First of all, a big thank you from all of us at Base to everyone who came to the Forecast Sales Conference last week in SF! It was great to hear about the latest developments in sales, and to learn from the top thought-leaders from every point on the sales spectrum. If you were unable to attend this year’s conference, check out what people thought at #Forecast2015 and keep reading as I break down the highlights of the day.
“It’s not about Will.i.am and Hillary Clinton, it’s about learning.”
These words by our CEO, Uzi Shmilovici, set the tone for a great day of learning about sales. No bells, no whistles – just pure, unadulterated discussions about the future of an entire category. Over 400 people were in attendance at this year’s conference, ranging from enterprises like LinkedIn and Google, to up-and-coming startups. Why were they here? Because they knew that the sales paradigm was shifting into a new age. It was time to start talking about the new software, new metrics and new roles that would come along with it.
Investing in Next-Generation Sales Technologies
The morning kicked off with an insightful panel of VCs that included Roger Lee (Partner, Battery Ventures), Rory O’Driscoll (Partner, Scale Partner Ventures) and Laela Sturdy (Partner, Google Capital). The general consensus of the panel was that the CRM category was seeing its first major shift in 15 years. Laela and Rory both pointed out that this was based on the growing importance of usability, mobility and big data in creating a customer-centric sales experience. All panelists also agreed that there is still uncharted territory in the CRM space and predicted emerging companies in the space that targeted unrealized opportunities.
We are indeed seeing stark changes in the platform, however Rory brought up a very realistic observation: “Are all of these new up-and-coming innovations in sales technologies add-ons to the platform, or can they replace the platform.” Let’s just say that’s what we’re here for.
Scaling Sales: The CEO Perspective
Next up was the CEO panel, which was moderated by our CEO, Uzi Shmilovici, and included Nick Mehta (CEO, Gainsight) and Steve Walske (Former CEO, PTC). To say that this panel was packed with key learning points would be an understatement. Nick and Steve fired so many great points, you could barely write them down fast enough. We got some great insights on questions like what it takes to scale, the ideal relationship between the CEO and the VP of Sales, and best practices for assembling your sales machine. Nick shined great perspective on the importance of metrics, customer success and scalability in every department in your company. He then shared the three C’s to being a great sales leader:
- Love your customer
- Be collaborative
- Be curious
As Nick stated, Steve Walske’s tenure as CEO of PTC was much like how the 49ers were in the 1980s – an unstoppable machine. Steve highlighted the importance of establishing a predictable sales model and shared PTC’s philosophy of “100% promotion from within.” No wonder so many great leaders came out of PTC.
And fun fact: if you have a beard, Steve won’t hire you (sorry Nick).
Sales Productivity – The New Frontier
If the CEO panel brought the momentum, the Sales Productivity panel put it into high gear. Bridget Gleason (VP Sales, Yesware), Ben Sardella (co-founder, Datanyze), Raj Gossain (VP Product, Clearslide) and Misha McPherson (Sr. Director of Sales Enablement, Mixpanel) each shared their perspective on how the sales game is changing. They stressed the importance of results, data-driven efficiency, thoughtfulness and engagement. Raj and Bridget both touched on the fact that there is a real appetite for technologies that not only improve processes, but are appealing to use. The panel then drove it home by discussing a key issue in sales: it’s about sending the right information to the right person at the right time, with a personal touch. As Ben noted, it’s true that the emerging technologies are following a “you push the button, we do the rest” Kodak mantra, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. Amen.
The Fragmentation & Consolidation of CRM with Kate Leggett
After lunch everyone was eager to dive into what Kate Leggett had to say about the field. As a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, Kate was the only non sales-leader speaking for the day. As such, she gave a very interesting “outside-in” perspective of what the modern buyer needs from a CRM. She dove deeper into the previously mentioned notion of customer experience and how that impacts top-line revenue. In our current “age of the customer,” Kate emphasized that in order to be effective and efficient in your sales, you need to instigate customer interactions that are relevant to said customer’s situation. You can check out Kate’s full presentation below.
The Future of Sales Management
So there were talks about sales productivity, CRM and scaling, but where is it all headed? Our VP Sales, Travic Huch, moderated an exciting panel of sales leaders that included Bill Binch (SVP Global SMB Sales, Marketo), Robert Brewster (VP Global Sales, Twilio), Steve Demarco (VP Worldwide Sales, Xactly) and Jason Mills (Director of Sales & Support, Expensify). Each touched on the importance of predictive metrics to score potential buyers and the key notion of not just building a sales machine but understanding it. Speaking of, how do you know if your sales machine is working? Our panel analyzed this question and more with in-depth discussions of growth measurement and revenue. One great point that both Jason and Bill made was in the significance of getting your sales process right before adding a sales tools. As Jason said, “the process is the foundation upon which you build a house. If you don’t have a process, the house will fall apart.”
Serendipity to Science with Mike Derezin
How can you be methodical, thoughtful and scientific about the selling process? Sounds impossible but Mike Derezin’s presentation on social selling tackled it headon. For Mike it’s pretty simple: leverage your current relationships to develop warm introductions. Mike shared some staggering stats that really got the audience talking:
- 75% of B2B buyers are influenced by social media.
- There are on average, 5.4 buyers in a decision-making process.
- 97% of cold calls don’t work and nearly 50% of those who receive a cold-call from your firm have an unfavorable reaction.
- In a company for 250 people, only 2% are actually connected on LinkedIn – 98% are invisible.
Takeaway point: Go home and add every person that you know on LinkedIn. It may come in handy. For more of Mike’s great presentation, take a look at his keynote below.
Mark Roberge’s The Sales Acceleration Formula
It’s safe to say that everyone was excited for Mark Roberge’s keynote. At the end of the day, this was the guy who took Hubspot from 0-100 in the blink of an eye. Mark gave a fascinating retelling of how he accomplished what seemed to be the impossible for an engineer at his first sales job. He achieved his mission of developing predictable, scalable revenue growth by doing 4 things:
- Hiring successful salespeople who fit their specific profile.
- Training them the same way through a scalable method of learning.
- Getting them the same quality and quantity of leads through marketing/sales alignment.
- Treating sales managers like sales coaches.
Mark also shared that he found five key correlations to someone’s success at Hubspot. Many people took note of this because it could apply to any business. These points were coachability, intelligence, curiosity, work ethic and prior success. To take a deeper look into Mark’s formula for sales success, look through his keynote below.
Building a Sales Machine – Lessons from a Unicorn with Mamoon Hamid and Parker Conrad
Given the current news surrounding Zenefits, everyone in the audience was interested to see what would unfold in this epic fireside chat. Mamoon Hamid (Partner, Social+Capital) and Parker Conrad (co-founder, CEO Zenefits) held a no-holds-barred conversation about how the “golden boy” of Bay Area startups catapulted his company to major success. They discussed how Zenefits’ grew to over $500 million in just short two years, as well as the mistakes he had learned with his previous startup. He stressed the importance of implementing sales ops and sales enablement teams, even commenting that this was one of Zenefits’ mistakes early on. It was a great conversation to witness and surely did not disappoint.
There you have it, some of the highlights from this year’s Forecast Sales Conference. Videos of the day’s presentations and discussions will be up next week so stay tuned! If you attended this year’s conference, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how the day turned out. Feel free to share in the comments section below. And if you weren’t there, then we hope you’ll join us next year for an even bigger and better Forecast 2016!
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