SalesTech Interview with Vedran Rasic, CMO at Autoklose
Sales Tech Journey
Tell us about the journey into Sales Technology. How did you arrive at Autoklose?
I was always passionate about human interaction. It still amazes me what one can achieve with precise and truthful communication, as well as, by using the right tone of voice, silence, empathy and other often-mentioned but deeply misinterpreted techniques.
Before I joined the SaaS-Tech movement, I led a sales force of over 100 salespeople in a global organization that was selling events and employer branding related products to organizations such as Cisco, Microsoft, Samsung, PWC, BCG, Deloitte, etc.
Two years later I decided to trade my suit for a startup hoodie. At first, I was helping small software shops to build business operations and then slowly moved to SaaS B2B (Software-as-a-Service, Busines-to-Business.)
The first real challenge was to find product-market fit and channel-market it at sylidra.com — an app that connects vehicle owners and repair shops. After the initial growth was set, we went through an accelerator experience with Infiniti-Nissan Lab.
What is Autoklose for a sales team and how do you differentiate it from other Sales Automation platforms?
The key strategy in generating predictable revenue is building a predictable pipeline. Sales VPs of some of the biggest Fortune 1000 companies use Autoklose daily to achieve this.
In a nutshell, Autoklose:
- saves 3 hours per day, per sales rep;
- syncs seamlessly with your existing sales stack;
- offers real-time reporting & analytics.
There are only a handful of really successful Sales Email Automation software companies out there.
If you look at publicly available data, in less than 2 years, Autoklose managed to become one of the leaders in the SMB space by offering both proprietary software and B2B data within the same platform, thus acting as a one-stop shop for most small and medium-sized sales teams (link).
We are also a preferred vendor of VMware, DHL, Rogers.
What is the sales culture that you represent? Why is it important to build a sales-focused culture for any business?
We genuinely care about our customers’ success. We want our customers to reach their goals. Every decision we make is influenced by that.
Why is it important to build a sales-focused culture for any business?
If you had to divide a company into two main parts where one would be the product and the other the business/sales, you would have to be mindful of both and focus more on one or the other when it’s strategically rational to do so.
We love this article to which our community greatly contributed by answering the question: “What Great Salespeople Always Do & What Average Salespeople Only Think About?”
How do you achieve this culture-balance at Autoklose? What percentage of this is driven by the application of technology, reporting tools, and coaching?
This heavily depends on the growth stage of the company. We are currently running 3 offices – in the USA, Canada, and Europe. So technology plays a vital role in terms of communication and project management. Reporting is an integral part of our coaching process. Two things are essential here:
- We value our people so building relationships and 1:1 coaching are a priority. In addition to that, taking care of our people is primary so that they can take care of our customers. All this means that our stakeholders can only rest assured that their interests are well protected.
- We deeply care about and try hard to support the idea-meritocracy environment.
Tell us how you achieve marketing-sales alignment. How does it impact your targets?
- Have a clear process with a certain percentage of shared goals to be achieved. The reward is also given if the shared goal is reached.
- Make it easy to collaborate. Sync tools and don’t create silos.
- Create alignment in the terminology. Be very clear and specific.
- Enhance communication and team spirit.
How different is Customer Success for marketing and sales technology products compared to other technologies, for instance, IT SaaS and Cloud?
You can trace back the answer to what your customer is trying to achieve in the first place.
What is their goal? In MarTech or SalesTech case it is to grow, to get more customers, to increase the deal size, get more visitors, etc. So the Customer Success role should be closely related to your customers’ goals.
Be more specific. If your buyer personas are Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), maybe their ultimate personal, selfish goal is to become an Account Executive (AE). So help them book more meetings and win that promotion!
How do you differentiate—Customer Success vs. Customer Service? How have these changed in the past 5 years with Cloud Contact Centers and Chatbots?
- Customer service – be there when they need you.
- Customer success – directly assist in achieving goals.
- Bot – cover the rest.
What are the core strategies you focus at, for Global business development? How does it impact your revenue channels?
The core strategy is to focus on the customer. We want to help our customers to be better at what they do. We want them to be successful. To get that promotion or overachieve the quota, have the best quarter ever. In return, we are getting more and more Word of Mouth (WoM). Our precious customers continuously share their wins across different circles. And if you ask B2B professionals how they make their purchasing decisions, it is almost always through their peer recommendations.
Expertise with Automation and AI
How do you leverage AI and automation at Autoklose?
We have a Machine Learning system at the backend of our app. Autoklose uses Machine Learning to monitor all email interaction, and schedule all emails and follow-ups in order to ensure the highest probability of the prospect opening the email.
Besides that, Autoklose will detect and handle all of the neutral replies including bounces, out-of-office messages, and unsubscribes. You only get the most relevant and interesting replies in your mailbox. Finally, Autoklose AutomaticUnsubscribe, a Machine Learning algorithm, continuously learns and assists in automatically unsubscribing and adding contacts to the “Do Not Email” list.
Which sales tech automation and tools do you use? How do they make your work easy?
Our Autoklose.com is all about Automation. We want our clients to build relationships and grow their business.
Our Marketing and Sales departments are utilizing automation heavily.
Everything is connected to automate tedious and low-value work – from native integrations to Zapier connections between different platforms. We even integrate spreadsheets, documents, and presentations.
I’ll give you one example. We don’t have a form on our book-a-demo page which 95% of companies have on their website.
As a potential client, if you click “book a demo” button you want to find the best day and time to talk. Right? You don’t want to go back and forth.
So when you are on Autoklose.com and you want to book a demo you can do it in 3 simple ways:
- Use simple meeting scheduling software (we use Calendly.com)
- Chat with our Customer Success team (via Intercom.com)
- Chat with our Autokloser bot, if the team is unavailable (via Intercom.com)
How do you see the competition from other Marketing Automation and Email Prospecting technology providers? Where do you see the landscape heading to?
When you look at the Email Automation you have:
- Marketing space (mainly B2C) – i.e., MailChimp
- Sales space (mainly B2B) – i.e., Autoklose
One sends massive, nicely designed campaigns, and works great with e-stores, while the other facilitates sending emails on your behalf, and sends personalized emails at a large scale.
Now that we know the difference, we can answer where the landscape is heading to. And I will share my thoughts on the next 5 years.
The email is here to stay. Multiple studies have confirmed that ROI-wise email still returns more $ than any other channel. Big companies like Facebook/Amazon/Google send cold emails, and so do small companies.
Here are some key points (not trends!) to make you successful using Sales Email Automation:
- The ability to deliver the right message to the right recipient.
- The ecosystem – connecting multiple systems to Sales Email Automation is important.
- The process – making the platforms connected to Sales Email Automation work together in a well tested, consistent process, is the key.
- Conversation and engagement.
A short answer would be:
Sales Email Automation is not enough – almost everyone is using it! It’s an ecosystem of apps and channels that when paired well with Sales Email Automation can deliver great engagement and conversations which is your ultimate goal.
What are the major pain points for sales-driven companies in leveraging traditional CRMs and Data Management platforms/ technologies for their own benefits and for business development?
For salespeople, the main goal is the one which answers the two following questions: How do I get more relevant conversations and how do I increase my deal-size?
Everything that’s preventing them from that is the enemy. Time is the enemy. So, how do you protect yourself from that?
You need to have the right data, you need to be well-informed, you need to know when to mention what, and above all, you need to be present and be really there for your customer.
So, if you have to waste your time on editing, adding, and handling the data, if you have to waste your time on creating and launching campaigns, or looking for the right information, all this stops you from building those meaningful relationships and trust. And that’s the part that should never be automated.
What are your predictions and observations on the “Role of Chatbots and AI Conversations” influencing sales journeys?
If you carefully read my answer to the previous question, this section will perfectly complement it.
So, you want to talk to your audience in real time all the time?
By 2020, almost 85% of all customer interactions with brands will be performed without a human agent.
Your Customer Success team is usually scattered across different time zones and it’s impossible to live up to the expectations of having 24/7 customer support.
And, your Account Manager can’t be always there.
But chatbots can. They can help you fill this gap effectively.
A really nice ABM feature of most chatbots is when your specific customer is on your website looking for a solution, you can ping the associated account manager so they can jump right in and take over.
There are 3 crucial reasons why we should implement a chatbot:
- People hate forms! Many of them simply bounce when they’re presented with a lengthy contact form they have to fill before signing up for a trial.
- Educating B2B sales leads is of vital importance, and chatbots can do that effectively.
- Chatbots can capture and analyze huge amounts of customer data.
My Sales Magnifier
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Sales Technology leader?
Focus on things AI can’t do. Become a master of:
- Empathy and communication.
Moreover, go back to basics. Read my answer to “Your advice to other CMOs and Sales professionals in the ad tech industry.”
Which events and webinars do you most occasionally attend and why?
I spend plenty of time reading and meeting people 1:1.
Your advice to other CMOs and Sales professionals in the ad tech industry—
Once professionals start overutilizing a certain marketing tactic, it yields fewer results over time, until it’s rendered completely ineffective. In the end, it vanishes from the marketing to-do radar.
Then, another creative mind comes up with a new tactic/strategy/hack and the process starts all over again.
If you want to become such a creative genius, make sure to read and carefully study the copy of the greatest (M)ad-men of the Golden Era of Advertising – the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
Go back to basics – copywriting 101. Learn how to write good copy. Learn how to tell a great story. Or paint a scenario of the “before” and “after” state. And above all create a good brand that fights a villain. That will make a million if not a billion-dollar difference between you and your competitors. That is the only way to build a brand (i.e., Apple’s “think differently” series of ads is basically fighting IBM and its clones which are thinking the same way.)
As a bonus tip: put on the AMC’s classic about the Madison Avenue Ad agencies of the 60/70s on your must-watch list. This amazing show is called “Mad Men.”
Tag a person whose answers to these questions would like to read from the industry?
Dave Gerhardt (@davegerhardt), Drift.com
Thank You, Vedran, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again, soon.
Autoklose is a sales automation platform that can streamline and automate the sales process.
Autoklose is a company that specializes in developing the sales automation platform which addresses some of the common salespeople’s pain points. That’s why we built a well-rounded outbound sales platform. It features automated lead generation software and email drip campaign management tools with CRM integration.
Autoklose is the only tool that allows you to automatically schedule appointments with targeted leads from A to Z. Wake up to a fully booked meetings calendar and start growing your business today.
Vedran is the Chief Marketing Officer at Autoklose. He is a business leader with deep experience in delivering successful product strategies, achieving targets, building high-performance teams, & leading data-driven execution & delivery.
He has worked with and led cross-functional teams from around the globe. His clients are organizations and individuals from all walks of life entrepreneurs, startups, agencies.
Some gigantic names include Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, PwC, KPMG, BCG, Samsung, National Bank of Austria. While in Europe I’ve managed a sales force of over 100 people.
Industries: Computer Software (Enterprise, Consumer Software; B2B, B2C), Creative Industries, Automotive, Education, Design, Finance, Healthcare.