April 27, 2023

Strategic B2B Sales Enablement: The 10,000 Foot View

How are elite marketers helping Salespeople (and the prospective customer) make the buying journey fruitful (and not frustrating)? 

We take a broad, strategic look at the question in this episode with experts Rebecca Stone, SVP Customer Solutions Marketing & CMO at Cisco Meraki, and Marni Carmichael, VP of Marketing at ImageSource. It’s full of strategic gems that B2B marketers can use to better support and align with their sales teams. 

As you’ll learn, synergy between Sales and Marketing is about a synergy between consistency and spontaneity, brand and individual style, art and science. Tune in to get your Sales Enablement plan in tip-top shape for 2023. 

What You’ll Learn  

  • What’s working in sales enablement (and what’s not) 
  • How to align marketing and sales plays
  • How to scale customization and personalization 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 342 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 


  • [3:43] Rebecca Stone: Covenant House Sleep Out
  • [6:18] Meraki’s buyer journey
  • [10:54] What’s working in sales enablement
  • [14:09] Why consistency matters
  • [17:23] Marni Carmichael: Back in the office
  • [18:50] From product manager to marketing leader
  • [20:54] Aligning your website to how you sell
  • [23:24] Marketing’s impact on the business
  • [26:38] Scaling customization & personalization
  • [30:56] CMO Huddles testimonials
  • [32:49] Sorting through Sales requests
  • [38:15] Measuring & updating enablement
  • [40:45] Developing and testing Sales plays
  • [49:52] CMO Wisdom: Sales enablement in 2023

Highlighted Quotes  

“Customer advocacy is a huge part of sales enablement. There are lots of ways that it can be used late in the sales cycle that have an immense amount of value to the sales team.” —@rlstone33 @Meraki Share on X 

“What's most important is creating a roadmap and anticipating what the sales assets are going to be.” —@rlstone33 @Meraki Share on X 

“Just like there is an art and a science of marketing, there is an art and a science to sales. Oftentimes, where you get the most resistance is when you're trying to control the art part of sales.” —@rlstone33 @Meraki Share on X 

“We are very aware of how important it is when a salesperson’s individual voice and style is coming out. If they're not authentic, then the customer will not buy from them.” —Marni Carmichael @imagesourceinc Share on X 

“Check the health of your relationship with your sales leadership consistently.” —Marni Carmichael @imagesourceinc Share on X 

“Don't lose the reality that you're responsible for long-term strategy. You've got to keep the day-to-day and the long-term strategy at the top of your list every day.” —Marni Carmichael @imagesourceinc Share on X

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Rebecca Stone & Marni Carmichael


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. And I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you will also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority. Kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform.

And speaking of audio before we get into today’s show, I do want to do a shout out to the professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you.

Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddle Studio, our live show featuring the CMOS of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing caring and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time we’ve got a conversation with Huddlers Rebecca Stone of Meraki Cisco and Marni Carmichael of Image Source on sales enablement. Let’s dive in.

I’m your host Drew Neisser live from my childhood home in Newport Beach, California! The divide between marketing and sales is increasingly blurred.  In a huddle recently, one CMO shared that they no longer use the term Marketing Sourced Opportunities and instead call them Company Sourced Opportunities to emphasize the fact that closing these opportunities is everyone’s job and marketing’s role doesn’t stop at the hand off. Then consider the fact that after these opportunities have been confirmed, the enterprise buyer, as reported by Forrester, is likely to have another 27 touches before the deal is done. 27 more touches! Touches that may be with a salesperson, a demo provider, on your website or even at a trade show. Which brings us to the topic of today’s show – Sales Enablement – and how elite marketers are helping Salespeople (and the prospective customer) make the buying journey fruitful (and not frustrating). .

With that, let’s bring on Rebecca Stone, SVP of Customer Solutions Marketing & CMO of Meraki Cisco and star of episodes #134 & #245 of Renegade Marketers Unite and episode #38 of this show. Hello, Rebecca, wonderful to see you again.

Rebecca Stone: I’m happy to be back as always.

Drew Neisser: And where are you?

Rebecca Stone: I am in Marin in the San Francisco Bay Area and coming live from my laundry room as times in these podcasts before.

Drew Neisser: Yes, indeed. Well, we won’t dwell on that fact. But that always cracks me up. I saw that on LinkedIn that you’re in an organization called Covenant House International for their national sleep out. So can you tell us a little bit more about the org, the event, and how you came to be involved in it?

Rebecca Stone: Yeah, so I am excited that you’re asking me because tonight is the night that I am sleeping out. So November is a month of awareness for childhood homelessness. And Covenant House is a US nationwide program that raises funds to benefit children who are suffering from homelessness. And so Cisco, that company that I work for, is one of the core supporters and we have regional executive sponsors across the entire country, as well as people who sign up for one night to actually sleep outside just to raise awareness and funds for homeless youth. So tonight I will be at Levi’s Stadium. And I think a lot of people assume oh, you get a tent and you get like all this stuff. No. We are on the ground in sleeping bags with no tents, no nothing, in order to really get a sense of what it’s like to wake up after you’ve slept without the luxuries that many of us that are probably listening to this podcast are used to. And really, it gives us a chance to just come back to that and be humbled by it and remember how much these kids have to overcome in order to continue to be successful.

Drew Neisser: First of all, it really is amazing that you’re doing that. And is there a fundraising for folks that are listening to this or a place that they could go to contribute?

Rebecca Stone: There is, I will, how about I share the link? Maybe you can share it out with with everyone?

Drew Neisser: Great. We’ll put it in the show notes when this gets released as a podcast. But that’s amazing. And do you have a full schedule tomorrow? Because I can’t imagine you’re planning on getting a great sleep.

Rebecca Stone: I know and I do. And that’s the point is really to really remind us of what it’s like. So I have a full day starting at—I leave the stadium at 5:30. And my first meeting is at 8am.

Drew Neisser: What’s the temperature expected to be tonight?

Rebecca Stone: I just checked and we are getting to be like, between 37 and 40 degrees. So it’s not going to be warm.

Drew Neisser: Wow. All right. Well, good luck with that. And I’ll circle back on the other side.

Rebecca Stone: I do genuinely appreciate the opportunity to be able to talk about it. So thank you.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, amazing. Okay, so the whole world of sales enablement is complicated. There’s lots of elements. And we’re going to try to in this show, narrow down and really help folks think through their sales enablement program, both from a strategic level, as well as a tactical level. So maybe you can set the stage and give us a high level overview, perhaps of your buyer journey, and then where the sort of crucial stages are for sales enablement.

Rebecca Stone: So I will talk more about my role with Meraki for this rather than my role with broader Cisco. And the reason for that just for context for the listeners is that for the Cisco organization, I own the full cycle of marketing. Within broader Cisco I own primarily the product and solutions messaging marketing for the organization. So for the Meraki perspective, I think the customer journey we sell mostly to SMB today, and we are moving upmarket, further and further into larger enterprises. So for our SMB journey, customer digital and primarily driven by either our marketing channels, or from one of our partners is another core channel for us in that area, we have a very large channel distribution partnership as part of Cisco. And it’s one of the strengths because it allows, if you think about, we sell IT products, there’s all these little IT stores throughout the country and throughout the world that are there to help small businesses, you have service providers like Verizon or and AT&T who are helping support businesses. And so our products go to those partners, and those partners oftentimes sell our products. So the way that I think to describe it is like is it’s sort of like a CPGs relationship with a supermarket, in that you have your products that are being sold by others. For the about 30 to 40% of business that is driven through the marketing channel, we are very obviously very heavily involved from first touch all the way through to your point, I think from earlier all the way through to the end of the sale, and even beyond the sale into upsell, cross sell, and adoption. And so we really think of it as a full cycle program from that perspective, then we’re also heavily involved in supporting our partners, we support our partners with advertising dollars, we support our partners with sales enablement materials, just like we support our sales channels, and support through that process as well. So there’s a number of steps where we are engaged with sales as our end customer rather than our customer as our end customer.

Drew Neisser: So one of the things that is so interesting, and in some ways is an advantage with small business customers, I’m imagining the lifetime value per customers is modest relative to a big enterprise sale. So therefore your cost per acquisition per customer can’t be as high as an enterprise. And therefore, you have to really lean into the self service notion. The reason why I want to sort of emphasize that for a second is most of us, no matter what we buy want to do this on self service motion, we really don’t want to talk to a salesperson. So in some ways, starting at small business and working your way up, you’re used to providing everything that a small business might need or a salesperson selling to it might need to make the decision on their own. Is that a fair place to start?

Rebecca Stone: Yeah, I think yes and no, I think that IT is a little bit different than IT hardware. IT hardware is a little bit behind where maybe software is in the B2B world, in that it has historically been much more heavily driven by a direct sales touch type of motion. So when I came in, and still to this day, like there’s not as much self service as I would have expected when I joined, and we have been working on that slowly over time, but I do think we could, I actually think we can do better. But I actually think having worked in SAS for 15 years prior to this, we could have done better. And with our SAS startups, too. So there’s always room for improvement. I think that we’re used to dealing with that at scale, though. And so that means limiting and reducing the amount of touches and giving more opportunity for our customers to self find information wherever they can, and however they can.

Drew Neisser: So when I say the term self sales enablement, and you think about all the things that you’ve done over the last couple years, point to something in this world that you’ve done, that feels like it’s working in this world of sales enablement.

Rebecca Stone: I think that there’s a couple of things. One, we use tools that help our sales teams reach out to their customers in a better way. Think of a tool like sales loft, or there’s a number of different tools that have those types of —it’s a marketing on a one-to-one basis kind of sales automation. And I think that that has been one of the most effective things that I’ve seen probably over the last five to seven years, is tools that allow sales to have what feels like more of a custom touch, more of a one-to-one touch, but then allows us to help guide the words that are in the emails. The second thing I think that we do is actually something that you might not often think of as sales enablement. But I think customer advocacy is a huge part of sales enablement, because not only do you use your customer voice in your marketing, but your sales team can use that too. They can use customer advocacy as references, they can use it when they’re in competitive positions with potential buyers. There’s lots of ways that customer advocates and customer testimonials can be used late in the sales cycle that I think have an immense amount of value to the sales team. And I think that’s where they’re most often appreciative of the things that we’re doing. But I think the final thing if we think about driving consistency through sales tools, and through words that are being used is, one customer advocates, two and then third is just is more of the core competitive and product information. And that is one thing that I’ve really pushed on within the Meraki team over the last 18 months, particularly, is just the basic sales enablement of—hey, any question that I might want to ask about a product, a product marketer better know the answer and better have created a tool where I can easily find the answer. Because what you often have and what would drive me nuts is we’d have all these channels with all our salespeople who are just typing in random answers. And they would be lucky if one other salesperson had an answer to that question. And I’d much rather have them trust us as a trusted source that we can keep that consistency going that we have the answers to the questions that are coming up over and over again and are just the basic things that you need to do to support a sales team.

Drew Neisser: So we’ve got sales automation to help drive and track consistency. We’ve got customer advocacy, which to me is just so important. And it’s really interesting to connect that and sales enablement as a step and then just competitive and making sure that you can answer because typically someone is buying something instead of something else.

So you’ve mentioned consistency as really important. And I think that’s probably one of those things that salespeople don’t necessarily think about. They just think about, I gotta give them an answer or whatever. What’s the why behind consistency in your mind and how do you persuade folks, why consistency matters?

Rebecca Stone: I think when you are trying to persuade an audience, your potential customers, your potential partners, even the industry, you are at your best advantage with competition, when they cannot find your niche in your armor, right? And that is what consistency is about. If you’re remaining consistent about where your strengths are. If you’re remaining consistent about how the message is it is harder for your competitors to attack that message. That’s why I think consistency is so important.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Yeah, because I was going to link it to it makes the purchase decision easier in that the studies—this was sort of Brent Adamson’s research—that the consistency of message, now this is particularly true in enterprise with a larger buying committee, if you have a different message for the CFO versus the CEO, you have a problem, you’re not going to win.

Rebecca Stone: But I think that, why is that? Why the consistency and why aren’t you going to win if your story doesn’t stay the same? And it’s like, if you’re thinking about consistency across persona, or you’re thinking about consistency, from your marketing team, to your sales team, to your CX team, why you’re going to win is because if you don’t, your competition is going to come in and be able to break that down and be able to go and talk to those different personas and say—look, they’re not making sense, they’re telling you one thing here, and then telling you another thing here. I think that’s a that is definitely a core component. I also think it’s a better experience for the customer if you stay consistent, because they’ll know what to expect from you. They’ll see you as more of a resource and as a trusted adviser, because you’re being honest and open and being clear with them about what the expectations are when you work with the particular product that you’re selling.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and presumably, if you have that, you’re gonna sell more because you just made it easier for them to buy it. There’s no debate we’re buying it because rational reason, emotional reason, whatever the reason that everybody is on the same page in terms of why and there’s a certain simplicity here, inherent in all of this, too, is that if we’re consistent, we’re probably have a nice clear message.

Okay, you’re going to remind me or I’m going to remind myself that when we come back to you—because we’re going to now talk to Marni—but I want to get at metrics and how you measure this and how you know when you’re going to prove it, but we’ll do that together with Marni. So okay, let’s bring on Marni Carmichael, VP of Marketing at Image Source. Hello, Marni! How are you?

Marni Carmichael: Good, how are you?

Drew Neisser: Good! And where are you today?

Marni Carmichael: I’m in Olympia Washington and Image Sources headquarters. We’re in the office all together most of the time.

Drew Neisser: Wow. How long have you been in the office together?

Marni Carmichael: Well, quite a while to be honest. So I would say a full year.

Drew Neisser: Wow. Yeah. Well, and I’m just curious about that. And I know this is off topic. But it may be perhaps there’s a sales enablement component to it. But does it feel like you’re working the way you did two years ago? And if so, do you feel like you have a competitive advantage? Because you’re all in the office again?

Marni Carmichael: I do feel like there’s a competitive advantage. It’s free flowing collaboration, like we all know how to schedule meetings, and now move that collaboration forward remotely. But there’s nothing like somebody popping in and saying, I have a question about this, or me going to a subject matter expert and saying what do you think about this? I feel like, we are accelerated. And I mean, I hate to be old fashioned on this, but I think they get more out of me in a consistent work day. And so if that’s applying to me, it’s applying to everyone. Not everyone’s in the office, not everybody came back. But all of sales and marketing did. So that’s nice.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay. Yeah. Yeah, I know, it’s one of these. I don’t want to be old school on this, but I just know, for certain organizations, and I would think for marketing in particular, that that opportunity to collaborate and the speed at which you can collaborate, and also just the economy’s because I think of all the virtual CMOs and how their meetings are scheduled is just ridiculous. Yeah, absolutely.

Marni Carmichael: Yeah. I mean, it’s something like I could I could work from home, but I feel a bit called to be here. So it’s good.

Drew Neisser: So you got a pretty cool career trajectory, you worked in sales and product management at Scantron Cofax. And now you’re VP of marketing, how did your experiences sales and product management impact the way you approach your role?

Marni Carmichael: Well, I’ll tell you, I’m probably most a product manager or product management executive out of anything. And that transition to marketing leadership has been really embracing the skill of I know how to explain complicated technical solutions simply. That’s the primary function of a product manager to bridge the communication between the end user and development. So you better be able to explain what it needs to do and how it does it to both sides of the coin consistently. And I loved what you guys were talking about earlier, that consistency so that product management background, my core competency is explaining complicated things simply, you know, I’m much more of a content marketer. I don’t have the digital marketing, traditional training, and I’ve developed that I and I’ve developed those resources to support that part of of our responsibilities but yeah, I do know how to talk about something simply and clearly when our competitors are talking about the names of the features and the number of buttons you’re going to hit, I know how to talk to you about the business process we’re solving and what your outcomes are.

Drew Neisser: I hope product marketers are listening, because I don’t think they’ve all accepted that mandate. I think a lot of product marketers come from engineering where they’re used to complex challenges that are sometimes very hard to simplify. And they don’t all get to that point.

Marni Carmichael: We have a wonderful product marketer on our staff, and he and I have standing one-on-one to make sure that expression is building up in advance through the product management cycle. I was just talking with him earlier today. And he was in that that translation phase. I was a bit jealous, but I was like, okay, cool. I’m on the receiving end now. That’s good.

Drew Neisser: Yes, exactly. Okay, so I couldn’t help but notice that you have a new website, we’ll include the link in the show notes. Now, are there parts of this that fit into this sales enablement conversation?

Marni Carmichael: Absolutely. So we’ve gone through a big rebrand effort at Image Source. And the primary objective is to reflect what we do and who we are, in our website. We knew who we are and what we did. But our website hadn’t kept up over the years, which I think it was very common for an organization that every five years or so you’ve got to really—anyway, I’ve just been thinking about that annual brand audit. But what is the milestone to say we’ve got to do some heavy lifting. And so that’s where we were, super excited about that. I think some of the primary ways that the website has evolved to sales enablement, is we really went through an extensive exercise internally to say, again, this is who we are and what we do and who we serve best. So we’ve aligned our industries to that. And you’ll see that reflected in the stories we’re telling on the website, we’ve aligned our processes. So we’re identifying ourselves as serving these industries, solving these processes, and then delivering the services. Some of the solutions we have, or the industry that we’ve originated from can be very horizontal. So for us to express ourselves in that way, aligns directly to how we sell. And that now aligns directly to how we talk about our products and services, and how we talk about ourselves in relationship to our customer partners. Yeah. I’m so proud of that season, that cycle. We’ve been through the results.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. How long did it take you to go from, we need this to it’s live?

Marni Carmichael: Nine months, I think. We are fast movers. We are fast workers. I think one thing about every Image Source employee is we can identify we like to work. So we generally when we get into a project like this, we know how to work circles around other people. And we chose some outside help who agreed with how to shorten the cycle of developing the messaging. And then we found a web execution partner who was willing to help us start executing before we had all our brand guidelines baked so they could inform that and then the site could reflect that. So we tightened up what might have been an 18 month cycle, I think we cut it in half. And we actually were done with the site a full two weeks before our promise launch. So that was all good stuff. And I mean, that’s MVP one, right? We’re still improving.

Drew Neisser: Yep. Yeah. It’s a never ending process. It’s a living, breathing thing. So let’s talk about your overall philosophy from—and it was interesting, Rebecca shared that 40% of I guess it was opportunities, but we’ll get clarification, of that is marketing driven. Do you have a sense of where you are in terms of what percentage marketing sort of impacts the business and then where sales enablement fits into that?

Marni Carmichael: Yeah, so our business is a little bit different. Over 80% of our annual revenue, which is growing at 20% a year so far is expansion in existing customers. So I would say 100% of every opportunity marketing has touched and we can reflect that customers involvement in marketing or marketing’s involvement in the customer’s journey. But net new opportunities, that’s not one of our KPIs for marketing right now. We have more of what our conversion is from each of our marketing touches, and how that’s aligning to the sales cycle. And we’re continuing to build and improve those metrics. But primarily, we’re account based marketing, primarily, we’re smaller than certainly Cisco would be, but we have eight account executives who are managing territories and managing opportunities that typically have a 12 to 18 month sales cycle, and then it’s a long term SAS contract of real process innovation, that’s going to be part of a customer’s infrastructure. So we align early to the account strategy, you know, will participate heavily in January in a sales kickoff where they identify their top prospects. Ones that are in the cycle that they would consider moving through a sales process and ones that are not yet. And then we align our activities to those accounts really strategically. Now, our messaging, our products, our services, the verticals, we hit that’s already organized around that. So sales is operating within that structure. But we’re going to execute with sales all the way through. So we’ll start picking out the kind of campaign topics that we’re going to be running month to month, that’s going to align to their account strategy, we’ll be checking in and measuring all of that month to month, we rely heavily on the integration between our marketing automation and our CRM. So we can track how sales and marketing are participating in campaigns, and then how the customer journey is attached to that or how it’s impacted.

Drew Neisser: So there’s a lot to unpack there. You have a huge sort of business growth is coming from expansion. And then the other part is obviously net new. And I’m imagining that those plays are quite a bit different. But do you think about it when we’re talking about expansion? Do we think about sales enablement for expansion? And if so, what does that look like?

Marni Carmichael: So the reason expansion is so much a part of our business is that we have traditionally sold to a department within a government agency or department within a Fortune 50, or Fortune 500 company. So you’ve got a department who’s very happy with Image Source and our Islands platform, and then you’ve got a whole other organization who doesn’t know anything about it. So I think everybody probably understands that there’s a top level friction between technology, buying decisions, and then a departmental budget for implementation. And so we’re really trying to move up out of that department into the C-suite to talk about expanding and the economy of scale deploying across that enterprise. Generally, we develop a relationship with the customer to understand what the additional pain points are, and then start replicating that into other departments. So the way we need to enable that is we need to make sure our messaging elevates and is consistent from C to departmental level decision maker, right. And then we have to help our sales team navigate those relationships with the right tools. So an email blast, a CIO is not going to respond to that they’re not going to be like—yes, I’d vote to attend your webinar and learn all about you or send me your data sheet—that’s never going to happen. So we get involved to the point of helping them craft right email campaigns that are very personalized touches, helping them take something from a very prospecting level networking level around their targets, to their communication. And then when they get someone in that part of the journey, everything else that person experiences is going to be consistent with what they see when they get to participate in our webinars are interested enough to actually get their hands on our content. Everything’s going to be lining up to that. I hope I didn’t get to monologue on that.

Drew Neisser: No, no, it’s good. So the two words of the show right now are, one is consistent and the other is customized. And, we’ve sort of gone down the consistency road and why that’s important. But when we talk about customization and personalization, you run into this issue of scale. In an ideal world, you’d be having a one on one dialogue with an individual based on their company, and based on their needs and the nuances of that. But you can’t necessarily do that at every touch. So talk a little bit about how you manage with sales and manage the personalization or customization process.

Marni Carmichael: Well, I’ll tell you, there is a lot of hand to hand combat in that for our sales reps, right? And so I view sales enablement as a weapon in that hand to hand combat. So I will get involved in that level, if that’s what sales leadership needs me to do. I think what we have done really well though, is in the account based marketing world is make that experience very applicable to the industry that that accounts coming to visit us from. And we’re getting better and better at that with some of the marketing automation, too. If it’s a financial services organization, we should be able to identify that early and start showing them that applicable content. We do a lot like Rebecca had mentioned with the customer testimonials, we rely heavily on success stories. And those stories are short and sweet gives you three points of what the problem was how we helped them find a solution and what the ROI was. And those are already broken out by vertical, by process, by solution. So those are tools that you’ll see repetitively if somebody comes to visit us they should be invited to that area that applies to them quickly, and then sales when they’re reaching out to people. Those are the tools they’re using too. That’s actually become a huge part of our sales training program to to talk through those success stories. So it’s all part of the language we’re consistently using.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s so interesting, you know—and stay with us folks—because we are going to get into some of the nitty gritty here. But what we’re hearing on a high level is, this is marketing and sales working hand in glove. There’s the separation is just really, really, it’s almost impossible to figure out where marketing ends and sales begins. There’s this consistency that matters, both from the story that marketing develops, and then the story that the salespeople do. There’s a personalization or customization aspect of it. In this case, it’s a little bit easier for you, you say the vertical market is this, if you’re in FinTech, here are the five things that you probably want to know, therefore. And so you can say to the customer or answer the question, are you working with people like me, right, and those success stories align? All right, we will be back in a second.

Okay, it’s time for me to talk about CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness.  One CMO described huddles as a cross between an executive workshop and therapy session. And given how hard things are getting out there, who doesn’t need a little reassurance they’re not alone. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you to make faster, better, and more informed decisions.  Since no CMO can outwork this crazy  job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it.

Rebecca, Marni, – so are you on the therapy side or the executive workshop side?  I’m wondering if you could share a specific example of how CMO Huddles has helped you.

Marni Carmichael: Well, I love the workshop part of it. There are so many, like when Rebecca was talking earlier, I hadn’t heard of SalesLoft. I write that down, I go away, and look it up. I start to share those ideas with sales leadership and start to consider those for my budgeting and tech stack asked, that’s been super helpful. I’ve reached out to you a couple of times one-on-one, just about—I have initiatives next year that I didn’t have this year, what do you know that other CMOs or marketing leaders are doing to meet them? So that’s why I keep keep attending.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and I love it. And that is one of the benefits of being part of CMO Huddles is that you get these one-on-one you can have with me, you can have more than another CMO to really go deep on a topic that’s a pressing topic of interest. And Rebecca from your laundry room, CMO Huddles.

Rebecca Stone: Definitely therapy for me.

Drew Neisser: Oh, you know and Rebecca was an early Huddler, before we even launched in and it was just crazy, the beginning of the pandemic and all those early days, it was very much about therapy. Okay, well, I really appreciate both of you and your participation. And let’s get back to now the topic at hand. And I hear CMOs and this comes up in Huddles a lot. CMOs complaining all the time, about random requests from sales that will help them land the big fish,the whale. And I’m just curious how you all and I enable your team, empower your team to sort through these requests so that they’re getting the big stuff done, and not getting distracted by the zillion requests that they could get? Let’s start with Rebecca.

Rebecca Stone: All right, yeah, I mean, we get those probably 100 times a day. So I think it’s a matter of it’s sort of empowering the team, I think is really important to say no. Because what happens, it’s easy for me to say no from up high. And it’s a lot harder for an individual who is dealing with an individual sales rep on a regular basis to not get caught up in the asks from the sales team. And it’s really more about teaching the importance of having a healthy tension and healthy and strong trusted relationship between the sales and marketing individuals, whoever the direct connects. Because if you listen to every ask, you’re gonna get quickly overwhelmed, and you just become ticket takers and you don’t provide any real strategic role in the relationship between sales and marketing. Part of marketing is helping to keep focus on a long term goal, not just a short term in quarter sales. And so there has to be that tension between those two groups, but everything just gets eroded to the point where sales goes off and does their thing and marketing goes off and does their thing and nobody comes together. So really working to build that trust between the individuals that are working most closely together I think is ultimately the most important thing that’s going to come down to the success of how you balance between those.

Drew Neisser: Love it. In one Huddle, one CMO said, “Well, I’ve got seven ways to say no.” And part one of those nos is “No, not now. Not no, not ever, but no, not now.” And that based on having your own priorities, but also as feel like this is you the leader, giving your team air cover to say no in the right way and teaching them how to do that. Marni, any other thoughts on that area of dealing with these never ending requests?

Marni Carmichael: Yeah, I feel like after listening to Rebecca, I might need to tighten up the ship a little bit. I have honestly, I suggest, especially on the design side that probably 25% of their time is going to be addressing on demand sales needs. We do not get those from sales reps, we get the those from sales leadership. So I do trust sales leadership to have already done that to have gone through the process of saying no, the requests I get are—I see them as valuable enough and strategically deal driven enough to not question it, I’d say 75% of the time. And I just share with my team, how I make those decisions. And like Rebecca said, empower them to do the same thing. If it comes from the VP of sales or the CEO, we just say yes, you know, I have to trust that they’re asking for what they need to move something forward. But I totally agree that I have to be very disciplined to make sure that’s not eroding the long term strategy. And I have to be willing to take that back in one-on-ones and say, “This is how I think lined up. Am I right? Am I wrong?” And we have had plenty of breakdowns, they are like just breaking down. Why did I think we need it? Why do I think we didn’t need it. So then we get tighter and tighter in alignment.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s such a tricky area, because you do want to be a team player. In theory, they are on the front line. But I also hear in Huddles—and this is one of those frustration therapy moments—where you already developed this material, it was already, if you use a content management platform like a seismic, it was already there and the salesperson didn’t even know. So hey, it’d be really great if you had that. And so we identify to communicate.

Marni Carmichael: I got a text like that last night at 7:30. And I went to our website and copied the link and texted it back to the person. And I wasn’t snarky about it, inside I was like, you should know where this is. But I think they’ll remember now.

Rebecca Stone: It’s just always going to be like that, like, I don’t know, everything that the sales team is creating and doing either. And so I think that’s the piece that you have to rein in your own frustration. And what’s most important is anticipating, almost creating a roadmap, and anticipating what the sales asks are going to be. Because then you just have it, it’s a lot easier to say yes when you’ve anticipated and built it already. And then you look like you’re on top of it, rather than scrambling to get it done or having to say no.

Marni Carmichael: I love that part about checking your own frustration. That’s perfect. Yeah.

Drew Neisser: Yes, more therapy in real time. As I’m thinking about this, one of the challenges with multi touch sales processes, and even when we’re dealing with existing customers is it’s hard to assess, was this valuable or not? Right? It’s one thing that they used it. You know, it’s nice, you develop this material, and they actually use it. But how do you look at the whole world of sales enablement, in terms of your arsenal, and sort of decide this is working, this isn’t working, and we have gaps? Because you mentioned a roadmap and gaps, Rebecca, how do you measure this stuff?

Rebecca Stone: I think from a measurement perspective, I think there is an important part that is the influence of an opportunity. And so we talk about marketing as a source, and as well as an influence. And I think that that’s where those multiple touches come in. Because if you’re able to track all of the different touches that a sales person has, and you are inclusive of all of the content that you’re creating, that’s how you track it. And that’s how I’ve tracked it in the past and how we’re building towards tracking it Meraki. We’re not all the way there yet, but we’re about probably 80% of the way there. So that’s how I think about it is we know what all the touches are, we know the content we can see and do analysis on like, oh, there was this email with this PDF attached that was this piece of content and then guess what, three weeks later the deal closed. So you can see and show from an individual account and opportunity journey where you are influencing those things and then that rolls up into the macro reporting that we have and the KPIs that we have.

Marni Carmichael: Yeah, I’m doing something very similar. And with our CRM integration, then to the marketing automation, we can see when those pieces are used through other channels, and then we can track a known customer through their visit to the website and through their interaction with that content. We also—as I had kind of mentioned before—we’ve got this brand audit mindset, and that, for us, is a full inventory. Here’s what’s available, here’s the utility of it, what are we missing? What should we retire? What old thing are people overusing? That’s a team discussion, probably a half day hashing it out. And then we go away and build it and make it better and measure it again.

Drew Neisser: Okay. So we’re, we’re looking at this on a pretty granular level. In that there’s lots of things and choices. So far, in this conversation, we’ve talked about the consistency of story that you’re telling across all channels, regardless of who’s doing it, having the ability to personalize, within reason, based on say a vertical market, or so forth. And then we talked about how we could support sales. And I want to get to this notion that we hear in Huddles a lot about plays. And we’re going to try this new play and or this motion, the sales motion. And I’m wondering, as you orchestrate these new plays, or motions, how does that come about?

Marni Carmichael: What we tried last year in the execution of account based marketing was some very strategic campaign building, in terms of helping sales, build prospect lists, helping sales, build out some marketing automation in the sequence of communication and the timing of communication, to measure that cadence. And if that was becoming more or less effective. What I did as a marketer in that situation was added an element of, I was really hot on, I think we need a landing page for the target customer and the account based marketing model. Like this is for our number one FinTech partner. And this is where all of that communication is going to drive to. The results I had actually proved the opposite was best for Image Source. We needed to drive that traffic back to our site. So we got those more holistic metrics, I found that the individual landing page actually was creating some friction with our consistency, first idea, but we tried the play, the sequencing and communication and that automation, at the account based marketing level works. And we got some amazing open rates on email communication and content. And that started to convert to webinar attendance, which we know converts to lead and sales cycle.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting, we’d all think, oh, personalized, individualized page would be better, right? And that’s such an counterintuitive piece of learning, but such an important one, in that you might have authority, but very few of us can predict some things like that. And so being open—and this allows me to just segue right into what would Ben Franklin say? Because as you’re working this process of sales enablement, the key word here is “sales”, we are trying to close business, marketing is playing a role. And sales are really important, and they may be really smart. And by the way, they’re getting paid if they close. So what would Franklin say he would say, “Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass”,a variation of an expression that we all know very well. Anyway, let’s get back to it. I’m wondering, Rebecca, is there a similar lesson learned if something that you tried that you really thought this is gonna kill it that didn’t work as well as you expected?

Rebecca Stone: That is a very good question. And of course, yes, I am. But nothing specific is coming to mind and there have been lots of things that I’ve tried and sales has just been like no hard no stiff arm, we’re not going to do that. Just like there is an art and a science of marketing there is an art and a science to sales. And oftentimes where you get the most resistance is when you’re trying to control the art part of sales. Actually now that I’m talking to you, it was good that I kept talking, when you try to script—what I’ve learned over time, and I’ve learned this more as I’ve been a presenter more and more is, you should never expect your sales team to fully stay on the script with whatever your sales deck is going to be. It is not actually fair to a salesperson to have a sales deck and you expect them to go slide by slide, line by line exactly what your image of a presentation should be. Because in real life, that’s just not the case. There are people who want to hear about different topics, there are situations where that script is just not going to work. And so instead having the flexibility to have a sales deck that can be manipulated to fit the salesperson, the best way that they feel it works for them is actually a far more successful way of creating those those pitch decks in those sales decks.

Drew Neisser: What a great story. And thank you for sharing that because it really is so interesting. Sales enablement, is not about a monologue and speeches. It is about enabling a conversation that will get to a win for the customer. And so if you script it down to the word and expect them to do it, they’re not going to be listening. And I think about in the context, it’s funny, because we script out this show, for the listeners, a little inside baseball, we have a list of questions, but I really just tried to listen to what it is that you all are saying and we stay in that moment. It would not be good if we were all just reading our notes. And not that a show is a sales opportunity, but it is about having a conversation. And I think that’s such an interesting part. So we go back earlier, and we have this where Rebecca, you were talking about helping them anticipate the questions that might be asked in having the materials to support those answers, right. And so that could be a report, that could be a price sheet, it could be another thing, but all of these things could be anticipated. So that’s a mic drop moment, we’re preparing them to have a conversation with sales enablement.

Rebecca Stone: And some people can hear me and be like, that’s completely opposite of what you just said about consistency at the beginning. But it’s actually not because it’s about knowing where the consistency has to be an enforcing that consistency, while also giving them the flexibility to put the art into the story and put their own spin on the story. And that I think is where it becomes really important to do exactly what you said, Drew, make sure you’re anticipating where they’re going to need to help, make sure you’re anticipating and where the things that you’re not willing to compromise on in the storyline and let them have the flexibility to do everything else beyond that.

Marni Carmichael: Yeah, you’re so right. And you said it perfectly, one of the things that I get to do is be involved in the the onboarding of each new sales rep. And we go through this training of our success stories. So each of them are meant to present it back to us. And we are very aware of when their individual voice and style is coming out. And how important that is that if they’re not authentic, then the customer will not buy from them. And I do our monthly webinars live on camera, I practice, I rehearse, I write a script, I say it out loud, I collaborate with a team member. The day of, I don’t need the script anymore. So it’s all that same kind of back to basics methodology, be prepared. But if I’m not authentic about process innovation, if I’m not saying it in authentic voice, then I’m not differentiating from other brands, we punch up a lot. We’re a $20 million company and growing, but we’re competing with $2 billion companies. So we have to look different. And the way we do that is by being authentic, and we are experts, and we have experience, but the way we communicate is identifying with that customer problem, and then building a vision out to solve it. And that’s a one-on-one experience.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I love that. I’m just reminded of a great conversation, you prepare to be spontaneous. And so how do we get the consistency, there’s a big idea at the beginning, in the end of this story, and the big idea, it could be your why it could be an articulation of what it is that why, again, why you exist, it makes it a lot easier. So we’re dealing in the world of ideas, where there’s a very clear central idea that, at the same time, enables the salesperson to use their own words to get to that fundamental idea. Amazing and really an interesting place for sales enablement. Because, in my mind, I thought we might be talking a lot about the 1-2-3 pieces that we do, and instead we really got to a much broader strategic look at what is it that we’re trying to do, we’re trying to enable sales, enable a consistent story, because that will help them be more effective but enable a personal and authentic story to be told.

Okay, so we’re getting towards the end of the show. And now I think I’m going to challenge both of you to come up with three things or you could do two do’s and a don’t for your fellow CMOs when it comes to enabling sales in 2023.

Marni Carmichael: Two do’s and a don’t. I would say do collaborate, do really check the health of your relationship with your your sales leadership consistently. Make sure that that’s strong, that there aren’t those—I love that Rebecca pointed out—those little frustration points and their asks and make sure you’re sorting those out letting them go. So those lines of collaboration are open, and don’t lose the reality that you’re responsible for that long term strategy. You have time for the day to day and you can trust yourself to execute the long term strategy, but you’ve got to keep them both at the top of your list every day.

Drew Neisser: Okay, Rebecca two do’s and a don’t.

Rebecca Stone: Yeah, I think the two do’s are do ensure consistency, while also allowing for flexibility. Do you make sure that you’re partnering with your sales peers and don’t try to enforce something that is just unrealistic.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. What we got out of this show, if we think about, there are measurements here, you can look at what’s being used what isn’t. So there are communication challenges in that we heard Marnni talk about sales training at the beginning of marketing, training and onboarding a salesperson, so they understand the brand story, they understand the big picture, and then how the little pieces work together. One of the things that came up and Huddles, this was at a lunch Huddle recently, it’s really, really important not to assume that they know all the materials that you’ve already created. So there were lots of ways of thinking about seven times seven ways. So getting your salespeople to come to a marketing meeting and sending a marketing person to a sales meeting. Lots of good ways to do this. It’s an exciting area and again, why are we talking about that on a marketing show? Because marketing’s job doesn’t stop with the lead or the opportunity. If you’re not closing sales. If you’re not empowering your organization to close. It’s not gonna end well. All right,speaking of end well, thank you, Rebecca and Marni, you’re both great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!