“Scale or die” is often thrown around in jest, and the phrase probably contains more truth than fiction, but it’s missing a few steps. Michelle Pietsch, Associate VP of Sales at Datadog, thinks that one of the biggest missing steps in scaling with rapid growth is patience.
Michelle joined the Datadog team as its third sales rep, and she’s had a direct hand in helping companies around the world monitor all types of applications and infrastructure while also scaling the company to more than 300 team members.
In the world of SaaS — where rapid growth is the expected — words like patience, consensus, and change management can seem taboo. But Michelle believes they are key to successfully scaling a company of any size.
Before joining Datadog, Michelle experienced a similar trajectory at uTest. She joined that team as the third employee and helped them scale from small beginnings as well. And based on her experiences at both companies, Michelle notes that speed isn’t always a good thing:
“One thing I took from uTest to Datadog: when you're adding different processes and things are changing daily at a rapid pace, you have to be patient and not always think of the negative.”
At both companies, Michelle built team structures, sales flows, cadences, email templates, and much more, with patience and a positive mindset. Identifying why changes are being made, and what the positive outlook can be going forward, helps ensure that everyone is on the same page, says Michelle. She also knows that level of transparency isn’t always easy, because “if one team doesn’t agree with a certain change, it’s going to hinder the culture and mentality of every other team.”
What end does such patience serve? Consensus in the company’s direction going forward. In her time with Datadog, Michelle has seen this strategy work both within teams and across departments:
“Collaboration between the marketing organization and sales is key. That’s how we’ve been really successful. Weekly meetings with the marketing team, on even the smallest updates, have armed us with talking points, competitive analysis, and sales pitches.”
Michelle goes on to quantify the ways that this overall consensus trickles down into everyday deliverables that help close more deals: “Sales managers work with our marketing team to enable reps with email templates, messaging, and an overall strategy for putting our best foot forward when selling.” More refined email templates and messaging communicated through employee training software means the sales team can be more focused and consistent, but consensus also impacts other areas of the business.
Michelle remembers a conversation that came out of a board meeting at the end of 2015 when the team realized the demand for Datadog was far outweighing the current 10 rep sales team. “We were crushing it. Each rep had eight inbound trial-sign ups,” she says. “We realized if we had 10 more reps, we could be hitting X amount more in revenue. We had all this interest in Datadog and only 10 salespeople.” That was the moment that Michelle and the Datadog board came to a consensus to hire more SDRs to capitalize on the swell of inbound interest.
Of course, Michelle admits, having too many leads is a good problem, with a pretty clear solution. But building consensus to act on those leads is what allowed Michelle to double the sales team to 20 SDRs.
Doubling a sales team doesn’t happen overnight, and Michelle notes that leaders should be aware of the process changes that come with scaling quickly, “it was really easy to onboard and get everyone up and running on the Datadog process when there were six of us. At 60-plus, we absolutely had to put together an onboarding program for our AEs and SDRs.”
Effectively planning change management, and building processes that develop employee growth is the final piece for successfully scaling a company. On a sales team specifically, there are many sales training ideas to consider. Michelle says this can mean “almost daily training,” whether that’s an hour of shadowing or role plays with managers.
“We have a structure,” she says, “where at a certain point, team leads are responsible for teaching the core skill sets [needed] to become a successful account executive.” It’s an effective carrot that shows SDRs there is a growth path toward promotion. “Because of that, we don’t have much turnover on our SDR team,” she says.
In a growing company, employee development comes down to team leaders giving employees the tools and information they need to do better work. “What I’ve found is that our SDRs are younger and always looking for that next step,” Michelle says. Because of that hunger, she regularly sends out surveys asking what type of training they want and what information they need. “It’s awesome to see they just want more enablement for their own success.”
Change management. Rapid growth. And… patience. While one of these is not quite like the others, all three are necessary for supporting a growing sales team. Finding a balance between rapid improvement and thoughtful growth can be difficult, but the end result is a more stable company that is better-equipped to flourish in the long run.
Kyle Lacy is currently Vice President of Marketing for Lessonly, a modern team learning software company based in Indianapolis, IN. He's tasked with leading a team of amazing marketers and setting the strategic vision for the company.