With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

What founders need to know about sales

Posted on: 10/08/2023

Kyle Vamvouris

Kyle Vamvouris

Founder and CEO - Vouris

Kyle Vamvouris of Vouris - Podcast Summary

Kyle Vamvouris, founder and CEO of Vouris Sales Consultancy, talks about things that founders should know about the sales process, hiring sales people, and developing a sales team. He also gives some valuable tips on ways to improve the way you use leads and jumpstart your sales.

Kyle Vamvouris of Vouris - Podcast Transcript

Singer: So when your troubles are mounting in tax or accounting, you go to Kruze from Founders and Friends. It’s Kruze Consulting Founders and Friends with your host, Scotty Orn.
Healy: Hello and welcome to the Kruze Consulting Podcast, Founders and Friends. I’m your host, Healy Jones. Today I’m joined by Kyle Vamvouris, a well-known sales author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of Vouris Sales Consultancy, which helps startups with their sales process. Before we dig in, first a word from our sponsor. Hey, this is Healy Jones, VP of Financial Strategy here at Kruze Consulting. And I want to say thanks to our podcast sponsor, ARC. At Kruze, we’ve got a number of clients successfully using ARC to manage their deposits, payments, access financing, all in one place. One of the things that ARC provides that’s really great is over a quarter of a million dollars in FDIC coverage. Their insurance program goes beyond the standard limit and it secures up to five and a quarter million dollars. So, startups that have even more cash than that can go and access treasury solutions to provide yield and safety. If you’re a startup looking for a secure financial solution that can help you scale, please check out our sponsor ARC at All right, Kyle, it’s great to connect with you. We’ve worked together a while ago at a startup running sales and marketing there. It was really fun. Excited to chat with you today. How are you doing?
Kyle: I’m doing excellent. It’s good to see you. How have you been?
Healy: Great, keeping busy. It’s interesting marketing in the startup world, but we’ve got a lot of clients that are growing pretty well, so it’s still pretty fun. How about you? What’s going on?
Kyle: Not too much, probably similar story as you. This is always a really busy time of year as you’re starting to get towards Q4 and then you’re planning for next year as well, so in a lot of exciting times, especially in the startup world where people are trying to hit big targets. It’s been a rough economic climate, so definitely been an interesting time and a lot of fun.
Healy: Yeah. I mean, I would love to get your perspective, but before we really dive in, do you want to give us a quick background on who you are and what you do?
Kyle: Sure, totally. I run a company called Vouris. I started it three years ago, and what we do is we work with usually B2B software companies, sometimes B2B service companies, and we help them build out their sales teams. So typically, organizations come to us when they’re hiring their first sales team and they want to make sure they do it right from the beginning or they’ve built a team, it hasn’t been going all that great, and they’re like, “Ah, help,” and then we’ll come and we’ll help, so that’s primarily what we do. We focus a lot around strategy, operations, and then process to make sure that we have all the pieces that we need in order to go to market in a way that is going to be reliable.
Healy: And you’re a published author as well.
Kyle: That’s right, yeah.
Healy: We used to work together and we used your book as part of the training for our sales team. Give yourself a plug on your books as well.
Kyle: Sure, sure. So, I’ve written two books now. I have a third one coming out in a month or two. The first one’s called Cold to Committed. It’s about how to do cold outbound prospecting, so a lot of cold calling and cold email stuff in there and then their Sales Development Framework, which I wrote with my friend David Delaney. That’s around how to run a sales development team. Then this next one is called 16 Steps to Building a Repeatable Sales Process and it’s about the 16 steps to building a repeatable sales process, so aptly named.
Healy: It’s well-named there.
Kyle: Yep.
Healy: At Kruze, we work with startups at all stages, but we start working with them generally pre-seed or seed very often before they’ve launched a product, and so understanding that you like to work with enterprise businesses, enterprise software businesses, we’ll kind of use that as our frame as we talk through this, but let’s say you’re talking to a startup founder, they’re getting ready to kick off their initial sales and they probably have an engineering background or product background, they’re not trained salespeople, right, what are the essential skills that you think every founder who’s in that position should have to help them be ready to do great at sales?
Kyle: So, there’s a couple of things. The first is really understanding the problem that you solve. What I find, especially with more technical founders, they tend to talk a lot about what the product does and not as much about how the product helps the person that it’s supposed to help, so I usually am pushing people to simplify, cut out parts of the product that do cool things but aren’t specifically related to the problem that the person you’re speaking with has, and if you can get really diligent around understanding the problem of the person you’re speaking to and being able to tie the parts of your solution that are relevant to solving that problem, typically it yields a better result than trying to run through every possible thing your solution does, so simplifying is definitely going to be a big part of it.
Healy: I think that’s great advice. I mean, it’s pretty similar to some of the… I help a lot of our clients get ready to pitch venture capitalists and we have sort of similar discussion with some of them around how they go into this 20-minute description of all their product features, and the VC probably needs to hear that, but not in the initial pitch, right?
Kyle: Right.
Healy: In the initial pitch, it’s more sort of who are you selling to and why is your startup going to kick butt at this thing, it’s not, “Let’s just kind of run through this giant checklist of features and talk about each one.”
Kyle: Yeah, it could get pretty overwhelming, especially with technical founders, they love talking about all that stuff, and it’s cool, I get it. We built something and it’s exciting. A lot of times those features are really impressive, but it’s funny how overwhelmed people get. I was working with a company that does, they have some solution around helping folks with their search engine optimization and managing all of their content development and their product is really impressive and there’s a lot of very cool features that the founder’s incredibly proud of and my feedback to them was, “You need to cut this demo into five little segments and just talk about those little segments. Stop talking about all that other extra stuff that isn’t directly related to the problem that they’re trying to solve.” The more technical the founder, typically the harder that is, but if you can get really diligent, you’ll end up being a lot more successful, so probably pretty similar to the fundraising thing, too. Just be very focused on the story you’re trying to tell and you typically do better.
Healy: I feel like that’s great advice. What are some of the common misconceptions founders have about sales?
Kyle: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think one of them is definitely that if I hire a salesperson, that’s all I need, and it’s going to be great
Healy: For sure.
Kyle: Often not the case, right? That first sales hire is very difficult. Building a sales team in general is very challenging. Founders have a little magic to them where they’re able to typically do a lot better selling than just a random AE that they hire or a first AE that they hire. There’s exceptins to every rule, but as a general rule, the founder is usually the best salesperson early on, and it can be difficult transitioning to somebody else because as a founder, you have a lot more context into the problem ‘cause you’ve done such deep, deep research, but also, you control the product. So you could say that, “Oh, yeah, we do a thing that is being built.” You know it’s being built and you’re probably involved in building it, so you get some unfair advantages, and what I find is that early on it’s like, “Oh, if I could just hire a firm to do cold calling for us, or if I could just hire a sales rep, then we will be able to generate the sales that we need.” Rarely that’s really what the bottleneck is. It’s typically something around their approach to go to market, either or they’re just doing stuff that isn’t really working well.
Healy: So let’s dive in there, that’s actually pretty interesting. So, let’s say you’re working with the founder and it seems like the product actually is pretty good and there’s product market fit and they’ve got a few sales for clients that really love it, so clearly they’re doing something right on the product side, right? But the sales have not taken off yet. How are you going to go in there and kind of diagnose or figure out like, “Hey, what’s going wrong here? Why is this particular founder not taken off on the sales side yet?”
Kyle: Yeah, so first you want to isolate what the problem is. Are we not talking to enough people? Or are we talking to enough people, we’re just not closing any deals? I’ll go kind ofreverse order there. If you’re talking to qualified people and you’re not closing any deals, you’re doing something wrong, and it’s probably what we talked about earlier. You’re just showing way too much of the product, right?
Healy: Yeah.
Kyle: You’re not speaking, you’re not showing how this is going to simplify what they’re doing and solve a specific problem that they have. Here’s a great example. Sometimes I’ll talk to folks and they’re like, “Look, right now they’re using spreadsheets to do all of this and I have this crazy solution that’s a lot better,” and I always tell people, “If your competition is spreadsheets, but there’s no problem with the spreadsheet, you’re probably not going to close very many deals.” The spreadsheet has to be an issue. If it’s working well, then you know what I mean? It’s not worth the change.
Healy: Yeah.
Kyle: So I get really clear around that, and if you are struggling to actually close deals, it’s because you are not articulating your value properly. Now, if it’s on the front end, it can be an activity issue. Maybe you’re not doing enough outreach, it can be a kind of messaging issue. Maybe you’re doing enough outreach but it’s not resonating with your buyer.
Healy: That makes a lot of sense. That is awesome. So, kind of flipping it here, you’ve met founders, I’m sure, who are just crushing it at sales, not formal salespeople, but they’re just killing it.
Kyle: Yeah.
Healy: So beyond the really understanding the sort of product, what are those folks doing right?
Kyle: So there’s a couple of categories of those people, I would say. One of them are the people who just hire really, really strong talent and they do an incredible job of motivating and pushing that talent to work incredibly hard. What ends up happening in that situation is they end up hitting a ceiling because their operations are not very good and I can tell you I have three poisons of sales teams I typically talk about. The first one is that the individual reps don’t know what they have to do to be successful, the second is the leadership team doesn’t know how to use the data to enable their team to be successful, and the third, which is sometimes an outcome of the first two, is there’s a culture where poor performance is tolerated. Those are the three poisons and what ends up happening is you have this sales team that you’ve built and you get it to a certain point, and then a lot of those founders, they’ll hire sales trainers, they’ll just hire a lot more people and hope that it scales, but they’ve hit this ceiling. Almost always the lever is operations. So that leads to the second category of founder are the operational founders where they do a great job tracking, measuring data, understanding the data, but they don’t do so great on the people side. Each one of those is going to get to a certain level, but then you’ll be blocked and you need to be aware while you’re going through the journey of building out your sales process which category you fall in so that way you can fix the other side of the equation and I can tell you a lot of the challenges lie in operations.
Healy: Okay. What are some of the most important data points a founder should be tracking as they’re building out their sales team?
Kyle: So I break these down into seven main data points that you want to look at. First of them, the first is the activity, so we’re going to start top of the funnel and down, and that might be outbound cold calls, outbound emails. It might be calling inbound leads that come through. So you have your first, the activity layer. Then from there you have what I call “engagements,” so these are people who answered a cold call. This is somebody who replied to an email, whether it’s inbound or out bound’s irrelevant. You need to know which one it is, but it works for both of them. Deal states two to deal states three, deal states three to close one, and however many deals states you have, you measure along that, and you want to analyze the drop-off between each stage. So, as you did with the top-of-the-funnel metrics, understanding the conversion between activity to engagements, engagements to meetings, then you want to see, are people dropping off after deal stage one? Are a lot of people dropping off after deal stage two? You start to understand that data and then you can get really focused on what bottleneck is preventing good sales velocity and then you make a bunch of improvements there and you see how the metrics adjust.
Healy: Yeah, so I love that. I think one of the biggest issues there is there’s got to be a commitment to collecting the data and using some sort of a tool, right? So, when I first joined Kruze, we did not have a CRM, and I was like, “We need to get a CRM.” We had a Salesforce license, it just wasn’t getting used, and I kept talking about it until the founders were basically telling me over and over we needed a CRM and I waited until they were actually almost yelling at me because I wanted them to be committed to using it, right?
Kyle: Yeah.
Healy: It’s so easy to set up this software and imagine someone else is going to do something with it, but when your founders are involved in sales, they got to be willing to log in and click the buttons and move the person from lead to opportunity and stuff like that, right?
Kyle: Right.
Healy: So you’ve got to have the commitment from the top. How do you help founders understand, “Hey, man. This isn’t just a software thing, you have to take action to go and make sure this thing is working.”
Kyle: Yeah, look. See, yeah, that can be really challenging. A lot of times they’re open to it, they understand they have to treat this as a bunch of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But I’ll tell yu a real story. I had a client, I probably haven’t worked with him for over a year. Near the end of our engagement, he was so focused on the people, the rah-rah, the coaching, all of that stuff, “What’s our training program look like?”, that kind of thing. I was working with their leadership team around that and I told him, I was even in his office in person, and I said, “Hey, listen, the operations is 100% what’s going to hold you back here. You’re changing CRMs all the time. I get you’re trying to find which one works best, but this is chaos, and you’re not tracking things you’re supposed to be tracking. Here’s the issue. You’re going to encounter a challenge and you’re going to try to fix it. It’s not going to work ‘cause you’re not really sure what’s causing the challenge and in order for you to figure out the cause of the challenge, you’re going to need the data, which, by the way, you have not been collecting.” Unlike other challenges, operations challenge requires data, which requires time, so in most cases, we just go and solve the problem. We’re like, “Okay, let’s do this thing here. We should be good.” But when there’s an operations issue, you actually need to collect the data first, then go solve the problem. It’s going to push us back 30, 60 days. So, he didn’t really care about that because he didn’t care about operations at all and I was talking to him recently and he said, “Look, the biggest thing that I learned from you and that I regret not jumping on earlier was how important operations was.” Once you get to a certain size, that’s going to be your biggest model bottleneck, but if you do it right from the beginning, it becomes a lot smoother and it makes that more of a jump and more of a natural progression, and that’s what I try to encourage people to do.
Healy: That’s awesome. So, let’s dial it back a little bit here. What are the signs that it’s time for a startup to hire its first salesperson?
Kyle: Yeah, so it is going to range for everybody. A lot of times it’s bandwidth-related. I often tell people once you’re confident that you have product market fit or at least a basic assumption that you have product market fit, sometimes you don’t know way later, but anyway, once you have an idea that we have product market fit and you are starting to run out of bandwidth, that’s when I typically recommend hiring somebody. But I put a big asterisk on this because, first of all, it depends if you’re venture-backed or if you’re not. If you are venture-backed, then we’re probably just building a team. Let’s go, this is going to be fun. But if you’re not venture-backed and you’re bootstrapped, you need to be very thoughtful about the types of people that you hire, and in those scenarios, what I typically am looking at is, can the founder sell? Do they have the bandwidth to sell? If so, let’s bring on some SDRs to just fill their calendar like crazy, and as they get really a good understanding of what it takes to convert these people, bringing in account executive to take over that function from them. The other side of that coin are the founders that are like, “I have no time to do any of this.” Maybe they’re building the product a lot, maybe they’re working on other stuff, and in that case, I usually go the other way and I try to hire an AE first. Then final thing I’ll kind of put on here is I generally like to hire in twos, two SDRs at a time, two AEs at a time. Not everybody can make that work, but if you can, it’s usually a really good thing to do.
Healy: So why?
Kyle: A couple of reasons. One, you can compare people, which is really nice. Sometimes you hire an SDR that’s just not very good and it’s your first one, and then people will have opinions of like, “Oh, this just isn’t going to work for us.” Side note, outbound always works, it always works, but you need the right people and process and messaging and stuff.
Healy: Right. It’s hard.
Kyle: It’s hard.
Healy: It’s hard, that phone can be very heavy sometimes, you got to get the kinks out. Oh, this is hard.
Kyle: Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely true. Yeah, the other side of this, too, so one is you can compare the two of them. The other part of it is you get competition, which I think is healthy for a sales organization, there’s a team. This is even more important now if you’re hiring remote, that team environment is very critical to sales, that energy. I mean, you probably remember walking on the SDR floor. You try to keep the energy as high as you possibly can. That’s difficult when you’re now remote and just being one person versus two, that’s a huge difference, so I usually recommend hiring in twos to have some kind of comradery and competition.
Healy: Hey, this is the VP of financial strategy at Kruze jumping in to thank our sponsor of this podcast, ARC. At Kruze, we have a number of clients who are successfully using ARC's FinTech tools to store deposits, manage payments, get financing, earn yield, all in one place. But another thing that’s important about ARC is that they have a heightened security and safety feature. Because they partner with globally recognized banks, they’re able to offer an FDIC coverage over $250,000. In fact, they offer up to $5,250,000 in FDIC coverage. And if you have more cash than that, they have treasury solutions that can provide yield and safety for even more money. So, if you’re looking for a comprehensive financial solution, they can help you scale. Check out ARC. Go to ARC.Tech. Thanks again to our sponsor ARC.
Kyle: Yeah, look. Have I seen people be successful with it? Yes. I often wonder what it would be like if they were in person though. I will tell you my opinion and this also just, full disclosure, most of our clients have remote teams, even sales teams, so I’m going to say this, but most people that we work with don’t do this. But having the team in person for sales is really, really powerful. There’s something about the energy of everyone being in a room together, collaborating a little bit, hearing each other on the phone. There’s something about that that’s special that you can’t quite replicate on Zoom or any other tool that I’ve seen. So unfortunately, I tend to lean towards in-person, and I say “unfortunately” because I want everyone to work from home, I get it’s a nice lifestyle, but I do think that having a sales team in person yields greater benefit than remote. That’s probably worth it for the organization, but doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without it, but man, you better be paying attention. It requires a different type of work.
Healy: Hmm, and so is that greater attention to the numbers or sort of different management style or-
Kyle: The numbers, the people. You should be doing daily syncs, which you should do in person too, by the way. It just requires a little more engagement. Maybe on Slack you’re doing countdowns to stuff. Look, when I was running teams, I would do a lot of games where it’s like, all right, the most we’ve ever booked in days 24. I wrote 24 and we’re going to count down to… Or I’d write 25, we’re going to count down to zero. You do a lot of stuff like that, which you can replicate remote. I have a friend of mine who he has a large SDR team. They’re really, really successful. They’re growing like crazy. He has them all in person, and he was interviewing managers and he ended up having an interview, and I forget where it was, but it was outside of the office, very casual, so he kind of felt like he could ask him questions that normally the person wouldn’t answer truthfully in a different environment, and he asked him, “Hey, realistically, how many hours are you working a week right now as an SDR manager?” The guy was like, “30. About 30 hours a week, probably,” which is like, that’s lower than you would expect.
Healy: … Yeah, it’s a little bit low there.
Kyle: The conversation keeps going and he asks them again in a different way and the guy’s like, “Listen, 20 hours at most,” so, that’s pretty shocking. Now, of course, this is one person. I’m not saying this is throughout all, every SDR manager is not working very hard. But if you’re a startup company, of course you need to hire the right people, but there’s something about being in person, that energy, and also that commitment, especially if you’re early in your career as an SDR or data geek. I just think it’s so important to be there in person, be around other people. I think you learn better, you perform better, so I try to encourage people to do that.
Healy: Yeah, makes sense. I think it’s hard. I think the energy when you’re calling, it’s just difficult. In fact, that leads me to another question that a lot of founders I don’t think are prepared for when they start selling is the rejection.
Kyle: Oh, yeah.
Healy: What tips do you give founders deal with that rejection? Little pat on the back, have a sip of coffee, and try to get… How do you help them work through that?
Kyle: Yeah, yeah, part of-
Healy: Because if you’re coming from engineering background or a product background, you’re probably not used to having the door slammed in your face over and over again.
Kyle: Oh, yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough. I mean, I did standup comedy for five years and I’ve bombed plenty of times, so I get that rejection is really difficult and that you build a callous over time. That probably helped me a lot for when I started actually selling. But what I tell founders what they should do is disconnect themselves from the outcome. A lot of times we wrap ourselves up with the product that we’re selling, and when we get a rejection, it feels like we’re being rejected. We did something wrong. That’s why they don’t think the product is good, whatever it might be. If you disconnect from the outcome and you think of each prospect you’re talking to as a puzzle and you’re really trying to figure out, “Okay, what pieces am I looking at here and what do I have to do to put these pieces together in a way to where they see value in my product or service?”, you typically have a lot better results and you take the rejection a lot easier because you start thinking, “Okay, I just didn’t put the puzzle together right, so what could I have done better?” Then you listen to the call and you think, “Okay, well, they said this thing. I probably should have asked more around how they’re doing that today because they made it clearly they think that this is going to be a lot more work than it was supposed to be.” Whatever the reason is, that’s how I sort of frame it is, “Hey, this is an experiment, it’s a puzzle.” Trying to figure it out, disconnect yourself from the outcome, and take a third-party perspective even though it’s what you’re doing.
Healy: That’s great advice. That’s really good advice. So, let’s go back to scaling that startup team. You’re making your first hires. What recommendations do you have for a founder who’s making their first hires? Let’s say they’re following your advice and hiring a couple of people. How do you train them? What do you focus on? Do you focus on training them on sales, on product? Where do you start?
Kyle: So, I always start with the problem that we’re solving. I want them to understand the world of the people that you’re going to be working with or you’re going to be selling to. The better you can understand the world, the better you’re you’re going to be able to sell. Now, all that been said, I want to start off with something that maybe is a bit controversial, which is I strongly encourage people early on in building out their sales teams to hire people with experience selling into the market that you sell into and/or a similar product or selling motion. If you sell to CMOs, hire somebody who’s sold to CMOs. If they haven’t sold the same product you have, make sure you find someone who’s sold in a similar selling motion. So, if it’s SMB, very transactional, that’s the type of person, transactional seller to CMOs. If it’s enterprise, enterprise seller to CMOs. You really want to try to get as close to what you do as possible, and if you can poach from a competitor, that’s even better.
Healy: That’s awesome. I mean, it makes a lot of sense at the super early stage because particularly if you’re venture-backed, you have a particular growth trajectory that your investors expect you to be on. You don’t have time to play games initially, right? When you’re hiring 10 people, you can maybe pick a few outliers and then see if they can do what works for you.
Kyle: Oh, totally. Yeah, I roll the dice all the time and some of my best reps have been people that I just had a good feeling about, so I don’t want to discount that. But early on, I really encourage people, especially for sellers like account executives, find those people with experience. For SDRs, it really depends on your capacity to train and get them up to speed on how to cold call well, that sort of thing. Assuming that you’re comfortable being able to do that, I love hiring right out of college. Typically, have a lot more success with fresh SDRs. If not, and you’re worried about your ability to train somebody, I think you should try to poach from another company. There’s been a lot of layoffs lately, so I would just look for the people who survived the layoffs and try to take those from the company. They’re probably sad ‘cause all their friends got fired. It’d be a little easier to win them over.
Healy: Pretty good advice, I guess.
Kyle: Yeah, that’s a weird one.
Healy: Yeah, no, I like that. It makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. But in terms of training and the sales motion, how do you balance training and a particular process versus letting a salesperson find their own style?
Kyle: So, my general rule is if you’re hitting your number, you can do whatever you want. I expect you to go to training and stuff and contribute to other people on the team, be a good team player. But as far as what I expect from them to do on a daily basis, I don’t care if you hit your cold call minimum or not, right? If you’re hitting your number, keep doing what you’re doing. If anything, I’m trying to reverse-engineer what you’re doing so it works with the rest of the team. But I do try to have a standard workflow that I know is going to yield the result I’m looking to hit. Now, early stage, you’re not going to have a lot of this.
Healy: So, okay, I’m a founder, I’ve got a couple of sales folks. How do I know when it’s time to start scaling? Let’s say I’ve got the money and the capital to go hire some more folks. As a founder, how do I know when it’s time to hire my next?
Kyle: So you actually go back to what we talked about earlier. You figure out what’s our biggest bottleneck here? Is it lead volume? Are we booking enough appointments or are we not closing enough deals? This is one of the areas that’s very difficult. You have to be realistic about the capacity of your account executives. Too many organizations over-hire AEs, and actually we’re learning this a lot right now with the layoffs where one top-performing AE gets double the amount of leads and their performance skyrockets. They’re doing a lot more work, they’re making a lot more money, but they’re able to manage all of that. That’s way better for the business than having two people and then splitting that same amount. So that’s how I think about it. You want to get very realistic about the capacity and how you do that, just to get tactical here for a second, is you look at your sales process, you have them broken up into deal stages typically, or you should. Then you have your different deal stages and what meetings are required in each deal stage. Once you understand that, you know, “Okay, in deal stage three…” Let’s just make up a number and say there’s three meetings that take place with different stakeholders and this is a more complex sale. Fine, that’s a certain amount of time. Now when you look at your pipeline and you see how many deals do we have in deal stage three, which are our most time-committed stage of the entire sales process, that tells you how much caring capacity your AE has, and you sort of map it out that way, but it requires you to be really diligent about the pipeline management, make sure there’s no deals in there where there’s no next steps, things like that. But as long as you’re being honest about how many active deals an AE can manage, and then you understand your numbers around generating the pipeline, so your SDR team, your marketing team, then it’s safe to bring on someone else. But I always start with increasing lead volume and break the AE team that currently exists as opposed to hiring AEs and then focusing on lead volume. That causes a lot of problems, especially if the lead volume doesn’t catch up like you were expecting it to.
Healy: I totally agree. If you can overwhelm your sales team and you can see it happen numerically where as long as you’re convinced the quality of whatever the predecessor step is, like the lead quality or the opportunity quality is the same, if all of a sudden close weight drops, and the other thing is touches, if your AEs used to follow up with quiet opportunity five times and now they’re only doing it once, it’s like, “Wait a minute, they’re still hitting their numbers and they’re only calling that guy one time. I think maybe they could probably call that guy again. They might [inaudible].”
Kyle: Yeah, they’re still hitting their number, you’re like, “Geez, maybe we don’t have enough AEs.” That’s a really good point, actually. Yeah, that’s 100% what you would look at. Here’s the thin, too, that’s not a bad thing. That means hire another AE. We can call the people that we didn’t follow up with well later. I feel like there’s sometimes a notion of, “Oh, we didn’t get them. They’re done now.” It’s like, “No, no, no. Just call them again and see if they’re willing to rebook a meeting and then three months later we’ll take them through the same process again.” Lost opportunities are a great place to find a lot of deals. It’s been a very successful play for me is going and reaching out to lost opportunities and reactivating them, so that’s not always lost.
Healy: I think that that is the thing that you did when we worked together that was amazing, so why don’t you just talk a little bit more about that. What do founders do? What is the opportunity calling lost opportunities?
Kyle: As you’re working a bunch of deals, you’re going to collect what we call “lost opportunities,” deals that didn’t close, and what most organizations do is completely ignore them, and they just like, maybe they’ll come back to them later, but a lot of times they sit in the CRM. In some cases they’re not even getting marketing emails, which is even scarier ‘cause since they had converted, you pulled them out of the marketing list, so these are parts of qualified leads in your target market that are just sitting there. So, what I’ve always done, it’s sort of been a little tool in the tool belt, is done a lost opportunities campaign. You try to do these consistently and if you can build it into your process, it’s even better. But what that looks like is you build a report of all lost deals over the last three, six months, a year if you haven’t done it for a long time, and you call those people. The script that I recommend is the best script that I have and it’s one of the few scripts that I’m the most strict about making sure you do it right. I call it the “quality control script” ‘cause calling them and you’re saying, “Hey, this is Kyle calling from Vouris. I’m doing a bit of quality control here. You’d seen a demo before in the past and you decided not to move forward and I wanted to see, was there something we did that pushed you away, or what happened here?” What that does is it gets the other person to go, “Oh, no, no, no, you didn’t push us away,” ‘cause they don’t want anyone to get in trouble and then they tell you the real reason why they didn’t move forward. It’s key that you say it in that way because if you say, “Was there something we did that pushed you away or was this just a timing issue or was it a pricing issue?”, they’re just going to pick that one because you gave it to them, so you have to say, “Is there something we did to push you away or what happened here?” People will tell you no, they’ll give you the real reason of what held them back. You treat it like any other call, you start to understand what motivated them to actually book the demo in the first place. You have a bit of a conversation and then you rebook the appointment. That has always been a killer play for me. And I’ve done it several times, several times. It always works well.
Healy: People of the internet, I have seen this, it works. It’s a beautiful, beautiful sales play. You should take this and go do it tomorrow. You should.
Kyle: Oh, yeah. Totally.
Healy: Go tomorrow and do this.
Kyle: I knew a person on LinkedIn.
Healy: Yeah, that was great.
Kyle: I said, “If you need your next half of the year to go much better, or you need Q4 to go better, just call all your lost ops from the year. You’re going to find some stuff in there.”
Healy: Do this. Exactly. Amazing. That’s great advice. All right, so okay. We’re growing our sales team quickly, and I think the best founders really do think a lot about quality of customer relationships, the brand that they’re putting out there. So how do startups maintain the quality of their customer relationships as they scale the sales team?
Kyle: So, I think a lot of this, it depends if you have a customer success team or not, which most people I think do at this point. A lot of it’s going to fall on that handoff between sales and customer success and making sure that we’re setting the right expectations on the sales side and that’s something that you need to be very strict about. We do not set incorrect expectations when we hand off the customer success. It’s a huge problem if we do and I make it a big deal and sales reps eventually just stop doing it if you make it a big deal and it might not even be a problem. Maybe they’re doing it right from the beginning, which is great. So, assuming tha that is happening well, from there with customer success, I like a lot of touchpoints. At the bare minimum, you’re meeting once a quarter and you’re doing a QBR, but that quarterly business review with the customer needs to be one part discovery, “What challenges are you having now?” You want to be thinking, “How can our solution help them solve their current challenges?” Maybe it’s an expansion opportunity, maybe it’s something that we already do off the shelf that they’re not using very well, so now you can position the rest of the QBR to actually helping them solve that specific challenge. Then if you do that frequently, it has a really big impact on the trust, and then when it comes time for expansion or renewals, it’s very difficult for you to get beat out by a competitor because you have such a strong relationship with that customer, or at least your customer success person does.
Healy: Do you suggest that the sales team participate in that at all or does it depend by organization? How do you know what to do there?
Kyle: It depends. Usually, no. I like customer success managing the customer relationship completely. In some cases, especially when there’s cross-sells, upsells, and you’ve already built a customer success team and there’s not the core competency of doing that, then I can see salespeople being pulled in. But I usually don’t like that to happen because there’s almost like a sales energy that ends up coming to those calls that I feel like is just not ideal.
Healy: Yeah, and plus, your salespeople aren’t ringing the bell in the other room with new customers [inaudible].
Kyle: Right, right, exactly. Where are they going to focus? You want them really focused on net new, typically. Look, all rules are meant to be broken, but I try to stick to it.
Healy: That’s great. So, where do people find you online? On YouTube? On LinkedIn? [inaudible].
Kyle: Mm-hmm, yeah, so I’m on LinkedIn. If you look at my name, Kyle Vamvouris, you’ll find me, is our website. You’ll see our blog there and we have a lot of free resources. Basically, everything we do is open-source. We give a lot of stuff away.
Healy: Amazing, Kyle. Well, this was a great conversation. I think founders are getting a lot of value out of it. Every time I interact with it, I learn something. I love it, so thank you so much for your time today.
Kyle: I appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for having me.
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