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Sales Excellence and Marketing, with Ben Cohen
Episode 1019th July 2021 • Revenue Architect • Jeff Ignacio
00:00:00 00:20:02

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Ben Cohen, Head of Sales Excellence and Marketing at Hella, is responsible for attaining global sales goals of approx. 10B within the automotive supply market. Beginning with career in photography, Ben got his first taste of project management that would lead him to a very impressive role within the 120-year-old company. In this episode, Ben leads us through a breakdown of how Hella markets and sells, how their teams are trained, and how the company has led the automotive supply industry for more than a century.

Time to plug in the earphones and get ready for a cracking episode of The Revenue Engine Podcast.

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Thanks to Sales IQ Global for powering The Revenue Architect Podcast


00:00 - Jeff introduces today’s podcast, featuring Ben Cohen!

01:10 - Ben explains his “atypical career path” into sales and marketing

03:57 - A top-down breakdown of how Hella markets and sells

07:50 - Ben spills the beans on his role within and the processes of the sales team at Hella

11:22 - How “Revenue Operations” is making an Impact

13:42 - Ben describes the enablement and training process of sellers at Hella

15:38 - What “USP” means

18:53 - Ben has a go at the “Rorschach Test”

19:19 - Connect with Ben Cohen

19:54 - Final Goodbyes


Jeff: [:

So with that in mind, I want to thank you for joining us. And now onto this episode of the revenue architect.

Hey, Ben, appreciate you coming onto the show. Thanks for your chopping it up with me on all the different slack macro communities that are out there. I appreciate you joining us today.

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:00:49] So most of my guests so far have been in the high-tech and SAS space.

So I'm really excited to bring you on because you're actually in an industry that is over a hundred years old under the auto industry. And so I'm curious about. You, your background, how you found your way into the auto space and then more importantly into the kind of the revenue operations function.

Ben: [:

And what we were doing was producing still photography for all the TV shows across NBC universal. And that's really where I like to tell people that I got my first taste of actual project management. And that's where I learned how to set processes and work with, you know, big teams and things like that after.

That then I also was running our kind of digitalization efforts. So I helped implement our dam system, their press release distribution system, and then really got my business chops when they asked me to take over our photo licensing division. Then I left NBC, started my own business for a little while, and then my wife and I decided , okay, it's time to leave California too expensive.

We don't really enjoy the industries we're in right now. We want a change. We applied to jobs all across the country, ended up in Michigan, and then I started working for a startup here doing sales, and then took over the marketing here as well. And then as startups go, that didn't work out for too long. And so then I went to a digital marketing agency and then all of a sudden this company I'd never heard of called Hella, reached out to me and said, we have the perfect job for you.

And it was a project management job in their sales excellence department. And I looked it over and I said, well, yeah, that sounds, that sounds pretty cool. And my mom who works in HR or did, at the time I sent her the job descriptions, she said, you're not at all qualified for this. What are you talking about?

But I applied and I got the job and now I've been here for a few years. And now I'm the head of sales, excellence and marketing for north and south America.

Jeff: [:

There's a place that I went to. It was barbecue and, and lifting bells and things of Bard. And you can kind of hang out and imagine yourself back in. The forties and fifties. So taking it back tell me a little bit about your go to market motion, right? So, you know, what do you sell? Who are your buyers?

And then how do you market and sell? I'm just, you know, let's just do a top-down breakdown. So for those who are listening and then technology. Let's just paint a broader context of what does transactions look like in your space?

Ben: [:

But if we can get into that in a little bit, so presumably what we, what we really do is we sell technology. So. Hella sells leading technology. So headlamps, real lamps, interior, any kind of lighting that goes in the car. We sell that we also sell tons of electronics. So battery management systems, a lot of things for electrification sensing systems, which are radars and other types of sensors that go in your car, thermal management, a lot of this kind of technology that Sometimes the general consumer doesn't know about.

And we sell either directly to the OEM, which is your Ford UGM, your Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota, you know, kind of anybody Teslas, you know, anyone out there, but we also sell to other suppliers. Just like ourselves and that's because of the supply chain and how supply chain works. Sometimes you have a deal with GM, but the part that you're selling ends up in a different part that a different supplier is presenting.

And then you. Now conducting business with someone else. And sometimes we have situations which are called directed by where GM or whoever tells us you're selling the part to them. They're selling it to us. Or sometimes we just sell parts that are components of technology to other companies that then sell to the automotive makers.

Jeff: [:

And I guess automobiles are kind of the final final end product that the consumer sees. They don't necessarily know that, you know, this lighting or. You know, don't regulators that you're selling are Hella per se. Let's walk through that value chain then a little bit, right? So you have some I guess directed by is a channel, a channel sale.

It, I guess they've kind of lumped in your products into a, another group component. What's the profile of your, your, your sellers, right? Are they selling direct or is it kind of order parts based directly from your customers to you?

Ben: [:

But we also have really close relationships because. There's only at a certain point, there was only so many automotive makers. Now there's more with lots of these startups coming like Rivian and, you know, Lordstown Motors and new things like that. But, you know, it used to be pretty small, but we know most of our customers really well.

So we're also in constant dialogue with them about those technologies. And then they might approach us to say, Hey, we think. That technology could be used in this car program. Because, so not only are we going directly after certain projects, but also we're having to do presentations of future technologies that we have.

So then the OEMs can decide, do they want this technology where they might see this fitting in and they can learn about it themselves. So that's kind of how the buyer seller positions work.

Jeff: [:

I'm not sure if it's exactly barred from, from. Kind of thought leadership. What are you exactly in charge of and responsible for with that job function?

Ben: [:

Yeah. So sales excellence is really the process, the tools and the support of our sales team. So processes actually the processes of how the company runs. We have we are a German company. We love process, but it's also refining the processes, challenging the processes and owning a lot of the processes and rolling them out with training and things like that tools would be mostly our CRM and other technologies that we use.

Some other AI technologies and things like that, that we use and support. Of our Sales Teams to not only make their lives hopefully easier, but also make management's lives easier by having better data transparency and data integrity across the whole value chain. Because you can imagine, you know, if you're selling a piece of software, you know, you're selling it.

It's, you know, here's a piece of software, I'm done. For us, we're selling hundreds of thousands of, you know, parts, which then have a whole supply chain behind that. So our data integrity has to be really, really spot on. So that way we're not caught in a situation where we don't have enough in the supply chain to fulfill our orders, or we're not overbuying as well.

And we have a bunch of scrap at the end also. And then the last part is support. So part of our team also. supports the sales team doing some internal things that are Hella internal. We also have support teams that help with collection of payments. And we work with the AR teams with that. So we try and take a lot of the.

The kind of not fun parts of sales and a lot of that comes into our team to help empower the sales teams, to be able to do what they do best, which is sell and be with their customers and spend time and explain things and really hone in on what they're doing.

Jeff: [:

And so. You know the names of the customers, there's only four or five players on the block, right? And now you have this explosion of new startups. In fact, as a lot of the most valuable company market cap wise in the next five or six automakers combined not to talk crazy valuations there. It's just interesting to see the evolution of the space and web would that change in the buyers.

The needs are different and you're now you're in a position where process pools and support are paramount to anyone's success. And I agree with you, if you can build tools and processes to help sellers sell. And what does that eventually mean? It's, you know, whether it's a farming type relationship or a hunting type relationship.

They're actually doing the things that are needed and are not worried about collections or how am I going to get paid this month? It just allows them to have that mind share and focus on selling. I'd love to, to work you know, hear about no. What do you think the space is moving towards in terms of ops, right?

Like is the term revenue operations solely in the bastion of high technology and SAS, or is it kind of crawling and creeping its way into into your own space and what kind of impact do you think it's having?

Ben: [:

They're a lot more fast paced by design. You know, Hella is 120 year old automotive company, but we are very agile as well. Clearly we have to be to survive, you know, that long, but also. They, the terminologies are are moving and we are learning and we are focused on digitalization and these things that we're learning from many other companies, many other sectors.

So the idea of rev ops in name, I would say is not really making it into manufacturing it, but the idea of rev ops, where there are teams that are focused on revenue generation and, you know, the kind of the operations behind all the revenue generation. And is for sure happening. So, you know, part of my role is also on the marketing side and that is the traditional marketing as well, but also the operations behind that too.

And my role is together. It's not like I have different bosses at the end. There, we have eventually one boss who oversees what we call central sales functions which is essentially becomes rev ops without the customer service side.

Jeff: [:

Many of the things that are looking to improve yield rates on a finite set of, you know, resources or raw goods. You know, that that thinking has made its way. And, you know, I almost think software feels like it's invented it, that that's not the truth comes from, it comes from the industrial space before people were creating custom couture objects and then Ford came in and just massed produced all of it.

And then the industrial age beforehand. So just really interesting stuff, you could take that thinking into our space. So can you tell me a little bit more about you know, enablement, right? Whether it's on the marketing side or the sales side in your space how do sellers learn how. Style or marketers learn how to market in the automotive space, because in software, I can tell you, they go through like these bootcamps, then they have their sales certification programs and their onboarding.

What does that look like?

Ben: [:

So the sales excellence team is responsible for setting up all, most of the trainings for sales. Some of it is training within your specific teams because each customer. is so different from one another as well. So what we do is we train on the hella internal things and especially the tools and systems that we need people to use.

But then the individual teams teach on the practices that work within the customers. Because remember if you're talking to, let's say a Ford. Ford is still a massive organization that still has many different facets of it. But their processes are all the same inside. So you have to learn how, how you're even allowed to sell into Ford and all the forms you have to fill out.

Portals, you have to go in and do things like that. So the enablement is kind of split between the sales team itself and teaching there and with our team and teaching about the actual tools and the processes and about, you know, how to get things done. So that way you can sell on the marketing side, it's a lot about encouraging both the project management side, which is the engineering.

And the sales teams, and we kind of bring this triangle together with us in the middle to then come up with the value chains, the USP's for our products. We we kind of moderate those discussions to then bring everybody from, okay. What is the USP of this overall system to then what is the USP for this customer in this specific acquisition? And that's kind of where we become a moderator.

Jeff: [:

Ben: [00:15:38] Yeah. Unique selling point. So basically what sets us apart from the competition. So, you know, there's lots of people who. Sensor X, whatever it is, but why do they care to buy it from Hela?

What makes ours different? What if they buy it from us? What can we offer that is going to make, you know, that it's going to be different from our competition and that that's where. Differentiation at, you know, sometimes it's a technical thing. Sometimes it's a logistics point. Maybe we have a factory closer to theirs, which then lowers the cost.

Maybe we can make ours a tiny bit smaller, which saves space in the car or means a designer can make a cooler effect within the car or something like that. So always kind of searching and looking for those things.

Jeff: [:

And in some places, you know, differentiation is, is table stakes in other places, it's almost a, well, that's just a marketing tactic that we put in. In reality, it is what sets you apart, particularly in spaces that tend to commoditize or features start to look and feel the same. You look at some of these in my space, at least in software certain, certain industry, these have cropped up newer competitors, but at the end of the day, the features start.

The parody and they compete on a couple of things brand they're competing on service the features themselves and the software, and actually not too difficult, low you know, lower implementation times. So, you know, if we use that same language it's though it's almost universal. These products.

Ben: [:

I can, you know, sense people in this space. So that way you're selling a more, you know, safe environments for your customers and something like that.

Jeff: [:

You get to the point where now you're at the atomic scale to produce, and there's a, there's a physical barrier, but you can't, it's going to be harder and harder with different manufacturing techniques to get to those transistors sizes. In fact, in that year now looking at quantum computing as a new format or form factor of a computational logic it's is super interesting.

Like in my space, we're talking about software, I'm talking about. The UI page layouts permission sets. And then I really enjoy just thinking about different industries and the language that's used, but there's themes that are universal. Right? What are the buyer want? What are the, what, what do the buyers want?

How can the sellers differentiate themselves? How can rev ops or in your case you know, provide you know, sales excellence through efficiency and process tools and support. So Ben, I have the segment and you know, we'll see if we're gonna keep it around or novice, it's called their Rorschach Test.

And I want you to say like the first thing that comes to your mind. With any of these core topics? Oh yeah. Let's see how it goes on. Hopefully

personalization versus relevance,

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:18:55] reigning versus coaching

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:18:58] channel sales or direct sales,

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:19:01] deal or velocity.

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:19:04] conversations or cash?

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:19:06] is door to door still relevant

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:19:11] and is cold calling dead,

Ben: [:

Jeff: [00:19:14] So Ben, thank you for coming on. Where can our listeners find out more about you?

Ben: [:

Ben, Cohen's a pretty popular name, so I don't want you to searching for days. Not that important, but you would spend that time either.

Jeff: [:

Ben: [00:19:37] This one I'm in, I would say, as the rev genius community, you can find me in, they're always willing to you know, share any knowledge I might have, or I definitely ask a lot of questions in there as well, and like, to you know, just learn from other people and their spaces and, you know, I think it's just a great.

place to talk.

Jeff: [:

Ben: [00:19:59] Sounds great. Thank you again, Jeff. Appreciate it.