How Lynne Doherty Is Putting in Place Systems to Drive More Scalable and Consistent Growth
Lynne Doherty leads Worldwide Field Operations for Sumo Logic Inc. (Nasdaq: SUMO) is the industry’s leading cloud-native platform that helps customers turn their data complexities into insights. They provide security and observability solutions that help organizations of all sizes to address the data challenges and opportunities presented by digital transformation, modern applications, and cloud computing.
Lynne views Sumo Logic as a new challenge. Her professional journey has led her from leading large selling teams at Cisco and McAfee to now evolving an entire go-to-market system to disrupt and grow share in the large and fast-growing market for big data presented by digital transformation, modern applications, and cloud computing. She describes the company as a “publicly traded start up” in high growth market.
Her goal is to accelerate sales and scale Sumo Logic to $1B in revenue. That is very different from her past where she operated with large teams at scale – managing a $8B business with a 2,500-person revenue team at Cisco and $1.2B with 1,200-person team at McAfee Enterprise.
Most fast-growing companies can get to $50 or even $100 million on the back of ad-hoc entrepreneurial selling, product innovation and hiring superstar reps – but that will only take you so far, according to Doherty. At some point, every organization hits a wall as it scales where sales plateau and incremental investment and effort reach a point of diminishing returns. At some point your revenue growth trajectory is going to degraded by a growing set of confounding variables. Those can range from organizational complexity, the lack of scalable processes, poorly defined roles and incentives, or the inconsistent performance by B and C players who fill out the roster. Without scalable processes and growth plateaus and there is a diminishing return on incremental growth investment.
Doherty’s job is to retool Sumo Logic’s revenue engine to break through that wall and gain share of a large and growing market opportunity. “Growing a business from $250M to a billion dollars in revenue requires a complete retooling of our talent, process and technology,” according to Doherty. “You can get to the hundred million in sales based on tribal knowledge, investments, and making things up if you have a good solution and a growing market,” says Doherty. “But in order to scale beyond that you need structure, standards, consistency, processes and speed. You actually have to become faster to grow at $250M plus as counter intuitive as that sounds.”
Some of the most important ways Doherty is retooling the go-to-market machine is by taking steps to improve the talent on her revenue team. “Being an agile challenger brand that redefines a space requires a different seller profile, message, value story and culture,” says Doherty. “You need to get your team to think bigger and move faster. For example, the theme of our sales kickoff this year is ‘hungry wolves run faster’.
This involves rearchitecting the roles of all customer-facing employees and creating structures and incentives for aligning them around customer opportunities and stages in the revenue cycle. “To punch above our weight, we need to build the best team, focus them on very tight roles, and align them around the customer,” says Doherty. She has refined in their pre-sales cadences and customer treatment models to be much more nuanced in order build trust earlier in the process and adapt to customer needs for relevant and personalized engagement. At the same time, she is putting more emphasis on customer experience, client education and account development activities, actions, and roles at the latter stages of the revenue cycle.
Part of her commercial redesign is to provide her team more focus and simplicity. For example, Doherty believes in tightly defining roles to combat the growing complexity of selling. This ensures her sellers are focused on the activities that drive outcomes. And allows them to become proficient in those key tasks instead of being a jack of all trades. “We have a wide variety of roles, experts and specialization in a complex solution sale like ours –new logo acquisition, renewals, cross selling, service, and industry expertise,” says Doherty. “It’s hard for reps to know and master everything involved in a complex sale. Our goal is to shrink what sellers need to know and ensure front line sellers are excellent at every selling task and action that is essential to their specific role in the process.”
Coaching is a big part of making sure her sellers are proficient at the skills they need to perform consistently. She believes experience is the best teacher. “Watching a video does not make you good at something,” warns Doherty. “You need to do it to be proficient. Make mistakes. Learn and improve. That takes strong coaching in addition to training and development.”
Doherty views front-line sales managers as the backbone of her commercial transformation efforts. She believes that having strong sales managers are they key to building a sales team that punches above its weight class and delivers scalable and consistent growth. So, she invests heavily in training her leaders on how to coach, measure, and manage their selling teams on a day-to-day basis. She holds managers accountable for developing talent, prioritizing accounts, and improving the reliability of revenue intelligence. “We need our front-line managers to verify the competence of reps, tightly manage pipeline to close ratios, and help their teams qualify opportunities, focus on the right activities,” says Doherty.
Sales enablement technology is another key part of the formula. Doherty has invested in a robust selling technology portfolio that improves seller performance by automating tasks, improving access to critical intelligence that helps sellers predict which customers, actions and opportunities to prioritize in their day-to-day selling workflow. Her team uses conversational intelligence to help managers coach reps. They use a variety of first- and third-party insights to help sellers predict and prioritize the accounts with the greatest potential and probability to close. The company also takes advantage of insights about product usage to help manage loyalty and identify ways to improve usage and expand accounts.
“Enabling sellers with commercial technology is fundamental to scalable and consistent growth – but only to the degree it is adopted consistently and simplifies selling,” warns Doherty. “Managing the sales technology portfolio is a balancing act, the more you invest in sales enablement tools, the more complex and expensive the sales technology portfolio gets. At some point, every organization reaches the point of diminishing returns where the cost and complexity of technology outweighs the benefits, and your sellers don’t use them consistently.”
“The key to getting the most out of technology is to simplify the day-to-day selling workflow and ensure the tools you invest in get adopted consistently by all sellers,” she continues. “We work hard to make sure the portfolio of tools we utilize help us to simplify selling by automating tasks, improving access to critical customer intelligence, and helping sellers predict which opportunities to emphasize and allocate effort to. Ultimately, the sum of these efforts will improve the consistency of every seller and the confidence we have in the forecasts we give to Wall Street.”
It’s difficult to make such wholesale changes to the commercial model without a broader remit and a greater span of control. In her role as President of Worldwide Field Operations, Doherty has direct control over teams that support the entire revenue cycle, including sales, partner, sales engineering, professional services, and customer success. She also has an operations team to knit together the systems and data that support the full revenue cycle. Marketing is the only major demand chain function she does not have directly under her control.
Having greater control over the end-to-end revenue cycle affords her the ability to shift resources and effort to the places they can maximize customer lifetime value. “Some organizations I have worked in believe that eighty percent of the effort happens before the sale,” says Doherty. “But in a SaaS model, the sale is just the starting point of the relationship. So, we’ve redesigned roles and incentives to get our teams focused on customer education, customer experience and account development activities that drive loyalty and expansion of our recurring revenues.” Refining the pre-sales cadence to adapt to customer buying behavior is another area Doherty is changing the formula. “We need to be much more nuanced at the early stages of business development in the way we research, educate, engage and build trust with customers.”
Doherty’s broader remit also allows her to treat the recruiting and development of reps as an end-to-end process, rather than having different functions take on pieces of the rep profiling, training, management, development and career progression.
Retooling the go-to-market machine in a publicly traded SaaS company is not easy, according to Doherty. “As a publicly traded company, nobody gets to call time-out and say I will get back to you in two quarters with results,” says Doherty. “It’s like changing the tires on a car while it’s still running.”
“Another challenge is adjusting the key performance metrics our team reports to the reflect the financial scorecard used by SaaS businesses,” says Doherty. “Reporting Net Recurring Revenues can insulate you from bad quarters, but they also understate outstanding performance. For example, you can have a blowout sales quarter in terms of new bookings, but the real impact will not be seen until several quarters down the road. So, you have to adjust your expectations, goals, and incentives accordingly. That can be a big change for managers and sellers who are used to getting big wins every quarter.”
In less than six months under Doherty’s leadership, sales are up by double digits from a year ago. And with the process she has put in place she expects dramatic growth in the coming quarters.
Lynne Doherty is President, Worldwide Field Operations at Sumo Logic
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