Turning Software Into Money | Paul Kenny, OceanLearning | BoS USA 2017

Paul Kenny, Founder, OceanLearning

Paul Kenny is no stranger to the Business of Software Conference stage. A sales coach with experience working with software companies including Redgate and StackExchange, Paul has a huge amount of experience and insight to share on the process of selling your software. In this talk from BoS USA 2017, Paul talked about the important things to get right to set your company up well to turn your software into money.

also available on the podcast

Video, Slides, & Transcript below






Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.


Paul Kenny: Here we are again! Because I’m British, I will start with an apology. Well, two in fact. I’m gonna apologize for not being a no dash so those of you who were expecting that, sorry. I will also apologize for the rather crass and blunt or sales-y title to my talk. You should know the story behind it because Mark rang me up – he does this thing with speakers. You talk to him about 10 minutes about other stuff and then you’re in the program for BoS. I don’t know how he does it and he said right, so what will you talk about this year? I said let me think about it. I was headed to China for a job and I said let me think about it, Mark. By the time I got back it was called ‘Turning Software Into Money’ and I didn’t know what to do with that particularly because it sounds a bit sales bullshit really and then I thought do you know what? More or less everywhere I go that’s what people ultimately want to do so it’s not a great title but I will ask you to consider it my minimum viable title and I have a couple of updates to add as we go through the day.

So for those of you who haven’t met me before or come across me before, a little bit of background. I appreciate it’s an egotistical thing to put a picture of yourself and I wouldn’t normally do it but that youth up there is me back in 2008 and right here my first BoS conference. And you know how it’s funny, we were talking about the butterfly – I did have a thing, as I stood up for that conference in 2008, I had a little moment of panic because this whole market was new to me and I started thinking as I was walking down to take the stage, how the hell I got here? I got here because when I left college, I took a job which I said I would do for 3 months in advertising sales and I worked for a company that published technical magazines, things like PC week, Atari user and data link, computing and network magazine, all of these things. And I was a spectacularly average salesperson for the 3-4 years I was there but I was lucky because I worked with some amazing salespeople. It was a terrible market to work in, 100s of publications were the same from you. If you tore the page from them you couldn’t tell the difference between them and you were selling to a cynical audience of advertised buyers all of whom have bought and heard for years every line and amongst that, I managed to start – I realized the only way I would survive was to watch those people who were really good and to try and model it. Because of that, I became a good enough salesperson, I managed to keep my job and hit my target and get myself into a sales management role, but most of all what I managed to do was to develop a passionate interest in why some people sale and some don’t, why some sale teams work and some don’t. and you will all have experienced it if you worked in different organizations every type of sales, as customers you will have received calls from the brilliant where you feel looked after, supported and serviced and you had the terrible experience of it as well. I spent 20 years trying to figure out kind of what makes the difference.

Now because when I arrived here, I thought I would be speaking tomorrow lunchtime, and so excuse me, I put together a misty-eyed and nostalgic presentation about BoS and some of the lessons I learned here by coming along every year. Too light to take them out. There will be a bit of that going on. At this 2008 BoS, there were some really cool people and in the same way that Chris invented the selfie stick, I invented Pinterest all those years ago. It’s actually a little slide I put together for a group that I’m involved in, I was trying to tell them about this market all those years ago and you will recognize a few faces and to be honest, I wouldn’t have known what happened to these people. I think it’s great in that if you put that light – there were Tom Jennings, talking about selling your business and venture capital and talking about do you want to be rich or king? Steve Johnson talking about product management. The thing that struck me when I dug out this old picture is if you put the same line here, it would still sell tickets. This is the kind of quality of what’s here but at the time, I was kind of there. For those who don’t know me, I was there to talk about sales. The founder you’ll be fine, Paul! Not a lot of people like salespeople, but I’m sure they will like you. Which is the least useful advice help you can get. And in the intervening years, I am the guy who stood up and ranted about sales. I’ve ranted that everybody is a salesperson and if you think you’re not, you miss a massive trick. There’s no such thing as a company without a sales function. You may not have a department, but you have a function but it might come out via support or the product managers – so sales is a part of that. I’ve made a habit of picking up speakers who made jokes about salespeople and having a go back at them based on my profession. I’m like the Clint Eastwood revenge model of sales and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. So my aim today was to really – I wanted not to rant this year, I wanted to have a bit more of a fireside chat, because I think it’s important when you think about sales to think about it in a particular way. I think that sales is one of those things that from Jason’s talk yesterday, that everybody thinks they know a bit about and if I’m honest, unless you’ve done some of it and been in the firing end, there are things you may not get about it. And very often, people come to me with a specific way – with a sales problem or situation.

My first iteration of my title for the course it’s no longer turning software into money, but it will be a bit of that. It’s what we think about when we think about sales performance. And when people come to me, they usually come with some sort of problem, they usually – sometimes the broken that they’re talking about is really serious. It can be that we hired 3 salespeople, we’ve invested in their education, we’ve remunerated them really well, we have let them right inside the product so they can articulate it to the problem and they’ve all just resigned. It can be that I’ve just put together a big chunk of my VC money into somebody who has an amazing sales CV and turns out they’re an idiot or may be that I’m starting to work out that they’re not up to the sales job that we need doing. They may have been great in one role, but the market has changed and the type of interactions have changed and they aren’t up to it anymore. But it’s not always that serious. Sometimes it’s just that feeling you may get and I have to say more often it is this case, that feeling that you get that somehow we’re just missing a trick and we aren’t fulfilling our sales potential as a business. Perhaps the markets – we’re doing well and the market is growing, but you can’t help feeling that we’re not converting enough of the demos that we do or the conversations we have aren’t turning into business fast enough. We’re doing ok, but it’s not quite good enough so what I’d like to do in the time that we’ve got is I would like to share with you my approach. So when someone sits down with us – I’m fortunate to work with a network of very talented sales trainers and it’s a shared approach. We worked this out over time. There’s a few rules or guidelines and I promised not to rant this year, I will just chat to share some thoughts with you and the first of those is that if you have a habit of feeling that your sales are a bit broken or not quite working or functioning, the first and most important rule is to be really aware of sales experts!

Now I do appreciate the monumental irony of me saying that to you, it is – I want to give you a reason for this, just because when you sit and think about sales, if you’re a founder or board member, you don’t think just about sales, but everything else and it’s hard to keep an eye on sales, because you can see what’s going into sales force or whatever CRM you’re using, but you can’t always get a real feel for the quality of conversations, the level of service. Do you remember yesterday when Seth talked about the package and he said it’s not about the packaging, a nice box of software. Packaging is your support, your sales the experience people have when they buy from you. And it can be really hard to monitor anything other than just the raw data. You can see that we called someone, but you can’t get a sense of how someone might be feeling. And if things aren’t right, there’s a huge temptation to look for the big shiny new sales thing to fix it. This is how a call usually goes if someone goes Paul, we met at such conference and you’re the sales guy and I want to talk to you because I think it’s time we move to spin selling. I say ok, if that’s what you want to do. They will say we need to move to consultancy selling – someone came to me the other day and said I need to move to a mindset conditioning model and I said good luck with that, cause I had no idea what that is and I’m not sure I actually want to. But what happens is people come out with this, or they want to make a change to their sales department and say things like Paul, I’ve decided that we will get rid of commission for our salespeople. In fact, I had – you get these mind-sets that wants to shift things and it kind of worries me for all sorts of reasons, it worries me where the idea comes from – I will move away from sales if I might for a second and tell you about an experience we have because it pertains to some of the stuff that Chris and Scott said in their presentation about creativity. Some years ago, largely based and inspired entirely by experiences at this conferences, a client came up to me and said we need to think about innovation in your business. We’re not talking about this huge disruptive innovation, they are a conferencing business, a global business, they’re very successful and they’re very mature business and they said it’s more the kind of day to day keeping people sharp, looking for better, fresher ways of doing things. And so I said brilliant! We got the team together and went to work on it. Purely influenced by the people I’ve met her, we came up with this great idea. They bought it so it must have been great. We said what would help people to learn about innovation? We wanted to teach them some design thinking – we came up with the idea of a hackathon but not for people that know how to build products. We said we will teach design thinking by setting people a challenge. We got everyone in a room, we gave them a customer segment they had to research and think about and we said you got 7-8 hours to build an app that will serve your customer in some way. We really wanted a dynamic mock-up and we donated access to Balsamiq because he does that sort of stuff for education and we had some UX guys to sit with them so they didn’t get lost in the technology and got them thinking about this stuff and trained them in this brainstorming sessions. Scott said you have to do something to get good at this – so we did it in all sorts of countries. This is the team in Sao Paolo, we did it in London, Paris, all over the place. Halfway through the sessions, a guy walked up to me and everyone was like this – they laughed and had a great time and produced amazing ideas, 1 or 2 made it into the product offering and he said well this is all very well, but you’ve heard that brainstorming doesn’t work anymore. I said what do you mean? He says well I’ve read a book now and it’s been proven it doesn’t work.

And so immediately hit the internet and I ran into articles like this. I thought this is really interesting and I read it down and it was a fairly serious academic – you ever see that? I thought oh my goodness, what have I been doing? I’ve been like the bumblebee, nobody told me that I couldn’t fly. And then it got even worse. I thought I’m halfway through this contract which is very profitable for us. So – and then when I read into it, actually they were well thought out, if you read behind the names, there’s some well done research and arguments and they really said that brainstorming under certain circumstances is no more productive than other means of coming up with ideas. When you dig into it, you realize you can’t say it doesn’t work because there’s no definition of what brainstorming is. If you’re talking about dragging people from their work when they’re busy into a soulless empty room and have them and having allowed a person with a flip chart shouting at them to come up with ideas. Of course it doesn’t work. If you’re talking about making, creating a problem and letting everyone go and sleep on it and then bringing people back and visualize it, is that still brainstorming or is that something else so do you see what I mean? The context is lost in it. And then what does work mean? Brainstorming doesn’t work. Well the technique they were talking about was a method developed by copywriters in NY and Madison Avenue in the 1920s and it was all about creating headlines. I saw people do that all the time, not only in adverts but also headlines for magazines. People would make 20-30-40 headlines without critique and then choose 1-2 and then work on them. Tell those people it doesn’t work, it depends on what you mean by work and this is the problem we have with sales. There’s too many generic models. Here’s another one I found confusing a few years ago. Someone said to me of course we need to stop doing commissions for our salespeople. I thought ok and then when I went a little further, to better understand the theory, someone had read a book and they decided that on the basis of that, the commissions don’t work and quite a few companies did and then a little later on in INC. magazine we had a slightly – hang on, do they work or not? It depends hugely on the salesperson and the context that you’re doing. Now, I don’t think Jason is in the room but I will do a little rant if that’s ok. I will pick him up on the Ben comment, that the difference and the reason we pay salespeople is because unlike developers they don’t go home and write code. If you think that salespeople don’t go home and rewrite decks, rethink negotiation points, ponder on the strategy, wake up at 4 in the morning, coming up with a response to a client and they don’t take the budget home to work on because they need quiet to do it and don’t talk endlessly about what they’re doing in the pub, if you think that, you haven’t spent much time with salespeople. Thank you to the two salesmen in the room. Hey! So we’ve just got be wary of these general rules because they might serve as in educating a helping chunk sort of daily, weekly learning from the internet, but they can be very unhelpful if we start to treat them as real. And we treat them as real when we’re under pressure to do something about it. So I’ve always said that it’s your business, your context is unique.

You should listen to experts. I have an amazing book and I learned a lot from it, but you have to think for yourself. I don’t want to sound patronizing saying this to an audience of entrepreneurs because you do all the time, but you have to think about sales in the same way you think about product management, development the way you think about your marketing. Which is in a curious, innovative challenging way and for it to do things differently. If everybody pays commission but it doesn’t work in your business, do something else and find a better way to remunerate people. If everyone is on the no commission rule but you think it would inspire your entrepreneurial sales team to really push the boundaries, pay commission. So how do you start to make these decisions? What I will take you through is a thought process if you don’t mind and it’s about how – what we do when someone says help, my sales team needs help!

And it’s just questions and I’m deeply aware when you try to reduce these things into a 45 minute, 50 minute presentation it can sound oversimplified and I don’t want it to be – so my new title for the course, because I’m pretty agile about these things and it’s some deceptively simple questions to ask about your sales performance. And the deceptively simple, because it’s not about the question, but how deep you’re prepared to dive once you start asking these questions. And especially if you aren’t directly involved in it – so your manager or someone who manages your sales or someone in the channel who you’ve outsourced your sales or you just have to rely on a sales team somewhere else and have remote salespeople, then these questions can be very helpful. So they were just refined over the 20 years to get a sense of where we’re going.

The first question is – I said they were deceptively simple – is what kind of sales team do we want or need to be? All the stuff I was saying about commission and about performance, it depends, you can’t manage the sales performance unless you have a very well defined sense of what it means to sell. The word selling is so general it’s just practically meaningless. You might have over here, and I won’t put words to describe it, I will say a few, but if you do this exercise – you can do it with me cause you will have ideas. If you think about it, it’s very important that it’s your words. The first thing I say is this. Or what job do you need your salespeople to do? Stole that from someone at BoS as well. And people often say give me some examples. I say no, you tell me what you want them to do and it can be difficult and at one end of the spectrum you might have an entirely self-served automated sales system and that’s fine or an automated sales system but actually people need a bit of help to navigate it and work out what’s best for them or you might have something where you have a great inbound service and actually what you want to do is make people feel welcome and engaged and part of the family or you might have a sales team where actually all their job to do is to generate interest. You might need or have a technical product, but you might need someone to callout and make the appointments for your engineers or product managers to go and talk to the client or you might need someone who can not only make that call, but also do an initial assessment of the customer’s needs and bring it back to the team and see if they can help or do all the things together. Or maybe you need a classic enterprise sales person who goes into the market and makes leads happen. You might not be well known – there’s only 30 banks you can sell to and you need someone who has 30 years banking experience who knows how the banks work, where the decisions are made, who can get inside and can build relationships, who does play golf and all of those things; who can make it happen from nothing. How can you make a decision about whether commission works or what type of training you will do with people or what incentive you put in place or what kind of environment you will get people to work? If you don’t know what type of sales organization you are – and I didn’t put it up on the slide because when you put stuff up on the slide. The most important bit of this is defining that job yourself so spend some time with your customers or managers talking about what they need from us.

Ok, next big question is what are your performance markers? I use this term very, very specifically. Because the big mistake that people make in sales is they talk about the result, what results do you need or target to reach or what’s the number if you like? And they get very obsessed. Don’t get me wrong, in every business I’ve been involved in I was concerned about the number, particularly my first training company which was bootstrapped and it was our money we were spending and I was bogged about the number but there’s a fundamental difference between a good result and a good performance. If that makes sense to everybody, fundamental difference. Everyone who played sports, there are times when you’ve won but the performance was shocking. You know that’s when you walk back in and go like got away with that one. Same is true for the meetings we run and the rest of it. There are times where no matter how brilliantly you were, you don’t get the result. You have to go out and test it. So I think it’s really important to think about what type of sales performance you want from whoever is interacting with your customer, digitally, on the phone, on face to face and however they’re doing it. So it’s important because I will do a little test here to see if I’ve left anyone awake.

If you ask this question, the boiling frog got mentioned 3 times yesterday so I got it in my presentation too. If you ask someone how do you make your number, I’m bothered about making your number. What sort of minds or thought pattern does that set off in someone’s head? Search results and then they start to think the number is important, if I won’t get it I will get fired or will be in trouble and you start that sort of think all of which is distracting because it becomes about me and not about the customer. When someone is stuck for their number, this is always why sometimes it’s a good idea to have a monthly than some companies I know don’t have a monthly target, they remunerate in other ways. If you have people who are feeling under pressure for their number, then it’s not that people become dishonest, it’s that they start to just gradually stretch their understanding of what acceptable behaviour is. So something that’s quite common and makes me not very not popular with salespeople when I do it, it’s the carpetbagging. It’s the ok I’m way ahead of my numbers this month so everything is good but my numbers for next month look terrible. So what will I do when someone calls in and it’s a peachy lead and I can sell to them this Friday, I can put them in next week, which is in next month’s commission system. Now is it honest just to delay it a little bit? So you end up with this whole level going on which is a grey area and it might affect the things that people say and deals that people do. So you take someone who may pay a full price and you start to throw extras in that cost you or you start to discount or get it in because I have to make my number or it may make you ring someone one time and the third time we said we’re thinking about it and the next time you’re starting to piss me off. People care less about the threshold if they’ve got the number. Does that make sense to everybody? Although making your number is important if you’re VC backed and it’s the first question they always ask you, but if we obsess about it, to the detriment of everything else, then we have a problem. So it’s a much better question to ask is what kind of sales performance do you want to deliver? This starts a train of thought because when you think about sales performance, you think – our values going back to the talk yesterday – are about delighting our customer, I want to make my number, but in a certain way and I want a high CSAT rating or empirical score from the client. I want the, to repeat more or on average it’s been taking 3 months to close business down and decide if someone will buy or not and it might be better if we get people to do it in 2 months or we come up with better decision making tools to help them do it faster. If you set performance markers for the year, this surprised one of my clients – I asked them for performance numbers and they gave me [inaudible] now tell me what a great performance looks like and we struggled through that. That’s the sale. You want to have customer retention and people booking for longer because they feel more comfortable. I said what other markers? That’s it, we’re happy with that. What about the salespeople? We might consider it, how many people choose to work for us next year or just chase the next job? Or we might actually want in our performance markers how happy people are in their sales role because it can be an absolutely a depleting job. Or you might set performance markers about product innovation because bizarrely, salespeople can be useful at providing feedback to the market. Admittedly they provide it in the form of the client wants these features and they want it in the next version. But we do, it doesn’t mean to say, you maybe can’t do it and you might have to deal with managing the sales person but driving it’s valuable. So we have to think really carefully about the type of performance we want to deliver the markers. I call them markers because you can put a number on most of these things and measure customer satisfaction ratings and retention on all those things. Before you start making decisions about who to hire and those things, think about what type of sales team you want and what a great sales performance really looks like. Bring the same rigor that you would bring to your product development, to your financial management because it really matters.

The next question we ask is ok, in an ideal world you would say this is the type of team we want to be and we train everyone and everything is fine but stuff gets in the way. My two questions are what will drive you there and what will get in the way?

Again, I’m not putting specifics up here, because I don’t want to put words in your mouth, it’s important this is generated from within your business but if you want some headings to get you started, you should think about the market and package and I mean in exactly the context that Seth talked about it yesterday. Our competitors’ capabilities, commitment is about motivation levels and our processes cause often they get in the way. We don’t have time to go in examples for all of these, but I guess you know what I mean. Once you start to identify the barriers, you should – don’t accept any clichés. If you get your whiteboard out or create a Trello board, don’t accept clichés. Once you start asking these questions, don’t let people put on the driver side we have a super committed sales team. That means nothing, what you might say is that our sales team have now been with us for 2 years and given that it takes 2 years and 6 months to learn the market, they’re now hitting the right phase if you like. That specific. So don’t let people put words like communication motivation, clear strategy, all those things that you play in a game of bullshit bingo. You have to ban those from the conversation. So embrace contradictions! Because somethings that you might put in there, you might say as a driver we’re really great at understanding customer’s needs because we spend a lot of time presale with understanding them and you might have it as an inhibitor. We understand their needs. And they can both be driver and inhibitor because one might be we understand our customer, the other was we don’t have enough bandwidth to do this. If you put contradictions down, you will find they will prompt further conversation and that really helps. Once you have a big list of these, we then we what we can do about it.

And the next question therefore is what are your focus issues? What are we gonna zero in on? What are your big levers in sales? They are defined by those things which will have a big impact on our business and those things over which we have a lot of influence. When you do this exercise and I hope you give it a go, you will find there will be some things that you can do nothing about. I got one client in that market, one piece of legislation affects about a third of their sales. It means they can’t go ahead with sales until they fix some stuff – and it’s just a piece of they can’t lobby government to change their minds, it would be pointless. They can moan about it, but they can’t do much. From a sales POV – you have to always look for, if you look for quick progression, the things you can influence and what will have a huge impact on the business. I was with a client in the education space and they’re being massively outspent by a new player who has a very big VC behind them who is throwing money through the sales channel. They sell through a channel and they offer more incentives and rewards and everyone is panicking a little bit. Their sales director sat everybody down and they all came back looking for more revenue they could push back into the channel to reward people. He said I’m not putting any more revenue in that channel until I’m fully sure people understand what they’re buying. I want you to talk to these people and show them what our 10 years in the business buys them as opposed to the free iPhone 7 they’re being offered here. Given the buyers of the market are young and inexperienced or buying for someone else, so why wouldn’t you go for it? If someone shakes the view a bit, it makes a difference. Just by changing the presentations they were taking out and forcing people to do a comparison – fine, if you want to go down that channel it’s fine but consider what you’re losing. The small change in the words we’re using has a huge effect on the overall sales. That’s what we mean by focused issues. Then once you worked them out, you have to go like a little kid and go like why is it there? This I have to say is not one of mine, this is a standard stock image child because my kids frankly when they say why is why can’t I have a new car or more money? Doesn’t resonate as well with the audience. And we’ve got to dig into it because every focus issue that you get that comes out when you ask the question will beg more questions because you will soon see it’s like spinning plates. I know that’s an old cliché for running and being the founder of a software company, but it genuinely is cause there’s lots of stuff.

We started asking the question on one focused issue for one client and I apologize for not being able to share more with you about the clients, but pretty much everywhere I went, it was a very scary NDA on and there’s hints of stuff mind you. This client, one of their performance markers is yield and the degree to how close people are to paying what’s on their price cards and they are a business whose business model is based on recruitment so they sell links and this is not stack exchange – it’s not them. But one of the problems they said and one of our focus issues is actually over 4 years our profitability for client is going down because they’re not paying any more and it started to go down. That’s a huge focus issue, if you can fix that, in sales performance terms, it helps with a lot of other stuff. I said ok, that’s a problem. And the reason is because the call came into us and I went to see them and they couldn’t negotiate. They were on the course, but the yield they were getting per client deal were low so they assumed it’s rubbish and they get someone else to do a negotiation course. That’s how people in my business make money. So I said we have to dig a little deeper, if this is your focus issue, you have to ask why until you get a sense of it and you should map it out. We said they had a declining market share and it’s not because they’re doing something bad but more people come into the market so the customers simply have more choice. But they’d also lost some staff and some of the staff that would naturally have had the experience to defend the value of the deal, the newer guys didn’t. And that low level sales experience meant all a client had to do – [inaudible] and they didn’t have the experience to push back on that. And the clients that they did have were started to get wind that other people were getting deals and packages so they started to make demands. Put that with a very complex system and people caved in, pricing system people caved in. Now, you can see automatically from this that solving sales problems, even if this is one focus issue out of about 5-6 for this client at the time, solving these problems is never easy but if you take the time to dig and dig and if you do it, I promise you where will be a couple things you don’t like. Sometimes you will dig and in one of those bubbles will be the person’s name because they’re struggling or they have an impediment to go – some of them will be processes that you put in place. Some you look at them and go we can deal with that, but it will take some difficult decisions with our staff. You won’t like all of it, but until you get that picture, if we’re talking in terms of the bunch of keys going back to Scott’s presentation earlier, this is the whole bunch, all the keys to all the doors of your house and your car and your summer hour and your boat. It’s everything and only when you got a picture this detailed about your sales performance you are in a position to start saying what might we do?

The final question we ask is what might we do to fix this? And this is really, really important but notice the wording. It’s not what can we do? Because for some reason, when it comes to sales performance measurement, people are in a massive hurry and are looking for the quick thing and that’s why every 2 years someone comes out with a sales system that’s completely unique and brilliant and will transform your sales and it will take you a year to learn it and 50k but when you do it will be fine, until we bring out the new sales system. Don’t go for the obvious answers. I would push you to do – why don’t we try something a bit different? I would encourage you to brainstorm this, but as we know they don’t work. I don’t want to put this – I will give you a couple of examples going back to our earlier exercise. You see how the client’s solution was to train people in negotiations skills but actually when you look at this and this is a simplified version of the real thing you realize that it’s not about the training or some training might be useful but there might be quicker ways to deal with this. How might we deal with low levels of experience? Maybe we move someone over from one of the sales teams who has the experience. Maybe I sit amongst them for a few weeks to set a standard for pushing back. Maybe we change the way we hire people so you get things that you might try and if you have people collapsing in negotiations I will tell you what one of my clients did. We played how might we solve this? He worked out that people were giving away money and deals because they didn’t really equate your money with their money. So actually, sure you can have 100 off this monthly thing. Then they go hang on, that’s 1200 a year, even with my basic math I can work that a year. So what we did is he gamified it in a nice, fun way, he could have ranted on them and what he did was he printed off a load of Monopoly money that was designed with a company logo and these sorts of things and he gave everyone 10000 GBP worth of monopoly money and he said every time you discount on a deal, you have to give me the difference back. These were low value, high churn deals we were doing then and within a week the sales people got it. Because they did a deal chasing their number, they had to do a walk of shame with their pounds to give them to him – and the person who had the most money at the end got a nice treat. They were sent out for a nice dinner and those sort of things. Only did it once, it wasn’t built into the DNA of the business, they did it because it was a fun way to fix this. It can be little or huge things, process things, they simplified their card and it’s much easier to defend it if you know where you are on it. So that’s why salespeople are difficult to manage. Yeah, so play the what might we do to fix it. I’m not sure there’s a whole book in this, but this was very useful for dealing with the widest range of sales problems. The people who create the best performance are the ones who think most deeply about it and with that in mind, I will make the same offer to you today that I made in the past. If you want to talk through your sales performance with me, I happily will do – that’s without a meter going or a charge running because I learn as much from these conversations and we will always anonymize them if we do use them. The first step is sit, think seriously about this stuff. The person that thinks most deeply will drive the highest level of performance. Thank you very much, guys!

Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.


Mark Littlewood: Thank you! We play golf later! Some questions?

Paul Kenny: We have 3-4 minutes. I went on a bit.

Mark Littlewood: Put up your hand!

Audience Member: Thanks, Paul for the presentation. So it’s been talked the values in the corporate culture, does the extensive sales or is it something different –

Paul Kenny: There’s an easy answer to that which is yes, but I think there’s a real danger when employers don’t have an understanding of sales, that they recruit and treat their sales people like they’re stereotype because they don’t know – and I have seen enough examples of people who treat their developers one way and their sales people another way. Not out of malice or anything like that, but they think they want different things and therefore, you’re creating a schism in the values. Most sales people actually aren’t hugely motivated by that commission as a money for instance. They are motivated by what that means to them, if they’re very young, it will get them a flat or apartment. It’s about keeping up with the other guys – they’re motivated by – sometimes it’s personal. I want to book this deal with people. If they understand the values of the business and are treated from the word go along with everybody else, then over time, and you reinforce that and going back to the presentation before about performance management, if you reinforce them, there’s no reason why they would behave differently from anyone else. Build it from the word go!

Mark Littlewood: In the middle!

Audience Member: Hi! Thanks for the talk. I don’t have an in house sales team, I use an agency. Can you talk about how your framework, is that applicable to that scenario?

Paul Kenny: It’s applicable to an agency and in some ways it’s even more critical then because there are very different sales channel models and some sales channel, your product goes out of 10000 people around the globe and it goes on their list. And that’s about having the broadest approach, and others do it more selectively. They will hire people to sell into a market and be evangelist for those products. I would say that it’s particularly important, you can do the same thing with your – I’ve only used a sales channel once in my old training business and I made sure that we went in and trained the sales people, that we discussed with their management the remuneration for it and we invited them to the offices on a fairly regular basis for product updates and whatever, because we didn’t want to hire them but wanted to feel as partners. It became transactional so think a little differently about it and you can follow the same model through.

Mark Littlewood: That’s all we have time for! Thank you!

Paul Kenny: Thank you, guys!

Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run

We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.

Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.

Unsubscribe any time. We will never sell your email address. It is yours.