Smart Selling Tools: Executive Interview with Peter Murphy, Global VP of Platform Sales
As published by Smart Selling Tools
Q: Should selling be viewed as a buying experience and why?
PETER: Enterprise B2B sales is a complex process of which the buying experience is one very important attribute to closely understand. Failing to appreciate the buying experience will likely result in failure, as you may target the right account at the wrong time. The problem here is structural, B2B marketers continue to hold onto strategies of the past, around industry segments, and channel-specific domain expertise. Marketers and salespeople have come to believe that hyper-targeting and hyper-personalization equal customer obsession and focus. Sustained ROI requires an obsessive focus on understanding a prospect’s sentiment, wants, needs, and timing, and only then, delivering relevant and valuable experiences.
Q: What are the top ways companies can transform sales to improve their prospect’s buying experience in the next 12-24 months?
PETER: Start by agreeing to stay disciplined on how you engage your prospects. Develop an account-based marketing plan that sales and marketing agree upon but, be agile to changing needs of key individual accounts. Account-based marketing plans will look to data to help formulate the accounts that are potentially soon to be in-market for your products. No account plan is going to be 100% inclusion foolproof; you will occasionally miss accounts that have just purchased or are already late in the cycle. Don’t be distracted by this. Putting more eggs into the ABM basket will yield better results overall from the more focused effort. Focusing on prospects based upon data gives you a great foundation to provide a solid buying experience that doesn’t feel rushed to the buyer. So, be patient and trust that the experience will yield success. For prospects not ready to engage in full-cycle sales conversations, leverage your organization’s branding assets to establish your “contender” profile. It’s important to note that this takes discipline; sales may be overly eager to go it alone when they feel no results are coming from the marketing teams’ efforts.
However, these rogue sales initiatives perpetuate the rejection cycle within target accounts. Being pushy too early, will likely not put you in good standing with the prospect if you are fortunate enough to later engage in a buying opportunity. This doesn’t mean that sales won’t or shouldn’t attempt to spread its wings, only waiting for sales qualified opportunities to come in, but they must provide feedback to the marketing organization when the additional insights they’ve gathered either confirms or rejects the predictive insights generated by the marketing and demand gen teams. Your mix of channels and creative experiences must be additive, not separate. Point solutions do nothing to prevent disconnected, irrelevant, or aggressive engagement experiences. This also means making sure your technology is connected to the rest of your Martech stack. If you can connect the dots, the experiences from the buyer’s perspective should match the natural progression of the buying process – the messaging is consistent, it speaks to multiple buyers and influencers and gives you the best results when offline conversations are being had (yes, they will be talking about you in closed conversations without your direct involvement!) about potential solution providers. Customer obsession is the partnership of recognizing what the customer expects matched to the tech and data-driven insights we have access to today, at the right time.
Q: How should companies decide which buying experience improvement initiatives to start with – Assuming they can’t do it all at once?
PETER: The formula for success probably already exists within the organization. Look at a small selection of your flagship sales experiences from the last 6-12 months and find the common attributes of these wins. For this exercise, probably avoid the hero sales ‘from the ashes of defeat turnaround’ examples! Focus on the flagship sales examples that continue to have post-sale success, and map the processes that followed, noting the sense of timing of how the sales process developed. You will inevitably find multiple inputs from different sales and marketing efforts spread out over a natural buying journey timeline, which more likely means you had a collaboration with the buyer on goals and objectives, and measures of success clearly outlined and documented.
Ask the blunt question early about how you can measure success with buyer stakeholders, not just with one person on the buying team and not just once; document the information, and let it form the basis of your post-sale measurement. Refer to those success criteria with messaging throughout the tactics in the buying journey and after you start. We just need to be more consistent and scale these successes into more opportunities. Take these examples on a showcase in QBRs, sales meetings, etc. True buying experience improvement requires marketing and sales to work cohesively, at all levels of both functions, translating collaboration to execution. And, the more complex and longer the buying process, the greater the need for this collaboration to exist. Marketing needs to target intelligently in order to design conversion and revenue-optimized buyer journeys; however, a lengthy sales cycle makes it problematic for the sales function, which is measured on tight quarterly goals, to sustain steady engagement. When enterprise sales and marketing organizations recognize their interdependence or the value of collaboration, magic happens. Here, the strategy is focused on global adoption, enablement, shared learning, target account experience, measurement, and optimization. Within this framework, each demand gen unit benefits from this support while executing their programs autonomously.
Q: What are your tips for ensuring that technologies contribute to the buying experience in meaningful ways?
PETER: If I were to summarize much of today’s B2B sales and marketing technology landscape charts, and you would know more than most on this; I would say we have ended up with a large number of spokes (i.e. solid point solutions), but not enough focus on the presence of hub solutions. Many in our industry assume that our CRM or marketing automation platform are hub solutions, but actually, most instances are not set up that way and are not prepared for when it comes to using technology to engage in a consistent experience. One of the biggest obstacles to improving the buying experience is the use of inconsistent and duplicate measurement efforts across sales and marketing. Collaboration calls for a single source of truth to measure, assess, and optimize the demand engine.
This consolidation of cross-functional data can unify teams in a way that is both objective and scalable, making it easier to track pipeline conversion performance while still driving revenue and identifying any constraints across the funnel. A best in class ABM platform can help provide the fundamental measurement and analytics to help foster this collaboration. When in sync with the CRM and Marketing automation systems, ABM technology helps provide the coordinated insights, orchestration, and omnichannel actions that prove, through verified analytics, that this collaboration is not only worthwhile but necessary to remain competitive in today’s environment. This requirement is about the speed and accuracy in your effort to connect insights to the actions they require; a new email, a phone call, or an entirely new campaign content flow. If your current intent data or predictive analytics vendor only updates their data periodically and your ABM platform cannot operationalize this data in real-time, you will always miss the “right time”. You’ll always be off message. Your ability to generate response and revenue impact is 100% based upon your ability to learn and adapt to the needs of each target account – and these people operate in real-time, with milliseconds between clicks and page views.
Q: How does your solution help sellers improve the buying experience?
PETER: MRP Prelytix is the only enterprise-class predictive account-based marketing (ABM) platform. Our technology and services empower clients’ sales and marketing teams to simplify the complexity of their environment using real-time predictive analytics and intelligence to direct, coordinate, and execute across 8 channels. Whether using MRP’s global ABM managed service capacity or their own infrastructure, our approach is purpose-built to drive measurable and higher response rates, pipeline conversion, and pipeline value. Today, MRP closes the loop on integrated ABM strategies so our clients can identify and replicate high performing tactics and eliminate those that are low performing. For example, one of our clients recently used ABM specifically to help regenerate focus on what they had internally ranked as inactive or stalled accounts but, in actuality, it was simply that sales were not focusing on the right timing of engagement. We were able to attribute nearly $10M in closed revenue from this campaign alone.
Q: Does the ABM technology we used matter that much when it seems everything is moving to the cloud?
PETER: Yes, the technology certainly matters. Not all cloud solutions are in the same class when it comes to scale. Make sure the technology is proven for the long haul and can demonstrate the ability to ingest and integrate multiple forms of data – which is probably the weak spot for most, where a unified view of an account is still so incredibly difficult to accomplish. Ensure your ABM platform can build predictive models on data from various sources, not only the data that may be embedded in the solution itself. Our core technology, Kx is benchmarked as the fastest and most scalable time-series technology in the world. As ABM matures, the focus on immediate activation of data becomes more commonplace and we are system ready for that explosion of data sourcing now.
For example, we have already been able to provide clients with predictive models using data models that they themselves brought to us and compare it to the native model to find the best predictive outcome. This new form of data analysis can result in shorter sales cycles because the starting predictive model is using a richer data source than just traditional intent sources of data (web research, website visits, whitepaper downloads, etc.). Do the homework on the underlying technology that supports the solution – it does matter if you want to build a solution for the long haul.
Q: What are some good resources if someone wanted to learn what questions to ask, what others are doing, or factors related to sales transformation?
PETER: I encourage you to spend time on our website content to help understand the perspectives that we see that are important. You should also plan on attending events like Sirius Decisions, or reviewing with sales and marketing consultancy firms like yourselves or say Forrester, that evaluate many providers and can help give better insights based upon the need of the prospect. An important part of the transformation process for sales executives is to understand the process of marketing applying directly to your pipeline and pipeline conversion. This isn’t entirely about new sales processes – we have plenty of sales process and methodology in the market. We do not have enough understanding of how sales and marketing can work better together. I would boldly state that many in sales think of marketing as an event and advertising department. New pipeline doesn’t just happen, but if you at least understand what the purpose of these technologies and marketing campaigns goal, you can incorporate the results into your existing processes.