Episode 63 Sep 20, 2022

Get a Head Start on Revenue Operations & Intelligence

The newest addition to Zilliant’s Quick Start Program, Quick Start for Revenue Operations & Intelligence, is now available. The purpose-built solution is designed to intelligently derive and deliver revenue-driving, account-specific actions to sales reps, eCommerce and marketing automation tools in as few as three weeks.

Returning guest Brian Hirt joins Barrett Thompson to answer questions on how the solution works, why a better approach to revenue operations and intelligence is critical today, who is an ideal candidate for the Quick Start, and much more.


Press Release | Video | Blog Post

Brian Hirt

Brian Hirt

Those old school metrics like, "How many customers did you visit this week or how many packs of donuts did you drop off?" They don't get to the root of actually driving value with those customers. (Quick Start) provides an alternative: "I don't care how many customers you visit. How many valuable conversations did you have around these different actions that are aligned with our corporate strategy?"
- Brian Hirt, Zilliant

Episode Transcript

Brian Hirt: It's providing a system that can provide that intelligence, feed it across multiple channels and to do it quickly. And in a way that's still configurable. So one of the things I've learned is that when you stand up these solutions and you sort of have an idea that you want to execute on, well quickly, once you see the success, well now you've got 10 other things I want to do now. We need to have a solution that doesn't require then 10 more implementations, right? For us, we have the concept of campaigns. So it allows you to run a campaign that can have another distinct targeted action.

Barrett Thompson: Hello. My name is Barrett Thompson. And I'll be your host for today's episode of B2B Reimagined. Joining me is Brian Hirt, the director of product management at Zilliant, and he's a returning guest here on the podcast. Brian, welcome to B2B Reimagined once again. Brian, it's always great to have you.

Would you please share with the audience your background and role at Zilliant?

Brian Hirt: Sure. So today I serve as a director in our product management team at Zilliant. So I oversee our revenue operations and intelligence solutions that we're talking about today. I recently had the pleasure of celebrating 10 years at Zilliant.

I spent the majority of the time actually in our [00:02:00] services team. So I did implementations across our product suite, really enjoyed getting into our customers through that. And then prior to that, I actually worked at a B2B distributor serving their marketing department. So I had a good chance to get to know the B2B space early.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah, it's a great background for all of those things. Well, Brian, it's a pleasure to have you. Before we jump into our topic for the day, I'd like the listeners to get to know you a bit better. Brian, what do you do in your spare time?

Brian Hirt: Like you, I have four children except mine are all quite young.

I have four between the ages of eight and one. That is essentially my free time. I'd say my hobbies within that, I enjoy working on things around the house and sort of like making things for my kids. I'm proud. My backyard is host to an elaborate treehouse and a working drinking fountain. Fun things for my kids.

Barrett Thompson: So, and I'm sure you have four little helpers, always there with the tools and the bits and the bobs to make it go right. That sounds great. Brian. Thanks for sharing.

Well, Brian, I am really excited to talk about today's topic. There's so many new things that are breaking forth in the market, both in B2B needs and a response from companies like Zilliant. We've had an innovation that we've recently announced, and that is our Quick Start program for Revenue Operations and Intelligence. And you're the key driver behind that. So I'm really eager to talk about why this is happening now, how it's come about, what is the need that B2B businesses are facing, what are they recognizing and desiring and what we are doing about it, how we're going to deliver value in that context for any deal and campaign management approaches on the market. So let's first set off Brian, if you would please explain for our audience, what is the revenue operations and intelligence space?

What is the need there as you see it?

Brian Hirt: Yeah, you bet. So I think broadly defined revenue operations and intelligence is the process of bringing things to market. And so going from, I have a strategy [00:04:00] and I'm executing that strategy in the market, through my go to market channels and it drives revenue. So I find in a lot of cases, it goes under sales operations.

That's sort of a department, but I see that it's marketing teams, they're trying to drive revenue through eCommerce. It's sort of the whole process of bringing intelligence to that operational process of selling. And so it's aligned with what sales is trying. Sales and marketing and product and sales, operations teams, all same goal of driving revenue.

But to me, the revenue operations and intelligence space, it's the whole process around how those teams align and bring things to market successfully.

Barrett Thompson: So there are multiple teams there that you mentioned, the marketing team, the sales team, product management team, sometimes involved.

So anytime you have a group of multiple teams trying to achieve the same goal, there's going to be some opportunities and some challenges, if you will. Why is this gaining momentum and how is it evolving? What's happened recently?

Brian Hirt: So I think in a lot of ways, it's a convergence of the things that have been going [00:05:00] on within teams over the last decade and more in a lot of ways, it's the alignment of sales technology.

So a lot of companies have already gone through the process over the last 10, 20 years of building out, investing in CRM solutions for sales to use. So sort of getting technology in front of the sellers. In many cases, it's invested in the data science, right? So a lot of the companies I talk to have a data science team and they're sort of mining, try to identify intelligence. And what I see is a gap in the, sometimes you call it the strategy execution gap, or you might have a data science team or some good analysts who are able to mine your data, and that you might have a platform where sales lives, but there's nothing that connects the two.

And so too often, it results in, “Here's a spreadsheet of some stuff we think you ought pay attention to,” or, “Hey, we created a great report and now you can go into the report, filter to your account and see some great intelligence.” And so I've been the person trying to push the report. There's a lot of great work that goes into that, but also talking with sellers, [00:06:00] it's a lot to ask, right?

So you're asking me to go in, run this report proactively and think about that. It just, it's difficult to get all of those things to come together. And so I think, I think there's a great opportunity in the market and I think we have a great solution for helping to close that gap.

And help teams make the most of their existing investments in sales technology and CRM automation platforms, because it, well, that ties to marketing automation, right? Well, to eCommerce, right? You've got, yeah, you've got customers logging in, how do we show them products that are relevant for that? And so tying those platforms together with, we know there's a gold mine of insights to be found in data.

And we have teams that are sometimes able to surface that, but getting that the last mile, if you will, to create a recommendation for the customer when they log in eCommerce, right. And to a seller, whether in the parking lot to get them the three things they need to focus on for that account at that moment is a big challenge.

And I think that's what we're able to address with our product.

Barrett Thompson: This makes so much sense. And in B2B over the last 10 to 15 years, as [00:07:00] you've said, there have been waves of technology or waves of focus that have come about CRM being one, maybe a data science team. You mentioned the marketing automation, eCommerce. It feels like when I'm talking with customers by and large, these were executed by different departments at different times. And while they've each brought some benefit on their own, they're not really synergizing or synchronizing. So that's the new frontier I hear you talking about is kind of getting all those happen, operating together and taking friction out of that process or sharing better information across that process.

Is that kind of the direction that you're thinking?

Brian Hirt: Yeah, that's exactly it. And I was just on a call with one of our customers talking through this challenge. They’re considering solutions like ours and yeah, they described, well, I've got an eCommerce solution and I've got tasks that I push through my CRM, but they're not related.

I might be promoting the same thing in two places or not talking to each other. And I was talking to another customer who they have an eCommerce. [00:08:00] They just don't have a good way to provide intelligent recommendations to their, they've got a captive audience, right? I mean, customers are logging in to order things, you know who they are, it's just sort of connecting dots or make those recommendations.

So yeah, to me, it's absolutely about bringing all those channels - not together because they're distinct channels - but the intelligence that feeds those channels can be brought together into a single source so that it's consistent across the channel.

Barrett Thompson: In that last example, that customer that's logged into the eCommerce.

My speculation is before eCommerce, right? They would've called inside sales or customer support to place that order. And there would've been a human there who would say, “Let me talk to you about the special promotion we're running. Let me talk to you about the product that complements things that you're already buying.”

That's how that intelligence might have been delivered. But over on that eCommerce channel, the goal is to have that same kind of intelligence, but you don't have a person hanging on the line there. So you need another way to bring that together. [00:09:00]

Brian Hirt: Yeah. Agreed. And I would say even when you have a person on the line, that channel hasn't gone away, as far as I've seen, there's still a lot of phone calls and emails that go about. It's about making sure that seller has the context to provide the right information to that customer, the right recommendations to ask the right questions. Because you could say, well, “Here's our monthly promotion on these widgets.” And you could say that to everyone who calls, we all have those call center experiences.

You pick. It's like, “Would you like fries with that?” on every order. But you know, what's really even better is providing the tailored experience for that customer. Whether they log in eCommerce or call into the customer service center, they can get the same experience.

Barrett Thompson: In some cases, Brian, I observed that B2B has to sort of be ready to embrace a certain idea, even if it's a great idea that might be readiness from an infrastructure point of view, it might be readiness from a process point of view or attention span point of view. Where do you think B2B [00:10:00] is in terms of its readiness to engage around this idea of revenue operations and intelligence and bringing together some of these channels that we talked about?

Brian Hirt: I think first what comes to mind for me is the demographics. Like I said, I've been working with Zilliant for 10 years and throughout the time I've continued to see the challenge of a lot of B2B organizations have, especially if they're working with distributors that are sort of a sales heavy organization, they have a lot of tenured sales reps.

And so a lot of people, those reps knew the accounts well, they weren't as receptive to what we had to tell them about and maybe what they're missing or not, but they also were more knowledgeable. They'd been in the business for 20 years, they knew their accounts. They knew how to do things well, they knew what products customers needed.

And I think the call has just become stronger that as new sales reps enter the organization, it's boomers retiring, millennials coming in and things like that. But those new sales reps are hungry for the knowledge. And how can you build a systematic process that provides relevant guidance to these new sellers and how [00:11:00] can you train them effectively?

These systems really help in that way. So I think it's, again, it's sort of the convergence of the technology that's available. Yes, you've got the demographic need. How do I onboard all these new graphs are coming on board and make sure they can know their accounts as well as the one who just left. She knew the accounts for 20 years.

And I think for us, we've continued to evolve our products. And that's how we've come to this Quick Start is that we've got an approach where we can really, we can get the solution up and running very quickly. We're doing a Quick Start in three weeks and that's providing a system that can provide that intelligence, feed it across the multiple channels and to do it quickly.

And in a way that's still configurable. So one of the things I've learned is that when you stand up these solutions and you sort of have an idea that you want to execute on, well quickly, once you see the success of being able to take your strategy, drive it through, execute it and deliver that into CRM or eCommerce.

Well, now I've got 10 other things I want to do now. Right? So you need to have a solution that doesn't require than 10 more implementations, right? You need to have a solution and it allows you [00:12:00] to, for us, we have the concept of campaigns. So it allows you to run a campaign that can have another distinct targeted action, that's still trackable and push through the same channels. And so I'm really proud and I'm excited about our product because we have the capability to stand it up quickly, get it integrated into these systems and then it's scalable. It needs continual attention in the sense that you want to sort of drive your strategies through it, and you can configure it to meet whatever your strategy is that week.

But anyway, it can be done quickly and it can become a living breathing solution that kind of meets the need going forward.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah, that's certainly attractive. It's rare that I run into someone who says, I'm looking to build something for 2028, right? They want to know what can I do in the next couple of quarters?

That's going to make a difference in the fiscal year I'm wrapping up or the one that I'm being asked to sign up for just around the corner. So we really appreciate that. What are some examples of what you talked about campaigns? Are there some very common actions in campaigns that you see B2B wanting to [00:13:00] take just for us to really get grounded?

Brian Hirt: So I think just generically, if I'm starting a conversation with someone who's considering the solution, or maybe they're already a Zilliant customer, they're sort of in a pricing suite, they're sort of looking, keep it expanded to this. I ask what are the spreadsheets you're sending out today? Like if I'm a sales rep, what spreadsheets did I get last week?

And that usually points to, oh yeah. Well, the supply chain team sent out the list of distressed inventory that they're trying to get rid of. And yeah, the product marketing team or the product management team sent out substitutions that they were trying to get you to create. They were trying to promote the branded product.

That's a good one. And then meanwhile, the sales analysts were trying to remind you about the retention report that they posted on the SharePoint site or whatever. You're supposed to go look at it and see if any of your customers have stopped buying specific products. And so I just sort of ask customers, what are those examples of their business?

And it's usually one of the three things I've mentioned or something close to it. [00:14:00] We've got out of the box solutions. We call those action types in our solutions. So the action type will be recover sales or substitute products or sell inventory. And I encourage our customers to start small, take that existing use case and take the spreadsheet, because you've already got some data. You've already got some parameters in your mind around what it is you want to focus on, and then let's turn that into a campaign and deliver that out to the teams through the different channels. And so that's a great way both to get started with something simple and bite sized and now, right.

And then it's easily expanded to address the other use cases. So that's how, that's what I usually see. And that's sort of, I think, a great place for us to start with any project.

Barrett Thompson: Those are great examples, very tangible and easy to understand. Brian, what sort of data is needed to drive this solution? I know this is a thing that will be on the minds of the audience.

Do I have the necessary data in order to drive? We mentioned data as being one of the things that enhances what the solution can give, what sort of data do we need to get it going?

Brian Hirt: Yeah. So one of the things that I think is unique [00:15:00] about Zilliant as a software provider is we consume transaction data to feed our solutions.

At the simplest level it's order data or invoice data and customer master data, product master data. And so it's the same, essentially across our pricing solutions or the revenue operations and intelligence solutions like we have. And so that's it. If you're listening to this and you're an existing customer, the answer is we probably already have the data we need.

And if you're listening to this, if you're not a Zilliant customer, you can think of it as a straightforward feed of transaction data from your systems and then a list of your customers and a list of your products. And so it's generally things that are readily available for many.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah, I was going to say, that's easy to get and people have it on hand.

We're not asking for the exotic thing or there's not a pre-project to go out and find or create the data. In order to drive this initiative, it's just bring what you have. And it's going to be things that you have in common systems already today. Probably using it to make some of [00:16:00] those Excel reports, for instance.

Brian, talk to me about the kind of benefits that a B2B business would expect to receive if they put in a revenue operations and intelligence solution.

Brian Hirt: So for the customers who've implemented our solutions and have done a good job driving adoption with their sales team, sort of getting it integrated in their systems.

They see a measurable increase in revenue, generally in the 5 to 15% range. One of the things about our solution is we have a great built in tracking mechanism. So when we create a recommendation that says, “Hey, go recover sales for this product.” Well, like we just talked about Zilliant’s already consuming shipment or invoice data on a regular basis.

And we know the customer we just created recommendation or the product that we created recommendations for. And we know we got a status response back from the customer that says on September 12th, I got a response or I mentioned it to the customer. Well, now we have an experiment we can test and we can say, “Okay, do sales go up for this account in this category?”

And we're able [00:17:00] to measure that, quantify that yes, sales went up versus the prior period, it's a great built-in way where you can launch a campaign and you'll have built in visibility it’s going to keep track of, for that campaign. What are the benefits you're able to achieve? And so we see great benefits.

We provide great tools to help our customers measure that it rolls all the way down to the sales ramp and the customer and the individual products that each customer purchases and that itself provides a great benefit to imagine yourself as a sales manager, right. You now have great visibility to how your teams are interacting with the recommendations that are being provided to them. What benefits come from that? I think in a lot of ways, CRM has failed on the promise of sort of providing visibility to what reps are doing. I think it's gotten a bad name for call logging and just sort of, sales reps having to go in just sort of account for their time.

And I think this solution provides a great way that still dovetails the sales rep interacted with the CRM system, but they can now see just through [00:18:00] sort of natural process, natural behavior in the sales rep and sort of what they sell and sort of how they interact with the insights. “This sales rep has a great response rate. I can see they're in the system. If they're acting on these things, lo and behold benefits or revenues going up, and that's good for me as sales manager, it's good for that sales rep.” And then the ones who aren't logging in aren't working the recommendations provided to them, aren't getting those benefits. Well, that's going to be clear to me in the top line growth, but it's also clear in basic metrics of response rates and things like that by the seller. So for the customers who use this, it becomes an integral part of their sales rep development, just how they sort of continue to coach and develop their own rep, which is a great benefit of it.

Barrett Thompson: I can see right away that the sales manager’s discussion can change significantly. And I think beneficially when there's an action plan for each customer. And to check in with the rep becomes, how's it going as we execute this plan, what happened when we did these things very different than what do you think we should do in the account?

[00:19:00] Or what are we going to, let's go figure out what the plan is here. The plan’s in front of you, or parts of it are in front of you. So those become the de facto discussion around how's that going? Have we introduced that to the customer?

Brian Hirt: And yeah, you don't have to be focused on, well, how many calls did you make and how many customer visits do you pay?

Those to me are sort of old school metrics. You know of like, well, how many customers did you visit this week? Right? Like how many packs of donuts did you drop off? Right? It's just that it doesn't get to the root of actually driving value with those customers.

And I think this provides an alternative of, “Hey, I don't care how many customers you visit, how many valuable conversations did you have around these different actions?” Are we defining things we want to do to talk to your customers about that was aligned with our corporate strategy, whether that was across five customers or one or 50, it's more about the substance of those conversations.

Barrett Thompson: Yeah, that's really powerful. I think most managers acknowledge that there's a struggle between measuring activity versus driving and enabling [00:20:00] accomplishment and to have a tool that doesn't just lean more heavily into let me measure activity, but let me enable accomplishment. That's a big step. That's a game changer for a salesforce.

Brian Hirt: We hear good feedback from the sales reps about the solution. Really, once they see that it helps their bottom line, right? It helps provide, like you said, it helps them accomplish what they're trying to do already. It's a win-win in the sense that it provides better visibility to managers about how things are, who's doing what, but then for the sales reps themselves, they're empowered with really great recommendations about how they could help themselves help their customers.

Barrett Thompson: Brian, finally, as we wrap up, who do you think would be a good candidate for the revenue operations and intelligence Quick Start.

Brian Hirt: So I think if you can relate to the things we've talked about, you're a good candidate, right?

So I think anytime you have lots of customers, lots of products, lots of sales reps, there's complexity in that. And so if there's value to be found in the data, and generally there's disconnects in the channels about what you're trying to do. If [00:21:00] you sell five products to a hundred customers, there's not a lot complexity there, but that probably doesn't relate to most listeners.

You've got multiple sales reps. If you've got an eCommerce channel, if you're struggling to sort of get the message out across all those channels, a lot of times this fits really well with B2B distributors, where they have all those channels and the complexity of the different product choices that usually makes a great fit.

Also think about your technology, the investments you've already made. Do you have a CRM? Are you getting what you wanted out of it, delivering on its promises. Same with eCommerce, you have an eCommerce solution. How are you driving revenues through that channel? Is it a goal to increase revenue through that channel?

What tools do you have to help enable that you could sort of think about what your technology suite looks like and whether that might be a good fit or not as well?

Barrett Thompson: Well, Brian, I want to thank you again for taking the time today to share with us your vision and the opportunity that's here in B2B. We really appreciate you bringing forward this paradigm shifting approach.

Brian Hirt: You bet. It's been my pleasure, Barrett.

Barrett Thompson: And I want to thank each of our [00:22:00] podcast listeners for being with us as well. Be sure to check out the links in the show notes for more Quick Start resources and revenue operations and intelligence information, and stay tuned for further learning opportunities.

We're committed to your success here at Zilliant. And if you need any assistance, please reach out to us. Would you do me a favor and please rate and review the show as it helps us continue to put out great free content. Until next time have a wonderful day.

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