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It failed once. It failed twice. But really, the third time was actually the charm.
You might be surprised to learn that Outreach’s AEs prospect. But it wasn’t an easy road to get that started. That is until they implemented a structured plan: dedicated, respected time blocks to add prospects to sequence and to call.
But there’s more to it … is there anything better than getting an inside look into how Outreach does outreach?
VP of SMB Sales at Outreach, Nathan Broome shares what finally worked to get AEs to prospect alongside their SDRs successfully, and how it’s structured, with RevOps Therapist and founder and CEO of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser.
Hi everyone, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this call, we have my frenemy Nathan Broome; we were both SDR managers at Outreach back in the day. And he has gone far in his Outreach journey. Today, he’s the VP of, like, an emerging market, has people globally around the world reporting to him, both individual contributors, managers, directors, and has just done a phenomenal job with his teams at Outreach. Specifically, though, he’s talking about something that, whenever I was at Outreach, we failed to do multiple times, which was to get AEs to prospect. And we would fail miserably. Today, you’re gonna hear a stat from him that is just fascinating that 30% of the pipeline, average, across the org is driven directly by AE outbound work. Which if, if you just knew the history of Outreach, and the hurdle to get AEs to prospect at all, this is a monumental achievement. Not only that, though, it has driven faster deal cycles, higher ACVs; it’s even affected the platform of how Outreach is even designing, caters to the AE world. So this is a great conversation to lean into. We’ll, we’ll have some laughs and some jokes every once in a while; we got to argue a little bit. But with that said, I think you’re really going to enjoy this episode. Go ahead, lean in, and have a good time.
Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.
Hi, everyone. This is Jordan. I got with me just the greatest individual on the planet. My, my co-equal back in the Outreach days. Maybe it’s a little too polite to consider him a co-equal; I don’t know. But we got Nate here. Nate, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?
Yeah, co-equal. I was thinking frenemy, but we weren’t equal in the leaderboard. But we’ll… that’s a story. That’s another story. Yeah. So yeah. So Nate, good to be here, Jordan. So Nate Broome, with Outreach… VP of SMB sales and former one-time colleague of the great Jordan Greaser.
Yeah, I’d just like the whole audience to know, maybe my name on the leaderboard would have been higher if I wasn’t busy doing all your team’s trainings, doing all of that. Maybe I’d have more time to coach.
Maybe, maybe, maybe shoulda right so yeah, we can we can, we can relive that. But no, it was fun. It was fun times. Well, my more memorable times at, at Outreach was competing. And what did we call it? The mosh pit?
Yeah, it’s a mosh pit, which I think, by the way, if you like, if you go on Glassdoor, and you check out, like, reviews of working at Outreach, and you look a couple of years back, like, there’s multiple negative reviews about the idea that the SDR pit was called the mosh pit, like beating on, like “what kind of place puts people in a place and says, ‘This is a mosh pit,’ like, clearly, this is disorganized chaos.” And I… listen, I, like, read that feedback. And I thought, “yeah, that sounds about right.”
That’s exactly what it was, right? But I think that’s also… it’s also indicative of the fact that of who we hired, right, you know? So we hired these, these sales development reps with no experience, no tech background, no startup background, what have you. And they come into a place like Outreach early days. And, you know, we were sitting in the basement of the old Tableau building. And when it was hot outside, it was freezing cold in the building. And our teams were in parkas and beanies and whatnot. When it was cold outside, we were wearing shorts, flip flops, because they couldn’t get them. So they had simpler, simpler times.
Yeah, it was a different, different era. But I, listen, we certainly had a lot of fun. But, you know, at that time, this is going to lead us into our conversation here… At that time, the SDRs did like all the prospecting. Right? So our environment that we were in, which just think about the Outreach journey in general, from zero to 10 million, which, you know, I was there for that; there was no marketing team. So the SDRs drove every single meeting, outside of like, some events and some of those kinds of things. But we, I mean, we were it, and so, and then we went through a phase where the SDRs, in conjunction with marketing, were driving every meeting, and AEs didn’t prospect, like that was like taboo and Outreach, which I think that’s actually pretty similar in most places that you end up but today, you know, I was talking to you a few months ago, and I was a little surprised to hear this. Like, it’s a completely different story today, right?
Yep. Yeah. Well, I think that, you know, yes, early days, right? And probably well past 10 million, you know, we were… Outreach was an SDR-driven shop, right? That’s where all the pipeline came from. And marketing got folded in, as you mentioned. And, you know, we’ve always tried to even in the early days, you know, 3, 3-4 years ago, we were always trying to drive AE prospecting. But we weren’t convicted on it. Right? Like, it wasn’t religion yet. And we would say, “Yeah, prospect” to the AEs. And they didn’t really need to, because the SDRs were so exceptional, right? And, you know, our units, were doing such a great job, you know, the mosh pit was making it happen. The mosh pit was making it happen. Absolutely right. And we, we had launched and failed a couple times at, at prospecting, primarily, because of accountability, and we got ourselves into a situation during COVID, where something had to give, right we, you know, as a successful company that’s trying to do big things on a public market one day, our marketing and sales budgets need to be in line. So that’s a big focus. But also things just got harder. And we know that from every organization. So AE prospecting had to work the third time we launched it, and it did; it’s still been in effect for the last two years. And I’m proud to say that they, the AEs produce well over 30% of their own pipeline, across all teams.
So I just want to reiterate that you’re saying across every AE team at Outreach that like the bare minimum is 30% of your pipe?
Yeah, so it probably flexes a little bit, depending on the segment, but like, the average is gonna be 30%. But, you know, every AE at Outreach prospects.
So I was only around during the two failed attempts. Which, you know, I was not in charge of AEs; I was over an SDR world; I can’t take any bad credit here. Jokes aside, though, that was a big thing is like, you know, we were hiring these AEs at these high dollar values. And they were saying, “listen, like, do you want me to click the button to do the email? Or do you want me to, like, close the deal?” Right, like that was kind of the attitude, and then to speak. And frankly, there were a couple AEs that we’re afraid, like, “yeah, I don’t want to have to call people and get hung up on. Like, I’m okay to get told ‘no’, in the sales cycle. But it’s a whole other thing to call somebody and have them just hang up on me; like, I can’t handle this.” So as you think about this, or you went through it, I know, there was maybe a forcing function with COVID, but ultimately, I mean, how did you get through the change management of that? Because, you know, you fail twice; there’s no reason to think the third time actually is the charm.
Yeah, well, I think a couple things, right? It’s, it’s, you know, prospect or die, right? So I think there’s, there, there is a, like, an essentialism that had to happen, where it’s like, you have to do this to hit your quota. And there’s, that’s just part of it. And so, so I think it was really easy for us to set expectation because the, the AEs were living through the, you know, living through their pipelines falling, falling out because of COVID-related reasons, right? And they realized that like, “hey, the math doesn’t work unless something, something gives,” right? So that’s probably number one. You know, number two is that we just got smarter. And what I mean by smarter is that we started looking at the AEs for what they are, not for what we wanted them to be. And, you know, AEs are closers. They, you know, they want to focus on deals, the human, the human psyche is about, you know, chasing that reward of a signed DocuSign contract. And that’s where you got to spend all your time. Even if the math in your pipeline doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up to get to your number, right? And so we really had to, you know, approach AEs two different ways, right? We had to coach them up on deals, which is, it’s usually theoretical, its strategic, it’s if-then scenarios, right? But then we also had to give space and coaching to prospecting, which you and I both know is you got to put the time in; you got to put the time in consistently. You got to go through the paces each and every day or session that you’re prospecting, and you can’t let up. Otherwise, you’re going to have a lull in your production. And so we had to approach the SDRs and approach the AEs kind of in both directions to get the optimal results that we wanted to.
Did you have… maybe you can’t get into this, I don’t know. But did you have a washout rate of folks that were just like not prospecting?
That’s like, yeah, it’s always… that was always the question early days, right? But the, you know, the whole industry in tech, in general, is going this way, right? So the number one conversation I have with my prospects and customers from the Outreach side is how to make AEs more efficient, how do AEs generate their own pipeline, right? Like, that’s the number one conversation to have across the board. And so it’s one thing to wash out. But if you’re just washing out to another organization that’s going to require you do the same thing, might as well make it work here, right? So we actually didn’t have that much attrition related to, related to having to prospect for the first time. Because what happened was, we got really intentional with an operating rhythm with “hey, there’s set times each, each week that you dedicate to prospecting, when you make your calls, you do your sequencing, and you do your emails;” we got really focused on coaching, right? So just like the AE managers coached the deals, we’re having them coach prospecting, with as much urgency and intentionality. We had playbooks for them. So we had AE-specific content and messaging for them to be able to execute. So it was a really well-baked-out plan. And ultimately, even the, the laggards to the process, they got aligned because they got addicted to the success, because they got addicted to the pipeline because it usually closed bigger and faster than deals that they sourced, they got sourced from the, the SDRs. And so once the flywheel was spinning, the thing really revved up to where not a single AE team, at least that I hear of, doesn’t really complain about the motion of prospecting anymore; it’s just part of who we are, part of our DNA.
Was there, like, an unexpected change that this even caused to the SDRs? Because I know you’re, like you and I, we started on the SDR floor together. And so I know you’re like you may have a little more of an intimate knowledge of what goes on with the SDRs rather than a typical AE manager or VP in this regard. And so I’m just thinking about this, like, all of a sudden, the AEs are picking up the pipeline; I’m sure the SDRs are thinking, “Well, wait a minute, what does this mean for me? And how does that shift my workflow?” Do you have any insight or thought…?
So we did something really interesting… is we actually carved out books of business for the AEs that did not have SDRs attached to them. So we actually when we, when we launched it, you know, two years ago, we actually removed AE/ SDR tandem accounts. And so the AEs actually have no shared accounts with SDRs anymore, right? And so how that helped the workflow on the SDR side was they had their book of business; they worked their accounts; they set their meetings, but those meetings are round-robined to the AEs, right? And that took away, that took out the favoritism, that took out the bias. It took out favoritism, took out bias, right? It took out mixed signals in terms of coaching, like one AE wants it set up this way; the other AE wants it set up that way. It created standardization across the board. And it actually made it easier for the AEs, or the SDRs, to focus in on keeping the main thing the main thing which is setting great meetings regardless of who the AEs gonna be, right? And we found a lot of success with that.
Can I just say I have not heard that phrase: “Keep the main thing, the main thing” for a few years, and as soon as you said it, a shiver went down my spine. “Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.”
Well, you know, it’s like, it’s… things get so noisy, right? You know, especially if you’re an SDR, you don’t have, typically don’t have tech sales background. You’re coming into an organization, and people are telling you “be good on the phones, right? Be good at email, be good at social selling. Hey, listen to these 10 podcasts; you know, go and do this thing,” right? It’s like “no, keep the main thing the main thing. Go find somebody, talk to them, see what their problems are, and if you got something to help them with, tell them and if you do, ask for the meeting.”
Did you see, like, Sales Accepted Lead rates today go up? Did, like, SDR-sourced deals close at a higher rate, lower rate, like, especially in relation to like an AE-sourced deal?
No. What I saw was… so Sales Accepted Lead rates stayed flat. But what happened was the outliers got removed, right? And so as we, as we introduce more standardization into the process, those people who are SALing at a real high rate normalize the people who were selling at a really low rate, normalize because it was consistent across the board. Because you took out a lot of the X factors. We did on the AE side, with AE prospecting, we saw contract values go up; we saw sales cycles decrease. And we saw more expansion after initial closes, based off AE closed deals that we’ve seen, historically.
So what’s the, what’s the reason why? I mean, I’ve read about this, and I’ve chatted with different people that they, they fundamentally believe that the SDR role is dead. And that AEs… I don’t think anybody advocates to go back to full cycle in the sense of, you’re going to source it, close it, and you and you’re going to manage it, Yet, like I don’t know, I don’t know. There’s a couple of companies that do this. But I’m saying I don’t hear big advocates for like, “Let’s do everything.” Yeah, but I do hear advocates say we don’t need the SDR anymore; we need you to prospect and close. But once it’s closed, still tick it over to like that success motion, still do all of that. So if you’re seeing, you know, higher ACVs, if you’re seeing shorter deals, cycles, you’re seeing better close rates, like what’s the, what’s the hesitation from not just going that next step?
Yeah, the quotas are set too high. So like, you have to… Like, it’s no, I think what it comes down to, though, right, is that, you know, everybody wants to create efficiency, but nobody wants to lower quotas and targets. Right? And, you know, you… especially organizations that have come to rely on, on SDRs is… that is still a chunk of your of your pipeline, right? And, you know, you can squeeze results, and you can optimize for AEs generating a portion of their pipeline, right? But you have… something has to give, right? You have to take off less responsibility; you have to say you don’t have to close many deals, get to lower quotas, and those types of things. But then you’re, then you’re really reworking the entire economics of your go-to-market structure. Right? And nobody really has the appetite for that. Because, you know, we, you know, in our racket, it’s all about, you know, top-line revenue. And so. So, yeah, that’s not going… I would say, if you’re starting an organization, you know, today, you can, depending on how you want to build up your organization, you know, yeah, you can do it without SDRs; it’ll be harder, and you’ll hit you’ll hit certain roadblocks by not having a consistent funnel coming in. But it’s definitely, it’s definitely possible. But you got to remember, you have to have the structure around the AEs to make that possible.
So let’s get into some brass tacks with the AEs prospecting though. And this is going to be like this, like just makes me laugh thinking about it. Yeah, I’m just… I can just, I remember the SDR… you want to talk about Nate Broome keeping the main thing the main thing? I remember you pulling SDRs aside and saying, “Where are your call numbers? Where are your emails? Where are your whatever? Like, like, you’re not gonna hit your number if you don’t do these things.” Now, you were a lot nicer. I’m, I’m being a little bit overdramatic. But I’m saying you get into a room full of AEs like, are you pulling an AE aside and saying, “Hey, listen, you’re supposed to do 35 dials today? You only did 33. Like, what are you doing?”
I’m asking where the other two dials are.
Well, this is… so there’s this. Are you, like. managing AEs to that same…
Prospecting is prospecting. So we… doesn’t matter who. Yeah, right. So I think that is one of the, that is one of the myths around AE prospecting that’s out there, right, is that AEs are unicorns, they’re snowflakes, they, there’s a special way of breaking into accounts; there’s a special way of starting conversations that’s different from the SDRs. It’s not different. It’s the exact same thing, right? It’s just your level of acumen is higher, right? And anything else is, is reluctance, right? And so, so what we do and where we ultimately found success in is we have an AE operating rhythm; that AE operating rhythm has on… just to kind of spell it out, but on, on Mondays and Tuesdays, we have two-hour blocks each that are designed for the AEs to sequence a certain number of targets that make the math make sense to what they need to generate. On Wednesdays, we have a dedicated calling blocks, dedicated around the best time, the best connect rates that we found in our system. So that calling block moves a little bit, but we have a calling block. And then we have a, we have time set aside for task management and research as well. Right? And the idea is, is that the AEs, during those blocks, are strictly focused on the activity, the KPIs, and the quality work that we need to have happen so they can get the prospecting results, right? And so yeah, we absolutely drive, drive that with, with AEs. And the crazy thing is that it works, right? And again, going back to what I said earlier, you know, the AEs always want to, always want to index towards the deal, towards the DocuSign, towards the end of the funnel, right? So we have to be the trainers in the gym, with them, encouraging them to do the reps to, to spot them on the, on the bench, right, to lift the weights. And we do that during those time blocks. And that’s where they dedicate their time to the prospect. So yeah, I’m absolutely all over it.
Well, in some ways, I expect no less. Do those time blocks, do they sort of fade at the end of the month or the end of the quarter?
They fade at the end of the quarter. Right? So we’re… all of our teams are held to quarterly, some are to annual, and so but you know, they fade at the end of the quarter, but usually only in the last week, right? Because you always need more pipeline, right? And what the beautiful thing about them, Jordan is, it’s… we treat it… they’re sacred cows; it’s religion, right? Where we direct our AEs, they’re not to schedule over these time blocks. That’s how critical these time blocks are.
That’s what my next question was, like, it’s the end of the month. This is the deal that’s gonna get somebody across the line. And they say, 9:30 on Monday, that’s the only time I can meet. Are they making a cold call at 9:30 on Monday, or are they running that call?
They’re making the cold call.
I don’t know if I believe you. I don’t know if I believe you.
You talk about it; you can talk to my team. But you can… here’s the deal, right, like we will… I will say that we leave things up to manager discretion, right? So like, we don’t manage it all the way at the top, right? But the, but no, that’s that’s how we, that’s how we coach to it, though, right is, is that, you know, we have to be maniacal; we have to be the about prospecting, right? And the only way to do that with AEs is to be able to stand up and say, “this activity that we’re asking you to do is so important that nothing else is coming before it.” Right? And so that’s, that’s what we believe in. The results have been, been backed up on that. So now, we’re gonna check the calendars.
That’s what I’m saying. Like, like, here’s the deal, share your screen; I know people can’t see the video here, but you share your screen with me, we’re gonna go rep by rep, we’re gonna see who’s got that booked and who doesn’t.
I take the odds. I take, I take the over; I say you can give me whatever odds you want, I take, I take the over that we would be, we’d be really focused on it.
Listen, “really focused on it” doesn’t mean that it’s full compliance.
Well, we got, I have an organization of 70 sellers. So you know, the chances of having 70 sellers all on the same page are, you know… My teams are, I will say that the AEs have done a phenomenal job embracing the culture, right? And so you gotta walk them through the change and the whys behind the change and the math and why it’s gonna help them you know, hit their numbers and hit quotas and hit club and stuff like that.
So what segment are you?
SMB. So how we define that is 500 employees and below.
Okay, so my question is, in that SMB segment, I’m not, I’m not saying you’re a liar; I’m not calling you a liar. Okay, I’m on record, this is dangerous for me to say that I believe you. But in the SMB space, this makes more sense to me, right? It seems like a little bit more, like, functional how this could make sense. But in the, let’s say, like, let’s go all the way to the top; let’s go into the enterprise space. Like, are they still doing time blocks, and like, you have to hit these because I even think about, you know, the era of COVID and no travel is, like, coming to an end here. And so there’s in-persons right, like, what you were at that enterprise level, you need to, you need to make a trip to Austin, and you gotta go talk to somebody, like, how, how sacred are these across the org is essentially what I’m asking.
Yeah, so, so enterprise is where you’re gonna see the biggest deviation because of the reasons you just mentioned, right? Is that, that schedule is gonna be a lot more ad hoc because travels back, right? So our people are back on the road; they’re back on the field. But the expectations are there, right? And so they’re… or is the… what I will say is that, as you go up segment one thing that we all do, but one thing that we are really good at is, we all host forecasting calls for prospecting, right? And so much like you do forecasting calls for deals and assess risk and your gaps and who’s attaining and who’s not, and all those things, we do the same thing for prospecting. Right? And I think those carry a little bit more weight in enterprise they do in the SMB because of that. But, you know, everybody has expectations and coaching around, around time blocking.
This is an Outreach-specific question. So like, this is not going to apply most of…
You’re the Outreach partner. So I would, I should be able to turn around and ask you the same question.
Not this question I’m asking. Okay. All right. So the question I have, though, is, since AEs have started to, to prospect in the platform, has that challenged or caused the product team to like, just much more quickly adapt the tool for the AE? Again, this is really, like, a niche question. The reason I ask it is, you know, as the Outreach partner, or the previous Outreach employee, that was always Outreach’s challenge was getting AEs to focus inside of this thing. Yeah, it’s not that it didn’t work, or it didn’t provide a lot of value, but it was like getting folks over the hurdle. So has it changed the UI? Has it changed some of the feature sets in any way that like, since you finally got them in there, like, there’s actually been some fundamental change?
Yeah, so I think the biggest one is, is Opportunity Management, right? And so there’s opportunity management and forecasting, now within the full platform, and so, you know, AEs, again, are gonna go where the dollars are at, right? And so, you know, if you are taking them out of a situation where the dollars are not at, you know, like, like, we like, frankly, we used to, right, so Outreach started out as a prospecting tool and, and AEs didn’t live in there; they were living in Salesforce or some other tool. AEs weren’t gonna go into strictly prospecting tools. But now that we have opportunity management, you can see deal health and what have you. And then we have, you know, forecasting in the form of Commit, and you can assess risk and, and all that. The AEs are living there, right? And so it’s a really easy pivot to go from that view into your prospecting view because it’s all on the same click path.
Yeah, that’s interesting to me. And it’s, there’s one thing COVID has definitely caused for everybody is like, I think about all the different areas of a business that like, could have been done virtually a long time ago. But like, how are you ever going to get people over the change management side of things to actually sign up? Well, all of a sudden, COVID hits. You can’t run the meeting unless you got a virtual option. Yeah. So in that way, you know, the COVID, COVID pandemic spurred, like mass amounts of change management really quickly, like, and it wasn’t, you didn’t have the option not to do it; it was just you do it.
That’s it. And I think that, you know, people were in a, I think, you know, pre-COVID, you could be stagnant, right? So you could be an AE or an AE leader, that did not change because the conditions didn’t change, right? Like things were always the same. And, you know, you always heard those… kind of old gray hairs talk about, “well, I did this in Salesforce. And so why can’t you do this in Salesforce, or this is, this is how we did it back in my day,” and dot, dot, dot, you know, all that type of stuff. And those people, and those individuals did not have to change. COVID force function that. And then, so the rate of change kind of basically conditioned everybody and set expectations that “hey, change is just inevitable if I want to have a job, if I want to be successful.” And then, you know, we were able to, as a company, just to speak on Outreach really quickly, you know, we were able to dovetail around that rate of change. And behind that, right, so we were able to draft behind that because now all of a sudden, AEs were no longer in the field. They were no longer in an environment where stagnation was acceptable. And then they were looking around like, “hey, how am I going to change?” and you know, in comes, a full platform whole suite of products designed to help close revenue. And you know, Outreach has been fortunate to take advantage of those changing market conditions.
You know, there’s just one thing I want to bring awareness to you here. You gotta be careful saying those old gray hairs. Again, there’s a video I can see I know if you’re listening. You can’t see it, but I’m just, I’m curious who you’re talking about here.
You know, it’s funny as I turned 40 this year, and you know, I was getting some, some… We were at club this last week, and I was getting some, some some trash talk to me about, you know, the gray, the gray hairs and you know, I will say I didn’t have as many gray hairs pre-COVID. But scaling, scaling an organization with mostly first-time sellers globally, through COVID will… I’m happy I still have hair. Let’s put it that way. You know, you’re looking pretty… You started a business through COVID. Right? You scaled the business to COVID; you don’t have any gray hairs it looks like.
You look close enough, you’ll see them. So…
It’s the lighting, right? It’s the light.
Yeah, it’s the lighting, right? Well, hey, you know, frenemy of mine, Mr. Broome. I appreciate you coming on today and, and all sincerity through the years, it’s been good getting to know you and chatting through some of these things. And I certainly know in the, in the past, you’ve been a great resource for folks. So I’m sure if you reach out to him on LinkedIn or you need a little help, I’ll just give you a plug. He’s a great guy to talk to. And I’m positive that if you have Outreach questions, he has at least 70 reps that would be happy to answer those questions for you.
That we do, but you know, really, congrats. You know, frenemy as well. Congrats to your success, Jordan. Thanks for having me. Proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish, you know, out, out your way. It’s been cool to see.
Alright, fella. Well, for everybody listening, thanks for joining in. Mr. Broome, thanks for coming, and we’ll see you next time.
Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.