“The summary of it is that we prospected like heck, we did probably 50 to 100 demos, we struck out a lot, and every time we struck out we just kept going and going and going. We pulled out every resource we possibly could, and we didn’t let ‘no’ defeat us, because we knew it was a good opportunity.” — Andy Lyon
When Andy Lyon started at ZoomInfo, people called him “Andy Cub.” The nickname was his team’s way of both cheering him on and also playfully acknowledging the elephant in the room: He wasn’t closing any deals (or, in other words, he — despite his last name — “was not yet a lion”). His background in entertainment sales for hotels made for a less-than-smooth transition into data and software, which is what led our CEO, Henry Schuck, to celebrate Lyon’s first closed-won deal by blasting “I Can’t Wait to Be King” from the Lion King — in French — throughout the sales floor.
Fast forward seven years later, and Lyon has just closed the biggest deal in ZoomInfo history: an eight figure deal.
Between an 11-month sales cycle, a $0 deal, and a request for proposal (RFP) with 67 people on one call, Lyon’s greatest challenge — despite hurdle after hurdle — was keeping the faith. Read on to find out how he did just that.
Challenges to Closing Big Business Deals
Challenge #1: Creative Outreach (March 2020)
When Lyon and his SDRs, Reed Newcomer and Rachel Gilkes, found out that John, their first prospect, had worked on an apple orchard, they had the perfect opening for the initial outreach email:
Subject: “Cherries, Apples, and Data”
John – Having worked on table grape and citrus farms in Australia right out of high school, I have to say the [name redacted] farms portion of your resume was a cool thing to see (hence the subject line).”
I’m not sure if Reed’s images showed up online for you, or as attachments, but the scoops he included are straight from ZoomInfo, and yours to share with the team. I’m heading to your area in the 2nd week of March, but over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to several reps selling into the Public Sector who have inquired about access. I was hoping to connect and see how we can better serve your org with the partnership that is already in place, or perhaps we’re already working with your colleagues and I just haven’t spoken with them yet.
Either way, I would love to connect before I’m at the mothership next month.
With this intro, Lyon started out strong. There seemed to be about $100,000 in opportunity, and the deal was moving forward.
Then, the company — which was in the process of acquiring another — spotted a problem: The two companies were both customers of ZoomInfo, and they were paying two different prices.
Now Lyon was faced with consolidating the contracts.
Challenge #2: The $0 Deal (May 2020)
The first company announced its acquisition two years prior to when it actually took place. Within this time frame, both companies had signed separate contracts with ZoomInfo.
Given that the contracts had confidentiality clauses — and that the merger had not yet been made official — Lyon wasn’t at liberty to disclose the details to both companies. When the teams at the two organizations conferred, however, and brought this to Lyon’s attention, he made a bold decision: In order to offset the prices, he would give them a huge number of licenses. For free.
“We were under no obligation to do this, but we wanted to do it to show them that we were a good partner,” Lyon said.
“It’s gut-wrenching as an AM because you don’t make anything on a $0 transaction, but you have to do all the work for it. You still have to go through contracting, you still have to build an official quote, you have to have all the conversations, you have to tell all your bosses that rely on upsell revenue that we’re taking the zero … But the thought was, in the long run, this will pay off.”
Challenge #3: Overcoming the Naysayer (September 2020
In the same month that Lyon lost the first deal, he immediately started prospecting for the second. A crucial piece of information he had learned was that the two companies were planning to combine Salesforce instances in the near future, which could only mean one thing:
They needed clean data.
Lyon continued prospecting and eventually got one of the organization’s data hygienists on the phone, whose job, Lyon learned, was to ensure that the corporate hierarchy structure data in Salesforce was clean.
Things were moving forward again. The whole team seemed to be on board — except for one person.
“There was one guy who was just adamant about this perception that he had had from multiple years ago: That our account data wasn’t strong enough,” Lyon said.
Lyon and his team did everything they could do to dispel the myth, but they couldn’t stop it from spreading. They could, however, make the offer of a lifetime: 30 million credits and unlimited licenses.
“It was probably the best deal we’ve ever offered. And they didn’t take it.”
Challenge #4: The 67-Person RFP (October 2020)
Less than a month later, the company had a change of heart and sent a formal RFP, which included a multi-page questionnaire about every aspect of ZoomInfo, from revenue to diversity and inclusion hiring initiatives.
“Between data services, contracts team, leadership team, CSMs, SDRs, VPs of products, and solution sales team, there were about 40 individuals who were helping on this deal. We had one call where the RFP audience was a total of 67 people.”
From mid-November to late December, Lyon and the team were in full fighting mode. Right at the end of the year, the company gave its answer:
No, yet again — but this time, because of a competitor, and they wouldn’t tell Lyon who.
“That’s kind of where you grit your teeth and you just fight through it. Just because you lost doesn’t mean it’s over. You could lose the Super Bowl one year and win it the next.”
Challenge #5: Closing an Eight-Figure Deal (February 2021)
In the first quarter of the new year, Lyon still kept pushing. No matter who the competitor was, he was confident that Zoominfo still had numerous use cases that would benefit the company.
“We walked them through every use case you could possibly do with ZoomInfo — automated workflows, data hygiene, prospecting, ReachOut, integrations with third-party systems, etc. — in a slide deck that is now being leveraged by our entire strategic team.”
From mid-January on, Lyon and the team entered a negotiating frenzy, and in February 2021, they got a yes. After a five-week procurement process, Lyon closed the eight figure deal.
How did he do it?
When asked about how he pulled this deal off, Lyon’s immediate response was, “It was a team effort.”
So many people, he insisted, from colleagues to managers, deserved credit for his success. The piece of advice he took most to heart during the process was to turn his frustration into passion.
“Sometimes, I would have a conversation with one of my bosses or former bosses, and I would be so angry and just passionate on the phone, and the guidance they gave me was, ‘How come you weren’t like this on the call?’” he said. “If you’re passionate about something, and you really believe that you’re going to transform someone’s business, let them see that you care about it just as much as they do.”
When it came to Lyon’s motivation and his will to keep the faith, there was one thought he kept returning to: his family.
“I have a vision board above my desk of what I wanted to buy with my commission, and I have a picture of my kids and my wife on my desk, and so every call, I was just doing it for them. The commission is nice, but what is the commission going to do for my family? That was my personal motivation.”
Although his current work-from-home setup doesn’t allow for “I Can’t Wait to Be King” to sound throughout the sales floor, at least Lyon can rest assured about one thing: He’s certainly earned his name.