B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business

 

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business

 

One of your main goals as an entrepreneur is to grow your business. While there are many ways you can go about that, Sangram Vajreco-founder at Terminusbelieves that the most important thing is for you to truly understand the go-to-market and what a good market isHe tells Vijay Damojipurapu that go-to-market is a process of transforming your business consistently and there are different stages that can help you with it. There’s the ideation stage, transition stage and the execution stage. All these stages combined with a great understanding of the platform market fit and product market fit will create path to your business’ success. 

Listen to the podcast here

Grow Your Business Exponentially By Identifying Your Go-To-Market Strategy With Sangram Vajre

I have with me theone and only Sangram Vajre. Sangram, welcome to theshow. I’m super excited to have you here.

Vijay, I am looking forward to this. We’re going for it. Let’s see what comes out of it.

This is the first time that I’m doing an ad hoc show and let’s go with the flow. I know it’ll be super valuable and insightful for the audience as well. Let’s start with the signature question that I always ask all my guests which is, how do you define go-to-market

Creating market is something that most people don’t think about. Click To Tweet

It’s an important question as I’m sure everybody’s talking about it. As you know, I’m writing a book on go-to-market, so this is very near and dear to me. I’m going to give you two. One is a simplistic one based on my interview with Brian Halligan, who is the CEO of HubSpot. I think he nailed it. One is more of a holistic one where you connect the dots when you pull everything together. One of the interviews that I did for the book was with Brian. They just crossed that public company with 100,000 customers. When I asked him about go-to-market, his response was, “It’s like a product.” That’s his view on it. It’s not something that you go on an offside and draw a bunch of different things, get your team together, kumbaya and then you’re done. No, it’s a product so it’s iterative. It is bug fixing all the time. It goes off the rails and then you have to pull it back in. You have to continue to change, edit and keep moving. He looks at go-to-market as a product. I felt like that nailed it in a sense.

Now, taking a more bookish definition of this thing, what I’m writing down is that go-to-market is a transformational process. It’s a process of transforming your business consistently. It’s a transformation process of accelerating your path to market. That path to market could be many different forms, but it’s a path to market with high-performing revenue teams. That’s where a lot of people mix it up.A lot of people think it’s marketing and sales, but it’s marketing, sales and customer success. What all of this does is creating a connected customer experience out there. Putting it all together,go-to-market is a transformational process for accelerating your path to market with high-performing revenue teams, delivering connected customer experiences.

I love both those definitions and views. I love what Brian mentioned there, which is having the perspective and lens of go-to-market as a product. It’s evolving. There’s a V1 version and a V2 version. It’s always evolving. There’ll be bugs that you need to fix. The only thing that I would add Sangram is absolutely for sales and marketing-led organizations is those companies and the teams, which is the marketing sales and customer success. When it comes to the product-led growth teams, you got the product. You also have the user experience and the design teams. 

It’s definitely a big part of it and quite frankly, when I was researching if I should write another book, this will be my third book as part of this journey, I’m like, “I’m not writing into the ABM book. I’m done. I’ve written two of them.” What came about as part of the research was most people forget customer success. They completely missed out on that. You and I both know that retention in many ways is the best way to grow your company. If you can retain your customers and more importantly, if you can upsell and cross-sell or as we like to call it upserving our existing customers, you’re going to have an outsized impact and valuation on your business, but most businesses are not thinking about it that way.

It’s interesting but you bring in a great perspective. When I was researching, the only types of books I found on go-to-market were either channel-based like channel sales-oriented or product launch. The go-to-market product launch in a new region, go-to-market launch of a product in the same region or new product. Itbifurcated either into sales or product launches. It missed it. You’re right, the product is a big part of it and without that, it won’t work. There are other elements to it, which is the team or what team looks like, the RevOps, how the operations of the company look like. We can talk about that. Ultimately, the ownership like who owns it. I think that also becomes a mystery for a lot of people. I had so much fun researching and working on this thing.

We can go on this topic for hours together especially the RevOps who owns it, but we’ll save that for a later time in the show.Let’s switch gears a bit over here. Walk us through your journey. What brought you to this stage from maybe your grad days. Why did you go down this path? Enlighten us on that. 

My master’s is in Computer Science.Most people think master’s is amazing and you have to do a lot more work. For me, it was party time. By the time, I got into master’s program, everybody would ask me to go and present the stuff they create. It was all project-based. I thought, “I’m a great presenter. That’s why they’re asking me to present my team. They will always want me on the team so that I can go and present. Years later, they told me the truth which is, “You know what? You’re just a bad coder. We didn’t want you to code, so we pushed you on the stage.” It gave me a kick into the idea that I love communicating. I love the a-ha moment that people would get when you can take a problem and put it out there in a way that people can consume it and people can repeat it and relate to it. It made me think like, “That’s something interesting.”

Over the period of the first few years after graduation, I got a taste of marketing. I even had a couple of start-ups that failed miserably and those were moonlighting it. I love the fact that I can launch a website overnight. I can launch a product. I can see what happens. I can see from messaging if it’s going to work or not going to work and change it on the fly. I think that those dopamine shots of what marketing gives you was amazing. Iwent from being a program manager at a pretty good-size company to finding a marketing analyst role in a start-up because Iwanted to learn the art of marketing. I didn’t have a marketing background. Long story short, I feel like that has given me the edge because I’m not looking at it from a marketing perspective. I’m looking at it from a people perspective. I don’t even have a marketing way of looking at it. It’s like, “What would I like? What would people want to go? How would people want to engage? How do we bring things together?” That has helped me get to where I am now.

Back in the 20152016 timeframe, you decided to co-found your own company. Why did you go down that path? A lot of people call the founders crazy folks like, “Are you out of your mind or what? Why did you go down that path and how did that help you grow in terms of go-to-market?

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business
Grow Your Business: Retention is the best way to grow your company. You can retain your customers and more importantly, you can upsell and cross-sell.

 

I shared some of this sometime back in one video that we raised in the last round. We’re having our second baby, my daughter Kiara. I was at Salesforceso I was doing fine. My wife, Manmeet had quit her job and she was at home. We wanted to have that time with our kids and then I meet these two co-founders of Terminus. It’s classic. We meet at a bar and we’re like, “We need to do this thing.” I get super excited, come back home and tell my wife. I was like, “I want to do this thing called Terminus. It’s a brand-new thing. Nobody knows about it,” which is pretty much what everybody says in the start-up world“It’s going to be big. It’s going to be massive.”

We just had our second baby. After a week of back and forth, my wife said to me, which was the most powerful thing in my life and something that most people don’t think about and overlook what you need in a partner. She looked at me and said, “Sangram, I know you want to do this and if you don’t do it, you’re going to regret it.” I’m like, “You’re absolutely right.” She did something that every partner should do. She said, “Fine. I’m going to go get a job,” and she got a job in a couple of weeks. We put our baby in a daycare, which we didn’t plan to at that time so early on like six weeks into the process. She said, “Here’s the thing.” This is the most powerful thing of all. She said, “You have one year. In one year, show me this thing has legs. Otherwise, you’ve got to find a real job.”

You can think about the silence at that momentI got this opportunity for whatever but the timeline was incredible. From a go-to-market perspective, I feel like there was a clock on me and I wish everybody would think like they have a clock on them. I had one year to prove this. Otherwise, I’ll have to do something else. We did the Flip My Funnel movement. We launched and we did four events in the first year to build this ABM movement around that. We brought in even our competitors to speak at our events. We can talk about that.

It was our go-to-market strategy. It was to build an industry event, an industry conference, an industry movement so people would look at us. Otherwise, who would look at the first-time co-founders out of Atlanta? Nobody. We wanted to create a movement so that the industry will look at it and I only had one year to prove it. We hit $1 million in revenue in the first year. I remember walking in every day, looking at her. We have two kids. She’s doing a job and everything else that a mom does and I’m trying to do all this stuff. If she wouldn’t have put that timer on me, I don’t think we would have done some of the crazy things we did.

Kudos to your wife. It’s wonderful to have such a great partner and I’m sure you are exuding gratitude every day. I can sense that between the two of you there.

Honestly, as you raised, I shared this openly. I took some chips off the table and I went back and said, “Here’s the money. You don’t have to now go get a job or do the job,” because she’s been doing that for the last six years. It’s a choice that you have if you want to work or not. In a way, it opened up doors for her and she could just get back to the way she wanted to go. It’s a long journeylike six years. I didn’t think either one of us thought it will take me six years to go or do anything, but I think we’re finally back in a position where she has a choice as opposed toshe has to do it.

You mentioned about in year one, you brought in $1 million in revenue. I’m assuming you were bootstrapping omaybe some amount of Angel investment back then. 

We hit it early, about $300,000 from David Cummingswho was the CEO of Pardot to kickstart. In the first year, we hit $1 million, the second we hit $5 million, and the third we hit $15 million. That was our first three years of trajectory.

It goes back to your core principle and core value as well, which you executed in year one which is without a community, you’re a commodity.

I learned that. I was at Salesforce so I saw what Marc Benioff did with Dreamforce. When you think about HubSpot, the reason we know Brian and he had invested in Terminus is because he looked at this and said, “You remind us of us because HubSpot started inbound. That’s why I feel like in many ways, Terminus is doing like if you talk about category leadership or category creation, you’re not trying to create a market fit company. You’re creating the market. It’s a different idea. At some point, you need to go back to the product fit and we can talk about the three stages of the business. Ultimately, we were in a position where we have to create the market because the market did not know, care about and did not see ABM. There was no analyst talking about it. There was nothing.

There is a bigger vacuum. Talking about crossing the chasm, there was just chasm. There was nothing. There was no crossing going on. It was a whole chasm that we had to put a bridge on for people to move from one side of lead-based funnels that has been from the beginning of time of sales and marketing to flipping the funnel and saying, “No, you don’t have to do that.” It was creating the market. I feel very fortunate to be part of that.

As part of what I do at my company, the go-to-market consulting company named Stratyve, I get to work with founders and interact with founders. One piece of advice that I give them is how they can get and find and earn their first set of early buyers. When you’re going from zero to one, that’s the fundamental challenge. When I advise them around doing outbound initially, but with the end goal to drive inbound. It’s not just outbound cold calling and that’s about it, but you actually are building affinity towards your product, company and brand. One thing that they struggled with is and they adopt the principles of is, “Let’s just go and sign up the first beta customers, the first pilot customers,” Whereas you do the other approach, which is to build a community, a following, and then they’ll come to you for your product. 

If you think about it, going back to the timer, I had one year. One year is too short of a time to create a product and product-market fit and all this stuff. Even the Flip My Funnel was by accident. I don’t want to take full credit for it saying that it was so brilliant that we came up with that. It was an accident. When we launched Terminus, we said, “We need to do an event and let people know.” I reached out to all the people I knew who could sponsor it and nobody wanted to sponsor it. I asked them why. They said, “We don’t know Terminus. We don’t want to back your product. We don’t even know what you guys do.” I’m like, “That’s crazy.” I’m like, “Fine.”

For marketers who are in the ideation stage, don’t try to look at segment and cohorts. It won’t make sense to you. Click To Tweet

This idea of Flip My Funnel came about on a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, where I was stuck in the middle seat between two drunk people. I was flipping on a piece of paper, the funnelI’m like, “What if it was Flip My Funnel?” By the time I landed, the Flip My Funnel thing was born. It was just a crazy flight but I reached out to the same peopleI hope people lean into this one. When I reached out to the same people again after a month saying, “We scrapped that idea. I just bought a domain for $8 called Flip My Funnel and I want you to sponsor the Flip My Funnel Conference, which is all about challenging the status quo of marketing and sales. There’s no need for you to do anything other than talk about how marketing and sales can challenge the status quo.”

Idid videos for people like Meagen Eisenberg and all these people who are influencers of that time saying, “I would love for you to come and speak at this event. I’m not asking you anything other than you speak. You get the keynote. We are reaching out to our competitors and said, “You can come in and do a keynote.” We will be in a booth like everybody else. What’s interesting is 300 people showed up at the first event. What I learned in that very thing is that people don’t want to be behind a product. They want to be behind a movement, a problem that they want to be solved.

You go back and hindsight is 20/20. Salesforce could have created Salesforce but they created Dreamforce. HubSpot has created HubSpot, but they call it inbound. Gainsight created Pulse. Growth created hypergrowth.Terminus created Flip My Funnel. Now you can start seeing the groundwork of that’s the way to build newer birth almost in that new category. That wasn’t something we did. We did that out of because we didn’t have funding and nobody wanted to sponsor our event. It came out of complete necessity.

Creating a market is something that most people don’t think about. That is part of the early stage go-to-market. You can be either a product feature company immediately and if the problem is there, it makes sense. If you want to build a billion-dollar business, you have to go beyond the product in the early days. We could have called ourselves account-based advertising because that’s all we did in the beginning, but we didn’t call that because it would have been limiting for us to call over sales and advertising, and then we’ll have to rebrand ourselves and reimagine. We wanted to call it bigger. That’s the vision of trying to build a category. It’s a journey between in many ways, what I look at and what I’ve written in the book around problem-market fit to product-market fit to platform-market fit. We can dive into it if you want.

 

 

We are still working on our product but guess what? Salesforce is still working on its product. It’s a never-ending thing. There’s always one more feature that will change the world, but it never does. You’re absolutely right. We obsess too much about the product. People don’t want to get behind the product. They want to get behind the problem so it’s a bigger story.

Let’s dive into your new upcoming book. You mentioned the three phases. I think you walked us through maybe phase 1. Walk us through the phase 2 and 3 that you talked about in the book and how you see Terminus where it is now versus in the next couple of years.

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business
Grow Your Business: If you want to build a billion-dollar business, you have to go beyond the product early on.

 

The book has a framework that I’ll get into in a minute, but at the highest level, at the stage level, it talks about the three stages, which is ideation, transition and execution. Let’s imagine those as the three stages. An ideation stage is the problemmarket fit. Is there a real problem? Is the market big enough? That’s a classic challenge that every early-stage founderwould face and have to figure out and test everything they can. At some point, they go in and they find like, “We are able to sell this thing.” They go into this product market phase, which we all know in SaaStr and Jason Lemkin, all of them have evangelized that, which is you are able to sell it and you’re able to sell more of it. Now, you know what the market is. When you can sell it, you can increase the price of your product and you can go into multiple different segments.

At some point, even that stops or plateaus, if not dips because there’s only so much you can do and at that time, the market is vacant so more competitors are going to come in the market. Now if you are a product company, then you will have to start doing pricing war and territory war, and all these things that don’t help. All of a sudden, you’re growing and you plateau or go down. The reason might be that this is the time that you need to go to the execution stage which I call the platformmarket fit. This is why every company at some point have more than one product. At the same time, even their market changes to go to more than one persona.

Let’s take our classic example like Salesforce. Salesforce stage was a sales CRM for ten years before they started to become a platform company by adding marketing and success and all the dev stuff that they have put in Chatter. All those things came up later and they turned them into platformmarket fit that allowed the existing customers to upsell, cross-sell and upserve. That’s why the retention is so much higher and the value of each customer is so much higher. It’s the journey of companies from problem market fit to product-market fit to platformmarket fit, and then the framework that we can go in a second, but I wanted to see your reaction to that. Those are the three business stages that have been outlined in the book. 

I see that as problemmarket fit, product-market fit, and then the platformmarket fit. I’ve seen variations as well. I also want to get your thoughts around where you see the productchannel fit within these three stages.

Without the product or without a good product, all of this would fail. At some point, you need to have a good product. People say that Salesforce has the best CRM in the entire world. Can nobody build a better CRM? Of course not. There are better CRM than Salesforce, but they created an ecosystem around it in such a stronger way that it’s hard for anybody to penetrate that and own it. They know it. I was at Salesforce. They are like, “We need to change this,” but they haven’t changed much of it and/or trying to because they’re adding different things and that still doesn’t become the main line of business. The product is at the core of it. It’s got to work but I would submit to you that it doesn’t have to be the best.

That is the part that is hard for people to listen to and almost feel like, “We’re popping out.” I’m like, “No, it doesn’t have to be the best.” Just like Excel spreadsheet, most people don’t use all the features of Excel spreadsheets. Somebody created these 90,000 features in it. It could be done with 25 features that we all need for the most part, but it still has 90,000 features. You don’t need that. You need the main thing. The product is very important but over-rotating on the product and feature is where people start saying the heavy investment in R&D and at the same time, you’re not paying enough attention to the market. You get competitors who can do what you do and maybe sleeker, faster or cheaper and then you get into another issue. Now the cost of your dev team becomes the issue. That should never happen. You should never be overspending on that unless you’re never going to have marketing and sales.

I think especially founders coming from a very product-intensive background. They over-rotate and overinvest in product features, especially when it comes to marketing and sales. You can invest in those in R&D, but when you go out and speak with your prospects, market and customers, and even partners, focus on those hero features. That’s what I call them. The hero features like 1 or 2 where your product kicks ass and does exceedingly well compared to alternatives.

I’m curious about your view on this because you’re working with so many different companies. It’s okay to realize that you’re not trying a new category. You’re trying to be in an existing category. Not everybody has to go and try to build a new category. As a matter of fact, everyone says, “We want to do what you did.” I said, “Don’t do it. It’s hard and painful. You don’t know if you’re going to make it.” We could have created a red carpet for ten other companies. We don’t know but it’s hard. We have to build a movement and a product on top of that, build the team. It just exponentially gets harder. Starting a company is not hard, so don’t do it. Not every company has to do it, but if you’re going to do it, you have to do it very authentically. You have to have a long-term view of it. It cannot be another marketing campaign. 

You hit that point very well, Sangram, which I want to emphasize and I’d say that to the folks I speak with as well, which is we all wish and dream that we are creating a category and doing the entire blue ocean strategy. That’s the Holy Grail. You don’t go with that on day one, only with that selfish intent versus go out in the mindset of, who are my buyers and how do I serve them in the best possible manner? In the process, if the category happens, you earned it. All of the forces aligned for it to happen. You cannot go out and create a category on day one.

I would have a different point of view on that. Either you go for it where you have that long leg. Can you imagine Marc Benioff not doing what he did in the early days? He wanted to go and create a new category. You think about Brian and Dharmesh, they wanted to go and do something. I remember this conversation. I asked Brian and Dharmesh with HubSpot when we’re talking about investments and all that. They’re like, “We are going to invest in it for the next ten years and we’re going to continue to invest in it.”

The valuation of your business and the ease of your business changes as your gross retention rate starts to get better. Click To Tweet

You look at the consistent pattern. It’s all the founders. Marc Benioff is the founder, I’m a founder, Brian and Dharmesh are founders, David Cancel for Drift is a founder, Nick Mehta is a founder. It is not a marketing campaign. It’s not a sales campaign. It’s not a tactical thing. It is the DNA of your company where you have to champion it. In many ways, you have the opportunity to lead when you decide to go do that, but when you are on it, if you don’t do it authentically, people are going to see through it and it’s going to be more harmful than not.

The way you can do it authentically and how you map that issincerely understanding your buyer. That’s where and what it boils down to. How do you go out and sincerely understand? You may have those bunch of meetings. You may not get that a-ha insight right away but stay curious. That’s what I always tell folks. If you look at Terminus now versus a couple of years downstream, where would you map Terminus to in the go-to-market phases?

We are right in the middle of product-market fit and platformmarket fit if you are in that phase because we acquired four different companies. We have multiple different products and we are creating. We definitely are from a product to platform, but we haven’t nailed the full market yet. We are 1,000 customers. We aregoing in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. It starts all over again. It’s an ongoing thing. The four questions that the book and regardless of what stage we are, you have to answer. I call it the MOVE framework, which is Market, Operations, Velocityand Expansion. That’s how you know where you are. Anybody who’s listening to it, you just have to keep asking the same question, but the answer is going to be different based on the stage of the business.

For example, in the ideation stage for the question of like, “Who should you market?” I don’t know. This one, I’m going to look at every heartbeat in this region. I know it’s customer success. I know it’s the market. You’re going to keep going at it and you’re going to figure out and market. In a product-market fit section in the second stage, you’re still asking the same question, but now you know where the product works and what your market looks like. The answer becomes how are we going to create segments? In the third one, think about the execution, the platformmarket fit, the same question, who should we market? Now you’re looking at customer cohorts and seeing which customer cohorts we can jump in. You can see the same question but in a different focus.

It’s the same thing for operations. The question is the same as, “What do you want or what do you need to operate effectively?” Not efficiently but effectively. In the early days in the ideation stage, you might have an ad hoc system to report and operate your business. It makes sense in your spreadsheet later on in the transition. Now you’re going to be aligned. You’re going to do account-based maybe and you get marketing and sales at a minimum aligned on it. If you go to the execution stage, for the most part, you’re probably going to have a RevOps team. Almost every organization is going to start having a RevOps team that no longer you’re going to walk into a meeting saying marketing has a different number and sales has a different number. You don’t need to do that. You can look at the maturity of your organization and jump into that.

The third one is a velocity question, the when question. When can we scale our business? I’m sure you get that question a lot. When can we scale that business? When we get to the problemmarket fit, that’s maybe because everything is reactive for you. At this point, you’re reacting to whatever comes through. The velocity hasn’t jumped in. In a product-market fit, now you’re becoming proactive. Everything is working and you’re trying to be proactive and get ahead of the sales quotas and making sure things are happening. In the execution stage, now you’re prioritizing. Now you’re pulling things together. You’re not looking for the next fire. You’re being opportunistic about it.

The last one is the expansion phase, which is the where question. Where can we grow? That’s the fourth question. The market is who, the operation is what, the velocity is when, and the expansion is where. Where can we grow the most? The answer lies in the same, in the ideation stage. Maybe it’s in the outbound sales team like you‘re talking about earlier, but in the transition stage, you may actually have a channel sales partnership like HubSpot. They have a 40% revenue coming from the agency, which is a completely new way of expanding without having all the people. As you grow, in the execution stage, it might be even further than that, different locations, EMEA, geographies, verticals, all that stuff. Using these four questions is almost the navigation for you across the three stages of the business. This is where a lot of my pieces lies off. 

That aligns very well with a conversation that I’m having with a founder of a CSD company. They found success in the enterprise market. Now, the founder and I were speaking and he wanted me to come up with a down-market scenario. A lot of people do the SMBs and then go upmarket. In this case, he wants to go down-market and go tackle the SMBs and the mid-market. During that phase, the founder was approaching with the mindset of, “I’ll have the SDR doing the cold calling and just building up all the pipeline, and a product marketer for all the demos. Eventually and hopefully, we close some sales. I go, “That’s not going to cut it. You can but a couple of years downstream, you’re going to get tired. It’s going to be exhausting.You’re essentially applying a scaled-down version of your enterprise, go-to-market motion to SMB, which may not fly. You want the efficiency.” 

also emphasize the path of you need to go back to basics. SMBs and mid-market is an entirely different category. They don’t know you. Find those early buyers. Going back to your three phases. That’s what I was telling this founder, you need to go back to basics and then once you attain that product-market fit, that’s when you apply scaling. Coming back to your MOVE, it’s the velocity and the execution phase.

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business
Grow Your Business: The product is every important but over-rotating on the product and feature is where people start saying the heavy investment in R&D.

 

It’s a game-changer. I love the pushback and I’m glad you brought that up. It’s important to recognize that companies can go upmarket, which is a normal thing that we would see, but also going down-market, which is like freemiums and products that they want to offer because they want to figure out the scale in it. That’s a completely different sales motion. That’s a completely different go-to-market motion. You can’t mix them because the cost of acquisition goes rapidly high on it. It’s a sales motion. Where you can grow, trying to answer the expansion questions, it’s very possible that companies would try a new boat with the same team, which sounded like what this team is planning to do. It might completely backfire because it’s not going to make sense from the ratio of that new to actual customers.The pricing won’t make any sense to have a full-time SGR working on all of those. You have to completely change your go-to-market motions.

That’s what I’m emphasizing on. You need to change your go-to-market motion in terms of it’s going to be a freemium or a free trial. You need to also focus on what I call a hero feature. What is that 1 or 2 features that will blow the mind of your buyers, such that it will increase that option and not just that, it’ll increase the virality effect. They are going to be your word-of-mouth referral machine if they love your product. That’s what I was pushing back on and emphasizing with this founder. 

It’s not easy. I think going down-market is way harder than going up-market for sure.

Let’s go into some of the things that I want to touch base with you, which is when it comes to 2021 and even 2022, what do you see are the major goals and challenges for Terminus? 

I think we are hitting a point because we’re right in the middle of the transition and execution, which is product market and platform market, we’re seeing what we should expect to see and going quickly back to that. The biggest challenge I see is people don’t know where they are. When they don’t know where they are, they’re measuring the wrong metrics and trying to emulate somebody else who they are not there yet. I hope that is important for the audience to know. If you’re in the ideation already stage, don’t try to look at segments and cohorts. It won’t make any sense to you. The metrics that you measure and talk about are very different. 

For us, we are moving forward from, how do we get the biggest $100,000-plus deals? How many more deals can we do just like that? How do we become in the magic quadrant? Not the Forrester Wave but also in Gartner Magic because that opens up the enterprise deals for us. How do we get there and stay there? How does our vision align with the analyst? After six years, analysts are finally saying ABM was a real thing. I’m like, “Great. Thank you. Put that magic quadrant again. We were looking forward to that. If you’re going to enterprise and that is the goal, we want some of these things to happen. We’re looking at our gross retention rates and stuff because as I said, the valuation of your business and the ease of your business changes as your gross retention rate starts to get better. Something that in the early days’ ideation stage, we don’t even care about it. We don’t even think about it. The churn was so crazy in the early days. Now our return, you don’t have as much churn anymore.

These are the areas that we are now trying to fine-tune because now our business is all about we can grow this much organically. We can acquire a company and then we can add to it. That’s how we can have immediately another $10 million to $20 million in revenue, and then connect those two and try to see where other markets can we open up. Part of platformmarket fit is having more products so your platform is growing, but also your market is growing. This is the part where many companiesfeel like they’re still going after the same market. We used to sell to CMOs. Now we’re also selling to CROs and CEOs. Our market has grown in that sense, different verticals, different regions have grown. It requires a different level of a set of people that can do those things as opposed to what we had before.

Something that struck my mind when you were talking about your market is growing, which is the entire notion of the total addressable market. It’s very misunderstood in the start-up community and even beyond. People think of the total addressable market as the whole world. That’s the extreme scenario versus in your case when you talk about the buyers, you’re targeting included the CMOs initially, and now you’re talking about the CROs and the COOs potentially. The initial definition of your TRM would be who are those CMOs that I can capture. It’s your niche. Focus on that one buyer and the user. That’s super important and then you can expand your TRM.

Identify whatever gift you have and double down on it. Click To Tweet

We call it something. I’m glad you touched on this because we now call TRM the total relevant market. It’s still a total market as you start to think about it, but you can go after the entire market at the same time with that precision and targeted marketing or anything like that. What’s your total relevant market? That should go from everybody in the SaaS industry in North America to everybody in the technology sector within North America that has $50 million or more in revenue and with 500 employees. You started going into squishing your total market down to the relevant market. This is where we shine. This is where our use case delivers. That’s where I think it will work at some point very quickly. As you hit $5 million, $10 million or $15 million in revenue, it breaks. You start over again. That’s what I’ve learned in the last years is that every $5 million or $15 million, everything breaks and you start over. It’s interesting.

I was listening to a podcast during my run. It was the founder and the CEO of WhiteHat Jr who started the startup. They have experienced super crazy growth. They went from 0 to 1 crorebecause their market is in India. We’re talking about the currency which is 1 crore to 100 crores in 12 to 18 months. I might be butchering the metrics and the growth rate, but it comes back to how he visualizes the various stages. It maps to your journey or what you’re talking about, which is the stage from when you grow from 0 to 100 employees or 10 employees initially. You go from 10 to 100 and 100 to 1,000 and beyond. Those are three different stages. It also maps to your three phases somewhat.

That’s why I wanted to write this book because it’s almost opposite to who I am in many ways. I wanted to be super inspiring. I want to go and speak at events and get people excited about it. The book is almost a definitive guide to how to go off and go-to-market based on all these interviews. This book is a how-to book. If you’re looking for a vision book, this is not it. If you’re looking for how to connect the dots with your vision and mission or how to put your team, this is not it. This is about regardless of what size of business and what stage you are, this will help you find where you are and more importantly help you get your next move. What your next move should be, which relates to the MOVE framework. It’s helping you to figure out the next move.

We’re coming more towards a closing section over here and somewhat of fun but different topic from GTM. Talk to us about this whole PEAK Community movement that you started. What is the genesis, the driving factor, and what you’re doing with that and who should be part of the PEAK Community?

I’m an extrovert. I like to be out there and be in the community, andCOVID didn’t help with that. Where do I go nerd out? I couldn’t find a spot where marketers get to nerd out and talk about marketing stuff,lot of things at marketing and sales. I’m like, “Great. That’s awesome but I want to nerd out as a marketer on top of branding. Talk about positioning, talk about ABM stuff, talk about all these things and I couldn’t find one.” In mid-2020, I started PEAK Community with a buddy of mine who also was like, “I’m helping a lot of people get jobs, but they don’t know what it takes to be a CMO.” We started this community called PEAK Community, which is for emerging CMOs and CMOs only.

This is not for anybody who’s just sitting around. If you want to do your thing, great. If you want to become a CMO one day or if you are a CMO, that’s what this group is about. We created a course for emerging CMOs. We bring in CEOs and CMOs to the emerging CMO group so they can get to ask them questions like,“How do you talk about equity? How do you talk about compensation? I’m a graphic designer. I want to be a CMO. What do I need to do? I will bring in a CFO and be like, “Have you ever talked to the CFO?” It’s so funny that most marketers have no idea how and what will it take to become a CMO. They would get stuck and frustrated because of their silo specialization. The whole PEAK Community is really for marketers who either want to be on a path of emerging CMOs or are CMOs and just get better. 

I think you’ve got a great community growing in PEAK. I joined out of curiosity and there are so many learnings. One thing that I took away and that I keep sharing with so many of the folks is as a marketer, it’s very easy for you to get so bogged down into the marketing and sales and product, maybe customer success. You need to go about that and start interacting and building the relationship with the CFO and HR.

Nobody talks about that. That’s the funniest thing. I asked marketers, “When was the last time you talked to your CFO?” “I don’t know. Why do I talk to them?” That’s a problem.

They’re giving you the budget. 

If you don’t know your CFO, you’re not getting budgets. Thanks for being in the community. It’s fun. It’s all run by marketers. I do one event a month in that, but every week there is somebody else running the marketing events, non-sales. This allows marketers to get a microphone and not feel like they’re judged. Every other Friday, expert or something where somebody’s like, “I run ops, graphics, design, product marketing and here’s how I put my dashboard together.” It’s a lot of fun learning.

The final question for you, Sangram, is if you were to turn back time and go back to day one of your go-to-market career, what advice would you give your younger self?What is your first real go-to-market job?

I’m still looking for it by the way. The idea will be to not look for a job or not think about it as a job. If you find yourself like this is a job, you’ve already lost. What keeps me going or have kept me going has been the fact that I absolutely love what I do. As I said, we raised money. I could stop working now and be okay. That would totally make me go crazy because I love what I do. I love demystifying, making the complex simple, the ability to connect with people like what we’re doing right now, to come up with frameworks I love. I created the Flip My Funnel framework, the team framework in the last book, now the MOVE framework. I feel like that’s a gift that I have. I look at complex things and I try to make them simple.

Identify whatever gift you have and double down, triple down on it. There are a hundred million negative things with me. If you ask my wife, she will note every one of them very clearly, but this is a gift and it took me a long time to figure out. If I were to go back, I would have looked at and asked people around me much earlier to say, “What is the gift that I have that you see in me? Pinpoint me.” Maybe you can send an email to them. Maybe you can pick up the phone and call them. People around you know your gift already. It takes you a long time to dust off and figure that part out. If you know your gift and if you don’t, ask somebody near you and they will be able to tell you what your gift is. Just go for it. It took me a while to figure that out.

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your Business
Grow Your Business: A strength is something that you become good at when you put in time and effort. A gift is something so natural to you that it’s effortless.

 

I made that mistake too. First is getting past the barrier of asking for help. That’s hard. The next thing is you may know your strengths, but get that validated. Ask, go out and reach out to your peers, ex-bosses, ex-managers, CEOs that you worked with and your friends as well. Ask what did they see your number one or top 2 or 3 gifts areThat’s a very key point.

You mentioned something that I want to create a distinction for people. The strength and gift in my view could be the same but could also be different. A strength is something that when you put time and effort in there, you’re good at it. In most people, they can put enough effort and they get good at it. A gift is something so natural to you that it’s effortless. Some people will look at me like, “How do you run a daily podcast, how are you running a company, and how you’re creating a community?” I’m not trying to say that I can do all things, but it’s effortless for me because that’s my gift.

If you ask me to change the toilet cover, I’ll be looking at it for five minutes not knowing where to start. If you asked me to go and do coding again, I would be flabbergasted. Can I figure it out and learn? Yeah, I could turn thatA gift is something so effortless. It’s God’s gift. It’s so effortless for you and everybody around you thinks,I have no idea how Vijay does that. To you, it’s like, “That’s nothing.” That’s the gift. It took me a while to know that that’s the gift. You can come up and do something so effortlessly that everybody will be like, “How does he do that?”

I’ll add one more. I appreciate you clarifying that. That’s a great point, Sangram. It’s important to call out and know the difference between gift versus strength. As you were saying that, it struck me because one of my key strengths is I’m a learner. I love to learn.When I look back and when people say, “You’re good at doing a podcast,” which you might call a gift in your terms. If I connect the dots, it’s that learning ability that I soak in and I seek more and more, that’s translating to that gift of hosting and doing it. 

I love that you connected those dots. You’re absolutely right. The end product could be different but the underlying is the learning that you get. You can learn anything. 

Thank you so much, Sangram, for taking the time and where can people learn more about you and any final message that you want to share with our readers? 

Connect with me and Vijay and let us know what is the one thing you took away from this. That will make our day because this is a time commitment and hopefully, you’re pouring into it. I appreciate it, Vijay, that you’re bringing me on, but it only is valuable if somebody takes something and say, “I’m going to take that one idea and go do something about it.” Share with us and connect with us on LinkedIn. Let us know what is the one thing you took away from this episode.

Thank you once again, Sangram, and good luck with your upcoming book launch.

Thanks.

Important links: 

About Sangram Vajre

B2B 20 Sangram Vajre | Grow Your BusinessSangram Vajre led marketing at Pardot (acquired by ExactTarget and then Salesforce for $2.7B). Soon after, he co-founded Terminus which hit $1M in the first year. Within 6 years, Terminus hit $120M, growing to over 200 employees and ranking No. 21 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list and best places to work. Sangram now serves as Terminus’ official “Chief Evangelist.”

Author of two books on Marketing, including ABM is B2B: Why B2B Marketing and Sales is Broken and How to Fix it and Account-Based Marketing for Dummies.

Sangram is the host of the top 50 business podcast called FlipMyFunnel with over 100K subscribers and was named as one of the top 21 B2B Influencers in the world by DMN network. Sangram has spoken globally both live and virtually for platforms such as Leadercast, Linkedin, INBOUND, Entrepreneur and INC.

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B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales Operations

B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales Operations

 

No matter which sales operations department you belong to, it’s important to point out that everybody’s rowing together. Vijay Damojipurapu’s guest today is Shaun P. Allen, sales director at Citrix. Here, Shaun discusses his journey into sales and how he defines the go-to-market and applies it to his company. Extending the framework he teaches his sales team, he then shares what he calls the D.A.L.I. model. He talks about how he uses it to direct sales operations, how they measure the metrics or KPIs, and how they overcome big barriers when it comes to executing their goals this 2021. Follow Shaun and Vijay in this conversation as you learn more about these sales strategies.

Listen to the podcast here

Strategies For Directing Sales Operations With Shaun P. Allen

I have with me Shaun Allen who’s a Sales Director at Citrix. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Shaun a couple of times. We had insightful conversations and lots of wisdom. I’m excited to be speaking with you, Shaun. Welcome. 

Thank you so much, Vijay. It is always an honor to join forces with you. We have had great conversations in the past. I am pumped. This is right in my lane. I enjoy the company. 

I always start up my show with this question to my guests. How do you describe and view go-tomarket? 

Get the right people in the right seats. Click To Tweet

It’s been something I have been knee-deep in for the last several years in terms of how you are going to reach a specific target customer. More than that, we achieved a competitive advantage. We are not looking for to go-to-market to just exist. It’s not only how do we reach the right people at the right time with the right product but also how do we do that competitively. We want to win. There are two kinds of aspects to my definition as I think through them. It’s never enough just to roll it out. 

In your go-to-market lens, how often and how deep do you think about not just the sales, which is your primary responsibility but the products, the product portfolio, the marketing functions and maybe even customer success if it’s a SaaS product? 

There is a little bit there, but in general, what I’m doing is we are in an environment where we are constantly rebranding. There are additional products. We had a huge acquisition. We will be working that into the product portfolio. We are already going to market with that. My stop, and probably the last couple of stops, have kept us busy and on our toes. We don’t do a lot of revisiting on go-to-market strategy but we were always kept on our toes with those new things coming down the pipe. We are very rich in having to do this set of actions. It’s almost become, I don’t want to say machine-like, but I often refer to vehicles. In the vehicle we are riding in, you can sub out any driver. We have that set process and things that we consider as our go-to-market. 

When we are starting off, we are handed typically a product. I’m not in product development. There are a bunch of dev and things that are done whether youre prod zero or prod one beta. When they usually reach the sales level, I’m in on some earlier prior to launch meetings but we are seeing it as quite a mature product that is ready for consumption. What’s big to point out is depending on who you are and what your role is where you are going to be seated in the continuum. I’m a little more to the latter, which I prefer because I’m not a dev guy. It has been great getting those products ready to launch. Typically, we were about a quarter out when it hits my radar. We are talking SaaS or whether it’s a networking product. That’s a pretty good leeway and runway to get everything set up to go-to-market. 

That’s a good segue into what you do at Citrix now. Talk to us about your career path and why did even get into sales? Why sales and what do you do at Citrix? 

B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales Operations
Sales Operations: We’re not looking to go-to-market to just exist. It’s not only how do we reach the right people at the right time with the right product, but also how do we do that competitively.

 

Originally, I got into sales. I was a Psychology major. I was still finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree. I was in a pretty dirty, smelly role. Spreading fertilizers and helping in beautification. I used to see the sales guys come in with clean white shirts. I desired to be someone with a clean white shirt rather than a dirty smelly green one. I edged my way in. I started clover leafing my accounts. I did a good job with my accounts. I slid my way into sales because I was selling a lot as a service individual. From there, I’m a big goal-oriented guy. I started to look at, what do I want to do in sales now that I have committed to sales? As an aside, it was to sell software or be a pharma rep at the time. This was probably the early 2000s. 

Those were two very highly sought-after things. Fast forward, I did get into the software and I ended up selling software. Pharma became less cool of a gig. You couldn’t do a lot of the things that you used to be able to do in there to make it a sought-after role. I started selling. What I did was I paid attention to some of the processes. I honestly said to myself, “There has to be a better way to do this.” Broadly, I started focusing on how I was approaching my customers and giving it more thought and process orientation. It worked for me. What happened was I got into leadership because they said, “If you can do that well, I will let you teach others to do that.” There were many enablement tools and such that we use to get there. I fell into a position in my last role of building, this was B2C but it was going to market in a way that had never been done before in 100-plus-year-old industry orthodontics. We were tasked with building out a large program to reach consumers in a state-of-the-art current way. We were building salesforce out of the box, hiring not only product folks, marketing folks and sales folks. 

I was a little bit in the deep end at the time. It was vast learning. I wasn’t minded that way already as a salesperson so it was a pretty good fit. I took to it naturally. It then became this more all-inclusive job of designing these go-to-market programs rather than selling an end product that came to sales. It has been a good ride. It was a natural progression to build teams. With Citrix being busy and so many products in the portfolio and a lot of new things happening, it was a joy to be matched up that way and have that experience behind me. I’m always learning but be with an active product portfolio as well. It all tied together. I have come up through the ranks. They gave me SB, Small Business, “Here you go, kids. See what you can do with this.” 

This is at Citrix where you are now, right? 

Yeah. When I first came to Citrix, they threw me the bone of SB, which had never been penetrated well or they never did well at those lower line sizes, and we did well. A lot of that was the structure that I had brought with me in my digital briefcase powered with a lot of the oomph that Citrix had. I went to medium business and then mid-market and skipped over commercial, then I got to the enterprise. We were out there, mostly Greenfield-focused or white space-focused in the enterprise out in the Western US. That is my focus now. I’m leading ERMs but more deeply embedded in the marketing focus and the product focus. It hagot me down in the trenches. We are launching new things in the workspace all the time. We had a big acquisition of Wrike. It’s a very active time to be in the seat. I love working with enterprise customers. I have been up and down the stack. This is where they are in tune with our whole solution stack. It’s all viable where that wasn’t the case necessarily in lower line sizes both here and throughout my career. 

That’s an interesting journey and a funny way of how you ended up in sales. That was a great story in itself. I’m curious along those lines, you shifted from, did you say farming? Was that the initial one? 

I worked for a lawn, shrub and tree beautification company. It was a few big ones out there. I won’t name any names. I was climbing palm trees and killing bugs. It was a way to put myself through school. It was a pretty good living. I didn’t have the traditional dorm setup. I already was engaged and bought our first home. I needed to make more money while I was going through school. I was fullblown with a mortgage. It was a dirty and smelly job. I was loading fertilizer in the morning. People ask me and they chuckle, “You wanted to wear a cleaner shirt?” That was it at the time. There are a lot of reasons why I love it now. That was what pushed me in that direction. 

It also shows the sales skills, the expert that you are in sales, it’s transferable. Earlier on, you were more in the “farming” or shrubs. It is the more non-traditional or no-tech to now you are selling software products and desktops. You are talking about the new portfolio from the Wrike acquisition. That is a big shift in itself and by zone to how you adapt and bring that same sales mindset into understanding your buyers and the barriers, then interacting and helping them solve their problems. That is what it comes down to. 

Sales and marketing are people businesses. Always try to learn about how you can resonate with people.  Click To Tweet

What we are finding is there are times when you are more end-userfocused and in an IT silo. We wrestle with a lot of that. I won’t say we struggle because Citrix had a ton of acquisitions along the way. This one is a little bit of a shift in that. You would find most of the seller’s hometown is that IT funnel. We look up to the CIO and this is a throwback to a brief stint I had when I first joined Citrix. I didn’t mention this but I was in the ShareFile org for about a quarter and then they threw me into Core. I had experience in dealing with the end-user and going to market to the end-user, which is a lot more context. You are approaching that differently. Getting back to my roots has been a positive experience thus far. We have only been live for a few weeks. We are building it out as we speak here. 

On the other side or more on the lighter, funnier side, how would your kids describe what you do at work? What do you do for a living? 

It usually ends with a little bit of the eyes glazing over. If I asked my son that, he would know I’m in sales. He knows that I help people work remotely under any circumstances. That is about as far as it goes. He could name the company I work for. When people ask me, I usually get to about the eight-second mark and their eyes glaze over. What was even funnier is I would typically hold my wife to a higher account to know what I do but I’m not sure if she could explain it any better than my son. In fact, together, they probably wouldn’t know but only a portion of it. They know I’m in tech and sales. They know what accounts I work with, Western US, enterprise-focused. That is about the end of it. When you had prepped me with that question, I chuckled because it doesn’t matter to my wife or my son. None of them know exactly what I do but they know that I lead people and we do important work. That is the most important thing to me. 

Let’s talk more about what you are focusing on for 2021. You and I spoke about this briefly, which is you are focusing on Greenfield enterprises. Even before talking about the 2021 goals, how did you land this role within Citrix? That is a story in itself. 

That is one of my prouder moments or stories. I always say when a door closes, another one opens. This is probably a great example of that. They had tapped me because I had been involved in the Greenfield motion here. I had built almost a two-decade sales career in purely Greenfield. I had that reputation. We went through SB, SMB and mid-market well, so I had the reputation. Some of the enablement folks had tapped me for the sales kickoff session on new customers and the new norm. I had a fun session where I got to throw an easy button up in the air. I got to talk about a lot of the fun things about Greenfield sales. At the same time, I was interviewing for a commercial role and I didn’t get that role. I thought it was the most natural fit. I don’t get too discouraged. It’s a door that closed. We’ve got to figure out another way in. 

My boss who is a vice-president was in the audience for that virtual session. I don’t think two hours went by after the session was over where he called me and said, “You’ve got something kid. I have a spot opening up. As you may know, we were making some investments. I would like to talk with you.” Long story short, I won the role in the enterprise, skipping over commercial. I have had such a long career where there were some repeatable things I could depend on. I had built a system around that. That was the story. He saw me in a session. I knew I had gotten a no. I was thinking, “Where is this going next?” All of a sudden, the phone call came. It was a cool story. I appreciate you bringing that up. Very quickly, I was in that seat in a matter of days. I’m elated. Sometimes you have the right people in the audience. 

You said it right. If one door closes, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a sense from above that there isomething bigger in store. That was what it turned out to be for you. I’m excited for you, Shaun. You also mention your sales kickoff. You had an acronym there. Talk to the audience about what that framework is and how do you teach your sales team around that? 

I will trust some of the audience has seen the movie, Moneyball. Billy Beane was an unconventional guy that came to baseball as a GM and started looking at analytics because he did not have the budget. He had to get smarter. I have always been minded like Billy. It’s a story and a movie but it’s based on a true story. He was able to almost get to the world series base with no budget just looking at analytics. I started to think about that. Marketing is a little more trackable but I would ask salespeople, “Why do you do what you do? Why did you turn left? Why did you turn right? Why did you decide on this messaging?” Largely, they couldn’t tell me. 

That was a profound series of moments. I set out to know that when I walk into a room, I have to be a people person first. That is table stakes. I would walk in with this briefcase and say, “Here are the analytics on all of it.” It doesn’t tell the story that is in line with the direction you are having the department go. This was years ago. I developed an acronym called DALI. It’s funny when I say DALI, people chuckle and say, Dolly Parton. I said, “No, Salvador Dali,” because he was very abstract. That was where the root of it came but it had to fit the lettering. It stands for Define, Act, Learn and Iterate. That’s important, whether you are marketing, product and in sales, we all should be operating as one. Sometimes we don’t do a good job at a number of those or all of them or one of them that might be critical. The first is define. It’s pretty simple, it’s the go-to-market acronym, TAM. What’s your Total Addressable Market. Have you developed personas? Who is going to be buying? Who is going to be your champions? 

Inherent with that, it’s important to point out is that everybody’s rowing together. You’ve got product, marketing, sales, enablement. That might be in line there. That was the acronym. I don’t know if you want me to dive into each one. We have to define the mission. We have to act pretty early on. Even if that was an A/B test or you are going to run a pilot, we’ve got to learn while we were going. Some companies have a good accumulation of data that they can draw from. Some have to build that data. They have to build that history, and then iterate is just double down on those areas that are working and abandoned or retest in a different way under a different scope those things that didn’t work. I’m happy to dive in further because DALI is near and dear to my heart. 

Let’s dive into that. D stands for Define, A is for Act, L is for Learn and I is for Iterate. A couple of questions that come to my mind is, do you do this as a cross-functional exercise with marketing, sales and maybe other teams including finance? How do you do this? 

It’s in the language that I’m interacting with them on. I have had a few curious people and say, “Do you have that on a slide?” We have done some of that in my past but typically I’m using it as my beacon or my lighthouse. I don’t get too far from there because then I get into unchartered waters but I’m always looking for, “Are we hitting those marks? Are we defining well in a thorough way? Are we talking about it too long? We are running low on the timeline. We’ve got to go act. Are we doing those things, whether it’s testing the messaging or building brand awareness and demand gen?” It has always been in the language. I don’t teach it as a course. It’s not my role. I could very easily but people take to track to run on typically, whether it’s something that is central to their being in their work or you are just bringing it as a track to run on in a particular interaction. They have always reacted well and taken to it. It’s now out in the open because I have done it in a few larger scopes of sessions. They nicknamed me the DALI guy. It’s always inherent in the messaging and I use it as my guidepost. 

Let’s get into more specifics over here. Walk us through the DALI exercise that you might have done, either maybe as part of your small business, mid-market or commercial. Walk us through your thought process and how you applied it. 

It’s table stakes to know that the definition is first. It can’t come 2nd and 3rd. These are all in chronological order as well. The main thing you are trying to address in the define part of the model is who is your target? 

Do you want to take a specific example? Maybe it’s a small business for a specific product portfolio? 

We talked a little bit about the acquisition here and the shift there. With some of the portfolio, you are going to be native to the IT funnel or networking, generally. If you are selling networking, you are probably not going to go to HR with that. For example, there are some use cases that downstream will affect HR and how quickly they can provision apps for a new hire. With another workspace product, we were able to go to the end-user. We were able to say, “You are going to get gains and productivity.” The use cases would change in this example. That is the best down-home example. It’s thinking of, “Is it general use? Is it in that IT funnel? Is it HR-focused? Is it a marketing product?” It’s amazing how many times people miss that. They will see the sales director of enterprise sales. Maybe they are a spray and pray there but they will come to me with a marketing-focused product, and they have just missed. I’m not the persona for that. Maybe they see a director of sales. Citrix being global, I’m one of the dozens of Directors of Sales here in America. You’ve got to hit your mark there. 

The first one is persona. That’s the who. The TAM, The Addressable Market, is there even a place for the product? When you are thinking, for example, project management, everybody can pretty much use that. It’s good for IT in terms of if they are using a ticketing system but its overall visibility to projects across departments. It’s a general use thing. I love it because I can go to anyone and I can match up a use case. I don’t have to think about, “Where do I need to be?” We can train the group, marketing, sales, product on that general use case. That is a big one. One of the things that get lost as we roll this thing out like, “Here is the product, the marketing material and the sales play.” You should have some visuals for everyone. I don’t know if that is a product matrix. Everybody has that central reminder of, “This is why we are doing this. This is who we are going to and this is the benefit.” That is almost like your cover page on any slide deck or any interaction across the organization. 

B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales Operations
Sales Operations: Whether you’re marketing, whether you’re in product or sales, we all should be operating as one.

 

That is an important one for the define. It’s goalsetting 101. What do we want to do? We want to sell to X. We want to make this many sales. In marketing, we want to get good ROI here as well. Who do we want to target? If they are targeting the general UC level and I’m going in the IT funnel, we are going to have some misses there. It’s important that the whole team is involved in that definition and that one is not handing it to the other. It’s a great brainstorming session I found to kick off. You come up with that value statement but it’s getting into the TAM and the target market in terms of persona. Those are the two big things to be defined, persona and TAM, so then you know what you are working towards. 

Both of those belong to the D, which is the Define, and then there’s the Act, Learning and Iterate. What happens after you define those? 

You now have those things, now you have to act. There are two camps you could be in. Citrix has been around for a while. We are not short on data. We can go pull that data for another general use product. We can say, “Here is where we normally resonate.” We walk in with some learnings. There are verticals we do well in. We have customer stories and white papers. We are loaded up. We know that that’s a pretty good place to go Act on, it’s the A in DALI. Let’s say you are not there. You are a new company may be and you have a new product. You have to go accumulate that history. It’s important that you get on the horse and you start A/B testing and testing your messaging. Is it resonating? One thing I loved in sales is when we would do this and we didn’t have a lot of history, we would go to the customer who inevitably would give us an objection and swat the fly. 

A good thing to lead with is to ask them their opinion on your messaging. They will tend to hang in because people like to help people. That is a little harder to craft and walk the line in marketing because it’s hard to spend marketing dollars and go, “We are getting opinions.” You can send out pulse surveys but in sales, it was always, “How do we know we are resonating?” Marketing is pretty easy but sales, we don’t know. If you are getting an objection and they are going to push you off the phone with a no, turn that note on maybe by asking for some help and saying, “I have reached out to 100 people who are in your role. I’m not sure I have nailed this messaging. What do you think?” The target customer can help you in crafting that value statement or your go-to-market generally. 

It’s getting on the horse and acting and getting in there, accumulating that data, “We did these 100 times and it worked 18% of the time. Now let’s B test over here and see for any better.” I have been fortunate in this stop in my career to already have some good data. We have been working in verticals very strongly. It’s breaking into those verticals that we might not be as strong or might not compete as well with. That is the challenge. It all requires action. You are building brand awareness. What’s interesting about that is I’m on customer calls and because we have been so IT-focused, some of them, that is where their concerns and questions are. They don’t have those broader workspace questions for us. We have to bring that to the table. One question I will ask is, “Are there any larger initiatives coming down the pipe here from above that are our goals are in motion?” Usually, what you will get is an amazing opening up of the use case. They will say, “We are in an RFP for X or Y.” I’m like, “I’m glad I asked that question because now I open up my product suite or the capabilities within one product.” 

This is a good segue into what you are tasked within your role, which is the Greenfield. Talk to us about the size of the team and the charter for you and your team for 2021. 

I had larger organizations than I have now. My last stop was 60. A couple of the stops here at Citrix are 35. I have a smaller team now but we do have more accounts than what your standard ERM has. I have a small team of four in the West. This was an opportunity for me to get back to basics. I had been a level removed from the strategy, which meant I was in more planning and I was in more meetings but I was detached from the ground game, which getting back there, I realized how much I missed it. Working with those more experienced sales reps at higher line sizes with well-known companies has been tenfold the joy that I thought it would be thus far. Smaller team and larger quota, it all resonates at the enterprise level. The reason it’s interesting now is that, if you think about an account stack and a seller, it could be even marketing too, marketing knows to get a great ROI going here. 

It’s hard to pry their fingertips off that or get sidecar budget to go after the unknown. It’s super tough. They want to go where they make money. We are dialed in a bit there, but these were accounts that salespeople typically we are not spending a ton of time with. They would slap them through the old cadence machine every once in a while. The interesting thing is that they were underrepresented. While it is a known company in a known product stack that we hold dear and love, it’s an opportunity to get into accounts that maybe haven’t been worked with ferociousness that our current accounts have. It’s interesting because we get to tell the whole story. It’s wonderful to be able to do that especially for almost every account I have heard of or use their products. It’s an interesting line of work in that it’s so new but Citrix is so established. It’s interesting for sure. 

Talk to us about some of the metrics or the KPIs that you and your team are being measured against. I’m sure the new logo is one of those. Imagine that the day is December 31, 2021 and you look back, what did you and your team do ride in hitting those metrics and how did you measure or have those indicators? 

I love that question because there is some nuance in going from an SMB or mid-market to an enterprise because the sales cycles are long. We almost call the inherent in the role as the working relationship. In 2020, I had 100,000 accounts. There is a different way of going about that different KPIs but essentially, I focus a little more on some of the non-revenue linear KPIs. We still look at the things that standard sales organizations and our marketing look at the same things. We are focused on, “Do we have the right contacts?” You can have a sea of context in a particular account. Do we have the right people? 

I tend to try to comp a little bit on those ground floor activities. We can look at something like making sure we have the right contacts, meetings, who are those meetings with, are they targeted to upper-level buyers. Marketing would be the same thing. Getting a lead is not the same as getting a C-level lead in the enterprise world. Those are some of the non-traditional, some call them MBOs, that we might focus on but also the household ones. We want our salespeople to create pipeline. Are they creating leads for the new products? My folks can sell the whole stack. They are not just a content collab or this or that seller. We look at those traditional things. 

There are the all-important ones of sales, bookings or deals as you are looking at those. I don’t think there are too much that you haven’t heard of, but we do look at those specifics. With Wrike, we are a big push there. We might measure KPI within that realm. Ultimately, we need them to plant the seed. I’m compensating on everything from the right person having the right conversation forward with most of that weight coming from pipeline building bookings. 

How do you typically incentivize your team members? What kind of ratio do you use? Is it 70/30 or 60/40? 

A good thing to lead with is to ask people their opinion on your messaging. They'll tend to hang in because people like to help people. Click To Tweet

Most of my career has been either a 50/50 or 60/40. However, in my experience in the past when you get to the enterprise level, that’s when you introduce a little non-revenue-based compensation. That would be what often referred to as the MBO. The sales cycle being so long, they can bleed into the next year. Most are on annual plans. Those are things that we look at typically on a 50/50, 60/40. If you build in the MBOs, they are made to be achievable. You almost are moving to a 70/30 or 80/20 in year one. Once you are established, you can maybe back that down for a little less risky for the sales comp. In year one, especially enterprise, you can’t pay on commission because it might not get there. They joined you in June, September, you have got to have a way to compensate them in the meantime. 

What are your big barriers when it comes to executing against your 2021 goals for Greenfield and enterprise? 

I don’t want to get too deep into the details here. Building a new team, I need to staff that. That takes time. It’s not something that you want to do lightly. If you have 40 SB reps, there is less risk per hire. When you’ve got a smaller enterprise team, the stakes are high. That was number one, staff the team. We are pretty much there. I didn’t get my start until March 2021. We are looking at 6, 7, 8 weeks now going on. That is a pretty good timetable. Some of the challenges are, there are so much quality out there in terms of candidates. You would find this in marketing products, just the remote work world. It’s a competitive landscape. I don’t have any problems staffing with the right people. It’s launching them, getting them up and running, understanding the mission and how they fit into the go-to-market. 

Navigating an acquisition is going to be a challenge. It does fit nicely into our product set and how do we transition to take advantage of that. This 2021, as far as my target, I call it soft. We are here to plant those seeds. If you asked me that question in 2022, I would be looking at a big number but in our inaugural year, we want to get the groundwork and the go-to-market right before we worry about putting a good target in there. Probably the rest of the organization bears the brunt of the revenue when we are in year one trying to launch these efforts. That is another important point. I’m glad you asked because you have some good assumptions in line and not place too much weight there because you want people free to be creative and to test and not feel the pressure of, “I have this huge responsibility of revenue year one.” Get the plane off the ground and then start to worry about getting those dialed into the rest of the org. I have operated Greenfield teams in the red. They were winning teams. We get to year two and then we get dialed in a little better. 

Plant the seeds in year one, then now you know which message resonates, what should be the pricing, of which portfolio to pitch. You also get a good hang of which reps are more motivated and which are the ones who are selling well. That is a good frame of how you are approaching year one there. 

The profile is important. I don’t care if you are product, marketing, sales, you’ve got to nail the profile in terms of hiring the right person. You might have an established product person but is that person well-versed in launching and developing new product? Don’t look back and kick yourself there. Get the right people in the right seats. It should go without saying. 

Not all are cut out for taking a product from 0 to 1, which is the Greenfield, our version one product in the product domain. Similarly, not all are cut out for keeping the engine rolling and then continuing to make those deals day in and day out. It’s two different mindsets. 

I build the profile for hiring for every role that I have ever been hired into. It’s surprising how many of my peers don’t have one. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone that out or were given that to them because you got to have the right people. You think it’s obvious but how many times have we walked into a role and we do an assessment of our staff and you are like, “This person is probably better over here.” You’ve got to have those Greenfield-minded folks regardless of where you exist in the go-to-market. 

Let’s head into the closing section. Maybe you are looking at or leaning on mentors, you are leveraging some forums, podcasts or reading books. What are the top 2 or 3 topics that you are curious about for 2021? 

Professionally, I’m a bit of a data geek. I have been fortunate enough to have a psych background so I have been able to connect with people first. I’m a communicator, Sociology minor so I have always been into the people end of it. I’m fascinated with some of the AI and machine learning tools. I’m reading on a lot of that, making sense of data in realtime. One of the most fascinating existences I ever had was with a BI product that told me where I was to go running on multiple monitors. We had 5 or 6 of them around the floor. It could tell us whether we were above or below water at any given minute. I was like, “If you can do that, you can pretty much figure out anything.” It’s doing a lot of reading on those types of things. I do enjoy marketing, it’s my background. I’m always interested in how we resonate with the consumer and target or persona. Those are the things that are always keeping me busy. 

When I’m reading, I’m trying to read how to be a better leader. Sales and marketing are people businesses. I’m always trying to learn about how I can resonate with people. I have always been a hacker. Remember the Billy Beane reference, he was hacking baseball. That was all he was doing. I want to try to get an edge over my competitors. Those are usually the subject matters. If I look at purely the go-to-market, I’m a big fan of Apple and what they do. I don’t think there are a lot of people that are, but they do it probably better than any. I was talking to somebody about the euphoria that you get when a new Apple product arrives in the mail and you are unpackaging that. Those endorphins start firing.  

I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, out of New York. He’s probably the bestknown one. He started the Wine Library and went from $1 million to $50 million. I’m always interested in how he taps into new markets and able to test them, and his thinking around that. He is a people-first guy too. I’m from New York originally, probably a generation ago and a lot of his content I could point to. There are some other folks that are good in the industry, SalesLoft has some good people. They are an engagement platform if you’re not aware of them. They’ve got some good ways of putting content out there. I enjoy that in little snippets as well but I try not to read long books because I try to be nimble, little video clips, posts on LinkedIn. More is better for me. Rather than reading a 300-page book and taking a week or two to do it, I can consume twenty different pieces of content from twenty different directions. I’m into social selling now. 

B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales Operations
Sales Operations: Write down your journey, what worked and what didn’t, because if you do well at that thing, they’re going to ask you to do the next thing.

 

One final question for you, Shaun. Let’s rewind the clock and go back to day one of your go-to-market journey. What advice would you give to your younger self? 

I have gotten into so many situations where we have won tremendously and then a person turns around and says, “How did you do that?” You notice that, “I’ve got bits and pieces of that.” Now at this point in my career, I have a good track to run on and there are various learning here or there. Write down your journey, what worked and what didn’t because if you do well at that thing, they are going to ask you to do the next thing. If you don’t have any memory of what worked, what didn’t, typically it’s at the same company. This is the fourth role they have given me because I have won it the first three. Write it down would be the biggest piece of advice if I had to rewind. Who knows? I might be a lot richer than I am now. 

Thank you so much, Shaun. Good luck to you and your team. We will cheer you from the sidelines over here. 

Thank you so much, Vijay. I had a great time. I can’t wait until the next time. 

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About Shaun Allen

B2B 18 Shaun Allen | Sales OperationsA growth-minded builder, in a few words. More specifically, leading large growth-minded Sales Organizations to win. Well-versed in building robust Digital Sales efforts, currently in SaaS Software sales for an industry leader (hint: workspace for everyone). Lucky enough to have worked with 50,000 + businesses and partners in their Digital Transformation journey. Just getting started though!

Style:
Data-driven & results-focused, I aim to lead accountable quota exceeding efforts, while remaining empathetic and humble. Self-driven & accountable. A pacesetter. A go-to senior leader in the org.

Scale:
Global & domestic experience, not afraid to travel. You can typically find me near the Company’s toughest revenue-based challenges. The bigger the challenge, the better!

Journey:
My professional ride has been highlighted by several high profile Sales Org projects. New and re-org/scale, climbing to new heights with each team. Currently at Citrix (a global IT tech Corporation), I lead Greenfield Digital Sales efforts for the entire US. Large team, big mountains to climb, competitive tech landscape. Tip of the rocket-ship, as they say.

Mentorship:
Authored widely adopted coaching models, simplifying a tough skillset. I lead leaders, helping them develop further leadership competencies, so they can add value long in to the future. I am demanding but fair, and lead with vision. Leading teams to set high goals, row together, and win!!

Interests:
You can find me in my spare time coaching my son’s travel soccer team (occasionally reminding the referees of the rules), sampling unique coffees, cursing my golf game, burying my feet in the sand on the Atlantic’s beaches (US) with family, and most important of all – being the best human I can be.

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