GE: Digital Transformation of the Global Salesforce

How is one of the largest companies in the world evolving the way it sells? Cate Gutowski, Vice President, Commercial & digital THREAD at General Electric, speaks with CXOTalk about digital transformation of the global salesforce at General Electric, and the changing relationship between sales and IT.


Dec 01, 2017

How is one of the largest companies in the world evolving the way it sells? Cate Gutowski, Vice President, Commercial & digital THREAD at General Electric, speaks with CXOTalk about digital transformation of the global salesforce at General Electric, and the changing relationship between sales and IT.

Gutowski, who has worked at GE for two decades, explains the sales function is about to undergo the biggest transformation in the history of selling:

“We are driving the digital transformation of our sales force by activating the Commercial digital THREAD, a connected digital ecosystem that will enable our Field Sales professionals to serve our customers with speed, and drive growth,” she says. “My team of Product Managers incubates new technologies in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Predictive Analytics to rapidly test and learn on how we can drive more productivity for our 25,000 sellers across 180 countries. Our mission is to enable our Field Sales teams all over the world to do their jobs simpler, faster and better than they could before by leveraging technology.”


Michael Krigsman: Okay. You are a 100-year-old company with $125 billion in revenue, and you decide it's time to change the company and transform how we sell. Who are you going to call? You're going to call our guest today, Cate Gutowski, who is with General Electric.

Before we turn it to Cate, I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. You are watching Episode #266 of CxOTalk.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to They are an amazing company. It's a small company that builds an assistant, a personal assistant based on artificial intelligence for salespeople. I've been an advisor to the company. They're a great company. Some of their customers are the largest organizations in the world, including General Electric. Go to their website, and thank you so much to Tact for supporting CxOTalk.

Without further ado, I want to give a hearty welcome to Cate Gutowski. I've mangled your name, and I'm sorry, Cate.

Cate Gutowski: No! [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: How are you? [Laughter]

Cate Gutowski: No problem. No problem. [Laughter] [Laughter]

Cate Gutowski: Hi, Michael. How are you?

Michael Krigsman: I am well. Thank you so much for being a guest on CxOTalk. Tell us about GE, and tell us what you do.

Cate Gutowski: Great. No, thanks for having me, Michael. I'm currently based in Boston. I've been with GE for 20 years. What I'm currently doing for the company is leading our sales function globally. Specifically, I'm leading the current digital transformation of our sales force.

Today, GE has ten different business units. We have 25,000 sellers in 180 countries. The job that my team and I have is to really help create a technology stack for sales. The reason why we're working on a transformation of our sales force is because GE is in the process of transforming from a 125-year-old industrial company to a digital industrial. One of the things that we've recognized is that if we're really going to become a digital industrial, it's important that we think, act, and work in a digital way.

Michael Krigsman: From a sales perspective, what does that mean? When you say, "Think, act, and work in a digital way," give us some color as to what that means.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, it's a great question, Michael. I'll share a specific example. For me, I've been with the company 20 years, as I mentioned. When I look at the way that our sales teams are selling, they're fundamentally selling the same way as I did when I started and graduated off GE's technical leadership program 18 years ago.

The tools of the sales force are mostly PowerPoint; it's mostly product training; more recently, outcome selling training; and, more recently, probably in the last ten years, one of the key tools of the sales force is CRM systems, which essentially are really databases. When we think about those as the tools of the sales force, I would argue that those aren't modern and contemporary tools. What we really want to do is create a technology stack for sales that helps our sellers to be more modern, more contemporary and, most importantly, helps them to address our customers' needs.

Michael Krigsman: It's the intersection of technology and sales that you're focused on right now.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, that's right, Michael. I think I have the best job in the company because my job really is the intersection of three things that I really love, which are getting to spend time with our sales teams all around the world. It's product development, particularly software product development, and it's all focused on change, transformation, and the digital space. It's a great role.

Michael Krigsman: This transformation that you've been describing is a very large transformation that cuts across GE.

Cate Gutowski: That's right. That's right. The way to think about our team is, we're currently a horizontal in the company, so meaning we really focus on the common needs and common problems of each of the different business units. Even though we might be selling aircraft engines in one business and MRI machines in another business in our healthcare business, at the end of the day there's more that's common across all of our different business units than that's different. And so, we work on the common needs and common problems of those divisions.

Michael Krigsman: From a sales standpoint then, General Electric has so many different divisions, and they're so disparate. From a sales standpoint, what are some of those common elements? Is it fair to say that you're unifying?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. It's a great question. Here's an example I'd share. I think one of the great things we've done in partnership with our CIO is we've created more synergies. In the past, each business unit would have its own commercial CIO. That commercial CIO was dedicated to working with the sales leaders to make sure that the sales teams had the tools and the technologies that they needed. We've recognized that that's probably an inefficient way to work, and so we've consolidated all of that into one commercial CIO that works across all of the businesses and is essentially my partner in getting a lot of this work done.

Michael Krigsman: You're working very closely with IT and the CIO.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: I just want to remind everybody that we're talking with Cate Gutowski, who is with General Electric and responsible for sales transformation. There is a tweet chat going on right now using the hashtag #CxOTalk. If you go to Twitter, you can actually send questions to Cate.

You're working closely with IT and the CIO. Why is that so important?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, great question, Michael. I love that question. Look; one of the things I'm convinced of is that all future sales leaders, I think, in order to be successful, you really need to have a very close working partnership with your CIO. Look; there's a lot of technology that exists today. It exists right now. It's on the market right now that can dramatically change your sales process and make you significantly more efficient and make your sales teams more productive.

The problem is a lot of us quite simply don't like change. And so, for me, it's been fantastic. I almost felt like an IT wannabe. I've spent a lot of time with the IT team. What I can tell you is that they're incredible partners. Any job I ever take in the future, I'm going to make sure that I have the opportunity to really develop a close partnership because I can see how it can be incredibly productive.

Michael Krigsman: How do you engage? The reason I'm asking, for many organizations, there are such strong silos. We have sales. We have marketing.

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: We have IT. These all, each of these groups, have its own objective, its own KPIs. How do you manage the collaboration? How do you do that?

Cate Gutowski: Yes, it's a good question. When I was asked to lead this digital transformation, chose to organize my team as product management. I have product managers that wake up every morning that are focused on different areas. They partner with a lot of technology companies.

We make decisions every day, Michael. Are we going to build, make, or buy technologies? In some cases things are strategic and we want to have the IP around it. We feel like we can execute it faster than someone else, and so we'll choose to do it on our own. But, in a lot of cases, there's a lot. The sales technology landscape is exploding right now, and there are a lot of great technology, like, for example, that exists that it's cheaper, faster, and better for us to partner with a company like Tact to bring a product like the GE Digital Assistant to market and to our sales professionals than it would be to try to create it on our own.

Michael Krigsman: That's really interesting. You are actively deciding where to invest.

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: Do we build the technology that we need? Do we go out of house and buy that technology?

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: Working with IT to deploy that technology.

Cate Gutowski: Right.

Michael Krigsman: How do you make those kinds of difficult investment decisions, those make versus buy decisions?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, it's a great question. It's really the core function of product management to make those decisions. Every dollar that we have to invest from a capital standpoint, we want to make sure that we're getting a $4 to $5 return. And so, from a capital allocation standpoint, that's how we look at it.

The other strategic questions that we ask ourselves are, is this strategic in nature? I'll give you an example. It was strategic for us. We just built our customer data foundation. It took us nine months to link 50 instances of sales force all around the company and to set up master data management and data governance for our customer data. We believe that data is the new oil and that having data is going to be strategically important for us.

For us as GE, we have always spent a lot of time valuing financial data. We protect the financial data. We spend a lot of time on the financial data, but we hadn't been spending time and investing money in our customer data. I would argue that that's strategically more important in the next three to five years than the financial data. And so, that was an area that we chose to invest in. We did have a partner that helped us with machine learning, but we invested in that on our own.

In other areas, like for example Digital Assistant, which helps our sales teams to rapidly update CRM with never having to open up their computer, which they love. They can text it in or voice in their CRM updates. That's an area that is already developed that the artificial intelligence technology there is sophisticated. It would take us longer to try to do that on our own versus we can get to market faster. We can implement it and see a benefit sooner than if we were trying to do it on our own.

Michael Krigsman: Cate, you raised a very, very fascinating point that data is the new oil, and we've been focused on financial data.

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: But now we're focused, or I should say you're focused, on the customer data. And so, would you elaborate on that? That's quite fascinating, actually, quite interesting.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, this is a topic I'm really passionate about. The way that we started to work on this was really quite simple. Like a lot of companies, [laughter] look, I'm embarrassed to say that we didn't have a system to manage all of our customer data all across the company. The outcome of that is staggering. We know that our sales teams spend two-thirds of their time today on administrative tasks and only one-third of their time face-to-face with customers. We know that when our sales team spends more time in front of our customers, we know that they sell more. We've proven that with statistics and regression analysis, and we know that cold.

What was important to us was, look, Michael. I was building the things that I always wanted when I was selling and leading the sales organization. I'll give you an example. I came from the lighting business. When I was in lighting, I wanted to leverage the GE store. I wanted to leverage the contacts that someone in oil and gas had with Exxon Mobile. And, I wanted to get a warm introduction to Exxon Mobile.

In the past, I would spend three weeks, on average, calling and emailing around the company to try to find the right person that could give me a warm introduction. The reality is that that's just not efficient, and it's not productive. The reason why we invested time and money to put this customer data set altogether for the company is because now if I want to get a warm introduction to Exxon Mobile, I can find the information in seconds, and I can see who are the 12 people in the company who have active deals with Exxon Mobile, who are they working with, what's the job, how big is it. I can see all of that, whereas in the past it was like finding a needle in a haystack, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Having the right data will make a direct impact on the time that salespeople are able to spend with customers. But, at the same time, they'll have better, more accurate, more up-to-date and complete information as well, so it's both of those things.

Cate Gutowski: Yes. That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter.

Cate Gutowski: Okay.

Michael Krigsman: From Scott Weitzman. Scott Weitzman is asking, is utilizing these new technologies helping you drive higher engagement from field sales and, therefore, becomes almost like a new form of motivation? I'll add the data. Does it help motivate the salespeople?

Cate Gutowski: The answer is yes. We've seen that. First of all, thank you so much for the question. I think it's a great question. One of the things that we've seen is that it is a motivator. I'll give you a great example. We implemented, in partnership with Tact, the new GE Digital Assistant.

One of the things that we saw, one of my favorite quotes is from Mack D'Maeo (phonetic) and from our healthcare business. He told us. He said, "Look. I love this technology because, Cate, in one day I saw more customers; I updated CRM more times, eight times in one day versus once a day on average; and I never even had to open up my laptop."

If you think about it, all of our sellers, it doesn't matter if you're with GE or what company you're with. Every seller that's really worth their salt, they all just want to sell, and they don't want to be bothered with a lot of administrative tasks. And so, we've found that, yes, a lot of these technologies do provide motivation, and they quite simply enable our sales teams to just do what they love, which is to spend time with customers and not spend time on a lot of administrative tasks.

Michael Krigsman: Now, Cate, we've been talking about how technology enables the relationship with customers, enables the salespeople to do a better job, to be more efficient, and so forth. But, from the customer's standpoint, how have buyers' expectations, your customers' expectations changed? How do the customers view this, what do they want, and what do they demand?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. I like this question because I think this is one of our biggest learnings. Look; here's what we've really learned about our customers. What we've learned about our customers is that our customers are changing faster than we are, quite honestly. What's driving this? There are a couple of things driving this.

One of the key things that's driving this is the consumerization, the consumer Internet companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and more. They've had a tremendous impact on not just our customers, but our employees. How is that? Well, before I go to bed at night, I might buy something on Amazon. It's really easy, right? It takes me less than a minute or two to do that.

Then I wake up in the morning, and I go to work. If I'm a sales professional, I open up my CRM, and I see what looks like a database. Quite honestly, it just doesn't feel good. You know? It doesn't.

What we see is the need for technology to transform the sales experience. One of the things that we believe is that if we invest to transform the sales experience, we then, in turn, empower our sales professionals to transform the customer experience. That's been a big learning for us.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah, isn't that amazing? We've come to expect tools that somehow not only have the functions but somehow make us feel good.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Right?

Cate Gutowski: Right. That's right. That's right, Michael. Our customers, though, are demanding a better experience, and our employees, rightfully so, are also demanding a better experience.

I want to build on that question. There's one other point I want to make on that that I think is really important for your audience because I think this is a key learning for us. I wish I would have known this, so I'll share it with the audience.

One of the other realizations that we've come to is that our customers really want to buy differently than they have in the past. I think, in the past, Michael, if we wanted to drive growth, we would say, "Ah, we just need to go hire more salespeople." But you know what? That's actually not what we need to do. [Laughter]

If you look at the way the customers want to buy, they don't want to see a salesperson at the beginning of the journey. But what our customers do want is they do want to see a thoughtful white paper. They do want to read an interesting case study. They want to go to a conference and hear a great presentation about something that worked at another company. All of that is done by marketing, and so we have to invest in marketing at the beginning of the buyer's journey.

The other thing is that we always want the salesperson to kind of own the whole process, but the reality is that our customers don't want to buy that way. In the middle of the sales cycle, they're probably more comfortable interacting with someone online or on social media or getting a simple question answered. It's actually much later in the sales cycles that they want to see, interact, and spend time with a sales professional.

It means several things. Number one, we need new investment in marketing and more investment in inside sales than we've ever had before in order to enable our customers to be more delighted with how they work with us. Essentially, it means a new division of labor. It means to me that we don't need necessarily as many sales professionals as we've had in the past. We can deliver a better experience to our customers at a lower cost if we just look at how we do work differently.

Michael Krigsman: You're talking about that whole sense of experience. It seems to be creating that positive experience, both for salespeople inside the company, your employees, and especially for your customers. That's a very strong common thread here.

Cate Gutowski: Yes, that's exactly right.

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from the @CxOTalk account who asks, "What does sales transformation actually look like at General Electric in terms of things like process? How does the process change the outcomes? What are the outcomes you expect from this?"

Cate Gutowski: That's a great question. Look; a couple things. First of all, I'd say that [laughter] I think it's really important to note we're not done with our transformation by any means, but I do think that when we get invitations to speak about it, one of the things that we do feel is important is to be very transparent about what we're learning and also about how we're failing, and how we're making mistakes in hopes that we can help the entire industry.

One of the things that I'd share, to answer your question, the process does look different in businesses like our GE Power business, for example. One of the things that our GE Power business has done a really great job, under the leadership of Meg Chapman, a very talented marketing professional, is they've invested a lot more in digital technologies that help capture data about our customers. I'll share a quick example.

One of the things that Meg Chapman and her team did is they started to capture data about customers that were visiting the website. What they started to do was piece together the customer fingerprint. They would get data about what things the customer was downloading, what they were interested in, and how much time did they spent in certain areas.

I remember recently that they shared this information with one of the sales professionals in the GE Power team. They said to the sales professional, "Look, John. You really need to talk to this customer, this utility in Florida, about this new product.

The sales professional John said, "Oh, no, I don't need to speak to them about that. I don't think they're interested in it."

They said, "Well, look, we've been capturing data. We've captured the customer fingerprint. It says that they are."

And so, he said, "Okay. I'm going to try it," and so he goes, and he speaks to the customer about this technology.

Sure enough, it turns out they were interested because they were downloading information. They were looking at different case studies and more. In four months, this sales professional won an $8 million order that normally would have taken a year to win. And so, I think that's a great example of sales and marketing collaboration, but it's also a good example of GE Power implementing their sales transformation and it's resulting in more orders faster.

Michael Krigsman: You have real collaboration across all of these groups. That seems another fundamental--

Cate Gutowski: Oh, well, I wouldn't say that we have real collaboration across all groups, but I think we're on a journey. But, that's certainly the goal, and I think every business is at a different place in their transformation. I think we've got pockets of a lot of great work happening all across the company.

Michael Krigsman: Well, I want to just take a moment and say thank you to the 16,000 viewers who are watching this right now. We are speaking with Cate Gutowski, who is responsible for sales transformation at General Electric, which is a $125 billion company. Think about that. That's a lot of billions.

Go over to Twitter using the hashtag #CxOTalk because there's a tweet chat happening right now. You can ask questions directly of Cate.

Cate, you've been talking about change and transformation. Change is hard. You said that earlier. And so, how do you drive change through such a large company?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, it's a great question. Look, again, I'll share a failure and a learning that I think illustrates the point. Look; when we were at the beginning of this transformation, one of the things that I did is that I started talking about why we were doing it and why we were investing in it and investing time in it. One of the things that I explain to folks was that, look, we're doing this for a couple of reasons. Number one, we want to become a digital industrial and we recognize that if we want to sell digital, we have to actually be digital ourselves. That's important. You have incredible credibility with customers if you can share your own experiences because the future of selling isn't about selling. It's about really sharing insights, thought leadership, and experience with your customers so that they can be successful in their own transformations. That was part of why we were doing it.

When I spoke at a very high level about why we were doing it, I spoke about we're trying to drive growth, we're trying to drive speed, [and] we're trying to drive productivity. We know that when we drive 5% productivity in the sales force, we can deliver $6 billion, which is no small amount of money. When I started talking about this, Michael, the reality is that the sellers, like talking about growth, speed, and productivity, it didn't really make them want to jump out of bed in the morning. It just didn't. If I'm honest with myself, it just didn't.

I read Simon Sinek's book Start with Why, and it had a big impact on me. I really came to understand the importance of purpose in uniting a group. I learned that there is a difference between leading an initiative and starting a movement. I said, "I want to start a movement." [Laughter]

What I came to be familiar with was the law of innovation. What the law of innovation says is if you want to drive any change anywhere, if you want to successfully sell any product, if you want to drive a sales transformation, whatever you want to do, the law of innovation is a simple bell curve. What it says is that you need to first convert the innovators, the first 2.5%, and then [the] early adopters, the next 12.5%. At that point in the curve, you get to the first 18%. That's your tipping point. That's how you really create change.

What we did is, we gathered together the different business units, and we crowdsourced our purpose for our transformation. Instead of talking about growth, speed, and productivity, which people didn't care about, we crowdsourced the purpose. The sales team came up with something much better than I could have ever come up with, which was, our purpose is we're here. We wake up every morning inspired to build trusted relationships with our customers so that, together, we can change the world. This relates to GE's bigger purpose of we're here to build power, cure, and move the world. I don't know. I thought it was very inspiring.

Michael Krigsman: Do you consider yourself to be a change agent? I know you're a sales transformation leader, but how do you think about yourself in this change role?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. You know what's funny about that, Michael, is I recently worked with Simon Sinek and his team. They helped me discover my own purpose. I didn't know of it, but when I went through the process, I discovered my own purpose. My purpose is that I have the courage to go first and then I make it safe for others to come along. I didn't realize it about myself, but when we went through kind of my life history, [laughter] there was a lot of examples of where that was true, and so that's why this is a great job for me because it's really aligned with my purpose.

Michael Krigsman: I'm just tweeting this out. I love that. You've just defined. That's the definition of a natural change agent. I have the purpose to go first and make it safe for others to come along.

Cate Gutowski: Oh, I have the courage. I have the courage.

Michael Krigsman: Oh, courage. Courage. Courage. Thank you.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, I have the courage to go first. I have the courage to go first, and then I make it safe for others to follow. Yep. I don't know why. I just ended up that way. I don't know. Genetics. I'm not sure. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Change agent, obviously, clearly is a major part of what you do. That's what you do.

Cate Gutowski: That's right.

Michael Krigsman: I want to switch back now to some of the tools discussion. I know that you're working closely with

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: --which is underwriting this episode. Again, I want to say thank you to Tact. Being on CxOTalk, there's no cost to watch CxOTalk. We are not paid for people to be on CxOTalk. It's pure meritocracy. It's underwriters like Tact who make it possible for us to be here. We're like NPR. It's literally true.

Cate Gutowski: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: We're very grateful to Tact. I know you're working closely with Tact.

Cate Gutowski: Mm-hmm.

Michael Krigsman: Please, tell us, what are you doing with

Cate Gutowski: Yes, so Tact has been a great partner for GE. Tact has worked with several of our business units: our GE Healthcare business, our GE Energy Connections business, [and] our GE Digital business. What we've loved from the beginning about the technology is that when we talked about that consumerization that our customers and our employees are really kind of demanding, really delivers on that. It really creates an enhanced experience for our sellers.

What we've loved about it is that it doesn't matter what business unit I talk to. Believe me, I've looked. The sales technology landscape, as we talked about earlier, is exploding right now. What's happening to sales is what happened to marketing about seven to nine years ago. The function will transform more in the next 2 years than it has in the past 50, and it's happening right now. One of the things that's really important is that we find technologies that can be used in multiple types of business units. This is the only one that it seems everybody can agree creates real value.

Michael Krigsman: What are you doing with them? Tell us about the nature of that.

Cate Gutowski: Oh, yes. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Michael. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Tell us about that relationship. [Laughter]

Cate Gutowski: What am I doing? [Laughter] Here's what we're doing. We've been partnering with Tact. We partnered with them to create the GE Digital Assistant. Essentially, what this is, this is an overlay on top of our CRM instance. What it does, quite simply, is for those in the audience that are listening or watching that maybe can relate to this. If you're a business and you're struggling, you have low CRM adoption, there's a reason why. It's because your sellers don't want to enter data into a database because there's not really anything in it for them.

If you're listening, you might say, "Well, I'm a company that doesn't have good data in my CRM database." Well, again, there's a reason why. It's because there's not really anything in it for your sellers.

What we've loved about the GE Digital Assistant product that we built together is that it enables a seller to capture, either through text or through voice, what we call the golden five minutes after a sales meeting. What we find is that we're getting more data entered into the CRM system. In businesses like healthcare, it's eight times a day on average. We just got done with a large pilot of 300 users. In businesses like digital, we're getting CRM updates on average 16 times a day versus 1 day on average. That excites us because, as we get more data entered into the system, we're also seeing better data quality. Once you get better data quality, you can start to share that with your supply chain function, your product management function, and your marketing function, all these functions in the company that want to help sellers win, but they just quite honestly don't have good enough data.

Michael Krigsman: Now, you're obviously a very, very large company, and Tact is a startup. How do you work; how do you manage that? Really, for many companies, it's hard for many large organizations. It's hard to do that, so how do you manage that relationship and work in a productive way with a smaller company?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. I think one of the biggest changes that we've had in the company, and I really give our Vice Chair Beth Comstock credit for this. I think Beth has really made it safe for all of us in the company to really partner a lot more with companies of all sizes: startups, small companies, midsize companies. It doesn't really matter. I think she's really made it safe for us to do that.

I think one of the values that we have as a company is we're really seeking the best ideas regardless of the source. For us, we love partnering with startups because, really, GE, we're a 125-year-old industrial company, but what we want to be is a digital industrial startup. We're trying to reinvent ourselves. And so, we love; we love spending time with startups because we're trying to think, act, and work more like a startup ourselves.

We really valued the partnership with Tact. They've taught us a lot. Very early on when we were working to build our strategy, they were a key partner in helping us think through that.

Michael Krigsman: That's interesting. It's not just a matter of product features and functions in that relationship. It's learning from them and sharing that strategy development, we could say as well.

Cate Gutowski: That's right. That's right. That's been key for us. The other thing is they've also had great assets. They have a great, very nimble team. I remember we spent a whole weekend working on a video. It was better than what we could do in-house. We needed that video because we needed to communicate what the Digital Assistant was, and we needed to help leadership really understand it.

We were getting ready for a big commercial council meeting with our CEO, and so it was a great experience. They made us feel good too because they said, "Look. You're such a big company, but yet when we worked with you over the weekend on this, we got a lot done. It almost felt like we were working with a startup." That kind of made us feel good because we're trying to be one, actually. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: When you're working with a company like Tact, how do you evaluate the relationship? Are there metrics? Is there a checklist? How do you think about that?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. Yeah, so I think when we're evaluating companies, what we're looking for in a partner is, we're looking for a couple things. Number one, are they strategic? Do they have thought leadership that we can take advantage of? Do they have great technology? Do they have a quality mindset? I think the other piece is, can they help make GE more competitive than it is today? That can come in the form of price, but that can also come in the form of other areas of value.

Michael Krigsman: These are the kind of checklist items that you think about when you're evaluating this kind of relationship.

Cate Gutowski: Yes, absolutely, and I think we're also looking for partners that are flexible. We're also looking for partners that think and work in terms of data and metrics. For example, when we have been working on this 300-person pilot with our healthcare business, we set up a whole host of KPIs and metrics at the beginning of the pilot. We said, "Look. If we achieve these goals, we'll both mutually deem that this was successful and worth investing in and scaling." That's what we've been working on more recently.

Michael Krigsman: We have only about five minutes left. Again, I just want to remind everybody that we're speaking with Cate Gutowski, who is responsible for sales transformation at General Electric. There's still a moment where you can ask questions. Go to Twitter at #CxOTalk.

I also want to give a shout-out to Jill Rowley, who introduced me to Cate. Jill came to me, and she said, "You have not spoken about digital transformation and sales transformation on CxOTalk, and that's an oversight. You need to speak with Cate." She introduced us, and so that's a shout-out to Jill. Thank you so much.

Cate, as we finish up, what advice do you have for other organizations who may be trying to undertake a similar kind of transformation as you've been going through? You've been through it, and you're going through it. What advice do you have?

Cate Gutowski: Yeah. I think some of the advice I have is--you mention Jill, and I think Jill was one of the strategic consultants we partnered with early on--to quite honestly just really understand the industry and how it had really been changing. She'd been a great strategic advisor and partner to us early on. I think, number one, you've got to surround yourself with experts and thought leaders in the industry. I think that's important.

I think, second, the things that I wish someone would have told me, quite honestly, is, number one, I think a lot of us are Type-A, right? At GE, we've got a lot. We have 300,000 Type-A people here. When you're Type-A, you tend to want to be perfect. You want to do everything perfectly. I think that that worked in an old, industrial world, but I think we're in a time of great disruption.

Every industry is being disrupted, every company, every function. What that means is that we all have to change and adapt our ways of working and thinking. One of the ways that we've been trying to adapt is we've been trying to think, act, and work like a startup. That means starting small. That means testing and learning. That means being really comfortable with failing, and I mean really comfortable where you've got to celebrate failures.

I know Beth Comstock loves to give the example of how there was someone who came to her with a great idea and said, "I want you to give me $1 million."

She said, "Look. Before I give you $1 million for this idea, let's just test it. Let's just spend $10,000. Let's just test it."

They spent $10,000 and found out that the idea would not work. In fact, it failed. As a result, she celebrated the fact that we didn't spend $900,000, but we only spent $10,000. I think that was a great example of a leader who's helping us to see the world differently and to help us to see that we actually should celebrate failure. When we do that, we make it more comfortable for our teams to fail.

When we're failing, we're learning. When we're learning, we're growing. When we're growing, we're changing and we're getting better.

Michael Krigsman: I think that this kind of testing and experimenting and then changing course based on the learnings, that gets right to the heart of not just corporate agility, but functioning as a startup and innovation. It gets right to the center of it.

Cate Gutowski: Yeah, that's exactly right, Michael. For those that are listening, I think a lot of people say, "Well, I can't do a sales transformation because I'm not big like GE," or, "I don't have a lot of resources." I would actually argue the opposite. I believe that any company of any size can execute a transformation. You don't need a lot of money, and you don't need a big team. All you need is a commitment to test, learn, fail, experiment, and keep iterating just like a startup would.

Michael Krigsman: We're actually out of time, but we have one last question from Twitter. This is from Anurag Harsh, who is a senior executive at Ziff Davis and a guest. He's written seven books on digital transformation, and he's been a guest on this show. He's saying, "What are the key strategies that you have to incentivize the best salespeople? Do sales commissions work anymore?"

Cate Gutowski: Hmm. Oh, it's a great question. Thank you for that. Look; here's what I would say. We're actually looking at incentive compensation right now as a company. I think there are some fundamental principles or beliefs that we have. I think, under our new leadership, under our new CEO John Flannery, one of the things that he believes is that our best sales professionals should make a lot of money. They should be making more than our CEOs. I think that's a fundamental strategy change for us because that hasn't been the case in the past. I think that's one area that we're exploring.

I think the other area that's important to explore is that the role of sales is changing. Meaning that our customers, when I think about some of the biggest deals that we're winning, it's not just the seller that's selling on their own. It's actually a team of individuals. A lot of times the customers are making the buy decision.

For example, in our Aviation Digital business, customers are making the decision to buy after they've met with the chief technology officer. That's a great example of how more of the functions are playing a role. We've got other businesses where big deals that we've done wouldn't have gotten done without the personal involvement of the CFO walking the customer through the financing package that GE was going to offer for a large deal. I think that groups like finance, technology, product management, they're all playing a critical role in helping us win big deals. As a result, it only makes sense that their incentives should change as well.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. Well, that was a very detailed question and a detailed answer, as we are done with this very fast episode of CxOTalk. Boy, the time flew by quickly. You have been watching Episode number -- which episode is it?

Cate Gutowski: 266! Right, Michael?

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter]

Cate Gutowski: [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Yes, that's right. Thank you. You have been watching Episode #266 of CxOTalk. We've been speaking with Cate Gutowski, who is responsible for sales transformation at General Electric. Cate, thank you so much, and I hope you'll come back and do this again with us another time.

Cate Gutowski: I'd be happy to, Michael. Thank you. It's been fun.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching. Next week, at this same time, we are speaking with Chris Satchell who is the chief product officer at Comcast. Check it out, and be sure to like us on Facebook. Don't forget. And, subscribe on YouTube. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

Published Date: Dec 01, 2017

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 486