Join DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Shuck and Justin Withers, VP of Product Management and Marketing, for a conversation about what drives high-growth companies.
DiscoverOrg released a Growth Drivers survey of high-growth companies, analyzed key findings, and found some surprising commonalities among these rising stars. So relax, get comfortable, and listen in as Henry and Justin discuss what fuels growth at companies who outpace the competition.
Watch the video here, or read through the conversation below.
What drives high-growth companies? Watch below:
Justin: Before we dive into the survey specifically, Henry, maybe you could tell us about DiscoverOrg: What’s its background on the topic of growth, and why is it so interesting to you?
Henry: When we set out to do this survey, one of the things that we’ve always strived to do as a company is to really help our clients grow their business. We realized a few years ago that even if we provided our customers with the most accurate database of their prospective buyers with the deepest intelligence about what projects and initiatives they’re working on, what their technology stack looks like, and what scoops are coming down the pipe for them.
That even if we were providing the highest quality data for them, that they still needed to be successful in their use of that data, and that they found success when they were able to grow. If we weren’t actually helping them grow and they weren’t actually growing after they used our data, it didn’t really matter how good that data was. It didn’t really matter how great our sales force integration was, or how great our Marketo integration was, or how much we were cleansing their data. They had to see growth. What we wanted to do as part of the study is to go out and identify, what are the things that are driving growth at high growth companies and what are things that are inhibiting growth at low growth companies because that would really inform the way that we work with our customers to help them see the growth that they expect to see when they invest in DiscoverOrg.
Get the results of our 2017 Growth Drivers Report here.
Justin: That’s great, and that’s exactly what came out of this report. It showed the concrete steps that a sales leader or a marketing leader can put in place to accelerate growth in the years to come. There’s really four emerging themes that we want to talk about today: One is with the relationship to doing the hard things. Two: The relationship to the technologies that companies are using to enable and accelerate growth within their sales and marketing teams. The third is with respect to their data, and the fourth is with respect to their team strengths and the attributes of those teams that really lead to – or can ultimately inhibit – growth.
Starting with the first one, Henry, what were your insights or take aways with respect to doing the hard things and how does DiscoverOrg feel about doing hard things?
High-growth companies are willing to work hard
Henry: The two things that jumped out from the study about doing the hard things are, you can see that high-growth companies view cold calling, or basically outbound sales development, as something that’s alive and adding great results at more than two and a half times more frequently than low-growth companies.
Our perspective on that is that doing outbound calling and doing cold prospecting – and you can put “cold” in quotes – is hard. Getting the systems right to do outbound calling and outbound campaign, making sure that your incentive structure is right, hiring the right people who can sit at a desk and smile and dial for eight or nine hours a day and be creative in that endeavor to personalize their messaging – that’s hard. Then creating and maintaining matrix and KPIs around those teams, that’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of work that goes into standing up an SDR team and then doing it properly.
“I think the study clearly says that companies who are willing to sit down and figure out the process and go to market with a really optimized sales development structure and outbound cold calling team, those are companies that are growing significantly faster than those don’t.”
There are a bunch of points along the way when you’re setting up an outbound team, where you can say, “It’s not for us, our business is different, we can’t find the right people in Minneapolis, it’s just not our culture, it’s not who we are to do outbound calling, we’re gonna rely on networking and other types of events to find customers, etc.” Those are all sneaky ways to say, “I don’t want to do the hard thing.”
Companies that don’t let those excuses get in the way, are the companies that the survey clearly shows are growing significantly faster than those who do let those excuses get in the way.
Justin: I completely agree. That’s one of the things that really jumped out to me is too: Cold calling is working for some organizations. Some companies don’t do doing cold calling because they believe it’s not working. Maybe it’s just because you’re not trying it hard enough, or you’re not doing it the right way, or you haven’t figured it out yet.
That was one of the other interesting findings that came out from this survey: Some low-growth companies believe that there was a value in cold calling, but they hadn’t figured out how to execute it yet. So I think it’s key to reach out to colleagues or consultants who’ve had success in this space, ask the tough questions, figure out what you’re doing wrong, and then move forward and make adjustments are key especially in this space.
It’s not that it’s not working – it’s that you haven’t yet figured out how to do it just right.
Henry: The science surrounding outbound calling is still in its early days, but I think there’s enough evidence from enough companies to demonstrate that going outbound and cold outbound prospecting is effective, and it does work. You have to have the right pieces in place … and we’ll talk about how data is one of those right pieces, and you have to have that. You have to have a good management structure in place that’s willing to invest in it – but you can get right and it can be really fruitful.
Last year, our outbound calling team generated close to $10 million in net new business – just by going outbound. That was their gig. We called people who hadn’t inquired about DiscoverOrg but who we recognized as companies and people who could get a lot of value out of DiscoverOrg. We called them to evangelize DiscoverOrg to them, and to get them to understand how we can help them grow.
“DiscoverOrg did that to the tune of $10 million in net new business last year. So outbound strategy worked here, for us, too.”
Justin: Yeah, that’s great. Before we move off the topic of doing the hard things: How do you respond when people say, “We don’t want to have to work hard; we want to work smart. We want to put tools and technologies in place that make it so we don’t have to work hard.” What’s your perspective on that?
Henry: Well, hard work needs to take place to make sure that those tools and technologies are implemented in a way that can make annoying parts of your job or hard parts of your job easier. You will not meet many people who have been very successful at anything, who don’t say, “I had to work really hard to get there.” There just aren’t very many short cuts.
If you’re not gonna work hard, somebody else out there is going to work hard to get there. I think a lot of times, people equate working smart with working hard, as though it’s the same thing, a quick shortcut to success.
It just doesn’t exist. And it certainly doesn’t exist in technology sales and consulting and software and hardware. I haven’t found a company who’s figured that out.
Justin: Just to piggyback on that idea: High-growth companies work smart so that you can work hard on areas that are going to add more value. You streamline and you systematize the aspects of jobs that are monotonous, tedious, and don’t require a lot of strategic thought – so that you can go out and put hard work and thought into making value-added areas better.
Henry: Yep, a hundred percent. I’d also add that this is not to say you shouldn’t be investing in technologies. In our SDR team and our customer success team, we’ve invested in dailers, outbound cadence tools, round robin tools, phone queue tools, CRM systems, marketing automation systems, content systems and knowledge systems. It’s not that investing in technology is not a part of working hard; it is. You just combine the two.
Justin: That’s a perfect segue into the next topic: What we found about technology in the growth survey. On the sales side of the house, high-growth teams were using twice the number of technologies that their low-growth counterparts were.
The relationship between technology and rapid growth
Justin: The marketing side of the house is a little more developed than the technology side. There’s over 4,000 marketing technologies these days. The gap was a little closer for marketing, but even so, high-growth teams were using about 25% more technologies than their low-growth peers.
How has technology played an integral role in the DiscoverOrg growth story?
Henry: When you, Justin, first started here at DiscoverOrg, I remember a conversation I had with you where you said, “The way that DiscoverOrg embraces technology is just so much different than any other company I’ve ever worked at.”
We view technology as a way to get rid of those monotonous tasks, to make everything we do more effective and more efficient. Now, that doesn’t mean that we just go out and buy a bunch of technologies and hope it works. It’s not. We’ve bought technologies, we’ve tried it out, we’ve seen how they’re effective, where they’re not effective, and then we’ve optimize those technologies for our use. We also have a great sales operations head who’s helped tune all of those technologies.
In our sales development team, as I mentioned, we have everybody’s on a dialer. It’s all integrated into SalesForce and Marketo, it’s all integrated into DiscoverOrg.
Our team uses DiscoverOrg for their prospecting data and so that data is inside of SalesForce, and it’s flowing through their systems. It’s constantly being updated in SalesForce, so we’re using the data that is being generated from our outbound calls to figure out who the next-best person is to go after as well. Technology is key piece of our differentiation when it comes to going to market.
Learn high-growth secrets in our 2017 Growth Drivers Report
Justin: You touched on another interesting piece of our discussion there, which is the data piece.
We look at the results of this survey and we asked on both sides of the survey: Has data been an accelerator for your growth? Then we asked: Has data been an inhibitor for your growth? It was interesting. We had enough other options in there that people didn’t necessarily acknowledge data as being this great growth accelerator … but when you looked on the flip side of that and you asked, What are your top inhibitors? High growth organizations said the number-one inhibitor to their growth not being faster than it was, was lack of high-quality data and intelligence on their prospects.
How do you explain that contrast?
Data quality is key to high-growth strategy
Henry: We’ve been a high-growth business since we were founded in 2007. At the end of 2015, we had an executive offsite where we took all of our executives, we sat down, and we said, “How do we accelerate growth in 2016? How do we go from a company that’s growing at 30% to a company that’s growing 40%, 50%, 60%? What do we need in order to be able to do that?”
It was really eye-opening. Our VP of sales raised his hand and he said, “We can’t do it. We can’t grow 60%.” We said, “Well, why not? What is keeping us from growing 60%?” And just like in this survey, he said, “We don’t have the data on our prospects and our accounts in order to be able to do that. We just don’t have the data in order to be able to do that.”
As the CEO of a company that’s literally solving that problem for thousands of customers, you just want to throw your head through a window!
Here’s this issue we’re solving for everybody else, and it’s actually inhibiting our own growth! At that point, I finally said, “Look, we’re gonna build DiscoverOrg for DiscoverOrg. If that’s what we have to do, let’s hire people, researchers, in Vancouver, to make calls into our perspective accounts, gather data on them, and then feed it to our SDRs and our account executives.”
So we did.
Find out more in our 2017 Growth Drivers Report
We hired a 15-person team that we stood up here, in Vancouver. We gave them a list of our targeted accounts – and just doing that was a challenge. We gave them a list of our targeted accounts and we said, “Go. Build us the sales and marketing people at these accounts for us to go after.”
Had we not done that, there’s no way we could have grown the way that we did in 2016 and there’s no way that we could have given our SDRs the tools that they needed.
If you’re the head of sales or the head of marketing, and you’re wondering, how do I grow my business – if data is not a key ingredient in that structure, you’re probably looking at it wrong.
Justin: So, you’ve got some key ingredients we’ve talked about today. Your technology, your data, and obviously doing the hard things. We talked about that at the organizational level, but now let’s talk about the team level. Let’s talk about the attributes of effective sales and marketing teams.
What makes them successful when they’re plugged into an organization where you’re doing the hard things, where you’ve got the right data and the right technology in place? What did the survey reveal about that?
Qualities of high-growth sales and marketing teams
Justin: I’d like your thoughts on this, Henry. One of the things that jumped out was the difference between high-growth companies and low-growth companies from a sales perspective.
You look at sales reps at the high-growth companies, the area where we saw the most difference was that they were more adaptable to change, and they were more tech savvy. Then, if you look at the low-growth teams, they were more experienced and more disciplined.
That seems to be so counter-intuitive, right? Wouldn’t you want to get the most experienced sales reps who are the best at handling objections and who have been in this space forever? It was surprising to me. What did you think about that?
Henry: One: It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you’ve got these high-growth companies that have twice the sales stack as the low-growth companies. So, they need to be hiring tech-savvy people to leverage that tech stack … But I think it also shows that the ability to leverage technology in your day-to-day, go-to-market strategy will outpace, or is already outpacing, experience and discipline and rolodexes.
The new breed of sales development reps who are prospecting and taking advantage of technology are now outpacing senior level people in the same roles.
Justin: When you couple that with the other finding on teams, there were three pieces that we looked at: What’s accelerating sales growth; What accelerates marketing’s ability to support that sales growth; and What’s inhibiting that?
We’ll start on the sales side: Two things that were most likely to inhibit an organization’s growth were a lack of storytelling skill, and lack of prospecting skill. So talk to me about those things. Those two elements sound like brass tacks when it comes to the people that you’re looking for, for a sales team.
Henry: It’s interesting, because we talk a lot about sales being an art and a science.
There’s this science piece of it, which is focused on the number of outbound calls you’re making and making sure data is right, and making sure that you’re looking at your conversion rate from phone call to demo, from demo to opportunity, from opportunity to sale. There’s a lot of science that goes into that.
Along the way, inside all that science, is art. It’s the ability to persuade on the telephone. When I think about a lack of prospecting skill, I think of a lack of ability to persuade. A lack of ability to tell a story in a short period of time that’s convincing and persuasive, it gets someone to agree to a 30-minute demo. Then when they get to that 30-minute demo, that next round of DiscoverOrg people – the account executives – also have to be able to tell a story. They have to be able to make DiscoverOrg resonate with the buyer.
Sales don’t actually through the science piece. We sell by telling a story about how our product helped one of our other customers, how it’s helped a customer who looks and feels just like you, where it’s gonna fit in your organization – What’s the story that you can tell around that? Those are the art pieces of sales, which tend to be just as important as the science pieces.
Justin: I agree. When you jump over to the marketing side of the house, we’re talking about things that are more obvious, like the ability to produce lead volume and lead quality.
Then there’s this piece that ties back to our finding on data: Marketing teams that had high-quality data standards and who are able to effectively manage their data, are able to grow 50% faster than companies that did not have those practices in place. Please reflect on that.
Henry: One of the biggest things for us is how this manifests itself is in deliverability to email inboxes.
The less disciplined you are regarding data quality, and the less disciplined you are about making sure that your data is constantly staying cleansed, the more likely you are to get in trouble with spam traps and honey pots, and get blacklisted.
I think the simple answer is, companies who take data quality seriously aren’t tripping over themselves all year long, and companies that don’t take that piece seriously are. They’re constantly going around in circles, where they get off a blacklist, then get put back on a blacklist … and it’s because they’re not sticking to high-quality data standards within their marketing databases. That’s obviously critical to getting your message across today.
Justin: Absolutely. I think the survey did an excellent job of summing up the different components you need in effective sales and marketing teams to tie together data effectiveness, technologies, characteristics of your team – plus the overarching principle of doing the hard things.
Was there anything, Henry, that surprised you from the survey – or that changed the way that you think about something that you had thought for a long time?
See surprising results from our 2017 Growth Drivers Report
Henry: It is hard to get people to implement a process that changes the way they’re used to doing work.
The study just gave me more confidence that showing our customers the right way to go to market using data like DiscoverOrg is such a critical piece of their ability to be successful with it. I’m a lot more frank when I talk to customers, when I see a process that’s not gonna work. I say: Hey, look, this process that you’ve set up here doesn’t take into consideration the fact that cold calling helps fast growing companies. It’s not taking into consideration that you’re not really using any technology to make these teams more effective and more efficient … and you have to build a process around this so that you can grow.
The survey has given us a little bit more fuel to go and talk to our customers about what they need to do to grow.
Justin: I agree. I appreciate you sitting down with me to talk about this today, Henry. There’s a lot more that we could spend time talking about in the survey about account-based strategies, about inbound marketing, about marketing contribution rates. There’s lots of great nuggets in this survey.
If you want to download the report, it’s the 2017 Growth Drivers Report.
Thanks for taking time to join us today.
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