Ken Allred, Founder and CEO of Primary Intelligence, is a thought leader in win-loss analysis and customer experience analysis solutions. With an extensive background in sales, sales management, marketing, and product management, Ken is committed to the optimization of these areas in his client’s organizations—specifically, through the implementation of Primary Intelligence’s automated Win-Loss software and services.
Ken first became interested in sales while studying business at the University of Utah. After college, he spent ten years honing his skills in sales and sales management positions with leaders such as National MicroComputers, Information Enabling Technologies, SunGard HTE, and PeopleSoft. During his tenure at PeopleSoft, Ken identified a critical missing element in the enterprise sales process—an accurate and objective method for understanding buyers’ decisions and making meaningful change based on that information. As no one at the time provided this kind of information in a form designed specifically for improving sales effectiveness and competitive win rates, he founded Primary Intelligence to meet this need.
Primary Intelligence has specialized in win loss analysis, customer experience analysis, and competitive intelligence for over 20 years, conducting thousands of interviews with buyers every year. Our solutions enable hundreds of clients across more than 30 industries to understand the root causes of lost sales opportunities and customers, and identify the best practices required to improve their competitive advantage and customer retention. We pair our personalized consulting services with our unique role-based software tools to enable leaders in marketing, product, sales, and competitive intelligence to listen to their buyers, analyze the data, interpret the results, and guide them to take appropriate, timely action.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Ken Allred: I’ve always had a passion for sales. I spent my early career in various sales and sales leadership roles, but there was always a critical element missing in the enterprise sales process – an accurate and objective method for understanding buyer decisions.
I thought, “what if we could quantify, analyze, and scale data around why buyers did or did not purchase?” Sellers could then take those insights and apply them to the sales process to create better buying experiences and increase win rates. I’ve spent the last 20+ years pioneering Win-Loss Analysis and Customer Experience Analysis technology and methodologies to help B2B organizations uncover their unique path to winning more opportunities. I’m the founder and CEO of Primary Intelligence, and it’s our mission to empower sales and marketing with the voice of the customer.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Ken Allred: B2B businesses need to lean into sales, marketing, and revenue intelligence. The way sellers interact with buyers is changing. The window of time a seller has with a buyer is getting smaller and smaller, and sales reps must understand how to make that time count. We’re selling in a world that didn’t exist 5 years ago and to a buyer that has different preferences and expectations than before. By leaning into these data sources, you’ll be able to optimize your buying experience and understand what your buyers truly care about.
Businesses also have to ride the waves of change to learn how it affects their customers, employees, and goals/objectives. We’ve had to learn this internally as well. We’ve been around for over 20 years, and we’ve had to adjust based on what our market needs. We’ve leveraged Win-Loss Analysis for our own sales team to understand what is really important to our buyers and applied these findings to our product, services, sales, marketing, and CX initiatives.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Ken Allred: Creating better customer experiences. Your customers are your life-blood. You’ve got to think about your entire customer journey from beginning to end. Ask yourself: What are my buyer’s expectations? What questions do my buyers need answered? What do they really care about? What can I do to make sure they never have a reason to leave? And then use data and buyer feedback to answer those questions.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Ken Allred: The pandemic has caused a shift to digital selling. Because of this, the need for Win-Loss Analysis and Customer Experience Analysis is greater than ever before, but customers are looking for something scalable that fits into their marketing or sales tech stack. That’s why we’ve put a huge focus on developing proprietary Win-Loss software that automates Win-Loss Analysis from start to finish. We’ve found that the more buyer feedback we can collect and analyze, the greater the impact Win-Loss Analysis has on all customer-centric departments within an organization.
The need for automated Win-Loss technology to help close the loop on sales intelligence has pushed us from a services company to a SaaS company, and our clients have loved the scalability and relevant insights they get through our software. We’ve seen our B2B clients use these insights to create organizational alignment and to personalize sales coaching. It’s hard to argue with insights that come straight from the voice of your customer.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Ken Allred: I’m not sure what advice I wish I had received – maybe not to eat so much during the lock down because at my age the weight comes on a lot easier than it goes off. I do think I was somewhat prepared due to our experience with past macro-economic challenges – 9/11, multiple recessions, the big recession, etc. All these past experiences helped prepare me and gave me the strength to not panic and to stay the course.
As for what we are improving in 2022, it’s all about upgrading the user experience for our users and enabling them in ways that have never been done before. In many ways, we have solved the challenge of capturing buyers’ feedback and getting the “why” behind the decisions. It’s automated, effortless for our clients, and can be done for every opportunity – it’s just part of the sales process now for them. For 2022 and beyond, we’ll be focused on heavily enabling sales, sales management, marketing, customer success, and product, and integrating with the rest of the sales tech stack. Honestly, it’s going to be the most exciting chapter in the book of Win-Loss Analysis.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Ken Allred: We’re a fully remote company right now, and we’ll likely stay that way. We utilize video conferencing to help serve our customers, connect with internal teams, etc. I think the shift to a remote work experience has pushed and stretched B2B leadership – both internally and for our clients.
For example, sales leaders are having to find new ways to coach reps on a virtual sales floor, and many of them are using Win-Loss Analysis and conversational intelligence to understand how a sales rep is performing.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Ken Allred: All of them? I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. It’s just the nature of building a business. I’m lucky to have a very supportive spouse and family who understand what we are trying to build and the level of effort and commitment that are required.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Ken Allred: That’s a great question. It’s important to help each member of your organization see your vision. When you can communicate your vision successfully, they’ll communicate that vision out through conversations with prospects, customers, or through other aspects of work (ie. product development, marketing, etc). As far as storytelling, I think leaning into our customers’ experiences has been very impactful for helping everyone on the team see the vision. We promote a culture of sharing customer wins and learning from losses. Help your employees see the impact that your solution has on your customers. That impact creates excitement, and that excitement is infectious.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Ken Allred: When marketers run Win-Loss Analysis it can be hard to get buy-in from sales. This seems counter-intuitive because Win-Loss Analysis directly impacts win rates. But, I think it’s human nature for people to dislike being told that they may be at fault.
For example, if you ask a sales rep why they lost a deal, chances are they’ll attribute the loss to price or missing product feature or something beyond their control. But through our experience in Win-Loss Analysis, we’ve found that buyers will often attribute a loss to something in the sales experience – even above price or product feature. This disconnect between why sellers think they lose deals and why they really lose deals according to their buyers is why Win-Loss Analysis is so important.
But, unless you can directly tie Win-Loss insights and buyer feedback to an individual rep, the odds of the rep applying and internalizing the feedback is slim. This is why the need for automation in Win-Loss Analysis is so crucial. The challenge lies in getting buy-in from sales leaders and coaches to act as a buffer between marketing and the front line sales rep, and to apply Win-Loss insights to sales coaching initiatives.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Ken Allred: It’s definitely artificial intelligence and machine learning with some NLP sprinkled in for good measure. This is the next evolution for us and the one I believe will help take our sales, marketing, and product enablement capabilities to a whole new level for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be in technology and I get a lot of personal satisfaction from applying these things to our solution to try to deliver more value to our clients.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Ken Allred: It’s easy to look at a data point and say “not my data, not my problem.” Unless you get direct feedback from an employee saying “I am undervalued” it’s easy to pretend like this doesn’t happen in your organization. I think businesses can do a better job of promoting a health work-life balance for their employees.
As CEOs and leaders, we sometimes forget that our vision and our passion – the mission of the company – may not carry the same weight for our employees. Your employees instead may feel passionate about spending time with family or rock climbing or sidewalk chalk art – and this doesn’t make them bad employees. As leaders, we can all be better about setting boundaries to help improve work-life balance and employee satisfaction.
Additionally, I think that leaders can inspire employees and get buy-in for the overall vision of a company by creating a culture of winning. It feels good to win. It feels good to hit goals. As leaders, we can set realistic expectations for our employees and celebrate wins both big and small. By creating a culture that celebrates daily wins, your employees feel empowered and positive about your direction and initiatives.
This culture of winning ties back to Win-Loss Analysis as well. When you’re able to show the individuals on your marketing, sales, and product teams the impact of their work on your customers, each individual feels that little (or big) win personally. It’s harder to walk away from a job when you’re constantly winning.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Ken Allred: That’s easy. It would be marketing. I see what Josh James, the CEO of Domo, has been able to do, and I am amazed. He obviously has a lot of talents, but I think marketing is one of his superpowers and it has enabled him to build two very successful companies. I don’t know Josh personally, but I’m a big fan and have admired him for years.
If marketing was a superpower, I would leverage it to tell the world how we can enable them to better understand their buyers, competitors, strengths and weaknesses. And how all of this can be done effortlessly as part of their sales tech stack. We are a small organization that most have never heard of. Yet, we have a solution to some of the most important problems that every B2B organization struggles with – truly understanding why they win and why they lose. Most try to get the answers to these questions from their sales reps. However, we know that the sales rep is wrong about the true decision drivers more than half of the time. The only source of this information is the buyer themselves.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Ken Allred: On a personal level, I’d like to lose that pandemic weight. For Primary Intelligence, success would be accomplishing the big goals we have set for ourselves this year and delighting our customers. None of it would be possible without their support and feedback. I love hearing how our solution has made their lives easier, but I want to hear it from all of them. I want to please the ones that have been hard to please and have all of them speak highly of our people and our solution.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ken Allred for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ken Allred or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.