The Modern Saas Sales Leader Needs to be a Full Funnel Leader

Becoming a full funnel leader
Reading Time: 12 minutes

Overview: Suaad Sait President of Xant shares how focusing on data and coordinating marketing and sales goals through the full funnel leads to an increase in deals closed.

Guest- Suaad Sait: As a high tech industry senior executive, Suaad has played leadership roles at high growth software. In addition to cloud technology companies driving value creation of over $15B. Most recently, Suaad was the EVP, Products & Markets @ SolarWinds (NYSE: SWI). And prior to that role, served as the first Chief Marketing Officer of Rackspace (NYSE: RAX). Suaad also serves as a venture advisor for Menlo Ventures working with Gild, Takipi and Unravel Data and Platform9. In addition, Suaad is the Chairman of ReachForce.

Transcript 

Billy: All right, everyone. Welcome to the Demand Gen Summit. I’m here with Suaad Sait, President of growth XANT.  

Suaad: Hi, thank you.  

Billy: Yeah. Thanks for joining us. Suaad. So today, we are going to be talking about why modern sales leaders in SAAS need to be full funnel revenue leaders. Before we jump into that, tell us just a little bit about yourself.  

Suaad: Yes, sure. Thank you for having me today, Billy, I’ve been really excited about what you guys are doing a ChatFunnels, you know, you seem to have had found a very hot part of the market, everyone is moving into a digital footprint out there. And so we’re happy to partner with you. Yeah, we had XANT bring to market a product for enterprise sales engagement. But that what we mean is we provide technology for sales acceleration.   

Our product is used by sales development reps, account executives in order to accelerate their pipeline development, the hardest part of the sales job, which is how do I talk to strangers and convince them of my value proposition so that I can sell them product, and we covered that portion of the full funnel, if you may. And we do it with our own special secret sauce of artificial intelligence that we call buyer intelligence in which we have behavioral data, data about people and who are the right target prospects who are not, and how to engage with them effectively, that are two way of talking about ourselves is that we are the ways for sales if use the ways that you can tell this, it’s not just a simple map and GPS application, it actually has rich data about people who have gone before you.  

And our application is the same way for sales professionals. That they have lots of data about who they want to contact and what the right people to talk to it cetera. So that’s why we think we’re great partners you help demand. We help accelerate that demand into real opportunities to turn into real revenue. So excited to be here.  

I’m old hack in from the software industry. I’ve had the pleasure of being all the way from a software engineer. To CEO, to a business unit, the business unit leader. Both at startup companies with zero dollars in revenue. All the way to a $10 billion valuation of a publicly traded company. If you were to say what I’ve done over the last decade. I spend a lot of my time trying to hack the code in what makes product distribution. The combination of marketing and sales highly effective for companies, because my thesis good, bad or indifferent, is that: the difference between an average company and a rocket ship company is really cracking the code on on product distribution.  

And so if you can crack the code on that, then, you know, even average products can be great. I think Case in point is Microsoft, they had highly averaged product with incredible distribution DNA and became, you know, the leaders even though companies like Lotus in the office product category had actually better product.  

Billy: Absolutely. Yeah. So let’s dig into that a little bit. So how has the world of sales changed in the last decade?  

Suaad: Yeah, you know, it’s kind of interesting. I’ve become a student of looking at this different distribution models. And I’ve been a companies that had Field Sales motion. I’ve been part of companies that has channels and distribution channels. Where there was no in house sales people, people that were people just managing channel partners. As well as high velocity inside sales motions, and the thing that I think the common thematics around sales. That is different today than ever before is that sales has become a complex mathematical game. And also sales is also become an operational game versus the art part of sales.   

If you go around the table of the leadership team different departments got more data centric in what they did. Supply chain and what happened there. For example, and eventually now, marketing and sales are sort of right in the crosshairs of that is that. I wrote a blog post and I’m dating myself, but maybe over a decade ago, which I was saying, at the time, about marketing, that marketing was going to go from crayons to caluclators. And I think the same thing is happening on the sales side. Is that sales is going from relationship deals to calculators and true operational prowess of running a sales operation.  

Billy    

Yeah, I agree with you. Having spent time even using your playbooks product, it’s all about the data and and hitting those numbers and being smart with how you’re utilizing your time. So, with this shift, what kind of sales leaders are you seeing out there in the market? As you guys work with people?  

Suaad: It’s kind of interesting. I yeah. I’m a categorization person. So I’m probably going to overly generalize this. But at least in the market, as I look at it from a sales perspective, is that I feel like there’s two kinds of sales leaders. There’s one kind that are, I call them super reps. These are people that were wildly successful as individual contributors. As salespeople, carriers probably crush that quota for decades on end. All great leadership DNA, so became leaders. And so what they bring to the table is leadership plus deal ninja. Which means they get on the on planes pre COVID, of course, and get out to customers and really enjoy the art of closing a deal.   

The other category I see is people that are deeply intellectually. Enamored by the numbers and the scaling around the numbers of the sales process. And I called them in my vernacular, full funnel revenue leaders. And these are people that actually don’t think about the last mile of closing a deal. They think that they have highly effective salespeople who can do it, and that if they need help, they’ll raise their hand and ask for help. But really think about, you know, what is five steps behind getting the deal? And how do they effectively work with marketing and the sales development team to build enough output for almost like a manufacturing process thinking.  

If the goal is to make tree and make paper sheets of paper on this side, which is revenue, they really think about the trees, and how to source the trees and run them through the process such that the output is revenue. And so I think there’s those two broadly that kind I’m sure there’s, you know, edge cases of people that function in both of the camps. But typically, I see people in those two buckets, especially in the markets that we serve.  

Billy: Yeah. So with that, the side that’s like, Hey, you know, they really working with marketing and thinking about, you know, where my trees coming from? What do they need to do to be successful?  

Suaad: Yeah, you know, I think that this is my point of my personal point of view is that I think sales leaders need to clip their frequent flyer cards and throw them in the trash. And you know, and maybe COVID is sort of a core driver to get them from zero to 100. on doing that quickly, because we’re all forced to be grounded. That’s number one.  

Second is, they should basically wear one pant legs side by side with their sales ops leader, so that they can understand and study the data of what it takes to take an opportunity from the top of the sales funnel, through the full funnel to close one business and become formula genius is such that they can request marketing and the SDR team to produce output at a rate such that they can crush their number, and make sure that they run the entire end to end operation so that they can see, you know, oh, the flow got stuck here. What’s wrong with the situation? Let me dive in there and surgically help fix, for example, deals are getting stuck at stage three and dying?   

Well, let’s get in there and diagnose the issue. As opposed to dealing with one deal that closes. Think about the mass of opportunities flowing through the full funnel. And helping alleviate any issues that could be internal process issues. For example, the quoting system of the company is running on a 14 day cycle as opposed to two hour turnaround time. Yeah, fixing that problem impacts every single deal as opposed to a single deal in the field. And so I believe that modern sales leaders are truly full funnel process flow. And operational thinkers as opposed to being deal ninjas out in the field helping close deals.  

full funnel process flow and operational thinkersBilly: All right. Okay. So, you know, you said hey, let’s let’s get right up next. We are their sales ops. become best friends with them. Now, I think the next step is probably marketing. And you know, how do they really become integrated with marketing and, and understand where their deal flow is coming from and that journey, so they can best best sell to that demographic?  

Suaad: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. You asked that question, Billy, cuz, you know, really, the problem. Or the challenge happens really at the top of the full funnel. I joined this one company. We’re trying to keep it nameless, they were a couple hundred million dollars in revenue. And they were like, Hey, we need to grow faster. So the goal was, hey, marketing go faster.  

What it turns out, because I’m the one minus thinker. I was like, ooh, let’s go steady all of our closed one business to understand what the patterns are defined up. Right personas define the markets that we’re serving. Go figure out how much available market we have for doing more of what has happened before and go scale it. By that I mean, is that if sales and marketing can connect at the top of the marketing funnel, to really partner in defining, who are we going after company? size, very specifically, what are the key attributes about the company?   

So if you look at us, in a we serve the enterprise market and the mid market? Yep. Inside of those markets, the key data point that we look at is. How many salespeople does a company have because that’s a good proxy for us to understand. That we have a math that says there’s a certain percentage that will be SDRs. A certain percentage, they’ll be inside sales, and the rest will be Field Sales. That gives us the ability to measure that well make sure that marketing and sales are completely aligned on the top of the full funnel on what to feed.  

Getting to the paper stage to say you cut down the wrong forest is too late. Yeah. And so let’s go align on what forest we’re going to cut down together. How are we going to replant trees to keep deforestation in balance, and then run it through the process so that we can get the right kinds of paper coming out the back end, if you may, as opposed to you know, I’m sure you know this Billy.  

I called it the lead hot potato, you know, the lead hot potato steps out of marketing. It drops into SDR, SDR complaints, marketing doesn’t do good. That hot potato goes to sales. Sales is like, hey, neither of them are doing a good job. And yeah, sales suffers. And, you know, what? Can you imagine a process in which it is one connected? connective, you know, set of tissue? It’s one team, it’s just the rolls change through the top of the funnel to close one business?  

Billy: Absolutely. I mean, the hot potato, everybody’s been through that if you’ve worked in sales, marketing. And seen it work, even if you’re at a great company. Every once in a while that happens. One of the things that as you’re talking. It seems like agreeing on the definitions on the stages in the full funnel. Between sales and marketing is one thing they can really do to get that alignment. Another thing I wanted to ask you about, though, is I’ve heard you talk about month 13 sales leadership before. And I wanted you to just expound on that for us if you could.  

Suaad: Yeah, so you know, this is more applicable to the subscription economy than it is to every single best type of business. And I call it month 13 sales leadership, as you probably have realized about me. I coin phrases and phrases that sort of makes sense to me and sometimes don’t make sense to everybody else. But when I explained that it sticks in their head.   

Which is that in the subscription economy. What sales leaders have to think about just the same way they partner upstream with marketing and sales development to make sure the right feed is coming. They have the responsibility to sell deals and close business that has high efficacy in month 13.  

So by month 13, I mean, the renewal is coming up, and is the customer there in month 13 or not. In fact, I joked you know I’m on a board of a couple of companies and I joked with the sales leader that I think the sales compensation should be tied to 50% commission And then 50%, after the deal renews just to drive home the point that we’re building a business for the long run, it’s not the one hit wonder. And there’s there’s, there’s people that come out of legacy business models, as I call them that we’re enterprise software, especially in the tech world where you sold a big license deal. And then you roughly got 15% of maintenance revenue on recurring years. So getting the big deal up front was extremely important.   

Now, the most, the most important thing is after the sale is, is to make sure that they renew for month 13. And then grow, hence, the value of retention. Gross and net retention become key metrics. And I think revenue leaders versus sales leaders who are worried about deals. You actually revenue leaders think all the way through from the top of the funnel all the way through renewal. And I believe that over the next decade, there will be the birth of new end to end revenue leaders. That think top the funnel all the way to net retention and gross and net retention in terms of growth forward. So that’s what I call month 13 sales to leadership in my vernacular,  

Billy: Well, I’m probably gonna steal that one from you. That’s why it’s so important. You think about are we selling the right customer that is going to stick around for 2, 3, 5 years? You know? Absolutely. So when marketing and sales, you know, they’re working together, if a sales leader wants to be this full funnel sales leader, they’ve got to get marketing to work with them a little bit. And often we know like, there can be that little battle between sales and marketing. So what would you encourage marketing to do to work with their sales leaders to become these full funnel sales leaders?  

Suaad: Yes, you know, it’s kind of interesting, I’ve been fortunate to be on both sides of that line that companies have probably five and $10 million in revenue, over to 1.7 billion in revenue, another one at 500 million in revenue. And what I did in terms of my personal methodology is that first of all, you have to reach out, so Marketing Leaders should go and act as though they are on staff with the sales leaders. Sales leaders leadership, go participate in their leadership meetings, make your presence known. And make them understand that your goal is to support what they do every day. That’s number one.  

Second is do the flip, you know, so for example, at XANT, what we do is we have a sales forecast meeting on Monday morning, first thing, and myself, my head of demand Gen, etc. We all sit in that meeting to understand what’s going on. And if there’s anything that we can help with for to help the sales teams close business.   

That afternoon, we have a full funnel meeting on the top of the funnel all the way through the baton handoff between SDR and sales. Make sure that they understand exactly what’s going on. So that they’re fully aligned not only on words. But also looking at metrics on a weekly basis together. And so I think building that two way bond. Where not just pulling them into your environment. But also participating in theirs is extremely critical in order to build that bond together. And more importantly, you end up speaking the same language. Talking the same metrics all the time. Then are not only top of the funnel metrics, they’re actually bottom of the funnel metrics as well.  

So my head of demand Gen, he is measuring himself not only on what he does in marketing, but how many deals closed every month, every quarter and the bookings number, and the salesperson is looking at how they are effectively taking the output. And I always say no, every opportunity is worth something. So when I’m handing it to you, let’s assume your opportunity cost of an opportunity at the top of the sales funnel is $2,000. Imagine that you’re handling $2,000 to every sales rep. Let’s make sure we handle that appropriately, if that makes sense.  

Billy: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, we do the same thing with chat. When we’re running in our analytics, we assign a pipeline value to each conversation to each meeting booked. So that the sales reps and the marketing team can see, hey, this is what this is probably worth to you.  

Suaad: At the company, you’ve got to be respectful of thousands of dollars that are being packaged up and handed to you. And I think that kind of lens changes the conversation that people are having versus you know, the leads are good or bad. It’s about how do we create the best wins for the business and not the ticky tacky conversations that typically happen in businesses.  

Billy: Yep. Okay, so last thing What are the tools you think sales leaders need to be successful?  

Suaad: Yeah, my view is they need to be data ninjas, you know, we use Domo. At XANT, obviously, were all part of the Utah network and we love Domo. And you know, there’s Domo dashboards that we built. And so I think the most important piece of technology that a sales or marketing team can partner on is some sort of data reporting technology with shared dashboards. So everyone can watch what’s really going on from the top of the funnel through to close one as well as renewals.  

And so I would take, that’s probably just absolutely a non negotiable for leadership teams across the revenue continuum. And to be looking at the same data together and separately, but looking at the same data so that they can have be objective about it and share the share really the goal and not take it personally about what has tohappen. It’s about driving the metrics so that real business impact happens, you know, you really think of yourselves as share holder value creators as opposed to revenue or deal creators.   

Billy: Awesome. That makes sense. Suaad. Okay. Well, thanks for joining us for our first Demand Gen Summit. And we hope to have you back for the next one swabbed.   

Suaad: Well, thank you, Billy. I’ve enjoyed it. And good luck with the event and I’m looking forward to listening to other speakers. You’ve got a great lineup. So thank you for including me as well.