PowerViews with Bob Thompson: Evolving from RPM 1.0 to RPM 2.0


Share on LinkedIn

My guest today is Bob Thompson. Bob is the founder, president, and CEO of CustomerThink.com. Bob has three decades of experience in sales, technical support, consulting, research, and online community development. Bob’s goal with CustomerThink is to help business leaders develop mutually beneficial customer relationships.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

2012 Trends: Interconnectedness & Reluctance to Make Aggressive Decisions

Click to start video at this pointAsked about what has happened in marketing and sales that has or hasn’t surprised him in 2012, Bob talks about interconnectedness: “It’s sobering about how interconnected we are with other economies. That’s something I’ve found in my research about how top performing businesses do their thing so well. They understand about how all the different parts of their organizations work together. To me, it’s just that the economic malaise and volatility are a bit surprising. I thought that this year would be a little bit stronger.”

He also notes the current political environment is injecting a note of restraint into the economy and business activity, adding that there has not been of lot of action in Congress based on each side waiting for its side to prevail in the fall elections. He says, “I think it’s going to be a tough environment for businesses to make aggressive decisions until we see how things sort themselves out.”

Sales Quotas & Optimistic Expectations for Quicker Economic Recovery

Click to start video at this pointIn response to a question on research findings that fewer sales reps made quota in 2011 than in 2006, Bob points to optimistic perceptions of economic recovery as a potential factor: “Assuming managers each year are trying to do a responsible job of setting quota, then I would say that it may just simply may be a reflection that—when quotas are set to start the year—companies thought that business would be a bit stronger, so they set more aggressive quotas reflecting that. Play back to 2011 or 2010, and I think there’s been this ‘we thought things were going to be a little better after we got out of the deepest part of the downturn.’ And so that could be one explanation.”

He adds that he doesn’t believe the quota metric should be the one metric to grade sales force performance and suggests deeper digging can identify other reasons, “assuming that quotas are being set with the same degree of care year after year.”

The Role of Revenue Performance Management in Marketing and Sales Alignment

Click to start video at this pointAsked about progress in marketing and sales alignment, Bob talks about the importance of collaboration and moving the discussion beyond just marketing meeting its goals or sales meeting its goals.

He notes the importance of the two groups sharing a common focus, and RPM is a good fit for this role. He adds that a couple of different factors are motivating support of this approach: “I call RPM the 1.0 release of the idea which is really a derivative of CRM. This current view of RPM—it’s really about how do you optimize the marketing and sales process.”

He says reports he’s getting indicate alignment is improving, adding, “A part of it’s been a better job of this optimization, but I think another part of it clearly is that customers are driving more of this integrated approach. Ultimately it’s customers that are driving change. It’s generally not been the case that companies have a flash of insight and say, ‘Hey, we ought to do something different.’ It’s customers who are breaking down these silos and forcing companies to take a fresh look. And RPM to me is really embodying how companies are reacting to that change from customers.”

Inbound Marketing Risk: Reps Relegated to “Super Closing Machine” Role

Click to start video at this pointIn response to a question about the continuing debate on the merits of outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing, Bob says they both serve a role. He adds that inbound hasn’t displaced the need to be proactive, and he talks about a deeper, more important issue in play that is being driven by the new B2B buyer.

New buyers search more, are more prepared and informed, and are further along in the traditional sales process than they were five years ago—and this poses significant challenges: “You take that to a logical conclusion, and you say that if the marketing and sales response to that is just the same as it’s always been, what does that mean?”

Bob describes how overreliance on inbound marketing carries the risk that reps’ only role will be as super closing machines dealing with leads being generated by marketing automation activity: “They’re going to have a marginalized job that says, ‘Well, we’re only going to have reps work on things if the algorithm says they should.'”

He references conversations on CustomerThink and other B2B communities that suggest this places sales in a dangerous place: by the time they engage, customers have decided exactly what they need (or what they think they need), have a short list of solutions, and just want to know price.

This challenge drives the need for proactive outbound relationship building where reps “can really look at a business, identify business problems, identify key decision makers that over a period of time can be a source of business, and then proactively develop a relationship with those people—such that they can create demand for new solutions, position what the company can do, and make sure the RFPs get written the ways that are most beneficial.”

Bob adds, “I’m afraid that companies become so dependent on the technology and content management and lead generation that they’ll forget those basics. I think there’s been some history of believing that technology is going to solve all of our problems. I still think there is a critical role for sales professionals. And that means that they need better sales acumen. They need better business skills—and to be able to create the demand and be more proactive in outbound. This is really the challenge for the sales profession in general: they can’t replace technology, but they can find roles that technology can’t fulfill, and that means being more proactive.”

How Sales Professionals Can Add Value to Marketing

Click to start video at this pointElaborating on potential benefits that RPM can bring to both groups, Bob talks about how sales reps can add value to marketing. He notes that sales professionals who have been working in large accounts for 20 years or in an industry for a long time have seen lots of problems and solutions.

Bob says these reps “have a good sense about what is broken and how it can be fixed. And yet you never hear from them. Why aren’t they interviewed by marketing more so they can create the content that will cause the company to pull in people who will care about those problems?”

He also suggests that more sales reps blog, adding, “I know that’s a controversial idea. It takes time, and it’s not for everybody. Not everybody can write, but there are ways to provide content to other people who are writing like input into articles and white papers. So this idea of reps as part of the content generation plan is one that needs some work as well. This is all part of marketing and sales working as a team—and not just two organizations that are passing data back and forth.”

Build on Process Optimization (RPM 1.0) – Add the Sales Experience (RPM 2.0)

Click to start video at this pointBob talks about how top B2B companies are currently framing the evolution to RPM 2.0: “RPM is kind of in a 1.0 stage which is focused on marketing and sales. It’s really about process optimization. I think all that’s to the good. But I think there’s an RPM 2.0 which is really about the sales experience. It’s about how do we make the experience that customers have when they interact with our prospecting process in marketing and sales such that even if they don’t buy, they believe it was a good experience. So they may be willing to say, ‘I wasn’t a good fit for that company, but I would recommend them because I really like the way they handled me.’ And those that do buy also feel very strongly.”

Bob says this approach is less direct and delivers less short-term benefit than the process approach, “but I would argue that strategically the very top companies are going to be as concerned about this which is really more about the art of the sale—about how these interactions are perceived. Is it a great experience that is going to create more loyal and emotional response? Or is it, ‘These reps talk to me as long as I’m buying something. And so I’m sure it’s all very efficient, but, you know, I just bought a solution. I didn’t really buy into this relationship.'”

While the top B2B brands get that and are doing that now, Bob adds, I think the dilemma that some of the other companies are going to face are that after they optimize—they spend the next two or three years optimizing—they’re going to still be behind because there’s more to it than that in my opinion. So that’s the thing I think has been missed but will be the next thing to be developed.”

Bob’s Upcoming Book: The Five Habits of Customer-Centric Business Leaders

Click to start video at this pointBob notes that habits are the behaviors that companies exhibit routinely and define their cultures. He says top companies are very good at all five habits he discusses in his book. He adds that they have applicability as a systematic approach in marketing and sales for companies that will take a more long term view—and not just a view to increase sales in the next quarter.

Habit 1: Listen

Bob notes the first habit is about listening to and really understanding customers—not only to what they are saying, but also to what their true needs are. He says top reps are continually digging deeper with customers.

Habit 2: Think

Bob says this habit is about being more analytical—for example, using technology to make better fact-based decisions. He adds this is augmentation and not a replacement for human judgment.

Habit 3: Empower employees

Bob says customers value dealing with employees who have the power to act. Examples can include employees being able to spend money in customer service, issue a refund or negotiate price without checking with managers.

Habit 4: Create

The fourth habit is about innovating and creating—or taking what you’ve learned in the previous three steps and actually doing something different. Bob notes the best companies move beyond struggling to change and are able to create something new.

Habit 5: Deliver

And the fifth habit is being able to deliver that change in a way that is delightful to customers.

Bob’s book will be available in November on Amazon and through other publishing channels.

You can connect with Bob and learn more about his work via the following resources:

Bob Thomas

Bob’s Email Address: bob at customerthink dot com

CustomerThink Website: http://www.customerthink.com/

Follow Bob on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Bob_Thompson

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dan McDade
Dan McDade founded PointClear in 1997 with the mission to be the first and best company providing prospect development services to business-to-business companies with complex sales processes. He has been instrumental in developing the innovative strategies that drive revenue for PointClear clients nationwide.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here