By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s episode is entitled “How Sales, Marketing and Customer Success Can REALLY Co-Exist“. We talk with Kevin Knieriem, Chief Revenue Officer at Clari
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I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen is the silos that exists between sales and marketing. I ask Kevin how he sees some of the leading companies addressing that. And, how is he seeing them overcome that and actually create stronger bonds and cohesion between sales and marketing.
We also talk about how he’s starting to create an operationalize revenue operations in his own company. He tells us a little bit about what he’s seen and experienced including a set of best practices of how to take what can oftentimes be good strategic alignment between sales and marketing and really bringing that down to a tactical level like getting going from, “we agree to revenue responsibility across departments at S-K-O” to, what do we do on Tuesday?
He shares some keys to helping make sure that operational alignment happens on a day to day tactical level.
I think finally we’re seeing a number of places where AI is having real practical applicability and it feels more accessible to organizations.
I also ask him, are there other applications of AI he sees specifically and are there additional elements that may be more theoretical now, that he thinks in the next 1-3 years are going to become more reachable?
This and a lot more! Listen in or read the full transcript below!
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Matt: Thanks for joining us for another episode. If you’re listening to us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for joining us during your work day. If you joined us where all fine podcasts are available and listening to this through the RSSV. Thank you so much for subscribing. We continue to hit bigger and bigger numbers for our audience. Well over a hundred thousand listeners in 2019 so very excited and very humbled by all of that. And if you want to catch any episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, and future you can find any of them at Salespipelineradio.com every week we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B and today is absolutely no different today. Very excited to have with us. Kevin Knieriem, chief revenue officer for Clari. And my first question you, Kevin, is I’m 90% sure I nailed the pronunciation of your last name. How did I do?
Kevin: Not very many people can get our last name right. So you actually hit it on the head, which is pretty amazing.
Matt: It’s all in the pre production in the practice. So yeah. Well, thank you very much for joining us and I was very excited to have you on. You look at sort of the places that you’ve worked. You’ve been running sales and leading sales and some of the largest, you know, technology organizations in the world. And, one, you know what Clari is now doing to bring AI and automation to revenue operations and I guess my first question to you is you don’t hear the term revenue operations very often either. You hear people talking about marketing operations, sales operations, sometimes business operations, revenue ops feels like a newer term. How do you guys think about that and why is that important?
Kevin: If you think about it, revenue is really a process, right? It’s not just an outcome and so many companies are just focused on that outcome, that number but at the end of the day. If that number right, the forecast, which I’d argue is the single most important number any company has and you don’t have a process to get there, you don’t have a process to run predictable revenue. Your single most important number in the single most important process in the company, which is revenue has never really had a process to back it up unlike supply chain, unlike marketing operations. So the Clari’s here to change that.
Matt: I love that and I think, it requires in many cases, organizations to think holistically about sales and marketing together. I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen, and you may just make things as well, is there’s one of the silos that exists between sales and marketing. How are you seeing some of the leading companies that are addressing that? How are you seeing them overcome that and actually create stronger bonds and cohesion between sales and market?
Kevin: I think first what’s really changed that’s created this need for sales and marketing to work together. I’d say that the buyer’s journey has changed right? In the way they interact out there in the digital world and the things they have access to in the things they’re touching. They do all this homework before they even get to a salesperson. And so all that work that’s happening out there from a digital standpoint is really enabled and enriched and tracked by the marketing organization because, the buyer’s journey is so nonlinear. We need ways to understand it, track it, and affect them. Why is that changed? I think it really has to do with the change in revenue models, right? As we went from on prem to SAS, we now have to resell our customers at every term, right?
So this continuous journey. So what we’re out there talking about, and I think my company is a really good example of how this works well. Our chief marketing officer and myself have worked really hard to become aligned on that buyer’s journey and how the strategy from brand, to demand gen, to engagement, to sales needs to be completely in sync and on the same page. And we’re seeing a lot of companies, especially those that are growth companies that are fast B2B companies, really focus on getting these two really important parts of the organization aligned.
Give you some examples without naming names, we’re fortunate to have a super fast growing company is hiring like mad their customers engage with their platform before a sales rep ever touches them and that has to do with effective branding out there in the marketplace. Effective ways of reaching that community, which is a lot of times our developers and so by the time the sales rep is actually getting to that customer, they’ve interacted with the product, they’ve interacted with material, they’ve interacted with training, they’ve interacted with all this thought leadership and third party documents, so by the time they’re ready to say, okay, I’m going to go from a trial to a purchase. They’re so bought into the product that it’s a quick expansion for this customer.
Matt: I love that. That’s a good story. We’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Kevin Knierieum. He’s the chief revenue officer at Clari. I love that you’re talking about how you are starting to create an operationalize revenue operations in your own company. Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen and experienced a set of best practices of how to take what can oftentimes be good strategic alignment between sales and marketing and really bringing that down to a tactical level like getting going from, we agree to revenue responsibility across departments at SKO to, what do we do on Tuesday? What are some keys to helping make sure that operational alignment happens on a day to day tactical level?
Kevin: We’ve moved very far beyond our marketing’s producing MQL and sales, the same as MQL, are no good. They don’t translate into opportunities for us. So think about growth company, you don’t have unlimited marketing funds, so you have to get really strategic about how you apply them.
What we do, and what my CMO and I do every week is, we’ll actually go through the hierarchy of pipeline and we’ll take a look at, you know, we’ve got a pipeline, multiple targets, and we’ll go through the hierarchy. We’ll look for parts of the globe, where we may need to help get that pipeline up, and then we’ll take all the tools that we have from a marketing standpoint, all the strategies that we have, you know what we’re doing from a brand standpoint out in the marketplace. We’ll say, how do we build a program that we’re completely aligned on that does the attribution, the SEO, the AB integrates with the demand gen team who’s helping with the inbound, but also responding and doing out bounding. We’ll put a program in place that is completely lockstep and integrated, and then we have a platform right in clarity that allows us to monitor that top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel to ensure that we’re creating the right activity, that we’re getting engagement, and then we have real visibility into it and then can predict how are we going to translate those leads that are way up in funnel all the way down into pipeline for that region that needs additional targeting.
Matt: Let’s go a little deeper on the idea of prediction. Right. I think in, especially with sales organizations and every salesperson, whether they’re successful or not really is just trying to focus their time and efforts as best they can on what works and what’s going to help them make money. And I think that we’ve made some pretty big leaps from being able to do just sort of some simple arbitrary lead scoring to being able to use artificial intelligence to help answer a very simple question for a sales rep, which is what should I do next? What’s the best next step for me to get me closer to making money? Can you give some examples of how that works? I think a lot of companies really continued to struggle with Salesforce productivity and effectiveness in how they’re selecting what to do.
Kevin: Yeah, if you don’t mind, I’ll rewind the tape a bit. I started my selling career at Siebel systems 20 years ago, right. So the first enterprise CRM, and I think about it, what’s changed in the last 20 years in regards to the CRM? Really the only thing that’s changed is that went from on prem to the cloud. And so if you put your yourself in the shoes of a sales rep, the CRM to them is a place where they put data and it’s a place where reports are run. The serums never given anything back to the sales rep. It’s never given them visibility into understanding how healthy is their business. And so what modern tools and AI allowed us to do is one, to change the nature of that relationship between the sales rep and their self systems. So first what these sales reps hate to do is to go in and add a contact and add an opportunity and to add notes.
If we’re now in a position where we can collect all of this, data that’s happening outside of the CRM, it’s happening in the top of funnel systems, the middle of funnel engagement systems and all those areas of the buyer’s journey and bring that signal together against the opportunity they’ve got sales reps use to run their business and then start to look at how that opportunity moves through the sales funnel compared too years worth of opportunities that have successfully moved through the sales funnel, for that customer. You now have the ability to apply AI and machine learning to this. Here’s how this compares to others that have gone through. You’ve got a healthy deal, you have an unhealthy deal, and we’re not just relying on what’s happening from a data input in the serum. We’re relying on all these other signals. We can have a really healthy understanding of what’s the reality of this opportunity?
What are my blind spots? Right? Biggest thing I think it can help a sales rep is just being extremely clear on how healthy their opportunity is, where their blind spots are. Now, think about it. Those reps get agida preparing for a forecast call, right? Because they know they’re going to get grilled and they know it’s going to be an interrogation. What if that sales rep manager one-on-one, goes from an interrogation into a coaching opportunity where you’re really looking at the same data against an opportunity, and now you have the ability to say. Hey, this is trajecting in the right place and the right area. We have some blind spots. We don’t have access to power base or the, you know, we’re the last week of the quarter documents haven’t been opened by the customers, so we have visibility and all that. So it’s really, I think modern tools and AI are changing the way we think about revenue from being something that you use spidey-sense to figure out. You know, if you’re going to get a deal done, to now where are you using data backed up by AI machine learning.
Matt: Love it. We got to take a quick break here. Pay some bills. We’ll be back with more with Kevin Knieriem. He’s the CRO chief revenue officer at Clari and we’re going to be talking more about sales process improvement. I want to dig in more on that dreaded sales status meeting that every sales rep does. Definitely cringe to go into and how those move in more better, more efficiently, right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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Matt: Thank you very much for joining us. We’ve got a few more minutes here to talk a little more about sales ops, sales productivity, sales efficiency, and before the break we were talking about sort of that sales status meeting and whether you’re in sales or you’re in marketing, you probably sat through, you know, that meeting where the more the reps talk, the more they feel like they’re being, they’re looking busy and their pipeline looks full and it just is wasting a lot of people’s time. I love the idea of moving from just reporting to coaching and being able to focus on the deals that matter and the deals that need support. But you talk to most sales managers and they feel like they spend too much time managing and not enough time coaching. Could you, just clarify for people what is the difference between the two and why that, distinction of why that transition so important?
Kevin: Yeah, so if you think about the old way of doing things right, and a manager rep one-on-one or a manager where this entire team or at any level rather than an organization from a forecast standpoint or deal inspection standpoint. It’s typically been a level of inspection in that leader trying to understand the reality of what is happening in that deal and why. So they can forecast their business but two, so they can report up to their leadership on the health of the opportunities and where we’re going to land. And that typically takes time. Every individual does that in a different way and there’s no consistency across it. And what happens is management by judgment, people are putting their own analysis and their own story on top of that and what typically happens, by the time it gets from sales rep to head of sales is a game of telephone tag and then the narrative changes by the time it’s rolled up.
If you transition to what is more of a coaching opportunity and the reason you can transition to a coaching opportunity, is everyone is now looking at the reality and a business through the same lens, the data doesn’t lie. If the data doesn’t lie, it’s very clear where you have risks, where you have opportunity and from that point you can transition from trying to understand the story and get to the bottom of it to, Hey, we have an opportunity to do something really special here. Imagine if we could get to this individual in the power base who doesn’t seem to be represented in the activity that’s happening on this opportunity. You’ve gone from an inspection into a how do we celebrate our business together. What it also does for managers and for entire organizations is that you’ve now sort of level set yourself process. You’ve put everyone on the same page so you can get to a point where you’ve got consistent review analysis and coaching of the business at all levels on a global way.
Matt: Now we try on Sales Pipeline Radio, to address both sales and marketing leaders and I think for those that listening to this so far, it may feel like a very sales centric conversation, but for I think a lot of revenue responsible marketing teams, this should all be music to their ears. When you talk to heads of marketing, when you talk to the marketing operations folks, what are some of the primary benefits and reasons why they should think about adopting more of an AI solution, that can focus on the right deals and improve working factory? Do you want kind of benefit could not have up the funnel for marketing organizations?
Kevin: There’s several areas and let me start with the simplest and I’ll build from the bottom up. The first thing is if you’re starting to capture engagement with contacts that are not in your marketing system and in your CRM system, that are just out there and outlook or exchange or Google mail, if you can now capture that contact and get them associated with the account and the opportunity, you can start to capture activity that’s happening at an engagement level across the buyer’s journey with that individual, you can see what are they touching? Are they responding to correspondence? And so the first thing you’ve done is you’ve very quickly enriched the community of lead contacts that can be nurtured by marketing.
So that that’s one area that these systems can help with. The second is obviously now you’ve got the ability to capture all this activity. Marketing can see what’s working and what’s not working. And so here’s where the two worlds really come together nicely. Let’s say you’ve got a large complicated opportunity that spans the globe and has multiple touch points, and on the buyer side, maybe there’s 15 people engaged in this opportunity. You could actually see how engaged they are outside of just what’s happening when you go on site and have a meeting. What are they touching out there in the universe? What are they looking at? Are they responding to your content? And so if you’re planning a complicated sales cycle, you can go to marketing and say, Hey, these 10 people that are associated with the opportunity, we’re not engaged at all. Can you help me engage them? So now you’re getting really strategic in how you’re nurturing and doing ABM for a particular account in a particular part of the region.
The other thing that’s really nice is that you’ve now got AI model that’s saying we’ve seen what effective opportunities look like as they go from lead. And that’s zero opportunity all the way to close, how long they take, how the deal changed, how did the value of the opportunity, what up and down. So they now have this pattern of what has been an effective sales cycle from beginning to end, and what has not been in an effective sell cycle. So then now we can fine tune future marketing strategies, ABM, etc. So sales and marketing really now get on the same page into what’s working and tracking that entire buyer’s journey from beginning to end.
Matt: Just a couple more minutes here, wrapping up with Kevin Knieriem, he’s the chief revenue officer at Clari and I feel like 2019, we’ve been talking about AI for a long time and I think it’s always felt a little more theoretical. I think finally we’re seeing a number of places where AI is having real practical applicability and it feels more accessible to organizations. Are there other applications of AI that you see specifically or customer facing organization, sales, marketing, customer success. Are there additional elements that may be more theoretical now, but you think in the next, you know, one to three years are going to become more reachable?
Kevin: The cohorts from a revenue standpoint. So if you think about the revenue journey, right? It’s you’re not just selling and moving on, but you’ve got to make that customer successful and implement an onboard and then you want them coming back to you to renew and expand. So applying AI to that entire journey, understanding, is the customer happy? What is the customer using? How do we create upsell and white space experience? So it really does go across the entire journey and everyone from the revenue team who touches them, not just marketing and not just sales. And if we go back to some of the things we talked about from a coaching moment. You now have the ability to really look at every interaction with a customer and kind of parse through the conversation and get to the point where, did my rep validate the customer, what the customer said? Did they say competitive landmines? Did they pitch correctly? And see now if you’re able to have coaching moments around customer calls, you can actually now create real time enablement to change behavior and adapt quickly. Where AI’s coming into is helping to create predictable revenue, predictable renewals, as well as a predictable sales process and real time enablement.
Matt: Okay. Maybe last question for you as we kind of run up on time here is you’ve been around, they’re running sales, as you mentioned, for a number of companies, big companies, SAP, Oracle, etc.. Who are some of the people that you would say have been some of your biggest influences? They could be professors, managers, authors, your career as you’ve grown and learned, who are some people that you’ve been particularly inspired by that you might recommend other people check out as well?
Kevin: Yeah, I had a great fortune of working for some amazing people, especially at SAP where it’s been 11 years, it was home and family to me. One of the greatest sales leaders in the world is Bill McDermott. Bill has a way of inspiring people to do more than they ever thought they could do, and I feel fortunate that I had firsthand witness to that and I’ve been able to replicate that in my career. I had the great fortune of working for a gentleman, Chris Ball, who was a GM at Adobe and runs the Americas and a leadership style that was the one that embraced ownership, creativity, passion and curiosity. And so as I looked for leaders and sales reps in my organization, curiosity is probably the most important thing for me. Folks that are really curious about what their customers doing and how they can help. Those are two people in my career that had been instrumental in helping shape me.
Matt: I love what you’re saying about inspiring curiosity. And inspiring people to sort of wonder why things are the way they are. The question sacred cows in some places. Book I read a number of years ago that really inspired me on that front called Getting Naked by Robert Lencioni, he’s the author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is probably his best known book and he talks about in Getting Naked, he talks about three things that people are afraid of that keep them from generating more loyalty and trust among customers and colleagues, etc. It’s the fear of getting fired, the fear of being wrong and the fear of sounding dumb and I think that you remind me of that when you talk about curiosity. Sometimes you know, you ask the questions that feel like they’re sort of the etched in stone status quo, like you question things.
Sometimes you’re going to be wrong, but like to be able to step out and to have an environment where you can be curious but also where you can take those risks sometimes just in asking the right questions. Super important. Well, thanks again for joining us today. Want to thank our guest, Kevin Knieriem. If you like this conversation and want to hear more of it, want to share it with the rest of the organization, others in your organization, you’ll find it in a couple of days at salespipelineradio.com we will also have a transcribed, edited version of this conversation up on Heinzmarketing.com in about a week. Please join us next week and every week at 1130 Pacific, two 30 Eastern. We’ll be featuring more great guests focused on making sales and marketing better in the B2B world. Until then, my name is Matt Heinz on behalf of our great producer, Paul, thanks for listening to Sales Pipeline Radio.
Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel. I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing. If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.