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How to Build an Aligned B2B Business

Posted May 28, 2024
Jenn Steele, CEO & Co-Founder of SoundGTM, shares what CEOs, CROs, and CMOs can all do to ensure they’re aligned on how to best succeed as a business.

Jenn Steele, CEO & Co-Founder of SoundGTM, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Jenn shares what CEOs, CROs, and CMOs can all do to ensure they’re aligned on how to best succeed as a business.

Jenn, welcome back to day two. We are going to talk about building aligned business and I’m interested to hear your perspective as somebody who has been in multiple seats.

“It is hard because and this is something Camela said yesterday, people are human and humans are difficult.”

Yeah. we’ve personalities and communication styles and yes baggage.

“Yes, now some of it depends on how you think. I’m a big-picture, top-down, very abstract, strategic thinker. So the way I prefer to do it is to ask, where are we going? I have been known to walk into a company and say, how do we get to $100 million? And they answer, Jenn we’re trying to $10 million yet. I replied, fine, $30 million or okay, we just closed a round, what do we need to do before we get to the next one? Or oh, where are we going? Do we have an exit event? Oh, we’re private equity backed. Great! What are the EBITDA requirements? How far are we into that 5-year timeframe? I don’t care if you’re sales or marketing, I don’t care who you’re in the company. If you are not asking that question, then you’ve got limited career potential because otherwise somebody’s going to turn around and say, Sales. I need more revenue. No kidding, you need more revenue. Everybody needs more revenue at all times, but you need to drive toward a specific goal since more is not a goal.”

So I’m hearing hiring is important.

“Hiring is very important, but also, they ask, are we all running in the same direction I mean, yeah, we’re going to back off and then we’re going to start fragmenting, but at least let’s agree as a board and executive team, what are we trying to do? For my company, I’ve got a line that is two years from funding. We’re going to have to decide and sometimes this decision may be made for us depending on whether we take on venture funding, but do we manage EBITDA and therefore an exit in three to five years or do we manage growth and we’re committing to venture scale? So I’ve got my eyes on that two years. We will put it on my calendar. I will pull it on my executive team’s calendar. We will have meetings about it but that’s the eye. And then beyond that, before that, what is our next funding round?

“What number do we need before our next funding round? That’s stuff I have in my current fundraising deck, where am I trying to go? If you’re not all trying to at least go in the same direction, there’s no way you’re going to row the boat at the same time and the same way. And then back off, okay, what do we need to get a hundred customers or one hundred thousand dollars in MRR or a hundred million dollars in MRR  because what do we need to get there? Then, back down one step, and at some point, you’re going to splinter off.  Then marketing takes this part of the funnel, sales takes this part of the funnel but we’re going to overlay X and Y because we’re going to plan to get there with enterprise customers and therefore need enterprise-owned vets.  Or you eventually get down into tactics. However, I worked at companies where I didn’t know what we were trying to do other than make the next quarter quotas and that is hard.”

Yeah, aligning on a top-level goal and then knowing how to align your team’s metrics with that goal is so important, but let’s talk a bit about the human element here.

“Damn it! I thought we could say in numbers.”

I know, numbers to me are easy. You pick the topline and everyone tries to align with it. Everything’s great.

“Spreadsheet formulas, it’s amazing.”

Yeah, an integrated data solution boom warehouse. Yet, what happens a lot of times during discussing how to get there, not everybody sees eye to eye and conversations could be really difficult. I’ve always valued a sales leader who is willing to stick through difficult conversations with me. We talk it out and we may not be happy, but we’ll get there and we know both of us have good intentions. Start with positive intent. 

“Yeah. Start with positive intent except that I’ve also heard that phrase, and heard it used against women assuming positive intent. Well, they’re not doing it about me, but whatever, here’s that, but I’m going to go, Adam Jay from Revenue Reimagined inspires with that. I am sure you have talked with him.  He has got a sign that says, tell me more on his back. I’m a question-answerer. I’m very much the go-getter type of person and I’m going to tell you and I am going to explain and I’m going to quickly back, send back answers. 

“Granted, I’ve gained some maturity and no longer call people stupid to their face, but that doesn’t mean that I’m the best conversationalist whenever we’re trying to solve a problem together. I’m trying to learn because Adam is also a go-getter. There is no lack of type A in that man. Yet, he steps back and says, tell me more. That is where you can understand people as humans since we should ask oh, that clearly bothers you. Can you tell me more about that? And maybe they’ve just had a bad day. Maybe there is something, particularly if you’re newer in the company, They say, oh no, our CEO can’t stand for that. We know that it works, but she just cannot deal. Oh, okay, I never would have known that if you hadn’t taken that step back to say, tell me more. I’ve got a stupidly high amount of empathy. I’ve in fact asked my therapist how to turn it off, but especially if you find empathy challenging or if you’re like me and when you get into exciting conversations, it goes away. Tell me more. Remembering this isn’t just a debate that you are trying to win. This is a person that you’re trying to understand because the better you understand why they’re saying stupid things, the easier it is to get around the stupid things.”

It also helps you learn how much of this is baggage they are carrying with them and how much of that we can make it through and how much of that is ingrained and stuck. Because I have met some leaders who think the other department is stupid and it always will be. And other leaders who have a bad experience so something will rile them up, but if you can talk to them about it, you can get through it.

“So it is hard and sometimes it is tough. I’ve started at places where the whole sales team has been calling marketing stupid and Jenn, fix marketing’s stupidity and I say, let me assess whether I think it’s stupid or that person is stupid. Let me assess, but I promise we will definitely keep this in mind. Sometimes I’ve turned back and said, yes you’re right. This person is stupid, but they gave them notice yesterday. We’re good. There are other times when I think, oh yeah, they got set up to fail a bunch. Let’s   see if we can redeem that.”

Yeah, sometimes you’ve got to have an objective third party come in to validate or challenge that.

“And particularly if there’s been no marketing leader for a long time, you’re going to have a lot of unfortunate opinions most likely since that poor team has probably been yanked in every direction you can possibly imagine. 

And if they spent a lot on that product and sales enablement material, you’re going to have a long road to build that lead gen that you are craving or a blog bounce rate. That was one and I thought, what!”

Well, yeah, hiring empathy, but not too much, and aligning on the numbers.

“That is what sometimes is on the goal, but also sales on the goals, but also sales likes pretty things too. You can align and ask, oh, but what about this dinner? They like doing fun things, and I will choose the wine. As you know, wine is my hobby. Sometimes  I’ll say I will send a sales leader. I’m looking at these three bottles, what do you think? And they will reply, oh that’s better than we’ve ever paid for before because, honestly, in the grand scheme of a marketing dinner, an extra thousand on wine isn’t that much when you’re throwing a hundred-thousand-dollar event. Sometimes it can make sales feel good and say, they’re saying they are involving me. Don’t forget it is always this balance of the numbers and the fun.”

Yeah. As a hardcore introvert I’ve learned you have to get on the plane and go meet with the people. It’s so important, network is everything, and breaking bread and there’s no replacement.

“No, it was one of the first  things I learned in business school and it has been one of the most valuable things I learned in business school, eating together, nothing beats it.”

No. it really doesn’t Jen, thank you so much.

For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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