B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented


With the prevalence of Zoom and other video meeting programs, it is much harder to remain detail-oriented, take notes, and pay attention to lengthy digital discussions. If you’re struggling with that, Fireflies.ai is your best answer. This AI meeting assistant joins your meetings to take notes, transcribe verbal data, analyze conversations, and a lot more. If you want to rewind and go back to your meetings because you forgot something, you can simply check in with Fireflies.

Join Vijay Damojipurapu as he talks to the Co-founder and CEO of Fireflies.ai, Krish Ramineni. Learn how he implemented NLP technology to create this AI-powered tool. Discover more information about its features and how Krish and his team spread Fireflies through word of mouth and product adoption. Check this episode out so you’ll never miss a single detail on your next meeting ever again!

Listen to the podcast here


Krish Ramineni On Becoming Detail-Oriented On Your Meetings With Fireflies.ai

I have the good fortune of hosting and speaking with Krish Ramineni, who is the Founder of Fireflies. I’m so looking forward to it. Krish is one of those Forbes 30 Under 30. He made it to that list. I’m sure you will be in for a treat as far as good market insights are concerned. With that, Krish, welcome to the show. How are you doing? It’s bright and sunny here in San Francisco Bay Area.

I’m doing great, Vijay. The weather is awesome. I haven’t had a chance to step out myself. This has been quite a busy day. There’s a lot of exciting stuff here at Fireflies that we are working on. I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.

I always start my conversations with each and every guest with this question. How do you define and view go-to-market?

Go-to-market, for me, is about helping people understand that a certain technology, product or service is available but sometimes, even before you talk about the product or service, you have to help them understand if there’s a need or a problem that they are trying to solve. Go-to-market for me starts with awareness and education.

It’s about users’ customers helping themselves acquire a piece of technology or product for their business in the most frictionless way possible. I believe that it’s about letting people buy the way that they want to. The best go-to-market strategies are the ones that are able to take away those barriers and help guide users, buyers or admins through that decision-making process in the most seamless way.

I can see your definition in line with the product-led growth phenomenon that’s taking the go-to-market world and the B2B world by storm of late. There are many flavors of go-to-market. Your definition aligns with product-led growth. I heard you mentioned users and buyers seeing value by themselves and then helping them make the decision where they can take their action, “I see the value, and I’m going to purchase this product.”

There was a time when I was on the extreme end and said, “No salespeople and marketers. It’s only going to be product-led.” The only way you were going to be able to purchase a solution like Fireflies was you are going to see it, try it, buy it, and swipe your credit card. That was going to be the only way. My definition has expanded over time because not every person or buyer follows the same model. Some need more handholding than others. Some have custom requirements.

It’s about understanding the user and what triggers them to make that purchasing decision or that a-ha moment for them. Similarly, when you build a product and are a startup, you are looking for people to get that a-ha moment from the product, saying, “This is great. This is magical. I want to use it.” Even in the buyer’s journey, a lot of times with GTM, people are bombarding you with emails and account-based marketing.

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented
Detail-Oriented: Go-to-market is about understanding the user and what triggers them to make their purchasing decisions.


Sometimes the SDR function is also part of the go-to-market team. Our first default response now is to say no. We are not even open to the idea, saying, “Why? Yes. I’m curious.” it’s like, “Don’t bother me.” How do you pique someone’s interest and get them to that a-ha moment, whether it’s marketing or from a product lens? At certain times, you can’t do it all with the product. You will need to have people and conversations.

Tell the audience about why you came up with the name Fireflies. What does your company do? Who do you serve?

Fireflies is an AI meeting assistant. It joins your meetings across Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms. It takes notes, transcribes the meeting, analyzes those conversations, and creates a knowledge base for you to search back through. If I want to remember a conversation I had with you where we were talking about GTM, I can search for the word GTM in my conversation with Vijay, and I would be able to pull that information up in a minute. I want to be able to remember all my conversations and also not have to do busy work. Meetings are expensive. We want to help people be more productive during meetings.

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented
Detail-Oriented: Fireflies.ai is an AI meeting assistant that joins your meetings across Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. It takes notes, transcribes meetings, analyzes conversations, and more.


That was our simple value prop for starting Fireflies. The name Fireflies has an interesting background. My Cofounder, Sam, and I met in college. We worked on various projects. Many of them had nothing to do with B2B SaaS. We worked on drones. One of the things we did was build a drone delivery system. At night when drones fly around dropping packages, they look like Fireflies. We used the name Fireflies and continued using that name for all of our different projects.

Lately, we have had customers come up with their interpretation or story of why we are called Fireflies. One of the things that they came up with, which was very creative, was, “Fireflies is this silent fly on the wall in a meeting that sits and takes notes.” That’s a common idiomatic phrase. Another person said, “Fireflies is very interesting because usually, all of these conversations are hidden and buried after you leave a meeting. Fireflies is lighting up all of these conversations that are happening across an organization.” I give credit to our customers for it but we are running with that narrative for why we are using the name Fireflies.

That’s a very interesting story. The backstory there is around the drone using that in the night, and then you gave the name Fireflies. Something that is popping up when you are sharing those customer stories is that they see value in the product. It’s almost like, “I love the product. How do I give my interpretation or the version of that brand name when I’m using the product?”

Every person has a different way to describe Fireflies. When we get on customer testimonial meetings or interviews, a lot of times, people will see Fireflies in a meeting. When someone asks, “What is that thing you are using?” they will talk about it. They are saying what the solution is. It’s cool to come after hundreds of thousands of conversations.

There are 3 or 4 common ways people describe it to them, “It’s my personal assistant. It’s my note-taker. It helps me stay on top of things.” For our marketing too, let’s use these phrases because almost everyone seems to be using the same theme. Sometimes the best marketing is customer word of mouth. We do see those common things showing up.

The best marketing is customer word of mouth. Click To Tweet

On a lighter note, what is your parents’ interpretation of what you do at work? How do they see that?

For them, it’s about me. Once, I was a Product Manager at Microsoft. I was working at a tech company, going and playing the game of a startup, and trying to be my own boss. That’s something that they see in the early days. A lot of people are like, “Why would you leave a nice comfortable job and do these things?” Over time, they have realized. I’ve even had my dad or other folks who work in tech seeing Fireflies in their meetings at their companies. When people you know, close family, and friends see it, it’s like, “I know this. I know who works on it.” That’s a game-changing feeling. They believe that I’m on a mission to make meetings better. That’s exciting.

There’s nothing like when your parents see and use the product that you are building. That’s an amazing moment in life overall. You also mentioned your career journey so far briefly. You mentioned meeting your cofounder at the university. You went to Microsoft and were a Product Manager. What prompted you to start your company and why around the space?

Going back like most Asian American kids, I thought I wanted to be a doctor in college. I quickly switched over to the engineering side or the technology side of things. While I was doing that, I was never passionate about engineering the same way I was about solving problems, working on projects, and getting groups together. The way I learned to code, how the technology worked, and learned about databases was not in a classroom initially but was working with peers.

In my freshman summer after my first year of college, we worked on an app together, and that idea, “We didn’t have any real internships at that time. Why not make our internship? We need something on our resume.” It turned into this massive tool that we ended up building for college campuses back then. We ended up getting hundreds of other ambassadors to help us market the product. It was a consumer-like product but was great because that was around social media time. It was exciting.

That got me thinking. Most people are using maybe 10% to 20% of the computer science skills that they are working on. There are few companies that are using deep tech or deep machine learning stuff. Technology is truly democratized. Anyone can start working on it. I was never afraid of how difficult a problem was going to be. You just start working on it. I had a lot of fun throughout college. I worked on several other projects. I did hackathons.

The way I met my cofounder he went to MIT. I went to UPenn. We met through mutual friends. My cofounder and I had never met in person for the first two years. We met on a video call. Every evening after our classes or problem sets were done, we would work on different projects and submit them. You win little prize money or awards for submitting to these hackathons. We competed in a lot of hackathons. I remember the first hackathon we won. We got $1,000 or $1,200.

We said, “Let’s take this money and then build some more apps. Maybe we can hire some freelancers to help us market or do other things with it.” That was the entrepreneurial journey. After I graduated college, I ended up graduating a year early. My cofounder was still in school at the time. I went off to Microsoft and learned a lot there. The discipline it takes to build enterprise software is very different. Here we were, kids hacking on a few things.

I got the perspective from both worlds of what it means to be fast, agile, and creative and then what it means to build software that businesses pay a lot of money for. The line is blurred from a technology point of view but from a go-to-market point of view, it’s different. You can take the same cool piece of technology, and someone is going to market it better than someone else. That could be the success point. That was the journey I ended up on. After my time at Microsoft, I reunited with my cofounder. I was there for a summer. I was supposed to go to graduate school but I had a summer off before that.

I went to Boston and stayed there for the summer. We started working on a couple of different ideas like hackathons and then said, “Why don’t we start a business, work on this for a few years, and see where it goes? We are not going to get an opportunity like this later on.” One thing led to another. We moved to San Francisco and incorporated the business. We went through 4 or 5 pivots and then landed on the voice space. That is the current version of Fireflies as it is.

Some of the traits or some of the stories that I’ve seen with successful founders is that they started working on a problem that they connected with. That turned into a startup. Was there a story around that for you and your Cofounder, Sam, where it was around recording transcription? “This is the new and emerging space. Let’s figure out and use AI to do something about it.” What is your thought process like?

It was a combination of both. We were fascinated by NLP technology. Everything we built early on was around how we understand text and conversations and help people be more effective. Honestly, our very first idea was, “I get 5,000 emails every day at Microsoft. Let’s build a tool that tells me which emails I need to prioritize.” It’s almost like Google PageRank for emails. For that, you understand what’s in the emails and rank it.

It’s a nifty productivity problem but maybe not a problem that someone is going to pay a lot of money for. That started as the initial project that we were thinking about, “How do I save more time because I can’t deal with emails?” A lot of people were out there building a brand-new emailing system. Our goal was not to build a new system but, “How do we take something that’s there and make it better or add new technology to it?”

Another idea we had in our journey for pivots and iterations is that I tend to do a lot of messaging over LinkedIn and different chat apps. I can’t remember all the promises I make to people. I use a bunch of different to-do lists but it’s very hard to keep track of who I’m talking to and what I’m saying. We built a Chrome extension that would track all the conversations I’m having with different people across different apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, and all these different apps.

Anytime I made a promise to someone saying, “I will send you the report next Friday. Let’s meet up next month,” it would automatically detect that using NLP and create a to-do list for me, “Here are all the tasks or promises you’ve made.” If someone promised to do something for me, it would also make all the tasks, pull out the dates and times, and set up automatic reminders for me.

If I had a chance to go and work on this project, I would because it’s fascinating. We even applied to YC with it. We got an interview day. It was an exciting project. However, for us, it’s a GTM thing like, “How do you now take this productivity prosumer-type tool and sell it to businesses or B2B? How do you make money on this? How do you monetize it?” That was a real challenge.

That’s why we took a pause on it but we took the same technology and learning and said, “There’s this huge blue ocean in terms of meetings.” For emails, I can at least go back and look at an email I sent two years ago. I can look at a chat message I sent two months ago but once I leave that meeting room with Vijay, I probably will not remember for one week what I discussed. I will not be able to recall that memory, “Let’s build a knowledge base of all of my meeting conversations and then run this NLP that shows me action items, dates, next steps, timelines, and deadlines.” That became what Fireflies is.

There are a lot of things to digest over there. You mentioned product-led growth. You gravitated toward product-led growth from the early days. Is it fair to say that you added on a sales-led motion more recently after product-led growth?

We are working on the sales-led motion as we speak. The way we look at our sales team is that we call them customer onboarding managers. We believe that as people come in, they are aware of the technology or interested in the technology. How can we help guide them through that process? What you would see typically in pre-sales is a fusion of customer success and sales because many of them are not starting from zero. They are starting with some knowledge of the platform.

We found that there are certain types of customers that need to turn on specific integrations or they have specific questions that they won’t be able to get answers to in the self-service. The majority of our customers, whether it’s a 1-person team or a 5,000-person team, can theoretically sign up, add teammates, build-out, and pay for it at a large org level without ever talking to sales.

I believe in the Atlassian go-to-market model. Zapier has a fantastic go-to-market model. Calendly had a fantastic go-to-market model. However, when we are building collaboration software, there are going to be different things that we need to go through. People have security questions. They want to know about our compliance stuff. We do a lot of work there as well. We want to be an enterprise-grade product that can be as easy to purchase and use as a consumer product.

Somewhere along the way, you realize that you need people there for those that need help. It’s less about us spamming people with emails and doing outbound. It’s more about how we build that inbound funnel and use the product-led leads. Maybe if there’s someone that is at the right stage to potentially purchase or upgrade, and they are from a high-value account, we should probably give them more attention and more of a white glove service. That’s where we have the salespeople.

Selling is less about spamming people with emails and more about building an inbound funnel. Click To Tweet

There are two tracks that come to my mind. I would love to dig deeper into both tracks. The first is with PLG. It’s all about how can your target users find your product and self-onboard and how quickly can they see the value. It’s all about that. That’s one component. The adjacent component and critical part is the virality because that will reduce the CAC for you. At the same time, it shapes or translates to growth on its own. That’s the first track. Keep that in mind.

The second track is the PQLs or Product-Qualified Leads, which is the sales assist model you are talking about. Let’s deep dive into the first track. In theory, it all sounds wonderful. I was brought in to build a PLG at a Series B startup. We went down that path but it’s super hard. In theory, it boils into three steps. One is how you get users to find the product. The second is self-onboarding. The third is finding value and virality. Those are the 3 or 4 steps in theory. It’s easy but it’s hard to execute in the real world. Help the readers understand the challenges that you ran into early on. How did you work around those?

We were able to build a critical mass of initial users that were able to bring Fireflies to more meetings. That was the triggering point for virality. I will start with the first point, self-service. A lot of people can even experience Fireflies before they even sign up. They can see the bot in the meeting. They will have a conversation. Word of mouth is probably our number one thing. People talk about it. Firefly sends a meeting recap afterward the meeting to the people.

When it does that, they are able to view the transcript and the notes. They are like, “This is great.” We have a thing saying, “Sign up and start using it.” That’s where we get most of our growth. We don’t spend money on other channels like advertising or ads. It’s word of mouth and direct search traffic. It’s a result of word of mouth or seeing it in a meeting and saying, “What is Fireflies.ai?” Luckily, our domain name is the same as our company name. People tend to see that and talk about it.

We had a customer of ours who said, “I saw more Fireflies than I sell my SaaS software because I talk about it so often,” which is fantastic. A lot of times, people are going to be able to see and use it. We now have a free trial as well as a freemium function for the product. You get full access to freemium, where you have limited transcription, credits, and storage. Usually, people will hit certain paywalls and decide to convert on their own or go through the full free trial, get a lot of questions answered, and convert that way.

Through this process, we will also see some people who are like, “I see this. I want to sign up for it but before I sign up, I need to think about how I deploy this to an org. I need more of those IT-level questions answered.” They will request a demo. Usually, when we ask them, “How did you hear about it?” it’s like, “So-and-so told me. I saw it at a meeting. I’ve heard about this. This is exciting. I want to check it out for myself and see it to believe it.” That’s the motion.

We also have PLG. This is probably still the hardest one. A lot of people put very interesting flavors on PLG, “You are going to have a customer. They are going to respond back to you.” To be honest, many PLG people don’t want to talk, “Let me buy on my own. Don’t bother me. I might buy it for myself or a few folks but I’m not going to go and do an org-wide deployment. You are talking to the wrong person. I’m not the person that’s going to buy for my entire org.”

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented
Detail-Oriented: Many product-led growth people don’t want to talk. They just want to buy something for themselves and will not do an org-wide deployment.


For PLG, you can do all the work but you have to not bother the wrong type of users. Maybe as you have people inside a particular domain start using it, you start doing org mapping. You have to do traditional account-based marketing. We are still figuring that out. That’s hard even for Series B, Series C, and later-stage companies. It’s not as easy as it is for other companies or how other companies make it seem.

I’m sure even for Slack, who are some of the greatest proponents of PLG, it took a long time for them to map out, “There’s a small group of people in this company using Slack. How do I get their IT admin to deploy Slack to everyone?” That’s a sales challenge on its own. PLG can give you leads but that doesn’t necessarily mean those leads are going to be the decision-makers in an enterprise org.

Product-led growth can give you a lead. But that doesn't mean those leads are going to be the decision-makers in an enterprise. Click To Tweet

That’s where I do think there is a fundamental challenge. It’s not as easy as investors or other people make it out to be, “PLG is beautiful. It reduces your CAC. You are going to get all this.” One thing we have done well is self-service and the revenue we get from users’ businesses that way but to do enterprise-wide deployments, selling the department is one challenge. Selling to an enterprise org that’s where maybe you will need a sales GTM function. The PLG is a way for you to show them, “We have an in. There’s some value here,” but you still need to have effective ways to have those conversations.

This is a good segue because I ask each and every guest of ours or whoever comes on the show for them to share a GTM success story and a GTM failure story. It’s your choice. You can pick either a success or a failure. I would love to get your thoughts and personal experiences from those.

There are general ones I’ve talked about where we have seen the virality work, and these things work. With GTM failure, there are a lot of enterprise-based companies. They will put fancy names on the existing technology and say, “This is insights. This is going to tell you all of this stuff.” They will take the core technology features and functionality and put layers of stuff. They will call it revenue intelligence, deal intelligence or some of these fancy words for basic stuff like analytics.

What we have found is that it works when you have salespeople selling and selling that sauce but it doesn’t work when you have a self-service PLG motion where people are like, “Say what it is and how it works. I don’t want you to use crazy acronyms or special words.” That works when you have a great sales team, and you can sell on the narrative but we found that it’s much more effective to be able to say exactly what the technology does and simplify what you can do with that technology and the basic features. That has a way more success rate for us at the type of customers we are targeting at the PLG level.

We try to do traditional B2B marketing where you will go through the entire website and a few pages, and you are like, “I don’t even know what their product is.” They are promising all these benefits and then saying, “Talk to sales,” but I have no idea what this product is. When we tried some of those experiments in the early days, it was not effective. It didn’t pique people’s curiosity as much as, “Let me show you, not tell you.” That was something I noticed.

If you can share the success story and the early days of Fireflies, that would be great.

2019 was when we first started working on the alpha version of Fireflies. Later at the end of 2019, we raised our first seed round and then kept working. We got into the beta. We did a broader rollout in January 2020. A few months later, the pandemic happened. All hell broke loose. It was crazy. These technologies were becoming more front and center. Everyone was spending time on video conferencing. We built Fireflies for a world where it was going to be hybrid for in-person as well as remote. If it’s in person, it would join through a conference line.

We built it for that world but everyone went to video conferencing. We are this fledgling startup. This is starting to pick up and take off. We have to build the platform for scale. You can’t glue things together. We were fortunate after our seed round in the last couple of months of 2019 to rebuild our entire architecture from scratch. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the incoming demand that was coming in 2020. We kept scaling up.

Before you go to scaling up, how did you get the word out that there’s this product named Fireflies? Who was the initial audience?

We launched to a handful of folks in our network, our friends, and maybe 200 people. We had a waitlist of a couple of thousand people. We didn’t have this million-person waitlist like some of these other companies. Those people were originally the drivers. There was zero spending on marketing. In the early days, we gave a lot upfront of transcription credits and stuff. We encouraged people to share Fireflies. There was also that word of mouth and showing up in meetings.

Did you send out emails, drive people to a landing page, and say, “I’m interested. Add me to the waiting list?” Is that how it does?

We had a ranked waitlist where if you share with more friends, you go up the waitlist. We tried that strategy as well. We did product hunts. We did a lot of outreach, launches, and relaunches. Every time we had a new video conferencing platform, we supported it, “We now support Zoom. We are now supporting Google Meet.” We would do an announcement about that. There were a lot of announcements for new things that we did when we had a new CRM integration.

Every integration connection was a new announcement. Every integration we built was an announcement. We knew that this was starting to work when other people started to bring their Fireflies into meetings with us. You start to see it full circle. We could track in the early days when we had our initial customers here in San Francisco, California Bay Area. They would have a meeting with a customer in Atlanta, Georgia. We said, “Why are we blowing up in Atlanta, Georgia? Why are there so many other companies using it?”

Those people brought it back to people in the Pacific, Northwest, and Seattle. That person brought it back to the original user, which was in San Francisco, California. We started to see that flywheel. It’s a firefly hopping around the map. That was something that we thought was very cool. It sounds like there’s some crazy magical thing that we had to do but we built virality into the product. We incentivized sharing and people to talk about Fireflies and share the recaps and all of that.

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented
Detail-Oriented: Fireflies.ai built virality into their product. They incentivized people to talk and share stories about it. They never charged anyone in 2020 thanks to product adoption.


Was it a freemium or a free trial?

Initially, in a good part of 2020, we didn’t even charge. Until we started seeing traction, we didn’t even charge for the product.

For the entire duration of 2020, it was all about product adoption.

For the greater part of 2020, it was all about product adoption. It was only in the later part of 2020 that we started monetizing.

Can you share some stories about the pricing? What did you think about the pricing? Who were the initial set of folks you would go to pitch and test the pricing? What is that like?

There were a couple of suggestions from folks and advice that other people gave. One was, “Go to enterprises or mid-market, charge $20,000 to $30,000, and sell it like a sweet solution.” We didn’t feel like that would fit with our model. It’s a great way to get quick revenue but you are going to tap out after 10 to 20 deals. You are going to have to hire more salespeople and do all of that.

The best advice they say is, “Close a bunch of deals yourself,” which I’ve done before we hired other comms people but that is if you are doing a sales-led company. Instead, we said, “Success is going to be if we can get to some amount of revenue where we never even have to talk to the person, and they are purchasing on their own. That is success for us. That is the Holy Grail or North Star for our SaaS.”

Success is getting revenue without even having to talk to a customer to buy your product. Click To Tweet

We started looking at different pricing options. One was, “Do we price by utility? How much do you use it?” We realized a lot of people don’t want to worry so much about transcription, “I can’t use it in these many meetings or that many meetings.” We don’t want it to feel like AWS because AWS is great for developer products but it’s not great if you are buying SaaS solutions.

People want à la carte, “I buy ones. I can consume as much as I want. I want a buffet.” We were one of the first people in the industry to do that, and we made it unlimited usage. You can pay one price per seat. We started experimenting with seats. Initially, there were a lot of individuals paying for Fireflies. Over time, we said, “Fireflies is great as an individual product but how can we make it even better as a team product and a multiplayer product?” We realized there’s a lot of value in creating a team product.

Even Calendly, in the early days, was a single-player product. For the most part, it is a single-player product but they have come up with some creative ways or added certain things. A lot of times, for many companies, a multiplayer product has admin controls, admin access, admin safeguards, and stuff like that. For us, there’s inherent value if you have a workspace with your sales meetings, teammate sales meetings, and HR meetings all in one central place. We are building a living, breathing, and self-updating knowledge base or workspace. That is magical.

I’m looking at your pricing page. It was $0. It’s free forever. You have Pro, which is $10 per seat per month. The Business is $19 per seat per month. Was this the price that you launched with? Was this something that you iterated? Clearly, it has to be the second one. How did it evolve to this?

Surprisingly, this is the pricing we started with. We got lucky there. We had a gut instinct. There are a lot of people that say, “Why are you making it so affordable when your competitors are charging $100, $200 or $120 per seat?” I know some of the competitors in the revenue intelligence space. I wouldn’t say competitors because we also focus on a diverse set of personas. We are not just sales. We want every person inside an organization to use it. They are charging $120 per seat. Plus, they have an implementation fee. You must pay $10,000 to $20,000 to get the platform set up.

Why are you not charging that level when you are offering powerful technology that’s 90% of everything that’s there, plus some other stuff? We had in the early days four tiers. That’s one thing I do remember. Early, we had 4 tiers and simplified it down to 3 tiers. The other tier was where it was an audio-only tier where you got more storage but then we realized, “Let’s keep it to three tiers and make it available.” It was easier for people to decide.

How would you define your ICP? How did that evolve from day one?

This is the hard part because we have many different personas and industries. If you were to ask Dropbox or Calendly what their ICP is, it’s very difficult or even Zoom, for that matter. We believe our general umbrella is that any knowledge worker that has meetings in the corporate space is very important to us. There are different types of meetings. There are internal meetings like operational meetings that you have. There are customer-client-facing meetings. You have candidate-based meetings. I look at it as the four Cs. Your Customers, Candidates, and Colleagues all form your Company.

B2B 33 | Detail-Oriented
Detail-Oriented: There are different types of meetings, and Fireflies.ai helps you capture and build a knowledge base around them.


That’s how I think about it. In any conversation that’s happening, the voice of your organization is what Fireflies is helping you capture and build a knowledge base around. Instead of comparing to other AI tools out there, let’s look at what great knowledge management tools of the past were and now are. You look at SharePoint. Every enterprise has SharePoint. It was a fantastic tool back then. You have other wiki software. Atlassian has its wiki software.

There are so many of these different wiki software but the problem is whether I’m using Google Docs, Google Drive or Dropbox, all those documents will end up getting stale if I don’t update them. If someone is not updating those articles or help desk stuff. Whereas with Fireflies, every conversation is automatically updating your knowledge base. I don’t have to manually update it.

Years ago, we had a very different conversation about pricing and how we should charge customers. After all our learnings, we have another thought process around pricing and how we should charge. If a new person is hired, and we never updated that knowledge base from years ago, they are going to onboard with the wrong mindset. That is very expensive to untrain and retrain, whereas if they are using Fireflies, they now are able to get up to speed.

We also use Fireflies almost as an LMS where when we have new people that are onboarded, we say, “Listen to these Fireflies recaps on our best sales calls. Listen to these on what to ask the candidate when you are interviewing them. If you are a first-time manager, this is what you should be asking for. This is why we made an important architectural decision. You asked about why we are using this technology. You are getting onboarded into the code base, so go ahead and take a look at all of this stuff.” I don’t have to ever repeat myself. I say it once. It’s equivalent to me saying it a thousand times in a way, which is funny. That’s the one thing that helps all of our teammates.

That’s a very interesting use case. Typically, when we talk about recording meetings, it’s mostly in the context of customer sales and sales coaching but what I’m hearing based on what you are sharing here is that it’s almost like an internal LMS or Learning Management System. These meetings happened. As an example, I want to understand why the scaling and architecture changed. I type that in, and it’s all there versus having to talk to people or even worse, not knowing who to talk to in the first place.

The best part is that we want you to be able to consume that data without having to sit and listen to the entire 30-minute or 40-minute meeting. You can look for the word integration or architecture, jump to that point in the call, and listen to that snippet or soundbite. If I had great feedback or customer input that came in through this meeting, I will highlight that 30-second clip created into a soundbite and share it with the team. How can we help you consume and get knowledge in 5 minutes instead of 50 minutes of listening to that call or reading a 50-page transcript?

It looks like you got that early traction. You are looking to scale. What are the different channels? For PLG, some of the popular channels are virality, word of mouth, referral, organic, inbound, SEO, and even paid. These are the popular channels or even affiliates. I’ve seen affiliates also coming up on the charts now. What are the channels that you are excited about and something you are exploring as you scale?

We are exploring other channels like affiliate and referral marketing because a lot of these people are saying, “I’m already referring Fireflies to so many people. Can you have some incentive where I get more transcription credits or get paid for that?” We are exploring that. This is coming from user-generated interests. We never had an idea of doing this but there are a lot of people that are willing to advocate and push Fireflies. We want to be able to push that.

There are people creating content about Fireflies. When I go on Twitter, they are like, “Here are the five best tools that I use for AI that help me be super productive.” They list Fireflies. How can we streamline and supercharge the customer conversations, the customer voice, and what customers are saying? One of the things we are exploring and still learning about is how we set up a great referral program for existing users that refer other users and then how we set up a great affiliate program for people that want to drive traffic to our website or convert and then get paid to do that.

I always believe that could be a great strategy. We also see interest from consulting firms and other types of folks that want to implement a solution like Fireflies at larger organizations. That has been less of our focus because we want to go direct to our customers but it is also something that we could potentially explore in the future.

We are coming up against time here. In the last part of this interview, I would like to get your thoughts on what resources you lean on. Do you have a network of founders, a network of advisors, podcasts or books? What resources do you lean on? For example, we talked about new channels for scaling. How do you figure that out? What’s your process?

I like to look at what the best companies have done, what lessons they have learned along the way, and what works for them. I have to assess, “Is that right for me, our business, and our ACV?” I don’t like to look at what’s trending as a word. This is very common in the early days when advisors or even when we go out to fundraise. A VC will say, “Have you heard about this? You should try it out,” without having any context of what it is or how it works. We are fortunate to have great VCs that are part of our board and are able to think thoughtfully about what it is that we need to build that is relevant to our business and filter out all the white noise that’s around.

I like to look at what the best people in those companies have done and the takeaways we can learn from them. I also read a lot. There’s a huge community around PLG of companies that are talking, “Here’s what we have done. Here’s what works. Here’s my Substack, my podcast, and my YouTube video.” For all other things GTM and beyond, SaaStr is a fantastic community. They help us think a lot about benchmarks, metrics, what VCs look for, and what metrics we should track ourselves against. There are a lot of great folks out there that are providing insightful content.

Look at some of the best companies and what they've done. Take away what you can learn from them. Click To Tweet

David Sacks used to have a lot of great SaaS stuff on how you build a SaaS operating system. How do you build that machine? If you can get people that have done it from a reputable source where it’s a similar business or maybe it’s a PLG, a similar price point, or value-add type of product, it’s much more relatable. I’m not going to look at a company that does $200,000 ACV average deal sizes and how they do webinars. That would be cool for us to figure out but I would want to look at how a company that does one-to-many customer success or webinars that is of our size, price point, and type of industry.

If you have to look back at your career, who are those 1, 2 or 3 people that played a pivoted role, either mentor, sponsors, or role models?

Jason Lemkin had a profound impact on everything we do, especially when we were new to SaaS. He’s the godfather of SaaS in terms of helping founders learn about the community. He’s fantastic. I’ve said it many times before. There are some exceptional disciplined founders that I look up to that have gone the atypical path where they don’t raise crazy amounts of money. They are very disciplined. They had humble beginnings like the CEO of Calendly and the CEO of Zapier.

We have Expensify. A lot of these companies have built these monster giants without having to raise capital or spend unnecessarily. They are intentional. Atlassian is something I brought up. They had a very aggressive model back in the day where there were no salespeople at all but they have a similar notion of sales where it’s more of an advanced form of customer success that helps upsell and get in. They used a lot of resellers to help deploy Atlassian products.

I look at those folks and say, “Especially in a market where we are heading into a downturn or a potential recession and where capital is drying up, how do you be the most disciplined company out there? How can you learn from that?” Growth is fantastic. Growth is important. Growth at all costs only works when capital is infinite. When you don’t, we are going to start seeing more people adopt PLG and these other methodologies in 2023.

Growth at all costs only works when capital is infinite. Click To Tweet

Personally, I’m not a big fan of growth at all costs because that will drive bad habits across the board and the GTM teams. I’m just sharing my thoughts. It’s pretty amazing and inspiring that you are focused on how you grow in a very disciplined manner without raising a lot of funds externally. The final question for you is this. If you were to turn back time and go back to day one of your journeys, what advice would you give your younger self?

Persist with an idea until a certain point of failure. What I mean by that is people say, “Throw 1,000 different ideas at a wall and see what sticks,” but to make an impact, if you have a wall and you are trying to hammer and break that wall down, you are not going to hammer it at 1,000 different places. You are going to pick one point and keep drilling until it cracks open. This is another way of saying, “Focus matters.” You want to pick that area and keep chipping. Instead of 1,000 hits, you only need to do 100 to break through.

Ideas are great. Throwing a lot of things on the board is great but if you do too many at once or have too many ideas, conversations, and different things, you will get distracted very easily. You won’t be able to find a breakthrough or where the gold was initially. I talked about that Chrome extension I built or the email tool. If we went deeper, we would have probably gotten to a point where we said, “We can build a business around this.”

That mindset is important for founders because it’s not going to happen in 12 months or 24 months. It’s going to take time. If you see anyone out there who went from 0 to a unicorn in 12 months, you must also ask yourself, “How defensible is that? If it’s that easy for them to build a $1 billion business in twelve months, is there a defensible moat?” To be honest, for most startups, it’s going to be very difficult and painstaking. You have to be willing to go through that grind.

I mentioned that was the last question but I have a follow-up question based on what you answered here. Focus is important but something that I’ve seen especially in the GTM teams and when you are scaling, is this. How do you figure out where to focus? You mentioned the different channels. How do you know which channel to focus on? Early on, I’ve heard people saying this, and something that I’ve seen is, “Place and do multiple experiments at the same time and then pick which one to focus on.” Would you agree with that? Do you have a different view there?

If you have the resources, do it, but most small companies won’t have those many resources. I would rather pick one, fail fast, and then move on to the next one. I found more success instead of parallel processing to go single-threaded and go very deep. Have a metric you want to hit, an amount of traffic you want to drive, or a number of signups you want to try. Set yourself an idea, “I’m going to run ten experiments here. I’m going to do this in this period.”

We struggle with this as well all the time. Sometimes you want to chase shiny objects. If I run 2 experiments on 10 different ideas, it may be less valuable than running 10 experiments on 1 idea, failing within 1 month, 2 months or 3 months, and then going on to the next thing. I would rather go all in and invest in that. If it doesn’t work, I will go to another one. If you have a lot of resources and have four-person teams that you can run on different things, you can do that as well. Neither is a wrong answer. One is going to be more expensive than the other. That’s all.

Thank you so much for your time. It was a wonderful conversation. I’m wishing you and the Fireflies team the very best.

Thank you so much, Vijay. I had a great time as well.


Important Links


About Krish Ramineni

B2B 33 | Detail-OrientedI love building and scaling products/platforms/APIs that simplify the way people work. Deeply invested in Voice AI, RPA, and enterprise workflow software.

At Fireflies.ai, we’re automating work from meetings. Actively hiring across product, engineering, sales, and marketing.

Gartner’s Top 25 Enterprise Software Startups. Featured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine: 12 Founders Changing Business 2020.


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B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting


The biggest skill you need to learn when entering the market is sales forecasting. Knowing and hitting your numbers is an important ability to possess, especially as a sales leader. You need to have the right methodologies and processes in place to achieve the highest levels of market success. This is where the company Clari excels at. They help go-to-market orgs overhaul and run their ultimate revenue processes.


Join Vijay Damojipurapu as he talks to the SVP – Global Head of Sales at Clari, Holly Procter. Learn more about her career journey before she got into this company and what she is doing now to support go-to-market orgs across the country.

Listen to the podcast here


Sales Forecasting As A Go-To-Market Org With Holly Procter

In this episode, I have with me Holly Procter, who is the SVP and Global Sales Leader at Clari. For those who have been avid readers of the show, this is the 2nd or even 3rd speaker from Clari. Again, no affiliation or anything. It happens somehow by luck, faith or whatever you call it. We do have a series of speakers coming in from Clari but all in all, you will be in for a treat. Welcome to the show, Holly.

Thank you so much for having me. We appreciate your bias for Clarians. I will try to do my best even though you’ve had some good nuggets from other Clarians too.

As with every guest, I start my show with the key question that’s top of mind for all the readers, which is, how do you define go-to-market?

When everyone thinks about go-to-market, they start with the basics of how you sell your product. You sell your product through generally a handful of channels. That would be inclusive of both partners and also your direct sales team. Over the years, we’ve certainly expanded our view of go-to-market to include pretty much anyone that might touch revenue.

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting
Sales Forecasting: Go-to-market is not just how to sell a product. It’s anyone that might touch revenue. It includes everyone from your revenue development teams to your content teams.


At Clari, I think about our go-to-market teams in our tip of the spear, what we call revenue development, which is our SDR function. Even before you get to RevDev, we think about the funnel. You are thinking about all marketers. You are thinking about content teams and people that might engage with your audience, even if that audience is not an active prospect or customer success. We have a deep sales engineering team and even post-sales, so people are responsible for implementation services. Anyone that touches revenue, which is any pre-customer and post-customer experience, we define as part of our core go-to-market team.

That’s more expansive than what I’ve heard from others. Not from my show guest specifically but from others in the industry. Again, you can clearly make out the provision that they like by asking this question. What I’ve seen is that folks who are in sales think go-to-market is sales and nothing else. Folks who are in marketing, and especially those who are in product marketing, think they own go-to-market but lo and behold, sorry, you are in for a rude shock. You clearly don’t own product marketing. Customer success, I’ve seen off late the connotation shifting to include customer success, which is good. One gap that I saw in your definition or your perspective, Holly, is how come you left out the product.

It’s a great point. I love our product leaders. If they are reading, I hope that they will take my apology. The product is massive. What I would say, and part of the reason why I didn’t include them, is that we probably haven’t yet figured out how to crack the code on incorporating them as a close loop in our process and how they play a role in touching the customer experience outside of building a great product but no question. That informs everything we do. I will give you an active example.

We are now going through planning for 2023, as most companies are. A big part of our planning process is figuring out what product features we are going to announce and launch in 2023. That will deeply inform how much and how many accounts I can assign based on what new open accounts we might unlock in line with the product roadmap functionality. It’s such a core part of the way that we build the business and product go-to-market.

That’s the thought process. That’s what I’m seeing. That’s a shift happening in the industry, which is product also becoming a core part of the go-to-market. Even within the product or outside of the product, there is a design that has a big impact on user experience that translates to the sales and how quickly you can go close and customer acquisition costs, and so on.

Anyway, enough rant on the go-to-market piece. I would love to hear your story. What has been your journey? I’ve looked at your LinkedIn profile. You had a very blessed career and a very interesting career path. You started off as an employee at the university you graduated from, then now you are the Global Sales Leader at Clari. Walk us and our readers through that journey.

I’m from Nebraska, originally. I got both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Nebraska and then decided to work for the university under the guides that we had an asset that was a facility. We were trying to figure out how to monetize this facility. It was this huge rec facility, and we were trying to figure out if there was a path to monetizing both access to the asset and the building. Also, what else did we have?

We had access to a population of people, and that population of people was a student body that made purchasing decisions on a regular. We created this event called Get REC. It was called Get REC because it was held at the Rec Center and basically allowed every business in the town to come in and put up a booth that wanted to sell to college students.

They ended up paying us several thousand dollars to come in and do that. Figuring out a healthy way to monetize our assets and get additional funding for the university was awesome. A great first job, and then I moved to San Francisco. I was tech robust and eager to move West. My first job in San Francisco was at Gallup, the Gallup World Poll. The thing that I was so excited about with Gallup, I don’t know if you follow any of their research but they are an academic company. It’s stewards of research.

A big part of what Gallup does is sell both employee engagement research and customer engagement research. I fell in love with the company for many reasons. One of the big things that they talk about with their leadership development is that the employees join companies and leave managers. It was this big, huge part of the thing we were consulting around. It was where I grew fond of leadership, education and development, the process of being a student, and becoming a great leader. I got some deep education on how to be a good boss. This was before I became a boss. I then was eager to go into tech, so I joined LinkedIn.

At Gallup, you were leading what BizDev or was its sales?

It was biz, and I was a seller. Our motto was fewer larger relationships. At the time, McKesson was one of my biggest customers. I’m spending a lot of time with them on leadership development and employee engagement. Incredible experience in consulting because you get to go wide. Not necessarily deep. Lots of exposure to different business processes across tons of different business types and unique companies. It was an incredible experience there over years. Living in San Francisco and not in tech, which felt like a misnomer, so I decided to move to LinkedIn. I started with LinkedIn right before we went public, and then I left LinkedIn, and we were owned by Microsoft.

A lot of things happened over that six-year window. My role inside LinkedIn changed almost every year. I led pretty much every customer segment, so from our smallest customer all the way up to our largest key accounts and in a couple of different lines of business. Both our talent solutions business and the sales navigator product when we launched that product, which is now over a billion in revenue.

It was incredible to be able to build something from the ground up based on an amazing asset, which is the LinkedIn network. I learned a million things from LinkedIn but one of the things that fueled the next phase of my career was selling into sales leadership, which is what a selling sales navigator did. As go-to-market professionals, there’s something meta about selling to sales leaders. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As go-to-market professionals, there's something sort of meta about selling to sales leaders. Click To Tweet

I get to talk to my peers all the time. It’s probably how you feel getting to talk to other experts. I learned from my customers regularly, which is incredible. I fell in love with sales leadership. Not just being a sales leader but working with sales leaders at LinkedIn. As I mentioned, I led all different customer types and in a couple of different lines of business. I felt like I had deep exposure to lots of different parts of go-to-market orgs.

The other thing I will say about LinkedIn, outside of it being a phenomenal company, is that it demonstrated to me how it should be done, how a business should be run, how to take care of your people, how to build a sustainable business, how to build a moat around your product and how to inspire a huge audience of a global talent pool. Best in class across many vectors that matter when building a sustainable business, so forever grateful for my time at LinkedIn.

I took all those learnings, decided to gamble a little bit of in the startup world, and went to WeWork, where we could spend the entire episode on that. Maybe we should grab a beer to do that. It was quite the run. I spent a few years at WeWork leading up to our at Ben failed IPO attempt and just wild run. I was running our mid-market business across the US and hired over 70 people.

My last job was to eliminate them all. It was a wild experience but if LinkedIn taught me how to lead in peacetime, WeWork taught me how to lead in more time and a major benefit to both. I learned a lot and worked with some incredible people at WeWork. I was there in the Adam Neumann era but I would say one of the things that I learned the most about WeWork was how to pressure test growth and ask yourself the question if something could be done faster, bigger or at a lower expense.

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting
Sales Forecasting: Learn how to pressure test growth. Always ask yourself whether or not something can be done faster or bigger. If you can accomplish a task in six weeks, challenge yourself to do it in two days.


Challenging the status quo of, “If we can do that in six weeks, what would it take to do in two days?” It’s asking the question of pushing the boundaries of what you think is possible. Whenever I got a question from WeWork that was like, “I need you to do X, Y, and Z.” I always thought it was insane. Most of the time, we delivered.

There was something to that, which is that if you can apply enough pressure and enough resourcing, what you are able to accomplish is pretty incredible. I learned a lot there too. The next up on the rung for me was that I was eager to get back into the software. I was eager to get back into the ecosystem. I mentioned selling into sales leadership and so moved to Clari. Clari was, at the time, mostly an enterprise product. They were overhauling forecasting. It was their bread and butter.

Over the last few years, it has been incredible to be a part of a team that I deeply admire and respect. Our leadership team is phenomenal, led by Kevin Knieriem and Andy Byrne, which is so strong. Working in a space that has blown up when you think about revenue and sales tech is exploded, which is awesome to be a part of for lots of reasons.

First and foremost, as a seller, our function is last to evolve. Almost every other function had innovated and supplied its employee base with new technology to become more efficient and smarter in their work, except for sellers. We are finally getting our moment. Our moment is here, and we’ve invested, and you are seeing a huge amount of not just venture capital but excitement from investors.

A seller's first and foremost function is to last and evolve. Click To Tweet

Analysts are all over the space. It’s blowing up. If you look at sales tech similarly to the way that you looked at MarTech of the 2000s, it is hopefully going to follow a similar thread, which is lots of investment, tons of companies, and ultimately consolidation. It will be interesting to follow the space over the next ten years or so to see what happens.

Clair has expanded from being a forecasting platform that could help people overhaul a process to going into tons of different workflows. How do a company and a go-to-market org run their ultimate revenue process? How do you inform a rep to a manager one-on-one? How do you inspect opportunities? How do you spot risk? How do you ensure that your pipeline has enough coverage? Ultimately, how does a CRO define to the board and the leadership team if they are going to meet, miss or beat their number? It’s a very exciting time for us to be a part of.

Two things stood out for me. One thing you talk about is being meta, going back to LinkedIn, and selling to sellers. It reminds me of my time at SugarCRM, where we are selling to sellers and marketers. We need to be great at doing marketing and selling. That was a big eye-opening experience for me. You are preaching but are you doing the right things where you can lead by example?

I always say to my sales team, “We are demonstrating a sales process to the sensei, to the people.” Their inspection of our sales process, you can imagine, is going to be diligent. The way we show up in these moments is so critical. I would say that one of the things that are so incredible for me as a sales leader is the number of outreaches that I get from a head of sales or CRO complementing my sales team and asking if they can hire them. It is the best compliment because I know they are a tough critic.

There’s something that I want to pick your brains about clearly, you are an expert. You have been in sales, from a sales rep to leading a sales team, to now you are technically a business leader representing sales at the board level. How did you master or how are you continuing to master forecasting and prediction? That’s the biggest skill to learn.

From my personal experience, I have been at startups and worked with sales leaders. More recently, when talking about forecasting and missing the forecasting, here is a big miss where we forecasted $800,000 in a quarter, and eventually, sales closed at $30,000. I don’t want to go in there but clearly forecasting and being able to hit the number is a huge skill. What advice would you give to our readers on that?

It’s massive, especially as you move into sales leadership. As a sales rep, you are generally responsible for calling a number but very few orgs hold a rep accountable for their accuracy around that number. Part of that is because they don’t have a lot of diversification. If they miss one deal, it could throw their number off by several hundred percent, and that’s tough. Not a lot of accountability at the rep level. A little bit more so once you move into frontline leadership.

Naturally, when you get into executive leadership and sales leadership at the highest levels, the forecast is the thing that you are expected to get right. It’s table stakes to be effective in the role. If you don’t have a good methodology for how you get there and you have to put a good process in place, you are screwed. When you go into a board meeting, you are going to get eaten alive, and you need to be able to defend your call.

All that to say that there’s so much that is unpredictable in our environment that there’s no amount of machine learning, AI or fancy software that’s going to call COVID or the current downturn. Even the rise of PLG businesses is much harder to forecast in that environment because you are responding to market factors that you may or may not be able to predict. Velocity is all over the place. To get to the root of your question, there’s a handful of things that are core to getting this right. I’m going to walk through some very specific examples here, so forgive the granularity.

That will be the most useful for our readers, for sure.

One of the first things that you have to get right to get a good and predictable forecast process is sales stages and forecast categories. The terminology that you use inside of your sales org to call the way a deal is represented is critical to getting the overall process right. What that means is that you need defined stage criteria. This is what must be present inside of your deal for this to be considered a stage 2 or 3 deal however you have laid out your stages. Most companies have 4 or 5.

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting
Sales Forecasting: The terminology you use inside of sales org to call how a deal is represented is critical to getting the overall process right. You need defined stage criteria inside your deals.


Within those stages, from qualifying to pricing and negotiations, however, that is enabled for you that it is crystal clear to a rep and impossible to argue when something has moved into or out of a stage. For example, in my world, we might say, “To move to stage three, we have to have been named vendor of choice.” This means we have to have gotten from the customer, the prospect, an indication that we are the partner that they want to partner with.

We might still need to get through security. We might still have an outstanding MSA but they have said, “We would like to move forward with Clari,” and now we know we have to move towards our paper process in getting a deal done but we have been named vendor of choice. That is a requirement to move into stage three. The requirements associated with stages and forecast categories are critical, and ensure that you’ve defined them. All of your leaders are managing to it is so important.

Now when you look across every single deal, you know that you are looking at the same set of requirements. You don’t have one deal that’s being represented differently than another deal with a different set of requirements. It’s foundational to getting a forecasting process in place. Second, there is no silver bullet inside the forecast. Therefore, you need to have a set of data that you can triangulate against.

For me, what that is, first, I have a rep roll-up. The rep roll-up is inclusive of all of the outstanding inventory. A lot of companies will do a bottoms-up view, which is deal by deal. They will say, “This deal is either in or out, or this deal has X amount of probability.” You have this bottoms-up view to informing one point of your triangulation process.

The next is you have a manager override or a manager commit. You have your leaders pressure test the rep-level forecast to see where they would agree or disagree based on how they might be called a deal. For me, the third layer is using AI. Specifically, inside a Clari, there’s a module called Pulse. Pulse is looking at historical data, and it’s making a prediction on how that quarter or a next quarter might shake out, looking at conversion rates and the amount of pipeline that we have to see how we might land. That means every single time I’m calling a number, every week, I’m triangulating between what the actual inventory says at the rep level, how my leadership team thinks we are going to shake out and what the machine says. Between those three, I’m landing somewhere in the range.

The first point you made is supercritical, which is my takeaway from that is defining very clear entry and exit criteria for each stage, where there’s no argument. There’s no ambiguity. Seller A can argue, “This is how I see it,” versus seller B will see it completely differently.

It’s black and white.

You use Clari, obviously in-house, and shout out to Clari. For those of you who are reading, if you are curious, check out Clari. Going back, if you have to go back in time and pick either a GTM success or a failure story, can you share one from your most recent time? That will be a great eye-opener for us.

I’ve got lots of both. Do you want me to share one of each?

Yes, absolutely.

There’s obviously recency bias here but I will share a failure. I will use one at Clari, which is we initially set up our go-to-market org to be geo-specific. We were going to have these little hubs. The hubs would be like if you owned Minneapolis, you were the CEO of Minneapolis Clari. Your job was to map out all the businesses that resided in Minneapolis, to get in with the Chamber of Commerce, to set up local events, and to create a community across companies that might sit in Minneapolis. You owned that geo. That’s how we structured it. This is pre-COVID.

You moved to a world where geo is almost completely irrelevant. I remember the moment when I knew this was a failure. I had an incredible rep who I very well love and still with us, who sold our first logo in Toronto. He said, “I planted a flag in Toronto, and it happened to be a relatively small deal.” You love getting a deal. A deal is a deal. I will never not celebrate a win but the win was that we landed in Toronto.

I was like, “This is one of our best reps. He is trying to crack into getting a small deal in Toronto. Why do I care if we are in Toronto? Do you know what I care about? Revenue. Why do I have him focused on these geos when there’s much bigger fruit if I were to distribute, let’s say, the market of New York?” We made this decision to move from a geo-based model to an account-based model a few years ago and never look back.

It was such a better distribution of our opportunity. Also, it allows us to hire pretty much anywhere and so we can get better talent without needing to focus on the geo. That was one, and I learned that way. A success, I will say, is that we were a pretty enterprise-focused company when I started. Most of our customers were enterprise customers.

There was a lot of trepidation to go down-market. People were fearful of the impact on ASPs. People were fearful of not having the support resources to support the velocity business. It took a lot for us to go down-market. One of the things that we did was pilot it with a handful of apps and gave them our smallest potential customers to see what they could do. This small team, we call it emerging. They exploded. It was all the fish that were jumping into our boat.

We decided to take that as a signal and say, “If these are a bunch of leads that are coming our way, what if we put capacity against it?” It did something with it instead of letting them come to us. It started with a small team and let them run wild for a quarter before we knew that this was a no-brainer place to invest based on the interest that we got and the success of that team. My regret there is that we should have done it sooner.

One question for each of the scenarios there. For the failure scenario, you mentioned you moved from geo to account level. I’m going to take a hypothetical example over here. Let’s say it’s Home Depot. That’s the account you are trying to break into. Were you assigning a rep to break into, let’s say, Home Depot in Michigan State versus Home Depot at any location? Is that the shift they are talking about?

We organize the account by HQ location. If Home Depot were headquartered in Minneapolis, then it would be owned by the Minneapolis rep but wherever the HQ location is would dictate ownership.

I had a question regarding your success scenario, which as you can clearly relate to this moving upmarket. Our down-market is super hard for any organization. What is the thought process for you and the leadership team at Clari on how you define the success criteria? Was it verticalized or how did you think about framing the team? Can you share some more insights about that?

It is a tough and big strategic decision. We operated more as an enterprise-grade company. We had enterprise customers. Most of our market position was geared toward the enterprise. That start there, which is how do you tailor your messaging and your market position to be attractive to different segment? Something we had to face in something we still deal with a little bit is you will see the SMB customer ask us, “Are we big enough for Clari or is it too soon for us to find value and benefit out of Clari?” If they are a former user, they never ask that question because they know what the value is to them.

For the general population, that’s where you need to start. Reeducate the new population of people that you are going after and why you are right for them. That was the one. One of the big changes that we went through as well is that naturally, at the market, you see enormous complexity. Both in the buying persona and the number of people involved in a purchasing decision and also for us technically. You are integrating with data.

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting
Sales Forecasting: As you go upmarket, you’ll have more diversified personas buying from you. Be sure to reeducate the people you’re going after so that they know you’re the right one for them.


The way that data is structured can be very complex. Nuance for that unique customer. How do we simplify our process so that we could move through complexity at a different speed when we go down-market? We had this internal hashtag that we talked about. There’s a guy in my team named Adam Wainwright, who I will credit with this.

He labeled it supersonic. Supersonic was the charter for that team, which is, how can they move through a process quickly? If somebody said, “The average sales cycle time was 45 days, how could we get it to 30?” Everything we did was through the lens of supersonic. Taking what was a cumbersome process upmarket for a complex cycle and trying to figure out how we remove friction to get to a supersonic process.

I got some more follow-up questions for you on that. When someone goes to your website, you get the messaging, everything directed at the person who relates to like an enterprise customer, the ICP, versus when you are looking to go midmarket or down-market in your scenario. There’s the messaging, pricing, also other different aspects which we won’t get into. I’m sure you will share. Again, how did you think about that or how did you attract the initial set of your target midmarket customers?

Specifically, do you mean in the messaging that would be attractive to that?

It might be outbound because, obviously, you won’t be driving a lot of inbound or maybe you already have those in your pipeline, in your list somewhere, and then you segment that as the potential midmarket. What strategy did you use for those?

Firstly, we had to make a decision on what we would use to define segmentation. What was the best marker to signal that this type of company was indeed different from this other type of company? We ended up using just employee count. There’s a good debate on whether or not we should use sales employee count. The reason why we didn’t use sales employee count is that it’s harder to get that information and also different by industry.

Employee count is generally representative of the size of a go-to-market org that would be attractive to Clari. That was the first thing we aligned on. Not revenue, and that was by design. Employee size is the place that we started, and then we drew a line in the sand for us around a thousand employees. The other exercise you had to go through was, where does a cycle become differentiated? What is the line in the sand that says, “When you are below a thousand, you operate like this. When you are above a thousand, you operate like this?”

Those two things require a different sales motion, a different set of resources, a different market message, and a different price. Therefore, we are going to treat them differently. That is an intellectual exercise that should be run with product marketing. Hopefully, you have an ops function that can help support the data around that suggests, “You should stand up a motion that looks fundamentally different for this customer than that customer.”

After we went through the academic exercise to come up with an answer, then you go to trial and see if that’s, in fact, right. I will say that as our product and our go-to-market org have evolved, we have made some type of change to our segments most years. We collapse and expand. As we add more skews to the product, the way that we think about supporting them is different.

I will give one other example, which is in the presales side of the business. When we sell to a prospect, we segment by employee size, as I referenced. As soon as we sell that and it passes to the customer side of the house, and it’s going to be run by an account management team. They segment by revenue. Not by the revenue of the company but by the size of the deal that we did with that prospect. For them, the way that it makes sense to organize is how big of a deal it needs to be serviced and, ultimately, ensure that we can make that customer successful in a different way for different needs to segment.

Especially for customer success, it’s more of an expansion opportunity. Clearly, that makes sense. That is super helpful. Did you allocate six months or a year for this “experiment”?

We had prepared for six months and ended up making a decision after three. The reason why we decided after three is because it was so obvious that it was successful. We had done twenty new logos or something in a month. It was clear to us that applying resourcing there made sense. The other thing is that you get feedback anecdotally from your prospect base.

The number of customers that we had spoken to that appreciated got onboard with our supersonic approach and appreciated that they could move fast but it didn’t feel like a clunky, stodgy enterprise process. The feedback I got from many CROs in that space was aligned with the process we had put in place. It was very clear that we were going to make the investment. If you know that you are going to make the investment, why not move fast?

Let’s switch gears. We are coming to the final segment over here. What are 1 or 2 or 3 things within the go-to-market arena that you are curious about? What’s causing you to go deeper into research and shift your thinking from a go-to-market perspective?

There’s a ton. In no particular order, I will say the things that have been top of mind to me here. One is around intent. There are so many amazing new signals that we can incorporate into our sales process to try to find intent which means that we are going to use so much better at attaching the right accounts to the right resources. If we know the accounts that are warm and we put them with our bestsellers, we should be able to do all kinds of things. Not least of which is increase our revenue.

Lots of exciting companies. We happen to partner with 6sense. They are phenomenal on this front. Lots of intent resourcing here that changes the game for us. That’s number one. The other is around business models. The other thing you are seeing a lot more of is consumption use cases and usage-based models, and PLG motions. There are all these new ways outside your standard license-based model to structure the way you capture revenue from a customer. That’s super interesting to me. We will only see more advancements in the way that pricing in packaging is structured, especially in software. Those are two that are hot for me now.

There are so many ways outside of standard license-based models to structure the way you capture revenue from customers. Click To Tweet

The first one is intent, clearly. There’s a lot of talk in the industry about how you define intent. It has always been there in good market teams. You need to identify the intent signals but there has been no clear black-and-white way to identify them within the sales stack and marketing stack. That has been the biggest gap. Of late, I’m seeing more companies like 6sense.

There are others as well who are helping. They are also adjacent solutions that can say, “Plug this. Stick stack into your solution, and you can see the intent signals.” That’s from a tech perspective. I would like to get your thoughts on within the go-to-market team. How will you define whether this is a high-intent versus a low-intent account?

We use the signal that we are getting from 6sense primarily for us. We also use some G2 data, so we layer those on. The other thing for us is diversifying the leads. Not all leads are created equal. How do you ensure that you’ve got the right lead scoring so that it gets the right urgency that’s required? Naturally, a demo request or referral for us is high intent. We want to ensure that the speed to lead is short and that we can get connected to the buyer as soon as possible.

For us, that meant we instituted. I will give you an example. A product called Caddy. We are new to using it. It is the ability to book. If you book a request for a demo on Clari’s website, you would be directly connected to the AE that owns the account instead of bifurcating and moving away, going through all the other channels like being to an SDR or someone to do a qualification step. If it’s a named account, we already know that that’s somebody that’s already qualified by default, and we want to ensure that there’s as little drop-off as possible. That’s some of the mechanics that you have to optimize in the go-to-market.

One other topic, I have been coming across this topic also, and I speak to other go-to-market leaders. There has been a constant debate as to who owns the SDR team. Is it sales or marketing? What is your thought process around that?

I’ve seen it in both different departments. It obviously works in both places. At Clari, Kyle Coleman owns our SDR org. He is like LinkedIn famous.

He’s an SDR champ. I see him on LinkedIn. He is a true champ.

Deep expertise in the function, and so we are lucky to have him for lots of different reasons but that’s one of them. For me, he’s probably one of my biggest partners. There’s nobody I spend as much time with as Kyle in orchestrating a sales motion for us. Where it lives is much less important than the alignment between the two orgs.

B2B 32 | Sales Forecasting
Sales Forecasting: Where the SDR teams lives are much less important than the alignment between sales and marketing.


Even if it lived in sales, naturally, so much of the lead flow you would hope your SDRs are responding to is generated by marketing. If it lives in marketing, it must be responsible and accountable to sales. This is why there’s no obvious answer to this. Either way, there are tradeoffs. It’s not a perfect answer, no matter what. The alignment between the 2 orgs and, arguably, the 2 leaders is the most important thing.

Moving to the last couple of questions here, who would you credit if you were to go back in time? Who have been your code mentors and sponsors? Who have been the role models that helped you get to this point in your career?

I’m so lucky because I have many. You said 2 or 3. I will start maybe in logical order. The first time I ever went on a sales call like as an adult with a full-time job and going out to see a customer. I was with a guy named Aaron Nadolza. He and I both worked together at Gallup. We were going to our first big sales meeting.

It was his meeting, and I was just shadowing. He took me under his wing and taught me how to sell. Everything from how to set up a good meeting, how to follow up on the meeting, and the real basics of customer engagement. That’s like the least exciting thing he’s taught me over the years. I have now worked with him at three different companies. I followed him on LinkedIn. When I went to WeWork, I brought him over to be my boss.

I’ve worked with him for many years. I’ve learned a million things from him. The big thing outside of sponsorship, as you mentioned, is that he certainly sponsored me but he just deeply invested in me to teach me everything he knew. I was afforded his life experiences. I didn’t have to go through them myself, which was so incredible. Aaron has made a massive impact on my life.

When I went to LinkedIn, I worked for a leader that didn’t just change my professional trajectory but changed me as a human. His name is Peter Kim. Pete was the best boss that I have ever had. I remember specifically a one-on-one we had where I was asking him for some career advice. He basically said like, “Holly, I am yours. Use me however you want to use me but I believe in you. I’m here to develop you.”

What changed in the course of our interaction was that I did start to use him. A mistake that people make is that most people want to invest in high-potential talent. Where there’s often a mismatch is that the talent also has to go and engage and make good use of their resource. I took Pete up on his offer. I used him for everything, and honestly, I still do. We got to a place where he could give me advice about my whole life, everything from how to structure my mortgage to which job to consider or not.

Ultimately, it’s still your decision. It’s still your life but to have people that care deeply about you and therefore are interested in you making the right decision is so important. The last one is my current boss, Kevin Knieriem. He’s the CEO at Clari. He has invested in me in lots of different ways. One of which is to empower me to make my own decisions, build out an org, and be able to stand up for something that I knew was right.

I feel so empowered in my role now. Having limitless belief changes the way you operate. When you know that the person above you is in your corner and rooting for you in every way changes the way that you show up at work every day. Back to the comment, I made earlier about Gallup and that people join companies and lead managers.

For all the leaders reading, it’s a deep responsibility that we have as people leaders at any level. Whether you are leading leaders, managers or reps, someone’s happiness depends on the way that you approach them. You, as their boss, get to empower them. You get to ensure that they are going to have a good day or a bad day. That’s something that we shouldn’t take lightly. I have been lucky.

As a leader, someone's happiness depends on how you approach them. You have to empower your people and ensure they will always have a good day. Click To Tweet

That’s a great piece of advice there. For all readers, it doesn’t matter if you are a people leader or someone who’s reporting to a boss. You will have both up and down for most of you there. Hopefully, someone will take this as an inspiration to sponsor and grow someone’s career and vice versa. Ask and take, go full advantage of your manager because they sincerely care for your growth. That’s the message. Last question here, Holly, which is, if you were to turn back the clock and go back to your day one within the go-to-market career journey of yours, an amazing career journey for sure. What advice would you give your younger self?

One of the biggest things I have learned, which is so critical, is that much of the career decisions that we make can be convoluted when you start to add in title and comp and roll scope. You can get attracted to those things but one of the things that probably has the biggest impact on your return is the quality of the company. You are picking the right horse to bet on.

If you pick to be the assistant at the right company versus the CRO at the crappy company that goes nowhere, the fact that you have a big title, a big comp or whatever but the company doesn’t succeed. It ruins the whole game. Picking the right horse is 90% of the battle. If you take what is perceived to be a lateral move or even a step back in title and comp is so insignificant in the grand scheme of life and a long career. It’s so much more important to pick the right company and invest in the right company that you believe in over the long haul. It’s a big learning for me.

I have nothing to add to that. That’s a great piece of advice, for sure. Thank you so much, Holly. It has been wonderful speaking with you. Thank you for sharing all the wisdom and insights. Good luck to you, your sales team, and the folks at Clari.

Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on the show. It’s great to spend some time together.


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