#015 Sales Transformation Insights with Mark Kesti
Insights From a Sales Leader
Guest & Host
Mark Kesti & Thomas Miltschuh
Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. In this episode of Speak Revenue, we dive into the world of sales success strategies with our guest, Mark Kesti, a seasoned sales leader. Join us as we explore the essential components of achieving sales success, from understanding the root causes of success to adapting to different industries and scaling businesses effectively. Mark shares valuable insights and tools, including Lavender, HubSpot, Seamless.AI, and even ChatGPT, that can help streamline and optimize your sales and marketing efforts. Discover the importance of sales and marketing alignment, the power of niche-focused product bundles, and the role of BDRs in driving new opportunities. Whether you're a sales professional or a business leader, this episode offers practical advice and inspiration to enhance your sales strategies and achieve your revenue goals.
October 9th, 2023
Thomas Miltschuh: Welcome to our new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result, but a result of what? In this show, we turn our eyes from the output towards the inputs. We speak to sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their journeys. Join us on our quest to uncover and learn the root causes of success.Let's unpack what works for them and what didn't. Today, with our guest, Mark Kesti. Welcome, Mark. Thanks for joining. Thanks for taking the time. Let's get started right away. Let us know. Who are you? What do you do? What makes it so successful?
Mark Kesti: Well, thank you, Thomas, for the invitation to participate on the podcast. I love the concept that you folks are promoting because you're right. Sales is a result of activities, not, it's the outcome. It's the, you know, the activities that went into that outcome are the real key. So I love what you guys are doing. My background is in sales leadership and specifically in B2B sales leadership. My background includes being vice president of sales of two venture capital backed startups. The other extreme, I've also been vice president of sales, within a 17 billion division of General Electric. Now, obviously those two animals are entirely different, but the bulk of my sales leadership career has been with private equity. Portfolio companies and in that model, the private equity firm buys an operating business and they place various leaders into the executive team. I would be put into place as the head of sales for that particular company, would receive equity and if everybody performed, everybody played nice together. Three to five years, the business would be sold. And this was approximately eight or nine years ago. And after the third private equity transaction, I asked myself, Thomas, what do you want to do when you grow up, mark? And just looking at, going into a leadership position within a sales organization, the fact is that, it's usually. Not a good situation, otherwise they wouldn't need a new sales leader. So we created some tools to better understand and to level set, what is that company's sales strategy, fundamentally? What are their sales processes? What does their sales organization structure and people look like? And what are the metrics that they're looking at that would suggest the needle is moving in the right direction? And based on those assessments, we can triage into the specific areas that need immediate attention so we can have faster recovery, faster results. So that hopefully is helpful to give you a sense of. My background and what Innovo, my company does.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, sounds great. Fantastic. So have you created your own framework to do the assessments and help your clients?
Mark Kesti: Yes, we have actually, and the assessment piece, which is more of a consulting exercise. And what we do there is there's a very objective questionnaire that has multiple choices, there are no wrong answers, and it addresses many specific areas within sales strategy, sales processes. Sales organization, people and structure and metrics and we assess those and it's interesting because we'll ask the CEO, the leadership team, marketing team, obviously the sales organization, complete these and whereas the leadership team, executive team believes things are here. When we do our assessment, oftentimes we find that they're here, and that's not to say that either one is wrong, that's just a communication thing. They're not on the same page. Now, we also do extensive interviews with those people and gather a lot of data. We love data, pipeline data, customer data, market data. We're really interested in, from a market perspective, the tide of demand for their particular sector, whether it's a product. Or service in a segment. Is it increasing, decreasing? And then based on all of that, we provide the objective observations but more importantly the very specific and prior prioritized recommendations of what they need to do to get things back on track or to realize more market share based on what they were doing before. Now, frankly, the most fun of our job, and which does differentiate us some, is that we also roll up our sleeves and actually execute. Because of the background of the talent that we have, we've been there, done that. Meaning, many of our clients, these are B2B clients in the small to mid sized segments, they're interested in getting to that next level. And many of these companies haven't been to that next level. The fact is we've made many, many mistakes over our careers getting to that next level and the hope is we can help those clients avoid those same mistakes and we'll oversee and support the sales organization and the marketing organization as we execute on that plan and get them on track. I mean, in the end, it's not our goal to feed them fish. It's our goal to teach them how to fish. And then once we've done that, the pipeline is moving along, there's scalable processes in place. We're hitting the metrics that we all agreed would indicate that we're moving in the right direction. We get out of the way and our work is done.
Thomas Miltschuh: Great, so it's a very comprehensive approach, that looks like you're really able to help, because of a lot of experience with the companies and in different sizes, different stages. Can you let us know what are your goals for this year and also next year?
Mark Kesti: Yeah. You know what? I think as far as our company is concerned, it's not as relevant to the audience as possibly a client of ours. So I'll use a client example. Obviously I'm not going to use their name. But just to frame it out, this is a 20 million dollar manufacturing company. They frankly make coatings for manufacturing equipment to reduce friction. So they service many manufacturing industries, aerospace, consumer packaged goods, energy industry, across the board. Large companies typically, and They, you know, the challenge that this particular company had, because they were executing quite well and growing nicely, in fact, getting more market share than the growth of the market was actually experiencing. So they were capturing the market, they were getting more than their share. But the challenge, and it was a very good, insightful CEO they have, said, look, what we want to understand is how do we get to that next level? And what are we doing now that's going to stop us from getting to that next level? How could we improve? And after the assessment, there were some, kind of, some more, tactical things such as their CRM and how they're using it. They're using Salesforce in this case. They weren't really automating a lot of their marketing processes, To get better results at scale. So now they're using a sales loft, for example, in addition to, Salesforce. So we, again, we're not marketing technology experts, but we understand the tools and can use the tools that are going to help us to get at scale and get more eyeballs, get more of the right eyeballs, in the marketplace. But really the biggest challenge and frankly the biggest opportunity was that the sales organization was predominantly reactive. They had a lot of very profitable recurring revenue. And that's a wonderful thing. And that's, we all would love that. So let's not, one, mess that up. Let's make sure we're doing it. A good job in getting more out of that. But the real issue is that the sales organization and the in tandem with the marketing organization was not proactively looking for new customers on a regular, consistent basis. And as we all know, getting new customers takes more time, takes more money. The cost of acquisition is higher. However, if you don't start today, when And.
Thomas Miltschuh: Exactly.
Mark Kesti: If your goal is to grow profitably, you're going to need new customers. So, that was a big initiative. We're looking for that company, the goal this year. We started working with them mid year. We're typically with a client for about a year, if they engage us to help execute. Approximately a year. Their fiscal year is ending in September. They're ahead of their budget, so they, you know, they're going to have a good year. But our goal for 2024, in their case, is another 20 percent lift. Another 20%. And the market for that, what they provide, and it's a very fragmented market. There are many smaller players that do what they do. They would be a mid-sized player in this space. Is growing five to seven percent a year. So if they're capturing, you know, anything above that, they're taking
Thomas Miltschuh: Right.
Mark Kesti: Their competitor's business. So that's good. So we're going to focus, we are focusing now, we'll continue to focus on new customers and expanding and getting more opportunities from existing customers.
Thomas Miltschuh: Is it a challenge in this case to ensure they are able to handle the new clients when it comes to customer success? And however, maybe, yeah, what roles are necessary to upsell them or handle them?
Mark Kesti: Yeah, no, this is a very good question. I mean, fundamentally, first of all, it is an operations thing, because in this organization and other organizations that fall into this, they have a high variable output. manufacturing environment, meaning everything they do is different. They're not making the same widget over and over and over and over. Each one is unique. So you have to be careful and you have to work with operations to make sure, Hey, if we increase business, is this going to strangle you with your resources? Right? And now you're really not keeping customers happy because lead times increase. So they have the capacity. They have invested. Heavily in capacity and capabilities and have automated quite a few things and have introduced a more sophisticated, robust ERP system. So we're comfortable with that. They can handle the additional demand. Now, you're right. What's the customer journey about it? And the way they had typically worked is this, an outside salesperson was predominantly the exclusive contact between the customer. And that's not scalable. So what we will be introducing is adding some customer service roles. They have customer service, don't get me wrong, they're very good at that. But we're adding some roles that are more customer facing that will also focus on cross selling and up selling opportunities. And we're also including surveys as well to help, understand, you know, what the customers are thinking. And we like Net Promoter Score. It's the simplest one and tells you the most information.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Mark Kesti: And that will be automated too, by the way, based on certain criteria. Yeah, so that's what we're doing to address that.
Thomas Miltschuh: Maybe talking about this specific company, can you guide us through their sales process from lead generation, over-closing to, upsell?
Mark Kesti: Yeah, let me switch gears on you, kind of paint a different picture of a different company. Let's talk about a service company. That was manufacturing, and we're pretty agnostic to the industry. In fact, we are very agnostic, as long as it's B2B. So let's talk about a professional service company, a consulting company,
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Sounds great. Thank you.
Mark Kesti: In this consulting company, it's another client of ours. Again, relatively successful, relatively successful. They need to grow, they need to grow because in consulting, if you have, you know, people, content experts, consultants, Experts, you're paying them. So if there's not work to be done, if they're on the bench, that's costing the company considerable dollars. So the challenge, the balance is to have enough resources to support the client demand. But not too many and not too few, right? So it's not an easy business. So how do you scale that? So one of the things that we're doing and have done actually, is looking at the specific buckets of expertise they have and have productized a few of those buckets. Meaning, rather than being kind of a nebulous consulting, you know, we can do technology consulting. Well, what does that mean, right? Any, you know, there's thousands of, if not hundreds of thousands of companies globally that can do technology, services. So, let's find a differentiated product of services that is bundled with a technology stack that solves a very specific problem that we've determined is out there. In the ideal customer profile set…
Thomas Miltschuh: Is it a very narrow niche of potential clients as well?
Mark Kesti: Exactly! Let's narrow down the focus for this bespoke, if you will, solution that focuses on a specific industry. problem within a specific area of that industry's, business, and that solution will be not only consulting that requires the expertise, but also a technology solution that supports it. So for that company, that was the, that's the strategy that we're actually starting to deploy. And it's early days and it's early days and, you know, so as far as the sales process, they really don't have any outside sales people, right? That's not typically, so the consultants are what we refer to as doers and sellers. Yes, you're there to be a content expert and provide, you know, your unique value. experience and intelligence to help that client, but you're also there, to see if there's additional business. So we've been trained, doing some training with a partner that we brought on to train these consultants how to be better salespeople. They'll never be salespeople. That's not who they are. Sales, as we all know, is a skill. It's, not, something that you are just naturally gonna be good at, particularly if you're more of the consultant type. So we're training them on sales skills, what does an engaging conversation sound like? How do you have a conversation that uncovers other issues at that company that we might be able to address, right? To. Expand, land and expand the value. Now the other piece is just getting meetings. Right?I'll share with you, you, one of the things that we're going to talk about are the kind of lessons. That if I could provide three things that if people, I, we found that if people would do. They have more success. Well, the first thing is the simple fact that sales is about one thing and one thing only. It's about the number and quality of at bats, meaning the more often we have the opportunity to be in front of a client that likely has an issue, problem, or situation that we can solve. The more often that can occur, the more often we're going to generate interest, proposals, and ultimately sales, right? So for this client, we're doing a few things. They also use Salesforce or have Salesforce, but they weren't using Pardot very effectively, so we're really doubling down on scaling That Pardot tool and we're tying that into ZoomInfo as another tool. We're using intent data as well within the ZoomInfo tool. But the other thing we're doing is we're going to be adding another layer. And we're going out, so we haven't started this yet, but we've done this with other clients. We have other partners and we're going to outsource the BDR function, the business development rep function. And once, you know, because the idea is if we can get more meetings with the right kind of people at the right kind of companies and better understand their issues and they better understand how we can solve their problems, guess what? The more opportunities both parties are going to have to improve. So that's another element that we're adding. So we're investing pretty heavily in getting, you know, new customers. And that takes a while. That's a long slog, particularly in that business. But again, where do you start? You gotta start today and it's about taking action.
Thomas Miltschuh: Definitely. So it looks like it's also about the consultants really focusing on their core expertise. When it comes to the products, the productized bundles, do those consultants sell them on their own or do they have, maybe additional sales reps taking care of
Mark Kesti: No, we're positioning. These specific bundled, if you will, services and technology into a package and we're selling it almost at, we're selling it like a product to a very specific niche audience that has this kind of need and that's globally. So it's not just US it's, it can be relevant across the globe. There's two of them that we've created, and these are practice leads, if you will, in two different practices at this consulting firm. So we're launching this. The hope is that it's going to get some traction, and it's, we, it will help get us in the door at the right kind of accounts. And the way we're positioning it, it's to some extent a Trojan horse. Now there's real value right out of the gate. But. We, again, are really looking for meetings. So even if it's not necessarily the right solution for that client, well, guess what? We're having a conversation with the right kind of client and there may be other things. It's, you know, so it's getting us in the door.
Thomas Miltschuh: Any specific marketing approach you would like to highlight on that topic?
Mark Kesti: Yeah. I mean, you know, marketing sales, they need to be really tightly integrated, more so now than ever. Based on what's happened, in the marketplace and how, the buyer journey across the board has fundamentally changed, you know, it's much more predominantly digitally oriented. So we have to have a very good marketing presence. So yeah, I mentioned Pardot, but on the marketing side, it's just basically refreshed using social media also. And we'll talk about this consulting company, but LinkedIn is a great modality for their types of…
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
Mark Kesti: Right. So Facebook it's okay, but it's not ideal. Right. TikTok, which we actually do, but that's a younger audience, so we're not focused as much on TikTok. So for this consulting client, it's LinkedIn, so we've really beefed up, we've created specific channels for the different practices, webinars, white papers, you know, really done a full court press on getting the word out there.
Thomas Miltschuh: Nice. Great insights. Maybe, I ask you, what have you tried recently that did not work? Maybe with one of those clients or maybe, independent of them?
Mark Kesti: Yeah, yeah, great question. And I need to be honest. We try things and they fail miserably. There's no question about it. But if you don't try, you don't know, but let me think, let me think that through that. There are some, I just have to think of a more recent one, that wasn't a good hit. Here's one. We thought, this is another client, it's a B2B product, that's geared more towards the sports industry, athletes, and we really thought that TikTok would be the ideal forum, you know, because of the demographic graphics of that audience. We invested some money in some good video content and we didn't get it. We didn't get traction. It was, it did not work. It did not work. Now, we shifted to some other things that look like they're doing a little better. But that's 1 example for you of something we've tried recently that didn't pan out.
Thomas Miltschuh: And when did you realize it's not working? How much time did it take?
Mark Kesti: Well, like any of the initiatives, we have metrics. We map out what we think is realistic. We're not, we don't have, expectations that are unrealistic. Because, you know, frankly, business is messy, right? And, but we had minimum expectations of interactions. And then ultimately, you know, leads, for this particular client. And, they weren't happening. It was not even half of what our minimum expectations were. So we cut that off within a few months.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. And, what was the solution? May I ask what, in what direction you went?
Mark Kesti: Well, you know, you try things and some work and some don't and so TikTok was : "Alright! Hey, it's a newer venue". It's a newer approach. it didn't work. So we went back to old school. Frankly, we went back to block and tackle marketing and block and tackle sales because this is B2B sales. So there are, you know, specific companies that would be interested in this kind of a product. So we actually increased the amount of, BDR business development rep efforts and pumped up marketing and, that got more traction sometimes old school is great school.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. It depends on the target group and the region ICP, of course. You've already mentioned some tools like sales loft and zoom in for any recommendations when it comes to tech stack. Maybe you could elaborate on this as well, a little bit, but things that have throughout the sales process.
Mark Kesti: Yes, indeed. Indeed. One of them, which we got turned on over a year ago now. In fact, it was probably a year and a half ago. It is lavender.ai…
Thomas Miltschuh: I know that.
Mark Kesti: And we use it, it's just, it just is a plugin that hovers over, email, right, or actually it hovers over other stuff too, but email in particular, and it just scores the likelihood that email is going to get opened up, so it's specifically for sales prospecting.
Thomas Miltschuh: Right.
Mark Kesti: Because you and I have seen some prospecting emails that are too long, they don't fit on a mobile phone. It's just, Oh my God.
Thomas Miltschuh: Examples.
Mark Kesti: They are. And you know, simpler is better, which is what basically this tool helps you to drive in it and it provides very specific recommendations to improve that email. So that's a great tool and it's very inexpensive. For the sales leaders out there, sales people out there, check that tool out. It's a nice one.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, I've seen you can even, you're even able to analyze the personality of people and integrate it with HubSpot, for example.
Mark Kesti: Indeed, And I'll mention HubSpot, too. We are agnostic to CRMs. Now, we happen to use HubSpot, but they now have an AI function that's pretty good. So that's another, their chat AI. Is a nice tool. It's better than many that we've seen. Maybe it's heresy, but I'll say it, 'cause I have no vested interest. It's better than what Salesforce has and it is, it's significantly less expensive
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Nice. I haven't checked that out yet. Okay.
Mark Kesti: Yeah. The other ones I mentioned, ZoomInfo and Intent Data, but another company that we use is seamless.ai. And very similar to Zoom Info, in its ability to capture contacts, right? You can profile them, the industry, even the company, the personas, size of company, region. You know, so you can really narrow down your search. But one, it also often includes direct phone numbers. And when we compared it to ZoomInfo, which is a very good tool, don't get me wrong, but it's expensive, ZoomInfo. This is much less expensive. And, for more... Small to midsize B two B companies, it's something they should consider. And they've actually added the, enablement, search enablement component as well. So you, it's not, I would tell you it's not as good as the ZoomInfo, enablement, tool, but it is, good and again, certainly less expensive.
Thomas Miltschuh: Great. Thanks for your advice,
Mark Kesti: Yeah. Yeah. And there's other tools too. I'll tell you, maybe it's now. Yeah. No kidding. But chat GPT. Wow. It's just saved us so much time. For example, we were, we also have a course, for sales leaders, and it's Innovo sales leaders. And it's specifically for sales managers, sales VP, sales directors who are leading. A sales team and, in the course, and we also have, one on ones and, content and webinars. It's doing well and we're excited about it, but we wanted to add some more content in one of the modules around sales management styles.
Thomas Miltschuh: Right?
Mark Kesti: And so I said, you know what? Got to identify what is a control freak, a micromanager, right? We don't want to be a micromanager. So I, frankly, I'm like, you know what? I went to chat GPT and I said, chat GPT, I'd like a 20, a 10 question quiz that Addresses the characteristics of a sales manager who is also a micromanager in a B2B strategic sales environment.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. That's really specific.
Mark Kesti: Yeah. And literally within seconds, now we changed a few things and, but I mean, basically it's, it just saves so much time. If we make the right inquiries, we've used it just to create. for presentations, just outlines. You know, for content outlines. It's just a great way to get things started and
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, get nice inspirations.
Mark Kesti: Yeah. Yeah.
Thomas Miltschuh: Great, thanks for the advice. I think we're coming to the end of the episode. Thanks, Mark.
Mark Kesti: Oh, you're welcome, Thomas. It's been fun.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes, definitely. We should continue in the future, maybe in another episode. So awesome. All right, everyone. That brings us to the end of this episode of Speak Revenue. I want to thank our guest, Mark Kesti. For joining us today, sharing such valuable insights, a huge shout out to all our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check out our website at speakrevenue.com for a full transcript and additional resources. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcast or wherever you go for your listening needs. It really helps get the word out. Also follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram or on YouTube. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious and keep listening.