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Panel Q&A @ Level39 – Sales Confidence

Hi everyone so historically processing data is a bit like dating you’re promised the world and then as soon as you get under the sheets you’re a bit disappointed. So we do things differently at Cognism: we leverage AI to ensure data is fresh and updated in real time and these are 400 million b2b profiles, and we also have built a world-class sales automation platform. The reason why we’re here today and sponsoring sales confidence is that we amongst sales leaders, thought leaders, and we believe our technology has been built around best sales practices to help with automating sales and accelerating the initial stages of the sales process. If you’re interested to learn a bit more feel free to reach out to myself after the event, or any of those handsome guys that are standing around there thank you so much.

Thank you, so just to say actually about Notion before Maddie makes her way to the stage, you know Chris Tottenham one of the partners that Notion was incredibly supportive to pick this up very early on and it gave me a lot of inspiration to continue with this movement so I’m very grateful to Notion.

Hi I’m Maddie so I’m from Notion as James mentioned we’re a london-based fund b2b SaaS only so this is our sweet spot exactly. I’m head of talent there so I’m always on the lookout to expand our network with great salespeople I won’t say much more than that but if you want to talk to me after a please come find me I’ll be around. Thanks.

Good evening again so I am one of the two partners of Rock Mission we are London’s growth leading growth hacking legioncey, my brother is the other partner. We are we are a full-stack team so within our team we have developers designers growth hackers marketers and so forth so we really cover the entire skill set that is needed for any company to grow and we think that externally we can do it much better a lot of the times compared to when you do it internally, because we don’t have silos mentality that sometimes companies work with; so whenever then something needs to be done that could be a landing page that links with a new campaign or a new lead generation activity or whatever it is we can do it internally. We cover the entire funnel, we build you into a funnel, that goes from the top so from the acquisition stage all the way down to the revenues and referrals. As you can see just looking around the room we love b2b, so if you would like to have a chat with me or with Claudio just have a let’s have a chat afterwards thank you very much for your attention.

Thanks very much for misting some time preparing for those seven minutes, I know it’s not easy so I’m just gonna ask a few questions just to get the ball rolling and then we’ll open it up to the audience, so you guys can fire away – I’m hopeful I’m hopeful for some good ones because you know we’re all salespeople and sales leaders and founders here so I’d be encouraged for you to put up the hands.

So there’s a lot in what you were talking around from a scaling perspective and thinking about the importance of the teams that you put in place and the word culture came up quite a lot in each of the talks. Now having spent a few years at LinkedIn we also talked about culture a lot and everyone says it’s all about their people. So what is it about your people within your organisation that makes you stand out?

Yeah I think a lot of startups get really carried away with trendy buzzwords and so they think I need to think of some really cool stuff that will define what our values are. So we wanted to define four things that define the people that were in our business at the start, so we looked at the 15-20 people that grew our business and we tried to say what is it about these people that really explains who they are, rather than defining values and trying to find people that meet those values so we come up with a couple of things. First is rocketship we would just want people that go super fast break things go a million miles an hour. Second thing was one thing we want people that will look at what they have to do and then think hold on that job over there is even more important than the thing I’m paid to do I’m gonna go and do it. Third thing was customer Wow we wanted people that would just to go the extra mile for customer. Fourth thing I already mentioned it was obsessive learning people that just want to get better and better each day and we thought that that was exactly how to describe the people we already had and then we went out to hire more people like that, that’s evolved as time has gone on because when you’re 20 people in a very small pokey office with no money you’re very different organisation with different people when you’re 200 people nevertheless you can still have those values, so that that’s how we tried to do it.

Yes so similar really I was lucky enough to be able to look at some of the really successful members of the original team and you know see what set them apart from other members of the team and then as I say through some good hiring and some not-so-good hiring, figure out what were the common attributes. And I think I hit on them earlier I mean pace is incredibly important at DocuSign, we really really go out of our way when we’re hiring now to spell out to people what that means because you say to people oh it’s a really fast pace no yeah yeah yeah I’m good with that, are you are you really? We really try and spell it out and kind of illustrate to them what a day a week a month in the life of somebody in the sales team at DocuSign looks like and some people you can see like they just freeze and other people look really really excited by that proposition and, so pace is something that we really take time to spell out and and and hire against that. Being comfortable with ambiguity is a huge point we are now beginning to scale we are now beginning to look like a more mature organisation with mature processes and lots of rhetoric processes and so on to go with it, but there’s still a lot of grey areas and we want people that thrive in those grey areas and are very very comfortable with that. And then you know I think all of the other things that you mentioned you know good team collaborators, people that are willing to roll up their sleeve and do something for the bigger picture, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit within their discrete role so yeah I’d like to think that those are things that all of the the team that we’ve built definitely display and that we look for in future hires.

Yeah I would just say ditto to that but I would also just add that one of the things that I was really trying to encourage across the team is more of the sharing of success; and so what that means is you know obviously in the weekly sales meetings getting the sales leaders to stand up and getting their people to stand up and say how did I close that deal how did i originate that deal what was so unusual about it. Because I wanted to move the organisation from what I inherited what was a bunch of lone Wolf’s right to a real team that really helped each other because they tried to encourage them the competition’s not internal, competitions out there right, so everything that these guys are saying in terms of you know intellectual curiosity is so important and pace is so important I had people say to me after I brought them on and I would say you know the pace is amazing here your day they were like man you know you told me the pace was gonna be fast but this is like outrageous you know and so people but they loved it they loved it they loved being stretched like that and if you can find people that are up for that and they’re willing to invest several years at that pace then you know you’ve got a you’ve got a real a real winner. The other thing that I would add to that is outside of work I would try to encourage you to get the teams to do some charity work together, because I think that teams that do that kind of work and give back in the community it’s a bonding experience and so it’s not just about me making money but it’s about me and my colleague like trying to help others, and I think there’s something around that that’s special.

Thank you for sharing. In the audience there’s a lot of founders of early-stage companies and they’ve successfully raised around maybe multiple rounds and they’re looking to scale however everybody in TechCrunch is winning, the reality is not everyone is winning, so how do you handle individuals that are failing from a quota perspective, or managers or yourselves, you know is there something you revert to individually to handle that or an approach you take?

So yeah we’ve done a fair bit of this this year to be honest! So I think A, quickly I think you know you always have a clear sense of somebody just isn’t going to make the grade perhaps it was a bad hire perhaps you know they’ve just lost their you know relish for that particular role they’re burnt out or whatever and I think if you see that that is the case then you need to act quickly, that’s a cliche answer but it’s absolutely true. B, I think there’s the sooner you engage with your HR partner if you’re lucky enough to have somebody internally or externally if not the better, so that you can have a very very clear idea of the process that you need to follow and get that process right on the first run, otherwise you will waste cycles having to go back documenting things and doing things in a different way so that you’re not going to cost the company money. And then thirdly I think the more time you invest in the play books and the score cards and the formal coaching methods, the more data you will have to use in that formal process, and the less of an administrative headache it’s going to be. Because you know those things are not easy things to work your way through, and so I think the more formulaic you can be the better and so that would be my advice.

Yeah actually I wouldn’t have answered that very much differently to you, so I’ll just add one thing which is there’s often a fear especially if you’ve got junior sales managers and they have to do this kind of thing for the first time and there’s often a fear that you’re somehow going to destroy the culture, or make people really unhappy because of what you have to do, and in fact it’s the reverse people tend to know who’s the who are under the the sales guys at London performing everybody knows who it is, and they can’t understand why they have to meet certain targets and the other guy doesn’t so it often has the reverse effect people will say yeah I understand that; and the amount of people I’ve had where we’ve had to move them on because they didn’t quite fit didn’t quite work they weren’t exactly what we thought and they come back to you two to three years later and said I’m having this incredibly successful career and I’d had never done that without that thing that happened to me, it makes you realise oh I wish I hadn’t been so worried about it when I was younger.

When I had to make a really tough decision to let someone go after I brought them on just 90 days into the company, which was not something that the company I worked for would typically do, a CEO told me one time and I thought it was kind of an interesting way to face the problem but he said ‘Anna one of the things you have to think about is you’re an only have so much bandwidth in your brain to deal with running a business, to deal with scaling that team etc, and if that individual is taking up that much bandwidth, you aren’t able to give it to the rest of your business’, and it was the making the decision to to cut the person loose and let them go was not only a good decision for that individual as Peter said it was also a good and it was a good decision for the overall business because what happens is they start to have a drag on the rest of the organisation, and you just have to move on because as we were talking about earlier pace it slows down when you’ve got someone pulling the team back.

Excellent thank you so let’s open it up to the audience!

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