Insights from Collective[i]: How Data-Driven Decision Making is Transforming the B2B Sales Industry to Be More Efficient, Accurate, and Optimized for Success

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

As the founder of Collective[i], a leading platform for AI-enabled digital sales, Stephen Messer spends a great deal of time thinking about how sales organizations can better use technology to drive intelligent transformations of their sales processes. As Stephen has seen firsthand, one of the biggest pain points for any sales organization is manual data entry. While the process can be cumbersome, the need for accurate lead capture is higher than ever. Sales decisions have been shifting away from one to two points of contact towards a circle of influence that can involve multiple members of a target business, and by leaving a bulk of those decision makers out of a CRM, both sales and marketing teams are denying themselves the ability to leverage their connections to this larger team of decision makers. What’s worse, they’re limiting their ability to analyze this data that would help them better understand a target’s buying decisions and optimize the best route to close deals and influence their own go-to-market strategies. 

In the latest episode of Growth Hacks, Stephen breaks down for Kunal and Katja the reason that he believes the B2B sales industry is on the precipice of undergoing a major digital transformation that will move the field away from its existing qualitative mentality into one driven by data-heavy analysis that can actually move the needle. He walks us through some of the surprising takeaways he’s seen through Collective[i]’s Intelligent WriteBack product, such as the fact that most sales teams spend 20% of their time – up to an entire day per week – on forecasting and predictions that often don’t yield highly accurate results. He offers solutions for ways that sales teams can better think about forecasting and predictions, and explains how better data capture and data analysis will allow for better modeling and optimization of go-to-market strategies in both the short and long term for businesses that are willing to invest time into better data capture. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Why companies are still wasting time on ineffective forecasting, and ways to do it better.

    One of the major themes that Stephen has seen through Collective[i]’s platform is that organizations are still spending roughly 20% of their time working on forecasting. When looked at from a different lens, that’s one day per week that’s being dedicated to a non-revenue producing task. Compounding the issue is the fact that it is rare for marketers to predict the future, which means that one-fifth of each week is spent chasing an accuracy rate that may never be reached. Collective[i] instead leverages its AI-powered platform to better understand what’s changing in a business’ landscape on a day-to-day scale. While it can be easy to get sucked into the standard model of months-ahead forecasting, Stephen suggests using data to understand how the world is changing in the near term. As he puts it, “What [boards] really want to understand is how the daily change is affecting their likely future, so that they can decide, ‘Do I open up the budget or do I close it down?’ They want to make sure they’re on track, that it’s reliable, and that everything is predictable.”
  • How the sphere of influence in purchasing decisions has grown to involve larger networks.

    As any salesperson knows, one of the largest challenges of managing a CRM database is the time spent on manual data entry. While skipping the process of entering leads may seem like a minor trade-off to make in pursuit of revenue-generating activities, Collective[i] has seen that the sphere of influence in purchasing has expanded significantly. What used to be one or two contacts has now become seven to eight buyers involved in a transaction, many of whom remain unknown to the larger sales and marketing organizations. Stephen estimates that these days, roughly 70% of people involved in a deal never even make it into a CRM. But if sales organizations start paying attention to the importance of making sure those contacts are accounted for, it becomes imminently clear that purchasing decisions are influenced by a much larger group. 

    “It changes the way you think about how the buyer is going through their buying process, and that can give you a real advantage if you know who’s there,” says Stephen. “Take account-based marketing. If you never know who’s there, and you don’t know the personas, you’re not going to be able to get that marketing tailwind from your organization simply because you can’t get that information into the CRM.”
  • Ways that AI can help sales teams to better understand buying decisions and optimize go-to-market strategy.

    Once teams begin to internalize the idea that buying decisions are made by a larger circle of influence, they can unlock the value in all the data being collected around buying decisions. Companies can better leverage opportunities using the full force of their networks, and capitalize on the social connections that can be uncovered through that data. By using AI, sales organizations can take this one step further. Rather than sifting through contacts in a CRM to find the best set of first and second-degree connections to a circle of influence, B2B sales organizations can use technology to analyze large data sets and better understand how buying decisions are made by that buying group. “If I can observe that same buying group across multiple sellers, it allows us to really start making good predictions about when they do this, what it means, or what they’re going to do next. And then we can look across an even larger network to start to understand what people do that leads to certain wins or losses,” explains Stephen. 

    Once those predictions are being put into action, savvy sales organizations can even use the data from their hits and misses to optimize their go-to-market strategy for the future. “The cool part of AI is that you can run the time forward [and say] here is the stack pattern of what we’ve done today. What is the optimal thing [I] can do next? How do I personalize my sale to the way this buying group likes to buy?” 
  • Why Stephen is bullish on sales organizations changing their operational playbooks as the industry further digitizes.

    As evidenced by the data Stephen has collected on time overspent on forecasting, it’s apparent that the sales industry is ripe for changing how it has operated in the past. For decades the industry has operated on a qualitative model of decision making, but Stephen and his team at Collective[i] are confident that the industry will begin to move towards a much more data-driven sales process. “The biggest myth is that sales organizations are going to continue to operate in the same way they’ve done over the last 30 to 40 years. I think a lot of people are tweaking around the edges. I see this as a transition from being a very qualitative, very opinion-based world, to a very quant heavy world,” says Stephen. 

    While the concept may seem cumbersome, leading organizations to believe they shouldn’t rock the boat, he implores companies to remember that change isn’t as hard as it seems – after all, brand marketers were able to adapt to a new generation of digital marketing over the past decade, and in the last couple years alone, many organizations that had never used tools such as video conferencing quickly adapted to a new remote normal in a matter of weeks. “I think sales is going through a huge transition as it digitizes, and that will change everything about how we operate for the better,” says Stephen.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Collective[i]: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Analyze Decision Making, Influence Go-To-Market Strategy, and Bring B2B Sales Organizations Into the 21st Century

While CRM platforms have been a cornerstone of the sales industry for decades, many parts of the B2B sales playbook can still reflect decision-making from decades past. Whether it’s faulty data capture, cumbersome manual data entry, or inefficient forecasting, the digital revolution has yet to fully transform B2B sales organizations away from their traditional, intuition-based operating practices. While following the tried-and-true sales strategies may yield modest success, leveraging AI-powered sales data allows sales organizations the opportunity to better understand their buyers, cut down on time spent attempting to predict the future, and close deals as a team that might have otherwise been left in the pipeline.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja are joined by Stephen Messer, the founder of Collective[i], a leader in AI-enabled digital sales and customer relationship management. Stephen walks the group through some of the biggest learnings he and his team have seen on Collective[i]’s data-powered platform, and how they can be used to relieve many of the pain points he continues to see B2B sales organizations struggle with. He breaks down how decision making has shifted in recent years, and what sales teams can do to better service these new spheres of influence and walks the team through some of the biggest myths he sees persisting in modern B2B sales today.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why companies are still wasting time on ineffective forecasting, and ways to do it better
  • How the sphere of influence in purchasing decisions has grown to involve larger networks
  • Ways that AI can help sales teams to better understand buying decisions and optimize go-to-market strategy
  • Why Stephen is bullish on sales organizations changing their operational playbooks as the industry further digitizes

To hear more on this, settle in and press play. 

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kunal: It is a real pleasure to introduce you to today’s guest. He’s many things, among them an entrepreneur, a founder, attorney, patent holder, professor at Columbia, angel investor, winner of a ton of awards, brother, son. Please welcome Stephen Messer, who’s the founder of Collective[i], which is a leader in AI-enabled digital sales. This company has seen thousands of opportunities run across its platform and today Stephen’s going to share insight that no one company could get on their own. We’re to go through those today. Welcome, Stephen.

Stephen: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Katja: Great, Stephen. Where does this podcast find you today?

Stephen: Today I am in the beautiful Saint Kitts in the Caribbean.

Katja: Awesome. That’s quite the location. As we start the new year, we are really excited about bringing you a different flow for today’s episode. We’re actually partnering with Collective[i] to share the top 10 takeaways based on the enormous amount of data that they gather on their platform. So, Stephen, let’s start with number one, Salesforce activity. How much of it is actually recorded in Salesforce?

Stephen: This is a crazy statistic. When you look today, there’s probably less than 16% of the activities that a sales professional does is mapped into the CRM. Now, that by the way also ignores all the contexts that usually are supposed to be put in, but don’t get in as well. We have a product called Intelligent WriteBack and the goal of that product is actually to find what’s really going on and the reason that CRM is so dependent on getting an accurate and complete view of what the seller is doing every day to help them improve.

Kunal: Stephen, I know when we run those assessments, even in our own companies, that 16% almost has a plus or minus of one, so it is truly a solid stat on what the activity of the reps are. Just imagine if we were a contestant on Wheel of Fortune — how many phrases would we get right if we could only see 16% of the letters?

Stephen: Yeah, you’d have to probably hope for a two-letter word for you to be able to figure it out. If it is a normal phrase, you would probably be looking at this saying there’s no chance. I think that’s exactly what’s happening in sales orgs today that are looking at their data.

Katja: Wow, that’s astounding. Moving on to number two, Steve, which is a popular topic with TCV as well, forecasting. How many hours does the average company spend on forecasting and how accurate has it been? And I want to hear your Marvel story.

Stephen: Yeah, forecasting is an interesting one. When you look at the statistics, whether it be from analysts or even from the data that we’ve seen, most organizations have historically spent about 20% of their time doing forecasting. So forecast Fridays are actually forecast Fridays. They spend the entire day. It’s kind of amazing to think that we give up 20% of selling, which is one day out of every week, to focus on a non-revenue producing task of forecasting. I find it even more crazy because it’s trying to do something that no one’s really been able to do in the history of the world, which is accurately predict some future event. No human on the planet has ever predicted the future. They’re giving up 20% of their time to get to an accuracy rate that’s almost been historically impossible to do.

When we look at that, we think to ourselves, okay, this is a real problem. And in fact, this is where my Marvel story comes in. I’m a comic book geek. I love them all. And in Marvel, there’s always a lot of themes around moving to the future and back and forth. But if you look at even the most recent Marvel movies, The Avengers, what you’ll see is that Doctor Strange saves humanity at the end of the movie by being able to go and live millions of lives to see which is the only way that they’ll be able to defeat the evil villain.

In this case, it’s pretty amazing. He gets it right. But two movies earlier before this evil villain even showed up, Doctor Strange is in a movie and could not predict that this person was coming to avoid it. In other words, even the superhero with the power to see the future has a 50-50 hit rate at best. What that tells us is that storyline worked because no one believes that anyone can predict the future. We think forecasting is going to go through a big revolution in AI and we’re excited to see people get 20% of their day back and more accurate up-to-date daily predictions.

Kunal: I love the Marvel story, Stephen. I think Marvel has like 7,000 characters and like two can predict the future, which just tells you how difficult it is to do. I know from a TCV perspective, we view forecasts. It’s like Kevlar for the board. When you have predictability, it makes spending the budget that’s allocated way easier. I think the forecast plays a critical role at all levels, but if you’re an operator in the company, you can find your budget being restricted if you start not to be predictable.

Stephen: And I think that’s really it. I think what boards want is the confidence in understanding what’s changing in the world. No one expects a sales professional at the start of the pandemic to predict exactly what’s going on. In fact, if you look at most of our competitors in forecasting, we were the only ones who hired up instead of laid off people because our AI was telling us that it was actually going to be a good thing, an accelerator for our business. I think companies like Zoom and some other players had a huge lift from the pandemic, so laying off people would’ve been putting the wrong brakes on and using people’s opinions probably wouldn’t have been the best way. But what they want to understand is how is the daily change affecting their likely future so they can decide, do I open up budget or do I close it down? They also want to make sure that they’re on track, that it’s reliable, that everything is predictable, and I think that’s really what forecasting with an AI product is all about.

Katja: That’s great. Sticking with superheroes, I always like the Lasso of Truth of Wonder Woman as well, which I think is something I would like to have.

Stephen: I think salespeople would like to have that with their customers as well.

Katja: I think so. Moving on to number three, one of my favorite topics, is the number of leads in people’s emails that never make it to marketing.

Stephen: It’s not just emails. It could be in their phone calls; it could be in their video conferences. I think the challenge around CRM has been the cost that it takes to enter information and the mundane nature of it. I did use to work with the UN and I used to joke around and say the only thing the Geneva Conventions didn’t cover was making intelligent people do manual data entry into databases. It’s cruel, it’s hard, and that’s why a lot of salespeople tend not to put that information into the CRM, even though it’s some of the most critical data that they need. When we think about that today, what you end up with is maybe one or two contacts entering into the CRM when in reality, seven to eight buyers are involved in the transaction and that sales team, and the marketing teams have no idea about those other people.

Kunal: Yeah, what we’ve seen, and I think what we’ve heard in the past is roughly 70% of the people we work with on an opportunity just never make it into Salesforce. and I think you’re validating that with the data you’re seeing as well.

Stephen: Yeah, we’ve seen it in your portfolio, right? It’s amazing how many names get uncovered that are involved and it changes the way you think about how the buyer is going through their buying process. That can give real advantage if you know who’s there. Take for example account-based marketing, a very popular new form of doing personalized marketing communications. Well, if you never know who’s there and you don’t know the personas, you’re not going to be able to get that marketing tailwind from your organization simply because you can’t get that information into the CRM and put it in a way where it’s trustworthy.

Katja: That’s right, and that leads to our next topic. How do you then build a solid pipeline? Right? Because what we are seeing is that the majority of pipelines have really bad data; we see that these deals are in the pipeline that are over a year old. They have closed dates that have changed more than three times, but actually no activity in the last seven days and no change in stage in the last 30 days. What happens is usually half the pipeline falls out when we look at the health this way. What’s your fascinating pipeline stats, Stephen?

Stephen: I’m going to first highlight things that every sales leader who’s been around for the last decade knows. We used to talk about 2X pipeline coverage, then it became 3X and 4X and 5X pipeline coverage. It wasn’t that win rates were going down; it was that salespeople started warehousing more and more deals. When you don’t have visibility into the actual activities and contacts that the sales organization is interacting with, it’s easy to lose sight of which deals have just gone away that the seller doesn’t want to close. That can be as simple as loss aversion, or they want to hold onto it in the hope it comes back where they can get it again.

When you look at these pipelines, it’s actually causing real problems. Your CDR team doesn’t even know who to feed new deals to. It creates all these issues. The bigger issue is all the while they’re being warehoused, these opportunities are sitting there idle. There are no marketing messages going there, there’s no keeping up with the buyer who may no longer even be at the org. This is a real problem. What we see today is that sales professionals hold on to close lost deals for about three times longer than a closed deal.

Kunal: That’s a fascinating stat, and Katja and I have seen this over and over. We actually have a white paper on pipe dream versus pipeline that covers some of this as well.

Stephen: Yeah, it’s a great read and I recommend it for anyone who’s listening to this podcast.

Katja: Thank you. It’s definitely eye-opening what we’ve observed working with companies. Along those lines, we also see that almost 100% of companies assign leads based on territories. And they almost make no reference to connections, which feels like 1950s selling. What do you think, Steve?

Stephen: Look, I think sales is going through a huge revolution and a lot of the ways that all of us came up through sales leadership must be re-examined. When you think about territory management, that was designed for the traveling salesperson who carried a roll of dimes in their pocket, would carry their bag from location to location. So, it made sense that territories be fixated around where it was fastest for them to meet the most customers.

Well, that hasn’t existed since the ’50s. The world has changed. I would argue cell phones alone changed it but look what’s happened during the pandemic. People can work from anywhere. It’s easy enough to do business from anywhere thanks to modern day technology, but the biggest thing that we see today is that as people have access to social networks, they are leveraging their relationships to learn what other products other people are using, what works and what doesn’t work. The idea that companies aren’t countering that trend by leveraging relationships that exist in their org, just lying there as data not being used, we think is just sad because there’s a lot of opportunity for people to leverage their friends, their family, their past colleagues, their prior customers. All of this exists and it’s just sitting there to be taken advantage of.

Kunal: Outstanding. Most closed lost opportunities, they’re lost because of no decision, no actual competition involved, and this is code for we just never got buy-in. Maybe you can speak to the number of people you’re seeing involved in a deal as well as how you guys map out circle of influence here to measure, are these opportunities going to close, not close, et cetera?

Stephen: You can probably tell from my statements I really believe that the social world has moved from the consumer into the B2B. And we’ve known that when it comes to jobs around things like LinkedIn, but you’re now seeing it spread into the sales world. We have a product called Connectors that allows you to discover connections, both at your org, but amongst your friends and your family and prior colleagues, et cetera, because we think that’s the most important thing. Why? Well, today if you were to look at the number of buyers involved in a transaction, you’d see across our network that they’ve gone up every single year. Now we’re not alone. All the analysts have been talking about this for a while, but what that means is a lot of the ways that we’ve historically sold, what we’re looking at now is that buyers are making decisions where they’re doing the research on the web first, they’re getting a lot of people involved. It’s a consensus-based purchase and they have their own model and methods of buying.

On the selling side, we’re seeing the same thing. There’s not just one seller anymore. We used to hold the salesperson accountable, but today we have to hold people like legal and finance, your joint venture partners or resellers accountable. What that means is you now have a lot more people involved. Well, the benefit of that is that they all have access to connections as well where they can leverage, and in fact, if the organization can start to learn that circle of influence, they can actually work in conjunction with that buying group to influence everybody involved. It’s a pretty powerful world when all these social connections are working together.

Kunal: I totally agree, Stephen, and one interesting thing that we see that you guys have patterned out is you would take the win rates and you would be able to pattern out kind of these next best set of actions based on what’s kind of moved the needle in the buying journey. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you guys do that and what the impact has been.

Stephen: The funny part is AI has been popular in the consumer world over the last 20 years, really accelerating in the last 10 years as neural networks have spread through, and a lot of the things that we love so much about those B2C apps is how personalized and how effective they are. The way they do that is by leveraging large networks of data, right? Facebook, TikTok, et cetera. Well, those same exact technologies are being applied now into the B2B world, and in particular B2B sales. We use all these technologies and a large data set to help us find out how does each buying group make their buying decisions? If I can observe that same buying group across multiple sellers, it allows us to really start making good predictions about when they do this, what it means or what they’re going to do next. Then we can look across an even larger network to start to understand what people do that lead to certain win or losses.

The cool part about AI is you can run the time forward, which is, okay, here is the stack pattern of what we’ve had today. What’s the optimal thing you can do next? We can suggest that and just like all apps, take Waze for example, I don’t always have to take the optimal route if I don’t like the route, but the route they’re suggesting is probably going to be the fastest. If I take it, it’ll look at the activity. If something new happens, it’ll reroute it again. So, you’re always looking for, what’s the optimal way to work with this customer? In other words, how do I personalize my sale to the way this buying group likes to buy?

Kunal:

What I love about it is the fact that on a win, you can tell me the needle-moving actions that happen in aggregate even all the way to the industry level. I think it’s super precise, and on the flip side, I can take my losses and map out what is not moving the needle. So, again, it has the impact of making my go-to market strategy, just giving it more precision.

Stephen: You know what else is cool for sales organizations and sellers? It’s so personalized that it’s giving them their unique advantages served up to them on a plate. When they win that transaction because they had a great connection over at the org, that’s something that only they could have taken advantage of. It’s a really powerful way to get every bit of strength out of your organization.

Katja: Well, Stephen, we’ve covered a lot of myths. What’s one that surprised you in 2021?

Stephen: It’s a good question. the thing that most surprises me is this idea that we can still predict the future. The reason I say that is we’re sitting here locked at home at the point where all of us thought we were going back to the office. I just saw today that Apple has postponed indefinitely when they’re going to go back to office. This idea that rather than reacting to news quickly and having the optimal way of doing things, we’re still trying to predict the future. I feel like COVID has been the great lesson in the fact that as great as we think we are at making decisions, we’re not always great at predicting the future, but what we are amazing at is how we can react successfully to it.

The American economy and globally the economy is going strong because we all moved onto the web, and we all were able to make really fast changes in the way we historically operated. I think the thing that we’ve learned more than anything else and the biggest myth is that change can be hard. I’ve watched organizations that never had video conferencing switch overnight and operate globally on video conferencing within a span of weeks. I think we can change quickly.

Kunal: I agree, Steve. And when you have something come in so significant that forces you to change, you’re able to break through barriers way faster than you thought was humanly possible. I guess, as we kind of wrap up here, what’s one enduring myth you wish would just go away based on the data you’ve seen over the last 10 years?

Stephen: It’s a good question. If I were to pick one myth, I think the biggest myth is that the sales organizations are going to continue to just operate in the same way they’ve done over the last 30, 40 years. I think a lot of people are tweaking around the edges. I see this as a transition from being a very qualitative, very opinion-based world to a very quant heavy world. We saw 20 years ago the marketing world move from brand marketing to digital marketing, and while it might have seemed scary at the time, today they’re one of the most powerful parts of any organization where arguably years ago, they were considered to be tarot card readers. Today they’re core producers. I think sales will go through a huge transition as it digitizes, and that will change everything about how we operate for the better.

Katja: That’s awesome. Thank you so much, Steve. It was so nice to have you on the show. And some of the takeaways that I’ve picked up are throwing out the old playbooks and leverage AI as well as relationships and connections to get better at many things, including forecasting, lead generation, building a pipeline, and more. With the universe of buyers and their access to information increasing, we also see sales teams growing with more people involved in the process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to increase win rates and pitfalls to avoid. And most importantly, how buyers and sellers can work together. Thanks so much for being with us today, Steve.

Stephen:

Thank you for having me on the show. It’s been fantastic.

Katja:

Thanks for listening to Growth Hacks. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. To learn more about us and TCV’s CEO and founder podcast, go to tcv.com or email us at growthhacks@tcv.com.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Erasing Friction to Improve Sales Enablement and Unlock Revenue Growth

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

One of the most important steps a sales organization can take to stay competitive in a rapidly changing sales landscape is to simplify its processes. Eliminating unwieldy training and paring down operational systems are both ways in which organizations can reduce friction for their sales force and drive revenue growth. However, modernizing sales enablement through simpler processes isn’t just about removing obstacles. Evolving organizations would also be wise to consider streamlining the metrics they use to quantify success, so that the entire organization can unite behind a shared vision, rather than improving on a large set of metrics that may not even be comparable.

This simplification strategy is one of the key lessons that Scott Santucci, president of the sales enablement consulting firm Growth Enablement, advises his clients to do. By reducing friction and creating shared organizational visions behind simplified processes, modern sales organizations are better positioned to create value for both themselves and their consumers at a faster pace.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Scott about how he came to be so bullish on strategies that involve stripping away much of the old sales enablement playbook. Not only does he explain his rationale; he also walks us through multiple examples and actionable tips that allow sales and marketing to achieve synthesis and create a better sales enablement playbook. Over the course of this episode, Scott breaks down the importance of metrics like the commercial ratio, how he coaches companies to recognize a singular route to value that becomes their playbook for driving sales, and specific case studies for how to implement these strategies successfully.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to use the sales and marketing efficiency ratio to improve commercial health across an entire organization. Sales teams often track dozens, if not hundreds, of various metrics to monitor KPIs and measure success. Yet that level of data can quickly become dense, especially when comparing them against each other in order to measure overall success. “One large client tracks over 5,000 different metrics for their sales organization. If you’re tracking that amount of data, you’re tracking nothing,” says Scott. Instead, he encourages clients to ask themselves, “What’s the one metric that we can work backwards from, that we want to move the needle from?”

Most often, the answer is the sales and marketing ratio, sometimes referred to as the commercial ratio; a calculation used to measure the efficiency of sales and marketing and deduce the overall health of a commercial system. Because the commercial ratio calculation is straightforward – revenue growth, divided by total sales and marketing spend – companies don’t have to compare dozens of various metrics to try to puzzle together their sales organization’s health. It also pulls in the entire organization into a singular goal. As Scott explains, “The metric says to me, ‘How do we as a company work better together? How do we team up and be on the same page to go find more efficient ways to attract customers?’”

  • The importance of having multiple perspectives in the room to improve sales enablement. One of Scott’s holistic strategies to improve processes around sales enablement is by bringing in people from all different backgrounds throughout the sales organization to create a shared vision, rather than having decisions made from the top-down. By putting pen to paper with input from a wider variety of stakeholders, organizations can be certain of two things: that their entire organization is aligned behind a singular vision, and that it’s a vision that is accessible to a larger customer base at the same time. Whether it’s aligning the organization behind the value of using a metric like the commercial ratio, or creating a new strategic vision, synthesis is a key component of Scott’s strategies to bettering sales enablement. “What’s important is making sure you meet all of the different folks that would be involved in teaming together. You [have] got to meet them where they are first, and then help them connect the dots second.”
  • Ways to identify the right route to value to clarify sales messaging and training. A key phrase that Scott uses with clients is the “route to value” – a new lens through which sales and marketing teams can craft better messaging. Rather than working backwards from what each individual customer might need, Scott encourages organizations to recognize that they’re in the value creation business, and view themselves as the people that can help create value for clients by taking them from the state they’re in today to a better future state.

To do so, he urges organizations to map out what that journey looks like from beginning to where a business might want to get to, in a process called value mapping. By value mapping, companies can figure out not only what the route to value is, but who the decision makers are that need to be involved, and the sorts of decision making they may need to guide a customer through. “A route to value, to be simple about it, is just writing a movie. A future movie of where you want to take your customers. You’re casting your clients as the heroes; therefore you’re also casting your salespeople as the guides,” says Scott.

  • Tips for aligning organizational economic value with the needs of your customer base. While value mapping starts in-house, and involves some speculation, it’s still important to align a company’s economic value with the needs of its customers. One way that Scott and his team do so is by building a model of what their customer’s world might look like – the challenges they face that meet certain patterns, or the people most likely to be able to enact change. By doing that research ahead of time, companies can truly understand the problems that exist for potential consumers and devise the right messaging to reach change agents who can implement solutions.

Imperative to the process is starting early and using that knowledge to drive messaging and training. “What we’re looking at isn’t interviewing customers about the products they want,” says Scott. “That’s way too late in the game.”

  • Actionable strategies to eliminate friction in the sales process. As sales divisions grow, so do additional training, tools, and potential obstacles that can unintentionally end up hindering sales growth. Rather than adding to your sales team’s plate in order to up-level their skillset, Scott suggests an alternative approach. “What works is creating things that actually take stuff away,” he explains.

He advises clients to pick disparate parts of their sales enablement programs and consider all the obstacles that complicate that in favor of simpler processes; for example, simplifying the process of providing a price quote to a customer. “You would think that doing something like that is no big deal, but taking stuff away is not in most people’s muscle memory. To systematically reduce things that stand in the way of making progress is a great success.”

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: At Growth Enablement, Modernizing Sales Enablement Means Throwing Out the Old Playbook

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


At Growth Enablement, Modernizing Sales Enablement Means Throwing Out the Old Playbook

In an increasingly competitive sales landscape, throwing out the playbook may seem like a bold strategy. But that’s exactly what Scott Santucci, president of the sales enablement consulting firm Growth Enablement, has been advising his clients to do. Commercial systems designed even as late as 2019 are likely full of complex trainings, outdated information, and other sorts of friction that can slow down the actual sales process. Instead, businesses should focus on systematically reducing the obstacles that stand in the way of sales progress to accelerate enablement.

In today’s episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Scott about how he’s viewing the evolution and current state of enablement, and how he’s adapting the traditional customer-centric approach to unlock value at a faster pace for both businesses and their customers. In addition to actionable tips on accelerating the sales enablement process, Scott walks us through combining perspectives from sales, marketing, and product to create a route to value. He also shares his strategies for simplifying metrics to measure commercial health. Lastly, he breaks down the importance of including diverse stakeholders from across the organization in the process of creating a new sales enablement playbook, and his top tips for salespeople just starting out.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to use the sales and marketing efficiency ratio to improve commercial health across an entire organization
  • The importance of having multiple perspectives in the room to improve sales enablement
  • Ways to identify the right route to value to clarify sales messaging and training
  • Tips for aligning organizational economic value with the needs of your customer base
  • Actionable strategies to eliminate friction in the sales process

To hear more on this, settle in and press play. 

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kunal Mehta: It’s my pleasure to introduce Scott Santucci to Growth Hacks. Scott is going to be presenting a bunch of Growth Hacks today. I met Scott when he was a research director at Forrester, where he founded the enablement practice, led research around executive buying, and built frameworks to give people a common language to talk about sales enablement, and sales productivity. After Forrester, he moved into more commercial roles, helping companies transform not only their sales process, but simplify their go-to-market. How awesome it is to have Scott Santucci in our metaverse. Welcome to Growth Hacks.

Scott Santucci: Thank you so much for having me, Kunal, and I just want to plug Growth Hacks. Having been in the research business for so long, the way that you are tackling these issues and being reflective and asking questions about what’s really happening, not what should be happening, it’s just really fantastic. Thank you for having me as a participant on your show, and I’m definitely a listener.

Katja Gagen: That’s awesome. Glad to hear that. Where does this podcast find you today, Scott?

Scott Santucci: I’m in Leesburg, Virginia, suburb of Washington, DC.

Katja Gagen: Scott, you’ve done a lot of research around sales enablement, and our listeners are excited to hear about this. Tell us in a few words, what is sales enablement, how has it evolved and why does it still pique your interest today?

Scott Santucci: To be simple about it, Katja, what is sales enablement? If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 15 different answers. So let me give you sort of two schools of thought. One would be sales enablement is about doing something for salespeople to help drive more revenue or more sales. That could be in the form of training. It could be in the form of leads. It could be a form of content, those kinds of activities.

Another school of thought is that sales enablement is about creating the overall system, including customers. Figuring out sales and marketing and product and making sure that environment is thriving better.

The reason I’m so interested in that bucket, and what makes me so compelled is that the world that we live in today is so interconnected that we have to have different strategies on how we optimize sales and marketing. To me, they’re directly related of looking at the ecosystem or the buying networks that we’re connected with our customers with.

Those are the things that I concentrate on and that’s where my research has always been. It’s that sales and marketing exist in order to drive growth, and we drive growth by making sure we’re always understanding what our customers are looking for, what kinds of problems they have, and also what stands in the way from them getting the value from our products and services.

Kunal Mehta: Scott, you have been an analyst, a practitioner, a consultant. You have talked to thousands of people. You are at the center of enablement. I’d really love to get your meta view on the state of enablement today.

Scott Santucci: I think the state of enablement today is the state of a lot of businesses. This is a adopt or die kind of situation. And I hate to be so bold but let me give you a headline of what I mean by that.

If you are following the practices of before either 2008 or before 2019, you are probably arming or gumming up your commercial system. You are probably producing lots of activities that are overly complex, like a training class or a marketing piece, rather than recognizing how much information salespeople have to synthesize and make it digestible for lots of people inside their customer network.

If you have always been a person who believes you work backwards from customers first, that’s never going to change. What’s different is how interconnected selling activities are today. How fast things move, how many people are involved and how those situations make the old strategies not suitable for 2021 and beyond.

Katja Gagen: That’s interesting Scott. Since you’ve been in the enablement business for some time, what’s an example of things working and where can companies miss the mark?

Scott Santucci: What works is creating things that actually take stuff away. Here’s a perfect example of a really great enablement program. Going in and identifying all of the obstacles that stand in the way, say, to produce a price quote and just systematically eliminating them and replacing it with something simpler. You would think that doing something like that is no big deal, but taking stuff away is not in most people’s muscle memory, so to systematically reduce things that stand in the way of making progress is great success.

Another example of something that’s great success is getting people in the room that have different backgrounds, to collaborate on a shared vision. It might be a picture, a map, a diagram of what the future could look like for customers. Having multiple perspectives involved and the discipline to get it on one sheet of paper means that picture is going to probably be more accessible to more people in those customers.

Those are two examples of things that work. I put them in the bucket of synthesis. Things that don’t work are more detailed training, plotting the Salesforce out, doing another heavy training activity to teach them more and more sales technique.

Kunal Mehta: Got it. Scott, I want to start with something we are both really passionate about, which is the sales and marketing efficiency ratio, or something you refer to as the commercial ratio and how you are using it to measure the health of sales and marketing. Scott, maybe before we get rolling into it, you could just explain what it is.

Scott Santucci: The commercial ratio is a measure of the overall health of a commercial system. That includes the revenue coming from customers, includes the spending that’s done for sales, and the spending that’s done for marketing.

The calculation is pretty straight forward; we got that from you guys. It’s the revenue growth divided by total sales and marketing spend. That gives you a ratio. Which gives you a relative health of how efficient the sales and marketing investments are.

Now that’s the calculation. What is it measuring? It assumes that the money spent for sales and marketing, its purpose is to drive revenue growth. There are situations where you would spend sales and marketing money to retain customers, but that’s what its focal point is.

Kunal Mehta: What was your aha moment when you first learned about it?

Scott Santucci: Having been a consultant for so long, one of the things that has always been challenging is how much data companies track about sales and marketing. One large client, they track over 5,000 different metrics for their sales organization. If you are tracking that amount of data, you are tracking nothing. What I’m a big believer in is, what’s the one metric that we can work backwards from that we want to move the needle from?

When we arrived at that commercial ratio from talking to other people inside your company, to have that one metric. The metric says to me, how do we, as a company work better together? How do we team up and be on the same page to go find more efficient ways to attract customers?

Where it became an aha moment to me is how do we stop the internal bickering to circle the wagons, go outside, and compete in the market and not compete inside our company.

Katja Gagen: That’s really interesting Scott. How do you use that ratio to bring people together or align them around a common goal?

Scott Santucci: That has been interesting. I think step number one is, let’s help everybody get on the same page behind it. Some people will reject it because it is not a ratio that they are familiar with, or it sounds like something that’s coming from finance.

I think step number one is let’s understand what the meaning of it is and step number two is to recognize that there is a sequence of events to get there and that we can get there together. By having a plan of stopping to do things that don’t work and finding ways to invest in things that do work. Having that narrative helps a lot.

I think what’s important though, is making sure you meet all of the different folks that would be involved in teaming together. You’ve got to meet them where they are first and then help them connect the dots, second.

Kunal Mehta: Scott, maybe you could just give us a practical example of how you’ve rolled this out at one of your customers now.

Scott Santucci: Let’s take a business with about $500 million in revenue in the security space, a SaaS company in the security space. Using the commercial ratio, as a way to say, if we want to improve the overall health of sales or profitability, let’s look at how we’re doing today. And using that ratio to say, what would it be if we went from .55 to .60, to .75 to 1.0, and why don’t we ask those questions of what would it look like?

Let’s simulate what that would look like in terms of our financial performance, what it would look like in terms of our organizations and help people envision what that would look like. In doing that process, what’s interesting is people move off the thing that they have to do right now in that moment, and they can start envisioning making incremental change.

Then from there could be doing things differently, and where should we start? Let’s look at your business like a portfolio of different revenue streams, and let’s segment it out differently and look at these different buckets in their own isolation.

What we’re looking to do is optimize or create the most value out of each of these revenue streams, and we want to take out as much friction as possible so that we make it much easier to do work and make sure that people agree with that. Then the next part is, let’s pick one of those things and work on something to tackle.

Katja Gagen: Right. And in the end, it’s all about value creation, right?

Scott Santucci: That’s right. Yes, exactly.

Katja Gagen: In that vein, you talk about the route to value, and how you combine what sales and marketing do to deliver that value. Give me an example.

Scott Santucci: That’s a great question. Let’s pick that same example that we were working backwards from, one of the things that we highlighted. So now that we have these different portfolios of revenue streams, and we have a good understanding about where their friction is. The idea of a route to value is a different way to think about a sales messaging and sales training.

A basic metaphor is to say, let’s recognize that we’re in the value creation business, to your point. What we want to do is help our clients along a journey from where they are today, the bad state, to where they want to get to, an envisioned future state that our company can take them.

We need to figure out what that journey looks like. We call that a value map, that’s where they want to get to. Now what the route to value is, is to say, let’s figure out what the change agent and the executive sponsor need to do to buy into that picture, and then help guide them through the decisions, the predictable decisions that they’re going to need to make through that journey.

It’s like plotting out a movie, in that there are predictable scenes that you can work backwards from. Then once you have that, you can determine, do we want our salespeople to be security subject matter experts? Or do we want them to be decision-making brokers, decision-making champions?

If you make them decision-making champions, things become a lot easier. You give them less materials; you can define very specific scenes. For marketing it’s capturing stories that match to each one of those scenes that you already have and organize that information to help salespeople.

A route to value is writing a future movie of where you want to take your customers. You are casting your clients as the heroes. Therefore, you are also casting your salespeople as the guides and then marketing is there to equip the salespeople with the tools that they need to help the clients, to navigate all of those different variables that they’re going to run into inside their organizations.

Katja Gagen: I like that. Scott, I’m getting my popcorn ready here for the movie roll out. After you’ve brought everyone in the company into this value creation, how do you make sure the economic value is aligned with what the customer wants?

Scott Santucci: The process of building a value map is very challenging. There’s a technique that we like to call model map match. The model part is, let’s model our customer’s world, what we’re looking at, isn’t interviewing customers about what products they want. That’s way too late in the game.

What we want to do is figure out what challenges do individual companies have that meet certain patterns. Let’s find out what’s the profile of the human that’s most likely to drive that forward. We call that person a change agent.

What do they look like? What’s their profile? You know that that person isn’t going to be successful unless they have an executive sponsor. If we understand what problems exist and we understand who these types of people are then the next thing that we can figure out is how do we build the information that they need to figure out why they need to change in the first place? And why now?

If you don’t have those things figured out, we put the burden on salespeople to figure it out and that’s really hard to do. When you have that information then Katja, it becomes pretty simple to figure out whether your value proposition matches those predictable conditions.

And then you have a scorecard and then you keep the validation from it by how well it’s testing in the field and how well it’s resonating. But you can always tweak it by bringing customers in to talk and react to it so there’s always ways to keep it fresh.

I think the challenge is just having the discipline to build it outside-in from the get-go.

Katja Gagen: I love that, Scott. Thank you. As always, we will finish our podcast with some rapid-fire questions. First one, what’s your go-to book?

Scott Santucci: I wish I had one go-to book. There are three books that I’ve read, and I keep reading over and over and over again. One is The Chaos Imperative, which is about embracing disruption and turning it into innovation. Another one is Antifragile, which is about turning disorder into a strategy. The third one is Switch, which is about how change actually happens and how you have to plot it out. You know how you can manufacture it and create an environment for change, rather than putting on the backs of individual people.

Kunal Mehta: Hey, Scott, what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Scott Santucci: My biggest pet peeve is for people who say salespeople should do X, Y, and Z, and they haven’t done it themselves.

Katja Gagen: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in sales.

Scott Santucci: Be curious. It’s not about you. It’s about the customer. Find out everything there is to know. What they think, find ways to be relatable with them. That’s the easiest path to being successful.

Katja Gagen: What was one thing you learned about yourself during the pandemic?

Scott Santucci: What I learned about myself during the pandemic is that going back to your roots of what you know and finding ways to challenge certain questions. So, doubling down on being more curious, what I did is kind of threw out my old playbook, I just threw it out and I decided I need to build one from scratch. I’m so grateful I did because a lot of the things in my old playbook just won’t work today, and I don’t think it’s coming back to where it was before.

Katja Gagen: Well, thanks for being with us today, Scott.

Scott Santucci: Thank you.

Katja Gagen: Thanks for listening to Growth Hacks. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. To learn more about us and TCV’s CEO and founder podcast, go to TCV.com or email us at growthhacks@tcv.com.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Selling Success: Secrets of Sales Leadership from Planning and Recruiting to Enduring Customer Satisfaction

Revenue is the lifeblood of any business, yet sales planning in a fast-moving tech world is easier said than done. It includes art and science: to succeed, sales leaders need to be both, creative executers and analytical thinkers. New competitors can launch into your markets more easily than ever, while SaaS business models are making it harder to land and expand enterprise-wide contracts. In this timely episode of Growth Journeys, long-time B2B sales leader Mark Smith (NetScreen, Infoblox, Arista, Rubrik) shares veteran advice on sales planning with Kunal Mehta, a principal in TCV’s Portfolio Operations team. Key take-aways include basing near-term forecasts on long-term fundamentals and applying the power of propensity models to predict sales success. Mark and Kunal also explore the secrets of hiring and motivating successful salespeople, why technology is changing the sales cycle, and how to think about 2021:

  • Using shared data and definitions to integrate sales planning and execution
  • Leveraging sales recruiting for business development
  • Aligning engineering and marketing in support of sales plans
  • Why the pandemic is a tailwind for tech companies
  • How the SaaS model gave birth to customer success management

For all this and much more, settle back and press play.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the authors and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.