January 23, 2024

Growing B2B Sales in a Slow Market with Yoav Vilner

In this podcast episode, Yoav Vilner joins Alper Yurder to share his journey of founding Walnut, offering valuable insights into scaling strategies and navigating the Series B landscape amidst market challenges.

Table of contents

Meet our guest

Yoav Vilner, Co-Founder and CEO  at Walnut 

Joav Vilner shares insights into building Walnut, emphasizing the importance of timing and team cohesion. He discusses navigating the challenges of scaling from Series A to Series B funding rounds and underscores the value of customer-centric approaches and organizational alignment.

Key takeaways

  • Continuously assess market needs and trends to identify gaps and opportunities for innovation.
  • Prioritize understanding and meeting the needs of customers from the inception of your startup.
  • Surround yourself with a diverse and talented team, complementing your skills with individuals who are smarter and more experienced in different areas.
  • Ensure alignment between different teams and departments within your organization to optimize efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Build scalable solutions and processes that can accommodate growth and attract additional investment.

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From early career to building a start-up

As the conversation kicks off, Joav Vilner, born and raised in Israel, shares insights into his childhood in the north of Israel before eventually moving to Tel Aviv. He recounts his early career beginnings in online marketing, which led him to identify a gap in the market for startups lacking marketing expertise. 

"I just found an interesting job opening that was around online marketing, which was brand new at the time. It was still a new thing... I started learning a little bit about marketing through that company."

Joav then transitioned into building his own company, leveraging his experiences to meet the needs of emerging startups in Tel Aviv. Throughout the discussion, Joav emphasizes the importance of customer-centricity and responsiveness to market demands. 

He underscores the pivotal role of understanding clients' needs in shaping the direction of his ventures, citing Walnut's inception as a direct response to the pressing needs of startups for effective sales enablement tools.

"We started from what the clients needed and what the clients wanted... It was always exactly what the clients wanted from day one." 

Pioneering remote sales tech

Alper and Yoav dive into the genesis of Walnut with Joav Vilner, exploring the key factors that propelled its creation and subsequent growth. Joav highlights the crucial role of addressing a pressing market need, particularly amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the shift towards remote sales. 

"It was a huge pain. It was a burning need and the timing was right... So it was also timing in terms of, 'cause COVID was also the time where sales became remote all of a sudden and people didn't fly to meet prospects."

He emphasizes the importance of timing, strong founding teams, and supportive investors as critical components in the journey from ideation to fruition. As Walnut evolved, Joav reflects on the transition from Series A to B funding rounds, underscoring the complexities of navigating the shifting landscape of investor expectations and market dynamics.

"Existing clients are always just a bit more important than getting new ones... We always try to put our Customer Success in the heart of the company alongside other departments."

The challenges and strategies to scale a Series B start-up

Alper asks about the current challenges and strategies in scaling a business, particularly focusing on the transition from Series A to Series B funding rounds. Joav sheds light on the multifaceted aspects of leading a company at this stage, including navigating market dynamics, organizational scaling, and strategic hiring decisions.

"As a CEO, I was always trying to complement my skills and especially the missing skills with people much smarter and more experienced than me in every type of aspect."

The conversation delves into the decision-making process behind hiring a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and the complexities of Series B scaling, emphasizing the need for efficient client acquisition, product scalability, and alignment across different teams within the organization.

"It's really about building something that can scale that you can pull more money into that is rather efficient, of course, in today's reality." 

Talking about the pressing market challenges, Yoav highlights the impact of market dynamics and slower buying cycles, exacerbated by changes in outbound prospecting rules and decreased software spending. He emphasizes the need for revenue teams to adapt swiftly in a challenging market environment

“I think that if every CFO in the world went over to his employees in the past two years and said, we're going to remove about 90% of our spend on software, most tools would not survive that. People would keep their CRM and they would keep their much, much larger tools in the stack.”

They briefly touch on Yoav's New York Weekly article and the importance of personalized buyer experiences, shedding light on the necessity of alignment between different teams and the role of humor and authenticity in engaging prospects.

“It's alignment between the different teams, which is, it doesn't sound like a monetary resource, but it is, it's everything. If you're building out your MVP, if both founders are not seen in the same way, you know, if your first VP of sales or VP of product don't see it the same way, if CS are driving this and people are driving there, that's just going to cost you a lot of time and efforts to fix.”

Resources

Full episode transcript

Alper Yurder: So today in the therapy chair I have Joav Wilner CEO and founder of Walnut who is one of the pioneers of buyer-centric selling and of our hashtag bio enablement too I would guess. Joav is a multi-time founder, angel advisor to startups, recently recognized by Forbes magazine as tech marketer to watch in 2024. We also had the pleasure of featuring in our Sales Almanac 2023 with 100 top LinkedIn revenue voices. Walnut, no need for introduction, but still let's do a little bit of it for our more junior listeners who love hearing the stories of these interesting brands. Walnut has been recognized as a top startup to work for by many lists, including UK's favorite, OTA, top NYC startups by Startups Dash, among others. Today with Joav, we'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain and the journey as usual. So welcome to therapy, Joav. How are you feeling today?

Yoav Vilner: Good, always happy to do some therapy discussions. So thanks for the invitation.

Alper Yurder: Of course, my pleasure. Am I saying your name correctly? By the way, I never asked this question to people. What am I? Okay. It's a beautiful name. I know what it means too. It's from Yehovah, no?

Yoav Vilner: Yeah, yeah, it's you have it's a difficult name and It's yeah. No, it's nice. It's someone in the, it was someone in the Bible, uh, that did all kinds of, uh, military stuff and it was a commander, but, but it's a, it's a, it's a tough name to pronounce.

Alper Yurder: Love anything that I love languages in general Greek Hebrew Farsi these are my favorite languages. So in general I love those things Anyway, so any good therapy starts with childhood and growing up years I know you were born and raised in tell you if I'm not wrong Can you tell us a little bit about your younger years because it shapes the business person that we are our values So our viewers generally love to hear those stories

Yoav Vilner: Sure. So, yeah, so definitely in Israel, as you said. Actually, I grew up somewhere in the far north of Israel before I lived in Tel Aviv, which was a very distant place in the suburbs, very quiet, a little river inside, lots of grass, lots of green, lots of fresh air. Yeah.

Alper Yurder: Good for you.

Yoav Vilner: But then of course I moved to Tel Aviv as everyone and started my career.

Alper Yurder: Okay. And was it when during your school years you moved to Tel Aviv or after that to start your career?

Yoav Vilner: So a little bit after, I was also finishing my army service. And then I went to Central America for one year. I traveled. And then I came back. I was about 22, 21. And I kickstarted my career.

Alper Yurder: Okay, excellent. Where in America did you travel?

Yoav Vilner: It was a good time. So I was just on the line of crossing Honduras and Belize and Guatemala and places like that, some Caribbean islands and then Mexico and then back home with eyes full of tears.

Alper Yurder: Oh, I love it. But then you got used to it. I mean, obviously Tel Aviv has an amazing climate, so I'm not going to feel too sorry for you as a Londoner, but I can imagine it must be heartbreaking after South America.

Yoav Vilner: Yeah, yeah, it took some time to settle.

Alper Yurder: Excellent. And then after that, did you always have in mind a startup or tech world or growing up, what did you think you would become in life?

Yoav Vilner: Um, so I had a different, a different path in mind. I was really not a tech person and not a marketing person and not anything. But, when I came back home from that one year that I was traveling, um, I just found an interesting job opening that was around like, um, online marketing, which was brand new at the time. I don't even want to recall how many years ago that was, but it was still a new thing and there weren't a lot of jobs in that front. And there were also not a lot of startups in Tel Aviv that raised funding or at all. And I started learning a little bit about marketing through that company. And I was 22 at the time. And then I realized there's like a gap where startups started to emerge, you know, in Tel Aviv. Did like 300K, 400K seed round, which was like the biggest ever for that year. But they didn't have anywhere to spend, you know, marketing budgets. There were no chief marketing officers. Like they didn't know how to go to market and there was no solution for that. So basically I built like the first company that in retrospect, it was also for the first time globally that focused.

Alper Yurder: Okay, the way you talk about those times is as if it is from a different age. Don't let people guess when this was, when did you start doing that?

Yoav Vilner: Yeah, so relatively a while ago, it was about 12 or 13 years ago.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. Okay. I think we started about the same time, but did you, so you went straight into building your own thing, like almost, you know, very early on decided to be a founder or builder, right?

Yoav Vilner: Right, yeah.

Alper Yurder: Why was that? Why did you want to, you know, go and do your own thing so early, so young? Or I ask this because I'm a risk-averse person and it took me 10 or more years of career before I start being a first-time founder, so it's interesting for me.

Yoav Vilner: Right, so for me, it was the complete opposite, but it kind of developed in a way I didn't expect. Like at first it wasn't even a company, it was me and a friend, we were reaching out via LinkedIn to some startup founders that we saw raised like an initial seed round, but the response rate was like 100%. So we realized this could, yeah, there was no spam on LinkedIn, everything was legit. You know, people were excited to get a LinkedIn message.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, back in the day.

Yoav Vilner: So anyway, we ended up working with like 600 clients. We had offices in London, we had offices in Manhattan and everything just really happened, you know, really fast.

Alper Yurder: Excellent. And how many, so you're an advisor, an angel investor. Do you know in all these years, maybe around how many founders have you interacted with and then how many of them you've become an advisor and investor. Do you have ballpark figures in your head you can share?

Yoav Vilner: I would guess around over 1000.

Alper Yurder: Okay. Do you have a favorite that you can share or you don't have to if you don't want to?

Yoav Vilner: Now, I learned a little bit of something from everyone. Some of them were customers of that agency. Some of them were people I built companies with afterwards. Some of them were people that I co-invested in other companies. There were millions of interactions, but from the first days when I had no background, no connections, no nothing, I tend to learn from other people.

Alper Yurder: Love it. And how does it feel looking back? Like if someone's listening to your story, I'm sure they're inspired. And this is kind of the point of sales therapy. Like how do you get to success? And it's not very easy, right? So someone listening might be feeling like, okay, this guy has done a lot of amazing stuff. But if you reflect back on those days when you didn't have the connections, didn't have any of those things. How did that feel? Did you have the power in you to go and. Build something from scratch. Like what, what is that secret thing that got you to today? You think.

Yoav Vilner: It was just building nonstop and it was just like a little, you know, it's like a drive, you don't really control it. You're like, you know, um, you just have to do something you want to work for yourself and you want to build something that can touch millions of people. Um, after the agency, I was actually, um, one of the founding members of a startup using AI to save kids from bullies on social media.

Alper Yurder: So well.

Yoav Vilner: And we raised a double-digit seed round. It was like 2017, so that was uncommon. And AI was still not what it is now. So you literally had to build your own models, and it was really expensive. And we tried to save kids from bullies and pedophiles and bad people on social networks. And that was kind of me wanting to build again, but also do something that's really good for us. You know, for the environment. Um, for various reasons, you know, the market was not there. Technology was not there. There was no JNI, stuff like that. Um, but that was another thing that I did just before Walnut.

Alper Yurder: Okay. And before building Walnut, so I see that drive, the passion and a sense of ambition, I guess it's, those are all motivations you have either have or not on the flip side, like any worries, anxieties, difficulties, lowlights, challenges you had to particularly overcome, you had to build, you had to learn any of those that you want to share.

Yoav Vilner: You always have them if you're building companies. And needless to say, it's been like 18 months of a very special time for tech as a whole and what happened with funding and multiples and then what's been going on in Tel Aviv the past months. So there's always stuff to worry about besides the usual startup is a broader cost of type of a catchphrases, so there's always what to worry about. And we always try to worry about the next step, like what's the next step we need to reach. People often ask me about, like you said, all the noise we're making and the brand stuff and the world and this and that. But we try to focus on the customers we have and we try to focus on the product and always look at what's the next step that we're trying to get to.

Alper Yurder: I love that. Yes. It resonates a lot. And sometimes, did you ever feel building all those different businesses, et cetera, even with Walnut, did you ever feel like you know what the customer wants and you have the good pulse of them? But at some point you are losing it, you're losing it or you need to be better at listening to them. So sometimes when I'm building Flola, I'm like, yeah, I had 400 interviews. I know what they want. Um, the content, this has to be the content because this is what's top of mind for them. The product, this has to be da da. And then you feel like, uh, am I losing touch? Do you ever feel that? Or did you ever feel that in building any of these products?

Yoav Vilner: Um, so one thing that I learned from that AI company was that you shouldn't build things the market doesn't want. And as much as they sound amazing and Walnut was like the opposite, it's a lot. It was like, you know, the initial interviews we had with, with CROs, VP sales, they turned into a huge wait list, which later evolved into one of the biggest launches of product hunting 2020, which later involved into a whole category, you know, with like a lot of companies now, so, um, we started from what the clients needed and what the clients wanted. Otherwise, you know, like I learned my lesson and I wouldn't have built a company in the first place. It was just like a huge need and a huge gap in the market. And nobody wanted their salespeople to be engaged with talking to R and D people, product people, design people to build out demos and then have them break anyway. So. It was always exactly what the clients wanted from day one.

Alper Yurder: Hmm. So my next question was actually what led you to build Walnut and you started obviously talking about it, um, in a nutshell, other than the customer need, et cetera, what other things led you to build Walnut? Like, did you find the right investor at the right time? The, I don't know, the team that you felt comfortable with, because it's not just one thing that leads you to build a, you know, business, what were those things that made you believe, okay, I should do this.

Yoav Vilner: Um, it was, so yeah, it was a huge pain. It was a burning need and the timing was right. We actually, um, you know, we were, we were building the company initially, um, like mid-2020. So there was a lockdown going on. I couldn't even meet my co-founder, as we were ideating and building out the MVP and he lived just a couple of blocks from me, but we still couldn't meet up. Um, at one time, the only thing that was allowed, if you walked a dog in the street. And so I took a dog from one of my neighbors and I went over to his place. Um, but, you know, it was like a crazy rollercoaster of, you know, a good market and a bad market and a good market and a crisis. Um, but anyway, so it was, it was also timing in terms of, cause COVID was also the time where sales became remote. All of a sudden and, and people didn't fly to me prospect. So there was also an amazing timing for such a, you know, such a platform. The founding team, of course, was really strong and the initial investors were good. So it's like, it was a little bit of everything.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I agree. It's the same with my journey. Like when stars align and you have a few things come together, it becomes inevitable. My co-founder is like you. He only very briefly worked in the PNG and this is for a startup. And actually, I asked him, OK, like, go get your funding and I'm going to be your first sales guy and you'll pay me my salary. You'll give me a bit of shares and we'll do it. I'll do it for you. And he said, no, come be our third. And other than many other things, that was one of the stars aligning for me to start. I'm particularly interested in, I mean, as somebody obviously who raised their first round, when I look at, you know, guys like you, Series B, C, et cetera, and also I was working in a Series A startup, just for Flola, that journey from Series A to B is always fascinating to me because I think that's the moment, I don't have the data to back up, maybe I should have had, but that's a break or make moment for me, it feels like from my experience. Did it feel the same for you? Like going from A to B, did you feel like, okay, there is something here we should push?

Yoav Vilner: I think in between rounds, like also between C and A, it's a pretty spooky point of time, right? So every time you have a next round. Sure. Yeah, your guys are gonna love it. No, it's interesting, it's a very complicated path to...

Alper Yurder: Thanks for telling me that, Joachim. That's where I am at.

Yoav Vilner: go through every time you're ahead of your next funding. And yeah, series B and C and those, you know, they're like a growth round where the qualifications are all different. It's no longer about your dream, your vision, your, you know, your mission and all that it's not just traction. It's, you know, how the courts are looking and the retention and churn and expansion, and there's like a million things, especially now in the current reality in the market that is… htat is pretty, pretty unique. So I would say today the bar for raising a, you know, it got increased massively, you should have like 1 million in revenues. A lot of clients are praising and singing praise for your product. So it's definitely not easy now I think. I think you guys, you know, like us, we're part of a broad landscape where people need help. They need help with making processes better and buying and selling processes is kind of the heart of it. So, you know, there's a lot of potential. I think you guys can make it.

Alper Yurder: Thank you for saying that. Yes, we have a lot of competition and obviously Israel, Tel Aviv, with sales tech, it's always very ahead. So we do our best. Again, moving from A to B, I'm very curious. Some observations regarding revenue sales, et cetera. Were you observing that your deal sizes were getting larger, maybe sales cycles becoming a bit longer as you move upwards in the business or in the market? And did you observe those? And if you observe those, like, how did you start tackling them? How did you start reacting to those changes about, you know, go to market?

Yoav Vilner: Yeah, so as you mature, like you said, you have you start to have bigger clients and, you know, suddenly we were working with like, you know, Dell and Adobe and Equifax and companies that are, you know, they're not your, they're not your friends, they're people that need to get value, the people that need to get something back for their money and, you know, the demos have to work all the time and the outcome has to be valuable and this is what we were basically aiming for since day one, like to be the trusted advisor for those type of companies. There's always, initially there's always problems with like some infrastructure, some stability, right? You onboard the first clients and they have their expectations and you're still a very, very young team, but we scaled really fast in terms of… in terms of onboarding clients, in terms of onboarding employees and raising funding. So we had a lot of dynamic changes we had to make to maintain that scale and live through it across all of the company.

Alper Yurder: This wasn't in the flow really of things that I wanted to ask you, but this is really interesting because you touch on making the clients happy. Like, of course, you will have those blushing moments where something's going wrong and the client's successful person has to face those. But as a very bio-centric organization, like how did you see the role of sales versus client success? Or did you see them together from the get-go? How did you do? Figure out how to shape your go-to-market organization, where the strengths should be.

Yoav Vilner: Yeah. I think existing clients are, you know, they're always just a bit more important than getting new ones. Also, it's more expensive to acquire new ones than to expand existing clients. But also if you don't prove expansion potential, then you're going to have problems later on because companies that haven't expanded are a bit more likely to churn and your future so we always try to put our CS like, you know, in the heart of the company alongside other departments. And today we have a chief revenue officer that, you know, she's one of the top industry experts, but before that, we scaled more in a, you know, zero to one type of way. But, you know, we had an amazing founding team that was in charge of all that. And I was very privileged to work with all those people.

Alper Yurder: In this podcast, you're a little step ahead of me in, for example, you brought up the CRO and I want to come to that now actually, coming to today. Let's talk about some of the more current issues you tackle. So the question, I want to give a bit of insight for the listeners and then I'll go into the questions but you're building and scaling the business now series B. Your latest investment was over $35 billion if I'm not mistaken. Correct me if I am pleased. So I'm wondering. And actually bringing the CRO is one of the questions in this section. What's your focus right now? Like what do you try to focus on and how has it shifted from that A series A to B if it has.

Yoav Vilner: Basically, there's a few stuff going on. You know, one of them is the situation in Israel where it's not our biggest hub for, you know, in terms of headcount, we have more people globally, but it's of course a very unfortunate situation. Some people are in the army service and they haven't been with us for a few months. Um, yeah, which also is going to have all kinds of implications on, on Israel as a country and as a tech nation. And you know, stuff like that, that we will only know about later, later in the year. Um, I would say, you know, just your usual, um, macro stuff that makes companies buy less SaaS products. And, you know, we started, we started the real prospects movement because we wanted to put prospects, um, in the center of everything. Now there's just less buying and. You know, people are definitely bound to cut more products and pay less for products. So I think the entire tech industry is kind of learning how to, you know, how to explore those types of problems. But yeah, I think, you know, we scaled in a way that I'm very proud of, like we were very on top of building the right leadership team and management. And as a CEO, I was always trying to complement my skills and especially the missing skills with people much smarter and more experienced than me in every type of aspect.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, that's a good privilege to have once you have a bit of money. You can bring people who are much, much better than you, hopefully. So in terms of solving those challenges, let's come to that point. Like at what point did you hire your first CRO and why did you hire your first CRO?

Yoav Vilner: Um, she's been with us for a few months now and we, you know, we, we felt that there's a steady go to market motion. Like we've proven the initial traction. We've proven enterprise companies working with us. We've proven. Clients, you know, um, saying that they saw actual value from the product. Um, there's a lot of inbound demand for what we do. And there's a lot of, you know, success in performing, um, uh, outbound. When you feel your… obviously there's the brand work, which I'm disconnecting from it because it's more on the marketing side, but when you see there's a motion working and you learn how the funnel works and how all of the conversion rates are like throughout from top of funnel all the way to bottom of actual closed one deals. If you're confident about all those aspects of the company, then you can bring someone that knows how to scale.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. The reason I ask this question is both in my lifetime, in places I worked and hearing from other founders, et cetera. It's always a challenge. I think I heard this was a pavilion seminar or something. The average tenure of a CRO is now 18 months. Probably it has gone down now with all this shit storm hitting the tech world. And sometimes I feel like founders, they see the CRO as a savior, either that, or they just want to outsource the stuff they don't want to do. You know, like the difficult conversations, the hiring and the firing and the scaling. Um, that's why it's always interesting. Like at what point somebody decides, okay, this is the time to hand over. This is the time to, you know, give my baby and to the safe hands of somebody. So do you want to add to any of that or.

Yoav Vilner: Yeah. You know, we, there's, there's leaders in the company that I delegated, you know, if we're not talking about a VPR and D we're not talking about a VP of product, you know, there's a lot of things as a CEO, you have to, um, like you said, maybe it's more about funding, but you have to be, you have to be able to bring to the table people that will do some, uh, tasks and operations much, much better. So, um, that was always my point of view, even when we were seed funded, I just bought whoever I could afford to complement my skills.

Alper Yurder: Yep. Yeah. And last question on the Series B conversation that I'm done. I might have bored you, but these are actually for the first time. I'm asking questions that I'm really interested in for myself. Um, where do most series B companies struggle? Do you think? Like where does the challenge of series B start?

Yoav Vilner: Um, I think like we talked about the serious, I think the challenge is the bar in which you need to get to for your next round and serious C's have practically been non-existent. Um, so, so that's something to keep, you know, that companies are now keeping in mind, not to mention serious D's and stuff that are much more in late growth. Um, these are all, you know, until, until funding becomes a bit better, um, things that companies are aware of I would say, you know, there's expectations for scaling, like bringing a lot of clients and having the product work just fine of finding the sweet spot, you know, the ICP, the exact use case, the exact budget, the flow for expansion, alignment in between all the different teams, you know, the company. So it's really not about… just driving in random clients and onboarding whatever you can for some, for some more revenues. It's really about building something that can scale that you can pull more money into that is rather efficient, of course, in today's reality. And, you know, most of the companies built, uh, even before we did, but like early 2020 stuff like that, you know, DNA was a bit different. Then there was the tech bubble. DNA was different again. Now it's a downturn. You have to reevaluate everything again. So it's a little bit of a roller coaster for everyone.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. And everyone's learning. It's so cool how eloquently you put forward the questions. Like, so those are what you have top of head, et cetera. Where do you look for inspiration or answers or how do you go about solving these things in your mind? So for example, I do the podcast and I learn a lot from people. What do you do?

Yoav Vilner: Right. I help a lot of early founders in terms of you saw you said something about investing, but there's also like just advisory or plain, you know, coffee, or trying to help out, um, founders that reach out and that, that kind of opens your mind, like when you're helping someone and you're providing feedback, that really opens your mind to kind of just zoom out for a second from your own business as well. Um, I have people on our cap table that I'm very proud to be working with. You know, they've been helping since day one. They built like massive, many billion dollar companies. And there's always someone to consult with about all kinds of things. Other people's podcasts, you know, audio books, people, just people that I appreciate, you know, the path they had.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, love that. Now coming towards the final section, we, this is where I put you on the therapist chairs and so you will be the therapist now and find the solutions for people. So what's the current problem you see in the market today? And obviously like with Walnut's mission, we can delve into that a little bit more, but in your own observation, you know, look, talking to people, looking at social media, LinkedIn, whatever, like what do you feel like is a problem that revenue teams in general are struggling with.

Yoav Vilner: I think that if every CFO in the world went over to his employees in the past two years and said, we're going to remove about 90% of our spend on software, most tools did not survive that. People would keep their CRM and they would keep their much, much larger tools in the stack. But every product built in the last under five years is… didn't necessarily survive that. So people are seeing, and it's not just sales tools, it's everywhere across SaaS and security and marketing, it's everywhere. So this is one thing. And on the other hand, it's also a very slow time to be building outbound motions, right? People are less responsive to outbound messages. And then I saw there were also some new rules by Google for what is a spam outreach email. So there's also a lot of things closing in on how you actually generate your pipeline. So it's a little bit like for some industries, it's like a little perfect storm right now that revenue teams need to find a way and maneuver.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely. My co-founder Erdem, when he heard that I'm going to be speaking to you, he told me you have to ask him about his article on New York Times, B2B sales is dead. What did you mean by that?

Yoav Vilner: Right. There was a lot of interesting feedback for that article. I think it was probably.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. 80 mils maybe some 80 mils as well.

Yoav Vilner: A lot of colorful comments. I would say, yeah, I think I published it almost a year ago where the SaaS downturn was kind of coming to fruition. People realize things have changed and they have to adjust to it. And I heard from a lot of other companies that their sales are, you know, the KPIs and targets they had are just not realistic anymore given everything that's going on.

Alper Yurder: Okay, good.

Yoav Vilner: And I, you know, I talked about more one-on-one personalized experiences for the prospects. I talked about, you know, just the cold mass emails don't work anymore. I talked about aiming for executives and C levels and realizing that everybody now sells to a CEO or a CRO because, you know, they're actually in, they're actually in demo calls right now, even if it's a really large company. They want to know what they're going to spend, even if it's only like 20k or whatever. They want to know who they're going to spend it with. So, so there's a lot of, there's a lot of change that happened in the last two years. Very dramatic.

Alper Yurder: Two of the statements that were particularly interesting for me. So I'll go into those ones. One was sellers need to walk fast from slow moving prospects, which I think now any sane sales leader says this. Any practical things you would like to offer to expand on that? Like if anyone's listening, like I'm a rep, I'm listening to this conversation and you know, you're telling me to walk fast from slow moving prospects. What are the signals? Why am I walking away from them? Where am I walking to? What am I doing?

Yoav Vilner: Right. Given everything we just said, it's obvious, you know, if you're spending like six, seven months, eight months, you know, companies dragging you. And they keep pushing you from one champion to another. And it's not like a healthy multi-threading operation, or it's not a fortune 500 company. It's like a, you know, it's a medium sized company, and they keep telling you that, you know, they're super, super excited about your product. But now it has to see you again, but they're super excited about your product. But you know, they would need a 50% discount and anyway, it can drag on for years if you don't just put a stop to it and you should have like a mechanism, you know, in place where X amount of days or X amount of days, plus how big or small the company is, how serious they seem and all that. Um, because you have a very, um, specific timeframe where you have to talk to a specific amount of prospects. And some will move fast. You have to focus on them, especially in such a slow market. There's just no, there's no other choice. It's not like what it was two years ago where everyone was buying everything and everyone had credit cards to spend and you know, everything was super, super amazing.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, those were the good days. When starting to build Flola, what I had in mind was a bit more like an Apollo, you know, PLG, um, because I was the sales leader and I was telling my team, dude, whatever you need, here's your budget, go and get it. You know, if you need a Legion tool, if you need a whatever, uh, you know, call recording tool, this is your budget. You be the owner of your territory, go and buy it or let's discuss quickly to realize and things shifted very quickly that that's not the way unfortunately buying still happens today. All right. The other one that I want a bit of commentary on if you don't mind is leaky buckets are now tsunamis. Is it still you know compared to one year ago? Maybe it's worse. Can you expand on that a little?

Yoav Vilner: Yeah, when you just build out your company initially, if things are going well, then people tend to ignore problems. They tend to ignore, if it's a PLG, we don't have the right analytics or whatever software installed. If it's enterprise sales, we don't have a proper mechanism to keep track of what has been said during the process or how long it took. Or our AEs are just filling out Salesforce from their own POV, saying it was an amazing call, but it doesn't mean anything. And we don't have any documentation for anything. There's like a million things that can qualify as a leaky bucket in early SaaS companies. And when everyone's buying everything right, it's fine to put them aside because you're going to meet your target. If it's a new reality, then you have to fix all those holes because they're definitely going to just keep you farther away from your targets.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, absolutely. And when you say those anecdotal conversations, you have your weekly pipeline review and both sides know they're a little bit telling a story to each other, that's something that I hated to do as an IC, like, you know, having to paint that picture every, every week, oh yeah, they're having a conversation, nah, nah. And then as a manager listening to the story, which is why in Flola we're building a lot of insights, et cetera, trying to shed a light into those dark corners. Do you use something specific to be in the know? Like, I don't know, revenue intelligence tools or your own tool, or what do you go to for getting a bit more visibility into what's happening in your pipelines?

Yoav Vilner:  Right. So we're communicating every day, and we have our tools, and we use, of course, Gong for intelligence, and we're very hard-core in how we use our CRM. And we also have insights within Walnut that lets you know how the salespeople are using demos and how the deal is progressing. So we, of course, also use our own product for that.

Alper Yurder: Excellent. And one more question that I ask to every leader. Coming to this journey, what's the one tool, resource, department, or whatever you feel like you couldn't do it without? It can be from the revenue sales teams or it can be from other things, but what is that one thing that you cannot scale a business without?

Yoav Vilner: would say it's alignment between the different teams, which is, it doesn't sound like a monetary resource, but it is, it's everything. If you're building out your MVP, if both founders are not seen in the same way, you know, if your first VP of sales or VP of product don't see it the same way, if CS are driving this and people are driving there, that's just going to cost you a lot of time and efforts to fix.

Alper Yurder: Excellent. The last question from me, and then I'm going to ask your closing remarks is this is actually coming from our head of content. Um, Ellen, obviously she asked me to talk about our prospects. Um, and she said in her own words, I quote, this is the first time I saw a B2B company in B2B bring the importance of buyer experience to the forefront. Hmm. That's a strong statement. So how did you guys shape that? Like, where did that come from? How did you shape the idea? And where is it today? How can people get involved?

Yoav Vilner: Right. So we didn't expect it to unfold the way it did. Like, you know, we didn't spend a lot of budget on, on anything, uh, regarding the movement, but it completely exploded and was super viral on, on LinkedIn. I think what worked for us was we just touched the right emotions in the right timing and on the right platform. Uh, we did it in a way that was funny because. We identified our brand, you know, tone of voices as being funny. And, um, but yeah, I think, I think we spent like 10 K on the entire production and we wrote the script and, you know, I was the guy that's pouring the coffee on her at first and our, if you have marketing was working also in this, in the shirt store and our PMM was walking on the street, so everybody on the team were involved. And we just published it on LinkedIn. And so I came up with the We Are Prospects hashtag, but we didn't really expect it to go beyond a couple of shares and engagement. But we woke up the next day and LinkedIn was just on fire. It was viewed by millions of people. It was shared by hundreds of executives. And then we just took it from there to places where it just became more and more crazy. And every time it was perceived. Better and better than the last time.

Alper Yurder: Yes, you didn't expect it, but I'm sure everybody was delighted. So we all, you know, pray for those viral gods to give us that kind of exposure because a lot of work goes into it, no matter what the result. All right. This was a great chat for me, you have your inspiration and your team. I'm sure a lot of people. Any closing remarks before we finish?

Yoav Vilner: No, I think we talked about some interesting things about, it's all about the people that surround you, about starting from customers actually wanting to pay for what you're about to build and not the other way around, strong leadership, and just wait through this downturn. It's not something we can control. So just do whatever you can to stay alive.

Alper Yurder: like any good therapist, I'm going to have to cut us on the clock. Um, it was a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much. Uh, that's going to be a wrap on this episode of sales therapy. If you enjoy the show, subscribe to us on YouTube and your favorite podcast platform, uh, thank you so much for being with us and I hope to catch up soon again.

Yoav Vilner: Thanks for having me.

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