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Successful Sales Digitization Retains a Human Element

Marcus Jewell

Marcus Jewell

Chief Revenue Officer at Juniper Networks

Marcus Jewell, Juniper Networks

Digitization has a place in the Sales world, but don’t expect automation to replace the inherently human factor necessary to close a deal. It’s more about using 21st century tools to do business today while evolving at the same speed as your customer.

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Marcus Jewell, Chief Revenue Officer at Juniper Networks to discuss options for digitization and automation within the sales journey.

Marcus shares insight into:

  • Defining Sales Digitization
  • Whether sales can be fully automated
  • What a successful change profile look likes

Quartz Network: Can you give some context around your background and your current role with Juniper.

Marcus Jewell: I’m Chief Revenue Officer at Juniper. I run all the sales and go to market operations. We’re a $5 billion organization, providing network infrastructure solutions to enterprise service provider and cloud. We focus on experience, so our tagline is “giving a better experience”, making better networks as opposed to making networking better, so trying a different paradigm around it. Being in sales my whole life, so started right at the bottom at Xerox a long time ago, worked my way through being a VP, few different companies, done some IPOs, some startups, some large scale, and here I am enjoying my gig at Juniper.

Quartz Network: What does sales digitization mean to you?

Marcus Jewell: There’s no there’s no easy definition of sales digitalization, like business digitization, it means many different things to different people. What it means to me is, if relationship selling is dropping off or can’t be done because of COVID, what takes the place of a relationship? What tools are out there to augment the sales process?

The good news is it still needs human, so unless buying is automated, sales cannot be automated by machine. What we need to do is think about what are the tools that are different out there, the processes that are different, and see how the sales process can evolve to take on digitization. That’s really what it means—using tools to access data in a better way to be more effective.

Quartz Network: Do you believe it is possible to automate sales?

Marcus Jewell: No, not in my career, I don’t believe so. Maybe I’ll eat my words if I say never. Unless buying is automated and done digitally—completely digitally—it’d be very hard for sales to. I don’t look at artificial intelligence and sales, I look at augmented intelligence. It’s about giving humans more of a clue of what to do next. A lot of people are familiar with the next best action model and how to suggest to a rep what will happen.

When I started 25 years ago, you were given a training book, you went on a three-month course, and then you go and speak to people. You didn’t really know what you were doing. Now it’s like you have so much information you need to sift through that information to help you.

Quartz Network: Why would a sales department want to want to digitize their sales process?

Marcus Jewell: Well, I think relationship selling was dying anyway—it’s a pretty harsh thing to say that it was dying, but people have less time. If you look at the difference between Baby Boomers and Millennials and Gen X of how they want to be treated. I think the difference is that I think in the Baby Boomer community where there’s still some decision makers left, 70 to 80% of them need a personal contact. They want to speak to somebody, see somebody and have a relationship with somebody in order to push that sale.

If you go down to Gen X and even Gen Z, that goes down to 20 or 30%. Instead, they’re quite happy to transact over a chat. We do deals where we open up a Slack channel for the customer and the whole conversation is Slack. These deals can be a million bucks or 2 million bucks. They don’t need to physically see somebody or even have a Zoom interaction or a Team’s interaction.

I think it’s about understanding your buying cohort and then digitizing where you need to. If you’re selling to a market that are desperate to see you, build those long-term relationships, then great, you don’t need to evolve. If your customers are evolving, you have to evolve at least the same speed, if not quicker than they do.

Quartz Network: What are some of the positives and negatives that you’ve seen with sales digitization?

Marcus Jewell: I’ll start with the negative and finish with the positive—always the best way to do it from a coaching background. The negative is we actually need a slightly different personality type in sales to be ultimately successful now. Again, I had the pleasure of starting at Xerox in the good old days of selling photocopies and printers, and it was very much relationship based. It was the days where you would build up that rapport with your local community. You’ll be out there. You’ll be a man that was known around your patch, and you will be doing that good kind of social interaction. Those skills were predominant. You almost have the people that were outgoing, gregarious, fun loving. They were very important attributes to have in sales. I’m not saying you don’t need those anymore, but now you need to be incredibly analytical.

You need to be digitally native. You have to be able to leverage social media and understand social media as a set of algorithms. You’re not trying to beat somebody else for attention, you’re trying to beat an algorithm. There are ways that you do that by engaging with conversations, with thought leadership, with those kinds of things. You also have to be incredibly digitally minded to sift through information. All the information you ever need is out there to be successful with a customer—the contact data, what they’re interested in personally, their social media profiles, some of the things that companies talk about. Think 20 years ago, all you had was a website and maybe a 10k to look at and go, “What’s the company’s drivers?” Now, people are posting all the time about culture, and linking to those things. You need to be a bit of a chameleon; you need to be able to adapt very quickly.

The final thing, the third strike I say is to be creative. You never used to have to be that creative. You had to be good at what you did, presenting yourself well, knowing your product or your solution. Now, you have to create insight, and it’s about customer value in the customer’s words, not your words. I always say awesome companies talk about how they help customers, not what they do. Not what they make, but what they enable their customers to do. That’s really been the forefront of digitization—those three segments.

Quartz Network: How has your experience been with Sales teams adapting to a digitized sales journey?

Marcus Jewell: A very wise man said to me, “You can’t hope to run a 21st century organization if you don’t use 21st century tools yourself.” It’s very embarrassing when you see people of my level and other CEOs and Senior Vice Presidents of companies that refuse to engage in the right platforms, refuse to understand some of the techniques that people need to go through and just wish that the world would go back to the way that it was.

A message for you guys and girls out there, it’s not going to go back to the way that it was. It just is not, so you got to get with it and modernize yourself as painful as it will be. You got to get over that embarrassment. On LinkedIn, you have to make comments on whatever platform you’re using to show a bit more of yourself. Some of us of the older generation are maybe not as comfortable with that as we should be, but you got to get over it because it’s the way that people want to communicate and feel a part of something these days.

The other thing is you’ve got to constantly check in. Coaching is now more important than ever. There is a difference between enablement and training. Training is the passing over of data, enablement is making sure they can use that skill that data and knowledge to be more impactful. We’re big into checking in with people on a much more consistent basis about how they’re developing and going through that.

Quartz Network: How do you make a successful transition?

Marcus Jewell: If you study change in a psychological term, it runs like a curve. First of all, you get curiosity. Then you get denial. And then you slowly get acceptance. The key is making sure that you map your processes to understand where people are. There’s some very simple questions you can ask of your people to know what part of that change cycle they are on. You can only push as fast as that change cycle will let you.

The good news is it comes back to good old-fashioned salesmanship and understanding people to dictate how fast you can move your chains forward in your strategy. What I would do is, make sure you have a constant check in. We set up what we call “listening posts”, where we reach out to individual contributors around the world and just check in with them on a regular basis going, “Hey, is this the right pace? Are we moving too quick? Do you understand why we’re doing this?” You have to be ready for some pretty brutal feedback about if they just don’t get it. That was really helpful for us. We had these working committees across the business.

The second thing is be relentless and get people used to constant change. I hate the saying “The only constant is change,” but it’s true. Just get people to go. Once you’ve achieved this, what happens? There’s another mountain to climb. There’s another transition to do. Getting that mindset and culture ready for that, and making change exciting, not feared, is what we did.

The final thing is to reward people for risk. You have to, in the current climate, reward people for risk. The first time, in my sales career, I started paying people on activity not only result, and I never thought I would do that as a kind of meat-eating sales lead. I thought I’d never do that, but it felt right. If you do the right things, we don’t know the outcome of this, you’re going to take the risk with us, we’re going to reward you if you take the risk.

Finally, we use micro incentive a lot about holding people out there and going, “Hey, look, if you do the right actions or the next best action, which is a big part of digitized selling, we’ll reward you with points.” Those points at the end of the quarter can end up to drinks, parties, iPads, and bigger prizes. We also put them in a leaderboard, so it’s not only their monetary value, but it’s the fact that they’re competing and get their name mentioned they can see themselves in leaderboards. Micro incentive was a great concept as well that we really liked.

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