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The Revenue Operations Blog

Aligned Leadership, Bob Gibson

December 8, 2021

The Interview

Kluster's Take

Ellie spoke with Bob Gibson, CRO at Jolt. He explains his unique approach to relationship building.

Bob creates a symphonic relationship between organisations. He inspects each component, ensuring everyone is on the same page. This is essential for growth.

Bob inspects the sales cycle to define a successful customer. If they use the tool for 3 days consecutively, they’re 80% less likely to churn. Bob prevents churn by encouraging proactive conversations with customers.

Alignment starts with leadership. Bob gives his team the tools needed to be successful. His primary job is to remove obstacles for them to succeed. An important leadership skill is to listen and focus on leveraging strengths. Bob is “patiently impatient”, he doesn’t sit back, sets expectations and is aggressive in a good way.

Transcription

I think each component has to work in symphony with the other, and that it's always a game of making sure that you've got each of your groups in alignment to be able to grow.

As the chief revenue officer, I'm in charge of the marketing department, the sales department, the customer support department, uh, anything that touches revenue, uh, kind of falls under my banner. Um, and each of those, um, uh, Groups or departments that have their own kind of special needs and Karen feeding that need to happen.

So it's, uh, it certainly is a, a lot of fun and keeps me busy. And so we were talking previous a bit previously about this and it's on the theme of alignment. Alignment is really, really important. Um, creating a symbiotic relationship between different departments so you can grow on the same direction. Um, So tell me what is your philosophy on alignment?

Yeah, so I think each, each component has to work in sympathy with symphony, with the other, and that, um, if you have one that's really strong, that's not necessarily a good thing. Um, because it cripples the rest of the organization. So it's, uh, it's always a game of making sure that you've got each of your groups in alignment to be able to grow.

And one of the things that that happens is if your sales team goes out and just hits the ball off the cover and starts driving huge amounts of sales, and you don't have a system that can record that. Bill for it properly, or you don't have a group that can properly install it and get it up and running.

Then you run into what we love to call them the industry churn, um, which is the silent killer. So, um, you need to make sure that as you're looking at your org, that you're looking at each component of it and that you're making sure each one is aligned to keep up with the. Cool. And how do you do this?

That's a great question. Um, a lot of it is making sure you've got infrastructure in place. So, um, you know, I think one of the things that happens to startups is they, they under invest in technology or they, they build or grow their own, which when you're doing kind of a transactional type business that's okay.

And it'll get you to a certain point. But once you get into more complex sales or more complex requirements, if you don't have the right tools in place, then you kind of crippled a little bit, um, as an organization. So, um, You know, it starts with the basic fundamental business requirement and strategic planning where you have to really take a strong look at your organization, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and then stop planning out 12 and 24 months.

So you're not just stuck living in the moment. You're thinking about what the orgs are gonna look like down the road. And that planning process becomes a real. Key part of the foundational building of a healthy organization. And I think that's the key to really having a successful group. Oh, interesting.

So you're talking just backtracking there a little bit more about tech. What kind of tech do you think is essentially. To get everybody on the same page. I think you have to have a really strong CRM package. Um, you have to make sure that that's being integrated correctly into whatever using on the marketing end.

Right? So that tool is working seamlessly with your, your front end, um, website and your services, you know, either through a product like HubSpot or, or whatever you're using. That flow to get to the sales rep on leads coming in, has to be seamless. And when, when you, um, when you look at building that, and you're looking at your first investment in that you really need to do your due diligence and understand, you know, kind of that scale, right?

What does it look like two years from now and Ken, the tool I'm looking at, uh, do that. And, you know, a lot of times I think what we find in the startup world is that people haven't pre-thought of this. So by the time you want to use your data, it's not actionable data. So you've got, you know, kind of a mess on your hands and you've got to get it all cleaned up first before you can actually take advantage of it.

All right. So being able to prepare. Kind of like the key component, because like they say, and it might be a bit cringey to say this well, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. It's so true. And so how long do you think in your opinion is like the correct amount of time to spend planning? Because in sailed on, especially in startups, I'm sure.

Like, you're like great that like it's a very, very fast paced environment and people can kind of get. Stuck into, you know, running on autopilot and like running on, just do, do do, and not enough, like, well, let's take a step back for a little bit and see what we can do. So when we actually execute these plans, it's done in a correct and efficient way.

Sure. Yeah. It's a discipline that you have to build into your calendar. So, um, for us, we're on a fiscal year that ends, um, February, um, ends January 31st and starts February 1st. So our strategic planning process will start for FY 23. Uh, we'll start the first week in February. So we'll do it little things that lead up to it and with the goal of having by July, our framework in place for the next fiscal year.

Um, and then to actually have the full plan published and ready to go in December. So we're at least 30, 45 days before the next fiscal year. So we can align the organization to the goals that we're trying to hit. Nice. Where are you talking about, like these little things that you do towards that process?

Like what does that framework kind of look like for you guys? Yeah. So for us, we do it from bottom up. So we involved the whole organization and we do, um, we do, you know, the typical SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Um, we do it, um, historical, current. Perspective future. So we do an exercise around that.

So we kind of get a sense of what's coming down the road, what we're executing on. Well now, um, we always do a tools analysis. What tools are we using today? Are they efficient and working for us? Do we need to replace some, um, what's the impact on that? How much is it going to cost? Um, there's a budgeting, uh, component that goes along with that as well.

And then ultimately we get to our goals. What, what are the goals and goals are. I have to be achievable, but they're, um, they're really based upon high-level KPIs. Right? So what you want to do is really put a goal in place. That's not financial, but creates a financial reality. Right? So, um, you know, whatever that, that particular goal is, it has to be something you can measure and attain, and it has to have ramifications throughout the whole organization.

And then from there we go down to each department in level where they take the guidance from the overall, um, executive team. And then they start building up their own, uh, plans within each department. And then, uh, by the time we get to December, everyone's got everything locked and loaded and ready to go.

Nice. And so tell me, like, what are like the key metrics that you guys use to know. You as a team are all going towards that all on the same page, going towards the right track. Yeah. So, um, for us, we define, we look at our sales cycle and what metrics we can. Account to that equates to a successful customer.

So for us, one of our, um, our key performance is three days consecutive usage. So we track all of our customers. Our goal is within the first 30 days to be at 80% plus in three-day consecutive usage, because we know that if you use us for three days in a row, You're less likely to churn and much more likely to stay with us for an extended period of time.

Um, so that would be one of the goals that we track, we measure. And then we incentivize, um, their customer support team, uh, to hit another one, um, that we look at is, um, we have seven different skews as part of our product. And we realized that if a customer buys three of those skews, The stickiness factor is, is amplified.

So that's another key, um, messaging that we try to get the organization to do, because it also does the same thing. It, it really, um, makes the customer sticky less likely to churn. Um, and we have a long-term, uh, relationship with that customer. So, those are just a couple of examples, but this is where you don't actually put, like, you know, do $50 million or do that.

You look at the underlying behaviors that get you to that. And then that's what you build into your plan. Yeah. The underlying behaviors that get okay. Yeah. Cool. And. So in an instance right, where you're seeing that a customer is starting to churn, um, how do you kind of solve that issue? Because I'm sure like, as much as you plan, as much as you prepare, there's always going to be instances where, you know, things may not go as planned.

So what, what, what do you do to try and try and solve that? Yeah. It's um, the first thing is you have to be aware, right? So what we do is we track usage. So we know if a customer. Um, uh, is starting to not use our product, which is an indicator of churn, right? So we're tracking that usage on a daily basis.

And we're rolling that into a weekly cadence to get with the customer and find out why, but this is where alignment becomes really important. Um, typically a customer that's going to churn also becomes an accounts receivable. So, you know, if the finance team identifies a customer missed a payment or is late on a payment, we marry that data up with the customer support team.

Now we've got two groups involved with talking to that customer and we can understand, is it a financial issue? Um, is it the product not doing what they expected? Is it an onboarding issue, but we can at least have the conversation before the customer churns and see if we can't say. And, um, we have a cadence every Tuesday and Thursday where we go through all the data and we identify the customers that, um, uh, that we need to reach out to and see what we can do to keep those patients.

Right. So it seems like alignment is super important, but it's also, you know, building that rapport and taking care of your customers, being attentive to them seems like a huge priority for you guys. Yeah, it is. Um, you know, at the end of the day, if you can build a customer base to be raving fans of yours does, there's no better way to grow your organization.

Right. Word of mouth and references become a part of a key, uh, stickiness that you have over a period of time. Right. And on the topic of alignments, um, where do you think alignment gap. Gets stock. Where do you think, like it goes, it goes wrong sometimes. Well, I think it really starts with leadership. If leadership isn't aligned and working in the same direction and you don't have the.

For that, um, then you can get out of alignment really quick and you know, a spiral can happen very quickly within an organization. Um, I think you see this a lot in startups where, you know, they've got one or two people that make all decisions, so they become a choke point. Um, and it's not broken into, um, an org that makes sense for the size of the organization.

Um, and what's once you, once you bring the right leader, On you get them in place, then you let them lead. You let them make decisions. You hold them accountable, but you don't get in their way. Right? You, you give them the tools necessary to be successful. And then your primary job or my primary job is to remove the obstacles for them to be successful.

And I think when an org doesn't have that mentality, that's when alignment goes south really quick.

That's interesting because that, it kinda like, for me, it brings a question of, yes, there's an element of like processes that have to be in place as well, like to be able to good leadership that it kind of creates a domino effect for the alignment in the company. Do you think this is kind of like there starts at the hiring process of who you hire as a leader?

Yeah, absolutely. The actual process itself. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that's part of, one of the things I've always been fortunate with is I've always had a really good management team. Um, but I think that's your, that's your first and your key hires. You know, you, you have to get the. Um, leadership team in place, and then you can filter down to the employee level.

Um, but if you don't have the right leadership in place and you bring on good talent, the talent is going to leave because they're not getting what they need to be successful. So that ripple effect, I think really affects a lot of organizations. What do you think makes a good leader? What are the key factors?

Um, I think the, the first and most important aspect of a good leader is the ability to listen and, um, not. Uh, assume. Right. So ask good questions and listen to the answers and take that feedback on a constant basis. Um, I think the, the second trait that makes a good leader is, um, uh, building that team and then leveraging their strengths, not really worrying about the weaknesses, but once you've identified your leader's strengths, really play to that.

And then build complementary people around them that have the other skills you need. Um, and recognizing that, you know, in the hiring process becomes, uh, a key to, you know, building that, that management team, uh, overall. Um, and then lastly, um, I think the, the third kind of high level, um, criteria for manager.

Or for a leader, um, is lead don't, don't sit back, right? The, um, be aggressive in a good way, but, um, you know, drive the organization, set expectations and then hold people accountable to meet those expectations. Right. And how do you find that balance? Because obviously like in startups, like we have this like internal drive to want to do the best.

We want to grow really rapidly. But at the same time, if you push your team too, too hard, then you might, you might drive your team members away. So how do you find that balance? Yeah, I use the term be patiently impatient. Explain that for me, please. That means there's foundational things that you're always going to have to make sure are in place and those take time to build.

Um, so you, you have to understand that and. And be realistic in the timelines. It's gonna take, um, to get that in place. Um, but at the same time, drive the team to get it done sooner than they think they can. So that's my kind of, uh, patiently impatient. I like that. I like that. So, and this might be a bit of a deep question, but to close this off, if you were in.

A boardroom full of the best CRS in the world. Uh, what, what would you, what would you ask them? I would ask, um, I guess the first question I would ask is, um, what's your philosophy? What are your core beliefs? What are your values? What is it that's important to you? Um, and then. I think that, that data in and try to understand it because I think, I think one of the things that, um, I've certainly learned over my career is that there's certain characteristics that make up a good employee in a specific job.

And. I love to uncover and discover those characteristics and then not always, um, you know, perfect characteristics sometimes, you know, like one of the, one of the best characteristics of a great sales person is they tend to be, um, ignorant of social. Right. And, you know, they just don't have that filter that a lot of other people do where people that are very sensitive to the room and pick up on people's emotions and they'll stop and not keep pushing.

Right. So, you know, as you build out teams that, um, in roles, uh, understanding the characteristics that make people successful is always one of those, uh, key things. So that would probably be my, my, my big question.