Those organizations who encourage their staff to participate in these communities will see dramatic growth in their people and their impact on corporate results.
MEDIA 7: Congratulations on being listed as one of the ‘Top 10 SaaS Branding Experts in 2020’! What inspired you to get into this industry?
DARRYL PRAILL: Candidly, I more so fell into the industry. I’m a computer programmer by education. However, the more I created software, the more I wanted the world to know how amazing and impactful it was. To do that, I knew I needed to better understand the power of persuasion and influence. That led me on a career journey of discovery that started with becoming a Sales Engineer, then a Product Manager, then into Product Marketing, and ultimately, a Marketer. Once I arrived in that role, I knew I’d found my happy spot. It was about connecting with people where they’re at. It’s talking to them the same way I want to be talked to. It’s about trust and relationship and connection. And, candidly, that’s what branding is all about.
M7: What are the benefits of using SaaS CRM solutions?
DP: SasS CRM solutions are powerful, potentially complex and definitely overwhelming but there are so many advantages as well. The Saas aspect allows users to spend their money only on the term (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) and features they want. It minimizes financial risk and allows users to increase their investment as they become ready for more features. The CRM aspect also allow users to eliminate various spreadsheets, scraps of paper and daytimers as it consolidates the management of the customer relationship including conversations across all communications channels (phone, social, email, SMS, video, direct mail, etc.) so that the system guides them on how to develop and grow their business. It can manage the communications, the sales opportunities, post-sales service, and the ongoing upsells and cross-sells. Candidly, CRM is exactly what it claims to be — a Customer Relationship Management system. Without it, users will never successfully scale their business.
The work-from-home culture brought about by COVID will result in companies growing by utilizing more affordable talent outside of their borders and being exposed to processes that are utilized in different industries or regions.
M7: How does VanillaSoft’s sales engagement platform give sales teams the tools they need to engage, qualify and close their sales?
DP: In its simplest form, VanillaSoft continuously tells the sales rep what their next action should be, and who it should be with. Nonstop. Over and over again, It ensures each sales rep engages with a potential customer by telling them the next step in their prospecting cadence (email, phone, social media touch, video, direct mail, etc.) ensuring that they do nine or 12 or 15 for 36 (you get the idea) attempts across multiple channels. It eliminates the constant complaint that sales reps do not make enough outreach attempts, do not follow-up on leads fast enough, do not utilize all channels of communication, and don't do enough prospecting activity. And it does it in a very user-friendly way. By eliminating the behaviors that are preventing a sales rep from achieving the massive success they seek, they are rewarded with that very success by using sales engagement software.
M7: What budget-related challenges do you face every day at VanillaSoft? What strategies do you bank on for overcoming those?
DP: There are two big budget-related challenges we constantly navigate. The first is the cost of people. Currently, demand for quality people massively outstrips supply and as such the salaries for these people are dramatically increasing. That makes it difficult to grow an organization unless you’re massively venture-funded and have permission to lose money in the pursuit of growth. The second challenge is funding investment in a company’s brand and awareness to drive a constant stream of inbound sales leads. Branding requires a heavy investment in industry events, influencer marketing, and content creation. Again, venture-backed organizations can fund these activities however non-venture-backed teams, like VanillaSoft, need to constantly generate ROI from any investments they make. That makes it difficult to manage our budget while still growing our brand and attracting world-class employees. To overcome these issues, we have invested substantial time into developing our social followers, our opt-in database, and our overall community reach using personal relationships with key VanillaSoft employees. That’s essentially free but it does take time. By leveraging these relationships, we have achieved notable visibility at minimal expense. When it comes to hiring amazing talent, we continue to source job candidates who are not currently in the high-tech industry and are willing to accept a more palatable wage for the opportunity to enter the SaaS space.
Tech stacks continue to grow across companies and the money required to sustain and improve systems and processes are becoming a higher and higher line-item expense.
M7: What do you believe are the top three financial challenges for the companies that are ruling in the post COVID-19 era?
DP: The top three financial challenges post-COVID-19, in my opinion, are:
1. The dramatic increase in the cost of hiring new employees. Salaries are dramatically increasing, and it typically takes six to twelve months before an employee starts contributing towards positive cash flow based on their impact.
2. Marketing budgets contracted substantially during COVID-19 and many companies ‘saved’ their way through this period. As things open up, there is now notable tension between corporate officers wanting to keep discretionary budgets low and Sales and Marketing leaders wanting to return to historical spend allocations to drive revenue growth. This likely will result in missed revenue growth in the short term as companies wait too long to invest in growth.
3. Tech stacks continue to grow across companies and the money required to sustain and improve systems and processes are becoming a higher and higher line-item expense. Organizations will need to rationalize their investments and that will result in discord among key employees and departments as they feel their success is impeded by these decisions, which may result in greater employee turnover.
M7: What are the top SaaS trends you are looking forward to in 2021 that will help in transforming your company?
DP: Massive trends are reshaping companies in 2021, especially as we slowly leave COVID-19. Some include:
- The emergence of communities dedicated to specific skills such as Sales, Marketing, and Operations. Thousands of people are gathering to share knowledge, troubleshoot their issues, seek guidance, or look for new jobs. Those organizations who encourage their staff to participate in these communities will see dramatic growth in their people and their impact on corporate results. Further, it’s a brilliant way of creating awareness for your company by sponsoring or contributing knowledge to these specific communities.
- Account-Based Marketing is evolving into Account-Based Marketing/Sales/Success/Support/Etc. The approach is evolving beyond just targeting new sales using dedicated targeted advertising. This approach will transform organizations' market penetration and growth as they adopt it and apply it across their entire organization and entire customer lifecycle.
- The ability to hire people regardless of their location on this planet. The work-from-home culture brought about by COVID-19 will result in companies growing by utilizing more affordable talent outside of their borders and being exposed to processes that are utilized in different industries or regions. The ability to increase work-life balance while attracting world-class talent is going to change how companies fundamentally operate and it’s available to all companies of all sizes. It is a serious game-changer.
M7: You are a radio show host, producer, and public speaker as well! What is your secret to juggling all these roles along with a successful career?
DP: I have done, and continue to do all of these things. Juggling it is hard. I rely on an amazing team who help manage the logistics and keep me focused by helping me manage my calendar. If you don’t have staff to help then seriously consider utilizing virtual assistants. It’s the only way you can scale and still do the key things that help you generate revenue and grow your business.