SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Matt Gilbert, CEO at Partnerize

It’s important for sales people to not only breakdown their prospect’s buying behaviors but to also familiarize themselves with facts about every prospect’s business before initiating a conversation; Matt Gilbert, CEO at Partnerize shares a few thoughts on today’s changing B2B sales environment:

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Hi Matt, we’d love to hear about your journey as CEO at Partnerize since taking over in 2020…

This stage of the journey actually started with what had to be one of the first fully Zoom M&A processes that has ever occurred. Reflecting on the approximately 8-week process from letter of intent to signed purchase agreement in many ways sets the stage for the journey the team embarked upon in July of 2020. Our global team has never met in person, yet the category opportunity, accelerated by the Covid fueled exponential growth of ecommerce has further energized a category that had strong tailwinds pre pandemic. Our customers, both brands and their partners, are increasingly looking to us to power growth that reduces their dependence on primary sales and marketing channels, all while we continue to work to disrupt business models and deliver solutions that disrupt and overcome the isolationist and protectionist tactics of legacy incumbents. It is an incredibly exhilarating time to be leading a high growth business in the sector. There is certainly no risk of boredom or any shortage of interesting problems to solve.

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Take us through some of your biggest marketing/sales and martech learnings from your time in tech: a few biggest moments that drove key learnings during the pandemic as well?

Having spent the better part of the last two decades building businesses in the broader martech category, there are a handful of critical lessons, that I wish I had learned earlier, but now that I have, I apply them to our business almost dogmatically. 

The first lesson is don’t be distracted by headlines touting new technology. It’s easy to fall prey to well-articulated evangelism, to shiny features, and supporting vanity metrics but doing so will cause you to lose focus on what matters most, the customer. 

The second is always listen intently to your customer. Seek them out. Without them you have no business. I have consistently found that they will always tell you what they need. Sometimes explicitly by describing a solution, but most often by articulating a real challenge for their business that, if solved, would materially improve their performance. The best technology almost never wins. That standing is fleeting anyway.  The best execution of a solution to a real world problem almost always prevails. That said, you have to be able to articulate the solution through the eyes of the customer. What you think doesn’t matter. Teaching them is everything. 

The third is don’t focus too much on the competition. While a healthy rivalry is good for all, obsessive focus on competitors means you aren’t obsessively focused on your customer. There is a quote by Jack Ma that I keep on my desk. He says, “You should learn from your competitor but never copy….” Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers.” The other critical learning is to remember the golden rule. The same way my wife and I teach our children to treat others as you want to be treated, and while it may seem obvious, following this rule it seems at times is a lost value in business. For our business, it defines us. Integrity and putting the customer first must be the foundation if you hope to realize the potential of your business. 

I think in the context of the pandemic, the lessons above were magnified. From the onset, we increased our priority focus on the customers to ensure we were doing everything in our power to help them navigate a period where no one had any historical learnings to lean on. We prioritized and delivered the category’s first weekly index, a weekly analysis of critical trends, by vertical category, to empower our clients and our category to make data driven decisions in an environment where data was critical and largely unavailable. That index, now the trademarked Partnership Growth Index, has in one year been downloaded thousands of times and has been sourced by the leading independent analyst community as the gold standard for affiliate and partnership marketing globally. We are very proud of that because we know it helped many at a time of real need. This was just one of many key initiatives we deployed to make certain that our customers knew we were here for them and that we were putting them first in a time of critical need. A very real manifestation of the golden rule.

How do you feel today’s sales and marketing leaders need to revisit their sales and other customer facing processes and choice of salestech / martech to empower their teams to achieve goals more while (still!) being largely remote?

I am fascinated by the impact of the pandemic and remote work on sales and marketing practices. The entire concept of a field sales organization is now under close examination. Conventional wisdom has forever dictated that larger enterprise customers required you to “get on a jet.” We’re not so sure that it is the case anymore. With many businesses around the world committing to hybrid models, the actual available in office time for meetings with external vendors will be significantly reduced. Combine this with the new level of comfort that vendor selection processes can be both thorough and productive on a fully remote basis, I believe we are headed quickly towards a blurring of the lines between inside and outside sales orgs.  If I’m right, it will be incumbent upon sales and marketing leaders to continue to look for ways to empower their teams to create connections that matter is absence of physical co-location opportunities. People still buy from people. Written communication skills, use of social media, customization of communications will increase in weighted importance.

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Can you talk about some of the top sales solutions over the years (sales technologies) that have helped you drive better business outcomes?

I’m dating myself here, but the first thing that comes to mind goes back to my first sales role as a financial consultant trainee on Wall Street more than a few years ago. At that time, the focus was on the basics. You made a certain number of calls to achieve a certain number of connects which in turn yielded a certain number of pitches culminating in a certain number of closes. Anything that increased your productivity level (more dials) at the top of the funnel cascaded down to your win rate. We used tools that auto loaded leads into a “dialer” that cycled through calls faster than dialing manually and it made a measurable difference in volume. We also recorded calls to optimize approaches and refine scripts. Fast forward to today, and those early lessons still very much apply. Tools like Drift, Chorus, Vidyard and Salesloft (and many others) have focused on building point solutions that address all of these use cases in far more intelligent and sophisticated way. 

How according to you will the future of customer engagement and sales engagement in a digital buying world start evolving…to change the face of customer engagements as we see it today?

Putting the highest focus on the customer has to be the basis of customer and sales engagement moving forward (as it should have always been historically). This means focusing not just on what the customer is thinking about during a sales process, and thereby limiting our focus to acquisition. It means taking a comprehensive view of the full journey you are seeking to navigate and then maintaining consistency throughout the lifecycle. This starts with acquisition, but if delivered properly over time, in culminates in advocacy.  In a world increasingly defined by platform or tool driven interactions, maintaining that consistency is in some ways made easier through rules engines and data sharing, but what is at risk of getting lost is the need to maintain the consistency of human interaction from the BDR all the way through to Customer Success.  This creates challenges for leaders who aren’t focused on the qualitative, or EQ (emotional) elements that are often the difference maker in achieving the outcomes that customers seek, and we benefit from.

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales and marketing or business leaders need to do to motivate, train and uplift their teams to optimize business and sales performance, and the sales technologies you feel sales teams should have more of (implementation / better training) to drive goals ( for instance, clean data in the CRM, call dialers, etc)?

I am increasingly finding myself moving towards a view that today’s sales and marketing and business leaders have become susceptible to viewing business process automation and business intelligence solutions as a replacement for the basic requirements underpinning performance and goal attainment in these disciplines. Content created by a machine is no substitute for a thoughtful, personal interaction. 

Taking the time to understand a prospect’s business is not a step to be skipped. The value of the solutions that are available to us today lies in their ability to take the learnings from the basic homework and apply them at scale to improve efficiency and optimize based on data. At some level I think today’s leaders need to get back to the basics and remember that the first step in a comprehensive training process is to ensure a foundational understanding of the elements that drive success. Ask good questions, listen to the answers, tailor your communications to the needs of your buyers, and then you can move on to identifying, implementing, training, and leverage technology solutions that magnify your ability to efficiently execute a strategy at scale, and exceed your targets.

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Partnerize is a leader in partnership automation. The Partnerize platform is the only of its kind to deliver a fully integrated, comprehensive suite of discovery, recruitment, optimization, payment, brand safety and fraud prevention capabilities for marketers seeking a high transparency, scalable subsidy to alleviate pressure on their unit economics as a result of over dependence on primary sales and marketing channels.

Matt Gilbert is the CEO at Partnerize

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