Account-based sales development is the hot new thing with promises of finding targeted leads and pushing your sales performance to dramatically greater heights. That all sounds fabulous, but since we all know execution is everything, you need the nitty gritty details on how to integrate ABSD into your sales process. Fret not, in this session we’ve got you covered.
Mallun Yen, Chief Business and Product Officer at RPX Corp, chats with Lars Nilsson, VP Global Inside Sales at Cloudera, to discover his process in creating a successful ABSD campaign, which can be quite complex and consists of many moving parts, and the opportunities that result from it. Lars doesn’t just tell you why you should do it or how awesome his results are, he shares the exact tools he uses and the resulting metrics. How.
If you’re wondering if integrating ABSD is right for you, or how the best of the best are doing it, do not miss this session.
Check out the full transcript below! You can view the slides from this presentation here.
Mallun Yen: We’re going to get started on our next session which is called, “Targeting the Big Guys. Account Based Sales Development.” Lars, thanks for coming. Let me read Lars’ intro.
Lars made his career building Silicon Valley inside sales and sales ops teams, and now he’s built a sales methodology that transforms how businesses approach high value targets and generates demands through a tested outbound approach which is called, “Account-based Sales Development.” I know we’re all eager to hear about what that is but I want to hear about you first, Lars.
Lars Nilsson: Sure.
Mallun: How long have you been with Cloudera?
Lars: Two and a half years.
Mallun: Two and a half years. You spent time at True Ventures before that?
Lars: Yeah, I was a sales advisor to True Ventures. Before that I ran sales operations and inside sales for a company called ArcSight. Before that I did the same two roles at a company called Riverbed Technology and before that a company called Portal Software.
Mallun: Two and a half years ago you joined Cloudera and then seven months ago you become the VP of Global Sales.
Mallun: What happened there?
Lars: Actually I took a haircut in responsibility. I was running both field sales operations and also inside sales. Cloudera as a company has now grown past a thousand employees. We’re a multi hundred million dollar revenue run rate company.
Mallun: I know most people know what Cloudera does. Take a second and tell us what Cloudera does.
Lars: We’re a Hadoop distribution vendor. If you’ve heard the term big data, we provide big data solutions for companies. If you are a big company, you have a lot of data, you have a big data problem, Hadoop technology can help you there.
Mallun: Seven months ago you were running both organizations.
Mallun: What shifted?
Lars: We got really, really big and we had an influx of new leaders and they wanted me to specialize. It was “What path do I want to take?”
The exact same thing happened when I was at ArcSight and we got acquired by Hewlett Packard. I was running both organizations and as you get bigger to allow for scale, they wanted me to specialize. I’ve always chosen the revenue path, so I chose inside sales again.
Mallun: When you’ve chose to move to inside sales…maybe they’re right, because you were able to focus and make a number of changes. Tell us a little bit about what you did.
Lars: When I came in, I inherited a team of six SDRs and an SDR manager. I started to build out the team. Two and a half years later, we’re now at 45 SDRs across the world. One of the things that you end up realizing you have to do when you hire younger SDRs is to create a career path.
I looked for ways to allow for growth in these ranks. In the last year and a half, we built out two additional headquarter inside sales focused teams. One is called Renewals. It’s an overlay team. Another one is called Corporate Sales which is a quota carrying, headquarter-based inside sales team of ISRs, if you will.
Mallun: Everyone knows, at some point, that you want to grow sales and you’ve got the demand or you can generate the demand, you’re going to have to hire people, but you just don’t hire people. There’s a specific methodology that you had in mind as you are growing and building the team.
Lars: Yes, but it was one that was hampered by trying to hire quickly here in the Bay area. So I made a very conscious decision a year ago to switch my inside sales center in North America to Austin, Texas. Within six months, we were able to hire 25 SDRs which likely would have taken me all year, if not more, to do that here. I also saw that SDRs that you hire here in the Bay area, they start getting calls from recruiters within six to nine months of doing a job at a company like Cloudera.
I was losing SDRs to ISR positions at twice, sometimes two and a half the OTEs that I was able to pay them. In the United States, we moved our center to Austin. In Europe, we’re in Budapest. In AsiaPac, we’re in Singapore. Between the three centers, we have the three roles. We have about 65 to 70 inside sales professionals.
Mallun: Let’s focus back on this methodology. Obviously, you need the people and the support in order to launch this methodology. Let’s talk about what that is now.
Lars: First, let’s take a quick step back. The cool thing with being involved in a company like Cloudera that is defining an entire industry is, we get the benefit of having lots of inbound inquiries or MQLs. Our marketing organizations generate 30 to 40 thousand inbound inquiries a quarter. In large part, the SDR team was set up to manage, triage, research, and disposition these inbound leads.
Mallun: So wait, did you have an SDR team before you hired?
Lars: Yes, we had six SDRs that were managed, not a lot of process. Their jobs everyday was to manage these inbound leads. Regardless of where they came from, regardless of their score, we didn’t have scoring, we had no way of filtering or prioritizing, we were just running around, trying to cherry pick these inbound inquiries.
One of the things I love about technology is today, we have these sales 2.0 technologies that allow us to filter, score, nurture, and prioritize. The first thing I did was begin to implement technology so that we could make the SDRs that were managing these inbound inquiries more efficient.
As we started to tune that engine, we began to realize that we were not getting the amount of inbound inquiries against the companies that we wanted to go after. We understood at Cloudera that our targeted addressable market were large companies and five or six different industries in a couple of different places in the world.
When we finally got a piece of technology that allowed us to understand exactly where these inbound inquiries were coming from, a very small percentage of them were coming from our targeted addressable market. We realized we had to do an outbound approach.
Mallun: Two questions. One, you were getting a lot of inbound inquiries. You had the SDRs following up on them and trying to figure out which ones to turn into real leads. How many of them actually turned into actual revenue and customers?
Lars: When you get that many…
Mallun: Percentage wise.
Lars: Not a very high percentage because of the sheer volume of inbound leads. The SDR organization back then was generating about 20 percent of the pipeline that was going in the field, I would say 15 to 20 percent. Again, very small organization. I came in at a time when we had 11 quota carrying outside reps. Within about a year, we grew that team from 11 outside to about 75 in one year. Today, we have over 150 quota carrying sales reps across the world.
Mallun: Let’s step back for a second. You look at your inbound sales, you look at the process, and you’re realizing that there’s really no great methodology. It was just a bunch of volume which we’re trying to sort through. You said you used some technology to help you sort through them. What did you use?
Lars: We found a technology from a company called Lean Data. I call them a lead conversion engine. What it allowed us to do was, we know who our customers are, we know who our active prospects are, and we know who our partners are. We get lots of inbound inquiries from existing customers. We’re constantly inviting them to events.
Our existing active opportunities, in flight deals, we’re constantly in touch with them and inviting them to certain things. The inbound activity from those accounts, they’re known to us. They’re not exactly SDR relevant. They’re relevant to the account execs that are managing those accounts.
But they were coming in at the top of the funnel, and our SDRs were spending an inordinate amount of time getting an inbound lead from an existing customer, doing the research, realizing they were a customer, reaching out to the reps, saying, “What do you want me to do?” No need you to do anything, just flip it over to me.
Today, we’ve created libraries. Our 800 to 1000 customers are in the LeanData library. If anyone comes in from any of our events, they automatically get converted from a lead object to a contact object and they nest perfect against the account object in Salesforce.
We do the same with our active prospects and we do the same with our partners. We have a 2000 plus partner ecosystem.We have a lot of partners hitting our website, going to our webinars. They’re generating almost 20 percent of our inbound traffic. They spent a lot of time researching, triaging false positives.
Mallun: That’s inbound. You just said a moment ago that you’ve realized that you needed to do more outbound. Let’s talk about outbound because I think, that’s really where the guts of this, how to ABSD…
Lars: No doubt about it. We ran some reports. We wanted to find out. At that time we had about 500 customers, we ran a report tableau, that showed our new logo sale is generally a lot smaller. ASP maybe anywhere from 40 to 80 thousand dollars. In year two, in year three, for us at Cloudera, the right thing to have happen is for that 250 thousand dollar deal to go to a million dollar deal.
That is the progression that we hope for and we’ve seen many, many times if we do the right thing on the backend of a sale. When we ran this report, we found that a large portion of our revenues were coming from the expansion of our new logo deals that were in the enterprise, so companies above a billion dollars of revenue. Unbelievably large part of our revenue is coming from the SO.
It was a very easy decision to make when we segmented our global field organization into strategic, which is above 10 billion revenue companies, enterprise, which is 1 to 10 billion, and then corporate sales, which is below one billion. The LeanData technology allowed us to realize that most of the top of the funnel inquiries were coming in against below one billion dollar companies.
SDRs were spending a lot of their time triaging and researching and going back and forth with not companies in our targeted addressable market. That’s what led us to realize, if we don’t start doing outbound campaigns, and obviously they’re going to be a lot colder whether they’re email or phone, but we have to do this because we’re not getting inbounds at the rate we want.
Mallun: Yeah, but you figured out a methodology that made them not quite as cold as they might otherwise be.
Lars: We did. At that time, we’ve been tuning our marketing automation technology for years, but it’s typically one that’s used by marketers to nurture and blast big volumes of, whether it’s lead or contacts. We’ve used ToutApp. We’ve used Yesware. We’ve used Outreach. I call it an SDR email sequencing platform. It allows us to set up these email sequences to individuals that we’ve targeted.
Mallun: Let’s back up for a second. We can talk about some of those catchy emails, but how did you target those individuals because that’s what the key here, right? How did you find these individuals? It wasn’t just, send out a bunch of random spam emails from list that you found somewhere.
Lars: We had about 500 existing customers. We had done a bunch of deals in a bunch of places in the world, in a bunch of different sized companies, in a bunch of different industries. We’ve been cataloging and indexing the stakeholders, the buyers, the people in procurement that we were talking to.
When you understand who your buyers are or what their titles are, it’s very easy to go into whether it’s Data.com or Discover.Org or LinkedIn, and run searches and socially source other names of people at other companies that you can target. That’s exactly what we did.
Mallun: You develop this target and basically what you did was, you looked through LinkedIn and you scraped anyone you had, what descriptions of the things within their profile, not just titles, right?
Lars: Right. If we wanted to target a company like American Express, a big financial services vendor, we know that anyone that has “data architect” in their title is going to be relevant. They’ll not only likely know a lot about Hadoop and Big Data. They’ll also know likely who we are. Anyone with “business analytics” is also likely going to know what we do and who we are. Anyone that has “Hadoop engineer” anywhere in their LinkedIn profile, is absolutely going to know who we are and what we do.
Mallun: You knew this also by looking at who was buying before and who your contacts at your existing customers were, and you could use that criteria to more target with specificity who might be future buyers. Is that correct?
Lars: Exactly right. For those of you that are in younger companies, whether you’re at revenue or not, every single sale cycle that you go through, make sure you understand and log all of the people that influenced, that helped guide, direct, and help you sell into that company, because those will all become the titles and the roles that you’re going to be targeting.
Again, they’re different in small companies than large companies. They’re different in FinServ versus health tech versus manufacturing or retail.
Mallun: And then what you did was, there’s a lot of different individuals within a company in different areas like you just said, in different groups who might have that title. How did you decide who to target within that company?
Lars: When we do an account based sales development campaign for the first time, in any large company, we’ll actually pick 5 to 10 titles and go across departments and vertically. Again realize that, when we do one of these campaigns, we’re not doing it to a bunch of companies. We’re doing it to one company.
Everything that goes onto the three emails that we’re offering, is to a person at one company that’s in a certain vertical, in a certain part of the world. We can customize a lot of the content in the emails, so that it will resonate with the person that we are sending it to, if that makes any sense.
Lars: We did our first one. From there, everything kind of unfolded. We got a 70 percent open rate across the three emails in our first ABSD sequence. Our reply rate, people who actually opened and then replied and gave us a call to action, it was 30 percent.
Previously, when we were using Eloqua marketing automation platform to send out nurturing emails to different segments of our lead database, our average email open rate was five to eight percent. Our average email reply rate was two to three percent. This was an order of magnitude, if not more, and we knew that we were on to something.
Mallun: 70 percent open rate is mind boggling. That’s highly unusual and actually to go from such a low percent before. I would think that not only is it specifically targeting exactly who you need to talk to within the organization. Clearly, there was something catchy in your email.
Lars: Again, we see it right here. Subject’s obviously a very big deal. This was to, I believe it was an airline, a major US airline. We sent this one to a director of data architecture. If you’re the director of data architecture and you get an email from someone at Cloudera that says, “Big data insights at…” It’s to you and it’s referencing your company. In the very first sentences, I recently read a Wall Street Journal article citing your CIO who said he was considering Hadoop to better analyze…
That’s the hook. That’s the catch. That’s hopefully the reason why they will continue reading…
Mallun: They’ll read that, because it’s like, “I can look good in front of my CIO if I can learn something from this email.” These are highly, highly tailored specific emails that you guys have researched. Once you’ve generated these great leads or great potential audiences, you have the ability now to focus more heavily on a specific content, because it’s not a scattershot. Is that correct?
Lars: Correct. If you look at the five bullet points, those are specific use cases that we have solved for other like companies. Provide recommendations based on mobile apps, snack, or beverage purchases. That’s likely something that this person at this airline is noodling through and trying to figure out.
Our hope is that he reads through these and realizes, “Holy smokes, they’ve got use cases that they’re solving for other airlines. I better get on this.”
If you go to the next slide, the email…
Mallun: This is now if they didn’t respond to the first one, just to be clear, this is that little 30 percent who didn’t respond, you’re not going to let them go.
Lars: That’s right.
Mallun: Tell us what you send.
Lars: That’s the cool thing about the technology. If someone opens and/or replies, they will not get the second email in the sequence. Again, if they didn’t do that, this one goes out two and a half to three days later. It says, “Hey, Johnny. I want to follow up on my previous note.” Again, we’re telling a story. We’ve just layered in three additional but separate use cases for that industry.
Mallun: What’s the open rate on this, on the second?
Lars: I’ll show you. They’re about equal.
Mallun: Another 70 percent of that 30 percent gets…
Lars: Yes. Another 30 percent reply rate, another 60 to 70 percent open rate. For those of you that have been around or that get a lot of SDR emails, you’ll recognize this third one. We call it the Hail Mary. They come in a lot of different flavors and forms. We’re experimenting with a bunch of different ones.
This is not a “You” moment, it’s probably a “Me” moment. Maybe there are some of you that have seen the…You must be getting tracked by a bear. We do an ABC just to see if we can attract someone who’s maybe been busy. We’re completely blown away at the open rates and the reply rates to the third one, because there’s no content.
Mallun: You know I’m all about numbers. What’s the open rate of…?
Lars: If you go back three slides, four slides, we go back. Bam, that’s it. Again, we use outreach.io as our SDR email sequencing platform. If you take a look here, if you look at the bottom in the group of bars there, there you see the email open and reply rates for each of the three emails. The coolest thing for the SDR is, when they author these sequences, they write all three emails before they send it. Then they hit the Send button.
Now they get to sit back over the next seven, eight, nine days and just watch as the…What is it? In Vegas, slot machines. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Most of their time is spent following up on the email reply activity, because when you send this out to 50, 100, 200 people and you get a 30 percent reply rate, you’re talking about 15, 20, 30, 40 emails where people are literally asking us to call them to set up a meeting.
If you look at this, this original one went out to 90 prospects refers to the number of emails that we had and loaded in the system that we sent out. We had a 32 percent bounce rate. That’s a hard bounce rate. Only 63 of the original emails actually got delivered to the first 63 out of 90.
The beautiful thing about the technology we use, when you get our hard bounce, it will automatically cleanse and delete those emails and people from your Salesforce.com CRM. It’s a self cleansing system. Every time we run a campaign, we’re cleaning our database.
You can see here, of the 63 emails that got delivered, over the 3 email sequence, there was 204 deliveries. After email two and email three, there’s drop off from the opens and the replies. That’s what I love about the intelligence of these platforms, is that it allows SDRs to just set it and forget it.
Again, there’s no doubt in my mind that over time, there are going to be companies that roll all of this functionality up into one suite. I know that Kyle at SalesLoft is looking at this, John Miller at Engagio is looking at consolidating a bunch of these pieces. Ben at Datanyze is doing the same thing, looking at where he can leverage.
Today, we use Salesforce. I don’t know that there’s a ton of lead conversion engines, but what lean data does for us is literally magic. I’ve said it before. I think it’s one of the biggest advances in CRM in 20 years. Taking down that brick wall or barrier from the lead object to the contact object. We’ve used all three of these email sequencing platforms that you see here.
Again, we also use all three of these…I’ll call them contact relevant databases. Where are you going to augment your list of people that you’re going to target once you’ve decided on the count to do an ABSD campaign into.
Mallun: Sorry, go ahead.
Lars: The last piece is just your CTI, your dialer. Again, we, at Cloudera, have used lots of different ones. Today, we’re using Talkdesk. Again, there is a lot of phone activity that follows up. If the inbound email reply activity isn’t enough and we get a very low reply rate, we’ll start outbounding to the opens. We don’t do much to the people that don’t do anything, because there’s always been enough follow up for at least the opens that we do.
Mallun: There’s a lot of work, needless to say, that has gone into creating this infrastructure to create really great leads as opposed to having people spin their wheels which, one…sales people are always in high demand, especially good sales people. Also, I would think, impacts their own quality of feeling good about what they’re doing.
I have a couple more questions, then I want to open it up to questions. Then we probably have time for one or two, which is are there certain types of people that have embraced this more readily, because there’s a ton of work. This isn’t just dialing for dollars. There’s a lot of work and thought that goes into it. Then second, what kind of team do you have that builds this support structure in order to create what you’ve created here.
Lars: You hit right on. The amount of process and procedure and technology that goes into building this best practice, you have to have people that have done it before. You have to be sober when you come in, because there are a lot of moving parts. I do believe though that this is a much better best practice to hand to an SDR team rather than a quota carrying sales team.
Lars: I can hire a 21, 22, 23 year old student out of University of Texas in Austin and I can show them our ABSD playbook, show them everything that they need to do, give them access to all the templates, and then run them through it once or twice. These are kids that have grown up in an age where they’re multitasking, they’re playing this. They’re used to having lots of different things open and are used to being…they’ve been able to handle this.
I never hired a person out of school before I got to Cloudera, but because we have taken a lot of the complexity from a salesperson and built this stack of technology and process, we can hand it to just about anyone and just say, “Go do it.”
Right now, we have 45 going to 65 SDRs. We have 20 SDRs that are pointed at our North America, strategic and enterprise segments that are well trained. Right now, they do about one of these a week. The very best are doing two a week. Again, realize, these are going into one account. That’s 20 to 40 accounts that we are targeting every week.
We are going to hit every single target account and we have about 3,000 of them. Our targeted addressable market at Cloudera is companies above two billion dollars in revenues. There’s about 3,500 of those in the world, so it’s a very manageable number.
Mallun: How much of this process is your team and sales ops team doing versus the marketing team?
Lars: Good question. The SDR management team handpicked all of these, trialed them, and we procure them through our sales operations team. We noodle through all the process and all the procedure, the messaging that we are putting in the emails are coming from our subject matter expert team, which is aligned to our field consulting or sales engineering organization.
For the first time, we are partnering with marketing and it’s been about a year. We’ve been running this on our own. We now believe that with the account based marketing approach that our marketing team is taking, we’re telling them a month in advance when we do an ABSD campaign into a particular account, go and run an account based marketing campaign and start, not flooding, but start pointing the ad buys at the people at that account so they can see our logo, they can see our brand…
Mallun: They’re warmed up.
Lars: They’re warmed up.
Mallun: By the time your first email goes in there, they’re like, “Oh!”
Lars: That’s right. We just kicked off our first few campaigns literally this month. We hope to see an uptake in the opens and reply rates.
Mallun: That sounds really effective. I look forward to seeing what your growth looks like next year. Do we have time for one, two questions? We’ve got one over there.
Audience Member: Thank you, Lars. I have a two pronged question. The example you gave for the email to referencing the CIO. Firstly, was there a reason behind not reaching the CIO directly? Secondly, if you did reach out to the CIO, went to the three email cadence and so forth, and got shut down, what may have been some approaches that you’ve done in the past to still get into that account?
Lars: The CIO was a part of that ABSD campaign, so he or she got one, too. We certainly take C-level executives, we take VP, Director, we take individual contributor all the way up in that first campaign.
The other thing that we do is, not only are we using the names that we source from LinkedIn and other areas, but we’ve been running our instance of Salesforce at Cloudera for about five years. We have quite a few opt in contacts, as well, in our database.
One of the things that we do very specifically is, when we do an ABSD campaign, we split it up into two different campaigns. One, to all of the opt ins, they’ve clicked on a web link, they’ve gone to a webinar, they’ve gone to a trade show, we have their name in the system. Then we do one to all the members that we’ve sourced that have never opted in.
What we found is, we find the same reply and email rates from both constituencies, but the actual meetings that we set are much higher from the new contacts that we’ve never interacted with before. Not sure exactly why that is. The SDR, today, spends a lot of time making sure that they can source as many titles that we believe are relevant to the pain that our solution solves.
Hadoop solves pain high and wide in a company. We’re lucky we can…in some companies, there are over a thousand people that will care about what it is we do. We won’t necessarily send it out to a thousand people, we like to do it in 50 to a 150 to 250 person chunks, to see what the response and reply rate is. Hopefully that answers the question.
Mallun: You pick , Lars.
Lars: Yeah, go ahead.
Audience Member: Hi. Thank you so much for covering marketing function. There’s been a decided lack of that content at this show. What has your marketing team done… Obviously, now they’re rolling out AVM, very hot right now, what has your marketing team done prior to when delivering those MQLs to ensure the highest quality of qualification, ultimately, to your SDRs?
Lars: We’ve spent years futzing, messing with different lead scoring mechanisms. I can honestly say that in two years of using a couple of different companies who tout lead scoring algorithms and methodologies, I don’t know that we’ve been able to hit on anything that has given us, we’ve seen this. We, together, have helped try to tune that scoring mechanism, but I don’t think we’ve licked it at all.
What’s happened, now that we have outreach, and we can show them that we’re not getting the percentage of inbound leads against our highest value targets, we can show them and say, “Here are our top 50 or top 100 accounts in this region, in this vertical. Let’s do a campaign in New York, because right now, we just hired three new guys in New York to hit the financial services vertical and we have very few inbounds against our top 10.”
We’re helping create visibility for marketing to show them exactly where we’re not getting inbounds. That has been the biggest help to them, is seeing where their leads are coming in and where they’re not.
Audience Member: On the first email, that was a very targeted email, that would take quite a bit of research, have you looked at automating the content of that email, without a business development rep actually doing the research, being to able to use some automation tool to grab that content and fill out that template automatically?
Lars: Yeah. We’ve had our subject matter experts write anywhere from 10 to 15 use cases in each vertical, and we have that in a Google Doc, in a library, where they can go pick. That first hook, what they did was they put Airline and then they put Hadoop, and then within a couple of seconds, they found that story. The SDRs themselves are finding the hook that they used in that first email.
Then, to fill out the body of the email, they go to Airline, if that’s a vertical, or they call the subject matter expert and they say, “Hey, I’m doing an ABSD campaign and I want to do it into the health tech industry,” and then, they’ll have a conversation. Our list of use cases by vertical is growing every day, every week, from the interaction that we have with our subject matter experts.
Again, indexing those bullet points of the problems we’ve solved for other like companies and, again, once they’ve seen it done once or twice and they see the…they’re just making their job so much easier by sending these out to 50 to a 100 people at one company and getting replies.
We’ve had sales reps that have said, “Listen, stop creating appointments for me. I can’t get to all of them.” In a lot of these accounts before, where we would break in and get one meeting, with one person at one account, they would stick and move and go to the next account.
These campaigns are garnering 5, 10, 15 appointments across many different departments, high and wide, and so we are literally blanketing these companies with our brand, our message. Sales reps are coming to us, saying that, “I’ve been doing this for 25 30 years, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Now that they’re on board, we spend a lot of time interacting, the SDRs do, and the AEs help us prioritize where they want their SDRs to spend their time. More importantly, we have, I think it’s Demandbase, they help us understand signals that we’re getting from companies that are hitting our website.
There are companies now that are self selecting and raising their hand that we can see, because they’re hitting our website this many times a day. An SDR might go to his or her AE and say, “Listen, Coca Cola, in the last two weeks, we’ve seen a spike in activity against Cloudera assets. Why don’t we do one there?”
There’s a little bit of give and take there with the SDR as the quarterback, deciding together with his or her AE what account that they’re going to hit.
Mallun: We’re out of time today. Actually, we’re over our time, but Lars, thank you so much for sharing this incredibly impactful approach.
Lars: Thank you, Mallun.
You can view the slides here.