This video training was originally presented at the 2019 Sales Hacker Success Summit. In it, VP of Revenue Collective, Jake Reni, talks with our Scott Barker about the new KPIs that modern sellers need to focus on.
What You’ll Learn
- How to discover your secret recipe to sales success
- Understand the buyer verifiers that get you to the next stage
- The importance of empathy
Outline, Timestamps, and Transcript
Hello and welcome everyone to the Sales Hacker Success Summit. Thanks for hanging out with us this week. Got tons of cool things lined up for you. I’m super excited to be with my good friend Jake Reni. Jake, what’s up my man?
What’s up man? Scott, it’s great to be here with you guys. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity.
We’re the lucky ones. So, Jake Reni is the VP of sales over at Tiled. If you haven’t checked out Tiled, definitely do so. They’re doing some really, really cool things. But what we’re going to be focused on this session is the KPIs that matter to modern sellers. And we’re really going to be tackling it through an individual contributor lens, right?
I think a lot of our managers and our directors and our leaders should be tracking KPIs, hopefully, but you really need to understand the numbers in your own book of business in order to be successful.
So that’s what we’re going to focus the time here on today. But Jake, before we get there, for those who maybe haven’t heard of you before, can you tell me a little bit about your background?
Jake’s background (01:09)
Yeah, of course. So, and I actually think my story plays into this conversation really well because I came from a kind of old school, Wild West industry that didn’t really take a modern approach to sales. And so let me tell my story, and I think you’ll see how it kind of ties together.
But I started my career in medical device sales. Right out of school I was selling wheelchairs for like a thousand bucks a pop. Like zero base salary. I mean I was selling a hell of a lot of wheelchairs.
Then to the next thing there’s this is the area where we’re selling light equipment into the OR, and then all sudden it was like, oh hey there’s reps out there that actually get to be in the OR, doing blood and guts.
And so my career progressed in the beginning as a sales rep moving throughout the medical field, to actually ending up being in the OR, selling surgical equipment, being in surgery. Blood and guts every single day. It was awesome.
So, I did that for 10 years, and then I moved from medical devices into SaaS. And that’s where things really changed for me.
I wanted to still be in a fast paced industry. I wanted to be in an industry that is really innovating — and I’ll get back to this point of it later — But from there, that’s really where things kicked off. Because I started at a startup called Instructure selling LMS tools.
And then, from there, I went to a higher view as part of a labs team taking a new product to market with video sales coaching.
That’s where I really kicked off my career in sales technologies and sales acceleration space. And then I went from that to another startup called Consensus, another sales acceleration tech. And then I went into a big company, I went to Adobe, right?
Yeah, so I kind of had a journey, and over that time I was taking on more leadership. And when I was at Consensus I ended up building teams. And then at Adobe I was running all of America’s inside sales force specialist org. And then I took over The Sales Academy for two years, and that was just wicked fun. I learned a lot.
And now I’ve joined Tiled as VP of sales, but each of these pieces have actually kind of helped me build chapters in my book of being a sales nerd of what I care about as KPIs. So, this is going to be a really fun conversation.
Know your numbers (03:43)
I’m excited, and I want to kind of double click on a few different times and experiences that you had. But, before we get there, as a fellow sales nerd, I’ve always kind of tracked my numbers — whether I’m an individual contributor, leading, whatever. Why do you think it’s important for individual contributors to know their numbers backwards and forwards?
Well I go back to my time as an individual contributor in the medical device industry. I had no clue what… I had a quota, and that number seemed to be a moving target every time the company wanted things to change. And that’s about it.
I had a great leader, but I was a field rep. So, I probably saw my boss twice a year. I probably talked to him twice a month.
And other than that I was on my own. And so, all I did was get in my car, get lost in the hospital, and I would knock doors. Literally, physically, knock doors all day long. And I had no kind of metrics.
So, I learned in that stage that good behavior and consistent behavior was important. But then when I moved into SaaS, and I started at Instructure and I saw the tool that sales reps were using in the SaaS industry and how all sudden, they were tracking emails and they were tracking sends. And they were using a tool called Yesware at the time. And that made me realize all the hard work that I was doing, there was a science behind it, and there was.
I could codify it, and that’s when I actually started paying attention to KPIs and started actually paying attention to what matters.
So in a way, I digress. I think I got off the path of what the actual question here was. But I really realized at that point what mattered as far as KPIs and how to measure it. And so I think your question, Scott, was what matters as far as KPIs as sales rep, is that what you were saying?
Yeah. Well, first, just why is it important to track your numbers as an individual contributor?
So yeah, to that point, why it mattered to me was that I realized that hey, I actually can take control.
And I realized that there was a way of actually codifying my metrics and understanding how I could back into my number. It was this enlightening moment of how I could take control of my quota and put a science behind it. Because up until that point, it was an art.
And it was interesting because when I started doing that, I actually hit my annual quota for the first time within seven months. I blew it out of the water.I hit it by like 300%. And it was just like I was doing things faster and more consistently than I had ever done in the 10 years previous.
So it matters because it’s control. You take control.
Totally. If you’re not tracking it, you can’t repeat it, right? Even if you’re winning, you don’t know why you’re winning. You don’t know the levers that you can pull. You could be doing all these things that you assume are making you win. But it could be like one thing. And then if you tripled down on that one thing, you could blow it all out of the water. So.
Totally with you. It allows you to, you take back control. It reminds me of, I don’t know if you’ve read Ray Dalio’s book, Principles.
It’s worth a read and he basically chocks up all his success when he was very young, a young 20 year old, to just started AB testing every single thing in his life — like insane. And so he would never make the same mistake twice. And so he would always just get a little bit better.
And he was like, I was never a superstar, but I was always getting better. And then over time now, as he’s a 60 year old man, he’s light years ahead of everyone else who is just out there guessing at what made them successful.
Most salespeople don’t know why they’re successful (07:57)
So it’s a super interesting approach. Okay, so listeners here might be like, okay, this seems a little bit obvious. Aren’t we all kind of tracking our numbers, but it’s actually not the case. And you’ve seen firsthand that sellers aren’t tracking these numbers.
So walk me through that time you mentioned that Adobe, you’re running the sales academy at Adobe. And here, you’re interviewing literally hundreds of candidates, correct?
Yeah. Walk me through what-
Hiring hundreds of candidates. Interviewing hundreds and hundreds of candidates. It was insane. So yeah, what… You bring up an interesting point. Because every rep thinks that they are tracking. And I would challenge you, all who are listening, to really ask yourself, do you actually know what makes you successful?
And I’ll tell you a story of why I pose this challenge or this question. Is because, after three years and running the Academy, being responsible for hiring all of the inside sales roles, I got to a point where one year I hired over 120 reps. Right? And you can imagine how many face-to-face interviews. You can imagine how many video interviews. You can imagine how many onsite interviews that that was, right?
And one thing was blatantly and glaringly obvious to me, is that reps thought they knew and they were in control and they would try to tell you they had a process. But when I actually asked them how they got there and what their numbers were, it was always…
I would bucket candidates. Because there was always the candidate that was like.. They knew what their quota was, but they actually didn’t know how to back into it. So they couldn’t tell you what their monthly numbers were. They couldn’t tell you what their quarterly numbers were. But they could tell you annually. Right?
And then you had reps who could go a little bit deeper and break it down for your like, hey, these are my quarterly numbers, and this is my monthly number.
But even then what I was looking for was two layers deeper. Because then there’s another bucket of reps who say, okay, here’s what I was doing on a weekly basis to get there.
But when I would ask reps to break down their quota from a level of here’s what your quota is, right? Here’s how it breaks down into a quarterly number. Here’s how it breaks it into a monthly number. And walk me through how monthly you would schedule your week to hit those KPIs. And then what daily KPIs did you set for yourself to know that you could predictably get there?
I can confidently tell you that maybe 1% of candidates that I talked to could actually give me that number. And I would bring him into my office, I would give them a marker, and I’d say, “Hey, walk me through your quota, and your how you attain your quota on a whiteboard.”
And their face went blank. It was so shocking to me that reps didn’t know how to back into their number. I actually ended up writing an article about it because it made me realize that it was not necessarily their own fault, but that managers weren’t doing a good job of actually teaching their reps how to take control.
And what I’ll say, the last thing I kind of added here is what every rep needs to realize is that there’s… We’re all making cookies, right? There’s generally only so many recipes to making chocolate chip cookies, but at the end of the day, there are core ingredients.
Now whether or not you want to add a little bit extra sugar, a little bit extra oil. You like them flat or puffy or you want more chocolate chips. Or you want raisins instead. The ingredients are generally the same, but the amount in which those ingredients are applied may change to get to the desired outcome.
Not every rep has to make a hundred dials a day to be successful. Not every rep needs to send 300 emails a week to be successful. But every rep should know what their personal recipe is to get to what makes them successful.
Does that make sense?
Totally. Absolutely. Yeah.
How to back into your daily KPIs (12:14)
So let’s walk through it then, what people should be tracking. What is part of that recipe? Let’s do that exercise, the whiteboard exercise, backwards if we can. So we start with our annual number. And we’re going to quarterly, then we’re going to monthly. From monthly we’re going to weekly activities. And from weekly activities we’re going to how many opportunities I need to create in a week. And then from there, we’re going to how many calls and emails does it take for me to set an opportunity?
Is there anything I’m missing there?
Yeah, let’s break it down and let’s… so if you’re a rep and you’re listening to this, I want you to walk through this in your head with me, and see how far you can go. And see where you get stuck.
Okay. So everyone knows their annual number, and then most reps are going to be anywhere between having a quarterly goal or a monthly goal. Okay?
So the next thing is what number do you have to hit every single quarter in order to hit that annual goal? Right. So you should still be pacing with me.
The next question is, what goal should you hit on a monthly basis to achieve that quarterly goal?
My guess is all of you are pretty much still probably checking with me. Okay, here’s the next question, right? How many deals do you need to close in that month to achieve that monthly number? Right?
So, I don’t want you to be thinking about, how many deals do you need to close in the quarter? Unless you’re an enterprise rep and you’re dealing more of a year wide, bigger close rates.
How many deals do you need to close within that month or within that quarter to get you to that number? And then the next question you have to ask yourself is — and this is where we’re going to start losing people — is how many opportunities do you need in play to actually hit that number?
So, how much pipeline coverage do you need? Do you actually know what your close rate is? You know, the industry standard probably falls between 33% and 25%. SaaS tends to be closer to 25% these days.
Do you actually know that number? So, then do you have a 4X coverage in your pipeline as a rep? Do you have four times the amount of your monthly quota that you need to actually hit that quota?
And then the question is, how do you create that pipeline? So, now you’ve got to break it down into weekly activities. How many demos a week do you… Well, actually how many opportunities do you need to create on a weekly basis?
How many discovery conversations do you need to have? How many demos do you need to have? Right? And then breaking down into the daily activities. How many calls do you need to make? And how many emails do you need to send? And how many touches do you need to make? So that you know exactly every single day, when you walk in that if I’m not prospecting X amount of leads, and I’m not sending X amount of emails, I’m not making X amount of touches today, that that’s going to affect me next week.
And if I’m not hitting that number that next week, that’s going to affect me next month. Because what, I promise you as a rep, what you’re doing today or not doing today is not going to hurt you tomorrow. It’s actually going to creep up and bite you in the butt next month and next quarter.
So you’ve got to break it down to be in control.
I love that. I love that. That was super, super helpful. So know your numbers. Walk backwards through your numbers.
How to track your KPIs (15:49)
So maybe I’m a rep and I’m like, okay Jake, that sounds awesome. But I got to make my dials. I got to do this, I got to do that. What are some easy ways to track it? Should I be going over to sales ops or to my manager and getting them to track it and give me a report?
How do you propose reps should be tracking it?
Yeah. Good question. When you asked me that question, I literally went back to — it was like PTSD — back to one-on-ones with reps early on. Sitting in front of me when I was asking them these questions, my own reps.
And I remember one rep, she looked at me and she said, “Well, I expect you to tell me what, where I’m at and what I should be doing to hit my numbers.” And I thought to myself, that’s insane.
The first thing as a rep, you should be thinking of, there is nobody else out there in the world accountable for your number other than you. I’m not saying that that’s the right thing, but what I’m saying is you should have that mindset first. That there is no excuse that I, the reason why I didn’t hit this number is because marketing didn’t give me enough MQLs. Or that the SDR didn’t set enough appointments or…
You are capable of driving this because, I can promise you, having been a rep who ran my own deal cycles and drove my own pipeline from end to end, you can absolutely do it.
Now, maybe you’re going to burn out. So the beauty of, for a lot of us who are in industries where we have specialized support systems, you’ve got marketing supporting, you’ve got SDR supporting, you’ve got all these different groups supporting you. But you should be, the mindset is you should be in control of tracking that.
Now, next is go to your sales leader, and go to your sales ops leader, and see if there are dashboards you can track this on, or spreadsheets too. But at the end of the day I would become very familiar with your CRM, and I would dig into your CRM, and I would start creating your own views. I would create your own dashboards, and I would take complete control of it.
Go show your teammates, go show your boss, I’ll guarantee you you’re going to get some high fives for that.
And then, if you want to level up, go find tools. Go find sales engagement tools like Outreach that are out there that are going to actually help you track your daily activities.
That’s where you can take it to the next level.
Yep. Totally. Yeah. My only point there is we’re in the greatest time period for tracking ever. People used to have to do tallies on that pen and paper, and then we moved to spreadsheets, and now we have things that.. we have CRM, and now we have sales engagement that lives on top of that.
So there’s really no excuse anymore to not know these things inside and out.
For sure. The first 10 years of my career I never, we never had a CRM and I was working for a $5 billion company. And that maybe gives away some of my age too. But CRM wasn’t a thing.
We were tracking — this is before even modern processes — we were tracking basically out of outlook. We were using outlook cards.
That was my first, at a travel agency that was the same. We had a color coded system in Outlook.
And that would show if I needed to follow up and stuff.
Guys, can you imagine yourself living in a time where you are using Outlook as… There are people going around the country making money teaching these systems to companies on how to prospect out of Outlook. It was crazy.
Buyer verifiers (19:29)
Super wild. Okay. Let’s talk about maybe a KPI that’s not as obvious, right? Walking backwards through your number, that kind of makes sense. But what about the other things that can be markers of success that maybe the normal rep doesn’t pay attention to?
It’s a good question, man. There’s so many that I can nerd out about, but I think about it, and it’s not necessarily about a specific KPI, but it’s a type of KPI.
Okay. So for those of you who have sales orgs that are running with a sophisticated CRM and you have it, you have stages in your CRM, right? Most CRMs I’ve seen have roughly six to eight stages, or five to eight stages. And what you’ll notice is that there’s an exit or entrance criteria that is required before you can move on to the next stage. Right?
So, before your boss or your sales ops org let’s you move from stage one to stage two, or stage two to stage three. You’re like, here’s some required fields that have to be filled out, otherwise you can’t move on, right? That’s the exit criteria.
Now, most of those, 90% of the time, 99% of the time I see are built off of rep activities, right? So did the rep do this? Did the rep do this? Did the rep send this email? Did the rep have this meeting?
Uncovered the decision maker or something like that.
Correct. And what you guys know, those are listening. You guys know that you’ve learned how to game that, right? There’s no checks and balances on you to prove whether or not you did that.
And so that’s not really a measure of success.
What you should be tracking instead is what are the buyer verifiers, right? What are the buyer outcomes required at those stages to prove at that stage is complete? Because this is the buyer’s journey.
We’re not selling the way you want to sell. We’re selling the way buyers are wanting to buy. So what is required in stage one from the buyer’s behavior that you can say was completed to then validate moving on to stage two. Right?
So, in a demo, Maybe attending the demo section that’s the buyer verification, that they actually attended a session. Or verifying the followup email that I sent — that the notes were correct and they sent a response back, validating the feedback that I gave them.
Or that they committed to me that they would be my champion in the deal. And they verbally committed to that effort. There are things that your buyers should be doing to indicate to you that they’re ready to move on to the next stage of the journey.
Those types of KPIs are much more telling to real deals than sales rep activity verifiers.
I love that. That’s a good, a great point. So instead of, let’s say, I can’t move to the negotiation phase until I have, until I know the decision maker. That’s easy to find out. Bob told me that I’d put it in and I get to move on.
You would say change, flip that, and make it a buyer verified outcome where it’s like the decision maker has to sign off on a mutual action plan. Or something along those lines.
Correct. Yeah. Or giving me access to a call where we had eight of those decision makers on the same call. A consensus conversation is very hard to have.
And so yeah, activities where it’s very clear that the buyer is doing what they are supposed to do to indicate buying signals.
I like it. I like it. Okay. This next question I like to give people I introduced some room to breathe, so I’ll keep this one intentionally open. So what’s one skill that you think sellers should be building to be successful in the modern world and the world that we live in today?
So, I don’t know if it’s a skill, or if it’s a mindset, but I think empathy is perhaps one of the most important. And I think it’s a grossly undervalued attribute of a salesperson understanding your buyer.
I think we need to think more. We need to think less like soldiers and more like scouts, right? A soldier’s mindset is conquering and victory and it’s an action behavior. A scout minded mindset is understanding. It’s searching. It’s seeking out, and it’s gaining understanding of kind of the lay of the land and things.
So it’s like having empathy to understand the position of your buyer, to understand the position of the people that you interact with, understanding what’s causing pain and understanding how that can be resolved. Not only from a business perspective but from a personal gain perspective and how can I contribute to add value.
Or maybe it’s recognizing that we are not positioned as a company to actually add value or we’re not the best vendor.
Empathy drives a lot of other characteristics that I think create very successful sales reps and very successful humans in general.
I strongly, strongly agree with that and that’s a great reframe of always think of yourself as that scout that’s going out and going to learn and leading with curiosity versus the soldier that’s here to go and accomplish your mission. I think it’s a great reframe.
Key Takeaways (25:14)
All right. As we wrap up, this has been an awesome conversation, Jake. If people only remember three things from this session today, we’ve all got… We’re inundated with information all the time so we can’t fit it all in there sometimes. What would you want those three things to be?
Yeah. Okay, so one, it’s understanding what your recipe is, right? What is Scott’s secret sauce to being successful as a rep? I know all the ingredients, but how do I break down those so I can know what I need to do to get to the desired chocolate chip cookie that’s going to just be so good?
How do I make that chocolate chip cookie, man?
So gooey. So good, right? Number two is understanding the behaviors that my buyers should be demonstrating in the buyer cycle. So the buyer verifiers, the buyer outcomes that need to happen to really indicate to me true deal progression.
And three, be a good human being. And in order to do that, be empathetic. Be a great salesperson, be empathetic, listen and learn and lean in with the desire and the interest of understanding and not the desire to be understood.
I like it. I appreciate all of those things and I appreciate you man. Thanks for taking the time, sharing the insight with the Sales Hacker Community. I do appreciate it, man, and for all of those that joined us, thank you so much and go and apply some of these lessons to your pipeline and watch it grow. Thanks.
Awesome. Go get it. Thanks.