Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 327: Q & A with Rusty Bishop @jrustybishop

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If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m Pacific on LinkedIn (also on demand) you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

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This week’s show is entitled, Roadblocks to Delivering a Competitive Buying Experience and my guest is Rusty Bishop, CMO at Bigtincan.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • The evolution of sales enablement
  • Why CMO’s should care about sales enablement and how to make it a leadership team priority.
  • Who should own sales enablement, Sales or Marketing?
  • What sales enablement can do for the entire customer life cycle

Listen in now for this and MORE, watch the video or read the transcript below:

Matt:     Well, hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. I’m your host, Matt Heinz. Really excited to have you all here joining us, if you are here live on LinkedIn in the middle of your work week and workday, thank you so much for joining us.

There’s a benefit of being a live participant, you can actually be part of the show. If you have a question or a comment or a rebuttal on our topic today, feel free to throw in your LinkedIn comments. We will see those as we go. Rebuttal, that’s right, Rusty. We could get into an argument with someone. It’ll be this live radio, live LinkedIn, you never know what’s going to happen.

Rusty:   I love it.

Matt:     So, we encourage a little bit of healthy friction here on Sales Pipeline Radio. So, if you’ve got a comment, question, throw that in and we’ll make you part of the show. If you happen to be listening or watching on demand, thank you for downloading and subscribing. You can catch every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio past, present, and future at salespipelineradio.com.

Today, we’re going to talk about sales enablement. And when I think of sales enablement, I think of Rusty Bishop, PhD, Dr. Bishop, who is the CMO of Bigtincan, but also, I’ve learned a ton from you and from the work that you’ve done around sales enablement. So excited for this conversation today. Thanks for joining us.

Rusty:   Awesome, man. Thanks for the introduction, I appreciate it. It’s been a long road. But hey, we’re here. I love it.

Matt:     Some of the first research we did around sales enablement was like six, seven years ago. It feels like it was just yesterday. But we literally couldn’t use the phrase sales enablement in the research because no one really knew what that was. They knew the functions behind it, but the phrase, the sort of category of sales enablement really hadn’t taken root yet. Fast forwarded to late 2022, it feels like it’s become kind of table stakes for leading organizations. Talk about the evolution you’ve seen, and where you think sales enablement is today in terms of the maturity curve.

Rusty:   Yeah. Not to bore your audience. So, I started in this field but back when sales enablement was called apps, which was like everybody found this thing called an iPhone or an iPad and decided that they were going to create an app for it. My general impression is that is what became sales enablement.

I think sales enablement has been around forever. Right? It’s how you make your salespeople better at interacting with your customers, right? So that you can go and close more deals. It’s been happening since the dawn of someone selling something. I think what’s happened over the last, at least, five to six years is an evolution of that into a real practice. Along with that practice, comes things like software and things like what we do here at Bigtincan. That’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I’m here to talk about today is why CMOs should care and what it could mean to CMOs, and what it could mean to marketing in general. That’s something I’ve had, it’s kind of a personal seat at the table, because I’ve founded a company that initially created apps. That’s what we did for large corporations, to help their salespeople sell stuff, as simple as it gets. Along the way… Oh, you’ll give a question. Fire away, man.

Matt:     No, go for it. Keep going. You’re…

Rusty:   Along the way, I had to go out and train literally thousands of salespeople on how to use apps. “Apps”, I’m going to use that in air quotes, back before, that was cool. And I interacted with a ton of marketers who were buying these things for salespeople, and it came out of marketing’s budget. I still think it’s something I’d love to talk to you about today if we can, it’s like who should own it? Why should they own it? I think it’s really important that we have this discussion.

But yeah, it has vastly changed since I started in this field, and it’s really become something that’s table stakes. The best companies not only have it, but they have practiced best practices around it. They’re hiring the best people they possibly can to come in and be the enablers. I’m going to use that again in air quotes, of their sales team.

Matt:     Let’s talk about that issue of ownership. Because I remember back when we first started doing some work in what was sort of this fledgling sales enablement group, I mean, it has existed for a long time. I think it’s helpful that it is now has a name, has a category, it’s elevated its importance and prominence in the organization.

Historically, I’ve found that those functions resided with product marketing, and the execution was a lot of sales sheets and a lot of tactical work that just sort of helped the sales team know what the product does.

But that didn’t necessarily help them create the why, didn’t necessarily help them sort of loosen the status quo, and get a commitment to change.

Rusty:   Exactly.

Matt:     So, where ownership in the past has maybe been on the product marketing, sort of the product development side. In many organizations today, you see sales enablement as a component of sales training. But the most innovative programs I’ve seen have been where sales enablement is actually owned by the CMO, owned on the marketing organization. I’m sure there isn’t a one size fits all, but for the sales enablement implementations you see, what do you see work best? Where is it best owned?

Rusty:   Yeah. It’s what you said, it depends on the way that your organization goes to market. Right? In some companies, owned by marketing is the right move for sales enablement, because you have super intensive products that need lots of data sheets, cell sheets, PowerPoints, videos, AR and all these amazing things that are out there now to describe those products and prospects out in the field. Whereas, other organizations are very product-led, right? And if you are product-led, then, I think it’s okay for sales enablement to reside, sometimes, with sales. We’re seeing more and more sales enablement teams getting a seat at the table. I do think they should have a seat at the table. And whether that sits ultimately under marketing or sales, everybody’s got to have a hand in making it work. The organizations that I think are the best at are in sales and marketing are 100% aligned as to what they need to do to drive more revenue. When that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t work as well. And that’s just the bottom line.

Matt:     I like your comment about ownership versus impact. We have this same conversation I feel like in terms of who owns the BDR function, who owns sales development, and sales marketing, doesn’t matter as long as they’re doing the right job, as long as it’s integrated appropriately into your sales and marketing, your go to market system so that it has a bigger impact.

Rusty:   Exactly. To me, it’s about impact, right? I think this is one of the challenges. I don’t know, your podcast is called Sales Pipeline Radio, so I’m going to assume more sellers and marketers listen to this. But it’s everyone’s responsibility, in my opinion, to address the buyer and make sure that they’re having a great buying experience. You and I did a study together, Matt, and what we found is, in general, sales and marketing are not aligned around creating a great buying experience. And that, to me, is amazing.

So, I do think it’s everyone’s responsibility to create that experience so that your customers find the right products to solve their problems. And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to for me. I want my doctor to be buying the best products. I want the people who build my house buying the best products. Right? So if you think about it with that lens, it’s everyone’s responsibility, and that’s a better way to look at it than true ownership. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to where the budget lies and how your organization sets up.

Matt:     Well, and I would argue that sales enablement is, in some organizations, especially those with finite market opportunities or very small niche markets, the marketing team may be focused more on sales enablement than they are demand gen, right? You may not need to go generate new leads, but how you enable the sales team to be more efficient, how you enable a consistent message across go to market channels. And I guess I bring this up to ask the question how does this become a leadership team, or board level priority, especially in those niche markets where it can have a dramatic impact on the performance of the sales team?

Rusty:   Well, I mean, that’s where I don’t… I think there’s a breakdown today, is the answer to your question. You and I participated in a group of CMOs that talk every week, and what we hear over and over again is “I want a seat at the table, I want a seat at the table”, but how do you get a seat at the table? How do you get the board to listen to the fact that sales enablement could be this important, right? The example you gave of a niche market, the reality is I think most marketing teams and sales teams are going to be judged on revenue today. It is no longer just generate leads.

Of course, there’s exceptions to that rule. Right? So, to get a seat at the table, what you got to have is a way to measure your impact on revenue, and that’s what the board is going to listen to. They’re going to listen to here’s what I’m seeing in the marketplace today, here’s how I think we can affect that with what we have from a team, from processes and from tools and ways that we can measure that. Here’s where we stand today, and here’s how we’re going to improve. A board’s going to listen to that because it has dollars attached to it.

Matt:     It’s a different dashboard though, too. If you’re saying, okay, now, I’m putting more resources and priority around the sales enablement, as marketers, we have taught many of our leadership teams and board members to like the marketing of more, right? More clicks, more likes, more retweets, more visits, more leads. And so, you got this beautiful “up into the right” chart that everyone wants to see. If I’m now putting more focus on sales enablement, what are some of the metrics I should be thinking about that either leading indicator or lagging indicator that can demonstrate the impact sales enablement is having?

Rusty:   I love that question. I think it’s the right one to ask. The actual deal closing is the lagging indicator. I think one of the places that companies can get a dramatic effect here is in measuring the leading indicators. Right? And you want your board, or at least, you want your management C level to understand what the leading indicators are. Now, they’ll be different for virtually every company, although some of them are always the same.

So, what you can start to see is our enablement team, whether that’s in training, getting the right content to salespeople, or in doing something like we’re doing right now, facilitating an engagement, that should be measurable. There should be… you should know your leading indicators for your company, your business or your vertical, that leads to your lagging indicator which is closed deals. Let’s take an example of that, right? Let’s take a common concept, something a lot of marketers like me are in intimately familiar with, because we have to create it. Right?

You talked about product marketing earlier, constantly creating decks and messaging and those kinds of things, I think a lot about brand these days. I think marketers care a boatload about brand and they think it’s really important, how do you get your brand out there in front of your buyers and those kind of things. You can measure all of those things and their impact on actual deals very easily with the right sales enablement program.

A great example is, every time we show this deck, we close a deal. Every time we don’t show this deck, we don’t. It’s really straightforward to do. Every time a sales person has taken this particular training, our customers renew. Every time they haven’t, they don’t renew. These are easy things to measure, and those leading indicators will be different for every company. And every company that comes through the door, like Bigtincan, generally has a different set of leading indicators that affect what their boards want, what their investors want and those kinds of things.

Matt:     Yep. Yep. Agreed. We’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Dr. Rusty Bishop, he’s the CMO at Bigtincan, and he’s my go-to guy for sales enablement conversations.

But you mentioned earlier, we call this Sales Pipeline Radio, I think we probably do have a pretty good mix of sales and marketing folks here, but I believe very strongly that if you’re in marketing, you need to understand sales. If you’re in marketing, you need to know that your best metrics are not in your marketing automation platform, they’re in CRM. The closer you get to the numbers that you can buy a beer with, the better off you are.

And there’s a bunch, I mean, there’s some common challenges that continue to persist that are points of tension between sales and marketing relative to sales enablement. And one of them is, I’ve heard a stat that up to 90% of collateral and materials created for the sales organization by marketing goes unused. So, nine out of 10 pieces that marketing painstakingly builds go as unused. Unfortunately, what I see… the response I see from a lot of marketers is, well, let’s just go create less stuff. Let’s create the one ring to rule them all, the one piece of collateral to rule them all, when unfortunately, the answer is usually you need a lot more.

You have to create a lot more content for the right person, the right situation, and this is where… I mean, I don’t mean to do sales pitch, this is where the platform’s come into play, right? To make sure that you’ve got the right precise piece of materials, the right precise piece of information for each prospect at the right place and the right time.

Rusty:   Yeah. The way I like to think about that is the job of marketing is to maximize the number of opportunities for a sale. Pretty straightforward, right?

Matt:     Yep.

Rusty:   How do you do that? You got to move from linear to non-linear results. You talk, you know I have a PhD, I’m nerdy about this kind of stuff, and most people don’t seek the best explanation, they seek the quickest explanation. And the best explanation will actually prevent you from fooling yourself. So, I think that part of it is really, really critical.

Now, we talked about, the things you just said reminded me, I’ve just finished up a book called CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive, by Brandi Starr, Mike Geller, and Rolly Keenan. This book actually taught me some things. It said, look, everybody’s got to be thinking like a CRO. Everybody’s got to be thinking what are those metrics? What are the things we got to put in place? What are the processes, programs, software that we got to put in place so that we know how to generate the best results and we know how to go get the best explanations?

And I think that last point is one that people miss. They missed the fact that without good explanations, you’ll absolutely fool yourself. And you just gave a great example, which is we should just go quit creating marketing materials, because no one’s using it anyway. That’s the wrong answer. The right answer to move to non-linear results is how do we multiply what’s working? Right? How do we double down what’s working? Can I run an 80-20 analysis of my marketing materials and say, look, whenever we put this type of slide in the deck, whenever we create this type of video, no one uses it. Okay. So, that’s the way you do that, so we think about that in a very different way.

That brings up another point, which I’d love to get your thoughts on. So, one of the things I learned during my PhD was how you change things, how you bring about change. And when you’re doing the hard sciences, the main thing you’re taught is you should only change one variable at a time. That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately when I’ve been trying to think about sales enablement and marketing, because I’m a marketer, right? As a full time CMO, are we changing too many variables? I think this is another big mistake that I see, Matt, is are you changing the time? Are you changing the amount of stuff that you have? And if you’re doing too many, there’s no way to measure the outcome. So, I think that’s a principle a lot of people could apply. You could look anything up about science and doing science research and those kind things, always says do one variable change.

Matt:     Yeah. Well, it depends on what your objective is, right? Like I worked… A couple of jobs ago, many moons ago, I worked at a company, we were doing direct response consumer advertising. And we were trying to just increase conversion ratios, direct responses basically, we were on 15 second television ads, sending people to a landing page, trying to get them to fill out a form years ago. We had a thousand variables that we were playing with and trying to figure out what worked on those pages. We went from having to test them individually to know what works and then, we found some software that would let us do multivariate testing. Where they could throw a bunch of variables together, but over the course of a few thousand impressions, they could say, well, whenever this one’s together, whenever these two are together, we see better results.

What was valuable about that was I was able to increase the velocity of learning without losing the precision of the scientific testing. Because I had to know what worked to make it sustainable, but I wanted to test more things more quickly. So, I think it’s business decisions sometimes that sometimes balance that but if you see something’s working, and you’re like, great, that worked great, can you replicate it? If you can’t, then why?

Rusty:   Yeah. That’s why you have to test things over and over again, right? You have to run your experiment, I’ll use another scientific term here, right, which is, okay, this worked one time, can I make it work five times out of 10? Can I make it work nine times out of 10? And that’s, again, how you move from linear to non-linear results. The thing that I think is most critical for everybody today is how to start thinking in terms of non-linear results. It’s really hard to do. But the way you describe that is great.

With sales enablement, something I’m obviously passionate about, for the first time ever, marketers now have the ability to measure the impact of the concept they’re creating on actual sales down the funnel stuff. It’s never been available before. Right? We’ve never been able to say a seller showed this presentation on nine deals that closed, and these slides are most viewed by the buyers in the room after we sent it to them. We’ve never been able to do that before. But now, we can. On top of that, you’ve got AIs working in the background that are saying, “Hey, here’s a trend you would never have even picked out”. So, I think marketers are starting to gain an upper hand again, which I think is pretty cool.

Matt:     So, we got just a couple more minutes here before we got to wrap up, but I think that there’s certainly stages of adoption of sales enablement that we’re implying here. And there’s a ton of great content, go to bigtincan.com, go check out some of their content. The benchmark research we’ve done together is up there as well. I want to take a leap forward to where I think a lot of companies aren’t necessarily today, but just to use this as a way of talking about, I think, just how impactful and expansive sales enablement can have in an organization, because it’s not just about net new business. Talk about what sales enablement can do for the entire customer life cycle, and the impact you’re seeing from some of those advanced companies that are not just applying it to sales, but applying it to account management, upsell, cross sale, renewals, etc.

Rusty:   Yeah. I mean, it comes back to first principles, which is A, keep your customers, B, expand your customers, C, get new customers. That’s how you grow a business. So, hey, a highly successful sales enablement organization is applying those principles of sales enablement to each of those parts of their business, they are training their customer success and support teams how to speak to customers correctly using tools and processes, they’re using the right materials, they’re measuring the effect of those materials at each one of those phases. Keeping customers, getting customers, expanding customers. So, the companies that are doing this right are putting this at every revenue touchpoint. Not just to go grab new business touchpoint.

Matt:     Right. Right.

Rusty:   So, I hundred percent believe that’s true, and they’re using the data… Now, this is the thing that scares me the most for companies that aren’t invested in sales enablement today, that the companies that are doing this now are gathering data. They’re getting tons of touch points out there in the world. Those touchpoints are being used by machines to learn and create new learning. The companies that are going to create the most data now are going to be able to create something I call escape velocity. This is like when you escape the velocity, you get outside of the planet. You cannot catch them. Their machines are learning linear on a bigger data set. So, you’ve got to think about how to do this now and at every part of your revenue cycle, a hundred percent.

Matt:     Yep. Just really quick, before we have to wrap up here I mean, it’s going to blow people’s minds even further, you think about, okay, not just acquisition, but acquisition retention, renewals, not just direct sales partner management. You think about the opportunity in these tools from an enablement standpoint to not only educate your partners and mobilize them, but mobilize them with tools that they can then leverage with their customers as well. The consistency of now the material management and the message management through your partner channels with this kind of technology, it just, it exponentially increases its impact.

Rusty:   There you go. There you go. From linear to non-linear results.

Matt:     Exactly. Exactly. Hey, I want to-

Rusty:   Hey, man, I got one quick question before I close.

Matt:     Yeah.

Rusty:   I don’t know if you saw… I know you saw this, but what 6sense was doing with the Empowered CMO Board Book. I just want to give a shout out them. I think this is one of the most impactful things I’ve seen in a while. And I just want to give a shout out to Latane and her team for that. I don’t know if… The statistic that I heard was that only 26 boards have females on them, which I think is about, top Fortune 1,000 companies, I think that’s mesmerizing. So, just, I want to give a shout out to that because I think it’s really important for your listeners, go check that out.

Matt:     Thank you for doing that. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes too. Yeah, Latane, they work with Athena Alliance to create a board book of qualified female board members. And it’s actually broken up by those that qualify for public company boards, private company boards, some just amazing, amazing talent. And we’ll make sure there’s link to that. So thank you for raising that.

Rusty:   Cool.

Matt:     All right. Well, thank you, everyone, for watching and listening today. Exciting conversation. I mean, I feel like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg for what sales enablement can do in organizations today. There’s a lot more innovation to come. So, thank you very much for watching, listening. Thank you, Dr. Bishop, for being with us today. And we’ll see you all next week. My name’s Matt Heinz. We’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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