#045 Revenue Realities with Mike Barclay
Strategies for Global Dominance: Lessons in Revenue Expansion
Guest & Host
Mike Barclay & Thomas Miltschuh
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 Thomas Miltschuh sits down with Mike Barclay, founder of Calcium ltd, a consultancy specializing in guiding Series C overseas software companies expanding into the European market. Discover the intricacies of internationalization, the importance of focused marketing, and the key leadership skills essential for success. Gain insights into overcoming barriers, optimizing team structures, and the critical role of continuous training in achieving sustainable growth. Join us in uncovering the real-world challenges and strategies behind achieving revenue success in today's global landscape.
November 28th, 2023
Thomas Miltschuh: 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 inputs. We speak to sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their journeys. Join us on our quest to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's unpack what works for them and what didn't. Today with our guest, Mike Barclay. Welcome, Mike. So great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
Mike Barclay: Thank you, Thomas. Thanks for having me.
Thomas Miltschuh: Thanks. Please tell us, who are you? What do you do? What makes you so successful?
Mike Barclay: So I'm Mike Barclay, and I have a consultancy business called Calcium ltd. And what I predominantly do is work with Series C, overseas software companies, SaaS business, we want to launch in the UK and in Europe in general. If you think about it, by the time you get to Series C, you've proven you've got a product, right? You've got customers, you have revenue, and the investors will generally say, for you to go to the next stage, you need to show that you've got headroom to grow, which normally means a new market. So I understand the ecosystem here, who the partners are. I have a lot of friends and lots of contacts in different technologies, so I can help them to understand how to make that happen because sometimes a business might say, Hey, we've got this 10 million. Let's put 10 people in London as the main office, 5 in Paris, 4 in Germany, we've got 8 new AEs, give them a target of a million each, there's going to be 4 million in ARR from nothing. And that might work, often doesn't. It's a great way to spend a lot of money. So sometimes they might go through partners or they might engage a specialist like myself, who helps them to understand, does the product fit? With the competition where they can sell it and how can they go faster? That's what I do.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay, sounds really complex. Maybe just to give out the big picture, what is the goal for the rest of this year and maybe also next year?
Mike Barclay: Interestingly this year, I have focused more on smaller coaching contracts rather than large ones and more fractional stuff Because I've also wanted to develop other sides. So I'm now a trustee for a charity That's for mental health and I do lots of work in the DE and I space as well and some work with education Trying to inspire young people to choose SaaS technology as a career. So more fractional.
Thomas Miltschuh: Right. So it's a pretty big variety of consulting you to write. Talking about companies that want to expand in Europe primarily focusing on the US market so far. What are the main, Challenges. I would rather know the other way around. Maybe from going from Europe to the US.
Mike Barclay: Right. Gotcha. If you take the US for an example, and I worked with three or four US companies in this capacity at varying degrees, they might see that you're at just one big mark and you've got 28 countries. We've got 52 States, right?
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah.
Mike Barclay: You got one language, one currency, one culture. Essentially, so there's a little bit of localization, which is helping to understand that, for example, a US case study will be all about numbers. A European case study is all about stories. So there's some of that. There's a lot to do with how our marketers think and buy differently. The US is much more volume driven. The UK is much more targeted, so help them to understand that. And then there's the element of, just because you sold to say Nestle in London, doesn't mean that Nestle Germany is going to buy. So help them with those sorts of things. So the structural pieces, but then also culturally, how do you set up the team? What sort of person is likely to be successful for you? What is the time to revenue? All those things, how you contract European law, GDPR, all these things all come into this because without a good understanding of some of these nuances. Even though they might be successful initially, eventually they're going to start hitting some roadblocks.
Thomas Miltschuh: So it really depends on culture, on product, on go to market approach. What would the first step be? Is there a general advice like go for maybe one specific country at first?
Mike Barclay: The number one thing is who is your ICP, right? Everybody talks about this, and often you'll say we can sell to this company or that company. And I'll push back and I'll say, when you made this, You didn't just make this and think, I wonder if people like it. You had something in mind, right? You had a problem you wanted to solve. Might be that doing multi channel campaigns on mobile was too difficult. It might be that you believe that you can optimize people's discovery of the website by doing certain things. So who was it you were thinking about really narrowing that down because those are the people who are most likely going to respond. That seems obvious, but quickly once you've got a product, you start getting quiet from here and from there. And, the original idea can get a little bit lost when you go into a new market, you've got to go back and think, hang on, when I started, what did I want to do? And make sure you've got that clarity. So you get traction early because if you sell for example, to a bank, because they've got a project. where they sell mortgages and they think of it as a retail type sale and then you sell to John Lewis's and I go to someone else say who's your customers barclays bank john lewis's i don't get you guys i don't know who you are all right. Know who you are is really important
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. It sounds like it's important to really listen to the existing clients first and maybe to a lot of interviews and go back to analyze the market and to see what could be. What knowledge can be transferred to the new market, right?
Mike Barclay: Yeah absolutely and also to speak to senior folks and say if you could i know you've got these customers if you could change something about your customer profile What would it be? Because again, you could get dragged away. Let's try to make sure that in this market. Our 100 percent focus is on the customers that you want, which means you can be focused in your marketing, your spend could be more correct, you get more expertise, because you know exactly who you're going for.
Thomas Miltschuh: And regarding the specific countries, is there any general advice on how, if it's maybe easier in specific countries in Europe compared to other countries or maybe focus on that region first because they all speak the same language or maybe something like that?
Mike Barclay: Yeah, sure. There's two, there's ICP is part of that, right. So somebody has a product that's very good for large scale manufacturing. Let's go off to Germany, right? Let's go off to Germany. Let's go to the north. Let's go to Munich. Let's go to the places where those people are. Let's get Daimler. Let's get all those kinds of companies, right? If there could be a company where they say that they are more into finance, then you're split between Frankfurt and London, where the two main centers are. Because essentially, if it's an e-commerce company, the UK e commerce market is twice the size of Germany and France put together, but Germany is far more open to external and so it's still software than the French are even the Germany has got. Their own preferences. I have found you can sell to large German organizations. So it's going to be again, the whole thing about who are we trying to get to? What do we want to achieve? So we can go fast. I'll give you an example. An Indian company was selling some E-commerce software, which uses a lot of personal data. Now, given GDPR and its value. My advice, let's get a very established German company to use our software. So when people say, what does an Indian company know about GDPR? We have got all these rules. And I say, X, Y, Z. A company, a brand everybody recognizes, they go, Oh, maybe you guys should be okay. It won't stop them doing their tests, but it means you can, your conversation can continue earlier on. So it's very specifically targeting the right initial customers to reference to get you to go fast.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Legal rules imply or must be an important part of this decision as well. Yeah. As the sales process is a bit more complex and longer than just selling also, including, of course, marketing, but sales and upsell customer success. And It looks like those projects imply severe investments, so a lot of money to be spent. How do you get there? Maybe strategically, would you use the customer success team at the headquarters in the US or maybe create? The whole subsidiary is the first in any European country.
Mike Barclay: Now, I agree. It's easy to spend a lot of money and it takes a while until your customer sets people up to have enough work in the market. So if a typical customer success person has for example a portfolio of 20 accounts. You don't start with 20, right? So you need to find ways of leveraging the existing team to do a lot of customer success work, and perhaps I have one person who is the face and a lot of the work is done in the background by people who are in the head office. And as you grow you can add to that. But the place to start really is the marketing effort and then the demand generation effort without those two things, everything just goes hand to mouth too slow, right? The marketing has to make sure that the market they're selling into is seeing it in their language, in their style, localized. So if I just translate an English document into German and send that in Germany, it doesn't read right. So you have to make sure you have that localization, the local voice. And that's why again, focusing narrowly allows you to use the most, get the most from the resources you're spending. The thinner you spread your marketing message, the less impactful. But if you can be the expert in this niche and you've got six customers, then go, look, this is similar. Let's do that for the next six customers. And therefore you've always got references. And learning and the language that helps you to sell to the person you're talking to.
Thomas Miltschuh: And in addition to creating those structures to be able to scale in new markets, It also implies a lot of leadership work and team development efforts. What are the main challenges in those areas when it comes to expanding to new countries and internationalization?
Mike Barclay: You've asked a great question. And that is one of the reasons I've been able to be successful because before working with SaaS, I did work in corporate and by working in corporate, I was sent off to Ashridge to learn leadership skills. I was sent to charge into marketing to learn how to market for senior leaders in sales. I went to a prince for a project management course. So understanding those things in a deep way was something I learned in corporate. And when you go into a new company, a SaaS company, They often have got into it because they can see the big companies aren't doing something right. They want to disrupt nine times out of 10. They've never worked in a big company and never done these structures,
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
Mike Barclay: right? So somebody like me, who is great, really happy working with them, but can help them with that structured stuff up and take their founder sellers and get them to understand a bit more about leadership and how to coach and how to do these things that really accelerates their ability to move forward. So the breadth of skills. is one of the reasons why I'm successful, because again, it stands to reason if five of you go to MIT or the Institute of Technology, and you come up with this great idea, and you've been working for seven years, and now you're 30. Where would you have learned leadership skills? What would you have done marketing? You wouldn't have done it, right? So bringing somebody in with those skill sets can really help structure those markets better.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. You need some practical expertise. Talking about the structure, is there any framework you prefer or is it a combination of different frameworks for leadership?
Mike Barclay: That's the combination, right? If you think about it, leading people have been happening since Day one, right? When you go back to Alexander the Great, we go back to cavemen. At some point, somebody said, look, we're going to go and live in this cave, not that cave. The leadership has always been with us, right? So there are lots of different theories and the different practices, but I believe that you want to have a good understanding of all of them and the central pieces that leaders should remember, they are serving the people they lead, not the other way around.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
Mike Barclay: In your head, you shouldn't go too far wrong. So someone, people say, what's your advice to me, leader one piece. And I say, always take more of the blame and less of the praise. And they said, why do you say that? Because your team, if they know they're going to get praise and recognition, will work hard for you. Equally speaking, you're going to share the blame. You're going to learn and we won't take silly risks, but we will take risks. So it puts you in with the team rather than separate from the team.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. Really enforces collaboration. I think. Yeah. I think that's really important advice. Actually, yeah, not only talking about leadership, maybe going a step a level lower on the tool chain and sharing it. Anything you would like to recommend for yeah, especially companies that want to expand and internationalize and want to achieve the next level of growth. Maybe some general recommendations for sales teams or specific tools.
Mike Barclay: Yeah, there are a lot of tools out there. So there's things like the listening tools for calls. And I've often said, I often say to salespeople that when you practice your selling, the best place to practice is not on a customer. So go and practice, right? Go and record yourself. Go listen to that. But when you are talking to a customer, listening back and sales people can be a little bit embarrassed. Oh, I think I sound strange. If you think you sound strange, what's the customers think? So listening tools I think are really important, right? The great thing is that now you can use those to improve your style, but you can also use many of them to use AI to find out keywords, syntax, and your sentiment. You can use them to also then populate your CRM so your data is all captured. So those kinds of things to ensure that your quality of your go to market approach. is captured, refined, robust would be an absolute recommendation. then investing in your people in general is a recommendation. People will say, I don't have time or money to spend on training. And I say, if you don't spend on training, that your people go to someone who does have time or money to spend on training.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes.
Mike Barclay: Investing in the people is absolute priority, particularly the new market. to create the coach that you want.
Thomas Miltschuh: Talking about coaching and training. I know there is usually some performance increase after any kind of coachings for the team or maybe also individual coaching, but it fades out at some point of time. How do you make sure that doesn't happen or how do you make sure you really realize it's happening at this time?
Mike Barclay: I get you. First thing is that your analysis of what you're coaching on needs to be spot on and there are tools to help you with that. The tools you can use are online. You can hire somebody and you can use someone, whoever you use. The second thing is you need to make sure whatever you're training is consolidating. For example, if a new person joins me as an SDR and I'm going to talk to him about his course, Or her calls. Following day, I want them to go and make some calls. Even if they're still on ramp, because it just got in here and goes out. They try it for real. Suddenly it all makes sense. So your consolidation is really important. So if you've got a new product, your training for the product must be right by the launch. So they go off the train on Friday or Monday, they're trying to sell. So really hold that and make sure that your performance management always checks back to make sure the thing you trained is happening. One thing I've often said is if you have a new process. and you're policing it, make sure people do it six months later, your process is wrong. That makes sense to them, that's why they're not doing it.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Mike Barclay: The consolidation is really quick. And then you learn whether you've always done the right thing.
Thomas Miltschuh: So it should also be a really continuous thing, right? Yeah.
Mike Barclay: What's the next thing and the next thing and a great way to retain your staff is to make it public. So you're doing SDR training for six months. If you're doing well, you start getting junior AE training a year after that. You got senior AE training. Yeah, I can see. Oh, that's my path to success. I want to follow that path. They don't need to go and ask another company what it would do. They can see what you would do for them.
Thomas Miltschuh: Right. And I think this is something team members really expect at that company stage talking about the series C companies, right?
Mike Barclay: You say that. Most companies aren't great at training, and most companies are not great at development plans. If they were, we would not see the turnover that we see…
Thomas Miltschuh: Yes.
Mike Barclay: …right? We wouldn't have people saying, Oh, there's a big, I don't know about Germany, but in England everyone's, there's a skill shortage. There's not enough skilled people. Who have you trained? We get trained people from elsewhere. If no one's training…
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah, I just mean, seems team members are expecting better structures, coaching structures, training structures, team development structures at bigger companies, but I've also seen in many cases that's just not the case.
Mike Barclay: Yeah, they might say it, but they get busy. They don't do it. They might want to do it. And then if this quarter revenue is not good we can't take two weeks out to train the team because we didn't sell enough. So we need them to sell, but they're not allowing the people to develop the skills to make sure next quarter is good. So it's one of those things. It's hard. But it's the most important investment that you can make.
Thomas Miltschuh: Continue this path and selling less and less costs you more money, probably.
Mike Barclay: When you say, Oh, what we'll do, then we're going to get some real senior people from the next company, because they know what they're doing. We're paying a shed load of money and that will sort the problem out.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, I know you've been in the business for a long time and have so much experience you can potentially share so much expertise and you are really successful in this. Nevertheless, could you share something that didn't work for you in the past, something that just did not work out?
Mike Barclay: I won't name the companies that won't be fair. I was working for an organization that was all into the user generated content area and there was another organization that specialized in it more than we did. And we were both going for a big contract with Nestle. I can tell you the company because you were working there. And we won the contract. Why did they win it? So I went to join them. They came out, they came to speak to me. I went to join them. They said, we want to do enterprise. We see you guys being successful. And getting on board, all of the conversation was correct. But when you dug into it, the background systems didn't support enterprise. So whether it was how the data was managed, how you did the reporting, your customer success people, all of those things. So you're going out to speak to enterprise customers who go, yeah, we know you, Mike, we're hearing what you say, but very quickly they'd unpack it and go, this doesn't work for us.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah.
Mike Barclay: So this whole idea that everybody wants to sell bigger contracts to bigger companies. You get it low. They think lower the cost of sales, less people to service, but sometimes you've got to stay in your lane. If small transactions, what you're good at, do that to be more efficient. Remember you because you want to.
Thomas Miltschuh: I know, I've experienced this in the past as well. This can be really dangerous for companies focusing on small market niches to make sure, especially if it happens several times, you need to make sure that you've got the capabilities to serve those clients on an with the whole organization. So how and when did you realize it's not working?
Mike Barclay: Unfortunately, four or five months after I joined them.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Okay.
Mike Barclay: Huge amount of time, but yeah it's where, on the surface, we looked like it worked and they did have some big clients. In reality, a lot of it was manual. It wasn't scalable. So even though you bought it, you have to get more stuff, therefore the profit margin dropped. So it just wasn't able to really build that up.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
Mike Barclay: It's a good lesson. Good lesson.
Thomas Miltschuh: What was the solution?
Mike Barclay: I left.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay.
Mike Barclay: I was to reorganize the whole business. No.
Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah,
Mike Barclay: That out for themselves.
Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah, that's what I assumed, actually. Okay. Maybe as you've got so much experience, maybe one or two lessons learned you would like to share with the audience, something you think is really important in general?
Mike Barclay: With regard to leadership, what I've mentioned already about the praise and…
Thomas Miltschuh: That's an important thing. Yeah.
Mike Barclay: The other single biggest thing when I go into new organization, so they might have tried enterprise before, for example, and the question would be, okay, so you tried enterprise, yeah, we've got these three people in, they were expensive, six figure salaries, they'd be doing big numbers, nine minutes down the line, we haven't got anything, so we decided to move out. So it takes you three months to start doing the marketing for enterprise. And it takes six months to start getting towards the contract. So if you've got to go enterprise, you've got to wait for a year to know whether it's working. So they call it too soon. And as you say, why do you think it didn't work? And when you dig into it quite often, the barrier to success is in the company themselves. So my job is to work out what gets in people's way, because most people, when you interview them, tell you they want to be great. Yeah. And they might come somewhere where they've been great. So why six months later, do you have so many average people and either you're making a mistake with your recruitment, but more likely there are things that you are doing that stock gets in people's way. So this process doesn't work or it's impossible to get this thing seen through it legal or. Yeah. The leads I get that say they're qualified aren't qualified. So my job is always to find out what the barriers to success are. Listen to the people who do the job, whether it's customer success, marketing, sales. Listen to what they say. These are things that make my job difficult. Take those away and say, now go and be successful.
Thomas Miltschuh: Alright. Sounds like we should do another episode on the barriers of success. But unfortunately we're at the end of the episode, so thank you so much for joining. I think there are really some actionable insights we've covered. Thank you, Mike Barclay, for joining us today. Share, sharing your valuable insights. A huge shout out to all our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check out our website at speakrevenue.com for a full transcript and additional resources. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you go for your listening needs. It really helps get a word out. Also follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram or on YouTube. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious and keep listening.