JP Werlin: Hey everyone, I am JP Werlin, CEO and Co-Founder of Pipeline Deals, and host of this new video series, Digging In, a no holds barred series of interviews for and by sales leaders on things we are all thinking about, but are afraid to ask each other. My goal for our viewers is to provide take-home value. I want to uncover each episode at least one value tip, tactic, or strategy that you can take an implement in your business tomorrow.
In this first episode of Digging In, I am pleased to welcome Andrew McCaffrey, sales manager at BrandVerity, as we dig into the learnings of a small bootstrapped company that is expanding rapidly and growing into new markets. Welcome, Andrew, and thanks for joining.
Andrew McCaffrey: Thanks. Thanks for having me, JP.
JP: Appreciate you joining us on this first episode. Andrew, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, your role at BrandVerity, and how you got into sales?
Andrew: Yeah, for sure. So, I will talk about how I got to BrandVerity first. I started in 2011. I got introduced to our CEO, Dave Naffziger, through networking around. I was looking for a sales job, trying to get a start in the technology world, and got introduced to him through a mutual friend that I had gone to high school with and Dave was looking to bring on his first sales rep.
Dave had built our service by himself, then was able to bring on another co-founder, and they slowly built the team by gaining a customer and we have grown slowly through client acquisition.
JP: And when about was that? What year?
Andrew: So, he started in 2008. I think in around 2009 was when they first started getting a few customers. And so, I joined in the beginning of 2011 as a first full-time sales rep. There had been Dave working part-time in sales and there was another gentleman who was doing some work as well, but I joined in 2011. And I was brought on largely to figure out the sales process and see if our business could support a sales rep. I think they toyed around with the idea of was this a system that they wanted to build without a sales team or did they want to have a sales team kind of drive the revenue.
JP: Right. I want to dig into that in a minute, but tell me a little bit about the original vision of BrandVerity and how you have evolved. The company has evolved since 2008. Just give us a little more background at BrandVerity.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. So, it first started off with Dave recognizing a need, figuring out a way to solve issue with technology. Our core business is brand protection. It started out as a brand monitoring service in paid search alone, and so Dave was looking for affiliates, networks bidding on people’s keywords, and competing with in paid search. He built the first version of the software as an affiliate-focused business, and that is what I came on to sell.
We were selling already to organizations with affiliate programs, and since then, our business has expanded into being much broader. Any type of marketing partner compliance issues we try to support. So, it is not just companies with affiliate marketing problems that want help. It could be a hotel that does not want their OTA partners bidding on their brand. An OTA is like an Expedia or a Priceline. And so, we could help with any type of marketing partner compliance.
And then, about two years ago, we built out a second core service, which is this content monitoring service, and that was going out, scanning the web on both known URLs and known websites, and then discovering additional locations where someone’s marketing copy may be hosted and promoted that they did not know about. And so, we helped scan the web and pull back all the content into a manageable set of websites that they can review and ensure their marketing is compliant.
JP: Awesome. Yeah, I know from personal experience that affiliate marketing space and brand protection space online is a never-ending story. There is always something going on or somebody trying something to subvert the brands out there.
Andrew: Yeah, I have got to give Dave and Andy, our two founders, a lot of credit. There is a lot of complexities behind it. We have to search from hundreds of locations, and we search at different times during the day so that we can have a full perspective on what types of ads are out there and how affiliates and other partners are trying to hide from detection from us or our clients.
Andrew: And so, there are some pretty complex problems that they have had to solve all on the way. And as we build up more services, these problems just keep getting more complex, but they have done a pretty good job of figuring it out.
JP: Right. Well, it sounds like you have done a great job because going back, circling back to your initial role there at BrandVerity, it sounds like upfront at least, when Dave brought you in, you were a proof of concept. You were a hope that you could sell. It was a hope that it could work out. So, you are still there.
Andrew: Yeah, happy too.
JP: The business is still growing. So, how did that go? How did that experiment start? How did that all work when you first came in? Was it like you would only eat what you kill or what?
Andrew: Yeah, there is a lot to go on from there. It started by drinking straight from the fire hose that came on first day. I think literally my second day Dave and Andy asked me to join them to a conference in Las Vegas, and so I think on day two or three I was literally on the floor, pitching BrandVerity.
Andrew: And I hardly had any idea. I knew what we did on a very high level, but having to learn how to talk the talk right away was a great learning experience. And I think that is actually something that we try to do with all of our sales reps, especially now when we are pulling people on. We want to see people that are ready to dive in and are not afraid to kind of learn as quickly as possible and soak it in. It is amazing to me how we have been able to hire people that are just always ready to learn and grow themselves, but we will talk about that later.
JP: Yeah, took some notes there, so we could go back to that.
Andrew: Yeah, great. But when I joined, first few days on the conference floor, literally just trying to get any business card possible. All I wanted to do was prove that I should be here, and it took a few months for us to kind of figure out what is the model, how am I going to sell, and what is my personal sales style.
JP: Right. So, you were in the booth with the co-founders. How many clients did you think you had at that time roughly?
Andrew: That is a good question. I do not have specific numbers now. We had a few big-name brands, but there was a lot of growth that we needed. We are still all hungry, but there were not many, so I think we were approaching growth in a very meticulous way where we did not want to overextend ourselves. I was a risk that they were willing to take.
JP: Right. So, as the first sort of rainmaker salesperson, you were a big risk for the founders.
Andrew: Yeah, and as a fifth person, it is hard. It is not fair to say that I was just sales. As soon as we were onboarding customers, I was also supporting them. I was doing some account management. I was also doing very light marketing. We were a small team, but we had to be pretty nibble. So, when a conference came up, I was doing a lot of the marketing for that, and when a customer came in and closed, they would still use me as their day-to-day contact.
JP: Got it. And you were, as the fifth employee, and this is something we talked about in the pre-interview and it sounds like it is still happening at BrandVerity today, is the wearing of multiple hats.
Andrew: Well, exactly. I wore multiple hats until the point when I was only doing account management and we realized there was this other guy in our sales team that had also joined with me, and the two of us were doing a lot of account management. We realized there are people that can do it better than us, so we wanted to go find someone and we hired a woman who is doing it. She is still here, and she is far better at account management than us.
Andrew: So, we have always look to hire people that can do something better than us and we want to learn from every additional hire.
JP: Yeah. So, how big is the company? Let’s fast-forward real quick and just give our viewers some perspective. How big is BrandVerity today?
Andrew: We are about 30 today.
JP: 30 employees, okay.
Andrew: And still planning on growing, so it is 30 and hopefully by next year we significantly bigger than we are right now. So, we have consistently hired at a steady rate.
JP: Yeah. Are you still bootstrapped or did you guys take any outside funding?
Andrew: No, still bootstrapped. That is one of the things. I think we try to have consistent, repeatable growth so that we know when we can hire and where our needs are going to be.
JP: Yeah, I want to come back to when to hire. I know as a CEO, I am always wondering the same thing, as I scratch my head. When is the right time to bring on that incremental sales development rep (SDR) or account executive (AE)? That is a constant discussion internally of when to grow, but pragmatically especially in a bootstrap or at least resource pragmatic environment because no VC there at BrandVerity.
Andrew: No. Yeah, it is just all client growth.
JP: Yeah. So, you came in and it was you by yourself or you and one other person at the same time.
Andrew: It was me by myself. I was by myself for about a year and a half.
JP: And what was your title then?
Andrew: I think I was just sales manager, so managing myself. But yeah, I was by myself for about a year and a half. It is not quite true I was by myself. Our CEO, Dave, was sitting next to me, so at every juncture, whenever I had a question, I would lean over and say hey, what should we do in this scenario. He gave me a lot of liberty to figure it out by myself, which we still try to do, but knowing that the CEO is next to me, helping me make these decisions that I did not necessarily know what was best, but I knew that he had a better perspective, and that was always helpful.
JP: Yeah, for sure. And I know it is hard for a lot of CEOs. They feel they are the best salesperson because they built the company. Whether that is true or not is a whole other conversion, but it is also hard for a CEO to get out of the sales role and get comfortable with somebody in a sales manager, director of sales, or even a VP of sales level and sort of turn over the reigns. How did that progress in these early days?
Andrew: It was helpful we were just five. When I was on a call and I was cold-calling someone, he could still hear what I was talking about. If I started talking about something that was off the wall or in a different direction, he would lean over and kind of say try out something else.
JP: So, there were some hand signals in the office going on.
Andrew: Hand signals. There was times when we would be on a conference call and he would take over for me, especially when I was learning, but the trust that he had in me to figure it out and trusting that I could help figure out this process reassured me that the company had my back.
JP: Okay, so you were personally coached. How long do you think you were personally coached by Dave, the CEO, in those early days?
Andrew: It is hard to say. We are all coaching each other now, so I do not want to say no one is learning from each other. I think that is kind of one of the pinnacles or the core values of BrandVerity, so I do not want to say it stopped, but for probably about a year and a half he was very involved with the sales process. And he still is, but as soon as we started to get a second sales rep as well as the account manager, that is when I think he realized that he had some people that could do the process on their own and could help manage the funnel, which would free him up to do other things.
JP: And then how were you compensated? Was it base plus commission?
Andrew: So, actually this has been an interesting topic for BrandVerity. I started as base plus commission. As we grew, we loved how much of a team we were and we wanted to see if a non-commission-based sales team could work.
Andrew: So, currently our sales team is actually salaried.
JP: No commission.
Andrew: No commission, but there is a great part of our sales team that we are all here to support each other. We are not hiding leads from each other. Not that that always happens.
JP: No, there are some organizations where it is very cutthroat, sure.
Andrew: So, we have everyone’s back and I know that when the person next to me closes a deal, it is high fives all around because we win as a team, and that is I think something. We look for team players. With every additional hire we are trying to find someone that can fit into the individual contributor on a team mentality, and so we are all salaried. And we have grown. As we progress in our careers and we progress within the sales division at BrandVerity, the compensation obviously changes, but it has worked for us thus far.
JP: So, 30 employees now. Let’s drill down or dig in, if you will, into the sales team, pun intended. What is the architecture and composition of the sales team there at BrandVerity today?
Andrew: Yeah, so we have six of us on the sales team. There is four in the U.S., and we have two in London.
JP: Okay, and they all report to you.
Andrew: We are on a team. I am the Director of Sales, but we try to do this as a team. I think technically I am the head, but try to do this collaboratively.
JP: Got it. And do you report still to Dave?
JP: Okay, so there is no VP or SVP.
Andrew: No. We actually have a pretty flat sales organization. One of the ways that we talk about when you are coming onboard BrandVerity is you are not just going to be an SDR. You are not just going to be doing a piece of the sale. At this point at our company, we see people doing the whole start to finish, so we hire young, hungry people that want to go out hunting, find someone, sell them on the product, educate them, and then get them all the way to the point of sale. And when that closes, that is when the deal hands off to the account management team.
JP: Got it. And so, of the team of six, all six people are handling both inside and outside sales.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. Everyone is handling a mix of things. We try to have a balance of going out, getting incremental deals, but then also marketing is helping us by helping to fill the pipeline.
Andrew: And it has worked great, and I think everyone appreciates the balance of both. We are learning some people are better at certain parts of it than others, but it has been great to experience the whole perspective.
JP: Right. So, what percentage of your time do you coach your team or ask your team to focus and balance between inside sales versus outside sales? And just for leveling the lexicon or leveling sort of the definitions of inside and outside, I would say inside sales are handling inbound leads. Anyone who organically or through marketing shows up and is expressing interest versus outbound or outside sales whereby you are cold-calling or prospecting through your network, LinkedIn or other places. Is that the right definition and framework that I am using?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean I am thinking of it in the same way. I do not have a great answer for you about what the percentage of times are. I think a lot of it is very cyclical. It depends on where are the majority of deals in one’s funnel, which we could talk about.
JP: Yeah, let’s get into that. That is next. Let’s get into that next. Your sales process.
Andrew: Yeah, but depending on the part of the deal, some part of the funnel are more time intensive than others as well as what product you are selling, and so I am going to guess wildly, but one-third of the time is handling outbound work, another one-third handling inbound work, and another managing the pipeline.
JP: Okay, that is just rough guesstimate.
JP: Totally get it. And so, everyone - one-third, one-third, one-third. So, then the six people. Do you have quotas for those people?
Andrew: Yeah, so we have expectations. We know what a successful rep can do, especially based on the tenure of how long someone has been around and their experience level, and a lot of that is sales rep driven. We know what someone needs to hit to be a successful rep at BrandVerity. Some people also say hey, I want to hold myself to a higher bar, and we work with people to understand what is their individual quota and what are the expectations that they are holding for themselves.
Obviously it has to make sense for BrandVerity, but we want each rep to feel individually motivated to kind of hit their own goals and obviously have these goals be bigger and better than what the company would need for them to be successful.
JP: Right. Interesting. And so, what is the goal based on? Is it based on new revenue? Is it based on deals, numbers of deals?
Andrew: Ultimately it is deal revenue. Each rep has to prove their worth and the revenue has to be enough.
JP: Pay for themselves.
Andrew: Pay for themselves, right.
JP: What is a starting AE there or salesperson make at BrandVerity? Range, like what you put on a job rec.
Andrew: Well, first of all, we do not put them on the job rec. I think what we want to do is we want to chat with the people that want to join our company. We want to make sure that they are a fit for our company. I think that everyone has to be happy with the job, with the compensation, but the compensation is just a piece of the bigger picture. I think I would rather not say specifics, but I do want to be sure that our team is comfortable, happy, and believe that they are fairly compensated.
JP: Yeah, because it is hard. You are in Seattle, Washington here in the United States, and it is a competitive market to find high quality salespeople. Only four of your six team is here in Seattle.
JP: And so, you are pushing six figures to get a good person. Someone once said to me if you pay people peanuts, you expect monkeys, right, or zoo animals. So, how do you attract high quality salespeople with no variable commission?
Andrew: So, I think it is something we have been very fortunate, one, to find very intelligent people on our sales team. I think, since I have joined, I do not even get an interview here anymore. I think I am completely lucky that I was already on a team.
JP: I feel the same way.
Andrew: But no, we have found intelligent people that are hungry and they are ready to hustle. And not hustle in a bad way. I have used this before, but they have got high motors. In the NBA draft, they talk about guys with a high motor as just like being relentless and never quitting and going for every rebound, and those are the things that we look for.
JP: High motor people.
Andrew: High motor, intelligent people.
JP: High motor. Any other evaluation criteria if I am hiring sales people that have worked for you?
Andrew: Being a team player I think is the other thing. We are a team and we are going to succeed as a team.
Andrew: People that get it. I think we have done very well with hiring people that are still earlier in their sales career and are open to figuring out how to sell as a team, and that is a little bit of a shift from the very traditional sales organization that is commission driven. And that is not to say we will not go that way in the future, but for now we are a salary team and we all believe that it is working.
JP: Yeah. So, any other criteria? High motor. Going for every rebound. Following up every shot. You used to play basketball, right? I think.
Andrew: Yeah, the basketball analogy is easy for me.
JP: Yeah, that is awesome. Just coming off the NCA championships, yeah, I am right there with you. Team player. Anything else in your screen criteria? You put up a new job rec and you are sorting through people wanting a job there on your sales team. What other filtering criteria do you use?
Andrew: Let’s see. I think we do a good job in our interviewing here at BrandVerity, where we will not just have the sales team interview, but we are a very inclusive company where we want all of our engineers to kind of respect how the sales team does our work and vice versa, so we are always going to try and include a multitude of people from the organization in the interview cycle. And so, people will see how our company works. They will see that we have great relationships across the company, and I think a lot of it is people get really excited about getting to work with the product team and understanding I may be selling BrandVerity, but I am going to be a great user of the tool as well, and I will be able to share that feedback directly to our product guy.
And so, it is not just a I am going to cold-call every day. I am going to get to do many things and I am going to get to have an influence that is beyond just every single deal.
JP: Right. That is a good environment, a good culture you all have built there. Very collaborative it sounds like. And the no commission is a really compelling strategy in today’s environment. And I would offer, in my experience talking to sales teams, it is definitely not the majority.
Andrew: Oh, absolutely. And in some ways, it actually changes the game up a little bit.
JP: How so?
Andrew: If you are trying to compete with other organizations that all have the same compensation structure, that we may be self-selecting into people that are happy to be on more of a team approach. As you know, in Seattle, it is super competitive to find every individual person. If you are competing for the same offering, it may be hard to differentiate, whereas with our salary base, we may appear slightly different or we may be intriguing for people that would not have seen the other roles as intriguing.
JP: Yeah, that makes sense. So, let’s dig in little bit. I appreciate your thoughts on compensation and sales culture and hiring. Let’s dig in a little bit to your sales process there. How has that evolved from you being the one person and scaling to a team of six now? Has that required more process? How has that evolved and what does it look like today?
Andrew: Yeah, it has absolutely required more process. When it was just me, I had a great CRM in my head.
Andrew: We actually had a CRM, but.
JP: It was all here.
Andrew: Yeah, we had to be a lot more deliberate in documenting everything.
JP: Sure. You knew what the must-win deal this week was.
JP: You did not have to talk about it.
Andrew: It was great when it closed and I could move on to the next one, but you are absolutely right. Process. Documentation of how things work. Trainings. When someone comes onboard now, they sit down with everyone in every department in the company to understand what they do and how it fits into the big picture.
Andrew: But I think the thing that you were asking specifically about is our sales process.
Andrew: We have the benefit. Since we are a monitoring service, we monitor from the consumer’s perspective, our sales team can go out and basically tell our service to go out and monitor to find trade market views or find affiliate activity that looks like it should not be there.
JP: Oh, for prospects. This is before they are in your pipeline.
Andrew: Before they are in our pipeline we can find these examples that we know are helpful for the customer. So, if we are going to company XYZ, we can go out and find some example of affiliate bidding on their branded keywords and then, when we give them a call, we can have specific examples to reference.
JP: That is good prospecting.
Andrew: Yeah, and so every cold lead really is a warm lead because you have something that they can use and they want.
JP: What conversation rate are you getting with those leads? If you are reaching out to 20 people per week, how many of those are resulting in a conversation?
Andrew: Yeah, I am guess I am trying to think of what the right answer for you is. If we are reaching out to 20 people per week, we will probably be able to get a response of some degree from 25 to 30 percent.
Andrew: Often times, it may not be the right person. We will then follow up with the next person. It is finding that right person, which is a bit of the art to our sale because someone may not be in charge of affiliate, but their next-door neighbor is, so it finding that right person.
JP: Got it. And that is who you are generally targeting, is the sales makers, the affiliate manager?
Andrew: Affiliate marketing managers. Digital marketing managers. Those people within marketing are our core target.
JP: Got it. And so, 25 percent you get on a conversation.
Andrew: To some degree.
JP: Yeah, it could be a no, right?
JP: Although that never happens. So, then what? When do you officially consider them a prospect or entering the pipeline?
Andrew: Everyone that is not a client is a prospect for us.
Andrew: We think we can help everyone.
JP: Yeah, for sure.
Andrew: You guys have not signed up yet, so I will have someone give you a call after this.
JP: All right, we are on it.
Andrew: But it is typically when someone says hey, we want a demo account or a trial. We will offer two weeks of our service for free, and so we will setup the account to the best of our ability. Often times we will actually have a quick call just to say all right, here are the things that we think we can help you with. Do you have other issues? What other things you may need help? We will then setup the software to go run for a few days and we will have a follow-up call, where we walk them through all the data that we found. And then, from there, we can turn over and give them a login.
JP: Is that step one? Is that prospect, or what do you call that?
Andrew: That is what we call “a deal has been created.” That is when we have a number of steps within our funnel to help them to close.
JP: Okay. How many steps do you have in your funnel off the top of your head?
Andrew: We have got seven that are our core stages. It is not always a logical progression.
Andrew: You guys know it may go from step one to done, or it may be one, two, three, and step back a little bit, but we have got seven that are our typical steps.
JP: Okay. And as they progress through there, how are you monitoring that with your team? Those seven deal stages. Do you guys meet weekly?
Andrew: So, yeah, we have got weekly sales meetings. We have got two weekly sales meetings. We have got a general meeting that we have to talk about new deals. Things we have learned from the past week. Interesting tidbits that we have heard from the industry. Anything to help out the other guys and gals. And then we have another one that is talking about deals that are further along in the pipeline that we want to talk about. What is the right next step?
Andrew: And we have done a great job, in my opinion, of being willing and helping to hear when people do not know what is the right next step, and someone may describe their deal and say hey, this is the scenario I am in. I can make something up, but they say I am not sure what to do. We can talk it out and we can go over and we can learn from each other, and there have been a number of times when we have learned from mistakes and we have been able to prevent those in the next deal just by having these sharing meetings.
JP: Let’s dig into mistakes. What are some of the biggest mistakes? And this is not just germaine to your current role, but I know you talked to a lot of other salespeople, and what would you say are one of the top five mistakes or top three mistakes that salespeople make in your experience?
Andrew: Yeah, it is a great question. The one that resonates with me now is thinking that you are only selling to your contact. Your contact is very much your liaison at that company, but you need to empower them to sell to their boss or their boss’s boss and you need to provide them with the tools to sell internally at their organization and you are not just selling to them. I think that is something that we all know here, but it may not always be as evident from the get go when someone starts in sales.
JP: Right, especially probably in some of your bigger targets, right?
Andrew: Absolutely. For our bigger deals, we will have multiple sellers and we need to know the power dy dynamics of the organization. We have people that love our tool and they need to go sell that on the other side, and they are the influencer and the buyer, and we try to map out who are all these people.
JP: Yeah, it is like connect the crime scene or the crime investigator. Put all the pictures on the wall and draw the lines between the people.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.
JP: Now, how long does it take? What is your sales cycle there? So, you have seven steps in your process.
Andrew: Seven steps. They are usually about two to three months long.
JP: Okay, and what is an average ticket size there?
Andrew: We have got a few products, so it ranges in size. It is all customizable. Again, I am going to kind of avoid some specifics. I do not know how much I should share here, but each of our products have their own prices, but they are all customizable. So, if we were to talk to PipelineDeals, we could say how many keywords do you want monitored and searched. How often do you want us to monitor?
And so, one of the beauties of our product is we can create a package that fits exactly your needs, so we could then go and we could sell to the company next door and they may need a package ten times your size.
Andrew: And so, we are able to give fair pricing to all our customers based on knowing what your needs are versus what someone else’s are.
JP: Right. And so, an average deal for us is a spectrum, but I think on average five users per account or something like that, which is roughly at 48 dollars per month. That is 250 dollars per month for one of our users. Why I am asking is because what I have found and what other sales leaders have told me is the bigger the price point, the longer the sales cycle.
JP: Enterprise sales, the sales cycle could take 18 months. So, kind of what is your price point, and a three-month sales cycle tells me you are more than two hundred dollars per month, but less than five thousand.
Andrew: Yeah, so we have our paid search product is a lower price point than our content monitoring service. The content monitoring is not a three-month sale. That one is going to be longer. We are often getting into N dollar FPs or we are working with bigger organizations that take a longer time to move. There are pros and cons to that. When it takes a long time and you get onboard, you are harder to get out of there.
Andrew: So, that one takes longer. I often think of our paid search because that is the one that I had sold since 2011.
JP: Yeah, that is your favorite there.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean I do not know. I like them all, but the paid search is more of like a three-month sale whereas the bigger content monitoring ones can take anywhere from one month to one year. All of that depends on the size of the organization and how quickly they can move.
JP: Yeah, I assume there is a lot more tech behind content monitoring too.
Andrew: Yeah. And to be clear, we always are happy to move as quickly or as slowly as the customer needs. It is one of the beauties of being a smaller and pretty nibble organization.
JP: Yeah, sure, but you are under pressure. You are the rainmaker in the company.
Andrew: We have numbers we have got to hit, and if deals are slowing down, we are still going to be filling the funnel.
Andrew: It is easy, as I am sure you know, when things appear like they are going great. You have still got to be filling the pipeline because once all the deals close, it is easy to be left high and dry.
JP: Yeah, exactly. And so, do you have a team goal? I know you said expectations, was I think the word you used, not quota. Do you have a team expectation or individual expectation?
Andrew: Both. We have both, and if we are hitting the team goal, then we are all going to go out to a happy hour and cheers each other on and kind of say oh, we did it.
Andrew: But it is a mix of both. We want to have everyone to feel like they need to contribute individually because everyone is relying on each other because no one can close the team goal themselves, so there is a mix of individual quotas as well as a team goal we have each quarter.
JP: Oh, so quarterly, okay.
JP: And what is the repercussion if you do not hit that goal?
Andrew: Well, first of all, we are going to say why. We are going to go back and we are going to look at the data. We are going to look at everyone’s pipeline and say hey, why didn’t we hit this. If we though we were going to get to this level, how come we came up a thousand dollars short or what is it? And we will look what fell out of the pipeline and where it fell out of the pipeline. Is this is a pattern that once we quote a price, are we losing the deals at that point? We try to figure out why we are losing these, so we can get better.
And often times those are pretty frank conversations where we can say what happened here. If someone was banking on a deal coming through and it collapsed, well, we really need to dial in and figure out why, because if we not diagnose what the issue is, we are not going to learn from mistakes.
Andrew: And frankly, I think we are all competitive so that, one, we do not want to lose any deals and we also do not want to have that sit-down conversation where we say what is this. What happened in this deal? It is a pretty raw and pretty emotional time when you say I thought we had this. I did not read this situation well or I did not do this, which I should have.
JP: What is the excuse you hate the most from the sales team?
Andrew: I think the excuse is I do not know what happened.
Andrew: If someone says oh, they went silent on me or I did not get a good answer of no. It is like I think we could have figured out. We could have dialed in and figured out what was the real reason, and to me that is not enough. That is not good enough to just kind of say I do not know.
JP: Right. Does that make your blood boil?
Andrew: I think at every meeting we are always trying to learn. It is a topic I have said many times thus far and it is just not a way. That is not helpful feedback. We are not going to get better by saying I do not know and just moving on. If we are always trying to grow as individuals and become better salesmen and women, that is just not an acceptable answer.
JP: So, you better know why you lost the deal.
JP: Right. Have you had to let some sales folks go over the years?
Andrew: Yeah, we have done it. It has been a mix of Dave and myself. I was promoted to Director of Sales maybe four or five months ago, so Dave had had a bigger role when we let some of these people go, but those were not easy conversations and good people that we were working with, so it is not easy to say it is not working out. But as I am sure you know, when someone finds the right role for themselves, it is nice to know that it worked out better for both people. If it was not working at PipelineDeals and they went to the next company, everyone is in a better spot.
JP: Correct. It might be a little painful at transition time for everybody, but yeah, I agree with you. Most times it works out for the best for both.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean it is so much of an example of like if someone is not happy here, we want to enable them to figure out how they can be happy and what is that right role for them.
JP: Right. Right. Interesting. No, it is a really true part of hiring people, whether in sales or not in sales, of getting them to be fully contributing and happy, however they define happiness in their professional life, yeah.
Andrew: And it is different for everyone. Everyone has got a different internal motivation for what is going to drive them and what do they want to improve on and what is keeping them at work. And I think getting to the core of what drives each person is super important to ensure that we have a happy team and people that are getting fulfilled.
JP: Right. And so, at the outset of the call, at the interview, you mentioned you want folks who kind of have no fear, who will jump right in, kind of envisioning you in Las Vegas at this trade show kind of knowing the business, but kind of winging it too. I think a little bit of fake it until you make it. Let’s be honest. There is that going on in the world, and that is how you learn too. You want folks to learn. It sounds like you guys stress learning a lot there.
Andrew: I think confidence too. It is like we know our product better than anyone else, so no matter whether we are cold-calling someone or we are talking to them on a conference floor or it is the first demo call, we know our product better than the other people do on the other side and we have the tools to help them kind of solve their issues. We are fortunate we get to know about compliance issues that they have, the marketing compliance issues, so we can coach them in the direction to get them to a place where they acknowledge that they need help and then they realize that our software is going to do a better job than if they had tried to build a manual process to kind of solve these compliance issues.
And so, I think having that confidence that we are the best option for them is reassuring no matter what part of the sales process we are in.
JP: Right. Interesting. I want to shift gears really quick at the bottom part of this call or this interview, and I appreciate you taking the time. It is fascinating for me to learn and learn more about BrandVerity. I have watched you guys grow over the years from the sidelines, and full disclosure, you guys are a PipelineDeals client and we appreciate the business, but it is fun to watch a bootstrapped company grow and thrive. We are a bootstrap as well.
And so, I know there is no VC or sugar daddy in the wings who could magically sprinkle dollars in and you guys have to run profitable. I think a lot of the companies you compete with and we compete with are losing money to the tune of six figures per month that we do not have and I do not think BrandVerity has that luxury. And so, as a sales manager of this team that is growing this bootstrapped company, what about you, Andrew? How are you diving up your time between coaching and mentoring the team, and do you carry your own book of business and your own quota?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean I am a sales guy at heart. I wish I had more time to cold-call. I wish I had more time to close deals myself, and I do not want to lose that. I think that actually by selling deals myself, it is helpful for the whole team, so we can all try out new things and it is good to be on the front lines, but our team is going to do far better when they are all performing than if it is just me or it is just one person.
Andrew: So, it is a mix of both, where I want to have my finger on kind of what the market is, the pulse of the market. Our team needs to be succeeding at the same time. I have to do both. And you are right. We have not taken any funding, so we do want that next deal. That next deal may provide us the next opportunity to hire another developer who is going to make our next product.
Andrew: And so, fueling that fire and fueling that hunger. I think a lot of us love knowing that every deal is only making us better. We are going to be in a better spot and it is great to have a team that is all hungry, and we are all athletes and we all want to play. We all want to win.
I think another thing that you mentioned about hiring is we love athletes on the sales team. Not everyone played a college sport, but everyone is competitive and wants to win. They do not come to work just hoping to compete. We all want to win.
JP: That is good. That is a good trait to have in the organization. I do know you guys have a bunch of different athletes at various levels inside, both currently and in their younger days if you will.
Andrew: Yeah, we have got basketball and lacrosse-focused teams.
JP: Got it. Team sports, right?
Andrew: Yeah, team sports. Absolutely.
JP: Not individual sports. Interesting.
Andrew: Well, I mean our CTO is a big individual sports guy and he is a great contributor too.
JP: Got it. Got it.
Andrew: So, we will take anyone.
JP: Well, it sounds like not just anyone. You guys are looking for a really unique set of skills, especially in the sales team. Somebody who is okay in a non-variable comp world. That is an interesting individual you are hunting for.
Andrew: You brought up a few times. I think the thing that should not be missed is that people still feel comfortable with their level of compensation. We are not saying we are paying people ten percent of what the market rate is.
JP: No, for sure. Right.
Andrew: But people have to feel comfortable that they are getting a fair compensation.
JP: Yeah, I mean you would not have six folks on the sales team if you were, right?
Andrew: Right. Absolutely. Yeah, so it is a shift in how people are paid, but I do not think it is as big a shift as it sounds like on face value.
JP: Right. So, one of the last questions I want to ask you, and we touched on it briefly and it was on my circle back list here is knowing when to hire. How do you know when to hire? Do you call them AEs or sales?
Andrew: Everyone’s sales title is a sales manager, but I think we are talking about the same thing.
JP: Yeah, it is analogous to account executive.
Andrew: I think that is a great model. One thing we want to do is know that every additional hire is bringing in incremental revenue.
Andrew: If you bring in the next person, are we just diluting the performance of the whole team?
JP: Yeah. Are you spending money unnecessarily? You would have closed that deal anyway.
Andrew: Exactly. Do we know where our next sale is coming from? Do we have a repeatable process and can we prove through data that each hire is worth it and each hire is worth the risk?
JP: So, how did you do this with your last hire? What did you do? What was the process?
Andrew: It is always an ongoing topic of conversation right now.
Andrew: I think probably across the board is knowing how big is the market fit, and we have put together some stuff. It is something we always sit around and kind of talk about. Is this right? I think we looked at some of our business. We looked at performance and I do not think we have perfected it by any means, but we are trying to come up with an argument to say when do we hire six new reps or when do we hire two.
So, I do not think I am giving you a great answer, but that is the direction. We are trying to always perfect kind of what that formula is.
JP: Do you guys hire in front of the revenue, so in more of an investment mindset, or do you hire behind the revenue, meaning the revenue is already in the door and now we are going to deploy this into a new sales manger role?
Andrew: I think the answer is both. I think it depends on who we stumble upon, and stumble upon is probably not the right word. That is interesting. I think when we find the right person and we kind of know it, we are comfortable taking risks when it is appropriate.
Andrew: So, as long as we think they are going to be an awesome fit, I think that we could do both, but I think we also want to be conservative. As a bootstrap company, we do not want to overextend ourselves or put ourselves in a position where if we over-hire, we have to regret. We have not had to do this, but we do not want to over-hire and then pull back.
JP: Right, that is not a fun position.
JP: So, your last hire. Was that behind the revenue or in front of the revenue?
Andrew: It was behind the revenue. We hired for a senior sales position for our London office and he has been a great employee and someone that we knew was going to do well.
JP: And is he focused just on Europe?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean his focus is throughout Europe. It is great. With different time zones, things can be challenging.
JP: Yeah, totally.
Andrew: So, the unfortunate thing is it is harder to connect with our London office at times, but they are doing a great job. So, we try to separate the globe into regions. It is sales accessibility, like how easy it is to sell in Germany from Seattle. It is pretty tough.
JP: That is real tough. Right. Right, especially if you do not speak German. No, but thankfully a lot of the Germans that I have run into speak English much better than Americans speak German.
Andrew: It is pretty humbling.
JP: Yeah, it is not representative. We should be a better global citizen and learn more languages for sure.
JP: Awesome. Is there anything else you wanted to add or share with this audience geared towards digging in for sales people?
Andrew: I cannot think of it off the top of my head. We will have to do it again and I will give you more specifics.
JP: No. Yeah, we should check back in a year and bring you back. You are the first of hopefully a lot of many folks sharing their insight, baseball if you will, around sales and sales process and digging into these aspects of sales. So, I really appreciate you taking the time and thanks for sharing about BrandVerity, Andrew.
Andrew: Of course. All right, appreciate it.