FLIGHT 2018: Early stage sales and customer success (3/3)

We recently hosted FLIGHT, our annual event for founders of European intelligent enterprise companies at pre series A stage. The quality of speakers and insights shared at the event was such that we wanted to share this knowledge with the wider European enterprise community.

FLIGHT is solely focused on how to scale the commercial side of an enterprise software business. On stage we had practitioners ranging from early stage founders to experienced founders/execs, sharing experiences and key learnings around early stage GTM, marketing and scaling sales.

In this third post (of a series of three) we share the content from the early stage Sales and Customer Success theme:

  1. Making customers successful (Rav Dhaliwal, Head of Customer Success EMEA, Slack)
  2. Scaling direct sales (James Conway, VP International Sales, HashiCorp)
  3. Sales discipline drives results discipline (Conor Halpin, Founder & CEO, Salesgauge)
  4. How to motivate sales people (Jennifer Bers, VP Sales, Onfido)

The previous posts covered the Go-To-Market and Marketing themes.

1. Making customers successful (Rav Dhaliwal, Head of Customer Success EMEA, Slack)

Rav was the 1st international employee at Slack and convinced the founders that a Customer Success function was critical, which he then established. Having done the same at Zendesk and Yammer, Rav is one of the world’s leading practitioners in the field of Customer Success. Some of the insights he shared include:

  • The critical role of Customer Success to growing bookings and revenues as a SaaS business matures
  • The need to define a clear purpose for the CS function — is it an expansion & renewals team, do they need to educate the customer, or do they focus on adoption?
  • The importance of aligning the CS team closely with sales and involving CS sooner rather than later in the sales funnel

Watch the full presentation below! Link to slides

2. Scaling direct sales (James Conway, VP International Sales, HashiCorp)

The morning of FLIGHT 2018, HashiCorp announced a new funding round of $100M to further fuel growth and international expansion, which James has been key contributor to over the past 1.5 years as VP of International Sales. Having opened up 7 new markets and added over 100 international customers, he shares some lessons learned from scaling direct sales, including:

  • Hiring the best: invest in at least one high performance person who has “done it before”, even though they might be expensive, and build a team around her/him
  • Keeping things simple: define the sales process and reverse engineer goals so that each sales person knows how many deals they need to close, at what value(s) and how long the typical sales cycle is
  • Execution of strategy: qualification is everything, as time spent on leads who are not ready to buy is a major challenge — use BANT in the beginning and MEDDIC once you move further down funnel

Link to slides

3. Sales discipline drives results discipline (Conor Halpin, Founder & CEO, Salesgauge)

Having had a successful career both as a senior sales executive, at companies such as Hortonworks and Workday, as well as a Founder and CEO at Salesgauge, Conor shares learnings regarding the importance of being disciplined when it comes to sales processes and how this drives results. Key points he makes include:

  • The lower the volume and higher the value of deals you are selling, the more process you want — analogous to pre-take off checks for an airplane pilot versus a bus driver
  • Identify key pieces of Customer Objective Evidence for each step in the sales funnel — what is the objective evidence that something has happened, e.g. to be “Selected” show email from prospect that you have been selected
  • The most important word in selling is “NO”. Learn how to say no. Professional purchasing people are trained to keep pushing until they hear a hard no, e.g. “can we have a longer trial?” or “can we get foreign language support?”

Link to slides

4. How to motivate sales people (Jennifer Bers, VP Sales, Onfido)

Jennifer has a fantastic career as a sales leader and has spent the last couple years scaling the sales organisation at Onfido. She shares practical advice on how to motivate, or not motivate, sales people and what the key to a successful team is. A few of the key learnings include:

  • Enable sales people to motivate themselves by hiring right, training right, enablement and building a strong culture
  • Constantly invest in your sales team. E.g. offer training, such as MEDDPICC, and regularly review if the training worked / where you maybe messed up.
  • Demotivating people is extremely easy. Things to avoid it include strong ownership at the top when things go wrong, don’t encourage bad sales behaviour, and avoid micromanaging

Link to slides

Panel Discussion: Defining your sales process

Crane partner Krishna Visvanathan moderates a panel with the Sales theme presenters: James, Conor and Jennifer. Some of the questions covered include:

  • As sales leaders, what has been your most difficult challenge? Managing upwards or managing downwards and how did you deal with that challenge?
  • How do you translate company level targets into targets for individual sales team members?
  • How is the sales process different when you sell to developers / technical people, who may not even know how to purchase a product?

This concludes the FLIGHT 2018 posts. Be sure to check out the previous posts where we covered Go-To-Market and Marketing. Did you and your team find the content useful? What was most interesting? If you have any suggestions for FLIGHT 2019, please do not hesitate to reach out and we hope to see you there!