Recruiting Corner: BDR Hiring & Growth Feature
Join us to learn more about our Business Development Representative team and it's high velocity hiring. How it was started, grew and plans to grow in the future. We will be featuring Nick Simmons, who led the team initially, and Anil Somaney who has recently taken over.
And we're live! Welcome to another session of Recruiting Corner here at Cloudflare TV.
My name is Roshni Hundel and I'm on the recruiting team based out of our New York office.
I've been here for around five years and I've supported the business development org from the beginning.
We're super excited to showcase our guests today and talk in depth about one of my favorite teams here at Cloudflare.
I have my teammate Janae here with me as well.
Janae, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm so happy that we're all decked out and in spirit for Halloween this week as well.
Hi, I'm Janae from the recruiting team. I'm also, if you can tell, I'm solely from Monsters, Inc.
to be in the Halloween spirit. I've been here about three and a half years.
I just started working at the BDR Cloudflare team about a year ago.
It's one of my favorite teams to work with as they have such passion and energy and I really feel like they bring the tone of the sales team for the Cloudflare and I'm really, really excited to have Anil and Nick here.
Anil, let's start with you.
Can you tell us your office, your role, and how long you've been at CF and, of course, your favorite vacation spot?
I love it. Just really quick before we get started, one of your favorite teams or your favorite team?
Okay, since we're here, you're my favorite team at Cloudflare for the hour.
My name's Anil Samani.
I'm in Austin. I've been at Cloudflare about a year and a half. So, I was hired in as a sales leader and just recently moved into the business development team.
So, I'm loving things. I'm really enjoying kind of getting to know the BizDev team and learning about the people and processes within that.
From a vacation spot perspective, we love the Bahamas.
It's our go-to as a family. It's always warm, warm water, and just a welcoming group of folks.
That's kind of our go-to.
Nice. Nick, you're up. I like how you're trying to improve your joke telling standing, Anil.
I'm Nick. I work out of the San Francisco office for now, although soon to be the Austin office and I lead our customer growth ops and sales planning team.
I used to lead the BDR team before I handed that off to Anil. Favorite place to vacation?
As Roshani always says, I guess my most frequent place to vacation is Mexico, which is where my brother lives.
My favorite might be, well, it's probably Argentina, although it's been a very long time, but that would probably be my favorite.
Very cool. Hopefully, we can all travel again here someday soon, maybe, possibly.
All right, let's get into it. First, we're going to talk about all things BD from the past learnings, the present state of the team, and also gather your future plans and perspective.
Nick, can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience and how did you get into business development and starting business development teams?
Yeah. Actually, as I'm reading the question, I probably haven't told any of you this.
In college, I worked part-time at a really small startup on the product team for just a general.
It was a 10-person company, so we were doing a lot of different things, but I focused more on product.
Then I had to have a friend mentor who thought I'd be a really good fit for sales.
He worked at Twilio at the time, so I applied to join their BDR team.
Over time, my role just turned into, as we grew, this just happens, I think, with the scaling companies, the team started to get big enough.
We all reported to the head of sales at the time.
When his direct reports got to 15, 16, 17 people, he decided it was time to hire a BDR leader.
I was right place, right time, stepped into the role, loved it, so I kept doing it.
What brought you to join Cloudflare? It was a number of things.
I think, obviously, anytime you're switching companies, there's things that are pushing you away from the current company and things that are pulling you towards a new company.
Maybe a couple things to point out. There were a lot of things about Twilio that I really loved that I wanted to make sure that I found the next company, the biggest of which was I wanted to work at a company that I thought had a chance to be one of the most impactful, one of the biggest companies in the world.
I'm careful to say Cloudflare is a very small company still, but I think we have a chance to do that.
I thought we had a chance to do that four and a half years ago, and I think we have a chance to do that now.
That's exciting. I find that really inspiring and motivating to come into work every day and have that mission.
Anil, let's switch it to you. Tell us a bit about your previous experience and your initial role at Cloudflare.
I started a while back, probably 20 years ago.
I started at AT&T, and I started in this sales ops capacity. I remember the call distinctly where we were on an all -hands call with a couple of the leaders.
As a sales ops leader, I was pushing on the sales folks, why can't you get a higher close rate?
Why isn't your funnel updated? Sales force hygiene, all this kind of stuff.
I remember getting a text from our group president, and he had said, hey, let's meet downstairs tonight for a quick chat.
I thought, oh no, I'm in trouble.
I thought something was up. He said, hey, you're good at this ops side, but I want you to go run a sales region.
I want you to go try this and see the other side, see the impact of the decision that you've made, the decisions that you've made.
Most of my career, the rest of my career at AT&T was spent bouncing back and forth between operations and sales, and then the stuff in the middle, the inside sales BD.
From there, I went on to a company called insidesales.com that has a sales acceleration platform that sits on top of Salesforce, led their BD and ops teams over there, went on to Splunk, very similar story, ops and inside sales, and then a company called Lifesize, same type of thing.
Then I joined, like I said, Cloudflare about a year and a half ago.
I was hired in as a sales leader to help grow our Austin office.
When I started in Austin, we were, I don't know, five, 10 people, a couple BDs, a couple AEs, a sales manager, and that was it.
Now we're up to 118 at last count.
That office, we've just grown exponentially. It's been a lot of fun.
That's awesome. What do you love about supporting the business development teams?
What excites you about it? Yeah, I think it's the people. It's funny, right?
The millennials and Gen Z, I don't even know what we're on now. The millennials plus, right?
It's such a fun, diverse group of people and individuals, all very, very driven, aspirational from a career perspective.
They engage in the workforce in different ways.
It sits really well with me. I love working with the people of the organization and helping them grow and learn and develop and take their next step and watch them get married, buy new cars and houses and all that kind of stuff.
I get goosebumps talking about it. I love the people of the organization.
I thought we established before the call that you're a Gen Z at heart, right?
Yeah, I am. So we are very lucky to have you. I'd like to hear your story about how you heard about Cloudflare and how you joined and what was your initial role when you joined?
Because I know you moved more into the business development side in the last couple of months.
Yeah, so I joined, I guess initially when I was first talking to Cloudflare, we were kind of trying to figure out the right role.
And then as the Austin location became a more viable and real solution for us, I interviewed with a few folks and went through a cross -functional panel of people that helped me understand kind of what Nick is talking about, right?
The long-term vision of Cloudflare. I know I've had a couple of relationships within Cloudflare from the past and I definitely leaned on those folks through the interview process to just understand what they were seeing and feeling.
And the one thing that was so apparent, every person I asked about Cloudflare, they kept saying, well, it's the people within Cloudflare that make it special.
And quite candidly, I thought, it's a line, right? Like everybody's really well rehearsed and it's just a line.
And now that I sit on the other side and I'm within the company, I see how real that comment is.
And people genuinely mean that when they say that the people at Cloudflare, the collaboration, the partnership, even the kind of disagreements, right?
I mean, are done very professionally.
We're a very mission -driven company. So it's a, the people for me is really what attracted me here.
And then, like I said, I was hired into that sales capacity role, right?
Starting the team and growing the team and building out that go-to-market team, making sure that we were interacting seamlessly and the friction points between BD and AE and SE and CSM, all those different functions were operating smoothly and were kind of natural extensions of what was happening in San Francisco.
That's, yeah, that's awesome to hear how small the team was when you joined, Anil, but let's take it back another four years even when Nick started and tell us a little bit about what the team was like when you started, Nick.
How many BDRs were there globally when you started?
Yeah, I think Anil's being careful. He didn't know what he was getting into.
That's my takeaway. Yeah, I mean, so as I was telling you all yesterday, the team was seven people when I got here.
And I didn't say this yesterday, but one of the things that was funny and a little anxiety-inducing was our first team meeting, second team meeting, first one, Manish asked me to go around the room and say the names of every team member.
And he didn't tell me he was doing that beforehand. So I like, that would have been pretty terrible if I had screwed any of them up.
But fortunately, because it was the first time in my career that I was inheriting a team, I really took it seriously.
I really wanted to learn ahead of time about each person. I did one-on-ones with each person very, very quickly to try to understand, anytime there's a new role, not anytime, but most of the time there's a new role filled, there's challenges.
There's a reason that they're hiring someone for the role. And I think we were just going through early growing pains.
That's where a lot of the opportunities were to get a little bit more process-oriented.
And I think one thing, I'm like, if we fast forward five years from now and the BDR team is much bigger than it even is now, there's going to be a correct answer to all the process that we want to have implemented.
But you don't want to have all that process implemented 10 years ago.
There's an art to when you start to enter, because each process is really more friction, right?
Process is a way of saying that we're going to remove the choice for each person to make that process decision in real time for themselves.
And we're going to say, this is the process. We're going to make that decision for you, kind of at scale.
And so I think a lot of it was trying to figure out like, oh my God, there's 25 things that we need to do in 18 months or something or 12 months or tomorrow, but you can't do them all at once.
You've got to do them slowly and you've got to get people's buy-in, all the while growing the team really quickly.
Definitely hear you on the process part.
I know that's something that we're continuously building out and it's great to see that we're so thoughtful about it.
And we get the buy-in, we think things through.
And then obviously add it when it needs to help us get bigger and better.
What are some other areas of opportunity that you saw when you started?
And what was your earliest Klaffler memory besides that team meeting?
And what's your most memorable Klaffler story that you can think of?
I'll tell the earliest memory. This is the earliest big memory. We had an incident as a company called Cloudbleed.
I think three of you are probably very familiar with that.
Roshani, you definitely lived through it. And I remember this was about six months after I joined.
This was one of the worst incidents Klaffler's ever had.
It was a really, really tough time for us. And I still remember thinking when that first happened, like, oh my God, I left an amazing company and an amazing job.
And now this is happening. This must have been a huge mistake.
I briefly had that thought in my head. And I remember there was a conversation with all the sales leaders.
And we were in a room talking about, well, what's our story?
How are we going to message this to customers? How do we want to talk about this?
And I remember there were a couple suggestions thrown out that we're trying to, not like under emphasize, but it was kind of a unique situation where we didn't know whose data was leaked.
We knew some data was leaked, but we didn't know whose.
And so when you're in a situation like that, you sort of have a decision to make about how you're going to tell the story to the customer.
Are you going to tell them kind of just like really directly like, well, we think your data wasn't leaked, but we don't know?
Or are you going to sort of massage the story?
And I remember a couple of people threw out the idea of kind of massaging the story a little bit.
And Trey, who's still here, leads our sales engineering team, got pretty angry and like immediately shot it down.
And it was like, no, we will do nothing except be completely transparent, completely direct with our customers.
We owe that to them. And I don't know like metrics on this, but I think that we lost no customers.
Maybe like one or two, like a very small number of customers were lost through that.
And I remember seeing messages and hearing from customers that they felt like they trusted us more afterwards.
And the takeaway for me is like, you can go through all the interview processes that you want, but you don't really know a company, just like you don't really know a person, I think, until you're in a really tough spot.
And so I remember feeling like that's when I learned the character of the company and like really learned the culture of the company and made me want to stay for a long time.
So Nick, when you were talking about Cloud Lead, what's interesting enough, every candidate at Cloudflare has to do a final interview.
And at the time, Matthew Prince was doing it. And my final call was with them the day after Cloud Lead.
And it was, that's my earliest and my most favorite memory.
And it actually what sold me on coming to Cloudflare, that Cloudflare and Matthew were dealing with such a massive issue that he still took the time to speak to me as a candidate.
And it really showed the culture of Cloudflare.
And Neil, so you've been here a year and you've probably observed a lot. Can you tell us what you've learned and what you've observed the last year here?
This is going to be a laundry list about me, I think.
It was, I think, kind of around the concept of process and change.
Change is very intentional, right?
When we go through these, whether it's a system change, whether it's a process, whether it's a people change, it is very, very intentional here.
And we're very methodical about the way that we socialize, communicate, articulate that change.
And again, some of them could be really small topical changes that don't mean much to one group, but could really impact another.
And so one of my key learnings, you come in and you look and you're like, all right, there's so much you want to do.
Your eyes get so big. And I think Nick hit on this earlier, where then it's about a prioritization and a really thoughtful, methodical approach to how you approach each one of those things, right?
And so for me, it's change has to be intentional. You can't just cram 15 different key initiatives into a quarter.
You have to be smart and articulate about the way you do them.
And another question I have is what are our areas of opportunity that you feel like we can grow on?
Can I jump in real quick and make a comment on that?
Yeah, of course. One of the things that Anil and I talk about a fair amount is this theme that you see in scaling companies of like an old guard and a new guard.
And the way that Anil and I sort of define it or talk about it is the old guard, or these are the people that have been in the company since the beginning or for a really long time and really deeply understand in their core what the culture of the company is, what the values of the company are.
And they don't want to see that change.
And they have fear that as the company gets bigger and grows up, that some of those amazing things that made the company what it is are going to go away.
And then you have new guard that comes in and they're generally the more experienced people who have seen that next stage of growth for a company.
And they look at the company as it is, they're like, okay, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.
And one of the things that you'll notice that I think is really like, I think in this conversation, you could think that maybe I'm old guard and Anil's new guard.
But if you recall two minutes ago to my answer, when I first joined the company, I was new guard, pointing out all the 25 things that I thought needed to be improved.
So I think that there's, and I think one of the reasons that you and I get along so well, Anil, is like, I think there's this understanding that we have that you can't do it with just old guard, you can't do it with just new guard, you have to be the glue in the middle that brings those groups together.
And that's the way to be the most efficient as a team in a company.
It's such a good point. One of the things I was just talking about, in order to drive change, we've got to be intentional.
And part of that is understanding why the decision was made before.
And so to give you a really concrete example, my backfill for Austin has just been hired, and she's been in her seat, a week and a half.
And while we were going through the interview process, one of the questions I was asking her was, you know, like, you are going to point out things that I did a year and a half ago, and you're going to tell me that they're wrong.
And how do you approach that? What do you think about that? And her answer was just, it was perfect for us, right?
It was, first, I want to understand why you made the decision, and know that you made that decision, you made the best possible decision at that time, given the circumstances around you.
And I think that, you know, that answer was so profound to me, because everything that Nick did was 100% right at that time.
Now, five years from now, or four years from now, it may be a different discussion, right?
And there are different sets of environments, and team is bigger, and it's global, and it's this and that.
And so the decision may be different.
And that's not a poor reflection on Nick, or a great reflection on me.
That's just a leader making a decision in the right environment.
Yeah, I agree. What do you think we do well right now? I think the underlying process that we've got right now, and you had asked, you know, areas of opportunity, I think the underlying process and the sales partnership, as we have it today, is good, is really good.
You know, you know, some of those companies where BD is, you know, it's kind of an afterthought, or is not a really strong partner within sales.
And they kind of, you know, they're treated as second tier.
I think within Cloudflare, we are viewed as partners, not purely support resources.
So I think that sales partnership, and then the underlying process, in terms of kind of areas of opportunity, I think it's maybe twofold growth and scale would be one and just as our organization continues to evolve and get more complex, and more products rolling out, and we get more global in nature, we have to figure out how to grow and scale.
But then the second part of that is driving productivity and efficiency out of that.
So, you know, simply adding headcount to any one problem, or any one challenge is not the answer, right?
So I think as an organization, we've got to figure out how to continue to grow, scale, and some of that will come through headcount, but also drive productivity and effectiveness and efficiency up.
Nick, would you agree with that?
100%. One of the things that Anil and I talked about as we were going through this transition, from me leading the team to him leading the team, was like, the last four years of Cloudflare has been about grow, grow, grow, new business acquisition, not at all costs, but like, really, like that's the heavy priority.
And the next four years is going to be about taking what we have and who we have and making it really efficient and productive.
And that's just, I just think that's like a natural evolution that any company goes through as you get bigger.
So yeah, I think that's a different way of saying exactly what you just said, Anil.
Um, well, as we get bigger, when we were trying to get bigger, bigger than those seven people that we had, Nick, let's talk about headcount planning, something I know you guys both love to discuss.
When you were tasked to build like a global org, how did you go about planning for it?
You know, how far ahead did you plan at a time and then talk us through like the different functions and the structures within the BDR org that you came up with?
How did you select like, the titles that we should be using and everything like that?
Yeah, that's a lot. Well, let me start with the structure of the team.
That's probably a good baseline. So I think most BDR organizations, you think about there's two very standard roles, there's inbound, there's outbound.
And then, and of course, there's also usually a huge channel of marketing leads.
And so there's a decision that you make about which of those teams should take them, or should there be a separate marketing team.
In our case, we had an inbound team, have an inbound team that takes organic inbound leads, as well as paid search.
So like Google leads. And then we've got an outbound team that focuses on outbound, prospecting, cold calling.
And then we have a third team, which I think is a little unusual for a software company, a technology company, which we call the expansion team or the self-service team.
And this is the team that's tasked with taking our existing self-service customers, free business or pro customers and upselling them to the enterprise plan.
And the reason we have, inbound and outbound, I think are fairly self -explanatory.
But the reason we have this differentiation of a self-serve of an expansion team is that it'd be very easy as a sales team to think that our free pro and biz customers are quote unquote leads.
I think that's sort of the way that you often think about it.
When you have a quota, that's the way you're incented to think about it.
That's not the way we want to think about it at Cloudflare. These are customers.
Just because they're not on a contracted enterprise plan doesn't mean they're not customers.
And they deserve to be treated with the same level of respect that any customer does.
They don't deserve to be spammed. They don't deserve to be treated as a lead.
And so what we did is we kind of built a separate culture around that expansion BDR team to reflect that.
Anyway, those are the three kind of functions that we built.
And then we built them across the Americas, I mean, APAC, US, Europe and Asia.
In terms of like your question of how far ahead and all this stuff, four years ago, I would say we didn't think that far ahead, probably to your consternation at times.
And I think that's right. I think like the business is changing and moving so quickly that you really can't plan.
You certainly can't plan 12 months ahead.
And so I think it's great that Cloudflare has always had an extremely flexible sort of planning process.
And that has really served us well.
And that creates like some friction, right? Like that creates ambiguity. But as I'm sure we'll talk about at some point, the overall company's culture is one where you have to be comfortable in ambiguity.
And so if you're not comfortable with that kind of ambiguity, like probably not the right company for you.
So I think that culture decision that we made as a company, that Matthew and Michelle made and Lee made, I think lent itself to be able to be flexible in the planning process, not think too kind of further ahead than we needed to think.
Well, I'm sure hope we're planning further ahead than we need to today.
That's great to hear.
Neil, how do you envision planning for the future? You know, how is headcount determined for 2021?
I didn't even look at my calendar for tomorrow. I don't know. No, I think, you know, we're actually in the middle of that planning process as we speak, right?
And Nick's involved now in his new role. So it's actually kind of fun.
I get a partner in crime on that side and then someone from an operational perspective as well.
So for, you know, for 2021, we're going through and like I said, we're looking at the growth across the company, translating that into what it means by each one of those teams for pipeline sources and whatnot, tying that back into marketing and to BD and to sales, all the different functions that are involved.
And then really taking a big step back and saying, okay, how do we want to achieve this growth?
And, you know, for business development, our plans are going to be, you know, we are going to grow the organization fairly significantly year over year, but our plans are to drive productivity out of that.
So in the next week or so, I'd say, you know, we're going to come out with a plan that says, okay, here's how many people, here's the regions, here's the teams, here's the languages, all that good stuff.
And then also a set of assumptions around productivity, here are the productivity gains we need to have, and here's how we're going to go grab those gains.
And then I would say the last piece of that is the contingency plans that something is going to go sideways.
I don't know what it is yet, but something will go sideways and just being ready for it when it does.
One other, sorry, just one other, I should also note, like the comment I made before isn't to imply that we didn't have a planning process.
We've always had one. It's to imply that we have always been very flexible in our planning process.
Now, one thing I would add is the planning process has become more structured, I guess, is it has evolved to, it's evolved.
So for example, two years ago when we planned, it was very like centralized.
You know, like there was a sort of central sales ops team and a couple of leaders that made a lot of decisions about what the next year was going to look like.
And this year is the first year where we really push that down to, not down, but we push it to the regions where we say there shouldn't be one plan that one person comes up with or a couple of people come up with.
Anil and Chris Kanan, his sales ops leader, and then the CSM leader, and then all the different functional leaders, including the AE leader for Americas should build a plan together.
And then same thing for me, and then same thing for APAC.
And so I think that evolution isn't sort of an important addition in structure to the process.
For sure. Anil, you want to talk us through a little bit, you know, Nick mentioned like we have inbound, outbound, and then self-serve was unique to Cloudflare more so.
I know you talked to me, you know, about 2021 and how we'll be adding enterprise BDRs and more field BDRs, and then even more regional support as we open other offices, such as Canada.
I'm going to talk to you a little bit about your thoughts on that.
Yeah, I mean, we've absolutely got a lot of different things going on at Cloudflare.
And, you know, the work into Canada, we just hired a head of Canada, and he is in the process of staffing out his team.
So right next to that, we're building out, maybe even if we get lucky ahead of that, we're building out our BD team.
And then secondly, internationally, we're looking at different offices.
And we've already expanded, like the EMEA office was in London.
We've opened up Paris, and then we've opened up Munich. And we've already started thinking about, you know, what's next for 21 or 22 there.
In Asia Pacific, we, you know, we're in Singapore, but we've got offices now in Sydney.
And then there's one more around there.
Where's the other one? Japan. Yeah, there you go. Tokyo.
We just had our first BDRI that starts in January in Tokyo. So, you know, you're seeing the expansion across the offices, and we want to continue to get as close to the customers and AEs as possible.
In terms of, you know, the functions, Nick talked about inbound, outbound and self-serve.
We're also seeing this evolution of this product specialist type role.
I think most people by now have seen Cloudflare 1 and the launch of Cloudflare 1.
And we're thinking through the cleanest, most efficient go-to-market strategy for that as well.
And, you know, that involves BDR.
So we'll bring some Cloudflare 1 product specialists within the BDR organization too.
So what's really cool is the different roles that are being created just as the company continues to grow and flex on the product set and regions, the different roles and career paths that are being created as a result of that.
I love seeing that. I think that's one of my favorite things about being at Cloudflare.
I think it's just so fascinating to see how we create all these awesome roles that people can move into.
And we'll talk about that a little bit down the line.
So I have to agree. So one of my favorite things about recruiting for BDR is the rollercoaster ride.
Once you get really comfortable, it's one week is we're not going to hire right now.
Let's look at the future. I'll get an email from Nick and Chris and Anil.
We got to get 20 hires by this time. And I'm like, I can't do it.
But it pushes me out of my comfort zone. And it makes me just really, truly appreciate all the hard work and all the planning that goes into it.
So Nick, when you started, how many BDRs did we have?
And where are we at now? Nick, go ahead. I'm not putting that one on you, huh?
She put it straight away, straight to you. It's funny when you make a comment like, oh, we're so nimble or we're flexible on our process.
What that really means is one day someone says, let's do something and then everyone scrambles.
So I find that funny. Anyway, yeah. So four and a half years ago, the team was seven people.
And when I handed it off to Anil, it was about 175 people.
As we talked about a minute ago, four years ago, we had BDRs in two offices, San Francisco and London.
And now we have BDRs in six or seven offices. And what was the second part of your question, Janay?
Well, how do you scale from seven to 175?
Yeah, I think there's, I guess there's a lot of things, but two big ones that I found really quickly.
One is you've got to find leaders that are really, really good that you can delegate to.
So like, for example, if you take a hundred BDRs, I think there's probably, we love internal promotions at Cloudflare for reasons that we can talk about.
But so if you assume that you want most of your managers to be or leaders to be internal promotions, if you take a hundred BDRs, I think probably 10 are capable of being really, really strong managers, really strong leaders.
And of those 10, I think there's probably one or two that are capable of being really, really strong second line leaders, second line managers.
So these are people that are managing, you know, 25 to 50 people.
And so you have to be like, I got so far behind and like finding those people, finding those leaders, cause I wasn't thinking about it.
I was, but like not, I wasn't thinking about it six or 12 months in advance.
And then I focused really, really hard on catching up and we did.
And then I was always thinking about it six or 12 months in advance.
So I think like, that's just so clearly like the first probably and second biggest priorities are things that are required.
The second, I think is like having a clear vision, a story that you're telling both the candidates to recruit great people, but also just like something to inspire people to get behind.
And so the mandate that we have had is basically two things.
One is to generate revenue through qualified pipeline.
And the second is to be an incubator for talent across the organization, across Cloudflare.
And I always joke that the first is sort of the way that I always avoided getting fired.
Like this is how I went to the company at the end of the year and I said, Hey, here's how much revenue, here's how much pipeline we delivered.
You should keep investing in the BDR team because we're doing a good job.
But the long-term way that you measure the success of a BDR program is by the talent incubator, by the careers that you grow.
And one way to think about this is just, you just look at a lot of companies have done this analysis, take an account executive who's an external hire versus one who's an internal promotion and look at the quota attainment difference.
And it's significant.
Like it's really, especially at a company like Cloudflare with such a unique culture.
So yeah, so I think find leaders and have a clear vision. Is there anything that you would do differently?
Yes, many things. So one thing that we were chatting about that I think is, I still struggle with, I still think is really difficult to do, but I think we got better at over time is when a team is seven people, the seven people all have a strong relationship with you, hopefully.
And they'll just tell you what's going on.
Like you don't really have to like cajole them.
Like you don't have to set up the right environment, make them feel like they're just going to tell you, like it's a small company, it's a small team, you're their direct manager, they're going to tell you.
When the team gets bigger, that stops happening.
And then as things do get filtered up to you, they're extremely filtered.
And I think even, I'm sure I do this to my boss. I think like even the best intentions, most well-intentioned managers and leaders are going to want to filter the communication that they give upward.
And so it's very, very easy to begin feeling and thinking like there's no problems.
Like no one wants to tell you about the problems.
And so over time, I sort of came up with a couple. One is the concept of listening sessions, which basically is you just take five or 10 BDRs at random.
You get in a room and you ask them what's working. And then very, very quickly you find that they kind of stray into what's not working.
And the more comfortable you make them feel, like if they say something's not working and then you get defensive and you push back, well then that shuts it down, right?
But if you listen and don't say a whole lot and just let the conversation happen, what I always found, I don't know if you find this as well, Anil, but 45 minutes into one of those listening sessions, someone unloads something on you that you could tell they were like, that's emotional, that you could tell that they were like not sure if they were going to bring up at the beginning of the conversation.
But if you did a good job in that session that they did.
So I think it took me a while to figure that out, but that was a really critical tool.
You know, Nick, what's so funny, and you've told me that story a couple times, but it just triggered.
At AT &T, in my last role at AT&T, I developed something that was somewhat similar and I called it The Sound.
And the concept was we're listening, right? That we're just, we want the feedback and we're listening.
So as you're talking about that, it just popped into my head.
The Sound is what, you know, we have titled it at AT&T, but it's very similar.
And it's interesting because, you know, in Austin, like I said, I've only been in this role, you know, a couple months now.
In Austin, there's this interview room.
For those of you that have been to Austin, there's this one interview room with a green couch.
It's super comfy. It's always really cool in there. It's just, it's my place to be, right?
It's my go-to when it's open. And I find myself just having really casual conversations with people.
And we just sit on the couch and just do exactly what he's talking about.
And, you know, either getting to know people or just hearing, you know, what's on their mind.
And it is, it's so enlightening to me to just hear how different people think about problems or the challenges they're facing or our team's not shy, right?
Like I had one person tell me like, Hey Neil, when you did that last week, that was wrong.
I didn't like it.
And it's just so cool to hear that, right? Like people are really comfortable to speak their mind and it's good, right?
Cause it helps me grow and get the feedback and understand what works and what doesn't.
So, you know, for me that the Austin specific piece just happened in that interview room, got in a really casual way.
Hey, you reminded me like one other comment on that. We're talking about building sort of that inclusive and safe culture once people have joined the team.
But the other thing that I think is overlooked in the interview process, and you need people to do this.
So I'm not saying that no one should do this.
But a lot of people are sort of proud of how hard of questions they ask in interviews and like, almost like they're trying to put the person in the most uncomfortable possible situation and see what they say.
And I just like, never got that.
Like, again, like you probably want one person in an interview loop that does that just to see, just to get the full picture of a person.
But I sort of, exactly what Neil just said about making the person feel really comfortable and seeing them at their best is sort of what I try to do in an interview process also.
Because at the end of the day, like, yes, there's going to be some tough things at work when you're when you're on the job.
But for the most part, like, hopefully you create an environment where people are going to be at their best.
And so I kind of want to learn what they're like at their best, you know, like, that sort of makes the most sense to me.
So my version of what of a Neil's couch is just taking people for a walk.
And just, I just find that people really open up when you do that.
Is that what you were trying on me when you took me to the bagel shop down there?
You took me for a walk over there. What are you talking about? Our interview was in the fishbowl room, right?
It was. It was. It's like, hey, let's just, let's just go for a walk real quick.
Got all the secrets now. They're coming out. They're coming out.
Okay, so we've got about 20 minutes left. We're doing great here. So I just want to make sure we cover some other topics as well.
And Neil, how do you inspire and grow and develop relationships with over like, you know, what's going to be 200 people around the world?
You know, you have these open conversations, but, you know, people in EMEA or people in APOC aren't near the green couch or able to walk around the block with you.
You know, global teams have different, different needs, businesses and customer needs.
Like, how do you manage all that? And how do you, how do you handle that?
Yeah, it's, to be really candid with you, it's been really tough, right?
I mean, taking on a new role with a new group of people in a global environment with no travel has been really tough.
And, you know, I really, I really enjoy my couch conversations just because I feel like I get to build connections with people and not being able to do that in London or in Singapore, you know, wherever has been a little tough.
Now, you know, in absence of that, we've got Zoom, we've got Google Hangout, we've got different ways of communicating, right?
So I've done a lot of maybe kind of like what Nick has said, right?
Listening sessions. I try to be extra communicative, especially early on, right?
And trying to do all hands once a quarter, trying to sit down with every team lead manager.
And, you know, I'm slowly working my way around to the different people and the different PDs within the organization.
So I think it's just, you know, kind of sitting down and communicating, right?
And being really thoughtful and intentional about, you know, the vision and the feedback that comes along with that, and then working to build those relationships.
And then I'd say the second piece of it is everybody's a little different, right?
And so while someone's really comfortable, someone in Austin is really comfortable with, you know, pulling me into the room and saying, all right, like, hey, you did this wrong.
Others may not be as open, and they're still developing a relationship.
And I'm developing, I have a, you know, we don't have a relationship yet.
So that takes time with other people.
And so recognizing that, recognizing there are different cultures around the world.
So I think just giving everyone a safe space to operate within, and as we all feel comfortable with each other, allowing that trust and communication.
That's great insight. Can I add one thing to that? My dad is really close with my dad, and IBM is a mentor.
And I asked him a lot when I first started leading a global team about how you do what Anil just said.
And his answer was very simple.
He said, well, he calls me Nicholas. He said, you know, you get points just for showing up.
And I, it is just like still stunning to me how true that is, that when you work in headquarters, people in other offices just are not used to seeing you.
And they sort of start to expect that they're not going to see you.
And remember, headquarters, even the most well intentioned companies are constantly making decisions centrally that impact those teams without always talking to them as much as they should.
And so there's like that underlying friction and tension as well.
And so I mean, I remember I would spend a month at a time in Singapore sometimes.
And my boss didn't always love that. And that was something that I had to manage.
But it really, really helps us to show up to build a relationship.
I agree. And your visits to Singapore were awesome. Let's move into how BDR functions fit around, I mean, among the rest of the organization.
So Nick, tell us how the BDR org is different at Cloudflare versus other organizations.
Yeah, I think Anil and I talked about this a lot. I think that there isn't one right answer here.
But at most companies, there's really one career path for BDR.
And that's to become an account executive. And that is still the majority, excluding people who stay in the org as leaders, 80% of our promotions, I'm sure this is still true, are AEs.
But having a 20% that can go anywhere, not just within sales, that can go to marketing, or that can go to sales ops, or that can go to finance, or that can go to recruiting, or like literally any function in the company, partnerships, special projects.
It does a couple things. It changes the caliber of people you're able to kind of get to be excited about the role.
And then it also builds this network within the company and builds a lot of credibility for the organization within the company as well.
So I think it's a huge long-term benefit.
I give a lot of credit to Chris and Manish. Chris is our CRL, and Manish leads our sales ops team.
That's not an easy decision to make to be comfortable with that, because it's a long -term decision.
Because every person you're promoting that goes outside of the sales org, even if it's just one, that's quota that you're no longer keeping within the sales org.
That's someone that the sales org invested in, spent time and money investing in.
And then you're saying, oh, you can go to special projects, or you can go to finance, or you can go to whatever other team.
And I think it's a powerful differentiator for Cloudflare.
And again, I think our leadership team deserves a lot of credit for helping to make that happen.
It's also such a talent attractor though, right? When most companies are out looking for this AE-only persona, where the persona that we look for is much broader than that, because of the career pathing, it attracts a different level of talent, right?
And so I think that very, again, very intentional decision that is really phenomenal for the level of people that we're bringing in.
And then, you know, Jene, the other comment to that is, it's so interesting, like the term BDR.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and there's so many different variations of that, there's SDR, LDR, MDR, BDR, Senior BDR, ISR, there's so many variations of that.
And so, you know, one of the things that, you know, I've started seeing now is like, all these companies, when you say BDR, there's almost an hour discussion of like, okay, when you say BDR, do you mean this?
Or do you mean that? Are they doing this? Are they doing that?
What level of experience? What's the OTE? So it's so I think the industry has evolved so much, right?
From 10 years ago, you had deal sellers sitting in front of people, sitting in front of customers, and that was just how business was done, right?
And now you kind of look to today, and even in a, you know, in a COVID environment, everything is done remotely, right?
And the inside sales BD function is really evolved.
And my perspective on it is it's going to continue to evolve and even take more of a stronghold.
Yeah, yeah, I'm really happy that, you know, we take this awesome approach to developing our BDRs within the company the way we do.
I definitely as a recruiter for the org, that's a selling point that I share with candidates all the time.
I would love to talk about hiring next. I know that's like a big part of this discussion.
And with the time left, I'd love to focus on that. So, you know, as we speak to viewers today who are watching and interested in applying for 2021 headcount, what types of profiles do we look for when we're hiring for the org?
Nick? Yeah, so we always talk about kind of three buckets of candidates that we look for.
And we think about it as 40, 40, 20. So the first 40%, these are recent college grads, typically, or zero to two years experience.
The way that we think about this bucket is that they tend to lack a little bit of professional polish.
I know I did when I was a recent college grad, as anyone that I worked with can attest to.
But they make up for it with enthusiasm. No one's going to come in earlier, no one's going to come in later.
And that's really important. The second 40%, these are people with two to 10, or even more, 20 years of experience or sales experience.
That could be closing experience at a non-tech company, it could be BDR experience at a tech company, or anything in between.
And this group, I find, is a really good mentor for the first group.
So the first group kind of pushes the second group, and the second group sort of mentors the first group and helps them learn how to be professionals.
And then the third group, the third, the 20%, these are career changers.
So I've hired, in the past, lawyers, recruiters, HR professionals, consultants, ops people, like literally any people from completely different industries.
And I find there's a little more risk with those candidates. They don't always know exactly what they want to do.
But they really challenge your assumptions.
It's so easy to get stuck into this, like, oh, well, it's sales development, and it's tech sales, and so there's this formula and that formula, and you do this, and you do this, and there's no questioning it, there's no challenging the assumptions.
And they'll tend to ask these really, these questions that people think are basic that no one wants to ask.
And they really push the organization to get better.
So I think it's a really important mix. And just one quick story that I want to tell about, I've said this both to Mustafa and to Roy, who are the other people in the story.
Mustafa is one of our best sales professionals in the Singapore office now at Cloudflare.
He's incredible. And I remember when we first interviewed him, I was in London, and the sales manager for the UK, Roy, who was interviewing Mustafa at the time, looked at me before going into the interview and showed me Mustafa's resume, and was like, why are we looking at this guy?
Like, he's an entrepreneur who started a watch company, and he has an AI blog, and like nothing to do with sales.
And I said, just talk to Roy. And he came out of the interview afterwards, and he was just like, oh, my God, Nick, he's amazing.
And then a couple years later, he's now moved offices to Singapore, which I think is another amazing thing about Cloudflare is our mobility program.
And he's an incredible AE.
And so I think sometimes that third 20% bucket really pays off. Yeah, that's it.
I totally agree. And I'm so happy Mustafa's on the team. I remember him going through the process back in the day.
Neil, I see you have a Texas Longhorn sweatshirt on.
I am going to be graduating college pretty soon. Why should I go into sales and why tech?
You know, I think sales, you know, folks have this impression of sales as, again, the traditional seller, you know, kind of this sleazy salesperson almost.
And, you know, for Cloudflare, there's a couple of pieces, right?
Like Cloudflare is a very technical sale.
So one thing is just the understanding of technology and, you know, what you will get as a result of the training and coming through Cloudflare and the onboarding and all that.
But I think the second piece of it that most people really gravitate towards is the ability to solve some really big problems for companies, right, for your customers and people.
And, you know, a lot of sales conversations are simply rooted around company A, hey, I'm having a problem, right?
Cloudflare, how can you help me, right? And so part of the job that a lot of the AEs enjoy is simply just clearing problems for big and really like complex technical, altering company, altering problems.
So I think that's the part that most people, when they see that and they feel that they understand that about Cloudflare, they gravitate towards it big time.
What should resumes look like?
What, you know, what skills should people highlight? What are areas that they should get experiences in?
How, yeah, how can they stand out when they apply?
This is totally not the answer you want me to give, but I always spent very little time looking at a BDR's resume.
I was heavily biased towards doing the phone screen.
And I know that's a big time investment up front. But I just think that particularly when you don't have that much experience, it's really, really tough to know from a sheet of paper how good the person's going to be.
Even if it's as simple as like, did they have the privilege of attending a really good university?
Like not everyone had those opportunities. And so I think spending 15 or 30 minutes just talking to somebody to really understand who they are.
I think that's where people should really focus as much as possible.
And I can make the commitment that Anil will phone screen everybody going forward.
I will, Roshni, I'll one up Nick.
So I, now what some of the stuff though that, and I think Nick, what you're kind of getting at is the stuff that's not on a resume, right?
And so, you know, as I think about new BDs coming into the workforce or coming into the, into Cloudflare even, there are a couple of things I look for, and they're really hard to pick up in a resume, right?
One is the ability to operate above the fray.
And what I mean by that is, you know, like at any one company, there's always this level of, whether it's friction, Nick, are you writing that down?
Yeah, I really liked that.
That was good. There's always this level of friction, maybe even like water cooler talk.
There's always stuff happening, right?
And I think the best BDR, AE, leaders, anybody are the ones that can pull themselves up above that.
And, you know, I don't want to say ignore, but definitely operate at a level that's higher than what is going on there.
That's one thing.
And I don't think you gauge that from what's on a sheet of paper, right?
That's really hard to get on a sheet of paper. The other thing, I think we've alluded to it no less than 500 times on this call that our market is a really dynamic market and Cloudflare is very aggressive in this market, right?
So someone that comes in and can lean into change and is comfortable with a little bit of ambiguity, actually a lot of ambiguity, and kind of leans into it, right?
Really sees that and sees it as an opportunity to embrace. I think, you know, just tends to do really well.
And then the last piece, and you can pick this up, but, you know, we're such a strong culture, and it's not written on any one wall, right?
Like you don't have these six tenets that an employee must do this.
It's not written anywhere, right?
It's a living, breathing thing for us. But the culture is so strong that, you know, one of the things I really like to see and hear about is how they've helped their peers in the past.
So, you know, if I'm a BD and Nick's a underperforming BD and I'm doing well, being able to reach out and help Nick and show him some of the things that I'm doing and show him some of the things that are making me successful and help, you know, help him come along to where he's doing better, right?
And that part is something that's so important at Cloudflare, just the sharing of best practices and helping your peers and putting your arm around them and saying, okay, let's go get this together.
You really enjoyed that story at the end, didn't you?
Big time. I was figuring out ways to weave you in. I have to thank you, Nick, for, you know, imparting that wisdom of phone screens to all your team leads and all the managers you've promoted, because there's no way we'd hit our hiring numbers if we did not spend the time doing the phone screens.
So I'm glad you brought that up.
You know, for everyone watching, if you're currently a Cloudflare employee, we will be enlisting you in interviews for 2021.
You've heard it here.
That's how you get the best people. For people watching, if you apply and don't get a phone screen, just reach out to me and I'll make sure you do.
All right, well, Janae, you want to take it off with diversity and hiring for diversity?
Yeah, Nick, you know, Cloudflare is huge on diversity. It is very important and our CEO is very in tuned with it and she makes us, you know, be accountable for the hires.
So diversity is a huge factor. Tell us more about your strategy in hiring for diversity and how it is important as we scale the organization and your thoughts on that.
Yeah, why don't I answer? I can talk about that and I can talk about SV Academy too.
So I think the, I noticed a shift in this when we just started talking about it.
It like, it sounds very simple, but like, I just remember recruiting meetings with the two of you where we would just make sure all of our sourcing was diverse candidates, like that simple.
And I think that, I mean, just doing that so dramatically improved our ability to attract diverse candidates and hire diverse candidates, find diverse candidates.
And I think it's gotten a lot better as a result. And then with regard to SV Academy, that's been another, so this is a program for people who, for, you know, diverse people who are trying to get into the tech industry.
And we hire a bit through that program as well.
So that's a program that I started to get involved with probably about two years ago now.
And part of the, like my thought process at least is like, I mentioned my dad earlier and how much of a mentor he is.
Like not everyone has that.
Like not everyone is lucky enough to have a dad or a dad that has experience that's relevant to yours and to your career.
And so my view is like, if there's ways that you can just pass that on a little bit, and SV Academy is the way that I try to do that.
And just try to like share with people all the mistakes you made and hopefully they can avoid some of those mistakes.
I think just doing that is really powerful.
Can I just maybe to chime in a little bit around the diversity element?
I know we're really close to time here, but, you know, one of the pieces as we talk about diversity and, you know, bringing it up during our recruiting meetings and whatnot, one of the pieces of diversity that's really important to me is, you know, this concept of diversity of thought and experiences.
And, you know, all of us come from different backgrounds and we approach problems from so many different ways, right?
And, you know, for me, as I started thinking and looking at the workforce that we have and the way that we attack problems, it's amazing to see all those different backgrounds and experiences come out in a business product, right?
Like, as we all attack any one problem, it's just so cool to see the way Roshni thinks about it versus Nick versus Janae is always so different.
And the way that I've just seen us operate best here is the rounding of that across all of us, right?
We'll all have different perspectives, but as we shape that idea across all of our different thoughts and perspectives, I really do believe the culmination of all that after it's been through the different, you know, the different perspectives is a really strong business product.
So, you know, from a BD perspective, it has been just really refreshing to see we embrace it, we've enjoyed it.
And I think, you know, it's one of those things we need to continue to really drive.
Hi, I'm totally down with the cause.
You'll hear me talk a lot more about it as we continue to hire and grow the team to the next 200 people, you know, but we've got 30 seconds left.
So last minute words of wisdom you want to impart with our viewers.
I'll jump in. No, I thank you, Roshni and Janae for this.
And Nick, I mean, for anybody watching, you know, if you are interested in a career at Cloudflare, feel free to ping any of us on the call.
We'd be happy to sit down and spend some time through it. But just thank you.
Thank you overall for having us. Awesome. Thank you for joining. And that's it for us today.
Thank you all.