While Bill Bradford studied electrical engineering in college, he went into sales, rather than engineering for a career. He says he “interviewed for a technical sales position on a lark” (at Texas Instruments) and knew he had found the right career.
To that end, his career is impressive: he’s held top executive jobs in sales, sales and marketing, and even served as CEO in a range of technology businesses. He also has an interesting global perspective, having spent roughly two years in Brussels. Yet his career is more impressive for the results he’s earned rather than the titles he’d held.
For example, as the SVP of a combined sales and marketing organization in a semiconductor business, he “helped lead a corporate turnaround” and reversed “declining market share, raising over $400 million in two successful equity offerings.”
The net result for investors? A 400% increase in value over four years.
Bill recently returned to the Greater-Atlanta area, and specifically Alpharetta, where depending on whose research you read, there are between 600 and 900 technology companies have set up shop. (Alpharetta was named among a list of 2016 Best Cities for Tech outside California and New York, according to the Alpharetta Patch).
He’s completed a doctorate program in business, has taken on a new role as “Executive in Residence” at Georgia State University and has partnered in founding a new sales consultancy aimed at B2B companies striving to grow revenue called Impact Technology Advisors.
1) With a Silicon Valley background, you’re relatively new to the greater Atlanta and Alpharetta area, what do you find promising about business and technology here?
“I lived in the Atlanta area in the 90’s, so it is great to be back. Atlanta and Alpharetta is a bit of a high-technology secret. We have so many of the key ingredients for a robust technology sector: A great network infrastructure, key technologies being spawned from Georgia Tech, several tech-related companies including data services and analytics, a large film and media presence, a healthy set of technology incubators and investment groups. I think if these resources can come together, Atlanta can really emerge in some of the new technologies areas, like Internet of Things (IoT) for example.”
2) You are currently an “Executive in Residence” at Georgia State University (GSU) – what is an EIR and what are you hoping to achieve?
“I recently completed my Doctorate in Business at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at GSU and wanted to have a platform to expand on my sales & business related research. The Center for Business and Industrial Marketing works with companies to solve complex issues in B2B marketing and sales, by taking a rigorous, evidence-based approach. This allows me to be a bit of a bridge between academic research (to make it more relevant) and business challenges (to solve them with rigorous data-driven approaches).
One example of this is the typical sales incentive program. So many companies employ pay plans for their sales teams that, according to the research, don’t have any impact on performance. I have helped companies design incentive programs as part of an overall integrated performance management system to make sure all the pieces (training, coaching, systems, and incentive programs) all work in concert to direct efforts toward company priorities.”
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Bonus points for those based in the Greater-Atlanta area.
3) In a previous discussion, you expressed some strong notions about data – how do you think data has changed the function of sales over the last 5-10 years?
“Absolutely. We can learn so much about customers individually and in aggregate, just as customers are so much better able to learn about product offerings leveraging their data. Predictive analytics can help companies pursue opportunities most likely to result in profitable revenue. It can improve forecasting and offers many efficiencies to drive down the cost of selling.
For example, one company I have worked with recently was trying to increase its capacity to handle sales leads. By analyzing their extensive CRM database and reviewing state-of-the-art research, I was able to help them identify the drivers which accelerate the closing of opportunities to ‘wins’ for them.
Customers have so much data at their fingertips, sales organizations can become marginalized if they don’t find new ways to provide value to their clients. They need to be the brokers of all this information and data between the customer side and their own companies, to best match complex solutions to complex requirements.”
4) As a proven sales leader, what is your perspective on marketing – what is its role in the business organization and what does it need to do to be successful?
“Marketing has to work in lockstep with sales. Simply put, marketing has to help create and nurture demand, creating a pull or a curiosity in the mind of the customer. Sales needs to leverage that capability to discover needs and provide valuable solutions to the customer. In complex sales situations, significant marketing collateral is needed to support every step of the sales process. Marketing also is dependent on sales to get access to and better understand the customer, so their messaging can be appropriately targeted.
Despite this codependency, sales and marketing organizations are often at odds; sniping at one another rather than collaborating. This is best-addressed top down. If sales leadership and marketing leadership make concerted efforts to work together, then and only then, will their teams follow suit.”
See these related interviews:
Modern PR Different not Harder; Off Script #12: Tressa Robbins of Burrelles
The Blurry Edges of PR; Off Script #11: Kevin Hartman of LTPR
Sales Beware the Buyer’s System; Josh Pitchford in Off Script #10
5) How can businesses, particularly large technology businesses, ensure that sales and marketing are aligned?
“The key is to create a culture where sales and marketing are clearly on the same team, pulling in the same direction. It breaks down when the sides are in conflict, blaming each other; marketing claiming sales is not following up on their opportunities and sales claiming that the marketing leads or collateral are not supporting their sales efforts.
Alignment comes through a common vision and a good strategic process of setting goals that are in sync. That is the most valuable aspect of strategic planning – getting an organizational alignment. By having frank and honest conversations, in a proper environment, teams can discuss, compromise and align on a vision that can guide the entire organization.”
6) Do you think sales and marketing have gotten harder and easier over time?
“It has definitely gotten more complex, and I would say more difficult. Gone are the days when customers depended on sales for their product information. Sales has to be much more adept at finding ways to create value for their clients. They can’t possibly know everything there is to know, and the customer often has access to just as much information on the product as does the salesperson. Salespeople have to be skilled at asking questions. To really help the customer understand their needs. Often customers don’t fully understand their own needs, or what is possible. Salespeople that can help to clarify a customer’s thoughts tend to co-create solutions that are unique, providing value to the customer.”
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Readers can connect with Bill on LinkedIn and for the motivated sale leader, his doctoral dissertation is freely available online: Antecedents of Sales Lead Performance: Improving Conversion Yield and Cycle Time in a Business-to-Business Opportunity Pipeline.
Like any academic paper, it’s heady read, but some of the conclusions turn conventional wisdom upside down including, the volume of sales calls made, the time spent preparing for calls and the previous year’s quota achievement, years of sales experience had NO BEARING on current sales conversions.
What did have an impact, according to his dissertation? Leads from different sources.
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