Whitney Sales is a Managing Partner at Acceleprise Ventures, an accelerator and seed fund with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Toronto – the top B2B SaaS accelerator as well as a mentorship program for startups. Whitney also founded The Sales Method - a winning analytical process that looks at Sales-Market fit and Sales-Marketing blend to appeal to a target market’s buying process and ultimately helps companies scale to market faster. Whitney sits down with Chris Snyder to discuss the secret sauce to creating startup success and scalable growth.
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[00:00:44] Hello, everyone, Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, President at Juhll Agency, and founder of Financial Services Platform Banks.com. On this show, we take a no B.S. approach to business success and failure, told through the stories of the top entrepreneurs and executives who have lived them. Join us today as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful people and successful brands. A quick word from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital consultancy, and we focus on helping executives solve their toughest digital growth problems while working as an extension of their executive team. To learn more, you can go to Juhll.com or you can email me directly. It's Chris@juhll.com. OK. Without further ado, today's guest is Whitney Sales. She is a managing partner at Acceleprise ventures and accelerator and seed fund with offices in San Francisco, New York and Toronto. They're one of the top B2B sass accelerators, as well as mentorship programs for startups. Whitney also founded the sales message, a method, quote unquote, a winning analytical process that looks at sales, market fit and sales marketing blend. She will explain the difference between those two on our show today. This appeals to a target markets buying process and ultimately helps companies scale to market faster. Whitney's here today to share a little bit about the secret sauce to creating startup success along with scalable growth. Welcome, Whitney.
[00:02:22] Thanks, Chris.
[00:02:23] OK. So I know we're going to get into the meat and potatoes a little bit before we go there. We always start with this first question, which allows our audience to understand a little bit more about you before you've turned yourself into an amazing marketer and salesperson. So tell us a little bit about where you grew up, your upbringing and how you think you got to where you are today.
[00:02:44] Yeah. So I actually grew up in Sacramento, California, and a political family to a couple of hippies who worked for the government and trying to change the system. I you know, I went to school down in San Diego. I was a sociology major, kind of a weird path, but it taught me a lot about pattern recognition and social systems.
[00:03:07] Work for a law firm was planning on going into you. Lock has, you know, politics, family, politics. I worked for a lawyer for about two years in a law office. Got to do everything all the paralegals did and hated it.
[00:03:18] Yeah. And so I talked to one of the attorneys I was working with and said, you know, you've worked with me for two years now. You know me really well. You're one of my mentors. What do you think I should do? And he said, honestly, you should go into sales. Oh, very round about path. I started working at a startup fresh out of school called LoopNet. Interviewed with the V.P. who ended up being the EVP and kind of like working his way up at the companies. He had started the sales team for four people. I joined when I was about, I think was around 11:00 when I joined the company was around 70 people. And it was shortly before the IPO we scaled up. I ended up. He pulled me out of the sales team to launch a new product about three months in. Three months into doing that, he threw me in front of the board now telling me I was going in front of the board and let them grill me. I ended up launching another product for them, which just set me on this trajectory of learning to love to launch products. It's how my brain works. Pattern recognition is is something I do very well and have done very well. And the social systems dynamic kind of plays really well into that. I worked for a bunch of startups for, I think, you know, 5000 fast scoring companies list. And the last startup I was at, I decided, you know what? I had a really weird opportunity on Necker Island with Richard Branson. Someone asked me if I want to get up and pitch something. I was like me, you know, I was sort of helping the entrepreneur. Wow. And so I came back, quit my job and started doing a bunch of customer interviews. And in the customer interview process, I actually started solving their sales problems. Yeah. I'm started reaching out to me to work with them. And so I was working on a startup. I ended up consulting on the side and pay my bills as we're kind of figuring out what we landed on, where we're going to land on, and actually decided this is what I wanted to do, not optimize my skill set and what I love doing. Just to a different degree. And you know about. I have reached out to four friends and I decided to do this, turned into 32 introductions, kind of a second tier introduction was to my business partner now. Excellent. We've known each other and working with each other for a long time.
[00:05:42] Let me let me ask you a question about because I think where I've seen the world go is you'd mentioned being a sociology major in college. And it's interesting. You know, I went to a small liberal arts school. So you took sociology, you took psychology, you took you took a what was supposed to be back then a very well-rounded educational path. But I think what's interesting now is those types of degrees back then, although they were, I think, considered soft or now sociology and psychology or effectively table stakes for the world that that we live in. But let me ask you, what do you think it was about sociology and any other classes in that? What I would probably consider to be behavioral sciences? Yeah, what do you. How do you think that's helped you in your career specifically?
[00:06:36] Oh, my goodness. So many ways. So, I mean, I had to I had to take stats without learning and knowing how to work with Excel. Incredibly important in investing research. Yep. Research and understanding groupthink and social systems is incredibly important when you're launching a startup. Understanding psychology and learning how to drill into people's pain and understand how they think, how they process, how their work system would like or their organization as a social system works. And then the social systems around them work. And then broader society. So you're kind of coming in and then zooming out. And so I built a lot of that actually, while I was in school, not realizing it. And, you know, you've got to test a bunch of theories and figure out mental models around how people work. And so I now apply a lot of those mental models and I'm a bit of a mental model geek. But like, I apply a lot of those mental models to how I think about businesses and market dynamics and a startup entering into those market dynamics.
[00:07:42] And then individual psychology, when I'm working with people, you know, that's a you probably thought you did that on accident a little bit. Probably. But it's it's it's working out well for you. The other thing that you had mentioned was the Richard Branson story. Could you go into a little bit more detail on that, please? Because that court that caught my attention, but I lost you. So maybe dove into that a little bit more.
[00:08:07] Yeah, it was at a friend of a friend invited me and I was there on an island, kiteboarding on kite boarding. And I went down there to Cape Auret and spent some time with entrepreneurs.
[00:08:22] I think it was a theorem that launched while I was there, actually, while a bunch of them were mining while I was there. It was it's kind of one of those surreal stories that you never expect to be part of. It's not my person.
[00:08:36] You got it. You got to answer this question. Did you watch people mining? Meaning for those of you in the audience who do not know what we're talking about, we're talking about Bitcoin mining.
[00:08:47] Were there actual lead people there mining Bitcoin?
[00:08:51] It wasn't because it was a theory, but. Yeah, or a theorem. I'm sorry. Go mining. Yeah. They were mining. I wasn't there. I actually went out to the Jacuzzi and kind of hung out there instead, but or down on the beach. I don't remember which one it was. But yeah, there were people mining. There's some really fun photos. Oh my gosh.
[00:09:08] So is it is it literally a room full of computers set up with green screens and they're just running?
[00:09:14] Yeah, it's. I didn't. Again, I wasn't in there. I just know what was happening. There were photos and people talking about it afterwards. I'm not in attorney, so it's it's not my wheelhouse, but it's so funny and funny. It's it's kind of a very interesting time in life.
[00:09:32] So. So it sounds like you really you really kicked off at LoopNet, this maybe what you would consider to be this high tech, maybe venture backed startup seed. You got introduced real early because you're at the law firm for a couple years. So, you know, at this point, you're in your mid to late 20s.
[00:09:53] You're really twenties. Early twenties.
[00:09:56] Yeah. So. So and by the way, LoopNet, I mean, they're pretty much went supernova, right? They were what I would consider to be one of the first commercial real estate market places. And we all know the marketplace model now is the most dominant revenue profit tech efficiency model on the planet. Can you give us maybe two or three important things you learned at LoopNet that says or even one?
[00:10:25] It doesn't matter that you're good at pattern recognition and think back to.
[00:10:30] Those days are LoopNet, and you go, wait a second. Every company is always the same. And it's the same in these two or three ways. And I learned this a long time ago. Right. It could be added economics. It could be churn. It could be LTV. It could be your sales method. It could be. Doesn't matter what it is.
[00:10:47] Yeah. So that's a really interesting story. When I joined, the founder was just starting to step step down and a new CEO, Richard Oil Rich, while it's taken over. He's not kanon awesome guy Lay. And then Tom Burns, like the whole founding team and executive team, they had a really great culture and it was really important to them. And Dennis Diondre, who had founded LoopNet. Fascinating guy really deep into the PopTech space. LoopNet the way. So one thing that's really important for an early stage startup when you're looking at a marketplace dynamic is you have to pay attention to the sides of the marketplace. And whereas the scarcity. And so at one of the things that they did really early on is there were some large players in that commercial real estate space, which there still are a partnered with those companies when they're when they were still really early in technology. Like tech was still pretty new when I graduated. I graduate in 2005. And so one of the things that he did is he partnered with these real estate companies to get their property online.
[00:12:00] And he gave them a free tool called Loop Link.
[00:12:03] It's just an eye frame into a Web site. And if they if required the real it. And they put it on their own website. Well, it required the real estate agents to keep the data fully up to date. So the inventory, when he partnered with the top five, went Dennis to partner with the top five funds to get all the data in. And they now had a proprietary data set of the top five real estate companies, commercial real estate inventory, which you can find anywhere. It just didn't exist.
[00:12:33] The directory basically of all that data.
[00:12:37] And then before a lot of the lead scoring was in place, they actually hired an analytics team.
[00:12:44] This is actually pretty revolutionary at the time. It doesn't sound like it now. There's all these tools that exist for for scoring data, but they plugged in a backend system that scored people's behavior on the Web site and. And the properties that they are posting and the behaviors around their properties to surface real estate agents that you want to partner with and sell to. And so they started with a blanket blanket lists air service. That was a kind of a buy sell, whether you're listing or searching. Then they split the two of those up and then they started charging more on the property side because before they wanted to make sure they had as much property and property as many properties as possible in the platform.
[00:13:26] And so that were probably a three sided marketplace. Right. They had real to commercial real estate agents looking for listings. Yeah, they had commercial real estate properties or these owners of these properties that needed to find agents to sell there or lease their properties or sell them. I've seen stuff for sale on there as well. And then you have the B2B side or I'll call it the consumer side. But it's really small business owners or property people seeking commercial property. This is a really difficult thing to do.
[00:14:02] Yeah, so. Yeah. So they getting that the the properties in a single place and then driving the eyeballs to those properties then drove more people to put more property on. They made the Luling service free for these larger companies, eventually became paid and then so they had the supply and the demand going. And then they started collecting a proprietary data set of close transactions, which was actually a product that I launched Arthurson, which competed with Costar, which was their biggest competitor on the leasing side.
[00:14:40] Starz costars huge, by the way.
[00:14:43] I ended up acquiring them post IPO. Yeah. Yeah, I know.
[00:14:48] So Golledge, you charge the real estate agents, right? You charge the you charge the property owners as well, but you don't charge the small business owners looking for a commercial property. They get to use the service for free, which actually drives. One of the most important pieces is all the demand.
[00:15:07] You can't you can't have sales without demand. So that's just a super fascinating model. And as we unpack it and you look at the world around us and you think about air BMB, then you think about, you know, even a company like Kayak.com or Uber, you go just through the list. Every single one of these companies are built. On viral loops, oddly, LoopNet, maybe they knew they they coined that term loop along. You guys did. But I find that I find that really interesting. Is there anything you see in the startups of today that might. Not be so obviously marketplace startups, but you see some of those same principles in supply and demand that you learned and grew at. LoopNet.
[00:15:54] I mean, you look at even the platform plays in the integration marketplace place. There is a supply and demand dynamic around that. You build a large enough customer base. You want people who want to access that customer base. So it's kind of an evolution of that marketplace dynamic. On a more of a business scale than a traditional marketplace. So there's there's evolutions of that that have kind of come into play that you've seen from from a sale side. I mean, Salesforce is one of the big ones to to drive that. But even, you know, the App Store and things like that are in other examples. So it's there's the marketplace dynamic. You don't necessarily think of them as traditional marketplaces. There's kind of this platform play. But in reality, it's actually its own marketplace, like it's the Salesforce marketplace that you're plugging into you to access their large customer base. And then Salesforce takes a cut, and that's what it was doing it from a real estate perspective. Got it. So you went worship based in more of a partnership.
[00:16:53] So so you went from, you know, sociology, psychology, law to to this to this craziness. And someone actually suggested you be in sales.
[00:17:07] And I sort of feel like if I look back at this historically, because I've been in sales for a long time, too, and I I feel like being in sales 20 years ago was that was the thing like if you were in sales, you were a baller. Right. And then Google, Facebook, Yahoo! Banner ads, the Internet, you know, happened. And it felt like the shift started to happen in the early to late 90s and early 2000s into. You were a baller. If you were in marketing, specifically product marketing or advertising as relates to buying keywords on Google, getting familiar with the Facebook platform, and you were really in charge of driving that demand for salespeople. But, you know, I don't think you went that direction. You actually went right into maybe at the time. But in all finished the story by saying, by the way, sales is sexy again. I feel like it isn't. It is it is sexy again, which I'm super pumped about.
[00:18:19] But how did it how did it feel to be in a space at that moment historically where maybe it wasn't? Is is is as sexy as being a product manager or being on a V.P. of marketing on the marketing team. Can you describe that journey a little bit?
[00:18:36] Yeah, it's really interesting that you say that because in my 20s it was like I am in sales. Yeah, definitely was a little like, oh, I hate saying that. But, you know, I interviewed for sales jobs at some of the biggest tax, like at first time sales roles and some of the biggest tech companies that you are out there. I heard a lot of them down. Yeah. But I'm very happy on the path that I'm on the that and there are definitely reasons for that. But in that dynamic, it was there was definitely kind of this, like shaming factor a little bit around being and selling because it also had to do a lot with the way the media portrayed it. Yeah. So there was a you know, there's Boiler Room and Glengarry Glen Ross and a lot of the kind of sleazy car salesman dynamic.
[00:19:26] Daniel Pink has written a book called To Sell is Human and it's come back a lot. I also think it has to do with some of the dynamics around some of the early d.c.'s, which was kind of build it and, you know, they'll come.
[00:19:39] And it was also like, you build it, advertise it and they'll come. But that has shifted quite a bit. And I think part of the reason that has shifted has to do with one.
[00:19:51] You can't keep buying eyeballs that you need a profitable business model venture in general. It's like your great. Yeah, you can't do that anymore. It's at that market dynamic has changed.
[00:20:01] Well, the costs, the cost models upside down. I mean, the, the asymmetric, the, the asymmetry in what it costs for a Google click 10 years ago and what it costs today is good luck.
[00:20:15] Yeah. Good luck. Yeah. So you have to look at alternative platforms and identify where the channels that your customers live on, but so that the first thing was with that dynamic shifting. So you have to have a profitable business that that exact LTV has to make sense in the same way.
[00:20:36] The second piece of it has to do with a lot of people who have tried to automate sales at this point. It doesn't work. To me, pieces of it and enable your sales people. But you can't run a sales team. I mean, you have to run a sales team these days like some of the onboarding and flows and things like that. You can you can automate a good portion, but you still there's still a human involved because people buy from people.
[00:21:03] And so regardless of how good you are at marketing, if you're in an enterprise cell, someone spending, you know, 60 plus K with you, there needs to be a human touch.
[00:21:14] Yeah, well, and think about this to be, I guess, back in the day, I'll keep dating myself a little bit. But back in the day, the Internet didn't have every single piece of information about the automobile that you wanted to buy. So you had to go to the car lot and you had to sit there and listen to this person. Describe for you everything about this vehicle when now you don't need that person to describe anything for you. You certainly don't need that person to go back and forth with their manager. You know, there's a little thing called car vonna. You do it all on line and the drop the F and thing off at your house, which is awesome. And I remember Saturn. I don't know if you remember that car company, Saturn, they actually they actually don't exist anymore, but they actually said, hey, no haggle the price on the windows, the price on the window. Here's all the information just coming by it. Right. And that's it. So I. I totally understand what you're saying about the sleaze factor. But but we have all the information now. So if we're salespeople, if the consumer already has all the information, then what is what is our purpose in life? Like, what are we here for then?
[00:22:27] Yes. So. Well, I'm here because I like to figure out the puzzle in the early days. That's what I really love doing. But there's there's kind of two core skill sets and sales ICEE person. One of them is problem solving and the other is project management. So even if someone has all the information about your product, aligning a organization around a buying process and how they're going to be judging success of that buying process and understanding how data is going to flow, how integrations are going to work, making sure. Like really making sure that that solution is going to work for them before they buy it. The person will still churn. Right. Exactly. There's you know, if you have a developer. Yeah. You can have an API out there where they can go in and test and there's, you know, freemium model, which, you know, Slack has been a huge pioneer. And a lot of that has been huge for. For buying, especially in the enterprise. And that is starting to eat up a little bit more of sales. And I'm a huge advocate of it. But there still is a human factor in here and making sure you have all the details, even if you go into test. Plus some people just want to talk to someone and like their questions. Like, you don't imagine that bazillion. Like you want to search through a ton of articles or dig into something because it takes so much more time. And he's jumping on the call with someone for half an hour and just hammering the questions.
[00:23:51] You need to you need to be an expert. And I'm glad that you answer that question. Like the signal that I think the market has put put off for a number of years has been, let's automate everything. Then you said that at the beginning, and you and I both know from being in the trenches, that's not feasible. There are people that that that may not necessarily want a human connection, but they want an expert. They want a credible expert. So and if I'm not mistaken, the kinds of companies you help in the kinds of selling motions and processes that you establish are for enterprise software companies that have probably no ticket ticket sales between, you know, a thousand dollars a month or, you know, 15, 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars a year. Right. You don't. You don't. This isn't the ten dollar a month kind of thing. This is a this is something that buyers need to value the salesperson's expertize and strategic selling capability, not just beat them over the head with price and walk them into their car lot and try to get them to buy the car, right?
[00:24:59] Yeah. It's one of the things in the early days when I'm working with founders that we talk about, it's like, okay, what's your acquisition model? We talked a little bit about sales, marketing blend, but it's like if you're at a lower price point, you can't afford the cost of a salesperson. You actually need to have a marketing funnel and digital journey that you're taking a customer through. And then you may have a human touch in the customer support process. But if you're as you move up market at a higher price point, there needs to be someone there to answer your questions and help you figure out and navigate that process and what it's going to look like for your specific organization. They're not just gonna slap down a credit card for a five thousand dollar online purchase, hoping that it's going to work for them.
[00:25:36] Exactly. You know, you mentioned something. I'll take a step back because I read this in your intro. There are two words in their sales market fit and sales marketing blend. And you just mentioned that again. So I have a couple of questions for you. First is on the founder side.
[00:25:54] How many founders do you see in this might be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Because it feels like tech v.c in tech. Investors do not invest in sales or financial finance related founders. They typically invest in tech builders. So as if as you think about a lot of the clients you've had or even the Acceleprise portfolio, what? Portion of the founders that you work with actually have any clue about sales or have any background in sales.
[00:26:32] So what we're usually looking for in an Acceleprise team is we want a technical founder on board. It could be the CEO. It could be someone else. You know, you could have a team of two or three. But we want it. We want a technical founder because building the product is hard and it's really hard and really, really important. And you want someone who knows how to build out the architecture to scale. And we have a lot of teams to try and outsource it. I've seen it work in some cases where they bring on a technical founder, going to take it over. But it's a higher cost dollar organization and it slows down your go to market process significantly. If you're trying to outsource it versus having it in in-house, you're involved in the customer conversation.
[00:27:16] You know, the upside is we're looking for a founder that has a product mindset who is personable because we're pretty active as investors. We're not a passive investor or investor. We're not a check.
[00:27:30] We're d risking investments for our follow on investors. So we're going to be working with the founders so I can teach people how to sell. Like, my favorite thing in the world is taking someone who's pretty technical or doesn't has a negative perception of selling and teaching me how to love it.
[00:27:46] If I was going to be my follow up, that yeah, that was absolutely going to be my follow up. So I have this vision in my mind of a developer, and I've worked with a lot of developers of saying, OK, Billy are OK. Susie, there's three of you guys here. You just got five hundred thousand dollars in seed to figure this thing out. Now you have to sell hook. I could just imagine the deer in the headlights look that you would get from a CTO or a front end web developer or a designer that says now you have to go out and do this thing. How does that conversation go?
[00:28:20] So I said, well, we're not gonna invest in anyone who's gonna give us significant pushback. A lot of the times we'll get it at founders, like, oh, I'll hire a V.P. of sales. And like, no, you're not. Don't even think about it because you have no idea what you're gonna look for in a V.P. like what's your sales process look like? The V.P. is going to come from a specific selling background. They're not going to have a generalist mindset. I'm sorry. I'm kind of unique in my background in that I've worked at all types of companies. I've worked at Enterprise, I've worked at Mid-Market, I've worked at S&P Freemium, like I've advised over 100 companies at this point. So I have a pretty large breadth of different business models that I can help advise companies on. But most V PS have maybe worked at a handful of companies and haven't had that same breath. And so then I come in and apply the model that they understand to your business. And it may or may not be the right one. And you can't you know, you can't say to shove a square peg into a round hole, it just doesn't work, especially at the seed stage.
[00:29:18] It's really early days and, you know, the money that you you have trying to figure it out. So as a founder, you need to figure out what exactly your sales model looks like, who your ideal customer profile is, where do they live? How did they learn? Like how do they buy products and then start building out your own team a little bit, get it working, have a repeatable process, have a couple people on board with baseline sales skill sets so that you have a nice chunk of revenue that you can actually attract the right type of these AVP with the right skill set, that you can pay the big dollars to scale up the team.
[00:30:00] So to be clear, I think what you're saying, Whitney, is you've got to do this damn work yourself, especially at the beginning. It is not optional. Yes. Start reading your books. I know that all that other stuff is a lot more fun potentially. But you will flat out run out of runway. Your plane will crash if you don't know how to sell. And that's just flat out.
[00:30:20] It plays a role in everything you're gonna do as a founder. From fundraising to hiring to pivot's that you're probably going to have to do in some way, shape or form to presenting to your team your quarterly meetings, to your board meetings. Everything you're doing is going to have the flavor of sales involved in it. And so it's a skill set as a non-technical founder on the team. As the CEO, you're gonna need to learn to master and love what is going on, too.
[00:30:51] So let me so let me ask you a question now. Getting back to the sales market fit because there's other terms that have been coined like product market fit. This is honestly the first time I've heard a sales market fit and I've never heard of sales marketing blend. We have these are these are amazing synonyms for something I probably called it some number of years ago. But can you explain for us what sales market fit is and then move on to sales market marketing blend.
[00:31:19] Yeah. So sales market fit also. A term that I've heard used is go to market. It got a little more common. Kind of same, but. So you're basically looking at the model for your particular business that works with a CCAC LTV and the way your customer buys. So it's it's putting together what that model looks like to build a profitable business. I think Lux is a really good example that that car service that used to ride the Volvo ride to park your car, Volvo acquired it there.
[00:31:58] Their CACs LTV was just way off.
[00:32:02] And that's it's having your your business model and your customer acquisition model align well to build a profitable business for the lifetime value of the customer, essentially. And in the in in building out your go to market model or sales market fit, what you're looking for is what is the appropriate model based off of my customer, how they learn, how they buy, where they live. Then I'm going to use to acquire customers. If you're selling for ten dollars a month, having a sales person in the loop doesn't make sense. You need, as I say, a sales marketing blend where it's going to be pretty heavy marketing. It may be a freemium model, maybe a free trial model. And then you're going to have more of a sales model on the on the acquired on the customer support side. Right. Maybe while they're in trial and trying to pull them all the way through. If you're selling into the big market, you might you're gonna be more 50 50 from a marketing sales perspective. And if your enterprise you're gonna be pretty heavy on the sales side and pretty light on the marketing side. So that's why I need my sales market plan. And then your go to market model.
[00:33:02] So you have when you have meetings with your startup founders and I think you guys focus more on, like seed series A in that range. So I think we're talking about we're playing.
[00:33:14] What's up? I said precede the series A is basically where we're playing almost like DDC.
[00:33:19] Yeah. So maybe, you know, these these companies have received between, you know, one hundred thousand and two million maybe in funding. And then if we put it in a two year time box, maybe to figure out if they can solve the problem or whatever it is, at what point in that journey do they need to start getting their shit together with sales, market and sales marketing blend? Because I can see you as an adviser coming in and saying, OK, what are the give me the sales market fit side. I want like the quantifiable thing and give me the sales market marketing blend slide. I can see you say that to a young founder, like if if they're a year in and they don't have that. So when, when should they be exercising these capabilities.
[00:34:07] Yeah. A lot of these terms are in my head. So it's more I'm asking questions. I'm like, OK. Like what did you risked for me? Like as an investor? What do you risk? What have you figured out. Right. So all companies do it. Thanks to Erik recently, Method are now doing customer discovery to figure out what their products should look like. They're not just building something, thank God, because that did happen for a very long time.
[00:34:32] And so they're you know, they are doing this this customer discovery for product development. But what the founders were, it's kind of stopped short is you also need to be doing the same discovery and figuring out what your business model needs to look like. And so there's Mike Maypoles has done some really good content, has some really.
[00:34:50] I love his new podcasts, by the way.
[00:34:53] It's great. Oh, my God. I love his new podcasts, his podcast with Shane Parrish on the Knowledge Project, which is like my favorite podcast. That interview is just like off the charts. Phenomenal for Founders'. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. But one of the things that he kind of talks about in this, as you said in this podcast, which I love, talking about the product development process and put it out of your MVP in front of your customer and getting product feedback. Right. And watching how they use it.
[00:35:21] While on the B2B side, what you also need to be looking at is like, OK, how would you describe this product to someone else in the industry? Right. Because you're trying to map how do you position it and then you it in the hands of your customer. Talk me through how you're using it. Like, what do you. Was there anything that you didn't expect to be a benefit about the product that you're using it for? Like because there's your primary benefits and then the user secondary unexpected benefits, some kind of ROIC or is it going to be crafting? And so if you work on this with your beta customers, as you develop your NBP and get it in their hands, you're going to actually educate yourself. Like what? How do I identify who my core customer is, who my ICP is in the really early days based off of external criteria? Is it tech savvy? Is it location? Is it size? Is it they have a particular person in a particular role for a certain period of time. Like you don't know what that's going to look like unless you really dig in in the kind of product market after the product market fit is kind of like sales market. They go to market fit process. I'm trying to figure out externally how to identify who are my influencers, who are my buyers within the organization.
[00:36:19] So sales, sales leadership needs to. Supertight tight product is what I think I hear you saying right now.
[00:36:27] What I'm saying is the founder can't stop the customer discovery process at MBP, dot it. They need to actually keep going and figure out like the NBP is to get to your product market fit piece. Right. They need to keep going and figure out there their go to market sales market fit piece, not part of the continued process.
[00:36:51] And a lot of founders think, OK, I have a product now, like I'm going to put it out in the market or I'm going to talk to a couple of friends. I get my early customers acquire and then I hire a salesperson, salesperson gonna sell it like, oh, there's actually a whole model similar to product development that you need to go through to figure out what's the customer acquisition model that you're going to use. Like, who do you need to be partnering with? Things like that, that I can go through this. It's my whole framework. But like, there's a whole process that you need to be going through and figuring out what your product, if it looks like and that's Erickson, you go to market sales market.
[00:37:24] It looks like after you find your price, you think you've identified your product market fit, a product market fit. It's just product and market. It's really good on the consumer side. You're gonna get that feedback loop. But on the business side, there is a need to talk to someone. It's just in the early days, you have to talk to your customers and that's going to use your early acquisition strategies, figuring out what that model looks like and then you get and scaling it.
[00:37:47] How I feel like this could be a massive market if if you and I were to take a step back and go. Unders, you know, under supported, you know, Founders' as it relates to sales, selling any language around sales and selling communication. I mean, I think we're we're quite heavy if I just look at it qualitatively or abstractly and I say there's tools for product development people. There's tools for email marketing folks. There's no executive leadership stuff for executives who want to be better leaders. Is the market for really getting deep into sales and selling, which I believe is what you're doing now? I mean, this market must be huge, as are a bunch of companies out there really saying the same things you're saying or doing. Are they not looking at this market problem the same way you are based on what you see qualitatively? Yeah.
[00:38:42] So there there are a lot of people out there who are sales consultants. Yeah. That the problem is. So for me, I love I'm a builder by nature. So I like I love working with founders. It's my passion. It is what I will do. It's what I will continue to do. I love and it could be an NGO who's starting something to get going based on, like a core passion. It could be a business. It could be an artist. I've worked with a bunch. I've coached people across the board. I love helping people figure out how to sell, doing what they love. And it could be a product. It doesn't matter. I now work on the other stuff I do is more on the side for fun. People I know my work is working with technical founders and B2B and it's that's me. So.
[00:39:31] But most of the sales consultants from a model perspective, they're building out big agencies to support them. And that's not something I'm particularly interested in doing. I just want to work with the founders and helping them figure out how to do this and then helping them bring on the initial team and then set him on some other way. Because once it gets going and you've trained, they're there, I guess would be the best way to think about it from a model, from a business model perspective versus just product. Once you train that sales I or that business model, I bet they can. There's a there's your teaching people how to teach themselves and reflect on their own process and optimize their own process. And then it's bringing in someone else who can help scale it. But getting that initial baseline of, you know, a million and a are, let's just say. But it's really building out that initial beachhead market that you're going to build into and understanding. How do you continue to evolve that the segments and the market you're gonna be going after and what that looks like? That process is a little bit harder and it also, from a revenue perspective, can't justify a large agency. And so there aren't a lot of people who play where I specifically play because the money, like the money isn't really there.
[00:40:45] Right. For me, it's it's what I love doing. And so I'm going to do it regardless. I could make more money if I moved up market, but I don't particularly enjoy that stage nearly as much as I enjoy. It's kind of like Prezi, the series a stage. It's just fun. It's a puzzle for me and it gets my brain going in the way I love.
[00:41:00] Yeah, I mean, there is not there's not a lot of meat on the bone after you start really digging in and thinking about a founding team. The founders don't make a lot of money. They don't have a lot of money and they have limited time to get this thing to market. So the last thing they could do is pay an agency 10 or 15 or 20 G's a month, probably. That's two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. They might only have a million dollar check. And they're trying to last as long as they possibly can to hit product market fit sales market. And all these other hurdles usually write a check to someone for two hundred fifty thousand dollars if they. I mean, what happens if they don't get it done? Yeah. You know.
[00:41:40] Yeah. Yeah. They're just it from a monetary perspective, that kind of like fact LTV piece that we're talking about. It does make sense for a lot of people. I'm an investor, so I'm an advisor and I have a little bit like there's a little bit of consulting on that.
[00:41:53] But it's it's a different model that I work with companies and it's more of building out a portfolio of diversified portfolio of Sask companies for myself than it is in a traditional agency model where there's a high you know, there's margins and high cost.
[00:42:05] Got it. So let's talk about a couple of things before we run out of time. I feel like we could probably have another two hours doing this. There's so many questions I have. But what have you seen any differences or changes in the sales process, the psychology around selling or the selling motion given covered 19 shut downs? I know it feels like you're in a little bit of an insulated industry as relates to B2B software, typically subscription sales. So maybe it's not as bad. But can you give us some insight into what you're seeing on that front?
[00:42:39] Yeah. So I guess so. We we did a lot of triage in when covered head. I personally was exposed at the end of February, twice in on the same day. Conference I spoke at and then in hour coworking space because we were talking about coworking space from a community perspective. And so. Yeah, we saw it coming pretty early just due to the mere fact that exposure. And so we did a lot of triaged with our companies, you know, want to make sure everyone was in a good place financially. And then, too, it was OK. Let's look at your business model and look at who you're going after. Look at what your pipeline looks at. Do a market assessment. So which markets are going to be hit by this hard hit? Is there a way we could reposition your your your your product to go after a different market? You have a secondary segment of the market you can go after or a different maybe a slight pivot on the beachhead. Or could we reposition what your products use for to actually help some of these markets that are hurting right now interest? And so you from from that perspective, it's looking at which markets you're really going after and which ones are being hurt, because if you're focused on travel industry, for example, like you're not in a great place, you're screwed. Yeah. But some of the services, for example, like I've looked at some tools that we did not invest, but I it's it's, um, tools are, you know, had applications in other industries. And so it's just repositioning that products and pulling in some on some early customers to prove that product market fit that. Yeah. You lost your initial traction on your core market, but you can just pivot slightly and go after a different different industry and a different application just takes repositioning.
[00:44:31] So would you would you say that based on the the the clients or not clients, the investments. Yeah.
[00:44:39] The portfolio companies that you guys invest in, if you had to choose much harder damn near impossible selling environment, forget the category, just look at them all your portfolio companies together or medium or. No, we're fine. I mean, this is because I look at this every day too, and I go, hey, the emails that we're sending, the conversations that we're having that would ask for someone to open up their checkbook. To me, it feels a lot harder now. Well, you might say as well, Chris, you're living in a vertical that looks like this. So we don't see that in our portfolio companies. So what do you see? Is it a lot harder, not much harder or easy hands on the business?
[00:45:22] Yeah. So we have some companies that are just like taking off in this environment where they were met. It might have even been struggling before. Honestly, I believe in the remote environment. It's just been like a it's been a skyrocket for them, our rocket ship for them, because it just pushed a lot of people forward in those areas. There's other businesses where, like, they became a need to have versus a nice to have.
[00:45:48] There were. So was a harder selling. We've also seen people shift their acquisition models a bit. So you're talking about email? Yes, email, email. And generals gotten noisy. And so, yeah, I have a unique way of approaching customers and like LinkedIn messaging me, not the way to do it, use it, connect like and have something personal to say to me. Message me DME on Twitter and find where I live and I am actively engaging in conversation and go to me there. Don't use the traditional demand gen models. So I had some really good acquisition. If your users are there, it may maybe YouTube videos and maybe webinars and maybe podcasts.
[00:46:31] It may be looking at more of a content strategy and maybe a video search like it doesn't.
[00:46:37] You have to it just becomes more and more important to not default to what you thought was gonna work. And instead, you're taking more time to learn how your users are engaging online and where they live and where they learn to actually engage them.
[00:46:53] So you're not speaking at like the traditional B2B or any kind of selling motion. You're not speaking at people saying, here's my stuff, here's my stuff, buy my stuff. You need to get involved in the conversation and speak with. So I can remember who it was. But I was reading something. It might have been Andrew Shen was talking about how he believes that selling in demand Jin or just networks in general will have to shrink and then we'll have to build. I think what he perceives to be our own little private networks. So if you think about LinkedIn, you might have thirty thousand people on LinkedIn. There's no way in hell, you know. You know a thousand of them. Maybe you do. Who knows? But what are what is your view on where sales and engaging with customers is going? Because I actually believe that if you build a small private network and you nurture it and you grow it organically, it can be a massive. Opportunity for you to really sell anything, not just what you're particularly selling today. What do you think this outreach, engagement and demand platform is going?
[00:48:12] A trusted community is pretty much essential and anything you're doing. I was really going to take a step back. I was very lucky early in my career, my 20s. I put I'm an introvert. Most people don't believe that. But I am an introvert. I put I put on the hat of I need to meet as many people as possible. Early in my career and learned from as many people as possible. Early my career. Because I don't know how it's going to pay off in the long run. And I like people who think differently. Like, I really latch onto people who just like have a different model of the world. Just my personality, because I know I can learn from that even if I don't agree with it. And so and maybe I end up applying it to something that is unrelated. And so but those people are our generally future thinkers or and founders, the people who have a different perspective on the world and are projecting themselves in a different and a different place and a consensus. Yeah. Though. But those people end up building a following around them in the same way I was attracted to them. Other people are attracted to them. And so they built communities. And so, you know, I've been lucky enough to to latch onto their communities and vice versa. I have a different way of thinking about things and approaching things. And so the community piece these closed networks for sure. I think you probably have heard about clubhouse, which is kind of. I have, yeah. Has launched as an example. Twitter has its own Twitter verse. I Twitter universe. You know, there's lots of different platforms that we're used to basically build these communities. Like, you know, there's always the slack communities, too. But we're seeing it more and more and more from a business model perspective. And it's just one of the network effects that people can develop that basically provides defensibility for the business in the long run and ability and value to you in the long run. Yeah. The network you build here is not just it doesn't translate just to this business, it's going to translate to later businesses. And so I my network that I built in my twenties now are senior executives at organizations that I get to help my portfolio company connect with.
[00:50:17] Wow, that's amazing. And look, at the end of the day, I'm not suggesting that buying a click on Google or buying an ad on Facebook isn't part of a portfolio of things that you should be doing. But I mean, I can tell you honestly, you know, the B2B demand gin world that like our agency has services serviced over the last ten or twelve years, that was a lot of what we were doing. And I'd seen a big shift, I wouldn't say away from that, but saying, OK, well, what else is there guys like Will is is this all we're going to do is, is buy Facebook ads and buy Google ads and hopefully they don't go up in price and our cash doesn't diminish. Or your KAC, you know, goes, goes, goes, goes down and our LTV goes up and hopefully Google can deliver for us.
[00:51:06] It just says Google doesn't change their algorithm completely. Screw up what we're doing.
[00:51:10] I know it seems insane, and I think that's why I ask that question, because I think we have to think about new ways of engaging with our audience and our customers. You mentioned ICP before, ideal customer profile. Go find these people, get involved in the conversation.
[00:51:26] So last little bit here, because I know you have a hard stop. If you had any piece of advice and you may have just given it, because I like how you hustled in the early years to build what you have today. But if you had any piece of advice as you look back over this long career and you're going to have a much longer one in front of you, like, what would you tell some of our audience and a lot of our audience as founders, entrepreneurs, C-level executives? What kind of advice would you give them?
[00:51:55] Take more risks. Risks a lot. I. I didn't I really didn't start taking risk until I was around twenty five. I know that seems like, you know, 20 guys pretty early, but. I have some founders who are bullishly acquiring, like connecting with some major power players in the Southwest ecosystem and, you know, basically globally that that they were working with them like they started going after meeting these people and building real relationships with these people in their 20s. Well, I was very intimidated. I it took me a while to build my confidence. You wouldn't have thought it when I was 20 because I was overconfident. But it took me a while to actually build real confidence in my unique perspective and what I brought to the table and relationships and the way I learned that was actually by taking risks and seeing how I interacted with environments and then learning from the people around me. And so that risk is a really big learning opportunity for you, even if you completely fall on your face. Now you'll learn resilience and that resilience is what gets you through and builds the confidence to go and take another big risk. And so it's learning what you're uniquely good at through experience and the way and putting yourself in. I'm not saying, like, you know, go walk in a dangerous neighborhood at late at night, you know, with your headphones on a business risk, people use your brain's business risk.
[00:53:31] But I mean, I've traveled I traveled the world. I used to go travel the world for two months and come back and, you know, I got lucky, but I it's it's taking calculated risks and making sure that you're learning from the decisions you've made and reflecting on them and growing from them.
[00:53:50] It's kind of having that. What was the term when I. It wasn't Bernie Brown. It was someone else who coined it. But it's. It's where it's the model and the mental model where you grow from your experience. You don't have a fixed mindset.
[00:54:04] I'm driving that growth. Growth versus mindset. Yes.
[00:54:09] Mindset in regards to life and being willing to take those risks.
[00:54:13] And a lot of the fixed by the way, a lot of the fixed mindset is taught in schools. And this is what you do. And you know what? I was just thinking about this, taking risks. The longer you wait to take risks, the riskier it gets.
[00:54:29] Exactly. That is exactly true. And I was we've talked about this in the preinterview, but I was dyslexic growing up. And so I had to learn how to learn. And as a result, I learned that the way the world works, like the rest of the world, things are the way that they taught me to think was not the way my brain worked. Right. So everything was a growth mindset for me. I just didn't have that option to default to like accolades and gold stars. It's just not how I operate in the world. Which is interesting considering sales is a lot of gold stars. I mean, how they get rewarded.
[00:55:00] I like good. Yeah, it's a lot of gold stars.
[00:55:03] But I love the puzzle. Like, that's what got me excited is the problem solving piece, which is why work in the early stage. But that growth mindset is so critical. As a founder and like personal growth and how we actually move forward in the world and creates our own happiness, I know it sounds as cheesy as it is, but it's not.
[00:55:21] I mean, look, I think that we need to think about humans individually and differently and not put everybody into this box and say, OK, if you just keep your head down, you do the extra credit, you graduate, then you go to a big school or a good school, and then you get a job, you become a lawyer, and then you sit in that chair, then you become a partner, and then you're 65, you have grandkids, and then you die like it's just it's just really it's just it's kind of depressing if you think about it that way. You take no risk. You go to school. You load up on debt. You buy a house. You do a thing. You don't go anywhere. You just do your thing. And you're just you're just a a beer can in the assembly line of life.
[00:56:05] Right. So you're in my mentality. I mean, both of us work in the entrepreneurial world that like we I, I'm a novelty junkie.
[00:56:12] Like I fully admit, like I love new experiences. I will seek them out every single time. I want those people who very rarely turns on turns down food that I'm like turn off I or anything like that. Like that's just like I'm using a very safe analogy, but like I will go and seek out very unique experiences because it's what I really enjoy in life.
[00:56:30] But some people even that, you know, even the buying a house is a big risk for them. And you have to look at what's risk, you know, a calculated risk for you. But like take more in general.
[00:56:43] Just I love that. I love that. We might make that the headline for the show. So, Whitney, I'm going to try to keep you on time. So let me let me just let everybody know who you are. And then in the show notes, I will put all your information in there as well as, you know, your sales method. I believe you. You have offered to give out that deck and things of that nature. So Whitney Sales is a managing partner at Sell a Prize Ventures and Accelerator and Seed Fund with offices in San Francisco, New York and Toronto. Whitney also founded the sales method, this winning analytical process that looks at sales, market fit, sales, marketing blend.
[00:57:25] We gave you guys a little bit of a teaser today. We didn't. I've heard Whitney go an hour on this thing. And if you get a chance to go to any of her speaking engagements and listen to the depth of her content, you should definitely do that. Hopefully we can put some stuff on the website. But, Whitney, thank you so much for being on the show today. Super informative. Lots of fun. All right. Take care now. Bye.