Carolyn Wellsfry Cheng of Shoretel – Integration, Adoption, Closed Loop Reporting, and Combining Cloud and Location Based Solutions

Reporting to the CMO, Carolyn leads the team responsible for creating and executing the online marketing and demand generation strategy that supports aggressive revenue growth targets for the business and feeds our sales pipeline. Carolyn is also responsible for all supporting marketing infrastructure, website tools, and closed-loop attribution and reporting of Marketing activities.

Listen to the Podcast

Carolyn talks about the convergence of marketing and sales automation, including:

  • Why ABM is not Account- Based Selling
  • Using Implicit and Explicit Scoring Along with Predictive Analytics
  • The Gold You Know is Buried in Your Excel Spreadsheets that You’re Ashamed Of
  • The Challenges of Integration, Adoption and Timing

Read the Transcript

John J. Wall: Hello and welcome to Stack & Flow. I’m John Wall.

Sean Zinsmeister: I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: Today’s guest is Carolyn Wellsfry Cheng, the senior manager of demand at ShoreTel. She’s going to talk to us about her tool stack and what they’ve got going on over there. Sean, what’s going on in the news before we get into our special guest?

Sean: Well, you know that there’s a lot of budget talk as people are already sort of entering 2017 mode and where they’re going to allocate budget, what kind of technology they’re going to be able to invest in. One thing that we’re actually starting to see more and more of is thinking about what the future of marketing automation looks like. There’s been a lot of moving pieces on the board this year with the acquisition of Marketo and Marketo going private and then the future of that platform sort of looking a little murky at best, although I think that good things will probably come from that. People started thinking about where they want to invest, but also thinking about where’s the convergence of technology is going to come.

Something that’s been on a lot of people’s minds where we’ve lived in this world of CRM is separate from marketing automation, but as you see sort of … The HubSpot’s introducing their CRM. Certainly Salesforce is positioned with the same types of solutions. Oracle has another position with the same solutions under one umbrella. Are we starting to see a world where CRM now is just converges with marketing automation it becomes the same thing? John, I don’t know if you had any sort of initial thoughts of things that you’re seeing there?

John: Yeah, I think you hit it right on the head with the fact that consolidation will be big over the next year. HubSpot is an interesting mover. It’s funny. I was over at Inbound for a little while this week and watching them do a hard push on the sales side. I think both the sales and marketing convergence and move into customer service is the other big thing. People have been trying to map the whole customer journey and get all that data strung together is going to continue to change things, but I don’t know if we’re going to see the same explosions in new vendors. I think there is going to be a lot of existing vendors just expanding their footprint whether it’s via acquisition or add-on to what they’ve already got to add features and go with.

Sean: This is something and I know this will be good to segue to Carolyn as well and get her thoughts because one of the big problems is where to put all these prospects that are coming in. One danger of converging market automation and CRM together is that if you have one of these businesses that has a really high trial volume, you don’t necessarily want to bring everybody into CRM. You want to have that first line of defense with marketing automation. Carolyn, when you are thinking about the future of what that looks like, do you see a future where they’re sort of either always going to be separate because of that volume lead flow or do you maybe see there might be advantages for a convergence of those technologies?

Carolyn Cheng: The truth is I sort of see both. The idea of consolidation is really exciting as someone who needs tools, buys tools, but at the same time my needs are different than the needs of almost every other business out there because our business is different. The way we engage with our prospects and our customers is completely different. No single solution is going to be able to satisfy that off the shelf without significant customization. If I’m going to go to that level of customization, I might as well buy exactly what I need anyway. I think that there is an inflection point for many businesses where as you’re kind of growing into the sophistication of your stack, you definitely want to have a tool that has room to grow and a lot of availability.

Then the flip side of that is at some point as your business continues to grow and you reach one of many inflection points in a business life cycle, you’re going to need to rethink where you are and sort of what you’re doing. I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I’m not sure that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s not .. I’m excited at consolidation, but I’m also terrified of it because I need some very specific tools that are just coming on the market now or maybe aren’t even on the market yet but I know I’m going to need them in my stack in the next year or two.

John: Yeah, that’s interesting. That’s a great insight because there’s so much evolution still going on with that. I don’t know. Sean, do you want to go down further with that or do you want to jump to ABM?

Sean: Well, I think that the ABM stuff is actually a great segue from that conversation too because there is so much new ABM tech kind of coming on the market. I get a chance to talk to more and more people that really think that the ABM stuff is kind of hit a wall a little bit. You’re starting to see fracturing of messaging going on where it’s now becoming sort of this account-based everything, account-based strategies. I really think that from a strategic standpoint, account-based makes a lot of sense as a complimentary strategic especially as businesses want to move up market. I do think however when you see ABM, the messaged is so muddled right now that ABM has almost become B to B.

Carolyn, I always like asking practitioners that are seeing especially from the demand gen, what are your initial thoughts on ABM? What are seeing? Are you seeing the same trend or what are your thoughts?

Carolyn: You asked me this question maybe a month ago and I had one answer, but I think my answer might have changed in the last month because I’ve gotten a little bit more excited. I think one of the issues with ABM is that we can often confuse ABM, account-based marketing, with account-based selling. They’re not the same thing, but I think our industry likes to glam them together as though they are. Account-based selling I think is here to stay. There are lots of tools that might or might not help gain insight into the accounts we’re trying to sell into and really help us make that effort.

Then this idea of account-based marketing, when I look at finding ways and tools to really identify buyers that are in market that have intent that are sending signals that they’re interested even if they’re not someone I might not be aware of. One of the things that happens in our business is because we have a … We talk to SMB all the way up to enterprise. That’s a pretty wide breath to target. When I look at enterprise companies, it’s a little easier to come with a target list of whom we might want to go after. There are a lot of smaller and midsize companies that might be great targets for us, but there’s just simple too many of them for us to develop an account-based selling strategy against them.

If we look at account-based marketing and try to figure out what can we do at maybe a company level or domain level to just figure out what are they looking for, what are they interested in, what complimentary technologies are out there that might influence a buy in our area, all these different pieces and moving parts, it kind of gets a little bit more exciting.

Sean: I’ve always sort of seen that ABM, they’re trying to put the focus on accounts, accounts, accounts. The one thing that I’m actually excited about ABM is that it is becoming a bit more people-centric even though that we’re talking about accounts. There are people we’re trying to bring into these accounts. Do you see the same thing where a lead strategy really compliments an account-based strategy where a marketing’s job while it is going to be to influence those target accounts that you care about, putting the right leads into those accounts that you need is still sort of marketing’s job. Is that something that you’re seeing?

Carolyn: Oh, I completely agree. I think it’s also something that’s really easy to do wrong. I think as marketeers we get really excited at this new technology, this new term. Everyone’s heard ABM is the key to the future and you’re going to blow your numbers out the water by employing it which might be true, but only if you do it right and right is dependent on your business, right? Not everybody has the same way they need to go about doing that. When I look at how marketeers are going to fill up their funnel with good contacts, with the right contacts, contacts that are actually part of the buying cycle and buyer’s journey as opposed to maybe influencers or final decisions way down, I don’t know. It’s marketing responsibility a term? Maybe we should coin it.

Sean: I like that. I like that.

Carolyn: Yeah. Market responsibly.

John: Now there’s more stuff with that I want to unpack because you made some great points there, but let’s back up for a second and tell us about ShoreTel. What do your customers do? What kind of marketing are you doing? Give us the whole pitch on what you’ve got going on.

Carolyn: We enable communications and interactions and that’s really a fancy way of saying we help people communicate with each other. We help people communicate with devices. Our future is device-to-device communication. The core bread and butter of our business is telephony. Cloud and on-site and hybrid-based phone systems that are just like you have on your desk. Our suite is a little bit different in that we have an end-to-end solution that is really ideal for customers in the small, mid-market, all the way up to enterprise. We have an incredibly dedicated and loyal customer base and we love them. They have really helped us gain traction in the marketplace.

We’ve had a number of really important acquisitions in the last years that are our future and where we’re going next which is this idea of platform as a service is the next direction for our business. When our customers are looking for how are they communicating whether they’re communicating by voice or by SMS or any other … They’re doing collaboration. They’re working in a desktop environment or chat or any of these different ways of communicating between people and people to devices. They look to our solutions to help them do that.

Sean: What does the demand funnel sort of look like for you Carolyn? How are people finding out about ShoreTel? How are they getting into your funnel and then what does that lead flow start to look like?

Carolyn: We do a healthy mix of inbound and outbound demand generation. Really we can’t live without one or other. We are a HubSpot account. We do use HubSpot have for a number of years. They’re big advocates of inbound and that’s great. Feeding contents out in the world to drive users into our website for further content consumption, nurture and conversion. Then we also take a lot of content and put it out there in honey pops all over the place that we work with external lead vendors whether it’s high quality leads programs, identifying those in market, content syndication, telemarketing, you name it. We do it. Those programs also generate leads for us as well, but then come into our system.

Then they’re prioritized and distributed to our internal qualification team before they’re passed on to our sales and partners.

Sean: What does the team layout look like for you Carolyn? Do you have the BDR, SDR team? Do they roll up to you on the sort of marketing side? What does your team layout look like today?

Carolyn: They don’t roll it to me directly, but we are joined at the hip. My team … The way I like to describe it is it’s my team’s job to generate leads to feed … We call them MDRs. Our MDR team, they are actually part of sales, but they are fed mostly on what my team provides them. We pass to sales and partners at BANT qualification. We take an MQL. Pass it to them. That teams then take the BANT qualified MQL and pass it to sales and/or to our partner channel for them to work the opportunity.

John: Oh, okay. It literally flows downstream to your other partners?

Carolyn: Yes, absolutely. Depending on the type of deal and what products they’re interested in will determine where it goes from there.

John: Okay. Then how about built around HubSpot? Are you using the full stack there as far as the email tools and everything? What other tools have you got floating around that? You talked about using outside sources for leads. Those get straight dumped into HubSpot too or is that queuing on that?

Carolyn: No. God no. No way. One of the things about working with external lead vendors is they want to give you data in the way they want to give it to you and I don’t want to receive it that way. I want to receive data in a nice, clean, consistent way. One of the things that’s critical to our business is closed-loop reporting. If I get a lead at the beginning, I need to know at the time of close revenue every single thing that has happened to it. That comes down to making sure that as soon as it hits our HubSpot, it’s got a first campaign attribution that’s correct, that it has the right lead source, all the values that are going to be needed at the point of conversion are set so that we don’t have anything at all in that process that could possibly break and slow down the speed at which we can work that opportunity.

We actually have a platform called Integrate where we send all of our outbound leads come through Integrate first. They’re scrubbed. They’re straightened up and tidied up and then they go into HubSpot. From there, they get two different scores. One is an explicit score based on the action that they’ve taken and the other is an implicit score based on any actions they take after the fact. For example, let’s say you come in on an in market program. You’re going to hit our steps probably an explicit, probably medium interests. You’re out there doing things that say you’re in market, but you haven’t said necessarily you want to speak to us. We’re going to bring you in and we’re going to nurture you. You start clicking on links in our emails, that’s going to change your implicit score, right?

You clicked on an email and then you spent 10 minutes reading our site. I’m going to change your explicit score to maybe something a little bit more exciting like this one’s hotter or at least pretty darn warm. Then that goes into Salesforce where our Infer scores pick up. We have this kind of three part score where implicit rating can change your explicit rating and then we use Infer to help prioritize within each of those bucket which ones to call first or which ones to work more aggressively.

Sean: That was actually going to be part of the question that I always like asking people when you have all these different tools that are involved in your stack and you’ve built this lead flow, what kind of problems when you sort of walked into ShoreTel, were you looking to solve that the organization faced that you’re sort of, “Okay. Now we can use these different types of technologies.” What problems led you to make the decisions to build the stack in that way?

Carolyn: I’ve been here about two and a half years and when I arrived, we had a few tools. We had HubSpot. We had Salesforce. Because of the way our system was set up, we had to have two instances of HubSpot and two instances of Salesforce which was its own kind of crazy. Then we wanted to look at what could we do, what could we add to our stack that was going to give us insight? Everything about what we try to do, everything that we’re adding is giving us some additional data that’s going to help us make decisions whether those decisions are this campaign is a good one and we should invest more money in it or this campaign is a dog and we stop investing money in it or here’s some appended data on a lead records that then MDR can use to better qualify or to not to qualify a lead because maybe they realized that Joe’s Pizza Shack and they probably aren’t a great fit for a unified communications platform or it’s spam.

We have a lot of Mickey Mouse in our database. We have a lot of web analytics and campaign attribution as well as behavioral analytics in our stack that give us that additional insight for those decisions. When I look though about kind of where those challenges are, the biggest challenge that we’ve had is integration. Making sure that things are integrated well. Then the other is adoption and timing. I’m a marketer, right? I love buying flashing things. I have a credit card and I can buy any fast solution I want, right? That doesn’t mean I can use it. There’s nothing worst than buying solution and letting it sit unused for six months because nobody took the 10 minutes to walk over to your Salesforce administrator and ask if there was a cycle that you could get new packets installed, right?

It’s just everybody has had this problem. You have this great idea. You’ve got all this momentum and then you’re stuck because you can’t get it into the system for whatever reason. You either don’t have the time or the capacity or just the people to do that work. Then maybe you do get a great tool in, but getting adoption by whoever that tool is intended for can sometimes be tricky.

Sean: You talked about two things that I really want to unpack because there’s something that we hear a lot from guests who had been on the show which is when you are selecting technology, are you looking for … You mentioned integration is a really important part. The tools that you have to be thinking about have to be sort of open or willing to play with other things. I love to remark on that. Also, as you roll out new tools to the organization, do you have best practices for building adoption? Are you using like small test groups and champions? Is this dictated from above? Just curious about both the selection and the kind of roll out process that you go through.

Carolyn: It depends in the audience, but I’ll just talk about sales because sales is the most important relationship with marketing. When I have something new for sales, I find that it goes … It’s much more effective if I come and say, “Look, I have this tool …” In fact … Okay. Let me back up. When we wanted then to start using the Infer score as well as the explicit score, the easiest way for me to get them to pay attention to one more data point was to run it in stealth for several months. Come back to them with hard data and say, “If you had used the Infer score, you would have reduced the number of calls that you needed to make in this low category,” which is basically just app downloads or events, things where you’re not showing very much intent. You’re just consuming information.

In the past, you had to make a hundred phone calls to get one MQL out of that group so nobody bothered making phone calls from that group. When we added Infer, we were able to bring that number down to you needed to make 12 calls to get one MQL. 12 calls, hey, I’m willing to make 12 calls. A hundred I’m just not even going to go there, but I’ll make 12. Sure. 12 sounds good. That simple way of connecting this tool makes you money is a really good way for us to get that through. It really is talking to that benefit. Engaging with sales isn’t that different than engaging with your own prospects. You have a need. I have a solution. Let me help you understand why my solution solves your need and get you really excited about it and then you can try it.

John: This is great. This is the first time anybody’s talked about the Stealth roll out like that because we have done a lot of focus group talk. That’s usually the way you enroll somebody. To have it running in the background, that’s fantastic. I love how that works. How about for the rest of the flow? Some are getting qualified. Others are just kind of probably sitting around and they eventually hit a point where they get mustered out. How do you manage the rest of the flow of the data after it’s come in and has had some work done it?

Carolyn: When it comes in, it goes to an MDR and it’s dispositioned. If it doesn’t, keep going. It comes back into HubSpot. Then based on the attributes of that record and by attributes I pretty much mean their lead status and their age and what they were interested in when they came in the first time, they’re going to get dumped into a nurture track that’s relevant to them, but it’s a really slow nurture track. Right? We don’t want to send you something every three days. We probably want to send you something every three to four weeks, right? The goal of that is simply to have you engage with our content again so that our implicit scoring can pick up and change and trigger other work flows that say, “Hey, this guys been out of the buying cycle for a year, but now he’s back.

He’s looking at content. He hasn’t said he wants to talk to us, but he spent 30 minutes on 10 pages on our website. We should reach out, see what he’s doing.” Then we can use a workflow. Send an alert to the account owner and say, “Hey, someone should reach out to this guy.”

Sean: It terms of the outbound because you guys are doing … You talked about some content syndication and things like that. Virtual High Five, they don’t want to put any of the cold contacts into the HubSpot machine, but you’ve seen a lot of people have some pretty tough stories over there. What is your strategy around nurturing the cold contacts? Where do they fit into … Because the net new strategy is hugely important for any of new business in addition to how they’re nurturing people that are coming in. How are you getting them over to the line for permission marketing type of stuff? What’s the strategy there?

Carolyn: If you’re coming in on a piece of content, ideally we were able to get you on a piece of content on our own site which is a little bit more explicit. If you came in on a piece of related content, we have a couple of things. One is that we’ve worked with our outbound vendors to make the lead forms for our content pretty prohibitive. We want to give you content the first one for free, but the second one we’re going to ask you some questions and that third piece of content is going to have a whole lot of questions on it. From there we can then weed out those that really are just tire kicking or downloading information and they’re really not in the buying cycle from those that are by asking some of those preliminary advance questions on those forms with our partners.

The truth is it doesn’t actually cost more money. Our partners are totalling willing to add more fields to a simple form, but it reduces the number that we get so that we’re getting better quality at the same or lower cost. Then once they come in, we have a nurturer dedicated to education around just that singular or multiple asset downloads that’s really the only goal of that nurturer is to get you to take advantage of more content to change your implicit score that is then going to change you from having a fairly low value to a medium or a high value.

Sean: Carolyn, in terms of the communications and engagement, where is that really coming from? Are you guys employing sales automation or is the majority of it being held for marketing like what you guys are doing with your marketing automation in HubSpot?

Carolyn: It’s all coming from HubSpot. All the records that have go in have an explicit score. We don’t send anything to an MDR that doesn’t or at least we try really hard not to. We personalize all the emails that are being sent out from the assigned MDR so that there is that personal relationship. Because we find a very common behavior is I’m not actually going to click on a link in your email. I’m not going to go to your website. I’m going to hit reply and say, “Hey, actually I would love to talk. Can you call me tomorrow at 11?” That’s just a much better experience.

Sean: I know one thing you guys as a unified communications platform, there’s got to be … Because you guys offer a lot of different types of products and handling sort of upsells and sort of growing accounts, there’s a lot of hardware. I know you guys are looking at cloud. Are there strategies that you’re implementing and then technologies that you’re looking at to move people to grow those accounts? Maybe even move them from hardware to cloud or any of those types of strategies going on?

Carolyn: Yes, but one of the things that’s actually been the most telling for me in the last … All right. Let me back up. The idea of a cloud-based phone solution really only started to get exciting in the marketplace about four years ago, maybe five. It hasn’t been around that long and adoption has been relatively slow. Starting about 18 months, two years ago, we saw a dramatic increase in prospects who previously had been looking for an onsite or a premise-based hardware solution saying, “You know what? I’ll consider both.” We have his huge category in our business called dual interest which is actually the largest part of leads that we send through are dual interest because it could be interested in either or both solutions or not sure.

One of the things about our solution that’s unique is you don’t have to make one decision forever. You can choose an onsite solution today and add cloud locations later. You can have a cloud solution for your satellite offices, but when you move your corporate headquarters, you may find it’s more cost effective for you to have an onsite solution for those 350 employees. We can take care of that and it’s all in one common platform and it’s one user experience no matter how you choose to deploy it. That flexibility of choice I think is what really sets us apart. We see that when we look at our potential buyers and the content that they consume on our website. They’re looking at all solutions. They’re not just head set on one specific solution.

John: When we’re talking about ABM, you’re talking about looking forward in tools that are going to be developed. For 2017 now looking forward, have you got any pain points that you’re looking at that you’re like, “Yeah. I need to buy something for this.” What kinds of things are looking to fix or to improve?

Carolyn: I look at all of these solutions that are out there for web analytics, for monitoring who’s coming to your website, who’s looking at intent data and who’s out there. I can buy a really, really robust and expensive solution that’s way more than what I need or I can buy a small solution that is solving just the specific thing that I need to solve today because maybe I already have the rest of that big fancy solution in other ways in my stack. I don’t necessarily want to rip out. That new solution, I swear it’s in Excel. I’m getting an Excel list from somebody that I haven’t got to figure out what to do with and that just sucked. I wanted something that’s a little bit more actionable.

If I were to give advice to every single vendor that feels the need to call me everyday, it would be tell me how your solution will work with my existing stack today. Give me an email list of buyers with high intent on your data that I can then go and send a campaign to, that’s great. Give me a list of people who are coming to my website that I don’t know anything about, nah, that’s a little bit harder for me. It requires five steps for me to take advantage of that. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty busy. Getting to everything on my list, I wish I could say that I did.

John: There’s a huge value of that grinding through a spreadsheet versus if something pushes to you, the alarm rings and says, “Hey, somebody just met this criteria. Go run with this.” We all have piles of Excel spreadsheets that need to have pivot tables built.

Carolyn: This should be the thing we talk about. We should all sit in circles and hold hands and confess and say, “I too have a hundred spreadsheets buried in the depths of my laptop from different events and things that I haven’t quite uploaded into anything yet. I too spam,” right? We all just need to confess our deepest darkest …

John: That’s the secret of the show. I think that’s where Stack and Flow has become the confession booth.

Carolyn: To have an anonymous caller section.

John: Marketer’s junk drawer I think we could call that segment.

Carolyn: Hi, my name is Carolyn and I have spam.

John: Carolyn, thanks. This has been great. We definitely gone down some fun paths that again the experiences we’ve all been through and kind of know what it’s really like in spite of what the tool vendors tell us. If people want to learn more about ShoreTel and what you’ve got going on, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Carolyn: Oh, my goodness. Come to our website please. Our website is full of great content that will help you solve your business problems and also make it really easy for you to get in contact with the way you want to whether it’s call us or chat with us or send us an email.

John: That’s great. How about Sean? What have you got going on this week? Anything to spread the word on?

Sean: No, not too much going on this week. It’s pretty quiet on the events front. We’re just still in planning mode. Everything that you can see that we’re working on is some of the latest things. I have a few different articles that are out there right now. The sort of forward looking stuff, looking into … Everybody’s trying to hop on the “what’s going to be new for 2017”. I’ll have some stuff over there that I’ll be able to share. Otherwise, and is probably the best way to check this out.

John: That sounds great. Yes, or see us on iTunes. Don’t be afraid to leave us a review over there. I’m John Wall. You can find out more about me over at and we’ve got an episode coming up on artificial intelligence and big data. Swing on over there to check that out. Christopher Penn talking about his time over at World of Watson. Some interesting stuff there. That will do it for this show. Thanks for listening. We will see you in the stacks.

John Wall

John Wall

John J. Wall speaks, writes and practices at the intersection of marketing, sales, and technology. He is the producer of Marketing Over Coffee, a weekly audio program that discusses marketing and technology with his co-host Christopher S. Penn, and has been featured on iTunes.

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