07: Sales

Sales efforts are critical to the growth of a SaaS company. Aaron and Darren talk sales, processes and sales staff. For GatherUp, things are starting to move from 100% inbound sales to adding some outbound sales and Aaron has some hiring challenges in building a sales team.



FULL SHOW NOTES

00:05 Aaron Weiche: Episode 7. Sales, inbound, outbound, and all around.

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00:11 Intro: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast, sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrap SaaS company. Hear the experiences, challenges, wins, and losses shared in each episode. From Aaron Weiche of GatherUp and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.

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00:40 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture podcast. I'm Aaron.

00:43 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

00:44 AW: And this week we are talking sales, but beforehand, let's kinda catch up on the last couple of weeks. We went from a month in between almost our last episodes to now, just a matter of less than two weeks, so that's good that we're getting back to our tighter cycle. But what's new from your side of the Canada border this week?

01:10 DS: Yeah, it feels like I just talked to you. I saw this on my calendar today, and I was like, wow, [chuckle] look at us, talking again so soon. Let's see, what's new in the world of Whitespark and Darren Shaw. Well, we launched a new service, I think I mentioned it in the last podcast, called our Local Search service, which I was so pumped about. And now we're gonna trash that service [chuckle] and make a completely different service. The whole point of this service was, I was excited to build something around Google My Business Management. 

So the whole local search ranking factor survey really pumped a lot of these new features in Google My Business and how these are great ways to drive conversion, this whole concept of Google as your new home page. And so I was really excited, we need a good service for this, and so we built it, and then I, like I always do, kept bolting things onto it, "Well, what if it did this? And it could also do this." And so it just really expanded into a full SEO service, which is Google My Business Management plus your citations, your reviews, your website, even some link recommendations, and now we're not differentiated at all. We're just like another SEO service.

02:22 DS: And so I've decided to strip it back to what its core message was supposed to be. I wanna reposition it as specifically around Google My Business, and that's all we do. So we will find duplicates, fix duplicates, make sure your GMB listing is perfected, and regularly keep it up to date, adding new photos, adding posts, managing your Q&A, helping you with reviews, just that whole concept of Google as your new home page, we're completely focused on that. And we're focused more on conversions from GMB, improving your views and conversions rather than rankings by the whole local search picture. So I think it's a much better pivot, and it will be better for the service and better for scaling it, too. It's just much simpler offering, right?

03:09 AW: Yeah.

03:09 DS: You launch an SEO service and you get a million questions about, "What should I do with schema on my website?" The service becomes so much more complicated, whereas when we scale it back to strictly these things, we can become subject matter experts on that, and it really makes it easier to scale and manage. So I'm excited about it; I think it's gonna be a good move.

03:31 AW: There's so many variables when you get into the full-blown service side of things.

03:36 DS: Yeah, definitely.

03:38 AW: What from how your customers were interacting with it or lack of interaction gave you a signal, this isn't perfect, what do we need to do?

03:45 DS: Yeah, so a lot of questions about rankings like, "How soon will I be ranking?" all that stuff. And every time those questions come in, we're just like... We shake our heads, and we're like, "Oh boy, I don't know, [chuckle] is this the right direction?" And then pricing as well, we didn't get a huge pick-up from it, we definitely got a decent amount of clients that... After we promoted it. But I think it's a bit expensive, people are like, "$399, and it's not a full agency service, why would I choose this over the million other things?" Whereas when I scale it back, it's gonna be at a much nicer price point, plus the "Why would I choose this?" we can answer that so obviously, and so I think it'll be much better that way. So it's simpler, it's a better price, and we don't have to worry about rankings, which I really like.

04:35 AW: I also extract from what you shared with this the local search ranking factors report helped influence a product idea for you, and then you put that... You saw that, hey, this is growing in importance and carrying a lot of weight, and so you put something out for it, and then you realized you went too heavy into it in one side, and now you're scaling back. It's just kind of an interesting cycle for me on where ideas come from, and then how you meet them, and then how do you quickly adjust and pivot if you know it's not the right fit is really interesting.

05:14 DS: Yeah, and so I think we're adjusting and pivoting quick enough. And if you talk to my software development team, they will say that I do this all the time, [chuckle] I get excited about something, and I just keep adding, it's like, "It could do this, and it can also do this, and it's gonna be the ultimate magical, amazing thing," and I make it too big, [chuckle] and I make it too complicated. And so I'm really working on scaling things back to the core offering, what is the core offering, what is the core differentiator, and why would someone pick this specific thing? So really trying to dial in on that.

05:50 AW: I don't think you're alone in that, Darren, we struggle with that, too, with features, a lot of times. I have gotten better at it. I actually will push our product team a lot of times and just say, "What is... In the world of good, better, best, how do we have a better version instead of this immaculate conception of the feature that has everything you'd ever need, and every way to customize it, and all of those pieces that then takes you forever to roll it out, and so many other things that complicate it.

06:23 DS: For sure, and there's a place for that in the industry. If you look at software like Salesforce or HubSpot, these things are massive, and they do try to do everything, and they're very successful, but I think for a smaller industry, you're not gonna go and compete with them, you're better off to try and build something that has a very clear differentiating factor, this is the one thing we do better for this specific use case, and that's what you can sell.

06:48 AW: Yeah. So important.

06:49 DS: Yep, so yeah, well, how about you? What's up with you? You've been traveling for a long time.

06:54 AW: Yeah. I've been living out of a suitcase. I am about ready to at least get a little bit of a reprieve next week. I have a speaking engagement that's just a two-day, two-night away. But I have basically been on planes for six straight weeks, sometimes just for a day trip. Last week it was three different cities over seven days, so it is a lot, it's been really hard to find desk time to get other things accomplished and keep things moving. 

But on the plus side, a couple were speaking events, but then others were face-to-face meetings with customers. One of the things that was really important to me when I took over as CEO was getting out from behind the desk and going to meet some of our great customers in person that we don't have a deep relationship with and trying to make that deeper, and...

07:51 DS: Yep. That's interesting, yeah, that really rolls into sales too, right?

07:56 AW: Yeah, yeah. And it's been really fun to do that, to see how they operate, to give them a peek at our road map and what we have coming up, and just to build rapport and be more of a partner instead of just a business relationship with it. So I've done a majority of those, Mike Blumenthal has knocked out a couple as well, but it's allowed us to go from seeing a few of our customers at conferences to getting in front of some that we never, ever would unless we went to Salt Lake City to see them, or Charlotte to see them, or Montreal to see them, whatever that might be. 

I'm really proud that we've done that, and it's been great, and even to post pictures in Slack of who we work with and bring faces to the people that our support team deals with, and dev team builds stuff for, and whatever else has been really kind of rewarding all across the board.

08:54 DS: Okay, cool, I got some questions about this. What is the threshold for this client is spending enough to warrant me getting on a plane and going to see them? How do you determine which of your customers get this royal treatment and which don't? What's the cut-off, I'm curious? Number of locations being managed or something?

09:16 AW: I guess that's really interesting. Dollar volume is definitely part of it to a certain extent. For agencies and resellers for our white-label product, we're basically looking at who's our top 10, and we see how important they are to us. Most of them are very long-term and have notched up a number of locations.

09:40 DS: Yeah. When are you coming to Edmonton? Are you flying out here? Are you coming to Edmonton to take me to dinner?

09:45 AW: I will come to see you. [chuckle] I feel like we already have a good relationship, but if you need that, I'm all in.

09:51 DS: No man, we're gonna hang out so much at MozCon, you don't have to fly to Edmonton.

09:54 AW: Alright, cool. We'll make that happen. Dinner on me in Seattle, for sure, in July.

10:00 DS: Sure.

10:00 AW: So on that side, yeah, that's pretty straightforward. Multi-locations, it can be a little bit different. Sometimes it's just demanded as part of the sales process, it might be part of an RFP to meet them in person, it might be part of onboarding as you get close to a renewal, or just based on the relationship and strategically how you see it evolving. So on that side, it's definitely a little more common and probably less of a... You're a top tier or whatever else, there it's just more of like, we wanna get that face time with you. 

If your business is succeeding, you're likely adding or opening more locations to what you're doing, that's more business for us. We wanna make sure we're in lockstep with you and that you have good vision into where we continue to go. So there it's a little bit murkier, but even... I think it's even more important in that area of our business to be making face-to-face time.

11:00 DS: Really interesting. And then what does this visit look like? Do you go for lunch? Do you sit down at their desk and look through the software and give them a little training, address some of the problems they've been having? What do you do it at one of these in-person meetings?

11:13 AW:  I just call it show-and-tell from both sides. So usually going in and trying to spend anywhere from 2-6 hours together dividing that up between, hey, one, we're super appreciative. Here are some of the things we've seen with the growth of your business and what you're doing. Talk to me about what you love, tell me what's frustrating, or what's an idea, or what's something that would make your life easier. Then we might jump into the platform and they might outline some of those things and take a look at it. Then, yeah, grabbing lunch or a dinner together and just talking philosophy on it. Also getting to know them as a person.

11:57 DS: Yeah, definitely.

11:58 AW: Yeah, really important there. And then as I shared, giving them a visual, too, like, "Hey, here's what's next for us in 2019, this is what we have mapped out, this is what I think would be of interest to you. Here's a couple of things I've seen in your account that would be helpful to pay attention to, or a feature to leverage further, or something you might wanna test."

12:18 DS: Yep, nice. That's a great idea. I would love to get into doing some of that as well in the not-too-distant future. I feel like we're so scattered with many different products and services that once we get everything organized and more platformatized, then that kind of stuff will make more sense for me. Right now, it's just so all over the place.

12:39 AW: Yep, totally get it.

12:40 DS: Alright, well, that sounds awesome. So sales, you wanna talk about some sales stuff?

12:45 AW: Let's talk sales.

12:46 DS: I would like to talk sales. It's something we've been thinking about a lot here, thinking about our customer service, all the leads that come in, they come in through our support channel right?

12:58 AW: Yep.

13:00 DS: And so we are working on trying to figure out how do we segment these requests, and how do we identify their need from the request and then direct them to the right solution that we have? I think it might be a bit simpler for you because you've got this one platform, and you can direct them to the different plan. But man, we have so many different things, some people need this and some people need that, and so I feel like we miss it sometimes. A customer comes in, they have a request, and we could have suggested our local search service, or a better fit for them might actually be our local search audit service, or maybe they just need citations. And I feel like we miss it sometimes, and I also think we complicate it sometimes because we do have so many things. 

So we're really trying to work on processes there and identifying what is the best fit for this customer and then working on our emails and our response rates, and also trying to decide who do we get on the phone with? Sometimes we just respond via email, sometimes we'll respond and say, "Hey, well, let's have a call and talk about it." And so obviously that call would be much more likely to close, but then you don't wanna have a call with everybody, so we're working on those processes right now.

14:13 AW: Yeah. You guys are probably like us at this stage, and we are in a little bit of a transition, but 99% of things or greater, it's all inbound for you, right?

14:23 DS: Yeah.

14:24 AW: And then once that comes in, you guys don't have a formalized, "Okay, we wanna do a demo," or "We wanna forward them to a recording of this." It's just, "Here's my initial questions why I'm reaching out," and you guys try to answer that and then push them in a direction or prescribe a product that meets their pain? What does that look like?

14:43 DS: The first thing we wanna do is understand their needs. And so we will start asking them questions. So sometimes it makes more sense to just get on the call with them and ask them questions, but we'll generally... If it's not clear what they're looking for, then we'll start asking them, what is the current solution you're using, what are the troubles you're having with it? And then we'll try to set up a demo. But we also... We're a little conservative with suggesting demos, too, because we only have a limited support team. They can't be... We don't have someone dedicated to be doing demos all the time. And so most of the demos we do are people that say, "Hey, we wanna check out your platform. Can we schedule a demo?" So it's usually they will ask for the demo, but occasionally we'll suggest it where the client looks big enough, too, right?

15:33 AW: Yep.

15:33 DS: So if it's a small business that wants to sign up for our $20 a month local citation finder, we don't usually come out of the gate suggesting that we get on a one-hour call with them.

15:44 AW: Yeah, what we do with those is we kinda... We invite them into... We have two or three set times each week where we do a high-level 101 demo, so then we can get 5 SMBs, 10 SMBs, 15 SMBs, all into the same demo, so it's not personalized but it shows them... Yeah, it shows them very high-level what the product's about, whatever else, and then it'll cause them to then reach out afterwards because we had... Early on, we would do one-to-one demos all the time, and then we finally grew to the point where, yeah, we have too many leads and not enough team to be doing one-to-ones for a $40 a month customer. 

So then we just went to, let's set these... And I can't even remember what it is anymore, but it's at least twice a week. And so we say, like, "Great. Here's our two demos this week. Go ahead and sign up for one of these two time slots to learn more about the product."

16:37 DS: Yep. That's awesome. I love that idea.

16:40 AW: Yeah. And then with multi-locations, those are totally one-to-one demos, and right now the majority of those sit with me, especially if they're 25-50 locations and up, those all reside within me, and we're... As I mentioned, we are definitely in this transition, and we tried to already start it, and our initial start to it didn't go great, mostly because of a bad hire, bad fit to start the year, but we are definitely ready to do outbound. I already do outbound. I'm looking for companies where I'm like, alright, I know we align with their vision, they're in the right industry as us, I can see from their website they're not using certain features that we have to offer of a review widget to show off their reviews, or there's not an easy path to leave feedback through their website. 

So I can make some high-level determinations that they maybe don't have a full-blown solution like what we offer, and those I do do outbound and try to get in front of them and set up a time to do a demo. But I really, by the end of this year, want to have a fully functioning sales team that is completely outbound.

17:55 DS: Crazy. Are you... How do you identify the targets? So you're... Did you buy a database, or are you just browsing around the web thinking about specific business types that are a great fit for your product, and so you're just looking through the search results and then clicking through and checking out the websites? How are you identifying who you would approach in an outbound sales call?

18:20 AW: Yeah, totally a lot of grassroots research, so knowing the industries we fit well and then finding out what are some of the publications in that industry? So one we're a really great fit for is fast casual restaurants, so subscribing to some of the daily and weekly emails of that industry, and then they're talking about here's up-and-coming brands, here's all these things. All of these franchise brands within fast casual that I never knew existed, and learning who they are, and then going to take a look at their website, take a look at their makeup and a four- or five-point really quick check, like, okay, I don't see them anywhere saying, 'Hey, leave us feedback here, and here's an easy way to do it,' or 'Here's our location pages for each restaurant.'" 

Are they displaying any reviews or customer-generated content on them? So it was a pretty easy checklist, where I can see, okay, they might be monitoring reviews, they might be doing these other things, but they're missing these other pieces that we bring to the table, that we could replace what they're doing or be one solution instead of between three or four solutions.

19:32 DS: Right. Well, that sounds like a really smart approach for you to identify. "Okay, well, this would be a great client. I want that client." Okay, so now you've done that, how do you find the right person at that company to reach out to? How do you do that?

19:48 AW: Yeah, I use LinkedIn heavily to figure out like, okay, who is... Marketing is almost always the first inroad for us. Every now and then it will be operations, but I'll try to hit it from a couple of different spots. I at least wanna get to a director or VP of marketing or digital depending upon how their org is set up. If I can get to a CMO or a C-level, that's great, but I usually try to find out who that is. Then just do a little searching, try to dig up their email, try to connect with them on LinkedIn, but also try to source their email so I can directly reach out a little bit further, put some information in front of them, maybe a case study, or pointing out certain things that I think we could be of help in and trying to get them interested in doing just a quick initial call to learn more about each side and give them a glimpse into the benefits of our product.

20:44 DS: And how many of these cold emails just get completely ignored?

20:49 AW: Yeah. Well, completely ignored is at least like half to 75%.

20:54 DS: Right. Yeah. That's what I would expect. Actually, if you're getting 25% response rate, that sounds actually kind of awesome.

21:01 AW: Yeah, and some of it is even like, "Hey, we're good at this time, we're not interested or this isn't a goal for us right now but it's least I know who the contact is. I got us in front of it," and for me, it's a weekly thing of probably somewhere between five and 10 that I'm doing every single week. I consider it, it's like farming, you plant a bunch of seeds and you get a few of them to pop and keep them maturing along to get them to the point where you're having a conversation.

21:32 DS: Yup. And have you yet closed a pretty great deal by your outbound sales work, so far?

21:41 AW: Yes, yup.

21:42 DS: Nice.

21:42 AW: And that is, yeah, and it's a very rewarding thing when those... Any of those, right? It's like we talked about in our last episode, doing our first conference, and then we closed the deal from that conference. Those are such huge wins when it's like, "Okay, I thought this would work this way, I put in the effort, stuck with it and then something happened from it." That's such a huge win and it makes you hungrier for the next. I definitely feel that enthusiasm, and then where I'm like, "Now, I'm not doing just five this week, I'm doing 20 this week. I wanna find more people." So it's a great motivator.

22:18 DS: Right. And then you know what the conversion rate is and so you're like, "Well, if I could scale this to 200 emails a week, we could be closing five awesome new clients every week." And so speaking of that, obviously you can't do it all forever, you've got a whole company to run. So hiring for sales, this is something I've always wondered about and I'm trying to figure out, one thing that really bothers me with sales jobs is this concept that you hire someone for sales and they, through the ability to make commission, you can have a salesperson making three, four times as much as anyone else in the company, just totally raking it in. And it bugs me because the amount of effort they're putting in isn't four times the amount of your developers, for example.

23:08 DS: It's almost like when I was a server, the front of the house, the waiters would walk out of the restaurant with 300 bucks in their pocket after a busy Saturday night, but the guys in the back were making minimum wage. And then so it kind of feels like that concept to me. And when I think about hiring for sales and I think about the sales positions, the people that are good at sales really are expecting this massive commission-type job. And if I was gonna hire, I would be like, "No, we don't do that. This is your salary, that you get a salary for this job." How do you feel about that? How do you plan to hire for sales?

23:46 AW: I feel the opposite of it.

23:47 DS: Really?

23:48 AW: I look at for... Yeah, for what they're gonna create, I'm fully on board with rewarding them for what that is because they're only gonna make those fantastic numbers if they are selling fantastic numbers, right? So, just to throw random numbers based on salary and commission, if you're gonna make $250,000 annually that means you are possibly bringing in $2 million of new business into our business. And to me, that's a complete win-win because doing that cycle and especially if you're creating your own leads and finding those right and having high-level conversations with some of the things that I talked about at VP or C-levels and locking them into two-year deals, those are so extremely important to your business. And I totally get the difference between front of the house and back of the house. But at the end of the day, I know everyone has this dream of something so great that everybody just tells everybody to use it. The product is the sell. But I really think for the vast majority, that's not the case.

25:05 AW: You can have the greatest thing, and if you don't sell it right to the right person, at the right time, with the right message you can have the greatest product that just goes unused, dies, whatever. I see it all the time. So I see sales especially in today's market, it is so competitive. 

For every one slack that you have that people love to use and it spreads like wild fire, and everybody talks about it and everybody using whatever else, you have millions of other software products that are good, if not great, but to get in front of somebody in such a competitive landscape with so many options and so many choices, if you're not selling it and marketing it, you're never gonna get there.

25:49 DS: I hear you, and I get that. A really good salesperson can generate massive revenue for a business, and you would think, "Yeah, great, we should compensate them and the commission structure should allow them and motivate and encourage them to do that awesome job at sales." I totally get that, but I also think you can have a UX designer that fixes something in your software proactively, not prompt to do this, notices something in the software, reconceptualizes how this feature should work, then the developers build it, and they make it even better, they tweak it a bit more, and these changes that they make to your software system totally fix your retention problem. 

You are churning out almost as many as were coming in. You fixed this, now your retention is amazing. And over the course of two years, this one change generated millions of dollars for your company. And then those people that were responsible that were behind those innovations don't get the massive payout that a salesperson does. And that's where I find it... I just find it frustrating how sales is the one position in a company where that person gets the opportunity to make so much money.

27:13 AW: Yeah, but I would say there then why don't you solve that if that happens in your company, why wouldn't you go to that UX designer and be like, "You know what, here's the bonus you're getting this year because this is how you impacted the bottom line." So either in a raise, now you're worth this much more to us 'cause these are the kind of things that happen. I totally think that can be addressed and can be dealt with. It might not be as easy because it's directly... Sales is directly generating dollars, right? Right in front of you where some of those other things now, in today's day and age, yes, you can track some of the impact, you can track how something has impacted, churn it, and done whatever else. But you can find ways to pass that compensation along to them. 

It's just in sales, it's always just been out there so long. And to me, the whole structure of things with commission was just created to separate those because there is such a massive difference between an okay salesperson and an amazing salesperson. The difference is incredible like nothing else.

28:15 DS: Yeah, okay, so do you have a job posting out there? Are you trying to build up a sales team or not quite yet?

28:23 AW: So the easiest way, we hired somebody at the end of 2018 and... The easiest way to put it. Here was my big takeaway from it, within about 90 days, it was like your local search service, it was a fail, we needed to move on from it. And the biggest thing that I saw missing is, I really realized that to sell our product, you have to be very more of an education-based seller than anything else because there's so many nooks and crannies to dig into and you really have to understand... You're teaching them about best practices in customer feedback and in customer experience and in online reviews and in SEO that if you don't care to dig into those or understand those, your pitch and your conversation with that customer will fall very, very flat.

29:15 DS: Yeah.

29:17 AW: And that's really what we saw with this person is, they couldn't take the uptake, they didn't have the passion and desire to really learn that to turn into an education-based seller where... That's my natural position, I will teach you everything I know and I have a good feeling that that's gonna build value, and you then wanting to use our product to reach those benefits and to unlock them. And I'd say that's true across multiple people in our organization. So we did that, ended up not working, nothing was really being generated, parted ways. I went down, had interviewed someone else and basically last minute, she took a job with another company and that really stunk 'cause I felt like she was a great fit, like I was meeting with her in person.

30:12 AW: I'd worked into my travel schedule to meet her in person while I was out on the road and the last minute, 23rd hour, rug got pulled out and that stunk. Yeah, I need to get after that. I've continued to do some interviewing but I've been less about posting because we already did that, went through all that. That's very time-consuming. I've really been trying to almost recruit what I'm looking for. I know what the right fit, here's what I wanna see in experience and background, I wanna have some conversations and I wanna see what they're about and would they be the right next fit for us?

30:49 DS: I really find the hiring process tedious. It's so hard to put a job posting out there. Look through 100 applications, narrow it down to 10, filter those out with your team, then meet with four people and try to make a decision. That stuff I find very frustrating and I do think a more proactive approach where you identify the person you want, and then you try to find that person and you just reach out to them whether they're currently employed or not, it's generally a way to find much more talented people.

31:21 AW: Yep. And especially when you get into... I would like for this first hire in this to be someone who could also... Then I could turn it over to them after a few months to them to build the team, right? And...

31:32 DS: Exactly, that's exactly who you want.

31:34 AW: And that's what I'm really hoping for this. A lot of my first year and a half as being CEO has been getting the right person. I hired a CFO that I had worked with before, she's incredible.  It completely takes that part of the business off my plate and makes me better, and allows me to put my time into where I need to. I hired my former Creative Director to oversee all of our visual design and all of the elements, takes that off my plate and raises the quality of our product. I just recruited another person I had known for a long time who's now come in as our VP of Customer Success and he's helping us take our offering there to a whole new level.

32:14 AW: So, totally, totally agree, agree with those. I've run into some brick walls where some of the salespeople I've worked with in the past, they forwarded their career and now they're sitting high up at Twilio, or another sales org where I can't afford them anymore. And that's a total bummer, it's like, "Oh, that person would be great but they have vesting with some other start-up that they're locked in there, they're doing well, they're crushing it there and I can't compete."

32:44 DS: Sure, yeah, exactly. Yeah, so what's your approach? You don't have anyone in mind, you're just... Are you gonna just filter through LinkedIn profiles and try to find somebody?

32:55 AW: I've pretty much on a weekly basis, either been reaching out to people, reaching out to some of my contacts asking, "Do you know anyone? Is there anyone you can put in front of me?" And all those kind of, they kicked up, starts up conversations and email exchanges, and things like that. I will have to... My head has been, like I said, literally in the clouds with all of the travel and everything else. But this will be the burning thing I have coming up here as we wrap up May. We have a big feature launching that is gonna be really important and awesome for us. And then finding this so I can get something going by Q3 with this is an absolute must, I'm gonna have to put more effort into it.

33:45 DS: Well, I think it is an amazing thing when you can dial in sales, how it can totally put your business on a rocket ship. And so, I understand the desire and the need to get that up and running as soon as possible.

34:00 AW: Yeah, 'cause we're seeing... When I first came on and I was... Spent at least 50% of my time in sales easily, if not more, we still had some gaps in our product for multi-locations and not the perfect fit. And we lost a few really big... That would have been great opportunities, because we were just too far apart. And then we closed that gap, then we landed a few customers that helped us close the gap even more. 

And now, we win... I feel like we're close to winning about 50% of the deals that we get to the point where we're exchanging paper with them and a statement of work. And so with that, I'm totally at the point we're like, "We just need to have more of these conversations."

34:49 AW: And we're using marketing to help that with some by doing conferences and trying to be more visible with our brand and getting out there. But the other side is by doing outbound sales and by reaching out and sticking our nose into some things and making new connections and all those other pieces. So, it's definitely time because I have the utmost confidence that if we get those conversations going, we are gonna get them to the finish line based on what we see happening and just even the better things that we have coming up in the very short term with our product.

35:23 DS: Sounds awesome, man. You guys are really in a good position right now. I'm excited to watch you grow over the next two, three, five years. It's gonna be amazing. Even one year really, it's gonna be awesome.

35:34 AW: Well, I hope you're correct. As you know how it goes, Darren, one minute, I feel on top of the world, and the next minute I feel like the world is standing on top of me.

35:42 DS: That's true.

[chuckle]

35:43 DS: I know. That's the reality of running a business.

35:47 AW: It totally is. What are some next steps you feel like you need to take in yours? It sounds like you need to get into more of a consultative selling process and just getting more of a process down that you know you can work people through instead of just field responses that comes in?

36:03 DS: Yeah, for me, I find it hard to... Like you mentioned earlier, 50% of sales or 50% of your time is put toward sales. And sales is a really time-consuming task. So right now, I am also in that position. So anything that's sort of multi-location enterprise-y, I talk to them, I put proposals together, I'm writing statements of work, I'm following up, and I just feel like I'm not the best person for that. So, I would like to, by the end of the year, have someone dedicated to managing sales. My wife is actually a very fantastic salesperson, award-winning sales rep in her previous job. And so I'd like to get her more involved in sales with the company and streamlining our inbound.

36:49 DS: I don't think we're ready for outbound yet. Once we have our full platform launched, I think then we'll maybe get into some outbound and we'll be in a similar position to you where we have a very competitive product and we can be winning all of them. And then at that point, outbound makes more sense. But right now, we're still just trying to dial in our inbound. And I personally dropped the ball a few times here and there where I didn't get back to that person soon enough or whatever, and it's just hard for me to manage it all. So I would like to get a person in place to handle all the inbound within 2019.

37:24 AW: Yup. No, I think you'll see some big gains when you do that just by building a little bit of process and some redundancies and just looking at how can we message and communicate with these interested parties as much as possible, as quickly as possible, when their interest is very high and then get into the weeds and the details after that. 

But let's build some momentum with them understanding big picture, how we can really help and what we have to offer, what are our benefits, and then we can pair down. 'Cause then those last questions are just kind of like, "Okay, I'm excited, whatever else. Here's the I to dot and the T to cross, and then we're gonna start up with you." Instead of everything hinging upon how you answer those questions.

38:11 DS: Right, right. Yeah, so anyways, we're still working on that. And I think really understanding the customer that comes in is a big part of it and asking the right questions to let them know that we've taken the time to understand their needs and then we're offering the solution that is the best fit to their needs, that's when I find I really close the best. So, working on that process and making sure that that's communicated down to our support team is probably top of our sales priority right now.

38:40 AW: Yup. No, that's such a good thing to point out. It really is all about asking the right questions in the sales process more than any great thing you're gonna say, if you're not connecting with what they really feel their need is or what they're looking for or anything else, you often miss the mark with that. I think that's just a fantastic point for people to understand is know the three to five questions that you really need to get answered to be able to tailor your sales pitch and your messaging to that customer, to that prospect.

39:15 DS: Totally. And I do have a bit of a template now that I use. One of the metrics I always look at after I have a sales call is, we use Uber conference for all of our sales calls, and at the end I get this email that shows you how much time you spent talking versus the other person spent talking. And I always want that weighted much further to them. 

The worst thing that can ever happen is that... From a person trying to buy something, when I get on a sales call with somebody, and they're like, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" to the point where I tune out and they're talking about all about how awesome they are, and all their awesome products, and what this can do for them. That, I think, is a really terrible, wrong approach for an initial sales call. I want 70% of the talking to be done by the prospect, where they're explaining it to me, I'm listening, I'm taking it in. And then I have the opportunity to reflect back to them what their struggles are, what their frustrations are, and how our solution will meet those specific needs. But you've got to spend the time to really listen to them before you can present that.

40:22 AW: Right. You're pointing out some things I need to work on. I don't think I would wanna see my timing as far as how much I talked and how we do our demos. I need to give the prospect more of a voice, so I'm taking that down as a to do.

40:39 DS: It's not always it's supposed to be you showing the product so it's understandable that you would have more talking time on that one.

40:45 AW: Yeah, I don't know, I feel like I need to leave more openings for them to ask questions and go further.

40:50 DS: Possibly, yeah. There's probably an opportunity there to really... Probing questions, so you could look at your demo process and say, "What are some opportunities for probing questions that would help direct the demo?" That could be an opportunity there.

41:04 AW: You're absolutely correct. One thing that I found really helpful, and I created this when we were going through... Sometimes you get benefits out of struggles, and when I was struggling with this outbound sales hire, I kinda put together like, here's our five phases of selling our product. And in each phase, here's what you need to ask and find out, here's a deliverable that you need to give them after that step, and here's what the expectation should be for the next step with it. 

That has really served as a great piece, where now I'm like, "Alright, this is awesome. We have a great playbook for interacting that obviously when somebody comes in, they'll kinda make it their own." But we really have the groundwork set with what that sales conversation should look like. In any failure, there's great things that come out of it. That was definitely a very beneficial thing because it really allowed me to granularly focus on the sales process and what we needed to do to achieve success, because we weren't getting it.

42:05 DS: Cool. That's exactly what we're trying to do right now. I would love to see your playbook, if you don't mind sharing it.

42:10 AW: Yeah. No, I'll send it. It's a one-sheeter. I'll send it over to you.

42:13 DS: Nice, thanks.

42:15 AW: Alright. Well, I think that puts a wrap on for this session, talking sales. We could probably go down about two or three other paths. I'm guessing this will probably re-emerge as a topic for us as we continue to go on and also provide some updates with where things are. Hopefully later in the year we can do a session where I talk about how to build a great outbound sales team, because I have one then. [chuckle]

42:40 DS: Right. You can tell everybody how to do it.

42:42 AW: Yeah, and you can do how to build a great inside sales process, 'cause you'll have done it by then.

42:48 DS: I'll basically just read... I'll start from the top of your playbook and read it and that will be my contribution of the podcast.

42:55 AW: Perfect. One last question before we wrap up. Have you dumped any beverages on your computer in the last couple of weeks?

43:03 DS: No, not yet. [chuckle] I basically keep my laptop in a Ziploc bag at all times now.

[chuckle]

43:11 AW: It's like in an incubator you'd see in a NICU, where you have to reach through with gloves to type on the computer.

[chuckle]

43:18 DS: Exactly. It's the only way I can have any kind of peace while I work on my laptop. I don't allow drinks anywhere near it, so I have to get away.

43:28 AW: I can only imagine you're a little bit scarred from that.

43:30 DS: Totally.

43:32 AW: Awesome. Alright, well, thanks Darren, another fantastic episode. Thanks everyone for listening. Hopefully you are subscribing to us on whatever your favorite podcast player of choice is. Feel free to leave us a review out in iTunes. Thanks for those that have left us a rating, but we'd love to see that. And as always, hit up Darren or I on Twitter if you have a question or a topic you'd like us to cover on a future episode. We'd be happy to do so.

44:00 DS: Yep, thanks Aaron. It was a great chat as always. And thanks to all the listeners and I guess we'll talk to you next time.

44:08 AW: Alright, talk to you next time. See ya everybody.

44:17 DS: Okay, bye.

[music]
The Saas Venture Podcast from Aaron Weiche and Darren Shaw