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Sarah Ashburn | Chief Revenue Officer at Censys

Unlocking the Sales Vault: Sarah Ashburn’s Key to Prosperity

Within the sphere of revenue growth and sales leadership, Sarah Ashburn stands as a remarkable force of transformation. With a track record spanning startups, underperforming ventures and established brands, she has consistently driven businesses to unparalleled success. Her prowess lies in her ability to not only build but also transform and lead top-tier sales organizations.

In her role as Chief Revenue Officer at Censys, she is responsible for all aspects of worldwide revenue, including channel sales, customer success and operations. Sarah’s specialties encompass sales leadership, operations, team culture, strategies, and methodologies across diverse sectors, including IT, cloud computing, SaaS and enterprise software leadership.

Let’s delve into the journey where Sarah’s expertise truly shines as she navigates the complex landscape of cybersecurity and sales for Censys!

Defining Business Excellence

In the world of sales, where every connection and strategy can make or break a deal, Sarah’s journey is nothing short of remarkable. Her story unfolds as a testament to dedication and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

My sales career began at ADP, where I’m grateful to have spent over 8 years building relationships and fostering my passion for sales management,” Sarah recalls with a warm smile. It’s evident that her years at ADP laid the foundation for her future successes.

As a recognized executive, Sarah possesses an immense ability to rebuild organizations and stands as a beacon of inspiration as one of the top women in the cybersecurity industry. With over 30 years of world-class sales, strategy and business operations experience under her belt, she boasts a remarkable track record of closing more than $1 billion in sales throughout her career.

Prior to her current role at Censys, Sarah served as the SVP of Sales and Customer Success at Attivo Networks. It was during this tenure that she truly made waves in the industry. Leading the growth engine through multiple rounds of funding, building full go-to-market teams, improving sales, creating innovative business strategies and owning the complete customer lifecycle, Sarah’s contributions were nothing short of transformative. Her efforts culminated in a remarkable $615 million acquisition by SentinelOne, cementing her legacy as a true sales visionary.

But it’s not just the numbers that define Sarah—it’s her commitment to teamwork and collaboration. During her time at Attivo Networks, she expressed, “Together we can do GREAT things.” This simple, yet profound mantra became the heartbeat of her workplace ethos. Today, she carries this reminder into internal sales meetings at Censys, where her leadership continues to inspire her team to achieve greatness together.

Coherency at the Forefront

At the heart of Sarah’s role lies a crucial mission—educating the market and emphasizing the significance of foundational visibility and control in cybersecurity strategies. In a market inundated with false positives, there exists a prevalent misconception regarding the efficacy of current security tools.

Security teams often lack the profound insights required to power their solutions effectively. Beyond sales targets, Sarah’s primary objective is to empower security leaders with knowledge, encouraging them to pose the right questions when evaluating new products for their security controls.

Her approach aligns seamlessly with the overarching goal of education:

  • Data as the Foundation: Sarah ensures that Censys’ unrivaled dataset takes center stage. She is committed to showcasing innovation to customers, providing them invaluable insights that underpin security strategies.
  • Empathetic Sales Objectives: Understanding customers and their objectives and mission form the bedrock of Censys’ growth and evolution. Sarah recognizes that harmonizing sales goals with customer needs and value realization fosters lasting partnerships and propels both the organization and its clients toward excellence.

Data-Driven Decisions

For Sarah, it comes down to monitoring three main areas to drive data-driven decision-making:

  • Market Feedback: “We listen keenly to the voices that matter,” Sarah says. Her team actively seeks insights from internal researchers, customers, partners and industry analysts. This inclusive approach ensures they glean wisdom from every corner of the ecosystem, shaping the strategies.
  • KPIs: Numbers don’t lie,” Sarah notes. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the compass. Deciphering these metrics to unveil the pathways to success, expanding the impact where the results shine. For areas where KPIs falter, they dig deep, eliminating issues at their roots. The lifecycle of metrics, insights, strategies and execution is the guiding light, leading them toward effective decision-making.
  • Industry Trends: Sarah recognizes the invaluable insights hidden within buyer persona problems and challenges. As industry trends emerge, such as security gaps caused by cloud adoption or the demand for tech automation due to people shortages, Censys pivots its strategies to meet these evolving needs.

Steps to Success

In her illustrious career, Sarah once faced the daunting task of turning around one of the poorest-performing segments of her previous organization. With resilience and a powerful vision, she transformed the division into the top-performing area of the business in just 18 months.

Sarah’s wisdom on leadership and team management is distilled into a set of guiding principles that have brought her success time and again:

  • Lead by example,” she emphasizes. A leader’s actions should inspire and serve as a beacon for their team. It’s about walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
  • Set and manage expectations,” Sarah advises. Leading others to adopt this approach ensures alignment and clarity in pursuing goals.
  • Consistent and transparent communication” is paramount, she asserts. Honesty about what’s working and the courage to address what isn’t creates a culture of trust.
  • Sarah believes in the power of explaining the “why” behind actions. “Your ‘why’ drives everything,” she claims, understanding that the purpose behind tasks fosters commitment.
  • She also stresses the importance of recognizing behaviors that resonate with the team and celebrating small wins along the way. Each victory, no matter how minor, contributes to the bigger picture.
  • For Sarah, identifying individuals’ interests and aligning resources with aspirations is key. “Training and development should match their interests, not just your perception of the ‘right fit,’” she wisely notes.

Sarah’s approach doesn’t stop there. She encourages leaders to ruthlessly prioritize, keeping customers at the heart of every decision. “The voice of the customer is the most important voice,” she declares, a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence.

A Wealth of Security

Censys, born from the minds behind zMap, boasts the industry’s pinnacle in internet mapping. With its proprietary Map of the Internet and External Attack Surface Management (EASM), a solution that offers valuable insights for security teams, Censys provides unmatched coverage, lightning-fast discovery and unparalleled insights.

Censys Search stands at the forefront of internet scanning, curating the most extensive dataset of internet intelligence. It scans 137 top ports and 1440 cloud ports daily, refreshing all known services within 24 hours.

In an era where “good enough” data won’t suffice for security, the Censys Internet Map emerges as the globe’s most comprehensive and current compendium of internet infrastructure, enriched with vital context to empower security and intelligence teams.

Censys tackles security and privacy head-on with a meticulous, data-driven strategy. Its proprietary internet mapping boasts unrivalled data precision and scope.

Going beyond mere asset identification, Censys delivers profound contextual insights and impeccable attribution accuracy, equipping security teams to comprehend external asset connections, configurations and vulnerabilities.

With real-time data and specialized tools for threat hunting and exposure management, Censys empowers organizations to take proactive measures against advanced threats, effectively mitigating potential exposures.

The Perpetual Values

In the world of effective leadership, simplicity often holds the key. Sarah’s leadership philosophy is grounded in a few fundamental principles—trust, respect and empowerment.

Assume the best in your team,” she advises, emphasizing the importance of treating others as you wish to be treated. Recognizing that the team’s mission is to serve customers and ensure their success, Sarah advocates for applying the same customer-centric mindset to your own team.

Sarah champions the idea that your team – through its first-hand insights into customer situations – holds valuable perspectives. Leading by example, she believes that when you believe in your team, they, in turn, will believe in themselves.

Empowerment, according to Sarah, starts at the top. She encourages leaders to foster a culture where all voices are heard, new strategies are welcomed, and feedback is acted upon through well-defined implementation plans.

Sarah underlines the importance of open communication, enabling teams to feel empowered to speak their minds. In a final note of wisdom, she urges leaders to be open to learning from those around them, recognizing that challenges can often be our greatest teachers.

Channeling Success

Selling in the cybersecurity industry is challenging and noisy with over 600 competing vendors. However, Censys’ innovative channel program stands out, offering unique compensation structures.

This business initiative resulted in a remarkably successful channel program, becoming the company’s top lead source. Celebrating its one-year channel program anniversary this summer, Censys continues to redefine success in the cybersecurity market.

People are the Point

Sarah, the bridge between customers and senior leadership, plays a pivotal role in ensuring Censys stays on course. In every meeting, she brings forth the authentic voice of customers, providing insights into successes, challenges and valuable recommendations. This holistic approach involves celebrating recent triumphs, dissecting losses and sharing anecdotal feedback from customer interactions.

Sharing customer concerns isn’t just about maintaining customer satisfaction—it’s also a critical step in keeping senior executives informed about the company’s overall health. Monthly alignment meetings involving sales, customer success, product management and engineering are instrumental in this process.

Weekly reviews of requests and open tickets in addition to consistent NPS (net promoter score) management maintains a proactive stance. An automated customer health flag ensures immediate attention to any customer issues, reinforcing Censys’ commitment to exceptional customer service.

Investing in the Future

Amidst the ongoing scarcity of cybersecurity and tech-focused roles, Sarah offers invaluable advice—the security industry is a realm for all, not just those with a technology background. While the security field can be intimidating, anyone can find a place where they “best fit.”

For aspiring women, Sarah underscores the importance of seeking mentorship and professional growth opportunities. Her involvement in leadership forums and networking groups in the San Francisco Bay area has enriched her career journey.

Sarah’s story is exemplary of the power of aligning passions with a career path. While her heart beats for leadership, management and sales, she’s seamlessly integrated her interests into the cybersecurity domain.

Sarah’s diverse experiences in the tech and security sector have taught her profound life lessons. She emphasizes that self-imposed limitations often hold women back, recalling a poignant quote:

Behind you, all your memories.

Before you, all your dreams.

Around you, all who love you.

Within you, all you need!

It’s a reminder that women possess boundless potential to shape their destinies.

Currency of Change

Sarah is a true advocate for fostering a thriving culture, believing that retention hinges on a passion for both the internal team and the customer. She notes, “Culture drives performance,” – her approach centers on nurturing collaboration within the organization and with customers.

Drawing from her extensive experience, Sarah highlights the effectiveness of recognition programs in cultivating an engaged, motivated, accountable and collaborative team culture. Under her leadership, this technique has yielded an impressive 90% employee retention rate.

In her view, company success hinges on customer success. She reminds—an organization’s goals are intrinsically linked to team members who are deeply committed to the company’s mission.

Sarah’s wisdom underscores the importance of considering the ripple effect of decisions on customers, the business and the team, emphasizing that a thriving culture is the linchpin to it all.

The Legacy and the Road Ahead…

In reflecting on her journey, Sarah fondly recalls a remarkable chapter with Attivo Networks. She shares, “Our story had an amazing conclusion when Attivo Networks was acquired by SentinelOne.”

For Sarah, this pivotal moment remains etched in her career, a source of immense pride and inspiration. She hopes to bring the same level of customer value and success to her role at Censys.

Her overarching mission remains steadfast; “To provide innovative ways to serve our customers and help them reduce security risks.” The ultimate reward, she affirms, is when customers choose to stay and others seek to replicate the value and service they offer.

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