Prediction Series 2019: Interview with Latane Conant, CMO, 6sense
What was the most impactful moment of the year for you at 6sense?
We had a case study breakout session at the Gartner Sales & Marketing event to discuss the importance of Artificial Intelligence for executing ABM at scale, and ultimately competing and winning in the age of B2B buying, which requires a much more data-driven approach to Sales and Marketing.
It was supposed to be a small roundtable discussion, but the room was packed. Still new to 6sense, I was incredibly nervous. Fortunately, Olivier Thierry, the CMO of Quorum Software, was the case study and co-presenting. I was absolutely blown away by his advanced thinking, ability to execute at scale, and the results achieved from using our software. I just sat back, listened, and enjoyed being a part of his incredible story. He had a 40 percent increase in opportunities and hit his annual pipeline goal in only six months!
What opportunities and challenges did you identify at the start of 2018 and have things worked out as planned?
I had three big themes in 2018 — People, Perspective, and Pace.
People was all about building a leading marketing team. Forget technology, strategy, budget, and creativity; without great people supporting your movement, you are nothing. Although some of my hires did not happen as fast as I wanted them to, in the end, it was worth the wait to find the perfect balance of leaders for the team.
Perspective means a few things. First, companies hire a CMO because they want you to bring perspective — at Appirio, we used to say, “Be a tour guide, not a taxi driver!” It’s important that my team and I bring proven plays, see patterns based on experience, and challenge the status quo to move the organization forward.
However, it’s equally important that we understand the perspective of people on the team today, how things have worked or not worked before, and appreciate why things got to the current state. So, perspective works two ways — bring an external perspective and understand the past so that we have perspective.
My last theme was pace. I am horribly impatient. Once I have a vision in my mind, I anticipate a concept, idea or result, and I want it to come to fruition yesterday. I have to pace myself on what is realistic given the two above items. I use a planning tool called the V2MOM, and a big part of it is metrics. I really tried to set metrics for the marketing function that pushed us to execute without running over things like a freight train.
Tell us more about your efforts into Sales-Marketing alignment. What valuable lessons did you learn from your efforts?
From day one, I made it my goal to have at least one customer or prospect interaction per week — ideally face-to-face. I scheduled those first and they took priority over everything else. The fastest way to get up to speed on your solution is to understand customer use cases and results. I also told the sales team that I was game to help at any meeting, any time, anywhere — sales is a ground game, so you have to get out in the field. Since I am a persona that we sell to, I have a unique perspective and want to jump right into meetings with prospects.
I also don’t just think about it as sales and marketing — I think about sales, marketing, and customer success. We made a significant acquisition with ZenIQ and it’s important we tell the full 6sense story, which includes orchestration — our ability to turn AI insights into action across multiple execution channels. Telling our full story required change, which is never easy.
I pulled together a cross-functional team — my Tiger Team — with heavy representation from sales and customers success. In doing this, the Tiger Team developed a better result, but it also went a long way in building relationships with those teams.
What technologies in ABM would have the biggest impact on their adoption and ROI?
Both selling itself and the market have changed over the last 10 years. It’s a new age of B2B buying. It’s become harder as more buyers want to remain anonymous — in fact, 90 percent of B2B buying behavior is digital and anonymous. Buyers also buy in teams, so the buying journey and process is very fragmented across many people. It’s typical for a buying team to have more than 10 people involved.
Last, buyers are resistant — every member of the B2B buying team requires highly personalized multi-touch and multi-channel engagement to take a meeting. For marketing and sales to be successful, they must think of themselves as a revenue-generating team and select a platform that provides data, Machine Learning, and AI. Without AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning, it’s impossible to compete and win in the age of B2B buying.
Revenue-generating teams should look for platforms that allow them to uncover buyer behavior — so they can stop spending money, time, and energy on the 10 percent of those who fill out forms and put that into uncovering their “dark funnel,” or the rich information that is being done on your company and/or solution in the dark.
Next, they must prioritize — look across behavior to determine and group buying teams, look for changes in behavior over time to fully grasp which accounts are in the market, ready for an upsell, or have potential to churn. AI can deliver these insights with a high degree of accuracy so revenue teams can prioritize their time on accounts that are in the market.
Once you have uncovered anonymous behavior and prioritize timing, it’s time to engage. Engaging is about orchestrating multi-touch, multi-channel, highly personalized messages at scale. Teams that use this approach see unbelievable results and are beating out their competition with 40 percent more opportunities, 5x larger deals, and 1.5x faster cycle times.
Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the business actions?
Last year, Amanda Kahlow, one of the founders of 6sense started a network for CMOs — The Empowered CMO Network. It’s designed particularly to help women CMOs connect in an open and authentic environment. We had a retreat with 40 CMOs last fall and those women have provided inspiration, advice, and real conversations about how, collectively, we take the role of the CMO to the next level. It’s been amazing to be a part of the group.
What are your predictions on the “Role of CMOs” in B2B?
We just had a planning session and I talked about being a pace setter — when you run a marathon there are people that help other runners keep pace. As CMO, we must be that for our own team in two key areas — data and culture:
- Data: As I described earlier, to compete and win in the age of account-based buying you must have access to data and insights. CMOs should be the driving force of collecting and connecting data, and creating and delivering insights and action to other revenue generating functions – Customer Success, Sales, Alliances/Channels, Business Development, etc. The best way to unite the revenue teams is powering them with AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning so they can excel at their jobs.
- Culture: We talk so much about the relationship between sales and marketing, but what about the relationship with the CHRO? It’s impossible to inspire externally without inspired people. You can’t be in every meeting, write every email, or take every phone call… so how do you enable a culture of growth that inspires the market to pay attention? The only way is through amazing people, which you don’t get without a true focus on culture.
Do you think AI-as-a-Service and Experience-as-a-Service could be the new destination for MarTech companies?
I think it could and is definitely a huge buzzword in MarTech. The challenge with buzzwords is just because technology claims to have AI-as-a-Service or Experience-as-a-Service doesn’t mean it’s really built to deliver.
Companies look for 3 things:
- AI at the core. Many companies have built apps and are trying to enhance with AI. The AI is a lot harder than building an application. So, understand how the application was built and the legacy. Ask vendors about their big data infrastructure. How do they collect and connect data? How do they approach sparse data? Are models real-time, self-learning and dynamic?
- Customer proof. What are typical results that customers achieve? How quickly do they achieve those? A key use case for AI is deanonymizing buyer intent. How well can vendors really do this? Every extra signal is critical to getting into deals early, competing, and winning.
- Completeness of solution and ease of use. There are a ton of point solutions across sales, marketing, and customer success use cases. Buying in silos for one department or use case is actually a step back. Revenue-generating teams need a single solution and view of data, insights, and next best action so they can work together to deliver an incredible customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle. Don’t buy software alone! Get your sales and customer success teams’ requirements into the process and look for a complete solution that turns insights into action.
How do you train your Marketing and Sales Ops team to justify use of automation and reporting tools? What feedback do you often get from these user-set?
Revenue teams are frustrated because they fundamentally don’t have the data they need to prioritize their time and engage with customers/prospects in a meaningful way. So, people are hungry for solutions. At 6sense, our approach is to:
- Provide clear insights on how teams should prioritize their time based on account behavior.
- Ensure the insights are easy to consume and right in the CRM because that is where our teams are used to working.
- Give clear direction on the best actions to take including the best channel for engagement and messaging based on what buyers are really researching.
- Automate wherever possible. We have the concept of SmartPlays — these are AI based plays that just get things done. For example, if there is no data for this contact, then go purchase the data. No one wants to waste valuable time on things that can be automated.
What was the most impactful lesson you had learned from 2018? How do you plan to implement the lesson in 2019?
Find a cause, not a job. As the CMO, you are the mascot, spirit animal, the heart of the movement. If you don’t believe, then no one else will. Choose a company that has an inspiring purpose that you can go all-in on sharing.
One advice to all the CMOs and leaders in your community –
Early in my career, I felt the more serious I was the more “professional” I seemed. I now know this is ridiculous. Have fun and encourage your teams to have fun too. We spend way too much time at work not to enjoy it.
Sales, accounting, and consulting are not your typical CMO background, but I’m not your typical CMO. I thrive on variety, challenges, and working with wicked smart people. Creating winning go-to-market strategies, effectively driving change internally and externally, incubating innovation, rocking a sales pitch, relentlessly watching the numbers, and motivating a global team is my perfect “typical day at the office.”
I’m honored to be a part of 6sense, a leading AI powered account based marketing platform. As a “recovering software sales women” I’ve always been keenly focused on leveraging data to ensure marketing programs result in deals, not just leads. At 6sense I get to help sales and marketing leaders increase revenue by tapping into the power of predictive intelligence to uncover buyers who are ready to buy.
6sense’s mission is to empower marketing and sales teams with 100 percent visibility into buyers; who they are, needs and timing. 6sense provides marketers with omni-channel connectivity and visibility from brand to demand to revenue. 6sense’s patent-protected predictions power all downstream sales and marketing systems with intelligence on who is in an active buying cycle, what products, when they will buy and where they are in the buyer’s journey. 6sense enables intelligent growth resulting in new pipeline, higher marketing to sales conversions, larger opportunity size and increased sales productivity and effectiveness with teams focusing on the right buyers with a need now.