How We Sell – Mark Jauregui, GVP, Customer Success & Services, Certain
How We Sell – Mark Jauregui, GVP, Customer Success & Services, Certain
As each interview in our How I Buy series has come out, sellers have asked what they can do in order to succeed in this new new reality of how buyers buy. To address those questions, we are starting a new series called How We Sell that looks at things from the seller’s perspective. That can include sales, marketing, customer success, and even product teams; anyone who guides the experience and perspective of buyers.
I’m honored to kick things off with Mark Jauregui, Global VP Customer Success and Services at Certain. Mark has worn both sales and customer success hats in his career and is well positioned to comment on the experience of buyers. Certain tackles an interesting challenge with guiding their buyers’ experiences, namely that they offer more around the event management experience than their buyers are originally expecting.
Given this challenge, Mark and the Certain team have to address the requirements of the buyer and then work to introduce a broader vision. It’s a challenge many sellers face, and there is a lot to learn from the approach that Mark and the Certain team take.
Here are Mark’s insights on customer success at Certain and how he sells:
How do buyers discover the value proposition of Certain?
In the events industry it’s quite interesting; most of the focus has been focused on logistics. Challenges like getting people registered and having them select their sessions have historically been the main focus of software platforms. The idea of understanding if they met with the right people or where their buying process should go from there is not often covered.
That’s often how we first encounter buyers, they are looking for a way to manage registrations. We can handle massive conferences down to small field events, and we can get people to the right event. That’s all definitely important, but we will take the conversation further than that. We view events as another marketing activity, often one of the most impactful activities on the buying journey and, for the marketer, likely one of the most expensive. That leads to key questions like whether the event makes sense in the first place in terms of overall ROI and from there, whether the event will move the needle in terms of driving revenue.
We are uniquely positioned in terms of understanding the experience of each buyer at the event; what sessions did they register for, which of those did they attend, and who did they meet with. We then push that information in near real-time up into marketing automation so you can score and route leads based on it. You’ve got to make every marketing moment count.
When we can move the conversation from logistics to marketing strategy and revenue, we are able to engage the CMO in a more relevant conversation.
How does that happen specifically? If an event manager is interested in logistics, and you want to get them to think about marketing strategy, how does that change in mindset take place?
There are maybe two or three event platforms that are able to deliver on the needs of the enterprise at scale, so generally, if an event manager is looking for technology in the events space, we will often be on the list of options to look at. Often, the start of the conversation is around the simpler questions.
We will definitely engage in that conversation around logistics and provide the comfort that we can deal with those challenges. Once we’ve got that comfort, we will turn the conversation around and ask some challenging questions around how they know that they should still have that event. That starts the process of having them reframe the event as a marketing activity rather than just something they’ve always done.
We also spend a fair bit of our time at events that cater to the folks who are thinking about overall marketing strategy; Sirius Decisions, MarTech, Oracle Modern Customer Experience, Marketo Summit. Often we are the only event platform at those events because we are thinking about the space differently.
Where does that take the buying journey? It’s a bit of a diversion from where the buyer originally thought they were going.
Yes, definitely. At that point, they’ll often bring in other folks from their team, such as marketing operations. The marketing ops folks will understand what they want to do with the data, where it needs to flow to in their MarTech stack, and how it will be used.
If we can get the marketing ops people involved, we’re able to open up the conversation to more than just logistics, and the VP of Marketing or CMO will often get involved. We only need to open the conversation up a crack to have it move down a new path.
That transition seems delicate – you are essentially telling a buyer that they have thought about the world incorrectly. How do you handle that?
We first have to establish trust and show them that we can 100% meet their needs on the logistics side. This is typically a demo, and we’ll go very deep to ensure that we’ve captured all the tricky parts of their unique requirements and then demo a solution back to them that addresses that.
We’ll build out a full demo that addresses their requirements, and does it at the scale and complexity that they face as an enterprise. Without that as a first step, we wouldn’t earn the right to take the next step in the conversation and challenge them with some areas they had not thought about.
It sounds like there’s also a role change that is involved as the conversation evolves. How do you handle that?
Decision-making has really been pushed down to the front lines in most organizations. When we are talking with a person who is responsible for event planning, they want their event planning lives to be easier. They are busy and often out on the road supporting their events. Where the data goes and what is done with it is not something that is always in their purview, and adding that to the conversation threatens to complexify the conversation.
We need to do two things; first we need to get them comfortable that we can make their day-to-day life easier through the logistics. Then, we need to show them how there is an opportunity for them to be the “hero” in a way by having events contribute valuable data to other parts of the organization that make everyone else’s lives much better.
That’s a much more advanced sales role than just “pitching”. How do you train your team to manage that approach to building trusting relationships and then challenging the buyer at the right time?
It’s all about relationships. There’s so much of that that’s intangible and human. We are trying to get the buyer to change their point of view from events being a logistics challenge to events being a marketing activity that is part of the overall data cycle on buyers. We work hard to coach our team to build the strong relationships at multiple levels within a prospective customer’s organization that we’ll need if we’re going to have an opportunity to change the prospect’s point of view. The sales team needs to speak both the traditional “events” and “modern marketing” languages, which are just starting to fuse.
It can take time to educate buyers about what more they can do with events, and how that can operate at scale, but that investment is necessary to establish the kind of long term partnerships we’re looking for with our customers.
What does a sales cycle look like? How do you stay in touch over a long period of time without just “touching base” and annoying the prospect?
The events industry is a very long cycle industry. There’s typically a spring event cycle and a fall event cycle, and the summer and winter are much quieter times. For us, a prospect hosting an event, such as their annual conference, is a great opportunity to understand how it went from their perspective and add some thought leadership around what might have been possible.
We’ve invested heavily in thought leadership pieces to share various ideas around what is possible and what other organizations have done. Each of those, when delivered at the right moment, gives us a valid (and valued) reason to be in touch.
We will often wrap a dinner around an industry event or conference, which gives us a chance to reach out and invite prospects to an intimate event with peers where ideas can be shared, possibilities explored, and our technology experienced through the process.
How rigorously do you manage the follow-up process? What are you looking for in managing those long-cycle deals before they become active?
There is a standard marketing nurture process, and that’s in the realm of once every 6 weeks or so. However, to build relationships, we know that we need the reach-out to be personal and human. We’ve learned over time that we need strong relationships with three functions; a senior person in marketing operations, marketing leadership, and the event planning function, so we’re looking for indicators of those relationships.
The dinners and one-off events that we have are key drivers of the reach-out process, and allow us to continue building the relationship. If the person is able to attend the dinner, it is a great opportunity to have them interact with a peer and learn what’s possible in marketing. Even if they are not able to attend, the conversation can often lead to an opportunity to share some thought leadership and move the conversation further forward.
If a buyer comes to us without us ever having talked to them, chances are they are 60-70% of their way through an evaluation, so our ability to broaden the conversation may be quite limited. We’d rather get in front of that as much as possible.
Thanks Mark, it was great to understand how you think about guiding the buyer through a shift in their mindset as part of their buying journey!