All posts by Dharmesh Singh

Rethinking Sales’ Go-to-Market Strategy

This article was originally published by Forbes on June 25th. You can view the original article here.

Building a company is akin to rock climbing.

Every growth spurt is an inflection point and, as in rock climbing or hiking, the time for switchbacks. For the uninitiated, a switchback is where a trail’s steep inclines are too difficult to run directly up. Instead, back-and-forth trails are used to gradually lead a hiker up the trail. For a growing company, a switchback is where you must stop doing what you are doing and re-evaluate everything through the lens of your new desired endpoint or goal. What got you here may not get you to the next stage. As a fast-growing company, your execution mode switch keeps you glued to the surface. You are always analyzing how fast you are going, but you rarely check in to see if you are in the right race or, in the case of the hiking example, on the right trail. Being on the wrong trail can be fatal. Switchbacks allow you to create a path.

In tech, we use the phrase “go-to-market” (GTM) plan quite literally from the day we are ideating. It’s supposed to be critical to our growth. It’s our roadmap of sorts for getting our product-market-fit and beyond. In a fast-growth environment, though, we are so focused on the daily execution of sales that we are glued too close to the surface. We sometimes lose sight of the trail and miss our switchbacks. Continue reading Rethinking Sales’ Go-to-Market Strategy

Data Is The New Oil – Only If You Can Capitalize On It

I was thinking about data and an Economist article I read a while back that had compared a new data center to the oil wells of the last century. The article made a point that in the current environment, data is the new currency and companies able to monetize data will be the leaders of the future. If you have not read it, you can find the link here.

Nothing earth-shattering for us in tech, but something to ponder. Does having access to data alone makes the data worthwhile, or is it only useful if you can capitalize on it?

I ask the question in the context of the data sitting in CRM systems. Companies have been acquiring data for years and they are always hesitant to purge it. There is another article from Deloitte Insights that shared an analysis of how incomplete and inaccurate most personal data is, despite reams of marketing data collected as we all browse and shop online.

Biznology did a study that shows B2B data decays an average of 5% per month or 70.3% per year. Think about it – 70% of your data on accounts and contacts decays in one year. Most CRMs have data that has been sitting around for years. There has been no cleanup and no governance process to manage the lifecycle of this data.

Companies not investing in proactively managing the lifecycle in their CRM systems will adversely impact the way their organizations engage with customers. If 70% of your contact data is old in a year, then chances are 7 times out of 10 you are responding to a “dead” contact.

We were working with an organization that has invested in tools like Lean Data to rout leads, yet had to manually route leads to the right person since the underlying data was unreliable. Another customer wants to drive more coordinated engagement among marketing, sales, and support by engaging account and contacts in the context of their journey with the company. They have the data on the accounts and contacts, but it’s not been cleaned and there is no governance structure around managing data. Result: low ROI on campaigns.

Companies owe it to their sales and marketing teams, and to their customers, to get a better handle on the data they have within CRM systems. Cleaning data without a specific goal in mind is not the best use of anyone’s time. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Set goals about what you want to achieve. Consider the various tools ingesting data into the CRM system and run a full inventory to see if all are needed. Identify what data you absolutely need to have to meet the needs of marketing and sales teams and ruthlessly set rules to purge everything else. Understand how your marketing automation data flows into your CRM system, for example.
  2. Make rules for purge and storage. Once you know where the data is coming into the CRM system, work across teams to create a “store” or “purge” list. Purging contacts is important. You will be surprised how often people change roles, companies, or get promoted. Simple flags like no activity over a year, no email address, bad phone number, etc. are reasons to purge records.

Investing in Establishing Data Governance Policies

At fullcast.io, we believe cleaning and purging is not the solution to get a handle on this problem. It is the first step to drain the swamp. As you set about putting rules for the purge, you need to establish policies around data governance. When the data faucet gets turned on, you need to have automation that manages the lifecycle of the key data elements around which you engage with your customers. We believe that selling is a series of events, and each event is supported by a policy. You need to invest in creating these policies and enforce them consistently at the time of data ingestion into the CRM.

Keep your CRM current by applying policies that help you build a self-regulating CRM system. Having data is not enough. Making data work for you so you can disperse leads/accounts/opportunities/cases to the right person is important. You need good data to run a more targeted reach to your customers and engage in the context of their journey with you. It’s rude to reach out to a contact who is no longer an active contact.

It’s a disservice to your sales teams to assign them accounts that can no longer make a buying decision, or have them sell into accounts that may not be in their patch legally because someone else owns the parent account, but your CRM account hierarchy does not reflect that relationship. It’s not fair to your sales planners who struggle to create fair and balanced territories if they are working off an unreliable set of data for accounts.

We would love to learn from your experience on how you handle this at your organization.

Feedback welcome.

Call to action: You need to look at your data if you have done any of the following:

  1. Changed your GTM and ICP.
  2. Entered new markets
  3. Purchased lists
  4. Ingested data into your CRM from third-party tools that push account or contact and activity data into your CRM

Welcome to GrowthOps

What is Growth Ops? It’s a question that we have encountered in almost all our engagements and this post defines GrowthOps.

It’s been over a year since my partner and I left the safety of a comfortable job to follow our passion for building software that will transform sales operations into growth operations. Since then, we’ve been blessed to have a band of committed colleagues who are working on this transformation and customers who have given us this opportunity.

We see sales operations as the critical glue that binds the sales team of a growing organization. We are entering the industrial age of sales with increasing role specialization at every touch point of the customer journey, from campaign to renewal. The days of meeting your growth targets by deploying an army of salespeople are behind us; we grow by deploying special forces with targeted operating procedures to scale.

As with any special forces, more roles mean more orchestration. It demands a finely tuned, backend logistics machine to make the process repeatable and scalable. At fullcast.io, we believe good intentions don’t scale – good processes do. I have yet to meet a salesperson who does not want to meet their target. Yet most sales teams do not attain more than 60% of quota. Think about it – 40% of your sales team will not meet their target. The problem is getting worse.  As per the 2017 Bridge group report, sales productivity is dropping year over year.

Sales ops is a critical and increasingly advanced discipline – one that must be managed with care if your enterprise is to produce predictable revenue gains. Indeed, sales ops now deserves your company’s full attention to reach your full growth potential. While many companies are now buying into the overall promise of Sales Ops, only a small percentage know how to make it happen. Many of today’s sales ops teams are “ill-equipped to rise to the challenge,” contend IDC analysts Michael Gerard and Irina Zvagelsky in a report on “the next-generation sales operations team.”

Looking at the Bridge group report, sales leaders have to ask why throwing people and tools at the sales operations space is not leading to more productivity. We will discuss our approach to automation versus the “hire more people and buy more tools” approach in a separate post.

GrowthOps versus Sales Ops

Sales Operations is about doing things right. GrowthOps is about doing the right things.

The mission of a sales operations team is to make the running of sales teams smooth. They are focused on driving efficiency in the process. Growth Operations is about tying the pre-sales, sales, and post-sales function to top-line CXO growth objectives. It’s about making the process efficient in the context of shifting CXO priorities. Sales Operations is about execution, Growth Operations is about transformation. Just making a process efficient cannot be the end goal. Process efficiency means nothing if the process itself is not continuously monitored for improvement. If you have a process that is not evolving with your organization, making it efficient only means you will be missing opportunities more efficiently.

At the end of the day, the purpose of sales is to help a company grow. Growth depends not just on a company’s ability to generate revenue but also on the overall profitability and predictability of the revenue stream.

Growth requires all functions of marketing, sales, service, and product to align. This is where GrowthOps differs from Sales Operations. Growth operations takes a top-down view of the company’s goals and evaluates the enforcement of process and policy across the campaign to renewal cycle. It uses metrics to provide a feedback loop so businesses become more agile in meeting their customers’ needs.

At fullcast.io, we are doing this by driving automation across the full lifecycle of a sales operations team that is responsible for managing:

  1. Daily motion of the sales teams
  2. Reporting on metrics that drive alignment around growth objectives
  3. Iterative sales planning for finding optimum coverage model for teams, territories, products, and channel partners in support of growth metrics

It’s a huge charter by any stretch but it’s something that we feel confident in delivering.

Introducing the GrowthOps Framework.

We put together this framework to connect CXO goals with the objectives of sales teams engaged with customers and operations teams working in the backend. This framework ensures that companies looking to grow keep their entire revenue team in sync. Sales Operations is no longer working in a vacuum, disconnected from top-line growth aspirations.

The “Grow” row in green is about capturing key growth goals of the company. A growing organization needs to care about all three buckets:

  1. Are we growing revenue?
  2. Are we growing in predictably?
  3. Are we profitable?

Yes, growing companies need to track profitability too. You may choose to reinvest your profits back into the company to fund growth, but you cannot claim that revenue generation alone is your goal.

The “Perform” row in blue, then takes the goals of the Growth aspirations of a company and influences the goals of marketing, sales, and post-sales.

  1. Are we growing through acquisition of new accounts?
  2. What is our growth through expansion in current accounts?
  3. Are we optimizing our pipeline with the right types of accounts that match our current ICP?

As your company grows, your ICP will change or multiply. These questions help you reframe your growth strategy for meeting the top-line growth objectives.

The “Optimize” row in black then drives the priorities for the operations team. They are looking to answer:

  1. Do we have the right roles?
  2. Do we have the right coverage model?
  3. Is our compensation plan aligned to meet the growth goals?

They look at data to answer key growth questions. Devoid of this top-down view framework, the sales operations team ends up working in bottom-up mode. Looking at the organizational goal from the bottom makes the charter of the sales operations team look like an endless game of whack-a-mole. The GrowthOps framework helps organize the unorganized mess that can be sales operations.

Think GrowthOps, not Sales Ops.

Sales operations is about doing things right to help you grow. But GrowthOps is about not just doing things right, but ensuring you are doing the right things. It’s what will make you outperform your peers who are deploying the same sales processes to help them scale. All things equal, the company that can tie its Corporate Strategy to its daily execution rhythm will outperform a company that is looking to operate efficiently but in silos.

Your customer does not engage with you in silos, your company should not be engaging with your customer in silos.

Call to Action:

If you have any feedback on this framework, we want to hear from you.

To learn more about fullcast.io solutions visit here.

Facebook leak, GDPR & why should we care?

We asked a few of our customers in Feb 2018, “Are you ready for GDPR?”. The most common response was, “what is it?”

Fast forward to April 2018 and all of a sudden there has been a deluge of GDPR related webinars in our inboxes from all sorts of companies asking “Are you ready for GDPR?” Its as if the bogeyman from the EU is here, and we are all headed towards a disaster. It reminded us of circa 1999/2000 when Y2K was all the rage and companies prepared for all kinds of calamitous circumstances.

After the Facebook incident, do we, who run tech companies, not feel that protecting the privacy of our customers’ data is a natural thing to do? Should we not look at this as something that is good for the business versus milking the confusion?

Source: Slane Cartoon

The Facebook data privacy leak is a precursor. Listening to Mr Zuckerberg’s testimony, it’s clear that he is taking a page out of the GDPR laws that come into effect in Europe and will be extending for the user base in the US too. We think it’s the right thing to, and that all companies should do the same.

Salesforce has invested the resources in helping companies get compliant, but there is work that will need to be done to implement privacy policies to take advantage of the Salesforce investment in the ”Individual Object”.

There are lots of articles on the internet that talk about the do’s and don’t of GDPR, but this post is about boiling down the essence without going into too much fear mongering. You can also listen to our podcast on GDPR that goes more in depth, here: fullcast.io GDRP Podcast.

Understand your contact data relationships

Contact data is at the heart of the compliance. The responsibility to handle contact data is broken down into two roles: Controller and Processor. You are the controller for contacts doing business directly with you. You or your downstream partners are the processors if they are engaged with the contact to do something on your behalf. There could be times you are the controller for some contacts and processor for others.

If you use Salesforce you are the controller; Salesforce is a processor along with any third-party services that you may use. In this case, you as the controller will have to delete an existing contacts record when the contact exercises their “right to be forgotten.” Salesforce is on the hook to enable the delete button for you and ensuring its indeed deleted from all of Salesforce data centers.

Since you could be a controller or a processor you need to get clear on what role you are playing in every relationship. You will need to have an addendum in your contact data defining if you are the controller or processor for each contact and flag them as such.

Simulate “Chaos Gorilla”

Chaos Gorilla is a term that we have borrowed from Netflix. It’s about simulating an outage. Companies should invest in simulating requests from EU citizens asking you to reveal, delete, and correct their data. You should have defined process and policies ready around the same and figure out a way to automate those requests. It’s an area where we need to think self-serve. The fines are extensive, and no company should assume immunity from a data breach-think Facebook. Hire a data protection officer if you are a company over 250 people. In the case of a data breach, this person is on the hook to communicate with impacted contacts within 72 hrs. And let them know that their data was compromised. Regulators will want to know that you did everything possible to protect the data and to communicate proactively in the case of a breach.

Source: GDRP Articles

The Business value of GDPR

We mentioned earlier that this is not about fear. It’s about doing the right thing. There is a bright side to getting compliant; we get to reach back to all the contacts in our database and get them current. It forces us to have a regular connection with the contacts and be relevant. Companies have invested in buying lists, and Salesforce has a sprawl of redundant contacts. Marketing to these contacts is bringing down the overall ROI of running campaigns to contacts out of context. As we build customer centric companies, GDPR practices are a good thing. It enshrines the principle that people are masters of their data and they have a choice in how you engage with them.

Life after the Facebook leak.

This week some lawmakers called for a privacy bill of rights. Earlier this week, three senators introduced privacy legislation that would require user consent to collect and share data. Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Democrat from California, on Wednesday called for the creation of a digital consumer protection agency to oversee tech companies.

The changes are coming for all of us- EU or not in the EU. At fullcast.io, we believe it’s for the better, and we hope everyone will embrace this move in the right spirit.

To learn more, checkout the fullcast.io GDRP Poducast.

To learn more about how fullcast.io prepares companies to deal with their data management, visit solutions here.

Keep Your Room Clean

As a father of two teenage kids, I could not help but compare the average teenager to a fast-growing company’s CRM. There are a few things common to both. They both have a voracious appetite for resources. All of us can reflect back to the days when we could devour quantities without feeling guilty. Likewise, a growing company can devour resources, both cash and people faster than you can supply. Like teens, growing companies are rebels by nature. Process and policy is an anathema to them. These are things that are perceived as bureaucracy. Its akin to teens rebelling against all the lessons of experience we as parents try to impart.

Without direction, teens tend to go haywire. It’s no different for CRMs in growing organizations. Without process and policies, they tend to acquire bad data in their CRM systems. It’s like putting on fat with all the unhealthy eating habits picked up during the teenage years. It makes your systems bloated and impairs your ability to respond and react.

CRM systems like humans are living beings. They need to be cared for and nurtured everyday like your teens. That nurture and discipline take the form of defined processes and policies. You need to define your sales process and the supporting policies in advance of your growth so that you are instrumenting healthy habits that allow you to grow and retain your agility to respond to an organisation.

If we agree that the CRM system is a living being that needs to be nurtured then we need also to agree that if data becomes static things tend to get pungent in the data pond. All things in your CRM system are transient. They need to be moving forward- campaigns, leads, opportunities, cases, they all have a finite shelf life, and your CRM system needs to reflect it. They also age in one direction- things in nature don’t get younger, only older. The two objects that are the most stable are your accounts and contacts. Therefore these need to be nurtured and pruned with an added level of responsibility since they will form the basis of all you could do with your CRM systems.

Understanding the value of Account and Contact Data in your CRM

Managing your Account and Contact data consistently based on policies will allow you to engage with your audience in the context of their relationship with your organisation. We are not talking about enabling account-based marketing; We are talking about enabling Account based everything for all accounts, not just the top 100. Every account and contact deserves to be treated in the context of their relationship with your organisation.

In our experience, the two key questions that every business needs to answer are :

  1. Which accounts will you prioritize?
  2. Who are the buyers you are targeting?

To answer the above, you need to have a good handle on both your account and contact data.

Managing Account Data In Your CRM

Your customers want you to engage with them based on their buying process. While your customer is looking for you to align with their buying process, you are also looking to see if this customer is a good fit for your business. As such, you need to look at your account data through the lens of your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and then map the account data structure to align with the customers buying behavior by establishing an account hierarchy and engaging with the account in the context of their current status with your organisation.

Key questions to be answered here are:

  • Who buys your product?
  • Is it bought at an individual level or do you have a group of decision makers?
  • Do you sell to individual branches of a company or do you sell to the HQ?

This list is unique to your business but who buys your product/service and where the decision is made is key for you to avoid a lot of problems like multiple reps calling into the same account.

Investing the time upfront in defining the policies that govern your account hierarchy will be critical to your ability to scale your business. Keeping account hierarchies current and aligned with your sales model is critical to support your sales teams. It will allow you to do a better job around:

  1. Territory management
  2. Identifying upsell/cross-sell Opportunities
  3. Improve insights into your total addressable market
  4. Leverage existing and previous relationships to drive net new opportunities.

Once you have established the policies around defining your account hierarchies, you can then start developing a true customer 360 view. For more on this topic, you can also listen to Account Hierarchies with Bala Balabaskaran from GrowthOps Podcast in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/growthops-podcast/id1353170949?mt=2&i=1000406959605:

Managing Contact Data

Until and unless you have not been living under a rock, you would have heard about the Facebook data issues. I call them issues and not a hack or a breach since technically no one hacked into Facebook. People willingly shared the data without really understanding the nature of what they were giving consent to. The European GDPR is one step to address the abuse of these kinds of scenarios in the future. The question then is, should we wait for a legal obligation to drive accountability on how we manage this data or is it the right thing for all businesses to handle contact data with care. For those wanting to know more about GDPR, we did a podcast on it earlier this month. Listen to Why Sales Ops should care about GDPR from GrowthOps Podcast in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/growthops-podcast/id1353170949?mt=2&i=1000405108412. You can also google “GDPR” for more information.

We believe that handling contact data responsibly is a trust issue. Done right you will not only reap the business benefit of trust but also get a better handle on how to engage with your contacts within an account in the context of an opportunity, case, lead or campaign.

Salesforce Spring release 2018 has introduced the notion of the individual object that will allow organisations to capture consent from the contacts and then allow you to handle the contact information more responsibly. However, like any tool, this tool will also need some thought from your end on how to use it.

What Can You Do Next?

  • Have you invested in defining your account hierarchy structure?
  • Do you track your account and contact status in your CRM system to align with your customer’s buyer journey?
  • Have you automated the enforcement of these policies to ensure your CRM is growing healthily with the growth of your company?

To learn more about how fullcast.io can help keep a CRM clean, visit our solutions here.

Reflecting on TOPO Summit 2018

I am thinking about sales ops policy as I writing this post on my way back from the annual TOPO Summit in San Francisco. Going into the Summit, I was not sure what to expect since I am a bit skeptical about the value received from conferences. TOPO, however, was great! There was good content, yes, but more importantly, it was a summit that had attracted quite a few like-minded people. I must congratulate the TOPO team for having accomplished this. In order to have a great party, you need a connecting theme that is a shared bond among the attendees and the experience of connecting with like-minded folks become more of a celebration than the content itself.

The biggest win for me was to see that there is the desire to see lines blurring between the different ops teams. At fullcast.io we have been pushing for the consolidation of ops teams. In an account-centric engagement model the divisions between marketing operations, sales operations and customer operations is a recipe for building inefficiencies into how we engage with our accounts. It will also lead to a broken customer experience. I will state again – your prospects and customers don’t care about your org chart as such there is no reason for you to expose your organizational seams to them. We need to think of ONE operations team that drives the engagement from campaign to renewal. Only through looking at the full end to end engagement model can ops teams consolidate the tools explosion within the enterprise and control the exponential decay in the quality of data in their source CRM system. The growth ops framework – is about building an ops team that is accountable for the end to end process definition and the metrics highlight the efficiency of the process & policy for each stage from pre-sales, sales to renewals.

I spent most of my time in the Sales Operations track and the one common theme across the sessions was the emphasis on defining your sales process and associated policies. The need to have defined process and policies in place to help scale were being promoted over just using tools.

Art Harding from New Relic made a great point that at most places sales operations teams are seen as order takers. From my past experience, I have seen most sales operations teams being reactive and in the order taking mode. The only way for them to become strategic to the organization is to be asking the question – why? Sales Operations needs to be asking how what is being asked of them is helping drive alignment with the overall strategy of the company. Art also emphasized the need to simplify the tools stack. Whenever sales teams are complaining that a particular tool is not delivering on the value promised we in sales operations need to see if the issue is with the tool or is it because the tool lacks supporting well-defined policy and process.

Another session that caught my attention was that of AJ Gandhi from Ring Central.

He hit upon the same set of policy topics that we feel passionate about and share with our stakeholders. Sales is the most expensive function of the company and there is a gap between sales and non-sales executives in the company about why sales is so expensive. A well-run sales operations team can help bridge the gap and enable sales execs to show the ROI on the sales investment. That is correct- sales needs to be looked at as an investment, not a cost center. AJ also had a great take on the acronym OPS- Operations, Productivity and Strategy. I had never thought about it like this but it is so relevant. This captures everything that a well-functioning sales ops team must do. AJ pointed out “Systems, Process and tools- Best Practices being applied consistently is a desire, inconsistently applied best practice is causing a huge drain & waste.”

Sales ops MUST BE the glue that brings sales policy strategy and sales execution together

So the question begets why I am so passionate about the enforcement of process policy over tools? Much like ArtAJLana LeeAndy Mowat and others that I met at Topo Summit, I feel strongly that most teams are creating process and policy after the fact. The policies are not well thought through since they are reactive in nature and not connected to the strategic goal of the company as a whole. The reactive nature makes the policy more about optimizing for the sales operations teams workload management versus enabling productivity of sales.

Despite the tools explosion, there is a love-hate relationship between the sales operations personnel, tools and the base CRM system.

They love it because the tools and the CRM bring the promise of much-needed rigour to the sales process. The kind of rigour that will allow them to drive up forecast accuracy and ensure the sales number is achieved. The CRM system also promises to bring the detailed operational sales data they so crave. Data that will allow them to help the business leaders to make sensible investment decisions that support planned growth.

The hate part of the relationship comes about because the CRM systems flatter to deceive. It makes these promises then completely fails to deliver against any of them. Leaving the sales ops team in a mire of daily or weekly exports into spreadsheets. Hour after countless hour is wasted trying to stitch these spreadsheets together. Best guess extrapolation starts to become the decision-making norm as data gaps big enough to drive a horse and cart through are exposed.

Organizations that are looking to scale their sales teams must invest in sales operations. The Sales Operations teams, in turn, must then invest in defining the policy for each sales event. Sales is a series of events. Each event should have an associated policy and exception paths to define how to handle the exception.

After defining the policies need to be enforced and policed to drive consistency of data collection into the base CRM system. The policies need to be rigorously enforced to all tools and people who are injecting data into the CRM system. In order to build a data-driven sales teams you need to invest in policies that keep the data relevant to your decision making.

That data is then used to track actuals against targets set as part of your sales plan. The data then reflects the effectiveness of your sales strategy. You will also see the ROI on your tools investment and also perhaps be able to shrink your tools stack.The Growth Ops Framework will help you think about how you should prioritize the creation and enforcement of policies.

Finally, would like to thank Neil Harrington from TOPO  for inviting us down to the Summit.

Call to Action: Growing sales teams should do a thorough audit of their sales policies that are supporting the processes and then invest the time in keeping the policies in sync with the growth of your organization.

To learn more about fullcast.io’s solutions visit here.