The proliferation of sales and marketing technology has allowed companies of all sizes to gain and deploy increasingly granular data on their target and existing customers. But with that capability comes additional complexity. 

As businesses scale, and they use more diverse and varied technology, across a greater number of customers and touchpoints. That can mean incorrectly attributed leads, muddled follow-up processes and ultimately, loss revenue. 

Evan Liang is the founder and CEO of LeanData, an industry leader in account-to-lead data matching. He describes the company as “revops’ best friend” as it allows sales and marketing teams to optimize sales processes by turning the data management ‘burden’ into a valuable asset. 

We talked about:

  • how LeanData turns the vicious cycle, of technology adoption and accumulating data, into a commercial opportunity
  • where technology can, and cannot, solve data problems in a sales and marketing stack
  • how adaptable leadership is crucial in startups finding their product market fit.

You can listen to the podcast in full here, or continue reading the summary article below. 


Revops tech & data: from vicious cycle, to commercial opportunity

Evan describes LeanData as ‘revops’ best friend’, as the solution looks to solve a number of common problems that can affect sales and marketing teams as they adopt new technology. These can be summarized as: 

  • quantity and complexity of the data acquired and generated by different software and marketing activities
  • siloed data not being shared between systems
  • poor communication between stakeholders.

All of these result in potential lost revenue, either via incoherent sales processes, or marketing teams not being able to optimize their work. Evan explains: 

“Marketing generates a bunch of leads, no one follows up, and you don’t know your answer. Were those good leads or not good leads?… LeanData’s value proposition: we ensure that happens, and then you can actually evaluate what is working, what is not working.”

Originally founded to help companies resolve the ‘fuzzy data’ problem that litters marketing and sales databases across the globe, LeanData progressed to helping revops teams organize their data and automate the transfer of information between teams.

This took off at a time when enterprise marketing teams were moving towards an account-based marketing (ABM) approach. Revenue orchestration is even more needed with ABM, as it’s far more granular and fragmented. Often, marketing teams across enterprises are working within specific departments in a client’s business, with varying degrees of communication and collaboration between teams. Therefore, the potential for leads to be misattributed or lost is increased.

“One of the key data challenges that folks ran into was that the systems weren’t designed for leads to match into accounts. There was this fundamental crack and schism inside the database that just didn’t allow that thing to match. 

“When we were looking at some initial clients, we realized 50 to 75% of people’s leads matched into the existing accounts, but they weren’t seeing it that way. Salespeople weren’t working lead by lead.”

This added complexity required processes, and more tech – which in turn further complicated the effective management of data.

“…I realized that as you integrate systems, as this CRM ecosystem grew, this pain around data and processes is about to get a lot worse.”

The trade-off – between added complexity of process with higher functionality – has been a consistent theme in the Martalks series, both in outward-facing and operational concerns. Gordon Cooke of UpStart Commerce spoke on the management issues that arise from migrating to microservice-based ecommerce architecture.

While adding systems can enhance some processes and capabilities, they also potentially create new data silos unless carefully managed. 

LeanData’s platform looks to address these issues by being an unopinionated middleman in the connection between buyer intent signals, marketing channels, and CRM. 

The solution now works with any GTM motion as the company has grown, iterating beyond the ABM model.

We’re trying to manage all the signals that you get from all your martech and make sure they’re associated with the right place.

“The best way to think of our product is a middle man. It would be like someone on your team building a flowchart diagram of how all your signals and plays work together with your marketing and sales handoff. It makes everything more actionable.

“So we kind of sit in between those things. We’re a little bit like Switzerland in the sense that we’re going to work with whichever signals you have.” 

Where tech can (and cannot) solve revops data challenges

However adaptable the technology helping teams orchestrate their revenue operations, collaboration with partnered vendors, consultants – and, indeed, the client – is still required for other pieces of the puzzle, including in setting a coherent data strategy. 

“ I think it’s always best to be working with partners when possible because, as a vendor, we want to focus on making the technology part successful. A key part of it is strategy. We can work across any go-to-market motion, but it works better for us when the client has a clearer idea of what they are trying to accomplish.” 

LeanData uses partnerships in two ways to help smooth marketing processes. Firstly, they integrate with foundational tools in marketing and sales teams’ arsenals. Evan’s company is a member of Salesforce’s Partner Program, and has also integrated with Microsoft Teams and Slack. For example, when an inbound lead is generated, a notification can be sent to the relevant salesperson via Slack to ensure prompt follow-up.

LeanData also collaborates with consultative partners. For example, they work closely with CloudKettle, a consultancy firm that helps sales teams optimize their revenue processes within the Salesforce and Google ecosystems. CloudKettle refers its clients to LeanData as a recommended revenue orchestration provider with no referral fee. 

However, Evan reports that LeanData values working work with some of the biggest names in consulting to help their enterprise clients achieve their goals…

“We’re starting to work with some of the global SIs, especially from larger enterprises around digital transformation. And in those cases, we prefer having an Accenture or a Deloitte in there just because oftentimes, it’s not the technology, it’s getting all the stakeholders in a room and getting them to talk to each other for the first time.”

Working with such big hitters can give vendors a cache that ensures buy-in across the client’s organisation. As we heard from Chris Harrison of Capgemini, these large-scale consultants and enterprise-level integrators play a uniquely valuable role in enterprise digital transformation.

Adaptable leadership helps martechs find product fit

As we touched on earlier, the first iteration of LeanData helped tech companies with ‘fuzzy data’ problems.

While that is a common complaint of sales and marketing teams in companies of all sizes, it didn’t help those teams make that next step in coordinating intent signals and other data across the commercial team.

Evan’s attempts to resolve this through consulting were not commercially successful – but fortunately, a senior hire, made relatively early in the startup’s lifecycle, managed to pivot the technology to tackle this problem.

Evan said their first sales leader, Brian Birkett was…

“…initially working with us to try to sell the dirty data consulting business problem… It wasn’t working. He and I met and I said, ‘I don’t know if we’re making much traction. Maybe we should part ways.’

“He said, ‘I know you guys are working on this lead to account matching. What if I take that, can I make it productized…’ I will give him credit that he came up with it. That wasn’t what he was initially brought on to do. It was only through iterations and working together, that we actually got there.”

This enabled a shift in the LeanData value proposition.

“When we were just selling ‘Hey, we can clean your database as a consulting service’, that didn’t scale for the sales team. It became, ‘hey, we can solve this problem called “lead to account matching.’” 

Brian exhibited the ideal profile in an early-stage VP of sales. Those first leadership hires need to be able to iterate, develop propositions and implement processes. Crucially, it takes leaders like Evan to allow experienced sales leader to help the company find product fit in the market.

As we explored in the recent special edition of Martalks, tech startups must be adaptable to weather economic headwinds. That applies not only to the technology, but also to the people at the helm.

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