November 16, 2021

How Matt Ondrejko, VP of Global Marketing at Valmont Industries, is leading a digital transformation | Building Modern Sellers Blog Series

Technology Matt uses: Zoom, Cornerstone, Showpad

Meet Matt Ondrejko, Vice President of Global Marketing at Valmont Industries. In this interview, Matt shares his perspective on how to get a business to digital faster using methods and tools that reduce print and increase customer insights in a non-traditional sales environment. 

“For us, our push to go more green really initiated our digital transformation. To have success leading this transformation, you have to be committed to it. If you go into it thinking you’re going to have a hybrid approach with some digital capabilities but also the traditional path of print marketing and everything else, people will fall back on what they know and are comfortable with.”

Tell us about your current role as Vice President of Global Marketing at Valmont Industries.

I oversee global marketing for all of our business. We’re about a $3 billion organization with six business units. We go to market in very diverse ways. We use a lot of agents and dealers, so there is almost always a two-step distribution to the customer. We very rarely sell directly to a customer, so we have a critical need for education, streamlined communications, and tools that can be given to people that aren’t our direct employees.

Our organization is looking to add a layer of sophistication in the way we do sales enablement. We currently utilize Salesforce in several of our businesses and pair that with a homegrown CRM system to give us insight and connection to our customer base. Our business consists of a lot of larger sales with longer sales processes, so creating, generating, and fostering leads throughout the cycle is a little bit different. The way we look at marketing as a partner to sales is to help drive the knowledge base into the customer’s hands—as well as increasing our brand awareness. 

Valmont Industries is early on in its sales enablement journey. What opportunities are you looking to maximize? 

Getting to digital faster through print reduction and embracing Valmont as a tech leader within our marketing organization are the two areas we are looking to maximize. 

I spent three years working in Europe where there was a big push to reduce paper usage and a focus on getting to digital faster. When I moved back to the U.S., I consciously brought this focus to move away from print. As I looked at budgets and analyzed what we can and can’t control, reducing print was the clear focus. 

Additionally, Valmont is embracing its leadership in tech and working to move from being known only as an industrial manufacturing company. If we walk and talk as a tech leader, it starts to rub off on the businesses and you start to see people promoting your leadership in tech through the different tools they use. 

What changes have you had to make in this new hybrid sales environment?

The knowledge of creating, generating, and fostering leads has always resided in the sales teams, but mostly with our agents and dealers because we use a two-step distribution model. This means a lot of our customer knowledge sits with agents and dealers, creating a gap back to the company. 

We absolutely need our agents and dealers to get the products and services to the customer, but we have to have more insight into what the customer’s needs and expectations are. Relying just on our dealers or agents to tell us what they need doesn’t always match customers’ needs. 

Our tools have changed now that we can’t get together to do in-person training with all our sellers, so we leverage digital tools available to us. We have a three-prong approach on that:

One is Zoom for day-to-day video conferencing. Second is Cornerstone where we create training courses on all of our new products. We assign the courses to the corresponding salesperson, agent, or broker, and it provides them with information on how to position it, sell it out, and go to market. We also use it internally to train ourselves. Third is Showpad, which is becoming the mechanism we’re using from a marketing standpoint to get all of the sales information, photos, and videos into our sales reps’ and agents’ hands, and then teaching them how to customize it per sale.

How are you balancing capturing customer insights across your sales team, agents, and dealers?

A lot of companies end up with proliferated product lines because they’re not getting to the ultimate needs of the customer, rather they are answering what the dealer, agent, or sales channel wants. It’s a balancing act. Moving digital has helped with this. 

One of the things we’re trying to do from a marketing standpoint is to facilitate the information coming back into the organization in a more organic way. 

Through our web, social, and Showpad MarComm analytics, Valmont can see what our partners are sharing, and what people are engaging with. This helps us understand what they do and don’t like. It’s proven to be very beneficial to us. 

We have several business units at different stages of Showpad implementation. The one that’s been doing it the longest is our agriculture business. And we’re able to start calling data out of that to say what’s working, and what’s not. It also allows us as a marketing team to push back on some of our sales teams when they request certain documents. We can show them specifically, well, that’s not getting any usage based on what you’re doing. 

The more data we can get and the more direction we can point, we can stop doing things that don’t add value. And that’s really a big factor for us because I don’t get an unlimited budget. If we spend time on things that don’t move the needle, it’s not beneficial for the company. So data is really starting to become a driver. And that’s the thing that I like about Showpad. Not only does it show leadership in the technology capabilities, it gives me the data on the backend.

What’s one value you see in moving to a digital sales environment?

I used to travel around the world when I was in a different business segment managing our dealers and agents from a marketing standpoint. I would go out to visit dealerships and they would have marketing literature on the rack that had been there for 10 years. Know what I would do? I would walk in, grab it, throw it in the garbage. And yes, you guessed it, they would freak out. I’d be like, “People, we don’t even sell this anymore.” 

When you start to think about the misinformation in the market or the outdated information from print, we’ve got to get ourselves in a position where we have the most updated information in our sales channels hands as well as in our customer’s hands. Digital is obviously the easiest way to do that and that’s what really spurred my interest in Showpad.

What’s one of the biggest shifts a traditional sales enablement team needs to start thinking about to move to digital selling?

I think the biggest thing right now with the digital shift is that a lot of sales traditionally have been based on personal relationships. And in today’s world, it’s hard to make those personal relationships have the same meaning when you have to meet somebody over Zoom. You can’t get together and have a drink. You can’t get together and have dinner. You just don’t learn as much about those personal sides, lacking the feeling of connection. It’s very easy for a customer to say they’re going to go to whoever offers the best price, terms, or delivery dates. So a lot of those things that have been forged over years and years of relationship building are going to be hard the longer we stay out of offices and are constricted by travel.

How do you start to adapt to building relationships over Zoom? 

There’s a little bit of an equilibrium that I think we’ve started to find in this space of digital selling. Providing value to the customer is going to hinge the sale. 

In this virtual space, it looks like answering customer questions in a timely fashion, being thorough and truly listening to their needs, and being there to repair or take care of any issues in using an online tool. Simplification of tools is going to be key. I always tell my team, how do we make it like Ikea? Ikea has some very big, complicated products, but when you buy something from Ikea, anybody can put it together because the instructions are super simple.

But while we’ve all learned to exist and adapt virtually, it’s nice to be in an office with people. There’s still this hunger for us as human beings to be with other people. I just think that the layer of technology won’t go away. And so now it’s a question of how do they work together?

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Not necessarily. I think we’ve gone at a good pace. Now we are really just trying to increase the speed of adoption of these new ways of selling and help our business units embrace the new learning and sales technology. It was important that this shift was initially driven through the marketing team and defining how we’re going to do it. Now, it’s up to the people on the sales team to embrace it.

We can lead and show by example. The real value is for our sales teams to self service themselves in Showpad. We have teams that have been successful with it because they’ve taken the time and effort to load the tool with what they need. We have information and content organized in a way that they no longer have to send emails to the marketing team looking for an asset. It’s at their fingertips anytime, anywhere. 

Once we have teams embracing the tool, we can start to increase the level of frequency of use and ultimately be able to get all the transactions to go through the tools so we can get the data. We aren’t quite there yet. 

What advice would you give someone who’s just started out in this function supporting sales organizations or distributors?

To have success leading a digital transformation in a marketing organization, you have to be committed to it. If you go into it thinking that you’re going to have some kind of hybrid approach where you have some digital capabilities, but you’re also going to do the traditional path of print marketing and everything else, people will fall back on what they know and are comfortable with. 

I think you have to make a commitment as an organization to clearly define your goals and communicate them. For us, our push to go more green really initiated our digital transformation. Our goal to eliminate all paper in our business and our sales process left a lot of people feeling like it was unreachable. So I related people with experiences they used to have that were once on paper, but are now digital. Like buying a car. The last time you went to buy a car, did they hand you a paper brochure with all the models? No, of course not because everything is online. How come we can’t do that with what we’re trying to sell? And so then they start to go, Oh, okay. I get it. But I need to know how to use it. Okay. You’re right. Then we invest in training. 

In summary, I think there’s a level of commitment upfront and communicating your goals. The second part is having really good training to get people there. One of our business segments went from a budget of about $200,000 of pre-cost to zero. It’s possible.