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Podcast Pit Stop: Kyle Coleman on Creating an Effective Sales Engine

Creating an Effective Sales Engine

In episode 90 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Kyle Coleman.  Kyle is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Clari and is a recognized Sales and Marketing leader. He also hosts The Run Revenue Show podcast and serves as a Strategic Advisor at Lavender. As a LinkedIn Top Voice, Kyle brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the discussion.

The main focus of this episode is on the art of creating a highly effective Sales Engine. Kyle emphasizes that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to building such an engine for a team. He also underscores the critical role of risk identification in achieving a successful sales pipeline and highlights the significance of aligning Marketing, Demand Generation, and Sales Development teams.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!


Pitstop Highlights

Creating an Effective Sales Engine

There is not one way, and one way only, to build a sales engine.  But, there are best practices. 

Good examples of things revenue leaders look at are:  what kind of deal inspection calls you're doing and when and what kind of forecast calls are you doing and when.

Revenue is not just an outcome that happens at the end of the quarter, but rather a process.  (the most important business process)  Companies that can effectively break down this process into its component parts, and optimize them, will build an effective revenue engine.

It's important to know HOW you hit your revenue number, not just that you did it.

Staying Ahead in Revenue Analysis for Future Growth

Revenue teams with a cadence around win/loss analysis (from previous quarters) are in a position to review every won and lost deal and find patterns where they can reliably make bets for growth in the future.

When you stay ahead of the curve, you are able to focus on the type of companies that you've had success with and double down on them.

Driving Alignment for Revenue Impact

Sales strategies do not need to be top down.  Every single person who has interactions with prospects and customers (product managers, SDRs) should be giving input into the process.  

Doing loss analysis is good, but you should also be doing win analysis to understand where your biggest wins are coming from.  This should include looking at sales notes and buying groups.

Connect with Kyle



Full Transcript

Brendan:  Hey everyone, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I serve as the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today, Kyle Coleman, for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, Kyle.

Kyle:  Thanks for having me, Brendan. I'm really excited. 

Brendan:  Well, I am too. I've been a fanboy of yours from afar, so it's nice to finally have the opportunity to connect.  For those in our audience who may not be familiar with who you are, you serve as the SVP of marketing at Clari and also you're the host of RunRevenue.  And so those are two great platforms. And I think it'd be an awesome opportunity for you to share with our audience what both of those are and ultimately what led you to start.

Kyle:  Sure. Yeah. So what is Clari? This is a question I get a lot and it's hard to answer succinctly. I'll give it maybe a 30 second try here. The, what we find Brendan is that most revenue leaders have a really hard time answering the most important question in business, which is, am I going to meet, beat or miss on revenue? And the reason they have such a hard time answering that question is because they're experiencing all of this revenue leak that's happening across their CRM and their spreadsheets and their BI tools. as they're trying to figure out how to run the revenue process. Clari is a platform that is purpose built to run revenue. All the key revenue moments, all the key revenue workflows, all inside a single platform. That's what Clari does. As far as the run revenue show, this is the podcast that I host sponsored, of course, by Clari, where we bring on revenue leaders, CROs, heads of ops, those sorts of people who come in and talk about how they're practically tactically running revenue. Either using Clari or agnostic of Clari. So a lot of really sharp learnings in that podcast.

Brendan:  Yeah, I look, my company is in the revenue operation space. And so I have a, what Clari does is near and dear to my heart. Uh, and I love how you, you know, apply common language that's portable to ultimately enforce the value of what Clari does. So well done. That was a good elevator pitch. And, uh, how long have you been at Clari? What's kind of the origin story for you from a professional perspective?

Kyle:  I've been at Clari for four years. Prior to that, I was at a company called Looker for six years, business intelligence company based in California. I was a sixth employee. I grew up, uh, through the SDR ranks. Looker itself grew up to about 800 people and then was acquired by Google in 2019. I jumped over to Clari in the same year to lead both SDR as well as enablement. Kind of over time, I took on a little bit more and more cross-functionally starting with demand, gen and marketing operations, account-based marketing, and then, um, customer marketing and product marketing, and now Fast forward to June of last year is when I took over the whole marketing team, which is all things traditional marketing, plus our outbound, what we call revenue development, SDR BDR. We call it RDR and our revenue excellence team. This is enablement value engineering and competitive. So our marketing team is I believe usefully unorthodox and what this combination of functions gives us or forces us to have Brendan is accountability against the number. We're responsible for the creation and acceleration of pipeline for both our new logo business, as well as for our customer business. And so I'm losing as much sleep around the revenue number as our CRO is.

Brendan:  I think it's great to your point around driving accountability. Oftentimes that's a hard one for marketing. So it's fun to see how you're approaching that a little bit differently. So kudos, I'd say kudos to you or to your CEO for enforcing that structure. But, well, Kyle, you know, you have impressive background from a professional perspective, but we also like to get to know our guests outside of work. So as we get to know each other, what are some of those, you know, fun facts or kind of hobbies, interests, passions that you have when you're not working for Clari?

Kyle:  I am an avid runner. I run quite a bit, maybe like not as much as, not running myself into the ground. I'm in the 30 miles a week territory, which maybe sounds like a lot to people who don't run, but people who do run, they're like, ah, he's a lightweight. So I'm kind of in the middle. I have two Corgis, cause Corgis are the best dogs and I'll fight anybody. I'll take you to the mat on that. And recently, I don't know how this happened, Brendan, but the whole genre basically of biographies evaded me through my whole life somehow. I don't know how this happened. And so, Maybe two or so months ago, I just started getting really into reading biographies and specifically biographies of business leaders. So Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, but also like the Rockefellers and those types of people. And I find them so much more useful than the more literal business books, like actually learning from people who built enduring, sustainable businesses and how they did it, how they operate, the mindset, the values they have. It's been amazing. So that's a little bit of a glimpse into my nerdy life.

Brendan:  Well, Kyle, let's transition into the big idea. And this speaks a little bit to what you do at Clari. And you talked about, hey, am I going to meet, beat, or miss my number? And I'd love to talk a little bit about how to... To me, that's really around like applying science. And so often when we talk about sales as to art or as a science, and a lot of what Clari is trying to reveal is where that leakage is occurring. So you have an effective sales engine. And so... Let's talk a little bit about how do you create that? And I think a place to maybe start is, is there a standard approach as it relates to how companies build a sales engine or how should our audience think about that?

Kyle:  It's a really good question. And there's no one way because every business is different and every leader is different. And so you're always, you know, we have a whole series of best practices. And in fact, we just launched a revenue cadence playbook that helps business leaders architect. So we, we give you all these different things that revenue leaders are doing, all the different moments that happened throughout the course of a quarter and what this playbook allows you to do is kind of piece together what your own revenue can, should be. What kind of deal inspection calls are you doing and when What kind of forecast calls are you doing and when pre-sales, post sales churn, et cetera, and you can get all the checklist basically for how to run these revenue moments well. Now, the reason that this is so important and the reason it has to be a la cart is because revenue is not just an outcome that happens at the end of the quarter. It's not just a number that's reported to the board or to wall street, what it is and the way that we think about it, Brendan, and, and the way we see all of the top performing revenue teams think about revenue is that it is a process. And to put a finer point on it, it's the most important business process. If you are not managing revenue, like a process, you're doing yourself and your company at a service. And so just like any process, it requires a combination of the art and the science that you mentioned. It requires a combination of collaboration between all the revenue, critical employees and governance of the processes that you're running so that you can standardize and scale. And it's the companies that can really break down the overarching revenue process into its component parts and optimize every little component of the process. Those are the ones that, as you said, build the effective revenue engine. So it's not, you can't just look at it as being this whole and revenue or the forecast as an outcome. You really have to think about it as an end to end process and dive in to inspect that process, understand where you're strong and where you're weak, where you have areas of improvement, where you have areas of strength to double down on and create the process for yourself.

Brendan:  Yeah, it reminds me of when we, when working with CROs and VPS sales, um, often times, cause we do a lot of CRM implementations and, um, you know, one of the things that always comes up is when am I going to get that report, um, to understand like, am I going to meet beat or miss my number? And what we try to remind them is, uh, that's not reports are outputs, like, and you have to have the inputs to drive that output. Uh, and so a lot of what you're talking about is if you focus too much on the outcome without actually focusing on the process to achieve that outcome, you really have the wrong priorities.

Kyle:  Like some revenue teams, if, if the outcome or the output is the only criteria of your success, of course it's an important one and it's impossible to ignore, but what we see happening is companies will hit their number at the end of the quarter, but have no idea how they did it. And so is that really success? If you're treating every quarter, like a brand new race, and you have to figure out how to run that race every single quarter. That's not what repeatability is. That's not what predictability is. So by treating revenue like a process, by breaking it down, examining it, sharpening every, every one of the sub processes, as I mentioned, all the moments, all the cadence things that you can run, that is how you know how you hit your revenue number, not just that you did it, but how you did it. So you can go back and you can repeat it quarter after quarter.

Brendan:  Yeah, to your point, that's a really exhausting, I mean, it's already, I think you mentioned earlier, like feeling the burden of owning a number, but that burden on top of not like having to redo that every single quarter without having any assurance that you have the pipeline coverage as an example to get you to your number. That's a hard space to live in.

Kyle:  I'll give you an example right now. You know, right now we're in the middle of 2023. It's been a little tough for revenue teams to put it lightly. And what we see is that revenue teams that already had a cadence around when loss analysis around previous quarter inspection, those are the ones who are already doing the things to say, like when they got into, let's just say Q1 of this year, they're already looking back at Q3 and Q4 of the previous year. They're reviewing every single one deal, every single loss deal. They're finding the patterns. They're looking at the geos or segments or industries or whatever it is that they're finding success in, and that's where they're making bets for growth in the future year. And so they stay ahead of the curve as the macro economic environment shifts. They're the ones that are already a step ahead. You're already focusing on the types of companies that you've had success with recently and you can double down on. Now juxtapose that to a lot of companies that don't have that process in place. And are scrambling to do that right now. Like, Oh my gosh, I are our current processes and working. We need to pull the emergency brake and we need to start it all over from scratch and they're trying to on the fly, build this process to understand what, what can they do or what can't they do? And so if you get that stuff in motion, if you build that muscle now, you're going to be well suited, not just a current in the current environment, but in all future quarters, because you have the foundation that already exists to build upon.

Brendan:  Yeah, it reminds me of we had Channing Ferrer, I always say his last name wrong, but he was on the podcast before and he served as, you know, you probably do know him, I think was CR now at SEM Rush, but was at HubSpot in his past life. And one of the things that he talks about is a value of, you know, what are you would call it, go to market operations, revenue operations really is the hindsight, insight and foresight. And what you're really describing, I think to me is kind of like that risk identification, so understanding what happened. path to inform what we should prioritize. Whether that's in terms of doubling down of opportunities, but also with the deals that are actively in your pipeline to know, hey, what are the risk factors to ask the VP of Sales or CRO to ask those questions to ensure that these truly are deals that could get across the line for that quarter. Well, let's talk a little bit more. Let's dive into, so that was one in terms of how to, from a risk identification as it relates to, hey, are these true deals? You also talked about, hey, what to prioritize? The ones that are winning. I want to go into that topic a little bit further, and more specifically around how do you drive alignment with your organization? So to your point, it's been really hard for a lot of companies, especially in the SaaS category. And so the ones that are doing well, as you described, are the ones that are kind of doing that hindsight of what are the trends. And then how do you, once you understand what those trends are, how do you, how do you effectively get the, the whole organization, meaning the revenue team, and maybe the whole organization, but let's talk about the revenue team and marketing sales and CS to work together to ultimately impact revenue from that standpoint.

Kyle:  Yeah, it's a really good question, Brendan. It's not a, it's not a simple answer. It requires that collaboration. I mentioned before amongst all these revenue critical employees, because what we find is that the inventiveness of what you need to do or do differently to succeed as the macro changes, it can come from anywhere you've got individuals on your team who are super sharp, who are speaking with prospects and customers every single day and have a pretty good read on what kind of value props are landing and what aren't. So I think the mistake that a lot of companies make is they think that these strategies, these value props, all, you know, the way that you sell, they think it has to be top down like, Oh, the CMO has to come up with this or the CRO has to come up with this or whatever it is. And that's just not the case. Like you need to listen to every single person who is revenue critical. And that could be your product managers. It could be your individual STRs. It could be your AEs. It could be CSMs, like really go on a listening tour and speak with the people that are on the front lines. to understand what's working and what isn't. And then as I mentioned before, go through all the deals that you're winning and all the deals that you're losing and find the patterns. Understand, especially like a lot of people will do loss analysis and they'll beat themselves up and oh, we need product limitations and here's the things we need to do differently and fine. You have to do that, that's a longer term fix though. Go do win analysis and really understand why you're winning. Very few revenue teams do this and I can't explain it. It's such low hanging fruit like. Go into the deals that you've won over the last few quarters and read the sales notes, talk to the sales team, look at the buying group, who all was engaged and what you can do. And what we have done is we've shifted pretty considerably from the 2020, 2021, you know, a bull market where we were positioning Clari as a platform that helped you achieve your strategic growth initiatives. You're expanding internationally, introducing a new product. You just bought a company and you're trying to merge that with your current one. Like. All these things is what Clari's platform can help you do realize those revenue initiatives. That ain't happening anymore. People are not growing at a crazy clip. And so we've had to pivot. And now by looking at the deals that we're winning, by speaking with the people in the field, we have put together really compelling value props around how Clari is a cost savings platform. How Clari drives efficiency and productivity among all the folks that you have on your team. The types of messaging that people actually care about. How to consolidate. your various revenue technologies into a single platform with all the various use cases that Clari can help solve. Those are the types of things that our sellers were doing intuitively to win deals three, six, nine months ago. And now we've caught up with them from a marketing standpoint, positioning standpoint, the ads we're serving, all those types of things, the events that we do. And so it can be organic. It should be organic. Don't think that it has to be tops down. Really take advantage of all the smart people that you have in the field and figure out the right way for that bottoms up process evolution to happen.

Brendan:  Who, which I think is really smart, question on that is who owns that? Like in turn, is that a CRO initiative? Is that a CEO initiative? I know there are different stakeholders that provide input, but who's driving that? Like take Clari's example, like who is really driving that initiative on your side?

Kyle:  It's a pretty easy answer for us, Brendan, because of the kind of unorthodox purview that I have, inclusive of both marketing as well as outbound and enablement. So it's pretty clear that it should be me because I'm the one that is, you know, helping make sure that all of this messaging gets created and then cascaded across the York, but all of our executives are, are in, we, we have, uh, as part of our revenue cadence, we have what we call a leading indicators call, which is every Monday afternoon, myself, CFO, CEO, CRO. And we are looking, diving into the data and having this exact conversation. And so it's, it's all hands on deck. And I would say I'm the main person who's responsible for making it happen, but the conversations, the brainstorming that's happening at every level up and down the hierarchy at all of our different sales leadership meetings, RDR meetings, marketing meetings, and there's a lot of cross pollination too. So we make sure that our, we have go to market functions sitting in and embedded across everybody else's revenue cadence. If you're a frontline manager selling to SMB, you're going to have a growth marketing person and an enablement person in that meeting so that we can keep a finger on the pulse of what you need. Same thing for enterprise sales, post sales. Wait, so we, we try and be very intentional about who we have where, and then how they feed information up so that we can, uh, standardize and then cascade it across.

Brendan:  Got it. Yeah, I think that really helps because I think a lot of audiences, that's a great idea, but I don't know who should really drive that within our organization. So thank you for sharing.  Ok, final app question, Kyle, and I think it kind of speaks to what you just talked about. So it's probably a good segue, too, is for some of our audience, they may be on the lower end of maturity. And they may say, hey, that's great, Kyle. But I'm not there yet. I don't have these layers within my organization or the complexity. What would you say to them as it relates to when should you start to have this approach to creating this engine, understanding really the data to inform where leakage is occurring.

Kyle:  It's a great question, Brendan. And I know that, you know, the comprehensiveness of this full revenue process and the cadence and all the things that you can do, it can sound somewhat intimidating, but just like anything else, it's on a scale of maturity. You have to start somewhere. You can't just build a skyscraper in a day. You need to set a foundation and then you need to build a scaffolding. And then you can start to build the building. And so that's the exact same way to approach this. And so what we recommend to people is you identify the highest value processes that you want to create. across your revenue process. So for example, if you're not already doing deal inspections on a weekly basis, you, you got to do that. You need to create the checklist for your frontline managers and your reps to have a conversation. And there are one-on-ones where you know that they're inspecting deals the same way. Do they have the CFO engaged? Are they running a trial process? Do they have the paper process, whatever your sales methodology is, or qualification criteria are, you need to make sure that there are conversations happening between reps and managers. where those boxes are getting checked. And I know that sounds super simple, but it's those types of things, codifying, creating that process so that you can have a governed revenue process that you know is standardized and scalable across the team. So start small. Don't expect to create every meeting that happens every day of every week of every month of the quarter on day one. That's just not the way this works. Find the highest value things that you know you need to drive revenue right now and implement them one at a time. And then it'll build on itself. And by the end of a year of doing this, you're going to have a really tight revenue process and a really tight cadence. And you just got to start somewhere.

Brendan:  Yeah, it reminds me of a pass get with Mark Roberge, who was a former CRO at HubSpot. And one of the things that he recommends is very similar to what you just said, which is like focus on the one thing. This can be really overwhelming, but what's that one thing that if you actually attack it will have the highest outsize impact. And to your point, it could just be inspections and understand why you're winning or losing. And so I like that as just a practical next step that our audience could take. Speaking of next step they can take, as we conclude this podcast, Kyle, what's a way in which our audience can engage with you or Clari? What will be the next step for them?

Kyle:  Yeah, come to Clari, C L A R and all the information that we've talked about, you can track it down on our site. If you want to reach out to me, uh, you can look me up on LinkedIn, Kyle Coleman. That's the only social network I'm active on. And specifically, if you're curious about this revenue cadence playbook, we just launched it recently and it's gotten huge levels of engagement. CROs heads of rev ops, CMOs even are just head over heels in love with this concept. So let me know, um, just shoot me a note on LinkedIn. I'll send it to you. It's free. We're not. charging anything for it, obviously. Um, and hopefully it'll help you create some of that zero to one. If that's the stage you're in, or if you already have a decent level of maturity and you're trying to get from one to 10, it'll help you with that too. So please feel free to reach out. We're here to help.

Brendan:  Heck, I want that. So when we promote this podcast on LinkedIn, we'll be sure to add that in the comment section. So Kyle, thanks for stopping by. I really do appreciate your insights. It's been a lot of fun and I know our audience will benefit from it.

Kyle:  Thanks so much, Brendan.

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