Jul 27, 2022
🍷 Darren Sharpe: SuiteSpot, Chief Revenue Officer
Play • 15 min

15 minutes with Meet Darren Sharpe, Chief Revenue Officer at SuiteSpot. Be maniacal about what’s working. Doing great homework. Connecting inbound and outbound channels. Prospect discovery. Client feedback loops to drive product innovation. Shifting a pricing model from features to platform. Pareto principal. Opportunity costs. A culture of coaching allows your team to collaborate in all things. Talk within your client's own words. Asking: What's important to you? What drives you? Is there a connection here where I can help solve?

21 insights. 7 rapid-fire questions. Show transcript.

Here’s what Katy McFee said about Darren:

Darren Sharpe. I met him in a sales leader peer group that was put together by The Lazaridis Institute which is an organization where hyper-growth companies are selected to be part of this program. He has just a super impressive, smart, long-time sales leader who gets it. Goes into a company, figures it out, deep dives, and like creates this huge growth for whatever company he touches. So, he's a CRO right now at SuiteSpot, but has been a revenue leader for many years, and has lots of great value that he can share.
—Katy McFee, Founder and Principal of Insights to Action → Listen

What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?

We're fairly traditional. We have an inbound channel, and outbound channel, and a partner channel. I think it might be more and more interesting is how do we uniquely leverage those channels for our success? 

1) Outbound channel. So one, if we look at our traditional outbound sales channel, I’m incredibly proud of our BDR team's ability to profile, research, and connect with the prospects. So we look at it as value-based sequencing plus hyper-personalization, and I'm really proud of the outcomes that are coming there. 

2) Inbound channel. Then, we tie that with our inbound PPC strategy, looking at the exact same personas and trying to hit the same people so that our outbound and inbound are connected. So you're connecting with the LinkedIn ad as we've we've sent you that message really trying to drive, “Hey, can we understand you as a prospect's problem? Could you see value in a quick connect or a quick conversation with us?” So really, on those inbound and outbound channels, how are we creating new conversations? 

3) Partner channel. The partner model is interesting from a startup perspective. Anytime you're developing a partner channel, the key is timing. How do you not be everything to everyone, but create highly valuable bilateral partnerships. So for that one, I'm really proud of the work we've done of defining the right type of partner and being able to service them. And as we scale, we expect to see that partner channel becoming a bigger piece of our business. But today, we're dominantly led by the inbound and outbound channels.

What are 3 hard problems that you recently overcame?

As a startup, we are constantly in the path of positive change. So I'm going to mention three things that we are constantly working on, but I'm really proud of the work we've done to position us for success.

1) Prospect discovery. This is a tough balance between interrogation and value-based discussion. And we've recently really flipped our scripts and really tried to shift the discovery goal to making sure the prospect understands our interpretation of their problem and how it's affecting them individually. And, that's shift has been, instead of going to the standard, “Hey, are you experiencing this industry problem?”—”What is the personal impact of this problem, and how is it affecting you guys?” It's a small change, but that shift in discovery has really shifted our sales model. Where now, and like, we're not original here, but we're really focusing on client pain, focusing in on the impact to each individual prospect.

2) Client feedback loops. Before I came on board at sweet spot, we hadn't done a great job yet. So, we've introduced the customer advisory board. We've introduced a quarterly business review process. And, we’re greatly mining a lot of great data from our existing clients, and really trying to twofold: increase the dialogue between existing client and SuiteSpot, “How do we build a better foundation?” But, also learn from them. Learn from them, from product, not only how we've deployed, but product innovation, and we're now seeing great innovation come out of that feedback loop. We’re really excited about where that takes us. 

3) Shift in our pricing model. The last thing, and this is a change that many SaaS companies go through, is a shift in our pricing model from a feature, or a modular-based, model to platform. Our value to our clients was greatly in the entirety of our platform. Because of some legacy pieces and how have we grown up, we had clients buying different modules and not buying the entirety of the platform. So, we made a difficult business decision to make this as a shift. We're going to shift our existing clients from a feature-based to platform and we're going to present, in a new way, the product as a platform. So it's a great success on that front. That's a big change both from our CS teams and sales teams of how we are telling clients what they are purchasing and what we're delivering. So, really proud of those changes.

What are 3 roadblocks that you’re working on now?

Got it. Well, as I said to you earlier, I'm not interesting. So this is probably the things that a lot of folks are currently going through. 

1) Really hyper growth scale dashboards. How do we get as much actionable data as we scale? So I run inside sales, outside sales, client success, and marketing. Having the right growth dashboards and caring about the real indicators that we need, that's something that I'm working on with my peer group, with our executive leadership, because in a world of so much data, how do you really come down to actionable evidence data? How do we look at those dashboards and say, “This is the right leading indicators for X or for Y.” I think it's one of those things that, roadblock may be a harsh term, but it's an evolutionary piece. It's a piece that we're really developing right now. 

2) How you quantify value. In any way, in a sales cycle, you want to show your value. How you quantify value, especially from the midpoint of the sales cycle to the end, through that negotiation stage. So we're looking at the decision link, but also more trying to internalize, and how do we quantify, the specific value that this client is going to take, or this prospect is going to take, from leveraging SuiteSpot. And part of that leads into the last roadblock… 

3) How do you speed up your sales cycle? I don't know any revenue leader who wouldn't say, “Hey, if I could take 30 days out of my sales cycle, or if I could take X out of my sales cycle…” Again, not original, but can we create more urgency within that sales cycle? And the way that we're trying to do that is I mentioned earlier, “Hey, how do we better understand prospect challenge? How do we quantify our solution?” Those two things together are really trying to allow us to earn the right to ask for the business earlier. That's really a path that we're going now. How do we show enough unique value, show our understanding of the prospect challenge, to create a buying agreement earlier than our traditional cycle?

What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?

1) Pareto Principal. As I came up in my career as an individual contributor, one that stuck with me was the Pareto Principle. Results are not equally distributed. Oftentimes people call the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. I look at this all the time in understanding, “Not every opportunity is the same. Not every prospect is the same.” I use this all the time to help drive focus, because, as sellers, we can be distracted by the shiny thing, and we can treat a call, like a call, like a call. When in reality, some calls are worth a hundred times more. Some prospects are worth a hundred times more. Reminders of that, to drive the right focus and energy in the right spot, has helped me as an individual contributor and still as a leader. 

2) Opportunity cost model. On the same idea of focus. I've been taught an opportunity cost model. There’s a great executive leader, Paul Kerr, who always talked about the casino chips example. Whether you're a startup, or how big you are, no matter what, there's a limited number of chips that we're going to invest in certain things, in people, in technology, in campaigns, and in go to market. Understanding that each chip that you place, every choice, comes at the cost of another. This has really taught me to hone in on our top selling activities, our top clients, again, to drive focus, and understanding that every investment we make is going to pull away from something else. So we have to make sure that if we're going to be dramatically more successful, because we put the chips on this pile, that there has to be a level of belief that that's the right investment for us.

3) A culture of coaching. I don't know if it’s a mental model, but I support a culture of coaching. I believe that, especially in growth models, that your team should be coached, and support coaching, every day. So we talk about, in our teams, being able to collaborate in all things. This allows everyone to be rowing in the right direction, but by creating a culture of coaching, you allow all of your team members to manage up, to manage down, to coach each other, to have a voice, and it can really drive for your team members feeling like a part of something. As we build growing teams, a way to keep everyone engaged on the right goals is to allow them to collaborate and all things. I think that that piece is really important for us as we scale.

What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?

1) Hyper-personalized email sequences. So, I mentioned earlier on our outbound. I believe strongly in doing great homework and hyper-personalized email sequences. I think there's lots of different thoughts on the value of email sequencing. I think as a component of your outbound strategy is one of those channels, when leveraged right, can be incredibly powerful. So, I'll challenge those that aren't doing it to think about it, but look at what's right for your product, what's right for your prospect, and how do you incorporate that into a LinkedIn strategy, a call strategy, and a value-based messaging strategy, that's trying to create curiosity with prospects. So, that piece, I think that people should definitely try. I've talked to different revenue leaders who are getting away from email sequencing and getting away from email. I do think it's absolutely worth the squeeze. 

2) How do we become industry experts? One thing that we're trying do from our side is, “How do we become industry experts?” Talking within our client's own words. And one of the things I like to do is bring subject-matter experts from outside the organization in to speak to really help frame the client problem in their own words, but not in an environment where we're selling to them, a guard-down environment where we can dive in. I'm talking about all members of the team. When all members of the team better understand prospect challenges, in their words, in their language, in their shoes, we can all of a sudden bring messaging back that shows empathy, has value to them, and showcases industry expertise. So all things that we want to develop every day. 

3) Just be maniacal about what’s working. The last thing that go to market teams need to realize or try is just be maniacal about what's working, and have no sacred cows. Improve on what's working every week, but only keep what's working regardless of the investment. I work with other revenue leaders who maintain campaigns and investments because, “That's what we've always done, or it's what we believe is the right path.” But, are seeing no ROI. We have to be, as leaders, willing to cut the cord and say, “No we're done doing the things that aren't driving material value for us or our prospects, and we're going to lean in to what's working.”

What are 2 questions that you love to ask and why?

1) What's important to you? My favorite question to ask a client or prospect is, “What's important to you?” It's an interesting component that we assume what's important to folks in business all the time, and I think that can be a great priority setting landscape. That's one professionally. 

2) What drives you? In that same way, on the personal side, is “what drives you?” I get that those are two separate things, but I like to know people's motivation. I want to know what they care about the most and why. That allows me to better understand, “Okay, this is what's keeping them up at night. This is what motivates them. Is there a connection here where I can help solve that problem?”

Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?

I've broken this up a little bit from leadership, revenue leadership and CS. So I'll start with CS. 

1) Chris Basil is the Head of Customer Success at a company I used to work with, Essential Accessibility. He has done an amazing job of scaling a team that is under high pressure. It's growing incredibly fast through a hyper-growth SaaS model. His ability to define process, change process, and be a fantastic leader to that group, I think he has a lot to say

2) Chris Black is a CRO at Jolera. So Jolera is the MSP for MSPs. I follow his content on LinkedIn and know Chris well. He's an empathetic leader and he has a great vision for where Jolera is going. It may be interesting to have a conversation. 

3) Terry Mirza. From the leadership perspective, I've worked closely with Terry Mirza at Compugen. So he's now the President of Compugen, one of the Canada's largest IT integrators. He has a unique perspective on revenue building through multi channels, team-building across what is a huge and displaced team. I think he would bring a lot of value to this podcast from senior leadership perspective, managing what is now a hundreds of millions of dollars business.

Connect with Darren on Linkedin → Darren Sharpe

Work with Darren → Careers at SuiteSpot

June 2022 · Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue

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