On this episode of the Sales Hacker podcast, we talk with Marc Jacobs, SVP of Sales and Customer Success at CB Insights about the secret to incredible sales management and building a sales coaching culture.
What You’ll Learn
- How to instill a coaching culture in an organization
- Building a professional development program resulting in high quota attainment for SDRs turned Account Executives
- Aligning Account Executives and SDRs in the right structure to drive efficiency
- Building an interview process that leads to good performance and cultural fit
- Coordinating retention and revenue growth to ensure product-market fit
- Building the right revenue targets in coordination with the CFO and the Executive Team
- Getting to your targets using both top-down and bottoms-up plan development
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Show Agenda and Timestamps
Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Node
Sam Jacobs: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. I’m your host, Sam Jacobs, founder of the New York Revenue Collective.
Before we start, a quick thank you to this month’s Sales Hacker podcast sponsor Node. Node’s AI discovery platform can understand the meaning, context, and connection between any person or company by proactively surfacing opportunities that are highly relevant and personalized in real time.
Node is creating an entirely new paradigm for sales and marketing professions to grow pipeline and accelerate revenue philosophy.
Now on with the show.
About Marc Jacobs and CB Insights: Baseball Card Stats
Sam Jacobs: Hey everyone, it’s Sam Jacobs with the Sales Hacker podcast. I’ve got Marc Jacobs here with me, SVP of Sales and Customer Success at CB Insights. We’re so excited to have you! Welcome Marc!
Marc Jacobs: Thanks, Sam! I’m happy to be here. Appreciate you having me.
Sam Jacobs: You’re one of the best sales leaders in New York City. You built a great business from Greenhouse. What we want to do first though, is just get your baseball card stats. Give us your title really quickly.
Marc Jacobs: I’m the SVP of sales in Customer Success at CB Insights.
Sam Jacobs: Tell us a little bit about what CB Insights does.
Marc Jacobs: We have a platform. We aggregate lots of data on patents and media tensions through machine learning. With the analysts that we have on the team, we try to predict where technology is going.
We deliver that to our large customers through this platform. Which they then use to make strategic decisions either in their innovation teams or strategy teams to make sure they’re not the next blockbuster.
Sam Jacobs: CB Insights—what’s the revenue range of the company?
Marc Jacobs: We’re somewhere in the $30-50 million range.
Sam Jacobs: You’re running the sales and success teams?
Marc Jacobs: I am.
Sam Jacobs: How big is your organization?
Marc Jacobs: We’re closing in on almost 200 people. The sales and customer success organization is around 75 people—growing responsibly but rapidly as well.
Building a Coaching Culture Within the Organization
Sam Jacobs: One of the things I’ve heard about you from Dan Brown at WeWork. His brother Mike Brown works under you. Mike said you spent an hour with him in a pod last year going over the sales discovery process.
Where did your sales training come from besides just learning on the job? Are there specific methodologies that you use? How do you think about the act of developing a structured sales process when there isn’t one?
Marc Jacobs: What’s going to decide how successful your sales process is, is getting buy-in from the team. Second of all—making sure that there is a process and cadence in place, so you can have an actual coaching culture.
And in order to do that, you have to continually be coaching on whatever it is that you’ve been teaching.
I was fortunate enough at Greenhouse to have a really good sales enablement person who was great at helping with training. As managers and leaders, we would continually work with the people on our team. It’s the same thing at CB Insights. It’s something that I did bring to the organization—a coaching culture where there is a cadence from a one on one perspective, from a team perspective both from onboarding and ongoing training.
What is a coaching culture cadence?
Sam Jacobs: What is a coaching culture cadence? CCC. What does that look like, for example, at CB Insights?
Marc Jacobs: It’s across the board. It has to be a brought in throughout the organization. The sales enablement person is doing a great job of setting up trainings and making sure that people are getting the right onboarding sessions—it has to be across the board.
At CB Insights, it’s not only the manager that’s managing either the SDRs or the account executives—it’s pod captains.
It’s the AEs coaching the SDRs they’re working with. We have alignment between our AEs and our SDRs.
Hiring and Growing a Millennial Sales Force
Sam Jacobs: That is incredible! What are your strategies on motivating the millennial sales force?
Marc Jacobs: In my opinion, millennials are the best generation that we have if you pick the right ones and hire the right ones. You do have this perception that sometimes there is entitlement.
But, I would argue the other way. If you find the right group of millennials and you hire them the right way, they’re gonna be willing to work and do whatever is necessary to get shit done. Particularly if you’re willing to give them some goals that they need to reach and some rewards for hitting those goals, not just compensation.
The right way to interview the next AE/SDR
Sam Jacobs: You were one of the first people to hammer the concept of sales career ladders for me. Do you have a point of view on the right way to interview when you’re looking to hire the next AE or the next SDR for CB Insights?
Marc Jacobs: There are two main things I focus on. One is from a cultural perspective. You have to be able to ask questions of the candidate to see if they are in that group that I mentioned that feels entitled.
Or are they they type of person that’s willing to do whatever is necessary, get shit done, to get to the next level and be successful?
An easier portion of the interview process is making sure that put them in a similar situation that they’re going to be in when they start the job.
We test our SDRs on the things they have to do to be successful. They’re going to do a cold call. Send a personalized email prior to even coming into the interview process. We’re going test them for coachability. Finally, we give them feedback on what they’ve done and see how they handle that.
Spotting red flags in the interview process
Sam Jacobs: Are there any red flags that you have in the interview process? One of mine is a phone screen. If they don’t answer professionally, that’s a red flag. I call them and they say, “Hello?” Instead of, “Hi, this is Sam Jacobs, how are you?”
The second thing is whether they’re sending follow-up emails.
Marc Jacobs: The second one you said would definitely be a red flag for me. If there’s no follow-up coming back after the interview, I’m not sure how we can expect them to follow up with their prospects.
Some other ones that are red flags for me are if I hear anything in the interview process where they’re not sure that sales is what they want be in.
How to Pick the Right Startup to Work With
Sam Jacobs: What do you think are the biggest lessons learned from the last 15 years? You’ve figured out how to hire and you’ve figured out how to motivate people, but what else have you learned?
Marc Jacobs: First of all, picking the right startup to go to. The founders are essential. You have to be able to not only have smart founders, but you need to align with whatever their vision is.
Finding founder alignment
Sam Jacobs: What does alignment look like and how do you figure out whether you’re aligned with the founder or not?
Marc Jacobs: For me, it was about how they want grow the company. From a product perspective—we can talk all day about product fit, product market fit and all that. I’m talking more about just the feeling working with this founder/founders on a daily basis. Trying to go after some really aggressive goals, and making decisions together.
If you’re in the interview process and you don’t see yourself being able to work daily with those people and learn from those people, that’s gonna be a problem for you.
We talked about the millennial sales force and motivating them. I think that’s really important. From a investing and training perspective—you’re not going be able to scale if you don’t invest early.
We’re doubling down on hiring younger sales or less-experienced sales people and expecting really large and big things from them not only right now, but soon in the future. If you’re going to do that, you damn well better provide them with really good training, onboarding, and constant coaching.
Aligning Account Executives and SDRs to Drive Efficiency
Sam Jacobs: You’ve cracked some kind of code when it comes to the success rate of SDRs. What do you attribute that success to?
Marc Jacobs: We have our account executives work on named accounts, and these account executives are aligned with their SDRs. Generally it’s two to two. If an account executive has 100 accounts, maybe they’ll provide 35 accounts to 1 SDR, 35 to another, and they’ll do prospecting on the other 30.
The SDR has the opportunity to work with the account executive regularly to map out accounts and look at who we should be going after. They are on some of the important calls—whether it be with a procurement or a negotiation.
This gives them a chance to understand our customers, they know how to prospect, they already have prospecting mindset.
We’ve had a lot of success with it. The latest is eight SDRs that were promoted into account executives and every one of them hit their number in 2017. Some of them actually doubled it.
Sam Jacobs: Wow. Here’s a common objection to that strategy. You’ll get feedback, “What if I’m paired with a bad SDR?” or “I’m an SDR and I’ve built a compensation plan that includes some element of closed business. What if I’m paired with an AE that can’t close the business or move the pipeline along?” How do you address those objections?
Marc Jacobs: It’s a fair objection. We’re doing two to two. You’re never going to be relying on just one person. Also, I’m a firm believer especially when it comes to the AEs, that they are directly responsible for the success of the SDRs in many cases.
We also try to make sure we rotate it based on management—deciding how to make it fit best.
Building the Right Revenue Targets with the CFO and the Executive Team
Sam Jacobs: Always interesting to hear how a senior leader is evaluated in the organization. Is it just straight revenue or is it more complicated than that?
Marc Jacobs: In 2017, my main goals were on revenue, and then also net retention. And we were able to crush it from both perspectives. This year, our focus is obviously still on revenue but we’re paying specific attention to gross retention as opposed to net.
Sam Jacobs: How do you pick those goals? Do you work with the CFO to build those goals?
Marc Jacobs: Our goal is actually not to double this year. What we’re going to try to do is have 75% growth while also making sure that our gross retention is where we want it to be.
And that includes a product perspective a customer success perspective.
The way that I work with the CFO? You have to be able to build the plan both top-down and bottom-up. You need to make sure there’s enough lead flow to hit those sales goals and make them realistic.
If a number os thrown at me from a competitive standpoint—I’m going to do what I have to do to get there. You also have to make sure that you have the lead flow, the product, and the right team to get to the goal.
Advice to Budding SDRs and Salespeople
Sam Jacobs: Imagine you’re a 25 year-old SDR or account executive listening to this right now. What advice would you give that person?
Marc Jacobs: Take it one step at a time. Coming in as an SDR, it’s a great goal to want to be the SVP of sales or be the CEO of the company. But, make a lot of mini goals. And make sure that you’re in a place where you can achieve those goals.
Make sure you’re at the right company where if you do bust your ass and you work really hard and you see success, you’ll get to the next level in reasonable time.
Sam Jacobs: Who do you think SDR’s should report to—marketing or sales?
Marc Jacobs: It depends on the company. I’ve always been a believer that the SDR should reporting to sales. In the sales organizations and marketing organizations I’ve been a part of, sales is much more geared towards the coaching and managing of the SDR role.
Of course, alignment with marketing is extremely important. If you don’t have that alignment, then you’re not gonna be successful. It would have to be a marketing leader that has sales expertise, in my mind, for them to be able to manage and motivate SDR’s.
Sam Jacobs: How does your quota system work?
Marc Jacobs: It depends on the size of the deal. I’ll just use CB Insights as an example. I think that monthly quotas work from a tracking perspective, but quarterly from a comp perspective and a performance perspective.
The sales tech stack at CB Insight
Sam Jacobs: What’s in your sales stack and what technology are you using?
Marc Jacobs: I love this SalesLoft—I put it in at Greenhouse and then I brought it in at CB Insights. It’s a big part our sales stack. Obviously, salesforce.com, LinkedIn—big parts of our sales process. One of the first things I brought in at CB Insights was Gong—a great tool for recording and listening to and coaching off of calls.
We also just brought in Guru, because one of the pains that I was seeing at CB Insights was, we had a ton of great content, but no one could ever find it. Guru helps us to organize that content very easily. And then recently, we’ve brought in Clari, which is a tool that we use on top of Salesforce and helps us to forecast more accurately.
Marc’s top mentors, books, and podcasts
Sam Jacobs: That’s great, thank you. Who are some of your mentors?
Marc Jacobs: Sam, you’re one of my biggest influencers and mentors. You did not pay me to say that! I also have a person that I worked with a while back that has remained a mentor of mine, Jeff Miller.
Sam Jacobs: Give us some books that are important to you, some podcasts?
Marc Jacobs: I listen to Winner’s Dream by Bill McDermott. I thought that was a really great book that talked a lot about getting stuff done and what you have to do to not only motivate yourself, but the people on your team to hit your dreams.
I listen to a lot of Sales Hacker stuff too!
Sam Jacobs: If people want to get in touch with Marc Jacobs to seek you out as a mentor or to apply for a job, are they allowed to? Is there a medium you prefer?
Marc Jacobs: I’m fine with any means of reaching out to me if it’s about finding a job or about potentially working together. My email at CB Insights is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Linkedin as well.
Sam Jacobs: Marc, thank you so much for joining us today! You’re a good friend but also, you’re an incredible manager, leader and mentor to so many people in the New York community. Thanks for joining us.
Marc Jacobs: Thanks, Sam. I appreciate you having me.
This is Sam’s corner. What a fantastic interview with Marc Jacobs! Always insightful, and always a good person to talk to.
One of the things he said which I think was really important, is, he doesn’t make decisions in a vacuum with his team. He involves his team in the decisions. That enables them to have accountability and ownership.
If you’re out there in a leadership position and say you’re thinking about building a new comp plan, use the team to build that comp plan. They are not so self-interested and self-involved that you can’t rely on them for their insights. They will help you build something that’s going to address their concerns and align with the company goals.
Don’t Miss Episode 07
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I’ll see you next time!
Also published on Medium.