On April 21st, the CMAweekly community discussed the concept of doing more with less among layoffs, fewer resources, and lower growth.
Ari Hoffman, of Influitive, Daniel Palay, of Grafana Labs, Ashley Ward, of Lean Data, and others shared their obstacles and solutions on:
- What To Say Instead of No
- Building Business Alignment
- Overcoming Resistance to Change
- Prioritizing for Success in Your Programs
- Letting Go of Control: A Struggle for Leaders
- Aligning Sales and Customer Marketing Objectives
- Avoiding Busy Work
- Finding Internal Sponsors
- Asking for Advice, Not Opinions
What To Say Instead of No
(a short answer by Daniel Palay)
I noticed comments in here that no is really hard to say and say it nicely. But, I think there’s an approach where as long as you pitch it as a It’s not no, it’s no but or Yes, but here are the things that have to go by the wayside.
As long as you come prepared with the data, and I’m sure you’re going to walk through some of how you come up with the data of what you prioritize, as long as you come with that, you get in a position where they’re like, “Okay, cool, do all of these things”, then you can come back and be like, “I can’t do all of these things at 100%, you’re gonna get something at 50%”.
And as long as you give everybody that information, they’re gonna have to accept that one way or the other.
One Reason It’s Hard to Say No
(by Ashley Ward)
Can I ask a quick question before you go into the deck? I wonder if anybody has this experience. So I feel like for me, sometimes when I say, “No” to that thing that they’re asking for, they’re gonna figure out how to get it done. And if I say no, then it just means it’s getting done without me being involved, which is oftentimes problematic, because eventually something is going to happen, that was going to impact me.
So I’m gonna have to clean up the mess. So I need be involved from the beginning. Or they’re just going to mess things up. And, then it’s not a good customer experience, right, which is ultimately what I care about.
And so that’s the struggle that I have is that there are so many priorities, and so many people wanting to do things. And there’s this lack of leadership level alignment on what is actually a priority and what needs to be done. So everybody is just like, Ah! we have to do everything. And I’m just trying to juggle all the balls and make sure nothing drops.
Being a Perfectionist Doesn’t Work for Leaders
(by Ari Hoffman 11:49)
I will say it’s hard being a perfectionist. And I know what that’s like. And you know that the weight is going to come back on you at some point anyways, and so you’re not actually helping others grow by doing that. You’ve got to let people fail, even if it’s going to be more time for you at the end, and you’ve got to be able to come back and coach them along the way.
It’s something that a lot of us struggle with, and I still struggle with all the time. I’m doing stuff right now that I should not be doing because I just don’t want to let it go. That’s a hard one. Right? And it’s just as much about ourselves is it is others.
(Ashley Ward 12:36)
Yeah, sometimes it is that. But, and I am a perfectionist, so you hit the nail on the head there. But sometimes, it’s like this awful feeling that people think that they can do your job. And that they they’re like, Oh, well, you can’t she can’t do it, I’ll just do this case study myself then or I’ll just whatever. And it’s kind of like, I really don’t want other people doing my job. Like, I want to do my job.
(Ari Hoffman 13:03)
I had someone who was ahead of me and was like growing quickly in the Customer Success department. And she was literally telling me like, why is it so hard to do these reference programs and things I did at my last company. And it wasn’t even part of my job. And I did this and I ran it and we would get blah, blah.
And I looked at her last company, because I didn’t know where she come from, like she had 30 customers for 10 people on her team. And so it’s a lot easier to get things done, when you’re not in active upselling whatever it was. I know that feeling. Then she was like trying to create side pocket programs that were competing with the programs I created. So I get that as well. Again, it is as much about ourselves there as it is about other people. Like we’ve got to let go.
It’s like letting kids grow up, right? You gotta let go. At some point. Yes, we’re there to help coach them and guide them. And you do need to do it in a supportive and constructive way. It’s just it’s hard because we know we can do a lot of things well, we try to do a lot of things well, and we try and save other people because we’re like it’s in the best interest of our customers. Right?
And so we go there first, but we forget what’s actually in the best interest is leveling the entire team up so that they can all support the customers as well as we do. That’s a whole different topic though.
That’s it and it is one that we all struggle. I mean, it’s especially as you’re growing, that in kind of your leadership roles, that’s one that is tough.
Too Worried About Your Job To Say No
(by Mary Green 15:13)
I get it, because you might just feel like somebody else isn’t competent enough to do something that falls under your responsibilities. But at the same time, I have to remind myself, this is a company that I work with, and well, it is my job. And it’s very important to me. I know I can only handle so much. And I have to let some things go because I’ve been overworked and burnout before. And I don’t want to get back there.
But everyone has a different level of where that is. And maybe there’s some way to be able to guide people with things like that and check in on those projects without fully taking it on yourself.
(Kathy Fava 16:11)
Yeah. I think there’s an elephant in the room here. And that’s if you can’t do the job, I’ll find somebody who will. And you know, worst case, you’re out the door, or you get a bad performance review, because you weren’t able to do everything asked of you, or, I mean, that’s really malicious. But I know that happens.
(Mary Green 16:36)
Yeah, it does. It happens in tech, probably more than some other places. And it is something that is scary. But at the same time, and I know there’s always this balance where people are like, our job isn’t worth your sanity. And no, it’s not.
But at the same time losing a job and not having one for several months, you kind of lose your sanity there too. So there’s always going to be that balance. And it is it does, like Ari said, come back to you, which stinks. But, we can also learn some things along the lines of confidence on being able to say no, or yes, but or, you know, no, or I’ll get back to it when I can. So increase your own professional skills and abilities. But, there’s only so much you can do to prevent that.
Strategy for Saying Yes, but…
(by Ari Hoffman 17:46)
It also goes to what Daniel said, which is ‘Yes, but” I would actually say “Yes, I can do that. And I just want you to know that if I do that. Here are the things that I’m working on. Here’s the prioritization, here’s why they’ve been prioritized this way. This is what’s going to have to be let go because there isn’t more bandwidth to accomplish all of this.”
So you give a really strong statement in there. You support them, you say, “I’d love to do it. And this is what’s going to have to suffer because of it. But I’m on board. I’m here, tell me if that’s what you want and you’re right, we can do that right now. Or let’s find somebody else that can or maybe you can help me find somebody else to do that. Who do you think is the best person?”
How to Get Approval for New Software
So I’m going to give you a caveat to this deck that I’m going to cover, which is I spent years trying to buy either Influitive or other advocacy software, like Reference Edge, trying to get something to help me scale.
And I and it was never really about the budget. Never. Right now it might be more about the budget. But in the past, it was really much more about the change management. And what the big lift it was to bring something like this in. Because bringing an advocacy tool is something that touches so many different departments. There’s integrators, your Salesforce team and all these different people involved. And so the analysis paralysis kicks in and gets them out. And it was because I didn’t know how to present why it was so imperative to have a tool like this, especially at companies that were trying to get rid of extra technology. Right?
I was at a company that literally the CTO was charged with cutting our tech stack down by half because we had like something like 250 different pieces of technology were using, and over 50% of them were only used by one department or less, even more a subset of that department and so they were charged with that and so I was trying to get in so this is like years of things I put together that helped me understand how to present something in a way that really talked about not needing the technology, but where the state of our program was at and what the state of doing nothing was if we didn’t scale.
One of the biggest misconceptions that we have is; doing nothing doesn’t mean sustaining where you’re at, right? And I’ll get into the effect of doing nothing and how negative that is. So, it’s really about a way to set up yourself for success and understanding how to align your program and priorities to the company and different departments objectives. So I’ll just hop in. Does that make sense?
Ari Hoffman 20:54
So, generally speaking, the current state of affairs is that our advocacy programs can feel messy, they feel noisy, and it can feel like a lot. It feels like I’m being asked to do 12 different things from all these different people.
And where that comes from, is when people think of customer advocacy, they think of it in like, the thing that they need at that time. They think, Oh, it’s a reference, I need a reference customer.
They don’t think of all of the different requests coming in for from event marketing, demand gen, Product Marketing, etc. They don’t think about; what do our competitors look like? Can we do some surveys? Or can we have some competitive messaging done with our customers? From the product team itself? Can we get more beta testers? Oh, we need analyst calls. We need cab reviews, right? We need advisors, all of these things. They just say, Oh, you’re getting some reviews, and maybe some case studies. I don’t understand. Why can’t you add this additional thing?
We’re also asking all of that of our customers. Right? We forget how much we ask, especially if it’s not all routed through a program, right? Where you can in some way scale, the ability to do this, you’re not asking the same customer over and over.
And, how do I know this? Because I had a GM of a 2 million customer company that we had asked in the span of two weeks, to speak to Gartner on a two hour analyst call, and to speak and keynote at our upcoming customer event. At that customer event they were winning an award. So also to leave a review on Gartner peer insights, as well as do a video interview of winning that award after they did the award on stage, doing a video interview talking about all the things. So we had asked this GM five things in two weeks to do.
And he literally came back to me and said, I needed time out I gotta do my job. And what we also fail to remember sometimes is a lot of times our customers we’re not their only vendor. They’re doing this with 234,567 other vendors and everyone’s vying for their time, including your own customer success manager trying to get time with them. So we fatigue our customers because there’s so much and we want more.
And so it’s imperative that we have a way to reach a broader audience of our customers. At this point, you can’t have one CSM in 5000 accounts unless it’s a digital play in that you’re not touching the customer. Right? They’re not you know assigned CSM, you’re gonna max out and how many accounts they can have. And that’s the same for any program, including this, but you’re not just fatiguing them, you’re fatiguing all of your internal employees because this isn’t efficient.
Why CSMs Are Extremely Protective Of Their Accounts
If every time the CSM or the account manager or the I’m sorry, the event marketing manager needs someone for an event and they reach out directly to a CSM and then the product marketing manager needs so and they reach out to the CSM. And then the product team needs a beta and they reach out to the CSM. Let’s see so I’m trying to get their job done too.
And now they’re trying to act like like a manager of this customer from a marketing perspective, and they’re trying to juggle so what’s going to happen especially if that customer starts to fatigue, well the CSM is going to be a little more reserved and resistant to you touching their customers. Does anyone on this call deal with CSM? That’s why they’re so protective of their accounts.
Ari Hoffman 24:54
Yeah, AES or CSMs, you know anyone on the accounts, because I used to deal with that when I first stepped into a company, and I didn’t get why. And I was kind of thinking, what is the problem? Like, I’m gonna love on the customer, I’m great at this. And they were so resistant. And then I started to empathize and understand why.
Because if we’re asking too much of our customers, what do they start to do? They start to turn off, they stop answering emails, they need more time. They’re not gonna come to you and just say that I just got home from the gym. A lot of times, they don’t tell you that they’re overwhelmed, they’re just gonna stop responding, they’re gonna go dark on you.
And if a CSM as a customer go dark, that is a red flag for them. So, they’re gonna be resistant to allowing anything that could jeopardize a relationship with them. And it’s understandable, they’re trying to make them successful. So, the more resistant the CSM is, the longer it is to get a response, the harder it is to find customers, and the entire process slows down. And then everyone becomes more demanding, right? We need these yesterday, we need those. And that fire continues to grow. And it’s this kind of vicious cycle that feeds off of itself. And everybody loses in this vicious cycle.
Getting CS to Work with You, for the Customers
So you need a way that you can streamline this approach. But that’s just to understand where the internal fatigue starts, right? So how do we align and make sure that everyone understands that we’re going to help smooth the road to success here, and we’re going to be the arbiters, right of the customers.
We’re going to be their sports agents, we’re going to help them, it doesn’t mean we don’t have their coach and your physical, we have all of the different components of a team. But we’re the person who’s going to really help them shine. And we’re going to help our CSM shine, and we can celebrate them together.
Don’t Take It Personally, Empathize with Other Teams
Ari Hoffman 27:06
And you know, at first, I took it personally almost. And then I had to realize where they were coming from and what was actually happening that made them that way. And then you start to really, when you empathize like that, you can really start to work with them in a way that they’re not going to be resistant to you, they’re gonna let you in and realize, “Oh, you’re there to help”.
And here’s another big one to remember. And this is something that helped me with sales. This helped me like kind of be the therapist between sales and customer success, because they’re both blaming each other for who wasn’t adding the right data, and who should be responsible for collecting it and all of these different things. And what you realize, like when we all feel like we do on this call, that’s what this is about today, like we are barely keeping our head above water, we’re treading water.
So, we’ve gotten this muscle memory of how we get through the day, right? We’ve got this muscle on CSM, they use this, they do that, they write this report, they do that they rinse and repeat. And they do anything you try and inject into that cycle is going to be met with with with resistance. Why? Because they’re barely keeping up like this.
And now you’re gonna have to try and teach them something new. And something different, even if it’s meant to help them swim better, and relax more, they’re not going to, it’s instantly going to be met with resistance. And that’s okay, you gotta understand, because that’s that feeling of like, oh my god, I can’t do another process of just talking to all the processes last week, I can’t do anything else. I’m barely surviving.
And so it helps when you understand that because you don’t take it as personally and you think of ways that you can be more empathetic and understanding to inject things in a way that allow them to want more from you. In a way that helps them float rather than pushing away these programs that you’re trying to inject because being met with that resistance is really hard.
Aligning Your Efforts with Company Goals
So how do you align company goals, your business goals? First, you want to start with the broad range of goals. And then you narrow yourself down just like OKRs, right, top down kind of approach. But here, what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna say, what are our business goals and our values and our mission statement? Because this is how you’re going to be setting up kind of almost like your argument, your case for this, right?
Because you want to align and this is what leaders do, and almost everything they present. They’re gonna tie it back to this. And you’re like, Yeah, I don’t know, this, but I’ve met some leaders in my time. I’m like, Oh, are they a leader? Like they can’t do anything. But guess what? They know how to talk the talk, right?
They are great at putting that slide deck together. And they are great at all ends. But like, because this is what they do. This is how they align their conversation to make it seem like they’re completely on board with what the company is trying to achieve, which is what are our business goals and how do you get and how do you find those what are the top three or four goals of the business?
Like many times it’ll be; improve our sales by 40%, year over year, right? There are several of them. But where do you find them? So you can go direct to your CMO, they will absolutely know this. They will be charged with this, you can find them at all hands and sync up.
You can find them if your company does, if not all of us do, OKRs. But if they do, they’ll generally be in the OKRs. You also then want to wrap that around the nice bubble of what are your mission and value statements by being a more customer first, we want to be customer obsessed.
Then you walk that into your language. And just like our vision, or mission statement says we need to be more customer centric, this is a program that supports being customer obsessed by XYZ. Those are some areas you can look for that vision, you know, those are pretty easy. They’re on your about page mission statement vision and values. You can always look through Gong as well, from all hands if they’re recorded.
Aligning Goals with Various Departments
Alright, so departmental alignment, right here are the things for each of the different departments that they really tend to care about. Not every company. These are generalities.
Okay, so in sales are they really going to care about how it ties back to you and your department? References, referrals, cross sell, upsell, sales is going to be focused on those things. Those are the conversation points you’re going to have when you go to talk to them to align.
And it’s a staged process, you don’t go and pitch anybody your ideas, because that’s how you get met with resistance. What you want to do is find out what are they challenged. And how do you solve those problems so that they pull you along? Right? Newton’s was his third law, equal and opposite reaction, the more you try and push, the more they’re gonna push back. It’s same with an argument at home, right?
With my wife, the more I push, the more she’s gonna push back. Right, but equal and opposite. So if I pull, she’s gonna pull back, if I find out what are the strings that really are important, or in this conversation, right, and I start to pull those, she’s gonna pull back on the things that are important to me. So, that’s what you want to learn how to do.
It’s really all based in psychology, but so sales references, referrals, reviews, that’s where you’re gonna say we want to talk about product, they’re gonna care about things like feedback loops and roadmap, right? Your success team, what are they going to care about adoption, utilization, education, training, NPs CSAT, customer effort scores, networking and best practices.
And then marketing, you have, you know, the four main distinctions in there, which is the content marketing team, what are they going to care about your social media team, your product marketing team, your demand and events. And you’re going to want to take the time to just set up a 30 minute call with each of them.
How to Start the Conversation for Alignment
You’re thinking; I don’t have enough time as it is. Well, go back to that saying of you know, the woodchopper is too busy chopping wood to sharpen their axe. If you want to become more effective and efficient, you’ve got to break out the time to talk with these departments about these issues.
But you’re not going to just go in and have an open conversation. You’re gonna go in ready with a scorecard to assess. Alright, so here’s a very simple and easy way to start the conversation and get aligned. And this is how you build up what the cost of doing nothing is. And there’s gonna be, we’re gonna get into that in a second. But this is the homework to set up that conversation.
You’re gonna go out and you’re gonna say, marketing or sales leader. I’m gonna go to Robin, I’ve done this. I’m gonna go to rob, VP of Marketing, Head of Marketing, I’m gonna say, hey, how important is it for the company right now? In your eyes? How important? Is it to the company, that we get our CAC down?
How important is that, that we reduce our gap? from a company perspective? Cool. What do you think right now our current grade is on that like, what would you give it out of a 10? One out of 10? How would you say we’re doing? You think we’re killing it right now our attack is doing great. We’re not worried about customer retention. And you go through each of these; customer expansion, employee retention is a big one.
You want to give each leaders opinion on how they think they’re doing with their employee retention. Right? Because now you know, if they give yourself a 10 out of 10, this isn’t something you’re gonna talk to him about. Right? But if there’s something they feel like they that they definitely are looking at doing better. Well, now you have, you have your key targets that you’ve set up the vulnerabilities, the strings that you know, are important to them.
Alright, and raving fans, do we have enough in the program. Do you feel like the program was scaling? And don’t take this personally right now. Take this as constructive. And if they say no, that’s great for you. They are telling you right now, and now you have in writing. As you put this together, you can say, here’s our overall scores in what everyone is feeling like, this is what I’ve got one, I’ve gone back to each of these companies.
And yet we think doing the same thing is going to produce better results. Right. And so the impact of doing nothing. We act like we’re just staying still, but it’s not true. We’re actually sinking, why? Because we’re becoming less efficient, less effective. We are fatiguing everybody out, which affects employee retention and customer retention. All right.
Marie Elliott 35:45
What if they’re all level 10? Important?
Ari Hoffman 35:57
That’s a good point. And here’s five things, right? That if they’re all level 10 importance, you can go back and say here now I’ve gotten all these things? How do we prioritize? What is of these that are all going out of ten importance? Is it is is our customer expansion? Just as important as our GAC? And if so why? Right, you can have, it just gives you more fodder to have those deeper conversations. And depending on the department, you’ll see you everyone’s gonna have varying degrees of what’s most important to them.
And, don’t think this is an exhaustive list, if there are things that your company that you know, are more important, stick them in, but keep it simple. Don’t over boil this, so that you can have a really clear and easy conversation with them when you’re coming into this. And it shows that you’re doing your due diligence, your homework, and you really do care about the business objectives for this year.
The Importance of the SaaS Growth Rate
And then the next thing we’re going to want to talk about, and this is something you hear them talk leader on the sales side, or on the marketing acquisition, side demand gen, they should know this; the company growth rate. And everyone’s growth rate is going to be different. Most in SaaS tend to be around 40%.
For investors, we tend to need a 40% year over year growth rate. But if you can be of an extremely aggressive company at 50 to 60%. And you can be more realistic company that’s in the 20 to 30% range. So you want to find that out what is our growth rate? And then you’re gonna find out what our total MQL is that we need. What are we are hitting right now?
For this year, right, total SQO’s, and yours might be different. They might not be sales qualified opportunities that you might call them something else. Like we have sales, sales aligned leads, right in their total deal close. How many did you close over the last year? The deal velocity; while how much time does it take to close? What is the average time to close? Because we’re gonna want to get that down, right? What are the number of active advocates that you had in 2022? And what was the win rate that you had with strong customer references last year?
Now you’re gonna say, “well, if we want to grow at 40%, here are the numbers that we’re going to have need to have”. You can just do that it’s easy math. to calculate that once you find these out, you can calculate that.
Doing Less More
Now, what you’ve done is you’ve shown we’ve got a lot of work to do.
We cannot continue to do what we’re doing. How can we continue to survive this rate? And yet hit those numbers. We know it’s not possible.
That’s why we have to do more with less. So this is how you’re going to do less more. And that’s the saying that Nick Mehta is trying to use. And I love him because he really gets it. And doing less more is prioritization. Big rocks, you let the small rocks filter down, you focus on the big rocks at first. And if you’re a leader, you put all these numbers in front of your leader and they start getting it they might be gaslighting you and it might be time to go round your leader, not telling you to do that right off the bat.
That’s some haphazard shit. So don’t just take that willy nilly. But if you’re doing your homework and you present all of these, well, then you’re in a tough position to win. And you’ve got to do something at that point, because that’s not what’s in the best interest of the company.
And you’ve got to do you’ve got to put on your what is it? What’s that word of doing what’s right for the customer and that company it’s called?
Ari Hoffman 40:04
But you got to gotta do what’s right for the company, right? You can’t let a single person railroad progress.
The Cost of Doing Nothing
So what do we do here? We know we’ve got to do more. We know we can’t stand still, right? We know that we’re actually sinking. By trying to do nothing here, we’re actually getting worse.
This is getting crowded. So what are we doing? Okay, well, let’s just borrow five to 10% of time from sales, they’ll help you with this. And when 5% of time from the product team, they’ll help with this. And sales, right, and marketing and Event Marketing and Social, they’ll all chip in, well chip in, you can borrow some of the programs from over here, you can use a sauna that they’re using, you can use this over here, you can use this, right, you can use a little bit of Gainsight to help with references you can use.
The reality is even if you take those chunks, that doesn’t equal a whole pie, because it’s coming in disconnected, discombobulating, you’re spending as much time trying to bridge these disparate silos of content and data, then you are building programs. You’re just chasing it down. But also remember, everybody is up to their necks.
Are they really going to give you that five to 10% of the time that you need? Or are you going to get deprioritized to the last thing on their value chain of what they’re trying to check off? Which is normal, right? That is not, it’s not against you, it’s that they have all these other things that they’re getting measured on, you’re at the bottom of that list, so they’re gonna get to us, eventually, maybe. We know that isn’t right.
The Need for a Centralized Approach – Why Our Jobs Exist
This is why we go to centralized approaches over distributed approaches. As companies grow, they get rid of those distributed approaches, because they know they aren’t efficient. Our roles exist, our rules were distributed before. Reviews are often done by the demand gen team or the events, Team references were filled by somebody else, case studies might have been done by the product marketing team.
So depending on your company, and I won’t say everyone will have any silver bullets yet here. But generally, our jobs exist because they realized they couldn’t just do this in all these different ways. They needed someone to focus on this.
ROI of Your Advocacy Program
What is the ROI of your advocacy program? Well, now you can take back all of that content. And you can start to say, here’s how we’re going to approach this. And here are the metrics.
Generally, actually, this is all you really need to do your homework at first. Because what you’re going to get out of this, is the blueprint for what you need to prioritize and how you’re going to focus on the next step.
Ari Hoffman 43:09
What you can do, after you’ve done your homework, you go back now to your sales leaders, your account, if you have account managing account managers are responsible for upselling expansion, you’re gonna go to the heads of that. And if it’s on the, if it’s all run through the sales team, then you go to the head of sales.
You’re gonna say, now that we’ve seen these priorities, here are some of the top things that we can fulfill. We need more reviews, right? To help with XYZ. We need more case studies. XYZ, we need more video testimonials to help with XYZ. We need to have more cabs, we need to have more impersonal events, we need to have more references and a larger reference pool. You’re telling me all these things are equal priority? Well, how important is that review to sound like what would you say it affects?
I did this at Coveo. Ask, what is a reference worth to a sale? Now I’m not asking influenced like overall influence, we influenced X amount of dollars, because we touched it. But, what is it actually worth is a reference because when your reference gets on a call that point of a call, it’s at a critical stage in the sale. And it can either make or break a sale. A bad reference can really literally derail a sale, and a great reference can speed up the sale. So what is it worth to you? Let me know I’m okay with whatever you believe that is, is it 5% of the deal? 10% of the deal. 15% of the deal? How much do you think a reference contributes to closing that deal?
Because you’re already establishing like, the product demos important you have? We have MQLs right and we have qualified leads and we have lead scoring, we say if they download this case study and they go to this event, we have lead scoring.
So let’s establish the revenue impact that it has. Now, what you’re doing isn’t just going to help you to show the revenue impact of your program. It’s going to help you prioritize why, because they just told you what is most important to them. If they say, a review is worth half a percent of the sale, you know that you’ve got to focus on references at 10%, over half a percent. And it becomes really clear to them that they’re not all equal.
They’re not saying it’s all needed yesterday and everything else just to make a sale, because they just want to be assholes. They are saying it because they need more sales, they’re struggling, and they’re going to try and do everything they can in their power to get more sales, because that’s their job. And so you’re gonna help them focus, it’s your job to level them up, they don’t see through our lens they see through their own. We’re going to help bring them and teach them and coach them by going through this process with them.
Managing Your Incoming Requests
There’s some other things you can do, I’ll just tell you what you can do. I don’t know how your references come in. So at some companies, you might have a Google form or some sheet when people fill it out, or they fill it out in Asana, or they fill it out in Marketo. Or they fill it out in Salesforce. And it comes into one sheet over here. But then what happens after that?
How do they get updated? Right? When you’re fulfilling that reference? How do you do? So at one company? When we were asked from a customer marketing team to do stuff for people? Yeah, we had a form but it also came in like this last minute like a salesperson, hey, can you do me this favor? Blah, blah, blah. And so you want to capture how noisy it is? You want to put a slide together that can show how completely noise it is?
What’s this one? I forgot? Oh, we don’t know who our advocates are. We don’t have a high response rate on requests in general. So that’s another thing you can measure, like, don’t just measure the yeses. Measure the no’s. So you can show we only get a yes, one out of 10 people that we asked, we need to improve that. And it’s okay, don’t take that personally, that’s a reflection of how terrible your program is.
Be like this is why we need to improve the program come at it from a constructive point of view. We’re managers of programs and district spreadsheets, it’s hard to keep track of them. And we rely too heavily on email to contact our customers and missing the opportunity to engage with them on other channels.
Remember, this is again geared towards helping you buy a tool that scales. So it’s not a direct Apples to Apples conversation. But I thought that this beginning portion of it is really focused on how to prioritize with each of the varying departments. And so remember, when you’re going back in, you’re going to talk about these with them, as well as your scorecard. So you can flip out on your scorecard, these various topics on here. You’re going to put a product in here.
What do you think about our roadmap? What do you think about getting feedback? Right now how good you think how important is it to us to have customer feedback on all of our different varying lines of business. And all of our launches, how important is it to us? How well do you think we’re doing right now with that? Do you think we’re crushing it? We’re getting all the product feedback that’s perfect, and in the right way?
Set up that alignment with them, so that you can understand. Now when you go back, you’re going to write your overall objectives and goals. And now you’re going to come up with a strategy that says, This is why I prioritize this and this. Here’s what this was rated at in this department. And here’s how it aligns to our overall goals is what this line and here’s our lines, our overall goals.
Should I deprioritize this, etc? No, it’s important to that department, it isn’t hitting one of our core objectives. And you ask them, do you agree or disagree? Do I got this right or not? Help me create this program in a way that best serves our company?
We Have to Make The Time to Strategize & Prioritize
Mary Green 49:22
I think it is, I think it’s the background of what we need to do. To kind of have that strategy in place of what we can and can’t do and how we can prioritize it.
Allison just said, make sure that you are asking very direct questions and get the answers on that call because you can go back to those answers and hold them accountable. That’s a very good point.
I think what’s hard though, if I can say this is we’re all ever worked right now? How do we, as quickly as possible, do this and figure this out? Without being even more overwhelmed. But this might be the only way to go through.
Ari Hoffman 50:19
The saying is like the woodchopper, who’s too busy chopping wood to sharpen their axe, right? You will continue to tread water. If that’s all you can manage to do, right? Continue to do it, you have to break free, and you gotta be okay with letting a couple balls drop, they will catch up, you will catch up on them. But you’ve got to take the time out.
Early in my career, I was in a networking/improvement group. And we have this billionaire come in who owned a bunch of airports around Southern California. And he talked about when he looks at who he’s going to invest in, you go straight to the owners. So, you can take this as your programs? He goes straight to the owners. He goes, if an owner is too busy, if they if they feel like they are always busy, he does not invest, right, because they don’t know how to prioritize. And this is something that I will never, ever forget.
You Don’t Want to Just Be Busy
He was like, think about it. We all want to feel busy, we get out and start answering emails. The next thing you know, the day is over. And we had more work than hours in the day to complete everything, don’t we? And we feel? Well, if we get up and we’re answering emails and responding things when we’re doing that we’re reactive. But we feel at the end of the day, like we did a lot like we accomplished a lot. And our time is being spent. But the reality is you’re not building if you’re reacting.
And he goes real leaders and owners of their programs know that there are different types of fires, some fires, you got to put out that fire right away, it’s gonna it’s going to crash the plane. Some fires are going to dwindle for a while before you need to give them attention. And some fires will literally go out on their own. And that was the one I forgot about. Some fires will go out on their own.
It’s okay not to have to carry over. And it’s hard for us perfectionist not to want to complete and solve everything, but some are just not worth your time. And he goes, imagine you’re answering emails all day. Now, how much would you pay someone just to go to respond to all those emails? And 15 bucks an hour? And 15-20 bucks, what would you pay someone to answer majority? Not all, a majority of your emails. That’s what you’re saying you are worth. And I was like, Oh my God.
And he goes, that’s why you focus on the big emails, right? You prioritize those big emails first. At least the smart people do, you prioritize those first, they’re not all equal in your inbox. Well, you’ve got to do the same thing with your programs. And so I know it can feel like you don’t have time to do this. But if you don’t, then you’re as much a part of the problem as anybody else.
Mary Green 53:19
I think that sometimes it’s hard to know what to say in these different situations. Like, you know, I say a lot that cross collaboration and change management aren’t necessarily things that always show up on a job description. And then you start doing customer marketing or something like this, and you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s where it’s really helpful to, you know, have calls like this, but also hear someone say like, you have to tell them no, like this conversation that Allison was talking about in chat, where she said she’s having competing priorities.
You asked me to come to you when I was in a bind, I need that conversation now. And the person responded with if you don’t tell me, I don’t know, and I can’t help. And I think that can also come like our trepidation. And doing this having these conversations can also come from the idea of I’m scared I’m gonna get fired, or that they’re not going to think I’m expert enough to do this. And that comes from competence. So it does come from us. But we also don’t always know how to overcome that. Having these conversations I think is really helpful.
Ari Hoffman 54:43
Absolutely. And a really good point, that I forgot to say, is you need sponsors. Everybody needs sponsors. We all do. That’s why we have these calls, but you need them internally as well. So go to someone, some leader that you can trust, whether it’s your boss or somebody else, and ask them and tell them this is what you’re working on. Don’t do this in a silo.
So this is where you’re working on when you would love for them to help guide you through this, and and just be a sounding board for you as you’re trying to do this and ask them, Hey, this is the feedback I got from them. This is why it’s challenging for me. How do you suggest I go around this? Get that feedback? And when you ask, don’t say, I want your opinion, you ask for advice.
Ask for Advice, Not Opinions
There’s a huge difference between opinion and advice is based on psychology. Some of you will probably know this on the call, some of you don’t. So why do you ask for advice or opinions? Opinion means you’re giving your opinion. And I have my opinion, we have to we are very, we are separate. We are distinct. That’s opinions, advice, someone’s giving you advice. They want their advice to work, don’t they? They’re rooting for their advice. So now you brought them in, you’re on the same team.
If they give you their advice, they want to see that advice come to fruition. Nobody wants to give advice that’s wrong. But an opinion can be just your opinion, doesn’t have to be right. That’s the whole point. It’s just my opinion. Okay, it’s like giving your two cents, but you want to ask for advice, and you want to get people in on that.
The next thing? When asking these questions, and you’re really You brought up a really good point, Mary, which is we don’t always know what to do, we don’t have the confidence when someone comes to you. So let’s say you put all this together, you’ve now got your priority set out, is that going to stop people from coming to you with more questions? No, or more needs or more requests? No. When they come back, you have to ask, okay, and we forget. When do you need this by?
What is the turnaround time on it? And how does this prioritize? How would you set this in the prioritization of these eight other things that we’re working on? And here’s their priority, because now you have, right you have this mapped out. It’s clear, you’ve communicated? Where does this sit in that prioritization? Because I’m gonna have to bump something out, I want to help you. But what are we going to move in its place? How do we prioritize it? So it allows you to have that that deeper conversation where you’re not saying, No, you’re collaborating with them on what’s best.
Team & Priority Planning
Mary Green 57:06 I think, a really good we only have a couple minutes left. Daniel actually has a slide deck that he has shared before about team planning, so that he can, it was my interpretation that he can use that to say no, at times like this. This is what we can do with a team as is and what we can do if we expand that. Just ask in the Slack and we’ll get you the link to that deck.