It seems like the word “growth” is on everyone’s minds these days—it’s the elusive key to successfully scaling your business. But what does growth really mean? What do growth teams do, and do you have one at your company? How is the success of your growth team tied to your revenue?
Workato’s VP of Growth, Rishi Mallik, recently sat down with Kyle Coleman, VP of Revenue Growth and Enablement at Clari, to dive deeper into how they define growth in their organizations, how to create alignment with other teams, who makes up the growth team, and what growth metrics are really important.
What does growth mean to you, and what kind of growth metrics do you track?
Kyle Coleman: When we were creating our growth department in November of 2019, we were really intentional about thinking about growth as revenue growth—my literal title is VP of Revenue Growth and Enablement. Our main KPI, the success metric that we care about, is creating qualified pipeline for both our new logo side of the business as well as our customer expansion side of the business. So growth for us is all about the various processes, teams, and people that create pipeline and what we need to do to optimize all of those various processes that are in service of creating pipeline, which of course, will equate to revenue at some point down the line. But that is what growth is for us—it’s creating qualified pipeline that actually has a chance of turning into revenue.
Yes, we care about the metrics that are further up the funnel—qualified leads, qualified accounts, all those things matter—but from a reporting standpoint, when we’re working with our executive team, and when we’re working with our sales stakeholders, we are always talking about pipeline. It’s that success metric that really unifies the marketing team, growth team, and sales team together because we’re all working for the same outcome, and it’s super important that those success criteria are aligned—that is Clari’s definition of growth.
Rishi Mallik: For me, growth, philosophically, is all about the growth mindset. So I always describe growth, or our growth team, as sort of a team of funnel experts and rapid experimentation. The two mantras that I hold close with the team are one: Know that you’re not going to hit the nail on the head the first time around and be comfortable with that. Academia teaches us to get to the right answer as quickly as possible, but the real world doesn’t really work that way. I really want to get rid of that fear of failure, for my team to know that failure is part of the journey. The second philosophy, I call it the “magic number of nine,” but really, whatever you’re testing, whether it’s the subject line for a new SDR campaign, ad copy, ad images, always have multiple variants of what you’re doing and don’t leave any stone unturned. So my team knows that before anything goes live, they have to have those multiple variants ready. I think those two things are the essence of what the growth team is really.
Then metrics also play into it, too. For everything that we’re doing, we create funnels. What people forget is when they try to look at that end result, they always think about throwing stuff into the top of the funnel, but if you really break it down to individual pieces of your funnel, what you’ll see is that a lot of the times, you may have gaps or holes in the funnel, and it’s a lot easier to plug those gaps than to throw things to the top of the funnel.
How do you create a shared alignment across the different organizations at your company?
KC: I’m going to focus mostly on our relationship with the sales team because, at least in my history, the relationship between the sales team and the marketing team is often the most broken. So what our growth team allows us to do, and what the mindset that we have in our growth team allows us to do, is maintain a really good relationship with our sales team. So when we talk about what the charter of the growth team is, I mentioned a lot of it is creating pipeline, but our job is not over once the pipeline is created.
We then work very closely with all levels of sales people, from our AVPs, to our regional directors, down to individual reps to talk about deal acceleration. So we have a perspective not just about how much pipeline we’ve created, what our coverage ratios are (if that’s good or bad), and how we’re pacing toward the financial model, but also a good cross-functional working relationship with our sales team. We get down to the deal level and we say, “What do you need help with to advance this early stage deal into a later stage? Who are the people that we need to get in front of? What plays do you need to run? What personas matter most? What are the incentives that we could offer them from a growth team perspective in order to sweeten the deal and just capture more people’s attention?” It’s that type of playbook, honestly, that we’re co-creating with the sales team, that really unifies us and ensures that we always have their confidence.
What does your growth team look like?
KC: [Rishi] and I both have demand generation, account-based marketing campaign management, and digital ads in our purview, but we also have sales development in our purview. What that forces is really thoughtful, strategic, and integrated account-based strategies. So when our growth or growth marketing team is pursuing an account, they’re doing that in unison with the way that our outbound team is doing their work. The way that we think about this is that our growth marketing team is creating this air cover through digital ads, nurture emails, and a whole set of marketing activations as we call it, and our SDR team is doing more of that outbound work, that ground troops. What that means is that the accounts that we’re pursuing, they can’t miss us—we’re reaching out to them directly, we’re calling them, we’re emailing, we’re direct mail video messaging, all of that is happening. But also, they’re seeing ads on linkedin, the SEM play is there, the higher touch ABM-type campaigns, the custom landing pages, all of that is there.
These types of experiments that you rightly mentioned were always running and all very much integrated. So this alignment at the top of the funnel is really, really useful because the perspective that an SDR and an AE will create on an account makes its way into marketing campaigns. This is one of the main benefits, and a lot of the experiments that we run are exactly this—the right mixture of growth marketing tactics and SDR outbound tactics that allow us to maximally penetrate these accounts.
What are the benefits of having SDRs report into growth?
KC: In a more traditional setup, where marketing and SDRs are more separated, maybe they have a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly type meeting where they try and give feedback on a campaign, lead, or some process, though that never really works. But because our teams are co-executing these tactics and strategies together, the feedback loop is constant: It’s always happening, and it’s always being iterated on. It forces people to truly work together and understand that they’re co-stakeholders in getting success here. So that’s the main upshot—just how closely these folks have to work together as they co-execute these more strategic types of efforts.
The other thing I’d like to point out is that we have an opportunity as a growth team to create a very consistent buying experience. We have intent tools—we use 6sense—for understanding accounts that are in the market and looking up the keywords they are searching for. So if we know that an account is interested in “forecasting,” then we’re going to serve them ads that are about forecasting, our SDR team is going to do that outbounding and the messaging is all going to be about forecasting, and when we invite them to events and send them nurture emails, it’s going to be about the things we know they care about.
Our growth team also includes enablement, so we’re really religious about making sure all of that information transfers from the marketing team to the SDR team then to the sales team. We can say “Mr. and Ms. salesperson, here are the intent signals that we got, the ads that they responded to, and the messaging that our SDR team sent to them.” Now, when you’re giving them a product tour, you need to focus on forecasting. I know this doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it’s amazing how many disconnects exist for the buyer at many other companies. Where the buyer has a particular pain point in mind and they’ve communicated in many ways, implicitly and explicitly, about what they care about, but marketing doesn’t communicate with SDRs and SDRs don’t fully communicate with AEs—that just makes the buyer experience really muddied.
RM: We definitely see the same thing. One story that comes to mind is by having the SDR team for example, sit in cahoots with the digital demand generation team, we could just do some really awesome ABM campaigns on that front. One of the things that we do before any sort of outbound outreach is we’ll auto launch ads to the account, or persona specific ads, within a department, within an account, two or three days before we actually do that cold outreach. The response rates and reply rates obviously go up when we do things like that. I think that alignment is key in terms of making that happen.
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