The Sales Engagement Tech Revolution with Simon Daniels (S1, Ep4)

The dirty little secret of B2B Marketing is that Sales never stopped doing their own scaled outreach. With the predominance of working from home and all the changes that came along with it, Sales Engagement platforms have emerged as the new must-have for digitally savvy Rev Ops teams. This week, well-known Marketing Operations leader Simon Daniels talks with Enrico about his experiences choosing, implementing, and integrating sales engagement technologies for his clients.


Enrico Brosio (00:12):

Hello and welcome to a new episode of Funnelocity, the B2B podcast that brings you real talk around different strategies that can help you build a high-performance sales and marketing funnel. I’m Enrico Brosio, President of MarketOne, and your host. Today’s episode centers on the age old B2B favorite, sales and marketing alignment. But this time we’re looking at it from a technology perspective and reflecting on how tools can potentially support that alignment to help me dig into what I think you’ll agree is a meaty topic I’m delighted to welcome Simon Daniels. Simon is a widely experienced B2B marketing operations specialist with extensive track record advising marketing leaders on challenges with data, process, and technology. Just some projects Simon has worked on include marketing automation implementations, campaign and lead process improvements, and data analytics delivery, together with team formation and leadership. Alongside his day job, Simon is also a regular contributor to our friends at B2B marketing, customer insight leader and other blogs and events. Simon, welcome to Funnelocity.

Simon Daniels (01:21):

Thank you, Enrico. Great to be here. Thanks for having an opportunity to speak to you.

Enrico (01:26):

Well, great. So let’s just to kick things off I’d love to hear a bit more about your own B2B journey and how you’ve ended up focusing on marketing operations.

Simon (01:37):

Absolutely. Well, I like to say that I’ve been doing marketing operations since before it was invented and certainly before the term was coined. I started off agency side and pretty quickly moved into B2B specifically. Back then it was called database marketing. It’s sometimes still referred to as that, but I moved through a number of data-driven marketing roles, CRM program management, and then eventually into what was called marketing operations, all the while focusing on data, process, and technology. That’s been predominantly in the tech and telecom sectors. And usually on the kind of more enterprise end of the scale, if you like. And that really appeals to me from a perspective of longer lead cycles, more complex sales where I think the disciplines of data and process and technology really come together to drive those activities.

I spent a number of years working independently and that was focused around, in many instances, helping businesses to choose marketing technology. One of the biggest projects I did there was to help select a solution provider for a single customer view which these days seems a little old fashioned almost with the introductions of things like CDPs and other technologies that if I was doing that project again, it would be completely different. And then I went back into another couple of roles before, again, moving back to consulting in what I’m calling a fractional marketing operations leadership role helping often scale up businesses with those challenges that they’re facing. Again, very much focused on B2B.

Enrico (03:52):

That’s interesting. So you do mention some new tools like CDP that are taking a lot of traction. You know, perhaps another one that we’re seeing is on the sales side, I think is more around sales engagement. And in fact, you know, we’ve recently we’ve run a survey in partnership with tech target in looking at how sales and marketing leaders are adapting during this pandemic. And one of the learnings was that the absence of face to face meetings and events, sales are relying more and more for lead generation and support from marketing. But perhaps, you know, thinking they can probably make more better use of automation to support their sales efforts. But you know, what are your thoughts on that?

Simon (04:39):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the projects that I’ve undertaken most recently for a technology vendor is deploying a sales engagement platform. And the reason for that project coming about was very much sales recognizing their need to be more efficient and structured and have greater rigor around the prospecting and kind of reach out that they were doing. And so as, as part of a wider package of work that I was doing I took points on deploying a solution exactly in that space.

Enrico (05:22):

And can I ask which cause there’s a couple of leaders I’m curious, probably one of those two, but which one did you help deploy?

Simon (05:29):

Yeah, so that was SalesLoft. Which I think certainly seems to be among the kind of market leaders in that space. There’s obviously also outreach and a number of other solutions. So that was the one that was selected and that we ran with in that project.

Enrico (05:50):

Interesting. And any kind of what were your experience or lessons learned in bringing this type of, well, this new type of tech into your client?

Simon (06:00):

Well, it’s very much a game of two halves. I mean, clearly there’s a tech aspect to it. There’s all the usual considerations of integration and set up and so on. And particularly where it’s involving email. You do start getting into some fairly arcane technicalities to do that. And in any organization, some of those things can be challenging. So certainly for anybody considering a deployment, make sure that you’ve got all those resources lined up and you know, IT, and so on already and understand what’s being done there. But the other side, and you know, far and away from a business perspective, the more crucial side is clearly how sales will be working with the platform and the sales and marketing alignment aspects of that. What starts to become clear is that thought needs to go into the content and the messaging and the sequences or cadences as SalesLoft calls it and what that should look like and how sales are going to be using this new tool.

Enrico (07:16):

So that’s really interesting. And I definitely I can see how this new tech actually brings or can bring sales together with marketing in a really collaborative way. And you mentioned about, you know, the sequences and emails and how do you see kind of the ownership around that? Let’s talk about the content generation, cause obviously an email, even if it’s, one-to-one, there’s an aspect of needing to understand, create the messaging. And we are talking about platforms that are, you know, that provides some level of scale and scalability. So how do you, how do you balance kind of automation and at scale through a sales engagement platform with the kind of one-to-one kind of strength that, that I think the sales teams would say they have when they’re engaging with their prospects, with their customers.

Simon (08:09):

Absolutely. As I say, these tools surface the activities that sales are undertaking and the kind of the dirty secret that I can reveal on the Funnelocity podcast right now is that, you know, sales have been engaging with prospects and sending out emails and having conversations or long unbeknownst to marketing and suddenly, you know what tools that SalesLoft do is to put that almost into a kind of a framework that marketing understand better in terms of the platform and email templates and sequences of activity, you know, just like marketing automation that, you know, marketing had been doing for many years. And there’s a slight, almost discomfort from marketing’s point of view because there’s a natural and very understandable tendency to start thinking, Oh, well, we should be looking at the messaging here and the branding and the creative and so on.

And I think there’s definitely a role for marketing in that sense, because part of the point of these tools is to create consistency and high-quality marketing can feed into that. But at the same time sales clearly need to be able to do what they do in terms of building the relationships and bringing, you know, individuals voices to the communications that are taking place. And, and the platforms are very good at that. I mean, that they’re built literally to do that, to be able to take a template and customize it on the fly in a one-to-one or possibly, you know, one to many relationship. In the particular project I was working on marketing took a very much a kind of a step back and said, it’s a sales tool over to you sales. Partly that was resourced, and of course, you know, marketing, aren’t just sitting around waiting for things to do, or to be asked to generate more content. But I think there’s certainly a balance to be struck. And that..

Enrico (10:22):

That’s interesting that you’re saying that marketing is giving perhaps a bit more autonomy to sales, but I guess one question I have is around the sequences themselves and what your experience has been building out those sequences, because, and just so people understand what we’re talking about a sequence could be, for instance a series of XDR would might make or sales rep might make to a prospect that is, let’s say a phone call than an email than an InMail through LinkedIn, perhaps then another phone call, right? Yeah. So when you’re, when you’re cycling through that three or four times you might only make two or three calls, maybe you send only one or two emails and or InMails, but collectively you’re kind of you’re getting good coverage, right. To the to the prospect. So in those sequences, when you’re actually crafting that, let’s say whether it’s the, because we’re really, we’re talking about the email and in-mail, that’s where perhaps marketing could have a say if you will. Yeah. Yeah. So to what perspective, or would you advise your clients to get prescriptive around that versus leaving it relatively open providing templates? And it really is up to the SDR to figure it out.

Simon (11:35):

I mean, my advice would be to try and map out some of those set piece components of the sequence as much as anything else what you’d really don’t want is, is individuals all worrying, creating their own emails and wording and so on. It’s just a bit of a waste of time. And like I say, it’s not that that hasn’t always been the case. And there’s a sudden realization that all our SDRs or our you know, accounts execs are all spending time just kind of hammering away on their keyboards when we could just do this once and do it really well. And then it’s just left to individuals to top and tail with the individual personalization that really drives the interaction. But the key points and the content and so on can come from a standard place.

So that would be the recommendation that I would make accepting completely that that’s easier said than done. That certainly, you know, makes a lot of sense and, you know, SalesLoft in particular just because that’s who I’ve been working with most recently, you know, to their credit have very good resources and guidance themselves around cadence, best practice and you know, messaging content and these kinds of things. So I think it’s important to be looking at that and getting the best out of that experience as well.

Enrico (13:17):

Well, it wouldn’t be, I guess we wouldn’t be doing justice to this topic if we didn’t start talking about the more, I guess, God I hate to use the term ‘legacy platforms’ for marketing sales. But what we’re talking with sales engagement platform is really a tool that sits in between the two. But when I think of kind of the traditional or more legacy infrastructure on the marketing side, we obviously have marketing automation platforms. On the CRM side, on the Sales side, you’ve got CRM. How do we or how do you start thinking working with your clients you know, those, those legacy platforms, how do they coexist or not with sales engagement?

Simon (14:01):

Well, I think one important point to make at a sort of non-technical level, if you like is again this notion of sales and marketing alignment and in particular the integration of sales and marketing messaging and engagement has always been there and always been a problem, or a challenge, and hasn’t necessarily been solved. So in particular, it’s very easy to conceptualize marketing, do outreach, and, you know, demand gen generate leads. Those are sent to sales who then pick up and run with them. But I’ve always felt that there’s an overlap where it’s completely legitimate for marketing and sales to be engaged with a prospect simultaneously. It has to be done carefully, clearly marketing needs to be mindful and recognize that sales are engaged with a prospect, but there’s no reason that the latest content or you know, a forthcoming webinar or something, can’t be promoted to a prospect whose also speaking to a rep and then the rep can refer back to that communication. So I think what these new tools do again is just almost systematized that engagement and in a sense, make it easier. But equally create new pressures to make sure that’s really being done rigorously, because in a sense what the sales engagement tools do is to create, as you kind of allude to, a mini marketing or sales automation. Potentially running alongside existing marketing automation programs and sequences. So it’s critical to make sure that they are aligned. But like I say, that’s not really new. And the technology gives us a better opportunity to do that or better capability.

Enrico (16:04):

Well, certainly what we’re saying from our side is that sales engagement platforms tend to be almost, if I can use this analogy, an overlay to marketing automation to CRM. Right. And for that critical juncture between sales and marketing, right, it’s that overlap, it’s basically the Venn diagram. It’s the two circles coming together. And it’s that platform for that, where those two circles overlap. And it’s been missing, right, because it’s traditionally sales is either been, well traditional sales has been in CRM and you make features available to them through CRM, from marketing automation. And of course marketing would be in, in their marketing automation platform. And so what we’re now seeing with sales engagement platforms that you’re seeing is that overlay. And then there’s a handoff, obviously to CRM, eventually everything posts to both all systems, but then as the opportunity develops and matures, that goes, and opportunity management becomes very much a feature of CRM.

But it’s an interesting, you know, from our MarketOne perspective, we’ve been, you know, we’re looking at this, not just from a perspective of our own demand generation efforts, but a lot of our clients are in making investments, you know, to be into these technologies as we discussed, whether it’s SalesLoft or outreach and others. And so more and more we’re actually being asked you know, when we’re working with clients as an outsourced SDR team instead of necessarily, maybe previously, we were maybe logging into their CRM systems. Now we’re starting to log into the sales engagement platforms. And we’re seeing huge lifts and it’s much better data we’re working with, you know, it’s better plugged in with the website, with, you know, drift and what’s going on there, leading people, leading contacts and prospects into the queues, into the sequences. So it’s a really impressive piece of technology that’s really coming into its own right now.

Simon (18:08):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you’re exactly right about that Venn diagram concept that’s exactly what it is. And that overlap is, is where sales engagement sits to a certain extent and where there’s growing focus on what that overlap means and how sales and marketing are coordinating. But from a tool perspective, absolutely I’m seeing that as well, where outsourced resources are utilizing a sales engagement platform that perhaps is connected to a But that’s the primary platform. And in some respects you could easily imagine certainly at that early pipeline stage or sort of late lead stage, sales reps, you know, beer STRs or accounts execs living very much in those tools and almost not touching Salesforce because everything is there. The contact information clearly the execution of our messaging. You can update tasks and activities and statuses and all these kinds of things. So there’s almost no need to go back into the CRM. And that obviously does throw up interesting questions about how this is going to shake out and what the kind of vendor landscape is going to look like. And how the tradition..

Enrico (19:45):

Let’s go there and just, yeah, sorry to cut you off. Let’s go there because I feel like that’s, it begs the question now, obviously, we’ve, we’ve got the big cloud players on the marketing side, you know, Oracle Eloqua, we’ve got Adobe Marketo, Salesforce has this marketing cloud and then of course you’ve got CRM vendors, Salesforce, and Microsoft and whatnot. When you think of these big cloud enterprise players, and now all of a sudden this Venn diagram with this overlap, what are your thoughts? Is there going to be a shakeout, or is it just an evolution, perhaps of use, you know, these established cloud players?

Simon (20:19):

I think it is evolution in many respects. That said there’s always been a kind of an overlap. Look at marketing automation you know, Marketo and Eloqua and others have long had tools that sales can use either for outreach or for visibility over marketing activity. But they’ve certainly not gone anything like as far as a sales engagement platform that we’re now looking at. And so it is interesting to see those specialisms coming into play. I’ve never been a huge fan of the kind of gigantic suite type approach. You know, I’m fond of picking exactly the right solutions and having tools and platforms that are built for purpose because, you know, typically they just do that much better a job. You know, back in the day, I was always more of a Hi-Fi separates kind of a guy than a all-in-one midi system.

Only probably half of the people listening to this will know what I’m talking about, but a lovely analogy. I’m with you, I’m with you. Very good. So yeah, I think it’s really interesting to see, as I say, is that, you know, the sales engagement platforms coming into that. And yeah, I mean, it’s tough to see that, you know, Salesforce in particular who are, you know, pretty famously highly acquisitive, not picking up a platform, because like I say, there’s a bit of a threat. You know, people could start stepping out of to use these tools almost exclusively. So certainly as you say, up to the kind of late pipeline stage and that’s not something that they going to want to just to see happening. On the marketing automation side it’s tougher to see that you know, a Marketo for instance, is going to build this functionality into the platform. Because like I say, it’s while there are similarities in terms of sequences and so on I would see it as being a fairly big step away, but equally, you know, maybe there’s a module or some kind of overlay that would work in that way to make it possible for sales, to be effectively using Marketo but in a much more limited capacity.

Enrico (23:02):

And one thing we haven’t really talked about in practice, it’s the focus for a different podcast, is a piece of tech that you mentioned at the very beginning. You know, the CDP, right? The customer data platform. Right. Which can, can be that central repository if you will, or that single view of customer. It could potentially be used as to provide some segmentation. I mean, if I think of the evolution of where the master data set used to rely in many ways, it used to be CRM, then marketing automation came and they kind of own the marketing profile. You know, segmenting can happen in CRM, of course, segmenting can happen in marketing automation. Now you’ve got sales engagement platforms. You know, how do you think of single view in this case and ensure that the two circles, if I can go back to that one are actually, you know, working on the same you know, are working on the same data set and insights if you will.

Simon (24:08):

Yeah, I think you can stretch CRM and map and sales engagement quite a long way. The sales engagement platform does very much sit on top of the CRM typically, and certainly you know in the project that I did most recently we had it quite locked down. You could only get data into the sales engagement platform from And it was fully sinked. I mean, you could do it differently, but I really wouldn’t recommend that because you risk creating a, yet another data repository and one that you could easily lose control of. But like I say, with the CRM and marketing automation platform you can go a long way from data management and kind of single customer view perspective.

It’s when you start bringing in other data sources and you know, a bigger picture. So particularly if you want to start bringing in things like product consumption and usage depending on the nature of the business or you know, if there’s an e-commerce component or a purchase and this kind of thing that’s when those core platforms start to struggle, because they’re just not the best place to be holding that information. They’re certainly not likely to be the master repository. And you end up risking arcane integrations and data replication and so on. And then that’s when a CDP really comes into its own for being able to sit across the top of all those systems, drawing the data into a central place and then making it visible and accessible for, you know, for all of sales and marketing, as well as analytics and so on.

Enrico (26:06):

Well, there’s certainly a lot happening in this field right now. And are you excited about what the sales engagement platforms have to offer?

Simon (26:15):

Yeah, very much. I mean, I think, I think it is great. That these platforms are coming to the fore because it creates the structure and framework in an area where it was previously lacking. And not to say that, you know, sales haven’t been doing a great job at managing that, but in the same way, that to a certain extent, marketing has always struggled in some respects to have good structure, yeah, before marketing automation came along. I think it’s an area where sales can benefit by having those tools available. I mean, speaking almost from a personal perspective, as an independent consultant, I obviously do my own outreach and sales engagement to a certain extent and keeping track of who you’ve spoken to and what you’ve sent, and this kind of thing, can be pretty difficult. Even on a very small scale. So I think the availability of these tools for sales professionals can only be a good thing.

Enrico (27:30):

And our percent agree. And, you know, from our perspective, it’s definitely the technology that we feel has been missing to finally address this age-old problem of sales and marketing alignment. And it, you know, and it’s clear that this is an area that’s going to keep evolving, and it’s certainly an area that I personally, MarketOne, will continue to follow with great interest. So, Hey, Simon, thank you so much for this fascinating discussion.

Simon (27:55):

Not at all. Thanks for having me.

Enrico (27:57):

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