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PODCAST 28: How High Growth SaaS Companies Build and Lead Sales Teams w/ Chris Degnan

Sam Jacobs

October 8th, 2018

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This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Chris Degnan, Chief Revenue Officer of Snowflake Computing, one of the fastest growing SaaS platforms in the world.

Chris is a 20 year Silicon Valley veteran having launched the first part of his career at EMC before finding his way to Snowflake in 2013.  At Snowflake, he was the first rep and single-handedly built the outbound-engine on the way to scaling the business from pre-revenue all the way past $150M+ in ARR.

Chris walks us through his habits, his principles, and his system for enterprise sales.

If you missed episode 27, check it out here: PODCAST 27: How Former HubSpot CRO Built a Predictable Sales Machine w/ Mark Roberge

What You’ll Learn

  • How to manage your career to solve for upside
  • Using a network of trusted peers to accelerate your development
  • Staffing a team of field sales, inside sales, and sales engineers in lockstep
  • The single number that drives the revenue model
  • The secrets to effective leadership and management
  • Incorporating MEDDICC and MEDDPICC to build a value sales methodology

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [0:09]
  2. About Chris Degnan: An Introduction [3:25]
  3. How Chris Found Success in the First 12 Months [11:24]
  4. Follow the Demand and Hire Accordingly [16:07]
  5. Why Grind and Getting Your Hands Dirty Makes You Hireable [23:29]
  6. Why Snowflake Use MEDDPICC [29:45]
  7. Sam’s Corner [41:41]

Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Aircall and Outreach

Sam Jacobs: Hey, it’s the Sales Hacker podcast. I’m your host Sam Jacobs and this is episode 28. We’ve got a great show today. We’re interviewing Chris Degnan, who is the Chief Revenue Officer of Snowflake Computing.

Chris was actually the first sales hire at Snowflake. They are now well past $100 million in ARR and one of the most successful enterprise technology businesses to come out of Silicon Valley and, in fact, out of the US in a long, long time.

Now, we have to thank our sponsors. We’ve got two sponsors this week and you’ve probably heard of them already. The first is Aircall. Aircall is a phone call system designed for the modern sales team. They seamlessly integrate into your CRM, eliminating data entry for your reps, and providing you with greater visibility into your team’s performance through advanced reporting.

Our second sponsor is Outreach.io, the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach triples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth. Outreach makes customer-facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives in results. Without further ado, let us listen to Chris Degnan.

About Chris Degnan: An Introduction

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. It’s Sam Jacobs and welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast. Today, we’re incredibly excited to have Chris Degnan on the show. Chris is the Chief Revenue Officer of Snowflake Computing. We’re incredibly excited to have him, so welcome, Chris.

Chris Degnan: Thank you, Sam. Glad to be here.

Sam Jacobs:  We’re glad to have you. We’d like to start off just to frame people’s experience and context. You’re Chris Degnan, you’re the CRO at Snowflake Computing. Give us a quick, 30-second elevator pitch on Snowflake, who they are, what they do.

Chris Degnan: At Snowflake, we built a cloud database from scratch. We started building that in 2012. Our founders are PhD’s from Oracle and other major database companies. We are native to the cloud, we are on AWS, we are on Microsoft, Azure, and next year we’ll be on Google Cloud as well.

From a competitive landscape, we compete with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft from a cloud data warehousing perspective and then on-premise vendors like Teradata, Oracle, IBM, and Netezza.

We’re a usage-based revenue system so kind of unique in that world. We’ll do well over $100 million in revenue and somewhere in the $150 million in bookings this year.

How Chris Found Success in the First 12 Months

Sam Jacobs: When you joined Snowflake, I think it was in stealth mode. I don’t know if it was pre-revenue, but it was certainly very early.

Chris Degnan: Zero customer, zero revenue. Not a single customer.

Sam Jacobs: So what do you do? What’s the playbook for the first 12 months when you’re in that stage?

Chris Degnan: What I did was, initially, I would go out and try to target the biggest companies on the planet. I realized that those companies are not early adopters, not even close to early adopters. After a few conversations with large enterprises, I really focused my time and effort on companies that were cloud-friendly, that had cloud native apps.

I would then go onto LinkedIn, build a list from there, and find the the CTO, the CIO, of an organization and send them an email: “Hey, I run sales at a cloud data warehousing company. I’d love 15 minutes of your time to just tell you what we’re up to and see if you could give me any advice on how we could actually make the product better.”

It was a soft sale and I went from banging my head up against the wall to getting inundated with opportunities. That really led me to start building out the organization and gave the investors, quite frankly, the will to allow me to hire people.

Related article: The SaaS Metrics Blueprint: How to Define, Measure and Display What Actually Matters

Follow the Demand and Hire Accordingly

Sam Jacobs: You get your first customer, at some point you start hiring. Did you already have a playbook or template for how you’re gonna build the org?

Chris Degnan: The first hire I had was of course an intern where she helped me build a demand generation, because I was my own demand generation machine. From there I was getting inundated where I did not have enough time to actually tell the Snowflake story because there was enough demand that I was generating where I needed more help. So I hired two inside sales reps who are still with us to this day.

I convinced them to bet on the company, on me, on everything, and that’s probably the most important thing that I’ve learned in this process, and what has enabled me to go from director of sales to chief revenue officer, is recruit people better than you. And if you’re able to do that, you will be rewarded.

Sam Jacobs: Absolutely. How did you organize them?

Chris Degnan: Effectively. They were regionally focused–we kinda just divvied up the country three ways between those three folks, and we kinda started going from there. Then as we saw demand in a specific region we would hire.

We would follow demand.

Why Grind and Getting Your Hands Dirty Makes You Hireable

Sam Jacobs: When you think about what’s gonna make you successful (or not successful) in your role, what do you think the biggest determinants are?

Chris Degnan: In my viewpoint, I get a lot of recruiters calling me and saying, “Hey, we want someone that’s built a company from zero to 100 million dollars in revenue,” and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s great, but no offense to you, I’ve done that, and I probably don’t want that job.”

My biggest thing is hiring potential over experience. I think potential and grind are probably the most important things. I think the thing that you have to be willing to do at every level at this company or any company is you need to get your hands dirty. A lot of senior executives are unwilling to do that.

Sam Jacobs: How do you test for that? How do I find the young grinders on their way up?

Chris Degnan: That’s a great question. I think it depends on what job you’re hiring them for. If you’re hiring a BDR, you’re looking for qualities in that BDR. In any given interview, the first question I ask is, “Tell me your life story.”

What I’m looking for are people that had situations where they’ve actually had to work, had to go grind in their careers. It might be they were an athlete, and they overachieved. Or they worked and paid their way through college.

You need to find that grit and grind, and you’re looking for that in their life experiences.

Why Snowflake Use MEDDPICC

Sam Jacobs: You guys use MEDDIC and MEDDPICC. Walk us through that methodology.

Chris Degnan: MEDDPICC is a variation of MEDDIC, and the P is paper process. And there’s an added C on the end, instead of just having “champion”, it’s also “competition”.

Assume that 100% of your deals are competitive, and if you don’t assume that, you’re basically wrong. Every sales call I go on, I tell the customer who our competitors are because I am that confident of our product.

MEDDPICC is the way that we use to qualify the deal very consistently–we’re focused on not just selling a commodity. If you do not have a strong pipeline, you’re going to grab hold to a deal. You’re going to hug it. You’re going to love it even though the deal from a MEDDIC standpoint doesn’t hold up to the qualification, and ultimately, you’re going to fail as a salesperson.

Sam Jacobs:  Love it. Chris, this has been an amazing conversation.

Chris Degnan: Awesome, Sam. Thanks for your time.

Related article: BANT and Beyond: Advanced Sales Qualification for SDRs & AEs

Sam’s Corner

Sam Jacobs: Hey, folks. This is Sam’s Corner. Another fantastic interview with Chris Degnan from Snowflake Computing. He sounds like an awesome guy to work with and an inspiring manager and leader, so I love the conversation.

Chris’ salespeople have an ACV growth target, which means essentially that they land an account, and then expand it over time, and so that is how their team is organized. I will also say that the life lesson that Chris tries to impart is be a grinder. Just go in there. Get your hands dirty, do the work, and be humble about it, and you’ll rise to great heights. That is your Sam’s Corner for today.

Don’t Miss Episode 30

Sam Jacobs: We always want to thank our sponsors, so let’s make sure that we do that. Aircall, your advanced call center software. Complete business phone and contact center. 100% natively integrated into any CRM, and Outreach, a customer engagement platform that helps efficiently and effectively engage prospects to drive more pipeline and close more deals.

If you’re interested in learning more about the show itself, see upcoming guests, play more episodes from our lineup of sales leaders, go to www.saleshacker.com/podcast-subscribe. You can also find the Sales Hacking podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your peers on LinkedIn or Twitter.

I’ll see you next time, and thanks for listening.


Also published on Medium.

This is a sponsored guest post from a Sales Hacker partner.

About the author

Sam Jacobs

Sam Jacobs is the Founder of Aqueduct Revenue Advisors and the New York Revenue Collective and regarded as one of the top start-up CROs in the tech community. He has has over 15 years of experience scaling companies from post-revenue to ~$300M, has helped raise over $400M in institutional capital, and has helped companies of all sizes achieve an average annualized revenue growth rate of 48% over the last 15 years.

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