executive engagement

C-Suite Marketing at FireEye: Supporting Sales for Executive Conversation

Momentum ITSMA Staff

November 12, 2020

Marlowe Fenne, senior ABM leader at FireEye, has thought a lot about the intersection between Account-Based Marketing and Executive Engagement.

C-Suite Marketing at FireEye: Supporting Sales for Executive Conversation

This article was shared before we integrated Momentum ITSMA into one single company, bringing all of our capabilities together. Learn more.

Marlowe Fenne, senior ABM leader at FireEye, has thought a lot about the intersection between Account-Based Marketing and Executive Engagement. In light of the recent publication of the second wave of our How Executives Engage research, I wanted to revisit my conversation with Marlowe for ITSMA’s C-Suite Marketing Podcast. A key finding from our research is that executives are looking to sales and account teams to step up and provide more advisory guidance as CXOs look for new solutions to accelerate digital and business transformation.

From a marketing perspective, one topic Marlowe and I discussed is the importance of enabling sales to engage with senior-level executives. A critical role of Marketing is to help equip and support sales so they can engage senior executives more effectively in meaningful conversation about current business and technology issues, challenges, and potential solutions – vs. jumping right into selling mode. To succeed, sales needs account insight and a strong, easily accessible, thought leadership platform, and this is exactly where marketers – particularly Account-Based Marketers – excel.

Historically, enabling sales to bring thought leadership to the C-Suite has been a challenge. Some sellers are really comfortable in the C-Suite, while others are not. Even those that perhaps were comfortable physically in the C-suite may not be comfortable virtually.

Marlowe discussed the different approaches that FireEye and Cisco (where he previously led ABM) take to sales enablement training and support, beginning with the caveat that sales enablement is one of those “part time jobs that’s more than full time.”

At Cisco, Marlowe explained, getting initial C-level engagement wasn’t too difficult because of the name recognition, mind share, and market share. Sales reps could have a C-level conversation because of a methodical ABM process that became the keys to the enablement process, including:

  • Benchmarking the customer and its competitors;
  • Tying in the customer’s business initiatives;
  • Looking at what the customer did and did not have;
  • Putting that information through a leader/laggard analysis; and
  • Marrying it all together into a comprehensive report.

Getting past that initial meeting with the C-suite was where performance is so critical. Given Cisco’s size and scale, it was easy to bring in innovations from peers across industries and cross-pollinate. The challenge was ensuring that the benchmarking was tailored to, and the solution was co-created with, the customer.

Unsurprisingly, FireEye’s approach to sales enablement is different than Cisco’s, partly because the sales force has deep knowledge in security and can get quite technical. The job of Marketing, then, is to crystallize that deep expertise into an executive-level conversation, tying the business initiatives back to FireEye’s differentiation from a platform perspective, not a product perspective.

Marlowe takes a very high-touch ABM approach with sales, conducting monthly updates with every rep about tying their product information together with real insights that sales doesn’t necessarily have. He relies on intent data to give context and understands that when done well, ABM can create a partnership between sales and marketing so that together they can build something that brings value to the customer.

Adding the Executive Engagement piece to ABM takes soft skills: slowing down, listening actively, asking questions, creating a balance between being an expert and being curious, active listening, balancing between curiosity and expertise, having a conversation rather than giving a sales pitch.

To hear our entire conversation and learn more about how FireEye is engaging with executives post-pandemic, listen to the full podcast episode. You’ll also learn:

  • The importance of ABM in a crisis or market disruption
  • Ways to engage with multiple C-level decision makers who have different perspectives and goals
  • How to have meaningful consultative conversations with executives
  • The orchestration and coordination of different programs and interactions
  • Other little tricks and fun sports analogies