Buildium's Jeff Harrelson Lays the Groundwork for Account-based Sales
Buildium’s Senior Manager of Sales Operations, Jeff Harrelson, talks about his company’s efforts to move toward an account-based sales and marketing model in the latest in our occasional series of Strategic BizOps Profiles.
Stephanie Fox: Before you joined Buildium in 2016, you were at Rapid7, where you had experience with Account-Based programs. How you are applying what you learned there to what you’re doing at Buildium?
Jeff Harrelson: At Rapid7, we had a very structured approach from an account-based selling and marketing perspective. For example, our U.S. commercial sales organization was split into 3 teams that were focused on a specific segment: mid-market, named accounts and the enterprise space, and addressed each type of prospect differently. What I took away from that experience is that you have to be very strategic about your approach.
Buildium sells a web-based solution to property managers in the SMB market. We generally sell one product to break into an account and then we offer additional, add-on services over time such as electronic payments, tenant screening, or 1099 processing. Buildium was founded in 2004, but the company has only had a formal sales and marketing team for the past 2 or so years. Before that, prospects would select a subscription plan from Buildium’s web site under a self-service model; they had no interaction with a sales rep.
We’re just getting off the ground with sales and marketing now and starting to use account-based sales techniques to help our sales reps get their foot in the door. For example, sales reps have just recently been assigned to accounts based on how many units a property manager has under management. Our strategic reps will target property managers with 501 or more units, and our other sales consultants focus on smaller accounts. Property managers with less than 41 units still use our self-service model.
SF: You’re preparing your first sales kick-off. What kind of training is involved with bringing folks up to speed in terms of skills?
JH: We’re going to have our first sales kickoff ever after roughly 2 years of having a sales team so everyone in sales is pretty excited about it. We’re bringing in a sales trainer to help our sales reps focus on how to work through deals, but we’re also going to have one training around rules of engagement and prospecting for our new strategic team that focuses on the largest accounts. These accounts will be off limits from an outbound BDR perspective, so we’ll be looking at the most effective ways for these reps to prospect. With the SMB market it’s very tough to find prospects because there aren’t many databases out there containing property management contacts, so we’ll be conducting training around creative ways to break into accounts.
SF: What tools are you relying on to support account-based planning and reporting at Buildium?
JH: We’re initially using Excel to build our dashboards so we can see our sold add-on revenue penetration by individual rep and by account. If you say on average each rep has 200 accounts, of that, how many accounts already own each of our nine add-on products and how much revenue is that generating? Excel is still the most flexible tool from my perspective when trying to pursue an account-based everything approach. You’re not going to get it right the first time and Excel is flexible when you need to make changes.
We use Salesforce as a second way to measure our performance. Once you have confidence in the data through Excel, you can take that next step and build it out in Salesforce. Domo is our business intelligence tool; it’s a way to automate reporting. However, without doing the work first in Excel to know that you are reporting and analyzing things correctly, it’s unlikely you’ll see the data you want out of the box from an automated tool. We’re also using Evergage to report on our usage of our add-ons. It’s a great tool because it gives us perspective into how our current customers interact with our software and gives us a sense of who may be looking at additional add-on services so we can directly follow up with them.
SF: Do you have any advice for someone charged with bringing account-based sales strategies into their organization?
JH: First, focus on alignment; it’s the most important thing you can do. Make sure that alignment across your internal teams is very solid. Think about the whole sales cycle — marketing and sales process and customer success and support — because everyone needs to be aligned in order for this strategy to work. Make sure that everyone who needs to be engaged is actively involved from the start.
Second, I’d say that reporting is key. The dashboards are going to be different for each team in terms of the KPIs, and will probably be different from the ones already in place. Since account-based sales and marketing is so new, it’s critical that you work closely with management to define what success looks like. This will ensure that when you get those reports up and running, everyone will have the same sense of what’s working and what’s not.
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Steph served as Rekener’s Community Manager and CMO. A Rekener co-founder, she was previously Senior Director of Marketing at CCC, a $300M+ recurring revenue business, and served in marketing leadership roles at Vertical, @stake, Informio, DotContent and Meridian. Her first recurring revenue role was as an inside sales rep selling real-time stock pricing subscriptions.
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