Warren Stone is SVP of Research & Applied Solutions North America for MilliporeSigma. In this role, he oversees the development and execution of a transformational customer-centric commercial strategy built through leveraging customer and market insights.
Warren joined an impressive lineup of speakers at the 2018 Chief Sales Executive Annual Forum where he gave his keynote titled: From Sales to Revenue: New Motions Needed. Warren shared some highlights of his keynote in this executive interview with Gary Tubridy of the Alexander Group.
Listen to the podcast episode from this video.
Gary Tubridy: Hello, my name is Gary Tubridy, senior vice president with the Alexander Group. I am here Warren Stone, senior vice president of Research and Applied Solutions of North America for MilliporeSigma. Warren will be a keynote for us in our forum this year and his subject will be From Sales to Revenue: New Motions Needed. This implies some really big changes, this title, and we are here to explore what some of those changes might be because Warren is going to give us a sneak preview of his keynote address this year. Warren, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for coming to the forum and for giving us a sneak preview today.
Warren Stone: Thanks Gary. It is actually a pleasure to be here today and I am certainly looking forward to spending some time with you.
GT: There is a difference between these two terms; sales and revenue. In your world, Warren how would you define that difference?
WS: I would say in our old world the traditional sales is exactly what we invoice from a product perspective. That is how we recognized our sales. Ultimately, as we have moved forward we are looking to create more value for our customers and therefore moving beyond just product sales and as I said, solutions and services are coming to play in terms of this revenue that we are looking to generate. Certainly, some challenges with that. Maybe it is not as attractive from a margin perspective, as some of our more traditional products. Ultimately the value it creates and the strategic position that allows us to create within our customer ensures longevity in terms of the relationships we have.
GT: Customers can pick up a lot about a product on websites and internets. It is the services and the solutions behind those products that really allow sales forces to differentiate.
WS: I think that is absolutely correct Gary. These days, it is very seldom that we walk into a customer that is not as well informed as we are about our products. They have done a lot of research and for that matter our competitor products as well. We need to add more value and we do that by bundling it with other solutions and services with their paying points in mind. That is really what is helping us generate this revenue that we are speaking about.
GT: In many industries, the need to focus on what we call the customer journey is driven by the emergence of new buyers that have new demands and new ways of acquiring products. What extent is this true in the life sciences industry?
WS: I think it is very true. We have done a lot of research recently and surveys to actually understand what the buying journey looks like. It has been driven by a couple of changes that have manifested themselves. Today we see more and more millennials directly involved in the buying process. I saw a stat that 42% of the people that we are engaging with today have some form of influence in the buying process.
GT: That is 42%?
WS: Yes, 42% are now millennials. They, themselves obviously look to go about the whole process of buying in a very different fashion to what some of the more traditional motions are or that traditional people use. In addition, just the advent of digital technologies and the internet has driven a totally different buying process from a customer perspective. We have had to adapt. How we adapt is to first understand what is the new buying process. We adjust our selling process in accordance to that buying process.
GT: Your title to me is so evocative of many different things. When you say new motions are needed to make the leap from sales to revenue, I wanted to ask you to tell me more about those motions and what that means.
WS: In some cases, they are internal motions and in some cases they are external motions. Some of the internal ones are a little bit with regards to managing upwards. Actually understanding that as I referenced earlier, some of these new approaches may be not as profitable as some of the traditional product-centered approaches, but ultimately in terms of our revenue capture and in terms of loyalty that we see with our customers it is imperative to move up the strategic value chain and to drive that awareness internally in the importance of moving up this strategic value chain and being a strategic supplier rather than a transectional one, it is imperative to be thinking in this fashion. The second area is also associated with marketing. This is the second internal one. With regards to our interface between marketing activities and the sales organization and ensuring that those two motions actually work in synchrony with one another. We are not opposing each other in terms of our approaches to the markets.
GT: It is almost as if we have got to stop selling what we want to sell and start selling what customers want and perhaps need to buy.
WS: I think that is a great way to put it. For a long time, we have wanted to sell certain products because of a perceived value proposition, a perceived profitability, whatever the case is. With the advent of digital and the intelligence that our customers now have with regards to our products and our competitor products, it is much more imperative these days that we are positioning ourselves to address the customer’s paying point rather than our internal needs.
GT: Tell me about that second brand of motions that relate to the external?
WS: From an external perspective, it really goes about how we address these customers. As one small example, our academic customer base, and for that matter our biotech customer base as well, because of this advent of the millennial generation coming through and the fact that many of the customers that we are addressing today were born after the smart phone was developed, and now are really looking for that consumer-type experience that they are familiar with in their personal lives. They are looking for that in their business lives today. As a result, the whole way that we are having to market to them to actually to sell to them is becoming much more consumer-oriented than it ever has before. We are finding these types of motions and approaches actually pay a lot of dividends.
GT: We on our forum agenda this year, we have a partnership between SAP and Google seeking to instill those very consumer kinds of journeys into the business environment. It is happening.
WS: Right its happening. It is becoming absolutely evident. These days the lines between your personal life and your business life are really, really blurred. Especially in the scientific research space.
GT: This change, the nature of the relationship, perhaps a partnership between sales and marketing.
WS: It certainly does. It comes back to that earlier statement that you made Gary, that we need to start selling the things that customers want, rather than the things that we want to sell. Again, that is where marketing has had to change their view on things. It is really starting to come at things more from a customer first perspective, and then positioning our products. In order to realize that they are driving or forging a much stronger tie between the marketing activities and selling activities to ensure that we are addressing customers seamlessly with both our marketing activities and our selling strategies.
GT: It changes so much in so far as it used to be a handoff marketing to sales and that was not really defined as a partnership it was a handoff. Today it is much more iterative. It may be a little bit richer as a result.
WS: In some cases, I would even go as far as to say it is actually now a partnership in many cases within our organization. We see, because of this closer working tie those handoffs are still obviously prevalent, but they are still very much involved in the entire sales cycle and often at the back end come back in again to reiterate and refine again.
GT: Are there some things that you are doing to enhance the ability to partner with marketing?
WS: Yes, a couple of things that we have done are largely driven by the fact that there is this need for more of a consumer approach. We have moved the marketing organization much closer to the commercial organization and we have actually established what we call commercial marketing entities or functions which fall within commercial to address the more tactical type needs from the marketing perspective. Strategic marketing is still kind of on the outside looking at the bigger picture, looking at the kind of portfolio aspects and the strategic direction of the company, but in terms of day to day selling and tactical requirements we have moved marketing much closer to the sales organization and have gone so far that in many cases we are actually out selling together in front of the customer.
GT: Marketing as a term has become a little more itemized. There is the strategic element and that remains, but there is another element that does the partnering with the sales organization. We have seen sales organizations and marketing organizations partnered in the field running after the same goals and metrics.
WS: Absolutely. I think that is a very, very valid point. Alignment of goals and metrics is absolutely essential. We have common goals and historically — historically, that sounds like we have been doing this for years, previously we had goals that at a very high level appeared to align. When you looked at a more granular level in terms of how those goals were then executed this is where you started to see a little bit more of the divergence. Now, moving these teams into the commercial function it has allowed us to really ensure that those goals are really aligned. We are not only singing the same tune, we are actually singing it in tune with one another.
GT: Have you been using analytics as a means to both enhance the partnership and maybe find some things that you had not seen before.
WS: Analytics are something which is an area that we are investing in heavily at the moment within our organization. It is probably something that we are a bit late to the party if I am totally frank. We are doing a lot to try and catch up at this particular point. It is allowing us to be much more — the use of analytics is allowing us to be much more targeted and much more relevant to our customers. What we are actually seeing is success rates are going up as a result. I would not want to say we are doing less, we are actually doing more up-front analytics to understand or ensure that the targets we go off to have a higher probability of success. We can also use their analytics in terms of helping in terms of the sales process and convincing the customer in terms of our solutions that we are providing to them versus maybe some of the other solutions available in the industry.
GT: Kind of like the right message delivered by the right resource to the right customer.
GT: Does this mean, Warren that based on the importance of analytics perhaps the tools associated with that there is an emerging relationship between the top revenue officer and the technology officer?
WS: Certainly, there is. There is a dire need for that. I think like many organizations we came to that realization later than we should have, where the CTO would have been much more involved in supporting functions like finance and the R&D side of things and a to a lesser extent marketing, but for whatever reasons sales was always on outskirts of that. We fell behind in terms of technologies available to the sales organization, the commercial organization from an artificial intelligence perspective. We have worked hard in the last two years or so forging a better understanding between the two organizations in terms of how things have evolved and what are the tools that we need in order to be successful in the commercial environment?
GT: Technology is not all about infrastructure. It is actually about enabling companies to deliver that kind of value we were discussing to the customer.
WS: It is even a culture in terms of how you think about things. Technology is becoming a culture.
GT: There is the other side of the equation, which is after we serve the customer and that is delivering success to the customer. Things are changing on that side of the equation in terms of how sales is now becoming engaged with service organizations. Make sure that we deliver the success that was promised because there is nothing better than a satisfied customer. How is that going on your end?
WS: Very valid points and I think like most industries we see that it is much cheaper for us to retain a customer than to acquire a new customer. It is something that we have been working out for a long time in terms of ensuring this best-in-class customer experience and obviously we analyze this and we run a lot of surveys and metrics, but what we have done is again we have integrated a lot of the pre and post service functions into our commercial organization and bringing them as close as we can to the customer, aligning those metrics as we have done on the commercial marketing side of things, to really ensure that commercial earns all the accountabilities in terms of customer touchpoints, and really driving that single vision around customer satisfaction.
GT: I like the term you used, alignment. Aligning the management structures, the metrics, the goals. It is really management philosophies.
GT: It strikes me Warren that in an environment where information makes the customer king, the executive that is the revenue executive in charge of the customer acquiring and the relationships that ensue from that, kind of an important position. Maybe more critical than it ever has been. Would you agree with that?
WS: I would say that as expectations from a revenue perspective grow and expectations that we are continuing to deliver on financial performance is growing in importance, absolutely. By the same token from a customer viewpoint point-of-view it is growing exponentially. It is no longer satisfactory just to show up, that does not even get you an appointment these days. You really have to be in tune with what changes are out there, what tools are out there, how we create value against a customer-specific paying points. As a result, the importance of the role of the chief sales officer is just growing exponentially.
GT: It almost seems as if the role is so critically important and will if anything, grow in importance that the chief revenue officer is a pretty good platform from which to take on general management responsibilities.
WS: Although I cannot say that that has materialized within our organization yet today, I think one sees this type of shift. I see within our industry that that is a fairly common trend that is starting to emerge in mid-size life science organizations where the person who is ultimately accountable for delivering the revenue goals gets accountability for the other functions. As you were saying earlier, in order to drive this common alignment, most of the functions that touch the customer should fall within that chief revenue officer in any event. It does not leave much outside of the scope of general management. A lot of it is being centered under that chief revenue officer.
GT: November 7th, 8th and 9th at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida join us there for the Rise of the Revenue Leader and the Chief Sales Executive Forum. I hope to see you there. Warren, thanks so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it.
WS: An absolute pleasure. Thanks Gary. I look forward to seeing you in Naples, Florida.