Being a CMO on the Amtrak train is like being a hairdresser or a bartender. There’s something about the chug-chug of steel wheels on rails and the rockabye-baby sway of the train cars themselves that lulls everyone into a sense of disarmament, security, and intimacy.
Sure, there are those who ride nose to device and earbuds to eardrum, but me—is it just me?—I must have a sign written on my forehead:
Your confessions are safe with me!
Every time I take the Amtrak from Boston to DC, strangers talk to me. Nine times out of ten, these people are sharp, interesting, and hilarious. But of course, it’s the marketers and sales people my ears perk up for most.
Alright, I confess, sometimes these conversations involve me, and other times, I’m eavesdropping. Either way, here’s a snippet of what I recently overhead:
Salesperson, Tech, Female, Mid-career
So, there’s this big tech company out of Boston and a trio from their sales team was headed to the Big Apple for the day. This team was talking amongst themselves about what salespeople always talk about: metrics, performance, cold calls, leveraged opportunities—and oh, music to my ears, the funnel! Salespeople talking about the funnel, you ask? Well, it is 2017. I closed my eyes and tuned in.
As a CMO, I may joke around about salespeople from time to time, but in general, I know them to be hardworking people. I know their bosses push them by saying if they aren’t constantly tracking leads and turning cold calls to their company’s advantage, the world will fall apart.
Alec Baldwin—now there’s a guy who’s got his work cut out for him these days, right?
Anyway, here’s the scoop:
“Salesforce? I’m done with it! If I open the lead in Salesforce just to look at it, the system automatically shows I’ve seen it, so it becomes mine. Whether I follow up on this lead or not, it’ll show up in the stats as mine. I mean, it’ll show up as mine—whether I decide to follow up on it or not. That’s crazy! Salesforce doesn’t take into consideration my decision to pounce on a lead or leave it. So, you know what I do? I never open the leads in Salesforce. Doing so messes up my stats. I screen them in Preview and only open them after I have made some progress with them.”
The crew from this well-known Boston tech firm were seasoned experienced salespeople. I could tell they were savvy and passionate; they weren’t just there for the money, but they definitely knew how to make it. The problem, for this woman, was that her “boss” was getting in her way—that is, the system she was forced to utilize was not the most valid, motivating, or accurate “supervisor.” Salesforce did not have her best interest, or the company’s best interest, in mind.
This woman solved the problem her way:
“To tell the truth, I don’t always just screen leads in Preview. I found a better way to work around the system.”
I had been eavesdropping with my eyes closed, but hearing the words “To tell the truth” made me open them. The woman glanced over at me across the aisle and we locked eyes for a split second. I must not look the part of sales person, or spy, so she returned her focus to her colleagues and said, for anyone listening to hear:
“I got someone in IT to open a fake user account for me. I log in as Robin Banks, a nonexistent sales rep, and pass the strong leads on to my real account! So far, I’m showing a close ratio of over 50%. How brilliant is that?”
Wow! I confess, I wanted to get out of my seat right there and pick this woman’s brain. In both books I’ve written, Personalize This and Disrupt That, I speak to the ever-evolving relationship between marketers and salespeople—I think we have a lot to offer one another.
I remained seated. I listened on, gleaning whatever else I could from the mind of a salesperson.
Yes, when Steve Martin and John Candy set out on their infamous Planes, Trains, and Automobiles journey, Martin could hardly stand it, but today’s truth is—marketing departments and sales teams have no choice but to work together, buck the system, disrupt like startups do, and find endlessly fresh ways to win leads and attract and retain customers. It’s amazing—the insights, hacks, and truths to be gained on a train ride.
I can’t wait for my next train ride.