March 7, 2022

How to Succeed as a “Joiner” with Sarah E. Brown

This week on The Winning Zone, Sarah Brown, author of ‘Lead Upwards,’ joins Hilmon Sorey to discuss her book, which is focused on joiners and how they are critical to the success of an organization.

Customer-Centric Marketing

Sarah starts by explaining that throughout her career in SaaS all the numbers they talk about in board meetings are related to growth over a customer’s lifetime. So, in her career, she focuses on educating prospects and customers to help them get more value out of their relationship with the software company and a potential cloud provider. The goal is to make sure that revenue teams are aligned around customer success and customer lifetime value, therefore focusing marketers on not only the buyer journey, but also the customer success journey. Learn more at 00:50.

Caring About Customer Success

At 02:35 Sarah explains that caring about customer success from the very beginning- early stage startups all the way through scale ups and large companies- is very important. Understanding the value that your customer can get out of your relationship and how to expand it is something that should be prevalent right out of the gate. You are not just competing for a one-time sale, you are competing for the lifetime of the customer as well as potential expansion. Continue listening to learn more.

Aligning Around the Metrics

The role of revenue ops has been on the rise, and in Sarah’s opinion, what is most important is aligning everyone around the metrics that matter. Starting at the top, the entire organization should have an OKR that is not just about net new customers, but also about expanding current customers and providing value. Giving you teams goals or OKRs around retention expansion will help close better customers and will help make sure that you are bringing on better fit customers. Continue listening at 05:16 to learn more.

Visibility and Influence

Rev ops is beginning to have a greater seat at the business table, which allows them to drive strategic decision making. The rev ops career path helps provide visibility into the operations side, which also provides value to a SaaS company. Learn more at 08:02.

‘Lead Upwards’

Sarah tells us that her book was written out of her “...own curiosity and desire to understand how startup joiners can impact new ventures, build amazing careers, and inspire great teams.” Leaders are constantly expected to outlearn themselves, and ‘Lead Upwards’ helps empower everyone in the ecosystem to contribute their best work and be as successful as possible. Listen at 09:07 to learn, in more detail, what Sarah’s second book is all about.

Challenges of Leading During COVID

Sarah explains that being a leader during COVID threw everyone off. She had to learn how to navigate remote work and understand how to work with customers and teams asynchronously and be successful. She had to learn how to stay grounded and focused on what matters during a lot of uncertainty. Learn more at 12:27.

Outlearning Oneself

There are crucial moments in your journey as a leader that are important to master, but until you have done them, you don’t know what they are. So, Sarah explains that it is important to figure out what your goals and priorities are, what your quick wins are, what your long-term projects are, and learning to balancing your relationships with your peers. It is also important, as a leader, to learn how to lift others up and empower them so that they can provide value and grow. Learn more at 14:08.

Going from Strategic to Tactical

Sastrify has a learning and development budget and they trust  and expect people to take advantage of it and grow in ways that they have identified with their manager are important. Their growth plan is also mapped to a career framework to make it clearer and easier for them to understand what they need to grow and improve on in order to progress in their career. Learn more about Sastrify’s career framework at 17:13.

The First 90 Days

The most important thing in the first 90 days is alignment. Understanding what are the goals, the mission, the product, the landscape, the traditions, etc is paramount for being successful. Being able to align with your CEO, or boss, or stakeholder, etc. as far as identifying what are the most important things for your first 90 days and then testing it to see if they agree is part of this alignment. Continue listening at 20:28 to find out more about what to do as a joiner in the first 90 days and how to be as impactful as possible.

A Scientific Approach

Sarah feels there is a lot of tolerance for mistakes and failure among founders and people who come from a dominant group within tech. Marketing is constantly testing new channels, programs, approaches- it’s just part of the game. We all experience set backs and failure; it is an expectation. However, Sarah is burdened by the narrative given to people from underrepresented backgrounds that they need to be perfect, and this is simply impossible. It is part of Sarah’s personal mission to let people know that if they want to be in the tech world, they deserve to be there. Continue listening at 23:28 to learn more of Sarah’s thoughts on this.

Recommendations to Leadership

Building learning into the culture and taking a good look at hiring and promotion practices, giving people a chance, and being really clear about what success looks like so people can aim for it in the future is very important. Creating paths for people within the organization that are ready to level-up, creating a culture where failures don’t stay failures, but instead are learned from; these are the types of organizations that excite Sarah. Learn more about what she has to say about this at 26:11.

Retrospective Processes

Great sales teams watch calls and do call coaching. It is really important to understand what could have been done better, what could have gone better for the sake of constructive feedback and continuing to learn. Bringing in coaches and listening to the feedback helps teams grow faster. Learn more at 29:20.

Sarah can be reached on LinkedIn and Twitter for anyone who wants to have a conversation with her.

Key Snippets

00:50 Customer-Centric Marketing

02:35 Caring About Customer Success

05:16 Aligning Around the Metrics

08:02 Visibility and Influence

09:07 ‘Lead Upwards’

12:27 Challenges of Leading During COVID

14:08 Outlearning Oneself

17:13 Going from Strategic to Tactical

20:28 The First 90 Days

23:28 A Scientific Approach

26:11 Recommendations to Leadership

29:20 Retrospective Processes

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