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CMO turned CEO | Best Selling Author | Co-founder at GTM Partners
What keeps go-to-market leaders up at night? Is it the inability to forecast 1-2 quarters out? Holding out hope for big deals to save the quarter? Misalignment between their sales, marketing, and success teams? Probably a little bit of everything.
In this episode of Closing Time, Sangram Vajre shares the results of a recent survey of 250 go-to-market leaders in sales, marketing, and customer service. He’ll cover the top 5 go to market challenges (forecasting, misalignment, sales playbooks, churn/ROI, and being reactive) from the survey and share how you can enable your GTM team to overcome them in 2023.
One of the top challenges faced by go-to-market teams is the inability to forecast sales for the upcoming one or two quarters.
This challenge was identified by 45% of respondents in GTM Partner’s survey conducted in November-December of the previous year. The market has shifted significantly since then, and many companies are struggling to adapt to the changing landscape.
Decision makers are now often CFOs, and they are more interested in consolidating rather than in exploring new opportunities. This has led to a situation where many companies are afraid to make new investments or try new go-to-market strategies. However, this approach is likely to yield similar results with a smaller budget.
Sangram recommends that companies take advantage of the current environment to experiment with new approaches and find better ROI.
35% of survey respondents thought that the misalignment between Sales, Marketing and Customer Success is a significant go to market challenge in 2023.
Research has shown that there are three major shifts happening simultaneously that are causing this issue.
First, the go-to-market team is no longer just sales and marketing, it now has to include other departments such as product and customer success. If you’re reading this and you’re having a weekly meeting on go-to-market and it only includes sales and marketing, you’re missing out on the ability to win faster and more efficiently.
Second, the metrics for success have changed. It’s no longer just about topline revenue and the “growth-at-all-costs” approach. Rather the majority of B2B SaaS companies are shifting to focus on efficient growth measured by NRR (net revenue retention).
Finally, due to the massive disruptions that started in 2020, companies are needing to re-think their go to market motions. For example, events have changed. Less people want to watch webinars. Companies need to adapt to these changes to avoid getting stuck in their current approach and falling behind competition.
The third go to market challenge is that some companies are relying on exceptional salespeople rather than effective sales plays.
This means that the sales playbooks that were previously used are not working, as stated by 40% of the go-to-market leaders surveyed.
It is important to try different approaches to drive sales, such as intimate events or in-person conversations with the buying committee. I’ve never lost a six-figure deal as part of my time at Salesforce or Terminus when I’ve met with the CEO or the buying committee in person, physically.
There is no Excel spreadsheet on recession-proof marketing. We have to get out of our own way and figure out what works. A personal touch can make a big difference in understanding problems and building relationships with potential clients.
One of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to retaining customers is proving ROI. Many of our customers love our products, our brand, and our sales team, but when it comes time to show the return on investment, they can’t.
27% of those surveyed said that this was a major go to market challenge for them this year. When the CFO and CEO are asking for budget cuts, they need to see the value in what they’re spending on. If we can’t clearly demonstrate that our product is making their job easier or faster, it’s going to be removed from their tech stack.
That’s why it’s crucial to create an ROI study or calculator to show them the real value of our product. We need to start having those conversations six months before renewals come up to help them prepare and show the ROI of our product.
Many leaders are noticing that go-to-market teams are struggling to be proactive, anticipating challenges before they arise. In the survey, 25% of go-to-market leaders shared that this was a major issue.
There are two main factors contributing to this problem. First, with remote work becoming more common, meetings have increased significantly, leading to less meaningful conversations and more reactive work.
Secondly, the current economic changes have caused many CEOs and boards to constantly ask for new strategies, leading teams to work reactively instead of proactively. This results in wasted time and resources, causing teams to fall behind.
To address this issue, we need to create mental space for our teams, allowing them time to think and research before acting. We need to shift our focus from being doers to being strategic thinkers. By doing so, we can help our teams be more proactive and stay ahead of the game.
So what keeps go-to-market leaders up at night? We’re going to explore the top five challenges in this episode of Closing Time. Hi, everyone. My name is Chip House. I am CMO here at Insightly, and I’m super excited today, honestly, to have Sangram Vajre join us on this episode. And so Sangram is somebody I’ve known for a long time. He’s written a couple of different books, three different books Account Based Marketing, ABM is B2B, and then Move, in the past 24 months anyway. And he’s CEO and co-founder of GTM Partners. And I couldn’t be more excited to have him with us today. Sangram. How are you? Excited for you, man. It’s been a while we have been trying to get this thing together and what a topic, right? Go-to-market is, everybody’s talking about go-to-market. And at the same time you asked five different people, how do you define go-to-market?. You would get ten different answers. So it is ridiculous how much topic is talked about and how much misinformation there is. So hopefully we can clarify some of that. Yeah, I’m excited to dig into it for sure. And so, hey, the thing I missed from your bio is you founded a little company called Terminus. Right? And this is something I was curious about, Sangram, because one of the ways you launch that is by building out and launching these Flip The Funnel events, you know, and so I wanted to ask you about that a little bit, because when I think through the tactics that marketers are taking today with their go-to-market teams to build a brand and create interest I mean, that is a critical, piece of go-to-market these days. But you were sort of,. I don’t know what, just like way ahead of the rest of us when you founded this stuff back in 2015. So just give me a little bit of the kernel of the idea and then we’ll dig in. Yeah, sure thing. When I was, you know I was the co-founder of Terminus, and we’re like all right, you know what, we are arrived. So we’re going to do this event called Terminus Event. We’re going to talk to Account Based Marekting. And I reached out to five different people, like five different sponsors that I thought they would sponsor the event. And guess what? Everybody said, I’m not interested. Why would I sponsor an event by a even if you’re not a competitor, why would i sponsor your event?. It makes no sense. And then I was on a flight to San Francisco for a MarTech event, and I was flying back and I drew this. Flip My Funnel idea. Like one of the funnels were flipped and I wrote a blog about it on LinkedIn and this was 2015 and five people liked it, which meant it went viral because that’s what the goal was in 2015. You get five and it’s awesome. And people said, Oh, that’s cool. And then literally a month later. I sent the same exact five, same five companies, the email saying that, Hey, I’m putting an event called Flip My Funnel,. I bought that domain for eight bucks. And it’s all about challenging the status quo of sales and marketing. You get to be one of the keynotes for it, get to have a booth if you want, as long as you’re not selling. And we’re just helping people understand how to do better with sales and marketing. We’re cool. Let’s do it. Every one of them, Chip, every one of them said, Of course, we’re in as if a month earlier, it’s like. I would have done the same exact thing. But just the message that it was about a community, it was about a problem, it was not about Terminus, it was about a movement really brought in the competitors. Even not only the sponsors, but even competitors, they all sponsored this event and that just became a thing we did for the whole year. Yeah. Well, if lightning could strike twice, it seems like it is a little bit with the GTM Partners right? Because you’re kind of harnessing some of the same energy that exists out in the marketplace around go-to-market, especially in the B2B SaaS space. And people are struggling with it. They’re wondering what to do next. They’re overspending on lead capture and they’re under-spending on brand and messaging and demand creation and things like that. And so anyway,. I’m going to ask you here Sangram like, why did you do the survey that came up with the 15 challenges for go-to-market? But to me it’s kind of self-evident, right? Because there’s all of this energy from people kind of banging their heads against the wall but we’re going to drill into the top five things today. I know that 15 things kind of emerged as challenges from your survey, but talk to me at least initially about the survey itself and why you decided to do it. So, so when we did the book Move, go-to-market full question, go-to-market framework. The most common question we got Chip was that, oh, this is great. It’s very easy, Move, market, operations, velocity, expansion, makes sense. We know what questions to ask for it, but the problem still existed that people thought that, oh, marketing should fix the market issue, sales should go fix the velocity issue. Well, we need to just have a Rev Ops person and then all problems will be solved. And so everybody was still pointing fingers and we’re like, no, no, no, you guys didn’t get it. You guys didn’t really get or we did a poor job of this really where it’s not that a marketing problem or a sales problem or a CS problem or a product problem. What you have is a go-to-market problem. These are go-to-market problems. And my hope and anybody listening to this is that if they can go to the next meeting and as soon as somebody says, oh, we need more leads, marketing, go get more leads, that’s it. That essentially undervalues the whole problem that you may have as a company. You may be really trying to solve a symptom, whereas the problem is somewhere else. So we started to really ask like, what is the real core problem? And what it came back to after the thousands of survey results was these 15 very clear specific problems and everybody, marketing, sales, customer success, product, Rev Ops, everybody can help solve those problems because here’s the big idea and then you know this, Chip. If you as a CMO could change sales compensation, you would do it in a heartbeat, right? To get them to do the right thing. If a salesperson could change a marketing team’s compensation, they would do it in a heartbeat to get them to do the right thing. The thing is, only the CEO can do it, departments can’t solve, go-to-market problems individually. They only can solve that as a team. So when you look at these problems as a go-to-market problem, really what you’re saying is let’s come in as a team and solve this together, not point fingers, because sometimes a marketing problem could look on the surface, but it could be solved with the new product led growth or a new model, and that could solve the marketing problem. So you may think it’s a marketing problem but if you ask them to solve, they can’t solve, they will just create another piece of content. And that’s not what you’re looking for. Yeah, it’s like, you know, everybody trying to figure out the elephant, right? And so if you had asked me six months ago,. I would have said, well, if I have to pick a person, it’s marketing that owns go-to-market. But do I own it on my own? Absolutely not. And it seems like your survey kind of bear that out as well as most people answered,. Hey, the CMO owns it. And I don’t know if that was CMO’s always answering that way. But anyway, so there was interesting commonality it sounds like Sangram in the problems that emerge, we’re going to drill into the top five. So the first one I want to talk about is just the inability of go-to-market teams to forecast, you know, one, two markets or excuse me, one or two quarters in the future. So what, what’s the reason for that? Yeah. Well and that is 45%. 45% of the folks said that that’s one of the top reasons why go-to-market is failing. and we all know last year to this year, our market has shifted quite a bit. This was, this was a survey we did towards the end of last like November, December. So this is talking about how does Q1 and Q2 of 2023 look and we all are facing right now where everybody is saying well I thought these deals were there but I think they’re gone. All of a sudden the decision maker is the CFO, people are looking to consolidate not have more deals in the process. So everybody’s feeling that and it has gone from 27% to 45% in the last year. So as an analyst firm they’re looking at this data and what it comes down to is what people are really struggling with is not that people don’t want to buy they’re afraid of making a wrong decision at this point, they’re asked to use less money to do something. And they’re like, well I don’t want to try one new thing. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. But the problem with that approach is obvious. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get similar results with a smaller budget. Right now is the best time to try new things because that’s where you will find a better, maybe a different ROI of some those things and most companies, Chip, they’re too afraid to make decisions, they’re too afraid to to move on and try a new go-to-market motion because they feel like, well,. I don’t want to risk it. Much has been talked about sales and marketing alignment, but more specifically, the full go-to-market effort. Right? Sales, marketing, customer success, ops, rev ops, the CEO. Right. I mean, there’s a multi-headed beast that’s part of the equation. Right?. And so talk to me about that. And what did the research tell you? Why do you think it’s a common problem? Yeah, so there are three things happening at the same time. And I hope people can take notes of it or go back and listen because this is the research we have found and we have been helping a lot of CEOs and CMO’s right now helping understand that there are three big shifts that have happened and that’s what’s causing this. Number one, you go-to-market team is no longer sales and marketing, exactly what you just said. It has to bring in product and customer success and rev ops in the conversation. So if today, in anybody listening to this, if you are having a weekly meeting on go-to-market and it only includes sales and marketing you’re missing out you’re missing out on the opportunity to win better faster and more efficiently. So make the go-to-market team meetings more specific more than sales and marketing. Number two, the metrics have changed. We all grew up with sales and marketing as the key metric is revenue and pipeline. As long as you have enough pipeline, as long as you have enough revenue, topline revenue is good. You’re doing good, growth at all costs. Now we’re all asked to, no growth at all costs is different. We need efficient growth. What does that mean? Well, that means that your metrics have changed. Well, which metric? It’s NRR, net revenue retention metric has changed. All of a sudden, every CMO out there that I’m talking to right now, every CEO right now, even Yamini Rangan, the CEO of HubSpot, on my podcast I literally asked her, what is the one metric that you care about more than anything? She’s a CEO of a publicly traded company, a SaaS business, over 100,000, multi billion dollar market cap. And she said the number one thing I care about is NRR. Now you got to think about, if I asked that question, we do the road shows and I would ask that question in that room. How many of you focus on NRR today? Everybody’s raising their hand. How about two years ago, like one person. How about five years ago? None. So, metrics have changed. We’re no longer just focused on revenue.. So, that’s two. And number three, there are more than one go-to-market motions, all of a sudden because through 2020, events have changed. If you’re not having as many big physical events. So what do we do? Webinars.. People are burnt out on webinars. They’re like,. I don’t need another webinar. I want to figure out how to solve my problems. And so a combination that the teams have changed, the metrics have changed, and the motions for go-to-market have changed, has caused this flux on 45 and the companies that are not adapting to those three things are the ones who are stuck in whatever thing they’re doing right now. Yeah, I agree with you. NRR has kind of emerged as a super important metric for a lot of companies. I think there were companies that thought about it years and years ago. You know, even at ExactTarget, we cared a lot about retention. Right? I remember looking at, staring at, spreadsheets of retention rates by booking bands for our customers years ago. But I mean, you know, if you’re over 100%, your company is going to get bigger on its own, right? Rather than getting smaller on its own. And that’s why it’s so powerful. So so the second thing that I think kind of emerged,. I guess, is the third thing that I’m now asking you, is the third thing that emerged from the research, Sangram, is companies relying on heroic sales players right. Versus actual sales plays. Can you talk to me more about that? Yeah, this is hard because I love sales so much and I feel especially in B2B, we and part of marketing’s job is to help drive sales, sales velocity, sales activations, sales value prop. Move them forward. It is so important. It’s so important to do that and what’s happening and has consistently happened, and that’s again, the numbers are staggering. It’s 40% of the survey that we did 40% of go-to-market leaders said that the business is relying on heroic sales players as opposed to plays which means all of a sudden the playbooks are not working that’s what it’s telling us. It’s telling us that whatever playbook that you guys were using last year or a year before last two quarters it’s not working and people are feeling that, while, we got to try different things. So as an example, we say this all the time, now is the time to go out and do these intimate events or conversation. I’ve never lost a deal, Chip, as part of my time at Salesforce, at Terminus. I’ve never lost a six figure deal when I’ve not met the CEO or the buying committee in person, physically. I’ve just never lost it.. And we would do a dinner. We literally I would fly for that one meeting because that meeting is with that entire team in their office and then grab a dinner with some people and go so that we understand what the problem is. They see eye to eye that we really, truly care and then follow up and solve those issues for them. Because I was there in person.. I’ve never missed that. Now people have to get out of those Zoom boxes and start doing that. Like there is no Excel spreadsheet for recession proof marketing and sales. There is no Excel spreadsheet for it. We have to get out of our own way and do that. So the fact that you’re reading, the fact that people are saying that the plays are not working is really, really hard. And I think people have to test new things in order to see what are the new plays in the marketplace. Yeah, I think every marketing and sales leader is wondering how can I take this that best sales rep that we have and multiply it times 20, right. And yeah. So I can understand why that emerges. And in the current environment, what was working five years ago, ten years ago is not going to work right. It’s just a very different environment. And so kind of thinking about those economic headwinds, I mean, one of the things that’s going to be critical in the next 24, 36 months. You already hit on it with NRR but it’s keeping your customers right and being able to demonstrate an ROI to drive those renewals and that emerged as a common theme from the research as well. Can you talk more about ROI and why that’s a critical piece for renewals? Totally. I was actually shocked about this, that this wasn’t higher on the the research that we did, about 27% of the folks said that, hey, our customers love us, but when it’s time to show ROI, that’s why they churn, which means, have you ever heard of this, Chip? And I’m sure you have, and I’ve heard this one. When somebody says, Oh, I love you, and, you know, there’s a but coming, right? And you just know, that’s like a dagger in my chest, right? Yeah. Yeah. And what really happened was they loved the salesperson. They loved the product thing. They loved maybe even the brand a little bit and they loved it, but no way the company was able to or the person wasn’t able to show ROI upstream. So as soon as the CFO and the CEO and all of these people are asking like, hey, you know, we need to cut budget, well, I love these guys, but now I have to just focus on the one that actually I can clearly show ROI from. So we’re asking every company to not take this lightly. We think it is a very small, 27% is a very small. I think it’s more than that. People may not be recognizing that. I think it’s upwards of 40 or 45%.. If your product is not clearly showing an ROI upstream or not making that person’s job easier or faster that product is going to just get cleanly taken away from the tech stack. It’s just going to happen in the next couple of quarters. So find ways to create some sort of ROI study, some sort of ROI calculator, some way of showing ROI that is real and help them ahead of time before the renewals come up six months prior to that actually and start talking about, hey, how are you going to show ROI of our product six months from now? Start having those conversation today. What’s about to happen six months from now. That’s great advice. I mean you think about the shared effort that is go-to-market, a big piece of that clearly falls on the CS team. I mean, the customer success team helping, you know, all year long support the customer, helping them get value out of the platform. And now they have to kind of demonstrate, hey, here’s what we did. Here’s why the next 12, 24 months even look brighter for you because of what we’ve built together. Hey, let’s get to the fifth and final one that we can cover today, which is, you know, go-to-market teams often are not as proactive as we want them to be. We want them to be as proactive as possible and kind of seeing the future, seeing you know, kind of predicting what might cause problems in the future. So why do you think this emerged as one of the top things? Yeah, this is again in the same about 25% of the go-to-market leaders said that as an issue. And I think there are two factors that we are as we dig deeper on it. One, as everybody’s working on remotely, as much as we love it and hate it at the same time, it’s it has caused a ton of meetings and it has caused less relational conversation. And every meeting is, I look at it like every meeting is an agenda, like every meeting has an agenda and you think, oh, that’s a good thing. Everybody should have an agenda. This meeting Chip, I cancel all the meetings literally. I cancelled every single meeting for our team and we had more reps, like, hey, if you want to talk about something, just ping each other and get on a call we had more reps and today, literally right before this one, we felt like, Oh, this was a great week. We actually got stuff done and I worked on the things I wanted to work on. So we have to challenge our own status quo. So one of that is because teams feels like they’re just over done with meetings. And so all you’re doing in those meetings are reacting, reacting, reacting, reacting, and you’re not proactively taking the time to think about anything, you’re just doing.. You’re in do-er mode. So that’s one part of it. The other part of it, because the economic changes have happened so big, so massively, all of a sudden, everybody’s asking for a new strategy every single week. We’re just advising a ton of CEOs. And one CMO said man last board meeting, they said go and do PLG. So we started to go and do PLG.. The board is dictating this, right? Like this is like nobody’s asking. The board’s like, ah I hear about PLG, Why are we not doing PLG?. And so you see those conversations. So the team is actively working on PLG reactively, right? Reactive, not proactively. And then this one like, hey, PLG’s crap. Like, you know like the other board meeting, they changed the person on the board. So now the other board member said, no, I’ve gone through. I’ve been on board with PLG. It’s not going to work for your industry.. Don’t do it. So they just spent a three month cycle from one board meeting to another board meeting to do something that wasn’t even on their list of things to do and all reactive. And now they’re behind on everything. So we have to learn to figure out how do we take mental space out, give people time, ask people to think, the art of thinking again. And I think that’s playing into this whole 27% why teams feel so reactive not proactive. Yeah, great stuff. We as leaders we have a big piece of that right, Sangram, we have to have our own strategy that has a view to the future. And we can’t be reactive ourselves. You know I think so many leaders are like looking at the latest thing you know squirrel. And. You know that can create a problem for our teams. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s why everybody’s hurting right now. So I’m glad we’re chatting about it. I hope people actually take some of these nuggets and cancel all the meetings for a day, maybe just a day. Start there and see what happens. Yeah, great stuff, Sangram. Well, hey, thanks so much for joining us. And we hope to have you back. Yeah, man. Appreciate it, Chip, this was a great conversation. Thank you for jumping in with me.. Yeah. Thanks a ton. And thanks to all of you for joining today. And we’ll see you next time and Closing Time.