Ramping Sales Teams, Shortening the Sales Cycle, and Increasing Revenue in Six Months

Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

Shortening the sales cycle and creating measurably aggressive growth can seem like a pipe dream in a world where nine-to-12-month sales cycles for enterprises are the norm. What if it didn’t have to be?

For TCV portfolio company Vectra AI, a leading creator of machine learning software that detects and protects against cyber attacks, that dream became a reality in less than a year. By implementing a mindset of continuous growth into its hiring process and carrying that same mindset through its approach to sales and KPIs, Vectra saw more than 50% of its revenue come from recent hires in just six months.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Kunal and Katja talk to Marty Sanders, head of American Sales at Vectra AI, about how he implemented a mindset of continuous growth into the sales team at Vectra, how it helped shorten the sales cycle, and why he treats recruiting as rigorously as he does multi-digit dealmaking.

Key Takeaways

  • Make continuous growth an organizational mindset. For Vectra’s sales team, continuous growth isn’t just a mission statement, it’s a top-to-bottom mindset. Since Marty joined Vectra last year, the team has refined its hiring process to hire sales leaders who prioritize ongoing growth, focused on shortening sales cycles and improving processes, and created internal benchmarks that reflect the importance of ongoing improvement, rather than just sales notched.
  • Make shortening the sales cycle an obsession, not a nice to have. Continuous improvement is something Vectra hires for and instills into new team members once they come on board. It’s also the first step Marty took to shorten Vectra’s traditional nine-to-12-month sales cycle. New candidates shared his belief that sales cycles could take place over 90 days and worked together to articulate Vectra’s value proposition in under a minute and a half. Additionally, Marty created a “culture of compression,” treating every Friday like a month end, every month end like a weekend, and every quarter like a year closing. The success of the approach at Vectra has been immediate. Over the last two quarters, sales have increased with more than 50% of Vectra’s revenue being earned by salespeople hired in the last six months.
  • Create the right scorecard to measure success; then reward it. It’s tempting to bring on board the flashy hire with the large Rolodex; but how do you ensure that their work is actually showing results? That’s why Marty creates scorecards to measure success, so that both he and his sales team are aligned on verifiable outcomes that build Vectra’s pipeline. Because the KPIs are wide ranging, from identifying stakeholders and setting meetings, to modeling TCOs and identifying organizational pain points, Vectra ties draw to those KPIs. Doing so incentives its sales team and sets clear metrics for success.
  • No goose eggs, ever. Hiring for growth is only one piece of the puzzle. Vectra takes that step further, by making sure that its salespeople never put a zero in their commit. That can give someone a subconscious right to fail, says Marty. By not allowing for a zero forecast, growth becomes the automatic mindset. Because this pace can be grueling for even the best salespeople, Vectra is aggressive about recognition, and maintaining open communication with its salespeople to ensure the pace is right.
  • Treat recruiting like you would treat a multimillion-dollar deal. At Vectra, hiring is treated as mission critical as a seven-figure deal. It’s why Marty specifically incorporates a review of recruitment activities into the business reviews he does with his managers. Vectra also leverages technology and science by using a personality DNA test with every candidate, that assesses how well a candidate might fit into Vectra’s continuous improvement mindset. If a candidate doesn’t pass the test, the company doesn’t move forward.

To learn more, tune into Growth Hacks: Turning a Continuous Improvement Mindset Into Successful KPIs.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


TCV Invests in Machine Identity Protection Provider Venafi – A Pioneer of a Vital New Category in Cybersecurity

Category-creating companies typically tackle a problem people didn’t know they had, or a problem considered too big to solve. Under CEO Jeff Hudson, Venafi has taken on one of the largest unrecognized problems imaginable: managing the encrypted communications between the machines that run in every organization and the internet. As result, Venafi is defining a new category called Machine Identity Protection.

At TCV, we’ve been watching the number of machines grow exponentially. It’s not just that IoT (Internet of Things) is connecting physical devices to the internet. It’s the software machines – virtual servers, containers, microservices – that are proliferating even faster due to cloud computing and the shift to mobile apps. These software machines are now creating machines on their own. Everything we do online involves machines identifying each other before granting access, delivering data, or conducting transactions. If those encrypted connections are not secure, nothing is.

But surprisingly few companies are trying to crack this problem at the necessary scale. Instead, the world poured billions of dollars into securing human identities, while the number of machine identities grew exponentially behind the scenes. When Jeff Hudson came to Venafi in 2010, driving the company’s evolution toward machine identity protection, we saw a great fit with our core investment thesis that continued growth in the digital economy depends on security. Creating the Machine Identity Protection category positions Venafi at the intersection of multiple major tech trends including cybersecurity, the cloud, IoT, SaaS, and DevOps. So we are truly excited to invest in the company and partner with Jeff’s team in scaling Venafi to its full potential.

The company has plenty of momentum, with more than 300 customers, and with its portfolio of 30 patents, Venafi has lifted machine identity out of the fragmented, nuts-and-bolts phase and elevated it to full solution status. The Venafi platform gives enterprises global visibility into their machine identity risks, generates actionable intelligence for managing them, and automates the processes for addressing them. Early adopters have learned that the Venafi platform transcends and unifies many of the security point solutions out there, from inventorying and policy enforcement to analytics and threat detection. And once customers discover what Venafi can do for them, they want more.

None of this comes as a surprise, because Jeff has a rare combination of strategic vision and disciplined execution. He plays the long game and that’s why he increased Venafi’s R&D efforts to address a problem most people didn’t see coming: the need to secure encrypted communication not just between people and machines, but between the machines themselves. At TCV, we also witnessed Jeff’s skill in recruiting world-class talent at a time when the supply of engineering talent is getting tight, particularly in the cybersecurity sector.

Jeff and his team recognize the critical role security plays in the digital economy. It’s not just about selling product, it’s about securing connections, data, and commerce. It works with anyone’s cloud and any type of machine. The open, public key infrastructure (PKI) system that underlies internet security has created a horde of “Certificate Authorities” (CAs), to the point that many large companies don’t know how many different CAs they are dependent upon. We believe Venafi dissolves these complexities, giving enterprises a unified, vendor-agnostic, dashboard-driven view of machine identity.

Given the growing risks that all companies and consumers face from cybercriminals, it’s essential that the fragmented security industry find more cohesive solutions, and Venafi is showing a way forward. TCV is excited to come onboard and contribute to the journey.

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The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. Certain information contained herein has been obtained from third-party sources, including any portfolio companies described above. Such information has not been independently verified by TCV, and TCV does not assume responsibility for the accuracy of such information.

For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.