PODCAST 36: How To Model Sales Productivity And Identify Opportunity For Marketing To Developers

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we interview Meghan Gill, VP of Sales Operations at MongoDB.  

Meghan has been at Mongo almost 9 years and was the first non-technical hire at the company, helping them scale past an IPO in 2017 and transitioning from an early career in Marketing into Sales Operations.  

If you missed episode 35, check it out here: PODCAST 35: How Goal Setting Can Change Your Career with Dannie Herzberg, Sales Director, Slack

What You’ll Learn

  • How to execute “developer marketing” and how to build a developer community
  • Using bottoms-up marketing funnels to drive enterprise growth
  • Does a technical background make you a more effective enterprise seller?
  • Why is accommodating a bad quality in sales?
  • How to model sales productivity in a company that is soaring past $200M in revenue

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [0:10]
  2. About Meghan Gill: An Introduction [2:47]
  3. Sales Reps vs. Solution Architects: Who Does What? [9:33]
  4. Un-Marketing to Developers [14:16]
  5. From the Funnel to the Flywheel [19:56]
  6. How a Focus Study Ended in the Switch to MongoDB’s Account Model [23:13]
  7. Sam’s Corner [40:08]

Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Aircall and Outreach

Sam Jacobs: Hi everybody, this is Sam Jacobs. You’re listening to the Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show, we’ve got the VP of Sales Operations at MongoDB, Meghan Gill. Meghan was the first non-technical hire at the company. It’s a really interesting conversation and we’re excited to have her on the show.

Now, before we get to the show, we want to thank our sponsors.

The first is Aircall, a phone system designed for the modern sales team. They seamlessly integrate into your CRM, eliminating data entry for your reps and providing you with greater visibility into your team’s performance through advanced reporting.

Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach triples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizing the right activities and scaling customer engagement with intelligent automation. Outreach makes customer-facing teams more effective and approves visibility into what really drives results. Without further ado, let’s listen to Meghan Gill from MongoDB.

About Meghan Gill: An Introduction

Sam Jacobs: We’re incredibly excited to have Meghan Gill on the show today. Meghan is VP of Sales Operations at MongoDB. Importantly, she was employee number eight at the company and has been with the company for almost nine years and has watched that company grow from a very early stage, which we’ll hear about all the way through IPO. She’s a well-known startup advisor in addition to being a really respected sales and marketing leader here in the New York community. So Meghan, welcome to the show.

Meghan Gill: Thanks for having me.

Sam Jacobs: We know that MongoDB is a public company, we know that it’s a big New York success story, but a lot of people don’t know what MongoDB does. So, give us a quick overview of the company.

Meghan Gill: We make database technology, so we make a more flexible and scalable database solution that makes developers more productive. We had our one year as a public company anniversary in October 2018.

Sam Jacobs: Congratulations. So, tell us about your story a little bit. Where are you from? What’s your background? How did you end up at Mongo back in 2009?

Meghan Gill: When I joined MongoDB at the end of 2009, I was the eighth employee. It was all engineers and how I got there is I knew the founder, Elliot. I was looking to join a startup so I went to Elliott for advice thinking he would refer me somewhere. I didn’t expect him to say, “Hey, why don’t you join MongoDB?” because I knew very little about open source software. It was a very technical product, there was no sales and marketing team, but he said, “Hey, you’re smart, why don’t you join, you can come and just help us get leverage, help us figure things out.” That’s pretty much exactly what I did.

Sales Reps vs. Solution Architects: Who Does What?

Sam Jacobs: How difficult is it to recruit solution architects? Do you guys have a clear definition of what the salesperson is supposed to do and how that is different from what the solution architect is supposed to do?

Meghan Gill: Our sales reps, one of their key responsibilities that’s quite distinct from an SA is pipeline generation, right? It’s a huge part of the job. If the sales rep has some technical background, they’d potentially do a better job at PG, because they understand the audience and they understand what the person cares about.

I think our biggest challenge is not market size because the database market is huge, and I think the product is great, our biggest limitation has been finding talent in engineering and sales, SAs and in all functions to grow at the rate that we wanna grow.

Un-Marketing to Developers

Sam Jacobs: Walk us through the model for how MongoDB identifies an opportunity and how you became good at figuring out how to market to developers.

Meghan Gill: Our approach has been to create a really amazing customer experience and an amazing experience for developers. MongoDB is open source, and we treat open source almost like a freemium model. That’s how we generate demand, because we make it really easy for developers to use. And the way we think about sales is the sales reps are really looking for what we call smoke, as in when there’s smoke, there’s fire. They’re looking for accounts where there’s activity, they’re going and talking to those developers, finding out what kind of projects there are and then pillaring up to a decision maker or somebody more senior to talk about a more strategic deal.

Sam Jacobs: What are your key insights from running developer marketing for so long?

Meghan Gill: I think the key insight is developers don’t really like being “marketed to,” but they are really hungry for information and for learning and for education. So we took that angle in pretty much all of the marketing programs that we did. As an example, one of the early successes was doing these one-day developer conferences, which we still do. The early ones production value was so low and was so minimally branded, but it didn’t matter because people were there to learn. They were there to figure out how they could solve their problems with MongoDB, how they could build applications more efficiently. Another key marketing initiative which is still really an important part of our go-to market is MongoDB University. We offer free online courses where you can learn MongoDB. I think about the educational angle has been really effective for working with developers.

From the Funnel to the Flywheel

Sam Jacobs: One of the things that we were talking about before is about moving from a funnel framework to a flywheel and how companies need to focus on customer delight. Are you guys doing that at MongoDB?

Meghan Gill: It used to be that the person who had all the information and held all the cards was a sales rep. They knew everything about the product, about the market, about the competition. Now, it’s a lot easier for people to get that kind of information on their own and it does put sales at a bit of a disadvantage. It means that, what’s become the most powerful form of sales and marketing is customers–we’re talking about the experience they’re having with your product and generating virality.

As salespeople and as marketers, we need to reorient towards creating an amazing positive customer experience so that our customers will refer people and talk about the great experience that they’re having.

Some companies, once a deal is closed, pass the renewal off to a renewals team. We have our sales reps continue to own the relationship and own the renewals, which means that they’re really invested in the success of the customer and thinking about making sure that they’re gonna renew when that time comes.

Sam Jacobs: Do you find that the salespeople embrace that idea of maintaining the relationship?

Meghan Gill: If you think about how many database applications a single company could have, I mean, the first deal is just your foot in the door so it would not make sense to pass that on to somebody who’s more of a farmer to maintain the relationship. We want the reps to stay really motivated to stay engaged with the customers. There are trade-offs, like doing a renewal, that takes away time from generating new business, but I think it’s important enough that we’re willing to make that trade off, and I think it’s the right thing to do.

RELATED: How to Close an Enterprise Sale in a Niche Market

How a Focus Study Ended in the Switch to MongoDB’s Account Model

Sam Jacobs: You said that you’ve done some analysis trying to determine if technical background or some level of technical knowledge helps people perform better. What are the other insights that you’ve gleaned, looking at sort of sellers from this analytical objective perspective in terms of what makes a great seller, who your most successful people are and why? And what lessons can you share with the audience?

Meghan Gill:  Sure. One counterintuitive insight we had, and this has less to do with the people in the profile, is around focus. I think we’re big fans of focus at MongoDB, so, we did an analysis to figure out, if I give someone a bigger patch and more opportunity, they’re gonna be more productive.

We actually found pretty much exactly the opposite, that the fewer accounts somebody has, the more productive they are and that actually makes sense to focus people on a handful of really good accounts, where they can get deep and they can qualify out quickly or qualify in quickly. That was one insight we had and that had us move our entire sales organization, including our inside reps, to a named account model.

Sam Jacobs: When you say a handful, is it five? Is it ten?

Meghan Gill: It depends on the role and, this is the other key insight, every person is unique, right? You have to match the player to the position, right? So an inside rep can handle 75 accounts, it’s very high velocity, they’re qualifying in and out very quickly. In our enterprise team, they’re more focused on 15 or 20 accounts and even 20 could be a lot of accounts for them to handle. One of our most productive reps, he’s down to three accounts and he’s just really focused on expanding within those accounts.

Sam Jacobs: Awesome. Meghan, thank you so much for your time on the show, we really appreciate it.

Meghan Gill: Thank you.

Sam’s Corner

Sam Jacobs: Hi team, this is Sam’s corner, another great interview, this time with Meghan Gill from MongoDB. She was the first nontechnical hire at that company and she helped them go public last year. Meghan had a lot of really good insights into how to build and scale a complex enterprise sale, and one of the things that she mentioned is it’s a heavy field sales organization where they put a lot of emphasis on the sales rep themselves to generate pipeline, in fact, that’s one of the core responsibilities. They have a one to one relationship between the salesperson out in the field and the solution architect.

When you’re doing an enterprise sale that’s highly complex, highly technical, you’re gonna need to provide and invest in technical support and part of that go-to-market motion is investing in sales, engineering, and support to assist the sales team. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear, in the modern age, that if you don’t have technical experience of any kind, you’re at a disadvantage relative to everybody else.

Don’t Miss Episode 37

So before we go, of course, what do we wanna do? We wanna thank our sponsors. They’re the reason we all get to breathe oxygen, etc. Big shout out to Aircall, the advanced call center software, complete business phone and contact center, 100% natively integrated into any CRM. And, Outreach, a customer engagement platform that efficiently and effectively gauges prospects to drive more pipeline and close more deals.

If you wanna check out the show notes, see upcoming guests or play more episodes from our incredible line up of sales leaders, visit gtmnow.com/listen/. You can also find the Sales Hacker podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

If you wanna get in touch with me, please do it, a lot of people have been reaching out to me and it’s fantastic. You don’t have to just give me positive feedback, you can tell me, “Hey, these are the types of things that we wanna hear on the show.”

Thanks for listening to the Sales Hacker podcast and  I’ll talk to you next time.

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