Books I re-read in January:

  • Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
  • Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley
  • The Alliance by Reid Hoffman/Ben Casnocha/Chris Yeh
  • They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan

I remember the first time I really started reading. I was not an avid reader as a child, I read out of obligation.

For example, I’ve read serial books Harry Potter, Brian Jacques, Famous Five and even Horrible Histories.  As we were told you must read. To relieve my boredom, I started skimming but not with any talent. I just used to look at the page for about 10-15 seconds and then turn the page.

I loved movies, I was an avid movie watcher and still am to this day. I loved history books and before Wikipedia and even before secondary school I would go to the National Trust bookshops and want to open up books finding out further historical information. And yes I’m one of those weird people who read those historical sites and loves to know about what was her before, what was it used for and who owned it.

But I didn’t really start reading in any big quantity non-fiction until I went to Sri Lanka to set up a charity in 2014. For the first time, I had a Kindle e-Reader, with the integrated light and on ‘Airplane Mode’ I could travel from Colombo to Jaffna by bus without losing battery. I even stopped in the hotel lobbies during fuel stops and bought and downloaded new books for the next multiple hour trips.

Now I’ve switched from Kindle to Audible after you can get a bit trigger happy with Kindle and I still have 10s of books not read…

This year I decided to do something different. After reading 100s of books, I asked myself how many of these have I read twice or thrice? How many have I taken insights and knowledge and applied it to my life? Do I practice these new habits or use these insights regularly in my daily life?

My answer was no on many levels. There is a tendency for over-consumption of content. I have made this mistake on many occasions and even reviewed on one weekend the crazy increase of reading just before I’ve resigned or been fired in my career.

So 2020 is a year of re-reading, I’m going to be using an 80/20 rule for my reading practices this year.

So here are my insights from the 4 books that I re-read in January:

Profit First Insights
  1. Sales – Expenses = Profit —> owners distributions after tax year-end is a broken system.
  2. Taking profit first increases the value of your business and how you spend your money, does this expense create profit for my business? Does it protect me against great risk?
  3. GAAP system means you often go from crisis to crisis early on in your startup life. Whilst creating a bigger monster each time. It’s like a delayed and ever-growing monster!
  4. Having money to pay your tax, VAT, employees with ease is a great feeling. Simple but true.
  5. Bank balance accounting is a better live system for SMEs and any Founder can manage it with Profit First system.
  6. A Flow system means you use accounts to judge expenses, tax, vat separately rather than one catch-all account.
  7. Percentages create progress. A small percentage increase with increasing revenue can result in a big transformation in your finances.
Key Person of Influence Insights
  1. Vitality is more important than functionality. Vital adds something. It is irreplaceable. Functional – great at what they do, they perform a task that is replaceable.
  2. It’s the message that makes you rich, not social media. Social media is a microphone for your ideas, theories and opinions.
  3. It has been 6 years since I read this book, I saw Daniel speak to a group of budding entrepreneurs recently. The tips he’d mentioned in his book I had done. The news diet, three calls, a month’s earnings in the wallet.
  4. The inner circle is where the opportunities lie. They pass them between each other. Income moves from one wealthy person to another. I saw this recently when I stumbled and met someone who was going to buy an island in the British Virgin Islands and people nearest in his network were joining in and investing in his project.
  5. Publishing creates credibility, Products create cash. Product and services ecosystems create money, not just prospects.
  6. Go looking for partnerships when networking. Look for relationships.
  7. Can get addicted to the struggle and let complexity get in the way of simplicity, you let the unimportant take priority over the most important. A desire for immediate quick wins creep in.
  8. Disarming questions and the language of opportunity: often we ask disempowering questions of ourselves and others and we certainly don’t light up their character by using the language of opportunity to enable them and encourage them to go above and beyond our expectations
  9. From live event with Dan… When you write down your ideas, you have space for new insights to come flowing in. Also by writing down you can examine it, the same can be said for sharing and teaching others. You understand where the gaps are and what you need to become better at.
The Alliance Insights
  1. Are you creating an environment for greatness? Would you arrive at the office or at the desk and think I can’t wait to get started?
  2. The employee/employer relationship is often never really discussed. You have the opportunity to grow the company with great talent and increase the market value of the employee.
  3. A career is full of successful tours of duties not jobs. Focusing on finishing a specific project or stage of a company’s growth builds trust incrementally and makes you part of something bigger.
  4. Types of a tour of duty – Types: Rotational, Transformational, Foundational. * Entry-level employees – start with rotational or transformational * Higher level – transformational to foundational. Tech startups – normally 80% transformational tours. Small % on rotational and foundational. High performance and highly adaptive culture.
  5. Personal value exercise for employees: 1) Three people she admires. 2) Three qualities she admired most, 3) Number 1-9. 4) Match these against the company values. OR  For 1) What is your proudest career moment? Who is the best coworker you’ve worked with? OR Life journey – 3-5 minutes. How it led you to be the person you are today and how it’s created some of your decisions in the last couple of years? What were the values you held dear during these decisions or time period? What drove you?
  6. HubSpot employees – share/ comment/update – 3x more. 6x more connections.
  7. Setup a networking fund – interesting people fund. Learn from interesting people. Got to put the learning meals in place. Can expense meals with smart people if summarise on the expense entry on what they learned and happy to share with others at the company.
They Ask You Answer Insights
  1. 70% of the buying decision is made before contacting you – this is old data over 6 years old. Will this be 80 or 85% in this next decade?
  2. Be obsessed with customer fear. Every reasons, fear, concern, worry. People who eliminate this fear from the buying cycle are the most progressive businesses, so you need to create the content to help and facilitate this buying experience.
  3. Five types of content: 1. Pricing and qualifications 2. Problems 3. Vs and comparisons 4. Reviews 5. Best in class.
  4. Creating content is about getting more time, more sales time. You could never service the questions and answers with prospective clients as you could online in a blog article.
  5. Hiring a Content Marketing Manager: 1. They love to write – communion 2. They are skilled at editing – 5 to 93. Excellent interviewing skills – Buyers point of view 4. They embrace social media and get it 5. Solid video editing skills 6. They are extremely likeable 7. They know what makes employees tick 8. Organised and goal-orientated – editorial calendar – interviews, newsletter, releases 9. Love analytics and measurement – love tools like HubSpot 10.  Think outside the box – creativity – get things done.
  6. Assessment tests for Content Manager: Do they embody your top 5 brand values? * Turn a poor draft into a nice article – two full-blown articles * Blog titles – interview question * Main question – get them to interview them – 24-48 hours – blog or video post. * Likeable – interviewed by others, personal interests – video, photography, creative hobbies.
  7. The more you share about the questions and answers for your product or service the better your value proposition and deeper understanding you have of your target market. Otherwise, it is latent potential sitting in a CRM or the back of your mind.

Thanks for reading this far. I’m still amazed at how many skim these things!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on if re-reading is a thing you practice regularly. Do you do it with all your favourite books or find yourself doing it with only a few books?

Hope you enjoyed this, feel free to like, comment and share this article with those would actually care. Not because I need external validation just so perhaps I can share with you other insights on other reading I may do in the future! 😉

Buyers are more savvy now than they were when I started selling close to 13 years ago. There is nothing profound in that opening gambit, so I shall pick out what I think is one of the biggest shifts to be occurring now in sales and how a business should first acknowledge it, second put a process in place to track it and lastly, enjoy the benefits of doing steps 1 and 2.

Customer Experience (CX) for the empowered buyer is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored or underestimated in todays buyer journey. It is accepted that a buyer will engage with close to 13 pieces of content before they reach your website, and so they are going to be significantly further along the buyer journey than they would have been over a decade ago.

This is why Customer Success is such a critical cog in the revenue machine of a business and why its importance in obtaining revenue intelligence for a company is paramount. A businesses ability to retain and deliver value to a new customer has to be a key metric when understanding healthy growth. You should be asking yourself as a Founder, in the first 60 days of the lifetime of a new customer, what value are you giving them? The way to understand this is decide what is your Eureka or lightbulb moment, when should it occur and how can you get a customer to that point as quickly as possible? This moment can be thought of the point when a customer confirms in their own mind the reason they bought from you in the first place, drastically reducing their likelihood of churning

This moment is unique to your value proposition and needs to be carefully considered but it should be (and needs to be) tracked, so you can communicate what percentage of your customers reach that moment in the first 60 days, why haven’t some reached that moment, when does this get compromised?

Try this out: figure out what your eureka moment is and how you get there (the how being things like: get a customer to use our 5 top features or, submit 3 requests through the platform etc) counting down 60 days from initial signature. I would love to see this more in the pitch decks of startups as a front and centre PowerPoint slide i.e. this is how quickly we can deliver incomparable value to our customers and what percentage of customers we do this for…not the 5 year cash flow projections an accountant has dreamt up or a $1trn TAM opportunity!

The speed at which a company can deliver immeasurable and massive value to a customer in its first 60 days drastically reduces that companies likelihood of churning, allowing you to tweak and refine your process which not only retains and locks in that customers business for the next year (the conversations come renewal time will be significantly easier) but more importantly, it allows you to ask for a strategic referral, which if done at this moment, your customer will only be too happy to sponsor.

 Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Imagine a shop that sold each of the items listed in the title of this article! Uttering a request for these items in one breath would encourage a look of disbelief from the assistant, forgiven for assuming his involvement in a comedy sketch! They may seem arbitrary with no clear relationship but in the following few words, I shall attempt to outline that they are more closely aligned than you think.

At Sales for Startups we are lucky to have worked with and gotten seriously lasting results for over 50 B2B tech companies and a question we come across a lot as trusted consultants is,  “what one thing can I do, what one activity is going to make the difference? What’s the silver bullet?” Perhaps, I am over-simplifying this, assuming Founders to be this naive to think it is attributed to just one action, but you would be surprised.

We help Seed to Series C funded B2B tech companies and within these different stages of funding brings its own unique set of challenges. However, the common denominator of “what one activity could be done” is to get more leads! This clamour achieves consensus from the ranks drawn to the idea that if a company generates more “quality” leads, more can be inputted into the pipeline and then the revenue goals will be hit, so go fill that funnel, salespeople; go sell more to more people! The point being that this one activity is not necessarily going to create lasting change and embed different behaviours.

My view is that for too long we have subscribed to the view of the sales activities being viewed as a funnel, often drawn out as a funnel on a whiteboard or a print out. I think this limits a business view, obfuscating an area one really does not want to be myopic about. Let me explain why.

The sales funnel is a concept we are all familiar with. We know what a funnel looks like, we can picture it and perhaps have been in contact with one for whatever reason. There are even sales technologies that have the word funnel in them, so this traditional view has many followers. However, to consider your sales process as a funnel, is limiting.

It suggests that as soon as the one activity of entering leads in the top stops, then naturally, results/closed deals dry up pretty quick because there is not a stream of leads being entered (Sales would immediately turn to Marketing in this instance asking for more, always more). If you do end up with nothing coming in at the front end, there are no accounts to grow and revenue stalls.

It also doesn’t allow you to consider what to do with those customers that are through the funnel and have converted. What happens to them? Do we leave them out to dry until we have to renegotiate the contract with them 10.5 months into their 12 month minimum, begging for them to resign even though they have had no contact for all this time? Surely, there is a better way?

This view has been iterated and metamorphosed into the concept of the bowtie. Imagine a bowtie and to help there is an image below. As you look at it, Marketing is on the left hand side, with a wide reach, Sales are at the centre, and Customer Success on the right hand side. Marketing are responsible for awareness and filling the (in this instance, horizontal) hopper; Sales are responsible for Revenue which occurs at the middle of the bowtie with Customer Success being responsible for Growth and Retention at the other side of the bowtie (for further reading on this, consider Dave McClure’s work, Pirate Metrics).

So, all revenue generating departments have their own place with Marketing, Sales and Customer Success all working in symbiosis to enhance revenue. This addresses the issue with the funnel in terms of what happens to a prospect once they convert because there is a clear switch in responsibility from Sales to Customer Success.

However, and similar to the funnel depiction, a limitation is the static nature of a bowtie; it is not dynamic. When new opportunities are not placed at the front end, the back end dries up pretty quickly and revenue remains static because one activity (lead generation) was not properly administered.  
Therefore what is the answer? Since our inception, we have been contrarian by nature, challenging the norms, going on record to claim that the old way of consultancy is broken, in terms of paying for time. Therefore, I shall suggest and introduce to you viewing your pipeline as a flywheel. Acknowledgement must go to Jim Collins’ seminal text Good to Great where he eloquently outlines the concept of a flywheel but in short, a flywheel is a heavy object that through inertia resists moving.

However, it does eventually start and if you are to believe Newton’s 3rd law, every action will have an equal and opposite reaction, the flywheel eventually starts turning through consistency ,relentless effort and activity by building momentum until breakthrough and beyond. Once the flywheel is turning, these actions speed up the flywheel until its own centrifugal force takes over. If we appropriate this to sales, it demonstrates that it is not just one activity (i.e we need more leads and then all of our problems will be over) that defines the success of a company.

It is all of the activities surrounding every stage of the process and the buying journey that creates success. Once the wheel is turning, it is small nudges that keep it turning (this can be iterations on the wider business process) and if you were to ask a Founder at a company where this concept was fully embedded, what one action did they incorporate to achieve this, they would be hard pushed to put their finger on this one silver bullet, because there isn’t one.

As you can see in the above picture, customers are the focal point when a business adopts a flywheel approach and in B2B sales, this is where the customer should be – at the centre of every action. This adoption of change starts with a mindset shift to “ what do I [as the salesperson] need to do to help the buyer in their journey”. In the whole process, each step is to be a sales person focussed action with a buyer focussed outcome, to achieve a fully buyer centric sales process.

With this mind, with the flywheel approach, the customer is never out of loop, sequence, campaign or other such similar activity. They are always being looked after by specific departments dependent on where they are in the buying cycle, with the different departments orbiting around them, not the other way round. In contrast to this, when a customer signs and comes out the other end of a funnel, they need to be placed back into the top of the funnel which may sound simple but all too often, these businesses can fall through the cracks. I am not suggesting that this cannot be done, but at Sales for Startups we always try to achieve a closed feedback loop between Customer Success and Sales which I argue can be more fully achieved with a flywheel than a funnel.

If you have found the funnel or bowtie a bit static, and are looking for a dynamic alternative, consider the flywheel. Consistency of actions, validation that these are the right actions and execution of these in the right order are what makes real change. It is tough to get your flywheel turning in the first instance, I cannot suggest that this is not the case. However, once it does start turning, you will soon be in a position where only gentle nudges will continue its turn, ensuring constant forward motion and ultimately, business success.

Sales for Startups is a boutique consultancy based in London who help technical founders of B2B SaaS companies funded between Seed and Series C, rapidly enhance their revenue and optimise their operations through proven systems.

 Connect with me on LinkedIn!

There are many times and situations when choosing a contractor might be more beneficial for your business than expanding your employed team of staff.

By nature people who are self-employed have different personality traits, compared to those who are comfortable working as employees. Of course, it takes everyone to keep the world spinning, and all personality stereotypes have their strengths and weakness. It is worth being clear though and identifying the times when temporary support would better serve your business than a new member of staff.

Many freelancers – quoted as highly as 50% – wouldn’t consider conventional employment for any amount of money. Broadly speaking, this is a group of people who are proactive, self-starting, creative, visionary, intellectually-curious, problem-solving, resilient, and open to experience.

Working with a wide range of businesses kindles rich and diverse experience. It is this experience and acumen that you are buying in.

Also, it is worth considering that contractors are only ever as good as their last job. Those who are successful contribute all of their experience, energy and attention, fully, every single time. That’s how they maintain their success.

If you are in the process of scaling your business, you need to use all of the means available to you. And to do this, you need to consider hired-in help or flexible talent.

Sales for Startups latest eBook ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’  covers the three main types of temporary support that can help to boost your sales. It is a comprehensive and practical overview of the scope, benefits, price tags and drawbacks associated with each category.

Click here to download your copy.

Rohit Patni, Co-Founder at Lavanya Plus

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

There are two types of people in sales. There are the Hunters and there are Farmers. The hunters are there to win new business whereas the farmers are thereto manage existing ccounts. Difference in mindset is also a common factor. The hunter is hungy for new clients and the farmer is focussed on building relationships.

Why is there a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

Closing the gap comes back to your go-to market strategy with what and how you feel.

To read more from Rohit, click here!

Karen Gallontry, General Manager at mParticle

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

It often comes down to failing to implement and getting sticky with the client post-sales. In the handover process from sales to cosnumer success is clunky then it can lead to failure.

Why is there a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

The gap comes down to the compensation structure and sometimes team size along with the handover process too. To be successful, you have to have clear standard operating procedures between the two parts of the organisation (CSM vs Sales) to de-conflict potential cross over and to affirm roles in terms of account management and the customer contact is managed by the customer success person and the commercial terms are managed by the salesperson (as an example)

To read more from Karen, click here!

Jenna Lindberg, Senior Relationships Manager at Mixpanel

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

Startups will display an inward focus most of the time and their initial customers will expense these growing plans. There’s only so much tolerance that customers have to this type of pain.

Why is there a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

The gap often comes down to how they are motivated and their beliefs accurate or inaccurate about the other role. In my experience, the people who are attracted to customer success are project managers and consultants, they are customer-focussed and they want to fix problems for customers.

To read more from Jenna, click here!

Ben Prouty, Co-Founder & CEO at Shepper

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

The leadership teams are dealing with pressure to perform which is coupled with the financial and time pressure. Investors are nervous about the dependency on a couple of clients, so you need to get out and win new logos. Secondly you might not have the skill set available and ready to focus on account growth in the first couple of years.

To read more from Ben, click here!

Adam Joseph, Director at Gainsight

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

It’s certainly not one single person. For me it comes down to, do we really understand what the desired outcome of the customer is? So you can go back to that first call with a SDR for example, and understand did we do our due diligence or were we in a rush to make the sale? We have to scope out why our customers are buying, how do you determine your success with us. It’s really key for the handover between Sales and Customer Success. Sometimes you see a real separation, where a Customer Success Manager is picking up a deal for the first time, not knowing who the customer is and needed to build that relationship from scratch.

Why is there a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

Some of it comes down to their interests and compensation. Think what is the ethos of the business? If you want to be centred around enabling the customer. Customer Success is not just a department, or an individual. It’s a culture, a way of working that permeates throughout the business.

To read more from Adam, click here!

Seb Robert, CEO at Gophr

What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

I think it comes from a lack of understanding of that customer, about how they are structured, how large they are and what their true needs above just making your first deal. I think back to when we did an exercise with a credit control and inspection agency. We found out from them what the sheer size of some of our customers was way bigger than at first glance and hence it drove us to think how we could support them. Furthermore, from speaking to some founders I know I don’t get the impression that startups talk to their customers enough. We’re not blameless here either.

Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

Technology is dominated by engineers. Sometimes as an industry, we get too focused on our technical product rather than the customer’s needs. Therefore the link between Sales and Customer Success becomes a secondary consideration.

To read more from Seb, click here!

If you’re looking for experience but don’t want to take someone on in a permanent role, a freelancer might be the ideal solution. Maybe you’re growing faster than you can recruit or have a one-off project needing extra people power.

The benefits of doing this are plentiful. Here are five that Sales for Startups have picked out:

  • Numbers orientated – notably motivated to stimulate profit
  • Minimal training, fast returns – serious experience enabling effectiveness from day 1
  • Up-to-the-minute thinking – abreast of the latest sales industry theory, models and strategies
  • Helicopter view – contribute advice and insight, having seen what works and what doesn’t elsewhere
  • Buy time – trial new approaches, strategies and processes, and grow your permanent team in a considered manner

The key thing about sales freelancers is that they DO the work. You are likely to receive advice along the way but they are primarily there to get a job done. This could be a strategy project, like developing your data science or software engineering, an interim position or replacement role.

Throughout November Sales for Startups are exploring all aspects of how temporary support can assist in developing tech companies’ sales. To read our eBook ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’, packed full of practical information about how to make best use of what’s available, visit here.

With recent events going on with the virus, I thought I’d take a look back 10 years and see what I was reading back then when I first entered the workplace.

Here are the books that I read just after entering the marketplace as a new salesperson, in honesty, I didn’t really read for the first 4 years after graduating! This drastically changed when I bought a Kindle e-Reader and borrowed a book from my best mate from university, who said I reckon you might like this story.

The books I read that had an impact on my thinking actions:

  • If You’re Not First, You’re Last by Grant Cardone
  • The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
  • Screw It, Lets Do It by Richard Branson
  • Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestley

Insights – If You’re Not First, You’re Last by Grant Cardone

  1. “Set A Deadline To Finish A Book In 4 Days Or Less”, e.g. I will finish this book by Thursday 6:00pm.
  2. “Activate Your Power Base” – at times of an economic struggle you need to reconnect with your network, your friends, family and past colleagues. Hold catch up calls as they’ll either know someone that can help or they’ll spread the word for you. And the same in reverse. Enter LinkedIn!
  3. “Past Client Activation” – after the crash, I came into a job where the previous year, the consultant had worked on over 200 opportunities, I was told from the key accounts team they were 4 this year. So I decided to look elsewhere and stumbled across this company I recognised called American Express. I found an advert online for an ‘FX Sales Executive’, I cold-called from the switchboard and was put through to an in-house recruiter, and competitor from Hays (didn’t even know they existed at the time), persevered and got the job on. I then called up my friend from my last company whom I’d trained as a young salesperson and said I’ve got a new role for you, I want you to consider. He sent me the CV, they rejected it outright, I called them again saying, I trained this guy, at least hold a phone interview. I coached him through the interview spending over 4 hours helping my buddy, he did well at assessment and he signed the contract with American Express 2 weeks later.
  4. “Converting The Unsold” – I scoured all the jobs that had ‘Final Interview’, ‘2nd Interview’ and ‘1st Interview’ and started calling them. After I’d asked American Express who their competitors where they mentioned a company called Travelex. I remember seeing that foreign exchange desk in the airport as a kid! I saw that we’d had some interviews at Travelex before and then called the Fx desk, where the Senior Dealer put me through to the hiring manager. After much persuasion, he allowed me to recruit for the job, I placed the role 3 weeks later.

Insights – The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This was like no ever book that I read before. This was not on the recommended reading list of my bosses.

  1. Ask for forgiveness not for permission” – became my mantra for quite a while to do things that other people were unwilling to do or didn’t want to do. This has always stuck with me. I was never a goody-two-shoes.
  2. “Busy yourself with the money wheel, pretend it’s a fix-all and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you seeing how pointless it is.” Ok, what’s this money wheel thing? This seems like something I need to work out…
  3. “Relative income is more important than absolute income – £50,000 for 80 hours or £50,000 for 10 hours.” Ok right, James, what’s my hourly rate? Holy crap, my hourly rate is £6.72. That’s the same as a McDonald’s employee. And my boss keeps telling me I’m the future of the company?! Ok, what’s the percentage of salary & bonuses/ revenue created. Wow, it’s 2.5%. So I’m working for another person to earn 97.5% of all the work I do and I’m getting paid £6.72 an hour for a lot of hours. This is an important lesson. I need to change direction now!
  4. DEAL – Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation. What 20% of sources are causing 80% of unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are creating 80% of my happiness? “The goal is to find your inefficiencies in order to eliminate them and find your strengths so you can multiply them.” Sounds like a pretty good plan to me. I’m never going to be the best at everything, I’d rather be a rockstar in some things.
  5. “Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing and is far more unpleasant.” Very true. Being selective – doing less – is the path to being productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest. Easy to get caught up in the minutiae but the key lies in remembering that not feeling rushed is remembering that lack of time is actually lack of priorities.
  6. If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?? Nevermore than 2 mission-critical items per day. Ok, I can do that! Really cool app www.e.ggtimer.com/30minutes
  7. Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. Also, your problems are going to hit you quick and hard.
  8. Delegation – Virtual Assistants. There are other people around the world that can work for you and do some of your admin, that sounds amazing. Need to remember this!

Insights – Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

I think this is one of the shortest most uplifting stories I have read of a man trying to work out life and its challenges and adventures at the same time.

  1. “Just Do It” – believe it can be done, live life to the full, never give up, try and try again and have faith in yourself.
  2. “Have Fun” – don’t waste time, grab your chances, when it’s not fun move on. I did.
  3. “Stand On Your Own Two Feet” – although I was responsible and wanted to chase my own dreams, this in practice took a while to do this properly.
  4. “Live The Moment” – love life and live it to the full, make every second count and don’t have regrets.
  5. “Sex Appeal” – a story about branding – walk the talk, create excitement in everything you do. Look beyond the obvious and put your ass on the line.
  6. “Be Innovative” – nothing is impossible, the system is not sacred, to win you have to break the rules, find another way.
  7. “Pow Shazam” – speed is the ultimate competitive weapon, be first in the field, do it now, cut the red tape, keep your eye on the ball.
  8. “Think Young” – you’ve got to challenge the big boys, everything is negotiable, do the right things for the band, move like a bullet, small is beautiful. Don’t lead sheep, herd cats!

Insights – Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestley

  1. “A business’s aim is to create IP. Income follows assets”, e.g. sales systems, marketing systems, operational systems. Very interesting, I think I’ll need to understand this further later down the line.
  2. Reptile, Monkey, Empire Builder brains. Reptile = Fight or flight, all or nothing, only resources it believes is what it can see – money, food etc. It will destroy everything in its path for comfort. Monkey – functional part of your brain, repetitive tasks, nit-picking, peak emotions on a daily basis. Only resources are those that it’s told. Only £45,000 or a credit limit that’s it, it is comfortable with scarcity. Empire builder – different to many, calculate future events, devise strategies, likes to live in a connected place and will work until the end. It focuses on resources it can have influence over, it doesn’t care on technically things they own.
  3. Stop spending time with people that bring you down. Inspiring people. Why am I learning from people who are not wealthy? Review my friends, done.
  4. Carry £2,000 around with you in cash, hand never left my pocket for the first few weeks. Wanted to earn it. What’s a lot of money for you? With cash in your pocket, you won’t be worried too much about immediate gain. Survival will not be an issue. Done.
  5. Tune out from the news – no TV, no radio, no papers. Done.
  6. Get a yearly calendar & plan your holidays- weekend and mid-week days, 8-10 weeks a year – how much do you need to earn then reverse engineer?
  7. Lean in. Dream of never retiring. Pursuing your dream, caring about your team, caring about the details and not wanting an easier way.
  8. Vital = be irreplaceable, own your space, business, marketplace and niche.
  9. Give up on passive income. Focus on things that I never want to give up on. Didn’t take this on board immediately and made mistakes but on my way now.
  10. Hard to scale your business by not writing. Agree.
  11. Influence comes from output and confidence comes from output.

Hope this was helpful. If you want to find out about the books that I re-read in January you can find that here too.

What books were you reading in the last recession?

 

 

We interviewed Kate Forgione, Head of Customer Success at ServiceRocket and one of the Founders of Customer Success Network, a thriving peer learning community for Customer Success professionals across Europe who are looking to improve knowledge, skills and networks. And because there could be no one better to shed light on the question of “why do tech startups fail to grow existing accounts?

With so much at stake at winning often landmark and enterprise deals, we often falter as Founders and leaders within tech companies to systematically grow the adoption and usage,  and account spend within these hard-fought new customers.

So over to the interview with Kate and the key questions and answers:

  • What are the main causes for startups failing to grow existing accounts in your experience?

(Kate) Early-stage start-ups startups are searching for validation of their product, trying to prove their product is in demand and to ultimately prove to investors that given more money they can gain product/market fit. It’s often business-critical that they validate themselves with marquee names and logos. Enterprise customers are often very demanding on the initial version of the product. This can put a huge strain on the team as they try and manage an enterprise account with an under-developed product. 

There are a few things which will support the growth of these customers longer-term:

  • Invest in a customer success manager

The CSM will be responsible for ensuring the successful onboarding, adoption and embedding of your product with the customer. Their role is to understand your customer’s goals and align your product to achieve them for maximum value.

  • Build trust through a close customer-Product relationship

 

Secondly, the relationship between Customer Success and Product is critical for long term growth of early enterprise customers. Enterprise customers offer incredible insight into the product being used at scale. To grow, bring your early enterprise customers close to your Product team to help define additional value build in your product. Your CSM can facilitate this relationship.

 Your early marquee enterprise customers put trust in your company at an early stage. You can reciprocate this trust by working closely with them, not just to grow value with the existing product (CS), but give them space to guide and inform your future product roadmap. In summary, bringing together your Customer Success, Product Team and Customers can be the biggest driver for the future growth of your early adopter enterprise customers. 

Kate is almost professing that if you could manage to make progress on the product and meet the demands within reason of your first large customers, your future customers will receive such a great gain, especially when comparing servicing initial enterprise customers and then servicing mid-market or small-to-medium-sized businesses.

 

  • Why is there such a gap between Customer Success and Sales?

(Kate) This happens because of an underlying mindset in companies and teams of ‘Sales just do Sales, Customer Success do post-sales’. Customer Success should be the best friend of  Sales. CS should spend time with Sales and work together on pitch decks, sit in on pitch practice sessions and often ask the challenging questions to help them prepare for key sales meetings. The importance of this connection is often overlooked.

I certainly agree with Kate here that there is often a disconnect with Sales, sometimes even seen by sitting on different floors or other sides of the room, to the mantra of ‘let me know when it signs and we’ll chat then’. As Kate mentioned this is often too late as you are not directing and influencing the salesperson to sell the product on the core value points which make a customer successful. The lack of this feedback loop can cause a dysfunction in the productivity and culture of your team, which is ultimately passed onto the end customer.

 

  • How can the gaps between Sales and Customer Success be bridged? 

(Kate) Customer Success should understand the characteristics of the most successful customers; what are the common 3-4 characteristics these customers share? And demonstrate your findings with data. This data and insight needs to be injected back into the Sales team to help them sell close to the Ideal Customer Profile (ICO). 

The ideal customer profile is built by CS and executed by Sales. Using a joined-up approach to customer acquisition can help move the customer to time-to-value faster. The seller will be able to be better able to identify potential blockers based on previous customer data to give them forewarning as to the people they will need to get involved to have a successful customer and technical blockers to be mitigated.

This is a telling insight in that Customer Success will build the ideal client profile, an iterative and never-ending process, which also confirms whether the marketing and sales efforts align too. As sometimes there is a disconnect between who you are marketing to and meeting regularly and the other who is actually using your product day-in/ day-out. I especially like Kate’s take on giving the evidence and proof back to the sales team as to what makes a successful customer, this could be the involvement of a key stakeholder, a needed integration, even as simple as the first kickoff date agreed by key stakeholders or even downloading the desktop app of your product.

 

  • What’s your opinion on Customer Success owning renewals?

(Kate) I think that owning renewal discussions is a different skill-set to customer success. Customer Success should be focused on enabling your customer and understanding what works and what doesn’t work. Some people might say, ‘well if you give renewals to Sales they got all the glory, that’s not fair is it?’ In my opinion, you didn’t sign up to Customer Success to get the glory and significance of landing a renewal. You are in the role to empower the customer and to drive adoption. 

I think the renewal or expansion opportunities can be surfaced and evidenced by Customer Success but not owned by them. A salesperson is used to negotiating and managing multiple stakeholders to drive towards the desired outcome. Even down to the point of dealing with procurement distracts a Customer Success Manager from enabling a customer, and more importantly, it takes a lot of time.

Kate makes a very fair point here, the difference lies in the motive, time and skillset of the Customer Success Manager. In small teams at tech startups, you won’t have Renewal Managers, Account Managers and Customer Success Managers. This plethora of roles and options are not available to you and the options are more limited. Does it lie with Sales or Customer Success?

Therefore sales are often motivated by keeping the original accounts to make their targets and commissions. They also won the new account in the first place and will have relationships with the original stakeholders that sign off the purchase but maybe don’t use the product day-to-day. Furthermore, on time, a salesperson’s role is to grow revenue for your tech company and so don’t mind the constant chase, where a Customer Success may shy away from initial confrontation or difficulty, as they are keen to protect the relationship with the customer and the end-users.

 

  • What backgrounds do you get great Customer Success managers from?

(Kate) There is no rule to hiring great CSMs. Much depends on what the product is, where the start-up is in its lifecycle and what the goals are for the customer success role.  The best CSMs I’ve worked with are ex-consultants. They are often exceptionally customer-focused, project and time-orientated and outcome-driven. Additionally, they are often good at getting to the root cause by asking the customer the why and what questions on the back of the customer requests. ‘Why do you want this new feature?’ If we were to build this feature, what would you use it for?’ And often, ‘what are you wanting to achieve by getting this new feature, what’s the result you expect to get?’ It’s this challenger mindset that is commonplace within consultancy, as you are often tasked with discovering why companies perform certain activities and actions and explore options for improving their situation. 

This is a great insight. Often we go ahead and build just what the customer wants rather than understanding why and measuring the risk/reward of a given product request or feature.

 

  • What’s the link between Customer Success and Marketing?

(Kate) Customer Success has the duty of sharing what’s working, what are activities are frequent users actually doing or performing on your product. These insights can then be shared with your target audience and sales can be educated simultaneously too. 

One of the most useful things I did was to do a week-long Digital Marketing course with General Assembly, it was only then I really understand what marketing is about and hence how it could connect to Customer Success. 

CSMs should be supporting marketing by sharing use cases and identifying customer case study opportunities. I believe that as a department we need to be capturing the insights of user value as we are closest to the customer and then passing that original story onto marketing to help with branding, format and distribution. This can, of course, be used by Sales too. 

We’ve seen video can have a tremendous effect on user behaviour within our platform. Videos of how our customers use our product and the value they get from is not just a great way to drive adoption at the customer-level but can be a valuable source for Sales Enablement too. 

I agree with Kate here, even having knowledge of the customer life cycle from the awareness stage to referrals and renewals is really important. As you are informed as to what could be used to drive awareness, acquisition or even revenue for the salespeople. We’ve used the pirate metrics as a way to show clear roles and responsibilities within a team of inbound marketers, lead generators, salespeople (closers) and customer success. It’s this transparency which brings interdependency, trust and opens up opportunities for collaboration too.

Secondly, on the customer case studies, I believe this is one of the most overlooked areas within Sales and Marketing. If you are a tech company and you are starting to win customers frequently month in month out. You will have a big (good) problem of turning these customers into frequent customer testimonials, references and case studies. These will fuel your marketing, sales and referral engine. Often the question of, ‘what’s our customer case study creation process?’ is never asked by anyone. Furthermore, if you don’t have a process you’ll look back in 6 months or a year’s time and be like, we need more testimonials, and often you would have missed a great opportunity and not created a scalable process in your business to share value consistently with your target audience.

 

Any final thoughts, Kate?

I really enjoyed this James. I always come away from our chats learning something either about my field or just hearing it from a different perspective. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

 

A really insightful interview with Kate Forgione, one of the Founders of Customer Success Network and Head of Customer Success at ServiceRocket. Feel free to join us and many others in the community at one of CSN’s next events.

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies.

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.

 

We interviewed Fredrik Mellander, Head of Partnerships at Teamtailor,  the #recruitment and employer branding ATS; a new way to attract, nurture and hire top talent.

We asked Fredrik to shed light on the question of “when and how should a startup recruit?

So over to the interview with Fredrik and our founder, James Ker-Reid with the key questions and answers:

 

  • Could you give an overview of when you started at Teamtailor, what it looked like, how many employees, how many clients?

I joined in early 2017 – the company had been running for quite a while but growth had been slow. There had been a lot of time and focus ensuring that we had something to sell because this industry is a lot about having a good platform that actually works. You need a lot of originality, our work is more than just an ATS – we wanted to have a nice site, as well as a nice ATS. When I joined I was number 17 and we were in a small office, we had all our developers in one table, shoulder to shoulder, all wearing noise cancelling earphones. They were in the same room as the sales team who were always on the phone trying to book sales meetings; 6 people in sales, development team of the same number, one person running customer success team and one person marketing. It was cosy, but we were all intensely together and had the joint mindset of ‘let’s see what we can do’.

 

  • What was your first role when you joined the company? 

I joined as a sales executive so my role was to sell to every company I could think of and get hold of.

 

  • And what was the vision of the company at that time back in 2017?

We always had quite grand visions but we never had the global domination that we wanted. Initially we wanted more to change the industry and make it better for the people we recruited for. The company began to go international just before I joined and their goal was to become the biggest recruitment platform in the world. Back then, 90% of our clients were Swedish, before we went more international. I would say the mission is pretty much the same to this day, just closer to the goal.

 

  • Tell us how today looks like vs North Star back in 2017?

We always had the same vision, but now the company is much closer to those original set goals compared to 2017. We wanted to help companies across the world bridge the gap with recruitment and help them recruit more successfully. We are starting to see that this is really possible and is happening. Today we are at 135 employees, 3000 clients worldwide and almost 100 countries – working from the biggest manufacturing giants to churches, to tech companies, to agencies. The smallest has 1 employee, the biggest has 100s of thousands of employees. It’s been such a great thing to see and be involved with as we work with some of the coolest brands. We only had Swedish companies previously but now, with 3000 clients, we are targeting all over. Opening office in New York this week!

 

  • In terms of funding, what does that look like for you? Have you taken on funding and when?

Back in the early days we brought in some money from angel investors and friends of founders but since then we haven’t taken in anything. So we brought in about €600,000 to initially fund everything. Since then we’ve been pretty boot strapped and done this growth without any help. We’ll see what happens in the future, but for now this growth from just over the last 3 years, we’ve 10 x our clients, over 650% increase in our employees, without additional funding, has been great.

  • When do you think that point of pressure to take on funding will come?

We are curious. We know there is interest from investors to invest in companies like Teamtailor (since taken on funding of €5 million). For companies that have been as successful as us in terms of growth, of course there’ll be people interested. It’s more about timing and finding the right people – if we grow in the US that might come to something and could be an indicator for investment, but it’s more about finding the right people. Companies have done this journey in the past and built a great company – brought on investors that were the wrong investors meaning they were perhaps forced to make decisions they didn’t want to and therefore take the wrong steps. They would take the fun out of it. They still made a fantastic journey, but they know how valuable it is to find the right investor and right people. The investors should allow what you have done in the past that has been successful to continue, they like your ideas, you can use their network; aid the growth as opposed to hinder it.

  • Great to hear that – perhaps we’ll hear something in the news soon! Great to hear about the US expansion too and that you’re attracting a lot of attention over there. Funding on the East Coast is definitely increasing. 

Yes, so many investors are willing to invest and gamble on companies. If you have a company and are looking for investment, as long as you have a plan and mission, there’ll be interest. We can continue a good growth curve without investment but taking on investment can open new doors and opportunities, opening new ways for us to go certain routes that we couldn’t have done previously due to lack of funding.

 

  • So going back to recruitment, what are the big mistakes that companies make when recruiting?

In reality, in the early stages of companies it’s so much about mindset, mentality and finding the right people. You should never stop recruiting, even if you’re not hiring right now, or you can’t hire right now, you still have to make sure to nurture the right people that you might have met and are interested in joining your journey when the time is right. In the early stages, the right people will make the right company. Whether you find a young person who is willing to do the journey, or an experienced person who has done the journey in the past, it’s very different for every company. The right person in the right spot in the early stages of growth will make the company you want. A lot of companies in the early stages, will only try to put out the fire as soon as there’s a fire, they don’t think proactively and start looking before it’s even time to hire. It’s always good to already have these people in your network and bring them on board when it’s time. They don’t proactively recruit – you should always be thinking and looking. Always keep your eyes open and if you find someone, make sure you nurture them as they might end up doing your own job.

 

  • And what about the process – where do companies often go wrong with the process of recruiting, selecting and onboarding new talent?

In terms of the selection, in the early stages they often only use their own network, only people who are similar to themselves perhaps and don’t go beyond or even abroad. Some people tend to spend too much time and money trying to advertise as they don’t know how to do it effectively. People often make it more complicated than it has to be. The biggest resource a company has at any stage is their own employees – you should use their network, try to always remain recruiting and they don’t give the time it deserves. You have to allocate time for recruiting and onboarding. What story do you want to tell, what is the vision that you want candidates to see? Early stages a mis-hire is so crucial and can be fatal to a company. Take your time on the right people in the beginning. 

 

  • Where do you think companies waste most time when recruiting?

The selection process is a natural answer, but I think the attraction and reaching process to find the right people is probably the most time spent. Not urgent enough when it’s due time. A recruiting process can take days, or even hours, if it’s the right person. People often think they have to interview a certain amount of people – waste the most time they don’t HAVE to find people. 

 

  • What other tactics would you recommend for companies to find new candidates?

In the early stages, using advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook can be beneficial as you find people who are looking for jobs. Prioritise the free channels – google jobs for example – as you can find and maintain these platforms and people for cheap buck. Make sure your network and employees are engaged and included in the process. Make sure you take time in sharing the journey as people are looking more and more into a culture of a company as opposed to salaries. Especially with startups. Culture, talent and journey a startup can make are probably the biggest selling points that you have. Not everybody will fit every start up. Some people strive and love working in startup environments – those people are key. Finding the right mentality for the role is important. Young people should aim for startups as they often have a mentality of pushing to learn and do more – you’ll learn so much more, faster in a startup than going the traditional corporate route. Sometimes, start ups think about hiring senior people with experience for certain roles, and yes, certain roles do need that – perhaps marketing, customer success, sales – but the mentality of those people are still super important, irrelevant of experience. 

 

  • Talking mindset and mentality of people you hire, how do you test or evaluate that in the recruitment process?

It’s always good to measure certain hard skills, but in a startup you need to be able to measure soft skills as well in order to be able to understand. There is software you can use to test how people fit certain roles and allow you get a picture of who this person is when meeting them. Perhaps also get other people involved for different perspectives of a candidate – soft skills are hard to understand more and getting other people’s opinions helps get a better picture of a person. 

 

  • How does the recruiting function, and therefore process, change as they scale from, for example, a 10 person company to 100/200+ company?

Usually it happens in stages and companies now are adapting differently, especially if they are in a growth environment. In the early stages, everyone is so crucial that everyone will be involved and I think no matter what the size of the company, you should always have the mentality of involving as many of your employees as possible. Eventually you will get a dedicated HR person and that’s often where you will see more processes come in, you will start measuring more, you might get a recruiter in, talent acquisition team etc. 

 

  • Tell me a bit about your own journey – those functions that you use at Teamtailor for recruiting

I think we are a different beast to most other tech companies as we work in the recruiting sector and work with tech whilst recruited. We were very late at hiring and HR person as we expanded so quickly. A lot of the people working for us had perhaps experience of HR and worked with recruitment so we relied on them perhaps longer than another company would have been able to without hiring an HR person. At Teamtailor the CEO was the final decision maker but every manager had their own responsibility for their teams and all made sure they were involved with sourcing and interviewing. Then we hired an HR person so we could scale; as we got busier not everyone could dedicate time to recruiting as they could before. 

 

  • When did that point happen at Teamtailor that the CEO became less involved in the hiring process?

For us, when we had the HR person join when we were 50/60 employees. It varies hugely from company to company – some start with an HR person as a company forefront which is a fantastic foundation to scale on. Teamtailor had that within the employees as we were an HR tech company ourselves and had a lot of knowledge within that field. I would suggest finding someone who really enjoys and likes the role of HR because it will help the company in the long run. 

 

  • When you refer to an HR person, do you mean HR or would you perhaps refer to them as a recruiter?

Nowadays there are different types of HR people. Finding a dedicated recruiter isn’t probably what I would prefer. I would prefer someone who does a mix – a head of culture perhaps who does recruiting 50% of the time. Some companies do just need a head of recruitment due to their culture and growth, some companies need more of the dedication to culture in order to recruit. But all companies need someone who is engaged as the energy behind the team to recruit – someone who comes in to help carry the majority of the load, but engine to make sure the team gets engaged in the recruitment process. If you set a talent acquisition culture in a company from the beginning, that will be set for the future. 

 

  • What can startups do to avoid making hiring and recruitment mistakes?

Start thinking about it early, involve employees to a certain extent and make sure they are engaged. Train, skill and hire personality, depending on the role, but particularly for entry level roles. You can keep salaries down if culture is engaging. Never stop recruiting, try new things and new ways of approaching people. Try not to get tricked – sales people are incredibly hard to recruit as they sell themselves well but can fail at results in the role. 

 

  • Any further advice you would give?

The biggest advice for smaller companies, think about the recruiting culture and THEN start recruiting. It’s such a key thing for a company. The right people will make the right company, the wrong person will break the company.

 

Thank you to d Fredrik Mellander at Teamtailor.

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies.

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.

When looking at the ways in which hired-in help can support your tech business, Sales Trainers play an invaluable position on the field. Where a self-employed Sales Freelancer will get a job done, a Sales Trainer will make your team more effective and consistent.

They will help instil behaviour that communicates your value proposition, generates more leads and closes more deals, with leaders that head up engaged, successful and fulfilled teams.

Whether delivered in the form of workshops, one-on-one training, phone support, process guides and online learning portals there is an ever-growing list of mediums that can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Benefits of working with a Sales Trainer include:

  • Implementing proven techniques, rather than reinventing the wheel
  • Taking a personnel focused approach by up-skilling your team and investing in their future
  • Improving sales consistency, and therefore both performance and customer experience
  • Spreading the ROI to produce long-lasting impact

If this has whetted your appetite and you’re keen to step back to take a look over ways in which temporary support can assist your tech business in scaling up its sales output, have a look at Sales for Startups latest eBook, ‘The Different Types of Sales Support Available to Tech Companies’.

In the day-to-day thick of things, it can be such a challenge to stop doing and take a more considered approach. Utilising the support of an experienced, objective and skilled contractor may well be a shrewd way of doing this. Consider it.