Jake Hofwegen On How Data Is Changing The Sales Game


Jake Hofwegen has passionately been building and scaling highly successful sales organizations at companies such as NetSuite, McAfee, WebSense and Mindjet. Hear him speak at INmarket during his presentations “Winning The In-Market Prospect: The Sales Leader’s Perspective” (July 8 in San Francisco).

6s: Describe your role as VP of Global Sales Ops and Enablement at NetSuite?

JH: Sure, sales operations is such a broad term. Depending on who ask, you can be sure to get a different answer on what the gig exactly entails. My job here really has 3 pillars. The first one is classic sales operations, think deal-desk, compensation design and admin and lastly KPIs and CRM design and maintenance. The second pillar is enablement. The guy that runs it for us really calls it on-boarding and enablement since its two different tracks, and he is right. The third tenant is sales productivity: how can we help our reps be more productive? Well, we do that with the best breed of productivity tools, relevant field marketing and sales events and, of course, passionate and relevant customer stories.

6s: What are the top challenges Sales Ops professionals have today? 

JH: NetSuite is one of the world’s fastest growing cloud companies, and it has been for a while. Now my main job is to keep up with growth while keeping productivity high. Items like on-boarding, making sure we have a relevant and scalable sales process and ensuring that we have the very best productivity tools at our disposal to keep an edge on the competition are high on my to-do list. You know, being in our industry and at a rapidly growing company, you have to keep pace with innovation. What’s working today will be outdated tomorrow so you have to be flexible, embrace change and realize that not being innovative is going to seriously hurt your ability to execute. The challenge really is being in tune with all the great technology and market developments, which takes constant monitoring. An old mentor once said to me, “You evolve or you die.” That’s very much the case these days.

6s: Do you believe data can remedy these? 

JH: It certainly plays a huge roll. There are so many data points out there and multiple access-points, it’s really easy to suffer from data-paralysis. Data’s life cycle is shorter; it becomes stale/outdated faster and faster. If you can find a way to harness it all, embrace it and make it consumable and relevant for your organization, you will be ahead of the game. The trick is to figure out what is relevant and meaningful for you — and that is a hard thing to do. I’d hate to use the word actionable, but if data doesn’t do anything for you in terms of giving you a story and a reason to connect and have a conversation, all that monitoring and researching becomes a big productivity waste. If you think about it, it’s not about access to data anymore — that was democratized a while back.  Right now, it’s all about making sense of that data, filtering out the noise and finding meaningful trends.

6s: How is data changing the “sales game” – both for Sales Operations and the buyer? 

JH: Transparency, and that is a beautiful thing, for both buyers and sales professionals. Buyers are more educated – they know the difference between a fake cloud versus a true cloud – and they have a clear understanding of where all the providers stand in terms of features, service, scalability and functionality. By the same token, we can do a lot more research on a company by following news-feeds, twitter feeds, connections on LinkedIn, third party press-blogs, buzz on social media – you name it. That all makes for a better buying experience and smoother sales cycle. That is, if you bother to embrace all technology out there to remain productive, and of course, it helps if you can sell an awesome product. At NetSuite, we have a very disruptive and unique platform so transparency isn’t an issue for us.

6s: What are some new data-driven tools and technologies you are seeing developing for sales operations that you are most excited about? 

JH: No doubt, predictive analytics is huge. So is machine/platform learning.  There’s also a ton going on in the enablement-world as far as automation and mobile learning as well.  Predictive is huge for a number of reasons. I’ve read in a study recently that customers are 70% done with their discovery buying cycle before they ever reach out to you. How many prospects start their buying cycle by submitting a lead from or calling a vendor directly? Not many. Predictive analytics lets you find those buying signals early, which is extremely important. In a way, it’s sort of signaling a renaissance in cold calling, but then much more to the point and educated. Even if you just apply it to your customer-base (not install base, cloud companies don’t do install bases) it can be a super powerful method to increase upsell or cross-sell.  Machine- or platform-learning is exciting as well.  The average NetSuite customer, for example, is so much more in-tune with their customer buying patterns simply because e-commerce is a part of our overall platform and it’s all fully integrated. Lastly, on enablement, up to say, 3 years ago, that was all old school classroom-style education. These days, you have an entire starting kit just on your phone or other mobile device. You can share best practices, look for peer reviews and feedback or roll something else out on a daily basis to the entire field. So yes, I am excited about all of that and if you talk to me in a year from now, there’s probably some other technology to think about. That evolution isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

Don’t miss Jake Hofwegen’s presentation at INmarket in San Francisco on July 8! Register now.

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