Interview with Mark Magnacca, President, Allego
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role at Allego and how you got here? What inspired you to join a sales enablement and coaching platform?
I co-founded Allego in 2013 with my business partner Yuchun Lee. The idea behind the platform was something I came up with as new technologies, such as tablets and smartphones, grew quickly in popularity. As a veteran sales trainer with more than 15 years of experience, I noticed that despite these technological advances, sales training had remained stagnant. Corporations spend millions on classroom training and sales kick-offs that prove to be less than effective while ignoring the powerful recording capabilities, flexibility and mobility of smart devices that have the power to transform the training industry.
I knew Yuchun Lee through our participation in the EO, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and I thought he was the perfect person with whom to share my idea. I wanted to build a mobile-enabled sales training platform that would allow reps to record their sales pitches and share them with managers and peers for coaching, feedback, and certification. I knew the idea was powerful, but I did not have a background in software design or development.
After I shared it with Yuchun, we spent some time talking about it over a period of months, and he finally asked me, “Have you thought about building a software company that supports better sales training rather than trying to hire someone to build a software application for your training company?”
I said, “That sounds great but I don’t know anything about building a software company.” He said, “Well, I do.”
Shortly thereafter, Yuchun decided to leave his role at IBM and become the co-founder and CEO of Allego.
MTS: How does Allego identify and design contextually aligned sales content as an incremental revenue stream?
We don’t create sales content for our customers – we give them the tools to easily record and share their own powerful videos, created by peers for peers, as well as to receive point-in time feedback from managers on their pitches. This was by deliberate design, as over 65% of sales reps agree that sales pitch advice from peers is more effective than training from the corporation.
The result is that sales organizations create a sort of “corporate YouTube” library of best practices and insights for all the most common challenges specific to their individual company, in addition to the most relevant product and corporate content. This is essentially a self-updating sales playbook filled with distilled, highly relevant content coming straight from the field.
For example, after giving a sales pitch, reps can immediately record a recap of what they learned, the objections they faced, and what responses worked or didn’t work, and share this info with the rest of their team.
Of course, not all content can be peer-generated, so Allego has also partnered with leading sales training companies in the tech, medical devices, and financial services industries to help our customers to develop tailored corporate training materials that supplement peer-generated content.
MTS: How do you see Account-based “Everything” influencing sales enablement platforms?
The biggest element of “Account-based Everything” from our perspective is the importance of personalized content from the beginning of the sales cycle all the way through to the adoption of our software. This includes helping our customers use content they generate for their outbound marketing efforts. We believe there have been three distinct phases leading up to this transformation.
The first was the “just in case” era.
During this time period, which ended around 2010, you needed to learn something just in case you might ever need to know it. Think of it like learning calculus. You had to pass the course, but you may never have a reason to use it in your work. With the advent of the iPad and the beginning of the smartphone revolution, we saw the next phase – “just in time” learning, which Allego helped pioneer. In this model, salespeople could learn what they wanted to learn, when they needed to learn it. This brings us to 2017, where we are just at the beginning of the next phase, which we call “just for me” and which will help personalize a specific learning path for each salesperson based on their unique experiences, learning style and the results of assessments of their current knowledge.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that brands need to address to make their sales acceleration decisions work effectively using video platforms?
Allego currently has about 50,000 end users, so we’ve had a lot of experience getting sales reps on board with a video-based platform. The part that’s most challenging for end users is getting used to recording themselves – while platforms like YouTube, SnapChat, and Facebook have made video “selfies” common in our personal lives, recording yourself in a professional setting can take some getting used to.
Of course, that’s part of the value of video as a training tool – as sales reps, we might not realize what we actually look like when we’re delivering our pitch – what our body language is saying, if we’re making eye contact, whether we’re saying “umm” and “err.” Video turns the lens back on the sales rep, and the result is that pitches are far more persuasive and polished than they would otherwise be.
Our Customer Success team has come up with several innovative strategies to help end users feel comfortable with Allego to make roll out a success and to maximize adoption of the platform. This often includes assigning a simple first video recording, having top execs record videos using the platform, as well as incorporating humor into those initial videos.
Seeing their colleagues using Allego to share company culture and jokes can help reduce the intimidation factor and get other employees to say “Okay, I want to be a part of this, too.”
MTS: Is social selling the next frontier for sales professionals? How do you see Just-in-Time learning methodology benefit social selling strategies for B2B companies?
I truly believe that social selling has changed everything. Sales reps are no longer just order takers – with the wealth of information available to prospective buyers, sales reps need to be knowledgeable not only about the industry they are selling to but about the company and even the prospect they are meeting with, prior to picking up the phone or sending off an email.
Unfortunately, in today’s selling landscape, there is such thing as a bad question — it’s no longer acceptable to walk into a meeting and ask a prospect what they do. Instead, sales reps need to come armed with info from Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the company’s website, etc. so that they can ask great questions and set the tone for the meeting from the very start.
Of course, with a sales rep’s busy schedule, a lot of this research takes place just-in-time – i.e. right before a rep walks into a meeting. This is where Allego delivers real and immediate ROI — sales reps can get the latest industry knowledge right at “go time” and can stay up to date on how peers are handling objections on a day-to-day basis. Effective selling is a moving target, and the only way to hit the mark is to arm sales reps with the most timely and relevant information – it’s also the best path to develop those meaningful relationships with customers that are so important to closing the deal.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
We focus most of our energy on helping our customers grow their business but do keep tabs on the latest developments in our sales-learning platform space as well as some of the adjacent markets.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
We use Marketo for marketing automation including email marketing and landing pages, as well as Salesforce for automation and managing our customer/prospect database.
We also use Yesware to automate our sales team’s prospecting efforts, as well as WordPress and Google Analytics to maintain our website and measure web traffic.
Lastly, video is a central component of our marketing efforts, so we use our own platform to share videos, such as customer testimonials and highlights from presentations at conferences. The public sharing feature within Allego allows us to generate shareable links to content created in our platform for use in emails, on websites and in social campaigns.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)
We interviewed an Allego customer and former New England Patriots defensive tackle named Bob Kuberski on the Thursday before the 2017 Super Bowl. In this short video, he provided some interesting football insights that most fans would not know, as well as lessons that sales professionals can learn about training from professional athletes. That video was turned around in less than 24 hours and was one of the most opened, clicked and viewed email campaigns in our company’s history. It was a great reminder of the power of generating content that is relevant and timely and being able to execute quickly.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I think that the changes to the selling landscape as a result of AI will, in many ways, be similar to the ways that social selling has altered the role of the sales rep. What I mean here is that AI will continue to push sales reps into a more consultative role, where they have more access to the customer experience and can add considerable value to the relationship.
Business leaders should understand that AI and other analytical tools will be a way of improving efficiencies, but sales management skills, including strategic planning, coaching and supervision, are still very much in the human purview. AI may be able to surface relevant content and information faster than we currently can, but it will still be the job of the sales rep to consult with confidence and understand the subject area of their prospects. Putting the tools in place to help reps continue to hone these skills will be the best way for business leaders to prepare for an AI-centric world, where the key distinction is hyper-personalization.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
I don’t think I can fit this into one word, but my motto has always been to work smarter, not longer. I guess if I had to choose just one word, I’d say “efficiently.” Efficiency is at the heart of Allego’s value proposition. The tools we develop and refine are designed to make the most of the time, resources and shared knowledge of an organization’s sales force. All of this is done with an eye toward maximizing the value of our customers’ time.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Besides Allego, I use Waze every day, even when I am traveling to places that I know how to get to. I find it helps me to stay focused and alert and I appreciate the crowd sourcing of real time knowledge.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Keep an eye on your personal “redline.” An engine that revs high all the time doesn’t last long. People aren’t so different. I encourage our team not to overwork themselves. If you burn out, that’s not going to help anybody. As I mentioned above, I’m a huge proponent of working smarter and more efficiently, not harder or longer. For me, this means being very structured about how I get work done. I divide up my days into three different categories or types, and I know that in any given week or month, I need a mix of all three to be most productive. These are: buffer days, which include meeting prep/research as well as travel time; focus days, which consists of in-person meetings and calls; and free days, which are weekend or relaxation days where I spend time with my family.
For me personally, there’s a sweet spot comprised of all three that makes me the most productive. Too many focus days in a row and I’m not adequately prepped for my next meeting, or conversely, too many days in a row without a free day and I start to feel burnt out and less productive professionally.
MTS: What are you currently reading?
I have listened to five books since the start of this year including Titan, The Life of John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I am currently reading the Undoing Project by Michael Lewis which is a great story about how we make decisions.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“‘No’ is just as good an answer as ‘yes’.” I know for many sales reps, getting a “no” seems like a dead end or a failure. However, after being in the industry for many years, I’ve learned that in many cases, “no” really means “not yet,” and that time spent meeting with a prospect is never truly wasted. If you have a positive meeting – one where you’ve done your research ahead of time and the conversation goes well – you never know what future opportunities the meeting could bring. I can’t count how many times that months, or even years, after a meeting, someone has come up to me and said “You met with my colleague” or “I heard about your offering from so-and-so” and I end up making a sale through word of mouth. Every meeting, even if it ends in a “no,” is experience and often helps to plant the seeds for future relationships and sales deals.
MTS: Who is the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read?:
MTS: Thank you Mark! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Mark Magnacca, President and co-founder of Allego, has spent the last 15 years helping sales leaders shorten sales cycles and distribute their best ideas faster. He has worked as a presentation coach with a wide range of financial service companies by delivering innovative, practice-development and business-building strategies. Mark is the author of “So What? How To Communicate What Really Matters to Your Audience.” His work has been featured in numerous media outlets including Fox TV, The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Prior to co-founding Allego, Mark founded Insight Development Group, Inc., a leading sales and presentation training firm specializing in the Financial Services industry. As a former financial advisor, Mark brings a unique perspective to the world of consultative selling. Mark is a graduate of Babson College and resides in the Boston area.
Allego’s mobile video sales learning platform produces better revenue performance by combining training, practice, coaching and content sharing into a single app designed for sales teams. Allego supports all types of learning in an engaging, convenient and effective way through the use of mobile and video. Tens of thousands of sales professionals learn to sell more effectively using Allego. With Allego, sales organizations accelerate time to competency, accurately deliver on message, confidently handle objections and effectively articulate value. Allego is available as a native app for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices, and can be accessed via laptop or desktop on modern web browsers.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.