How to Pitch A SaaS Company to Investors

Have you tried to pitch a SaaS company and need to raise early-stage capital, but don’t know the best strategies to do so? Today’s episode features a panel discussion with SaaS influencers sharing their advice on how to pitch a SaaS company to investors.

Panelists include Jonah Midanik, founder of Limelight Platforms and managing director of the Acceleprise Accelerator Program; and Mikael Dia, founder and CEO of The panel discussion is hosted and moderated by Jono Landon, founder and CEO of Hubbli. 

Topics Include:

  • Funnel analytics company that helps marketers turn traffic into profit
  • Limelight Platforms: Offline marketing platform evaluates events, sponsors, and shows
  • Acceleprise: SaaS-only accelerator program provides capital to companies with products in market to avoid problems
  • How to select investors? Build momentum, gain traction, and find investors that fit   
  • What is haute to fundraise? Venture-backed startups don’t always correlate to success
  • Pitch Deck vs. Narrative: Share a story that resonates with investors to get buy-in
  • Mistakes Made: Thrown out of investor offices and not doing stage-appropriate pitching
  • Pre-Seed Pitching: Is the market big? Are you good? Do you know how to get there?
  • United States vs. Canada: Risk tolerance is different and product of your environment 
  • Work/Life Balance: Time, energy, attention, love, and patience is fixed resource
  • Pre-Revenue Advice: Talk and listen to customers without trying to position your product’s solution to a problem
  • Proof of Concept: Positioning generates revenue and system attracts same buyers   
  • Wow Moments: Combination of expertise, traction, and no attribution of offline marketing
  • Leading Indicators: List, learn, practice, and improve to be successful with investors  
  • Early-Stage Price Model: Tweak, test, and play with pricing regularly

Links and Resources:


Jono Landon on LinkedIn

Toronto Software as a Service (SaaS) Meetup Group

Jonah Midanik on LinkedIn

Limelight Platforms

Acceleprise Accelerator Program

Mikael Dia






Price Intelligently by ProfitWell


Episode Transcript

Jono: Hello and welcome to the Kick Saas Podcast. I’m your host, Jono Landon. In this podcast, we share excerpts from live in-person SaaS growth events that I run here in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. A little about me, I’m the founder and CEO of Hubbli, a B2B SaaS company that helps private schools find new families to enroll and engage them throughout the entire enrollment journey. Essentially, it’s like HubSpot but for private schools. 

This episode is a recording from a recent panel discussion that I hosted and moderated at the Hubbli head office here in Toronto on the topic of How to Pitch A SaaS Company to Investors. The panel included two major influencers in the SaaS world here in Toronto. One is Jonah Midanik, founder of Limelight Platform and the managing director of the Acceleprise, accelerator program, here in Toronto. The other is Mikael Dia, founder and CEO of, also happens to be one of my personal favorite marketing tech tools. 

This panel discussion offers many great takeaways for anyone who has founded or is leading a SaaS business and needs to raise early stage capital. We’re going to jump right into this episode and I hope you enjoy the format and content we go through here. I look forward to sharing future episodes with you from these live SaaS growth workshops.

Mikael: My name is Mikael Dia. I am the founder and CEO of Funnelytics and basically, pretty simple, right? I took the word funnel, I took the word analytics, I smashed them together and that became the name of my company. We are a funnel-analytics company, we help you understand what’s working and what’s not working with your marketing funnels—look at your ads, your emails, the flow of your traffic. We show you what’s making you money and what’s not making your money.

We launched 24 months ago. We scaled to just over $3.5 million in those past 24 months, bootstrapped, we’re just closing our first round of funding. That’s in short. I’ve raised some money in the UK and stuff like that so we’ll talk about that as well.

Jonah: Hi, I’m Jonah. Dual role although most of my time actually spent on the evil side of the table. Most recently, I was the founder and CEO of Limelight. Limelight is an offline marketing platform. Basically, taking all the fun tools digital marketers had online and bringing them offline. For big Fortune 5000, so they could evaluate things like their events, their sponsorships, their consumer show. If you’ve ever walked through Scotia Centre and anyone’s ever stopped you with an iPad, I apologize in advance. That was likely us.

SaaS platform, we’ve been around for five-ish years, raised low eight figures of venture both here and in the US. That was my day job and now I’ve pivoted to much more of the investment side, managing director today of Acceleprise. We’re out of New York and San Francisco. We’re both in a SaaS only accelerator, we take companies that have products in the market—maybe a few customers maybe not—and give them some capital and a little bit of lessons around the potholes we all stepped in. When I say we, I mean myself and then a group of operators that have built some really amazing softwares like Salesforce and Gainsight. We’ve got a seed fund as well.

Jono: Okay, awesome. I’m going to ask questions and we’d all love to hear what both of you think on all the questions. 

First question is when you go out raising money, how do you select the investors that you want to go after? What’s your criteria when you’re looking? I know I’m in the process of doing this, trying to find the right investors. Then, what do you do when you’re building that list that you want to go after? How do you approach that?

Jonah: There’s a couple of things. First of all, you would like, ideally, to find someone that is value-add. The joke is when we read all this stuff online as Canadians offerings like, “Capital is everywhere,” and as a Canadian you’re like, “Where’s this everywhere you keep talking about?” It turns out it’s like a six-hour flight. Capital isn’t everywhere. There’s definitely an element to if you’re doing it in Canada, it’s like who’s stage appropriate, who’s actually doing this. In the initial stages, that is still a tough market here in Canada.

Non-traditional forms of capital outside the angel groups which I’ve definitely got a view on is one of the things I looked for—whether that’s family offices, high net worths. I started there with influencers and MySpace, people that knew marketing pretty intimately and would understand the problem. I’d been really successful in that space. Once you get to real traction and you feel comfortable going to venture, if you’ve got a venture appropriate business. I’ve also built and scaled businesses that weren’t venture appropriate, service businesses, and built them to millions and millions of dollars of annual revenue. Those were businesses that weren’t venture appropriate.

Once I understood that Limelight was a venture appropriate business with a very large market, I was finding partners inside firms who I knew would be able to be value-add. Both in being value-add, I knew that was a worthwhile endeavor, but also, I knew that they’d understand the problem and deeply understand the problem and which definitely increased my likelihood. That was how I approached it.

Mikael: Yeah, I approached it slightly differently. First and foremost, I know you know where I’m at. I’m at the seed stage, I’ve got to look for funds and investors that will invest at the seed stage. From there, I went down the spray and pray road, let’s just hit them all up. It’s a funnel at the end of day. How many meetings can I set up? 

But then, what you start to realize is that a lot of them don’t actually fit with your type of business. I got a lot of people who came and are like, “We don’t invest in MarTech,” and I was like okay, fine. You start to find your core niche of the type of investors that will fit. The problem is if you start with trying to narrow that down, first, you don’t really know. It’s like marketing on that front. You can’t really just be like, “I know for a fact that this is my buyer,” when you’re just starting. You have to open up the funnel a little bit and then now, you start getting some traction, you want to build that momentum. That’s what I found from my end.

Jono: Okay, cool. When you’ve had your successful raise, what do you think the investors were looking for? Was it about you or your co-founder that made them say, “This is somebody I’m going to get behind,” and is that something that you think is consistent or is that really dependent just on the different investors?

Jonah: Now that I’m on the other side of the table and I get into the secret meetings now, it is pretty consistent. The first is founder market fit, not just are you solid but why are you the person to solve this problem? As an example myself and Mikael, we both have marketing backgrounds. If I walked into someone and be like, “This is my DevOps platform.” You don’t know anything about DevOps. Founder market fit is definitely a thing. That’s definitely one.

The other is, is this someone I’d work for or is this someone that I could conceivably see a younger version of myself working for? Very much one. On top of the founder market fit and is-this-someone-I-can-work-for, just where’s their curiosity? What is it that they’re interested in and what is the vision? A lot of those things definitely, very much, matter. Whether we like it or not, right now, specifically in the Valley, what is hot to fundraise is people that have worked in venture backed startups. That’s unfortunate because I’m not sure that I’ve seen any data that actually correlates to success, but it definitely correlates to success in fundraising.

Mikael: From my side, not looking at it under the table but it still correlates, it’s a story, at the end of the day. People buy into the story. A quick example, our story with our traction with Funnelytics and what we’ve been able to build is what people are buying into. They want to see that journey, they want to see what that story looks like, but I could just as easily have had a really great story as a founder who has gone and exited companies and had that background. That’s the story I tell. This is the new startup that I have. It may not have very much traction, but because I can share this story that you buy into, you’ll buy into that product, that thing that I’m working on. Just always think about the story that you’re telling these investors, they’ve got to buy into it.

Jonah: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. A lot of people here—when I say here, I mean Canada—really tied into pitch decks. It’s not about your pitch deck, it is about that narrative, that story. What’s the story you have that you’ve got a vision to win some market? What’s that unique market insight? Why are you the person to deliver that vision? Ultimately— I’m talking about the early stage—once you start getting into $5+ million checks and having been in those meetings, those become very different conversations about what is $1 in sales and marketing equal? That story is now a financial picture painting.

But if you’re in the kind of sub-four millionaire stage or sub-two millionaire stage, it’s very much what is your vision that you’re selling? Why is it you that’s selling it? What makes that a credible vision to sell? If you need a pitch deck to do that, you’re already lost. The last big round I closed, I literally walked in. They’re like, “Do you want to put up a deck?” I was like, “Why? I do this like 70 hours a week. I don’t need slides.” The idea is more on the vision, the narrative.

Mikael: Just to touch on that, with decks, it’s funny because with MaRS who’s not necessarily fully close but we’re pitching to them. We found that most decks are like 12 pages. They give you an average, this is what your deck should be. This is the way you should tell your story to the VCs. My deck is about 40 slides and when I present it, they move. Each slide is a story. I go through it and it takes me about 15 minutes, but it’s 40 slides. When you’re in there, you’re like, “Oh, I’m captivated.” They’re like, “We’ve never seen somebody pitch that way but it’s cool.” Don’t be tied to that idea of like, “I’ve got to tell my story this way.” As long as you hit on the main components that you have to, of course. 

Jono: Okay. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made when pitching?

Jonah: I got thrown out of Foundation Capital, that’s the thing that happened. I wish there was one. I’ve had partners of billion dollar funds literally just pull out their phone in the middle of the meeting and just start texting. There was no one else there, it was just me and them. That was cool. In case it wasn’t clear where I was at, everything but call their assistant. Look, I made a ton of mistakes. I didn’t do stage appropriate pitching. If you’re pre-seed, literally, all they care about is is the market big? Are you good? Do you have an idea of how you’re going to get there? They know your product is shit, they know that the six people on your advisory board you’ve spoken to once a month. They’re not stupid, they do this all day. I didn’t know that because I didn’t know that.

The other one is not understanding who you’re pitching to. I literally used to have two decks. I’d have one deck where everything was in USD and it would tell them how he’s going to get to $100 million in revenue in seven years, and then another deck, they would tell the Canadian investors how it is going to break even in four. I’m literally not joking, I just feel like I’d switch. Not understanding who you’re pitching to.

You look at a partner and you go, “What would have you invested in before?” What are the commonalities that I have between their latest, greatest success? VCs were talking to brilliant people all day and we’re pattern matching. I look at 500 companies a year and we invest in 20. I don’t know anything about most of the things that I’m investing in so how do we pattern match? We look at, “Well, these are the things that I normally see that are successful.” We’ve got a founder who is either deeply technical, or highly charismatic, or has deep domain expertise we look at. Just not understanding, reverse engineering it.

Mikael’s point, it’s a funnel. It’s just a funnel. You do your spraying or however you do it to figure out what your funnel is and then learn from that.

The other thing I didn’t do is I didn’t keep an objection handling sheet. I get these objections and I didn’t know to write them all down and then make sure to introduce those objections early. All of your businesses have structural flaws, mine do too, of course they do. Every business has a structural flaw. Congratulations, you’re Tim Cook. Why are you here? But if you don’t acknowledge that ahead of time, then it just becomes problematic. I literally run a program on mistakes I make, it takes 16 weeks but those are some highlights.

Mikael: Yeah. To just touch on that and iterate on that, 100% going, I don’t mean to keep talking about this whole story but it is about understanding your story and then who is the audience. If you’re at pre-seed, don’t go and pitch them, the CAC, LTV. Don’t try to pitch something to a Series A investor to a seed investor. You have to understand your audience and what they want to hear. You’ve got to pitch it that way.

Going back to the objection handling. As I was going through the rounds of pitching, I kept adding into my appendix of my already 40-page deck of potential objections. I had slides now that covered things that people came back to me and say how do you expect to get to $100 million? Okay, cool. Now, I have a slide that it’s in the Appendix. I won’t necessarily cover it in my story, but if they asked that question, boom, I got that slide. This is how we’re going to do it. Now, it becomes just handling objections and then they’re like, “Alright. I guess I got to write you a check.”

Jono: Cool. You touched on the difference between Canadian investors and US investors. I know that, I’ve experienced that as well when talking to an angel network and my decks that I’m looking for $600,000 and they told me I should be asking for $300,000. I never understood what they base that on. Then, I took the same back to the Valley because I heard they’re more aggressive over there and I got laughed at because I should have asked for $2 million. Why is it like this? How would you describe the difference?

Jonah: It’s like this because people are products of their environments, right? We’re all products of our environments. As I explained to my parents, nature and nurture, it’s still your fault. We’re all products of our environments. Silicon Valley is a part of their environment and their environment says that two dudes in a garage can change the world. In Canada, our environment says that mining, finance, and real estate is how you get rich. While mining is like, is there gold there? Are there trees there? Can I spit on the building? Where are your branches? That’s how Canada makes its money.

Silicon Valley made its money betting on moonshots. “Yeah, we’re going to invent computing.” Okay, what’s that? It’s like an abacus but with more silicon. What? We’re products of our environments and that accounts for the difference. If you look at the financial crash of 2008 and you look at how we were impacted as economies, the US made more on all these structured products than we did during the roaring, whatever we’re calling that decade. We made a lot less but they experienced a near depression and we just didn’t because we weren’t there for the party.

If you look at the returns of venture funds and the way they behave here, the venture funds here lose less and make less because the risk capital here is less. It’s because the environment that they grew up in, we are in, is less risky. There’s less risk capital. The risk capital here is more risk adverse. That is the primary difference to remember. 

In the US, venture funds. If you go bankrupt, cool, 8 of 10. They literally don’t care. I mean, they care but it’s part of their model. Even at seed stage or Series A stage here for sure, they start to downside protect. You will see no downside protection amongst venture firms at those early stages.

Speaking as someone from a US fund who’s got both Canadian, US money at his company, it’s a massive difference. The reason why I got thrown out of Foundation Capitals by Jonathan Ehrlich who is a founding member of C100 and a great guy, and he was right, because I was showing him some small ball nonsense. He’s like, “We have a billion dollars under management. If you can’t return $500 million to the fund, why are you here?” I was showing him like, “Oh, this isn’t guaranteed.” I was right.

We’ve had a lot of Fortune 500 on platform. We’re growing, it was going to be fine with no churn. That’s the primary difference you need to understand is that the risk tolerance is dramatically different and it’s dramatically different because of the environments people grew up in. Also, if you take out Shopify, Michael Hyatt had the largest tech exit in Canada pre 2016, $459 million. That wouldn’t be in the top 100 US tech exits. The highs are more high and the lows are more low in the US and that’s how it’s built.

If you don’t understand where people are coming from and align yourself with your investors around the timeline, what they are looking for, et cetera—a lot of you at an early stage are like, “Why can’t I raise money in Canada?”—the Canadian risk capital’s orders of magnitude less risky which is why they invest later at lower terms and actually think it hurts our innovation economy but that’s a whole other talk. 

Mikael: I’ve never raised money in the US so that was extremely insightful. I have raised money in the UK and their risk tolerance is even lower than Canada. That is interesting especially when it comes to tech and when it comes to startups, we’ve raised about 650,000 pounds for a previous business. We also did crowdfunding which was interesting if we want to go into that lifecycle of trying to raise money from people and the masses.

From what I’ve seen in terms of Canada, I think you’re right. It’s just that risk tolerance at the end of the day. But that being said, you also have to be careful of valuations. Valuations can also kill you and having too high of a valuation and somebody putting in a lot of money, it sounds great. But if you don’t match that valuation in the next few years or when you run out of money, you’re screwed. You’ve got to go a down round and things start getting iffy. You’ve got to keep that in mind too I would say.

I used to live in London and I had a startup in the UK so I raised money over there.

Jono: I’m changing gears a little bit. Mikael, do you have any kids?

Mikael: I do, one three-and-a-half year old.

Jono: Jonah, you’ve got two. I’ve got two. 

Mikael: One plus one is really three in this case.

Jono: Yeah. Talk about how you balance life with the startup experience, the ups and downs, the, and then you go home.

Jonah: The honest truth is you can’t effectively. By that, I mean something’s got to give like you’re a fixed resource. Your time, energy, attention, love, patience is a fixed resource. The question is then where do you spend it? My kids are non-negotiable. I’m home for dinner as these guys will tell you most nights, and these guys will also tell you it’s going to be unlikely that anyone’s going to outwork me so what gives? The answer is pretty much everything else.

I run a company and I like to think I’m a really good present parent because that is true, but I don’t do a whole hell of a lot else when I’m in startup mode because it’s really, really, really, really difficult to do that. I think that we can talk about work-life balance and all that good stuff but the bottom line is being a founder is as hard a job as I know what it is. By the way, VC is much easier, much easier. When these assholes tell you otherwise, they’re lying. It’s much easier, it’s orders of magnitude easier. 

A founder is about as hard a job as you can ever have because as a SaaS founder, you need to be good at sales, marketing, customer success, finance, product dev, fundraising, investor relations. There’s six, it’s an impossible task. You have no money and you’re going to take over the world. It’s an impossible task. 

In doing that,you just got to decide where my red lines are. My red lines are between 5:30 and 7:30, I’m at home and I’m not answering anything. On the weekends, between Saturday at 9:00 AM and Sunday at 7:00 PM, I’m not available. But that does mean I’ve made a lot of associated sacrifices. I guess if we call that balance, that’s fine, but it’s really difficult to pretend that it’s anything other than that.

Mikael: Yeah. Work-life balance is pure bullshit. I don’t agree, I don’t think I agree with Jonah. At the end of the day, there’s only one thing that exists, it’s life. You choose how you live your life. There’s no ‘this part of my life is work and this part of my life is home,’ it’s not. You’ve got 24 hours in a day and you choose how you spread out your day. Jonah says that at 7:30, he’s at home, he’s with his kids, and he goes to bed. At 5:30, he decides to go and do work. Basically, that leaves everything else out. You have to decide: what are your priorities and how do you want to live your life.

I’m at home every single day as well. By latest, I’ll leave the office at 6:30. I try to put Isabel to bed. I try to get her to bed at 7:30 but she keeps going to bed at 8:30. Anyway, we put her to bed. I spend time with my wife, we have dinner. I’ll try to chill out a little bit before watching a Raptors game, I’m a massive NBA nerd so I’ll watch the Raptors game. Usually, check some emails or do some stuff on the side, go to bed, and then, I work. I try to get up and go to the gym, but like, it’s just your life. You just choose how you want to live your life and realize that if you’re going to start a business, you’ve got to focus on it. That’s what it comes down to.

Jonah: The other thing and you hear this a lot and I used to think it was a cliche until I was in that spot. It does teach you the power of no. I just say no to most things and everything like and respectfully again today. It’s like, be here at 6:30 but I’m not speaking until 7. I will be here at 6:55 and it will be fine because I don’t have 25 minutes to just be here on time. You just learn the power of no because you start to understand that actually where you’re paying for that yes is you’re paying for the yes—for the gym time or for whatever time you have for yourself. 

One of the things I talked to my team about a lot is you wake up every morning and you have an impossible task with more things than any one person could possibly achieve. Actually, what your job is in the morning before you start your day is decide what to say no to.

Mikael: Realized too that the road has been painted before you write. That’s why you join Acceleprise, because there’s mentors who can guide you and they’ve got arrows in their back so pay for that. I’ve spent more than way more on my entrepreneurial education than I ever have with my university education. I have two master’s degrees which is kind of ridiculous. I’ve spent way more money on mentors because it is an impossible task. We have to put on all of these hats and try to manage all of these things. “I don’t know about you guys but I didn’t know all of these things so I’m going to pay somebody who’s done this.”

Jonah: Still don’t.

Mikael: Exactly, still don’t. It’s like every time you think you’ve solved something is like, “No, I’m sorry. It’s a new challenge.” It just keeps going so if you don’t know much about marketing, hire a mentor or hire somebody smarter than you who can also take that on but think about that. It’s like the path has been paved before so find somebody who can help you weed through the bushes in a sense.

Jono: Okay. Obviously, there’s been a lot of advice that you guys have given. Jonah, I know you spend a lot of time giving a lot of advice. Just to be specific about early stage companies here in Toronto, SaaS, what’s the thing that you’d say the most commonly?

Jonah: Very early stage is very much to make sure you’re out there talking to customers with an open mind, and an open heart, and not trying to prove your thesis. I think that a lot of time, effort, and everything else is spent trying to push a rock uphill. As founders, you are right about the problem you’re solving for sure. There’s no way you spend like 10 years in an industry and solve this problem and live it every day and are wrong about the problem. You’re likely not wrong about the thesis, about your solution, but it’s quite possible. In fact, it’s statistically probable that you’re wrong about the first iteration of your solution and the second iteration of your solution.

I see companies go lay but that’s clearly a problem and everyone agrees. That’s clearly a very smart person who’s a good founder. I guess my advice is have the courage to be wrong, have the courage to be wrong publicly, and have the courage to steer those conversations to a place where you get to be wrong. I actually drove the most value in my life from saying I don’t know. You literally heard me interrupt Mikael by saying I still don’t.

Despite the fact that I give advice for a living now, I think that advice is powerful for the simple reason that I know that I don’t know.  I think that that is my advice at an early stage. Get out there. Don’t try and prove yourself right, try and prove yourself wrong. Listen to your customers, listen to your prospects. You’re definitely right about problem solving, there’s no way you put it all on the line to solve the big problem. You just didn’t. There’s no way your thesis is like way wrong, it’s just not. It’s very likely that what you built is wrong.

Mikael: Show of hands who here is like pre-revenue, who here is like sub-500, 1000, sub-a million. Everyone else is over a million or not has a start up? My advice if you’re pre revenue, you have to talk to your customers. You have to roll up your sleeves and make your first major sales, because you do not know how to position your product. You have the solution in your head, you think it’s the greatest thing in the world. You’ve thought about it but doesn’t mean that somebody else understands it. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to do the work and go and make those sales.

You have to prove the concept to yourself but at the same time do it with an open mind as Jonah said because how you think the product is supposed to be pitched or supposed to be put out there is most likely incorrect. You have to have that open mind as to what is the feedback, but you’ve got to figure out how to generate those sales, and you’ve got to do that yourself.

Once you get to about the 2000 I would say mark, it means that you’ve got some sort of proof of concept. I know how to position this thing to generate revenue, or to get somebody to pull out their credit card and give me money for it. Now, I’ve got to find a system to attract that same buyer. That’s how I think about it. I’ve got to figure out what it is that I’m going to do in order to bring that same buyer to me in an automated way, whether it’s a marketing funnel or it’s your sales cycle. Usually, it’s always a funnel but whether it’s offline, online, irrelevant. But now you’ve got to find a way to attract that buyer. Once you get past the million, now it becomes different types of problems.

Jono: Of course it’s always a funnel.

Jonah: It’s always a funnel. Everything is a funnel

Mikael: AKA Funnelytics. At the end of the day, once you get to around that million dollar mark, that’s when operations start to really be the issue. It happens earlier than that, but that’s how I like to think about it. My advice is if you’re pre-revenue or sub-200, roll up your sleeves, do the work, focus on sales. Focus on figuring out that fit. If you’re at that next level, figure out how am I going to get that customer to come to me? How can I create a system to make that happen? Then, figure out like, how do I structure my team? Who do I need? Who would I need to replace myself with? Et cetera. That’s my advice. 

Jono: I’ve exhausted all my questions so thanks, guys. What I’ll do is we’ll pass the mic around. Margie, you up for that? You guys can start asking your questions.

Margie: Okay, guys. The rule for a Q&A is that you raise your hand if you have a question and then you only ask one question to allow everyone, as many people as possible, to ask because we only have about 15, 20 minutes for the Q&A. Who wants to ask the question first? It’s being recorded so be careful with the question you ask.

Man: Hey guys. Thank you, that was very good. Question for both of you. Slower growth with bootstrapping or faster growth raising money? You’re doing a healthy ARR, why are you thinking of raising money at this stage? You’ve been on both sides of the table. 

Jonah: Yes. It really depends on a couple of things. First and foremost, and I can’t stress this enough, there is no one path. You don’t need to get on what I call the alphabet ladder, it’s not better. Most of those companies that use Crunchbase announcements actually return the founder nothing. I was on the exact team of a company to raise $70 million the founders got. They were literally in a magazine shoot for Forbes for Top 3 under 30 on like a wet tarmac next to a private jet, they got not $1 from that startup. We’re the first major esports platform. I literally built the betting layer into Madden and NHL, they got nothing. 

A, what do you want? Most of the wealthy people I know did not get venture capital. Most of the wealthy people that I know run good businesses with 25 people that they like and they make a healthy profit and then they go home. Then, the question becomes once you figure out what you want, what will your actual business sustain? I always say manage the business you have, not the business you want. Lots of people try and turn something that’s good into something else. You see that actually a lot in second generations when they inherit a parent business like, “What we need to do is franchise this.” Actually, what you needed to do was continue to run the successful thing that’s been there for 30 years.

If you manage the business you have, not the business you want, that means, again, having the courage to be wrong. Most businesses are not 100-million error businesses by definition. Most businesses are not going to be publicly traded and as much as it’s like, if you get five, you can get a hundred, that’s actually not true. It’s of course nonsense. You have to be very honest about what the market’s telling you. If you can’t generate a ton of demand, that’s the market telling you something. It doesn’t mean you can’t be very successful.

I would say that the easiest time I ever had was running a $5 million a year business where I had no investors and I could do whatever I want. I used to take off February, like the whole month. I was just like, “February is terrible, I’m going somewhere else.” I knew for Limelight, if I wanted to take over and win a market, which I did, that the comparative advantage I generated wasn’t going to last very long and it was going to be a land grab. The only way to finance that J-Curve plus Product Development was going to be venture capital. So, be very honest with yourself.

Also, what are you capable of? The reason why I’m no longer the CEO of Limelight is I talked to my board which I still control and I said, “If we were hiring for CEO today, would we hire me?” They’re like, “Well…” I’m like, “No, you wouldn’t. Of course you wouldn’t. If I applied for this job, you would not hire me. I’m the best person to get us here that’s why we’re here but of course, you wouldn’t hire me.”

There’s nothing in my resume that says I should be a scale CEO. “You could learn to do it.” I’m like, “Yeah, I could learn to do a lot.” Again, honesty, courage, vulnerability. I think that that is how you get to the place that’s good for you and I don’t think anyone but you can tell you what that is.

Mikael: Yeah. I can’t really top that. That was a pretty, pretty very good answer. What he said.

Margie: All right. Who else wants to ask a question?

Man: That was an awesome talk. Thank you. We talk at Acceleprise a lot about wow moments when you’re pitching to customers and over time, understand how to achieve that and how to leverage that. I can only imagine that from a high level it’s a very similar concept when you’re pitching to investors but how did you find success in getting them to start knocking their head, smiling, and achieving that wow moment pitching to investors?

Mikael: For me, it wasn’t really that hard to kind of give them the wow moment when I spent the first 24 months focusing on what I said with those three steps and we had 100,000 users in 24 months and $3.5 million dollars in revenue. That kind of was the wow moment. It’s like, “Okay, let me listen to what this guy’s got to say.” 

You’ve got to create that wow moment. You can’t just be like, “I have this idea,” because everybody has an idea. Everybody can come here and share an idea, your idea is not a wow moment, unless you’re speaking. An example, when we raised money in London, in the UK, we were running a language-based business. It was an app, basically, Uber for language teachers and language learners so you could find language teachers on this app. Our first angel investor had just sold an English school in a foreign country. For him, it was like, “Yes, this is wow because this is perfectly in line with what I just did. Therefore, this is a solution. I can see it.” That was a wow moment. You have to create it, you have to figure out like what wow moment am I going to create and a lot of times, it’s traction.

Jonah: The wow moments are created. When you hear of pre-revenue stealth raised, what that means is the person that raised that money, their wow moment was they had insane experience in the space and it’s universally understood to be really monetized all problem. Does everyone know Zapier? Zapier for IoT, connects different integration for IoT because there’s a million IoT systems. They don’t talk, it’s a cluster f***, Zapier. It’s like Zapier for IoT, everyone knows IoT. Everyone knows their fridge doesn’t talk to their toaster whether or not your fridge needs to be connected to the Internet is a different story but everyone knows it. You need milk. Yes, I know. I opened it.

He was the head of IoT at Cisco. Someone is going to win this Zapier for the IoT market. The second they said, “Yeah. This isn’t brilliant but he’s the head of IoT at Cisco.” The wow moment was you’re the head of IoT at Cisco. His wow moment, “Wow, you bootstrapped to $3.5 million selling primarily online with not terrible churn.” Your wow can be a combination of your expertise plus traction.

For Limelight, my wow moment was and I put it up front, big problem. No one can attribute their offline marketing. It’s 10% of global marketing budgets, solution, Limelight as trusted by and then I put up 31 Fortune 500 logos.

You’re like, “Literally, I’m sitting in Sequoia,” and they’re like, “How the fuck did you get 31 Fortune 500s?” I was like wow. They didn’t invest. You needed 35. They didn’t like us at all.

Jonah: So, the wow moment has to be an authentic thing. At the end of the day, there is some capital out there that’s not brilliant but the bottom line is raising is very, very, very hard. Wow, it needs to be something relatively authentic.

Margie: All right.

Man: Hello, guys. Thank you very much, Mikael and Jonah. It’s been extremely motivating and I’m speaking for myself but I can see the audience as well so thanks very much for sharing your stories. I think that one of the things that I saw in common, both of you were mentioning, is to know your audience when you’re pitching or when you’re trying to find those investors. We’re not talking like huge investors that are everywhere, the information. But how do you know exactly without making those mistakes or creating that big funnel? How do you know exactly my idea or my industry is XYZ? I know that these investors are going to be the right ones to do and not to waste time. For example, sources like Crunchbase. How do you network and how do you find that information from investors that you’ve seen, you know that this is more likely for this investor to actually have my attention?

Mikael: You don’t. I don’t.

Jonah: You don’t.

Mikael: You just have conversations and you try to have conversations and you get better as well. You only learn as you do, you only learn as you grow and you move forward. That’s the answer.

Jonah: I’ve actually got a little bit of a hack because Mikael’s right. How could you know? You even haven’t done it before. There’s some hacks. Example, Acceleprise is known for InsureTech. Do you know why we’re known for InsureTech? Because we had a massive acquisition for one of InsureTech companies like a monster returning the fund. We actually don’t know that much about InsureTech. It just turns out that one of our companies that got acquired happen to be an insurance company and now everyone’s like, “These guys are the InsureTech wizards.” People are like, “Tell me what’s InsureTech,” I’m like, “It’s like technology but for insurance.” I literaly know not a fucking thing about InsureTech.

The bottom line is you don’t. Here’s a quick hack for what you should do. Make a list of investors, the one you definitely don’t care about. Talk to them first because you’re going to fuck it up.

That’s just like waste as we like, “That was a waste.” You’re literally telling a company like, “This guy is totally not for you, pitch him hard.” Learn, just waste your bet. What I see all the time is like, “I got a meeting for Sequoia.” I’m like, “No, no, no. No, that’s your 11th meeting. That’s not your first meeting because you’re gonna get 10x better.” My hack is you don’t. 

Now, are there some hacks and are there some leading indicators to let you know where you might be more successful? Sure.

If, as an example, like Limelight is a MarTech platform, for Funnelytics, everything’s a funnel, is MarTech platform, I picked companies that had great success, venture funds, and a great success with MarTech. I went to Mayfield and I met with the first ever board member of Marketo. I met with the HubSpot investors and I said, “We are going to be the HubSpot of offline marketing.” They’re like, “Get out of my office.” You do all those things. There are some hacks. Look for partners that are invested in things that would let you believe that they’ve got some knowledge or in the problem you’re solving. Look for people that specifically talk about vertical focus and then pick some generalists that you genuinely don’t care about and make sure you get meetings.

To answer the second part of your question around networking. Obviously, I mean the first answer is, in general, VCs are infinitely more likely to take a meeting if they’ve got a warm intro. That is 100% of the time true. I meet a lot of people at events, I’m Canadian so I kind of talk to everybody. It will absolutely take those meetings and conversations and all of those things. If someone that I trust says, “This is a good founder,” I am very much likely to take it from a 15-minute call to 30 minutes sit down, and everyone’s better sitting down.

Mikael: That’s how we met, by the way, the first time. There was a warm intro. It always works much better. 

Jonah: That’s LinkedIn and plum networks. A VCs attitude, basically, is—just so you understand, this is stated it’s very explicit. If you can’t get to me from a warm intro, how the fuck do you build a company? Not wrong.

Margie: Oh, very good advice there. All right. Who else has a question?

Man: Thanks, gentlemen, for the talk today. Here’s a big question I have. I’m in a bit of a different situation, I’m a pretty experienced entrepreneur, and I put millions into my company. The space I’m looking at is total trust markets, a billion dollars to large companies in the US in that space. Do Canadians have the vision to do this kind of thing to invest? Because what I’ve seen is their vision is small to invest in startups who I feel like if you look at prodigy math, we’re both in the X space. […] family to grow the business but they never got any institutional investors.

Jonah: That’s what I said, there’s orders of magnitude less risk capital. It’s not about vision. I’ve got […] on my board, he’s a very visionary guy, but there are orders of magnitude less risk capitals. It’s not that they don’t see the vision, it’s that they want to see a lot less risk before they’re able to commit meaningful dollars. My advice to anyone in that type of situation is you ask cell division. I can say, at Limelight, I get inbound investor interest on a very regular basis from a US fund. I introduced a US investor to a Canadian company that wrote like a pretty significant check, $34 million. Toronto is on the map, so unfortunately US.

Margie: Alright, anyone else?

Man: You stretched almost every point. My question to you is in the early stage, have you decided your pricing model? Just didn’t discuss the sizes on a board like the pricing model. Did you change when you raised? How does it work and how did you decide?

Jonah: I’m the worst at this.

Man: You are struggling right now?

Mikael: Yeah. Pricing is tough, I’ll be honest. Pricing is something that you’ve got to tweak, test, and play with every, I would say, six months. I play with my pricing about every six months. There’s no right answer, again, here. There is no right pricing model. Is it going up? Are you making more money today than you were from your customers yesterday? Is your ARPU going up? That’s how I look at it. That’s a tough question. There is no real answer to pricing models. There is a guide that you should probably read from Price Intelligently about pricing models. A lot of it is serving your customers, understanding their tolerance, like who is your customer.

For example, we have agencies as our customers. Freelancers is a type of agency or not really and then they grow to bigger large scale agencies. As you understand your core market, now you have to understand what their price tolerance is. You’ve got to look at comparables to some degree but never price based on your competitors. You’ve got a price based on value. Pricing is an interesting game.

Jonah: Profit well is another great resource for that. I have nothing to add because I’m demonstrably bad at this.

Mikael: It’s tough. Pricing is tough.

Jono: Yeah. With pricing you have to think about also like, it can be strategic too. In general, I always tried to just keep on asking for more and doubling it. If you’ll notice, I think over 80% of SaaS companies don’t have pricing on their website specifically because they want to talk to somebody and negotiate it and figure out what their price is, what it can be. When you’ve done it—let’s say your product requires a sales call and even if it doesn’t, it’s a good idea to do this so that you can learn a lot—is to have that call, do the demo, sell them and then ask them what they think when they say, how much is this, and that means they’re ready to buy.

I remember at one point, I was selling probably for $39 a month and they asked me, “How much is it?” I said, “How much do you think it is? They said, “At least like $89 a month or something.” I was like, “Yeah.”

Mikael: You’re right on.

Jonah: How did you do that? I saw Hubbli for about like $500 a month. You keep on doubling it and testing your market. Just to give you another thing, I’ve done many different things where I’ve had many different pricing options. One thing I’ll just say on a sales note is that I wanted to, because we’re still bootstrapped and I want to grow really quickly, find the perfect, the sweet spot, that I knew I could close the deal. It was enough money that I had a really healthy business.

Basically, RACV is $5000 a year and I figured out how to close that transaction on one call. $5000 cash transacted in the call. I got it to the point where I was getting subscriptions for like $1500 a month but it was more demos and I wanted to just bang out sales and show growth. I can still tell investors, “I can get this HCV up to $20,000, $30,000,” and I’ve proven it but I wanted to grow really quickly so I just nailed it down to one price that I could close on one call.

Mikael: One thing before you jump. One thing to also understand with pricing is you have to understand the audience, the customer. I’ll give you a quick story. I also ran a marketing agency before I started my SaaS and I had a friend. She worked for a company doing about $100 million a year doing all sorts of billboards and that kind of stuff. Their customers were Fortune 100, Fortune 500 type of companies. Because she was my friend and I was running my agency, she’s like, “Mikael, we need a new website and I know you guys build websites so put in a bid.” I was like, “Okay, fine.”

I put in a bid and I put in $3500 and she comes back to me, she’s like, “Mikael, I need you to add another zero to this because I don’t care how much it costs you but if I present this to my boss, he’ll think that we’re buying a cheap website and our audience is like Fortune 100 companies. We need to feel like our website was $35,000, so I don’t care how much it costs you. If it’s going to cost you less, that’s great. You make them profit but you need to put another zero.” I did, she gave me the deal and I was like, “Okay. I now understand something about pricing. ” Understand your audience.

Jonah: Yeah. The other thing is as a Canadian startup, I’m pretty comfortable saying this, you’re likely underpriced probably dramatically because you’re afraid of losing the deal and you’re Canadian.

I challenge everyone on their next sales call, double the price. Don’t qualify it, don’t say anything after, and just pause until they talk. 50% shots, you still get the deal. If not, if they say something, just go back to your old price, it’s free. Literally, try it. Actionable, tactical, do this. Acceleprise folks, do this.

Jono: I think what we’ll do is wrap it up. That’s been great. We’ll turn the music back on. I think there might be some refreshments left maybe. I just want to thank everybody for coming out on a very cold, cold night and make sure that you join our community at Toronto SaaS. You can hashtag us, Toronto SaaS and join. We have a Slack group as well, join our meetup. Join us everywhere. If you have any questions at any point just feel free to reach out to me anytime so thanks. Thank you guys, that was great.

Raising Capital for SaaS Startups

Are you struggling to raise capital to sustain your Software as a Service (SaaS) startup? If you want to raise money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money. Today’s episode features a panel discussion with founders from two early-stage SaaS companies in Toronto. 

Panelists are Roy Pereira, founder of and mentor at Techstars, and Wes Moon, co-founder and COO of Wisely. The panel discussion is hosted by Jono Landon, founder and CEO of Hubbli. 

Topics Include:

  • Elevator Pitch: Future plans and ideas from SaaS startup founders 
  • Wisely: Started with a prediction engine to help charities raise more money
  • Targets mid-market companies with AI-powered meeting scheduling assistant 
  • What makes a safe (enough) bet for investors? Take money from friends or angel investors, but not family members—for now
  • Team vs. Traction: Attributes depend on phase and problem to be solved by right people
  • What KPIs and metrics drive SaaS companies? Stage sets story to make metrics
  • Practice makes Perfect: When trying to raise capital, seek advice on what matters
  • Lead Gen Ratio: It’s a numbers game; don’t give up on finding investors to raise capital
  • Pre-Seed, Seed, and Series Fundraising: Who to ask and how much money to request
  • How much time does it take to raise money? Go all in with complete focus and understanding because you don’t choose your venture partner, they choose you
  • U.S. vs. Canadian Investors: Know your audience’s perspectives on deal flow and funds
  • Accelerator and Roadshow Programs: Worth giving up equity to grow and gain validation
  • How to start fundraising? Warm vs. cold call, network referral/intro vs. unscheduled visit          

Links and Resources:


Jono Landon on LinkedIn

Wes Moon on LinkedIn


Roy Pereira on LinkedIn





“We help charities raise more money, and we do that by predicting from their past donor database.” Wes Moon

“Never take money from family. It’s awkward at Thanksgiving, when you lose it. Take money from your friends or from angel investors.” Wes Moon

“Sometimes, a lot of times, most times at the beginning, you don’t have those (numbers).” Roy Pereira

“Raising money is not scientific. It’s a mental game.” Roy Pereira

“Relationship is key because they are trusting you with their money.” Roy Pereira

Episode Transcript

Jono: Hello and welcome to the Kick SaaS Podcast. I’m your host, Jono Landon. In this podcast, we share excerpts from live in-person SaaS growth events that I run in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. A little about me. I’m the founder and CEO of Hubbli, a B2B SaaS company that helps private schools find new families to enroll and engage them throughout the entire enrollment journey. Basically, it’s a CRM for private schools.

In this episode, it’s a recording from a recent panel discussion that I hosted and moderated at the Hubbli head office here in Toronto on the topic of raising capital for a SaaS company. The panel included founders from two of Toronto’s up and coming early-stage SaaS companies. One is Wes Moon, co-founder and COO of Wisely. The other is Roy Pereira, serial entrepreneur, mentor at Techstars, and founder of

This panel discussion offers many great takeaways from anyone who has founded or is leading a SaaS business and needs to raise early-stage capital. We’re going to jump right into this episode. I hope you enjoy the format and content we go through here, and I look forward to sharing future episodes with you from these live SaaS growth workshops.

Thank you, everybody, for coming. It’s an honor to have you all here. It’s a pleasure to be able to host you guys. We’re in the offices just upstairs. Most people don’t know that there are offices in this building, but there are and I get to use this facility. I said, “You know what? We should start doing some events here and start building a community.”

It’s funny because one day I went on to I was looking for events to find salespeople to go do some recruiting. It asked me if I wanted to start the Toronto SaaS meetup. I said, “Okay,” I just clicked a button. All of a sudden I have 30 members. I was like, “Okay. Cool. I’m doing this.” I was like, “You know what? I got a boardroom. I could do this.”

That’s how it started about six months ago, and then Margie joined me. This is all her, by the way. She does everything, so thank you, Margie. Everybody, give her a round.

I’ll just give you a little bit about myself. I’m the founder of Hubbli, we’re a B2B SaaS product. Basically, it’s a CRM for small private schools. I’ve been working in the B2B space, Internet business solutions for about 20 years, and I’ve been in all areas of management. Hubbli is the first company I’ve ever founded. I’ve done so many things for other companies. I’ve raised money for other companies.

Hubbli is basically bootstrapped until now, and I’m just personally really focused on raising money for Hubbli. We’re at a place now where it makes a lot of sense, and I’m currently in the middle of getting term sheets and figuring out strategies. I’m really excited to talk about this subject, but I’m much more excited to learn from the panelists here today.

What I want to do (actually) is to hear from you folks, especially people that raised their hand when they said they’ve got a startup, I’d love to hear about them. What we want to do is pass the mic around and let everybody do their elevator pitch for what they’re doing or what they’re thinking of doing. Who’s willing? Who’s ready to go? Introduce yourself first and then do your thing.

Rich: Hi, everybody. My name is Rich. I’m the co-founder of a company called Jupiter, was formerly sales hire number two at PageTree, which I appeared early on this year, and then also was a sales recruiter there. Prior to that, I had a few startup experiences as well. The company that I’m founding is all focused on training female SaaS sales reps. There’s a huge gap in the market. Wes was just telling me that there were 12,000 open roles in Toronto for sales alone.

Based on my own experience—not just any one company—but it’s always been predominantly a male-driven team. There’s research that actually says that women are actually better at sales than men on average. That’s my company. If you want to chat about how to discover your sales team let me know. I’ll be right here.

Jono: That’s awesome. Thank you. Who’s next? Who’s going to pitch? Come on. Guys, if you want to be entrepreneurs, you’ve got to be ready to pitch.

JC: My name is JC. My company is called Juicy AI. My goal is to let small retailers and e-commerce owners use algorithms and data platforms that are used on Amazon and Shopify.

Jono: Thank you. Who’s next? Come on. There were way more hands. Here we go.

Shant: Hi, my name is Shant. We have a company called Trusted Space which helps you to connect you to your community, and share, and exchange skills. Thank you, Jono, for hosting this session. Looking forward to learning from all of you.

Jono: Awesome. Come on. Who’s next? Who’s next? Who’s going to come? Who’s a founder here? Put up your hand. Who’s a founder? Here we go.

Russ: Hey everybody. My name is Russ Ward. I run a company called Massively. We are a chatbot platform, and we are rolling out a couple of different SaaS tools which is why I’m here.

Jono: All right. Thank you. Anybody else? Last call. Here we go. My man.

Sandeep: Hi guys. My name is Sandeep. I’m a co-founder of a fintech company called Remitr. We are a B2B platform. We’re not literally SaaS, but we’re a SaaS in a sense. We sell to businesses, and our product helps business owners send payments to their suppliers and employees worldwide within just one day. We connect with banks in Canada and banks worldwide to make sure that happens predictably and at a low cost.

Jono: He’s getting good at it. That was great. Thanks, guys. Thanks for taking part. Wes and Roy, come on up here. I’ll let you guys introduce yourselves. Please tell us, obviously, your names. (We know your names, though). Tell us about your company and that will kick us off nicely.

Wes: I’ll go off first. My name’s Wes. My picture is up there, and I still look like that (shockingly); it’s an Internet photo. My company is Wisely, I’m one of the founders. We started our company with a prediction engine. We help charities raise more money. We do that by predicting from their past donor database—next gift amount, next gift date for every previous donor—then, giving the fundraisers, so if we look at […], a sales tool that would allow them to go out and use those predictions, engage with donors, and secure more donation revenue.

We’re doing something good in the world. We are a for-profit company, in case. I had that question twice already tonight. We’re at OneEleven. We went through an accelerator program at DMZ. I noticed Remitr, I think they’re in there right now. There are some other DMZ alumni here. Successfully raised a seed round and an angel round, so happy to answer your questions.

Roy: I’m Roy Pereira. I’m the founder and CEO of We are a Toronto-based startup, started about four years ago at OneEleven as well. We’ve raised a little bit more than $5 million in seed. We target mid-market SMB companies with a meeting scheduling assistant that is AI-powered.

Jono: My first question for you guys is when investors were deciding to hand over all this money to you—either as the founder or a co-founder—what were the attributes of the team that made them decide that this was a safe-enough bet?

Roy: I think you have to look at each phase. The very first money in the door—friends and family; never take money from family. It’s awkward—Thanksgiving—when you lose it. So, take money from your friends or from angel investors, but the very first time is really all about you and your team. “Hey, that’s a great idea,” but you know what, you’re going to pivot five times. It’s not really about that. It’s not really about the business model. You’re going to change that. It’s about how big of a problem you’re going to solve, and do you have the right people that can actually solve that? That’s the very first time.

Afterward, it’s different. It’s traction, especially in Canada. It’s going to ask you for traction. Do you have a large client? Do you have a large number of clients? Do you have an opportunity to get more clients? Maybe it’s not about clients, maybe it’s about users signing up, whatever. Whatever KPI that you have, do you have traction? Are you growing? They’re going to want to see that at the beginning. The team is definitely important, and it’s going to be important until you get your Series A. It’s all about hiring.

Jono: That’ll change in a later stage in later rounds?

Roy: Yeah. Think about a continuum of team versus traction. That’s really all it is. Those two accesses. When you start off it’s 100% team. You are selling the opportunity for future success because you are who you are, and you can do it. You have to prove to them that it’s you. Your founder and the other people that you have around you may not be with you in five years, but it’s about you guys.

As you go to a Series A and are preparing to do Series A, you’re doing $100,000–$200,000 MRR a month, it’s about traction. It’s about how fast you’re growing. You don’t need the $200,000 maybe if you’re growing 50% a month—crazy numbers kind of thing—but it’s about traction. It’s less about people because those people can be replaced at some point.

Jono: That’s good to know. Wes, what do you think?

Wes: I’d say the exact same thing. Perhaps I’ll tell a story about it. We, as a company, needed some money to quit our jobs. The first place that we went to is the biggest player in the space. We went to some of their former executives that we happened to know because we also worked at that tech company, and asked them for what we call our angel round. We raised $150,000, so we flew down to Charleston. To a person, they all said, “This sounds very interesting. I trust you with my money.” That was our angel round. We did coincidentally took a little bit of money from family, uncle-type thing who understands the space.

Roy: But you don’t like.

Wes: I think they still like us. That’s the silver lining there.

Roy: For now.

Wes: For now. Exactly. We did quite honestly say to the family members—this is actually a true story—we were having a drink and we said, “This is your Vegas money, right?” They agreed that this was just Vegas money, and they understood actually the risk of investing in a tech startup that had absolutely nothing except for two guys. That was at the angel round. We leveraged that money to build a product and get some traction for our seed round. I would say, even at our seed round, we were probably early to it. It was predominantly team and competency.

With every investor that we met with, they wanted to make sure that we understood the fundamentals of running a SaaS business. If they asked a dozen questions like, “What’s your CAC? What’s your strategy around marketing?” et cetera. With a solid business plan and having some metrics and some tractions, that was really the key there. I would still say at seed, for us, it was largely having a very competent team.

Jono: That’s great. I think raising money for different kinds of business investors are going to be looking for different metrics. I’m not sure where everyone’s experience is, but it’s important to really understand what the KPIs that SaaS investors are looking for, and I think we should talk about that.

It’s a good idea to just go through what are the standard SaaS metrics that are really important to have in (let’s say) a five-minute pitch or your deck that’s going to get SaaS investors interested. You have to know, as you said, do you understand what drives SaaS growth? Let’s talk about that a little bit; let’s break that down. Roy, could you give some content into that?

Roy: I love this. It’s almost like a catch-22. You’re starting a company, you may have some customers, but a dataset of three does not guarantee you accuracy at all. You go to a VC or an investor and they’re like, “What’s your LTV:CAC ratio?” and you’re like, “Three divided by zero. Is that a number?” “No, it’s not. It’s an invalid number.”

Sometimes, a lot of times, most times, at the beginning you don’t have those. CAC is the cost of acquisition for our users. If you’re buying ads and it takes you $1000 to get one, there’s your ratio. LTV is the lifetime value of that customer. If it’s costing you $1000 to get one customer, and that customer churns after a month, and it’s a $25 per month product, man you are losing a lot of money. That’s a bad ratio, but you don’t know that at the beginning. You’re just spitballing it. You’re just experimenting.

This is when, as an entrepreneur, you have to just take out your lady balls or your man balls—depending on what you have—and say, “I don’t know. I’m going to find out. You want to join me on my journey?” It’s too early. You don’t have those numbers. You’re not an established company. You don’t have a million users coming in. Maybe you won’t ever. If you’re targeting enterprise, you’re not going to have those numbers. Your dataset is going to be so small that you cannot find those numbers. Even when you’re going and you’re generating $1 million a year you just won’t.

Jono: Is it about knowing how to build a forecast based on the right kind of assumptions that should be good industry benchmarks, and then having a good story as to how you’re going to specifically hit them?

Roy: A lot of investors are not professional enough. What they read is, “I need to know your CAC,” so they’ll ask you, “What’s your CAC?” They won’t really understand how you’re going to generate that. Again, it leads you, a lot of times, to not being able to calculate it and to offer them an answer that they’re happy with.

Either you walk away because you know that they’re not great investors, and you’re going to have problems with them in the future (you will), or you turn around and go, “You know what? My KPI that I really care about is X. Here’s my user journey. I can show you the funnel. That’s what I really care about because right now, I’m not generating any significant revenue, but here we’re proving out the model. We’re taking out the friction from the user journey, and then eventually we’ll get to significant numbers that I could show you what the CAC is.” That’s going to be seed two.

Jono: As long as you’re using AI and machine learning to make the world a better place, what does it matter? Just give us some money.

Roy: That’s […]. Don’t trust any company saying that.

Wes: I have actually heard, I think we were in at the BDC—

Jono: Are you a .ai company?

Wes: Oh, yeah. We have it. My CTO won’t let us put data there.

Roy: Are you defending that choice now?

Wes: I will say, at the BDC, they told us that they were pitched that day by an ice cream company using AI. There is some stigma attached to it.

Jono: To make a world a better place.

Roy: To make more delicious ice cream.

Wes: Well, I’m all in favor of it, or flavor I suppose. I’m sorry.

Jono: What do you think about these metrics? I just killed a whole panel right there. All right guys. Bye-bye.

Wes: Some of the metrics that you ask for, especially for the stage of your company, are generally unreasonable for you to know with any degree of accuracy. We always use that opportunity to tell a story. TAM is something that no matter the stage of your TAM (total addressable market), if you’re raising funds you have to understand your TAM because that will either allow you to raise or not raise money, quite frankly. Depending on the investor and how big they think, if the TAM isn’t billions and billions, they’ll tell you to go away.

We serve the not-for-profit market to address the TAM question proactively, which we learned over the first couple of meetings; it was really important for us to do. We actually revealed the industry slowly. We talked about the scope of the industry being larger than energy services in North America. We then talked about the number of employees and the amount of money spent in that sector.

As we revealed finally it was not-for-profit, we had actually proactively addressed that TAM question with some backing and belief. That was essential for us. We learned that we had to do that by taking some early meetings and trying to describe the not-for-profit sector as being particularly large in an industry that has not yet gone through a digital transformation. Making sure that that opportunity or that TAM for us was we made a story about it to make the metric important.

Jono: Basically, what you’re saying, Wes, is that you did not have the metrics, the traction. You obfuscated the answer and you talked about TAM. You made sure that they understood that there is a big enough market, there’s an opportunity, there’s no one there, and you’re the only one kind of thing, right?

Wes: That’s exactly right.

Jono: That is a really good strategy that’s used by everyone. Raising money is not scientific. It’s all about…

Roy: It’s psychology.

Jono: It’s a mental game. It’s a psychology. You are being a good politician in a lot of ways. You’re a good salesperson, and you’re trying to get to their greed, which is a lot of investors, but also small investors. What they really care about is that you have a great story, that they can tell your story to their buddies at the dinner table because that’s all they care about. You give them back money and they’re like, “Oh. I didn’t even expect this.” They’re like, “But I had some great dinners. I talked about your cool.” You got to understand what they’re interested in and tell that story.

Wes: I believe in practice makes perfect. New to sales, in a way, or tech sales. I have now only been in tech sales perhaps for four years. Before that, I was a charitable fundraiser. In charitable fundraising, you tell stories all the time. You solve problems, so in a way, you’re in sales. We took a series of meetings, just seeking advice from people who we didn’t think would invest in us (and they didn’t), but as a way to learn how people would perceive us, what they cared about so that when we did start to raise, we actually knew what we’re doing.

The first time you go talk to a venture capitalist, it can be a little nerve-wracking. I had no idea actually what they cared about, which is why we set up those informational meetings to figure out, “Hey, how do we do this successfully? Can you talk to a guy like Roy who’s done this before and learn from his mistakes?” Absolutely. Most founders will be quite generous with their time.

Roy: I’ve done a lot of those.

Wes: Yeah, me too.

Jono: That’s a good point. You never ever want to pitch your number one potential investor first.

Wes: That’s wasting a bullet.

Roy: Yeah. You have a couple of bullets. You just go and you pitch people that you don’t really care just to practice.

Jono: On that note of advice, somebody recently told me (I thought this was pretty wise), he said, “If you want to raise money ask for advice. If you want advice ask for money.” I took that. I was just at SaaS North, and I took that strategy. For the most part, it worked well, but then the one person that I actually thought I had the best chance of walking away with a term sheet, I went in with the position of asking for advice. He basically told me everything that I should have said that I would have said had I just did give him my pitch. I realized that was a mistake. It was pretty hard to really know when the right time is to take the right approach.

Roy: The point is there’s a lot of luck. I don’t really believe in luck, but there’s a lot of things going on that you don’t have control over. You walk into a room and there’s someone sitting over there. You don’t know if they had a […] morning or if they’ve been looking at your industry, if they just got rejected by one of your competitors. You don’t know so many things. You go in and you’re trying like a good AI in your brain and you’re like, “I pitch 10 VCs. What’s the commonality? How am I going to make my pitch better?” That’s good, but you don’t also know what’s going on in them.

A lot of times, I found that when I walk in I get success. Maybe my pitch was better than it was the first time, but it’s also, what did the other side have gone through? They were looking at this space. They were looking at all the other players in this space. That you don’t know. It’s an unknown variable. So basically, keep trying.

Jono: Yeah, just keep trying. A lot of times people think, “Oh, this guy had this overnight success,” but really it’s about continually putting yourself in preparing, and preparing, and preparing, and preparing, just putting the time in, and then being in the right place. Without that constant preparation, testing and everything, you’ll never have that moment of opportunity and be ready for it.

Roy: I have spreadsheets and I have CRMs that I use to track fundraising; each of my raises. The spreadsheets are really clear on how maybe bad I am because they typically have about 100 rows. I’ve talked to 100 different firms to get that 1 lead. That’s the ratio. I thought that that would not be the case. I’ve gone through a couple of exits, I’ve worked in the Valley, I’ve done all sorts of […], and I’m still doing 100 rows per first investment. That’s what you have to do.

It is a numbers game in a lot of ways you don’t know. You don’t pitch one VC and you’re like, “You guys are perfect. You love this industry. You know me,” whatever and it’s not. They’re busy doing something else. You don’t know what’s going on on the other side. It’s a numbers game and just keep going. That’s why we’re all entrepreneurs because other people out there aren’t going to put up with the crap that we have to put up with and the long hours.

Jono: Wes, what do you think about that?

Wes: That 100:1 makes sense. Ours was 60, something like that. We talked to 60 different groups.

Jono: He’s better than you.

Roy: It’s not a competition.

Jono: Yes it is.

Wes: What we did find interesting is—again, in the beginning, the first group of investors we talked to—we knew we were too small for them. We did that on purpose, but over time, we actually figured out the right kind of investor to talk to. Even if you look at their website, see what companies that they’ve invested in at what stage, you can greatly reduce the amount of time and effort going into securing these VC meetings with people that will never actually invest with you at this stage.

I personally feel that it is the goal of every venture capitalist firm to understand what’s out there and then say, “Keep in touch. Send us your newsletter so when the time is right we will reach out to you,” which can be a long process of effort and time on your part. Just be more targeted with your time and make sure that the people that you’re attempting to talk to make investments like you with the right kind of check size. If you ask for the wrong check size you get kicked out of the room.

Jono: What’s the first question that you asked? Do you have an active fund? There are so many filters that you need to go through because you’re right. That 100 could be 10, right?

Wes: Exactly. We actually also found success in going to early and late-stage funds. We found if a fund is early, they really wanted the meeting, they would move quickly. If the fund was at the end, they would give you a fast no.

Roy: At the beginning though—we’re talking about VCs—VCs typically come in after you get some traction. Can I ask a question?

Wes: Please, yeah. Go ahead.

Roy: How did you find your first angels coming in? Was it just your friends and family? Were those the angels? Because that’s a very different thing. You don’t really have a checklist.

Wes: Every angel, with the exception of one, was found through networking. We just talked to people, told our story, and we talked to people who understood the industry and understood technology. Also, we talk to people who like to play golf because they’re somewhat wealthy. That was (quite frankly) our strategy. To find our first money, we had a nice story, we built an MVP, so we had something to show people. I think that was key.

Jono: Recently, somebody gave some advice just when you’re doing that networking, trying to find high net worth individuals that might be able to do $25,000 checks type of thing and it’s no sweat for them to focus on business people, entrepreneurs, developers types as opposed to professionals that just have a lot of money.

I don’t know if this resonates with your experience, but the idea behind it was folks that are in financing, doctors or whatever, they have a lot of money that they can spend, but they seem to be very analytical and very risk-averse as opposed to an entrepreneur that a lot looser with the checkbook and it’s not so much about metrics or business plans. It’s just like, “Do I like this guy? Do I believe in him?” They can see themselves in you a little bit.

Roy: Yeah. If they ask you when you’re going to go enter in a profit or something because they’re giving you $25,000 or they’re asking you for dividends or something like that. They’re not an angel investor that you want.

Wes: We stayed away from anyone that was concerned like that. Half the people are former professionals with sales. Salespeople basically gamble for a living for their paychecks. No? Are there salespeople here?

Roy: Aren’t we all salespeople?

Wes: I think in this room, yes.

Jono: There’s obviously a big difference between angels. There are three stages, angel seed Series A. Let’s talk about those differences because the approach, like we just talked about with getting angels, is going to your personal network, reaching out, trying to get some meetings, but when you move into seed, it’s getting more serious and institutional. What’s the approach there? What do you do day in and day out when you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to build that list of 100 folks to reach out to”? How do you do that? What tools are you using? What’s your day like? How does it break up?

Roy: I think relationship. I think you mentioned it, Wes. Relationship is key because they are trusting you with their money. When you get beyond the angels, the friends, and family, you’re getting into more institutional money. They are VCs, but they’re smaller funds. They have a $25 million fund; that’s small.

I think it’s really super important to understand how much money they do have, what size because it determines how much you should ask from them because there’s a math issue there. You have to build up the relationship before you’re ready to take their money. Whatever you tell them, you should understand that they’re going to tell everybody else in the city, especially in Toronto. It’s a small, small investor community here. They all have dinners every month, they all laugh about us, and mention what we tell them and so forth.

Wes: They’re expecting to hear from you?

Roy: Yeah, they are. They all know what’s going on, I think. So, if you’re going to say, “Hey, I’m going to double my revenue or I’m going to double my […] or whatever,” you better damn make it. That’s how you build rapport. Make sure that whatever you’re telling them is appropriate, you’re going to make it. And then just keep doing it. By the time that you’re ready, you hit that certain number, you can back and go, “Hey, I’ve done all the things I told you I was going to do. I’m going to execute.” Execution is really key, there’s a lot of talkers, there’s a lot of wantrepreneurs out there.

Jono: Not in this room.

Roy: Not in here, of course. That’s how you get rapport with them. If you build up that relationship, when it comes time, they’ll be there because an investor is your partner, should be your partner. If you have an investor that’s not a partner, it’s a bad investor. You need someone that will back you, that trust you, that enjoys being with you and vice versa.

Wes: With our lead investor, they said, “Come back when you have the next two months of successful sales that you said you’re going to do.” We came back, they invested. They wanted to see that first. And then it was done almost immediately.

Jono: That’s smart. Before that, you didn’t have sales?

Wes: No. We were early going for a seed and they wanted to see a little more traction. They said, “You have projections, can you hit them?” That literally happened. We went back and secured our investors. Doing what you say you’re going to do is pretty important.

Jono: So, don’t go in there making big statements and big promises that aren’t actually within your grasp, certainly within the next quarter or something.

Wes: Yeah, especially in the short term. You still have to sell a long-term vision where all the stars have to align for you to achieve the billion-dollar unicorn type thing. But you do have to have something realistic over the coming months because that’s how long the relationship is going to evolve. You don’t end up with a million, $2 million, $5 million check overnight, there’s paperwork, due diligence. Meanwhile, you’re still running your company and you’re executing. That’s at the seed stage for us, anyway.

Jono: Hubbli’s been bootstrapped until now, but I’ve flirted with fundraising at different stages, and I dug into it. When I did it in the past, I was still operationally managing every area in the business, it was incredibly hard to even think about the time it takes to do fundraising.

I’d like to hear from you guys how you’ve balanced being a business leader or an entrepreneur with people that you’re responsible to lead with also going out and doing raises. What are those phases like? I’ll let you guys answer.

We’re doing a little bit of a round right now. All of my time is taken. When you do a larger round, all of your time is completely taken, you don’t see your employees, you’re not part of the company. Hopefully, you have good employees, good team members, good senior people that can run the company because you are not running it at all. If you are, you’re not going to raise basically, because you really need every neuron in your brain to focus and to understand what the other person on the inside is thinking about. That’s your job, right?

Wes: I’d say, for early-stage companies, you really don’t choose your venture partner, they choose you. You have to really consider that about going all in. If you’re only doing this part-time or you’re not really committed to the raise, you’re going to lose to someone who is. It’s a race.

Roy: I would say in the United States, my perception is that that is a little bit different if you’re in the Valley. There’s more competition within the VC community to actually place money and they’re willing to take larger bets because that’s available to them.

Jono: Let’s talk about that a little bit because that’s a topic we were chatting about a little bit earlier. I know from my experience, when I was flirting with raising money and not putting in the full time I really took, I remember meeting with some angel groups here in Southern Ontario and saying, “I’m looking for $600,000 because I was trying to be reasonable.” And they said, “You only need $300,000.” I was like, “What’s that based on?” I take the same deck and I go to the Valley and they’re like, “$600,000, what are you, an idiot? You need $2 million. Get out of here.” It’s so different. How do you guys approach that? They really throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared for that.

Wes: I did it wrong. I went down to the San Jose disaster. Lined up a bunch of meetings, even with angels. I continued to talk to one of the angels based in New York whose minimum checks as an angel is a million dollars. We were only looking for $1.5 million and that just wasn’t worth the effort of due diligence for the firms there. It’s a vastly different perspective, they place more bets, but also they’re hoping for the thousand X on one of those bets. Each one of the bets that they make wants to bet that every single one they probably do some sort of assessment that says, “Could they be worth potentially over a billion?” It’s just like a yes or no.

I would say in Canada, we’re a little more conservative. Even a couple of a hundred million dollar company is pretty good up here and bets are placed on that.

Roy: There are so many differences. As you pointed out when you go here and you tell a VC, “I’m going to do X,” X has to be reasonable. When you say the exact same thing to a US VC, they’re laughing at you. It’s like, “I’ve seen 10 companies just today that say they’re going to do a hundred X. What you?” That’s one of the things that differentiate Canadians from Americans in a lot of ways. We’re much more pragmatic, down to earth. Americans like, “[…] yeah! We’re going to rule the world!” That’s what they’re accustomed to. When you’re pitching them, you have to think that way, there’s no way that they’re going to invest in a Canadian company with us speaking Canadian.

Jono: Sorry about that.

Roy: They think it’s funny. When I was raising with Shiny Ads, which is the last startup, I had two decks. I had a Canadian deck and I had a US deck. The only difference was the amount that I was raising. It was a lot more to your point. They think that it costs a lot more because that costs a lot more in New York or Silicon Valley, the cost of employees and the cost of living is huge compared to here.

The other difference, too, is that when you’re pitching a Canadian VC in their head, they’re thinking about all the ways that you can fail. They’re trying to strike them down until they get to zero. To an American VC, they are thinking about all the ways that you can get to be a unicorn, like that 1000X. It’s a very different style. One is risk-averse and you’re trying to like, “No, Google’s not going to come and do the same thing. Can they?” Of course they can, but they’re not. Whereas the other one is, “I’m going to be the next […] Google.” And you got to prove it. It’s such a different style.

Wes: I’d also say that follows through in how you’ve managed. I’ve talked to US-backed firms and they’re pushed to get to a thousand or fail really quickly. In Canada, our partners help us live, I would say.

Roy: Shred zombies, that’s what I have to say.

Wes: Exactly.

Roy: That’s a really good point, actually. They will definitely terminate you, liquidate their portfolio that’s not going to be 1000X very quickly. You have to be really careful. Any time you take money from an investor, there are risks. Any time you take money from a VC, there are more risks. “What do they want from you” kind of thing. You have to think about that. Money is not free.

Wes: Does anyone have free money in this room?

Roy: I think the other thing that I was going to say as well was the size of the fund to your point, American VC funds are typically larger than Canadians. If you have a $25 million fund here like you have Ripple Ventures (which is one of your investors, has about that in your fund; typically, like a small-cap fund), the math for them to make a return on that is different than a fund that has a $125 million. When you look at the funds in the States, they normally have a lot more than Canadian funds do. If they have $125 million, are they just going to give the same check size that (say) Ripple would, but multiply that out by 100? No.

Wes: It’s a lot of work.

Roy: They’re going to give a lot more money. They’re going to give 10X the money and still have the same number of investments. When you go in there and you ask for $600,000 and they’re like, “I don’t even know how to write that. I’m writing $6 million checks, that’s my minimum check size. Because the math doesn’t work for me because I have a billion-dollar fund. I need to return 10X on a billion dollars. If I’m giving you $500,000 and you make it big, I’m getting 10X and that’s $5 million. That’s nothing compared to my $5 billion.”

Jono: And they have plenty to choose from otherwise. 

Roy: I think that’s the other issue, too. I may be controversial here, but I think that Toronto has a lot more deal flow than most of the places in the world. This is why you see VCs from the Valley, from New York, from Boston coming here. Boston especially. They don’t have enough deal flow anymore. You’re seeing VCs from both New York and the Valley being […] in Toronto, you’re seeing VCs from Minneapolis coming up here because—

Jono: They also get a great conversion, it’s good for them.

Roy: They do. We could talk about that. I think it’s really the caliber of opportunities here and the amount of great deals that they can have. Even in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of companies who go there, but there’s also a lot of noise and there’s a lot of competition.

Jono: What do you guys think about these programs like TechStars or Seller Price that want to bring you to the US and do a roadshow? They’re going to give you a little bit of money, but they’re going to take some points off your business. Of course, that means different things at different stages of growth. Have you guys ever considered those? Have you done any of those? What are your thoughts? Is it worth giving up the equity?

Wes: I can imagine a number of scenarios where it’s worth giving up the equity to make a larger piece of pie or a larger pie. We went to the DMZ (it’s an accelerator program). The accelerator program was amazing for our business. We all learned a lot. Certainly, many things came into deeper focus for us, but I would say the most important piece of it is that it validates to potential investors that you’re a real company that’s been vetted by someone else. From that perspective, giving up a piece of equity, depending on the size, is totally worth it.

Roy: Even for Zoom, when I started three months in, I got a phone call from […] and I got a phone call from Betaworks in New York. I actually took Betaworks. I didn’t feel like I needed their advice, but what I needed from them was network. I didn’t know anybody in New York, it’s a great place to know people, a lot of money there. Also, they are the first money in. Their terms are fantastic because there’s a US VC. In fact, I couldn’t get any Canadian investor to come in on those terms.

Jono: How much did they give you? If I can ask, if that’s okay.

Roy: They gave me $200,000 US for 8% of the company and also that included going through their accelerator, which is fantastic. That allowed me to hire my first staff and get into the market, basically. I know Seller Price just launched in Toronto, very interesting backers, Box, and Cisco out of the Valley. Their terms aren’t as great.

Jono: They’re not as good, yeah?

Roy: No. I’m a mentor at Techstars here in Toronto. The Proptech Techstars as well, Founder Institute. They’re all good for different stages. Techstars has a great name. You go through Techstars and if you have something interesting, you should be able to get funding pretty well.

Wes: It’s a nice gold star.

Roy: It is. To your point, what you said was interesting because let’s face it, investors are lemmings. They basically follow the other lemming in front of them. You have to find that lead lemming that will jump into the water. Lemmings are these animals on an ice flow. They go around in circles until one of them falls off into the water and then they all look over and see if there’s a shark that’s eating them. They’re all scared about taking that first step. That’s the same thing. They’re all scared about taking the risk on you. What if they lose their money? They’re all waiting for that lead investor to take the bite and they’re like, “Oh, I’m in!” You have to find that first one.

Wes: Your first term sheet is the most important.

Roy: In fact when you’re raising, there are two faces, at least two. One is to find that lead. To your point, you can go through a hundred and as soon as they say no, you’re like, “You’re dead to me. I’m moving on.” Even if they say, “Yes, I’m not into leading.” You’re like, “I’ll get back to you later.”

Jono: Does the quality of the lead play an important role in getting the lemmings to jump on board?

Roy: If they don’t have any respect from the community, then you don’t have anybody following them. It’s super important to get a good caliber lead. I like what you said before, investors will choose you, that’s very, very true. There is one match out there or many more, they have made the decision that they want in whatever you’re building and you just got to get there and not screw up.

Jono: Do these programs like Seller Price or Betaworks, do they act as a lead?

Roy: No. They give you a gold star.

Jono: Okay, so it does lend credibility.

Roy: It just helps your credibility. They’re good programs. Some of them are good programs. They teach you what to do. As a mentor, I see the first pitch and I see the pitches progress, there’s a demo day for Techsters PropTech coming up. Those are going to be phenomenally professional. The transition that the founders go through is very, very valuable for sure.

Then you have the Gold Star, you can say I went through PropTech, Techstars in Toronto, and now I have a deal with Colliers. That’s the other thing that you can’t get with some accelerators. Seller Price (like I said) has good relationships with Box and Cisco. The PropTech, Techstars here is sponsored by Colliers. If you’re doing PropTech, there is a great customer right there for you, your first big customer.

Jono: I’ve asked a lot of questions here. I’m wondering what’s the most important question I haven’t asked that you think these folks need an answer to?

Wes: One of the questions that I ask other founders is how do you start fundraising? Generally, the first answer was, “Pick up the phone. Let me introduce you to someone,” or, “Here’s someone that might think this is interesting.” That’s essentially what we did.

Roy: That warm intro into a VC is so critical. If you think that you’re going to cold call or cold email a VC and get in, it’s not going to happen.

Wes: And don’t show up at their office unannounced.

Roy: It’s like, “Security?”

Wes: I have witnessed this before.

Jono: I literally thought they’re doing that, so don’t do that, yeah?

Wes: Don’t do it.

Roy: In this digital world, it’s so weird to have a physical presence and have someone there and it’s like, “No, no, no. I don’t even want to see your pitch. Just go away. Find someone that knows me, that I trust to introduce you.” That’s a lot of research. Before you pick up the phone.

Jono: That’s why I think the value of those programs that are making those intros and putting you on a roadshow seems to be there.

Roy: Exactly. That’s why I went through Betaworks in New York because they made those intros. But if you don’t have them, CrunchBase, LinkedIn. All the data is there.

Jono: When you go to CrunchBase, how do you pick the right person in the fund to approach? You don’t want any carpet bomb everybody, I’m assuming. How do you pick the right person?

Roy: You are going to be partnered up (it’s almost like dating). You’re going to be going out trying to get someone interested in you. It’s a person, it’s a human, it’s not a firm. The firm does not invest in you, the partner at the firm invests in you. It’s all about relationships. You have to like them, they have to like you, they have to trust you, that sort of stuff.

Wes: You typically are going to need a champion. The champion is often an analyst. But you need to understand which partner you’re targeting and sometimes partners have their own analyst. An analyst (in many ways) does a lot of work to understand your business and help the partner understand it, but it is the partner who you’re selling to.

Roy: Not all partners care about what you’re doing. You have to find the right partner at the right firm. If VC A has invested in your industry, you still have to do homework to find who inside of that VC invested in that industry.

Jono: Can you get that info from CrunchBase?

Roy: Yeah, totally. You can also just look at their websites a lot of times. You can check out their portfolio and normally you’ll have the partner, you can look at who’s on the board. In later stages when they ask for a board seat. All of that information is there.

Jono: Is there any way to fast track that process. That’s just a lot of research.

Wes: It’s just effort, really. Concentrated effort.

Roy: There’s an AI for that.

Wes: Is there?

Roy: No, there isn’t. If it was easy, anyone would do it? No.

Jono: Okay. What we’ll do is open up to questions now. As much as I like the sound of my own voice, I love to hear you guys. I’ll hand the mic to Margie and she will bring it over to you.

Margie: All right. We’re starting with you.

Male: What are the differences between how you’re pitching an angel round versus a seed round? Like a pre-seed round versus angel round. What does that deck look like? How are they different? What are you covering? If there are five slides on each, what would you include?

Roy: One of the issues that we’re in today is that the names of the rounds are all screwed up. Five years ago, a seed would be like $250,000. You’d go up and you’d raise a Series A. It’s going to be $5 million and be like, “Wow. That’s a lot of money.” Today, we raised $5 million in the seed. Is that still a seed? These names, it’s like Pre-seed, then Seed, then you have a Seed II, and maybe have a Seed Extension, because you haven’t got to A yet. Once you get to A and you do B, that’s pretty simple, but the numbers have all gone up.

My point here is that pre-seed and angels, those amounts are similar. Your deck is going to be similar. It’s about people, people, people. We can do it. It’s a big market dam and it’s really exciting stuff that we’re doing and we know what we’re going to do.

Next after that, when you do your seed or whatever you want to call that, you’re going to raise a couple of a million dollars, you have to have traction. That again, the continuum changes, the percentage that you spend on a team versus traction gradually changes.

Wes: To say this slightly different way, at the early stage of your company, make sure that the people that you’re talking to understand the problem and how you’re going to solve it or how you propose to solve it. You won’t have enough data to say this is exactly how it’s going to go.

Roy: You may actually change it, right?

Wes: Yeah. Or a little bit, at least.

Roy: I would say that you don’t need to really focus on the problem space. Is it interesting to the investors? Is it big enough? Is it going to grow? How are you going to fix it? That’s an implementation detail.

Wes: The problem is the most important. It also helps determine the TAM, which they care about. Perhaps some of your early-stage investors won’t actually even know that term. They just need to know that it’s a really big problem that people will pay to solve.

Roy: And TAM is bullshit, anyway. You just make that up. Come on, right?

Wes: I do, in a sense.

Roy: We all do.

Margie: All right, next question.

Fatima: Hi, my name is Fatima. I’m curious about dilution. He talks about different levels, different stages and everything of fundraising. What do you think is an appropriate amount for your average Toronto SaaS company, at angel, seed, Series A. How much equity do they give away and everything for how much money, for example? I’m just curious.

Roy: The general thought is that every round should be at a maximum of 25% dilution. It’s a lot. Even an angel. But the thing is it’s just math. You’re like, “Hey, VC, I don’t want to give you 30% dilution because some guy up on the stage said that 25% is the maximum.” They’ll be like, “All right, sure, but I’ll just give you a lower valuation.” It’s just a mathematical calculation. It’s just negotiation. There’s a lot of issues in terms of valuing yourself too high.

Your first-rate shouldn’t even be valued. You should just have a SAFE which is like a convertible note. It’s like, “I don’t know how much I’m valued. I don’t even have revenue.” I’m just like, “There’s this problem, and I’m going to go and solve it. I don’t have an idea,” so how do you put a value on that? Do a SAFE, and then once you get traction then you can start doing a price round, which is you’re valuing yourself. Then, all of the investors on the SAFE convert over. That’s the proper way of doing it.

Jono: Yes, you are kicking the valuation down the road. Something that I’ve seen that I was not expecting to ever see (because it’s obviously a big concern when you’re starting), is you can always renegotiate things. I didn’t realize how often that happens with the earlier investors. I know a lot of people that have, and I’m doing this myself.

At one point, I gave up a lot more of my company, but now, I’m back to owning 94% because we’re doing really well, I made some good-enough deals, and I’m paying them back. I bought the equity back so that I’m in a way better position to go raise at a higher round. Again, you can play with valuations to move faster or move slower. Definitely, I have to agree. 

A convertible note or a SAFE, in case anybody hasn’t looked at that before, what it means is you’re taking a loan from somebody but there’s terms where that loan turns into equity, based on a number of different scenarios that could happen. Maybe you’re going to raise money within two years, let’s say you raised a minimum of a million, it’s going to convert that person’s loan that they have on the company will automatically convert.

It’s a loan, but those people think of it like it’s an investment, especially if there’s always some automatic conversion. There’s a lot of ways to skin that cat, so to speak, but it’s really really important to—

Roy: And the best thing is it’s not debt, so they don’t actually own anything. It’s fantastic for entrepreneurs, not so great for investors. The other nice thing is that their SAFEs are basically standard. There’s one blank that you fill in other than the person’s name. So, you just google Canadian Safe, there’s the American version, Canadian version, and that’s what you use. It’s super simple and if you get investors that are […] you around or, “Well, I want some more answers. I want this and that,” it’s like, “No,” and you walk away.

Wes: You use the standard form.

Roy: You will save so many headaches because you’re basically building a base. Your company is like a house and you’re building it from the ground-up. You do not want to screw up the base. This is your base. You bring in […] VC, investor, or whatever, or the terms are bad, that would just get compounded. The next round, the next investors that come in are going to look at your previous round and they’re going to look at the people that you brought in. If you bring in a mafia or whatever […], they’re going to look at that and go, “We’ll I’m not like that. I’m a nice guy. Why should I be hanging out with that guy?”

Wes: There’ll be a background check potentially on everyone that’s investing in your company.

Roy: Yeah, and you as well (of course). The terms, too, are interesting because if you give out really bad terms, the next set of investors are going to want those terms or maybe even worse. You have to be crushing it to change that trajectory, so be very, very careful at the beginning. 

Margie: Okay, very insightful. We’ll take two or three more questions.

Jono: Russ, don’t you have a question? That sounds ominous.

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex. Great panel. My high-level takeaway so far is when you’re in the angel round, it’s all about who you are as people, the problem you’re trying to solve, and driving excitement further, then once you start getting deeper into the investor round, it’s more about how you’re actually executing this and the traction. That’s the continuum I’m seeing.

I’m just wondering, before you start asking money from people, what’s the minimum checklist that you should go to someone with? You mentioned an MVP. You guys built an MVP that you could show someone on, if it’s a prototype, it’s actually working. Something that you can operationalize. I’m wondering if you guys have a checklist before you go talk to anyone, have these things tight besides your story.

Wes: For our MVP, it was just slightly better than an envisioned product, which means that you can click on stuff and it looks like it’s doing something, but it doesn’t actually. We felt like we needed that in order to secure our round and I think we did. Probably would have been smart looking back, to go and try to raise without it. 

Roy: The advice that I give to people, you may or may not follow it, but the advice is don’t build anything. Don’t build a prototype, build a PowerPoint, build an Excel spreadsheet with your calculation. You look at […]. The first product was him and an Excel. He built an Excel spreadsheet. He proved it to his customers, charged them, and then automated it. Hired and raised a ton of money obviously. 

Try not to spend a lot of time building stuff because whatever you build is just going to be thrown out and it may not be what the actual customer wants. If you could visualize it in something like a PowerPoint or InVision, that works really well. I think you will need some visual form because you can’t really describe something that maybe doesn’t exist because you’re building something brand new and a lot of investors aren’t as smart or as knowledgeable as you are with the problem.

Jono: This wasn’t me raising money for my company, but I was the Director of Product for this company. What I saw—this was back in 2011 and I’d never thought I would see anything like this—because these guys were older, experienced, had relationships, and a lot of credibility behind them, people were just going to give them money no matter what. We literally raised $3 million on a $35 million valuation from a slide deck and from some of the biggest funds in Canada. I was just like, “Wow.” I wouldn’t be able to do that. I did the actual slide deck and the presentation, but it was their relationship.

Male: They […] money before?

Jono: Not those particular ones, but they had a track record.

Roy: I think that point raises one thing that I want to make sure everybody understands. I mentioned that raising money is not scientific at all. It’s actually all about FOMO (fear of missing out), and that’s the trigger that you’re trying to push. You are trying to find a way to poke someone into feeling that they’re going to miss out on the next UBER, or Google, or whatever you’re pushing. That is (I would say) 90% of the tactics that I personally use when I raise money.

Wes: I agree. We set timelines, we go with confidence, and people are either in or out. It will save you time and more than likely they’re inclined to be a part of it.

Roy: Yeah, it’s not like who I am. I obviously don’t have relationships this way. It’s like, “Hey, I’m going to have drinks tonight. If you’re not going to tell me right now, I’m going to go and find someone else.” That’s not what you do when you have real relationships, but with a VC, you’re acting very very differently. When you’re in that zone, again, you’re throwing off the entire company and you’re just thinking about raising. That’s how you think. You’re basically a douchebag trying to find these places to poke these VCs and to get them to think that they’re about to lose the biggest deal.

Wes: It’s to their advantage to wait. 

Roy: It’s not your advantage to wait.

Wes: Exactly. 

Margie: Okay, FOMO basically when you get in there. One more question here.

Richard: Thank you, my name is Richard. I want to know a little bit about what you said, the risks of taking money. I’ve got customers already all over the world. We’re doing a round, initially. What are my risks of taking money?

Wes: You’re basically selling a portion of your company in exchange for some cash. In exchange for that cash, you’re also agreeing to do something which is to spend that money to grow your company. Depending on what the terms are of your agreement to take that cash on, you’re likely giving up a piece of control that probably means that you’ll end up with an official board and some additional oversight that you didn’t have before. For instance, that would probably be where I start based on the scenario that you just painted. It’s like having another partner that you have to keep happy.

Roy: At first might be okay, like you’re giving 25%. What’s your first round? You go out. Hopefully, you make your milestones and you double the valuation of your company. You go out and raise more money, you’re going to get another dilution. But this time, even though at 25%, you’re really lowering it, like 12.5%. The math works in your favor until you’re not growing as fast. 

I always laugh when I see startups that are doing a Series B. Poor entrepreneurs, they probably own—especially in a co-founder situation—5% right now. Is 5% of the company worth it to you to stay in it? Which goes back actually to the conversation that you have to have with your VCs, your investors because they have to be on the same wavelength as you. If you’re unaligned, then it’s a really bad scenario.

The first round is you’re sticking your toe in. The water’s awesome. You’re going to want more, then you stick your whole foot in. By the time you’re deeply bathed in the awesome warm water, you won a couple of points of your company that you used to run by yourself and have 100% control. There are definitely risks.

Margie: All right. One last question before we end this.

Dave: My name is Dave. You mentioned at the beginning about building your team. How big a team do you need? Like, do I need to have a CFO or a CTO?

Roy: You don’t need a CFO unless you are a fintech company, maybe.

Dave: All right. So, it’s just for show on paper or these got to be real people in the company?

Roy: The thing that you don’t have other than time, none of us have time. Your biggest competitor is time, doesn’t matter what you do (like live). We have limited time. The other thing that you don’t have a lot of it is money so why waste it? You really have to be incredibly diligent about who you hire, how much, all of that right at the beginning because that is when you die because you run out of money. That’s the number one reason why companies fail. The only reason that companies fail is they run out of money.

Who do you need to get to your next milestone? What’s your next milestone? Do you need to build a prototype? Do you maybe need to get some traction with your PowerPoint? You don’t need engineers, so it depends. You’re always thinking about, what’s my next step? What do I tell my last investors that I need to do? Oh, in 18 months, I’m going to be at $10,000 MRR so how do I get there? Do I need to build a better product or sales? I think you have to be very frugal about growing the team too fast. As entrepreneurs, we are always further ahead than we really are and it’s like, “You know what? I’m crushing it. I’m making $10 a month. I need to”—

Wes: That’s amazing (by the way) for a startup, making $10 a month.

Roy: Yeah, I get that. The economics works really well when you have 10 people on staff and stuff. That’s a joke. The point is don’t get ahead of yourselves. I was at a startup where we scaled up way too fast and we just weren’t there, then you have to scale back down. That’s really, really painful and you lost a lot of money.

Dave: Another quick question. So, […] valuation component, right? How do you get to that number?

Roy: You don’t, you do a SAFE.

Dave: Let’s say you’re at a stage where you have monthly revenue. Right now, I’m at that stage, I’m at a pivot point right now. Will they take that monthly and then they extrapolate it? Is that only good for a year, two years, or seven years?

Roy: Again, you obfuscate the whole thing and you try not to go there because that’s […]. It’s like, “Oh, I’m going to take your trailing 12 months revenue.” No, that’s not your valuation. That’s what a subway dealership would do. You’re not selling sandwiches. You’re pre-revenue until you’re doing a million dollars a year.

Dave: Okay, so anything […].

Roy: Whatever. Insignificant.

Dave: Say, you’re at half a million?

Roy: As soon as you say that you have revenue, they’re going to try and put a multiple on it. An industry average—

Wes: You want to be a pre-revenue.

Dave: So, what do I do? Bump all the expenses up so it’s like a negative […]?

Roy: No, it doesn’t matter.

Wes: Just don’t focus on the revenue.

Roy: Yeah, it’s insignificant.

Dave: The more […] would take, right?

Wes: Yeah. What you did was some really good testing. It’s produced a thesis for you and perhaps what you want to use the money for is to validate that at a larger scale.

Roy: Before you are generating (I don’t know; pick a number) $10 million a year, you’re experimenting. Startups are about experimenting. Let’s say you are doing a million dollars a year, you’re failing because you haven’t hit that magic number so you need to experiment. We are all in the same category. As soon as your (what was it called?) sausage-making factory is working properly. Your sales processes are working, then you can hit it out on the ballpark if you will. A lot of analogies there. But until then, you’re just experimenting, so whatever revenue you get, insignificant. Do not quote me on that. Revenue is an experiment. 

Jono: We are just testing and validating, and that revenue is just telling us…

Roy: As soon as you tell a VC that you have revenue, that is a hole that you won’t be able to get out of. Pre-revenue. It’s like Google with their products beta. They’re in beta for five years until they kill them.

Jono: Okay, that’s actually very insightful. I’ve never thought about that before. Personally, I’ve heard a lot from these guys. I really appreciate it. We’re going to wrap it up now, but please feel free to finish off the pizza and the drinks, and we’re going to turn the music on, network, and smoosh. I just want to thank everybody for coming. Thanks to you guys for giving us some great insights. Thanks to Margie for putting all of these together for us and that’s it.

How to Scale SaaS Sales

How do you scale SaaS sales? Set territories, pricing, metrics, and quotas? Build a team? Be a leader? Today’s episode features a panel discussion on Software as a Service (SaaS) sales and scaling hosted by Jono Landon, founder and CEO of Hubbli.

Panelists include Cheryl Fearon, Zensurance sales director; Bram Belzberg, KEV Group CEO; Jordan Grant, Zafin head of business development; and Nick Kozmin, founder. 

Topics Include:

  • What is SaaS sales? Mastering a craft, learning every day, figuring out what works, and how to make it better and easier for customers and team members
  • KEV Group’s growth lifecycle due to product, pricing, and positioning innovation
  • started to help SaaS startups scale successfully through product-market fit, lead generation, selling, and closing 
  • Sales Strategies and Metrics: Selling hasn’t changed, but marketing technology and tools make an impact 
  • Sales Sprints: Implement weekly, monthly, and yearly goals and action items to achieve
  • Successful Strategies to Scale: Hiring practices and personality tests to find top talent that fit with a company’s culture and onboarding process
  • Ideal Customer Profile: Required characteristics of potential prospects include asset size, interviews, and value of solution
  • Conducive and Compelling Candidates: Competencies, hard work, and diligence may not be enough or make someone worthy of position
  • Art of Sales: Customize, interpret, develop, and deliver message to get customers  
  • Content Marketing: What should you do to solve your problem? How can you solve the problem by purchasing a solution? 
  • Salary, Commissions, Compensation, and Bonuses: Different business models that generate motivation and participation  

Links and Resources:


Jono Landon on LinkedIn

Cheryl Fearon on LinkedIn


Bram Belzberg on LinkedIn

KEV Group

Jordan Grant on LinkedIn


Nick Kozmin on LinkedIn 

Toronto Software as a Service (SaaS) Meetup Group

Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross


Caliper Test


Salesforce Methodology








Google Analytics


Ring Central




“Sales is like mastering a craft. It’s about learning every single day on what works, what doesn’t work, and how do you make it better and easier for your customer and your team.” Cheryl Fearon

“Selling hasn’t changed, but marketing has changed to make an impact.” Nick Kozmin

“Solve one problem for one person.” Jordan Grant

“Any good sales leader is going to be…agile. They will try and test a million different things.” Bram Belzberg

Episode Transcript

Jono: Hello and welcome to the Kick SaaS Podcast. I’m your host, Jono Landon. In this podcast, we share excerpts from live in-person SaaS growth events that I run here in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. A little about me, I’m the founder and CEO of Hubbli, a B2B SaaS company that helps private schools find new families to enroll and engage them throughout the entire enrollment journey. This episode is a recording from a recent panel discussion that I hosted and moderated at the Hubbli head office here in Toronto on the topic of SaaS sales and scaling.

The panel included four members of Toronto’s top SaaS sales leaders. First we had Cheryl Fearon, who’s a Sales Director at Zensurance. Also, we had Bram Belzberg, CEO of KEV Group, also a recent recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 award. Jordan Grant is the Head of Business Development at Zafin. We also had Nick Kozmin, the founder of This panel discussion offers many takeaways for anyone who is involved in scaling a SaaS sales organization.

We’re going to jump right into this episode and I hope you enjoy the format and content we go through here. I look forward to sharing future episodes with you from these live SaaS growth workshops.

Thank you. Thanks, Margie. My name’s Jono and I’ve been working in the Internet world since the early 2000s. I started out in a sales role, moved into sales management, then marketing management, and then I got into product management and did that for about five years. I launched Hubbli about five years ago where I’ve been doing everything. Thankfully, in the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been able to really focus again almost exclusively on sales and growth. I’ve been really excited to be connected with people that are focused on sales growth.

What we do is we see it as ranging the spectrum from marketing and lead generation, all the way through customer success, all the different drivers of growth. That’s why we started this group and it’s exciting to have such an amazing panel here tonight. I want to personally thank everybody for coming. It’s a real honor to have you all here. Also, I want to thank everybody for joining us, especially on a cold rainy day like today, so thank you. I’ll pass it on to Cheryl. I’ll let her introduce herself.

Cheryl: Hi, everyone. My name is Cheryl. I’ve been in sales my whole career. In sales, started with inside sales, outside sales, I’ve moved up through leadership positions. To me, sales is like mastering your craft. It’s about learning every single day on what works, what doesn’t work, and how do you make it better and easier for your customer and for your team. For me, it’s been a lot of years of evolving and really trying to figure out, “How do I this better and how do I do it better for my customers?”

I’m with Zensurance today. I’ve worked for a number of startup software companies and technology companies from big and small. Really, what I love to do is to take the company from here and build it up to here. When I started at Zen, I had three sales people in my team. Today, my team is 30. It takes a lot to be able to build a team, make it cohesive, bring everyone together, figure out a magic solution, and help that to scale. I’m hoping I can share some of those thoughts with you today.

Bram: All right. I’m Bram Belzberg. I’m the CEO of KEV Group. For those of you who don’t know KEV Group, it’s a provider of accounting and online payment software almost exclusively to public schools across the United States and Canada. More specifically, we have an accounting product and then the ability for parents to pay for all their kid’s school fees. We operate in just over 18,000 schools across North America now. I’ve been in the business for 10 years.

It was founded by two amazing ladies, Kim and Ev, who are still with the business, actually. They founded the business and they worked at the school district. They left the school district trying to solve a problem that they had identified at their own home base. They created a solution and realized about the heads and legs, eventually left the job, and created a little company out of it. Maybe 12 or 13 years later, I got introduced to them after business school. I joined up as the COO and then the CEO six months later. I’d been there for now 10 years and we’ve been growing at a pretty fast pace since.

One thing that’s interesting about KEV for this particular discussion is where we are in our growth life cycle. We’ve done a lot of product innovation, we’ve done a lot of pricing innovation, a lot of positioning innovation over the years. We were first in our market, selling online payments in Canada so we had to come up with the whole pricing model that would work. We did that through trial and error many, many times over and we went through that. Even today, we’re innovating on our modeling and our pricing again.

The other thing that’s interesting is that a year ago plus two days, I know we closed our first ever major outside investment from a growth equity firm out of California called Zen Capital. We then made an acquisition, a month later, of  our largest competitor in North Carolina. Along with that, we decided to go from what was basically a two or three person sales team where every individual just sold and there’s no sales leadership or management of any kind. It’s just one of them was the founder […] who is still selling and two other relatively junior people to building a proper sales organization.

We hired Cheryl Fearon, who’s a head of sales and marketing, who’s pretty amazing. We have since, in the last year, gone from where we are now to 15 full-time sales staff including account execs, BDR, and marketing across the board. We’re just assembling our team. I’ve recently gone through, again, how do you set territories, how do you set pricing, how do you set metrics, how do you set quotas, and all that. I’ve been schooled quite a bit recently in that, so I’ve been into that.

Jordan: Welcome, everyone. My name’s Jordan Grant. Today, I’ve been two weeks on the job, Head of Business Development at Zafin. We’re a Toronto growth company. We’ve been around for about 15 years. Recently sold part of our business, about 500 folks to Accenture. That was a multimillion dollar deal that happened in January. We’re about 230 folks today and regrowing the team, if you will, the part of the business that we kept.

Prior to that, in my previous life, I worked at two startups. The most recent one was Flybits as Sales Director, selling into all the world’s largest banks across America. Prior to that, I started my own beacon company. If you know beacons, they never really took off but we made a couple of bucks out of it and did some really cool projects. We built a team up to about 15 people.

I think that was probably the most groundbreaking part of my career, helping a lot of new to Canada. People actually establish their life here in Canada. Some of them have moved back to Mexico or Netherlands and other places. That was the best part of my career even though it was not the funnest of times and most profit-making.

I was brought into Zafin to rebuild the business development team. We have about 35 global clients today. They range from ING, Standard Chartered, Bank of America, the world’s largest banks, but we don’t really have a lot of potential companies or prospects in the pipeline. So, building up the team there, I’m hiring if anyone’s looking. I’m excited to have this discussion. I personally have a spectrum from enterprise all the way through small, medium, and a growth-sized startup. So, I’m really excited to chat.

Nick: My name is Nick Kozmin. I founded We basically help startups scale. I’ve been doing this for about eight years. Two years ago, I came up with a new consulting offer and put my process down on paper. Since two years ago, we sold it to almost 700 companies. Justin’s on my team, actually. We have a few customers here, actually. Bootstrapped it to $5 million in less than a year-and-a-half and we’re operating at $5 million with only 6 people. We’re really lean, mean, and customers are doing really well, which is really cool. I know how to start offers from scratch and get them going without fundraising.

Some of our customers fundraise but we can do a bootstrap and it’s a totally different game. We carved out a niche there and we’re helping entrepreneurs in that way. Most of our customers are SaaS companies, some high tech-service. We focus on product market fit in the beginning, lead generation, and then selling and closing. So far so good, so if you guys have any questions regarding how to make millions of dollars when you’re really young, then ask away.

Jono: Yeah. Definitely good question for the Q and A. I’m going to kick off the panel here and I think what we’ll do is we’ll just let you guys jump in wherever you think you’ve got something to add. Don’t feel pressured to answer, but at least one person has to answer every question, okay? The first question is, how have you seen successful sales strategies change over, let’s say, the last 5-10 years and what were the impacts of those changes on your sales metrics? Who wants to go first?

Nick: I can answer. Sales hasn’t really changed. It’s selling probably to somebody and providing a product. What has changed is the marketing strategies. Ten years ago, email marketing was really big, like cold prospecting. Cold calling was big. Cold Calling 2.0 with Aaron Ross—I don’t know if you guys know him—wrote the book Predictable Revenue and Impossible to Inevitable. He’s actually customer of ours because he wants to do the digital marketing stuff. Now, instead of doing the cold prospecting and cold calling, a lot of the lead generation comes from paid advertising using social platforms and content. I’ve seen that change, but sales is the same thing. If you’re selling over the phone or door-to-door—I started door-to-door—same stuff, at least in my opinion.

Cheryl: On my side I find I agree. The sales haven’t changed but I find our tools are different. Today, there’s a lot of automation tools you can use to make your team more efficient. How do I have an email automation tool that does some of those follow-ups themselves were you can handle more volume, get better sales, increase your sales but take some of the mundane work out of the team? How do I put technology to play to be able to make that easier for my team and to increase the amount of follow up and how do we manage that.

Sometimes that is looking at operational efficiency internally and the sales team loves it because it takes out all of that mundane work where you’re focusing on having good conversations at the right time.

Jordan: Going off of that, I have this motto that delves into the details. So, in my last two roles, I’ve implemented Trello, which is a very interesting tool, especially when it comes to business development because it’s typically known as a product solution. Trello, I break everything down into 10 days sprints. We do a stand-up at the start, a midpoint review, and then endpoint review. The goal here is to have everyone call each other out on what can be done in a two-week period or a 10-day period. It doesn’t have to start on a Monday. It also gives you visibility across the organization to understand what everyone’s working on. It’s really about what can you do in that 10 days? That’s all I care about.

Bram: You’re talking of 10-day sprints for sales teams. That’s cool. We do a week, like weekly goals, and monthly. That’s cool.

Jono: I find that very interesting because when I went from sales management to project product management, I learned all about sprints, becoming agile and everything and I’ve never thought about a sprint in sales. My experience was in the early to mid-2000s was everybody in a room like a bullpen, having everyone’s numbers on the board, and having all that daily sort of rah-rah stuff. I’d love to hear a little bit more about how that’s implemented through a Trello Board and obviously we can’t get too visual here but can you talk a little bit more about that. I’d love to understand practically or pragmatically how does that get implemented.

Jordan: There’s two things. We just implemented it at Zafin. It was, I think, day two that we kicked it off. So, our team of four BDRs, including myself—I consider myself a BDR—list out a lot of the action items that we have to get done in those two weeks that are outside of customer facing, if it’s training or anything like that, and then there is now the clients.

The clients are things like are you reviewing their annual reviews? Are you sending particular information to the client ahead of time? Are you doing customer interviews to learn how better to position your product? You’re mapping out all of the process for a client. We call them cards on Trello if you use Trello, but you take out all the stops in the sales process that you don’t think you’ll get done in that two-week process. As for me, as a leader of the team, I can now evaluate if there’s too much in someone’s plate and I’ll call them out if they can’t get it done. And if there’s not enough on their plate, I’ll also call them out.

Jono: Okay, and everybody can see that, obviously. It’s public within the team.

Jordan: Across the team. Sometimes, the owner of the card, these are individual little goals with task lists inside, so you could comment your boss. My boss actually has a visibility into this. They could comment as to, “Hey maybe prioritize this individual task over the other because maybe we’re looking at investment or something like that.” I wish I could show my Trello board. It’s pretty cool.

I use it for individual life as well that is hidden from everyone. Business development is unheard of. I used to do it in sales and it makes sense, but business development you think all you’re doing is calling people and getting people on the phone, but there’s a lot. If you actually map it out as to all the little minute tasks that you have to get done and all the follow ups and orchestration that you have to do internally, there’s quite a bit.

Jono: Would you be willing to share that with everybody? Can I put you on the spot? Afterwards, can you send out a screenshot or something?

Jordan: We can do that.

Jono: That would be great. That would be amazing.

Bram: How big is a ticket price on what you’re selling?

Jordan: Ticket price ranges from. $200,000. We have one in the Hopper for well over $20 million, actually closer to $30 million.

Jono: Moving on to the next question, if you guys could pick maybe the one or two strategies that you’ve implemented that you’ve seen to be the biggest wins for you in your roles, whether its current role or something in the past. I’d love to hear what those are for everybody.

Cheryl: For me on scaling and growth, I think hiring practices have been huge because I’m scaling so much and trying to centralize what does that look like. My team is too small, but I hire the best. So, how do we really make sure the candidates that are coming in are the best fit culturally to have the right culture for the organization to feed into our growth and to make sure that we’re bringing on the top talent. I’d say that’s been a huge focus for us. I think the second is utilizing tools and technology to create a really streamlined work list. We’ve basically integrated a fair number of tools together to create a seamless work list to help the team prioritize what’s next.

Different from Jordan, we’ve got a lot of volume so how do we manage such a high volume of number of customers and tasks to be able to support what’s important? How do I bring up and flag what order they need to do things to be able to support what’s next? If you have so many things to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, how do I break that down? Highlight and prioritize that in a simple way and being able to create a work list that organizes it in the right way for the team has been a huge success and help us manage that volume a lot better.

Bram: I’m just trying to look up the name of the software product we put out. We’ve done two things, recently, both on the human capital side. Just to be clear, I think any good sales leader is going to be—I don’t like to use the word—I think that on this panel you’d say agile. They will try and test a million different things and see what works for them. Not just for their company or their product but for that time of the month and that part of the sales cycle. Good sales management in general is always aiding and assisting the salespeople on how to close the deals. That being said, getting good people and making sure that they’re the right fit for the team culturally and that they’re on board at the right way has made a huge difference. We’ve done two things in that regard.

The first thing we’ve done I was just trying to find the name. I will find it and I’ll tell you, but we instituted company-wide personality tests. There’s one in particular and I love it and now I am just completely drawing a blank. I will find it. When the private equity firm invested in us, they asked me to do it and my team to see what they thought of us. What they were able to tell about us just from reading our results was pretty scary.

They were also able to do a bunch of team dynamics stuff which I thought was really, really helpful. I’m super skeptical about this stuff, but I am really drinking the Kool Aid on this right now. So, we’re now thinking how can we push this deeper into the sales process. When you hire a salesperson, you spend a lot of money on them. You train them, you onboard them, and then you give them a 6-9 month ramp before you can judge them, then you’re talking about a $250,000 investment into one person, not to mention the opportunity cost which is many times that.

If you can decrease the chances of you being wrong by 10%-15% percent, that’s a multi-hundred thousand dollar per person yield. It costs $100 to do the test and it takes an hour. I considered almost a no brainer. We’re really seeing how we can push that out without making people feel uncomfortable while using it the right way and there’s a bunch of pieces of that. That’s brand new to me.

The other one that we did was, as I said, the two founders of the business are both still with the business. Kim is still a sales person and doing amazing. We have asked her to sell less and train more and people are able to model their behavior off of her because she’s been doing it for 25 years, selling this specific product. Whereas the new people that we’re hiring are very process-driven—she wasn’t as process-driven—she’s unbelievably capable on the specifics.

The other thing we did, that was Evelyn, the other founder—Kim and Ev makes KEV—I tasked her with starting an onboarding program company-wide, which we never did. Now, every new person that comes in does a week intensive in-class—it’s a board room and there’s 5-6 people around the table—where we bring in product, values, culture, history of the company, how to use the phone system, all that stuff.

Then, every month there’s more classes, there’s more dinners, there’s more buddying. We’re […] to it. This just started a few months ago. I’ll tell you, the impact has been mind-boggling for what it’s done. First of all, when people leave that week they are so fired up and may feel like so much part of a team as opposed to before, especially because salespeople, at least in our business, tend to be remote.

You hire someone in Timbuktu, they might never meet anyone on the whole team other than on the phone. To bring them in and give them a week of FaceTime, get them to go out for drinks at night and all that has been so much more important than I gave it credit for. Also, the time to successes shrunk and the unwanted turnover had shrunk. It’s just been really, really positive. We’ve been constantly testing and adapting our model to figure how to scale and things like that on the human capital side I had, by far, in the way the most yield.

Jordan: One of the things that I learn from a couple of failures was really finding out who your true customers and what I call an ideal customer profile. Really identifying technographics from a graphics operating model, all the things that fits within your model or within your ideal customer, and never deviating away from that.

Bram: Sorry, what is that? What are technographics and […]?

Jordan: It’s like information for banks would be like asset size. Asset size below $25 billion, we’re not chasing. If someone literally comes to us at $23 billion, then we’re not going down that road with them.

Bram: So, you want to know better information about your customers?

Jordan: Characteristics of our customer, they have to meet the characteristics for us to explore that customer. The idea you can also have depending on the size of your company and where you’re at, you can also include an acceptable profile, which means if we sell the banks—we’re maybe an auto financing company which is pretty well a bank; they do auto financing very well—we might be fit within that acceptable profile.

The idea is that you hold true to who your customer is and you never deviate. It reduces a lot of wasted time. Your product being pulled in all different ways and then you never get to build the product that you originally set out for because someone else asks for something else. Sure, there’s deviations that are good for the company, but in most cases I find has crippled companies.

The other big one is doing customer interviews. Some proponents of being able to actually identify what do they feel as though my company provides to them. What’s their unique selling propositions? What’s their operating model? Where do they measure it on? Really identifying those things initially will help you. What they tell you is better than any marketer or any sales person within your organization.

I actually mirror it to someone in your product team. Someone in your product team will actually boil down what you do and the value of your solution because they’re the ones that built it, they’re the ones closer to it. Everyone else muffles the messaging you truly don’t really understand and I find you always go down that path that’s not really a strong one.

Nick: Yes. Those are good points. What size is your company? Just starting? Under a million? Over a million? Over 5 million? I agree. We’re at that stage now. I think you’re mentioning it like the culture and that hiring. That’s probably the number one thing for us now is finding the right fit. They’re in social events and getting everyone involved. So, I agree with that a lot. We didn’t find that important until we hit a certain stage. In my opinion, it depends on the size. In the very beginning, it depends if you’re like $100 million. Focus on the target and the problem that you’re solving. That’s the main thing. Once we found out who we are going after, we dialed in the problem that we’re solving and we saw the […] out of it.

That’s when we shot up to $1 million in a few months and then to go from 1–5, it was more dialing lead generation, getting that consistent, and then dialing the sales process. Now after five, it’s like getting the right hires, making sure the culture’s right. That’s going to take us to 10 and passing off some of that responsibility.

I definitely agree with your points. We’re finding that to be a problem now. We’re putting more emphasis on bringing more people in, but in the very beginning it’s really solving a problem, making sure it’s a really painful thing, and I know some of our customers, we dialed in your offer, right? As soon as we tightened it up, you started seeing growth, right?

Jono: Yes. I was actually going to mention that. That was for us a really incredible transformation. We were just solving too many problems for too many people, so it made the sale way more complex than it had to be and it actually made every metric not as good as it could be. I was just at a point where I was like, “Okay, well, either I need to stop selling and go raise a bunch of money or I have to figure out some things.” I came up with a scrappy idea which was accumulating after a year of getting a lot of requests for one thing in particular When we really looked at it, it ended up being the biggest problem for our market. It was one of the things that our platform did and was doing for customers. We said, “Okay, let’s really dig into that” and we really scoped down what our solution was doing. This is really a repositioning of who we are and who we are for in the organization.

I really credit Nick because he really gave me that kick in the pants to solve one problem for one person. Once we did that, all of a sudden we could close deals instead of an average of three calls, we could do it in one call. Because we really narrowed down the scope of what we are offering, we could go a little bit deeper in value and more than double our prices. Every sales metric just shot through the roof and it was easier to onboard them. Our onboarding time went down by 90%. I did a whole talk on this about niching in different ways in our last meet up, so I would say that was something.

To Bram’s point, in previous organizations, I was always into this personality assessment thing. I’ve done like everyone that exists on myself. I think they’re just so fun to do. I don’t know why, but I have a degree in psychology, I guess that’s why. They’re so consistent and it’s really scary how easy it is for a test to tell you about yourself, but they’re right. I’m actually interested to hear how you implement that information because obviously you can’t. I don’t know if you can legally not hire somebody for their personality. I don’t know, maybe you can, maybe can’t. I don’t know, but all I know is hiring people is really scary when it comes down to law and I can never just ask people what I want to know. I always have to like dance around it but I would love to hear about how that’s implemented more in a sales environment.

Nick: We have not rolled it out on sales yet. We use it on senior management and then, literally very recently, we’ve decided to push this down. We already put on everyone a director and above and I recommend that we move it down one or two more levels and that’s what we’re testing. First of all, I looked it up. It’s the Caliper test is the one in particular that we use. It’s called Caliper and the private equity firm, Sarens, use it on everyone on their portfolio companies and its standard operating procedure.

Bram: Do you know they look for? Do they share that information with you?

Nick: Yes. One of the things that they have and I don’t know if this is done by Caliper or if it’s done by the users, but they’ve developed profiles. Let’s say I’m a CEO so they want a very self-directed person, someone who’s not going to be overly concerned with whether everyone around the table has a say in everything but someone who is going to be able to develop a strategy and stick to it and explain that clearly to the organization.

The things that make a good CEO do not necessarily […] a wonderful head of HR or a wonderful head of product or a wonderful head of development. It’s just different. I don’t have the keys, if you want to call that. That’s something we’re looking into now is do we develop our own or are there standards? Can we go and take training from the organization which I think we can, but there are very clearly certain characteristics that would make a good hunter.

If we’re hiring a true hunter role, then you want people who, for example, are okay with people saying no to them and will not get crushed. You want people who are okay with being self-directed because a lot of times they’re working from home and no one watches them for a whole day. So, they’re going to be the kind of people that wake up at 8:00 and just go to work. They don’t need someone standing over their shoulder. There’s lots of other people that just don’t have that and they can’t motivate unless they’re on a team and they’re sitting in a group of people.

I would say for every person here it’s very important to know that about yourself. Are you a hunter or are you gatherer? In our firm, what do you think about yourself in the role and to find the right role. I’m always amazed, actually, at how many people I see are very far on in their career prospects. They don’t have a huge amount of self-knowledge about who they are, especially on the sales side. I’ve found, sometimes—I don’t want to generalize too much—salespeople think about it as a special skill and magic, like, “Oh, I can sell anything to anyone,” type stuff. I tend to think about things personally. I may be more cynical, but I tend to think about it as a lot of hard work. Most people, if you work really hard and are a smart person, you could be a great salesperson.

Now, you have to have certain skills but that’s why you hire amazing leadership to train those skills and that’s why you have great technology is to make sure that you don’t miss your steps. Teams can supplement so if you’re not wonderful demos, you could have teams that have demos done by someone other than you. You cannot replace intelligence and you cannot place hard work. Those two things I have found for every role but very much for sales. The people who think, “I’m such a hard worker but I really got this, that people really like me,” that scares me a lot.

I’ll tell you something, people do like those people and it’s easy to fall for that. You’re sitting in an interview, they get you talking, they sell you, and by the time you’re done, you’re like, “Oh, I love this guy.” Then, someone will say, “Oh, great. What were his metrics?” I’ll be like “I didn’t even ask.” It didn’t even occur to me. You got to really hold yourself resolute. Again, the more objective you can be at all processes, all parts of the process, the better. Especially something that’s more artistic like sales.

Jono: Similar to that, one thing I’ve noticed in in building sales teams, I’ve probably built up to a 10% sales team in the past. Well, somebody might be a really good sales person, with a lot of experience and national lead at LinkedIn or something like, that was just a total rock star, came into an organization that I was running and really did not perform well. One thing I’ve seen is that some people are amazing salespeople at a particular type of environment or a particular kind of product-to-market, and they’re really bad in other markets. As an example, this guy from LinkedIn came in and he turned a $5000 customer into $100,000 customer, which was I was pretty excited about.

That was the first six figure deal we closed in and he did it remarkably well. It was all front-loaded, we had all the money in within three months. I’ve never seen anything like that before. I was just excited to have a $5000 customer. The truth is, he actually was a horrible fit for our organization because we shouldn’t be selling six figure deals. We’re not set up for it. We were set up for small businesses and somebody that’s kept paying $100,000 is looking for something very different that is somebody paying $5000.

We were paying for leads to come in that what I considered to be fairly warm and he considered them cold. I just couldn’t understand why but I realized that he was a master of taking a $5000 deal and converting it to $100,000. And he didn’t want to do anything else. That’s the type of organization he needs to be in. I’m just wondering, can you guys speak to that at all and what are the type of salespeople? Because I have a feeling you might all be looking for different kinds of people. Can you talk about your ideal type of salesperson? I think there will be something to learn from hearing the differences.

Cheryl: Absolutely. I actually have three teams. In a sales team, I divide up function based on specialty and within those teams, I actually further divide it into industries so that they specialize in a certain field. Simplifying what they sell to ramp up and help on board and get them going and ramp them up faster, we can always cross train later but let me get them having some success and excitement quickly and help them really learn something.

My first team is new business, how do we help those and again our competencies if your to do personality or competency-based interviewing. There are certain characteristics I’m looking at that I think make a successful new business individual and that might be different than another role. For new business, you’re looking for specific things on how they can relate to customers quickly. Again, I agree 100% with you. I look at their organization and follow-up on their statistics because those are super important.

In any business, when we deal with a lot of volumes—small and medium business is our niche—that is volume and it takes a lot. In sales, it’s not your first contact that’s going to get the sales, it’s building trust, it’s having follow-up, it’s putting the rigor in the work into it to prove you’re worthy to earn the business. There’s a lot of work that’s needed. Hard work, diligence, and respectful communications are going to trump someone that just knows how to do it really quickly but falls later. I look that on new business.

I also have another team that just does renewals. To your take, once you take an existing customer, focus on relationship building. How do they build relationships? Do touch points mid-year. Focus on retention to be able to retain and grow that business. How does my revenue survival rate go up to be able to support? What is that experience look and feel like? They might not be comfortable reaching out to the customer but an existing customer can definitely build a relationship.

My third is my account management team, which is a lot of customer service. It’s being able to support our chat. What happens when a customer calls in? How do I de-escalate a frustrated customer, to turn them around to be a good customer and that’s a different person? We specialize our team based on the different functions to be able to support what that looks like, interview differently and really gear what those questions are, and what I’m gearing it towards to help make sure that person is right.

It doesn’t matter what the role is. Our guiding light is our culture. We spend a lot of work on culture, defining what is that, what are our top values, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a full-stack developer, whether you’re on our marketing team or product team or sales team, what those values are resonate across the whole company.

We actually interview and rank how they do against those values to make sure that they’re fit corporately for us to be able to make sure that they can grow. For me as a sales team, I don’t just look at where they are today, I look at do I see them moving past the role they’re playing for. Because if I’m going to hire someone, I want someone that’s going to grow with my business. If you’re applying for a new business role, I want to know what the role is after that and how I can further develop someone to get beyond the next role. I want to be able to see someone that can help build our business and be able to grow with us as we bring on new people.

Man: […] average deal size and sales things? […] put this in context?

Cheryl: Absolutely. In my space, we sell commercial insurance and we do it through digital platform. We ease for any small-medium business, how do I really streamline, respect time for my customer, and my internal team, to quicken that process and make it super smooth, but add the quality that we need to make sure those questions or underwriting algorithm, is all put into some intelligent software. Our deals, you can actually buy online with some of them so they can be five minutes and some of them can be a couple of weeks depending on the complexity. Better specialization in small-medium business with a lot of volumes.

Man: The deal size?

Cheryl: I’d say my average deal size is probably $2000 approximately. On a lead volume, we hit $500,000 last week for the first time. It gives you a perspective of size that the team’s handling.

Bram: My sale cycle is somewhere between six and nine months on average and my average deal size is probably less than $100,000 in that area. It very much varies and depends, et cetera. Ditto, like almost every single thing you said, it’s crazy. We have three selling teams also. We have a new logo as our first team which is a straight up hunter role. Then, we have what I’m calling our upsell team, which is customers that have one of our products but not the other major product. We have two big products, one of which you have to have first, so up-selling the second product to that first customer which is a very different value profit, a very different selling positioning.

The main difference is this. If you’re a new logo person, the vast majority of your time is developing trust and finding people who will talk to you. That’s a very hard thing to do. Until you are able to give a demo, that’s 90% of the value add I would argue. Once you’re able to give that demo on the new logo side, they’re already at a point where they’re interested, they have a need, they made a decision to buy a product. People are pretty excited by the time they get past that demo stage on the new logo side.

On the upsell side, the demo would be like right at the very beginning of the engagement because they have a relationship with the company. Why wouldn’t they see a demo of other products that has nothing to do with whether they might buy, they’re not putting any money out, and they already have the trusted relationship. You’re not building trust, you’re not building rapport, a little bit rapport, but not a lot. It’s literally completely different. I would say, if you put in a logo person on the upsell side, they could scare away customers, they be maybe a little bit too aggressive sometimes, not always, but sometimes.

The other way around, especially if you put a primer on a new logo deal, they’ll never get the customer. They’ll never do the cold calling. Again, it’s very interesting how many times you’re sitting and talking to candidates and they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I could do either.” Maybe that is true for some people, but my experience tells me it’s not.

Again, for everyone out here who’s in their career in sales, I’d be very interested to know how many people have a really good understanding of whether they’re a hunter or a farmer, whether they’re pursuing that, whether they’re only looking for opportunities that are similar to where their skill set is, and whether they’re really looking for the right role that matches their skill set. I do find most people just tend to look for jobs that pay money because they need to get a job and they’re more eager to do that. They’ll figure that they can figure things out. I’ll tell you, if I hire a new accountant, it takes them half a year to be productive, to get up to speed to learn the books, to learn the culture, to learn the phone system, just to be comfortable. It takes a long time.

When I was in business school, we did a study that said it takes a year on average for an average employee, but for the easiest transition I would say would be let’s say finance or something like that. The books are the same, it’s just […] are taking over. For sales, it’s at least a year, at least.

The cost of switching jobs for the sales person, especially, is so astronomical that really I think should be a lot more work put in, especially sometimes on the candidates I’d argue what the right role is. What you really are looking for and I also say that it makes people—it is a little off topic, but I think it might be relevant for this particular group—a much more compelling candidate.

When you can come in and say, “The reason I want to work for you is because I’m a hunter. I know that this is primarily how you sell and I’m okay with a nine month sales cycle. I enjoy this and that and I enjoy developing relationships. I tried being a farmer and it didn’t work out for me.” By the end of that interview, you’re like “Oh yeah, I got to take a chance. This is someone I really need to talk to,” and the opposite vice-versa, too.

The third team is our cross-sell team. Our product is structured that our customers will start with accounting, then it will turn online payments, and then we have now maybe 10-15 other smaller products forms so parents can fill out their online forms for their students, various consulting services, and much smaller things. We have right now one, although, we’re expanding that team to two or three. As we’ve been scaling, we’ve been focusing on the other two teams which is why I paid less attention to it now.

Also, for us, our account management teams and customers—we call them customer success management—that actually is not under sales. That’s a separate team for us and we don’t put any selling under that team at all. We have a cross-sell team which is effectively the selling arm of the customer success management team, which is in my client management division.

Clients would be on boarding in client management, that would be my client’s division and sales is self-evident, I think, and if you’re selling then you’re on the sell side. I want my customer success people to have a deep relationship with my customers and I don’t want any customer saying I can’t trust them because they’re just trying to sell me stuff all the time. That’s not the relationship I want them to have with our customer success.

We also have a different world in general because we have very little customer turnover like almost zero, just because the nature of our product and also, I’d like to think we do a lot to prevent that. Most SaaS businesses do, by the way just to let you know, literally 99% of them do. We just are very lucky that’s something we don’t have to do.

Man: You said you have the cross-seller or upselling teams. Is it the source of the business how you’re selling to schools and stuff? Or do the parents there, the forms come in, and that you ask, say I, as a parent have something new I need to check out?

Bram: That’s a great question. We sell exclusively to the school district. We don’t sell to the schools. We call the CFO and his or her staff at the school district office. For example, TBSB is 583 schools, so we’ll do one call for that. There are some at tech businesses that sell to the schools, private schools mostly. Jono does that. You can talk to him about that.

For me, that would drive me nuts so we had to call the big guy. We try to focus on the big guys as much as possible, but it does drastically. Jono can close a sale in five seconds, that’s unheard of for me. It just doesn’t happen. We have a huge amount of RFPs and procurement. It’s a whole different world in public school space.

Jono: Right, and just to speak to different personalities, I tried selling to districts and I absolutely hated it. I’m good at small business sales and it’s just something that I’ve been doing. It works for me. It’s just a personality thing. I obviously just stuck with what I knew I could scale because I have a history of doing that. We have no plans in going into districts. At one point we were thinking about it, I would just bring somebody else to do that because it drains the life out of me. It’s a personality thing. I don’t know if I’m a hunter or a farmer. I think I’m just a killer. I don’t like hunting or farming. I like to close.

Man: I think you answered the question.

Jono: Yeah. I like it when other people do the hunting and bring me in to shoot it, that’s what I do.

Man: You have people in the first lane here.

Jono: I want to go online forever.

Jordan: I’ll be quick on this one. In my previous role, I was managing business development sales and post sales which is, in some definitions, customer success. Every company calls it something different. What I realized was the business development was quick wins. If someone said, “Let’s get a meeting with this company,” we will get that meeting almost right away and this is CIOs, CDOs, the highest roles within the banks which is unprecedented. It was just by pure cold calling, emailing, and just a little bit of relentlessness but just keeping emails extremely short and just doing the hard work. Then on the sales side or sales cycle, to answer your question, is anywhere between a year-and-a-half to five years.

Jono: Shoot me now.

Jordan: Shoot me now and between meetings would take 2-3 months just because you’re dealing predominantly with banks. The post sales was pretty fun. They are already clients, so you don’t have to chase them down. They typically want more out of you and you can develop plans. I developed a smart community plan with Bosch, the dishwasher company—but they do many other things—and put a whole smart communities plan for them to up-sell them to much larger contracts which got sold. I thought that was interesting, but it didn’t really get me excited. It was fun, but it didn’t get me excited.

What I realized in this whole process was actually having the benefit of working all three angles was that I really like the business development side of things. That’s actually what prompted me to move from predominantly the sales role at Flybits to head of business development at Zafin because that’s what I realized what I’m really good at and what I really love is piecing things together, getting in front of people, and building as many relationships as possible.

Now, I don’t have an America’s footprint, I have a global footprint. Right now, I’m setting up an arsenal football match on Sunday with all the top CIOs of all the top banks, and I’m their best friend. That’s cool for me. I’m connecting already our company to Salesforce and many other partners and everyone looks up at me as the starting point of the company as opposed to where’s my next sale this week.

Nick: Tickets size, anywhere from $10,000-$50,000. Sales cycle, one call closed to two weeks. That’s why we’ve been able to grow so fast and I think it’s a little bit uncommon for people but Jono knows; you were in our ecosystem for a while. One call closing $15,000. I had one call close a $40,000 deal and we can do that. You need marketing to back it up. We use what I call video sales letters and I don’t know if you guys saw my marketing or whatever, but…

Jono: Go on his website, it is the best video ever.

Nick: Yeah, it’s there for a reason. We understand it takes about seven hours to get a customer. They have to be listening to us, thinking about us for seven hours. You can either do that over the sales call, or you do multiple calls. You’re chasing people down, hunting them down, sending them letters, and going to football games or whatever. I would do that if the deals are big enough, but we’ve been able to use technology to get that seven hours in with video sales letters, webinars, advertising. Then, when someone gets on the phone with us, they’ll open up their checkbook, and that allows our salespeople to move real fast.

Jono: This has been incredibly helpful for us, too. I talked about this a lot with people and I said, “Back in the 80s or 90s, early 2000s, the only time you ever saw an infomercial was if you were on TV late at night. Today, everybody can make their own infomercial and you can do it if you know how to get the traffic to that video.” One in Nick’s original point, sales hasn’t changed. It’s just the medium. It’s funny. When you’re looking at an infomercial and you’re not interested in what they’re selling, it looks like the most god-awful thing in the world. How could anybody walk that slap shop with that guy who is so ridiculous? Actually, when it speaks to a problem that you have, you’re like a fly or a deer in the headlights, because it works.

Humans work a certain way. We are not also to that personality assessment point. We work a certain way. Sales works in a certain way and that’s why every single infomercial is written almost exactly the same way. It’s a template. It’s the same template that you see on a flyer that you get because that was the original direct mailer. How does your company extrapolate the elements of a sales letter or an infomercial, and then of course speak to your particular audience that has their problems?

I think that’s really sort of the art of sales. It’s figuring out how to interpret your solution into that method. What’s the right way to deliver that message is different for different sized sales and different markets. If you go to Nick’s site, it’s a great example of a video that sells. If you watched my webinar, I literally take Nick’s template and I use it and it works incredibly well. I’d say it’s probably at this point, a good time to open up to some Q and A. I know there’s been some questions already, but we will just let you guys have at it. So, go ahead.

Man: I’ll take the first question. We are in a […] automation company, but for us showing people that these boards that people have been talking all these big companies we have that. We’re putting that on LinkedIn. The same discussion that we were just having, when people take out there, a lot of people like a lot of my peers call me and say, “Why are you guys putting so much information out there? Anyone can build it and take it.” I said, “Feel free. Go ahead and do it. What we do, you can’t do it or the quality of product.”

The one thing that I just heard from you, Jono, is the infomercials. It’s information for us. The thing that we hold back is what is the ROI and what is the solution? Much more details on the solution. Do you think that we should be putting that information out to the people, too, that this is a $30,000-$40,000 solution? You should be buying it from us and this is the ROI.

Bram: Why didn’t you […]?

Man: Why didn’t I?

Jono: The pricing in your marketing? You’re saying, don’t…

Man: The ROI specifically.

Jono: Oh, okay, yeah.

Man: Obviously, I’m not as smart, so I look to people like you. And people like you say, “Why are you putting this first board on LinkedIn and they get a free video coming up with […]. You have that on your website and then you have it on LinkedIn these recordings. People will find these solutions and they’ll start learning.

Bram: Sorry, but just to make sure I understand. What you said is, […] puts it up on the internet, and everyone told us to take it down, but we said no, you try to build it, go ahead.

Man: Yeah.

Bram: But then you don’t include the ROI, but for the same logic.

Man: But the thing is, so many people tell you, you get scared. I know I’m not the smartest, I look up to people.

Bram: I’ll only say this probably speaking, okay? I’m not […] but I will just say this. It’s unbelievable how many people think they know anything and it’s really even more unbelievable how few people know anything. If anyone knew anything, then they would be doing what you do. They don’t and they don’t know. People generally give advice I think a lot of times to make themselves feel better or to talk to themselves, not talk to you. In general, I don’t know about your specific issue, but don’t listen to anybody.

Jono: I agree with that. We put a lot of free information up. If your solution is easy to copy then there’s not any value in it anyway. If you can give part of it away and you’re worried about getting stolen from?

Man: I’m not worried about the current […] solution are better than what we build and put on the videos, but then we held back and now I’m regretting that after 2-3 weeks, that we put this […] here. I have seen a lot of people seeing it, but I’m not getting these calls.

Bram: […] that.

Nick: Yeah.

Man: We made a mistake there.

Nick: With the ROI justification, it’s more of like a bottom of the funnel conversation. First order of business, you got to make sure that they’re interested in the problem that you’re solving. Then when they’re ready to pull the trigger and they’re looking at the price, and they’re looking to justify the investment, that’s when you can talk about ROI. But as far as top of the funnel stuff, you really want to attract people that are interested in your solution. Put as much information out as possible. We do that, I put out a lot, but they still can’t piece things together. You have to be a customer to get the actual cadence.

Jono: I would say that one of the principles of this form of marketing using content or long form video like webinars or VSLs—video sales letter—is you’re showing them the what? What is it they should do to solve their problem? But what you’re selling is the how. In ours, we sell a hands-free enrollment marketing solution, it’s a complete marketing funnel top to bottom for private schools, and my webinar breaks down in detail a case study of everything that we do for our clients with examples.

They sign up because they want to learn what it is. If they have somebody in their organization that could take that, go test it, play with it, and try to figure it out for themselves, then great. I happen to know for my market, they don’t have that. It’s going to be a very, very edge case for them to have that.

What I’m doing is I’m positioning myself like the expert, because I have all these case studies from customers that are successful and I’m giving them what seems to be the secret sauce. The real secret sauce is, we’ve all spent thousands of hours doing it and building the solution. They’ll never going to be able to copy that ever. They don’t have 3,000 hours to sit. They don’t have any time. They can barely get the hour to watch this webinar.

That’s the next point. If somebody can easily copy it, and if it’s that easy to copy, then you have to think about if you’ve built something of value. If it’s not, then you can show them all the information; you’re totally safe. That’s been my experience and seems to be theory that works.

Jordan: My advice on that and I think what the number one problem on sales is that, well there’s two. One is, I go into a website and I never know what anyone does anymore. It’s like, “Please boil it down for me. Let me know what you actually do.” The other is, what information to include. Don’t try to sell the whole company, the primary and secondary advantages, and everything else that comes with your product. Just pick your poison, if you will. and stick to it. Keep it nice, short, and concise, and the rest will come. The point is that for business development, our goal is to get a meeting.

The initial discovery meeting, you’re just trying to gather a couple of things and get to the next meeting. You don’t try to oversell. I’m part of the transformation team at Zafin, and really, it’s just about really boiling down our message of all the key challenges in the banking world that we fit and one of the things that I’m providing advice is leveraging the Salesforce methodology, which are things like the first slide. If you look at any slide in the history of Salesforce, they open up with an industry transformation, but what’s the table stakes of someone actually carrying about your solution? Get the emotion out of them, then talk about development. Why haven’t they’ve been able to deliver on the challenge that they have and then go in the promise and in other things.

I highly recommend googling Salesforce methodology and how they present their solution. They’ve stuck to their guns for the last 30 years since they’ve been in existence. The point is, also look at people that have done it and done it extremely well. Even though Salesforce or a company like that has no relevance to what you do, just take their learnings that they’ve stuck with their guns and they’ve had this very simple process and how they communicate their solution.

Jono: Yeah, another question?

Man: […] about your comp plans, your sales […].

Bram: We got a base salary and then we commission on top. The rates increase once quota is hit. There are three buckets, probably speaking of commission until I think it’s 70%-100% and then above 100% with no upper limit on top. I guess it depends, but that is […] it helps my salespeople sell. Infinite amounts of software and make infinite amounts of money behind it.

Man: Where do you set your quality? How many people usually meet their quota?

Bram: We’re too early in our experiment right now. Historically, a lot. A high percentage because we had very few salespeople, but going forward, now that we’re expanding ourselves, I don’t know if you were here from the beginning, but we’ve just built that whole sales team from scratch basically, TBD.

Nick: Are you hiring in Toronto?

Bram: Yeah.

Nick: What’s your base? What’s the OTE in Toronto that you guys have found that works?

Bram: I don’t want to say it publicly because it’s going on YouTube. We don’t publish that information.

Man: Can you give a range?

Bram: How wide should the range be? Between 50-100, I can tell you that. Our base is between 50-100, our OTE should be at least XX the base, I think.

Jordan: We’re somewhere between 50-100. Based on what I know from my previous role which is we’re pretty much selling the same roles within the banks, I did the math actually today. It’s $92,400 per year on top of their salary. They’re very achievable goals. I keep telling my guys, we have a really amazing comp plan that we’ve created.

The one thing that I’m adding on top of the comp plan and it’s really, really small but going back to my Trello is when you have stand ups and all these meetings. No one really cares about the next guy, because in reality they’re in competition. They’re always trying to look good in front of everyone. What I’m implementing is very small, what I call a team goal. It’s not for myself and I made that clear that if everyone hits their quarterly goals, then there’s an annual bonus involved.

It’s also being creative. You don’t have to set a high amount, but now when we get into our stand-up meetings, the other person will actually give their guidance as to what works, what email formats, or what messaging, all these sorts of things, and they’ll actually help try to get leads if one person is falling behind on their quarterly quota. It’s pretty cool to see that you could shift the psyche on your team members pretty quickly.

Cheryl: On our side, we have a salary and then we have bonus structure. We’ve done that bonus structure. We do also have a team target. We’ve got a bonus today. We’re looking at a commission structure for next year but it’s been bonus structure as we’ve grown and tried to play with what that looks like.

Again, our sales process is much faster than yours to be able to support what that looks like and to be able to scale properly. A little bit different business model and ours is a little faster, a little more high volume, and repetitive. Taking a look at what that is, it’s a bonus structure. We have I’d say the biggest incentive and reward on our team as we rolled out team leads. That has had a huge impact to motivate the team. Because we’ve grown so quickly, we now have taken our top performers and made them team leads, which has become a player coach model. Whereas a player, they need to be top in what they do and they also coach a small team to be able to lift the individuals in their vertical and where they specialize. It has helped with on boarding and ramping quickly. It has created a big motivation and then we gave them a little bit of a team budget where they had some budget to do what they wanted with it.

Again, this is inspiring them to figure out how do they use that money and it’s been more effective to give it to them and say, “Now, figure out what you’re going to do to motivate your team.” That dollar value, they could use it to take the team for lunch. They could use it to go for beer and wings. They can go to play pool. We had two of the teams that had a competition between each other where they put 50% of their budget on the line for whoever could bring in the most revenue.

It has been a lot of fun to see how they could put their creative juices together to figure out how do they use this budget for some fun and it’s had a much bigger impact than probably a commissioned plan. I know that seems crazy, but it drove some great results, and I think it elevated the performance of the team, but also elevated the job satisfaction because they felt like they were building something, and it had a huge impact for us and the team morale. And I think it helped fit into what culturally we’re trying to accomplish, to have them really take ownership of their spaces.

Man: […] Do you sell someone and then they make sure two months later, there’s not much value in the sale. Have you ever thought about […]?

Cheryl: In my space, it’s an annual contract. The customer doesn’t leave after two months, it’s really rare, and most of the payment’s upfront for the year. For us, we don’t have that challenge. Again, I have a renewal team that owns the renewal and the survival rate of not only our policies but survival rate on the revenue, on the upsell, cross-sell upon that renewal. We have a fairly sticky business where we haven’t had the issue of the churn that it created a good motivation factor on bringing in new business.

Nick: I’ll speak to that. We have a pure commission structure and it’s been good. Our guys make a lot. Our top guys make about $25,000 a month, but it’s purely commission. We started bringing on newer folks. We started them off with a little bit of a base but I was always trained in commission only sales where, “Will you kill?” sort of thing. It makes them really, really good. We lose them fast if they’re not good, but once you end up being good, they make a lot of money and they do well.

Bram: I agree that if you do commission-only, you tend to get really hungry, self-reliant people. What worries is it seems to me like if you have had 10 years of success as a sales person, you’re ready for a switch, and you have a family and stuff, unless you have a big draw, people need that money to live. Wouldn’t you just say that some of the best sales people in the market wouldn’t come to you because it’s commission only?

Jono: If you don’t have a track record, then it’s going to be difficult to do commission only. The way that you get the best sales reps is if you can show a guy who’s making $25,000 a month. You’re like, “Hey, do what he does.” You’ll attract the best guys because they just want to make more money. 

Man: How do you […] base plus the commission? I don’t need to take that kind of a risk in my career now that I’ve […].

Nick: That’s true. They’re in their 20s, right? We’re finding people in their 20s. We had someone in their 40s. I don’t know. How old is Jake, probably like 43? Something like that. It was a lot of pressure but he didn’t hit the numbers that these young guys were doing. It seems to work. Our guys are pumping out good numbers. Our one guy’s tracking for $200,000 this month in sales and then he’ll get 20% or 15%. It keeps people going.

Jordan: Yeah, I think I tend to agree with you. Sales is in such high demand especially here in Toronto. I don’t know the quota I read the other day, it’s the number two topic on LinkedIn. I think salespeople are in the buyer’s market. I think it’s a buyer’s market. If you’re going to get anyone who’s worth their salt, they’re going to go for salary but it would be nice to be able to […].

Nick: I’ve found that people that want salary, they’re not even that good anyway. I’ve had that experience. They’re like, “Oh, I want this. I want that salary.” I’m like, “Go. Go do it. Go get a nice salary.” This is what I found out. Our best reps, they’re the ones that put in a resume. They bug me on LinkedIn. They bug on Instagram. I don’t respond to them for a month. They keep bugging me. They might even buy our product and then they’re just like, “Are you ready to go?” They’re really bought into the whole business. Those are the ones that I found that are really successful.

Man: I will follow you on LinkedIn.

Nick: Yeah, sure.

Man: I’ve also seen your website and I wonder where you get those […] from. You’ve got that […] system, so you’re talking about […] seven hour thing, and it seems like you’ve got a commission only approach, that you built a system ready for that approach, right?

Nick: Yeah. It’s true.

Man: Rather than saying, “Hey, […],” I won’t pay to do that. Where are you on this? I couldn’t […] and say, “Hey, look. […] commission. You need it and I provide with a brand that’s going to…”

Nick: Yeah. Here’s what happened. The reason why we have the Lamborghini stuff with that, it gets a lot of attention. I did a case on it. You run an ad of a freaking green Lambo in there, the clickthrough rate is going to be really high. Also, it fires up the young people to come work for you. I don’t even drive a green Lamborghini. I have a black car. It’s not as flashy. I don’t really like that stuff but it attracts the people that we need to attract.

As far as getting started, I didn’t always have the brand, but I was just a dog in the trenches. I got to $50,000 a month just by doing outbound prospecting and closing over the phone. I would just be hitting link. I was doing door-to-door on the internet. I was just hitting my messages every morning for 2 hours, just […] only $3 a day, and then I would close it on the phone.

I would just show that sales. My first sales rep was Joseph. He came on and I just showed him the numbers and I was like, “Dude, if you can do what I’m doing, give it a shot.” I didn’t even pay him any salary. I was just like, “Yeah. I’ll give you a percentage.” He saw me do it. I led by example.

Man: Was that […] to getting onboard with that as well?

Nick: No. Basically, the key to attracting really good salespeople is you just lead by example. That’s what I found. If you’re just a stone-cold killer like Jono was saying, people are going to want to work for you. They’re just going to be like, “I want to work for this guy.”

Bram: Everyone’s who’s a salesperson, just put their hand in the air for one second. For anyone here who would currently take a job that’s commission only, can you keep your hand up?

Nick: Okay. Here’s another question, who wants to make $25,000 a month? Right?

Woman: These are all of you guys. How much more do you value someone who is young and hungry but less experienced, […] very passionate versus someone who is super experienced but then, they also want some stability?

Bram: Young is not the right adjective, I would put on it, but I would say the following. Historically, we used to have a model which was find people who I thought could figure it out and do it and the model sucked. It didn’t work. It was impossible to replicate. There was no consistency to it.

People used to say to me, “Bram, we need to hire in the territory—local—and you need to hire people who have ad tech experience. You need to hire people who have SaaS experience.” I just, “No, you’re not right. You are all right.” The more I have moved to hiring people who’ve done exactly.

Jordan: You didn’t go with your gut on that one.

Bram: No. Definitely not. No. By the way, I’m a pretty terrible manager if you just blindly close your eyes and only trust your gut on every decision. There has to be a healthy balance. I would say the more we’ve been able to add objectivity to it, the better.

People who’ve done it before, you can ask them questions about it and they can tell you. Where if they haven’t, you just have to trust your gut, effectively. I would argue that it might make them better experience. I don’t know, but it certainly makes it easier to determine whether or not they have the track record, if they’ve done it before. If that makes sense.

Nick: I agree with your point. I find that if you get them too many experiences, to much of an investment, it’s too risky but if they’re too experienced, they’re difficult to coach. There’s a little bit of a sweet spot in there. Also, you don’t want them to be too entrepreneurial either because then they’ll go out and start their own business after three months. You put $75,000 into them.

You were speaking about the opportunity cost and the cost to ramp. We spend $20,000 a month for advertising per rep. Three months, we’ve invested that advertising budget into them and we lose them for three months. It’s really costly. I think there’s a sweet spot. I definitely agree with you on the little bit of experience, for sure.

Jordan: I think more important is having people on your team that have industry-specific knowledge. What I mean by that is somebody who’s been on the other side. I don’t know if you’re in warehousing, you’re selling robots to warehouses.

Man: We sell […].

Jordan: All right. Okay. Maybe someone who works at a warehouse.

Man: It’s someone who would be working out […]. Someone like where Cheryl’s been. We have come to that. In fact, I have someone on Thursday, tomorrow is his first day with me and he comes from insurance sales. The product that we built works in insurance […]. I’m teaching what this […] does and ask him to go through the product […] before he […].

Jordan: Having an industry with knowledge. You’re speaking to the person that you’re now selling to, you’re speaking their language. You know the problem that you’re really, truly solving. That, I find, is more important than age. An old person will bring knowledge, maybe be a little lazy, come in at odd hours or leave early. You might have a young person as just to go-getter. I think it’s a healthy balance as well but more of the knowledge is what I’m looking for.

Man: I’ll add something there. Part of my job is product development. […] I’m hiring. These are students who are either international students or people who are coming […]. We are not paying them, part of them. There’s a part of […] like or four people. The only thing that they have is […] so hard in the market at the same time working for your organization, that they are ready to put those three months with me. […] all of them. You guys stayed with me for more than a month-and-a-half. You will be getting your fair […] number, but this is on the top side of what Canada immigration says that I can sponsor to the  immigration to this country. There is a top 5% of the pay for these people who bring three numbers. These are very hungry people […].

Bram: On this point, I would say this. We have found a lot of great success hiring new immigrants to the country. In general, hiring what, I don’t know if I’m going to say this politically, candidates that have had a harder time getting a job in more traditional channels because I find that a lot of people who are responsible for hiring are not wise people. They use not data to make decisions. You’re able to find people who might have an accent or might not be able to express themselves super well within the first month of them coming to the country but they have 20 years of relevant experience killing it.

Not only that. someone who we just hired recently has a wife and kids at home, they had to make a damn living to bring them over. There was no failure in this person’s option. The drive was there. I found, in general, the people we’ve been able to hire like that have had a huge amount of respect, they love to learn, they’re very appreciative of the opportunity because people have slammed the door on their face quite a bit and it must be a very disheartening process. By the way, we hired them because they’re great, not for any other reason. It’s been really wonderful and we’ve been able to do that across the organization. Less so in sales. True in sales but less so in sales but in technology or product.

Man: […] 25 or 20 that’s always the […]. My wife, she’s the founder and she talks to them. One thing that we ask them is your attitude towards other people. We don’t ask you what your technology supplies or anything but there’s something so new, we will teach you, but if you don’t have the attitude, you’re not a go getter. I have people who work Uber on weekends and they’ve work five days with me […]. I come […] seminar. I won’t say what happened with those products there, but […] took three months to built there, my team […] seven days. This guy who drives Uber on the weekend was so hungry, he spent all evening studying and then coming and working for me. I don’t tell them to […]. I think the same thing with people […] hungry and you say, “Yeah, you want […] work like me.”

Nick: Yeah, but the whole Uber thing, I want them focusing on their job so I’ll float them. I’ll give them a draw so that they don’t have to do that. It’s the same principle. They’re really, really, hungry.

Bram: We all try our best to create replicable and scalable activities on sales especially. I have found that no matter how much that is true, still the 80-20 rule applies. My question is, on your various skills of your organization is that true? How much of your sales are made up by the top 20% salesfolk?

Cheryl: I would say ours, we’ve created a model that’s scalable and we have a stronger team approach to bring everyone to that level. I’d say, “Give it more of a 50-50 where we are today, trying to bring it closer to the 80-20, the opposite direction.” I’d say that we have created a process that’s really onboarding and bringing people up to create it for success which is unique because in past roles, I agree with your 80-20 rule but I’d say that we’d shifted it.

Man: […] 50-50. You’d say the top 20% of the organization […] 20% […]. Is that what you’re saying?

Cheryl: No. I’m saying that it’s more than that that’s contributing to the amount of sales. I’d say that if I was to look across the organization on the sales level, we have more than 20% of our sales people bringing in their targets. Does that make sense?

Man: Okay. Yeah, I think I understand.

Jono: Just to give you some context, I used to hire college co-ups. Every 4 months I’d hire 10. It works in this market but within a week, I would train them. We have them selling for the next four months and if I was lucky, I could keep them for eight months. It was exhausting so I wouldn’t suggest it for anybody. If you’re good with selection and your training program and sales process is good enough, everybody was profitable but always, I saw the […] play at. It was always two of them made the majority of the sales. You want to keep on harvesting that top 20% and then move them up. I see it in hiring. I’ll bring on five, I’ll keep two. They’ll get past the first training month.

Man: Yeah, we saw the same thing.

Nick: Our script, I agree. We have a script and a process that we get everyone closing to the same percentage in a week because the script is 15 pages.

Man: It always […]?

Nick: No, there is but it’s not where you think it is. We get everyone closing to a certain amount really fast and the same time frame, but where the 80-20 thing comes in is the people that keep going. They’re durable.

Man: […] to deal with it, by the way. I […] annual sales number and how much is 20% of that, how much of that number is 20%?

Nick: We have that.

Jono: I don’t think you can get away from it.

Nick: No, it’s 80%–20%. It’s like they’re in the 80-20 thing but it’s due to just people that just keep going.

Man: I was hopeful that wasn’t the case but I thank you guys.

Cheryl: I think what I’m trying to say is in our business, I think it’s more than 50% of our people bringing in 80% of the business. I think we’ve got a higher percentage of contributors. Don’t get me wrong, we still have those that you’re ramping up. I have a higher percentage of contributors compared to a traditional sales model.

Man: I bet if you went into that […] 50% […] 80-20 ratio.

Bram: Well, maybe, but it doesn’t matter. If you can get 50% of the people to be contributing in a meaningful way, I guess I was just wondering if […]. So, here’s my question.

Man: You’re better off […].

Bram: What about IBM? Or Apple or whatever? Are there businesses out there that have figured out how to get 80% of the people contributing?

Nick: We have people, everyone’s contributing but they’re the superstars. They bring in twice as much as everyone else.

Bram: Isn’t the job of head of sales effectively drafting from the top players? Can you take a strategy that basically assumes most people are going to not perform? You really are just looking for those people that are really out performance if they’re not shift and move on? It’s not the way anyone approaches their job, though. Everyone approaches their job as, “Well, I’m going to hire and create this big team. Everyone is going to hit their number. We’re setting […] point where everyone will be successful,” but in reality, I don’t know.

Nick: No. We built that into ours. I came from door-to-door. When I was 20 years old, I worked for this door-to-door sales thing when I was in between semesters. I thought that was normal, 80% of people would just turnover. I’ve always prepped for that. If we bring in five, we lose three and have two stay but we lose them quick. That’s what we try to do.

Cheryl: Because you’re 100% commissioned.

Nick: And we have this test. Have you guys ever heard of the Peloton bike? It’s like an exercise bike. It’s the one that you can output wattage. I think this was before you were there. For the salespeople, if they hit 200 watts for 20 minutes consistently, they’re hired. We had people competing. We didn’t really enforce it but we just wanted to see. Obviously, we couldn’t enforce it, but I did it, so I challenged everyone. Those types of  fun tests, you can learn a lot from your sales team.

Jono: Do you have a question?

Man: Yes. Thanks, Jono, for having the event. I remember the first […] more of a surrounded pizzas, so pretty impressive. Thanks for all the […]. Cheryl, you talked a little about making sure your staff has the most important thing […]. I think you said seamless work list or seamless workflow available to them. And you mentioned the part of sales […]. Maybe you could speak a little bit about  the tools and how you integrate them? I think sometimes there’s so many tools now that it’s like, what is the next greatest tool? I think there’s some consistency across […] tools, but I don’t mind hearing a little bit about—

Nick: Like the stack.

Man: Yeah. What kind of tools are you guys using? Maybe […] list of general, what  tools are you finding success with narrowing down the noise and letting […].

Cheryl: From our side, we don’t use traditional insurance tools. We consider ourselves a tech software company that happens to sell insurance. We lead with technology and the efficiency of that technology first and the product happens to be commercial insurance, which is very different. Don’t use all those epic systems and if anyone comes from insurance, some of those are old tools.

For our CRM tool, it’s Salesforce and we’ve adapted that to be able to really fit the niche of what that looks like. For email automation, to be able to create a cadence with timed proper messages on follow-ups, we use something called Mixmax. I’ve tried a couple of different tools. I find Mixmax has a more intuitive interface to it.

Man: […]

Cheryl: You could use that one. SalesLoft we used in the past. I find Mixmax has a more intuitive and customer-friendly face to it. It allows you to white label it so you can put your own branding and logo on it. It has different pulls on it.

Jono: Is this for email marketing automation or sales emails?

Cheryl: Email automation. We do it for sales emails as well as renewal messages because in insurance you have to reach out for renewal, certain timing ahead. It allows us, if they don’t respond with certain questions, it has an automated second message to do follow-ups. As soon as they respond, it stops them from that cadence. All those messages come back into, we use Zendesk if anyone’s Zendesk, to be able to support with that ticket system looks like, to be able to organize.

All of those tools feed into a Salesforce report where that reporting metrics can show the last time we touched that customer, who’s responded, whether they’re on a series of cadence messages. They’d come off so that we can manage that workflow to be able to support, prioritize who’s the next one you’re going to mainly reach out to and why.

Man: And then you said, […]?

Cheryl: Absolutely. We can actually see if they’ve opened, if they’ve clicked. All of that is recorded in Salesforce underneath the contact to be able to take a look at what that is. Zendesk also records all of the phonecalls. For insurance, it’s good to have a recording. It’s great for training purposes, to be able to hear those phone calls, be able to give proper coaching.

Jono: One question I have is you must have additional team members that focus on optimizing and tracking that. Obviously, your salespeople are busy using it, so is that you? Who helps you build those systems, optimize them, and maybe split test what emails work better? What’s that role called and how many people work on that?

Cheryl: Great question. I’d say I set it out myself but it was a lot of work to do it and I am probably not the best person to do that. We now have a sales operations or someone that helps with all those metrics. I now have someone that sets up some of those dashboards and reporting for me now that the team is larger. I also have the benefit of we have we have full stack developers on our floor.

We build our own software tools because we’re a software company. I now involve them on some of these integrations to be able to make sure tools can integrate and feed into our website to be able to really support that experience including our online chats and have those tickets feed in. We have got some automated shortcuts for answers that we’ve built in to simplify that whole process and to be able to make it a more consistent experience.

Jordan: I have one that I haven’t used yet but we’re ramping up our customer list or our prospect list to launch in January but actually do a one-day test in November. It’s called ConnectAndSell. I don’t know if it’s unique but they basically do hundreds and hundreds of calls a day. I don’t know if it’s robots or if it’s people from this company that makes the calls. Whenever they get somebody on the line, it transfers over to your business development team.

I think it’s pretty cool considering you probably spend about 90% of your time, at least, trying to connect with companies. Built a separate business to fix this problem but I think that would be really cool from trying to get in front of people, I think, still connecting on phone at any industry. I do it at the bank level with my team and it works. I presume it would work for any product under any industry.

Nick: I can give just the basic stack because this is what we do for our business. If you need landing pages like ClickFunnels or HubSpot, Act! of campaign for email automation. It’s reliable, It’s cheap. I like for my CRM. HubSpot’s okay. Salesforce, I don’t really like, it’s cumbersome. Jotform for quiz submissions, Calendly for calendars. I use Facebook Analytics to track my funnel stuff, Google Analytics for redundancy, and ZapHere to tie everything together. What else do we use, Justin?

Jordan: Just don’t do email tracking. You’ll go crazy.

Nick: Zoom for calls. We use GoToWebinar for webinars, some of that, but Zoom does all the recording stuff.

Man: […]

Nick: We got 40%. Actually you have to be a customer, but want to sign up? 40% off, bro.

Jono: There’s 20 options for each one of these things, so it’s really annoying when you’re trying to figure out which one to use. We have a totally different stack and then we try to get analytics happening and some of them play nicely with the analytics, some of them don’t. It’s really frustrating. One thing that was just a remarkable change in my life was I used to for the calls. Then when we switched to Zoom, it’s literally like their commercial says—it just works.

I sell to predominantly middle-aged and up women that are teachers that are running businesses. They’re not very tech-savvy. They don’t use these things very often. It was always 15 minutes just to get them onto the presentation. I switched to using Zoom just to try it and they would just show up and they’d be there.

Nick: You want to hear a funny story about Zoom? We had a sales guy and it was his first demo and he didn’t know how Zoom automatically started the video. He has his script there. He’s eating a sandwich. There’s three people in the conference call and he’s just eating his sandwich and just motoring through the script.

He didn’t know the video was on. One of our other guys was watching this guy sell and go. I’m in the same room and he’s like, “Nick, you’re not going to believe this guy. Look what he’s doing.” The prospect was like, “This guy is the most confident guy.” He ended up getting a deposit. You got to be careful with Zoom. Make sure you know if it’s on video or not.

Jono: You don’t want a sandwich to be part of your sales process because you’ll get pretty stuffed pretty quickly.

Nick: What’s that?

Jono: If you’re always using a sandwich to sell, you could get pretty fat.

Nick: Oh yeah.

Bram: I would just add two things here quickly. We use a lot of the names that I’m hearing up here. I tend to be pretty skeptical and cynical on technology in general and think that a lot of people would be like, “Oh, we wouldn’t be selling but we just need to turn on three more systems that cost another $100,000.”

I’m thinking it actually affects top performer sale. It does get much better visibility and help people out a bit when you have a good team and motoring the ads and tools adds a lot. I would say we implemented RingCentral company-wide for a video chat and all of our conferencing. I am a convert, I just love it. Now, it has just shortened the distance from all of our people who work at home. The head of sales run a weekly call for half the organization by now. Everyone videos in and everyone can see everyone else. It’s just so nice and so easy. That was a big one.

The other one, we’re just starting to use across the business’s teams by Microsoft now for chatting and communication. That helps because what we found is, a lot of people use their email even with customers. You have these strings and then someone would leave the organization then you’re like, “Where was that whole thing? Oh, we lost it a long time ago.” You don’t want that to happen.

Jono: Okay. I think we’re going to end it here, but obviously, we can stay. There’s lots of pizza and drinks, leftover coffee, anything you want. Any of the panels want to stick around and […] and answer the questions. Please give the panel a round. Thank you so much, guys. I’ve learned a lot. I guess we can all find you guys on LinkedIn and what have you. Thank you, everybody for coming and we’ll wrap it up.

SaaS Lead Generation Strategies


Today’s episode focuses on Software as a Service SaaS lead generation strategies. From Audience Ops to Zapier, many tools and plugins are available. 

Jono Landon is the founder and CEO of Hubbli, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and SaaS company that works with private schools find prospective parents to grow enrollment. Jono describes Hubbli’s use of lead generation tools, software, and strategies. 

Topics Include:

  • Hubbli generates sales leads via target audience, cold calling, products, content, education, and paid traffic funnel to schedule demo
  • Webinar Elements: What’s the roadmap to reach a buying decision? 
  • Infomercials are ridiculous, unless you’re the person needing a solution to a problem
  • Sales Metrics: Results show drastic increase in price point and shorter sales cycle
  • Webinar: Way to engage audience, improve attendance, and offer real value
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): Build trust to get people to part with their money
  • Tools to Try: WebinarJam, Audience Ops, Infusionsoft, Leadpages, Zapier, and more  

Links and Resources:


Jono Landon

Jono Landon on LinkedIn

Amy Porterfield



Audience Ops

Brian Casel







Facebook Ads

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Google Ads

Google Boomerang


SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham


Episode Transcript

Jono: Hello and welcome to the Kick SaaS Podcast. I’m your host, Jono Landon. In this podcast, we share excerpts from live in-person SaaS growth events that I run in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. A little about me, I’m the founder and CEO of Hubbli. We’re a B2B SaaS company that helps private schools find new families to enroll and engage them throughout the entire enrollment journey. This episode is a recording of a recent roundtable discussion that I facilitated at the Hubbli head office on the topic of SaaS lead generation strategies. We’re going to jump right into this episode. I hope you enjoy this format and the content we go through here. I look forward to sharing future episodes with you from these live SaaS growth workshops.

Margie: Okay, so why don’t we start? I put together a list of key questions but anyone can ask questions to everyone as well. Why don’t we start with you, Jono? Can you tell us how you generate sales lead for Hubbli?

Jono: Sure. In our space, we’re targeting small private schools. These are very particular businesses. One of the benefits of the many challenges of working with schools is they’re really easy to generate leads for, depending if you have the right product. We’re selling to this school leadership administration. What’s really cool is if you call them, the person that picks up the phone is actually who you’re trying to close. There’s no gatekeeper which is awesome. We try to find a product for the gatekeeper. That’s what I always suggest to people. [00:02:12] the gatekeeper. I’m like, “Arm yourself from one of the gatekeepers because they always pick up the phone.” Anyway, that just happens.

When we started off, we were able to just literally cold-call and close sales. That was great but obviously, it’s the slowest and hardest. As soon as we were able to, I started testing paid traffic, originally paid traffic basically from Facebook into the website where I just had a very basic button to schedule a demo. We would generate demos that way. That was the initial paid traffic funnel.

At that time, our cost of acquisition was almost 10 times what it is right now. It was okay but it really was quite challenging. There were a lot of no-shows and it took many calls to close the deal. There’s a number of ways that we’ve optimized the sales funnel to improve the cost of acquisition and shorten it, but as far as generating the leads at the top of the funnel, we’ve been developing a lot of content, a lot of blog content that gets organic opt-ins. What I’ve been developing over the last few years is trying to continuously add layers of education and qualification between the initial opt-in and the sales call.

Now instead of just Facebook Ad to the website and a demo signup and then a demo, it’s Facebook Ad into a webinar registration. They come into the webinar for an hour, they come out of the webinar, then they go to consultation, and they’re 80% sold by the time they show up. There are, of course, many other steps and automation in between every stage of that. This is a very high level explanation of it, but that is how we are generating very, very hot leads now that the cost of acquisition has gone from $1200 down to under $150. That’s been [00:05:14] two years.

Man 1: Was that all trial and error as you went through that process or were you following that other lead from others that got you there?

Jono: It’s a little of both. I really wanted to try webinars. I just probably realized this market really needs to be educated. It’s a great opportunity because it’s something [00:05:46] land-grab. For our market, they are business owners that are actually teachers. They are teachers running businesses. They’re missing any business education or experience, they just go from teacher to all of a sudden, they’re running a $10-million annual organization with no training in between. That takes a lot of education for them to just realize how poorly they, and just in general, the industry does things.

The education is really essential and that’s a great opportunity to create piping hot leads that are on the brink of closing because you’re really opening their eyes up for the first time with these things. If you can get people into that position, that’s wonderful for sales. They’re not a sophisticated market. It’s not a bunch of signals that you have to cut through where they’re hearing the same thing all the time from a bunch of different people. The other challenge is you got to get them into that place and get them to open up their mind.

Man 1: I know that you webinar is quite long. Is that normal in webinars? I thought it was excessively long, but obviously, it works for you.

Margie: How long is it?

Jono: Yeah. It’s an hour-plus. It goes on.

Margie: Is it a live webinar or a recorded webinar?

Jono: It was. They think it’s a live webinar, every [00:07:22] webinar. We use a tool that makes it seem live and they do think it’s live and they answer questions that I ask all the way through. It really works.

Margie: What if they have a question?

Jono: They chat and they see their chat. If I wanted to be or somebody could be there live responding but the first time I did the live webinar or the one that was recorded probably had 30 attendees, now it’s got almost a 1000 because they just keep on piling on and adding on. Everybody’s answers, I ask them, “Where are you from?” and most like, “[00:08:05]” people. You look really impressive because wow, there are many people here watching this guy but they don’t know that’s been collecting on for almost six months.

As far as length goes, you got to find  the right thing. When I decided to try the webinar thing, the first opportunity I had was with a channel partner that is an association of schools. They asked me to present in their webinar and I did that.

Interesting little side note. I was like, “Okay, I’ve never made a webinar before. How do I do this?” I have a service that writes our blogs for us. I took one of their blogs because it was on the right topic and I used that as a road map. It was a well-written blog, it was a good road map, and I was like, “Okay,” because that’s the hardest part when you’re trying to make something like a webinar, or an email, or a course or something, it’s like, “What is the roadmap? Where am I going with this?” I just used that and then I just made a bunch of slides according to every point. That was how I started and that turned out really well.

From doing those webinars live, I was, “Oh, I got a bunch of demos out of it and I got sales out of it. This works well.” Then I looked into webinar courses. I bought one of these webinar guru courses and I bought more than one of them. The real value was Amy Porterfield. She’s one of these webinar guru people. I went through it and I got her template. I used her template to just plug in my content into her template and that worked well.

It worked well because ultimately, sales is sales. If you take your cues from the most salesy infomercials, you’re smart. Humans make purchasing decisions the same way no matter where you are. We go through a cognitive process when we make a buying decision. That process shortens or lengthens depending on the size of the decision. We go through that model. From an infomercial to a webinar to a mailer that comes into your mailbox, those direct mailer things, they have all the elements that humans need to make a buying decision.

Something that I realized recently was we’re selling in the education sector and I’m part of a lot of ed-tech meetups and things that. I was showing this group my webinar and they’re like, “Wow, that’s really salesy. How do you approach this market like that?” I’m like, “Because sales works. If you don’t do it this way, you won’t close the deal.”

What I realized was when you’re watching an infomercial, whatever it is, get these two knives, or a slap chop, or whatever, it seems ridiculous because you’re not the person that has that problem that he’s speaking to. But when you are that person, when you’re in that target zone, you’re just eating it up because you also activate as the buyer. All those sales elements now mean something to you and you’re responding to it because it’s taking you through the process that you want to go through because you’ve got the problem that they’re talking about, whatever it is. That’s the thing that I’ve learned really over the years is that some people are cringy around salesmanship and overly salesy landing pages, but those things work and you really got to use them. That should be your starting point.

Man 1: At the beginning, you’re already trying to source right out of the gate. When they come in, if you’re hitting them right over the head and saying, “Hey, this is for you,” or “It’s not for you.”

Jono: That’s what marketing is. Marketing is helping people filter themselves out.

Man 1: I think that’s a key point because I found a lot of people I interact with are trying to hold as much of that basket as possible then really teach us to be getting rid of it and [00:13:35] down as quickly as possible.

Jono: Yeah.

Woman 1: May I ask you something? Are you doing [00:13:41] or is it monthly, annually?

Jono: We’ve moved more to annual but we started out doing monthly, quarterly, and annually. We used to be basically almost predominantly all monthly and then I just realized if I can close them on an annual subscription, why wouldn’t I do that?

Woman 1: Yeah. [00:14:02] more towards the larger [00:14:07].

Jono: Interestingly, when I was doing monthly, it was a way harder sale. This is the topic of the last meetup. There are so many elements to optimizing the sales funnel. Part of that work for us was to stop solving everybody’s problems. We were just solving too many problems with too many people and it just made the sales process way more complex and longer than it needed to be.

We offer the same platform but we’re focusing on one problem at a time now in our sales so we’re closing way faster on annual subscriptions that are actually twice valued on a monthly basis, twice as much as it was before, over twice as much, and it’s way easier to close. Same customer, same platform. By going annual, the sales cycle shortened and the ticket price went up.

Man in blue shirt: [00:15:43]

Jono: Why? I don’t know if it’s easier but it hasn’t slowed me down at all. My sales metrics have improved drastically. I just can’t imagine why I would go monthly. I don’t think they’re going to get any better.

Man 1: If there’s no resistance to the sale.

Jono: It’s just something that you’ll figure out about your market and your buyer. You got to ask. You just got to always ask for more.

Man in blue shirt: [00:16:27] using software for the [00:16:29]

Jono: My funnel has four different SaaS products that are all patched together, then I have an analytics package that sucks everything in to track the metrics. For that tool, I use WebinarJam. They have two products basically, one is just an upgrade. WebinarJam is the live webinar version and then every webinar is an upgrade. That allows you to just take any one of your live webinars that you’ve done and just convert it to an evergreen webinar. Basically, you’ve done all the work of doing it live, now it’s just one click and you’ve got evergreen webinar.

Man in blue shirt: But it doesn’t answer the question in that live evergreen webinar?

Jono: They do have a feature where you can log in to respond the chats live if you want to. Basically, on a daily basis I get a notification from WebinarJam saying, “You’ve got 25 new chat lines.” I can go in and approve them to be part of the next run of the webinar or delete them or I can insert answers to them even from fake people. They’ve thought about everything. These guys are very good. They’re really good.

Man in blue shirt: You mentioned [00:18:06]

Jono: Blogging? I can’t speak highly enough about this, guys. It’s a company called Audience Ops. The guy’s name is Brian Casel. He’s got a podcast that I’ve been listening to for years. It’s just the real basic best practices of what every SaaS business needs, like a weekly blog service. Then they started a podcasting service. I do both and literally, they supply the podcast host, I just have to show up to a monthly Zoom call and their podcast host interviews me on the topics I want them to talk about. They research them and all that stuff. Then they cut it, they make the blog article, they do everything around it, too, like transcription. They post it in Buffer and to all my channels, send the newsletter for me. Everything just perfect [00:19:14].

Originally, before this guy, Brian, launched Audience Ops, he exited a SaaS product and then he developed this productized service, it was he coined it. Then he actually has an online course about productizing services. Then he just launched a new SaaS project management geared towards a productized service type of team. This typical SaaS bootstrap story where you create a service and then you make tech to make your services more efficient and then you sell the tech.

Margie: Where are they based?

Jono: His whole team is virtual, distributed. Their service is great. Just to give you a sense of the quality of their content, the head of the International Montessori Foundation, who’s an author and one of the biggest names in the industry, saw one of my articles went through the ecourse that those guys were and then asked me if he could publish that ecourse in their magazine that goes out to 30,000 schools. I was, “Yeah.” Now that guy’s sitting on my board. It’s one of the most strategic, then he became a customer and then became an investor and a board member all because of their blog articles and their ecourse. It’s really, really high quality content at basically a quarter of what it would cost to hire somebody.

Man in blue shirt: Was it based on [00:21:09]

Jono: Yeah. It’s $1000 for every other week or $2000 for every week. I do every other week with both the blog and the podcast. Basically, my list gets either a new blog article or a podcast episode every other week. Every week there’s something happening.

Man in blue shirt: [00:21:35]

Jono: $2000 for the [00:21:38].

Man in blue shirt: [00:21:39] per week?

Jono: $500 per week.

Woman 1: What marketing automations are being used as [00:21:51]?

Jono: I use Infusionsoft. It is more for a small team because we’re not that big right now. Everything is a marketing automation tool. I use Leadpages for the landing pages and everything ties in to each other and everything ties into Zapier; everything tags everything. Leadpages is the landing page and then that puts them into WebinarJam. WebinarJam handles the reminder sequence to get them to show up. Then depending on what they do in WebinarJam, it takes them in Infusionsoft where they also initially get entered into after the opt in. Then depending on, again, if they attend it or if they miss it, they get different sequences from Infusionsoft, then it goes on.

Then use this tool, Funnelytics to track. Funnelytics just lets you, again, suck in all the engagement from multiple platforms and manage your UTM strategy and everything. It’s a new tool but it’s everything I’ve been looking for in that sense. You can patch together whatever you want. I find there are things like ClickFunnels, which is a good all-in-one funnel builder and has its own analytics package. Any all-in-one platform I find, ClickFunnels has its own webinar feature, but it doesn’t have nearly the features as WebinarJam. I like to patch things together more than sticking [00:23:48].

Guy with turban: One question that you mentioned that the cost of acquisition has now down to less than [00:23:57]. Where did it start? How was your experience with [00:24:03]

Jono: I started at about $1200. That was a couple years ago.

Guy with turban: [00:24:10]. Is it stabilizing at this mark?

Jono: You’re always working at it, but it’s consistently coming down. I don’t know if it’s going to get much lower than this. The things that might bring it down now is if that’s exclusively based off Facebook Ads. Again, there are multiple conversion points.

One thing that really was quite interesting is you got to figure out which lever really changes the metric the most. I found that certainly, the biggest shift was getting away from just landing page demo opt-in, like hit the website, sign up for a demo, that’s when it was $1200. They just sign up for a demo, it was probably a 30% show up rate. It was really frustrating. It was $40 a demo at that time. Then multiple meetings to actually get them to close. It was very complex and too many people were required for a decision.

Adding in the webinar was a remarkable change as far as quality of principal show up rate and quality of demo and conversion rate on the demo. They were pre-sold. Essentially, the webinar is selling them. The key to using a webinar is you’re showing them your product. They know they’re coming in to be demoed something but you’re offering real value that’s a real takeaway that really they are educated. You can’t just fake it. You really got to dig in and make a great webinar.

Guy with turban: But your webinar allows you the opportunity to hold and tell the story be known just to [00:26:43]. Sometimes, you have liberty but that only happens in the [00:26:50] in the relationship with [00:26:53] certain point that you could take it beyond what you’re really looking to do in the [00:26:57]. The webinar allows you that [00:27:01] and I would think if you would get exposed [00:27:08] if we’re just to say [00:27:10] smaller so I’m dropping and take someone in, but with the webinar, you’re literally [00:27:16] the top of the funnel because you’re talking about these things more as subject-matter expert or touching their business points then [00:27:26] go through this one process. “Here’s our product, here’s competition, here are our [00:27:35].

That’s how you got to do [00:27:37]. Sometimes, you’re discussing [00:27:45] and then that resonates with the audience and what they’re thinking of. It’s just that one thing to say about. There’s something that’s not really [00:27:52] and that [00:27:57] I’m just going to buy this anyway. If these people think of this [00:28:04] mind process or know so much more about that process [00:28:07] especially as [00:28:09] scheme of things, the audience is very dedicated as long as being [00:28:19]. That’s really the reason why webinar would be [00:28:23] in your practice.

Jono: Right and all the more so, again, if this is all really new to them. As any sales requires, you need to flash your badge, make them think that you are a real expert in the space, they want to talk to experts and want to be sold by experts, everybody wants to buy from an expert, and then you need to show your credibility.

Sales and marketing is a process of building trust with people. Every stage of the process is just more and more trust until someone’s willing to part with their hard-earned money. The more you can speak to their pain and show you’re trying to slay the dragons that are coming after them and all that stuff, people coming out of my webinar and they’re like, when they show up, they tell me, I really understand them.

That’s what I like about niche marketing because you can really understand my customer base is a very tight profile. They are so consistent. When I build a business, I look for that. I’m looking for a consistent buyer persona that I can craft the perfect sales experience for it and figure out what they need and figure out how to talk to them. The more you niche down into a market. That’s one of the benefits of niching down into a niche market is that you can learn that and really have a very constant period of [00:30:13] more powerful.

The webinar was a huge shift in the conversion. I could not get my customers to buy my product in the webinar without a sales. It’s not going to happen. But I wanted to see if I could create a middle purchase that gets them to become a customer because once somebody pays you money, psychologically, you’re in a completely different basket in their head. I tried first selling a course. But I didn’t create it, I just pitched it and nobody bought it in the webinar. I got some interest but nobody actually purchased it.

Margie: It’s just like a trial test.

Jono: Yeah. I did the same webinar, but in the end, I just swapped what I was pitching at the end of the webinar and I tried selling a course. I worked hard and I put a lot of effort into trying to sell that and it didn’t fly. What worked was selling a slightly cheaper offering, just a $97 consultation. Instead of booking a free consultation, they paid for it. Again, I worked hard to sell it like, “I’m going to give you these deliverables,” and that worked. They started purchasing.

In the webinars, this automated evergreen webinars started to make the sales. When that was the first time, I was like, “Holy […]. I’m just selling something in the actual webinar. They’re clicking on it and putting in their credit card info.” Then they’re showing up for this consultation that they paid for and 73% of those people became my customer. They paid $97 and 73% of those people then paid me $3000. It’s like, “Okay, that works really well.”

I’ve since switched because you get fewer consultations. What I did was I decided to get more consultations but then actually get my sale to convert higher. Now my sales converted at over 50% without a fake consultation, but I get more consultations because I’m not filtering with the purchase. Again, you’re going to play with these levers and figure out what’s right for you. That’s going to change depending on so many different factors like how big your team is, how much money you have to generate leads, what’s going on in the industry, or whatever.

Man 1: What does the members look like coming into the webinar and once they actually sign up for the demo after? What was the drop off between?

Jono: We have about a 30% registration rate. It’s a really high conversion rate on the registration page. Then we have over 43%–44% show up rate, which is pretty good. The one thing I don’t have a good handle on is how many people show up actually schedule a consultation. That’s something that has just been tough to track properly. I’m not sure why. I’ve got somebody [00:34:13] down that’s basically dedicated to literally trying to really finalize, getting everything tooled up properly. That’s the one [00:34:27] point I’m not totally sold on, but what I’ve seen is out of the people that stay for the pitch, there’s a 30% conversion rate on those people. For the people that stay for the full hour, I pitch at around a minute 50.

Man 1: The pitch is for the consultation.

Jono: No, it was a free consultation. I’ve gone back to the free consultation.

Woman 1: Was the niche being [00:35:06] not business minded or [00:35:10]. What are the calls to action for a webinar? [00:35:15]. I’ve never heard of a webinar before [00:35:25] you play with the CTAs?

Jono: Yeah. We’re doing another round of headline testing in the ads. I’ve been really focusing on the Montessori market as a beachhead. The two that performed the best is Montessori Marketing Masterclass. That works. That’s the one that’s performed the best so far. Also, Facebook Ads for Montessori. My webinar is how to use Facebook Ads to grow your enrollment. That’s what the topic of the webinar is.

We don’t use the word webinar because webinar means different things to different people. They may think that’s just a demo. A lot of people think a webinar is just a one-on-one demo because it’s in a web. Masterclass or case study, use case study as well.

Margie: Is there anyone else here who would like to share their experience with generating sales leads for SaaS? Richard’s here from Applause who joined us remotely. Richard, do you want to share you experience with generating sales leads?

Richard: Yeah. It was really interesting he mentioned a few things regarding sales being ads. At Applause, we do employee engagement. We’re mainly selling to HR—HR directors, HR people. The whole sales point is really the employees. Employees are disengaged, don’t give a lot of effort. The employees who are disengaged tend to leave sooner than later. They’re taking the training and they’re not really beneficial to the company. That’s all sales pitch. You take less sick days and they’re more motivated.

Our platform software, what it does is that it makes it so that the employees feel more engaged because there’s peer-to-peer recognition. Managers get to see what’s going on there on the sales team, for example. What I really liked about what Jono said about, it’s like the media. People will make the purchase on the first buy. We have a lot of success when we started developing multiple touch points, whether it be Facebook Ads linked with LinkedIn, the email, Google AdWords, and forth because what we realized with HR, we thought people were going to log in, sign into the free platform, and everything will be done that easy.

We realized that no one was signing in even with all those efforts and generating a lot of people so we really had to change our pitch and really show the value. We did webinars, not automated like you express which was a great point, I definitely took some notes there, but we did webinars with which are niche markets to try to touch their client base. But what we’re really seeing success with is LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

What we do is the sales team filters through. We could choose company sizes, geographic locations. We can even tag people. Whenever they’re mentioned in a post, they comment somewhere, or they’re mentioned in the article, same thing as their company, we can then target them. What we do is we reach out to them, we link whatever we see in the news, and then we target them with that piece.

For example, Walmart shutting down a store and a thousand employees are laid off, then we’ll use that as a way of where they not engaged, could they increase productivity so they didn’t have to resort to that? That helped us a lot in that point. That’s basically the sales gen.

We still do the landing page, Google AdWords to landing page. We tailor it to either executives. We’ll talk more about the bottom line and how that could increase. We have another landing page that targets more HR people. Spending less time trying to go buy gifts for your employees for years of service and we try to put the added value always having the call-to-action above the fold to be able to book those free demos.

The only difference that our demos, we try to keep it super short, a quick 15-minute to 30-minute maximum overview. We lead with the benefit, we don’t focus too much on the features. We have, for example, surveys, polls, marketplaces, design your perks. We really do a quick overview of everything to say how it can save them time in their workday or give them peace of mind and take it from there.

Jono: Somebody asked if anybody here has tried AI lead generation tools. Have you?

Richard: No.

Woman 2: [00:40:32] tool right now. I’m very curious if anybody…

Jono: What’s his claim?

Woman 2: He claims that he will take the place of 2D or 3D apps. Basically, it’s an AI tool you just tell it people you want to target and it will generate those lists and send them [00:40:52] in your home list as well. It takes away a lot of the research work that [00:41:01] packages start about [00:41:07] a month.

Woman in black: I wonder where are your scrapes in [00:41:13] from LinkedIn, Facebook.

Woman 2: They [00:41:18]. One of them is LinkedIn. [00:41:23].

Guy in white shirt: Like instant AI?

Woman 2: Yeah. It’s an AI [00:41:32] list. You basically tell it [00:41:34]

Guy with turban: AI for getting the contact information on LinkedIn? I would say, [00:42:09]. If you have your own LinkedIn…

Margie: I tried [00:42:17] before.

Guy with turban: [00:42:19]. There’s another one called LinkedIn Helper. Has anyone tried that? What that does is it does [00:42:29] the job you’re suggesting this company does? It does [00:42:33] scale as well so you would set your patterns that comes in the background if you have to have access to LinkedIn. [00:42:40] but you can Google that [00:42:45] whatever, you [00:42:48]. You can look that up if you want. [00:42:51] introductions and things like that but then that’s what I said. I’ve done parts of [00:42:59] I would say, here’s a little bit of help and you should get the details and then do it ourselves. 

They just want the things that I would take using AI, virtual right or wrong, or [00:43:14] when you’re selling this to  [00:43:18] barely lying the whole gamut of things that’s really what could work for you might not necessarily work for something else at all. If someone’s generating 300 a day, 25 days later, you cover cold calling 7500 contacts. For other people, that’s speed. That’s probably the [00:43:42]. That’s a lot. [00:43:45] the second month. If you could make 7500, then what conversion rate [00:43:51] is 7%. You won’t even imagine that you’re going to hit that.

[00:43:58] in the sense that if it’s [00:44:07] at what stage are you in the business as well? If you’re a very established business and Yahoo treats you [00:44:14] top of funnel, great, but if [00:44:17], you want very customized messages [00:44:24] conversations. I’ve worked for a very established business. [00:44:33] webinars, our whole business was around content. A big, big environment. All the industry [00:44:41] content creation first is everything because [00:44:45]. We will collect data, we will create the insight from the data and we put it out as content. [00:44:50] conferences and panel discussion forever, that was [00:44:55] industry reports, that kind of stuff.

That’s [00:45:03] in the market. Allowing them with repeat users as well [00:45:09] almost always get new release coming through something [00:45:09] the AI theme might force [00:45:21]. One of those things is just creating top of the funnel and you’re like a name that everybody knows and [00:45:27] and when I come back [00:45:31] step further and AI qualifies it back to you [00:45:36].

Man 1: I imagine the headlines and the content that they’re viewing in the app “messaging” will play a video [00:45:51] AI is playing with that or you have to generate that.

Woman 1: I don’t think [00:45:56] so they can monitor them and they [00:46:00] them and adjust them.

Man 1: AI is not doing the activity with these things, with AI, you look and then substitute and present to the ones that are working the best.

Woman 1: Yeah. [00:46:16].

Margie: They’re still [00:46:33] but very early stage.

Woman 1: Yeah. But you have to start something.

Margie: Yeah.

Jono: There’s this company in the Philippines called Callbox. They have a team. Literally, they’re going to launch it this week and we’re going to test using differently than their regular use case. We don’t want them scheduling demos for us which is what they’re having a hard time wrapping their heads around that because we just want them inviting people to the webinar. We just want to get the right people at the top of the funnel. The webinar is a Ferrari engine at this point and I just need premium gas going in. I don’t want to talk to people and I don’t want my salespeople to talk to people if they don’t have that kind of the webinar.

My sales funnel and my sales call is scripted at this point. My salespeople are actors. They’re not trying to figure out what to say. I want them to focus on performing the sale rather than figuring out what this person is going to say because we have this incredibly tight profile. Everything we say, if they’re the right person, it’s going to strike them in their heart. It uses all of the consultative skills best practices if you read spin selling and all that stuff, all of that stuff is happening inside that, in that hour-long call. But it generally takes an hour to close our customers but we go through it and they’re closed. It’s scripted. I just  want to keep on getting people into that webinar.

Margie: Jono, you’re using webinar a lot. Richard from Applause using LinkedIn Navigator. Does anyone here use cold calling? Is cold calling bad?

Woman in black: I do cold calling.

Margie: All right. Why don’t you share with us your experience with cold calling? Is it proper now than then?

Woman in black: I don’t know, I’ve been doing them for three months now.

Jono: What kind of customers are you calling?

Woman in black Retailers. [00:49:20] retailers. Some of them are not really professionalist. I have to talk to gatekeepers, usually the owners are not there so I have to [00:49:32] gatekeepers. Oftentimes, the more successful the retailer is, it’s harder to actually [00:49:42].

Margie: My experience with cold calling stuff, basically, I started my career at a Thai company in Montreal called Eye-in Media where we’re selling Wi-Fi solutions, digital signage, and digital menu boards. My boss is like, “Hey, why don’t you target the transportation industry and sell them onboard Wi-Fi solutions.” This was back in 2014–2015. A lot of charter buses at that time still didn’t have Wi-Fi solution. They didn’t think that they should bring it to their customers and make it part of the customer journey during that eight-hour travel or when they are taking videos or posting on Instagram. In that time, Instagram wasn’t popular yet, but the tour bus, you’re a tourist, you’re [00:50:40] Canada, they have a lot of data, then Wi-Fi is a really good solution.

Part of my job at that time was really make a list of all these business owners who only charter buses and call them. My boss is like, “Call them.” I was so scared of cold calling. This was my first time and I had to put myself out there. I had to roll the sleeves and call them, speak to the gatekeepers, get them to have their bosses to call me back. A lot of the times, it would take 20 phone calls for me to reach somebody. I would always leave a voice message and then I would follow up with an email saying, “Hi, I was trying to reach you, I couldn’t reach you. I have a voice message, here’s what we do.” [00:51:35] the customer base and I was targeting Ontario at that time.

Finally, I had one business owner who believed in me. He believed in the products, I pitched it to him using Webex, it’s like a webinar. He liked it, he tried it. He ordered one Wi-Fi unit and then he ordered one more. I used him as a reference. I called everyone else who are part of this association for charter buses and I said, “This guy is using it. Why are you not using it?” It became a domino effect. Then from there, it became easier for me to just send emails when I couldn’t reach them because I would say in my email, “Here are the people in your industry or here are the companies in your industry who are using our solution.”

Man with turban: That’s called [00:52:31].

Margie: Yeah, but it started with cold calling because you’re speaking to them on the phone, it’s easier for them to trust you. I have never met any of these customers.

Man with turban: The first one is going to be the hardest.

Margie: Yeah, the hardest.

Man with turban: [00:52:47].

Man 1: That’s something about cold calling, the more calls you make, the easier it gets.

Margie: Exactly.

Man 1: The only thing that you have to remember when you’re cold calling is just keep calling.

Margie: Keep calling, exactly.

Man 1: The only thing, next, next, next, next. As you go through, you will start to figure out the terminology, the language, the keywords. Just like advertising, each industry has a language that they use and you have to learn the language. When you use that language in that industry, they start to respond to you. If you don’t know the language initially, it will take a whole bunch of calls and then you’ll start to realize because of the conversations that you have.

One other mechanical thing that you should know is you want to reach bosses. If they’re really serious, they’re usually there before the employees in the morning, the gatekeepers are not there until nine o’clock. If you call me before nine o’clock, you will reach the bosses. The gatekeepers are not there after five o’clock and if you call, you’ll reach the bosses. If you really want to reach the bosses, those are the two primary times that you want to call. The rest of it is a waste of time.

Margie: I totally agree with you and I definitely experienced that. I had a mentor and he was a senior salesperson in that company and that’s exactly what he told me. He said, “Call before nine and call after five.” I was like, “Okay, let me try this.”

Man 1: [00:54:24]

Margie: They’re easy. You don’t want to talk to another salesperson.

Man 1: Very, very effective to reach the owners.

Woman 1: [00:54:37] try to get them a simple call and all this and even if they finally did get through the gatekeeper, [00:54:47]. Just, “Oh, well, that sounds interesting,” but it wasn’t that they were really [00:54:54] have the [00:54:56] any of them so we [00:55:02] and we found that through the channels, social ads, [00:55:08].

Guy with turban: [00:55:15] used to work a little bit differently than before when there was [00:55:21] notification, not [00:55:23] technology, media, the personalization, media has changed so much. Their ads and what they’re doing is literally doing the cold call in a lot of ways. I can sole target this profile to this owner because not [00:55:44] going to the owner. All of us [00:55:47] Facebook and [00:55:48] small or large, you get your [00:55:55] message. only monetizes advertising on one channel which is based on the information that people [00:56:03] without charging for it. That’s where they’re amazingly monetizing it. That’s why sometimes, you will see [00:56:13] business outreach and exchanging [00:56:18] coming together more than ever before. [00:56:21] regular bond for the more complicated sales than those who market. The job salespeople is to come in, navigate, and help close mostly because a lot of the hard decisions are made in information-seeking stages.

Man 1: The way I describe that is the job of marketing is to bring people to the door because salesperson’s job is to invite them in. If marketing is not [00:56:50] you’re wasting time. Cold calling works very effectively for high-value targets. If you know specifically who the customer is and what their value proposition is for that particular customer, then you can call until the cows come home and it will be worth it at the end of the day because the value of the sales is worth it. If that value sales [00:57:18], you can’t do it. It’s only a waste of time.

Woman 1: Yeah. We found that as we change our packages that we have more [00:57:25].

Margie: It’s really changing, the landscape’s changing.

Woman 1: I think it’s generational too. [00:57:47] more mature. [00:57:51] test, more their generation’s cold calling younger [00:57:51].

Margie: Yeah. We don’t even like to talk on the phone anymore, right?

Woman 1: It’s someone’s very evasive, right? It’s like [00:58:00].

Guy with turban: Exactly.

Margie: It’s like now people are scared whenever someone buzz their door. They’re like, “Who is there?” when someone is knocking. I guess the same thing with cold calling because people are not used to talking on the phone anymore. Now you have someone calling you and you’ve never spoken to them, you have no idea who they are. That makes sense there’s the saying.

Woman in black: That makes me think that maybe I should start using Facebook. [00:58:29] or LinkedIn, some more enterprise [00:58:36].

Jono: Everybody has a Facebook.

Woman in black: Yeah. But because our customers are more in the business of B2C, they tend to be more on Facebook. I haven’t really experimented yet but I’m thinking maybe I should try.

Jono: Do you have any way to choose a niche market and see how you do it?

Woman in black: Yeah. I’m trying to be more strategic. I can really call anybody but then that doesn’t really guarantee any monthly revenue. I try to be more strategic in terms of looking for people with potential pay and also money and the right fit so that I don’t waste my time.

Woman 1: Have you tried Instagram?

Woman in black: I have. It’s just that, again, especially the average mark is determined by the number of calls that we make. Reaching actually via Instagram doesn’t really count but in terms of being efficient, I think [00:59:44] versus Facebook, Instagram is maybe more efficient in terms of reaching out to potential [00:59:50] customers and [00:59:53].

Woman 1: I’ve seen [00:59:55] on Instagram, not how you [00:59:58].

Woman: This is [00:59:59] B2B?

Woman 1: Yeah, but [01:00:01] and what was [01:00:04] was that I just started [01:00:06] mother, but [01:00:11] merchants who reach out and [01:00:14] direct message asking questions.

Woman: Maybe if the other people will be open [01:00:20] messages, but I just reach out, maybe I’ll post-monitor, post-[01:00:31] reach out and direct message. It’s like, “Hey, you know me. [01:00:39].” I’ve been so shocked [01:00:43].

Guy with turban: [01:00:54] those letters [01:00:57]. I was in [01:00:59] company for [01:01:01] startup and LinkedIn wasn’t doing well. [01:01:08] people, it wasn’t. [01:01:14] less on the channel, the conversation will just become a conversation and you will be [01:01:23], whereas if you’re on the same side and then you’re just teaching, forming an email, or to leave any message, I think the relationship is not much unless, of course, [01:01:36] application and [01:01:38].

So, it depends on a lot of ways and the audience defines what works.

Woman: I think [01:01:47] they are talking about this, it’s like no one [01:01:51].

Man: Yeah, I [01:01:54] right now the LinkedIn key is just absolutely [01:01:58] with advertising. It drives you crazy when you use it. [01:02:02] send through now, this is a waste of time.

Margie: Personally, I don’t like this [01:02:08] automated sales emails. I just feel like it’s so impersonal. I don’t even bother opening it, personally, but then, I don’t mind if someone reaches out to me in LinkedIn to say they can’t find my email address, but then, they have to make an email. Compromise.

Jono: You have to be the very person looking to solve the right problem. That’s where I have to start. I’ve gotten some cold emails that were like, “Damn, I’m impressed. I’m going to reply. You guys struck me right through my heart.” It’s like he nailed me, he’s got me down, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll talk to you.” It was that good. It was just a couple of sentences, but you can do a really good job. You just got to really know the market. That’s why [01:03:02] niche down.

Man: I was selling ecom systems a while back and what I found is the people who are making the decisions are interested in two things. It’s either, how do you make me money and how do you save me money. It gave you to tackle either of those things in very short, precise manner, they will respond. And if you’re not addressing that in cold email or [01:03:37] messaging, lead, whatever, waste of time.

Margie: Saving money and [01:03:43] emotion?

Man: Making money, saving money, that’s it. Don’t talk about anything else. It’s just a complete waste. Nobody cares about the features in your product.

Jono: That’s for sure. When I’m talking to my salespeople, when I was going over the strategy or this point with them, it’s like in sales, anybody is just trying to get to a result. It’s like benefits instead of features, but really, I think it’s results.

I learned this the hard way when I spent a lot of time doing demos with my [01:04:30] products, showing them a bunch of features. Then I stopped and just made a sliding deck. I barely go in the features. I never [01:04:45]. It’s hard to [01:04:48] ever about features. I just focus on case studies, a customer just like them. “This is where they were. This is where we got them to. These are the results they got. These are the results that you can expect by doing A, B, and C.”

I just breeze over the A, B, and C. They don’t care because they’re just trying to get from this desert island to the tropical oasis and they don’t care if it’s a rowboat or a rocket ship that takes them there. They just want to get there. They want you to show them that you’re going to get them there, whatever your way is. They don’t really care, as long as it’s within reason. It’s not about the features.

Woman: So, results meaning how much more money you can make.

Man: Used on POS systems. A lot have been n checkouts where you think it’s rather simple. Scan, scan, whatever, boom, and you’re done. They’re there, click, click, click, and you’re saying to everybody, “What are they doing?” “[01:05:57] I want to get out of here.” I don’t know what system they’re using, but obviously, the system is asking them for other information, who I am, what I’m doing, what I’m wearing. There’s [01:06:13] of data and this was [01:06:15] while I’m sitting there drinking my coffee. I got three seconds [01:06:21]. Don’t mess with the rest of it.

If the systems [01:06:29] process which typically what retail issue is—look at Christmas when everybody is shopping—you’ve got 10,000 people in line [01:06:38] because I asked you if you refuse [01:06:45] there in those crazy line-ups. If your POS system can get you through faster or help will help with those bottlenecks, that [01:06:53].

Man: That’s why I [01:06:56].

Man: Yeah. [01:06:57], but that’s a niche thing. As a business, you also identify what [01:07:01].

Man: You can have [01:07:13] for 25 minutes to check that story and [01:07:19].

Jono: Yeah. I just spent way too much on [01:07:26] because I went to Nordstrom and I just […] hate [01:07:31]. They have people there that [01:07:34] for you. It’s like, “Wow. Holy […] those are expensive. Okay.”

My wife told me, “You got to tell them [01:07:47]” I didn’t know they [01:07:50]. Anyway, [01:07:53] that should [01:07:55]. It fit, they’re good, like, “I hate children.” Anyway.

Margie: [01:08:04] some sort of Uber for shopping experience. I think it’s delivery of [01:08:12].

Man: You just picking up whatever and they deliver for you.

Margie: And they’re going to shop for [01:08:22]. Just tell them what you’re looking for.

Guy with turban: That’s [01:08:25].

Man: There was a service out in the UK, actually, talking about AI. I logged in, you couldn’t see anything until you went through a series of pictures of people dressed in very similar ways. There are subtle differences. I forget how many [01:08:48] it were, but you [01:08:50] whatever and then they ask you what you’re shopping for today. They would soon [01:08:56] on pants. That’s all we saw and only saw the pants in the styles you have checked off, the color [01:09:04] and the size that you said. That was it and [01:09:08].

Generally, you guys, when you go to the shop, you’re looking for shirts, you’re looking for pants, you’re looking for a suit when you think you’re out. [01:09:32].

Man: [01:09:38] excessive thing. It’s a normal [01:09:47].

Jono: Yeah. [01:09:55] It’s like, “Can somebody?” [01:09:59] This is now the retail bitching [01:10:11]

Margie: Okay, it’s 7:51 PM. Does anyone else want to share some experience or have any questions? Richard, are you still there?

Richard: I am.

Margie: I hope you’re enjoying this [01:10:45].

Richard: That’s it. Next time, I have to physically be there. [01:10:50] for me next time.

Jono: [01:10:54] his plane left. I’ll ship it over.

Richard: Sounds good.

Margie: Any tips on email marketing? I would appreciate it.

Jono: Let’s try to narrow it down.

Margie: Like in terms of messaging itself?

Man: The subject really matters. You got to [01:11:20] the subject short, concise, and remember that probably most people are reading it first on the phone and only so many words show up in the subject, so you have to make sure that whatever shows gets their attention immediately. Again, it’s got to be focused around making money, saving money.

Margie: [01:11:42] subject line.

Man: Something that indicates that within the subject line.

Jono: I would play with extreme differences. Meaning, subject lines that focus on value propositions, like the big things. As far as the content of the email, try really short and try really long. When you start trying these things and if you have something that allows you to track it, you want to see what. Definitely, first you start with getting opens. That’s basically the subject line and maybe the preview. That’s what gets opened to them, what gets clicked. Whatever it is, replies or clicks is going to be the content. There’s a lot of theories out there based off what people see, but everything’s industry-specific and buyer persona-specific.

You got to figure out what word for you. If you try to start a conversation, make sure you ask questions. [01:12:57] get plugins that help you very quickly. Boomerang for Gmail has this thing where as you’re typing, it’s waiting or think your response.

Man: [01:13:28] also has a bunch of [01:13:29] up here on subject lines and different [01:13:34] that work. [01:13:35] it’s industry-specific, so you may want to go top 10 subject lines for your industry [01:13:42] and see what shows up.

Woman: My idea as well is go and subscribe to a whole bunch of [01:13:49] and [01:13:50] using completely the opposite, [01:14:00].

Man: [01:14:02] I found, maybe request the subject line sometimes. [01:14:08] Yes, really good response depending on [01:14:12] with. Nothing related to your industry whatever, but just maybe recommend get into it [01:14:18] and whatnot.

Woman: Also we have MailTrack, but it doesn’t only track [01:14:31] like how long they stayed at it.

Jono: There’s a bunch of these [01:14:39]. Boomerang has a bunch of great, really smart features for individual email tracking. You can send it and then if it doesn’t reply, if you don’t get a reply or something, a waste of you time, it will prompt you back up so you can respond. It has got calendar integration [01:14:57]. I like it a lot, but there’s other suites out there that all have the same features. Then Google’s starting to build their own [01:15:06].

Margie: Pay-for-subscriptions, but for those I don’t [01:15:12]. MailCheck is great. That’s why we have it. We don’t pay for it.

Jono: Are you using it on your own device or is it [01:15:21] company?

Margie: Oh no. I use [01:15:24], not provided by the company, but I—

Jono: Or you can install plugins?

Margie: Oh yes. It’s just that I can’t go ahead and just subscribe and then that’s it. I need to [01:15:37].

Jono: Might make more money for yourself. It’s just something to take that. You’re always in the business of you.

Man: [01:15:47] software listing sites. There are [01:15:54] stuff with that. Someone didn’t [01:15:56]. You just have so many there and just someone [01:16:02] with music, get lost with music. The people from the company [01:16:11] is always [01:16:13], but then the [01:16:18] was you get more than five [01:16:20] category [01:16:22] out there.

Guy with turban: [01:16:26]

Man: Yes.

Guy with turban: And you need to know they use [01:16:34] if you [01:16:38].

Jono: They all take their own strategy.

Guy with turban: [01:16:40] I think you will see [01:16:43], but they [01:16:46] research [01:16:49] to research, you are almost assured you’ll be on the right [01:16:53] somehow or the other. [01:16:56] some research, if the [01:17:00]. Who commissions the research?

Jono: This is not [01:17:12]

Margie: And some protein or vegetables. All right, so I guess this is the end of the session. I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Jono: Please, take food.

Margie: Yeah.

Jono: It’s health food.

Margie: It’s good for your workout meal.

Jono: It’s a great motivator to go work out.

Marge: All right.

Jono: By the way, everybody. We have a Slack group. [01:17:59] send there [01:18:00] of the live group. You can join. We haven’t nailed down the date for the next one yet, have we?

Marge: Sometime in September.

Jono: Yeah. Third week of September, I’m thinking. We’re going to proceed. We’re going to take and elevate. That’s our goal for the next one.

Man: Actually, [01:18:32] yet, [01:18:34].

Jono: Oh, yeah. That’s true.

Marge: [01:18:42] join us in Slack and also join our Toronto SaaS Meetup page so you can always stay updated.

Jono: Thanks everyone for coming.

Marge: Yeah, thank you. Stay if you want to meet and chat a bit.

Jono: Yeah.

Man: Thanks a bunch, guys. Take care.

Targeting a Niche Market For SaaS


Why focus on targeting a niche market for Software as a Service (SaaS)? What value comes from it? Today’s episode features a fireside chat between Margie Ramos, sales and marketing coordinator at Block 64, and Jono Landon, founder and CEO of Hubbli.

Hubbli is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and SaaS company that helps small private schools find prospective parents and engage them throughout the enrollment process. Jono shares his experience with niching down to accelerate growth at Hubbli and empower school leaders to deliver education through its easy-to-use technology and marketing platform. 

Topics Include:

  • Why create Hubbli? Solve communication problems and prevent liability issues that lead to lawsuits in education sector
  • Parent Engagement: Positively impacts students’ outcomes
  • Why call it Hubbli? Serves as “hub” for communication management tools
  • Multiple channels of non-relevant and repetitive communication makes lives difficult
  • Revert to Paperwork patchwork? Offers consistency and standardization of information
  • Public vs. Private Schools: Target niche market to develop strategic partnerships, relationships, and investments
  • Marketing Metrics Make Money: Focus on niche to improve conversion results
  • Stay or Go: How long should you stick with a niche market, before moving on
  • Disadvantages of not defining or targeting your niche market
  • Hubbli’s niche is CRM for private schools; and uses beachhead marketing strategy
  • Avoid natural instinct to be broad; narrow your focus to one customer with one problem
  • Product vs. Marketing Niching: Grow a healthy business by not outpacing product sales with onboarding customers
  • Entrepreneurs: Start your own company; do it yourself, if you don’t believe in others
  • Competitive Edge and Lead Gen: Cold calling to schedule demo for decision makers
  • Different Demographics: Parents and school administrators have different expectations and experiences with communication tools 
  • Skills and Drills: Narrow scope of product and marketing being offered to be successful 

Links and Resources:


Jono Landon

Jono Landon on LinkedIn

Block 64

Margie Ramos on LinkedIn

Toronto Software as a Service (SaaS) Meetup Group



Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore



The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

Episode Transcript

Jono: Hello and welcome to the Kick SaaS Podcast. I’m your host, Jono Landon. In this show, we’re going to be sharing excerpts from live in-person SaaS growth events that I run here in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. A little about me. I’m the founder and CEO of Hubbli, a B2B SaaS company that helps private schools find prospective parents and engage them throughout the entire enrollment journey.

This episode is a recording from a recent fireside chat that I hosted here at Hubbli HQ, where Margie Ramos, who is the Marketing Director of another tech company here in Toronto called Block 64, interviewed yours truly on the value of focusing on a niche market.

We’re going to jump right into this episode and I hope you enjoy the format of the content we go through here and I look forward to sharing a few episodes with you from these live SaaS growth workshops.

Margie: Hello, everyone. Thank you for coming to tonight’s meetup. We have an amazing crowd here and thank you all for coming despite the weather. Before we begin, I would like to introduce myself. Some of you have still not met me. My name is Margie Ramos and I’m a new organizer of the Toronto SaaS Meetup group or Toronto Software as a Service meetup. I’m also a Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Block 64, which is a technology and services company that is focused on helping CIOs and other IT leaders make the right decisions in software licensing, infrastructure management, as well as cloud migration.

Now, something more interesting about me other than what I do for a living. I’m from Montreal and I moved here to Toronto a year-and-a-half ago to join the thriving I’ve seen here. I am also trilingual. I speak English, obviously, as well as Tagalog, which is a Filipino language for those of you who don’t know what it is, and in French. I had to learn how to speak French growing up in Montreal.

For today’s meetup, I will get to sit down with Jono Landon, CEO and founder of Hubbli, to discuss the benefits of targeting a niche market for Software as a Service companies and why SaaS companies should be doing it.

Hubbli, for those who don’t know what it is, it is a CRM for small private schools across North America. Some of the things that I will get Jono to share with us is how defining and focusing on a niche market has helped him grow his own Software as a Service company.

Please note there will be a Q&A in the end of our live and recorded conversations, so everyone in the audience as well as those who are remotely watching the live discussion get to participate and ask questions. Please note that this fireside chat and the Q&A will be recorded and will be uploaded on YouTube. Everyone, please welcome Jono Landon.

Jono: Thank you. It was wonderful. Thanks, Margie. Thanks for coming, everybody. Nice to see you all here.

Margie: We have an awesome crowd here today. A lot of people showed up because they want to learn about the benefits of targeting a niche market when it comes to Software as a Service companies, and also to learn from your experience with that.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of targeting a niche market and its benefits, can you please tell us something interesting about yourself?

Jono: I think probably most interesting about me is I didn’t start as a software person. Actually, I grew up focusing on the performing arts. I went to performing arts high school and I got a degree in Jazz performance. When in was 21, I was actually part of an orchestra where we won, like a world youth music competition. So, I’m a world-champion musician.

Margie: Wow, that’s amazing. As everyone already know and like what I said earlier, you’re the founder and CEO of Hubbli. Can you please tell us something more about what your company really does or done? It is a CRM for small private schools. Can you please elaborate on that?

Jono: Sure. The reason why I created Hubbli is because I saw that there was a big problem with communication in the education sector. I had an opportunity to start looking for problems to solve in the pre K-12 education world. I very quickly notice that parent engagement is the Holy Grail. Everyone’s talking a lot about it. Twitter is going crazy with their parent engagement. There’s a lot of academics doing a lot of research about it, how important it is, and how it has incredible impacts for the outcomes for students when parents were engaged. When looking for why is this such a big problem, it came down to some basics around communication management that aren’t really happening well in the education sector.

We called it Hubbli because we wanted to create a hub. What we saw was schools were using a patchwork of 20–30 different communication tools. Schools are businesses, but they’re run by teachers. These aren’t people that have MBAs. They’re not people that learn how to use marketing tools. Really when it comes down to it, parent communication is just customer relations for a school.

What schools are doing is they are using every kind of communication marketing tool you name. They’re using it because they’re trying to keep up with the demands of the parents. They’re patching together all these tools and then every teacher is using their own little patchwork of communication tools. Parents end up having 20 different streams of communication, mostly repetitive, 90% of it is irrelevant to them because everyone’s just sending everything through every channel. They’re basically training parents to ignore them.

Schools are businesses and not businesses. What other kind of business is where customers have to be there and where customers will fight through 100 horribly written long emails to find information? You’d lose your customers pretty quickly in any other industry. Schools are remarkably getting their customers fight through this, but for the most part, they’re just making their lives really difficult. Not because they want to, but just because they don’t really know what they’re doing.

The IT people that work at schools are not necessarily the cream of the crop from Stanford. The folks that do IT at schools are usually just somebody that said, “Oh, I’ll do it.” They know a couple of things about Microsoft Word and they become the IT expert. As you can imagine, things are challenging.

And they’re still using insane amounts of paper. The truth is, these schools will be way better off if they just reverted back to 100% paper. At least parents would have consistency and standardization. They know what to expect, they know where to go for information, but now they don’t even have that. In any event, it’s a whirlwind of patchwork of a haphazard communication structure and it’s across the board.

That’s what Hubbli is. We took the components of all of these different communication tools and put them into one hub, so the schools got one database. Every single one of those communication tools is a separate database. They have one database of all the little valuable bits from Facebook, Twitter, Google, SurveyMonkey, and all the things they’ve been trying to use, put into one place contextually, that was our mission with Hubbli, originally.

Margie: Since we’re talking about targeting niche markets, we know that Hubbli is for small, private schools across North America. But what kind of small, private schools?

Jono: When you’re looking at the school sector, that’s a niche in and of itself. When I say Hubbli is a CRM for private schools, I don’t say that to our customers because they don’t know what a CRM is. Really, it’s a CRM, but we call it something else to them, something that they just naturally get.

When we first started working on the school sector, that in itself is a niche, obviously. CRMs can be for all sorts of markets and there are all sorts of niche CRMs out there. But even within the school market, public schools and private schools rather have a lot of similarities, especially around parent communication, and a lot of similar challenges. They do have distinct challenges and their challenges are weighted differently.

I have a long history of product management and when I build a product, I try to understand that a lot of markets need similar features but they prioritize them differently. A private school have different needs than a public school does. As an example, they actually both need payment processing because parents in public schools pay for a lot of trips, pizza lunches, and a lot of incidentals, but in private schools parents pay for those and they pay for tuition.

In a private school, tuition is the most important thing in their lives. If they don’t have tuition, they don’t have a school. They’re not publicly funded. The prioritization of the tuition system bubbles right to the top very, very quickly, as an example.

The more we were originally working with all kinds of schools, we found a good fit between our natural inclination towards marketing and sales because selling to private schools is different than selling to public schools, and that just fit would be better. It’s just small B2B SaaS sales funnel or something that I’ve been doing well for a long time. Whale hunting someone at the TDSB takes two years to get a sale is not my wheelhouse. So, I didn’t try to go that route because I went for the path of least resistance.

We just found that with the call through the company, the needs, and just this fit that we’re having, we were selling successfully to public and private schools, but we just saw there was this much simpler path with private schools. That’s the way we’re doing it.

Margie: All right. What are the benefits of targeting the niche market, based on your experience with Hubbli?

Jono: Right around the time when I started realizing that I needed to pick either public schools or private schools and sort of become an expert in either one of those sales experiences. I read the book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. If anyone hasn’t read that and you’re in SaaS, read it right away. It’s a phenomenal book. Even if you haven’t read it, you probably heard a lot of concepts from it.

I’ll just give a quick synopsis. The point of the book is crossing the chasm. There’s a technology adoption arc that a lot of people know. Early adopters, mainstream market, and then the late adopters. There’s a chasm. The real challenge for a new and innovative technology company, adoption-wise, is going from early adopters to enthusiast into the visionaries, and then getting into the more pragmatist side.

There’s a big, big difference between the early adopter ramp-up and then going into the mainstream market because pragmatists like to have a lot of proof. You’re coming into a market where there’s well-rooted competition, they want safety, and they want to cover their butts when they make a decision that work and things like that.

He uses the analogy of war, so to speak. You’re going into a pretty busy warzone where there’s a lot of competitors, there’s incumbents, you’re coming in to disrupt something, and that’s not easy to do. If you think about the analogy that Geoffrey Moore uses is storming the beachhead. When the allied forces stormed Normandy, they had to take the beach.

The beachhead market is something that is really, really critical and I guess it’s just like my personality. When I read books that makes sense, especially when they have a bit of a framework around them and a pragmatic process, I really like to drink the Kool-Aid and try it out, so I did that.

I started looking at the different kind of customers that we had and I saw that within private schools, which is a pretty big market in and of itself, we had a bunch of customers that were Montessori schools. When you’re looking for a beachhead, there’s some elements you want to find because again, you’re going into the mainstream market, you’re going into a market of people that are more pragmatic, they’re not looking to be visionaries, they’re just looking to get their job done, and keep everybody happy.

You want to find a market that is small enough that you can actually come in, and make some influential relationships, get some shadow partnerships. In our situation, Montessori schools are private schools, just like all other private schools, they’re very similar, you wouldn’t know there’s a difference unless you went into the school, sat in a classroom, and saw how they approach educating kids.

Montessori’s a pretty large market, actually. There’s about 30,000 Montessori schools worldwide, between the US and Canada there’s probably about 7000 and there’s probably about 20,000 in Europe. It’s a growing market. It’s a market that’s growing in popularity and acceptance. It’s nothing kind of weird. It’s not like a religion or anything. It’s just this lady Maria Montessori came up with a philosophy around educating kids and it really picked up. But they’re just schools.

What do you want to look for in a beachhead is that they are referencing markets. Montessori schools have their own associations. You can go to Montessori conferences in different states or national ones, there’s a few national ones, but those schools that go to Montessori conferences also go to other school conferences. They’re also just schools like all the other schools.

We’re well-known in the Montessori world now and because of focus on it, I’ve actually developed strategic relationships, strategic partnerships, and even strategic investors with the largest and most influential Montessori luminaries and organizations like the largest Montessori teacher training company owns shares of Hubbli now. Interestingly enough, they started out as customers.

Everything I’ve done is like the textbook example of what Geoffrey Moore was talking about Crossing the Chasm and I guess I’m lucky that I found some good Kool-Aid to drink. It’s really worked out wonderfully. Interestingly, we get a lot of non-Montessori schools setting up because nothing that we do as a product or a service is specific to Montessori. We just created this referencing market.

We appear much bigger than we are because everyone’s like, “Oh, those really popular Montessori guys.” Nothing in our product is Montessori, but people come into our marketing funnels that are not Montessori schools are just Christian schools or Jewish schools or boarding schools. They have nothing to do with Montessori or anything in there; totally unaffiliated, but they attend our webinars. I happen to say this applies to all schools, not just Montessori schools because I want them to know that, and they sign up.

What’s happening is that because I’m so focused on marketing to Montessori, my marketing metrics have improved so much. One of the other benefits of focusing on a niche is that there is lingo in the Montessori world and they do have common challenges that other schools don’t have. These are very subtle nuance things, but when you really learn the language of this very little niche market, they really appreciate that, too.

You get the best of both worlds, but you do have to make sure that this market is not too small. It has to be big enough that, even if you don’t go beyond it, you make a lot of money. So, it has to be a big enough market, ideally a growing market, but small enough that you can go to a conference, as an example, and make a really strong strategic relationship that ends up catapulting you. You want to be looking for those kinds of elements. Those are the benefits of this beachhead approach.

Margie: All right. That was very detailed and that’s it. So, your niche markets are Montessori schools or private schools?

Jono: When I talk to investors, I do say, “We are a CRM for small, private schools,” which is 80% of the private school market is small. So really, it’s a CRM for private schools and we have some pretty large private schools that use us as well, of course, but again that’s our niche.

Our marketing strategy is this beachhead marketing strategy. If you go to our website, it doesn’t say anything about Montessori. We’re not positioned or branded as a Montessori product, but it is how we market. When I spend money to reach out to my market, I have a really great impact with really good conversion rates because I’ve honed in on a niche that responds. I’ve tested value propositions, language, and things like that and it’s a lot easier the smaller your market is to get to optimize every stage in your funnel.

Margie: How do you know when you found your niche market? How long should you stay focusing on one niche market and when do you know when to pivot? Should you say, “We done for a year”? What if you’re starting to lose money after a year-and-a-half, or after two years, should you stick with them, persevere, and be like, “There’s money to be made here.” How do you know that this is the right niche market?

Jono: If you’ve given it a really solid focus and you don’t see any positive, at least incremental improvements on your marketing funnel in a few months, and you’ve given it a good try and solid attention into it, then I would say it’s probably time to consider if you’re on the right path or not.

I find that these types of results are pretty quick. You should see some results after a few test runs. When you’re creating a test, you have to set up your test properly and come up with some hypothesis and some outcomes that you’re going to test against. You could be reasonable, but I would say you got to make sure you’re going in the right direction. If you’re not seeing a result from it, then I would say give it three months. Again, full-time focus.

Margie: All right. What are the disadvantages of not having a defined niche market and not targeting one either? Because there are […] service companies who don’t seem to have a niche market. They’re a bit everywhere. They’re serving all industries, all markets.

Jono: That’s not wrong for every company. I don’t want people to think that you should never or only niche always. I just think there’s great benefits to it, especially for bootstrap companies. I think for even most funded companies, they should probably take a niche approach. By the way, going niche doesn’t mean you can’t plan or you can’t be your business plan to go very horizontal, but why wouldn’t you first grow a very healthy core business before you move?

The idea for a lot of companies is they build these multiple S curve grow strategies. A CRM is a great example. CRM is great for schools, it’s good for summer camps, and it is good for non-profit organizations. These are very similar businesses. They’re all different niche markets and they have their own idiosyncrasies and nuances. It’s better if you focus on one at a time.

There are also good examples of public companies that do all of them at the same time because they’re public or they’re just really well-funded. They have the resources to actually do that properly.

The disadvantages that I’ve seen, first for myself and for other companies, other CEOs that I know, in mastermind groups and things that I meet with, I’m the guy that’s always […] everybody until niche down. I’m like, “Here comes Jono again. He’s going to talk about niching.”

A good friend of mine—I won’t label his company or anything—I’ve finally convinced him to do it. There’s three companies in Toronto that have started off really, really broad, and I see everybody hitting the same wall. Again, when you’re getting out of the enthusiast early adopter market and you’re going in this pragmatist market, you waste so many resources trying to figure out all these different markets. It takes so much to understand each different market.

I sat down with somebody recently. He’s got a decent technology. He’s got a few obvious applications in different markets. One of them is for young children and the other one is for seniors. It’s very different markets. There’s actually some interesting commonality with them, but very different markets still. He’s got this hardware, he’s got the SaaS platform around it, and he just keeps on finding new avenues and new applications to take this technology and customize it for those different markets and different use cases.

This is a guy that is very, very good. He’s very different from me. He’s very talented at networking and going into really big companies, enterprise, whale hunting. He’s really good at that. He keeps on doing that because that’s his natural inclination. One of his products is the one product he has which is just totally wrapped in a box top to bottom, complete solution, and it’s perfect for retirement homes. It’s selling to retirement homes. It’s just working naturally and I said, “If you just sat down a year ago and did nothing but focus on retirement homes, you’d have hundreds of retirement homes using your product right now. Would you rather be there today or where you are right now?” and he’s like, “Oh, I’d much rather have 300 retirement homes using this thing.”

It’s so easy to do that when you focus on one customer. When you solve one problem for one person, you can improve your conversion rates by multiples. That’s been my experience as well, even with Hubbli as a platform as I was talking about it. We were solving too many problems for too many people even inside my niche market. We were doing this for public schools, we were doing it for private schools, and we niched down into private schools. There’s marketing niching and then there’s also product niching.

Margie: I didn’t know that.

Jono: Yeah. Again, it comes down to resources and wanting to get the business to be healthier. We were running into this problem where we were growing in fits and spurts because our ability to sell the product was outpacing our ability to get our market successfully onboarded because again, our market is really on the tail end of the late adopters there. They’re not looking to rock the boat, but they know they have a lot of problems they need a solution for.

Our sales experience is we’re teaching them that they actually have problems. That’s not true. They know they have problems. They kind of know their hair is on fire because they can kind of smell the smoke. They can’t really understand where the smoke is coming from, but then know they’ve got some problems and it’s getting hot up there. We just life up the mirror in front of their face and then they actually see, “Oh, yeah. That’s my hair that’s on fire.” Our product is the water, essentially, but again, these people aren’t sophisticated business people. They’re wonderful educators.

We got really good at selling to them, but getting them to adopt technology was not easy. We were solving a lot of problems. We were going very broad in the platform, we kept on going wider and wider and solving more and more problems, and then we kind of buried ourselves under this customer success challenge.

We got to the point where I said, “Okay, well either I need to raise a whole bunch of money or I need to figure out something. I was thinking about this for a while and basically what we did was we took our product—we haven’t changed our product—instead of solving 10 problems for 10 different people, we solved one problem for one person.

Really, the most painful and obvious problem in the market that’s the biggest problem in the market which is one of the things we were solving, which solve by one component or one use case of our platform, and we went deeper with that. That improved all of our metrics by multiples. Now, we close deals with one call. It used to be an average of four calls. Our lead to close rate is now seven days. It used to be three months. We used to have to do so many painstaking demos.

By shortening all that stuff we also increased our revenue per customer by over 100%. Literally, every metric just shot through the roof. That’s because we have already started niching down on the Montessori schools and then we niched down into actual problems. The business just became so much healthier and we were able to start growing far faster. Also, the resources it took to onboard the customer successfully and then get them to a successful place was reduced by 90% as well. Now, we’re just dealing with one person and one particular use case. Everything that they need to do with our platform, we can now just template and it spins it up right away rather than having to teach them how to build it into the platform themselves.

One of the main features that we have is marketing automation with automated workflows, like try to get a teacher how to use marketing automation. It’s not an easy thing to do and we learned that the hard way. Now they don’t have to learn it because they just start from done. They just need to customize 2% of it.

I can give a whole bunch of examples. Another company I know they have got a project management platform. They’re at the same place. They’re further along than us, but they go really, really horizontal. It’s like project management platform for enterprise companies. So, it’s very complex, it does a lot of things, but they’ve found that there’s two markets.

When I really pushed the CEO to think about the niche market, when I started telling him, “Wouldn’t you rather hire people that were much less skilled and able to produce a better outcome for your customers? Because every customer needs the product the same way. When everybody needs to use the product the same way, your customer success team members, which are the people that really get the customers up and running, don’t need to be 20 years consulting experience. They can just be fresh grads and trained to do certain things. Everyone’s getting the same thing, so everything becomes more efficient.” Now, he’s picking one of those markets that they’re going to go after.

Another one I know is a social media analytics. Now, they’re picking a particular market to go into because it helps in the product, but it’s the marketing, too. When you understand, when you’re like, “Okay, we’re going to do social media analytics for marketing agencies or something,” now you can setup one funnel that works as opposed to having to figure out a funnel for every different market you want to go into.

Building a funnel and optimizing a marketing funnel takes serious resources. Time, effort, a lot of risk. When you can just get one going the right way, it doesn’t slow down your growth, you’re growing faster, and there’s no end in sight, why wouldn’t you do that? I just can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t do that. It is important on that note to make sure that you’re not going to hit a ceiling too soon. You got to look at the market and say, “How far can I go here?”

Margie: Wow, that’s a lot of very good examples there. What advice would you give to sales and marketing professionals who work for companies, whether it’s a startup or an SMB, who are working in these companies that don’t really have a niche and they know that they need to niche down?

Jono: You’re saying someone that’s working there and not their CEO?

Margie: Exactly. For example, a sales and marketing coordinator or maybe a director. They don’t really have any niche, they know they should niche down, but then their CEO is a bit all over the place, they want to target everything, they want to be everything, they want to take over the world.

Jono: I would say leave and start your own company. That’s what I did. It’s really tough. Everybody’s different. My advice would be really check yourself to make sure that you have the personality to lead from the middle because that’s a really hard thing to do. I would say come prepared with a lot of data. Think of it like it’s your own company, you’re the startup, you’re going to your investors, and you put up a full pitch deck together for it. Then if you’re going to do that, you might as well just go get investors to do it yourself. Why not?

But in any event, not everybody is that entrepreneurially-minded. Probably everybody here is. If you put that deck together and there’s no good reason not to do it and your CEO or your executives still just doesn’t do it and you’re not sold that it’s a bad idea that the company shouldn’t do it, I would say leave. I can’t work in an environment where I don’t believe in the people that I’m working for.

That’s has always been sort of my problem in the past, I’ve been sort of unemployable just because I have a hard time working for people that I don’t believe in. I’m not the best guy to ask for advice on this because I’m just like, “Yeah, quit. Just start your own company,” but I know not everybody can just do that tomorrow. Ultimately, that’s probably my real advice on that is just start to do it yourself.

Margie: That’s a pretty good advice. I guess that’s also the reason why there are a lot of entrepreneurs, they just can’t work for anyone, like you.

Jono: Right. I find it very hard.

Margie: We can start the Q&A now. Do we have anyone here in the audience who would like to ask Jono some questions? We have a gentleman here. What is your name, sir?

Arman: Arman.

Margie: Arman. I’ll give you my microphone.

Arman: Why did the revenue go up per customer when you specialized?

Jono: Because we narrowed down the scope of what problems we were solving and we were able to go deeper on the value by taking our customer success resources and our support resources and layering on some—I didn’t coin this term—they’re called Proc Tie Services. As an example, one of the main use cases of Hubbli was as a CRM. Again, they don’t know they were using it like a CRM but they were and it is. But that’s the software component. That’s the communications management. What we did is also because we had a lot of validation that the market wanted and they were actually asking for us over a year to provide a Facebook ad lead gen service.

Because we were working with such a narrow market, enrollment lead gen campaigns for Montessori schools is something that you can essentially get right one time and clone for every other customer. We then were able to offer far more value and of course value is you price things on the perceived value of the buyer. We could just clone an existing campaign that’s working really well and it works. We’re charging for them as if we’re like a marketing agency, working for them from scratch, but we’re not. We don’t charge like we’re marketing agency, actually, we are cheaper but we were able to increase our revenue per customer by over 100% by layering that on top. It’s just as scalable as software.

Arman: Your input cost on what they were paying was way lower?

Jono: Way lower, far lower.

Arman: But were you charging more for those services?

Jono: Yeah, it went both ways.

Arman: Oh, fantastic.

Jono: Yeah, very fantastic. It was very exciting to see that happen. Literally overnight, I just did a marketing, I just sent an email ad to the list and said, “Okay, we’re going to pilot this thing that everyone’s been asking for. Here’s a form to sign up for it.” I was just closing customers in one call for over twice as much as I’ve ever charged them and it was pretty cool.

Arman: Did you reduce the feature set in the offering after that or you just kept it there?

Jono: It’s just there but we’re just not supporting it. They’re not being sold on it. Technically they have access to those features but they’re not using it.

Margie: We have another gentleman here who would like to ask a question.

Man: Have you gotten negative feedback from the instructional staff in particular which in the private school […] that’s a business would be extremely unlikely? But I’m still very unclear what it actually specifically does. That’s a big first question. But the real concern I have is the technology that a private school, if they’re wealthy enough for the tuition, they’re wealthy enough to track, as you said, and follow their sons and daughters, what’s the big deal about a communication tool that you’re showing them the light of the day?

I don’t necessarily agree with that. Technology is so pervasive and immersive that why they need in a more or additional or other software eludes me. I don’t understand that and especially because you didn’t explain what Hubbli specifically does that’s unique or distinctive can contrast to other software or even to other standard traditional email, cell phone, or mobile phone, whatever, I’m very unclear. Do you want to clarify that?

Jono: Sure. There’s a few different questions in there. This is a product that’s, like I said we were solving a lot of problems for a lot of people so for the parents, teachers, and the administrators. Now, we’re really just solving a problem for the administrators. It’s a tool that’s used by the school administration to help them be found by and manage the communication process with prospective parents that they don’t know. These administrators aren’t well-trained on marketing so they don’t really know how to get these parents into the school for tours which is how they sell their school. We’re just helping them connect with parents in their area that are looking for a school like theirs.

Man: There’s no word about any negative response as to the disadvantaged areas of Hubbli for learning or education […] or anything?

Jono: It’s not education technology in that we’re not a tool that teachers use to educate the kids so that’s just not really relevant. But if you wanted to learn more about Hubbli, I can certainly direct you some content online for sure.

Margie: Thank you very much, sir. Anyone else? That gentleman there raised his hand earlier also. What is your name?

Simon: I’m Simon.

Jono: Hey, Simon.

Simon: I came in a bit late but we were talking to a prospective client so we have an excuse.

Jono: Good reason.

Simon: You may have said this, we would have missed it, but how long did it take you to break even in terms of your business? Did you have a plan for that or did it just come sooner or later? That’s my first question. Then the second question is what’s your overall exit strategy? Is it five years, seven years, all this kind of thing but I’ve been interested to find out a bit more.

Jono: I kind of always broke even because when I launched Hubbli, I didn’t do so until I was able to start selling it. It was a side hustle until I had enough customers that I could rely on the sales. I didn’t really give my history but I started out in sales and marketing in the early 2000s in the internet world. Then I became more technical and then moved into product management, but sales and marketing has always been a very strong suit of mine.

Once I was able to get Hubbli 1.0 at the door, I could start selling it. I was always funding everything through my sales and I never really dipped down. That’s not true. More recently, I did. Once we hit a certain milestone, I felt it was time to put some money in. But I didn’t raise any money and I didn’t really have a burn rate that I was working against. It was always tracking head-to-head with revenue and expenses. The exit part, I don’t know. We’ll see where it goes but I don’t have a particular year in mind.

Margie: What’s your name, sir?

John: I’m John.

Jono: Hey, John. Thanks for coming out, man.

John: Just a quick question, so when you’re starting out Hubbli, what was the process of interviewing Montessori schools and finding out they get a solid product that solved their hair being on fire? How long did that take?

Jono: I started doing that in 2012 and it was really the only thing I was doing. I would say I probably had about maybe 40 or 50 conversations. At that time it wasn’t specifically Montessori. It was just anybody in schools like parents, really all the adults, like parents, teachers, and administrators. You ask people and you learn all the problems that they’re experiencing and then you try to map them out and find the themes like groupings of problems. I just went through that process.

I really just did everything that Lean Startup said to do. I was just starting to read that book and I was like, “Yeah, this is exactly what I need to do,” and I just followed it like a textbook. Again, I drink the Kool-Aid, I tried it out, it worked out really well for me, and helped me discover a problem that we had the capability to solve.

John: Cool. I’m not sure how Montessori schools are structured, but what was your outreach program? Did you send a cold email? How long did it take you to get that person who made that decision?

Jono: The great thing about schools, private schools specifically, is that lead gen is really easy, depending on the product. I’m always at ed tech meetups and stuff because I’m in the education sector, but we’re not an ed tech product. We don’t facilitate education. Our customers are the people that literally pick up the phone at the school and have to pick up the phone at the school.

When we started out, we were just cold calling. For every 10 calls, I booked a demo. I  had a good sense of the problem and at that point, I could speak their language and just quickly say, “Hey,” because the person picking up the phone is either the decision-maker or a big influencer in the decision. She’s is going to be the one that’s using it day-in and day-out and it’s going to save her three to five hours a week of redundant busy work.

Once you understand your profile, speak to their problems, and get them to check out a solution, it’s not that difficult. If you want to have an easy thing to sell, sell something to executive assistants or secretaries that answer the phone as opposed to the CEO. If that’s the lesson that’s pulled from that, I guess.

Christopher: Thanks again for hosting it.

Jono: You’re welcome, thanks for coming.

Christopher: My name is Christopher and I just like to ask what would your competitive advantage be? For example, if a school just choose to email all the parents, there’s a search function. They can find all the information they need or for example Twitter. How would you prevent or keep the market as opposed to having them move over to a different platform? Thank you.

Jono: It’s interesting. When we first lodged Hubbli, we were focused on a broader problem set and everything was built around a private social network framework, and it still is, that’s still there in the platform although that’s not really what we’re promoting right now. In any event, whenever you talk about using social network type tools to a market, everyone’s like, “Why wouldn’t I just use Facebook? Why wouldn’t I just use Twitter?”

The thing is that it’s exactly what they are doing. That is their problem in that market. Parents can just do this and parents can just do that but the problem is that the school is giving them 10 different places to search and from the school’s side, they need the parents to have this information. It’s really crucial that the parents know when this field trip is being picked up or when this thing is happening or when parent-teacher conferences are.

Man: When you said […] 10 different […] what do you mean by that sending email, sending a query on Facebook […].

Jono: Literally, yeah.

Man: But my question was they chose to […].

Jono: The other problem is that schools have communication liability issues. Just to name a few like Twitter or Facebook or any of these public channels, teachers and schools get sued on a daily basis because somebody posted something where that shouldn’t have been. These are quite problematic. From the school side, on the liability side, they need those features.

Our social network is really similar to how Facebook works because actually that is the architecture, that’s why they’re trying to use it. They also use Shutterstock and Doodle. They use this whole insane list of different tools you see everywhere in these schools because they work really well and they’re good products, but they all have some issue.

Even to your point, they also could technically say, “Okay, everyone’s going to use Facebook but you’re going to do it this way and we’re going to train you.” If they were capable of actually enforcing communication standards across their staff, then there would be less of a case for Hubbli. But they’re not able to do that because again, these are teachers that are now running a business. They’re not managers and it’s surprisingly consistent how this personality profile acts across the board.

Again, another benefit of learning a particular niche is that when it comes to the education world, teachers and educators have these very common similarities in person. People that actually stay at this profession, like it, and don’t want to do anything else, they’re really consistent. It’s so much easier when you have a really tightly-defined selling persona as opposed to jumping from industry to industry because if you’re trying to sell to mechanics, those people are so different, but what Hubbli does would help mechanics, too. But I don’t want to deal with mechanics. I don’t know them at all. Maybe I should. I don’t know, but I don’t know them.

When you niche down, you focus, you learn things that are really surprising, you don’t seem obvious like, “Why wouldn’t they just use Facebook? Why doesn’t the school just get everybody to use Facebook the right way?” They just don’t. They can’t.

Man: That’s a great answer. Thank you. I just have two short follow-ups, if you don’t mind.

Jono: I don’t mind. I’m here all night.

Man: For example, you said Hubbli trains the teachers or the administrators to use the software properly and make communication with parents more consistently, what would prevent them from using what they learned with your software and applying it to say Facebook which costs considerably less?

Jono: They would have to figure out how to do that.

Audience: But you said the architecture is similar, yes?

Jono: Yeah, it is. But they’re not going to put in the time that it takes to figure out how to apply it. It’s not exactly the same. We offer benefits that Facebook doesn’t come with the service layer and those other things. What they really, really want is to be in the classroom. They don’t want to fiddle around with this stuff at all. They just want it out of their lives. It’s a necessary evil to them. They know they need it. If they could just completely drop it and sidestep it, they would, but they can’t because their customers require it.

One of the things I always talk about in my sales pitches and everything, I talk about the differences in demographics between the average school administrator, average age is 49 years old, the average mom that they’re marketing to try to get them into the school is 20, 28, 30 and it’s a mom. We have a lot of marketing data and we know that 90% of the people that engage the enrollment process are moms, the initial engagement.

These two demographics, their behaviors, and their expectations around communication is so different. This will change over the next decade but right now, school administrators and parents have wildly different relationships with communication tools.

Your generation would think the way you think and 49 is the average age so we have customers that are literally in their 70s. These are people that need serious hand-holding and for some of the components that they’re using, we literally manage it for them because they all do the exact same thing. So, we basically automate the service layer of it because they want to log in and touch this stuff as little as humanly possible but they know they have to have it. We present them a solution and they’re like, “Okay,” but we had to learn that.

First, we were just selling them the platform, trying to get them to use it, and trying to train them on way too much stuff at one time. Again, by narrowing the scope of what we are offering to this market, we were able to get them successful, we offer a few coaching sessions with every new onboarding. It’s like skills and drills. We’ll do a Zoom call and we watch their screen. We’re like, “Click here, click there.” We literally coach them where to click to log in and stuff. We do it a few times just to get muscle memory. That’s our market. We’re not selling to millennials or the younger folk.

Man: Thanks for the clarification.

Margie: Very good questions. We can take a couple more questions. There’s a gentleman over there if wants to ask a question.

Flavian: Hi there. My name is Flavian. Great talk.

Jono: Thank you.

Flavian: You mentioned using a lot of data to find your beachhead early on. How did you go about identifying something as you say small enough but big enough?

Jono: We were getting to that point where I was saying, “Okay, I need to pick public or private,” and then I read the book Crossing the Chasm, I was like, “Who would my beachhead be?” I just started looking at our customers. Because I was in the process of marketing, selling, onboarding and all that stuff, I just started seeing this pattern with Montessori schools for whatever reason. I started just interviewing them specifically, trying to understand why they seem to be easier to sell to. Then I looked at that market to say, “Is it big enough? Does it have referencing lateral markets that we can easily move adjacently to?” It just checked off all the boxes.

Flavian: Is this, at the time, you’re doing the side hustle or full-time?

Jono: No, by this time I was full time on Hubbli.

Flavian: Okay. When you say we, is it yourself as founder?

Jono: Yeah. When I say we, it wasn’t only me. Since I went full-time, I’ve always had people joining the company. I started off with an SDR person doing cold calling and one customer support person. That just grew from there.

Flavian: One of the questions would be, early on you mentioned conferences, you mentioned associations and whatnot, did you do anything around the branding, the awareness? How early did you start?

Jono: Branding has never been my concern because we don’t grow our product through branding, we grow product through lead generation. What our homepage looks like and says doesn’t really play a role in the sale. You have to pick your marketing strategy based on how your customers make a buying decision. In our case, it is through a sales call.

My marketing strategy is laser focused on getting the right person in the school. It’s been evolving over time, but what it is now is I target Montessori owners, directors, and heads of schools, get them to attend a webinar, and out of the webinar they book in consultation with me. Every step along the way, I’m trying to basically say, “If you’re not a director, owner, or just take a hike, I don’t want to talk to you, basically,” in nicer words.

Branding doesn’t play a really much of a role in that as long as we’re not offending people or turning them away. The fact that is called Hubbli doesn’t matter, whatever my logo looks like doesn’t really matter to them when they’re making a buying decision. What matters to them is the value proposition that they’re seeing all along the funnel that they think that I know what I’m talking about in the webinar and then in the sales call, I know what I’m talking about and that they trust me and that I’m credible and that I’ve got social proof because we’ve got a whole bunch of customers and these strategic partnership affiliations. All of that is what sells it. You could say that’s branding. Some of that bumps into branding but it’s not a branding strategy. That’s sales. 

Every human being makes a buying decision the same way. Wherever you are, we all go through the same cognitive model when we make a buying decision, whether it’s a $1 Coke or it’s a $10,000 tuition for your child. The size of the decision determines how long that process will be, how long that person psychologically is going to take to go from step to step to step, and really it’s just a process of the customer building trust.

With Coca-Cola, the biggest brand in the world, all they do is brand and marketing. They don’t do lead gen. You don’t have to fly to Atlanta and book a meeting with the CEO of Coca-Cola to buy a drink. Their customers look at a wall of a hundred different drink options multiple times a day sometimes, and Coke just wants their customer to spot the red in their logo and think about that cute polar bear in the commercial that they were interrupted with 30 times that day, which is crazy because Coke is the biggest brand in the world and they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on branding. Could you imagine anybody forgetting that Coke exists? But the minute they stop spending that money, they’ll cease to exist. Pepsi will just completely eat them. I’ve never worried about branding because customers don’t need branding to make a buying decision

Flavian: In your case with the data, it was really drilling down on your monthly recurring revenue and seeing exactly where and what it meant to get to that decision of the beachhead?

Jono: Yeah, it was the result of it on our revenue for sure. The metrics I was looking at wasn’t really MRR to validate the beachhead, it was the different conversion rates of our funnel and ultimately a gut feeling on how much easier it was to close as I started to really focus on just the Montessori market.

Because we’re in sales calls, I’m talking to these people and when I started adjusting my slide deck to, again, focus on Montessori schools, the response I got, even just hearing their response was like, “Yeah, you get me,” your customers want to know that you get them and that you’re there to slay their dragons. It’s a lot easier to do that again when you’re dealing with a more specific unvarying profile.

Flavian: Great, thanks.

Margie: All right, I guess that is it for tonight. Anyone else have any questions? Oh, one more. That would be the last one.

Thomas: We appreciate you being here. My name is Thomas. Just as kind of a higher-level type question, just more general, more philosophical. You mentioned in your last answer how you prepared your slide deck and your presentation. What stuck out to me almost immediately in the interview portion was where you mentioned entrepreneurship. Could you speak a little bit about how you prepared your slides and your presentations? You’re obviously very knowledgeable about your market segment. How you prepare for that, how you present it, and just kind of take us through how that process works for you?

Jono: What do you mean? My sales deck?

Thomas: Either sales deck or investors decks.

Jono: Okay, because they’re pretty different. It might be helpful to pick one.

Thomas: Investors decks.

Jono: I do have a lot of experience raising money. I haven’t raised that much for Hubbli but I have raised for other companies in the past. I have gone through some phases where really did start building a deck and focusing on it. I had to do it at different times. We were in the DMZ, so I had to put a deck together to get into the DMZ, and then to get different programs, grants, or whatnot. It’s a very similar process. One thing I would say is very interesting and important to know is that there’s a big difference—to what I said at the beginning—between a sales deck and your investor deck. My investor deck says that we’re in the business of private school tuition processing.

As a product we’re a CRM for private schools but our business model really, we’re in the business of private school tuition processing because that’s a way bigger business opportunity. We’ve validated that but I don’t talk about that ever with our prospects because they don’t need to know. They need to know what the prices is to use our platforms, as an example. It took me a while to learn. The process of building a deck is like a full-time job and that’s why I haven’t done it because I’ve always defaulted to growing the business and I’m really good at sales and building sales and teams and stuff like that, it’s like why wouldn’t I do that if I get a pick one. If I can make that happen, I’ll just keep on doing that as long as possible.

The thing that I found very challenging with building sales decks is who you’re doing it for. You need to have so many versions of it and you really have to consider who you’re presenting to. Are they an angel? Are they an angel in Canada in Toronto? Are they an angel in the Valley? Because here, you talk to an angel and you’re like, “I’m looking for $600,000,” they’re like, “You should be asking for like $150,000,” and then if you go to the Valley, you say, “I’m looking for $600,000,” they’ll say, “Don’t talk to me unless you’re looking for $2.5 million. Are you stupid?” Literally, they’ll just say, “You’re stupid. Go away.” You’re like, “Whoa, what?” You learn that stuff.

But that’s been my biggest takeaway from that process is really focus, I would say, niche down on who you want to raise money from right now and do your best to figure out who that should be and what that investor profile is because it is sales. It’s really the same thing. If we’re looking to raise money from angels in Toronto, figure out how to do that. But if you’re looking for VC, that’s a totally different deck and a totally different approach because that person is looking for different kinds of returns. They want you to spend money in very different ways right. It’s like, “Wow, it’s really shocking.” You also have to align it with how you want to run a business. I lean towards bootstrapping. Not that I’m against the idea of raising money, I just haven’t needed to and it’s a full-time job. Until I can actually do it full-time, I’m not going to unless I make that choice and never needed to. Does that help at all?

Thomas: It does.

Jono: Those have been my learning opportunities from trying to hone a deck.

Margie: Okay. I guess that would be it for this evening and this meetup.

Jono: Okay, thanks everybody.

Margie: Thank you all for coming. If you haven’t joined the Toronto SaaS Meetup group, please do join so you can stay updated for our next meetup. I guess our next meetup is going to be sometime in August. We haven’t decided the date yet.

Jono: We’ll let you all know. Please join us on Meetup. If you haven’t also, we have a Slack group, we don’t have a registration thing here, but we can invite you all to the Slack group, I guess is what it is, but if you connected to us on Meetup, we send that out as a message through Meetup as well regularly to join our Slack group. Raise your hands, are you all on Yeah. Have you all joined us there? Okay.

Margie: All right, that’s awesome.

Jono: We’ll keep you updated there. Awesome.

Margie: All right. See you again all next time.

Jono: Yeah, thanks guys. Also, a good friend of mine here, Armand.

Armand: Thanks. I also have a group meeting next week on the 25th at the WeWork 240 Richmond, InnovationTO. We’re talking about the impact of customer experience and AI. If you have time next week, join us. We’re also on Meetup InnovationTO and registration is on Eventbrite. Thanks.

SaaS Sales and Customer Success with LinkedIn’s Julie Federman

What is customer success? Is it customer support? Glorified training? A precise definition doesn’t exist, but Julie Federman describes customer success as a resource that helps customers align with core business objectives and priorities through measurable results.

As a customer success manager at LinkedIn, she would know. Julie shares tips and tactics on combining software as a service (SaaS) sales and customer success. Her tagline on LinkedIn is: “Driving success and a love of learning through leadership consulting and education.”

Topics Include:

  • Customer Success Manager Role and Responsibilities: Consulting, change management, deployment, enablement, and training 
  • Account Manager Role and Responsibilities: Maintains commercial relationships to renew, upsell, and cross-sell current customers
  • Buying Committee: Opportunities for collaboration between sales and customer success
  • Who does what when making a decision? RAPID Decision Making Model: Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input, Decide 
  • How much time and energy should you invest in upselling clients to bring in additional revenue? Pareto Principle: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers
  • Success Criteria: What does success mean to your customer?
  • LinkedIn’s customer success support varies across business-to-business (B2B) lines 
  • Reasons for Conflict: How to have meaningful and productive work relationships
  • Show Benefits of Service: Stories, surveys, measurable metrics, and other options 
  • Structured Communication: Create deliverables that succinctly resonate with certain populations and audiences
  • What metrics make a healthy account? Existing internal metrics that indicate success to motivate team and help customers
  • Change Happens: Maintain and mitigate churn, rotation, and retention
  • LinkedIn’s Levels of Merit: Leadership, leverage, and results from performance reviews
  • Potential for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to predict churn
  • Client-facing Community: Chat, connect, and comment to provide feedback on products

Links and resources:

Episode Transcript

Julie: As far as a little bit about me, I had been at LinkedIn for almost six years. […] time is […] in sales, chosen online LinkedIn’s top performing sales reps globally. I’ve got a free trip to Hawaii; it was great. I realized that I enjoyed sales but I wasn’t passionate about it in a way that I’m passionate about education empowerment. That’s a little thing but it formed my career transition into customer success, to help training people […] be […] themselves and to help do the best by […] as well. That’s been really great […] journey. Before that, I was actually in a tech startup and have had all sorts of fun experiences along the way.

I’m really, really excited to be here. Thank you to the couple of folks that are on Zoom. I’m happy to do my best to answer some of your questions and happy to be a resource both here tonight and also after the fact if you haven’t […] my way, happy to share my two cents. Before I get too deep, […] so I have to do […] today a little exercise so we can all be connected. For those of you who have never done this before, it’s a really cool trick to have up your sleeve if you happen to be at an event and you don’t want to throw business cards around per se […] connect with people.

For those of you who are virtual, I’m sorry but hopefully, you can still follow along to learn how to do this. If you click on LinkedIn’s mobile app and you click on the two people in the bottom left, you’ll see a double-people icon at the bottom. You should hopefully notice this overlay […] blue dot to the right bottom corner here. It’s a little hidden, but it’s this little blue dot here, looks like you’re the person with a little green dot.

Woman: I need to update mine.

Woman: No, but you have to turn on because yours is not on.

Julie: Exactly.

Woman: There’s a little button at the top that says Find People nearby […].

Julie: Exactly, depending on the phone you have a version of LinkedIn, you might be asked to turn on the find nearby, so thank you so much for that. Then once you turn that on, you’ll be able to see everyone who’s around you and […].

Jono: Cool.

Woman: I didn’t know about this feature and I use LinkedIn every day.

Julie: There we go. It’s very […], really cool, and highly encourage you to use it. 

Jono: That’s really cool.

Julie: Yeah.

Woman: If you don’t mind […] inviting.

Julie: Yes, please. That’s why we’re here. Awesome, so feel free.

Woman: Thank you.

Julie: My pleasure. Where do we want to start tonight? Talking a little bit about where sales touchpoints and customer success touchpoints can potentially intertwine. I think […] what you do if I automate my job. 

Woman: Not really. […] and our platform […] as well. They have a team of 10 people but just one person. Seriously, I don’t want […] job.

Julie: I’m just teasing […]. I’m happy to start talking a little bit, feel free to jump in, ask me questions […] dynamic and anyone […] the room has any expertise or any feedback that they’d like to share, let’s keep this superfluid, as casual. The best way I’d like to think about the role that I do with customer success is that I’m the hairdresser for my client, for the person that I’m working with, the person who is spending money with us. Because my core role responsibility is more about enabling people training, […] consulting as opposed to having our customers having DocuSign […] and buying more from us, that customer is usually going to be a little bit more open with what’s really on their mind than with […] sales, that person who’s solely focused on your phone and your number.

I would say, at all times and all touchpoints, there’s an opportunity for that person […] customer success person or people to potentially be probing about opportunities that could lead you to uncover upsell or make pointing to the direction that this customer is either doing very well, very happy, or maybe not so much. Maybe they are potential […]. That can help you better position your sales partner.

Real quick, just for the folks online, I’ll just repeat what I’ll be sharing. The way I view the person in the customer success role is that of almost like the hairdresser, for that customer success person is supporting. That customer is potentially more likely to share how they’re really feeling or whether it could be opportunities for upsell or indicators of potential churn because that customer success person is tasked with roles and responsibilities that are typically more about consulting, change management, training and even with plans and the like as opposed to that sales rep who is typically just fixated on their quota, their number, and who are they going to be renewing, and for how much. That was the first thing I shared. That’s how I think about customer success and sales.

There’s a lot of really great opportunities to collaborate, so depending on your business and the size and scope of who you’re doing business with, generally speaking, the statistic is that there are at least 6.8 people involved in a buying decision. We call that the buying committee and 6.8 people, especially if say you’re in sales and you’re really busy and you’re trying to maybe operate across a lot of different customers, that can be a really challenging thing to do.

Your customer success person, not only in these nice little conversations can they uncover little tidbits of, maybe, who to go after, can also partner very closely with that sales rep to help build relationships with more of these 6.8 people. Again, that might wax and wane depending on the nature of the people that you’re working with.

Lots of great opportunities for collaboration might also include strategic touchpoints through that customer life cycle. At LinkedIn, we do things like quarterly business reviews and what we call health checks and even just little status update meetings. There might be opportunities to partner closely with that person in sales or co host that meeting together, to help not only show up really nice in the eyes of that customer, make them feel like they really do have a good united team in front, but also allows both of you to hopefully forward your own agenda.

Hopefully, that starts to answer some of how we’re thinking about sales and customer success collaborating together at a high level. We actually, in my previous team, had hashtag going called essential partner so customer success is seen as the #essentialpartnertosales. Any follow-ups and stuff?

Jono: So, you’re saying average 6.8 people. Was there an average deal size you’re working with?

Julie: No, not in particular. The statistic is not ours. I don’t recall exactly where it came from, could be Harvard Business Review. It’s some reputable source that’s not us, I promise I’m not making it up, but it plays out all the time. I’ve worked with all shapes and sizes of customer and that person might not be the person signing the contract.

I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the RAPID model? I’m going to totally butcher this but maybe I can quickly Google it. The RAPID model is essentially a model that’s used for decision-making. It’s an acronym. Each of these roles have the letter that all spelled RAPID. You have the Recommender, you have the person who’s more of just an Input, you have a Designer, you have the Performer, and you have the person who executes on the Agreement. That’s something I highly recommend you take a little Google on.

Each of those people that are in the 6.8 might have different layers or different roles in making that decision. Someone might just purely be an input but they might not be super senior. That’s where it’s really helpful to have that conversation exclusively with that customer that you’re working with. That’s something that we do a lot of, hopefully, at the beginning of that partnership is almost nothing out who’s involved in what, how decisions get done, how would a program roll out, who are all the people that should be involved with, and even what they tell you might not fully encompass that full state RAPID model or the full 6.8. I don’t know if I answered your question.

Jono: Yeah. Obviously, we’re talking this like wholesale, sort of hardest thing opportunities. I mean, hopefully out of a good relationship that’s beneficial for everybody. Do you have some numbers around the percentage of sales that get upsold or examples from maybe a team that you’ve worked on? I’d be interested to know how important it is.

One thing that rolls around in my head sometimes is because when you’re like a bootstrap startup, you have to really think about where you’re going to focus your resources. It’s like, should I be growing? Should I be farming my existing customers? There’s always upsell. We think we can create and know that we can or we’ve tested it, but we’re limited with just getting procedures now and figuring out how to do it in. With a limited team, it’s like, “I just got to keep growing with initial customers.” I’m just trying to […] when is the right time to invest into it. I’m just wondering what have you seen from just in your own experience? What percentage of the customers get upsold or what really moves the needle on bringing in that additional revenue?

Julie: I think that’s a fantastic question. I didn’t have any preparation questions […] all off the cuff, as I’m doing a little bit of Googling from time to time. I promise I’m not returning texts. There’s something called the—I might be totally butchering it—the Pareto principle where 80% of your business come from 20% of your customers. Thinking about how we invest in customers, I would say is incredibly important and that I would say that is quite true from what I’ve seen on LinkedIn.

At LinkedIn, the way our teams are situated is we have an acquisition team responsible for net new business. When they sell a customer, that opportunity is then flipped over to what we call Relationship Management Team or our farmers. They are responsible for some degree of upsell. They do have a quota on their head for a specific percentage that they do have to upsell across their whole book, although many customers will just renew flat and hopefully, minimum churn. In customer success, we tend to work very closely with those people that are farming to make sure we have a good pulse on that customer. 

Jono: The relationship managers are actually closing the upsell deals?

Julie: Correct. That’s how LinkedIn is situated. I know across companies, there might be more of a hybrid bull of both the hunter-farmer hybrid, depending on what company you’re at. That’s just how LinkedIn is situated. It’s very funny, I’ve seen both. People either totally ignore their existing customers because they’re too eager to just hunt or the exact opposite. People got a little bit complacent. They purely rely on their existing customers and they forget to prospect or they don’t like prospecting, so they just don’t do it.

I would say in general, you can say customer base in incredibly, incredibly, incredibly valuable, not only for upsell but also for if and when those people move on to new organizations, they’re either going to sing your praises or be the devil for when you’re trying to grow your business.

A really great way to think about your customer base would be making sure you’re really well-aligned on their success criteria. I talked with you a little bit about this in our conversation. It’s really important for any customer is to understand what success means to them. You might have your own internal metrics and be like, “Oh, you were off the charts. This is incredible and amazing,” and that was never either agreed upon, or communicated effectively, or aligned with how that particular customer use success. It means success for you might now mean success for that customer which can result in pretty nasty disconnect because come renewal time, that customer might ultimately churn. That’s where defining that as early as possible, reinforcing, and realigning on that as often as you possibly can is incredibly important which can help you position upsell.

Across your customer base as well, hopefully, you already have some form of prioritization metrics, depending on space that you set in. So, where are your customers, where there’s a high likelihood of success to buy and a high potential size of price. You can think about it as a bit 2×2 of high likelihood of success and high likelihood to buy. Being able to portion your customers in almost that 2×2 can help you figure out what time you’re going to spend and to what degree so which customers are going to be your easy transactional ones, which ones were going to be more of your strategic ones, and which ones are perhaps not worth investing your time in.

Obviously, a customer that might have a very high-sized price might be a really big deal, but might not be as likely to buy. That might be a big bet that you might choose to invest in versus one that could be a really huge strategic play that you might want to try to put a little bit of extra oomph behind to just maximize that deal that might be more likely to buy. Hopefully, that’s relatively quicker.

Jono: Yeah, I know. That’s great.

Julie: I’m doing my best like audio-visual adjustments.

Jono: I love full […]

Woman: Is that […] easily find on Google or it sounds like you’re […].

Julie: I’m not sure if that one has a name. I can take that offline and see. I know it’s something that we talk about a lot at LinkedIn. Typically, we have books that are all filled with named accounts. We rotate these books every fiscal year, which is very challenging because as soon as you get to know your client base, you just wipe and start fresh.

Jono: Why do they do that?

Julie: It’s a really good question and highly debated.

Jono: Does it keep you on your toes?

Julie: It keeps you on your toes. I do agree that having fresh perspective and fresh blood in some of these relationships can sometimes be very helpful. Sometimes, personality is […] better work with certain customers. There’s a small percentage of customers that I think the commercial reps can hold “year over year” but long story short, it puts us in a position where we have to very quickly and truthfully figure out where we spend our time for the year. If you think about a customer that might be in that either big bet or say, strategic because it might take more time and runway to work with, you’re going to have to figure that out pretty soon so you can put in those touchpoints through the course, let’s say, that year, if it takes that customer up […].

Depending on your business and background, you might not have that little […] there which can actually be really helpful. You can really invest in those relationships. Some customers, depending on what you sell or what business you’re in, can take quite some time to buy, especially if you’re an education or […].

Jono: I think maybe it was last time we had this discussion around the difference between like account management and customer success. I don’t know if it’s here or somewhere else, but the defining factor seemed to be just customer side. It’s like enterprise versus SMB or something. That’s just what I’ve heard because I know that you guys have really large customers and a lot of small customers. Is there a threshold where you guys get involved as opposed to, let’s say, something that’s just maybe doing $200 a month on ads or something?

Julie: You mentioned a couple of really cool things. I’m going to talk about the thresholds first. The way LinkedIn thinks about customer success is actually a little bit different across business lines. I’m in the process of transitioning business lines at LinkedIn. We have four B2B business lines at LinkedIn. Now, I will have bid in three out of the four, so just trying to see it all. What’s very interesting is although I’m in a very similar function, the way they attribute the support of customer success is different.

In my former position, customers will have to spend above a certain price threshold—the total contract value—in order to qualify for customer success support. Underneath that spend value, that customer will only have self-serve resources. It’s actually a potential carrot to encourage customers to spend a bit more.

In this business line it’s all seat-driven. Because it’s defined by contract value, if that customer really wants to work with someone who’s in a customer success role, then they have the option of actually having a longer contract term so they technically spend more money.

Let’s say there’s a $50,000 minimum, if they only are spending $25,000, if they purchase for, say, two years even at the $25,000 mark, they can then get customer success support. That’s actually been very often talking about sales and customer success working together.

I have been on many a pre-sales call where it wants me to do a little bit of a pony show and masquerade around and say, “This is the potential person that you could be working with if you spend a little bit of money or if you sign on for an additional year.” That’s how that business line operates.

However, what I’m learning is in my new business line, which is also seat-driven, it’s LinkedIn Learning, an acquisition of, now being rebranded as Linkedin Learning. Typically speaking, those organizations are purchasing this type of licensing model for their entire company, generally speaking, at least in the corporate space. The way they attribute their resources is actually entirely based on seats. How many seats to discuss […] regardless of […]. Generally speaking, some buy a lot of seats, they’re spending a lot of money, but it’s done in a slightly different way.

Those are a couple ways to think about it because the way your specific business is, might actually fall more nicely in one versus another. Now, what’s important and interesting to think about, and this is something I’ve seen one of our orgs at LinkedIn going through a transition through, is thinking about your scalable resources.

Scalable resources are really helpful, not only for customers who don’t qualify for personalized customer success support, but it also helps your customer success team or person point that customer in the right direction. Their time is better spent with higher level activities like being more of a consultant, helping with change management.

What’s interesting that goes back to your introduction at the very beginning is customer success, we’re really trying to figure out what it is. You’re going to a bookstore, you look at books on sale. There’s thousands, at least. If you try to find books on customer success, there might be maybe tens, not a lot.

An idea that has been prevalent in one of the customer success orgs at LinkedIn is the idea of we are very much writing the book right now. All I’m speaking from is my experience of what I’m seeing and doing. However, you might find that you are creating new processes or seeing things that made more sense. You mentioned a little bit of this, the definition of account manager versus the customer success manager and you said the difference mainly being the size of customer that you’re working with.

Jono: Yeah, that’s the only reason or, I guess, decision that I ever come across. Do you have that role?

Julie: I would think of our account manager-type function as that relationship manager. Same kind of idea that, that person has a quota, they are supposed to be renewing and hopefully upselling and some cases cross selling those customers. Customer success, the team that I’m on, is a totally separate function.

The way I think about account management versus customer success is account managers are there to keep your current customers happy and flowing more from a commercial lens. They have a number on their head. They are very much responsible for redoing and upselling that customer. So, a lot of the activities that are driving what they do and how they engage with the customer, are all commercial driven. So, whether it’s uncovering more people that might be in that 6.8 buying committee, but more so having those conversations about maybe ROI and things like that; more from a strategic buyer lens.

The customer success role, at least in my humble opinion, is more of a partner role to the sales rep. There are a lot of conversations that I have about utilization, about enablement, about change management, about deployment and more, who […] be our champions. Those types of conversations, understanding what matters to that organization, how we can start to build an ROI story, that’s where some overlap happens with sales.

Those conversations might be with different people. Might have some of the same people, but it might be actually be with different people. With my previous role, I was working with a lot of heads of learning, enablement, in some cases, sales leaders as well. But I would say my sales point of contact, they would typically be also a little bit more focused on connecting with sales leaders, heads of revenue, heads of operation, and other senior leader in C-suite. That’s where I see a little bit of a difference.

If you do have two separate functions and two separate teams, you might want to also think about how each role would be measured. Generally speaking, anyone with a commercial title would typically have a monetary measure. They have a quota that they’re responsible for and hopefully they’re going to smash it […] the company to have lots of money, but customer success and thinking about how they’re measured has been a very highly debated topic. 

In fact, at LinkedIn that’s also an area where there’s discrepancy that we haven’t quite figured out. If you think of that customer success partner working very closely with sales, you might want to see if there’s some degree overlap that they can work together on. But if they have the wrong types of metrics, then they might be focused on the wrong type of behaviors. So, how do we inspire the right kind of behaviors in someone who’s acting like a consultant?

Not to get into too much of a sidebar here, but some people think customer success as customer support. I do not see it as customer support. I see customer support as typically being an IT resource, typically being maybe scalable resource. In some cases, there might be something that you might need to escalate or address if it’s a really big issue, but generally speaking, I see your customer success resource as that of that slightly higher elevated level consultant. So, they’re truly helping that customer be aligned with whatever they bought to their core business objectives and priorities, and measuring results along the way. Therefore, that customer feels really good about potentially buying more and by renewing by the end of that agreement.

Jono: You’re saying that you’re making sure that they understand how to leverage whatever it is you offer and that they know that the value they’re getting is aligned with their strategic goal.

Julie: Exactly, and their definition of success. Making sure that they have the right process and resources put behind it on their side, too. What tends to happen is the customer will buy something and they’ll say, “Okay, great. You’re doing everything for me,” and maybe that’s your business and that’s totally okay. But in some cases, that isn’t the case. They do need to bring in maybe some key people, maybe they need to build maybe a tiger team around the implementation of this or who’s going to play certain roles, or maybe they’re going to print out some collateral that announces this cool new thing that they’re rolling out of their company. Who knows?

There’s very often some disconnects that happen when we don’t set those expectations early and realign on these expectations with the customer life cycle because sometimes, things change and people move around, people leave, priorities change, companies move around, grow, shrink, et cetera. That’s why it’s really important to have a lot of these conversations. But if that customer success resource is, what I call, chasing tennis balls all the time, running after things that are not truly going to move that customer forward in a really productive, valuable way for the service or product that you offer, then that’s not a good way to spend your time.

Jono: Have you found any conflict or is there any common places where there’s tension between sales and customer success?

Julie: All the time. It’s a very fine dance. In fact—at least internally at LinkedIn—a big piece of conversation is how do we have meaningful and productive working relationships with that relationship manager partner, in our case, or that sales partner. There can be conflict for many reasons.

The customers that I see being a priority, meaning customer success, might be a customer who is maybe very unhealthy according to a specific metric or series of metrics like, “Oh, my gosh, this customer’s very unhealthy, I need to make sure since they’re the worst off that they’re getting TLC so I get them right on track.” That sales partner might perceive that same customer to be a low priority because that customer brought a three-year deal, fully penetrated, there’s no upsell potential, and they’re like, “Pssh.” As we say at LinkedIn they’re like, “By the time that customer renews, it’s mine. It will be in my book,” I don’t care about that customer. I want you customer success rep to purely focus on all the accounts that are up for renewal in the next two quarters.

That’s where it’s very important to build meaningful and strong relationships with the sales partners and be very open and honest. That’s where making some compromises along the way can be very helpful. I tried scheduling regular touchpoints, I do one-on-one with my sales partner until we’re in lock step and alignment because week over week or after every week, however often would make sense, priorities also change. I always think of it as a 50/50 partnership with a little bit of wax and wane.

There might be a quarter where yes, I need to lean in on some stuff that might be a little bit more in that sales partner’s priority area and then likewise, if I need a little bit of backup and support, maybe I need that sales partner to build up some of those executive level relationships at a lower sales priority account, but still really unhealthy account, then we have that push and pull together. I would say that as an example of a conflict that can happen, any just two people working together, sometimes people don’t get along. Sometimes, people have different communication styles, all the things that can happen with working with people, that’s another complexity.

Also just expectation setting. There are very different working styles. I’ve got a lot of sales partners that assumed that they are the only priority that I have, that they’re the only person I’m working with, so they try to demand the world from me. They also think that I work on weekends and evenings as well. No, I don’t. I try not to. That’s where being very clear about your priorities and your bandwidth can be very, very helpful.

Jono: Yeah, interesting.

Woman: When you’re saying sales partners, you’re also […] account. You’re […] . 

Julie: Exactly, depending on what you call it at your business. The question was the definition of sales partner. I would say, I have actually worked with people who do net new business acquisition as well in specific instances, too, like account executive who’s also for net and business acquisition, who’s trying to prove out, say, a pilot and renew that customer accuracy at trial period. That’s another example. Any version of sales partner but more conventionally, most customer success managers are working with existing clients. The person responsible for renewing or upselling that existing client has many different names. It can be account manager, relationship manager, there’s probably one that I can think of.

Woman: I think […] to do at trying on the business. For example, where I’m working right now, I’m customer success and account manager, marketing sales, […], everything, but the way I would define customer success is that our job was to ensure that our customers are successful by using our products. With our product doing more successful and the customer success manager’s job is to ensure that […] do the same all the key features to help them to get wherever they want to be.

Julie: Yeah. I think that was a really great point made depending on the organization. This is something that I’ve seen evolved at organizations, the roles and responsibilities that fall under, say, that sales partner account manager person versus the customer success manager can sometimes be very different.

I mentioned sometimes, customer success can be seen as customer service. Customer success can also be seen as a glorified trainer. They’re purely, if only, focused on training. In fact, when I started customer success, which was too long ago, I’d say a majority of my time was actually spent doing training sessions. Then our organization actually realized and said, “Wow, we have very talented people that should be spending their time doing other things.” We can try to scale training sessions a little bit more. We still do some training sessions but they’re limited and they’re customized and they have a purpose because training is very commonly thought of as the medicine for everything. “Okay, let’s throw a training […],” but very often training is just one little piece of the puzzle.

Jono: […] want to do training necessarily.

Julie: Yeah, exactly. That’s a whole other conversation about how people actually learn. Very often, training is not generally customized enough. It doesn’t have enough application for someone to actually use it and be successful. In fact, any more than five minutes of someone talking, unless they’re a super fancy speaker—maybe I fall under this as well, no I’m kidding—and people either stop listening or they don’t retain the information. I would say, that’s something that I wouldn’t be surprised overtime could possibly change because a customer success manager role should really be focused on some of those higher-level tasks to ensure that, that customer we talked about before is […].

Jono: […] be like an expert in the area or the application. That’s where the talent comes in. It seems to me—from what I’m hearing from you—when your trainer is somebody that can communicate and can do some training, almost anybody can be a trainer because you get a new break and you get a course and you learn how to train […] teach a course, whereas being a consultant, you really have to know your stuff, you have to have some experience, and you have to have a higher level of communication. We actually have some questions over here.

Julie: I just wanted to comment on what you just said. If you work back and understand what will make a customer rebuy, those are typically the answers that a customer success manager is hopefully going to shed light on for that customer. Whether it’s applying it appropriately, whether it’s measuring and understanding ROI correctly, yes, application and learning, how to do the thing is part of it, but I would say that should be minimal, maybe it’s implementation. So, just making sure that they’re guiding the customer depending on whatever goals and outcomes they want to achieve that they are just pointing them in the right direction and guiding them based on best practices from…

Jono: Strategic advice.

Julie: Exactly. Based on other maybe similar customers, or similar sized customers, or similar implementations. Like we talked about, if they’re just chasing tennis balls, they’re not using their time in the best possible way.

Jono: That really clarifies things for me, actually. Really remarkable.

Julie: I’m so glad.

Jono: Marc Seldin, he’s actually the Hubbli CTO. Marc, feel free to jump in and just voice your question. We can hear you if you want to talk.

Marc: Sure. You did touch on it just a little bit. I just like to hear more about your thoughts on this question. Obviously, if we see customer success as having a service role, and you also mentioned the importance of retention as being a function that they’re going to be serving, how specifically would you suggest or what ways have you seen successfully utilized to remind customers of the benefits that they’re actually getting from the service?

Julie: I would say talking about how we measure success. I think I touched on it a little bit earlier, should be one of the first conversations that you have with that customer and how your product or service aligns with their goals and priorities. That is something that you should circle back with the customer to remind them of if you have measurement ways that you’ve agreed on with the customer of doing that at least quarterly, if you can, maybe more frequently, if that makes sense, but I would say quarterly is typically a good digestible cadence to be able to do that.

It’s incredibly important to your point because out of sight, out of mind or again, like I’m talking about earlier, that customer might think that they’re not getting any value. In fact, they’re actually getting a ton because you can see all the metrics and they just might not know or those conversations aren’t involving the right people. Based on who are in what roles like we talked about in that 6.8 and maybe in that decision making RAPID model, maybe you don’t have that core senior level executive buyer that, the economic buyer as an example, in any of those conversations about value that they’re seeing and that might be an exposure that you really need to have. They might not need to be on it quarterly but maybe at least halfway through their contract, if that makes sense, or halfway through the year, say you’re working further with that customer for about a year.

I would say another really great way to show the value of what that customer is gaining is from stories. Stories are one of the most important things that you can have. We try to do surveys with our products that our customers leverage at LinkedIn, both qualitative and quantitative, but from time to time, there’s not an appropriate match like a customer says, “We don’t want you to send a survey to our end users,” but sometimes, we […] if they’d be open to us reaching out to some of their heaviest users, as an example. So, some of the people […] most engaged and […] and story has tremendous power to move people even […]. That’s not something that you’re currently doing, maybe along with […], here’s the ROI based on the metrics of success that we agreed on […], then that’s going to be a huge opportunity to be able to lead into. You see on people’s websites, […]

Another random little tidbit, just in general case, if you can, really try to get to know what’s motivating the specific key people that you’re working with. As an example, if my main point of contact to roll out this program, if they are really trying to get a promotion in their organization—hopefully, you’re building some form of relationship on a human level with them aside from just business—what’s in it for them? They’re trying to get a promotion. The conversation can very easily transition to, “Alright, what can we do to make you really good in the eyes of your manager?” That’s going […] you but also maybe do more for the sake of your program being successful versus not […]

Woman: There’s actually one that makes them think of customer success like helping the customers to become successful and you should get beyond they achieve their goals and their own professional goals. Again, they do look good in front of their managers, or their director, or their VP.

Julie: You’re totally right. Bringing this back to your question, Marc, I thought about success stories and metrics. Ideally, those are relating back directly to the core problems and objectives that you are hoping to solve with that specific customer. As core objectives, problems, goals may completely differ from customer to customer even if you have a very similar kind of solution. You might see some common ones pop up, that’s why that is one of the most important things that you can do early on along with defining what success means to solve those problems. Is that helpful?

Marc: It’s very helpful. Thank you very much for that. As a follow-up question, would you suggest providing to the contact some kind of document that they can provide to the other stakeholders that we would demonstrate these benefits? In other words, like in the quarterly report, would you suggest trying to take the problem as they have defined it for you on an individual level and then create graphs or some other deliverable that might be then passed up the chain?

Julie: I love that question. How great. It leads me to be thinking about structured communications and how important that is. By structured communications, it’s thinking about communicating to certain populations of people in a way that’s going to resonate to them.

Like I mentioned earlier, if you can invite any of those keys in your stakeholders to a live meeting, that’s always going to be better because it gives you an opportunity to get to know what makes them tick and what’s going to get them excited more. But that’s not necessarily always your reality or maybe one person can make the meeting but some of the other peers might not.

I think being able to craft something like an executive summary can be very, very effective. That can outline some of the key qualitative and quantitative gains that you are getting in a very succinct way. Keep in mind with executive summaries, there’s a lot of really great online resources on how to build executive summaries very effectively. Keep in mind that you want to keep it very simple. You’re contextualizing any of the data points, they don’t just say 47%, say, if that’s really amazing or not like you have to actually give a little bit of emotion behind that.

Make sure you keep your audience in mind. If the person who might pick this up from someone’s desk, if they don’t know about what’s happening, you might need to add a little bit more color in that executive summary. I would be hesitant to make it too verbose with too many slides and graphs and things like that, especially if something is not being presented by someone on your team, there’s a very high likelihood that it lacks all context for someone who might potentially just pick this up on […] might be something that could just get them excited enough or whet their appetite enough to encourage them to actually join, say, a next meeting where you could go a little bit deeper on visuals and graphics. Helpful? Awesome. Fantastic. I love it. Thanks, Marc. What wonderful questions.

Jono: Theresa’s actually our COO. She’s just asking the question as well.

Julie: Oh, written metrics compared. So that metrics for how they’re being measured at work or metrics for the customer?

Theresa: Hi. Yes, the metrics I’d like to know about is actually more internal because we want to be able to keep motivating our team and if there is no clarity on the direction and what the goals are, then obviously, it’s going to impact our clients at the end of the day, too. In your expertise, what would you say is an important metric that we should be aware of or maybe consider to bring into our strategies so that we can then in turn also bring the results to our clients?

Julie: I think it’s helpful to try to understand what makes a healthy account. What are some of the metrics that you might already be measuring that would be the biggest indicators that would lead you to believe that an account is, say, healthy or doing particularly well? I would say those are some of the key metrics.

In fact, in some cases, in some companies, they’ve compiled that and created their own score so they, maybe, waited some of those key metrics above a certain threshold and they’ve compiled a specific score per account to define whether that account is “healthy or not,” up to if you want to take that extra step but that’s something that I’ve seen done quite a bit including internally at LinkedIn. That would be a metric that I would say is really of importance for the person in that customer success role.

The account manager—again, those are two separate teams, I’m not speaking to if someone’s wearing all the hats—should truly be focused on upcoming renewals, biggest growth opportunities that are going to be on their plate. Then they’ll have the rest based on that prioritization that we were talking about earlier on.

Jono: Who’s churning more […] customer success […]?

Julie: That’s a really great one. I was literally just about to get to churn. Churn is, I would say, one of the biggest areas of potential overlap because churn obviously hurts the commercial side of the business. That relationship manager, account manager, whomever that manager is not going to have a great day if they hear that a customer of theirs is going to be churning because that hurts their bottom line of  how they’re measured.

I do see churn as a joint effort in #essentialpartnership because hopefully, if a customer is very engaged, aligned, seeing value, you have lots of points of contact and they love you, all this great stuff, then hopefully, they are not going to churn. Obviously, there are outliers. Stuff happens.

Jono: No way.

Julie: Yeah, I’m right there. I recently had a customer that decided to churn and totally blindsided us, who verbally said that they were going to renew flat. Sometimes things happen that are outside of our scope and control. But I feel a very equal responsibility with my sales partner to try to mitigate that churn if there’s anything that we can do, but also when that churn happens. Although as of right now it’s not built into my compensation, I do have a performance metrics of a role of try to maintain, across all the accounts that I support in customer success, a specific percentage of churn and below.

Jono: So, they don’t tie that to your compensation but it is obviously a measurement of whether you’re going to stay there or not.

Julie: Exactly, and quite frankly though, it’s interesting because we have different ways of being measured at LinkedIn but as far as exactly how are you’re getting paid, churn is not currently part of the compensation package but it is wrapped into the results portion of how we’re measured, say, in our performance reviews.

The way LinkedIn operates, the way we get paid more money is typically merit-driven. Your performance review has to go really well. We’re measured in three different ways. It’s called leadership, leverage, and results. That’s why a lot of LinkedIn people, we take on a lot of projects, we do a lot of things to help for the company. It’s very cool. Under that results component is those performance metrics.

Again, if you have a goal to stay below a certain churn number as well as any other means of being measured and that’s sort of the section we would fall under. I had spoken to other customer success orgs who do have churn built into their compensation. I see it personally as a little bit aggressive because sometimes, customers churn for the right reasons.

Jono: That’s a product issue.

Julie: Exactly, a product issue or maybe that sales partner shouldn’t have sold to that specific customer. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been in that situation. In the spirit of thinking about what motivates your employees, that’s a really great way to create a disengaged employee feeling like they can’t be set up for success or they can’t make money even if they’re doing all the right things. I would say it’s a fine balance to try to figure out and it’s something that’s still an ongoing conversation how to pay customer success managers.

Generally speaking, what we see and what I feel mainly of a salary with a small variable component like a 90/10. My previous role I was 80/20. […]. When I was in sales, it was a 50/50, net new acquisition, 50/50 a real coin toss. Is Julie going to eat dinner tonight? Who knows? Then our relationship manager business, the account manager business, just because we do have those separate segments is a 60/40. So, it depends on your org on what makes sense. What happens on LinkedIn might not fit for your business.

Jono: […] 80% salary.

Julie: Eighty percent base salary and twenty percent.

Jono: Oh, okay. I thought […], I was like, “[…]”

Julie: No, no, gosh. It depends and we’re still figuring it out as of right now. Theresa, did that help answer your question? Let me know, put me in the right direction if I missed it.

Theresa: You definitely nailed it and I think definitely gave us more than a few ideas to really consider because metrics isn’t just about one key component or under one department or category. It just really is a 360 piece to complete the loop and everything. Thank you.

Julie: Thanks, Theresa.

Jono: I’m so interested about this book switching.

Julie: Yeah, I know.

Jono: What happens is, some of the insurance right after somebody else takes over, that’s like everytime […] it’s like, “Well, I made the numbers get better. […].”

Julie: Yeah, […] but there are a certain percentage of accounts that you’re allowed to hold so if you’ve been really deeply invested with a specific customer and they trust you, you have a great relationship there, and they’re adding on and growing, then that’s a great opportunity to hold that account. There might be […]

Jono: So, you get to pick that yourself?

Julie: I don’t, personally, in customer success but anyone in sales will because everyone’s books do churn over, which is very challenging. But to your point, the churn key is very sensitive, so sometimes that does happen. It’s a case-by-case basis so if we know that there’s a potential churn risk coming, I’d like to think that we try to operate in the best interest of the customer. But sometimes we call them churn bombs.

Our relationship manager will receive their book and they’ll get in their hand off note from the previous relationship with the manager, “Hey, these guys have already told me that they’re going to churn.” That relationship manager has to either mitigate that churn which can very much happen, it’s totally possible, even if someone tells you they will, sometimes you can lessen the blow like it depends obviously in the space that you’re in, but sometimes, they just have been feeling neglected or they haven’t understood the value that you’ve been providing, for whatever reason, viewing usage in a totally different way than you’re viewing usage. Sometimes it’s just disconnect and you can remedy that.

Jono: Yeah, I can see it going either way. Maybe that’s why this makes sense because you could see for obvious reasons is why sticking with somebody would be good but obvious reasons why switching to somebody else might keep the account and save it.

Who deals with retention with these kind of accounts? Does somebody else get folded? Is it the relationship manager? When somebody is unhappy and you’re really trying to keep them, who typically does that?

Julie: Good question. It all depends on the specific customer and why they’re unhappy. Generally speaking, the people in driver seats are that relationship manager and that customer success manager and hopefully, you have a good idea of what’s going wrong, was it something […] the wrong way or is there some value that we’re missing or whatever?

But there are times where we do try to bring in a more senior point of contact, so maybe a senior person in sales or someone else. It depends though. As an example, if our core point of contact or the person who might be unhappy is someone is senior in sales ops or product. Sometimes we’ll match them with a leader from our organization in operations or product because sometimes it’s just the type of conversation to be had is just one that we are not capable of having and also it shows good faith if you are bringing in your senior leadership to their senior leadership.

Jono: It shows them their importance.

Julie: Exactly. It’s not all the time but I would say it’s in selected instances where if […] a useful tool in your tool kit to be able to use.

Woman: How often do you rotate the accounts?

Julie: Annually. At LinkedIn, it’s annually minus the segment, that’s how often we rotate. But I’ve heard from many, many companies, they think that this is hilarious. Quite frankly the downside is even within that year, movement does happen. Even myself, I’m moving into a totally different business line at LinkedIn, so I’m very conscious of my transition that’s happening right now right before our book switch because we’ve moved to a different fiscal year to align with Microsoft so we […] July start.

Woman: Even […] after Watson which is going to put a lot of the jobs […] customer retention people in jeopardy because the little system is changing. I know that LinkedIn is looking for more not having to do the guesswork but make sure that, that customer retention and churn is being already produced by machines. That’s probably going to be changing the whole dynamic of what the roles of […] as well. […]

Julie: I am not involved in those decisions so for me it’s pure speculation, but based on the types of conversations that customer success leaders have is they want to find ways to be able to help us spend time in the right places, including those higher level things.

Woman: Exactly and […] all the human errors, all the back and forth, and make sure that the customers are getting more optimized solution.

Julie: We’re talking about automated machine learning, so automated ways of predicting churn. It’s very, very interesting space. Aside from being able to help customer success spend time in more high-impact ways, also being able to service our customers who don’t qualify for official customer success support as well as our fully penetrated customers. If a customer is fully penetrated, there’s no upsell, it might not make sense to actually put additional human labor into that deployment to that degree depending on the size. They might decide to totally realign their human resources, should they choose to move a little bit more to machine learning.

Jono: It probably makes us look at both ends of the spectrum where it’s smaller customers.

Woman: That’s why […] are coming to the arena because I got to be honest with you, it’s just not based on the area that I’m in, it’s just not realistic for small- to medium-sized businesses to be able to afford the customer retention or customer success offerings that […] offering. That’s actually where the maybes is why there’s been more churn recently […] because it’s just not like you were saying as a small business […] figured out where am I going to put my […]. That’s […] huge issue which was really frightened LinkedIn and made them think, “You know what? We used to validate the way […] we’re going after these customers we’re going to be looking at. […] cheap option which is Watson,” is what they’re going after right now. Again, it’s just not serving the small businesses account for that service. Everyone […] keep going to suffer and […].

Jono: Also […] internally to support you. There’s email AI around that to tell you what to say to a different type of person and why you’re writing it for?

Woman: Or it’s just being […] that has enough manpower and […] automate this whole system and that’s why there was a team dedicated to making sure that it can optimize this […]. Yeah, it’s an interesting role, but it’s all completely changing and I think it’s time for businesses to think of plan B.

Julie: Exactly. That’s where I see those types of innovations to supplement human labor or again, redirect from the labor. To your point, there might be lots of companies who can’t afford to hire anyone in a customer success function or if they can hire a very minimal amount of customer success with maybe one or two people, maybe something that’s automated that can point them in the right direction, that can help them spend their time on those customers that are going to provide more towards your bottom line based on some of those key metrics that we’re outlining earlier. She has a wonderful business, great opportunity. I know, it sounds really great but I think it’s great. We’re writing the book in customer success […] happening and I think this is just the beginning. Thank you for that.

Woman: Yeah. I think the lemonades of the world are coming in, the disruptors are coming in to help those small businesses that are not getting service.

Jono: What are the lemonades of the world? 

Woman: You never heard of lemonade? Lemonade is […] absolute lemonade if […] chance to do a really fun, interesting case study. Lemonade is a disruptor in the insurance industry. Lemonade is freaking out all the brokerage firms because they have come in and they are taking out the brokerage firms. They’re just putting their person that’s looking for insurance together with a really good service that they’ve completely modified very cheap and accessible to anyone. I can get an insurance in five minutes on my mobile phone. That’s […].

Jono: Yeah, there’s another one […]

Woman: Lemonade isn’t one that just issue raising about $20 million just recently, and they keep getting more. They’re in the US only right now.

Jono: I mean […] AI, it’s not just like […] legal like […] contract with them […].

Woman: Oh, yeah. […]. You can write your own yell now, we got how many folks […].

Woman: Yes, it’s an app. […]

Woman: I’ve heard that.

Woman: It’s like two seconds. […] insurance industry is that, I don’t know how […] last time you went and purchased insurance, you need a lawyer to make sense of that insurance policy that you acquire. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Lemonade is like, “No, no. We’re going to take all of this out, it’s going to be very straightforward. Anyone can understand and you’ll be able to have insurance for your body, for your home, for your car within seconds, and it’s just going to make that much easier.” They’re primarily in the States right now.

Jono: Like literally you’re about to get into a car accident, then ch-ch-ch and […] insurance.

Woman: […] for real, that’s exactly how it’s done.

Woman: Your house is burning.

Woman: […].

Jono: […].

Woman: […] check it out, Lemonde AI. They’re doing phenomenal. They’re one of our competitors and also one of the companies who […] because they’ve done incredible in this very archaic, backwards industry and that’s […].

Jono: There was a lot of those opportunities. […] education, we’re not doing AI yet but Marc’s AI next month.

Woman: […] innovation.

Julie: Nicole said, “I’m moving this week and I’ve gotten about 40 Lemonade email on the last few days.” It’s funny.

Jono: […] I just do it […].

Woman: Yeah, […]

Jono: Oh, yeah, your […] like particularly brutal.

Woman: Well then there’s […] is the biggest one.

Jono: The biggest one? 

Woman: […] is bigger than Toronto because Toronto looks bigger but it’s so […] and in terms of the number of students, […].

Jono: But in the US, there’s a lot of small districts […].

Woman: US is where you want to be.

Jono: Yeah. Most of our customers are in the US. We don’t do public.

Woman: No.

Jono: We’re basically a CRM firm.

Woman: But in terms of public school, the only way to locate you and the only way we’ll talk to you is if you know someone in the district on education so […] because the ministry says thou shalt and thou shalt not. […]

Jono: Yeah, I was typically doing it way back. I don’t want to get into my history here. I love the charity […].

Woman: Yeah, absolutely. […] industry I will never touch again.

Jono: Yeah, I can understand.

Julie: One last thought as we’re talking about AI and the potential for such good, is […] acknowledgement to not think in B2B applications that it would be appropriate to completely flip. The reason why I say this is, especially, we’re talking a lot about value and talking about priorities, goals, and objectives for an organization, sometimes that organization has no idea of what they are trying to do.

Jono: No, nothing I can do.

Julie: Exactly. In some cases, there’s a lot of deep discovery, deep conversation that needs to happen, that is […] before AI can completely automate. That’s why I see it as a good pairing of being able to scale resources.

Woman: But if you’re looking at the company’s data, the way that the company […], it’s the way that they sell products, the […] way that customers have stayed with them, which customers have left. Which have stayed? Why? Who’s made referral?  Who’s purchased more than they’re supposed to? I think that’s where the […] of AI comes in.

AI is able to see all of that and within seconds, where human made an error can tell you, “You know what? Based on your data, this customer’s going to churn. This is what you need to offer them because this other personnel was offering the same service.” This is what […] and this is how you upsell them. I actually see it as a plus and this is something that […] never do. And it will take so much time and so much effort, even in the insurance industry who got the people that come up with all of these benefits and all these plans. That’s all being automated now. Manulife and Sunlife are actually hiring their own data scientists to be able to create those models for them because it’s just not possible for a human to be able to come up with those models and make sure that you are […] customers.

Julie: You’re totally right and that’s where I’d say supplement as opposed to totally slipped.

Woman: I don’t even see it as a supplement. I’m trying to figure out how to […]. I will trust the machine over the human giving me the output of the data.

Julie: That’s where it depends on the application, I would say, because as an example, if you’re trying to have a conversation about what a company is hoping to do over the next year or so, sometimes there’s a lot of […] that isn’t purely based on their historical data that they have available, depending on the service and product that you’re dealing with. I definitely see a lot of value to be added there, a lot of ways to be able to scale, potential […] and some cases have certain applications that I don’t have a background in. It could be fully automated like the insurance we’re talking about. That makes sense to me to a small degree of understanding that I have on it, but certainly there’s certain other applications as an example in SaaS where that might not be able to fully encapsulate every single type of consultative discussion. That tends to happen because very often, that customer doesn’t even know what they’re hoping to do moving forward. 

Woman: But that’s a problem. If as a business you don’t know what you need, I would say that that’s an issue. That company is not […].

Jono: Yeah, […] customers like they’re all running a business. As an example, every single one of our customers, these are businesses run by teachers.

Woman: That’s a problem.

Jono: Yes, but that’s the creativeness of the private school sector. Right now we’re focused on even a smaller niche.

Woman: But I’ll just say private schools are businesses.

Jono: They are.

Woman: So when you say teachers are running private schools, know their actual business owners that buy these private schools […].

Jono: No. Most of our customers were teachers and then they became directors or heads of schools or owners. That’s the majority of our customer base. It is shocking how much they have no idea what they’re doing. They’re lucky enough that if they just have a great school, word-of-mouth keeps them going and this is a market where 15–20 years ago, that actually kept them full, but the whole landscape is different now. They’re 60% capacity across the board and they have no idea what they’re doing marketing wise. They know how to be in the classroom and they know how to develop programming. They know how to talk to parents face-to-face but they don’t know how to market or do anything efficiently. Most of these folks actually, it’s a labor of love, they’re volunting half […].

Woman: That is a private school, you’re making good money. You’re making really good money running a private school.

Jono: Some of them. The big schools, Exeter Academy, Crestwood, these ones make quite a lot of money, but the majority of private schools are under a hundred students and they’re owner/operator, small little operations.

Julie: What you share is super parallel to a lot of customer competitions I have. Our customers think that their priority is this or this is where they need to be focusing our solution on, when in actuality, what they’re either hoping to do moving forward or based on some historical whether that’s human-generated or potentially machine-generated doesn’t align to that.

Sometimes, there are disconnects amongst people in that buying committee even to figure that out. That’s where you do need, in certain elements, in certain conversation, in certain applications and products, to have a conversation. You do need to put on a consultant hat. Obviously, information is so important and to be used for good to making more effective, very […] business depending on the sector and industry, they do need a little bit of that decoding.

Woman: I have to touch on something that you just mentioned, the consulting aspect. That’s how things in customer success is changing. When the AI rolls out finally and it is going to happen to Watson, what’s going to happen is the customer success people are now going to become consultants. They’re sent to the organizations or businesses to get those information that those people don’t know/what they don’t know, to be able to feed the right data into the AI machine, to be able to get a write out […] information.

That’s how the rules are being changed. You’re absolutely right. We can’t have the machine and just give it to someone who barely knows how to run a business and have them drive this. That’s where the majority of the profits for LinkedIn is going to come from is the consulting services. They’re staying huge on the customer success team, but now they’re sending consultants to do businesses. That’s […] were talking about and […] that I read about them making this partnership with Watson. 

Julie: That’s really cool. The way LinkedIn makes money is actually through our product. Our customer doesn’t actually have to technically pay an add-on fee for the services that we provide. It’s actually included. They purely buy the product. In our B2B business lines, we don’t actually offer consulting services. If that’s something that’s upcoming, it’s news to me. We’re doing a lot of work with Microsoft, looking to innovate. There’s a lot of conversations that happen. I’m not personally aware of anything that’s coming down the pipes so I can’t speak publicly on that. 

Woman: This is not something that’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s going to take time because […].  There’s a lot of issues with it and even Google hasn’t figured it out 100%. They’re competing with Amazon, that’s competing with Google. All three of them are going neck and neck to see who the big guy is, but Watson is the right choice for LinkedIn.

Julie: Potentially, yeah. As of right now, we don’t know what we don’t know yet. We can’t speak publicly on anything that isn’t […].

Jono: For the record.

Woman: This is all public information, this is all out there […] I mean that’s all I know, I don’t know anything about LinkedIn.

Julie: Yeah. I would take home message and say like we have tons of data. I mean, we’re LinkedIn. We use […] amount of data. We could see a lot on the back end, so we do have a lot of reports and data information that helps to point us in the right direction that is just our data, our network, usage, analytics, and things like that; trend-driven data. We have a ton of that at our disposal that we use to guide us.

Information can be used for good, but it in my humble opinion at least, there are instances where having a consultative conversation is necessary. I feel like we’ve come to an agreement on that. I do want to be respectful of time. If there’s anything else that we want to chat about […] question. Unfortunately, I do not have exposure to this specific program at LinkedIn, I’m so sorry, but is there anything customer success-related or anything we haven’t touched on yet, feel free. I think it was a really insightful dialogue. Thank you.

Woman: Yeah. I would actually want to know. LinkedIn, does the customer success team work with products team? Because you guys are constantly talking to the customer, you know their pain point. You guys could be the perfect people to work with in terms of product development.

Julie: You are spot-on with that. Very often, we’ll hear from our customers, end users in the field, they’ll say, “Oh, my gosh. I wish you had this or this data. How can we fix this?” For quite some time, we release directly with our product team. We would try to log tickets. We […] product that allows us to add an upvote product ideas and suggestions. So, some of it comes from us internally and some of it comes from what we hear.

What we have, I would say, in the past year or two in my previous business line at LinkedIn, release is an external client-facing, what we call community so they can chat and connect. If they like, there’s comment boards, but we’ve actually also built in an external-facing version of that upvoting and product suggestions phase.

Jono: Yeah, it’s a great […] to push products […].

Julie: Exactly. Because you’re typically having the closest touch points to how they’re utilizing the platform, understanding their roadblocks, and likes and dislikes, that person who’s […] be a really great resource to me as closely with product and highly recommend that if you work for a business where you don’t have that touch point. Definitely do that. But if you have an external input, awesome idea to do that, too, whether it’s in a community, whether you do and ask on a newsletter or a survey. But sometimes, unless you are having those conversations, our customers are too busy to proactively give that, to actually send in a survey. Sometimes they will. It depends.

Jono: You also probably know the customer a little bit better than on a product level that they […] themselves. Because you’re talking to many of them, then you’re seeing patterns of the trends. Your product ideas are […] everyone ask for is a faster horse. People really wanted a car. The customer success and product management are those two very fuzzy roles that people are trying to figure out. There’s so much overlap there.

Julie: You’re totally right. There’s actually been instances where with key customers, I brought in a product person into those conversations to say we’re talking about a specific integration with CRM, something like Salesforce. In my previous business line, our product interfaces with Salesforce, so they have some integrations. I brought in our product team onto a couple of calls with customers who either have objections to it and you want to dig into that to figure out whether it’s a product issue, or adoption, or whatever, or something else. Maybe it is an opportunity to get feedback from a pretty influential customer or a use-case set that we haven’t quite figured out. There’s a lot of really great opportunity for collaboration. I think it’s a fantastic […].

Jono: Cool. Thank you so much.

Julie: My pleasure. Thanks so much people who are virtual.

Woman: Oh, I learned a lot from you. You’re very insightful and you’re a very good communicator, you’re good elaborating ideas.

Julie: Thank you. I can honestly say I didn’t have […].

Jono: Yeah. My typical standard, the same way I started this was just like, “Hey, can you do this?”

Julie: Yeah, and I was like, “Right, then give me some questions […] I’m going to be in New York at some time like in between flights at the airport.

Jono: Soon, I’ll get an assistant to help you with this and I’ll be able to do things like that.

Woman: […] told me that.

Julie: There you go. Thank you all for being here and listening to me talk for a while.

Jono: This is great. Thank you very much.

Julie: I hope it’s helpful.

Woman: Very helpful. 

Jono: Good. 

Julie: Yeah, anything else you guys wanted to chat about?

Woman: […] LinkedIn […] yourself. You’ve got to know the ins and outs of the company. If I was giving any advice to anyone, being in the tech world as long as I have, you will have to know […] you’ve got to know what your company that you’re working for is doing and what that means for your role and for your job because if the company is not […] they don’t care about you unless you own your own business. That’s a different story. But you’ve got to know what you’re investing in, where you’re going at, what are they doing. Because you’re going to get these types of questions all the time. You need to be on top of it and understand and say, “Nothing is private. All of this stuff is public and they’re the ones that are announcing where you’re going and what they’re doing. They have to do that for […].”

Julie: Yeah. What we do have at LinkedIn […] is we actually have all-hands meetings every two weeks. CEO for our company, Jeff Weiner actually post these and he would  invite guests across business lines, products, et cetera, to give us very transparent view.

Woman: […] telling you.

Julie: That’s understandable. I mean, at LinkedIn, we have very clear cultures and values. I’ve been on LinkedIn for six years. I actually have pretty close connections to a lot of the people who are on the senior leadership and stuff like that by virtue of relationship building and just tenure and they are very, very clear on being open, honest, transparent and constructive.

Woman: […] Watson. I have Google Alerts set up on anything you do […] recently now that they are looking at a partnership with Watson to be able to automate all the customer success […] that they’re doing and making sure that […].

Jono: That particular focus of Watson, you mean it by…

Woman: No, no. Watson is capable of a lot of predictions, not just machinery and AI. But Watson is not utilized to the point that it can be, not yet anyway.

Jono: Are you guys doing your own engine or is it based off Watson?

Woman: It’s off […] based on Watson, not […] Google so we’re talking into all of them. That’s why we aim to keep […] price point so it’s whatever we work with, has to […].

Jono: It’s amazing how AI is like a service now, it’s like a cloud service.

Woman: It’s to save money for small businesses. It’s to make sure that you have an even playing ground because right now, the only people that have access to this AI machinery platform are the people that can afford to hire Watson or the […] of the world that have their own data scientist […]. Like Manulife right now. One of my very good friends who is a PhD data scientist, is working for Manulife building their system to be able to predict when a customer is going to churn. Exactly what we’re doing, they’re doing it in a larger scale but only for Manulife. They’re spending, from what she told me, so far, they spent over $10 million on developing this machine and they’re going to be spending even more. She was […] school even before she was even done to start working on this project for Manulife.

Jono: […]

Woman: Right now in Canada, we have a huge need for data scientists. We don’t even have enough data scientists in this country. A lot of the businesses are going to India or going to visit Europe or they’re going to South America. That’s how we build our team. Our team is basically, we have a team in India, we have a team in South America, and we also have a team in Eastern Europe because it’s 10 times cheaper than hiring someone here and you can’t find people to hire here. There’s a huge shortage right now. Anyone I talk to, any young people that are wondering what to do with their life […] data scientist and […].

Jono: But I like to pay.

Julie: That’s one of the reasons why I transitioned into LinkedIn. It actually rolls up to one of the main purposes of LinkedIn at a very high level which is something called the economic graph because LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the entire world. If […] AI, I could see it more on the member-facing site, because members, we’re getting members to be like, “Oh, what do I do […] specific question or for whatever reason is answering your Help Center, right now it’s very slow ticketing system. That’s where I could see something like that in the B2B sphere. They’re very, very brilliant and very passionate about ensuring that they do get that consultative piece correct.

But the economic graph is really cool for an opportunity to Google it, so they say, to knock out all the jobs that exist in the entire world, all the skills that exist on everyone’s profile across the world, and figure out where there are some skill shortages based on where the jobs are. The acquisition of was seen as that last puzzle piece, so […] people who are currently in areas where there are skill gaps to fulfill those jobs and be able to move into those jobs, which is really exciting.

Jono: I was surprised how much was purchased for. I was like […].

Woman: How much were they purchased for?

Jono: It’s $2 billion something, I think. 

Woman: But at that time, it was the best platform out there. They did a really good job […].

Jono: That’s how I built […]. I was a sales guy.

Woman: […] for free. […] that you can get but there’s also so many other platforms as well now out there. But at that time, I was watching the case of how they did acquire Lynda and I thought it was pretty insane how much they gave, but based on what was in the market at that time, they were the best.

Jono: There’s a lot of niche little sites. Just personally from what I was doing with things like learning design, […] development. Probably I used Lynda a lot. Lynda was telling everything, not actually everything but went much broader, but people were using Lynda for years. It’s been building a very […] value is.

Julie: Yeah, they have deeply entrenched customer base.

Jono: It’s amazing.

Julie: And a competitive experience. One of the only business lines where we truly have real competitors in the space. However, in the past few years, I just went through […] and apparently some of these like key learning development events. Some of the former bigger players don’t even have a presence right now. Now people […] conversations are having on the ground. People actually talking about Lynda/LinkedIn Learning, “Oh, my gosh, look at what they’re doing. Look at the direction they’re moving in.” So, there’s some really exciting things that are to be announced […] looking forward to. We’ll see what happens. It’s an incredible company doing incredible things so anytime you have questions, feel free to…

Jono: I actually totally forgot that Microsoft bought LinkedIn, so I was like […]

Julie: Which is wonderful. Honestly, at first I was conflicted, I was like, “Really, not Google?” Our CEO is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever heard speak. He has […]. He’s on YouTube. He has some great […] LinkedIn profile. He is absolutely incredible. The comments I’m hearing from you are totally valid like, “Be careful they don’t tell you everything,” things like that but genuinely, they did walk the walk. But they talk about in some closed boardroom meetings, they actually do distribute and talk to us in sort of a […], “These are things that we cannot discuss publicly, but this is what we’re saying and doing,” and things like that.

But Microsoft has actually been an incredible partner and that deal pivots around LinkedIn operating as its own more or less […] identity. This is the first acquisition from Microsoft, provided Microsoft where they can’t just go in […] and the deal was entirely based on that. Satya has been nothing but incredible […]. Satya is the CEO of Microsoft. Satya Nadella is incredible. He single-handedly is absolutely transforming Microsoft as an organization and growing at market share well beyond some of the other competitors that don’t have […]. Very exciting to see.

Now, what we’re seeing on the B2B side is a lot of […] opportunities. Financial […] super for LinkedIn and then we also have their infrastructure. It offers us opportunities to do a lot more than we can do by ourselves even as huge network globally. It’s actually been amazing. I have my own dealings when the acquisition happened […] literally, people were very upset. I have to say I was skeptical […] so far so good. There’s still lots to figure out, lots of opportunity. It’s such a young partnership, but I see more good than I see any potential downside.

Woman: How much did your job change since the acquisition?

Julie: None.

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