How Gainsight turned its marketing team into a lead generation machine

With inside sales becoming an increasingly important market — growing 300% faster than traditional outside sales — the role of sales development rep (SDR) has grown into a critical component of company success. It’s no surprise SDRs, the type of inside sales rep responsible for outbound prospecting, typically sit within the greater sales team.

But Gainsight didn’t become the first customer success company projected to reach unicorn status by following the typical path. With $150M in funding and 500 employees worldwide, the majority of the company’s leads come through an unlikely source — Marketing. CMO Anthony Kennada has turned his team into a powerhouse, challenging the traditional org structure by owning sales development. Here’s why your company should consider having SDRs report to Marketing instead of Sales.

Aligning sales development representatives with your marketing team can yield powerful results.

Create an invaluable feedback loop

Before joining Marketing, Gainsight’s SDRs were colocated in St. Louis, over a thousand miles away from the Phoenix-based marketing team. Anthony says the decision to move SDRs in-house after combining teams was one of the best he’s ever made. Marketing now has a continuous feedback loop on whether messaging is resonating. The demand generation team sits in on inside sales calls to hear what experts are saying to capture leads. Product marketing holds in-person trainings with SDRs on new features that will improve their pitch. The entire team collaborates to quickly, constantly improve lead generation efforts, and the monthly numbers are proof that it’s working.

Optimize field marketing for sales prospecting

Events have always been a central component of Gainsight’s demand generation strategy, but like many companies, they struggled with getting the sales team to participate in planning and execution. By bringing SDRs into Marketing, Anthony was able to take the burden of both event staffing and prospecting from Sales, and optimize for both. Now, each regional sales VP provides feedback from their territory on where they see gaps and high priority opportunities in the pipeline. In response, Marketing creates targeted events, and SDRs are provided with focused incentive to drive attendees.

Anthony’s currently taking event optimization even further, establishing new ground rules for the SDRs. In exchange for listening to the sales team and targeting their greatest areas of need with events, SDRs will be required to set up a meeting with every registrant — scheduled before, during or within 24 hours of the event. If the meeting falls outside those requirements, the event (and SDR) won’t get attribution for the lead. This means every event will be focused around delivering quality leads to Sales, and Marketing will be rewarded with hard numbers around the ROI of their events.

Dissolve tension over pipeline responsibility

Tension between Marketing and Sales is common, particularly when it comes to leads. Marketing is responsible for demand generation, but when those leads are sent to Sales and don’t convert, accountability can devolve into a blame game. Did Marketing deliver worthless leads, or did Sales do a poor job closing? By aligning SDRs under his team, Anthony’s created a symbiotic relationship with Sales, and allayed confusion over pipeline responsibility. These days, by the time a lead reaches the sales team, it’s been vetted by an SDR whose core responsibility is supporting the sales team by delivering quality opportunities.

Strengthen the bond between teams

Sales is a hard job, and relies heavily on culture to keep the troops motivated. Anthony recognizes this, and that ultimately, SDRs are salespeople who want to work on a sales team. He positions his department as a temporary home for SDRs on their path to promotion. What’s more, he offers the rest of his team as an invaluable resource to help SDRs succeed. Core Marketing acts as a cheerleader and coach for SDRs, providing resources, training, and incentives like contests and swag. This only strengthens the relationship between marketing and sales; by the time an SDR is promoted to Account Executive on the sales team, they’re grateful for Marketing’s help and a bond is in place.

Gainsight spoke at an event organized by FirstMark. To get more helpful tips on scaling your company, RSVP here for our next public event.

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