Focus on the Right Thing (& How to Figure Out What That Is) with 6sense’s Latané Conant
Focus on the Right Thing (& How to Figure Out What That Is) with 6sense’s Latané Conant
Latané Conant entered her very first marketing position, Vice President of Demand Generation, through a sales role. Yes, you read that right. Beginning her career in sales, carrying a bag, and working her way to Area Vice President, Latané leverages her sales background in all parts of her role as Chief Market Officer at 6sense today. In this episode, Latané explains her data-driven approach to marketing, the importance of anchoring oneself in the market, and the value of analyzing the why.
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Tricia Gellman: Hey everyone. I'm Tricia Gellman and you're listening to CMO Conversations. Today, I'm excited to have with me Latane Conant, the CMO of 6sense. 6sense is an account engagement platform that helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue. Growing that by putting the power of AI, big data and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team. I love the concept of the revenue team. Latane had an interesting path to CMO. She got her start in sales, carrying a bag, which we know is a tough thing. And she worked her way up to area vice president. So that means she stayed in sales for a while, before making her jump into marketing in 2015. So there's so much to learn from Latane. I'm excited to have her. I'm so excited to have her that we're going to do two episodes, and you will be able to listen to those over the course of a month. And today we're going to focus on her background and how that influences her role as a CMO. Latane, I just gave a little bit of an intro for you, but for our listeners, what do you think they should know about you and the way that you approach marketing?
Latane Conant: Oh gosh, I think that the sales background is important because I like up and to the right, and I talk a lot about my dashboard and us having quotas. So yes, we have quotas. One of the things about being, you talked about being a frontline seller is, if you bring a deal in on the first day of the next quarter, you're no good to anybody. If you bring it in on time, then you're a hero. The same deal, and the deal could be bigger, but if you don't make the date in that window, you're persona non grata. So I think just some of those, like having clear deadlines, sometimes manufacturing them. I'm known to manufacture things to create deadlines, and just having really transparent metrics. I think the other nice thing about being a seller is people don't come to you and ask for 50 different ways that you're doing well. They ask for two things.
Tricia Gellman: Well, and it's very clear, right? I mean, I think that's one of the big differences between marketing and sales, is sales is very measurable. The metrics are very clear. The company understands the metrics. The company reports those metrics the same way, pretty much, that every company reports on metrics. The board asks the same questions about it. So it's a bit more predictable than marketing, where there's a lot of things that are a little bit more squishy and there's a lot more variables within marketing of what we oversee.
Latane Conant: Totally, totally. And of course I appreciate that side too, but I just think trying to simplify, cut through the noise, bring a lot of clarity is probably my approach that comes from sales. And then, I mean, I guess someone could say... Well, we were actually texting about this. And people might say that I'm in the weeds and that could be a negative, but I am very hands- on. I want to be involved in a certain number of deals or a certain number of prospecting or a certain number of like," We have drift," using drift. Because I do think ultimately a lot of sales, customer success, partnerships, it's a ground game. And so you have to keep yourself somewhat involved in that ground game to know," Are we really playing the way I'd like us to play?"
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, yeah. Keep a pulse on it basically, is what you're saying.
Latane Conant: Yeah.
Tricia Gellman: So let's back up for a second. You carried a bag, so this was at Apperio you cared a bag or was it before then?
Latane Conant: So it started at Ariba. So I started actually as an accountant, which is nutso. crosstalk.
Tricia Gellman: My theory is most marketers are not good at managing their budget either. So now we have Latane, who is an accountant, can manage her budget, I would expect, and is a powerhouse with sales. Okay. You started at Ariba, before that you were an accountant.
Latane Conant: Yeah. So I was at Arthur Anderson doing my thing. I sucked at it. And then I went into forensic accounting, which is making shit up with numbers. So I don't know, maybe that helped me, now that I'm in marketing. So I went into to that, and then I just became obsessed with Ariba and wanted to get into more of the tech space. And so I ended up at Ariba, and I was in consulting to start, but I always wanted to be a salesperson. Selling software, it was just going to be the coolest thing ever. And so I begged and I begged and I begged. And I mean, it took me six years there to get a job as a salesperson.
Tricia Gellman: Wow.
Latane Conant: But I finally did and I was in our strategic group, which I think was a good fit. If you come from consulting, that was a good fit. And I sucked at first. I was horrible. So I got a sales coach.
Tricia Gellman: That's good. In the company or outside?
Latane Conant: Outside. And so I went through sales coaching and got better. And then Ariba got bought by SAP and just wasn't the vibe I was into anymore. And I actually progressed and was kind of running a new division at Ariba, which was quite cool, but I was like," I'm going to go back to selling and see what happens." And so I took the job at Apperio. And I remember my first meeting, I was a partner with Workday. So I was a co- sell with Workday. And I met with the head of sales in my region, which was central. I said," I'm really excited to work together and da, da." And he goes," Oh, we're not. You're not going to do any deals in my region. I already have my partners. I'm glad you're taking us all out to lunch, but we're not going to do any deals. I can tell you that right now." But we ended up doing quite a few deals.
Tricia Gellman: Of course crosstalk.
Latane Conant: ...at the table. Come on. So I did well and then ended up running central. And then, you talked about being at AVP. And I thought that was my dream job. I was so excited, but we ended up doing a restructure, and it was just a weird time at Apperio. We had kind of corporate marketing and corporate events, but not demand gen. Actually, as an AVP, I set up SDRs. And even though I was west, I'm like," Everyone can use them. I'll set it up for everybody. We just need this. It has to get done." And then we didn't have field marketing. So I'm like, again," I'll do it. I'll just get this done. It's fine." And I think that's, I pride myself on is if I see a closet that's dirty and needs to be organized, I'm just going to go and do it. I'm not going to ask. I'm just going to organize it. And then people walk in and they're like," Wow, this closet is very well- organized."
Tricia Gellman: And that's how you got to marketing?
Latane Conant: So then, our CEO was like," We're having a challenge in marketing. Do you want to do it?" And I was like," Well, am I going to be the CMO?" Because we had a CMO and then we didn't. And he goes," Oh no. You?" I remember we were having a drink, and I'm trying not to cry. He's like," No, you will never be qualified or good enough to be our CMO." He's like," I just need you to take care of it for a couple months. And we're going to be interviewing for a CMO and I need you to help interview and bring someone in." And I'm like," What is good about this for me? Why would I do this?" But I went for it anyway, and it was interesting. I interviewed so many candidates. To make a long story longer, we kept interviewing candidates and interviewing candidates. And meanwhile, I'm doing my thing and making it all happen. And finally, two of the founders went to the CEO, other founders went to the CEO. And they said," We're not interviewing anymore CMOs. We're done. We already have our CMO. What are you doing?"
Tricia Gellman: That's awesome. I mean, I think that's important, right? It's like, you need to have your allies. And I think that's a really good lesson, that people may be ambitious, but they need to have the allies to move things forward and make it happen.
Latane Conant: Yeah. The unfortunate thing is you can be doing the job, but if people don't see you as the job, you're not going to get the job. And so enough, people had to see me as doing the job and capable of the job to get Chris on board.
Tricia Gellman: So you would move into the CMO role. And I mean, obviously the rest is history because you were at Apperio. Now you're at 6sense. But the thing that's interesting is that you don't list yourself in LinkedIn as being the chief marketing officer. You list yourself as being the chief market officer. And we spoke with Kate, who I know, your sort of partner in crime on this topic, but what is your opinion on the chief market officer versus chief marketing officer.
Latane Conant: And this isn't my line, right? And Drift sponsors this and is a critical part of this empowered CMO network, which is hundreds of B2B marketing executives. And it's some CMOs, some people that are CMOs plus, like they've taken on more. And then some people that are full time board. So it's a quite senior level group, as you know, Tricia. And every year we do a retreat and we kind of cover, I would say, the most pressing topics of almost our market. Right? What is going on in the market of being a CMO?
Tricia Gellman: Exactly.
Latane Conant: Versus the job, right? But what's the overall remit, and how is that changing? And what's the future of being a CMO? So one year we covered... The title of the session, I'm not going to do it justice, but it was like," Is this a black hole?" It's like very negative.
Tricia Gellman: Because I think that was two or three years ago already. And there was a lot of conversation about how the role of the CMO was going away, which I feel like, for whatever reason, right now hasn't been the top of mind media sort of discussion of CMO. But I think there are still a lot of changes, which is why we have the podcast in the first place. So I think we did kind of talk about this a lot at that time.
Latane Conant: Exactly. So that was the background, is it going to go away? Does it report to a CRO? Blah, blah, blah. We're supposed to be category designers, how do we sort of design our own role and what does it need to be? And one of the women who's been influential in the network and to, I think, all of us is Christine Heckart. And she said," Guys, you're focused on the aim in marketing." And it kind of actually goes back to what I just said, how you show up. And I said," Chris didn't see me showing up as a CMO." And that's fair. Right? I had to show up every single day as a CMO to eventually get the job. Right?
Tricia Gellman: Yeah.
Latane Conant: So she said," The way you're showing up is with your aims with your to- do list, with your waterfall of this and that, and nobody cares." And the things that people care about and the things that investors who ultimately control all of our destiny care about is the market. And that's where you kind of have to anchor yourself. And I think that was one of those moments where you're like," It's so simple yet so profound." And so that's kind of been a consistent theme through our group. And I thought about it and I thought," Well, she's probably right. I probably am showing up doing my aims." And so I sort of made a goal for myself where I was like, until I feel that I'm showing up as a chief market officer, that's my goal, is to feel confident that I can change my title to be that. And so I need to, again, consistently show up that way. And so I started doing some different things, and actually Christine was on our board at the time. And I had a board meeting and I was so stressed because actually my pipeline, we missed our pipeline number, and I'm like," I am going to get my ass handed to me. I'm going to get fired." I need to go in there and just dissect every aspect of pipeline. And I was like," No, Latane. You're supposed to be the chief market officer." And so my first slide... And we actually had a ton of great momentum in the market. And so before I kind of went to the pipeline stuff, I said," Here's what's happening in our market." And that was my first slide. And they went crazy. I mean, they were like," This is so great, blah, blah, blah." And then I said," And oh, by the way, we didn't perform the way I want to. Here's the six things I'm doing to fix it. We're still on track and it's going to be okay. But I found that this is a problem and here's how I'm going to fix it." And then we moved on. And it was the best board meeting I had ever had. And so I did that. And then I had been really struggling and I'm sure... Actually, I took a CMO call this week. I had been really struggling with updating our messaging and our brand. And I felt like I was circling this drain of asking permission from everybody about what we call ourselves, what our point of view is. Right? And everyone wanted to tweak a word and everyone wanted to do this. And it was just not getting done because you're never done when you... You know this. You're never done. If everyone is happy, it's probably shitty.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, mediocre. You're managing to the mediocrity.
Latane Conant: Exactly. And so I just was in this like," Oh my God, it's been six months. I know what we need to do. I know what's going to work. I talked to enough people." And I just kept asking permission. And so actually at one of these empowered events, Wendy Yale, I was, again, about to cry. I'm like," I can't get it over the line. I'm inadequate." She was like," Just tell people it's a campaign. Tell people you're just testing it." And I was like," Yeah, I'm just going to do this." And so we just rolled with it. And then, once you make it a thing and it's cool and it's out there, it spreads like a wildfire and that's what happened. And we launched 6sense, it's the account engagement platform. Before we were more predictive analytics, but we wanted to shift harder into leading, not just doing ABM, but you know, kind of a step up from that. So we did that. And so after that really took off, I was like," Okay, I think I'm confident enough to change my title."
Tricia Gellman: I love that. And I think it's a good evolution and also points to what does it take to have the fortitude. And I mean, your early career, it talks a lot about perseverance. I think these are all characteristics that you start to realize as a CMO that you need. It takes a lot to push things up hill. It takes a lot to weed out the discussion of the funnel and get to the bigger picture idea. So, I mean, all of this takes perseverance, and it sounds like you've had a lot of lessons through the various roles. I think what's interesting to me is that, as marketers, whether you're a chief market officer or a chief marketing officer, in the end of the day, we're successful when we achieve revenue with our company. And we don't do that on our own. I guess if you're like a hundred percent more B2C and you have just e- commerce and straight pass through or product led growth only, then maybe you own everything, but in general in B2B, it's a real partnership between marketing and sales. And so you have this background between marketing and sales, and then on top of it, you have this account based engagement platform. So I'm curious, how have you used your background and/ or this idea of account based engagement to align and to drive success between marketing and sales?
Latane Conant: Some is a lot the same, and some is different. And so let me tell you what is a lot the same, at least for me. And we had this conversation before, Tricia, where you were like," No one's really heard of you. Who the hell are you?" And the reality is, when I was at Apperio, I didn't network with other marketers. I didn't go to serious decisions program. I didn't grow up in like the Marketo inbound model at all. And I kind of got thrown into marketing. And so from the very beginning, I never thought about... I literally remember our digital person being like," These are all the clicks and the whatever." And I'm like,"All right, that's cool, dude. Like, don't care." So the first thing I did was set up our pipeline quotas. And I remember the team was like," What?" You know what I mean? And I looked at our territories. So I think I just always had that MO. The difference is, even though I think I had the right attitude, I never had good data. It still felt like guesswork, right?
Tricia Gellman: Mm- hmm( affirmative).
Latane Conant: Informed. I mean, we weren't totally finger in the wind, but it was a lot of informed, guesswork. And I think the difference in coming to 6sense, my aha was," Oh my God, we have the opportunity to just really, really fundamentally change go to market with this new level of data and insights." And so that's been the big differentiator. And that's why I always talk about predictable revenue growth, because when I looked back at Apperio, we would make our number, but it was very lumpy, right?
Tricia Gellman: Yeah.
Latane Conant: "We have to make our net. Okay, we're going to run a huge program and we're going to get all these accounts there, and we're going to generate all this pipeline." And then we'd take a breath. And then it was like," Okay, now we're going to go..." You know what I mean? And so we had this variability, and you think," Oh, well, that's fine." You've still made your number, but there's a real cost to that variability, in terms of customer sat. Just long- term, it's a very expensive way to operate. And so what I found that we've been able to do with having such a data- driven approach, is it's very, very smooth. It's very consistent, and we've been able to really normalize a lot of those lumps out. And it's less acts of heroics, if that makes sense-
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, yeah. Totally.
Latane Conant: ...and it's more academic. And so I think that's been the big difference. And I think the biggest linchpin between Mark and I is our plan, because as a head of sales, I get my number. I argue that the number's too big and there's no way I can make it, but then I swallow it. And then I go and try to figure out how I'm going to create territories for all these people, and territories are account- based. And then I go to try to figure out how to hire all these people. And that's my equation, the territories and hiring, and a big quota buildup. Right? No real take on, what's the market dynamic? Who's in market? Are these territories good? Are they bad? And modern marketers, I think, have come such a long way in using things like intent data and engagement to figure out where accounts are at. And so I think where a lot of times now the sales and marketing alignment is starting to clash is, if you have this really old school territory model, but you're trying to use all this digital signal to actually tell who you market to, sometimes that's the mismatch. And so I think what Mark and I have done a nice job working through together is the territories have some level of being dynamic. The plan totally rolls up together. Right? So he understands that he can't just sign up for a number without talking to me about," Okay, well, what are the segments we're going to market to? What do the audiences look like?" And so it all kind of starts with that planning level. And we call it our revenue operating model. And when you're scaling that, is just so helpful.
Tricia Gellman: And then do you measure... I mean, so you're aligning around pipeline, it sounds like. And so how do you measure the pipeline? It's the same number, right?
Latane Conant: And this is where you can get yourself in trouble. And I've gotten myself in trouble here before, is just the debate on how much pipeline you need can go a lot of different ways, right? Because to figure out how much pipeline you need, you have to make assumptions around ASP's, win rates and conversions. And so the revenue operating model, you have to have a strong process and alignment around, what are our go- to market segments that ladder up to the overall plan? What assumptions are we going to make? Right? Because if I assumed two or three points better a win rate, and then all of a sudden we don't meet that win rate, we could actually end up screwed. Or what typically ends up happening is we pad it, and then my team's a little bit screwed, but we have ways to adjust for that. Right? Because we end up putting padding in some of those numbers, but Mark and I make those assumptions together. What are we going to sell? Where are our win rates right now? What are we going to assume for our ASP's, because it's dynamic. It's not going to stay the same.
Tricia Gellman: And how often do you look at that? Is it an annual thing?
Latane Conant: Quarterly.
Tricia Gellman: Quarterly. So you'll change your assumptions, you'll change your plan, like right now, maybe, for the next quarter already.
Latane Conant: We just did it. And then it all gets loaded. And then what happens is my dashboard, and when I say my, this is the whole marketing team's dashboard, has the entire go- to- market plan. And in real time they can see... Let's say we assumed a 51% conversion from one to two. If it dips to 47, it's going to go yellow. If it dips to 45, it's red, and it lights up. I mean, it's like, crosstalk.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, yeah. That's awesome. I think that that's great. Because if you don't have everybody seeing the same thing, you can't have the same conversation. You can't go after the same objective.
Latane Conant: Yeah. And I can look at the commercial segment and see," Oh, they're green. Actually, the problem is this segment." You know what I mean? Because sometimes some of that stuff goes on. But it's really easy when Mark... Instead of our RVP calling and saying," I need more field events," or," I don't have enough pipeline." I can see right there that," Yeah, you're right. We're not hitting the stage zero." Or," You're right, your close rates aren't... Let's..." Or I'm like," Actually, you're kind of crushing it. Simmer down."
Tricia Gellman: You're like," We're going to help your neighbor who is actually having" crosstalk.
Latane Conant: Yeah, who's really screwed.
Tricia Gellman: Right, totally.
Latane Conant: But it's sort of a great equalizer for all of us. And that helps us all... To me, I take a lot of comfort in actually knowing where we're screwed up. And I know that sounds crazy, but it feels like having bedbugs to just be yellow to me, like the in betweener. I want to know where we're winning and know where we're not, so we get the right focus.
Tricia Gellman: I mean, one of the things that I've seen is when you have that, then you can have the right dialogue about what do you want to fix? And there's always more things to fix, than there's kind of more people to fix them. And so getting that alignment on what are the priorities and where do we want to work as a team? And then where do we want to hold people accountable? A lot of times it's about putting the laser focus on the area that needs improvement, but from both sides. And so there's a lot that has to happen there. And if you can't see which areas you want to kind of put on the list, then you're kind of screwed.
Latane Conant: Yes. And so this is my kind of cautionary tale. Because I've had this system before. What I didn't do a good job of is making sure that sales was on the same system and we agreed on the system, because otherwise then they think the conversions... Conversions can be calculated 900 ways to Sunday, and we're arguing about win rates. And then we're like," Well, how are you calculating? And how are you..." And I'm like," I don't really care how we calculate it, honestly. I just need to know what we assumed and the trend." That's not a bad way crosstalk.
Tricia Gellman: And are we headed in the right direction? Right?
Latane Conant: Yeah. crosstalk. But you can get in this minutiae. Anyway, kind of working through all of those nuances and just getting it set up has been really helpful.
Tricia Gellman: Well, this has been a great conversation and there's so many parts to doing our jobs, whether you consider yourself the market officer or the marketing officer. And I think this is a good place to talk about lessons learned. I always close the episode with a lesson learned, and it seems like you've learned a lot about not going into the minutia of your conversion numbers and things like that. But what would you say is one of the biggest lessons that you've learned throughout your career?
Latane Conant: They're kind of two sides to the same point. So when I talk to... because I'm starting to do some advising work, which is really fun. And when I talk to CMOs who are just newer to being a CMO, one of the things I always say is," You got to know what you give a fuck about and know what you don't give a fuck about." Even if you think what's happening is maybe kind of dumb. Do you really care enough? So thinking about that, right? Some stuff you just got to let people make a mistake. Because I think as a CMO, you actually shine up everything, and some areas don't want to be shined up. The other side of that is I've learned that I always get what I want, it's just a matter of time. And so if I really, really believe in something and want it... Now, you can't want everything. Right? But again, if you keep yourself focused on it, and if people know that you're like that, it actually makes things easier because they're like," We should just do it because she's not going to go away."
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, because that's your perseverance, right? You said it took six years for you to get the sales bag job.
Latane Conant: Yeah. But finally, they're like," You know what? Here she is again, applying again." And so you just always get what you want. It's just a matter of time. But you got to know. Getting what you want's easy, knowing what you want is hard. And so those are kind of some of my things that I've learned.
Tricia Gellman: That's awesome. Well, Latane, you shared so much with us. I think this idea, we're just closing on this important lesson about perseverance. And I just smile thinking of you as constantly coming back with the same question and people just getting tired of it and you wearing people down. But I think perseverance is really an important trait and doing it with tact, I think, is what you do really well. So I want to thank you for joining us. I want to thank everyone for listening. We are going to bring Latane back. We have so many other things to talk to her about because 6sense, she's been doing an amazing job as a CMO. And she has her own book. We want to talk about that. So in the meantime, Latane, how do you recommend that people connect with you? Is it on LinkedIn or do you follow Twitter? What's the best way?
Latane Conant: I never got into the Twitter, but I'm totally on LinkedIn. Feel free to InMail me, connect, definitely all over that.
Tricia Gellman: Excellent. And for those of you still listening, if you liked this episode, please leave a six star review wherever you listen to your podcasts. There's so much to cover on the changing role of marketing, especially in this digital first world. Encourage you to go to drift. com and sign up for my newsletter, The Path to CMO 3.0. Latane, there's so much to talk with you about that I look forward to having you back for another episode shortly. Then we can talk about building a brand, help with funding and so much more that's been going on in your role over the past year. One last thing, September 30th is international podcast day, and it's just around the corner. To celebrate, I'm asking for your feedback. Please let me know what content you want more of, what guests you want to hear from, and unlike my normal requests to share this in LinkedIn, we set up a little survey. Go to www. now. drift. com/ podcast, not podcasts, but podcast, and give us your input. As a thank you, you'll be entered into a raffle to win your own podcast or Zoom meeting package, an Elgato microphone and a Logitech webcam. The link is in my show notes as well. Thanks for listening.