Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 110: Q&A with Christine Zmuda @czmuda

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Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly (later weekly) radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio (live every Thursday at 11:30am PST). It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up!

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes and pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts!

Listen in this time when Christine and I:

  1. Touch on Microsoft and LinkedIn Acquisition One Year Later.  Provide context for how Microsoft and LinkedIn are partnering to drive relationship selling impact.
  2. Talk about how CRM Systems no longer need to be a system of oppression.
  3. Discuss how Machine Learning and predictive analytics change the day to day life of the seller.
  4. Discuss what an innovative solution like Microsoft Relationship Sales has in common with a well known music app (Shazam). Making the magic happen!
  5. Explain what conventional sales tactics will no longer apply?
  6. Share how will the use of new selling tools and technologies change the buying and selling experience?

 Download the Microsoft Ebook – Empowering the Modern Seller 

About Our Guest:  Christine Zmuda, Sr. Dir. of Sales at Microsoft.

Christine says of herself:  My passion and professional satisfaction comes from identifying market opportunities before they are mainstream. My most rewarding roles and accomplishments have centered around developing sales and market strategy for emerging businesses and scaling new acquisitions. I’m always open to learning more about technology and happy to share my own experiences of leading sales, marketing, and channel teams if it’s helpful.

On a personal note, I enjoy golf, tennis, spending time with my family and embracing new experiences. My new found love is abstract painting, the bigger the canvas the better.

Matt:  Thanks so much everyone for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We are here every week live at 11:30 Eastern, 2:30 Pacific. Thank you for those of us joining us live. I know we have more people every week joining us live, especially today joining us because of our guest today from Microsoft. So thanks very much for joining us. If you are joining us through the podcast, thank you so much for subscribing. We appreciate each and every one of you. You can find us and make sure you don’t miss a single episode. You can find us on the iTunes store and Google Play. Every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio past, present and future is available at SalesPipelineRadio.com. We feature every week some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is no different. We are featuring Christine Zmuda. She is the Senior Director of Sales at Microsoft, as mentioned. She is a proud Michigan State alum. She is the Executive Sponsor of the LinkedIn/Microsoft Dynamics relationship and today we’re going to talk a little more about Microsoft relationships sales, what that means and why it’s so important for sales organizations moving forward.

But first and foremost, Christine, thanks so much for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Christine:  Thanks, Matt. It’s so great to be here.

Matt:  Are we allowed to talk about Michigan State basketball? Is that a totally taboo topic at this point? I mean, has enough time passed that it’s a little less raw than it might have been a week ago?

Christine:  It’s really raw. It’s really raw. The loss to Syracuse is very painful. On top of that, losing earlier to Michigan, equally painful. I’m a proud Michigan State alum and my daughter is actually there right now attending school. So the whole family is feeling the pain.

Matt:  Nice. Okay. So we’re going to avoid that topic. If we have time, I want to get around to talk a little bit about I know you were involved in athletics when you were at Michigan State and you were involved in a non-profit that sounds really interesting as well. So I want to get around to that a little later, but want to first talk a little bit about what Microsoft’s doing in the B2B space and in sales. I think in a world where … For those listening to this program, we talk a lot about Salesforce. We talk about Marketo. We talk about Oracle, and I think Microsoft has been traditionally kind of missing from those conversations. But that seems to be changing. I think one of the things that really sort of caught people’s eye is Microsoft buying LinkedIn and then now having seen what Microsoft is doing with LinkedIn, especially between LinkedIn and Dynamics to create this relationships sales focus is really interesting. Talk a little bit about how that is evolved and what that means for B2B sellers today.

Christine:  Sure. Happy to give you some color on that. So when you think about all the places we can play and there are a lot of possibilities for this union, but tackling the seller dilemma was a natural first place of intersection. So if you think about it, Matt, with an install base of 1.2 billion users of office, 530 million LinkedIn members, Microsoft’s in a really unique position to better the work life of sales professionals everywhere. So we embarked upon a journey July. Launched the solution Microsoft relationship sales and essentially what this enables sellers to do is benefit from the power of LinkedIn sales navigator where sellers everywhere are using it daily to do research, to stay connected, to line a business decision makers with the experience of Dynamic CRM and know that sellers are living in three places. They live in CRM. They live in the office, and they’ve lived in LinkedIn. So we also wanted to put natural intersections or I should say integrations to the office suite.

So as sellers are working, contextually they could tap into some of the LinkedIn information. As an example, we just recently launched the ability for LinkedIn profiles to be surfaced in the Outlook Client. Just little touches like that make a huge different for sellers everywhere. What we’re trying to do to net it out with relationship sales is help sellers build relationships with the right people. As they’re starting to engage, make sure that they have access to the right insights, the right recommendations that could help build longer term trust and credibility. Then lastly, it’s all about engaging at scale, using the technology in an integrated way to make predictions on where sellers should invest and then ultimately, deliver on the promise of turning relationships into revenue.

Matt:  So it not incorrect to describe CRM systems historically as systems of oppression. I think that no matter what system you’re using … I think we did some research last year and asked sales reps to tell us what are the things they do throughout their day, throughout their week that cause them the most distractions from actively selling. By far, number one was time and CRM. I mean, it is seen as an activity that is easy distraction from sales as opposed to an accelerator of sales. I think that Microsoft seems to be in a pretty unique position from a workflow standpoint along, right? To be able to think about the way that sales reps work. You’re using email. You’re using CRM. You’re using a networking tool. You’re creating presentations and communications back to your prospect. I mean, so be able to have real integration and to improve the productivity and efficiency of sales seems like a really, really interesting opportunity.

Curiously, now that’s it been about a year since the LinkedIn acquisition, what’s the road map for those products to work together and what should we be expecting to see from Microsoft from a relationship sales standpoint?

Christine:  Well, I think we want to sort of flip the notion of CRM being a system of oppression to a system of engagement. We’ve already started doing that. I often think about the CRM or I should say the frontline seller using a CRM system as someone who has been constantly in a bad relationship. The reason I say that is a lot of these systems have been designed for management. They’ve been designed for sellers to input their data, share all their contacts, and be able to roll up information to the top line business. But there’s been very little in the system to actually help sellers do their jobs better. So what we have done is applied machine learning to a lot of the interactions that are happening in the system.

So if you’re an individual seller, you’re getting real time engagements from some of the customer interactions. Whether that’s emails, whether that’s calendar invites, whether that’s point drive interactions, and if you’re selling in a team environment, it’s even more powerful because, again, the system is calling all of the interactions and then making predictions on where sellers should spend their time. Because, as you may have guess, sellers in the past not using a modernized system, they’re chronicling and logging things in CRM that have already happened. If we can change the dynamic and actually tap into what maybe happening in the future, what opportunities have high engagement, or even better yet, what’s happening now in real time. That proposal you sent, it was just opened. Now it’s being shared across the organization. There are new decision makers who have been identified through that action that you might want to put in your relationship strategy, in terms of the acquisition.

So there’s a lot that’s happening that’s I think super exciting. It almost gives sellers almost this super power of acuity, right? Foresight and vision and being able to tap into all the information to help them make better decisions.

Matt:  Yeah. I think it’s a really, really exciting future for sales reps but also, I mean, what you’re talking about. You’re absolutely right that CRMs have traditionally been a management tool not a sales rep tool. To the point where there’s been entire industry of sales enablement tools that have been created to provide an overlay onto CRM to make them actually usable by sales reps. I think the ability to sort of answer the core question for sales reps of what should I do next, right? I mean, it’s not enough to say, “Well, here’s 100 calls you should make,” or, “Here’s 100 prospects you should follow up with.” Which of them should you follow up with? Which appear to be most interested? Which of them do you maybe have the tightest relationships with based on the rest of your network where you can actually get the most progress with that prospect possible moving forward. I think that the opportunities that are significant and it’s excited.

I mean, look, we’re based in Redmond. We’re just right down the road from Microsoft main headquarters and having seen sort of the legacy of Microsoft Dynamics and where it’s common, where it’s going. Maybe I’m a Homer because we live here and I used to work at Microsoft, but I’m pretty excited about it.

We got to take a quick break. We’re going to come back with more. We’ve got Christine Zmuda. She is the Senior Director of Sales for Microsoft relationship sales. We’re going to be asking her what good relationship sales has in common with music apps like Shazam. We’re going to figure that one out. We’re going to talk to Christine as well since she is not only talking about and evangelizing Microsoft, but she is a seller herself. Talk a little bit about what’s happening and differences in the sales and buying process based on new technology and new solutions. Going to pay a couple bills. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  I want to talk about what CRM may have to do with music apps like Shazam and maybe what Microsoft is doing around that. We got our guest today Christine Zmuda. She’s the Senior Director for emerging solutions at Microsoft Dynamics.

If you like what you’re hearing today on Sales Pipeline Radio, I encourage you to check us out each week. Next few weeks we got a lot of great guests to cover both sales and marketing. We’re going to go a little back and forth, Paul, over the next few weeks for people who are maybe more on the sales side and more on the marketing side. Next week we’re going to stay on the sales side and focus with Jim Ninivaggi. He is a former Senior Analyst at SiruisDecisions. He is now the Sales Readiness Officer for BrainShark. We’re going to be talking more about sales enablement, sales readiness and what we can do to make our sales teams more efficient. Later on in April we got Raviv Turner. He is the Founder and CEO of CaliberMind. We’re going to be talking about the difference between data management, data maintenance, and data intelligence and how you can use a lot of the data you already have to make smarter decisions and to put the right information in front of the right prospect at the right time to move the conversation forward.

But I want to spend a little more time here with Christine and before we always run out of time too quickly. Whenever I get some bio, your PR team sent me your bio and my first instinct with bios is to always look at the bottom. Because the bottom of the bio usually has interesting information about personal interests, family, things that are sort of personally interesting to you, and I noticed the board role you have with the Ted Rullo Foundation. Talk a little about what that foundation does and why that’s so important to you.

Christine:  Oh, sure. Sure. So Ted Rullo Foundation is actually a very personal tribute to my father who passed away but was always a champion of young, aspiring athletes who may needed father figures or needed mentoring and just needed a hand up. So since my father’s passing, we do scholarships and have awarded five scholarships to date and do this every year in his memory.

Matt:  I love that. Thank you for being willing to share that. That’s such a great personal endeavor. I know you were a student athlete at Michigan State as well. That’s a very, very cool story.

All right. Paul is like bouncing in his chair. He wants to know the answer to this question. A solution like Microsoft relationship sales, what does is have in common with an app like Shazam? What does those things have in common?

Christine:  Sure. Well, sometimes I think conceptually it’s fun to share analogies to draw similarities and this is always something that you try and do a cocktail parties when people ask you, “Well, what do you do? What are you working on?” But I think about the popular musical application Shazam, and it’s one of my favorites. I’ve used it for years and years. I’m a huge music fan. I’m still amazing at the fact that you can play a short song clip and the match rate is always incredible that Shazam comes back to you with the songs, the lyrics, the artist, and what Shazam also did that a lot of people didn’t know about, but they were also predicting who would be the next big music sensation based on engagement. So they predicted one of my favorites, Vance Joy. They’ve predicted Sam Smith and a whole host of others.

When I think about what we’re doing with relationship sales, there are some parallels. It’s a lot like the magic of Shazam because we’re taking in all of this information in the sales airwaves. Whether it’s email responses, calendars, point drive interactions, sales navigator emails, all of this stuff and then making predictions that are measured on engagement or non-engagement. So my hope as these things stand the test of time, but Shazam is a place where people go where they can’t get the answers anywhere else. Our goal is to make Microsoft relationship sales a destination place where sellers really get true value and insights that they can’t get anywhere else.

Matt:  So I want to make sure people understand the difference between so you know predictive analytics and perfect analytics. Like when we talked about doing predictive work, sometimes I think we make the assumption that predictive is going to get us 100% accurate. I think Shazam’s a good example of that where sometimes Shazam is wrong. Sometimes Shazam will guess incorrectly or not be able to pick something up, but using a Shazam is a hell of a lot more efficient than just guessing, right? I think with predictive analytics, we’re not always looking for 100% perfect answers, but if I think about this in a sales environment, my ability to have a better conversation, a more likely conversations with the prospect at the right time, is way better than just running through a list without any level of focus, without any segmentation, without any customization at all.

So I mean, talk about that relative to sort of helping sales reps be more efficient. I mean, you’re running a sales organization, you’re in the field closing deals, and carrying a bag as well. How does that apply? How should sales reps be thinking about predictive analytics relatively incremental gains in productivity get represents for them?

Christine:  Right. So I mean, you’re spot on. We’re never going to eliminate human interaction needed to deduce and close a sale and decide where to invest your time, but you can certainly see through trends and actually from a sales manager point of view, you can see replicated best replicable best practices using the data. So it might get you closer. You might be able to get better scale across a high propensity target or sales tactic because you’ve seen it work in other places. Now you have the data that you can apply and those strategies behind it. But I think what it does is it reduces your errors and it makes you ask questions earlier in the process to help increase the opportunities to win.

Matt:  Yeah. I would agree. I think too often both in sales and in marketing, we’re looking for some silver bullet that’s going to magically improve everything. I think very rarely, if ever, does that exist. But I think we’re looking for, in my mind, we’re looking for marginal incremental but significant improvements in our effectiveness and our ability to do that not in random exert, in random points, but do that in a predictable, scalable way. I think that’s where the power of systems come into place when you got a CRM tied to your network, tied to the tools you’re using to communicate with your prospects, you’ve got a lot of advantages there.

Finishing up here with Christine Zmuda. She’s the Senior Director of emerging solutions with Microsoft Dynamics, a sponsor of the Dynamics relationship with LinkedIn and how those are integrated together. We’ve got some pretty exciting stuff coming up from Microsoft. Definitely looking forward to seeing how that evolves over time.

One last question I want to ask you before we have to wrap up here. We always ask our guests if your career has spanned a lot of time at Microsoft. You’ve been at Mobile Oil. You were at Yammer after that. As you think about your career and what you have learned, who are some of the people that have been most influential for you? They can be managers. They can be authors. They can be dead or alive. Maybe others who are listening here should be looking at and reading and paying attention to as well that have been inspirations for you and could be inspirations for others as well.

Christine:  Yeah. I guess I’ve two quick influencers to surface. I would suggest internally our VP of Commercial Growth, Chris Weber gave our team some great feedback and quite a challenge. Essentially for sellers everywhere, if you can capture what you’re solution does in seven words or less, you’re doing a pretty good job of branding what the benefits are. So that’s a good challenge for anyone, and that’s actually how he came up with turning relationships to revenue.

Then from an external point of view, I think a great influencer is Seth Godin. I enjoy a lot of his books, and one of his quotes I like that I think is really relevant right now is, “Be genuine, be remarkable and be worth connecting to.” So as we think about using these solutions to build bridges and help sellers sell, I think those are some good parting inspirational words.

Matt:  That sounds great. As much as I promised that was going to be the last question, I do want to ask one last question. I know we were talking before we started the show today about Microsoft’s perspective on CRM. I want you to give a quick pitch for the book you guys have published, Empowering The Modern Seller. Talk a little bit about what people can find for that, and we’ll put the link to download that into our show notes and into the podcast as well.

Christine:  Sure. Sure. Sure. So the link, quick and easy link is AKA.MS/PipelineRadio. So we tried to wrap your brand in there too as well. But essentially, this talks a lot about some of the research that we’ve learned from the changes in the buying and selling process, really helping sellers tune in to the journey map of sellers and what technologies role and how that is changing, together with some of the trends. So it’s a nice, quick read. I think you’ll find it informative and hope folks will take a look and take some of the data with them.

Matt:  That sounds great. The title again is Empowering The Modern Seller. You can find it at www.aka.ms/PipelineRadio. A special little offer, complimentary offer for our radio listeners. Well, we are out of time unfortunately. We want to thank our guest again, Christine Zmuda from Microsoft and Microsoft Dynamics for sharing some of what Microsoft’s up to, what’s coming up. Love the stories, love the focus on efficiency and productivity across multiple applications. Some really good stuff coming up there.

If you liked this episode, want to hear more of it or share it with your colleagues who may be interested in what Microsoft’s doing in B2B sales, you can catch it up online. We’ll have replay of this available on SalesPipelineRadio.com. We will have a summary of highlights from this conversation in about a week up on HeinzMarketing.com, and make sure you join us over the next couple weeks. We got some great upcoming guests in the sales and marketing space. For my great producer, Paul, my name is Matt Heinz. Thank you so much of joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  You’ve been flying along as we ride the Sales Pipeline. Brought to you by the good folks at Matt Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio channel.

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