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Methodologies for sales team structure, hiring salespeople, compensation, and more.
Butch Langlois, a fellow Canadian, joins the Conquer Local Podcast this week. Butch is the President of North America at Vend, he has an accounting background which transited him into being an esteemed sales leader. Butch sheds some light on the Toronto Revenue Collective, what it is, why it exists, and how it’s beneficial to all sales leaders. Butch and George explore best practices when a company starts expanding their sales team and hiring remote employees. Butch explains why he hires his salespeople in groups and how he has been successful doing so.
Vend is the cloud based retail point of sale and inventory management system running in more than 25,000 stores around the world. Butch leads strategy and operations for Vends largest region, including managing North American headquarters in Toronto. He’s also the Chairman and Founding Member of the Toronto Revenue Collective, an organization designed to support the professional development of revenue leaders at high growth companies and facilitate the sharing of best practices. An accountant by trade, before Vend, Butch was the CFO for the internet division at Rogers Communication, a publicly traded Canadian telecom company with more than 25,000 employees. Prior to Rogers, his decades of experience in high growth startups includes senior roles at companies like comparative shopping site BuyBuddy.com, e-commerce platform Truition, interactive travel mapping platform PlanetEye and real estate listing platform Zoocasa.
George: I’ve had a number of people that I’ve had the privilege of working very closely with over the last seven years in my time in SaaS sales, and I finally am able to get one of my good friends Butch Langlois from Toronto, Canada. He is the founding member of the Revenue Collective in Toronto. He also is the General Manager and President of Vend. We’re going to speak to Butch and ask him a ton of questions. I’ve been working with him for a number of years. Super smart guy when it comes to building out sales organizations and SaaS sales. It’s all coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local podcast. Butch Langlois joining us from Toronto. I’ve wanted to get you on the podcast for quite some time. Butch and I met about four years ago and we’ve maintained contact. And right now, Butch, you’ve been spending the last couple years at the head of North American Operations for a company called Vend. Can you tell us a little bit about Vend?
Butch: Yeah, so Vend, it’s actually a company I met about seven years ago based out of New Zealand in the cloud retail point of sales space. So very early days for them, they were very early to market and grew to a pretty good size, had a bit of a global footprint. And then a couple of years ago they reached out to me to build their North American business. I think that one of the most interesting things about the space is that, so here I am, you know, President of Vend in North America and our two major competitors are Shopify and Lightspeed. So a company based out of Toronto and a company based out of Montreal. So I feel like it’s a win, win, win anyways, you know, no matter what happens.
George: You’ve been involved in massive sales organizations for quite some time. When I met you, you were just coming out of your work that you had done for the Rogers company and building out that team that was Outrank and you’re kind of one of the smartest guys when it comes to building out sales teams. Can we talk a little bit about how this space has changed over the last few years as we look at SaaS sales?
Butch: Sure. I mean, people think of me as a bit of a sales guy. I’m actually a CPA, so I’m an accountant by trade and I had three startups of my own where I had VPs of Sales who I probably treated badly and didn’t give them as much support as they actually required. And so what happened was when I went to Rogers, I was building out as part of my venture work … The thesis was to disrupt someone because Rogers was being disrupted in media, they were being disrupted in wireless, cable. So I said, “Hey, let’s go disrupt Yellow Pages. Let’s go local. Let’s do that.” And the first thing that the company said to me was, “Hey, well we’ve got a radio sales force out there, why don’t we just leverage that?” And it’s always a challenge to recondition people in the way they’re thinking.
Butch: Companies are getting much better at it now but back then it was really hard to take an organization that was selling a product at a different price point or in a different manner and have them sell something digital and typically SaaS much cheaper. So when you look at commission structures and everything.
Butch: So basically we had to start from scratch and we really built this model that was very metrics driven. We did a lot of work around scripting and all the metrics around meeting customers, cold calling, demo, demo-conversions, all the way to actual sales. And to launch the business we defined all those, that bit of work, before we actually launched. We took 60 days to come up with all that. We did a ton of testing to understand what converted, what didn’t. And once we had that, we then just rolled it out and hired reps every month and built them. And we grew from zero to 160 reps in 24 months and built a $25 million business in that time.
Butch: And what it really taught me was it’s almost the preliminary work that’s as important as when you’re executing day to day. It’s really setting up the right structure, the right dynamic, the right value prop that you can then just rule out … I often think of it as more like product management for sales. You look at it in the same sort of way when you’re getting ready to launch something.
Scripts: Finding the Structure to Improve Success
George: Well, I remember when we commissioned you to come in and help us with our inside sales organization in the early days, I learned from you right out of the gate that building the script is a really important piece. I think the way it went down, if I remember it correctly, it was like, “Okay, who’s going to write the script?” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. We really don’t have any.” He’s like, “No, no. You’re going to write the script because you know how to deal with the customers and then you’re going to pitch it a whole bunch of times and you’re going to close business with it and then you’re going to move it into the teams.” But that scripting piece, I found, it really gets people’s backs up when you say, “Okay, we’re going use a script,” because I think what they believe is that they’re not able to be a personality but that’s not the point at all in coming up with the scripting, is it?
Butch: No, it’s absolutely not. It’s really about, you know, a structure to how you present your product and then hitting the high points, hitting the low points. It’s about preparing the person for questions they’re going to be asked during a pitch. So it’s just really giving the sales person every sort of piece of information to be able to have a smooth call.
Butch: And you know, I remember George when we got together, I always tell this story about the first 60 days we were actually rolling things out in Rogers and one of the … I actually recruited a couple of people from New York to lead the sales org, and when they started calling people, we were trying to decide if we should use Rogers in the branding, if we should say we’re from Rogers or not from Rogers, and I remember like for the first … When you’re testing, it’s not you’ll make five calls. I mean you’ve got to talk to a wide breadth of customers to really understand what their objections are, where the points where you’re really connecting are, and in the first, you know, 50 calls, I think when they were testing, they got a bunch and everyone hated Rogers and they said, “Oh my God, we can’t have Rogers.” It’s like, “Dudes, I have sold this because you told me Rogers, the brand, was going to help us.”
Butch: Anyway, the reality was by the time they got to 250, 300 test calls, then they realized that not having to evangelize someone on the actual brand, that small business actually had some faith because it was coming from Rogers, was a bigger help than a hindrance. But their initial thoughts was, “Yeah, yeah, no, no, no. People hate Rogers.” I’m not debating whether they do or not, but it did help a little bit with evangelizing the product.
Collaboration Between Peers and Competitors Possible Through the Toronto Revenue Collective
George: So the other big takeaway that, and you and I’ve had some long conversations about this, is the testing and the metrics portion of it. And you are the founding chairman of the Toronto Revenue Collective and can we talk a little bit about what the Revenue Collective is all about?
Butch: Yeah. So the Revenue Collective was started by Sam Jacobs in New York City. And his thesis was, out in market you have a bunch of groups supporting founders and investors, right? So founders, you’ve got tech stars, you have all of these groups where these people are taken care of, and then you have all the revenue leaders around the globe who are working in these companies. And you know, typically, even if you’re in a early stage startup, you’re a common shareholder, you’re going to be diluted, you’re easily blamed, and at the end of the day, the most accountable part of the business is revenue. So typically, easily fired.
Butch: And so Sam, has been doing CRO jobs with a number of companies across US and when he was looking at it, he said, “You know, a revenue leader, a senior revenue leader in North America now, has a tenure of 19 months.” That’s pretty amazing that … And then when I started thinking about it, it made total sense. You know, if you’re the GM of a hockey team, an NHL team, and the numbers aren’t getting where they have to get to, what do you do? You fire the coach. It’s sort of the same thing. The CEO fires the VP of Sales, the CRO.
Butch: And in a lot of cases, yes, it’s because there’s a number there that’s countable, but in a lot of cases that person doesn’t necessarily have control over a lot of things. Number one, typically budgets are put together without really a ton of input. They’re just, “Hey, we need this number. Go out and get it. But you can’t have any other employees,” you know? There’s a lot of times when the product’s not ready. It’s supposed to work like this, but it’s not. And so there are all these things that impact a revenue leader’s life. The other one that’s always good is you build the company from 1 million to 5 million and all of a sudden you’re not good enough to go to 10 so you’re replaced.
Butch: And these are all things that the Revenue Collective was put together to do three things, really. It’s like three parts of the stool. So the first one is to make sure everyone who is in the Collective is sharing so that we all get better at these jobs. So if it comes to someone wanting to talk about how you put a proper script together, they can reach out to me. We have tons of people in the Collective who know how to do outbound sales. We can work together to share best practices so you can do that.
Butch: The other is you need to be able to, while you’re working in that company, be able to manage your career. When I’m saying manage your career, it means how do you make sure that when you’re setting budgets and forecasting that you’re not digging a hole for yourself? So how do you do that? How do you work with the CFO? What are the strategies you do to do that?
Butch: And then the other is how to manage your career in terms of making the right career choices, making sure that you’re protected so that if you’re building a ton of value in a company that you don’t just leave and not … You know, typically you build a company, you add a ton of value, and then you’ve got to buy your options. It doesn’t make a ton of sense. So how to be able to negotiate better for yourself.
Butch: I’ll tell you another thing, George, I had a sales leader working for me. This guy, in some ways was rigid, and the way he managed people, I mean it was amazing. I’ve never seen someone work harder and manage people so closely to have them deliver. And then I know when he actually negotiates his deal going into a company, he’s like a waffle, he waffles over. It’s terrible.
Butch: So you need to know like severance. You need to know the standards that you should be getting because at the end of the day … You know, I gained CEO of a number of my startups, it’s all about revenue. And you, as that person, are the revenue leader. You have to realize you have a ton of value. You still have to deliver. So what I love about the Collective is it helps position you that when you’re delivering, you’re getting what you actually deserve. And two, it also helps us collectively help each other be successful.
George: Well, and it’s interesting because when you go to negotiate, you’ve got PayScale and you’ve got Indeed and you’ve got all these tools that HR has to be able to set what the pay should be. But it’s good to have that community where you could say, “Well, here’s what other CROs are making or VPs of Sales are making.” I’ve found that inside the Collective, one of the best pieces is the sharing of information. So if you’re in the middle of budgeting or you’re getting ready to do a board meeting and you’ve got to deliver on pipeline metrics and things like that, there are a bunch of other people that have to do that same thing. Whereas in the early years of arriving at a tech company, and you know my background has been in media sales, it was good to find more people to reach out that were experiencing the same things so that we could share and collaborate. So I’m thankful for that.
George: We have a really good chunk of listeners all over the world. We’re in 50 different countries. You are starting up versions of the Collective in other countries as well.
Butch: That’s right. So we are in, right now, Toronto, Boston, New York, Amsterdam now is on board, London, England. And I mean you can actually join if you are outside as you are, George, you’re not in Toronto. Though we’re going to broaden out our Collective right out through Canada now just because we’re getting a ton of people joining. But yeah, it’s definitely … So the requirements are that you’re at a senior level, so C levels, CRO, CMO, VP of Sales. And that’s where we’re actually going to have associate programs for directors who can start developing and get into the Collective. But it’s just like sort of a hard line that’s actually being set whilst we grow. But definitely there’s a ton of value. I have remote members in our Toronto group who are participating a lot.
Butch: So there are events, we have happy hours and dinners, but really the action, as you know, is in the Slack groups and Google groups where I’m fascinated even though I’m not as close to my sales team here, you know, there’s just been a ton of activity around SDR plans, comp plans, how they’re handling first touches. And it’s pretty amazing to just see how people are using a pod structure versus verticalization through others. And when people are sharing like that, you really get a sense of what’s working in market and what actually might be more appropriate for your company based on what companies are similarly doing in other markets.
Butch: The other thing that’s really cool is like my major competitor now is a member of the Toronto Revenue Collective. So someone who was in our group, George, just left League and joined Shopify. So he’s like a major competitor. I’m really looking forward to seeing him tonight. So we’re competitors but at the end of the day it’s really about developing your career and making sure your career is long, you want to be making good choices moving forward. So there’s a comradery there and a sharing that is really, really unique.
Methodologies Ensure Consistency No Matter Where the Salesperson Is
George: So you know, you have the inside sales organization for Vend. I just want to shift gears and go back into the Vend piece. Your salespeople are spread out quite a bit, aren’t they?
Butch: Yeah, so we have reps now in Denver, in San Francisco, and Toronto. But the important thing was we actually didn’t do that until we had all of the methodologies, scripting, metrics all in place. So I mean one of those things is that when you start going remote, it’s how do you manage those folks, right? Especially when we don’t have a manager in every office necessarily. So it really then becomes to having, firstly, the actual methodologies of what you’re trying to accomplish and then it’s then having the call recording, the call tracking, the sales force, all the things that are required so that you can really understand the volume of activity that’s going on right across all the offices.
George: Well, I appreciate that color because that’s exactly where I was going with this is, you know, if you are going to have salespeople spread all over Hell’s half acre, you really have to have the right structure in place first. So how long did it take you to get that structure built up before you were able then to start to pour gas on adding people and building out that team?
Butch: Yeah, so you know, when we came in here and Vend was interesting that it was early in the cloud point of sale space, so for the first three or four years, they were just answering the phone, they were order takers. So we really had a couple challenges. One was changing the culture from answering the phone, because suddenly things became very competitive, to actually being able to sell in a very value-add sort of way. So it took us about 60 days to really do a clear understanding of our competitors and come up with what our value prop was. After that, then we trialed that and we had our teams in Toronto here for about three months and then we actually pushed the pedal down. We’re hiring now five to six people every month that we’re rolling and either to outbound calling sales roles or inbound.
George: You like to hire them in groups? There’s a lot more efficiency in doing that, isn’t there?
Butch: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, one of the things we did at Rogers, and one of the things I really believe in, is number one, when you bring in a group, it allows you to, number one, keep them … If you have one person, they seem to get embedded into a team and they’re distracting. So by hiring in groups you can have them training … We actually have a group come in and they spend that entire month working with an enablement manager who brings them up to speed, gets them through a whole program so that they basically then embed into the team at a certain ramp.
Butch: Because one of the things we discovered pretty early is when you’re hiring onesies and twosies, you tend to stick them in the team. They’re always asking questions. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just distracting. People want to help them. So when you’re hiring in a bigger group, it allows you to isolate them a little bit more, get them up to speed, and then it also adjusts for the fact that you typically are going lose, you know, one or the other over that time and gives you a little more buffer when you’re doing that.
George: Is there a number that we should be looking at when it comes to the churn of those reps? Like you almost want to have a few of them not make it through because holding them to a higher standard? Or am I off base there?
Butch: Nope, you’re exactly correct. The other thing which may be a little different from if we’re talking about enterprise sales or other things, is we typically, once you have a methodology together, you really aren’t trying to necessarily hire the person who’s been doing sales for 10 years, because they come with a ton of baggage, might be not the greatest baggage. So we typically are hiring people who are pretty raw that come in with the right attitude. We actually start all our reps in an outbound role because it’s the hardest role and it really creates the tenacity that’s required to be successful. And then they move up, they go from an outbound SDR to an inbound SDR to an AE role. And if they make it through that transition, by the time they get to be an AE, when they’re getting sweet leads, the work ethic is there.
Butch: So what we find in that first month is it’s super challenging to do something in outbound. So you’re typically going to have a few people check out. We’ve been actually pretty successful here. We haven’t had a ton, but you’re going to. You just can’t. You’re hiring’s not going to be 100%.
Build Over Buy – Finding the Right Salespeople to Thrive
George: And so that’s the build over the buy model where you’re building a team and you’re finding people with good attitudes and then you teach them everything else.
Butch: Correct. This was another thing I learned. So Stephen Defina, who I recruited when I was building Outrank, he came from New York, as I mentioned, I had another rep who was amazing in one of my other companies that I had built at Rogers and I said, “Hey Stephen, I want Outrank to be successful. I’m going to give you this person to start your team. I really want to.” And he goes, “Oh yeah, fantastic. I’ll interview him.” And so he went over, he interviewed him, and he came back and I said, “How’d it go?” He goes, “Yeah, no. He’s a cowboy. I can’t coach him.”
Butch: I don’t want to categorize everyone, but what we found is when you have a really good methodology and a structure to things, you can bring almost anyone in, it just really comes down to, you know, them doing the work, wanting to be successful, and the less baggage they have, the better.
George: Do you find that the best that you’re running into inside the Collective usually are like, “Okay, I did this a couple of times, I’m on to my third or my fourth time.” Like it seems to be a number of the top performers seem to be repeat offenders.
Butch: Correct. Yup. And I think that’s where a lot of the, you know, when you’ve delivered a ton of value and you’re not rewarded, I think the sort of foundation of what the Collective is about really resonates with people. And George, I know from knowing your experience of what you’ve done at Vendasta, it’s like you could go to a company and say, “Hey, I can deliver this,” and in a lot of cases, especially in early startups, some of the founders are very young, very immature. They don’t know the right things to do, and I can tell you … Another thing when I was running my, I did three startups in the 2000s, and I had a board at VCs who said, “Hey, I just don’t like that person.” So you’re under a ton of pressure to move people out at times.
Butch: And so it’s really, really important that you realize what your value is and leverage that at two times in your career. Number one is when you’re negotiating your deal with someone, because that’s when you’re more beautiful than you’ve ever been, right? So you really need to leverage that.
George: You’re never going to be better looking than you are on your first day.
Butch: And then the other time is when you’re killing it, when you’re really doing well, is when you don’t want to be afraid because what it tells you, and I’ve gone through this and I probably should have been much more aggressive at it earlier in my career, where I’ve gone and said, “Look, this is what I’m doing. I know I can go somewhere else. I’m not saying I’m going to leave, but the market is what the market is. I really want to stay here but I need to be treated fairly. I’m killing it here.” And if they don’t want to address that with you or discuss it, it tells you the sense of what they think of you. You’re not that important. And it’s better to find that out early than later, after you’ve put a ton of sweat and blood into something, and you’re not getting rewarded.
George: Well, and I think that that’s a great lesson for everyone that’s listening to the podcast today because I know that as a rep you have a hell of a month or you have a hell of a quarter and you’re kicking it out of the park on a regular basis, own that, and talk to your leadership and remind them of how you’ve performed.
George: You know, I used to work for a guy, and this is back in the days when we kept paper, he had all of the memos and all of the notes that he’d received from his boss and he called it my get out of jail free folder. Like if he made a mistake he could go to that folder and say, “Yeah I screwed up but here’s all the great stuff that I’ve done for you.” But then in addition to that, when we’re negotiating, because we’ve had a great quarter, some of those pieces, so now you probably just keep it in a folder or something like that. But I think it’s important to take heed to what Butch is saying. When you’re at the top of your game and you’re over achieving the budget is the time to go in and look at maybe at renegotiation of the way that the comp model works.
George: What do you think right now, if you were to give any advice, Butch, to a young salesperson, what do you think they should focus on in the first six months they come into a new organization?
Butch: Yeah. So first of all, you’ve got to learn the product and then you just got to put your head down. The best salespeople that have worked for me, they come in and they do the work. You know, less ping pong. When you start delivering the big numbers, like there are people in my office and yes they do play ping pong, but they’re staying later to make sure they’re delivering their numbers and they deliver all the time. Sometimes you can really get caught up in the culture of a company and it can take you in a bad way. When you’re there you have a few months to make a really good impression. And typically that’s just from being immersed in what the product is doing and then just put your head down and deliver and the rest will come, right? And you’ll be playing ping pong not long after that.
Butch: You don’t want to get taken. I often say, one of the biggest challenges in hiring is that when I bring in those five people, George, one of them may be there and that one person, if they’re the wrong person, can influence that entire group, right? They can be poisonous.
Butch: So you don’t want to be that person. You don’t want to be perceived as that person. You just want to put your head down and focus on the task at hand and start delivering.
George: Well, Butch, really appreciate you taking some time out today to join us on the podcast. I’ve wanted to have you on this show for some time and there definitely are some great learnings in the things that you were speaking about. Have a great afternoon in the center of the universe in Toronto.
Butch: Thanks George.
George: Well, as you could tell, Butch and I have worked together over the last few years and some great learnings in there. You know, he built out that sales organization inside the Rogers company. That’s a big organization and they went through a lot of learnings there and I’m definitely fortunate to have had Butch mentor and help me as we continue to build out our sales organization. This Revenue Collective thing, it’s pretty cool to be able to collaborate with people that are doing the exact same thing that you’re doing on a daily basis and being able to ask questions of those folks and getting that right from the front lines of chief revenue officers and VPs of sales that are dealing with the exact same issues that I’m dealing with on a daily basis.
George: So we thank Butch for coming in today and sharing with us his experience with the Vend organization as they’re competing against a couple of the big players in the world when it comes to that e-commerce play, but also, his work with other sales leaders in making sure that you are building a business plan that is going to suit you for your career today and your career in the years to come.
George: The Conquer Local community is alive and well on Slack, we’re actually quite impressed with how it’s been growing. You can go to conquerlocal.slack.com to join today and we look forward to your questions. Go to the podcast channel and leave suggestions for upcoming episodes. Maybe you know somebody that we should be interviewing or maybe we should be interviewing you. Leave all that information inside the Conquer Local community on Slack, and make sure to check us out on LinkedIn, we’d love to have you follow us, George Leith on LinkedIn, and you can just private message us with any suggestions that you may have for upcoming episodes of the podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.