How to build a successful B2B business through COVID-19 (ft. Mallorie Maranda, Senior Sales Manager @ Envoy)

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by Mohammed Shehu

Remote working has been a boon for many B2B businesses. But when your entire business model depends on people being in the office, that becomes an existential threat.

Nobody felt this threat more than Mallorie Maranda, Senior Sales Manager of Mid-Market at Envoy, a visitor management and space analytics company.

“In March 2020, everyone left their workplace. We had no idea if we were going to be in business a few months later. That was a really tough time. I had to lay off some people on my team because we just were not certain of what the future was.”

Like many companies, Envoy had to pivot quickly to stay afloat. Their saving grace was finding out how they could support their customers during that difficult time.

“We took that moment to talk to our existing customer base and say, “You’re not in the workplace, but what do you need from us right now?” And through that came, “Hey, eventually we will go back.” Or, “Hey, we have essential workers who have to be in the office, and we need a way to keep them healthy and safe.””

Envoy: a visitor management and space analytics tool

Envoy’s mission is deceptively simple: to make the workplace better.

The company has launched a suite of products to guide employees on when and how to enter the workplace. It also provides employers with critical space analytics to help them optimize their space usage.

“For employers, Envoy is giving them data and insight into how their workplaces are being used, so that they can make better-informed space management decisions and enjoy cost savings.”

This move has paid off, with the company growing its revenues and Mallorie doubling her team’s pre-pandemic size. The company now offers five products:

  1. Visitors, a guest welcoming service that collects information from guests and helps them feel at home.
  2. Protect, an employee check-in service that performs health checks, uploads vaccination records, and ensures only healthy employees can access the premises. Protect is also Envoy’s most popular product.
  3. Rooms, a room booking service for companies with boardrooms and workstations that allows staff to find the right room for an event or activity. It also offers space analytics for employers to ensure space is being maximally used.
  4. Desks, a flexible desk booking service that allows shared and private workplaces to manage their desk inventory. The service also enables staff and clients to book desks in advance.
  5. Deliveries, a delivery management service that helps companies scan incoming mail, automate notifications and reminders, and unite packages with their recipients to keep lobbies clutter-free.

These services have proven particularly useful for companies who have added more staff members than they have desks or office space.

“Companies have hired throughout the pandemic, so their physical workplace does not fit all of their employees anymore. They need the ability to hot-desk to support a greater number of employees.”

Like Miro, Honeycomb, and Dropbox, Envoy employs an elite collection of sales tools to do business. It uses Gong for call recording and coaching and Salesforce as its sales CRM. It has also just inked a deal with Atrium, a sales analytics tool that syncs your Salesforce data with Gong.

“Salesforce is incredible if I know what data I want to pull in a report. Atrium feeds me data that I didn’t even know I should be looking at.”

Visitor management in a hybrid work environment

Envoy’s research into employee willingness to return to the workplace reaches the same conclusions as others: people want to return, but in a limited way.

A hybrid work model has proven to be the most popular choice for professionals in many industries, allowing them to blend their work and life activities into the same workweek.

“Most people do not want to be back in the office five days a week. They want to save time by not commuting every day to the office. We’ve found that two to three days a week is the sweet spot.”

Mallorie observes that this hybrid work model has proved most popular among IT  and other tech professionals, particularly as it’s suited to the nature of their work.

A software engineer just needs a laptop and WiFi connection to get work done – but employees in manufacturing, construction, and other related fields need to be on-site.

This demarcation has also occurred along personality lines, with salespeople being more likely to crave the office more than their colleagues.

“​​Salespeople are naturally very extroverted. We want to be in an office collaborating with our teammates; whereas other departments in our survey say, ‘No. I’d rather be productive at home.’”

Does your company need a visitor management system?

A medical marijuana company is the last type of client you’d expect to use a visitor management system.

But it’s not all that surprising given that Envoy’s ideal customers are disruptive startups and heavily regulated companies with strict compliance needs.

The company’s trajectory has seen it serving different types of customers from egg farms in Iowa to celebrities in LA who need to manage the foot traffic at their mansions.

“For anyone who has regulations, such as FDA compliance standards that they need to comply with, Envoy’s technology helps with a lot of that. Manufacturing is a big one, plus pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies.”

Top 3 management tips for sales managers

As the senior sales manager of a space analytics company, Mallorie spends most of her time on three distinct tasks:

  1. Deal support and coaching
  2. Internal strategic planning
  3. Hiring and onboarding

Being collaborative in nature, deal desk teams require support from different departments within the sales organization to function efficiently.

Sales leaders within such units can help align each deal’s progress first to the client’s needs, then to the company’s internal goals.

And as with almost every B2B sales leadership position today, hiring remains an ongoing challenge to get right (see our interviews with Vandana Nair of Narvar, Chad Malchow of Honeycomb, and Russ Thau of Redjay for comparison).

Mallorie recognizes her company’s increasingly challenging pace and scale when it comes to finding, hiring, and onboarding new core and support staff.

“How do we scale quickly and grow quickly, while maintaining quality? If we’re hiring 10 Account Executives next year, I need to make sure that we’re also hiring the appropriate support staff – and that requires a lot of internal alignment. I didn’t necessarily anticipate hiring to be such a big part of a Sales Manager’s role.”

How to measure B2B sales performance

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Mallorie evaluates three core metrics when assessing her team’s sales performance:

#1 Multi-product attach rate

This relates to the number of upsells your sales reps make. For example, if an Envoy client is coming in requesting the Visitors and Protect products, the company’s sales reps can try to add Rooms or Deliveries to the package.

“This is really important to track because it helps us understand, “Is the market seeing value in those other products?” But it also helps me to understand, “Is my team equipped and enabled to sell the platform, and really pitch the value of the platform versus individual products?” That’s a tough skill to learn.”

#2 Average deal size

This measures whether sales reps are able to sell the higher product tiers and longer contracts in each individual deal.

In Mallorie’s case, it also gives her insight into how much discounting is being offered in each deal and whether those discounts are harming or helping their overall deal flow.

#3 Renewal rate

Your sales reps might get clients in through the door, but can they get them to stay? Renewals are what your B2B business is built on, as your CAC usually eats up most of your first year’s revenues from any one customer.

“I’ve been at companies before where you have a top-performing AE with the lowest renewal rate. And to me, that’s a huge red flag. That means that AE is not qualifying their customers well. It means they’re potentially over-promising and under-delivering.”

Differences between B2B business practices: US vs Europe

Part of Mallorie’s remit is opening and expanding their European presence, but a few challenges persist.

First, data protection laws work differently between the US and Europe, and without the right infrastructure to cater to their European clients’ compliance needs, it can be challenging to close new deals.

“We don’t have data centers in Europe; they’re all in the US. And prospects and customers are coming back saying, “Hey, we just signed a contract with you. We need a data center in Europe.” But we can’t spin up a data center in a month; that’s just not realistic. And my AEs are like, “Well, I can’t sell if we don’t have a data center.””

Another challenge Mallorie’s team faces is that European B2B buyers rely heavily on referrals. They want to speak to an actual person using the product or system to find out how it’s worked for them and what challenges they’ve faced – a live case study if you will.

This makes it difficult to penetrate the European market successfully without a database of reference customers.

“Our European customers want to be able to talk to someone else in Belgium, for example, who’s using Envoy. They want to actually go to their office and see it in use. And so building up that reference-able customer base in Europe has been a huge initiative for us.”

There are three key trends in B2B sales that sales leaders should take note of:

  1. The move towards virtual selling
  2. The increasing importance of post-sales service
  3. The greater emphasis on data privacy and retention

You can sell deals worth tens of thousands of dollars without ever meeting your customers in real life. This has been the reality of many B2B businesses since the onset of the pandemic, and Mallorie believes that virtual selling will continue to play a big role in how sales are conducted going forward.

“When I started out in tech sales, there was this big emphasis on going onsite with the customer – meetings where you bring everyone in and provide lunch. There’s definitely this movement now towards virtual selling.”

The second trend to watch out for is the increasing importance of post-sales service – a result of customers having been burnt by companies before.

Now more than ever, customers want to know that you’ll still support them after they’ve handed over their money to you. A great customer success or support team is essential to engendering trust in your customers.

“Post-sales is so important. We hear this in almost every single conversation with our prospects: “What does your post-sales look like?” And that’s because people have been left high and dry before.”

Lastly, data privacy continues to be an important consideration for many buyers today. With stringent requirements around data retention and processing at the continental (e.g., GDPR), national, state (e.g., CCPA), and even company level, it’s never been more crucial to have clearly defined policies around how you collect and use data in your products and services.

“Especially with Envoy, you’re putting your visitors and your employee information into the system. We see a lot of, ‘Hey, we came to Envoy because we were looking at another company, and their data privacy standards weren’t enough.’”

Pitching in: How to build a collaborative culture at your B2B company

At Envoy, the management team emphasizes five values:

  1. Create Great Experiences
  2. Pitch In
  3. Stand Out
  4. Communicate Openly
  5. Choose Action

Of these, “Pitch In” is Mallorie’s favorite. There’s just something about a culture where colleagues can count on each other for help with everything from structuring a large deal to doing last-minute checks on a monthly report. And as with any cultural push in the corporate world, it has to start at the top.

“Our Head of Sales, Justin, will pitch in for anything. He will jump on calls if I’m busy with my team. And I try to emulate that as well – taking on a lot of projects that are maybe outside the scope of my role.”

Of course, all of this is easier to pull off in an office environment. It’s a lot more challenging to offer help (or spot someone who needs it) in a remote work setting, which is why sales teams need to frequently check in with each other and pitch in where needed.

“In this remote world. It’s harder to collaborate. You can’t just run into a conference room, and strategize on a deal, or help out with a project. It has to be more intentional.”

Pitching in is even easier when the job to be done can be accomplished under the “2-Minute Rule.” Coined by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done”, the 2-Minute Rule is a deceptively simple remedy for procrastination.

It states that if something will take you two minutes or less to do, do it immediately. The idea is to maintain momentum throughout your work-day without piling up work that will require your attention later.

How to hire a salesperson: traits to look out for

It’s important to hire naturally curious people. Selling is about digging: getting to the bottom of a customer’s pain points, digging into their goals and needs, and understanding their purchasing power and buying authority within the organization.

Your salespeople, then, need to be curious about whatever is in front of them – a trait Mallorie specifically selects for during interviews.

“When I do an interview, I save at least 10 minutes at the end for them to ask me questions. And I’m judging that just as much as I’m judging the way they answered my questions; because I want to know, Are they thinking about this really critically? Are they curious about our business? What are they wondering about Envoy?”

Badmouthing a former employee is a red flag. There’s nuance here, of course – some work environments might truly have been toxic to their employees.

However, understanding the cause of that toxicity, the lessons learned, and the part one might have played in either enabling or ignoring that toxicity is crucial in a candidate.

“There are definitely situations where they were coming from a bad environment, which I understand. But I think if they have the maturity to paint that in a positive way, of, what did they learn from it, and what are they looking for moving forward? That, to me, is much more attractive than a candidate who spends a lot of their interview bad-mouthing and playing the victim.”

It’s also important to hire passionate people who crave the thrill of talking to prospects and winning deals. This is a core feature of Mallorie’s approach to tech sales and her career in general – consulting on the best possible way to satisfy a customer and score new revenue for the company.

It’s been a drastic deviation from her natural personality – that of an introverted, only child who preferred playing solo sports when she was younger. Mallorie now thrives on stepping out of that mold to lead teams, plan strategies collaboratively, and provide the necessary support her team needs.

“You need to work as a team to be successful. You will not win alone – I think I learned that the hard way one too many times. So if I can delegate well and clearly set expectations, that will set teamwork up for success.”

The importance of networking in your sales career

While it may seem painfully obvious in hindsight, networking is one of the most effective ways to level up your sales career.

In an industry where referrals still rule the game, building relationships with the right people can lead to lucrative deals and opportunities down the line.

This is something Mallorie wishes she had emphasized earlier in her career, and which she now advocates for to early-stage sales professionals.

“I really wish I would’ve tried to make more connections and learn more about other roles outside of my department, because there’s so much you can learn from getting to know people who are doing jobs that are vastly different from yours.”

Build a collaborative sales team today

Thanks to virtual selling, distributed teams, and changing buyer requirements, sales teams today must adapt to the new way of doing business and getting work done.

Curiosity, customer focus, and a solid post-sales program continue to be the key to winning new business, and supporting your team fully as a manager is still one of the best ways to ensure success.

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