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Podcast Pit Stop: Jen Allen on Evangelism: The Next Frontier for Growth

How Evangelism Changes the Game

In episode 58 of Pit Stops to Podium, Jen Allen discusses what evangelism is and how it's changing the world of sales and marketing.  With evangelism, a company can get potential customers to understand the solution to their problem, rather than simply throwing a product or service at them, which is a much more beneficial approach in the long run. 

Although now working in Community Growth with Lavender, at the time of the podcast Jen was the Chief Evangelist at Challenger where she helped sales leaders assess gaps in their current go-to-market approach and also hosted the "Winning the Challenger Sale" podcast.

Challenger is an Al leader in sales training, technology, and consulting.  Their mission is to challenge unconventional thinking to unlock growth and enable a unique customer experience.  They have globally recognized sales and customer service books.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on! 

Pitstop Highlights

The Purpose of Evangelism

Evangelism is all about aligning tactics to the modern buyer's journey, where people don't want to be sold to, they want to be solved to.  Today, people spend 83% of that journey on their own, doing research for themselves.  Evangelism is all about looking at that 83% and figuring out how to get involved at that stage, as opposed to just at the very end, when the customer has often already made up their mind.

"I'm looking at that 83% timestamp and I'm trying to figure out how do I get involved there so I'm not just an order taker and crossing my fingers that they want exactly what we have to offer."

Evangelism Tactics and Execution

One tactic a company can take is to name an evangelist (i.e. make it an official job title).  The second tactic for a company is to empower their employees to evangelize more naturally as part of the conversations they have with people.  This second approach is sometimes called "bottom-up evangelism".

There are also different "flavors" to evangelism.  The goal of some evangelists is to build a community, while the goal of others is help with proper training.

"I think it really entails when you establish an evangelist's role at the business being very specific about what business problems are they going to solve, how do we know when those problems are having meaningful progress, and how do we agree we're going to measure on that for success"

How to Measure

For any problem, it's key to know what success looks like, and to get the alignment up front.  Vanity metrics, such as likes on a LinkedIn post, don't define success.  Good questions to ask, or good metrics to look at, include "are people consuming more of our services?", "are people referring us more?" and "do we see people buying more of our services?". 

"We're not just going for these vanity metrics, we're going for commercial impact"

Connect with Jen


Full Transcript

Brendan:  Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who've competed in taking their companies from high growth to high scale my name is Brendan Tolleson I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today Jen Allen for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium, welcome Jen.

Jen: Thank you so much for having me I'm excited to be here.

Brendan:  Well we're excited to have you um we were joking earlier uh in prep you're in Chicago I'm in Atlanta I think I'm winning as it relates to the weather right now um but uh Jen I would love for you to introduce yourself you know for our guests that may be joining you are the chief evangelist at Challenger and you also have a podcast and so I love for our audience to get to know you a little bit so uh who is Challenger and what is your podcast?

Jen:  Yeah Challenger many people know from the books The Challenger sale or the Challenger customer it is a sales methodology that we Implement with B2B organizations um and winning the Challenger sales podcast is all about taking the theory from the book and breaking it down from a seller's perspective which I am and showing how we take that Challenger mindset and approach things like Discovery negotiation running group meetings social selling you name it with a challenger mindset in mind.

Brendan:  That's great well it's definitely been a um revolutionary it's too strong of a word but it's definitely been a powerful tool for a lot of sales people such as myself along the way so thank you for doing what you are doing.

Jen: Well thank you for saying that.

Brendan: Yeah you're welcome.  Well Jen your your title gives a little bit of a sneak peek of what we're going to be discussing today but before we get into the big idea we do have a tradition here at pit stops a Podium and that's getting to know our guests outside of work so what what are three fun facts our audience should know about you? 

Jen:  Okay so my big passion in life is dog rescue that's where when I retire I'm going all in on dog rescue I've got three dogs in the background hopefully they'll be quiet probably not that's my big passion.

Brendan:  What kind of dogs do you have?

Jen:  So they're all two of them are mutts those two are mine and then my fiance's dog is a King Charles cavalier but they're all little guys okay all right that's my big passion um fun fact number two I am 40 and I am getting married for the first time inMarch so I'm super excited about that out in Jackson Hole and then as part of that I have never had any of my own kids and I am inheriting four amazing kids so I went from completely single on my own to full-fledged family without giving birth to any of them so there's my fun facts.

Brendan:  Four kids three dogs and a future spouse that is that you have a lot going on.

Jen:  Yes and we got a ferret a couple months ago too so I always forget about Ernie the ferret but he's here too.

Brendan:   How old are the kids?

Jen:   Kids are 8 10 14 and 18. 

Brendan:  Okay okayI have three they're eight six and four so I thought you're gonna go down but you went up.

Jen:   I went up I've never changed a diaper in this house so that's that's a win on my part.

Brendan:   You're winning.  Um well Jen it's fun uh let's transition a little bit you know as I mentioned your your title may kind of give it away a little bit but I think this is you know we think about where the market is headed and kind of this new way of demand Generation Um it's evangelism it seems to be a buzzword as really the next Frontier growth uh and so before we get into it to tactics and how to measure let's first talk about what is it so how would you define what evangelism is because that's a a big word that has an emotive response so I'd love to know how you describe them.

Jen:   Yeah first of all I hate the word I wish there was another word somebody come up with it and tell me what it is because I absolutely hate it but to me it is actually far less about marketing Your solution and your product and actually marketing the problem and the underappreciated problem that your solution calls uh or solves for so the way that I sort of came into this is last year I've been a Frontline seller for 18 years I never wanted to be a sales leader I've always just loved sales there's so much to learn marketing leads started drying up and rather than point the finger back at marketing and go back and forth again what I did is they said what can I do what's within my control and so I just started posting on LinkedIn more I got involved in our podcasts and webinars and things like that and then something really curious happening started happening which I was then started getting these very senior sales people sales leaders showing up in my DMs on LinkedIn being like hey I've heard of Challenger I thought it was this I'm starting to think that maybe it's this you nailed a problem that we're facing on our team can I just talk to you before I go into anybody's like sales process and so I realized there was a lot of legs to that and so I ultimately said what if instead of forcing someone to submit a lead form we could actually have them have a conversation with someone like me who's got a lot of subject matter expertise help them shape their thinking and then hand them off to an AE and so to me it's kind of this notion of like edu sales like I'm not yet selling you I'm helping you think through the problem so that you have either greater or lower confidence saying I should explore Challengers solution and it's been a phenomenal success at Challenger using that approach.

Brendan:  Yes it sounds like you're aligning the tactics to really this modern buyer's Journey where they want they don't want to be sold to they want to be solved to where you're providing Solutions um and it's interesting too because I feel like a lot of times sales rep feel like that's a marketing job but it sounds like what you're saying be proactive and and take control of that experience.

Jen: 100% right like if you look at one of the things we studied is how customers buy today and we've been talking for a long time about how many stakeholders are involved in a buying decision the last time we we looked in 2020 it was like 11.2 people right so you think about 11.2 make people making a decision on anything right let alone an investment for a company in a recession it's really hard so what they actually do is they spend a lot of time with themselves so like 83% of the time that they spend buying actually is them doing their own research offline online it's them in meetings and then the remainder that 17% is with sellers but that's all sellers for all all suppliers they're considering so if we go by the rule of three that means I get like five six percent of my buyer's time and by the time they get to me they've already figured out what they think they need and now I'm trying to back them up and that to me is where evangelism plays a heavy role because I'm looking at that 83% timestamp and I'm figuring out how do I get involved there so I'm not just an order taker and crossing my fingers that they want exactly what we have to offer by the time they engage me.

Brendan:  Yeah I love it we're we're firm believers in that approach as well and I think we talked to our any of the candidates that we talk to it's it's not a matter of we may say we don't believe in prop it's not that we don't believe in prospecting we just don't believe in cold calling um or at least I think it's inefficient um and there is a better way to do it and it's whole evangelism type of tactic that you're describing which I think gets into kind of a good segue is you know what are the tactics what are ways in which people can take initiative they may say hey I don't know if that's for me I'm nervous I'm worried uh that's uncomfortable um but maybe what are some tips or tricks that you've seen work is it relates to tactics for creating this type of evangelism in the market?

Jen:  Yeah so I would say there's two approaches right so there is um if you're a company right and you're considering evangelism you can do like Challenger did and name an evangelist right and that that's the role that I have it's my full-time job in addition to selling um or you could say how do we Empower our people to evangelize just more naturally as part of the conversations that they're having online and offline right so Todd Clouser who's someone I really respect in this case he calls that bottom-up evangelism so I think there's two different sort of approaches you could take then from there there's also different flavors of evangelism right so my big thing is my our company's business problem is lots of people know the Challenger sale they love the book very few of them actually work with us to roll out training they DIY it or they think they like just handing out the book is enough so that's a distinct problem our company needs to solve so I'm out there trying to expose the fact that reading the book is not enough because you miss all of these things and that's where my content is geared to words however I work with other evangelists just in you know kind of communities and things like that who say that they are trying to build like a groundswell of users right so they might take more of an approach of saying my goal is to build a community we don't have a community here at challenger but other companies pursue that like a Chili Piper I think does a phenomenal job of building these really powerful engaged end users and so I think there's different flavors of what you use evangelism to do but the most important advice I can give every anybody is do not hire an evangelist or do a bottom-up evangelism strategy with the goal of brand awareness it is too freaking fluffy you can't measure it it is not what you need like nobody gets paid for brand awareness we get paid when we have a commercial impact so I think it really entails when you establish an evangelist's role at the business being very specific about what business problems are they going to solve how do we know when those problems are having meaningful progress and how do we agree we're going to measure on that for success?

Brendan:  So let's take you as an example did you stumble into this or was it like hey Jen we want you to be our chief evangelist so it's almost like the Chicken and the Egg like how do you who's who who initiates again hey we're seeing getting traction maybe she's just full-time as opposed to just being a seller so how did that happen?

Jen:  So I have an interesting career in the sense like every two years not intentionally I think it just happens where I get bored and I'm like how can I make sales more interesting right so the two-year mark my last time was last year um and for me what I always step back and do is I said what part of the sales process lights me up and what I was finding that it was like it's not that I don't love closing deals we all love clothing deals we love the paycheck but for me the Big Thrill of the kill was would I get an executive to think differently about their problem set so early on in kind of Discovery so it taught me hey early on is what what lights you up right now how can you shape a role where you actually do more of that stuff instead of the full cycle stuff so I came across an article by um uh that was written by Ethan Butte over uh at bom bom and he was interviewing Guy Kawasaki he was interviewing Dan Steinman at game site and he wrote this big article with all these podcasts about evangelism I had never heard the term when I read it I was like this is exactly what I want to do this is there's I hate the name but it's what I want to spend my time doing and so I took that I built a job description off the back of it I've stated the business problems I was going to intend to address and then I took the results I had had from doing the stuff just side of my desk like our podcasts and writing content on LinkedIn the leads I was originating I brought it to my CEO and I was really fortunate she was very open-minded to it and I said let's try it for a year if we can have a meaningful impact on our lead generation on the deals closing on the sales cycle to close them let's commit to it as a strategy and so that's how I ended up in it it was totally self-led 

Brendan:  That's awesome well I think yeah it's good it's a good segue probably in our last topic which is how do you measure it and your CEO sounds like very she was very open receptive um I'm imagining that some of our uh aspiring evangelists may not have the same type of structure uh so what are proactive ways that you would recommend hey here's the way you should think about evangelism in terms of value it creates um to create that business case for for you and your organization.

Jen:  Yeah so for me I've like again I've always been a seller I've always had a goal so it's also important to me I'm like I don't want to go into this fluffy job where I have no idea am I doing well am I not doing well so again we took the business problems we wanted to solve for so it was just the per the Market's perception of Challenger it was new lead generation for new logo and then it was reduction of custom return by giving customers more content to consume that kept them on the Challenger Journey longer right like those are the three things and then I sat down with her our head of sales and I said how are we going to measure what success looks like here so some of them are easier right like for customer churn we can look at when I am inner involved in a deal does that is there a Delta for how many of those those customers were new versus ones that I'm not for new logo acquisition what we did is we built a lead Source option in Salesforce where when I was getting a DM on LinkedIn I would go into Salesforce I would log the lead I would Market it as evangelist LED for the source and then we can pull a report that shows you know pipeline Generation by evangelist-led opportunities versus marketing opportunities and then the third one which was a little bit trickier is we had to look at influence so this is things like an AE is working a deal they bring me in and I you know I'm there for an SME type role

Brendan: Yeah that's the originator but you you have some type of influence on closing.

Jen:  Exactly so then I was able to on those opportunities in Salesforce check a box that says evangelist influenced right so all of that is to say I don't capture my impact on Learners meaning like I have no we have 20 000 downloads of our podcast every month I have no idea who those people are I wish I did I don't unless they come in um but I I'm tracking hand raisers that are a result of me actually having a conversation or people reaching out so I have at least some way to measure my success so like where we are today there's seven million in deals that were originated or influenced by evangelism that makes me feel good that I'm like what I'm doing is actually working if I did not track that that would be a really yucky spot in this recession because I mean what am I gonna say like I get a lot of likes on my posts I hope these pay off that so yeah that's a nice vanity metric but I don't know if it really helps the company.

Brendan: And that probably goes to your point earlier about Brian it's um is really hard like it's hard to quantify the value of that so that makes sense what about what would you recommend for a company so you mentioned it kind of there's two different ways to look at it if you're like the chili piper for example what would be ways to measure it from that from that lens?

Jen:  Yeah so I would look at what is happening as a result of people being involved in the community so do we see those people like consuming more of our services do we see them buying more of our services I think it's always the what happens and this is where I've talked to some evangelists who are like hey I grew this community I'm like great are they buying more are they advocating for you more are they referring customers like what is this so what of whatever that you're doing because I think it is so easy for it to be treated like this really fluffy marketing channel and that to me is the difference not to knock marketing I want to be very careful for how I say this but we're not just going for like these vanity metrics we're going for commercial impact and so whatever I'm doing if I'm building a community I want to be measuring you know are they referring us more are they buying more what is the commercial outcome as a result of that so I think regardless of what flavor of evangelism you have you got to be crystal clear and get that alignment up front I've also spoken with a lot of evangelists who said I didn't actually have a really clear job description I didn't have a way of like measuring my success and now they'r scrambling now.

Brendan: So I'm just selling your dogs uh so if you you follow through with your guarantee um so before we get into the next step Jen this is a little bit of a Off Script but who who would you say is doing evangelism well I know you mentioned Chili Piper what other individual that's outside of you of course who's one that you say hey he or she is crushing it and my audi you know audience you should follow him or her if you're looking for how to get into evangelism.

Jen:   This is an easy answer for me will Aid Ken over at vidyard is my favorite evangelist because one he he incorporates their products so the video You Know video recording he does it so effortlessly he lives that product through his content and I just admire so much the way that he is balancing education with entertainment so I always label him like he's like the edutainment guy and so I think you can learn so much but you have fun doing it I think for that reason he's been so effective at growing that audience converting non-users into users so I learned a ton from him I really admire what he's doing.

Brendan:  Oh that's great it's always fun to share lessons learned and promote people that are doing good work yeah well Jen thank you so much for coming on this episode um I learned a lot and hopefully our audience has to The Next Step they can take as it relates to evangelism um if our audience wants to engage with you or with Challenger what was the next step they can take?

Jen: Make it easy just reach out to me on LinkedIn it's Jen Allen at challenger.

Brendan:   All over that origination people give the origination let's tag it.

Jen:  Exactly thank you so much for having me, Brendan.

Brendan: Thank you have a great day.

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