What Happens When You Raise A $100 Million Funding Round – Part 2 With SalesLoft's Sydney Sloan
What Happens When You Raise A $100 Million Funding Round – Part 2 With SalesLoft's Sydney Sloan
At the very beginning of 2021, SalesLoft announced a major funding round – bringing its valuation to a whopping $1.1 billion. We brought CMO Sydney Sloan back on the show to tell us what this funding means for her marketing team, how they planned internal and external activation, and what they learned when they got thrown a big curveball on the day of the announcement.
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Tricia Gellman: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of CMO Conversations, I'm your host Tricia Gellman, the CMO at Drift. We spoke previously with Sydney Sloan, who is the CMO at SalesLoft. And in the past conversation, we spoke about customer marketing, we spoke about key metrics, we spoke about really marketing being a hub and being a partner across the organization. What I wanted to do today was have a little bit of a shorter episode, we'll talk about something that really is exciting that you recently went through. And that is becoming a unicorn, changing your valuation to over a billion dollars and doing so in the midst of a major funding round. And so what I wanted to do was, one, welcome you back, but two, really hone in on what does this mean for marketers being a part of raising around in these times as well?
Sydney Sloan: Yeah. Well, we are very, very pleased, and we attribute it all to our customers and our ability to serve our customers. So we try not, honestly, internally, to celebrate the unicorn status, but just know that we're highly valued by our customers. From a marketing perspective, I think, we just finished the last year of a pandemic and not sure what was going to happen and preparing for the worst and not even really expecting the best. And I know people say this, but it's true, we didn't need the money, we were able to build out a plan that would have allowed us to continue to grow, but when we saw what was happening in the industry and people's need for tools like SalesLoft, we were in a very fortunate position. So it ended up being the right time to go out and raise our EA round. That's great. Another a hundred million dollars to continue to fuel growth. And now the fun part of putting that money to work. So it's been a wild ride.
Tricia Gellman: So can you talk, I know in our previous episode you spoke about really partnering with the CFO in terms of offering the value, making sure that every dollar you spend has ROI, et cetera, but as you think about being a CMO and marketing, having any part in raising around and the funding of the company, can you talk through some of the responsibilities that you and your team had in the raise of the round?
Sydney Sloan: Yeah. Well, I have to say our CFO did most of it. I've raised other rounds previously, so I can talk about it from that perspective, but I think what the good part was is that we had already built a really healthy relationship in establishing a couple of key things that we know we needed to convince the investors, and that is market opportunity and growth. So yes, marketing is responsible for building out the TAM and showing where we are and what the potential is. And then we are also responsible for developing the growth strategies and the valuing those growth strategies. And so that was already all done. And so they could take what we had already worked on, and then in building out a differentiated product, which we talked about a little bit, that's what they want to hear. It's like, okay, you're clear leader, you've evaluated your growth opportunities and you see those, you talk about your differentiation in the market because there's other players in the market that are also getting great valuations, which is a good thing from a market perspective, that just shows the overall adoption of sales stack, so he could go out and make that pitch. There were a couple of pieces of our story that were missing. And so in this E round, that was what I was working on, is like," Okay, we know we need to tell a stronger story here and here." And that came out during the wave process. If anybody has gone through a wave or an MQ, you kind of get that," Okay, I know where we need to focus." And so that's what specifically we did for this round.
Tricia Gellman: That's excellent. And then in terms of leading up to the announcement, I know myself and other companies, there's a factor in terms of wanting to close the round, but then there's sometimes a little wiggle room and like, when do you announce? How do you pick an announcement date? How are you going to do the announcement? So can you talk a little bit about how you went through that consideration?
Sydney Sloan: Yeah, you're going to love this story. So we got our funding on December 24th. Not a great time to announce around if you know that everybody goes crosstalk. And that-
Tricia Gellman: Just thinking some people might be destructed, yes.
Sydney Sloan: And then we're like," If people are really good, they can actually find out that you have filed." And I've seen that on S1's a couple of times. We had to time it because you aren't always in control of when the funding happens and the folks that are participating. We started working mid- December, we knew it was going to go. And so putting together our lists of outlets that we wanted to find ourselves in, reporters to go after, and prepping that. And we have an awesome PR agency and so they were going and saying," We have a client that is about ready to announce. So we would teeing them up because we knew the writers would also probably be on vacation. And we wanted to announce right after we came back in the new year. That was the first step that we did and then of course preparing all of the materials for the announcement, the blog, the videos, the internal employee communications, to get everybody excited about it because what a great way to come back after the holidays. And here, as we thought about that for a Lyft and as we closed out our year. And so that was great because it's a great validation to your buyers that you are a well- run company with lots of runway. But here's what happened, our announcement date was January 6th. And January 5th... We're Atlanta based company, so January 5th was the Atlanta election. We prepped because we were going on national television, we were at Bloomberg, and CNBC. And so we were prepping our CEO, who'd never done national broadcast TV before, on how to be ready for questions outside of the span of just our announcement. And we didn't know if it was going to turn Democratic or stay Republican. And so we were going through these scenarios. And so our press release went out. We got all the 40 articles. We were really happy to hit TechCrunch. So we really achieved our publishing goals. And as he's in the waiting room to go on, the charge and the Capitol happened. So we got bombed.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Something that everybody predicted, obviously.
Sydney Sloan: As much as you prepare and hope, you still can't control what the news cycle is going to be, and that, unfortunately, didn't happen, we'll have to save that for another day or IPO. It was still a good exercise to go through.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah. And can you translate that? I think it's a great lesson because, as marketers, we can plan as much as we want. You talked in your previous episode about the personas chaining across the way. This is all planning, knowledge, education that you put into doing the best marketing, but then here you are, you have this major event happening on the 6th of January and boom, the entire media cycle is off in some other world. I think it's a good lesson that we can't control everything. So how do you play that into your marketing and the way that you sort of look at being agile in what you do?
Sydney Sloan: One of the advantages that we have in being a high growth company is we're under constant change. And we actually teach on change, we talk about the change curve a lot. And it's really helpful in helping our employees adapt to rapid change. And so this is like the fact that leadership generally is way ahead on the change curve, and then, because we've already accepted the change, which we call new beginnings, we just want to pull everybody along but that's actually not how it works. You have to understand change, and then the disillusion curve, and then the new beginnings. And you have to go to people, and you have to figure out where they are. Because we have a common framework that we train our company on, when we go to talk to them, it's like," where are you in the change?" And I was able to use that during the pandemic where I booked a one- on-one... I met with everybody on my team in the month of April, we started with the change curve. I'm like," Where are you?" And people would say, and then that's where we would start the conversation. And just having that as a muscle, because yeah, we're growing like crazy. If you don't like where your cherries today, technically, don't worry, it'll be somewhere else a couple months from now. And so just people understanding that you go through it, it's a normal human cycle, and to have a way that we collectively can talk about it so people can understand what they're feeling and going through, and we can guide them and coach them to be able to accept the change, is important.
Tricia Gellman: I love that. In terms of the change, have you seen a change? Are there new pressures on marketing? Are there new things that you need to do now that you have taken on this added funding?
Sydney Sloan: Oh, totally. I'm sure nobody in marketing team is underwater or has heard that. We're like," How do we establish priorities?" And I think it's coming back to being a leader. And so the CRO and I having to get and say? we could do all these things, what is the most important piece? And then how do we build our plan together to invest in the most important? So let's tick off these two things, what is it the revenue team is investing in? What does marketing support need it? And that's what we're asking for in terms of funding. And then it's tough, I wish there was an easy answer of how to scale, constant prioritization, but also when you're hiring Type A personalities, telling people to do just good enough, some things need to be done well, some things just need to get done. And it's really hard for those Type A personalities, overachievers, to just get something done, but you have to look at both, you have to look at your priorities, level of effort, level of impact, what do we put our highest effort towards, and what are we okay if it's just, we use a scale of one to 10, deliver this as a five and that's okay. And it's hard, but you give them the permission.
Tricia Gellman: I think as a leader, that's the important thing, is giving the permission. Because I think telling people it's okay, is one thing, but like, literally, I've been training my team, go through the list with your employees and tell them which thing gets a five, versus a nine, versus a 10, so that they hear from you proactively what your expectation is versus them having to ask, is it okay if I put this in as a three, or four, or something like that?
Sydney Sloan: Yeah. But I think it's really hard because my expectations are still really high.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah, of course.
Sydney Sloan: And I sometimes bite my tongue and sometimes I can't, right? And I know that has a ripple effect back on the employees if they've already gone through the process and at the very end, I'm like," Yeah, you know what? Not good enough." And by the way, my CEO would do the same thing to me, and I have to appreciate that, because at the end of the day we represent our company, we serve our customers. It's not about me, it's not about the piece, right? We just have to have that, but it's so, so hard. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but fast growth, welcome to tech, it just... It stays the way it is.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah. We touched on this a little bit in the previous episode as well, which is about people and connecting with people and being human and making sure that people are motivated. As we close out this shorter episode here, I wanted to get your perspective on how the announcement, you mentioned also the internal announcement, how did you leverage the announcement to really boost morale for the company internally? And are there specific tactics that you use to announce internally to build that employee momentum?
Sydney Sloan: We did an employee all- hands. We did it the day before the announcement. So we go like, let them in on it so they could participate in all of our activities and social. And we really made it about the customers. And that was kind of top- down. We didn't want to celebrate being a unicorn, we wanted to celebrate our customers and our opportunity to serve more customers. And that's who we are as SalesLoft. And so I think it really resonated humbly with the employees. We've announced some pretty fun things. So crossing some milestones this year, we're going to do an employee retreat when COVID is over. And so reinforcing these cool opportunities to celebrate together. And we can do it virtually, and that's one thing, but looking forward to the time where we can all do it together. But kind of a... I don't know how to say this in a way, but it's like an abundance of, we have so much to celebrate. Yes, the funding, but yeah, also the close of our year, which was just mind blowing in terms of overachievement. And we're pretty fortunate we get to ride this high and then you do go back to the converse of the conversation, and we have to work really hard for it. And so reminding people like," hey, you don't get to this if you're not working really hard. And so those two things go together. So celebrate the wins and the highs, and then help people try and stay balanced and avoid burnout as much as we can. Living in the world that we're living in, it's a better problem to have this than the opposite.
Tricia Gellman: Yeah. A hundred percent. I think we're both in companies that have done pretty well and been able to capitalize on the digital first world and the pressures that that puts on people in doing their jobs in sales, and marketing, and growing their companies. And we're super fortunate. And so I think that's also a great thing to be able to say. But really taking away from what you said, I think the celebration is so key. I think in high- growth companies or even in a company that's struggling, it's very hard to clear the time and to clear the path for the celebration because you're so focused on what do we need to do? What do we need to do? What do we need to do? And I think as a leader, that's also a really important thing, is to make the time to celebrate and to put that time aside. So this has been a great episode. I think it's a small part in time in terms of going through a funding round and not everyone gets to do it, but seeing a little bit behind the curtain with you, it's really valuable. So thank you so much for sharing that.
Sydney Sloan: Thank you.
Tricia Gellman: I think we're going to wrap this episode here. It's short and sweet, and we like that, but we're happy that we got to have Sydney back for a second episode. Again, this is CMO Conversations, please share our podcast with all of your friends and anyone else that you think can learn and grow with us along the way as we help to bring across the change that's happening in the marketing landscape, and the importance of being a leader and what it means to step up and help to drive this change. If you haven't already, we also have a newsletter and I would love for you guys to participate in that. And you can connect to Sydney. The best way to connect with you is on your Twitter or LinkedIn?
Sydney Sloan: LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn person.
Tricia Gellman: Okay, cool. And so if you have other comments that you want to share, or you like something Sydney said, please reach out to her in LinkedIn. I'm also a LinkedIn person, and when we post these episodes, we always read the comments. So if you hear something that you really like in this episode, if it sparks for you another CMO that you think I should have on the series, please just add your comments and let us know. And thank you again for listening and thank you Sydney for being a part of episode two with Sydney from SalesLoft.
Sydney Sloan: Thank you.