Panel Q&A| Process, People & Sales Tools For Success in the New World - SaaSGrowthLive

I just want to introduce this panel which is focused on process, people, and sales tools for success in a new world. We’ve got an incredible set of leaders that have built teams in the UK and Europe and I'm really excited for them to be involved in this particular session. So we've got Ollie Sharp, Ollie Sharp is currently the VP of revenue of Salesloft, our diamond sponsor. He’s been a huge support personally and professionally since he's transitioned and from LinkedIn where he spent 10 years building successful teams over there, and he set up the go-to market strategy for Salesloft in 2019. We've got Andrei, sales director at Aircall, and thanks for joining us. Aircall had incredible growth this year AndreI joined when there was less than 10 employees a few years ago. There's over now 300 employees globally and he's responsible and for the UK and Europe, and also APAC, and so his breadth of experience has been brought on significantly in the last year or so, and the pressure I'm sure is definitely on. Then I'm great grateful to to connect with Jerry Hill to this audience. He did a podcast with us earlier in the year and he's got experience building out teams in the UK. He’s the sales director for connect and sell; he's actually going to be on this afternoon I'm talking about how conversations drive sales with his CEO, Chris, so make sure you book into that session. And then we've got Guy from SimilarWeb who's the VP of sales solutions over at SimilarWeb, and he's got more than 10 years of experience and sales a lot of experience in the ad tech and logistics space, and also he's got an MBA from Insead, so he might be more of the colorful ones in this group.

So guys thanks for being here  thanks for bearing with us I'm going to just kick off the first question to Ollie Sharp, and then we're going to go around the table and you'll be able to give your response. So the first question is and if you can obviously give a bit of an insight about your company, as well, and the first question is where do you feel UK sales organizations are at the moment versus other countries when it comes to adopting sales technologies in their sales organizations?

Thank you James and well done for putting on such a good event and a good agenda. So as I said my name is Ollie Sharpe I'm VP of revenue for SalesLoft is a sales engagement platform with the market leading according to g2 and our clients. We help your sales teams be more efficient and effective in what they do and it also includes conversation intelligence, as well to help you coach and train your people. We do have a booth so there's no point in saying anymore I'm going to leave you to go to the booth if you want to. So where are we in comparison to other countries I mean we're an American company, so what I see when I go to America is how advanced the US is compared to us. And I think they're on average they're pretty far ahead of us whereas over here there's a lot of companies that aren't aware of what a sales tech stack is that it even exists. I think the the worst corporates are the ones that the large enterprise companies that are UK head office we find them still using a PBX and stuff which is weird when we think that most companies will have a dialer. I think that there are some companies that are really surprisingly very very advanced; when I started we already had some clients over here and how advanced they are in their strategies and their technology amazed me. I went and I was learning so much from them, but there is there's a lack of understanding in education in the market over here around sales tech stack and it is just generally as a whole when you compare across EMEA I think is a bit different us is advanced and there's pockets I mean Germany's quite advanced we've found, and Paris is a little bit advanced, but it's very varied to be honest with you we've got some that are very far behind and some that are very forward thinking.

Thank you Ollie I just I'm curious Andrei, Aircall’s naturally based in Paris, and you've got a perspective around the world, and so what's what's viewing what's your view on and the adoption in different countries?

Yeah, hI James and thanks thanks for having me, and and hI everyone. Yeah good question so just quick intro but Aircall for those of you who don't know us yet, Aircall are a cloud-based phone system, fully integrated within your CRM, so you're probably all using CRM as a sales person, and you're probably all making calls or at least your team are making calls, and you want just want those calls to be flowing naturally within your CRM, and that's what Aircall is and that's what erico offers. Coming back to the to the UK specific and Europe specific question, there’s a lot to be said here but and I fully agree with Ollie, in the sense that we we're seeing that the whole European and and it's probably the whole European countries are probably lagging behind the US, and UK from my opinion and having seen a lot of the other countries would be somehow in the middle. I mean I think a lot of softwares have come sometimes to the UK before going to other countries mainly for language purposes, and so I really see this UK landscape as one of the most interesting one because it's kind of like, it gives a lot of information for the other countries. Already already in terms of tech adoption, but for sure it's lagging behind, and I also like sharing a quick story when I think about this topic. Several years ago probably 10 years ago, I was traveling in the US, and I was talking with some people and I heard about this tool called Netflix, and kind of like I didn't know what Netflix was. And they started telling me well this further started laughing at me and they started asking me like how do you live without Netflix, and sometimes it's true when we go and talk to leads or prospects in the UK, and we see the type of tech stack or non-tech stack that they have, you somehow want to say like how do you actually live without this and it's actually it sounds very surprising that you're actually not yet working with a with a cloud-based phone system, whether with a sales engagement tool. So there is some lagging behind, but to be completely honest things have moved very fast; what we're seeing over the last four years is that really the especially the UK, we are catching up we are catching up, I'm behind the US and this is going fast. So when I, and and if there's one thing I think that we're keeping in the UK, and this I think it's something really strong and I think sales tools is always an important thing in your tech stack and your way of selling, but then there's of course there's the han, there's who who you are and how you're selling and somehow I feel like in the US, a lot of people have hidden themselves behind the sales tools to actually become kind of robots in their way of selling. And what I do like with the UK is this kind of resistance of this this little British charm in the way of selling, and I think that this once once the tech will get there and once the tech adoption will get really strong over there, the actual British charm and the way of selling combined with the tech tools will actually make it way more powerful than the US. That's kind of like my way of seeing things in the in the probably few years to come.

That's great thank you for sharing your perspective. Guy, SimilarWeb, an Israeli-based company, and I guess different ways of working AndreI mentioned culture there be great to hear your perspective?

For sure so first just a bit about SimilarWeb, so SimilarWeb is a market intelligence platform essentially we have data on, or we collect data on every company and website in the world, and we repackage it for sales people to create their perfect hit list of the content they're going after, and then we provide insights and signals on throughout the certain process to make sure that they close more deals. And I think that to your question actually, I agree with both AndreI and Ollie, I think that - I'll try to be brief on this one - specifically I think that what I've seen is that from from our experience is that US based companies normally have something like seven to eight tools in their sales tax on average. UK companies still are behind with about three to four, I think the classic composition is like a CRM some sort of a dialling technology, email tracking, and maybe a data provider for contact whether it's Cognizant or LinkedIn Sales Navigator or ZoomInfo, I think that I would I would say that I think it's less of an awareness issue I think it's more of a a behavioural issue that I'm seeing, that where in the US, buying a technology it's just an investment, and buyers understand it's like any investment there’s risk, and the risk is that you want to adopt the fuel and will just will just churn, whereas in the in the UK and EMEA generally speaking I think there is more of a conservative approach, treating it as a cost and doing all the checks, and almost like having a guaranteed revenue assessment before you’re actually buying something. And I think that behavioural change is is happening just not in the place that we want it so hopefully next year.

Yeah great and we're all working on the education of the solutions out there, and this is part of the reason why we pulled this panel together, and Jerry I'm interested in your perspective on this point here, but also if you could then answer the next question which is what you have learned from setting up and building a sales function in the UK and Europe. I asked you to set the scene for that one because you're the newest individual to landing here, and I know you're also about a fan of the conversations as well so if you can pick those both up that'd be awesome thank you.

Yeah sure so really brief on ConnectandSell, we're a conversation weapon which helps sales leaders to eliminate the waste and the frustration which prevents good sales people from using the phone effectively, or even using the phone at all. In terms of how I see the market at the moment. I caught up with the guys the very smart guys over at blue ridge they're an advisory firm to some of the world's biggest private equity shops the other day, and they had a sort of a nber that they gave me which was the ratio of insight to outside sales people in the US to the UK. In the US it's roughly 50:50 in most organisations, in Europe and the UK we're looking at a sort of 30:70 split 30 inside, 70 outside, and I think if you look at that data in its rawest most binary interpretation it means that we probably still index the han behaviours, the relationship components of going to market. You know the need to look somebody in the eyeballs is probably still much more in our DNA than perhaps it is in the US, where fast selling's more more normative. To sort of build that point a little bit further I had a call the other day with a SVP of a billion pound packaging organisation; they haven't even adopted a CRM yet, but they're still producing a billion dollars in turnover. So for them what's it changing for us, you know our shareholders are delighted with our results, we're still a three-digit business a three-comma business, so why do we need technology to interfere with our go to market. So I think that that's another consideration is unless you have a design scope in mind to execute a technology first go-to-market strategy, then kind of the value investment doesn't seem to be as material. But when I speak to my US colleagues sales leaders they're always looking for force multipliers in a slightly different way, technology can be additive to that and I think ollie was absolutely spot on in the requirement to be able to educate the market more broadly as to the transformative benefits of technology, not as a replacement to headcount, but as something that's additive and boosts people. You know as leaders we've got one job which is to smooth the path for our team and take away the roadblocks and the excuses to executing well, and I think a well thought out scope of work around your technology layer potentially helps enhance your leadership as well.

Moving into your second question James, it's quite interesting I've sort of worked in US corporates early on in my career, and then sort of through the scale up and startup sort of conundr, and I think the one thing that we sort of struggle with here is getting the coverage model right, you know how many people do we need to be able to execute. What's our tolerance for churn and you know are we people first organisations and I think compared to the US and Europe, it's legislative, but it's also emotional we tend to be people first leaders. Which means that we're potentially exposing ourselves to some degree of risk when we build our teams, in terms of much more sort of reduced ramp up times they're probably not as aggressive as they are in America, we're probably a lot more tolerant of coaching our sort of season to Bs into As, so we need to be a little bit more sort of aware of that. And then also revenue density right, I think Aaron said something at the end of his talk just as we were sort of transitioning in earlier, which was really really exciting which was the US is still the big market opportunity for most sort of sales technology vendors. So one of the thesis that I'm keen to explore with other people is how do you deploy a European based team to help you affect market execution in new markets fast and cheap without having to put boots on the ground. I think the quality exists here for that.

Excellent! AndreI your scope has changed as you've built out the teams what's that experience been like for you and how you've gone about it?

Good point, definitely so we started as a one I mean, our main office was in was in Paris, and from the very beginning we had a product that could basically be sold across the whole of Europe and everyone, could even say across the whole world, but let's focus on Europe first, and I think at the beginning, I mean we were really small we're doing 10 employees, you you kind of like find the hires that you can to join your sales team, you're not too picky and you should look at some stuff. But what has really evolved over the years is the fact that we started recruiting only natives that can, only natives, only people who have actually lived in each country so that it's not a question of the language, we didn't want people who were able to speak the language properly, it was about all the little cultural references. It was about all the the cultural specificities that allowed them to to really really bind with the different prospects in each country, and that's something that's really shifted. Once we actually started seeing that well we have the right tech stack in place for for them to perform, but then we actually were seeing that to actually increase our conversion ratios, we actually needed well better connection, better connection made, whether it be especially in those first few seconds of the cold calls or the demos, you just want to have people in Europe when you see the diversity of the countries in Europe, you just want to have people who are able to connect with whatever latest cultural reference there is. Whether it be a film, the weather, or something, anything, you want to have somebody who's aware of this and who has experienced it, so that was a big shift and and as a tech company it wasn't easy to just try and attract at the beginning in one city people who are native and who are willing to come and leave their own country, and come and live in another country, and still sell in their native country. But it was it was the big challenge, and I would say so far it's been it's been working well for us, and I think we're definitely going to go this continue this way as this has turned out to be to be a good success for us.

Fantastic thank you for sharing, Guy how about your experiences?

Yeah I'd say that generally speaking I'm sharing the same same experience as Andrei, I think that hiring someone that is native and grew up in the culture is critical in Europe specifically because of the cultural differences. I'll just say briefly also that specifically for Europe I think that it's critical to establish an outbound process early on. I think that generally speaking what we're seeing is that the inbound from Europe is a bit slower than than the US, it goes back to the same behavioural thing that we talked about in the previous question, and so making sure that you're establishing a robust open process with the right tools early on I think would allow you to scale.

Thank you, Ollie on on that point as well, but also you have a lot of interaction with lots of different companies, particularly during these difficult times, and is there any use cases or observations that you've learned, so keen to understand how you've built your team, and keen to understand what you've seen in other businesses that you or Salesloft have interacted with?

First of all, I'd like to rewind to what Jerry said: conversation weapon, what a great phase, that’s one thing I've learned today, good one. The first thing that I thought about when we talked about the the learnings from opening up, I mean I made a big mistake at LinkedIn when I didn't build a diverse team. So the first thing I wanted to make sure when I joined here was to build a diverse team in the way of in every way not just in gender or race, but actually more in the the cognitive way of the way that they think. One thing that I was very lucky with is that we moved somebody over from the US that had experience of working at the company, so I already had someone that could go out and sell we weren't really starting from fresh. And we'd warmed up the market, we already had clients, so if there's a chance to warm up the market enter at the right time don't just come in cold, do something from your head office if you have a head office somewhere else. What I have learned a lot about is the importance of employer branding, I mean at LinkedIn you didn't really need to worry about that, you have it, but when you're setting up a company you've got to build your own employer brand, and building a culture has been very important, it's I think that's where we've really made the effort to stand out a little bit, but also being honest I think in interviews there's no point in talking to people about coming to a startup and then thinking it's going to be a different job you've got to tell them it's going to be tough, there's going to be a lack of support there, there's going to be a lack of everything there that they're used to, so the honesty is very important. I've also learned that there's a lot of approaches; I get approached a lot by salespeople, and obviously we sell to sales people so it's been insightful, but I've seen, some of them have been terrible, I mean some of the the outbound activity to myself I've been shocked at, but it teaches you how important it is, and how you can stand out, so that's been really really eye-opening. So the the way I've seen the second question about the change of what's happening at the moment, and how companies are coping, we see I mean, I think the main thing to me is being very mindful of what could be happening in that company that you're talking to, because you don't know whether they're struggling, whether they're laying people off, furloughing people or booming.

Thank you, I'm just wary of time, so I'm just gonna ask - I'll come back to you for a final one point - just going round to the panel on that question, or any final point that you'd like to make starting with Jerry, a final takeaway.

I think we've got an opportunity to be a little bit more science-led in how we run experiments. I think we've got an opportunity to be very very thoughtful on how we scope in neuro-diversity, so we get the benefit of broad set of experiences, and I think we've got an opportunity to educate on a mindset shift to where technology can be a value driver that doesn't eliminate han to han, but actually scales it and provisions it at the the right level of opportunity creation for our companies and our investors.


Yeah I can relate to what Ollie mentioned actually, I think that we need to we're starting to understand that ideal customer profile it doesn't exist anymore in these days, it’s really just starting to sub segmenting companies into companies that really have an urgency for your solution, versus not, and understanding exactly what which companies are looking for the the exact solution is critical for a salesperson to actually close the closed models.

Thank you very much and Andrei?

Yeah I mean coming back maybe on the first question, and some point I feel it is something that over the recent periods, in this period of crisis that I've observed in Europe, is this whole move to digitalising the whole companies, and somehow this will also help us I mean with everything we've said bring up the whole European companies towards closer to to the US. And in the in the decision buying process, what we've seen is that actually now looking at the the user interface the user experience that is offered by the by the tools, the tech stack that is being sold out there, is actually becoming a much more important decision factor than the actual features that are being offered. Why because you now want something which is going to work with as little over the shoulder help as possible. So I feel like this is this is a nice trend that that we're observing today across our our prospect base and customer base, and I hope that's good sign for the future as it will kind of like level up everybody.

Awesome guys, look this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for your support and commitment you're all going to be available your teams are in the expos right, so everybody you can go and learn more about their technologies and we're going to see some of you throughout the day, so that's our first panel thank you very much and thanks for your support guys, I’ll see you next time.