article | September 29, 2011
Eloqua CEO Defines the Perfect B2B Sales Leader in 2012
An Interview With Eloqua’s CEO, Joe Payne
This is an interview with Joe Payne, the CEO of Eloqua, the leader in the marketing automation software industry. Eloqua’s products and services help companies grow revenue through superior lead generation.
JK: Please describe the perfect B2B chief sales officer in 2012.
JP: Today’s sales leaders need to be more than sharp dressers. They need sharp analytical skills.
Increasingly, CEOs are pressing sales and marketing executives to use a common lexicon, and work in concert to make decisions based on data. That means comprehending the data, how fluctuations in conversion rates have broad impact up and down the funnel. At Eloqua, we’ve identified 5 data points, called Revenue Performance Indicators, that outperforming companies track closely. They include tracking the overall value of each stage of the revenue cycle and how leads and “clicks” become revenue; the reach of your database and how many buyers you can effectively market it to; the progression of continual conversions occurring stage-by-stage; the velocity of the revenue cycle, measuring the time it takes to turn prospects into customers; and, finally, measuring the cost of sales and marketing initiatives relative to the return they delivered.
Additionally, a sales leader needs to equip the sales team to use the latest techniques, like phone sales and online meetings, not to mention a solid grasp of a CRM system. They need to be fast. An Inside Sales report found that leads followed up within 5 minutes of expressing interest were far more likely to convert.
Finally, a sales chief needs to work closely with marketing to identify how leads are nurtured and scored. Just concentrating on the volume of leads coming through the door is counterproductive in this day and age.
JK: Please make the case for leveraging the sales force to deliver organic growth.
JP: A great sales team lets you “control your own destiny” by identifying and closing all the new business your organization needs to meet its growth goals. Good sales people know how to identify customers’ pain and provide solutions. This level of empathy and knowledge is invaluable for the b2b marketing industry. For subscription businesses like ours, new business can last for years. At the same time, our installed base represents our most crucial segment. As sales comes to understand current customers’ pain points, they can help us identify revenue opportunities we are not currently selling against. They are, in many ways, our eyes and ears in the field.
That’s what Revenue Performance Management is all about, really: bringing predictability to your revenue stream through benchmarks and tracking RPIs, while simultaneously identifying revenue streams you have not considered. It’s one part consistency and one part business intelligence. If you’re going to drive growth, you have to constantly innovate. RPM removes guesswork and supplies you with the data you need to invent more.
JK: Please make the case for deemphasizing the sales force and growing through acquisitions.
JP: I can’t make that case. It’s well documented that most acquisitions fail. While it’s always important to be on the lookout for potentially fruitful opportunities, you can’t count on someone else to innovate for you.
My job, as CEO, is not to spend my days hunting for acquisitions, but to grow the company. This is why I invest in a revenue team – not just a sales or marketing team. Our key to success is to bring in the best people, who are customer-focused, make sure they understand our RPM strategy and follow it. Honestly, it’s not an easy process to implement, but it’s proven. The fastest-growing companies spend their time on revenue performance, not bargain shopping.
JK: Please paint a picture of a B2B sales force in 2017.
JP: The buyer is only going to become smarter, better educated and more empowered. Social media, search and analytics are growing by leaps and bounds with every passing week. This means the sales force is going to need to get smarter, too. That means creating an all around immersive and informative experience for the buyer.
Successful sales teams in 2017 will be using platforms, like Eloqua, to track and create compelling messaging for buyers. They’ll be heavy users of social media. They’ll be obsessed with profiling the buyer before they even pick up the phone. But one thing that won’t go out of style: the continual development of methodologies and best practices that we provide. You can just pick up a hammer and drive in a nail, but if you won’t to be a master craftsman, you have to apprentice and perfect your craft. This won’t change for winning sales teams.
JK: What advice would you give a sales leader who wants to be a CEO on how to earn the job?
JP: You need to understand, and experience firsthand, how the B2B buying process has changed. Explore how buyers chose you. Even more importantly, why they chose your competitors.
You need an analytical mindset. So much of how customers are courted comes down to the digital footprint they make. You need to learn the tools of the trade to read their digital body language: Eloqua, CRM, social media, etc.
Finally, be revenue-focused, not just sales oriented. You need to understand how revenue begins at the suspect level and continues through all the touches a buyer experiences along the way. Definitely read Alex Shootman and Steven Woods’ book Revenue Engine. It’s vital that you understand the customer’s entire journey, and that it doesn’t simply end when the sale closes.
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