By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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We were thrilled this last time to talk to Jerry Brooner, chief revenue officer for Scout RFP, in an episode called, “From Investment Banker to CRO: Lessons about Career Pivots and Managing Pipelines“. We talk about sales and marketing working together, everything from objectives to function to culture. We also talk about the complexity and the historical pain inherent in the RFP and sourcing opportunities as well as how to balance growing in your career, giving back…. and a lot more!
Matt: All right. Well, welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. I’m really excited to have everyone joining us today. If you’re listening to this live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thanks for joining us as always during your busy work day. If you’re joining us through the podcast, thanks again for joining us. You can find us on where all podcasts are found, Stitcher. You can find us on the iTunes store, on Google Play, and a variety of different places. Every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio past, present and future is always available at SalesPipelineRadio.com. Each week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing, and today is absolutely no different.
Jerry: Hey Matt, thank you for having me. I’m very excited to join Sales Pipeline Radio, and appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.
Matt: I have many, many questions, but I think I have to start with the question that all of America wants the answer to. How exactly does a guy who studied economics and started his career as an investment banker at Smith Barney, take the next move as basically a telephone salesperson and move into a career in sales?
Jerry: Yeah, that’s a great question. I remember when I took that job. When I made that transition, my parents and my girlfriend, then fiancé, then wife at the time, all thought I was crazy and lost my marbles. Coming out of business school, I had all this debt. They said, “Wait, you’re going to go into telesales for a software company? You’re an investment banker. You can be a venture capitalist in a heartbeat. You had a bunch of offers. Why don’t you go do that?”
It took me a couple of minutes to wrap my head around it and to explain to everyone, but at the end of the day, when I was coming out of school, what I did was, I read up and followed all the leaders that I imagined and really impressed me, that I wanted to be like. I read some great books and autobiographies. I’d pick about five of them, and what I noticed about all of them, all the really great leaders that I admired, all had different skill sets. They had accumulated the skill sets through working within different departments within a business. I set out to do that very specifically, and I built a plan where every year or two I would build a new skillset, with the idea, after 15 years, I’d be able to run my own business unit.
Matt: Well, it seems to be working out. You have risen through the ranks at companies including Siebel, where you started your sales career, up through Callidus Software, SAP, Dropbox, and now with Scout. I mean, you really have followed that plan, because you have been running or responsible for a more diverse set of areas of sales and marketing than you see in most resumes. You’ve been a quota-carrying sales rep, you’ve run sales operations, you’ve been a director of marketing, and then all the way up to, so now, owning both sales and marketing. That’s a fairly unique and, I think for many people, a very attractive set of functional areas to spend time on. Why is it important, do you think now looking in retrospect, to have had direct experience in each of those functional areas across both sales and marketing?
Jerry: I think it’s super important for any executive, and especially if you want to be a very functioning executive that can work across multiple disciplines. It’s very easy to be in the sales position if you want to be a sales leader and to rise up from inside sales, to mid-market sales, to field sales, and then to become sales manager and sales leader. That’s great, I know a lot of people who do that and they’re exceptional leaders. For me, if you really want to make an impact on a business and be able to transform that business, you have to be able to work across multiple disciplines.
Just because you’re in sales, if you’re leading the sales department, the best way to lead that sales department is, you know how to leverage marketing. Or if you know how to really utilize sales operations to get the best for your team, or to work with solution engineering, or marketing and engineering as well. I thought all those disciplines were super important. I’ve received them. It makes it a whole lot easier now when I walk over to marketing and I say, “Hey, when I was there for a year,” and I wasn’t very good at marketing for a year, but I did it and I knew how to operate it, “This is what I’m looking for. This is what I think we can do. How do we work together to get the best for our organizations?”
Matt: Well, let’s talk a little bit more about that sales and marketing relationship. I think in many companies, it can be described somewhat as adversarial. I think you’ve got two organizations that hopefully are working with the best of intentions, but they’re different animals. I think oftentimes people will look at a chief revenue officer who comes up from mostly a sales background and say, “Well, this is just a VP of sales who got a promotion. Marketing’s not going to have any broader authority or have a good voice in the conversation.” Talk about a little more about how you at Scout have combined sales and marketing, and specifically from a culture standpoint. What are some things that you’ve done to help the team work as one cohesive unit?
Jerry: Yeah, it’s the age-old tale to marketing. “I generated a lead but sales didn’t close it, or marketing didn’t generate enough leads for me to close and failed, it’s a point of failure.” That was why it was very important for us to make sure it was one team and one face. The buck stops with me when it comes to that. There’s no one to complain to or no one to point fingers at.
The first thing is to make sure we all spoke a common language. By that I mean, what do we qualify as a lead? How do we qualify? Where did we source it? When is it an actual qualified lead? When we close a deal and revenue, where did that come from? How do I trace it back? Once I get agreement on that with all people, that makes it very easy for us work as one team. Then, it’s really interesting when you start putting incentives in place. I believe compensation drives behavior in every department. When you start aligning people’s goals and their commissions, both in marketing and sales and percentage of it to qualify the leads, close leads, source revenue from each side so they have common goals, it’s amazing how suddenly people start working really closely together.
Matt: Yeah, and I think if you put your money where your mouth is, it makes a big difference. Talk a little bit about as well, there’s compensation and then there’s what people’s metrics are, but then, a lot of organization’s sales and marketing, they struggle with the issue of credit and attribution. Is that solved by the compensation answer? Or, how do you make sure that in a complex environment, what you guys are selling specifically, it is not a one-call close. It is many steps, like, lots of touch points across sales and marketing. How do you solve, or at least address, the issue of credit and attribution?
Jerry: There is no panacea for solving that, at least I’ve never heard it, and I’ve looked at some of the people that have been on Sales Pipeline Radio, Matt, and you’ve got some luminaries on there, very experienced people that have had huge success. I don’t think they have a right answer for this one. Yeah, there’s ways you can not make that the most primary objective for both departments. The way we do it is, we put the customer at the center of our universe. Our number one value is success over our customer.
Customer success is everyone’s responsibility. If we put that at the center and think, “Okay, how do we engage with the customer? How do we bring a customer along? How do we service a customer after, and how do we repeat that cycle, and make that the number one priority and the number one commission, and the number one objective, whether it’s OKR, commission or a combination? Then suddenly, attribute and complete sourcing, while those are important for where we should put our time and resources, they don’t become the arguing point. The arguing point or the discussion point for us becomes, how do we better serve our customers? How do we reach out to more customers? How do we better engage the ones we have?
Matt: Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Jerry Brooner. He’s the chief revenue officer at Scout RFP. Talking a little bit about sales and marketing working together, everything from objectives to function to culture. People sometimes bring preconceived notions from past jobs to the table. There’s strategic alignment of, “We all agree we have the same objective,” and then there’s operational alignment, in terms of knowing what we need to do on Tuesday morning. How important is it to take that, “Hey, we all believe in the same thing. We’re working with the best of intentions,” and really get specific and tactical to make it work?
Jerry: If you speak to anybody on my team, details matter. A bunch of little things equal a big thing, at the end of the day. I believe in jumping into the details. Even as a chief revenue officer, I still jump into details, in terms of, down to the very metric, how many customers have we reached out to, how many have we followed up, what’s our time to get to them, what’s the time to come back?
You have to be very specific, when you’re an executive, I believe you have to set the vision and the top level goal, but then you also have to work with your leaders and your managers and your business unit directors. What are the key metrics and the key things we’re going to focus on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, to achieve those top line goals and make sure we agree upon all those?
It has to be simple, it has to be easy to follow, and it has to be achievable. It has to be super clear to everyone in the organization what they’re focusing on and how they achieve their job.
Matt: Sometimes that leads to metrics that are not what companies are used to seeing from marketing. If we’re saying, if marketing has historically been focused on generating leads, then a lot of companies say, “Well, we want to see the most leads possible for marketing.” That may be counterproductive. It may be more important for marketing to actually generate fewer leads but better leads. You in your organization, if you own sales and marketing, you can say, you can tell the people, “Okay, this is what we’re focused on.” You then have to report to your boss, the CEO. You guys have to report to a board that may have traditional preconceived notions of more is better for marketing. There’s the culture change within your team, and then there’s the culture change to your peers, to your manager, and to your board. How do you manage through that?
Jerry: Yeah, that’s never easy as well. When you’re shifting things, and I can imagine, transformation of any organization. Like Scout, we were fortunate, we grew some 300% year over year. That is great. That buys you a little leeway. Don’t get me wrong. When I started, we still had to walk through it, and we had to walk through it from the very beginning. The very beginning was, “Here’s our plan, and here’s how we’re going to be successful. Here’s what we’re going to measure, and here’s why.” You have to deliver that at every level. At the board, “Here’s the highest level metrics and objectives we have.” To the CEO and executive team, “Everybody, here’s what we’re going to achieve and here’s our plan,” and then all the way down to the individual contributor.
That changes the way you think of things, when you have a plan and a metric and a why. Don’t get me wrong, there was a little skepticism and there is a little of, “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Are you sure you’re changing and focusing on the right areas,” but when you deliver the great customer stories that we have and see how successful our customers are, that makes believers out of most people.
Matt: We’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio again with Jerry Brooner. He’s the chief revenue officer at Scout RFP. We’re going to have to take a quick break and pay some bills. We’ll be right back. We’ll talk more about sales and marketing. We’re going to talk a little bit about the complexity and the historical pain inherent in the RFP and sourcing opportunities. We’re also going to be talking about how to balance growing in your career, as well as giving back, all coming up on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Matt: Welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. My guest today is Jerry Brooner. He’s the chief revenue officer at Scout RFP. Jerry, in addition to your resume, where you have had a number of sales and marketing roles across many organizations, in your rise to the chief revenue officer role, you also clearly prioritize giving back to the community. You are on the board of directors or have been on the board of directors for several organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, and the Mission Dolores Academy. Why has that been an important part of just where you spend your time? Because I think, it’s one thing to say, “Well, these are things that are important to me.” Everyone’s got things that are important to them, that either they talk about and evangelize, or maybe they give money to. It’s a whole nother thing for a busy person like yourself to spend time on this. Talk about why that’s been so important.
Jerry: Yeah, definitely. I’ll share with you first, because it’s the most important personally, but also share with you Matt professionally why I thought it was important. Personally, I grew up and my family, I grew up in a very small town, it had 450 people and dirt roads. I didn’t have cable until I was a senior in high school. When you’re in that small community, you become a part of that community, and being a part of the community is, it’s not just living there but giving back.
With all due respect to all the listeners and where you live, Matt, I think San Francisco is the best community in the world, and I want to make it better. There are a lot of people in executive leadership positions that I admire, Mark Benioff being one of them, who find the time to get back and make their community better. I think I’m not as busy as him or most of the other leaders, so I will always find time to make the community I’m in better, and do what I can to help it become a better place to live for everybody.
Matt: I love that. I think sometimes when you justify things based on those personal goals, obviously there’s a fulfillment there, but just going out and playing softball at night, or going out and doing something else, there’s a level of energy that you get personally that you can bring back to your job, that you can bring back to your family from doing things that make you feel good. They’re fulfilling based on the impact they can have on your life, on other lives in your community.
Jerry: Yeah. At Mission Dolores Academy, I’m on the board, I go to the graduating ceremony every year, and 99% of the people who attend are on financial aid. They’re below the poverty line in San Francisco. You meet the parents and you meet the students, and most of the parents are English as a second language, if that at all. You see that they’re going to high school and probably going to college. It’s more rewarding than almost anything professionally you’ll do. I do think that’s great work.
Let me share with you why professionally I think it’s a great idea for people to give back as well. Besides how rewarding and impactful that is for the community, it also gives you really great business experience. Leading volunteers, people who work for you now, normally do what you ask them to, or they feel that they might get moved or not get their bonus. If you can organize and lead a group of volunteers, that shows you how to really deal with people well, effectively at all levels. Especially if you get a volunteer and be on a board or see how a board operates, all boards operate the same way. If you get to be a part of one, not only do you get to do something great for your community, but you get to learn a professional skill on dealing with people and dealing with decisions that board makes and review.
Matt: Amen to that. I think that is a really important thing that I think a lot of people may not think about, relative to investing time in nonprofits, especially if you can serve on the board, is there’s that interpersonal dynamic, there’s that dynamic of taking people with different perspectives and helping to drive some consensus, becomes a crucible for doing that within your team, within your own board professionally. When you’re working at one company, you get one opportunity to do that. When you can add to that nonprofit boards, it adds a multiplier to your ability to learn from that.
We’ve got just a few more minutes here with Jerry Brooner, the chief revenue officer of Scout RFP. I know you’re crazy busy. This is the last month of the quarter for you guys, so I appreciate you taking a couple of minutes to do this.
Speaking about the quarter and trying to close deals, most people listening to this call probably cringe when they hear that the acronym RFP. It is not something people like to respond to. It is not something people actually like to create in most cases as well. It’s a painful process for everyone involved. Talk a little bit about what Scout does in that realm. I’m very curious to hear it, I think people would be interested to hear, is there something that we can do to make this a little less painful for both sides?
Jerry: Yeah, it’s amazing to me how painful it is, and for everyone who’s received an RFP and had to fill it out, and how painstaking and arduous that was, and robotic. Anyone who’s had to create one, send it out and then review and compare all the responses, it’s a hundred times worse. When we were starting and we have two great co-founders who started the business, they found a real business need. “How do I make this better for all parties involved?” That’s where we really started. Now when you have unbelievable brands, Fortune 500s that are working with us and buying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of items every single day, they’ve streamlined that. They’ve saved costs, they’ve increased efficiency, and they made it a better experience for both.
Matt: I think people think of this as a process improvement, perhaps, but I think this can be a competitive differentiator as well. Can it not? Increasingly, I hear people say, “You know what, we don’t respond to RFPs because they are so painful and because it’s such a, in some cases, arbitrary process.” If you could improve the process and you can get more people willing to participate in the program, as a seller, you’re able to get involved in more opportunities that you can help. As a buyer, you get more better opportunities, you get more better options from people that are engaging, that are actually going to deliver better results as well.
Jerry: Yeah, it really helps everyone all around. The terrible thing about RFPs that everyone knows is, respond to it, you hear no update, you don’t know what’s happening. Six months later, you get an email, “Yes or no.” Right? That’s from both sides. You don’t know if someone’s going to reply, they don’t know if they left out some items.
What we’ve done is, we’ve just made things simpler. We help companies buy things, no way around it. That’s what we do, and every company buys things. What we do is, we say, “Hey, everyone can always check on the latest status of it. We will give full visibility to both internal and external stakeholders attached to the project, who sits with it, who’s got questions, who doesn’t have questions, who’s ranked highest and who’s not ranked highest, in terms of responding, and who’s in the best position to win.” All that visibility we can provide.
Matt: Love it. Well, we’ve just got a couple more minutes here with Jerry Brooner, so thankful for him to have taken some time with us today. Jerry, I think this is the last question. Just want to ask you something that we ask most of our guests, around the idea of just people that have been influential for you and your rise in your career. It could be authors, it could be professors, it could be mentors, former managers. Who are some people that you look to, and might recommend other people check out as well, that have been influential to you and your professional career?
Jerry: I’ll throw a couple different ones at you, and I’ll explain why. Matt, thank you for this last question and thank you again. It really is an honor to be joining you today.
I know it’s a platitude, but everyone says their parents, but let me just explain why. My father was one of 11 who was raised during the Great Depression in Kansas who didn’t graduate high school. He had the largest vocabulary I’ve ever heard in my life. He read probably two books a week. He used words like prestidigitation. He joined the navy at 17 and became a civil engineer. For him, it was always, you had to be the best person you could be. I look up to him and what he’s done and the family he’s raised and his accomplishments, and truly, I think that that’s amazing. That’s number one.
Number two, I look at some authors that I really like and I can’t put down, Malcolm Gladwell being one. Although I’ve never met him, I’ve heard him speak, but if you read at all his books, whether it’s Outliers, The Tipping Point, or my personal favorite, Blink, trust your intuition. Trust your gut, and you’ll know what to do is right. My gut told me, “Run a business unit someday,” and to be an executive and to be the best executive, I had to have multiple skills. That’s what my gut told me, and so I went about doing that as well.
Then, when you look at famous leaders in the world and you think of coaches and players and people that I know, growing up on the West Coast and in the Bay Area, my favorite leader who happened to be a football coach was Bill Walsh. Bill Walsh, in his book, The Score Takes Care of Itself, he talks about, he have a belief in a system and it didn’t matter who it was in the system or the belief. He made sure everyone adhered to his high standards. Everyone bought in. He was an outlier himself. He was coming up with new ways to do an offense, new people. I really admire him and his body of work and his life.
Matt: Cool. Having grown up in the Bay Area in the ’80s myself, that’s one of my favorite answers to this question. After, what, 200-plus episodes of the Sales Pipeline Radio. Bill Walsh, known as a great leader for the reasons you said. Great leader of people with diverse backgrounds and interests, bringing new ideas to the table when no one else thought they were any good, so, love that.
Well, appreciate your time today. I want to thank our guest again today, Jerry Brooner, the chief revenue officer for Scout RFP. Put some links so you can learn more about Scout in our show notes. If you like this episode, want to hear more from Jerry, if you want to share this with some of your friends and peers, you can check it out in a couple of days. It’ll be available on demand at SalesPipelineRadio.com.
Well, it’s been great. We’ll be here again next week. Until then, on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
Jerry: All right. Thank you, Matt.