At Everbridge, Strategic Account Executives Help Fortune 100s Keep Their People Safe and Business Running Faster
Customers rely on Everbridge’s critical events management suite to help them save lives and ensure business continuity during emergencies, so it’s no surprise that building trust is a key skill for Everbridge’s Sales team. In the newly defined Strategic Account Executive role, sales professionals must also be able to build strong business cases for Everbridge’s largest customers and align the needs of stakeholders in various departments. For this story, we spoke with Brenna Sheehan and Billy Gress about why they chose to become SAEs at Everbridge, their strategies for success, and the challenges and rewards of working with Fortune 100 customers.
Tell us about the product you’re selling.
Everbridge provides a reliable, secure platform for mass communication during critical events. Historically, our focus has been life and safety — Everbridge was used by city and state governments to respond to the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Irma, for example. Recently, we’ve expanded to serve a broader events management use case, including situations like a company facing an IT or cybersecurity breach. We’re closing deals with very large organizations because Everbridge is light years ahead of our peers in this space. If your banking portal goes down, other products have individual features that could help you. But none of them can do it at our scale, and no one else has a platform this advanced.
What’s your background, and what brought you to Everbridge?
I joined Thomson Reuters straight out of grad school and was there for six years, working in account management for new business. They did a great job of investing in young sales talent, and I reached a senior role quickly. Eventually, though, I felt like I’d reached a plateau.
One of my mentors at Thomson Reuters, MJ McCarthy, made the move to Everbridge before I did. I had a lot of respect for her, so I knew there must be something special about this company. I also knew I’d have more visibility at the senior level here, and I’d be able to build up a network beyond Sales and learn about the other parts of the business. I didn’t have that at Thomson Reuters. Plus, I liked the Everbridge mission, and I saw it as a great financial opportunity because of the growing customer base.
So I joined MJ’s account management team about six years ago, and the visibility I’ve gained is a big part of why I’ve stayed at Everbridge. I’ve received one-on-one-coaching from our CEO on how to navigate conversations with a CIO, and the entire culture feels supportive. Competition is natural in sales, but you don’t want to work in a place where you’re doing battle with the person next to you. When you close a deal here, the entire team gets an email, and you always get a ton of nice replies.
Tell us about your transition to the SAE role.
The SAE role was created because we saw a need to understand not just a customer’s current use cases, but also how we could support additional parts of the organization. Our goal is to build long-term relationships with senior executives so we can continue to uncover new ways to provide value.
“We’re closing deals with very large organizations because Everbridge is light years ahead of our peers.” –Brenna
As a major account manager, my role was collaborative — I was responsible for the growth and retention of 20 of our largest customers. With customers of that size, you’re more like a consultant than a tactical salesperson. Being an SAE is similar in that I’m an advocate for my customers internally, and we might end up implementing a new product or designing a product enhancement to meet their needs.
The SAE role is different from my work as an AM, though, in that I used to work only with current customers, and now my accounts also include prospective customers. That’s a big change for me, because I don’t already know how a customer has used Everbridge when I establish a relationship with them. It’s a fun challenge, though. I’m going back to my roots and tweaking my strategy a bit.
When I joined Everbridge, we had one product. Today, we have an entire enterprise suite. So when we visit prospective customers, we try to meet with as many groups as we can and learn how they operate. Then when we’re negotiating the deal, we’ve already laid that groundwork to expand across the organization.
What skills have you developed at Everbridge that help you most as an SAE?
Being a major account manager helped me understand the importance of listening to my customers. When you know how different units and roles work together, you can connect the dots between how they operate and the solutions we offer. That’s hugely helpful as an SAE, because our role is so consultative. Some people really like rotating through hundreds of accounts, and it’s something they’re good at. For me, the longer sales cycle and ongoing relationships make the SAE role a better fit.
Why is now an exciting time to join Everbridge?
Over the past year, I think we’ve really evolved as a team in preparation for adding this role. Someone who joins now will have a lot of training opportunities and a lot of support from management. You’re stepping into an organization that has invested significant resources in serving the enterprise space, and there’s so much opportunity within the Fortune 100 customer base to make money. That’s certainly a motivator.
“The entire culture feels supportive. Competition is natural in sales, but you don’t want to work in a place where you’re doing battle with the person next to you.”–Brenna
And Everbridge’s mission provides an additional sense of impact. We are the face of Everbridge to our customers — we’re the ones they turn to for help when critical events happen. If we were selling something less meaningful, I don’t think we’d be able to create such strong partnerships and trust. But this is real-life stuff, whether it’s getting evacuees to safety or protecting people’s information. The higher stakes can be stressful, but it’s part of what makes this work rewarding.
For those who aren’t familiar with Everbridge, give us your elevator pitch.
Everbridge helps organizations manage and respond to critical events, whether that’s a hurricane, an active shooter event, or an IT outage. Some of our customers are state and local governments who use us for public notifications. Others are businesses who need to communicate with stakeholders when an event affects their people, assets, or supply chain. We work with businesses of all sizes — from mom-and-pops to global corporations — across all types of industries.
What’s a typical day like as an SAE?
I usually start with an hour or two of pipeline generation, doing research and reaching out to contacts. After that, most of my day is meetings with customers and colleagues, then follow-ups and more pipeline. I spend some of my time traveling, too. Tomorrow, for example, I’m headed to our new operations center in Boston for my quarterly business review, and I’m bringing one of my potential customers along so they can meet the team. As SAEs, we’re typically calling on global, corporate accounts, so you’re often going that extra mile to connect them with the resources they need.
I manage about 30 accounts, so it’s important that I’m strategic about how I spend my time. Five of those accounts are current customers, and the rest is prospecting. My quota is close to $850K for this year, and I’m on track to double it.
Why did you choose Everbridge, and the SAE role in particular?
I was working for a competitor on the IT alerting side, and I kept hearing about Everbridge. I actually lost sales to them a couple of times because they could work on a global scale. So I reached out to a former manager who had joined Everbridge and ended up getting an interview. They offered me two options — I could focus strictly on IT, or I could be an SAE and sell the entire platform to a smaller group of top-tier accounts.
“Everbridge doesn’t just help customers’ businesses. It can save lives. I have a young family myself, and I feel that impact personally.” –Billy
I decided to go with the SAE role in part because I wanted to sell that whole picture and get involved with managing crises end-to-end. Everbridge doesn’t just help customers’ businesses. It can save lives. I have a young family myself, and I feel that impact personally. During the Las Vegas shooting, for example, I talked with several companies coping with deaths or injuries of their employees. When you’re having those discussions, it’s very real. Everbridge can help them take action quickly and respond in real time, in many cases preventing people from entering a high-threat area at all. I still enjoy the IT side, too, but the main attraction for me was taking care of people.
What makes someone successful as an SAE?
Within every organization, you need to work with multiple teams, and multiple people on each team. That’s one of the nice things about sales here — the platform has so many applications across one business, from IT to communications to risk assessment to HR. To fully understand how Everbridge can add value, you need to understand all those different parts of the organization and the problems they’re trying to solve. It’s more like being a consultant than a traditional salesperson.
For example, we had a large regional bank that had been a customer on the corporate security side for 10 years, but they used a competitor for IT. They were having lots of problems with the competitor — unexplained outages, false alerts. Everbridge was able to offer them a better solution on a platform they were already using, and also save them money. That’s a major success to me. We provided significant value for them, and now they’re more than willing to chat with our potential customers about their experience.
I think another key to success is transparency. Particularly when we’re working with these large, global customers on 5- and 10-year partnerships, you have to be honest with them about what we can and can’t do. And if there’s something we’re not doing that would provide value for them, you have to make sure you understand why and find out if you can make it happen. If it’s important to one customer, it might provide value for a lot of other customers, too.
“The technology we’ve added over the last year has put us in a great position in the marketplace. And it’s only going to get busier.”–Billy
You also need to understand what our competitors can and can’t do. As an organization, I think Everbridge had some knowledge gaps in that area when I first joined last year. But the IT unit has done a phenomenal job of filling in those gaps and taking new opportunities to set Everbridge apart from the competition. The product was already 80 percent there when I joined, but now we’re 105 percent and still climbing.
What else has been challenging in this role?
As an SAE selling the entire platform, I had to learn to take off my IT hat and focus more on broader business goals. Our onboarding process, Bridge to Everbridge, is a good start — it’s a three-day session that gives you an overview of our products. I felt like I needed to go deeper, though, so I suggested salespeople spend at least half a day learning about each product and the value drivers and sales philosophy behind them.
That feedback was heard loud and clear, and I think we’re really improving our training strategy. We also have more middle management in place now who can help us learn. I also learn a lot by just asking questions. I work remotely, and everyone — from professional services to other salespeople to marketing — is always happy to hop on a call and help me get up to speed. Just this morning, I was on with our senior VPs of Sales and Product Management and our CTO at 7:30 a.m. That’s a good example of how willing everyone here is to make a deal happen or help a customer succeed.
Why is now an exciting time to join Everbridge?
I think the technology we’ve added and acquisitions we’ve made over the last year have put us in a great position in the marketplace. I’m drinking from a firehose right now to keep up with current and new customers — and it’s only going to get busier. We need to continue growing the team to make sure we can keep up.
I think of Everbridge as a small company with a big-company product. We’re managing 200 million contacts on our platform right now, and we’re growing 35 percent year over year. We’re the only public company in this space. It’s just a heck of a time to be here.