How Brex and Atlassian are Adjusting their Sales Processes (Video + Transcript)

An open discussion with Sam Blond, CSO at Brex, and Kristen Habacht, VPS at Atlassian, about adjusting their sales process during Covid-19.

Sam Blond | CSO @ Brex

Kristen Habacht | VPS @ Atlassian

 

Jason Lemkin:
I’ll give folks just a minute to come back. Never mind, I guess we can start right now. A little bit of a bit of bump. Sorry about that, everybody. Can everyone hear me great? Raise your hand if you can hear me, everybody here. Do I hear quorum? Everybody out there, thank you. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut off the video, but I’m learning Zoom bumps, but I think we have 905 folks in, coming up on a thousand. I’ll do a slow roll to start instead of the rest of our video, but welcome to everybody as you roll in. I’ll do some background before we start and let us get up into the quadruple digits, but please grab a coffee, join us.
This will be the most informal session of the day, but probably one of the two or three topics that I think folks are still struggling with today which is how to iterate your sales process, how do you change, how you’d think about sales, how you deal with a whole set of issues that seems to change daily, not just weekly. We will have more time, I hope, for Q&A today, so I’ll bring it up again, but as folks, hit the Q&A, add your questions. We’ll see how this session goes. We will likely run out of time, but with extra questions, I know I will trick Sam into coming back later and answering some. I think I can trick Kristen to coming back some. Ask us all the questions. We’ll see how much time we have.
This is, I think, a great open group to have these discussions because we’ve got a mix of experiences that I think is maybe most relevant to folks here. Kristen Habacht runs EDR sales at Atlassian, which I got a check today, $40 billion-$50 billion company. I know lots of billions of dollars. I remember when Jay Simons came to the SaaStr, they just gone public, it was worth $4 billion. I couldn’t believe it. Atlassian is such a big company, but like Kristen was at Trello before, so usually the problem big company folks, you should love their logo, but they don’t understand what’s going on with smaller companies, but she’s done it all right. She manages a huge global team. I don’t know how many people were at Trello when you joined. Four, people in the sale? None?

Kristen Habacht:
Well, there’s none in sales.

Jason Lemkin:
None.

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah.

Jason Lemkin:
Sam has some parallel different experience. There’s not that many people that have been the first salesperson in to managing a global footprint at a cloud leader. I think we’ll get some great learnings there. Then, Sam’s pretty much done it all and in a bunch of environments that are hybrid, not only did we work together back in the day, Adobe Sign, EchoSign, he’s been head of sales at Brex, did it at Flexport, did it Rainforest QA and worked with a whole bunch of other leaders on all different types of revenue and Zenefits as well, from free products to expensive products to freight forwarding to e-signatures to ERP in the early days.
We’ll talk about it and I think Brex will be interesting because it has a couple components. It has a portion of its revenue that’s very sensitive to the economy and a lot of startups in the customer base, good and bad, right? We’re seeing a lot. We’re seeing pockets of strength and then we’re seeing pockets of startups that overnight not only are struggling but might even want to immediately stop their spend, right? Everyone is looking at their credit cards today, even irrationally and saying, “What can I cut?”
I remember in the ’08, ’09 downturn, I never looked at our credit card statements as a CEO. I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Who’s got the Wall Street Journal subscription? Let’s cancel it. It’s $9 a month. It’s not going to move the needle,” but we do irrational things because cutting, we can focus so much energy. Sam will have a lot of interesting perspectives on how he manages his team through these times. Hold on, let me just figure out … Apologies, I’m figuring out Zoom. Just going back and then briefly just for a couple minutes on the day and then we’ll kick it off and get back to questions. It’s a full day, but everyone should have a schedule. Most of these times, we’ll have a couple of tracks.
Our goal today is to mix it up. I won’t read every session, but you can go to saastrsummit.com. If you haven’t seen it, you can still register for sessions. It’ll be a mix of sessions like this. We have a lot of OG SaaStr folks. We have Meagen Eisenberg. She’s one of the best marketing leaders I’ve known. Sam and I competed against her back in the day and She is CMO at TripActions which has a lot to think about, right? Travel is a challenging part of the industry today. She’s going to talk about how to pick which arrows to pick from your quiver and go through it.
We’ll have folks like Godard Abel that can see everything at G2 because everyone’s using G2 to evaluate vendors. He’s going to tell you what they see. Patrick Campbell’s got thousands of SaaS companies and pricing and issues. We’ll keep going through all of this, all day long. Salesforce will tell you how they’re changing their sales teams. It’ll be just like this panel, but different because I think they have more salespeople at Salesforce than Atlassian and Brex had combined, but we’ll hear from that. They’ll be fun ones.
All through the day, we’ll have we’ll have three great VCs. We’ll have Garry Tan from Initialized that everyone loves. We’ll have Mark Suster from Upfront. We’ll have Byron Deeter with Jeff Lawson at Twilio talking about all the lessons learned from the past, which ones work today, which ones don’t. Jeff’s always great. I don’t want to read all of it. We’ll have an incredible panel with team from Zuora, whose OG enterprise with two CAOs talking about what people are really buying. Then, we’ll end of the day with me and Stewart Butterfield and obviously Slack is doing well, but Slack also has a massive SMB base and its challenges. It’s going to be a pretty interesting conversation to wrap up the day.
That’s how it all works. You should be able to watch everything at SaaStr Summit. It should be framed. It should work. All the nice pretty graphics and everything should work, but if they don’t, we have a backup URL saastr.events and it just goes to a Google Doc here that just gives you the individuals. It strips out all the Chrome, all the other stuff and you can just go there and click into URLs for the day as a backup plan because all this stuff is new. We used to do it all in person for the most part. Then lastly related to that, the whole point of today is bridging the gap. We did a couple of webinars, thousands of people come, the goal is as quickly as possible in these crazy times, let’s learn together what leaders like Brex, Atlassian and others, what are we doing right now today.
Then, that’s all we’re going to do today, but we’ll have two more virtual events at least. We’ll have one just with VCs in a month, and then, we’ll have a big SaaStr biannual, and just for folks listening for today, it’s about bridging the gap, and ultimately, the most valuable reason to get a community together is to share learnings and do mentorship to do interaction. You’ll see a lot more of that added subsequently, but today, it’s basically workshops and discussions. Again, just a reminder, fill up the Q&A. We may not get to all of them today, but we will try between here and later to get to as many as possible. Click on that on Zoom.
I’m going to come back to this slide. I added one. This is an agenda that we may not get to. What’s going on with all the inbound, how we managing our pipeline, downgrades and pauses, CSMs, BDRs and quotas, but to Kristen and Sam, I actually wanted to use this slide I had in it. I wake up every night since quarantine at 3:00 AM. I don’t know what time you guys wake up, but you’ll see a consistent pattern on me at Twitter at 3:00. This, “Revenue retention is the magic of SaaS, but logo retention wins the wars,” how are you guys thinking about just keeping customers even when they’re under stress because that’s a meta-issue, how you think about it as a company and then how you think about it as sales leaders? Because sales folks want to close the biggest deal and they may not like downgrades or logo retention, how are you thinking about this issue?

Sam Blond:
Well, I’ll jump in. Jason, thanks so much for having me. Good morning, everybody. Excited to be here. Thanks for putting on the event. I think anybody that follows Jason on Twitter has seen a lot of different messaging around the new world that we live in and everything else. I think for the way that we think about this particular tweet, there’s an expectation that companies will take a topline hit during a pandemic like this. We don’t want to also take a reputation hit. We’re doing everything we possibly can to continue to service our customers and have them have a really positive experience during this time.
I think that’s a really positive constellation that if we come out and we’ve helped our customers through a challenging time that we actually come out stronger than we entered.

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think it’s one of those things, it’s one of the core values of Atlassian. Anyone who’s familiar with us, we have a value that’s, “Don’t ask the customer.” I think I can say that here, but I think it really does ring true and I think in moments like this is when your values are tested. This is the time to really show if you put something up to have pretty words or if you put something up because it’s how you really feel. I think that’s one of the things that we’re thinking about, I’m thinking about and you want to make sure that when this comes out, you’re absolutely right, Sam, it’s a reputation thing, right?
People want to have a good experience and they’ll remember how they were retreated when things weren’t good, not just when things were good. I think this is a great time. For what its worth with all the other things around the world, it is a great time to really show that you mean what you say.

Jason Lemkin:
Give me example. For example, we’ve got like Roman from Gorgeous that Sam knows at the end of the day talking about dealing with SMB turns, they did something interesting at Gorgeous. They have almost 3,000 SMB customers in eCommerce and they said they did two things that were very interesting. They first said, “All the customers that are shrinking, if you send us your receipts, your eCommerce business shrinking, the product is free for six months,” not a COVID edition, but literally if your business is under stress, you don’t have to pay for six months. Here’s interesting I didn’t know, they’re paying the reps a full commission because he didn’t want create disalignment or confusion, so he’s paying a full commission on six months of no revenue.
That’s both for existing customers which they already had, but for new ones that come in, they’re paying a full commission on this. How do you get the sales team aligned on the great customer experience and the logo retention when their DNA is bookings?

Kristen Habacht:
I think it also depends on how your teams are set up, right? It’s not always necessarily the same. I don’t know how it is at Brex for example. It’s not always the same groups doing that, but I do think that you have to look at your quotas and your goals for your team. You have to look at those incentives, but then you have to also look at what you’re rallying your team around. Are you going to have OKRs around this? Are you going to have things that sit outside of this? I think, again, it’s a good time for everyone to come together and people understand what the needs are for the business and get people aligned with that and treat your people right during that process to get there as well.

Sam Blond:
Yeah, I’ll totally agree and I can give a few examples. There’s customer acquisition, and then, there’s your existing customers. With existing customers, there are a couple ways of thinking about things that you can do. I think the first is trying to find a mutual win. For us, it’s been, “Migrate things that you have on invoice over to card.” Of course, that’s a win for us because that’s our business. That’s how we make revenue and it’s a win for our customer because they get a rebate on their card spend. What they’re paying to today over ACH tomorrow, they can start to get a point and a half or whatever it is in rebate back. That’s one thing. I try and think of some mutual wins, reach out to customers with that as sort of a value proposition-

Jason Lemkin:
Let’s just take a minute [inaudible 00:15:18], but Sam, let’s just break into that because I see so many SDR emails these days that I roll my eyes, right? That is a pitch if I understand it right. We’ll switch from ACH to take your issues over to our credit card. You can get some float out of this right? This is going to help your business right at least at the margin, right? What’s the language? What do the SDRs say? Do you have your SDR doing it and how are they doing it that doesn’t sound opportunistic in these times?

Sam Blond:
Totally, with existing customers, we reach out and we just explicitly say it. I think with new customers, we want to acknowledge the situation, but we also want to make it relevant. An example of something that we do would be something like we’re regularly hearing CFOs are looking for ways to preserve capital during these unprecedented times. We can help. You acknowledge the unprecedented times, but it’s relevant to why you’re reaching out. Kristen, you probably have similar thoughts at Atlassian.

Jason Lemkin:
I like. It’s simple because they’ve all heard the CFO of the company say, “We’ve got to batten down.” Everyone’s responsible for getting costs, right? When the SDR sends that email, it’s directly on point to every company wants. It doesn’t feel like just as you’re adding at least some perceived value because it’s connected to a top KPI, right?

Sam Blond:
Yeah.

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, and I think that’s so important because it’s, not to toggle to the SDR messaging, but it’s so important right now. I’ve gotten so many bad ones myself, right?

Jason Lemkin:
[inaudible 00:16:48], right?

Kristen Habacht:
Because it doesn’t ring true or It feels like ambulance chasing or whatever it might be. I think you do … This is not the time to like skimp on your personalization and your messaging and make sure just slapping up like, “I hope everyone’s okay during this challenging time. Have you looked at my product?” because for me at least, that’s just a total turnoff. Looking at things like for us, if you think about something like Trello, Trello is built to help you figure out how to work remotely, how do you collaborate when you’re not all sitting in a space and so really thinking about, again, that messaging of, “Can we be helping you with this? Can we help you understand how to work better as a group with a consultative touch?” I think that’s really important and has to resonate to what that business’s challenges are.

Jason Lemkin:
I like the Sam line of the CFO told everyone, they’re like, “We can help you cut costs.” Maybe there isn’t, but is there a magic line from like the Trello or Atlassian SDR email that you’ve tweaked to evolve that that people could learn from?

Kristen Habacht:
I don’t know if there’s a magic line because I think it depends on the product and on the industry, but certainly, our folks have been hearing a lot of folks are being thrown into remote work and a lot of folks have never done it before. If you look at some of the content specifically around Trello, it’s going out, we’re putting out a lot of just helpful information to figure out how to work remotely. I think that we’re seeing folks really respond positively to it.
It’s a little bit of a softer tone right there, but it is an understanding of like, “We’re experts at doing this. We were a remote company and we’re proud to be remote and you’ve just gotten thrown into something that you don’t know how to do. Let us help you keep your employees and your staff connected during this time.” People resonate with that because it was a challenge, I think, for the most part unless you’re remote before, everyone’s feeling.

Jason Lemkin:
Let me ask you guys each a follow-up question on that because both your stories are interesting about getting to know remote work and helping the CFOs initiatives, right? I think a lot of our resources need to change their playbook today which we can chat more about. I think what’s interesting, I’ve seen this myself is when the SDR actually breaks through the noise with an authentic message today, I want that person to be a subject matter expert. I don’t want them to hand me off to Sam Blond anymore.
When the SDR says, “If your CFO is struggling with this, do you need help with your remote workforce?” I’m like, “Yes, Linda. I do need help with my remote. Do you have time not to sell me your product? Do you have time to get on the phone and help me figure out how to use Zoom, JIRA, Brex, Notion”? Literally, a challenge with these good emails is, “I don’t know that you just graduated from college a week ago.” Are there ways to train? Should you repurpose SDRs as in encyclopedias and SEs? Any thoughts on that?

Sam Blond:
Just one thought reinforcing all this terrible messaging coming from SDR that Kristen nailed and one thing to certainly avoid is, “I hope everybody in your family is okay, happy and healthy. By the way, do you want to buy my product?” I think when you acknowledge that these are unprecedented times, make it relevant. I think that’s just one potential takeaway there. Then Jason, on your comment around SDRs needing to be more thoughtful and sophisticated in communication and strategy, definitely. We’re doing a lot more targeted messaging and custom messaging in this environment than we are doing this sort of standard, “Send this email sequence and then copy and paste these replies depending on the objection that you get.”
It’s a lot more humanization of SDR selling and being a person, talking to people, putting more effort into acquiring ultimately what their objective as a demo with a rep.

Jason Lemkin:
In terms, the class dump everything into Mixmax or Salesloft or Outreach or whatever, have you changed their KPIs to incent them to do this because everyone wants to dump everything into a cadence, right? Good, bad times, crazy times, they want to load up a tool, hit send and then go grab their coffee and hit their KPI. Have you changed their KPIs?

Sam Blond:
We’ve changed most everything.

Jason Lemkin:
Maybe that’s already should have started.

Kristen Habacht:
Nothing’s the same.

Sam Blond:
KPIs included. Certainly, targets have evolved, but it’s more about pointing the resources in the right direction and doing things, and we can get into this I think later on, but things like account scoring and targeting certain verticals and subverticals where we have more success, but yes, KPIs have changed.

Jason Lemkin:
Go ahead.

Kristen Habacht:
No, I was going to say, yeah, I would definitely agree with that and I think in general, we were not a traditional sales model, so we’re not as high volume. We always encourage most of the messaging to be customized and personalized, not as much in drips, but again slightly different model with us. I think in terms of heat mapping and understanding maybe now not go after Delta for example or an airline or a hotel, but really understanding who the right folks are so that while KPIs have to change, we also have to acknowledge and give them the assistance because they are junior reps of understanding like who are you talking to and how should those conversations go and we can’t expect them to understand that completely on their own either.

Jason Lemkin:
Is it as simple as like as re-bucketing prospects and opportunities into green, yellow, red categories or is it more nuanced than that?

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, I think It depends, but I think maybe there are certain … We have multiple products, so I think there’s some that it’s more green for a certain product than another product. There might be some of those contingencies, but definitely that, and then, I think there’s that mix of then making sure you’re doing your research like go and see where their press release is, what have they done and then last, have their CEOs made an announcement recently, like the whole heat map for you and help you understand who to spend time on and who not to, but you still also need to put that human element onto it and be a researcher and be more than just an email automation tool because you’re a human and you got to take a look at what’s going on too and understand what the approach in that account is.

Jason Lemkin:
Most SDRs are relatively new to sales org. How do you get them to do more research in these times when they’re not used to it? Are you doing that for them? How do you get them to do that work?

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, I think it becomes, and I don’t want to dominate what Sam chimed in too, but I think it is a KPI, I think, going back to that, right? It does have to be a quality versus quantity thing. Then, you can be looking at those conversion rates, right? We might be expecting last individual hits, but we expect those hits to convert at a higher rate. To do that means maybe assisting your SDR as to say, “Your morning block is your research block and you’ll review that with your manager. Then, you’ll roll those out into customized messaging.”
Because they are still junior, giving them that structure of, “If you just tell people to research, I don’t think they can do it, right? They need to know when to research, what to be looking for, a set number of accounts, do that every day. That’s part of your sprint that you’re doing as part of your campaign that you’re rolling out, working on your manager with that,” but then really saying, “Instead of doing 100 calls or whatever it might be today, we’re going to go less and we’re going to expect those to convert better because you’re being more targeted. You’re being more personalized and you’re playing in the field that we expect to convert better.”

Jason Lemkin:
I got you. All right, let’s dig into some of these topics, but Sam, because I love to hear all the changes you made, but on the SDR, anything that would be helpful to other folks in terms of a KPI change like a discrete change that you made that you think other people could adopt?

Sam Blond:
Well, I think just taking maybe 30 seconds and walking through the sequencing here, I think March 16th, I think is when it really hit the fan for us. It was that week. Then, we made a bunch of changes April 1st. We had a couple of weeks there to learn a lot. What we did basically April 1st was we went through and we did like pandemic lead scoring, starting with-

Jason Lemkin:
Slow me down because I haven’t done pandemic lead scoring. You call it pandemic lead scoring?

Sam Blond:
Pandemic account scoring, exactly.

Jason Lemkin:
How does this work, pandemic account scoring?

Sam Blond:
Well, they’re going to be certain verticals and then-

Jason Lemkin:
Slow me down just because I think it’ll help. By account scoring, Brex has a lot of customers. You literally went through this … I don’t know how big your team is, tell us, but you went through every single potential account and scored them manually?

Sam Blond:
We have about 80 folks in the sales org, split between sales, development sales and then relationship management. What we did was we looked at, again we had a couple weeks of data and we knew which verticals were being disproportionately impacted by this event. Nonprofit is a good example. Nonprofits, a lot of events, and a lot of fundraising. That stuff wasn’t really on fire or doing well during this time period. Tech is surprisingly an area that’s doing really well. At least for us, even within tech, there are these subverticals. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got folks that are in the work-from-home productivity space, and then on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got folks in the travel space, and then, there’s everything in between.
We really wanted to focus on the businesses that we thought had the highest probability of being interested in something like this. The next thing we did was we changed resources dramatically, and moved basically everybody out of nonprofit, as I said, onto tech. A lot of resource changes. We’re fortunate that we didn’t have to do anything like a layoff, but people are in different roles, selling into different types of companies today based on where the demand is. Then, we started on messaging and messaging wanted to be really specific to cost savings.
We found something that works. We can save companies $100,000 on their AWS bill. Everybody wants to save $100,000 on their AWS bill right now. We want to tell anybody that listens, you can save $100,000 on your AWS bill and demos are actually as high as they’ve ever been in late stage tech.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. You did things that a lot of people would like to do. You repurposed a lot of your team into verticals that are growing. The third category was like account maintenance or account support, right? Did you repurpose them or are they still roughly covering the same accounts even if they’re in the struggling categories?

Sam Blond:
What we’ve started to do is we’ve started to introduce relationship managers a lot earlier in the process. It’s even more focused on making customers successful right now.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. All right, so let’s tie that in and get some, because the first one, this slide is a bit of an eyesore, but it’s good that you tied the next one. I’ll try to simplify the next one is this, and many of us and I think you, Atlassian and Trello, have probably seen it for similar but not the same reasons growth in the top of the funnel, right? Growth in the pipeline. You said but nonprofits and travel and events are struggling, but at Brex, as soon as we said we can save $100,000 in tech, there’s a lot of things coming in, but sometimes, it’s confusing because not all these deals are going to close, right? People get …
There are so many stories. Everyone hears it up, “Oh, my god, my opportunities have grown,” but it I don’t think they’re false positives, but the sales cycles may be longer or there may be caution. I think even in all except the most impacted categories, I think people are seeing some version of this, some segment where at least nominal leads are up 300%. How do you cope with this? Kristen, do you have any thoughts on it? Because you must be seeing it across the board. I think tire kickers is the wrong term, but it’s something because the metrics have changed as Sam said, right? The metrics have changed on top of the funnel.

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, I think you need to still look at what has obviously worked before and you want to keep those scoring in place. Then, I think adding that, we didn’t have anything nearly as catchy as pandemic scoring, but the concept of that, layering that on and then I think getting into those conversations and this is a time, and again this is something where you put your SDR on this a lot of times and it’s such a crucial skill and we tend to not talk about how important these folks are in the cycle, but they need to be doing really solid discovery before this is being handed off to your AEs.
They really need to understand like, “Who is this person? What’s going on at the company? What process would you historically follow in a buying cycle? How has that changed?” things like that, where it needs to come across very sincere and very genuinely curious, but they need to really understand the lay of the land, to understand and again combining that with that research to understand if it is somebody who’s just like, “I had to look at this or I was bored because I had some extra time on my calendar,” or folks that are really sincerely in it.
Then in terms of if you knew your cycle was 30 days or 90 days before, what’s changing at that company? Have you guys changed any of those processes? If it’s an existing customer, “Hey, is it still going to be this person or this person involved? Did anything change along those lines?” I think, at least, it’s a lot of discovery upfront and a lot of pulse checking in with the customers on that.

Jason Lemkin:
Is there like any new part … SDRs can only do so much and even [inaudible 00:31:14] can only do so much. There’s nothing worse than I hate as a prospect of being qualified. I hate it. When I can hear that smarminess of whether I’m worth somebody’s time, yet you have to do it, I think there’s always been a middle category, but I think it’s grown which is probably combined, but won’t be tonight, right? It’s going to be tougher. How do you treat those folks like human beings? This matters to them, but it’s no longer as exciting to lead to the SDRA, but it’s real. It’s bona fide. It’s going to close. Is there any change in the middle, so I don’t feel like I’m thrown out the door the minute I don’t make the commission for this quarter?

Kristen Habacht:
For the rep, yeah, I think that again, it has to be a conversation where you look at what those KPIs and OKRs are. I think for us, it goes back to that conversation with retention, too which is, “How do you treat somebody? What’s their take away? What’s the feeling that they have?” I think you still have to get those folks and give them the demo, let them see what they can see, keep tabs on them. At least in my opinion, you still have to treat them like they’re an exciting prospect, but you have to be able to manage that in what you’re working, so that it doesn’t overtake the things that are more urgent.
We don’t know when this is going to end, right? You don’t want to burn somebody, and then all of a sudden, this clears up much sooner or goes later, whatever it might be. I think we can’t assume that it’s going to be a year until they buy or 18 months until they buy. I think things are moving so quickly. We have to treat everybody if they’re qualified as best as we can qualify, how the best we can. Then if they’re not, we have to figure out a good way to still get them what they need in a way that doesn’t waste the time of the reps or the customer.

Jason Lemkin:
Well, Kristen, let me ask you one followup, and then Sam, I really want to hear how you’ve changed things here, but Kristen, challenge me on this, but in categories that are growing an interest of which I’m sure Trello and Atlassian segments as well, but you say you have categories that are impacted in categories that are on fire. If you think about an SDR or an AE at top of the funnel, if they’re in a good category, shouldn’t you almost be forcing them for a KPI to be doing more demos and more calls? Don’t you almost have to torture them and make them work “harder” because otherwise people aren’t going to get enough attention, are they?

Kristen Habacht:
Yeah, right. I think it does depend on, “Have you done your segmentation? Are you vertically segmented? What are your reps focusing on?” I think, yes, if somebody is in a field and we’re getting more leads on them and their conversion rates should be at least held true to that. If not, look for an increase off of that. I think depending on how far long your team is at, to look your top performer, see what kind of impact they’re having. It’s not like that person suddenly stopped knowing how to convert and see like, “Can you level set off of somebody like that?” You might be getting more leads, but the quality is going down. If you have somebody who has that historical rate, you can start to understand how that’s impacting things.

Jason Lemkin:
I’ll just give you one personal example, and Sam, I want to hear what you say. The minute, whenever, it’s March 15th, we went. Whenever we had to postpone SaaStr or reschedule it, every single vendor that did virtual events, their SDR inbounded like 8,000 times. My inbox, I’m already overwhelmed with the email literally. There’s only so many vendors. It’s a small category like top to bottom of my Gmail was inbound, right? Everyone wanted to do it. By the time we got back to them, our dust had settled in a week and a half, only one SDR would even take our call. Only one.
Now think about it. It’s obvious why, right? They went from having no business to relatively small startups literally. SaaStr is not tiny. If you scored us properly, we’re not Salesforce, okay? You could probably charge Salesforce like $10 million for like a $50 piece of software, but we have some budget and we have a brand and if we promote you to 10,000, 20,000 CEOs and founders, there’s downstream benefits, right? Only one vendor responded to us, right? I’m not even being critical. It’s a telling moment of like this top-of-funnel weird discovery thing, like if you don’t properly handle the segments that are growing, you people are going to have a worse experience today.
They could have a much, much worse experience. “Trello is cool, but I didn’t know, I need help like my team.” I’m not saying it’s literally happening in Atlassian, but this is my example. Literally one vendor out of like 15, two I can think about it, but just crickets, crickets, never had it, right? Emilia inbounded this one vendor. She emailed them like 10 times, not a single person responding. Just a thought. I don’t have the answer, but I do think everyone has to be cognizant of there are segments where there’s overload, not just underload and the prospects deserve that attention, right? Anyhow, just my experience, but Sam, what are you doing here at top of the funnel that we can rotate to the next topic?*

Sam Blond:
Well, I think at a minimum touching on the experience that you just shared, Jason, making it easier to buy it sounds like for the businesses that weren’t returning your calls. To your point, SaaStr is a small company. Even if-

Jason Lemkin:
Small company, not a small organization though, right?

Sam Blond:
I’m sorry?

Jason Lemkin:
Small company, if you got your if you got your data, but not a small organization, right?

Sam Blond:
Totally. To your point, you have budget, especially for the types of things that you were looking to purchasing. I think making it easier to purchase the product for that segment at a minimum is something people should be focused on. I think, for us, we do a lot of qualification at the top. By the time that we’re outrebounding to somebody, we almost know that they are, or not almost, we know that they are qualified. Jason, you talked a lot about this experience going through SDRs and spending time with them and going through this qualification cycle, all of those before you get to a demo, we bypass that entirely, just based off of who we’re reaching out to.
As soon as somebody agrees to talk with us, the SDR’s directive and their KPIs are around scheduling qualified meetings. We want the first experience to be really focused on the customer. There isn’t much qualification on our end outside of some basic like discovery on the call, but the first human, in-person interaction with the exception of a cold call is going to be on with a sales rep talking about their business and hopefully with a qualified company.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. There’s no classic two-step process at Brex?

Sam Blond:
Not really a two-step process outside of the SDR doing outbound and scheduling of the meeting, but there’s not an initial discovery call that takes place with the SDR as a gate to get to an AE.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. It’s cool. We’ll keep chatting. I think we talked a little bit about this, changing communication. Feel free to share any other stories on changing communications because I think those are, frankly, some of the very most interesting ones. Let’s chat if you guys are and what you guys are thinking about just for a couple minutes on customers that are struggling, right? Maybe I pick two case studies where it’s a smaller issue than others because Brex has some variable revenue.
For Trello and Atlassian, you have a bunch of different impacts, but how are you dealing with downgrades and pauses? How are you dealing with customers that are struggling and when folks don’t like the revenue hit, but the logo matters? I know we hit this, but any actual examples of how you’re dealing with shrinking accounts?

Sam Blond:
I’m happy to jump in with just two thoughts that come to mind. The first is our revenue is two different types. We’ve got travel and entertainment which has taken a big hit, and then, we’ve got purchasing card which is the typical marketing spend server, anything that’s like a recurring card spend. We are hyper focused on the purchasing card type spin. We mentioned at the top that we can actually say, “Move things over from ACH to a credit card and there’s a benefit to doing so.”
I think just one other tactical example or potentially something that might be helpful for others, if you can think of something that your business is uniquely positioned to be able to help with, it has no benefit, no revenue benefit to your company and you do that for customers, it’s really, really meaningful. For us, we were able to help our customers, hundreds of them get PPP loans when they were struggling with their other banking partners. For us, it actually created a bunch of additional work. We had to manage the process. We proactively reached out to customers.
By doing that and it showed up immediately in NPS, comments, people were just really thankful that we went out of our way to do something like that. If you can find something that your business is uniquely positioned to be able to help with for your customers, that doesn’t necessarily benefit your business, really try and take advantage of that, because it’s been extremely impactful for us.

Jason Lemkin:
Just to follow up on that as a teachable moment, that’s a great story, how do you implement it because your average AE that’s on quota does not want to spend her time doing PPP loans, even it benefits the company and even the sales org. How did you pick to do it and how did you roll it out?

Sam Blond:
It was done through a combination of just automated email messaging to all of our customers. Then when folks would expect-

Jason Lemkin:
Was it sales or marketing? Which department? I know it sounds specific, but who did that? Who said, “I’m going do the work internally. I’m going to do that”?

Sam Blond:
It was a combination of product marketing, marketing and then relationship management. Depending on the size of the company, there are different people that are sort of responsible for that type of communication.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. That’s a good anecdote. Kristen, on this last one, because this may be most on point for you or it might not, upgrades. Upgrades, this is the secret sauce to SaaS, recurring revenue, getting more seats, selling more products. Tapping into the Atlassian, the wonderful Atlassian suite, what does confluence do again? How are you thinking through upgrades and yet being thoughtful about the current macro environment? Any tilt? Any change since March 15th there?

Kristen Habacht:
Honestly not much for us. I think that again, a lot of the upgrades that we look at are things that help people work remotely. It might be things like moving to the cloud which would allow you to access things in a faster, easier, instead of having to VPN back into your server or upgrading for better control or more power ups, things like that and Trello, if you want to integrate. A lot of that messaging goes back to the problems people are experiencing, but I think in general, that push and that conversation and I think what Sam said about trying to help folks out where you can, I think people remember that.
Again, it goes back to like, “If they can’t do that upgrade now, but we know that they’re a good candidate for it, having them have that good experience in six months, 12 months, whatever it is, we can have that conversation again,” that’s really meaningful and people remember that and we’ll look to you before they look to somebody else, I think, if they’ve had that experience.

Jason Lemkin:
All right, that’s good. I think we hit a little bit of this, but just tell me if you have anything to add in terms of segmenting customers having the right follow up and messaging for different companies. Have you guys changed any of your specifically changed different goals for different segments, logo versus turn versus upsell? Are there three categories? I know we get this a little bit. Even, what has the role in any cases of the interface between sales and customer success change? A lot of folks are trying to recruit more and more sales into helping out with CS. No need. We could go on to the next topic, but any specific learnings here on changing in this sort of post-sales KPIs?

Kristen Habacht:
I would just say that I think, and we talked about it on our site, it’s like pod collaboration. I think that pod collaboration with CS and sales, understanding loyalty, I think it was important before this happened in general. I think those teams don’t always necessarily talk enough together, but I think it’s really important. For my teams, we’re looping in those groups as we talk about account planning and account strategy and informs outbound and informs inbound, making sure that we know completely what we know about that account from all the different players inside of that.
That might be a technical account manager, it might be a partner, it might be an SE, but involving those and the CS to sales side, those lines are just blurring more and more in my opinion every day across every company I interact with and I think those two teams have to work really closely together, especially in a situation like this.

Sam Blond:
Again, reinforcing that, I think we have put additional emphasis on onboarding right now because onboarding onto a new product, issuing new cards, all of those things is likely more challenging in the remote environment. We’ve added resources to making customers successful right out of the gate.

Jason Lemkin:
Just slow down for a minute because that is an interesting thing I should have thought more about. A lot of things are much more challenging in a remote environment, right? There’s elements. A lot of Trello and Atlassian, I’ve been using Trello since the ’80s, a lot of this is built for this, but a lot of dealing with finance and the cross functional thing is hard to remote for some folks, right? How do you implement that, Sam? Is there any teachable moment or actionable thing for that? I guess the question is, how do you find that extra time then? It’s great to say we’re going to spend more time onboarding, but your head counts fixed. Where do you reposition the time or repurpose the time?

Sam Blond:
For us, we typically had new customer’s ownership with the account executive for a period of time and then a transition at 60 or 90 days into the experience on Brex. We moved that handoff point at the point of approval. The minute that qualifying customer is approved on Brex, they receive an introduction to the relationship manager and there’s this like overlap period where the AE and RM are both working with the customer and making sure that they’re successful in things like integrating to their ERP, migrating existing merchants, issuing cards, whatever else they need-

Jason Lemkin:
Bringing the CSM or whatever you call it at your company and earlier that?

Sam Blond:
That’s right.

Jason Lemkin:
Brought her or him in much earlier in the process. Was there any quick team level change you had to do for those? Sales probably didn’t care as long as they didn’t think the person diluted their effort to get a check, but was it a one email thing or do you have to train the success team to come in earlier?

Sam Blond:
We have an awesome enablement person that has put together a big training program on this. We’ve rolled out new messaging that makes the introduction, what the process for the customer is. There’s the first 30-minute implementation call, how do we think about like too many cooks in the kitchen. We were pretty thoughtful about this, but the ultimate change is around just more dedication or more time being allocated to our customers at onboarding than was done previously.

Jason Lemkin:
Good. I want to hit this one last topic, so that we can take some questions live rather than later because this is quotas, quotas and AEs, right? March 15th is when thing changed. March 15th at like 3:01 PM everything on my LinkedIn was quota relief. Every single thing on my LinkedIn feed, right? Every single because I don’t know what your LinkedIn has looked like, but for some reason, mine’s all revenue professionals. My LinkedIn is just full of them talking about everything, right?
“Jason, we need a quota relief tonight. You got to talk to all the CEOs. We need quota relief.” Thoughts on that? Then, these three questions. Then the second one, which I really would like to hear both of you say because both of you touched on it, but I want to talk about quota early. What can we learn from top performers today that is different than 45 days ago? Because top performers, we learned so much from them, right? They’re like the future to me, right? They’re always the future, whether it’s learning new ways to sell, whether what’s the organization is capable of. Is the gap growing? Is it shrinking? Is it weird? Let’s dive just into these two topics, so we can take a couple questions.

Sam Blond:
Kristen, you jump in.

Kristen Habacht:
I was going to see who wanted to go first. I can probably combine those statements which is that I think every sales person wants to jump right to quota relief. The fact that your feed blew up [crosstalk 00:49:14], they want it every time it rains outside or traffic was heavy, so I did that.

Jason Lemkin:
Not hypothetic?

Kristen Habacht:
I am. I’ve been there too, so I get it but I think that quota relief is one of those things. As a sales leader outside of this, what I’ve always said to my folks as I built up teams is that, “We will do what’s right by you. If you are struggling through no fault of your own, we don’t want you feeling that pain. We want you committed to building the business,” and what that means is, “If we’re wrong, we’ll fix it.” Again, outside of the situation and that goes for like comp plans and people are like “These comp plans are insane.”
If we’re wrong, we’ll fix it, but we have to go now assuming it’s right. I think that’s important with the quota relief comment because I think you’re right. It depends on the industry. Some people are seeing a lot more. Some people aren’t. It just depends across the board, but the last thing I personally want to do is say, “Let’s cut it before we even know what’s happening and demotivate or freak people out or whatever it might be.” I think it has to be an open dialogue. I think the honesty has to be there, but I don’t think a lot of people at least, I don’t know around the world, but I think a lot of people it’s only been a month, right?
I don’t think we have good baselines of what things are going to be and I think we have to say, “You charge,” and if we’re doing the KPIs we should be doing and we’re putting the effort in, we will make sure you’re okay.” That goes back to I think the top performers. I mentioned it earlier, they didn’t suddenly stop and forget how to sell on March 13th or 15th or whatever day it was, right? They’re good canaries in the mind, to say, that it’s a problem outside of what we’re doing. It’s like all of a sudden our process broke. You might have to iterate off of that, but if those folks, their conversion rate today had always been at 5% and suddenly they’re at 3%, it’s not like they forgot how to do it.
Maybe that’s the edit we need to see across the team, and then, you adjust quotas or whatever it might be to accommodate to that, but look at how the people who’ve given you a year, a year plus of data have started to perform, that’s a good indication of what’s happening.

Sam Blond:
I think Kristen nailed it on the approach on quota relief. We’re fairly transactional and so come the period of March 16th through the end of the month, we knew what the hit was going to be. We did go back and adjust for the month of March. It was totally outside of rep control. We wanted to make people whole on that. I think the good news at least for our business is we seemed to have made a full recovery, in fact in certain verticals actually accelerating in the month of April. The hit in the quota relief was a bit short lived for us.
On the top performer gap, it’s higher right now, the gap between top performers and low performers and it’s because I think when you’re in the office, people are in the office for a number of hours a day, they’re there, they’re doing activity in at home, you don’t have the reinforcement of people around you doing activity. You don’t have your manager right next to you. You have to be really self-sufficient during this time period and hold yourself accountable. The things that we’re doing to mitigate for this, we’re monitoring activity more closely and one just good pulse check that I do, just look at calendars. You’ll know the people that are being really aggressive and scheduling lots of meetings by how busy their calendars are.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. That’s always helpful, but how does that interact with the top performer and helping the lower performers when they’re stuck at home?

Sam Blond:
Well, I think one way of identifying the people that are being self-sufficient during this time period and really making sure that their performance isn’t suffering is by making sure that their activity remains high and that they’re staying busy by having calendars with lots of things on them. I think that’s one way of sort of identifying a symptom potentially and where you may need to check in with somebody.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. Let me grab, in our last couple minutes, I want to check out all this, but let me grab a few questions from the group. This one, I think you guys more have opinions than data given the nature of your products, but do bigger discounts help more today?

Kristen Habacht:
I can’t. We don’t discount.

Sam Blond:
Go ahead, Kristen.

Kristen Habacht:
I’m saying, we don’t discount, so I can’t answer.

Sam Blond:
I think anything that helps with a company’s bottom line resonates more today. Jason, you gave the example of a six-month free trial, I think it was Gorgeous. I imagine that’s impactful for them. In Brex, the AWS credits and it’s getting additional rebate by moving your card spends over. Certainly anything that has to do with finances seems to be resonating more today than it has previously because even this $100,000 AWS thing, it’s crazy that we would send this to people and they wouldn’t care as much, but in this environment specifically, everyone wants it.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it. I think there’s a bunch of questions. I know we already chatted about it, but it might be worth a last minute or two and we’ll try to do one more and then we’ll wrap it up, but a bunch of folks are asking how you really help SDRs understand verticals and subs they target today? Any particular tools or weekly trainings or is it their boss? How do you really get these, and I call them kids, they could be 70, but how do you really get these kids to finally understand these verticals and subs that they’re targeting?

Kristen Habacht:
I think that it’s a combination of things. Doing like lunch and learns with experts if you have TAMs or SEs who’ve been vertical specific or salespeople that have been that before, getting your enablement team engaged if you have a group like that. I think things like we use Gong and being able to listen to people’s calls with vertical-specific tags, so that they can see what are the messages that are resonating, using tools to do the research on the PR like tech target, what are those folks looking at. You can definitely go all those ways, but I think quick digestible bits of information on a regular basis like 25-minute like, “Grab a cup of coffee, we’re going to give you a primer on this, and then come back in three days and we’re going to go with the next step.”
People are busy and we don’t want them off the phones. We don’t want them off email, whatever it is, but you got to have those educational things, those TLDRs that they can get to really quickly and you got to move on.

Sam Blond:
I’ll go with like a counterintuitive comment here, which is we generally like to keep things pretty simple. I think if we … The more educated that somebody is on the space and the more that they try and get involved in conversation that goes deeper about what’s going on in their vertical, especially at the SDR level, that can potentially get in the way of the ultimate goal which is trying to schedule a demo. One thing potentially to be mindful of, well, I think it’s important to be educated on the companies that you’re selling into. You also don’t want to be almost too educated, if that makes sense.

Jason Lemkin:
Got it.

Kristen Habacht:
I agree with that.

Jason Lemkin:
All right. Last one because I want to make sure folks can jump off, but both of you have … I’m going to tweak this question a little bit. Both of you, obviously, have freemium elements to your products that are critical to it, free elements as well. A lot of folks are all of a sudden trying to roll out a free offer or a more freemium offer. All of a sudden, do this. What’s your top tip today to making that authentic and making it work, making free/freemium actually work? What’s the top tip that you’ve learned for COVID-19 plus?

Kristen Habacht:
I would say with freemium in general, the biggest thing is to make sure you’re not just giving someone an extended trial where if they get to five use of data or the fourth card that they’re adding on the board or whatever, they really just have to upgrade to it. Making sure that the offering you have, it can be a scaled down version, but make sure it’s not really just that you’ve given somebody a 14-day trial and it breaks after that without just saying the word, 14-day trial. I think people who do that with freemium, those are the ones that read the most insincere.

Jason Lemkin:
I worry about that all the time. Because I see those all over social media. “Now, we have a 30-day trial. Come spend weeks of your scarce time using our product for free for 30 days.”

Kristen Habacht:
Right.

Sam Blond:
Sort of related, first thing that comes to mind is I would say invest in making sure that people are successful on the free trial. It can almost be a negative if you give somebody access to the product, but don’t set them up for success on it. Jason, you spent some time talking about like AE compensation. That may be something that you tie in during this period that if you can get a certain number of people on a free trial and they reach some certain milestone with that trial, that’s actually a KPI that you’re tracking towards. Just offering the product but not necessarily making sure that people are successful while using it is probably amiss.

Jason Lemkin:
All right, I’ve got a bunch more questions, but Kristen and Sam, we should let you go and work with your sales teams in these crazy times. Thanks for everyone. We’ll collect the rest of the questions and we’ll find a bunch of answers. You guys have been great and we’ll see everyone else during the course today. Thanks, everybody.

Sam Blond:
Thanks for having me.

Kristen Habacht:
Thank you. Thanks.

Published on July 1, 2020

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