What happens when Marketing leaders take on Sales? Scott Horn is the  CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) of PrismHR, a SaaS company in the HR space. He shares his story of life as a CRO after over 2 decades in Marketing. Prior to his role as CRO at PrismHR, Scott was  Chief Marketing and Revenue Ops officer at [24]7.ai, and the chief marketer for Seagate. He also spent 17 years at Microsoft - a tenure almost unheard of in B2B marketing.

Scott is super passionate about hiring great talent- and the key to that process is getting the interview right. Scott shares what he’s learned over the years when it comes to building great teams, and also tells us how he is training his team to be great interviewers.

Along the way, he shares practical insights on:

  • How to tell if someone “has self-awareness and wants to learn”
  • The trick to hiring for that critical role of SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) and BDRs (Business Development Representatives)
  • What CEOs get wrong when hiring CMOs
  •  Why your LinkedIn profile matters more than your resume to get the best job today

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Erica Seidel [00:00:17] Today, we will talk about when CMO's become CRO's, and my guest is Scott Horn, who is CRO at PrismHR, and PrismHR is a SaaS company in the HR space. They focus on software and services that power HR issues. So payroll benefits HR for small, medium-sized businesses. The company is about 250 people, a private equity infused company. And before this, Scott was chief marketing and revenue ops officer. A very interesting title there for  [24]7.ai and which is the SaaS platform using AI to fuel customer acquisition and engagement. And he was the chief marketer for Seagate and before that, 17 years at Microsoft. That is a long time. Scott, you are a CRO.

Scott Horn [00:01:07] Yes.

Erica Seidel [00:01:07] You used to be a CMO. And this is unusual, right, because so many of them have a heritage, as sales leaders, and you have a heritage of marketing.

Erica Seidel [00:01:17] So my first question is, how did you get this job?

Scott Horn [00:01:20] Yeah, that's a great question. So first off, I'd say there are no two exact types of CRO's. So there's a lot like some CRO's of marketing, some don't. Some are sales leaders. It depends on the company. The thing that was interesting about my background is, as you said, I've done a lot of different things.  I've done product leadership roles, and engineering and planning run parts of sales and business development, which helps a lot with sales. But the big thing about it is I was always a revenue-oriented CMO, and I didn't start my career that way. But you become very attuned to it.[24]7.ai , the revenue ops part was essentially built for the company's infrastructure for sales or deal desk sales operations,  the sales engineers reporting to me.  So I was doing a lot of it, and I picked up a lot of things. And then when I came here, I was always very, very focused on the revenue. You get good at having a set of, well, your sticks in your head where you go, OK, our revenues, our average deal size is that .we need that many leads, you start doing the math backward, you just automatically start doing it. So I believe a CRO like a CMO, your job is more about building the system in the culture. Yes, you should be able to go in front of any customer, help a salesperson close, or have a marketer do something.

Erica Seidel [00:02:54] OK. So I talk quickly about what's  the organization under you

Scott Horn [00:02:59] I've got three big teams, customer success, which now some people call account managers, we want to do more of that. We don't service small businesses directly. We do that via partners who provide payroll services, HR advisory benefits; we build the platform that helps them do that. So we've a lot of large critical partners. We've got 300 plus partners. So the CSM customer success managers are responsible for working with those partners, helping them on what's going on. I've got a marketing organization, and it's such an all marketing , PR, internal communications, product marketing campaigns team all know all those kinds of teams. And then I've got our sales teams as well. Within that, I have a revenue ops team. So that was part of the marketing team. It was marketing ops. It's evolved to be responsible for revenue operations. That's sales ops, marketing ops. We also have a parallel close partner peer of mine. He runs our diversified services, which is Marketplace Partnerships, where you have a third party and insurance because we have a growing insurance partnership business. My team supports him equally. That's kind of a team roughly overall.

Erica Seidel [00:04:44] What is the number one question that you want to be asked to demonstrate that you are a great revenue leader?

Scott Horn [00:04:50] Well, I think the number one question for one, you're going to get asked here,  is, did you make the numbers?  As the CMO, it is like the old joke about the pig and the chicken for breakfast. You know, the chicken is involved with the eggs. The pig is committed because they're the ham. There are certain CMO jobs. You know, I've been a CMO for now, 10-15, me as an example, me being the CMO of Coca-Cola would probably be a tragedy both because I probably wouldn't be interested in. Absolutely. There are a lot of people better qualified now.

On the other hand, the CMO of Coca-Cola coming here would be equally bad. So, you know, environment, the type of business type of customers. Well, you said as a CMO, I was the chicken for breakfast. I'm the pig now.

Scott Horn [00:05:45]  the thing I bring to it is there's a lot of things I can do to make their jobs easier, and decisions have to be made. I think they see. So the feedback I get is they see me helping do that. And I think we're making a lot of progress on it. For one of the things we're investing a lot in here is, quite frankly, we use Salesforce. We switched to Marketo. I walked into the company, and we were not using Salesforce well. We wanted the salespeople to use it. We weren't making it easy for them to use it. And it wasn't their fault. They were trying to use it. We didn't have any real in-house expertise when I'm hired; some people were very good at it. Now we do our pipeline calls in Salesforce, not with spreadsheets. Now we're going beyond that. We're adding additional tech to enable salespeople to things that, for example, call dialers, automated email sequences. Things like zoom info, tools that help our salespeople do their jobs more easily. Because my thing is like, look, I want to free up the maximum amount of time for you to be in front of customers and with prospects. Nobody wants to sit there doing stuff like entering stuff in Salesforce.

Erica Seidel [00:07:07] So let's talk about hiring again. So you mentioned that you explicitly train your team on interviewing. This is awesome. I feel like often when a company, especially a smaller company, interviews, talents, they get a resume. You know, they're like scanning the resume on the way to the meeting room to meet the candidate, and then they're trying to vet questions and pull them out of thin air. And, you know, we'll take the twenty-five year old and say OK, you evaluate the cultural bit without even defining what that is. There are few companies that can determine what good looks like.

Scott Horn [00:07:45] Two things about interviewing. Number one, interviewing, is an experiential skill. The more you practice, the better you get. That's key. Great interviewers are not born, they're made. The second thing is interviewing when it works well is a team sport or team activity being a team of interviewers or used to working with one another. It's very good collectively.

So as a consequence, once you come to it with a few conclusions, at number one, we ought to be on the same page within a system of interviewing like what are we looking for culturally? What are we looking for? What's the process? How does the interview day work? How do we handoff, you know, in light of the candidate to the next interviewer? How do we write feedback? How do we do all that? So that's part. The second thing is if you're going to get a good experience, really gotta do it a lot.

So consequently, very few people on the team interview. Now, I've trained the whole team because I think it's a career skill. Everybody should have, I mean, frankly.

Sadly, nobody. I was fortunate. My first manager at Microsoft was a nerd about interviewing. He didn't have a guidebook. Anything I took. I did that myself later. But he was passionate about talent. Yeah. And I think he was right. I saw it myself, which is if you hire great people to invest the time on the front end, the reality is great. People want to do great things. My job is to get that kind of their way. It starts with looking at what you carry culturally. Your mistakes in hiring teach you things. Last week I wrote out a little cheat sheet checklist for the whole team. I've got a little checklist filter I can show you after what it's like. OKOK. As a team. We're looking for these kinds of things.

Now somebody does need to demonstrate all that. I got an old checkbox there. But if they violate one of these, it's a problem. All my hiring mistakes will have two factors. The candidate does not have self-awareness, or a candidate has the Inability or lack of desire to learn? I rarely have made mistakes, for I thought I heard the person the subject matter expertise. They didn't have it. I have like  20 pages of questions built over the years by type of jobs. I have questions for executive and administrative assistants. I have questions for CRO's. I have questions for CFO'"s. I have questions for developers. Marketers, of course. Salespeople, of course.  The Ben Horowitz book. The Hard Thing About Hard Things. The Appendix. He is hiring a CRO. Great read. I highly recommended it. There you go. Practical tip if you listen this far.

 Erica Seidel [00:10:34] How do you tell us somebody has self-awareness and wants to learn?

 Scott Horn [00:10:37] Though the only thing is very few interviewers, probably less than 1 percent. In my experience, there are sophisticated enough interviewers. I mean that in a positive way that they're thinking about the question and they're thinking about what's behind the question. it's tough because you're so locked in as a candidate, you're locked in. So you don't typically ask things like, you know, what would so-and-so say about you? And you can see the person can almost visualize that person. So I looked for that for learning. I look, do they ask questions? Will I ask some questions? What was the biggest failure you've had? Would you learn from it?

Scott Horn [00:11:12] What would you do differently if you could take a time machine back and do it again? You know, there's a lot of things you look for. You know, some of it you see in the resume. Is there a track record of success that they stick in multiple places at multiple points time? I have some biases. We all have our biases on resumes. I'm not a fan of people jumping around a lot. You know, if you've got a lot of one year or fewer stops on coming, I'm not a fan of people who are applying for a job here, but they have been consultants the last three years of living somewhere else.

Scott Horn [00:11:49] My theory is, well, if you loved being a consultant, why do you want to come here? And if you didn't love being a consultant, why were you a consultant for three years? Probably because there was nothing that came together.

Erica Seidel [00:12:03] When I do leadership interviews for candidates where they're managing a team. It's sometimes two interviews. I'll do one for functional knowledge. And then I'll do a separate part where I talk all about management. I want to understand how they hire. I want to understand the management rhythm .I had someone interview for a management role, claim they were managers, and said they've never had to terminate one. Am I like it? But if you've been a manager for a while and you haven't had to do that, something very unusual because this was like the one in one hundred exceptions. To me, that was interesting because How high is your performance bar, you know? Are you setting the standards for your team effectively or is it just, you know, you're kind of the hey, I'm everybody's buddy kind of manager

Erica Seidel [00:13:15] So can you talk about hiring SDR BDR, in particular, is something that many marketing leaders are starting to do more. And if you've been used to hiring marketing leaders, but now you have to hire these. Hybrid marketing sales are different.

Scott Horn [00:13:34]  The SDR game is not your traditional, and it's different. It's a critical set. It's a very different skill set in your account. Executive rep so your SDR . some people call them business development  reps. But essentially, these are your appointment setters qualifiers. So you're talking about somebody who's typically early in their career. You know, they're four or six years out of college. Maybe they aspire to do marketing someday. Maybe I want to be in a sales role. And their job is if you have the job, I would start with what's the job and work back?

 Scott Horn [00:14:17] So the job of an SDR is., you have a quota or delivering marketing qualified or cold prospects, which means that a defined criterion has been written down. I Need to meet this qualification. Criteria have been matched with a partner, and you have a monthly quota for that. There's a lot of puzzles to solve. You've got people; they need amazing communication skills. You know, a lot of your day as an SDR as you're dialing. You're trying to get people on the phone. You're writing your emails. They've got to be resilient. It's comfortable with technology. There's a lot of techs. Do you know what I mean? We're using Salesforce. We're using zoom info. We're looking at adding another tech.  I suggest people look for it if you're looking at a candidate when the first thing's idea is going to Linked-In and generally speaking, somebody who has a lousy LinkedIn profile—not going to be a good fit for us because so modern selling and modern marketing involve tech and social.

Erica Seidel [00:16:01] . I feel like people often feel like their resume is the top of the pile. People always say, oh, how's my resume? Check it out.  It's the LinkedIn profile. It's the top.

Scott Horn [00:16:25] I shouldn't give this away.  The night before the interview or the day before, she would send an invite to the candidate to see how responsive they are.

Erica Seidel [00:16:44] Let's talk about CEO and CMO alignment. what is your advice to a CEO on how that person should align with a CMO

 Scott Horn [00:17:11]   I tell people these days marketing is three things. It's people data and tech. So I'd say for CEOs, first of all, what do you want?  I've gone into situations and CEOs, and I've advised a bunch of  CEO's they're like, well, you are a brand. I'm like, what does that mean? We need a brand. No, what you want? It turns out what you want is revenue. The second thing is. So do you care about revenue? Do you care about the brand? You know, a second thing is, does the marketing leader have a great sales quarter? I say this all the time. A great sales team can power through a mediocre marketing team.

Scott Horn [00:18:08] The reverse is not true. You can sit there, go with a great marketing team if your sales team is not selling it. Nobody cares. I run things like the classic one that had this one, you know, 10 million dollar company I was talking to. Great company. We want to build a category. We want Gartner to build a magic quadrant for us. That was the conversation with the CEO. That's OK. So first of all, I said that's not going to happen. So that had to be—bad news. So I said, number one. Gartner is an economic entity like the rest of us. And the reason they create magic quadrants,  a lot of people will pay to be in them and pay to buy them.

Scott Horn [00:18:51] You know, the other thing is also to negotiate a few things up front. Candidly, I get to pick my team. I also walk in. And you know what? I. I was fortunate I did my homework in every case. So I did my homework for the last three companies. What am I getting to? What Did the team look like? What have you told me? Do you care about the CEO? And then I'll say, look, I'm looking at what's going on here. You're missing this and this and this. So, for example, we had a nine-person marketing team. Now it's double that. We didn't have a PR function. We did not have a marketing ops function. We didn't have a Web person,

Scott Horn [00:19:46] We had one very talented product marketer. He was in the evening hours as the part-time marketing ops, part-time Web guy. And he was very good. But of course, you know, if you got two hours versus 10 hours, you're going to get along. So I walked in and, you know, I say, here's what I think I need.

Scott Horn [00:20:07] The last thing you wanna do is take a job where the CEOs think this. And you're saying; I need this. The CEO goes, no, no. So you get answers like I'll tell you later or we'll see. Cetera. You know, those are not good answers. And yeah, I'd say as for CMO candidates, you know, both parties should be interviewing the other one. Cultural fit matters. The thing that attracted me to this place in the day, I mean, was three things. I thought the mission was great. You know, you said we're getting our mission through our partners is to help America's small business. Now we have help. Over 2 million people get paid every month, and probably several million more live happy lives because of that. That's important. I thought the place was really interesting. I thought, you know, when I look at my skills and experience, I thought some of the things the CEOs tell me want to do. I think I can help with that. The third thing was the people I like, the people I still do the cultural spectacle. People like working together. They care about those things. So if you're you know, I'd say I have the benefit of having done it. But if you're going for your first CMO job and you're like, man, the culture doesn't feel right. But CEOs want to go to the moon, and they're going to give me a ride to get there, you know, or a bicycle to get there. You should be careful. I walked out on the recruiter. I'll never talk to me again. This was in 2011. They brought me down to Silicon Valley. Company name Shall remain nameless, still bopping around Silicon Valley. I walked in. The CEO shows up forty-five minutes late for my interview. He's at lunch with his team. He brings the whole team into a room. I mean, literally 15 of them say that to me. You see that guy over there; he points the guy over. He's doing the work of 20 people. He goes, you know, and you he goes, I got all kinds of people to want this job here. He said I want to be on Fortune magazine's cover all the time. I want the PR of Apple and Google. He says I'm going to give you five thousand bucks to do that. I was very polite. SAT there in silence and they're going, oh, I'm going to go finish the interview. Walked out, literally called the interviewer walking out on the steps of the building, and said no way. Life's too short. I am never doing that again. So. Right. Wow.

Scott Horn [00:22:32] That's great. I think that it's the key to align with the CEO. And, you know, we all want to be scrappy but not want to sign up for it.

Scott Horn [00:22:41]  The big purpose of the interview day is really to determine if what they want aligns with the resource I usually ask the CEOs  I'm like, look, I'm here to sit with you, understand what you need and understand whether the resources align with that.

Scott Horn [00:22:59] So you got to be careful because otherwise, you know, it's a short tenure.

Erica Seidel [00:23:05] Well, we are out of time. Thank you so much for joining me, everybody.

Scott Horn [00:23:12] Thank you.

The Podcast Team

Erica Seidel

Recruiter And Founder at The Connective Good As host of The Get, Erica talks to CEOs, VCs and Marketing Leaders about finding and keeping great marketing talent for B2B SaaS companies.

Team MarTech Advisor

Chief Editor Chitra Iyer, and the team at MarTech Advisor edit, produce and distribute The Get.


Episode Highlights

Guest Profile

Scott Horn

Scott Horn is PrismHR’s Chief Revenue Officer. Scott has more than twenty years of experience and proven success in marketing, product marketing in sales in high-growth environments. Previously he was Chief Marketing and Revenue Operations Officer at [24]7.ai and Vice President, Global Marketing for Seagate Technology, He also spent 17 years at Microsoft in a variety of marketing and product leadership roles.