Sales Performance

Data-Driven Storytelling Drives Sales Growth

Tim Minahan is the new CMO at technology powerhouse Citrix. It’s a big job, and he has some big plans for the future. I met Tim prior to my closing keynote at the 2016 Citrix Partner Summit. His role puts him directly at the intersection of the changing relationship between sales and marketing. I loved his perspective on the evolution of marketing and how marketing and sales leaders can collaborate to drive growth in a marketplace where customer expectations continue to evolve at warp speed.

Following the conference I caught up with Tim for a conversation on marketing, sales and his plans for Citrix:

I asked Tim: As a CMO coming into a large organization, what was your 100-day plan?

“Citrix is one of the biggest success stories in tech,” he says. “Only 0.6% of all software companies in existence have ever grown to the size of Citrix. But it’s also going through a very significant transformation. I’ve had three top priorities for my first 100 days: telling the Citrix story, focusing on data and improving customer engagement.”

Telling your story

“I believe that every company needs to align behind a clear vision for the future and have a story for how they will help their customers get there,” Tim says.

So, the Citrix team has worked on honing in on the core story — who Citrix is today and how Citrix helps companies accelerate digital transformation in a cloud-first, mobile-first world. They’ve crafted that story by talking to employees, customers and partners. They conducted detailed analysis, ran focus groups, and built all the feedback they heard into a very clear message. Once they defined the story, the next challenge is putting it out on different channels so people can discover and engage with Citrix in different ways.

“We’ve moved from the days when marketing was a megaphone that shouted at the market. Today, you must listen first and assess all the different inputs through a host of different channels. It’s not just one-on-one conversations where the salesperson builds the relationship anymore. Our prospects and customers are having conversations all the time. And we need to be a part of them by hearing what they’re saying and engaging with the individual, not their company. It’s people who buy, not companies.”

“The way I look at it, we’re not just entering the age of engagement, we’re in the age of intelligent engagement. Conversations need to be highly informed, personalized, and all based on data.”

Using data to tear down walls

That brings Tim to his second major priority: data. “I truly believe every marketing challenge can be whittled down to a mathematical equation, whether it’s measuring customer sentiment or tracking conversions or weighing ROMI (return on a particular campaign).”

Tim sees data-driven marketing as the answer to a lot of the historical disagreement and miscommunication between sales and marketing. “Data can really eliminate a bunch of the he-said, she-said friction that has muddied sales and marketing relationships,” he says.

“Data cuts through all that emotional bias and drives the right course of action.” At Citrix, Tim and his team have used real customer data to create what he calls “single points of truth” that guide decisions. “It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. Once you begin to base your decisions on data, you can move the big boulders and find the small things you never knew existed.”

Data is a key tool to tear down walls between marketing and sales. “When you have full transparency into the data, you can get a common vision. And if there are issues, we can see them and come up with a collective plan to improve on them before they become problems.”

Improving customer engagement

For a long time, sales and marketing focused on a single goal: getting the deal signed. Once the customer was sold, the work was over and sales and marketing could celebrate. But in the era of the customer, customers always have their eye on alternative choices. If they’re not getting the level of service they need, they aren’t going to stay.

That makes customer nurturing more important than ever. Tim says his team is working on building the framework to closely track customer engagement: What have they bought? How are they using it? Are they using all their licenses? Are they responding to touches from sales and marketing? Traditional NPS scores are helpful indicators, too, but “when you bring in all these other attributes, you can be more predictive about the health of the customer,” he says.

The evolution of sales and marketing

All three of Tim’s priorities for his first 100 days point to a bigger-picture trend I see happening across industries. The relationship between sales and marketing has changed forever. Tim explains the change this way: “We’re no longer in an era with a sales process. Instead, there’s a buying journey.” And the CMO job has expanded to what he calls “CEO”: Chief Engagement Officer. “Marketing now owns a larger part of the customer journey than we have in the past,” he says, from the initial touch when they’re searching to solve a problem, through the sale to post-sale adoption.

To meet the customer where they are, he stresses the importance of listening. Listening can take the form of looking at raw data about transactions, closely watching every marketing and sales touch, and monitoring customer feedback on social media. Then, a good sales and marketing team stops to assess, asking questions like: What are the signals we’re getting? How should we align to take action?

“You have to earn the right to sell,” he says. “You start by bringing value to the equation and becoming a trusted adviser. You have to listen to a customer’s problems, develop a solution (not just a product) and educate. Sales and marketing should be one team with one goal: making customers successful. Instead of trying to make sales, make happy customers. That will solve a lot of your sales and marketing problems, because no one sells better than a happy customer.”

 

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