Funnels, Cycles, and Bowties with Stacie Sussman

Clear up confusion about how to picture your buyers' journey. Jordan is joined by Stacie Sussman, Revenue Growth Architect at SSR Digital Group.

Show notes

When talking about the buyer’s journey, do you picture an arrow that completes a circle? How about a funnel? Or, perhaps you follow Winning by Design; are you picturing a bowtie?

If you’re not sure what you should be picturing or how you should be thinking about the buyer’s journey, RevOps Therapist and CEO of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser, and Stacie Sussman, Revenue Growth Architect with SSR Digital Group are here to clear up any confusion.

Transcript

Jordan  00:00

Hi, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. In today’s episode, we have Stacie coming on with us who has been an independent consultant for quite a few years now. And really works on the strategic side of things like the buyer lifecycle, the tool stack, different strategies you can do to implement through various stages of your startup’s growth. And what we specifically dive into today is the concept of the buyer lifecycle, which is talked about quite a bit: MQL, SAL, SQL, and this whole process that occurs. Ultimately, what’s interesting about this topic is we do talk about things up to MQL. But then we get a little bit quiet in the middle; we don’t really talk about what happens with sales. We talk about the buyer lifecycle, then, from success onward. And we touch on topics like time to value versus ongoing value. And you’re going to hear her talk about something she’s recently learned by winning, winning by design talks about the funnel as a bow tie. So you know, get your ears open and get yourself ready to talk about that bow tie. As I like to say lean in, get ready, and enjoy today’s conversation. 

Intro Jingle

Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.

Jordan  01:35

Hey crew, this is Jordan, the owner of Greaser Consulting, and today we have Stacie with us. Stacie, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Stacie  01:43

Hey, everyone- excited to be here. Thanks, Jordan, and the team. I am Stacie Sussman, coming in from New York City. I am the owner of SSR Digital Group, and I am a Revenue Growth Architect. I help companies that are pre-seed to series BC, get their technology stack, business process, and talent in line to build a pretty awesome revenue engine.

Jordan  02:11

And today, you’re talking about revenue engine; we’re gonna talk about the full funnel buyer lifecycle. But before we get into that, Stacie, I think I met you the first time, what, you were, that was back when you were at Scaled, right? And you were doing a bunch of Outreach implementations.

Stacie  02:28

Oh yes, the good old Outreach implementations- love that program. I helped Scaled launch their Outreach implementation program. And you were either at Outreach or consulting for Outreach. And that’s where we came into the fold but this was early pandemic.

Jordan  02:44

Yeah, I was when at that phase. I was in this like, kind of gray area where I didn’t work for Outreach. But I did so much consulting on behalf of Outreach that, like, even internal folks weren’t sure, right. Are you in? Are you out, like what’s going on? But you know, what’s interesting, I’ll just give you my experience for a second. And this helps bleed into what we’re talking about today is, you know, I call myself a sales engagement native, because I started at Outreach. I didn’t work at five other tech companies, I started with this thing called sales engagement, people didn’t even know about and at the time, at the time, the first path to 10 million, you can read about this everywhere, there was no marketing. So when we thought about buyer lifecycle, buyer lifecycle was like, find the list, load it up, let’s get out there. And let’s make it happen. Right, we get it, we get a closed deal, boom, buyer lifecycle done. And then there was like, all of a sudden marketing comes in, and it was like, “Well, who are these people?” like, because you know, I’m not familiar with the space; I don’t know what’s going on. And then your eyes start to open up that there’s just this much bigger landscape. So that being said, buyer lifecycle… First off, when you think about it, when you say the full funnel buyer lifecycle, where does full funnel actually start? I know it doesn’t start at a list out of Zoominfo that your going into Outreach and going so like, where is the top of that funnel?

Stacie  04:15

Yeah, exactly. So I would say it starts the first person: someone potentially becomes aware of your brand engages with a piece of content, checks out your website, hears you on a podcast, attends a webinar. So it’s that awareness before they’re even ready to buy your product of understanding, you know, who is Greaser Consulting? What are they all about? Who is this Jordan guy? What is this team? Even before they’re ready to get on the phone with you and book a deal with you. They’re thinking about who you are and what service need you do, and how, honestly, how can you help them at the end of the day.

Jordan  04:59

Historically, when you thought about building out the top of the funnel, of this whole buyer’s lifecycle, there was the corporation’s brand behind the whole thing. And the corporation could pull different levers to say, “oh, we need to do more podcasts; we need to do, you know, load a list in Marketo, and start warming these people up.” But today, there’s this, so much talk about personal brand. And how that is ultimately, in some ways, even more important today, is empowering your workforce. So as you think about building a sort of RevOps system, starting at the beginning of that type of funnel. Is that wrong of me to think that it’s just, it’s different today than it was even three years ago? 

Stacie  05:44

No, it’s definitely different today than it was three years ago. But I think about it maybe a little bit differently than you’re describing. I agree. The company has to have a brand and a presence. But a company typically sells to multiple ICPs, in my mind, so Ideal Customer Profile. And so you can make your website dynamic, or you can target content, or you can target your messaging or your webinars or your events, to different personas and different ICPs that your company sells to. So a company could sell to C suite; a company could sell to VPS, a company could sell to directors. Those functions at companies are obviously different. And they care about different outcomes and different pieces of the business. So messaging needs to be different, yet dynamic, in order to capture these different folks and get them where their need and their pain is in order to buy from you. Because you can have a product for the C suite. And you can potentially have a product for directors, and they may live under your larger umbrella. But that conversation may be different.

Jordan  06:57

So if someone’s just getting going, you’re, you’re saying the best place to start is get your website down and get your messaging down first? Or like where do you begin this journey?

Stacie  07:11

Yes, yeah, you definitely need a content marketing team; you definitely need a marketing team if you don’t have a succinct way of talking about your business, figuring out what the products are, who you’re talking to who your potential customers can be. All the other stuff is great. And we can automate a lot of the stuff as it goes through the funnel. However, if your messaging isn’t there, you’re really going to have a hard time getting started.

Jordan  07:39

So we’re thinking about this, you know, I’m talking to you a couple system questions about setting up the top of the funnel, but from that lens of buyers’ lifecycle, in your mind, what are the stages? Let’s say I’m a buyer today, and you know, I’m gonna, I’m gonna buy something from Stacie, what are the stages that I’m walking through, you know, in a lifecycle that you’re setting up? Like, what should I expect as a buyer?

Stacie  08:05

Yeah, so I think there’s different… I call them “doors”. There’s different doors that you can enter to talk to Stacie and her company. So Stacie today, you know, is on a podcast; Stacie also has a website; Stacie may have a case study; Stacie may be hosting a webinar, like, later this week. So there’s all these different pieces of content, essentially, that, that Stacie’s putting out into the universe that should distinctively talk about what she does as a company. But you can enter through these different doors in various different ways. Depending on sort of where you see me or what catches your attention. Maybe you saw something on social versus email versus some posts on LinkedIn, there’s different ways that you can hear about us. And then eventually, you’ll ingest some sort of piece of content, and you can come in through different doors to get that content.

Jordan  09:00

So step one at the top is you have your messaging, you’re putting your content out, what are the next set of stages that occur?

Stacie  09:10

Then that can go around for a while. I’m not saying the minute someone knows about Stacie or someone knows about Jordan, they’re gonna be you know, by tomorrow, there’s a host of sort of activities that get recorded if we’re talking tech stack and a sort of marketing automation system that would track what this person, Stacie, does throughout. I’ve attended this webinar. Now I’ve listened to this podcast, and now I downloaded a case study. And now, based on all those different activities, maybe I’m actually interested in speaking to Stacie, so I’m gonna go on her website, and I’m gonna say, “contact us” or “request a demo.” So there’s all these different pieces of content you’ve ingested, but there’s different actions you sort of taken to bubble Stacie up to be more of a marketing qualified lead.

Jordan  10:03

So you make it to MQL. On the back end, I’m kind of having fun with this, right, we keep talking about the buyer. So I know what the buyer’s up to, and then we’re gonna shift this back to the company. Right when you’re setting all this up on the back end, the process of defining MQL, like MQLs have been talked about for a long time. But who like who in the company today is setting the definition of an MQL? Like, like, should sales have more of a conversation there to say, “Listen, we don’t want an MQL unless it hits this criteria.” Is it marketing themselves that just set it and forget it?

Stacie  10:42

The funny thing is, I think you’d be surprised how the company has different definitions of MQL. So actually getting multiple departments’ stakeholders to agree on the definition of MQL is an evolution in my mind; I think you need to start with a definition. But I do think all Ops is iterative over time. So that potentially can change over time. So I think, a seat at the table with the stakeholder and marketing and maybe a CMO and a seat at the table with a CRO and someone like myself, who is a consultant, can help facilitate that conversation to create what the definition is MQL. I would say heavily marketing can help inform and decide what MQL could be. But sales definitely needs input as to what that is. And you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you’re not bringing all the stakeholders to the table. 

Jordan  11:41

So just for fun, what’s the worst definition of an MQL that you’ve ever, like, you walked in, you read it, and you’re like, “oh, my gosh, we know we need to fix this immediately”?

Stacie  11:52

I talked to someone this week: any lead that comes into the marketing automation system, which in this case was HubSpot automatically gets booked as a demo on an AE’s calendar.

Jordan  12:04

So you’re saying, like, do these people raise their hands and they’re booking it or you’re saying like, the moment somebody clicks on the website, they’re already categorizing it as an MQL? 

Stacie  12:16

Either/or. I feel like they’re just saying “we’re interested,” light touch, and they’re booking time. And really, that creates a waste of time for those AE’s. 

Jordan 12:26

So who should handle that? 

Stacie 12:29

So there definitely needs to be some checks and balances on the marketing side to have a more thoughtful definition of who is an MQL and who isn’t. So who is qualified and who’s unqualified? There should be a series, in my mind, of questions like, “Is it your ICP? What’s the company size? Where are they located? Can we service that geographic location?” A few short and sweet questions to say, “this is even worth our time to talk to or this is outside of our core competency or outside of our geographic locations we can service and let’s bucket those to the side, because maybe we will surface them at some point, but but not right now.”

Jordan  13:08

So the argument that I hear about this all the time, though, is like somebody will hear what you’re saying, and I know somebody listening is gonna go, “yeah, Stacie, that sounds fantastic. But I get, I get three leads a week. So like, you know, I want every single one that comes in.” So is there, is there a threshold in your mind, like once the lead volume gets past x, right? Well, once there’s, you know, 10 leads per AE a week or something like that, now we go into deeper qualification, are you saying listen right out of the gate, right, even if your lead system is broken, and you’re only getting a couple a week, like you got to get the qualification right from the get-go?

Stacie  13:46

No, I mean, I do agree. If you’re getting three leads a week, and you’re getting up, they’re sort of sitting on their thumbs the rest of the time, like, “Sure, go and talk to those three leads,” why not? Both the companies I’m working with are scaling to more of an enterprise level, and they’re looking to build out a team. And the CMO has a team effectively, and the CRO is going to build out some sort of BDR/SDR model with an AE handoff. And so in order to define what those roles and functions are within a scaling group, high growth technology company that’s scaling and it’s gonna have bodies that do different functions, there has to be some sort of handoff and some sort of clear delineation as to which is your role and which is someone else’s role. When you’re small and involved, we know you can wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things. But if you’re scaling to an enterprise company, there has to be some line in the sand.

Jordan  14:48

Right. And do you think… you talked about some simple questions. Do you think that questionnaire… people are using chat bots today. Or, you know, are they filling out on the website? Do you think that’s enough? Or like there, there really should be like some people call these folks SDRs; some people call them MDRs. You know, whatever in the world these people’s names are, that should hop on the phone first and get that qualification before it passes, or like no, answer the questions and move on?

Stacie  15:20

I mean, it depends, I think on the volume that you’re doing, to be honest. And also what type of business you have. So there’s different models; you can have more, MDRs, MDRs and BDRs and less AEs, or less heavy on the MDR, BDR, SDR and more heavy on the AE; there’s different models of how to run the business based on what you’re selling. So I don’t think there’s a magical formula. I think it really depends on the company, the industry, and what kind of services you’re doing.

Jordan  15:54

So let’s go back, right, we’re zooming out of the company side, let’s go back to the buyer side of this buyer lifecycle. Sure, like we hear all the time about the value of speed to lead, and there’s these like crazy, like statistics out there that, you know, every day that passes, it’s like a half-life or more of your probability of getting a hold of this person, right? And after one week, it goes from like, 90% chance to like 1% chance. I mean, it’s just crazy the flip. And I mean, I’ve read things today that say it’s as much as 36 hours, right? Like, if you don’t get ahold of them within 36 hours; I’ve seen people say two hours. So this is one of those cases where there’s so much data, and then so many statistics, like I don’t know who to believe. I mean, it could be two hours; it could be two days. But there is that sentiment, I think, about even using my own experience, if I sign up for something, and I’m not in the system, trying it out, or if I’m not at least talking to somebody about it, like within a couple hours, I’ve probably already moved on to somebody else. So like how important, you talk about on the company side of like, wow, depends on volume, it depends on, you know who your buyer is all this, how much to the point of the buyer does that matter of like, speed to lead does actually matter. So let’s have as few hoops as possible to get that person onto a call or to the next step.

Stacie  17:23

I agree; speed to lead is very important. I’ve seen four hours. And I’ve seen folks that like to do in under 12. Two days, three days, they they already bought with your competitor, and that’s just dead. And I almost think “don’t bother.” But so I think it is really important. But I do think yes, you don’t want to jump through all these hoops for no reason. But I feel like the sense of checks and balances is really important as you’re gonna grow and scale the company. And so there has to be checks and balances in place. And everyone always asked me the famous question, “well, what are the benchmarks?” which I think is what you’re getting at: is it like, you know, is it two hours, or is it four hours? Is it 12 hours? I mean, let’s benchmark within our own company, and start there. And then we can go and tweak from there. Because with RevOps, what I think a lot of people are so concerned with is what everyone else is doing that’s a competitor within the space. But if you can’t benchmark against yourself, that’s gonna be a really hard way to run and grow a business at the end of the day.

Jordan  18:36

I think an important point you just put there is about when you’re looking to scale, some things change. I think that’s one of the hardest things for people when they’re setting all this up and it actually starts to work. It starts to work, your volume goes up, and then the challenges change. And then like, wait a minute, you want me to add an additional layer of criteria here? Well, we’re going to, we’re going to lose, you know, five or six customers, like automatically, a month because they’re going to self-select out because it took too long or something like that. And you think well, yeah, but on the other side, you’re gonna gain 15 to 20 more customers because your AEs aren’t wasting time on calls they shouldn’t be on. And so like, how do you handle the change management aspect of this? Of, of like, I’m sorry, I know you put this together, but we have to let it die a little bit here or like, yeah, we are going to lose a couple customers here, but we should gain them over there.

Stacie  19:40

Yeah, I mean, I think a good… what sets apart a decent and good company versus a great and amazing company is folks that are at the helm or at the C suite that can understand that change management and that change is necessary and make it iterative, and I use the word iterative so much because I worked in RevOps. An MVP, it’s a V1, V2, V3. And it keeps going and going, what we do keeps changing and evolving. So you need to start somewhere, build the house, put down the foundation, but then there are going to be other challenges or obstacles, or there’s going to be an obstacle over here to the right, that never was a problem before, but now that you’re at such a big scale, that changes the equation and what becomes important to you. And I think that’s just growing pains of being in a high-growth sort of SaaS company, and you have to adapt to it. And if you’re not, you’re just not going to be one of those great and amazing and unicorn kind of companies.

Jordan  20:46

So you, we talked about the buyer lifecycle from you know, brand and messaging and all this stuff; you get it to MQL. Everybody, everybody from like, MQL to close, like they, they talk about this section to death: you know, your discovery process, your stages, and all that stuff. So I’m gonna, if you’ll let me I’m gonna cut the middle of this for a second, I’m gonna say, like, at the bottom of that funnel, when somebody becomes a buyer, right, it’s called a buyer lifecycle. Like, is that the end of the funnel?

Stacie  21:16

No, no, no, no, no, no. So there’s marketing; there’s sales. And then there’s Customer Success. And folks that are not spending a lot of time on that Customer Success piece, meaning you’re ready, you have the buyer, they’re now a customer, but you want to retain that customer over multiple years: you want to sign a multi-year deal, you want to upsell them, you want to expand them, the easiest way to increase your revenue is to grow your current client base and evolve it into other stuff. However, you’re still going to need to bring in net new logos and bring in new buyers through that funnel and convert them to close customers. But if you’re not thinking about Sales and Customer Success, almost being equally important. I think you’re doing your company another disservice as you grow and scale the company because that Customer Success piece should also have a seat at the table in certain conversations with that CRO and with that CMO.

Jordan  22:26

I like that you say, you know, should be equally as important. I was just talking to somebody, oh, this was a few of these podcasts ago. And they were talking about the reality is, you know, your first couple years in the startup, the reality is your net new business, like that’s your highest part of revenue. However, you know, assuming this business is actually working as time goes on, like the paths cross, and they never go back, that every year new business is a small chunk, a small percentage. And retention eventually becomes 90% of all of your revenue year over year. And so the individual I was talking with was a little frustrated, because they said “look, we always are second place to sales, because sales is seen as the revenue drivers”. However, at the end of the day, the reality is success holds more revenue than anybody else in the company. Man, like that’s, it’s a pretty powerful point. So when that buyer lifecycle goes to closed, and you want to say well, success is important. Like what what’s that, I guess it’s not a funnel anymore, like, it’s like the lifespan, it’s no longer a lifecycle. It’s like the lifespan of this customer. Are there stages there? Are there different things that you think about and, and how marketing’s involved in that effort?

Stacie  23:51

Yeah, I’m actually in a revenue architecture course. And I just had it earlier this week. And they actually, the the teacher’s by winning by design, so I’ll credit them here, but they actually think of the funnel, they actually think of the funnel as a bow tie. And I think this is a really interesting way to think about the funnel. So they’re literally taking the funnel, flipping it on its side, adding another side to it. And so the marketing and awareness, let’s say is the left side of the bow tie, you have the little button in the middle, and then the right side becomes the revenue-driving piece. And that encompasses sales, and that encompasses CS. And one thing they thought, said was really, really interesting is continue to drive reoccurring impact to your customer to grow the business. So in your example you gave before, you said 90% of the revenue becomes your customers that you’re now growing, expanding, upselling, etc. If you’re not continuing to deliver in year 2, 3, 4 of this multi-year agreement impact of what you’re providing for that customer, they’re just going to go to a competitor because it’s not keeping them happy anymore or less price or giving them a discount here; it’s continuing to address the pain within the company and deliver impact on how to fix their pain. And like we said before, that changes over time, and over years, and over quarters. So that is different. And you have to recognize that, and you have to head-on address what that looks like.

Jordan  25:33

So I’ve spent a lot of time now on this ProServe side of the house. So it was a big part of building some things at Outreach and obviously running a professional services company today. And the phrase that, that I’ve, I just think about all the time is the concept of time to value like from the moment somebody signs the paperwork, how fast can we get to value? I mean, that’s the whole reason why companies now don’t just have CSMs doing onboarding, because they’re busy with other things. They’ll have a professional services team that only do onboardings, so that value happens faster. Because all the retention markers and whatever say the faster we get value, the like, the more likely we are to retain these people and have them happy. But there’s this inflection point where if you don’t hit that, with their expectation, you’re almost impossible to, like, win back sort of the mindshare and excitement. So I bring that up to say, I have not spent a lot of time thinking about or even heard much about, like, what happens after time to value in the sense of like, is there a clicking talk, so to speak of like, you have to keep having, to your point, these iterations of excitement where people are like, “Oh, like this, this reminds me how good this is, or now it’s even better.” Like what like, what’s that time horizon look like?

Stacie  26:58

I don’t know if it’s a term time horizon. But just speaking from like a function standpoint, like if you don’t have a CS team, first of all, if you don’t have an onboarding team, whether it’s an outsourced team, or CS team, fail in my mind, second of all, is that team…

Jordan  27:15

F. You got an F. Stacie’s flunked you. 

Stacie  27:17

Yeah, like, do you? Because you’re not going to scale. And then is that team checking in? So is there an onboarding process? What does that look like? Are you have a dedicated CS person? Are they checking in, I don’t know, weekly, monthly, quarterly? And the impact of your solution, your software, your service, I think changes over time. And so when I start engagements with folks, my favorite question is, “how do we define success?” And so great, we’ve defined success, we’re working together, we hit that, but that definition of success is changing over time. And I’m not sure we all do a good job of going back to that and saying, okay, in year one, your definition of success was we’re gonna build out this MVP, and you’re gonna have a marketing automation system. And now you’re gonna have a CRM system, and they’re gonna speak to each other. But in year two, you have much different problems. And so what is success now, in year two of the relationship. And CS should be helping to lead that conversation in my mind, and you probably would need to bring sales back into the fold also. But CS is on the pulse of the account, right at the end of the day. So they should know, a lot of what’s going on. And even though you want the client to tell you what that definition is and get, get them to actually say it, you should have an idea of what you think they’re gonna say,

Jordan  28:44

Stacie, we’re coming up on time here. So is there anything else? Like, you think about the buyer lifecycle. I mean, there’s a million topics that we could go down here. But is there, is there anything else that before we hop off here, you’re like, look, listen, folks, like, if there’s one thing you need to know about the buyer lifecycle, it’s…

Stacie  29:09

I think the one thing we didn’t talk about was the tech stack that goes along with the buyers’ lifecycle. So there’s a lot of definitions. And there’s a lot of levers that you can pull. And there’s a lot of frameworks that you can agree on as a company and go with those philosophies. And there’s so many of them. But then the next layer to this, which we didn’t really talk about is the tech stack and the systems and aligning the systems to the buyers’ lifecycle now that you’ve sort of defined this playbook, and ensuring that you can automate pieces of it and then where do you need the humans and the talent to have the oversight?

Jordan  29:48

So here we go, Stacie, since we didn’t talk about it, and if somebody wanted to reach out to you directly and say, “Hey, Stacie, can, can we have that conversation?” What’s the best way to get a hold of you?

Stacie  30:00

Sure you can find me on LinkedIn: Stacie Sussman, or you can email me: Stacie@SSRDigitalGroup.com.

Jordan  30:08

All right, Stacie. Hey, thanks for coming on today. Some fascinating stuff. And I appreciate you spending some time chatting through with me today.

Stacie  30:17

Oh, it’s pleasure. Thank you. All right. Bye.

30:19

Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.

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The Greaser team is made up of sales engagement natives; many of our consultants, including our founder, were early employees at the companies who created sales engagement. We are passionate about supporting revenue generators, empowering them to grow their companies and serve more customers.