Predictable Pipeline – Getting Beyond the Lumpiness of Demand Gen
Matt Heinz, President & Founder @ Heinz Marketing
Sales & Marketing Stage
Ascent Conference 2020
[00:00:00] All right, well, hello, everyone, my name is Matt Heinz, I’m the founder and president of Heinz Marketing and I’m very excited to be here. This is this has been such an amazing event. Yesterday was a fantastic first day of this conference. It’s an honor to be part of this honor, to be asked to present and to be associated with some of this great content you’re seeing. So I want to spend the next twenty five minutes or so talking about what I think of as the predictable pipeline. And this is something that we’ve been working on for the last 12 plus years across, you know, just numerous, just countless B2B organizations helping them get out of the lumpiness of pipeline development that often happens. I think a lot of companies are in the process of doing random acts of marketing, and especially in a year like this, when things are a little different, things are a little more complicated and a lot more headwind in 2020 than we’ve seen in the past. So I think the idea of creating a foundation that can develop predictable, sustainable pipeline for you is more important than ever. And, you know, even before the pandemic started, I would say that, you know, we’re we’re in a world that I think requires us to think as marketers about marketing as a profit center for us, marketing as a function in the business that’s driving business results. And this may sound sort of fundamental to some of you, but for many others in the business, I mean, there was a really interesting piece of research on a couple of months ago, Google did it and said what is what’s the board perception of the CMO? And if you assume the CMO is a proxy for marketing my my friends, it was not pretty. The board, first of all. I mean, and part of this is based on where board members come from. Only three to four percent of board members have of the typical B2B board members have marketing experience. But the board has been trained to think of marketing not as the profit center, but as the arts and crafts department. And we we we we reinforce this when we look at some of our metrics and we go to the board and we tell them about open rates and click rates or, you know, we go to the board meeting, our leadership team meeting, and instead of talking about results, we talk about activities. We got three emails going out next week and we got four trade shows coming up and we got pens with our logos come in next week. I mean, that is not marketing. That’s not the way to develop revenue impact from your marketing efforts. Maybe an important part of how you’re doing marketing, but unless you can prove the impact of your marketing on the business, unless you can have sales and marketing teams with the same objectives, which is something you can buy a beer with, I can’t buy a beer with a retreat. I can’t buy a beer with impressions. And even though those may be building blocks towards building brand and ultimately driving demand, it’s important for us as marketers to focus in the right place. And so to begin to build a predictable pipeline, I think it’s really important for marketers to begin by knowing that the end game is not a marketing activity. The end game is a revenue event. Sales may be sitting there when the deal gets closed, but marketing needs to be clear on how they are sourcing revenue opportunities and how they are impacting and influencing revenue opportunities. So to get to that, I want to spend some time today talking about how we are, I think failing in how we communicate with prospects across sales and marketing. And then I want to share with you a framework that we’ve developed that really can help you build a more predictable, revenue focused pipeline in your organization that is coming from marketing, that shows that marketing can be a leader in this organization. I’ll give you not only that framework, I’ll give you a a maturity model that you can take back to your organization to help you think about where you are in the pipeline. Continue and help you focus on what specifically you need to be improving and working on in Q4 to have a better twenty, twenty one. But let’s talk about the messaging approach first. I think a lot of times, even if you have good revenue focused programs in place, too often our message is incongruent with what customers expect and what your prospects need. If there was one slide I could focus on from the messaging standpoint, it would be this one that your customers let’s assume your Home Depot, let’s assume you’re the home store. People aren’t coming to buy a drill. Nobody wants a drill. People want with the drill does. And I think we, especially in B2B, we fall into the trap of talking about ourselves too much and too often and too early. If I were to rebuild the sales process into just two stages, I would make the first one believe in the second one believe in us. The first one is believe that there’s a problem. The second one is believe that we can solve it. The first one is to believe that the status quo needs to change. And the second one, the second stage is see who can help me do it. The longer you wait in your sales process to bring up your own solutions and the solutions and products, the better off you are. The longer you take talking about the prospects problems, the more you are an expert not in your product, but in your prospects. Issues on. Their situation, the better off you’re going to be, the more you’re going to stand out from everyone else just talking about themselves, the more you’re going to demonstrate that you as an organization, not just a sales rep, not just your white paper, but across your sales and marketing efforts, the more you will show your audience, show your prospects that you can be a trusted adviser, that you’re someone that they want to spend more time with. And unfortunately gets worse before it gets better, so selling has gotten a lot harder today and this slide in this section was relevant, you know, before the pandemic is maybe even more relevant now, because I would argue that now that we are no longer going to events, now that field marketing is gone, now that some of the tools in the toolbox for sales and marketing folks have been temporarily shuttered. We’re all moving to digital and we’re moving to a smaller number of channels. And so it’s getting even harder to break through the noise. Part of this is in the way that we sell, in the way that we talk about ourselves, the language we use with prospects no one wants to be. And we talk about closing deals. No prospect wants to be close. We talk about crushing our quota. No customer wants to be crushed. We talk about Maxwells and Pascual’s like no customer or prospect wants to be thought of as an acronym, right? And so I think, yes, those are all internal terms, but I think we run the risk of thinking of our prospects as a numbers game. And even though we’re selling to a building, even though we’re selling, you know, accounts, the buildings don’t write checks, people do. So I think there’s five things that have changed. And in this in honestly, this is not about the pandemic. This is not about 2020. I would argue every one of these things existed a year ago. And if anything, it has been it’s just been has been accelerated in terms of its impact so far this year. The first one is that your prospects are busier than ever. And this especially rings true right now where your prospects have they had a plan they’re still trying to sort of salvage for 2020. They’ve got a handful of pivots. They’ve tried to sort of focus on trying to sort of make changes and change their go to market strategy, sometimes change their services. There’s so much they’re trying to do. At the same time, they’ve got kids trying to do remote school. Everyone’s just sort of waiting for the next bomb to go off. I feel like 2020 has been a little like watching and late night TV show and all of a sudden Billy Mays shows up on an infomercial and just keeps keep saying, but wait, there’s more. So your prospects are getting inundated with things from all sides, not just at work right now and their willingness to read your 400 word email that you just sent them a cold email to a cold person. Their willingness to take 15 minutes with your SDR just because you downloaded or attended a webinar is next to nil. Right. And I think if you approach people with that, with if you if you if you approach people with that approach initially, it’s going to fail. Your prospects also want to be and are more often self educated. They’re spending the majority of the buying process, doing research and doing independent research and figuring some things out on their own. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to wait as a seller, tell 57 percent of the process is done. What it means is you need to be providing formats of that education. You need to be OK with a prospect not talking to your sales rep earlier than they want to.
[00:08:17] You need to be OK with your sales team or in your marketing efforts being purely educational as a way of helping the prospect understand the problem that needs to be solved of quantifying a problem. They may or may not not have known that they had. So our ability to be a source of education in this part of the process is significant. But ask yourself and ask your sales team and look at your sales efforts and say, do we have the discipline and patience to help the prospect get there? No matter how good your product message is, you cannot force a prospect to want it here. It here it earlier than they’re ready if you get them to a point.
[00:08:55] We’ll talk about this a little later. If you get to the point of a commitment to change, if you get them to the point where they understand the problem that needs to be solved and they want to pursue solutions now they’re interested in. But if they’re crazy busy world, if they’re focused on other fires and not focus on the fire that is represented by your what the what your solution solves, it’s going to be very difficult to get their attention.
[00:09:15] It can be very difficult to get them to pay attention. OK, I promise things are going to get better, but really quickly, it’s going to get a little bit worse because everybody most of the people that are selling to your prospect are making all the mistakes we’ve just talked about. They’re calling too early.
[00:09:33] They’re calling too often. They’ve got a 22 year old Godlove. I’m calling just asking for fifteen minutes of their time. So your prospect doesn’t trust you’re not starting from square zero. You’re starting from a negative position. So your your sales and marketing efforts have to dig out of that hole before your prospect will start paying attention to you. Are you? Make no mistake, sales and marketing today is kind of like driving by someone’s house at thirty five miles an hour and then trying to throw something into the mailbox.
[00:10:02] You’re going to miss most of the time you’re going to you’re not going to check their mailbox every single time, but you better make sure that once they do, they see something of value.
[00:10:12] And once they see that a value that may be like a little tickle in their brain, that the next time they see something of value and they start to associate this body of work. You know, over time, these things that whenever I see something from this company, it’s usually valuable whenever I see their name in my inbox, I should keep that email because there’s usually something of interest in there that takes time. That’s not one email. That’s not one phone call. That’s not one webinar. But if you can have consistently that value in your marketing and in your sales efforts, then you start to rise above the crowd. Then you start to do things that truly break through. And I think that that message, that approach is something that you can absolutely systematize. The buying journey like the blue and the green on this buying journey are probably stages that look familiar to you. These are stages that are common to the sales process. But I would argue for those listening and watching today that these orange stages are the most important and the most difficult components of the sales process, your ability to loosen the status quo of your prospect, to help them think differently about a problem that they did or didn’t know, that they had your ability to help reframe a problem so that they understand the impact it can have.
[00:11:29] Imagine for a second your first call with the sales, with a prospect. And if I told you you had two rules on that sales call, the first rule is that you’re no longer you cannot talk about your product or service in that first call. If they ask you about it, fine.
[00:11:44] But in that first call you have, I want you to talk about their problems. I want you to talk about their situation. I want you to be an expert in their problems. I want you to be so good at asking questions that you hope that prospect discover things I didn’t know about themselves so that when they hang up the phone, they literally say to themselves, wow, that was really good. I would have paid for that. What kind of insights? What kind of reframes, what kind of information can you give your prospect that is so valuable they would pay for it and it’s so valuable because it helps them think differently about the business and changes what they’re willing to do to be successful, to achieve the success that they previously thought they were on track for. And maybe today, after that conversation, they’re not totally sure that’s where you get to that commitment to change. So these orange stages are incredibly important parts of the sales process. They’re not necessarily new. I don’t talk about that in a minute. I think some of them are based on things you’ve probably heard from the Challenger sale. I’ve heard about. You know, provocative selling is a concept that Jeffrey Moore talks about. You know, what I like about the Challenger sale is that has taken this idea from Jeffrey, more from Dale Carnegie, even from Hopkins. This book, Scientific Advertising, one of my favorite marketing books of all time was written in 1921. But what CSB did with the Challenger sales, they put people into these five categories. And they said, OK, of salespeople, sales people tend to look like one of these five people, and they’re not saying that one is white and one is wrong, you can be successful as a seller in any of these five areas. What they found is that those Challenger sales reps were consistently more successful, more often than those that were focused in the other areas. And so what are those challenges sellers do? Right. And the challengers say, oh, by the way, like it sounds like it’s a selling book. This is a marketing textbook. If you’re in marketing, this is a book you need to read. It reinforces the fact that how you sell is more important than what you sell, all that stuff I just talked about earlier about the body of work, about prospecting your prospects base, about providing value and giving them things that they would be willing to pay for. That precedes what you sell. Your ability to get your product in front of someone is going to be earned by how you sell and how you approach that customer, how you respect their time, respect their place and provide value along the way. And Challenger talks about this concept of teach tailor take control, that you create a teachable moment for your prospects. You created insight that is relative is something that is valuable and relatable to all of your prospects, you tailor it to an individual organization so it means something to that company, to that individual. When you get someone to buy into that insight, when you get them to commit to change, you earn the opportunity to take control the deal. You’re no longer just advocating for your sale. You’re no longer just advocating for your pipeline. You’re advocating for their outcome.
[00:14:37] So counterintuitively, the value of your insights can trump the quality of your product, your ability, and this is there’s so much research behind this that shows that your ability to challenge the customer’s thinking, to give them evidence, to give them tools, to give them trend data that shows them where the market is going so they can take better advantage of it.
[00:14:58] Your ability to do that with your prospects is going to lead to more pipeline, they will go with you even if someone else has more features or maybe even has a superior product because they believe in their mind. And this is sometimes intuitive. This sometimes our subconscious in our subconscious, the companies that have the insights, the companies that know me best, are the companies that can give me that have built products and services that are going to make me most successful. Your job in this process is not to be agreeable. It is to be memorable. If you are going to introduce something that changes someone’s status quo, that gets them to commit to change. Look, none of us love change. Some people are OK with it more than others, but most people don’t like change. We want our day to go the way we expected our day to go. And if you as a seller, just introduced an insight that changes how someone looks at the world and is creating the need for change, you’re creating problems. You’re at least going to make them give up some of their money. You’re probably going to make them change some of their internal processes. You just made work harder for a lot of people.
[00:15:59] But if the outcome is worth it, people will go through that process, people will go through that pain, people will give up their money. And so you have to introduce a little bit of productive friction.
[00:16:11] To get to that change and that process, those insights that makes you memorable, that makes you someone that stands out so, you know, the yes man sales reps that just agree with everything a prospect says aren’t doing much to challenge the status quo. Now, how do you apply all this into a predictable system that actually can drive revenue for you moving forward? So, again, we’ve been doing this for 12 plus years. We found that there’s seven core areas that organizations need to focus on to get to that particular pipeline. And we’ve loosely organized these into these three areas. The majority of this process is plan and understand. There are some planning tools that will walk through here in a second that I think are fundamental to helping you execute. Counter-intuitive, I think a lot of companies want to get right to execution. Well, let’s just start sending e-mails. Let’s just start making phone calls. Well, that leads to random acts of sales and marketing that lead to the lumpiness that most companies experience. If you don’t fundamentally document and understand a consistent view of your market who were selling to and why, what we’re saying to those people and why who on the sales and marketing team has what roles and responsibilities to deliver those messages. If you don’t get clarity on that, especially as you grow, especially as you scale, things start to fall apart pretty quickly.
[00:17:31] So, for example.
[00:17:33] What is your ideal customer profile if you’re selling into health care, it’s not everybody in health care. What are the attributes and characteristics of companies in health care that make some of those companies more likely to be receptive to your message, more likely to have the problems that you solve? And because buildings don’t write checks, who are the people inside that organization you need to be talking to? You know, some other CB research indicates now there are more than eight members of the buying committee in many organizations. So how are you taking what you know about your ideal customer profile, applying that to understanding who are the key members of the buying committee inside an organization, and then coordinating your message to different members of the buying committee at different stages of the buying journey across your sales and marketing team to see how this gets complicated.
[00:18:20] But if you write this down, pretty simple spreadsheet can help you figure this out, can help create clarity around what you say that buying journey needs to be what your sales cycle is based on.
[00:18:32] How long does it take, how many meetings, how many steps, how many small decisions need to happen among portions of that buying committee to get them to say yes? Within your organization, especially if you’re selling to larger companies, you probably have sales involved in a sort of a kind of executive that’s involved earlier in the process. What are the roles and responsibilities of marketing versus sales at each stage of the buying journey, each season of the sales process?
[00:18:57] And now how do you take that understanding of who’s in the buying committee, how they think about the process differently, how they think about the problem differently, and creating a message that takes the prospects point of view that prioritizes their problems and issues? Exclusively at the beginning of the process. You know, we looked at that that that buying journey progression earlier where you got, you know, loosening the status quo and then commit to change, you can get to a commitment to change without explaining anything about what you sell, because the changes about your prospect and the impact that has on them, not what you’re selling. So you get those pieces together. Now you’re ready to execute the best programs, not sales programs, not marketing programs. The best integrated revenue programs have an integrated, consistent approach to message. It’s not sales says one thing, marketing says another. It’s not. Social media says one thing and the email says another. There’s a consistent approach to how you go to market and how you coordinate those and orchestrate elements of that campaign.
[00:19:56] And this is where technology can start to help you. Technology is not your strategy. It is a enabler of your strategy. If you look across your execution, the things that are done by people that could be done by machines, that’s a good application of technology, things that are done manually that could be done in an automated way. That’s an application of technology. But the tools aren’t going to help you unless you have those processes dialed in. So oftentimes we will recommend to our clients, start small, figure out what the right process is, do it in a manual, and maybe even inefficient, unscalable way to make sure it works. Because if you scale something for the sake of creating automation, but it doesn’t work, you’ve got a much bigger problem and a much more scalable problem. And finally, the measures of success, you know, like what are we measuring as part of this? I mean, look, even if you’re doing an account based program, even if you’re selling to enterprise deals, even if you’re saying our goal is to generate X number of new accounts this year, you’re still talking to people.
[00:20:55] You still have to make sure you have the right contact information. There is a differentiation between your operational metrics and your impact metrics. Operational metrics can help you do better. Marketing impact metrics is how you demonstrate to the organization that the marketing is working, that it’s generating revenue results. That is generating impact that you can buy beer with.
[00:21:16] So that we have we have limited amount of time today, that is the predictable pipeline framework. Now, what I would recommend is taking a version of Skutnik version of this maturity model, print out this slide, take this to your next team meeting and have everyone kind of read good, better, best from initial optimized in each of these sections and circle where you think you are. I have yet to meet a company unless they are brand brand new that has everything in the initial stage. And I have yet to meet a company that has and and sustains their place in optimizing every one of these stages. There’s some room for improvement for all of us. And I think by doing the doing the work on finding out where you are in the maturity model, where you are in the continuum for each of these seven areas, it will teach you which of these areas you were the furthest behind and where you might actually apply work now to catch up. I don’t know that you can reasonably tackle all seven of these at once. So figure out where the problems are talking and there may be some disagreements. We’ll talk about those internally and then figure out your game plan. And as you’re doing this review internally here, some of the questions you can start to ask yourself and be honest. I mean, this is not an opportunity to be defensive. This is not an opportunity to talk about, like, how hard this year is.
[00:22:31] I get it. Like, we’re all facing that. So declare an amnesty day for sales and marketing, declare an amnesty day for the random acts of sales and marketing, put defensiveness aside and just sit down and say, listen, do we have this stuff figured out? Scale of one to 10, how good are we at these at these seven things? Where are we deficient? And then which of these things do we think we can start to apply to make ourselves more successful?
[00:22:55] This is a journey, not a destination. This will be something that you are creating cadences around to improve on a regular basis moving forward. But I promise you, by taking a step back and thinking about your predictable pipeline, thinking through this framework. To improve these seven areas in your business, you will have a more predictable pipeline, you will have more visibility into what’s coming down the line, you will feel more consistent impact from marketing on the organization.
[00:23:22] You will feel better symbiosis between sales and marketing, and you’ll generate the results that you want, not only in Q4 of this year, but into twenty twenty one. My name is Matt Heinz. This is my contact information. If any of you have any questions on what we’ve covered today, I am happy to answer any of those any time.
[00:23:42] If there are some things in here that I referenced and we want pretty quickly, but there are some things in here that are spreadsheet based. I’ve got a lead to opportunity to close model spreadsheet that I’m happy to share. I’ve got a buying journey, buying committee content, map matrix spreadsheets, a tool that I’m happy to share as well. If any of that would be useful to you, please email me and I’m happy to get that to you. Thank you so much for your time. Please enjoy the rest of the conference. It’s been a pleasure.
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