.. is another. Marketing isn’t talking to the customer nearly enough by default as sales and account management is. I think you can tell first hand which companies tend to prioritize function, which of them tend to prioritize the usability, and which of them are just flinging out features. We talk a little bit about Andrew’s perspective on this and how one can balance style and function in a B2B application…. and a lot more. Listen in and/or read below.
Matt: Hey, thanks everyone for joining us on another episode of the Sales Pipeline Radio. Really appreciate everyone being with us today. We are here every week live at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. I’m all messed up on my time zones here, Paul. Last week we did the show live from the Denver Airport. Today we are live at the Phoenix Airport.
Paul: Oh, that’s crazy.
Matt: As Matt’s world travels continue. But for those of you listening live at work, on the Funnel Media Network, thank you very much for joining us. For those of you that are checking us out through the podcast, really appreciate your listening, appreciate your subscribing. We are, Paul, we’re coming up on fifty thousand downloads on the show.
Matt: It’s phenomenal. We’re some of seeing that hockey stick now almost three years in and it’s pretty exciting. So thank you everyone for joining us on the podcast and every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, and future is available at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring some of the best and brightest minds every week in the sales and marketing world and B2B today is absolutely no different. Very excited to have with us, Andrew Hally. He is the CMO Allego. Excuse me. Are you a Dodger, excuse me, are you a Red Sox fan at all or are you kind of excited now we got a 2-0 lead here heading into L.A.?
Andrew: Yeah, I gotta confess. I’m pretty excited. Life is good. It’s a cold winter but the Red Sox are winning and looking pretty good and playing a pretty cool team. It’ll be nice to be able to sleep in after the game Friday night. I’ve been a zombie these last couple of days, staying up late but still getting up early.
Matt: I guess the advantage of living on the west coast that you know, all the sporting events start three hours early. So, I don’t know how you guys, especially for Yankees/Red Sox games that last like six hours each, I don’t know how you guys stay up that late when the games start at like 8:30, it’s crazy.
We’re really excited to have you on the show here today and talk a little bit about, I want to talk a little bit about Allego, but I also know we’re going to spend some time talking about the importance of design and UX in B2B function which is something near and dear to your heart. But maybe first just let people know who you are and a little about what Allego is.
Andrew: Yeah. So again, my name’s Andrew Hally. I’m outside the Boston area. Have been here for quite a while, you know doing the high tech start up thing. Been lucky enough to work at a number of good companies. Right now I’m at a company called Allego. Allego offers, what we call a modern sales learning platform, the sales team use to make sure that all their reps have the skills, the latest, greatest information they need to make the most out of each customer conversation, you know, that they’re able to have. So they use it to, you know, all the classics, on board, new hires more efficiently. Certify reps on new products, new messaging. Get reps to practice on their own instead in front of customers. Help managers get more coaching interaction without having to go through the Phoenix airport where you guys are. And then importantly, kind of capture and share best practices across the team because sales people are in the trenches learning things every day and the faster you can, kind of, capture greatness and get it across to all your reps, the better you’re going to do.
Matt: I agree with that for sure. Maybe talk a little about, you mentioned conversations in improving conversations. I feel like the idea of conversational marketing is becoming more prevalent in B2B as marketers start to think at not just about what they’re creating for marketing, but think about the broader conversations that are happening with customers across the company. Is that something, how is that something you’re thinking about from a marketing perspective? Not just within the product, obviously, but also within your own sales and marketing team.
Andrew: That’s actually a really interesting question. So I was excited to personally come to Allego for a bunch of reasons. Great opportunity, some great folks I’ve worked with before, but I didn’t realize that the fact that we’ve got this product that sales people use to not just learn, but to capture the things they learn and share was going to overcome, for me, what is a marketing leader and always one of the biggest problems. Which is making sure that the marketing team knows what the conversations are. That the marketing teams got enough knowledge about what the customers and the prospects care about. That they can really be, can have an outside in mentality. And here at Allego, the sales team is constantly catching stories from the field. Sharing it with each other and so I can just have the marketing team just hack right into that and it’s almost like having web cams on people out in the field and it’s really been nice to have that flow of information from the trenches, from the front lines, back into corporate.
Matt: I think it’s critical. And we’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Andrew Halley. He’s the CMO of Allego and yeah I think when you think about the conversation you have with your customer, you know what’s produced from marketing is just a fraction of what actually gets communicated and so creating integration across the company to improve consistency and value of that conversation is one thing. Getting feedback from the field, feedback from those people that are in front of the customers more often. Man almost by definition it’s probably true in most organizations, marketing isn’t talking to the customer nearly enough by default as sales and account management is. So you know, I love that kind of focus. Speaking of focus, I know we’ve talked about different angles of what to cover today and I think you were pretty excited about what we titled this episode as sort of style versus function and the importance of designing UX in B2B applications and I can, having used a bunch of applications, I think you can tell first hand which companies tend to prioritize function, which of them tend to prioritize the usability, and which of them are just flinging out features.
Talk a little bit about sort of your perspective on this and how you balance style and function in a B2B application.
Andrew: Well I think part of it Matt starts with who Allego is working for. We designed our app for sales teams. And I know, with all the work you do, you spend a lot of time with the sales force yourself. You know that sales teams are a tough audience. They’ve just got, there’s such a sense of urgency there that they just don’t have time to waste with things that don’t add value immediately. They’re not going to waste time figuring it out. If something or someone isn’t good and helpful, what I call the Bozo bit flips quick, you know? You’re dead to them. So just from the get go, we’re designing for a tough audience so that UX has always been front and center for Allego. We’ve got to have an app that a salesperson’s going to figure out on their own, don’t have to sit through a bunch of training and that’s going to give them value, help them win deals from the get go. It’s been a pretty high bar for us, so it’s always kind of been front and center here at Allego. But I don’t know, that’s just us.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s not just us. I think that UX and product design is becoming globally more important in the realm of B2B software.
Matt: I feel like you’re right. I feel like it probably isn’t as high a priority as it should be. I think that sometimes design and UX gets thought of a lot more in consumer applications and less of a priority in B2B. But you know, I often think about sort of the importance of UX and design and I think about the challenge of sale model talks about how you sell is more important than what you sell and I think that analogy applies here as well. If you’re giving an app to a sales team. If it has all the correct features, but they’re hard to navigate, hard to find, they have to fumble through, and something that should take one step actually takes four or five. The product may do what you say it’s going to do. The product may actually be really good at doing it, but if you’ve got an upset sales team that either hates the product or won’t use it, you’ve got a retention problem purely from denying a UX standpoint. So yeah I think it’s critical.
So first of all, do you agree that UX has been a lower priority for B2B and why do you think that is?
Andrew: I was wondering that myself before we were chatting here. I think you just put your finger on part of it which is that if the users, it might check a function box. A product might be able to check all the columns in a RFP, but how well did it work and if it takes four or five steps and people can’t really get the job done, that matters now. I think that’s actually part of it. Think back before SAAS and all these software decision were getting made in IT on behalf of the business. You had these people making decisions about software that weren’t the users. Now that we have SAAS, I know here at Allego, we almost never talk to IT. Yeah we got to fill out a security questionnaire, we’re good on that. But this is all about being driven by the buyers. And so I think that’s one reason why UX matters. Thanks to SAAS the business users are making the buying decision. I think that’s part of it. What do you think, does that sound reasonable? Or is that just me too high on the Red Sox and lack of sleep?
Matt: I think you’re right. I think, you know, you’ve got to take something like CRM system. It may not be the best example because it’s not been an easy thing to replace and they tend to sort of stick around for a while, but if you’ve got a tool that management likes and the sales rep doesn’t, it kind of doesn’t work. And so it’s not that the sales reps are making a decision about what should be used, but if adoption doesn’t occur, if regular usage doesn’t occur, would you take a great product that very few people are using or would you take a mediocre product or maybe even an inferior product that maybe has fewer features, but that is easier to use. Where the use cases have been thought out. Where the acceptance rate and the usage rate is higher, so you’re actually seeing benefits from some of CRM versus fewer benefits and outcomes from better features and more features that just aren’t getting used. I think you’re absolutely right.
Where does that function need to sit? I mean I think about when you’re talking about externally facing marketing and sales materials, teams will have a design, group and marketing. But in B2B who should have responsibility for making sure the user experience is top notch?
Andrew: Right. Great question. I think for Allego it’s that head of product and I think that’s usually where it sits. I think that our model is increasingly common where here at Allego at least, our head of product, Andre Black, he comes out of the design space actually. So he’s managing the team of product managers, no he’s not managing the development staff, but he’s managing the product management function and the design function and he’s got a design background as opposed to lots of head of product. Lots of head product management are coming out of the engineering side.
So I think it’s classically that head of product and the question is, does that head of product have a design sense? I think increasingly they do and one buzz word you hear a lot around quite a bit is the consumerization of business technology. And we all, everyone now is exposed to great UX design. Just think about how easy Google is to use or Apple products or navigating Facebook. You know, everyone’s grandparents can do that effortlessly. So we’re constantly feeling what good UX is and then we walk into the office and we’ve got some crappy old corporate LMS that’s impossible to navigate and it just doesn’t fly anymore. We’ve seen the promise land. It’s like that TV commercial of the guy that says “never fly first class” you know? Never put bacon on something because it will ruin you. I think we’re all ruined now. We know that software doesn’t have to suck.
Matt: Yeah. We know that software doesn’t have to suck and we also know that it doesn’t have to look bad. Is it fair to differentiate how it looks from how it works? If we’re thinking about sort of the design and UX as different things? Clearly I think they go together, but I’m asking that question on purpose because let’s say you’ve got a head of product who’s really good at road map, really good at understanding what customers need, but not very good at design. Can they still be affective at thinking through use cases, thinking through the what, not necessarily the how. If that makes sense?
Andrew: Huh. That’s an interesting one. I think there’s a couple things to unpack. One I think you put your finger on a really important distinction that a lot of times those of us on the sales and marketing side of the health, we conflate style with design. The aesthetic, the beauty of something is different than its usability and design and I think it’s easy to conflate those two. But you know, as you point out, design is nice and it might be delightful to look at, but good UX is based on use case as you say. I think it starts there. You got to understand. Well one, the U the user, who’s your user? You mentioned a great example of CRM. It may be a little painful for a lot of sales people, but you could argue that the real user and buyer, the other user and buyer is the sales leader and if they’re getting what they need that’s part of the puzzle.
Yeah it’s got a design, I think style and design are not quite the same thing. And I think you’re also right, that I don’t think properly conceived, I don’t think they’re in conflict. I guess maybe you can say if, I think we’re probably like a lot of companies, where the colors in our app and in the web base product, they are similar, they echo the corporate branding. I supposed the only place it could get in trouble is maybe what if you’ve got corporate brand colors that don’t have good meanings when it comes to the colors that we all associate with certain things within an app. Like green is go, red is stop. Really I think that’s almost the exception that proves the rule. I don’t think that design and style and UX conflict really.
Matt: Yeah I think that makes sense. Hey we got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more questions with Andrew Hally with Allego. This is Sales Pipeline Radio.
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Paul: Okay let’s pick it back up with Matt and I’ve got to say one thing before we get started here. You know, I’m an old grandpa here. An old grizzle, gray haired grandpa sitting in this chair here. When I heard the term, I have a four year old grandson, when I heard the term Allego I had a whole different vision of what you were going to talk about here. So let’s spell.
Matt: Oh yeah.
Paul: Let’s spell it so you can make sure nobody else is confused here. How do we spell Allego?
Matt: It’s a-l-l-e-g-o, definitely encourage people to check that out. Allego.com. Speaking of things to check out Paul, I want to give a huge shout out to our shows new sponsor, MailTag. Very excited to have MailTag join us. They are a Chrome browser extension for Gmail that lets you schedule and track email. Super helpful tool. I’ve been checking it out. I really appreciate what you can do. If you are in sales, if you are in business development, if you’re using Gmail, I highly encourage you to check it out. Get real time alerts right at your desk top. See when your prospects are engaging with your emails and clicking your emails. So very excited to have them on board. Thank very much to mailtag.io.
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Matt: For life, that’s amazing.
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Matt: Thank you so much for mailtag.io. Check them out. Thanks very much the MailTag for supporting Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got a few more minutes here with the CMO of Allego. And we’re talking about the difference between design and function. We’re talking about how important design UX are as part of B2B applications and Andrew I think as you look across, and I think you guys do a really nice job of this and clearly have been very thoughtful of what that should look like. How do you, what are some other applications or other companies that you think are doing a particularly good job of prioritizing and implementing better design and UX. Especially B2B.
Andrew: I think you just mentioned one. Google. In that there’s a company that is clear they’re not overly worried about making a product that’s aesthetically beautiful, stripped down to just really let you get your work done as efficiently as possible. So I always, they always come to mind. Even more so than Apple which has got, obviously that’s the first name that rolls off people’s tongue when asked for what is great design. Now I think there’s lessons from Apple for us on the B2B side. When Apple went and built iTunes and competed and disrupted the MP3 market, remember Mp3’s? When was the last time you said MP3?
Matt: Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Andrew: Exactly. They killed it. Because they delivered, I think that part of UX is looking at the entire problem. End to end. So they came out with not just a player, but a store. They made it easy to find, get the music, move it from computer on the device. And I think that’s actually a really good lesson. I know, for example, here at Allego, because we’re designing for sales people. Now we’re designing a sales learning and training and coaching program. It’s working great. But when we dove into the use case, what does sales people do? Again, I can’t remember, was it Matt, you or Paul that’s in the Phoenix airport?
Matt: It’s me. I am.
Andrew: So Matt, you’re about to get on a plane. Well it turns out, if we want to have sales managers spend time doing coaching of video, it’s got to work on a plane. They’ve got hours to kill there. We ended up having to figure out how to compress video. We have patents in video compression. That’s not what we thought we would be doing. But if you’re going to solve that whole user experience and you’re working for a sales manager, it better work on an airplane.
Matt: Yeah. That is for sure. Couple more minutes before we have to wrap up here on Sales Pipeline Radio with Andrew Hally, he’s the CMO of Allego. Definitely check him out at Allego.com. Before we have to wrap up here, a couple more quick questions for you. And one is you know let’s say a company says, “I buy and do it, I get it we need to prioritize this for 2019”. Is it best to have a team that is internally that is doing this? I know there are firms, there are consulting firms, web dev shocks that do UX as a function externally. What has been your experience in terms of finding the resources, internal or external, to do this well?
Andrew: So we do it here internally, at Allego. But I think that reflects Andre, our head of product, he has a background in design so he’s been doing this. But I would say, I know for a fact, that this sort of expertise can be pulled in when needed. That’s one of the cool things about working in high tech right now is there’s just so much talent available in a contracting basis and even through some of these platforms like Up Work, that we’re constantly surprising ourselves at how much you can get done with the worldwide work force if you will. We’re not doing it, but I know for a fact that teams that don’t have this expertise and help can get it.
Matt: Cool. Last question I want to ask you is sort of to remain to our conversation here today is around some of the people. We ask this question to everyone that comes on the show. Some of the people that have been influential to you and your career, your rise as a marketer executive. It can be professors, it can be authors, they can be alive or dead. But I’m curious, who are some of the people who have inspired and taught you that you think other people can check out as well?
Andrew: When I think who’s been my mentor I think of Carol Meyers who was the CMO at a company called Unica which interestingly we were competing with one of your prior guests, John Miller when he was back at Epiphany. So Carol Myers, she’s now the CMO at Rapid7 and she’s just always been a great mentor of mine. As well as Eric Schnadig who is the head of sales there and really taught me that hey if you’re going to succeed in marketing it’s going to be because you work well with sales. So those are two personal mentors that I always think of first.
As far as who else is influential, I would say just some of the classic texts like Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma“, you know that’s something you think about constantly with our strategy is video, and mobile, and social. Is that a disruptive innovation in a space of corporate and sales learning, you know? That’s a big one for us. And then we’re literally doing the playbook of crossing the chasm, so Geoffrey Moore. When it comes to UX, I’ll throw one out there for you, Matt, that I think is a really great one and is a super approachable book and it’s called “The Design of Every Day Things” and it’s by a guy named, I think, Donald Norman and it’s just a super cool fun to read book. And really relevant and very accessible. So I think that when it comes to this topic here is something that I’ve read and has given me an appreciation to, from the sales and marketing side, at least to kind of understand UX.
Matt: Love it. Do you have a prediction for the World Series? I mean I expect you’re going to say Red Sox, so maybe your prediction, how many games, what do you think are going to be some keys to the World Series?
Paul: Dodgers in 7. Dodgers in 7.
Matt: That wasn’t a question for you Paul.
Andrew: Well the Dodgers are too good to get swept although the Red Sox are 14 and 2 in their last, in this century in the World Series, but the Dodgers are too good to get swept, so I’m going to say Sox in 6, that’s going to be my guess.
Matt: Yeah I tend to agree with you at this point. I think I was expecting slash hoping it would be tied 1-1 coming back west, but now that the Red Sox have a 2-0 lead, that’s a tough hole when you know you’ve got good pitching that’s coming at you every game. We’ll be watching. Do you still think Dodgers in 7 Paul?
Paul: Dodgers in 7. You gotta believe.
Matt: Sticking to it. Alright well this is all we got today for Sales Pipeline Radio. I really want to thank our guest Andrew Hally, CMO of Allego talking about design and UX and the importance of making sure you’re not just creating great products, but great products people can use effectively, successfully, and happily. If you liked this episode and want to share it with other people on your team that have maybe focused on design and UX, we will have this up available on demand at salespipelineradio.com in a couple days and as always we will also have an edited transcript of this conversation featuring highlights from a man who’s thoughts on design and UX up on heinzmarketing.com. in about week. For my great producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.