Mastering the science of selling
Devin Reed: Welcome to the show, you are now part of Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence podcast, powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed.
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality, instead of opinions. It's an unfiltered view of your customer reality. In other words, making data driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guess work.
Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars, people success, deal success and strategy success. You know, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week we interview senior revenue professionals and they share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.
Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go to market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight and execute their strategic initiatives. Plus all the challenges that come along with it.
Devin Reed: Sheena, we love stories and we love data on Reveal. This is no shock to anyone who's been listening to the show for more than one episode. Today, I think Joe gave us one of the best aha moments that we've had of all time. I don't have a list in front of me, but it feels like it.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, like he did not have one story, he had multiple stories on how the triangulation, what he calls it, the triangulation of bringing experience and data, and that art to selling really came together to help him make great business decisions.
Devin Reed: It's also to prevent the wrong decision.
Sheena Badani: Oh, that's good.
Devin Reed: And I know it's kind of like, wasn't making the right decision, not making wrong decisions? Yes. But when you're about to make a decision, you're like," Okay, we've got everything on the table, we figured it out. Like this is the direction we're going." When new information is introduced and you're like," Wait, hold on a second. That kind of changes everything." And then you make a hard right turn. And that ends up being the right decision. That to me is like the pinnacle. That's the best.
Sheena Badani: Sometimes you can talk about the art and science of selling as related to like a single deal or to a quarter of selling. But it's very different when it's like, put your whole business on a different trajectory. Like I thought an example that he gives just to give you a little bit of a taste of this is where they thought that one of their business units was outperforming and wanted to really double down on that segment. But what they learned was actually was this vertical that was exceptional. And that's where they needed to double down their investment. And they really were only able to learn that from that combination of the data, that experience like putting together a hypothesis and really taking that scientific approach.
Devin Reed: Yeah. Usually it's like hindsight's 2020. And Joe was like,"No, I got it right now. We figured it out." So that was fun. It was fun. So yeah, we hung out with Joe, Joe's the CRO of Kyriba. But it was fantastic because he's all about mastering the science of selling. And even in our prep calls, we can click really quickly with some of our guests where they're just like," Oh, I totally get the vision. I already operate in a similar way." And that was Joe. So it was really interesting, back to what you said, it wasn't just about one scenario or one deal, but how he applies this kind of like perception or this approach to his leadership and across all the different teams that he manages. So I really enjoyed it. And he was a fantastic guest.
Sheena Badani: He was.
Devin Reed: Well, let's stop teasing these folks and let's go hang out with Joe. So to get started, Joe, you're the CRO of Kyriba. For those who might not be super familiar with it, do you mind in maybe like 30 ish seconds explaining what problem you solve and what you're responsible for as CRO?
Joe Marcin: Kyriba is a FinTech company that's focused on really solving five key problems for our customers. We help them understand how much money they have. We help them understand where their money is. We help them forecast how much money they're going to have in the future. We help them make intelligent decisions on how to optimize the movement of money, to minimize risk and costs associated with those movements. As you cross country borders, legal entities, financial institutions, et cetera. And then last but not least, we help organizations make informed decisions about how to invest their liquidity assets without losing their liquidity position. As chief revenue officer here at Kyriba, I've got global responsibility for all of our go to market functions. Which includes our sales team, our account management team, our customer success organization, sales operations, sales enablement, pre- sales, value engineering, and a list of a few other things that ultimately align with the sales function. In addition to that, our growth marketing and business development teams.
Devin Reed: That was fantastic, possibly the most concise version we've gotten. So thank you for breaking that down for us and super interesting. To kind of break the ice a bit and introduce you to our audience, I pulled a quote. Which is one of my favorite things to do from your LinkedIn profile, even. So you quote that reads," Good selling is about the art. Exceptional selling is about the science." What is the science of selling to you, Joe? And how do you find it?
Joe Marcin: The science of selling for me is ultimately about how you help a customer get from point A to point B in a predictable and scalable way. Predictable, repeatable, and scalable results ultimately require a formula or a recipe. Whether you're manufacturing something, or you're doing something simple, like baking a cake, you ultimately need a sequence of steps to follow in order to reach a desired outcome. Enterprise selling is no different. And when we're talking about enterprise software sales, ultimately what we're trying to do is align on facilitating the buying journey for our customers to ultimately solve a business problem that they have. And so our job as sales people is to ultimately facilitate that process by prescribing steps that we know will take them to the desired outcome. So for me, that's really what the science of selling is all about. It's around using data and processes to achieve that desired outcome in a highly predictable and repeatable way. The art is really around making the science not feel like science.
Sheena Badani: So tell us more, like why is the science side of things so important? And what are the benefits that a rep or a leader could expect if they taking this more data driven approach?
Joe Marcin: Regardless of whether you're a publicly traded company or privately held, at the end of the day, you're accountable to investors who care about your ability to predict the results of the business. It's how you make informed decision around where you invest and how you scale. So data is essential to the success of high performing sales teams, as part of that overall scope. If you use data, it can help you validate where you are, but it can also help you challenge what you believe to be true. So the idea here is that it'll help you triangulate on a point of view, isolate risk, and ultimately build and structure a plan and for success. So in sales, data can play a critical role from a lot of different perspectives. It can play a role from talent acquisition and management, to deal execution and forecasting, to territory mapping and market segmentation, to account planning and competitive strategy. And even to quota setting and compensation planning, when you're ultimately trying to determine what the best way is to motivate a sales organization.
Devin Reed: So, Joe, I'm all about the moment it clicked. Or in other way, like the aha moment. So I have to imagine there was kind of this moment for you. So, what would you say is your aha moment when you realized that to take selling to the next level, it's rooted in data? Or like data had played the key part there.
Joe Marcin: I think that probably goes back to very early in my career. I didn't actually come from a sales background, I came from an engineering background and eventually found myself in sales. And I think it was when I made that first transition into a sales role, I had landed my first sales job with an emerging leader in the IOT space. And the company enrolled out a selling methodology called customer centric selling. The first time I saw the selling methodology, I was drawn to it very quickly because it did add this element of science, the whole concept of selling. It was no longer about fancy dinners and golf outings, there was a formula that I could follow in order to get from point A to point B. And as I spent more time with that methodology, I think the aha moment occurred for me the first time I used a sequence of events with a customer. And the customer responded in exactly the same way the instructor said that customer would respond. And what it told me was that there's a skillset here, there's something that you can learn, you can be taught that will enable you to have a desired and predictable outcome. In this case, it was around how to facilitate the buying journey for the customer. And so ultimately it led me to closing my first deal and it was one of the largest in the company's history. And so I was hooked. I immediately thought this is the way that you get to success. And over the course of my career in various sales and sales leadership roles is I worked with more sales athletes. What I noticed is that those who have a focus on leveraging data and disciplined to follow a process, have the most consistent and repeatable performance. And so the very top performers I've had the pleasure of working alongside or leading have that in common. They really leaned on the science of selling. They used the art, but they lean on the science in order to get that desired result.
Devin Reed: So, I'm curious, Joe, as a leader, how do you communicate this value to your team? Or maybe even to the folks who are like," Yeah, that's good for you, Joe. But I've got my way of doing things. And it's all the more art side of things."
Joe Marcin: It's one of those things that I think the proof is in the result. When people can see that individuals are consistently performing at peak levels, they're achieving president's club every year. You naturally want to replicate that as a salesperson. And so the top talent, like I said, it's fortunate that it works this way. But the top talent does lean on the science. And so for me, if I'm able to shine a spotlight on that and really help illustrate for others on the team, what science that individual is using. Even if they are very, very good and have a clever way of masking the science, which of course is the art. There is science behind it. And I think if I can bring that to light and help other sellers see what that person's doing, and ultimately put that down on paper in the form of a recipe or formula, it gives them a lot of confidence that maybe making some adjustments and adapting and incorporating some of the things that other sellers doing into their own playbook, can ultimately elevate them and help them have more consistent performance, as well.
Sheena Badani: So speaking of that repeatability, if we fast forward a few years, you were at Click Software, you were leading global sales there. And you learned a little bit about building this predictable, repeatable engine. What can you tell us about that time?
Joe Marcin: It was a really exciting time. It was my first role as a global sales leader. And at the end of the day, we were trying to build a high growth company. And I knew that getting the sales organization to perform at its peak level was going to be critical for us achieving some of the growth milestones that we had. And so at the end of the day as I sort of reflect on what we accomplished at Click, I think what it really boiled down to was picking an approach and sticking with it. I've used lots of different types of sales methodologies, I've done different sales processes, I've used different forecasting methodologies, coaching frameworks, deal reviews, et cetera. And at the end of the day, you can make all of them work. The key is to stay committed to what you've chosen and have the discipline in using it in every way that you operate. And so I think at Click Software, that's one of the things that ultimately worked for us. We had a consistent approach to the way we were going to market, so that we could measure incremental success. It ultimately allowed us to develop a formula for success within the market that we were selling. And although it wasn't perfect and could be improved, we adopted it, we made it part of our DNA and culture. And ultimately we stuck to it. And it was that level of discipline and focus that I think was really the difference between having a good outcome and having an exceptional one.
Sheena Badani: We talk a lot about that, even on the marketing side of things, where if you're going to roll out new messaging, for example, you can't switch it out every few weeks or every month because you won't have that time for it to sit for it to settle for folks to really pick it up and make it natural. And then on the flip side, to see the market actually absorb that and react to it. So sometimes time and letting things stick can be a really successful thing. And sometimes in hyper growth modes, we're all like," What's the next thing? Let's move on to the next big thing, the next initiative." And that can actually harm, I think, the impact of some of your biggest bets.
Joe Marcin: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it is important though, to strike the right balance between failing fast and ultimately staying focused. You sort of have to look at the initial data points and some of those leading indicators to make sure you're on the right path. And once you see that you are, you want to really commit and double down in that area. So I think it is important to look for those initiatives, which are not succeeding, fail fast on those and really redirect your energy to the ones that are going to be successful.
Devin Reed: Yeah. Maybe it's an art, maybe it's a science, maybe it's both, Joe. But how do you check yourself? Like," Hey, we are ready to move on and this was a success." Or," Hey, we're ready to move on, this was not a success. We should kind of cut the cord and move on to the next thing."
Joe Marcin: Ultimately for me, it really ties back to the indicators of success and the data that you use to measure how you're performing against those indicators. A lot of organizations have KPIs, but they're often lagging, which means you're waiting for some period of time or for something to happen to determine whether or not that was successful or it failed. And in which case you might have missed an opportunity or over invested in an area that was not going to be successful. I think it's really important to establish those leading indicators, things that are going to tell you that you're on the path towards the successful outcomes you're trying to achieve. And then make sure you have a clean signal of data to support the measurement of your progress against those early indicators. And I think if you do that well, you'll be in a good position to make an informed decision on which initiatives are working, which ones are completely not working and you should stop. And then which ones might need a course correction in order to get you back on track.
Devin Reed: If it wasn't clear before, it definitely is now. Data is essential to the success of high performing sales teams. If your data is inaccurate or lagging behind what's happening in real time, reaching your goals will be an uphill battle. Yet many companies still rely on lagging indicators. They wait until it's too late to course correct and find out if they took the right steps. A vantage point performance study confirms the need for change. The study found that 83% of the metrics that sales managers track are backward facing. Meaning their KPIs are reporting past activities, not influencing the future. Thankfully, Joe has ideas to help you at identify what's working, what's not, and what needs a course correction. So Joe, we love stories. We love data, but we love stories as well, as I think most sales and revenue folks do. So I'm curious if you have a time where you had a gut feeling about something, but then you looked at the dashboard, you looked at the data and you saw a new direction and ended up going that way instead.
Joe Marcin: Yeah, it actually happens a lot more often than you'd probably think. I think most of us as humans will borrow from our past in order to chart the path forward into the future. But my experience is that one size doesn't fit all. And something that might have worked well in one situation or with one company doesn't always fit the needs of another situation or company. And so, although your instincts might be pointing you in a given direction, you need a solid compass to make sure that you're on the right path. And so for me, that's data, that's using information to help guide and make sure that we're progressing in the direction that's going to be most impactful for what we're trying to achieve. We recently did our planning for our next fiscal year. And we were really getting to a place where we wanted to make a big bet on growing our mid- market team across inaudible. As we did that, and we started to really work through the investment model, it became clear that the strategy was ultimately flawed. What the data told us was that mid- market wasn't actually the right place for us to focus, but rather around some key verticals. And we couldn't see that because it happened to be the case that we had won some early logos in those verticals that happened to be mid- market. We thought mid- market was the way to go. But actually what the data was telling us is that the vertical focus was more important than the size of the customer we were pursuing. And so, as we work to validate this through several different sources, we were able to ultimately triangulate that sort of thesis and make a decision not to go down the path of a mid- market investment. But instead invest heavily in the market segments across Europe that we thought had the best potential for success. So, I think it's an easy example, but it's a very powerful one of how data can help eliminate the path for you by spending a little bit of time and really understanding what that data is trying to tell you. You can eliminate making a poor choice and investing in the wrong area of the business.
Sheena Badani: I really love this point around triangulation. And the data is one part of it. The experience and expertise that you as a CRO or your other executives bring to the table is another part of it. Maybe that voice of the customer and what you're hearing from the market is another. But it's bringing all of this together is what really, I think, makes the whole science and that approach click into things.
Joe Marcin: Yeah, it definitely does. And we use that approach really in all different aspects of our go to market. I'll give an example, for our forecasting methodology. We look at our pipeline, we do that with a cadence. And we obviously do that through the lens of what the weighted and unweighted values of that pipeline are, that gives you some indication of the health of the business for the target you're trying to achieve. But we enrich and enhance that view by also considering things like how long deals have been in a certain stage, the forecasting accuracy of the managers and what they've been giving you, the historical performance of the sellers and the team, buying patterns from our customers, the relation of our team to their target in the end of a fiscal period. Because you can see some happy ears, sometimes when people are in a position where they've not been on point with their number, and they're looking to achieve an outcome within a certain time period. And so some of those views along with others come together for us and help us triangulate around what the right number is to forecast. So we can pressure test the number when we build up the deals and make sure that number still stands strong. And if it doesn't, it gives us an opportunity to look at where there might be risk and develop a plan to mitigate the risk while we still have time. Before we get to the end of a quarter and realize we've run out of deals and we've run out of time.
Sheena Badani: So you've sold me. You've probably sold Devon, I'll speak for him.
Devin Reed: Yes, Sheena, you always have the right to speak for me, by the way, you've earned that respect.
Sheena Badani: But what about for others? Who may be thinking like," This is too much, like we have our set way of doing things." How can they embrace this approach of bringing the science to the way they sell?
Joe Marcin: My advice for an organization that's looking to become more scientific in their go to market is to pick something small to start with. You don't have to boil the ocean here. It's great if you want to go through a go to market transformation, roll out a new methodology, retrain your Salesforce and you can, of course, invest and go do that. And in some situations that's necessary. But I would say if you have a relatively well performing team today, and you're looking elevate them to the next level, adding science can be done by starting with something small. As an example, you could look at your opportunity coaching sessions. When you really sit down with your sales teams and sort of think through what's needed to win. You could start thinking about that a little bit differently. How do you turn your deal sideways and look at gaps that introduce risk in a different way through the lens of closed plan? What customer verified outcomes are you ultimately evaluating to determine the health of a deal? And where a customer really is in their buying journey, instead of maybe what your gut is telling you, based on a conversation you might have had with a coach or with a champion. You can think about what questions you ask in order to help your team think more widely about the solution to your customer's problem. You can use data to help you examine and ensure the value of the offering is fully understood by your target audience. Whether you do that through more of a traditional business case, an ROI or through some other mechanisms. But you can ultimately use data to really help make sure you've quantified what the impact is going to be on the business for your customers. You can think through structurally how you would design a negotiation plan, really with a get kind of scenario in mind to ensure that you're in the best possible position to negotiate on value and not price. And ultimately able to articulate the differentiation that you have in the market, so you can command a premium instead of having to be commoditized. So there's a lot in there, of course, and we could probably spend hours unpacking all of that. But I think it just illustrates that you can start with something relatively simple, like your opportunity coaching sessions. And with a scientific approach, really add a lot of depth and dimension to that, to make those more impactful and really move a lot of different levers for your business.
Sheena Badani: I love it. Thanks for sharing so many different ideas of ways for folks to get started. That they may control or may have more ownership over or where they can collaborate with some of their cross- functional peers. There's a ton of room to innovate and think differently.
Joe Marcin: Yeah, there really is. And if the sky's the limit with this. There's so much data and the cloud has certainly made the availability of data so much more pervasive. The ubiquity now of access to data and technologies to analyze that data has really democratized it for everyone to be able to use. And so I think there's an opportunity for sales leaders to kind of reimagine the way that they operate their business. Leveraging data, leveraging science, and again, when I say science, it's sort of that combination of data and process combined with discipline to really follow a structured approach to the way that you go to market. So that you can achieve a given result predictably and repeatably over time.
Devin Reed: And that's my favorite part. I mean, we hear about it all the time, about two, three times a week. No one has ever said," You know what, Devin? We don't have enough data." For the most part, everyone has enough. What's interesting are the stories like you shared today, Joe, which is, we have this strategic goal, here's what we thought we needed to do. And the ability to use data to apply to the right problems to solve and to give you the confidence to make the right decisions, that's where it gets, in my opinion, really interesting. And of course, sometimes you look at the right piece of data before you make that decision and sometimes you use it to course correct. And I think both are okay, but it's kind of like how fast can you operationalize that data? And again, without kind of get lost in the sauce, if you will, with all the options in front of you.
Joe Marcin: Yeah, absolutely. And like I shared before, I think the number of dimensions where data applies from a go to market perspective is pretty expansive. I even think about, I did some interviews over the last week with some potential sales athletes to join our team. And they matched on paper, the profile of an ideal sales candidate, but we use some technology behind the scenes to really profile them, look at their emotional intelligence, really look at the way that their behavioral science would sort of present itself in the workplace for culture fit. And what's really interesting is that people who we thought were really good and actually interviewed very, very well turned out the data told us something different. It was not going to be a strong fit for the way that we operate and the way that Kyriba functions as a business. And we use science even at that level to really determine which profile and which talent comes into the organization and ultimately is successful here.
Devin Reed: That's really interesting. The ultimate like art vs science right there. Which is like, not just can you interview well, but having some more signals to look at. Because there's always that like,"I don't know, they interviewing really well or is it too good to be true?" And you never know for sure. Well, fantastic. Joe, I enjoyed the conversation and I'd like to take you the question we ask all of our guests. So Joe, how would you describe sales in one word?
Joe Marcin: I'd have to say exhilarating.
Sheena Badani: Oh.
Devin Reed: Oh, I like that.
Joe Marcin: It's a challenging role, in many ways it can be the most rewarding, but also one of the most difficult roles in any organization. It's an opportunity to work cross- functionally with many stakeholders, internal and external. You can obviously sell a lot of different products and solutions to a lot of different types of companies and target audiences. But at the end of the day, what I really like about it and what makes it exhilarating for me is that if you embrace it as an entrepreneur, you can truly create a CEO, an office of the CEO of your own franchise for the business that you represent. And so I think it's an opportunity for anyone that comes into sales to really take control of their own destiny and really chart a course towards success.
Devin Reed: Every week we bring you a micro action, something to think about or an action you can put into play today. What Joe shared about the science of selling could revolutionize your sales approach. But his biggest recommendation, start small. During our conversation, he shared several ways to get started. Opportunity coaching sessions, communicating value to customers and negotiation plan structure. The sky's the limit. You can bring a scientific approach to just about every aspect of your organization. Our invitation to you is to pick a place to start. Where can you take a small step forward today? Start there and you'll experience the depth that data can bring to your world. Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.
Sheena Badani: And if you really like the podcast, please leave a review. Five star reviews go a long way to help get the word out there.
Devin Reed: And if you're not ready to give a five, check out another episode and see if we've won you over by then.
Joe Marcin, CRO at Kyriba, reveals a turning point in his career that led him to discover the triangulation of bringing experience, data, and the art of selling together to help him make great business decisions.
Early in his career, Joe feared a career in sales meant schmoozing prospects on a golf course. But then he discovered sales was really about processes he could learn, repeat, and scale. Joe breaks down the science of selling and shares stories illustrating how data combined with experience can drive record-setting business outcomes.