The traditional B2B selling process is dead. Buyers can narrow down a list of potential vendors without the help of a sales rep, thanks to online resources like product review websites, private forums and social networks. However, this doesn’t mean the need for sales and marketing teams is gone. In his Advocamp presentation, Howard Tarnoff, Senior Vice President, Customer Success of Ceridian, shares how successful brands will empower (not push) customers through the buying journey.

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For those of you who don’t know Ceridian, we do something really cool, and really exciting. We help you get paid. We’re payroll. So, all the people you never think about that work in the basement, the HR people, they are our customers. And notice that not one of them spoke about what they’re doing for Ceridian. They all talked about what was in it for them. And that’s what this is about.

“The Tarnoff Principle”

I’m not so brazen to have coined that phrase. I was at another conference called Connected Enterprise. We kind of burned up Twitter, and I had one of my customers there who is the CIO of a large organization in Texas. He actually created a draft of a Wiki page called The Tarnoff Principle because I said, “There is no such thing as a sales process.”

So, SharpCharts, blue sheets, Miller Heiman, all that good stuff, right? I don’t believe there is such a thing as a sales process anymore, and I’m going to burn up some marketing people in a minute. But let’s finish this first.

I think there’s a buying process. Some people call it “a buyer’s journey.” And the most successful salespeople are those where people like us, the marketing people, ensure that they’re injected into that buyer’s journey at the right time.

Five years ago, what was our job? The CEO said turn up the volume, we’ve got to get louder. More clicks. I want to see more stuff about my dad being able to beat up their dad, right? Those were the conversations. I want you to print more stuff. You have to arm the field. If they’re not very good, at least they could go out and threaten with a bigger briefcase, right? We don’t do that anymore. I don’t want to be rude but marketing has got to shut the F up a little bit and let our customers start and maintain conversations about us and about you that you can’t start maintaining yourselves.

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Think about the last time you bought something. You don’t walk into Best Buy and say, “Hey, so tell me about your TV,” or go across the street to hhgregg and say, “Hey, tell me about your TV.” I call my son and I ask him, “Okay, what should I do? What do you like? What should I look out for?” I’m pretty damn well-educated and pretty far along my journey in making that buy before I ever engage with anybody who’s trying to sell me anything.

So, we have truly given our advocates a podium and a microphone. When we sat down to think about this customer success thing and calling it XOXO (which by the way I was not in favor of – I wanted to call it Ceridian DNA, but I was overruled by our CEO) we really enabled and empowered our customers to talk about us. We don’t talk about ourselves much anymore. I was saying to somebody at the back a minute ago, sooner or later– when you come to the large industry trade shows that we participate in– hopefully one day, there will only be one of the forty people that are manning the booth from Ceridian. We want our customers there.

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So this is really what it’s all about. I have to be honest, I stole this slide from someone and I don’t remember who. At the end of the day, we’re building this social proof. When people come into our sales process, we know a couple of things. They have a pre-disposition towards Ceridian. They prefer us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. They came into the channel based upon all the homework, all the stuff that they hear about. These guys filed taxes on time. They get their payroll done on time and all the other great things we do.

So, we have a tremendous group of advocates who we’ve empowered and mobilized to spread the good word. We also know that we have a shorter sale cycle. And we also know that the discount word doesn’t come up much. It’s not like we’re trying to say we’ve walked away from demand-gen for the most part. We kind of figured out that if you don’t have a headache, nobody’s going to buy the aspirin anyhow.

Here’s your real-world example, and let me talk to you about this for just a minute. When we look at a vertical market, the first thing we look at is: do we have an advocate who is a subject matter expert? Can someone partner with us so that when we go into this vertical and we declare a vertical, we already know what we’re going to put forth and what’s going to be of interest to the buyer?

We also know that the content is not stuff that we had our writers write. It’s not “Nick said this morning…” It’s not one of those case studies that starts off with “We did this and the ROI was that, blah, blah, blah, blah.” It’s in the language of the industry, because it’s all written by our advocates. We don’t do so much writing anymore.

The SMEs are also the people who have pure conversations. That’s another thing that we no longer do. We’ve eradicated the word “reference” from our dialogue. And our sales people still talk in terms of reference because our editors, just like your competitor, is saying “make sure they get three references from them.” Reference, call it what it is. It’s a twenty-minute conversation, you pre-submit your ten questions, they go through it, they hang up and say goodbye.

We engage our prospects with advocates who are their peers and that relationship continues on forever. I mean, this isn’t a one-time phone call. This is e-mails, we see people tweeting back and forth to one another talking about Ceridian, talking about where they are in the buyer’s journey. Then they become their mentor during the implementation. How’s the discovery going, tips, tricks, techniques, best practices, thought leadership. It goes on forever.

While they are in the adoption phase, that’s when we have my team, who are not rookies (that’s another piece of advice that I tell people when they call me and ask me “I’m going to start this program. What do I do?” I say, ‘Well, don’t hire the MBAs right out of school. What you need is people who have been around the block and add a lot of value to the conversation.”) And that’s how we continue to fill this pipeline in this loop. And this is our formula. We do it over and over and over for every market we go into.

Everybody’s got numbers. And this is something we look at every Monday on our team call. We launched something called XOXO Match. My team really hates it when they get e-mails from me at 3:00 in the morning because I’ve been up thinking about a problem I’m trying to solve and that’s when I normally come up with the solution.Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 2.10.52 PM

So, XOXO Match is Ceridian’s version of eHarmony. You’re a practitioner in HR Payroll. I’ll give you an example. A guy is in Chicago, and he just acquired a new division in Pennsylvania. And for those of you who make those decisions, you never want to acquire a division in Pennsylvania – the tax rules there are worse than in California.

So, he really doesn’t have a technical support issue. What he really wants to know is, “Hey, I’m going to go do business in this new state. How do I do it? What did you guys do? What did you run into?” And that’s real world.

So that was the first part of it. About three months later, I came up with another one that we call XOXO Success. And we think about our customers like an orchestra, or at least I do. In every orchestra, you have a first chair of violinists who really gets it. They’re doing things that nobody managed to get done. And we allow them to share those things, those new cures for their internal ills or their problems that we didn’t think of our ourselves. So, it’s XOXO Match, XOXO Success we’re going to be rolling out to the community as well.

So, what’s the key? We really believe that if we stop loving our customers, their need for love is not going to go away. They’re going to find somebody else to love them more than you do. That’s what Ceridian XOXO is about and it works.

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