Interview with Head of Sales and Marketing from custom software development company about their sales processes and values
There are no two companies with the same sales processes within software development that enjoy the same outcome. Their offerings are distinguishable, their pricing strategies are not alike, their founders share different vision and values. So we decided to conduct series of interviews with individuals responsible for growth, marketing and sales in outsourcing software development companies to find out what helps them close deals. And what disrupts along the way.
This time I’m talking with Margaret Pagel, VP of Sales and Marketing at 8th Light – a 100-employee company offering software development services with offices in Chicago, London, Los Angeles and New York.
– Margaret, what are the top services of 8th Light?
We are a software consultancy, and the services we provide can look very different in different engagements. Our team of software craftsmen and designers are passionate about working closely with our clients to deliver quality software solutions.
That said, we offer four primary types of services. We have a Studio team that work with start-ups to build applications from the beginning. We also offer Consulting engagements, in which our craftsmen are embedded in a client’s team and help them adopt more principled processes, while also delivering high quality software. We have a Training service, in which a craftsman will teach or mentor a client’s developers on how to deliver quality software. We also have a Design Studio, which creates and implements beautiful designs.
– Who is the typical customer of your company?
Our clients range everywhere from funded start-ups and entrepreneurs to medium and large companies with existing software systems and development teams.
– Are there any specific features your company is associated with?
We are known as educators. We host educational events for other developers in our community, and try to share what we learn by giving presentations and writing on our blog.
We also hire exclusively through our Modern Apprenticeship program. Everyone is given a mentor who works closely with them and curates a curriculum specifically suited for their needs. Apprenticeships last six months or more, and allow us to guarantee that every one of our craftspeople will deliver high quality software for our clients.
– What’s the most important in sales for custom software development company?
It is the customer relationships and trust you build between yourself and your prospects. It’s important to nurture these relationships.
Before a lead becomes a client, I often ask myself, “Could I invite this person over to my home for a BBQ in my backyard?” The answer always turns “yes.”
In fact, there are no clients who wouldn’t hug me when meeting.
As you may know, building custom software can be quite expensive. Trust and credibility are paramount! This is what matters in the IT business.
I don’t like the word Sales. I see myself more as a relationship manager, a connector between the company and its customers.
– How big is your sales department?
It was just me for a long time, but recently we hired one person to help in London. Our entire team works closely with our clients and helps us foster relationships, which brings us more sales opportunities.
I joined the team 4.5 years ago with extensive sales experience in the medical publishing world, but no IT knowledge. Since then, the company has grown from 10 to 100 employees, and in 2014 we opened our office in London.
– Do you require sales manager to have IT background?
I don’t think sales managers need to have IT experience to become sales drivers for their IT companies.
I’m even glad that I don’t know how to code and can’t participate in tech talks.
In our business the success is based on relationships and trust, so it’s very important for a salesperson to develop skills in relationship building. When I consider applicants for a sales position, I pay close attention to how they handle formal and informal conversations and social interactions while meeting me, let’s say, in a cafe.
– Personal meetings, phone, Skype – how do you communicate with customers and prospects?
Almost all talks are arranged by phone or through personal meetings.
Sometimes I use the GoToMeeting service. We also frequently use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect with clients quickly.
– Could you share any stats about the sales cycle and the lifetime customer value at 8th Light?
The sales cycle is about 3-8 weeks. Our engagements vary from 3 months to 5 years, with our average being 12-18 months.
– How do you find time to manage marketing activities and lead generation?
I don’t really spend time on that. The majority of our leads are referrals, with a smaller part coming from our website.
We don’t have a strict budget for marketing. Our sales have exceeded a need for that. We receive about 5-10 leads a week, with some seasonal changes in summer. Our lead-to-customer conversion rate is very high.
If I feel I can’t close a sale, that means our relationship is not where it needs to be and I don’t feel the need to bother her or him.
– What are the reasons why leads may leave conversion funnel?
There are two common scenarios why leads might go away: either we are outside of their budget, or we can’t work in their timeframe.
I do believe in what we are selling, and I expect a prospect to “respect” the software. That means they understand how software is built, and there’s an iterative process to it, and it’s not inexpensive to build. That’s another thing I think of while qualifying leads.