Tyler Holmes jumped onto Sales Operations Demystified to share his knowledge and experience in Sales Operations.
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Tom Hunt: Going to another very special episode of Sales Op Demystified. We’re joined by Tyler Holmes of Beamery. I think this is going to be a super interesting chat because Tyler actually comes from the light side of [chuckles] revenue operations, I’m going to say that obviously. Tyler has an extensive background in marketing, but has shifted over, and now is running sales operations at Beamery. Tyler, welcome to the show.
Tyler Holmes: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Tom: I want to kick off by understanding how you got into sales operations because I can see, in your work history, that as a previous director of marketing, you were responsible for sales op. Is that how you got into it or?
Tyler: I have a fairly interesting journey just in general, to where I am now. My degree is actually in microbiology, and I started out as pre-med, and life, as it seems to do, intervened, and I ended up actually in my second passion, which was teaching. I taught, seems like a lifetime ago, middle school and high school science, physics, to AP bio for about five years. Basically, I spent those five years learning how to teach teenagers, so I could figure out how to teach salespeople.
Tyler: Now, teaching salespeople was way easier than teaching teenagers. If I’m ever having a bad day, I just remember back to trying to teach a 13-year-old about mitochondria or something. The way that I started making this for and to where I am now was, my wife has been in marketing for years. We wanted to make a move to Portland, Oregon, I was looking for a job. This was at the time where teaching jobs were hard to come by, and I ended up actually getting a job at a creative agency in Portland, doing support and training for marketing automation tools.
This was at a time where, believe it or not, some of this stuff was fairly new. We had about 200 clients across three or four different ESPs, one of which was ExactTarget, which now is known as Salesforce Marketing Cloud. They took a flyer on me. There was a lot of me listening in meetings, and me just writing down a bunch of words that I had never heard of, and then frantically googling them, and trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. I sold, implemented, supported, and optimized email for some fairly large brands. I’m self-taught in everything I do.
One of the things that I started seeing was that a lot of my clients had no idea how their email was working for them, aside from they had a 15% open rate, and a few people clicked on the email. I taught myself a lot of what I call performance marketing skills. That alphabet soup that sales and marketing like to make. GA, GTM, PPC, SCO, CTO, SQL, whatever you want to talk about. I started building out this department of one, and the clients that I was working with, I was just offering help in various areas.
One of the things that I taught myself early on was Google Analytics. We were an omnichannel agency, we had a pretty large focus on email, but I ended up doing a lot of custom analytics implementations for web and mobile, [clears throat] excuse me, providing our why assessments for the campaigns that we were doing, which at the time, was fairly– I hate to use this word, but like fairly progressive. Like there wasn’t a lot of that happening, and as well as just doing some more complicated implementations of ExactTarget.
We started off pretty small. I was there for about five years. I left as a director there, and went from doing this ad hoc and just throwing my services out there for free, to working on dashboards for Nike, and working for Taco Bell on, at the time, was the second mobile ordering app in the world, behind Starbucks. Made some pretty big strides. I had a larger team, wasn’t just me doing this. That was how I started this journey. We were about 95% B2C there, and the small amount of B2B work that we did there, I really liked, much more process, people-focused.
I got the opportunity to be a marketing services director at a Salesforce shop called Bluewolf. I was brought on primarily to handle Salesforce Marketing Cloud, but ended up getting certified in Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, a host of other marketing specific tools that plug into Salesforce. We were doing really, really large implementations of marketing automation, and then also working cross-functionally with sales and service. I got certified in that side of the house as well. We were doing work with T-Mobile and GE and a bunch of other ones that were fairly large.
I was writing the strategy, scoping the deals, and running the team, which was really awesome, and a great learning experience. I was doing a lot of travel, and I had my first little girl, and travel was not something I wanted to do anymore, or at least not as much as I was doing. I figured it was time for me to put my money where my mouth was, and actually run a brand for the first time. I made my first move through my first brand, which is a company called Newton Software, in the HR TechSpace. I was brought on initially, to build the ground up marketing capabilities, but ended up running both marketing and sales operations because there wasn’t anybody there to do it.
I ran top of funnel to close. I had about a $3 million advertising budget, and a full-stack sales org with AEs, SDRs, all of the host of technology that goes with optimizing that. Fast forward today, I’m at Beamery, another HR Tech SaaS company. Actually, the person who brought me on was the co-owner and co-founder of Newton Software, Joe Passen. He’s brought the band back together, and bringing me on to build out the GTM capabilities from the ground up at Beamery.
This will be the, actually, the first time that I’m solely focused on sales, and don’t have marketing under my wing, but I’ve got service and seller training and enablement, and we’re doing really well. Recently named in a shortlist of companies most likely to hit a billion, so it’s great.
Tom: Nice. Zooming in on to the sales organization at Beamery, approximately how many are reps and how many people can do [inaudible 00:07:42]?
Tyler: We’re a little under 20 at the moment, between SDRs, AEs. We’re starting to bring on sales engineers, and so the team is rapidly growing.
Tom: In operations as well?
Tyler: Operations, it is a team of one.
Tom: Fantastic. I like it. You’re currently responsible for everything that these guys are doing?
Tyler: Yes. That’s about a 70 person org. I have some help from an agency about half time. Yes, I’m doing a lot. I’m doing the admin, I’m doing the strategy, and learning, it’s fun.
Tom: Nice. Can we zoom in on the current sales techs that you guys are currently running?
Tyler: Yes. We have a pretty good stack. I mentioned Salesforce, we’re using Marketo for marketing automation. We’ve got Bizible for attribution, and LeanData, we use LeanData for routing and object automation. Using, which is something I’ve never used before, which is cool, or at least their services in this way, which we’re using G2 Crowd for some buyer intense stuff. We’ve got a direct mail platform. We just recently switched from SalesLoft to Mixmax for the velocity, and [crosstalk] smaller chores.
Tyler: What’s that?
Tom: Out of interest, why did you switch from SalesLoft to Mixmax?
Tyler: We’re not a high-velocity shop, so we’re not sending thousands of emails a day. A lot of the capabilities that SalesLoft had, we weren’t really leveraging, and I inherited a implementation that had some problems. Mixmax offered a lot more functionality, a lot easier onboarding, and just usage in general. We’ve been super happy. It’s really user-friendly, and it’s really made us a lot more efficient.
Tom: I’m assuming that you’re responsible for data quality [unintelligible 00:10:00] they send to personal org, and how they get it, and what are the prices in place that you think try and manage this potential challenge?
Tyler: Yes, data, that never ends. Even when you think you have it, it just seems like it crops up. I think Salesforce injects things in there, just to keep you on your toes. Like I said, ultimately, I’m responsible for everything that goes in there, and we work in the HR space, which is really not very well covered by a lot of the common data enrichment tools. Our ICP that we sell too, is fairly niche. I do a fair amount of manual data enrichment via up workers or other scrappy methods.
My performance marketing stuff has actually come in handy here as there’s some fair amount of tools that are not really designed for what I’m using them for, but I’ve been able to leverage for, at scale, data enrichment at Beamery. I’m really strict about what can go into Salesforce, and who can actually create stuff. We’ve done a pretty good job of getting our total addressable market into Salesforce as we know it, so that we don’t actually add a lot of companies. There’s not really that much of a problem of duplicates.
We use Cloudingo for ones that inevitably do arise, but right now, the most of my time, as far as data goes, is spent figuring out how to enrich our data with stuff that helps us prioritize a little bit better, and none of that comes out of like a tidy box like Zoom, or Discover, or if it’s all hands on deck manual work, or leveraging some teams of up workers or various ways of doing that.
Tom: Actually, the fact that your ICP is not covered by those big data providers, is also potentially a good thing as well because you’re having to work harder to get that data, which means that, in theory, those people are not getting as much outreach done to them. Would you agree?
Tyler: Yes. I think for 2020, one of my goals is to probably bring on someone, even if it’s not one of the bigger tools. We do obviously need to find people, in general. We leverage sales navigator, but getting people’s contact information and things like that, that’s always a challenge for people. It hasn’t hampered us yet, but we don’t have, like I said, the data that I can pull, aside from contacts, out of those tools is just– It’s not helpful for us.
Tom: Yes. Let’s talk about your relationship with the sales team. I know you have experience teaching people. How do you think that experience helps you in engaging with your reps at the moment?
Tyler: Yes, we have a, on one hand, a very seasoned group of sales folks. We made a commitment to hire people who have been doing this job for a while, and more specifically, doing this job, selling HR Tech. It’s a very interesting market to sell to. It’s a very specific kind of buyer persona. People who have done it before, you kind of have a leg up, as well as just kind of knowing the space and knowing the players. It’s a fairly well– It’s a tight-knit group. On the one hand, I’ve got these very seasoned sellers, on the other hand, I’ve got a group of SDRs that are young and very good at what they’re doing, and hungry to do things.
Trying to teach both sides of the game has been interesting. Even with some of these seasoned sellers, you’d be surprised at what they– Sometimes it’s teaching an old dog new tricks. I end up– I do office hours twice a week. I’m very open with the team, about taking recommendations, and I’m really responsive to change. We can be really nimble as a company right now. Coming from marketing, I’m really comfortable being a production cowboy, as I call it. We’ve got a release process for larger things, but I never had a sandbox for the first three-quarters of my career.
To be able to make helpful, quick changes that comes from the team, allows me to score some points with the team, so they know I’m listening, and I’m frequently reminding them that I work for them, not the other way around. That’s the relationship that I have with them.
Tom: It sounds like a very healthy way to approach it. I like the concept of being a production cowboy.
Tyler: [laughs] Yes. It kind of freaks people out. Coming from marketing, like the concept of a sandbox was not– That wasn’t really a thing. Well, the ones that did have sandboxes, you would build it, and then they had no way of getting it into production, so you would end up building it again. Not only did you build it once without a mistake, now you have to build it a second time without a mistake. It was just faster to just be– Measure twice at once.
Tom: Got it. Any tips on onboarding sales reps? I’m sure you guys have probably done hiring in the past year.
Tyler: Yes. We’re young. We don’t have a lot of specialized roles, we don’t have a lot of hierarchy that a lot of more long and the two companies have. We’re hiring for it, but we don’t have a role like sales enablement. Like I said, I’m in charge of training and enablement, so I built out that onboarding and training program, getting people demo certified, teaching them Salesforce processes. Like I said, we’re committed to hiring these experienced sellers, but I’m doing everything from teaching somebody what a lead and a contact is because they had a proprietary CRM that they used wherever they were at prior, and this is a new thing to them.
It’s a fairly labor-intensive, hands-on approach, and we start before their shadow graces our door, basically. We talk regularly, we meet regularly. I help price and work their first few deals along with my VP, and make a lot of quick process videos. As I’m building, I try and remember to actually video myself talking. Unfortunately, I have to talk, usually. We work really hard at automating as many things as we can for them. I want them selling, not entering information into Salesforce. We brought them for their expertise there, not for their expertise in data enrichment.
Tom: Totally agree. My next question was actually about productivity. Can you name something that you’ve managed to automate, that saved like significant time from a rough day?
Tyler: Yes, we do a lot of that. One of the things is just enriching their accounts for them, with data that manually, you have to go manually do. One of the things that we really care about is, what ETS a company is using. That’s not something that I can just go pull out of a tool, although I have found a couple ways of automating some of that, but we went out, we made a few videos on how to find VATS, and then I farmed it out to a bunch of up workers and brought it back in, did some testing, brought it back into org, an it’s been– We haven’t had many complaints about the data quality there.
That’s something that saves them significant time because that’s something that they have to know before they even try and reach out to someone.
Tom: I bet that you implemented that since you joined, right?
Tyler: I’m sorry, what?
Tom: You implemented that process of getting the ETS after you joined.
Tyler: Yes, there was a number of those things. Like I said, our market is niche. There’s a number of things that I needed to go out and get, in order to understand what our addressable market was. Understanding how large the recruiting team was, and various other things that go into us prioritizing one account over the other.
Tom: I bet the reps really like you after you do that for them.
Tyler: It was very helpful. I think that’s the fun part of my job, I think, is dreaming up ways to make their lives easier. We did a lot of work of organizing demographics and technographics. I like to roll up a lot of things, and classify things like titles, or different types of actions that someone is taking by intent. Someone downloading something that’s a top of funnel asset versus someone downloading something that’s bottom of the funnel asset.
You can have the seller figure that out, but if you can take that information, automate the first process of like, “Hey, they downloaded something that actually you may care more about than this other thing.” It makes them more efficient. Again, I want them selling, not trying to read the tea leaves of what’s going on in Salesforce.
Tom: All right.
Tom: Forecasting. Are you currently responsible for the sales forecast, or do you give the tools to sales managers?
Tyler: The forecast. It’s always like a thing that– I feel like it’s a unspoken thing in the sales ops community, like you always read these articles about people, “Oh, yes, forecast. We’re like within 1%.” I’m like, “How are you within 1% of your forecast when you have deal cycles that are six to who knows how long?” These are humans that you’re dealing with. There’s no way that you were that good. You talk to these people and they’re like, “Yes, forecasting is terrible. I don’t even– We try.” One of the things that, as a new company, that’s difficult about forecasting is just, we don’t have a lot of data to lead on.
We haven’t had thousands of cycles, where we know that this thing is a leading indicator of good or bad, those types of things. Some of the stuff that I’ve built since being here, and we finally started to get some of the data around this is, and these are very odd things that you would think a CRM would do, but conversion rates between stages, and understanding what stages are taking longer, and starting to optimize those things. We’ve gotten a lot better at forecasting, or at least understanding and spotting where some of the issues might arise, because that’s– We’re at the upper echelon of enterprise sales.
These are big deals, they take a long time, so if we screw something up, early on, we have to be able to– We have to figure out how to spot that early so we can course-correct because it’s big dollars lost. It’s not a high-velocity shop, where we’re losing $100 deal because someone screwed up. I think that’s where we’re at today. We’re always trying to be really good about forecasting, and we’ve gotten a lot better, but that takes time and continual tweaking.
Tom: Got it. What do you think is the most valuable KPI you can measure about a rep?
Tyler: For me, a lot of it comes down to effort, I think. You can teach skills, you can do those types of things, but if you got a rep that just continually is just not putting enough effort in, that’s always a very leading indicator for me. We don’t, today, get measured down to the, “Did you get your 137 emails out today?” It’s really about looking at overtime, “What are they doing? How are they doing it?” Then having those– A lot of the stuff these KPIs are trying to get to a lot of the stuff in CRM is so much is the lagging indicator.
It’s like, “Oh, well, guess we’ll have to try that again later. Screwed that one up three months ago. Wish we would have had some sort of leading indicator to know about that.” It’s really trying to get to some of those leading indicators of, are their meetings dropping off? Did they not send enough emails last week or is their productivity dipping? A lot of that is productivity, and trying to spot, what I call, spot the weird element. Manage by exception. Nothing super fancy, really.
Tom: Okay. Final question is who, in the sales ops world, has taught you the most that you know?
Tyler: Like I said, I’m totally self-taught, other than being a nerd and asking a lot of questions from a lot of people. I seek advice from everywhere. One of the communities that’s always super helpful is the Modern Sales Pro Community. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of those folks, and everybody’s always immensely helpful. I love talking shop with anyone in any kind of ops. Sales ops, marketing ops, different industry, high velocity enterprise, you name it.
I’m not creative when it comes to art and design. Coming up with creative ways to solve problems and doing those things, that’s my creativity. I think what’s cool about ops for me, is that there’s not that many best practices of, “You must do it this way.” If someone comes up with a scalable way to manage something that’s cool, and it works, I love seeing how other people have done stuff. I learn things from everybody that I talk to. Sales and marketing are so massive that it’s impossible for any one person to know everything. Whether it’s just evaluating tools, everybody knows that sales and marketing tech stack is just silly.
I think I would rather sit down with leaders in cross-functional roles, and pick their brains, then just sit down with ops people. Yes, I love talking to everybody that’s in that role, because I always end up learning something.
Tom: Got it. Let me pick out the thing that I liked. I sometimes find myself about to say something about salespeople, and I always stop myself. You said that [inaudible 00:25:19]. I really liked the part about the two ways you said about helping salespeople, and being a production cowboy to get stuff out of the way like a month to get this small thing changed. Then a really good analogy was about not trying to stop the salespeople from having to read tea bags when a lead comes in, because the more you can just give them, the less time you have to find out wondering.
The final one was, your data quality in that it never is going to stop, and actually your Salesforce did inject [inaudible 00:25:55] is probably a good thing because it will keep you like making it back. That was awesome. Thank you very much for your time.
Tyler: Yes, thank you. Appreciate it.
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