This is how you thrive during tough times
Devin Reed: Sheena, what would you say is your competitive edge?
Sheena Badani: I would honestly say that this podcast and the conversations and dialogues with execs is one of my competitive edges.
Devin Reed: I feel like access, whether that's to people or information, is a huge competitive edge, especially today in the digital world. That's exactly why we decided to launch The Edge, which is a new thought leadership newsletter penned by our very own president and COO Kelly Breslin Wright.
Sheena Badani: It's fantastic. It's this sneak peek into the inner thinking and the experiences of a highly successful female executive who has been there, done that, as a board member, as a president of a hyper growth company, as a sales leader. So being able to see her thought processes, you really get to tap into something that you wouldn't have known otherwise.
Devin Reed: It's really a written extension of what we talk about here. How to scale your business, how to be a better leader, how to adapt to the different trends that are coming. So every month she drops a new edition. It's always less than five minutes. And you know, you know that there's data in that. Because that's what we do. We love data.
Sheena Badani: So how do we sign up, Dev?
Devin Reed: All you have to do is jump down to the show notes and you're going to see a link. Hit the link, put in your email address, and that's it. That's it. That's all you have to do.
Sheena Badani: Easy peasy. All right.
Devin Reed: That was fun.
Carston Hogenson: You need to constantly experiment, tweak, try out new things. Because if you don't in RevOps challenge your institutional knowledge by saying we did that three years ago, that didn't work. You will never get those opportunities to fruition.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal the revenue intelligence podcast here to help go to market leaders do one thing. Stop guessing
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed. Coming to you from the Gong studios. I love a leader with a plan. Especially when that plan has a great name, like'How to Get out of the Gutter Playbook'. Carston Hogenson is the chief commercial officer at Family, a childcare management platform that helps improve daily communications between parents, teachers, and daycare providers. A soon to be dad of two, I know the need for this kind of thing. But dad things aside, Carston has helped the team at Family establish the ever important RevOps function within their organization. In this conversation, he shares his results and how he achieved them, what the ripple effect has been for the rest of their sales and customer success efforts, and why it's always important to know how to get out of the gutter. Because let's face it, there will always be bad days and tough sprints. But a great leader has the playbook to navigate their team through it. Here's Carston. Let's get into it because you're CCO at Family and you've been there for about a year now. So I'm curious, what was the journey to get to that role?
Carston Hogenson: So I'm basically an economist by trade. I have some experience in commercial and strategy. Started my career with Accenture, had my own business for a couple of years, and then worked for inaudible for amount of years. I can't even count them anymore. So when Family threw itself into the mix, and being a father of two girls, as we talked about the importance of early childhood education and how critical this actually is for our society, has just been high on my agenda. And I found that in Family, I could use the experience and all of the privileges that I have obtained over my career to put that to work and actually try to deliver the vision that we have, and have an impact on early years education. So that's actually what brought me into Family. So now I've been there for a year already. It's crazy.
Devin Reed: That's fantastic. I love that mission. As a dad of one, soon to be two, I can definitely relate to that. I know you're passionate about RevOps, so I'd love to hear a little bit more like, what did you first notice about RevOps when you got to Family? What was that beginning phase like? What did you observe?
Carston Hogenson: When I joined Family we, I guess frankly speaking, didn't really have RevOps. RevOps was sales because we were at the point where the sales team really knew what they were doing, and it was operating and we were smashing our metrics. So year on year, month on month, actually we were beating our targets. And all metrics were rock solid. So when I joined, we had what I would call a classic startup, really just understanding the basic metrics. And of course, wanting to set targets that you then beat. And it was clear that in order to get to that next scale up phase, we really needed RevOps to take a more active role. We needed a much clearer inaudible on our efforts and also to set out the right ambitions again. What does good actually look like?
Devin Reed: What were some of those key indicators, or those first KPIs that you focused on? What were those specific examples for you, where you said, okay, here's where we're going to start to scale in the way you're viewing some of the risks and things you need to think about?
Carston Hogenson: It's win rate, it's pipeline, all of that. And really just trying to figure out, looking closer under the hood. So we had a whopping 41% win rate when I started, which is very healthy for any SaaS company. We had NRI of 110%. So we grew organically. At the time sales cycle was actually decent. What was the actions we took to get to the actual performance we're seeing from a RevOps point of view? What is the pipeline development? What does the AE's do here? If you can't answer those types of questions, you are probably not close enough to what you need to be in order to build a scaling organization.
Devin Reed: I'm curious, and almost jealous, if win rates were in the forties, was there something else like, okay, we're closing really, really well? Was it maybe like, okay, let's fill that funnel more and build more pipeline? Or how did you think about scaling the company, knowing win rates were so high?
Carston Hogenson: The first conclusion we arrived at is that it was primarily referrals. So the reason why we had such high win rates was that it was really inbound leads that there was generated for us. So our customers who knew about our platform, our company, our vision, and really aligned well on that, which of course meant that they were late in the funnel. So it was more about converting them as they went in. The problem with that, it was really in our hands. So when you talk about scaling, obviously you can do some to the extent of marketing and so on. But if you really wanted to build something that scales also internationally, we need to build another engine. So we set out to put in motion the outbound function, really trying to supplement what we already had going for us and take destiny into our own hands.
Devin Reed: Was that part of building the center for commercial excellence? Is this how the outbound motion played into part?
Carston Hogenson: Yeah. So again, from my initial analysis of the RevOps of our commercial engines, we actually derived a new sales strategy. We also defined a new commercial strategy. So we put together a commercial strategy house. And in that regard, one of the critical functions I found was what you would call RevOps or commercial excellence, really putting together a dedicated function to look at what was already there. So the existing, you could say revenue performance, we had. But also very much in the view of how do you grow this? How do we get the instrument readings we need? And how do we actually get sales enablement? How do we build on both existing population, but also the outbound engine? How does that look? So we came out of that process with three new functions. One was RevOps or commercial excellence. And other was inside sales, which is essentially the outbound sales engine we now have. And then we have corporate development, which is around partnerships and mergers and acquisition.
Devin Reed: That process of creating, or realizing, that those were the three functions is really interesting to me. Were there any aha moments, Carston, as you're planning with the team? I don't know, maybe looking at data, analyzing the data, did anything kind of pop out at you as like, oh, that's the thread to pull? Or that's the path that we should really go down, maybe something that was new to you.
Carston Hogenson: So I guess one of the things that I definitely saw quickly was that we had an organization of extremely learning focused and agile individuals. So people with experience, that had done it before, who knew what were the tools that we needed to deploy. And then I think the other thing, when you make such an organizational change, that you create checks and balances where the operators actually show you, where are the red flags? So everybody understands exactly what part they play in the overall revenue ops of the company. And you can then see that throughout the entire chain. So I think an example of that is, for instance, that commercial excellence is so close to sales that they actually develop the lead prospect lists, which they hand out to inside sales, who are then responsible for booking the demos for the AE's to then convert. So you get this circle of activity where everybody has a hand in the overall revenue performance.
Devin Reed: That totally makes sense. Okay. So we've got the new functions. It sounds like we're ironed out the alignment. And that's provided you a lot more visibility. Teams are talking to each other, they see what's working, what's not. And you can iterate as you go. What are some of the insights that you have today? It's a year later. So I would love to know some of the real time insights that you have now.
Carston Hogenson: We have a lot of stuff today that we didn't have a year ago. You need to constantly experiment, tweak, try out new things. Because if you don't in RevOps challenge your institutional knowledge by saying, we did that three years ago, that didn't work. You will never get those opportunities to fruition. So one of the insights we now have is we sort of developed this'What to do when you're in the Gutter Playbook'. So it's basically a playbook that then designs around what can you do at any given point in time? And what is the impact of that?
Devin Reed: That guidebook sounds very interesting. You'd probably sell a few copies if you put if on Amazon bookstore. It sounds like that was an output of desired predictability. Trying to figure out how we can stay on the course when there's short term, long term challenges. And also, I imagine Carston, probably prevented you, like you said, from making historical errors. Like, Hey, we've already been there. But also making shortsighted decisions. Like, Hey, we're not pacing on target for this month. Looking at this playbook and going, okay, well, should we make a change for short term gain or a little bit more long term gain?
Carston Hogenson: Absolutely. In that, you can quickly get an idea of where are your potential opportunities for actually fixing whatever is going on. And it allows you to make interjections very early on. One of the first changes we made was actually to set up a sales management cadence. Really interjecting a structured approach to pipeline management, to following up on the metrics. And really institutionalizing the metrics into the conversations, to the ones conversations I was having with the sales leaders, the sales leaders to the AE's, and all of the operators, around what does this data actually tell us? What's different from what we've seen before? And that context is critical to actually make the right decision on which initiatives are we interjecting or deploying right now? Because if you don't get that, you can get really bad mistakes, unfortunately also.
Devin Reed: Yeah, getting the right market signal is obviously super important. And obviously there's ways, you can automated with revenue intelligence. You can chat with the frontline managers. You had mentioned there's a group of metrics that you're aligning the leadership team on. I'd love to uncover a little bit of what those metrics are. And even more interestingly, would be if those metrics have changed in the last year.
Carston Hogenson: So again, your first order of business to understand which are the few critical metrics that you need to understand. Obviously, ARR and NRR are critical. But I think from us in RevOps, it's, what is the sales cycle time? And then because we are scaling, onboarding is actually a very critical metric. And over the past year, we've actually managed to increase win rates by 10 to 15%, even up from 41%. And their onboarding time, we do from four weeks to three days until they start actually delivering first in actions. And then we have, as I said, this'What to do when you're in the Gutter Playbook', that's typically followed up with a line of sight exercise, which is a calls to arms kind of exercise where you sit and say, okay, so how do we get to our targets? Okay, these are the activities. These are the opportunities. Who are the owners of these? What are the next ones? We've deployed that four times. And all four times have actually been successful. I'm crossing my fingers because we're at the end of the month. And we have it right now. So, but it's looking good.
Devin Reed: Well, I'm rooting for you if you're in the midst of gutter playbook, play version four right now. Like I said, in my intro, I love a leader with a plan. And guess what? Plans fuel winning teams. Here's what I mean. According to the Harvard business review, leading sales operation teams attribute 60% or more of their total pipeline in any quarter to actively designed and deployed sales plays. The success that Carston and his team have seen can be directly correlated, not only to the fact that they have a plan, but also to the fact that they're aligned on that plan. If you haven't documented a playbook for your team yet, let Carston's 41% win rate be your inspiration to prioritize it. Now here's more from Carston on what data you'll need to craft an effective playbook. So it sounds like, Carston, that you're striving for predictability. And that required visibility and alignment. And you've shared some great examples around that. To help some of our listeners who might be striving for the same thing. Maybe they're just getting started. Maybe they're kind of where you are on the journey or later. What are some of the things they should be looking out for? Or in other words, what's holding them back, knowingly or unknowingly, from being able to do some of the things that you've described effectively.
Carston Hogenson: I think sometimes it's, of course, a lack of capabilities, but also tons of activities. I'm sure most of your listeners, like me, have a lot of things on there to do lists. So sitting down and trying to figure out how do you fail small and learn fast? And how do you make sure you have the organization that's ready to learn the abilities required to actually dissect that data, and the understanding of that, and the courage and time to actually execute it. You don't really have that much time. Time is not a luxury that many of us have. So for me, it was so important to hard code this. So we hard coded all meetings, all interactions around the data that we wanted. So we, in every interaction we had, we talked about the same metrics. We talked about how they're performing. We started asking the same questions so that every operator knew that this is what we were going to talk about. And started thinking around what are the actions that we can take? And get really creative. But predictability, absolutely paramount. And it's even more so in today's world. So if you think of the changes we're seeing in the financial climate today, predictability and hitting your ambitions becomes your license to operate. It's as simple as that. And RevOps carry a massive part in that.
Devin Reed: Yeah. I don't think anyone's talking about having too much free time these days. Especially in a fast growing company. If anything, they're low on time, high on distractions. And if you have 30 minutes spare, you're probably listening to the Reveal podcast anyway, listening to Carston on your small coveted breaks. I try not to use doom and gloom language. But you hear a potential recession. I'll call it economic headwinds. I think that's a safe, fairly neutral, way to put it. What heat checks would you recommend teams perform to make sure that they're prepared to weather what may be coming?
Carston Hogenson: I think we have to remember that as difficult as it may get, from difficulty and overcoming, that we all get better. So if you think back in time, Salesforce, Airbnb, Amazon all transformed over the last similar situation that we were facing. So there's massive opportunity here. And massive opportunity for writing the platform, making sure that it stands stronger. As it is, SaaS and tech is a relatively new industry. So not many people have been here that long. Haven't necessarily experienced what I was just referring to. And that is going to be paramount to make sure that the focus doesn't get distracted from the organization. Aside from that, as also related to of course, RevOps is disciplinarial planning. You look at different ways to understand how our business is performing. You can't really control the financial environment around you. But you can control your investments and where you're putting in your efforts. So again, understanding risk is critical in your sales engine or revenue engine. And then, I think of course, there's a lot you can do in terms of automation, tooling, and coaching of your sales force from the RevOps teams, to actually get more efficiency out of what you have. You can achieve quite a lot. And you also need to look at your markets and your customers. You really need the customers love. And if you have that, then you will come out stronger.
Devin Reed: That's very helpful. And that makes a lot of sense. Last question, if you're able to share. As you're kind of doing this pre- planning, these different scenarios, are there any places where you look at the business and like, Hey, kind of know, almost no matter what happens, these are the places we definitely should keep investing in, and focusing on?
Carston Hogenson: We've decided to double down on the markets that we see having the potential, where we feel that we can deploy efficiently investments, and where we know we've only started the tip of the iceberg. We've also withdrawn from some of the plans we had, because we felt that it would deter management attention because you would be spread so fast. You would not be able to necessarily pick up on leading indicators fast enough, and interject fast enough to stay in control. And then, as I also just delivered, too, it's all about customers and making sure that they continue to favor us. We see a lot of potential that we've built for our existing customers so that we continue to grow with less organic or new revenue coming in from new customers.
Devin Reed: No new icebergs, at least for the near future. OD versus wide. I like it. Well, Carston, thank you for hanging out and for sharing your expertise and your wisdom. This is really insightful. And there's a lot, there's two kind of words that are jumping out, other than RevOps, which is visibility and alignment. I think that's key for what we were talking about today. So I appreciate you hanging out with us on Reveal.
Carston Hogenson: Yeah. Thank you, Devin. And thanks for having me.
Devin Reed: If you want to learn more about how revenue intelligence can help you craft an effective playbook, head over to gong. io. And if you like what you heard today, please give us a five star review on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening.
Every great sales leader has a plan. But best ones? They’ve got a whole playbook. Carsten Haagensen, Chief Commercial Officer at Famly, shares his undisputed playbook for “how to get out of the gutter”. Its consistently led his team to an over 40% win rate, in good times and in bad.
Learn how you can craft your own bulletproof sales plays and understand the critical role RevOps plays in ensuring your team can thrive in any situation.