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Greg: Hello everybody this is Greg Alexander, co-founder and CEO of SBI and this is the weekly SBI podcast series, and we got a great show for you today. We’re joined by Mark Turner. Mark is a senior vice president and general manager of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region for Genesys, who is the provider of the world’s number one customer experience platform and the leader in contact center solutions.
Genesys was founded in 1990. They are a private company, so the estimated employee count is about 3000, and they do approximately a billion in annual sales.
Mark has been leading European business for Genesis for 11 years, and prior to this Mark led European businesses for commerce one, Sybase software AG and [inaudible 00:01:02]. He has 30 years of business experience, all in the software industry, and he holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Surrey, and an MBA from Cranfield University. Did I pronounce those correctly, Mark?
Mark: Of course.
Greg: Okay. Welcome to the show.
Mark: Thank you.
Greg: All right. So today’s topic – which I’ve been so excited to talk to you about, because I think you’re going to nail this – Today’s topic is, avoiding going from hero to goat overnight due to poor forecasting and pipeline management. So why do I think you’re going to be great at this? You have been through 120 end of quarter cycles over 30 years in the software business. And let me tell the audience, you don’t last as long as Mark has lasted in this hyper competitive business we call software, unless you avoid end of quarter surprises. So Mark, how have you done it?
Mark: Yeah, end of quarter surprises. Makes me feel old when you say that number of quarters. I’d like to say we avoid surprises, but we don’t. I think we get greater predictability the more science we put into it. But there’s always some customer who is always going to surprise us just because they don’t fully understand their own buying process themselves. But I think we can work harder, eliminating those risks, but never completely eliminate them to be honest.
Mark: I guess I get to survive by not getting too disappointed as well.
Greg: End of quarter surprises come in three flavors. The first one is, a deal pushes from one quarter to the next. Having been around you guys for a little while, pipeline management plays a role here. So you have enough pipeline coverage, so to speak, that when this inevitable surprise happens you have another deal that you might be able to close to make up for it.
As it relates to this particular issue. A deal gets pushed from one quarter to the next. Tell me a little bit about your pipeline management process. Not necessarily the forecast management process, but pipeline, and how you make up for that when that happens.
Mark: Forecasting of pipeline management within a given quarter is about getting balance across the transactions, which I think is what you’re saying.
Mark: Obviously you got transactions that are strong probability, and you’ve got a balance of possibilities across a number of deals. I think … Let me back up one. I say to my guys, the success within a given quarter is a consequence of work twelve months prior to the quarter. And that work is all about generating enough business in the funnel, so twelve months later you do have the ability to manage one deal against another deal, or three or four deals, where you need two and there’s maybe five in the funnel to even squeeze one harder, maybe push the others out according to what the customer’s buying cycle is. It’s two or three things really, but overall, you just got to create enough funnel in business to be able to manage the risks within the closure cycle at the end of a quarter.
Greg: So the time that this podcast will be published … It’s the early to mid part of Q2 2015. So that means, if I understand you correctly, you and your team are working on transactions that are in the early stages of Q2 2016. Did I understand you correctly?
Mark: Yeah, I think particularly within the environment Genesis works within. The projects that we sell are business case based. I’m sure a lot of people will say, yeah, all of those are. But what that means is, typically the work we might do this year would be a technical proof of concept, but the customers’ budgeting for expenditure on the project in a subsequent financial year.
Or, we may see some customers that start a project now, but want a return within 12 months. It’s important to get the balance right, between chasing deals down. Chasing them down within a given quarter, but balance out the longer term or building out of the funnel and working those projects that are going to be giving you those deals in quarters that are maybe three, four, five quarters out from where you are right now. To avoid the surprises you got to get that balance right.
Mark: The surprises tend to come when you’re chasing deals, you’re chasing your tail just to hit your goal for the quarter. You got to build the funnel well ahead of the game is the best way to avoid the surprises.
Greg: We were talking about the surprises coming in three different flavors and we only talked about one right now which is a deal pushes from one quarter to the next. The other one in the software business is that the deal is forecast, a disclose for a big dollar amount, and it comes in, but it comes in for a much smaller dollar amount. Tell me a little bit about that. Is your cadence and your process different to address that issue or is it the same thing?
Mark: I’m not sure we see that so much to be honest. I think the deal … What we more see particularly in this economic environment in the mirror right now is just a very tough negotiating process. That tends to be the piece that impacts the [inaudible 00:07:11] value more right now. Because as we said, we’re selling on a project to an ROI basis. So, we got a pretty clear idea of what the value to the customer should be. But it’s more things like, they want to delay payment, they want a phase deal, they want to chunk it up. They want risk and reward; they don’t want to pay for it until it’s all in and working. It’s more of those kind of variables than just the value of the deal reducing.
Mark: Rather than the value of the deal reducing we have seen … We go a long way through the project … Take in the last twelve, twenty-four months in say financial services and then we just see the whole ground changes with our customer and then the whole project gets cancelled. But, not a lot you can do with that other than pray.
Greg: When something like that happens is it the whole project gets cancelled or is it just they decide to roll it out in stages so therefore it’s a smaller number of seats, or is it all of the above? What typically plays out there?
Mark: It’s an interesting question. I think that sometimes with these projects, which are large and transformational sort of projects … Maybe the customer themselves gets a little too ambitious, and then when they present it to the executive committee or the board they go, “Are you sure you can get all that done in this time frame?”
So they sort of chunk it up and then extend the time frame. We’ll do the same amount of business, but it’s just over a longer period of time. So, a combination of the things you’ve said.
Greg: Okay. We’re going to take a quick break here. When we come back I’m going to get Mark to describe his cadence, what he does daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, to try to manage a tight pipeline. So please come back after the break.
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Greg: Okay, welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander with SBI and we’re talking with Mark Turner, the senior vice president and general manager of the [inaudible 00:09:43] region for Genesys, and our topic today is how to avoid going from hero to goat overnight due to poor forecasting and pipeline management. Right before the break, Mark, I introduced this idea of cadence. What I mean by that is, as the leader of the region, you’ve got a large organization underneath you, and they’re all going through their own activities daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to grow the business and manage the business. If you can, could you describe for the audience kind of what the forecasting/pipeline management process is, in that cadence weekly, monthly, quarterly kind of thing.
Mark: Yeah, so I do a weekly call. Or a weekly sort of morning where I will review numbers, and the numbers I review may vary from week to week. One week we’ll review the forecast within the given quarter, ascertain progress on key deals, key risks, key upside and make sure we’re on track. And then probably the second week … The next week we may review the forecast for the subsequent quarter, which is as we speak, the next forecast I will do will be quarter N plus one. We’ll start to get a first view of what those forecast numbers look like. We may then go back to the current quarter, subsequent week, and then after that we may well take a deep dive into the overall funnel metrix and the total twelve to twenty-four month funnel.
So, we’re getting a visibility of the projects much further out. We’re getting into the performance of the sales reps much further out. So, I look at these current numbers every week, typically on a Monday, and I may look at different things according to where we are within a given quarter.
Greg: Yeah. Okay. And who’s on these calls? These weekly calls?
Mark: Certainly my regional managers would have the regional finance person there making sure it all adds up. I also have someone who effectively does administration on salesforce.com to make sure what we’re getting told is consistent with the information that we’re holding in salesforce.com. And then if it’s … Say where we’re reviewing deals within a given quarter we may also have some legal representation on it to make sure their picking up early visibility of the deals where we’re going to need help. And maybe a few of the functional people such as professional services, they are intimately involved with the success of these deals.
Greg: My next question was going to be “What’s the source of the data?” So, it’s salesforce.com
So if the regional management team and key support staff are on the calls and you’re reviewing the forecast of pipeline as you laid out, current and quarters ahead, what type of preparation does the regional management team have to do? If any.
Mark: It’s a good question because … First I should say they equally have their cadence, which is they tend to go through their forecast calls on Fridays. And then there’s a process over the weekend and early on Monday, whereby the data is scrubbed and cleansed, and make sure it all adds up properly. But equally in a mirror we’ve got about 100 sales guys, and some are really really good at keeping salesforce.com up to date, and some just are not. And I’m not overly religious about it, but everybody understands the importance of getting the data accurate in their. So some guys we have to chase up a little bit higher to make sure what they’re representing in salesforce is in fact an accurate representation of what they’re saying.
Greg: Okay. So you’re having your call on Mondays, and if I understood what you just said, your regional managers are having their call on Fridays. So that means the sales reps probably are entering their data Wednesday or Thursday, something along those lines?
Mark: No, I’d say it’s more dynamic than that.
Mark: They certainly have a cut off when they have to do it. We also do our pricing and quotations based out of salesforce.com as well. So a lot of the information gets automatically populated into salesforce. So that sort of helps in that process. But, I’d say it’s more dynamic. We don’t want people sending out, “Oh, it’s Thursday afternoon, let’s do the update.” We want them working at it constantly, so there is sort of a base repository of information.
Greg: So as the status on a deal changes or a new quote goes out the system … You’re not waiting on a cycle, it just happens. Okay. Got it.
So that’s the weekly process. Is there a monthly process or no? And then lastly, tell me about the quarterly business review process and how these weekly calls lead up to that.
Mark: There’s a problem in other things as well. We’re talking here about the quarterly management process and the forecasting process, but to me, probably more important than that is the business planning process, which is your market coverage strategy, it’s the segments, the market segments, it’s the accounts, that you map out for twelve months. And we tend to review that early in the year and keep looking at it. And in fact it’s part of a very active and ongoing conversation, which is, rather than what’s the quarter look like, what are you seeing for the year, what are the key accounts, what’s the competition up to, what do we need to do? As I said it’s that twelve month rolling year of the business. So to me, that process and that dialogue is probably more important to the overall health of the business.
So we do that once a quarter. I’ll sit down with my regional managers probably face-to-face and discuss through those issues. Not in a prescribed format, but more what are people seeing, what’s working well for them, what’s challenging, and let’s get a plan in place to fix things.
Greg: Okay. So, the quarterly review is more business planning. Let me ask you a question on that. Does the company engage in a classic, annual strategic planning process that might be driven from the board and the CEO and then you’re updating your implementation of that per quarter, or are those two things separate?
Mark: No, I’d say they’re more separate. There is a company strategic planning process where we’re looking at product solutions, market spaces, growth rates. But in truth that gets extrapolated into the revenue numbers that we have to grow by in the quarter. And I then interpret that into looking around the mirror, whereas we need to do more, what’s been working well.
Particularly when you look at present economics in Europe right now, we have been growing really really well in Russia for the last three years as an example.
For all the political and economic reasons you’ll understand we’re not right now. So we’ve got to find a way to plug the gap from that revenue and over rotate into some other geographies.
Greg: Okay. Got it.
Mark: So, we kept getting the high level number. We do feed it up into that, and then we have to figure out how to go get that done.
Greg: Okay. All right, we’re going to take a quick break here, and when we come back from the break we’re going to talk about if there’s a change in process based on deal size and then what the roll of sales ops is. So, come back after the break.
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Greg: Okay welcome back everybody I’m here with Mark Turner, SVP and general manager of the Omaya division of Genesys, and prior to the break we were walking through forecasting pipeline management and also Mark got into overall business planning, and given the state of the economy in his region. How he’s having to dynamically reallocate resources which is an interesting dialogue.
Mark, let me spend some time with you now talking about the role of sales ops. And there’s lots of confusion around this right now. Sales ops sometimes are centralized; sometimes it’s decentralized sitting in the geos. Sometimes it’s a combination of them both. What’s the sales op strategy and process for you guys there at Genesys?
Mark: It’s centralized, which is the right thing … We’ve implemented a lot of tools over the last three years to support all the four regions in Genesys, and so there’s quite a team of people who are involved in supporting those. So, it makes more sense that it’s located and managed centrally at the corporate function.
Greg: Okay, and what do they provide for you?
Mark: It’s the guidance on the tools. Salesforce.com does actually require quite a lot of administration. Some of the other things they are looking at, for example, is some of the recent initiatives which are working very well is a centralized, proposal writing system. So we produce a lot of proposals as an example. And what that team has done is reproducing and focusing on producing excellent quality. A rep and a solution engineer having to generate that themselves all the time, they can go to this repository and get 90 percent of that work done. It’s really really up to date and it’s actually extremely high quality. Then they got got focus on tailoring the 10 percent to that customer. So that’s one of the things that our sales operations team does. That it gives us global benefit. Sales training fits within that function as well. It works really well and we get great economies of scale from doing it that way.
Greg: Okay. I’m surprised at your answer there. I agree with it, and I’m glad that it’s working. Most times when I talk to regional leaders, especially those outside of HQ, headquarters, they’re fighting to keep sales ops in their own region and yet you’ve decided to embrace the centralization idea.
Mark: Yeah. Well, I guess when it all started out, I wouldn’t have said that. All leaders, you want to control the resources yourself. But I am seeing good quality of output from the content and the processes that these guys are producing in a way that we couldn’t do it within our own region.
Greg: Yeah. Okay. Now, let’s shift our focus here too pipeline management around big deals. Your company has expanded it’s product offerings quite a bit and you’ve made several acquisitions, and your suite of solutions ranges all the way from the biggest enterprise deployments that you can think about all the way down to, relatively speaking, inexpensive, quick to deploy solutions. So, as it relates to pipeline and forecast management, do you treat those two types of transactions differently or do you follow the same process?
Mark: No, certainly on the forecasting call that we were talking about, I personally focus in on the large deals and personally involved in that. And those are the deals in any given quarter will make up about 50 percent of the revenue. We over rotate our time and focus on the management of those large deals. I tend to focus on deals that are a million dollars plus. I expect the regional guys reporting into that call to have a very very good grasp and understanding of deals 500 K and above.
And then, the deals that are below that, we do track them but we don’t put so much time and energy into those. In any given quarter there’s a lot of those. So we just work on our … Looking at the funnel maps and the overall percentage and historic track record in a region so it plays in those deals. So, there’s much more benefit from focusing our time and energy and attention on the large and the medium sized deals.
Greg: All right. And the sales teams that you have deployed are they responsible for selling both the big enterprise deals as well as the smaller solutions?
Mark: It varies from region to region to be honest. In some of the larger countries, we’ll have separate teams, but in some regions they’re involved in all of that, and that puts quite a challenge on those people, making sure they prioritize their time correctly.
Greg: And any use of inside sales?
Mark: Yeah, more so in the states than in a mirror. Obviously within amirror we have some language challenges and some scale challenges there. But I think the inside sales function is obviously more relevant to the smaller deals and supporting smaller customers and smaller partners where they’re okay with that concept.
Greg: In terms of partners, we’re talking about forecasting pipeline management. Roughly speaking, what’s the split between business you do direct on a percentage basis versus business you do indirect through a channel partner?
Mark: It’s probably about 50/50. But even the 50 percent that we do involving a counter partner has a high degree of direct touch.
Mark: So, we’re sort of fulfilling through a partner that may be part of a broader, wider contract. But, certainly the medium and the larger deals were highly involved. And some customers, some partners you don’t always get as much access and control as you would like.
Greg: Yeah. And the accuracy of the forecast, does it vary if you’re doing the business through a customer versus a channel partner?
Mark: Yeah, very much so. That’s one of the challenges actually. Very much so. The more direct we are, the more in control we are, the more visibility we have. The opposite is equally true.
Greg: So how do you manage that risk? You have half your business going through a channel partner and because there’s an intermediary you don’t have as much information as you want so the chance of becoming an end of quarter casualty is greater there. Do you jump on the phone with your counter part from these channel companies and go through a forecasting process? How does that work?
Mark: It works at several levels. One is where we try to get a direct touch rep involved, talking to the end account, making sure it all correlates. When it comes to the management of the partners, we have implemented a partner program, which incentivizes them to be hitting goals on a regular basis. But also, we talked a while back about the overall management and the [inaudible 00:26:45] of risk. Overtime, we’ve developed a pretty good feel for those partners that give us an accurate forecast. And those partners and geographies, because there is a geographic dimension to how people do business here. They are predictably unpredictable. So we have to factor that risk into our forecast.
Greg: Yeah. That’s interesting. Very interesting. And back to the accuracy of the forecast because we’re trying to help people avoid going from hero to goat overnight due to end of quarter surprises. Based on the product or the deal size which I guess is related … Are the smaller deals more predictable than the bigger deals or vice versa?
Mark: I should know the answer to that, but I probably don’t. I probably feel the pain of the larger deals when they shift. So, I think with the smaller or medium sized deals we can average that out more through the overall number of the deals, etc. But the situation on the bigger deals that gets harder to cover and manage. So you got to look at the maps of both of those things.
Greg: Okay, we’re going to take one more break. When we come back here we’re going to wrap all this up and give you, the listeners, some to dos. Some, a a call of action if you will, things you can do immediately following the podcast to try to improve the forecasting and pipeline management process. So, come back after the break.
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Greg: Welcome back everybody this is Greg Alexander with SBI. Today I’m talking to Mark Turner, the senior vice president and general manager of of Omaya region at Genesys, the provider of the world’s number one customer experience platform and the leader in contact center solutions. And today’s topic is going from hero to goat overnight due to poor forecasting and pipeline management.
And up to this point, just a quick recap, we were talking about the pipeline and forecast management process, the cadence that’s fallen within Mark’s business, the role of sales ops, how business planning happens on a quarterly basis, not just sales planning. And we had some conversations around the challenges working with channel partners as it relates to forecasting accurately.
So, I want to conclude the call the here today with some advice and some call to action, some immediate take away. So let me make my contribution first and then Mark I’ll ask you to make some recommendations.
So, if you’re a head of sales and listening to this podcast and you want to avoid this terrible thing of going from hero to goat overnight as Mark has done for close to 30 years, do what he does. Install a pretty thorough forecasting and pipeline management process which, his is pretty thorough. We’ve talked to a lot of sales leaders and even though Mark has been doing this so long he might not appreciate how thorough it is. It’s more thorough than most which is the reason why we wanted him to talk about this subject. If you need help doing this, you can go to our website salesbenchmarkindex.com When you get there click on about us, and then click on our services and you’ll find plenty of tools and tip sheets and methodologies to help you there. It’s important, and I think it’s a good resource, plus there’s obviously other sites online. That would be my recommendation to folks.
Mark, what would you say directly to somebody who was in your spot who may have had some of these devastating end of quarter surprises and may have even lost his job because of that from time to time? What would you tell them, kind of the two or three things to do, to prevent any of these unfortunately circumstances from happening.
Mark: I think it’s a good question. I guess that’s why we get paid the big bucks right, because you have to deal with that disappointment. Or in theory big bucks.
My real approach and why I’ve managed to succeed over this period of time that you embarrassingly keep stating, is focusing out on building out of the funnel. I think when you get into end of quarter, race to catch up and hit your budget, then almost the game’s over. It’s over before you started. You really got to be focusing a long way out, and building up the funnel, doing the right things, getting your strategies right then the forecasting process is really just sort of execution.
If you haven’t got the strategy and the company aligned on helping you build that out, then it’s going to be a world of pain quarter on quarter.
Greg: Great advice. Unfortunately, some sales leaders can’t see past the immediate 90 days. That advice would be thinking more strategically and making sure you’re working on pipeline development a year in advance. And lots of good things can happen when the pipeline is flush with opportunities and it gets more challenging when there’s a lack of opportunities. So, great advice there. All right Mark.
Mark: I think it’s doing the two things in parallel actually. It’s neither one nor the other. You find some guys do one but not the other. I think you got to do both in parallel and get the right balance between the two.
Greg: Yeah, good point. If you’re just thinking about the long term, you’ll miss the short term. That’s the trick, right?
Greg: Well listen, I know it’s late there in the UK on a Friday afternoon. So, on behalf of SBI and all of our listeners, thanks a bunch for giving us 30 minutes of your time and have a great weekend.
Mark: You’re very welcome. Thanks. Nice talking to you.
Greg: Bye bye.
Mark: Bye now.
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