Explore a Career in Sales Strategy & Operations - Discussion with Priyadarshini Routh, Director @SalesforceIQ
Priyadarshini Routh, Director Sales Strategy and Operations @SalesforceIQ (acquired by Salesforce), goes into great detail on what working in Sales Strategy and Ops entails.
Priyadarshini has an MBA in Marketing and Operations from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining SalesforceIQ, Priyadarshini has worked in Management Consulting with McKinsey & Co., in Business Development at Cisco, and was a Senior Manager for Kindle Content Acquisition at Amazon.
Listen to the full discussion with Priyadarshini below:
Some of the areas we touch upon in this episode include:
1. What kind of problems does someone in Sales Strategy & Operations work on. Eg: Defining sales quotas, identifying territories, etc.
2. Examples of typical projects that someone might work on in this function
3. Qualities needed in someone to enjoy working in this function. Eg: Analytics Skills, Problem Solving, Ability to Influence, etc.
4. Interesting and challenging aspects of working in this function
5. Advice for candidates interested in working in this function
Hope you enjoy the episode! :) If you have any feedback to share, or if you have any questions for Priyadarshini or for us, drop us an email at email@example.com or tweet at us @led_curator
Time-stamped show notes:
- Introduction of Priyadarshini [ 1:26 ]
- Career path so far [ 4:10 ]
- What brought Priyadarshini to SalesforceIQ [ 8:00 ]
- Why sales [ 9:56 ]
- What SalesforceIQ does [ 11:25 ]
- How would you describe your job [ 15:06 ]
- What is sales motion [ 18:44 ]
- Sales strategy [ 25:10 ]
- Typical project cycle [ 35:50 ]
- Stressful situations in the job [ 1:01:23 ]
- What makes someone stand out in this function [ 1:06:50 ]
- Good way to apply [ 1:12:04 ]
- Parting advice [ 1:20:15 ]
Transcript of the discussion with Priyadarshini:
On today's show we are going to be talking about sales strategy and operations and to help us understand this area our guest on today's show is Priyadarshini Routh who is a director of sales strategy and operations at SalesforceIQ. SalesforceIQ is a company that was acquired by Salesforce very recently. This was sometime in 2014 and Salesforce I'm sure you're all familiar with. It is a leading customer relationship management software company and is in fact a public company based out of San Francisco. Priyadarshini has been with SalesforceIQ for a little over a year and a half now and prior to that she was a senior manager for Kindle content acquisition at Amazon and before that she has done a whole bunch of other things. Priyadarshini was in consulting for a while, she was a business analyst with McKinsey and Company and she was also in business development at Cisco for some time for a little over three years. In terms of her educational background Priyadarshini has her bachelor's in actually quite a few things - we will ask her how that happened. She has a bachelor's in economics finance strategic management and computer science from University of Pennsylvania and she also has an MBA in marketing and operations from the Wharton School. All right. So I hope you enjoy today's discussion. And without further ado let's welcome Priyadarshini.
Sonali - Priyadarshini, hello welcome to the show.
Priyadarshini - Hi. Nice to be here.
Sonali - I have been trying to get a hold of you for so long. So you've moved to Bay Area year a half ago and the only way I could actually meet you was because of this podcast.
Priyadarshini - Haha.
Sonali - True.
Priyadarshini - You make me sound inaccessible Sonali.
Sonali - You are inaccessible. But, okay so first thing which I'm very curious about. As I was looking at your profile it seems that you have a bachelors in four different subjects right economics, finance, strategic management and computer science.
Priyadarshini - You didn't mention my minor in mathematics.
Sonali - Oh my God yeah. How is that possible in the same in the same duration 2001 to 2006?
Priyadarshini - Yeah. Well so Penn undergrad is that's where I went. So, Penn is actually organized into four different schools and you have a School of Engineering, the Wharton School which is the school of business if you will and then a nursing as the College of Arts and Sciences. So I was cross registered across two schools Wharton and the School of Engineering. So in School of Engineering my major was computer science. In Wharton we don't really have majors at the undergrad level. You have concentrations. So my concentrations were in Finance and Strategic Management.
Sonali - So you studied quite a few subjects at the same time.
Priyadarshini - Quite a few subjects quite a few areas yes.
Sonali - And I'm guessing this is not normal. Right like this is not the typical undergrad student that you have been.
Priyadarshini - I mean I wouldn't know quite honestly. But yeah double majors and dual degrees are definitely a small sliver of the entire population but it's not entirely like I wouldn't say that I'm like a unicorn or something.
Sonali - Because I was like wow. Which one should I mention there are like five of these.
Priyadarshini - I think it just says that I'm scatterbrained.
Sonali - Alright well thank you so much for agreeing to do this podcast. And we will be talking about what does someone in sales strategy and operations do. So what I was thinking we could start with is if you can just share your career path briefly with us so far and what led you to finally be doing sales strategy and ops in SalesforceIQ.
Priyadarshini - Got it. So as you mentioned in the introduction, out of college I actually started in management consulting so worked for a couple of years at McKinsey. where like any other management consultant I dabbled in a whole bunch of different industries. Bunch of different problems. Really speaking I think it would be quite a challenge to find a theme from management consulting days. But one of the most important things that first helped me realize was that ultimately I wanted to own a function within a company. I wanted to be a line manager and preferably be in some kind of like you know a general manager role at some point in my career. So every subsequent decision I have made is essentially at least I tell myself that it's in pursuit of that larger aim. So out of McKinsey went to Cisco with the idea of focusing on one industry technology studied engineering in schools so that was a little bit of the appeal over there. And I wanted to also see how like after that decision like you know after your recommendation has been agreed upon how does the decision actually get operationalized How do some of the things work and the guts of a company.
Sonali - This is compared to your consulting job ?
Priyadarshini - Compared to my consulting job.
Sonali - Because in consulting you would just stop at the recommendation you wanted to get into the actual implementation of that recommendation.
Priyadarshini - Right. Or at least have some visibility into it. So I went to do business development really more corporate strategy at Cisco. Again learnt a ton about the technology industry and Cisco had a wide portfolio of businesses. I got to understand how infrastructure is different than software is different than certain applications and it's different than networking which was Cisco's core bread and butter which gave me a great sense of what that landscape looked like. And largely my job at Cisco was still advisory. So I partnered with a lot of different product GMs. In some cases people more at the distribution side so I did a bunch of things sales focused but I wouldn't say I had tremendous exposure to sales in my time at Cisco. But it gave me a great general understanding of businesses and its end at least in the scope of my projects. It gave me a chance to do things more end to end where I would come up with you know a certain like identify a problem, identify what the right thing to do over there is and also have some sense of how to actually do that or push it over the finish line. Went to business school after that and coming out of business school what I really wanted to do was focus on that execution piece and so . And for a few years I had wanted to own a P&L. I wanted to find out what that experience is.
Sonali - P&L is profit and loss.
Priyadarshini - Statement. So essentially be held responsible to a number I wanted to figure out like you know is this something that I would like to do later on in life. I’ve always glamorized it in my head. What does it really look like. So that’s what took me to Amazon because most tech companies are single P&L companies. But if you look in e-commerce or consumer goods, retail these are places where people. I would consider myself still an early career professional. So I think in early career you have the chance to own a P&L. Yeah. Big or small. I found myself at Amazon suddenly gifted close to a billion dollar P&L. And I was like who is this person who is trusting me to do this job.
Sonali - So you owned when you say you owned a billion dollar P&L what does that mean.
Priyadarshini - That means is essentially that I'm responsible for both the top line growth as well as managing cost initiatives that feed into that P&L.
Sonali - And billion dollar is the revenue for that particular P&L.
Priyadarshini - Correct. Yeah. And this is like it's Amazon scale. So practically every business operates at that scale. So I don't think I could replicate that by a different company.
Sonali - That's a big deal. So like your job would have been to try and improve the profit you're making on that billion dollar in revenue.
Priyadarshini - That's that's definitely one way of defining it. Yeah absolutely.
Sonali - And then what brought you to SalesforceIQ then.
Priyadarshini - So did that for a while at Amazon enjoyed the general management thinking but realized that retail which is essentially the part of Amazon that I worked in wasn't where my passion was I wanted to come back to technology. I had gotten this amazing general management experience I had certainly gotten implementation experience because everything that any initiative that I came up with I also drove right to the end. Whether it be like you know writing copy or like you know handling the customer issues escalations whatever it is everything came to my desk. So it was exciting but I wanted to parlay that experience and bring it back to technology. So I didn't because my career path hasn't been one where I can talk about like you know there isn't a function that I have. Like for instance marketing or sales or product that I have worked in for a long time so I don't necessarily bring that experience to the table but so I didn't it would be hard for me to transition directly to a function at least my own hypothesis. So what I decided to do was to step back into the advisory side where I had like you know I had the strategy skill set but this time to be very close to a function in this case the distribution function sales and post sales and also do it within a smaller company where I would have much greater visibility and participation in the decision making.
Sonali - I see. And so when you joined SalesforceIQ had just been acquired by Salesforce right.
Priyadarshini - No I actually joined a year after the acquisition.
Sonali - A year after the acquisition.
Priyadarshini - SalesforceIQ was still a very small company. We were only about 120 130 people maybe when I joined. And I think today we are probably at 250 so definitely skyrocketing growth. It was interesting to see the scaling stage of a business as well. But at least compared to every other organization I've been part of this I consider very small.
Sonali - For sure. And why sales. What made you pick sales as opposed to other functions.
Priyadarshini - I think you know you're making me realize that my decisions weren't as thoughtful as I thought they were.
Sonali - Which is true for a lot of people right just in case it's just always good to probe because you never know what might have gone behind that decision.
Priyadarshini - Sure I think. I think what appealed to me about it was that so when I think about Salesforce even in the industry it has a great deal of credibility as an amazing distribution machine. Cisco definitely had that too like a lot of people would tell you that Cisco is more of a sales driven company whereas I think when people think of Apple for instance people think of it as more of a product driven company. Right. So I think there was a little bit of that. The other piece was also in all the jobs that I had done I felt like the skills that I had picked up and the way I approach like any problem that you give me I always approach it from a general manager standpoint so to be able to ask questions like How do I hit like you know my top line revenue like what are some of the growth initiatives they want to put in place. How do I essentially like you look at how the business is performing. Figure out like you know what are the breakpoints if you will and what I need to change there. That was kind of the job I was doing at Amazon. That was a B to C or a business to consumer environment. I could parlay that same thinking if I was close to sales in a business to business environment. I felt like it was a good fit for my skills.
Sonali - Okay. All right. So if you can give us a very brief overview of what the SalesforceIQ does. And in as layman's terms as possible.
Priyadarshini - I will try. So SalesforceIQ started its life as RelateIQ. It was founded actually by a few Stanford GSB students. And the problem that they essentially identified in the market was that you have customer relationship management software which is valuable to any and all businesses however in the lower end of the market which is where they decided to start there were two distinct problems. One was that like if you think about cloud CRM like Salesforce the parent company today essentially is the incumbent in that space. And then of course you've got like on frame CRM you know a whole bunch of other older tech companies play in that space. But the tough part is that it still takes like you know time and money to deploy some of these applications and they can be and they're also complicated in terms of getting your data in there. So small businesses want something that's easy to deploy. That's like you know out of the box intuitive they're not going to hire like an Accenture or whatever of the world to help them in their transitions. So that's the need that SalesforceIQ in my view.
Sonali - So it's easier to deploy. Like it makes deployment.
Priyadarshini - It's easier to deploy it's much much more intuitive like if you look at the interface of SalesforceIQ it looks like a spreadsheet. Everybody has been in excel at some point. So it's much easier for them to get started. And there's like I'm really like this is where a product manager can speak so much more eloquently.
Sonali - No but this is helpful that is just because you know a lot of your description of your job etc. will be in the context of you know what SalesforceIQ does.
Priyadarshini - At SalesforceIQ.
Sonali - Just trying to get some understanding. So customer relationship management software just for listeners who might not be familiar is just at a very high level it's a software that sort of keeps track of all your clients and you know the deals that you've had and how how to just continue that relationship. And what SalesforceIQ does is that it just makes the deployment of that software a lot easier as well as as well as the software itself is a lot more intuitive and easier to use.
Priyadarshini - That's correct. And it actually is the solution so it's not just it's not like a plug in to make something easier to deploy. It is it's own CRM.
Sonali - I see.
Priyadarshini - Completely so you can track your sales process you can track like you know any number of post sales processes etc. that you might be that you might have implemented for customers. It's just easier to deploy in itself and also much much more intuitive to interact with. And then SalesforceIQ actually brought out a second product and a third product now it's kind of expanded from that starting. Yeah so we also have like inbox application which essentially makes it a lot easier for a mobile salesperson. So you can essentially do all your transactions out of a mobile it has a nice suite of productivity features and on the back end it also so you are able to log everything to your CRM so it's essentially piggybacks off of the main Salesforce product. And then more recently for people following the news there have been a bunch of announcements around Einstein. Some of that was also developed.
Sonali - That AI stuff.
Priyadarshini - That's correct.
Sonali - Okay got it. We don't have to go.
Priyadarshini - Yeah yeah.
Sonali - But. And so I think what's also important to call out over here is that your customers are businesses like other businesses which is why you have a sales team that goes out and sells to these businesses. Right. So here I would then ask you that if you can give us a description of what is your job what is sales, strategy and operations how would you describe it.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. So when I think sales strategy and operations are the things that my team does. I think of it in a few different buckets. So let's talk a little about sales operations it's the more traditional thing in the industry that most I mean practically all B2B companies will have such a function to support their sales team. So it comes in a bunch of different flavors so on the sales side you're probably going to have to figure out questions like when you have a sales team like what are the territories like how do you allocate territories across your sales team. How do you compensate the sales team. What are those structural design philosophies if you will of compensation. How do you set goals and quotas for the sales team. So these are very traditional sales ops tasks and that's like you know one piece of the puzzle in other sales operations teams this is not true of my team because we leverage Salesforce' operational capabilities for this. You will also usually find people who are doing a lot of like you know contract processing order processing billing all of that. All of those operational tasks and also sometimes.
Sonali - Which you might call like post sales or like completing a transaction.
Priyadarshini - They are really to complete a transaction. I wouldn't call them post sales. On the post sales side because my team does look across both sales and post sales I think the equivalent of this would be like if you have renewal managers or if you have customer success managers again how do you allocate territories how do you set the right goals, quotas compensation et cetera. So anything to get these teams aligned in the right way to be able to achieve your top line goals is sort of like one bucket of things that usually are sales a sales operations function or a post sales operations function would do.
Sonali - This is very good so what you're talking about is that sales operations has a lot of things that you will need so you will first set a goal for your sales team that I want to meet X revenue or whatever and then to operationalize getting to that goal that's what all of this includes including things like territory and compensation and all that.
Priyadarshini - Correct.
Sonali - Can you describe a little bit of some of these. For example I think territory allocation is a pretty interesting area. How how like what are the kinds of things that you would be thinking about to figure out how to allocate territory.
Priyadarshini - So again it depends a lot on like you know what like what you're trying to optimize for. So let's say like there's a whole bunch of different models right like at the very simplest end of the spectrum. You could almost do this round robin and not even do like a territory carving model. You will probably have this in very rudimentary sales teams when you don't have a sense of how many transactions are coming in and what the geographical distribution is. For a sales team that's slightly more mature. You would think of things like you might carve them by geography you might and you would also strive for to the extent that people have like you know similar goals or similar quotas to hit you would strive for equitability across the way you carve territories.
Sonali - Equitability you mean like similar size of territories.
Priyadarshini - Yes because the territory essentially in some sense represents the opportunity for a sales person.
Sonali - To limit the amount of quota or the number of deals you can get.
Priyadarshini - Correct. Yeah exactly. So you would use like you know you want to be careful about equitability. And I think the other thing that as you're setting up this is more of a segmentation thing that comes in. For instance do you want to have like you probably don't want one team that covers everything from the smallest accounts to the biggest accounts because sales motions in those types of accounts can look different. It also comes down to building career paths for yourself.
Sonali - What is sales motion?
Priyadarshini - So like you know what a deal cycle essentially looks like so let's say if you were like let's talk about Salesforce the parent company for a second because they have a much wider spectrum. So an enterprise deal looks very different like selling to a Coca-Cola or selling to I don't know Tesla or pick whoever you want. Essentially they might be like you know deals which will take multiple months. Often these will be like multi million dollar deals they will be a lot more complex. They're usually not one product deals they're going to be multi product. All the negotiations even painting the picture. The skills you need to sell into those types of accounts can be very different than look at the opposite spectrum like the emerging small businesses segment that Salesforce for instance has where essentially it's very high velocity it's like think of it like team where your sales development team shifts you leads and you call into those leads and in many cases like maybe in two calls you're closing a deal.
Sonali - This will probably be for smaller businesses.
Priyadarshini - Exactly right. So you figure out like you know what is your sales motion look and figure out like how you want to carve flex segments if you will. So we obviously have a much smaller microcosm because we are focusing on that lower end whereas if you look at a company of the scale and size of sales force you have a lot of different segments over there. So those are some configurations that you would think about in territories.
Sonali - What about the quota. Just to get into some of the nuances or details.
Priyadarshini - Yeah sure. Quotas it's really about making making an estimation of what you think the productivity of your sales team can be right like you're giving them a number goal to hit every month. So it's based on your feel of of what that like you know what a salesperson's capacity to hit a number is given a certain opportunity.
Sonali - Is quota set per salesperson or is it at like some team level.
Priyadarshini - It can be, it actually can vary. So in most sales team individual teams will have quotas. Sometimes when so again all of this depends a lot on the maturity of your business and the maturity of your team. So for instance if you had a brand new product and there are like. So I will give you a specific example from SalesforceIQ today. So on our sales team because we've been selling for a while and we have a sense of what the productivity of the sales team can look like. So on the sales side our quotas are a lot more nuanced. For instance we will have quotas based on somebody covering the very lowest and or somebody carrying sort of like the mid-end or like the top end of our business quotas will vary by that and whereas and quotas are individual. So every AE in essentially if every AE who is covering a certain part of the business is held to a similar quota. On the renewal manager side where essentially they're doing the same thing. They're just working with a different existing customers and trying to renew that book. We've actually kept team quotas part of that is because we still don't have we feel the best understanding of exactly like you know how much someone can like we're getting to the point where we might do it in the future in the near future we might look at individual quotas. So I think it varies a little bit by that as well.
Sonali - I see. Okay.
Priyadarshini - So it's like when you feel.
Sonali - But quotas I'm sure there's a lot of art as well as science behind this right because I wasn't reading this in the context of quotas but this was in the context of something else where it is just like our goal setting at a very high level if you said something which is too much of a stretch it can be demoralizing because like how am I supposed to get there. And if it's too low then it's not inspiring enough. So how do you do that balance.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. It's I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you know it's as much art as science it's really really tough. And if I if I flatter myself that I have made all the right decisions then that's not true. It's it's it's it's very hard. I think what you're talking about is exactly the we always have that at the back of our minds as the business matures more and more you're able to make more educated guesses. You have like you know better data. For instance you would look at what the distribution of attainment across different AEs is.
Sonali - AEs is area.
Priyadarshini - Account executives i.e the sales reps. Right so if you look at the distribution you have a better sense of whether like whether someone is an outlier or whether it's like somewhat concentrated around a certain number that might give you comfort that okay that's probably like you know a fair quota to set. But what you just mentioned is absolutely the tricky part of this and there is no right answer.
Sonali - And I'm sure over a period of time you keep on refining.
Priyadarshini - Exactly, it's iteration refinement and also maturity and experience and that's the reason like you know why you have people who have done this before also involved for these exercises.
Sonali - Sure yeah yeah okay. So this was sales ops so you talked about like things like territory compensation, quotas, contract processing.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. I think the one piece that I didn't mention in sales ops is that there's also especially in a startup context there's a bunch of things around systems because the systems that you put in place and the processes that you put in place can be fundamentally can fundamentally affect the outcomes and the efficiency of your sales team. So we spend a lot of time understanding like you know which CRM we should use what kind of statuses we should track making sure that you know sales the sales team is following disciplined in terms of how they are tracking and like pipeline setting up.
Sonali - Why did we win a deal. Why did we lose a deal.
Priyadarshini - All of that right. And then even forecasting right like for a sales manager to be able to forecast and have a sense of have some forward visibility of where the month will close you need like a lot of hygiene if you will around how you're tracking all of these deals. So part of sales ops' jobs and again it depends on the maturity but sometimes a sales ops person might be the person who's actually implementing that first instance of Salesforce or any other CRM software within their business and then setting up the policies and processes etc.
Sonali - To track the data and making sure that sales team is adhering to like actually logging all of those details.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. I mean it's jointly owned obviously with a sales manager because ultimately they will have direct like you know their direct influence ability but it's also pretty critical pyro for sales ops.
Sonali - Got it. Okay. So that was sales ops. What about sales strategy.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. So as I know that I'm the one who kind of made a little bit of a false distinction if you will between the ops and strategy side because I think these these words honestly mean different things to different people and where you draw the line is up to you. But I would say that in typical sales ops or sales strategy and ops functions these are all things you would do. Things like I talked about the very operational task of really like you know supporting the team and making sure that the team is you know essentially operationalized to hit a certain target. But equally important whether you define this as strategy or ops is a lot of funnel analysis that we do. So as you think about like as a, as a manager of a business if you are held accountable to a number there's not a lot like a lot of people actually focus on what's the revenue I brought in. I would argue this is something I learnt at Amazon that that's actually not the most important thing that you should be focusing on because you can't do very much with something which is so much of a downstream metric. By that time it's like the game has been played. If you want to have any influence and if you want to be able to tinker around with levers you need to look a lot more upstream. So you want to monitor every part of your sales funnel starting from the time like any upstream demand generation activities you do you would want to capture all of that you want to make sure like you know how many of those leads that demand gen has kind of coming up with like what's the number what's the quality of those leads then like sales development which is sent which is usually the first function you have who like you know they are probably. So sales development would be the way to think about like why you usually have that gating function is that your sales reps you don't want to like when demand gen is coming up with leads some of them are like you know high high likelihood to close type of prospects and then there's low likelihood to close prospects.
Sonali - So actually let me stop you right there. So before we get into the details can you at a very high level tell us what is what does that funnel look like what are the stages in that funnel.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. Good. Good question. So I will think about at least when I think about our funnel it's I would think about demand generation sales development and then the actual sale and then of course there's like post sales after that. It's kind of how I like the functions organized in order.
Sonali - And on the top you have demand generation. These are the guys who are actively going out and getting deals.
Priyadarshini - No so the way I think about demand generation is that they're essentially getting you leads.
Sonali - Not even leads deals yeah.
Priyadarshini - Yeah leads. Right. So what are some demand gen activities. And again this depends a lot on the segment of the business if you're playing like in a small business segment like we do a lot of the traditional channels you might use there are things like you know paid social or search engine marketing right your website probably won't drive as much where as the sales ops.
Sonali - So is it like awareness. And this might be more slightly more slightly more than just awareness.
Priyadarshini - It's more than awareness. I think awareness is part of it but making sure that you actually drive to actual leads that someone can then like you know pick up the phone and call and find out like what is the likelihood to close.
Sonali - Okay. So that's demand generation.
Priyadarshini - That's demand generation.
Sonali - And then after you said it's sales development.
Priyadarshini - Then you have sales development at least for us. So the reason most companies will have a sales dev function is because so sales reps if you give them like if you inundate them with leads of all different qualities your sales reps will be wasting a lot of time picking up the phone and calling people who are probably never going to buy. So you want a sales dev person or somebody you want some kind of a getting mechanism over there to be able to figure out which of those higher prospect leads.
Sonali - So prospect qualification.
Priyadarshini - Yes exactly. That's essentially what they're doing. They're qualifying leads. And I mean at the broadest level I am simplifying very much over here what they are essentially doing is anything which is high likelihood they send down the sales funnel whereas something that's low likelihood you might actually send back to marketing and marketing might do like nurture campaigns with them to get them to a point to feel it so that they will be high level.
Sonali - So like maturing them. You know I'm not ready to buy this yet. Okay got it. So that's the sales development function. And then you have sales itself.
Priyadarshini - Then you have sales itself. Then the account executives take over and usually the other people who are closing things. And then finally you have post sales and in post sales I see a bunch of different types of functions. So some of them will be involved in like the early onboarding driving engagement because those are the things that will drive better renewal outcomes at the end of an year. So for us most of our contracts are annual contracts and you have renewals people who are actually going to close these deals when they come up for renewal and I think the other very critical thing that post sales also plays a part in at least for us is in driving up sales and upgrades.
Sonali - Right right right so you're on level 1 package why don't you buy level 2 package or something.
Priyadarshini - Correct.
Sonali - Okay got it. Yeah. So you said that one big part of your job as in sales ops and strategy is to monitor this funnel right from demand generation because the more demand generation you have the more sales you will have.
Priyadarshini - May be.
Sonali - At a very high level.
Priyadarshini - Yeah exactly.
Sonali - It depends on the quality.
Priyadarshini - Precisely that's the reason why you do all of this funnel analysis right. It's not just quality if you think about it can also be capacity. Right. Let's say demand gen is doing a fabulous job sends a whole bunch of quality leads. But your sales development function isn't adequately resourced. They aren't able to follow up with all of those leads. Right.
Sonali - So you will.
Priyadarshini - Exactly. So these are all the problems that you want to keep a very close eye on. Like where are the capacity constraints where are things breaking and what are the reasons why it's breaking and essentially that is what I that I think is the most exciting part of my job because when I'm able to do that level of analysis I'm able to identify what are the things I'm going to change in the business and that essentially helps me like you know drive towards the.
Sonali - And you are able to spot like the right gaps. I'm sure the impact is like an immediate significant impact right like suddenly you open up yourself to many more leads or many more conversions adding like a few more people. Can you share an example maybe that comes to mind.
Priyadarshini - Around?
Sonali - Around like you know something that you did in this funnel analysis and something that you found which led to a like a big change.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. The reason I laugh is because I think like the last year of my life has been like you know a lot of, a lot of small changes. Sometimes they're not necessarily big changes but small changes that actually did like you know incrementally get us do better in better places. So we for instance we heard a lot of complaints from our sales development. People had points that hey we're not getting the right quality of leads from demand gen. So we've gone back and looked at what channels end up converting better versus what are not and we substantially changed the way we allocate funds.
Sonali - So when you say channels as in like leads coming through different sources.
Priyadarshini - Different sources exactly vs like you know display ads et cetera. Each of them will have like a different conversion profile because because people with different types of intent are essentially captured in each of these channels. Then another very concrete example that comes to mind from my early days is we were moving SalesforceIQ like we wanted to go global we do sell the product globally today but not when I had started. And so I worked on the pilot program for getting us into UK and at the time we only had one account executive dedicated to the UK and we knew that there was more opportunity over there but we just weren't resourced as a team to put more resources over there and be able to milk all of that opportunity. So we made the case for expanding the UK team. So it went from one to actually six people this year and the UK business and especially after we sent people into the UK to actually be in market. It's like what we close these days is like it's almost like the first time we had a full team over there we closed 2x that month versus the month before.
Sonali - Right right. So that's the kind of impact you can have.
Priyadarshini - That's pretty immediate impact.
Sonali - Awesome so yeah so you said that I guess right now we're still more in the realm of sales ops than sales strategy.
Priyadarshini - I would consider it's again like I don't like the monikers I really don't know because each person defines it so differently. It sits on the borderline because I would think that some of these are very strategic questions as well. In my mind. Right. But the way I think about it is that there's a piece around which is operational activity to stand up the team every day. And then there is a set of questions around decisions that you will make which will help you hit a revenue target. And I kind of put this more in that second bucket.
Sonali - So is there anything else within this function.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. I think other stuff that we do some kind of thinking through like where my team spends its time. There so often on you will get involved in I suppose more a longer term strategic questions if you will from a distribution angle. So for instance given the data that we have about customers about the way we go to market when we were revisiting like you know what pricing and packaging strategy should look like for some of our offerings then we can. My team yeah.
Sonali - That's sales.
Priyadarshini - So again there's like it's let's say we work in partnership because there's definitely like product controls ultimately the pricing and packaging decision. But because we are close to the customer and we are we have a lot of the distribution data we can help inform them.
Sonali - Give them that data.
Priyadarshini - Correct to make like you know better decisions. And then there's a bunch of like you know a lot of like executive like in any strategy function. There's always an element of executive support. So any time like for instance today when we go out and present our business to Marc Benioff who is the CEO of Salesforce you know the team will probably help and spend some time working on telling the story crafting the message.
Sonali - Yeah but this is great Priya because you know I've seen like a lot of MBA grads especially you know end up in some kind of like a sales strategy and operations kind of rule. It's a role that you see very often but I've never really understood what do these people do. I'm sure it's important.
Priyadarshini - Haha.
Sonali - Now I have a good understanding. So I also wanted to sort of walk through a typical project just to get a sense for the kind of activities you might engage in in a project. So is there a project that stands out in your mind. Either it was very interesting or just tough or just and we can then go to stages of that project.
Priyadarshini - So one of the this is a recurring project one of the most important things that my team does is we do like monthly business reviews and essentially we are putting together a fact back around the business. So it's very similar to all the funnel analysis that I talked about. So we look at like you know again the number of leads that are coming in. Do we have appropriate conversion. Are there any conversion drop offs across the funnel. Are we resourced appropriately. What does attainment looks like across the teams to make sure that we've set goals in a thoughtful fashion. We look at like you know what kind of pipeline are we bringing in and does pipeline to ECVs like essentially are it's not the equivalent of revenue but without getting into all the details essentially think of it as the dollar value of whatever we close at the end of the, at the end of the sale. So is are there like you know any breakpoints over there. So we spend a lot of time like obsessing about these types of questions. So I'm trying to think.
Sonali - I mean it sounds like do you think it's a very like analysis heavy kind of role then. Because it's like just pulling a lot of data from Salesforce.
Priyadarshini - It's very data driven. But it doesn't stop at analysis. The person who is successful in this role is someone who can pull the data but then make sense of the data and can have a perspective on what you will change in the business if you can't do that last part I mean you're probably good as an analyst you're certainly not good as a sales strategy and operations person especially as you think of people more senior.
Sonali - I see. Yeah. So apart from so like if I were to think about the key activities you would be doing in this role depending on of course the kind of problem you're trying to solve for it will vary but there's a big part of data analysis. And then apart from that what else would you think like in this example like when you're putting together these monthly reviews so you do the data analysis you might come up with a recommendation based on what the data is telling you. Do you do something else like is there a lot of socializing involved of your recommendation or like going out and speaking with customers.
Priyadarshini - Yeah socialization not so much because it's a much smaller company so things can you know move quicker and nimbler. It's just not that many people if you will to socialize with we do we as the audience for this the monthly business reviews is the entire sales management hierarchy. So the person who heads sales, person who heads GTM and GTM is go to market. So it's both sales and post sales. And then all the sales managers all the post sales functional leaders will all come together and like you know will take a look at the data and essentially what coming out of that meeting often we will have very concrete things that we're going to chase down. So going back to your earlier question around projects. So let me give you an example from the post sales side because we've talked a lot about the sales side of the house. So on the post sales side we look at churn is a very important metric that every single SAAS company obsesses or should obsess with. So as you think about bringing churn under control some churn happens at the time that your that contracts are up for renewal. But even during the year when people are supposed to be locked into a contract you can still have churn. For instance it could be that somebody goes out of business. So you're not going to get money from them. So understanding what's the quality of customers that you're selling to for instance is your bad debt read essentially going up. It's not it's not terribly controllable but it's something important to know at the same time. Also and even though I said that it might not be like you know it's not terribly controllable there are controllable aspects of it because for instance you may want to make sure that people who are approving like these refunds like are we being thoughtful about their approval processes. Have we like you know put the right like gating mechanisms are we putting the right offers. So these are things like you know we call it off cycle churn internally. So we've been chasing down for instance off cycle churn. Could be like you know one specific initiative or something else that we might think of is that as our renewals book has grown exponentially it's not possible to do like the hero model in which we served customers before. Right where every single customer gets the exact same kind of high touch renewal conversation.
Sonali - So you might vary that a little bit.
Priyadarshini - That's right. We so for some of the smaller accounts we've tried to put in place you know some scalable mechanisms where you have like you know a large maybe like you start things out with like bigger email blasts rather than having the renewal manager pick up the phone. So all of these like even designing that model like what are those thresholds at which we are going to cut off and implement different types of processes people on my team have been involved in some of these.
Sonali - No this is very helpful. Because it just gives a flavor for the kind of things you might be working on. And I think the other thing which will be very interesting to talk about is the kind of roles in terms of hierarchy maybe that you can expect in this kind of a function. So for example you're at a director level right. So now you have a big team that you're managing but let's say someone is out of undergrad or maybe grad school. So to take an take an analogy in consulting you will have analyst associate manager principal etc. right so similarly in this if you can give us like a flavor for what are the how's the team put together.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. So I can talk a little bit about my team. I would say that it's not very standard though I think it really depends so much on like you know the context of the business, the size of the business even sometimes the leaders the individual team leaders philosophy. So for instance I like flat teams lean teams with people who have like you know large jobs scope's rather than layering up a team too much because personally I feel like the put like you know the further off you are from a certain point it's harder and harder for you to have visibility and to really feel like you're empowered to make decisions in the business. So that's just like a personal philosophy. So on my team we've operated in different ways and we usually have a couple of people like you know maybe focus on the sales side some people focus on the post sales side. So that's like one way of dividing it up. There have been times when I've tried to do a little bit more almost project based or initiative based in the sense that people would be able to cut across lines so maybe you have a subject matter expertise in sales but you also once in a while get to do something which is more of a post sales problem. So it could be that. Let me talk a little bit about how Salesforce does it because they have a much larger sales strategy and operations function I've got a sense of how they are organized. So they actually organize a little bit by and this is I think you will find more examples of this in the industry as well in a business partner model. So what does that mean. Essentially they organize their hierarchy so that people are matched to people in the sales hierarchy. So at Salesforce you have like the enterprise business unit you have a commercial business unit and then you have the emerging small business unit. And essentially the difference between those three different units is how large are the companies that you're essentially selling into. So you might have you do actually you have their EVPs at each of those levels. So you might have someone at my level who is mapped to each EVP and then each of those EVPs may have like you know several SVPs who are like have different segmentations and then similarly on the sales strategy and operations side you have a team where people reporting to me would essentially be mapped to those SVPs and would work in a business.
Sonali - But why you map to people in sales are you enabling the sales team is that why.
Priyadarshini - No you're not enabling the system enablement is actually a separate function. Usually in most sales organizations we'll have a market readiness / enablement function which also sales strategy and operations serves. So for instance I on my team like I know I didn't talk very much about that in the examples I gave.But we have talked about for instance how do you measure the success of the enablement function or where do you plug in enablement. But going back to your question of like why do you do the mapping. I think the logic behind that mapping is that you are essentially an advisor. You are helping to solve whatever the top of mind problems are of the sales leader. So for instance if somebody comes in and says tomorrow that hey we need to focus more on enterprise like for whatever reason we feel that we're not getting. And I'm just making this up, this is a completely hypothetical example like we're not getting what we want out of enterprise deals. That's an interesting problem that somebody then needs to go and chase down like why is that. Is it because like I could think of different reasons like maybe your product isn't enterprise ready maybe you haven't organized your sales force the correct way.
Sonali - I see.
Priyadarshini - Yeah.
Sonali - So sales might come to sales strategy and ops to say this is a problem that we're seeing. Can you help us figure out why.
Priyadarshini - Exactly.
Sonali - And within this mapping that you describe the roles within sales strategy and ops group might as you become more and more senior are you just handling bigger and bigger projects. Is that the difference then.
Priyadarshini - In terms of seniority yes I would say so yeah. And even the level I think the way to think about it is almost that a sales leader will get more in terms of you know advice judgment perspective if you will of a more senior person versus somebody who is.
Sonali - Like an accounts manager.
Priyadarshini - Sorry.
Sonali - So you said that there's mapping to each of the individual salespeople so like a sales leader might get way more advice than like just an individual account manager.
Priyadarshini - So you are never mapped at the individual account manager level. You are always you are just mapped to different people like different levels of hierarchy in the sales management structure. So like whether you're mapped to a sales leader who's an EVP or maybe a sales leader who is an SVP. I don't actually think we have any mappings under that.
Sonali - So it's essentially at the leadership level.
Priyadarshini - It's at the leadership level. Yeah I would just say that if you think about like you know what is the higher up you go in any function you're essentially looking at more ambiguous problems right. More like you know the problems might be of bigger scope. Like instead of solving it for it's one thing to solve it for a team of 40 people it's quite a different thing to solve it for a team of 4000 people. So those types of complexities is what distinguishes even like where people are placed along sales hierarchy and similarly those mapped to the type of problem that someone in sales strategy will do.
Sonali - All right. So this is this is super helpful because I think this is a great overview of what this function is. So now I would love to get into some of the more you know just your personal thoughts on this job. So what do you think are the most interesting aspects of working in sales strategy and ops.
Priyadarshini - For me personally it's the fact that I get to put on a general management hat every day and take a look at this business. It really feels like operating a part of the business myself. Do I actually get to do that directly. No not by a long shot I would be disingenuous if I suggested that but I love the fact that I'm able to put that hat on and ask myself that if I had owned this business or if I was running this function and I saw this problem what's that concrete decision or what's that change I would make. That's for me that's the most exciting what supports that is this thought process of of analytical problem solving which is something that you know I've been trained to do right from my first job out of college. And that's something that I enjoy being able to look at data tell a story come up with concrete recommendations and then make changes. And sometimes actually be able to see the effect of those changes both good and bad.
Sonali - Haha, both good and bad.
Priyadarshini - Yes that is a very good learning.
Sonali - Do you think that your first point is very interesting that you get to think like a general manager and think about what decision I would take if I were to own the business. Yeah. Do you think that's more of a function of the fact that you're a director. And so you are someone who is pretty senior as opposed to someone who might be slightly more junior but still working in sales strategy and operations.
Priyadarshini - I personally think it is a function of personality and training. I don't actually think it has you like I don't put a lot of like I don't think your level in an organization needs to constrain you. You can always think like that if you are pushed to think like that. And if you're trained to think like that. So what do I mean by that. So today I have like you know four people on my team. Couple of people are a lot more junior so they're only two years out of college versus two others are I don't know somewhere in like seven eight years experience range. So very different profiles. But whenever I whenever there is a problem that anyone is solving the question that I always ask them is could you put yourself in the shoes of actually my manager who heads all of GTM if you had the chance to make the decision what is the decision you would make. It's obviously a lot easier for some, the more experience you have to relate to that level of thinking. But I don't think that thinking has to wait.
Sonali - Absolutely. So let me put my question in a slightly different way what you describe is something which I think anyone can feel in any function right.
Priyadarshini - I think to a certain extent that's true.
Sonali - You should try and feel like you know.
Priyadarshini - I think so.
Sonali - Exactly right. Let's say you are the product manager then you know you want to think that if I own this product which you do what would I do. So is there something specific about the sales strategy and operations function very unique to this function which you might potentially not find very easily elsewhere that you that you think is interesting.
Priyadarshini - I think that while this is true of any function I do think that your ability to feel it is a little bit different in the sense that you know you're close to like this function gives you're you're literally the last mile before it hits the customer.
Sonali - It is the last mile.
Priyadarshini - That's like what the distribution function is so that I feel like that like I could ask these questions if I was sitting in a product design function too. And I should and I think they do us slightly different types of like different flavors of the same question. But I feel that I'm able to ask the kind of changes that I can make and the questions that I specifically ask like I don't feel like I could have if I wasn't as close to distribution.
Sonali - I think yeah I think what you're trying to say and correct me if I'm wrong is that almost that you do own the last mile so the amount of impact you can have is probably a lot even through a small change so as an example let's say compare with legal right. Legal should also feel like if I were to own the business what was the right legal decision. But the right legal decision probably may not have always in all cases the same level of impact on the revenue or the outcome as opposed to a decision in sales per se. Is that.
Priyadarshini - I hear what you're saying. Yeah. I hesitate to say that I think this is as I said is so much this is really a function of my personality naturally.
Sonali - Of course.
Priyadarshini - Like no matter what function like I've heard these types of arguments made. For instance there are people on my team who will say I like working in distribution because I'm close to the revenue. I think you are close to the revenue no matter what function you're in. You just need the right mindset.
Sonali - No that's good.
Priyadarshini - So that's why I hesitate here for saying this.
Sonali - For sure yeah yeah yeah. So I want to probe you a little bit on that right. Because the reason I ask this question in most of my discussions is that let's say put yourself in the shoes of someone who is you know relatively new in their career they are not very clear what they want to do. And then they hear your discussion and they're like you know what. That doesn't really help me figure if I want to go into product or sales right and yours is not strictly sales like you are not selling selling. So what will be helpful is if you can like if you were to let's say persuade someone that you know I think sales strategy and ops would be a good function for you. What would you tell them.
Priyadarshini - What would I tell them. Darn. Should have recorded the pitches that I gave to the last two people I hired on my team. I think I would tell them that I would certainly make the general management pitch. I like I know I keep coming back to that but I actually do think you're in a very good position to ask some of those questions to answer some of those questions and implement those changes because of where you sit in the business I would say that's one. Second thing I would say if you've ever dreamed of being in a function which is there's a lot of like analytical decision making involved if that appeals to you. I think this is a good function to go into. I think the third thing that I would say is that you can parlay this into a lot of different career choices down the line. Right because you will be building a skill set that is that is essentially like being like a strong problem solver. You're going to have create data analysis skill sets you're going to build like a people in this function you're going to have to it's an influence function right. So there's a lot of like consensus building a lot of executive presence especially when you're presenting to people who are a lot more senior. Those are like fantastic base skill sets that you can then take and parlay into any other function. I think it gives you like you know also structured thinking like all of those things kind of are used and you have to really flex that muscle.
So I think that that's another thing that would appeal and I would put that in the pitch and then the last thing I would say is that if you think a lot like an industrial engineer then this is a function that will appeal to you. So what do I mean by that. You are at some level this function is a lot about how do you design things to scale well right. Like how do you when you have a sales when you have a sales team of five people vs like you know bigger sales team of 50 people versus a mini army of 500 versus a true army of 5000. Like how do you put in place processes where you know all of these people can align and achieve a certain aim that you have and how do you streamline processes like how do you take out bottlenecks how do you make sure that certain interactions are happening the right way things are being captured in a standardized fashion so that you are able to analyze and tell a story about the business. Those are actually non-trivial problems. So anybody who enjoys thinking and like how do you drive like you know throughput through this type of a system. Anyone who enjoys that kind of industrial engineering thinking will probably find this function rewarding.
Sonali - I think you finally hit.
Priyadarshini - Finally, took a lot of dead beating the horse to the water.
Sonali - I think it's also like it really depends person to person like some people respond differently to different questions. Do you think there's an element of organization design also in what you're doing.
Priyadarshini - For sure yeah.
Sonali - Do you guys think about like how many sales reps support to how many whatever manager.
Priyadarshini - Absolutely absolutely. Part of like when I think about going back to a question I think you asked me a while back around projects. So at the start of this year we essentially doubled our sales team so we had to make a lot of decisions around what does the team structure look like. And like you know how you structure your team will essentially drive a lot of outcomes. Like anybody who's been to business school probably remembers the line around what was it strategy follows structure. But those two things are very intertwined. So you definitely get to see that a lot and even outside of that like organizationally for instance answering questions like the add on the add on upgrade part of your like you know.
Sonali - Or you can give like free stuff.
Priyadarshini - No no sorry. The upsell / upgrade part of your revenue whether that should be led by people in the sales organization or whether that should be owned by the post sales organization. How do you exactly goal these teams. How do you make sure that the hand-offs are smooth those are actually tricky questions as well and they are questions that you are supposed to solve.
Sonali - I mean it's all about the right motivation for every person right. And where do you draw the line. Yeah. So and the flip side of the interesting part so like what aspects do you find challenging about this job. So not not necessarily hard I mean I'm sure this is a hard job but in particular things that you think are challenging.
Priyadarshini - Like what I don't like.
Sonali - It's up to you how you want to answer it.
Priyadarshini - I think the things that are challenging about this job again so much of this really comes down to individual personalities so I would say that people shouldn't anchor to like you know one person's answer it's almost like try out figure out if this is for you or not. I have heard some people say that sometimes they feel like it can get very analytically heavy. It can almost be a little bit too data driven. So again I would say to someone evaluating a career or a job in this type of function figure out what your comfort level is. I mean.
Sonali - Definitely not for someone who doesn't like data for example.
Priyadarshini - For sure but even when you like data like some people would love to like you know it's like some people enjoy like heavy number crunching and even the way sales ops is kind of moving with web based businesses you have a lot more data. So there is always this push to crunch more data. And sometimes the incremental data crunch may or may not yield results if you will. So I think that part can be challenging for some people. I think the second thing this is very personal to me this. This comes back to my personal desire of always being in a line function. So when I think of like you know my long term career like my long term career goal I as much as I have had a wonderful time in this function love the way we think. But I would take this and I actually want to be a GM of a business rather than stay somewhat outside it. So I have found that to be like you know a personal attention where I can influence an outcome but I still don't want 100 percent control.
Sonali - But then as you said that this does equip you with the right skills so maybe you could make that transition at some point.
Priyadarshini - Exactly exactly. And then there are different types of people like I talk to like people on my team or other people who have done these types of roles. Some people actually like being on the advisory side. That's just what they want. And there are some great advantages to being on it. For me personally if tomorrow somebody said hey you could be like you know like you could do you could solve some of these problems as you do by being like you know a head of sales or a head of marketing or whatever. Go ahead demand generation I would probably pick that role. Because for me personally that's where I want to be right. So I think that can be another. You know it can be another it can matter to some people. I think the other thing that I would say in the role is it can be. I think you've got to be okay with ambiguity because many of like no matter how much data you have at the end of the day it will not always tell you a clear story. So a lot of it is around having the comfort to test iterate use your judgment be wrong and then you know keep moving I think. And not everybody has the appetite for that.
Sonali - Right. And I think the example that could be a good one over here is that the thing that we talked about right the part art part science which is that you know how much quota. Data can only point you to an extent after that you just have to take a call. And are there any common mistakes that you have found people make in this role or in this function maybe let's say when they are early in their careers.
Priyadarshini - There isn't anything terribly function specific. But given that my challenge to people is always can you like what would you do what would you actually decide to do. I think sometimes early career professionals tend to think that the analytics the modeling it's like you know I built a wonderful model.
Sonali - That's everything.
Priyadarshini - That's everything exactly. And I think as I think the only reason I have some gray hair on my head is because I've come to realize and I certainly I think my best taste of this was actually in my job at Amazon where I actually owned the P&L. It's like sometimes the best analytics in the world don't mean a damn thing because you may try something logic points you in that way. But for a whole bunch of factors some of which you may have predicted some of which you have not outcomes don't necessarily always end up exactly that way. Right. And part of the challenge in this function and something that you should hopefully enjoy is like it's okay I made my best guess and now my best guess has to change and what do I do next and you know continuously.
Sonali - Comfort with that being able to just change your recommendation or change your own hypotheses as you get more and more data.
Priyadarshini - Absolutely. Absolutely yes. And recognizing that the model isn't where it ends. Really wear it like till the rubber meets the road. Your model doesn't mean anything.
Sonali - Yeah. It's just the first step right yeah. Are there any stressful situations that you run into in this job. Oh I'm sure there are from the look on your face.
Priyadarshini - Absolutely.
Sonali - Well can you give an example.
Priyadarshini - So let me say this. Anybody who does this job with the level of seriousness that this job should in my mind should entail. You will find this job stressful because I think a little bit about it like you're setting quota right you're setting a goal. It's a goal that actually determines somebody else's compensation. If you don't take that decision seriously and if you're stressed out when you feel that people aren't attaining like you know your guess essentially about the business is wrong you should be stressed. In my mind like I don't want somebody on my team who is not stressed.
Sonali - Who is not stressed. No one's meeting quota.
Priyadarshini - Not like you know not stressed like stressed in a bad way what I mean to say is that you should obsess about that you should feel the accountability because otherwise it's like you're essentially operating in an ivory tower. Right like I can come in and say oh quota is 100k for like these X many salespeople. Sure anybody can come up with a number like unless you feel that accountability that I have wanted to like set a good goal a fair goal that is driving the right outcomes of the team. And many many times you will be wrong because it is a freaking hard decision to get right. If you don't have that level of accountability whether you want to call that stressful or not you shouldn't be in the job.
Sonali - So one thing which I want to clarify I think I. On the one hand you are you know you're the one who's setting in the territory and the compensation and all of that. On the other hand you are in an advisory function. So I didn't I don't get it. You mean that the sales guys are the ones who are actually like implementing the territory is that the distinction.
Priyadarshini - So in those types of in some of the specifics that you called out like you know territories and composition and in the end why you see your advisors at the end of the day and again this depends a lot like on how functions are structured who you are reporting into et cetera et cetera. But generally speaking the head of sales will have should have probably the final say I would say at some level. So at least in our case like any of these decisions I make very strong recommendations. But the alts on the other side like yeah or may if you will still comes from the head of sales. So there are like one of the reasons that you do keep these functions separate and don't completely like you know make them part of the sales like in Salesforce. These are actually two separate functions because you want someone to still have a lot of objectivity.
Sonali - Yeah otherwise the sales guy will just do whatever works for them.
Priyadarshini - Exactly.
Sonali - That makes a lot of sense. Okay. And thanks for clarifying because I was like I don't get it. All right so then I'm going to switch the context a little bit more from the point of view of recruiting. So let's say you were to replace yourself and find someone to replace yourself. You had to pick five qualities in the person what would those five qualities be. And this is like I'm trying to understand like you know what kind of person would would enjoy or thrive in this job.
Priyadarshini -Yeah definitely somebody who's A class analytical problem solver like that we've talked about you know much.
Sonali - Yeah very clearly.
Priyadarshini - Yeah that's very important. You have to have like and more than like and I don't want to use the word data I actually want to use analytical problem solving because whether or not you have the data the ability to think like you know in a very logical structured fashion.
Sonali - And break down a problem.
Priyadarshini - And break down a problem like that is critical especially if you're thinking like at my level. I think the second thing that I would say is somebody who you know brings judgment and perspective to the table and isn't somebody who just stops at the analytics because this is ultimately I think of this as a you know a decision facilitating or like you know helping make decisions essentially the way I think about my role. So I think that's a pretty critical thing that I would say as well. And the third thing I would say is having prioritisation skills. In any team like this you're going to get a million requests and even any time you look at a business there are there's going to be always a whole bunch of things that aren't performing exactly the way you want to. Having again that judgment and the prioritisation of where do I plug in what do I spend time what should I care about what moves the needle I think that's pretty critical skill to bring to the table. Not necessarily specific to the function but specific more to the role that I'm in for sure team building skills like you know can you actually recruit on board motivate and manage people well. I think that's four by my count. I think the last thing that I would say I want to make sure that I haven't. Oh influencing skills.
Sonali - Yeah for sure.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. Because I was actually surprised that I seem to have. Skipped over that.
Sonali - That's seriously very important in this one like so you first come up with your recommendation but now you have to convince your sales guy or your marketing guy or your product guy or gal about it.
Priyadarshini - Yeah yeah absolutely.
Sonali - And have you seen that you know over and above this. I mean by now you must have worked with a lot of people in this function. Are there any things that make really you know superbly awesome people in this function. Is anything that makes them stand out.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. I think one thing that I would say like a whole like different like all of these like you know even the skills that I talked about like they have different levels of depth and different levels of flavor that people can get to. But I think one of the big things that that at least I have personally seen like you know help someone stand out is it's almost like an obsession if you will with the problem. What do I mean by that. If you have the mindset that somebody is going to give you a well defined problem and you're going to go and chase it down to an answer you will be good. But I don't think you will be great. The great person looks for problems needs to be able to ask the right questions.
Actually that's probably the other very important skill that I would put here because this is no longer unlike like you know for instance I came from like a consulting background I have hired a lot of ex consultants on the team as well. And generally speaking the challenge that I see with them is that sometimes they're expecting someone to give them a well-defined well-framed problem. That's not how real business works. Real business is a lot more bottoms up it's like you get all these different signals and you got to figure out what's the signal what's the noise. You've got to figure out how to ask the right question how you will frame it the right way because the way you frame the question will determine the answer that you get to. And so I think that's an incredible skill that makes somebody great. I think the second thing that I would say along the same lines is you have to have an exploratory mindset. It cannot again be that mindset of okay this is like the well-defined well-contained. While you need to bring structure to anything you also need to you've got to like build that judgment of okay where do I like peel one level deeper versus you know where it's like enough is enough. And that's not exactly a very easy skill. I struggle with it every day.
Sonali - That's hard because you need to go pulse on like all of these different things happening and then be able to take a step back to say what's important and what's not.
Priyadarshini - Right right. And it's also like this. It's it's almost like you like in many cases especially maybe because we're a new business. We've seen certain oddities in the data which we haven't been able to quite explain like going that like having that appetite to be like a self-starter and go to the next level and then again if you don't find a good enough answer being creative and like you know trying to it's almost like it's a little bit of a fishing expedition and you've got to be willing to put in the work and and have fun essentially in that fishing expedition. And some people don't like it because some people will say oh I don't really understand why I'm doing this it's almost like you've got to find that meaning a little bit bottoms up in my experience. So I would say that's another thing that I think makes people really great.
Sonali - Truly great.
Priyadarshini - Yeah. And I thought there was another thing that came to mind and I forgot.
Sonali - If you remember it you can bring it up.
Priyadarshini - Yeah okay.
Sonali - And it sounds like you've hired a lot of ex consultants on the team, so do you think like what is a typical background for this particular function. Yeah I think anybody who comes from like you know a consulting function or a corporate strategy function. And I have also considered people from actually any kind of professional services really would. And again it depends a little bit on tenure. So if I'm looking at very junior people like you know zero to I don't know let's say three to four years out of college I would consider anybody who who has like you know basic financial modeling skills, basic executive presence and communication good communication skills and the most important analytical problem solving skills. And I don't anchor very much to somebody who has need to have done this job before. I give people like the way my interview process usually works is I give people like you know real world business problems that have come up in the function and I see that is this person able to think through this. And if you can it means that's enough. If I'm looking for somebody more senior I probably will look for someone who's done something a little bit similar in context. Personally I don't care very much about whether they've done it for distribution. But let's say even if somebody came from like you know a product strategy background or if they've done like some kind of operations analysis in a different industry or whatever I think those would be very good as well.
Sonali - But and you have to have an MBA.
Priyadarshini - Not in my view.
Sonali - No right. And do you hire people straight out of undergrad.
Priyadarshini - I personally don't. I'm unaware of whether Salesforce does or doesn't.
Sonali - I mean they could potentially join as some kind of an analyst on the team right.
Priyadarshini - You can join as an analyst on the team absolutely. You probably have one to two years experience out of college. And here's the reason like why I think in a larger company that's why I brought up Salesforce like you know the corporate parent because there are much larger teams and they will have the bandwidth to train you. For me it's a lot easier to have somebody.
Sonali - To start the process yeah they want people who are like a little bit trained.
Priyadarshini - If I had the time I would love to train somebody straight out of college but I probably won't. So it's a little bit easy for me to get that leverage.
Sonali - And what's a what's a good way to apply and maybe not necessarily in the context of SalesforceIQ but is it like you just go on the website to apply you try to get a referral what have you seen works.
Priyadarshini - I would say that in most cases just look at all the different channels and postings apply referrals always help. It's pretty much the general job search. I think as people move higher and higher up the ladder I think it becomes a little bit more of like you know tapping your network conversations et cetera. So I would say it looks very similar to most other job functions.
Sonali - And is there anything specific that you look for before you actually call people in for an interview.
Priyadarshini - Yeah.
Sonali - What do you think a candidate can do to really stand out in the beginning.
Priyadarshini - That's a really good question. I think I would say know the company know the product like usually the recruiter does the first level screening for us and I'm pretty sure that's pretty standard across the industry. I think what makes you stand out in those cases is whether you bring like some knowledge of the company whether you know you're able to speak in speak in an informed fashion about what could be some of those top of mind you know questions problems that people might be dealing with or even sometimes like if you can make analogies to like things that you may have seen in a different job I think those kind of say.
Sonali - But then are you expecting knowledge of Salesforce or SalesforceIQ at a business level or are you expecting some kind of very specific like sales ops or sales strategy specific knowledge.
Priyadarshini - More the former.
Sonali - Okay I see.
Priyadarshini - I rarely ever test anyone on anything functional. Because quite honestly I think if you are a good problem solver and if you can put on your business hat and if you have a good manager who is willing to support and coach you the I almost think context is something that can be learnt. It's much more those underlying foundational skills the personality that I'm really looking for.
Sonali - And another thing which I'm curious about is and I think you alluded to this earlier in the discussion that you wanted to get into more of a function line management kind of role and you got interested in sales on the distribution side and you picked Salesforce because you know that it's really important here. So there is this aspect of choosing your company carefully that you know like let's say a company like Apple. Like you said it's probably more product focused than sales. How can someone figure out how strategic this function is for that overall company.
Priyadarshini - It's an it's an excellent question. I think what I would say is that it also depends on your tenure like how important it is. I think if you're at the if you're more like early career junior whatever moniker you want to use I would say don't worry about it. Go get the expertise because regardless of where you are you're going to learn like you know fantastic skills. And it's always easier to progress in a certain function when you already have that function on your resume that just goes without saying it's general career advice. I think as you move up more senior it's something to think about. Again it depends very much on whether you're planning to stay with the with the company for a while or whether you see this like you know see this as like a two to three year stint then you're going to do something different. Personally distribution problems interest me. I think that you know distribution is a fascinating realm. And the advantage of sitting in the kind of function that I have within Salesforce is that I am getting to see one of the best in class distribution organizations in the world operate every day. I get to work with sales leaders who are very seasoned and their advice their coaching even as we are approaching some of these ambiguous questions as I've alluded to before the data doesn't give you the perfect answer. It's really the collective judgment of all of us that gets implemented finally. So to be able to hear those opinions on the table I know that I've got like some fantastic people over there you know who are like.
Sonali - Lot's of experience.
Priyadarshini - Exactly like that I can learn from and absorb. So that's essentially a little bit of why I pivot to that. But again in terms of like finding out like how important is this function within our company I would say any company which has a B2B sales force will have a function.
Sonali - I think B2B really makes a big difference right like sales become much more important.
Priyadarshini - Exactly. I mean you won't even find this function in a B2C company in my experience. Because you don't have a sales force essentially.
Sonali - Yeah that's true. Okay. And then are there any books or any like resources something that you might want to recommend for someone who is exploring this role or just wants to learn more about this space. I don't know if there is this might be an odd question for this but.
Priyadarshini - Yeah I've actually never never used anything. It's almost making me feel a little bit ignorant. I am sure there is.
Sonali - I don't know. But like okay so maybe not specific to sales strategy and ops but maybe something that helps in recruiting or something so cause it sounds like it you know maybe a lot of your interviews might be like case case interviews so have you found any resources that are helpful for that.
Priyadarshini - I mean go to I think like think of it a little bit like recruiting for a consulting job. Go to the consulting web sites like I think like McKinsey BCG Bain at least when I recruited for consulting back in the dinosaur days they had great practice cases. So they can always be helpful. I think there's a bunch of other like you know case books that people have used. And I think that's when you're starting out for most people who will look at this job like two three four years out of college and plus you you probably have already got the base case skills. I think the best way for that audience to prepare for a job is essentially read the news. I can't tell you how many people come in who don't seem to have a great sense of of of of the industry and that this is something that I just believe across the board if you want to be a business leader know what the heck is happening in business.
Sonali - So what was the strangest question or comment you might have heard in one of these interviews.
Priyadarshini - Nothing too out of the way but for instance like you know when I ask people like why they want to work in technology for a while everybody would basically the answers would boil down to they were fascinated by technology because they like their iPhone.
Sonali - Seriously.
Priyadarshini - Yeah seriously. And that's not necessarily a bad answer it's just that maybe you really do like your iPhone but when probed you have to have you know good second level back up for it like it shouldn't be just yeah I think it's nice it looks pretty it looks cool right. Dude like that's everybody across the universe. I think so. So why should I hire you. Right. So I would say like you know read tech crunch you read like read Wall Street Journal and it's less about like maybe macroeconomic things are not might not be as applicable. Like what I'm trying to say is that you want to have a sense of where some of the major companies in the industry are heading if there's interesting news. Think a little bit like even like I do this as thought exercises sometimes like think about companies like you know Uber, Lyft or I don't know Rue La La you have to pick anything does they have they don't have to be within a certain vertical. Think about the business models of these companies like what makes them interesting. What do you think like if they had to get to like you know the next x million dollars in revenue what do you think they would have to do. Ask yourself those questions because giving us of those brain teasing questions essentially prepares you for like what these interviews are about.
Sonali - All right. Well thank you so much Priyadarshini. This is this is really good. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. Is there anything any other advice.
Priyadarshini - As did I.
Sonali - I'm glad to hear that. Any other advice you would like to share.
Priyadarshini - Other advice I would like to share.
Sonali - Not necessarily the function it's up to you. Like you know parting advice about the function about tech about recruiting.
Priyadarshini - I'll give you a piece of general advice that I've given people a lot. Two things: One - don't pick the role pick the manager, manager makes the rule
Like People people people like I remember hearing this at McKinsey and thinking oh yeah sure whatever everyone is supposed to be good people here. But if like when I think about every single role and how how successful I've been in it, how much I've enjoyed it how much I have learned from it. All of that in such a big way is tied to the manager. So pick the manager not the role. That's my first piece of advice. The second that I would say is that it's always good to be good when things are going good. I think it's really in the moments of discord or the moments of like you know when you feel like you've lost your way. That's essentially what defines you as a person. So my general advice to everyone is just be welcoming of failure. I don't think it's easy. A lot of people think that they're welcoming of it but at least I have observed behaviors of the people who say they are and are necessarily not. Yeah. So embrace it. I think embrace it internalize it acknowledge it don't get demoralized by it because it really is about like and maybe you actually made the right decision with the data that you had at the time. And but the world continuously changes on you. So really it's about like embracing the failure having always this like keep an open mind that things are always changing around you that you want to learn and absorb and iterate and like you know redirect and repivot yourself. I think people who have that adaptability that flexible mindset in my opinion are people who succeed.
Sonali - Absolutely. Alright well thank you so much Priyadarshini and take care bye bye.