Last week, I attended SaaStr Europa in Paris with fellow Gatekeeper, Andrew Oliver. We’re always looking for ways to improve our product and understand our customers better so the opportunity to network with a range of diverse businesses all with a software product at their centre, was too good to miss.
It was also a great chance to hear from industry veterans on subjects as diverse as revenue growth, sales structure, company culture and performance management.
Both Andy and I attended some headline sessions as well as setting up individual conversations with fellow marketers and sales leaders.
SaaStr operated a “Braindate” system, allowing attendees to post topics to discuss and then to set up individual meetings with relevant people. This is the first time that I’ve seen this used and it worked really well.
Our 15 (approximately) key takeouts from the day were as follows:
This was an incredibly striking venue for a conference:
Aaron Ross Presentation
- Key to growing your sales function effectively is the ability to split out specialist roles into Inbound Qualification, Outbound Qualification, Closers and Post Sale. AR talked us through some of the content from his best-selling books on the topic and honed in on sales specialisation as vital for success.
- Also acknowledging that this wasn’t necessarily possible in smaller organisations, he advised smaller sales teams or individuals to carve out specific time for each activity so as to be able to get their heads fully into each individual skill-set.
- AR also advocates looking critically at your customer base to determine for which customers are you a “nice to have” and which are you a “need to have”. Your focus should then be on how to get more of the “need to have” customers as these should be the group you are best able to market and sell to in the future. This is part of the process of “nailing your niche” (or “nailing your nitch” if you’re American).
- To help further with “nailing your niche”, you should constantly answer the questions “what do you do? and “what does your company do?” as if someone has asked you “how do you help customers?”
- Interview as many customers as possible to help frame your answer to the above and to focus on building the best product for them.
- Don’t wait for inbound leads to plateau (which they inevitably will), begin outbound activity as soon as it’s feasible as it will take 4-12 months to ramp effectively.
- Make more phonecalls.
Andrus outlined some interesting ideas on scaling SaaS Marketing and identifying practical steps to take depending on whether your business category has high awareness (try to maximise find-ability) or low awareness (try to maximise interruptions).
Personally, I found the most interesting part to be the findings on why customers make referrals. From a survey of Pipedrive customers they found that an incentive offered to the referrer was almost inconsequential as a reason for making a referral. Far more important was the chance to help a contact or simply because they really like the product.
Perhaps there’s a pinch of salt to be taken with these results, given that responders are unlikely to want to come across as greedy but it prompts some thought around:
- How to structure referral rewards
- The importance of delighting customers generally
- The key role that Customer Success plays in driving opportunities for future revenue.
Dimitar’s session ‘Sales Rep 2.0’ highlighted the common problem of high attrition rates within sales team and how this can be battled with Agile methodologies through removing unhealthy competition and promoting teamwork within the sales environment.
Analysing the success seen through development and engineering teams utilising Agile, Dimitar conveyed how the model can be applied to sales.
- Burndown charts providing simple, yet meaningful reporting and forecasting mechanisms
- Weekly sprints and stand-ups promoting teamwork and transparency
- Retrospectives providing an opportunity to reflect, supporting continuous improvement
- Self-organising teams promoting a bottom up management structure
Panel on aligning Sales and Marketing functions
- Sales and marketing are two departments where it makes the least sense for them to be misaligned as their goals and targets are so closely related, and success is so mutually dependent. Yet, issues arise time and again in this area.
- I learned a new acronym - BMW, which in this case stands for B*tching, Moaning & Whining and is something that can happen in dysfunctional sales (or marketing) teams.
- It’s vital to set sales quotas that allow enough people in a team to hit them. This ideal percentage is generally perceived to be between 60% and 70% (according to Bill Binch, CRO at Pendo). Much higher than this and the targets are too low and if it’s significantly lower (c. 25%) you end up with people blaming the framework and resenting the company.
- Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyseggen - Sales reps are forbidden from talking to prospects about the product until they have fully understood their business problem.
- Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are common amongst the SaaS audience, with a lot of companies employing them to align their activities closely. Gatekeeper has just started using OKRs across the business and we had the pleasure of meeting Bo Pederson of Gtmhub, which is our chosen platform for monitoring our OKRs.
- When talking about company culture, it’s important to remember that the footpaths of today become the highways of tomorrow and that both good and bad habits can scale and become prevalent in your business if you let them.
We also enjoyed some interesting conversations and product demonstrations from people at the following companies:
- Cumul.io - data visualisation
- Probe.ly - security testing
- Smartlook - session tracking and analytics
- Webmanuals - digitising manual content for the aviation industry
- Academy Ocean - allowing companies to create their own learning academies for the benefit of customers and prospects.
- Re-leased - automating property management
- CustomerSuccessNetwork.org - great to meet Kate and discuss the growing Customer Success community within the UK & Europe.
All in all, it was a fascinating day and one with an unusually generous and participative audience. Amongst SaaS businesses there seems to be a willingness to discuss and help for mutual benefit that I’ve not experienced at other similar events I’ve attended.
Andy and I are definitely looking forward to attending future events and would recommend other employees or founders from SaaS businesses do the same.
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