Okta Has a Sales Problem
This pandemic high-flyer continues to grow at a 40%+ clip year-over-year. But perhaps as evidence that the “growth at all costs” era is over, investors are now scrutinizing factors like free cash flow and asking, “what's the path to profitability?” Or, in Okta's case, some eyebrow-raising comments from the top exec.
CEO Todd McKinnon said in an interview with Barron’s that it was “kind of a mixed quarter” for the company, with strong growth in deals worth $1 million or more. But he also said Okta is having some issues with the integration of Auth0, particularly in blending their sales team with the core Okta sales staff.
“This integration has proven harder than we thought,” he said. McKinnon noted that while the deal closed 18 months ago, the sales teams were integrated more recently, at the beginning of 2022. “The biggest issue was that it wasn’t clear enough how the Okta sales people should sell Auth0,” he said.
A second problem, he said, is that there has been higher-than-expected attrition in the Okta sales team, so there have been a large number of new hires who need to be educated about the company’s products.
What are reps saying? On RepVue, a crowdsourced sales org ratings platform, Okta reps score it a 91. Auth0 reps rate it a 95. Reps report 60% hit quota, compared to average of 48% in the SaaS industry.
Glassdoor offers a different perspective where all employees give the company a score of 3.8, but the sales org grades it even lower. Reviews touch on the high turnover and the lack of adequate product knowledge needed to succeed in a sales role.
Steve Rowland, the company's relatively new Chief Revenue Officer, joined in March of 2021, right before the Auth0 acquisition became official. He's almost certainly prioritizing retention, onboarding for new reps, sales enablement, and product training for all sellers.
There are quite a few examples to turn to where merging sales teams are winning, e.g. Twilio's acquisition of Segment or most Salesforce acquisitions. Some lessons gleaned from these successes:
- Co-own the integration roadmap and timelines (the parent company execs shouldn't own it all 100%; elevate execs to the newly combined leadership team).
- Evaluate the market – where do we have overlapping customers? Why did they buy both products? Which customers make the most sense to target first (post-acquisition)?
- Understand product implications. Do we bundle? How do we price as standalone offerings? How long will customers have dual platforms and logins?
- A/B test with our high performers. Should we co-sell? Should our best account executives sell the new product first? What insight or value-led messaging leads to the most meetings booked?
- Don't put it all on sales enablement. Ask product managers or high-performing reps (and frontline sales managers) from each merging company to train, teach, and lead the go-to-market strategy.