RingDNA Founder on his Sales Acceleration Startup

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Interviewee: Howard A. Brown, Founder and CEO at RingDNA

Interviewer: Jorge Soto, Founder at Sales4StartUps

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Jorge: I noticed that you have an MA in Clinical Psychology which is awesome. How did you get into sales and marketing and how have you seen it evolve over the past 10 years?

Howard: I’ve always enjoyed solving problems. While it was rewarding to work with patients on a one-on-one basis, I wanted to take on the challenge of solving something larger that would help many more people. That lead to the creation of the 4Therapy network, which I started so that people with behavioral health needs and their families could get referred to quality providers while ensuring maximum confidentiality. In order to get healthcare providers on board, I had to give myself a crash-course in sales and digital marketing. I actually loved the process, and it centered around my passion for studying human behavior.

When my company was acquired by CRC Health, they brought me on as their VP of Marketing in order to expand their efforts nationally. One of my goals there was to drive leads from digital channels to a national call center. I immediately saw a need to be able to not only make those call center reps convert more inbound callers, but also to be able to use call tracking to understand which marketing sources were driving the most valuable calls. The results was total marketing and sales visibility in Salesforce. We got it done, but it was hard. I wanted to make what we accomplished easy for people, which was what sparked the idea for RingDNA.

 

Jorge: What is your opinion on the current state of CRM and sales tools? How can they be improved and what do you think the future of sales technology will look like?

Howard: The future of sales technology is without a doubt sales acceleration software. In the way that marketing automation is about much more than simply email, sales acceleration is about much more than just a CTI connector that allows you to make lots of calls from your CRM. Sales acceleration describes a suite of sales tools that helps everyone on your sales team work smarter, faster and ultimately accelerate the sales cycle.

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It’s also about predictive analytics. That makes sharing CRM data with marketing and customer service in a contextually meaningful way absolutely essential. This is just one reason why I think closed CRM systems that are created only for sales teams are ultimately doomed to fail. It’s a fact that sales teams perform better when their efforts are closely aligned with marketing and service. The best way to do that is through apps that make a big tent platform like Salesforce even better. RingDNA works with plenty of cool companies like Dun & Bradstreet and FreshBooks.

 

Jorge: What is RingDNA, and how do companies leverage it to close more deals?

Howard: RingDNA is a sales acceleration engine that helps reps prioritize hot prospects, connect with more of those prospects and close more deals. We give reps the contextual prospect data they need at the time that they need it, and deliver insight into individual and team performance metrics that help track and improve performance. A big differentiator for us is the ability to deliver huge value fast. A typical onboarding for sales acceleration technology takes days or weeks.

Customers can start using RingDNA and getting incredible value in minutes. I also can’t overstate the importance of customizing the data for each sales situation. The amount of data available to sales reps is completely overwhelming, and absolutely demands a solution that delivers meaningful data when reps need it. For example, say you’re a sales rep taking an inbound call. RingDNA provides the ability to see the marketing source or search keyword that triggered the call as it comes in. They can also see data from Twitter showing that prospect’s latest tweets, which is important since Twitter is so essential for social sales. There’s even a sales script that is automatically triggered depending on a variety of factors, including CRM and marketing data. That tells the sales rep everything they to know about buyer intent, which facilitates a much more intelligent sales conversation.

Sales reps using RingDNA have access to the same data when making outbound calls, which provides a tremendous advantage during outbound prospecting. Inside sales as a practice has been around for long time, however the data available today through social media and the web in general in relatively new.

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Jorge: What do you believe are the top 3 most effective prospecting methods and channels for inside sales people today?

In terms of channels, while LinkedIn has really revolutionized prospecting, I also think Twitter is given short shrift as a sales tool, which is why we’ve put so much work into integrating both channels with RingDNA.

In particular, Twitter enables reps to quickly identify influencers and decision makers and gain insight into what they’re thinking when they’re thinking it. Knowing what people want and when they want it is incredibly powerful.

In terms of tactics, I think that the ability to dial leads from local numbers is also revolutionizing prospecting. I know it sounds like I’m plugging my own product here – and I am – but there’s a good reason we built that feature. Some of our customers have told me that three times more prospects are picking up their phones than when they dial from local numbers.

To answer the first part of your question, I do think the most exciting innovations revolve around data and reps’ ability to make more intelligent decisions because of it. InsideView is a good example of a company that started enhancing reps’ ability to pull in more data about prospects into CRM. At RingDNA, we took sales automation to the next level by using data to trigger smart call routing. Marketing meta-data, such as which web page, advertisement or search keyword triggered a phone call signal buyer intent, and can determine which sales rep or sales queue the call is delivered to.

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Jorge: There is all this discussion about the “phone being dead” as a prospecting channel and that email and social media is the only way to do outbound. What is your take on this?

Howard: Phone calls are far from dead as a prospecting method. There are plenty of new and traditional companies that still use outbound calls almost exclusively as their bread and butter because it actually works. However, I agree that traditional cold calling is waning. Most companies are going to be most successful if they can weave outbound calls into a sustained email and social communications system. I short, it works best when our sales reps engage their prospects across multiple channels. For example, we’re seeing an increase in companies that want to use call metrics as lead scoring events, in order to help their reps know which leads to call. That’s just one small way that sales acceleration software and marketing automation are coming together.

 

Jorge: What is RingDNA’s ideal customer profile?

Howard: Inside sales teams using Salesforce and the sales managers that coach them. We’re unique in that our products help both inbound and outbound sales teams.

 

Jorge: As a veteran sales leader and entrepreneur, what are your top 3 tips to founders when trying to launch a b2b startup?

Howard:

1. Build something you’re passionate about. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to be able to sell your vision. Whether you are pitching to investors or trying to recruit a killer executive, you need to truly believe in your company and its ability to make other peoples’ lives better. I can always tell the difference between founders who have an idea they’re passionate about, and founders who simply hope to get acquired quickly and make a quick buck.

2. Surround yourself with a leadership team that you trust. Entrepreneurs have to wear a lot of hats in early-stage startups, but in order to scale, you’re going to need to have the people in place early.

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3. Don’t hire one salesperson and expect them to do everything. Sales teams work best when they can be separated into distinct roles. For example, expecting an account executive (AE) to prospect for her own leads can be damaging. It’s a lot better if there is a dedicated prospector finding leads leads for your AE to close.

 

Jorge: Salesforce.com has been and seems to continue to dominate the CRM space. Why do you believe that they are so successful and is there any competitor that you see getting close?

Howard: I think the simple answer is the Salesforce AppExchange and its partner program. For years, Salesforce has encouraged companies like ours to make the platform more valuable for its customers. That strategy is obviously working well. In addition, they’ve made some very smart marketing acquisitions and have worked hard to bring marketers into CRM.

Finally, you have to love Marc Benioff’s ability to inspire his base of customers and partners. He’s really up there with Steve Jobs in terms of making a company feel like a movement.

 

Jorge: What do you believe are a few keys to sales success for an early stage startup?

Howard: Lots, but one of the ones that is often overlooked his hiring a Director of Customer Success as quickly as possible. This is a sales/service hybrid role that helps make sure that customers are having a good experience with your product. This can really help with retention, upsells and referrals.

This can also help ensure that the product team is on the right track, innovating the features that solve your customer’s’ pain points.

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