Joe Marcin is the SVP of Global Sales at ClickSoftware. Click is a leader in field service management solutions, arming service leaders with real-time recommendations and operational intelligence. Joe is an experienced sales leader who has a breadth of experience selling complex software solutions globally. Force Management has worked with ClickSoftware to improve its sales productivity. In advance of his webinar with Tim Caito, Force's content team asked Joe to share his perspective on sales effectiveness.
What was the biggest challenge your organization had to overcome when implementing a value-based process and methodology?
Reflecting on our journey, the biggest challenge we had was changing the way we engaged with our customers in the field. Before Force Management, our sales athletes were eager to talk about our technology and demo our products to our customers, often with little or no understanding of the business issues motivating a customer to engage with us. They wanted to run fast, close deals, and hit quarterly targets. Nothing wrong with that, except we weren’t growing at the rate we needed to be and we were leaving a lot of money on the table. It took some time, some success stories, and a strong commitment from front-line managers to show our sales athletes that by spending more time in discovery and investing in business assessments where we could truly have a value-based conversation to understand the size of the business problems we were solving, we could start to differentiate by not only what we sold, but how we sold it – and command a premium on our deals.
You might initially think we added steps and therefore, slowed our business down. In actuality, we sped it up. We saw fewer slipped deals and shorter sales cycles because we helped customers truly understand the business impact we could have which created urgency for their key stakeholders. Some sales athletes understood this right away and were rewarded with some of the largest sales in the history of the company. This success helped the rest of the field adopt the framework and shift their thinking from product sales to buying facilitator.
It's worth noting that there were several challenges to operationalizing a new value-based approach to our go-to-market strategy and to making it part of our DNA. However, success really started at the top with executive alignment. By making our CEO and every member of our Senior Leadership Team a part of our journey, we invested in a critical cultural shift. It was a key ingredient to embracing the challenges we would undoubtedly encounter, as most organizations do whenever they bring in something new. This leadership enabled us to embed the value-based framework into all elements of our operational cadence: forecast calls, opportunity coaching sessions, QBRs, executive summaries, and even our board meetings.
What have been your biggest indicators of success? When did you know it was making a difference?
We had a number of early indicators including:
more new logo wins,
increased average selling price,
more competitive wins,
and of course 1,000% growth in bookings over the first 4 quarters.
All great indicators, but what really told me we had made a difference was when the language changed. SDRs spoke to customers differently on the phone. Sales athletes focused on business issues for our customers during opportunity coaching sessions and QBRs. Forecast calls focused on MEDDICC scores and business outcomes for our customers. We were using an entirely new vocabulary across all dimensions of our business on a global scale. That’s when I knew we had something truly special.
What does the regular operating rhythm look like for a buyer-focused organization?
A value-based framework is designed to help organizations maintain alignment with their customers throughout the buying journey. However, in order for it to work, the activities within that framework require a cadence that is executed in the field and facilitated by sales coaches at every level. This rhythm is what instills best practices, while building urgency around every customer interaction.
Within our organization, aside from QBRs where we examine the shape and trajectory of the business, we have also implemented several processes to help us stay aligned with our buyers throughout every engagement.
Opportunity coaching sessions are conducted weekly for select opportunities in the current or next quarter. We use Joint Execution Plans (customer-facing close plans) and an Opportunity Qualification form embedded into our CRM system to facilitate those sessions and to help us determine where we have weaknesses, so we can develop a risk mitigation strategy for each opportunity.
On a weekly basis, we run forecast calls globally where we use the Buyer Engagement Guide and MEDDICC to assess where buyers are in their journeys with us and to ensure we’re aligned with our next steps.
Recently, we’ve introduced the Value Negotiation Planner to our Deal Desk approval process. This additional tool helps when sales athletes are requesting non-standard terms or pricing for their customers. The process ensures we have a solid negotiation strategy that aligns with the buyer’s journey and desired positive business outcomes.
These are just a few examples of what we do regularly. We’ve adapted nearly every element of our standard operating procedures to ensure we stay aligned with our buyers during every step of their journey.
We talk often about celebrating small successes in a sales organization, as you work to shift the mindset of your teams. How has Click done that?
Although we’re a relatively small sales force in comparison to the rest of our company, we cover every inch of the globe. Celebrating the smallest of successes is instrumental to driving a high-performing, winning culture. My perspective on the organization I lead is that I work for every member of my team, not the other way around.
I’m in the field often and have an opportunity to observe first-hand how well we’re operationalizing the value-based framework in front of customers and internally, as we prepare for each engagement. I’ve seen some compelling adaptations of our framework and some highly creative ways our sales athletes have taken what they’ve learned and applied it to what they do. Although we often highlight these during QBRs, sales kickoffs, and win reports, I’ve found it highly motivating to recognize these leaders more frequently through email and video announcements to celebrate their achievements and to encourage others to incorporate these great ideas into their go-to-market plans.
You speak often about the combination of selling being an art, and a science. How do you manifest that in your organization?
The best sales athletes I’ve ever seen can naturally balance the art with the science of selling. Maybe the best way to answer this question is with an illustration. In enterprise sales, or maybe sales of any kind, you deal with a lot of imperfect and shifting dynamics. Customer priorities change. People in an organization change. Competitive options change. When I talk about the art of selling, I’m not referring to how you build relationships or entertain customers – those are just part of the job. The art of selling is really the experience you bring to the equation (some may call it instinct or intuition), your ability to read a room or a situation and to know exactly what to do. There is an art to this and not everyone has it. The best sales athletes couple that art with the science to help them execute predictably in those situations, and to put themselves into more of them. The science of selling is the process, the discipline, and the structure needed to put you in the right place, at the right time, to capture the business. Sometimes people say that top sales athletes are lucky. Are NFL stars or Olympians lucky? Luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. This is the science of selling.
What value and efficiency have you seen as a sales leader implementing a discipline around how you engage your buyers?
Standardizing how we engage our buyers and manage each franchise (I always tell my sales athletes to view their individual businesses as a franchise, whereby they are the CEO and every element needed for success is within their control) has resulted in a number of key benefits for my team. We are organized today around four primary theaters (regions). Prior to Force Management, forecast calls often lasted 60-90 minutes per theater. That’s nearly an entire day. By standardizing how we assess the health of an opportunity (Command of the Sale and MEDDICC), we’ve been able to reduce those calls to less than 30 minutes and increase forecasting accuracy to nearly 100% on a global scale (without the aid of any tools outside of Excel).
Our Buyer Engagement Model (or “sales process”) was also standardized globally so we could better determine where a customer was in their buying journey based on verifiable outcomes rather than the wildly different opinions of sales athletes in the field (which oddly would change greatly based on where they were YTD against their quotas). We spoke a common language which allowed us to become far more efficient in how we operated, but we also became far more accurate in how we managed every franchise as well as the business on a global scale.
What’s the best sales advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve been coached by some great sales leaders over my career and I’ve received a lot of really outstanding advice. Although I learned this when I was a solution consultant early in my career, I’ve carried it with me through numerous sales and sales leadership roles. The advice was this: don’t assume you already know the answer – ask “3 levels of why” and you’ll be surprised by what you learn. As someone with a background in engineering, my nature is to help people solve problems and like many sales athletes, I would often jump to solutioning too early.
After receiving this advice, my approach and the results changed dramatically. When a customer would ask me a question, I would say, “Before I answer that for you, could you tell me why that is important for you today?” After their reply, I would follow with, “And why would that matter for your initiative?” Finally, I would ask, “Why would this be critical for your success?” After this I would answer their question – and I would have a wealth of knowledge I would have otherwise never had.