Market Research

What I Learned at SaaStr from Leading Enterprise Software Experts

February 24, 2016

I had the pleasure of attending the SaaStr Annual 2016 Conference in San Francisco earlier this month and wanted to share some of the insights I gathered from that event with you here. The findings below are arranged by functional area with attribution. I tried to compress the content as much as possible, but there was A TON of great information at the conference so would highly recommend spending the time to read or flip through.


Sales & Marketing

Segmentation by type of sale (new business, upsell, cross-sell, expansion), type of GTM (field sales, inside sales, or internet sales), and lead source (website, event, email) is key to sales and marketing efficiency and scale. The best sales and marketing leaders understand and communicate the different funnels they’re measuring to their employees and proactively experiment with new ways to improve those funnels.

Top-tier investors put pressure on sales management to make sure they have good sales training, sales enablement, and sales operations programs. These are truly what make a sales team capable of scaling beyond a few dozen people.

– Marketo SVP of Sales Bill Binch

Enterprise deals are sold at mid-market price point when a mid-market rep is running the deal. NetSuite won a $400,000 dollar deal, but their competitor bid the deal at $80 million; value was undoubtedly left on the table.

– NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson (You can find the full interview here)

Pipeline can be a red herring if used inappropriately.

Facial and voice analytics will provide an order of magnitude impact on increasing sales productivity in the next 5 years.

– Zoom Video President Dave Berman

Customer Success

NetSuite has an entire BI team dedicated to quantifying customer churn and lifetime value.

– NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson

Product usage is undoubtedly the best indicator of upcoming churn. Marketo has a “save team” that would engage deeply with a customer to get them back on track if they were at risk.

– Marketo SVP of Sales Bill Binch

It’s crucial to measure and report on up-sell (more usage of the same product), cross-sell (usage of a new product), and expansion (selling to another group of buyers at the same customer) separately.

– BetterWorks Head of Customer Success April Oman

Product & Engineering

New Relic has a team specifically dedicated to the “first minute experience” of their product. They found that optimizing the very first part of the onboarding process had a huge impact on increasing success engagement and success. It also had a big impact on building their brand.

Different types of growth require dramatically different skill sets. This is succinctly captured in McKinsey’s “Three Horizons” concept.

– New Relic CEO Lew Cirne

Partners & Ecosystem

A vibrant partner ecosystem (specifically around implementation partners) is a key ingredient to a company becoming hugely successful. Salesforce, Atlassian, and Box attribute ecosystems to their rapid growth.

– Salesforce SVP of Partner Programs Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh


Always consider how you can set the foundation now for the new level of growth you’ll experience in a few months.

– New Relic CEO Lew Cirne

The three things that lead to longevity of companies are vision of the company, financial management, and quality of the employees.

Efficiently running a distributed-office company is paramount to growth beyond 300 employees. It’s easier to hire 500 people across 10 offices than it is to hire 500 people across 1 or 2.

– NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson

The nature of the relationship between sales complexity and CAC is exponential. Decreasing sales complexity (i.e., going from high touch field sales to high touch inside sales) will exponentially improve the CAC if revenue goals can be met with lower cost GTM.

Another way to think about SaaS unit economics is a sales person as the unit of growth rather than a customer as a unit of growth.

– Matrix Partners Investor David Skok


Over-capitalized companies have a lot to prove. There are many dynamics here, but companies that have prioritized growth at all costs will either be forced to take significant dilution or cut costs dramatically if they don’t have a viable plan to get cheap capital.

– New Relic CEO Lew Cirne

Image by SaaStr.

Business Operations & Strategy

Rene is the Manager, Business Operations & Strategy at <a href="">Socrata</a>, where he develops data-driven systems and approaches to optimize Socrata's business operations and strategy in sales, marketing, customer success, engineering, product, and finance.