How Frank Jules Is Using Teamwork, Insights, And Incentives to Improve Revenue Team Performance
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Frank Jules is President‐Global Business at AT&T. He leads enterprise sales globally for AT&T (T), a telecommunications, media, entertainment, and technology company. Over the past two decades, he has helped to build a high performing global team that serves multi-national and mid-sized corporations.
Below, I asked Frank to share how he’s been able to use teamwork, insights, and incentives to improve performance in a rapidly changing market for bandwidth, mobility, and networked communications.
Stephen Diorio: Our view is growth and transformation starts from the board on down. How big a priority is revenue growth at AT&T relative to other operational concerns, profit drivers, and investment opportunities?
Frank Jules: I’d say pure revenue growth is a top priority at AT&T. I’d give it a 9 on a scale of 10. The reason I answer that way is because you can’t look at just revenue growth as a goal without dealing with the interrelated issues of profitability, value creation, and customer success. We focus on four inter-related growth goals – revenue growth, profit growth (EBITDA), Earnings per Share, and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Ultimately, eNPS –employee satisfaction–is the key enabler for all these measures. You can’t generate revenues, profits, and enterprise value without engaged, motivated employees making it happen.
Diorio: Many growth leaders we talk to are focused on generating greater returns on selling assets – things like technology, data, and digital channel infrastructure. You believe that people are the most important growth asset in the business. And you treat them that way.
Jules: Absolutely. We view our people as our biggest selling asset. I’d say they’re our secret sauce.
We invest in training, developing, and retaining our sales teams. They feel good about career advancement. We have great career-pathing. We say, “you own your career.” And we back it up. We’re very transparent on how to get from a level one, to a level two, to a level three–to keep it simple. Our jobs are advertised. We’re big on looking at a diverse set of candidates. To hire someone, the hiring manager first has to look at someone in our labs, our marketing, our finance teams, and even at Warner Media.
We invest heavily in training, and people feel good about it. We tell them to get the next job, here’s what it takes, here are the skills you need and the courses you need to complete. If you check these boxes, and demonstrate your proficiency, you’ll get an interview.
As a consequence, our sales churn is low. It’s very low. We have programs to retain talent. We’ll use retentive vehicles on compensation, for example, stock-based incentives for our really top talent so they don’t leave. We identify them and we give them a bear hug.
It’s a big commitment, but the long-term selling economics pay off. If you don’t invest in training and enabling your people, you wind up spending a significant chunk of resources dealing with rep churn, finding new reps, and ramping them. In the end, very few of them will develop into the top talent you need to outperform the competition.
Diorio: In terms of growth, you have done an excellent job of generating growth from your selling assets. What has been the key to getting more production from your revenue teams, and what are you doing to take your performance to the next level?
Jules: I see three primary drivers of performance going forward – teamwork, vertical focus, and analytics.
In terms of teamwork, our view is there’s no problem we can’t solve through teamwork. Our goal is to get the best of AT&T on a problem. When we do that, we win.
Three years ago, we made a major shift to verticalization. That’s been one of our biggest success factors. We’re generating more revenue from our existing resources by focusing on seven industries.
The next frontier is using data and insights to better match resources and skills to opportunities.
Diorio: I’d like to dig into those more. Let’s start with teamwork. A lot of CXO’s tell us growth is a team sport. Your span of control includes sales, but not the other key drivers of growth like product innovation or marketing. Can you talk about how you are facilitating better teamwork across your leadership team, as well as the revenue teams at the edge of the organization?
Jules: As a growth leader, I can’t be successful without my peers. The way it works at AT&T is we partner. I own sales, but at my staff meeting every Monday is my finance team, legal team, marketing team, product team, and all my sales leaders. There isn’t a problem we can’t solve when we come together to develop a solution. Without a doubt.
The same applies to the sellers I manage. We’ve designed our selling architecture to foster teamwork. This includes tuning our incentives, quotas, territories and roles with collaboration and customer lifetime value in mind.
Diorio: You also changed your coverage and territory design to focus on vertical markets to improve performance. Can you tell us more about your shift to an industry focus? How has that helped you generate more growth?
Jules: We’re focusing on key industries in the Global Business space. For example: manufacturing, energy, transportation, retail, hospitality, financial services, and public sector.
Once we trained our sales teams–as well as the broader teams in marketing, product, and finance–and had dedicated reps calling on financial institutions Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday–we started speaking their language versus our language. We became experts in their problems, and how our technology could help. For example, we’re actively working on what the bank of the future and the branch of the future looks like in the financial services vertical. Our Retail vertical head, Michael Colaneri, is speaking on the digital transformation of retail at NRF. We even have highly targeted sub verticals, such as sports and entertainment, where we have specialists who understand the unique communications requirements for different events and venues.
It was apparent in the pandemic that our ability to quickly solve industry problems made a difference. In healthcare we were confronted with questions like–how do you improve the patient experience? How do you do a better job of moving a medical record from doctor to doctor? How can technology help shorten hospital stays?
Diorio: You said another critical growth driver was finding ways to use advanced analytics and insights to do a better job matching resources, talent, and skills to opportunities. How are you making more data driven resource allocation decisions?
Jules: We’re shifting to a more science-based territory definition within the vertical structure. We have a sales operations team that runs analytics on things like the cost to serve an average client, what coverage models perform best, how quotas should be constructed by industry, and ultimately how we should compensate.
This ties to our vertical focus because we’re constantly rebalancing our allocation of resources and effort based on industry data. Is the healthcare, manufacturing, or hospitality vertical up or down? With Covid, our coverage and quotas have been disrupted. Transportation, hospitality, and airlines are struggling. At the same time, we knew that certain industries–like public sector and healthcare–were set to explode. Being data driven lets us set fair quotas based on competitive analysis and trends. This helped us turn on a dime early-on and figure out where we should double-down on resources and where we could lighten up on industries that were having a tough-go.
Diorio: How have you had to change your selling architecture – in terms of redesigning your incentives, quotas, territories, and roles to motivate your sales teams to balance these priorities and make the right decisions in terms of where to focus their time, activities, and effort?
Jules: Incentives are a big part of this. Over time we have tried to simplify our incentive plans and reduce the number of plans. Simpler is better.
New Sales Revenue is an important growth metric. That’s when somebody rings the bell, sells something, and gets credit. It allows us to understand our pipeline and what now needs to be installed. It also helps us set quotas. So that’s the first thing. From a product perspective, mobility and fiber-based connections are two of our biggest opportunity areas. So, we have compensation that mirrors that value.
But at the end of the day, Total Billed Revenue (TBR) is our biggest incentive because it looks at the whole picture and helps us grow our accounts. As a comprehensive metric, it gives our reps the flexibility and incentive to manage accelerating product life cycles, new product introductions, product expansions, and product sunsets—all while retaining the business we have. At the end of the day, we expect our reps to figure out a way to grow. TBR is the measurement that best guides them.
This also fits with our strategic focus on NPS as a critical driver of revenue, EBITDA, and EPS growth. It motivates our revenue teams to focus on customer lifetime value. Most of our revenue is under contracts. So, every year you have contracts up for renewal. Our customers can choose to change out their networks, mobility suppliers, and wireline suppliers. So, without strong customer satisfaction, we’re not going to achieve our revenue goals.
Diorio: You mentioned that the rapidly changing product lifecycle in the network and communications industry plays a big role in how your team sells and how fast AT&T can grow. Can you talk about how your sales team is managing, and taking advantage of, the wave of innovation hitting your industry?
Jules: Rapid change is happening in every part of our industry – from the evolution of networks (from TDM to ISDN, to IP to SDWAN in our parlance), moving from landline to mobile, and from hardware to software.
The rapid change in the product life cycle impacts all aspects of our go-to-market planning– sales training, incentives, customer education, and relationship building. Our customers are always evaluating their network architecture and their needs are constantly changing, especially with growing consumption of bandwidth and the call for ever-faster speeds. Covid has worked as an accelerant. It created huge demand for bandwidth and new ways of using it. We had to help our customers pivot on a dime to remote work. We set up war rooms to get bandwidth to hundreds of customers during the pandemic. In health care we’ve had to do “bandwidth triage” to keep hospitals running. Banks needed bandwidth like crazy, including shifts from the big, tall buildings in Manhattan, to dragging fiber into the CEO’s house.
It’s been a huge opportunity for us to help clients weather the storm, get back to growth, and strengthen our role as a strategic partner.
Frank Jules is President‐Global Business, responsible for serving AT&T business customers around the world including the largest multi-national enterprises, mid-size corporations, and systems integrators.
You can learn more about the next generation of growth leaders and the state-of-the-art management tools, skills, capabilities, and practices they are using to accelerate revenue growth and adapt to the new buying reality at the Revenue Enablement Institute Web Site. You can nominate growth leaders for our CXO 100 list.