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The Velocity Ninja’s at Section.io are taking the US eCommerce market by storm!

After years refining their skills working in one of Australia’s leading online retailers Sections’ founders Daniel Bartholomew & Stewart McGrath decided to help other Australian eCommerce vendors improve their website performance. While building that consulting business they found that their customers needed additional support to implement the change required and built Section.io.

For Chief Customer Officer, Ben Cook, the transition from a consulting business to a Software as a Service (SaaS) was not without it’s challenges. Luckily they have an experienced sales and pre-sales team that are able to provide their customers so much value during initial engagements they have been dubbed the ‘Velocity Ninja’s’.

After being selected to join the famed US based accelerator, TechStars, they are now using that as a platform to attack the huge US eCommerce opportunity with their SaaS offering. With the change in business model and geographical expansion it required a new go to market strategy and Ben has created a team around three pillars. One a content marketing strategy that is generating awareness and inbound interest. Two, an inside sales organisation that capitilises on the marketing activity and pro-actively engages with their prospects. Thirdly, is a strong field organisation made up of sales and pre-sales engineers, aka the velocity ninjas, who are helping their customers through their buying journey.

We hope you enjoy this startup story

What is your elevator pitch?

Everything we do is around website and website performance, making sites faster, more available; increase the security aspects and really trying to get good user experience for those sites and those customers.

When did you first realise this is a problem that needed to be solved?

Section started by couple of guys that done really well in helping to build Grays Online and got out of there probably 4-5 years ago. They thought that, how do you take that experience and help other organizations around Australia do the same thing? They actually put together a consulting company and did some performance base consulting. What I found was some of their stuff was pretty advance. Two, they were telling organizations what to do but the organization didn’t have any capacity to do it. So this started writing a platform to do that behalf of the organization, we call it internally V2, which basically aggregates a bunch of tools, just make websites more performing and faster.

Can you tell us more about your revenue sales story?

If you look at the big guys that started SaaS, how years ago you look at the sales forces of the world, they establish themselves getting involved with the few users, getting self-startups and build that out through not just self-starters but then into the mid space and then the end space. We go after that digital acquisition site, but then in addition to that we still talk to a lot of businesses and help a lot of businesses and on-board people into the platform itself. We help them re-write the configuration that’s required to get that site really singing and then we get involved in a whole bunch of other stuff as well around the performance space. So we work at all levels now

we’re all about putting the resources where their skillsets lying. I took about 3 columns. What are you driving from marketing output, how you’re gaining interest, how you’re trying to gain inbound/outbound strategies, we always want inbound enquiries. So you got marketing and then back that up with inside sales. So inside sales then starts to take output from marketing, then also just lists people and identifiers and companies and organizations and spend a lot of time, both personalizing the emails and getting on the phone and meetings and conversations and interest and then you got sales guys and pre-sales guys to facilitate the conversation at the front end and go and talk to these guys and getting them involved, Now we’ve got the platform and tangible assets we can have the substance conversation around, it’s not just about consulting services. So as a result we got something we go and demonstrate and pre-sale them. That’s good.

What is your biggest challenge in sales?

Couple of things. There is an establishment perspective that’s happening in the US. We got to create a name, a brand and become recognized as a player of that space, that’s just a time and effort and hard work. Obviously as you build out a digital acquisition model, lots of different challenges come as part of that as well. Then here in Australia, one of the big challenges is around really the size of the market and the maturity of that market. The population of US is 30-40 times bigger than Australia but with their maturity, it’s probably 50-60 times bigger than here


 

For those that prefer to read there is also full transcript you can read it below

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Andy:   Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of the Startup Stories – a series of interviews with B2B founders and sales leaders about their sales stories. Today we have Chief Customer Officer from Section.io Ben Cook. Ben thanks for joining us today.

Ben:    No problem Andy, good to be here man. It’s always a tricky one. I’ve been in sales for years. But I often hate the word “Sales” because it feels like someone is trying to get one over you. So then we always talk about what’s important to us in Section, we always love our customers, so we always talk about what’s the customer want. I guess we get back to the Atlassian thing of don’t F*** the customer. So when we started to think about title, it was going to be Sales and Marketing Manager or any those kind of boring stuff. There is an organization we’re pretty close to it, Bulletproof. They guy over there, Mark Randall, there has title was Chief Customer Officer. So we thought we’re all about the customer, more about getting new customers, more about making sure we don’t piss them off so we decided to go with the Chief Customer Officer.

Andy:   I love it. It’s probably positive thing for your customers as well.

Ben:    Definitely. Throughout my career we’ve always taken our customers pretty seriously. We often had, inside the companies I’ve worked for, sponsors that work for our company, actually work on behalf of the customers. So we are always looking at the customer point of view, what is the customer need, want, desire and just make sure that even though we’ve got a business to run, that business doesn’t exist without our customers. So if you’re not actually paying attention to who they are, what they are and what they’re saying then you’re out of the game.

Andy:   You don’t have a business.

Ben:     Exactly. We’re all the services game.

Andy:   Absolutely. To help people understand little bit more about Section and help me understand little bit more about Section, could you hit us with your elevator pitch?

Ben:     Sure. As an organization we are a website performance based organization. Everything we do is around website and website performance, making sites faster, more available; increase the security aspects and really trying to get good user experience for those sites and those customers.

Section started by couple of guys that done really well in helping to build Grays Online and got out of there probably 4-5 years ago. They thought that, how do you take that experience and help other organizations around Australia do the same thing? They actually put together a consulting company and did some performance base consulting. What I found was some of their stuff was pretty advance. Two, they were telling organizations what to do but the organization didn’t have any capacity to do it. So this started writing a platform to do that behalf of the organization, we call it internally V2, which basically aggregates a bunch of tools, just make websites more performing and faster.

What we’ve done in more recent times is take that bunch of tools and then build that into a public based self-managed platform. So anyone globally can now sign up with Section and we’re really playing around the content delivery network. But essentially that means we sit in front of large websites and we help manage how the content gets delivered to the browser. We talk a lot about playing it front-end, most people understand that when the have a website it need an application or CMS somewhere and generate some HTML page, what we call the backend, we don’t play in that place, we’re not designers,  we’re not hosting architects and those sorts of things. But what we do is when we manage how that content gets delivered to the front-end and it’s pretty common with top 10,000-50,000 websites globally, just helping Australian organizations to achieve the same thing. Now we’re overseas and helping US guys do the same.

Andy:   I always love hearing about companies that identify that pain and challenge through consulting – then make it a service based business; it helps to get that deep understanding of the customers.

Ben:    We help a lot of e-commerce companies. You know Australia is still trying to catch up with what are doing the UK and US. So here in Australia we trying to help them catch-up.

Andy:   Awesome. It seems that change that you’re offering, V2 coming up, people can go online and install service, is that changing your go to market model?

Ben:    Yeah definitely. I guess got more funds, we got a market now, as a digital acquisition site of the customer, it’s fine that now people, in order to sign up to section, you got to be driven to the website. So the more you drive to the website, the more understanding knowledge you can give those guys, the more standard material we can give them as I move through that journey, the more they can do on their own then We’re here to support them as a team.

If you look at the big guys that started SaaS, how years ago you look at the sales forces of the world, they establish themselves getting involved with the few users, getting self-startups and build that out through not just self-starters but then into the mid space and then the end space. We go after that digital acquisition site, but then in addition to that we still talk to a lot of businesses and help a lot of businesses and on-board people into the platform itself. We help them re-write the configuration that’s required to get that site really singing and then we get involved in a whole bunch of other stuff as well around the performance space. So we work at all levels now.

Andy:   Tell us a little bit about the team you’ve got now and how you identified companies?

Ben:    Identification is really is…look at the top 5000 sites in Australia, we’d say that all are target companies for us because they all sort of doing the traffic that requires having content delivery network in front of it.

And then if I look at my team, Here’s an interesting story actually, we’re out talking to a prospect about week and a half ago, these guys are pretty well known in Australia. These guys sat there and asked some pretty tough questions, not beating around the bush. What’re you guys going to do & how are you going to help us? And by the end of it, he was impressed with our capability as individuals and it was like without using too fine language, it’s like you guys can do some radical stuff. He nicknamed us Velocity Ninjas. You’re just Ninja stuff for us. So got some guys at the top of the game in performance space. So we coined the term now “Velocity Ninjas”, we are all Ninjas.

Andy:   Looking forward to that title change now.

Ben: Yeah, the guys got a lot of experience. We are probably on the bleeding edge technology and it’s exciting. We can help a lot of people on that front.

Andy:   Exciting. So you’re broadening your market. I’m presuming that you’re not just doing that with your online play, I mean, do you have it geographically dispersed in the US or you’re servicing that from Sydney or on the front of 747?

Ben:   Little bit of both. Our founders are Steven McGraw and Daniel Batholemuez  have now relocated to the US. So you kicked off our office at Boulder. They moved out in mid-February. The whole piece is going to take on the US. They’ve managed to get involved in a very named startup program I call Tech Stars. There are some big organization globally who have gone through their accelerator program and we’re lucky enough to get under that, we’re probably a bit more mature than the normal startup they would normally take in their organization. But as a result it plugs us into the social platform, putting us in front of all the right people.

We’re now talking to some massive sites in the US. Although content delivery network have been around for a while, we have some unique kit and delivery that means we can take on the incumbents in market and get them a good run for their money. It’s pretty exciting.

Andy:   When we talking about the online business US is the market you want to play today.  That’s very very exciting.

Ben:    We’re actually going out to Vegas next week for a  Magento – the biggest CMS system in the ecommerce space on global scale in Vegas next week. These two of us going from Australia and another one going to be there Boulder.

Andy:   Very very exciting. Always love a work trip to Vegas. There’s a lot of things happening on multiple fronts – international expansions, new product, new platform to go market, but what you’d you say is your biggest sales challenge at the moment?

Ben: Couple of things. There is an establishment perspective that’s happening in the US. We got to create a name, a brand and become recognize as a player of that space, that’s just a time and effort and hard work. Obviously as you build out a digital acquisition model, lots of different challenges come as part of that as well. Then here in Australia, one of the big challenges is around really the size of the market and the maturity of that market. The population of US is 30-40 times bigger than Australia but with their maturity, it’s probably 50-60 times bigger than here. but then having said all that, what’s great about here is, having been in market now with the name “Velocity Ninjas” we’re building that brand, so we constantly just going to find more and more people to talk to and manage that language and then help them as best as we can.

Andy:   Absolutely. “Velocity Ninjas” is so brilliant. When you’re talking about that velocity, being ninjas with velocity, when you’re applying that to your sales team, you got to have more conversations. You can identify the people you want to speak, find the people or top 5000 companies, how do you accelerate that? Do you guys use any email automation or cold calling, How do you go about that?

Ben: We’re on B2B platform quite large. So take a B2B approach and that sort of stuff. You got to try everything and I don’t know if there is any magic in this game. We have some driven marketing, we have good SEO, SEM and where they can sign up as well, talk to channel partners, write email, get on the phone, bring people, talk to people, see people. Again, I still find Australia commonly does business in B2B by getting in front of people and talking to people. They want to know that you going to add some good stuff to what they’re trying to do and you’re not just there for short term win. So a bit of everything really.

Andy:   Are your sales guys hunter gatherers, where they go and find their leads or do you have some sales driven lead acquisition on the front end?

Ben: Great question. In terms of sales theory, we’re all about putting the resources where their skillsets lying. I took about 3 column really – what are you driving from marketing output, how you’re gaining interest, how you’re trying to gain inbound/outbound strategies, we always want inbound enquiries. So you got marketing and then back that up with inside sales. So inside sales then starts to take output from marketing, then also just lists people and identifiers and companies and organizations and spend a lot of time, both personalizing the emails and getting on the phone and meetings and conversations and interest and then you got sales guys and pre-sales guys to facilitate the conversation at the front end and go and talk to these guys and getting them involved, Now we’ve got the platform and tangible assets we can have the substance conversation around, it’s not just about consulting services. So as a result we got something we go and demonstrate and pre-sale them. That’s good.

Andy:   That’s helps the trust factor as well when people can touch and feel the products. That’s awesome.

Ben: And multiple people in the process make a difference as well. I got lots of theory around sales effectiveness.

Andy:   Awesome. That’s brilliant. Look for today, that’s rounds out the time and the questions we’re looking to cover up in the startup story. Where can people learn more about Section and how to find their own velocity in Ninja?

Ben: Our website, we’ve blogs and things around, so content marketing going around. There’s lots of theories in the market around how to make website fast performing, more available, so wherever you start reading that stuff, we’re never too far away.

Andy:   Brilliant. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate that. Good luck in Vegas next week and taking on the US market.

Ben: Thanks. It should be good. We’re really excited by it actually. So happy day.

Andy:   Thanks again and speak to you soon.

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