We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Hook, Director of Sales at CRM powerhouse ChildcareCRM.
Mike is a seasoned revenue leader with a track record of implementing proven sales processes to execute repeatable revenue for high growth, investor-backed software companies. Mike has lived and breathed M&A integrations, being a pivotal member from a revenue perspective in bringing 2 company acquisitions together - merging 4 product lines into an existing platform and taking it to market.
We will be sharing his experiences from:
- The considerations you have to make when integrating new products via acquisitions into an existing business
- What it was really like working in a Vista company
The episode is available across all podcast mediums.
Hello and welcome to a short sales podcast. My name is Will Chivers. I'm driving my cars for sale calm. And we're here to interview some of the world's most influential sales leaders, revenue officers and executives on the planet. Episode 11. We disrupt sales podcast, who do we have today? What are we going to be talking about? Today we're sitting down with Mike who is the Director of Sales at a company called childcare CRM is a seasoned revenue leader with a track record of implementing proven sales processes to execute repeatable revenue. For high growth investor backs off companies. Mike has lived and breathed m&a integrations, being a pivotal member from a revenue perspective and bringing two company acquisitions together, being able to merge four product lines into an existing platform and taking it to market. We're gonna be talking through everything from the kind of considerations you have to make when integrating products, for acquisitions into an existing business, to what it is really like working in a VISTA backed company, managing expectations from your employees, right, the way up to the board members, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did. Mike, absolute pleasure to have you on the show. It'd be great if you could kick off with just a little bit about yourself, and what got you into sales a little bit about me? Well, I just like to go out, have fun experience new things. I like to you know, travel, music, you know, go go out and really experience life. And a lot of that translates back to the stories we can tell the experience that we have. And that's kind of what got me into sales in the first place to you know, wanting to have the freedom to be able to do those things. Why don't we be able to go make my own money, make my own schedule? If I do well, if I was able to perform and this job just opening a lot of doors for me. So, you know, that was my first kind of thought and foray into like, hey, sales, this could be my profession. But it was never about being a salesman. It was always about having the freedom to go do the other things that I love to do. Nothing as as a starter. Can you just talk a little bit more about that journey? I mean, you you were there at Payless for a while you made your way through the ranks? Can you just give our viewers a little bit more in terms of that journey and what you were doing at Payless? Yeah, absolutely. So I really spend a lot of time at pay lease. I started there. really early on 22 just out of college, still hard to find a job. And a family friend of ours was working at this company pay lease, and he calls me up I'll never forget. I was at a waterworks gas station in Cleveland, Ohio back where I grew up where I was from. And he's telling me about pay leaks. He's like, Yeah, we do credit card processing for apartments for rentals, and for HOA fees. And it's a great job. You know, we've got an opening and customer service here. And I'm sitting there thinking like, Oh, my God, this is a scam. They're taking credit card information for rent. I've never heard of this before. But if it goes belly up, great. I'm homeless in San Diego, what's the worst thing that could happen? It did not go belly up. The company was a rocket ship. So I got there in 2012. Started in customer service, that's the only job I had within a couple months moved into a sales role as it opened up. So I started there as an individual contributor, selling our payment service and our payment platform. And from there, we were backed by mainsail partners. So a couple years in Francisco partners purchase pay lease. And as part of that purchase, we acquired a company by the name of OCS, OCS worked in the same space. And they did utility billing and invoice processing. So when we acquired that part of what I did was help really drive the go to market strategy and bringing that out to the marketplace. So how we segmented our sales team, how we figured out of the 12 million units we had at the time, what are those could be cross sell this product to and what's our joint value prop? How do we sell this? Really, how do we even sell this product? And how do we talk to it, let alone paired together. So it was a lot of the formation and the structure behind that. Driving that proof of concept and then building out the business unit there. Shortly after that a couple years later, we Paley's got purchased by Vista. So when we got purchased by Vista, we went through another acquisition in the same space. So it was a smart home technology company. So putting in you know, your thermostats and door locks how that all ties into a resume experience app, the name of that company was ego. So when we acquired that company, same same exercise, so as opposed to really working on the front end. Now I've kind of transitioned over into a leadership role within that company, helping oversee areas of the sales function, and also working very closely with our VP of Sales the time to do all the stuff I mentioned beforehand. ICP definition the value prop generation diving into what part of our base Can we really sell this into how does that break out? And how do these systems all really work together? How do we get the platform to function together? And a big part of that was actually I was part of our rebranding team. So pay lease is no longer known as pay lease, the company is named zego. Powered by pay lease. So really worked in that function. And that kind of took me to to the end of my time there. So seven and a half years later, two exits three equity companies, a handful of different roles all the way from picking up phones and taking phone payments to sales leadership and running some teams there. And then I can be a more relevant topic, right? We'd be so many software companies right now turn to m&a to accelerate their their proposition, accelerate growth, and to make sure they capabilities can fit the market. Right. But I think so many companies get it wrong. I mean, it's so hard to integrate. It's hard to get right. Now, you've done those two acquisitions, I guess, what did it teach you about what works? Yeah, sure, you know, these companies, the first thing that we always like to look at is what mutual clients do we had together? Is there overlap because they were in the same industry? And if we did have mutual clients over there, we would go out to them and try to have them start telling the story that we wanted to craft? Why are these valuable together? How are you using them all together. And we were really building out our customer profile for who could fit in that light. So I'll give you an example. One of them when we purchased osius. They were a building platform. And that platform really worked only for multifamily apartment buildings. But we had a lot of single family rental homes, and a lot of Hoa is on our platform. So when we started looking at our mutual clients, we realized they were all these multifamily apartment complexes, it really only fit there. We tried to sell it into the HOA space. And we quickly realized that from a functionality standpoint, it didn't match up. So part of it is you know, you got to go out there, you got to make the calls, you got to see if it fits. The other thing is finding those mutual clients will give you that Quick, quick identification of what we know it works here. So you at least have your kind of North Star, if you will, on we know it works here. I think, you know, the next thing that we did after that, that was super beneficial for us is really learning the products and identifying are these products, standalone products that we can sell on their own. So I'll go back to Paley's online payments, it could be sold as an independent product. utility bills, it can be sold as an independent product, utility expense management or invoice processing, independent products. So all of them could be sold on their own. But when you bundle them together, it's an exponential value app. So I think part of the process as well as understanding is this a feature add that we're going to go upsell? Is it a higher ticket item as part of the same product offering? Or are we actually talking about a whole new product. So that split out understanding, you know, again, the individual value props for each one, talking to those mutual clients, talking to the clients we have from each company, and then really bringing that into, hey, here's how you can go out and talk about this platform, not just a service, but this platform that we can bring you and how it's going to impact your business from a multi multi department level. Right. So now we're hitting more people, it's a way bigger ticket, the light bulbs start flashing a lot more, as opposed to just going in one area. So a lot, really a lot on the front end there just in terms of how are we thinking about it? How are we validating it? And what really makes for a good product that you can upsell and cross sell into that existing base through the acquisition? How did you find that balance and making sure it doesn't jeopardize that financial year, but you still get the right market feedback? Because it must be a hard thing to balance right? Yeah, and part of that's how you just manage the sales teams. So in both of the acquisitions, we had a Paley so when Bailey's acquired Arceus. And then when we acquired zego, what we did is we set up our sales structure, so that the sellers from the acquiring company, so Paley's, we had our sales team, the sellers that we acquired from OCS, the utility billing company they came in is really subject matter experts and product experts. So they would help us as sellers go into the base, and now we would start doing this joint selling exercise where it was it Hey, sellers, a Paley's go learn this entire new product. Let's slow down the motion of all the payment cells. But no, here's a little teaser on what this product is. You've got help coming out. How do you how do you work out the commercial strategy in terms of pricing? Like Where, where? Because I'm assuming both both companies have different pricing strategies. How do you start consolidating, right? What is our what is our revenue model? How do we determine what that revenue model for our customers looks like in you know, I'm assuming in some cases it was, it was probably different. So how do you address that? Yeah, so the good news with us was the apartment industry was you know, rather experienced in technology and how they bought It was all cost per unit. So the pricing models weren't too far off at that point. Now the nice thing for us too, is we had similar pricing structures within the payments, and utility billing. So when you go in there, it's really about matching the model, the pricing model, so are we gonna price it on a per unit price are we gonna price it on a monthly subscription fee price. So whatever you do, as far as merging those together, it's really just making sure that the pricing models match the dollar amounts don't mean as much early on, then from there, you can go through, and that's where you're allowed to then bundle these services together. So it actually comes over as one consolidated price, as opposed to two different line items. And you can bring one service over. So that for us is kind of how we saw it, right? We were fortunate that we didn't have to go through a huge exercise because the industry already had a standard. And, you know, payments were transactional bills were also one per unit. And it allowed us to really merge these two together that said, Hey, if you want to pass processing fees, you can do that bill's had statement fees. So it's like, Hey, you can bundle this on to one charge and put it as a statement fee. So as far as those pricing models go, it was it was pretty well handled for us already. But but that is my my thought there. And some of the things that we've done, too, is just matching the pricing model to make sure it's consistent. What did you learn about managing expectations in the early days, I think especially up when it comes to expectation, terms of revenue and results. So you're always going to have aggressive targets. I think anytime you acquire a company and you've got this thesis, and part of that comes out, you are going to have aggressive targets. So you know, the way we've done that, really, and how we did it is you have to have conversations, you'd have to start the conversation. So number one, how do you drive alignment between the two teams, so nobody feels like you're a slowing down deals in each other's pipelines and be that you're working together so that you can have that great value props that you can gain that experience, I think number one is continuity is setting up the team's for success. So yeah, we acquired this company, great, here's what's gonna happen. We've got, you know, a huge base, right now, we want some people to go and cross sell into that base, let's validate it there. We've got our net new team. So let's go joint sell with the net new team as well. So now you've got your net new team selling and they're teasing out this new product. The big thing here, too, is Yeah, you got this target to hit. But for us, it's about build pipeline prove the concept. So early on, it's Can we get some big wins early, your base is a great place to go to that validate that right away, and then go through that snowball effect, where, okay, now we've got, we've got targets, you've got expectations, we know it can work, the hypothesis has been proven. Now we'll start bundling it all together is just product line quotas that we have for the industry that align with our company growth targets. Rise, it's what you say she's saying is, you know, the first really six months that transition, it's all about pipeline generation, and also about introducing the concept your existing customers is the easiest place to sell is, is where you've already sold. Right? Is that? Yeah, so that's one of the things that I did early on. So when we bought OCS, I was one of the people who actually slid over and said, Okay, I'm gonna go into our base, but this product, and let's go figure out who we can sell it to, and how we can sell it. So after we did that mutual client, that that client find I was talking about earlier that it was okay, let's go see how well we can do this and how fast it happens. And the other thing, too, that always helps is managing sales cycles. So you know, if you acquire a company, they generally have some type of sales cycle that they know about. They've got a idea of how long it takes to sell these products. They've got their own product market fit, you know, they've done the research these companies, they're mature enough generally, unless you buy someone really young. So you take the information they have you match it with the information you have kind of come to a happy middle spot. I was gonna ask you, you've been through sort of two acquisitions, you know, Francisco partners and Vista to you know, they've got two very different ways of working. So what sort of pressures were you getting? Or what sort of mandate were you getting from from these guys in terms of right, this is this is the operator's Mirandize in terms of how you operate. These are the processes and policies that you put in place. What What was that sort of process or structure or, or lack of. So, I mean, Francisco pretty much left us alone, as far as it trickled down to me. So at that point, when Francisco boss I was reporting into our VP of sales, he might have a different story to tell you that I do. But nothing really changed in the company with the exception of how we structured our sales team. So prior to the acquisition, we had only net new payment sales, post acquisition, we had a team then that came in and cross sold into the base. So the farmer team And then we had a net new team. And as part of that net new team, they were selling all the services. So we had subject matter experts roll over top of that. Really Did that help them sell into these services? In doing so, it really allowed us to then go after those targets. But from a structural standpoint, nothing at the company changed. Like they didn't come in and say, Hey, we need to do a whole bunch of stuff with Salesforce. They didn't come in and really rock the boat. As far as the systems we were using what we had in place, our sales methodology, like none of that changed. Now, when VISTA came in, everything changed. They're very structured. And they've, I mean, listen, they've done it a bunch, they've done a big ticket dollar amount, it works for more mature companies, which is what we were when they bought us at that time. So they came in, and they really did the full thing like the VISTA consulting value selling came in. They did a big project with all of our systems. Right? So what were we doing with Salesforce? What are their vendors were reusing? They did a lot with structurally like, how are we looking at different leads? How are we handling marketing? How are we structuring sales? So that was a much bigger lift? When VISTA came in then Francisco, who again, pretty much just left us alone? Because Because at the time we were doing well? Yeah, I mean, I could I could talk about our service to companies, I think it's one of those interesting kind of companies where I guess a lot of people don't realize they're joining them and the kind of culture so I guess, now you've been a VISTA company, what would you say your thoughts are around the VISTA experience? And how would you articulate it to people that are potentially considering or about to join, if it's the company, I'll talk to if you're about to join a VISTA company, first. They have a very good system in place, they have a very good process in place, if you need to learn how to do a sales process. If you're young in your career, and you're looking to grow, and you like structure, so this comes back to as an individual, do you like structure? Do you like saying, Hey, this is how it's going to be this is your lane. This is where you're at here X amount of years. So you get you know, your next growth potential in your career, you know, it's very structured, you will have that it's not bad if your infrastructure is very good. And again, it's a great way for people to learn. And it's a great way for people to, to learn something that again, they have proven time and time again, their success. So, you know, that's, that's the run up. Now, from a change standpoint. And for me, as a person individually, I don't like structure. I like things that move very fast. I like things that break and get rebuilt. That's my type of personality. So Vista, for me, the experience when they came in is it was educational. I am thankful that I got that experience, because you get to learn these really effective go to market strategies, right, like splitting up teams, how do you build a sales team? How do you do career pathing? What falls under customer success? You know, how do you do goal alignment. So a lot of that structure, like the company structure is great from a business standpoint. And it was great to learn that from them. For me, way too much red tape, way too many levels of management in there. Not enough, you know, hey, I've got this idea. Okay, go test it out and do it. You know, that's the environment that I thrive in as an individual. And that's why ultimately, you know, for me, when I left zego pay least now's ego, it was not on bad terms. And like that company is doing well, right now I still keep up with them, I still talk to everybody there, you know, wish them nothing. But the best. It just wasn't a good fit for me anymore because of how structured it became. And that was really the genesis for for me to party and what led me back to childcare CRM, which is another, you know, smaller company back kind of to my roots and having fun doing that. Nice. I really want to go deep deeper into that. Because I mean, you said a number of things around strategy planning and process optimization, what kind of what were the real takeaways you got from that experience? So I think he gave me a real good and true appreciation for clean data. Which is something that you always get back and forth on but I think having good data so you can make sound decisions decisions for your business. I gained a whole new appreciation for not only that, but on the front end, how are we managing that? Right? What are we looking at? How are you looking at the business like we did these monthly business reviews that did everything from front end marketing, all the way to back end churn and finance so we comb through every area of our business every single month. And it was great seeing What are we looking at? How are we looking at it? How does that translate into the individuals who are talking to people day to day? And how are they putting that information in? How do we do this so that it's scalable? Right? How can we implement a process that won't break when we put a heavier load on it? What if we go acquire another company? What if we get more sellers to come in place? You know, how do we how do we have that foundation? So that was really great. I think when we came in and did that it was what we called our boss project. So everything from marketing, automation, attribution, I was involved in that, but you know, all those all those keywords and items they got put in. From a sales standpoint, again, we got really structured put in territories, we ended up doing new accounts, new opportunity listings, implementing programs like CP Q, which was how we sent out quotes, it's, I'm saying it very simply, because as I tried to think about it, there's just so many things that we did, and so much that we went through, but all of it was was done so that we could scale the company and really run efficiently. So learn that love that. And those are things that work well, really at a company of any size. Now, whether you're ready to to get as granular at an early age company, as you know, Vista wanted us to when they acquired us, Probably not, but the themes are still the same, you know, build something strong, it's scalable, that you can grow and develop a team around. Brilliant. So that sounds really I mean, you said one example in particular around things like how do you create a process that can can deal with an overload? Can you explain a little bit more around that? Because I think that that's really powerful? Yeah, I mean, I think as your team grows, you sell multiple different products. How do you list that? You know, you have an opportunity for a product and a deal? How are they stored? Where are they located at? So that was one of the big things for us, right? We were selling three different products, we were acquiring another one that was two additional products. So at the end of the day, we had five products we were selling. And it got a little messy at first, you know, we would have you'd have some accounts that had 40 opportunities in it. Like, how do you search that? How do you find that, like, what do you do with all that information once you have it? And how do you make any decision on the health of the account, you don't know where to go, dad is all over the place. So by making a simple tweak, to just, hey, here's how we're going to do this, we're going to put an account, we're gonna put an opportunity, we're going to put properties within that opportunity, it simplifies things, and it cuts it down. So now as you add new products to that, you can scale it, and it's really easy to find, it doesn't get overwhelming. That was one big thing that I felt was really impactful from the time there. And it is a rather simple example. But it did make a big difference. And now, you know, we go, we acquire zego, we know exactly how to put things in, we know how they overlap and how they overlay within our systems, and a lot of effectively really go out and attack the market. The other thing too with that is it gives you clear lines of attack. So I think when we talk about this importance of penetrating into the base, and selling new products that go into the base, well, how do you know? How do you know who's using this at one property versus all their properties? How do you know who's using three products out of five, or five out of five, or one out of five. So being able to have, you know, this very, and it was rigid, it was very rigid, but it was good, we needed it. So have a very rigid look at the business actually helped us to be able to go and be more effective in selling. And then managing those accounts as well. Because just like in sales, where you've got, you know, your sellers, I was talking about the subject matter experts that came in the cross sell team, but we had our customer success advocates that support team over there. And they needed to know all these services as well. So how do they go in there? How do they support the accounts? And how do we make sure that we're breaking up teams so that we can have people have specialization and have expertise into all the different things we sell. And that was another big thing that came out of this is specialization, from a support standpoint was great. Really, like this is this has been awesome. And if our audience do want to reach out to you, where can they find you? What's the best way to contact you? Yeah, so the best way to contact me right now is go to LinkedIn. So you can find me by cook, add me a comment, shoot me a message, I pretty much get back to almost every single one of them. So if you reach out there, I'll make sure to ping in just reference the show.