In the first of many interviews with successful entrepreneurs, I had a pleasure of talking to Lee Gladish, one of the co-founders of the sales acceleration platform Reply.io. After years of building and managing various startups, Lee wanted to start one of his own. He wanted to be involved in the various aspects of launching a startup – from shaping the product, gathering a team of exceptional people, and creating a complete product roadmap.
Three years ago, Reply.io was born out of a vision to automate multiple communication touch points within the sales process. The team at Reply wanted to help salespeople to close deals more quickly by providing an all in one tool – from finding prospects to building engaging conversations through email or via phone.
Reply.io is now a global company running remotely; team members are located in Canada, the US, and all over Europe. Lee’s philosophy is to hire the best people in the industry, no matter where they are.
After giving me some insight in the company’s background, Lee and I talked about sales processes and how they managed to launch the product with a team of four and a few dozen customers to over two thousand customers and a team of fifty-five, and still growing.
Lee, can you tell me about Reply’s ideal customer profile?
We have customer profiles ranging from companies that only have 1-2 employees to companies with over ten thousand team members. But, our ideal company would be the one that has multiple salespeople. We mostly target sales departments, SDRs, even marketing departments within different industries. We work with software, recruitment firms, SaaS companies – service businesses in general.
What is your sales playbook? What works best for you?
Before starting the outreach process, we spend a lot of time determining who are we going to target. It’s really important to know our customer – who are we communicating with, what role they have in the company or even what vertical the company is in. If we don’t segment leads that way, we can’t have a successful outbound campaign. Before we craft our messaging, we specifically look for the company size, vertical, where they are located and whether we are going to reach out to an SDR, sales, or marketing representative.
What is your priority in the sales process?
We focus on volume and velocity but we never forget about the people. We spend a lot of time with our clients – we talk to them, support them via live chat, we call them and offer product demos if they are interested. Often times, we send them videos because they are busy and we want to ensure that they have reference material at their convenience. But the greatest factor that influences our success is the human element we give – that is a big advantage for us.
Are you doing lead research and cold outreach?
In the beginning, we only did cold outreach and we gained our first 100 customers solely based on that. We continue to do the outreach but we mostly rely on our partners, such as TaskDrive, for lead research. We need to have the right processes in place to understand how to do lead research and, in the business of building software, we want to focus on that rather than researching email lists. That is why we only do 20-30% of lead research internally and everything else, we hand over to our partners.
What are your tips to have perfect deliverability for email outreach?
The most important factor to consider is the provider you choose; they need to understand deliverability and what it takes to have a successful process. They have to have standards, processes, and procedures that will make sure your email will not go into spam. However, clients have to know that if their domain is new, they shouldn’t send out 10000 emails because that would be recognized as spam.
What emails work the best?
Emails should be tailored to the target audience. They shouldn’t be too long or too short, should have a call to action and, possibly have a solution for the recipients’ problem. Our client success team is always available to help our clients and give suggestions when needed.
What promotional strategies do you use that help Reply.io?
The promotional channel that works best for us is Quora. We follow what is going on, we give answers, and even post a lot of questions ourselves. We also go to a lot of meetups, startup events, and attend conferences. But, before we even go to the event, we make sure to get the emails of attendees so we can connect and schedule some meetings at the conferences. We also meet a lot of people through social media – we joined some Facebook groups including Saas Growth Hacks run by Arron Krall. I highly recommend following this one because there is some really useful advice there.
Thanks so much for sharing all this information with me. But, I’d like to talk a little about Reply.io. How can people get the most out of your product?
There are different stages of your sales process – prospecting, outbound, and inbound leads, and then posting sales after you close the deal – all stages that you can automate with Reply. By connecting your CRM and using our API, you can integrate all other pieces of the business – that’s how you get the most of Reply.
Where does Reply.io fit in the sales process?
From beginning to end. Everything is covered within the tool – from outbound, inbound, to post sales. It also enables access to leads and information between different departments. So, if the marketing team does outbound and gets replies that sales should take over, all the tools are already in Reply.
What is a common mistake that people make when they first use Reply.io?
The most common mistake our customers make is that they don’t put enough time into utilizing the full range of functionalities within Reply. They buy a list of leads (without validating the leads) and don’t put the time and effort into defining their buyer persona. From there, they might create really bad email copy and then send 300 emails and they are done. They don’t look into all the features and, by not using them, they don’t utilize the full potential of Reply such as segmenting leads or finding out which prospects opened and clicked on the link in the email and went to the website.
We’re grateful to have Lee as our first interviewee – we found out so much about Reply and how to get the most out of the various functionalities within the program. We were also curious about what Lee does when he’s not working on Reply. Besides being a successful entrepreneur and mentoring other business owners, Lee is a father to two daughters. When he’s not working, he supports them in karate and gymnastics and tries to keep them off Youtube. With the little time he has for himself, he remains active and tries to read at least two to three books a month including, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.