Founder of The Harris Consulting Group

Director of Sales Training and Consulting Services for Sales Hacker

A veteran of the industry, Richard is a seasoned SaaS sales leader and inside sales trainer with more than 20 years’ experience helping early stage and expansion stage start-ups build and grow their sales infrastructure. For the past three years, he has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professionals by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP).

Since our SaleScout team and Richard will be attending the SaaStr Annual event, we asked Richard to share his thoughts around the importance of the conference for SaaS companies, and moreover around the issues surrounding data quality in the SaaS sales process.

SaleScout: As an experienced SaaS salesperson who now trains other teams, what’s the main benefit for SaaS companies who attend SaaStr?

Richard Harris: From my view, SaaStr is about growing your organization. It’s for startups that want to learn how to scale and grow bigger, including those that are at the expansion stage. I see companies as big as 100 or 200 and they’re at that scaling space where they need to go through some hyper growth and figure out how to get to $100M ARR. It’s very SaaS-oriented. But I do think there are a ton of takeaways, whether you’re in the SaaS space or not, about scaling your business. (SaaStr founder) Jason Lemkin has done a tremendous job of using his knowledge to help the entrepreneurial community at large. If you’re not a SaaS platform and if you’re not a startup, you still have the same challenges around growth, around hiring, finding good talent, good leadership, how to scale. The problems are the same.

On a personal note, as a student of sales, I’ve got to be willing to admit there are things I can do better than I do. I still learn from other sales trainers all the time. That’s what I personally like about SaaStr.

SS: For companies that are in that space of growth and scaling, what kind of data quality issues are they dealing with?

RH: Data quality matters everywhere. Look, there are many organizations I could name that have more than enough data and they still have a data quality issue, I can assure you. But what we’re really talking about here is sales and marketing related data quality. I think that every company has that challenge. Bottom line, if you’ve got bad data, you’re going to have big problems.

One of the things I still see organizations doing is saying let’s hire a couple SDRs, and let’s have them go “find” the data. Because they don’t want to pay what it costs to go to someone like a SaleScout or some of the other tools that are out there because they think it’s “expensive.” But what they don’t realize is it’s 10 times more expensive to actually have a human being on your payroll doing it.

You don’t hire SDRs to scrape data; you hire SDRs to contact the people in your database. And if they’re spending a lot of time researching data, the business is truly getting cut on both sides with that. One, SDRs are wasting their time by looking for data. Two, all that time they’re looking for data they could be actually outbounding. So instead of doing 20 emails or phone calls a day, they could be doing 40, if they already had the data loaded. And within 30 days that’s a ridiculous amount of scale. Within 60 or 90 days, depending on your sales cycle, that’s another ridiculous amount of scale. But the problem is that companies don’t understand that. They don’t understand that faster and cheaper is never better. So it may cost more on the front end to have a service like a SaleScout, but in 90 days, 120 days, 180 days, you’re going to make up for that cost because of how you accelerated the pipeline. So in theory you’re actually doing it more inexpensively because you have your reps spending their time on activities that generate sales, not research.

SS: So you don’t want your SDRs scraping data. That’s something that can be done now more easily with technology. Can you touch on the type of technology that accomplishes that and saves people for doing the outbound calls?

RH: Well, I think it’s a question of what you’re trying to accomplish. Before you even do that, you have to step back and know who you’re trying to target, you’ve got to identify your Ideal Customer Profile, or your ICP, and understand what that is at both the company level and the human level. What kind of companies are you trying to go after and who are the titles and roles at those companies? And you need to start with at least five people at every company.

In terms of the data, I think you need something like LinkedIn, you need a Sales Navigator, you need a SaleScout or the like. There’s value to that. And one interesting thing I’m noticing is that people are now buying more than one data source. It used to be let’s just get one data source. But that actually hasn’t been enough to compete nowadays.

On the technology side, you need a communications platform, as well. You need some kind of dialing system. Some platforms have dialers built in, but if you’ve got great data, you want a high volume capacity dialer.

So there are many things that you need in your sales stack that are now table stakes if you want your reps to succeed. No longer can you say, shut up and get back on the phone and make 100 calls today. That doesn’t work. You can try it, but it doesn’t work. And it’s going to create a terrible morale, a horrible culture. “The beatings will continue until morale improves” is no longer a management philosophy that works.

SS: So at what point would a company look to a technology like SaleScout?

RH: Immediately. As a new business, you have to know, based on your Ideal Customer Profile, if there are enough people in the Total Addressable Market (TAM), and you’ve got to be able to find that information somewhere. The value of a solution like SaleScout isn’t just the contact data, it should also help you determine whether or not there are enough people out there to buy what you’re selling.

I’ve got one client who sells to universities and colleges. There’s about 3,000 of them, give or take, in the United States. That’s a very finite world. So you better be really good at knowing your Ideal Customer Profile and the messaging around it.

I think that the interesting thing is, to some extent, you need quality data long before you need prospecting or sales automation tools. You have to be able to do your data analysis first.

SS: What would you say to a company that’s farther along, they’re looking to grow more and scale, but they feel like they already have things figured out. They have a sales team, they have a marketing team, they have all these leads, and they’re doing it themselves. They don’t need help.

RH: No, no, no, no, no. I suppose it’s possible, I do. But if you’re always looking for net new business that means you need net new information.

For example, one of the single greatest pieces of data that anyone can get from a company like SaleScout, or any data source, is the moment someone announces their job change. When someone gets a new job at a new company, they have clout, they’ve got something to prove, they may have budget, and if they don’t have budget they may have access to budget or access to the people who make the decisions around budget who are willing to hear a new idea. Even if it’s the same idea they heard from the last three people in the role, they hope the new person will be able to come in and provide something very different.

SS: OK, changing topics. Another area where there can be data quality issues, for any company, is the handoff from marketing to sales. How can marketing and sales be more aligned?

RH: It’s all about a process, and definitions. The alignment will only be as good as the process is defined. Basically that means you must have strong agreement in sales and marketing on what’s defined as a Marketing Qualified Lead, which also goes back to your ICPs, which then becomes a Marketing Accepted Lead, as well as a Sales Accepted Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead, etc. If you don’t have strong definitions around these terms – hyper strong definitions –your process will fail and the finger pointing will begin.

The other thing is, and the part that people often overlook, is that sales and marketing alignment is 100% around compensation and who is getting credit for what. CFOs hate to overpay anybody. That is their job, they’re there to control costs, I get it. But if we’ve got a problem scaling an organization because we paid an extra $500 to somebody, we’ve got a bigger issue.

So it has not only to do with the definitions but also compensation. If the marketing person feels like they’re not getting treated fairly, they’re going to complain. If the sales team feels like they’re not getting treated fairly, they’re going to complain.

And, here’s the last thing. What you define as your original process, it had better be a hypothesis. Meaning we think this is an MQL, which should lead to a Sales Accepted Lead which should lead to a closed deal. If after three months it’s not working, stop the finger pointing. Fix the process. Redefine things. And that’s the part where I think marketing and sales stop. They don’t want to go back and redefine. And why don’t they want to redefine? Because it affects their compensation.

SS: Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights, Richard!


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