Jerry Walters, President and CEO of AMS Legal Solutions, is a senior executive with over 35 years experience in sales combined with 15 years in marketing. Having worked for companies including Mentor Graphics, Harris EDA, Dassault Systems Spatial Corp., and Applicon to name a few, Mr. Walters perspective on Sales and Marketing spans more than 30 years allowing to him have first-hand experience with sales and marketing trends in various industries over the years.
AMS Legal Solutions, an early stage startup based in Colorado, has recognized the need for a SaaS project management solution for law firms facing increased pressure from large corporate clients to provide the same quality of services at more predictable and reduced rates. AMS Legal Solutions’ software will enable law firms to meet this need while increasing margins and establishing best practices for both hourly and non-hourly issues. As a start-up, AMS Legal Solutions faces sales and marketing challenges on a daily basis so I appreciate Mr. Walter’s willingness to spend time with me.
Chad: Thank you for taking the time to talk today and share your experiences. Let’s begin with some background – what was it about sales and marketing that interested you from a career perspective?
Jerry: Honestly it was an accident, more like it choose me. Over time I discovered I was good at it and was able to provide a unique perspective on how to approach [sales and marketing] effectively. I have always been focused on solving problems and sales allowed me to do that rather than just push products and services.
I quickly discovered a process, an approach and methodology that focused on relationships and value that separated me from my competitors and I’ve carried that with me over the years. True value-selling isn’t for the faint of heart. It is a true profession and requires the same process, training and preparedness of any other profession. Once I found the respect for the profession, others picked up on this – most importantly my customers noticed and as a result I was able to build a relationship of trust and confidence with them my competitors couldn’t touch.
Jerry: I’d have to say influencing people toward something they don’t know they need or a solution to a problem they couldn’t solve. Every situation is different so the constant change in challenges combined with developing structured process for something most think is fundamentally associated with a certain personality type was extremely interesting. For me, developing and applying formulas customarily associated with more analytical professions is extremely exciting and allows for the most immediate impact on the health of the company, the most impact on the long term growth and competitiveness of the company overall.
We are seeing this more and more with the advent of things like social media and emerging sales and marketing technologies. Applying proven processes to utilize these new tools simply provides more opportunities for the truly dedicated professionals in these fields.
Chad: Excellent, so when you apply these processes, like Value-Selling, to marketing strategies, what metrics are the most important to you and how do you go about tracking them?
Jerry: A healthy company has tangible metrics associated with sales and marketing. My objective with marketing metrics is to associate them with increased revenue, increased market share, improved profits and additionally identifying new opportunities and making it easier for the customer to do business with us.
Chad: Ease of doing business is a proven requirement for successful businesses, so how do you view the current trend of “social media” or “social marketing” affecting this need?
Jerry: I learned many years before “social media” there was a tremendous power, both positive and negative, in establishing a reputation for and of your company in the market. Smart companies understood the power of “word of mouth” or the way they were perceived which is essentially an analogue version of the digital world we now live in. This was called “cocktail talk” by some but also happens over dinner or at family holidays or the kids baseball games and those smart companies knew this was the real pulse of their company.
Many companies had marketing campaigns to get customers but many failed to understand how, even after they closed new business or acquired new customers, this underlying message or perception of the company could make or break them. They felt they were immune to the consequences of their reputation. And many could avoid the consequences for a long time – often through management changes – but eventually they were surprised by the “sudden” almost overnight effect of their market reputation and were left scrambling to recover.
There was an old advertising campaign for United Airlines showcasing a boss from a troubled company handing out tickets to his team and admonishing them because they needed to get on planes to go out and start talking to their customers. People buy from people, so before social media, and I would argue even today, there is no replacement for face time with customers and prospects. Social media is changing this dynamic and makes company and brand loyalty even more fragile.
Social media, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn…all of those sites allow for more “real-time” reputation building or destroying. They make the consequences of a good or bad reputation more immediate. It is imperative that companies focus on social media as a powerful tool to accomplish the former and deal with the latter.
Chad: OK, so social media is falling mostly on the shoulders of marketing teams these days. How do you feel this changes or affects the perception of marketing as a department and discipline in organizations?
Jerry: Past experience has shown marketing is often viewed, at best, as a necessary evil. Perhaps as a tactical tool built around communications versus actual revenue generation. I do not support this philosophy and see marketing and sales as siblings, as the most important weapons in the company for success.
The graveyard of technology corporations is filled with companies that had great products and technology who could not achieve success because they did not focus on building a MVP (minimum viable product) and ensure their marketing and sales organizations were world class. They instead focused primarily on building the best, most complete product possible and believed customers would come to them. I call it the “if we build it, they will come” approach and unfortunately you still see this practice today. Many companies have proven they can win with a C product or MVP and an A+ sales and marketing team rather than having an A+ product and a C sales and marketing team/strategy.
Chad: Your view implies that sales and marketing, as siblings, benefit from integration. Can you provide an example of how the LACK of sales and marketing integration created a negative impact?
Jerry: [Laughing] Some startups I’ve been involved in come to mind. In short, we had an idea and found investor money to build the product. We would spend months or years working on this product based on specs and architecture developed by our own people – developed completely internally. We delivered the Beta to early adopters and these Beta sites would provide us with reams of feedback and we would go evolve the product. Rinse and repeat the process. The result was a great deal of wasted time, money and precious resources with this iterative process. Until at last we missed the market or ran out of cash.
Having learned valuable lessons from this approach, I would strongly urge companies to reverse the process…sell and market first, utilize product management and marketing paired with Account Managers to engage Lighthouse customers early and find those that are willing to help you define your MVP so when you ship something, you already know it is something customers want and are therefore invested in helping you improve. This saves time, money and dramatically reduces risk and while it is currently a foreign concept to many in the invest community I suspect it will catch hold soon. I’ve heard the President of Google US say much the same thing.
Chad: So in general what benefits do you believe a company can achieve through better sales and marketing integration?
Jerry: I’ll go beyond just sales and marketing integration for this one. A company’s longer term success comes when leadership realizes that every facet of the organization is a cog or tool of equal important in the corporate machine. No one organization is more important than another. This includes sales and marketing. They are as important as development, finance, manufacturing etc. If you can achieve this view, building a well oiled, revenue generating company becomes easier.
I think the worst thing for any company is to evolve to a label: XYZ is a fiance driven company or ABC is a sales and marketing driven company. The company as a whole has to be customer driven first and foremost. This behavior leads to a smart company, helps in the realization that their first line of information to this is sales and marketing and another critical source of information is support. All organizations within a company need each other and the company needs to support and respect their customer focused efforts.
Chad: So to wrap up, what are the top three suggestions you have for other sales and marketing professionals?
Jerry: Get top down, bottom-up support and commitment; have a process; and focus on the customer, focus on the customer, focus on the customer. The tools available are increasing at a rapid rate, tools for real-time information to help inform business decisions. Embrace them, leverage them where they make sense, and focus on the customer. [Laughing]
Jerry Walters is a Senior Executive with extensive Domestic and International P&L experience in Software and Services companies in the CAD/CAM, Internet B2B Ecommerce, Insurance, Internet Security and Telephony industries. Visionary and especially skilled at managing large and complex Market and Customer Strategies. Significant business experience in start-ups and turning around struggling companies. Ability to deliver and sustain strong financial results in profitability and revenue growth. Adept at bridging cultures and communicating consistent vision and expectations to domestic and international teams. Founded or member of founding team of three Technology companies.