Join Alper and Alex as they explore buyer-centric sales, optimizing team structures for efficiency, and challenging outdated sales mentalities for sustained success.
Alex is a seasoned sales professional, one of the Demandbase Top 25 Sales Leaders and his extensive background with exits and IPOs.
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The conversation starts by exploring the various phases of Alex’s personal and professional journey. Born in the UK, he grew up in different countries due to his father's military career. Mentioning his twin brother adds a layer of friendly competition to his story, as they engaged in playful rivalries throughout their upbringing. According to Alex, the competitive spirit instilled during these experiences played a significant role in shaping his career in sales.
Alex Olley reflects on his journey, revealing that he initially aspired to become a lawyer. Later on, facing a pivotal decision between a lucrative headhunter job and the role at Deezer, Alex's parents advised him to prioritize long-term fulfillment over immediate financial gain. Landing at Deezer proved transformative, marking his entry into the startup world during the burgeoning phase of music streaming.
As Deezer experienced explosive growth, Alex developed a fascination for startups and contemplated returning to law, this time specializing in music law. However, upon joining a law firm, he quickly realized the profession did not align with his values. The corporate environment, lack of culture, and soullessness led to a challenging period marked by overwork and, eventually, depression.
After qualifying as a lawyer, Alex decided to pivot away from law, acknowledging its incompatibility with his personal fulfillment. With a newfound commitment to the startup world, he leveraged his knowledge of software and passion for sales. Joining a company that honed his skills, he eventually co-founded Reachdesk, where he has been since, driven by a genuine love for sales and a unique philosophy about it.
Next, Alex shares his perspective on sales, emphasizing the principle that sales is hard but not inherently difficult. He highlights the importance of salespeople focusing on helping customers rather than solely fixating on money and commissions. Alex argues that the most successful salespeople are those genuinely interested in solving problems.
“Because the best sellers are the ones that just want to help. They genuinely want to solve the problem, but they want to be your trusted advisor. They follow up proactively. They do everything in a timely manner. They work for the customer and they help buyers buy.”
Alex explains the significance of enjoying the sales process by recognizing the rush that comes from genuinely helping people. He ties these principles to his work at Reachdesk, where the focus is on how to assist buyers in making informed decisions and creating an enjoyable experience.
“And so the whole process of what I've designed here at Reachdesk is about how do we help buyers buy? How do we be as helpful as possible? How do we be as honest as possible? And that can be a very fast winning formula. It can be a very enjoyable experience for someone.”
Alper poses a question about the percentage of salespeople who genuinely see their role as helping buyers compared to those solely focused on hitting quotas. Alex estimates that less than 1% of salespeople are sincerely committed to being helpful advisors. He also stresses the importance of having a good product.
“You can be a phenomenal salesperson and probably do better than others, but if your product doesn't solve a problem that actually the customer wants or needs, you're, you're a losing position anyway.”
The discussion delves into the relationship between sales and marketing, highlighting the interconnected nature of the go-to-market motion. Alex emphasizes the role of fundamentals in sales, such as effective discovery and proactive engagement with decision-makers. He critiques outdated sales tactics, cautioning against the "boiler room" approach, and emphasizes the evolving buyer journey, where trust is paramount.
“The number one thing that buyers want from sellers is trust. They want to know that they can trust them.”
Alex shares his personal approach to sales, acknowledging the importance of making money but emphasizing that helping people leads to greater success in the long run. He encourages honesty in sales, even if it means admitting limitations, and underscores the value of building trust with buyers.
Speaking about his plans for the new year and the current challenges he sees in the sales landscape, Alex reflects on the evolution he has witnessed in his career, particularly in the context of building large sales teams for hypergrowth.
He emphasizes that the traditional approach of growing sales teams rapidly based on quota capacity is outdated. Instead, he advocates for a shift towards smaller, leaner, and more efficient teams that focus on achieving high quota attainment.
“And so what I'm thinking about now is how can I do everything humanly possible… that stat of like 85% of the buyer journey is complete before you speak to a salesperson… how do I have the smallest, leanest teams and make them feel like they're winning all the time.”
To adapt to this change, he introduces the concept of an "allbound motion," which emphasizes a unified, team-oriented approach to revenue generation. This approach integrates marketing, partnerships, and sales teams with a shared revenue target. Unlike the traditional assembly line model, the allbound motion aims to collaborate across teams at various stages of the buyer journey, recognizing that the buyer's path is not linear.
“And so you think about the stages of a buyer journey and how you align your resources across your different teams with revenue in mind as to what those teams should be doing collectively together and try and overlap as much as possible. So rather than the assembly line, which is one thing happens, then the next thing happens, the next thing happens. It's how many teams, how many of these teams can we get working together at that same stage of the buyer journey to collaborate and ensure that people can move through the buyer journey.”
The conversation touches upon the demise of the predictable revenue model and the need for a more dynamic and flexible approach. Alex stresses the importance of team selling, where various team members, including the CRO, participate in sales calls as needed. He highlights the efficiency of team selling in building trust with customers, addressing their specific needs, and guiding them through the buying process.
“If I'm not in the trenches and I don't know what's going on, I don't expect others to be. So to like orchestrate your team in a way that matches the way your buyers buy and look back through those, the opportunities, and say, where are the stages in our buying process, not sales cycle, our buyers process, where we think we can be as helpful as possible, and who are those people that can help? And that's where you win.”
Both Alper and Alex agree that the traditional "always be closing" mentality no longer aligns with the modern buyer's preferences. They emphasize the importance of autonomy for buyers and the need for a more strategic, account-based approach to sales.
In the closing section of the episode, Alper asks Alex about mistakes sales reps make that he wishes they would avoid, and Alex highlights the importance of effective discovery.
“As a good salesperson, you should know what the key criteria are for someone who's buying your product. If you don't know that, I don't know what you're doing, but like discovery, effective discovery is understanding their pains, whether you can actually solve them and how you uniquely link to those things, right?”
The second question pivots to the role of leaders, where Alper seeks advice from Alex on best practices for planning quotas and territories. Alex shares his insights on calculating quotas based on a simple formula tied to base salary and OTE (On-Target Earnings), cautioning against inflating quotas without considering historical attainment and unit economics.
“What people do is they just do step one. They go, here's quota, let's put more in. They don't look at lifetime value and like dollar acquisition and they don't fold unit economics on top to say, actually, I can justify bringing it down because for every deal that we win in this segment, we have, they stay with us for five years. So why wouldn't I make it easier for us and then actually take the pressure off?”
In the closing remarks, Alex shares a broader perspective on sales, highlighting the challenging nature of the profession. He encourages salespeople to acknowledge that sales is hard, not necessarily difficult, and emphasizes the importance of taking care of one's mental well-being.
“So my advice to people is ignore what happens on these social media platforms because it can usually lead you to feel quite distressed and undervalued. And focus more on your mental state and doing the best you can. You'll probably enjoy your time in sales a lot more.”
Alper Yurder: All right, let's go. So today in the therapy chair, we have Alex Olley, who is the co-founder and CRO of Reachdesk, which is an allbound engagement platform for companies trying to zhuzh up their B2B and make it more effective. He's gonna talk about all about allbound. Allbound is one of those terms that I'm sure everybody keeps hearing about all over the place these days, and he is the pro of it, we'll listen for him. Alex is, as some of you might already know, is a Demandbase top 25 sales leaders. He has an exit and two IPOs in the background. So we've got a real sales pro and a founder pro amongst us today. So we'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain and the journey. And he's a podcast pro. So I'm sure I will just let him flow with his flow and we will follow his lead. But welcome to Sales Therapy. Alex, how are you feeling today?
Alex Olley: Oh mate, thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to this all week. Sales has its ups and downs, but to do some sales therapy, I mean, I don't have to pay you for this, right? This is free.
Alper Yurder: For now, I'm not. Actually, that's something I should consider, I guess. Excellent, excellent. Actually, as a salesperson, a lot of people ask me, like, what's sales therapy? What's the connection, blah, blah. And in short, I feel like the role of a seller is more like a therapist, a helper, an advisor, you know, you know, the drill. We shut up, we listen, we try to figure out what's the underlying fear and anxiety and how do we overcome objections and hopefully close on a...
Alex Olley: Okay. Yeah, I'm doing great, man. How have you been?
Alper Yurder: You know, good notes. So that's the solution for the buyers.
Alex Olley: Well, that's what the good people do. That's what the good people do. Sadly, not everyone does.
Alper Yurder: Uh… Actually, you're diving right into it. I'm going to hold my horses. I'm going to follow the flow here. But I made a note of that. We'll talk about that. So actually, Alex, would you like to give your own 30-second intro to yourself? And what do you feel like talking about today? I know you've been in other shows lately, so you have your own platform.
Alex Olley: Sure. Yeah. So, um, I think you've covered most of it. I've been building Reachdesk. This is the sixth year that we've been building. I've been in this game. It would like startups in that software for nearly 15 years. I was briefly a lawyer, by the way, hated it. Like really hated it. We talk about sales therapy, especially like a podcast for like ex-recovering lawyers. But yeah, I've been building Reachdesk happily. And it's been, hey, look, we've been through like this funny old phase of 2018 starting product market fit, well, idea market fit, 2019, like getting it going, then COVID, bearing in mind Reachdesk was built, that Reachdesk, can I give you the clue? It was built so that we can send stuff to people's desks and designed for offices. Offices close, that does a certain thing to your mental health when like your whole business is like just put on hold, as I'm sure everyone was. And then it was like hyper-growth, and now it's like efficiency and… I've rethought a lot of things. I've learned a lot over the past five, six years. And now I'm just on this real mission to build this go-to-market team, which I label as an all-bound motion. And a lot of people are talking about all-bound. I'm sure we can talk about that more today, but I'm very passionate about that.
Alper Yurder: Yep. Yeah, I think it's the connection. Don't worry about it. Whenever that happens, just finish your sentence will, and you'll come back. I think it's the connection things. Okay, great. So this is a little note for our editor. Great. So any good therapy starts with childhood and growing up generally. Alex, can you tell us about your growing years a little bit? Like you're based in London, by the way. Right. And the company is based in London. So did you grow up in London?
Alex Olley: I did not grow up in London. So, to reach that, it's actually headquartered in the US, but let's go back to my childhood. When people ask me where I'm from, I can't really ever give them an answer, because, so I grew up in the UK, I have a twin, by the way, and I think this is important, because I think it's why I'm so competitive. There's two of me, all right? So, growing up with a twin brother gives you a very unique perspective on life, because everything is a competition. You learn how to ride a bike. Who can cycle the fastest? You, when you're getting good at running, who can run the fastest? We talked, my brother and I, we used to have this thing called the Boost Bar Challenge. And we'd literally run up a hill, and the first person to get to the top had to buy the other one a Boost Bar. It's like a chocolate bar you get in the UK. But a lot of me and my competitive side to my personality I think because of that. But I grew up, I was born in the UK, then we lived in Hong Kong, Brunei, went back to the UK, Germany, Cyprus. So my father was in the military. My mum was a teacher.
Alper Yurder: Okay, I was gonna say oil business or what's going on? Okay, fine. Military.
Alex Olley: Military. So I've kind of, I, home now is somewhere near Oxford where my parents live, but I count myself as a Londoner now, but growing up it was that it was moving around the world and it was battling my twin brother and everything that I humanly could, uh, to see who, who could win the most. And I think that's why I'm in sales because, because of that.
Alper Yurder: Okay. When you tell me twin brother, to me, I'm an only child, sole child, whatever you call it. So to me, it feels like, wow, wonderful. Like you were never alone in your life. You always had support. And I'm sure you had all those things and you feel that way. But the competitive side, that wouldn't even occur to me. That's really interesting.
Alex Olley: Yeah, man. It was like, it was everything. But we were, we were, we were different. We were so different in many things. Like, I think I was more academic and he was more sporty. But then as we got older, I focused more on sport because poor guy, I'm about four or five inches taller than him. So we're not identical twins. So I got bigger than him. I got better at sport. He got, he caught up with academia. I don't know what that did to me. I'm not sure. I haven't, I, I do therapy privately and I'm happy to admit that by the way, I'm not ashamed of it. I don't see it as a stigma. I've never explored that bit. So maybe I'll explore that next week with the person I speak to every other week. But it definitely created a competitive edge and like Ascent just wanted to go above and beyond just to win and I've never been able to let that go.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. If anyone listening isn't doing therapy, that's the biggest gift you can give to yourself. It's a bit of a luxury for some, including myself, because now I'm a minimum wage-earning founder. I don't know why I did that switching from the big commission checks to it. Anyway, a little rant there. But if anyone's not doing therapy, that's the biggest gift you can give to yourself because you become aware of yourself and you improve from there, which is kind of how I think of the sales job as well like, okay, hi buyer, hi people with a problem, tell me what is going on. Actually, I'm going to help you figure out actually what's going on because sometimes the problem you come to me with is not really the real problem. So let's become aware first and then let's solve it. That… hence Sales Therapy again, plug there. Okay, thanks for that background. That was really helpful to understand the man that I've got to know one year ago, but not obviously not in this detail. So that's really cool about the therapy that challenge of achieving success and being an achiever, etc. So obviously now you're in a place where, you know, Reachdesk, a lot of people know it, you know, you have your fancy titles, you know, I'm sure you're more confident than you were 10 years ago when you started your career or whatever. So tell me a little bit about the career journey. How did you start? What were some of the difficulties or what were some of the challenges you had to overcome about yourself to become the successful person that you've become?
Alex Olley: Whoa! I think I was saying this to someone this week. Growing up, I said I was quite academic. For some reason, I was destined to be a lawyer at the age of like 10. So the age of 10, it was like, you're going to be a lawyer. I remember speaking to my mum about that. I'm going to be a lawyer. Yeah, you're going to be a lawyer. That's great. It's a really good job to do. I think a lot of my uncles were lawyers. From the age of 10, I think I was hell-bent on doing that. And I don't know why. I wish someone had sat me down and say, here's what you're actually good at. I'm not sure I was a particularly good lawyer, by the way. So what that led me to do was like work really, really hard at my school to get the best grades. So I had to be an academic scholar. I had to get the best grades to get into the university I wanted to. Went and studied law with French. I decided to do law with French at the same time at uni. Studied in France for a year. I remember leaving uni, I was like, do I want to do this? Like, is this what I'm supposed to be doing? And I actually kind of parked law for a bit. I remember sitting down, this is back in 2008. So there was a big old financial crash going on then. Finding a job then was really, really tough. And I got offered two jobs.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. I started at the same time. That makes us two boomers.
Alex Olley: We're both in the same age, right? Oh my God, I don't know how hard it was, right? And you probably do too. Maybe you don't, maybe it was easy for you, but for me it was really hard. And I got off of two jobs, and I was interviewing for just like whatever, let's just go to London, move to London, see what happens. They offered a job as a headhunter. So I… Do I want to do that? I'm not sure, whatever. It seems to be paying way better than everyone else. And maybe I'll do that. There's a lot of them going around. And then I got offered a job with this company called Deezer. It's like a music streaming service. And I remember going home and I had two job offers. And one, the headhunter job was paying twice as much, quite literally. So when you're 21 and you're getting offered way more money, that's very attractive. I remember sitting down and luckily my mom gave me some really good advice. In fact, both my parents did. And they said, look, it's a French company. You speak French. That'd be good for you. You love music, you've always been a musician. Don't worry about money right now. Spend the first 10 years of your career making mistakes and trying to figure out what you wanna do. Headhunting doesn't seem to align with who we know you are. So we think you should take that other one. If you need a bit more money, like my parents didn't have a ton of cash. They spent a lot of time on things that are education. They gave me really good advice. So anyway, landed at Deezer and, whoa, it was so good. Best decision. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had. It was the early days of music streaming, right? This is when it was us versus Spotify. There were like 40 people in the company and then it just went boom, it just skyrocketed. That was like the first startup I joined. It went from like 40 of us to like 800, we raised 250 million, like huge growth. I was like, whoa, this is amazing. And so I got the startup bug there. And I was speaking to our managing director. I don't think I've ever spoken about this publicly. And he was like, look, the company's at like a big, big growth stage now. Something's gonna change around here. Maybe you should think about going and being a lawyer. I was like, okay, you sure? And he's like, yeah, there's this thing called music law. So I actually did that. I joined this firm. I went, I did law school, joined this firm. And this is nothing against lawyers or anything. It just wasn't for me, but within like an hour, honestly, an hour of being there, I was like, I think I'm in the wrong place. But I stuck through it for a number of years. And the reason why I'm speaking about this is because it did bad things to me. Right. It was like, I was working all the time, like all the time. Sometimes I just would not sleep. I just working, working. When you spoke about your workload and how stressful it was, no one cared. Right. It was just like, that's just the job. Get on with it. Um, there was no, I didn't feel as much culture to it. It was pretty soulless. And I tasted the opposite. I tasted the startup world you're looked after you're part of something that has a purpose, you're building to like the polar opposite. And if I'm very honest with you, it made me very depressed. Like depression hit me really, really hard. Um, and after I qualified, I decided I was like, this isn't for me. I don't like, I'm glad I did it. Cause I know it's something I don't want to do for the rest of my life. And it's for some people, I'm not criticizing lawyers or law. It's a respectable career, but for me, it just didn't add up. And I've been part of another company before that, which was awesome. So I kind of committed to going back into the world of startups. I knew enough about software. I loved sales. I realized I loved selling stuff. I think I was quite good at it. I was always like top of the leaderboard. Um, and so I went and joined the company that like really helped me hone my skills a little bit and after about two years reached us, the idea was born. And I've been doing that ever since, but I love everything about sales and the philosophy I have about it is…
Alper Yurder: What do you know about sales? I'm intrigued.
Alex Olley: Oh, I think, let's start with the first thing, which is the principle that I say to everyone, sales is hard. It's not difficult. People make it difficult for themselves and they start to resent selling. And it's because they're thinking about the money and the commission and it's okay to be at sales when I interview people in sales, and they don't mention that they're motivated by money, I don't hire them, but you have to be motivated by money. But when you're thinking about it all the time, you make it difficult for yourself. Because the best sellers are the ones that just want to help. They genuinely want to solve the problem, but they want to be your trusted advisor. They follow up proactively. Um, they do everything in a timely manner. They work for the customer may help buyers buy. I love doing all those things. When people make it difficult. And this is what I learned. I had a period where I didn't like sales. It's because I was always thinking about how am I going to run the money, you could smell the commission breath. Right? You could it was it was from a customer standpoint. So I didn't like that. And I remember my old CRO, he taught me the art in sales is helping buyers buy I remember like that penny dropped. I was like, so what do I need to do? And he said, you need to be helpful. Start helping people. And when I started realizing sales is about helping people, so much, you're selling a good product, it can be really, really enjoyable, and then you just have to put the hard work in that's the distinction. I think you can make it difficult for yourself. You can zero strategy, not use data. Just think about how you're going to earn your money all the time and not what's in it for the customer, or you can make it really enjoyable for yourself. Because we actually, and I've done a lot of research on this, as humans, we get a rush when we help people and we actually help them solve something that actually makes a difference to them personally or their business. We get a rush from that and that actually creates a lot of enjoyment. And so the whole process of what I've designed here at Reachdesk is about how do we help buyers buy? How do we be as helpful as possible? How do we be as honest as possible? And that can be a very fast winning formula. It can be a very enjoyable experience for someone.
Alper Yurder: Okay. So, wow, there's a lot there. Actually, I mean, I'm sure everybody's enjoying listening to you. You're setting a bit of a bad example for my next episodes where I'm just going to let the people speak without asking questions because you've got the whole story flowing really well. I'm glad for that. One thing I want to touch on, though, from everything that you said, how you define sales as, you know, your manager telling you that story. It's about helping people. So, therefore, selling is… helping buyers buy, which is definitely what we stand for at Flowla, what we try to change in the world of sales as well, like buyer enablement. This is a bit of a weird question, but like what percentage of salespeople do you think are, let's say category one, let's go sell close, you know, commission at the end of the quarter versus what percentage of salespeople that you've come across see their job as really that helping person, that advisor. Not too much worried about if I don't hit quota here, that might be something to do with the product. I'm just going to do my job in the best way possible. I'm going to do my follow-ups, my multithreading, follow all the right steps. But at the end of the day, it might not have so much to do with the way I sell because I know how to sell. Therefore, I'm just going to be an advisor, be a helper and not harass people, not chase people to death because I have to hit my quota, whatever. That was a long-tailed question, but I don't know if I got the message across.
Alex Olley: Well, I think that you're asking a couple of things here. Like what percentage of sellers do I think are the ones that genuinely want to help us to just sell and shovel it down in people's throats? I think it's less than 1%. I genuinely believe it's less than 1%. Right, Anthony Yanarino speaks about this a lot. You're lucky if it's 1%. If you get 100 sellers and 1% of them actually care about helping the customer and being their trusted advisor, that's probably a good number. There's a distinction here to be clear, there are a couple of things you have to have a good product. Right? No product sells, no product sells itself, right? It doesn't, but you still have to have a good product. You can be a phenomenal salesperson and probably do better than others, but if your product doesn't solve a problem that actually the customer wants or needs, you're, you're a losing position anyway. So that's the first caveat. The second thing.
Alper Yurder: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you do. Exactly. Then you leave and run away because otherwise your careers are stolen and you're not making any money. That situation is very real.
Alex Olley: Yeah, exactly. It's very real. So you have to acknowledge that. No one can sell ice to Eskimos. But a lot of it is the relationship between sales and marketing, which is why I don't think it's fair to sort of just place failure of quota attainment on salespeople alone. It's a whole go-to-market motion, which is what AllBound is, which we'll talk about later. But it's go-to-market. You can't just say this seller is really rubbish. Now, if salespeople aren't doing the basics, they're not multi-threading, they're not doing effective discovery, they're like just demoing the shit out of their product. I'm not sure if we're allowed to swear on this. So sorry. Um, if they're just, they're not being proactive with, um, engaging the wider decision-making, if they're not doing the fundamentals, these like just basics and some people think these are advanced things, then you're not going to succeed anyway. Um, but I do think it's really important to stress that at the same time, you can be a helpful seller who likes to make money. I'm not going to lie. I like to make money. I like to make money, but I also know how to help people. I know that by helping people, I will make more money. And when people start to understand that, they're like, huh? Hang on a second, but I'm used to the boiler room, always be closing approach. That's how you make money. That doesn't work anymore, by the way. If anyone's listening, they think the, and I'm not gonna put any names, but there are plenty of people out there that profess the whole like just boiler room tactics.
Alper Yurder: Exactly, yes.
Alex Olley: There was a video I saw recently on LinkedIn with, it's an old one from Grant Cardone's method that he uses where it's just like, read the script, read the script, read the script. Don't do that. Like if you find yourself in that environment, work somewhere else. Because the buyer doesn't want that anymore. 85% of the buyer journey is complete before a salesperson has been spoken to. All right? That's a scary scat stat for salespeople these days. Whenever I say that to a salesperson, by the way, the person you're speaking to has probably already made their mind up. You're actually there to validate whether they're making a decision and whether they're messing up or not. And when I say that to people, they're like, okay, so what do I have to do? Be honest and help them. If we can't do something, by the way, RT has won more deals by saying, sorry, we can't do that, than by pretending that we can do it or saying it's on the roadmap. Isn't that crazy? So I literally have data in our CRM, and I have Gong calls which say, why did you go with us? Oh, because we felt the salesperson was actually being honest because they said you couldn't do those two things. Your two competitors said they could. We spoke to people who said they couldn't and therefore we didn't trust them. The number one thing that buyers want from sellers is trust. They want to know that they can trust them. Maybe you could say to someone, no, we can't do that. And by the way, if it's important to you, then sorry, but we shouldn't be working together. That's where qualification comes in. Tell me what's important to you. Okay, we can't do that. We probably shouldn't be speaking. I don't hear enough salespeople saying, you know what, we can't help you. We can't help you. We should end the conversation here. Have the courage to do that and you'll save yourself a ton of time. I think I've still got you, mate.
Alper Yurder: Ah, good. Okay. I thought you froze for a moment. Good. I mean, all this time I'm thinking, you're dropping so much gold. What is the teaser of this podcast? Because there's like... And to be honest, it's also very comfortable to listen to you because all the messages that I want to deliver, that I want to preach, they're just coming from somebody else, which is great. Let's come to today a little bit. Let's talk about today, the new year. I'm sure you've planned the new year. You know, you have plans. You've observed the past years, maybe you've seen our Almanac for the year, which talks about all the trends in the past year and what's going to change. Let's talk about some of the more current issues you're dealing with and what you feel like salespeople or revenue teams in general should know for the year ahead. So they can learn from you, they can prepare for the year, they can take a bit of advice.
Alex Olley: Look, I've grown up in the world of like hypergrowth. Um, I built massive sales teams. You know, one of the biggest sales team I've led probably was 120 people. And I, and I built that in like the space of two years from like zero to like 120. Those days are gone. They are gone. Right. I don't expect that to ever happen again. And the reason why they're gone is because we don't need to be planning our teams based on quota capacity and like this top-down approach that if we add more quota, then that's going to lead to more revenue performance. It's quite literally the other way around. And so what I'm thinking about now is how can I do everything humanly possible that stat of like 85% of the buyer journey is complete before you speak to a salesperson? How do I have the smallest, leanest teams and make them feel like they're winning all the time, rather than I don't want… I've never been in the world where it's like average quota attainment is like 30, 35%. I've never been there. But I see a world where it's like, quota attainment of like salespeople should be between like 85 to 100% all the time. And you should build smaller teams that can handle more, that are efficient, that don't cost the company as much, that allow you to hit your growth targets by using lots of different automations. AI is obviously a real thing, training, enablement. There are lots of things that you can do combined to ensure that you don't have to have these massive sales teams. The massive sales teams is a day of the past. So I'm thinking about how do we keep things small, nimble, agile, where people are all like, your average attainment is like 90 to 100% so the team is always winning. And my recipe that I've been testing for the past year, year and a half is an allbound motion, which is where you're not thinking sales is here. Well, it used to be, I'll be honest with you, it used to be like inbound versus outbound, partnerships kind of over here somewhere. It was like an assembly line and it's like, this happens and this happens and this happens. The kind of predictable revenue model from like 20 years ago, that is dead, it's dead, it's dead.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, please kill it. Like, yeah, I was just gonna say like, it's dead, guys. I'm sorry, that day is gone. It's no longer an assembly night. It's no longer robots just working on the factory. Like, thank you for bringing it up.
Alex Olley: Yeah, the assembly line is… it's over. And I still speak to people who are like, this happens, then this happens, then this happens, this happens. That's not how buyers buy. And that's the point. So in allbound motion is where you knit everything together as one team. All right. And you literally wrap one target, which is revenue. So marketing has a revenue target. Partnerships has a revenue target. Sales has a revenue target. And guess what? The same target is the same for everyone. Okay. So it's a team target and you start to think about, and the way I design it is by segment: enterprise mid-market commercial. We do have an emerging market too. And then you kind of use the, I use the Winning by Design bowtie. And so you think about the stages of a buyer journey and how you align your resources across your different teams with revenue in mind as to what those teams should be doing collectively together and try and overlap as much as possible. So rather than the assembly line, which is one thing happens, then the next thing happens, the next thing happens. It's how many teams, how many of these teams can we get working together at that same stage of the buyer journey to collaborate and ensure that people can move through the buyer journey. And buyer journeys aren't linear, right? It's not just like one way, they can move backwards and forwards, left, right. I'm sure you know this better than anyone else. And so in allbound motion, this is really focused on that. And so next thing you know, we're not putting up forms within our marketing team to try and capture leads, but we're looking at intent data and how we can use BDRs to capture that demand. Right. Let me give you, let me give you an example. Before, in the old days, marketing would put forms on the website. You want to download this blog post? You need to enter your details. That's lead gen, right? Even now, recently it happens. You want to download a playbook on something. Let me try and capture your information. Once you've got that, we'll score you, then we hand it over to someone else. That's the assembly line. Take the form away. I want to show someone that we've been doing these campaigns and we've been inviting people to these events, trying to warm people up, and now they're in a position where they want to buy. BDR then works with marketing to be able to identify the right people to go after proactively with the right message because they're showing that kind of behavior to be able to capture demand. Right. And it's the same with sales. We use a co-prospecting motion. So BDRs and AEs will both be going after accounts jointly together, not just like BDR tees it up and then I'll knock it down as an AE. Co-prospect together. AE goes top-down. BDR goes bottom-up, they jointly develop these plans where they can break into it and marketing is wrapped around that. That's an allbound motion that works really effectively by everyone working towards the same thing, because the BDR cares about revenue, the AU compares, cares about revenue, the marketer cares about revenue. And I mean, closed one revenue, I don't just mean qualified pipeline. And so it's like, it's an evolution of ABM that is just fusing the whole team.
Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah. So then… going to come to that because this comes up quite often. Obviously, just a little rep of all these good things that we're saying. The old always be closing mentality, it's kind of not working because that's not how... That's not because we say so or money is drained on VC or whatever. It's just because your buyers are not buying that way. So let's get that first. So your buyers want more autonomy, they want more availability, and they want to buy in their own terms. So not because you reach them at a certain point and you're chasing, but...They have all the information available, blah, blah. So that's that. Buyer is leading the way in the change. The other thing then becomes, so how do you approach this new situation? When you used to say, SDR, here's your weekly targets activities, that's how you reach things, just go and bless people's. AE, just get the leads and close, et cetera. Versus now you have a reality, you know what your product is, what it's good for, and there's a handful of accounts, or more hopefully for you maybe an account-based approach where you target those accounts in the right way in the right times is better. So there's a switch from that just mess, go out there and figure out to these are the accounts that are ideal for us as a team effort, including the founder, the head of sales who should talk to the head of sales or whatever. Let's try to make sure that we can help these accounts. Let's validate that first and then let's go after those accounts. That's kind of what we're switching to at Flowla now at Q1. I don't know how much of that resonates with you. You take your leave. Would you comment on any of that?
Alex Olley: May I take all of it? Like you're talking about one of my favorite things as well, which is team selling. This is, I still think this is underestimated, but I'm part of the team. I know when I need to jump into our allbound motion to be able to help because salespeople like, look, we're speaking to another CRO and we want you to get alignment there. So again, it's about trust and I'll jump on these calls and they'll be like, so we're looking into this, and this and say, ah, actually out of those five things, we're going to do four of them. Are you okay with that? Yeah, that fifth one is on the roadmap and actually next thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put you in touch with our products I had a product or our CSM or whoever it is ABX specialists you can talk to them because I remember I'm a sales guy I'm trying to show you that I'm here that we're taking you seriously I'm giving you the truth, but you need to speak to a specialist. And so when they speak to like the CSM who's gonna be looking after them because global coverage, you know for us, for example, global coverage is important They got burnt in the past because the provider they had didn't know what they were doing in Europe. And they speak to someone in the UK going, here's what I know about direct man and gifting in Europe that you should know about. They go, okay, I trust you. Now let's speak to the product person next. Show me the roadmap. Yeah, this thing that you asked for, it's not coming up right away, but if you can wait for four months, then it actually is on the roadmap. And here it is. That's where you're helping people make sure that they're not messing up. And this fear of messing up is the big thing that we need to solve. And so team selling is seen as inefficient, but I think it's the most efficient thing you can do. Because people are like, I remember explaining this to a board member two years ago. They're like, you're going to be jumping on sales calls that much? I'm like, if I need you, yes. If I need you, I will. Okay, well, wouldn't you rather be doing other stuff? No, no, no. If I'm not in the trenches and I don't know what's going on, I don't expect others to be. So to like orchestrate your team in a way that matches the way your buyers buy and look back through those, the opportunities, and say, where are the stages in our buying process, not sales cycle, our buyers process, where we think we can be as helpful as possible, and who are those people that can help? And that's where you win.
Alper Yurder: Okay, that's perfect. So I'll have two questions, which are kind of rapid-fire questions for you. One per leader, per closer, per leader. And then, you know, the sales rep who's in the trenches, who's trying to close. What are some of the missteps or mistakes that you observe and you want to tell, like you want to shout out the window, like stop doing these, guys? Do you have any of those? I can give you a second to think. I mean, I don't want to put you on the spot there, but.
Alex Olley: What are the things I think closers need to stop doing right now? I mean, the default thing, I've actually been looking into software myself recently. As I said, there are two things that I just feel like salespeople could respect themselves more by saying, as a good salesperson, you should know what the key criteria are for someone who's buying your product. If you don't know that, I don't know what you're doing, but like discovery, effective discovery is understanding their pains, whether you can actually solve them and how you uniquely link to those things, right? What I don't see, I don't see enough good discovery just in general, by the way. I just don't. I think I see discovery as being a workout, by the way. You should go, you should come out with discovery core feeling like you've just been in the gym. Right. It should not be easy. Like I've only ever met one guy who does discovery really, really well, but reps need to focus more on discovery and actually understanding the root cause of the problem, not the surface level of like, Oh, what are you looking at in a provider? Right. They don't go to the root cause. Why is that important to you?
Alper Yurder: Yeah. Therapy guys, be a therapist, don't be a seller, be a therapist.
Alex Olley: One of my favorite questions to ask… Be a therapist, be a therapist. One of my favorite questions to ask is once you understand the high-level pain, ask this very simple question. What are the ripple effects of that within your organization and how does it impact you? What are the ripple effects of that in your organization and how does it affect you? Not tell me the impact of that. That's the question you should ask. What's the impact? What are the ripple effects? When I ask that question people are like, well if we don't solve this, this is what's gonna happen. All right, what's the business impact there? Here's what's gonna happen. Can you quantify that for me? I can, yes. Let's put that, and that's where you build a mutual business case. Now tell me how it's gonna affect you. We forget about this. You've got a buyer who's probably spending a lot of their time doing something because it's gonna impact them. What it mean for you, honestly, if you could solve this, they might list a million things. Okay, that's your motivation. That's how you build champions. So I think sellers need to be doing more of that. And linked to that, it still blows my mind because my CRO used to ask me to do this all the time. This phenomenal guy called TGA, he taught me a lot. Qualify out. It's almost like we're trying to just sell to everyone. But when you speak to someone, you go, you know, you should have a good qualification matrix or criteria that you know where your best buyers buy. I don't hear it enough, particularly with the calls I'm on. I haven't had one in… eight years where someone goes, hey Al, you know what, I don't think we can help you. Never had that. Not in eight years. I've never had that. They're like, I just don't hear it enough.
Alper Yurder: Oh, wow, really? That used to be my favorite. That used to be my favorite. Yeah, yeah, I don't think we can help you. Maybe you should go after these guys. But don't leave it at that, though. Like, I don't think I can help you. Maybe this guy can help you or maybe can I make a connection for you? Then you are the real advisor. Like then you are the man they want to be friends with. I can't help you, but I can fix you up for the solution. You know, I think that's the cherry on the top.
Alex Olley: Yeah, I don't think we can help you. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And they might come back to you. They might come back to you six months later and say, actually, this is a big problem for us. And we want to buy from you because I trust you. Trust. I keep saying that word. Just whoever's listening, trust is the important thing. Those are… those are my two big things.
Alper Yurder: Exactly. Yeah. Okay. And one for the leaders, let's say we talked about quota attainment, for example, one thing that I used to observe in all the places I worked before, or I tried to do was assign territories, assign quota as fairly, as objectively as possible, because a lot of things goes into that and territory assignment and quotas just, just throwing things top down at people that sometimes really terrible and then it will create friction even between teams and et cetera. Do you have any best practices for planning the years about how to assign quotas to people, about your territory planning, like what are the things you pay attention to?
Alex Olley: Quotas quotas really simple. I'm still mind-blown by companies have these crazy high quotas that seem to go up every year There's very easy calculation for leaders to be able to calculate quota by the way It's it's pretty simple. You look at base salary and OTE You look at a multiple on the two for attainment. So you need to let's say a rep is on 100k base They got 100k commissions. They're on 200k OTE, right and that they're their quota is 800k, you've got a 4x multiple, right? That means you're getting a four back payback on that rep. Okay, but here's the problem. People look at that in isolation. They then don't measure that against attainment historically by segment. They don't say, well, actually, people are only hitting 600k and what they do and they make the big mistake, you're going, let's put more quota in and then it compounds. It blows my mind. It's like, sorry, you've got a 60% attainment on that full quota. It's already inflated. You want to put more in because you think that's what's going to drive you hitting your plan. What's a good payback? And what you should then look at, and this we're going to unit economics and like the real CRO stuff. If you then look at like from that segment, same segment, say it's enterprise, what's the lifetime value and payback period of winning a customer like that? Because that should be what actually helps you course correct on your quota because sales is all about the lifetime value of the customer. It's not about winning the customer and logo acquisition. Then you should match against that your dollar acquisition. And then you should be able to say, here's what the quota should really be. What people do is they just do step one. They go, here's quota, let's put more in. They don't look at lifetime value and like dollar acquisition and they don't fold unit economics on top to say, actually, I can justify bringing it down because for every deal that we win in this segment, we have, they stay with us for five years. So why wouldn't I make it easier for us and then actually take the pressure off? Because it's more expensive to hire more people to fail and to have to fire them than to have an easier achievable quota with customers that are going to stay. And usually that's driven by board-level conversations. That's my experience anyway.
Alper Yurder: Yeah. Yeah, obviously. I mean, all of this comes down, obviously. Like the economic situation that we're in is also down. Anyway, we talked about a lot of good stuff there. I don't know if we covered everything we wanted to, but as we're coming to the end of our time, anything that we're missing, anything that you want to definitely emphasize on this call.
Alex Olley: Look, it's the same thing that I say all the time. Sales, it's not difficult, it's hard. It really is, that's nothing new. I think I love what you're doing because as somebody who's been in sales for long enough, I know that it's easy for me to say it's hard, but I've had my battles with the mental strains that sales puts on you. You can only do the best that you can do with what you're given at this moment in time. I when I say that to people, they're like, are you doing your best? Are you doing your best? I set expectations in terms of what people should be doing. And we always go through it. Did you do all these things? No, I didn't. You're not doing your best then man. So why? Why put this additional pressure on yourself? So much you'll meet your expectations, you are doing your best with what you're given at this moment in time. You're gonna look after your mental state as best as possible and remind yourself that you're not your job. You are not your job. We seem to take this too seriously. It's like we are our job and we need to put things on social media. LinkedIn is full of like all this amazing stuff that happens. It's not full of people saying, I'm really struggling. This is really hard. I'm not happy. So my advice to people is ignore what happens on these social media platforms because it can usually lead you to feel quite distressed and undervalued. And focus more on your mental state and doing the best you can. You'll probably enjoy your time in sales a lot more.
Alper Yurder: Love it. So now Alex, our time is over and I need to cut it on the clock just like any good therapist would. That's a wrap on this episode of Sales Therapy. If you enjoy the show, subscribe and listen to us in all the different channels. I thank very much my dear guest, Alex Oli, who threw so much gold at us today. Thanks for being here today and let's keep the conversation, Alex.
Alex Olley: Mate, pleasure, thanks for having me.
Alper Yurder: Excellent.