#023 Unleashing the Power of Active Audience Targeting with Arun Pillai
Data-Driven Sales Success
Guest & Host
Arun Pillai & Steven Morell
Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. In this episode of Speak Revenue, host Steven Morell explores the shifting dynamics of data-driven sales success with Arun Pillai, CEO of LakeB2B. Arun offers valuable insights into the ever-changing sales landscape, where data abundance is the new norm. Learn how active audience targeting is revolutionizing customer acquisition, how LakeB2B helps businesses identify ideal customers, and the critical role of customer experience in driving revenue growth. Join us for an insightful conversation with Arun Pillai, a seasoned sales leader with over a decade of industry experience, as we uncover the strategies for success in today's sales arena.
October 19th, 2023
Steven Morell: Welcome to our new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result! But a result of what? In this show, we turn our eyes from the output towards the input. We speak to sales and revenue leaders, to entrepreneurs about their journey. Join us on our quest to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's find out what works for them. And what didn't. Today with my guest, Arun Pillai from LakeB2B. Arun, it's a pleasure to have you here in my studio. Thank you for taking the time to come.
Arun Pillai: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure as well.
Steven Morell: Arun, we had a little preparational chat before we started, so I know a thing or two about you and what you do, but I'm not sure everybody in the audience does. So real quick, who are you? What do you do, and why are you so successful?
Arun Pillai: Sure. This is Arun. I'm the CEO for LakeB2B at LakeB2B. We help businesses bring in efficiency and sales, marketing, recruitment and revenue growth. Why am I so successful? I think I've been a sales guy all my life. So I think bringing revenue is the key for any organization. And that's the success driver for any organization.
Steven Morell: I am sure it helps if you have a sales guy as the CEO of a company .At least you don't have to hire a sales guy to run sales, right?
Arun Pillai: Definitely as I think as entrepreneurs, we happen to sell a lot of ideas internally and externally. So it's one of the paramount things that we have to do. Yes. I truly believe that a good sales guy with leadership skills is always good to do. Lead the team.
Steven Morell: Now let's explain to me a little bit about LakeB2B, your company. Are you the founder?
Arun Pillai: I am not the founder. This is a company that's been 20 years in business. Founded by our chairman and then moved on to me as the first CEO, not from the founding team. So I took up as a CEO about 2 years ago. The company for about 11 years in the sales team.
Steven Morell: Congratulations. How long have you been in the company?
Arun Pillai: 11 years.
Steven Morell: 11 years. That's quite a stretch. Given that the median tenure of a sales leader is 18 months, at least in the US that's quite a long marathon that you're running with the company. Congratulations. How big is the company in terms of headcount?
Arun Pillai: We are about 600 people.
Steven Morell: Okay. That's a significant organization. So explain to me and our audience, which problem are you actually solving and for whom are you solving it?
Arun Pillai: Sure. So we are solving the problem of relevance. Access to data to identify ICPs is no longer a challenge. Data is an abundance. But then who you should be reaching out to today versus tomorrow versus next week is based on a lot of intent factors and relevance and timing. That's what we are solving for sales, marketing, and recruitment divisions and broadly CXOs as well. And this is worldwide. A good 90% of our customer base is in the US. And the rest 10% is world over.
Steven Morell: So let me understand. Suppose I have software in the financial sector and I'm targeting Chief Financial Officers. There are thousands, tens of thousands, I don't know, hundreds of thousands CFOs in the US, in Europe, and around the globe. You are helping me to decide which CFO should I target today and which CFO should I target next week? Is that correct?
Arun Pillai: Yep.
Steven Morell: How the heck do you do this? How do you know?
Arun Pillai: See, I think if you look at data driven marketing broadly for the last 5 - 10 years the selection criteria for ICPs has been the title revenue industry. That doesn't cut the requirement anymore because, you need to understand the IT footprint of a company where a CFO is right now, what kind of accounting softwares they're already using, what kind of budgeting they have, and more importantly what are your migration plans? And as an individual the CFO that you're trying to reach out to, is he more likely to respond on a Monday morning versus a Friday evening? Is he more active on his desktop or his cell phone? Is he more likely to respond on an email or phone or a LinkedIn message. So these are insights that we sit on based on customer campaigns that we run for over 6,000 customers that we have. And this is dynamic, right? So what was true yesterday might not necessarily be true tomorrow. So this is dynamic data that keeps moving as we speak and that's the insight that our marketers or customers would get.
Steven Morell: Who is your typical customer in terms of company? Which type of companies are you targeting with the solution?
Arun Pillai: We are healthcare heavy. A good 70% of our customer base is healthcare. And when I say healthcare, healthcare IT, Pharma, life sciences, Biotech Hospitals, ID agents, all of that. And then IT services include all kinds of IT companies that you can think of. And then followed by the rest of the industries.
Steven Morell: Companies which size? More or less
Arun Pillai: There are 3 popular ways of describing companies. One is by the amount of employees, the team size, the other is by the volume of revenue that they're making per year. And I would say a newer one is the maturity state. Are they, pre seed series A, series B, and this of course refers to fresh, not freshly, but recently founded companies.
Steven Morell: So which of those three metrics is the one that you use to describe your target group?
Arun Pillai: See we have 28 different offerings that are going to top tier, which are enterprise 80% of the Fortune 5000 companies have worked with us in one of the other ways. And then our mid-tier solutions are for companies anywhere between $50 million to under $1 billion in revenue. And then yes, we have some services that we offer for startups as well. And when I say startups, we typically work with series A or more. So series A, series B, C plus. Yeah, so three different tiers for enterprise
Steven Morell: So it requires a certain stage of maturity inside the organization to really take advantage of your offering.
Arun Pillai: Pre-series A, usually companies are still trying to battle around who their ICPs are. Did we get that right? Right? So I think it's important for any company today to know who their ICPs are. That's when we can come in and really help them scale from there on.
Steven Morell: Yeah. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. You need to have the ICP nailed first, and then you can come in and help inside that iCP, select the ones. That makes perfect sense. Let me ask you, how do you sell your solution? Do you eat your own dog food? Do you know who you should target first?
Arun Pillai: Yes, we predominantly rely on our own systems that we help our customers with. But then broadly this product led growth and then sales led growth for our low end of the spectrum offering it's zero sales touch product led growth, and for our enterprise solutions and services that require consultation, it's sales led.
Steven Morell: How big is your sales team?
Arun Pillai: It's about 300 people.
Steven Morell: Okay. That's roughly like half of your entire team size is dedicated to growth and sales. That's impressive. Let me ask you, I always like to say there are only four ways of telling people what you sell. What you have to offer. You can talk to people who know you and people who don't know you. That is the end. There are not many more people. They're just these two types of people. And you can talk one-to-one and one to many. To make an example, one to many with people who don't know you is billboards on the street, TV commercials, this type of thing. One to many with people who know you is content marketing on LinkedIn. Only people who know you follow you and will see that post. In B2B I believe that deal making happens one-on-one, with people who know you, so you want to naturally increase that number. How do you go to market? Do you do cold outreach, email, phone? Do you do content marketing? Do you do a mix of everything? Give us a description of how you get this one-to-one with people who know you? Where do you get those people from?
Arun Pillai: I am glad you asked that. That's a great question. So we start with one-to-one. This is a combination of LinkedIn, email and calls. So we get to talk to influencers and decision makers of our services and products. And then we leverage content marketing during the nurturing. See, sometimes the need is established, but the timing is off. So you still have to put them through nurturing. And it can be one-to-one and one to many nurturing based on segmentations that we do. And then essentially then bring them back to one-to-one again before you close that.
Steven Morell: Relationship first. Deal closing later.
Arun Pillai: Definitely. Yes. It's all about identifying the use cases and what the customer should be doing is the key, and not necessarily who they should be choosing. Naturally enough, when you try to help the customer solve their problem or achieve the objective that they're looking for, more likely they will choose you versus your competitor.
Steven Morell: Talk to me a little bit about how your team is set up. You said you have 300 people in sales, who is doing the outreach? Do you have full circle Account Executives who have to go out and hunt themselves to have a team of BDRs, SDRs that actually do the initial outreach and then hand it over? How is that running?
Arun Pillai: Sure. See, our sales teams are based out of Singapore, Japan, Dubai, US, and India. We believe in localization to make sure that we are talking relevant to each of our customer bases. And the theme is divided into the grassroots level of sales. Starts with a demand generation team. These are the folks that do cold outreach through email, LinkedIn, and calls. And then we have an SDR level that kind of pre-qualifies the requirement before they move on. The opportunity to our BDR sales teams which is essentially a team that identifies the need and closes the sale. And then we have an account management team that takes up from there on, builds on the customer experience for future opportunities, solution selling. Essentially expansion of accounts and retention of accounts.
Steven Morell: I think I hear there is a land on an expand motion there. Is that correct? Do you come in with a small project with a test or something and then expand the customer? Or do you sell the full solution? Initially.
Arun Pillai: Both, but the approach is land and expansion.
Steven Morell: So who's doing the expanded motion?
Arun Pillai: It's the account management team and not the BDR team.
Steven Morell: So the account management team is effectively a sales team.
Arun Pillai: Yes. But essentially the approach, like I said, is, we put the customer experience in the forefront and the approach that we take, and this is something that I would definitely recommend all the sales folks and sales heads that are listening to this podcast to do. The account management team should not be about what else we can sell of the different services and solutions that we have, but perhaps the customer did buy in on something that we offer, and that's why the account management team is talking to them. How did it perform for the customer? Did it help them achieve the goals and objectives that they were hoping for? Did it help them solve the problem that they were hoping for? What can we do better? And then also what we do is we recommend the customers know what dear customer, this is what you subscribed for. This is what you should be doing to maximize your ROI for what you already paid for. Then we give them free consultations. We help them build content. We help them build journeys at no cost in that process, we become the consultants for our customers, and they happen to come back to us for more of the same service, more of the different products, more of the different solutions that we offer.
Steven Morell: I couldn't agree more. I think that the customer success team should be focused on creating impact. My friend Jacco van der Kooij from Winning by Design, who coined the term recurring impact leads to recurring revenue. What I'm always interested in is how do you get the customer success team to be aligned with that goal?
Arun Pillai: How do you incentivize them? Do they get commission? What is their North Star metric like, how do you measure impact at the customer side? The commissions are based on three aspects, definitely revenue growth, number 1. But then it's also based on surveys and the surveys are not conducted by the same customer experience teams / account management. We have a central team that makes it easy for the customers to respond to those surveys. So essentially, despite not growing revenue, if the customers have a happy question, that also comes down to a certain portion of their commissions. And the third Facet is customer retention, whether or not the customer is growing, if we happen to retain them the lifetime value of the customer adds up. So retention is the third element of commission.
Steven Morell: Let me seize the opportunity because frankly, I don't have all that often somebody in my show that goes back 11 years in the same organization. Most are shorter. Have shorter terms and less experience or less into the history of a company. You've been in that organization for 11 years, and I understand you've been for 11 years in sales. Describe for our audience, what has changed in the last 11 years? Have you been doing sales the same? Have your sales been set up the same way for the past 11 years? How was it when you joined? What? What has happened ever since?
Arun Pillai: It definitely hasn't been the same and it shouldn't be. So just to relate with see iPhone 15 was launched just a few days ago and the craze hasn't gone down. But the technology has always evolved, right? And it's the same with us. Just before I joined this company, I happened to come from entrepreneurial background. Straight out of college. I founded a company, ran it for a year, got funded, and was excited. I didn't know what to do with my life next. I thought I'll take up a job and see what next. And that's when I happened to join this company. And I think when I joined, I was 24 years old. Got the opportunity to fly around the world, meet the customers that kept me going. One thing that has stayed the same all through the years, I would say as our customer experience focus. But then, yes, I think sales has evolved for good. There were days where you would spray and pray that your leads would come back.
Steven Morell: I remember those days. Yeah.
Arun Pillai: And access to data was treated as something paramount. Today access to data is no longer a challenge. In fact, access to data is almost a right. Now it's about what we call active audience targeting. That means who should you reach at the right time with the right messaging on the right channel. That's something that we preach as well as that's something that we follow. See, we deal with roughly about 3000 leads every month, and our customer acquisition rate is roughly about 250 new logos every month. That's a scale.
Steven Morell: 250 new logos every month?
Arun Pillai: That's right.
Steven Morell: That's a big operation. Congratulations. Congratulations. Wow. I think this is probably the biggest number I've heard since we are running the show here. Very interesting. I have to agree, while I was listening I reflected, there was a time when . They were selling, at least around here in Germany, they were selling a series of very thick books for a lot of money. And the books were titled "Who Sells What?" You could actually make money. I remember they were blue in really fat books and they were like just names of companies in there. You could make a whole business concept, you could build an enterprise just on the idea that you have to pay me for information. Those days are gone. Information is readily available in abundance, as you said. And for cheap or for free. The business model today is what to do with information, how to monetize this. Talk me a little bit through, you say you are onboarding 250 new logos every month. That is a logistical heavyweight operation. How do you onboard those 250? How big is your onboarding, do you have a separate onboarding team and a separate success team? And what are the quality gates of the onboarding? Maybe describe this to me, what is my experience when I become a customer? What happens?
Arun Pillai: See our product led growth, product led customer acquisition doesn't call for a large onboarding team. So PLGs have just about 10 members onboarding team because it's a pretty much automated, pretty much self-reliant kind of model. While our SLG is definitely an onboarding heavy process we have our customer experience team or slightly contracts to the orthodox, a traditional way of customer experience team actually selling. We have our account management team that does part of the customer experience job and onboarding team that does the customer experience job which is about 30 people, and those are segmented based on the type of services that we offer. Like I said, we have 28 different services that fall into four major categories of Sales Tech, Martech, Recruit Tech, and Growth Tech. And this happens between the closure and the onboarding. That's when they get in touch with them until the delivery of the services and post delivery. They stay in touch. So at any given point in time, our customers have a 3 touch point sales account management and customer experience / onboarding team, That they can communicate with and work with as well.
Steven Morell: Arun, let me ask you, we spoke about the last 11 years and how you got into the seed that you manning currently. If I would have a time machine and I could offer to write a postcard to the five years younger Arun with a warning on it, what not to do, what to do differently, what would you put on that postcard?
Arun Pillai: I would write, do not wait for a perfect plan. Just get started. See, waiting for a perfect plan, you're not gonna get it right unless you try to test it. Your customers are the ones to validate that and say, is it working or not? You just can't wait, and start to, on your drawing board, get a perfect plan. Just get started, keep moving and things will open up.
Steven Morell: yeah. And expect things to go wrong. And that's all right. Yeah. It's all right to, yeah. Absolutely. I love that. I love that. All right, everyone, that brings us to the end of this episode of Speak Revenue. I want to thank our guest, Arun Pillai for joining us today and sharing his valuable insights. Huge shout out to our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check our website: speakrevenue.com for all additional resources and a full transcript. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you go for your listening needs, it really helps to get the word out. Also, follow us on LinkedIn, on Instagram, on YouTube wherever you can find us. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious, keep learning and stay safe. Thank you for listening.