Transcript from REVstars interview with Jeff Serlin
Speaker: Jeff Serlin,
Head of Global Sales Operations at Intercom
Interviewer: Sydney Sloan, CMO at SalesLoft

[Intro, musical overlay]

Sydney Sloan: Good morning.

Jeff Serlin: Good morning.

Sydney Sloan: So good to see you.

Jeff Serlin: Nice seeing you too.

Sydney Sloan: Awesome.

Jeff Serlin: My name is Jeff Serlin. I’ve been running and building sales operations teams for quite a while. Intercom, where I’ve been for about two years, is the seventh place where I’ve done that.

Sydney Sloan: What would you say the current recipe of your success is?

Jeff Serlin: One is I’ve worked with some really great marketers and I think if I look at the ones where it’s worked better, are ones that had been a little bit data-driven and I think that, I don’t know, a decade ago with the advent of marketing automation, I think in many ways was driving more data into marketing, and I think that’s done a lot of good of being able to model this supply chain, if you will.

Jeff Serlin: I think the part that I found success is I create and try to create one single plan. If I go back to my time at Marketo, Dave Kane and Heidi and Sanjay and myself and Bill Binch, we had a single spreadsheet that had from beginning to end, including all of the costs associated with marketing and associated with the people that you staff up in terms of capacity in sales. Because we planned from a single model, we all owned that model.

Sydney Sloan: The idea of recipe… We’re going to go have some fun for a second.

Jeff Serlin: Okay.

Sydney Sloan: Another shared passion, cooking.

Jeff Serlin: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Sydney Sloan: And you talked about that, that that’s what you love to do and you think about it, like all the ingredients that come together and then what you could do, but you even took it a step further in that you would love your 15 minutes of fame to be on Top Chef. Why Top Chef, and what would you cook as your final meal?

Jeff Serlin: Oh, my mother, about 30 years ago, when I first went to college, she started a bed and breakfast with my stepfather and she turned into an excellent, excellent cook. Had a huge, wonderful industrial-sized kitchen. So I got to spend time with her just being creative in the kitchen and I think over that period of time, we got to spend time together, we got to cook things, we got to see the outcome of it and I think it brought us closer.

Jeff Serlin: And I think ever since then I loved the creative process of cooking. You have a recipe and I like to make desserts where you’re supposed to follow the recipe more than you don’t, but you can still add some creativity. I think it’s part art, it’s part science, which is what sales is and if you do it right, you have this beautiful thing that comes out at the end.

Jeff Serlin: What would I make? I love cookies and I would love to open up my little cookie shop, make a couple different ones a day, make them and sell them until they sell out and then close the doors for the day and come up with something new for the day after. I think is what I’d like to specialize in if I could.

Sydney Sloan: Is cooking your passion? If I were to ask you, what do you put your heart and soul into, what would you say?

Jeff Serlin: Yeah, there’s a couple of things. I do like cooking and I do, especially on rainy weekends, just pick a recipe or something I’ve never cooked before and just try it out. I’m also into horse racing, which some people love and some don’t. I discovered this probably about 25 years ago with some good friends of mine and I spent a lot of time following that sport. Not gambling, but just following the different divisions and the things that are going on. The thing I love about it is that it’s very intellectually stimulating to me. It’s like playing poker. You learn how it works, you learn how to handicap, you learn how to use the numbers and data. You learn how to assess a race and pick hopefully more winners than not.

Sydney Sloan: Have you learned things from that that you have been able to apply to your sales teams?

Jeff Serlin: Yeah, it’s very data-driven. I mean, the best sort of folks, I think whether you’re playing poker or horse racing, are data nerds. So I learned the discipline of using that. Even before sales was very much a science, when I first started this, it was still very much an art. There were not a lot of tools to help you assess the data. So data-driven, discipline, stick with your plan. Jump off of it, if you see that it’s not working, and figure something else out.

Sydney Sloan: How do you help sales leaders who may not be as data-driven as you understand where it’s applicable and where it’s not? I’m struggling with AI because everything is AI and everybody’s AI, but there’s very little actually out there currently running and so I think it could be confusing.

Jeff Serlin: I don’t want AI to tell me my forecast. People pitch that to me all the time, but I would love for AI to tell me that, there’s some anomalies that we’re sensing. So you might want to go and inspect this business or this deal or this rap or this motion that you have,to try to see if there truly is an anomaly that might impact you.

Sydney Sloan: Given that you’ve changed roles like seven times, I feel like you go in, you fix things, you get it running and then you want to go take another challenge.

Jeff Serlin: Yeah.

Sydney Sloan: What would be the next challenge you’d want to undertake?

Jeff Serlin: I like creating and building much more than I like just following the recipe to get back to cooking. So when a company gets large enough where it’s really maintenance mode and maybe you’re doing a little bit of building here and there, is usually the time it is for me to go find my next sort of gig.

Jeff Serlin: There’s always a couple of things in the back of my mind that like I know I would buy if someone just built it. So maybe after this one, and I’ve chatted with a few folks, is I build a one of those little ones. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s going to solve a problem. And I think it’s going to be some sort of utilities that all folks need, is one of the options. But I also love the time that I had at Marketo and Intercom, and if I can find another one like that, that’s my next challenge, is similar thing at a new company with new challenges.

Sydney Sloan: Thank you so much.

Jeff Serlin: Thank you.

Sydney Sloan: That was awesome. I really appreciate it.

Jeff Serlin: Thanks.