SalesTechStar Interview with Steve Bryerton, Vice President, Sales at ZoomInfo
Steve Bryerton, Vice President, Sales at ZoomInfo shares his observations on how sales and marketing teams have had to go back to the basics in 2020 while taking us through a few remote selling enhancements in this interview:
Hi Steve, welcome to SalesTechStar! We’d love to hear about your journey in tech and ZoomInfo so far!
Sure. I’ve worked in tech for the last 15 years. I started in the sales and marketing division for a network hardware reselling company, CXtec, where, of all things, I cleaned their CRM data and built Org Charts for their sales team.
A little over 10 years ago, I moved to Portland, Ore., and came across a posting on Craigslist for a Research Analyst position at DiscoverOrg in Vancouver, Wash. I was hired on the spot at my interview and started as an hourly employee, when we were truly a bootstrapped startup with only about 10-12 total employees. I moved up to a sales position (and a base salary, albeit not a big one) within a couple months.
The rest is history – since then I’ve moved into Sales Director, then Vice President, and now I lead the New Business sales team. We’ve grown from a two-person operation to now more than 300 (around 160 account execs and 175 sales development reps, or SDRs), both through organic growth as well as several acquisitions.
How have you seen adoption and demand for business intelligence tools in sales and marketing change over the years?
It’s funny to think back about just how much it’s changed – it’s significant.
I remember a decade ago, talking to a prospect at a sizable tech company, and they were using what was essentially a phone book. It was a physical book of lists on the different hospital systems in the U.S. They would get this huge book every year or two that had stagnant firmographic data on hospitals, with a couple of contacts for each one, and that was how they prospected and went to market. That’s insane to think about today!
Today, most businesses realize that their go-to-market efforts are only as good as the data they have. And that without complete data and a real intelligence layer, it’s difficult to make any decisions. Making what seems like a good decision off of bad (or no) data will just end up a bad decision, no matter the intention.
In what ways have you seen the Covid-19 pandemic influence how global marketing and sales teams in B2B are using technologies to support initiatives?
The biggest thing I’ve seen is a rapid digital transformation of the sales and marketing teams. COVID-19 forced companies to pivot a lot more quickly than they likely intended.
The realization for many businesses was that the status quo wasn’t good enough. It’s no longer okay to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, even if your business was growing.
The things that we’ve been shouting from the rooftops for the last 10-plus years about how to optimize your sales team, about eliminating wasted time, effort, and money, about building better, higher-converting campaigns – all of these start with high-quality intelligence. Companies realized – the hard way, in many cases – that the fate of their business relied upon getting sales and marketing right. That they didn’t have any room for error and that making a sound investment in having a high-quality data strategy pays off not just in hard times but also when things are going well.
Remote selling was not a new concept in B2B, but the ongoing pandemic has changed the game for remote sales and marketing processes too, what are some of the biggest adjustments you feel teams should (still!) be focusing on to ensure a smooth entry and flow in 2021?
While remote selling wasn’t a new concept, for many businesses, having remote reps was new for them as a result of the pandemic. My team is included in that; all of our sellers were physically located in one of our offices. We didn’t have a remote selling culture, but all of that changed on March 16.
The things that need to be focused on in order to ensure your teams are productive and set up for success in 2021 are:
- High quality data – Everything starts with sellers and marketers being able to target the right accounts and the right prospects at the right time. When they’re at home, there can be more distractions – but knowing what accounts to call, and why, shouldn’t be one of them.
- Infrastructure to enable their ability to call and email efficiently, as well as share calls – Gong is my personal favorite – it’s critical to our ability to call-coach and run team reviews in today’s world.
- The ability to track and measure those activities (and everything else) – When the team is remote, it’s harder to get a beat on what they are actually doing each day. You need to be transparent with the team about what the expectations and metrics are, and make sure those are constantly visible for the reps, the managers, the directors, all the way up to the top.
- Camaraderie, whatever that may look like for you – You can’t overlook the human connection and the inability to get together. Since going remote, we’ve instituted multiple daily huddles – some are used to focus on the day ahead or recap all of the good/bad things that took place in the day. Others are just used as a way to get together – to recreate the “break room” – where teams can get together and just talk, whether it’s venting about a tough call, asking for advice, your weekend plans and that show you’ve been binging, or to play a quick game of hangman (yes that’s actually something that takes place with the word tying back to an enablement theme we’ve discussed).
What are some of the top go-to market and growth strategies that you feel B2B sales and marketing teams need to have as strong fundamentals?
The #1 area of focus in my opinion is having a clear line of sight into what accounts and contacts to get in front of now and why.
It starts with building the right list, and having a clear view or model of your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Having a constant view of the data is important too – your wins, your losses, your stalled/dead opportunities, your lead flow and volume, how has that mix changed, where are the trends going and how do you double-down or pivot?
Your ICP and the accounts that were historically good for you pre-pandemic may not be good now. Those that paused or carried you through the pandemic may not be a cohort that you can depend on when things change and we come out of this, whenever that may be. As you plan for 2021, you should think about how that mix changed at those different times, and how that might impact you (both for new business as well as your existing business, if you’ve made any pivots).
Downtime vs. Uptime – how have you seen B2B sales teams use this year to reinvest their time and resources while working remote?
I’ve been on several panels, leadership “wine downs,” virtual conferences, etc., and in nearly all of the conversations, leaders like myself talk about how their employees have *more* time to sell than they did before. They aren’t commuting to the office, they aren’t traveling on planes, instead, they are home in their home offices with all of that time back. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t a myriad of other complications with quarantining, remote learning, caring for family members, the need to disconnect, etc., but most of the individuals I’ve spoken with have repurposed that commute/travel time into Enablement and training time.
We’ve made significant investments in our Enablement team, and in Enablement and skills training tools (Lessonly for instance) to help upskill our sellers and our leaders:
- The things I’ve heard sellers say they’re interested in are topics like value selling, as well as learning more about how, more than ever, their offering fits into those “mission critical” themes that come from their target’s C-Suite.
- For leaders, their focus is often on making data-driven decisions, enhancing their ability to keep teams engaged, and managing remote workforces.
Can you talk about some innovative ways in which tech sales and marketing teams in B2B have gone against the tide during this downtime? What have you been seeing technology sales leaders do more of?
What I’ve noticed is a return to the basics. With so much more technology available in the sales tech stack, I think a lot of companies looked to buy tech as a cure-all – thinking they could simply buy the latest flashy tech and be instantly better at sales. However, they often overlooked the training, enablement, and soft skills that are critical to making sure their people and process are in position to take advantage of that tech.
For example, in the last six months, I’ve seen a big shift back to using the telephone. Hard to reach, busy executives aren’t traveling, so they’ve had more openings on their calendar. Picking up the phone and calling them has been successful in 2020. Our data backs this up – we saw a big jump in connect rates, specifically with mobile numbers, as the pandemic settled in. Zoom fatigue is real. It’s nice to pick up your phone and talk to a prospect, customer or colleague while you’ve stepped outside for a walk or a bit of fresh air. Personalized video is another example that I’ve seen be highly successful recently.
That leads to my final point – and I think this is a big positive for sellers and buyers alike – which is a return of what I’ll call “the human element.” Having empathy as we interact, and realizing that on the other end of that phone, email, or Zoom is a person that is either looking to help or needs help, is a trend I hope continues. The timing of that call, email or Zoom may not be right, but at the end of the day, realize that you’re dealing with a person who, just like you, is dealing with something we’ve never dealt with before, and is trying to do their job.
A few top tips you’d share with new sales reps and sales executives moving up the ladder during a pandemic?
Now more than ever, you need to be adaptable.
Also, in my experience, hard work pays off – no matter what the current climate might be. Work harder than you thought you possibly could. Put in the extra time, and look for opportunities to get better. Learn more about your craft – attend trainings, seek out advice from high performers or those you admire – and never stop trying to get better.
A parting thought on your biggest sales/leadership goof-up and the learning that came from it!
Two come to mind:
We didn’t specialize roles early enough. As an example, when we first started to scale, we hired SDRs to handle both our inbound lead volume and to go outbound after specific accounts. Those are two very different motions. For inbound, it’s all about ‘speed to lead,’ and following up quickly. Outbound is strategic, more thoughtful, and needs to have a really dialed-in pitch and compelling story. So, they were either great at following up quickly and therefore dropping the ball on outbound, or vice-versa, great at being strategic and methodical, but terrible at following up on inbound quickly. Essentially, we would find and hire ‘A’ quality talent, but then we would ask them to do two different roles, turning them into ‘C’ players at two tasks rather than being great in a singular role.
The other, and this is the big ‘duh’ moment, was when we were still known as DiscoverOrg. Our specialty, like it is today, was mapping out the key decision-makers, org charts and contact data like phone and emails within hundreds of thousands of accounts. There was a time when we were solving the challenge for thousands of customers and getting their sellers in front of the right people at the right time more efficiently. Yet, internally, we didn’t have DiscoverOrg *for* DiscoverOrg. We were only profiling out of IT decision-makers, and we were selling to Sales and Marketing. So, while we’re telling our customers how important good data is, and its advantages for sellers, and despite having hundreds of researchers profiling out these decision-makers and accounts with the most accurate data for customers, our own sellers were floundering with missing or inaccurate data.
So we spun up a team internally to feed our own sellers. It was at that point that cemented the need for high quality intelligence as the foundational element for the go-to-market motion. You can spend millions of dollars trying to build it yourself internally (which we did and still do, to great success) or you can invest in a high-quality data partner and reap the rewards at a fraction of the cost.
There’s more to B2B and Tech Marketing and Sales than meets the eye in 2021 and Beyond! Catch more here where leaders from Ness Digital, TeamViewer, JotForm, Xactly and others weigh in!