June 12, 2024

Optimizing Your Sales Pipeline for Success with Jonathon Ilett

In this Sales Therapy episode, Jonathon Ilett shares his insights on aligning sales and customer success teams, leveraging data for informed decisions, and the importance of strong leadership in scaling sales operations.

Meet our guest

Jonathon Ilett, VP Global Sales at Cognism, Founder at The Revenue Syndicate

Under Jonathon's leadership, Cognism has been recognized as a top UK start-up by LinkedIn in 2020 and 2021. In 2024, he is responsible for global revenue in key markets including the US, France, DACH, and the UK, overseeing all new business and logo revenue.

Key takeaways

  • Develop initiatives to foster effective collaboration between your sales and customer success teams to boost customer retention.
  • Utilize data analytics to inform your sales strategies, ensuring you target the correct accounts and make informed decisions.
  • Bring experienced leaders at critical growth stages to drive organizational success and provide strategic direction.
  • Regularly review and adjust your sales approaches based on market demands and customer feedback to stay competitive.
  • Prioritize creating a positive customer experience from the first point of contact through ongoing support to ensure long-term retention.

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Journey to sales leadership

In this episode of Sales Therapy, host Alper Yurder chats with Jonathon Ilett, the Vice President of Global Sales at Cognism. Jonathon shares insights on his upbringing in North London, his educational background in international business, and his early passion for sales.

Talking about his professional live, he highlights Cognism's growth, the company's role in pioneering the sales development representative (SDR) role in Europe, and its strategic focus on specific verticals like recruitment. 

“What we’ve done at Cognism was we just focused on execution. So we really built like the predictable revenue model and we've done that very, very early with an inferior product, I would say to ZoomInfo and Growbots.”

He explains how data-driven decisions and strategic leadership have been crucial to Cognism's success. Jonathon also touches on the differences between selling to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) versus enterprise clients, emphasizing the importance of predictability and strategic project management.

“When we built our enterprise team, we took that from a high-performing mid-market segment, and then moved our top reps into, into it. And that was probably one of the best things that we done, like two individuals in our team.”

Evolving customer strategies

Jonathon Ilett discussed Cognism's strategic shift from new customer acquisition to emphasizing retention and expansion. Initially, Cognism's strong customer support differentiated them, but as they scaled, they introduced technologies and established proactive account management.

“So we, very heavily resourced on personnel when we first started, even for very, very small accounts. And we helped, we helped really to get successful the product very, very early. As we scaled, we cut that back a little bit. Obviously we adopted new technology to help assist it. So it didn't become more like so personnel led.”

Addressing current market challenges, Jonathon emphasized agility and data-led strategies. He stressed the importance of a customer-first approach and the philosophy of "win by how you sell," advocating for high service standards and responsiveness to stand out in a competitive market.

“I think breeding that culture from day one of customer first, customer, yeah, buyer-centric. There's such a big differentiator when it comes up against some larger competitors that we sell against. So yeah, I think culturally build a really strong foundation.”

Enhancing sales through collaboration

Jonathon emphasizes the growing importance of retention and expansion in today's market, attributing success to "the collaboration between sales and customer success." Cognism has introduced a success plan phase in their pipeline to ensure customers understand their journey from onboarding onwards.

“That's where we take a step back and we say, okay, this is what onboarding looks like. This is a customer success team. This is your account management team. This is what the benchmarks are that we deem to be success when you go live. And it really, it's kind of stepping back a little bit from like that momentum that you're building to get the sale done, but really make sure that the customer's really bought into and understands what that journey looks like.”

Jonathon advised focusing on mastering local markets before expanding globally, citing the competitive challenges in the US market. He stressed the value of defining success early in the customer relationship

“This is what the all-new journey looks like. That could be the clincher that gets the deal done. So yeah, it's really, really, I think we're talking on enterprise sales as well. I think that's one of the biggest differences is team selling as opposed to individual selling and like, bringing those people in makes such a difference.”

Jonathon's insights highlight the critical need for cohesive teamwork between sales and customer success teams to enhance the buyer experience and achieve sustainable growth.


Full episode transcript

Alper Yurder: All right, so today in the therapy chair, we have Jonathon IIett, who is the Vice President of Global Sales at Cognism. Jonathon joined the company in its early days and his leadership has been instrumental in driving global new business revenue across key regions. We'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain and the journey. Welcome to Sales Therapy, Jonathon. How are you feeling today?

Jonathon Ilett: Thank you, Alpen. I appreciate you having me on. I have felt better. I've been a little bit under the weather this week. So this is my first external call since I've returned to work. I'm feeling a little bit rough and ready, but I'm sure it will be good.

Alper Yurder: wow. Okay.

Yeah, I'm sure the listeners will tell from my voice. That makes the two of us. I'm curious, do people call you anything shorter than Jonathon? Or is it just Jonathon?

Jonathon Ilett: It really varies. I think polite first calls always Jonathon, but I think I generally go by John. So I'm good.

Alper Yurder: Okay, well, obviously I'm not going to go for the thin, so I might go for the John as well. So as we start every therapy session, we generally start with your growing up experience because I love how it shapes the person we are and how we show up to work, the things we do, why we do them. Do you mind starting us off with like, where were you born? Where did you grow up? How was the growing up experience for you like?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, sure. So I've always, I'm an out and out Londoner to an extent. So I was born in North London. So born just outside of Watford. And then done the kind of conventional standard route. I went to school, then went to Sixth Form and then went to university in Swansea. I think that's really where, yeah, where I really got a real passion for business and sales. 

So I done international business management as my degree and a core component of that was me studying abroad. So I lived in Canada for a year and then traveled back and forth there quite frequently. So yeah, that kind of spun a real desire of me to kind of want to do something in the international space. I think that's really had a main, for me, that's really had a really big impact in when we've scaled internationally.

Like some of the experiences I learnt across the way. Now I just revert in Tottenham and travel quite a bit for business across our different offices, but yeah, I've always kind of been based in London.

Alper Yurder: Where? no, I was going to ask where in London.

Okay, I'm not big on sports, but do you support Tottenham?

Jonathon Ilett: I do, if you can see to the left I've got numerous Tottenham memorabilia on the wall. It's a sad time.

Alper Yurder: Really? My mate went to a game on the weekend. I'm definitely not big on sports unfortunately, but he watched... What was the game this weekend? Do you know?

Jonathon Ilett: Who do we play this weekend? my god, I can't even remember.

Alper Yurder: Boo! Anyway, you'll tell me.

Jonathon Ilett: That is really, that's terrible. I know we got City, this is probably going to be posted after this when we got City in the week, which is going to decide the title. So.

Alper Yurder: And you will be banned access from all the pubs in Tottenham. Nice. And in terms of that growing up experience in London, like when you compare the London of today to your growing up years, is it any different today?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, probably. Yeah.

Growing, I think growing, I grew up in the outskirts of the city. So I've only really moved into the city like over the last like three years, but I think, I think business wise over the last like five years, I've seen a drastic shift, particularly in sales. I think when I, when I first started Cognism, we were one of the first companies ever kind of set up that title of like an SDR. 

And even if you look online today and you type in like SDR, MDR, Cognism kind of coined that in EMEA because we were one of the first companies that had that US centric view of sales development. So I think there's been much more and you can see it as well like the influx of AE roles, SDR roles. 

I think London's really, and the way I always kind of describe it is London's probably three or four years behind the States and then you've got Germany and France which sit another three or four years behind that. So yeah, I think business wise it's definitely changed. As a place, I think it's… as hectic as ever and it's still, for me, still my favourite seat in the world.

Alper Yurder: You mentioned Cognism being one of those, you know, defining or helping to define that role, especially in terms of sales development in Europe. When did you join the company? How many years ago?

Jonathon Ilett: So I joined nearly seven and a half years ago. I joined Cognism.

Alper Yurder: Okay, so from the very early days.

Jonathon Ilett: Yes. And just for context, for anyone listening, like what we predominantly do is we provide, what we do do is we provide B2B contact data for international teams that are looking to explore and sell outside, predominantly outside the US. So the growth of Cognism has kind of fueled as well, like the SDR, the role of the SDR, because we're kind of the company that's spearheading that. So.

It's been very exciting watching all the European companies partner with us to help grow their international business.

Alper Yurder: Okay. So I guess now when you say an SDR or like, you know, the companies in your space, people are quite familiar with it, but I would imagine that in the beginning it wasn't like so, like, can you tell us a little bit, was it like a category in the making? Was there a lot of education involved in the early days? How was that like walk us through that past eight years or so?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah. So I think, so I do a little bit of early stage investing as well. And I love telling the story because it's such a, it's such an important pivotal point of when Cognism started. So when Cognism started, there was actually a competitor called Growbots. I'm not sure if anyone's ever heard of them now. They're a Polish HQ company. They're about three million ARR. And then we also had ZoomInfo in the States at the time with Discover.Org. So Cognism was formed. We were probably about the fifth or sixth player to enter the market at the time.

We're probably about a year and a half or two years behind Growbots and Growbots were doing the kind of European focus. That was really their strong focus at the time. What we’ve done at Cognism was we just focused on execution. So we really built like the predictable revenue model and we've done that very, very early with an inferior product, I would say to ZoomInfo and Growbots.

Sorry, my throat's gonna go a little bit, so. And what I did, that basically allowed us to really, really, really catch up with competition very, very quickly. So then like a three year period, we went from being number three to being number two. And if you look at the growth of Cognism, which we've been on, we've grown every single year, up until last year, we grew about 100 % year on year. We're currently sitting at around 80 million ARR. But when we started Cognism, it was very much like, find your niche, like where are we seeing success?

Alper Yurder: Mm -hmm.

Jonathon Ilett: And fixate around that. So the way that we always like to describe it when I kind of talk about this thing is we, we, we done around 80 % on a particular vertical and that vertical when we started was recruitment. So you've got all the resources on that. Then what we did was the other 20 % is we tried all the different other potential ICPs that we could go after in personas. And then once we got a foothold in some of them, we then built out new sales teams to kind of tackle that.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathon Ilett: And that's kind of how we got to the point where we got to today.

Alper Yurder: It really helps, especially in the early days, to have a certain mission to kind of learn to sell fast, as fast as possible to a certain ICP before you potentially go after sort of everyone in the market.

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah. And segment as well, right? Like I think as we scale Kongs, I've really seen the difference between SMB mid -market enterprise. And I know that sounds pretty, that you would expect that, but I think when you really do put fixation on a particular segment, like all your product innovation, customer support, and workflow dependencies that you build in the product, like they all elevate and it kind of has a spiral effect. You grow a lot quicker.

Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm.

Hmm. Something that I'm always fascinated about when I obviously like I've been in this space for a bit, but flow, we only started two years ago and we're figuring out our niche, who do we sell fastest, et cetera, trying to increase the average deal size. So I'm curious about that story for you. Like, okay, you came in, you started figuring out who buys this fastest recruitment. And from there, how did you start building a bit of a, I guess, repeatable model and, and how did you start expanding the deals inside those organizations where you are selling?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah. So I think you have to be data-led. Probably one of the best things that we done was we, we did make that investment in Salesforce very, very early. And obviously with that, we had the ability to then get really into the detail as to industry verticals, all the thermographic data that's driving what customers were coming on board. And I drew some kind of trend analysis from it. So maybe one of the key steps we've done on the journey was like, we, we really took out of control.

Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm.


Jonathon Ilett: We took out of control of the reps, their ability to determine what accounts to go after. And we knew, and we moved that, we moved that to management and we were like that, that, that sits with management and management, cause we knew the data, right? We knew what, what, what industry verticals was succeeding, what company sizes we should be signing. And then once we made that transition, we knew that once we brought them customers on board, like they can have a certain net dollar retention, a certain gross dollar. And I think most organizations you spend all this money on.

Alper Yurder: Hahaha!


Jonathon Ilett: reps and data and all the tools that sit alongside it. But when you're doing your spearfishing outbound, you want to make sure you're going after absolutely the best fit accounts right for the business.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. And I'm curious at what point, Jonathon, for you, it started, the pattern started emerging quite clearly, I guess the first year or two or whatever it was a bit like, you know, there's bits and pieces and signals, but at what point it was like, you're not spending your time there because that's not where we're spending our time. What, what Mark was that and how, how exciting was figuring out this is where we sell really well.

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, I know. It's a great, and sometimes you need to take a punt, right? I'm sure we'll touch on that in a sec. And you sometimes you need to go outside your norm to grow as an organization. But I think really when we got to around, I think it was around like four reps. That was really when we were like, okay, these are, we know what our, what our next spot is that we need to focus in on. And we've done, we've done the very conventional SMB mid -market enterprise. Like we've kind of gone upwards like that rather than just drop into a particular segment.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, of course.


Jonathon Ilett: But yeah, the, that journey of like, moving up is very, very interesting and making sure I think as you grow as an organization, making sure you bring in the right leadership at that particular phrase as well. Like I think I'll be naive to say that I will be the person I am today if I didn't have amazing leadership coming above me at certain points when we took certain funding rounds and really helped push the organization into that next stage.

Alper Yurder: Do you have like what were those one or two critical steps you think that leadership took to get you to where you guys are today?

Jonathon Ilett: So yeah, it's been a great journey.

Yeah, I think one of the key ones, so I was running the team at the time and we bought in a brilliant, brilliant leader from zoom info called Mark Bedard. so he, he'd been in the trenches, helped scale out some of their operations. I think having like an, an outwards, an outward view of the organization where they don't know the nuances of the business, but they can come in and say, okay, this is wrong. This is wrong. Or this is how we've done it at zoom info, or this is industry standard, but having that, that expertise come in was great. So at that point we made a big push to go out market. 

And at the time I would, I was very hesitant because I, as you do, you get so caught up in the day to day and, and he really came in and was like, okay, we need to take this risk and we need to do it. And if we didn't do that, we probably wouldn't be where we are today. other things that he helped them was like the account management function, putting a specific KPI on, on expansion dollars and renewal dollars away from the CSMs. so yeah, I think the biggest learning that I've seen over the time is like…

Alper Yurder: Yeah.

Jonathon Ilett: When I was in a position where I was doing very, very well in my role, like necessarily that person isn't the person to help grow that organization at that point. And as leadership, like it's important to make sure those individuals are high performing. They see that that's a opportunity for them to level up by bringing all these external expertise. And that's been great.

Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm.

And as part of that strategy, did you start pivoting maybe away from smaller ticket deals and to larger or were there like conscious choice to potentially go after more complex deals, which bring a higher return, but also obviously they take longer to close, et cetera. Were there moments where you had to make those decisions?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah. So the way that we done it and I always, we've got a really good mentor, which our CEO has a really good mentor and someone called Pete Daffin. So he helps scale NetSuite. His big philosophy is like all about internal progression movements. So when we built our enterprise team, we took that from a high-performing mid-market segment, and then moved our top reps into, into it. And that was probably one of the best things that we done, like two individuals in our team.

Alper Yurder: Mmm.

Jonathon Ilett: Both of the records that we set for the biggest TCV deal and also the biggest ACV deal, both came from our internal movement reps that we put into that segment. So I think if I was to do this again, I don't think it's necessarily just the product aspects of it that's right time to move, but also as well, like the personnel that you put into that position, because it is a very, very different sell cycle. And I learned the hard way, like a top performing SMB where it… is not necessarily going to be a top performing enterprise rep. 

They're very different motions and requirements. Like, and reps needs to be much more project management-led and a much more strategic consultant view, whereas SMB reps is much more volume-led. So it doesn't necessarily have exact translation, but making sure that you've got that upward mobility in the organization. That for me, when I look back at our success, it's been one of the biggest drivers across every avenue of the business, management roles, new regions that we've opened up. We've really kind of built that from the SDR base and allow the ability to then move around.

Alper Yurder: You mentioned some of those large complex deals and what kind of, you know, traits are different potentially from those high-velocity deals. I've always been drawn to those. For many reasons, I find them more intellectually interesting and obviously the paychecks are bigger and all that. Could I ask you what's your preference? You don't have to ask them because I know you take care of...

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, no, I think like the way that I view it is like your SME mid -market needs to be that predictability engine. So like that needs to keep the taps on. And then your enterprise deals, as much as people say they're predictable and you've got medic as a philosophy that you use to help align to that, but like you are going to get fluctuation, particularly for us, like we might sell into one particular region with a very heavy land and expand model.

Alper Yurder: A bit of everything.


Jonathon Ilett: And that might take a set period of time, right? So getting the full whack of the entire contract upfront is generally I see like very, very, very rare. So you're right. It's a very, very different approach to how you, how you tackle it. Some, and we're in the process at the moment of migrating, that initial holdover period once that first deal signs and retaining that with the original rep, which we haven't done in any other segment before. So I think it does, it requires a bit more of a you need to view them very, very differently as to how you set up your SMB mid and end.

Alper Yurder: And obviously like the investments and you have to put the belief in a little bit more. You have to be patient sometimes. Those are all very different and sometimes difficult dynamics. Because we have a lot of, not just sales listeners, but like people from customer success and account management. I'm curious about that side of the business as well. Like how did that evolve? How did you start seeing?

Jonathon Ilett: For sure.

Alper Yurder: I guess in the beginning it's new business, let's sell, sell, but eventually it's a SaaS model. So retention is important. Expansion is important. How did that mentality shift start happening inside the organization over the years? And how did that power dynamic change?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, absolutely. And it's been absolutely pivotal. I think it's probably, especially in today's market, like we're seeing it is harder to sign that new business, right? And those existing relations that you've got and where you built that rapport and you built that, that trust it's much, much easier to retain and grow those accounts. And so it was really when we got to, so when we started Cognism, our big USP was on customer support. That was like, that was one of the key differentiators, us as a business. 

So we, very heavily like resourced on personnel when we first started, even for very, very small accounts. And we helped, we helped really to get successful the product very, very early. As we scaled, we cut that back a little bit. Obviously we adopted new technology to help assist it. So it didn't become more like so personnel led. 

But when we got to like the mid-market, when we started like really honing mid-market, we identified that was a lot of white space in the accounts we were signing and yeah, instead of leaving that with a CSM who's very, I think more reactive than proactive. I think that's probably the way to phrase it. They're very much looking to solve problems that arise rather than going out to expand the account and find new areas to sell. 

So that's when we built an account management function to sit alongside the customer success function. and the way that we break them up today is the CSM is done on like the the retention of the account, the GDR and the MPS. And then our AM teams done on the NDR and yeah, the renewal rate of which they can do so very different conversations. One's much more relationship-led, one's much more financial contractual-led. 

Since we've done that, we've seen, yeah, and break that down by segment as well. And we've seen when we've done the segmentation breakdown with less accounts per rep, we've seen really, really good success.

Alper Yurder: Hmm.

Jonathon Ilett: But that was really when, yeah, when we started like really succeeding the mid markets when we started doing that.

Alper Yurder: And I can imagine like that process must have been quite, it's not a very simple one because the way people perceive their jobs, the descriptions, what role should each person have, therefore, how should they be remunerated? How should they be recognized? I've had my share as a leader trying to navigate the very complex, the complexities and the difficulties of telling people like, this is what you're going to get paid versus this is what the other person is having. And...

Well, I'm actually doing all the job. Why are they getting all of that? I admit my share of those things. Like, did you have your highs and lows throughout those changes in the years?

Jonathon Ilett: Damn it.

Yeah, I think one of the big things when I look back was like the risk associated when we built out like our enterprise team and our account management team. Like we, we, we put, we wanted to give it our best shot. So we did move like our, some of our top reps and at the time take over both functions. But I think you need to, the whole organization needs to be behind these, behind these people when you do do that. 

And financial-wise, like for year one and potentially year two you need to pay very lucratively to get these people into those things. You need to take a bit of a risk on that. And yeah, when we've done that, we put our best people, we gave a really nice comp plan that sat behind it. That's probably one of the key reasons I think why we've done really, really well when we set that up as well.

Alper Yurder: And coming to today a little bit, let's talk about some of the current issues you tackle, what's top of mind for you. Maybe, yeah, let's start with that. Let me hear from you. How is the year going? And especially I'm interested in asking everybody, the money is getting tighter. Everyone's a bit more conscious about their buying decisions. How is that changing your lives?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, no, it's a really good point. I think the, obviously the market is, I think you can kind of see this in reports from public companies, right? As well, like it's, it's, I think Q3 last year, we saw a bit of enthusiasm and excitement back. And then I think this year it's kind of gone back into a little bit of a lull again, in terms of like buying, buying particularly SaaS products. We're, we're doing very, very well. Like we're, we're still, we're still, seeing success. 

And I think the reason behind that is we are data led and we're looking at what industries and what segments are still buying and really doubling down. I think one of the key things we've done this year is be a lot more agile. So when we have our headcount plan at the beginning of the year, we have multiple regions that we service. And as a growth, as we grow, like we are, if we have attrition for natural reasons or performance, like we're reviewing what region do we actually put that in now? And that's been, that's been.

One of the key things this year that we haven't done before, before we would stick to a plan and just execute on a plan. so that that's been really interesting. I think how we adapted, I think we've taken a real focus now on, yeah, a real focus on SDR generated like pipeline and making sure that that pipeline is actual pipeline rather than artificial pipeline because companies have changed a lot in terms of their, yeah, actually wanting to purchase software. 

So we've built out, yeah, we've adjusted our comp plan for the SDR team to make sure that they're much more incentivized for in quality into the pipeline. We've bought, when we have bought software, we bought software that we feel will make the better buying experience. So a good software that we just purchased was Trumpet. That's been absolutely brilliant stakeholder engagement and like making it a very good sales process for the buyer. And then, what else have we done? 

I'm trying to think if there's anything else major that's come up. I think that to be succinct, they're kind of the key things that we're focused on at the moment is looking where we win, put resources in where we're winning and then do that. Yeah.

Jonathon Ilett: I think Trumpet has been absolutely superb for us. I think like I can give a really good example the other day of where it really unlocked a deal for us. So that was a particular deal that we weren't at power at. And we've got a really, really good champion that's really spearheading Cognism. It's approaching their end of year. So they're really locked up in trying to wrap up their deals. We haven't got through to the sign-up.

So what we've done with Trumpet is we built a very, very good business case, put it all into this website. And then our champions been able to forward that onto the exec team. And not only have we got the signer involved, we've got the CFO with visibility on it now. And the benefit there as well is that we're not reliant on our champions to sell the product for us in their interpretation of it. Like we've actually built the case and we've built the messaging.

And that is actually getting pushed over directly to the C-suite, which we probably wouldn't have been able to do prior to their calendar year ending. So yes, it's been brilliant in that regard and it's created consistency and it creates a much better buyer journey.

Alper Yurder: And internally, like obviously as Cognism is a sales tool as well, like, are you interested in that looking into that digital sales room space or like, is that something that could potentially like, why wouldn't Cognizm or a Salesforce or somebody like that build it internally? Do you think there could be that sort of potential integration or?

Jonathon Ilett: Potentially, I think like, I think the one thing that's great about Trumpet is just the level of integrations that they've got. they've got really good understanding of making sure that you've got really succinct workflows into your entire GTM stack. So they've got the ability to pull Gong in, they've got the ability to pull in CPQ quotes. so like it, it's created like a really nice flow. Do I think there'll be innovation in the space? Yeah, I think it's, you can see from G2, it's one of the fastest growing segments. So I think.

Alper Yurder: Hmm.

Jonathon Ilett: Naturally, I think more companies are going to start using it. I think it's going to become de facto. If you want to get that first mover advantage against some more legacy competitors, it's absolutely brilliant. It's such a good solution.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. So one of my questions to you was going to be like, how do you approach building and nurturing relationships in the B2B space? And I think like digital sales rooms, mutual action plans, et cetera, they kind of help that, especially when you have to coordinate different regions, different geographies. Like if you have multiple stakeholders in different areas of the business, it helps probably.

Jonathon Ilett: Absolutely. I think like one thing we've really focused on, and this is the benefit, I suppose, of having different regional offices, is we've really pushed for like face -to -face engagement now across every segment. We're running SPFs internally for the most face -to -faces that are taking place. And when we're doing these, we're seeing such a higher return on like close one, as long rates. Yeah. So I think if you have got regional teams, like use that as an advantage in.

Alper Yurder: Hmm.


Jonathon Ilett: Against head-to-head competitors that necessarily don't have that. And I think I was in one last week and the level of insight that you get from a two-hour face-to-face, like people become a lot more open, get a lot more information and it really helps you understand business, their business and what their goals are. And that was, I'd say it's probably some of the main drives to why we signed some of our biggest deals over the last year.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. Yeah.

Alper Yurder: I love that. And in this final section of the pod, I generally ask leaders who've been through kind of similar experiences themselves, like the advice they would share with somebody who's going through that journey at the moment. So I have a few like one minute rapid fire questions I'm just going to show it if you don't mind. Okay. So first one, I would say a lot of industries are very competitive and so is yours. What are the things that you can do to help?

Jonathon Ilett: I was getting my fire away.


Alper Yurder: stand out from the competition in general.

Jonathon Ilett: Yep. So I love this. This comes from our US leader. This is called a team's philosophy, which is a win by how you sell. I think breeding that culture from day one of customer first, customer, yeah, buyer centric. There's such a big differentiator when it comes up against some larger competitors that we sell against. So yeah, I think culturally build a really strong foundation.

Alper Yurder: Mm -hmm.

Jonathon Ilett: And I love the win by how we sell it. Such a strong message that everyone's hopped on to the US team.

Alper Yurder: And I guess tools like digital sales rooms, Trumpet, Flowla, all this category that you enjoy, they are kind of the way you stand out in the way you sell.

Jonathon Ilett: I think that as well, but also like just response times and stuff like that, like actually having pride in your work that you do. So like we have a really strong, we have zero inbox policy across the board in the account executive team. And part of that is like win by how you sell. Like we want to be quick. We want to be responsive. We don't want the buyer chasing us. So I think stuff like that makes such a difference in competitive head heads.

Alper Yurder: Mm -hmm.

And in sales, we always think about new business closing, et cetera. But then I think we already mentioned that, you know, times are different. Retention is very important, existing relation. What do you think is an ideal sales to customer success relation? Like where do you feel like you've observed frictions in the past and how can people avoid those frictions? Like what are some of the best practices you can do to have a well functioning revenue team?

Jonathon Ilett: which by repeating that the signal went quite badly.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, of course. So my question was around new business and closing and all that is good, but especially because of the times we were in, retention is very key. So I guess a good indicator of retention is the collaboration between sales and customer success. So my question was like, where do you think frictions might arise in that relation and how do you have a well -functioning revenue team? Like what are the things you can implement to make sure that the buyer has a great experience?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, that's a great question. It's actually something that we've literally were discussing our last leadership offsite. So I'll give you our actions in terms of what we're doing. So we're in the process at the moment of redoing our pipeline stages. What we're looking to do is have a pipeline stage between, I believe it was between negotiation, just before negotiation and contract.

Alper Yurder: Nice.

Jonathon Ilett: And what that phase is called is called success plan. And that's where we take a step back and we say, okay, this is what onboarding looks like. This is a customer success team. This is your account management team. This is what the benchmarks are that we deem to be success when you go live. And it really, it's kind of stepping back a little bit from like that momentum that you're building to get the sale done, but really make sure that the customer's really bought into and understands what that journey looks like. So we call that a success plan.

At that point, and we're doing this today, like ad hoc for our enterprise and mid -market deals, any deal over like a 50K deal size for us gets assigned a CSM and gets assigned an AM prior to the contract being signed and they join the sell cycle. So we're just making sure that's in place for every segment now. And it works.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, I love that. I love that. That's very, very forward thinking. And actually the funny thing is we started Flow as a digital sales room, but now customer success and onboarding teams have taken it and hacked it into, and they use it a lot for success plans. 

That's actually one of the areas where we, we, we, we sell the product faster. I think because people realize it's funny, like nobody wants to give you their time. They want everything to be async. They want you to be available, but like, how do you make all that happen? It's very complex. Some of these onboarding takes ages to implement, et cetera. So I think that's an area which is going to be even more ripe for disruption and new technologies. And I think that will be a make or break thing for long -term success of people.

Jonathon Ilett: I think in like a head to head as well, like that could be the deciding factor. If there's pretty similar, pretty similar functionality and price point, like having that conversation where you step back and discuss like, what does success look like for you? This is what the all new journey looks like. That could be the clincher that gets the deal done. So yeah, it's really, really, I think we're talking on enterprise sales as well. I think that's one of the biggest differences is team selling as opposed to individual selling and like, bringing those people in makes such a difference.

Alper Yurder: Exactly.

Yeah. And having that very frictionless because the buyer doesn't care if you're CS sales implementation, whatever they just see one, one human being and they want their problem to be solved. Basically. My last question will be about, I guess now Cognism is a global company. Was it started in the UK or is it a European startup initially? Is that an accurate thing to say? It was a UK startup that became a global brand.

Jonathon Ilett: Thank you.

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, no, we're very, I'm very proud. We're British, British. We've got, yeah, so our founder, James, he's from Switzerland, but like the team, when we, when the company was formed, it was based in the UK and what operations are based from the UK.

Alper Yurder: Okay.

Okay, so this resonates a lot for me as a UK based startup in a US dominated industry, I would say, which is what Flawler is in. What are your learnings? What are your tips for me to to kind of break into the US market? I mean, already 70 % of our revenue is coming from the US. So what are your tips? What are your what are the things that you have happened to see in your time that you can share as advice?

Jonathon Ilett: Yeah, I think very good that your revenue 70% is coming from the States already. I think for us, I've kind of seen this with some of our competitors as well. They've gone into the States very, very prematurely without kind of having the foundation set in place in the UK. And the US is very, very expensive. I'm sure if you've got people on the ground and personnel and everything like that, like in...

Alper Yurder: I'm going to go ahead and close the video.

Jonathon Ilett: it's probably about 1 .5 the cost of what we're looking at in the UK. So it's a very, very quick burn if you're not getting success very quickly. I'd say from my perspective, looking back, I think, like I said, the UK is probably about three or four years behind, very competitive in the States. 

There's almost 100% likelihood that you're going to have some kind of competition out there. Whereas in the media markets, that's really where we've seen that kind of greenfield opportunity 40, like very, very high win rates upwards of like 40 % when we enter a new territory. And I think that everyone says the US is the holy grail and I think it is the holy grail to get there at a certain point and it will elevate your revenue very, very quickly. 

But I think really mastering your home territory and looking at other areas where there necessarily isn't that kind of competitive environment, it's a really, really good opportunity when you first kick off. So yeah, I think.

The way that we've done it is we kind of looked at little micro regions and kind of looking to scale that way. And then the US is obviously huge for us now. We got a big team out there, but that took around four or five years before we really put focus on the US.

Alper Yurder: I knew you had a very established competition as well, like the Zoominfo and you know...

Jonathon Ilett: Exactly, right. Like you need to, I think that's really, when you go to the U S is when your product really holds up. whereas prior to going to the U S you can, you can most likely in the European markets really deliver just on kind of like inferior products, better sales. But when you really, when you go to the States, you really need to have both humming to be able to succeed.

Alper Yurder: Well, as we've come to the end of our time, I will have to cut us on the clock as any good therapist. But I'm sure there are questions that I haven't asked you. So I'm wondering, Johnson, is there any question that I should ask you that I haven't?

Jonathon Ilett: No, I think like, I think we covered loads there, Alpha. And like, if anyone wants to connect with me as well, like I'm happy, add me on LinkedIn, happy to chat to anyone. Alpha, I really appreciate the time. That was a great chat.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely.

Yes, of course, my pleasure. And this has been a great chat. I think it's been a very practical chat with a lot of, I always love to try to balance like the experience of the individual with something that can be practical and relatable to others, because a lot of our listeners are people who are kind of earlier in their careers and they look up to others and try to get the, you know, just, just give me the, give me the advice, just give me what I need to do very straight. And I think there's been a lot of that in this chat. Absolutely.

Jonathon Ilett: Takeaways are the best, right, for sure.

Alper Yurder: All right, well, thank you very much again, Jonathon, for joining me on this therapy session at Sales Therapy. That's going to be a wrap on this episode of Sales Therapy. And if you enjoy the show, obviously follow us and subscribe to us on Spotify and give Jonathon a follow as well. Thank you very much for being with us today.

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