SalesTechStar Interview with Mark McClure, Executive Vice President of Customer Experience at Babel Street
As Mark McClure of Babel Street puts it, “At the end of the day, the job of sales leaders and sales teams hasn’t changed — they need to generate sales even in a downtime. The biggest difference now versus then is the environment we are selling into.” How can you improve your overall sales and customer experience even during a downtime? Catch these snippets for a few tips that can help during this downtime.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Mark? We’d love to hear about your highlights being in business development over these years…
I have spent a majority of my career in customer facing roles. Over the past 13 years, I have been focused exclusively on the customer experience space. Prior to Babel Street, I spent eight years at Clarabridge, Inc. where I was brought on to lead the Customer Support and Training teams, and later managed the Global Sales Engineering Team. In January 2015, I joined Babel Street as the Senior Vice President of Customer Experience where I was tasked with establishing the Customer Support (Help Desk) and the Education teams. Fast forward six years, and I am now managing a global team of nine team members across both teams that supports Babel Street’s international customer base. Working very closely with the Revenue, Product Management, Development and Product Management teams, we manage all facets of the post-sale process including onboarding, training and the ongoing day-to-day support of our customers.
Tell us a little about Babel Street and how it’s helped tech / B2B clients?
Babel Street offers a variety of solutions built around advanced analytics as well as access to a large variety of data sources. We enable our users to collect open source data across more than 200 different languages and provide them with the ability to analyze all of the collected data together as if it were written in the same language. Data collection is done on a near real-time basis, and the platform is available to our users 24/7 from any computer, device or phone using a browser and internet access.
The last few weeks have been a tough time for businesses and teams; in what ways have your customer service and customer experience plans been tweaked to adjust to a remote world?
Overall, the events over the last 5-6 months have had little impact on how the Customer Experience Team has operated. This is primarily due to the fact that a vast majority of the team was remote prior to everything changing. Very few of our processes and procedures needed to be tweaked to accommodate all of the business changes.
From an education prospective, from the very beginning, we made the decision that our training was going to be made easily available to all of our users. We also made the decision that training was going to be required for all users prior to being granted access to our platform, which we still enforce today. The only way to achieve this was to offer a combination of virtual and self-paced training. Over the past five years, our training has evolved into a 100% self-paced solution that is integrated directly into our software platform.
Much like the Education team, the Help Desk (Customer Support) team is located across the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. Originally, this was not by design, but it became a cornerstone of how the team grew over time. The Babel Street Help Desk is not a 24/7 shop, but due to our geographical distribution and our processes and procedures, we are able to cover a wide range of time zones which in many cases gives our customers a 24/7 feel.
How according to you can sales leaders / sales teams make more of a difference during this time, for their companies and viz a viz their customers / prospects – despite the business challenges everywhere?
Everyone is feeling the pressure and stress of the new normal which is creating a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around what is going to happen next. At the end of the day, the job of sales leaders and sales teams hasn’t changed — they need to generate sales. The biggest difference now versus then is the environment we are selling into. I heard someone say once that we are all in the same boat, albeit in a different storm. I think this is very true given the state of things. Everyone is dealing with the new normal in their own unique ways. People want to do business with those they can trust and relate to. Although this sounds easy enough, given our current state, this might be a bit harder now than it has ever been in the past. Much too often, many sales teams fall into the trap of selling the what — features and functionality — of their solutions and ignore the why. Now more than ever before, we need to be selling the ‘what’s in it for me’ to our customers. There are many different ways to accomplish this, but one of the best approaches, in my opinion, is to listen more and talk less. We must first listen to understand, not to respond. Before we can successfully sell our solutions, you must first understand your customers challenges and pain points. From there, you can start to formulate a solution that will be easy for your customers to understand and relate to. Most importantly, your customers must be able to connect the dots between your solution and the reduction or elimination of their challenges and pain. This starts with being a vigilant listener.
During a downtime such as now (although things do seem to be opening up), what according to you are the top factors sales and marketing should keep in mind to help them with their goals and activities?
It is important to remember that we are in a marathon not a sprint. The problems you are solving with your products and services are still out there, but unfortunately, the money to fund these projects might not be readily available due to many different factors related to our new normal. This means that we must all stay dedicated to the cause — the bluebirds of old are all but gone. Sales cycles are going to get longer, and standard renewals are going to become more of a challenge. With all of this in mind, we as sales leaders must become more patient — which can be easier said than done — while also remaining flexible to the unique situations each of your customers bring to the table. The overall goal should be to achieve a win-win solution that is good for everyone. This might not be the best short-term solution, but it will likely pay off in spades in the medium to long-term as it relates to renewals and upsell opportunities from those customers.
Did your team at Babel Street undergo any additional training during this time to adjust to the new normal? What kind of reskilling or training would you advise for sales and marketing teams during a downtime?
The impact to the Customer Experience team has been minimal throughout this process. All of the processes and procedures that have been in place for more than five years have positioned us well to accommodate the new normal.
During this downtime, challenge your teams to look for new and innovative ways to improve the overall experience of your customers. These don’t need to be earth shattering changes; small tweaks to larger processes and procedures can go a long way toward making things better. This includes concepts and ideas that might be contrary to your current way of doing things. Everyone’s voice needs to matter, no exceptions. Some may want to fall back on the status quo, but I believe that now is the time to try something new and different. You should always come to the table with an open mind, and a little compromise in your pocket. Many times, as leaders, we find ourselves further away from the action. In this new normal, as things continue to change, if you are not listening to your people who are on the front lines, you are doing yourself, your company and your customers a disservice.
As a tech leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you are enabling a balanced remote work culture while maintaining motivation levels?
I completely believe that my success as a leader is based on my people. My ability to lead is important, but the ability of my people to do their jobs and do them well in these trying times is the primary key to success. The traditional approach to motivating your employees (i.e., raises, bonuses, company swag, off-site team building events) might not have the same impact as they once did. Changing things up across the team just might be the ticket. Consider implementing some changes that will give members of the team ownership of new responsibilities. Get creative and challenge them to do something they have never done before. This can be done on an individual or small group basis. The overall goal is to stimulate them in a way that makes them start to think differently about how they do what they do and ways that the day-to-day can be improved. Sometimes simple adjustments can go a long way toward breaking the status quo while improving the overall morale of the team.
How according to you will the face of marketing and sales change because of the ongoing pandemic?
Now more than ever, sales and marketing must be diligent and keep an eye on the prize. One group cannot be successful without the other. Collectively, they must do everything in their power to keep your company moving forward. Without question, senior leadership must continue to make good decisions, but it is imperative that sales and marketing continue to execute on all cylinders. Current customers are as important as new ones, and it is the job of sales and marketing to ensure that both sides are well taken care of. This does not mean compromising long standing company principles, but it does mean going the extra mile to ensure that your company and its solutions stay in the mind’s eye of your existing and prospective customers. A new normal is out there somewhere. Once we get there, you want to make damn well sure that you and your company are ready for it.
As the world’s data-to-knowledge company, Babel Street’s platform enables clients to identify, organize and analyze data, regardless of its location or language. Babel Street products streamline the process of turning data into knowledge by automatically converting client-selected data from over 200 languages to their native language. All publicly available or private data sources can be rapidly deciphered by Babel Street software and utilized to maximize the effectiveness of clients’ decision-making processes.
Mark McClure, is the Executive Vice President of Customer Experience at Babel Street