The Rise of the Growth AE - Airtable

Interview with Sam Werboff who is the Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable. Sam has spent over a decade in SaaS Sales at companies like Mixpanel and Algolia. He's led Product-Led motions long before the term became popular.

The Rise of the Growth AE - Airtable
Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable

Tell me about your role at Airtable

I run the growth side of the Airtable sales organization. I oversee all sales expansion motions across different company size segments.

The Sales organization is split by New Business and Growth. The New Business team is responsible for landing net new logos. Then our Growth team is responsible for expanding those accounts once they land with us.

What excites you about selling at a product-led company?

Airtable has a large number of organic signups–an awareness of the product that I've just never seen before. This bottom-up motion is a massive opportunity for user activation and conversion experiments.

One of the beautiful things about Airtable is that it's the most horizontal product I've ever used. Every single person in the company and every vertical can use it. So we have a large addressable audience and can find many different ways to expand within an account.

How do your Growth AEs find an expansion opportunity?

The marriage between bottoms-up PLG and tops-down sales is so important. When that starts to happen, plenty of expansion opportunities present themselves.

Expansion opportunities usually appear in three ways:

  • First is organic product adoption. Cross-functional teams start using the product, which makes way for sales conversations.

  • Second is through ongoing conversations that we do to support them. The Growth AE and Customer Success Manager talk with our product champions and pre-existing users around where the value is. Inevitably, it will open up conversations with other teams, because Airtable is best when used cross-functionally.

  • Third is purely top-down enterprise sales. That’s us being really proactive with our accounts and leveraging that initial use case to go into other business units.

How do Growth AE’s develop a new enterprise relationship?

There’s always, inevitably going to be conversations around what features and services come with enterprise, and how those features and services align with your business.

We want to establish a human-to-human business relationship with enterprises. Airtable’s superpower is when many cross-functional teams use the product. There's a whole suite of services that come with the enterprise team.

You have your Growth AE, Customer Success, and Technical services. All of them come together in this symphony to support the customer. In the presale motion, we’re very clear about this package and why they will be successful with us.

What's the right amount of product data to enable reps?

I don’t think there’s one right answer for this. Some accounts you’ll want to talk to because of the intensity of the product usage. Others might be light users of the product but they’re part of a big company so we want to talk to them.

Ultimately, we want to simplify that for the reps. Especially since understanding product usage could be a number of different data points. We need to provide easy ways for them to understand who to talk to and why.

We've started to generate our homegrown definition of a PQL based on product behaviors and customer fit. We surface combinations of behaviors that actually lead to revenue-generating conversations. Sales reps get relevant data points on the lead and know why that person is someone they should talk to.

The ideal state is to do the data analysis for reps. You don’t want to throw in too much data. You want to let the team sprint.

What qualities do you want in your Growth AEs?

We believe that great Growth AEs are world-class business partners.

That’s not lip service. We are really tough on the organization and on ourselves to be incredibly good at understanding who we're talking to: what they care about, what the business case is, what the business is trying to do long-term and short-term, and how we can impact it.

That's the kind of the culture and role this is. Yes, we’re revenue driven, but the means by which we get there is by high business acumen. We’re relationship-focused rather than transactional, while also being revenue-driven and very much a sales organization.

I always use this metaphor people make fun of. I think the ideal profile is what I call an athletic nerd. It's basically the athlete–the person who's got all of those sales attributes. They're competitive with a ton of hustle, and they're really motivated to drive revenue for the business.

But they have a business acumen and intellectual curiosity that feels truly sincere. This combination is a really good customer experience.

What's the role of sales in Product-Led Growth (PLG) world?

PLG is a great experience for the customer. They get to use the tool and they get to try things out on their own. We want to give people the opportunity to run things.

It’s also a great opportunity for sales to be informed and intelligent business partners when we reach out. We're not just doing the classic 1990s of pounding the phones for hours.

The product team is great at enabling the user in the product itself, and even booking meetings from the product.

At the same time, I think it's really dangerous to say that the product sells itself.

It might sell itself for an amount that is much less than if a human was involved. It might sell itself in a way that's not healthy long-term. It might sell itself and churn six months later.

PLG to me is sales. They're one and the same. The marriage between product-led and sales-led is really important. Product-led is a data point, but it’s still a sales lead. We are still the ones driving the conversations around revenue for the business.