The Genesis of Drift’s Sales Lab with Kyle Bastien

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Genesis of Drift’s Sales Lab with Kyle Bastien. The summary for this episode is: <p>If you look around your company today, it probably wouldn’t be hard to find people who had an idea or an opinion about how to make your sales process better. Everyone has one. Everyone has ten.</p><p><br></p><p>Ideas are easy. Testing hypotheses, experimenting, and validating those ideas is much harder. On this episode, we’re going to break down a sales science experiment with the chemist who put it together, Kyle Bastien. Kyle is the VP of Sales Readiness at Drift, and in the past year, he launched something at Drift that is now known as Sales Lab. </p><p><br></p><p>In our conversation, we talk about the genesis of the group he brought together, how we went about prioritizing the laundry list of “shovel-ready projects” he found across the company, and why he believes your company needs an engine of Innovation to stay relevant.</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode?&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️&nbsp;review</a>&nbsp;and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.</p>

Sean Lane: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Operations, the show where we look under the hood of companies in hypergrowth. My name is Sean Lane. If you looked around your company today, it probably wouldn't be hard to find people who had an idea or an opinion about how to make your sales process better. Everybody has one. Everybody has 10. Ideas are easy, but doing your research, generating a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis validating or disproving it with data. That's the hard part. Now, if those steps remind you of the scientific method that you learned about in middle school, you're going to enjoy today's episode because today we're going to break down a sales science experiment with the chemist who put it together, Kyle Bastion. Kyle is the VP of Sales Readiness at Drift. And before he became my colleague, he led enablement teams and sales teams at companies like Copper and Demandforce. In the past year, Kyle launched something at Drift that is now known as sales lab. In our conversation, we're going to talk about the genesis of the group that he brought together, how he went about prioritizing the laundry list of shovel, ready projects that he found across the company and why he believes that your company needs an engine of innovation to stay relevant. To start, I asked Kyle to take me back in time to what was going on at Drift when he realized that we needed our own unique way of making our own sales process better.

Kyle Bastion: So at the time my job was as the Director of Business Value Consulting at Drift. And what that means is that I'm brought in to, usually, strategic or larger deals after the demo and before they're going through procurement, to help create a business case and articulate the value of what we're doing.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: So you're coming in late stage and we started building this motion, and we're having some success. It's going well, we're building a service to the sales team that they're embracing and that they're using in their deals. And I go to report to our chief revenue officer like, hey, we built this thing and it's working. And he was like, yeah, I'm sure it is. That's great. I bet customers and reps like that you're doing good business cases. He said, what are you learning about the sales process? Now that you're in all these deals, I'm assuming there's things that either didn't go according to plan, there's gaps in what the reps understand or what you understand that creates these problems. You're creating these business cases. What are you doing about that? And I think I was asked this because I had this purview to all these deals. And I also had worked in Enablement previously at Drift. And so I had for fixing those things and process orientation as it relates to sales. So I started thinking about that. And so I started building a list of what do you want change? How do we want to change it? And I was trying to tackle one big thing in particular, the details of it don't necessarily matter at the time.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: But as I was working through what the solution was to this part of the process I wanted to fix, it occurred to me that I needed more help on this. For this to happen, sales leaders would need to say yes and buy into it. Reps would have to help me validate and adopt this. I would need to try this because it represented a fairly big change to a certain part of our process.

Sean Lane: And for context, for people, we probably had north of 60 sellers at that point.

Kyle Bastion: Right. Right.

Sean Lane: So you're one of 60.

Kyle Bastion: Right. Exactly. And so I was like, look, I can either make a super marginal improvement based off of what I can control today or I'm going to need a bunch of folks that are down to nerd out on this and experiment, basically. And this is a potentially big idea, but the way we work at Drift, as you know, is we don't sit on these huge ideas, work on them in private and then reveal them. It's a very collaborative way that we work here, that you basically share your idea early, you build upon it, get feedback and ideally you get to the desired solution faster. And so that's why sales lab was formed.

Sean Lane: Okay. So you have this problem statement, and you're starting to bring together these other people that you can nerd out with.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah.

Sean Lane: But it's not fully formed yet, right? You've got an idea of what it could be.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah.

Sean Lane: What happened next in terms of, okay, this is the catalyst for the situation, how do I go from the zero telling me that there's a problem I need to solve, that's broader to actually solving it?

Kyle Bastion: Sure, sure. So I had to recruit allies, basically. And I did that one on one with sales leaders who I had, basically, informal conversations with where we're complaining about stuff in the process, like, oh, this doesn't work, that doesn't work, reps don't do this, don't get that, whatever. And I was like, hey, I've heard you talk about these things before. I've noticed some things too, just from my Perge and Value Consulting. I've seen this, this and this, are you noticing? Like, oh, totally, we got how to fix that. I'm like, okay, do you want to get together on some sort of regular basis and just work on this stuff? Don't have to come if you don't want to, I get you at a day job, but you want to just get together and nerd out, basically, was the offer. And people were like, yeah, absolutely. And so I thought, okay, I'm going to need help from each of our functional... Like mid- market, growth, enterprise. I wanted to get a leader from each of those business units. I asked folks in sales operations, I asked folks in sales enablement, I asked the solutions consulting team and I ask people in product marketing and marketing. And we pretty quickly got a group of about 10 to 12 people that all just said yes. And then we got together and started talking about how we're going to work. So it was just an informal recruiting process. And what I found out actually was that a lot of folks had these shovel ready projects. A lot of people were like, oh, you know what? I actually do see that problem, too, and I've wanted to do this thing about it this whole time. And for whatever reason, they just couldn't get enough consensus or momentum or whatever to get the project off the ground. And so the prospect of organizing folks who could potentially add some weight to their projects was individually appealing, I think a lot of people who said yes to that.

Sean Lane: You can see, as you listen to Kyle, why people in an organization would want to join him on this mission. He's realistic about the challenges the team faces, but he's also incredibly optimistic that with the right collaborators, all of those challenges can be overcome. As he mentioned, he sought out cross functional partners from all over the company to form this group that would later become known as sales lab. In addition to sales leaders themselves, participants came from sales ops, sales enablement, product marketing, solution consulting. They all joined in on this group to, as Kyle puts it, nerd out on the problems that the sales team was facing. So I was naturally curious about what that first gathering looked like, because I'm sure everybody there had their own opinion on what the most pressing challenge was or what they thought this crew should tackle first. So how did Kyle and his Merry band decide what to do first?

Kyle Bastion: So we ran, basically, a sprint process.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: And I think you've probably been exposed to stuff like this, but it basically starts with brainstorming and then pitching and then consolidating and prioritizing.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: So I first said, everybody for the next one of these, the first meeting, just write down everything that you think is broken or that you want to fix.

Sean Lane: This is better when I do this with people who don't work at the same company as me, because then I like, oh, that must be tough. You have all these problems.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah.

Sean Lane: But now these are problems that are internal. I can't pretend that they don't exist. So you're making this hard for me.

Kyle Bastion: I know. So I can see your anxiety level just rising as you imagine how many cells are in that spreadsheet. So we wrote them all down. I was like, all right. And then I was like, all right, what's the problem this is going to solve, and then what do you want to do about it? So you couldn't just point at problems, you only could say a problem if you had some notion of what the solution looked like. And then you put your name on it. And then the next meeting was awesome. It was basically shark tank. And we got a stopwatch out and I was like, everybody who submitted an idea has two minutes to pitch the group on the merits of your idea.

Sean Lane: That's amazing.

Kyle Bastion: It was awesome. It was actually really fun. People were laughing, having a good time and getting into character. And there's a lot of folks in that room that aren't sales people, and it was nice to see them put it on.

Sean Lane: Nice.

Kyle Bastion: So they go in and they picture idea. It's like, this is the problem, this is where I'm seeing it. And people had all these different perspectives on it because solutions consultants, for example, also overlay on our sales team. And they do a little sooner than the value consultant does, but they had a certain perspective on it. And then marketing, which isn't in the deals, but certainly has a perspective on what goes on in sales execution brought different things to the table. So a lot of stuff came out that I hadn't been thinking of or wasn't prioritizing and gave us a lot to think about. So everybody pitched it with the goal, basically, of making sure everybody understood this proposal, this thing on this problem we want to fix, they knew about it. They knew what it was. They knew what it meant. They knew what we were talking about, such that they could vote on it. And we did that asynchronously. We broke part, we gave it a few days. People were able to vote on five things. And there was a list of maybe 20.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: So they picked their top five. We then scored those, tallied them up and said, okay, just based on the voting, this is what the implied priority list is. Let's not just run off that, let's sanity check it and just say, as a group, does this sound right? Or does this crazy? So we then editorialized to make sure we got to the right place.

Sean Lane: And when I'm one of those people and I'm placing my vote, am I voting for the thing that I think is the biggest blocker for us today? Am I voting for the thing that I think is going to have the biggest yield as an idea? Help me understand how to prioritize or place my vote.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah. So it was framed around behavior change.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: So it's like, which of these things can your team not do now that if they could do, they would have a maturely better chance of hitting the numbers.

Sean Lane: Got it.

Kyle Bastion: That was it, what do you think is going to help you win the most?

Sean Lane: Okay. And so you land on your top five.

Kyle Bastion: Yep.

Sean Lane: Right?

Kyle Bastion: Yep.

Sean Lane: What happens next?

Kyle Bastion: Well, my thing didn't make it.

Sean Lane: I'm so sorry. That's how you know it was a good process.

Kyle Bastion: And I joked there, but I was like, listen guys, right, now that we're all here, I really did this to just manipulate you all into supporting my agenda and this is backfired horribly, and now we have to go do all these other things first, so.

Sean Lane: That's amazing.

Kyle Bastion: It was awesome. But the stuff that came out was awesome. It was totally awesome. So we basically decided that we're going to do the top three. And we sent the people who had proposed the top three away to turn their line item into a brief and basically just add another layer of detail of what they were proposing. And I gave them a one page template. And I was like, just fill this out of more details. And if you remember back in the day, we used to do this thing called engines. And it was some concepts around that. I was like, so what should happen? What problem are we trying to solve? What should happen if this goes really well? And then what could go wrong along the way?

Sean Lane: Yep.

Kyle Bastion: And how do we mitigate that as we design the concept that will be the solution here?

Sean Lane: Kyle's brainstorming and planning process should bring a smile to any operator's face. My favorite part by far though, is that his own idea didn't even crack the top three. And look, you don't have to do a shark tank style pitch in your company in order to produce something similar to what Kyle did here at Drift, it might be fun, but either way, the outputs here are what matter. And for Kyle and the team, those outputs came in the form of the briefs they wrote. Most importantly, those briefs answered three questions. What problem are they trying to solve? What should happen? And what could go wrong? And all of a sudden, what would become the codified sales lab engine started to take shape. They had these distinct individual steps that they were building along the way. And step one was called, ready the content. The first project that they decided to tackle, the first experiment, the first sales lab concoction, was a pain point that happened right at the beginning of the sales process.

Kyle Bastion: The problem we were trying to solve, the first project, was this tension that our reps were feeling in the very first meeting that they have with the prospect.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: And a lot of our pipeline is driven outbound. And in those outbound generated meetings, we're basically emailing you a video or something else in email that says, hey, I think you have this problem based off this evidence that I see, this is how we solve it and I think I can solve it for you because I've solved it for all these other people, and here's their proof points. That's generally the mechanics of a good prospecting email at Drift. So they say, okay, great, I'd like to hear more about that. Now the first part of our sales process is called, discovery, which implies that you're supposed to spend your first meeting learning more around the customer situation environment. But that's a disconnect to how that meeting came about. If I were to call you and say, Sean, I think I can help your team in ways A, B and C. And you say, okay, shoot, I'd like to hear more about that. And then I got on the call and just asked you questions for 30 minutes around-

Sean Lane: Yeah. What happened to A, B and C?

Kyle Bastion: your business works. It's like, Hey, I'm here to learn more around how you can help me I feel I'm just giving you information to help you close me later. And it's not a good customer experience if you'll get frustrated with it. And so the pain points our team is articulating, customers are getting frustrated with this emphasis ON discovery in the first call. We're not offering enough value. It's not helpful to them. They become impatient for a demo. And so then we rush to the demo and then it's not very customized.

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: And we don't really articulate exactly how we could help them. And so that way that first meeting was going was creating this ripple effect all the way down the sales process. And that's what we wanted to address. So it was somebody on our solutions consulting team who had an idea of creating what we ended up calling the AE quick demo. And it was basically a asset that we designed in Figma that they could click through user workflows. And we thought, I'm a marketer and this is where I live. This is how I do my job. And then this is where Drift comes in and out of my workflow. It's not, you change everything, you live in Drift. This is how it shows up for me. I'm a BDR, this is how it shows up for me. I'm an AE, this is how it shows up for me. And so we basically track a fictional deal starting with first engagements through marketing, through meetings, getting booked through BDRs, to the deal being closed in AE and told it in about an eight or nine minute story using Figma as the asset. And we call it the quick demo. And the idea is that when somebody gets on that first meeting, I can say, hey, I want to learn a little bit about just what you're trying to solve, but then I want to validate the thesis with you. And I want to show you what I'm thinking and how we might work with you. And I want you to give me feedback on whether you think this is interesting and worth pursuing, or if there's parts of it that we want to talk more about and parts that are not relevant and so forth. And so we built the asset that's how great the content was. We had our solutions consultant, Nick Masters, built this whole workflow. We had product marketing take a cut at it, make sure we're talking about the right things. We made sure to show it from the user standpoint. And then we moved to phase two, which is, let's get two reps from each segment to agree to try this on their next three discovery calls.

Sean Lane: Did you hit any resistance in that second phase of, hey, you two, I want you to test this as something that's brand new and unproven?

Kyle Bastion: I mean, a little bit, but not really. We asked the managers, I didn't pick them. It was like, hey managers, why don't you guys nominate somebody? But if you bring them make sure they're going to do it. And you also skew towards reps a little bit more tenure in track record. You don't want to get false positives or negatives and so you want to eliminate that if you can. And so we had some veteran reps who, if it didn't go perfectly, could basically recover in the process that had agreed to try it for us.

Sean Lane: I would also imagine that there's probably a pretty heavy overlap between the type of rep who would've had one of those shovel ready projects you were talking about, and the type of rep you would nominate to try this.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah.

Sean Lane: These are the ones who would've been contributing members of something like a sales lab anyways, because that's just in their nature.

Kyle Bastion: The reps that might have enough experience to ask for stuff.

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: 100%.

Sean Lane: All right. So you got these couple folks you say, hey, we're going to go try this new thing. What happens next?

Kyle Bastion: They try it. We put together a slack channel that is temporary, last two weeks. And it's the managers, it's myself, it's enablement and the test reps.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: And the idea is, every execution, every rep, gets discussed publicly in this channel. So it's like, hey, I've got a demo coming up tomorrow. We do a prep call like, okay, let's make sure we understand the demo and just be clear on when and how you're going to use it, make sure this applies to this call that you have. Afterwards, they share the recording, we provide feedback. I went in there and recorded probably four takes of me doing it even though I'm not the rep just to get people comfortable. That's an old enablement trick. If you want to give people feedback, let them give feedback to you first. Be a little self deprecating-

Sean Lane: Yep.

Kyle Bastion: make everyone comfortable with that. So I was like, hey guys, I was just spitballing, what do you think of this? Blah, blah, blah. And then they would share the recordings. We'd listen to the recordings. We'd comment on where went well. We'd think about where it didn't go great. We made several improvements to the flow itself during that process. And just try to work out loud, basically, in that small group.

Sean Lane: In addition to just the improvements Kyle and the team are making to Drift's sales process, you have to admire the transparency and the collaborative nature with which he does it. First and foremost, he puts himself out there. He records his own versions of these demos for others to give him feedback. By doing this, he's already set the tone for what it's like for a rep to participate in sales lab. And made it a place where not only reps are going to get better, but the processes and the deliverables will get better, as well. Similar to when we roll out a new tool in operations, he's building advocates and champions for what will then come out of sales lab. And Kyle taught me that's really what makes this whole thing work.

Kyle Bastion: There's this catch- 22 when it comes to enablement or broad process change or enablement change, basically anytime you want a sales rep or team to do anything differently where they say, how do I know this is going to work? How do I know that this is better than what I'm doing today? Because you're implying that the way they're doing it could be improved.

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: Just by the fact you're suggesting it. If you're training somebody or rolling out a new process, you're saying the processes you're doing is not working or not optimal. So they say, yeah, but how do I know? And I'm in the field, I'm in the trenches every day, you and I are in our ops and ailment ivory tower.

Sean Lane: And refresh opens for the best.

Kyle Bastion: Totally. Yeah. Just watching the dashboards change. And so like, so look, we like you guys and everything, but how do I actually know this is better? And so if you don't have that proof, then you get really inconsistent adoption. And there's always going to be people that will try new things because that's in their nature. There's people that will try new things and they won't do it very well. And it'll be a struggle there. People are just not going to try new things. And so the extent at which you can go to market or to the team with validation that we ran the experiment, we figured out the right way to do this. This is what we changed. This is what we learned during the experiment. And these are the results that we're getting that tell us that this is better than what we're doing today. And don't take it from me. These are the folks that were trying it, let's see what they think. They're like, yeah, this is fire, it works really well, all that stuff. Then the team goes, cool, I'll try it. And so you're optimizing for adoption when you do go to roll it out. But the process is exactly the same, what you described in ops.

Sean Lane: So you talked about results. And so I would imagine somewhere in this process a conversation has to be had to say, we're going to try this with X number of reps, Y number of times, and this output we're looking for is what.

Kyle Bastion: Yep.

Sean Lane: How did you pick what that was and ultimately measure whether or not this new AE quick demo was solving the problem you thought you had in the first place?

Kyle Bastion: Yeah, totally. So the way we think about it is, ready the content, and then the small test group is six people, typically, two from each segment. Then you want to make sure that, hey, it's not just these six people that are our best six people and can do it. Can these six people train other people to do it? So you go from six to 12, if it works at 12, then you roll it out to everybody, so that's the process. How you measure it, I want to tell you that there is an airtight metric that tells us that this is a success or not. But when you're doing stuff around discovery, you don't have time to wait to see how that influence win rates. You can look at, and we do, stage progression.

Sean Lane: Yep.

Kyle Bastion: To say that this is the percentage of deals that went from this stage to this stage. And now we've done this new thing, and now that percentage is going up. But to be frank, a lot of this is based off of rep sentiment when it comes to micro emotions like this. A big part of sales is confidence. And if people feel that like, hey, this gives me confidence, I feel I'm having a fire meeting when I'm using this. So I'm talking like this, I feel good. That matters. That's a big part of it.

Sean Lane: I would also imagine there's a trade off there, too, between having this tight play that you are all prescribing and working on together. As opposed to the worst version of discovery, which is, these are the 12 questions I have got to ask you and no matter what, we're going to go through these and then maybe we'll put together some sort of custom demo later at a different time with different people. And by that point you've lost all momentum.

Kyle Bastion: Totally.

Sean Lane: And so that part of it alone must just feel like an improvement to the rep.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah. And it had this great effect of concretely expanding what people thought about Drift. And a lot of people still show up and just want to buy a dang chat bot. And I know there's a lot of value that we can offer to BDRs, SCRs, full cycle AEs, whether they're creating pipeline or not. And so just being able to introduce that, conceptually, say, look, I know you guys are thinking about it like this, and we do help like this. We also work with a lot of people like this and this and I just want to share that with you to get your reaction and see if it's something that's worth vetting. And so what we ended up seeing was an expansion of people that got involved in evaluations. And we didn't expect this, but we more reliably got sales leaders to participate in the cycle going forward because we had cleanly introduced, upfront, value to sales people by showing it through their workflow. And so that was huge in terms of an outcome.

Sean Lane: Here's what's cool about this, no matter how great of a job you think you're doing to set your goals or try to anticipate different potential outcomes, some of the best ideas might just deliver results you didn't originally expect. Kyle and the sales lab team set out to solve a discovery pain point for our reps and for our prospects. And what they ended up doing was not just improving conversion rates from one stage to another, but also impacting overall win rates by expanding the number of personas involved in a particular deal. So let's recap the four stages of Kyle's sales lab engine. One, ready to content. Two, build a proof of concept with a small group. Three, proof of repeatability with a larger group. And four, prepare for team wide scale and adoption. We've spent a lot of time on this, a single example, to illustrate the process. But now, Kyle and the team, they have this thing, they have this sales lab that is working. So where does sales lab go from here? And how does it become an ongoing entity within our business?

Kyle Bastion: So now I'm doing enablement full time. And so we're able to some structure to this in a couple ways. So the first thing is around my prioritization. Everybody who asks for anything, as it relates to behavior change in the field, what we call enablement, is captured now in like a master queue, basically. And so some people submit a forum, sometimes I fill out a forum. But we basically know everything that anybody has ever asked of us in one place. And we have this idea of qualification, which is, what's the change they're talking about? What is the impact of this change going to have on outcomes for our customers, for our people, for our team. And is this validated or not? And so we qualify all the amount requests and decide, okay, this is a great idea, this is brand new to us, this is a new idea that we've never done a Drift, and there's not evidence of this in the field right now. Then we put it to sales lab and run a sprint process on it, as I've just described in this conversation. If it is something that's more... There's a handful of senior reps that are doing this really, really well, but the majority of the team doesn't know how to do this yet. That whole idea of tribal knowledge becoming organizational wisdom. And we don't need to put that in a sales lab. We can just put that into what we call our sales readiness queue and line that up to just organize the content that has already been validated into a training course, content that can be found in a centralized place and enablement that can happen from there. Basically train all the team how to do best in class behavior that already exists in the field. So the question is, is this been validated? Is this working somewhere now or is this like a net new idea? Net new ideas, sales lab, validate it somewhere, organize it, socialize it and make it best practice.

Sean Lane: Got it. I think that's a super important distinction. So if I'm somebody trying to design my sales enablement function, sales lab is this unique specialty or this unique task force, whatever you want to call it, underneath the broader enablement umbrella, but it's not all enablement.

Kyle Bastion: Right.

Sean Lane: It is a specific subsection of it.

Kyle Bastion: Yes. The idea is that, behavior change is hard. You know this. You think about what you need to do to land an organization behavior change across a hundred sales and sales managers. We need to teach them how to do it. We need to make sure they actually do it. We need to make sure that it works. You have to get on people like, oh, complete the training, submit your pitch. You got to check it and gone or whatever, and see if it's actually happening in the field. It's a lot of calories to burn to get someone to do something differently. So you got to make darn sure that what you're telling them to do is going to work. And if I don't know that I can't insist on them doing that. It's not fair. I can't go to the management team and the sales team and be like, hey, I need you guys to invest all this time where you're not selling, learn something new, unless I'm pretty sure that this is going to make you more effective, that you're going to get an outcome out of this.

Sean Lane: Is there a limit to that? I recognize companies that are in hypergrowth are innovating all the time. But is there a limit to the number of, sticking with sales lab, net new experimental things to push onto a team, as opposed to some of that steady state stuff? Because if you're just throwing new thing, after new thing, after new thing, at a certain point, the regular day to day stuff also lacks attention. And so how do you think about that balance?

Kyle Bastion: I guess I think about organizing what we're training on and what we'd call an enablement program.

Sean Lane: Okay.

Kyle Bastion: A program is something that we're going to bring to the field and say, do this indifferently. There's only three things. There is plays, things do create pipeline, angles to create pipeline. There's fundamentals, which is sales process, execution, deal management activities. And then there's launches, product, packaging, pricing, that are basically updates to one and two that are relevant to the field. So it's always one of those three things

Sean Lane: Now that you are owning that entire enablement umbrella that we talked about, if you fast forward, let's call a year, two years, and you're looking back at what sales lab has been able to contribute to the company, what do you hope that is?

Kyle Bastion: So I didn't come up with this, so I think I heard this in business school, but they said, everything that you ever think of as innovative becomes a commodity over a long enough timeframe. And the scary message or the cautionary message there was, you might think you're the most innovative company in the world, but you could just have one good idea and caught lightning in a bottle.

Sean Lane: Hmm.

Kyle Bastion: And if that's true, then eventually your great, innovative idea is going to become commoditized. And so if you think about innovation over a 50 year timeframe, and you want to be innovative that entire time, you can't count on constantly capturing lighting in a bottle, it implies that you need to have a process for innovation. You have to have a mechanism of capturing innovative ideas, validating them and codifying them. So if sales lab works, it will serve as our engine of innovation in the sales process. How our sellers go to market. And look no further than the last two years to understand how important that is. The face the state, how sellers sell, or the dynamic out there, has changed a ton. And how we did it 10 years ago is way different than how we did it two years ago and way different than how we do it today. So if we want to stay current with trends in the market, how buyers are buying and what their expectations are, then we have to have an engine of innovation in how we sell.

Sean Lane: Before we go at the end of each show, we're going to ask each desk the same lightning round of questions. Ready? Here we go. Best book you've read in the last six months?

Kyle Bastion: Oh, great question. So I read parts of Thinking Fast and Slow all the time.

Sean Lane: Hmm.

Kyle Bastion: Are you familiar thinking fast and slow?

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: Okay. I think it's the best sales book I've ever read. It is all about cognitive bias and how that shows up in people's lives. It's very thick. It's a 25 hour audio book.

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: But I listen to chapters of that on and off all the time. So I'm going to put in a plug for that one. What am I reading right now? Right now I'm reading, Why Nations Fail.

Sean Lane: Interesting.

Kyle Bastion: It's basically a academic look at why certain countries or areas have successful nation states, whereas others have consistently failed over time and debunking comments around why that is the case.

Sean Lane: Put on the list. Normally, next I ask, best part about working in ops? I consider you to be an extension of ops.

Kyle Bastion: Thank you.

Sean Lane: So I'll give you-

Kyle Bastion: That means a lot to me.

Sean Lane: I will give you a slightly different, best part about working in enablement?

Kyle Bastion: Well, I think I get a unique vista from which to see our company, because most of our market teams are focused on their segments or their teams. And I think you and I both have this, which is the ability to look at the holistic picture across our sales organization, but also, frankly, into our post- sales organization as well. So I think I get to be, in some ways, the steward of the buying experience from presale into post- sale, because I have a unique role that spans both of those teams.

Sean Lane: That's a great way to think about it.

Kyle Bastion: I think that's the best part.

Sean Lane: Least favorite part about working in enablement?

Kyle Bastion: I guess just like how... Okay.

Sean Lane: I just saw the light bulb go off.

Kyle Bastion: Man, I'm going to hear about this one. It's really easy and popular, when we're discussing what needs to be done around certain problems in the business, to say, oh, we'll just enable them on that and then, without thinking through how much time do we actually want our team to be learning? And so I think a lot of folks want people to be better, but especially in sales, not a lot of folks want to dedicate a ton of time to non revenue generating activities. So finding a way to balance that is a challenge.

Sean Lane: You should just enable people on solving that problem.

Kyle Bastion: Just enable them.

Sean Lane: It'll be fine.

Kyle Bastion: Just enable them.

Sean Lane: All right. Somebody who impacted you getting to the job you have today.

Kyle Bastion: Aleus maybe. Aleus, our co- founder, I'm sure he's come up on the podcast before. So I'll tell you just a funny story about Aleus. Just because everyone always enjoys those. Aleus recruited me to Drift four years ago to come do enablement. And I living in San Francisco at the time and had to move to Boston to take the job.

Sean Lane: Pre pandemic.

Kyle Bastion: We had an office in San Francisco.

Sean Lane: It was small, Kyle.

Kyle Bastion: But this needed to be a job in head, which is a fascinating marker at how much the company has changed in the last four years.

Sean Lane: Yeah.

Kyle Bastion: But he recruited me and he told me a lot about what was going on here at Drift and all that. And I was like, it sounds awesome. And I had heard of Drift prior to that, I was a huge fan. I was following the story. And it was a company that I had admired from afar. But I was living in San Francisco. I was like, look, man, this is great, but this is a family decision. And I don't even know if my wife is going to move Boston. So I got to talk to her about that and Aleus goes, let me talk to her, I'll talk to her.

Sean Lane: That is the most shocking thing-

Kyle Bastion: And I was like, go ahead, Aleus, have at it. And so I go, hey, Claire, the co- founder of this company wants to talk to you, are you down? And no other preparation, she's like, yeah, just see what he has to say. So they got on the phone together and afterwards Aleus texted me and I go, hey, Aleus, how'd go with Claire? And he was like, good, she's tough. I asked Claire how'd it goes. She said, oh, it was good, founder pitch down all that. And so I guess is my way of answering that, the support of my wife is the real answer to this story. And her pushing me to continue in this direction and doing all the million things day in and day out to support my ability to show up for this team is the real reason I'm able to do this job. And then I will secondary call out Aleus.

Sean Lane: With an assist from Aleus.

Kyle Bastion: Yeah. With an assist from Aleus, for bringing me in and also for supporting our family this entire time. Aleus still texts Claire from time to time and catches up all these years later. So I'll call that out.

Sean Lane: The best recruiter who also happens to be an engineer.

Kyle Bastion: Yes.

Sean Lane: That's that's him.

Kyle Bastion: Yes.

Sean Lane: All right. Last one, one piece of advice for people who want to have your job someday?

Kyle Bastion: Okay. So it's not about you. It really isn't. And this is the hardest lesson I learned because I was in enablement for a structure at the beginning of my career at Drift, did some other things, came back into enablement. When I first started an enablement, I thought it was because I was a good salesperson and I was supposed to teach everybody how to do it how I did it. And if I didn't know it, I needed to learn it. And so I taught everybody from my experience or I read every sales book and sales leadership book I could get my hands on and try to instill those concepts. What we've been talking about is as an enablement profe... You're not there because you're awesome at sales, you're there because you are awesome at finding the people who are awesome at sales and making sure that their knowledge goes all across the organization. So I'm not out here trying to teach people how to sell based on my personal experience, I'm out here to make sure that people who are great within Drift, that that just becomes the way. And that is the nature of the job. And so thinking about that and focusing on that as the advice to give people who want to go into enablement.

Sean Lane: Thanks so much to Kyle for joining us on this week's episode of Operations. Also a special shout out to Nick Masters, who was the one who put together that AE quick demo that he talked about in the episode and everyone who helped participate in the early sales lab at Drift. If you liked what you heard today, make sure you're subscribed to our show so you get a new episode like this one into your feed every other Friday. If you learn something from Kyle or any of our other episodes, make sure you leave us a review on apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Six star reviews only. Also, by the way, if you're not watching this on video, we had this interview in person. And if you've never checked out our YouTube channel, check it out. There's a whole bunch of videos in there of full episodes, as well as clips from our previous guests. That's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time.


If you look around your company today, it probably wouldn’t be hard to find people who had an idea or an opinion about how to make your sales process better. Everyone has one. Everyone has ten.

Ideas are easy. Testing hypotheses, experimenting, and validating those ideas is much harder. On this episode, we’re going to break down a sales science experiment with the chemist who put it together, Kyle Bastien. Kyle is the VP of Sales Readiness at Drift, and in the past year, he launched something at Drift that is now known as Sales Lab.

In our conversation, we talk about the genesis of the group he brought together, how we went about prioritizing the laundry list of “shovel-ready projects” he found across the company, and why he believes your company needs an engine of Innovation to stay relevant.

Key Points:

  • (1:33) When Kyle realized Drift needed to improve its sales process
  • (4:33) How Kyle set out to solve Drift’s sales process problem
  • (7:22) How Kyle and his team, called the Sales Lab, prioritized sales problems
  • (12:50) The first problem Drift’s Sales Lab solved
  • (19:19) The importance of building advocates for Sales Lab
  • (21:15) How Kyle measures the success of the Sales Lab projects
  • (23:38) The results Drift’s Sales Lab saw after their first experiment
  • (25:10) Next steps for Drift’s Sales Lab
  • (28:48) How Kyle thinks about the balance between experimentation and steady day-to-day processes
  • (29:40) Kyle’s end goal for Sales Lab
  • (31:27) Operations lightning round

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends! You can connect with Sean on Twitter @Seany_Biz and @DriftPodcasts.