Alexander Group's 2017 Strategy Forum


The 2017 Strategy Forum in NY was attended by more than 50 senior executives from Media, Technology and other industries.

The keynote sessions focused on how leading companies are addressing the go-to-customer mandate by bridging the gap between marketing, sales and service.

Alexander Group’s Chief Sales Executive Forums are high level, distinctive and unique.

Executives gain access to new ideas and have a place and time to think and reflect–so rare in today’s busy world. The experience from the CSE Forums can help kick off new strategy or course correct your current plan to head off issues.

Here are some highlights from the 2017 CSE Strategy Forum that took place May 8-9 at the Princeton Club in New York.

May 8 Highlights

Opening Keynote: The Levers of Transformation–Moving to an As-a-Service Sales and Service Business Model
Beth Ann Vaughn, Vice President – WW SaaS Sales & GTM Transformation – IBM Cognitive Solutions

Beth Ann Vaughn took the stage Monday night at Alexander Group’s 2017 Strategy Forum to talk about IBM’s transformation to a cloud-based model and key learnings from their journey. She stressed that the keys to a successful transformation lie in driving cross-functional alignment and evolving the operational capabilities required to support the recurring revenue model and customer journey. While alignment of product, marketing, sales and service are critical in any business model, cross-functional alignment and shared vision are essential to success within a go-to-customer transformation. To enable this alignment, she highlighted the multiple levers required to drive transformation:

  • Mapping the customer journey
  • Transparent reporting through scorecard and funnel metrics
  • Adjusting the operational rhythm
  • Changing roles and incentives

Vaughn left the audience with some words of wisdom that leading transformations aren’t for the faint of heart. Be strong, be agile and have stamina because change isn’t going away.

Keynote Panel: The Levers of Transformation
Beth Ann Vaughn, Vice President, WW SaaS Sales & GTM Transformation – IBM Cognitive Solutions
Melinda Ferguson, Senior Vice President of NA Sales – CA Technologies
Lisa Valentino, Chief Revenue Officer, Industry & Agency – Condé Nast
Sean Giancola, Chief Revenue Officer – New York Post

Following Beth Ann’s keynote on IBM’s cloud transformation, leaders from the technology and media industries formed for a panel discussion. Each leader shared their experience driving organizational change within two ever-changing industries. All panelists agreed the signals for change started with the changing expectations of their customers. In order to respond to these changes, their organizations had to change the go-to-customer model. With this new model, panelists discussed their insights in bringing their sales forces along on the journey. Two notable points the panelists stressed were the importance of speed in decision-making on strategy, structure and talent; and not being afraid to make tough decisions when it comes to the right sales and sales management talent needed in the new model. When asked if there is an end state they are seeking, panelists unanimously agreed there is no end state–change is not going to stop; it’s the new norm.

May 9 Highlights

Keynote: Revenue Leaders – The New Change Agents
Eric Johnson, Executive Vice President – Global Ad Revenue & Sales Operations – ESPN

Eric Johnson took center stage and emphasized the need to embrace change and disruption in order to succeed in today’s media marketplace. Eric detailed ESPN’s ongoing journey from selling products to selling performance driven by solutions in response to customers’ evolving needs and a growing, more diverse set of competitors. This paradigm shift forced the worldwide leader in sports to break down its siloes and focus on its core value to customers: connecting “fandom” to live sporting events. While simple in principle, this approach required the development of new media platforms, advanced data analytics and an internal feedback loop meant to capture cross-functional insights and foster innovative client solutions. It also required a new sales and marketing vocabulary–one that emphasized solutions, performance-based advertising and total (rather than product-specific) audience measurement. Eric highlighted the importance of driving culture change through continual conversation and reinforcement of their new vision, which was essential to ESPN’s successful transformation.

Keynote: Becoming the Chief Revenue Officer – Shifting Perspective
Sal Patalano, Chief Revenue Officer – Lenovo

Sal Patalano shared his experience and vision for one of the newest positions in the corporate suite: the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Sal explored the different functions that can report to the CRO, most commonly sales, account management, marketing and select elements of product and customer experience.

He also noted the most important attributes of a CRO include the following:

  • People-oriented
  • Passionate
  • Deeply experienced across functions
  • Opinionated, while maintaining an open mind

The need for support from the corporate-suite and the ability to break down siloes, pivot and maintain focus on outcomes are all critical to a CRO’s success. Patalano urged the audience to embrace “vuja de,”—observing familiar, everyday things as if one were seeing them for the first time. In order to so, organizations must be prepared to 1) disregard all constraints with the exception of time, 2) focus on initiatives that they believe will truly work, and 3) remove the lines of separation between an organization and its partners and customers. Sal provided a number of closing considerations, including the dissolution of lines between sales and marketing, creating a clear revenue plan for every department under the CRO and tying more compensation plans to sales results.

Keynote Panel Q&A: Driving Revenue Growth and Leading Change in the Technology and Media Industries
Eric Johnson, Executive Vice President – Global Ad Revenue & Sales Operations – ESPN
Sal Patalano, Chief Revenue Officer – Lenovo

After their keynote sessions at the 2017 Strategy Forum, Sal Patalano and Eric Johnson took questions from the audience on driving revenue growth and leading change within two fast-moving industries–technology and media. When asked how to drive scale within the midst of change, Patalano and Johnson shared the answer is twofold, building alignment across the enterprise and creating a culture with the right people in place. To drive culture and help with change management, Patalano and Johnson highlighted the value of identifying change agents within each functional organization to help drive collaboration and a new way of thinking. They also stressed the value of learning from millennials within their organizations to gather fresh perspectives and ideas. The audience’s final question, how to effectively drive change internationally, doesn’t change the panelists’ suggested approach and advice. Starting again with having the right people in place, Johnson and Patalano reiterated the importance of hiring strong leaders and enabling them with the right tools and resources to support the local model.


Ready to join the discussion? Find out how.

Consider attending our 2018 Sales Operations Forum on June 4-5 at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago or the CSE Annual Forum on November 7-9 in Naples, FL at the Ritz-Carlton.

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