B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment

B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment

 

Building successful go-to-market strategies is all about collaboration, respect, and a culture of betterment. It’s a journey of breaking down silos and embracing the path to profitability, where every team member’s value is celebrated. For today’s episode, we will explore the heart and soul of a thriving go-to-market strategy. Meet our guest, Gianna Scorsone, CEO of Champion, who shares the secrets to successful product marketing, and how collaboration with sales and customer success can be the key to winning in the market. Gianna shares her five pillars of empowerment, shedding light on building a culture of betterment and respect within your team. Her journey from profit-focused startups to multi-million-dollar enterprises gave her plenty of lessons on how to build a thriving go-to-market strategy, and today, she shares it with you. Join us in discovering the insights, mentorship, and leadership that drive business success.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Go-To-Market Success: Pillars Of Empowerment, Mentorship, And The Customer Voice With Gianna Scorsone

In this episode, I have the pleasure of hosting another great and exciting guest. Her name is Gianna Scorsone. She is the COO of Champion. Prior to this, she was the GM Head of North America at a hot and fast-scaling startup Aircall. Welcome to the show, Gianna.

Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Let’s dive right into all this conversation with this topic and question, which the readers love as well as the guests love. How do you view and define go-to-market?

I love how we are starting with a very big, bold, and broad question, but I would have to say go-to-market, at its core or boiling it down, is how an organization or a company shows up in the face of the customer. It’s the convergence between marketing, sales, product, or services depending on what your business line is, as well as customer success. I’d say that customer success in the product has traditionally been left out of that equation when you think of go-to-market, but that’s something services do well in thinking about that post-sale customer interaction.

On the product side, there’s customer success in your traditional way, but we are talking about the go-to-market function and driving revenue from it. It focuses on identifying the market, the IPC, and the need, and how a company will position the value prop and show up for the customer wherever they are in that journey. That’s what I meant by product typically leaving out that customer in that post-sale as it relates to generating more revenue. That’s what everyone’s trying to scramble and figure out now.

We will get into that because you are living this day in and day out at Champion. It always starts with the customer and the problem that you are trying to solve, and how your product is solving that, and then you internally align your product, your marketing, your sales, and your customer success around that problem and persona you are pursuing.

You said it better than I did. You got it.

Let’s backtrack here. Let’s zoom out. Why don’t you share with the readers your career story as to what led you to what you are and who you are serving?

Thank you for that opportunity. It’s fun to be able to reflect and think about that journey and how much changed or grown over the years. I have had twenty-plus years as a go-to-market leader. I started in retail and I am so thankful that I got my start there. That is the foundation of who I am as a leader. I’d love to share a little bit more about that. I worked in a very high-volume store. What that meant was that I had anywhere up to 40 staff members working who were not on commission, and I had to learn how to communicate a common goal and how to tap into intrinsically motivating them to want to contribute to that big picture even though they weren’t compensated for it.

Retail has done an amazing job for decades in communicating the right metrics at the right time to inform the employees and the leadership how they need to move forward to beat targets, and at the same time, how you manage running that store, managing all of the customers, and giving that optimal customer experience in a way that feels very personalized but at scale because of the high volume. That was the precipice to understanding the inner workings but doing it live that translates to B2B sales.

Is this a time at Express or somewhere else?

It sure was. That was my time at Express. I got to give them a lot of kudos. Robin Summas was my regional manager and she was powerful in helping me understand what business meant. Likewise, I had a district manager, Liz Hughes, who was a coach and taught me how to coach a team to empowerment and success. That translates so strongly into the B2B tech world. From Express, I went to tech services. I worked for a company called Bluewolf. They were the first and premier partner of Salesforce and developed that blueprint of what partnerships meant within the ecosystem.

It was incredible to learn how to focus on the power of network and how to utilize your customers to be your catalyst to growth and success. We spun off from there. Another tech services firm was Mondo. I helped scale that business as an executive from $0 to $100 million and helped both Bluewolf and Mondo go-to-market. We sold respectively to IBM and the Addison Group. I then hopped over to Aircall moving on the product side for the first time.

B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment
Pillars Of Empowerment: Focus on the power of network, in how to utilize your customers to be your catalyst to growth and success.

 

You did mention Bluewolf in the services industry around Salesforce implementation.

Salesforce implementation and customization, and then it brought into the full ecosystem HubSpot partnership and Marketo. We were early and fast movers around this idea of building a best-in-class tech stack within the SaaS arena.

Mondo, was it your first entry into tech products?

Mondo was also in services. That was tech and digital marketing staffing, which was a natural result of Bluewolf. They were sister companies for a long time, but we had superfluous infrastructure. To propel growth on both sides, we decided to split both companies, but first in the product was Aircall.

In between, you had a little stunt Women for Biden. That’s pretty interesting.

I felt like I needed to contribute to society. Tech has done me very well in the world. I feel very fortunate about what it has afforded me. I felt like I was able to take some time off. I wanted to give back to the community and to my beliefs in impacting society. I helped run the digital campaign, which was a grassroots effort.

A lot of powerful women from tech and media came together. We formed a group called Women for Biden. My role was part of this strategic group to help operationalize and help activate the hand raisers. I created a blueprint and all of the training to get all of these wonderful women across America, who wanted to contribute to this cause. We enabled them to become advocates and gain more votership. It was a cool experience.

I can see that excitement on your face. After that, you got a break into the tech world Aircall. How did you get that break? Your career journey until that point was in the services world.

It was services, but it was tech services. What I did within Mondo was build our best-in-class tech stack. I was using products all of the time. I ran RevOps. It’s this philosophy of how you use tools, how a user uses them, and what they need to gain from it. From there, honestly, services and products, it’s not that different.

I was able to grow the territory 2.5X or 3X in the year and a half that I was there in partnership with Jeff, my Cofounder of Champion. We were wildly successful. For my Bluewolf days, there was also a strong partnership play, and that was something that I brought to Aircall. That was our fastest-growing growth channel as well. We had a great team leading that front, but I had lived and breathed that ideology for a long time and was able to strengthen and gain more focus and budget around those efforts as well.

Talk to us about Champion. Why did you do that? You were one of the cofounders along with Jeff and your CTO. Tell us about what prompted the three of you to start this.

What prompted me to start with Jeff was I love Jeff as a human being and he’s amazing. Let’s say that. We have partnered with a third Cofounder, Courtney Crispin, who’s the CTO. She is the one who’s powering our ability to bring this to the market, which is exciting. She comes from the Salesforce world and has brought an engineering team that is just true geniuses. They come from the Einstein team and marketing cloud. It’s amazing to see that level of talent at such an early-stage company building that AI moat that’s going to power Champion.

Why we built it? Jeff and I are great partners at Aircall. He was the Global CMO. I ran North America’s go-to-market. What had traditionally worked in our demand gen funnel and our sales funnel was that mix between outbound and inbound, that traditional funnel, but we had this amazing customer base. There was always that thought that we should be doing more with our customers.

As I mentioned, I come from the services world where everything was about your network and harboring your customers to do more with them. That didn’t exist in the product world as much. Marketing traditionally does such an amazing job of focusing on pre-sales of generating leads and demand gen. The focus started to shift a few years ago into customer marketing and how customer marketing can impact revenue channels, but there was still that question mark of how. Honestly, it was a little bit fluffy because it’s so complex and there weren’t great tools to help facilitate that.

We are the first platform to focus on post-sale marketing programs to generate profitable growth through your customer base. As everyone’s talking about efficient growth, the huge part of that equation is driving more revenue and retention within your customer base, and now this is an easy way to execute regular repeatable programs to drive consistency and fill that gap where outbounds are not as effective anymore.

We are hearing from a lot of our customers that traditional demand gen efforts aren’t working the way that they used to, and they need to fill that data with a new revenue source. That’s your customers. I’m passionate about this because it’s a no-brainer. Everyone has talked about it for years and it’s known that it’s cheaper to sell within your customer base. It’s more efficient to do so. It’s easier to do so, and yet that focus hasn’t been there because we have all been hyper-focused in the SaaS world on net new. Now, the market is primed. That shift has come of the understanding that retention is what North Star metric expansion is and generating more hot leads that will convert faster to continue to prime net new as well.

At the surface level, I completely agree and align with what you guys are doing with Champion. I have two questions. I’m curious about how you went about validating the problem and the market size of this. That’s one. The related question is, there’s been this growing movement around customer marketing. There are tech startups that have been funded and raised a good amount of VC money in customer marketing. Let’s start with the first one. How did it go about validating the problem in the space?

How you go about validating the problem is by talking to as many people or your buyer as humanly possible. At this point, I want to say we have spoken to at least 1,000 leaders, and that’s not an exaggeration. That’s where it starts. Also, I or Jeff was this person. We are operators who have both respectively have scaled multiple organizations to the $100 million to $250 million mark, and we experienced these challenges firsthand.

The second related question was whether this falls in the AI domain of customer marketing. There’s been a growing movement in customer marketing. In your interviews with the prospective buyers, how are you focusing on that gap that customer marketing tech companies are not addressing?

That differentiator is we follow the whole customer journey. That’s vastly important because a lot of tech consolidation is also happening now. Part of why there’s a lot of tech consolidation aside from cost is that there’s confusion and complexity to getting all of these data points from all of these disparate tools impacting that one main initiative, which is how we continue to drive revenue and understand the stickiness of our customers.

When you have data all over the place for multiple teams or even the same team, it becomes complex to utilize them in a meaningful way. Where we are coming with our approach and philosophy is that we need to break down silos and understand that the byproduct of what customer marketing is doing impacts the sales team and the customer success team.

B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment
Pillars Of Empowerment: When you have data all over the place for multiple teams or even the same team, it becomes really complex to utilize them in a meaningful way.

 

We view ourselves as this control center. I didn’t coin that. The head of customer marketing at Slack had said that, and I was like, “You nailed it, Bridget. That’s exactly what it is.” We are this control center for customer marketing to be able to do these plays that are going to impact sales like reference programs and referral programs. First of all, identify who the champions are. That’s where it all starts. That’s through our AI moat.

You get them activated and then you put them into these plays that are going to generate revenue, so references and referrals that will help sales. It’s looking at the user-level aggregate to help power customer success because their tools don’t have user-level visibility. We do. Also, it’s looking at job changes. We track job changes because that’s part of the life cycle of the customer journey. They are going to move on.

That’s your champion. You don’t want to lose them and you don’t need to lose them. Bring them back through the new company that they are with, and at the same time, start getting new champions within that logo that they left. That’s where we have differed from those customer marketing orgs that are out there, as you mentioned.

It’s up to your comfort level and space. Do you mind sharing where you are in terms of business growth, number of customers, funds raised, and revenue?

We are excited. We started our company in April 2023 and we launched our beta in early August 2023. We are very excited about what we brought about, and we have got our first cohort of clients, which is around ten, I believe. Now, we are securing our second cohort of customers. For all of the product people reading, you will be very happy to know all of the engineers out there.

We are doing a great job, Jeff and myself, curating the right list of customers who narrowly fit into the vision of our product. They are early adopters. They are helping us influence our continued roadmap. As you asked, how are we validating this? We are going to continue to validate by getting the right customers on board. We also don’t want to distract our engineering team. We are focused and we have a very acute understanding of the problem that we solve, and we want to make sure that we keep them hyper-focused without taking these peripheral or fringe deals out there.

Did I hear this right that you said you founded the company or you raised the seed down in April 2023 and the first beta went out in August?

We are a studio brand out of High Alpha, and so we had some initial funding from them and we are raising our seed round now.

The reason why I want to highlight that is it is pretty impressive in a short timeframe like April to August and having data customers. That’s very impressive.

They are enterprise-level as well, which is also part of our strategy. We are an enterprise platform. We wanted to go about the market in a way that was sustainable for us and where we wanted to go from the start. It’s incredible that our engineering team produced something powerful enough so that enterprise clients feel comfortable using a beta and are believing in this vision to grow the product with us.

My guess and hypothesis is it’s not that you started doing the market research and lining up the betas in April. That groundwork must have been done way before.

Jeff started in January 2023 doing a lot of this groundwork of talking to very many people. I came on board a little bit afterward, and that was my initiative in the first couple of months that I joined. We formally formed the company in April of 2023. You are right that there were a lot of months of legwork before then. Jeff and I are very successful operators who experience this problem. It’s years of culminating many conversations with people within our networks and peers as we were learning to do and excel in our jobs. This is something that peer-to-peer we have heard for very many years.

January is when Jeff and you guys must have incorporated Champion. In April, you were accepted in the studio, and then August is when you lined up.

January with the studio and April incorporated, but January to April was all about market research.

The reason why I’m asking is there are quite a few aspiring founders of this show, so this is good advice to them as to how to pursue the validation piece.

If anyone reading wants to ask more direct questions, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. We are happy to have conversations with new founders as well.

Thank you for sharing the tactical piece as to how you guys founded, incorporated, and went to market for Champion. Switching gears a bit over here, you had a very storied and long career when it comes to go-to-market and go-to-market failures. You have seen enough of those, so why don’t you share it with us? It’s up to you if you want to start with a failure or a success, but we love to know both success and failure stories. It can be from Mondo or Aircall.

This is a silly example but it sticks with me because part of my experience and part of what I have done is build sales training. I have enabled thousands of reps over the years to have best-in-class practices. It’s so strange to now be back in the sales arena on the floor doing the sales myself. I feel like I’m rewinding to the beginnings of my career. You would think that I have all of the best practices down the path and that I’m holding myself accountable to all of them. My founder’s life was slammed, having to change hats from investor call to board call, to new client call, to internal meeting, and to writing content for the website, and I had a meeting. Honestly, I simply didn’t prepare for the meeting.

I realized, halfway in when they brought it up to me that we knew someone in common. Their boss was someone that I had previously worked with. Had I brought that up or had I used that network opportunity, it would have driven my credibility way up and it would have made for a much warmer conversation in the beginning. On top of that, it showed that I didn’t do my homework. If you are not putting the effort in for your customer or for your prospect ahead of time, why on earth would they think that you’d put the effort in for them afterward? It’s treating them transactionally.

B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment
Pillars Of Empowerment: If you’re not putting the effort in for your customer or for your prospect ahead of time, why on Earth would they think that you’d put the effort in for them afterward?

 

It’s treating them like a number as opposed to an individual with real needs, real pain, and a real story. It was embarrassing, quite frankly. I was embarrassed with myself and I have not made that mistake again. It’s about that balance and making sure that I’m maximizing every opportunity because, at this stage of the game, you have to and, at any stage, it’s the right thing to do. That’s how you build a thoughtful organization.

I can see why it led to an embarrassing moment, but I’m assuming it wouldn’t have been that expensive failure or that the cost was not that bad an option. Is that fair?

It wasn’t that bad. That’s fair.

Let’s switch gears. Go-to-market success story from your time at Aircall.

We worked very prominently in our partnership strategy. That was part of our major growth strategy for North America. We put a lot of focus and attention and had a world-class team running the efforts. We wanted to build something very thoughtful and we had a very strong integration with HubSpot. We knew that creating that opportunity and stickiness for our common customers or using that as the right demand gen channel of people who use HubSpot, and then use Aircall would be stickier.

It was how we continue to gain that market share, how we dominate within their marketplace, and how we get their attention so that HubSpot is seeing the value that Aircall brings to the table with them in that better-together story. Louis Dumortier ran the efforts and still does on the HubSpot relationship and the whole strategy.

He did an incredible job of that multi-pronged approach of thinking about rep to wrap, on how we are enabling an easier time for our sales reps to get to know their reps to get those leads. From an executive level, I was having regular monthly calls with their executive teams to get that buy-in as well and understand what some of the pain points were from their perspective.

We then had the whole ecosystem play within that as well. It was a multi-pronged approach. We got word that they were going to come out with this best-in-class tech stock report. They said to one of their executives, “I’m going to make it irresponsible for you guys not to put us on that list.” She was like, “We will see.” Unfortunately, it happened after my time at Aircall, but efforts were so there that they did name us their best-in-class tech stack. Must have, I believe, is how they named it. Also, that easy go-to-market strategy. As we mentioned before, it’s not just marketing and sales, but it’s partnerships and how you position to gain more market share.

B2B 59 | Pillars Of Empowerment
Pillars Of Empowerment: A go-to-market strategy is not just marketing and sales, but it’s really partnerships and how you position to gain more market share.

 

Leaning on your partners and partner ecosystem is a big lever in the go-to-market strategy. A lead-up question to that is what are 1 or 2 areas within go-to-market that people lean on you for? Maybe it’s sales, go-to-market, sales enablement, SDR, or BDR.

My passion and what I bring to the table is helping to empower emerging leaders to develop their ability to lead in a very meaningful way. It’s this cross between creating a feedback-first culture of betterment paired with arming emerging leaders to drive more success and helping them grow. These two things married together create this community of drivers and a community where every level of your players or teammates realizes the value that they drive to the overall big picture. This is what I do well. How this translates now is I mentor a heck of a lot of people that I have managed or have been in my teams throughout the years.

How do you do that? It’s not that you are doing something. It comes automatically and naturally for you.

It’s a playbook. It does come naturally to me, but you have to systematize it. When you are stressed out, it’s easy to lose sight of what works well. It’s like any process. I will share with you my five pillars, but there’s so much more to this. The five pillars of empowerment are this, and this is to the individual player. One, make their financial standings, like their salary, make it a non-issue. Make sure they are being paid market value. It doesn’t have to be top of market value, but there shouldn’t be a question of, “Am I being taken advantage of?” Pay them fairly, number one.

You have to systematize playbooks because it's really easy to lose sight of what works really well. Click To Tweet

Number two is to help break silos and help them see and respect the people around them. They have to feel like they respect the other teams and the people around them. That’s holding other teams accountable, that’s holding each person accountable, and that’s holding themselves accountable, but it’s also to break silos and drive mutual respect.

Next is to make sure they feel valued. How are you communicating to them that you see that they contribute to the big picture? That is constant every day that needs to happen. Number four is they have to feel they are doing valuable work. One is that, “I have to make them feel valued,” and the other is they have to feel that they are doing valuable work. They have to be stimulated in what they are doing. That also means making sure that they are in the right role and doing work that contributes to the big picture.

Number five, learning and growing. That’s the most important one. The minute people feel like they are not learning and growing anymore, this generational workforce, the Gen Zs, will move or they will leave. They love to learn and grow, and that’s what I love about them. There needs to be a feedback-first culture. They need to get constant feedback and how they can improve because then they feel like, “My time here is worth it.” I mentioned the five, but outside of the salary, if you have the other four, the salary becomes even less important. It has to be paid fairly. Where it starts is these five pillars, and then thinking about how you build programs, how you build communication, and how you build feedback to fill these five pillars.

This is great advice for people who are managing, mentoring, and growing. Thank you for sharing that.

You heard it here first.

That’s your expert and secret sauce. Switching gears once again. You did work on so many of the go-to-market teams. You led so many of the go-to-market teams. I’m 100% sure that you worked with product marketing functions in all of these in your various domains. What are the top 1, 2, or 3 things that you saw product marketing do very well that helped in your go-to-market?

The number one thing is to work with sales and work with customer success. The customer voice should power product marketing. How you get to that customer’s voice is sure products and different tools, but make sales and customer success feel a part of the product marketing function, building that roadmap, and being that voice for the customers.

The customer voice should really power product marketing. Click To Tweet

What I’m hearing if I had to articulate it is to work very closely with and involve folks from sales and customer success in the initiatives. Be it a product launch, be it building new product content, or even driving product adoption in various segments.

I love how you have broken it down into the different ways that product marketing needs to focus on different areas within that lifecycle as well. That’s exactly right.

Coming to the last couple of questions here, if you were to go back in time, who are the influencers, mentors, coaches, or managers that played a big role in your career?

I love this moment. There have been so many at different points. What’s so beautiful about this idea of a mentor is that they can come and go, and you will have different people influence you at different times, that readiness. The universe magically finds you those right people within your scope and space for what you need at that moment in time.

What's so beautiful about this idea of mentors is they can come and go and you'll have different people influence you at different times. Click To Tweet

I mentioned Robin Summas and Liz Hughes. Those were my early days at Express. They certainly impacted my ability to understand how to drive a machine in a very inspiring and motivating way. From there, I would say Bluewolf and Mondo days, Mike Kirven and Eric Berridge were the CEOs, two cofounders. Mike Kirven instilled in me the path to profitability.

He made us do things cheap because he was cheap. I loved the man to death. We built a $100 million business with 14% EBITDA, and it forced us to be extremely creative and understand how to create the right operational efficiencies to drive profitability. It made me think outside of the box, and it made me think about how to best support and enable the path to productivity for all sales reps in marketing. That was a valuable lesson and helped fuel my know-how in Champion.

Eric Berridge brought to the table to dream big and have great vision, see the opportunity, and not be afraid to be that market breaker who’s going to bring something influential, and that’s what we did at Bluewolf. We created that blueprint of what it meant to be a partnership ecosystem company. No other company and no big consultant firm did what Bluewolf did. That was Eric Berridge, Corinne Sklar, and Jolene Chan. They were truly amazing to learn from them. Also, Jeff Reekers, my Cofounder. He heavily influenced and it’s why I’m here now as well. I would like to believe he’d say the same about me. We complement each other well and we have had this approach of let’s play on each other’s strengths. We complement each other so well because of that.

Kudos to you for recognizing and calling out all those folks who played a big role in shaping your career.

There were so many.

That’s why I don’t like asking these questions. It puts you on the spot.

It’s a limit. We have to limit it so that we don’t bore people. During my time at Aircall, my entire team, the North America team, and also the people who were not traditionally in my org, we treated North America as one whole. The marketing team of North America and the sales ops team enablement support, we created this environment where we broke down silos and drove and respected each other. We all looked at what is the one goal we want North America to dominate and how we are going to get there together.

We did these workshops. Madelyn DePrey, who’s now VP of Customer Success at Aircall, led a workshop on the customer journey and looked at the experience through their lens at each stage of the customer journey. We grouped the entire North American team into that, and then we ideated and solved pain points and problems we saw along the way to improve our performance and therefore our results.

Everyone in North America at Aircall heavily influenced my growth as a leader because I was able to become that leader I’d always wanted to be and create a culture of betterment but of respect where everyone wanted the team to win, not just self. That was one of the most inspiring moments of my career. I thank them.

The list goes on and on. Something that caught my attention and this is big on my mind nowadays is how you build that financial muscle, the discipline around profitability. I don’t know if that person or the leader was from Bluewolf or Mondo, but you did mention building a discipline around thinking out of the box and around the metrics. Walk us through that playbook. Are there any rituals that you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Maybe you work with the head of finance.

We work with the head of finance. I like having budgets upfront like, “Let’s do some quick dirty modeling. What’s our budget? What are we trying to achieve?” Let’s go bottom up and build to how we get there. If you do that, it’s quite simple. If you don’t hit your revenue targets, then the next quarter, you have to decrease the cost and figure out a way to get there. In a services firm, that’s a little bit easier.

From the product perspective, it’s acutely looking at it. We have got our metrics LTV to CAC. It shows thinking about, especially at our stage, even all those little extra costs like booking travel. Do it smartly so that you have that extra little wiggle room. Don’t spend superfluously. Every dollar adds up. It is being that scrutinous, but it is looking at and making sure that you have got the right metrics in place and it’s holding yourself to that standard. From the product perspective, what everyone is trying to do within SaaS now is readdressing what those expectations are. Resetting those benchmarks of what the ROI should be.

How often would you look at these numbers, the budget, as well as the spending and the pipeline?

I am looking at them monthly. You can’t go too crazy, and that’s what you need your finance team for. You don’t want to get too nuts. You also do need to invest to see a return as well. It’s having some trust also in what you are doing so that you don’t go too off course. Invest in events that are the right go-to-market strategy for you, or if demand gen isn’t working traditional outbound, what is working and how can you lean into that? That’s a little bit of how you can think about it. If your revenue figures aren’t there, then figure out what is working and lean into that. That’s a way to get to profitability in a more manageable way.

People can go crazy and look at a daily oracle. Weekly, I have seen people do that, but what you are recommending is monthly.

Finance is looking at it weekly.

The final question for you is, if you were to turn back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self on day one of your go-to-market journey?

I would say trust yourself. You got this. A wonderful career is ahead of you. Take the opportunities. Know that you belong. Trust that every decision you make is going to lead to a path forward. Continue to take risks and adjust along the way. To be honest with you, I love my career. I’m so proud of myself. I don’t know that I want to change anything. Could I have done better? Sure, but maybe not at the same time. I’m incredibly grateful. To my former self, I would say trust yourself and enjoy the journey along the way.

Trust yourself. You've got this. A wonderful career is ahead of you. Take the opportunities and know that you belong. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for sharing those insights and the journey. Good luck to you and the team at Champion.

Thank you so very much.

 

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B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies

 

How can you bring your cutting-edge products to a larger market, far beyond the walls of your own industry? Cross the chasm that separates us from the marketplace in today’s episode! Helping you navigate is the legend in the go-to-market world, Geoffrey Moore. He is an American organizational theorist, management consultant, and author of Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. Geoffrey shares the guide to navigate across the chasm of technologies with a game plan for marketing in high-tech industries. He provides insights into a great framework called ‘Target Market Initiatives’ and how it provides the avenue to overcome the challenges in a high-tech industry. Grab onto your seats as Geoffrey takes us across the chasm of technologies and towards a thriving business.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Cross The Chasm Of Technologies: A Game Plan For Marketing In High-Tech Industries With Geoffrey Moore

In this episode, I have the honor and pleasure of hosting and talking to a legend in the go-to-market world, Mr. Geoffrey Moore. I’m sure we don’t need any further introduction. He’s a legend. With that, I’ll welcome him, and we’ll get into the conversation. Geoffrey, thank you so much and welcome.

Thank you for having me with your show. I appreciate it.

I’ll just start my show with this question. How do you view and define go-to-market?

It’s interesting because, like many of the people who read this episode, I work with companies on their go-to-market motions all the time. We all say, “We have an offer at one end. We have a customer on the other end. We want to connect the two of them.” The thing that I see most frequently is most companies tend to think of that from the product to the customer.

Particularly, outsiders can help them do, “No, do it backward,” like from the customer back to the product. Instead of thinking of the customer journey, how do I get this prospect through my funnel? Think about it the other way, which is to say, “How do I take this problem off my customers’ plate? How do I enable this opportunity for them?” It’s the same journey, but you’re looking at it through a different lens.

That’s a fantastic articulation there. That’s what I keep hearing from the founders who have been successful and building the startup as the go-to-market leaders I’ve had on this show. Some of them focus on the product, but they always eventually rotate to who we are solving this problem for and what the problem is in the first place, then tied back to the product, the solution, and aligning the teams internally. Be it product, marketing, revenue, and sales.

The reason why people don’t do it is that it’s not like we’re the two greatest people on the planet, but it’s harder to organize. In other words, it’s much easier to create one playbook starting with the product and send it in many different directions and to say, “I’m going to have many playbooks depending on the target customer and the target customer’s problem.” I have to start at the end and then work back to the center. That’s less efficient, but it’s much more effective.

I’m working with a client around building their product market and go-to-market function. The chief product officer comes back and says, “Do we need to invest in customer insights and customer conversation?” I said, “Yes, of course.” We need to invest in a customer insight program. It’s not like I can talk to someone in sales and get the brains and minds of the customer.

The salesperson wants a good playbook, but at the end of the day, they also want to make the club. They want to maximize their commissions. Being efficient is important to them. They will be as efficient as they can get away with, but the problem with that is as they become more efficient, the channel itself becomes less effective. From the point of view of the enterprise, any dollar spent is getting closer to the customer’s real issues and getting close to the real product market fit as opposed to the alleged product market fit. That’s a dollar very well spent because you’re going to save a lot in wasted effort. It’s coming from there.

That’s what I keep telling her and the team. You have to slow down to accelerate. People get into this mindset of, “I need to hustle.” It’s important to get products or campaigns out with hustle output focus versus, “Let’s slow down and see if we are solving the right problem in the first place.”

Getting a campaign out is like firing a gun as fast as you can. You might hit something, but it’s usually better to aim.

We can go on and on in this one topic alone, but let’s zoom out a bit. Please share with our audience your career journey. What took you down this path in the first place?

My career journey is not typical since I have a PhD in Medieval English Literature, which I don’t think is a normal requirement for a marketing professional. In any way, in my early 30s, we came back to California, and there were no jobs in academia, so I joined a software firm. I initially worked in sales. It turned what I learned in sales was I was good at opening and not as good at closing. That’s not a good quality for a salesperson, but it turns out to be a very good quality for the marketing person.

I ended up at a marketing consultancy called Regis McKenna Inc. Back in the ‘80s, it was iconic at that time. Regis did invent high-tech marketing for all intents and purposes. I was there for a few years, and that’s why I wrote the book, Crossing the Chasm, because it was a petri dish. Every tech company that matters to anybody, sooner or later, came through those doors. That was wonderful. Pattern recognition works if you see enough instances. The problem that most professionals have is in your career, you might only work at 3 or 4 or 5 companies. It’s not enough instances.

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers

Even if you’re a professor at Stanford or Harvard, still you’re doing research on how many companies. It’s not the same as being on the battlefield day in and day out with company after company. The book led me to start my own firm. There were three firms that were created in the process as we went along. The last two things I’ll say about the arc in my career is in the ‘90s, it was very venture-focused. I became a venture partner at the end of the ‘90s, but it’s startup-oriented. How does a startup make this thing work?

Once the tech bubble imploded and we had the dot-bomb, then I spent much more time with established public enterprises. That work only culminated in the last business book I’ve written. Crossing the Chasm is the two that matter the most called Zone to Win, which is how you make that same disruptive journey if you’re the public play-held company, you don’t have venture capital backing, and you need the core business to fund the new business. There’s a bunch of challenges there. My card says Author, Speaker, and Advisor. That pretty much describes what I do.

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies
Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption

I want us to go back in time, especially when you mentioned that you started your career in sales and then figured out that you’re good at opening but not closing. What was that a-ha moment? You did mention that, but what is that experience of a-ha moment that led you to do that?

When you don’t make quota, that’s a signal from the universe. To be fair, it’s always been easy for me to sell myself and my services. When I was representing a product, I knew the product was not quite exactly what the customer needed. I struggled with that a lot. You need at some point to suck it up, and I did, but I wasn’t any good at it. Remember, this is the ‘80s. In the ‘80s, sales were still a Glengarry Glen Ross stuff.

The olden days of car salesman.

It was the sales profession that you think, “I’m not sure I want to do this.” The salesperson now, by contrast, is an incredibly exciting career.

The point you mentioned, Geoffrey, about you not feeling good about the product where you’re working as a salesperson reminds me of some of the concepts of the top-tier salespeople. First and foremost, they’ll have their rituals and the discipline to get through whatever they need to do to build our bond and build a pipeline. The first and foremost is, do they believe in the product or service they are selling?

One of the things that helped me was this concept of the whole product because I didn’t learn that until I got into Regis. No product is going to solve 100% of the problem. Not if it’s a complicated problem. I was doing more B2B complex sales things. Therefore, it’s always a combination of orchestrating resources. The product is a critical resource. The customer turns out to be a resource. You have to help the customer bring their best talent to the table, then there are partners, and there are your own professional services.

No product will solve 100% of the problem, not if it's a complicated problem. Click To Tweet

Nowadays, there’s customer success. There’s all these resources to orchestrate. The subscription economy and a service economy, which is easier to opt out of than the old on-prem license and maintenance, has put vendors more on notice, “If you’re not going to deliver the value, you churn out of your business.” It’s good forces that are creating better practices.

That point in time in your career led you to figure, “Sales is not my thing,” and you move into the marketing side of the house, but then something happened where you’re not just doing pure marketing. Something led you to do research and write a book.

First of all, because I was an English Major and English Professor, I loved to write. They’ll find me dead at some point with a pen in my hand. The writing was there. It’s funny because people say, “How did you do the researcher for your book?” I never ever did research, but what happens when you are consulting? Remember, Regis was consulting primarily on positioning problems. “How could we help us position our company?”

When a big company comes in and gives you that assignment, they’re going to pay you a bunch of money. First of all, they take every study they’ve ever done with McKenzie or Bain or BCG, and they give you all their research right there. It’s like, “I’ll read it.” Basically, I was gifted with probably tens of millions of dollars of research for free because that was the first step of onboarding.

The next thing is all the research is great. Norbert McKenzie’s stuff is great. Somebody once said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” What’s wonderful about when you’re doing this consulting is you get right down in the trenches, and you start seeing what our customers are saying, what our competitors are doing, and what the press is saying about your client. You realize, “That wasn’t what I thought was going to happen.” Interactive learning is valuable.

Maybe it’s possible because of what you started observing, you started writing, and that translated to original research or research material.

The classification was an original. By the way, it’s written in 1990. It’s still actively imprinted now. I’ve had to update it twice with examples. The content has never changed. The examples of change are pretty dramatic. What happened there was Regis had a playbook for PR, but we were being asked to do more strategic marketing.

What I mean by strategic marketing is this. The definition I would use there is marketing as a territory capture game, meaning, where can you stake out a market segment and become the market leader in that segment because markets are organized around leaders? You get all the ecosystem support you need to become a powerful and profitable company.

The leader gets the lion’s share of support and everybody else gets as much as they can get. If you can become a category leader like Apple or Tesla, way to go. Even if you can’t, if you just become a segment leader, you could at least get enough. It became a power discipline. It turned out that there wasn’t a playbook at Regis. There was a lot of tribal knowledge that was in people’s heads.

Regis took some investment money from a company. They said, “We like your practice manuals.” We don’t have a practice manual. I thought, “I’ll write something down,” and I did. I shared it with the partners, but the partners said, “We came here to work for Regis. Not for you.” I said, “No, this is you.” “This is me?” That’s what I did. That’s why I said, moving on, “I’ll take the book and run with it.”

That’s a great transition. I’m always curious, and I’ve heard this from my readers as well. It’s about what are those moments in life that led to that big inflection point of a-ha. Thank you for sharing that story and journey. Translating and coming back to what you do now, we all know what you do, but are you still in active practice advising the board and the CXOs?

I now spend a lot of time with CEOs. People say, “How do you know so many CEOs?” The answer is I haven’t died. We were all in the same cohort. They were product managers. They’ve got promoted, and I’ve followed along. As the demographic of my peers aged and the seniority age, my practice migrated. What I would have called a marketing practice in the ‘90s became a strategy practice in the early part of this century.

In the last couple of years, it’s almost an organizational development practice now because it’s like how you organize a global enterprise to aggressively pursue your current core business even when it’s under attack. Maybe even aging away, at the same time, get your bets in on the next wave of technology. When you’re a publicly held company, that’s a bear of a problem, lifetime employment. The other thing that happened when COVID came was we all started using this medium of Zoom. As a result, you used to say, “I could work with one client a day.” Maybe two, if I was lucky, but not normally. Now, it’s like, “10:00 or 12:00? 12:00 or 2:00?” It’s been much easier.

Your latest book, The Infinite Staircase, doesn’t have much to do with what you’ve done before.

The Infinite Staircase is me going back to my roots and saying, “What does it have in common?” Like every book I’ve ever written, it’s a framework book, but instead of saying, “What’s the framework for selling high-tech products?” this is the framework for understanding the universe and your place in it, which is a slightly larger market. It’s a larger topic. It’s not a smaller market. That book probably has the least readers of any book I’ve ever written, but I’m passionate about it. I love writing, and I care a ton about the topic.

The way I think about this, Geoffrey, is it’s a go-to-market for you as a person.

It’s a legacy book, too. We have grandchildren. It’s like, “Before you leave the planet, did you learn anything? If you did learn something, will you write it down, please, before you leave?” That was the objective.

For me, I would read it and study the Bhagavad-Gita because of life lessons. That’s my go-to-market book for life. That’s what it is.

I was trying to write my own little private notes to market book for life.

Let’s shift gears. You’ve worked at so many companies across the decades. You see the failures and successes of large companies and startups. You’re an active part of the investing community. If you can share with the readers a go-to-market success story and a go-to-market failure story.

What I’m going to do is primarily from the startup world because, first of all, they’re a little bit crisper and clearer. Second of all, large public companies can sometimes get cranky with you if you talk about them behind their backyard. This is from the days with the Wildcat portfolio or the two places. For example, now I’m on the board of a company called WorkFusion.

When they first invested in it, it was human-in-the-loop AI. This is well before generative AI and ChatGPT. The idea was that AI could learn to do complex human activities and supplement human professionals. We did it. We did a project with Disney and one of the pharmaceutical companies. We had interesting stuff, one with a big bank, but it was pre-chasm.

When I became involved with them, it was, “We have to become good at one thing and become that target market segment leader,” because we were spending a bunch of money but we weren’t gaining power. The choice was to work on the regulatory challenges of banks, particularly with respect to anti-money laundering, fraud, and the whole bunch of that dark stuff in the background, which has historically been in adverse media, people only.

We started the crossing the chasm problem, but the team and the sales force were not a natural acronym. We had to go through a significant replacement of leadership almost across the board, but the new team that came in did a wonderful thing. They said, “We’re going to call our products digital workers.” It says we have an artificial intelligence product that works on this problem. You’re going to meet Alex, Isaac, or Elena. Elena presents herself as if she is applying for the job of money laundering or fraud.

At that time, we started going after the HR budget as opposed to the IT budget. They started realizing, “We can’t ask the IT person. This thing’s got to be enabled in the cloud.” Anyway, they use that whole metaphor. As a result, first of all, it’s very easy for the customer to talk about it. Second of all, the customer can start saying, “My colleague Isaac.” They’re getting into it. Whereas before, it was like, “It’s artificial intelligence.” “I don’t know. Is that the terminator?” It had all the wrong distractions. I thought that was an interesting one to do. What’s happened is there’s a company that’s getting traction with the biggest banks in the world because they all have the problem.

They all need to use artificial intelligence to solve this problem eventually. These people are showing up saying, “That’s what we do.” They are guaranteed at that. Do they hit it out of the park? Most of the time, they do, but that’s not guaranteed. What is guaranteed with that go-to-market is you will get at that because you’ve now worked backward from the customer. Not forward from your technology, which is what they were doing before. They were going forward from their technology, saying, “We have a magic wand. What’s your problem?” instead of saying, “How are you handling these challenges in the security fraud area or the funding fraud?” You go, “Let me tell you about what we bring to the table.” That was a success.

Before we get into the failure story, I want to double-click on the story here about WorkFusion. There are two things that I took away from that. One is they changed the ICP. With an ideal customer profile, you have a persona, and they moved from it to the HR budget.

That’s correct. Their economic buyer ended up being the compliance officer who ultimately reports to the audit committee eventually. Instead of going to the IT, people are saying, “We have incredible technology.” They went to the compliance officer, saying, “We have incredibly efficient, essentially artificial people.” It did digital workers.

From your experience, what led to that translation or movement?

What leads to it is, at least in my experience, experiencing what it’s like to be in the chasm. What is it like to be in the chasm? In the chasm, you have cool technology, and people acknowledge that. The group will say you have good technology, and you have customers. The problem is you have no power. This means every customer you have in a different use case and a different industry.

It’s like trying to win the primary with two votes in Connecticut, one in New Jersey, and one in New York. We’re trying to become speaker of the house if you want to try that if you’re a Republican. The point is, what you want to do is to get 4, 5, 6, or 7 customers in the same use case and the same segment. By the way, it’s a use case that they have not had success with before. Now, you do change the game.

They’ve never heard you. It’s like Obama. When Obama gave that speech at the Democratic convention years before, he was nominated. Nobody ever heard about him, but then, all of a sudden, “Who’s this? I don’t know. He’s pretty good.” When you don’t have it, what happens is your sales cycles take forever to close and you don’t get inbound calls. For every deal you get, you had to do outbound to get it. On the other hand, when you do get across the chasm, you do get inbound calls, and the ecosystem does start to organize around you.

That’s what people refer to us as product market fit. You get the pull versus constantly pushing.

The market is not just the end-user customer. Not even just that customer and their economic buyer sponsor. It’s the ecosystem because it’s the partners who also make a living by filling out the rest of the whole problem.

It looks like your work on the team that you guided and advised was around, “Who are those segments of buyers whom we haven’t explored?” and, “Where we’re not getting enough traction. What should we revisit?”

We know that there was a use case in banking, but it was one of many. The problem with making it one of many is that when you go to the R&D people, there’s this list of feature requests to serve this use case and to serve that use case in terms of the other. Once the new team came in and started with the CEO, Adam Famularo, a wonderful Head of Marketing and Head of R&D, like world-class leaders, what they did was they said, “Tighten the aperture.” I was advocating for that on the board, but they did not do it. I’m just an author, speaker, and advisor. It didn’t say doer. You might say gag fly, but you didn’t say, “He’s going to do it for us.” They did it and did a magnificent job with it.

You mentioned about what are the signs that you look for. It’s a long sales cycle.

You get technology kudos. The other thing you realize is, “I’ve used the same reference every single sales cycle for two years because I only have 3 or 4 of them.” By the way, those people also want features to add to their world that are not on your roadmap or hard for you to deliver. You get caught up in these long, expensive products to maintain. They’re not getting traction. Meanwhile, nimbler people are running past you, and the category is doing fine, but you’re not.

That was a great example, Geoffrey, where you talked about the go-to-market challenges or the friction that WorkFusion was having and what the leadership team did to make the transition with different ICPs and different ways to position the products and the company. That’s a great insight and a great a-ha. Coming back to our earlier conversation or prompt where you’re going to share a go-to-market failure story.

This is another company that we invested in, a terrific company up in Seattle. It had to eventually shut down. This was founded by a woman and her team, who were expert consultants to the real estate market for large family dwelling problems. They had a consulting business where they were advising how to get better marketing. It was a marketing consulting thing with a very specific niche focus.

They said, “The systems these people have are horrible. They’re flying blind. We should write a system that would allow these people to get a much clearer understanding of which kinds of marketing programs are creating what kinds of returns.” It was a very straightforward idea. At a time when the whole single-family dwelling marketing thing was very visible, particularly with the COVID thing that came along, what happened was it wasn’t quite compelling enough. At first, everybody thought it was nice to have. That was no question. Almost everybody said, “You should have it,” but it wasn’t quite a must-have because the people who have this job in the real estate industry are somewhat abused.

They’re a little bit lower level. At the end of the day, the idea of investing in their productivity never got high enough on the stack. The truth is their lack of productivity was costing the homeowners a lot of money. The other thing is a little bit of a problem with the agency model in general, but the agencies were still making money.

The agency’s a little slightly counter incentive to have these people become more productive because that might reduce rather than increase it. There was a little bit of inauthenticity in the market, which was disturbing. The same thing happened in the advertising market with digital advertising and trying to make that more efficient at some point. You had the same problem. To be fair to the team, they focused on the market and had a couple of lighthouse customers, but they couldn’t quite get it over the line.

One of the things that I heard from a founder I asked him was, “What are your signs or what do you look for when you do the market research?” A couple of topics came up. First of all, at what level is this a problem? How big is this problem? Is it at a team level, VP level, CXO level, or board level? Subsequent to that is a top 3 or 5 problem at a board level.

The whole thing about the venture and about being an entrepreneur is the motto is to win or learn. You may not even win 50% of the time. There’s a lot of time when you don’t win, but it’s not okay to lose and not learn. You say, “Geoffrey, you didn’t win. What did you learn?” The phrase that came out of that particular exercise and learning was we ended up calling it a trapped value.

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies
Chasm Of Technologies: When you don’t win, it’s okay. But it’s not okay to lose and not learn.

 

It’s the same idea you stated, which is when you’re looking at an investment, two questions. How much trap value is there in the current system? Meaning if your technology can fix the problem, how much value do you release? The rule of thumb I always like to use is if you give the customer back a dollar’s worth of value, they’ll be happy to give you a dime. At $0.15, they think you might be dodging.

What I’m thinking is, if you want to build a billion-dollar company, you better find $10 billion for the trap value. You can build any size company you want and multiply it by ten for the track. That’s number one. The second issue is how urgent it is for them to release this trapped value. The problem they remarkably had was the trap value was very real, but it wasn’t impacting enough of the core business to make it urgent enough to get to the board-level place. Was it a productivity problem for the middle? Yes. Would they want this thing every day of the week? To your point and your colleague’s point, it didn’t quite make the cut when you moved it all the way up to the top.

One of the big topics that is making rounds in the industry is compliance around AI. You open the news, the tech world. This is what it is. A lot of founders and would-be entrepreneurs are doing the research around this, and there’s the White House Bill of Rights, which was released in this spirit. There are other initiatives happening at the State level in California. Gavin Newsom has released or put it as a directive. What do you think that founders in this world of air compliance and regulation and risk mitigation should be looking at?

It’s interesting. Look at where we were with ESG a few years ago and where we are now. You would have said a few years ago, “The European Union is leading this thing.” Now we’re seeing this backlash against it. It’s even more necessary now than ever before with climate change. Watching the regulatory environment, particularly when it’s a highly complex problem to control, the problem with climate control is it’s very hard to bind, unlike financial fraud.

Financial fraud is a very easily bound problem. That’s why that’s very good regulatory compliance. FDA approval, which is a very clearly bound problem, is a good regulatory compliance. In any place, you have clearly bound ones, but when they’re more ephemeral like AI responsibility, that’s not a bound problem. Therefore, to say, “I’m going to go after that market,” no. Maybe eventually, there will be bound subsegments that will come out, but it’s way too early to do that.

If I double-click on the topic of AI compliance, there is algorithmic discrimination that might be happening on data privacy. People know. It’s been beaten to the dead. Other systems then play when the AI model and the machine are taking over other fallback systems for the year.

Let’s take the two you pick, so data privacy. You go after the digital advertising people, you go after the cookies, and you have a problem. If you do AI discrimination, you go after real estate or online lending. That’s a bound problem, but if you said the White House Bill of Rights or Gavin Newsome, God bless you, Gavin, but it’s just evaporating. It was way too unbounded.

The lesson and the advice you’re giving for folks pursuing this is to figure out what is that bound problem and how big the problem is.

If you think about trap value, the analogy would be to the oil industry and their exploration production, but they’re looking for oil wells. What they’re looking for is reservoirs of oil that they can drill a well into and tap. Those create huge amounts of oil return. Now, there is a thing called Shale oil. You can go after it, but it’s a lot more work to get the same amount of oil out of the system. If you have a system that can do it, great, but the bound problem is much more like the oil well than the Shale oil.

Those are two great stories that you shared there, Geoffrey. One is around the success story, and the other is a failure story. Anything else that comes to your mind? You have covered so many of the case studies in your research.

I have a motto, which is whenever you get into trouble, I do think going back to that playbook of picking a high-value use case that’s urgent in a single target segment, even if there’s a little bit of a size mismatch. Maybe you are a big company, and it seems like it’s a small market, but just to get back to winning ways and to get back to establish that you’re the go-to person, if you wanted to get the presidential nomination, winning the New Hampshire primary, there are not that many in New Hampshire.

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies
Chasm Of Technologies: Whenever you get into trouble, pick a high-value use case that’s urgent in a single target segment.

 

Winning the New Hampshire primary makes a difference for the Iowa caucus. The same thing with business. Being number one anywhere is an important road back to health. If you are a startup, being number one somewhere is how you become a going concern. These accountants have this phrase going concern, which is due to what a reasonable person expects you to be in business a year from that. Until you have your first market segment leadership position, I don’t think you’re going to be concerned.

A critical function in the whole go-to-market where you talk about how you identify the problems big enough or not, I do have a bias toward this function because I see myself as a product marketer first, and that’s been my growth. What advice would you give to the product marketing community in identifying the relevant segments if this is a big market that a company should be focusing on?

I’m going to reframe the problem. There are a bunch of good opportunities for most companies with good technology. The problem is when they go to execute it, they lose focus. We had something we ended up calling target market initiatives. My wish is for every product marketing executive would become a world-class expert and what we call the target marketing checklist. It was eight things. I’ll spin them off for you, but they’ll be very familiar to you.

The idea is you want to align your entire enterprise, the field, factory, support people, customer success, marketing, PR, sales team, sales play, the top of the funnel, and the middle of the funnel around the following factors. The first two are who the target customer is and what’s the compelling reason to buy. In other words, that’s true North.

You want to make sure it’s all the things we’ve been talking about. Is it urgent? Is it impactful? Does it get all that good stuff? It got those two. For the next two, we call the whole product and partners analysis. The idea there was, are you bringing the complete solution to this problem to the table? If you don’t, you’re leaving your future to chance. The reality is probably you can’t alone solve 100% of it. Who are the partners and allies that have to show up and interoperate with you in coordination?

If you don’t orchestrate that relationship, you’re leaving your future to chance. That’s a bad idea. A product marketing manager has to get out of the office. Not only do the customers environment, but into the partner ecosystem and say, “If we’re going to solve this problem, by the way, there’s money here for you as well as for us. We’re all going to make money here because there’s a lot of trap value, but we ought to work together. We have to do this in a coordinated way.” Product marketing people don’t normally think about it that way, but you have to.

The next two are called distribution channel and pricing strategy. The idea here is, if you go to that target customer, where do they want to buy from, and how do they want to buy? I know how you want to sell, but I don’t care how you want to sell. It wasn’t a compelling reason to sell. It’s a compelling reason to buy. What’s the channel that they’re going to want to buy from? I like to call it the price of least astonishment.

It’s not a terribly low price. It’s not a terribly high price. By the way, you have to pay off everybody, but it’s your price. You also have to think about what the whole product costs because the customers get a dish out of the whole product. If you don’t get paid or your partner doesn’t get paid, somebody’s going to be very unhappy. You have to have a pricing strategy. It’s not a discounting strategy. People don’t think about heart surgery where there is a coupon for it. They want the right price, but they don’t want a crazy price.

The last two are competition and positioning. The tendency with competition is to think about, “They’re bad, and we’re good.” Don’t do that because if you want to develop this market, your customer needs to see that there’s more than one company that’s investing in this area. The way you position is it’s a clear positioning for tech companies. There are two companies that these customers are going to look at besides the two classes.

One is their current vendor. Why don’t we see if our current vendor can’t solve this problem? What you’re going to say about them is they know you well. They probably know your business, but they don’t have the technology necessary. That’s why you’ve been struggling. You can keep struggling, but you’re just Band-Aiding. The reason you would pick us rather than them is because we have the magic wand.

Conversely, there are other people who have magic wands. Other people do artificial intelligence. Are they good at it? They’re very good at it. What they don’t do is focus on your problem. Basically, the positioning is we live at the intersection of a tough problem where we’ve made ourselves domain experts. They break through technology, which changes the dynamics of that situation, so we can drill the oil well, and that’s why you would pick us. That’s positioning and competition position.

Position yourself to live at the intersection of a tough problem where you've made yourself a domain expert. Click To Tweet

It is amazing the way you broke it down. You probably have a great framework, the target market. I love the way you started with what the problem first is and how big is it. What struck me in the second one is people always think about partner ecosystem as a go-to-market versus the way you help me reframe is you need to bring partners along with you to solve this problem.

As the category of all, once the category gets into what we call Inside the Tornado, once the category takes off, then partners is a distribution strategy because you’re trying to get as much coverage as fast as you can. What we’re talking about prior to that is the market is still forming. One of the things you realize about partners at that stage is that partners will never rescue you. You can never hope that your partner is going to help you.

You have to make a market for the partner. It’s not the partner’s job to make a market for you. Once you’re inside the tornado and the market is made, then the partner will help you extend your distribution capabilities. That will be great, and now you’re copying them for partner-qualified leads and deals, but that’s not what’s going on prior to the tornado.

B2B 58 | Chasm Of Technologies
Chasm Of Technologies: You have to make a market for the partner. It’s not the partner’s job to make a market for you.

 

I completely agree. The a-ha that you brought to me is if I have to turn back in time and go back to the previous roles where I was at, for example, in my previous full-time role where I was hired to bill like a product-led growth go-to-market, the mistakes that we made are becoming even more crystal clear based on what you shared. The emphasis back then to me was, “We made the decision. Figure out any or what way to build a product that grows,” versus understanding who we are targeting. Are they ready for product growth? We’re talking about professional services and home services. Are they the right market for product growth?

No, and that’s one, gamers.

We made the decision to go after this. “Let’s bring partners.”

One of the things you’ll find is if you compensate somebody to recruit partners, you’ll have a lot of partners.

The writing was on the wall. Fast forward 9 or 10 or 12 months, that company couldn’t raise the funds and had to go to a massive round of layoffs.

It’s heartbreaking because, first of all, nobody wakes up in the morning saying, “What stupid decision can I make now?” This is why it’s important to say win or learn. If you do not have a tolerance for losing, then do not be an entrepreneur. You can’t possibly have a perfect record as an entrepreneur. It doesn’t work that way. What you have to be able to do is every time you take one of these hits, they’re painful. This isn’t like, “It’s cool.” This is a real hit. If you ever have to lay somebody off, this is no fun, but don’t lay somebody off and not learn. That’s not okay.

Layoff’s consequences are painful. Not just to that person but even to the family of that person.

Also, leaving customers in the lurch. You certify a partner who invests in your thing, then you leave them in the lurch. There’s a lot of collateral damage in entrepreneurship, and it’s unavoidable. That’s why people don’t like to rush to get on your bandwagon because they’ve seen enough of the carnage to go, “I’d like to see a little more.” This is what creates the chasm. There are a few people who believe in buy-in ahead of the proof points, but most people are saying, “I’ve seen too much carnage. I got to see more success before I play,” which is why this crossing the chasm playbook is a little bit challenging. Also, this playbook has held up for several years. It’s a good playbook.

One final note on this topic is there’s constant pressure, especially coming from the investors and the company, “Keep pushing dolls. Keep pushing your people.” Eventually, the CEO or someone on each team has to say, “I sense your urgency, but we need to pause even if it means like one quarter.” It’s going back to the slowdown to accelerate.

This is a big difference on the way because it’s not just the board now. It’s the financial analyst. It’s everything. Let us talk about the idea. We have a lot of performance metrics for how to evaluate the performance of an enterprise, but we don’t have a lot of good metrics to evaluate the power of an enterprise. What do you mean by power versus performance?

Power is what enables performance. The reason you have success is because you’re more powerful than the competition in the situations that you’re competing in, and you win them. When you win them, and if you win them profitably, you create enough surplus returns. You can invest that performance to fund the next generation of power. People say, “I got it. We have good metrics on the performance side of that wheel. We’ll buy very good metrics.” Did you become more powerful?

Power is what enables performance. You succeed because you're more powerful than the competition in the situations that you're competing in. Click To Tweet

I had an interesting conversation at one point, writing Zone to Win. I wrote it with the team at Microsoft and the team at Salesforce. We’re having a conversation with the team at Microsoft. This was Satyan’s direct report. This is the top of the wheelhouse. I said to him, “First of all, Microsoft’s the most powerful company I’ve ever dealt with, but here’s an important thing. You have lost power every single year of this century.” This was in 2014 when I said this.

They went, “He might be right.” You’re still super powerful, but you’re not more powerful. You’re less powerful. They were in the middle of it already, but that was part of the Azure transition, then it became very clear. Amy Hood, a CFO, said, “We can work with this idea in our annual planning. We can incorporate what Geoffrey said and say we’re still going to be held accountable for performance, but we’re also going to hold you accountable for power. We’ll find ways to do that.” The Azure success is a classic example. That’s the most powerful tool in the toolbox now.

How do you apply or track if a company is building power? Performance is easy.

I have a book called Escape Velocity. In that book, there’s a model we call the hierarchy of powers. The idea was, how do you measure power? There are five powers. The one that was most predictive of long-term success was the next and the next. The most predictive one is what categories you are in. Are you in a category that is growing as a category? The rising tide floats all the boat’s problems. At the time, Microsoft’s example was in PCs, which is a flat category. Their category power was flat and maybe even slightly declining, particularly with respect to mobile. Their company power was ginormous. That was the second one.

Within your category, are you the gorilla or are you the monkey? Markets are organized around leaders, so how powerful are you within your category? That’s a market share play. The next one was market power, which was what we’ve been talking about, which is, “I’m not the gorilla, but in my target market segment, I’m a local gorilla. I’m the gorilla in the niche.” That was market power, but again, it’s share within the target market segment of the use case.

It’s shared because what happens is a little ecosystem organizes around you because you are the local leader, and therefore, they can make money with you. The fourth one is offer power, which is when we stack up your products or your services against your direct competition, who wins? Upper power matters, but only after category power, company power, and market power. The final one is execution power. Do you say what you’re going to do? That’s real, too, but it’s the fifth one.

For now, you think about Oracle Corporation, which has been an iconic corporation in my entire career. Category pair, not really. Company power, yes, but not new. They’re not getting new money. Market power, no. Offer power, no. Execution power is amazing. They have amazing execution power, and that alone is keeping that franchise ahead of their direct competitors.

I know we are almost up against time over here. Thank you. You shared so many frameworks. I need to reread this. I’m sure readers also will reread this so many times. A final question to you is what advice would you give to your younger self if you were to start your career on day one of the go-to-market journey? I know it’s way back in time, but day one. You did share about sales and marketing.

I don’t know if I would tell myself something differently. What I would say is to continue to trust your heart because it was falling apart and be true to your values, then listen to the universe and try to respond. The worst time in my life was when I thought I knew better and I pursued paths that were not successful and not appropriate. I got smacked around a bit, and that was good. You learn.

You had the humility to admit.

As they say in Texas, “When you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging.”

When you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much, Geoffrey.

My pleasure. I enjoyed it.

I wish you the very best of health and everything.

Thank you very much.

 

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B2B 57 | Sales Potentia

B2B 57 | Sales Potentia

 

Success isn’t just about selling more; it’s about becoming more. In this episode, we tackle all about sales, personal growth, and entrepreneurship with Ian Koniak, CEO and Founder of Unlock Your Sales Potential. Ian generously shares his go-to-market strategy for his coaching program and reveals the three levels of offerings that have driven his business to over two million dollars in just a few years. But as a founder, Ian’s mission goes beyond just boosting sales; he’s all about helping clients become the best versions of themselves. Ian’s approach to business and life can transform not only your sales game but also your overall well-being. As Ian advises in the episode, “Enjoy the ride and make it about other people.” Tune in now and unlock your potential both in sales and personal growth.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Sales, Mindset, And Impact: Unlock Your Sales Potential With Ian Koniak

Thank you once again for taking the time to tune in to this show. It is deeply appreciated. I am deeply grateful for you taking the time and tuning in to this. I have yet another wonderful guest. His name is Ian Koniak. He is the Founder and CEO of Untap Your Sales Potential. As the name implies, he’s a sales guru or sales expert. Without further ado, welcome to the show, Ian.

Thank you. Thanks for having me on. It’s nice to meet you.

Same here. Sales is top of mind for me, for go-to-market practitioners, and for founders, and it’s a critical skill. I’m excited and looking forward to really digging into this topic with you.

I can’t wait. Let’s go.

Let’s get going into the meat of the conversation which is all about how you view and define the go-to-market.

When you think about go-to-market, it’s all of the forces that lead to revenue. When I think about go-to-market, I think about what your distribution channel is. In other words, are you going to sell directly? Are you going to sell through resellers? Are you going to sell online? Are you going to sell in stores? What’s your channel?

I’ll give a brief background. When I started my company, it was several years ago. I was doing a lot of training for companies. I was going to do B2B and I was going to sell training services. I quickly realized that didn’t scale because I was doing the training and I didn’t want to be on the road all the time. There was only so much capacity.

Even if I was doing all the training and potentially hiring other people to help, which they not necessarily give the same level of training that I would having been in the field for twenty years, there was still a cap on growth. That go-to-market strategy was a B2B live training delivery. I shifted. It’s the delivery of the product. It’s the distribution of the product. It’s the marketing of the product. It’s the pricing strategy. It’s all of it.

When I think about go-to-market, it is how you market your products, how you find customers, how you acquire customers, how you serve customers to make sure they renew, how your product specifically meets a unique need in the market, and how you market and position your value proposition so that you are differentiated versus a crowded space in almost any market. That’s how I define go-to-market strategy.

Back to my story, I started with B2B where I was doing live training. I quickly shifted that to delivery online through coaching programs and online courses that scaled at a much greater capacity. I didn’t want a go-to-market strategy that relied on me having to do the work versus being able to build repeatable processes that could attract a lot more people and have them do the work, for example.

You touched upon several key aspects. There is the product piece. In your case, it’s the services and the training, and then how you price it. Who is it really for? What is the value prop, the marketing, the sales, the outreach, and so on? It’s the scaling piece. Something else that you also touched upon is the founder of the entrepreneurial aspect of it. Especially in early-stage companies, it doesn’t matter if it’s a product or service. Those go-to-market principles matter a lot. We’ll dive into those aspects, for sure.

There’s a great book, E-Myth Revisited, that I’m reading. As a founder, you went to a business because you didn’t want to depend on corporate to pay your bills. You didn’t want to have to be beholden to a company or a boss. If you’re a founder and then you’re beholden to your business and your business is controlling you, it’s very easy to repeat the same type of patterns that you had when you were an employee.

B2B 57 | Sales Potential
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

For me, the go-to-market is all about constantly re-evaluating your business, adapting, and changing strategies. I’ve changed strategies in four years since I originally founded my company. I’ve changed strategies 4 or five 5, but it wasn’t like I pivoted completely. I made small pivots that got me towards more of what I wanted. Knowing what you want as the founder, knowing what your goals are, and knowing what you’re trying to deliver to the market is something that constantly needs to be re-evaluated and optimized on an annual basis. That’s important for a founder to think through as well.

For sure. I can relate to it firsthand. I was an employee until about a few years ago. I pivoted into starting my own go-to market. Even within marketing and go-to-market, it was specifically around the product marketing aspect. I had to pivot, so I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. Early on, it was me wearing multiple hats and I was drowned. This is exactly why I want to escape that whole employee constraint and jailhouse. This time, it’s all about bringing in the right people, even delegating and hiring junior employees for the right things, helping you scale, and addressing the key issue.

That’s exactly right. That’s the point. If you’re the founder who’s doing everything, you are going to do nothing well. Where is your greatness? Delegate and outsource the rest. I have a team of eight people that are supporting me in different capacities. It frees me up to deliver the coaching and deliver the work itself versus having to sell the work and market the work. Even content creation is a huge endeavor for how I attract customers.

If you're the founder who’s doing everything, you're going to do nothing. Click To Tweet

The development of my platform for delivering the actual training itself, all of that’s outsourced. In the beginning, I was doing it. The reason I pivoted is I realized I was creating the invoices for the client. I was creating the content. I was creating the training. I was delivering the training. It was like, “This does not scale at all. It’s not something I want to be in.” I got out of that B2B business a few years ago and pivoted. The business is on track to be an Inc 5000 company by 2024. It has been the best change ever.

As a founder, are you happy? Are you in control? If not, what do you need to change? Who do you need to hire? Maybe you need to take fewer clients. Maybe you need to charge more so that you’re not running ragged. These are all things that I’m thinking about very actively. In January 2024, I’m going to change our entire model again, but it’s not like I’m moving away or abandoning the original vision. The original vision is exactly the same. It’s more about the delivery of that and the scaling and the pricing model. Those things are how I pivot.

I love the fact of how deep we got into that one topic, which is how you view and define go-to-market. It is similar to a product. When you build a product, you need to iterate B1, B2, and so on. It’s the same thing that applies to go-to-market as well. Let’s take a step back here and go bigger picture. Share with the audience as to what brought you to what you’re doing. What is your career story?

I worked at two companies. I sold tech for twenty years. I was an Account Director over at Salesforce, which means I was in charge of growing our largest enterprise accounts. I managed accounts like Activision Blizzard, Experian, Tencent, some pretty large brands for Berkshire Hathaway, and some big brands for Salesforce. I was responsible for selling. I carried my last year with about $20 million in annual revenue. I was managing. I had a team of specialists, engineers, and resources. I was very successful in that space. I made all the clubs and had all the accolades. I made great money.

In 2018, I had a near-death experience. It was a very unique experience. I’ll keep it short. I got stuck on a rollercoaster hanging upside down for 30 minutes. It was pretty gnarly. In that moment of hanging, I thought all of our weight was on this little strap. We were upside down. I thought I was going to tumble. We were about eighteen stories up. We were up 180 feet and I was staring down with one little bar. I was completely stopped. I thought the bar was going to fall or whatever. I didn’t know. It was the scariest moment of my life.

I’m feeling nervous listening to this. I can imagine what you were going through.

It was horrible, but it was also one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. The reason is because in that moment hanging, you have a lot of time to reflect on your life. Your life flashes before you when you think you’re going to die. Those chemicals are rushing through your brain. What I came to was this massive epiphany as I was hanging that my life had been meaningless.

Your life literally flashes before you when you think you're going to die. Click To Tweet

I certainly had worked hard. I certainly had done well at work and had a family. I loved my wife and my son at the time. Now, we have two kids, but at the time, we only had one son. It was like, “If I died now, my entire life would’ve been dedicated to the pursuit of my own ego, my own money, and my own success.” It was all external. It was all about things that I was chasing that were external to me. In other words, there was no legacy, no service, and no impact. It’s like, “What?”

I had all these gifts that I’ve been blessed with. I had the gift of passion, drive, perseverance, resilience, and all these things that made me successful in sales. Yet, I was keeping them to myself solely to make money and sell. It’s that selfish, greedy salesperson. That stereotype, I probably fit that. I didn’t say anything. I started praying. I said, “God, please get me down. I promise I’ll start serving other people. I’m not going to be greedy and selfish. I’m going to use the gifts that You’ve given me to help others.” Nothing happens and I’m like, “God, I’m going to do it right now. Get me down.” At that moment, I kid you not, the ride started going down. When I got down, I was like, “I got to promise to uphold it.”

It was a very spiritual experience for me to have that divine intervention where I realized that my life had been very self-serving and I needed to start giving to others. I got off the rollercoaster and didn’t decide to start Untap Your Sales Potential, but I did decide to start serving other people and share my knowledge, wisdom, and experience with other people. It started with me setting up an Instagram page, then a YouTube channel, then a newsletter, and then some other content. I started speaking at events. I started going on podcasts to give back and help other people.

I was the number one sales rep at Salesforce at the time. A lot of people wanted to know how I could sell millions per year. That was where it all started. It was this desire to help. That evolved into people wanting more than content. They wanted consulting. They wanted coaching. They offered me money. It was like, “Wait a minute.”

One thing led to another and the demand became so high that I eventually left corporate. It made a lot of sense to do something that benefited others and helped society. I could be financially free from depending on other people for my quota, my commission rates, and all the things that salespeople struggle with. When they do well, they raise the quote on you. They lower the commission. They take away your territory. All that was happening while I had this side hustle. I knew that it was time to take the leap. That’s how I got started.

Thank you so much for sharing that story. It’s critical. At some point in time in life, it happens not for all but hopefully, for many. It is that you question whether what you’re doing is “the right thing”. You’re like, “Is it only about me, my family, my money, and my selfish needs?” versus where is that service? Where is the impact? Where is the legacy piece?

I wish everyone would have a near-death experience for this reason because you really think about your life. There are a lot of great books out there that reference this concept. One of them is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In that book, Stephen Covey has you write your own speech at your own funeral. That’s an exercise that’s very eye-opening and powerful because would you have contributed to the world? Would you have followed that dream that you thought about? Did you take a chance or play it safe? These are things that if you’re a founder, you have, at some point, had some of these eye-opening realizations.

B2B 57 | Sales Potential
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Founders are a small percentage of the population. I’d encourage anyone if you have that calling or have that dream to act on it. You don’t need to quit tomorrow. You don’t need to drop everything. Start taking action in serving or helping the person that you once were, in other words, making your message, and helping others like you get past the challenges that you had. When you do that, the world opens up. Opportunities open up and the financial path reveals itself, but you have to take that first step. You can’t keep that as a dormant part of you. I wish that no one gets hurt, but I wish that people come with that type of eye-opening experience that I got to go through a few years ago.

There was something that caught my attention and I want to highlight this for the readers out there. Your approach was not like, “I’m going to quit Salesforce and I’ll figure out what I want to do in terms of legacy and service.” You started putting content out there on Instagram and others around the expertise that you’re known for, which is sales and meeting quota.

Here’s the interesting thing. What I did that first year in 2019, I had no intention of monetizing it. I wanted to start serving people and teaching them what I knew, so it was completely free. I wasn’t doing it out of a selfless go-to-market strategy of promoting my business. This time, it’s very different in terms of my content creation strategy. At the time, it was like, “I’m going to make one video every day.” I said, “I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to make one short video giving a tip of the day.” That’s how I started.

Instagram is not where my ICP lives. My ICP lives on LinkedIn. These are high-performing, high-paid tech sales professionals who use my program or companies that want to train their teams. Fundamentally, I was in the wrong place for clients. Therefore, I didn’t get clients. What I got after a year of posting every day was I got good at being on camera, communicating, and writing.

That translated ultimately when I shifted to LinkedIn. I already had a year of experience doing the strategy that ultimately became one of my go-to-market strategies. It was to create value-added content to bring people into your funnel and attract them to your services. That was the blessing and the gift of giving. I became good at marketing ironically. I make videos for a living. I go on camera and do these newsletters.

By the time I got to LinkedIn, my stuff was blowing up very quickly because I had a year of experience in practicing how to title a video, what to speak to, how to prepare it, and even getting the lighting and the sound right. It works out. Even if you don’t see it, the key is to stay on the path because everything you do in every part of your life is going to serve you in the future even if it doesn’t feel like you know exactly how.

It’s critical that you do it to the best of your ability and embrace where you are because that will come back. Especially as a business owner, all of those skills ended up helping me a lot, even teaching. I was a teacher before I got into sales. I lived in South America and taught English. This time, I’m teaching sales. It all comes back.

It’s all coming back together. What is your routine like? You highlighted that at a very high level. Let’s say you need to prepare a video for LinkedIn, Instagram, or whatever. It’s a 1 to 2-minute video. What is your routine and mindset like?

They’re longer videos. I’m doing a long format. In my first year, I was doing these Instagram Shorts, Reels, or whatever they’re called. This time, I do training videos. That’s one very small part of my go-to-market strategy, but it’s one that’s been consistent and I still do. It’s simple. I’ll give you the routine for preparing the content, and I’ll give you the routine for distributing the content and how it all feeds into the sales growth.

Preparing the content is very simple. It is whenever I have inspiration, whether it’s on a run, whether it’s talking to my wife, or whether I’m talking to a client and they tell me something that I’m like, “This is the third time I’ve heard this. I need to make a video on it.” I’m always tuning into content creation ideas. What I do is on my iPhone, because inspiration can strike anywhere, I have one note. Every time I get an idea, it’s like, “Make a video on this.”

I have one that’s ready and teed up. The title of the note is Sales Trainings. I have, “What Is the Meaning of Life?” It’s powerful. I then have in the notes, “Make the most of what God gave You.” It’s putting your gifts, your stories, and your experience to the service of others. I’m going to talk about how you can do that and give a framework for how other people can do that. That’s the first step. It is to capture the idea.

The second step is before I make the video, I’ll take a sticker and an index card and write the key points in the video. I’m not scripting a video. I’m writing the bullets I want to cover because I want them to be authentic. I want it to be a natural. There’s then the filming of the video in which you have to get the lighting right and you want to get the sound right. That’s pretty standard. You could do it on the iPhone. Get a little tripod, a mic, and a ring light and you have everything you need to make a professional-quality video.

It’s then the distribution. Here’s where the tricky thing comes in. One video can be used multiple times. That’s the beautiful thing. What I’ll do is make this video. I’ll record it typically towards the end of the week. I’ll block off time to make the video. Once it’s made, then I’ll write a blog that accompanies the key pillars that I talk about in the video. I won’t tell them everything. I’ll tell them enough and say, “Watch the video if it resonates with you.” I’ll tease it out.

That blog goes into a content document that my virtual assistant grabs and posts to a newsletter that has over 10,000 subscribers, a YouTube channel that also has almost 5,000 subscribers, LinkedIn, and a blog page. I created it once and it’s distributed in four places. There’s the blog because it drives SEO. If someone types the topic, it will drive the SEO traffic. There’s YouTube because that’s a whole channel where a lot of people live and consume my content. LinkedIn is by far the biggest.

Everything’s pointing them to the YouTube video. In the newsletter, I want them to click and watch the video. On LinkedIn, I want them to click and watch the video. In the blog, it’s the same thing as well as YouTube itself. There’s the blog, YouTube, LinkedIn, and email newsletter. I have four distribution channels that all got hit up. If they’re not on LinkedIn and they don’t see that post, they’re going to see the email. If they don’t see the email, they’ll see the popup on YouTube. You want to publish once and distribute many places, but it doesn’t stop there.

I have a video editor that slices up the long-form video and does two shorts from it. We have two more short videos on my YouTube channel. If they didn’t see the main one, they could see those shorts. Those shorts are also distributed via my Instagram page and my TikTok page, which I’ve never logged into. With all this content, I don’t want to be on social media. I don’t want to be messing around there. I want to be delivering my coaching services.

I have a VA who is setting up the distribution. I have a video editor who’s making these shorts and distributing them to TikTok and Instagram all from about an hour it took to write the video, record it, and then put it into this folder where the VA grabs it. That’s how you scale content creation. What happens naturally is people start watching my video.

There is one more thing. Anyone who requests a connection request from me on LinkedIn, which is my main source of traffic and my main thing, or anybody who connects with me, my VA sends a standard message to them. It says, “Thanks for requesting to connect. If you’re looking to grow sales, there are two ways I can help you. Number one is to subscribe to my newsletter. You get a free training video every single week every Tuesday morning. There’s also my YouTube. If you want to see the past archive, here it is. Subscribe there.”

I have over 50,000 connections on LinkedIn and all of them are also getting this. Maybe 1/10 of them subscribe and my newsletter is 10,000 as well as my video. It’s this constant flywheel that is created from this content strategy. That’s how I’ve gotten most of my clients. It drives them to book a call. When they get the newsletter, they have a welcome series. They get to book a call. They learn about the program. The audience-building has been my dominant strategy for this.

What you shared are the tactics and the mechanics of what you do. Something I want to go big picture and highlight over here is if you rewind and go back a few years, you didn’t have any clue about doing all these things. You didn’t know what you were going to do. What drove you to do the aspiration and the mindset of giving guided you into learning.

It forced me. It was not a decision. Forced is a good word. I was powerless. It was all I could think about in the shower when I woke up. It was a calling. If you’re a founder and you have a calling, if you let that calling guide you, when the why is strong enough, AKA, “I don’t want to die with being selfish and not giving back to the world,” then the how is going to reveal itself. It’s all about keeping that fire burning. That’s why I still do podcasts.

My work has fortunately gone very well where my supply-to-demand ratio, and we can talk about this, is completely off where I have more demand than I can supply because I’m the bottleneck in delivering this stuff. The same problems come to repeat themselves even if you change the strategy. It’s a good problem to have. It’s coming from a place of service.

Every time I’ve come from a place of service and try to make clients successful, the clients have naturally gravitated because they see that heart of intention versus a heart of like, “This is for us, not for you.” If people feel that in sales or they feel that from a founder, they’re going to not want to work with you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That’s first and foremost. You have to care about the success of your clients as a core tenant for your business.

You have to care about the success of your clients as a core tenet for your business. Click To Tweet

Let’s maybe come down into more of your services aspect. Who are your ICPs, and what are your offers and services like?

My business is a coaching business. Think about a B2C model. Primarily, that’s the bulk of my revenue. Occasionally, I’ll do B2B, but the bulk is B2C. My ICPs are tech salespeople who are making between $100,000 and $300,000 per year and want to get to the elite level of sales and make between $500,000 and $1 million.

They’re struggling with how to make the leap from a transactional seller to a strategic seller. They’re struggling with time management and how to prioritize and plan their day. Their day tends to overtake them. They’re struggling with mindset, how to stay in the game, and how to stay focused and driven in an industry that can be exhausting, demanding, and stressful. Those are the people that I serve.

I’m curious. The ICP that gravitated towards you and you gravitated towards were the people who made $300,000 to $500,000 and who are looking to graduate and go even higher into the business club and so on. What about those sellers who are very green or founders who are looking to build and improve their sales skills to build in pipeline and revenue?

I don’t serve a lot of founders in general. I can, but it’s more about advisory services. If a founder wants to learn to sell and learn the basics of strategic selling, how to put together a proposal, and how to negotiate, they can take my course. The founder has to run the business. They have to know how to hire, put the right people in place, manage delivery, and manage marketing. They’re wearing so many hats as a founder.

If they want to learn the fundamentals and basics of sales, that’s probably not my program. My program is more geared towards strategic selling. In other words, you’re selling a very large ticket item. You’re selling something that’s transformational in nature. I have a lot of people from Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce. That’s the green founder.

If you’re a founder and you don’t have any sales skills, you’re going to have a lot of challenges. Bring in a good salesperson because you can be great. You can look at Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. You can be a great technical founder with great engineering skills and have a sales leader who has those sales skills that offset. That might be something you delegate because learning it all from scratch and being great takes a long time and a lot of effort.

I’ll let you speak to the green salesman. The founder, especially in B2B, needs to close. It’s going to be founder-led sales initially until they’re ready and they have the cash to bring in to the head of sales. What is your thought process around that?

If you’re a founder and you’re selling initially, you’re almost going to have natural conversations with people about them and what they need. It’s going to happen naturally versus setting up a scalable sales playbook. The founder is the best salesperson in the company. If they can’t sell the product to someone who’s very interested or in their network, there’s a bigger problem. Founder-led sales naturally are almost unstructured. They have a conversation. They figure out what the needs are. They work together. They make it happen. It’s like selling to a friend almost.

B2B 57 | Sales Potential
Sales Potential: If you’re a founder and you’re selling initially, you’re almost going to have natural conversations with people about them and what they need. It’s going to happen naturally versus setting up a scalable sales playbook.

 

I used to do founder sales training. I called it advisory services. That’s what I did. I was teaching them how to sell, but it wasn’t just teaching them how to sell. I find that, naturally, a lot of founders know how to sell. It’s more about how to scale sales. That’s the stuff that we worked on. I quit that business. I had three businesses when I started. I had the B2B training, the advisory services for founders, and this B2C coaching online, Untap Your Sales Potential. I closed the advisory and B2B to do Untap Your Sales Potential because my revenue quadrupled.

If founders are looking to improve their sales and learn the fundamentals, that’s fantastic. It’s a great skill to do. Ultimately, you don’t want to be in every deal. You want to be able to have a product that has a great product market fit. You want to have great customer results. You want to let the marketing flywheel do its thing. You want to drive leads to a sales team. You don’t want to be doing the sales as a founder. Even though I’m very skilled at selling, I do not want to be selling because it’s not the best use of my time. I quickly hired a head of sales, and it’s been one of the best things that could ever happen. I could focus on working on the business versus in the business.

If you’re early on and you need those sales skills, I would say to take a course and maybe get some coaching. If you’re interested in my coaching, working one-on-one is probably the best way to do it. Here’s where founders suck at sales. They talk about their product. They show demos. It’s all about features. It’s awful. I’ve seen it over and over again. They talk. Selling is all about listening. Selling is all about understanding where the client’s problems lie, where their challenges are, what their goals are, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

The founder who comes in shows up, shows demos, and goes deep is going to fail because they don’t understand what the client even cares about or why they care. The key is to understand the problems you solve. The key is to understand what your unique way of solving is. What’s the impact of these problems on a business? What does your persona want as far as their desired outcomes? Where are they struggling? What’s happening in the market? You’re way better off spending more time with that and speaking to the customers as to whether they face those problems or challenges or if they have these issues that your company solves versus demoing your stuff. It’s all backward. You don’t do the demo.

B2B 57 | Sales Potential
Sales Potential: The key is to understand the problems you solve.

 

You covered the point early on where you said typically, in founder-led sales, they are naturally having those conversations. It’s almost like friends talking to each other. They’ll be good at it. Once they hit that early product market fit, that’s when they’ll be bringing in the head of sales to build a sales playbook and structure that sales.

That’s exactly what I was trying to say. The founder doesn’t need sales training. They can work on the whole business and then bring salespeople. That’s why I don’t necessarily work with founders because when I started that advisory, I found out they needed so much more. They needed the email talk tracks. They needed the web forms. They needed the whole go-to-market playbook. It wasn’t the selling skill. They knew how to talk to customers. That’s exactly what you’re saying. We’re saying the same thing. If you’re a founder who wants to improve your sales, go to UntapYourSalesPotential.com and book a call. A few one-on-one coaching sessions would be very helpful in helping you develop, but that’s really not my core.

For those founders that are maybe already reading, is that yearly or custom-built?

When I say early, I mean probably you’re over $1 million dollars trying to get to $5 million, somewhere in that range. If you are brand new, it’s too early. It depends on their product, too. If it’s a tech founder in tech sales, I’m going to be a great fit. If you’re selling a company that makes tables, I’m not. I know how to sell technology and software. I don’t know how to sell real estate. I don’t know how to sell mortgages. I don’t know how to sell T-shirts.

For any founder who wants to accelerate quickly, you want to find an advisor who has done exactly what you did or that you want to do and pay them good money for advisory services. Have someone on your board. Have someone coaching you. Spend at least, if you can, $5,000 a month or $10,000 and get good advisory help.

That’s what I did. I had advisors that helped me build a brand. I was following somebody else’s playbook that did this long before me. I did what they said and it worked. That’s my highest recommendation for anyone reading. Find an expert and invest your time and money in getting their advice. It accelerates everything because they’ll give you all the blind spots that you don’t even know about.

Find an expert and invest your time and money in getting their advice. It just accelerates everything because they'll give you all the blind spots that you don't even know about. Click To Tweet

Coming back to your ICP, which is that sales leader or salesperson who’s doing maybe $200,000, $300,000, or $500,000 and who’s looking to up their game and be more strategic, can you share a success story of someone who was in your program and what were they like before and then after?

There are so many of them, but there is one that comes to mind. His name is David. He and I spoke not long ago. He had made more money in his first 6 months working with me, and he signed up in January 2023, than he did in any 1 year prior. That was through the first six months. He’s over his quota. He is over his plan. He bought a farm. He has a side business.

It’s a few sets of skills. I can’t go to every single skill on one call, but it’s about knowing how to talk to and connect with senior executives. That’s a big blind spot for salespeople. What we focused on was getting higher up. He sold shipping software. He was talking to shipping managers, but shipping managers weren’t the main folks that he needed to talk to. We pivoted towards the CFO conversation. He talked about how shipping costs were out of control and that there was a better way to go about it to standardize. Once he started getting with the finance and the CFOs, his deals moved a lot quicker and they got a lot bigger. That’s one example. He’s had tremendous success.

Another guy I talked to, Sean O’Kane, he and I worked together. He ended up moving from a small startup to Google Cloud. He had an incredible offer, the best of his career. He used a lot of the skills that I taught him about how to engage with executives and sell. He shared that during his interview process and outlasted 30 applicants for the same role. He ended up getting it. He said, “I wouldn’t have done it without you.” A lot of my coaching is one-on-one where I’m helping them with their environment.

You asked me about my go-to-market strategy for my offering. The way that I’ve scaled my business to over $2 million annually in a couple of years is that I have 3 levels of offerings. I have what’s called Bronze Offering, which is an online course. That online course is $3,000 a year. It is the most comprehensive sales training course that exists globally in terms of the breadth and depth of content.

It took me over a year to record that. You’ll see it is 28 hours of training and content. If you go to UntapYourSalesPotential.com/Bronze, it goes through every single part of how to be a strategic seller from the mindset to the habits to territory planning, account planning, messaging, prospecting, video creation, email creation, and research. It has everything. It didn’t exist before. I wanted to get an MBA for strategic selling.

I built that, and that comes in every day. I get a notification like, “Someone bought Bronze.” Once it’s built, it’s done. That’s like writing a book, but it’s not a $20 book. It’s a $3,000 course that promises to deliver complete and unmatched selling skills as well as general living skills. The mindset and habit things apply to more than sales. It’s how you manage your day. It’s how you can be the best husband, father, or partner.

If you’re a founder and you’re working eight hours a week, everything else is going to implode. You might have a business, but you’ll have nothing else. You won’t have your health. You won’t have your family. I cover a lot of that in the program including how to manage your day, how to set boundaries, and prioritizing what’s most important. I have two young kids and a wife. I am very healthy. I ran two marathons. How do you do all of it? That’s what this course is all about. It’s very comprehensive.

My go-to-market strategy was I wasn’t going to teach one skill. I was going to teach the entire set of skills that people need to be successful. I know it’s one of your questions. It’s the combination of mindset, habits, and strategic selling skills. That is my unique differentiator. That’s one offering called self-service. You do it.

The middle offering is called Silver. You do it with me. That’s a group of people that we meet every single week. We go through the content and apply it together. They also have accountability pods where they do the workbooks with their peers. We have guest speakers and guest trainers come on. We are together every single week for live training, every other week for office hours, and once a month for a guest trainer. All they need to do is show up and they can do it together with me. They can ask questions. They have access to me. They have office hours. That goes to $9,000 a year. It goes from $3,000 to triple.

$9,000 a year, for a lot of people, they may be like, “That’s a lot.” It’s not when you’re thinking about your on-target earnings being $250,000 and you’ve only been making $200,000. Even if you get to your plan, you 5X the revenue of what you paid for it. This guy has made way more than he has ever made. He’s tracking $300,000. He made $150,000 any other year. He paid my gold level, $18,000, and made back $150,000. That’s how you have to look at these offerings. It’s how much value.

If someone told you you paid $18,000 and you’ll get $100,000 back, you’re going to say, “That makes a lot of sense.” I can’t guarantee that because they have to do the work. They have to apply it. At the end of the day, I know that if they go through it, show up, and do what I tell them, it’s going to work because it has worked for my clients. It worked for me and it continues to work. That’s the mid-level. We do it together.

The highest level is the gold level where it’s $18,000 a year. I do it for you. This is one-on-one. They give me their product and I help them with the messaging. I help them write the emails. I help them do the research. I show them how to plan their day, schedule their time, and how to prioritize. I’m doing one-on-one sessions with my clients. That’s the one that has been the most taxing on me, frankly, because I have so much demand for that gold level that I can’t fulfill so I’m thinking about hiring other coaches.

The waitlist is over 90 days. It’s a great problem to have, but I’m trading time for money. I’m giving my own one-on-one time. That’s a bottleneck. You could only have so many coaches. What I’m thinking of doing is taking my methodology in what I do in these one-on-ones and making it a program where other coaches who’ve gone through my program could learn how to be a coach and follow this training. That’s a whole big investment of time, energy, and empowering other people. That’s the next level of how you scale. You train coaches in your unique approach and methodology to be able to do that. That’s one idea of how to scale. Those are the three levels.

The gold level has one-on-one access. They also do live events. We have retreats that we go to with all the gold members. We do masterminds. We get everyone together for 2 or 3 days and we learn from each other. We bring in guests and have fun. We go on hikes and do all kinds of cool activities to break the pattern or do some pattern interruption and get them creatively thinking about what they can do differently once they leave that event. That’s more of a personal development or personal transformation for the highest level of gold. That’s my go-to-market strategy.

It sounds fun, especially for the highest level. If you’re reading and you’re committed and serious about upping your sales game and becoming more strategic, check out Untap Your Sales Potential. I don’t get any commissions in saying this, but it’s more for purely seeing your passion, the impact that you had, and your career track record. That’s what it is all about.

If you invest in your job, you make a living. If you invest in yourself, you make a fortune. If you’re always getting better, you’re always improving yourself. If you’re always aware of your blind spots, working on them, and surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, that’s the secret. That is the way. I continue to do this to this day. I’ve been investing in myself for over seven years and it gets better because I get better. You’re building your capacity to grow versus being in the business, delivering, not growing, and honestly feeling like you’re underwater half the time.

We’re switching gears a bit over here. It’s super helpful for all the audience who are looking up their sales game. If I were to peek in and try to understand the business owner mindset, how are you approaching your day-to-day or week? How are you thinking about business and business building?

My general philosophy is do not build the infrastructure before you have the demand. If I think about my business, I don’t use a lot of fancy technology for a CRM, for example, an ERP, or financial. This is a great question. It’s a deep question. Let me break it down. When I think about myself as a business owner, the first question I’m asking is, “What do I want my clients to achieve? Is it that I want them to sell more?” It’s not. That’s an outcome that they’ll get if they join the program.

A big part of the marketing is to make $500,000 to $1 million selling software. That’s not what I want for them. What I want for them is to become the person they’re capable of becoming. I want them to be their best self. Success is the joy you feel in the pursuit of your full potential. My program is called Untap Your Sales Potential, but it’s really about untapping your full potential.

In fact, something that I do with a lot of clients is going through a moral inventory. We go through and look at areas that they don’t feel good about, the things that they’re doing in their life. Maybe they’re spending too much time on their phones when they get home and they’re not present with their children. Maybe they are drinking too much at night. Maybe they’re doing things that they’re not proud of and they don’t feel good about. Part of what I do is the first thing is we remove a lot of those things, which creates more space to let the creative juices flow. Principle number one is about what you stand for. What do you want as your core deliverable? What I want is for everybody to pursue and to be all-in in being the best they can be.

Do you have KPIs and metrics? I completely agree and see where you’re going with this. It is not just changing your sales game, but growing you as a person. That’s what you’re trying to do. When it comes to you, the business owner, do you have metrics in the transformation? How do you approach this?

I’ve started doing surveys when they join. I capture where they’re at, what they are making, where their challenges are, and what their pain points are. I do a midpoint survey, and then I do an end-of-program survey. I want to see whether they made more money. I get it, but you’re not making more money unless you’re changing what you’re doing. That is the metric. It’s not what I want.

It is to make more money as an outcome of the change.

That is the KPI. KPIs are measurable. You can’t say, “Do you feel happier?” but I do ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with your life right now?” If they went from a 3 to an 8 and they told me why, I’m like, “This is the deal.” There are a lot of metrics that I’m measuring as a business owner that I want to see. One is income. The second is adoption. I know if they go to the Zoom calls, attend the events, participate in the pod, and show up every week, they’re going to get results. If they’re not logging into the program, they’re not taking the course, and they’re not showing up, they’re not going to get the results.

I have automation set up to remind them to come in, to join, and to log in because they’re not going to renew if they don’t participate. If they do participate, they’re going to renew. That’s how it goes. It’s not that they invested with me for a year. It’s that they had so much success that they want to continue because they don’t want to lose what got them there.

For a coaching program that charges what I charge, that is almost impossible. To have people say, “I’m going to pay $18,000,” and then do it again is rare, especially when it’s a 12-month program, but that’s what’s happening. It’s happening over and over again because they see such significant results in not only sales but also their life.

The second metric is renewal percentage. What percent of people renew? My goal is to get half the people to renew. If I get half my people to renew, that is recurring revenue. It’s not like they’re using the software to run their business. This is them having to show up and go to Zoom and having to work on themselves. It’s not going to be the same metrics you see in a SaaS company, but having a 50% renewal for a coaching program is unheard of in the industry that I’m in. It’s 10% or 15%. For me to be at 50%, that is the second most important metric. Did they improve their income? Are they happier? Did they renew with me?

The third is did they tell their friends? It’s the CSAT. A lot of them have had such a great experience that they can become affiliates. That’s part of my go-to about market distribution. If they become an affiliate, then I’ll pay them 10% of anyone they refer over in addition to the commissions I pay my salesperson. It’s a lower margin for me, but I want them to have a side hustle. I want them to be able to make money if they’re sharing referrals. That’s another one. Are they referring people? Did they give a testimonial that’s public? If you go to UntapYourSalesPotential.com/Testimonials, we have nearly all of our students give testimonials because they’ve had a great experience. If they’re not willing to give a testimonial, something happened. That’s another one.

I have my sales rep. I’m going to hire a customer success manager. They’re going to do onboarding to make sure they all get them with the program. They’re going to do surveys to make sure they go. They’re going to make sure the accountability pods are set up. I do want to make sure. My goal is adoption. In driving adoption, I know the outcome of renewal and outcome of the revenue growth is going to come and they’re going to make more money. People get busy. They sign up and don’t utilize it. How do we nudge them and get them to use what they bought? That, to me, is the next level of client success. It’s having somebody handhold them to make sure they get the full value of the program.

I love the way you’re thinking and building your go-to-market. It’s very similar to a SaaS product company. Are your products effective? Are they useful? Are the customers happy? You’re measuring more than the satisfaction. The first is adoption. Once the adoption metrics are good, then you look at the renewals and then the referrals.

Each person has a comprehensive profile. You have to remember. I came from Salesforce. I spent nine years at a SaaS company at the highest level. I know what product-led growth is. I know what adoption does. I’m not coming to this entrepreneurial journey with a blind idea. I know firsthand that when customers use the products the way that they’re supposed to, they’re going to get value as long as you have a good product and as long as it works. My product works.

For me, getting the product right, in other words, building the actual content, the videos, and the training that was effective and giving templates, workbooks, and guidelines was foundational. I had to get the right product. It is then about how you drive adoption. That was more about onboarding, giving welcome series emails, and even some intelligence built into the product. If they don’t log in, for example, in a period of 30 days to the portal, they get a notification and a nudge saying, “We haven’t seen you in a while. Make sure you do it.”

I had a customer experience designer who helped me build out the welcome series, the journeys, and the notifications. It was very much built with customer success as the foundation and as the core pillar of the business, which is crucial for success long-term in a business. I still operate that way. That guides me every day. That’s why I do what I do. It’s back to the rollercoaster story.

We talked about go-to-market in so many variations and so many flavors. It all boils down to the customer problem and then the success of the customer. I know you have a hard stop here. The final question for you is if you were to turn back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I started at Ricoh. It’s hard. Here’s the thing. I don’t believe in regret. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to. My core belief is that the mistakes you make and the failures you make are teachings. You don’t want to do that again because you know how it feels. When I go back and give myself advice, I might say, “Don’t make it all about the money. Make it about your customers.”

It took me making it all about the money to realize that this wasn’t the way that I was going to find fulfillment and inner peace. I would say to myself, “Enjoy the ride. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself where you’re always chasing and always going and you can’t enjoy where you are because you’re forcing everything. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your twenties. Have fun. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

I put so much pressure on myself. To some extent, I still do, but it’s not the same level. It’s more about I know that the business can always do better and I want to make sure my clients are getting the full value. It’s a pressure that’s driven towards helping versus a pressure that’s driven towards succeeding and making money. I would tell myself, “Enjoy the ride. Make it about other people. Stop beating yourself up every day.”

Enjoy the ride, make it about other people, and stop beating yourself up every day. Click To Tweet

This was a great conversation. I love the energy, the passion, and your mindset of pure impact and helping others. Good luck to you and your team. Have a great year ahead.

Thank you. It was great talking to you. Take care.

 

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