How to dominate new markets
How to dominate new markets
Gordon Henry, Chief Strategy officer at Thryv, sits down with Devin and Sheena to talk about what his company has done to adjust the ever-changing landscape of sales and marketing. From the Yellow Pages to Zoom conferences, learn how Gordon transformed the business strategy at Thryv using data to increase ACV, to lower churn, and to support verticalization.
Gordon HenryChief Strategy officer at Thryv
Devin Reed: Welcome to Reveal, the Revenue Intelligence Podcast, powered by Gong. We're your hosts Devin Reed...
Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheen Badani. Revenue intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions, making data- driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guesswork.
Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars, people intelligence, deal intelligence, and market intelligence, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.
Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go- to- market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight, and execute their strategic initiatives, plus all the challenges that come along with it.
Devin Reed: Sheena, we know that Reveal is all about opinions versus reality, and I had my opinions shook on this interview, because I would've bet, if I was on Who Wants to be a Millionaire are the Yellow Pages still around? True or false. I would've said false, and I would've not won that million dollars.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, that was a really interesting insight from this conversation. That was one of many insights from this conversation, but that was just leveling the field. Like, " Hey, this is what the state of the world is today." And even as we get into Thryv's business with Gordon, the business around the Pages, their traditional business, is still 85% versus SaaS.
Devin Reed: Yeah, that's a very large number. Much more than I was expecting.
Sheena Badani: It's huge. Yeah, it's pretty amazing.
Devin Reed: Any time we get a c- level exec from a publicly- traded company, especially one that you've heard of or relatively heard of, is really interesting. And it was cool because we talk a lot to B to B technology leaders, and so data I thing is kind of obvious. Everyone's got data in the toolkit some way or another. To hear how he transformed the business using data to increase ACV, to lower churn, and to support verticalization, I just thought it was astounding. It was really fascinating to get that story.
Sheena Badani: Mm- hmm( affirmative). And I think the other thing is transformation is not easy. They had to change their entire business. They had to look at how they're going to market. Who is in leadership? Who is selling this product? How are we training them? There's so many aspects to shifting your business to a new way, so we get into a lot of those details in this chat as well.
Devin Reed: Great story, fantastic journey to listen to. Let's go hang out with Gordon.
Sheena Badani: Gordon, welcome to Reveal. We're so happy to have you here.
Gordon Henry: Great to be here, thank you.
Sheena Badani: So just to kick it off, could you give us a quick overview of what you do at Thryv and what you're focused on now in your current role?
Gordon Henry: Sure. I'm the chief strategy officer. I was the chief marketing officer here for about six years. Joined in 2014. About a year ago, I shifted my role to chief strategy officer. I'm involved with M&A, business development, a lot of investor and public relations, as well as working closely with salesforce and our marketing teams.
Sheena Badani: And maybe you could give us a little bit on the business. What does Thryv do? What's your key product or service?
Gordon Henry: Yeah, so Thryv is a company that sells software to small businesses. It's a Cloud- based software solution that really lets a small business communicate with their customers through the whole client journey. Everything from the beginning of the journey where a customer books an appointment with you to communicating them about that appointment, sending them documents or exchanging documents, all through the Cloud- based platform, managing the job, and then eventually getting credit for it, seeking reviews, getting paid, seeking future business. That's all done within the platform. We also have a traditional marketing service business that we've been running for many years, which includes everything from print and online advertising to inaudible advertising.
Devin Reed: And Gordon, I read that you worked in direct marketing industry at Columbia House early in your career selling books, tapes, music. What was it about direct marketing and sales that compelled you to take your career in that direction?
Gordon Henry: Yeah. So it was a long time ago, back in the'90s, but I was really excited about direct marketing because of the way it was so immediate, that you could test a product... Sometimes you would even test products you hadn't actually built yet, get a market feedback to that, tweak your offer or tweak your creative, and then test it again and ultimately get to what was a successful offer in the market place and then successful product launch. Today, in a sense. Everybody's in direct marketing, because most companies are selling through search or some form of online advertising. The ability to test and learn has gotten so much greater because it's so much faster, and an iterative process. So in a way, everybody's kind of doing direct marketing now, but back then it was really almost like a science and companies like Columbia House, where I worked, were very, very good at it and we happened to use it to sell, as you said, music, books, audiobooks, and videos too. It was a video club.
Devin Reed: Well, you're not alone in that interest. And I didn't mean to date you by saying tapes, but I love it as well. I'm on this paid Patreon group where this gentleman who makes a company called Very Good Copy, he shares once a week the best of the best direct response marketing campaigns for things like encyclopedias and all these magazines, with a breakdown of why it works so well. And it's interesting to see, one of them was unbeaten for like 34 years. No one could write a better direct response. So I find it fascinating, as well.
Gordon Henry: Yeah. There was a whole industry of people who worked in that, as you said, who were copywriters, who tested all these offers and creatives. And there's still many people who are interested in that space, but so much of it has move online now, less and less through the mail. But there's many, many different ways to do it. And as you say with the coffee, you can use these techniques for selling just about any product out there.
Devin Reed: Exactly. Yeah, we use a lot of it for ours, even though we're digital. We like the approach. It works really well.
Gordon Henry: Yeah, right.
Sheena Badani: So Thryv as a business had a pretty incredible transformation from the Yellow Pages day to IPO as a SaaS business. Could you share a little bit more about that journey since you started there in 2014?
Gordon Henry: Yeah, absolutely. So, Thryv is a company that, in a sense, is very new, and in a sense has been around for a very long time. We have a legacy marketing services business that goes back actually over 100 years, because it started really in the Yellow Pages business. And Yellow Pages was a super successful space for many, many decades. It was actually about a$ 12 billion industry in the US as late as the 1990s. And then as online came to be the thing, moved to also online directories. So print directories, online directories. And then we began to sell search advertising as well. And when I joined the company, it was principally print Yellow Pages advertising, online directory advertising, and search advertising. When we joined, and I say we, current management team, it was really two insights. One was, we felt this headlong rush into search advertising was not a great business for us to be in. It was clear that traditional directory advertising was in a slow secular decline. Most print products, of course, did decline and shifted to online. Same was true for Yellow Pages. And we thought this move to be reselling search, really reselling Google, first of all for us wasn't a great business because it wasn't a high margin business. It was very commoditized. And secondly, we felt we could do a better job of serving small businesses by developing a Cloud- based product that would allow them to manage their entire customer experience. You think about all the big businesses you deal with, and they're all working with great Cloud- based products. You live on your mobile phone. They have all your data sitting in the CRM. They market to you very minute- by- minute almost. You interact with them and they send you a reminder notification. Think about how you interact with Amazon. You can track the package going up at your door. Small businesses had like none of that. Many of them were still operating with paper and pen, Excel spreadsheets. And so, we set out on a journey to enable the small business to transform how they did business, which in turn would transform how we did business. But it was really the vision of putting a software product out there that small businesses could use that would allow them to do really the same things that big businesses use. And so we as a company have transformed from selling advertising to also now very aggressively selling software to help small businesses, and that's changed everything really. It's change the way we sell. It's the change we talk to our customers. It's changed the way we measure our success. And it's been exciting transformation, but certainly one that's been a journey for us as a company.
Sheena Badani: That's super interesting. I remember the Yellow Pages days very fondly.
Devin Reed: Same.
Sheena Badani: I remember actually being excited when I would get the Yellow Pages delivered, and being able to flip through as a kid, and I think they used to have coupons and things like that in the back. It was a fun time. And then it started shifting and I started using the book for arts and crafts. I also have those memories too.
Devin Reed: There's a great scene in this movie called the Jerk with Steve Martin, I think it was 1985, where he runs out to the driveway and he says, " The phone book is here! The phone book is here!" And then he opens it up and he finds his name in the book and he says, " I'm famous!" I love that scene. So fun memories as well, opening the door and seeing that on the doorstep. crosstalk.
Gordon Henry: Well, we still make them. It's a bit of a misconception. People think it doesn't exist anymore. Particularly if you live in New York City in Manhattan and you live in a high- rise, you don't see them anymore. And it is true that that's the one market in the country actually that we actually don't print and deliver a directory anymore right in the center of Manhattan, because it's the kind of market where a print directory doesn't work as well, mostly because people who live in Manhattan, when they have a problem with their apartment, they just call the super. They don't really need a directory so much because the super generally fixes everything. Phone book really works well for people who live more out in the suburbs in rural areas where you have to fix a lot of the things that break in and around yourself. And so we deliver to pretty much every market in the country still, but it's more targeted than it used to be. We target the book more demographically. It tends to be more heavily used by people I'd say over the age of about 50, 55. Certainly heavily used still in people who are like 60, 65 and older. And it's used for all those things I mentioned, the home services, the professional services, other services people need. And there's still over three billion references to printed Yellow Pages in the United States, and another equal amount just about to online directories, online Yellow Pages. And so something like seven billion references, those are like usage occasion, that basically we deliver to small businesses. And so the return on investment that businesses get out of this advertising form is still much better than you'd think. People make the, I think, just assumption that when the media is no longer hot, that it just dies, but there's still... I have a friend who still has an AOL online address, and there's still people who have AOL addresses at AOL. And a doctor recently asked me, I needed a prescription, he said, " Can I fax you this prescription?" I was like, " Fax? People do that?" I have a bunch of doctors in my family. They still wear beepers. These things don't just go away.
Devin Reed: Funny you say that. We were working with someone. We have this freelancer joining our team and I said, " Can you send me your email?" It was an AOL. I was like, " Wow, that makes me very happy. Very nostalgic."
Gordon Henry: Yeah.
Devin Reed: So, Gordon, it seems like there's two core aspects to Thryv. You've got the software that helps clients with their daily demands of running their business, and then the search displays social local print and directory products. Is that right?
Gordon Henry: Yeah, that's right. We really have two segments. We're a publicly traded company now. We're listed on the NASDAQ, THRY. And we report out two separate segments. One is marketing services, the other is the SaaS solution, Cloud- based solution, as you said. Just to give you a sense of the size, the marketing services, which again, this one's been around for a really, really, really long time, is still about 85% of our revenue but is in a long, slow decline. The SaaS or Cloud- based solution is about 15%, but is fast growing.
Devin Reed: Got it.
Sheena Badani: So there must be some pretty interesting challenges of setting up sales works for these very different product lines, like different skillsets, different sales motions, maybe a different type of buyer for each. Tell us a little bit about the challenges that you've seen really creating these two product lines and selling these two very different products. And how have you overcome those challenges?
Gordon Henry: Yeah, that's an excellent question. We've really had to transform the whole company, I would say. And speaking about the process of sales organization, we have a traditional salesforce that had a selling motion that was based on two different... inside sales and outside sales. The outside sales was your premise or field- based sales rep who would go out in the field and essentially knock on businesses' doors within the territory. And then there was a telephone- based group in a couple different telephone centers that did the same thing, but over the phone. So, we've had to transform how they work, and also we've developed an entirely new selling process, selling motion based around this drive. So for the new team, we call them new channels, we have an inbound team where we do digital advertising. We generate hand- raisers, businesses that are interested in the product, who basically fill out a form. We connect with them and end up doing a Zoom meeting where we do an online demo for them, and then we try to sell them through this online demo, online sales call. A second part of this team is what we call a partner team, and we've signed up agencies all over the country. These are generally small to sort of mid- sized marketing agencies who we partner with, and they represent us. They essentially resell the product to their customer base. And we have hundreds of these now who are signed up and it's growing every day. Then we have a third channel that's also new that sells to franchises, and franchises is a category we see great opportunity for with Thryv. These tend to be more franchises that sell services, the kind of people who come and do things, a clean- up or epoxy a garage maybe. A franchise who does maybe plumbing or other home services. This is not Burger King. But they tend to be medium- sized, like 50 to 100 unit service- based franchises, and we're getting a lot of traction with them. We recently actually were sort of sited by one of the leading franchise consulting groups in the country, Franworth. They said Thryv is the holy grail for franchises, because it does just what a franchise needs to help them manage their customer experience. And we even have now franchise sort of console that sits on top that the franchisor can look at, like the CMO of the franchisor can look at. We call that Hub for Thryv. So those are three different new channels, the inbound franchise and the partner, that are all completely new, just for selling the SaaS product. And I would also say that we've retrained the traditional salesforce in a really dramatic way. So if you were out selling marketing services five, 10 years ago, you had a traditional sales call, you spent about 30 to 60 minutes with your customer, you pretty much went through a discussion about how many leads they wanted generated every month, like how many times they wanted their phone to ring. And you would build an advertising budget based on that. We still do that for that leads- based discussion, but now there's a whole new discussion around the software. And that traditional sales rep, either the premise rep or the phone, really has to be able to speak about the software intelligently, and so we've done a tremendous amount of training. It's a very different product than the products they sold before, because it's not about generating lead. It's about allowing somebody to manage their customer base a lot more effectively. So it's been a lot of training and retraining, and also an important piece is that we have really broken the sales process down into bites where the salesperson's job is no longer to do everything. They used to do everything. Now, the goal is really have them elicit in inaudible part of the customer, and throw that over to inaudible who does the online demo, the Zoom call, if you will. And then maybe the sale gets sold by the person on the Zoom call. So you kind of chop up the sales process a little more into pieces than you used to before.
Devin Reed: Gordon, what was the defining moment to start to cut it up into those segments? And then how did you decide what those portions would be?
Gordon Henry: Well, I think it's the realization that software's a fundamentally different business. And I'm sure if you were talking to people at salesforce. com or any other large software company, it's too complex a process to expect one person to do it all and manage it and be an expert in everything, especially because generally you're innovating on the software at a much faster rate than you would've innovated on traditional products. And so, you really need almost like a sales engineer who's doing part of the job for you. And you could potentially even have a salesperson on the sales call, sales engineer with them, in person or on the phone, and then another person doing the online demo. But you definitely need at least two people. One who's building that relationship, who certainly understands the product but isn't up to speed on the latest, latest innovations. And then someone maybe back on the Zoom call who is a demo specialist, who's really good at navigating the software and can explain all the latest innovations, because we do innovate at a pretty rapid rate.
Sheena Badani: It's pretty fascinating how you've been able to really bifurcate and create these different channels in a pretty short amount of time, and they all have their different approaches, different people, different processes. It's really, really interesting. I want to double- click on the legacy sellers or the traditional sellers, because it seems to me like their sales process changed quite a bit. They have to sell SaaS, which is something that they weren't used to before. Was there anything that particularly worked in terms of educating and training those folks on this new product in this new motion? I ask because I think there's a lot of businesses that SaaS is a new product line for them, or they're transforming their businesses and there could be something they could learn from your experiences there.
Gordon Henry: Yeah. So first of all, I just want to make it clear that all our salespeople in the traditional side of the business sell both products. They sell the traditional product and they sell the new product. When I say the traditional product, it's all those marketing services products, print directories, online directories, search advertising, display advertising, websites. They sell that whole marketing services mix, and then they are also are empowered to sell the SaaS solution. So they sell the whole thing. We didn't divide up the salesforce. We did create these new channels that I described, and they only sell the SaaS solution. So just wanted to level set on there. In terms of bringing these traditional salespeople up to speed on how to do that, again, tremendous amount of training, retraining over the years, every time we've had a new product release. We're now on release, I think, 5. 3. So every 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, we tend to have a big training. We don't retrain them every time there's a small release, but we realized that they needed to be trained to be able to sell the product and talk about it in a smart way and the major benefits that our customers would get. But again, over time, we realized there was a bigger opportunity to split up those different capabilities where they would have someone behind them. So it was really that insight, I guess, that the product deserved that, merited it, and required it, and the customer really required that, that they needed to be able to get hands- on and do that Zoom call, do that online demo. And that was something that was just going to be too much to have one person do. And so, we've certainly trained our traditional salespeople enough to be dangerous. More than dangerous. And many of them do want to really own that sales call. But we have, I think, convinced ourselves, convinced them, that they do a better job partnering with somebody back at the home office who could do that online demo.
Devin Reed: Yeah. Yeah, you're more dangerous with air support.
Gordon Henry: Yeah, there you go.
Devin Reed: Well yeah, and Gordon, you support, what? Over a thousand salespeople. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen over the years as far as habits and actions that make someone successful in the B to B realm?
Gordon Henry: Yeah. And I certainly don't want to take credit for it. We have a terrific chief sales officer, Jim McCusker, and he has regional vice presidents who are terrific. I'm lucky to work alongside these people in my chief strategy role. And we have, I must say, a terrific chief executive officer who, himself, comes from a sales background, Joe Walsh, who has really led and mentored the organization. Sales, if you go back to the old days, maybe 1990s, early 2000s, it was still largely relationship- based and the salesperson who was a, we say, good talker, who was funny, could tell a joke, charming tended to do better. And the products then were simpler. As the products have gotten more complex and required more technology understanding, I think the salespeople themselves had to be able to master that new language, and the sale itself was less your personality and more around the data and the demonstration. You had to be able to prove that the products worked. So even the leads products more and more was about, " Show me it worked." In the old days with print, people tended to buy on trust. Yellow Pages was, we were talking before we came online here, it was a terrific brand. It was like advertising in the newspaper or something. It was tried. It was trusted. It had been around for 100 years. People assumed it work. If you ran a local business, you had to have a Yellow Pages ad if you were in certain categories. Couldn't be a plumber without a Yellow Pages ad. And so, a lot of it was built on trust and there wasn't as much reliance on, " Show me the numbers. Show me the ROI. Show me the cost per lead." That wasn't a thing. It had become a thing over the last sort of 10, 15, 20 years, and now you couldn't imagine going into an advertiser's office, even a local advertiser, and not talking about the cost per lead, not talking about the ROI, not talking about the conversion rates. That data has become part of the lingo. In terms of the software, that's just added to it now because people want to understand what it's going to do for them in terms of improving their business, and we also look at the business now from a much more metrics- driven perspective. So I think the whole business has become more technological and definitely more data- oriented.
Devin Reed: You know this sound. You know what time it is. The data breakout. While many of the fundamentals remain the same, selling has changed a lot since the days of the relationship sale. Making a personal connection or being a smooth talker is not longer enough to drive complex sales. According to the classic Sales Executive Council global study of sales rep productivity, the performance of relationship builders, those who focus on being generous with their time and strive to meet customer's every need only account for 7% of all top performers. And in complex environments like enterprise sales, that number drops to 4%. So does that mean that relationships no longer matter in B to B sales? Not exactly. The study's data suggests it's the nature of the relationships that matter. 54% of all- star reps in a complex, solution- selling environment are challengers. They don't avoid tension by giving in to the customer's every demand. They're comfortable providing new insights, pushing customers to think differently, and creating constructive tension. In other words, they add more value, and it's that value that drives the relationship. Stay tuned to the micro action at the end of the episode for tips to help your reps build value- driven relationships.
Sheena Badani: I guess there's also some amount of choice, like buyers have a lot more choice in terms of where to put their advertising dollars now. So, that relationship has a much... the value is much lower than it was at one point in time. It's like, " Hey, I have all these choices. What's actually going to work? What's going to have the impact?" So folks are becoming more and more fluid in data and measuring the impact.
Gordon Henry: Yeah, 100%. It's a great point. I don't know if you've seen this. This guy name Scott Brinker, I think it is, who does this thing called the marketing landscape, and you look at it over time. And if you go back to maybe the'60s, there was essentially like six or seven ad choices. You either bought TV, bought radio, bought newspaper, bought a Yellow Page ad, direct mail I guess. There was like six. Now it's like 6, 000. It just keeps growing and growing and growing because there's so many different things to buy. And even in the advertising space, that's true. There's so many choices in the advertising world. And then in the SaaS world that we now occupy selling software, there's tremendous amount of choice. Again, why you need, your word was backup or air support, because you can't possibly know all this stuff. You need to have people behind you who can explain it. In the SaaS world what's happened is, small businesses are making this migration just as big businesses did from first paper and pen to Excel spreadsheets, and now moving into Cloud- based tools. There's still only like a third, maybe 40% of small businesses that are using Cloud- based tool. It was expected to get up to two- thirds by like 2022. We think that's going to get speeded up because of COVID, because everybody having to do business virtually, so they're moving more quickly into Cloud- based tools just as we all have. We're having this conversation via Zoom now. That's just commonplace. But in terms of the selection of the tools that small businesses are making, many of them have adopted some point solution, we call it. So for example, QuickBooks for accounting software or tax software. Maybe Mailchimp for email. But as they realize over time they need to add and add and add, they need the database, they need the web presence tools, they need the email, they need the text, they need the payments, they need the invoice, the estimates, all these different things that help them manage their client's journey, they start realizing, " Wow, I got to have a lot of little tools. These tools all need to talk to each other. And suddenly I'm trying to manage this Frankenstein of five, six, seven tools." What Thryv has really done is given them a single solution where it's all integrated, all talks to each other, one dashboard, one screen, and allows them to manage everything. And that is what simplified their lives and gotten them away from having all these disparate tools. And so, to your point, it is complex. There is a lot to know. And a lot of what we've tried to do is just simplify it, both from a selling standpoint, but particularly for the customer.
Devin Reed: So Gordon, would love to know how has data helped you guide this evolution to SaaS? When you look back, do you have any insights about the business that seemed counterintuitive at the time? Like, " I thought one thing maybe for sure. Maybe I wasn't unsure. I was in a hypothesis stage." And then you looked at the data and realized, " Wow, this is completely different," or, " Really glad at last I looked at this, because now I have a better North Star."
Gordon Henry: Yeah. Well, I'll be the first to admit, we've learned a lot through this six, seven year journey we've had since 2014 in the development of Thryv, and really the data tells you everything. It's a very data and metrics- driven business. We live by things like... What's your cost of acquisition? What's the lifetime value of your customer? NDR, net dollar retention. Can you retain more dollars from a given cohort than you had the year before? And so forth. There's a whole bunch of these that are really important. You can't get drowned in too many, but there are a few really key ones that we live by. And in terms of the data and the key metrics and how it's guided us, as you asked, Devin, I think probably the biggest thing we found is how important engagement with software is. If you're in the software business, at least the software business we're in, engagement of the software is everything. The customer has to be using it. If they're not using it, they're going to question it. And so, we've developed a much more rigorous process of onboarding the customer and continuing to keep an eye on them to make sure they're engaging with the software on a very regular basis. One of the things that the data showed us that I guess is counterintuitive, when we started out, at a certain point we wanted to scale and we thought the right move was to move down- market, was basically to price our product lower, sell it through buy online where someone could just click, check it out, learn a little bit, and self- provision, and then off they go. And we did that. We launched a buy online channel. We did all those things. And at first, it looked great. The numbers skyrocketed. People self- provisioned. They adopted free trials. They signed up. We were like, " Wow, this is easy." And then we started to look at the churn numbers, and the churn numbers told us a different story, was that a lot of these quick adopters turned out not to be serious, and we didn't have as rigorous an onboarding process, and so they churned. And so we really had to move back up- market, and we removed that just buy online yourself thing, and we required them to go through some type of selling process, either that in- person process we talked about or an online demo or both, where they could get a more fulsome demonstration of the product, so they really knew this was something they wanted and needed. And then we put them through a more rigorous onboarding process to make sure that they really knew how to use the software and understood the benefits by the time they were onboard and using it. And that moved to a higher price point, moving through a salesperson, and then the demo and onboarding really quieted down that churn, gave us a much more stable base, and a much more dedicated user. And so it's really worked to our advantage, but that was counterintuitive because we didn't understand really the importance of the engagement piece.
Devin Reed: That's fascinating. I really like that. Is there anything, maybe based on that example, something you're working on now that you can share where you're like, " Hey, something's in flight and maybe I'm looking at the data constantly to make sure we're on the right path"? And maybe just another example of something you're working on now where data's made a big impact.
Gordon Henry: Yeah. Well, we are a public company, so I can't do anything too forward- looking or that we haven't talked about-
Devin Reed: I don't want to get you in trouble.
Gordon Henry: ... publicly. Yeah,that wouldn't be good. But I will say that verticalization is an area, I would say, that we've moved into. We've just launched our first couple of SaaS verticals, where now we have a SaaS-specific home services capability that we're releasing, and other ones coming. And the data has really showed us, and the market evolution as well, that this more verticalized approach is one that will work, that inaudible. And so, Thryv is uniquely horizontal in the sense that it works for many, many verticals, but businesses really need something that speaks their language, where they can see the terminology. For example, they're doing an estimate and it's the types of jobs that they do or the types... If you're a lawyer, you call it cases. If you're a doctor, you call it patients. If you're a home tradesman, you call it jobs. And we start to use their language and it really helps them just more quickly get to use the product in the way they need. And a lot of that came by just studying the data and studying how people were using the product and also responding to the kinds of requests and inbound that we got from our customer base.
Devin Reed: It kind of goes back to the direct response marketing. If you speak their language, people are going to respond. People are going to resonate with that.
Gordon Henry: Well, it's probably obvious I guess, but one that you can't say too often, you have to be close to your customer. And one of the things our sales tradition has helped us with is we are really close to our customer. We have salespeople, every day, either in person or now via Zoom, speaking to customers face- to- face just like we're doing right now. And we really feel them. We really hear their needs. And that has helped us tremendously in quickly innovating and responding to them with this software product so it does the things they want us to do. But you have to be out there talking to your customer. One way or another, you have to be talking to them. You have to be listening to them, because they tell you what you got to do.
Devin Reed: Couldn't agree more.
Sheena Badani: On that point, when we spoke earlier, you said that remote has actually been great for your salesforce, and that you expect this to continue. How do you anticipate and how are you currently maintaining that closeness with customers being remote? Because it must be so critical, especially in localized businesses and working with small businesses.
Gordon Henry: Yeah. We have prided ourselves on maintaining that personal relationship with our customers over many years, and a lot of those customers we see in- person. There's not too many companies out there who still have a face- to- face salesforce the way we do. But COVID obviously changed a lot of things for a lot of people, and it did for us as well, and it forced us to work remote as a company. We sent everybody home. Ever since right around this time, mid- March last year, we sent everybody home, worked remote. And the way our salesforce people started to deal with our customers was generally via Zoom. And we didn't know what to expect, and we quickly found that, in many ways, it enhanced productivity. First of all, salespeople didn't have to drive around, so they weren't just sitting in traffic or spending money on gas, and there just wasn't as much time when they did see the customer. It was sort of the schmoozing and chit- chat, where Zoom tends to get more quickly down to business. And so it saved the salesperson time, saved the customer time, and created a more efficient selling motion, which continues to this day. We also, as a company, found it increased efficiency for us because we didn't have as many management people flying around to meetings all the time. And so you weren't sitting in an airport or on a plane, those types of things. It was a much more efficient process from a management standpoint. So, we have found COVID, for us, to be an efficiency gainer or productivity lifter that caused us to, middle of last year, say that we were going to be a fully remote company, that we weren't going to go back to expecting people to be in the office, that we're expecting to remain a fully remote company. We reserve the right to always change or modify or adjust if we find conditions change or maybe the productivity changes, so never say never, but that has been our experience that has been positive. And so, we've actually found COVID, in that way, to be a tailwind. The other thing is COVID has caused small businesses to adopt the software more quickly. They've realized that they need this software. If you remember back to the early part of 2020, the economy of the US in January, February, March, was really going great guns. The economy was very, very strong. It was almost like full employment. Things were very buoyant. And businesses, often, when they would hear us ask them or talk to them about our software solution, they'd say, " That sounds really great, but things are so good for me now. I'm really, really busy. I just don't have time. Come back later." Well, suddenly COVID hit. Everybody had time. Nothing was going great for anybody back, you think, March, April, May last year. And suddenly they were very receptive, and the idea that you had a software that was going to specifically help me do business virtually with my small business customers was really what they needed at the right time, and so it opened a lot of conversations. 2020 was a good year for us. I mean, it wasn't a great year for the country, but it was great for us, business- wise, that we were fortunate to have.
Devin Reed: Gordon, I've enjoyed this conversation. I was excited to meet with you because we got connected via Brian on our team. Admittedly, the Yellow Pages, I was like, " I got to get the story here." And I've really enjoyed talking to you because-
Gordon Henry: Thank you.
Devin Reed: ...I was in the assumption... because out of sight out of mind. I haven't lived in the burbs for a while. I've been in San Francisco. And I hadn't seen a book in a while, so I'm like, " Man, this thing's dead somewhere and that makes me sad, but I understand." So I'm glad that you've brought reality into my life and let me know that one of my favorite things is still out there. But more so, also hearing how data's helped drive ACV, lower churn, and helped you move to an inside sales org is fascinating. I have one more question for you that I didn't put on the preparation doc, so I hope you're game for this.
Gordon Henry: Ooh, a zinger.
Devin Reed: It's really not that hard, but it's a question we ask all of our guests, which is, Gordon, how would you describe sales in one word?
Gordon Henry: I think I'd say confidence. I think you have to have confidence, first of all that you have a product or solution that is going to help your customer. You have to have that confidence. Once you have that confidence, the rest just flows from there, because you feel like you're helping somebody to make their business better, in our case. You have to have that confidence. Obviously you want to have that confidence in yourself and your skills, but you have to have confidence in your product and also the team behind you. As we've talked extensively here, it's not all about one person anymore. You have to have a team behind you who supports you. And if you have that confidence that you've got a great product that's going to help your customer win and you've got a team behind you that's going to deliver it, that's going to make sure you can execute, then I think you can be successful. So that would be my answer, confidence.
Devin Reed: I love it. I love it, and you reflect that for sure in every way that you just mentioned. And I come to every Reveal interview confident because I've got Sheena, my partner in crime, by my side.
Gordon Henry: Sheena's great. You, I'm not so sure, Devin. Sheena's great.
Devin Reed: She carries the show.
Sheena Badani: We help each other.
Devin Reed: Well, Gordon, thanks again for stopping by and hanging out with us. Really enjoyed it.
Gordon Henry: Thank you.
Devin Reed: And best of luck to you and the Thryv team, and I hope we get to cross paths again soon.
Gordon Henry: Yeah. Thank you so much. Really enjoyed it.
Sheena Badani: Thanks, Gordon.
Devin Reed: Let's get into this week's micro action. According to Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of the Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, a common concern among sales managers is if we tell our reps to be more assertive, they'll go too far and become aggressive. The authors argue that, in fact, most reps are conditioned to avoid tension and are far more likely to be too passive than too aggressive with customers. Here are three tips to help your reps take more control of each deal without taking things too far. First, lean into creative tension, even if it feels uncomfortable. Focus on bringing ideas that create value by inspiring customers to think differently. Second, don't wait for customers to tell you what to do. Be the one who guides them through the purchasing process. Finally, take control in negotiating, especially when it comes to pricing and discounts. Focus on the value you're providing rather than simply dropping your price at the first request. Can I make a super quick ask? I bet our VP of sales that we can get to 100 podcast reviews before Q1 ends, that's March 31st for us. It's a gentleman's wager for bragging rights, because I love telling him I told you so. And we're already at 73 reviews, so I'm hoping you can help push us over the edge. All you have to do is take 27 seconds to give Reveal a five star review on Apple Podcast. It's that simple. I appreciate it, and thanks for the help. If you liked today's episode, subscribe now so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.
Sheena Badani: And if you have any feedback or you want us to interview one of your favorite revenue leaders, just email us at reveal @ gong. io.