How PowerReviews Uses Data to Win at Account-based Prospecting

Todd Caponi is a self-proclaimed geek for sales methodology and buyer psychology. As the Senior VP of Sales for PowerReviews, he is responsible for building and driving the sales organization behind the growing SaaS company. “When I started two years ago, we had seven reps,” Caponi says. “Now, we have thirty-eight, and out of that number there are eight who are focused on enterprise sales to companies with $1 billion or more in revenue.”

Prior to signing on with PowerReviews, Caponi was part of the sales leadership team at ExactTarget, and before that he held a similar role with Right Hemisphere. Both companies had successful exits – ExactTarget to the tune of $2.5 billion in a deal with

Caponi has grown the PowerReviews sales team quickly and effectively by implementing and iterating upon the many insights he has gained over the years. Part of his strategy is expanding PowerReviews’ capacity for account-based sales and marketing.

Start with the Right Philosophy: Make Your Customer Smarter

“At scale, account-based prospecting is really hard,” Caponi admits. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t committed to making it work. Caponi knows from experience that a successful account-based strategy requires a tailored approach that’s all about the customer.

“When I first arrived at PowerReviews, the team was using the same ‘we-we’ deck to present to every client,” Caponi recalls. “This is the standard deck that we’ve all seen — about what we do, the products we sell, our locations, our clients, awards we’ve won.”

“The problem is,” he adds, “the client doesn’t care. They don’t care that we’ve got an office in the UK or that Crocs is one of our customers. All the person you’re pitching cares about is how he feels when he’s sitting in his cube, hating life because it’s so hard, and he wants to know what you’re going to do to make it better.”

Caponi suggests that his team members think of themselves as personal trainers. “We were going in to pitch a new prospect, and the first half of the deck was all about us,” Caponi recalls. “I encouraged our CEO and the rep to scrap that and instead figure out a few key things our prospect could be doing better. From there, we would build our whole presentation around the idea of making the prospect smarter and helping them be better at what they do.”

This is an approach that Caponi recommends for almost all initial meetings. “The good news, in our business, is that you can go to a website and see how they interact with their consumer to a point where your prospecting can actually get account based,” he says. “One of the exercises we do with our reps, for instance, is to give them a list of five things to look for at a brand or retailer site, and then we challenge them to find one to three things the prospect could be doing better. We can then lead with those insights when we’re doing our prospecting. We might say, ‘We noticed a couple of potential opportunities based on how you’re interacting with consumers, and we’d love to talk with you about it.’ This makes the conversation very specific to the account.”

Sales and Marketing Alignment is Key

While his primary focus is on his sales team, Caponi works closely with PowerReviews’ Senior VP of Marketing, Theresa O’Neil, in order to cultivate and maintain a strong alignment between the two departments. His approach begins with the structure of the sales team and prioritization of accounts.

“From a sales perspective, each of the reps has a named account patch or a named prospect patch,” Caponi explains. “The number one reason for this is to provide focus. We want them to know their turf so that our marketing team can market more effectively to the prospects.” Each salesperson is responsible for researching the makeup of prospects in their patch.

Accounts are selected using a predictive analytics tool called SalesPredict. “We run algorithms around where we’ve had success in the past, where we’ve had the least friction, and where we’ve achieved the most substantial ACV,” Caponi says. “Then, we match that up against industries, level of individuals whom we know, and other criteria to come up with the final list.”

Prioritizing accounts is the next step. “We give new reps a list that’s a little bigger than what their focus list will be along with the SalesPredict data and ask them to whittle the list down,” Caponi says. “We want our enterprise reps to be focused on penetration strategies for their top 15 or so accounts. We want them figuring out who we know in the account, who we can refer through, which partners might provide an introduction, what’s the in-house ecommerce platform, whether we know anyone there who can get us an audience.”

While the enterprise sales reps are focused on getting in front of the right people at their top priority accounts, the lower priority targets are channeled to other teams: second tier accounts to the business development group and the bottom tier to marketing for nurturing.

The marketing team uses a variety of tactics – outbound marketing, web pages, field marketing, webinars – to reach prospects by vertical and sub-vertical categories. “For example, we have marketing programs that are focused on the apparel space, but within that space we can also drill down to the shoe space,” Caponi says. “We gain really actionable data from these campaigns, which marketing can then share with our sales reps who tackle each account on a one-off basis.”

Employing Outside-the-Box Tactics

In addition to standard types of marketing campaigns, the PowerReviews sales and marketing teams also employ some less-traditional and less-ubiquitous methods to reach prospective clients.

“We do some really high-touch campaigns,” Caponi explains. “For one, we sent drones to our top 15 prospects and landed 13 first appointments as a result.”

The marketing team also has a number of data initiatives that provide the sales team with deep and often proprietary insights. “Marketing sponsors research studies with Northwestern University, which give us a lot of really good data to inform individualized, vertical-focused conversations,” Caponi says. “This helps the reps out quite a bit.”

The reps also benefit from analysis of internal data. “We can pull a lot of network data as a result of having beacons on the websites of all our brands and retailers,” Caponi explains. “We have a data scientist who looks at generacized data by industry and provides marketing with a ‘here’s the message’ spin, which the sales reps can then use in their prospecting efforts.”

Finally, Caponi & O’Neil have also recently kicked off an initiative to have each sales rep identify the executive sponsor and day-to-day person for each of their target accounts. “We set these up as roles in Salesforce and are currently working to compile as complete a ‘watch list’ as possible,” Caponi says. “This makes it easier for us to manage conversations by vertical, but it’s also an important way for us to stay really on top of what’s happening.”

Account-based Prospecting is a Long Game

“We measure something called client interactions,” Caponi says. “After a rep has a meaningful interaction with a client, they document it and measure those. Then we waterfall it down like everybody else would and look at how many opportunities are being developed as a result of those interactions, how much pipeline, and how much we are converting to ACV.”

Caponi acknowledges that finding the right balance between interactions and more traditional measurement and projection tactics is an ongoing process. “It took us a little while to figure out what’s the best ratio between those two,” he says. “We’ve gotten to a point now where we can be really proactive around the individual reps and are able to forecast our business based on a lot of those waterfall metrics.”

The good news for Caponi’s sales team is that they have a lot of opportunities. “This is not a crowded space. There are only two companies that can really serve the enterprise market,” Caponi says. “Last month, over a 24-hour period in New York, we met with 4 major prospects in one day. We get lots of at bats and really good client interactions.”

Looking Ahead to Better Data & More Tailored Messaging

Account-based marketing and prospecting takes patience and perseverance. “Many of our enterprise account prospects are very long term plays,” says Caponi. “As such, we have regular educational discussions to continue to update them on our product, share industry data and so forth. These interactions also gives us the opportunity to look for any chinks in the armor that might give us a way to move into a competitor’s turf.”

Meanwhile, Caponi and his team continue to explore other opportunities. “We are investing in building out a broader data strategy to ensure we are creating actionable insights for our team,” Caponi says.

“Consumers are coming to your website and pouring their hearts and souls out to you with their products and services. We’ve got to be able to leverage that data better through building out the insights and data portion of our business.”

“We’re also continuing to work really hard with both our reps and marketing to create even more tailored messages,” Caponi adds. “There’s a lot of status quo we need to dislodge at the enterprise level. There’s not a ton of greenfield at the highest level accounts, so we need to stay focused on taking that personal trainer approach to show them how they can do better and how we can help get them there.”

“That’s what our reps are doing all day long – figuring out the account-based prospecting message that’s really going to resonate, and then working with marketing to figure out how we scale it down to the lowest level,” Caponi says.

Simple right?

Liz Cain
Liz Cain

Liz Cain leads the firm’s Investment team and sits on the Investment Committee. Liz joined OpenView in 2016 to lead the Expansion Platform delivering recruiting, market insights and marketing/sales strategy services to our portfolio. Today, she manages the Investment team and focuses on developing the systems, processes and team to identify and win the best expansion stage software deals.
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