Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 260: Q & A Sangram Vajre @sangramvajre
By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m Pacific on LinkedIn (also on demand) you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning. The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
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Join Sangram and I as we discuss the research and insights he found for his new book Move, the effect of retention rates on your go-to-market strategy, and how community fits into the go-to-market strategy and its competitive advantage.
Listen in now and/or watch here…. read the full transcript below:
Matt: All right. Welcome everyone to another exciting episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. I am your host, Matt Heinz, very excited to be here with you every week at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. If you are joining us live on LinkedIn, joining us live on YouTube, live on Facebook, thanks very much for joining us. We are here every week in the middle of your work week, even if it’s the last day of the month, even if it’s the last day of the quarter. We’re going nuts folks, trying to close some deals in our sales pipeline, but we’re still here. So thanks for joining us. If you’re watching us on demand on LinkedIn, thanks very much for checking us out. If you’re listening to this podcast through your RSS Feed, thank you for subscribing, thank you for downloading. We are somewhere around 300 episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio, been doing this for a while. And if you like what you hear today, we encourage you to check out past guests, past episodes, past topics, all available on demand at salespipelineradio.com. Also, very excited to continue to partner with Sendoso as our sponsor of Sales Pipeline Radio, great partner, we’re using Sendoso for our brokers as well, and honestly, we’re so digitally focused on so many campaigns, we got a hybrid workplace, we got people all over the place. Those human connections still, Sangram, make a really big difference and brands that embrace that physical virtual and hybrid strategy are really making strides to build those connections. We’re going to talk a little bit about that today as well, in terms of better go-to-market strategies. So would encourage folks that want to learn how to be better at managing hybrid, go to market strategies, hybrid environments, marketing sales, check out the connected event from Sendoso’s coming up, on October 13th, literally just in a couple weeks. You can learn more at sendoso.com/connected. You can sign up for free. They’ve got some amazing speakers, great content.
What I love about what Sangram has always done with Flip My Funnel, with Peak Community, it is not a hard sell, it is not, what’s the word I’m looking for, Sangram? The bait and switch. This is not going to be timeshare sales at all. Sangram does it right. Sendoso does it right. You’re going to learn a lot. So, check about sendoso.com/connected.
All right. So every week on Sales Pipeline Radio, we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing in B2B. Today it’s absolutely no different, consider you a friend Sangram, have known you for a long time. He ran marketing at Pardot. He really was at the forefront of ABM. He was the founder of the Flip My Funnel movement. It was hard for several years, not to think of ABM and not think of Flip My Funnel. He is the founder of the Peak Community, which if you are a B2B marketing professional, if you’re an up-and-coming marketing leader, you’ve got to check out this great community that Sangram has built. The author of several books, including the recent book called Move, which I found out today has been named a USA Today best seller. So, on its way to selling more and more copies and here to share more of it for free to you, Sangram, thank you so much for joining us today.
Sangram: Dude. I think your punching gloves, you should just put them on because that’s really what we are, end of quarter right now. And we are all going through this right now.
Matt: Oh my gosh. So end of quarter, end of month. So depending on what I call the SaaS calendar, most SaaS calendars now are February through January. So you might be the middle of your SaaS Q3. Totally fine. And I was talking to someone about this earlier today. So as a seller, this SaaS calendar is so much better, right? Because you no longer have to treat December, the end of quarter, end of month, end of year. And when you want to be home with your family hanging out, no matter your religion, end of year, it’s the celebratory time. Instead, you’re trying to close deals. So bad for sellers, but also bad for buyers. Do you think your buyer wants to be… They want to be with their family. They don’t need to buy it from you right now. And yet you’re grinding trying to get their attention. So much better to take that-
Sangram: Yeah. So I think we changed at Terminus. We changed that two years ago and we just got some life for everybody back. I think we just added less gray hair to everybody and hopefully some blessings along the way, because it has helped so much.
Matt: It’s just better for everybody. Well, anyway, it is the last day of the month regardless. So those of you that have monthly sales cycles, I hope you’re doing well, tomorrow will come. We’ll all reset, we’ll be okay, but Sangram, I was really excited to have you join today and I’ve learned so much from not only your energy and insights, but also you have been spending a lot of time recently just digging in on what makes things work. And it’s a big part of what has become this new book, Move. So talk a little bit of about the research that you did, some of the insights you found and some of the origins of where this book came from.
Sangram: So, this book, I hope this book becomes one of those books. People say your second or third book is actually the better book. So maybe this is true for me in this one. And honestly I used COVID time to literally pick up the phone and call any and everybody, because everybody was open to talk, for a period of time I think that was true for all of us. We needed that. And I talked to Geoffrey Moore who wrote Crossing The Chasm to Brian Halligan, who was CEO of HubSpot to Nick Matta, CEO of Gain Side, just VCs and CEOs and CMOs, because I was trying to understand this whole idea of go market and how companies go to market. And there’s an article, everybody feel free to research that, called SAS Value of Death. And it literally is articles, there are many articles out on that, where you can see that after 10 million, Matt, companies actually die. At that point, you thought a million was great, 500 is awesome, 10, I think we made it, but they actually go to die. It’s like 0.04% of the companies actually make it after 10 million and in between 10 and 50. And this whole book that came about, was recognizing that it’s hard, it’s hard to build a business.
It’s hard to figure out what your go-to-market motions are. And what’s even harder is to figure out that you have to reinvent, reimagine yourself every so often along this journey. So this book has a couple of different frameworks that helps companies to look at where they are, assess that in a problem product platform, those three stages, and then a framework called the Move Framework, which stands for market, operations, velocity, and expansion. We can go deeper in it later on, but those four things will help you figure out, how do you go? What decisions do you make? How do you figure out and plot your next move? How do you navigate this value of debt?
Matt: So, the books you’ve written previously have been focused on marketing, focused on account-based marketing. I thought your book ABM is B2B was for anyone who is trying to navigate this, I guess, post ABM, frothing this world. Now that we’ve moved beyond hashtag ABM. And we’re saying, “How does this fit in?” I think, honestly, it’s not that different than social selling. You don’t hear people say social selling as much anymore. Because it is an evolved way of selling that is now part of the regular motion. I think ABM is on that way as well, account orientation to those complex deals. That’s just a better way to dig deep. I love that this next book, it’s not a sales and marketing book. This is a go-to-market book. So, this is not just for the CMOs. If you’re trying to figure out how to focus on market opportunities, how to identify which direction to go. This book is a roadmap for that. And the piece you just mentioned, the word you just mentioned that I want key in on, is the problem.
I think a lot of companies say, “I have a product, I have a product idea. I have a solution in mind. I want to bring that to market.” And you may be right, you may have defined product market fit well, but the validation of that is not going to be in how well you build the product, the validation is going to be in how well you solve a problem. Talk a little bit of what you learned in your research and why that dynamic is so important.
Sangram: Oh man, this is so interesting. Now in the research, Matt, what we found out was you could be a 20 million company and still be in problem market fit. And the reason is that you still haven’t figured out the repeatable scale, motions of it. You still haven’t figured out the use cases that you can just say, “Oh, I can do that all day long.” You still haven’t figured out the industry that you know how to penetrate and go after. You still are just trying to figure out you have all these different things that you’re selling. You still could be a $20 million company, 20 and still being problem market fit. And what helps you move from problem to product in true a sense the product market fit is not 10 customers that you sold or a hundred customers that people think you sold.
It’s not that, it’s actually what we found out from all these interviews, was your retention. Your retention is what actually tells you your product market fit because getting new customers, you could just create movements, we’ve done that, we’ve seen, but they could all have high retention rate. And nobody would know, you’ll see companies raising hundred million dollar, left and right. And you think, “Oh, they got their go to market together.” And then two months later they’re gone. The problem is not getting that new revenue, but actually creating net retention rate the NRR and that was mind blowing to me.
Matt: It seems like there there’s so much focus on growth and you hear this term, hyper growth and trying to create the machine that drives growth. We’re hearing product led growth today in terms of saying, “Hey, listen, just build it into your product. We may or may not have to hire sales people.” There’s always this next shiny object, the new panacea, and your comment about companies that fail after a certain size. I wonder if that is in part because they build that engine based on a product, without rooting it in making adjustments to what’s happening with the customer and the problem. What did you see in the research to reiterate some of that?
Sangram: Oh, so this is a conversation with Jeffrey Moore that was so enlightening. Geoffrey Moore, most people know him. He wrote Crossing The Chasm. Don’t buy my book, go buy his book first because it is actually a really, really good book. And everybody should have, it’s a legendary book, talking about how companies cross and create and early adopters and all that. And he said that, hey, this is like the new Crossing The Chasm, which I thought was a huge compliment to me, to the book and the research that went into it. But he said something that was so important, and it shaped some of the book, Matt, he literally came back from a conversation with Mark Benioff, he’s still advising them, and he was at an offsite for them. And then Monday morning, 9:00 AM we have this call. And he said, and I showed him, “Oh, here are the three Ps. And here’s the Move framework.” And he looked at it and he said, “You’re missing something bigger here.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Look, your go-to market team evolves from problem market fit, typically it is founder led, sales led, that’s what happens. Then when you get to product market fit, you have marketing and sales coming together. That’s really the ABM space, if you will, in our own way. And then when you get to platform market fit, which means you have a bigger set of products to sell and a bigger market to get.” We had sales, marketing, and customer success. He said, “Your order is wrong. The order for that one needs to be customer success, sales and marketing.”
And we are like, “Well, talk to us.” He’s like, “Look, when you become too truly a platform market fit like Salesforce and all these companies, you’re no longer talking about how do I get new customers?” You build that brand and the machine and the engine around it. What makes companies great is when you have customer success part of your go-to-market team, and they are the ones helping you figure out what your next customers look like. They are the one telling, here are the cohorts of customers that we need to spend time and attention on. They are the one who actually become almost the front runner for the next evolution of your business. And if that order is different and your sales and marketing continues to be at ahead of customer success, you’re going to have retention issues. You’re going to have support issues. You’re going to have all kinds of issues in your organization and you won’t be able to be a true platform market fit. So if you look in the book, we changed the order and said customer success, plus sales and marketing, because it was such a profound thought.
Matt: Someone told me it might have been, I read this from Geoffrey somewhere, customer success is a lagging indicator of sales and marketing success. Right? And I think it’s interesting to think about that relationship as you grow, as you see what’s happening in the market. Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Sangram Vajre, he’s the author of the new book, Move. It is a USA Today best seller now, for questioning the go-to-market framework. And we got a few more minutes with you today. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about community. I’m hearing this, so 2021, more and more aside from product led growth, more and more marketing leaders are thinking about how to build community and seeing community not only as a core part of content, but as a competitive differentiator in the market, when you can get people, spend time together.
This is not news to you. You’ve been doing this for years. The Flip My Funnel movement. It still continues, the peak of Flip My Funnel debate to me was the conference in Boston. When we did Family Feud, I was dressed up as Steve Harvey. It was a little ridiculous. Remember standing in the back of the room and looking at thousands of people in the Boston Conference Center, you created a movement in a whole conference, in a whole ecosystem. And you’re recreating now with Peak Community, by the way, I don’t know if there’s conferences coming up for that, but what did you see early on that compelled you to say community is going to be a freaky focus area for us?
Sangram: Well, thank you for reminding me of you being Steve Harvey. I’m going to go look for that picture where you had that mustache and everything. It was legendary. It was awesome and the support that you have provided. To me, and you heard me say this, I believe that without a community, you’re simply a commodity and most people don’t recognize that. Today you can buy loyalty, companies would change in many ways, you can buy that loyalty today. You shop here, you can start shopping there, but you will also recognize that some people and all of us have this, where we would say, “You know what? I like this so much that I’m okay paying a higher price for this. I like this so much that I’m going to wear a t-shirt with that logo on it.”
Right? We are walking, talking billboards every day. So I always have been fascinated by that idea that why would people put tattoos on their body or for something like that. One day, I hope that’s true for one of the communities that I get to build. It has always felt to me that people want to be part of whatever the problem is going on. They want to be part of a movement, they don’t want to be part of a product company. That’s just the last thing they would ever want because they know what’s behind the thing. But Matt, this is one thing that I think a lot of people have tried to do, but I think they’re not around it. And I think that’s the challenge that everyone will have to face, you know with Flip My Funnel, I was doing the keynote, but had competitors do the keynote as well alongside.
Terminus, just a booth with everybody else. We never tried to override and have Terminus as a big brand logo. We were like, “People are smart. They know what’s happening over here.” We always wanted to build an industry conference because there is no such thing as category of one. So there were a lot of these things that my mind was thinking about it. And I’m glad we started doing that. And now with Outreach acquiring Sales Hacker, it’s almost like, oh yeah, companies are recognizing that you need a community and if you can’t build it, you’ll buy it. And so this is going to just happen.
Matt: Well and to your point, you have to be careful at what the community pivots on. I remember years ago, the company Camelback that sells the backpacks with little water patches in it, or pouches. They just said, “Hey, I think we need to think about building a community and a group of people. And we want to build a community around hydration.” I said, “That sounds boring. I don’t know if hydration is going to give you any kind of interesting scale. I know that’s what your product does.” But they ultimately settled on creating a community around weekend warriors. People that had day jobs, had things they had to do Monday through Friday and on weekends, they liked going out hiking. They liked doing extreme long hikes. Right? And so, the ability to pivot on the right thing, I mean, there are occasional examples of product centric communities. I would say Topliners from Eloqua is one, that was very much a product community, which became a tribe. You went to the Eloqua, this is pre-acquisition. You go to am Eloqua experience conference, very rarely do you see more hugs than handshakes at conferences, but Eloqua experience was one. I remember a company I worked at called House Values, it was technology and marketing products to real estate agents. The relationship the company had with its customers, they would occasionally do these meetings and it’d be like a family reunion. It was pretty amazing. And when you can create that connectivity, and what’s interesting is the most successful of those are really, it’s where you as a brand, you as the facilitator, sort of take a step back. And the less you are involved, the more you have people in the community that are engaging with each other, it increases the bonds. And then almost counterintuitively, it increases the strength of the bonds they have with you. Because you are facilitating their conversation. Not this conversation, it’s this conversation, for those of you listening, you can’t see my fingers wagging around. I think you did that. I mean, and you continue to do that. And I think that’s a key to making these communities work.
Sangram: Thank you. Yeah. I think that is so true. Even in Peak Community right now, at this very moment, there are events going on in Peak Community that I’m not even part of it. Sometimes I’ll attend some, some I won’t, but it’s run by the community. There’s no sponsorship, it’s all paid. And it’s interesting and people are moving jobs, they’re posting new jobs and it’s now become like they can’t wait for things to be opened up so we can actually do an event like we did and it feels like those early days as well.
Matt: Well, and I think that when you look at Sales Hacker being acquired, it’s a community and a content platform being acquired by Outreach. So Outreach has a community play. When you see what sales dinner clubs was, convert into revenue collective, and now get a huge amount of funding and accelerate. I mean clearly investors are now seeing the power of community. So I don’t say all this to say, “Hey, entrepreneurs, go create a community. You can flip.” But I say to brands, “Study what these companies have done well, study what works well with Flip My Funnel and Peaks to say, okay, how do we now do this?” So, to bring this back, we got just a couple more minutes with our guest today, Sangram Vajre. He’s the author of the new book, Move: The Four Questions Go To Market Framework. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, pick it up where all good books are sold. I look forward to seeing it at an airport here pretty soon. Once you start getting on airplanes again. Talk about how community fits into this go-to-market framework. And honestly how community not only gives you that competitive advantage, but gives you a regular insight into how your customers are thinking as well.
Sangram: Oh, totally, man. Ah, gosh. So this book, let’s just talk about this book in a second, from a community perspective, six months ago, the book was done and I was like, “This is the community, I didn’t launch anywhere outside. I launched it in the community and said, “Hey, anybody wants to review this book? Tell me what you feel like. I’ll put your name on the acknowledgements of the book. And you make the book better.” Literally hundreds of people edited the book, gave comments, gave reviews, all ready to go. So when I launched the book, guess what? There are already 60, 70 reviews on it because they’ve already reviewed the book. Their name is in the book. They’re part of the tribe. They created this book. So, I think people underestimate the power of community that would drive your business.
The first hundred deals in Terminus came from Flip My Funnel. We never said, “Terminus, Terminus, Terminus, buy Terminus.” But they all came to the booth say, “Hey, you clearly are behind this. What do you guys do?” It was an easier conversation than let me pitch you ABM. It was like, “Hey, we loved all the things that were talked about. You want to learn more how we can do some of the things talked about today?” “Great. Let’s talk about it.” So I think we need to think about a way where communities become a way where people tell each other, trust each other, support each other. And then you can create that conduit. And you be that authentically, that’s the keyword, you need to do that authentically. You cannot go behind and say, “Hey, let me just sponsor our event then.” You can’t do that. And I’ve fought those battles. I have battle scars from it where I still internally am like, “Guys, I know we are big now, but we still can never overstep this thing.” But it’s a hard thing to do.
Matt: Well, it’s a bit of a long game too. It isn’t a conference, this isn’t a webinar, it’s not a book club. You have to invest in this. But like someone yesterday, I was doing CMO school with Pavilion and someone challenged me. They said, “How could you possibly drive demand, if you’re not doing paid media.” I said, “Well, if you can build the channel and you own the channel, the reason we have to pay money to Google, the reason why you have to pay someone else to do an event with them is because they have put in the work to earn the attention. They have the audience because they have built it and earned it.” Now that’s not something you can do with an email or an event, but you do the work and build the community and build the platform, you now own attention. And you can screw that up pretty quickly. If you do the bait and switch, if you do the timeshare sale, you can ruin it very quickly. But if you build that authentically and you keep yourself out of it, you keep your product out of it and make it about the customers. You have a meeting channel, like you have a channel where people are coming to you where they want to be part of that. How many times do you have marketing that people are asking to be part of, are even willing to pay for in some cases.
Sangram: That was a test too, for me. Flip My Funnel, we almost had a hundred thousand people in it. And we were like, “It’s a free community.” And we had everybody in it. We were like, “All right, let’s just build now a Peak Community, which would be paid.” So we literally made it for marketers, for emerging CMOs who want to be CMOs and CMOs who want to be better CMOs. That’s what it’s catered to. And we’re like, “500 people like paying every month being part of it and learning and sharing.”
Matt: Love it. Well, we are unfortunately out of time, I know we both get on a soapbox, we go for quite a while on this, but definitely encourage everyone, I mean, look between Peak Community, all Sangram’s past books, the new book, Move, check them out. I can’t wait to see what you’re coming up with next. I love that you are in a position now where you are basically an in-house analyst and evangelist and not for a product, but for a movement and for evangelizing where marketers are going and where B2B professionals in general are going, going to market. So thank you for all the work that you do, have done, continue to do. And thanks for joining us today.
Sangram: Thank you, Matt. It’s always a pleasure to be with you. Really, really look forward to doing this in person.
Matt: Oh, in person, for sure. I’ve enjoyed being able to sleep in my own bed more the last year and a half, but definitely looking forward to getting back out and seeing people in person again. Well, thanks everyone for joining us today. For those of you live, thank you very much for watching. For those of you on demand, if you want to share a copy of this with your team, if you want other people to check out Sangram’s thoughts on go to market strategy, as well as community best practices, this will be up on demand at salespipelineradio.com. And we will see you next week for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks for watching and listening.
Sangram: Thank you.
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