Metrics are Meaningless without Segments with Brett Queener, VC & Former Salesforce EVP

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On this episode of #Operations, host Sean Lane sits down with VC and former Salesforce EVP and GM, Brett Queener. Queener joined the company when it was at $11 million in revenue. Today, Salesforce’s market cap stands at $123 billion. This monumental growth is due in large part to Queener’s focus on specialization and segmentation – essential for the success of any ops pro.

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Full Transcript

Brett Queener: Ultimately, if you think about all of it, when people say like, “What’s the Salesforce model,” the Salesforce trick, which was like find a segment, subdivide that segment, focus your execution, specialize your marketing, your sales, your product offering, your competitive, your training, and optimize the hell out of it.

Sean Lane: The voice you just heard was the voice of our guest today, Brett Queener and the podcast you’re hearing right now is Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hyper growth. My name is Sean Lane.

If you had to explain the genesis of software as a service to someone, there’s a good shot you’d start your story by talking about Salesforce.com. If you Google top SaaS companies today, chances are you’ll find Salesforce very close to, if not at, the top of the list. So it should come as no surprise to you that for this show, we wanted to learn from those who have been there, done that, from within the walls of Salesforce. Today, we have that opportunity in a conversation with Brett Queener who spent a decade at Salesforce from 2003 to 2013 as an operations executive and also later ran specific product lines like data.com and Marketing Cloud.

Now, Brett spends his time today as a venture partner at Bonfire Ventures and his specialty kind of lives at the intersection of product and go-to-market. So today, he’s going to help us navigate that intersection. He drops so much knowledge in our conversation. So if you’ve ever had to put together a go-to-market strategy or you’ve second guessed if you had the right number of reps on your team, or you’re just a Dr. Seuss fan, you’re going to want to listen to this one all the way through. Before we got too deep, I asked Brett to set the scene for me of what Salesforce looked like when he joined in 2003.

Brett: I joined Salesforce. I think we were doing, I don’t know, maybe 10 to 15 million in revenue, which we now call recurring revenue. Although some portion I think it was month to month. So it wasn’t clearly contract CMRR at the time. So very small. We probably had, oh, I don’t know, 10, 15 sales reps had just started what we call the enterprise experiment with hiring a few reps outside San Francisco. There were over 30 in the field.
Brett: So super, super small. And at that time, you know what was interesting about Salesforce was there was no SAAS playbook. There were no podcasts like this. There was no model for how you built a SAAS go to market machine. And you have to understand for those that have some gray hair, part of 2003 softwares was sold in the following three ways.

You had clunky enterprise software that you would enterprise reps and you’ve flown corporate jets and you tried to close deals. If you did, you made the quarter. If you didn’t, you had layoffs. On the middle end, it was sold over the phone. It was somewhat easy to buy. And then third was through a channel or VARs, whether that would be packaged wrapped or through Microsoft VARs or IBM VARs, et cetera.

There was never a company prior to Salesforce that thought about selling direct one piece of software, albeit in different packages, to every buyer along the spectrum from a five person startup to a 50 thousand person enterprise, and that was what we were trying to crack and understand.

Sean: Yeah. And now we have behind the cloud that takes us through every single one of those plays. But when you don’t have the playbook and you’re starting to grow from whatever you said, 15, 20 reps, and I saw on your LinkedIn and those first couple of years you were there, you were getting up into like 250 reps by 2005 without a playbook. How are you balancing this idea of this really aggressive growth with what you think the right capacity is for the number of reps that you need to hit that growth?

Brett: Sure. I mean I would think I tell companies that I advise or invest in their sort of … There are two numbers that matter in terms of employees, and three numbers that matter in terms of scale, which is how many dev’s are you hiring and how many AE’s are you hiring? And I was not either of those two, so sorry, if you’re not a DEV or you’re not an AE, you’re an other. That’s the driver of innovation-

Sean: Absolutely.

Brett: And here’s the magic number, and I stun people when I tell them this, but at least 20% of your employees should be quarter carry AE’s. Those are sort of magic numbers. And so, we knew that look, if we ever got to the point where we thought we couldn’t hire AE’s wouldn’t hire all these other resources, we sort of re-doubled back and said, “Look, clearly we’re not making the AE’s we have productive, or we’re not focusing in the right area so before we go adding anybody elsewhere let’s tackle this challenge.”

But in terms of a playbook, I think the key playbook that we thought about for the salesforce perspective, and this is sort of the guidance that I use working with companies, is really thinking about what segment of market, as you’re trying to find market fit, we obviously had some fit and to be fair at salesforce we had one pretty amazing differentiation. Now granted, back then there were people that in IT were thinking the cloud was their enemy because it was gonna replace jobs, but it was pretty differentiated, right, it was software that people might use, you pay as you go, in theory. And remember back before salesforce. When we upgraded your software you didn’t have to bring in SI in to re implement it, right, all of your customizations was pushed from quarter to quarter with releases. Because remember, before that innovation was scary. Because then you have to re implement what you have. And we could hire 20, 20 years olds for 50k would work for ten ours a day, right.

So it was a little different, right? And San Francisco was a lot cheaper back then.

Sean: At the time, yeah.

Brett: But, the way to think about it is, we just went to the board a lot and did a lot of two by two’s and three by three’s, but ultimately we would try to figure out, what were our segments? What were we seeing? And then within those segments, how could we optimize the elements of our go-to market playbook to be more effective there?

Sean: At that time in salesforce’s revolution, Brett told me that those segments were largely driven through inbound demand. Salesforce went where the demand was, selling mostly to small tech companies without a lot of budget. But over time, those segments started to shift, and the offerings shifted with them.

Brett: If you really think about what salesforce did masterfully, in the end, other than at some point emerging. But, it’s interesting was really sort of understanding each market segment where there was potential demand for it’s product. And sort of some segmenting it’s resources and focus and tailoring the marketing approach, the sales resources, the product offering and pricing and packaging we brought to that to optimize to get the most sort of output in your year as an investment in that space. A one approach across all segments, doesn’t work. And, I mean, salesforce did an amazing job for that. And the lens you and I talked before that I speak to, is you’re trying to find market fit, and your trying to understand your business is what I call “The tool versus app versus platform markets by your value proposition.”

Sean: Yeah, I think this is interesting. [crosstalk 00:07:40]

Brett: Right, if you think about-

Sean: Can you take me through those?

Brett: Yeah. Yeah sure. And if you think about it what did salesforce start out, salesforce started as a individual rep for like 29 bucks a month with their credit card, could go online and tract their deals as a tool for them. And if you think about what salesforce is today, with the average change and the fact that if you tried to replace salesforce with something else, you’ve gotta rip 18 apps out with it. Its a platform. I mean first and foremost, Salesforce is your on demand cloud platform. Yes, it’s got the CRM data and the rest of it, but so much of your business and other applications in critical processes are tied into it.

When I talk to people, it’s really important to me to think through tool versus app versus platform. And why do I think about that, it’s interesting talking to you guys adrift and how you guys are trying to change going away from lead forums and just letting people to converse the way that they wanna converse, although I just dropped my daughter off for college and she hasn’t responded except through text, maybe I need to create a communication page [crosstalk 00:08:38] Maybe I need some retargeting.

But it’s so funny, right? Because if you think about so much of selling, if you’re a sales operations or a salesman you’re able but the rest of it you’ll know what I’m saying. But you bring in the blue sheet, pink sheet, Miller Heiman value vision, Barry Wright, etc. It was just this whole prospect of value selling, and getting the buyer into your mind, and changing the way they think. And asking discovery questions where you ask the magic three questions to which if they say yes you uniquely know you have the acquired capabilities so you’ve got them in the trap, etc, etc. Right? It’s also all predicated on BATNA or SIFT which we know is a joke, right? Because the people that go to your website fill out lead forums or talk to you via drift, they don’t have power. They may not have a bunch of tech, but they’re smart and they’re investigating.

This whole idea, I say, is a waste because in today’s world I think a buyer’s well informed. I think they have no time for 30 discovery questions, they know exactly what you’re trying to do and you’re just gonna create unnecessary friction. I’ll give you an example, I was talking to a company that by all external metrics is killing it. It’s on its way to being a unicorn. But they have one product, it’s very complex but it’s great and powerful, and they’re trying to sell it down market against competitor that has very simplistic product that isn’t that usable. And they’re trying to get to act surprised because they’re trying to say how much better it is. And for mine, I just tell them, “Well this is dumb.” Right?

You can have a SNB buyer whose just looking for a tool, who doesn’t want an app on a platform, and so this lining kind of the resources you’re bringing to bear. And so what I like to think about is, bring me a for real level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have, now whether that’s product complexity, whether that is sales process complexity, whether that’s pricing and packaging complexity, bring the appropriate level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have, or deal with, at the appropriate tool app or platform segment. And I think you’d remove a ton of friction. And I think you’ll do a lot better in those segments.

Sean: Brett already said it twice, but I’m gonna say it again anyways. Bring the appropriate level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have. So then that begs the question, how do you make sure you correctly assess where your product belongs in Brett’s model? How do I make suer I don’t mess up, whether I’ve got a tool versus an app versus a platform?

Brett: I think you generally start as an application or as a tool. But I think you generally, to some extent, are thinking about the segments that you’re in and sort of what you’re seeing as natural velocity. So what I talk about is, what I think about is … Look, a tool tends to be, unless you’re Slack or Atlassian or it’s not a product that’s bought, if it’s not a product that’s sold it’s bought, generally it’s a SNB segment. Generally our demand tends to be inbound. The sale cycle tends to be relatively transactional. You tend to be talking to a few people that are in a position and say fewer conversations. And it’s quickly getting to a, okay what’s the price and can I afford this and is it even fair? That tends to be more of a tool right?

As you start moving, and when you think about that the key that people ask me like, “Brett, what do you do and what’s your value?” And all this kind of stuff, I try to explain that I like the intersection of product and go to market. And so in the tool world, the product better be pretty simple to understand. It probably needs to be trial able. No SI or extensive services needs to be needed. There should be a sales engineer at site, right? If there’s a sales engineer on a product that’s a tool, Aaron you done messed up somewhere. Right? Your CAG isn’t gonna work.

Sean: And in terms of your point about [crosstalk 00:12:45]

Brett: In terms of demand-

Sean: You have mismatched those categories, right? All of a sudden it’s way more complex.

Brett: You’ve missed the boat completely. Yeah. And then on the demands side, this has to be inbound. Right? I have companies that I work with that have got to large amounts of AAR and realized, “You know what this CAG and this SNB segment is great.” And I go, “Why is that? You get a lot of inbound?” “No, I got one or two SGR’s for every rep.” And I go “Oof. Wow. Whew.” So you can’t have legions of SGR’s dialing out bound of SNB, right? Something is sort of inefficient in the rest of it. That SGR is some reason to be more effective moving up market as you’re going what I call the app buyer who’s gonna be tend to spend more money over the platform buyer.

So I think when you, depending on your stage, when you start out I think you kinda understand like, is my core value proposition something that’s relatively easy to be understood quickly? Or is this something that I need to kinda go explain and sell. I think in my mind that’s the clear delineation a little bit between tool and an application. Whereas a tool, your salespeople to some extend are helping people buy, because the value propositions pretty clear, they can see it. And when you get to app, it needs to be sold a bit. And when you get to platform, well you gotta go find 30 people to sell to an you gotta deal with all the enterprise “I can” or “I can’ts” Right? Then you need the sought to and the pen test done before you get a deal done. Right? And then there’s calling the CFO or CEO last day of the quarter trying to get your buyer to call. We know that. That feels like the platform buy.

Sean: I love the way Brett breaks this down. I also know though, that for many of you who are inside of hyper-gross companies, once you’ve identified which bucket you’re in today you might want to later understand the transition between those different buckets and whether or not, let’s say for example you could be both in the tool and app buckets in the same time.

Brett: I think you can be in both buckets at the same time, but you need to make the appropriate investments in terms of what’s yielding. I think the challenge of only staying in one bucket unless you’re basically saying I never wanna hire salespeople it’s a soft serve product and it’s wonderful, then you live in that tool space and you dominate that tool space. Right? But if you have an evolution to go up market or if your market naturally, if there’s opportunity, for salesforce it was like there was no other on demand players. They were forced to use shitty cloud software. So there was plenty of market opportunity.

But, as you moved up market, the demands and needs were different, they wanted to customize. Remember when I joined salesforce, we had four tabs. There was no API, there was no dashboards, I think there was a couple reports, you couldn’t change the name of any fields and there were no third-party applications. Right? There was no forecasting, no PRM, no etc. Right? But that met the need of an individual rep, or team of reps to be successful. Because remember, nobody was logging in and using these on preface to your own systems. So, you can be in both markets, but I think you have to tie that to where you are in your evolution.

If you’re early on, and your starting your company and you’ve done seed funding and A funding, you simply can’t afford to try and do three segments. Because one, you don’t have the money and resources to put enough in any of them such that it’ll yield anything meaningful. And two, that won’t help you in sort of initial market fit. I think you have some initial market fit as a platform, or an app, and a tool buyer and you have to figure out, which way am I going. Right? Am I an app player gonna be platform? Am I an app buyer thinking this is good, but the products too complex and I think there’s an opportunity down market and maybe I can be a tool? Or am I a tool buyer where I think there’s an app opportunity, but how do I do that without losing the beauty of my tool business. Do you know what I mean?

So, early on I try to get people to kind of focus in one area that speaks if you will, to their core value proposition and what they think they’re buying up front. And I think that’s important. Because if you try to serve all three markets, then your products a mess. For those that have kids, there’s a book called “If I Had Duck Feet”. And it’s a Dr. Suess book where a kid’s like, “If I had duck feet, I could go through a pond. If I had tiger claws I could do this, and if I had an elephant nose I could do this.” And then he was like, “No I have an idea. What if I had all of them?” And then what happens is the town calls him miniwhichwhatwho and they throw him in jail. Because they don’t know what he is. So then he just decides that he wants to be himself at the end. [crosstalk 00:17:24]

Sean: No, no, that’s perfect. So any of your companies that you’re talking to, if they are a miniwhichwhatwho, then that’s a problem.

As a quick aside, I went and found this children’s book. It is in fact by Dr. Suess and it’s called I Wish that I Had Duck Feet. And it’s awesome. If you don’t wanna read it yourself, someone will literally read it to you on youtube. Seven minutes of your life. Highly recommend. Anyways, at this point I’m just furiously taking notes as Brett takes me to school planning out these different go-to markets. And naturally as an ops person, my mind started to wander to metrics, but once again, Brett set me straight about the dangers of metrics without the context of the segment itself.

Brett: Metrics are meaningless unless we know what market we’re serving. Right? I have a company that I’ve worked with that has AE’s that sell SNB mid market and enterprise. Sounds weird. Like it doesn’t make any sense. Right? So a big thing we did at salesforce, because what you’d find is if you had a sales rep that had a segment that includes very transactual buyers that were in bound and easy, and larger buyers that you have to go after, they would suboptimize for whatever was easier to make their number. Which if a rep didn’t optimize for making their number good for the complem then they should be fired. Right? It means they can’t read the complem.

So what happened is, if there was a bunch of inbound, they would do that and never go outbound and we’d ignore that segment. Or if there was a couple big deals they were working off of they could bring it in and maybe they’d up the accelerators because they’re SNB complem but had mid market deals, they would ignore all the inbound, the inbound would wait for five days to get back because somebody was busy doing deals. So you can understand it’s just a mess.

So, and you know, I’m sure you see it at drift etc etc, the salesperson who’s doing the assisted buying tool sale is traumatically different than the enterprise account executive that’s got a six month sale cycle. They’re wired differently, they think differently. And so not only is it unfair to have contact switching within a rep to go through that conversation, and not only does it make you not aligned for any given section, well there’s no way to enable that rep, train that rep, support that rep, and there’s no way to pay that rep appropriately. So what I’m getting to now, is look, have the right product offering for the segment you’re in or segments. Figure out the right demand model and then let’s figure out how we start to specialize from sales world perspective.

The one thing salesforce did, and I think oracle had done to some extent was, it built if it will, this machine. It built this machine that allowed us to take young kids out of colleges, inbound SGR’s go to outbound SGR’s go to VSB reps to SNB reps to mid market reps, the GP reps. Whereas I think that if you look at the head of America’s, all of the America’s enterprise field business today, for salesforce which is probably, I don’t know, what is that a five billion dollar business? An eight billion dollar business? Was an SGR at my bootcamp that I trained, the first bootcamp that I ran in 2003.

So now if we have some level of specialization metrics can actually make sense. Right? Because when I see people tell me, “Oh, my lead conversion rate is this” or “My opportunity close rate is this” or “My ASP is this” or “My sales cycle is this” and give me that number in aggregate and I just look at them and I go, “This tells me nothing.”

Sean: Brett said over and over again that the salesforce mantra was specialize and focus. Specialize and focus. With all of the segmentation and specialization lessons in mind, we turned our attention to arguably the hardest component of a go-to market plan. The humans. How many salespeople do you need? Do you know which skill set you need for which segment? And what ramps and quotas should look like. Get your notepads ready.

Brett: Once we have some level of segments then we can start looking at performance. Right? And then basically I try to keep it simple. Right? This is not an algorithm, it doesn’t require AI, I basically have two questions I ask people. Which is for the AE’s, the account executives, we have in a given segment. Assuming you have sales exec’s. Are we achieving the desired level of quota achievement? And I’ll get a little more into that.

Sean: Okay.

Brett: And if you are not, and you want more, right, because if you are then you’re like okay either you have too few reps or your quota are too low. That’s always the good problem. You don’t need … If the company’s like, I’m crushing my quota number than the rest of it they don’t really, I’d get out of their way. Right? They’re not like, you need to hire more reps, hire more reps, hire more reps, right? Raise your quota. But generally if they’re not generally in a given segment or they wanna do better, I ask them is it an issue of do you have enough quality at bats or do you have an ability to close them? Because often that’s what it comes to.

Sean: Right, those are your two lovers.

Brett: That’s it. Right? I mean, so, and then the first question on the quota, the only thing I say about achieving your level of quota, I can’t tell you the number of younger executives who are like, “Well I’ve closed one deal it was a million dollar deal so all my deals are million dollars. So I’m gonna hire reps, I’m gonna pay them 150k, they’re gonna have a 2 million dollar quota, and I only need like 4 reps to get to 10 million bucks.” And I was like, “Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Okay.”

Or the other one, where how about your ramp? Well I have an enterprise rep. And when they walk in they’re gonna have no play. You have a six month ramp, but in month three they’ll do 25%, month four 50, and month six 75 and they’ll have 100% at month six. And then they’ll come to the board and they’ll be like, we hired those four reps were 40k off our plan. And I’m like are you 40k off the plan because the people have gotten to full ramp? Or there was actually nothing closed between month three and month five because there was no pipe in it’s a nine month sale cycle. They’re like yeah, that.

[crosstalk 00:23:16] So my point is, have realistic rep. If you have an enterprise rep, lets be clear. Lets not be greedy. Unless you’ve figured out something I haven’t figured out, there’s a rule of four to one. Unless you have an amazing in bound business, generally you’re going to pay somebody one quarter their quota. So if their making a million bucks, you might have to pay them 250 a plan. Right? For inside businesses and the rest who’s more inbound you can pay them less. But anything you’re paying them more than that, then you’re gonna be off from a metric number perspective. And look, enterprise reps, generally they ramp, takes at least six months to ramp. Okay inside reps maybe three, GB somewhere in between. But lets just be conservative for a ramping perspective.

And a general rule of thumb that I use and we used at salesforce and Mark as amazing with this, is how many reps do you have. And we’d be like well I got this many ramped or not ramped or, he’s like I don’t really care. How many reps do you have, I have this many reps, he goes okay. And say we had 40 reps, he’d go, okay, if 40 reps … Okay we’re gonna book six billion this quarter. What do you mean, he goes, it’s 50k a man. What do you mean 50k a man? Its 50k a man. Yeah but I know STR’s and marketing and the ramping, and he’s like yeah I don’t really care. Its 50k a man. So generally within a segment-

Sean: I mean, that was his way of setting the goal, or that was his way of forcasting this is what were actually gonna do?

Brett: This was is way of telling us, keep hiring more AE’s.

Sean: Got it.

Brett: He’s basically saying, at a minimum we need to do 50k a man, if we do more great if we do less, less. And it was a way of, it wasn’t perfect but from a math perspective, when you got to a segment if you were doing more than 50k keep hiring and optimizing. If you’re doing less than 50k, stop hiring and fix something. Which was interesting, right? Because one of the big challenges that the companies that you sell to, the companies I work with is the following. They get to some level of excitement, things are going pretty well, blah blah blah, and then they tell the board they’ve got it figured out and they raise their B round or their C round. [crosstalk 00:25:21] Go hire 15 reps.

Sean: Right, go hire a bunch more reps.

Brett: Hire a bunch of reps. Including in segments we’re not in. Then we hire 15 reps, and we realize that we don’t really know how to create pike for them. And then they don’t make their number and everybody’s sad. And then everybody gets on Glassdoor and says company, we’re not waiting anymore. They’ve cut back on the snacks, the kombucha is not as good as it was, and the company flames out. Right? It flames out like in six months because we have sad reps. So everyone’s worried about that. But you don’t get to like, oh I’m only gonna hire the reps when I have enough pipeline sitting here ready for them. That’s-[crosstalk 00:25:52]

Sean: That gets back to the balance we talked about at the very beginning right? Of that gross versus the capacity.

Brett: Yeah and so his 50k rule of thumb was if you’re doing more than 50k a man per segment keep hiring, and if your doing less in a segment go figure what’s going wrong and [crosstalk 00:26:06]
Sean: Do you think that so many different numbers, so many different metrics anybody could look at, but do you think that is the way to just oversimplify this whole thing? Hey, what’s our productivity per rep? Okay. Keep going, or okay we gotta stop and figure something out.

Yeah, I mean if you think about it, it’s just the math that summarizes all the complex answers I’ve been giving you. Right? I try to keep them simple, but it’s just an interesting one and it was always right.

Sean: So once you have figured out how many of each type of rep you’re going to need, which by the way is a herculean effort in and of itself, Brett told me then it’s time to take a look at things like average sale price. And from there, there’s really just two key metrics he cares about. Opportunity close rate, and opportunity win rate. Now if you, like me, were thinking “aren’t those the ame thing?” Think again.

Brett: The two calcs that I use, is one opportunity close rate. What starts with a concept of accepted opportunities and this is where I talked to my friends at outreach and sales loft and the rest of it and all the SGRs, they’ve made this in serious decisions in inbound marketing. No one knows what areal opportunity is anymore. Assuming we know what a real opportunity is, where we think that this is an accepted opportunity, right? Its not cherry picked because the rep only wanna work what’s perfect. But, and it’s not an opportunity because the reps have no problem accepting the SGRs opportunities because the SGRs are comped at accepted opportunities and there’s no downfall-

Sean: [crosstalk 00:27:33] That’s an agreed upon definition.

Brett: And for accepted opportunities in a given period of quarter I looked at, which of those did we win, closed win, divided by which of those did we lose to a competitor, and which of them did we lose to no decision? Plus closed one, right? So the numerator’s what did we win? And denominator is sum of what we won plus what we lost to a competitor and what we lost to no decision. That gives me sort of the close rate, right? And if that is less than 33% we got a problem somewhere, right? Because I don’t like telling marketing SGRs or pike flight you need to go create more tan 3x pike flight to hit our number. Because if you do, there is a level of inefficiency somewhere in your value prop, your market opportunity, your differentiation-

Sean: Right, and that’s the level [crosstalk 00:28:26] Real quick on that equation, would you, you’re very specific about the things that you’re saying why you lost. Are there categories of closed loss opportunities that you’re purposefully not including there? Or are you just basically saying okay, these are typically the two major buckets of closed loss?

Brett: Well these are the two buckets that they have to fall into. [crosstalk 00:28:45]

Sean: Okay. Okay. I just didn’t know if you were excluding something on purpose.

Brett: No, no. I’m not. Either a deal was done, somebody bought something, right? And it was from us or somebody else, or they decided not to buy anything.

Sean: Status quo.

Before we go, as always, we’re gonna ask our guest the same set of lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go.

What is the best book you’ve read in the last six months?

Brett: The best book I have read in the last six months … It is, I’ll tell you the book, I’m terrible with words. Japanese writer, Kazuo Ishiguro, the book was … give me one second. I’m 48, so I don’t remember this stuff as well. It was called The Buried Giant. Was the best book I’ve read in the last six months.

Sean: The Buried Giant?

Brett: Yes. By Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the … I think he won the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel prize. He won the Nobel Prize, I think for remains of the day. Amazing novel.

Sean: Cool. Alright, favorite part about working in operations.

Brett: Seeing scale happen. So much of SAS and software business is a slog. You work hard and the rest of it, you put a dollar in you get a dollar out. You get up, you put a dollar in, you get a dollar out. And when you start to see scale and momentum, where somebody’s putting in a dollar or unit of effort, and getting two dollars or two units of effort better, that’s a magic moment. And when you see that happening, it’s pulpable and it’s very exciting.

Sean: That’s a great answer. How about the least favorite part of working in ops? I guess maybe the alternative of what you just said.

Brett: For me, look I love operations, I love being operational. For me there’s a time when you don’t have an answer. And if you’re an operator, you’re type A, you’re fine with bad answers. You’re fine with bad news. You love good news. But not being able to understand why you’re underperforming in a given segment, as an operator, drives you crazy. It keeps you up at night.

Sean: Yup, somebody who impacted you getting the job you have today?

Brett: I made a decision two years ago, interesting decision, to spend the last two years of my kid’s high school career in a nonoperational role helping, sort of product manage them into the college process. My wife was very smart, she said your two most important products are two and three years away from GA and they’re gonna fail at launch, you’ve lost a lot of companies, a lot of people a lot of careers, why don’t you focus the ones that are most important? No, the great irony for those that have kids spending a lot of time with your kids the last two years of high school, they want nothing to do with their dad it’s very interesting. And so they inspired me to do that, and so not being full time operational, they would disagree. Visiting 36 schools applying, getting into 13, and then deciding of the four-

Sean: You got a whole new funnel to manage.

Brett: College process is easy if you just do it yourself. But no, Dan said what do I wanna do with my time, and they wanted to make sure I was out of their hair frequently and so being an investor advisor metric capitalist, gives me the freedom to spend time with companies on their time and mine and be helpful. And so I would say they’ve influenced me most in that decision.

Sean: Awesome, and last one for you, one piece of advice for people who want to have a career in ops similar to you’ve had?

Brett: So much of ops now, can get relegated to installing what I call the go-to market stacked. Whether it’s drift, or HubSpot, or Salesforce and Outreach it’s like installing 10 or 15 tools, and we put a lot of tech at play as part of the ops rule. Right? And we’re supposed to automate process. And I would tell ops people to start first with, what are the three to five questions for trying to answer, and if we had an answer for it we would know what letters to pull. And that should guide your role. That should guide the tools that you buy, that should guide the metrics that your looking at, that should guide the slides that you prepared for the board each week. Start there first, and work back from there. Often what I see is people have created a jumbly jumbly mess there’s all these processing tools and apps and no one can actually understand what the actual question is.

So much of what we talked to over the last year had nothing to do with technology, over the last hour. It was about how do we measure business, how do we know what we’re doing, how do we optimize around it? Okay. Then let me go put the processes and stuff in place. The other advice I would have from an ops perspective is, there’s no one defining ops role. The one at salesforce that we defined was whatever it took to make sales, data or ACB goal. So it actually included not only sales planning, sales strategy, pricing and packaging, it included field product marketing, it included competitive on top of all our administrative dada cleaning and the rest of it. It included training, to make sure I understood not only a planning model of what we were executing, and then how were we assisting, what was the sales process we were coming up with, and then what was the set of material we were assisting and analyzing other sales teams with?

But, there isn’t one defined role from an ops perspective, I’d define it as the guiding force that creates repeatability and scale and achieving the companies ACV and then at some point retention metrics.

Sean: That’s it. That’s all we got for today. A huge thanks to Brett for stopping by and dropping so much knowledge on us in this episode. If you wanna her more from Brett, he’s published a series of Linkdin articles about go-to markets and planning out your sales stages that are super helpful and very relevant to the conversation that we just had so check those out. Also stay tuned for future episodes, where we’re actually gonna talk to some folks who were at salesforce just after Brett left and talk about how planning, and putting together an annual plan changed after Brett left. When you’re dealing with 45 hundred reps. So stick around for future episodes, with those interviews. And last but not least, thank you to all of you for tuning in. Really appreciate all the feedback and support since the show has launched. If you have ideas of things you want us to cover, or you have guests you want us to have on, please, please, please reach out. Shoot me a Linkdin message. Tweet at me. Send me your feedback so we can continue to make the show better. And as always, if you’re so inclined, leave us one of those six star reviews on Apple Podcasts. Six star reviews only. Please. Alright, that’s gonna do it for me this week, see yeah next time.

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