Tom: We’re joined by Cornelia Klose, who I believe has up to seven years’ experience in sales operations.
Cornelia: Yes. One second.
Tom: Sure. For both Experian and now Mailjet. We're going to be running through a ton of questions. Cornelia, welcome to the show.
Cornelia: Thank you.
Tom: I have a little bit of an echo.
Cornelia: Yes. Should be fine now.
Tom: That's perfect.
Cornelia: It's at perfect like the weather. Exactly, Tom, seven years in sales operations, something you know that a job that when I started had a lot to do with finding reports, creating reports and making sure the data quality in the CRM is fine. This was pretty much it, so I had the luxury, but I was already quite international, so this was my quality that brought me into sales operations, actually.
Tom: Interesting, because that’s actually the first question is, how did you get into this?
Cornelia: Exactly. I have studied and lived, people that know me know that almost everywhere and I also worked in London just after my studies in the Netherlands and France, so I always had a quite international profile. This actually helped me to get into my first sales operation job because it was a job for EMEA right away. My first job in London had nothing to do with sales operations but more business and analyst, and because, I guess, they understood that I was quite good with data. They said, "Okay, the rest we can handle and we will learn it to Cornelia."
I got into sales operation job and just after one year, I think it was also, it had a lot to with something I didn't know at the time. I had quite the soft skills for this job and so I was quite successful and went up the ladder, and became a more, let's say, strategic sales operation, for Experian. This gave a lot of insight, we had a big team, also because it was an international company and that was great. Then I have-- This is now my third experiences as a sales operation and as you probably have heard, from many sales operation people it's always a different job. It depends on the maturity of the company, but also what has already been set up before you come or what is the purpose for your arrival. Now I'm more in a, let's say, scale-up position.
Tom: What is the current tech stack?
Cornelia: We are not using Salesforce. I guess, you know we're one of, let’s say there are people that are not using Salesforce and the funny thing is actually that we use self Salesforce, this was before my time. Not that I changed it, this was a decision more strategic decision because the people were not ready yet for Salesforce. The company where it was and the majority of us was not ready and when I saw it, I also felt it was like a Porsche. You have a beautiful Porsche for Sunday afternoon, but you actually don't know how to drive, so you just sit there and it's looking nice and you could do all these but you don't know how to use it. We now have a CRM that me as German would call more like a Volkswagen. It's solid, it's robust, it does its purpose. We have an integrator, so that's really cool because we are, I'm constantly talking to them, updating things and our sales process until now was quite dynamic, so this was really cool.
Tom: You're managing the CRM right?
Cornelia: No, I haven't, it's Sugar.
Tom: No, but you are personally managing?
Cornelia: Yes, exactly. I'm the CRM administrator. I'm really happy because it's not only the sales team actually that is on the CRM because we have also brought in the last two years our whole account management, so CSM customer success management team on it. Also, our marketing team, which for some might seem very obvious, but they weren't there at the beginning. It was really a, let' say, forecast pipeline management tool. Now we see it more as the point of truth for many different departments. Now we have, the latest victory is the product team and we also have now some administrative people as a license they have a license to find-- What I said, the point of truth is there.
Apart from this, we are using a Sales Navigator, we have a very big focus on the outbound and funny enough, we actually, all my sales team already had Sales Navigator licenses, but I wasn't really aware of. Not all, but let’s say 80%. It was actually LinkedIn, who called me last year, telling me this, "Did you know that your team?" I know from some, and also they told me, "Did you know that they're actually really good?" I'm like, "No, you tell me. Okay great" A really good success story, because we then were able with LinkedIn to be like in a pilot phase and to manage all the licenses and to be able to then to see, how the sales are using the tool, how active they're on LinkedIn and where we can help to maybe have better researchers for people have better post content, how to interact with the people, so this is really great.
Apart from this, we are always testing some tools, but we haven't really found yet the best automation tool for emails, for example, or others. It's really basic, like the Italian cuisine, three ingredients, it's the CRM, a Sales Navigator and, let's say, Excel or Google sheets to really put all the information together.
Tom: Said like the pasta cheese and egg in carbonara, when combined together, they're really good. I think we found the quote already for your podcast Cornelia. Awesome. Moving or staying with the CRM, I assume you're probably responsible for data quality being the CRM owner. What are your current best practices for ensuring that you do have good data in the system?
Cornelia: Sometimes I scream at them in German, it scares them. Joke aside, you are right, I'm the person that is responsible, but I'm not the person that is actually accountable. When I say this, I mean that the sales team and especially now we know that more and more people are coming and looking into the data of our system. They understand that this is the point of truth and the better I actually talk to the people, put the data and have this registered, the better they can then give me feedback, help me et cetera. Very often, when there is anything like a project or something that we focus on, I pull the data out of the CRM.
The sales team is a little bit worried and says no, but this is not true and then I tell them, but this is what's in the point of truth, what's in the CRM. We are really getting there to have more data quality, also for the other teams and then also tell the other teams marketing and the CSM to also enrich the data. It's not just pulling, but they also have to generate the data quality, the internal fights between marketing and sales. This is one part, they are all accountable.
Tom: Just had a couple of questions on the chat too. Josh is asking what would you say are the fundamentals of sales off? Now that's a very big question. Then the other question was from Jack, what are the key things to consider when building sales processes? I'm not sure which one you're tackling if you want to tackle them both now.
Cornelia: The fundamentals. There's lots of things that I could say now. I will make it short and I will put it to one metaphor because I love metaphors. I'm thinking that or in my opinion, the sales operation has to be or how to say it now, every business will create a business flow if you let it flow it’s like a river. It will go it will find its way. In a sales operation is creating like a canal, for this river. This way you stopped that ends, you bypass things where maybe the river has some problems to flow. Also, you make it quicker, you make it more adaptable because you can work on it better than on a pure normal working River. It's more organized. This is like one big thing of a-- This is also for the sales process. For the second question.
Tom: One metaphor, two questions.
Cornelia: Yes. German efficiency. In terms of the fundamentals, I think there are three things. When I started, I realized, and this is not to brag but you need a certain IQ. You need a certain quotient because you have to think quite strategic but you still have to understand already how you can implement this into the business, et cetera. This visionary, but also detailed orientation it's a key for the IQ. When I told you before, when I started, and I was quite good in this job, and people told me “Yes, because you have such empathy.” I realized okay the EQ is something that is really important in this job as well. We have IQ and EQ and this is because not only you have to understand how the sales are working, how the client is thinking, why your sales process? Why the buying center is so slow? You have to put yourself in this position, but you also are constantly working like an ambassador to the other departments, to make them understand why the sales are doing what they're doing, why they need what they need and vice versa. You have to have, let's say a certain rank of EQ. In the last years, and I think that's why also sales operation gets so important those last years. It's what-- I don't know I think it's quite new it's called the TQ, the technical quotient. You have to-- The second question, you asked me was, what are the tools you're using? Of course, I am the owner of those tools. I have to understand what's out there, how can we implement this in the sales process? What is working? What is not working? And the data is everywhere. The tools are-- There is even more. It's really all these three quotients that I think are important for this job.
Tom: Nice. Without getting sidetracked, we've touched on this already with your emotional intelligence. How do you actually get the sales team to buy into a new tool or a new initiative or process that you have implemented? How do you get them to want to do the thing that they might not been doing before?
Cornelia: Actually, I come from a very compromising culture. The thing is that I like to have their buy-in. I'm using and it's a French author, I don't know if you know him, but he wrote the Le petit Prince, Exupery, Saint-Exupery.
Tom: Unfortunately, I’m not aware.
Cornelia: Don't worry. Yes, he did a lot of nice books but what he-- I can't exactly give you the saying, but basically, what it says, when you want to create-- When you want the people to build a boat don't tell them where to find wood and give them tasks, but tell them about the beauty of the sea. With this, to have this vision also in sales ops, why do we need this tool, why do we want to have this report? Why is it important that? It's really to give them the whole perspective, because they're often so busy in there, especially now it's the 27th of June, the quarter is finishing, I mean, you can imagine how busy they are, how focused and we sometimes-- This is the beauty of the sales operation. You have to show them why we do this.
In terms of new tools, we are very dynamic company. I am lucky because of this buy-in approach, I do my testings in different business units. For example, in my German team, I'm working on this project, and in my Spanish team, I'm working on this project. It's not the whole implementation, and we're changing the structure right away, although we don't have any feedback yet. We're working in, let's say, in small AB testing groups. My team is also very open to feedback. They're sharing a lot. We have specific calls for those projects where they exchange what's working, what's not working, would it be working in your country? I don't know, let's see, et cetera. If we find something that is working well we then can extend, and we already have the buy-in from the sales. It's not, let's say the management coming in telling them, "Hey, you have to do this." I might here talk to my German sales person that actually tried it and what he saying. This is how we're working.
Tom: Just for context for the audience, how many salespeople in what countries do you currently have Mailjet?
Cornelia: I have to tell you, we are between let's say, I can't give you the right number. I don't want to. Between 15 and 30.
Tom: Spread between four different locations, did you say?
Cornelia: Yes. One, two, three, four, five, six. Six.
Cornelia: As you can see we're dynamic I have to count again. We opened last year another entity. It's actually also something, the reason why I came is to scale these processes and the team and we doubled actually since I've been there.
Tom: How have you doubled the team size? How have you been onboarding these reps?
Cornelia: One thing that is really cool, and that's the thing with sales operations, it really depends on the company. I am involved in the recruitment because I have the strategy and I have the system, you need the staff. Because I have all these three, in terms of sales operation I'm closely involved in the recruitment. I already know the people, I already know how we can onboard them, et cetera. Then we have onboarding week that is organized where they touch every person, every department, and have the introduction with the people that are working there because we have a lot of satellite offices. Connection relationship is really important because there's a lot, digital communication going on afterwards.
We do this and we bring them to the headquarter and they get if possible a buddy in the sales team to help them I am the operations person. There's other things that they don't tell me I don't want to know, but it's just the daily life. I follow them the first two months even if it's just 15 minutes call, but it's the daily call and then it turns into a biweekly call because there could be questions that they come up later et cetera. One thing that actually is really cool and that's also let's say helps us a lot to motivate the people is that we have an annual award of the fastest signature after arrival.
Cornelia: This is really for our rookies because we want to have them up to speed ASAP also, but yes, we calculate since they are there and when they do the first signature.
Tom: Well, for fastest like what time [crosstalk]
Cornelia: The record is on 22 days.
Tom: That's pretty sweet. Okay, awesome. Once these people are on boarded how do you then make these reps more productive?
Cornelia: More productive it's how we implement the processes. It's a very let’s say local testing and then implementing it because we have the luck that we're dynamic company. With this, of course, it also means results have to come quick, but we can adapt and I think the people that the salespeople also in terms of mindset, that we are searching are also aware of this and are open to this. I have this luxury, but it's very often we exchange a lot with the teams. We have these different cultures and sometimes it's not working at all because it's different cultures and sometimes it's exactly this that makes a difference to a local competitor or a very global competitor that only has one way to go to serve all.
Tom: That’s quite interesting. You had like a process that was working really well let's say in France and then you tried implement the same process let's say in Spain then it wasn't quite working now due to a cultural difference. Can you share like an example of if you have one, of like the cultural difference that was actually making that change? It's quite interesting these people who actually live relatively close are so different that a process would work in one place but not the other.
Cornelia: For France and Spain, I don't have an exact example now, but we tested for example outbound tools to have phone numbers et cetera to talk directly to people, and this is working very well in the States, but we have other countries where it's not working at all, and we have to find another way. As a global sales operation manager, because this is like my title, I'm always trying to, when I say about the canal another metaphor is that I'm giving them a frame. I'm giving them the frame so they're feeling comfortable about the sales process, but if, for example, the Spanish salespeople are up there in this right corner and the Germans salespeople are down there in this left corner, because of cultural differences. Also, maybe because of their profile et cetera, but as long as I keep them in this frame I know that [crosstalk] will go through.
Tom: Got it awesome, there's almost like different points in the canal if they're going down and maybe they're going at different speeds and that [unintelligible 00:24:33] different sides of the canal great cool. One more question here from Hussein, as an ambassador what would be your advice to build relationships with your sales team and how do you manage different personalities within that same team?
Cornelia: Yes, a good question. I think one thing is that you have to be present. Honestly and I've seen this in my seven years of experience, but it's not just going over being there for one day, having meetings with the team and then going back. If or let's say, it is not working if you don't have a regular relationship with them. This is not their daily life when you come over. When you come over you know that everything is clean, they come clean it [unintelligible 00:25:40] they're there. Maybe not what the daily life looks like.
Their pains etcetera, this is only when you talk to them and honestly, I mean I have my team everywhere. Not that it's time-consuming but it's something that you have to do regularly. This is something that that is important, I think to create this relationship, be present yes, and managing with different personalities within the same team. I think it's exactly the same, with the frame of the sales process.
There is a specific let's say company rules, things that are no-go et cetera but staffing is important. I think you have also seen in, let's say, the last year or more and more people that explain how the CV doesn't matter anymore. “Please don't tell me what all the things you've done, tell me where you want to go, tell me your vision, tell me what gets you up in the morning and why and tell me your fears when selling, for example, or et cetera.” It's more about the mindset then about where you come from, and more where you want to go and I think if you have those kinds of people, it's working better for you in the future.
Tom: Got it. Moving on to KPIs what you’re currently tracking for those different reps and teams.
Cornelia: In terms of KPIs we are tracking forecasts and forecast accuracy. We're the first to make mistakes because we're also human. No joke, we had forecast accuracy that was awful, awful, awful. We wondered why and the reason was that we actually had this forecast accuracy for months, enough for the quarter. We are now extending this to give the sales more freedom, but also give them more accountability. It's not just, “Yes, didn't work.” Then at the next months, at the beginning it's for some reason that nobody knows it's again at zero, and it takes again 30 days to sign.
We extended this forecast and forecast accuracy. We do a lot, we track a lot about out bounding activity because this is for us really the key. We had some luxury of having a lot, a lot of in bounds. With this actually, we realized we need to do more on the outbound side also to find our ideal customers because most of the time, unfortunately, they don't come through an inbound. We track this, bake activity there. We are not really tracking pipeline conversion, and also I will probably make some enemies here but I'm not really a fan of wait it's a pipeline.
Tom: Okay, cool why?
Cornelia: For me it is the finance KPI. When you are in sales you know either I win or I won't. It's not 90% or 75% that will then come in. It's winning or losing, having this weighted pipeline to do the forecast is not working in my opinion.
Tom: If you had to choose one out of those KPIs to judge your reps by, what would you choose?
Cornelia: I would say forecast accuracy. How they manage their pipeline, how good they are in forecasting is not how good they are committing means how well they know their clients, the prospects the, buying cycle. I had often-- Not often because I got a little bit-- I questioned this let's say this way, but people that were already almost at the end of the signature and all of a sudden it turned out that, “Yes, but I just got out of office reply the guy is on holidays for two weeks.” And I’m like, “Come on this is not possible. This doesn't-- It shows me you don't handle it. You have to know all this and I don't mind if it's going in the next month if you already tell us, because of the holidays et cetera.” I would say forecast accuracy is something where you see a lot of different KPIs in it. The data quality, how much do we actually sell? Is it 30k or all of a sudden 90k and everybody is, “Yes, they focus accuracy above 150%.” And you’re like, “Yes, but this wasn't what was forecasted.” There's a lot of KPIs that you can cover with this one.
Tom: Got it. My final question who has taught you the most that you know about sales operations?
Cornelia: I would say in the last year, I have met a lot of sales operation people and because I guess a lot of people have the same issues-- I meant that I'm all alone. Like, “Who can help me? And the sales are having their position that says managers having their position but as a sales operation, I was seeking a little bit of also what's out there. In this way I found a lot of really interesting people all with different backgrounds from finance, from marketing, from sales in different companies where sales operation is defined differently and so I have to tell you until now I haven't found the one person that knows it all like the guru of sales operations because it can’t exist for the moment I think it's still the time to explore and companies create sales operation positions in the scale-up phase where they maybe should already create at the very beginning to be there one of the first people et cetera. There’s lots of people that I met, I can’t give you one person. I would love to create one person I think we just have to-- We have to have more meetups, we have to have more let's say sales operation awards or annual meetings where people can actually exchange because there's so much out there.
Tom: We have one final question from Hussein, what would be the best quality to have as a sales of person?
Tom: One single quality.
Cornelia: This is a tough one, but because you have to be so multiple and sometimes you have to be very strict. Sometimes you have to understand, “Okay, now this is not the moment or the project,” to be this strict have to more flexible.
Cornelia: Yes, maybe it's flexibility because as well it covers a lot. Sometimes being patient, very patient and sometimes being pushy. Flexibility would probably cover it all.
Tom: Yes. Also, well now let me pick out a few things I obviously really like the Italian food metaphor. Comparing Italian food to the current male Jack. Male jack tech stack simple but effective
Cornelia: And good.
Tom: Good yes, really tasty. Also, the canal analogy both for the sales operations role in a business bill for that the analogy for the sales process itself. Constantly working like an ambassador is what I've written here but I can’t actually remember what I was referring to. Finally, I have this written down but I can’t read my writing. Oh yes, this is my number one. Not telling the salespeople how to build a ship and where to find the wood like how they should build it but talk about the beauty of the sea and I think that's such a good certainly a metaphor to get people to do something that's good for you and good for them so that's probably that I really, really like that. Cornelia thank you so much for your time.
Cornelia: Thank you, Tom.
Tom: We’ll see you soon.
Cornelia: Okay thank you all for joining.
Tom: Yes, thank you, everybody, I know hope we answered your questions.