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Cognism at SaaS Growth 2019 - LIVE BLOG

July 3, 2019

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Cognism has won the SaaS Growth Top SaaS Company to Work for in the UK!

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Now it’s time for an award ceremony! “The Top 10 SaaS Companies for Work for”. James is handing out the awards.

Counting down from 10…

10. Xactly
9. Refract
8. Highspot
7. NewVoice Media
6. Onfido
5. Ometria
4. LandInsight
3. Chattermill
2. Akkroo
1. Cognism


Renn’s tips for thinking liking a founder:

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The fundamental change for business now is the people. The average person in the workforce has 3 needs:

  • Voice - they want to be heard
  • Choice - they want to grow and progress in their own way
  • Community - they want to be part of a larger group


A founder must be a learner - they have to grow along with their company.


How can we teach others to think like startup founders? Nowadays, a company can be formed quicker than ever in human history.


Renn’s talk - “How to think like a founder”.

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The final speaker of the day is now heading to the stage - Renn Vara, co-founder of SNP Communications.


Chris says that they worked hard at Akkroo to build strong company values. In some ways, the acquisition was more of a merger - the combining of 2 similar company cultures. It didn’t feel like a takeover.


James asks what it’s like to be an acquisition target. Chris replies that it was a surprise. He hadn’t expected it. But the best acquisitions should be a product and cultural alignment.


Chris says that SaaS founders have to be students. You have to have a passion for learning. Trying out new tools and tech is all part of the game.


James asks Chris how the sales process has changed from startup to acquisition - what are the different tools he used, the different ways of working, when a company transforms over time.

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James Ski returns to the stage. He’s hosting a fireside chat with Chris Wickson, General Manager at Akkroo - recently acquired for £34 million.


At a startup, data-driven decision making is vital. Use the data your business generates to find out what works and what doesn’t.


Peter shares a very interesting slide about hiring the right people:

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3 key things to focus on when building a hypergrowth company:

  • Objectives - define goals for yourself and your team - consider personal goals as well as business goals
  • People - hire the best people you can - your people drive sales, marketing, customer success and product


A slide that Peter uses to coach junior salespeople on how to deliver a pitch - the basic framework for a successful pitch:

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Peter is sharing advice on how to build a sales machine for hypergrowth:

  • The sales engine must be repeatable
  • It must be scaleable
  • It must be predictable

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It’s time for the final keynote of the day, delivered by Peter Crosby, the CRO of Ometria!


Different people are needed at different stages of the business. If you’re a startup, you’re looking to hire people with drive and character.

As you grow, the profile starts to change. You will start to attract talented people who may not be suited to the startup environment - but are now a good fit.

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In the early stage of your organisation, it’s all about education. Educating the market about your product. Hiring the right people is critical at this stage.

The best companies listen to their customers. Doing so creates a feedback loop that will inform how your product evolves.


Brendan says that the company that starts up will be very different from the one that reaches IPO. It’s essentially 2 different companies. Leadership must evolve as the company scales.


Brendan Walsh, VP EMEA of Zuora, takes to the stage. His topic? “The role of leadership: from startup to post IPO”.


Jim’s most important takeaway: success doesn’t bring you happiness. Instead, it’s the other way around - a happy mindset will give you an advantage and bring you success.

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Jim highlights the importance of sharing success as a sales team. Celebrate your wins - it can make all the difference to individual and team confidence.


Next up - Jim Preston, Sales Director at Showpad. He’s sharing 3 lessons for building teams to scale.


Henrique’s tips:

  • Be aware that different countries have different slang words - it can trip you up
  • Be aware of cultural norms - people from different countries work in different ways - there are different workplace cultures depending on where you are
  • Hire an inclusive team - build a team from different cultures that can still work well together
  • Place your bets as a business on where to expand - tackle countries in batches, e.g., in trios. This helps to keep focus


Starting the final session of the day - Henrique Moniz de Aragão, GM of G2.

He’s talking about how to build a European team.

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Lauren Cartigny, COO of Sales Confidence, chairs a panel discussion on neuro-diversity.

Dr. Helen Taylor of the University of Cambridge puts forward her theory that humans have evolved to work in specialised teams. Having a team of individual unique thinkers creates a stronger whole and a team that survives.

This approach can be replicated in the business environment. Having different types of thinkers on your team can increase individual and group productivity.

The panel agrees that too many businesses hire in their own image - e.g., managers hiring candidates who went to the same universities. It’s important to embrace diversity in business. Especially so in hypergrowth companies, who must be adaptable and ready for rapid change.

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Talking on a similar theme, Martin Tucker, founder and CEO of Gener8, shares his 321 method of coaching sales reps.

Whenever a sales rep is reviewing a call, have them draw up a list of the following:

  • 3 positive things that happened during the call - 3 things that went right
  • 2 negative things that happened during the call - 2 things that went wrong
  • 1 thing to improve - based on the call, what’s the 1 thing they’d like to do better next time

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Angie Vaux, founder and CEO, OutsideIN Performance, talks about how emotional intelligence can increase sales.

She shares a quote - “people buy on emotion but justify in logic”. To win sales, reps must relate to their customers. It’s imperative to tell stories and create experiences. Building relationships and rapport is essential.

Here are Angie’s 3 sales coaching tips:

  • Active listening - foster a culture where your salespeople listen to the customer
  • Seek to understand the person - find out what truly drives your customers, only then can you sell to them
  • Teach your teams to tell stories about your product. Use the customer success stories you have to grow your client base

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We are back for the afternoon sessions! First up - Andy Farquharson, General Manager, WinningByDesign.

Andy’s talk was about how companies must adopt a scientific approach to sales. The pace is fast in B2B sales. Therefore workers have to learn how to work smarter, instead of harder.

Training doesn’t necessarily improve results - the best learning is done while working. Andy shares his 70/20/10 theory of workplace learning:

  • 70% from challenging assignments
  • 20% from development and relationships
  • 10% from coursework and training

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Nazma Qurban was live on stage. Her talk was all about how leaders need to change the workplace culture in order to motivate millennials.

95% of the Cognism workforce are Gen Z or millennials, so this is a topic Nazma knows a lot about! She’s identified 3 focus areas for business leaders:

  • Culture - create a collaborative workplace culture. This is good for people straight out of university. Create a teamship rules document which sets out how the team needs to work together. Get all new hires to sign the document when they join. Have fun punishments for breaking the teamship rules - e.g.: buying a coffee for everyone in the team.
  • Growth: put in place clear progression plans. Understand your team. Get to know them personally and professionally. Align their personal objectives with your business objectives.
  • Freedom for creativity - at Cognism, our employees are given 20% flexibility in their roles - 20% of their time can be spent on creative activities outside of their core roles.
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James is introducing a round of 7-minute speeches - including Cognism’s CRO, Nazma Qurban!


Final thoughts for sales leadership:

Adam: enjoy what you do! Be authentic, be yourself. Align your natural self with the company culture.

Elaine: advice for leadership - be humble. Recognise your own faults. Recognise your team’s achievements.

Tom: create a safe working environment. Ask your team what gets the best out of them. The environment will make your team awesome!


Elaine Tyler: forget about long-term plans. Think about what you need to do in the next 6-12 months to make you a top performer.


Tom Castley: you have to have the courage to get out of the way and let your team get on with the job. Leadership is all about empowering others to achieve their best. Nobody performs well when they’re being spied on.


How do you inspire others?

Adam Kay: it has to come from yourself. Fear of failure is not an option. Have the confidence to experiment. If you have confidence, that will translate to others. It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong - just get it wrong quickly!


Now - a panel hosted by James Ski, founder of Sales Confidence and host of SaasGrowth 2019.

“Confidence and Leadership: Real Talk”.

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Sales leaders need to take a step back. Get to know your team. Everyone has different goals, dreams, lives. Understand each employee’s aspirations.

You can use new technology to gauge the dynamics of your team. If you’re not developing your team, they will go somewhere else. Create a environment that works in terms of development, then you will attract top talent to your business.


Millennials don’t want a boss - they want a coach. They want to learn every day. They’re looking for development opportunities.


Karen is talking about coaching. There is a new workforce coming up. They’re looking for more than just selling. They want a purpose in the working environment.

Millennials want to work for companies that give them that purpose.


The next keynote - Karen Muldoon, Sales Leader, Zendesk.

Her key point - the most important thing in business is talent.

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Ollie’s High Performance Management Pyramid:

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There are 4 ways to prevent stress and anxiety in the workplace, based on advice given to athletes:

  1. Turnaround toughness - how to turn bad situations around - stay motivated and focused on your goals.
  2. Critical moment toughness - staying calm under moments of extreme pressure. Control only what you can control. Move slow and breathe deep - a good way of staying calm. Focus on your goals.
  3. Endurance toughness - remaining at peak performance when operating under extreme fatigue. When we’re tired, our mental focus depletes and our performance drops. How to get over this? Maintain physical capacity - eat well, drink plenty of water. Sleep and rest. Create an internal climate that drives performance.
  4. Risk management toughness - making decisions under pressure. Top performers don’t win the gold by playing it safe. Seek out a challenge and don’t be afraid of failure.


Last year, 15.4 million work days were lost due to stress.

How can you prevent stress from impacting your work?

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What can sales learn from sport? You can bring an athletic mindset into sales. Sales can be stressful - you have to manage your job on top of the life stresses we all face.


First keynote speaker - Ollie Sharpe, VP of Revenue, SalesLoft - “Sport Science: driving peak performance in sales.”


An interesting statistic from Henrique Moniz de Aragao, VP at G2.

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Richard Smith, Head of Sales, Refract.

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James Isilay, CEO, Cognism, now on stage!

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Next panel - “Sales technologies: what problems do we solve?”

Including Ollie Sharpe, VP of Revenue, SalesLoft.

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Last question. “What does it mean to have great sales leadership?”

Eva - what scaling companies need is someone who fits into the culture. Growing a startup is like growing a family. Your product is like your children. You want people who are not just there to sell - but grow the company culture.

Martin - it depends on the stage of the company. Ideally, in the early stages, you need someone who can deliver growth fast. But you need someone who can grow with the business, right through to exit. Sometimes you have to bring external people in.

Itxaso - you need to have people with a sense of urgency. There’s no time to train at a high-growth startup.

Thomas - think about sales operations - you’ll need that sooner than you think. Sales people don’t want to do admin!


Martin Ashfari-Mehr - the benefit of working with Salesforce is that you get access to the Salesforce brand and machine. We help to leverage the talent within Salesforce to help companies scale up. We have people working at Salesforce who understand scaling up - they know the playbook. It’s vital, especially for companies who want to expand into the USA from Europe, and vice versa.


Itxaso del Palcio - we want to see companies who build broad talent pools. Who are they hiring, what are the salaries? Is it a company with a good culture and team behind the scenes? If you want to scale, you have to hire “game changers” - people who can take the business to the next level.


Thomas Eskebaek - is the engine repeatable? Is the company ready to scale? Not many are. The machinery behind it has to be watertight before moving to scale up.


Eva Tarasova - in the early stages, she doesn’t look for revenue - she looks to the customer base. Is the product delivering value for them? She wants to see companies that think outside of the box. Every investor looks for different things in a business.


Martin Ashfari-Mehr, Salesforce Ventures - as a VC, you have to be comfortable and confident in the team, that they will able to take their business to the next level. ARR and the growth of ARR is really important.


The panel…

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Next up - the VC panel - “Do VCs care about sales leaders?”

Chaired by Flavia Popescu-Richardson, VP, Silicon Valley Bank.


When scaling, you have to hire top talent into your business quickly.

Some advice:

  1. Don’t hire when it’s on fire - think about the support that sales will need. The people that will get you to $1 million may not be the people that will get you to $10 million. If you hire more salespeople, they will need more support to match.
  2. Stay horizontal - design and setup your teams in circles. You want sales and marketing to work together, for example. It’s how you got to $1 million. It’s challenging - your sales team will be larger than any other team when you’re scaling. Focus on MTM - the “Metrics That Matter.” What are the metrics that will grow your ARR the most?
  3. Keep your culture - think about your values. When you bring in new people as you scale, you want to keep your culture the same. Don’t sacrifice your culture just to get to $10 million. Teams must accountable to each other.
  4. Don’t stop listening to your customers - don’t just focus on new customers. When you were going from $0 to $1 million, you were excited whenever you secured a renewal. Keep that excitement going! Use your CS team to inform any product changes. 1 satisfied customer will help you find the next 10 customers.


To go from $0 to $10 million (the “grow up” stage) - you have to focus on sales.


Next speaker - Neil Ryland, CRO, Peakon. His speech - “From $0 to $10 Million - what not to do.”

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“Hiring is a critical thing for me.”

Jeremy talks about finding talented people who will take your business to the next level. You have to find people who can achieve but are a good fit for your values and culture.


Jeremy introduces his SaaS blueprint - how to create a successful sales machine that scales.

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Jeremy talks about Amazon - a hugely successful business now, but in the beginning it was a very chaotic environment to work in. SaaS sales leaders have to understand the mechanics of a sales machine to avoid this.


For a startup, going past the $10 million mark is a important moment. But it can place a strain on the institution. You have to invest heavily in product if you want to scale on an international level.


Jeremy: “overnight success is the market realising the value of a product.”

His company is making the journey from startup to scale up. Today, companies have to work tirelessly to improve their position.


The first speaker - Jeremy Straker, the SVP International of NewVoice Media, who has built a successful sales machine at his company, is now on stage.

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James is introducing a killer line-up of speakers! This day is all about learning how to improve sales and implementing new technologies.

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James Ski, founder of Sales Confidence is now speaking!


We are live from SaaSGrowth 2019, at the home of the London 2012 Olympics! First speech of the day about to start!

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Tagged: Sales, SaaS