TRANSCRIPTION OF EPISODE
Chris Battis: On this episode of Intent Topics, we are joined once again by guest Rodney Foreman, now of Cobalt Iron. Today, Rodney will be talking about being a chief revenue officer in the software industry.
Logan Kelly: Hello everybody. Thank you for tuning into Intent Topics today. I have Chris, and today we have Rodney Foreman, one of our first guests on the show back a few months ago, joining us to talk about what he’s been up to the last few months. Rodney, thanks for hopping on with us.
Rodney Foreman: No, I’m glad to be back. It’s good to talk with you guys again.
Logan Kelly: Yeah, man. So things have been … First thing you said when we hopped on here was, “It’s been a crazy couple of months.” So I’d love to hear what you have going on.
Rodney Foreman: Well, I started a new position at Cobalt Iron as chief revenue officer. And it’s been a whirlwind. We’ve been ramping our sales and marketing efforts in the market, and it’s been an interesting past few months getting established as the new chief revenue officer for this software company that has a rocket ship strapped to its back. And we’re really accelerating our growth and it’s been an exciting experience. So I’m really glad to be at Cobalt Iron and I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of the experience that I’ve had over the past few months as chief revenue officer.
Chris Battis: Very nice. Well, congrats.
Rodney Foreman: Thank you.
Chris Battis: Yeah. Could you tell us a little bit about kind of what you guys do at Cobalt Iron?
Rodney Foreman: We are a data protection company, SaaS-based, with intelligence and automation built into the solution. So we take a unique approach to data protection, unlike any other company in the market. And I think we are advancing how companies approach data protection more so than any other vendor in the software business. And that’s why I joined. I saw Cobalt Iron as having a clear differentiated solution unlike any other, and we just needed the right leadership in place to accelerate our sales in the market.
Logan Kelly: Yeah, this is exciting, Rodney. So you’re really building the channel. You were telling us that it’s 100% channel-based, right? So that’s exciting in the sense that we talk a lot about work in the channel. We talk a lot about sales enablement here. So talk to us, what was the framework since your first couple of months on the job? What did you bring in to kind of the ideas that you had from your experience? I’d love to start there and then kind of talk about how have things evolved. And what are you seeing, late 2019, as far as being a CRO in the channel?
Rodney Foreman: Yeah. So we have a solution that aligns very well to how channel partners are evolving their businesses today. Most channel partners are providing their value with a software vendor solution. So with what we offer in the market in the way of a SaaS-based data protection solution where we handle everything for the customer in the way of data protection, it aligns very well to how partners are selling today and going to market, most of which are becoming managed service providers. And Cobalt Iron, in a managed service provider environment and portfolio, is perfect because we have a very, very simple implementation process. We take over in terms of protecting the customer’s data end to end. We meet 100% SLAs and protecting data. And it’s totally automated. And we do that by taking the metadata and other data that is produced as you perform the data protection operation, and use that data to make it intelligent so that it’s automated.
So our solution requires no human intervention on the behalf of the customer, and we manage everything, but do it more in an automated fashion. We don’t have hundreds of people behind the curtain making things happen. It’s a truly automated and intelligent solution. So it aligns very well with how partners are going to market and what they want from a solution for their customers today. So the channel is our primary go to market, and then we have a supporting cast of enterprise sales professionals that help the partners progress opportunities. We also have solution architects that provide technical support during the sales process. And then we have channel managers that are working with the partners to make sure they’re successful in the market with Cobalt Iron. So it’s a model that most software companies are adopting today, and we’re ahead of the curve in that our channel program that we’re introducing is the most innovative in the market today, supporting a company that’s evolving and changing how customers manage their most important asset, which is their data.
Logan Kelly: So you say it’s the most innovative. I think one of the things that I’ve always admired is companies that really work their channel effectively. But it seems like there’s some tried and true relationship building plays and what not, that really help that. What do you mean by “it’s innovative in the channel”? That’s an interesting concept.
Rodney Foreman: Well, it’s innovative in that a lot of the programs that you find in the channel today are based on what the partner is producing for the vendor. Our program is, what can the vendor, us, Cobalt Iron, do for the partner to make you successful? And so we’re taking a different approach in that if we make our partners successful, they will be a good investment for us and we’ll get good return on that investment. As opposed to, “Do something for us and then we’ll support you,” it’s, “We’re going to support you and make sure you’re successful as a Cobalt Iron partner, reward you, and continue to build on that success.” And the way we’ve structured the program and how we support our partners in all aspects drives partner success. And we align with the partner strategy, their go to market, and support that, and make sure that they’re focused on our products and their sales teams are very well rewarded for selling our products.
Chris Battis: Cool. How do you keep them really focused on your products?
Rodney Foreman: Well, one is provide them the most profit margin-
Chris Battis: Sure, [crosstalk 00:08:35]-
Rodney Foreman: .. of which those sales teams are paid on. Salespeople tend to be a little bit coin operated. So we get their attention by paying them very competitively. We also keep their attention through the enablement we provide them and educating them on our value proposition. And salespeople, when they have a simple value proposition, but impactful, it gets their attention, because they don’t want a long sales cycle. They don’t want something that’s very hard and complex to sell. And we meet all those requirements.
If you look at some of our competitors, like Comm Vault, Cohesity, those guys have a long sales cycle, their products are complex, and they’re not automated, they’re not intelligent, and they’re difficult to sell. Our product is easy to sell because the value proposition is clear, and we have a track record of success. We’ve never lost a customer. So it gets the salesperson’s attention when you have all of those attributes as a software vendor.
Logan Kelly: So in my experience in building sales messaging, in training salespeople, and trying to repeat and really engrain these kinds of value propositions, and process and all of this, even sometimes the simple stuff is difficult. And I think that it takes a lot of kind of just continuous knowledge building, etc. Even though you have a, what it sounds like, a pretty succinct value prop, a pretty good product, how are you approaching the sales enablement part of Cobalt Iron’s channel program?
Rodney Foreman: Well, what I’m about to tell you isn’t rocket science.
Logan Kelly: Sure.
Rodney Foreman: But I know that it works. We don’t drown people in PowerPoint slides, either from an enablement perspective or a customer perspective. We use a white board to have an interactive discussion with the customer, and we train our sales teams, both at Cobalt Iron and at our partners, on how to have a conversation that’s worthwhile to the customer and enables them to articulate a solution using Cobalt Iron. So we teach them how to interact and how to listen for certain requirements from the customer, and how to probe the customer to get the right information.
So you can walk to a whiteboard and say, “Mr. Customer, this is how I understand your environment today. This is how I understand where you want to go with data protection, and let me show you how using Cobalt Iron, we can accomplish that.” And you make it more interactive. So you’re not just talking to the customer, you’re talking with the customer, and they’re engaged. And they feel like they’ve had a working session with you at the end that derives a solution they can actually utilize in their environment. And that’s what’s key for any software company.
And I would encourage all chief revenue officers to take more of an interactive consultive selling approach with your customer. The customers don’t want to be talked to, they want to be listened to. And when you listen, and then actively listen and do something with that information that’s productive, and you show them, “I get it, I understand your environment, I understand where you want to go and transform. Let me draw on this board how I think it would look using our product,” and that’s how you engage with the customer, and they say, “You know what, this guy gets it. They understand my challenge, they understand how to address that challenge. I want to learn more,” or, “I want to buy some of that.”
Logan Kelly: Sure. Sure.
Rodney Foreman: And that’s where you want to go with the conversation. And that’s what’s interesting to the partner sellers is that we take that approach.
Logan Kelly: So you talk about the customer and you talk about kind of understanding the problems of the customer and really listening to them and that kind of thing. When we look at how you’re building your channel program in terms of growing the amount of partners of VARs that are selling for you, how are you taking this approach in expanding your channel network? And what approaches are you taking there?
Rodney Foreman: Well, not all partners are created equal. And we are engaging with the right partners. We have partners like ATS Group, like Data Trend, like Mainline, like Sirius, SCC, and North Door, to name a few, that are new partners that we’re bringing on, and some partners that have been doing business with Cobalt Iron. We’re also expanding into the Middle East with Tech Access and Gulf Business Machines. And these are partners that understand how to sell in the way that we want Cobalt Iron sold in the market. We want it to be a consultative engagement with the customer where they’re interacting and we’re solving a customer problem and meeting their needs for data protection.
The thing that people don’t realize with data protection, while it might not be the sexiest software to to sell in the market, everybody needs it. You cannot have a business today and not protect your data. Now, how you go about that is very important. And today, customers need what we offer, which is a SaaS-based service they can rely on where they don’t have to put human effort into the solution, or hardware, and we just do it for them and they can rely on it. We provide a great user interface, they can see everything that’s going on in their data protection environment, role-based with 50 different roles on what you allow the customer or different admins to do, which is great for MSPs, which we provide our product to a lot of managed service providers. But today, the data protection market has evolved. And quite frankly, the only vendor that stayed ahead of the curve and is truly providing what customers want today is Cobalt Iron. Period.
Logan Kelly: Strong. So I love that. So if we look at the CRO role, what you see, I’m sure you’re doing your 2020 planning, what does the next 12 months look like in relation to, you’re a CRO, growing company, as you said, rocket ship on your back, seems to be solving this problem, you want to capitalize on this though, right? So what are you doing now? Yeah.
Rodney Foreman: Well, it’s a tough job in that you have to have a high performance sales team that’s driving your mission and meeting your targets. And I’ve found that you’ve got to make decisions quickly. And if you have people on the team that are not delivering the results that you need, you’ve got to move on and part ways, and hire people that are hungry and passionate and want to deliver results. And I’m confident we now have a team in place that is hungry, passionate, is working every day to drive great results for Cobalt Iron.
And in a smaller software company, we’re not a huge company, everybody, including myself, has to roll up their sleeves every day and dive in to making customer contact, to selling, to supporting our partners, to drive success. And your team, as CRO, is absolutely key to that. You’ve got to have the right team, you got to have the right people that are driving success in the market. And that’s what I’ve focused on initially here at Cobalt Iron is putting the right team in place that can execute. And I think that’s key for every CRO.
Chris Battis: Absolutely. And so, when we look at structuring the sales teams, and I think you’re, in a smaller organization, you’re obviously heavily involved in that day to day, what are you looking at from a KPI perspective or a daily routine perspective? What are those behaviors that you’re looking to drive among your team? Specifically related to the channel, but I think just globally is cool too.
Rodney Foreman: Yeah, good question. Everything begins with pipeline. So you have to have activities on a constant and consistent basis building pipeline. And that’s one of the key aspects of the channel that delivers value is your partners have market reach and your partners provide you scale. So you have to make sure you’re supporting the partners and their marketing efforts to build a lot of pipeline.
And internally, we’re also building pipeline. And we’ve got marketing campaigns going on. We have a lead generation specialist and a marketing team that’s outstanding, and they are generating a lot of leads. And we’re participating in events, etc, to generate leads. And then we’re placing those leads into our inside sales team, who are making 50-plus calls a day qualifying those opportunities. And once they have a qualified lead and they know the customer is serious about buying some data protection and solving their data protection problem, that lead then goes to a partner and our sales team, to work together to work that opportunity and progress it through the sales cycle.
So I think we have a very good model in terms of focus on pipeline, and then taking that pipeline and doing something with it quickly. Time kills all deals. So it’s very important that we quickly do something with the pipeline we’re generating. And I think we have a very good system in place to react to a pipeline that’s generated and get back to the customers, and then start progressing opportunities quickly working with our partners and our sales team.
Logan Kelly: Sure. So we got SDR, KPIs, you said about 50 calls a day. Because I think time kills all deals, totally true. It’s an outcome. And I know that you’re probably asking your sales teams to be doing certain things. So I’d love to hear kind of some specific either … they don’t necessarily have to be quantitative, more qualitative is fine, but things that you’re looking for to measure, is that passion, is that hunger turning into a behavior that can actually be seen as pushing that pipeline to close?
Rodney Foreman: Yeah. Well, there’s a number of traditional sales leadership habits that I think companies need to get away from, that just kill productivity. I am adamantly opposed to lots of cadence calls and lots of questioning and lots of inspection, because that inspection takes away from the time that your salespeople are with the customer. So-
Logan Kelly: Absolutely.
Rodney Foreman: Yeah. And I find that there’s a lot of companies today that there’s just way too much inspection, way too much cadence, and it’s just counterproductive. And so our focus is on making sure our sales team has as many productive hours in the day talking to customers and progressing opportunities and supporting them to do that. And so, my measurement for success is deal progression, pipeline build activities, and then, ultimately, of course, it’s revenue and meeting your revenue targets as a salesperson. And it’s important to reward your salespeople. Once they hit their target for the quarter, you should put them into accelerators so that they can make even more money.
If you’re running a sales team and your objective is not to have millionaires on your sales team, you’re in the wrong job. I want all of our sales guys to make a ton of money and be successful. Therefore, I’m successful and the company’s successful. And that should be the focus of every chief revenue officer is, what can I do to make my partners and my sales team successful? And a lot of guys think that means more inspection. And that’s the totally the wrong approach, in my view.
Logan Kelly: Right, right. Yeah. So I heard something that was interesting, and this is something that I could not agree more. It’s like, leadership a lot of times will create more obstacles to productivity-
Rodney Foreman: Yeah, it’s like a-
Logan Kelly: … than protecting your teams from the BS, right?
Rodney Foreman: Yeah, it’s a bad Dilbert cartoon. And I see it all the time. Yeah.
Logan Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. That’s cool. So 2020, your focus is build that team, really get things aligned. Or, did I hear you feel like you have the team, and so now it’s just gasoline on the fire, get that lead gen really cranking, arm your salespeople to go out there and really get those relationships cranking?
Rodney Foreman: Exactly. And you have to have the right profile of salespeople that can sell the type of product that we’re selling. We’re selling a service and we’re selling something that’s unique in the market, unlike any other vendor. So you have to have a salesperson that can deliver that compelling message and do it very clearly so that the customer has confidence in what you’re selling, and they understand what you’re selling. And it takes a certain level of salesperson that can do that. Not every salesperson has that ability. And so, it’s important to have the right team, enable that team, and arm them with the right enablement and messaging to be successful.
Logan Kelly: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. So it’s going to be an exciting year. What are your growth targets for 2020?
Rodney Foreman: Well, we’re growing the company at over 100%. And I-
Logan Kelly: Love it.
Rodney Foreman: … fully expect that to continue.
Logan Kelly: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Cool. Cool. Well, before we wrap this up, what I’m just fascinated to understand is, you’ve got a company that’s growing, sounds like just very rapidly, but this is a place that … Data protection is nothing new. I think there’s some pretty monolithic incumbents in the space. So I’d love to hear how you’re really working to, through enablement or sales training of these kinds of things, to really get your sales team prepared to go out and fight some of these gigantic dragons that are currently in the space.
Rodney Foreman: Right. That is a great question. And what we’re doing is making sure that we have the most at-bats as possible.
Logan Kelly: Nice.
Rodney Foreman: Because when we go up against some of the incumbents, we win. And it’s important that we get the right level of marketing and brand awareness out there so we can have the at-bats. And we are aggressively going after those incumbents and calling on their customers. And we just ask them a few key questions, and it produces answers that we can answer, and only we can answer as Cobalt Iron. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when when the customer just leads you to the answers you want, and those answers then lead to a sale. Because those incumbents are not delivering what customers want and need today out of a data protection solution.
When you have your hands on all of the customer’s data, what you do with that is very valuable. And that’s where our intelligence and automation comes in. We take the metadata and the exhaust, if you will, of the day-to-day operations of data protection, and then make it automated, and in a fashion nobody else provides in the market. And that’s very powerful. So when you ask questions along those lines to customers, it makes the incumbents look very dull.
Logan Kelly: Nice. Nice.
Rodney Foreman: And that’s a challenge, but it’s one that we win, and it’s very … The customers see the Cobalt Iron light every day, and they realize, “That is the solution that will take us into the future of data protection. And that’s what we need today.” And so, it’s fun. I love to compete. I love crushing the competition. And that’s one of the reasons I joined Cobalt Iron is this product absolutely crushes those longterm incumbents that have become old and stale in the market today. So it’s a lot of fun.
Logan Kelly: That’s awesome. I love stories like this. Yeah.
Chris Battis: All right. Well, Rodney, thanks for joining us today.
Rodney Foreman: Thank you.
Chris Battis: Yeah, you got it. So this wraps up this episode of Intent Topics. I’m Chris Battis.
Logan Kelly: And I’m Logan Kelly. Thank you so much for tuning in. Please give us a five-star rating or whatever podcast app you listen on. And we will see you next time.