Sales Data

How Marketo Tamed the Sales Data Beast

Christopher Tuttle

Bull RidingMarketo, the marketing automation juggernaut, is one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies in the world, winning more than 3,300 customers in 36 countries in just eight years.

Its rapid growth, however, soon outpaced the company’s ability to efficiently analyze sales data, deeply understand the status of deals, and project accurate revenue forecasts.

Sales leaders struggled with three key issues:

1. Inability to see data at any given point in time

Marketo could not take time-versioned views of its pipeline, generate reports and dashboards, or track sophisticated metrics. Instead, sales operations worked offline in Excel, manually inputting data and then manually pulling it back out to string together trends with numbers that were immediately out of date.

As a result, sales leaders were constantly plagued by questions like these:

  • Are we improving or not improving?
  • Is our pipeline going up at the cadence we want it to?
  • Are our conversions getting to where they need to be?
  • How are potential deals changing?

Without a real-time window into the pipeline, leaders often made decisions based on guesswork or opinions and sales coaching was far less effective than it could have been.

2. Massive manual effort

Marketo employed two full-time people whose sole job was to delve into Marketo’s various systems, identify information related to 30 key metrics, and put it into Excel. Once in Excel, more employees had to extract the data and reformat it to product charts and trend lines. To prepare for a monthly sales meeting, six people, including two VPs, would spend several days preparing data. By the time it arrived at the conference table, the data was several weeks old, forcing executives to make decisions based on information that was no longer accurate.

3. Limited response to ad-hoc requests

Sales operations struggled to provide robust, timely and useful responses to ad-hoc requests for information. The requests typically took a long time to fulfill because the data had to be produced manually. In many cases, sales ops had either limited data, enabling it to provide only a partial response to the request, or it had no data to support the request and couldn’t respond in any capacity.

How sales ops solved these challenges

As Marketo’s business continued to grow, leaders recognized they needed access to timely and accurate data in order to drive better decision-making and better sales coaching conversations. After evaluating several options, Jeff Serlin, Marketo’s vice president of sales operations, decided to implement HD Forecast.

“HD Forecast helps us better plan for growth — and it helps us get there faster,” Serlin says.  

  • HD Forecast’s views, graphs and metrics were exactly what Marketo needed, right out of the box.
  • Intuitive screen views made information easy to consume. Uncluttered by superfluous data, it was straightforward to find the information users were looking for and to understand what that information meant.
  • The platform provided a detailed window into changes over time. Users could look beyond simple trend lines to dig into the details of how deals and forecasts had changed.

Viewing deals

Today, Marketo sales managers rely on HD Forecast to understand what is going on with each deal and to help them coach their reps to a win. They can see deal size and track how that size has changed over time. They can see where deals stand at any moment and know whether they have stalled in any sales stage. They can also see when deals are pushed — and, if so, when and how many times.

All this information enables managers to get at the heart of what’s going on with every sales opportunity, enabling them to provide better coaching, give reps better next steps, better track those next steps, and provide a better forecast up the chain.

“HD Forecast gives us insights we didn’t have before with a static report that included only close date, amount and stage,” Serlin says. “Now managers don’t have to wait to get information from a rep; they can go in and look at the changes and decide what they want to dig into.”

For instance, when one manager noticed a large deal had pushed three times in the previous three months, he sat down with the rep and was able to ask the right questions to get the facts about the opportunity. Together, the rep and manager developed strategies to move the deal forward, enabling the rep to close the sale that month.

Supporting growth

A public company since 2013, Marketo uses HD Forecast to deliver much tighter revenue predictions than it was able to produce previously. Additionally, the CEO and CFO, now accountable to shareholders, frequently request data slices that, prior to HD Forecast, would have taken extraordinary time and resources to deliver — if the data was available at all. Today, the information can be accessed and delivered quickly.

With a deeper understanding of its business, Marketo is creating more accurate plans for hiring, ramping, deal cycle expectations and other key business drivers. It is able to more effectively plan for growth and attain that growth faster because expansion is based on sound data, not on guesswork.

“The visibility and understanding of our business that we get, and the ability of managers to look at consistent views and better coach our salespeople, is allowing us to continue fantastic performance as we grow both in size and across regions,” Serlin concludes. “XANT ensures we keep our competitive edge across all these dimensions.”

To discover how to improve your sales forecasting, get the free ebook below. 

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Image credit: Emmett Tullos

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