Director of Sales at Refine Labs
17 Insights · 6 Questions · 13min Read · 16min Listen · Connect with Carl on LinkedIn
How community-driven content, a commitment-based sales process, and delivering on promises drives 100% revenue at Chris Walker's Refine Labs. Extreme ownership. The moat model. Ask yourself, if you're a sales team or a marketing team, “do I sell in the way that I like to be sold to? Or do I market it in a way that I actually buy technology?”
3 ways that your team converts your
market into revenue?
1) Community-driven content. One of the biggest ways that we convert our market into revenue is community-driven content. I think “thought leadership” is the old way to describe that. We found that thought leadership was very “us” centered. It was like, “me, I'm the thought leader.” It didn't have this sense of community. Thinking about content, and distributing it, in a way like, “hey, does this provide value, but also create some kind of a communal experience for our fans, or our followers, whoever it is?” Really significant spike in revenue. Like literally a 100% of Refine Labs revenue comes from our organic presence and our community-driven content.
2) Commitment-based sales process. So we bring people into the funnel and then the sales process that we've architected is really commitment-based. So it gets buyers and it gets sellers, my team, on the same page from a commitment standpoint. You want me to put together an executive briefing for your team? I'm going to need these commitments from you. Right? And that really moves a sales process along, really efficiently. It also weeds out buyers that aren't really committed to investing their time, investing their money, investing resources, committing to just explore new ideas and change. It really drives very high close rates of really, really good-fit customers.
3) Deliver on our promises. This is the last way that we convert our market into revenue. I guess you could say this is like recurring revenue. Making sure that there is no churn, or very minimal churn. But, when we make promises and make commitments in the sales process, we keep those, and our services team keeps those, and we help businesses grow and they continue to give us their money to reinvest it using our strategies and frameworks into their business and their growth.
2 hard problems that you
1) If you notice on LinkedIn, this is my first sales leadership role. I was at HubSpot as a sales rep there as an Account Exec and came here as Director of Sales at Refine Labs. One of the most interesting challenges that I've wrestled with is switching my mind from an individual contributor mindset to a leadership mindset. I want to jump in and close the deal so bad. I want to jump in and take discovery calls, take inbound leads, things like that. And I have to remind myself sometimes, “you were hired to do these certain things. You were hired to be a strategic thinker, to architect new processes, to enable and empower my direct reports to do their best work, to hire on talent that is better than me at certain things so that we can move the business forward.” That mindset shift has been a larger challenge than I thought. You know, I just love selling. So I'm getting out of that mindset has been something that I've been wrestling with and in process of overcoming.
2) Story. When you sell fairly complex, new ideas, it can be overwhelming in a sales process to educate buyers on how you think, how you execute, and how you measure success. So, how do you distill that story and narrative down to something that is compelling and impactful, but still delivers the full meat and value of what the offering is? It's a big problem, if you can't do that well. You lose deals. You can be the best service provider, best tech vendor, best software in the world, but if you can't distill down what you do and what your customer gets out of it really simply, you're going to struggle to grow. So that's something that we're tackling.
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2 roadblocks that you are
working on now?
1) So like any startup, we're a small team that is growing. I wear a lot of hats. My direct reports, my sales team, they wear a lot of hats. We don't have an enablement team or anything like that, so there's some people doing enablement. We don't have dedicated designers, so we're throwing together our own assets. That's fun, but that's also a roadblock for growth. So the challenge is when everybody's spinning a bunch of plates, knowing when the timing is right to hire somebody that's better than you at spinning that plate, or expanding the team, figuring out that timing of when to do that so that you don't decelerate the business is something that we're working on. It is a work in progress, but a super fun roadblock to tackle.
2) What does outbound look like? I don't know how much you know about Refine Labs, but we're a go-to-market strategy and research firm, and what does outbound look like? We're largely inbounds, like 99.998% inbound, but we do want to start and spark conversations proactively with our dream clients, with our target customers. So what does outbound look like for them? We want to shy away from the cold calling or the cold emailing. Not because we think that's necessarily bad or anything, but because it hasn't been innovated. A lot of the innovation is still happening inside those channels. “Use these subject lines. Use these cold call openers.” and we're really wrestling with what does innovation look like just outside of those channels? Can we discover new ways to proactively begin conversations with our target customers and our dream clients? And that's something that we're really excited to be tackling and working on.
3 mental models that you use to
do your best work?
1) Extreme ownership. I don't even know if it’s a mental model, but I'm a big fan of Jocko Willink’s work, Extreme Ownership. And I believe that's a mental model. That's a filter, or a high-resolution lens, in which I view my day, my life, my, the way I interact with my family, my work. And the model is essentially extreme ownership. Like everything that happens, happened because of something that I did. I own all of the outcomes in my world. I still use that mindset even when something happens outside of your control, there was something that you maybe contributed that may tip that first domino that resulted in something happening that maybe potentially caused harm to a relationship, or harm to your business, or something like that. So that's the first mental model that I use to do my best work. It’s just “I own everything.” Whether I own it or not in real life, I just take ownership of all of it, and I really empower my team to do the same. And we do some stellar work because of that.
2) A moat model. Again, I'm making up the names of models at this point, but the concept of a moat is that you build a moat around your business, or a moat around your processes. There's a separation that that moat creates. Maybe you think of it as like a ring of fire, maybe I could find a better illustration than a moat. But the point of the mental model is that every process, every tactic that we do, we are asking ourselves, “does this contribute to the depth, or the width, of the moat? Are we different than our competitors? Are we different than the market? Are we helping our customers to be different than their competitors, with everything that we do?” And when you look at, and analyze, your strategies through this lens, it's really powerful because you realize a lot of this stuff that you're doing isn't moving the needle in those ways, and it really makes you second guess if this is even something that you should be investing your time. So that's the moat model.
3) A time, value, opportunity-cost model. (Similar to above, there's some overlap here.) I look at everything. I calculate how much I'm paid per hour, all the way down to the hour, and then how much I want to be paid per hour, in a perfect world, and I filter my calendar events, my tasks, all of that. “Does this ‘worth’ what I make per hour? Is it generating that outcome that is that valuable when you look at your calendar, your tasks, your relationships in those ways?” (Not to say that personal relationships should like be monetized. You understand where I'm going.) Just being very thoughtful about how you spend your time, and if you're getting the return on that time that you intend to get. It can be really easy to do a bunch of stuff that doesn't produce the results you're looking to produce, both in business, and in life, and family.
3 techniques that GTM teams
need to try?
Oh, man, we got a lot of opinions here at Refine Labs.
1) Organic social. Just taking organic social more seriously. It takes time, but there's so much low-hanging fruit. I talked to CEOs every day that want to give us their money to run paid advertising, and one of the questions I love to ask is, “cool. What's the plan for the free stuff, for social? Your buyers are there now. You could spend $0 and go get your message in front of your buyers. It's going to take a little bit of work, and you're gonna have to log into LinkedIn, and you have to click the Like button, and start to think through content creation, but man, it snowballs so fast.” Like what you're doing with the podcast (another way), it snowballs so quickly and the results – again, it's a moat builder to go back to that mental model – cause nobody's still taking it seriously. It took us 2-3 years to build our organic presence to where it is today at Refine Labs, so it takes time. I just hit 10,000 followers. I've been doing this for two years, so it takes time. If you're not starting right now, you're still not going to be there in 2023 at this time. You got to get started. That's where there's a lot of opportunity. I see a lot of companies not getting started, so they're not going to be there next year either. The time is always right now.
2) Creating content for consumption versus conversion. Here's what I mean by that: you scroll through LinkedIn, you will see organic posts that really push for a ‘Like’, ‘thoughts?’, ‘comment below.’ Polls are a great example. Very low value. Most of them, what were they designed for? Conversion. Some kind of engagement metric that could be seen and measured. They weren't designed for the consumption of a differentiating or valuable message. Same thing happens in paid advertising. You look at ads: creative teams creating ads that just point to downloading an eBook. That's an ad that's designed for conversion, but only 0.4%, if you're a rockstar marketer, of people are going to click through. What about the other 99.6% of people that will see that?Give them a compelling message to consume in the feed, using design and copy, so they can consume that, without caring at all for the conversion. The conversion is icing on the cake. That's how you create real demand. So that's the second technique that teams need to try. That's a big transformation, and a mindset shift, but it's well worth it.
3) Ask yourself, if you're a sales team or a marketing team, “do I sell in the way that I like to be sold to? Or do I market it in a way that I actually buy technology?” I get nurtured to death by some vendors via email. And I'm like, “I don't think I've ever bought software because of an email drip campaign.” I barely read them. I suffer through like eight of them, and then I typically unsubscribe, and I think that's a pretty common experience. So ask yourself, “where do I want to be nurtured?” I'm on social all day. The last time I bought software wasn't from a cold call, it was from, “oh, I know that this CEO posted. I really liked them online. I decided to check out their product.” I just went white-hot inbound and got a demo. So think about how you buy as a framework for informing your strategy. I see just a lot of revenue leaders that run their strategies according to how a 2011 buyer would buy and they haven't even bought anything off a cold call, or a cold email, or some kind of a marketing email nurture campaign. So thinking through that, I think, is critical.
3 operators that should be our
next guests and why?
Well, I only had 2 for a couple of other questions, Chris, I'm gonna try to make up here. So I got 4:
Jen Allen. You got to talk to Jen. She's fantastic. She's Chief Evangelist Officer over at Challenger. Huge fan of Challenger. The content that she puts out on LinkedIn is very different. A lot of content on LinkedIn, especially in like the sales ecosystem, is very entry-level. It's for SDRs. A lot of prospecting tips and things like that. So Jen is a breath of fresh air because it's content designed for the closer, for the deal, for a more experienced closing type of rep, and I learned a ton from it. I consume a lot of her content.
Arthur Castillo. Over at Chili Piper. They're a great team. We're a customer. Arthur is a dear friend and he just has such a unique perspective. He actually comes from sales and now is in marketing. So he's a fantastic resource. He really understands the entire Revenue org, the entire customer journey, and is a big, big resource there for thinking innovatively about how those two teams can work together.
MJ Peters. Gosh what to say? MJ was my boss here at Refine Labs and she is a VP of Marketing now at another awesome tech startup. MJ is one of these marketers that will be a CRO or CEO one day. She closed millions of dollars in business at Refine Labs and is probably one of the most sought-after marketers in B2B SaaS today. Think about how dynamic of a person you have to be to be a world-class marketer and be able to close half a million dollar deals and just knock them down. Just a genius. She really is just brilliant and you definitely got to have her on the podcast.
Sam Kuehnle. He’s a friend as well and a colleague. Just a world-class marketer. Bright, bright thinker. Extremely thoughtful. You're going to get way better answers from him than from me on some of these things. He strikes me as the type of guy who probably has some baked-out mental models. He's just a really, really bright marketing leader and does some fantastic work for our team and for our customers.
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February 2022 · Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue
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