2020 Annual Executive Forum Highlights

The 24X7 Customer Experience

Revenue leaders serving a new kind of customer…in a new kind of marketplace was the focus of Alexander Group’s 2020 Executive Forum. This year’s event took place virtually and was attended by over 450 revenue leaders representing a range of industries including technology, media sales, healthcare, manufacturing, business services and life sciences. Our guests came together in a new 3-D virtual environment to learn from each other, build new connections and take away actionable ideas to address the new challenges and opportunities they face as they reimagine their businesses.

At this year’s Forum, executives shared how their companies did extraordinary things to get themselves and their customers through the crisis. The 24X7 customer was already a reality for many industries. 2020 accelerated those changes and over two days we heard from leaders that used rapid learning, innovation and common sense to not just survive, but position themselves for growth in 2021.

Difficult Paths, New Beginnings at Cisco

The first keynote speaker, Jeff Sharritts, senior vice president of the Americas at Cisco, shared his Lessons from a Disruptor. “Difficult paths lead to new beginnings,” Jeff emphasized.
As the pandemic spread, Cisco showed their concern and empathy to employees by shutting down the entire company for a day, giving employees a four-day work week to alleviate extra family responsibilities, having leader sync-ups to provide support, and offering innovative employee benefits. The result: they retained the title of Fortune Magazine’s #1 place to work for the second year in a row.

Cisco demonstrated the same empathy to their customers, understanding that cloud security platforms had to keep remote workforces running productively. “We had customers in our environment and some of our large enterprise that went from 1,000 virtual workers to 50,000 virtual workers overnight. We were helping them work through that and making sure they could run their business and continue to keep things moving forward.” Cisco also put financing into the market to help customers make technology investments, deferring payments until 2021 and 2022 to keep businesses running.

The “Attention Economy” at AWS

Cate Gutowski, worldwide head of sales enablement at Amazon Web Services (AWS), delivered an engaging presentation on the Transformation of 24X7 Sales Enablement to Deliver Double-Digit Growth.

“Traditional sales enablement does not work at AWS. In today’s ‘Attention Economy,’ focus is the new currency. Technology has revolutionized the way we work and live, so the attention economy changes how we go about gaining the attention of our customers,” Cate said. AWS focuses on six new tenets of the Attention Economy:

  1. Embrace new mental models, including to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.
  2. Time is money, so treat field time like gold.
  3. Don’t make field training boring, make it fun.
  4. Complex is easy. Simple is hard, but it works 10x better.
  5. Perfection is a trap. You must innovate and modernize sales enablement fast.
  6. Leaders need to make it safe to fail. Cate encourages her staff and peers to maintain a hyper focus on customer problems to gain their mindshare in a world full of distractions.

Heroic Lessons Drive Rubrik

Wendy Bahr, chief commercial officer at Rubrik, provided a keynote address on A New Ecosystem to Serve the 24X7 Customer. In 2012, Wendy was lucky enough to meet two of her athletic heroes, Bob Beamon and Dick Fosbury, track and field medalists from the 1968 Mexico City games. “Meeting these two extraordinary athletes taught me that to win sometimes you have to think without limits and make changes to win the game,” Wendy shared.

“Our mission is to be a force multiplier to drive scale, productivity and growth at velocity through the partner ecosystem with relentless focus on the customers to maximize lifetime value. To accelerate sales in new rapidly changing landscape, we must understand that the customer’s needs are accelerating and expectations are changing. They are demanding maximum value and impact not just at time of purchase but across the life cycle of their solutions.” Wendy and her team recognize the demands of the 24X7 customer. “A 24X7 customer wants choice, options, creativity and financial models that are flexible and/or usage based. A digitally connected customer is often self-educated on the product. They demand agility, simplicity and security.”

Innovation is Inspiring the Future at FedEx

Jill Brannon, executive vice president and chief sales officer at FedEx, shared that pre-COVID-19, they anticipated the U.S. domestic market would hit 100 million packages per day by 2026. “We’ve sling shotted ahead by three years,” expecting to hit that unprecedented milestone by 2023 due to the massive increase in e-commerce. Daily shipping levels continue to be at Christmas or Cyber Monday levels since March.

FedEx is intent on measuring customer perceptions and satisfaction levels via mobile, web, retail and 800 phone call transactions using their Quality Driven Management (QDM) tools to discover and solve root causes for common customer issues. For one corporate customer, FedEx and the customer team worked together to save over $100,000 annually in extra shipping charges.

“Innovation fueled our start and is inspiring our future,” noted Brannon. FedEx‘s data strategy includes using decision science, machine learning and data analytics to generate insights and optimize their operations and better compete. “We are working closely with our customers. We are engaging the industry and market leaders to help us evolve–taking this data and creating new platforms and solutions. Make every interaction with customers memorable and outstanding and you will win in the marketplace.”

Personal Journey to the C-Suite

The final keynote panel included executives who shared their personal journey to the C-Suite. The panel included Bruce Dahlgren, chief executive officer at MetricStream, Jessica Sibley, chief revenue officer at Forbes Media; Mark Van Oene, senior vice president & chief commercial officer at Illumina, and Charlie Wilhelm, president & chief operating officer at KARL STORZ Endoscopy – America.

Bruce Dahlgren has worked at the best large corporations in the world, like NCR, AT&T and Hewlett-Packard, before moving to a private, smaller company in the IT industry. “Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to participate in M&A, global experiences with many jobs and many relocations, with a spouse that has put up with a lot of moves,” Bruce admits. “The net result is I landed a CEO role at MetricStream and I’m really proud of the work we are doing during these challenging times.”

Jessica Sibley started on the buy side, but after deciding she wanted a career in sales, she got a job at an advertising agency. Later she joined Forbes Media, where she admits to “earning her chops” before leaving for larger opportunities at a competitor. But when Forbes came calling, Jessica answered. “I came back to Forbes as Chief Revenue Officer seven years ago. I am proud of the fact that we’ve achieved a larger scale audience in our 100+ year history as a critical media brand,” she said.

Mark Van Oene was originally a customer of Illumina before joining them 15 years ago, allowing him to bring the customer perspective to his role. “I truly believe we need something bigger than ourselves to stay engaged during tough times like this year,” he said. Mark credits the fact that he had great mentorship within and around the company, but also demonstrated that he could lead larger teams. “It’s an important step in the path to the C-Suite to go from functional expert to local expert to global and cross-functional expert,” Mark shared.

Charlie Wilhelm started with American Hospital Supply in the 1980’s. “I got into the operating room for the first time with AHS and saw my first surgical procedure. Once I picked myself up off the floor after the first patient incision, I was hooked.” Charlie credits the fact that he had a lot of mentorship throughout his career, along with education at UCLA Anderson School’s executive programs, and also reached out for executive coaching. “I think zigging and zagging throughout an organization will broaden your experience base,” says Charlie.

Executives Insights

In addition to our keynote speakers, 15 other revenue leaders shared their expertise on cultivating a growth culture, motivating virtual sales teams, democratizing data, and compensating a 24X7 driven organization. Panels and interactive roundtables included executives from Spotify, Thomson Reuters, VMware, Hearst Magazine, Twitter, Kimberly-Clark, Otis Elevator and others from the technology, healthcare, media and manufacturing sectors. Lively discussions helped to educate the audience, providing valuable insights on how to serve the new customer and how organizations are quickly adapting to meet the challenges of an evolving customer.

Alexander Group’s 2021 Leadership Series

In the coming year, Alexander Group’s Leadership Events will focus on the continued importance of the new type of customer and what’s around the corner under the theme of 24X7 Customer: The Next Chapter. These events will continue the exploration of how companies are reshaping their go-to-customer approaches, with an emphasis on how revenue leaders are taking their learnings from 2020 and using them to build stronger customer relationships and find new pathways to growth.

In addition to roundtables, symposiums and Forums, we are also excited to announce the first Alexander Group Women in Revenue event in April. Be sure to mark your calendars.

Women in Revenue: The Growth Innovators
April 27-28, 2021
3-D Virtual Event

Operations Forum
June 8-9, 2021
3-D Virtual Event

Executive Forum
November 17-19, 2021
The Breakers, Palm Beach, FL

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