Improve Buyer Efficiency through Aligned Go-To-Market Teams | Kyle Coleman

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This is a podcast episode titled, Improve Buyer Efficiency through Aligned Go-To-Market Teams | Kyle Coleman. The summary for this episode is: <p>Right people, right accounts, right time. That's the philosophy Kyle Coleman's go-to-market team at Clari, a revenue operations platform, follows in order to increase buyer efficiency at every stage of the funnel.</p><p>On this episode of Revenue Talks, Justin and Kyle get into the details of what buyer efficiency really means. They clarify that increasing buyer efficiency does not, and should not, be separate from revenue generation, and Kyle breaks down how to apply account-based marketing across the entire customer journey.</p><p>Like this episode? Let us know by leaving a review! You can connect with Justin and Kyle on Twitter @justinkeller, @kyletcoleman, and @DriftPodcasts.</p>

Katie: Welcome to Revenue Talks. I'm Katie.

Justin: And I'm Justin. And on this show, we get real about what it takes to build pipeline and successfully scale businesses.

Katie: By having conversations with folks who have been there before, we explore what it takes to create strong cross- functional alignment, how technology factors, how different teams think about attribution and so much more.

Justin: If you're looking to win in the revenue era, you're in the right place to learn how. Hello, everybody. And welcome back to the Revenue Talks podcast. I am so excited to be interviewing our first sales leader for the show today. Please welcome Kyle Coleman, the VP of Revenue Growth and Enablement at Clari, a revenue operations platform. Kyle and Clari have worked with Drift to bring you previously the Go- To- Market Playbook for revenue teams. So after listening you this episode, if you would like to you should go check that out. We are going to link it in the show notes but for right now, we're going to focus in on buyer efficiency, what it is and how we can all do it better. So let's get into it. Kyle, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Congrats on your recent funding round, that's huge. How's everything going in your world?

Kyle: It is going great. Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here. I'm hoping that everybody just heard you congratulate me on my funding and now say," Oh, Clari has all the money in the world to spend, let's go sell them things." Is that inaudible?

Justin: Exactly? Yeah. Podcast intent is the new sort of intent. So everyone listening, Kyle's got his wallet open if you're listening and you're not watching the video.

Kyle: Exactly. I'm excited for this topic, Justin. My purview at Clari is a little bit unique. I lead our growth team which is demand generation, field marketing, marketing operations as well as SDR. So our inbound and our outbound motion, it's also sales enablement and value engineering. So having tentacles into not just generating demand but also accelerating deals, closing deals, maintaining ASPs all the while, creating a world class buying experience, making something that is useful for the people on the other end who don't buy software all the time and ensuring that our process shepherds them along, it answers questions that they have and actually, provides value. That's the whole goal of what our team does.

Justin: And this is all under the umbrella of what you call a revenue growth team, is that right?

Kyle: That is correct.

Justin: So can you take a minute and explain, how's the division of labor on this work? Who owns the pipeline, how do you separate buyer experience from revenue generation? How do those work together?

Kyle: Yeah. It is a really good question. To maybe back up one quick second, just so everybody's aware of my unique purview here. I report directly to our CRO, I have a dotted line to our CMO. I have one on ones with every sales leader, with every marketing leader. So really this growth team is the glue between traditional sales and marketing. And what this means for me and how we try and manifest and perhaps, to answer your question, Justin, is my team is literally responsible for the entire pipeline number for the whole company. Marketing sourced, SDR sourced, sales sourced because I have that enablement function. Also, we take on the sales source pipeline number. The who is responsible for closing that revenue of course, are the sales teams, the sales leaders and things like that. But you can't have one without the other. You can't close the door if the door isn't open in the first place. So we open the door and the sales team closes it. All the while though, you can't distinguish those two goals, pipeline and revenue from the buying experience. And a lot of companies lose sight of this, a lot of companies optimize for their sales process. We have XYZ marketers, we have this many SDRs, we have this many sales people, therefore here is how the process needs to run. And we look at things completely backwards. We look at things to say, what does the buyer need? What is the buyer journey and how do we shape our go to market to match that? How do we make sure, and this sounds so basic, Justin, but so many companies get it wrong. How do we make sure that if a company is searching for a keyword that Clari is really good on forecasting, it's not the only thing we solve but it's a main problem? If a prospect is searching for forecasting, how do we make sure that our SDRs get that information and talk to them about forecasting? And then if that first meeting gets set up, how do we make sure that our AEs don't repeat the discovery but actually, present how Clari solves forecasting. And it's that kind of thing that sounds so simple but so many companies get it wrong.

Justin: I mean, you're right. And I think so many companies get this wrong for a few reasons. I've got a few hypotheses but I'd like to get your take on why you think that is, why? We live in the world where we've got very empowered buyers, do we disregard their wants, their needs and force them into our journey that we want them to go on.

Kyle: Partially, because you have to. And then what I mean by that is, sellers or buyers for the most part are not buying this software or this solution more frequently than once a year at most and we're selling it all the time. So to a certain extent, it is useful for your sales team or your leadership team to have a process that you run because you are in many ways, shepherding a buyer along through that process. So partially, you have to do that but probably, where the problems start to come in is when all these different people, all these different stakeholders to create this buyer experience, when they're too siloed and you have a marketing team that is operating as a only a marketing team, working against marketing KPIs and then handing things off and celebrating success in different ways to an SDR team who's also working in a silo, has their own KPIs, hand things off to a sales team who's in a silo, has different KPIs. You just create all these little sort of micro universes, where the goals are different. And while the ultimate goal is of course, still to generate revenue, the marketing team may lose sight of that. The SDR team may lose sight of that and so that just creates this system that is just really not optimized for a seamless experience for the buyer.

Justin: Which I love. I mean, because you're absolutely, right. At the end of the day, who cares how many leads were generated, who cares how many discoveries we booked? At the end of the day, we all care about how much revenue's generated and that's a team sport and treating it like it's not, I think causes issues. In Clari's instance, how have you guys solved that? How do you all share success in a way where you're all accountable but you're all pulling in the same direction?

Kyle: Yes. It's a great question. It starts with the philosophy and I'll talk about what the philosophy is of our growth team. I mentioned we're responsible for creating the pipeline that supports the revenue targets across the whole business. The philosophy that we have is that we need to get in front of the right people at the right accounts, at the right time. Right people, right accounts, right time. And again, it sounds so basic, of course, you want to do that. But we really, every tactic that we pursue, every technology that we buy, everything that we do is in service of this philosophy. What does that mean we're not doing? We are not creating leads and creating lead goals for the sake of satisfying lead goals. That is not what we're doing. If they're not the right people and they're not coming from the right accounts then what does it actually, matter to our sales team? And importantly, if it's not the right time for this company to be in the market for a solution like Clari then we're setting our sales team up not for success for failure. We're creating pipeline that never has a chance to turn into revenue or that our sales team has to pull off some heroic to turn into revenue and that's not the goal. And so it all starts with that philosophy and if we put all of the programs that we run, inbound, outbound campaigns, events, et cetera, through this lens and we optimize all of our technology Drift included to make sure that we're capitalizing on all of the amazing capabilities of the tech stack that we have to get in front of these people at the accounts that we care about at the right time, that is the formula for success. That is how we accelerate a lot of processes while ensuring that we're not shoehorning people into a process they don't care about. We're creating a process that they are showing us in some form or fashion they do care about.

Justin: I love it. I want to nerd that on process for just a minute more, to me what you just described sounds like a very elegant and sophisticated version of the Forester double funnel. Where you've got target accounts you're going out after. And so you've got a very prescriptive, tailored messaging going out to them, trying to generate engagement. And then everyone else that comes inbound, that's interested once they hit your funnel, everyone starts to get the same experience. Is that fair to say?

Kyle: That's exactly right.

Justin: So you've got a couple people that contribute to that experience. Can you break that down for us and how the different teams contribute to that?

Kyle: Yeah, sure thing. So the first team that of course is, well, I mean, everybody contributes to this experience, Justin. So it's certainly, not siloed within the growth team. It is further up funnel with the work that our brand team does, PR, AR, awareness that the types of things that people think or feel about Clari prior to coming to us, prior to engaging with a human on our team or with an ad that we're serving that matters, it has a huge impact. And then certainly, downstream from us too. There's the whole sales team, there's the whole post sales team to create enduring relationships and all of this. But the role that our, let's just take the SDR team as an example because I think that it's a pretty easy one and I think pretty different than many of the ways that other SDR teams function. Our SDR team is not an appointment setting team, they are not only a qualification team, they are not meant to simply be a step or a choke point in the buyer life cycle. What they are meant to be is somebody who has an informed perspective, a strong point of view on the accounts that they're reaching out to. The strategic initiatives of those accounts, who the buying group is inside of that account, the things that Clari can help that company achieve and then crafting individualized tailored messaging to the people within that account to show them that we understand their goals and initiatives and that Clari has a perspective on how to help them accomplish those goals and initiatives. And we're setting from the onset, that precedent that we, Clari, care about you and your goals. We understand you and your goals and we can help you achieve those goals. And so the conversations that our SDR team has, the emails that we send, the way that we interact with prospects is fundamentally higher level than what most other SDR teams do. Hey, you want a meeting at 2: 00 PM, great, see you then. And it's way more about creating this perspective, this point of view that requires a business acumen, requires sales acumen, requires a deep understanding of our product and of our value, the value that Clari offers, not just the feature function. And that's the expectation that we have across all of our teams. The same is true with the marketing campaigns that we run, the same is true with the way that our sales people run deals and our sales engineers position the product, all of these things are intertwined and really heavy rotation around value so that's the big difference.

Justin: And I think everyone listening to this is going to agree with you, full heartedly. That sounds great. It probably, feels good as a selling organization to really care about your buyer. I'm sure that your buyers love the experience that they're getting treated to. And then they're going to raise an eyebrow and say," Yeah, but how does that scale?" How have you guys solved for that?

Kyle: Yeah. It's such an interesting question, Justin, because a lot of people, they will not be so nice when they ask instead they will say," Well, that doesn't scale." And there's two ways you can answer this, I can answer this in a glib way and show them our growth trajectory and the funding that we've received and all of that. Or I can say things that work, the things that are truly impactful are not necessarily meant to scale always in a one too many sort of way. However, by creating perspectives, point of views, by taking a more tailored and more value oriented approach to everything that we do, we find one to few ways to scale things. And what do I mean by that? We work with a lot of companies similar to ourselves, similar profile to ourselves, high growth SaaS companies and what are a lot of high growth SaaS companies trying to do? They're trying to IPO and we have been into the fortunate enough situation, Clari helps create a more predictable revenue sort of cadence across your whole company and so we've helped countless companies on the path to IPO. What have we learned from this? What have we learned about companies that are trying to achieve this growth path and how can we take those lessons and weave them into our marketing campaigns, our SDR outreach, our sales process to show companies that have this aspiration that we can help them achieve it? So we earn this credibility by having worked with customers in the past, solving these real strategic problems and then showing our prospects and showing our customers that we have the knowhow to help them achieve similar results. And this is how we do it. We find little things, topics, strategic initiatives, whatever you want to call it, that don't scale to everybody. Not every company is in this boat, obviously. But enough of them are to make it worth our time to create a strategy around it and then to use that as a means of scaling. And we have 8, 10, 12 of these things that are playbooks that we can run and reuse and tweak and tailor for the accounts that we're penetrating but that's the secret. If there's no silver bullet, there's not a single thing that'll work for every account under the sun. You have to be more nuanced than that, you have to be smarter than that to actually, have credibility to sell to power brokers inside of companies.

Justin: I want everything you just said printed on a t- shirt. That is so right on.

Kyle: inaudible t- shirt.

Justin: We'll do front and back and then we'll just inaudible printed.

Kyle: Not just inaudible, a pocket and see how much writing we can get on the pocket.

Justin: Yeah. Maybe that's exactly. Let's zoom back out. We started this conversation centered it around buyer efficiency. So let's zoom out all the way. What does buyer efficiency mean to you?

Kyle: Yeah. I will go back to this mantra that we've had for the last two years since I've been running the growth team here at Clari. Right people, right accounts, right time. I know that sounds really simple, maybe that's the t- shirt we create, maybe that's our bumper sticker, I guess. But what this does is it forces you to think really critically about the upstream and downstream decisions and processes that feed your buyer journey. How are our sales territories created? Are we just saying," Ah, let's just put a salesperson in every city with an NFL team and just call it today. We've got coverage in LA, we've got coverage in Minneapolis. We're good to go." Or do we take a much more data driven approach to say," What is our ICP? What does our ideal customer profile really truly look like firmo graphically, techno graphically, the personnel that they employ?" All of the things that we actually, know about our customer base, we find as best we can, all of the accounts at this profile and we assign all of these accounts out as books of business. Not as geographic territories but as account based territories. Then if we do this, how do we create these account based strategies, one to one, one to few, perhaps, on the one to many side that help us actually, capitalize on what we know about our ICP and then how do we run the sales process once we get our hooks in? And that to me is a true foundation for buyer efficiency, is efficient territory planning, efficient white space analysis, data driven decisions for how you're designing your go to market. Because if you just do things the way that is easy and geographies are easy, then you perhaps, are missing something. You perhaps, are not focused enough in your sales efforts, your marketing efforts, everything. So it all starts there and then that's the philosophy you have to have from an operations standpoint and it trickles all the way through the go to market.

Justin: What you just said is a cold drink of water on a hot day. Hearing a sales leader, championing ABM is remarkable. I love that. I think it is one of those ongoing battles between sales and marketing. Because marketing really care about the entire experience, sales sometimes gets trapped into just wanting to get a quota, I get it and making that transition is it can be tough. One thing about ABM that I had a realization about is, if you're getting started with ABM, if you need to prove something out, your customer base is probably, a good place to start because you shortcut so many of the issues with that account selection, they've already opted in. You know the champions, you know the use cases, you know what the DBOs are. How does that work in your lens? For Clari, for post sales, since you oversee the entire life cycle. How do you take that approach to existing customers for expansion, for renewal?

Kyle: Yeah. It's a great question. So this is a relatively new muscle for us on the growth team to be honest with you, Justin. And a lot of our renewal success has come via the stickiness of our product which is a very good thing. And a lot of the growth that we've realized has come from the growth of our customers. So a lot of it is organic but of course, there are inorganic means that our cross- sale opportunities, Clari is a multi- faceted product. So we're having to build this muscle now for customer education, customer awareness and making sure that people are... That our customer base are connected from a community standpoint with one another to learn best practices, to create this forum for people to help each other. So what we try and do from an account based standpoint is very similar to what I mentioned on the presale side. What we want to make sure we understand is, what initiatives are our customers pursuing? Are they expanding internationally? Are they rolling out new products? Are they preparing for IPO? And then creating the forum for them to talk to each other about it, not just how you're using Clari in that context of achieving that initiative but just generally. If I'm selling to a head of revenue operations or a chief revenue officer, they want to talk to their peers who are going through something similar. And if we can create that forum for them and there's some chatter about how Clari helps enable them great, if not great. And that's our approach is really about customer education and awareness about those strategic initiatives that matter most to them, offering our perspective when it's valid, when it's appropriate but really connecting people in our customer base with one another via events and content, things like that to accelerate the way they think about the problems they're solving.

Justin: I love that. I think the community you're creating is such a virtuous cycle because not only does it help your customers enable each other, it makes prospects want to be part of that. It makes it easy for your enablement and your product marketing teams to understand what challenges people are having, how can you guys solve for it? I think that's such an important thing and I think it's another one of those aspirational things that companies are like," Yeah, obviously we want to build community." It's just not that easy and I love that you guys are just going out on a limb and saying," This is the right thing to do for our buyers so we're going to do it."

Kyle: Right. And it's not easy. I mean, a lot of companies think of community as a support portal. Hey, our community is you can go to this forum and you can ask a question and it might get answered in a month. That's not what a community is. Community is people talking to each other in some form or fashion and it's hard to build. It takes intent, it takes people who know what they're doing, it also takes a community that wants to communicate with one another. So if you are lucky enough to have that energy in your customer base capitalize on it, absolutely, find ways to capitalize on it otherwise it's a huge missed opportunity.

Justin: I so agree. I think between that, between the customer experiences you're trying to create the amount of intent and I don't mean data, the amount of intent in which we want to earn your business, your doing is really admirable. What do you think that for our listeners, what's it going to take for them to replicate that? And that could be an attitude, it could be a tech stack, it could be org design. What do you think are the must haves for companies that want to try and achieve what Clari is doing?

Kyle: Yeah. It depends what stage you're in right now, Justin. It depends how whatever I'm saying is appealing to you. And what is replicable or aspirationally replicable. I would say the starting point is, you have to really understand your ICP. Again, the silly marketing 101 I understand. I know it sounds silly to say this but it doesn't make it less true. It's foundational marketing for a reason and the reason is if you don't really know who your ICP is, you're flying blind and you're going to be just creating an inefficient buying experience, an inefficient sales experience for your internal team because you're going to be targeting the wrong accounts or the wrong people or something like that. So you really have to understand who that ICP is and as you mentioned, Justin, it's for established companies. It's as simple as looking at your logo wall, who do you already have and what are the commonality? Not among a hundred percent of your customers but 70%. What's the center of the bullseye? Of course, there are concentric rings on that target. There are other things that other companies that will buy your software but what is the bullseye? That's the ICP, go define it and make it replicable, make it easy for your marketing team, SDR team sales team to understand what an ICP company fit is and why. And then go and prosecute a sales cycle that takes advantage of everything you know about your ICP. So what do you know about that ICP? Who are the personas? Who are the buyers? Not just the buyers that sign on the dotted line, like great," You sell to the CFO, what about the 12 other people that are consulted along the way?" And if you can have a product marketing team, a marketing team, a sales team that is aware of all of these things, expects, anticipates all of these things and runs a buying cycle accordingly, this is how you start to scale. This is how you start to replicate best performers, this is how you start to have repeatable success.

Justin: Can you give us some hints on how you get started with that ICP selection? Or not even ICP, how do you go about building these account territories as you called them? Which I love that term, I'm going to steal that. How big or what's the range and size of these account lists? What are the kinds of things that Clari looks at, that you look at when you're trying to build them? How do you go about enabling the sales team on them?

Kyle: Yeah. It's a great question. Frankly, and to be totally honest is, it's not my area of expertise. This is really more of a sales operations function that I have plenty of visibility into and I can speak to but I would suggest there are better thinkers than myself on this. But to give some guidance, it depends a lot on your segments, what are the segments that you're serving? Is it SMB, is it mid- market, is it enterprise? If it is enterprise, what size enterprise? Big difference between a 3000 person company and a 30, 000 person company so once you understand what your segments are and how your sales team should be oriented then what you have to try and back into is, what is the waterfall that supports their quota? So if I have a group of SMB reps, how many of them do I have? What is their revenue contribution? What is their quota? How many accounts do I need to assign them to support the pipeline, to build the pipeline that supports the revenue target? So in a very easy example, let's just say that an SMB reps quoted is a hundred thousand dollars and we know that based on the efficiency metrics we have, the conversion metrics we have that they close 20% of their qualified opportunities. That means we need to create$ 500,000 a pipeline, we know that their average sales price is$50, 000. So we need to create 10 opportunities for them this year. How many accounts does it take for us to create 10 opportunities? We know that we can penetrate roughly 20% of the book of business so we need to assign 50 accounts to every rep. Do we have 50 accounts to assign every rep? We'll see. And so you have to work, start with the out outcome in mind and work your way up that sort of reverse funnel. So you really have to understand your conversion rates from account to opportunity, from opportunity to close and then of course, even above that if you get into the lead funnels and things like that. But a firm understanding of all those operational things is critical to designing and go to market that supports your revenue goals.

Justin: You are hitting super close to home. Drift is going through that exact exercise right now as we're trying to right size our account list to get enough coverage but still be personalized enough that we can start to scale our campaigns out. And it's a really tricky thing to do and I think the only way you can... I mean, it all sounds great on the back of an envelope but until you see it in action, you can't really know. It's one of those things you just have to dive in before you can learn.

Kyle: It's true. Yeah. Every plan works in a spreadsheet, Justin. It looks great.

Justin: Exactly.

Kyle: It's great on a spreadsheet but as justified as those educated guesses can be. And some of the things that you'll do have to be aspirational. Like our win rate this year was 15%, this plan will not work unless our win rate is 20%. What does that mean? That means that we have to invest in field resources, we have to invest in sales training. We have to make sure that we are getting in front of the right accounts. It may be our win rate is low because we've been penetrating accounts that are not even close to our ICP, they had no chance of becoming customers. So there's all these different things that, all these different variables I should say that... Can be controlled to help you create a more predictable cadence for your sales team. It's not just marketing, it's not just sales it's operations, it's everybody, has to be really critical about what their contribution is in service of revenue.

Justin: Kyle, I am learning so much from you. Thank you so much. I think to wrap things up, I'm going to ask you the signature Revenue Talks question which is this, what is the one thing your team is doing this year to accelerate revenue?

Kyle: Oh, one thing?

Justin: One thing.

Kyle: Oh my God.

Justin: This might be our new t- shirt as well, whatever we come out with here.

Kyle: There are things that we're doubling down on, Justin. A lot of the things that we've talked about already which is our personalization approach, our approach to account segmentation, the one to one or the one to few type campaigns and programs. But what I would say more broadly, the one thing that I'm hyper focused on that I think can really move the needle is, in many respects we sell to CROs. We sell to chief revenue officers, the issue with CROs and if anybody, if any, are listening to this, I apologize for this slight in advance... Is they don't read anything, they're not like CMOs, they're not like VPs of marketing. They're not going and looking for industry reports on things like that rather what's of influential and effective for CROs is this network, the word of mouth, that trusted sort of advisors that they have personally in their life. So how can we take advantage of that? How can we penetrate that? And so we talked a little bit, Justin, already about this community that we've built in our customer base. We need to, I need to really focus on creating this community of CROs, this network for our prospect base. It's not just self- serving, it's not just so that we create demand and they become customers. It's because we really want to learn what is most top of mind so that we can continue to build this playbook that is oriented around what matters most to the people, the ultimate decision makers inside of our accounts. So if we can do this right, if we build this network, if we build this community, if we get prospects and customers more integrated, we will learn a ton and we'll close a lot of business so mutually beneficial.

Justin: Awesome. And you said it best, some things you should do, should be aspirational. Everybody, Kyle Coleman, Vice President of Revenue, Growth and Enablement at Clari. You should check out Clari if you haven't already. It is a fantastic platform. Drift uses it, loves it. Thank you so much for joining us today, Kyle. I really appreciate it.

Kyle: It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, my friend.

Justin: Thank you so much for listening to Revenue Talks. We'd love it if you left a review wherever you're listening and hit subscribe so you never miss a new episode. You can connect with us both on Twitter @ KatieJfoote with an E and @ JustinKeller. And remember revenue it's everyone's business now.


Right people, right accounts, right time. That's the philosophy Kyle Coleman's go-to-market team at Clari, a revenue operations platform, follows in order to increase buyer efficiency at every stage of the funnel.

On this episode of Revenue Talks, Justin and Kyle get into the details of what buyer efficiency really means. They clarify that increasing buyer efficiency does not, and should not, be separate from revenue generation, and Kyle breaks down how to apply account-based marketing across the entire customer journey.

Talking Points:

  • (1:35) Who is Kyle Coleman, and what is Clari?
  • (2:31) How do buyer experience and revenue generation work together?
  • (4:47) Why do we disregard our empowered buyers?
  • (6:28) How all of Clari’s go-to-market teams pull in the same direction
  • (8:42) How different go-to-market teams work together to deliver a unified customer experience
  • (11:26) How to scale caring about your buyer
  • (14:03) What does buyer efficiency mean to Kyle?
  • (16:45) How Kyle’s team takes an ABM approach to expansion and renewal
  • (18:57) How Clari thinks about community
  • (20:00) Why Kyle believes that without an ICP you’re flying blind
  • (22:00) How to build out account territories
  • (25:35) The one thing Kyle’s team is focused on to accelerate revenue this year

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Learn more about Clari's go-to-market processes in the Go-To-Market Playbook with Drift