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A CEO’s Perspective: Lou Shipley, Former CEO at Black Duck Software and Vice President of Synopsys

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer
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Mark Nardone, EVP at PAN Communications, speaks with Lou Shipley, former CEO at Black Duck Software and Vice President of Synopsys. Shipley has over 25 years of experience as an enterprise software executive. He is a veteran of six Massachusetts software companies: Avid, WebLine (Cisco), FairMarket (eBay), Reflectent (Citrix), VMTurbo and Black Duck Software.

Shipley learned to create something out of nothing, leading him to several careers in fast-growth companies. In this segment, he speaks to sales and marketing enablement, and the importance of integration between the two departments. Shipley also discusses how Black Duck escaped the skill gap that many brands experience with the pace of digital transformation today.

Watch the clip, read the transcript below or watch the full video to learn about his past experiences, how he emerged as a leader in taking businesses past their growth stages and his involvement with the Boston tech world.



What are your thoughts on sales and marketing integration or the current skill gap? Let’s continue the conversation @markcnardone.



Nardone: Do you find that many sales associates at that early stage had marketing experience? Did they have an understanding on how to market either themselves or market themselves as a salesperson to a prospect? We’re seeing the integration of those two functions where sales is marketing and marketing is sales.
Shipley: That’s an interesting point. Well, I would say where we found that — and one of the big changes between what Black Duck had been and what we ended up doing — was there was real distinction between how sales and marketing were run and compensated. So, prior to the changes we made, marketing could say, “These are our goals. We made them, now pay the bonus.” But you’d miss the sales number. But we changed it to — and our VP of Marketing, Bob Canaway, came in and said, “Look. If we don’t make our numbers, we’re not paying the bonuses.” So, sales and marketing were equally comped. And marketing would only focus on things that would drive net new sales or sales to existing customers. And that made a huge difference as everybody was really on the same team and integrated.

Bi-weekly meetings — the best meeting was a bi-weekly meeting where they looked at, “We did these leads and they turned into this business.” Or, “We did this trade show and it stunk.” And this wasn’t good. “Let’s not do that anymore.” We really adapted the “fail fast” mentality. Be brutally honest with yourself. I tell the story about – you’re a golfer. Someone asks you what your handicap is and then, you’re a 15 and you say you’re a 10. You’re not, right?

But you know you’re not. You’re a 15. So just say you’re a 15. And if you miss a quarter just say it, “What did we do wrong?” Because there is something you can do to get from a 15 to a 10. But saying you’re a 10 when you’re a 15 isn’t helping anybody.
Nardone: Builds a lot of trust, right?
Shipley: Yeah.
Nardone: I like the way you talk about those meetings, those bi-weekly meetings and there’s a lot of transparency and knowledge sharing going back and forth. And nobody’s really pointing fingers.
Shipley: That’s exactly right. We didn’t have the sales guys say, “We don’t have any leads.” And the marketing guys say, “You didn’t do anything with our leads we give.” None of that. Bob and Adam were just aligned. That’s the thing about getting a good team. If you have a great team together and they have the same goals and objectives, it’s terrific.
Nardone: What did you recognize as you were coming in and landing and then, expanding, of course, inside of the company that the current skill set you had that was either lacking, needed to maybe improve? We talk a lot about pace and the agility of businesses. You hear a lot now about digital transformation. The area that a lot of brands are talking about and enterprises of honing into is there’s a skill gap there. As these companies transform from where they were – a legacy – to where they’re heading tomorrow with innovation or disruption, there could be a lag period for people’s skills to catch up. Did you experience that at Black Duck?
Shipley: Totally. And it was probably the most poignant, the most noticeable in the sales model because Black Duck had done a really good job of selling really big deals that took a long time, took a lot of on-site demonstrations and proofs of concept, and that sort of thing. And we needed to move it to this high-velocity model. Still do the big deals, but you needed to do sort of 10, 20, 30K deals fast and predictable.

And what we ended up doing was we recruited a whole new team. We just went to colleges around Boston. We went to UMass. We went to WPI. We went down to Trinity College. We went to all sorts of places and we built — we now have like 100 people that came in out of college. And we trained them on how to sell our product. And that’s been a really successful model. It went from kind of classic “Go hire the experienced guy with gray hair who’’ got the Rolodex and he’ll sell.” Versus, “Train people on how to do something in your model.” And our VP of Sales, Adam Clay, absolutely phenomenal in building the system out.

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