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How to Say No With Grace, with Keith Jones
Episode 1123rd July 2021 • Revenue Architect • Jeff Ignacio
00:00:00 00:35:16

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"I think the lesson that I'm only just how to say no with grace...and I've been the guy who has said yes more often that no. And it's gotten me into a rough position where i've over extended myself, my team, my resources...and that doesn't leave anybody where they need to be." Keith Jones

Keith is a SaaS veteran who has gone the full circle, from ops to sales and back to ops. A start up warrior through and through, Keith is now at his fifth-venture backed company, running go-to-market systems at Mural.

Keith also runs a non-profit community called Ride and Raise, organizing virtual athletic events every month and raising money for some amazing causes.

Tune in to hear the lesson of saying no, and pick up many other great tips in this episode of The Revenue Architect.

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Jeff: [:

So with that in mind, I want to thank you for joining us. And now onto this episode of the revenue architects.

So we're joined today by Keith Jones. Keith is a SAS veteran who has gone full circle in his career from ops to sales, and then backed off. He has spent time in vertical SAS organizations after getting a start in healthcare, a startup warrior through and through Keith is now at his fifth venture backed company, running go-to-market systems at Mural.

When Keith is looking for ways to improve Mural's overall technology strategy, he helps run a nonprofit community called ride and raise organizing virtual athletic events every month and raising money for amazing causes around the country. So Keith, I'd like to welcome you to the show.

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:01:15] So tell me a little bit about this nonprofit, right and raise it's super exciting.

Keith: [:

I live, I live by myself, so I was starting to go a little stir, crazy. , and a couple of friends. Yeah. Had asked if I had any interest in doing a live Peloton ride, like arranging, like, Hey, let's, let's schedule time to ride together since we can't see each other in person. , since we're all staying home and, staying on quarantine.

And I was like, yeah, absolutely. Let's do it. And so we did that and that was fun. And then another friend of ours was like, What if we challenge people to show up for these rides and in turn, we will donate to charity. If they show up, like for each person we'll donate $5 up to a hundred bucks, like, yeah, let's do it.

So we did it $400 raised that ride. , and we were like, that was amazing. Like, it just felt so good to not only ride with other people while we're, you know, unlocked down and not able to see each other, but also just a chance to. You know, do something, not just for ourselves athletically, but for a great cause.

And so we decided to do it again. And what was really crazy was the second time around the people who came back were like, Hey, you guys, can't be the only ones donating money. How do I give? And that's when we kind of realized we had something. And so we've been doing it every month since, going on just over a year now.

And, , We've raised somewhere between 20 and I think $30,000 for various nonprofits and groups around the country that do really, really amazing work. And it's just been an awesome privilege.

Jeff: [:

Do you have plans for that shift when the pandemic ends?

Keith: [:

And so now we have a little bit more of an inclusive program where you sign up for our events and kind of our flagship event. That culminates, our challenges is still alive Peloton ride because that's where we got our start. But the entire challenge is two weeks long and you can run, walk, swim, do whatever, and log your workouts through apple health, through Strava, whatever.

And that earns you points towards our challenge. And then we give away prizes for whoever earns the most points. So I feel like we're a little post pandemic proof, but yeah. We'll see what happens as the world shifts back to a new normal.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:04:16] absolutely. We love that.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:04:23] Yeah, so Mural, first of all, amazing. Not just cause I, I believe that we have an incredible product. , you know, it's, it's interesting.

Our CEO describes it as having a terrible privilege because we grew up. A lot during the pandemic. And S because our, our, our product was terribly relevant for a time that no one was prepared for where everyone had to go home had to be separated. , and we provide a technology that allows you to collaborate no matter where you are in the world and not, and you don't even have to be, on a live session at the same time, you know, it was, , so we, we have a great product and that's, that's one of the things I love about the company, but what I love most about.

Company is the team and the culture. , you know, I've been at, I've been at Maryland now for about seven months. I, I just happened to find them through LinkedIn as they were, you know, experiencing some explosive growth last year. , and that they were starting to build out their rev ops team. And I was actually the third person.

On the rev ops team, joining last August, , and our team and our culture is just second to none. It's an incredible group of people, incredibly warm, welcoming, talented individuals, but I think my favorite thing above all else, We have created an atmosphere that allows for failure, allows for us to break things every now and then, , it's a little bit less of the, you know, move fast and break things, mentality that Facebook made.

So Pilar Memorial. We expect things to break from time to time because we're moving so quickly because we're growing so much because we're doing so much. , and when failure happens, when things break, which they have happened, even some of them at my very hands, you know, we get encouraged by leadership on down, like it's okay, this is going to happen.

Let's work together to make it better. And I, I couldn't say enough, good things about the company and the culture for that reason alone.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:06:22] Yeah, so I was, I like to joke that I was an operations when I had no business doing so. , I'm a college dropout and so I was a little bit lost in my ways to be totally honest with you earlier. , you know, my early twenties and didn't know what I was going to be doing with my life. , but I had a penchant for numbers.

I was good with technology. I was good with puzzles and I was lucky enough to be hired by a guy who was running operations at this healthcare company building point of care, workstations for nurses. , and they were growing like crazy. We're talking, you know, triple digit growth, , over and over again, year after year.

Ballooning busing at the scenes. And so he hired me just to kind of be a second hand and he gives me a first-class like business education on the fly. And before I know it, I'm building shipping and sales forecasting, and etcetera. I am rewriting processes that we use internally for how to handle customer requests from customers.

, I joked that I was, I was doing sales ops before I knew what sales ops was, , which is what, I looked back on very fortunately, but it was actually at that company. That I had a chance to go into sales and they gave me a chance, to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia time to be an account executive after having spent about two and a half years, in the, in the home office in Detroit, Michigan.

, and I was in sales with them for a little while, until I made my jump over to SAS where I made OBS an AEA. Startup. , and it was there that, I actually ended up transitioning back to ops when I'll all of a sudden, after about six months as an AEand having done pretty well, , we were suddenly found ourselves without a Salesforce admin without any sort of operations after we lost a critical team member.

And so our CEO brought me aside and was like, Hey, you want to learn how to do Salesforce? And he's like, well, sure. Why not? Do I still have a quota? No, just learn how to do Salesforce, but maybe occasionally do a technical demo for these other sales guys who don't know technology at all. I was like, yeah.

Okay, I'll do that. And that was the beginning of my, my, my spin back to operations. And I honestly haven't looked back since it's

Jeff: [:

Put yourself in a position that you, you may not be comfortable with and you found yourself in a career, , and you roll with the punches. You actually flip that into a sales role, which is actually interesting. Most of the folks that I talk to are in sales, who want to flip into ops. And so I'm curious when you flipped over to a frontline selling role, were there anything, was there anything that you learned in your ops?

I guess the role that kind of contributed to your success as nae? Yeah.

Keith: [:

, especially when capital purchases are involved. But I had learned in my early days in ops, how to take a complex problem and break it down to simple initiatives. And I did the same thing with my dealer. And figured out what, what are the simple things that I can do to push this deal further? I may not get me to win.

It may not. It may not definitely won't get it to me tomorrow, but if it even pushes it an inch further, that's an inch that I didn't have the day before. , and I found that to be a lot of success, for me in my early days in sales,

Jeff: [:

You know, I see the sign in button at the top and start now free. So I'm actually able to click the start now free and sign up for an app. I haven't talked to any buddy on your team, any account executives. So, you know, part of buying software today is being able to on-ramp. And I'm curious, you know, given your previous experience as an AED and now in ops, and now you're at a company where you can easily onboard an application to a customer without talking to a sales person.

What does that look like in terms of that learning curve? From your days as frontline selling and supporting a B2B play. And now when we consider a product led growth position,

Keith: [:

I remember back in my days as a seller in healthcare, you know, I did a lot of selling before the customer ever touched the product, you know, and sometimes to be Frank that was necessary because of gaps, the product hat, right. We were a manufacturer physical workstations, and there were things that those workstations physically didn't do that our customer wanted or needed them to do.

But I still had a quota. I still had a number to hit. And so there was a lot of, a lot of selling. , you know, influencing that I needed to do before they physically had their hands on the product, just to make up for some of those things or to get around some things that our competitors would say about us, you know?

And now you go into a conversation is in the today, especially in a product led organization like Mural, and you have to just understand and realize and accept the fact that your customer has already seen the product they've already played with it. And unfortunately they already have some assumptions that there.

Or potentially even misconceptions that they've made based on their initial experience could be something wrong in the product. Could just be something that they perceived incorrectly about the product. And you need to be extremely aware that those things could come up early on. , and you need to learn, figure out how to flush those out.

And so I think it has forced a ease to adapt, at least the ones that are willing to do so. , but I also think that it's created right. More interesting conversation for sales at the front end of the cycle. It's

Jeff: [:

And instead it's a simple. Signing it up the app logging in and you're actually into your instance. , I totally agree that there's, there's a whole different workflow from the technology side, and then there's a whole different workflow from the go to market side, you know, as rev ops and in that space, you know, how is your team.

Positioned to kind of support that value for a buyer or prospect who's already seen your product. I've already formulated that consent, that those misconceptions, like what is exactly that your team takes is top priority to ensure that it's a smooth transition from free trial to hopefully to become a paid

Keith: [:

First and foremost, I think it starts with data, right? It's making sure that when we. Have someone that we know is in the product. , and we're essentially charging, someone in sales or in our case, our marketing team with contacting someone to try and set up a, a bigger, a conversation about their usage of Mural or potential usage that is, , it's making sure that, that person's informed about, you know, Hey, how.

Have they been in this trial? When did they create it? What have they been doing in its sense? How, how much did they actually used it? That kind of goes back to what I said earlier, right. About, you know, this, your customer or your prospect. Has already seen the product. So they've done something could be a little bit, could be a lot.

We do our best to try and give now too much because you don't want to overwhelm any potential individual contributor when they have a lot on their plate and the number to hit, but we try to get them some key, insightful data points around, you know, what that person has been doing in the product up until the point that they're having a conversation with them to lend to that conversation and to inform them of what that person has been up to.

Jeff: [:

It's living in somewhere else. You know, what, what does that infrastructure look like for your team? And is that something that your team is focused on completely in terms of ownership or are you partnering with like product and engineering?

Keith: [:

, revenue ops is primarily sales and customer success. , we also act as ops. I might come back to that one later on. , but marketing ops, you know, they, they own a lot of technology, but they specifically own Marquetto. So that's our, our, our marketing automation platform. And, I have worked in partnership with them along with our data and engineering and product teams in order to create a system where, when things are happening in the product, we're feeding.

Fi things to Marquetto, which is den being segmented and translated as interesting moments, which we can display and report on natively inside of Salesforce. So we kind of treat it with this. Same degree of, you know, downloading a white paper versus, , you know, using a particular template for a particular type of, of workshop inside Mural.

, those are both kind of interesting moments that we surface up to our go to market staff so they can understand. What that person's been doing in the product.

Jeff: [:

And so you're translating that into something that is native right out of Marquetto. And then as native integration to be fed and displayed right in the Salesforce. That makes it very easy for your sales team to one, recognize and read kind of the stream of what's happening and to, from an administrative purpose, from an administrative point of view for rev ops and marketing ops, it is just using off the shelf capabilities.

It's just that front end. From your product to Marquetto that is somewhat customed to you. I think that's really

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:16:58] when you're in rev ops, it's never a one person show.

It's always like, it's always a village, right. It takes to build the entire infrastructure

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:17:08] Maybe we would play it back. Right. So obviously, you know, you're working with. And infrastructure has been built over time. , maybe we can replay back to some of the largest. , most interesting infrastructural changes that maybe you've been a part of.

I'd love to hear a little bit about, you know, what was the situation and the context, , around what this particular project might've been.

Keith: [:

, and so of course, as you know, as a rev ops professional, you walk into a new new company. And specifically if you're working in CRM technology like Salesforce, a brand new org, you've got all kinds of questions. No sales, no two sales forces are the same, right? And so we're, we're trying our best to try and get her as ranked as quickly as possible to get herself sufficient.

But there's a lot to be lots to learn there. Right. A lot to download a lot, a lot of, , documentation for the rate around the things that have been done. And so we just actually went through this and one of her onboarding sessions, just few hours ago. , but this is one of those things that was initial challenge for us on the infrastructure side, but, you know, a fun story at the same time, because it says a lot about our growth.

Right? What, basically what I was doing is I was undoing something that had been done. That was the right move. At the time it was the right way to do it because of where Mural was and its stage of growth, where it was in terms of its client base, where it was in terms of the people that it had, its disposal, the technology, and the people to engineer that technology.

And, you know, for all of us, more seasoned Rabat pros and, Salesforce junkies out there. , what we, what situation we have is. You know, in, in concept we treated every individual team or department that used Mural. Like it was its own customer. You could have just been the marketing department. Or maybe even a very small sub segment of marketing, say 20, 30, 40, 50 people at Microsoft, we treated you like you were Microsoft at large.

And we did the same thing for the product team next to you and data team working out of a different office or all of us working from home, as we know, most of us have been doing for the last year. , and so with that, Well, when I walked in the Mural day one, I discovered that we had gone about using the parent child account hierarchy, to support this purpose.

And so we had child. For every individual team and department that we sold to. And for some that may not sound like that bad idea. It's like, okay, great. Yeah. At least you can see them visually and whatnot, but here's the thing. We do a lot of transactions and we do them quickly, especially with these smaller teams that only have 10, 20, 30 people, you know, our AEs will close those in under a week.

, and so. It's a lot of data and it's a lot of layers. When you start talking about parent and child and then opportunities fitting in between, where does the contact go? I don't know. Did we create a child account on time? Is it labeled correctly? And then don't even get me started about duplicates because.

You said towns all look the same, Microsoft, Microsoft dash marketing, come on now. , so we had a problem, right, but it was a, it was, it was a growing pain. It was a factor of us growing so quickly, over the last couple of years. And, , but we had to figure a way to move forward. Well, we ended up doing was incorporating a new custom element that we decided to call a team.

It's a custom object. , and it's a grouping mechanism for our ops and we did away with all of the superfluous child accounts. And now we have a true enterprise structure. If you look at Microsoft and our CRM today, you can see Microsoft, you can see LinkedIn as a subsidiary of their, since they acquired them.

And then you can see all the teams that we've worked with inside Microsoft are all. Teams within LinkedIn that we've worked with. , and in the individual transactions that each team has incurred with us as part of their usage. , but it was a slog of a effort. I mean, we're talking, a month and a half of scope and prep another month of solicitation and getting feedback and.

Prepping everyone for it because it's such a huge shift. And then another month of work on in the background and building everything in a sandbox and testing the living daylights out of it. , all of a sudden done, I think we, we Fischli started this project sometime in November, like, or maybe late October last year.

And we weren't really set and done with it. About a couple of weeks ago in full once, we had completely cleaned out all of the old data from our system, after all the changes and new functionality had been introduced. It was a big effort. It was awesome. It was a team effort. , and it was received very well, especially from our account executives who had always been so confused as to where their opportunities were sitting.

Was it on the child account? Was that on a parent account and on a child of a child who knew. , but we were able to give them a lot more clarity in the CRM by introducing this much more simple. Structured, our data. So

Jeff: [:

And then what happens even more to, you know, the, bring your own software to work situation where you have an employee come in as a personal account, it's a free trial and then pay for their own account, or then later get merged into an enterprise. And so it's an elegant solution that you've chosen. In fact, it's one of the things that we're working on today.

At my own company, upkeep, you know, we sell a maintenance and reliability software to companies. But they're actually being used on site at a specific location. Cause we, you know, folks who are in facilities management so much, like you're a team it's very similar. You have these, you know, sibling locations rolling up to your company.

And that company may actually roll up to another company. So you have this cross and matrix view of users and who is the ultimate kind of paying account or a master master agreement holder?

Keith: [:

And when they would find a new team, we would make. You know, require them to go in and create a child account for this design team that we're going to hopefully sell a new subscription to. And we manage with a way with this, , you know, more elegant way of this custom object just to automate it all because, because it's not an overly complex piece of infrastructure, which an account easily can become in Salesforce.

We were usually, we were able to just require a couple of key data. Tell us who the team is, , you know, at key inflection points in the buyer cycle, and we will automate for them and create the team record, , and make sure so completely saved, our users a step. , I haven't quite quantified it yet, but I would love, I need to go back and see just how much time we're saving these people now that they don't have to create child accounts for every new deal that we closed.


Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:24:34] Yep. Absolutely.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:24:56] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So, , it's interesting. Right? So we've got, we've got, I'll start with data. Cause they're, they're, they're, they're the newest team. , and those are the ones that are working on basically built, you know, A lot of SAS companies have some sort of data warehouse, right. That's owned by our data team.

, but they are the gatekeepers and the guardians of all the different ways that we are pulling data from various sources like Salesforce, like Marketo. Mean a combination of both from the product. , and so those are the owners of Tableau. They, you know, their, their primary customers are anyone in the business that needs, you know, a big picture insight around, , any particular area that, that they're responsible for, whether it be someone in customer success or someone in partnerships.

, and then. My team and the rest of revenue operations gets a, a really awesome chance to work with them in PR in close partnership, to make sure that they are the right data is being pulled in and giving the right context to that. And so that's awesome. So that's the data team and then the biz ops team is really kind of focused on financial data, at large, , they're doing a number of different things, but they're there.

Somewhat of like the growth function that you might see in rev ops at times where they're staring down at our air, our modeling, and they're staring at our forecasting and they're, and they're trying to figure out, you know, what, you know, where can we expect to be as a business, not just as a sales team, because we have multiple revenue streams.

Right? We have people that we sell to directly, you know, over zoom or through some sort of phone call or with a big enterprise client. But then we also have people, like you mentioned earlier, that kind of. Bring your own software to work. , people who are just buying neural online and paying for it themselves.

So there's a lot of work to be done there in, in our fantastic biz ops team is doing that and I get to work with them because a lot of our AR data comes directly from Salesforce. And then we've got marketing ops. Gosh, I love those guys. They're so cool. , so we have, , we're, we're set up in a way where, , you know, account development, business development, sales, development, whatever you want to call it.

, we call it account development, but that lives under marketing, with us. , No by an oh my by no mistake either because our CEO, our CMO is from a terminal software for it's showing, you know, the purveyors of account-based marketing. And so, , he's got, he's built an incredible organization, and has some amazing leaders, , you know, building out that function and in marketing ops services then at large, but there's a lot of.

Parallel work and a lot of partnership between marketing ops and rev ops and specifically, my team within rev ops and systems. And then I worked very closely with the Marchetto admin in, in marketing ops, who works with those admins on my team to make sure that data's flowing properly. Do we need new when we need new fields?

When we need to, add new things to the different pages in Salesforce and various technologies that marketing owns, like Marquetto like demand. Like chili Piper for booking meetings on behalf of sales, those sorts of things. So that's kind of how, those four teams play together.

Jeff: [:

Right? Cause my own team we've actually set up our own data warehouse as well. And so the whole concept of ATLs and reverse TTLs for my team, I have folks who, you know, our systems, admins, they're specialists in their own specific softwares and to work with, you know, these databases and finding ways for them to get in and out of your system while maintaining, you know, specific rate limits.

, it's not, it's a it's, it's, it's not common, actually. It's not the very, the very first thing that, you know, your, your ops team is going to leap at. , but you know, , everyone needs that data, particularly with usage, cohorts or hand raises around these free trials look very promising or Hey, someone just signed up for this account needs to be, potentially stitched up to an enterprise license.

I can see where that airplay comes together between all these different teams.

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:29:06] , for those of you who are in your position today or would like to be, you know, what are some things you think are. Relevant to, you know, to their future success. What advice would you give someone that is kind of coming up through the ranks?


Keith: [:

And I've been the guy who has said yes, more often than he said no. And it's gotten me into a rough position where I've overextended myself, my team, my resources, and what I can get done, and that doesn't leave anybody where they need to be. , but when you say no to people. You have to find a way to do it with greatest and you have to in a way to do it with evidence too.

So I think that's the biggest piece of advice I would give anyone. Looking at a role like mine or in a role in rev ops is just learn how to say no, but to say no in a fact-based empathetic way. , so as to clearly communicate why you're saying no, not just that you're turning them down based on their latest requests.

I love that

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:30:48] Yep. And not only that, but on a very tactical level, find a way to build a queue.

I don't care if it's a Google sheet, a doc, hell, it could be sticky notes on your desk. That's not probably the best way to deal it, but you know, we know what we're saying is find a way to create a running list of all the requests that you're getting. And then second to your point, Jeff, about prioritization do not try to prioritize things on your own.

That's where you need to ask others, not just the, your peers, but the people above you and in the particular leadership positions, because the reality is. You as an individual contributor or even a middle manager, I don't think you are in the best position possible to, to determine the best priorities. I think those are best done with other people being part of that conversation.

And more importantly, you don't want to be the one left holding the bag when you're saying, Hey, I can't do this right now because I'm working on X, Y, and Z. When it's a much better position to be, I'm like, I can't do this. Marketing needs us or because the CRO has asked for this, this and this, when we get through these things, we can go to it.

So that way you have someone who can back you up as well. Not that it's a game of politics, sometimes it is, but you want to be able to have people understand where these priorities are coming from, and that you're not the only one making those decisions. So we

Jeff: [:

, tell me about that.

Keith: [:

, so I'll always be a big fan of, of the Manhattan of the south as they call it. But, , I'm on my way up to the actual Manhattan to the, you know, the city so nice. They named it twice and I can't, I can't wait, but it's just a, you know, for me it was taking a step and doing something I hadn't done before and here I am moving to New York cause I haven't done it before.

So, , there's not much else to it to be perfectly honest with you. It was just felt like it was time to change it up. Try a new strategy, you know, and not that I wasn't growing in Atlanta, but I wanted to swim in some different waters and you're right. So if you're

Jeff: [:

, show him around town.

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:33:15] We have this last segment, I call it the Rorschach test. I'm just going to say a few things would love to hear the first thing that comes to your mind. So let me know when you're ready to go.

Keith: [:

Jeff: [00:33:28] Alright. Personalization versus relevance, ,

Keith: [:

There's a lot to unpack there. Oh, you

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:33:44] not as important as other things, MQL really. Only if your data is good enough, we think,

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:33:51] I would say same answer as before, but also only if everyone involved agrees on the definitions,

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:34:02] ADR says every time, weight loss reviews, absolutely critical.

, can never be done soon enough pipeline management failed the existence of all account executives. Make it as easy as possible is cold calling dead. Absolutely fucking not. All right, Keith.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:34:23] They can hit me up on LinkedIn at any time.

This is a fun little fact. I think I have one of the most relevant links. Profiles, for our particular profession, will lead you right to my profile, smack that bad boy about six, seven years ago, when vanity URLs first became a thing and I will never give it up.

, and then, I'm on, on social, on Instagram, but LinkedIn is probably the best way to, to get ahold of me.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:34:55] If you're in Wiz ops, that is a great way to get ahold of me. I spent a lot of time in there just whether it's connecting, sharing ideas, or just like having fun social conversations with folks like yourself and others.

I'm a, I'm a huge promoter and big fan of it.

Jeff: [:

Keith: [00:35:15] Appreciate you having me.