How can you focus on key aspects in your business for growth and organizational effectiveness? Listen to today’s episode as Jamie Cleghorn shares his experience in go-to-market. Raised by a data-driven marketer dad, he believes that marketing is in his DNA. He is part of Bain & Company which focuses on driving transformational change with clients, primarily in growth strategy, go-to-market effectiveness, and organizational alignment. He researched companies doing well, trying to isolate variables and discover the elements that drive above-market growth and share gain. This study found the pieces that he believes will define the future of the go-to-market.
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Customer Engagement Success Through The Go-to-Market Strategy With Jamie Cleghorn
I am super excited to welcome Jamie Cleghorn. Thank you for being on the show.
I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
With that, I always start with this question, which my audience love which is, how do you define go-to-market?
It’s everything that’s between a value proposition and a happy customer. The precondition for go-to-market is strategy. It’s having a clear sense of what are we building, who are we building it for and why would they give you perfectly good US currency in exchange for it? Once you have that, it immediately devolves into go-to-market like product management, marketing, sales, post-sales success and all of those things.
In some camps, it might be a bit controversial to put a product into the go-to-market. In my experience, when you don’t have a product in the go-to-market consideration set, in that value stream, it usually breaks down. Getting a product in there and building a straight line from that value prop to the customer is what you’re trying to do.
This is super crisp and helpful. I’m so glad that you highlighted the role of the product in the whole go-to-market sequence. When I speak with quite a few folks in the go-to-market world or even a couple of guests on the show, there are times where I need to remind them that it’s not just about marketing, sales or post-sales. Product plays a very important role, especially if your go-to-market is around product-led growth. You better have product front and center in those things.
We could all sit here and say that a good product manager is going to be customer-centric and they’re going to be needs-based. I cannot tell you the number of organizations we walk into where we say, “Show us the one piece of paper where you’ve written down crisply what the value proposition of this product is?” It’s not there in many cases. Sometimes they ran out of time. They were too busy getting the development sprint done or whatever it was.
Without that Dick Tracy decoder ring of why would a customer want this, marketing and sales mix it up. Customer success gets shipped to a new deal and the first question they say is, “What were you promised?” Pulling that thread back to square one around, “What is the promise we’re making here? What is the value we’re exchanging? What is it that we’re doing in a need-based way?” That is the bedrock and it’s hard to do well. It’s hard to raise a simple short letter.
It does remind me of a practice that is promoted or emphasized at Amazon. I’m sure it’s emphasized pretty much anywhere where go-to-market is a central focus area, which is when you’re embarking on a new initiative, a new product or a new product release, start with a press release as to why someone should care about it. Why there should be so much buzz and excitement in the market and then let’s work backwards.
We will do something similar, which is like, “I’m your first customer. Sell me your product.” Why should I care? The answer is usually in there. It’s not like they haven’t thought about it. They just haven’t translated it from feature to benefit or they haven’t put their selves in the shoes of a buyer or different members of the buying committee and thinking through the different pieces of it.
Switching gears a little bit over here, going big picture and on the personal side of things. You are a successful partner at Bain, a leading strategic consulting company. It’s a known global brand. Tell us about your journey. What led you to the path of management consulting and what do you do at Bain now?
I’m a born, raised and trained data-driven marketer. My dad was a data-driven marketer. I was aware of it from the youngest ages. In some ways, it’s in my DNA. His dad was an advertising and newspaper publisher. On the other side, I’ve got technologists and psychologists. This whole intersection of go-to-market using words to stimulate action and communicate has always been there. It’s always captivated me. I grew up wanting to do that and did that professionally until my late twenties and then I got bored with it. I no longer wanted to have the go-to-market seat at the table largely because I found it too constraint, honestly. It was too much on the order-taking end of things.
I went to Bain to be a strategist and to open the aperture, think bigger and do that work. It was great. I loved all of that. In fact, strategy, however, got boring again because you can only do so many market studies. You can only do so many plan briefs before it has to immediately devolve into the hard work of bringing it to market and building that innovation for real and all of those things. I ended up back in go-to-market land. It’s that Einstein quote of, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” The strategy is 1% and the go-to-market defined as a product on down is 99%.
Most strategies aren’t bad. Most companies and executives won’t sit around and greenlight a bad strategy. They greenlight good strategies. It then dies a death of a thousand paper cuts on its way from product to marketing to sales and to success. I spend a lot of my time working with organizations to clear out the pipes between strategy and success, realigning, accelerating and redesigning go-to-markets. I lead that product and IP for Bain globally, which is a lot of fun. I work in lots of industries, primarily technology. You name it, I’ve probably worked on it. I bring a lot of the lens of why do people change.
Every consulting engagement ends with things people need to do differently. Whether or not they do them is the difference between a book report and a result in the business. That’s not very much fun to work on book reports. I spend a lot of time making sure that everything we do is dialed in to what’s going to work with our clients, what they’re excited about, what they believe in and harnessing the energy that’s existed inside their company to make the right next change and the next step on their journey as opposed to a corrective if you will.
I love the quote that you mentioned. To be honest, I can relate to a lot of the things and the conflicts that you lived through and have been through for several reasons. One is when I was doing my MBA at Cornell University. As you very well know, MBA grads are flooded with consulting job offers. Being me and being like many other people at Ivy League schools, I was contemplating whether I should pursue a consulting career.
A part of me went, “Consulting is nice. It looks cool and sexy but for me, what gets going and why I’m excited is more of being in the weeds, that execution piece, which you mentioned.” Fast-forward post my MBA days, I have been in the industry in an execution capacity. Over the last few years, I flipped where I started my own boutique go-to-market consulting company. I did that for a few years. Again, that bug bit me, which is, “Consulting is fine, but again, it’s all about execution.” Now, I’m back full-time at a Series B startup leading strategic growth function, which encompasses product-led growth and mid-market enterprise growth.
Going back to what you mentioned and you can come up with all the research and the strategy, but the fun part is putting that into effect and seeing, as you mentioned, towards the end of your little story and journey is a lot of it has to do with change management. Change is hard and that’s where good, strong and a good amount of leaders come into play where they recognize that and they are empathetic. They are vulnerable and they come across like that. They coach the different functions and stakeholders in pursuing that change.
One of the most powerful tools in that is co-creation from square one. We can often tell if a consulting engagement is going to end in results are not measured by how engaged the team is on the client-side. If they want to be executives and get the book report every month and say, “Thank you,” that’s not a great sign. If they’ve got people at all levels of the organization and we’re doing workshops every other day, we are trying things on and we’re discarding them. We’re trying a new thing. I did one of those in 2021 and we ended up in November 2021. They rolled out a new price packaging architecture in December 2021 and January 2022 as a pilot. It drove immediate success. I was talking to the leader. Their win rates were accelerated and are higher.
Everything about it mixes up. It’s a great story and that was before the full rollout. That was a picture-perfect example of co-creation with a client. We’re bringing the best of our science, our tools, our experts, their domain expertise and their knowledge of how their company works. What organs are going to get rejected and which organs are going to get accepted and crafting something that’s slotted right in. The one trump card in all change management is success. If you can figure out how to show success early, you’ll get people to change their minds quickly.
This is something that I am focusing on and telling my team here in my new role is focused on the quick wins. Do little experimentations around customer acquisition, experimentations around onboarding, first user touchpoints and experiences and even pricing. Do those little experiences, get the data and then that data, yes, they might be “failures” but it’s more of a feedback loop. Once you see that early quick wins, that will give the juice, the boost and the morale to the team to change.
What I’d add to that is for any company, go-to-market is a system. It’s hundreds of people. It’s lots of different sales and marketing technology. It’s like a house with 100 additions. As the manager of that, and you’re like, “What should we add on next? What room should we renovate?” The art of being a good go-to-market leader is exactly what you said, which is I’m always running a bunch of experiments. When I see something that works, I go and remodel that kitchen or I remodel that bedroom or whatever it is. You never want to tear down the whole house or you won’t have anywhere to live. You got to make a quarter. If you’re always constantly optimizing continuous improvement, it’s a fun way to run a business.
I know you alluded to this a little bit. It looks like you and your team have been doing some research around how to improve the overall B2B sales and B2B go-to-market. Now is a good time for us to deep dive into that. Do you want to walk the readers and us to the research that you’ve been focusing on so far?
I would love to. It started with an insight that we had a number of years ago, which was that there’s this thing called a sales play that a lot of companies were running. Those work because what they did was they were the transversal. They broke down the functional silos and instead of saying, “Product throw it over the wall to marketing, marketing throw it over the wall to sales and sales throw it over the wall to success.” Sales plays the transversal that cuts across and is that direct line from the value props to the customer. We also had run into clients and companies that were running sales plays, but to no great effect. We had this thesis that the play was valuable, but it was really the system around it.
It’s somewhat similar to the work we had done with NPS. Bain created the NPS score in the ’90s. We said, “It’s not the score, it’s the system.” You can have the score. It’s like getting the credit score, “I have a score,” but like, “What are you going to do about it?” How are you going to build the feedback loops around that? The research we did was to look at companies that were doing it well, try to isolate those variables and say, “What are the elements that drive above-market growth and share gain?” We boiled it down to five things and that’s what the research said.
What we found empirically through our research is that the companies that did all five of these things were almost three times as likely to outgrow the market as the companies that didn’t. It was very intuitive to us in how we got there and it was great to see that the data bear it out. We think that these are the five things that are going to define the future of go-to-market, in part, because the companies that are winning and taking shares are the ones that are doing it. They’re the ones that are going to be left at the end.
It all starts with a very data-driven view of where the dollars are in the market space. Most companies can tell you, “We’ve got a 20% market share.” What they can’t tell you is, at client X or at prospect Y, what’s my share in this product category? When we build that for customers, it’s like turning on the lights in a dark room. You’re like, “Here’s where the money is in the market. I now have a map of where all the dollars are both in my retention, new logo accounts and my expansion accounts.”
Building that and building a robust view of that at a customer prospect and by-product level. We had a theory that you could build that process at scale and at speed. We’ve done that. We do that for clients now and we call it the money map. It’s a map of where all the money is in the market. Companies have different potential models, but having some data-driven view of that is critical because, without that, you’re only guessing.
I’m all for believing in the instincts of the front line, but their instincts on what the dollars are not always spot on. The second part is a factory that builds the play and the insight there is it’s cross-functional. Sometimes I call it the iron triangle of product sales and marketing. You need to get all three of those constituents together and if the three of them together architect to the play and say, “Here’s the messaging. Here’s the cadence of marketing actions. Here are the clothes,” and make that a group effort on building that as opposed to what we often see in companies of sales saying, “I haven’t gotten the marketing yet.” Marketing is saying, “I’m waiting for the product brief.” Putting them together, embracing that agile mentality and building that play in the factory brings it to the next level.
The next piece is an advanced command center that uses that data on customers and uses that library of sales plays and does the matching. You can call it the next best offer or it could be a place where you have a lot of opt-in. We’ve done this with a big technology company. They had a portfolio of sort 10 legacy products and 5 new strategic products. This is a way to say to the reps, “Pick three and pick two. You can sell three of the old thing and you can sell two of the new thing, but that becomes your account plan or those five plays you’re going to run there.”
That’s empowering for the reps and it’s a way to shift the mix in a very constructive way for the company faster than they would just by waiting for the salesforce to adapt to the new thing. That is that win room, which also then is your test and learning center. That’s where you talked about those experiments. It’s monitoring, tracking and it’s making micro-adjustments. At the frontline of the execution, because the plays are articulated, you’ve got marketing and sales working in tandem a lot better. The swing factor there and what we found is coaching. Two-thirds of reps wouldn’t pay $1 for an hour of their manager’s time but some reps would pay $500 for an hour over their manager’s time. That’s because their managers are giving them really good coaching and they’re helping them hit their number, exceed their quota and all of those things.
Really zeroing in on the coaching element there, for us, is the swing factor. The fifth is technology. It’s getting that RevOps Tech Stack engineered. We found that the winning companies that were three times more likely, they had eleven pieces of sales and marketing technology. They’ve architected a system, but the ones that were losing share and undergrowing the market, they had nine pieces. It wasn’t about buying the tech, it was about integrating the tech, marrying it to your business process and then getting it in the workflows. All those five things together, that’s what it takes to outgrow the market.
If I reflect on what I captured and this is where you can correct me if I got all the right elements. The first is all around data. Making sure that you’re capturing the right data and even looking at the existing data that you have around which of your products and customer segments are performing better and why. How much more room is there to grow within those customer segments or customers?
On a customer level but add a named customer or a named prospect level.
It’s to add an account level. The second is having that magic triangle is what I would call, which is the product, marketing and sales. If I can chime in, I would even add customer success if you are a B2B SaaS. It’s a triangle/rectangle, depending on whichever business model you have. I get the essence. It’s not operating in silos, as you said, but all of these functions working hand in hand. That’s critical.
The third is around looking at your entire product portfolio set, both the new offers that you have, the existing or the legacy. Whatever you have right now, you can package it well again. I’m going to give you an example. It’s not to promote Samsung, but this is the example that I came to where I was purchasing or pre-ordering the Samsung S22 Ultra phone.
The way Samsung packaged is, “Yes, we will give you a free upgrade on the memory, but at the same time, we are giving you $250 of instant credit in the Samsung store,” which means now I’m buying not just the S22 Ultra by also got the Samsung watch, which I was not planning to. It’s an existing product and a new product packaged together and sold. That’s an example right there.
The fourth one is around coaching. This is where a lot of go-to-market leaders have to invest in themselves, even if it means getting a coach for themselves. Because the way I look at it is, a role of a leader or a manager is to ensure that their team is successful. For that to happen, you need to coach. For you to coach, you need to know how to identify the growth areas and how to teach. Yes, you may be the expert in a specific subject matter, be it pricing, packaging, selling or qualification but if you can’t, you’re doing half the job and not the full thing.
Specifically, in sales, most sales managers were last year’s really good rep and this year’s mediocre sales manager. That’s a pretty high turnover industry. Teaching people constantly how to coach, particularly in sales, but also throughout the go-to-market value chain is so important.
The fifth one is having the systems and the right technology to tie all these pieces.
CRM, marketing automation, AI overlays, Cadence softwares and all the bells and whistles you see. All the things that all your readers get called on every day for a demo of this or a demo of that. There are 10,000 sales tech and MarTech companies out there. There’s no lack of things to buy there. There’s no integrated suite out there.
It takes a sophisticated RevOps or commercial ops person to say, “Here’s our value flow. Here’s our CRM. Here’s our marketing. Here’s where we’re going to tie it together. Here’s what we’re going to add in a Clari or Kong or Chorus or an Outreach.” It’s all the things like that. Getting that dialed in is tough. That’s why RevOps leaders are in such demand right now.
Tying back to what I’ve seen at the times when I was doing my own consulting plus what I’m doing in my current role is, there is a tendency where a lot of people buy technology because they have the budget and they need to spend or because their peers are doing that. They’re not flipping and asking the question, “What are the insights that I need? What are the gaps that I’m not aware of that I need to know of so that I can make the right decisions for the team, the executive leadership and for the business overall to serve the customers?” Ask those questions first and see if you have the right toolset, be it your MarTech, sales tech or whatever. Even your BI like a Tableau or something and then go for that tool.
I love BI. BI is not intelligent. BI is visualization. You have to ask it intelligent questions and it can give you intelligent answers, but there’s no native intelligence in BI. Go-to-market used to be pretty simple. “Here’s your product catalog, your patch and your quota. Good luck.” What we’ve seen with COVID and everyone being at home, we’ve started this massive specialization of labor. You’ve got top of funnel demand gen, SDRs, BDRs, handoffs to the AEs and then expansion reps. We’ve microparsed it.
It’s like Adam Smith’s pin factory. Everyone’s down to their very technical thing, but if they’re not operating in a system, it’s like a random walk. What we believe is that the modern revenue leader needs to be a systems engineer or designer. It’s usually not about spending more money. You talk to a CEO and they’ll say, “I’m spending 10%, 20% of revenue on go-to-market. Isn’t that enough?” The answer is, yes. In fact, you probably already have all the technology you need, you probably have the right headcount. You might not have the right skill profile, but they’re not knit together in a way that they all work.
That’s what we need to get companies to do is to figure out how do you bring all those elements together and make them work in an orchestrated harmonized way. It is the system that we talk about, the five elements of the system. Those are the five elements to get to that orchestrated and harmonized high-performance machine.
I’m glad that your team did the research and reinforced the five key foundational elements. If you step out, a lot of these insights are common sense. Not to downplay the research or the clients out there, but somehow along the way, people lose sight of this. That’s why I’m glad that you did the research and you’re reinforcing this message of all these five pillars being in place.
It’s hard to see the forest when you’ve got to chop down trees every day. That’s one of the luxuries we have as consultants is we get to come in with fresh eyes and a good sense of what good looks like and say, “Here’s how you might want to lay it out.” That can be powerful for companies.
I’m super excited. Congratulations to you and your team, Jamie.
Thank you. It’s a fun piece of work and it’s fun to talk to clients about it.
Let’s switch gears. You’re at a very strong and good vantage point where you can step out and see all the different client scenarios and different industries where things are working or not working when it comes to go-to-market. From your broad breadth of experiences, it’ll be ideal if you can share two stories. One go-to-market success story and another go-to-market failure story because behind every success, there have been a ton of failure stories, which people don’t realize. If you can share a success story and then a failure story or vice versa. It’s up to you.
I’m going to have to change the names to protect the innocent here. We maintain our client confidentiality. The successes come in two flavors. One, I like to call them steroid shots. They are for businesses that are doing well and just need a little bit of an injection. Oftentimes, they’re a victim of their own growth. They’ve posted 30%, 40% year-over-year growth. They’ve added product complexity and segments. Complexity is multiplicative. It’s pretty easy. The product, sales and customer but as soon as you start to match, there are lots of failures to fall down.Culture eats strategy. All of this will succeed if you can do it in a way that resonates with people. Click To Tweet
We do a lot of work around packaging and pricing, which almost gets back to market-led product strategy, coverage models, handoffs or capacity planning and all of those things. It’s building the next generation of the growth machine. Those are fun projects and those are with good companies with good products that just need a roadmap for the next leg of the growth. Those are great and fun to come back to a year later and find out that they were successful and how they did those.
The other flavor of success is these epic journeys. In my own personal business, we do a lot of work with private equity. Private equity has a saying, “No bad assets, just bad prices.” There are plenty of companies that have good bones in place but have lost their way in the market. Oftentimes, there’s a technology transition that happens. We worked with one that missed the pivot to the cloud.
They were public. They started shrinking. Their top-lines started going backwards, negative 5% year over year and their private equity bottomed. We worked with them and we got them back to growth, but it was a multi-year journey to retool that whole go-to-market. How do you call on cloud infrastructure providers and not enterprise data center providers? That was a big example, and that was product, sales motion, marketing, success and services. It’s everything around those.
Those are high risk, by the way. A lot of things need to go right over a long sustained period of time, but the particular one I’m thinking of right now is a very successful publicly traded company that’s posting sequential growth and is out there acquiring. We are using that business we worked on as the cornerstone of something that is working. I’ve alluded to failure early on. It’s when those conditions for change aren’t there. My least favorite consulting engagement was a few years ago. We went in and built a growth strategy.
We were going to do all these cool things and everyone was getting excited. We got done and they are like, “This is great.” We checked back and they’re like, “We haven’t made any progress.” We found out that they did that exact same project years prior with a different consulting company and they did that exact same project years prior to that with a different consulting company. We should not have taken the engagement and we didn’t know that. Had we known, we wouldn’t have.
Life’s too short to work on things where the intention isn’t there. Maybe that’s not a failure in a failure story for you. There are other failures where the mind’s willing and the body’s weak. The change is there, the change gets started and it stalls out. We’ve got a lot of tools to get ahead of that, but you can’t always do it. Sometimes the urgency of the quarter or the other thing or cost reductions or whatever it is means that you can’t see your way through to bright. Those are tough ones.
Thank you for sharing those stories. Going back to the failure story that you mentioned, it’s almost like you have the intent and in your case, a client had the intent to figure out and do research and understand what went wrong or what is going wrong and how to fix it, which is the first part. That’s where they engaged your team. There’s the bigger piece, which is, “Here are the set of recommendations. Do we have the appetite and hunger to execute?” That’s a big piece. It’s almost like they took the first step, but then they forgot to take the next five steps.
That’s why I like working in private equity because no is not an option. It doesn’t take too much for somebody to say, “This is risky. We might risk next quarter.” The reality is, if you don’t change, you’re on a slow slide to irrelevance. Tech companies, you’re either growing or dying and it takes courage. Courageous leadership is important here.
Let’s move on to another topic, but still, stay in the realm of 2022 and what you’re seeing across in the various industries and clients. It’s up to you how you want to frame it or share, Jamie. What is top of mind for you and your team for 2022 or what do you see as the top of mind for your set of clients and what are your recommendations when it comes to go-to-market?
What’s top of mind for us is this research we did because we can get on point for what everyone needs. A couple of things are top of mind. One is this idea of technology. “We’ve invested in the technology. We bought all the toys. We bought all the things and it’s not working. We’re not getting the lift we want.” That resonates with everyone we talked to. Alignment resonates with everyone we talked to. Part of it is this work-from-home dynamic. We talked about handing it off from product to marketing to sales. That is not working anymore.
It’s not working when people aren’t in the same office and don’t go to meetings together and can’t get on the whiteboard and solve it or brute force their way through it. I was on with a COO yesterday of a big $20 billion technology company talking about marketing. The whole conversation was with marketing and sales alignment. Is the MQL dead? Sales would say, “I don’t care about MQLs. That’s marketing grading their own homework.”
SQLs are what I care about.
I think everyone’s tired. I think the world’s tired. With the Great Resignation, everyone’s short-staffed, working hard, dealing with personal sickness or extended family, which has been utterly tragic. Figuring out how to get up tomorrow and go to work, much less go to work and make it better and how to do it in a new environment.
This is where the coaching element comes into play, going back to your study and research.
Failing’s okay, but failing over and over for the same reason and not getting coached that’s a frustrating place to be. Those are the things that are top of mind. We all saw the world didn’t stop for COVID. There’s so much capital pouring in right now, whether it’s LBOs, growth equity or what have you. Sitting still, jogging and running are not an option. Everyone must be sprinting to keep up with the pace of change and expectations of the investment community. There’s still a lot. It’s a dynamic situation out there.
There are two points that come to my mind. The one I’ll share is almost like an approach or a solution or a mindset thing. It’s going back to your point of there’s a lot of capital that’s flowing in. This means the intent is there, but it’s almost like, “I’ve got all this money. Let’s put it to use,” versus what I emphasize in my team and broadly is, “Let’s operate with the mindset of we have a very limited budget. Let’s do the experiments.”
We’ll take two or three months to figure out what scales, which channel and what efficiency is being very diligent when it comes to the targeting, the messaging, the call to action or the offer. Focus on the basics. Once we have that, we can then pour money and scale that. It’s almost like a founder’s mindset. If you go back to the early days, the founder has this mindset. Unfortunately, when the founder has to hire and expand the team to tens, hundreds and thousands of people, that mindset is lost. It’s gone.
I was reading something. I can’t remember, but it was a founder or somebody who worked in startups and they said, “Doing go-to-market and a startup is drilling for oil. You’re going to drill a lot of dry holes and you’re going to try a lot of things that fail.” When you hit, put in a pump and pump, pump, pump. You can scale that thing up. It’s all about having a fast feedback loop, failing quickly, testing quickly, and iterating.
It’s all about operating in two weeks sprint cycles, “For the next two weeks, let’s test the segment.” “For the next two weeks, let’s test this messaging.” It’s not that you need to go sequential. You can run multiple expert experiments in the same two-week window.
When I started consulting many years ago, everything was a three-month project with three check-ins. It’s steering committee number one, two and three at the end of the month, one, two and three. Now, everything’s in sprint mode. Everything’s tests, everything’s minimum viable increment. How do you move it on and adapt? I think it’s better and healthier because there’s a lot of time between a four-week readout and the next four-week readout and readouts the wrong mentality in and of itself.
It’s very similar to what the whole software development world went through, which is it used to be the whole waterfall model if you go back to the software world. It’s 3, 6, 12 months development cycle and then release a product. Your g business is going to die if you are operating in that mindset. That’s why the whole DevOps phenomenon came into play. The same thing has to happen in the go-to-market space.
It reminds me too of a study I read about pricing models. What they found is that the highest corporate valuations are tied with consumption-based pricing. It’s because you’re winning your customer every time they click a button. You can’t be asleep with a switch. There’s no hiding behind a three-year contract.
Going back to the whole product-led growth, you have to invest so much so that the user and the buyer see value in the product. That’s one. The second is switching from a monthly or annual to usage-based where you have skin in the game to ensure that the user is seeing value. Otherwise, they just pull the plug.
The head of our utility practice told me that we’ve already solved consumption-based pricing. It’s called your electric company. You get charged per kilowatt.
It’s been a fun conversation here, Jamie. Let me bring it to the finish line with a couple of questions here. What resources do you lean on to improve your skill? Is it community? Is it podcasts or books? Is it all of the above?
It’s going to sound bad, but I can’t read business books, books that should be pamphlets. I’ll read the abstracts and that’s fine. I come back to this human issue of business is not that hard. I had a CFO explain it to me once. He said it’s pretty simple. “In Zs need to be bigger than out Zs. You have profit leftover and everything’s happy.” I’m being a little bit tongue in cheek and certainly, I’m out there studying. I have the privilege of talking to so many companies and seeing so many models and have so many great peers that are out there seeing it.
For me, it’s about separating signal from noise and there are too many things to learn. The one that is the great unifier is people. “Why do people do what they do? How do you get them out of the bed every morning? How do you get them to change?” Culture eats strategy. All of this will succeed or fail quickly if you can do it in a way that resonates with people. That is where most of my study and my learning come from outside of the normal business channels.
You can come up with all sorts of strategies, but if you can’t empower and motivate the people, it’s only going to take you so much. Again, it goes back to the two or three things that I reinforce and which I’ve seen play well is, first of all, having that intellectual humility and it’s critical. It’s not that you have answers for everything. That’s one. Second is having that curiosity.
You can conclude that your person on this team is thinking this way, but go and ask the question and the response will shock you. The third is going back to the other pillar in your study, which is coaching. If you have intellectual humility, if you have curiosity, which is gloved with empathy, that should drive you to become a better coach.
My mind was blown. I was talking to some friends and saying, “Here’s a situation. Here’s how I experienced it.” I said, “I read it in a totally different way.” I was like, “That is fascinating.” It reminded me that as humans, we’re always making up stories to make sense of the data around us. Those stories might be wrong or might be right and if you’re not curious, you won’t know.
One final question to you, Jamie, is if you were to roll back the clock and time and go back to day one of your go-to-market journeys, what advice would you give to the younger Jamie?
It’s exactly what you alluded to on this sprint mentality. The last living 3 months in the future, 6 months or 9 months in the future is more like, “What can we do tomorrow? What can we learn from that?” I started by telling you I went to Bain to do strategy and I thought about strategy as these big ornate edifices of intellectuals and they are but you don’t win with good strategy, you win with a good enough strategy and great execution. Tempering that short and long-term is so powerful.
Thank you so much for your time, Jamie. It was insightful. I got a lot of insightful actions. I told you that oftentimes, I pause the show episode and someone out there reads to it and comes back to me like a couple of months later saying, “This one piece is gold and this is what I applied.” Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom and stories.
Hopefully, there is a nugget in there for somebody. Thank you for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.
About Jamie Cleghorn
Jamie Cleghorn is a partner in the Chicago office of Bain & Company. He is a member of Bain’s Technology and Customer practices. Jamie leads Bain’s B2B Commercial Excellence practice in the Americas, leads Bain’s GTM Transformation and Sales Play System℠ solutions globally and is one of the developers of the Elements of Value℠.
Jamie works with CEOs and executive teams during periods of transformational change, with a focus on strategy, growth and organizational effectiveness to achieve results. He has worked extensively with corporations and PE sponsors across technology, telecoms, industrials, healthcare and business services.
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