In this series, we ask tech executives to describe the why and how of their solution. We call it Sales Tech Simplified.

This week I interview Ian Levine, Chief Sales Officer of RO Innovation.

Nancy: Why does the industry need your solution?

Ian: The modern B2B buying journey has evolved. The internet has given buyers greater access to information. We’ve all heard the stats that buyers are now 50-80% of the way through their cycle before they engage salespeople. In an attempt to touch buyers earlier, companies are producing more content marketing than ever – but ironically are just making buyers more overwhelmed and annoyed to the point they’re tuning marketing out.

To cut through the noise and madness, buyers are turning to their peers for answers…peers they trust and know have felt the same frustrations. Peers who have vetted shortlists, have personal experience with technology solutions and can give opinions and advice on what to do. It’s called peer-to-peer selling. Companies can leverage their happy customers that are talking to their future customers in systematic ways through P2P selling technology. RO Innovation, the world’s leading customer reference platform, has been helping companies activate their happy customers to enable sales, drive revenue, and move the content marketing needle for over a decade…and it seems the market is finally catching up! Companies are re-aligning strategy around their customers and we are a totally unique technology platform to enable the Customers Voice.

Nancy: Why should it be prioritized above other options?

Ian: According to SiriusDecisions, 80% of B2B buying decisions are based on direct or indirect customer experience. That means customer advocacy is the single best source of demand creation and sales enablement today. Smart companies know they need to deploy their customer advocates everywhere in the marketing and sales mix, from sourcing demand through referrals to nurturing customer relationships to create and foster customer references, to supporting retention and growth. The biggest mistake I see today are companies trying to organize customer advocates, but not enabling them properly in the CRM. RO not only integrates intelligently with CRM’s, our system often solves 2,3, or 4 problems that companies may already be paying to multiple other vendors.

Nancy: What are the symptoms that indicate an organization would benefit from your solution?

Ian: Any company that has customers and uses marketing content and/or customer advocacy in some way, shape or form to engage buyers during their marketing and sales cycles. This buyer’s journey infographic lays it out nicely. Usually when companies average around 25 sales reps they’re usually ready for a customer reference management solution like RO Innovation. That said, any size company can benefit from RO’s content enablement solution. When companies have a robust partner/reseller program or seek to integrate their CRM, like Salesforce, with other key sales tools they are usually ready for RO’s sales enablement solutions.

Nancy: Where does your solution fit in the Hierarchy of Revenue Needs™?

Ian: RO Innovation’s solution fits in several places in this hierarchy. It helps onboard sales reps faster by sharing and scaling tribal knowledge of top sellers throughout different stages of the sales cycle. It helps sales managers increase accuracy of sales forecasts by tracking if proposals/contracts have been engaged with. It gives sellers the real-time intelligence to know which of their prospects are the most engaged and when/what to say in follow-up conversations. It helps salespeople engage with prospects by sending materials through professional microsites and sending real-time notifications to salespeople when they need to take actions. It helps communicate value by streamlining the customer reference request process for sellers, and making reference fulfillment faster and more accurate…which also helps lead to closed deals. Finally, it helps with cross-sell/upsell by helping teams foster customer advocacy relationships and tracking engagement/interest in materials sent about potential new solutions they could buy from you.

Nancy: How mature is a typical organization’s sales stack before adding your technology?

Ian: RO Innovation’s solutions are designed to be flexible and very scalable (they can work stand-alone or integrated with other platforms), so we’ve seen them work at any stage of an organization’s sales stack maturity at a variety of sized companies.

Typically, organizations with a smaller/leaner tech stack operate RO Innovation as a stand-alone solution. Organizations with a more mature sales stack integrate RO with their marketing automation, CRM, customer success, and other platforms simultaneously. Part of what makes RO so valuable to companies running larger tech stacks is our configurability and unique integrations.  The RO approach makes other systems function better and data becomes more intelligent.

Nancy: In what ways is your solution complementary to others that might be in someone’s sales stack now or in the future?

Ian: A lot of companies are trying to decipher thousands of stack options and solutions they’ve already bought. RO Innovation solves dozens of unique problems, eliminating the need to have half a dozen extra tools in the stack which can save big bucks! We do references, rewards, content, CRM efficiency, data from opportunity to close, better sales presentations via microsites, launch customer story program, inform customer health indices…the list goes on!

Most of RO’s technology stack integrations are much more than simple API connectors. We are usually adding more value by having data interact intelligently between systems. RO integrates with marketing automation platforms, like Marketo and Eloqua, sales CRMs like Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics, content marketing platforms like Kapost and Sharepoint, customer success platforms like Gainsight and other customer advocacy and content platforms like Influitive and TechValidate. We are working on new integrations every day, so if a customer needs the data from one or more platforms to talk to RO (or vice versa) we can make it happen.

Nancy: What are some of the challenges your solution solves for Marketing/Sales?

Ian: We help sales and marketing leverage the right content and happy customers at the right time with the right buyer.

For Sales, RO Innovation can help:

  • Close more deals, faster
  • Ramp up new reps faster
  • Return time back to reps for actual selling
  • Get more reps beating quota
  • Better coach frontline managers
  • Scale tribal knowledge of top sellers
  • Drive greater adoption of the CRM
  • Provide sellers with the right content on the right opportunity at the right time to sell more effectively

For Marketing, RO Innovation can:

  • Prove ROI effectiveness of content & campaigns via revenue influence
  • Maintain greater visibility on content usage and lead viability all the way to close
  • Maintain branding and messaging consistency
  • Increase usage and prove return on customer marketing initiatives
  • Elevate your role as a key contributor of revenue growth
  • Optimize & grow your customer reference program
  • Track ROI and revenue influence of customer marketing efforts
  • Activate and leverage the voice of the customer in every sales and marketing cycle

Nancy: What are some good resources if someone wanted to learn what questions to ask, what others are doing, or purchase considerations?

Ian: Ask a peer! But if you’re into doing your own research and reading up on stuff, I’d recommend visiting the resources section on the RO website and/or subscribing to RO’s blog. There’s a TON of great stuff there, from best practices eBooks to FAQs, customer success stories and testimonials, to ROI calculators and more.