SaaStr Podcast #372 with 6sense CMO Latané Conant

Ep. 372: Latané Conant is the Chief Marketing Officer at 6sense, the company that allows you to achieve predictable revenue growth by identifying accounts looking for your solution, prioritize efforts and then engage the right way. To date, the company has raised $120M in financing from Battery Ventures, Insight, Venrock, Costanoa, Bain Capital, and Salesforce Ventures to name a few. As for Latané, before 6sense she was CMO and sales leader at Appirio where she drove 5X more effective field marketing programs and an increase in inbound leads by 300%. If that was not enough, Latané is also on the Advisory Boards of both Mediafly and Atrium.

In Today’s Episode We Discuss:

* How did Latané make her way into the world of SaaS and come to be the rockstar CMO and ABM thought leader she is today with 6sense?
* What does the preparation process look like pre-sales kick off week? What is involved? Who is involved? What needs to be ready? How does Latané feel about putting comp plans as part of the week?
* How important is a theme to having an engaging week of content? What can teams do to bring their themes to life? How does Latané advise others when it comes to keeping the content fresh and exciting?
* What is the right way to end the week? What are the right follow up steps to take? Where do many people go wrong here?

 

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Jason Lemkin
SaaStr
Harry Stebbings
Latané Conant

Below, we’ve shared the transcript of Harry’s interview with Latané.

Harry Stebbings:

We are back on the official SaaStr Podcast, and we spent the last few weeks in the world of sales, and so this week I wanted to turn slightly to the world of marketing also, and discuss the coming together of these two worlds for the discussion on sales kickoff weeks. And there’s no one better to join me for this discussion than Latané Conant, CMO at 6sense. The company that allows you to achieve predictable revenue growth by identifying accounts, looking for your solution, prioritize efforts, and then engage the right way. To date, the company’s raised over $120 million in financing from the likes of Battery Ventures, Insight, Venrock, Costanoa, Bain Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, to name a few. As for Latané, before 6sense she was CMO and sales leader at Appirio where she drove 5X more effective field marketing programs and an increase in inbound leads by 300%. If that wasn’t enough, Latané’s also on the advisory boards of both Media Flight and Atrium.

Harry Stebbings:

So now I’m very excited to hand over to Latané Conant, CMO at 6sense.

Harry Stebbings:

Latané, it’s so great to have you on the show today. As I’ve said before, I’ve heard so many good things from Brian and the team at Venrock. So thank you so much for joining me today.

Latane Conant:

Well, Harry, you picked my favorite topics, [crosstalk 00:03:27] so I couldn’t resist.

Harry Stebbings:

I do want to start then with a little bit of context. So tell me, how did you make your way into the world of SaaS, come to be the rockstar CMO at 6sense and also that you are today.

Latane Conant:

Well, it was a little bit accidental. I always talk about being a recovering software salesperson. So I was a first Line seller at Appirio. I started running a region. I was running half the country and I was very opinionated about demand gen and marketing, which I’m sure was annoying to many people, but I was very opinionated about it. And so I started to build some of classic demand gen functions, like BDR team. So an outbound model and field model, cause we didn’t have those at the time. We were mostly a channel based play. And so I’m doing my thing just because I wanted to make sure my salespeople had enough pipeline. And then lo and behold, our CEO came to me and said, “I know you fancy yourself as a sales gal, but can you throw your hat in the ring at marketing?” And I mean, the rest is history, Harry, I never resist a challenge.

Latane Conant:

So I took it and was the CMO at Appirio and then found my way to 6sense. And that’s an interesting story in itself because I just fell in love with the 6sense technology. I had done an ABM pilot while I was at Appirio and you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. And it was so time consuming and we did everything right in terms of the content, the creative, the level of personalization, just everything. But it was so much work that the ROI, the math just didn’t work. And so when I saw 6sense had the capability to be able to make sure that all of your hard sales and marketing time and money and muscle go towards the right accounts, go towards accounts and market and then could help me orchestrate these campaigns. I was like, this is going to change the game.

Harry Stebbings:

I mean, 6sense has changed the game in many ways. I’m sorry, when you were speaking there, I was just thinking there’s two burning questions and I expected to go off schedule, from our previous chats, pretty quickly, but didn’t expect to this early, but let’s roll with it anyway. Question for you. I was having this debate with a portfolio company founder today and he was saying, “Harry, my marketing team is telling my AEs, ‘Hey, you can help as well on demand gen. It’s not just our job. It’s everyone’s job. Don’t just expect us to feed you all the time.'” Question for you. Should AE’s get involved in demand gen and filling pipe as well a little bit? Or do you think that kind of highly segmented, highly specialized is very important to know your lane.

Latane Conant:

As a recovering software salesperson? I don’t know what has happened. I feel like salespeople have, I don’t want to say gotten soft, that’s not nice. But you get paid the big bucks to own your business, to own your business model. And so I don’t understand this notion of not taking a role in that. Now you can push marketing and you can partner with marketing to make sure that you’re using the latest and greatest techniques and technology. And if I were a salesperson today, I would definitely be asking in the interview process, how is demand gen set up? Do you use intent data? Do you use predictive analytics? Knowing that I’m going to be five times more successful if you have those capabilities. But at the end of the day, salespeople get to go to clubs. Salespeople get paid the big bucks because it’s a hard job. And I think you’re still expected to prospect.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, no listen, I agree with you in terms of really owning that function. The second was, you mentioned there about kind of allocating resources to the accounts that deserve attention. And obviously all accounts deserve attention, but just kind of allocating resources effectively on an account basis. I have a lot of people that say, “What’s the right level for ABM, Harry?” It doesn’t make sense at 10K. Does it make sense at 50K or does it have to be 100K? How do you think about the amount that it has to be to justify ABM and that much higher touch?

Latane Conant:

Here’s the thing. If you have a true B2B sale, meaning multiple personas involved, longer sales cycle, I believe ABM is the most effective way to generate demand. And I think that unfortunately ABM has become equated with spending a lot of time, money and energy on one or two accounts and almost overspending on those. And that is not how I define ABM. I define ABM as using data, using analytics to make sure that you are doing the right things at the right time to accounts most likely to buy. And it sounds like, okay, what are you really talking about? So let me just take the Appirio example, ABM. I’m going to pick a few accounts. I’m in a certain industries where we’ve sold to before, we sold to this type of account. So let’s do it with accounts that look like that.

Latane Conant:

And I’m going to talk to sales and we’re going to come up with a list of accounts. And for this list of accounts, we’re going to send champagne. We’re going to have a landing page for them. We’re going to have dedicated BDRs just for them. That to me is old school. And that’s where you get underwater from an ROI perspective. So what I do is I run 100% ABM. And what that means is knowing who to sell to and knowing who not to sell to.

Latane Conant:

So for example, let’s apply that to an inbound model, Harry. So if I have an inbound model and I want to apply ABM, what that means is an account is going to come inbound and I’m automatically going to start to apply an account score. So I’m not just going to look at the one person who came inbound. I’m going to look at the buying team. I’m going to look at how they’re engaging. I’m going to look at the amount they’re engaging. And that’s going to determine, does sales followup, does marketing continue to nurture, what we do with that? Because I don’t want people wasting their time until an account is really ready. So that’s applying ABM at an account, like, inbound level. And then when it comes to an outbound motion, they’re not going to go and work accounts that aren’t showing any sign of intent, meaning they’re not doing research on keywords that matter. They’re not maybe coming to my website. I’m going to make sure that I’m pointing that valuable resource at the best accounts most likely to buy.

Harry Stebbings:

Totally get you in terms of that kind of much more targeted there, it makes sense. I do want to dive in, as I said on the schedule itself, because otherwise I could chat for days, in terms of your favorite week of the year. And I love this when you said this before, and as you said that your favorite week of a year is the week of sales kickoff. And you’ve said before, in terms of driving marketing and sales alignment, there’s nothing like it. So I do kind of want to start from the beginning because if we think about kind of what it takes to make it successful, the first is preparation. And you said before, do not underestimate the preparation required. So I’d love to start on that. And what did you mean by this and what have been some of your biggest learnings around it? What does it take from a preparation standpoint to be successful in sales kickoff?

Latane Conant:

I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they can waste their team’s time, meaning they don’t have to be prepared for internal meetings, in general. I take a lot of umbrage to that. So just like for me, I would coach my team or an AE that it’s for every hour that you’re in a meeting, you should assume two hours of prep. And so you think about something like a field kickoff or a sales kickoff where you’re literally bringing these super highly valuable resources together for a day, two days, a week, whatever it is. Why would you not do the preparation to make sure every second counts? And you really thought through making sure it’s just a phenomenal experience. And I think too often people think, oh, it’s an internal meeting. So I don’t have to have a tight agenda. I can let people run over. Not every session needs to be phenomenal. Whereas when I think about internal events, I tend to put the same amount of rigor on an internal event as I would on an external event because my team’s time is valuable.

Harry Stebbings:

Can I ask, when you have your sales kickoffs, how long before do you start prepping for it? And what does that process look like for you.

Latane Conant:

So it’s about six months before. And then obviously it gets more frequent and intense leading up to it. I think you also have to, Harry, be stage appropriate, right? So if you’re a Series A company, you’re not going to hire a live band or something for your sales kickoff and maybe your sales kickoff is only two days. Sales kickoff doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or quote unquote overdone. I just think you should think of it as more than just a meeting and really, really think through, what am I trying to get across to the team this year? And so what I like to do, typically, is I like to actually make sure that the leadership team, the executive leadership team, has done a strategy session. So logistics and stuff get locked like six months in advance because typically when we were traveling, right, you got to rent a place and book things.

Latane Conant:

But before we actually come up with the theme of sales kickoff, what I like to do is bring all of the executives together and figure out the theme for the year as a company. So what are we trying to do as a company? What’s our vision? I use a strategic planning tool called V2MOM. What are our key methods as a company? And then now how does that trickle down to what we need to do from a go to market perspective across sales, marketing, and customer success? Because that’s a pretty big input into field kickoff and getting the team pumped to go and execute.

Harry Stebbings:

Can I ask, cause it’s really interesting hearing you speak about kind of, especially the V2MOM process there and kind of strategizing around it because you said something else about kind of the prep stage. And it’s like the worst thing that you can do is come with a plan. And so I think you’re on an odd stand in terms of kind of preparation and not coming with a plan. And how do you think about that in particular?

Latane Conant:

So let me unpack that. When I say don’t come with a plan or a bunch of grandiose plans, come with actual things. What I mean is I’ve seen it where marketing presents, well, we are going to help you with battle cards. Our plan is that we’re going to launch better battle cards. Okay. I’m saying don’t come with the plan to launch better battle cards. If that is a key thing, show up to sales kickoff and say, we’ve launched better battle cards, check the portal. They’re live right now. And let me explain to you how you’re going to use these battle cards. That’s a big difference. So what I want is I want all of my sales and marketing and customer success teams to leave kickoff with all of the resources that they need done to be successful, not plans about things I might develop. Hey, we’re going to be creating a lot of case studies this year. How about we have five done, they’re right here ready for you to use.

Harry Stebbings:

Why don’t you think people do that? Is it because they’re waiting for a confirmation from leadership and then nervous about assuming a strategy without confirmation before starting? So it’s like, we’re going to do a lot of battle cards, wait for the response and then pursue it if it’s well received? Do you think that’s why? Cause I agree with you in terms of that action orientation.

Latane Conant:

Maybe It’s just an urgency thing. So one of my best and worst qualities is impatience. And so I tend to have a lot of urgency and I have a saying, never waste a deadline. And so to me, field kickoff is the culmination of a lot of deadlines. And people know that. People know, no we’re not going to talk about the new website. The new website needs to be done or at least part one done, right? So it’s a forcing function to deliver because if you think about it, sales automatically has a forcing function every quarter with quotas. Marketing and sales ops, and a lot of the supporting functions don’t have the same implicit deadlines. And so to me, I need to use things like sales kickoff, or it’s funny, we have a mini sales kickoff in a week to make sure that–things can just linger, Harry, and it’s annoying. I don’t like that.

Harry Stebbings:

I totally get you. Especially with the lingering elements. That’s the most annoying thing. And we share the impatience. So it’s a good trait to have, I continuously tell myself, though I think others around me would disagree. I do want to ask, though, cause once we have that kind of content and we’ve got the prep in place, you obviously have to go through some form of review process. What do you think the review process should look like? And when should it be done and how does that take shape?

Latane Conant:

It has to take place with the head of sales, honestly. I will help, but I have found people love to wait till the last minute to get their shit together. So you have to have an executive, maybe even the CEO, who’s checking and the content is due to them, not the marketing team. Because otherwise people will rock in and they will not have practiced, they’ll run over, their slides will look like shit. And we just can’t have that, Harry. That’s not the kind of shop we’re running. So we try to have content review sessions scheduled, call it two weeks before. And I also always have a designer right up through sales kickoff because you’re going to have stragglers and their stuff’s going to look like crap. And they’re going to be presenting on Tuesday, and Monday there’s going to have to be some designer making sure it doesn’t look terrible.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, no listen I love the directness to be honest, Latané. It’s not something that I always get doing the show, honestly. So it’s like truly refreshing for me as an interviewer. [inaudible 00:15:15] and presenting on Tuesday and the design is last minute on Monday. And bluntly, when you’re in these presentations and events, sometimes, I mean, we both know, God, they can drag on and keeping them fresh and lively, it’s hard. You said before in terms of really keeping that enthusiasm energy, you have to rotate presenters, not people. Loved it and thought it was a great book title, actually. What did you mean by this? And what have been some learnings on how to keep it really fresh and high tempo when sometimes it can be stale four or five hours in.

Latane Conant:

Yeah. So you’re actually unpacking two questions. So let’s take the rotating presenters, not people. That is actually a solve for a different challenge. And the different challenge is if you do break outs, people will all of a sudden linger and they won’t come back, maybe, or they’ll take a phone call or this or that. And there’s too much flex for people to get lost behind. Because you’re trying to move, like if you think about it, if I’ve got 10 breakout rooms of 20 people, that’s a lot of cats to herd. So typically what I like to do is say, no, you are a breakout track, the people stay. The presenters, if I have 10 breakouts, it’s only 10 people that I have to herd each transition. Does that make sense?

Harry Stebbings:

Totally does, it’s very different.

Latane Conant:

So that’s what I mean by that. And again, I made a big investment to make sure that we prepped and everything was amazing. Now you owe me being present here and not slipping off to do other things.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, I think that’s definitely hard for you, it’s the mutual respect. On the content itself. So now we’ve covered that. What have been some learnings on keeping it really exciting?

Latane Conant:

I mean, I think we talked about like dropping things so that they’re the first to see it. So like dropping a product release that no one else has seen. That’s cool. I want to be part of that. There’s fun things you can do. I’m all about stingers. So the theme is super important and you want to reinforce the theme throughout the program. And so a stinger is just a hilarious play on the theme. Like you take a movie clip or something like that. And it just keeps people laughing and energized.

Latane Conant:

And so you kind of want to infuse stingers and things like that. Have people dress up. Like we had our head of customer success. Our theme was around the 6 sensei saying, which is if you know everything, you can do anything. And so we created a character of a 6 sensei who knows and does everything. And so we dressed our head of customer success up like a 6 sensei, no one expected him to come in. He came into the room, all dressed up, we played music. Cheesy actually works. So keep it cheesy. That’s all right. Fun. Any type of guessing games or contests throughout, people love to get prizes, even if it’s something very minimal, they’ll do crazy things just for minimal things.

Harry Stebbings:

Can I dive in and ask, you mentioned the word theme there and I’m interested what makes a good theme and what makes a bad theme?

Latane Conant:

Yeah. So to be honest, I probably go a little too crazy on picking the theme because what I found is what you pick matters less than how invested you get in it. Meaning there’s no real bad theme. The key is that what you pick you really, really reinforce to make it fun and interesting. So what do I mean? We had a theme that was rise above the clouds. The reason we picked that is we wanted people to not just sell software. We wanted them to lead with strategy and take a more strategic approach and sell bigger deals. And so we had this whole theme. And so then we anchored that in airplanes.

Latane Conant:

So when they got there, they got a boarding pass. So the agenda looks like a boarding pass. We had presenters pretending to be flight attendants. We had a whole fasten your seatbelts spoof stinger. Each breakout–like one team was called the blue angels. One team was… and you get my point. It’s like you have team names that match the themes. You have content that match the themes. And as you’re doing the content review, you challenge people to infuse the theme. So instead of doing a deal planning session, can we call it a flight plan session? For example.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, I love that. I think it’s super cool to have the [inaudible 00:18:48] theme, especially when it’s like the boarding passes and the seatbelts and everything.

Latane Conant:

Even brought a drink cart. We had an airline drink cart made and brought that into breakouts. So, just like have fun with it.

Harry Stebbings:

I hope someone got to keep all of this memorabilia. Can I ask, in terms of the content itself. So the content progresses. And then the thing that I find kind of interesting, it’s like, as we get to an end, sometimes that can be a bit of an anticlimax. And you said before, hold a final general session. What does this general session look like? And what do you want to achieve out of it? Most importantly, I guess.

Latane Conant:

So basically from an agenda perspective, what you want is you want a really high energy kickoff with everybody together, right? So it’s like the high energy, everyone’s together, then go into break outs, however you’re doing those. And then what I mean is I’ve had agendas that end on a breakout. So people just kind of peter off. And so even if it’s a 20 or 30 minute closing session, you want to get people back together, recast the day, people love collages of themselves doing stuff. Just reinforce everything they’ve learned and kind of go through highlights of the week or the couple days.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, no, I get you bringing them all back together. Can I ask you, do at some point quota and plans for quota be attached to these sessions or does that kind of remove the fun from the room so to speak?

Latane Conant:

Oh my God. Well, our worst one was the last session was that rolling out the comp plan, which was just a terrible idea. And plus then they’re all together and everyone’s moaning and not good. And this is kind of the never waste a deadline. I think comp plans and territories need to be rolled out before sales. The process needs to be done, questions answered, everyone understands their comp plan. So that whole thing is behind you coming into kickoff.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah no listen I totally agree. I think it’s a daunting way to end it. Can I ask that post the ending, it’s the start not the end, really in many respects. And when you think about like postmortems and the right way to follow up, what does good follow up look like post a sales kickoff? How do you like to kick the that really into action?

Latane Conant:

Yeah, so we have a solution called Mediafly that has like a sales readiness component. And so we try to have as much as the content as we can video-based or somehow transitioned into our learning platform, right? Because unfortunately not everyone will start at kickoff and so many great assets come out of it. And then the more the theme can sort of live on. So live on in your forecast calls or live on in future QPRs and things like that. It just sort of keeps the energy up and going.

Harry Stebbings:

Totally, I was thinking it would be strange for me to come into work as a pilot for the next year, but now I know it’s absolutely fine. If you’re hiring at 6sense, please let me know. But I do want to dive into my favorite then, Latané, which is a quick fire round. So I say a short statement and then you give me your immediate thoughts. So you ready to rock and roll?

Latane Conant:

Oh God. Yes.

Harry Stebbings:

It’ll be fine. Trust me. You can always trust a Brit. So tell me what is the biggest challenge of your role with 6sense?

Latane Conant:

Impatience.

Harry Stebbings:

In terms of expectations of the people around you?

Latane Conant:

Yeah I mean, so you have to understand when I came to 6sense and it’s way different now, cause I’m two years in. But I would say when I got to 6sense, I had been at a company that was global, big scale, large team. I mean we ran 500 field events a year, all around the world. And so then when I got to 6sense, it was me and one other person to start. So I had to temper my own enthusiasm and break down what we needed to do and kind of be okay that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So I think that’s something I’m always working on.

Harry Stebbings:

Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast, I’ve been told. It’s not easy. I agree. Tell me, who should be invited to that sales kickoff week? That’s a tough one.

Latane Conant:

This is hard. I have no answers here. I struggle with this. I hate having people not able to come. I mean, one thing now, Harry, is now that we’re virtual, I’m going to have to think about how this formula applies in a virtual world. A lot more people could perhaps come, which will be nice because I think that’s the hardest part of planning an amazing sales kickoff is, I would love to have everybody come.

Harry Stebbings:

But you can have everyone there if it’s virtual. I mean, there’s no cost increase in terms of adding an extra person.

Latane Conant:

There actually is if you do a good virtual event, you’re sending swag packs and there’s always an element. Like we just did a virtual event and we had a live performer, but we sent everyone the cocktail kit in advance and then we showed them how to make the cocktail. So, but you’re right with virtual, I would say there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to expand the guest list for sure.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, no, totally. Tell me what’s the biggest surprise for you internally since COVID began. It could be in terms of pipeline movement. It could be in terms of team morale, but what’s been the biggest surprise internally since COVID began?

Latane Conant:

We haven’t missed a lot of beats and I’m surprised and proud of that. I think what’s interesting is Appirio, the team was pretty much 100% remote. So once you get to kind of a big global company, no one’s ever going to be in the same office, right? People are in Japan, they’re in EMEA, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I haven’t gone into an office in 17 years. So sort of had this like remote thing already. And so it’s been interesting to see the team just kind of plow through. I think that the sad part about it is we’re still getting a ton of work done, but it’s not as fun. So that’s what I have to work on is the fun factor.

Harry Stebbings:

Now this is the incredibly unfair one of me to ask, but at what moment in your life has maybe changed the way you think the most?

Latane Conant:

I don’t know if it’s a moment, but certainly a career stop. And I mentioned Appirio a few times and our CEO was so into culture. He was so, so, so proactive about culture and creating amazing culture. And for him that was like always a high, high, top priority. And I just had never worked at a company like that. And that taught me so much about really what it takes to win, what it takes to retain people, how important culture is to a brand and how important it is to customer experience. And our thing at Appirio was you can’t deliver a great customer experience unless you’ve really invested in a great workforce experience. The rest is history. I believe that that shapes everything I do.

Harry Stebbings:

Yeah, no. And listen, I totally agree with you and it’s a supremely valuable lesson to learn. The final one there, and it’s a tough one, it’s, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you join 6sense?

Latane Conant:

Honestly, I didn’t know shit when I joined 6sense and maybe that was good. Sometimes the less you know, the more willing you are to learn and try. And so I would say, I don’t think there’s anything I wish that I’d known. I’m glad that I sort of went in with eyes wide open about everything I didn’t know. Because I didn’t assume I knew anything and just got to learning.

Harry Stebbings:

Latané, as I said at the middle, I think it was, not many people are as open and honest as you, the transparency is awesome. And honestly, I so appreciate you taking the time. So thank you so much for joining me today.

Latane Conant:

Sure. Thanks Harry. Fun to be on your show.

Harry Stebbings:

Absolutely loved having Latané on the show there and such exciting times ahead for her and for 6sense. As I’ve said, great to have such a transparent and direct conversation and I absolutely loved it. And if you’d like to see more from us behind the scenes, you can on Instagram at hstebbings1996 with two Bs.

Harry Stebbings:

As always. I so appreciate all your support and I cannot wait to bring an incredible episode next week with the CEO at HashiCorp.

 

Published on September 10, 2020

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