THE OBOIST TURNED RELENTLESS FUTURIST
Mary Shea, PhD
VP, Global Innovation Evangelist, Outreach
Welcome to the inaugural episode of The Storied Future Podcast! We’re glad you’re here.
In this show, host Chris Hare talks to C-Suite leaders, experts, and innovators who are transforming themselves and their companies through the power of strategic narratives.
Our very first guest is the incredible Mary Shea, currently VP, Global Innovation Evangelist at Outreach and a former principal analyst at Forrester. Chris talks to Mary about her unlikely path to becoming a relentless visionary.
Along the way, they touch on:
- Mary’s path from world-class oboist to car salesperson to researcher and futurist
- Why data is crucial to the successful adoption of a narrative
- Recent tectonic shifts in the sales dynamic, and how technology can help sellers navigate them
- The spoken and unspoken narratives that create inequitable workplaces, and how the data points to a better way
- RISE, Outreach’s pilot program for empowering women in sales and leadership
- Why it hurts to be a futurist, and navigating the lag time between vision and execution
And much more!
001 Mary Shea: The Oboist Turned Relentless Futurist
Mary Shea 00:00
And the way you create a category is, it's not simple. You know, you have to have a vision for what the future is going to look like. And you have to bring others along on that vision.
Welcome to The Storied Future Podcast with Chris Hare, a show that provides the knowledge and inspiration C-suite leaders need to shift the future. Hear from experts, innovators, and purpose driven leaders who have harnessed the power of strategic narrative to create lasting change.
Chris Hare 0:28
Hi, and welcome to The Storied Future Podcast. I'm Chris Hare, and I'm so glad you're here. Since this is our first episode, I'll start with a bit about who I am, why I created this podcast and where we're headed. I'm the founder of The Storied Future. We're a consulting firm that's about 30 minutes outside of Seattle at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. We work with C-suite leaders and help them create greater value through strategic narratives, narratives that align everyone from the buyer to the boardroom around an irresistible vision of tomorrow. My guest today is Mary Shea. Mary is Vice President Global Innovation evangelist at Outreach.io. They're one of our clients, and they're a B2B sales engagement platform company, where Mary and her team produce thought provoking research examining the sales technology landscape. Before that, Mary was a principal analyst at Forrester, an adjunct professor of marketing at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, and a Chief Revenue Officer at various global technology companies. She's also a highly accomplished musician who has toured the world as a member of several orchestras. In this episode, I talk to Mary about her early days as an accomplished oboist, her unlikely transition into selling cars, her perspective on how music and narrative are connected, the critical elements for the successful adoption of a narrative within an organization, and how to shift workplace narratives to advance diversity and inclusion. I'm so excited and honored to kick off The Storied Future Podcast with this conversation with Mary Shea. Let's dive in. Mary, welcome to The Storied Future Podcast.
Mary Shea 2:10
Thanks so much for having me, Chris. It's great to be here today.
Chris Hare 2:14
So I'd love to hear a little bit about what you do. But first want to start with who you are. So how would you describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Mary Shea 2:23
Wow, okay. Yeah. So I'm a wife, a daughter, a doggie mom, an avid outdoors person, a sports enthusiast, pickleball player, and evangelist. And I don't know, I just, I love to embrace all aspects of life.
Chris Hare 2:43
I love it. I heard a lot of a lot of identity in there, and a lot of identity in things other than work, which I think is really, really beautiful, right? But it's, a lot of it is so intertwined. So thanks. Thanks for sharing that. That's cool. I don't think I've ever met an oboe player that I'm aware of. But I know early in your career, you traveled the world as an oboe performer. Can you talk a little bit about that? And if there's a funny story that comes to mind from that part of your life?
Mary Shea 3:09
Yeah, sure. I mean, I'm not sure how much humor I can infuse into it. But it was an important part of my life. I played the oboe and the piano. I started oboe when I was 12. So between 12 and my late 20s, early 30s, that was a major part of my life. And I was a classical musician. I played in the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Guadalajara symphony, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra in Boston, I played in Rome. And I loved every minute of it, I got to really kind of live my dream in my 20s. And you know, oftentimes I talk to professionals and they want to go do that in their 40s or 50s. And I did it very early in my career. And it was just a great experience. I've seen the whole world. I've played Beethoven's third, fourth, fifth symphony hundreds of times and Stravinsky and, you know, all of the wonderful composers that you know and love.
Chris Hare 4:03
That's beautiful. I actually proposed to my wife in Guadalajara. She was a teacher there. And she's half Italian. And I actually worked with all these… I was in the food industry at the time, and I worked with all these different chefs to kind of put together this seven course Italian meal. And then I smuggled all this food into Mexico and kind of built this restaurant where I proposed to her. But I have great memories, great memories of Guadalajara.
Mary Shea 4:26
That is so romantic. I love that. It's an absolutely beautiful city. If your listeners have not been there, I can't recommend it enough. And there's a lot of history and wonderful architecture and culture and music and of course great food. And Guadalajara has wonderful international cuisine. So, congratulations.
Chris Hare 4:45
Yeah, thank you for taking us on that journey of that part of your life. I've heard you on other podcasts describe yourself as a storyteller. In what ways are music and narrative connected for you?
Mary Shea 5:00
Yeah, it's really interesting when you start to talk to people in the business world and people in sales and tech, you find people come from a range of different backgrounds. And it's not unusual to find musicians and artists and people who enjoy culture and who have PhDs and so on and so forth. But for me, you know, I always love the research. I have a PhD in musicology and ethnomusicology. And musicology is really the study of Western art music, or what we call classical music, music that's written down. And world musics are passed down in oral tradition. And so I got my PhD in both of those subject areas. And I've written a couple books, and I love data and research. And I think, you know, there's a real interconnectedness in terms of my performance background. You know, I spend a lot of time educating the market, giving keynote speeches, motivational speeches to executives, or sales teams and sales kickoffs. And at the end of the day, people, I find, want to learn, they want to hear about innovative things that others are doing. And while they do that, they want to have some fun. And so I think the performance piece of it, the ability to tell stories with data, enables me to sort of accomplish that whole trifecta.
Chris Hare 6:17
So how did you ultimately make the leap from music into sales? Or was it research first, and then sales?
Mary Shea 6:24
It was sales first. I would say in my academic career, I was very focused on research and performance in classical music performance. But I was teaching at a small college in Boston, and I probably wasn't making very much money. So I actually asked a friend who is also an oboist to help me get a job at one of the leading car dealerships in New England. It's called Herb Chambers Honda, was the company. And I went to work there for a summer. I was supposed to just be the assistant or the greeter. And after two or three days, I was really bored. And I said to my friend, well, why don't you just teach me how to do this and, you know, I'll start selling some cars. I found out that I had an unexpected ability to connect with people in a sales situation and ended up being incredibly successful in this dealership and continued on as I was teaching. And one thing led to another, but I found out that I wanted a bigger platform for my professional life that I felt that I could have in academia and even in music – even though I loved it, there's a lot of repetition. And then in the academic world, you have a very, very narrow focus, there's a lot of politics, there's, you know, you're spending a lot of time looking at things that only a few people in the world kind of care about. And I just got the sense that I wanted to have a bigger impact. And so I ended up selling a couple of cars to people who worked at Forrester, and one thing led to another, they recruited me to come join the company. And it was a very small company at the time, a think tank. And there were people had PhDs in Slavic languages and PhDs in technology. And so they just took me in as one of my own. And the rest is history. It was a, it was a big leap, and a huge professional risk, one that I took in a calculated fashion that changed my personal and professional life forever, in the best possible way, I think.
Chris Hare 8:16
And going back to when you sold your first car in that early season, what was it in selling that kind of lit you up? And then I guess also, maybe what was it that you were doing differently than other people, potentially?
Mary Shea 8:29
Yeah, I think I'm a pretty competitive person. You know, going back to being a professional musician, you go to an audition, there's one seat a hundred people are auditioning for, that… I played sports, I was a junior tennis player back in the day. So I think it was the thrill of, you know, sort of the chase and winning the deal and closing someone you didn't think you could close. And then ultimately, really just helping people align with what was going to be good for them. And so I took more of a consultative approach. And people would be, like, I don't know if you've ever probably haven't sold a car. But people are really happy when they buy a car. It's, like, next to their home, it's a very big purchase. And hopefully they get the color they want, an extension of their personal brand. And they're just in a great mood, and I love being part of it. I love being part of the team. I love competing. And, you know, I started to get just an inkling about what the economics could be like outside of academia and being a classical musician. And suffice it to say they're very different. That wasn't a primary motivator, but it ended up sort of changing the direction of my life.
Chris Hare 9:40
So what did those early days at Forrester look like? And what was your role in that?
Mary Shea 9:45
Yeah, it was so fun. You know, it was just a great company for me, and you may know this from listening to other podcasts, but I've I was a boomerang there. So I did a stint of five years in the sales organization and then I came back almost 20 years later as an analyst. So I love the company, I love the brand, George Colony is still – the founder and CEO – is a very good friend of myself and my spouse. And I think there's a couple of things I loved about it. One is just I have a lust for learning. And so what we were selling was ideas, ways that would help businesses better understand what the impact of technology and the internet was going to be, on how they went to market, how they interacted with their partners, their consumers if they were a B2C company. And you had to constantly learn. And so I really enjoyed that part of it. Forrester is just one of those companies where I think I was employee number 93. So the people I worked with at that time are, you know, there's probably 10 to 20 of them. We're deeply, you know, friends for life. It's just one of those kinds of atmospheres where we'd work late, we had each other's back, we were on an amazing growth trajectory. And we felt like we were making a difference in terms of helping companies really capture the power that was behind the internet at that time. And so it was, it was super fun, a super fun environment. It was very collegial. And I think as much as, you know, a company with 1,000 plus people can be today, it still has much of that culture.
Chris Hare 11:25
It's interesting, just as we're talking, you know, you went from music, where there's a ton of history and a lot of rules around how things are played, right, to a situation where it's very much imagining the future, right, and kind of almost creating something out of nothing. One, is that accurate? And then two, what did it look like when you kind of created a narrative that was going to shape the future?
Mary Shea 11:49
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And I think in my heart, I really am a futurist. I'm someone who imagines what the possibilities can look like, and then I take all of the pieces of data, you know, the hard data that we're at today. I piece them together and start to think about what the next logical developments are going to be at a trend level or, more specifically, as it relates to a unique technology or something of that nature. And so, envisioning the future is really, really fun. And that's one of the things that Forrester is so great at, which is creating this view of what the future is going to look like and then bringing everyone back to today. And helping business leaders understand what they need to do to execute today in order to be successful today, as well as deep into the future. And so helping them operationalize along the way it was really fun for me, too.
Chris Hare 12:45
And what are some of the key elements that are critical to, like, the successful adoption of a narrative, right? So many within the B2B space, so many companies that I talk to have created a narrative in their own, kind of, ivory tower, and then kind of blast it out to the world, right? But clearly… I won't put words in your mouth. I'll just let you answer that.
Mary Shea 13:09
I mean, at the simplest level, you have to be talking to people all the time. And so I keep my ears to the ground. I'm talking to everybody. I take briefings even though I'm not a Forrester analyst anymore. I have new technology companies are coming to me all the time, I'm talking to them, I'm listening. And then simultaneously, I'm talking to senior executives and companies. What are they struggling with? What's working? What's not working? So I think you have to really be aware and listen and talk to people. And then I think the next thing for me, because I tend to be, I like data a lot, I’m very data driven in terms of how I think about my storytelling and bring those stories to market and make them come alive for people, is that I'm constantly doing surveys. So I've just, you know, put the ink on one right now that's really going to look at what does it take for companies to acquire amazing sales talent, diverse talent, to acquire them, to make them want to stay at that company, and to ensure that they're in an environment where they can thrive? And I can't wait to, you know, get the data and start talking to everybody about it. But for me, I think you have to have data, or else it's just sort of, it's just a story, right? It's not necessarily something that's going to add tremendous value or help with strategic planning and help with some of the business decisions that companies need to make in order to stay ahead of the curve, if that makes sense.
Chris Hare 14:44
It does. Yeah. And something I'm really interested in is, you know, last week, I was talking to a sales leader that I worked for when I was at Amazon. And he said, Chris, you know, when you're someone who can see the future, and no one else sees that future, that can be incredibly painful, right? Because there's this big lag time between when you have the insight, and maybe when you have the data, or the research to back it up.
Mary Shea 15:09
Yeah, you've really tapped into something there, which is, it can be really painful. Because sometimes people are so far behind you. And it's so obvious to you, you know, as you've, you're putting together all these breadcrumbs of data and conversations and even secondary research and reading things and talking to people. So number one, you know, when I was at Forrester and I was really literally going all over the world working with executive teams and trying to create urgency with them for digitally transforming their sales organization. And it was a lot of “Yeah, but…We understand what you're saying, Mary, but, you know, we sell to the blue blazer exec. They're not on social”, despite what my data might say. And, “Yeah, but that makes sense for this SaaS company, but it doesn't make sense for our relationship business.” And I think, in some ways, COVID has been a great equalizer since we've, it's really accelerated, I think it was CEO of Microsoft said the digital sales transformation that could have happened in two to five years happened in two months. And that's really true. So, you know, there's one thing that you're ahead of people, and sometimes you have to bang your hands on the table and get people to listen to you and they may not be ready. That's one area of frustration, I would say, for people who kind of see the future, and it's so obvious to them. Even for me outside of the sales tech or the world of buying and selling, I kind of constantly read nonfiction. I read history. I know we're getting a little bit outside of, you know, the topic of being in sales and such. But I just have been listening to a book on audio called Code Breaker, which really looks at the Nobel Prize winners who broke the code on genetic sequencing and engineering and while it's like, amazing, because you could stop all kinds of different diseases, there's sort of the other side of the coin. And so I want to say these people who look at the future are probably worriers at the same time, and I probably do my share of worrying as well, Chris.
Chris Hare 17:07
Yeah, I'm right there with you.
Mary Shea 17:10
So you know, but you know, you have different types of methods and mechanisms to kind of stay in the present and not let it consume you, which I do work hard at doing.
Chris Hare 17:28
This one's gonna probably get a little bit more personal. Because I think, you know, when you're talking about digital transformation of sales, that's one thing, and you can be very passionate about it. When it comes to the narrative around, you know, advancing diversity, equality, and equity in sales and, kind of, in the workplace as a whole, I would love to understand first, if we can kind of rewind to when you were a Chief Commercial Officer. How did the hidden narratives – they weren't hidden in terms of their impact, right, but the unspoken? How did that impact you? What did that feel like?
Mary Shea 18:02
Yeah, I mean, it's kind of interesting, because I'm fairly tenured in my career, I've been around walking the world here for a while. And when I was an academic, it was primarily a male-dominated industry. And, you know, not… certainly women got PhDs, but in the humanities. It was pretty male-dominated. And then as I became a Chief Revenue Officer, pretty unusual to find at the time, you know, 10, 15 years ago, a lot of women who were in that role, whether it's the travel or, you know, the competitiveness, or the next person that's looking for your job, or whatever it is, it was difficult. And yeah, I did find it challenging. I'll give you one example, in the sense that I helped to build a company from probably $4 million to $15 million in the middle of the recession – the, I guess they called it the great recession, which was 2009, 2008/2009. We probably had two to three months of payroll left, and we didn't have a great product. I mean, it was okay. And we literally sold our way out of it and, you know, had tremendous success. You hear these stories about some of the women trailblazers who delivered amazing results. And the results were so good that they figured, you know, what, if we bring in a man next, they’ll be… do even better, you know, and so I've had things of that nature happen. And it is what it is. But what I'm excited about now is that we have so many women who are CROs, who are managing, you know, billion-dollar, billion-euro businesses. And what my research shows is that women in B2B sales at the rep level and manager level tend to outperform their male counterparts, and same thing at the executive level. So I keep doing research to shine the light of day on it. We have a lot more work to do as it relates to pay equity and bringing people with, more diverse people who are reflective of the world that we live in into not only the sales world, but the corporate world. It's just, you know, it's still very homogeneous, in my opinion.
Chris Hare 20:14
We'll put it in the Show Notes, kind of, one of your recent presentations on this. And it's exciting to see the shift that's going on with companies that are embracing diversity, having higher performance, right? But what are some of the things that you think need to happen to drive acceptance of that narrative? Obviously, there is proving the results. But what are some continued things that need to happen?
Mary Shea 20:40
Yeah, I mean, I think LinkedIn partnered with Forrester did a really amazing piece of research towards the end of last year that really tried to get to the heart of some of this data, which shows diverse teams do perform better, and the data was really conclusive. So I would encourage any of your listeners to take a look at that paper. I think it kind of starts, you know, it starts at the top and it starts at the bottom. At the top, you've got to kind of walk the walk if you want to have a diverse sales team and company. And that starts at the board level, right? So you have to, you know, what is your board look like? What's the diversity of thought that's brought into the board by some of the different members, and then you go down to the executive team. And so we have a very good split in our executive team, of gender split. Manny Medina is an immigrant. People know that who follow him on LinkedIn. So we have people of color who are also on the board. So I think you've got to have, kind of, that type of commitment. If you can't see it, you can't be it. So that's one thing. And then I think the next thing is really, what can be done at the street level to create an environment where women sellers actually want to go work at a certain type of company? And that starts with things as basic as having job descriptions that are more inclusive. And I was doing an event in London last week, and we had 40 or 50 women. And, I mean, it was an absolutely inspirational event. We had a wonderful group of panelists, and there was a gentleman who was a sales leader who said, “I just can't get women to apply.” And he said, “I want a hunter and I want this, I want that.” And we all just took a step back, and we're like, “Okay, let's take a deep breath before we launch into this gentleman.” But you know, you've got to start to think, why do you have to have a hunter? Why do you have to have… why are hunters better than farmers? Why don't you just have someone who has exemplary prospecting skills? Why wouldn't you say that? But you don't find that on job descriptions. You find all these other things that women in general, folks who identify as women in general, are not going to gravitate to, that's not going to resonate, so you're not even going to get people to apply if you're not paying attention or having intentionality to some of these details. Other things in the interview process. And I know Juniper Networks are one of our clients, they do this, they aim to have 20% of their interviewees be diverse candidates, and 20% of the people who are actually conducting the interviews to be diverse interviewers. So creating an environment in terms of the interview loop where potentially you see people like you. These are really intentional but small things that people don't do that I think could make a really big difference.
Chris Hare 23:33
And kind of in your experience – and I wanted to kind of dive into a little bit of what you all are doing with the RISE program at Outreach. But what are some of the markers of a leader who can lead through, you know, whether it's likely at the CEO level or the CRO level of leading through a narrative change? What are some of those markers of someone that can successfully lead that change?
Mary Shea 23:55
Yeah, I mean, I think there's, I think the communication and transparency is so key with today's employee base. We've now seen the shift that we've been talking about for quite some time, where Millennials are really predominant in the workforce. And folks that are part of that cohort really care about transparency and visibility. How is the company doing? Authentic communications? What kinds of things are we doing in and above just delivering a product to market and driving growth for our own organization? Do we have other things that we're doing for good? So we have a program called Outreach For Good, where we're, you know, trying to do a lot of other things that leave a positive impact on the world. And the other thing my research shows is that both buyers, as well as talent, really want to work at a company where they understand what that company stands for, and what their values are. And I think in the past, Chris, we've kind of left that up to the folks that sell into the consumer world, the B2C brands, right? Who kind of take a stand on social justice or become or lean into areas that might be considered somewhat political or what have you. And we're now in a world where folks aren't going to go work at a company unless they know what the CEO stands for, what their values are, and that that person is vocal. And people aren't going to sign up to partner with a supplier if they don't understand that as well. And the research is starting to show that. So I think more and more, we're not going to be able to keep our heads in the sand on the B2B side of the world. Companies are going to have to figure out where the right side of history is for them, and be pretty vocal about it.
Chris Hare 25:51
Can you talk a little bit about the program that I've mentioned before, RISE, that your current company, Outreach, has created?
Mary Shea 25:56
Yeah, and I'll talk a little bit because, you know, as much as I love Outreach, and I love the company, you know, we're not perfect either. And we still need to grow and improve. And there's a lot that we can do to be a better company. And so one of the things that's great is about 50% of our sales force is women. So there's pretty much a 50-50 gender split, which is good. But as you go up the hierarchy of sales leadership and sales management, it becomes less and less and less and less. And I know Anna Baird is our CRO, which is just wonderful. We're so fortunate to have her. She's a tremendous leader with amazing experience. But her operational direct reports are men. I report to her, as does our head of enablement. But the folks who carry the big quotas are men. And I know she's been looking to hire women, it's been very, very challenging. And she went out and hired a range of different headhunter firms and has done everything and just hasn't been able to get the success. So she decided, with the support of our employee experience group, to found this program called RISE, which we're just going to invest in. We are investing heavily in female sales managers, high performers, folks that we think with the right education, molding, mentorship, and sponsorship can make it to the highest echelons of sales leadership. And one thing I have to credit her for is that she's like, whether if that's Outreach, great, and if it's someplace else, that's okay, too. We just want to make sure that this is happening. And so we have a cohort, and Anna and myself and Manny and every member of the executive team works very closely with this cohort. We're coaching, we’re mentoring them, we're putting them on strategic, gnarly problems that no one else has been able to solve so that they get that cross-functional experience of problem solving and to show their colleagues that they are strategic, in addition to being operationally focused. And we're seeing some tremendous results. So it's just year one of the program, but it's been really rewarding so far, for me to be part of that as a coach and mentor.
Chris Hare 28:08
Thanks for giving me some insight into that. And I think what's cool as an outsider looking in is that you all have painted a vision of the future, but you also have, kind of, a map to get there. And then there's also support for that. And as much as you said, as the organization is still growing and maturing, but it's really cool to see that kind of stepped process.
Mary Shea 28:25
It's really great. I mean, you have to be intentional and make the investments, and we've also made the financial investments. We have executive coaches, we've partnered with BoostUp. We've done, you know, we're doing a lot to provide underrepresented folks – and not just by gender in every other way you might think about it in sales – with as many opportunities as we can to increase the representation at the executive levels in our company or elsewhere.
Chris Hare 28:59
I'd love to kind of go into the day-to-day of selling, and if you put yourselves back in the shoes of a B2B seller. What are some of the things that you need from your company and from your leadership in terms of a narrative? And then how do those narratives often, kind of, break down on their way through marketing and then to sales?
Mary Shea 29:21
Yeah, I mean, it's such a different world now, Chris, from when I was a CRO. When I was a CRO it was about, you know, you sort of had this concept of the stick and the carrot and things were fairly linear. And today it's a very, very different world. And I think it's not just about accountability, it's also about empathy. And as a society, we've been going through quite a difficult time over the last three years, whether it was COVID, or social unrest, or a range of other topics which I think folks here on this side of the pond are so familiar with, that have made life and work difficult and challenging and sad sometimes. And so today's sellers, I think, need a high degree of support and empathy from their leaders. You know, like, when I was a leader, it was like, okay, you know, we'll commit to the professional development. Well, now, of course, folks want help with a professional development, but they also want prioritization around mental and physical health. They want resources, they want to be able to talk about something that may have been painful for their community, and having the ability to do so in a safe space, whether that's through ERGs, or an empathetic manager or leader, I think that's really, really important. I think there's some other more pragmatic things, which is, you know, you can't succeed without your sales tools. And I don't want this to sound self-serving, but I really believe this, that the buying and selling dynamic has changed so much from some of the big tectonic generational shifts that I've been talking about, through technology innovations, through us being separated from COVID and focus on remote digital interactions, that without top-tier sales tech – and I'm not talking about CRM, not saying CRM needs to go away – but certainly, I'm talking about seller first technology, technology that's designed for the workflows that sellers engage in every day, you need a platform that can do that. And also one that can extract all of the behavioral and sentiment data that happens on the sell side and the buy side, and store that in a single repository, so that you start to have everyone in the go-to-market operating off not siloed data, but a single set of activity and behavioral data for your customers and prospects. And so I think that's pretty essential. A great example is we announced a partnership with 6sense. And it's a deep integration. And now within the Outreach platform, sellers are going to be able to get access to this rich data and insights around where these buyers are in their journey, what they're doing, how they're spending their time, these digital breadcrumbs that they leave behind in this large percentage of activities before they even engage with that seller. And so as the time for sellers to directly impact the buying decision narrows and narrows, because buyers are pretty self-directed, self-sufficient and information is out there, you're going to have more and more targeted conversations. And so without, you know, a sales execution platform, like we have at Outreach or another analog, I don't think you're gonna be able to do your job as a seller, or do it effectively, or do it in five days a week.
Chris Hare 32:49
But what's really cool is kind of hearing you talk about your career arc, you know, from Forrester to now, is everything is all about just getting closer and closer to the customer and having those conversations, right? And when there's those kind of silos in the data, and when those tools are missing, and then when that narrative that's connected to the customer is not in place.
Mary Shea 33:10
That’s absolutely right. When you have those data gaps, then that is going to guarantee that you're having a disruptive – in a bad way – experience for the customer. And let's face it, today's customers have a pretty high bar. And we can thank Amazon and all the other marketplaces out there for creating that bar, the B2C brands in terms of the expectations around personalization, instantaneous access to information, and so on.
Chris Hare 33:36
So what was it that drew you ultimately to Outreach from Forrester?
Mary Shea 33:43
Well, I mean, that's quite a story. I have been following the category in which Outreach played at the time, which was called sales engagement. We've subsequently evolved and the category’s expanded tremendously. It's probably a topic for another podcast, but…. I absolutely was taken with the category at-large as an analyst, and no one was covering it at Forrester. Then someone covered it and it wasn't me, and I wanted it to be me. And I kind of became obsessed, as my former managers will tell you, and I'm a bit relentless when I get something in my mind. And eventually they gave the category to me and I covered it and I did the inaugural wave on it. And I knew that this category was going to be absolutely transformational to how sellers sell and buyers buy, on so many different levels. And I thought the growth trajectory of this category could be, you know, really similar to what we saw with Salesforce back in the day. So I had a great love for the category, and then, you know, one thing led to another at Forrester. I won't go into all the details, but it became obvious to me that it was time for me to do something different. I just, I wasn't fully aligned with the research strategy and where the business was going at the time, which is fine. But rather than sit there and think, woe is me, I thought, Well, why don't I just reach out to the CEOs of four or five different noncompetitive companies and ask them if they'd be willing to hire me and shape a job with me? And I reached out to Anna Baird, who's our CRO and really runs the business day-to-day, and Manny. And they were just incredible. They got me, they understood the impact that I could have on their business and where it was in the growth trajectory and how important it was to have someone come in who could help evangelize and educate, particularly as we're creating a new category. And I got a couple of different offers. But just culturally, Outreach was just right for me. And the way that Manny and Anna worked with me as they were shaping up the job, just, there was no question and no looking back. It's been an amazing run so far.
Chris Hare 35:48
And how is the, you know, kind of as they’re, as you're working with them to evolve the narrative, their narrative, what has that journey been like for you as you're designing a category?
Mary Shea 35:58
Yeah, it's really fun. Before, when I first joined, we didn't have a CMO. So we were without a CMO for almost a year. And thankfully, now we have Melton Littlepage, who's a real genius and a category creator. And we're working with some wonderful firms that are helping us think through that. We also work really closely with Forrester – Seth Marrs and Anthony McPartlin. And the way you create a category is, it's not simple, you know. You have to have a vision for what the future is going to look like. And you have to bring others along on that vision, whether it's a set of very innovative customers, or the analyst community, and your own employee base. And so we all are working together, or, in the case of, you know, if you want to be a publicly traded company, the financial analysts and the bankers. And so we spend a lot of time really thinking about and imagining where this category is going. And we really see this evolving into what we call sales execution platform, whereby every member of the revenue team can interact on this platform that sits on top of CRM, and that the workflows are matched to how you do your job. And there's great data capture. And as you go through all of the different activities that a seller, a manager, or leader would need to go to, everyone's getting value in the functionality across that platform. And then we're capturing the data and delivering massively rich insights back to the business. And, you know, that's where we're going. And there's other companies out there that are doing some of this, part of it. And you also, as you create a category, actually have to work with your competitors, because if there isn't a competitive set that matters, no one's going to follow you. So it's really enlisting and engaging and inspiring and educating the analysts, both financial and industry, your customer base, and your competitive set, and really working together to shape what that future looks like. And, of course, you know, dealing with big, big problems that no one else has solved before, like CRM was supposed to be the be-all and end-all back when Salesforce took to the cloud. But because sellers never used it, companies never got full value from the system. Buyers never got the experience that they were told they were going to get from interacting with sellers that use CRM. And so there's this huge gap that's… has unmet needs. And of course, you know, you have to have the ability to close that. And I believe we do.
Chris Hare 38:37
I love it. You used the word just a bit earlier, that you said you're relentless. And that's one thing I've just loved about this conversation is how much you have this future vision. And then you're relentless in executing against it, even when it could take months, years, or longer for it to come about. So.
Mary Shea 38:54
That is true. And I'm sure my bosses will tell you that I am relentless. And mostly, I think that's good. And you know, sometimes I need to back off. And I think I have the emotional intelligence at this stage of my career, hopefully, to know when to do that. But I am relentless.
Chris Hare 39:09
Awesome. Well, in closing, what are you most excited about as you head into the second half of the year here shortly?
Mary Shea 39:17
Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of things. I love my colleagues that I work with and the customers and prospects that we work with. So tomorrow, I'm going to meet the executive team of a really big company. So I'm super excited to talk with them and share what I'm thinking and hear what their challenges are. I'm incredibly excited to work with my colleagues at Outreach who are just wonderful on so many different levels. And I'm excited to bring new thought leadership to market that will help companies and executives really weather the economic storm that's ahead. We're going to have to see organizations are going to have to operate with maximum efficiency, and I'm going to conduct research that helps them Understand how to do that and how our technology plays a role in helping organizations drive profitable growth, even in, even in a down market, in the most efficient way. So, lots to be excited about, and I'm also excited about, I think I'm going to take a vacation in August, so I'm kind of excited about that too.
Chris Hare 40:19
Awesome. Well, Mary, thank you so much. I really appreciate your generosity with your time and loved hearing your story, and look forward to continuing the conversation in the future.
Mary Shea 40:29
Thanks so much, Chris. Loved chatting with you.
Chris Hare 40:32
That was so much fun. I'm so grateful to Mary for being an early adopter guest on our show. Going into this conversation, I wanted to understand how Mary manages the lag time between seeing the future, putting a new narrative out there and taking that risk, and then seeing that narrative take hold. That process can take years or even decades, and it can be painful. I've experienced that pain. For years, I thought something was wrong with me because I could clearly see the future when no one else around me did. So I can totally relate to having that relentless drive to see a vision come to life, while also experiencing the anxiety that can set in when no one else sees or accepts that vision.
I don't know about you, but Mary's story gave me a real kick in the pants. And it pushed me to have even greater conviction and persistence when it comes to bringing a new narrative to life. But it was also a great reminder of how a big part of achieving certainty about the narrative you're putting forth comes from a constant connection to your audience and to your customers, because you can't build the future without them.
And that's it. Until next time. Thank you for joining me for the very first episode of the Storied Future Podcast. Please subscribe and be sure to visit TSFpod.com. That's TSF, as in The Storied Future, p-o-d.com, for Show Notes and to check out other episodes. To learn more about today's guest, Mary Shea, visit linkedin.com/in/maryshea and twitter.com/sheaoutr.
The Storied Future Podcast is a production of The Storied Future, LLC, produced and edited by Ray Sylvester, audio engineering by Ali Özbay, logo design by Evan MacDonald, theme music by The Brewz. Your host is me, Chris Hare. Learn more about our work helping leaders create great B2B narratives for a change at www.thestoriedfuture.com.
As Outreach’s Global Innovation Evangelist, Mary is responsible for conducting thought-provoking research covering the sales technology landscape, the future of buying and selling, and the criticality of having diverse, equitable, and inclusive B2B sales organizations.
Prior to joining Outreach, Mary was a principal analyst at Forrester, an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and a chief revenue officer at various global technology companies. Mary is a well-known industry thought leader, keynote speaker, podcast host, author, as well as an advisor to many of the world’s leading B2B brands.
Mary’s work is regularly featured in various academic and commercial publications including, The Journal of Selling, Selling Power, Forbes, Business Insider, The Telegraph, and many more.
Mary currently serves as the executive sponsor for Outreach’s Rainbow Employee Resource Group.
- Outreach’s RISE program
- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: “2 years of digital transformation in 2 months”
- Outreach’s AI insights integration with 6sense
- Mary’s keynote presentation at the 2022 She Sells Leadership Summit
- Forrester/LinkedIn research: “Diversity Drives Sales Success: The Link Between Successful Sales Teams and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”