Somehow, when you’re in the presence of a great salesperson, you just know it. Well, that was exactly the case when I encountered the brilliant Chris Duddridge. At the time, he was the UK & Ireland Managing Director of UI Path, where he played a key role in their journey to go public, a goal that they achieved earlier this year. He’s now on another exciting mission, this time as the VP of sales for Soroco, a high-growth enterprise tech company pioneering a new category called Work Graph, which provides a structured view of how teams get work done across people, process, documents and technology so that teams can perform at their best.
Chris, thank you so much for joining us.
Dan: My first question then is, how is automation affecting sales functions today? And how do you anticipate it might affect those sales functions in maybe 2, 3, 4 years from now once the technology has had a chance to settle and mature?
Chris: Yeah, it’s a great question and I think it’s broader than just automation. When you think about how everyone always jumps on the latest terminology for what is automation, what is RPA, what is, you know, intelligent automation, all of those great buzzwords that I hear very frequently in my role. But automation isn’t new and I’m kind of almost bored of saying that as well.
Automation has existed since the first computerised solutions were put on the desktops of anyone that was working in the world of work, but essentially what has happened is they’ve become more accessible. So the tools that previously were the gift of very large organisations that invested very heavily in ERP technologies, CRM technologies, technologies that were focused on optimising the way that they work with their existing customers and attracting new customers, have just got more accessible.
So I think if you were to go back even 10 years ago, the category of sales-focused automation technology wouldn’t really have existed other than just CRM, essentially a glorified roller deck for capturing your customers contact details and potentially what it is that you sold to them. Whereas now, if you look at the word of automation specifically for salespeople, that category has exploded. Be that marketing automation tools that help you run campaigns, be that a million and one plugins for the flavour of CRM tool that you’re using, be that revenue technology that actually helps you measure the success of all of the aforementioned campaign management and opportunity development.
It’s not a new initiative, but what is coming to the surface is those that utilise these technologies, how different their results are. I’m a big subscriber to if you can measure it then you can report on it, then it’s a fact. And if you can’t it’s a feel. And I’ve been lucky enough to work for a number of organisations that have invested in sales technologies and marketing automation technologies and tools designed to accelerate deal cycles and success of sellers in many of my previous organisations, and now you are starting to see the results of those being in place.
I think an organisation in this day and age that doesn’t have tools designed to automate funnel creation, i.e. net new opportunities that are coming in from marketing endeavours. If you don’t have tools from which to manage the engagements you’re currently running with your customers and help you understand which ones will and which ones won’t happen, you’re going to struggle. Because despite the art still being very firmly placed with salespeople who are good at building relationships, good at attracting, they will get ripped apart by other organisations who’ve absolutely nailed the sales cycle. And absolutely nailed the way in which they engage their customers through either the use of automation or even the use of automated prompts and support for the seller in how they engage that customer.
And I think the answer to the final part of your question, you know in 10 years time, but I think it’s a lot sooner than that, organisations that do not know how to run their sales exercises with automation being present within every part of their engagement are going to struggle because it is a very competitive space. Whether you’re selling bits and bytes or whether you’re selling products or services, whether you’re selling software, it is almost certain that you’re not in a category of your own anymore. Being able to finesse the delivery of your sales engagement, wow your customers, engage them from the first conversation to the closure of that first exciting new win and build that growth in partnership, without a real understanding of how you do that, how you repeat it and how you improve it – other than luck – is going to require technologies to support those sellers, I think more and more as the years’ progress. So I’d say it’s by competition necessity more than anything.
Dan: And when you look at those organisations that are really sort of getting ahead, what are the 2 or 3 unifying traits that they share?
Chris: So I think it all starts with marketing. Ultimately, when sellers are selling and when salespeople are focused on developing opportunities, you can get very trapped in the level of work that’s required to win or to secure working with a particular company.
There has to be that always-on lead and opportunity development, and so I think the big call out is for the tools that have been designed to map, define and measure opportunity development, pipeline creation and demand generation, as it’s often called as well. That’s the first critical factor that I think most modern-day organisations are really trying to finesse and improve. I think without it what you suffer from is a little bit of peaks and troughs. Your sales team develops a lot of opportunities, some opportunities that are very time consuming and large, and without that always on-demand generation that’s taking place in the background through marketing, there’s a real chance that you may lose momentum. And so for me, the marketing team and the marketing tools and the marketing strategies, they’re the flywheel to keep all of the gears and the cogs moving forward when others are engaged.
I would also add to that web presence. We’ve just been through a really disruptive period in the world with the pandemic and I think everyone has suffered. Inbound opportunity creation has not come from in-person events or managing to go out and meet someone, so actually, there’s been even more relevance and emphasis put on the web. So that’s everything from your website to your digital campaigns to how you attract organisations to engage with you from an outside-in perspective. And it’s a bit of a dark art because, yeah, in the world that I’ve operated in for quite some time it can be as simple as customers who’ve heard about your technology but equally want to download your software, play with it, have a demo, do all of those different things. If you make any part of that exercise cumbersome, difficult, gated, you would definitely see the results being impacted by that, whereas those organisations that have had that open and free mentality to everything that they do, there’s this always-on value that is being delivered from their web presence.
And it sounds like a very old-fashioned way of branding it but I’d even say that I’m a big subscriber to social selling and using your own businesses and also your employees’ social presence to raise your voice. I think many people would agree, it’s sometimes tough to compete with the amount of content that’s been pushed out on Twitter and LinkedIn from a business perspective to make your voice heard and see your brand appear higher than others when anyone might be thinking about leveraging your type of technology. So I think actually having an attitude, approach and a coordinated effort towards all of those things that touch your external web presence are massively important.
So that would be the second thing. And I would just say as the last of 3 – there’s probably 20 or 30 categories of sales tech and marketing tech that makes a difference, but for me, one of the most important categories that’s been recently created is the revenue operations technologies that are far more focused on helping organisations see reality rather than just see a ballooning pipeline. These tools have been designed to take the guesswork out of what it is that you’re building and really call bullshit on inaccurate forecasts or deals that don’t have the right shape or smell or taste depending on exactly when they’re prescribed to happen. And for me, specifically around being a sales leader that’s having to do that every day from my own experience, having a revenue operations tool would give you far more confidence that when you’re so supplying your numbers upwards to your leadership and they’re being taken to the board, and in many other organisations, to the investor communities that you have a real sense of realism around what it is that’s being presented.
Your investment in digital presence and how you externally brand yourself, and most importantly, tools that help you have a predictable revenue outcome, they’re 3 which I think are critical and will grow in prominence over the years if they’re not already the most important things today.
Dan: One of the big issues I often face is the misalignment between the sales and marketing functions. Ultimately, they’re there to achieve the same ends, right? I just wonder from your perspective, do you see the increasing role of technology as something that is likely to narrow that gap or something that could, if mishandled, actually widen that gap further?
Chris: It’s a good question and I’ve always been very very conscious of the kind of symbiotic and really, really important relationship that sales and marketing have. You know, if you go back 10 years, most people in my position would be called the Sales and Marketing Director, or there would always be that sales and marketing in many people’s job titles – and that still exists today.
I think there was a divergence between those two roles because they are two very important specialisms. I love sales. I love the thrill of meeting as many people as you can do but in fact, I think if I was just left alone, even though I’m quite fond of outreach, without marketing, the results would be half of what we achieve today. And I’ll start by saying it’s impossible to measure but you can get some good indicators to show how important the marketing function becomes to the sales team.
I regularly have to check people’s attitudes when it comes to how they won deals because typically, theirs wasn’t the first interaction that that organisation would have had with our company. Be it a roundtable event or an event they engaged with us at 2, 3 years prior, that started the motion of working with these organisations, and equally, when it gets into the sales arena, there’s typically a lot of intelligence around why that buyer has arrived at your doorstep.
I think to go back to your question: how do we narrow the divide between those 2 teams? It comes down to two things. The first and most important one is around data and the recognition of how much is invested to get that one customer to come and talk to you. Because be it a roundtable, be it LinkedIn post, be it turning up to physical events, this is not new to you and it’s not new to anyone else, but actually tracking that in the early stages of a sales cycle when you’re in the influence part of an engagement is nigh-on impossible. There’s the odd chance that someone got lucky on a day and called the right person and managed to start a conversation from nothing, but I think the reality is, even when you do get to that scenario you’re still going to need to have a big brand behind you. You’re still going to need to have the collateral, the data, the content and the case studies, all the things that actually will then help you validate the reason why they should be working with you.
And I think that there may be a bit of a woolly answer but it’s about respect and actually recognising the impact of effort that is expended by marketing and the marketing connected teams.
There’s a second point which is the budget. You know, budget is a really tough thing for any business to really pin down when it comes to marketing. If you gave me the opportunity to say yes to every person I’ve worked with and had great experiences with, including yourself, then I would probably have subscribed to more money than we would make a year in terms of marketing investment. And I believe it’s all valuable, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that, and so when it comes to budget, you have to really invest very wisely so as to optimise your marketing. You need to know how to spend and where to spend to deliver you the biggest bang for your buck. That for me is something that does create a divide as well. There is a force from sales to marketing to say: “How can you get as much juice from the orange that we’ve purchased?”, as opposed to: “How can you add more oranges to help me develop this opportunity?”. And that’s where many organisations have to make some really tough choices. I can’t invest in an industry-specific event that I want to do to attract more clients from a particular demographic because I’ve already spent countless dollars on trying to do a fair marketing campaign to make sure we benefit as many people within our business as possible.
Dan: Just a question relating to a couple of the points you made there then, so one of the conflicts that I’ve often seen between sales and marketing is that sales, understandably, are looking to the next quarter, whereas marketing, just by its very nature, is typically a long term endeavour.
It strikes me that you have an understanding and appreciation for what’s going on in marketing and that must be becoming even more important. I just wonder what your perspective is on that? Is that need for an understanding of the importance of both teams something that you’ve seen in recent years?
Chris: Yeah, so again, it’s a good way of thinking about it. But the way to make it real is to talk about companies and talk about their experiences, because I’m part of an amazing start-up now, and when that business started and the first opportunity was closed, it wasn’t a sales and marketing team with 20 sellers and all of the operational functions around it, it was somebody whose product and belief and strategy led them to believe they’d be able to take a product they’ve designed, built, developed and tested, and get someone to pay for it.
The proof point is that you can sell this technology or this product, or whatever it may be, but of course that sets the course for your business to then say: “Okay, fine. If we’ve done that once, we can do it twice.” So you start to develop a view on the market and of course, there’s a lot of intelligence that goes into that. The first product you often win there’d be a lot of strategy to it, there’d also be a lot of hope that rests on that first client. But then from there on in, it becomes a bit of a guide to where you go as a business. It might be that means you focus on an industry or you realise there’s a particular demographic of the users or an addressable market that you can go after, but that charts the course for then. Where you are going to invest your marketing dollars, and not just where, but how, because you typically won’t have a very big marketing team on day one. Fast forward to doing that for a few years with some predictability, with some data, it refines and hones your strategy back to something which is tangible, based on fact, based on history, based on knowing that if we invest these marketing dollars that we expect it to return in the pipeline.
I think it’s realistic to give timelines. I think if you set out – unless you’ve got a commoditised product or something that you offer customers which are procured by a credit card with no real interaction other than you want it – everything else requires consensus, decisions, a sales process. You have to have that long-term view on if this is our direction of travel, we must make investments now to grow the pipeline that will sustain this business and we will work really hard to build that as soon as possible, but knowing that there’s a finite amount of time that you’ll need to get customers to engage with you, whatever it is that you do.
So you’re talking about the fast attraction of a new customer to whatever is that you’re doing, be it a period of, maybe six months to nine months, and then realistically, you’re building stuff sustainably may be a minimum of twelve months out from where you’re at today, and the reason being is because the sales team still exists. The sales team are expected to prospect and develop and execute themselves irrespective of whether marketing contributes or not.
I always say imagine you don’t have a marketing team. What would you do? Imagine you don’t have an event to attend or a campaign that’s running in the background. What would you do? And that’s the behaviour that you’ll see actually separates out the best sellers and the best marketers. Those that know, irrespective of each other, we can still achieve our goals, but everyone has to recognise that they own their own component of it. But when those 2 things are combined, and they’re combined with a strategy that understands where and when they will add their respective responsibilities, then that is where you get fast-growing companies who really know what they’re doing.
Dan: Awesome! I just wonder, do you subscribe to any particular sales methodologies? Or is there a particular Chris Duddridge tactic that’s distinct from the others?
Chris: I’d love to patent my own one, because it seems like people have made a lot of money out of, you know, copying someone else’s and calling it something different. But yeah, I mean I’m a big subscriber to process in general. I’m a big subscriber to Sandler because it’s common sense selling, but I’ve done all the SPIN, everything you can imagine. They’re all a bit of the same old, same old, but if used properly or if used in combination with each other, they can be really valuable.
I’ll tell you why I find them valuable is it allows you to speak the same language. It allows you to talk to someone and say: “Hey, where are we at in this cycle? Have you identified the pain points? Have you identified the metrics that this company is going to measure this on? Are we into the next stages of the process? And we did something at UiPath actually, which was a combination of all of the best sales methodologies that exist in the market here. It taught everybody the same language to understand so that when we take a customer through a journey, we can explain where they’re at and explain where they’re not at, more importantly, where we still have facts to find.
There’s something called DISC profiling, which is psychological profiling of sellers so that you know what your style is. And essentially, you map it out and just by answering questions, it tells you who you are and most importantly, who you feel most synergy and association with. The reason I mention that is because I’ve always found that really easy to help me understand who I’m selling to if you’re selling to a D, you know somebody that wants to make decisions quickly and no-nonsense, then lots of fluffy words – which I’ve always been guilty of – actually, are going to stand in your way of being successful. Equally, if you’re speaking to somebody that is an I, actually having someone that you’d want to go for a beer with afterwards and be able to do your business outside of the boardroom can really help you narrow down and land deals, land relationships. It’s understanding how to adjust your behaviour to maximise effective selling. All of those things combined together just help people understand how they can be better in sales, in my opinion.
Dan: Sounds like we’re on the same page there in terms of the potential value of those kinds of models. But those methodologies are nothing without the right people in the first place, so if you were hiring a new salesperson, what might the 2 or 3 attributes be that you’re always on the lookout for?
Chris: I have a choice when I’m hiring, you know, do you go down that path of trying to extract the best salespeople from a competitor by offering them a bit more coin? People and the sales skill you get is the biggest risk to delivering on your numbers. So if I was to hire a team that actually turned out to be a dud because we were just not thinking about anything other than getting the best people in, but not necessarily people who would learn and have a growth mindset, be coachable, all of those things that I think are really important.
I look for a few very specific things. One of them is coachability. Is that person the finished article? If they are, then it’s probably gonna be very hard to change their mindset and get them to develop and change. Jumping from 2 companies that look on the label to be the same, there’s going to be so many cultural nuances. There’s going to be so many process differences. There’s going to be so many things that they still need to learn, and without coachability, you’ve got someone that is just going to be a risk to whether or not they will or will not deliver on your objective.
The second one is, is that person a team player? And more specifically, do they collaborate well? Because I don’t know any business that doesn’t require a team to club together to get that customer to buy from you over someone else. And so collaboration comes in so many forms, it can be sales working with marketing, it can be salespeople working with salespeople, it can be the sharing of information within the team when you find something that helps increase your win rate or helps increase your productivity. So yeah, collaboration and that spirit of collaboration is something I’ve spoken openly about for a long time because without it, I think you’ve got mercenary salespeople that are essentially a dying breed in terms of people that do not collaborate.
And lastly, it’s probably a load of them thrown in together, but it’s people that have got compassion and empathy – both for colleagues linked to the collaboration and for the people they’re working with. If they don’t see their customers as people who they want to wow and inspire and build strong relationships with, and have empathy for the challenges you’re trying to fix, then they’re essentially quite robotic and they probably could be automated.
I would probably finish by saying that there are people that just have this hunger for learning as well. I’m most certainly not the finished article. I know I still have to learn every day about how to evolve my role to support my team best or to deliver an objective for my boss, and I love people that have that hunger for learning and developing and changing themselves. Many people talk about that growth mindset but I think sometimes putting a badge on it makes it sound not real to me. It’s about people that show that appetite for learning every day. And also going: “Hey, I messed up so this is what I’m going to do to not do it again”.
That for me is what actually it should be like to work and to learn and to grow and do that together in a very collaborative team.
Dan: I might need to make a few notes for future reference. The final question then, what’s your biggest frustration with marketing?
Chris: I think that there’s always some tension. For sales guys, there’s a very finite point of measurement which is sales performance. If you don’t sell, don’t perform, you’re out and everyone knows that is the perilous world you live in when you sign up to be a salesperson. The truth is, that you take a lot of accountability for that as your contribution to the business, whereas with marketing, whilst there are aspirations I believe and in many instances, there is absolute accountability. The reality is that you can run a webinar that you put all of the same energy into but you take your eye off the ball in terms of sign-ups and you find yourself investing a lot of people’s energy on presenting to half of your internal staff and 2 people you’ve never heard of before. And that was really tested during the pandemic because that was all we had and so that was something that I think actually, on reflection, people were fatigued by. There was no accountability to say: “Hey, we need to make sure we get this level of quality and calibre on these events.” And so that goes back even further into like campaigns. You’re off busily trying to drive closure or opportunity and winning new customers and the marketing endeavours that are taking place in the background, the flywheels, are not really engaged and the quality’s not coming through. It’s who takes ownership of making sure that they level up in that area that has been a little frustrating. And it really is a little one, because it’s a tough job to guarantee people are always going to be there. But I think deep down, everyone I’ve ever worked with within marketing has been frustrated by the calibre if it doesn’t quite hit the mark. But then there’s that accountability piece which I think all marketers should be very conscious of, which is that not only do we need to do these events, but we need to make sure they run immaculately and unfortunately I think the norm has been based on dropouts and it is other human beings that can cancel attendance just because they feel like it that morning. We have to have some recognition that things did or did not go as was prescribed and there’s room for improvement.
Dan: It is that understanding of actually there is a means to an end, and not to forget about that end.
Chris, thank you so much. I knew I was gonna learn a lot but I’ve learned even more than I expected. Really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Chris: My pleasure, my pleasure.