The Scaling Journey from 0 to $5 Million at a SaaS Startup With Stuart Dale, VP of Revenue, at Screenloop
In this episode of the Revenue Insights Podcast, host Lee Bierton is joined by Stuart Dale, VP of Revenue at Screenloop. They discuss the roadmap for taking a SaaS startup from zero revenue to $1 million and from $1 million to $5 million and beyond. They also discuss the type of talent required at each milestone of scaling.
Stuart Dale is the VP of Revenue at Screenloop, a startup SaaS company focusing on analytics and hiring intelligence during talent acquisition. He is a GTM leader with over ten years of experience in building, scaling, and transforming SaaS GTM teams in New York and London. Stuart’s previous stint was as VP of Sales and Client Service at Yieldify, where he headed the US office for five years. He specializes in turning startups into high-performing and multi-million dollar businesses with triple-digit revenue growth while delivering industry-leading performance metrics.
00:42 – 02:13- Stuart’s Story
03:26 – 04:31- The essentials necessary to build from $0m – $1m
04:49 – 06:40 – The tech foundation for building a SaaS
06:58 – 08:17 – How Screenloop is building its revenue team to hit $1m
08:34 – 09:41 – How to build sales playbooks when you are at less than $1m ARR
09:58 – 10:32 – Aligning Marketing with an SDR Approach
11:08 – 18:09 – Essential traits when hiring salespeople at different ARR brackets
18:41 – 20:34 – How to retain exceptional salespeople as you grow
21:06 – 22:49 – Traits to look for after you reach $5m ARR
23:23 – 25:23 – Lessons for sales planning during seed rounds of funding
26:03 – 28:10 – Why agility and flexibility are crucial for sales planning
28:53 – 31:06 – Why development and financial incentives are equally important for salespeople
32:13 – 35:43 – The importance of being realistic about your GTM plan
36:13 – 40:55- Difference in selling US vs. UK
41:11 – 44:04 – Book Recommendation: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
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Stuart: One of the things that’s important is that when there’s this whole concept around diversity of mind and it’s important that when you’re going through that growth, which we’re now in a different phase of where we were at the start of the year, that we don’t just keep bringing in the same type of person. So actually one of our most recent hires is somebody that has a high level of structure because we know that we’ve got maybe more people that are used to kind of finding a way to make it work.
Lee: Welcome to Revenue Insights. Every week we’ll be joined by revenue leaders from some of the most successful and highest growing companies. Together we explore how they built their revenue teams, the journeys that they’ve been on, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Revenue Insights is brought to you by Ebsta we’re a revenue intelligence platform designed to help revenue teams to build more pipeline, close more deals and retain more customers. Hello and welcome to the Revenue Insights podcast for this week. Today I’m joined by Stuart Dale. He’s the VP of Revenue at Screenloop. He spent over the last ten years building, scaling and transforming SaaS go to market teams and he previously did this over at Yieldify. Stuart, it’s my pleasure to chat to you today.
Stuart: Great to speak, Lee, thanks for letting me on.
Lee: No problem at all. I’ve given you a bit of an intro there, but I’d love to know, in your own words, what your story is, your background and what brings you to Screenloop today.
Stuart :Yes. So I was born in Glasgow and had always an entrepreneurial background. Started when I was about twelve years old, set up an events company, had over, I think about 200,000 customers over a five year window and decided to then go to university. And off I went, not really knowing what I wanted to do, and I set up a tech company that, you know, on reflection, was very kind of basic in what we’re trying to accomplish because I guess I didn’t know at that stage. And once I decided to close that down, I went into the world sales, was selling coffee machines of all things, and then found my way to the world of SaaS when I was about 25 and joined Yieldify as an SDR, where I did incredibly well. Was the top performer. Got relocated to New York, which was meant to be for just a few weeks. Ended up being there for almost five years and was running the office. Turned into over 30 team members and we grew that business from one million to five million over two a year period and then relocated back to London to have my son and manage to join Screenloop which was actually founded by the same founder of Yieldify through a company called Blissgrowth. And that’s where I’ve been for the last twelve months.
Lee: Nice. And then just for the context actually of everyone listening. What does Screenloop do? And let’s see if you can get it in under 30 seconds.
Stuart: Yeah. Screenloop is a hiring intelligence platform. So we integrate directly with the applicant tracking systems that most companies are using to attract and push candidates through their process internally. And we believe that there are missing components on data, insights and learnings. And we try to bring that in to really ensure that you’re only hiring the best talent for the job in an efficient manner and also from a diverse background. So trying to remove a lot of the bias that unfortunately exists within hiring.
Lee: Awesome. That’s pretty good. Pretty good going. And so to take us and actually we’ll come back to that because I know that’s giving you some pretty interesting insights. But where I really want to start to dive into a little bit more, I know you’ve got a lot of experience, obviously, from Yieldify where you’ve gone up from being an STO all the way pretty much to senior level and taking a company from five to 10 million ARR. As we talked about beforehand, how are you taking some of the learnings from that and applying it to your new role now at Screenloop?
Stuart: Yeah, so Screenloop I joined with the revenue pretty much at $0 in ARR, and I wasn’t sure whether going from a business where there was playbooks and we had product market fit, whether going to a true startup was the right thing. On reflection, I’m really glad I did it because there are a lot of transferable learnings, like execution. A lot of the methodologies that we leveraged at Yieldify, we still implement here a lot of the technologies. But the big difference is that when you’re building from zero to one without having the product market fit, you have to be so agile. At Yieldify we may have waited a few weeks to make changes or to iterate. At Screenloop it’s done on a much more regular basis, not just on the marketing, the content, the SDR work, but as a revenue organization as a whole. The velocity of the pivots is certainly much, much higher.
Lee: And I’m really interested to know, you mentioned some of the methodologies that you brought across from Yieldify, some of the technologies. Can you perhaps speak to perhaps three kind of core foundational pieces that you brought into Screenloop to really get things up and running?
Stuart: Yeah, absolutely. So when, you know, when I spoke to a lot of startup founders, what they were saying is that they maybe weren’t investing as heavily in technology as early on as perhaps they should also. So as soon as I came over, we implemented Outreach, which was obviously for the sales automation. That was to really increase the velocity of the work that the SDRs could do, which was a team of four at that point. Secondly, we brought in the methodology surrounding sales deal progressions, which was Medic and making sure that we had a robust methodology in place to validate whether the pipeline that we’re identifying was actually going to close or whether it just simply wasn’t. And the third thing was I’ve always benefited greatly from outsource workers. So we’ve been working with an amazing team in Asia for about six or seven years from my time at Yieldify, and we brought them over very early on as well to give us some efficiencies with the work that the SDRs were doing not just in the contact sourcing, but also the operational work within Outreach, who were leveraging a very talented team in the Philippines for that.
Lee: Nice. Out of interest from a technology standpoint. Did that include a CRM?
Stuart: Yeah. So we were using HubSpot and we started using them for the sequences. And one of the first things I saw when I came over was just there was missing data that I was used to seeing when building Yieldify. And that then was one of the big catalysts to bring in Outreach and make that change very quickly to give us the insight that we needed to have a bit more predictability in the work that we were doing.
Lee: What’s the next step then, in terms of I know you’re on this journey to get to kind of one million. What are you working on at the minute that, let’s say, you’re particularly passionate about or excited about, that’s going to build on those foundations and really start to get you there?
Stuart: Yeah. So we grew from zero to half a million in around about six months, which was quick, and we did that predominantly with SDRs and one or two sales contributors, account executives, since really the half point of the year we invested into marketing, so we’ve gotten a director of marketing. We’ve also started building out the client services team, where we’re moving to more of an account management model to expand the existing accounts and clients that we have. And I think what I’m kind of most passionate about right now is really looking at what volume of sales qualified opportunities can we actually grow to? So we’ve been averaging around about seven or eight sales qualified opportunities per SDR. But we really want to know, can we maximize that somewhere between ten to twelve? And how many SDRs can we ultimately hire to actually be planned next year and be ahead of it? So we’re doing a lot of work right now on our time analysis on what our ICP One, ICP Two looks like, and really building a really clear plan to execute beyond one million by the end of the year and into between three and four million by the end of next year.
Lee: And it’s really interesting that you mentioned the time analysis. And is that something that you took from your time that, Yieldify, that you found a really integral part of deploying the strategy?
Stuart: Yeah. So as part of the journey, at Yieldify. Around about 30% of the net new revenue that we drove was driven by existing clients. And the minute we had 50 clients at Screenloop, there was an identified opportunity to look within. So that was brought over straight away to say, right, how did we execute on that? What was the playbook that actually won? And that I think is going to make a big difference to where we end this year on a revenue number. And it’s also much more efficient than hiring additional AEs if we can do that within the existing team. And I think ultimately the growth that we’re anticipating from marketing and the sales qualified opportunities that they will bring was again, what we saw at Yieldify. It was events, it was direct mail, it was kind of heavily personalized strategies to attract our tier one accounts because we know that there’s a large proportion of the overall revenue that exists sitting within probably about 20% to 30% of accounts out of everything that we’re looking at.
Lee: And I’m going to make a sweeping assumption, but as you now bring in you as a director of marketing, I’m assuming that the role then of marketing is going to be very much aligned with the SDR approach in terms of the accounts that you’re going after.
Stuart: Yeah, exactly. So we try to be kind of laser focused on that. We’ve been running one or two events each month in London which are in person events to bring the businesses that we’re looking to work with together. And certainly marketing sits directly with the SDR team. I mean, we’re fortunate, it’s a relatively small office but they’re really close together to make sure that what we’re working on with our outbound approaches is kind of mirrored in our digital and online approach with our clients as well and prospects ultimately too.
Lee: Something that on that note of hiring and obviously it’s kind of a specialty right, for Screenloop, and something that we’re talking about beforehand is the different type of people that you need at different stages of your business and the kind of traits that you’re looking for. So I think probably particularly looking through the lens of sales and perhaps you can split this by SDRs or perhaps it’s the same. What kind of traits are you looking for people, looking in people when you’re hiring them at the, let’s say zero to one stage and then the five to ten stage?
Stuart: Yes. So if we start with the SDRs, there’s an awareness within hiring typically on IQ, you know, like people have the intellect to do the job. There’s been people are typically aware of EQ, which is the emotional quotient and people can emotionally aware and are they able to be fair with their teammates and part of the team. The third one, which is a AQ, which is the adversity quote, means what is your grit and determination? Like, how deep can you dig when things get really, really hard? And when we were looking at the structure of the team that we wanted within Screenloop, the AQ the adversity quotient had to be much, much higher than what I typically hired for because ultimately a startup of when you’re building from zero to one for quite a few weeks. Quite a few months, actually, three or four months. Nobody had hit the sales qualified opportunity target. It was this milestone that nobody had hit. And for a lot of people that’s daunting to the point that people want to leave the organization because it’s an impossible target, whereas people that have got a high level of grit and determination see as a milestone that they ultimately can strive for and be the first person to hit. So that was really important for us that we had a high level of grit within the team. We also were looking for people that had shown some sort of entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. So for example, one of our SDRs had set up, she used to produce beats through university to sell to artists and another one has actually built a fairly decent sized, car like improvement enhancement business. So they’ve got that hustle in them and that was actually a very direct decision that we made to hire that type of individual.
Lee: Well, I’m really interested by IQ and EQ I think I’m so familiar with, and I’m guessing that the audience probably are as well. I think it’s pretty well covered like the type of things that you can do to look for those particular qualities. AQ I’ve not come across before and I’m really interested to actually cover that. How do you look for AQ when you’re interviewing? What stands out.
Stuart: Yes, the reason that we hire the best people and I don’t know if I can tell you, but of course I will. The thing with adversity quotient is that you’re not looking to somebody demonstrate grit on a phone call. You’re trying to understand like in their journey have they shown a need to kind of get up when things have been tough? So, a really simple example is like, did you fail first year at university and then come back around and thrive to get whatever grade you actually wanted to get? How many times did you get rejected when you went for your first ever job before you actually got it and how were you made to feel? And I think ultimately with Adversity Quotient, you’re looking for somebody that sees every challenge in their journey as part of a building block to where they’re going in their life. So something for me that’s a nonnegotiable when hiring is that I never want people to be rude or detrimental to where they have come from, whatever their past employment was. For somebody, in my perspective, with very high EQ, they just see everything as part of their journey that they’ve grown and they’ve developed and they’ve become better off the back of it. And that’s like two or three simple ways to identify it. The other really simple one is that I think a lot of businesses make the mistake that they really over glamorize the role that somebody’s coming into. And probably, in my experience, I’ve been guilty of that as well at certain points, pretending that everything is amazing and everything is really well defined and targets are always getting hit and everybody’s on plan. Which, truthfully, for probably 80% to 90% of businesses is just not the case. And for adversity quotient, a really simple thing to do is when you’re probably at the second or third stage of the process is just be completely honest as to where the business is at. Where is the team? Where is the top performers? Where’s the weakest performers? What is the business doing well? What could they be better at? And you can really quickly pick up from somebody whether they take that as I don’t want to go there, which by the way is absolutely fine because it saves them a lot of pain as well as you a lot of pain. Or people with typically a very high level of EQ are looking at it like oh, I know I can be part of this journey and I know that’s what I’m looking for and just because I missed target one month doesn’t mean I’m not going to head in the next month. And that’s something that we very proactively do here, certainly more so than Yieldify, where it’s a little bit more well, kind of defined that PR was probably higher here. We’re very honest with people like what their journey will look like and the ups and downs that come with joining, truly, a startup on their initial phase of growth.
Lee: Yeah, I really like the transparency that you’re bringing in. I guess add to it, it’s very much the difference between not only them being the right fit for the role that you’ve got, but also you being the right fit for them. Particularly in the early stages as I can attest to as well, it’s never easy and actually bringing in people that like structure and process being in place and you’ve got order and where you’re kind of slotting in is very different to what it can be like, which I think you use the right word, like hustle kind of culture, which suits some people and then very much alienate other people as well.
Stuart: Yeah, I was just going to add one of the things that’s important is that there’s this whole concept around diversity of mind. And it’s important that when you’re going through that growth, which we are now in a different phase of where we were at the start of the year, that we don’t just keep bringing in the same type of person. So actually one of our most recent hires is somebody that has a high level of structure because we know that we’ve got maybe more people that are used to kind of finding a way to make it work. So actually we want to make sure that we’re being mindful and bringing in people that can actually collaborate and learn from each other in a way that will be the best for the business. Because ultimately we’re now hiring for people to take us from one million to five million that we need to have that diversity within the team.
Lee: Yeah, it’s a really good point, actually. And it kind of brings me on to where I was going to go with it, is how do you then start to also start to move them over and also start to evolve them as the business grows? You’re obviously moving to a point where you get to obviously be you guys once you hit one million and then it’s beyond. So what traits are you then looking for between five to 10 million? And I guess the second part of that is how are you then taking the original people on that journey to that stage?
Stuart: Yeah, so we’re very fortunate. Our founders are mainly all from some of the biggest unicorns in the world, whether it’s Revolut or Stack Overflow, for example. So therefore we have an infrastructure within the leadership team where the predictability is there. So there’s people that perhaps more agile can learn from and there’s training in place to try and coach and develop people to that point. Now, the beauty of tech and startups is that I’m not an overly, for example, building from say, 50 to 100 million probably doesn’t interest me as much as building from zero to ten. And if that’s the case for other team members, then there’s a wealth of opportunities within the business where they can still leverage that freedom. Maybe they could open up an office, maybe they go into a new role. Maybe they take on a sub-vertical that we’ve never challenged before to keep people playing to their strengths. And I read this book that really summarized it perfectly, that through school you’re typically spending most time on the subjects in the areas that you’re weakest at. That, really your worst traits and you’re trying to go from a C to a B-. And certainly for me, that was like the approach that the school was in university. And what I tried to do as a leader is take people that are A’s at what they like doing and that can be across anything and make them absolutely exceptional at. It typically is really, really well received because you’re really playing to the strengths and especially if it’s like a conscious decision to take them there. It’s quite a phenomenal kind of set of outputs that you get from the individuals if you can guide them and if it’s right for them. Of course.
Lee: Yeah. And I think that’s absolutely the right way to approach it. So what would you say that when you get there, say, for example, one of your previous team has gone and opened a new office, perhaps over in the US, for example, and they’re going through the same process of building their own team, right?
Lee: What traits are you looking for then, at that stage of the business? Are you focusing as much on the AQ now, or leaning more towards the EQ?
Stuart: Yes, it’s actually been talked about quite a lot now that one of the challenges for exceptional individual contributors is that they’re quite often forced on this journey of management and leadership. And something that I’m very focused on is being really open that becoming a manager or leader is not for everybody. And I had no idea when I got promoted to Head of Sales and then VP of Sales and Client Services, I really didn’t know whether that was ultimately what I wanted. I was put into the environment and fortunately, I thrived. So we want to be very open that, that isn’t necessarily the right thing for everybody. If people do choose to go down that route, then what’s really important is that there’s training and guidance and infrastructure in place to coach people and to take them from an individual contributor that’s done really, really well to a manager and then ultimately to a leader. And for me, typically what I’ve seen, the most important traits. I think it swings more to EQ and IQ at that stage where you’re looking for somebody that can really understand people but also operate with a high level of intellect because they need to decide what lever to pull, they need to know what journey to take, what battle to fight. Because basically any business there’s a million things you can do. But you have to be kind of laser focused on what is going to make the difference. So I think they’ve become slightly more important while still, of course, you need EQ because being a leader is also very challenging as part of the journey.
Lee: Nice. I want to stay on the theme of the difference between zero to one and five to ten actually change up a little bit in terms of obviously, given the time of year, we’re in November at the time that we’re recording this. Annual sales planning, really big part of preparing for the new year. And I’m curious to know from you, actually, to begin with, what is your process for planning for the year ahead? What do you take into consideration? Do you have a step by step or is it really quite a bespoke approach that you take?
Stuart: Yes, so we did all of our planning when we did our $10 million seed round. We were always planning for what the end of 2023 would look like and 2024 would look like. The thing that I think is critical is that once you establish what your key revenue drivers are, which right now for us is SDRs and marketing, ultimately the situation around SDRs is that roughly 50% to 60% will not make it within, I think it’s twelve months. When you have that understanding, you then have to start working backwards to say, okay, well, if we do really well and 70% make it right, we probably need one or two extra people to allow us to actually hit plan next year. We’ve actually started the hiring process months ahead of probably ordinarily when you may be whittled, because we know that there is a likelihood that maybe certain people just won’t enjoy the role. Then there’s also the challenge of people being successful in the role, and we want to make sure that we’re not chasing the number every single month next year that we have the infrastructure in place. Obviously, we’re very fortunate that we have the cash to allow us to do that, but I’ve been in environments previously where it was much more reactive. And when you’re chasing the revenue on a monthly or quarterly basis, you can end up bringing in bad deals or deals that are not good for the client services team. We don’t want any of that within the culture that we’re building. So therefore we’re being quite direct in our approach to make sure that not only we have the people to hit the plan, but we give ourselves minimum probably four month buffer to get them fully ramped and actually firing within their role to make sure that the revenue is attainable.
Lee: It reflects a lot. In the last podcast I recorded was with someone else at Revenue Operations, Kimberley Haley, who mentioned a very similar thing of always be planning, always planning ahead rather than being reactive. And I think that’s very much the same kind of premise. And so is that the case for going from your town, which we touched on earlier, and obviously the accounts that you’re going after as part of your SDR approach, is that something that you feel like you kind of got covered already, or are you constantly feeding into that in terms of the addressable markets that you can go after?
Stuart: Yeah, so I think this has been, again, one of the big differences from building from zero to one. That Screenloop was predominantly built in the first few months on organizations hiring for growth, meaning they were hiring plus 30% or 40% of the existing headquarters. So 100 people were bringing in an extra 30 or 40 people. With news of the recession, which came out middle of the year. I can see you smiling. Businesses went from planning 50 roles to ten. And for us, that was like a big shift because we had this massive opportunity of total addressable market where everybody was hiring because everybody had loads of cash and everything was really buoyant. Today in an environment where that was cut back. And what we did is, rather than hit panic buttons, we kind of paused for, I’d say it was a couple of weeks to kind of let things stabilize a little bit. And then you start seeing that there were still more open roles than people. The highest number of open roles that have ever existed. There was also a massive problem with attrition. People were not happy in their roles. So about 20% to 30% of all employees would end up leaving their business within twelve months. So you’d have to backfill why I say that is we then had a look at the ICP profiles that we built in our total addressable market, reapplied our initial methodology with some of the additional learnings that we had to make sure that the SDR team were absolutely laser focused on the businesses that were the right fit. And I think one of the challenges that we’re still overcoming is just how quickly the market is moving. Where a business today might have 20 open roles, but then maybe tomorrow they cut back to ten. So that’s something that we’re constantly trying to stay on top of and that is certainly challenging. But we believe that our updated positioning and the way that the market is evolving is going to set us up for success with the revenue and the targets that we have.
Lee: Nice. And actually what I was really interested to understand then is good to see that by repositioning you found those opportunities still to go after. Do you have, like, I was going to say tools, but that’s not quite the road. Tools, techniques to keep your SDRs and your age motivated. Because as you start to narrow, focus on these are the accounts that we’re going after. Obviously, given the state of the market at the minute, are there different approaches that you take to keeping them motivated?
Stuart: Yeah, absolutely. I mean there’s a ton. Like for example today we were doing trainings with the SDRs on what a career in sales looks like. So training is really important so that they know beyond what they’re currently doing day to day that there is growth for them personally and professionally. The other thing that we really focus on is the why? Like, why is this important for you, why is this important for the team? Why is this important for the business? And why is this important for our customers and for us also? Why is this important for the end users, which ultimately is candidates that are in the hiring process. And I think going beyond just like, hey, we need to hit this number? It’s like why do we need to have the number for the team? Why do we need to have the number for the business? What about for our customers? And then what about for candidates? Making it bigger than just the target I think is really, really critical and understanding that not everybody that you’re working with is driven by the current step that a lot of people want autonomy, they want independence, they want the feeling of creativity. And as long as you tap into that then the motivations typically remain certainly higher than the average and the other thing is just having some fun along the way. So we took the team to Lisbon for an off site and for the SDRs. It had been a tough month. It was just off the back of August, everybody was on holiday and we went to Lisbon and we gave them, I think three or four companies each that were based in Lisbon. We gave them a budget to go and buy gifts for them and just said, take the day out, go and meet your prospects, try and book meetings. And we ended up booking 70% of the people we went to see. So we booked about eleven or twelve meetings from the 16 or 17 companies we went to see. And the team absolutely loved it and they came back and they were like so over the moon and so excited. And it was a human experience rather than just being email. And it’s just like a small example of trying to have fun along the way and not be robotic because people get bored very quickly in boring environments.
Lee: Yeah, it’s amazing the impact that it can have. Right. I think we give some context from an outside perspective. We found the same thing going out and doing events over in the US. Where we spent probably the past like nine months to a year, you know, kind of in behind a screen, obviously was COVID and everything, and then went out there and actually got in front of people and all of a sudden you can see that there was product market fit and you can see all the enthusiasm. And ever since going back, you come back with a huge amount of momentum and actually sometimes just changing your perspective can have a humongous impact on the way things are going. Last question on the topic of sales planning. Is there, not necessarily specific to Screenloop? Because I know you kind of only been there for around about twelve months now, but even going back to Yieldify days, is there any, perhaps mistakes that you’ve made during that planning process that you’ve really learned from and you’re now carrying forward into how you’re approaching planning ahead?
Stuart: Yeah, I think when we were doing the planning and the revenue targets. Yieldify were probably too ambitious and I think, on reflection, not assuming that every hire you make is exceptional. Whilst, I’d like to think that we are very good at it, having an understanding of what the likely performance is, then factoring in ones if people leave? And of course your attrition rate is always something you’re looking at, but you know, if it’s a particularly bad time or it’s a particularly good time. So what we’ve been doing with our sales planning is building three or four scenarios which range from really bad to bad to good to great. And I think that’s really important for us to have the visibility of what those scenarios look like. One of the other mistakes was probably not thinking through, ultimately how commission and compensation may need to evolve and change and businesses. For example, at Screenloop we’ve changed the commission probably three or four times this year already because we need to be agile. The expectation of what target was achievable was really just a number that we hope was achievable. But we’ve had to be dynamic and actually think about the fact that we are building a business and we need to show that we’re flexible with what we’re trying to do. And I think possibly Yieldify maybe that was too rigid and people know what good and fair looks like and we have been very focused on trying to optimize the commission and the compensation as fairly and as quickly as possible.
Lee: Yeah, I completely agree, particularly in terms of you hit the nail on the head, right, in terms of being an issue, too ambitious. But also I love the concept of having different scenarios. I am going to make an assumption that based off what you talking about earlier in terms of this is going from hiring loads of people to hiring significantly less. Actually planning ahead for times of contraction as well as for growth, allows you to certainly steady the ship as it happens and to anticipate changes like that coming your way.
Stuart: Yeah, I mean, the other one is seasonality. I’m quite surprised at the number of sales leaders that I meet that don’t factor in seasonality to the sales plan and just assume every month is going to be the same as the month before. There undoubtedly is times in the year when things are busier and things are quieter and we certainly want to reflect that in the sales plan because fundamentally a business at our stage and probably at most stages, but I don’t have the experience all the way up. The sales number you really want it to be hit because when you hit it, it feels really, really good and therefore, like understanding that maybe January won’t be as good as what December was or July won’t be as good as what March was. And having that reflected in the plan is really important to the number actually being achieved as well as hopefully overachieved.
Lee: Yeah, absolutely an ultimate question and appreciate we could probably take this in lots of different ways. Something I did want to cover. You mentioned at the very beginning that obviously you went out and worked in New York and obviously now you’re based in London. What would you say are the fundamental, of course if you agree? What do you think are the fundamental differences between selling in India and in the UK versus selling in the US?
Stuart: Yeah, so the first thing I’d say is if you get the opportunity to move country and it makes sense for you, even if you don’t know if it fully makes sense, I would recommend you grab it with both hands. I certainly wasn’t aware of what that move would do for my career and for my growth in my development. And I think it’s like a massive opportunity for people personally and professionally to go. But I hadn’t even visited New York and I turned up with two suitcases and about four foot snow at Dunkin Donuts on Time Square, and it was just like, oh, okay, I’m here. And as I said earlier, like a few weeks turned into several years. So I’d say firstly, if you get that chance, it is incredible and take it. The differences I noticed very, very quickly. Everybody obviously knows the size difference, right? Like, the sheer volume of opportunities is 10x what I saw in the UK when I was selling there. And that is not just on the East Coast, it’s in the West Coast, it’s the Midwest, it’s even in Canada, it’s in Mexico. It is just enormous. And with that comes opportunity. The second thing is, I noticed that Americans really wanted to do business. There was a real appetite to engage in the process, to listen to the pitch, to evaluate, to negotiate, to be really upfront and to give hard deadlines and to stick to it and to really work hard at accomplishing them. Whereas I always found in Europe that certainly was maybe more planning, it was maybe slightly more hesitant to really engage in the sales process. And I would have discovery calls where they were planning for 18 months ahead in London, whereas in New York they were planning for Monday or they were planning for next month or for maybe next quarter. So they were certainly like that was very apparent. And the third thing is, I was very lucky being Scottish in America. Most people had some sort of affiliation to Scotland, whether it’s from great ancestors or some lost connection, that it allowed me to sell really well. I ended up selling just under $2 million whilst I was there, which at Yieldify at one point was about 40% or 50% of the overall revenue. And it was just because there was such interest in the product. It was a great product, we had a really great process, and I think I was about an anomaly being in America as a Scotsman, and I think it really helped.
Lee: I’d like to think that there’s probably a bit more to it than just, oh, well, I like the Scottish accent, so let’s do a deal. It’s really interesting. And do you reckon, other than the bits that you kind of discussed there in terms of the way that you sell the process, is that much different there, or do you think it’s very much more just more on the personality side of things? You say the appetite for it, or is it fairly similar?
Stuart: No, I mean, I definitely noticed the stakeholders that were involved typically were really senior in America from the start, that you could be pitching your discovery or your solution, call directly to the CMO of an organization doing 50 to 100 million in revenue. Whereas in Europe it’s, I can see that it’s either middle management or just not the final decision maker economic buyer that early on. So that was definitely very tangible and very apparent. And I think also the critique of what your business does. In America there really seems to be a very open approach to understanding the value, the implications, the technical issues that could exist. And it was very, very upfront. Whereas a lot of the time I think that’s included in the you know, for example, maybe the InfoSec that takes place in Europe. But obviously I don’t have full visibility. I was only there for a few years. But there were some of the things that I certainly noticed as an individual contributor, the key differences from both.
Lee: Lovely last question, and then I’ll let you go. What is one book that you would recommend to other revenuers? You actually alluded to one earlier, which I’m intrigued to know the title of, but what would be the one?
Stuart: Yes, the book for me that I think has made the most difference this year is Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. I don’t know if you read it.
Lee: I haven’t. I actually recognized Johann Hari, but tell me a little more.
Stuart: He’s done a few he’s an exceptional writer and Stolen Focus. Basically it talks about the fact that the world we’re living in is set up to distract you and everything from Slack, email notifications, WhatsApp, Facebook, we are set up to be distracted. And it talks about the fact that Google email notifications, it was a team that were one day in a room, they said, how can we increase the number of people using email? And one developer said, well, why don’t you just send a notification to their phone every time they get an email? It was something like three or four billion notifications were then delivered the next day, or it was maybe a week after, but it was within a set period of time in one day. And that was the logic behind it. And what it goes on to talk about is the fact that if you are distracted and you’re in this environment, in this environment of being constantly distracted, the impact on your quality of work is insane. Like, your IQ drops, I think, about ten or eleven points, meaning that you’d be operating at a higher level of intellect if you turned up to work stoned on cannabis. That’s just how bad being distracted is. That you’re actually smarter if you’re highly intoxicated on cannabis. And what I knew at Screenloop when I joined is that at Yieldify we had 20 SDRs, so if a few of the team weren’t operating at 100% really high performing state, that wasn’t overly detrimental to the total team number. Whereas if you’ve only got three or four people in your commercial team or in your SDR team, you need everybody operating as close to the top 1% as possible. So the book really explores and details some of the practices you can put in place to protect yourself and really just allowing people to be aware of what distraction looks like and fundamentally the cost on performance to avoid it moving forward. And that book has been incredible for the team. We talk about it a lot. It’s actually part of our onboarding plan here and probably everyone in the office is bored of me talking about it because it was so powerful and it resonated so much because we’re living in this digital world. So really, really amazing book.
Lee: I love it. I guess as a follow on to that, to the listeners, if you’ve not watched The Social Network on Netflix, that’s also a great kind of expose of how it happens and how tech companies have come up with all these strategies to get you hooked to your phone. I don’t know, for your SDRs, is it not a good thing. If your prospect on the other end is seeing their email coming in straight away, get distracted from what they’re doing.
Stuart: Yeah, that’s definitely a Catch-22, but certainly just having the visibility and then let people operate within that. The big thing about the book is that the problem is a lot of it exists in a subconscious level. So if you want to try like delete an app from your phone that you use regularly and say you delete it for a week, what you’ll find is you’ve got a twitch with your finger. So you’ll go searching for that app subconsciously. Maybe when you go to get a coffee or you go to the bathroom, you’re actively searching for it and then you realize you’re like, oh, I actually deleted it. And for me, when I deleted the LinkedIn app, apparently many months ago, it took me about two weeks before I stopped doing that on a subconscious level. And it just showed that I wasn’t proactively thinking about going on it. I was just getting consumed into that environment. So yeah, it was very eye opening and it was part of the reason for implementing it.
Lee: That’s the power of habits for you. Alright, I’m going to conclude there, otherwise that would take us down another rabbit hole. Sure. This has been awesome. Well to be fair, you’ve just said that you’ve deleted your LinkedIn app. So normally my follow up at this point is whoever wants to connect with you, reach out to you. Where can they find you? Evidently nowhere, but that’s open to you.
Stuart: I’m still a user, I just don’t have on my phone. But I’m still on LinkedIn. Of course. But yeah, it’d be great to connect.
Lee: Awesome. We’ll put a link down in the show notes. This has been wonderful. Thank you so much for joining me. And to everyone at home that’s been listening along, thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.
Stuart: Thanks, I appreciate that was awesome.
Lee: Cheers. Thanks for listening to revenue insights. If you want to learn more, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll deliver every episode straight to your inbox. If you have any questions, feel free to connect with LinkedIn. Our links will be in the episode notes. See you next week.