Laura Martin on Sales & Marketing Playbooks

This is part of a series of interviews with B2B marketers. In this post we're talking with Laura Martin from Axonify about sales and marketing playbooks.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Laura Martin. I’m the VP of Marketing at a Waterloo-based company called Axonify that has been really shaking up the corporate learning space with our Employee Knowledge Platform.

You’ve become well-known for building great playbooks for sales and marketing. How did you get started making those and how does it look today at Axonify?
My first pure marketing role was working for a marketing VP who was a sales guy through and through, which really formed who I became as an enterprise marketer.

One of the first things this VP did was instruct me to build out an Opportunity Development Team, which he described as a group of individuals who:

  • managed inbound leads
  • pursued outbound opportunities
  • qualified and passed them to the sales team

This was about 20 years ago when this model was nowhere else to be found, but he’d come across it in his previous role in California. From there I built a program that was very successful at helping ramp up our start-up and have been building and fine-tuning ever since.

Although the fundamentals in terms of process and compensation are similar to the original model, each company is unique. Also, I have an amazing ODR manager at Axonify who has taken the program and built a playbook that far surpasses anything I’ve done or seen put together in the past. He’s really taken it to the next level.

How does your team gather the lists that you use for cold calling?
When I first started at Axonify (like other organizations I’ve been at), I outsourced list development, however I've found over the past few years that there are far more tools available that allow us to bring it in house, like leveraging co-op students to do the heavy lift. It’s definitely worth the effort. If you want to get granular, the steps I go through are:

  1. Pull a target list of accounts (not contacts) out of a source, such as Hoovers.
  2. Do multiple line-by-line passes in Excel, taking out the organizations that simply don’t make sense.
  3. If you have a list already in your CRM that you’re propping up, you’ll need to export, merge and purge.
  4. Once the Excel list is clean, import into your CRM and then utilize tools like Prospect for LinkedIn to find and add your target contacts – company-by-company.

"There is no magic bullet when it comes to outbound prospecting."

Do you have cold-emails going out to the same contacts that are being cold-called? 
Yes, we do a combination of calling, emailing, and social selling techniques.

There is no magic bullet and every prospect is different, so every combination is unique.

How do you determine how many calls each development rep should be making on a daily/weekly basis?
Although we have call guidelines in terms of numbers, at the end of the day, I’m most interested in the quantity and quality of passes to the sales team.

Although a certain amount of cold outbound calling is critical to a rep’s success, I’ve seen some ODRs who make fewer calls but pass more opportunities because they research and plan before they call.  

Instead of SDR’s, you have ODR’s who are making calls and actually report into marketing. What is an ODR and why do they live under marketing?
An ODR is an Opportunity Development Rep. 

Throughout my 20 years in marketing leadership, I’ve always had this role report into marketing. This is one of the key reasons why I’m brought into an organization – to build this team.

Marketing owns demand generation, and both outbound calling and the management of inbound leads are core demand generation activities, especially in a B2B enterprise tech organization. As a marketing leader, my commitment to the organization is to pass strong, closable sales opportunities, not just a qualified lead.

If I don’t own the function, then I don’t feel comfortable making that commitment.

"Cold calling isn't dead, but it needs to be part of an integrated approach."

I’ve heard of a number of companies cutting down their cold-calling efforts because if you’re trying to reach senior executives, it’s very difficult to actually get through to them. How effective is cold-calling for your teams?
When we started out 4 ½ years ago, it was 90% cold-calling because we didn’t have our inbound engine rolling, however over the years the pendulum has swung wildly towards the team managing inbound activities.

What we’re working towards is a balanced approach of outbound and inbound. Cold calling is certainly not dead, but it needs to be smarter than ever and part of an overall integrated approach.

What does your handoff between marketing and sales look like and how has it changed over time?
The handoff happens during a joint discovery call with the ODR, the sales rep and of course the prospect. For the pass to go through, it must meet criteria that include the following:

  • The prospect must be in our target industry and we must fit in their environment
  • The prospect needs to have a self-discovered need to improve
  • They need to have at least 1 business pain that matches our capabilities and is admitted by the sponsor
  • Finally, the prospect needs to agree to take us forward in the organization

Not only do the criteria need to be met, but the sales rep, myself and the ODR Manager need to sign off on the pass. The one key area that’s evolved over time is the agreement to move forward. We’ve definitely gotten tighter on that.

In fact, as an organization progresses, its market matures and the pipeline grows, so you naturally get tighter on all criteria.

"I have yet to meet a successful sales rep who isn't motivated by money."

You had—what I think was—the most tweeted line of the day at The Marketing Leap when you and your team were on stage and were asked if sales are motivated by money. Your reply was something along the lines of “Yes, sales reps are coin-operated”. Why is it a good thing to have “coin-operated” salespeople?
In my 25-year career, I’ve worked with hundreds of sales reps and I have yet to meet a successful one who isn’t motivated by money. But a successful rep is so much more than just that.

They’re smart, creative, big-picture thinkers who are superior at identifying and solving a business problem. They’re not afraid to respectfully challenge the status quo. They’re optimistic but grounded in realism. They advocate for the client, but not at the expense of the business. And especially in the case of the successful early-stage, start-up reps whom I’ve worked with, they’re unbelievable at creating and selling a vision of what their solution could do for the client.

Just my opinion of course.

How do you manage the relationship between those ODR’s talked about earlier and your coin-operated salespeople? What kind of communication do they have with each other?
I feel that there are 4 pillars that are critical to the success of the ODR-Sales relationship.

It is necessary to bring consistency and structure to the overall process, not only for the integrity of the program, but for how we look in the eyes of the prospect. Smooth handoffs with everyone playing their part is essential. It’s also important that the criteria is followed consistently, so that one rep isn’t accepting an opportunity, while another rep is rejecting it. It’s difficult because everyone is different, but the more you can stick to the process and criteria across reps and across patches, the better. 

Role Definition 
Similar to process structure is tight role definition. It’s important that the ODR and sales teams understand and value each other’s individual roles. I’ve seen some organizations fail because the SDR or ODR reps get pulled in different directions, such as supporting the rep across the sales cycle (i.e. setting up meetings once an opportunity is passed) because the definition of their role wasn’t clear. When this happens the program quickly deteriorates.

It’s important that the ODR has 2 variable components to their compensation:

  1. On the pass, which they have more direct control over
  2. When the deal closes, so that they share in the success of their reps

It needs to be balanced and one without the other doesn’t work. 

Communication & Respect 
Each ODR works with 2 sales reps, so they’re in the same patch and it’s important that they communicate almost daily. It’s a little more difficult for remote reps, but the more they communicate and respect each other, the more successful they are.

"By tracking MQLs by source and connecting them to pipeline, smarter investment decisions can be made."

What metrics do you find most important at Axonify and what kind of decisions do they impact?
On the front-end, we are super granular about the number of MQLs that we generate by source and how they’re influencing pipeline. This helps us make decisions on which mediums/tactics to invest in for future marketing campaigns. 

We also track conversion rates, velocity, and a variety of other metrics by funnel stage to help us understand what’s working and where there might be leaks in our funnel so that we can focus our efforts to help close those leaks.

How has the way you track and use those metrics changed over your 4+ years at Axonify?
Like most organizations, we started with Salesforce as our backbone and then as we grew, we brought in more and more sophistication not only by customizing Salesforce reports and workflows, but by adding on other tools like Pardot, Full Circle Insights, Zendesk, and, of course ... FunnelCake! 

Are there any gaps in your tech stack currently that you’re looking to fix or improve?
We’re at the point where we have the right stack, but now have to dedicate our efforts to optimizing and realizing the full value of the tools that we have. 

What are some resources that you follow that you would recommend to others?
Most resources that I follow are the same as those our buyers follow, which is what I’d recommend for any marketer in order to get and stay inside the heads of their buyers.

What is your favorite 90s dance song?
That’s a tough one, but for some reason I can’t help moving every time I hear the 90s hit, Everybody Dance Now

Dan Bruce