Identity Go-to-Market with Chief Revenue Officer Kathleen Waid

Steve interviews Kathleen Waid, Identity Go-to-Market Expert
Transcript

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In this episode, I interview pioneering digital identity revenue leader, Kathleen Waid.

Kathleen is a go-to-market expert and has led sales and marketing teams at some of the most innovative companies in the digital identity space including NeuroID, Prove, and Point Predictive.

My conversation with Kathleen covers her career, her perspective on revenue culture, competitive advantage in the identity market, and how to create enduring value for clients.

RESOURCES:

Connecting with Kathleen Waid

Kathleen Waid’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kwaid/

Kathleen Waid’s Website: https://kathleenwaid.com/

Companies & Resources Discussed

HNC Software was a software company that provided analytics and decision management software and tools that was acquired by FICO in 2002. One of HNC’s key assets was its Falcon analytics software product.

FICO is a provider of analytics software, solutions and services that transform the way organizations understand their customers and optimize business processes around them.

Falcon, originally developed by HNC Software, is now know as FICO Falcon Fraud Manager (also Falcon Compromise Manager), which “is a system uses streaming analytics and a central network scoring engine to create a real-time transaction monitoring and decision platform.” (ComputerWorld)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in global commerce.

Ralph Rodriguez is the President and Chief Product Officer at Daon. Ralph is a highly regarded thought leader in the digital identity industry. He publishes a weekly industry briefly called G2

Kevin Cruickshank is the CEO of Engage PSG Search. He previously was a guest on the  PEAK IDV EXECUTIVE SERIES podcast in January 2024.

CASA, which is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate, is an association supporting and promoting court-appointed volunteer advocacy for children and youth who have experienced abuse or neglect.

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Steve Craig: Welcome to the PEAK IDV EXECUTIVE SERIES video podcast, where I speak with executives, leaders, founders, and change makers in the digital identity space. I'm your host, Steve Craig, Founder and Chief Enablement Officer for PEAK IDV. For our audience, this is a video first series, so if you're enjoying the audio version of this, please check out the full video recording on executiveseries.peakidv.com, where you can read the full transcript, access any of the resources or links from today's conversation. 

In this week's episode, I'm really excited to speak with Kathleen Waid. Kathleen is an expert go to market executive and pioneering revenue leader in the digital identity space. Most recently, Kathleen was Chief Revenue Officer at NeuroID, the digital behavior and analytics company. She also worked as Chief Revenue Officer at Prove, working with large banks, fintechs, crypto, insurance, retail, and healthcare companies. Prior to Prove, she led sales and go to market teams at Point Predictive and Fiserv. Kathleen's 30-year career spans all revenue functions, including marketing, business development, sales, integration, and customer success.

Welcome, Kathleen. Thank you for making the time to be on the podcast. 

Kathleen Waid: I really appreciate it, Steve. It's nice to talk with you today.

Steve: Excellent. Well, let's jump right in. I understand you recently left NeuroID. Can you share what's next for you?  

Kathleen: Yeah, so I have already started a fractional business. So I'm doing some fractional CRO work, some consulting, and I'm also doing some no charge career guidance to people who are earlier in their careers, just looking to connect with a C-level person who has experience to kind of give them some straight talk, if you will, on ideas about what they should do next with their career. So fractional consulting and then some of the career guidance work that I've been doing in the last month or so. 

Steve: Excellent. Excellent. Well, you've been leading sales and revenue teams as a full time CRO. What's your framework when you approach it as a fractional CRO? 

Kathleen: So I think of it more like dating. In the sense of we have to have a discovery meeting, maybe spend three to five hours together to figure out if there's something and what the end in mind is of what an organization is trying to achieve. So, you can't figure that out in a 30 minute or 60 minute call. You both have to invest time in order to see whatever the end in mind is the goal of the organization and why they've reached out to me. Can we achieve that? And, you know, are we both comfortable that whatever the project is or whatever the fractional work will be, what it will be focused on is valuable. So after three to five hours, then we decide if we're going to actually engage in a relationship to meet the end in mind. And I really like to focus on these engagements having a very clear definition of end in mind. So we always stay focused on the work that we're trying to achieve.  

Steve: And what's your target market or ideal company profile for your fractional services?

Kathleen: Yeah, so I have, I've got eight early stage companies in my background, so I'm really looking for those companies that have about $1 million, to almost up to $100 million in ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue). They have initial go to market fit, initial product market fit, but they're trying to build a repeatable engine from a revenue standpoint. And that starts anywhere from marketing all the way through to customer success, all the components of the revenue chain, if you will, so earlier stage series A series B again, $1 million to $100 million in ARR, SaaS solutions. And I typically work with folks who are trying to sell into financial institutions, insurance organizations. And many of the organizations that I'm working with or talking to also have a machine learning AI component to their solutions as well. 

Steve: When I looked at your career progression, you've worked in financial services, compliance, fraud prevention, digital identity, risk, all these adjacent services. What's driven your continued interest in these types of companies in these categories?

Kathleen: So I, my first real role within software was for an organization called HNC Software, which back in the early nineties developed a neural network, which at the time machine learning was not prevalent in banking and I was a customer of theirs. So I ran a fraud prevention shop at a credit card bank. We hired HNC, brought that in, and they were an early stage company. I think I was employee 35, really amazing solution. The product is called Falcon. It's still on the market today. After 30 some years, it's owned by FICO. That was really the key to my passion around machine learning and data science. My passion around early stage companies, HNC went public, it was an IPO. It was like a top five IPO of that year. And I just love the high energy growth that the, that organization went through. And that's been my continual search and I've had a number of good experiences, not just HNC, but having started with an early stage company, machine learning in the nineties, that has really kind of guided my career decisions. I always want to have leading edge solutions that are finding creative ways to solve problems. And honestly, fighting the bad actors is in my blood because that's where I started my career. So as bad actors continue to evolve, the solutions out there are also continue to evolve. And I just find it super interesting. 

Steve: It's fascinating. Now did you start your career right into HNC, or were there some other roles or jobs that you had prior to that, or maybe things that aren't on your LinkedIn? How did you get your start Kathleen? 

Kathleen: You have to go really deep in my LinkedIn to see some of these, but I actually started working for TransUnion right out of undergraduate, and I was convincing credit unions and banks to provide data to beef up the credit bureau history. So back in that day, not everybody provided data. It wasn't an automated process. So my first job was really working with financial institutions about the value that them providing data to TransUnion would allow them to make better credit decisions. So that was the first role that I had that led me into working for a bank, which then credit card fraud prevention became my next stop on my career. And that's how I met HNC software. 

Steve: Excellent. Excellent. And was there anything about those early experiences working at TransUnion and working with the banks that later influenced how you think about sales roles in your C-suite career? Like, are there any dots that you could connect there between those? 

Kathleen: Yeah. So great question. I really feel like I still sit in the fraud seat. Anything that you sell or represent, it's an extension of who you are as a person, you have to believe in it, right? So anytime that I've thought about my career, I definitely look at it from, you know, if I was buying this, right, what risks would I have if I bought it? What benefits would I provide my organization? Will I be perceived as a hero? So I think my career has always been influenced and up to the C-level by sitting in your buyer's shoes and really empathizing with what they're trying to achieve. First and foremost, and then second, just, you know, very early on, I learned to speak up and to speak clearly, plainly, and truthfully about the value of the product and what the product can and cannot do. So I think that simple way of speaking about what can be very complex products, along with always speaking from the foundation of truth, has led me to, you know, a fun career. 

Steve: Excellent. As you were describing that, the importance of customer empathy came out to me. I was thinking about a lot of companies that focus so much on the problem or the solution space where they're thinking about what they can do. They're not thinking necessarily about the problem space and what the customer actually needs, so that's- that's-great, great advice - is a great connection. Now catching up with more recent time, you've worked in to venture back digital identity companies. This space has received a lot of outside venture funding. There's new companies cropping up with seed investments, and then they slowly progress to series A and series B. In your experience, how do the revenue cultures change across these different stages? 

Kathleen: So in the earliest stages, I would say that the revenue culture really starts with solidifying the product market fit, right? Does your solution solve and provide value, solve a problem and provide value? What is the clear fit of your solution in the marketplace? And how does it differentiate from everything else out there, right? A lot of the identity space starts to sound alike these days, right? So when you talk about product market fit, it's not only what solution are you solving for? What problem are you solving for? It's also how do you differentiate yourself in a very crowded space that all talks about the same three things, right? So figuring that out early on as an early stage organization is really key to the growth. As you continue to, you know, up-level the revenue of the organization and look to expand the TAM (Total Addressable Market), expand the industries that you're moving into, expand your global footprint. But that product market fit is like, that's a series A, that's, you know, seed round series A type of effort. Once you- once you-have a foundation and I like to say it like a sputtering engine, right, it's starting to work. Then you need to figure out how you make that engine hum. And that's like a series B to C company.

Like, how do I make that process repeatable and how do I build upon my customer's success? Not my success, but my customer's success because they're gaining value from what my solution is providing them. And let's talk about value. Value is not defined by the company. It is defined by the company's customers, and that's where I see a lot of organizations want to talk about their product. “Let me tell you about my product.” Stop, right? Let's talk about the value that your product is giving to the customer so they can become, again a hero within their own organization to achieve goals. So it's- it's-one of the things that you see in the early stage companies, especially if they're founder led that have a passion around product. Is that you've got to make that pivot to value away from product features, functions to customer value. And as soon as you make that pivot and you as an organization are all talking about the value your customer - through their eyes - through their definition - through their lens sees, the faster you will see your revenue grow.

Steve: Many companies, when they find that product market fit, they're like, this is it. This is the value that's going to take us through all these stages. But no doubt that may change over time. The market is dynamic. There are new companies, there are new fraud attack vectors. When companies are in that earlier stage, when they're smaller, they seem to be really nimble. As they grow layers and their product stack matures, there's complexity in being able to- to-switch and to pivot into other categories or add on other features and services. How do you think companies can accelerate revenue growth during that, let's say, series A to series B time as you're perfecting that engine as the new products and services are being developed for the value that gets discovered?

Kathleen: When an organization has the beginnings of that product market fit, they, you have to be very measured and controlled about building on that, right? Especially if you're in sales, right? You don't want to sell the future vaporware, right? You want to be selling what your customers have established value on. At the same time,  you don’t want to be a one trick pony, right? You don’t want to be like, “Oh, this is all this company ever does.” So you also have to sell the vision. So from my perspective, as a company is growing, build upon your customer's definition of success and value, but also paint the picture of your product roadmap authentically and truthfully about what you're building, why you're building and where your organization is going. So they see you as a long term partner, not a one time data provider, but a long term partner to expand the relationship beyond the initial product that you've offered. But, and set you up for when the new product is actually ready, right? You want to sell early but you don’t really want to over promise and under deliver. So you want to ensure that you stay focused on the product that’s in market has established value. You deliver where you’re headed, be truthful about where it stands in its product development, especially around dates and delivery, just be truthful. People appreciate that. And then as those things start to roll out, because you built trust with your, with- with-the company, they will be willing to look to expand the relationship with you. If your vision was correct, if you delivered new services that provide value, you have to do that value exercise every damn time. Like every time that value exercise, just because you've established it on the first product, doesn't mean you're going to establish it on the second product or the expansion of the product. So always stay humble to your customer's needs. And each time you do expansions, you're really looking at the value delivery of every new solution offering that you're giving them in the marketplace.

And lastly, go with the truth. Like just one- one-thing that I learned really early on in my career from a mentor I had was, the truth is always the easiest thing to remember, so don't spin it, just go with it. People appreciate it, right? So that's really helpful when you think about if you're selling in a space that is crowded, where there's a lot of innovation and you're building relationships and you plan to be in that space for decades.

Steve: Excellent. It's phenomenal advice as a past product leader myself in this space, too many times, is it easy to make some forward thinking plans that might be more aggressive than what you think internally? And there's nothing worse than having those dates be missed, especially for a large financial institution or a company that has growth plans around your service because they're depending on that. And so they might forgive you once, but if it becomes a pattern, it becomes very difficult to maintain that trust. 

Since you've been in several identity companies and you have been out in the market and you've talked with lots of different companies, lots of different leaders that are using these services, what do you think, right now in 2024, is the industry not clearly addressing? What is digital identity not quite solved yet?  

Kathleen: Yeah, clearly, I think is the key term there, clearly addressing. So the first thing I would probably say, and I can think of several would be Gen AI. There's a lot of, you know, fear and actually action in the marketplace from fraudsters on how they're using AI and Gen AI to conduct their evil practices, if you will. I feel like the digital identity market, you see pockets of it, I read pockets of people trying to address it, but it's not clear and it's not simple. 

I think the second thing I might say is, you know, the path to sharing data. A number of organizations are talking about building their own consortiums and trying to get data from organizations. And why should they share with me versus you? Eventually a winner will prevail. But the faster that happens in our industry, the better it will be in order to work as a team to solve fraud problems versus, vendor versus vendor and compete with one another versus, you know, link arms and decide we're going to really kind of fight the bad actors together. 

And then last, I would probably say is, distinction in the market with your messaging. Everybody says the same three things. You're going to reduce fraud. You're going to reduce op ex and you're going to increase revenue. Every single vendor saying those three things, but it's how, how are you doing it? Right? Why, why are you different? Why are you better? Why is your value the greatest? So I think people are tired of those three things. It's the how that's going to happen and the why you're going to have the steepest performance curve versus other people. 

Steve: I'd love to double click on the consortium, the number two that that you mentioned. And if we think about consortium, the credit bureaus are the most known and they give to get you're getting credit report data, credit scores, and then you report your payment history and balances, et cetera. Seeing more and more consortiums in the digital identity space. Some companies, those are proprietary and it's theirs. Others, there's been more of a trend of creating these, separate entities where they're involved, but not necessarily like fully owning them. Do you have any perspective on those two approaches where it's like all in house consortium versus maybe a second company that gets stood up or a nonprofit or some other entity?

Kathleen: I mean, I think I would lean towards a nonprofit and some other entity, right? If you're really doing it for the greater good and not the almighty dollar and it really is about pulling resources together to protect consumers to protect businesses, it really should be a source that is open to all, right? Let the best modeling solution win, if you will, but access to the information I believe should be in- in-a accessible format for all those folks who want to help solve the problem. 

Steve: It's great advice. And when I think about the enterprise perspective, when they're thinking about data, you come with them, come to them with a model of, hey, you're going to give us all of these outcomes, or you're going to share with us customer data. The enterprises have really established processes to be able to control that data. Often, it's easier to start with more of a middle market, a company or, like a startup that doesn't have all of those established, they have, I guess, less to lose. 

What does it mean for an organization in the space to grow and change and become more enterprise ready and able to service enterprise needs? Do you have a perspective on that?  

Kathleen: Yeah, I mean, as you- you-move from mid market to enterprise, one, I mean, there's a number of things you need to think about, but consistency, right? You have to have consistency of performance. You have to have a well established success or customer service arm, right? Because the enterprises expect different things than the mid market do, you have to have an understanding of the why you've won the business, why you retain the business, right? So all those things are kind of foundational to be ready to service some of these large enterprise customers. The servicing and the selling of these large enterprise customers is not for the lighthearted. Meaning be in it for the long haul, right? Set your expectations properly with your board, set your expectations properly with your, you know, revenue numbers on what it's going to take to get into enterprise sales, right? There's model governors, there's processes, there's onboarding to selling, these enterprises is not a short sales cycle, so just be prepared for it and set the proper expectations internally and again, with your boards to ensure that they know that you're in it for the long haul. You have to balance that, right? You've got to balance the long, you know, elephant hunting, if you will, with the mid game, right? So make sure that your sales people are set up for success. Having salespeople only sell to enterprise, that's a lot of hunting in between actual, you know, wins, balance their portfolio for them, please, right? Allow them to have some shorter term wins while they're also, you know, looking for the enterprises. I think you'll have happier salespeople if they have a balance versus you only do this and you know, you're few and far, they're big wins, but they're few and far between because they invest so much. I always found that a balanced portfolio allows your sellers to capitalize. And the best sellers who are really in it to do the right thing by the customers. We'll find a way to figure out how to plan their work and work their plan, if you will. 

Steve: When you think about balancing portfolios and account lists, do you think about that in terms of verticals or organization sizes or geographies? How do you go about balancing? 

Kathleen: Yeah, I no longer think of geographies in today's market and the way that people sell today versus, you know, when you jumped on a plane at every point in time. So I would just kind of rule geographies out unless we're talking about global geographies, right? I'm thinking more US, UK time zones, more reasonable time zones. So within the US, I certainly would not think about geographies. I lean towards industries. I'll just say it, I lean towards industries because when you're talking to a healthcare provider versus a gaming company versus a fintech, versus a bank, just different languages, right? You want to come in understanding the seat that they're sitting in and speaking their language. I tend to lean towards industry focused because you'll either learn the industry or you know the industry and it's a repeatable. It's sometimes difficult to transition what's important in healthcare to what's important to a bank. They have the common threads, which is why digital identity solves a lot of problems. They have the common threads, but the use cases, why it's important. You know, not everybody has a dollars at risk. They have other things at risk, right? It's not just the dollar. So I lean towards industries, but it's not the, you know, there's never one answer. Your mileage may vary, if you will. 

Steve: Yeah. And as an organization is going through their transformation of adding revenue, building products potentially taking on investment, what are the specific ingredients that you like to see from the management team or the board in terms of investment from a go to market perspective, like where should they place their funds?

Kathleen: Yeah. So early on, you have to start building revenue operations, right? If you're thinking about just the CRO role and- and-investing in data, I'm a big believer in data and all accounts, but, and that data for you as an organization really starts with revenue operations. So setting that up properly, making sure you're tracking the right things, making sure that you can decide if you had a dollar to spend, where's the best place to spend that dollar. I get a return of 10X, 2X, you know, negative return. So revenue operations is something that I think companies make an investment in too late. So they play catch up, right? They- they- they're really trying to get all the data back that they- they-should have had, Right? Because there's so much learning in there to figure out how to rev your engine, your engine sputtering with revenue operations and with tracking all the right things and figure out what's working. You can make that engine hum a lot faster with that kind of investment. 

I would also say go to market thought leadership is, and when I say thought leadership, it is not about your product. You do this, you actually have it on your LinkedIn, right? I've seen Ralph Rodriguez do it really well with G2 as well. What is happening in this industry, not to sell your product, but because you're an expert in the industry, right? Because you have done your homework, you're summarizing the things that you think are meaningful for the industry to know about in the last week, the last month, whatever it might be, and you're offering your thoughts and opinions. What you gain by doing that is you gain trust, right? You gain the fact that you are a knowledgeable resource in the industry to turn to for advice and guidance, and ultimately you're going to gain more customers. But, being that thought leadership, being about not selling your product, but that thought leadership of being about stopping fraud or increasing revenue, whatever your goals may be of your particular solution. And then invest in your vision. If you've got one product that's working, where are you headed? Right? So as salespeople, when you go out to sell, you have what you have in your bag. We talked about that earlier, but when you talk about where the product is headed, why it's headed there, what your company's goals are and what the customer cares about, what your company's goals are, customers, you know, they don't care if your goal is to sell your company, right, or to go public. I mean, they might, but they care about what you're going to be building and delivering them so they can do their job better. So investing in that longer term vision beyond what's on your product road map. Where you're headed in three to five years, I think that's essential, right? If you truly are a long term player in this market, you have to have that vision, that vision statement that everybody is rowing in the same direction towards. 

Steve: How does a company balance its plans, its roadmap with competitive dynamics? Would you suggest they talk about where they're going out in public or would they do that in more controlled forums, webinars, what's your perspective on?

Kathleen: I'd say both, right? I mean, if your vision is not compelling or unique, well, first we have to revisit that. But I don't know why you would want to hide your vision competitively. You know, if you have, if you're getting access to data that you never had access to, right, if you are, you have a new methodology for solving the problem, I- I-kind of feel like, why- why-would you keep that such a secret? What is the competitive advantage of doing that? Are you, you always have to be innovating and evolving. And I, you know, I'll press this good press type of thing. I would want it out there as much as possible to share with the market on where my organization is headed and why, and what's going to make us unique and what's going to allow us to provide the greatest value to you as a customer.

Steve: Really appreciate when companies combine two and three, it's the thought leadership with a vision, and it's even more interesting to me when it's the founder or the CEO or the leadership team that are putting themselves out there versus just posts coming from the company account or just generic marketing. So I do think that is a really good way to stand out because not a lot of companies are doing that. 

When I was looking at your website for your fractional work, I see you've got a category around revenue accountability. And when it comes to account executives and account directors, partnership managers, what does revenue accountability mean to you?

Kathleen: So I feel very passionate about this. I'm high passion on a lot of things, but this one is the accountability and the empowerment. You can't have accountability without empowerment. So I look at revenue in- in-two or three buckets. I'll describe three. So when you have a revenue number for an organization, just call it 10, making up numbers.

That 10 is comprised of new bookings, revenue, revenue to go live. Once I book something, how long does it take me to get live and then maintaining that revenue? Or or NRR, right, net revenue retention. Those are the three buckets that you need to have owners for, right? And that 10 gets divided between those three buckets and they each have goals associated with them. And empowering those three buckets to build around what they need as it relates to delivering their portion of the tent. So you'll have a, you know, salesperson that's responsible for new bookings revenue or sales manager. You'll have somebody that's responsible for integrations implementations. They want to reduce the timeline to go live, right? And then you'll have somebody that's responsible for net revenue retention, and that's usually customer success. So ensuring that each one has a number they're managing to, and then all of the comp plans are directly connected to that number, right? So you want to make sure that each one of those buckets has the ability to have a comp plan that matches the goals of the bucket and people are rewarded for achieving those goals and overachieving those goals.

So, it's- it's-not only just the empowerment and the accountability, it's the matching compensation plans that then drive the right behavior that then drives the revenue bucket. So those- those-three things, and when you have owners in each one of them, and you start reporting to the company against those three numbers, you start to say, “Oh, we're really doing well here. Our integration timeline has reduced from 90 days to 30, fantastic. Makes, we're recognizing revenue sooner.” Right? Or sometimes you find the problem areas, right? The elephant in the room, like, “Wow, our net revenue retention is starting to fall off. What's going on? Why is that happening?” Right? “Where do we need to invest in order to bolster that backup?” So, I feel like, and when an organization clearly reports those numbers internally, that the accountability is there, the empowerment's there and the ability to fix it, it becomes more obvious, right? And it becomes more directed.  

Steve: It makes a lot of sense to your earlier point about revenue operations and the investment and the instrumentation. Because if you're not tracking anything, if it's all just a wild wild west, you can't spot these issues as they arise, and so the revenue is just what you're maybe counting as the money comes in and less about what's going to be booked and other measures. As you, as you're growing the organization, though, you may start with small sales team, you start to add more, you start to add account directors, you start to add some of these other roles. No doubt you've probably done hundreds of interviews in the space. What do you look for in particular? When it comes to candidates, when you're first meeting them?

Kathleen: I always start my interviews with forget your resume. I've read your resume. It's fantastic, we're talking. Tell me about you. Tell me about what's important to you as a person. How people react to that has always been quite fascinating to me. I'm looking for people to engage just normally, like we're normal people. Let's just have a chit chat. Like what's important to you in your life? Like let's get to know each other before we dive into your experience and why you're perfect for this role.

So I look for authenticity. I offer it in my interviews. I offer it from day one. I notoriously swear in every interview I have, whether I'm interviewing or being interviewed, I mean, that's just who I am. Like, that's just nor… my normal chit chat. I never swear at anybody. But it's just how I speak, right? And it's- it's-never really anything too terrible, but I usually do that in interviews so people get the authentic me, right? And I, and- and-hopefully that makes them relaxed so they can be the authentic them. What you don't want is an interviewee who just wants to spew information about how awesome they are. You want somebody who's like genuinely engaging with you in a real conversation. That's the first thing that I will have a read on within three minutes, right? That doesn't go well, then I'm- I'm-, it's not going to go well in the future, right? So I would encourage folks to just be authentically them and be- be-good with it. And then after that, then we can get into the meat of what you've done in your career and what you're most proud of and, you know, where you think that you can add value and ultimately the crescendo for me is typically if you're hiring for sales or even customer success or a data role, I love to see some type of presentation project. Something that they kind of come back to the table with, and again, still present that authentic self, right, where it's conversational, not talking at you.  

Steve: What do you think about the value of a resume or a CV in today's environment? Is the application, resume, cover letter model working? Or are there other ways candidates can think about reaching companies and revenue leaders like yourself?

Kathleen: Yeah, I don't think it's working. I think that, you know, there's a lot of great firms out there that do the homework, right? So I've worked with a number of them in my career, a lot of great firms that get to know you as a leader, get to know what you're looking for, get to know your product and then match you with candidates and you build this mutual trust, right? I'm- I'm-a believer in using outside experts. They're the expert in humans, right? They're the expert in matching the right people together. You, having a bunch of people sift through resumes to hopefully it works out. And then a lot of - let the experts do what they do, form great relationships with firms that specialize in human resources. I know you had Kevin on, big fan of his, and- and-allow that to drive your process. If you want to be efficient about it and- and-it's effective too, because of the way the- the-agreements are structured. So I don't think that resumes, I look at your LinkedIn profile and if there's the right companies and a couple of the right things, and you've come in through a referral, awesome. Or I look for the experts to do their job and say, “Here are three candidates, Kathleen, that we know are perfect for you.” 

Steve: I see a lot of candidates on LinkedIn that they've been laid off and they flip the profile to open to work and they tell their story about applying, applying, applying. And I do think that that is challenging to get to the decision makers. And I often think about using your- let's say you're a salesperson using your sales talents to do the same thing you would in trying to pursue a prospect. You know, understand the business, find the leaders, reach out and connect. I think that's something that is going to continue as, to your point about Gen AI, companies are using Gen AI to review resumes. And so it becomes like a keyword- keyword-exercise versus really getting the authentic person out there. 

Now, the question about your interviews with candidates, when you get to the point where they begin to ask you questions, if they were to ask you, “Hey, Kathleen, what, what's your leadership style?” How would you describe it to them? 

Kathleen: So I used to not like this term, because I didn't understand it. But I really would say that I am a servant leader in the sense that my goal is to empower you to knock, you know, to knock down your own walls or I'll knock them down for you, but I want to give you the responsibility, I want to see your career growth. I want to empower you to, you know, own your wins and account for your losses. So, you know, my leadership style is to kind of push you to be the best version of you and to give you, you know, more- more-than enough of a challenge to grow. I'd also say I'm super direct. You know, I, I don't have sensitive toes, so I tend to treat people like they don't have sensitive toes. Sometimes I'm a little much, I get it, right? But after about two to three months of working together, people really, they tend to appreciate the honest, direct feedback on what's working. what's not and we find a groove. The first 60 to 90 days can be challenging, but my goal in challenging is not to be a pain in your ass. My goal in challenging is to get you to grow and to get you to own whatever you own in the organization and to stand behind you with, you got this, you got this. Oh, you need my help. Let me, let me step in front of you when you need my help and do some blocking and tackling, but I'd rather stand behind you and kind of be whispering in your ear. Like you're doing a great job. Here's, you might want to go this direction or that direction. So I love when I see people I've worked with grow beyond me, right? They're the experts in what they do. My job is to support them to do it more effectively.  

Steve: Love to get your direct perspective on something else that I've been seeing out in our landscape, which is the trade show industry. Post pandemic, when we're all back out there traveling, doing booths and expos, it doesn't feel the same anymore. Like, what do you think about field marketing? And what do you think of the conference game right now, sitting in a CRO seat?  

Kathleen: Yeah, so post pandemic, right? People aren't traveling like they used to travel. I think the trade shows have become the place to have the face to face meetings you would have had because you went to somebody's offices, right? I think it's starting to come back a little bit, but for the trade show game right now, if you haven't been planning well in advance and don't have a list of meetings scheduled, you're wasting your time. Like, if you expect your booth to be, you know, people to be swamping at your booth and you get lots of great leads because people come by your booth, I think you're being very naive, right? Your work prior to the trade show is the two months setting up the meetings. Knowing where you're going to meet. Knowing what the end in mind is for your meeting, having a clear plan for those meetings. So everything about trade shows today for me is the work that you've done prior to arrival. The booths fine. You should always have the booth. People should be at the booth, but that's not where you're- you're-going to make any real progress. So it's kind of like inbound versus outbound, right? From a marketing perspective, you want to be driving the inbound. They have a much higher rate at converting than the outbound leads that you create. And that could just be the kinds of solutions I've worked with in the past, where they're more complex and you want people coming in and you're not as successful in reaching out unless it's a very simple solution like two factor authentication - right - as an example. If you're selling something more complex, your inbound channel is the one that you really should be measuring, right? If I spend a dollar here, how many leads am I getting in my inbound channel in order to justify spending more dollars in that channel? And measuring those marketing dollars that you're spending. Same thing with conferences. You should be measuring every single one of those dollars that you're spending on your conferences. What it's done to your pipeline, how its increased the pipeline, how its moved pipe. You should be measuring all that as well as, again, your inbound channel. I think those are the key things for conferences is the prep in advance plus driving people through thought leadership and through your marketing materials, what differentiates you to people wanting to learn more. 

Steve: On the topic of preparing in advance. It got me thinking about another thing that I think has changed a lot, which is the cold outreach and prospecting with all the Gen AI tools, how easy it is to do copy and really spam accounts or send out emails. It's created a lot of noise, and I feel like buyers, practitioners, they just shut down and they don't respond to that. How should companies think about how to prepare for a show or how to prospect or how to get leads? What's a better way to do it in today's market? 

Kathleen: Yeah, I mean, cold outbound, I've just, I've never been successful with that. That could be me, right? That doesn't mean that's not a successful thing, it could be the products I represent. I- I-feel like the market is oversaturated. People are tired of getting, you know, all these unsolicited emails. So in, in preparation about, you know, your salespeople partnering with maybe your outbound folks, personalizing messages, not Gen AI personalized messages, but truly personalizing messages to the person that you want to reach out to. There's two things that you can do at a show. You can either start new sales cycles or advance existing sales cycles. The easiest thing to do is advance existing sales cycles, right? So that's- that's-a lot easier because you already have dialogue going, “Hey, let's meet up, let's have a clear next step”, all that good stuff. Starting new sales cycles for me is about the true personalization and how you reach out to them in doing your homework. If you spend a little more time doing your homework, I know when people reach out to me when they've done their homework, right? And they've sent me some LinkedIn requests or some email where I'm like, this person's got it. And please stop with the cheesy stuff. Like the cheesy stuff is overboard. And it's really distracting to people and especially executives. They don't- they don't- they don't-want a $50 Amazon card. They want to know how your solution is going to help and put it in the first sentence, right? So really, personalization, get to the point, be really simplistic and clear, land the plane right away. 

Steve: That's great advice. And I've been in a role where it's very tough to start those first conversations. So it's great to hear you think about trade shows as a way to advance existing relationships, because just starting those from a booth or a cold outreach in a conference app is very tough. 

Well, we're coming up on time, Kathleen, and we've got just a few minutes left. I do have some- some-personal questions I want to get into, if that's okay?

I was watching your LinkedIn updates in the last few weeks preparing for this interview. And I saw you posted something about integrity and it really resonated with me. And I won't go into, I'll link to the post itself, but how does integrity drive your leadership style? Can you maybe elaborate for the podcast?

Kathleen: Yeah, integrity is, is everything, right? It's, it's who you are as a person. Integrity should not be for sale. You know, I go back to when I sat in the buyer's seat, right, your integrity on what you decide to do if you're questioning something in the pursuit of a dollar. You know, in your gut, whether it's right or wrong, do the right thing, right? It's not when you have to question whether something you're selling or something you're pitching or some promise you're giving to a prospect or current customer and you don't think it's accurate. That is your integrity mind telling you that you're putting yourself at risk. I just firmly believe that there's no reason to do that, right? I was- I was-raised by a mom who raised five kids as a bartender. And she just taught us very early on. Like, yeah, I served drinks for a living. I made people laugh, but I will never engage in any kind of conversation that questions my integrity, right? I'm not going to do anything for a dollar. That's that lesson and how hard she worked to raise five kids as a single mom and always keeping her integrity intact to do whatever she, you know, needed to do to provide. I just carry that through and I carry that through to sitting in the seat of the buyer, and I see companies that are making some pretty crazy claims about how much fraud they can prevent or eliminating all fraud types. Like really? Can you? I just, that comes off disingenuous and not authentic. And I, that's just not who I am. 

Steve: Beyond integrity, when you think about organizations, what are other non negotiable values for you? Showstoppers.  

Kathleen: I think non negotiable for me is being able to talk about the- the-hard things, right? The elephants in the room. And just being able to have a discussion about it to figure out how to improve whatever it is you're trying to improve. Let's not dance around it. Let's not pretend. For me, I just need that authentic environment because conflict can be very healthy, right? If it's managed in the right way, when you have management teams or leadership that is just fearful of all kinds of conflict, productivity plummets, right? Attitudes plummet. Let's just- let's just-have honest conversations, right? Nobody's pointing fingers. Let's work together. Let's figure out how we're going to get it done, but let's not ignore the damn elephant. So for me, that's a non negotiable, like, and- and-it's in this fractional role that I'm doing, it's really quickly you can get to the kind of environment that the management team is- is-sitting in, right? Are they having the honest, truthful conversations to talk about where the product's working, where it's not working, what's broken in the sales cycle? How do we- how do we-get this engine really humming? So that's- that's-just a non negotiable for me. I don't pretend well. So that would probably be the number one, number two, number three thing for me, where, you know, healthy conflict is- is-a good thing and you'll work through it, that's the thing. You will work through it and you'll be in a better place for it afterwards. Can it be just a little uncomfortable? Sure. No problem. The other side, like anything that you do that's easy is really not worth doing, right? So it could be hard, but on the other side, there will be rewards. 

Steve: It's a powerful thing about a fractional role is you could come in there with less self serving interest because you're in there to help them to move them forward versus sometimes when you join a company, it's hard for you to speak up as a person, especially if you don't want to jeopardize your role or perhaps building out your team. I think that's a really powerful non negotiable. 

We're just at time. Kathleen, if you've seen any of these executive series episodes, I'd like to go just a little bit beyond the LinkedIn profile behind the person behind the press release, so to speak. Where do you like to spend your time outside of the industry?

Are there any organizations or hobbies or free... what do you do in your free time? 

Kathleen: So, I have five grown children and my husband and I love to travel. So lots of traveling, lots of time with family, big Italian family. We all live very local. I live in the same town I grew up in. So very local kind of person.

As far as causes, you know, children, underprivileged children. There's an organization called CASA, which is Court Appointed Special Advocate. And basically they help foster children who are unfortunately in the court systems. So the CASAs are invaluable people that represent the voice of the child when a child in foster care ends up in court between the state and the parents attorneys. They each have attorneys. The state has an attorney, the parents have an attorney. The CASAs are the voice for the child in the room, and they have no other desire but to provide the right recommendation for what was the healthiest for this child and this outcome. So, CASAs for children are close to my heart.

Steve: I'll be sure to put a link into that organization. Kathleen, thank you again for participating in the podcast. For those that are watching this or listening to it, what type of conversations would you like to have? What would be interesting to you? 

Kathleen: Yeah, for me, it's really, again, it goes back to that target market of organizations that are looking to build their revenue engine, right? Depending on what stage happy to chat with those. As well as, if you're earlier in your career and you just want access to somebody that's been in the C-suite and just get some guidance on a negotiation on a job offer on a series A options package, whatever it might be. I also have time set on my calendar, 30-minute sessions with anybody that's looking for that kind of guidance. I do ask for a little bit of homework in advance, so it's a really productive 30 minutes, but you can get all of that on my website.  

Steve: Wonderful. Well, I'll be sure to link everyone to your website. Is it okay if I share your LinkedIn profile for people to reach out to you through that as well? [Kathleen: Yeah] Great. All right. Well, thank you so much, Kathleen. I really enjoyed the insights and the wisdom that you've shared here. I'll be sure to share all of the links and resources with this audience. And thank you. I look forward to seeing your next play in the space and your impact as a fractional CRO.

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