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Ryan Burke is the Vice President of Sales for InVision, the leading design collaboration platform used by 2 million people worldwide. To date, InVision has raised $135 million and is used by about 70% of Fortune 100 companies including design teams at Disney, IBM, Walmart, Apple, Verizon and General Motors.

Ryan established and leads a remote sales force of 40+ talented professionals responsible for identifying new market opportunities for collaborative design, developing new revenue streams and managing both enterprise and inside sales. Today, InVision powers the product design workflow for more than 1,100 enterprise customers, ranging from 100 seats per company to 3,000 seats per company, with thousands of new users signing up every day. In the last year, the company has seen revenue more than double. 

Outside of InVision, Ryan is active in the Boston startup community both advising and angel investing. He previously worked in the social advertising space at Moontoast and served as SVP of Sales for Compete before it was acquired by WPP in 2008 and became Millward Brown Digital. 

You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryansburke

He will be live on August 18th starting 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • MK

    Masha Krol

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan - thanks for doing this AMA!

    I’m really curious: at InVision, who “owns” growth? Is there a single person whose responsibility it is to establish and drive growth goals? Or is it a shared responsibility among various groups? What have you found works best?

    At our startup, considering we were only ever 4-5 people, everyone contributed to the growth process, and we had a single “owner” of growth who drove it (I believe @sean calls these “Growth Masters”). I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to scale this model in a really meaningful way while keeping the involvement across groups, and how the interaction between growth and product changes as you go beyond PMF.

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      I guess this depends on your definition of 'growth'. For us - we focus on growth in users and obviously revenue. These are shared across a number of teams - sales, marketing, product, leadership. For specific initiatives - we typically do have 1 owner - w/ supporting members involved - to create accountability and allow us to manage multiple initiatives at once w/out burying any one person. We also maintain a focus on other creative 'growth' areas - continually testing new things we think we can scale.

      To that end, we are also hiring a new Dir Growth - https://invision.workable.com/jobs/284503 - to accelerate some of the areas we will be testing for scale.

      4 Share
      • RB

        Ryan Burke

        about 1 year ago #

        Anuj - it's a new position - and yes, it's a killer opp. Multiple people in the org have been testing different areas, and identifying new opps to scale - but now at our stage we're ready to invest more heavily in a dedicated role/team.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        about 1 year ago #

        Whoa - that's a heck of an opportunity!
        Is the Director of Growth a new position or just hiring someone new for this position? If its a new position, why do you think it's never existed within the org so far?

      • MK

        Masha Krol

        about 1 year ago #

        Full disclosure - already applied ;) Thanks for your response! It really seems like you guys are all in on growth - that bias across the organization can definitely help drive success. Cheers!

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan - Thanks for sharing your knowledge here. :) I'm curious...

    1. To what degree marketing automation is involved in your sales process?
    2. What tools does your team use in your "Sales Stack"?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Dani - short answer on #1 - marketing automation is key - especially for any business going after a market at scale vs. a highly targeted, large ASP, narrow/deep sales motion

      The sales stack is key, and builds on the need to have strong sales operations. The two go hand in hand. For tools, you must be diligent about the evaluation process since there are so many competing tools out there, with most feature sets overlapping now, or in the future. Evaluate them for what they can offer you now, but also where they will be in six and 12 months.

      It’s crazy to see this space evolve from where it was a few years ago; now, there are many choices. To start, focus on the basic business questions: How can I track performance to help me make decisions (reporting tools), how can I scale my prospecting efforts (list creation, outbound sequencing tools, etc.)? Two words: simple and intuitive - that's what works. We build everything off of Salesforce and Gmail and go from there.

      2 Share
  • SA

    Shaker A

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    1) Can you break down the process you went through to find companies you wanted to work with, find people to champion
    you in those companies, and what was your value proposition that convinced them to take you seriously (and give you a
    shot) even though you were just starting out?

    2)Can you name some books, programs, etc that you've found to be particularly great for learning about startup sales.

    3)There's so little time, but so many things to do. Can you talk about how you plan your day? If there are alot of tasks that are high value task how to you rank which ones need to be done first?

    Thanks!

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks - good questions.

      1) For startups I was looking at - I definitely turned it into a process - developed a quick matrix of criteria that I scored (product, funding, mgmt team, etc.). In reality two of the primary things I looked for were a) leading indicators of a product/market fit. I wanted to see if there was traction - even if the co. had a lot to figure out in other areas, the product/market alignment is so critical. InVision had ~1000 signups/day at the time and over 3k today so obviously incredible traction and b) I looked at some of the 'waves' in business - industries that were emerging (AI, virtual reality, etc.) and the business shift towards design was one of those waves - and InVision was perfectly positioned at the front end of that.

      2) Books/programs. Two foundational books are Predictable Revenue and The Sales Acceleration Formula. They are both very tactical around strategies/etc. for SaaS sales. I also think early on - it's great to get some experience w/ a traditional sales methodology (Sandler, etc.). They are all fairly intuitive - and similar - but the baseline sales skills they can help you develop can be extremely valuable in an early stage co.

      3) I could be better at this tbh. What I try to stay discipline around is knocking a few things off my list first thing the am - before I get buried in email/meetings. From there I'm a big Evernote user - and track all of items that I prioritize every day/week.
      Hope this helps

      3 Share
  • AA

    Aldin A

    about 1 year ago #

    Ryan,

    Great to have you here.

    1)When invision was just starting out, how did you find people willing to give (what was then) an unproven product a shot? How did you build credibility with them?

    What were the perks that caused them to be early adopters? For ex. their early input is valuable,which makes their ability to influence the product is greater, making them feel valued. What other 'perks' did you give the early users of invision which swayed them into giving invision a shot?

    2)Building off of #1, since startups don't have the long product history to show product excellence, what perks (such as allowing the suggestions of customers to influence the future of the product) can young startups offer to prospective users?

    3) What are the most difficult issues you've encountered while scaling the startup, and how have you over come them?

    Looking forward to learning from you!

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Aldin.

      1) When I started - 2 years ago - the product was already 'proven' in a lot of respects in terms of usage/adoption. When I was doing my diligence on the app - I did a lot of research w/in my network and found that sr design/product folks I knew loved the product. That said, for any earlier stage product - the key is to make exposure/usage frictionless. We do that through a free version of the product, and free trials on the Enterprise. Just get people in - and that type of approach creates credibility. For other 'perks' - people do love our t-shirts!

      2) You need to be a little careful here. You want to give people the feel that they have visibility into the product roadmap and can provide feedback. Definitely use that - bring them into the process - but you need to be careful to offer up any commitment. I think beta programs, user groups, and conversations w/ the product team are all good perks - but as in any sale - get something back from them (specific feedback, referrals, pr, etc.)

      3) Woah - that's a big question and pretty specific to the company/market. For us, one of the things we balance is the drive for product adoption/usage vs. near term revenue. Getting people into the product and creating a sticky experience is the priority - and for any startup that balance will start to shift towards revenue as they scale but making customers happy needs to be above everything.

      2 Share
  • MM

    martín medina

    about 1 year ago #

    Ryan,

    Thanks for coming on here and doing this AMA.

    What are some of the most exciting trends you have seen in sales? Where do you see the future of sales heading?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Great question. One of major trends I see is everything is shifting towards a product driven sales approach. This means you need to adjust the profile of your sellers. They need to be product experts who can demo your product, get prospects into the product, and then educate them on best practices around usage/etc.. In my past worlds there was a lot of BS around schmoozing, steak dinners, etc. to influence the deal - but now things are becoming cleaner and more product driven - and to me that's exciting.

      4 Share
  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    about 1 year ago #

    Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge and time with us today Ryan. I'm curious if you guys have tested outbound prospecting (cold calling or cold emailing)? If so, how did you approach it to validate if it would work or not?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Yes. We have resources focused on outbound, and I also make sure all of our AEs are generating their own opps as well. We love inbound and leads from other channels, but sales should always control their own destiny and keep in the habit of opening up new doors.

      3 Share
  • RB

    Ry B

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan,

    Appreciate you doing this AMA.

    1)What are the things early stage startups should focus on to increase their chance of not only surviving, but thriving? What are the things you see early stage companies screwing up that they really can't afford to, and how do you fix them?

    2)What are the most valuable lessons you've learned in your career?

    3)Can you please talk a little about how you look at competition, specifically when your going up against bigger, and better funded competitors? How does that affect your strategic plan, if it does at all?

    4)What are the top skills that you think a founder needs to have, to succeed?

    Thanks

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks - great questions.

      1) Big question and really depends a little on your market/model. I think two big risks are getting away from your core value prop as the market pulls you in different directions. You need to stay true to your core product - and your core customers - above everything else. Sometimes early stage cos. get caught up in a sexy new market, or persona, or are pulled in a direction by a specific customer request - but you should always weigh that against what it will do to your focus on your core.

      2) Do the right thing. Sounds simple, but in sales sometimes you can chase the dollar, get overly aggressive on commitments, etc. - but you need credibility w/ your customers - and internally. People need to trust you. Customers need to trust you. Today's sales is about doing what's right for the customer - not just what you need to hit quota.

      3) As sales we always have an eye on competition - but are not distracted by it. We know our strengths, we know our product delivers value, and that is our core focus. One key: never negatively sell against competitors, focus on your strengths. Prospects pick up on negative sales and impacts their trust in you.

      4) Hmmm . . . tough one. For us - our CEO/Founder has a finger on the pulse of our industry and target persona that we know what to build, and how to prioritize. That has been one of the primary drivers of our success: we are so immersed in our industry - from the top down.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan! Thanks for joining us here. I took a look at your Twitter and noticed most of the tweets you send out are content driven, rather than an opinion or insight from you. Do you think this is what Twitter has largely turned into? (A place for sharing content rather than connecting and engaging with fellow users?) I myself have been using the app less and less because of other users I notice doing the same exact thing.

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Logan - great question and love the early submission! Short answer is yes - for me Twitter has become my primary resource for content - personal and professional. I find myself using it less for engaging fellow users - which admittedly is probably not a best practice w/ the evolution of social selling, but I'm still old school and feel like email has made a resurgence in terms of effectiveness as an engagement vehicle. I should probably put more flavor on my content updates, but the reality is I post what I think is relevant/interesting to folks in my network and it's where I go to keep the finger on the pulse of the industries/hobbies I care about.

      2 Share
  • NJ

    Nikhil John

    about 1 year ago #

    Wow impressive bio Ryan.

    I have a few questions :-
    1) How important is the marketing team for Sales to function properly ?
    2) In Enterprise Sales - what structure has worked the best for you ?
    What is the Salesperson responsibility/KRA ? Business development KRA ? pre-sales KRA? Account Manager KRA ? How many accounts does 1 account manager have to handle ?
    3) How do you manage a remote team ?
    4) In SaaS sales - who do you think is the no.1 salesperson - in other words, who do you look upto ?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Nikhil

      1) Marketing is everything. For us, we are going after a bottoms up market - targeting the design community. Bottoms up is about the community you’re targeting, and you need to have a brand voice within that market - doesn’t always have to be inbound lead gen, it has to be delivering content, events, partnerships and embedding yourself in the narrative of the space. Luckily for us - we have a kick ass marketing team that develops highly relevant content - and even produced a movie! www.designdisruptors.com

      2) Specialization has been key. Break apart the different parts of your buyer journey, and sales - and specialize - from lead gen to size of market (SMB, etc.) to post sale. You can start more broadly out of the gate, then identify areas of focus and specialize resources to really nail those.

      3) Remote sales works. I was skittish out of the gate - coming from a world where chest bumping and gong ringing was the norm. The keys to any team are communication, collaboration and culture. In todays world you can address the first two w/ tech (Slack, etc.) so you really need to focus on culture. Remote culture takes commitment, but we make it work - with everything from peer based rewards systems, communication across teams, and even virtual happy hours (yes, those are exactly what they sound like). I'm a believer. And I've done a few podcasts on this if you want to hear more (Bowery Capital, etc.) http://www.bowerycap.com/blog/sales/building-winning-remote-sales-teams/

      4) Me personally? Good question. I'm in Boston and part of a networking group w/ Mark Roberge of Hubspot. I think he changed the game a bit w/ a very data driven approach that is where everything is headed. I'm taller than Mark but I look up to his methodology.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan,

    Thank you for doing AMA with GrowthHackers. From your experience as a sales leader and business investor/advisor, how do you think about the value of sales beyond just selling products or services? How do you think about the relationship between marketing, product and sales in contributing to overall business growth?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Hila. In earlier stages cos. the lines are so blurred btw marketing/product/sales - everyone should have some exposure to each group. For folks earlier in their career - I think sales is a great place to start. The foundational sales traits - understanding customer pain points/feedback, banging open doors to initiate discussions, customer communication - are things you can use no matter where you go after sales. I'm obviously biased but I think the value in sales skills translates to a number of areas.

  • JR

    Josh Reyes

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan,

    Other than the picking up the phone to convert leads, what do you think is the most effective and efficient method for SaaS sales?
    Our sales and marketing team is in Australia but the majority of our customers in the US, so the time difference is a major killer when trying to book calls. Especially when 12mbps home internet speed isn't great for 2am calls.

    Are there any tools you could recommend?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Josh - good question. For tools - don't abandon the phone. The phone is back. We introduced phone touches into every source of our outreach, from cold prospecting to inbound lead requests. The phone touchpoint is just one in a series of touches, and they should all build off each other. Nothing is truly ‘cold’ anymore. Buyers are informed, time strapped, and cagey - and you should treat them as such, with warm, personalized touches that add value. Always have something interesting to say, don’t waste their time with lengthy sales speak, and make it easy for them to respond. Picking up the phone is a part of that process.

      For specific tools - we're big fans of Outreach.io - allows us to communicate at scale, while maintaining a personal feel. The measurement is also key - isolating sequences, CTAs, titles, etc. that are most effective.

      • JR

        Josh Reyes

        about 1 year ago #

        Thanks Ryan! Have been making sure to get every trial sign-up on the phone the last 2 weeks, and it's been great helping with conversions.

  • SB

    streetweeters bailey

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan thanks for being in the Growth Hackers work space.

    1). How did the internal knowledge management process and sharing at InVision lead to the disruptive collaboration platform used today by 2 million people worldwide?

    2) What are the core drivers leading the continuous disruptive processes, outcomes and impacts at InVision?

    3) How often is the Why? asked at Invision and was the Why? built into the customer discovery phase of InVision pre launch campaigns?

    4) How do you see learning management as a service in the immediate future leading to a Return on Investments, for companies?

    5) At what point did InVision know the collaboration platform had created a market disruption,'the aha moment', and how was InVision "Pitched" to funders, (i.e. business plan, slideshare, face to face) ?

    Thanks in advance for your cooperation in answering these most timely questions.

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks - and let me bundle a few of these since there's some overlap.

      I think the meta point here is in a bottoms up sales model like ours, understanding the needs of your community - by being part of it. This continual learning and listening is so critical to building the platform we have today. This goes to sales as well. I want my team to be hitting UX drink ups, reading design books, and becoming part of this community. That will help you understand - and ultimately sell - the 'why' for what our product team is delivering.

      You ask about learning mgmt - but let me reframe it a bit by talking about the importance of education in a market like ours. My team doesn't sell, we educate. Educate users on how they can use new parts of the product, educate them on best practices, and then let them decide what/if they will use. This also bleeds into our content - where our marketing and design education teams are continuing to add value to our target market outside of our product. We continue to innovate on how we cater to our target community, and it doesn't need to always involve product usage.

      I'm not sure about the 'aha moment' across the board. For me - it's how our product spreads organically in organizations. We socialize such a critical part of a company's success - the design process - to folks who may not have been involved previously. When we see people at companies like Twitter, Netflix, Hubspot, etc. use the product - people who are not designers - that to me has been an inflection point.

      For pitch. I wasn't involved in the early pitches but I can tell you how many times I hear from founders on the value of showing a working prototype as part of their pitch. Last week I had a founder tell me he got his first 20 customers and term sheet using just an InVision prototype.

      Jason Calacanis has a good take on this approach here - http://calacanis.com/2015/01/06/a-mockup-is-worth-a-thousand-powerpoint-slides/

  • BD

    Brad DeFrank

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for giving us this opportunity.

    1. In your opinion, what is the biggest roadblock you see for SaaS sales teams?

    2. Did you have a mentor to help guide your professional growth? If so, how do you suggest identifying and approaching potential mentors?

    Thank you,

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks Brad - happy to chat.

      1) Biggest roadblock for sales teams? Good question. I think one of them is the sales team having credibility on the product side to establish a mutual relationship w/ customers. Once you're viewed as purely the sales person - you're done. Add value, always. With product knowledge, relevant content, use cases, etc.

      2) Yes - I've had a couple of mentors and they are critical. I would make a point of building your network - have goals on how many people you want to meet/month/etc. Using that approach, you can find mentors. Keep in mind, people are strapped for time - so make it easy for them. You meet them. You come with an agenda. You give them an out.

      One other thing that was valuable was a few years back Mark Roberge started a VP of Sales networking group in Boston that I was an original member of. We would meet for dinner once/quarter - hit up a nice restaurant and go around the table highlighting one issue you had (comp plans, marketing/sales friction, etc.) and then we'd order. Once the food came we go back around and focus on each persons issue individually and then everyone gave their perspective based on their experience. It was invaluable to hear from people in a similar seat at similar cos. The group became very vibrant - adding 1-2 people per time and the insight, relationships, etc. have carried on even today. No matter what level/role you're in - I highly suggest a similar approach of finding peers and building networking groups.

      Hope that answers your questions.

      • BD

        Brad DeFrank

        about 1 year ago #

        That was great Ryan, Thanks.
        Credibility is definitely a key point.

        I love your suggestion that makes it more social while being productive. I can see this being valuable face time for people working remotely to connect with other professionals in their field.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    about 1 year ago #

    Ryan, amazing to have you on for this. Our team absolutely loves InVision.

    A couple of questions from me:

    1) What do you think has repeatedly been the most complex part of selling InVision into large clients and internationally? Have you faced unexpected challenges expanding geographically or based on the size of the client?

    2) With so much automation taking place, where do you focus your sales teams energy and how can a salesman reinvent themselves over the next 10-15 years to stay future proofed?

    3) What tech stack do you use for sales support and retention?

    I can't wait to hear your advice!

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Great questions.

      1) We honestly haven't faced that many challenges on geographic expansion to date. We have a remote team ourselves - literally all over the world, and such a core part of our product is the ability to collaborate across teams in different locations. This has enabled us to grow geographically very quickly. Someone posted recently in one of our Slack channels a heat map of active users - it was literally all over the world.

      For large clients, the most complex part is bringing people into the platform from outside the design persona. Some companies are already there, and some are just becoming more design centric - and we are helping them w/ that transformation.

      2) I love the automation. It allows the sales team to put more energy into becoming product experts, cultivating key relationships with customers and spending time w/in their target communities. That will make them better salespeople - while some of the nuts/bolts of sales can be automated.

      3) We just implement Gainsight which has been great for client communication

  • AS

    Alex Sherstinsky

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan, thank you for doing an AMA with us! Question: Given that you have a remote sales force at Invision. Do you think that is a trend or something unique to Invision? What should an organization be considering before deciding that they might want a remote sales team or not? Thank you!

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      A lot of people are put off by the thought of working remote. They want the happy hours and ping pong tables, and office environment, but once they get in a situation where they are doing incredibly rewarding work, empowered, and can spend more time with their friends, family, going to the gym, etc. as well – they love it.

      I do think things are trending this way, and it opens up unique opportunities to be very selective with talent and also strategically have people in markets you maybe wouldn't traditionally have a presence in.

      I’m not sure it’s the right environment for everyone, but one unique thing about our approach is it's an even playing field - we are all remote. Some cos. have a headquarters and then remote pockets, but for us we're all remote with some shared office spaces around the country/world.

      Additionally, the cases I typically hear against remote teams are fading - specifically -
      1) Socialization of sales. Listening to people on calls. We do that. We record demos, share across the team, to mock demos and ongoing training.
      2) Collaboration. Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom has answered this.
      3) Water cooler talk. We still have water cooler talk – in Slack – to talk about The Olympics, Stranger Things, Kids, etc. but we also don’t have the negative water cooler talk, like politics. This has been eye opening. People are productive and positive, and without the 3 hour group lunches or the gossiping in the hallways.

      2 Share
  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    about 1 year ago #

    Hi Ryan, Thanks for being here today!

    What advice would you have for someone who has no connections within the Boston startup community to go about building them? Where should they start? Who should they meet (first)? What quirks of the ecosystem should they be aware of?

    Thanks!

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks - great question. Good news is there are ton of opportunities out there to get connected. A few things to do -
      1) Sign up for all the local tech rags - Bostinno, Venturefizz, etc
      2) Follow key journalists (Scott Kirsner, Galen Moore) and local entrepreneurs (Dave Cancel, Darmesh Shah, TJ Mahony, Mike Volpe, etc.) on Twitter
      3) Check out local VCs (Matrix, Highland, Accomplice, etc.) - and then their portfolio cos on their websites

      There is a relevant post here from one of my mentors Don McLagan - a little dated but still some good content here - https://www.quora.com/What-is-a-good-list-of-resources-for-startups-in-Boston

      For quirks - not really sure how to answer that. I would say that Boston has a lot of early stage startups (seed/angel/Series A) compared to some other markets where there are more Series B+ cos.

      Hope that helps.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    about 1 year ago #

    Hey Ryan - so stoked to have you on!

    One common scenario that always arises is the inter-relationship between marketing and sales.
    What challenges have you encountered with getting those organizations working together and how have you been able to overcome them?
    Also, now with the addition of growth teams (which may or may not reside directly under marketing) - how do you think that might impact the interplay between all of these organizations?

    • RB

      Ryan Burke

      about 1 year ago #

      Thanks - good question. There will always be some inherent conflict w/ sales and marketing - but at InVision we're dispelling these by -

      1) Being very clear on goals. We know which vehicles are branding focused vs. lead gen.
      2) Planning. Getting everyone on board early - in terms of who owns what.
      3) Measurement. Let the data drive the discussions.

      For growth - I think this will be huge for all of our teams. This is a focused resource to investigate areas that sales/marketing can then take and throw some scale behind. I'm pumped.

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