The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 7 months ago

Ep 146: From Sales Led to Product Led Growth w/ Samir Smajic, CEO GetAccept


Ep 146: From Sales Led to Product Led Growth w/ Samir Smajic, CEO GetAccept 

Part of the TGIM (Thank God It's Monday!) series hosted by Tom Alaimo.

Thank God it's monday. Welcome back to the Pavilion podcast where we break down the tips, the tricks, the tactics that you need to be a successful revenue leader. I'm Tom Lehman. I'm your host today. Excited to get into this conversation with Samir. It's magic. Who is the ceo of get Except we had a great conversation about his entrepreneurship journey, some of the stuff that they're doing in the sales space, what he foresees in the sales tax space, and we also spend some time talking about going from a sales led to a marketing lead to a product led growth company and P. L. G. Is all the rage. I hear it come up on conversations every single week, whether it's the podcast or sales conversation. So if that's your mode and you're trying to get into that world, I think there's a lot that you can learn from Samir. So before we get to that full conversation, let's get a quick word from our sponsor. This episode is brought to you by Sandoz. So send also, the leading sending platform is the most effective way for revenue generating teams to stand out with new ways to engage at strategic points throughout the customer journey by connecting digital physical strategies companies can engage, acquire and retain customers easier than ever before. Now, let's get straight into our episode. Alright, Samir Spike, Good evening to you. Welcome to the Pavilion podcast, how'd I do on your name. Perfect. Perfect. Hello everyone and nice to be here today. Yeah, excited to have you on. I'm pretty confident in my four years of podcasting. My first guest in Sweden. So there you go. We're already breaking breaking records as we're kicking this thing off. Yeah, happy to be the first one. Happy to be the first one. I love it. So we've got a lot of ground to cover today. You know, you're obviously running get except started the company about six years ago, curious just if you take me back to what you were doing back then, I think you were ahead of products at a start up before that. What did you see in the market? Like what was the impetus to start get except back then? Yeah, so I was head of a product at the crm company here in the nordics was a little bit uh like working very close to sales reps on that product and doing a lot of meetings with them. I really thought that doing sales was being done in such an old fashioned way. So when I started get accepted the team that I started with, we said like we want to change how sales is being done, we knew what, how a good sales rep is, Like what they are doing and how they should be performing. And we wanted to see if can you do that in a new way in a more digital way. And that was back in 2015. So that was the whole part that that took us off the ground. We were sales reps ourselves in one way or another and we just wanted to make a big change in how sales was being performed in a more digital space. So that was how everything started and you went through y Combinator. Yeah exactly. So we pitched exactly in the nordics and we did didn't get any good response. People said like yeah we do understand what you're saying about this digital sales motion, but we want to beat our people, we want to be personal, we want to communicate, we want to engage face to face and again this is 2015. So we thought like okay maybe are we are wrong on this, this whole idea. And we thought that that U. S. Is a little bit ahead of time when it comes to sales tools. So we went over, we felt that we got a little bit more traction pitching to different people. We were actually collision conference in Vegas in early 2015 and said if we can get 100 business cards, who said that they are interested in this this product, then we'll do something. And then we got that and we said like how to start something in us. And then we found out about Y Combinator applied and they really got the whole motion that we wanted to do move it in a digital space,... able to communicate and still be a good sales rep. But in an online motion. And uh yeah we've got into y Combinator in 2016 Winter January. Yeah. And there's so much lower about Y. C. And so much mystique. I feel like what was one of your big takeaways from that experience? I mean yeah it's it's really it's like a closed community in many ways. And what's really good is that when you join it you're always a part of that community. So you always have like a yeah way into more or less any company in the US. It feels like sometimes. So that's really good. The big takeaways is nothing new to be honest. Like it's all about building what people really want or what your customers want. So that is something that you get trained in and and that you get questioning a lot of time. I think many entrepreneurs they often can let an idea go. They think it's so good for themselves but they forget to ask the customers. So that was something that we really took with us to always test ideas early towards customers. And and if they don't work then we'll we'll try something else. So that is something that we still are doing and get except always trying to release early on features not like totally full built out often called an M. V. P. And yeah try to get feedback. So that was some of the things that we took with us. But also in the end that yeah Y. C. Is much about the team. So if you want to get in there, figure out what is the best team the good thing would get except is was not four different developers that came together because they were friends. It was actually one being very good on product, that was me, it was one being very good on the commercial side, which was Mattias and one being very good on on the developer side, which was Jonas, and then we also had Carl who was on the sales side. So we have like a good setup and this is something that we always try to figure out growing get except now like how to put together a good team and be very peaking in our recruiting. And now in the these days where 150 employees each, but I'm still available and and uh involved in many of the recruitments and trying to figure out is this a good culture fit, is it a good for this position? Can they be with us for not just one week or or one year, but actually grow us to be something different going forward? And that's also something that we got from y Combinator to to always try to figure out who can help you to take the next step to hire for the next step, not for where you are today. So is that something that you try to find based on their past experiences in a set of questions you ask because you're let's say you're in a current revenue mode or current, you know, kind of talk key focus area and you know that in a year from now, the goal is to be you know, x you know, whatever it is, are you finding people that have that background that they worked at companies that might be a little larger than you or you know, a little further on the path? Or there are questions that you ask that that kind of get some of that out as well. No, but it's it's tricky. I mean and it's one thing also you don't want to pay for someone who maybe want to sit and be very strategic but also be hands on. So it's really hard to find those gems there. But we try to figure out like what do we need in maybe half a year and one year ahead and what are the biggest challenges and figure out like what kind of criteria then is put on that person. And of course one can be like that they have seen the movie before, but that can also be a big obstacle because maybe we are trying to do something totally different that has not been done before. And then maybe it's more important about finding people that has the passion that has the eager to learn and to do new things and to be able to test things then actually finding someone that just replicate an old motion. So there's no like perfect like Yeah, questionnaire that you can just run. But I think everything also in our organization at least come back to the culture were very culture driven. Much...

...of our investors also say that it's one of the most amazing cultures that we've seen in different companies. Everyone is helpful. Everyone wants to move towards the same direction as a team and everyone puts the company first. I think finding those things in different persons is maybe one of the most important parts that we look for hiring. How have you helped to shape that? Especially it looks like you might be back in the office or maybe partially back in the office now post covid. But curious how are you shaping the culture and keeping it intact and keeping it growing while everyone was remote and everything was kind of shut down. Yeah, yeah. But I think it started earlier than that because when we were four founders, we put up key core values, uh, not on the wall, but we discussed them. It was quite awkward in a way because it was us four founders and like discussing what's the key core values etcetera. And we're like, but should we really do this, don't we have better things to do. But we did that. And even when we were seven persons in total, we put in a tool where we could measure the temperature, the people temperature of the company? Not because we needed, because we could talk to each other around the table because that was a part of how we wanted to grow. So when we were 20 people, we start to notice that this is really important and then we all understood what is good. You could, for example, in that tool then say, hey, I'm feeling like this. Maybe that's something that you don't want to say loud around the table, but you can send it enormously in that in that tool. And you can also describe why are you feeling like this? So that was one way of how we created so that everyone can feel open and in one way or another round this tool and say what's working, what isn't working so that we always could, yeah, steer the ship towards the right direction and put in the right things ahead of time to really funnel the culture that we wanted to be instead of like figuring it out too late. And then it was so much broken that figuring it out maybe. Yeah, I would just take too much time and then it's nothing that you can maybe handle. I think it was that early. And then when covid came, it was so natural for us to move home and, and because we just continue to use that tool, but also having those same meetings, having the meeting structure as we had before with responsibilities of of how to run meetings and everything was figured out already before going on on that covid home office situation. So we didn't do too much different to be honest. I feel like when companies pick their values or their principles and they put them on the wall or on the site, I can go one of two ways I can go the way that you said and it like helps you to find the right people and build it up and if you're very authentic about it, I think it can really create a great experience or if it is just words on the wall and that's it. It can, you know, be a detriment. What are those, what are the four values and 11 thing there on on the wall, we don't have them on the wall. I often say that the companies who have them on the wall is the one who doesn't live them because you just want them up there just want them done. So you paint them up on the wall. No, but we have five. It's uh and we have it around do tech. So one is do more with less. So it's all about figuring out how to get shit done without asking for all money. You can have in the world are all resource or whatever it can be. The other one is team wins. So not teamwork because everyone can work in a team, but if you want to win as a team is a total different thing, then you need to have the same goal and you need to align around them and you need to steer the ship towards that direction together and then now you put me then it's uh do tag putting you on the spot. Yeah, exactly. Then it's a passion by heart. It's like run the company as you are a founder and take decisions around that, like not around your own, how you will develop as an as... employee or oh it's all about me, me, me and how I will develop but run the company as you are and founder and I mean all those ones and how how to live them is not by putting them on the wall is about communicating. But then also one thing that I think it's hard for many people is questioning when people don't do the right thing and faces the ones that are doing the right things and that's things that we for example doing that tool. So we can say, hey Samir you get kudos because you did X. Y said and I give you the team win kudos so that everyone can understand, oh someone who does that is doing the right thing and you're allowed to question someone who doesn't because it's very clear like not by writing policies, but actually that everyone can say, hey that wasn't okay because that maybe don't help this team to take the next step. So we have that respect in the team because yeah, it's it's all about like understanding what's right and what isn't. So I think that's a better thing to, to discuss and being transparent and being open about how to use these core values in the day to day motion instead of just putting them on the wall. I love it. I want to pivot to product led growth which I feel like if you checked the amount of google searches or the amount of times it's brought up on a blogger, a podcast in the last you know six months it's skyrocketed but we're talking pre show the folks started as a sales growth company evolved to marketing growth and now our products led growth some curious, you can tell me a little bit about the evolution of that, forget except yeah, we've done the opposite way. No, but we when we started to get except we actually said this is the perfect viral product like it has a viral itty built in because everyone using get except is exposing others to get except by sharing and opening up sales deals rooms and sharing content in there and then we get sign ups from that but we also knew that we, as founders were very sales driven. I have been working with sales before the other ones have even the developer have been doing his calls so we said like but this is this is something that we can get moving very quickly by just doing what we know we can do very well being hammering that phone, getting a little bit of inbound and converting. So that was how we got started and, and that actually flew very well. We even hired and and got the sails set up that was really efficient on and we could close like even smaller deals very quickly. But then we figured out and we knew that that it's a cap thing and if you want to scale more, you need to hire more and need to hire more. So we said like we need to move over to a more inbound driven model in that time we had like maybe five out of 20 deals that you got in per rep was inbound back then when, when we got up and now it's 70 to 75% and that was a motion where we hired a new CMO and that was someone who has done the CMO work before, who had leadership skills but maybe not in the sauce world, but she knew how to build a team, how to get in the right talent and I think that was important more than having one has been running sauce And scaling those kind of businesses because we knew that we needed a team. So that was the first motion and like six months later we had almost like 4050% on inbound by creating content by talking in the right forums but by just rebuilding and rephrasing how we pitched that product on the web and most of that is actually direct also by building brand and as we now approach the product lead, we came to party in the in the journey, we'll figure out like, okay, even the inbound has, has its flaws in the long run now we need to run paid maybe two to get to the next step. So how can we get this even scalable in the future? And since we had this very viral part, we say like, okay, but how can get except use...

...this viral part in a very good way to generate even more inbound a brand awareness and right now we're focusing a lot on that part and how to build a very flawless and delightful tool that you can start using Yeah, self serve. The time to value should be in in a couple of seconds after your sign up more or less and that's where we're moving now to Yeah, be able to grow in the future. We just released also freemium so you can run get accept fully for free. That was a little bit of a hassle of course because you have sales reps who want to sell but now we have a freemium blocking them But also like we've been talking about product, Let's in day one. Even internally. So I think everyone was a bit ready for this move. So I think even if they are blocked, they do understand that it's okay because the freemen customers will become Peaky Els will become engaged about product and when I then contact them, they're already ready to to buy if they already haven't bought get except so I think in the long run everyone understands that that part. So that is how how our journey was to like becoming more P. L. G. Driven. So that's great. I'm curious how did you or how are you working with the sales or right, who was used to you know, hunting and you know, banging the phones and driving all the outbound and now in P. L. G. It's not that you don't need sales teams, it just is a different motion and it might even create a more strategic opportunity, right? If you see a an account as you know, has a lot of end users that are starting to get sticky within the product and it might open up a larger conversation. So I'm curious how do you change the sales teams mindset from, you know, now that you're doing more of like the freemium model and things like that. We're still in the early phase of Freeman was released in May, but what we're trying to do is ah just put some, not restrictions but we we have like a certain self service group of prospects and leads that come are coming in that we now say like, ok, but these are not empty shells, they're not sales qualify themselves and you are not allowed more or less to touch them. That was people that we may be did touch and closed like on one cold before. So even if it was like, it could sound like, but how can you close something with the $2000 a CV and be efficient? We could, so now maybe we're leaving little bit of that money on the table which is cumbersome for some sales rep because they need to hit their quota, but we're also trying to figure out like, okay, but if we leave them here, can we wait for three or six months and they convert by themselves and you then focus on the bigger ones, as you said, the ones that now have maybe five accounts or five users and they are running on the free but can't really get to the next step and maybe have a more educational approach than a sales approach. So that is how we're trying to educate our own sales reps on how to do this. But I also have to still say like there's still an outbound motion going on which we can now handle ourselves more, which we can steers more towards the right direction. So right now, we're also trying to figure out how to do the outbound motion towards to another segment where we can maybe get and hire a CV on 10 to 15 to 20 K going forward instead of just focusing the sales reps on the inbound that actually are coming in so that we overall get a total total output. That is bigger. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like it's just a different skill set than a salesperson might need to learn. And in some ways it can be actually maybe even a more fun sale right? Because you're not, you know, trying to knock down maybe a lot of velocity small deals, but you get to be more strategic and consultative and educate the prospect on what you're doing. So I like that. Yeah, I'm curious. I saw that you recently launched or or featured in Gardner around the digital sales room. Tell me...

...about that. Tell me about what that is. Yeah, it's fun because as I said there in 2015 this was actually what we pitched to y Combinator but pitching, pitching it to the crowd out there was more like ah you're a little bit earlier maybe and, and the timing wasn't perfect to be honest. But of course covid and working remote, working digital. Now when most of the sales reps actually sit behind the desk and facing a camera instead of a person. This came up as a big topic and we have been working closer to g to crowd to figure out this new way of doing deals and what is the tool actually call that you're that you need because to run a process from start conversation from an a to close contract. You need to do a lot of things, you need to communicate, you need to engage, you need to build trust, you need to be personal. And how do you do that through an email threat? It's impossible. And you can't meet because it's covid and now people are like used to this and they think this is quite efficient. I don't need to get on the bus or I don't need to take the train or the flight over there and it's quite, quite nice to sit there. So, but you still need to be all those things. So we're pitching like you need a room, a place where the sales will happen online in a more natural way where you still can communicate engage, understand the stakeholder structure and you do that through having this digital sales room where you start your journey, you share your first presentation, you continue to share your meeting notes in there, You're Yeah, white papers about why they should buy this, how you've helped other customers and in the end you come to proposal contract and then you get that sign. So it's all in one tool for the easy to handle the more online driven sales nowadays. Yeah, I I really like the idea because I feel like a lot, you know, some of the more joyful parts of sales, you know, I'm a sales rep right? And like a lot of the joyful parts of sales have been removed in the last year and a half of getting, I like getting on the plane and I like going out and and seeing customers and uh not only does it help you sell more, but it's just fun. And so I think the way that create that connection and find a way to do it digitally is a great idea because there's just, we all know there's something special about getting someone in the room and you know, whether it's in person or in this case digital versus going back and forth on email, right? Like about, you know, negotiating terms on a contract or something like that or then bring up your competitor and so creating a space where you can really connect with people digitally. I think it's a great idea and also understanding the stakeholder structure because now, often I think you talk to less people because it's an online meeting hey, but you can talk to joe he will, he will then run it with me. And I mean, and you lose that connection because if you were meeting them, then they were thinking like, okay, we need to bring the whole group in the room here and then you can meet with everyone. So, but my whole idea what this is like if you build up this room then the one that is a stakeholder maybe aren't there all the time, but in the end or maybe in the middle they can say like, but how is it going with that process buying X and you will go like, yeah, I'm actually in this phase. Hey, you can just enter the deal room here to get all the information, what it is. What's the pricing structure is, what the pitch is. What is the pains that we have discovered together with the sales rep and figure that out more or less yourself. And if you then enter that room being joe, I can, as I says, rep, see like it's someone new entering this digital sales room. Hey, maybe I can start the conversation suddenly. Maybe joe has a question, Hey, what about this pricing structure or what about these terms here? We need to figure this out in a better way and suddenly have a conversation with the guy or the girl that actually maybe take the decision, which you couldn't have if you're talking to someone else. I think that's also part of, of how to enable that part because everyone wants to have a joyful way of both buying and...

...selling. But it's quite a new joyful. I think in an email thread. Yeah. All sides would agree with that. Right. So I've got a few rapid fires to close this out with you. So first of all, a lot of folks join pavilion because there's opportunities to, you know, network and and grow personally. I'm curious what's your number one networking tips? I'm trying to use, to be honest, me being an investor world, I'm trying to use our investors to get connected to. As many people being ceos cmos people have seen the movie before to just have chats around different topics and by doing that I get the connection. So then when I need to ask something in the future I almost always have someone to turn my, turn my question towards. So I think if you are in the investor world, if you can get that like yeah, connection to different people that that's a good way of doing it. I think I love it. What is a book that has changed your life for your perspective or that you found very helpful And it could be really any, any topic is this fair game or it could be just the most recent book you've read if if that's too big of a question, good question. I'm not a big of a book reader, but I've been following, I mean this is my first company that I created or started and and I've been following the inbound or the hubspot people a lot. I think for example, both brian and Dermish have a lot of really good plug posts on how to run companies, how to think about culture in the company, how to think about product and releasing things. So I think that is where I picked up or got some really good inspiration of how to do things and get except you know what would be one tip that you give to someone that was just starting as a first time founder surround yourself with people who can contribute with different things that you can't like, that, that brings a new nuance or a new like not experienced but new way of doing things that you can't do yourself because I think that's the hardest thing that you forget because it's so easy to just take someone that you know that is quite similar to you and that you can talk your talk to and often you forget about yeah, then you will just do what you would have done yourself so maybe find someone that is different in a way but that you still can of course discuss and and toxic. I love it. Last question for you, what what's one person that could be a friend, it could be someone you look up to that you connect with that you think would be a great guest for this podcast? Oh, I think, I think good question, we're putting you on the spot here. So yeah, exactly, exactly. No, but I think there is a really good guy here in Sweden called on Winning temp called that I think should be on the call, He's run a really amazing company is actually that tool that we use to measure the people temperature. So I think that that guy could be a good person because he's been building a very solid and nice growing company. I love it. I think every leader or business owner wants to know the temperature of their people. So I love that. So first of all, thank you for your time this afternoon and free wisdom. I really appreciate it. And love the conversation before I let you go. What's the best place for folks to connect with you if it's linked in or learn about get accept or if it's your email or a company site, whatever is the best for you. What's the best place for folks? Get in touch? No, but I think as usual linked in is a good way to connect and build something beautiful there on the network. So that's an easy and good way to connect with me if you want to learn and try and get except out. I think the web page is the best way of doing it. And as I said, it's fully free. So uh yeah, just just get up and running. I love it...

...that time to value in in seconds. Yeah, that's that's what we're chasing. We're not there yet, but hopefully soon. I love it. Thanks so much to me. I appreciate you coming on. Thank you so much. All right, thanks for checking out that episode. All podcasts in october are going to be brought to you by the lovely people at Sandoz. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts and other physical impressions that make your outreach more personal. I'll be back next monday with another episode Until then feel free to hit me up on linkedin. My name is Tom Alamo and go out and get after it. Peace. Say something. Mhm.

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