Join Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce.com, and Matt Greenstein, principal and Digital practice leader at Alexander Group, as they discuss what makes the modern marketing, sales, and service organization “digital.”
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Matt Greenstein: Hi, this is Matt Greenstein, principal with the Alexander Group, and I’m joined by Tiffani Bova, global growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce. Tiffani is the author of the book Growth IQ Gets Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business. And a frequent speaker on the topic of how companies can reimagine their growth ambitions with innovative business models and technology. Today, we’re going to talk about the digital revenue organization, including what that means and how to get started. Tiffani, thanks so much for joining me today.
Tiffani Bova: Oh, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Matt Greenstein: This topic is, I think, pretty prevalent in your book. In that book, you talk about growth paths. One of which is optimized sales. There, you reference advancements in data and technology, how companies are selling today. In your words, what does digital mean to the B2B revenue organization?
Tiffani Bova: Boy, what a great question, I would have answered that very differently, maybe 18 months ago. We have seen a significant shift over the last 16 months as the pandemic really accelerated companies having to face some of the lack of investments they’ve made maybe over the decade or so around the sales technology stack, as well as the marketing technology stack. But now, even more importantly, customer service technology and connecting those three in a way that is seamless not only just for the employee but also for the customer who’s receiving that kind of interaction that they may be having with a brand. So digital to me is technology and transformation as people process. And so you have to have those two things in harmony happening. Otherwise you’ve got really amazing, potentially expensive technology, not really solving business problems. And the people and process side is not aligned to take advantage of all those investments you’ve made. So that’s kind of how I look at it.
Matt Greenstein: Yeah, in Growth IQ, one of the anecdotes you shared was the story of Amazon rivaling Walmart. You give a great example of Walmart responding with digital plays, such as integrating their routes to market. And in your experience, how does this manifest, how are companies actually bringing together data, process, systems and tools to modernize their marketing, sales and service motions?
Tiffani Bova: Yeah, data. It’s been a topic I’ve been talking about for some time. I used to say that data is the Achilles heel to any sort of marketing or sales or service manager who has to serve a customer and the lack of data, bad data, inconsistent data, however you want to sort of define it. It has implications on those employees that have to serve your customer. We had a research out via Tableau that said the average enterprise has about 900 unique and individual apps. In an enterprise. It could be HR, could be IT, sales, marketing, everything, right? And only about 29% of those are integrated in any way. Now they don’t all have to be integrated. Obviously, HR maybe in isolation, some security applications in the IT side might be in isolation, but you get my point. There’s a lot of room higher than 29% against 900 apps. And that is really the data stream, right? Is the ability to share the same data about a customer, a transaction, a product, the supply chain – really connecting them in a way that gives you the information and power that you need in order to do your job, serve your customer and even serve internal constituents in the broader shareholder community. So there’s the quote that “data is the new oil.” And while I like that, you cannot sort of pull up to an oil rig and fill your car up with gasoline. It has to go through the refinery, which to me is analytics. And then the insights that power the business is really the gasoline or the petrol. So data for data sake does nothing. It has to be analyzed and then really looking for those signals that you can take from that data in order to action something differently that you might not have done without the data.
Matt Greenstein: Yeah, I think bringing this to life, you’re faced with lots of realities, you just kind of went into one in particular with lots of data resources out there. It’s not as easy as, you know, pulling it out of the ground and getting it to work. When you think about kind of giving revenue leaders a series of principles as they’re starting to scope these types of decisions or their digital vision, how to use data or how to use systems and processes and tools. What are some of the guideposts that you like to give leaders as they broach the topic?
Tiffani Bova: Yeah. So sales ops is a topic that I now define as more revenue ops. That sales is not the only part of the organization that has the ability to influence revenue coming in the door. Right? So you have marketing, they have the ability to do it, sometimes online and completely devoid of any human interaction. So that’s obviously revenue. You have salespeople inside sellers now, some field getting back out into the market depending on where you are in the world, but you’ve got them generating revenue. You’ve got your customer service or customer success organization that has the ability to upsell, cross-sell. And if you’re recurring revenue, actually win back deals and or completely avoid churn altogether. And so that, to me, is the operations layer of revenue, and those were just three I just mentioned right marketing, sales and customer service. So I like RevOps as a term in which we can now use. I feel the same way about enablement. Enabling your seller, sales enablement has been a term forever, but as I just described, there’s other people that have the ability to impact revenue, so it should be revenue enablement. And so if you start to look at it from a pure revenue standpoint, not that sales is the only organization in the company that generates revenue. We know that that’s not the case, that everyone plays their role and plays their part. So I think that for today, revenue leaders, regardless of where they are in the organization, should do an inventory of all the things they’re doing that’s generating revenue both within sales, within marketing, within customer service or customer success. Identify what’s working, look at those processes, look at the people in the organizational structure. Is your technology really supporting that? And if so, great. But I’m going to guess it’s not 100% doing everything correctly because not everything, nothing can be really perfect and especially in the B2B selling world. So where can you start to make improvements? Going back to your question originally about my book, about optimizing sales. This is where that happens. It happens in consistently doing an inventory on what is working, what’s not working and constantly checking yourself so that you don’t keep doing what used to work and making the assumption that’s going to continue to work.
Matt Greenstein: Got it. Yeah. So there’s making sure that we’ve got revenue operations, that kind of foundational piece for enablement, a big piece and then kind of the assessment of what works, what doesn’t, maybe fail fast and focus on, you know, throwing gasoline on the fires that are really burning. One of the things I picked up from your book is kind of advice that you give to revenue leaders about deploying the full set of available resources. You know, just then as you were talking about revenue operations, there’s a lot of notes to that. There systems, processes, people, technology, capital, you know, all of this could be daunting. If you have to kind of think maybe sequentially or, you know, give somebody practical advice on where do you start, how do you ready the organization for change? How do you build and sustain momentum?
Tiffani Bova: Yeah. For me, it’s about always keeping a beginner’s mind. I mentioned sort of quickly that sort of the worst teacher is success. That’s a quote from Bill Gates. Some form of that anyway. And ultimately, when you are doing really well, that’s the time you should be doubling down and making those investments as you have more revenue coming in the door. To start looking for what is the next thing that’s going to allow you to continue to bring revenue, attract customers and serve those that you already have. And so I actually coined the term called “the seller’s dilemma,” which is a revenue leader or a sales leader who has to hit numbers today and is responsible for that obviously day in and day out, while at the same time preparing for and innovating for the future. Whatever that future state might be. Like what we’re in right now. Thinking about virtual selling for organizations that have massive field selling organizations, you know, and they felt like I’d never can digital sell. It has to be face to face. I need to take them to lunch, take them to dinner, play a round of golf, whatever it might be. Now that is completely been disrupted. And so we’re going to probably land somewhere in a hybrid environment. And so ultimately thinking about that investment of the future state requires what we were just talking about, looking back and doing an inventory across people, process systems and technology and thinking: How can we improve? And if you don’t give yourself sort of a little bit of time every day to reevaluate what it is you’re doing with the beginner’s mind and willing to actually self disrupt, like, say, you know what that might have worked a year ago? We’re going to try something else. And if it doesn’t work in the selling organization, that can be highly disruptive from a revenue standpoint. So that’s why piloting and testing a kind of call it this pop-up sales team. Allow this pop-up team to try these new things and learn and learn, right? And then if it starts to take off and fits the environment and the customers and you have positive results, roll it to the remainder of the organization. Now, if you have a small selling organization of like five sellers, you’re like, I can’t really pop up one person. That isn’t going to give me impact. So the smaller the selling organization, the more difficult this becomes because there aren’t people in those roles of RevOps or sales enablement or rev enablement, right? You don’t have marketing and customer service and salespeople. You don’t have the volume, but you still have the human aspect where you can constantly be improving that performance. So I think if you’re growing, this is the time to double down. If you’re starting to see softness in your revenue, even as things are starting to go back up, that’s when you really have to start to look. What things can we improve? And if you’re in a full-blown growth stall where you’ve had two, three or four quarters of no growth, flat growth or low growth, you know, kind of in the negative range, you might be too late. So that’s where you really have to start to test and trial very, very quickly to try to get yourself back to positive.
Matt Greenstein: And I guess a key takeaway from that for me was if you adopt the kind of seller’s dilemma mantra and you are kind of, you know, maybe taking a little bit of risk with some of your short term results to step back and kind of think about where we’re going. That almost kind of gets the muscle built, you know, to just be constantly piloting and thinking about advancing new ways of doing things. And if you can then operationalize that into some controlled deployments or pilots, you know, you can move a little bit quicker.
Tiffani Bova: Yeah, I mean, I’ve actually recommended that pop-up team. And many years ago, actually prior to joining Salesforce, I was a research fellow at Gartner. And my area of coverage was sales transformation, so I spent a lot of time on this particular topic. And I have actually seen organizations that have created those pop-up teams. And so if you have some size 50 plus sellers, you can grab five to seven people, put them in a pop-up team and really what the things you start to remove are like the metrics, right? And how they use it to what they do every day, watch them in their kind of natural habitat. From a selling perspective of how they use the technology, where they get stuck, where the integration of data is not so easy that it takes them more time because the average seller spends about 66% of their time on non-selling activities, and there’s about 52-53% of sellers that are going to hit quota. So you see, there’s a lot of room for improvement on that operational side. And so if you can watch them working and find ways to get rid of unnecessary steps or get rid of the friction between groups, between silos, whatever it might be, then that’s really where you have an opportunity to push forward. And so I’m a firm believer in those pop-up teams because it’s a great way to say it’s going to work or not work minus all the things you have in the regular business. Remember the “seller’s dilemma,” right? You have to maintain the revenue in the existing selling organization, while at the same time you’re transforming and innovating and you can’t do it with the same human because I will always as a seller default to what’s going to require quota. Otherwise, I’m going to lose my job. But if you put me in the pop-up team and you remove some of those things that actually hold me back from doing what I could be doing differently because of the limitations, you’ll uncover that and it will be so beneficial for the remainder of your selling organization.
Matt Greenstein: Yeah. And I guess one of the things that you talk about in the Growth IQ framework is starting to bring some of the paths together, for example, optimize sales with customer experience. And that might be kind of hard to conceptualize. But I imagine, you know, the pop-up teams are one of the tactics used to really kind of bring it to life. Aside from the pop-up teams that you talked about, any other thoughts on how do you pull it all together? What do you need to do in order to bring some of these modern revenue motions to life?
Tiffani Bova: I think the biggest mistake, well, it’s two things. One of the opening quotes of my book came from a study that actually showed that executives that were, companies, sorry, that were unable to maintain and deliver consistent and repeatable growth was because of internal inertia, not external factors. And I put a period and then right after that, I said, unless it’s a black swan event period, and here we are in a black swan event. So I’d love to just erase that last five words. But right before it, when it said it was internal inertia, I believe that is still the case. How can you eliminate some of those internal things that you put in place processes? But the biggest thing for me is that break down silo conversation between the three that I’ve been talking about: sales, service and marketing. I don’t want to break down silos. I think there’s power in the silos. I think you have to build bridges and one of the bridges you have to build is data. The next is metrics. You have to align people in a certain way so that they’re all moving in the same direction and understand how their role plays a part in acquiring revenue, maintaining revenue, upselling and cross-selling in the overall customer experience. And so once you start to share that information and share the metrics right and create these data-sharing kind of mechanisms, whether it’s technical or otherwise, then you have an opportunity to pull those three motions together, which eliminates this unintended consequence of having a poor customer experience. And so that’s really where I think there’s a lot of opportunity is to pull those three together. And so interestingly enough, when I meet, usually face to face with executives and we have this conversation, I might meet with sales ops and IT and we’re talking about Salesforce. And execs will say, “Oh, nobody’s logging in. They’re not getting the value out of the technology. It’s not doing what we thought it was going to do.” Things along those lines. Interestingly enough, the executive leaders are not in the room. It’s just tech. Trying to solve it from a technology point. So do we need to add more fields like what’s the integration point? I’m like, I can’t tell you, like, get the executives in. What are your employees saying? What are your customers saying? How do we pull that together? And it’s kind of like I’ve given them this climb Mount Everest before I can give you the answer response because they look at me like, “What do you mean? I need to pull them all in and can have this conversation.” I go, Look, they’re not here now, but let’s set up a call. And sure enough, getting the executives on a call to talk about this conversation at the same time is almost impossible. And so that tells me a lot about how they’re so micro-focused on their department – sales, marketing, customer service – they don’t understand this intersection in the power of getting them all going in the same direction. Now, if you have a chief revenue officer, hopefully they have influence and/or full control over those groups. But ultimately, that’s where I think so many organizations miss the mark is that they try to optimize sales, they optimize marketing or they optimize customer service and unfortunately, sometimes in completely different directions with metrics that are in conflict with the other groups. And so that’s where I think there’s a ton of opportunity.
Matt Greenstein: Yeah, I think whenever we have the conversation of, you know, what does digital mean and how do you bring it into practice. Sure, there are maybe small things that you can do within marketing, within sales, within service, but inevitably the real value is wiring it all together and I agree it is certainly very difficult to do when not everybody’s at the table. They’re not aligned through metrics. And I got to imagine the tactics like the pop-up teams, they drive momentum to get past some of those points of inertia that you were talking about. Well, this was great. Tiffani, thank you so much for your great insights and ideas for business leaders to think about. For those of you listening, be sure to pick up a copy of Tiffani’s book. And for more insight, visit us at www.alexandergroup.com. You can download our latest whitepaper or you can register for a research briefing. Thanks so much for your time!