SalesTechStar Interview With Marianne Borenstein, Chief Client Officer at Collective[i]
Marianne who is currently the Chief Client Officer (CCO) at Collective[i] where she helps clients translate the power of Collective[i]’s technology into measurable results across their sales and marketing organizations joins us in this SalesTechStar Interview to share her thoughts and predictions on the evolving B2B Sales and SalesTech segment.
Tell us a little about yourself Marianne and a little about your role at Collective[i].
I was born and bred in Montreal, Canada, which I think gave me a unique perspective on technology transformation. I now reside in Silicon Valley. The Valley is filled with dreamers and possibilities. The rest of the world brings those dreams and possibilities to life.
I started my career in Toronto working for US technology companies on the cutting edge supporting the expansion of their businesses to global markets. I moved to Silicon Valley in 2008 to join 2/3 siblings who are also in technology. It was there I met my husband (an amazingly talented product leader) and 3 kids later feel so blessed to have a front row seat to how the world is evolving!
My background is in psychology and I have always been drawn to relationships – how they work, when they don’t and how to genuinely form connections that drive mutually beneficial outcomes – finding the win-win, as it were. I naturally gravitated to Account Management and then to Client Success with a focus on design, implementation, adoption, retention and revenue growth.
I tend to pick unproven, pioneering industries and technologies that make sense to me regardless of where the world is in its hype cycle. This was the case when I joined one of the first advertising agencies focused entirely on digital when companies were non believers in the Internet, or when I joined the first online customer support company when no one believed customer service could drive incremental revenue.
When I started at the first of the few social gaming companies, people were laughing at micropayments as a business model. Similarly, no one believed people would switch fuel types when I was hired by the first American all electric car company. Prior to my role at Collective[i], I was at a company that developed the first mobile IOT breast pump, using technology to support women today.
If I had one superpower, it might be spotting important trends early and identifying the companies that would make the impossible the status quo. I think that starting out as an outsider to technological innovation gave me that perspective. Most recently, I came to believe that the B2B world is on the cusp of a massive change. The technology and applications we enjoy as consumers hadn’t made their way into the workplace.
In my experience, there are companies that ignite and accelerate change — Google, Tesla, Netflix and Amazon are all good examples. Once I recognized that disruption was on the horizon, I sought out the company that I thought would be the catalyst for change, and that was Collective[i]. I knew the founders, and the more I learned about the technology, the more I realized how the combination of AI/ML and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) that Collective[i] was bringing to market would dramatically improve how companies operate and manage their most precious resources — talent and revenue. Collective[i]’s platform offers insights, guidance, important human connections and so much more, all designed to optimize every advantage a company has, from their products to their people.
I’m excited because whether it be gaming, electric vehicles, IOT or AI/ML, the key to these technological breakthroughs is where I come in: guiding the people who bring this vision to life. My team at Collective[i] is thrilled to help our clients win by assisting people in bridging the gap between the possible and the actual.
What are some of the top Sales/Client Success takeaways that have been a big learning for you in your career?
- Be transparent and direct. One of my biggest professional assets is asking questions that come from a place of genuine curiosity. I value people who give me real answers because it helps me trust their judgment. I try to extend the same courtesy to people who work for or with me. Whether it’s my team or my client, my experience is that openness is the fastest road to growth.
- Start with the “why”. Recognize that no one likes to change. Did people automatically think that searching for information on the internet was better than a library? Or that a charging station would be preferable to the gas station on every corner? These changes would never have taken hold without context. People need to understand your mission and buy into it. That’s especially true when you are bringing important change to their work and/or personal life.
- Play the long game. That means drawing the box, taking responsibility for ensuring your people understand what’s in it and being radically candid when things aren’t working so that you can make the adjustments in strategy or execution tactics quickly.
- Culture matters. People matter. Don’t skimp on growing the right culture — short cuts lead to long cycles of pain.
- Listen and acknowledge. Whether that’s hearing a perspective you disagree with or admitting your own mistakes, an open and respectful dialog goes a long way in building lasting relationships and the trust that’s needed between partners who rely on your vision to navigate the murky waters of change.
What are the top challenges you see Tech Sales Teams or Tech Client Success Teams face today? Some tips to overcome them?
- Beware of fake AI. Hijacking the hype by putting AI in a company’s name or bragging about having raised money from VCs (for whom, on a good day, 20% of their investments succeed) doesn’t mean the technology is real or is being applied to its highest use. Make sure whomever you partner with has a real vision beyond fancy dashboards and can explain specifically what they are using AI to accomplish.
- Accept that today’s buyer is different. People have access to information, referrals and most of what traditional sales provided for them. Companies need to catch up. Selling in the modern age means building real relationships, leveraging your work and social networks to vouch for you and using persuasive communication and real collaboration. It’s critical that the whole organization, not just sales, is focused on making sure the buyer is getting what they need at the moment they need it. The buyer is truly in charge. The best way to optimize sales talent is to implement systems (like Collective[i]) designed specifically to provide them with a platform to execute with every advantage.
- Start ASAP and commit. Transforming into a modern sales organization is a real process that requires investment. Done right, the dividends far outweigh the short term pain. What my team and I have learned in partnering with our clients, is to start small, get in the game and let the data combined with expert experience guide you. Our first step is to fix the data ingestion process into CRM. We build on that foundation slowly, adding trusted forecasts, predictions, etc., until one day, an organization is humming. That’s a huge advantage that every company should be adopting right now. People shouldn’t fear the work of change, they should worry about not adapting by the time it’s the status quo.
Can you throw light on 5 successful Sales/Client Success campaigns from leading tech companies that you feel are great examples to learn from?
- A very successful campaign that I was part of at Tesla was when we turned customer-created videos into ads. These videos were made by super fans and ended up becoming incredible ads that went viral. This campaign showed just how much of an asset customers/buyers are to a company, and that sometimes, they know and understand the product surprisingly well. In today’s age of Instagram and Facebook ads, companies are being forced to get creative with their ads. Customers don’t want to be inundated with boring, predictable ads — they want to see ads that are relatable and tell a story. What better way to do that than to tap into the customers themselves?
- LinkedIn. Despite a somewhat cluttered interface and sometimes unreliable data (no one I know would ever exaggerate on their resume), this company figured out every growth hack they could to build a massive network. As a proud network builder, I give them props for how they used this powerful business model to fuel their own growth, which in turn benefitted every one of their members.
- “So yeah, we tried Slack”… I loved the sense of humor in this mockumentary and how it featured one of their real customers in a style reminiscent of “The Office”. Not only was it genuinely funny, it highlighted the power of Slack and made me want to be friends with them.
- Collective[i]’s Intelligence Briefings. Every week C[i] holds a company-wide briefing that features a guest speaking with someone on our leadership team. Topics range from politics to business to technology. Past guests include the Co-Founder of Instagram, a former Treasurer of the United States, the Co-Founder of LinkedIn, and the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the New York Times. C[i]’s founders believe that it’s crucial to not become too entrenched in one’s own rhetoric, but instead to hear a multitude of viewpoints — even opposing viewpoints. It’s always fascinating to hear how other leaders see the world changing and what they are doing to adapt. At the moment, these briefings are internal, but we hope to extend them to others outside of the organization in the future.
- Rachio’s onboarding process – time to value was immediate. Rachio is a smart wifi sprinkler controller that auto adjusts to changing local weather and is controlled by an app on your phone. The set-up process took less than 30 minutes, and it was so intuitive and actually fun. Now that’s a tall order from someone who has ZERO gardening skills and will never be called an enthusiast. When I had questions, their on-boarding community and knowledge base were very helpful, and their support team was responsive and friendly. It’s a tech forward product with simplified on-boarding and efficient and friendly support. Thanks to that, I’m now a Super Fan.
What are some of the sales technologies you’d say are a must-have for today’s B2B/Tech Sales teams?
- Revenue Optimization Solutions: Yes I am at Collective[i], which I believe is the leader in this but I truly don’t know how a modern sales organization could operate without our monitoring systems, insights, recommendations, and collaboration infrastructure.
- Cross functional collaboration tools: Powerful examples are Slack, Zoom and Collective[i]’s Virtual DealRoom™, which enables selling team collaboration.
- Social networking tools for business: LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Collective[i]’s Connectors™.
- Tools that save sales professionals’ time: Expensify, Docusign, Adobe Sign, Box, Dropbox, Intelligent WriteBack™, etc. If a sales professional is spending time inputting data or otherwise bogged down by process and paperwork, they are missing opportunities.
- A killer Sales Operations leader and CRO with a vision. I know you asked for technologies, but honestly, people are the killer app. Finding leadership who value vision helps me do the hard work of merging technological capability with execution.
Your top tips for helping Sales teams optimize use of their salestech stack?
- Clean up CRM and automate data entry! Here’s the dirty secret CRM providers won’t admit: After 30+ years of some of the smartest minds in technology focused on it, no one’s CRM instance or data is perfect. It’s time for all of us to simply accept that systems where humans controlled the data entry are no match for the machine. One of the first things we do with our clients is a diagnostic of their CRM. For some, it’s scary. Not me! I want to know all of the issues upfront. Once I know where problems exist, I can start implementing solutions.
- Adopt technologies that automate tasks so that valuable talent can get back to the important work. In sales, the fear of automation is misplaced. Trust me, there will be enough for people to do — B2B sales is safe from the robots.
- Augment human intelligence with timely insights. At Collective[i], we celebrate the sales profession. Our goal is to unearth any advantage — time, useful connections, next best actions — to make people shine and excel.
- Sales is a team sport. Collaboration is as important as individual skill. Make sure you have the right culture and the tools to enable it and invest in partners who challenge you to be better.
- Recognize that your technology stack is dumb and your people are smart. You need a middle layer of intelligence to convert raw functionality into something that goes beyond what people know. Smart people backed by a smart stack is the winning combination.
We’d love to know what your smartest sales/prospecting hack is.
Harness the power of your collective social networks. Sales is really as much about who you know as what you know. Every member of the company should see themselves as a member of the sales team and should be leveraging their connections to help the cause.
Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!
Oracle was known for having one of the most powerful sales machines on the planet. I think it will be interesting to see how they approach the market under Safra’s leadership — especially when it comes to sales technology and AI, given the rise of some of Oracle’s direct competitors, many of whom (Microsoft and SFDC) have successfully modeled themselves off of the sales organization Larry Ellison pioneered. I’m curious to see how she’ll transform Oracle’s process for bringing new products to market and how she’ll reestablish Oracleas the one to beat.
Collective[i]’s network of sales activity data combined with Artificial Intelligence and predictive technology map the B2B buying process to grow revenue.
Marianne currently serves as Chief Client Officer (CCO) for Collective[i]. She is critical to executing on Collective[i]’s vision, helping the company’s exceptional roster of clients translate the power of Collective[i]’s technology into measurable results across their sales and marketing organizations.
Marianne brings a wealth of experience to bridging the possible with the achievable. Her extraordinary career has put her at the forefront of virtually every major technological transformation spurred by the Internet including digital marketing, SaaS, gaming, IOT, electric vehicles and most recently, at Collective[i], a pioneer in the future of work as it is being transformed by AI/ML.
Prior to joining Collective[i], Marianne had the privilege of leading client service teams at LivePerson, Disney and Tesla among others. Her expertise of shepherding companies through periods of rapid change and massive innovation is a huge asset to Collective[i]’s enterprise clients. Marianne and her team provide key support in helping clients achieve the transformative benefits of artificial intelligence.
Marianne’s work is rooted in trust, transparency and proactive communication. In her current role as Chief Client Officer at Collective[i], she focuses on building lasting relationships and deep engagements with customers that provide the infrastructure for revenue optimization and growth.
Marianne is also passionate about supporting diversity in the workplace and increasing the role women play in leadership positions. She, her husband and three children reside in Los Gatos, CA.