By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called Does 2020 Have any Silver Linings?” and our guest is Paul Roberts, Owner of OC Talk Radio.

This time we talk a little bit about silver linings. I not only share a little bit about my experience, but also that of dozens of CMOs I’ve interviewed over the course of the last couple of months.  We definitely identified some themes that have been helpful for them as well. So, I think it’s useful for us to think about what has been good from all this as well and what that means for you going into next year and beyond.

Listen in now and/or read the full transcript below.

Paul:  Hey, welcome back everybody. Time once again for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. So, grab your board. We’re going to go out and swim into the sea, the turbulent sea of ideas with the one man, the master sailor, the man who makes the seas calm, Matt Heinz.

Matt:  Oh my gosh. These introductions get more and more outrageous. Paul, how you doing?

Paul:  I’m doing good today here. You’re always calm. And we’re always just panicky out there, more than ever. We got elections. We got pandemics. We got all sorts of problems. And Matt Heinz calm, always calm.

Matt:  Yeah. It’s one of those years, right? It’s interesting. We’re not even in November, we’re in the middle, late October here. And right before we came on, you had the news break there. And I’m listening to all these different headlines and it’s just body blow, after body blow, after body blow. I’m thinking, “Well, the Market’s up. NASDAQ’s up by a hundred points. At least there’s that.”

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  And I don’t even know, you look at how many people are still struggling to find jobs and struggling as COVID numbers go up-

Paul:  Serious, man.

Matt:  … even the silver linings, you’re like, “Boy, this has been a year.”

Paul:  So, are there any silver linings? Give me some hope. Give me some positive, give me some upbeat news here. All I seem to get pestered with is pounded down.

Matt:  Well, it’s interesting. I hate to use the term, “silver lining,” because I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of what people have been impacted by.

Paul:  Sure. Yeah. But any bright spots in an otherwise dark horizon.

Matt:  Listen, a lot of people have died. A lot of people have lost their job. There’s people are still hurting pretty significantly.

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  But I think it’s also important to just exercise our resilience as human beings to say, “Okay, what has been part of this year?”

And part of what I wanted to talk today about, I think, to talk a little bit about silver linings. To not only talk a little bit about the things that I personally share some of my experience, but also we’ve talked to dozens of CMOs over the course of the last couple of months and definitely identified some themes that have been helpful for them as well. So, I think it’s useful for us to think about what has been good from this.

Paul:  Well, let’s backup for a second. Because you guys are, by nature, a positive group of people. You’re always trying to look on the bright side here. It’s not a problem, it’s just a challenge to be overcome. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, any of these things. It’s all about the pivot. It’s all about adapting and all that stuff. But they’ve got to really be scratching their heads at this one because…

And I’ll give you an example. We had an economist on one of our other shows from a big bank, Northern Trust or something like that. And he said, “Normally, we just go back in time. We look at what happened before, and then we extrapolate, we look forward. Well, we’ve seen this before and this is probably how it’ll play out.” He said, “We’ve never seen anything like this before. We don’t know if these job losses are temporary or permanent. We don’t know if there’s a second wave coming or not. We don’t know if the political turmoil is going to have any impact.” He said, “Our crystal ball’s rather cloudy.”

What’s it look like on the CMO side? Is the crystal ball cloudy?

Matt:  Oh, of course. You’ve got a lot of companies that are on calendar fiscal years that are trying to plan for 2021 right now. And I can’t remember a more difficult time to plan for. To not really know, what’s the economic condition going to look like? What’s the medical condition going to look like? Even if you’re in a less affected industry, we really have to go back to hunker down mode for a while. What does that mean in terms of people’s ability to buy? What does that happen to sales cycle length? Do we go back to cash conservation mode for companies that have a need, but simply aren’t giving up their hoard of cash during a very uncertain time?

The uncertainty is there, but also Paul, there has been some significant silver linings for people.

Paul:  All right. Give me one.

Matt:  So, one of them really is, and this is a personal story for me and also for CMOs, just being home more.

Paul:  Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

Matt:  I did over a 100,000 miles last year, which I know for some people that travel internationally is not that much, but for me that was a big number.

Paul:  That’s a big number.

Matt:  Probably what had done something similar this year. And I haven’t been near an airport since March. And so, to be able to be home last night to Wednesday night, I DVR’d the World Series game, I sat on the couch with my kids around me. We watched some dumb episode of Halloween Baking Championship. It’s one of the worst shows on television-

Paul:  But we watched it.

Matt:  … but it’s also something all three of my kids will sit and watch with me.

Paul:  Yeah. Right.

Matt:  So, did that. We made dinner together. My son and I played chess. I got to read my seven year old a book going to bed. Those moments are going to go away, at some point, as a father.

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  Those moments are going to go away. And the likelihood that I would have been at a hotel somewhere on the East Coast this week instead, was pretty high, if things were business as usual. So, I consistently hear… And even for people that don’t have kids, or that don’t have kids at home anymore, just people talking about this forced downshift to slow down and really reinvest, recommit, and enjoy things that don’t cost money, that don’t take travel, and things that you’ve always said to yourself I’m too busy for.

Paul:  Yeah. Right.

Matt:  But now you can do it.

Paul:  So, there are things you can see, in a weird way, the birds… I actually read birds are singing more because there’re less people out. The pollution levels are down because less people are driving. There are some strange byproducts of this that we probably wouldn’t have made that trade off had we had a choice. But you can find some silver linings, some bright spots in an otherwise confusing or cloudy environment.

Matt:  Well, and you can say we wouldn’t have made those decisions if we had a choice, but we have had a choice. And some people could say, “Well Matt, it’s easy for you to say that because you run your own company, you’re your own boss. You can decide not to travel if some boss tells you you have to go to this conference.” Yes. But there’s still a choice there. We have not had the year we wanted to this year as a business. We’re doing fine. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve kept our entire team intact.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  We still have clients. Things are rebounding, which is nice.

Paul:  Yes.

Matt:  But you know what? It makes you think about what’s most important. Is it more important to grow the business or more important to spend more time with my kids right now? Is it more important to have a couple extra points of margin as a private business with no debt, no investors, know I don’t have to? Or can I take that time and spend it elsewhere?

And so, there’s no right or wrong answer to this, right? If someone says, “No, screw it. I want to go make as much money as I can.” That’s fine. If someone says, “You know what? I want an easy job.” I was just talking to a buddy of mine. And he was saying that friend of his basically had started his career in an office, was in sales, was working his butt off, was tired of it. Went back to trade school and is now working on diesel engines. Right? And he’s making really good money, but he also, at five o’clock, he’s done. And he’s able to commit to being a little league coach and he’s able to commit to other hobbies and interests.

Paul:  I get it. I get it. There are trade-offs you make to advance your career that sometimes you wonder if they’re worth it. Yeah.

Matt:  The phrase I use a lot now is, “The older I get and the more mistakes I make.” Because I think early in my career, if my wife was sitting here, she could tell you stories of Matt prioritizing his job, Matt on email all the time, Matt, just only thinking about the work and thinking about, “Okay, what can I do to advance my career?” But at the expense of what?

Paul:  I’ll give you an interesting story. So, my father, I grew up, I think like your dad, I think your dad was… Did he work for Caterpillar or something?

Matt:  He did. Yeah.

Paul:  So, my dad was a sales executive for Chrysler Corporation and he rose to be a Vice President. He was in charge of all sorts of big things, their import program and whatnot. And so, he devoted a lot of time to that, and we just accepted that as a family. Dad was gone before I got up and he never got home before seven o’clock at night. So, we didn’t throw the ball around, we didn’t do a lot of the stuff that other dads did. Because, that was dad’s career and he was into it. And he worked weekends. He was gone a lot. There were a lot of those sorts of things.

And I remember asking him once, I said, “Did you ever want to be president of the company?” He said, “Oh sure. We all did.” And I said, “Why didn’t you? What blocked you?” He took a deep breath and said something I will never forget and I never thought he would say, he said, “You know? There comes a point in every career where you wonder, is it really worth it to try and take that next step?” He said, “I’m not saying I could have done it. And maybe I could have, or maybe I couldn’t. But there’s trade-offs that you have to make every time you take a step up the ladder.” And I asked him, “Like what?” And he said, “You’ll find out.”

And I thought, “That says it all.” At some point you reach your comfort. Some of us, “I’ve got to go all the way.” Some of us, “No. I got to stop at five o’clock here. And if I make a little less, that’s okay, because that’s important to me.” Others, “No. I can find a balance in between here.” But we all do that. We find some balance, don’t we?

Matt:  I really like that answer from your dad. I think it might’ve been frustrating for him not to give you something explicit. But in my interpretation is inherent in that answer, is your answer might be different than mine.

Paul:  Yes.

Matt:  Your trade-offs are going to be different than mine.

Paul:  That’s what I took it as. Yeah.

Matt:  Over the course of your life and career, you can change your mind. You can decide like, “Hey, listen. I’m young and single. I’m just going to go make as much money as I can. And I’m going to just have a good time and travel on someone else’s dime.” And that’s all fine. Then later on, you might be like, “Nope. I want to be home.”

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  Or, “Nope. I want to be with my family.” Or, “Nope. I really want to commit to being a microbrewer in my garage. And that takes time and effort. And that’s what I want to do.”

There are no wrong decisions in that vein, other than having kids, I guess. There are no permanent decision. You can decide those trade-offs are different over time. And I think it’s easy… Paul, I know we got to take a break here in a second.

Paul:  Yep.

Matt:  It’s easy to get into a rut and assume that you have to continue on that path. And so, one of the silver linings, and I know after the break we’re going to get into this CMO conversation.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  I think one of the personal silver lines I hear from a lot of professionals, especially those that are up in their career, that are fast chargers, is that the force downshift this year has helped them recalibrate those priorities. And once we get back to a straightaway, once the pandemic is gone, past an election, the economy continues to improve, what do I want?

Paul:  Yes.

Matt:  And so, that’s been a really cathartic moment for a lot of people. I know we got to take a break, pay some bills. We’ll be back more with my guest today, producer Paul Roberts. And we’re going to get into some of the other feedback we get from CMOs on things they’ve shifted to this year. We right back at Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Paul:  All right. And we drift back into our conversation here with Matt Heinz. One of the things I’ve heard you say a couple of times during this pandemic is it gives you a chance to reflect and decide, should I be doing what I’ve always been doing, or should I… Not just find new ways to do it. Of course, you got to go on Zoom. We got to do all these other things. But do I really need to go to trade shows anymore? Maybe I really don’t or maybe I don’t need to go as many. Maybe I don’t need to have everybody in the office anymore. I thought I did, but maybe there is another way to do it. What do you think of that?

Matt:  Well, that’s where we get into some of those exponential changes that B2B companies have been forced to make.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  Where the incremental changes is, “Well, we’re going to do the show again this year. How are we going to get more people to our booth?” Or, “The sales team’s going to need a new field marketing strategy. What do we do differently to help them in the field?”

Matt:  Those are incremental things where we oftentimes don’t have the courage or the reason to step off the cliff and do some exponential changes. So, a non-pandemic related change would be, what if we stopped asking prospects to fill out forms on our website? Because the form is entirely an arbitrary and artificial mechanism for the seller, not the buyer.

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  So, Latane Conant, I think we’ve had her on the show. She’s CMO at 6sense. She wrote a book this year called, “No forms. No spam. No cold calls.” And it’s really a call to action based on her own experience having gone through this change at 6sense. To say, “No, we’re no longer going to fill out forms. We’re no longer going to send unsolicited emails. We’re no longer going to call prospects without a purpose.” And she’s very clear. She says, “Listen, it was not a popular decision amongst your team.”

Paul:  I’ll bet.

Matt:  She’s had someone on her team legit, quit. Say, “You’re crazy. I’m not going through this with you.”

Paul:  Wow. Wow.

Matt:  But you know what? Their numbers are up. Their customer engagement is up. And so, sometimes ripping off the bandaid on those bigger changes takes a deep breath and some courage. Sometimes it doesn’t work.

Paul:  Sometimes we don’t know why we’ve been doing something. I’m reminded of a joke. Let’s see if I can tell it quickly and correctly here. But a guy marries is a young bride and she immediately has everybody over for Thanksgiving dinner. And she cuts half of the Turkey off. He says, “Why did you do that? She says, “That’s what my mother always taught me to do. You cut half the Turkey off. That’s how you cook turkey.” So, they’re at the turkey, mid dinner, and he takes her mom aside. He says, “Why do you cut half the turkey off?” She said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Your daughter just cut half the turkey off.” She says, “Oh my God, we only did that because we were poor and we had a tiny oven.”

You don’t know why you’re still doing things this many years later. I think it’s the same with a lot of us, so it gives us a chance to reflect. We’ve been forced to reflect and say, “Is there another way to do it? And once there is, do we want to go back to the way it was?”

What do you think? Are we going to go back the way it was?

Matt:  No. It’ll never go back the way it was. And that’s not necessarily something to mourn. We didn’t go back to the way it was after 9-11. We all got used to having tighter security and things that were making us safer in airports and otherwise.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  I think there will be precautions that persists well after this particular pandemic slows down a little bit. And I think the impact on sales and marketing, we’ll never go back. You will never see an in-person only event ever again. There will be online and virtual components of all successful events moving forward.

Paul:  I completely agree. We were talking about that the other day here with somebody that produces big events and concerts and other things. Actually, it was the lady who runs the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. That was a big job. And she was on one of our shows. And I don’t know, I forgot why she was on or what she was talking about. But I asked her that same question. I think it was actually the WVU people, the West Virginia University marketing people that does the show early in the day. And she said the same thing. She said, “Oh no, it’s always going to have some online component to it. Now that we figured out how to do it, why wouldn’t we do it? The fear was, if we did it online, nobody would come.” And she said, “People will always come. But,” she said, “more people will come if you do it online and more people will reference it later. It doesn’t live just once. It’ll live on and on and on like these podcasts do. Like these stream shows.”

That’s the same thing I’ve been preaching for years. In a certain sense, I feel kind of vindicated. I didn’t mean to be vindicated. I didn’t mean to say, “I told you so.” But I’ve been saying for a long time that there is something to doing things live that creates an urgency to listen. Facebook has been pushing this for years. “You can see what my cat’s doing anytime, but here’s what my cat’s doing right now.” Or, “That’s me right now.”

So, I think that is not going to go away. We’re going to do that on our personal social media, and we’re going to find a way to do that in our communications, and events are going to do that too. We’re not just going to make it a private Zoom call, a private webinar anymore. There’s going to be some way it’s going to live on and get streamed to a bigger world, I think.

Matt:  Well, exponential change happens slowly and then suddenly.

Paul:  Isn’t that the truth? Right.

Matt:  And so, I think a lot of the changes we’ve seen in B2B marketing and even field sales, field marketing this year, these aren’t out of the blue things that materialized out of nowhere. There has been a natural migration away from field sales to inside sales for years.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  There has been a natural migration towards doing more digital marketing, digital events, versus purely online, in-person events for a long time.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  A pandemic forced us to cancel the in-person events. And we’re going to go back. People are going to go back to in-person. They may travel via car before they travel in airplanes. And we’re going to see a gradual increase back to some of the events we saw before. Will we ever see 150,000 people from around the globe show up for Dreamforce? Maybe not.

Paul:  Maybe not.

Matt:  This may be the end of certain shows that may have incrementally started to reach the end of their natural lifetime. And now, all of a sudden, slowly then suddenly-

Paul:  Because, I think there’s more in the niche than there is in the mass. We still want to do mass everything. Broadcast rather than narrow cast. Mass marketing, mass events. And there’s something to be said for the giant Superbowl that brings everybody together and gets a 50 share on TV, but those are getting fewer and fewer. Instead, there’s little tribal events, smaller niche things. My own prediction is you’ll see less of the Dreamforce’s and more small, targeted events, I think.

Matt:  And I think you’re going to find people that find those more successful, more approachable, more repeatable.

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  There is value in volumes sometimes. But if you think about that Dreamforce example, right? You got 125,000 people coming to San Francisco. It’s a crush of humanity. No one can get around. And the diversity of people there, the diversity of reasons why people are there. It started as a somewhat sales-centric cloud computing event, and then it became just like Woodstock for SaaS companies.

Paul:  Exactly. Exactly.

Matt:  And I’m not the only person to say it. The main reason people would go for the last three or four years was for those smaller events. This week, there was an event that was done online this year because it couldn’t be done at Dreamforce called, “Op Stars.” and it’s about marketing operations events. It was one of the main reasons for me to go to Dreamforce. To physically go to an event and not attend that event because there was a smaller event of a couple thousand people that would exist in parallel.

Paul:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt:  And there were a couple events like that. Highspot put on a conference specifically for sales enablement professionals. So, you had a smaller birds of a feather group. And by smaller, I mean 1500 people. Still a really big event.

Paul:  Right.

Matt:  But you’re with your people, you’re with your tribe.

Paul:  Exactly. A hundred percent agree. I think-

Matt:  I don’t believe that it was Dreamforce that got that group together. I think if there’s enough value in those events, and certainly I think Lean Data with Up Stars, Highspot with their sales enablement soiree, you create an event with enough value, people will come.

Paul:  I think that events can get too unwieldy and out of hand too. And I think… The event I used to love to go to until it got too much of a zoo and they finally canceled, I think. Didn’t they cancel the Consumer Electronics show? Or they scaled back or something?

Matt:  They’re going to do it all online this year, which will be, it’ll be a mess.

Paul:  Because, it just got so huge, you couldn’t possibly see all the booths. And there was no theme to it anymore. There was toasters and TVs and, I don’t know, chainsaws or anything. It was an odd assortment of anything and everything.

Matt:  I think it could have continued and evolved just because it created so many curiosities and oddities.

Paul:  Yes. Right.

Matt:  And there’s a whole economic ecosystem of media events and celebrities showing up. And I think it could have continued for a while. But will it splinter now? I think probably so. Remember COMDEX before it?

Paul:  Yes, COMDEX

Matt:  COMDEX was the big computer industry conference. And it’s not like the computer industry has gone away, but I think that huge Omni event just reached the end of its life.

I think, I know we got to wrap up here in a minute.

Paul:  Yeah.

Matt:  Our ability to take advantage of these forced exponential changes, and yeah, mourn the loss of things that we were comfortable with and enjoyed, but look for the opportunity. There is going to be enormous innovation and change from a product, from a service, from a marketing and sales standpoint, that come out of this year and next year. And I’m hoping that people listening to this show are drivers of that. This is our opportunity to hunker down with our families to stay safe, but think exponentially and innovate in the way that we do work.

Paul:  And use the time to think. Too often, we’re just reacting and going. “I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I got to go, got to go.” And “Yeah, we’ll get together once and you have a conference for weekend.” But the rest of the time it’s race as fast as we can. It’s forced us, we found time to think and retrench and re-imagine things that we… Again, I don’t know we would have had, we had the choice, but we can and we should.

Matt:  Yeah, I agree.

Well, this has been fun. Whenever we, sometimes in an impromptu way, we have these conversations-

Paul:  Yeah. We had to adapt today.

Matt:  … got a handful and it goes by fast.

Well, thank you so much, Paul, for doing it with me. A special edition of Sales Pipeline Radio. Encourage everyone listening to think about your silver linings for the year as well and what that means for you going into next year and beyond. But on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for listening to another episode of Sales pipeline Radio.

Paul:  And with that, we wrap up another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio right here on the Funnel Radio Channel for at-work listeners.”

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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.