Lee and Reply.io started a few years ago with $0 in funding and an ok product. After initial groundwork and a few hires, they raised a seed round of $400K and went to work on product and sales process. Today they are highly-profitable with 60 team members, fully distributed and a kick-ass sales system.

If you are:

  1. A B2B organization in a growth phase,
  2. Dealing with sales and marketing alignment issues,
  3. Curious when and how to implement partnership strategies,
  4. Or are unsure if an Account-Based Sales strategy is right for your business…

Then have a listen to this episode. The theme today is scaling a B2B sales and marketing system.

In this hour-long episode, Lee and I discuss:

  1. Reply’s scaling stages, and key inflection points at each.
  2. Account-Based Selling – what it is, how do you determine if it’s right for your business, and what do you need in terms of technology or personnel to enable an ABS model…
  3. We then spend 20min detailing Partnership Program strategy (highly-recommend listening to that segment if nothing else.)
  4. And Lee gives us his view on the martech ecosystem and outlook on the future.

Without wasting any more time selling you on this episode, here’s Lee to discuss “What It Takes To Scale a SaaS ‘Platform’ – Not To Be Confused with ‘App’”





Show Notes:

Intro to Lee & Reply.io

Reply is the leading Sales Acceleration platform. Reply has mastered email outreach automation while keeping communication 100% personal.

Lee started his company in August of 2014. His co-founder was a programmer who was getting into sales for the first time. The first thing he noticed is the lack of automation. By 2016 they had their first product launch.

Their initial marketing strategy focused on content creation, utilization of free software, cold emailing, and answering questions on Quora.

It’s now 2019 and Reply.io has been named as one of the best sales products of 2019 by the g2crowd.

Let’s break down how exactly they went from 0 – 60 employees so quickly.

Reply’s evolution 0 – 60 employees

0-12 – Initial Strategy

The entire initial strategy revolved on things they could complete for free. They began creating as much content as possible. One of their bigger successes came from answering questions on Quora from 2014-2016. By building an audience there, they were able to convert some of them into clients.

They also made sure to be on as many directories as possible. Once they acquired a complete list, they offered it to other people in the industry free of charge. One of the most important things they did, of course, was cold calling and emailing. They reached out to an audience that was precisely defined by the value created by their product.

All of this hard work lead to them landing a 400k investment which took them to the next level.

12-30 – V.2 of product UI/UX

Here’s where the process develops a finer point:

  • They scrapped a major part of the business, data
  • With the extra resources, they doubled down on their messaging platform
  • Their goal became to create the cleanest, simplest version of the product

Companies can easily get caught up in their original view of how everything would work. But the best companies know when to make the pivot away from projects that are simply inefficient. That’s exactly what Reply did when is scrapped its data department.

30-60 – V.3 of product UI/UX

Lee describes, at this point of growth, how important it is to have sales support.

This touch point is incredibly important to keep clients happy and help them ensure success with the platform.

At this stage of development, Lee was solidifying his marketing, sales, support, and BDR teams. Reply’s team is completely remote.

Once the teams are solidified the next task is getting them to work fluidly together. A major problem between sales and marketing is that they want to target the same client in different ways. Lee’s automation was a big help dealing with that issue.

The process and virtual  

Here is the software Lee used to scale his business:

  • Pipefy – process management
  • Slite – knowledgebase system
  • Intercom, joinme
  • NameToEmail
  • LinkedIn
  • Drift
  • Zapier
  • Zoom
  • Calenderly
  • Copper CRM
  • JustCall
  • Clearbit Connect
  • Sales Navigator

In total, all the assets cost $15,000 a month to maintain.  A major problem the automation is solving is the documentation of processes. If you don’t document your processes, everything will be lost if an employee is replaced.  

Let’s backup and discuss the ecosystem of Account-based selling

Account based selling is based on a B2B sales model that targets companies or “accounts” instead of focusing on leads.

An interesting point Lee makes about inbound leads is that you don’t need to target the audience you are already getting leads from.

Something you are doing is already working for this particular audience type, develop other possible clients and invest in reaching them.

A key to Account-based selling is determining which department is going to be taking the lead, sales, SDRs,  or marketing?

What products are going to be used to execute ABS?

You will need to call – are you going to be calling out of the CRM or VOIP or what?

Lee’s recommends creating a clear Sales and Marketing alignment:

  • Trial signup – Consistent follow-up from both sales and marketing
    • Triggers are set up to prevent sales and marketing overlap:
      • Call task
      • Calendar
  • Product needed to execute an ABS strategy
    • Intercom
      • More for marketing and CS
    • Drift  
      • Drift for sales and automation

Evolution of Reply’s stack

Early on in Lee’s stack, he relied on NameToEmail

Now he uses:

  • Intercom + Drift for chat
  • Copper.com CRM,
  • Just Call + Twillio for VOIP
  • Clearbit Connect, Sales Navigator

Let’s discuss partnerships and how the stack, and the sales model, can support a partnership strategy:

Establishing partnerships is something you should be doing from day one. The benefits of creating successful relationships are fundamental to the scaling process of your business.

Partnerships will help you to:

  • Grow faster
  • Get constructive feedback loops
  • Build your community

25% of Reply’s revenue comes from the partnership’s alone. Treat these relationships just like how you would treat potential clients. Have a sales funnel in place that targets partners specifically.

Great resources for partner relationships:

  • Partnerstack.com
  • Impact.com
  • Tapfiliate.com

As soon as you create a functioning partnership program, seek to hare a VP of sales. Lee himself says, “I hired a VP of Sales too late.”

Mention coming changes to the ecosystem of sales messaging saas and strategy?

Lee’s answer to this question was, “The market is constantly changing” and he couldn’t be more right. Trends come and go quickly, that’s why the Omnichannel approach is becoming the best strategy.

Omnichannel simply means that your business is on as many channels as possible. No matter what your client uses to communicate, you’re already there.

The ecosystem is also experiencing consolidation. Marketo purchased Totapp, Adobe then acquired Marketo. Now Totapp is completely shut down

Saas is still very early in its development. The evolution of the product is nowhere near being fully mature.

Right now, nobody owns the bottom and middle of the market.

Netsuite is a great example of the importance of being a platform or an app. They were the only company that brought in e-commerce services down to a single click. They sold (as a platform) for an enormous about of money due to that fact.

Final Thoughts

Lee: “If you don’t have a tool like reply, go get one now.”

Every business, no matter what the stage, needs email automation.

Automate communication always equals a better customer experience.