Steve Gordon: Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and today I’ve got a fantastic guest for you. He is an award-winning author and blogger. Matt Heinz is the guest today. He is the president of Heinz Marketing and he brings 20 years of marketing experience, business development and sales experience. And he really is focused on creating measurable results, even greater sales, revenue growth and product success. And what we’re going to talk about today is a topic that I think is going to be really relevant for everybody given where we’re at right now. Matt is the absolute expert in creating a predictable pipeline, and so he’s going to share his wisdom with us. And, Matt, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO. I’m excited to have you here and excited to dive into the topic.
Matt Heinz: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Steve: So give everybody a little bit of background beyond just the, you know, the few notes in the bio. What got you to the stage of your career?
How Matt Got to This Stage in His Career
Matt: Well, Steve, this has been a giant mistake. I studied journalism and political science at the University of Washington. Go Huskies. And I intended to be a reporter and I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein and right the wrongs of the world. And, you know, ended up going to a PR firm, going to Microsoft for a while got to, sort of got my business degree in the field at Microsoft. And, you know, ran marketing for a couple startups here in Seattle, and then eventually about 12 years ago just decided I want to try my own thing. And intended to just do, you know, to be a one-man consultant, just, you know, mean a laptop and a bus pass, working with Seattle-based companies that we’ve been able to grow. And, you know, we’re still a small team, but we work with companies all over North America, helping them, you know, improve the predictability and output of their marketing and revenue responsible efforts.
Steve: Well, I think, you know, as we were talking about before we started the recording, I think right now that idea of creating predictability in your business development in your pipeline is probably one that people are really longing for. And I know as we record this in the summer of 2020, there are a lot of folks that we work with and people that I talked to that were on record pace up until about the end of February and then things got, you know, got a little wobbly. So what are you telling people right now, who were, you know, kind of facing?
Matt: Yeah. One of the things that we’re telling people is like it’s more important than ever to know who you’re selling to and why. You know, I think in best in great markets, you could be a little looser, you could be a little more lax about, you know, your message and your target. But there are fewer companies buying right now. There are fewer companies and those companies that are buying have a shorter list of things they’re prioritizing. So I think it’s even more important right now to be very crisp about who you’re selling to, who has the problems you can solve, who considers that a need to have, who has that immediate need that’s an essential service for them to continue operations? And I think if you can get that discipline in place of having the right message for the right prospect based on the needs they have, based on outcomes that they care about, based on a commitment to change on their own behalf for their own problems, that will help you close more deals and that will help you build a more predictable and a more scalable pipeline in good markets and bad.
Steve: You know it sounds so simple when you say it, but I am picturing people listening at the other end of this going that’s awesome. I know, I need to do that. I don’t know, at this stage. I don’t know how to figure all of that out. So when you’re working with businesses, how do you take them through a thinking process that helps give them clarity?
As a Business, You Should Have a Clear Understanding of Who You’re Selling to and Why
Matt: Well, it starts with knowing what numbers you’re trying to hit. It’s, you know, this has to, for most organizations we work with where we’re, you know, managing complex sales. This is not a transactional sale, this isn’t something you can just get someone to download a white paper and they’re immediately gonna, you know, give you six, seven-figures for some complex solution. So it’s understanding what numbers you need to hit collectively as a sales and marketing organization, how much demand generating how much opportunities generating, you know, how much are ultimate sales over a period of time? So doing that basic math as a starting point and then translating that into that crisp understanding of who are we selling to and why. Like, what is our ideal customer profile? And it’s more than just we sell into healthcare and, you know, we’re going to sell them mid-market healthcare companies. What are the attributes and characteristics of the companies that are most likely to buy, that are most likely to have the acute need that you can service? And I think once you’ve got those two things nailed, once you know your numbers and know your targets, now you can create a buyer-centric sales process that coordinates efforts across sales and marketing. I think with complex selling, it’s not okay to just have marketing on the top of the funnel and sales on the bottom.
That just doesn’t work very well. And so in modern complex selling environments, you’ve got a sales funnel that is no longer split horizontally, it’s split diagonally, excuse me, split vertically with a diagonal bent. Where marketing mail and the majority of the responsibility at the top of the funnel sales mail and the majority of the work at the bottom, but there is a coordinated integrated effort across the map, across the stages of the buying journey, across members of the buying committee inside the buying organization that if you can tightly coordinate those efforts with the right message to the right prospect with the scale that you need based on your numbers, now you’re cooking with oil, right? And that may sound like a lot of things and this isn’t necessarily something you’re going to figure out in 30 minutes, you know, in a meeting between sales and marketing, but you put those foundations in place, you’ve got something that can sustain you for a long time, you’ll make adjustments to that. But the discipline of having those things in place and following them consistently has created massive change and improvement for companies that we’ve seen in the field.
Steve: Yeah, I mean, it kind of comes back to the new version of blocking and tackling, you know? I mean, all of that stuff is fundamental. What I see a lot though, is that it’s hard to get the level of coordination that you need between sales and marketing, for all kinds of reasons. And not simply just because of turf battles, but because of the complexity of the task. And I think it’s also very difficult for people to get really clear about not just who they’re selling to in terms of the companies that they want to sell to or the markets they want to sell into, but when you get down to individual companies, you talked about everybody that influences the buying decision, who is on that kind of buying committee, even down to the point of identifying those people. I just, I see a lot of folks stopped short of getting to that level of specificity. So what difference do you see that making for the companies you’re working with? When they get, when they do the work to get there, how does that impact things for them?
Sales and Marketing Unity
Matt: Well, it makes a big difference. We’ve seen research that shows that it looks at the correlation between sales and marketing teams effectively working together and the likelihood that they’re making their number on a consistent basis. And it’s not really surprising to say, well, the more of those teams work together, the more likely they hit their number. What was interesting to me is the recent when this was done, the data points of sales and marketing integration didn’t go from none to minimal to moderate to best in class. It went from none ineffective to minimal to moderate. And it was still up into the right, right? So like my facetious way of saying that is like, let’s say you don’t have sales or marketing working together today. Let’s say you try to get them to coordinate their efforts and you do a crappy job of it, an effective job.
You’re not numbers will still get better because your prospects now start to see some continuity of what they’re seeing across sales and marketing channels. And so the more complex your deal is, the more touches it takes to manage that buying process. The more people in the buying organization is involved. I think it’s, I think Gartner now says that there’s more than eight or nine-plus people that are part of the active decision-making process in an enterprise deal. So not only do you have to manage those eight or nine people differently, part of your job as a seller, and by seller, I mean the sales and marketing team together as a revenue team, you have to help build consensus inside that organization and that is hard work. And so don’t expect, if you’re trying to now get sales or marketing to work together in a complex buying process with these complex decisions, don’t expect it to go well overnight. Don’t expect it to be perfect overnight. This is not a destination, this is a process when we’re trying to do this and do this well. I’ve seen companies be able to scale their revenue goals without having the scale marketing budget. They’ve been able to pull back on expensive reactive marketing and instead, focus on the right customers and bigger deals. And the acquisition cost goes down as the business grows. And so that level of efficiency, it’s not about media spend. Then you’ve got that bigger deals, it’s really about tighter coordination and precision of how you’re going to market.
Steve: As somebody begins to put this together and, you know, as you say, it’s a process, what are some of the signs that I mean, other than, yeah, they’re getting more sales out the back end, But what are some of the early signs that they’re heading in the right direction?
Matt: Well, I think they’re, you certainly should see a greater velocity of deals through your pipeline. If you’re working actively to build consensus amongst that internal buying committee then you will see faster decision making, you’ll see people that are able to sort of do more of the small, lowercase yeses that are required at stages of the buying process. I also think you end up seeing a greater level of efficiency from the sales organization. If you’re looking at metrics like active selling time, what percent of my sales team actively is, are they actively selling versus doing administrative work or following up with leads that aren’t going anywhere. There’s a level of efficiency with the sales organization that can be a byproduct of tighter coordination and sort of agreement on numbers and targets and process with the marketing organization. I also think you start, you just culturally, and again, like the cultural element of this is so, so important. You start to see culturally, organizations align as a single revenue team versus sort of sales versus marketing. So even when teams are working together, you know, oftentimes there’s who gets credit.
Like, who’s getting credit for the deal? Well, the lead came from market while sales closes it. You start to hear your language that’s less about us versus them and the more about we. You start to see examples of a marketing organization that’s willing to create content for an audience of one, to get that late stage, late quarter deal across the line. You know, many marketers would say, Well, you know, unless I get a lot of clicks or retweets or impressions, it’s not worthwhile. The marketing of more becomes less important when you’re focused on driving the right prospects, the right conversations with the right companies.
Steve: You know, it’s having been on a marketing team, you know, as a consultant for one of our clients who sold into the banking industry, complex decisions, very, tend to be very skeptical decision-makers. That idea of creating that it’s almost sometimes a one to one marketing, you know? But it was so necessary and so effective that it was worth the time and energy, you know, to be able to do it. Sometimes I think that gets lost. I think that’s a really valid point that we look at these big numbers and fixed ads that, frankly, don’t always mean anything in terms of sales and we get kind of sidetracked.
Matt: Well, they can be counterproductive. I mean, when you’ve got a marketing team that is focused on the most possible leads the lowest possible cost, not only that, may that be missed directed efforts, it might be counterproductive. You know, if you’re a marketing team that’s focused on generating a certain number of leads and you say, well, anyone that fills on our form, anyone that downloads one of our great white papers as a lead, I mean, I can tell you from my own business, you know, we publish a ton of content and best practice guides and research reports around how b2b sales and marketing is working in the field. But if single-digit percent of people that download that, we’ll get 35 to 40 people a day downloading things on our website, a single-digit percent of those are good prospects for us. And it like it doesn’t cost me anything. To let anyone download, there’s a halo effect and an awareness effect. That’s great. But if I were to take all of those leads and give that to a sales team and say, Oh, these are all good prospects, you should call them all, that would waste an enormous amount of time and there will be an opportunity cost to them not putting that same time and effort and focus on the right prospects.
Steve: And, you know, it’s interesting. We have something that’s really unique in marketing right now that didn’t exist, if you go back not that far in history, it didn’t, it just wasn’t really possible to get the level of data and tracking and metrics that we have with virtually anything that we do. And that’s cool on one hand, but I think it can really kind of, in certain cases send you in a bad direction, particularly with a complex sale. I mean, because then you’ve talked about this, it’s almost never a straight line through the funnel.
Matt: Yeah, no, it never is a straight line. I mean, I don’t know what analogy to use for it these days. But I mean, this is not selling candy bars, like this is not a transactional sale. So, you know, sometimes your prospects are going to go backwards. Sometimes they’re going to go sideways. Some deals are long enough, you may have to deal with a re-ord right in the middle of it, right? And so, you know, that’s just the nature of the beast. But I think two things you got to keep in mind. First, you just have to recognize that it’s going to be messy. And it means it’s that much more important that you have a coordinated approach as the buyer to know where people are at, where people are interested to have the right message to the right person. Do everything you can to keep deals on the rails to make sure that there’s urgency internally for the buyer based on an outcome they care about to eliminate some of those variables that would be, that are sort of forced errors, if you will. I think it’s also important to recognize that you as the seller, independent of just coordinating your message and approach may sometimes be your own worst enemy.
Like, what are you doing in contracts? What is your legal team doing to put barriers in front of people selling? how flexible are you from a product and services standpoint, to help your prospects say yes, and to give them something that they’re excited about, right? And so I think looking at your process and eliminating forced errors and making, eliminating, you know, mitigating, you know, the variables that create messiness, yes. But look at your overall process, look at how your organization supports, deals and supports customers and make it as buyer-centric as possible.
Steve: I think that’s very good advice. So, you know, we’re dealing with this messy process. And we’re, you know, in many cases, the sales cycles can be very long. What are some of the ways that you guys are finding work well for accelerating that sales process, and, you know, given what’s happening in the world right now, how is that impacting sales cycles?
How COVID-19 is Impacting Sales Cycles
Matt: The most important part of the buying process and the most difficult part to get through is the prospect’s commitment to change. Your prospect doesn’t care about your product or service unless they care about an outcome that they may or may not have been thinking about before. And if you have someone that is not coming to you beating down your door to buy something, then there is still some level of comfortability with the status quo. So as a seller, you have to help them think differently about the status quo, reframe a part of the problem, and then get them to commit to change.
And they’re going to commit the change, in part because they’re committed to a different outcome that is important to them. And if you get that commitment to change and you can define what that change represents for that organization, that becomes part of their Northstar. That becomes part of the reason why they will stay committed to the deal, it becomes part of the reason why they prioritize the pain of buying, let alone the pain of changing internally. So those are significant barriers, right? Getting all of this buying committee to agree to something is a challenge. Convincing people that they actually need to then go change things after we buy, to rip out our software and to put in this software, to rip out this process and put in this process. Like, no one wants to do that. Inertia is a powerful thing. That commitment to change and the reason for the commitment to change before you get into demos, before you get into evaluating features, before your sales engineers get involved, that commitment to change is going to make or break whether that deal stays on the rails in many, many cases.
Steve: So is that really the secret to speeding things up is getting to the point where you’re clear that you have that commitment? They’ve articulated it to you?
Matt: Yeah, well, you no longer are just badgering a prospect about your proposal, but instead are advocating for their outcome. Like that is where you want to be. Like, the Challenger Sale, the book written by CED before they’re bought by Gartner, talks about this process of teach, tailor take control. You create a teachable moment for your prospect that helps them think differently about their status quo. You tailor it to their organization so they can feel directly the impact it could have. You get them committed to change an outcome, you earn the ability to take control. You are now not just pushing your deal, you are advocating for their outcomes. And so that is a powerful place to be. That’s a trusted adviser place that is going to help you stay in touch. It’s going to help you kind of push prospects. Like, we’re seeing a little bit of that now, as we sort of face the headwinds of the pandemic.
You know, I’ve heard the phrase, compassionate empathy, or compassionate urgency as a selling strategy. When you understand the prospect’s problems, when you understand and are an advocate and a trusted advisor to help them succeed, to help them move forward, there may be a desire, a natural instinct to just hunker down and hope it goes away. But as a seller, as a trusted advisor, you can help your prospects see a way through and you can provide a level of urgency with compassion to help them make the changes necessary to be successful moving forward.
Steve: You know, as I’m listening to you, the thing that came to mind is the getting to that commitment. That’s really, that’s a sales function. I mean, you’re in a conversation, you’re really kind of diving deep into the specifics about a particular prospect and I’m just curious for your take. How does marketing enable you to sort of tee that out? To sort of from a positioning perspective, tee up that place at the table as the trusted advisor?
Matt: Well, I think there’s the individual as a trusted advisor and then there’s the brand as a trusted advisor. And both of those are important. And I think that, you know, you, if you’re going to increase the likelihood that your prospects are listening to you, if you’re going to move your message and your marketing and your sales calls from being interruptive to being truly irresistible, right? Something your prospects want to engage with. That’s more than just helping the rep be a trusted adviser, your brand has to be seen as someone who is putting the prospect’s interests first. Your content needs to be educational, the message that you enable your sales rep with or that you put into your white papers, or you’re putting your blog posts or podcasts like this, like, think of that as something your prospect should be willing to pay for.
Like, how are you creating something with such high value and delivering it with such generosity to your prospects that they want more? They want to hear more from you. And so I think it’s, we clearly need to enable reps in every industry to not just understand their products but to be experts in the problems their customers face. And I’ve heard people talk about product marketing, which usually is building product roadmaps and helping to deliver messages to sales. Maybe instead of thinking of themselves as product marketers, they should think of themselves as problem marketers. So that they are really reinforcing an understanding of the problem and identifying solutions for the prospects to get there, that they see a path out and that is very much something that all sales professionals can get better at. But that’s got to be an organizational muscle, not just a sales rep muscle.
Steve: Yeah, and it almost requires that the marketers begin elevating and working at a level above, you know, product or service solution, you know, so that they’re really, you know, it’s interesting. Depending on the company that, you know, that you’re talking about, a lot of times what I’ll see happen is sales reps are the ones that are there and meeting with prospects. They’re kind of that frontline. They get that very close interaction with prospects. And I’m sometimes shocked at how far behind the lines the marketers are kept. Do you ever find that?
Matt: Well, I mean, and I think that, you know, we talked about sort of, we’ve been talking a lot about some of these foundational elements of being successful with building predictable pipeline and, you know, random acts of marketing and sales aren’t going to get there. Like making more phone calls and sending more emails isn’t going to get there. This is not a tactical exercise. And as much as I can talk about knowing your numbers and knowing your customers and, you know, having a tight process, if you don’t address the cultural issues inside your organization, this will never work. If marketing is perceived as the arts and crafts department, if marketing is seen as an organization that is just generating leads and clicks for that sake and does not care about the outcome, if sales or marketing is seen as well, they’re just a bunch of Cowboys, they’re just doing our thing. They never listen to us, they don’t follow up with us.
But that is poison if you allow that to persist. And so addressing that cultural issue upfront, from the top-down, from the CEO, and from the board, that is creating a mandate that these organizations work together and in some cases, literally setting out on amnesty day. Like, let the team sit down and say like, here’s how I’ve perceived you in the past and here’s why. And I may be wrong, but this is what I’ve seen it for them to say, listen, we’re going to put these on the table and we’re going to put them in a box and say like we’re going to start over today. And we’re going to believe that everybody is working with the best of intentions. We’re going to believe that we don’t just agree to the same goal at sales kickoff, but we’re going to figure out how to create operational alignment. What happens on Tuesday as opposed to, you know, just Once a month, once a year, once a quarter. So yeah, I think those perception issues are dangerous and you have to address it not only upfront, but keep addressing it to make sure it sticks.
Steve: Yeah, it’s so interesting to watch the organizational dynamics around this that are at play. You know, oftentimes, while that shouldn’t be the big challenge, it often becomes the big challenge. You know, and sometimes I think we get our eyes off the ball because the truth of the matter is, when you get all of this aligned, you’re now capable of going out and helping many more potential clients, potential customers, which I mean, at the end of the day, that’s the point. You know, so sometimes I feel like we almost get ourselves off track with a lot of this stuff. So, you know, as you’re looking at managing, you know, prospects through the pipeline, are there any key kind of inflection points that, you know that your clients tend to have? Places where you focus particularly strongly, you know, and trying to move them through those thresholds?
Seven Key Areas to Focus On
Matt: Well, we have developed sort of this methodology around a predictable pipeline. And just, you know, having worked with a lot of companies in our last 12 years to do this, we found these seven focus areas that are particularly important, and many of them we mentioned today. It’s understanding what your numbers are, it’s making sure you’ve got real strong clarity and consistency of who you’re selling to and why, it’s roles and responsibilities across sales and marketing. And ultimately, you know, these things translate into what are your programs and campaigns? How do you go to market? What tools are you using to do that? And how do you measure the effectiveness and have a sort of a continued cadence of improvement along the way? We’ve also developed a bit of a maturity model. So anyone that’s listening to this, you know, feel free to, you know, email, I’m happy to send it to you.
Well, it basically takes those seven areas and has descriptions of kind of good, better and best for each of those seven areas. And oftentimes, we encourage companies to print that out or take it to a meeting and circle, have everybody in the room circle where they think they are good, better and best for those seven areas. And anywhere there’s disagreement is a good discussion point where you eventually get consensus may give you a priority list of what to go and focus on. You may be really good at identifying exactly who you should sell to, you may be really poor at coordinating how you’re going to market between sales and marketing. You may have a great tech stack but you may have massive holes in your ability to measure and manage what’s working in your review cycles. So understanding where you are strong and where there’s areas for improvement in those seven core areas can really give you a roadmap of what to do. It’s different for different organizations based on the maturity of their programs, based on who their customers are, based on their internal culture and what’s, and what you go into it with. But I have yet to see any program that is not redeemable and so it’s a high potential for anyone who wants to go for it
Steve: What I find most hopeful about what you’ve shared with us today is that, you know, the observation you shared earlier where virtually any positive effort in this direction will have impact. And I think that’s key for anybody that’s approaching this, you know, no matter where you find yourself right now on the spectrum of things. So, Matt, this has been fantastic. Any final thoughts? Anything that maybe I didn’t ask you that I should have?
Matt: No, I mean, I think one thing that, look, I mean, we’re talking, the most of the work we do are with companies that are doing big deals with big companies and so that it’s a complex sale. And I think sometimes people are looking for like the silver bullet or looking for like the one thing they should be doing. And unfortunately, there isn’t, if it were that easy, I’d probably need to charge a lot more for it if it, but if it’s to do this well requires doing a lot of things well consistently on a consistent basis. And so that’s why, you know, building this foundation we’re talking about, it’s not the sexiest thing in the world. But if it’s going to help you close more deals, increase velocity, shorten sales cycles and create better predictability and consistency of your output from your sales and marketing teams, that sounds really sexy, right? And so the work it requires is foundational, but the outcome can be, I mean, it can be revolutionary for companies that do it.
Steve: You know, I kind of think that’s always the way it is, you know? I mean, you look at if we take the sports analogy, you know, you look at somebody who’s reached the pinnacle, like Tom Brady, I would guess that you know, him waking up and eating a plant-based diet is not the most sexy thing to do day in and day out to maintain his health or strength or whatever, and all the training and all that. But at the end of the day, the results is pretty compelling. I think that’s really what you’re saying here is that, you know, you’ve got to put in the work but when you do, there are ways to do that and create predictable results and I love that message.
Matt: Yeah. And part of that also goes back to you know, we’re talking about getting a commitment to change from your prospects. You have to have a commitment to change internally. So if you if the outcome of better, more predictable revenue production from your sales and marketing teams is worth it, then you’re willing to walk through the mud, you’re willing to go through the pain, you’re willing to stumble and sometimes fall backwards in your effort to get these things done because the outcome is worth it. And you’re right, I mean, you talk about Tom Brady, you know, doing you know, even whatever I mean, I literally as we record this, I am on a fast. My wife and I are trying this intermittent fasting program. I hate it. I’m really hungry. But like A, I’m committed to a process and I’m committed to an outcome and B, you know, if I fast today then don’t fast the next couple days or like eat a tub of ice cream tonight, like that’s not, it’s gonna erase the hard work you do. So what keeps us committed is knowing why we’re doing it and knowing that the outcome is worth it.
Steve: Yeah. I think that’s a great lesson and I give you a lot of credit for being on a fast and being on a podcast at the same time. You’ve delivered magnificently. So where’s the best place for people to connect with you and to find out more about what you guys are doing?
Matt: Appreciate that. So we’re, you know, Heinz Marketing, HEINZmarketing.com. I’ve got 12 years of content up there, it’s just, you know, we just, we give it all away. It’s you know, blog posts, research, best practice guides, digital copies of all my books, they’re all up there. You know, we are pretty good about finding good sales and marketing content from across the web and curating that up on our Twitter feed. So just at Heinz Marketing, you’ll find a lot of that. And if anyone has any questions for me or wants that, you know, pretty cool pipeline maturity model, just send an email. It’s just Matt MATT@heinzmarketing.com.
Steve: Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. That’s very generous of you. And I know you’ve got the new book coming out, The Predictable Pipeline in the spring of 2021. Depending on when you’re listening to this, I see on your website. It’s available for pre-order now. And if you listen to this after the spring of 2021, it should be out for sale. So definitely go check that out. Matt, thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing some of your wisdom with us and investing a little bit of time with me today.
Matt: It’s my pleasure. It’s been fun.