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Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 166: Q&A with Phil Harrell @pjharrell – Customer Think

By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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We were thrilled this last time to talk to Phil Harrell, in an episode called, New Research/Insights from SiriusDecisons Summit 2019

Listen in or read the transcript below to learn about the latest research and insights from SiriusDecisions Summit 2019 from Chief Sales Officer, Strategies at SiriusDecisionsPhil Harrell.

We talk about the theme of Together… strategically it sounds like a great idea. Operationally, not always so easy. I ask Phil to talk about that difference a little bit.

When we think about specially, about sales and marketing and even customer success in a lifetime journey perspective…. when you’ve got sales and marketing working together, it’s fine to say we have the same objectives but then you have to figure out what does that look like on Tuesday? How do you bridge that gap?

This and a lot more…

Matt:  All right, welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks so much for joining us. For those of you that are listening alive on the Funnel Radio Network, thanks so much for joining us in the middle of your work day, the last Thursday of May. Can’t believe we’re already into June. We’re already past the world day already well into now the unofficial summer periods so thanks for joining us. If you’re joining us from the podcast, thanks so much for subscribing. Honored to have so many of you joining us. I think we are inching closer to 100,000 listener milestone, which is just very humbling and exciting to see. Thanks so much for joining us there and every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present and future is always mailed on

Each and every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing today is no different. We’ve got , he is with and manages their sales, chief sales officer strategies. Phil, thanks so much for joining us today.

Phil:  Thanks Matt. Glad to be here.

Matt:  So this is the first time we’ve gotten to talk since SiriusDecisions summit, which was just as we record this just a couple of weeks ago and boy, just another great events and other great conference. I mean, you’ve been around SiriusDecisions for awhile. What’s your take on sort of where we’re at now? What was your take on the pulse of what happened down in Austin a couple weeks ago?

Phil:  Well, it was a terrifically exciting event. I mean, we had leaders from product marketing and sales who joined us. The theme was Together, how to build a high performance revenue engine by aligning product marketing and sales. Obviously the alignment theme is something that we’ve been talking about at SiriusDecisions for 16, 17 years. So it’s building on that theme and I think the theme this year of Together really has special meaning because of the fact that we were aqquired by Forrester who were just thrilled with how the event turned out and got good feedback and attendees really helped made the event what it is today.

Matt:  I mean for years, the SiriusDecisions summit, for anyone listening who hasn’t been there, I mean it’s just been a mainstay of the B2B marketing conference circuit and just really is pound for pound, quantity and quality one of the best conferences. I believe you can attend B2B just from a content standpoint, from a conversation standpoint, everyone you meet tend to show is in the thick of this, you know stuff. Some things they may have figured out, some things they may still be working on like the rest of us and I think it’s interesting you talk about that theme of Together, strategically it sounds like a great idea. Operationally, not always so easy. Talk about that difference a little bit. When we think about specially, about sales and marketing and even customer success in a lifetime journey perspective. When you’ve got sales and marketing working together, it’s fine to say we have the same objectives as KAO, but then you have to figure out what does that look like on Tuesday? How do you bridge that gap?

Phil:  Great question, Matt. I mean clearly what’s really important now is getting that alignment’s become even more important now today than it was probably 15 years ago and the reason is because the buyers, we all know that there are changes in buyer behaviors means that buyers are going through their buying journey and it requires a lot of tight coordination between sales and marketing and product to be able to meet that buyer in the way they want to be met. So I would argue that the need for alignment is more important today than it probably was 15, 16 years ago and your question about how do you actually make this happen? The first step, and we talked about this at summit, we have a session on strategy and I presented with two colleagues of mine. One who heads up the product and one that heads up the marketing service about how to actually agree on a strategy upfront and that means aligning on that chair destination of where revenue is actually going to come from and actually making sure that the entire function, the sales function, the marketing function and the product functions are aligned to pursue that strategy that you agreed upon.

So that’s really one important step up front and then from there it requires getting that alignment within the function, making sure that every step, every agreed of destination has a plan. Every function has an entire plan down to the sub function on how they’re actually going to make that happen. It means communicating, it means involving each of the other functions in those kinds of meetings that are required so that you have good communication about where we’re heading and working together to pursue that, to share destination.

Matt:  So very few companies I’m sure that you work with are starting completely from scratch. I mean no matter what size they are, no matter what stage they are in sort of maturity and growth, when you create this togetherness, when you’re creating that strategy, you’re not starting from stretch and so you really have to at least understand and appreciate the element of culture that goes into that. Talk about the impact of culture and driving successful togetherness and what are some of the impediments within the culture they can keep organizations from driving a truly cohesive sales and marketing strategy.

Phil:  Well, cultures plays an incredibly important role and we actually had a session on at summit about how to move to a customer obsessed culture. So as I said before, we had one on strategy, which is how to get marketing sales and product aligned on an agreed upon strategy, and we have a session on culture and culture really is the focus should be on how do you put in place a customer obsessed culture where everyone within the organization rallies around how to give that customer an amazing experience because we believe that in the future is the key differentiator. Actually you could argue today it’s the key differentiator between companies. Software’s pretty easy to copy, but when you think about culture and how do you give an experience that customers remember and they think about and they say, “That was an amazing buyer experience. The journey I went through with that sales team was amazing and when I got on boarded, that was amazing.”

Being able to deliver on that consistently by an organization is very, very difficult and so culture and having a customer obsessed culture really is a rallying point to help align product marketing and sales around what matters most, which is that buyer. I would argue that culture and strategy together are two critical areas that organizations need to work out to ensure that they’re all rowing in the same direction, they’re moving to make sure that customer has an incredible experience.

Matt:  I’m talking with Phil Harrell today. He is with SiriusDecisions, we’re doing a little bit of a recap here on the SiriusDecisions summit from earlier this month and Phil, his headline in LinkedIn is Advisor to Chief Sales Officers, Angel Investor, Podcaster, Startup, a Non-profit board member, which is an awful lot of things, Phil. We’re going to get to a few more of those here in a little bit. We’ve got a pretty diverse audience that ranges across both B2B sales and marketing. What I would say the majority of our listeners probably are on the marketing side and when it comes to togetherness, when it comes to alignment, when it comes to revenue responsibility, I think most marketers would except that they are sometimes the last to come to that, right? The sales owns in number but marketing hasn’t always owned a revenues centric number and whether it’s related to culture or whether it’s related to scorecard, like how do you draw to get an organization, especially a marketing organization to step to the table and start to own in measure and manage the numbers that they don’t fully have control over?

Phil:  What’s really important first of all, that sales leaders that are listening to this sales leaders, we need marketing more today than we’ve ever needed marketing. So I think that we can just do it on our own is a fallacy. What I talked about in the beginning that buyer’s behaviors have changed and buyers now buy in a much different way than they used to. They do a lot more research upfront before they actually engage with sales and that means we as sales leaders and sales people are relying more on marketing to pick up that heavy lifting that we might’ve done 20, 30 years ago. So I would argue from the sales side that we need to realize that marketing, finding it a bit more and more important role than ever in terms of helping us succeed in sales.

Phil:  I would say from a sales perspective in terms of marketing, how do marketing really get that seat at the table? Well first of all, we have something called the demand contribution framework, the model back, my team and I launched it about a year ago and what it really is, is it allows sales leaders and marketing leaders to quantify the contribution in that marketing will make not only marketing but marketing channels, the telesales organization than the sales integration on the demand side. So what is the contribution that marketing will make to the sales team and put it in outcome based terms? We impact base terms of what we call it from a metric standpoint, which is what is the contribution from a revenue source and also from pipeline source? Those are two critical things that will help marketing establish the contribution that they’re making, the impact that they’re making in revenue, and it really aligns them with what sales cares about. In the end of the day what sales think about is pipeline and revenue. The many contribution framework is a great way to align marketing around the same goals that sales has and to establish the big contribution that marketing is having on helping drive results.

Matt:  First question on the sales sort of chief sales officers side. I think a lot of organizations that have a chief sale officer, my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, is that many of those folks are tasked with net new logos with acquisition and yet we know that there are some times that are customers. There is an ideal of customer profile and there’s customers that may help ring the bell up with may not necessarily be the ideal profile and maybe sure of risk if they have to do damage to the brand and so the retention lifetime value model overall. How do you manage that? I don’t know if it’s tension or how do you manage that balance between needing to hit your net new number but wanting to make sure you’re signing customers that have the highest likelihood of lifetime value overall.

Phil:  One of the sessions I talked about that we had and I presented on was the sales structure, the trends that will enable digital sales transformation. In one of the points that I made during that presentation was that the idea of customer advocacy, which is so important, right? Do they, when started in sales 25 years ago when you’d sell these enterprise licenses and it didn’t matter where the customer use that license or not, it could be shelf wear and you still company got its money and you still got your commission. Today that matters more than ever is that the customer actually receive value from what you’ve sold them and that puts a bigger emphasis on the sales ability to make sure they’re signing up the right kinds of customers and making sure that they now they close that deal, but the customer actually realize that they also are very quickly and easily and that they start to see value because customers were buying smaller amounts upfront. They’re not willing to take those huge commitments like they used to and it’s more of approval.

So in order to do that you have to have very clear delineation yet first of all, you have to have agreement on that customer obsessed culture and that’s one thing we talked about during that session, which is being customer obsessed means you’re signing up the right kinds of customers that you’re obsessed with, their outcomes obsessed by their successes. It’s not good enough just to close a deal and then toss it over the fence. Then you have to have an emphasis on making sure that you have real clear roles and responsibility for what happens after a customer signed up, what his sales, his role, what does customers expecting also to have that, what is their major role if they have a separate role from the hunter-farmer model that has to be very clearly defined. But those are some of the things that what’s should be thinking about which is making sure they have a culture which focuses on customer obsession and making sure they have organizations of culture that incentivizes people to sign up for right kind of deals and that they are really focused on making customers get tremendous value.

Matt:  Well, one more quick question before we have to take a quick break here. You’ve got a video that’s on, I think it’s on the SiriusDecisions website. It’s also on your LinkedIn profile focused on top challenges for chief sales officers. What’s one of those challenges that many chief sales officers don’t know that they have, but if they understood that many of their peers were actually challenged with that might sort of give them something else to keep them up at night, but really is something that many people assume should be worried about that maybe aren’t as much today?

Phil:  One of the big ones that I’m seeing is something we call digital sales transformation and I know a lot of people are talking about that, but I don’t think a lot of sales leaders know what that really means or how to actually go about transforming their organizations. Really what it comes down to is you need to reorient your entire go-to-market model based on allowing your organization to sell the way buyers want to buy and that sounds very fundamental and it is. If buyers have changed the way they go about buying has changed and that means your sales organization needs to change the way they actually compete with those buyers and be helpful during that journey instead of trying to control the process you’re facilitating that journey and that’s a critical first step that a lot of them don’t realize that that is a foundational step in trying to sell better and close more customers, it’s figuring out but really understand how buyers want to buy .

You understand what they wanted, every step in your journey, have I reoriented, everything I do, my sales process, my whole structure to make sure I meet the buyers the way they want to buy and those people can do that. The other exciting thing about that digital sales transformation. If you do that, you can actually capitalize on buyer behaviors to make your sales organization more efficient, which I think is tremendously exciting. Think about it. Buyers are changing. You can actually meet them earning either by reorienting how you sell and by doing you can actually become more efficient in terms of how you reach out to those customers. To reach out you can use digital sales motions that are a low touch and highly efficient.

So I think that’s one really powerful thing that’s going on now that a lot of sales leaders don’t understand that they need to really rethink their whole go-to-market model to mark the way buyers want to buy and I would say the second one that I think that all the sales leaders don’t understand is driving a strategy. A lot of sales leaders think their problem is downstream in terms of, all my problem is in demand or my problem is sales execution, but they don’t understand is if they don’t have complete alignment between product and marketing on the target market is in terms of work, which markets are we pursuing? Everything can be inefficient because our being if the products can be rebuilding a product for one part of market, marketing can be marketing to a different target markets and sales is going to be selling to the target market. They has the best opportunity for them to succeed, needs to have efficiency because you’re not getting the resources of product marketing and sales all focused on the same target market.

So that’s a huge opportunity for sales leaders have to step back and make sure that foundationally before the year even starts, that they have agreed with what product are they pursuing which opportunities offer the best revenue potential for them.

Matt:  Boy, that is huge and useful for many, many companies. So we’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more of Phil Harrell. He’s a SiriusDecisions. We’re going to be talking more about building a revenue engine for your organization. Talking about how you do that when you’re very very small for those companies that maybe still at the seed round and much much more. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  Well, welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks again for joining us today. Our special guest from SiriusDecisions, Phil Harrell. He is an Advisor to Chief Sales Officers. He was presenting quite a bit of new research and insights at the recent SiriusDecisions summit down in Austin and I think I’ll be in Austin in the next couple of years. So, if you’re looking for what I consider one of the better, if not the best B2B sales and marketing conference, pounds of pounds, quantity and quality in the conference circuit. You got to check this out next year in May, 2020 in Austin, Texas.

Still we are talking a lot about sort of this need to create togetherness between sales and marketing teams and that was a big theme down at the SiriusDecisions summit. You spend an awful lot of time as well as an Angel Investor. I want to talk a little bit about how do companies at the earliest stage of their existence start to do the right things to build a culture and model of togetherness? How do you take some of these concepts which in many cases are built for larger organizations to help them kind of create consensus and velocity and togetherness? How do very early stage companies are in that sort of a corporate as well?

Phil:  I think in many cases that it’s really almost of the same principles that we talk about for larger companies. For example, with larger companies, we talk about the need to really make sure that you’re focused on the agreed upon target market and that marketing product and sales have channeled the alignment on which markets offer the best growth opportunities for the company to succeed. I would argue for smaller companies it’s probably even more important and the reason is because those companies have fewer resources. When you’re a bigger company, at least you have more resources, so if you have a little bit of the fusion of resources, you probably can still be successful. Even though as we would at SiriusDecisions, is that fastest growing companies have complete alignment on the target market.

But I would say in smaller companies because they have few resources, it’s critical that they pick their spots to rule and that means that they really hone in on what are our best growth opportunities, do we have complete alignment? Are we pursuing the same target market and rolling [inaudible 00:16:54] revenue engines that we see are ones that product marketing sales that all sat down and agreed on, “Here’s the best places that we want to grow. Here are the procedures that we’re going to go after, here’s their buyer’s journey. We really know that well and we’ve mapped it out and we all agree on that and let’s go execute together on that same target market, that same buyer persona, that same buyer’s journey”. So in startups, I think it’s even more critical to make sure that you do it now. When you’re talking about very, very early stage, it’s about trying to validate through actually is a market, many of the same principles still exist. They hold true.

Matt: Phil, no matter what the size of the organization, I think oftentimes there is a need for action and sometimes there is a bias for, let’s just pick up the phone and let’s just start making things up or just start building pipeline. Some of this mapping or buying journey, some of this defining stages, some of this aligning, it sounds like a lot of words that doesn’t generate action. I think it’s easy for early stage companies saying we need to generate revenue momentum so we can get our next round. It’s easy for a bigger company to say we need to make the market look market happy with us in their next earnings call. How do you balance that and then I think this may be like we keep going back to culture, but like how do you justify the investment for those either the seed companies, seed round companies you’re advising as well as the enterprise organizations you’re talking to with SiriusDecisions? How do you help them balance building that foundation while still hitting a number?

Phil:  Again, there’s a big difference to win a $2 million company or pre-revenue company that’s looking for seed funding versus a company that’s already got five, 10 million in sales. Right? So, when we’re talking startups, it’s a wide category. I think when you’re in a seed funded, very early stage, maybe you’ve very little revenue or pre-revenue, it really comes down to, “Yeah, that bias. It should be toward action”. But you’re trying to do, and this comes back to what we talked about earlier with this customer obsession, which is you want to make sure that you’re talking to lots of companies and getting feedback on your product, even if it’s a negative or your idea, because you want to get the market and make sure the market’s giving the feedback that dictate what you should be focused on, what your product should be, how it meets their needs, how much value they get from it. So that is critical when you’re early stage.

So, yeah, there should be a bias toward action in a very, very early stage. Even in a startup, there should be biased toward action. But I think as you grow with the company and you scale your revenue, even if you’re in the $5, $10 million range, you still want to make sure that you have that alignment of treat where you’re trying to go. It might be a quicker, less planning required. Hopefully in a smaller company it doesn’t take as long to do the annual planning as a large company and you’re able to pivot much faster. So you know you can make changes to the clients or make changes to your strategies because you’re much smaller company but the many of the same principles which is let’s make sure we agree on where we’re going and how we’re going to get there and then are still the same for any size that you’re working on.

Matt:  Just a couple more minutes here with Phil Harrell from SiriusDecisions and Phil, I know that we were going to do this last week and the last one I had to make a change, so I appreciate your flexibility with moving it this week and Ashley and Katie both from your communications team were just total world class, so thank you all for making this possible. This has been a pleasure. I want to ask in your career and you’ve number of sales executive positions, you continue to be a member of a number of boards both for profit and nonprofit. In your career, who are some of the people that you might highlight that have been most influential in your growth? It can be professors, managers, authors, a library to that. But who are some of the people that have really been impactful for you that you might recommend other people check out as well.

Phil:  From a book standpoint or just mentors that people would everybody-

Matt:  I mean, it can be a combination. I think if you want to give a shout out to people that have been influential, they maybe have not been published but were important to you that’d be fine. But also anyone that is an author or public speaker or otherwise that people might be able to check out online.

Phil:  Early in my career, I had a mentor, who was CEO of Akamai, who gave me tremendous mentorship when I was early in my career. He had come up through the ranks at IBM and had risen to run all of sales at IBM and then came over and became the CEO of Akamai and he gave me tremendous insights and feedback and we went through some really tough times at Akamai, though we had an incredible beginning and went from zero to 170 million in three years. We then hit the .com bust and our co-founder was killed in 9/11 and that was a real tough time. But then from that we built a real company of $2 billion and you can say that very, very influential on me. The other person I would give a shout out to is , who is the CRO HubSpot, Harvard employee. He wrote a book called Sales Acceleration Formula, and he really knows a lot about next generation sales. So those would be two folks that come to mind that have had an impact on my career.

Matt:  There’s one last quick question for you. How exactly does a bachelor’s in Slavic languages from Duke University, a captain of the baseball team ended up in sales? I think it’s always a funny question. We’ve talked to you about sales and most copy on especially those of us who are a little older. How can have been sales programs, you don’t major in sales. Can you give a real quick origin story of like how this all came to be.

Phil:  I get that question a lot. It’s only I wish I could say, “Gee, I had it all figured out in college”. Clearly I didn’t. Actually, when I graduated college, I tried to combine it with Russian language that I took and I wanted to combine my baseball with Russian and I sent a letter to every major league baseball teams and said, “Hey, I know Russian and I’ll come scout baseball players for you in Russia”. This was in 1993 so it was quite a long time ago. Now you all know how old I am. But they all sent back letters saying, “We’re not interested in recruiting baseball players from Russia right now that’s not what we see”. So I tried to combine elements of my background to give me a job, but then I felt it was good to get into a career where you’re dealing with customers and I really liked solving problems. I really liked engaging with people. I like listening and asking questions.

I’m really fortunate. I feel very fortunate that I fell into sales and was able to build a career out of it and I’ve got a lot of tech sales and all kinds of different sales and I’ve learned a tremendous amount. So a bit lucky that I was able to get into sales based on what background I did.

Matt:  Well, we unfortunately are out of time. We’re going to have to wrap up. Phil, thank you so much again for your time today. I appreciate you being able to reschedule, being generous with your time and gracious with our schedule, but this has been great. I think a lot of great insights here folks. Well, I mean, in addition to , you’ve got some great videos and content on your . Where else should people go check out more about your chief sales officer strategies?

Phil:  Well, you go to the SiriusDecisions website by advisory service that I run and lead is called right there on the website. As you mentioned that I have the LinkedIn videos that I post, I post a lot on LinkedIn. You can find me at Phil Harrell or at on Twitter. Those were the best sources to go to find out more information on Chief Sales Officer Strategies Advisory Services.

Matt:  Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for joining us today. Thank you everyone for joining us for another episode. We will be back here next week for another exciting episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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