Transcript: The Benefits of Customer Advocacy (From An Advocate’s Perspective) with Jeff McKittrick

On this episode, I was joined by Jeff McKittrick, Managing Director of Digital Sales Strategies at the Revenue Enablement Institute. Jeff is a little different than our usual type of guest in that he’s actually been on the other side of the coin as a customer advocate himself, most recently for a software company called WalkMe. He’s been on advisory boards, presented at Analyst Days, jumped on reference calls—you name it. I’ve always been fascinated by why customers advocate in the first place, and Jeff was kind enough to let me pick his brain. I learned so much from delving into his point of view, so I hope you find it valuable as well. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Jeff. 

Margot Leong:   Jeff, I am thrilled to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Jeff McKittrick: Absolutely Margot. Great to be with you. And I’m looking forward to speaking to a new type of audience here with our podcast to the marketing and the customer marketing organizations.

Margot Leong: Yes, absolutely. It’s really exciting to have you on. I think the listeners will find out, you know, just in a few minutes why I’m so excited to have you, but first off, why don’t you start off by introducing yourself? Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role at the Revenue Enablement Institute?

Jeff McKittrick: Absolutely. By education, I’m a computer engineer and I actually started some of my earliest days in my career, actually in sales engineering. I started as a sales engineer and then moved into engineering, leadership roles, managing teams of engineers. And then into sales roles and sales leadership roles, selling to the government and to enterprise teams, large business to business transactions. 

And then, after about 10 or so years of that, I actually took a rotation for a year into what at that time at Cisco was really just starting up as sales operations, eventually evolving into sales enablement function. But spent about 10 years of my career really understanding systems and processes and tools, and really found myself to be really effective at it because I had the DNA of a sales person at heart, kind of understood what works, what doesn’t for sales teams and actually was able to contribute and lead teams and initiatives to roll out platforms and technology and work closely together with IT to really make really effective sales and marketing tools that help Cisco be more competitive, more effective. 

And then from there, I actually had an opportunity to take a larger role at a smaller company at Hitachi Ventura, a data analytics and data storage company, and actually take over as a VP of Business Capabilities. And really got to going about how to overhaul our Salesforce implementation, how to look at all the systems that held our content, how we did things to make salespeople more productive , how do we reinvision how we train them with a MindTickle sales readiness platform, and then used WalkMe as a digital adoption solution around all of that.

The highlight of that journey is working together with SiriusDecisions and Forrester. We were actually just recognized back in May as a “Program of the Year” for sales operations, for how we use their methodologies, but then how we tuned the system and actually turned a very productive and effective salesforce using WalkMe to guide people across the right tool they needed at the right time.

And I’ve just recently joined the Revenue Enablement Institute as a faculty member, and as the Managing Director of Digital Sales Strategies to really take and carry this conversation at the board level and helping customers transform, like I did at Hitachi, but transform at an even bigger level their sales transformation.

So what do they need to do about modern selling? How are we adapting to the new buying reality? And I was planning on doing all this and this all works really well, even before COVID, but now so even more imperative as we go to remote sales teams and you know, the new realities of how we’re gonna interact with customers for the foreseeable future, it’s even more important, and how you’re going to use technology and marry that up to what needs to be transformed in these customer sales motions.

And that includes not only the sales leadership and the sales operations leadership, but the marketing, the services or others. At Revenue Enablement Institute, we call that role, the “CXO,” and it’s really a board level change of how you’re running the company for that. So I’m really excited to be partnered with a great faculty, they’re subject matter experts in all types of areas in revenue enablement, and drive engagements with the customers. 

Margot Leong: That’s really interesting. And, you know, you seem very fascinated by this idea of digital selling, right. How can we utilize technology in a smarter way to enable sales reps with the new normal that we’re living in with COVID? I’m really excited to chat with you a little bit more about that later in the conversation. 

You know, the reason that we decided to bring you on for this podcast specifically for customer marketing, is we were connected in the first place through one of our mutual friends, Samyutha Reddy, who is the Senior Customer Marketing Manager at WalkMe, which is the software that you had mentioned a little bit earlier when you were talking about your time at Hitachi Vantara. And she actually said, Jeff is the perfect example of a customer advocate . If you want to talk to a customer about why they advocate, you have got to talk to Jeff. And so that’s why I was really excited to chat with you because I think from a psychological standpoint, I’m always really interested in understanding, right, why do people advocate. 

So, let’s go back a little bit, right? Let’s talk a little bit about WalkMe itself. What is WalkMe and what was sort of the catalyst for you getting involved with WalkMe in the first place.

Jeff McKittrick: Absolutely. Well, I had a short stint of working with WalkMe while I was at Cisco, one of the last projects that I worked on. WalkMe, first and foremost, is a digital adoption solution. They call themselves the digital adoption platform. And it’s a way of basically taking a look at all this technology, regardless of whether it’s for salespeople or it’s your HR system, like a Workday, or it’s your finance program that you need to use as a finance person. If you think about all the technology that we have to use as business users, there’s probably more than one system that needs to be used, depending on what the task is that you’re supposed to do today. All of these things that we interact with never going to be as simple as opening an app on our iPhones or, you know, some of the things that are really geared for us as the consumers, but we crave that kind of experience. 

WalkMe is the technology and the solution that helps you kind of guide, navigate,  and sometimes even automate and simplify processes. Even replace processes with tech that understands the intent of the process of what you’re trying to do, and really makes things simple for the user. And also as an administrator or as somebody who’s leveraging the technology to enable salespeople in my case, it is this rich amount of analytics and data on how are people using the system so that you can learn from that and then adjust, or help, or you know, guide, or nudge, or automate things for those users. 

So for me, when I came and took this remit of owning the salesperson’s experience at Hitachi Ventura, and blending them across this multiple pieces of technology that had some that were really clunky and needed to be overhauled anyway, WalkMe was a quick win for me, if you will, to come in and solve a big chunk of the user experience, get people using the tools more and get them doing the activities that we actually wanted to do. So WalkMe for us was able to literally make it a point and click almost as some of the sales reps tell me, like a paint by numbers to say, click here and we’re going to show you the marketing campaign. And if it’s relevant to your customer, click this next yes button. And we will take care of those sets of 15 different steps that need to be automated.

So I was able to present this at, you know, senior sales leadership levels, and even across, you know, some of the company to show how we were simplifying things. And it literally became that WalkMe almost became across him and his Chief of Staff, that just whenever there was something that wasn’t getting used well, they would go, well just put WalkMe on that. Just call Jeff. He’ll fix that for you. 

So it really, one, helped me to hit my objectives and two, it made me look really good and got me some quick wins right in the door, you know, when they weren’t quite sure, why did we need this VP of Business Capabilities to do this stuff?

Margot Leong: Got it. So let’s sort of talk about then, what was it about the company that, in addition to the product, that made you want to do more with them. I’m sure there’s lots of vendors that, you know, you worked with just over the course of your career that you may not have been as involved with as deeply as WalkMe, where I know that you ended up being a huge advocate for them. You know, you did things like you joined their CAB, you spoke at Analyst Day. Outside of getting involved with, say, customer marketing, what was it initially that made you kind of say, this is a bit more special for me. This is something where I’m willing to sort of get a bit more involved. 

Jeff McKittrick: Well, you know, there’s several things in that. And I do, I’ve had relationships with vendors and sat on multiple customer advisory boards and, you know, executive relationships, even with startups as they’re coming up along with their technology, just given some of my background. But I think what really for WalkMe in particular, differentiated, was it was such a great experience as a customer. You know, the sales cycle was delightful in that they really helped me, you know, my sales team and my account management team and my professional services person really helped me build the business case, show me how it would actually solve the solutions, and then when it came to the purchase, you know, they would help me justify and build a custom demo or two to help me. I could go do my own internal selling to the stakeholders for where I needed to get the budget. The sales team would really help me with demonstrating the value, giving me my own demo environment so I could go and do it. 

And so I could get a lot of awareness and a lot of kudos internally as a leader for being thought leading and kind of bringing in this technology, and then post the sale, the installation, the support, you know, the project management. I mean, I wasn’t able to hire another headcount to run WalkMe for me. I had to kind of reallocate some of my staff. I was really supported well by that team and also them bringing innovative ways for me to solve other problems, so WalkMe is really good. 

And in fact, this is part of my advocacy part is, when you do something creative or insightful with their platform, they’re really good at saying, Hey, we have like three other customers that look like you or that are trying to solve the same problem. Would you just mind having a conversation with them? We, WalkMe, I mean, we don’t even need to be in the room with you, right? We just think Jeff, something you’ve done here at Hitachi Vantara is really special. We think another customer that’s like you could do that. 

And I’m always networking. Anyway, like I mentioned, you know, starting the sales enablement society and trying to get like-minded people or people who are starting to solve the same problems . That’s always been a passion of mine is to grow the network. Even more important in these days. And so it was naturally networking opportunities for me. 

And then lastly, you know, stepping into with the marketing teams, they just made it simple. Samyutha in particular is just fantastic. You know, the ask of, Hey Jeff, would you go to New York, and advocate, and just tell your story, right? You don’t have to do anything out of the bounds of what you’ve already done, but tell your story of what you’ve done to a group of analysts. The first Analysts Day that WalkMe had hosted and it was really simple. And they said, just give us a couple of slides that you use internally, and we’ll turn that around and we’ll do the heavy lift of the presentation for you. We’ll get your speaker notes together. We’ll collaborate with you, but really made it simple for me to be an advocate, right. 

And then, you know, lots of opportunities. Hey, would you like to speak at this? You know, maybe you could go for the weekend and hang out and, you know, we’d do something special for you, like pick up a dinner. You know, and none of that was really necessary, but it was nice that, you know, kind of be supported in a way that said your story is so great. And it makes you feel good because you get recognized as a leader externally, versus just focusing on being in your day to day job where, you know, you’re not thinking about your next move or your next promotion or your next job at another company. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting, and you know, two things there, right, is one of the takeaways from what you’re talking about as the experience is the consistency throughout, during presales and then also, right, post-sales. It sounds like the consistency piece and the fact that all of that from one team to another in terms of your interactions just flowed very nicely, so that’s great. 

Actually another question that I had, as you mentioned that WalkMe said, Hey, your story is really interesting. Would you mind connecting with some of these other people to talk about your story? Were these existing customers that they already had or were those prospects?

Jeff McKittrick: It was combinations. Some of them would be because we did almost an ELA or we rolled out WalkMe across so many tools. In a way we licensed, after we had piloted on a few applications, as we licensed it to say, I want WalkMe across anything that my sales users are gonna use. So it was kind of newer in that. So if there were customers that only had WalkMe on say one or two applications like Salesforce and maybe Workday, I said, Hey, Jeff, you’ve thought about how to use our technology in a much bigger way. Would you go help an existing customer and see if they have a similar need? We think they have multiple apps as well. And we think the way that you solve this problem could help. 

But then also it was prospective customers, large customers that, you know, maybe we’re looking at it and going, I don’t know, I’d like to do this, but what is it like to implement WalkMe? You know, people, kind of kicking the tires and going, it looks great, love the flashy demo. How does it really work and what did it really take to get it live? So they would literally ask me maybe to just go, Hey, would you just talk to the customer about what your experience was of actually standing up and running WalkMe? So just literally being a reference and likewise, you know, I always would do calls like that because I always wanted to speak to other customers of a product before I would purchase. Hey, how are you solving this? Have you had this problem with this particular technology, et cetera? 

So it was always case studies I think you’re always kind of presented and references. are always one of the most valuable pieces of a sales cycle. And so I always willingly participate so that I can also, you know, it’s kind of the you give a little so that you can always ask the return favor and that in return.

Margot Leong: Yeah, something that’s actually really interesting that you mentioned there is the difference between the fully built out case studies versus the reference. And I would agree that I would prefer to talk to a reference if I were a prospect to dig into it and feel a bit more confident about my decision to go with this vendor. In your experience, when it comes to sales enablement, where do you see the value of what we consider to be traditional case studies falling in? 

Jeff McKittrick: Yeah, we actually at Hitachi had a fantastic portion of our marketing team that really focused on those customer references and spent a lot of time, you can imagine, working through the PR portions of customers and saying, Hey, are you, could you give us a quote, would you be able to describe your solution, but I think it was less about the technical solution that we were selling, but it was about the business problem that we solved and that’s what’s really valuable. And that really helps out in the sales calls. 

So we got big value and actually it was kind of interesting because we used WalkMe to reinforce for sales reps to use that tool because we had great assets in there, but salespeople kind of forgot to go to the tool to use it. By using WalkMe, we, when somebody would create a new opportunity in Salesforce, we’d go, Hey, one of the first things that’s really the most impactful to a customer is to show them a case study or a customer reference. Don’t forget, we’ll take you – WalkMe will actually take you to the customer reference tool and show you how to search it to find something that’s very specific around it. So it was very valuable, but I think following up on that is always the, Hey, I want it very timely. Like I’d like to know somebody that within the last six months did this. So it’s a lengthy process to get these case studies and stuff put together. It’s almost like customers would be better, like, Oh my gosh, if I have to go do all this work and have to go get approval from brand and get public relations involved and all this stuff, I’d rather just go, Hey, if you’ve got a customer who wants to talk to me about what we did, just give him my number. I’ll be happy to carve out 15 or 30 minutes for him, right. So it almost takes a little bit of friction off a reference customer, not to have to do the full blown case study. 

Margot Leong: You mentioned, you know, for walk me, for example, for other vendors that you’ve worked with, you have been on CABs, you have done references. I guess this is more around advice in general for our listeners, but oftentimes we worry about touching our customers too much and we don’t want to bother them. I guess, how do you think about that, right? What’s the advice that you would give in terms of how often we should be talking to our customers in these ways. 

Jeff McKittrick: Yeah, it is a good point. I mean, everybody’s busy and it feels like even though we’re not traveling and going to visit customers or flying or doing anything else, but now it feels like somebody even turned a hamster wheel up, even an extra speed notch here. We’re super busy, virtual meetings all the time, and work – you know, there’s really no boundaries around the workday anymore. It’s as early as you sit down in front of your computer and whenever you leave your computer is when it’s done. And that’s often, you know, way later than we would have liked, you know, when you leave for a commute.

So we have to be respectful of the customer’s time. You know, what really impressed me with Samyutha and even Brittany, who she works for is that they were just respectful of that. And would just say, Hey. It was nice, courteous notes. Hey, would you be interested in, or would you like to do this, right? Really gave me some options of things to say, we’ve got a great way to connect with 10 other executives that have a similar role. Would you mind coming and just telling your story, right? 

And again, making it easy so that it was like, literally, Hey, you know what, if I don’t have to do a lot of preparation and it’s really just kind of show up and then network and engaged, that’s something I can probably fit in my calendar. If you want me to present for 30 minutes and I get to spend three hours ahead of time trying to build the content and get my talk track and everything else, right, that was where I would say, okay, I need to put some more boundaries around that. 

I’m a big Stephen Covey fan and you know, the think win-win, and the emotional bank account, make a deposit to get a withdrawal. It was really about they spent the time, Samyutha and Brittany really sat there and said, if you’ll give us your time, we’ll make sure to return a favor of we’ll make sure you get it connected with people that you’re interested to, right. So they kind of figured out what was valuable to me, which was, I loved connecting with other peers. I loved connecting with the technical teams at WalkMe so I can actually influence the roadmap a bit. They could help me solve something that the product didn’t do today and actually kind of influenced that. That’s what I really like about the customer advisory boards. It makes you feel important and heard as a customer in that, Hey, I’m trying to do this and I can’t find a way to do it today. Would you connect me with other people who have solved it and also let me influence where you’re going as the company to give valuable feedback? That to me is just something that one, kind of elevates and naturally motivates me as, you know, kind of my technical background and how to apply it, but just thinking about how to further solve seller’s pain points. WalkMe really helped me see a lot of that and connected me with other people who’ve done great things with their product. 

Margot Leong: Yup, that’s another point that is really salient here, is the product piece. The reason why you even decided to get involved and choose WalkMe is because you like the product. And so, then to be able to have a hand in sort of co-creating more of that product, to be able to influence, seems like something that a lot of customers are really interested in, because again, that was the foundational piece, right. Without the product, there’s no point, right? So that is really valuable for our listeners as well. 

Something that I wanted to get your thoughts on as well is, you know, we are living in a pretty sort of uncertain time right now with COVID-19, as you alluded to, do you just have any sort of recommendations in general about how we should be engaging with our customers at this time? And I think even drawing upon your background with sales and thinking about how sales should be talking to customers at this time. I mean, it’s the same thing, right? We’re just engaging with customers in different ways, but the general principles on how we should be doing that, I think are the same.

Jeff McKittrick: Yeah, it is certainly, and I’m seeing through my position at the Revenue Enablement Institute and talking with a lot of customers and prospective customers is really everybody is thrown into this. Everybody’s remote, every salesperson just became a virtual sales person or an inside sales person, right. And some of them aren’t used to that. In fact, here in my neighborhood in Raleigh, several enterprise salespeople that I know, Microsoft and pharmaceutical and other companies, they’re losing their mind because they’re not used to being home so much. They’re used to being on the road. They just want to go travel somewhere and go see your customer. 

And I explained to him, I said, even if you could, and your company would allow you to do that, your customers aren’t where you can visit them. They’re not in their offices either. So there is this new reality. And so you know, I’m watching a lot of trends and seeing that one, some companies are saying, Oh my gosh, we have to train our reps to act in this different way, right? They’re not used to conducting virtual meetings. They have cluttered backgrounds. You know, they don’t have a quiet space to make their calls. They’re not really good at engaging rapport because they’re used to taking a client to lunch or having a coffee or doing a dinner transaction.

So it’s really about it’s one, it’s the technical piece of the virtual selling, but it’s also in the manner of how are you going to add value and how are you going to add enough meaningful interaction with a customer that they actually want to spend time with you when they’re all compressed on time. What’s going to differentiate you and do that? And I think it’s going to be about the relationships that you can build, but I find it really valuable that there’s just rapport building. And sometimes the first call isn’t even a sales pitch, you know, it’s just a, Hey, here’s what some other customers are doing to solve this stuff. Or here’s what we’re seeing from other customers, what do you see, right? You know, could we just have a dialogue around that, right. Build, build a rapport and a relationship is what’s going to be valuable, because then you kind of earn the right and you share some things that that helps you get the next call, where you’ve kind of done a little more discovery.

So many people are showing up and immediately they just want to throw you into a demo and go, Hey. Okay. So that was my awesome product. Would you like to buy it? So it’s a different way of thinking about the conversations. And I think as well, we have to make it easy for the sales reps to get the information they need. And this is what was, as I was presenting our digital sales platform at Forrester and SiriusDecisions back in my virtual conference in May, I was really looking forward to going and getting the award on stage in Austin, Texas, but instead, you know, a virtual presentation from my same home office. But the commentary that we’re going by as we presented what we did with WalkMe and the rest of the tools was, Wow, Hitachi had no idea COVID was coming, but look at how well they are prepared for everybody to be remote. 

And that was exactly it. We were already online. We had already kind of digitized our sales process. And so when we needed to pivot messaging for don’t sell a customer today, go ask a customer how they’re doing, help them with their business continuity and with all their teams moving remote and everybody working from home. Talk to them about how our support process is going to support them through for existing customers or, you know, just see how you can help and make it meaningful. We were able to push that type of content through the systems. 

And then I guess for customers as well, think about just how do you check in, survey, or understand how your teams are doing. These are very difficult times and it’s empathetic even just to use things like surveys. And not just yet another email, but something that kind of hits people in the systems that they’re in. How are you doing? Was this process okay? Is there anything else we could do? Do you need equipment to work from home? Are you just trying to work off a 12 inch laptop and do everything that you used to being in the office with two monitors and your full setup? So I think it’s really about being empathetic and getting that culture into your sales teams. And the enablement teams can be a big part of that, right? Rethinking what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to get messaging to the sales teams to make it easy for them. 

Margot Leong: You brought up a really interesting point here, which is this idea around sometimes the first call isn’t even a sales pitch, right. Here’s what, you know, some examples of potentially what some other customers are doing to solve these things. And I think it’d be interesting to hear from you, what is it that differentiates the top sales reps from the ones who are you not in that field yet, I guess.   

Jeff McKittrick: The good sales reps may make it look easy, but going on behind all of that is a ton of preparation, a ton of experience, and probably a lot of the school of hard knocks or of learning of when they didn’t do something right, or they didn’t prepare, they didn’t think about all the things, all the angles that a customer would do. 

I find the most successful sales reps really are stepping back and strategizing, prepping and prepping together. I mean, often you’ve got more than just the sales rep in the interaction. You’ve got a solutions engineer, a pre-sales person. Maybe somebody from customer support or somebody from the professional services, sales organization, maybe your manager’s going to be on the line preparing and putting down, what’s the role of each one of these persons? What are they going to bring to the conversation. A really tight agenda. Some prep work, even working together with the customer. If you’re going to go into a senior level executive meeting, working together with a champion or somebody that’s helping sponsor you in for that meeting and really going, here’s what we’d like to do. Let’s work together to kind of co-create, so there’s ownership across that to kind of move things forward. I think it’s all about that prep, the savvy, the making sure that what you’re going to deliver in those meetings and those conversations is valuable and hits the mark. 

It has to be differentiated. And this is where, if it’s just a numbers game and everybody’s just beating against the customers and trying to get the 20 or 30 minute call, what’s going to make you stand out at the end of the day? I mean, I know I’m in this mode, I’ve got 15 meetings today, right? What is going to make you, if you’re meeting number three, what is going to stick with me at the end of the day after meeting 15? What did you do that made my day delightful? What did you give me that was insightful? What was something that was valuable, that actually helped me do my job better or brought value to me, either for my business or something personally that brought it to me.

So I think the sales reps that think about that and how they’re going to differentiate and what it means to the person they’re meeting with and brings value is, are the successful ones. And that skill set is going to be even more important when you can’t take a customer to lunch. You don’t have that time to, you know, take them to a nice sporting event or something else if they’re even were sporting events, right. All the things that might’ve been rapport-building are gone. So you have to even double down on, how do you make yourself more effective when you do get that time with the customer? 

Margot Leong: Yeah. I love this idea about always focusing on value that you’re providing for the prospect or the customer. And I think that forces you to think a little bit outside of the box. Another question that I had was, as someone with a sales background and also having been a very engaged customer champion and advocate for quite a few different companies, what are your thoughts on the value and the power of what customer marketing can do? How can it be better utilized to help sales teams sell more? Because that, in a lot of ways, is what we’re trying to do. 

Jeff McKittrick: Well, I mean, I think WalkMe is a great example of a really well-refined and innovative kind of customer marketing organization in that their mission is to go find customers that will advocate and/or build advocates. And I’ve actually even talked with Samyutha and Brittany about this is: how do you take somebody and help them personally in their career? If they’re a WalkMe champion and say, how do you help them get to the next level? You know, explain to them kind of from an executive perspective for me as I grew in my career, the higher level you get, you know, a senior manager into a director, into a senior director and into a VP, it is expected of you as a leader that you don’t just think about and manage your own function, you are expected to be cross-functional. You are expected to be collaborative. You are expected to add value to other parts of the business, or think company-wide, not just function-wide. 

And part of what WalkMe did for me is it gave me the tools and the reasons to call if you will, to collaborate, or look like an innovative leader that could help other parts of the business. So even though I only own sales, I would help marketing, help services, help the finance team with a particular project. And so, by the nature of kind of propping up and helping people with their career, like I said, you know, WalkMe gave me some quick wins, the customer marketing function and trying to help customers that maybe are not full advocates yet, are not at a powerful enough position to be a good advocate for your company, is build those individuals. Again, that’s a personal value-type thing.

But it’s also, you know, how do you create for the sales teams and how do they leverage all of these great advocates that you’ve got. So I think, you know, to your point, we don’t want to use one reference too many times, or we want to be respectful of that customer. The customer marketing team building, if you will, a portfolio of all of these people, right. More and more of them, and as part of the motion when the customers had a great experience implementing, the buying side of it, the implementing of it, the customer service and the follow-up. When they’ve had all that, you know, it’s fair to make an ask of these customers. So make it easy for a customer to be an advocate, but build a portfolio of more and more of those so that you’re not having to always go back to the one or two that you have. 

Margot Leong: Yep. Absolutely. What are your recommendations on how teams like ours can just partner more effectively with sales to get their attention, get their buy-in, you know, have them utilize our programs and stories more?  

Jeff McKittrick: Here’s something we did really well at Cisco, and I think it was really powerful for how we kind of got – you know, we didn’t have WalkMan across all of our tools like Sales Connect, our large sales content system, to drive the adoption. But what we did is, much just like you’re trying to find customers to advocate, look for advocates inside of sales that use your materials and spotlight them and have them tell the story in their words of, I got into this customer because I used this case study. And when I presented it to the customer, they really loved it. I helped make a reference connection, and that just propelled my deal further along, right. 

So actually get advocates from sales because salespeople listen to other salespeople probably more than anybody. And they’d love to see people win, right? They’re competitive. They want to make more money. They want to retire their quota. So if they see somebody else in their office or a peer of theirs that won or did something innovative and moved a customer deal or got a bigger deal because they use things from customer marketing or something like these references, that’s kind of a no brainer. 

And at Cisco, we did, when we rolled out the platform, we would literally have people come on stage at our sales kickoff and say, I was in front of a customer and they asked me about how my solution compared to Microsoft Skype at the time. And he said, I got to admit I was flat-footed. I was not prepared for that as well as I should have been. I literally pulled out my phone. I looked at Sales Connect. I pulled down three quick references and I actually shared them with the customer right there. So there was, instead of me going, you know, I’m going to have to get back to you in front of a customer, literally being able to, in the moment, pull up content and carry on the conversation and keep something moving. 

Others would tell us, they would just write us a note and go, I was on a federal site call and somebody asked me for the specification and the weight of this one particular box because they needed to ship it to another location. I literally just went in my phone. I immediately found the data sheet for that product and I emailed it right to the customer from there. So I said, Hey, it’s in your inbox before I even walked out the door. So those were the kind of advocates that we had internally that literally we just kept, we just kept using them, putting them on stage and salespeople would go , yeah, you’re right. I should be using that tool. So that would be my recommendation. Find your champions inside of sales. 

Also, you know, never hurts when a sales leader makes the recommendation. Hey, have you used a case study for this thing? No, I didn’t do that. Where do I get that? Well, let me show you real quick, right? Get some advocates in the leadership level and it kind of takes care of itself. 

Margot Leong: I think that is a great point. There are resources available, but if you are not making them easy to access in a way that follows the natural sort of processes that a salesperson, or aligns to the way that a salesperson would think about things, it’s like a moot point, right?  One of the last questions that I wanted to talk to you about is that you actually shared this really interesting study with me that you guys had done at the Revenue Enablement Institute about how virtual selling, how selling in general, has been impacted by COVID and how productivity from a sales standpoint has gone down by 20%, which makes a lot of sense because it is a complete new normal, it’s a complete change in how most sales reps are used to working with customers. 

And you know, there’s also issues around sales enablement or sales training budgets getting cut. And of course, on top of that, a lot of silos within different departments that sort of contribute to making this whole process even harder. So I just wanted to get some of your general takeaways or advice on, you know, how we could all help sales during this time, and what we can do to break down some of those silos. 

Jeff McKittrick: Yeah, I think, well, one, the enablement function is probably the one that’s chartered with, you know, how do we make sure the sales reps are being effective? How are they being efficient? You know, sales operations as well. I think what in this research that we kind of call out and some of my takeaways are, it’s an ecosystem of functions that actually support sales. So everybody should be supporting sales, but particularly marketing, sales, service, you know, the product teams themselves, somebody at a bigger level – and this is where we talk about this concept of the CXO – needs to kind of say, how do we get the functions in a room together, or a virtual room together, and really come up with, how are we helping salespeople be more productive? Do we have the right programs together? Do we have the right incentives? Are we reinforcing the right behaviors? Is finance trying to launch a program that’s gonna require a massive process change at the same time the new Chief Revenue Officer is trying to change a sales process play and marketing’s cramming new playbooks and a new product launch down on them, right ? 

It’s really helpful. I think, you know, when we’re trying to think about the challenges that the sales teams are under is, how do we think holistically about what’s everything that’s touching the salespeople and just even where are salespeople spending their time today? One of the things we did with SiriusDecisions was the sales activity study and say, what’s the day in the life of a salesperson look like now. And where are the things that we could help them with, right. Are they spending too much time looking for content? Are they spending a lot of time trying to find all the answers for an RFP they’re doing? Are they getting mired down in looking for training versus having training that’s kind of consumable, it’s available on their mobile device so they can do it while they’re doing a walk or something. 

But every function inside of the company should be thinking about what am I doing to help support the sellers. And it should be coordinated across that. That’s the big aha in that everybody’s taking budget cuts. Everybody’s got sales challenges, right. You know, everybody’s trying to figure out every company, every industry, minus Zoom and some of the other big companies that of course are benefiting from the work from home. Most are trying to figure this out. It should really be a chance for the leadership to come together and drive that kind of collaboration across the company, to help fix the biggest problems that sales are facing. 

Margot Leong: I really liked this idea of thinking about, you know, just as we think about the end to end customer experience, we should also be thinking about the end to end internal experience.  Where do you think companies are at a maturity level when it comes to this idea? 

Jeff McKittrick: In the starting gate. Some have created revenue operations, the start of, you know, maybe sales and marketing coming together, and starting to line up some of this. You know, I’ll give you an example of, you know, where things go sideways when they don’t collaborate. When I was working at Cisco, one particular business unit I was working at, I would notice we’d be getting towards the end of our fiscal quarter, which of course is when salespeople are really busy, hammering out final negotiations, you know, trying to get deals closed and everything else, you have chasing procurement and all that.

And at the same time, I’d be on Facebook and LinkedIn. And I would see tons of demand gen – type content coming at me at the same time. And then they would be frustrated going, yeah, we’ve got all these great leads and people that are reaching out and opting in, but the salespeople aren’t returning their calls and I’m like, yeah, because it’s the end of the quarter. They’re jammed and trying to close the book of business they’ve already got. So why did you guys turn on the marketing machines so heavy at the end of the quarter when it’s absolutely the wrong time for our sales team to do it. And I suspected, and of course, this was the case. There was a lot of money left at the end of the quarter in the marketing budget. So, hey, we can go buy some more social media ads. It’s like, well, that is actually counterproductive to what we’re trying to do. 

So really interesting to help the functions. You know, I was sitting in the sales operations side going this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing right now. those leads early in the quarter, right. Spend your budget earlier in the quarter and then really taper it off when we get to the end of the quarter. So really coordinate all of that. Just an example of kind of that cooperation, if you will, but back to your maturity question, not a lot of maturity there. I mean, some companies have really figured it out and its maybe because they got it in their DNA from the start, maybe it was some seasoned leaders, but it is a huge piece of the digital transformations and probably where a lot of people are just falling down because they haven’t got that collaboration. They haven’t got that cross function strategy put together yet. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, it’s definitely needed. Jeff, one of the last questions I wanted to ask you about is going back to our earlier prep call that, in addition to some of the other things that you had really liked about WalkMe, you know, the product piece, the thought leadership piece, is that you said that you were also able to learn through WalkMe about trends and innovations. Because vendors have this purview across multiple customers, even learning, you know, through customer advisory boards or engagement programs, what they’re seeing as trends. Talk to me a little bit more about the value that you saw there.

Jeff McKittrick: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it was great, and WalkMe has kind of a unique perspective on this or a unique position in that they’re rolling out and they’re actually helping, enabling all these different software tech stacks. So by the nature of all the analytics that they get back, they’re actually able to see, you know, where is the market showing up? Are a lot of people moving their onsite on-premise software for an ERP or their, you know, or their HR systems, what are the vendors that they’re flocking to in the cloud? You know, just as a trend and what vendors are they hearing more? 

It was really great to work with the angle of marketing, the marketing function at WalkMe, particularly the connections I made through working on the Analyst Day of what are we seeing as trends for customers moving to the cloud, and then are people consolidating the software stack? And even, here’s where other customers stumble once they buy these certain things, this is where they don’t get the return on what they were thought. So WalkMe really helped us look at this whole digital transformation and say, if you don’t, here’s probably the three places you’re going to stumble. So it was really helpful for me to say, wow, okay, lessons learned. So many people have already gone down that path. I know to avoid taking that detour or not get derailed for it. 

So it’s really helpful, kind of from an operational and even from a strategy to say, this is the way we’ve seen successful implementations. Here’s the cookbook that kind of goes along with that, the recipe and the steps you would take. Why don’t we just give that to you rather than you trying to figure it all out on your own. So again, that was part of the implementation, the what should we look for next? Hey, we got a new feature and we think it solves this for you. And, you know, how they even prioritize their roadmap based on what they see for trends, and bouncing that off us as customer advisory board members was really just helpful, right. To say, well, I tell you what, that’s important. Butt here’s something that’s more pressing that I would have prioritized over that in development. So they’re really reactive and nimble to that. And they listened to the customers. 

Margot Leong: I love this idea of how can we be valuable and stepping outside of just the realm of our product to do so. How do you, you know, develop that next level of trust? It’s thinking about it almost as a consultant, almost as an advisor and pulling from all of these existing resources that we have. All of this information, all of this knowledge-sharing that can be utilized if you really put the energy into sharing that with your customers, and then the time into that. 

I’m often surprised and sort of pleasantly surprised when I work with customer success teams is that they’re always telling me that customers want more. They want more information. They want CS to almost be more like advisors to them on how they should be thinking about their strategy, not just the product, but the strategy of, you know, their department, right? What are you hearing as best practices? And I always think that’s such sort of an untapped goldmine is utilizing what your learnings are from existing customers and just extending that out to prospects, to your current customers. All of it. 

Jeff McKittrick: Absolutely. In fact, as we got started, like I mentioned, I didn’t get to hire anybody to run my WalkMe program. I literally was just leaning on repurposing and taking portions of a person’s time, a Salesforce admin making 50% of their job to work with WalkMe And then as I would come up with questions, go , you know, we need to think about a governance process for how we’re going to use this tool, who gets to build what content that actually prompts users and does all that. 

And I said, okay, we get it. And I’m like, well, rather than baked it, surely WalkMe has done this with other customers, with customers much larger than us. Just go ask them about what they think, right. And sure enough, boom. I had two slides back that directly outlined a governance model and how to build out my center of excellence for how I ran WalkMe. That’s perfect. WalkMe already had the answer for me. I didn’t have to go do that work myself. 

So you’re absolutely right. The customer success, in WalkMe’s case, it’s called the account management function, is a wealth of information because they’ve had to do it for other customers. And so they just built it out that way. It’s really helpful. And again, it adds to that, you know, being a delightful experience, and somebody who’s satisfied that makes you want to be an advocate.

Margot Leong: Perfect. Well, I think this is a great note for us to wrap up this interview on. My last question, Jeff, is where can our listeners find you if they would like to connect? 

Jeff McKittrick: Absolutely. Well, first and foremost is LinkedIn. Jeff McKittrick. You can also find me at Revenue Enablement Institute. As Margot mentioned, we have a lot of research we’re publishing, we’re doing a lot of studying about the transformations that are taking place across sales, across the industries. What does remote selling, et cetera mean? You can even be an advisor of ours and give us some of the trends about what’s going on, so we would welcome people to reach us there as well. 

Margot Leong: Perfect. Yeah. I think what you guys are doing is really, really important. And I’m so glad that we got connected because to learn from a different discipline, it’s all so helpful when we think about what we do as customer marketers. So I’m going to throw all of that into the show notes as well. But yeah. Thank you again, Jeff, really enjoyed having you on a call.

Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, beatingthedrum.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at beatingthedrum.com. Take care, everybody.

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