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SetSail CMO Peter Mollins was recently joined by Oscar Ibarra, Director of LATAM Sales at Intercom, for an engaging back-and-forth on targeted activity vs “spray and pray” and the most important metric he tracks.

The following transcript has been roughly edited for clarity. Please excuse any errors.

Peter: Hi everybody. This is Peter Mollins at SetSail. Excited to have another conversation about metrics today and talking about all things related to sales measurements and how to make them as effective as possible. And particularly what is the one metric that you'd want to make sure that everybody else had access to in order to make their sales teams effective? I'm very excited to have Oscar Ibarra out here, who is the director of LatAm sales over at Intercom. Oscar, welcome to the Desert Island discussion.

Oscar: Hey Peter, it's a pleasure to be here this morning. Thank you for having me on. I'm excited to talk about metrics today.

P: Terrific. Well, I appreciate it very much. So maybe, if you don't mind just starting off with a little bit of background on how you got to your current role.

O: Sure. Yeah. I'd love to give you kind of a quick insight and who I am and what I do. So, yeah, I’m Oscar Ibarra director of Latin American Sales here at Intercom. I've been with Intercom nearly four years. Funny enough, four years ago they said, Hey, Oscar, we're going to mail you your laptop and we'll see you in two weeks. Well, that was right smack when COVID started. So I didn't see an office for about a year prior to Intercom. I spent a couple of years at Facebook. It was a great experience to help build the agency business here in Chicago. And prior to that, I spent seven years at CareerBuilder. Right. So selling human capital management software. So in total, I've been selling technology for well over a decade. I've been in sales leadership for close to ten years now.

P: That's terrific. Now, I'm obviously very familiar with Intercom, but for those that aren't familiar,

maybe you can just give a quick rundown on what Intercom does?

O: Yeah, I mean I think we’re... it's an exciting time at Intercom. I mean we've really leaned in

to artificial intelligence. I feel like that is definitely a buzzword. But, you know, we are the premier customer service platform, right? And it's an exciting time to see really how we've transformed as a company and really have become the first company to go to market with a solution that has a chatbot that leverages ChatGPT. It's truly an incredible time to be in this space.

P: Yeah, that's great. Absolutely. I mean, AI is absolutely affecting sales and, you know, helping to move it forward in so many ways. I mean, we believe in that too, over here and SetSail. So maybe I can ask you, first off, from a metrics perspective, you know, what's your kind of philosophy if you were to describe your philosophy about metrics, what is your general approach?

O: Yeah, that's a good question. And Peter, I think the way that I look at my sales career, it's really an art and science, right? So yeah, I preach knowing your numbers inside and out. And what I mean by that is, you know, what are the key KPIs that are most important that are going to get you to your end goal, right? And when I say end goal, right, the North Star is always hitting the target, right? And or exceeding that number. Right? So it's like, what are the activities that you need to perform in order to get there? So that's kind of the way that when I think about metrics, I always like to start with a big, hairy, audacious goal, right? I then work my whole backwards, right? Like, what are the things that I need to do in order to get there? 

P: Yeah, I think that's a great model. You know, like, you know, so many people will set those north Stars, but then forget that you have to get to it through activity. You know, like you have to make the calls, you have to send the emails. So I love that you back into what you need to do on a day to day basis.

O: Yeah, it's kind of old school, right? Like, you know, like making the call, sending the emails, doing the follow up. But at the end of the day, I mean, I still feel that, you know, smart activity trumps off, right? I think there's one thing, it's one thing to have activity. Right? It's another thing to have targeted activity. Right. Where you know that you're hitting the right person. You have the right audience with the right materials. Right. Versus kind of sprayed and praying. Right. Like that. Right. That's a strategy that is going to be you're going to find yourself

very frustrated if that's the approach that you take.

P: Yeah. I mean, sales teams have definitely been using that spray and pray, you know, just using volume versus, you know, smart outreach for quite a long time now or for many years now. And it's really come back to bite the industry, hasn't it?

O: I think so. I mean, you look at what's happening with like Google, with Microsoft, where they're not putting blockers and emails. Right. So it's making it's becoming more and more challenging to prospect. And it's funny, like, I mean, I see so many examples every day of really poor prospecting coming, coming my way where I'm like, okay, like Hi Oskar dot A.. And I’m like “oh man..”, Hey, what's going on here? Delete. I don't even look at those. So, if you're listening. Not a good approach. 

P: Yeah, exactly. All right, cool. Well, you talk about day to day basis, So when you're working with your team, how do metrics going to work into your day to day?

O: Yeah, that's a great question, Peter, And it's interesting because I have a very mature sales team right at this point, which is nice, right where I'm working with a lot of like upper mid-market enterprise type level of accounts. And you know, I would say that the most important metric to me is pipeline coverage. That trumps all. So for me, I mean, we've got it down to a science where I know that if I can get to 4 to 5 X pipeline, I'm going to hit my target. Every time you're getting paid, every single time, like you're going to, you're going to close 20 to 25% of those deals, right? So for me, like that is like the Keystone metric in the role that I'm in today, right? I was leading Latin America for Intercom. I mean, it's tried and true, right? I've been here for almost four years. And you know, when we can get to 4 to 5 X pipeline, we hit every quarter. Right? Like those borders where you can't get to that coverage number, it can be a struggle to get there. So I think that to me, it's like, okay, how do we back into that? So how many meetings do we need to set a week? How many meetings do we need to run a week? Like when you look at your pipeline, right? So when from that first conversation to the discovery call to the demo to the follow up technical sessions, you know how those all all those activities intertwine. Right? And, you know, now we have to figure out like, okay, how can we make sure that we're providing value in every conversation that we're having in order to build the pipeline, Right? So it's like, again, it's one of those things where anybody can have pipeline, but is it legit pipeline? Or is it kind of like a pie in the sky kind of idea where, hey, they told me that they had a conversation and maybe this person was just kicking the tires. And I'm like, well, you know, you didn't identify any pain, right? Like, what's a pain? I think like in this economy, if you're not able to really one, find out what pain your customers having. And number two, tie it back to an ROI. Nobody's going to buy. It's not going to happen. So that's one thing. I'm a guy I'm very, very firm on our pipeline and our pipeline coverage and it's something that, you know, we leverage a lot of software here internally that helps us. I mean, you know, funny story, like four years ago when I started, I was doing my forecast on Excel. You know, true startup vibes.

P: Yeah, yeah. No, it's amazing. So now when you're like on a day to day basis is would you say that sort of the main touchstone that you're going back to your team with is pipeline coverage? Like are you looking at that on a daily, weekly basis or what? What kind of cadence are you looking at?

O: Yeah, it's a great question, Peter. For me. I mean, I'm looking at Pipeline every single day. Right?. So it's one thing where, you know, I want to make sure, especially when like we turn quarters, right? Like, so we just, for example, like Intercom, we just finished our fiscal year at the end of January, right? And then the new year starts on February 1 clock starts at zero. And a lot of times, you know, reps instead of like cleaning up their pipeline at the end of the year, they push opportunities these into the next quarter. 

P: I've seen it. 

O: And I'm like, okay, okay, well this looks inflated and like I dig in and we do a cleanup right where, you know, I spend half a day with my team, Hey, like, let's test this out, right? Like, what are legit opportunities that you have and which ones aren't? But it's good, right? Like, because everybody's on the same page and we're not inflating your pipeline. The only person you're lying to is yourself. 

P: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right, 

O: Right? And I want to make sure that I'm putting you in the best position to win. Right? So if I know that we have a gap. Okay, cool. Now we know which actions each rep needs to take in order to get the pipeline back to where it needs to be. Right? And then outside of one on ones, you know, I do a hourly session where we go over big deals. And that really gives me a good opportunity to dig into the pipeline, find out what's legit and what's not. And then the thing that's wonderful is that I have a good relationship with my sales engineers. So I have a weekly meeting with the sales engineers because it's one thing I can't be in every demo, right? I can't be in everycall. Right? And, no, I trust my reps. I will say that I trust them, but sometimes as a sales professional, you know, we get happy years, right? So it's fun to hear it from a sales engineer because they kind of have a better grasp of, okay, yeah, we got the technical win, 

P: Right.

O: Yeah. What Ricardo is telling you is actually accurate, right? Like, I do feel good about the deal, or vice versa, where they're like, you know, they don't really have a need right now and that deal is likely going to push next quarter. So it's again, like that's the thing. You have to inspect what you expect, right? That's something that early in my career has stuck with me. Right. If that's something that you expect to be inspecting all the time. Right. So I spend a lot of time there because I know that, you know, having a tight grasp of my forecast for my pipeline is going to lead to success. And like the times where I haven't won, it's because I didn't have a firm grasp of what was happening in my pipeline.

P: Yeah, well, I love the idea of bringing in the sales engineers. I mean, there's no one that tells the truth more than a sales engineer. So that's a great strategy.

O: Yeah. Big time.

P: Yeah, great. Well, this has been a terrific conversation and sounds like pipeline coverage is probably what your desert island dashboard would consist of, because that sounds like that's the jumping off point for  cleaning up the pipeline and helping to refocus your team.

O: Yeah, I mean, that would certainly be it. That's like my keystone and I'm actually really interested, Peter, to hear what other sales leaders have to say about what their keystone metric is. I'd have to imagine that it's going to skew towards this, but I could be wrong.

P: Yeah, yeah. No, we'll be definitely publishing the results as we go along. So Oscar, really appreciate the time. It's been great to chat.

O: Thanks, Peter. Nice to meet you.