At the Wheel of the Revenue Engine: Am I Old School?

by Eloqua on August 20, 2010 in Revenue Performance Management

In this series of blog posts I write about our mission to run the highest performing revenue engine in the SaaS industry.  This mission started with one simple question, “Why are the demand generation results running 23 percentage points higher than revenue production?”  My last post discussed setting pipeline targets – and the cold chills and fainting that occurred when Brian (our CMO) told the marketing team they would be paid on attainment of our Sales Qualified Opportunity target. My next post was scheduled to be about teaching the sales force to own their forward pipeline. But a funny thing happened, and I decided to take a detour. 

Today’s post is a straightforward question: Am I “old school”?

My wife and I have been together for 26 years and she tells me that my clothing comes back in style about every eight years.  My sons tell me I went to school “back in the day.”  The TSA laughs at the shoehorn I pack in my carry-on.  I have fun with this smack … but yesterday I received an email that made me sit back and evaluate if I am “with it.”  You tell me. 

Every member of my sales team received the below LinkedIn message from a competitor:   

My reaction was mixed.  First I thought, “Wow!  What a great compliment!” Eloqua aims to be known as the sales force in the SaaS space.  In that light, it makes sense that a company would be recruiting from us.  Whenever there’s competition, teams recruit from the champion.  After all, the champ tends to have the system and talent.  I make no claims that we are the best sales force in the SaaS space; I think we have a lot of work to do.  But this email showed me we achieved a milestone – we were being acknowledged by a competitor as the sales force in the marketing automation space.  Compliment taken.  My other reaction?  I was a bit pissed off.  (Can I write that in a blog?)

I really love the folks on our sales team.  We are building a special culture based upon two principles: Getting it Done and Doing it Right.  The former means results, while the latter means teamwork, integrity, accountability, optimism and enthusiasm. Every day I get to watch our team train, prepare, work hard, treat clients the right way … and win.  I know we have more work to do (I constantly welcome and receive input on areas for improvement), but I like the momentum generated by our focus on performance and integrity. 

We have a core philosophy that each of our clients is driven by hope for something better in the future.  Hope and desire to be successful.  Our mission is to march alongside them on their journey and help achieve their dreams.  This feels good, it feels right and I do not want to have any of these folks leave my team.  The thought that they were being targeted put me on a slow simmer.

So, between proud and pissed, I realized that my whole perspective of this was just getting clouded.  I don’t think I would recruit this way.  Does this make me old school?  (Perhaps this is the new way of recruiting?)  Or do others share my reaction?

Should I just load my “Who’s Next” 8-track in the vinyl dash of my classic Trans-Am, add an extra splash of Aqua Velva, pop the collar on my pastel Polo shirt and crank,  “I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and grin at the change all around, pick up my guitar and play”?  Or should I give in and buy a pair of skinny jeans, white belt and try to buy someone else’s sales force?  What do you think?

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  • janryan

    As a former VP Sales for a category leader, I can say with confidence — I LOVE the way you handled this. And a brilliant use of Social Media to do so! As for the Marketo VP, I’m afraid I have the opposite to say. His use of sm for recruiting in this way is just plain lazy. That $10k bonus being touted would be the last check the rep would ever be excited about. Lazy, and naive… That’s what any of your reps would also be if they took him up on the offer. I applaud you for protecting your team with this post.

    Jan Ryan

  • Alex Shootman

    Jan – thanks for the vote of confidence. You just never know if you should be adopting some different techniques so it is really helpful to hear from someone who has “seen the movie”. Your reply is deeply appreciated by the sales team here at Eloqua

  • http://www.schulmanthorogood.com rand schulman

    Alex, you and your firm are a “class act” and it has nothing to do with old or new!

    Rand Schulman
    Partner, Schulman Thorogood Group

    • Alex Shootman

      Thanks Rand – that means a lot to me and the sales team. We do want to win with class.

  • http://www.scriptlogic.com Andy Langsam

    Id take it as the highest form of compliment and a bit of desperation when a competitor resorts to trying to recruit your team en masse by saying his ‘patch” is greener! Your response was superb as is your product. We believe Eloqua gives us a competitive advantage and is a critical component of our revenue engine.

    Andy Langsam
    President/CEO
    ScriptLogic Corp

    • Alex Shootman

      Thanks Andy, you are right – at some level of abstraction it is a complement and I do appreciate the recognition of the type of people, both character and competence, that we have in our organization.

  • http://www.marketo.com Bill Binch

    Old school or not, it got me 6 interviews…

    • Alex Shootman

      Hey Bill Binch,

      Thanks so much for stopping by our blog!

  • http://www.conversationagent.com Valeria Maltoni

    Yesterday on my train ride back from New York, a sales rep was talking on his mobile with someone in his office. I didn’t have headsets with me, so I couldn’t help overhearing the hour-long one side of the conversation. He was right behind me and talking loudly. A story we all heard in the last couple of years. Things are rough, people are taking longer to buy, more scrutiny on purchases, greater need to sell on benefits and differentiate from other products that look similar to buyers, and so on. I felt for him, he sounded very dejected. The team seemed to be missing the numbers. Alas, his reaction to it and attitude made him come across as aggressive, argumentative, and negative. Not very attractive.

    It can be a hard job selling. My mother was in sales — media sales, very hard on so many levels and the only woman on the team at the time. Over the years, I worked closely with many a sales team and have come to appreciate what sets high performers apart — and that is uncompromising integrity. Old school or not, that’s what builds reputation. People may not remember what you said, sometimes not even what you did. They will remember how you made them feel. To me there is a direct correlation between credibility and behavior. It all reflects on a company and its brand.

    Kudos to you, Alex, for taking the high road. [Disclosure: in a prior life, we implemented Eloqua - the tool was chosen by a team]

    • Alex Shootman

      Valeria,
      You are right, sales can feel lonely at times; having the quota monkey on your back is a feeling like none other. Thanks for your empathy for the role. But we are paid to represent our company well and treat our customers right no matter the circumstance. It goes with the territory.

      In terms of integrity, I agree – the world is small and memories are long. Buyers remember. Reputation matters. You gave me much to chew on, thanks Valeria

  • http://www.criticalpathstrategies.com Mike Morton

    Alex,
    What i think you’re doing is building a sales team that significantly enhances the differentiation of Eloqua’s solution in the marketplace. For Marketo to recruit en masse is to acknowledge one’s inability to recruit with purpose. We all have experienced teams where a recruiter will call into an organization and we passed around the lead to anyone interested…and we knew who would be…not your top performers but those on the edge. Alex, you lead the way in getting it done AND doing it right!…keep it up.
    Morton

    • Alex Shootman

      Mike – thanks for your comments. In the end we always know people will try to recruit our folks. That is OK, that is part of business. As sales managers, our job remains to create and maintain a place where high performers thrive and want to stay and succeed. Giving folks the opportunity to be proud of what they do is key to keeping folks on our team. And that is what sales leaders are paid to do.

  • http://www.bluecoat.com Steve Rowland

    Alex,

    You aren’t old school. Your clothes may come and go (I have seen how you dress, JK), but foundational leadership principles are timeless. If you build a great culture that is centered around high performance, accountability, respect and always focus on the client, you will win in the marketplace. Couple that with a strong vision, purpose, transparency and honesty and you will have a loyal following from your employees. Clients see this also by how they are treated by your sales force. I can only conclude this is the reason Eloqua continues to be the chosen vendor in the marketplace.

    The downside or as you highlight the compliment is that competitors will attempt to lure your people away. Unfortunately that can be done with false promises and disparaging remarks. That too is timeless; timeless unprofessionalism that is certainly deep in that company’s culture. Your best people may take the call, but they will certainly see through the fog when they spend time the people.

    Keep doing what you are doing, because obviously you are attracting and retaining the people others can’t.

    Steve

    • Alex Shootman

      Steve – I got nothing here; I cannot even formulate a response that adds anything of value to what you said. Thanks for your comments

  • Tracy Wolczanski

    Alex – As a new member of the Eloqua team, this entire strand is further validation that I’m in the right place. Integrity is not ‘old school’. I hope it never is.

    Maybe 6 people did take an interview. You of all people appreciate the waterfall – How many might leave? How many will come back more appreciative? But most importantly, how many more talented people will read this or be exposed our hard work and our culture and join us as a result. In the end, our team will grow, and grow in the right ways.

    For the record though, I vote NO on the skinny jeans. And if I spot you with your collar flipped up, Fonzarelli style, I warn you in advance that I’ll probably adjust it for you.

    • Alex Shootman

      I am going to get my silk screened shirts and my suede desert boots with the crepe soles and call on your customers!

  • http://www.webinknow.com/ David Meerman Scott

    Alex,

    When I think of “old school sales” I immediately think back to the days when I was running marketing at a B2B company and even farther back when I was a B2B salesperson.

    Back in the mid 1990′s it was hard to find evidence of love between marketing and sales. And that was very old school. It all stemmed from the sales process involving a “handoff.” Marketing generated leads, handed them over to sales and then the sales team owned them until close.

    Sales says, “Get me some good leads! These leads stink! My people can’t sell.” And Marketing responds: “You got good leads! Your guys just stink at closing!” Having been in the middle of these “discussions” at several companies, I’ve heard it time and time again.

    In my time as an with Eloqua as an advisory board member, what I keep seeing is absolutely NOT old school. Both what you are doing with your sales team and what you facilitate for your customers is a partnership between sales and marketing. That is new school for sure.

    Savvy marketing and sales professionals understand that sales and marketing must work together to move prospects through the sales cycle. This is especially important in the complex sale with long decision making cycles and multiple buyers that must be influenced.

    Keep up the good work and no salesperson will want to leave.

    Best, David

    • Alex Shootman

      David thanks for the encouragement. You are right, the world is changing, sales and marketing are figuring out how to work together to drive revenue performance across the enterprise. Careers are blossoming and some sharp young executives are driving real change across hundreds of companies. We are proud to be playing a small part in that change. And I think we are only all just getting started…

  • Craig Harper

    Yes Alex, those tassels on your shoes, those fancy belt buckles and the “golf” look that you sport are clearly out of fashion, perhaps even old school. However, a high performing sales culture built on a foundation of trust and ethical treatment of employees and clients will never go out of fashion. If you have a highly differentiated product, deliver a great customer experience, and are growing dramatically you will not go unnoticed in the marketplace. They say that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”. When your business model, process and people are the envy of the industry, there will always be Bill Binch’s attempting to duplicate your success. Don’t be surprised, expect more of the same.

    • Alex Shootman

      Craig – thanks for taking the time so share your opinion of a culture that never goes out of fashion.

  • http://www.findnewcustomers.com Jeff Ogden

    Good for you! That Linkedin message from the VP of Sales at Marketo was an overt and underhanded attempt to steal salespeople. I’m really disappointed in Bill that he took such a sneaking and underhanded approach. I would NEVER send a note like that. Do you hear me Phil Fernandez? Call Bill into your office and read him the riot act.

    Good for you. Best of luck.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers “Lead Generation Made Simple”
    http://www.findnewcustomers.com

    • Alex Shootman

      Thanks for weighing in Jeff. All of us at Eloqua consider you a true industry influencer, so we appreciate your visit to our blog.

  • http://www.TeamThorMarketing.com Thor Johnson

    I simply cannot resist this thread. Tremendous validation of the sales AND marketing culture of cooperation at Eloqua that’s developed over the years. The little truth all good marketers know well is that great marketing shows up as terrific sales performance. We butted heads, sales and marketing, at Eloqua in my day, but everyone knew what the brass ring looked like – and we all worked together to find it. I’m happy that Alex in sales and Brian in marketing not only keep the beat going, but continue to amp it up. Congrats, Alex, on the compliment paid by your honorable competitor, but just as much to Brian’s marketers for helping make your team look so damn good. Good technology helps for certain, but the winner win because they have a plan and cooperate well.

  • Alex Shootman

    Thor – thanks for adding this truth to the conversation. The goal Brian and I have is to build and run the greatest revenue engine in the SaaS industry. I think the moment we get there is when all barriers between the organizations fall. We are making progress, we still have things to do – but we are gaining momentum and moving in the right direction. Marketing is all about revenue at Eloqua. And that focus can make Sales look really good. Great insight Thor, thanks

  • Tom Schodorf

    Old School and New School both have their advantages. It’s likely that the only way to stay ahead is to situationally do both. To use a simple example viral marketing is more effective at Facebook while direct calling is better *suit*ed for State Farm.

    Transformational sales leadership will allow and even encourage both styles to flourish. Some things are timeless and clear, as previously stated (respect, integrity, etc.); others less so, such as how edgy should you make your T-shirts to connect with your target audience?

    Doing both may be the only sure path to sustainable, long term market dominance. Too much of the old and you lose some new, innovative, perhaps game changing customers and very talented employees. Too much of the new and you could destroy your culture while alienating those that pay your bills.

    Often times New School means stepping out, taking new risks. It looks like Bill tried that, using social media and an aggressive message to short cut the hard work required to build his own winning culture. I can’t fault him for trying. I can only fault him for vastly understating the valuable *School*ing that is received in your organization.

    • Alex Shootman

      Tom – thanks for the great reminder to take risks. The historian Admiral Bill Owens said, “… there are common causes for military disasters, and at the heart of them lie dangerous smugness, institutional constraints on innovation, and the tendency to avoid questioning conventional wisdom. And the side that is the most smug, the most convinced that its interpretation of the past is the best guide for the future, often turns out to be the loser in the next war.”

  • Kevin McMahon

    As a long term Eloqua fan and former user when I used to work in marketing, I enjoy your blog Alex and encourage you to keep it up. But I have to say that I’m really confused
    by this posting and all of the comments here. I just don’t understand why one competitor recruiting from another is either old school or lacking in class. In my experience,
    this is something that happens all the time. Most of the comments are so “on message” and, IMHO, so over the top, that I have a hard time believing that they’re not just
    written by or solicited by you guys. Does anyone REALLY think that competitors recruiting from each other rises to this level of hype? Alex, I hope your blog gets back to talking about revenue.

    • Alex Shootman

      Kevin, thanks for weighing in. I agree that competitors will always recruit from competitors. It is part of business. I had a reaction to the way it was done but as I wrote “between proud and pissed, I realized that my whole perspective of this was just getting clouded” – so I wanted to put the situation out in the community and hear reactions. I appreciate yours and glad you added your voice. And yes, next blog will be about running the revenue engine. It is Sunday night and my brain is already engaged in the next week of travel and several exciting client visits.

    • http://www.eloqua.com Jill Rowley

      Kevin, I am one of the Reps who received the template email from Bill Binch. It shows that Bill doesn’t follow best practices (targeting, segmenting, personalization). Bill has been pursuing me since July 2008 and he sent me the same template email he sent to the rest of the Eloqua sales team. I think it is also representative of the shortcuts Marketo takes to acquire new business (whether it be new employees or new clients). I’ve been with Eloqua for eight years and am thankful for the incredible group of passionate, honest, committed individuals who are on our team. Customer Success is what drives our entire organization. Thanks for weighing in. Jill Rowley

  • http://www.genius.com Parker Trewin

    While I wouldn’t have chosen the “old school” analogy for lots of reasons I nonetheless think it’s a brilliant post. Protect your flank and throw and counter punch at the same time. Did you ever box?

    • Alex Shootman

      Parker – thanks for making your way to the Eloqua Blog. I have boxed a few times; not proud of my record, I seem to lead with my chin…

  • http://www.genius.com Sam Weber – Genius.com

    Alex – First of all, I believe I am a “new school” VP of Sales (wearing Evisu denim and AMQ Pumas at the moment) but what school you’re in doesn’t matter much in this conversation. None of us here at Genius are surprised by such tactics. In fact, they have tried to woo our sales team away a few times as well. Like you, Genius tries to operate with integrity and class and likes to win on the merits of our product and our sales\marketing teams. We’ll see you out in the market. Cheers and happy selling. Sam

    • Alex Shootman

      Sam – great to hear your voice on this blog, thanks for weighing in. I only hope my wife does not see your reply and get a sense of your style. That will cause me to spend an entire day at a few shops that I do not even know exist updating my wardrobe! Seriously though, I appreciate the tone of your response. Class act – see you too out in the market Sam. And I will toast you and your team at the bar afterward.

  • http://www.m5net.com Jim Kanir

    Alex,
    First of all, I echo the sentiments of others who agree that you handled this correctly. I do believe you should take this episode as a compliment. Our team here at M5 Networks is regularly recruited by competitors (not yet by bribes via linkedIn) and I now take it as flattery. Your product leadership, reputation, and working environment help make you immune to raids by inferiors. The better you get, the more your resources and talents will be coveted.
    On a lighter note regarding “old school”: You wrote in your original blog that your wife said your clothes come back in style every eight years. With all respect to Mrs. S, no they don’t.
    Keep up the good work, Jim Kanir M5 Networks.

  • Alex Shootman

    Jim,

    My wife is crushed! I told her about just how far behind you think I really am on style. She told me that she actually agreed with you but just did not want to hurt my feelings too badly. She predicts I am back in style around 2019….

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  • Darroll Buytenhuys

    Alex:

    This has nothing to do with old school vs new school — just a classic case of a true pro giving an amateur a lesson! As always, great job.

  • Alex Shootman

    Darroll – thanks so much for your comments.

  • http://www.tele-smart.com Josiane Feigon

    Clearly this is the conversation of choice on the social sphere this week!

    Bill- great job at being creative and brave in taking big risks
    Alex- very thoughtful and well-written post! You demonstrated how solid values, loyalty and commitment will always prevail in the sales world.

    • Alex Shootman

      Josiane,

      Fair and balanced response, thanks so much for coming to the blog!

  • http://www.bettsrecruiting.com Carolyn Betts

    It’s always exciting to see recruitment tactics generate such a buzz! In my opinion Bill’s approach is one that many VP’s who are looking for top talent would love to have the guts to try, but don’t because of the negative repercussions from other people in the industry. Instead, they hire headhunters (like myself) to do the dirty work for them.
    Alex, I admire your approach, and I feel that by doing the right thing, and recruiting talent ethically, you will come out ahead in the end!

    Carolyn Betts
    Betts Recruiting

  • Alex Shootman

    Carolyn,

    Great to read a POV from someone in the recruiting space. You are right – it is sometimes a tough balance when there is great talent that you really want to go after.

  • http://www.hubspot.com Dan Tyre

    Welcome to conducting business in 2010, where everything you or your sales team will do, every action you take internally and externally with a client might be discussed, scrutinized & evaluated by your marketplace. Transparency on all issues is the only way to stay honest.

    • Alex Shootman

      Dan – your comment reminded me of a book I once read, “A Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi is a 17th century warrior who wrote on the way of the samurai. It is considered a classic treatise on military strategy. One of the concepts I took away is, “If you live your life as if you are already dead you will take the right risk”. Your thought – “if you live your life as if it is always in public you will always stay honest” Thanks for this deep thought Dan

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