Marketing Smarts Episode 562 guest Owen Richards doesn't believe in thought leaders.
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"For me, a thought leader typically is just somebody who is noisy," he says. "What we don't do is any validation on anything that they're saying. In my experience, there is not a direct link between the noise that someone makes and the personal brand they've built and how good they are."
In a similar vein, he talks about how a large part of sales enablement is ensuring that salespeople know what they're doing. You can't became a "salesperson," he explains, any more than you can become a "thought leader."
"Sales isn't a qualification. There's no education behind it," Owen says. "There's nothing to help people know the difference between doing it well and not doing it well, except for freedom of thought and people's opinions, and with that comes such a variety."
So what can marketers do to help?
"Get involved in the sales process," he advises. "Go sit in some demos, go sit in on some discoveries, handle some inbound inquiries, make a few cold calls, go and have some conversations, know what it feels like, know what it looks like."
Because the more empathetic Marketing is to Sales, and vice versa, the more successful your sales enablement will be.
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George B. Thomas: I'm super excited, and you should be, too. Although, I'm proud of you, because you probably read the title Empowering Sales Success, you might have stopped there, but hopefully not. Of course you didn't, you're hearing my voice. It's more important about the role of Marketing in sales enablement. I'm excited because it's a topic that I am passionate about.
I'm also excited because I get to sit here and talk with Owen Richards about this topic. We're going to talk about what keeps Owen up at night, we're going to talk about hurdles, potholes, all of the things that might get in your way, but we're also going to talk about success, tips, tricks, and all of those things along the way. Make sure you have a notepad ready, a piece of chalk, spray paint for your wall, however you like to take notes.
Again, today is empowering sales success, the role of you the B2B marketer in sales enablement, and we're talking with Owen. Owen is the founder and CEO of Air Marketing. With a blend of outsourced sales and marketing services, Air's team of 100 people work with B2B SaaS tech and finance companies to drive growth and revenue. Owen advises businesses on their go-to-market strategy and has a genuine passion for navigating the complexities of early stage go-to-market in startup environments, with a particular focus on people, the humans, culture, and of course, strategy.
Without further ado, turn that dial up, get those earbuds in good, get the notepad ready, and let's get into the good stuff.
Today I'm super excited. Think about this; empowering. The word empowering, what does that mean to you? The word sales, what does that mean to you as a B2B marketer? The word success, what does that mean? When we put all of those together, empowering sales success, it probably means something completely different than you just thought of. We're going to talk about the role of Marketing in sales enablement, and I am double excited because we have thought leader Owen Richards with me today.
Owen, how are you doing today?
Owen Richards: I am extremely well. Thank you. George. Thanks for having me on the show. I'm looking forward to it.
George: It's going to be a fun conversation. One of the things that I like to do is throw a couple of unique questions in here for the interview. The first one, it could be a nightmare or it could be a dream, but what keeps you up at night around sales enablement and marketing teams?
Owen: For me, sales enablement probably means two different things, one for a marketing person and one for a sales-minded person. Sales enablement being the training and support for a salesperson coming from sales leadership. Sales enablement being, how can Marketing support their sales team to make sure that they're more effective.
In terms of what keeps me up at night around it, I think sales in an industry that's failing miserably. Absolutely miserably. The reason for that is we're not investing in salespeople. That comes from marketing leaders, revenue leaders, sales leaders, right across the mix. For some reason, the sector has grown, we've hired loads of people in Sales as an industry. Sales needs to be a small thing in most organizations, but it's now often one of the biggest departments. But there has been a lack of investment, there has been a lack of thought around how we do that, how we bring people into the sector and how we help them to actually succeed.
There's so much information available now with poor advice, poor support, that I think we're just floundering as a sector, so it needs help. I think that stems in education. Sales isn't a qualification. There's no education behind it. There's nothing to help people know the difference between doing it well and not doing it well, except for freedom of thought and people's opinions, and with that comes such a variety.
So, I think we're in danger of seeing the quality of the average salesperson reduce over the next decade significantly.
George: It definitely sounds like it might be more of a nightmare, less of a dream. Hopefully we're going to be able to fix a little bit of that nightmare over the timeframe that we have for this podcast episode.
In the very beginning, you alluded to sales enablement really can mean two different things. I want to dig into that and give you space to talk a little bit deeper about the two different ways that a company might look at sales enablement. Then really double down on the side of but if you're a marketer, this is probably what you're going to care about, and what we're going to talk about today. In other words, for the rest of this podcast, when we say sales enablement, what the heck do we even mean, how do we define sales enablement to modern marketing teams?
Owen: I think it's different depending on who you're talking to. Sales enablement, enabling a salesperson, to me, meaning sales training, is how do I get this person to be the best at the human contact element of selling, the process element of selling, how do I get them to be good at their job. That's enablement on one side.
The other way of enabling a person, in this case a salesperson, is to give them exceptional content, exceptional tools, brand in the background, the stuff that can help them to be perceived as being more credible and more trustworthy. For example, if I'm talking to somebody, I have a prospect on a discovery call, and they're in the background looking at our website or they're looking at some content that we've produced, if that content is terrible, then it doesn't matter how good my conversation is, their perception of the journey toward buying from us is influenced by that.
The same is true the other way around. I can be a pretty average salesperson, but if our brand reputation, our credibility, our content is exceptional, then that's going to help me to do my job. I think that's a perfect example of sales enablement when it comes to a marketer's perspective.
George: I love it. When we start to break this down a little bit more and we think about the critical elements, the micro things, what are some of the critical elements of sales enablement that B2B marketers should be paying attention to that will help enhance the sales success? This is less about the salesperson, more about the marketing team and what they need to do.
Owen: I think first and foremost, for me, it's about identifying the essence of a brand or organization. Too many organizations are sheep, they follow, they just do what other people are doing. They don't have any form of personality. If they do, it's pretty damn boring as a personality, it's not the kind of person that you want to go and spend time with. I think we have lots of organizations who just look the same, feel the same.
From a marketer's perspective, my starting point if I'm marketing for an organization, my first point is what is the essence of our brand, what do we stand for, what do we care about, how do we think, how do we talk, what kind of personality do we have, are we edgy, are we controversial, do we have an opinion, are we safe. That's going to be different depending on the organization, it depends on what you're doing. For us at Air, we could write, "Be brave, sell more." It's really obvious what that means. Do something, put yourself out there, have an opinion, say something that somebody might disagree with, catch people off guard, "Oh, I didn't expect that," get a response and a reaction out of that, and that will help you.
I think it starts with that definition. What's the essence of your brand, who are you, what do you stand for? Then everything falls off of that. It's working hard to stay consistent with that, to stay true to that. If you are fun as a culture and you want to entertain, then find ways to produce content that do that, and be consistent with it. I think volume of content is important, quality of content is important, but consistency tying it back to the essence of your brand and your organization can have a big impact if you've defined it, and more importantly, defined it well and you have something different that is unique to you.
George: I love this idea of the essence of your brand, things that are unique to you. I love the conversation of quantity and quality. Sometimes it's a versus, maybe it should be both, but that was a great little section there. Marketing Smarts listeners, it might be a rewind spot where you go back with your notepad and pencil, or maybe your iPad or Android device. Hopefully you got some notes out of that section.
I kind of date myself when I bring this up, but one of the things that I absolutely love is the TV show Mythbusters. One of the questions that we like to throw in here around any topic that we're covering is sales enablement and myths that you might want to bust or go after and say, I'm so tired of people thinking this way. In other words, what is a common myth about sales enablement and marketing involvement that you want to debunk here on the Marketing Smarts Podcast?
Owen: I do have an opinion. You referred to me at the beginning as a thought leader, and you hear that a lot. We also hear about LinkedIn experts. The myth that I want to debunk is that those things exist. I think people believe that a thought leader is some kind of thing to become, that you have to become this thought leader.
For me, a thought leader typically is just somebody who is noisy. What we don't do is any validation on anything that they're saying. In my experience, there is not a direct link between the noise that someone makes and the personal brand they've built and how good they are. There is a direct link between the noise that they make and how good of a brand they've built, and how good they are at that, but not how good they are at the actual thing that they preach about.
The amount of people that I've met in my career, and been lucky to meet, who have walked into a room with almost feeling overwhelmed by how amazing they are on LinkedIn, on Twitter, or wherever their channel is, and I've thought this person is almost famous in their world, or potentially famous in some cases, but I've been disappointed when I engaged with them on a human level. That's been a real eye-opener for me.
I think it's about don't take things at face value when it comes to digital. The human being behind it is not the person that you see on those channels. Sometimes they're incredible. Other times they're not. I think we hang off of people's profiles on a B2B channel like LinkedIn or on Instagram, and the human behind it is still exactly that, they're an imperfect human.
George: An imperfect human. I love this idea that you're bouncing around of maybe a thought leader doesn't exist. I will tell you one thing in my own personal life that I try to do is no matter if I'm on stage, if I'm on social media, or you're sitting around my firepit in my backyard, I want you to feel like it's just the same person. I totally hear what you're saying because sometimes that is not the reality that we live in. Very good.
One of the things that I like to do as a human in general, but for sure for the Marketing Smarts listeners, is I like to be tactical and strategic. When we talk about this empowering sales success and the role that marketers play, are there any tips, tricks, templates, hacks that B2B marketers can use when creating sales enablement strategy for their organization or creating sales enablement content? That might be two different questions, so feel free to expand as much as you need.
Owen: I get asked similar questions quite regularly. I always default to the same reaction with this. How involved are the salespeople in defining that? What you see is brilliant marketing leaders come up with a strategy around enabling their sales team, and they do it in isolation. You'd be surprised how common that is. They do it, they build it with no conversation with the sales team, or limited conversation with the sales team around what are prospects actually looking for, what are they missing in the conversation, what do you need to be more successful. I think that is bouncing around a lot at the moment. I think it's more important than ever that the collaboration in this process is about giving the salespeople a voice in the process so that they can contribute what it is that they need.
I think that's where it starts, that with the essence of the brand, like I talked about earlier. Get the starting point right and the rest will flow from there. What tends to happen is marketing teams at the end are going to sales teams, "Do you think this will help?" and the sales team says yes because they've done loads of work on it and they can't say no. Surprise, it doesn't go anywhere, it fails.
I think starting with the foundations, getting it right in the first place, is a really obvious one when you say it out loud, but you'd be surprised how many people are not doing it. We talk about templates, tips and tricks, it's the simplicity of having a plan and sticking to that plan.
Coming back to that quality versus quantity, that volume and quality of content thing, you have to make sure that you don't just produce content once and then nothing afterward of any value. I preach to our clients and I preach to my team sometimes, it's okay to just put content out for content's sake, it is okay. Is the work perfect? No. But we need to be seen and we need to be heard. Don't put terrible content out, but not every post and every video is going to be your best one. Be okay with that.
So, there are a couple of things there that I guess most commonly come into the conversations that I have.
George: I loved so much of that section. I have to be honest with you, the hot take for me is have a conversation, ask some questions, actually listen, and then maybe start to create something, because you're actually going to create something of value, not wasting their time or wasting our time as the marketer. So good.
If people are listening to this and they're like, "Yes, I need to focus more on sales enablement. Yes, I could be part of what might be a revenue team in the future. Yes, I need to be part of the thing that equals success for the organization," they're going to start down that journey, but there's going to be potholes, roadblocks, hurdles. What are some hurdles you've seen B2B marketers face when trying to utilize sales enablement for their sales team's success?
Owen: I think it is a similar point, but the other way around, where it comes back to empathy and understanding. In my opinion, marketers should be selling, marketers should be involved in the sales process. The moment you do that, it's an a-ha moment where the marketer goes, "Oh, I get it. This is what we need to be using. This is what we need to be doing." I think more hurdles will come if you don't understand the process.
So, my advice to people is get involved in the sales process. Go sit in some demos, go sit in on some discoveries, handle some inbound inquiries, make a few cold calls, go and have some conversations, know what it feels like, know what it looks like. You can anticipate a lot of the hurdles because you've felt it, you've seen it, and you'll be thinking about them before you hit them. The worst thing is when you hit a hurdle and not know that it's coming. If you know you're going to have the hurdle, you're planning for it way before.
It's a foundational thing. If you get the foundations right, if you get the plan right in the first place, it's so much easier to get the rest to fall into place. Then I think the other piece is around getting Sales buy-in, making sure that your sales team is utilizing the stuff that you're creating, making sure that they are pointing people to the right things, that they're pointing to the why, why are we doing this, why are we changing the way you sell, why are we asking you to follow this process that you weren't following before, why does it matter. Because salespeople are inherently selfish, we want the tools to sell and we want to do it in the easiest possible way. If you're asking me to do things in a new way, I need to understand why that's the case.
I think there's a couple of things there.
George: I love that you said marketers need to sell. I would double down on that and say that Sales needs to market. If you can have this little fringe side of what you think you could be doing above what you are doing, a marketer starts to have empathy for Sales and Sales starts to have empathy for Marketing. This is where those siloed teams end up being able to transform into a revenue team as they move forward. That's when it gets exciting.
Let's talk about the other side of this. Since it was hurdles, maybe we're in a race, maybe it's the Olympics, and we're on the number one podium, we have a gold medal around our neck. What does success look like? How do we know that we've reached sales alignment nirvana or are a gold medal winner, what does that success period in time look like?
Owen: I have a really good answer to this, I think. In my opinion, you'll know you've been successful when two things happen.
When Marketing celebrate a closed deal. In the moment, the business celebrates the salesperson closing the deal. But when Marketing is celebrating it and being celebrated for that, then you've reached that success, you've reached that point where people get it. A big client comes in through inbound inquiry, the salesperson doesn't create the content that proposes all the stuff to bring them in there in the first place and then take them through the sales process. They hold the theory, but they have everybody else in there as a passenger supporting them.
They get to the finish line, and what most businesses do is say, "Well done, George. You've closed a deal." No, you haven't. The team have closed a deal, and Marketing were a part of that. It's natural in the culture. You have to kind of practice to start with, but when Marketing gets celebrated and celebrates themselves because they care about a closed deal in the moment, for me, that's reaching success.
I think the same is true the other way around. When Sales starts saying thank you to Marketing, or starts acknowledging a great opportunity coming in top of funnel, and they do that off their own bat, that's a way you know you've reached the point of success.
George: I love this so much. When you mentioned that, I called back to an episode that I did with Liz Murphy, and she talked about this whole understanding and tying back to those closed sales the content that actually was part of the journey, therefore Marketing being part of the success of that closure as well. Marketing Smarts listeners, if you haven't listened to The Importance of Being Human in Your B2B Content with Liz Murphy, then definitely go check out that episode.
Owen, as we land the plane here, you've been on a journey, you obviously have been talking about, or thinking about, or doing sales enablement, aligning teams, empowering sales success. Along the way, we get these nuggets of wisdom. What are some words of wisdom that you would want to share with the Marketing Smarts listeners about sales, or sales enablement, or maybe even life itself? What are your final words of wisdom?
Owen: You talked about the human element of a previous interview you've done. I did a conference a couple years ago about sales leadership, saying how can you lead your sales team like a human. I think that for me is really poignant. I think it's true across everything that we do as leaders, whether we're marketing, sales, or revenue as a whole. It's about leading as a human and genuinely caring about the people that are within your teams. If you do that, then you always get a better outcome.
I think for me as a founder of an agency that aligns Sales and Marketing, we do see those things go hand in hand. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly across that, and the key thing that I can pick out where success has happened is where the people care about each other, where the people are aligned, where the relationships are genuine, where they want to work together, where they are a genuine team, it always stems from the leadership. If you get leadership right, which means clear vision, genuinely caring for people, giving them the support they need, giving them clear direction, giving them feedback, being honest with them, not shying away from the difficult conversations, all of that kind of stuff, if you get that right and you show empathy and desire to lead in that way, then across sales, marketing, enablement, alignment, and every other part of business, you will always get a better outcome. That's the philosophy that I try to live by.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Nancy Harhut about the brain science that drives B2B buyer behavior, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on September 7, 2023
Owen Richardsn founder and CEO of Air Marketing, an end-to-end sales and marketing agency based in the UK. Offering a blend of outsourced sales and marketing services, Air's team of 100 people work with B2B SaaS, tech, and finance companies to drive growth and revenue. Owen advises businesses on their go-to-market strategy, and he has a genuine passion for navigating the complexities of early stage go-to-market in startup environments, with a particular focus on people, culture, and strategy.
LinkedIn: Owen Richards
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