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May 16, 2023

Mike Barker, Chief Commercial Officer at HYAS: Building a GTM plumb line for consistent sales success

On this episode of Sales Bluebird, our guest Mike Barker, Chief Commercial Officer of HYAS shares insights on the importance of aligning sales and marketing strategy in a company. He talks about how his company identified target areas and sectors where they are successful based on data and aligned their messaging and marketing organization towards those target areas.

Mike also highlights the importance of understanding the buying team within an organization and using referrals to generate pipeline. The discussion delves into the role of a Chief Commercial Officer and the changing dynamics within the cybersecurity industry.

Hit play to learn more about the importance of alignment between sales and marketing in a company's success.

[00:05:04] "How I went from Sales to Internal CIO"

[00:07:46] "Global Sales Transformation Success with CRO Mentor"

[00:10:00] "Hyacinth: Protecting Businesses with Intelligence and Detection"

[00:13:13] "Startup's Unique Threat Intel Portfolio Explained"

[00:24:47] "Creating a Marketing Plumb Line for Success"

[00:29:21] "Direct and Partner Teams Drive Sales Growth"

[00:31:37] "Pipeline Generation: The Bane of Salespeople's Existence"

[00:35:12] "Training and Enabling Go-to-Market Organization"

[00:37:29] "Standing Out in Cybersecurity: A Challenge Explained"

[00:43:45] "Product-focussed HYAS announces new PLG initiatives"

Mike Barker on Linkedin
HYAS Website

Support the show

Andrew Monaghan [00:00:00]:

Mike Barker is the Chief Commercial officer at HYAS. He joined them at the end of 2022 and is leading a go to market transformation there. They've got solid products that have been around since 2015 and he's working on getting the go to market side aligned and operating smoothly to get the growth that they're after. In this episode, he talks about how he's aligning the go to market efforts with the idea of marketing plumb line, how important and hard it is to differentiate in cybersecurity, but what they're actually doing to do that, the first steps he took when he joined HYAS. And then he talks all about the sales team, how they're going to market, the types of sales they have, and finally he talks about whether he likes tea or coffee. And it's the first time I've heard the answer that he gave, so don't go away. Welcome to the Sales Bluebird podcast, where we help cybersecurity startups grow sales faster. I am your host, Andrew Monaghan. Our guest today is Mike Barker, Chief Commercial Officer at HYAS. Mike, welcome to Sales Bluebird.

Mike Barker [00:01:12]:

Thank you, Andrew. It's a great pleasure to be here.

Andrew Monaghan [00:01:14]:

Yeah, I'm looking forward to this conversation, as I do with all the conversations I have, but a couple of things that have intrigued me about this one already, Mike, that we'll get onto. One is you joined the company recently, but in a role called Chief Commercial Officer. That's not a hugely common role, so I'm keen to understand more about what that's all about. Second thing that looking at your website, at HYAS's website, it seems like there's a bunch of products in there and I'm keen to understand this difference between looking at a single product view, the go to market versus multiple products. So I think there's probably something to tease out of that. And then lastly, just as a kind of thing, the company is based out of Victoria and British Columbia and I'm going to go at a limb here and say there's not that many cybersecurity companies headquartered officially out of Victoria, BC. So I'm keen to understand a little bit more about that. So it's kind of different angle to maybe some of the interviews I've done, but with really intriguing things about HYAS is doing about going to market right now. 

A quick break to say that this episode is sponsored by It Harvest. With over 3200 vendors in cybersecurity, it is hard to keep track of all the latest developments, as well as research and analyze categories and subcategories within cybersecurity, which is where the It Harvest cybersecurity platform comes in. Want to know which subcategories in cloud security are growing the fastest? You'll get it in a few clicks. Want to know and track everything about your main competitors and keep up with their hiring and news. Simple search to be done. Want to know the top 20 fastest growing companies based out of Israel?

Mike Barker [00:02:58]:


Andrew Monaghan [00:02:58]:

Just a couple of clicks. To get that. It Harvest is the first and only research platform dedicated to cybersecurity, and it's run by Richard Steenan, who has done it all in cybersecurity from the VP of Research at Gartner, a CMO at a cybersecurity vendor, a lecturer on cybersecurity, advisor to startups, advisory board member at Startups, and a main board member as well. The whole lot. Find out more by going to Salesbluebird.com Research. That's salesbluebird.com research. Now back to the episode. 
All right, well, let's look at your quick glance at your LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn experience here, Mike. So a couple of highlights I pulled out of this. You started off in the Air Force as a computer operator back when probably computers were not that common. So the fact that it was called a computer operator says a lot about what was going on at that time. And then you made the switch into the commercial world, went to cable and wireless. You were spent time with Juniper, Arbor, Juniper again, and then Extreme Networks, and then through to cineverse and right the way through to Marketopia. I'm just reading out the names I see here, Upswot and then HYAS. It looks like a lot of your background was on the SE side or the presales leadership side, and then you made the switch halfway through and kind of took on more of a revenue generation leader type role. But all these roles are head of Global sales, GM type roles, all the rest of it. A couple of things that did stand out for me, though, and I want to ask about these. I want to ask you, so you start off at Extreme and your role there was the VP of Global SEs, and I think you might have not made the right meeting or taken a vacation or something because you're appointed as a CIO at Extreme Networks. What happened that caused someone to lead SEs to then become the CIO?

Mike Barker [00:05:04]:

I love that question. It's actually one of my favorite questions. And interestingly enough, and most people who question this think, what did you do wrong? How did you land into that role? And I'll tell you, it was actually by design. So as we built out the global presales engineering team, I found myself, of course, having an amazing team. I found what I spend most of my time doing was flying around the world, talking to our sea level customers, helping them have conversations with their board, helping them understand what was happening in the industry, and also, just as important, helping them understand what their competitors were doing. We were going through an internal transformation in It at the time as well. And the company asked, hey, would you like to take all that you're doing with our external CIOs and bring that in house and look at how do we do this, our own type of transformation. Also, what's going on? What should we be focused on in order to help drive the business. And this was back in a time when CIOs were looked at one of two lights. Either they were there to keep the lights on and keep business running, or they were there to be a little bit more strategic and how do we help drive revenue. So coming from my presales perspective and sales orientation back into that realm allowed me to do that. But number two, and frankly, why I agreed to do it and what was so interesting for me is I spent most of my career in sales and or marketing aspects, like you said, really focused on go to market. We had just driven a go to market transformation and I was really curious what it would be like to be on the side of the buyer. I wanted to understand what it was like to be sold to. I wanted to know what good looked like so I could then turn that around and take that back out to future sales organizations.

Andrew Monaghan [00:06:51]:

Yeah, that's the bid that I think would attract me is you get the chance to learn from the other side. You get the chance to feel the different pressures and the different dynamics of being in that role. I bet that was a fascinating learning for you at that point in your career.

Mike Barker [00:07:06]:

It was fascinating and it was interesting because I would sit in meetings with my largest vendors and I remember at the time thinking, are they using solution selling on me? Did they just go Challenger sales on me? So essentially you could start to pick up those nuances of the selling models and methodologies as you're now being sold to. It's very, very enlightening.

Andrew Monaghan [00:07:25]:

That is enlightening. And in fact, since you bring up Challenger, when you left Extreme, you went to be a couple of roles at cineverse, but the latter one was the head of global sales SEs and also sales acceleration. And I noticed there down in the bullets was you rolled out the Challenger sales methodology at cineverse. Tell me about that.

Mike Barker [00:07:46]:

Yeah, I followed a CRO mentor of mine over who I'd done a go to market transformation with before, which is how we kind of ended up together over there. A couple of key aspects of rolling out that go to market transformation was ensuring our sales were using a consistent and cohesive sales methodology all across the globe. Right. Very global organization, global customers, and rolling that out. And I think what was interesting to me is that what we saw is that the SCS were just as integral as part of rolling out the Challenger sales model as the rest of the sales organization. And in fact, sometimes, and of course, I'm partial to the Se world because it started there, but sometimes I would even say the Ses were more important in that Challenger sales model because Challenger sales says you have to teach your customer something. Right. It's the whole teach, tailor and take control and we know a lot of times that conversation is happening, especially in a technical sale environment from the Se to the customer versus maybe the account executive or account manager to the customer as well. So very interesting as we rolled that out, but very successful as well.

Andrew Monaghan [00:08:58]:

What was the impact? Were you able to measure it and see what it did for you?

Mike Barker [00:09:02]:

We were, we were able to measure the impact on both the in total sales duration or the average sales cycle. But also for us, what was most important was the average time it took us to have sales reps become productive once they onboarded. At the time we saw significant time around nine month sales productivity and we were able to bring that down initially just after rolling that out down to six months. So a huge gain from that but also shorten our sales cycles as well.

Andrew Monaghan [00:09:30]:

That's awesome. That's such a huge impact. Wow, 30%, right? Decline in rent time. A lot of companies would want to get that sort of result. Let's fast forward to highest then. So I'm going to ask this question in a different way next month. Mike, we've got RSA conference coming up. I know you guys are going to be there. Let's say I'm Andrew, the director of security at a medium sized bank and I walk up to your booth and I say to one of your people on the team, what is highest due? How do you want them to answer that question?

Mike Barker [00:10:00]:

Yeah, it's a great question. As you know, being in this industry for so long, it's one of the most interesting aspects of what we try to capture as a sales leadership is making sure we all answer that question, but answer it in a way that's consistent across the entire organization, not just sales, but product and engineering and everybody else. So my quick elevator pitch, if we want to overutilize that phrase, is HYAS is in the business of protecting businesses and solving intelligence problems through detection of adversary infrastructure and anomalous communication patterns. And to take that one step further, most cybersecurity companies, as you well know and your audience well knows, is their focus is blocking attacks on the way in. But we also know that that is not a valid approach. When you think about things like zero day, you think about phishing attacks and others that are going to go in. So what we like to do is focus on once they're there, if we assume that many attacks get there and they live dormant 6912 months and longer before anything happens, then they go out and they start beaconing out and they start connecting and focusing on command and control, that is the highest. That is what we focus is that we are the experts in understanding adversary infrastructure and those anomalous communication patterns when they start to beacon out to ask for instructions as to what do I do next and how do I launch this attack.

Andrew Monaghan [00:11:31]:

Right. So the assumption is they're going to get in, you got to do the good hygiene, all the things that the edge and on devices and all the rest, it should be there, but let's assume they get through because they do and therefore the time to detect is probably the key metric to zero in on there. People like to be low and slow, but if you can detect them early, then you're significantly reducing their attack surface. So I got that about right.

Mike Barker [00:11:56]:

You got it, exactly. I mean, the focus here is as soon as they start reaching out for that command and controlling structure, as soon as they start reaching out, asking for instructions, we are there to identify that anomalous behavior and make sure it's known. And either help the clients focus on how they remediate it or stop it, or just make sure that they're aware.

Andrew Monaghan [00:12:18]:

And when I hear things like that, I usually kind of go to threat intelligence as being a key part of this. Without getting too technical, what are the  elements that make up the solution?

Mike Barker [00:12:28]:

You're absolutely right. Threat intel is a huge aspect of where we like to focus, especially with one figure aspect of our product line, threat intel, the infrastructure and et cetera. But we also do some additional things to help protect the device and the network as well. So we can do this as a holistic point of view, but we can also do it independently on the device and the corporate network as well.

Andrew Monaghan [00:12:52]:

Got it? Okay. When I looked at your website, it looked like it was neatly packaged into different there's like five products and a few seven, eight solution areas. I'm kind of intrigued as a startup what that means for how you go to market and how the marketing team and the sales team can communicate when you've got that many different aspects to what you do well.

Mike Barker [00:13:13]:

Thank you. Well, first of all, I'm happy that you went to our website and you were able to deduce kind of what we do. So that means something we're doing is working. So I appreciate that because as you know, as a startup, it's sometimes not easy to get that messaging out and to make sure that your clients and your prospects are taking away the message you want to. So we do have some key elements of our product portfolio. We started out and focused on that threat intel side, something we call Highest insight. It's really our bread and butter. It is our intellectual property. We've got a huge source and graph database which allows us to have a data lake where we work with threat fraud research teams and so forth, but also leveraging that we have things like highest protect and Highest Confront that allow us to focus on, again, like I mentioned before, the device and the network. However, to your point where we go to and our ideal customer profile for each one of these can be a little bit differently. Right? Who we focus on on the inside side in the data lake where I mentioned around fraud and threat research teams is typically different than where we go and focus on from a cybersecurity point of view and the ideal persona when we talk about network and device with protected in front. So it's a very different motion. And one thing that you'll see from our messaging is making sure we're talking to the right audience.

Andrew Monaghan [00:14:42]:

And for the sellers going out there, are they going to different personas depending on the product? If they got one account, is it three, they got a target for completely different solutions or do they try and wrap it up together into more of a combined approach?

Mike Barker [00:14:57]:

Yeah, great question. A couple of aspects. One is we definitely do have a portfolio play so we can go in and talk about the platform as a whole and then how do we leverage each aspect of it. However, what we have found as we get into a client and we do have existing relationships with the clients, it's a little bit more prescriptive in who we talk to based on which solution and where they're focused. If we have a dedicated threat intel team, for example, we're generally going to focus on our insight with our data, our Daylight Graph database, et cetera, versus a more typical cybersecurity organization focused on security, where we're going to go off and help them protect their devices in their network.

Andrew Monaghan [00:15:38]:

Yeah, it must put an interesting stress, but it's a different challenge, right. For the sales team and I guess the marketing team, when you're looking at messaging and who to target to figure out all this ad, especially as a startup, you don't have the luxury of, according to LinkedIn, you got about 55 people at highest. I imagine some of your bigger competitors have 55 people in marketing. So you've got to figure out how to do this with a lean team.

Mike Barker [00:16:01]:

That's exactly right. And frankly, one of our biggest focus is on our marketing side. And how do we go to market is around ensuring that we make that messaging very crisp and understandable so that our sellers, it's easier for them to understand who they should be focusing on, who they should be talking to, and what the value proposition is that they should be leading with.

Andrew Monaghan [00:16:21]:

Yeah, absolutely. When a prospect sees what you do, what is the wow moment for them? What's the thing where they go, oh, this is different, I haven't seen this before. I like the way you're doing that, I like your unique approach. What's that wow moment for them?

Mike Barker [00:16:37]:

Yeah, it's a combination of a few things. I mean, the first thing is the expertise around adversary infrastructure. It's our ability to correlate all these many aspects of data that we bring in to our internal database. There are a lot of companies out there that create a data set, if you will. But it's our connections, our relationships, and our resources and authoritative sources of this data that allows us to do this correlation. And it's the correlation where our prospects and our clients ultimately achieve that wow moment of, oh, I did not realize that. Once we correlate this data, we can now see what's beaconing out we can now see not only what's beaconing out, but how it's connected to potentially other domains, other emails and so forth. That's really going to give them the insight they need to go out there and do the threat intel and the threat hunting they need to do.

Andrew Monaghan [00:17:33]:

Mike, before we continue to talk about sales and go to market, let's learn a bit more about you. I'm going to ask you to pick three numbers, seem, one and 35. Give me those and I'll read the corresponding questions.

Mike Barker [00:17:46]:

Certainly that's probably going to be the easiest part of this conversation. So let's go with three is one of my favorite numbers. Do you want me to give them all three of you at the same time or one at a time?

Andrew Monaghan [00:17:55]:

Let's do the first one. So three. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Mike Barker [00:18:00]:

That's an easy one. Throughout my career, done a lot of traveling, as many of us have in sales. My favorite place in the world has got to be absolutely Singapore. I love being in Singapore. I love the people, the culture, the food. I'm a huge foodie. I would be there in a heartbeat.

Andrew Monaghan [00:18:18]:

I couldn't agree with you on the food. That whole Singapore, Malaysian, the Indian, the Chinese influences, in some ways the British influences. It creates a great food culture right there.

Mike Barker [00:18:29]:

Absolutely does. And like you said, the influence from Malaysia and others, just some of the most amazing sweet fruit. I think you can get there, as well as just rest of the cuisines from Asia. It's just amazing.

Andrew Monaghan [00:18:41]:

Did you become a durian fan when you were in Singapore or not?

Mike Barker [00:18:44]:

That is the one thing I just can't get over. I just can't get past that smell.

Andrew Monaghan [00:18:47]:

That's terrible. For anyone that doesn't know, look up Google. Durian. Durian. And this is one of those things where there's two types of people. One, people that just can't stand it, and ones, for some weird reason, seem to love it. For me, it's just a disgusting smile and taste. But some people just think of a real delicacy and seem to love it.

Mike Barker [00:19:09]:

They really do. And there's one extra little tidbit.

Andrew Monaghan [00:19:12]:

There is.

Mike Barker [00:19:12]:

There are many hotels there. They'll have a sign posted on the outside door that you're not even allowed to bring them inside the hotel.

Andrew Monaghan [00:19:19]:

That's great, dear. Okay, one more number between one and 35.

Mike Barker [00:19:23]:


Andrew Monaghan [00:19:24]:

33. Tea or coffee?

Mike Barker [00:19:27]:

I'm a coffee drinker in the morning. I'm a tea drinker in the afternoon.

Andrew Monaghan [00:19:30]:

Oh, gosh, you do both. That's awesome.

Mike Barker [00:19:33]:

Do both. And I have a mindset in my head. Once it hits noon, I'm not allowed to have any more coffee. I got to switch.

Andrew Monaghan [00:19:38]:

I like that. Now, I was born and bred in the UK. So when people say tea, I think property. Do you drink property, or are you a high sense and jasmine sort of guy?

Mike Barker [00:19:48]:

I do it all, but again, based on my strong affinity with Asian culture, I love green tea and oolong and other flavors of tea as well.

Andrew Monaghan [00:19:58]:

Yeah, that green tea you get there. It's good stuff.

Mike Barker [00:20:01]:

It is amazing.

Andrew Monaghan [00:20:02]:

All right, last number. T one and 35.

Mike Barker [00:20:05]:

Let's go with 1515.

Andrew Monaghan [00:20:08]:

Is would you prefer a tricktite jeep or German car with all the gadgets?

Mike Barker [00:20:15]:

Wow. That's a hard question because I've actually had and owned both, so I loved my Jeep. One of the things I said as I've gotten older, it's a rough ride and not the most comfortable, and you definitely cannot do coverage calls. It's too loud. So we're going to go with the German car.

Andrew Monaghan [00:20:30]:

Okay. Do you have both right now or you've had both over time?

Mike Barker [00:20:35]:

I've had both over time. No longer have the jeeps. Have more of the cars.

Andrew Monaghan [00:20:38]:

Okay. Yeah. Certain comfort, too.

Mike Barker [00:20:41]:


Andrew Monaghan [00:20:42]:

A nice car. Right? If that's the wow moment, how do you bring that close to the start of the sales cycle or even in the marketing that you're doing? So people kind of get it as early as possible.

Mike Barker [00:20:58]:

Yeah. Another phenomenal question. So obviously, like many SaaS companies, we are big believers in the demo and the proof of concept. We like to say once you get on a demo with us, the wow moment will be there within the first five minutes because you're going to be able to see it, you're going to feel it. It's going to become very tangible in our marketing aspects. It's really about our use cases and our case studies. We've got some phenomenal clients out there who are doing some amazing things, and we love to highlight that, obviously, where they allow us to, but we do some great work with some great organizations, and our case studies really speak for themselves.

Andrew Monaghan [00:21:38]:

That's cool. All right, what's the one question about highest that no one asks that they should really ask you?

Mike Barker [00:21:43]:

Wow, I've never had that one before. The one question I would say is, why don't we know about you more? Why haven't we heard about you yet? And that's many cybersecurity, many SaaS companies. We are small, like you said, around 50 or so people. We just don't have the same size organization as others. So we are very specific and very targeted in our approaches and to the types of clients and prospects we go after. We're not sending it out to the entire world. We're being very targeted and making sure we going after exactly who we know is a perfect, ideal customer profile for us and spending our cycles there.

Andrew Monaghan [00:22:25]:

I like you said that. According to LinkedIn, again, founded in 2015, so we're eight years on. So still a startup mode. Right. You're small and nimble enough, but you can tell that there's 3300 companies in cybersecurity right now. Everyone trying to get more than their fair share of attention. It's really difficult to do. I think sometimes the temptation is, well, let's just go big and loud. And in many ways, I think the more I don't know, the more mature way to think about it is, well, how can we actually get very specific and get focused and then be nimble if we have to be from there, right? And get really good at one area before we get onto many? I can imagine some companies blow a lot of budget and a lot of time trying to be too big. Although I do recommend people to be bold. This is not the market. You want to sit back and relax and hope people get what you do. And one thing I love about your website is it's different to other, like, the traditional standard kind of technology website. There's something different as you look at it. My first impression was, this is different. I'm kind of intrigued. But what else is different about this now as I go into the words and some of the value props you're putting in there. So kudos to you for that. Thank you.

Mike Barker [00:23:36]:

Really appreciate that.

Andrew Monaghan [00:23:37]:

Let's go back to November 2022. You joined Hyatt as the Chief Commercial Officer. As you walked in the door and got going, get your feet under the desk and assess what was going on. What was the first thing that you had to work on?

Mike Barker [00:23:53]:

Yeah. So one of my first questions walking the door, my favorite relationship coming in as a sales leader or go to market leader, what have you, is with my operations team, right? Sales, rev, ops and so forth. And one of my first questions is, tell me our existing client base, because I want to understand where we've been successful. What are the target sectors and segments that we're selling into today so that we can go after and focus the rest of the organization sales, marketing, everything we're doing around messaging to make sure we're going after the right markets. So that was the first thing I did, is really understand where we're successful today, what does our current client makeup look like, and can I take away some important data points from that? That allows us to build out our entire go to market messaging and strategy based on that? That was the first thing I did.

Andrew Monaghan [00:24:45]:

And then what came after that.

Mike Barker [00:24:47]:

So after we identified those target verticals and sectors that we are extremely successful at, which obviously, as you would expect, the data said it all. It showed it right there, exactly where we're at was then. Okay, now that we know that, let's make sure we align, we align our messaging, we build out our marketing organization and our marketing budget, focused on making sure we know how to go after those and then tying that back in on the go to market side. Do we have the right selling model? Do we have the right sellers that understand those markets? And then do we have the right channel and partner motions? Have we set up the right relationships who are also focused on those verticals and sectors? So that we have, I like to call it the marketing plumb line. I worked for an amazing CMO early in my career and she used to use that term all the time. The Marketing plumb line is do we have the marketing go to market messaging framework at the top and are we plumbed all the way down through the field? Do we have the right motions, do we have the right messaging, do we have the right channel partners and so forth. So that was phase two and only after you do those first two can you decide what the organizational structure should be. I think a lot of go to market leaders kind of flip that upside down and focus on the organizational structure first and I think that's a fallacy. I think you've really got to understand what you're solving for before you can decide what the right structure to support that looks like.

Andrew Monaghan [00:26:11]:

And you use the words transformation a few times in our discussion so far. Did you then have to make a transformation based on what you learned or was it all in the right aligned perfectly?

Mike Barker [00:26:21]:

Well, fortunate for us, we had some aspects of it that existed in the moment. We've got some amazing members of the team actually have the right people on the team. Where we had to focus on the transformation was making sure we were aligned, calling out those key verticals. You mentioned it in the beginning. As a startup, it's easy to try to be everything for everyone. We were also a victim of that as well. So we decided, okay, we're going to go focus on these four verticals. Do we have the right organizational structure to support those four verticals? Do we have the right messaging and aspects in our marketing plan and budget to support those? So we had to do a few minor tweaks and adjustment. But the good news for us is we had the right people on the team.

Andrew Monaghan [00:27:03]:

That's great. And how much of an advantage was it to be Chief Commercial Officer where you're doing marketing and sales as you're trying to get the alignment throughout a transformation?

Mike Barker [00:27:15]:

Absolutely huge advantage. And it's frankly, one of the reasons why this role was so appealing to me is it wasn't just the sales and marketing, but also the client experience side that I've got responsibility for. So understanding our current clients, understanding our engagements with them, understanding why they're so successful with us taking that over. To our marketing and our sales teams and then leveraging, as I mentioned, my sales and Revenue Ops. Now bring us those data and those insights together to help us really drive the decision making and the strategy. To me, that is the perfect scenario and that's why we're sitting here today where I would say extraordinarily successful, doing the right activities going into conference season with RSA next month, as you mentioned. I'm really excited about what Future has to hold for us.

Andrew Monaghan [00:28:07]:

Do you think we'll see more chief commercial officers like that with sales in March under them or is this a bit of anomaly, do you think?

Mike Barker [00:28:14]:

No, I think we're going to see more, especially in smaller, more nimble startups. Right. You've got to have that alignment and you hear me say it all throughout our conversation on go to market. Go to market isn't a sales driven motion. Go to market is a sales marketing client experience. It's a whole company motion. And I think this role is becoming increasingly important in these smaller, more nimble organizations where you've got that the CEO's got one throat to choke, right? And that's me. He knows who's responsible for making sure our marketing is tied to our sales and partner motions. It's also tied to our client experience at the end of it that's got to be aligned and tied together and I think this role is becoming increasingly important.

Andrew Monaghan [00:28:56]:

I wonder why more companies don't do it.

Mike Barker [00:28:58]:

Yeah, I've been wondering the same thing. It's one of the things that came out and you see it. Even some of the larger organizations today in the tech community are starting to roll out chief commercial, chief customer and those other types roles who also have responsibility for the go to market. But I think you're going to see a lot more of it.

Andrew Monaghan [00:29:15]:

Well, let's focus on the sales side for just now. Tell us about the sales team that you've created.

Mike Barker [00:29:21]:

Yeah, so we've got two primary motions. We've got our direct sales team focused on going after our direct end user accounts, focused on making sure that we're focusing on some of our larger opportunities, our larger engagements that align to those verticals. We've also got a dedicated partner team and they're focused on making sure we're going out and building out those right relationships, whether that's from a traditional value added reseller VAR and reseller or more on the consulting side or even doing more around integrations as well. So they're out focused on that. We've got white label OEM focus and we are fortunate enough to have some customers there that are focused on the white label side. And then we've also got around marketing. How do we do that? Demand, lead generation. That lead flow also have a dedicated SDR team as well so we can make sure we're focusing on creating those inbounds, those outbounds and the demand and lead generation.

Andrew Monaghan [00:30:22]:

I'm just curious, on the partner side, are there any specific types of resellers or SIS or whatever that really you're doing well with.

Mike Barker [00:30:30]:

Yeah, I love that question. It's something we had to take a look back on, right. And make sure to me, the partner go to market is no different than the sales go to market, which is we have to make sure we understand the right ideal customer profile, our ideal partner profile to make sure that they understand they're aligned to our business. Where we've seen where we've been very successful is those partners in that channel team that security is imperative to their business. One of the first questions I like to ask to any potential partner is how do you look at your year over year growth and what's going to drive your growth? If it's going to be security or is it infrastructure or is it their services? What's important to them to drive their business? If cybersecurity is an aspect of them that drives their business growth year over year, then that's a partner we want to talk to.

Andrew Monaghan [00:31:21]:

I like that a lot. As I talk to sales teams in what I do, usually the number one challenge that they have is pipeline generation. I'm wondering what you've learned and what you're doing that's successful for you in that area.

Mike Barker [00:31:37]:

Yeah, and you're absolutely right. Pipeline generation is, I like to say, outside of CRM, it's the bane of most salespeople's existence. Right, is pipeline. As sales leaders, we're all saying you need three to five X pipeline. And they're all saying, I need to close deals and my pipeline, where am I getting it from? Marketing? What's the rest of the company doing for me? From a pipeline point of view, one of the things we do is, again, when we switched our go to market and as we led through this transformation, is really taking a look at what marketing's contribution to sales and revenue is so that we understand what that pipeline generation and contribution can be. So we have done a lot on the marketing side to generate whether it's through Webinars, whether it's through events. We've got some amazing researchers on our team within the highest organization, within highest labs that allows us to really come out with some expertise and we're really leveraging some of that now as well to help drive some of the demand generation and ultimately create some pipeline. But frankly, the other side of that, where I think is often underutilized, is asking for referrals or references from your existing clients. They are the best spokesperson of what we do. We're very fortunate. Our clients absolutely love us. And so getting them the cybersecurity community, as many companies as there are, the community itself is pretty small. So getting them to talk and be an advocate on your behalf is one of the best pipeline generators out there.

Andrew Monaghan [00:33:07]:

Is there anything you do from a program standpoint to do that or you leave it up to the team to do it on their own.

Mike Barker [00:33:13]:

So we actually do have a program focused on with our client experience team, who also has some focus on not just making sure our existing clients understand the benefit that they're getting from utilizing our products and services. But also when we do quarterly business reviews with them when we're doing reviews with them to make sure that the products are working to their satisfaction. We're also doing the same thing at the same time, which is looking for opportunities to get introduced, whether it's within the same organization, other organizations, a conference that they happen to be going to, a conference that they're speaking at, leveraging that so we can do introductions and meet and greets based on those conversations.

Andrew Monaghan [00:33:53]:

That's great. I think it's one of these things that comes up with the QBR, internal QBR, we need to get some more referrals. Everyone goes, yes, we'll get some more referrals and then someone sends a couple of emails and then it seems to usually die. So I'm always intrigued about how someone's making this into more of a program, more of a process that actually people follow through on as opposed to the thing that gets forgotten about in the plane home from the QBR.

Mike Barker [00:34:17]:

That's right. Well, another thing that we've done that's a little bit, I'd say unique, but it's different. I haven't seen it in a lot of organizations is our Client Experience Team, our Client Success Team. They've also got a number tied to them for cross sell and upsell. So because they've also got that in there is they're constantly looking for opportunities to make sure that we're helping our clients in the best way possible. Yes, they may be a user of one of our solutions today. They could potentially get added value by another one. So it's something that they want to make sure that they're working with our direct sales team on. It's a combined effort and so they've got skin the game on that as well.

Andrew Monaghan [00:34:53]:

That's great. Kind of related question, I guess. As you're putting the new go to market structure in place and get everyone trained up and thinking about what you want them to be working on, how are you thinking about building the playbook for the sales team? Is this something formal? And if so, how do you enable that?

Mike Barker [00:35:12]:

Yeah, that's actually the next phase of kind of where we're going. Right. So we started out by understanding what key verticals and key segments we needed to be in. Right. Understanding our segments. Number two, understand what our go to market motion should be, both direct and partner. But now we're on to the next phase, which is now that we've got the structure settled, which is how do we train and enable our entire go to market organization? Not just our sellers, but our marketing team, our SDRs, everybody. So now we're looking at what is the approach we just did? Recently we rolled out MEDPic for our organization, our sales methodology. So we've rolled that out. We're in the process of now tying that back into our CRM tool, which we're in the process of doing now. The next phase of that is going into the formal training program, which we'll do. So we launched it at a sales kickoff earlier this year. We're going into a more formal training program so that as we onboard new sellers into the organization, as we onboard new folks into even product team, we're all getting the same amount of training and information flow through. But in the interim, we've launched our internal presales engineering team has launched a weekly sales training to the entire company that keeps them on, what types of client engagements we're getting into, what kind of conversations we're getting into, the types of questions that our clients are asking us so that we can bring that back to the organization as a whole.

Andrew Monaghan [00:36:39]:

And why did you assign that to the presales team?

Mike Barker [00:36:42]:

Because I love the team, as I mentioned. But no, we are a very technical team. I'm very fortunate. We've got some amazing folks on the team. My Se leader is an expert in this field and in cybersecurity comes from a security operations center himself. So he understands both sides of it, right from the vendor side, but also the operational side. And I wanted him to be able to take out that real world experience as it relates to what we're here to solve for, for the industry and for our clients.

Andrew Monaghan [00:37:14]:

I like that. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing for your sales team right now overnight that's bugging them or holding them back, what would you wave that wand at outside of Pipeline?

Mike Barker [00:37:29]:

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that we get asked about all the time, and I'm sure you hear it all the time as well. And even our advisory board said this to us when we had a conversation with them recently is tell me really quickly how you're different from every other cybersecurity organization out there? And why or how are you going to make my life easier? And to be able to have that for your entire go to market organization at one, we all sit back and say that should be the easiest thing we do. But unfortunately that is very difficult because we all like to tell stories a little bit differently. We all like to have our own version of a story. So having that Cohesive thing, you can go up to a CISO or CIO, head of security head and threat intel and say, here's how we're different, here's how you can leverage us, and here's the value you're going to gain just by talking or learning more about us is a very difficult proposition.

Andrew Monaghan [00:38:31]:

It is difficult, but it's so important. And going back to RSA coming up in a month, I'm surprised actually, how few vendors are there officially at the show, there's about, I think 300, 350 will be there, which is about 10% in the market. But even then, walking around the booth, what do you do and how you different are the two questions that everyone wants answers to and knowing how to just very clearly be able to say that. So someone goes, oh, I get it, as opposed to what often happens is I have no idea what you just.

Mike Barker [00:39:01]:

Said, I have no idea what you said and why are you talking to me?

Andrew Monaghan [00:39:06]:

Yeah, it's a challenge for sure. Well, let's flip things around. Mike, do you have a question for me that might be relevant for your business?

Mike Barker [00:39:13]:

Absolutely. I appreciate that, Andrew. So what's always on top of my mind, and you've got a lot of experience, you talk to people all the time, you spend a lot of time and career in cybersecurity. So based on that experience in cybersecurity, how are you seeing the buyer landscape change or evolve? And specifically, are you seeing the buying decision team change and who we should be kind of targeting our messaging to?

Andrew Monaghan [00:39:38]:

Well, I think the obvious answer is yes. It's changed a lot over the last pick, any period of time, last five years, 15 years, 20 years. It's definitely moved away from a leader making a decision and then somewhat involved in their team and then moving forward into much more the committee. The wider roles are involved. One of the things I think is interesting, actually, the Challenger sale was good about thinking about sellers and sales reps. The Challenger customer is probably the one, I think, that has the most impact for teams if they embrace that idea. And that's the idea that a lot of deals die between first engagement and then that person inside the company trying to get the right people involved and also a board on board to making a change. And some of the things that they do inside the Challenger customer help figure out who the right people are that truly can make that change internally. And I don't know what the number is these days, whether it's seven or 7.9 or 10.2 or whatever the size of the buying team. It is a lot though, right? I think that's that's the kind of obvious thing. I think the interesting thing that's happened though in the last few years is that it's not just within security or networking. These were the classic two areas where security decisions were made and now it goes into all sorts of different areas. You just look at the growth in startups, in the secure development lifecycle kind of model, the shift left movement. Suddenly you're in a world where you got to work with developers and security folks, right. Or you're looking at Sassy and Service Edge, that goes from security into edge networking, internal networking, the whole thing. There's different teams involved all the way through. So the challenge for the sales team and the marketing team is, well, how do you then go and engage with people, right? And I always feel like you've got to figure out who's the person that is intrigued enough to then look out from inside their organization to go and try and find a solution. And that's probably the right person to start with. When you're thinking about, as you said, focusing your message. There's lots of people that might do it, but more often than not, who's that one person who has it on their mind should have it on their mind and then they're the person who becomes the mobilizer inside the company to then draw in the right people in the right different departments. I think that's the bit that's kind of hard, right? You could say, well, every deal is different and this one started over here and that one started over there and that's where, as you were saying, look at your rev office folks and say, well let's actually dissect some of these down and say where do we first get engaged? That's the person to go after. What's interesting is that companies that have done this well, the shift left is one thing. Look at CrowdStrike, right? So CrowdStrike's message right from the start was we stop breaches, right? It was a very security orientated, risk management orientated message. But what they were doing behind the scenes is they had a very strong selling motion into the business justification side to going into higher level people and engaging the finance folks attached to it to say, look, there's a real strong business case to make this change. And they engage some value model type companies or I think, one company to help them make that kind of business orientated selling motion. But their prime one as they first went in was through the Westop breaches and I think it's always been like that all the way through. I think the one exception to this mike, though is those companies that really figure out the PLG side. You can tell the PLG companies because their call to action on the page is not schedule a meeting or schedule a demo, it's free trial. So their message is down the stack, right. It's more technical orientated and it's like download my stuff and try it is what they're trying to get people to do. And if people are thinking about PLG, you got to figure out that right there rather than worrying about who else might be in the buying committee. So I don't know if that's how you think about it or even where you were going with the question, but hopefully that's a little bit helpful.

Mike Barker [00:43:45]:

No, it's extraordinarily helpful. And I love a couple of your references there because the executive leadership team and I even just as recently as a week or so ago, have been having this conversation around product versus sales like growth and where we should be focusing on. And you're going to see some interesting things from HYAS at RSA in just a few weeks, where we're going to be announcing some things very aligned to what you just mentioned around PLG and others. So be on the lookout for that. But you're absolutely right, the buying decision team is changing, it's evolving and frankly, I would even argue based on which aspect of cybersecurity you're looking at, it's even specific within that. So making sure that we understand how we message to it, but also how we sell to it and how we have a conversation to it, which I think makes the job of our sellers even that much more difficult than it has in the past. Because like you said, I come from a network infrastructure background. We knew exactly who he needed to talk to. The network infrastructure team, it's very different now. And then you talk about cybersecurity insurance and one of the aspects we do, protective DNS is starting to get brought up in that even more and more. So it's no longer just about security. There's also conversations to be had with internal legal teams and internal audit teams to make sure that you're aligned back to your example with Crowd Strike. So very much aligned. Yeah.

Andrew Monaghan [00:45:12]:

I think it's interesting because as a Seller, I always say you have to be an expert in one area. You have to be an expert engaging with director of Threat intelligence, let's say, and that team that goes around it. But you need to be conversant to go wider than that. I think the challenge that I haven't seen too many companies really figure out is when their products demand they be experts to multiple different types of buyers. Like if you're looking for someone who is going to be the expert security seller but also the expert network infrastructure seller, not many people seem to be able to make that transition. Well, they do is a little bit resistance in the area that they're not used to. They go back in their shell to say well, I kind of know the security folks, let me just keep going over there. I know I shouldn't do it, I know I'd probably let myself, but this is where I'm more comfortable and I seem to get more traction.

Mike Barker [00:46:03]:

That's exactly right. Well, we all have a tendency, right? As Sellers, as Ses, we all have a tendency to navigate where is either is easiest for us or we have the most amount of interest, right? It's where we go and focus on. So you're right, if I'm a network infrastructure guy, then it's going to be much easier for me to go have a conversation, relate to them versus if I'm a network infrastructure who's then moved over into security and other aspects of the business.

Andrew Monaghan [00:46:30]:

Yeah, that's right. Well, listen Mike, I really enjoyed the conversation today. Good transformations it sounds like going on at highest that you're working through as the Chief Commercial Officer. If someone wants to get in touch to either continue the conversation or perhaps want to be part of that transformation. What's the best way to do that?

Mike Barker [00:46:48]:

Yeah, absolutely reach out. I love to connect on LinkedIn. It's the platform where we all connect and look at where we're heading to next. I like the post out there. We're headed to RSA and then some other conferences coming up next. But also you can reach me, email Michael Barker@highest.com.

Andrew Monaghan [00:47:06]:

That's great. Listen, I wish you every success for RSA for 23 and into next year as well.

Mike Barker [00:47:12]:

Thank you, Andrew. I really appreciate the conversation. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Andrew Monaghan [00:47:16]:

Well, that was Mike Barker, the chief commercial officer at HYAS. What a treat that was to chat to him about what they've got going on there and what he's been leading since he joined a few months back. A bunch of takeaways, I'm sure. Three for me. One was our quick discussion around the idea of this Chief Commercial Officer. It seems to make sense in smaller companies to have that as a combined role. Leading sales and marketing. Interesting trend to look out for. I could see why in some cases, and also with some people, it might not be the right fit for them. And they really need to specialize either in sales or marketing. But it must be a compelling case for companies as they're getting going to have someone who oversees both functions to be interesting to see how that plays out in the coming years. I really liked his idea of what he's talked about with the marketing plumb line and plumb line that runs through go to Marketing, go to Market, marketing and sales. Thinking about the whole funnel. Is everything aligned around this plumb line that hangs down? Um, and I think we've all seen this, right, where as you've got different people, different groups, as you get different ideas, suddenly what should be a straight plumb line is a zigzag way down through the funnel. Different messages, maybe things that were older that we haven't updated yet, things like that, where what should be a straightforward straight line is not like that. As a visual, it made a ton of sense to me to say that companies should be thinking about how do they make sure they have that aligned all the way through the different functions, all the way through the funnel, everything that a prospect or a customer sees and touches. So that was one takeaway. And finally, I really liked what he said when I asked him about the wow moment, right? If I'm a customer, when do I get that moment where it's like, wow, I see how you guys are different. And what he said was, inside the first five minutes of the demo is where someone should see that and it becomes obvious about why is is different to everyone else they're competing with in the market. I think that's a great thing to take away too often what we do is kind of leave it up to chance a little bit that a prospect is going to a know that was the wow moment and why we're different, or secondly, we leave it to too late in the process. Sometimes at the end of the first meeting, end of the demo, even in the second meeting, that's way too late. It's something that we should be leading with and thinking about how we engineer meetings around the wow moment so that the people that we're talking to have a much better chance of remembering who we are and why we're different. Because with 3300 companies in cyber, that's not easy to get to. So I like what Mike was saying about the team being able to deliver that wow moment super early on in the demo. So that was my three takeaways. I'm sure you've got either same or different ones to that. There's a lot Mike talked about there that was really interesting. And I wish the Tim and the team every success for RSA for 2023 and beyond.