CMO Insights: Dario Priolo, Chief Marketing Officer, Sales Performance International

April 11, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Dario Priolo, Chief Marketing Officer for Sales Performance International.

In this video, Dario shares how:

  • SPI has evolved from a traditional instructor led training business to now a more technology driven solution for sales clients
  • The company’s marketing focus on new business opportunities is measured through their sales pipeline
  • Account Based Marketing has been a successful shift for them in 2017

Learn more about Dario from his LinkedIn profile and follow Dario on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. And today on CMO insights, we have Dario Priolo, who is Chief Marketing Officer of Sales Performance International, and he also heads up their Demand Generation efforts. Dario, welcome to the show.

Dario Priolo:

Hi, Jeff. How are you?

Jeff Pedowitz:

I’m doing great. So now a lot of us, of course, not at least I know SPI from back in the day solution selling. I got a lot of my early foundation and training what’s SPI up to now.

Dario Priolo:

Wow, well, it’s really interesting. I mean, there’s been so much change in the whole, you know, sales performance improvement space, just with the amount of technology coming out in the new sort of ways that people want to learn. So we’ve really been evolving our business from a traditional, you know, instructor led training type of business that we did for 25 years. And we’re very successful to now a much more technology driven solution that encompasses both the development and the enablement of the sales rep to ultimately help them achieve better performance.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Oh, that’s great. So what are some examples of so if someone say took social selling back 10, 15 years ago, how’s the curriculum changed? What would the sales person be doing today?

Dario Priolo:

Well, I think what we’re able to do now is to really, you know, really align more closely maybe with the competitive differentiators that our clients are trying to achieve. So many of them are undergoing some sort of change that’s being driven by, you know, maybe changes in, in the macro environment, changes in technology changes in the competitive landscape. And as a result, they want to change. Now, some of the change aligns perfectly with maybe like a strategic or a solution selling methodology others. Doesn’t right. So what we’re able to do is to really understand how they want their sales organization to change and then help them develop the right sales processes and then really look at the organization and the roles necessary to execute. And once you break down sort of the organization and the roles, then it’s about identifying the competencies that are necessary to be effective in those roles.

 

And then assessing people against those competencies to determine, you know, really the, the development plan, right. And that development plan. I mean, traditionally, you know, maybe you think about this as being a two day instructor led program that focuses on like maybe one methodology. Well, now what we’ve been able to do is to really break our learning library down into competency based learning and align it really with the individual needs of the sales person. So it’s a very, very different way now of, of delivering a solution that we think is a lot more efficient and a lot more effective for our clients

Jeff Pedowitz:

So much like what we’re trying to do in marketing now, right. Tailor messages. One-To-One, you’re doing the same thing in say. Absolutely. So now do you find it interest because FBI training company, so process driven, do you find that gives you an advantage being in the marketing executive there, having that culture

Dario Priolo:

Very much so, I mean, you know, naturally we’re a sales culture, so, you know, again, it’s, I’ve seen this evolution, but I mean, you know, you have to be a revenue marketer in this space. You know, so it’s really it’s AI. It really is. It’s, it’s about understanding how your, your customers buy and then aligning your marketing in order to whatever enable them to buy from you. Right. And then being able to smoothly hand off to the sales organization for them to, you know, whatever, take your leader opportunity to, to closure.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, absolutely. So now you used to had a lot of marketing roles over the years. Are you seeing how marketing’s runs changing? I mean it, do you think that you’re having to run marketing more like a business than say you used to five or six years ago?

Dario Priolo:

Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think, especially for people on my team, I inherited this team and, you know, there were people, maybe we had designers and we have videographers and, you know, they’re thinking more about maybe like the craft of marketing and brand. And not that that isn’t important, but it’s really helping people understand how their individual marketing role has helped to contribute to the growth of the company. So for example, you can have a great designer, a great videographer, a great social media person, you know great demand generation people. They don’t always see it that way. I mean, you know, that’s, that’s a big change for them helping them really get that line of sight between their role and responsibility and the activity and the output that they create to how that really helps to drive our business.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Interesting. Now you said you inherited the team, so what kind of skills do they have? What kind of skills that you’re bringing to them as you grow and change the structure?

Dario Priolo:

Well, it’s interesting because solution selling was such a strong brand for so many years that the company really, you know, they really, their marketing was really referral-based, you know, new opportunities would come to them because so many people went through SPI programs that started to change you know, around 2011, 2012. In fact, there were some articles written in the Harvard business review around the depth of solution selling and how, because buyers have changed and solution selling is no longer relevant. Well, that’s not necessarily true. But what does it required SPI to do was to really change the way that they drove demand? I mean, those sort of like the, the referral stream, you know, not that it completely dried up, but, but it did take a hit. So a lot of the disciplines that other types of say technology companies had adopted through, you know, the latter half of maybe 2009, 2010, 2011, we had to implement that SBI. So things like, you know, marketing content marketing search engine optimization, paid search, all these other types of programs. We had to bring them to this organization to, again, just help get the word out there to generate demand, to help, you know, again, align people with people who are actually in the process of buying what we sell and to ultimately solve their problems.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So now, as you’re changing marketing, what types of outcomes are you being asked to be accountable for? What are you measuring?

Dario Priolo:

Well, probably, you know, most importantly, the thing that we measure is business that comes from new clients. So we call it new client, new business opportunities that is sort of like ultimately what we are first and foremost accountable to. And with that, we backed that up into pipe. So the amount of pipeline that we have to generate and how that pipeline moves through from, you know, opportunity to closure, that’s critically important. And then from there being able to back out the number of, of opportunities and the number of sales accepted leads. So my, my, you know, kind of my, my, my most, I guess, ultimate leading indicator, I look at traffic traffic important. I look at marketing qualified leads. I look at sales accepted leads, but most importantly, I look at opportunities and what we’ve done is we’ve really tightened the criteria between sales accepted leads and opportunities. So, I mean, we’re probably, I would say 90% of our sales accepted leads are opportunities because we we’ve got them. We’ve met them through, you know, the marketing demand generation team. And then, and then we, again, it’s, it’s tracking how those opportunities then translate into pipe for the business and then into, into bookings.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So are you finding how you engage the customer is changing? I mean, do you have different types of programs that are, that are aimed at different parts of the life cycle?

Dario Priolo:

Yeah. Well, I mean, we look at sort of, you know, the life cycle four ways, we look at creating demand. We look at winning deals, we look at managing accounts and then we look at managing sort of the overall performance of a sales organization. So when we work with our clients, those are sort of like the four key streams that they’re looking to us to help them solve. And, you know, it’s interesting because we’re just sort of like a reflection of our clients, everything that we do for our clients, we have to do for ourselves. I mean, if we don’t get new opportunities and the top of the funnel, it doesn’t matter how good we are at closing those opportunities. We’re not going to hit our numbers. So it’s really looking at that full sort of funnel and the full life cycle of the sale and the buying process and making sure that we’re approaching it properly.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So what are some of the processes that you’re focusing on? I mean, are they kind of the same or are they changing or,

Dario Priolo:

Well, certainly, you know, we brought in inbound pretty, pretty significantly. You know, 24 months ago when I started working with the company. So really, you know, developing thought provoking content that aligns with the types of problems that we solve for our clients. And, you know, for example, redoing our website, you know, search engine optimization of all of that content and that’s been great that has definitely given us a very significant lift. Now this year we kicked off was account based marketing. So, you know what I think about it, I mean, you know, in all that inbound is, is wonderful, but we don’t have a whole lot of control over who comes in. And part of our value proposition is that we work extremely well with large global organizations. I mean, our largest client is a global 50 company. We’re training 30,000 salespeople over the next two years with them.

So what we do in addition to all the inbound, because we’ll take that all day every day is we have an account based program now where we are really trying to pinpoint the companies that we want to do business with either based on the fact that we have a good track record in their industry, or there are certain triggers that, you know, sort of lead to needs that we can solve. And again, we put in place that account based marketing discipline to go after them in a very targeted way to again, generate awareness, generate credibility, and, and hopefully, you know generate some discussions with them around how we can help.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, well, I have a lot of clients that we’re talking to are really focused now, more on account based marketing as part of their mix. So where for you, where this technology fit in with all of this, how are you using it to help you scale?

Dario Priolo:

Well, you said exactly Jeff, you know, I mean, without the technology wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to scale. I mean, it would be a very, very you know, manual cumbersome process. I mean, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve tried account based marketing in the past, but without technology to enable it, it’s very, very manually intensive. So it’s almost more like a one off where, okay, we want to penetrate this one account. So what can we do to put together a program to go after it? Our account based marketing program has really helped us scale. So again, we’re a process company. I like to think about the marketing process and the demand generation process and using technology in order to enable better efficiency and better effectiveness. So for example, when we relaunched our website and kind of launched our content marketing effort, what we wanted to do in addition to, you know I guess generating opportunities, we want it to take as much work out of that process as possible, especially work that didn’t add a whole lot of value. So we’ve developed techniques and methodologies, for example, to create content, to, you know post that content, to distribute that content in the most effective and efficient ways. And again, without the technology that wouldn’t have been positive,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Certain types of technology that you’re really relying on that that are building kind of your core infrastructure.

Dario Priolo:

Yeah. I mean, and again, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. I mean, you know, we are you know, WordPress is really the backbone of our content effort and, you know, I’m fortunate, I have a couple of excellent WordPress developers that I’ve used over the years and, and it’s incredible what they have been able to do, and the incredible with the results that we’ve been able to achieve with WordPress. So, you know,  WP engine is our host. WordPress is our front end. You know we, we use Pardot and salesforce.com again, you know, I think we’re just kind of scratching the surface, you know, with par dot, for example, it’s more of a, you know, an email engine for us. You know, we use Hootsuite for our, our social Engagio now is, is the, the platform that we chose to enable our account based marketing. So again, what I’m trying to do is not get overly enamored with every little piece of technology out there. I mean, there’s just so much of it. I mean, it can become overwhelming. And even when I came in, we had a whole bunch of tools that we really weren’t using that much. So we tried to consolidate and rationalize.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, yeah. I’d say I see a lot of people who want to run out and buy the next grade thing, but just to just a few good pieces, you could really get most of your marketing run pretty effectively, I think.

Dario Priolo:

Yeah. And I think when you’re buying in, in searching for a solution, you really have to do your homework, especially like for example, in the account based marketing space. I mean, every vendor now is calling themselves an ABM solution, even if they’re not really an ABM solution. So, you know, you have to really understand what you’re trying to achieve as a marketing or demand generation function. And the technology really needs to be an enabler. You know, I don’t like when the technology becomes sort of a leader and you start to change the way that you’re doing things to accommodate the technology. I just don’t think that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It should be more of a catalyst. Right. And it gets you to revisit it, but not, you’re not, you’re not in business for the technology. The technology is actually helping you. Absolutely. Okay. So what advice would you give to a fellow marketing executive that’s beginning their transformation? Where should they start? What should they focus on?

Dario Priolo:

Wow. Well, first and foremost, you have to understand your buyer. Okay. there’s been a lot of talk about how buyer behavior has changed, but the question is how has it changed? I, you know, spent the bulk of my career in this industry and I’ve probably interviewed now over 500 buyers. You know, whether primarily doing win-loss reviews, I call them voice of the buyer interviews and interviewing clients in key accounts. So that is so important because, you know, it gives you a tremendous amount of insight into, you know, not only why they buy, but how they buy and when they buy. And, you know, based on that information, it’s really helped me shape my strategy to align much more closely to their behaviors. And I think right now what’s happened in the world of marketing is that marketing has become so technology driven that I think a lot of marketers have really lost sight of the customer.

You know, most marketers have not even been on a sales call in their life. You know, so I would really encourage people to understand how your, how, how, why, and when your buyers buy and to do that, not by surveying them because that’s lazy, you have to get on the phone and you have to talk to them. Okay, that’s a good thing. And they love it and they love it. You know, like clients love when you get on the phone and talk to them and you learn so much from them. That’s so valuable. So, so that’s really important. The other thing is you have to understand how your sales organization sells, especially your top performers. So for example, if you’re a new CEO coming into a role, you know, it’s so important to tap into your Salesforce, understand what makes your best salespeople successful and understand how they interact with the customer and then understand, you know the type of whatever content and tools that they use in order to be successful. And that gives you a tremendous amount of credibility with the sales team when you’re coming in, when you take time, when you show interest and really wanting to, especially

Jeff Pedowitz:

How the top performers do things you get them on your side and then they, they start to support you. That’s fantastic advice. Dario, It’s easy to see why you’re so successful. Thank you for being on the show today, and I wish you and SPI all the continued success. Thank you.

Dario Priolo:

Thanks, Jeff. It’s been great.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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