#Operations 4: Metrics are Meaningless without Segments with Brett Queener, VC & Former Salesforce EVP

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This is a podcast episode titled, #Operations 4: Metrics are Meaningless without Segments with Brett Queener, VC & Former Salesforce EVP. The summary for this episode is: On this episode of #Operations, host Sean Lane sits down with VC and former Salesforce EVP and GM, Brett Queener. Queener joined the company when it was at $11 million in revenue. Today, Salesforce's market cap stands at $123 billion. This monumental growth is due in large part to Queener's focus on specialization and segmentation – essential for the success of any ops pro.

Brett Queener: Ultimately, if you think about all of it, when people say what's the Salesforce model, or the Salesforce trick, which was find a segment, subdivide that segment, focus your execution, specialize your marketing, your sales, your product, offering your competitive, your training and optimize the hell out of it.

Sean Lane: The voice you just heard was the voice of our guest today, Brett Queener. And the podcast you're hearing right now is Operations. The show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. If you had to explain the Genesis of software as a service to someone, there's a good shot you'd start your story by talking about Salesforce. com. If you Google top SaaS companies today, chances are you'll find Salesforce very close to if not at the top of the list. So it should come as no surprise to you that for this show, we wanted to learn from those who have been there done that from within the walls of Salesforce. Today, we have that opportunity and a conversation with Brett Queener, who spent a decade at Salesforce from 2003 to 2013 as an operations executive, and also later ran specific product lines like data. com and Marketing Cloud. Now Brett spends his time today as venture partner at Bonfire Ventures and his specialty lives at the intersection of product and go- to- market. So today he's going to help us navigate that intersection. He drops so much knowledge in our conversation. So if you've ever had to put together a go- to- market strategy, or you've second guessed if you had the right number of reps on your team, or you're just a Dr. Seuss fan you're going to want to listen to this one all the way through. Before we got too deep I asked Brett to set the scene for me of what Salesforce looked like when he joined in 2003.

Brett Queener: I joined Salesforce. I think we were doing, I don't know, maybe 10 to 15 million in revenue which we now call recurring revenue, although some portion I think was month to month so it wasn't clearly contract CMRR at the time. So very small we probably had, I don't know, 10, 15 sales reps and had just started what we called the enterprise experiment with hiring a few reps outside San Francisco, there were over 30 in the field. So super, super small. And at that time what was interesting about Salesforce was there was no SaaS playbook. There were no podcasts like this. There was no model for how you built a SaaS go- to- market machine. And you have to understand for those that have some gray hair prior to 2003 softwares were sold in the following three ways. You had clunky enterprise software then you had enterprise reps and you'd float on corporate checks and you tried to close deals, if you did you made the quarter, if you didn't you had layoffs. On middle end it was of sold over the phone, it was somewhat easy to buy. And then third was through a channel or VARs, whether that would be at Fry's and it was packaged wrapped, or through Microsoft VARs or IBM VARs, et cetera. There was never a company prior to Salesforce that thought about selling direct one piece of software, albeit different packages to every buyer along the spectrum from a five person startup to a 50,000 person enterprise. And that was what we were trying to crack and understand.

Sean Lane: And now we have behind the cloud that takes us through every single one of those plays. But when you don't have the playbook and you're starting to grow from whatever you said, 15, 20 reps. And I saw on your LinkedIn in those first couple years you were there, you were getting up into like 250 reps by 2005 without a playbook. How are you balancing this idea of this really aggressive growth with what you think the right capacity is for the number of reps that you need to hit that growth?

Brett Queener: Sure. I would think one thing that I tell companies that I advised or I invest in they're sort of... There are two numbers that matter in terms of employees, or three numbers that matter in terms of scale, which is how many devs are you hiring and how many AEs are you're hiring. And I was not either of those two, so sorry, but if you're not a dev or you're not an AE you're an other, but that's the driver of innovation that's driver of-

Sean Lane: Absolutely.

Brett Queener: ...ACV. And here's a magic number. I stun people when I asked them, I tell them this but at least 20% of your employees should be quota- carrying AE's those are magic numbers. And so we knew that if we ever got to the point where we felt like we couldn't hire AEs, we wanted to hire all these other resources, we sort of redoubled back and said," Look, clearly, we're not making the AEs we have productive or we're not focusing on the right area. So before we go add money elsewhere let's tackle this challenge." But in terms of a playbook, I think the key playbook that we thought about from a Salesforce perspective, and this is the guidance that I use in working with companies is really thinking about what segment of market as you're trying to find market fit, we obviously had some fit and to be fair at Salesforce we had one pretty amazing differentiation. Now granted back then there were people that in IT that were thinking the cloud was their enemy because it was going to replace jobs, but it was pretty differentiated. It was software that people might use, you pay as you go in theory. And remember back before Salesforce when we upgraded your software you didn't have to bring an SI in to reimplement it. All of your customizations were pushed from quarter to quarter with releases. Because remember before that innovation was scary, because then you have to reinvent what you have.

Sean Lane: On-premise era.

Brett Queener: And we could hire 20 year olds who would for 50k would work 10 hours a day, so it was a little different and San Francisco was a lot cheaper back then.

Sean Lane: At the time.

Brett Queener: But the way thing think about it is we just went to the board a lot and did a lot of two by twos and three by threes. But ultimately we would try to figure out what were our segments? What were we seeing? And then within those segments, how could we optimize the elements of our go- to- market playbook to be more effective there.

Sean Lane: At that time in Salesforces' evolution brett told me that those segments were largely driven through inbound demand. Salesforce went where the demand was, selling mostly to small tech companies without a lot of budget. But over time those segments started to shift and the offerings shifted with them.

Brett Queener: If you really think about what Salesforce did masterfully in the end, other than at some point emerging... But it's interesting it was really understanding each market segment, where there was potential demand for it's product, and sort of sub segmenting its resources and focus and tailoring the marketing approach, the sales resources, the product offering and pricing and packaging we brought to that to optimize to get the most sort of output or yield as an investor in that space. A one approach across all segments doesn't work. And I think Salesforce did an amazing job for that and the lens you and I talked about before that I speak to, as you're trying to find market fit, as you're trying to understand your business is what I call the tool versus app versus platform markets by our value proposition.

Sean Lane: Yeah. I think this is interesting can you take people through this.

Brett Queener: Yeah. Sure. If you think about where did Salesforce start at, Salesforce started as a individual rep for 29 bucks a month with their credit card could go online and track their deals as a tool for them. And if you think about what Salesforce is today with the app exchange and the fact that if you tried to replace Salesforce with something else you've got rent 15 apps out with it. It's a platform. First and foremost, Salesforce is your on- demand cloud platform. Yes, it's got the CRM data and the rest of it, but so much of your business and other applications and critical processes are tied into it. So when I talk to people it's really important to me to think through tool versus app versus platform. And why do I think about that? It's interesting talking to you guys in Drift and how you guys are trying to change going away from lead forums and just letting people to converse the way that they want to converse. Although I just dropped my daughter for college and she hasn't to responded to two or three texts. Maybe I need to create a landing page.

Sean Lane: Yeah. We can broaden your communication mediums with her. We can help with that.

Brett Queener: Maybe I need some landing pages and some retargeting. But it's so funny because if you think about so much of selling if you're a sales operations or sales enablement and the rest of it you'll know what I'm saying. But you bring in the Blue Sheet, Pink Sheet, Miller Heiman value vision, Barry Rhein, et cetera, which is this whole prospect of value selling and getting the buyer into your mind and changing the way they think, and asking discovery questions where you ask the magic three questions for what if they say, yes, you uniquely know you have the product capabilities it doesn't have. So you've got them in the trap, et cetera, et cetera. It's also all predicated on BATNA or SIFT, which we know is a joke. Because like the people that go to your website, fill out lead forms or talk to you via Drift they don't have power. They may not have budget today, but they're smart and they're investigating and they're not... And this whole idea I see as a waste because in today's world, I think a buyer's well- informed, I think they have no time for 30 discovery questions. They know exactly what you're trying to do. And you're just going to create unnecessary friction. I'll give you an example. I was talking to a company that by all external metrics is killing it. It's on its way to being a unicorn, but they have one product it's very complex but it's great and powerful. And they're trying to sell it down- market against competitor that has a very simplistic product it isn't that useful. And they're trying to get two X the price because they're trying to see how much better it is. And from my end I just tell them," Well, that's dumb." You've got an SMB buyer who's just looking for a tool, who doesn't want an app or a platform. And so you're misaligning the resources you're bringing to bear. And so what I like to think about is bring the appropriate level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have and whether that's product complexity, whether that is sales process complexity, whether that's pricing and packaging complexity, bring the appropriate level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have or deal with at the appropriate tool app or platform segment. And I think you'll remove a ton of friction. And I think you'll do a lot better in those segments.

Sean Lane: Brett already said it twice, but I'm going to say it again anyways, bring the appropriate level of complexity that the buyer is willing to have. So then that begs the question. How do you make sure you correctly assess where your product belongs in Brett's model? How do I make sure I don't mess up whether I've got a tool versus an app versus a platform?

Brett Queener: I think you generally start as an application or as a tool. But I think you generally, to some extent are thinking about the segments that you're in and what you're seeing as natural velocity points. And so what I talk about is what I think about is, look, a tool tends to be, unless you're Slack or Atlassian or it's not a product that's bought, it's not a product that's sold it's bought. Generally it's an SMB segment it starts in an SMB segment. Generally your demand tends to be inbound, the sales cycle tends to be relatively transactional. You tend to be talking to a few people in a organization in say fewer conversations. And it's quickly getting to a," Okay, what's the price? And can I afford this and does it seem fair?" That tends to be more of a tool, as you start moving. And when you think about that the key that I like... People ask," Brett, what do you do? And what's your value," and all this kind of stuff. I try to explain that I like the intersection of product and go- to- market. And so in the tool world the product better be pretty simple to understand. It probably needs to be triable, no SI or extensive services needs to be needed. There shouldn't be a sales engineer in sight. If there's a sales engineer on a product that's a tool A- A- Ron you done messed up somewhere. Your CAC isn't going to work.

Sean Lane: And in terms of your point about complexity-

Brett Queener: In terms of demand-

Sean Lane: ...you have mismatched those categories all of a sudden it's way more complex.

Brett Queener: You missed the boat completely. And then on the demand side this has to be inbound. I have companies that I work with that have gotten to large amounts of AR and at some point realized," You know what this CAC in this SMB segment isn't great." And I go," Why is that? You get a lot of inbound?'No, I got one or two SDRs for every rep.'" And I'm like," Ooh, wow, woo." You can't have legions of SDRs dialing outbound on SMB. Something is sort of inefficient and the rest of it. That SDR is somebody who needs to be more effective moving up market as you're going what I call the app buyer, who's going to be tend to spend more money or the platform buyer. So I think when you turning on your stage, when you start out, I think you kind of understand like is my core value proposition something that's relatively easy to be understood quickly? Or is this something where that I need to kind of go and explain and sell? And I think in my mind, that's the clear delineation a little bit between tool and an application, whereas a tool your salespeople to some extent are helping people buy because the value proposition is pretty clear, they could see it. And when you get to app, it needs to be sold a bit. And then when you get to platform, well, you got to go find 30 people to sell to, and you got to deal with all the enterprise I can or I can'ts. And then you need like the SOC 2 and the pen test done before you get a deal done. And then there's calling the CFO or CEO to the seal last day of the quarter and trying to get your buyer to call. We know that, that feels like the platform buy.

Sean Lane: I love the way Brett breaks this down. I also know though that for many of you who are inside of hyper- growth companies, once you've identified which bucket you're in today, you might want to later understand the transition between those different buckets and whether or not let's say for example you could be both in the tool and app buckets at same time.

Brett Queener: I think you can be in both buckets at the same time but you need to make the appropriate investments in terms of what's yielding. I think the challenge of only staying in one bucket unless you're basically saying," I never want to hire salespeople. It's a self- serve park and it's wonderful." Then you live in that tool space and you dominate that tool space. But if you have an evolution to go up market, or if your market naturally if there's opportunity. For Salesforce it was like there was no other on demand players, they were forced to use shitty cloud software so was there's plenty of market opportunity. But as you moved up market, the demands and needs were different. They wanted to customize. Remember when I joined Salesforce we had four temps. There was no API, there was no dashboards I think there was a couple of reports. You couldn't change the name of any fields and there were no third- party applications. There was no forecasting, no PRM, no et cetera. But that met the need of an individual rep or team reps to be successful. Because remember nobody was logging in and using these on- premise CRM systems. So you can be in both markets, but I think you have to tie that to where you are in your evolution. If you're early on and you're starting a company and you've done seed funding, you need funding, you simply can't afford to try to do three segments, because one you don't have the money and resources to put enough in any of them such that it will yield anything meaningful. And two that won't help you in understanding initial market fit. I think you have some initial market fit as a platform or an app and a tool buyer, and then you have to figure out which way am I going. Am I an app player going to be platform? Am I an app buyer thinking," Well, this is good, but the product is too complex. And I think there's an opportunity downmarket. And maybe I can be a tool. Or am I a tool buyer where I think there's an app opportunity, but how do I do that without losing the beauty of my tool business?" Do you know what I mean? So early on I try to get people to focus in one area that speaks if you will to their core value proposition and what think they're buying upfront. I think that's important because if you try to serve all three markets then your product's a mess. For those that have kids there's a book called If I Had Duck Feet it's a Dr. Seuss book where the kid's like," If I had duck feet I could go through a pond. If I had tiger claws, I could do this. And if I had an elephant nose, I could do this." And then he was like," No, I have an idea. What if I had all of them?" And then what happens is the town calls him a mini- which- what- who and they throw them in jail because they don't know what he is. So then he decides he just wants to be himself at the end.

Sean Lane: No, no, that's perfect.

Brett Queener: Sorry for that.

Sean Lane: So any of your companies that you're talking to if they are a mini- which- what- who then that's a problem. As a quick aside, I went and found this children's book. It is in fact by Dr. Seuss and it's called, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet and it's awesome. If you don't want to read it yourself someone will literally read it to you on YouTube seven minutes of your life highly recommend. Anyways, at this point I'm just furiously taking as Brett takes me to school planning out these different go- to- markets. And naturally as an ops person my mind started to wander to metrics. But once again, Brett set me straight about the dangers of metrics without the context of the segment itself.

Brett Queener: Metrics are meaningless unless we know what market we're serving. I have a company that I'm working with that has AEs that sell SMB, mid- market and enterprise. It sounds weird. It doesn't make any sense. So a big thing we did at Salesforce, because what you'd find is if you had a sales rep that had a segment that included very transactional buyers that were inbound and easy and larger buyers have to go after, they would sub optimize for whatever was easier to make their number. Which if a rep didn't optimize for making their number getting into their comp plan they should be fired, that means they can't read the comp plan. So what happened is if there was a bunch of inbound they would go do that and never go outbound and we'd ignore that segment. Or if there was a couple of big deals they were working on something that could bring it in, and maybe they had monthly accelerators because of their SMB comp plan but had mid- market deals. They would ignore all the inbound, the inbound would wait for five days to get back because somebody was busy doing deals. So you can understand it's just a mess. And you know I'm you see it at Drift, et cetera, et cetera the salesperson who's doing the assisted buying tool sale is dramatically different than the enterprise account executive that's got a six months sales cycle, they're wired differently, they think differently. And so not only is it unfair to have context switching within a rep to go through that conversation and not only does it make you not align for any given section. There's no way to enable that rep, train that rep, support that rep. And there's no way to pay that rep appropriately. So what I'm getting to now is, look, have the right product offering for the segment you're in or segments, figure out the right demand model and then let's figure out how we start to specialize from a sales role perspective. The one thing Salesforce did and I think Oracle had done to some extent was it built if it will this machine. It built this machine that allowed us to take young kids out college it was inbound SDRs go to outbound SDRs, go VSB reps to SMB reps, to mid- market reps, to GP reps. Whereas if you look at I think the head of Americas, all of the Americas enterprise field business today for Salesforce, which is probably I don't know what is that? A$ 5 billion business, an$ 8 billion dollar business was an SDR at my bootcamp that I trained, the first bootcamp I ran in 2003. So now if we have some level of specialization metrics can actually make sense. Because when I see people tell me," Oh, my lead conversion rate is this, or my opportunity close rate is this, or my ASP is this, or my sales cycle is this." And they give me that number in aggregate, I just look at them and I go," That tells me nothing."

Sean Lane: Brett said over and over again, that the Salesforce mantra was specialize and focus, specialize and focus. With all of these segmentation and specialization lessons in mind, we turned our attention to arguably the hardest component of a go- to- market plan, the humans. How many salespeople do you need? Do you know what skill sets you need for which segment and what ramps and quotas should look like, get your notepads ready.

Brett Queener: Once we have some level of segments, then we can start looking at performance. And I basically, I try to keep it simple. This is not an algorithm, it doesn't require AI. I basically, I have two questions I ask people which is for the AEs, the account executives we have in a given segment, assuming you have sales execs, are we achieving the desired level of quota achievement? I'll get a little more into that. And if you are not, or you want more... Like as if you are then you're like you either have too few reps or your quotas are too low and that's always the good problem they don't need... The company's like," I'm crushing my quota number and the rest of it." I get out of their way. They're aren't like," You need to hire more reps. Hire more reps, hire more reps, hire more reps. Raise your quota." But generally if they're not, generally in a given segment or they want to do better, I ask them," Is it an issue of do you have enough quality at bats or do you have an inability to close them?" Because ultimately that's what it comes down to.

Sean Lane: Those are your two levers.

Brett Queener: That's it? And then on the first question on the quota, the only thing I say about are you achieving your level of quota? I can't tell you the number of younger executives who are like say," Wow, I've closed one deal, it was a million dollar deal. So my deals are all a million dollars. So I'm going to hire reps, I'm going to pay them 150k they're going to have a$ 2 million quota. And I only need like four reps to get to 10 million bucks." And I was like," Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Okay." So the other one where," How about your ramp? Well, I have an enterprise ramp? And when they walk in they're going to have no pipeline. You have a six months ramp. But in month three they'll do 25%, month four, 50, in months six, 75. And they'll have a 100% in month six. And then they'll come to a board and be like we hired those four reps before it came off a plan. And I'm like," Are you inaudible plan because the people have gotten to full ramp, or there was actually nothing closed between month three and month five because there was no pipe in its name and sales cycle." They're like," Yeah. That." I'm like," Okay."

Sean Lane: So that plan might be off.

Brett Queener: My point is have a realistic rep. If you have an enterprise rep, let's be clear. Let's not be greedy unless you've figured out something I haven't figured out, there's a rule of four to one. Unless you have an amazing inbound business generally you're going to pay somebody one quarter their quota. So if they're making a million bucks, you might have to pay him two 50 a plan. For inside businesses and the rest if it's more inbound you can pay them less, but anything you're paying them more than that then you're going to be off from a magic number perspective. And look, enterprise reps generally they ramp takes at least six months to ramp. Inside reps three and maybe GB somewhere in between, but let's just be conservative from a ramping perspective. And a general rule of thumb that I use. And we used at Salesforce and Mark was amazing with this he'd say," How many reps do you have?" And we'd be like," Wow, I got this many ramped or not ramped." He's like," I don't really care. How many reps do you have?'I have this many reps.'" He goes," Okay-" Let's say we had 40 reps. And he'd go," Okay, you have 40 reps. Okay. You got 40 reps. Okay. We're going to book 6 million this quarter.'What do you mean?'" He goes," It's 50k a man.'What do you mean 50k a man?' It's 50k a man.'But I don't know? SDRs and marketing and then ramping and then-'" He's like," Yeah, I don't really care. It's 50k a man." So generally within a segment-

Sean Lane: And that was his way of setting the goal, or that was his way of forecasting this is what we're actually going to do.

Brett Queener: Well, this was his way of telling us," Keep hiring more AEs." He's basically saying was like at a minimum we need to do 50k a man. If we do more great, if we do less, less. And it was a way of... It wasn't perfect but from a math perspective when you got to a segment, if you were doing more than 50k keep hiring and optimizing, if you're doing less than 50k stop hiring and fix something, which was interesting. Because one of the big challenges that the companies that you sell to and the companies I work with is the following. They get to some level of excitement, things are going pretty well, blah, blah, blah. And then they tell the board they've got it figured out. And they raised their B round or their C round," Go hire 15 reps."

Sean Lane: Or hire a bunch of more reps.

Brett Queener: "Hire a bunch of reps including segments for inaudible." Then we hire 15 reps then we realize that we don't really know how to create pipe for them. And then they don't make their number and everybody's sad. And then everybody gets on a glass door and it says, " Company, we're not winning anymore." They've cut back on the snacks. The kombucha is not as good as it was. And the company flames out. It flames out in six months because we have sad reps. So everyone's worried about that, but you don't get to like, " Oh, I'm only going to hire the reps when I have enough pipeline sitting here ready for them."

Sean Lane: That gets back to the balance we talked about at the very beginning of that growth versus the capacity.

Brett Queener: Yeah. And so this 50k rule of thumb was if you're doing more than 50k per man in a segment keep hiring. And if you're doing less than a segment, go figure out what's going wrong. Go hire more.

Sean Lane: And do you think that like so many different numbers, so many different metrics anybody could look at, but do you think that is the way to just oversimplify this whole thing? Hey, what's our productivity per rep," Okay. Keep going or, okay, we got to stop and figure something out."

Brett Queener: Yeah. If you think about it's just the math that summarizes all of the complex answers I've been giving you. I've tried to keep them simple, but it's just an interesting one and he was always right.

Sean Lane: So once you have figured out how many of each type of rep you're going to need, which by the way is a Herculean effort in and of itself. Brett told me then it's time to take a look at things like average sales price. And from there, there's really just two key metrics he cares about opportunity close rate and opportunity win rate. Now if you were like me we're thinking," Aren't those the same thing?" Think again.

Brett Queener: The two calcs that I use is one opportunity close rate, which starts with a concept of accepted opportunities and this is where I talk to my friends at Outreach and SalesLoft and the rest of it. And all the SDRs they've made this serious decisions in inbound marketing, no one knows what a real opportunity is anymore. But assuming we know what a real opportunity is where we think that this is an accepted opportunity. And it's not cherry pick because the rep all they want to work is what's perfect, and it's not an opportunity because the reps have no problem accepting the SDRs opportunities because the SDRs are content accepted opportunities and there's no downfall. All that drama.

Sean Lane: We've reached this agreed upon definition

Brett Queener: And for accepted opportunities in a given period a quarter, I looked at which of those did we win, closed win, divided by which of them did we lose to a competitor? And which of them did we lose to no decision, plus closed one. So the numerators what did we win, and denominator is the sum of what we won plus what we lost to a competitor, and what we lost to no decision. That gives me the close rate. And if that is less than 33%, we got a problem somewhere. Because I don't like telling marketing SDRs or pipeline," You need to go create more than three X pipeline to hit our number." Because if you do, there is a level of inefficiency somewhere in your value prop, your market opportunity, your differentiation-

Sean Lane: And that's the lever that might be missed. Real quick on that equation, you're very specific about the things that you're saying, why you lost. Are there categories of closed lost opportunities that you're purposefully not including there? Or are you just basically saying," Okay, these are typically the two major buckets of closed loss."

Brett Queener: Well, these are the two buckets that they have to fall into.

Sean Lane: I just didn't know if you were excluding something on purpose.

Brett Queener: No, no. I'm not either a deal was done. Somebody bought something and it was from us or somebody else or they decided-

Sean Lane: Status quo.

Brett Queener: ...not to buy anything. So and then the other calc that I use is opportunity win rate, which is closed one divided by close loss plus closed win, where I get rid of loss no decision and that tells me how well I am against competitors. And I want that to be north of 55, 66%. Like when a deal goes down I've got at least win one out of two, and if I'm dominant I got to win at least two out of three. And where I'm not, I can look at per competitor per segment to understand something's off.

Sean Lane: First of all, I completely agree. I think looking at that competitor piece on its own is really valuable. I also think looking at the no decision one particularly in the case where, that Salesforce was in at the time and what Drift is in now, in terms of in addition to winning a deal you're also in both instances I think trying to convince someone to do something that's different from what the typically accepted quote unquote best practice at the time was. And so I think that's another interesting component of those no decisions. Is how good of a job are we doing at actually laying out the value of this new thing, this new ask that we're making of our buyers because it's not just like," Hey, you've got this thing. We want to replace it and put something new in its place." It's," Hey, you have nothing here. And we want to put something in to fill that void."

Brett Queener: Oh yeah. Unlike Salesforce there weren't seven other firms calling the same buyer trying to sell up something. So the issue you have now with the proliferation of venture and the SaaS economy at SaaStr is your buyer is just getting pummeled. And so the way I look at the entire sales process, initially, you're having conversations there's some interest. Either they called you or you call them or whatever it is. And you need to move from a conversation to can we get a funded project here. To buy something new, to replace what I'm using, et cetera. And then will I get them to select me as the vendor for that funded project. If you really at a high level breakdown the buying sales process, that's how I think about it. And so that loss no decision generally means we did a really poor job of moving from that conversation to a funded project side. We either had happy years and there was no funded project to be made or we did a poor job of creating it, generally, is what that means.

Sean Lane: Before we go as always we're going to ask our guests the same set of lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. What is the best you've read in the last six months?

Brett Queener: The best book I have read in the last six months, it is I'll tell you the book I'm terrible with words. The Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro the book was, give me one second, I'm 48 so I don't remember this stuff as well. It was called The Buried Giant, it was the best book I read in the last six months.

Sean Lane: The Buried Giant.

Brett Queener: Yes. By Kazuo Ishiguro who won the... I think he won the Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize. He won the Nobel Prize, I think for Remains of the Day.

Sean Lane: All right. I'll have to check it out.

Brett Queener: Amazing novel, amazing novel.

Sean Lane: Cool. All right. Favorite part about working in operations?

Brett Queener: Seeing scale happen. So much of SaaS and software business is a slog. You work hard and the rest of it, you put a dollar in, you get a dollar out. You get up, you put a dollar in, you get a dollar out. And when you start to see scale and momentum, where somebody is putting in a dollar or a unit of effort, their getting$2, or two unit or if it's better, that's a magic moment. So when you see that happening it's palpable and it's very exciting.

Sean Lane: That's a great answer. How about the least favorite part about working in ops? I guess maybe the alternative of what you just said.

Brett Queener: For me. Look I love operations. I love being operational. For me there is a time when you don't have an answer, and if you're an operator if you're a type A you're fine with bad answers, you're fine with bad news. You love good news, but not being able to understand why you're underperforming in a given segment as an operator drives you crazy. It keeps you up at night.

Sean Lane: Yep. Somebody who impacted you getting the job you have today.

Brett Queener: I made a decision two years ago to... Interesting decision, but to spend the last two years of my kids' high school career in a non- operational role, helping product manage them into the college process. My wife was very sparked she said," Your two most important products are two and three years away from GA, and they're going to fail at launch. You've launched a lot of companies, a lot of people, a lot of careers. Why don't you focus on the ones that are most important." No, the great irony for those that have kids spending a lot of time with your kids the last years of high school when they went nothing to do with their dad is really interesting. And so they inspired me to do that. And so not being full- time operational, they would disagree like visiting 36 schools applying to 18 getting into 13 and then deciding of the four.

Sean Lane: You got a whole new funnel to manage.

Brett Queener: It was college process it's easy if you just do it yourself, but no, it then said what do I want to do with my time? And they wanted to make sure I was out of their hair frequently. And so being an investor advisor venture capitalists it gives me the freedom to spend time with companies on their time and mind and be helpful. And so I would say they've influenced me the most in that decision.

Sean Lane: Awesome. And last one for you. One piece of advice for people who want to have a career in ops similar to the one that you've had.

Brett Queener: So much of ops now can get relegated to installing what I call the go- to- market stacked. Whether it's Drift or HubSpot or Salesforce and Outreach, it's like installing 10 or 15 tools. And we put a lot of tech at play as part of the ops role and we're supposed to automate process. I would tell ops people to start first with what are the three to five questions were trying to answer? And if we had an answer for it, we would know what levers to pull and that should guide your role. That should guide the tools that you buy, that should guide the metrics that you're looking at, that should guide the slides that you prepare for the board each week. Start there first and work back from there. Often what I see as people have created a jumbly- jumbly mess there's all these processes and tools and apps, and no one actually can understand what the actual question is. And so much of what we've talked to for the last year had nothing to do with technology over the last hour. It was about how do we measure business? How do we know what we're doing? How do we optimize around it? Okay. Then let me go put the processes and stuff in place. The other advice I would have from an ops perspective is there's no one defined ops role. The one at Salesforce that we defined was whatever it took to make sales to hit our ACV goal. So it actually included not only sales planning, sales strategy, pricing and packaging, it included field product marketing, it included competitive, on top of all our administrator data cleaning and the rest of it, which was and included training to make sure I understood not only a planning model but what we were executing. And then how are we assisting? What was the sales process we were coming up with? And then what was the set of material we were assisting in analyzing the sales teams with? But there isn't one defined role from an ops perspective, I define it as the guiding force that creates repeatability and scale in achieving the company's ACV and then at some point retention metrics.

Sean Lane: That's it. That's all we got for today. A huge thanks to Brett for stopping by and dropping so much knowledge on us in this episode. If you want to hear more from Brett, he's published a series of LinkedIn articles about go- to- markets and planning out your sales stages that are super helpful and very relevant to the conversation that we just had so check those out. Also stay tuned for future episodes, where we're actually going to talk to some folks who were at Salesforce just after Brett left and talk about how planning and putting together an annual plan changed after Brett left when you're dealing with 4, 500 reps. So stick around for future episodes with those interviews and last but not least thank you to all of you for tuning in. Really appreciate all the feedback and the support since the show has launched. If you have ideas of things you want us to cover or you have guests you want us to have on, please, please, please reach out, shoot me a LinkedIn message tweet at me, send me your feedback so we can continue to make the show better. And as always, if you're feeling so inclined, leave us one of those six star reviews on Apple Podcasts, six star reviews only please. All right, that's going to do it for me this week. See you next time.


On this episode of #Operations, host Sean Lane sits down with VC and former Salesforce EVP and GM, Brett Queener. Queener joined the company when it was at $11 million in revenue. Today, Salesforce's market cap stands at $123 billion. This monumental growth is due in large part to Queener's focus on specialization and segmentation – essential for the success of any ops pro.