Updated: Jan 18
Since our blog post looking at "14 SDR Leaders You Should Be Following On LinkedIn" we've been tracking down some of those on the list for a chat and to understand what we might learn from them as successful sales leaders.
This week we spoke to Alex Alleyne, Regional Sales Manager for EMEA at Lacework, a cloud security platform who recently made headlines for raising the largest funding round in security industry history, with their impressive £1.3 billion Series D.
Alex’s career stretches back through 10 years of tech sales where he worked his way up from BDR to generating over £30M in sales revenue, being twice recognised as a Top 10 LinkedIn “Top Voice” along the way. To top it all off he’s very open and honest in sharing how he got here and we learnt a lot from him in this conversation.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks or follow us on LinkedIn as we expand our talks to other SDR leaders.
Here's the transcript in full:
Hi Alex, thanks for joining us today, really appreciate it.
Absolute pleasure, delighted to be here. What better way to spend a Friday afternoon.
I can think of a few, but this is also good!
Why don’t you intro a bit about yourself, your career journey to Lacework, and what you're up to?
Yeah, absolutely, I'll try and summarize my life story in 30 seconds…
So I've been in sales about ten years now with the majority of that time in tech and SaaS, starting off back at a company called Danwood as a BDR/SDR, hammering the phones booking tons of appointments per day and then really just incrementally worked my way up.
I think the bigger milestones were probably my few years at Twilio, when I joined as one of the first hires in EMEA and now they're about 8,000 people globally, and then spent some time at AWS before moving on to Lacework. We're doing a lot of fun things in the cybersecurity space and really trying to transform security in the cloud, so yeah, really exciting times here at Lacework.
Yeah I've seen the news, the case studies and the funding - hyper growth gets thrown around a lot but you guys really are on that upwards trajectory, with great tech as well that backs it all up.
Absolutely, yeah, spot on.
So you've been in sales for a while now and you're a big advocate of prospecting, talk to me about how you’ve seen it transition - how were you prospecting then versus how are you prospecting now? What are the similarities and is there stuff you're perhaps just not doing anymore or is there stuff you've increased?
Back when I started out, sales engagement tools and the tech was almost non-existent, certainly nowhere near as mature as it is today, so really my technology was just my laptop and a phone - prospecting then pretty much looked like just absolutely hammering it in terms of volume with hundreds of calls a day and also just getting out there, actually going and knocking on doors, walking into offices, and trying to just make it happen.
It was kind of a hustle mentality and really either you thrived in that or you didn't. To this day I still feel like it's been a massive part of my success because after you live in the trenches in that way to start with, everything else feels a lot easier after that. So I think it was a blessing in disguise.
As we’ve moved through the years, I think one of the biggest differences has been to just become a lot more methodical and think about how I can drive the best return on investment on my time.
Prospecting now, I tend to really focus on tiering things, i.e. having a tier 1 gold standard, a tier 2 which is partly personalized / partly automated, and then a third tier which is a lot more automated. But in that first tier that's really where the personalization and the messaging becomes a lot more important, and then just balancing it out again to use the automation to have more reach and things like that.
Yeah interesting, so it's a bad model, effectively, to do high personalization for everyone because otherwise you'll never get around to doing your activities.
How do you typically decide on those tiers, for example is it from highest propensity to buy?
Yeah well it definitely ties into that and your ideal customer profile (ICP).
I try and look out for three to five ICP criteria that I can say “if these prospects or customers have these ingredients then the propensity to buy is very high”.
If they've got all five that would typically warrant that they go into the Tier 1; and if they’ve maybe got three of the five that's probably a Tier 2; and then one/two of the five is a Tier 3.
A Tier 1 that's got all five of those ingredients gives me a ton of momentum to say these guys are probably buying what I'm selling.
Specifically for Tier 1 then, once you've identified that they've got a few of the check marks and it looks like a really good account, what's your process from there and how many people are you targeting?
I tend to start off by having some form of a hypothesis about that account, understanding what are the moving parts and who are the key stakeholders.
I'll often then pick out two key contacts and I've got a big focus on getting up to eight touchpoints with a contact before moving on to the next one.
So I'll start with the couple and then spend a lot of time on the hypothesis understanding what compelling events are happening within the account, are their areas of interest that I can map to, and then go across my eight different touchpoints using different channels that always tie into a compelling event or an area of interest.
That's given me a great success rate because there is that level of personalization, that level of research, but at the same time not ignoring the fact that you do need to have multiple touch points with a prospect typically to drive some form of next action.
Yeah, that's brilliant. And eight touchpoints gives you that broad set as it's not necessarily just one channel that's gonna fit all eight, it's going to be different based on each person.
When it comes to personalization, often you'll have certain sales people spending half a day writing one invite or you'll get someone else doing the complete opposite with a spray and pray type of mentality.
What personalization tactics do you recommend, and are there any that work particularly well for you?
So I think there's no magic secret, right?
You know, I'm looking at LinkedIn profiles, I'm running searches and things like that, and part of the reason I came on this podcast actually is because OneShot is a tool that I started experimenting with fairly recently - what I really like is how it can expedite that time towards collecting information and doing the research to get a quick view around what's important within an account.
Of course you guys through the AI can also provide messaging suggestions and recommendations, but the old school is doing the homework, doing the research, especially as what we do here at Lacework the heartbeat of it is AI-centric - I'm a big fan of trying to leverage technology to drive a better return on your time.
And so the direction of travel for OneShot I think is great for the market.
People out there are listening to this thinking about how so many different types of products do the same things these days and our buyers are hearing it all the time - is there a way to cut through the noise of other sellers or is it still just a numbers game sometimes?
You're in the security space which is notoriously a competitive industry and there are lots of different software vendors out there, Lacework have got phenomenal product but it's hard to get through that competitive noise. How do you differentiate?
Yeah, I think it starts with you've got to be, first of all, very clear about where the unique differentiation is and how you can defend against it.
It might sound trivial but I think you've really got to truly believe it and embody it. And I think that in itself sometimes is the differentiator.
For example, if I come on here and have this conversation with you and I said “hey, we’ve got this pretty cool thing, Lacework is pretty good and, you know, it's a good new security tool” versus saying [more upbeat] “Lacework is absolutely the most transformative next generation cloud security... etc.”. Then the energy and the vigor that I bring to that massively changes how you feel about it
That comes through in your messaging, your calls, everything of that nature. Whenever I work for a company I've absolutely got to believe in it: I've got to back the tech. I almost think it starts with that versus any kind of secret sales process or way of going about things.
Yeah, completely. Any company I've joined in the past you've got to buy in at the interview stage, right? Like do you believe in the tech, the company, the people, the market? Another good way to think about it is what if I was a buyer, would I buy? How does it differentiate?
You’re obviously at the later stage of your career in an enterprise role, so you've got to balance prospecting with building pipeline whilst also managing complex deals. Anyone who's closed complex deals knows they can be incredibly stressful, it doesn't matter how much you’ve qualified them, there's always curve balls that come up.
So how do you balance still trying to build pipeline whilst dealing with complex enterprise deals? Do you end up having to reduce or stop prospecting sometimes?
Yeah, sure, it's a great question.
The first mantra I’d say is never stop prospecting!
The mentality has always got to be that that journey of PG never ends, quarter-end or otherwise.
The thing that I've become really focused on is how I can drive the best ROI on my time. Part of that is thinking about what my scaling mechanisms are, and so when it comes to PG: how can I scale “me”, how can I add some more arrows to my bow to drive that same outcome?
If you're fortunate enough to have an SDR team like me then one of those becomes what training, coaching, or enablement can I do to put my team in the best possible position to maximize their results. Or have you got a channel team? Are there partnerships that you can build? Are there automations that you can leverage to do some more work for you while you sleep? And is there a particular hour in every single day that you can carve out and commit to PG whether it's quarter-end or the beginning of a month.
All of these things become really important as well as obsessing about the outcomes and the target.
Between the SDR that I collaborate with we have this mantra that we “don't miss” and every other day on Slack we message each other saying, right, we've got to do this. This week alone I had three days out of the office because of QBRs and meetings, so we only had two days to meet and exceed our number and we just said to each other, “we don't miss”.
So it's the mentality combined with those scaling mechanisms that are going to define whether you make it or not.
Love it, I almost want to start doing some PG now!
Prospecting is the same as having the discipline to exercise and eat right: you get it in, you know if you do it then it's good for you, and the results will kick in.
So you build your own pipeline as well as closing your own deals, but since you work for a great organization you also get inbound as well - do you feel the same when you close a deal that you've hunted down and prospected for yourself versus an inbound deal?
Personally, I think there is definitely a difference.
To take a backwards look through my career, part of how I can relate to this is going from Twilio at ground zero to Amazon Web Services, which is arguably the most successful cloud computing company on the planet, i.e. half your job's kind of done for you in a certain way because people know who you are. Then coming to Lacework it was back to ground zero again where no one really knows who you are.
And so I think today at Lacework I feel less differential whether it comes from someone from the SDR team, inbound, or from me because we're just in the trenches raising market awareness and trying to make it happen. We're not able to walk in with a kind of badge of honor, which builds part of that trust bridge.
I actively chose that environment. I chose to be uncomfortable and to put myself back into the fire to go out there and make it happen because I love it and thrive in it.
And so yeah, probably less different now because I'm just in the trenches, but definitely in previous roles where a lot of maybe the market awareness was already there: I can't say that feeling was as strong when I won something, it felt a little bit more cruise control for me, if I'm being completely honest.
You've worked within some great teams at some of the best performing organizations out there - what traits do you see in the top reps, SDRs and sales leaders of those companies?
Are there things you continually see in these types of people?
Yeah definitely, a couple of words come to mind that we probably hear so much they start to go over our heads but I've honestly seen a massive difference between the way people execute versus their discipline and their consistency.
The elite performers don't just hear those words as “words”: in a way they obsess over them and hold themselves truly accountable to those two words. I often say that success is inevitable If you're willing to do the work over an extended period of time.
What I find is that you've got the elite one percent, and that elite one percent are extremely hungry and extremely motivated, but they're consistent and very disciplined against the activities that are going to drive the right outcomes.
And then everyone else kind of just wakes up and lets the day happen, right? They wake up and it's, you know, let me open my emails and look at my calendar and filter my way through and did I hit my weekly target?
It’s all in the mindset and to me it's a choice. You know, you wake up and you go out there and you get after it or you don't and I'm not saying one is right or wrong, but either you choose the greatness and legacy or you just choose to fit in. That’s the decision.
Love it. I think you’ve nailed it there - it’s that consistency and discipline. It's that ability to do something some people might even class is boring, right? But actually that's where the magic happens, by executing on a day by day basis.
Final question then, are there any key metrics you hold yourself or your team accountable to?
Yeah, I'm big on activity and finding as quickly as possible my formula for success.
When joining a new business in the first 30/60 days I'm obsessing over “what is my formula here” and I just go pretty crazy with the outbound and all of the activities that I know are revenue generating in some way.
I also speak to as many people as I can within the organization, i.e. who's become elite at all of the areas that are going to be really important to my success, and I bring all of that together.
I'm then very clear about what metrics are going to drive what outcome, e.g. I'm now confident enough to know that for every 100 times I pick up the phone I'm going to have two meetings booked, so what does that mean? I'm going to go and deliver against that, you know, and in every other aspect of my business, I've got the formula and the metrics that can drive predictability in the outcomes that I need to make.
This week for example, where I told you I was out for three days, we've already hit the target because I knew what it was going to take. I had two days to do it, which meant that the output had to increase, but I knew what it was gonna take to still make sure that I was able to achieve against expectation
Appreciate it, Alex, thank you so much for today.
I'm following you on LinkedIn and I just love the daily posts around what you're doing in the field - there's a lot of people on LinkedIn talking about these things but they're not not living it, so for everyone watching this follow Alex on LinkedIn!
Thanks so much and yes please do connect with me on LinkedIn, I pretty much live on there outside of my day job, and I really hope this is insightful to others in some way, so I really appreciate the time.