How to Pivot Your Sales Strategy

How to Pivot Your Sales Strategy

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Video Overview

In times of upheaval, there are winners and losers.

The winners are those who adapt.

Pivoting a business you’ve spent years refining is difficult, but it could be the key to surviving and thriving.

In this episode of the B2B Rebellion, Alex Olley, Co-Founder of Reachdesk, shares how they have adapted their business during Covid-19.


  • How buyer personas changed
  • Why aligning Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success was critical
  • How Reachdesk adapted its core business quickly


Andy Culligan

Andy Culligan
CMO of Leadfeeder

Alex Olley

Alex Olley
Co-Founder of Reachdesk

Interview Transcript

Andy Culligan: Hi guys. Really happy to have a good pal of mine and a good acquaintance, Alex Olley of Reachdesk here today. He's a founder of Reachdesk... One of the founders.

And myself and Alex have been doing a fair bit of work together over the past couple of months, we've been in contact over the past couple of years, he's been selling to me at various different companies, and then we've been doing quite a bit of work together in terms of pushing out things around account-based marketing and account-based sales, getting our message out there. He's very active on LinkedIn, like myself as well. But yeah, really happy to have you on, Alex.

Alex Olley: Thanks, man. It's great to speak to you. I think we're speaking every week at the moment, it sounds like, just sharing, I dunno, stories from the trenches, what's working and what's not working. So yeah, it's a pleasure to be speaking again, hopefully sharing it out in a more open forum this time.

AC: Absolutely, absolutely. So it's funny, we've had plenty of different stories from the trenches. I've been interested in hearing some of your use cases, 'cause you guys are a Leadfeeder customer, but we can get to that a little bit later. But tell us, what's been working well for you guys lately?

AO: So, God, we had to change quite a few things, as every business has, right? We've really dropped the level of automation on a lot of things, to be honest with you, specifically when it comes to BDR outreach, sales outreach, how we kind of sell within the deal process. So yeah, beforehand I'd say we were probably automating, when it comes to sequences, 25-30% of it, and that's kind of gone down to about almost nothing. Everything we do now is really personalised, is really contextual. So we've kind of reduced as much automation.

Seems quite silly, a lot of businesses are like, "We're trying to automate as much as possible, so we can get more out of people," and actually we've kind of flipped it. And we've found that's given us a way more human way of selling, and the perception as a prospect is... The impact has been huge. I get messages from some of our prospects saying, "Can you teach us how you train your BDR team? Because we like the way that you're treating us, it's on a real human level." So I think that's the first thing that we've found has worked really well.

AC: That's super interesting. I was speaking with somebody about this the other day, and somebody asked me like, "How do you hack it? How do you manage to get this amount of messages out and how do you manage to get this amount of business in through the door, blah, blah, blah, in the shortest amount of space and time possible?" I was like, "I don't think it's possible." It's possible for some. Very irregular businesses can manage that, and it's not something that you can just conjure up.

It's like when your CEO says to you, "Hey, I want you to create a viral campaign." It's like, it's never gonna happen, right? The virality of it happens organically. It's just something that catches on, and the chances of it happening are so low it's basically like saying, "Hey, go down to the shops and buy the winning lottery ticket." It's basically the same odds.

So this personalized approach that you're saying there, I think that there's no way really of automating things so that you get a better result. I think the better results come out of hard work. There's no way of making it easier and making sure you can sit up, put your feet on the desk and chill out and have something running in the background. No, it's bloody hard work is what gets you there.

AO: It's exactly that. The one thing I've always trained sales people is that sales isn't difficult, it's hard, there's that distinction. If you appreciate that it's just hard. There's no exact science to it, you just need to make it about your prospects as much as possible but put in the hard yards, then you'll succeed.

That applies even more so now than it did three, six months ago. You can do certain things to optimize that obviously. You can't just sort of say, on a one-to-one basis, tailor every single step. What we built was a matrix, right? So you have all your personas. We've actually added in new personas 'cause our use cases have changed slightly. Quite a few of our customers are starting to use as customer success and HR purposes as well as sales and marketing.

So get your personas out, and then you kind of try and segment them by industry as well, so you have a persona in industry-related snippets. And then you basically ask yourself three key questions, and the first one is, "What key questions are your personas asking themselves right now? What are their real challenges?" And you can take that question, right? Then you say, "Well, based on that framework, how is your business gonna help them with that specific challenge for that specific persona?" What are those things? You don't talk about features and benefits, you talk about the outcomes. "We're gonna help you do this, so that you can have that perceived outcome." And then, you then address what the actual value is gonna be.

So when you say, to give you an example, a field marketing manager, for example, all of their events are now cancelled. So they're flipping everything to online events, big online events, some of them are like two, three-day events. But one of their challenges is actually getting people to turn up to those events, to participate, to stay. So you ask them that question. "Are you struggling to get that big online event to get the right attendance you need to fill your pipeline? Have you thought about game-ifying it and delivering a better experience to incentivize someone to turn up? Because if you do so, you'll get higher engagement and your pipeline will fill quicker using these methods. Here's how we do it."

Right? So you can do that, you can build out that matrix based on all your personas, all the different use cases, and take those three steps. And that's what enables your reps to be able to use that as a starting point, and then you personalize. "I notice this about that specific event and something you discussed in that online forum, here's how we can help you."

AC: Super interesting. How much effort did it take to update that personas matrix that you did? Was it a tough exercise?

AO: It was at the beginning because it was all guess work, what we did instead is we started interviewing our customers. Go to your customers, see the ones that are adopting your product the most and ask them what those key questions are. That was the mistake we kind of made the beginning is we assumed a lot. Whereas that sales people should almost be going into customer success with the CSMs, account managers, whatever you call them, and say, "Look, how are our customers using us right now?"

And then over-communicate that internally, your customer success team should be overly communicating to your sales team through marketing, perhaps, how the best customers are using you right now, which ones coming on board and why they came on board, and then you can start building on that matrix based on that, so don't make any assumptions, talk to your customers, it's the best thing I think we did, and then you have those snippets and those templates that you can work from.

AC: For sure. You mentioned something now just around communications between the different teams, so customer success, sales, marketing, how are you making sure that information is being fed back from customer success all the way through sales and then through marketing or whatever way you have it there? How are you making sure of that?

AO: We have a weekly meeting, and this applies to everyone in our team, so the US team, the team up here in EMEA. We have an hour-long stand-up happy Tuesday, where we break it down so BDRs what's working for you? Customer Success share the use cases for their new customers and then communicate to everyone, there's a follow-up and a report. Every deal that's closed, there's a win report that circulated to those teams, why they bought us, why now, what where those triggers, what are the drivers, what are those kind of hooks that really made that something they wanted to do right now, how do we get it across the line.

Those are just really simple things, win reports, getting everyone on the same call, sharing those use cases and making sure that all those teams, sales, marketing, customer success are on that call as well.

AC: That's awesome. So are you using your CRM to facilitate that or is it just Google Docs or what are you using for it just to get that information presented to people?

AO: Just Google Slides and Google Docs, really simple, it's not rocket science, but everyone needs to know why people are buying from you right now, right? And then you start to spot the trends. Hang on a second, this industry, we hadn't even thought about that, but we've got like that many inbounds in the industry, that means closing.

I think that's what marketing should be really zoning in on, but to enable a team when they go, this is what that industry is doing right now, it's actually booming, we hadn't even thought about it, we getting more inbounds there, we're having more conversations, those guys are closing quickest. Now let's put a lot more focus into that industry, and that's where we've actually started designing account-based programs, the specific accounts within those verticals and using all that information and context.

AC: Okay. So you've had to do some chopping and changing obviously in terms of which verticals you're selling into and pivot slightly, and how difficult has that pivot been over the past six to eight weeks?

AO: Happened quite fast to be honest with you, we're not a massive organization, we're relatively small, we're sort of going from that start-up to scale up now, where it is a bit easier to kind of make that change. It's about finding the right sources of information and truth really, and so people have been working longer hours as a result, because you've got to do those morning sessions, you kind of have to do with a daily stand-up with everyone, because I think from what I'm seeing, sales is changing almost every week right now.

Six weeks ago, everyone was like, "Oh my God, LinkedIn has this new feature where you could send a video message." Everyone was like, "Ahh that's mad. We can do voice notes." And I was like, "Okay, everyone's getting videos and voice notes, right, what's next?" So it's actually like we did this really amazing thing, it wasn't my idea at all, where two of our BDRs, one Jimmy in the US and Scott over in the UK, were just sharing those best practices and then they saw that the BDR community was like, "Yes, we seen that, and have you thought about this?" And actually via communities like LinkedIn, you can get those guys to share all those ideas and then you can reuse them.

So you're kind of always that one ahead. So they've done a really awesome show just called BDR best practices, which they film in their bedrooms to put it out there, get some feedback, and they always gets them that really good new ideas from it.

AC: I've seen that. I think the guys are doing a really great job, you've managed to hire some real gems there from the BDR, SDR perspective. 'Cause personally from my side, when we met in a previous life where I was working at a different organization, I was running the SDR team or BDR team back then, and this was always a struggle, I was trying to find good SDRs or solid SDRs that are willing to put in the hard yards, that are willing to learn, that don't just wanna jump from one position to the next, I.e., movement from an SDR position into sales when they're not ready. How have you been managing to find such good talent?

AO: Right now is an incredibly good time to hire because the situation, if you are in that position, but this time last year, being honest with you, it was just me and my two co-founders. It's quite scary if you think back to that, but I've always tested for five things that will enable not only people to start in sales, but to be able to continue and work themselves up the ladder, and if you can test for those things really early on, it doesn't matter what degree you've got or what you've done before, you can set people on that path, and those things are coach-ability, curiosity, intelligence, work ethic, and drive and motivation, right?

Those are things that you can test and if you have like a white collar sales hiring formula that allows you to kinda school that and then benchmark people and go, "That candidate did really well and he had all those attributes, let's look for more people that have those attributes as well." Then it doesn't matter, we're not saying hire an army of clones, but test for those things that allow you to assess early on what those qualities are for your organization, and from there you can get, build a really good team. I think we've got a really talented team who have those attributes, all of them, and they've all been really successful.

AC: Alex, what's been... You mentioned previously to this call that a lot of people are asking you guys, "You're a direct mail company. You guys send direct mail to people, in their offices." That's what your product is, right? In the lead up to the whole COVID crisis and everything, what have you had to do as a fundamental change to your overall product, your core, in order to survive the wave that's been coming at you over the past six to eight weeks?

AO: Yeah, there were two main things. We built a whole new product called Reachdesk Remote, and that's basically a means of recipients being able to redirect mail to their homes. So let's say I wanted to send you something, you were, had discovery call with you, and I just want to send you like a gift afterwards for example, to really build that relationship. I can just send you an email saying... And it would say, "Alex Olley wants to send you something from Reachdesk." You'd need to click on that email. It would just ask your personal address, have the right... The little tick box saying, "You don't have to consent to marketing communications, this is literally just to send you something", enter your address, and then whenever it is, next day, two days later, that gift will arrive straight to your front door. So that was just a little widget we had to build.

Then we started building custom landing pages 'cause our customers were like... Well, we wanted really nicely branded part of our website. So you can do anything with these now. I've seen some unbelievable use cases where people are like, there's a Demand Gen campaign sending personalised sneakers.

So you go to this page, it creates this whole experience. They say, "Hey, we'd like to send you something to your home. Click here," and it has a link to that retailer. You personalise these sneakers, that goes all through Reachdesk and actually gets sent to your home. So you can connect to pretty much anything now, brand it up and use it for Demand Gen, ABM, sales acceleration, Velocity, those kinda things.

So those are the other things, as well as the second part. We added in a lot of e-gifting. Right? So you guys are a Nordic business, we realized we had to have a lot more of a global presence, so doing those small things that allow you as a sales rep to be a bit more enabled using the means of digital gifting. To give you an example, one of our BDRs did this awesome one the other day, where it's just like an Amazon gift card, just an Amazon gift card that appears in an email, but that rep could research that prospect, they'd understood that they are a baseball fan and they just had a kid, right? Now, they said, "The reason I'm getting in touch with you is because of x, y and z." Make sure that's personalised.

"But also, congrats on having a kid, by the way, I thought you'd like this... " I think it was a... "A blow-up baseball bat for your kid, hang it on the wall and when he's big enough, you can teach him how to play ball." All right? And it had a screenshot of that and then a digital gift link to Amazon where you can actually buy that baseball bat for himself.

AC: Okay.

AO: All right? So, it's really, really personalised, and that person straightaway was like, "Oh my God, this is one of the best experience I've ever had. You've understood my problems, you've understood everything and you're adding that value because you know that personal... That moment that mattered to me in my life."

So we've added about 700 different e-gifts from Amazon to Uber Eats to charitable donations, to those small things that matter to your prospects, so that you can use the power of gifting, but by a digital means.

AC: That's fantastic. Alex, it's really cool to see a company that's been able to pivot so quickly, and it seems like a lifetime ago, when we spoke on all that when you were trying to get back from the US that day back in March after Trump had just decided to close the borders. [chuckle]

AO: Yeah.

AC: Yeah, so myself and Alex spoke back then, I think it was maybe the 16th of March. It was a Saturday and Alex was in JFK, and I asked him, "Hey, how is it going?" And he's like, "Well, I'm in JFK, I'm trying get the hell out of the US right now." And that seems like a lifetime ago. And between now and then you've managed to completely pivot your organisation. You've managed to create a product, which is actually... It's probably better than what you had before, to be honest.

AO: It's way better. I mean, it was good in the first place, but now it's killer.

AC: Yeah.

AO: But yeah, that was a long time ago, I remember top of the Empire State Building, got push notification saying, "Travel to the UK will be banned as of Monday," I was like, "Oh God, here we go." But yeah, it has been, but as I said to you earlier on, the only means that we're actually able to do that, some of it is a bit of a gamble, but the majority of it is literally by going to your customer base and just talking to them and being open and say, buy them lunch virtually, if you want, but go to your customers and say, "How do we really help you right now?"

And that's where all the answers came from. It was really good advice that our CEO, Mark, gave to me and he said, "You just need to go and focus on our customers, don't think about pipeline generation, don't think about anything else. Focus on your customers, and they'll give you a lot of the answers." And that's where the source of all of our... Let's call them pivots, but that's where a lot of it came from.

AC: That's amazing. That's amazing. Okay, with that note, speak with your customers. I would say, we'll call it a day Alex. Thank you so much.

AO: Nice one mate. Always a pleasure Andy.

AC: Take it easy, man.

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