– 10 –
SALES PROCESS REENGINEERING AT ROBIN
Douglas Quackenbos, Lecturer in Marketing, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina, Martin S. Roth, President, University of Charleston, and Dominique Turpin, The Dentsu Professor, Dean of External Relations at IMD Business School, prepared this case as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a business situation.
Sam Dunn stared out of the window of his favorite meeting room onto the Boston streets below, now lit only by the sparse streetlights and the occasional passing car. He had not bothered to reserve the room since everyone had already gone home for the day. It was early March 2016 and the February sales figures had just come in. They had missed their internal targets for a second month, and the gap between projections and actual sales was widening.
As sales leader and co-founder of Robin, “a workplace software company which helps manage meeting room schedules and remove abandoned meetings,” this sales miss was more than just a disappointment; it was personal. And, it could not have come at a worse time. Dunn was scheduled to make his pitch for Series A funding in early May and he would have to be convincing, showing that he had a game plan to increase sales velocity that would satisfy the investors’ expectations.
Replaying in his mind an exchange he had had earlier in the day with an internal sales rep, Dunn contemplated the situation. The rep had asked him whether Dunn thought he should first approach the facility manager or the head of IT when making outbound prospecting calls. Somewhat surprisingly to Dunn, it almost seemed as though the rep wanted to make him aware of his frustration that prospects were not getting back to him. Dunn had been quick to share his point of view, but remained somewhat uncertain as to why the question was coming directly to him.
Copyright © 2018 by IMD – International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland (www.imd.org). No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of IMD.
Boston-based Robin Powered was founded in 2014 as a spin-off of a successful product development company and funded by several venture capital firms and strategic investors. Robin enjoyed initial success with its “space management platform” in some fast-growing companies such as Kayak, DYN, Sonos and DraftKings. A 2011 graduate of the University of Hartford, Dunn was one of three co-founders and had assumed responsibility for sales in late 2015.
With nearly a dozen full-time employees and annual revenues exceeding $1 million and growing, Robin had kept pace with the benchmarks that venture capitalists looked for in continued funding of software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups (Exhibit 1). The small and close- knit team included Dunn’s twin brother as co-founder, along with a handful of employees from their previous venture, a digital agency. To attract the right talent, Robin had begun to look for people to fill several senior positions, such as a VP of sales, to bring some experience that was missing in SaaS.
Robin – Meeting Room Scheduling Offering
Meeting-room scheduling software helped companies optimize the use of limited meeting space. By allowing everyone in a company to see which offices were reserved and which were available, employees could quickly decide when and where to schedule a meeting. The technology also allowed immediate status updates, so if a meeting ended early, the room instantly showed up as being available and could then be used by others for impromptu meetings until the next scheduled reservation.
Robin had specifically identified and communicated the following scheduling benefits:
Space utilization: Reduced or eliminated:
No-shows or ghost meetings
Wrong type of room for meetings
Schedules not being updated with changes
Data analytics: People and equipment:
The customer had access to “data analytics related to employee use” that allowed them to develop a plan to optimize meeting room space in terms of size, location and equipment needs.
Like many SaaS companies, Robin used a free trial model to commercialize its product. Customers could become familiar with the meeting room scheduling software over a two-week trial period – free of charge and with minimal resource investment. The trial allowed companies to gauge how their employees responded to the new technology before fully implementing it. If the customer was convinced of the value, they signed a contract. The monthly fee was set according to the number of meeting rooms covered by the contract.
Meeting Room Scheduling Market
The meeting room scheduling market (Exhibit 2) was dominated by two types of suppliers (Exhibit 3). One type focused on room displays and tended to be based primarily on a hardware-first business model; although some newer entrants were cloud-based only, they still focused on displays. The other type focused on web scheduling, with some of the earlier entrants being more enterprise-oriented due to their heritage. Robin was the only supplier that bridged both areas, incorporating both tablet and web-scheduling tools.
Due to the cost and investment required of the user companies, the meeting room scheduling market had historically seen relatively limited growth. Most currently available systems, which required the purchase of hardware and the installation of new wiring, were normally only used by larger, more mature companies and institutions. Market leaders focused their attention on installed-base requirements as well as new prospects. However, newer technologies such as Robin that did not require infrastructure investments were driving the market to become more dynamic and competitive. This changing landscape was opening the market to a much wider universe of organizations.
As the market was evolving, prospective customers were unclear about the benefits of meeting room scheduling and it was thus not on their priority list. This meant that Robin needed both the marketing content and the sales skills to nurture and convert leads into adopters and, ultimately, recurring revenue customers. Using both inbound and outbound prospecting techniques, teamed with what it believed to be a solid understanding of the customer journey, Robin found itself creating its own market as it sought to sell the benefits of greater productivity and efficiency to the prospects of the startups and medium-sized companies, where their message seemed to resonate best.
Internal discussions had led to the discovery and consensus that there were multiple buyer personas involved in the purchasing process. While it was not always the same one who played the “introduction role” and the “champion role,” there were two primary personas: “Facilities folk” and “IT people.” The team had also learned that the relationship between these two personas needed to be managed. Robin found that facilities folk (or office managers) operated with a “CAPEX mindset” and were mainly interested in building usage, space, etc. IT people worked with an OPEX mindset and were mostly interested in network utilization and dependability. Neither group was overtly interested in the other’s needs.
Leaning back and spinning side-to-side in his graphite grey Herman Miller Aeron chair, Dunn reflected on his dilemma. He wondered: What was holding sales back?
Dunn suspected that more highly tailored marketing communication may be needed to speak to each buyer group to nurture and close the leads. It was also becoming increasingly evident that much of the process could be designed for self-service with more and better content marketing. And, it seemed that email was a powerful and possibly underutilized tool for nurturing prospects. Still, he wondered if that would be enough.
Having founded and led several new enterprises, including while in college, Dunn was well acclimated to the world of startups. Accustomed to the omnipresent feeling of uncertainty and ambiguity that comes with the startup life, he was comfortable in a world of constant iteration and testing. While he sensed that Robin needed the business acumen and sales skills that experienced talent might bring, he also knew that not everyone could make the necessary transition from proven and secure business environments to the rough terrain of startups. So instead of being the desired catalyst for breakthrough growth, these dueling requirements seemed to have generated an environment of heightened friction in the sales area. Also, since it had only been six months since Dunn had last reorganized the sales team, he worried that another round of reorganization might send the wrong message.
With two fingers, Dunn twirled the whiteboard marker on the table as he reflected on the situation. It was clear something was off. Robin had achieved early sales traction but was not yet showing the needed repeatability and scalability that investors required. Could it be the sales process? Dunn knew that with B2B technology sales, there was always a significant risk of wasted energy and resources. Sales reps’ timing was an especially important success factor in the customer journey buying process. If it was off – either too early or too late in the process – they could lose prospects… for good. Dunn’s review led him to believe that parts of the sales process were clearly not working: “Prospects were being scorched by a sales process that’s timing was off,” said Dunn, explaining further that instead of nurturing prospects, the sales development team was causing the loss of far too many of them.
As well as miscued calls to a naturally introverted group of prospective buyers, Dunn also suspected that there may be too much focus on field sales activities compared to development. “We were at an average of half a demo per day, when we knew we needed a minimum of two to three daily,” he said. Furthermore, he had noticed a high variability among reps in the time it took to close a deal. He figured this was due to a combination of factors, including rep experience, but perhaps also partially the lack of a more perfected internal protocol to guide a more standardized sales approach.
Marker in hand, Dunn jumped to his feet and started to write on the glass office wall (Exhibit 4). He drew three columns. In the first, which he titled, “Content,” he listed the programs they were using including the website, YouTube videos and case studies. In the second column, called “Communication,” he listed mediums used, including blog, twitter and email. In the third column, he wrote the names of key sales roles. Next to the columns, he sketched out the existing organization chart with the position titles in each box and wrote “Sales Structure” above it (Exhibit 5).
Caught up in the creative rush of the moment, he continued. On a second wall, Dunn methodically listed nine possible touchpoints and added the title “Buyer Journey” (Exhibit 6).
At the third wall, he paused, unsure whether to draw a funnel or a pipeline. Finally, he settled on a bow-tie funnel (Exhibit 7). He wondered how prospects really moved through the sales process? Was their current sales development process and call hand-off appropriate? He reviewed the Lead Status and Call Hand-off guide (Exhibit 8) he’d “borrowed” from one of the Sales Development Representative’s (SDR) work stations, where it was normally attached to the wall. He zeroed in on the nurturing process, thinking it may need refining, but decided he would come back to the finer points later. Dunn believed that most people, given the choice,
would rather learn on their own than be handheld through the process. Still, there was clearly a place and a time for demos and, ultimately, even screen-sharing.
After snapping a pic of each of the boards, Dunn sat down quickly, flipped his MacBook open and went into the company sales documents folder. He accessed the current qualification protocol for demos (Exhibit 9) as well as the SDR job description (Exhibit 10) and emailed them to himself for future review. Closing his computer with his right hand, Dunn leaned back in his chair and again wondered if they were really doing the right things and looking for the right skills. He then packed up and headed home on the T.
As he traveled, he thought again about the May meeting. Was he incorporating all the key external – and internal – stakeholders in his thinking? He made a note in his iPhone to consider them amid the whiteboard mosaic in his office tomorrow. Then his thoughts turned again to his more immediate concern – how to fix the sales area – and the stark realization that he would need to own and manage any “new and improved” processes as well as any changes to the sales team, players and/or roles if he chose to shake things up. It was a lot to do in such a short amount of time.
Describe Robin’s value proposition. Explain by highlighting key customer benefits.
Identify the key target market segments, including similarities and differences among them. How might communication to “IT people” differ from that delivered to “facilities folks”?
What do you believe are the most valuable content marketing and nurturing tools that Robin can use to improve its sales performance? Why?
What should Dunn do to attain the stated goal of two to three demos per rep, per day? Beyond demos/day, what other metrics should Robin use to assess the sales team’s performance?
Can Dunn achieve the results needed with his current sales process and team? Should he redesign his sales process but keep his existing team in place, or should he redesign his sales process and rebuild the team? What are some of the pros and cons of each option? Explain and defend your recommendation.
Why do you think the terms “repeatability” and “scalability” regarding sales in a B2B environment are so important in the VC funding process? (see “An Introduction to the Business Scalability Matrix” by Inflection-Point Strategy Partners. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/41408/file-14210436- pdf/docs/an_introduction_to_the_business_scalability_matrix.pdf)
Exhibit 1 VC Funding
“Series A” is one of many funding stages within the venture capital funding process. Each stage A-G typically comes with some common level of product and market benchmarks regarding repeatability and scalability of the business. The process is well known in the world of technology start-ups and especially in SaaS (Software–as-a-Service) enterprises as most require significant time operating “in the red” prior to making money with the new venture.
SaaS funding in 2016
Friends & Family, Angels
Angels, Micro VCs
Smart, committed guys/girls with relevant expertise/skills
e.g. enterprise sales DNA for
elephant hunters, product design for rabbit hunters, strong team for API companies
No “star” VP’s yet. Often good director- level hires
Proven ability to attract/manage great people
Senior leadership in most functions
Proven ability to recruit senior people
Complete senior management team
research indicates strong need for
Product/Market fit from early customers or pilot users
Clear PMF and increasing evidence of PMF in larger market
Strong tech co- founder with relevant experience
Proven ability to move fast and break things…. with emphasis on moving fast.
Proven ability to attract and manage great engineers
Excellent tech leadership
Product doesn’t break and meets SLA’s; three to four 9’s availability
Starting to think about scalability and to put in place processes
Product scales, but still breaks once in a while
Continued high product dev. velocity.
Product meets security, compliance and disaster recovery requirements of enterprise tech buyers
Exhibit 1 (continued)
MRR (monthly recurring revenue)
$ 0-50 K
$ 100-250 K
$ 350-800 K
+ $ 1M
If pre- monetization: Growing waiting list, trial user base or pipeline
Otherwise: adding a few
$K’s in MRR per month
Got from $0 to
within 12-18 months
Growing 3X year over year.
Account expansions, ARPA
Growing 2.5 times year over year
Most AE’s hitting quota
Growing 2 times year over year
Negative net MRR churn
Quick ratio 4
of sales and
at least one
Tech, product development velocity
First signs of an emerging “Mini brand”
First signs of a successful brand, platform and/or data play
Strong signs of a successful brand, platform and/or data play
Market / potential
Conviction that there’s $100M+ ARR potential
increasing evidence of $300M+ potential
increasing confidence in exit potential (large strategic buyers or IPO)
Source: adapted from Christoph Janz’s SaaS 2016 napkin. The Angel VC: “What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2016?” Original document can be found at http://christophjanz.blogspot.com/2016/05/what-does-it-take-to-raise-capital-in.html
Market Size and Addressable Market
Source: Company information (Robin buyer’s guide)
Exhibit 3 Competitive Landscape
“In the meeting room management landscape, there are a great deal of players. It’s important to understand their strengths as it relates to the goals of your business. If you’re looking for platforms that can grow with your business, focused on the ingredients of the workplace, there are a few options. Likewise, there are those that are focused on digital signage, think mainly tablets. Here’s a quick landscape:”
Source: Company information (Robin buyer’s guide)
Exhibit 4 Brainstorm Chart
Sales Head (1)
Account executive (1)
Case studies 1-3 (depending on
Sales Dev. Rep (2)
Source: Recreated from Robin’s company records
Robin Sales Organization (Early 2016)
Source: Company information
Buyer Journey (Mapping)
Experiencing problem/office woes
Self-education on product offerings/info gathering Request demo/raising their hand
Trial signup/evaluating solutions Security or tech review/the fun stuff
Trial extensions or paid pilots/solving the problem ROI analysis/presenting business case Presentations to decision makers/management Contract negotiations/procurement/legal
Source: Company information
Sales Funnel or Pipeline?
Source: Based on Engagio’s bow tie sales funnel – approximates Dunn’s notes
Lead Status Description and Call Handoff
Lead has not been prospected at all and is open to being prospected by any Sales Rep (check with Lead Owner first). Something should be done with Open leads as soon as possible.
Lead has been emailed/called. Potentially responded. Other reps can reach out after 2 weeks (talk to lead owner first).
Converted to Opportunity
Lead is not interested. Probably not worth time. or
Lead is the wrong person internally, and Persona is marked “Other” (outside our ICP of Office Admins/IT/Facilities).
Using competitor right now
Not worthy of time — slipped through the cracks. Shouldn’t have been a lead put in front of you. Scold marketing.
Lead isn’t interested “today”, but lead should still hear from us in the future. If you are meaningfully nurturing, it should be an Opportunity. You can still check in and nurture an outbound lead, but you don’t have final dibs for eternity. Use your judgement, play nice.
If inbound: Marketing will send nurture campaigns in case they convert in the future.
If outbound: We cannot subscribe them to marketing emails unsolicited. A rep may want to manually check in sometime in the future.
Do Not Contact
Angry — don’t piss them off, leave them alone
Call Handoff :
SDR (Sales Development Rep) >ISR (Sales Development Rep) lead flow + call handoff
MQL – Marketing Qualified Leads: Inbound leads scored by Marketing as being fully qualified SAL – Sales Accepted Leads: MQLs that SDRs accept to qualify for a demo.
SQL – Sales Qualified Leads: SALs that SDRs qualify on a intro call (demo requests) or via email (trials), and ISRs accept for a demo call or advanced trial setup.
Lead = Prospective buyer ICP = Ideal Customer Profile
Source: Company information
Qualifying Inbound Leads: Touchpoints
Day 1 – 1st email from SDR
Day 2 – 2nd email from SDR
Day 3 – Case Study email (Varies based on size of the company) from Marketing Day 4 – 3rd email from SDR
Day 5 – “Can I help” (Asking if there’s anything I can do to help) from Marketing Day 6 – LinkedIn profile view from SDR
Day 7 – 4th stripline email from SDR
Source: Company information
Job Description – Early 2016
Sales Development Rep (SDR)
Our Robin Powered sales team is not only bringing us new customers, but they are also our eyes and ears on the ground helping product/engineering team refine and expand Robin platform. Maybe that is why we enjoy churn rates well below industry averages.
Robin Powered was spun off in 2014 from successful product development company. We are backed by several VCs and household name strategic investors like Autodesk and Konica- Minolta. Companies like Kayak, DYN, Sonos, Netflix, DraftKings, and many many others using our space management platform.
We are ready to expand our sales team. Are you our next colleague? Those who succeed on our team most often share the following pattern:
Organized and systematic about how they manage their days and tasks
Business savvy and eager to educate themselves to develop better empathy for the prospect/customer
Often has developed ability to sell by running own company/project/organization
Interested in different sales methodologies and pick the best elements to match own styles of selling (we use our version of AIDA to keep process organized)
Is patient, considerate, and empathetic
Absolutely self-driven and loves measuring own progress
What our sales process looks like and what you can expect:
Our sales stack includes Salesforce, Hubspot, Yesware, and several others
Your day will be a mix of prospecting, qualifying inbound leads, demos, and managing upsells
Sales team works closely with the product team to address customer and prospect feedback
Ops and tech are also very attentive to way to make sales process more fluid.
Source: Internal documents
– 10 –