How I Buy – Scott McNabb, VP WW Sales, LookBookHQ
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Scott McNabb, VP Worldwide Sales for LookBookHQ for many years, and working together for a few of those years. Scott has always been deeply thoughtful about the art and science of sales. He has great insights into what makes a strong sales person, and the leadership skills to bring a team of professional salespeople together into an incredibly high performance operation.
I very much enjoyed this #HowIBuy conversation with Scott, and the insights he shared. However, it was doubly interesting because I interviewed Elle Woulfe, the VP Marketing at LookBookHQ at the same time, and was able to contrast the buying approaches and styles of two different execs within one organization. I hope you’ll enjoy both conversations as much as I did.
First let’s start with LookBookHQ. Can you tell us a bit about the company to set the context of who you are and what size you are?
LookBookHQ is an Intelligent Content Platform that gives marketers a smarter way to deliver content across every channel. We make it easy for buyers to self-nurture so they become educated and qualified faster and more efficiently. We’re also transforming how companies define “sales-readiness” by tracking what happens after a prospect clicks and delivering insight into how content is consumed. We believe that great marketing is at the heart of great companies and that marketers should have the power to generate transformative outcomes for their businesses, their audiences, and themselves.
We’re a growth stage business based in Toronto, with a pretty distributed workforce across the United States.
Within LookBookHQ, what’s your role and what do you spend money on throughout a year?
As the VP of Worldwide Sales, I am always on the lookout for my team. I’m looking for things that they care about that will help them be successful. Often that is predicated on technology that is tied to a salient outcome in the sales process.
We’ll look for ways to influence the top of the funnel and new ways to find out about deals that we should be aware of. In the middle of the funnel, we’ll invest in ways to keep marketers excited about our way of attacking a market.
How do you find out about what’s new and what’s “out there” in terms of products or services that would make your team better?
Part of the responsibility that I put on my sales leadership team is to challenge the status quo. To keep that from digressing into an emotional “this is cool” discussion we use the CIAO model:
Challenge (here’s what I see as wrong, not working, etc.)
Impact of Inaction (what happens if nothing changes?)
Answer (s) (here’s how I think we could solve the problem)
Outcome (if my advice or answer is implemented)
Our one-on-ones are all structured around three core premises; people, process, and innovation. We end with innovation, and that is where the opportunity to introduce a new idea, using the CIAO model, comes in.
The team is tasked with sourcing innovation and new approaches, but I work to make sure that they are not innovating in a box. We spend a lot of time communicating what we’re up to in order to avoid stepping on toes. For example, right now we’re re-casting the framework of our deal stages. At the same time, our sales ops team is implementing a new CPQ tool for configure, price, quote. Obviously these two initiatives need to know about each other in order not to get in each other’s way.
How do you set a priority amongst all the great initiatives that you could be spending time on?
The good thing about starting with the CIAO model is we have an assessment of prioritization built in. At a high level, we know whether we’re most focused on top of funnel, conversion rates, funnel velocity, or closing opportunities, and the CIAO model lets us assess which proposed initiatives will have the biggest impact on revenue, given those high level priorities.
We are at the point where we can close a deal inside of 85 days, which is within a single quarter. This gives us a great iteration speed for new tech, especially compared to the industry average which is closer to 120 days. Since we can run tests that quickly, we have insanely empirical data on what works within our real environment.
When it comes to spending money, how do you budget and how do you justify the ROI of the initiatives that you’re hoping to move forward with?
Given the innovation speed, our budgets are more buckets of intent than they are tightly allocated to specific projects at the beginning of the year. Our CFO is very capable of seeing the value of a proposed investment and moving the money around accordingly.
I have a better relationship with our CFO than I have had at any other company. It’s a relationship that’s based on mutual listening and respect. He’s really able to offer perspective on trade-offs and investments that is immensely valuable to me.
Since you can’t predict a year in advance in SaaS, you can’t plan for every outcome. We find that we can make a big impact with relatively small tools if we’re able to assess the impact of each tool against the needs of the business in that moment of time.
What do the best sales professionals do to help move deals forward when selling to you and your team?
I remember when Salesforce sold our CPQ solution to us, I thought their approach was brilliant. They went to our revenue operations person, but he was not experienced in building a CIAO model, and would be tasked with both writing the CIAO model and presenting it to our CEO. Instead of taking that risk, the Salesforce sales rep wrote the slides for our revenue operations person, along with all the backup data and analysis. When our CEO saw the entire presentation, he said “it sounds like you’ve got your act together”, and the project moved forward.
I’ve used that as an example for our own team, we cannot assume that whoever is selling internally on our behalf knows as much about selling our product as we do. Often you can’t get to the most senior person, so you need to arm your coach. If the boss says “no”, you know that you didn’t arm your coach well enough to hit on the emotional justification for the purchase.
What is different about buying today from buying a decade ago?
The line of business, and the front lines, are more empowered than they were a decade ago by far. It’s that way within our business, and it’s that way with the businesses we serve. We are making line-of-business decisions based on the current reality of our business, we’re not looking at magic quadrants or any other such guideposts that were instrumental in an IT centric buying era.
With the front line folks more empowered than ever, you’re also seeing buyers with minimal or no experience in buying. The role of a salesperson evolves to one in which they are guiding and helping that buyer navigate their own organization to get a purchase completed.
Thanks Scott for great insights into your process!