The Importance of Account Prioritization: Scott Swanson of iSpot.tv

Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Scott Swanson, VP of Demand Generation at iSpot.tv. Scott is a veteran startup marketing executive currently running the demand generation and marketing operations functions at iSpot.tv. He is responsible for all demand channels plus the tools, processes, and reporting systems required to measure and improve marketing’s impact on the business.

Scott Swanson of iSpot.tv

Prior to iSpot, Scott spent 12 years building enterprise-focused demand engines at a variety of software companies, including being one of the first hires on the Microsoft Azure business team.

He is a US Navy submarine veteran and currently lives in New Rochelle, NY with his wife, two daughters, and English Springer Spaniel.

iSpot has partnered with Relevvo over the last year to help improve its account prioritization and Sales effectiveness. We were thrilled to get a chance to sit down with Scott to get his thoughts on building strong relationships between Marketing and the SDR team, account prioritization, and building the right “interrupt” function for outbound effectiveness.

Aashish Dhamdhere (AD): Thanks for joining us today, Scott! You’ve driven the development of the outbound process at a bunch of different companies.  Apptio and iSpot probably being the most in-depth ownership-driven experiences. If you think about those two, is there something that you would do differently now? Looking back, what advice would you give yourself?

Scott Swanson (SS): The most important thing that I’ve learned through experience is to serve as, what I call, the “interrupt” function. It’s so easy for the SDR team to just get in a groove. At iSpot, we’ve designed the team so that our SDRs can show up and turn on Outreach and just start chugging away. But, what I’ve come to realize is that you have to have meaningful pauses. These are pauses where the SDR thinks through what they’re actually doing and how they’re spending their time instead of just chugging through a checklist.

I try to spur these pauses by asking something like “hey, did you see what happened in that meeting?” or “great meeting but did you see when this happened?” Or asking them about certain leads that came in and whether or not they saw why a certain account was flagged because of some ABM campaign. My goal is to get them to think about cause-and-effect relationships and what can best help them connect with prospects.

At the same time, asking this question allows me to get feedback from them around marketing motions. I might think something is great and they’ll try it and get back to me that it might not be. It’s a pattern interrupt that also works as an ongoing feedback loop on what’s working and what isn’t. It makes these feedback conversations immediate rather than waiting for some 30-minute meeting. So better relationships are built and there are a lot more casual interactions, which just goes to make us a stronger team. 

AD: I really appreciate how your interrupt function isn’t just about the “why”. It also leads to the “what” and the “how”. What are they doing and how are they doing it? Things that might influence how you spend money at the top of the funnel, too? 

SS: Definitely! I would say the other thing is Marketing isn’t often the SDRs friend in a lot of ways. Particularly on sales enablement. Think about all the compete content that’s typically created. All of it’s packaged up into a 25-page summary, right? But SDRs are having four-minute long conversations. They need to know what to say when they hear a certain competitor mentioned. It isn’t necessarily something that can just be interpreted at the moment. They just need to be armed with the right talking points so that when they hear someone mentioned they know exactly what to say. They need the right information but weaponized in a way that makes it actually useable. 

AD: Yeah, this is interesting because sales enablement always comes down to the last mile, doesn’t it? It’s interesting you used the term “weaponized” though because that exact word came up when we were on a client call last week. We discussed how Relevvo weaponizes intent and content and gets it in the SDRs’ hands immediately. I know we’re doing something similar for you. Switching gears now to a metrics perspective. What have you found that helps you track outbound SDR effectiveness?

SS: So, obviously, we have to look at the number of meetings booked but that’s a lagging indicator. So we look at calls, connect rates, emails, really all the touch points that are reporting out of Outreach is how we track it. You know, this is where Relevvo comes into play too. Because we’re less concerned about the specific activities now and more concentrated on your X-ray vision feature. Asking questions like, are the right accounts being worked and are they being worked the right way? 

Rather than the old-school way of looking at how many accounts were contacted over a 7-day period or something like that. X-Ray Vision allows us to triangulate, and I get this is a little tangential, but we can use all of the different signals available to us that Relevvo uses to create an account score. I look at that and can almost see accounts coming in based on how they’re scored.  

That list consists of accounts that have surfaced in a variety of ways so if they’re being worked correctly then odds are, we’re going to land those accounts or we’ll at the least book meetings. So we’ll do it almost in that order, right? It’s not really just the volume of accounts, it’s the quality of the ones we’re working on that matters. Though, of course, the volume also plays a role. 

AD: So quality first then quantity, right? You can’t just be like, “I’m going to work these five accounts, only” right but you also can’t do the opposite either and work like, 500 accounts. 

SS: Yeah, well iSpot is a little different too. We have a limited TAM given what we do but we also have near-perfect Industry knowledge. So it’s not like we’re trying to find a needle in a haystack. We know exactly who to target and have a good idea of when they probably are going to want to talk to us. So it’s just being able to take that information and consume it in the right way that’s actionable. 

We need to be more selective because we have such a limited TAM. I’ll sometimes hear conversations about wanting to bring on more SDRs and I always think that we might not have enough relevant accounts for them all to work. Like we’re already working these accounts basically in perpetuity. So if we had more SDRs we’re essentially just adding more touchpoints, right? So if that’s going to be the case, you need to be prepared for more quality conversations and more critical event alignment.

AD: That’s super insightful. The more limited your TAM, the more thoughtful you have to be about your outbound strategy and the quality of your conversations. How do you influence the SDRs to think that way around quality? 

SS: The answer is slowly and deliberately. I was modeling growth and balancing against numbers of accounts in our 2022 planning and pairing that up with the percentage of marketing sourced revenue versus all of the revenue goals, etc. My model started showing that iSpot didn’t necessarily need more meetings, we needed better quality ones. 

So we decided this year to keep the overall meeting goal fairly constant, spreading across all four quarters and adjusting for a little bit of seasonality but worked to increase the amount of what we call “named” meetings quarter-over-quarter. So the all-up meeting goal stays the same but the “named” meeting goal continues to rise. “Named” here relates to high-scoring accounts in our ICP. With that, we see more marketing-sourced revenue with fewer overall deals. Even though we’ve had nine quarters of marketing sourced revenue growth, the overall meetings booked amount has stayed constant. 

AD: That’s brilliant. Ultimately you’ve figured out that revenue is what matters most for the company overall. Not necessarily the number of customers you’ve added over a certain time. You have a limited TAM so you’ve worked backward to see that two smaller deals are not worth one big deal. It would probably be something like 4 smaller deals equals a big deal. You have to look at small deals sure but you focus more energy on the bigger ones first. Those would be your “named accounts.”

SS: Oh yeah, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. When you have a land and expand model as we do, the ACV of a larger deal isn’t 4x of a smaller one. You need to look at the expansion opportunity, too, and take the LTV into consideration.

AD: I can see it. So with this process, you started with the LTV as step one then went from there to the TAM, then to the market signals that you have, and then to the volume and quality of accounts. You worked backward from there. The LTV is the land-and-expand piece because you’d miss the point if you only did ACV, right? 

SS: That’s largely right. It is growing year one contract value but revenue potential is significantly higher when you factor in lifetime value.

AD: You’ve talked about building a relationship with the SDRs, the metric framework you use, and also the account scoring model. So how are we helping you? Where does Relevvo fit into helping to build that better relationship between sales and marketing? 

SS: Well, overall it gives us that connective tissue outside of Salesforce. In past places where I had maybe less constant interactions with the SDR team, I overestimated their interactions with Salesforce. Relevvo has given us a place where we can see a list of scored accounts and what’s important to marketing as well as what’s important to the SDR team. That visibility helps the communication between both. 

We’re able to get a better sense of each other’s worldview. Frankly, there’s not enough data in Outreach to make decisions and what’s in Salesforce isn’t actionable. There aren’t really any insights there. Relevvo makes it possible to get insights because it’s a sort of connective tissue between the two. 

You’ve helped to instrument our approach on a day-to-day basis with the use of account scoring. We can then track that activity using Relevvo’s “X-Ray Vision.” Then we can then look at contact information within Relevvo to see if the right personas at these accounts are being worked on a day-to-day basis. My biggest concern is whether or not our SDRs are focusing their energy on the right accounts. We have big revenue goals and a limited amount of accounts that we can work so we need to make sure we are working them the right way. Relevvo helps us make sure that we are. 

AD: Phenomenal. Everything else follows after that quite honestly, which is the most counterintuitive thing too, right? People focus so much on messaging first without regard to where the messaging should be sent. We fell into this trap in the early days at Apptio, right? We’d look at what messaging the SDRs were sending thinking that that was the biggest thing impacting whether or not a meeting was booked. You should certainly look at what messages are sent but finding the right accounts should come first. 

SS: What we’re trying to do is do ABM around the idea of “critical events”. So we now look at doing Critical Event Marketing. At the end of the day with ABM, I don’t know how much we’re really getting out of making content industry-specific. We might get a few extra clicks or engagement but if we can get more content to the right people at the right time then that’s going to be tremendously more impactful. 

AD: Yeah, that’s it. In fact, it’s so funny you should say that because that is what good personalization actually is, right? It’s not really where you went to school or your favorite sports team it’s telling someone what they want to know when they want to know it. Yeah, you can add in all of that extra stuff but it’s not enough to get a meeting alone. You still need to tie it back to a critical event around the problem you’re looking to solve. 

SS: Oh yeah, with iSpot, there are predictable things we can map to for specific industries. We already know that health insurance companies are going to be interested in advertising more leading up to the open enrollment period. Or like for the Super Bowl, advertisers probably start planning around now. We know who those people are but leveraging the SDR team to tie in critical events is more productive than just putting together a bunch of haphazard nurture emails that are industry specific to go out at certain times of the year. The account score helps us do that. It helps us pick up on certain events happening at each account that we use to really personalize that outreach. Now that I think of it, we should probably look to add those seasonal events into the score as well. Taking industries and mapping them to certain times of the year. 

AD: Oh yeah totally, that’s definitely something that we could light up for you. This has given us so much to work with. Thank you, Scott, speak to you again soon!