The Modern Sales Playbook: ZoomInfo CRO, Tim Strickland
Please enjoy our conversation with Tim Strickland, the Chief Revenue Officer of ZoomInfo. Not only is ZoomInfo an amazing tool for running a modern sales playbook, the company also exemplifies the efficiency and effectiveness of a first-class sales organization itself.
[MV] We are excited for this conversation, Tim, because even at scale, ZoomInfo has been growing at an unbelievably fast clip ($890m ARR run-rate, growing 59% YoY). What makes ZoomInfo such a powerful tool?
[TS] ZoomInfo has historically provided its customers with data and intelligence on almost every business in the world and all of the employees inside those businesses. So when companies decide to go find customers, they typically come to ZoomInfo to help them do that. Over the last 18 months or so, ZoomInfo's platform has expanded from a data business to what we call a Revenue Operating System (RevOS). The broader set of capabilities serves almost every major digital go-to-market (G2M) use case across the sales, marketing, G2M operations, and talent acquisition business lines. Think about having the opportunity to go into businesses and tell them a story about enabling their business to recruit better talent, drive top of funnel demand through an account-based digital advertising platform, accelerate that demand by providing intelligence about the people and companies visiting their websites, increase web form conversion rates, chat with customers in real time through a native chatbot application, know which companies are in market for specific solutions via digital intent sourcing, score and enrich leads in real time, route those leads in real time to the right sales people, enable automated sales plays, cleanse and “de-dupe” CRM information, record customer calls and surface insights back to the business, build an ICP, segment and target that ICP, etc. When we talk to companies about these items, they usually say, "Wow we didn't realize ZoomInfo could do all of this for us." Those conversations typically kick off really interesting dialogues because our customers see more value from us, we win more often in competitive situations, and we can accelerate growth by growing with our customers, and that is a great place to be.
[MV] There is no doubt that ZoomInfo has an incredibly rich data set, but how do you see ZoomInfo and products like ZI fitting in to the modern sales playbook?
[TS] This is a great follow on question because each of the items I just mentioned play into the modern sales playbook. We talk a lot about how sales has become an increasingly digitally native profession. If companies want to stay competitive they need to enable sales people through technology to succeed. ZoomInfo sits in the middle of that in a variety of different ways. One of the ways we see most often, especially for companies who are in the early to mid stages of making that shift, is in their CRM. All of these companies have made investments in CRM to drive productivity and scale in their sales organizations. The problem most companies realize too late is that the CRM system is only as valuable as the data and insights that it contains. If the end users of a CRM system don't get any value from it, if it's just another place for them to manually add information, then companies see really poor adoption. Suddenly, their digital transformation initiatives are all at risk. The insights ZoomInfo provides, even at the most basic level, about businesses, (company name, location, website, revenue ranges, employee counts, who the CEO is, who the other decision makers are, etc.) typically provide the sales, marketing, and operation teams with way more value than they would otherwise get from a traditional CRM implementation. Things start to get really interesting for our customers when we start to think about the automation that our platform provides to take action on that information.
[MV] We already noted ZoomInfo’s incredible growth rate so clearly you all know a thing or two about selling yourselves. What makes ZI such a great sales organization?
[TS] We work really really hard, and there are a lot of smart, passionate people who talk to our customers and prospective customers everyday about who we are and how our business can help theirs. We value storytelling, we coach it, and we are constantly working to develop new ways to win in competitive cycles. We promote a lot of people internally. That has helped us to ramp our sellers in a very efficient and effective way. The career opportunities that people have at ZoomInfo are second to none when individuals are willing to push themselves and get uncomfortable. We have built a sales culture at ZoomInfo that values action, our managers and leaders are involved in a lot of deals, and we have incredible partners in our operations and marketing teams that drive a lot of our success. There is very consistent collaboration that happens across each of our G2M functions, and the fact that we are all driving towards the same outcome is critical for us. At a leadership level, we are also extremely critical of ourselves and the businesses for which we are responsible. I think a lot of companies get complacent when they are successful. That has never been the case at ZoomInfo. We realize that our businesses look very differently today than they looked 3, 6, 9, 12 months ago. The motions, the sales processes that we deliver are constantly tweaked, enhanced, and re-evaluated to ensure that they are still delivering the value that we need as an organization. We also leverage our own technology platform to help us succeed 😁
[MV] How do you think about iterating and evolving your sales process? Is there a feedback loop?
[TS] Again - a really great follow up question. Yes, feedback loops happen on a regular basis from sellers to the management team, vice versa, and they occur very consistently across functions. As you introduce new products and new capabilities to the market and to your sales team, a lot of things have to change. You find that you need new people to do new things and build new teams on a pretty regular basis. So identifying those opportunities and building the right team to deliver on them is key - that is something that is always evolving. You also find that as your offering expands, you have new competitors. Training your salespeople to compete and win in deals is another ever-evolving process. We work very closely with our product teams to ensure that we are aligned on the development value that is critical to our customer base, so there are feedback loops there as well. We have real time feedback on pipeline creation and deal activities across our product sets and packages, so we get pretty instantaneous feedback there. When we see problem areas we address them. Our sales processes in both the new customer acquisition and customer expansion businesses have seen several iterations over the past few years, and they will see several more as we continue to grow.
[MV] What are the metrics you are most focused on as the sales leader?
[TS] I look at the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) count and mix, demos, opportunity and pipeline creation/coverage, and close metrics on a daily basis. Then I drill into different performance views of those based on product, package, customer segment, seasonality, geo-location, management team, and salesperson.
[MV] Being at the intersection of building and also leveraging modern sales tools, I suspect you can provide us a really compelling perspective on what the future of sales will look like. How do you see this function evolving?
[TS] The sales process of the future - no matter what products a company is selling or how they are being sold (direct, inbound, outbound, channel, etc.) - the sales processes of the future are always digitally native. Why? All of the individuals coming into the workforce for the first time are now digitally native. They expect their employers to equip them with the right set of tools to get their jobs done and to be successful. It is also way more efficient to build a digital-first G2M motion than it is to build an "analog" one. Headcount costs alone can break the bank in the latter, but if companies can get really good at using technology to support small and large sales, marketing, and talent acquisition teams alike, they can enter new markets quickly, hire quickly, learn, succeed, iterate, adapt, and ultimately win more often than their competitors. That is how we help our customers, and it's also how I think about the evolution of our own sales processes as well.
[MV] Amazing. We really appreciate you sharing your insights with us!
[TS] My pleasure!