The B2B buying process is always in a state of evolution, but one often overlooked thought is that this evolution also impacts current relationships between buyers and sellers — making it far easier for churn to occur. While new technology emerges to help get in front of buyers and customers, many companies are choosing technology over personalized customer experiences.
This is something that Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, says is happening far too often nowadays. He has helped grow his company to more than 350 employees and produce a sales engagement platform that aims to bridge that gap between necessary automation and personalization. The company, which recently received a $50 million round of funding, has positioned itself to enable reps to scale their initiatives and engage buyers in a personal manner.
In an interview with Demand Gen Report, Porter shared his thoughts on the challenges and current trends taking center stage in the sales engagement space. He also shared how the BDR/SDR role is evolving to meet business needs, and how technology is progressing to put them face-to-face with buyers and enable genuine, personal conversations.
Demand Gen Report: How have you helped SalesLoft continue to evolve its offerings and innovate from a product perspective based on current trends and customer challenges?
Kyle Porter: I think we all know that there’s no shortage of information that shows the buyer’s role is changing. There’s report after report that shows how much information they’re able to gather in their decision-making process. What that really has done is increased the chances that that company is going to look somewhere else for a solution or leave the organization for a competitor. So, sellers have responded by trying to take on new technologies to approach their customers. They’ve adopted these mass email marketing system or robo-dialers that call 20 people a second. But at the end of the day, all that’s doing is inundating the buyer with hundreds of insincere voice mails, thousands of emails or terrible LinkedIn messages that don’t say anything relevant at all.
Sales engagement really emerged as a way to empower these companies and enable their sellers to deliver this amazing sales experience, but also doing it in a way that’s repeatable and scalable. We do that by letting customers come in and codify their go to market. Then, we deploy those steps; we become the email system, phone system and LinkedIn through our integration and their investment in us. Now, we are able to hold reps accountable for these actions and steps, and then we measure the success of those and deliver all of that for improved processing and results.
DGR: What trends have you seen in the sales leadership roles specifically when it comes to the ongoing focus on revenue?
Porter: I think the big one is the abandonment of activity metrics for activity metrics sake. There’s the old adage of just getting on the phone, making a hundred calls and sending all these emails. It’s definitely important to have activity insights. I’m not going to be the one who says the activity data is bad for you, but there is a rising contingent of leadership saying, “We need to make sure that these connections are authentic and sincere.”
Another trend is that roughly 53% of customer loyalty is derived by the sales experience. So as a company, your brand is hinged on how your reps show up for your customers every day. You can hire a bunch of junior people to train and give them an email blaster or you can build a culture of empowerment and make sure that they’re enabled to deliver that customer the best experience — those are two very different things. I think the modern sales organization is starting to recognize that they need to weave the brand’s banner into every interaction.
DGR: How do you see sales leadership’s expectations and challenges to meet those goals evolving with what you’re seeing in the space?
Porter: Every year, if there’s a new fastest growing company, then our expectations for growth are getting bigger and bigger. So, these CROs, who were once tasked with having to build and grow experts, are now being asked a whole lot more. They’re searching far and wide for what they can do to keep that growth sustainable — not just for year one, but year two, three and four. There are a lot of things we can do to grow for six months straight really quickly, but they’re not going to be sustainable in the long-term.
I also think the CMO and the CRO have the exact same challenge to work with each other deeply. We’ve entered the era of “target accounts.” A target account means I’m going to select the company that should be my customer or I’m going to select the companies that we should spend a lot with. When you do that, you’ve got to follow up on both your marketing and your sales effort at those target accounts. So, the right hand of marketing must know what campaigns to set and what the left hand of sales has been running — and vice versa. They’ve got to work in collaborative ways to run together. I think we’ve been talking about that for the past few years, but it has finally starting to come to fruition.
DGR: How has the BDR/SDR role changed and become more strategic in the B2B marketplace?
Porter: Ironically, what’s starting to change more is the other roles — the account executives, the customers success teams and the field reps. And where they’re learning about all these changes came from what’s been happening in sales development over the last few years. So, sales development has been a pioneer for applying technology to do their job at a large scale. It’s been exciting to now see it affect these other areas that are so important.
But the evolution that is happening in sales development is more alignment to target accounts, which means more alignment for the sellers and more parts of the team that are going after these important accounts. That team-based approach, multi-player campaigning and specific target-account focus are the big shifts we’re seeing in sales development.
DGR: Taking all that into account, how are you seeing your leadership approach evolve?
Porter: Personally, I’ve gone from being the founder of a company with zero leadership experience to now having 350 employees on our team and growing 100% annually. I’ve made all the mistakes you can make along the way, and this journey has been one of significant growth for me personally — so it’s been tremendous.
I think the biggest thing, though, is learning to empower others, delegate [tasks] and hold my team accountable to excellence. Meanwhile, I’m making sure that organizational health is the topmost support thing that I focus on day-in and day-out. Organizational health, company values and operational rigor are key.
DGR: SalesLoft recently raised $50 million in funding. Along with the previously mentioned investments in the platform, where else will that funding go to help further grow the company and its offerings?
Porter: Two months after we raised the $50 million, we bought a company called Noteninja that competes in the meeting intelligence category alongside companies like Gong and Chorus. We purchased that business, integrated it into SalesLoft in 45 days and, now, we offer complete meeting intelligence to our customers. What that means is that if any of our customer reps go on sales calls, SalesLoft sees that they’re about to go on a meeting. It joins as a bot to the calendared event and records the entire conversation. Then, it comes back and transcribes that conversation to text.
Now our customers can have a text archive of every important customer interaction that they’ve had. They can go back and search through it, find common keywords and phrases and mine out insights and data, such as how often the rep is talking versus the buyer. It gives our customers a lot more power to ultimately do what they came to do, which is to deliver their customer the better sales experience. That’s been an exciting one and a big investment from us.
DGR: What does the future have in store for SalesLoft? Where will your team’s focus be for 2019 and beyond?
Porter: We’ve already proven a very steep innovation curve with the way we’ve gotten to where we are now — and we won’t slow down. Sellers need a clear understanding of the right paths for what will most effectively deliver their customers with the best experience and generate the most revenue. So, we’ll work to constantly scour over the data that we have, the effects of that information and how people are being successful mining out ways to say, “Here’s the next step to take. Here’s the new process to follow.”
Those suggestions are going to be the future of sales engagement, so that it’s not about form fills anymore. It’s about the computer knowing what you need to do and what you don’t need to do. Then, it helps you with the part where you’re in total control, which is that authentic, human relationship piece, and understanding their value and asking the right questions. It’s the automation of the automatable things and the amelioration of the things that are not automatable.