Should sales and marketing be under one roof? Validity CRO + SVP Marketing on driving revenue together

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This is a podcast episode titled, Should sales and marketing be under one roof? Validity CRO + SVP Marketing on driving revenue together. The summary for this episode is: <p>What does it take to get the CRO saying that marketing is knocking it out of the park?</p><p><br></p><p>In this pilot episode of Pipeline, Validity CRO, Don Williams, lets you know.</p><p><br></p><p>SVP of Marketing, Kate Adams, reports up to Don at Validity. Dave interviews them together to better understand how this unique company structure leads them to drive more revenue for their business.</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode? Make sure to leave it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and hit subscribe, so you never miss when a new episode drops.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
Account-based revenue motion
01:17 MIN
Aligning sales and marketing teams under the CRO
02:44 MIN
What's on the revenue scoreboard?
01:13 MIN
How to become a pipeline-focused marketer?
02:19 MIN
How Don's sales motion as evolved over the years
01:41 MIN
The hype around intent data
00:55 MIN

Dave Gerhardt: Okay, so this is a new podcast that we're doing at Drift. It's called Pipeline because I wanted to bring together sales and marketing together. Sometimes like today, which I think is pretty cool, sometimes we'll have, I wanted to try to bring on the sales leader and marketing leader together sometimes, but also we'll have different interviews with product marketing experts, subject matter experts. So, today we have Kate and Don from Validity. Kate and I used to work together. What's up girl? Good to see you. And Don is a CRO at Validity. So, before we hop in, and I'm going to ask a bunch of questions, just let's do a quick intro of who you are, and what your role is at Validity, and how you two work together. Go ahead, Kate, kick us off.

Kate Adams: Yeah, sure. So, I am Kate Adams. I am the SVP of Marketing over at Validity. And I am highly focused on generating pipeline for the business and building a brand that our customers, prospects, employees can all be proud of.

Dave Gerhardt: Okay. Don, you go and then I have some questions back to you on both of those things.

Don Williams: Yeah. Don Williams, Chief Revenue Officer here at Validity. I've been with the company since inception back in 2018, and it's been a wild growth, just big growth ride since that point. And working with Kate now for six months or so, and she's already knocked it out of the park in that short period of time. Like her, I'm very focused on how do we get more leads in the funnel, and how do we close more, and keep that rocket ship moving.

Dave Gerhardt: When you talk about marketing knocking it out of the park what has you actually saying that? Because my guess is it's not Kate got Validity featured in some Inc. column. What has you saying that for real? What's the truth behind that?

Don Williams: Yeah, it's, one, trying new programs we've never done before. It may be as simple as, not simple but releasing a new account-based revenue methodology that we've put out. Using new tools like 6Sense, using programs like Facebook that we've never done before. There's all the great new programs that Kate's brought and we've seen just dramatic increases when you think of high intent leads, people filling out a contact us form. That just dramatically improved since Kate started.

Dave Gerhardt: Kate, can you just explain in regular people terms the business and also the funnel? How you go from website visitor or just what they go to market model is?

Kate Adams: Yeah, sure. So, in lay people terms, our go to market model is really all about how do we get somebody to understand the fundamental problems that we can help themselves, and then help them understand how we are well suited to solve them. And either get them into a trial motion, get them into the product, so they can see it themselves and get their hands on it and get their hands dirty, or to contact one of our team members so that we can show it to them. One, help them understand the problems that they have today and how they could think about going to solve them and why we are best suited to solve them. So, it's a little bit of both. I think sometimes organizations have more of a product led motion and trying to get them into a trial or a free version, or it's just straight up demo, and we're a mix of both.

Dave Gerhardt: Got it. I'm just looking, going to the website and stuff. Is that based on company size? Do you have a lower end sales motion and a higher end sales motion, like there's a small business and enterprise motion?

Kate Adams: It's both. I would say it's less about small business versus enterprise. It's more about usage, and how big is the problem that you need help solving? Which I think some organizations sometimes that works. And those two things go in parallel, where it's like, " Oh, you're a small business, so you have small problems to solve." Or, " Oh, you're a big business so you must have big problems to solve." But I think, and Don you can correct me if I'm wrong here. But we have tons of small businesses that have big problems that they need help solving that have a lot of emails that they need help in verifying, or that their email program is a huge component of their business and a huge component of the success of their business. And that's really important to them, and they need help solving that. So, it's really about what's the magnitude of your challenge, and how big is your program?

Dave Gerhardt: So, one of the things that as I have grown in my career in marketing and seen on the sales side is that the closer you can just trim out all of the crap and be like, " Look, my job as the marketing leader is to deliver revenue to the sales team. Life is easier." I'm just curious to know how are you set up from a goals perspective? For example, if you have a rough ballpark of sales and marketing together need to deliver X million in revenue this year. We think that 70% of that is going to come from marketing, 30% is going to come from sales. Can you work backwards from how you have goals set for the team?

Kate Adams: Sure. So, ultimately, we do exactly what you're talking about Dave, which is we come up with what is the revenue target we need to generate? And then we say, " What's the path that we believe we can get there to generate it?" And Don alluded to this a little bit earlier, but we put in an account- based revenue motion. Some organizations call that an account- based marketing motion, but the reason we went with revenue is exactly that. We are one team, and it's not a mistake that sales or marketing are joined together in Don's organization. I have the privilege of working for Don. And so, we're unified in that motion of there's one team and one team that generates revenue here, and we're all unified in that way.

Dave Gerhardt: I was going to ask about that. Can we talk about that candidly for a second? What is it like having the sales and marketing orgs aligned under CRO? Don, was that a thought before Kate joined? Were you trying to bring marketing under that revenue umbrella?

Don Williams: Yeah, definitely wanted to do that. And really, to get our goals really aligned. It's not just inquiries. It's how do I get those into meetings and get that in the funnel? And then in between marketing and the sales exec is a whole nother group of sales development professionals that are out there trying to prosecute all the leads that Kate's bringing in, and then moving that to a meeting, you then move that into the pipe. We meet weekly between marketing and the sales development team, and then we meet weekly between the sales development team and the AE to ensure everything's flowing inaudible. And it's all about how do we increase more revenue, not about just how many things we're doing. It's what are we doing? How do we fix it? Constant inspection and looking at everything that needs to happen.

Dave Gerhardt: It's so silly because I think that's so much of the sales and marketing problems that we create. People that listen to this are B2B sales and marketing people. It's so much internal. They are internal battles, they are internal challenges over lead scoring, attribution, the quality of this. It really is like the playbook for marketing is not that complicated, right? Kate, you had a great explanation in the beginning. It's like, get people to know about us, getting people to know we can solve their problem, but there's so much misalignment, and I realize as a marketer myself, I have never worked for the CRO. But if I don't know how the sales leader is comped and how that org is set up, from the beginning it's really hard to get along. And so much of that is internal. Like, oh, wow. I was working with a sales leader once, and we were completely gold on different things, and I didn't know about that. His bonus was based on X, mine was based on Y, and it sounds silly, but that is one of the reasons for fundamental misalignment. So, what I love about this model and hearing that you both are aligned under revenue is we talk so much, how much content do you see on LinkedIn about marketing must be about revenue? No kidding. But it doesn't actually work if we're saying that as a company the CEO sets a goal. Our goal is to grow to this much next year. The revenue goal is this, we expect this much from sales, this much for marketing. It's insane how many companies, how many marketers that are probably listening to this don't actually know those goals. From there, then you can sit down together and say, " Okay, here's what I can contribute. I'm going to build a plan to do this." Go ahead, Kate.

Kate Adams: I think one of the core problems that you nailed it, it's all internal, and a lot of the conflict is around whose fault is it? Whose fault is it crosstalk? And so, that is ultimately what so much of that conflict is around as opposed to we don't have very many of those conversations at Validity because it's like, " Well, ultimately it's Don's fault all the time."

Don Williams: inaudible that's right.

Dave Gerhardt: crosstalk talk to Don, I don't need to run this, talk to Don.

Kate Adams: I think ultimately, it's really like, the thing is, it's nobody's fault. It's just how are we going to get to the number? This is what's actually happening, what are we going to do to change it? What are the levers that we're going to pull to fix it?

Dave Gerhardt: Yeah, I think that's a great point. And also beyond that, a thing that I've had a hard time doing is you have to realize it's also not only on sales and marketing. Revenue by principle, there has to be product. There has to be some type of customer motion where we sell more to existing customers or keep them happier. I think that it's easy to... Kate, I remember when we were working together you and I had some very candid conversations. And one of them was like, one time beating your hand on the table, not literally, but like demand gen... We had a conversation, like demand gen doesn't own revenue. The whole freaking thing, the whole organism owns revenue. This is one piece of it. I think that you have to be able to figure out... What's unique about you two being aligned is Kate and Don, you have to find how you're going to drive revenue as an organization, and you're the ones at the table. Don, how does product fit into this? How do the other motions beyond the sales and marketing team, and how do you and Kate go and influence those things?

Don Williams: Yeah, when you think about product engineering it all starts really at the beginning of the year. We're about to start our new budgeting process. So, we're going to go to product and ask them, " What are you putting out? What are the things that we can put revenue around?" And then build that into the plan. The great news is the team is building out a year in advance roadmaps that we can hang our hats on and tie some revenue to. So, that's really an important part of how we're going to make our number next year.

Dave Gerhardt: Kate, what about you? Yeah, go ahead.

Kate Adams: I think the other thing is you look at today, and maybe this is not great because it'll show the date of this podcast. But as of today, iOS 15 is coming out. And a huge component of our business is tied to email, email marketing, and helping email marketers run better email marketing programs. iOS 15 has a component of mailbox privacy protection in it that is going to change the way that marketers measure the effectiveness of their email program. And so, we had to really work very closely with the product organization to say, " How are we going to meet the needs of the market? What are we delivering?" This is a huge opportunity for us to step up and educate the market on what MPV is, and how they should actually move forward and measure their email marketing programs. We're able to capitalize on that because we have strong partnerships to the product organization and said, " What are you going to deliver? This isn't enough. Help us, we need more. The market needs more." These marketers need better help. We are well suited to do that. What are we building in support of that? And so, product step up, and they stepped up, and now marketing is amplifying it, and sales is going to meet all of those folks where they are to really show off the amazing stuff that product just built. I mean, you're 100% right on. It's the whole organism. It's not sales, and marketing that are at the forefront. We are all going to meet or not meet that revenue number together.

Dave Gerhardt: Yeah, and I think this is one of the things that I've changed my mind on as a marketing person in this revenue world is the importance of a strong ops and analytics foundation. Kate, you'll probably giggle at that. But because what I've learned now is that's not actually for marketing, that's to drive the whole organization. And so, when you can go to the rest of the leadership team as sales and marketing and present the data about these types of customers, what's working, what's not, and have actually everybody believe in that data and have that data be accurate. That's how you can then go drive those decisions. I think where a lot of marketers struggle is if you don't have that actual data from the revenue side, it's tough to go and drive the roadmap. Can you give us... Obviously, you don't have to share the confidential numbers and stuff, but can you tell us what's on the revenue scorecard, Don? What are the five or six, you tell me what's on it?

Don Williams: Yeah, the things I look at, Kate look at one is just volume in the beginning, high intent inquiries. What we call as SEO is an initial meeting, and SQO being the movement into the pipe, so that the rep now is accepted as stage two, it's in the pipe. And in between all of those are conversion rates. The conversion rate to MQL with MQL just being what a sales development person gets, then conversion rate between that to stage one to stage two in the funnel, so that you're getting a feel for, okay, is it something wrong with the inquiries? Or is there something in sales development where we're not completing things that we need to do or is it in sales where we're not booking now for some reason? So, we're really focused from that. And then, in the end, it all comes to how much you won and how many deals you won, and then the average sales price that we're selling it at. Are we under selling? And the discount percentages that we may be throwing in there. But holistically we're looking at all these metrics across. We have a really strong analytics team here, and it's nice not having to wait on a spreadsheet for somebody to send it, and you finally get a look at it. I can just go pull it up pretty quickly and Kate's right now rounding out all of our marketing metrics and the analytical components there.

Dave Gerhardt: Kate, I want to come back to the funnel. I have a funnel question for you. But Don while we're talking about the... You laid out the funnel from meeting on down. What are some of the biggest drivers that you've seen to actually move those numbers? Because I think a lot of marketers talk about working more bottom of the funnel. A lot of marketing is very top of the funnel heavy. Like get to lead or get to meeting, but then we're just running more programs to get more leads, get more meetings. How do you actually move the needle, and you mentioned SDRs, if you could talk about that organization, and how they fit in the funnel. But what are the actual things that you can as a CRO pull a lever on to improve the conversion rates there? Because I think a lot of times in my world that I see, well, the sales team needs another deck, or we need this one pager, and it's rarely those things that move the needle. So, how do you accelerate those stages of the funnel?

Don Williams: Yeah, I can take you back to 2018 when we hired 45 sales reps just right off the bat. We did not hire SDRs. We started with the sales team building a pipe because there was no pipe in the beginning. We were basically rolling everything out. And what we were seeing was reps having to cold call, having to close deals, and take an account with. Our reps were closing eight deals a month each. So, from that standpoint, that's a lot of deals you're managing and you're trying to find. So, later, we found we needed to add SDRs to be able to go out, qualify all those inquiries coming in, and then getting that to the rep and setting a meeting so that they can focus on closing those deals. That helped increase our close right there. And then you need to also make sure then once you've got your sales development guys. Now we split them into inbound and outbound. Focusing on the leads that are coming in, but also going after the types of leads that we want to go after, which increases your ASP because you're focusing on accounts that are bigger versus maybe just something that's coming in from that perspective. And then all that you filter down to enablement. When you think about the sales rep and Kate mentioning the changes with Apple. We'll have a meeting today, and we're going to walk through all our sales reps what that means and constantly training and changing our messaging, and just monitoring that. So, all the way through that, that's a big help.

Dave Gerhardt: Who technically owns the SDRs?

Don Williams: We have a VP that runs that group that reports to me as well.

Dave Gerhardt: Got it. And Kate like typically the sticking point in any funnel at any company is lead follow up. What's the deal with lead follow up at Validity?

Kate Adams: Yeah, so we-

Dave Gerhardt: Sales reps are the best, it's 100% crosstalk-

Kate Adams: All the time, yeah. No, we are constantly inspecting that. So, Don mentioned earlier how we have a meeting. So, there's one meeting between marketing and SDR management where we're looking at, " Hey, what did marketing drive? What are the types of things that are driving them?" And how are we generating these leads? And then we look at, great, okay, now that's what we did. Let's talk about how we followed up with them. And so, we built out a dashboard that says, " What is our speed to account? How quickly are we getting to them? Great, once we get to them, how many touches are you putting on them?" We have a 13 touch cadence that the team is held accountable to working through. One of the things that we're just looking is 30% of our recycled inquiries only get through step one, two, or three. Why is that? Well, how are we managing that? What is ultimately that reason? I think one of the things is we've talked about a lot of numbers, and we talked about them at a really high level. So, how do you go from sales accepted opportunity to sales qualified opportunity. The reality is the devil is in the details all the time. So then we have another meeting between sales accepted opportunity and sales qualified opportunity every week where the sales leader sit down with SDR leadership, and we say, " These are the deals that did not make it through sales accepted opportunity and sales qualified opportunity. Let's talk about why." In order to move from one stage to the other, you have to have three criteria. We call it TIN, timing, influence, and need, right? If we have identified all three things on those calls, why is this not a qualified opportunity? And so, the sales leaders listen to the calls and questions. The SDR managers listen to the call then question and dig in there.

Dave Gerhardt: I have a question.

Kate Adams: Yeah.

Dave Gerhardt: So, that meeting is about all of the people that had an initial call?

Kate Adams: Yeah.

Dave Gerhardt: Okay. Got it. So, I mean, it's pretty reasonable to be pretty hands on that because if you take my view, which is who the hell is booking a 30- minute meeting with a sales rep in today's world? I don't have the time for that. I'm not doing that. So, if I'm like you got on the phone with us, and we're not qualifying you. Yeah, that's an interesting meeting to have. What's a goal for conversion rate at that stage?

Kate Adams: Our goal is 60%.

Dave Gerhardt: That feels probably pretty right. There's enough buffer in there. Is this the first time you've had individual funnel stage meetings?

Kate Adams: No, I've done them at... I mean, Dave, you know I'm a data geek, which is why it makes me giggle that you now find yourself certainly not a data geek, I would imagine, but into data.

Dave Gerhardt: I'm into reading the data. I'm not into finding the data. Yes.

Kate Adams: I would say actually, to that point, and Don mentioned it earlier about how we have a really strong analytics team. That is ultimately a game changer for us. All of our data comes from that analytics team, and what I've been able to train the team on over the last six months on is if it's not in the analytics dashboard, it didn't happen. So, don't pull some random report for me and tell me about this thing. If it's not in analytics, it didn't happen. So, why isn't it in analytics and we're not wired up correctly? Because if we can't see it in there, that means sales isn't seeing it, that means sales development is not seeing it. That's the core component that we have to have to tie off on all the data points.

Dave Gerhardt: Okay. It's interesting because all the things that we've talked about so far are all like, there's no campaign tactic. This is all in the funnel things, and I think that this is why... I did a podcast maybe about a year ago with Bill Macaitis who was the CMO at Slack. And he was like, " I hate the word demand gen," because there should be no demand gen team because demand gen is everybody's job. I think that I totally agree with that sentiment. I think that this conversation is a good example of that. Because think about how much goes into just that stage of the funnel. If you are a demand gen person, you think that all the job is run AdWords. That is not demand gen. That's a top of the funnel lead gen activity that's a channel, but somebody has to be in there. As a marketer, you have to be in there, in the funnel with the sales team. That's what a revenue partnership looks like. It's all stages of the funnel. Okay, this is a sales thing, sales is going to go fix that. Okay, this is a marketing thing, marketing is going to fix that. Don, how do you drive that collaboration day to day because ultimately even though you're on the same team, you still are saying this is a sales thing, this is broken, you all got to go fix that?

Don Williams: Yeah. I mean, well, first, it does start with the analytics, defining the problem, or at least what we think might be the problem. And in many times you don't know which group it falls in. We're converting less, why? What are we doing? So, we pull the team together, and I think our sales leaders probably aren't the normal sales leaders. We're very analytical. I mean, fun to me is digging through a spreadsheet and finding the problem. That's not probably most CROs would say that, so are the managers I have as well, too. They typically want to get in there and dig. So, it's all about the data, go find the problem, and work with the team to resolve it.

Dave Gerhardt: Kate, if somebody was listening, and they were like, " I want to become more of a pipeline- focused marketer." That's a high level question, but where would you start? Where would you take that from this conversation?

Kate Adams: So, the question is they want to become a high level what marketer?

Dave Gerhardt: How do you become more of a pipeline- focused marketer? Because I think it's easy to hear us talk about this, but then you're going to go back to your job as the content manager and just go write six more blog posts next week. And that's just the standard motion that a lot of teams fall into.

Kate Adams: Yeah. So, our first principle in terms of the culture of the marketing team that we have here is that we are all accountable to the revenue number. So amen to what the CMO at Slack said, and in fact, I've been at too many organizations where I've been like, " Hey, I lead up demand gen." And then that just meant, I got every single marketing question that ever was about it. And that I was the one measure for how marketing works for the whole organization. It was like, " Man, that is heavy." My shoulders are broad, but I don't know if they're broad enough. And so, I think, ultimately, if that's what I want to do, as I'm interviewing into marketing teams I want to know how does your marketing team measured for success? How do you measure your marketing team for success, so that I know what I'm doing is right? And so, because that's one of our founding cultural principles on our marketing team here, in all of our interviews, which we're hiring for nine different marketing roles right now on the team. In all of our interviews, we're talking about how are you measured for success in your past role? How do you tie off with a sales team to know that the content you're creating was effective? How do you know what good looks like in the work that you do? And that's in product marketing roles, that's in content marketing, that's in social media marketing, that's in every single marketing discipline. Because ultimately, one of the things... Everybody's talking about the great resignation these days, and I think one of the core reasons for that is people are saying, " What in the world am I doing every day and for what, in service to what? What impact have I had?" The pandemic has made it somewhat existential in that way of like, " What am I sitting in this office in Vermont or Melton or Tampa for every single day pining away over my computer?" And it's like, " If it's just so I can say I published two blog posts this week, it's not good enough." And so, like, " No, I want to know I'm creating content that is helping my sales team close the deals." So that in whatever Slack channel you have where you post the sales deals every week, and every company has one you know that you had a component of that deal is because of something that you did yesterday or six months ago, or however long it was.

Dave Gerhardt: Yeah, I hear you on all that. I just think... I hear you 100%. That's how it should be. The hard part is when you show up to work in marketing you just get asked to do more things and more things and more things. And so, all of a sudden, we've written five blog posts a week for two years now. We posted stuff on social, and I'll get my way to a question, but that's one piece of it. But the other piece is you do need to do non- revenue things in order to be a revenue driver. And so, I think that the thing that I have a hard time articulating, and I think that the marketing world is trying to sort its way through right now is you still have to do those things. And so, is the point of this podcast at Drift to build pipeline? Not really, it's to build awareness, and hopefully more people will listen. And if we can help people get smarter, they'll have a strong affinity for Drift. And so, I think some channels, the goal needs to simply be explained like that. We're like that can pass a sniff test of why we're doing it. But I think where a lot of teams struggle is the delineation between those things. How much of our work should be focused on direct response revenue type stuff, and how much of it should be doing some of the other stuff? Because I know you're doing that. How do you bake that into the plan or the activity plan?

Kate Adams: For better or worse, one of the things that I've done and it's difficult for me because I am the direct response person. I'm the yin to your yang, I think-

Dave Gerhardt: Well, let me ask this differently, how do you measure content, for example, at Validity?

Kate Adams: We measure it in terms of the number of visits that it gets, and the amount of engagement that it gets on our website.

Dave Gerhardt: How do you measure? What is engagement?

Kate Adams: So, it depends on the type of content we're creating. So for us, if we're creating an eBook, engagement is pretty straightforward. How many people are consuming it? How many people are downloading it? How many people are consuming it? How many people are reading it? If it's a blog post, we're looking at Google Analytics data and getting into what are the visits that are driven to it? And to your point, I think you're asking a little bit of a different question, which is how do I know where to put my money when my attribution model isn't good enough?

Dave Gerhardt: Yes.

Kate Adams: To understand where crosstalk-

Dave Gerhardt: Yeah, because... That's a good translation. Thank you. Because even in that example, Don, just 10 minutes ago talked about the funnel, which starts at SAO, right? Are you measuring that eBook funnel, 1, 000 people signed up for the eBook, 15 of them became SAOs, we should go do another eBook if we want 15 SAOs. Is that what you're doing?

Kate Adams: That is what we're doing. For real, that is really what we're doing.

Dave Gerhardt: Great.

Kate Adams: And our funnel starts at inquiry, or it goes inquiry to MQL to SAO. So, we are looking at, okay, great, we got 1, 500 people to consume that eBook. And we look at it a little bit differently in terms of it's not like, okay, of those 1, 500 people 10 of them turned into sales accepted opportunity, or booked a meeting. We say, we know there's going to be like 10 touch points before somebody gets to a meeting. So, the attribution model we're rolling out looks at all of those touch points including even where they were before they even became... What was your first anonymous visit to our website? There's technologies out there that can tie that in.

Dave Gerhardt: Got it. So, the goal is if everything is instrumented correctly you would be able to say that this customer bought. Obviously, the buyer's journey is not linear. And so, there's not one thing, but on the way to purchase, they read three articles on our website.

Kate Adams: Mm- hmm(affirmative). Yep.

Dave Gerhardt: Cool.

Kate Adams: Yeah. The other thing is you said this crosstalk-

Dave Gerhardt: How do you measure that? Wait, before, what do you use to do that?

Kate Adams: Visible.

Dave Gerhardt: Visible.

Kate Adams: Is the attribution tool. There's a bunch of the market, but Visible, which is an Adobe product, which it helps us measure that.

Dave Gerhardt: Cool, and so through Visible, you can... So, the content team doesn't have to be measured on output. Obviously, there's organic traffic and so there's SEO output, probably that you got to just crank through, but the content team can actually know out of the 100 customers we closed last month, 70% of them had content influence on them, and that's a good enough feeling to keep investing in content. Yeah, that's great. Okay, cool. I'm glad we talked through that. I think that'll be helpful for people. What else were you going to say?

Kate Adams: I think not only content influence, but did that content come from an email? Did it come from organic? What was the channel? Content is the author, what was the channel that drove it so that we can also know, hey, we got to double down on our investment on creating organic content, because that's really paying off for us here. That's driving a ton of our deals for the first touch. Yeah, that's really important.

Dave Gerhardt: Cool. Okay, that was a good funnel session. Don, more on the sales and revenue side of things. What do you think has changed in the last maybe decade or so from a buying experience perspective, and what is a sales organization need to look and feel like? Because today you can't just brute force someone into a sale. All of your information is online, people are reading reviews, they're listening to podcasts, your pricing is out there, they're not just shopping for Validity, they are looking for two or three other things, and they might pick you. How has your sales motion evolved in that world?

Don Williams: If I go back 10 years there was many of the meetings were on site, and not necessarily over the phone. And over, especially in the last few years, who goes on site anymore? It's all electronic. When we set up Validity, everything was in the cloud. All the tools we bought, everything that we did was in the cloud, so that someone could work from home or work on the road or work in the office. So, just the motion there, people, their buying habits changed in that instead of wanting to talk to a rep, they want to self- educate. They want to go to the sites, get the information themselves and be able to consume it and move through. So, the sales rep needs to be prepared to pick up where that customer is where that prospect is, and move from that standpoint. So, really, it's the transition from people on the road to being in offices focused on not just what's coming inbound or working their deals, but also going outbound. And now with the newer stuff with account-based revenue, account- based marketing, using intent data to be able to see these people went and searched for our types of products, and then getting that data, and did they touch any other content? And then all that together, they're a target account, great, let's go after them. Or they're a volume account, and we'll work it from that standpoint. So, that new motion, especially the account- base revenue motion where you have an SDR and an AE tied to the hip working together and they choose, okay, these are accounts that we can consider to target. We're going to go after those from an outbound perspective. But we want to wait until they show intent. And then marketing's also focused on working those same accounts. In addition, all the volume stuff coming in. But that special focus on target has become really important. That's been a big change for us as well.

Dave Gerhardt: Are the SDRs doing both inbound qualification and then outbound target accounts?

Don Williams: Yeah, we have two types of SQRs, both do inbound outbound, but one is a volume SDR. So, that's just anybody who's not a target account, the volume guys who are going to work all the other stuff coming in to qualify that, and the target guys who are the ones actually focused on those 1, 000 accounts say they're going in and taking that volume and coming in and working those accounts.

Dave Gerhardt: I like what you said about, something about the sales team being able to adjust based on where the customer is coming in, in the buying journey. Because I think that on the one side we want to enforce an approach that's repeatable on the sales side, but not to the extent that it hampers the buying process. I think there's a lot of silly old school things that get in the way there. And I think the biggest change seems to have been your sales team needs to be able to help and educate people today. It's not enough to just be an order taker. You have to know the product, you have to know the industry. How do you do that? Then I'm going to ask us in a very blunt way, which I think one of the hardest things in this industry is you have to take a 23- year- old SDR and try to get them up to speed on something that you've mastered maybe now over 20 years in tech. How do you that? And maybe not how you do that, but how do you make that person credible enough to reach out to a decision maker and to have a conversation?

Don Williams: I can go back, and when we started one of the first hires was a great trainer that we have, a great sales enablement person. So in taking account, everybody can't be an expert or as me, but I can get them where they're smart enough to be able to do demos, smart enough to be able to talk our core points that we want to do. That starts with training and from a 12- week training program to just ongoing continuous training, keeping people smarter on the topics of the day and working from there. Otherwise, like you said, these are kids right out of college. They got to learn what email is, they got to learn about data management, why is it important, and then they need to be able to tell those stories to help clients understand why this is important to them. So, it all starts right there. That's what we've been able to do.

Dave Gerhardt: I didn't know if Kate was going to say something about training, but that's okay.

Kate Adams: One, I think training is super important. I think Don hit it on the head. I think the change that's happening in purchasing is all about trust, and I believe it, and what I believe to be the 8, 000 plus tools in the martech landscape. I'm saying this as a buyer, not as a marketer, or a seller. I don't want to do business with anybody who I can sense or I can sniff out is going to take my monthly payment and never speak to me again crosstalk-

Dave Gerhardt: Like me, that's what I would do.

Kate Adams: Until 10 months from now, right? I want to know that you're an expert in your field, that your team gets it, and that I'm not going to have to do a lot of work to make your tool work for me. I've just been burned by too much of it. I think we're at this point now where Benioff's dream of SaaS is a reality, and now everybody in the whole world, including the company I buy socks from is trying to get to recurring revenue model.

Dave Gerhardt: Yeah. Well, you're paying too much for Bombas, that's your own fault. No, I was thinking about what you both are saying, and I was going to say one of the recommendations that I make to startups, I think this will apply here about social media is to make your company the expert. And I think that that is one thing that helps foolproof this process a little bit. You're not saying... I think the training needs to be like, we're not saying that you Kate, 23- year- old Kate have to be the expert. But what we want you to do is you're the tour guide for our company. Our company is the expert in this space. And I'm reaching out because my company has XYZ proof, XYZ credibility, this data, we've done an assessment on your website, and we notice this, and I'm reaching out on behalf of them. I think the number one strategy in B2B sales and marketing no matter what you're doing is to become the expert in your niche, and people are going to turn to Validity because they think that you're the expert in what you do. And people are going to turn to Drift because they think that Drift is the expert in sales and marketing or whatever. And that's the opportunity. So, to build the content machine and product marketing efforts around that. I think that sets you up for an advantage. That's how everybody can feel involved in the funnel. Don, you mentioned intent data, which is the hottest buzzword. It's maybe hotter than ABM in 2017, intent data. I have no idea what that means. And I'm not being a troll, I would love to hear from a CRO explain to me the hype of intent data and should I buy into it?

Don Williams: So, let's take G2 Crowd. Somebody goes searches for demand tools, which is one of our products, and we get a notification that somebody from this company... I may not know who it is, but somebody from some company is looking at your product. We get that signal, then we go and match up as best we can to the company in an SDR, say it's an enterprise company along with an AE you're trying to source five contacts who they think that person might be, and begin trying to do some form of marketing to them.

Dave Gerhardt: Got it.

Don Williams: I have that signal into, say a Google search that comes in 6Sense picks that. And then somehow we then see they visit our website. And it's all one piece of content and you start putting all these puzzle pieces together. And it just gives us signals of where we should market versus an SDR going out and saying, " Here's a list of 100 accounts, I'm just going to start calling them and I hopefully will get one." Why not start where someone is already looking? And that's what it's all about.

Dave Gerhardt: Right. So, 6Sense is the thing that marries that all together? Can you also put your website into that piece of the puzzle? Because G2 is a sign of intent, yes, but so is spending, coming to my website 10 times and then finally doing something. Can you stitch that all in?

Don Williams: We see it all together there for sure.

Dave Gerhardt: Do you build some type of like... Is there an intent model or scoring system based on that?

Don Williams: I'll let Kate talk about that one.

Kate Adams: That's what 6Sense built for us. That's a true value of... I just had this conversation with somebody else the other day where they thought, " Oh, didn't you buy 6Sense for advertising?" I was like, " I bought 6Sense for pretty much everything, but advertising." I bought 6Sense so that they could provide me more insights into what was happening within my accounts. And so, that they could then marry my first party data to that third party data. And so, that I could show got my entire revenue team, all of the activities that were happening in that account so that marketing could do what they needed to do, and sales could do what they need to do. And sales development could do what they needed to do.

Dave Gerhardt: And so, you can say this is my list of target accounts, show me everything. What other sources do they have besides G2?

Kate Adams: So, they have G2 by way of an integration, but then they have... They're sitting on top of a network of sites, and they've tagged all these articles that people are reading and consuming with different topics. And so, that's where they're able to say, " Oh, somebody over at Drift is reading about data quality." And I can say, " Great, if you're reading about data quality, you probably have an interest in demand tools because that's the tool that fixes the quality of your data."

Dave Gerhardt: And that could be a cold account, and that could be a signal to reach out. Or it could be someone who's already in your funnel in some way?

Kate Adams: Yeah, that's way too early to reach out. I wouldn't have somebody reach out on just that one signal. But I'd look at that signal and say, " Oh, they're reading an article tagged as data quality. They came to our website," and again it could be completely anonymous. But somebody from that account came to our website. And oh, by the way, somebody else actually attended a webinar three months ago. Yeah, time to go, time to look at these folks.

Dave Gerhardt: How much influence do you have on the marketing side on the outbound there? Because I think that data is great to have. But I think that the key to booking a meeting is not that intent data. It's the what you say with it. That's an amazing tool, but if I just reach out and say, " Hello, it's Dave, would you like to buy now?" You have to be able to tie it together? And so, how do you systematically come up with this is what we do for outbound, or this is what we send. Is that something that you work on, or everybody can just say whatever they want?

Kate Adams: No, we work on that. And so, what we do is we create crosstalk structured cadences. That 13 step cadence that I alluded to before is really built on messaging that we have belabored against time and time again. Now, that being said, I still need a thinking human being on the other side. Because those cadences we build pieces in of here's how you can personalize this. Hey, go look at their recent LinkedIn post, is there something that resonates there? Go look at a recent piece of content that their company released. Is there something that you could talk about there?

Dave Gerhardt: It's not automated the content, you have to actually send?

Kate Adams: It cues it up for you, but you need to personalize it.

Dave Gerhardt: And you have to actually hit go.

Kate Adams: You have to hit go.

Dave Gerhardt: Okay. I think that's such an underrated topic is, unfortunately, the message. Show me all the intent data in the world, but what are you going to say? And also, if you have 13 touches, I think one of the biggest mistakes that at least I get a ton of, you get it, too, you all get it too, inbound from vendors. You don't have to shoot your best shot in your first email. I think that the goal of an email should be to get a response. The goal should be to get a response back not, " Hello, Dave as a CMO you know that..." Like, hey, Dave, is there a reason that you don't, blank. That's an email that I'm going to most likely respond back to? Or like, hey, Dave, did you know that two of your competitors have doubled their conversion rate because they're doing, blank? I think we so often try to like, " I'm doing outbound to Don. Okay, here it goes. I got to say my company pitch. I got to propose the time slots that I'm available. I got to propose an option." You don't have to do any of that. That is the point of the cadence of to having multiple touches is to what's going to be the thing to get somebody to respond. And I saw somebody post this in my Facebook group the other day, but I totally agree with it, which is as a buyer you don't know that, oh, it was the 11th touch that I finally responded to and took a meeting. No, if it's interesting and relevant, you're not thinking about and half the time you're not noticing all of the other touches.

Kate Adams: Yeah. 100%. I will actually let somebody's cadence play through to understand before I'm really interested, and before I actually will give them a response, I'll be like, " Okay, what problem are you saying you can help me solve today? And which one are you going to help me solve tomorrow?"

Dave Gerhardt: Okay. Now, let's clip that, and then go to the part where here's the opportunity to improve the Validity funnel. The sales team is only getting past the third step in the cadence. This is how people buy. I think understanding how people buy is such an important part of the sales and marketing funnel that it's not like, " Hey, we're not asking you to hit somebody up 13 times because we want to drive a tight ship here, and we want to operationalize." It's because that's what works because the chances probably follow some curve of response, right? It's like frequency with advertising. And so, you got to be able to hit them up 10, 13 times.

Kate Adams: 100%. And to that point, I think so many marketers are focused on the stories that they're telling externally. What story am I going to go tell to this prospect? What's our brand story? What's the story? What story am I going to tell to the CRO in this pitch? All those things. What stories are you telling internally? I can't just go to the SDR leadership and say, " You only touched them two times, what's the deal?" I have to go and say, " Hey, guys, look, when we book a meeting we actually most often do it. We get a response. Our most responded to email is email eight. And so, we only got to one, two, and three. How are we going to do this better? This is the reason why."

Dave Gerhardt: Is that an actual stat or did you make that up?

Kate Adams: No, I made that up. I don't know what the number crosstalk-

Dave Gerhardt: I was going to tweet that out as a benchmark. crosstalk. 15 touches sales team, get after it. So, I think one of the best books on sales and marketing, copywriting businesses, Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. I think this book was written in like the'60s maybe. He talks about stages of awareness. I think this is a big thing that we don't have enough in sales and marketing is understanding everyone is going to have a different stage of awareness. He has five. Most aware, those of your best customers. They're brand loyal, they like your products, they attend your events, they know who you are. The next one is product aware. They know your product, but they haven't bought it yet. So, they know of Validity, they know of Drift, but they haven't bought yet. Okay, that's a different conversation, then you don't know who we are, right? Solution aware is solution aware they know solutions like yours exist, but they don't know that you're the one for them. Problem aware is they at least know they have this problem. And then unaware is, Dave, you don't even know that you smell, and so selling me deodorant is not the right tool at that moment in time. I think, man, being able to sit down and map those out as a revenue team is really valuable to think about the buying journey. What are we going to do and say to everybody? Okay, we got to wrap because you all have actual jobs to do. I just get to do this podcast and stuff. So, Kate and Don, thank you so much for taking the time. I appreciate you both.

Kate Adams: Thanks, Dave.


In the pilot episode of Pipeline, Dave interviews Validity CRO, Don Williams, alongside his direct report and SVP of Marketing, Kate Adams. They dive into what exactly the company structure looks like with marketing reporting up to the chief revenue officer, and how that helps them drive more revenue for their business.

In this episode you’ll hear Don and Kate share:

  • How they design their sales motions to be based on how big a company’s problems are and not its size. (3:50)
  • How the sales and marketing teams work together to set revenue goals and create accountability for those metrics, and how the product team fits into the puzzle. (6:16)
  • The design of the Validity funnel: SAO → Customer (14:08)
  • The devil in the details of SDR response times (16:07)
  • The importance of using analytics to define a problem before blaming a team (22:07)
  • Validity’s marketing team principles (23:25)
  • How they measure content (27:09)
  • How the sales team’s structure and processes have changed over the past 10 years (30:58)
  • Why you should buy into intent data (37:20)