Adam B Needles


How to Build a Bulletproof Go-To-Market Strategy

Speaker 1: Hi, and welcome to the Insiders by durhamlane, where we get perspectives from industry thought leaders about strategies that are unifying marketing and sales cycles to help accelerate growth inside your world.

Richard Lane: Welcome to the Insiders by durhamlane, an industry podcast that connects the world of marketing and sales one guest at a time. I’m your host, Richard Lane. I’m co-founder and chief commercial officer here at durhamlane. We’re a revenue acceleration agency. We help enterprise customers create always-on channels of meaningful and well-qualified sales opportunities. Based on that, I couldn’t be more thrilled than to be joined by Adam Needles today. Adam is the CEO of ANNUITAS, a boutique management consultancy that specialises in go-to-market transformation, spanning strategy, implementation, and optimisation. Adam, great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for being with us.

Adam B Needles: It’s great to be here, Richard. Thank you so much.

Richard Lane: Really looking forward to today, Adam, for many reasons. Perhaps to get us started into introduce you to our listeners, perhaps you could give us a bit of your background, share a couple of stories of your career to date, and then we can crack on with the main content for today’s podcast.

Adam B Needles: I would just say real quickly, background on me, at ANNUITAS, the work that we’re doing is really around trying to do two things. One, put the customer more at the center of go-to-market, and two, help organisations better execute. In particular, I always say go-to-Market falls apart in execution, and it’s a real challenge. And the thing that got me started in the work that we do, which goes back quite a number of years, I think about 15 or 20 years, is I was a frontline CMO in the era right after the dot-com bubble burst building a go-to-market organisation and scaling marketing team, events team. And I just felt like we were just working so hard and be partnering with the sales leader at the company. We were always trying to scale and engage, and obviously, be more thoughtful about prospects we were engaging with, but also be right place, right time.

Richard Lane: Yep.

Adam B Needles: And it just felt like we were working really hard. And fast-forward years later, I transitioned from being a frontline CMO to working for Silverpop, which was eventually acquired by IBM, on market automation technology. And I had this sort of idea, I was like, “Hey, technology can make things so much more efficient.” But the truth is no, the technology was just amplifying a lot of bad practices for a lot of organisations. And the thing that just became really clear, Richard, is that we’re all working so hard, we’re looking to technology and to other things as this magic pill to solve all of our problems, but we need to really look inwardly in how we approach go-to-market, how we engage with our customers and organisations just need a better operating system around that. And so that was sort of the inspiration that led to building ANNUITAS, the work that we do, the methodology, the new book that we’re talking about here today. But it’s all about that idea of, “How do we…” Like any entrepreneur would say, “How do you work smarter, not harder-“

Richard Lane: Yeah.

Adam B Needles: “… as a go-to-market leader?”

Richard Lane: So you said a number of really interesting things there. I think the key piece for me coming out of that is I think so often people think technology is the answer to the problem, but what you are saying is that the technology amplifies the problem. So-

Adam B Needles: Exactly.

Richard Lane: … therefore, you think you’re going to be saving time, but actually, you’re probably making things worse. Great. Well, that’s a great context for us to really crack on with today’s episode of the Insiders. You did mention it, you’ve recently authored a book, the Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook. I think this is version… Is this edition two.

Adam B Needles: It’s just a fast fall. I mean, we’re in a world where you can get to a second edition pretty quickly. We put out a version in August. We decided that we wanted to add a couple more things into it, issued a new one about a month or two ago. But yes, the Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook, brand new this year. I will mention, I did my first book 10 years ago. And so 10 years later, we’re doing a second one here. The inspiration for this is that for a number of years, and even in the work that we’ve done, so much has been around like, “Hey, we need a demand engine,” or, “Hey, we need a better set of sales cadences,” or, “Hey, we need to do some customer marketing.” And these things were happening in silos.

Moreover, we’ve often seen those teams, not only the program separate, but the teams trying to get a line around some sort of perfect process and failing at that. And I think the great conversation that is out there right now is, “Hey, go-to-market should be one integrated motion. Go-to-market teams should be working together. Go-to-market programs should be working together.” By the way, that should be pre and post-sale because frankly, acquisition is only part of the equation.

And so we’ve taken all the work we’ve done over the last decade and we’ve been doing more and more over time with that more holistic vision. We’ve got something we call our demand process methodology that we talk about here in the book, and we’ve been expanding that to really engage all elements of the journey. And the book is really all about how do you create this growth organisation that is fully integrated around customer journey and delivers that go-to-market. It happens to have the title, the Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook. We’re not saying that you have to be a chief growth officer, we’re not saying every organisation needs to have a chief growth officer, but you need to have a conceptual leader that can drive that integrated approach or an organisational construct or committee approach that can bring it together.

Richard Lane: I really love the idea of the chief growth officer office. Actually so you don’t necessarily have to have one individual that is responsible. But I guess really what you’re saying is as an organisation, you have to have the mindset of the chief growth officer and what that means to a business to connect the pre and the post-sale activities. And you’ve got the customer in the center of all of that conversation

Adam B Needles: And you’ve got to play it out, right? So we’re not just talking about an organisational strategy, we’re not just talking about programs that are tied together, we’re not just talking about orchestrating channels, we’re not just talking about end-to-end funnel management pre and post-sale, we’re not just talking about systems that are tied together. We’re talking about it all working together. Everybody always says like, “We’re trying to transform process and get people process content, technology, data working together.” That’s what we’re talking about here. All of that needs to be working together. And with a growth ops mindset, meaning a common set of telemetry dashboards where you’re all working towards the same objectives.

Richard Lane: Absolutely. So at durhamlane, we… Well, a couple of things. One, we talk about our three Ps, that’s people, process, and partnership. So again, thinking about how do we, using processes, make sure we can deliver the best work, but also we understand how important partnership with our customers is to make sure that we’ve got that human connection as well. Secondly, sort of from an internal point of view, we talk RevOps. Would you instead talk growth ops?

Adam B Needles: It’s not about the title. However, I’m going to argue that we have a real problem with the CRO role in the RevOps, and that is quite simply that most CROs out there, just a more strategic title for a sales leader. So I would love if RevOps was a holistic thing, Richard, but it just is not, right? It’s a sales leader who’s got an upgraded title. And so too often we see that the RevOps function is just sales ops with an upgraded-

Richard Lane: Right.

Adam B Needles: … title. So I’d love to see a more holistic RevOps. We call it growth ops just because we’re trying to honestly, given the challenges with RevOps and CRO titles, upgrade and say, “Hey, let’s have a different construct.” I think the growth ops role is critical. And if that person has a title of RevOps, that’s great, but they need to be driving end-to-end process and systems. And end-to-end to me is pre and post-sale and encompassing all of sales marketing and customer success teams engagement.

Richard Lane: Absolutely. No, totally with you. So our RevOps is sales, marketing, customer success or account management. So I think we get a tick in the box there, which is great. At durhamlane, when I’m thinking about our work with our customers, we talk often about being the middleware that connects marketing and sales together. So-

Adam B Needles: Totally.

Richard Lane: … there is this big challenge. There’s a fault line between the worlds of marketing and sales. It probably leads to some of that siloing that we’ve spoken a little bit about already. Particularly in this economy. We’re seeing many of our customers, particularly really big enterprises, sort of focus on keeping what they’ve got and growing what they’ve got. So it’s naturally helping us to evolve our service more into the post-sale into the world of the customer, and that’s something that we’re trying to get into. So how do you, through your processes and stretches, help your customers put their customer at the center of their conversations?

Adam B Needles: I mean, the work we do starts with fundamental research, right? You’ve got to understand that journey, their content consumption, the stakeholders, the buying cohort. You’ve also got to really understand the people that are involved with the buying process that may not be users. I think too often, organisations have what we call a CX lens and they’re like, “We’re going to be the best in customer CX and in customer delight.” And that’s great, except that particularly in a B2B consider purchase, there’s a whole bunch of other people that are not being delighted, but they’re paying the bills, they’re signing the checks.

Richard Lane: Right.

Adam B Needles: We need to actually have what we call more of a DX lens, right? Think about that demand experience. So I think one piece of it is having that concept of it’s really about that optimised journey and the stakeholders along that journey.

I do want to come into the post-sale though, because I think that’s the most haphazard part. So many times, organisations will go invest in Gainsight or they will have a team of people calling to improve renewals, but none of these are really holistic engagement of customer journey, and it’s really not about driving success. We talk about the pre-sale ARC as typically be engaged, nurture, convert, but we think of the post-sale ARC as succeed, develop, grow.

The first stage of any post-sale go-to-market program is actually that success. And we see that frankly, the renewals for most customers in a business as subscription business, at least, the first one, two, three months of engagement will determine whether or not they were new. There’s very little you can do at the very end that is-

Richard Lane: Yes.

Adam B Needles: … going to determine that. So we need to think about programs that start engaging earlier in the process. And the other piece is that we’ve got to use… I talked about at the beginning, we start our process doing research and engaging, but really what we want to do is get to the point where we’re instrumenting customer behaviors and we’re triggering off them.

In the post-sale, NPS is a great example. Research teams are always doing NPS surveys, but they then take that from some sort of Survey Monkey, they put it in a PowerPoint deck, and they present it up. It’s the wrong approach. NPS should be something that is triggered in real time, not like a one-time or a quarterly survey. And if someone responds to that, that needs to be flowing directly into your marketing automation directly into your customer marketing platform. And that information should be triggering outreach. Somebody drops from a nine or 10 to a six on their NPS, somebody needs to be calling them. There needs to be-

Richard Lane: Yeah.

Adam B Needles: … trigger campaigns. We’ve got all these points of insight, we’ve got all these points of engagement, but we’ve got to think differently about how we’re driving that.

Richard Lane: And it’s interesting, isn’t it? You talked about NPS, I think as B2B, buying behavior sort of follows B2C, typically. I think when you used to receive a survey in a B2C environment, you used to go, “Well, that’s interesting. I’ll give some feedback.”

Adam B Needles: Right.

Richard Lane: And now you get bombarded by surveys every day. You sort of very rarely respond to them. So do you have a view on if someone that doesn’t respond? Is that good, bad, indifferent? Would you build in a-

Adam B Needles: They may just not want to respond. I have some brands that I absolutely love that I engage with all the time, and I’m just not interested in giving feedback right now.

Richard Lane: Yeah, it’s interesting, because I think there is fatigue in terms of feedback fatigue.

Adam B Needles: Two brands that I love, I love Delta, and as the CEO of a company, I love DocuSign. DocuSign has made our business so much more efficient. Delta and DocuSign are constantly trying to get my opinion on the latest login to their websites, and I’m just over it. And I’m like, “Guys, I already give you plenty of feedback. I email stuff, I reach out to account managers and whatnot. I’m giving you this feedback all the time.” The problem with customer feedback is organisations, because they’re not multi-channel… So great example, right? If I’m engaging with a ticket agent for Delta, if I’m engaging with a flight attendant, right? And I’ve got feedback. If I have feedback, they will say, “Hey, can you go to and send that in?”

Richard Lane: Right.

Adam B Needles: Well, why can’t they be a feedback channel? Why can’t they take the feedback? Right? I fly with them all the time. Why can’t they take that and put it in, feed it back to someone? Right? So it’s a multi-channel organisation, but yet the feedback somehow, if it’s not coming through their contact us or it’s not through that feedback, I forget what the technology is, but that is telling you what the website experiences and rate it in real time, “Hey, give us feedback on your latest login,” you have to have, and this is when you talk about an orchestrated go-to-market, the multiple channels of interaction need to not only be connected and all bringing telemetry back, right? They also need to be empowered so that each of those channels can do something meaningful, can drive and can collect that feedback.

Look, we talk about the core of effective scale and go-to-market is what we call conversation track architecture. Conversations are the underlying terra firma of go-to-market. And so the core of effective go-to-market is driving those conversations further. Conversation is two-way, right? I tell you things, you tell me things, we process it on both ends. Too many organisations think that conversation is sending things to customers and prospects.

Richard Lane: Yeah.

Adam B Needles: It’s also about progressively profiling them and getting feedback from them, and it’s doing that via multiple channels. That’s the shift.

Richard Lane: I’ve written down omni-channel feedback collection. I think as consumer or as a business purchaser or a business user of a service, if you want to give feedback, you’ll give it when you need to give it. And actually, organisations tend to just be thinking, “Well, this is the channel we use to get feedback and we’ll expect-“

Adam B Needles: Right.

Richard Lane: “… a response of X.” Well, hopefully people listening are able to think about their business and start thinking about, “How do we collect feedback and what are the channels that we use?”

Adam B Needles: Ed Bastian, I just gave you a whole bunch of nuggets to improve your customer experience.

Richard Lane: 100%. So we’ve talked a little bit before about the silos that typically exist in business, Adam. So in your opinion, is the chief growth officer or the person with that responsibility, are they the person that can break those silos down?

Adam B Needles: They should be. They should be the advocate for integrated journey. They should be the advocate for integrated KPIs and objectives, right? I know we say this, but what happens is that marketing says, “Hey, I delivered so many leads.” And sales says, “Hey, I produced this much pipeline.” And customer success says, “Hey, I onboarded this many customers.” At the end of the day, the most important metric is customer lifetime value, right? And so you want to be looking at that lifetime value that tells you two things. One, not every customer is a good customer. So sometimes acquisition metrics mask lack of health in the business. Two, customer lifetime value is something that you can impact both pre and post-sale. And so everybody should be working…

Look, I’m not saying there should not be other intermediary KPIs. You should have a system of KPIs where you’re thinking about all of the levers. And levers are the content touch points, the website engagements, the event attendance, the sales interactions, the customer success interactions. You want to say, “How do these levers drive velocity and conversion?” Meaning how do they drive the time to do X and the rate of conversion of this. And then the velocity and conversion drives that customer lifetime value. And we want to have a construct where we think about this ground up where levers drive ultimately that value.

Richard Lane: Absolutely. Customer lifetime value is that key measure. And I guess the obvious reflections on that is that if you win the wrong type of customer, then you’re probably not going to get great customer lifetime value from that customer.

Adam B Needles: We all have made that mistake. I still make that mistake sometimes. And then by the way, then you become dependent on them because part of your revenue plan is based on that, but we’ve got to be much more selective. ICP is a really important piece of customer value.

Richard Lane: Yes. And when you are thinking of the growth engine, do you get involved in that ICP discussion as well?

Adam B Needles: Yeah. Well, because I think that it’s the starting point.

Richard Lane: You sort of have to, don’t you?

Adam B Needles: Yeah. The engine should be there to sense, find, and help you convert the ideal customer. So the ICP is the screen on the front end, right? It’s interesting. A qualified lead pipeline should not be someone with a pulse, should not be someone who’s just in market to buy. If that’s all you’ve got, then you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and have low conversion rates. You also want to know that that’s someone who is engaged with you, interested, really interacting and who is the right ICP. If you’re not filtering for all of those, just the fact that they’re in market or just the fact that they’re in a buying journey is not sufficient. You want to see that engagement, you want to see that demographic, firmographic fit, then you know you’ve got someone that you can actually connect with and talk to.

Richard Lane: 100%. So I don’t know why, but everything seems, for me, to come back to Stephen Covey and have it to begin with the end in mind.

Adam B Needles: Absolutely.

Richard Lane: If you don’t know who you want to be your customer and you don’t know why, then you’re probably going to go out and find the wrong sorts of people along the way, aren’t you?

Adam B Needles: Amen.

Richard Lane: Excellent. Well, hopefully people listening are now starting to think about their go-to-market and the connection between their marketing team, their sales team, their customer success, and how they can put the customer into the center of their journey. We’ve inserted a new piece into this series of the Insiders. Adam, this is Ask the Expert, and we’ve had Will come to us with a question and a bit of a personal one, I guess really, saying, “If you weren’t in sales or marketing, what career path do you think you would’ve taken instead?”

Adam B Needles: Honestly, there are a couple of things that I found myself really passionate about growing up. The secret job that I never got, which honestly is a little bit late because I think that live radio is probably not as strong as it was in the 80s and 90s, but honestly, I always wanted to have a drive time show in a major market and be Adam in the morning from like six to nine every day. And I’ll tell you why, because the best dialogue you have with people is first thing in the morning. They’re freshest, they’re ready, they’ve got all these great thoughts, they’re also trying to make sense of their day, they’re trying to kind of shape things up. It’s also when they’re most connected to the pulse of what’s going on in society.

And what’s cool about the drive time guys is that they get to be in this unique moment where people are in their cars, they’re traveling to their jobs, they’re thinking about their day, they’re sort of taking in what’s going on, and then they’re interviewing some celebrity who’s in town or some world leader that’s got something going on, or they’re doing something stupid just to make you laugh that morning. And it’s this great blend, which is really what our lives are like. Our lives are a mélange, they’re not a silo. And so I love the morning drive host as really being that interface, that middleware-

Richard Lane: Yeah.

Adam B Needles: … to connect to what’s going on in society.

Richard Lane: Awesome answer. So drive time, radio’s loss is the world of B2B’s gain. That’s all I can say to that one.

Adam B Needles: Exactly. Well, there you go.

Richard Lane: So, Adam, look, it’s been brilliant having you as a guest onto the Insiders. We’ve talked a lot about your book, the Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook. Can people get a copy? How do people get hold of your book?

Adam B Needles: Actually, literally, if you Google Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook, you’ll find a landing page. We have launched this. It is a book that is for sale, but we’re actually offering it right now gratis for download, and we send copies out. So I think a moment in time here where if you literally go type that in, you can get it downloaded for free.

Richard Lane: Perfect. Well, having read through it, I can say it gave me loads of ideas for durhamlane and our business. So thank you. And an extra bonus is having you as a guest on the podcast. So really appreciate you coming on. Before we wrap up, there is the hardest question of the day, which is linked to our Insiders Spotify playlist.

Adam B Needles: That’s right.

Richard Lane: I believe you have a song ready for us. So what would that be?

Adam B Needles: I do. Speaking of the 80s, there’s perhaps no more well-known and innovative songs than a-ha’s Take On Me. By the way, in the mid 80s when they came out, they used some new technology, it was called a rotoscope, that was actually a game changer in how you integrate animation into live action sequences. And so the video itself was actually really groundbreaking. But in 2017, the band came back, they’re still together, and they did an acoustic version of some of their hits. And there is a 2017 acoustic Take On Me, and it’s a different song. I mean, it literally gave me chills. And so I think for all of us in our careers, things look one way at one point, and then five, 10, 15 years later, they look really different. And I think the acoustic version of Take Me On is a great way to sort of metaphorically go through that transformation and experience a really haunting, amazing song that is actually grown and matured.

Richard Lane: Awesome. What an awesome selection. Thank you so much. We’ll make sure we get that added and we’ll remind listeners where they can link off to that. And well frankly, just go to Spotify and look for Insider Spotify playlist. So, Adam, look, it’s been wonderful having you on. Thank you so much. And thank you to you and to Martin for writing the Chief Growth Officer’s Handbook for us, an excellent addition to my learning. I think we’ve talked about a range of topics, mostly about putting the customer at the center of go-to-market, which is if people are going to do one thing differently in a mindset point of view, that would be an awesome one. We talked about people process and partnership. We talked about growth ops, customer lifetime value as being the key measure. That’s something that we track, but I’m going to go off and track and really look at that from a deeper perspective and see what we can learn from there. And then really is omni-channel feedback collection. That was a really key piece for us as well during the conversation because-

Adam B Needles: I love the way you term that. I don’t usually say it that way, but I love the way you said that.

Richard Lane: I think we’re so used in business just to doing things one way, but if you can sort of step back and think… Well, the only way really, I guess, you end up with omni-channel customer collection is if you put the customer at the center of all of your thinking. So that’s a nice way to round it off. So thank you. It’s been great having you on, Adam. Thanks so much.

Adam B Needles: 100%. Thank you, Richard. Take care.

Richard Lane: And thanks to everyone for tuning in to the Insiders, really appreciate you listening to us and really hope you enjoyed today’s conversation. Please subscribe on your preferred podcasting site to ensure you are notified of all our new episodes as soon as they’re published. And if you want to learn more about durhamlane and our unique method of selling at a higher level, just visit for more information and we will see you again soon.

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