Episode #018 - Guest Sam Wright from From FOrrester

Transcription of Episode

Chris Battis:                  On this episode of Intent Topics, we have special guest Sam Wright from Forrester and formerly SiriusDecisions.

Logan Kelly:                  Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning into Intent Topics today. Today we have a special guest. Sam, thank you so much for coming onto the show today. Our listeners will absolutely have heard about where you are working. Such a cool company. So tell us a little about where you are and what you're working on.

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Logan and thanks for having me. Appreciate you guys spending some time with me. Happy to be here today. But yeah, so I'm Sam. I've been in B2B sales just going on north of eight years, sales management for about four of those years and I'm really fortunate. I get to work for SiriusDecisions, which is a B2B sales and marketing kind of best practice and advisory organization. And we were actually recently acquired by Forrester in January. As of January, we're part of Forrester, which as you know is also a research and advisory organization. So we create product line within the Forrester umbrella.

Chris Battis:                  Cool.

Logan Kelly:                  Nice. I love the content that you guys pump out. It's fantastic insights and great. When I'm working on something or trying to formulate a thought, you guys have seemed to be 10 steps ahead of everybody else in this game. As a sales leader, it must be pretty awesome to have all that content and research and best practices at your fingertips. A lot of the people that I talked to reference SiriusDecisions and the stuff that they've created. So, talk to us as a sales leader in an organization that's so productive when it comes to the research and pumping out that. How does that affect your game with your charges?

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, yeah. I'm extremely fortunate. We have a plethora of knowledge that we have at our fingertips. Not only from the research that we write here at SiriusDecisions but also the clientele. So, I'm in effect [inaudible 00:02:31] and servicing the B2B sales audience. That being the chief sales officer, the chief revenue officer, whoever's leading that function. Not only do I get to tap into the research aspect of it but I also get to engage and interact with some of the best B2B sales leaders in the world. So, very fortunate to tap into a lot of that knowledge.

Sam Wright:                  And I think what's interesting is particularly as we've hit the half-year mark at SiriusDecisions, it's been a nice opportunity for me to actually start to leverage some of our research, myself and my team. And when we look at the research that we have on sales productivity or sales coverage models and things of that nature, it's really been quite fortunate for me to tap into our research, to take a look at our frameworks and models, to take a look at what some of the benchmarks are that are out there and start to map my own team and my own process towards that. So, I'm kind of, again, lucky to have that opportunity but then engaging with a lot of the sales leaders who we speak to with probably anywhere from three to four hours a week. We were also able to take a look at some of the things that they're working on, whether it's compensation, whether it's, again, BDR, ratios, the AE headcount, that type of stuff. It's fascinating.

Sam Wright:                  And our team here is solely focused on new business across the east coast. I have got 16 quota-bearing reps and two first-line managers. So for us all to be able to kind of get some best practice access kind of ups our game a little bit and honestly puts us under the microscope when we're at the [crosstalk 00:04:14]. We've got to make sure that we drink our own champagne here. So it's a little bit of pressure but it's fun. And again, very lucky.

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah. Cool. Yeah, you definitely don't want to be like the cobbler shoes. So, talk to us about your philosophy and kind of how your game has evolved over the years and some of the things that you've picked up on and find really important that sales organizations sort of incorporate either kind of a macro level or a micro training or whatever level.

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, yeah. It's a kind of, from a rep perspective, I think, a philosophy that I've always live by, a little bit cliche with all the noise in the market right now. But you really have to understand that customer at the rep level. And I think from a philosophy perspective if you can truly understand who the buyer is, what that ideal client profile looks like with your customer. Everything that flows through that in terms of your day-to-day activity and the process you go through, it's going to set you in good stead. And then on the flip side, on the management side, it's really been about knowing your reps and knowing your team. So, it's a little bit different. Certainly, the customer is vital still as a manager and never goes away.

Sam Wright:                  But truly understanding the motivations, the livening of the team are extremely important. So for me, that's how I try to focus on is making sure, hey, if I've got a rep on my team, they really do have a good understanding of what that customer needs and what a customer is looking for as they go into any sales interaction. And then as a manager, it's coaching my leaders as well as myself to make sure that they truly do understand the nuances and the requirements that each one of their reps have. I've certainly made the mistake in my first year as a manager thinking that everyone was just built like me. And that's [crosstalk 00:06:13], right? So, it's a different rubs to do that. But that's myself.

Sam Wright:                  And then for us, we certainly have goals. Sales leaders has revenue goals, profit goals, retention goals, whatever they may be. The thing that I'm really focused on with my group is it's a little bit of the process. We focus here on have more good days than bad days. We know that you can't be potentially [inaudible 00:06:42] every day. But if you truly are aligned into that process, if you truly are taking a consistent approach and holding yourself accountable and again putting that customer center of everything you're going to do, now that's what we focus on. So, it's really a good opportunity.

Sam Wright:                  And then the sales leaders that I'm working with who are dealing with this on a much greater level. It's interesting, we're helping a client right now change from a hunter-farmer model and they're going from a hybrid, sorry, to a hunter-farmer model. So AE to AM from success team. So for this sales leader, his philosophy, again, is something where they typically have grown just like any startup, really rapidly from new logo acquisition and account acquisition. And now at that inflection point where, hey, we don't necessarily need to hit them more but what we now have to think about is the profitability that we're now faced with. So for them, that sales leader right now is making the case to the CEO and to the board in terms of the investors to say, "Look, if you want us to grow our revenue again by 30, 40%, here's a change in shift we have to make in our go-to market structure in order to do that."

Sam Wright:                  So, it's a really interesting place. The philosophy, I find, does depend on where a company is in terms of their inflection point from a scale perspective. But yeah, that's my side. And I think from a rep standpoint, again, I try to focus on the simplicity of it. Certainly, as we all know, over the last several years that that buying complexity has changed. And for us, what I sometimes cringe at is the death of the B2B sales rep. There definitely is a need and there's so much great stuff out there that I do think is the future in terms of AI, predictive, and all that type of stuff.

Sam Wright:                  But at the core of it is that salesperson's ability to get to the need of that customer. And then depending on what type of interaction they're trying to have, making sure that they're putting that value map in front of them because everyone's at a different journey. So, it's a fun gig. And again, fortunate to be a part of this product line, yeah.

Logan Kelly:                  Sweet. When you talk about process, I'd love to dig into this. So, Sirius did a lot of work with ABM, if I'm not mistaken, and so when you talk about process, ABM, it's something that you're really kind of cultivating that list and you're really cultivating the relationships with people inside of that. So, what are some things that you focus on when it comes to that of the ABM side when you're helping reps really master that piece?

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, that's a great point. And I think the ABM is such a great thing in terms of number one, I think it foundationally just drives fantastic alignment between, obviously, the sales side of the house and then the marketing side of the house. It's interesting, again, talking about being able to tap into their own research that we have here. We have a named account model on our team, so each rep that I have has a hundred accounts. So for us, we leveraged ABM heavily with the marketing team as we started to plan for that approach is going to look like this year, taking into consideration not only the market trends, the competitive landscape but also taking a look at what does that ideal client profile look like? And then do we, quite frankly, have the database and the skills to go after that account list.

Sam Wright:                  When I'm speaking with the reps, we kind of have this three-tiered approach that we tackle each one of their top 100. So, a rep has an account executive on my team, we'll have a hundred accounts. But that ideal client profile, that sweet spot of truly where we can drive high SP and quick wins typically within a defined 25 to 30 list. So for them, you've got to think about that when they sit down at their desks each day. Are they going to be spending time trying to cultivate and get relationships and engage that top 25 to 30 versus spending time where that the fruits of their labor aren't going to be as great?

Sam Wright:                  So it's interesting, we have to kind of balance that in terms of the one to two services that we might end up selling versus the large, very large strategic deals. Which of those six-figure deals that are, quite frankly, going to help a rep get to that quota? So we try to help think about the process in terms of the ideal client profile and segment in the best opportunity they have for their sweet spot to win. And then it's all about the buying groups, trying to [crosstalk 00:11:37] and do you understand not only who's going to sign the check but also how do you identify who that champion, that user's going to be and really helping them think through that account-planning template. And then from there, it's aligning with market and aligning with the BDR team to say, "Okay, now what's the prospecting cadence we need to put against these target buyers for us?" And ultimately, how do we go about aligning on that approach?

Logan Kelly:                  Interesting. So, when you talk about prioritization with a sales rep or AM, whatever, you can quickly get to a point, at least in my experience, and I'd love to hear your thoughts here. It's like when you talk about prioritization, these are the players, this is where you should be spending the majority of your time. I've seen where things might go slanted way towards the, "I'm only spending time here, I'm not taking any risk and not spending any time in a place that there could be something that's not perfectly aligned with my ideal client profile. But might it still revenue if I close it?" And so, what's your philosophy on your team? Are you more focused on that 25 to 30 or you're like, "All right, spend X amount of time every week on this other 70." How do you balance that?

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, and I completely get what you're saying. It's the you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket and then that doesn't come through. And I think it is a balance. But we have seen from our data, just in terms of my group's data that the percentage of deals we win once we're involved is so greatly tipped towards that. And again, it could be 25, it could be 30 to 40 but that's true of that target. What we've been really fortunate with is the alignment and the evolution that we've had with our own marketing teams. So an account executive is essentially doing a lot of their outbound efforts and prospecting and social angles with that top 30 to 40% of those accounts.

Sam Wright:                  What Mark ended up doing for us and what the BDR team are doing for us and we have a BDR team that's assigned as well to my group. They're doing a little bit more with that kind of mid to bottom set of it. So, making sure that things aren't falling through the cracks. That's where we're doing a lot of marketing support to say, "Okay, how can we drive greater inbound?" So that versus us potentially looking through the needle in a haystack with those accounts, it's more about, "Okay, there's some intent there. There's someone that's raised their hand, there's some action going on with those accounts." That way, for those subset of accounts that we potentially have deemed that shouldn't be as high propensity, we can then at least have some triggers to say, "Okay, when we do speak with those accounts, it's because there's some action being taken." It's a little bit more engaged versus inbound. Whereas, the top 30 to 40%, they might have been taking no action. And our job is to kind of drive some of that awareness and education and engagement ourselves.

Logan Kelly:                  I love that. I love the discipline and the alignment in your company. So, when we talk about sort of ideal client profile and prioritization and all this, how do your team, how do they interact with the data? So, is it kind of like, "Here's the list, it's been rationalized and now go after it"? Or are they kind of having some input into this is how we're deciding who the companies are that we're targeting? Walk us through that process.

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, that's a good point. So, at the start of the year, it's a lot of work with the sales operations team and the Mark operations team and the sales leaders themselves in terms of balance and territories and again, what we think that Mark opportunity within those accounts are. However, when I'm a rep, at the end of the day, I'm accountable for the number that's on my back. So, those reps are then getting those types of good accounts and they're going through their due diligence. They are looking at the guidance that we're giving them. But for some of my reps, they've also been in their territory for potentially 12 to 18 months. So, with them having their feet on the ground, they might take a look at what we would class as high propensity and say, "Well, you know what? I've got five other accounts right now where we've got some low hanging fruit, past clients, potentially things of that nature."

Sam Wright:                  So those reps, when they get that list, are really combing through it versus to understand, "Okay, do I really have an ideal client profile here? Do I have the competitors that we would work with in this space? Do I have some common titles that we would sell to?" So, they're doing a little bit more at the granular level in terms of the account, in terms of contact penetration as well as kind of news on that business. That's what they will do. And then every quarter, we have to refresh it. So as we win clients, as we potentially have deals that might be things we want to pull out of, it's a quarterly refresh where every single quarter, an account executive will present a business plan to the manager and essentially say, "Here was the goals that we had in this quarter. Did we hit, did we not hit?"

Sam Wright:                  Then based on the upcoming quarterly goals, where are you going to get that money from? And that's where the account executive really has to have a thorough understanding of that top 100. It can't just be that top 30. They have to do the due diligence in going through that. And as you both know, sometimes movement, sometimes change, quite frankly, is constant. So our ability to react to that versus being, sorry, being proactive versus being reactive is something that the good reps do versus the bad ones, to be honest.

Logan Kelly:                  Nice. Nice. So how do you as a leader cultivate this? Because this is fantastic. I think if organizations took what you're talking about and implemented it, it would just be a great world. But so, how do you kind of implement that? How do you train reps or how do you message to reps to really cultivate this? Or are you just selecting ones that have a, they kind of come to you with those skills already?

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, no, it's interesting. I think for us, we switched to the name model about three years ago. And we've been getting better and better at it every year because just from, again, from a data perspective, what we found is how do we get the most out of every headcount we have? What we were finding is reps per head weren't producing enough because they weren't spending that time with the right account and then the right people. What we started to do was we then started to change the reps and change their behavior. So when I look at the reps that I have on my team, we've got a fantastic team, really smart folks but they fall into two camps.

Sam Wright:                  We've got what we classify as ramped reps. So those are typically people that have been in SiriusDecisions longer than 18 months and quite frankly don't need as much training. They've gone through that enablement approach and onboarded. And then we've got the other folks that are ramping, so they need a little bit more handholding. So for those, we have ourselves an enablement team not only do kind of the boot camp-type scenario but also have on-demand training where those reps can watch videos online, they have a mentor that they can sit with. And across their first 60 days as a rep, one of the goals is for them to present to their manager, "Okay, this is what an ideal client profile looks like for someone in my territory. Here's what my top 30, the top 40 accounts should look like, here's my segmentation."

Sam Wright:                  And that is to basically certify that rep on that they have a good understanding of what that sweet spot is, that ideal client profile. Then from there, we then start to train them on the needs of the client. So focusing on the chief marketing officer or the chief sales officer, the head of [inaudible 00:20:21] and operations and saying, "Okay, now as you start to think about your clients and now here's the contacts that you really want to be engaging with. And here's the pain points they have. Here's how you need to know the business acumen of when you go into those conversations as well." So we have a really good approach to... We can improve it certainly but it's a great enablement team that we have that kind of provides some of that on-demand type of support for those ramping reps as well.

Logan Kelly:                  That's great. One of the sort of buzz words in business these days is digital transformation. And that's trickled into the sales enablement space. I think there's a lot of companies who do it great. There's a lot of companies who don't. What are some of the things that you've noticed when it comes to sales enablement that have been very powerful for your teams? Either information that's delivered to them or delivery methods or what are your thoughts there?

Sam Wright:                  Yeah, it's definitely become more of a crowded space but I do think it's a really positive one. I think there's still some tweaks that need to be made in terms of how companies can deliver it just in time for reps. Because I think a lot of the time, these systems and these tools, while great, are often sometimes placed where the reps aren't working. Whether that's LinkedIn's a big one for us, we're a Salesforce shop as well. And I think that's where the reps live a lot of the time and even that, we use Outlook as well. So, we live in those kind of three places in terms of day-to-day. And I think what the sales enablement tools do a really fantastic job of, to your point about digitalization, is they are now delivering content that's digital.

Sam Wright:                  Whether that be... We do some good stuff with our reps that say, "Hey, before you head into a call, here's a quick video on some of the pain points, two-minute video before you head in." But that video is actually housed outside of where the reps are working. I think as we look at the sales enablement platform landscape moving forward, what's going to be really interesting is how these companies continue to innovate and actually bring a little bit of that on-demand, again, digital aspect to the reps just in time but actually where they're working. So it kind of pops up and it can start to also think about where they are in their process, in terms of that buyer and the intent of that buyer is showing across the sales process. So those, I think the platforms are fantastic.

Sam Wright:                  I think it's actually an area where that's one area that I think my team could improve on is helping our reps do a better job at making sure they understand where they need to go, what they need to be serviced with and also what the client's looking for at that stage in the buying cycle. But the platforms are fantastic. I just think it needs to evolve to really being where the reps are spending the majority of their time versus being a different avenue or a different area they have to go to.

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah. Tightly integrated, almost like a Google Glass. And in manufacturing, they do it where guys are walking down the line and can see some almost, what's that? Augmented reality. That'd be cool.

Sam Wright:                  Definitely, yeah.

Logan Kelly:                  So, speaking of the trends and whatnot, what are some of the things that excite you coming down the pipe 12, 24, 36 months? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about any tech or best practices or methodologies that are sort of maybe bubbling towards the surface but not quite there.

Sam Wright:                  Yeah. I think what's been interesting for me to take a look at is when I... Obviously, SiriusDecisions is founded, basically, we were founded on the focus of alignment, bringing companies and functions together. The really exciting thing is, I think, that's really improved particularly over the last 18 months and when I look beyond to the next 12 to 24 months, something that really excites me is this notion of the revenue operations function. I think you're starting to see particularly the last 12 to 18 months more chief revenue officers, less sales operations and marketing operations. You're now actually starting to see that as one centralized function.

Sam Wright:                  And I think one of the things that a lot of the marketing automation platforms are that are trying to do now is think through, "Okay, how do we get away from just lead qualification and that type of stuff, which is hugely vital. But then how do we start to then think through the full revenue life cycle of a client? How do we build technology that's going to account for that and how do we have aligned goals across sales marketing and in terms of operations?" So, that's something that's really exciting in terms of how companies are going to think through that. I think it's going to spawn a ton of different adaptions from current vendors in terms of technology space but also the new ones out there. So, the revenue operations space and essential function, I think, is going to start to spawn some good innovative ideas.

Sam Wright:                  And the other stuff that I think is really interesting is a lot of the predictive stuff. I think there's blind spots that salespeople have in terms of understanding their buyer. And understanding the complexity that that can sometimes go with when is the right time? This goes to your earlier point about how do you know you're not missing out on opportunities elsewhere?

Sam Wright:                  And I think intent monitoring and artificial intelligence is only going to get better. So I'm kind of really excited to see how that goes because for me as a sales leader, one of the greatest, greatest assets that I can bring to an organization is predictability. And if there's a way to make sure I'm hitting my quota every month, every quarter, and every year, the more data that we can have about what our ideal client profile looks, the journey they go on and the more that we can arm our reps to make sure they're spending the right time. I think that's really exciting. So the revenue operations is a little bit of a newer chart that I'm excited about. And then the intent stuff is something that's going to be really interesting to see how that continues to evolve as well.

Logan Kelly:                  Absolutely. Absolutely. Great man. Sam, this was fantastic. I feel like we could go on for a few more hours but I think that wraps this show up, so I appreciate you coming by.

Chris Battis:                  Thanks, Sam.

Sam Wright:                  Appreciate it. Yeah, enjoyed the conversation. So yeah, thanks a lot.

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah, absolutely.

Chris Battis:                  This wraps up this episode of Intent Topics. Thanks again, Sam, for joining us. I'm Chris Battis.

Logan Kelly:                  And I'm Logan Kelly. Thank you so much for stopping by. Please give us a five-star review and a follow or subscribe on whatever podcast app you are listening on. We will see you next time.

Chris Battis:                  Take care.

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