November 12, 2020

How CMOs Can Hire Smarter in 2021

Any B2B or B2C organization is only as good as its team, so it may be surprising to hear that the hiring process hasn’t really changed for the last decade. In fact, 9 out of 10 CMOs say they aren’t doing anything different when it comes to building their marketing squads.

It’s high time for that to change; it’s time to bring all of the tools available in MarTech over to the people side of the house. In this episode, Aptology CMO Caroline Tien-Spalding joins us to talk all things employee hiring. Tune in to hear why understanding behavior at work is essential, how Caroline built a CRO advisory board to help drive content, and how hiring right can boost revenue across the board.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Why B2B and B2C brands need to update their hiring processes
  • How Aptology matches employees to companies
  • How CMOs can hire better

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 214 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:26] Why Hiring Matters
  • [5:26] How Aptology Matches Employees and Companies
  • [9:24] How to Use Assisted Intelligence to Hire
  • [14:39] Why Understanding Behavior at Work is Essential
  • [20:45] Coaching Employees to Boost Performance
  • [24:49] How Hiring Right Can Boost Revenue
  • [30:14] How Aptology Markets Aptology
  • [39:06] 3 Ways CMOs Can Hire Better

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Caroline Tien-Spalding

[0:26] Why Hiring Matters

“As a CMO, if we don't have a great team, we're going to have a problem doing great marketing.” @DrewNeisser #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! In the earliest episodes, I used to ask the same kind of questions to all the CMOs. It was a habit that I got into and I stopped doing it because it sort of got repetitive and it got a little boring, but one of the questions that always almost made me laugh was when I asked the CMOs this question: “What do you attribute your success to?” or “What’s your proudest moment?” And I’m telling you, there was a period of time where 9 out of 10 CMOs would say, “Oh, it’s all about my team. It’s really this team. It’s a team effort. I have a great team. I could never do this alone.” And I love that self-effacing notion.

It’s a very sweet answer, and sometimes I think it actually was truthful, but it’s interesting to me because we think about marketing and CMOs and successful CMOs these days, and they have moved lightyears ahead when it comes to marketing automation and the use of technology and their ability to create attribution models in all sorts of ways. But when you think about hiring and building a team, if I ask 9 out of 10 CMOs if they’re doing it any differently than they did 10 years ago, they say, “Well, yeah, we’re using a filter to search for resumes.” But the actual process of choosing an individual to be on the team, for the most part, as far as I can see, has not changed, even in a lot of these very slick companies out in Silicon Valley.

I’m going to argue right now that, right now, this is really important because not only do you have the challenges of building a remote team, which means you don’t even get the physical interaction with that individual, and you have the challenge of building a diverse team, which also would be nice if you could do that in person, you’ve got more challenges than ever. I’m going to throw in a third that you may say doesn’t apply. The third is, let’s say unemployment has gone up and it is a down economy at the moment and you have more options to choose from. You would think, “Oh, that means it’s going to be easier to hire. I’m going to argue that it’s harder because you have to sort through even more.”

This show, we’re going to talk about hiring. We’re going to talk about new ways of hiring and bringing some of the same science and artificial intelligence to that process that you’ve already brought to marketing automation. Then, we’ll also talk about how you market that. How do you market a new technology to a group of people who have been doing business the same way since time immemorial?

To do that, my guest today is Caroline Tien-Spalding. Caroline is a native of France, and after studying at Berkeley, settled in the Silicon Valley working in a wide range of companies in an equally wide range of positions. She was the head of marketing for Smug Mug, she was the GM for ArcSoft, and the head of product and marketing for a division of Intel. After being CMO-in-residence at a venture fund called SymphonyAI, Caroline joined Aptology, where she’s been since May 2019. Bonjour, Caroline! Welcome to the show.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Bonjour!

Drew Neisser: Welcome to the show. You know, it’s a crazy time in our world, so we’re just going to jump right into what attracted you—because you’ve worked at so many interesting companies—what attracted you to the challenge at Aptology?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Well, I’ll go back to your introduction, which is, it’s about the people. The thread throughout was success and failure hinged on the people in the company by a large degree. You get the response 9 out of 10 times—there’s some truth to it. I wanted to change what you described as challenges. How do you find people in different environments? How do you find the right people? How do you find it as a good fit? I wanted to change that challenge into an opportunity. It was so common and so that’s what got me to Apology.

Drew Neisser: That makes sense. We all agree that, as a CMO, if we don’t have a great team, we’re going to have a problem doing great marketing. We agree with that, and we might agree on what roles we need underneath us but filling those roles—particularly if you’re at a fast-growth company where you’ve got to hire a lot of people and you’ve got to do it quickly—is a challenge.

[5:26] How Aptology Matches Employees and Companies

“The behavioral match is a key performance indicator of success.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m curious, how does Aptology help? What role do you all play in this process? Explain a little bit about that.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: One of the things that drew me to Aptology was seeing very similar trends across very different pieces of my life. As a consumer, I saw a rise in behavioral targeting. It’s not about what you look like or what your age group is or where you live. It’s about what you do. Based on that, you can get much more relevant product-market fit finding new products that you love.

As a marketer, on the flip side, advertising from a behavioral standpoint makes so much more sense. An example I used to give to my team was, you know, I don’t look like a sailor. I curse like one, but if you went to the marina, you would find me there because I used to race quite a bit. If you find it based on the behavior—you could argue the cursing or the going to the marina—you would be able to find me to sell me sailing gear.

That actually crossed over in many different areas in our consumer life when you think about it, including the most intimate parts of our life. Match and all these services use behavioral matching in order to make the right match that’s probably one of the most important in your life. It was so surprising to see that the tools available that you have in MarTech were not available on the people side when we’ve all established now that behavioral match—“match” is a keyword here—the behavioral match is a key performance indicator of success.

Drew Neisser: Behavioral match. I think everybody, and I’m so glad you brought that analogy, we all understand what Match does, how it works in identifying these characteristics of the individual and then matching them with another individual. We were looking for a key in a lock kind of situation. How does that work when you’re hiring? Let’s just start there.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Yeah, it’s interesting. It works in hiring, but it also works inside the company. So how does it work? You need two pieces of the puzzle for this to work. And the analogy I used to think of was a fish in the water versus out of the water. If it doesn’t work out of the water, it might not be the fish, it might be the environment. Certainly, that seemed to be the case in different companies where I was employed, where, as a leader, it was very difficult to hire consistently and at scale. Even when I was trying to help some mentees or employees transfer between different roles, it was really difficult to understand.

People have resorted to—I interviewed, I don’t know, three dozen, four dozen recruiters, internal and external, and these people are amazing. They deal with volume. They deal with human psychology. They’re trying to extract out of managers who most of the time only have one or two hires. They try to extract from them: “What does it really take to be successful in this role you’re going to hire?” and then translate that into a bunch of different documents. They have Word docs, they have Excel spreadsheets, they have these massive Sherlock Holmes brains, and they translate that into Boolean searches to try to go and find it, and then make the match.

I think it’s a hero’s journey to be a recruiter, honestly, against the odds. So many, they’re still bleeding from their battle scars, so what if we could see past the keywords? Keywords are very limiting. What if we could get past that and see the behaviors? What if you could find happiness at work and know that you’re going into an environment that is favorable to you? There’s a really amazing saying that said, “They tried to bury us. Little did they know that we were seeds.” Very much like that, where do you put the seed?

[9:24] How to Use Assisted Intelligence to Hire

“Assisted intelligence is what we call it, which is the ability to help you do more because you're restricted in time that you have, and space.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’re focused on the hiring part and the recruiter doing the keywords. How does your system actually—are you replacing the recruiter? Is this something that the recruiter uses? Is it HR? Give us a little specific example of finding this match?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Yeah, no, I don’t think we can replace the recruiters. I would never be that ambitious. Oh, my goodness. Or HR, really. No, assisted intelligence is what we call it, which is the ability to help you do more because you’re restricted in time that you have, and space. How do you get information in MarTech? It’ll be all the intent analytics that you see or other analytics tools, so it’s the ability to give you visibility where it’s really difficult to go and find that. Certainly, there were companies that hired I/O psychologists on staff and made sure that they asked behavioral questions to try to get an understanding of the candidates. Most of us can’t afford that, and you would also require to be able to do that for the role for that company.

One thing that we’ve seen pretty consistently is that, for same title, same industry, same size of company, you go from one company to the next and what is required to be successful in the role may be really different. One of my favorite case studies was this company in medical devices that used to hire in sales and enterprise sales the outspoken person, you know, pretty much me, you would think. Super talkative. Knows everybody by first name. The person that you imagine going into a party and shaking everyone’s hand and laughing super loud. I’m stereotyping a little bit, but they were really looking for that outgoing person, which in an interview is a really great battleground to go and find that out. The only problem is, once they started understanding who was really successful at scale in their large company, in the enterprise world, the people who were balancing listening and talking did 30% better.

That is no small sway, so they actually had people in different groups, and in sales, we see quite a bit of evolution, very much like in marketing. In sales, it’ll be inside sales, and then field sales, and then you’ll move to SMB, small businesses, and then enterprise. The problem is, what is required to be successful in one might actually be your undoing in the other. I think we’ve seen that in quite a few roles across the company. It’s not unique to sales or marketing. It’s the “what got you here will not get you there” problem. How do you find these pathways without the ability to see behavior, do it consistently, do it at scale, and understand what success looks like for a role in your company? I mean, that’s why people don’t really do it now because it’s really difficult to do manually.

Drew Neisser: There was one keyword that I picked up on, which is assisted intelligence. That is so profound. A lot of people, when they hear AI and bots and any computer kinds of things, they get very afraid. To me, I can draw a through-line. In so many different interviews, I had the CEO of Pega, and he talked about using their system to help agents with the next best action. It wasn’t replacing, it was assisted intelligence, and I can think of several other cases where artificial intelligence is really good at sorting through data and finding patterns and doing it quicker. In fact, we’re going to a show on LinkedIn Live about conversational AI and it’s going to be a similar kind of a thing.

[14:39] Why Understanding Behavior at Work is Essential

“How do we make sure you understand yourself at work? How do we put you in the best possible position to succeed and how do we do that at scale?” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’re talking about this notion of assisted intelligence. We all want to hire better. There’s no doubt. It’s funny, I would argue that listening is always important—and we’ve talked about that on the show at length—in almost any role because listening equals empathy and empathy usually can lead to sales. In fact, you turned me on to a book that talks about that quite a bit.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Never Split the Difference. Chris Voss. If you’re listening, Chris, one day I want to have lunch with you.

Drew Neisser: There you go. I had heard about the book before, but because of you, I’m listening to it right now. It’s amazing how these FBI negotiators just inherently knew how important empathy was and that starts by listening. Way off-topic, but…

Caroline Tien-Spalding: No, great point! If you’re listening now, I encourage you to pick up this book. It’s so well-written, and it starts with, how did the FBI terrorist negotiation team make a breakthrough in saving lives? I mean, who wouldn’t want to open that book?

Drew Neisser: It’s good. And I think it applies to everything that you and I do for a living. We’ve talked in general about helping companies hire better by essentially matching better. We talked about how, if we can find the right person to fit into the right company—because there’s the role, what’s expected, the culture, all those things are variables. What I’m still not quite sure of is—and I bet the listeners aren’t—what exactly does your product do to facilitate this process?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: We help you understand behavior at work. It’s not behavior with your parents or in a stressful environment, unless your work is a stressful environment, which it might be for most people these days. But in the context you’re in, what are the behaviors? There are three levels of engagement. The first one is: Help your team understand themselves. Create a way to have better dialogue about work and what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. It used to be a very famous question. What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? It became an exercise in gymnastics, right? It’s a strength in a certain context, but a weakness in others. That’s the truth. What was never completed is: What kind of environment are you that will either make this a strength or a weakness?

That’s what we help uncover. You have a 15-minute survey that we’ve worked with a very prestigious English university on. Adverse impact testing, because you want to ensure that you’re really looking for the behavior and not the level of language or proficiency in certain technical words. We’re only focusing on behavior. How do you communicate, what are your communication style preferences in a team environment? How do you make decisions? How do you react to stress? Those are some of the questions without surprising people in interviews and opening the door and yelling at them—which some companies do, and I would not recommend—can you find the answer to these questions and start having this dialogue?

That’s one piece, the second one is answering: “What does it take to be successful in this role, in this company right now? And how does it change over time?” I think there was an attempt and multiple attempts to do this that we should celebrate. The right idea was there, trying to understand, okay, what does it take to be successful in the role? The problem is, a lot of them have data that’s 34 years old, and today’s company is not the same as the company 34 years ago. I think we can all agree that lots of things have changed, so we need to have a data refresh. It’s like building your marketing on 40-year-old data or your sales plan on 40-year-old data or product on 40-year-old data. The first portable computer was in 1981 and weighed 23 pounds. We’re no longer there. You now have the internet in your pocket and the size of the palm of your hand, and so the other tools that you use should reflect that reality.

And then thirdly, there’s what are the best possible matches and progression, and how do you look at that at scale? The larger company you are, the more this is an incredible challenge because you may be able to attract great talent, but without the ability to facilitate career pathing, they’re going to career path themselves out with your competitor who has more information about them than you do. I think it’s aligning the interests of people wanting to understand how to be their best at work. No one shows up to fail. That was a great quote from Chris Kowalewski of Compass Group USA, an amazing mentor, a great leader, a really big advocate of really looking at and understanding people at work. That’s his philosophy, no one shows up at work to fail, so how do we enable success?

If you don’t understand behavior, and if they don’t understand it, or if you have very different levels of understanding, like, “Oh, Drew, I think you’re a blah, blah, blah” and then you get another manager and a completely different interpretation of you shows up, then you’re not going to be happy. You’re going to be confused. So how do we align that? How do we make sure you understand yourself at work? How do we put you in the best possible position to succeed and how do we do that at scale? That’s what we do.

Drew Neisser: I think I get it. I do. I mean, I get the why you need to do it and I get the outcome. I’m not sure I get the how, but I don’t think I really even necessarily need to. The outcome is not just better hiring decisions so that we have a better match, but also, there’s some part of this that continues along with the employee to make sure that the match stays good, I guess.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: That’s right. We understand your behavior and then the behavior of different roles, and then we help that match and that specific coaching.

[20:45] Coaching Employees to Boost Performance

“What we've seen is that these could be cultural norms in the team or things that are accepted and behaviors, but they actually do not move the needle on performance.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Let’s talk about coaching for a second. We’ve understood the behaviors and performance. At a high level, this is not rocket science. It’s just really difficult to do if you don’t have the right tool to do it, like analytics in marketing. You could do it in an Excel spreadsheet; it would just take you a very long time. So you could understand behavior first, capture that consistently and at scale and make sure it’s adverse impact tested. And then you compare it to an objective performance metric. Without that, you’re in a world of pain of bias all day long.

Then, once you have multiple roles, you can coach specifically. One of the issues that we see with the women in particular is that they get coached on things that actually don’t move the needle quite a bit. Our system has seen that quite a bit. In sales, for example, let’s say you have a balance of listening and talking. You could get that feedback that you’re really strong at it, or here are some tweaks in exactly the wording that you could use. You could slow down, you could praise… And that would have an impact on performance. But you could also get coached on exactly how you get along or how you react to stress, or if you’re very assertive in the way that you bring a point through.

What we’ve seen is that these could be cultural norms in the team or things that are accepted and behaviors, but they actually do not move the needle on performance. It doesn’t move the needle on performance, so we’re separating, “Hey, here’s a look at what really seems to be moving the needle. You might want everybody to focus on that first,” and, “Here are the things that are normative to the group, but don’t necessarily actually move the needle on performance.” If you have to prioritize your one-on-ones, your coaching, or you’re spending your effort on trying to improve that category of the behaviors that really move the needle is a great North Star. And specifically, we tell you what it sounds like when you’re slightly off, so that it’s much more specific feedback to make an impact.

Drew Neisser: If I put this in a marketer’s terms—as a company, I’m marketing my brand to get potential employees to join my brand. I want them to thrive there, so I have tools that make sure that I get the right people into the company in the first place, just as we should be getting the right customers into our business because it’s those bad customers that can really create all sorts of problems for you. So, we want to get the right people, and then we want to nurture them in a way like we would a customer experience, so that they have the best experience they can with the company.

I can find the parallel, but now when I turn around and say, “Okay, wait, this is a marketing show,” most of the companies that I am imagining that you’re marketing to are doing it the old way. I’m just guessing. You’re not replacing another technology; you’re replacing a way of doing business. And that’s the hardest thing in marketing… You are selling change.

[24:49] How Hiring Right Can Boost Revenue

“You have funnel optimization, you have sales revenue optimization and revenue intelligence, but you don't have revenue intelligence unless you have people intelligence.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: What is the elevator pitch for Aptology? Would CMOs ever be in the target audience for you all?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: We actually ended up with some in our lap unintentionally. Where we started, our North Star was objective metrics, so we started with sales because you have quota attainment, you have revenue, you have pipeline. The results of what we’ve found out together really makes an impact extremely quickly. Within a quarter, you see the pipeline improvement. What was interesting is that we started getting really pulled into other pieces of the organization, because, as I said, it’s a phased development in that you first help people understand themselves at work and then the role and then the match.

The other parts of the organization were like, “Wait, you know this about yourself, why don’t I know this about myself? I want to be able to have that dialogue and I’ve always wondered why I was getting coached on this area, but not this area.” We just started getting pulled into customer service, into engineering, into marketing. And in marketing, you could argue that there’s a separate discussion here on the rise of the revenue driving CMO, so we’re definitely getting even more pulled in here. With the rise of remote work, the ability to have really good coaching and understanding of yourself at work has become extremely critical to the business and its success.

Drew Neisser: I want to come back to that because I think that’s a really interesting thing. The light bulb went off for me for a second when you said, “We can see a dramatic improvement in the sales performance of the salespeople as a result of creating objective ways of evaluating and both hiring and training, or whatever you want to call it—coaching. There isn’t a company in America that wouldn’t want it’s salespeople to stay longer, to perform better.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Or salespeople who want to make more commission.

Drew Neisser: Right. Yes, they want this. The alignment, particularly interesting to me now, for companies that aren’t performing as well as they want—the number of companies where salespeople are making quota, I think it’s higher than 25%. Maybe even 30 -35% of salespeople aren’t making quota right now…

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Oh, it’s more. We found it’s between 30-43% of people make quota.

Drew Neisser: Okay. It’s the other way around.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: It’s the other way around.

Drew Neisser: Your research—part of mine is one-to-one CMOs who will just share that information with me—so 60% roughly of salespeople are not making quota. Now, there are economic reasons, there are positioning reasons, there are all sorts of reasons. But one would argue that your product pays for itself when you can go to a place that can do it.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Easily.

Drew Neisser: I get it. That really helps me.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: What’s really interesting—you talked about MarTech. There’s a lot of sales tech to try to get all the symptoms, so you have CRMs—and some of these systems have become their own hydras for sales teams and sales operations. It’s given rise to sales operations, but you have pipeline review, you even have call recording. You have email activity, you have cold outreach email tools that give you better insights if you share a video, what percentage, and who it was, but all these are symptoms. It doesn’t qualify exactly the “how” throughout.

A really interesting stat posted by Clery, I believe, was that it takes 19 meetings to score a $100,000 deal on average. If you don’t have a follow-up, just this very simple thing, if you don’t have the resilience and the discipline and the attention to detail to follow up throughout those 19 meetings, that’s a lot of opportunities to fail. You were talking about the funnel and marketers—I think there’s the rise of talent optimization. You have funnel optimization, you have sales revenue optimization and revenue intelligence, but you don’t have revenue intelligence unless you have people intelligence. You’ve got this talent optimization or people intelligence that’s really rising right now because, without that leg of the stool, you’re just kind of going and looking at symptoms. The patient is hemorrhaging and you’re putting band-aids on it.

Drew Neisser: Right. We’re going to take a quick break, but what’s interesting to me is, the old school situation was marketing would bring the lead, hand it off, and then they’d be po’ed that sales couldn’t do it. If I’m a marketer right now, and I have this situation, I want your product in there because then I can make sure that these folks are performing and my leads are actually being delivered upon.

[30:14] How Aptology Markets Aptology

The CRO of @Intuit said it amazingly as well: “Don't just do it so that people understand, but so that people don't misunderstand what you do.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve been talking about an area that we haven’t talked about on this show, which is the critical importance, obviously, of people in all of these organizations. You CMOs listening, you all know how important it is to have your team perform, but you are only as good as your salespeople as a team too, which is an interesting thing. But I’m curious now, let’s switch gears. Let’s put on your CMO hat and let’s talk about how you have marketed and what interesting things have you done at Aptology. Again, you’re not only selling a category, you have to convince people that you are the right one to do it. What approach has been working for you?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: I’ve taken a little bit of a different approach. As you said, I’ve worn different hats myself and one thing that I’ve kept with me, there was a book that made a really big influence on me, except for Never Split the Difference, which was the book of this year. Another really good framework is Jobs to Be Done, which I used in product management. It’s a discipline to extract out of prospect interviews what is really going on.

There’s this very famous example that’s used at incubators quite a bit that’s fantastic on interviewing people. It shows the difference between asking, “What do you typically eat?”—which is the equivalent in jobs to “What do you typically do as a marketer?”—the job description answer is what you’re going to get—versus what did you eat last night? What did you eat for lunch yesterday?

It’s the difference between the perceived or ideal self and the actual self. What you want to do in product management and in marketing is go for the actual because that’s where the pains are and that’s where the value truly is. There’s a booming dieting industry, especially with us all at home right now, so there is a will to be better, but understanding exactly what truly prevents you from reaching that ideal state is foundational. The “why” you’re not able to achieve what you would love to be or to be doing.

Using that method, I reached out to complete strangers, and I’m going to call out a few of them right now. Amazing CROs, the CRO of UserTesting, David, amazing. This CRO of Compass Group USA, Chris Kowalewski of Compass whom I just mentioned. I’m a big fan. The former CRO at Intuit has been fantastic. People who didn’t know me at all that I reached out to and said, “Hey, I’m working on this new category and it’s selling to sales. I see that I have a bunch of CRO customers, but let’s be real—even though I made 105 calls a day when I started, I’m not a CRO, I don’t actually know, other than being accused of killing my MQLs, I don’t really know what you do all day. I need you to just throw darts at them to kill them. Do you just like, let them die on the vine? What’s your preferred method of killing my MQLs?” They laugh a little bit and then they share what their pain truly is about.

I was like, I need to understand—you get pitched. CMOs, get pitched all day; I’m sure CROs get pitched all day. In your words, where’s your pain? What was your problem yesterday? And not really leading the witness like I just did, but what did you do yesterday? What did you do the day before? You have these leaders who truly in their heart of hearts believe it’s about the people. I mean, the experience heroes out there, Steve from Sumo Logic, another amazing person who gave me time out of nowhere, right after their IPO no less, to give me feedback on messaging.

The CRO of Intuit said it amazingly as well: “Don’t just do it so that people understand, but so that people don’t misunderstand what you do.” Helping me translate that into their language and how they experienced the pain has been instrumental at every point of the funnel. We have a new sales section on the website that’s thanks to all these amazing people. Our sales materials have gone through that. Chris Kowalewski actually reviewed our entire brochure on people intelligence and gave me some rough love, amazing feedback that I needed, because it sounded too marketing-y. You need that external view, so that product management process has been an integral part of how we go to market.

Drew Neisser: You’ve essentially built an advisory board.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Yes.

Drew Neisser: I’m really curious, what’s in it for them?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: You know, I sometimes wonder. I think these are people who are giving it forward. There’s no exchange of money. It’s a one-way thing. I mean, I try to be valuable and offer advice where I can in marketing or other areas and patching the love where it’s missing between marketing and sales, but I think they truly believe in just trying to help other people. I’m just lucky enough that they chose that I was worth their time. And for that, I’m extremely, extremely, extremely grateful. Thank you.

Drew Neisser: There is somewhat of an irony here—you are selling a technology to help people hire and coach and manage people better, and your solution to marketing it was as basically people as can be.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: That’s true. Yes, that’s true.

Drew Neisser: Because you were looking for genuine insights that only an experienced individual could provide—this was not a scalable, researchable thing necessarily. So that’s fascinating. This advisory board that I’m calling it, that you got to help, that’s driven your content program… How are you pushing that forward from here on? You’ve got that group they’ve advised you—how do you see that moving forward?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: An extremely important part of product management and marketing is closing the feedback loop. That’s the other thing I’m really about and what our product is about. It’s about closing the feedback loop. If you coached somebody, did it actually make a difference on the performance? That’s the other piece that’s often missing. Closing the feedback loop is something I’m passionate about, and it’s really difficult to do at scale, but as I said, we just launched the website. That really included all of that feedback. Continuing to seek feedback on that same content: Is it explaining everything correctly? Is it explaining it in the right order, in the right way? We issued new brochures and new sales materials to our team, and we’re evolving actually the demo to talk more specifically about certain items.

There are also amazing women who have helped me understand specific sub-segments of sales. So Sheevaun Thatcher at RingCentral is amazing, and Brooke Bachesta at Outreach, on the role of SDRs. SDR is an interesting sub-category in sales because sometimes it can be owned by marketing and sometimes it can be owned by sales. The pressures are slightly different, but the approach of developing people is core to it because these people will often graduate to sales. The companies that do it really well—interesting nugget right here—the average tenure in the SDR world is about 13 to 15 months, but the path to promo is usually, 90% of the case, to Account Executive A, and that happens in 15 to 18 months. What ends up happening is that, if you don’t have a career pathing possibility within your company, you’re training your competition’s A.

Drew Neisser: There you go, that’s hilarious,

Caroline Tien-Spalding: It’s incredible, right? The best companies have figured out a way to career path or otherwise. Our path in marketing, for example, especially as the marketing department starts owning it. But it’s really interesting to see the actual understanding of the people side and the right evolution that successful companies like RingCentral and Outreach have had in that department.

Drew Neisser: Just in case my father or someone else is listening and they want to know what MQL is, it’s marketing qualified lead. It’s a scoring technique that marketers use and if it matches a certain criterion, then they hand it off to sales. SDR is a sales development rep. These are people who would manage leads and it depends on the company. Some are called brand development reps or business development reps, BDRs.

[39:06] 3 Ways CMOs Can Hire Better

“The keystone is first understanding what it means to be successful in this role in this company.” @tienspalding @APTOLOGY1 #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s wrap this up by first talking about hiring better. If we want to give CMOs three tips on hiring better, let’s go there.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: With or without Aptology? I mean, that’d be my tip number one, if you can afford it. [Laughter]

Drew Neisser: I guess with Aptology, why not?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: No matter what you use, because I think this is a problem so deep, so impactful that I just want people to solve it no matter how they solve it. The keystone is first understanding what it means to be successful in this role in this company. You’ll have, there, bifurcation. You’ll have people who have had people in the role before and can tell you what doesn’t work, but hopefully, you can get to a state where you can more specifically discuss the behaviors that make someone successful. The issues are, there are all kinds of biases, so try to make that interpretation by yourself at home.

There are people who are just building new teams, nascent teams. With the baby teams, it gets a lot harder and especially if you’re in hyper-growth phase, the needs may be changing over time. On that, I would just keep it as your North Star to always think about what it takes to be successful and then matching based on that versus asking, “Have you done this before?” Our world is changing so quickly, right? The iPhone came out in 2007 and changed at least 30% of our traffic and conversions, if not more. That’s a huge chunk. 13 years ago. What you did yesterday is not necessarily what will make you successful tomorrow, but the method by which you do it, that’s something that can last. How do you define what it takes to be successful and how do you adjust that and how do you verify that and how do you close the feedback loop? That’s the big piece.

The second one I would encourage marketers to do is…There’s a world of untapped potential, and the reason for that is the restriction on keywords. Why is it that people hire people they know? It’s because they’re de-risked. The devil you know. So how do you de-risk someone you don’t know so that you can open the flood gates of possibilities? I would say, really, become a student of behavior at work if you can. We can’t all be psychologists, but we can try to educate ourselves the way we did in MarTech. We’ve learned all this incredible stack of 5,000 options and counting, probably 15,000 by the time we’re talking because it changes every month. But if we’re able to learn all of that, we can definitely invest in learning in people and finding people not just based on the usual keywords.

I’ll just double-click on that in a second—keywords are really difficult because it’s how we find things, but the way you describe what you’ve achieved and describe the way I describe what I’ve achieved are different. It doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten those achievements, but if we are limited to the way you describe it or the way I describe it, there’s an entire pool of people who are going to be missing.

I would really try to think in terms of synonyms and try to crack, that’s why recruiters are amazing. They’re transforming all this stuff through Boolean searches, but really opening past the usual colleges or the usual “I’ve done this” said in this specific way on the resume is something that I would be encouraging marketers to do. I think the behavior is, you know, an HBR article highlighted that it’s the highest performing indicator, meaning like, if you had to take a guess of all the things that are predictive of your performance, what’s the one thing that moves the needle, the most? It’s behavior, so look for that.

The third one is, I think there’s a lot of aspiring leaders; they’re trying to get themselves to be better as leaders. I’ve worked for some really amazing leaders and I’ve read a lot of leadership books. I mean, that doesn’t make me an expert, but a common trait is the ability to really understand what causes certain behaviors to flare or not. A great example, like the dieting example, what I would like to eat versus what I ate last night—if you end up with a lot of people who say “yes” around you, you start asking yourself what happened the last time someone disagreed. What happened the last time that someone spoke up? What happened the last time that someone took initiative, right? And every time you start and ask a question this way, you’ll get a better understanding of your actual culture versus your ideal culture.

Just taking a look at that and making tweaks—Elias Torres was a co-founder of Drift. I really love them, known him for a long time and I’ve been a very outspoken beta user of every product he’s built. I’m sure he’ll laugh listening to this, but that was one of the things that we discussed: Last time, what happened when someone disagreed? What happened last time versus, you know, like, does it make sense? What do you think about this? When you’re in a position of power, people have too much at stake in saying no, so you have to be very self-conscious in asking specifically for that contrarian point of view. I think that’s a really difficult balance, but something that is a discipline that we can make happen and will result in more diverse points of view.

If you open the gates to diverse feedback, you will then see blind spots that you weren’t aware of or new possibilities or opportunities for business. I’ve been inspired by the teams that I’ve had the privilege of supporting—I call it supporting versus leading—because you ask, “What else did not I think of? What did we not consider?” And all of a sudden you have this flood of ideas and you’re like, “Oh my goodness, I would have been missing out on all of this.” These are the three things that I would consider.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. That’s amazing. Well, we’re out of time, mainly because, speaking of behavior, folks are commuting much less. They’re not running long enough to finish these episodes so I’m going to just stop right here and thank you so much for being on the show. It’s been amazing having you.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: My pleasure. Thank you.

Drew Neisser: And to all the listeners, I hope you got a lot out of this show. We’re taking notes, we’ll link to a lot of the people that she mentioned. I’ve referenced, Jobs to Be Done, which Clayton Christensen and another gentleman wrote, in past shows with Brent Adamson. Big fan of that approach. And, if you did enjoy it, share. Share with a friend. Sharing is caring.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.