Outbound Prospecting from the Demand Generation Lens: Jonah-Kai Hancock of Hiya

We’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most cutting-edge and accomplished SDR leaders in SaaS over the last year. These leaders and their teams at fast-growing companies like Hiya, Esper, Carrot Fertility, Amperity, iSpot, and more have helped shape the Relevvo product. Here’s the next post in our series where we share some of these gathered insights with you.

We’re thrilled to welcome Jonah-Kai Hancock, the Vice President of Demand Generation at Hiya. Hiya’s Voice Performance Platform connects businesses with their customers, protects people from spam and fraud calls, and helps carriers secure their networks for all.

Jonah-Kai Hancock, VP of Demand Generation, Hiya

Jonah-Kai oversees Hiya’s marketing operations, advertising, events, and SDR teams to drive greater awareness, acquisition, and revenue. He is a proven leader with 15 years of experience in product marketing, online marketing, marketing strategy, and content strategy for B2B-focused companies. Prior to joining Hiya, Jonah-Kai led marketing programs for several of Seattle’s top companies, including Algorithmia (acquired by DataRobot), Concur (acquired by SAP), and Tableau (acquired by Salesforce), and AdReady (acquired by CPXi). He also previously served in marketing roles for TUNE, Razorfish, and Weber Shandwick.

Hiya has partnered with Relevvo over the last year to help improve its SDR effectiveness and efficiency. We were thrilled to get a chance to sit down with Jonah-Kai to get his thoughts on structuring SDR teams for success, the importance of staying close to the revenue for growth leaders, and the best team structure for driving outbound performance.

Aashish Dhamdhere (AD): Welcome, Jonah-Kai, and thanks for joining us! You’ve had a unique set of experiences, having run growth for an AdTech startup, then a Machine Learning startup, and now for a technology platform startup. So my first question for you is, based on what you’ve learned from those experiences, what’s a piece of non-intuitive advice that you would give? 

Jonah-Kai Hancock (JK): Hey Aashish, thanks for having me! The advice I always give to Demand Generation and Growth professionals is: Stay close to the revenue

It can be really hard to track inputs (defined as leads) and outputs (defined as meetings/opportunities), especially at smaller companies and start-ups, but being close to the revenue allows you to measure channels and make sure that there’s follow-through. You have a lot more runway in larger companies (defined as wasted spend/focus) so you could get away with some more risk but at the end of the day, you have to remain true to what works. 

Tying yourself to revenue, from a department perspective, means you’re more efficient with the budget you have and then from a company perspective, allows for more compounding revenue. When I say tying yourself to revenue, I mean having the SDR team report through Marketing so that you can ensure the MQLs, Meetings, and Opportunties are created and managed from that side. 

Finally, individually, if you are close to the revenue, it opens up more opportunities for promotions since you can show the value you provide to the company! 

With any role, you want to really look at three facets – How are you being rewarded? How’s your team growing? And how is the company performing? In the past when I’ve been a part of marketing teams that were less-than-successful it was mainly because we lost track of where the revenue was coming from and we struggled to show marketing’s impact on the organization. 

AD: That’s a great framework, JK. Following what you said, I’ve certainly seen demand gen teams fall into the MQL trap but what you just shared is a good way to stay away from that trap. So could please expand a little more on that? 

JK: Yeah absolutely. Leads or MQLS are definitely nice leading indicators of performance but that’s really all they should be seen as. Ultimately, you want your performance to be measured on the basis of meetings and opportunities generated. So, if you focus too heavily on overall leads and MQLs you lose focus on the later stages in the funnel, which is where you really need to go to drive revenue.

You want to reach the right person at the right time with the right message. A meeting signifies that you’ve accomplished that whereas an MQL just signifies that you’ve succeeded in catching somebody’s attention, right? I’d think of MQLs as necessary but not sufficient. It’s a starting point but you need to move on and measure what’s happening to the MQLs to be impactful and drive the business.

AD: Well said! On the topic of driving meetings, while the SDR team rolls up to you at Hiya, I’m guessing you’ve been in situations where this was not the case. What are your thoughts on the optimal reporting structure for SDRs?

JK: Yeah, I don’t think there’s one right reporting structure for SDRs in terms of whether they report up through Marketing or Sales. For instance, if you sell a product with a very long sales cycle and a very high price point then it might make more sense for your SDRs to align more with the AEs simply because that one-to-one relationship on those longer sales cycles is required. In this case, it makes sense for the SDRs to report up through the Sales team.

But with my current role, the SDRs are in a sense a kind of demand gen function. They’re trying to qualify prospects by getting the information out of them that you can’t on a web form. The SDR doesn’t need to be intimately tied to in-depth product knowledge or anything like that as it’s a high-transaction, high-velocity role. This SDR strategy makes sense because they’re really driven by functional numbers similar to a paid channel. This is why it makes sense for the SDR team to roll up through Marketing at Hiya.

However, a question I’m working on now with the team is if an SDR works more as an arm of marketing then is their progression to an AE hindered? There’s a clear development ladder when working directly with Sales but this is something that this marketing model will test. I come from a conversion funnel thought process and a salesperson comes from a pipeline methodology. Both are building towards a final product but take different paths. I could see there being benefits to both but certainly some challenges along the way. 

AD: That’s a thoughtful and structured perspective. A related question, typically Growth teams focus on Inbound, but what you’re doing is more balanced between Inbound and Outbound, right? How are you structuring your plans here?

JK: Well yeah, a lot of the lessons learned are ones you’ve taught me, right? When you get to a point where the inbound and outbound efforts are two discrete functions, you’ll need to segment the SDR team to treat them that way because the methodologies are so different. Inbound is a great training ground to move somebody to an outbound motion but the two are quite different. It’s targeting with intent which comes down to three things. 

The first is identifying the right people at companies that have intent. This isn’t really something that you need to worry about with inbound. The second thing is the prospecting component. Once you have a list of accounts that you want to target you need to actually prospect them to make sure you have the right strategy and pattern of engagement. Whereas with inbound, you really just need to reach back out because they’ve already raised their hand. 

The third thing is the pitch which is kind of where the sales in “sales enablement” comes in. You need to make sure that the SDR is pitching the same thing that the AEs are pitching. Similar to digital marketing. If I click on an ad and then go to a landing page that doesn’t look like that ad then I’m going to bounce quickly. You need to make sure that you think about those three things when building that outbound motion but especially the last one if you want high meeting attendance and conversions to opportunity. This is the approach that we’re taking.

AD: Last question, how is Relevvo helping you in this journey? 

JK: Oh yeah, like I shared in the last answer, the first thing that you need to get right in Outbounding is targeting, and this is what Relevvo is helping us do right. 

First, you’re helping us prioritize the right set of companies based on matched signals of inferred intent. Then, you’re helping us identify the right people at these companies. Finally, you’re helping us ensure that the SDR team is engaging these people with the right messaging based on the matched signals and that we’re integrating relevant information about those companies into the pitch. Things like what jobs are they hiring for, what types of intent they have, or what’s being discussed in 10Ks and earnings calls. 

This has all had a massive impact on conversions. We have been using Relevvo with just the SDRs but because of this, we want to bring on the AEs, too. The goal is that when we move to the pitch with the AE, they’re continuing the conversation on the basis of what the SDR has communicated. 

AD: It’s been a pleasure partnering with your great team! This has all been really insightful. Thank you for joining us and sharing your insights, Jonah-Kai!