Episode 1 - WeDisrupt Sales Podcast – Scott Smyth unpacks the sales #GTMstrategy which led to his #StartUp being acquired by HG Insights after 1.5 years of trading. Tune in and learn how Scott grew this #techStartUp from his basement into a #SaaS juggernaut! HG Insights was named as one of the hottest SaaS startups in London in 2019. In this episode, we unpack the sales GTM that made this possible.
Hello and welcome to win shop sales podcast. My name is Will Chivers. I'm joking my co host for sin con, and we're here to interview some of the world's most influential sales leaders, revenue officers and executives on the planet. Wm Episode One, we disrupt sales podcast who we are today and what are we going to talk about? Today we have Scott Smith. He's the Global Head of sales for a company called he insights. And he's gonna be running us through the go to market strategy, the SAS business Capital IQ. I absolutely love this episode because it's a story of a sales rep, who built a SaaS business in his basement, which after two years of trading was acquired by the juggernaut, HD insights. I really hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did. Scott, great to have you on the weed shop sales podcast. Hey, dude. How's it going? Very good. I'm very excited to have you on the show you used to work with the Siemens data monitor. So I saw this is a very exciting opportunity to Pick your brains but also spend 3030 to 60 minutes just taking the piss out of the sea. So we're very excited for today and I think it's gonna be a great show. Good, good. 60 minutes well spent. But yeah, that's that's what I mean. I'm really bad man all these years ago, was it 10 years or so? Pretty much. Yeah. The way the way I describe it is is the boiler room is probably literally it was a boiler room. The best way to describe it But yeah, I think I think 10 years So Scott, an eighth had mentioned journey so far. So can we kick off with maybe you talking a little bit about yourself and what got you into sales? Yeah, sure. So probably they two monitors my first jobs. This is probably 1011 years ago. I had an older brother who went straight from uni into being a tax advisor in in Deloitte and I found out quite soon What I didn't want to do because I didn't really sound like my cup of tea and speaking to him and how he was getting on and after going traveling for 10 months straight after uni, I played poker all throughout uni. And and that allowed me not to have to get shiftwork, like most other people going through uni and was pretty good at it and made a decent amount of money at the time playing poker and I thought I took a little seat in terms of what what makes a good poker player around patients and reading situations and playing the numbers and thought maybe what that actually recommended that sales might be a good profession for me. So I went my first interview was with with data monitor straight after I'd finished university and like I said, it was a certain kind of culture that made us really kind of thrown into the deep end from a careers perspective. actually joined shortly after the guy that started the company sold it to a footsie 100 company for just over 500 million pounds. So very quickly, I became excited and passionate about subscription based businesses and the multiples that they yield. And I've always wanted to run my own business, but never really knew what I would do that in and nothing you do at that age. But my dad was a successful businessman. So I've seen his success as well. And that gave me an immediate idea around whatever I do, I want it to be subscription based. SAS was a really a big thing back then. But technology was was the team that I was in. So technology based subscription based, sales focused and had a couple of really good years as a data monitor, the company continued to grow aggressively. Went into sales, management, and really just tried I now learn the skills that I thought were a prerequisite to being able to run a successful business. I think selling is probably one of the most important skills to master. And it's also one of the most difficult and then it becomes managing people, not just salespeople, but cross functional. So after a few years of doing that, and we all went and started a new company that was a company called cable, which was a subsidiary of progressive digital media, which was owned by the same guy that actually sold data monitor. And we started up a marketing Intelligence Division in that business called cable. And that was a great opportunity for me because it was essentially like starting a new business but without the risk personally of having to financially front it because it was done under a under an employer but we had to create a new brand onboarding new team build a new product, when new logos build out a marketing and sales function. And after a couple of years, we It was one of the highest performing divisions within that hundred million pound subscription based business. So those two, those two experiences were really critical in my learning. And we had the same kind of mentality and culture in in both. And I'll talk a little bit around what that looked like in a sec. And then in 2017, early 2017, my business partner and I had worked with for seven or eight years started a company called pivotal IQ, which was a similar subscription, SAS based market and customer intelligence business primarily focused on driving the sales and marketing activities of global b2b technology companies. And besides that, besides turning Being in kind of April 2017, we really hit the ground running an incredible first year. And then in 2018, we won an award for one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in, in London. And that kind of put us on the radar. We had a lot of externals looking at VCs private equity companies, but we're all privately funded. So we wouldn't necessarily at that point need the investment. But we did have a channel partner called hg insights, which was a West Coast. company that was was privately it was was VC backed, and they had all the things we didn't have and vice versa. So after a few months of discussing with them, it was a marriage made in heaven. It was a true two plus two equals five moment and we merged with them in in 2018. And I now one of the global sales function for inside. So I think it'll be awesome too boring to start with, like, what was that? First Ready Set six months, like, you know, how was the idea created? And, you know, how did you get to a point where you were ready to sell? What what previous company? It is a little bit of what we do today. But there was other companies out there, including some in the US that everyone did one of the three parts of the magic triangle, I call it well. So at the account level, it's important to have visibility to try to sell into a customer of how much they're spending on it, who they're spending it with. And when their contracts coming up for renewal. They're the three critical components that all of my customers I've ever worked with over the last 10 years. Those are important yet. Yeah, there's no company that had to let alone all three of those critical components. So what what that meant was the customers I were working with saying, we're using you for One of them when using another one for another. And it's creating inefficiencies within the process. So what we tried to do is build a a referential data set that was global that had all three of these data points integrated seamlessly in a sass platform that allows you to do everything from understand how big is my market, how to appeal my territory, but then more importantly, how to then execute on those optimized territories know which company to call first and with what message Okay, so if I'm, if I'm, if I'm a CEO, I can basically look at right what market do I want to move in, move into how big is that market? And then at a macro level, what companies make up that market and and who do I want to target in that market. And there was no other company out there that allowed you to plan and size and then go and execute. You had to go from one data set to another, they have different definitions, different taxonomy. And that then became a challenge and we were supporting the CEO to the SEO And then our customers. Nice. Nice. Okay, so all right. So you you built a minimum viable product you've gone to mark Well, you're beginning to go to market. So was it a matter of eating your own dog food in terms of understanding what companies to target? You know, talk me through that first, right we're in the office lads, pick up the phone. Who are we calling out? How did you sort of pick and choose what markets to move into? neuticle? Yeah, so I mean, that was, it's a bit cliche, but the first kind of four or five months literally was in my basement along with one of my colleagues, we didn't really want to be spending our precious money on office space at that time. So we were essentially just just cold calling. It really was brute force. At the start. We didn't have the luxury of being able to build a brand and generate leads and inbounds it was just pure, cold calling in two companies usually West Coast's we're working till like midnight, most nights to the maximum That time. And for me having random successful sales teams for the seven or eight years prior to building the business, the way I look at building a successful go to mark mark, I break it down into kind of four chunks. One is the people, you need to hire the right kind of talent, you don't need superstars. But you need the right kind of talent that are cut out for this tough environment that we put ourselves in that are resilient and have the right attitude. And you can't often teach that So Mike people is critical. When it comes to me in terms of territory, to your point, best understanding which companies have the highest propensity to buy from you because you can have the best people and the best product if you're targeting the wrong accounts. You're gonna you're gonna so for me it was people territory, and then coaching. So making sure that we are going to market with a matte white message that resonates so we spend a lot of time aligning you case to persona. We don't have a one size fits all message that we go to market with. It's critical that you tweak and tailor your message to the persona that you're trying to sell to. And we talked about a bit a minute ago, when you've got a product that's agile enough to help a CEO. understand where am I going to grow market share where to place my bets globally across which markets as well as helping an SDR know, what hook should I use to call this specific company, you need to make sure that you're aligning your go to market messaging, so that it relates aligns the use case to the persona switching was massive. And then finally, it was it was all around culture. So I recognized over the years that as you scale, it was impossible to always have your finger on the pulse with every rep and a hand holding type micromanaging abilities, impossible and it's also not the right style. So if you got the right culture when you Not in the office. Either you're in a meeting room or your your way business traveling, you want your team to still operate as if you were in the office, you don't want them working for you, you want them working for themselves and for the bigger picture for the for the team and business goals. So people territory coaching, and, and culture was was the fourth area. So in the early pivotal IQ days, I got the right people, and there's only a few of us. We we created what we called the dirty 30. We each had 30 accounts in 2017 that we knew we could sell to. Yeah, we had a race to the finish line before the end of the year who could sell the most of their dirty 30s across the board. We didn't even we didn't even bother going outside of that. Those are all that you're not allowed to sell to anyone outside of that because it just became a distraction. How did you pick that day? 30. What was the process is a combination of the size of the Company, which is pretty basic. But because we were a brand new company, we had the world to go after. There wasn't a need to get that scientific in terms of territory. Right? Now we're much more scientific because we've got a load more reps and you have to slice it in a much better way. But at the start, it was just the low hanging fruit, the big companies where we got a great product for where we, and we cheated a little bit because of what we do. We're world class at helping our customers optimize their territories and create equitable sales territories and remove subjectivity. So we use our own data as well looking at where have we got more information on which technology vendors and companies like Microsoft, HP, Dell Cisco, we had such a huge amount of data on their customers and therefore their competitors customers, we started at that with the big boys and kind of work their way down. So so we we have the right people, we've got the right territory and then it was always Just about what kind of culture do we want to build. And that wasn't something I prescribed. I've never been a fan of trying to prescribe a culture or prescribe daily metrics, or prescribe the the forecast or commitment of the team, because that has to be intrinsic within the team. So if you've got the right people, they'll come up with the right answers in terms of what what does an honest day's work look like? What are the minimum standards that we're going to be accountable for? And, you know, when your team buy into those and create those, it almost becomes self policing. I don't have to manage them through those metrics, because they prescribed them and they manage them and and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy whenever we have a new starter. It's not they're not they're not negotiable. There's not something that you may or may not do the minimum standards, the standards, and if you don't do that, you'll team down then we've got an issue. Yeah. And I guess it comes back to what you said at the start, right? accountability and intensity. You've got those minimum standards You're kind of holding yourself accountable. And you're operating a certain level of intensity because those minimum standards are naturally elevated. Yeah, absolutely, that we call it a commitment based culture. So that's what we're all into. And we're proud of the culture and it's pretty visible when we buy three new SDRs in London since locked down all over zoom. And funnily enough, we met them for the first time last week when we had a couple of days in the office together. And they were just so bought into the culture already, because we have daily huddles every morning and we have a wrap up in the evening, just 10 minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening. And they're already operating with the same commitment based culture having not even met the guys because it's just it's just ingrained in them from from day one. And that's that's so important because routine daily routine shouldn't be optional. It's not I might do some cold calling today I might not depending on how I feel and how busy I am. You need to have that discipline that no matter what every single day, you know, that's the most important thing to drive in pipeline and closing business. Nothing else should get in the way of that. And, and that's why we're so so big on having that structure in that blueprint and that daily routine. So expanding sort of commitment based culture, what what would you say that looks like so that we break it down? We have building blocks, like KPIs, but what are the what are the minimum KPIs, some of which you're in control of, some of which are not. Yeah, you are going to commit to doing each day in each week. And they can check different for every rep. And they can be different week on week, depending on if you're trying to get deals over the line versus if you're trying to generate pipeline. But it's every week, Monday morning, we present our commitments life for the week, this is what I'm going to achieve and it could be anything From I'm going to open up opportunities in these three new accounts, I'm going to close one deal, I'm going to have 10 new business demos, and I'm gonna do a minimum of $100. And if I don't achieve those, I'm not gonna feel good or great on Friday. And that's what we chase him. We always talk about this feeling. Do you feel good? Or do you feel great? Or do you feel negative and you feel pretty shitty going into your weekend? And that's what motivates the team because that that feeling of satisfaction and purpose and achieve and achievement is what we want the team to kind of buy into and in sales, it can be tough, you guys, no. It can't always be did you sell or did you not? Because you know, your sales model. Sometimes you don't sell for three or four weeks, but then you hit your target with one deal. So it's all about what are the fundamentals? What are the prerequisites to getting deals in and we try to build a commitment culture around those and on Friday afternoon, we go around the team and we ask, do you feel good or great and sometimes they don't either and, you know I guarantee you that the feeling of good or great is the thing that motivates the team. And if they say what they need to do to achieve them, it pushes them that extra distance to get the job done, especially because they're in control of it. So in the early days, how are you going about finding the right message and making sure that you kind of get themes that worked to get customers in? Well, I mean, very early stage, it really was trial and error. We, we went to market with what we thought was the best message and but because we were having so many customer facing discussions each day, we just created a real kind of transparent culture where, whenever whenever someone learned something good or bad, we made sure that was a shared learning so that we all benefited from each other's success or failures. So to stop it often is just trial and error, but because we, as a team when we first moved into this shared office that we had over an Old Street, and we had an open plan office, because it was cheaper. And we had lots of other companies around us, most of them were tech startups. And literally on the first day of the first week, when we moved out of my basement, it was four of us. Well, having three, four or five demos a day customer facing demos a day, which was great because we were getting this plethora of knowledge and feedback, which we then fed into product and then we tweak the messaging and marketing. It was this huge feedback loop. Because we were having so much such such a big sample each day of customer pain points and challenges. And so much so that on day one, we got three complaints from the companies around us saying that we were being too loud and we were we were a bit like we're trying to run a business And customer facing activities critical and be honest, you could have the best product in the world, which I'm sure many of the companies around us had. But you're gonna fail or run out of money, you celebrate one demo, which the team behind us on the first day, they got a demo in, secured, they all started cheering we're like 15 today so far already. So I think having that feedback loop and again, it comes back to intensity if you're, if you're speaking to lots of customers and prospects each day and you're and you're using that awareness to feel future sales and marketing messaging, then it becomes a bit of a self fulfilling feedback loop. So as you've gone into this juggernaut, that is he insights for you as a sales leader? How is it what made you successful at pivotal like you as people, tertiary coaching and culture, right, those four four pillars? How has that changed as you've gone into this, this bigger company, and how is that going to market shift Yeah, that's a really good question, actually, because there was a, there was a change. And we've we've spent quite a lot of time making sure that we're maximizing the power and the ammunition that that biggest show was able to bring us. So we never had, we never had an inbound in pivotal IQ that just didn't exist with another marketing or a brand. We didn't have a marketing team, we didn't have the power of being able to execute campaigns to generate awareness and demand. We didn't have the ability to within hours change a feature within a product, because we didn't have the coders and the developers to be able to do that. So we weren't as agile. So we've we've tried to keep what made us successful in pivotal IQ, but then be cognizant of the fact that we've got so much more firepower around us and previously, whenever we have something like a power phrase from a customer, we would then just share it across The sales team and in use on every call because it resonated within the marketplace. Now we had to ensure that we gave that same language and terminology and buzzword phrases to marketing. So they could then put that into marketing engine and do a much wider execution of that rather than us always having to try and be successful THROUGH THROUGH THROUGH THROUGH cold calling, because it is what made us successful, but you can't scale a business unless you've got that alignment between sales and marketing and product. So I think the biggest challenge but also turned into becoming an opportunity is that because we had depth now within the marketing team, and we had brilliant product people and world class engineers, we had to just make sure that we communicated all of the great insights that we were gathering within the sales team and share those across marketing so that they could execute with more laser focused messaging shared across your product so they could build better products that are more more closely aligned to the pain points and challenges. for customers, that's really interesting, right? So a lot of the companies that have either worked out or studied product sales marketing are normally at loggerheads with the with each other, you know, that that function is is kind of broken. So for so just just kind of unpacking that slightly for you guys. How does that work? You hear something that a customer says you think Yeah, buddy? Oh, that's awesome. What is that? Is that a matter of picking up the phone calling product and calling marketing or talk me through that feedback loop? Yeah, so the SDRs are pretty important in this as well because they're almost a conduit between the sales and marketing team as well. So we have very we have we have point five of an SDR so when SDR reports into two A's and that they generated a demo with a must have account. We've got a named account strategy now within the business, and we get some positive feedback. Awesome. sentiment there, that feedback loop then goes back to the SDR so that they can use that positive sentiment to a much wider audience when they're doing their outbound prospecting. And yes, he has worked closely with the marketing team to generate sequences and groove flows to ensure that that messaging is then going out through marketing type execution, rather than just cold calling. And we've got a multi touch kind of strategy. So it's not just calling it emailing, it's LinkedIn. And to ensure that we've got the messaging that's coherent, going across lots of different areas, we've now started to use digital quite a lot. In fact, he, just six months ago, LinkedIn campaign manager announced he insights as one of their fourth ever API integrations to company manager. So again, we can use our own tool to create laser focused messaging to senior stakeholders within a must have accounts through LinkedIn. So using digital was another way of getting to market and with with product we have weekly sinks called a product council where we go to them and give them feedback. They are very transparent on what initiatives they're working on. We are certainly not short of ideas. And therefore it becomes a prioritization exercise and what what are the things we can do quickest that will have the biggest impact on revenue? And let's prioritize prioritize those initiatives? Yes, I mean to be acquired as a SaaS business after a year and a half of trading is pretty mental right? So can you just further articulate why you think you had such success so early on? intensity and volume because for me that is always that has to be number one because we have this we played this game in the first six months pivotal IQ called let's see, you can get to three knows the quickest within our first better, because we know full well, that Not always, but almost always, you're not going to sell first time round. Even if we had, we had a great product. Everyone was saying that this looks incredible. But we're already committed to another provider. It's not the right timing or about to wait to my budgets are refreshed was not the right time in the year. So we just needed to get we were just we just got ourselves out there so quick and fast and aggressively that we got all our nose out the way quickly. And therefore the yeses, were closer. And we did in six months, what I think other companies or other sales teams may have done in 24 months. So I think that's one of the most important things when I look back and think how do we get that early success so quickly, it was because of the intensity. But then there were other things that we that we did that I think helped with our closing ratio. For example, whenever we have an advanced pipeline opportunity we created very tailored, but they actually ended up only taking us about 10 or 15 minutes as we template them. And presentations which present which allowed our, the ally, our champion to present the business case and the ROI of white paper to IQ would be a good investment. Because what we realized is no one that we talked to is the ultimate decision maker very rarely, as a council, there's a committee that this has to go to, and, and our customers are incredibly busy with doing their day job so we could arm them with some collateral that help them better articulate why the investment in HD insights, we're going to give them a strong ROI because our renewal rate was so strong, it was close to 100%. We knew that just getting them over the line was the most important piece so we did everything we could to give them the ammunition they needed in order to get successful decision internally as well. And those those business case pitch decks, I think we're really critical in reducing our sales cycle from maybe would have been six or eight months, sometimes two to three months. What was your view in the early days on selling and winning customers based on future features that are coming in? Yeah, sure. So I've never been a big fan of that. Because I found in the past, it ends up delaying the deal, because the customer might say, that sounds amazing, but let's wait till that's out. And then and then we can talk again. So I think from a new prospect, it becomes a challenge. When you do that with an existing customer that's got a renewal coming up, then absolutely get them involved in not just the news, but actually get them to feed into it and get them excited and bought into it and may help you with the relationship with that customer talking about product roadmap. So I think it's different strategy for prospects versus customers. What is it like choosing the right price point and did it did it bring a lot of challenges when you were kind of going out to market And realize that that was one of the successes we because what we had built was brand new, nothing in the market like existed it allow customers to consolidate investment from other providers. So we had a we set a price point that we thought was reflective of the value. And and it was it was it was a higher price point than the traditional legacy competitors. But the ROI massively justified that like I say, Good, we had a near on 100% renewal rate. And we had about 140% net revenue retention, which meant every time they saw the deal, they bought more from us that that was that gave us a good indication that we're at the right price point. And we were justifying that through the ROI our customers were achieving. What advice would you give sort of head of sales or CR O's who are walking into a company, you know that on an accelerated trajectory and they're looking to build a go to market What sort of advice would you give these guys in terms of what they should do what what they should look at, I always go back to my building blocks, which is the four pillar approach to leading a successful go to market sales organization around. You need the right people. I've not hired people that I knew would be great salesman, or woman that that wouldn't fit into the right the kind of culture that I was building lone wolf type individuals with remote work with before. So the right people defining and optimizing your territory, make sure it's equitable and optimized and create the create the right culture. That means that when you're not in the office, or you stepped away from your desk, there's no changes to the way everyone operates. Get the team to buy into that culture and in some ways, create that culture. And then finally, just around coaching, make sure that you're giving your team the ammunition and the They need to be successful. And with that comes report. I think it's really important for any CRM or sales leader to have individual report, understand that people, everyone's motivated slightly differently, and really understand what motivates your, your individual reports and make sure that you treat them all as individuals. And I think the only other thing that has been massive for us is I've got the philosophy. I don't know if you're familiar with the 1% rule, which I've always been a big believer in, but it's essentially looking at the aggregation of marginal gains. So what that means is that you're not always looking to make massive adjustments and get big wins because there's only so many others out there. And when you get pretty good, the only way you get world class is looking at how do we make small tweaks to get 1% improvement in the way that we picked for the way we negotiate or the way that we coach or the way that we plan our day or the way that we hire can be any part of the business. But if you're trying to get 1% improvement each day, across your process over the course of the year, due to the beauty of compounding map, that equates to 3600 times better at the end of the year at the start of the year just by looking for those 1% improvement areas. So as a big part of my philosophy in the way that I lead my teams, but also I encourage my team to think of the same 1% marginal gains that they can look for in their own process. Nice. I'm a big believer that and that's something I I use in my own sort of sales process and training and so forth. And lastly, for me, sales methodology. I think we grew up on skip Miller, and what sort of what sort of sales methodology Do you prescribe to your team? How does that vary? Yeah, so again, we try and standardize all of us. So we don't want everyone going to market with us with a completely different methods. process. So funnily enough, we had skip in just six months ago as in our sales kickoff event. And, yeah, he's got he's got some great books that we all encourage every new starter we buy them the proactive sales training Scott Miller book, that sales methodology, it just come again it comes back to having a named account strategy. Because there's only so many hours in a day, we don't want a team spreading themselves too thin sales is so binary, you get 99% of the way to a sale, but you don't get over the line, you've still got a big fat zero. So what we were finding when we add more accounts in each reps hands is that they were having lots of good conversations and getting 40 or 50 or 60% of the way through the sales cycle but not getting any over the line. And to get a deal over the line. You need. A relentless focus on that opportunity and not let up until the PEO is in. So having a named account strategy working behind the scenes within those accounts, creating the groundswell and being what we call like a change agent, change agent where you're bringing in lots of alignment on the customer side and on the HQ site. And then coming back to the intensity if you're if you're taking the right message enough times to the right people in the right organizations then and sales happen. So I think that Scott, it's been absolutely brilliant Chad on the show. So I mean, unless you've got any hilarious stories that you can share about how bad of a sales guy over cmas or how much he missed quota? I mean, I think which is probably every month we could we could maybe leave it there and say say thank you very much for your time. Well, I've got plenty of stories how much time please place I'll tell you about my videos of your my fight. I better be careful. I'll tell you a quick story about about when we were working together. So we Sadly splitters on our phone, where the sales leader could like listen in and just help make sure that the the rep was saying the right things and closing in the right way. And it was one time bas was on a call trying to close a little deal. I think the average order value back then was was small, but it's pretty transactional. So razzles on the call, we had a good, good opportunity. You've tried to close up he asked me to jump on to help get it over the line. So I plugged myself in. And he was under the desk that allowed him room when he was trying to kind of give them the second one is quiet. That's my officemate. That was my office is I'm just stepping into my office went under the desk. And as it was under there, I had the ability to mute his phone and unmute my headset. I'm gonna be giving his pitch and I muted him and unmuted myself and I was not doing the pitch but he was under there for a minute. Try This guy on the fourth floor was laughing I was just above the desk just having a normal conversation with the guy. That way I play at least somebody could close for seen fist for same. So that's that's great. Yeah. And I'm we're absolutely looking forward to the extra insights on what accounts are going to make us money through pivot to IQ or Hey, she insights now. Listen really well Scott. It's been an absolute pleasure. So thanks so much for your time. It's been it's been great. All right guys thanks Transcribed by https://otter.ai