#HowIBuy – Adam New Waterson, VP Demand Generation, RevJet
There’s something uniquely fascinating about interviewing executives in either sales or marketing for Nudge’s #HowIBuy series. Since they are, essentially, living on both sides of the table as both sellers and buyers, they have a unique ability to reflect on their own behaviour as a buyer.
My conversation with Adam New Waterson, VP Demand Generation at RevJet, was no exception. Adam is a buyer who understands the system, and works his own buying process within it. If you sell to leaders of marketing or sales, Adam’s viewpoint will be one you want to read.
Here’s Adam’s perspective:
Help set a bit of context, Adam, tell us a bit about RevJet and what you provide.
RevJet is the world’s first marketing creative operating system. We help the world’s largest advertisers run their digital ads, on any channel, using one single purpose built platform. We make the world’s advertising work better without spending more on media.
What is your role within the organization and what, in general terms, do you spend money on throughout the year?
In my role as the VP of Demand Generation, I’ve got the bulk of marketing, outside of PR and Brand. My scope includes the SDR team, essentially everything before the meeting. In terms of where I spend money, we’ve got our primary tech stack and critical infrastructure like Salesforce, Hubspot, and all the things that we do for advertising and DSP traffic. I own the spend on technology for the rest.
I’m always looking for ways to make our team better, faster, and stronger. I was a marketing technologist in a past life, so I have a healthy respect for many of the tools that help drive sales success. However, I find that many marketeers start with the tech and then try to create a business issue to justify their existence. I like to start the other way, looking first at the issue and then determine the best solution to meet the team’s goals.
Our team is super heavy on personalization, so one of the big challenges for us is how we scale.
How do you find out about what’s “out there” and learn of new solutions and services?
That’s the dirty secret. It usually doesn’t start with email from a salesperson. I saw your booth at a tradeshow, I heard of you from my network, I saw an ad flit by on social media. If it’s interesting, at some point I will start evaluating, but it will be on the back-burner until then.
As an example, with one vendor we are looking at, I’d say we’re about 75% of the way along in our evaluation, and the first call was this week. I determine your technology’s value much sooner than our demo. However, looking back, I have been tracking their technology for 2-3 years before now having a problem which requires their solution to solve.
Tell us a bit about your evaluation and decision process. How do decisions get made with you and your team?
I have one person on my team who is mainly tasked with evaluating tech, and it’s his responsibility to evaluate most of our technology choices. When we have a problem or a business objective, he will usually start with an initial swath of vendors, dig in with research, and begin to pressure test the top 3 or so. The initial list can come from his own research or, since I’ve been in the space for a while, I might start him with a few that I’m familiar with and he will add additional business to evaluate.
Essentially he is looking for facts. He helps me really understand the nuts and bolts of each solution’s options so we can make a decision by reviewing product features comparatively. As part of his evaluation, he will often reach out to the vendors in question, and often does a significant amount of his research through the AE. By the time I’m involved in the conversation, it’s usually at the contract phase.
It sounds like you’re not often directly involved with sales. When are you involved? What does that interaction typically look like?
If the first email I get that is a typical undifferentiated sales outreach, I’ll build a filter in gmail & that sender never again reaches my inbox. I purposefully use an email alias and direct-to-voicemail numbers to make it harder to get in touch with me. Social media is usually the best bet, but I remove connections if an overly sales pitch comes in too aggressively.
The hurdle really is getting my attention. Once you’ve got my attention, I want a really clean demo. Not vaporware, not smoke and mirrors. If you present with PowerPoint, it makes me question what is real & what is roadmap. You might find this shocking, but as a marketer, I’ve marketed and sold things that did not yet exist, so I’m always testing for that in my conversations. We might also get into a conversation of roadmap and futures so I can get a sense of what your priorities and values are as a company.
With a demo, I will often ask leading or open ended questions; it’s a really good way to see if there’s depth based on the answer. In some cases if I’m on a demo with a vendor with a bit of a reputation for telling a story that’s a bit ahead of reality, I’ll push the demo as far as saying “I want to watch you click that”, to test how refined certain areas are.
Once a decision is almost complete, how do budgets and ROI analyses factor in? What are you looking for?
There’s always a buying committee, but within a certain budget I can spend fairly smoothly. Above those levels, I’ll need approvals from higher up. We think about budget in two main ways. First, we’ve got top level goals, such as launching a new product. Within that, we’ll have allocated rough amounts for media, events, etc. Second, our budget is very much tied to head count. If we’re going to hire people, we’ll budget for the materials needed to support them. That is always a part of our financial model.
ROI is, in some ways, has become a negative term to sophisticated marketers. As someone who has helped built b2b attribution reporting software, I’ve seen the pitfalls that come from strict adherence to ROI. The drive for all things to be tied directly to revenue is certainly worthwhile, but strangling budget for unproven items because they aren’t yet ROI positive can pull your business backwards. That reduces innovation in areas that are not directly provable. Obviously the level of trust to experiment with non-measurables is in many ways tied to the cheque size, but we are very open to ideas even if there’s not a direct trackable ROI.
How does your network help you as a buyer?
Like we talked about earlier, many ideas have been simmering on the back-burner for years waiting for a use case needing to be solved. During that time, I’m continually talking to my network, listening to what is making an impact for their business, and cataloging away good ideas to use in the future. That is all essentially a vendor evaluation; what is the experience you provide, what’s does enablement look like, how well does the solution deliver? My network is hugely influential in how I evaluate technology and in which solutions I place my trust.
Any final thoughts for top sales people of today?
I have a lot of respect for a personalized, thoughtful, prospecting touch. If outreach demonstrates an understanding of my business, and my objectives and measurable goals, I will typically reply. I realize the difficulty in all areas of sales, and I want treat them as professionals. I won’t necessarily take a demo, but I will usually reply. However, in terms of what to investigate and what to go after, the power of word of mouth in my network really can’t be underestimated. Get your customer to speak for you and more people will listen.
Thanks, Adam, for some great insights!