Ray talks about why this is the best time to evaluate new strategies for breaking into top accounts, co-selling successes that he's experienced, and...
Episode 36: Scott Lichtenstein, Co-founder, BuyerSight
Scott talks about building BuyerSight, becoming a truly data-driven company, the effectiveness of a multi-channel approach, and much more.
Scott Lichtenstein is an entrepreneur and startup executive with experience scaling sales, marketing, and sales operations for B2B & SaaS technology companies. He's a student of go-to-market strategy and the co-founder of BuyerSight, a platform that provides AI guidance for sales leaders about their reps and customers.
Tune in to our conversation with Scott on our latest episode of the CoSell Show.
- Scott's journey to SaaS and what led him to build BuyerSight.
- Walking the talk and becoming a truly data-driven company.
- How noisy go-to-market is and the effectiveness of a multi-channel approach.
- Measuring goals, KPIs to follow, and how minor tweaks at the top of the funnel can have major impacts later on.
- The challenges he faced as a start-up and his advice for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Listen & subscribe
Follow along with the podcast transcript
Pete Ryan: Hi, this is Pete Ryan with the CoSell show. I'm here today with Scott Lichtenstein. Scott is the CEO of an awesome company called BuyerSight. How are you doing?
Scott Lichtenstein: Great. Thanks for having me, Pete.
Pete Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So why don't we just kick things off? My first question is, what's led you to SaaS and what brought you to build BuyerSight?
Scott Lichtenstein: Yeah, well when I started my career back when SaaS wasn't quite as much of a thing as it is today, but I began in educational technology actually. So software services meant for educational institutions, publishing companies, and things like that. And I set up a consulting shop where we were selling product development services, so building products for people, and I ran that for about seven years. And then. I got recruited to head sales and marketing at a SaaS company, which was my first taste of this industry, where it was a super early stage company basically seed-stage with about 20 people. Didn't really have much of a sales and marketing function at all, but they had spent a long time building the product. And then I was brought on to sort of formalizing go to market. And then this was my first taste and I fell in love with it. It's a really interesting model. The subscription really changes a lot of the dynamics in positive ways, compared to a traditional sale where you're just dumping a product on someone. So it aligns incentives in interesting ways. And so I got hooked you know. Next, I worked at a couple of other SaaS companies in various leadership roles in sales and marketing and saw how, over basically the duration of my career, teams, the way they were going to market, independent of SaaS versus not SaaS, but just in general with sales that the way we were selling has been changing with more and more technology, which has led to more and more automation and then a huge increase in data, so that frontline sales manager, they used to spend a lot of time with their reps, with their prospects, doing the sort of human qualitative aspects of the job. We're now spending a lot more time buried in spreadsheets, looking at reports, trying to interpret dashboards and quantitative elements of the role became much bigger.
And they were spending less time with their prospects and with their reps. And so the original idea was to help. A lot of this work that we can collect all that data, use machine learning to interpret it, to analyze it, point managers, to where there are issues, where there are coaching opportunities, so they're not trying to find that stuff manually by piecing together to sort of siloed data and random spreadsheets.
Again, we can automate a lot of that manual heavy lifting that they were doing and make managers more efficient so they could have more time with their reps, with their prospects. And that was the original.
Pete Ryan: Awesome. Okay. So BuyerSight is kind of this hub that pulls in all these different data sources and makes sense of it. And so, the best companies on the planet are really data-driven companies. And I spoke with this really smart VC one time who had mentioned, that it's much less about your rocket and more about your rocket fuel. Right.
So yeah. Tell me more about how the product works and who your ICP is.
Scott Lichtenstein: Yeah. What you're saying definitely resonates because being data-driven is hard. It's definitely a buzz phrase now where everyone knows that they should be data-driven, but actually walking the walk with today's tools is quite difficult. And that's really where BuyerSight steps in, we're making it easier. And the way that the product works is that we collect all of the little, what we call digital. So all the little titbits that sellers leave behind and the tools that they use in their online, day-to-day, SaaS-driven world, we collect all that data of their sales, automation, and emails. They're sending call transcripts of the dials they're placing and also everything they're touching in their CRM. Did they update an opportunity? Did they leave a note, adjust a closed date, collect all of it, and look at, first of all, categorizing using machine learning, like what are these actions, but then assess the impact on outcomes. So what's driving deals forward and what's leading to more deals being won?
So we can assess the impact of their behaviors, of their actions on their outcomes. And from that we can know what's working, what's effective, what's not, and what's shooting themselves in the foot, so to speak. So then we can guide managers. So pointing, first of all, what is effective? What should the team be doing? Like what does good look like? But then secondly, who's varying from that? Where are those coaching opportunities? Where does someone need help? Right now, uncovering that help that they need, would be a very manual process, a lot of sifting through data, trying to make sense of these numbers, to understand the behavior and its impact. And again, BuyerSight just automates those points to the manager. Here's a coaching opportunity, here's what good looks like, makes it that much easier.
So in terms of ICP, the long-term vision for the products is, that our total market is quite broad. Really anyone involved in a sale, we like to say a B2B sale, so business to business sales process could benefit from BuyerSight. While we're an early-stage company and we're small, we started in our own backyard. So software companies tend to be very data-driven or desire to be data-driven. So a lot of VC and private equity-backed companies that are trying to step on the top line or tend to be early adopters of tools like this. And then, we've also focused on sales teams between five sales reps up to around a hundred sales reps. So once they get too big, it's hard for us, as a smaller company, to service. And then too small, they really need to have that manager-seller interaction for our models to be most effective. So we plan on broadening that ICP, ideal customer profile. But today it's sort of that sweet spot of technology data-driven companies.
Pete Ryan: And so, I'm guessing here, but is there long-term vision just as you're collecting and aggregating more and more data, your algorithms, your AI, your ML, becomes more sophisticated over time to produce better insights for companies. Is that how you guys are thinking about it?
Scott Lichtenstein: Yeah, absolutely. And we're continually adding to the insights that are available. So whether that's things that we find out from companies, new ways of looking at data, or that our models can pick up on things that we didn't even think would be meaningful, but that the numbers are coming back that it is. And so, we're constantly improving and tweaking all of the models that we're using. But one interesting thing about BuyerSight is that it really is unique for each customer. We build a specific model for them, so that, and a classic example of this is like, what types of emails are most effective in prospecting? Should it be very simple, short, and clear? or can you be a little bit longer and more complex? We find it's different for different industries or different audiences that sometimes, the sort of rule of thumb you read on the internet is to be short, clear, and direct. That often is the case that it's most effective, the shorter is better, but sometimes there are some more complex industries, there's biotech where there's an audience that's used to more dense writing, where that works. And so it isn't just one size fits all that we can tailor the experience specifically to what works for your team, for your sales process, and for your audience that you're selling to.
Pete Ryan: Got it. Awesome. And so, what's the size of your team these days, and are you guys fully remote? And how are things structured?
Scott Lichtenstein: We're a seed-stage company. So small team, still there's five of us full time and we're in a remote company these days, three of the five are in New York City where we're based, but that's more coincidence than by design that we have embraced the remote lifestyle and we'll plan to continue doing, so other folks are scattered across the country. And then we work with teams that are helping us out in various places around the world. So it's really become a fully distributed team.
Pete Ryan: Awesome. And then, from a go-to-market perspective, what are the channels that you’ve found to be most effective?
Scott Lichtenstein: It's interesting how noisy go-to-market is and has become, and that's one of the things that we're really helping out with. A lot of the use case for BuyerSight is at the top of the funnel when prospecting data is just huge. It's like this explosion of data points at the top of the funnel, and so, for us in ways that we're trying to cut through that noise and for our company as well, is multi-channel prospecting. And I'm a big believer in the multi-channel approach, that just isolating yourself to just email or just phone is usually a mistake, and that having a menu of options that you're choosing from at any given time is important. But that said, the highest conversion for us has been through LinkedIn and still is. LinkedIn is a very effective prospecting channel that has been, I feel, a little underutilized by teams. People aren't sure how to use it. I hear that people are doing it well, but actually, doing it in practice, they're not sure what to do. But it's not that complex. It's basically the same stuff, apply through a new channel. One thing I've noticed is, that LinkedIn is still very effective for us, but some of our customers are seeing decreases in the efficiency of LinkedIn prospecting, and I think it's already starting to get quite noisy there. So the party might not last, we'll see how that channel maintains. But so far it's been great for us.
Pete Ryan: I completely agree with the multichannel approach because, if you're relying on one, you're putting all your eggs in one basket, that's obvious. I think a lot of companies now are looking for new channels.
And you could call PLG the new channel or partner ecosystems is a new channel, or relationship-led growth is a new channel. It'll be interesting to see over the next five-ten years, what shakes up out of that.
It's interesting, right, if you're looking at all those channels combined, the insights are going to be much different if you're just looking at them in a silo. So companies certainly have to take a more macro-level approach when they're making decisions. So I see the value, It's awesome.
And so, for you guys, being a data-driven company, how do you measure goals and KPIs, in all aspects of your business?
Scott Lichtenstein: We try to eat that dog food, be as data-driven as we can. I have BuyerSight running on my own sales activities, so it's kind of fun, and a little meta, to monitor myself like that.
We really measure the entire sales funnel and work backward from closed-won deals. What did it take to get there? How many opportunities? How many meetings did that take? How many conversations? How many contacts? So working through the entire funnel and getting your math nailed, I think is really important and something teams don't spend enough time doing for the most part. So we've tried to do that very thoroughly, but we found that the key KPI for us is qualified meetings. That is just a really important lever, that when we're driving more qualified meetings, we tend to see more deals coming through the pipeline as well. So that's something that we've oriented the team around, getting qualified meetings, measuring qualified meetings, and then having clear criteria for what those are. There are a lot of meetings that happen in a sales process, and not all of them necessarily are that first qualified meeting, that first demo. So having clear definitions of what types of conversations you're having is really key.
Pete Ryan: Yeah. It’s funny, the farther down the funnel you go, or, earlier on in the funnel you go, the bigger impact it has later on in the funnel. So a small tweak on the front end can have a huge lasting impact on the back end.
Scott Lichtenstein: That's amazing. And how that math works out. Not enough understand that, but those tweaks at the top have a huge impact at the bottom.
Pete Ryan: Certainly. So what are some of the strategies that you're thinking about in the coming months? Based on maybe even some of the data that you've learned from using BuyerSight.
Scott Lichtenstein: Yeah. You mentioned PLG. We're going to be exploring a little bit of the self-serve option. Our product does have a very short onboarding, sort of like a meeting, a 30-minute conversation onboarding. We want to try to reduce that down from 30 minutes to 30 seconds, so we can be completely self-served. We're looking at creating a stripped-down version, a more self-served version. And I liked what you said earlier about putting all of your eggs in one basket is like obviously wrong or obviously a mistake for the most part. And I feel like a lot of companies that start with PLG kind of make that mistake too, that they put all their eggs in that basket. And they're not really exploring other growth channels. While PLG is a very attractive one, it's very exciting and new, and there's a lot of buzz around it. Again, I’m a believer in spreading out the bets, especially with the go to market, so that we want to explore PLG, but it's not an isolation from other sales or marketing strategies.
Pete Ryan: Yeah, definitely. I know we're coming up on a time here. I had one last question for you, which is if you were going to talk to yourself a couple of years ago, when you first started BuyerSight, what's the advice that you would give?
Scott Lichtenstein: I had to study product management. We were started by myself, I come from the go-to-market world. My co-founder's a really hardcore engineer, deep in the engineering side. And then, in the middle, the product management of actually translating the business needs into a user experience, and then from there into the code that the engineers will be working on, is, I mean, there's a reason why these people are paid huge amounts of money in today's technology landscape. It's a really hard function and it was something I think I underestimated how difficult it is and I've just really spent the last couple of years, immersing myself in that function, learning so much. I think we were talking earlier about some of the books, the product books, we've both been reading, just trying to absorb as much as I can, and had I done that even earlier, it probably would've paid dividends today. But you know, better late than never. So we've been learning just a ton about the product and wish we’d done it even earlier
Pete Ryan: A hundred percent. I give the same advice to soon-to-be founders. It's like, you know, certainly, if you're on the go-to-market side and you think, oh, well I just need a CTO, or an engineer to build this product, It's always good to have someone kind of in the middle perhaps.
You can still make it work. Someone with product expertise that's solely focused on that. And in fact, there's like a lot of engineers that are really great product people. I would put our CTO in that category, Andrew Burleson. He's an amazing engineer, awesome at product. But when it comes down to how much time you have in a day, it's hard to do both in the same vein. For me, I'm heavy on sales, and if I'm having to do sales and marketing, there's just so many hours in the day, it's hard to be proficient at both, right?
Scott Lichtenstein: Yeah. Early-stage entrepreneurship. We're having to do a lot of things. Finance, HR, product management, sales marketing, and sort of being a little bit bad at everything all simultaneously. The joy of being an entrepreneur.
Pete Ryan: Exactly. I've been having to learn how to say no. Being, by nature, a yes guy, that's been a learning for me. But we're always evolving every day.
So listen Scott, appreciate you taking the time, awesome conversation. And for the listeners, check out BuyerSight, I’m a huge fan of what they're doing. And congrats again on the progress.
Scott Lichtenstein: Thanks, Pete. It was great being here. I appreciate it. Cheers.