It’s the 21st episode of Meaningful Conversations with Revenue Leaders – No fluff. Meaningful conversations only.

What makes a great leader in marketing?

With the passion for Demand Generation and inspirational leadership, Jessica Dahan gave us her answer:

“I firmly believe in authenticity, leading by example, and offering a good balance of strategic thinking and hands-on execution.”

Having worked both for global corporations and smaller startups, she both talks the talk and walks the walk.

In this episode, we’ve covered:

  • 0:33 Jessica’s passions
  • 6:07 Big corporations VS Startups: Differences?
  • 8:25 How did you grow into the leadership role?
  • 17:37 Any marketing pitfalls you’ve spotted?
  • 20:53 How to craft a value-centered messaging strategy?
  • 24:01 How do you like to consume content?
  • 33:26 What would you change in the process of buying software?
  • 36:51 What are you excited about in the SaaS industry for the next couple of years?

Highlight 1: You have worked both in big corporations and smaller startups. What do you think are the main differences?

I think everybody goes through this phase in life where you enjoy what you do but you also feel like you’re not learning as much as before. You’re plateauing, so the only way to break it is to get yourself out of your comfort zone.

Large organizations are nice in many ways. But for me, I felt like I kept doing the same thing, and I needed something to be really excited about – something that would make me feel like I don’t know everything and I have a lot to learn.

I don’t like to be just stuck in a small marketing box. I like to be able to work more cross-functionally. And you can’t really do that in a large organization where everybody has a really small label and is limited to their own remits.

When I got into the startup world, I realized there are much more opportunities for you to get involved in projects outside of your comfort zone.

That’s where you learn, and that’s where you grow. And what I really like about it now is how much empowered you are.

Highlight 2: What do you think marketers need to improve right now?

I am interested in demand generation, paid channels, and paid advertising.

For these activities, you can get resources very quickly, but it’s very expensive unless you have a bottomless budget – it’s not sustainable. You’re basically trying to activate audiences that often have never heard of you or don’t really have a feeling of perception of credibility from you, so you’re spending a lot of money on generating demand, and then it’s just not converting to anything.

What I have noticed in the past two to three years is really a shift towards two things:

1️⃣ The focus of building your brand.

You need to build the credibility, authority, and trust that people need before they even consider buying anything from you.

If you reach out to people through paid advertising, but you’re not articulating properly what you’re offering on the website and there’s not a lot of educational content, your web visitors will never come back. The money you have spent on demand generation is then for nothing.

So there’s an increasing focus on building the brand, thought leadership, and the content marketing function.

2️⃣ Product marketing that is becoming stronger in the tech industry.

Product marketing by itself is a very broad function but the core of product marketing is very much to articulate the value proposition and define the right messaging for the right audiences.

Organizations that do it very well are the ones that do NOT talk about their products, but they are the ones that talk about the impact that they’re going to make on YOU if you become a customer. They also managed to get customers to talk about you rather than you talking about yourself. From an ambassador or an advocacy perspective, it’s even better but it’s hard to achieve.

Highlight 3: How do you like to consume content?

Content is all about being educational.

If the content ends up trying to sell you something obviously, it doesn’t work at all because you lose credibility. For me, it’s all about providing informative and educational content first so that you’re building that relationship of trust, and credibility, and authority that people need.

Personally, I think podcasts and video content are very powerful because you can consume them very easily.

Having a shorter video or a shorter piece of written content or a podcast allows you to actually consume that while you are doing something else or allows you to just get straight to the point quicker.

Highlight 4: What would you change in the process of buying software?

From the buyer’s perspective, if you want to talk to five or six different vendors, you cannot spend three or four meetings one hour each with each of them.

You really don’t have the time.

It’s all about being able to get a quick understanding of what they offer, how much it would cost, how long the implementation would be. Quick enough so that within a few hours of meeting different vendors, you can actually shortlist already two or three. That’s what I will change.

Highlight 5: What are you excited about in the SaaS industry for the next couple of years?

1️⃣ European-based SaaS startups.

Historically, SaaS businesses came from the US. A lot of the startups were funded in the US. This past four to five years, there’s been an increasing number of startups from Europe that are funded here and supported here.

I think it’s an amazing way forward for the industry. I really, really like that. It’s really good that this is now recognized and validated by the funding sector.

2️⃣ Product-led growth.

It’s not so much developing your business through marketing and sales, but actually developing a product that sells itself and that allows users to upgrade themselves.

You need to have a really robust product. I really like the concept of actually optimizing the product and the user journey and user experience within the product, so that you can actually grow your user base directly from the product. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Want to check the uncut full text? Here's your transcript.

Jan: [00:00] Jessica, it’s awesome that you could make it. It’s glad to speak. I think we spoke back and forth I think over a year now. At least we are connected, so I always wanted to get to know you a bit better, understand what you’re passionate about, and you have as a slogan that you always like to connect with people, you like to learn, and you like to learn from new people. Reading your LinkedIn –

Jessica: [00:32] Definitely.

Jan: [00:33] Reading your LinkedIn what’s also quite obvious is that you like data, you love – you always bring solutions, and you’re really passionate about leadership, but now that I have you here, what are you really passionate about?

Jessica: [00:48] Of course. I’m passionate about a lot of things. I genuinely love technology in general. I love data, as you know. We’ve talked about it a few times already, and it’s not my fault. Both my parents were in accounting, so numbers are just embedded in my DNA, but I think it really helps to be passionate about it in the line of work that I have because to me marketing is not really just this high-level creative function. It actually makes an impact on the business, so you need to really understand the commercials of it.

I’m also genuinely passionate about I think people in general in a broad sense of things. I have lived and worked in several countries myself, and I’ve always been fascinated by just the cultural differences and just the different ways that people have to approach different situations in life in the way that they were brought up and the environment and the cultural roots that they have. That’s something that I’m – anything related to people, people development, cultural differences, and what makes people act and react in the way that they do. That’s fascinating to me. Neuroscience as well, technology in general, science in general, I think, is just absolutely fascinating. Anything that’s complex and that I can look into and try and figure out I’m actually passionate about.

Jan: [02:11] That’s awesome. It’s a lot about data. It’s probably being data-driven, and that probably comes like you said from how you were raised and how you were grown up. Also, the cultural differences, why do you think it’s so important to have maybe – you speak a lot about leadership and so forth. How did that passionate for different cultures came about?

Jessica: [02:35] It’s hard to tell because I’m French. You can probably tell from my accent, and you know that. I was raised in a very French family. We did not really travel when I was younger, but somehow I have always felt deep down that there was so much more to explore, and I’ve always had a really strong feeling of how you only have one life and you don’t know how long it’s going to be, so you need to make the most of it, and you need to make your mark and have an impact to some extent on this world, in this world. I’ve always learned very early on that I would not stay in France. I would explore the world. I would probably work and live abroad ultimately. Turns out most of my friends – I find that I connect much better with people if they come from a different culture than me anyway, so it happened naturally.

After my studies, moved to the UK. Then eventually moved to Australia, came back to the UK. It’s another story, but I think for me, that’s where the passion came from, from the realization at a very young age that I’m just a really small individual in a world made of lots of individuals and they all come from different backgrounds, and there’s just so much to learn from each other. I’ve always been interested in that and also broadening my perspective on things. I don’t want to have strict opinions on things. I want to actually understand how other people would see those same situations and how they would approach them. I find it much more interesting and enriching from a personal development level than just being stuck in your own ways. That how it came from, and the more you explore the world, the more you want to do it, actually. It’s almost addictive because the more you realize how much more there is you don’t know.

Jan: [04:28] Exactly. It sounds fantastic. Yeah, your career is impressive, and you have stepped in several different roles, but how do you think this has led you now to Userlane, to your – making your VP – global VP role? How did you end up there?

Jessica: [04:46] That’s a good question. I’ve always had roles which were rather broad across the marketing spectrum, which was on purpose, and if I think about – I have just under 20 years of work experience now, and if I think about the past 20 years, I’ve worked in three countries, I’ve worked in a variety of industries, and I’ve worked in large companies but also small startups, and I think I got to that point now where having that combination of different work experiences really makes me extremely agile and gives me the ability to take a step back and see the bigger picture and connect the dots.

I really wanted to leverage that in the role at a seniority level where you’re not just expected to deliver in your own small remit but actually to combine what you do with the other senior leaders and have a much more holistic view and influence across business decisions. That led me to the type of work that I’m doing now and that I really enjoy. Userlane came naturally. They approached me about a year ago, and it came naturally because I was already working in the B2B SaaS business, so I already knew the business model, and I’m really passionate about technology and software in general. Yeah, that’s how I got into this type of role.

Jan: [06:07] Awesome. Just looking back as well because you mentioned you worked for smaller businesses, for larger businesses. Was this a conscious choice, or did you want to – how did that come about? Some say I love big corporations. I’m going to only work for the top. How did that come about?

Jessica: [06:26] It’s a very good question. I have experience of working for very large organizations and much smaller early-stage startup. I think there’s positive and not so positive aspects to both, to be honest. I think I started to work in the startup world – startup/scale-up world at a point a few years ago when I felt like I needed a change. I think everybody goes through those kind of career changes in life where you enjoy very much what you do but you also feel actually I don’t want to do exactly the same in the same organization. I want something very different because at some point you need to feel like – at some point you feel like you’re not really learning as much as before.

You’re plateauing, so the only way you can start really learning again is if you get yourself out of your usual comfort zone, and prior to – I’ve been in the startup/scaleup world for a few years now, and prior to that I was working for a very large organization, which was fairly good in many ways, but I was feeling like if I just do a similar role in another large organization, I’m just going to keep doing the same thing, and I needed something to be really excited about, but also something that would make me feel like actually I don’t know everything – I don’t know everything I’m supposed to do. I have a lot to learn.

That’s something that’s really exciting to me and really appealing, so that’s how I got into the start-up world, and what I really like about it now is how much empowered you are. As mentioned before, I don’t like to be just stuck in a small marketing box. I like to be able to work a bit more cross-functionally, and you can’t – generally, you can’t really do that in a large organization where everybody has a really small label and is limited to their own remits, so that’s what I really like about the startup world. There’s much more opportunities for you to get involved in projects outside of your comfort zone. That’s where you learn, and that’s where you grow.

Jan: [08:25] Awesome. Thank you for explaining it. I think the next point that I – probably comes into there is about leadership, right? You said you like to get involved. You don’t want to sit in a box. Why did this passion for leadership develop in you, and how that – how is that developing?

Jessica: [08:46] Yes. I think I’ve always been – I’ve always cared a lot about people, and I think it did not – I did not necessarily label that as leadership before. It’s only really when you grow in terms of seniority the term of leadership really starts to make sense, but for me, it starts with people. Obviously, your job is to organize the priorities and manage the objectives and the strategy and so on, but you’re doing that with people, and if you don’t have people in place who believe in you, believe in your vision, and genuinely want to collaborate with you, you’re not going to deliver the best results.

Realistically, often we spend most of our waking hours working, so very often, whether – what determines whether you like your job or not is actually the people you’re working with. You’re not going to enjoy what you do if you’re not working with people that you really get on with – you get on well with. For me, I’ve always been very sensitive to how people lead other people. If I think about my own experience over the past 20 years, I’ve had a lot of line managers as you can imagine. I’m sure you’ve had a few as well.

Jan: [10:05] Not as many as you, though, but I’d love to hear your thoughts here.

Jessica: [10:09] Quite a few, but I think for me if I think about the ones that really had an impact on me and not just on a professional level but also as an individual, the ones that made me want to work harder, the ones that made me want to – the ones that helped me to gain more confidence in what I’m doing, the ones that really gave me a chance to come to them with submissions, honestly there’s only two, and they were exceptional. They were authentic. They were humble. They were very knowledgeable. They had a lot of emotional intelligence, which means they knew exactly how to adapt the way they talk to different people, but they also knew when their support was needed.

They also knew how much they needed to guide someone so that they would empower them but not micromanage them, and they were also people with very low ego, so people who would not be political and people who would always champion their teams, always give credit to the right people from – coming from a really good place, people with very good intentions. That’s someone that I valued a lot in them and I value a lot in people as well. I’ve always said to myself I want to be one of those for other people in the future. I want to be a leader that leads by example. I think it’s absolutely essential. If you don’t lead by example, you can’t expect other people to follow you.

I think I’ve always strived to be inspirational and someone who’s able to articulate the vision and the expectations clearly but always from a place of empowering the teams and giving them enough space for them to grow and to learn, always knowing that I’m here if they need me anytime and always with the best intentions for them. I’ve always held myself to that standard of I want to be someone who actually has an impact on people. It still makes me immensely proud now when I have people who I recruited and managed in the past, and now they come to me and say oh, I’m looking to change job. Could you have a look at my CV, or could you give me some advice, or what do you think of that?

That makes me so happy because it makes me feel that actually I did a good job with them because they still value the relationship that I’ve managed to be with them now, and that’s very important to me. I obviously want to make an impact on business results, but for me it’s equally important to make an impact on people. That’s part of me assessing whether I’m doing a good job or not.

Jan: [12:42] Awesome. If you could break it down maybe a bit more. What’s a good leader to you, and how do you lead by example?

Jessica: [12:52] Yeah. It’s an interesting one. A good leader would be some of the things I’ve mentioned, someone who has a high level of empathy and emotional intelligence because you’re dealing with people, and you can’t do that if you’re not able to see things from their perspective as well, with a lot of empathy and selflessness to some extent. Someone who’s authentic, so I think it’s all about building the credibility and the trust. People are not going to trust you if they see that you talk a lot of fluff, but actually you’re not really actioning anything behind.

It’s very much about building the relationship, and that has to go from – to come from trust, and it’s a two-way thing, so for me, someone who’s authentic, genuinely leads by example, follows through on what they say and someone who’s inspirational in the way that they are able to articulate to you the vision and not just what they expect you to do right now but actually how what you’re doing right now is going to contribute to the longer term success of that project or that particular organization because I think –

Jan: [14:04] I love that. I love that. Go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, that point I really found interesting.

Jessica: [14:09] Yeah, because – sorry, I could talk for hours about these things.

Jan: [14:12] That’s why you’re here. That’s why people want to listen to you, Jessica.

Jessica: [14:16] If you’re able to project yourself and really understand how what you’re doing at your level contributes to the bigger picture, that’s where the motivation comes from. I think it’s very hard for someone to be motivated and excited about a project if they don’t really see how that impacts the bigger picture. It’s also part of deep down as human beings you want to feel that you belong to something that’s bigger than just you, so if you spend a lot of hours every day working but you don’t really see the validation of the good work you’ve done because you don’t see how it even moves the needle at all, it’s a problem. It’s definitely a problem, and I also think that a good leader is someone who’s humble enough to be able to say I’ve hired that person. They’re actually so much better than me in that particular area, and that’s why I hired them.

I’ve had conversations with a couple of CEOs, and two of them talked to me about people in their team in such a positive and constructive way, and I thought that tells me a lot about them. If they are able to talk about their direct reports in such a positive way and recognize their value, I think it says a lot about them as – in terms of humility and empathy and just general no ego aspect. I think that’s really important.

Jan: [15:40] Yeah. Thank you for sharing. I think it makes a lot of sense, right? We all want to be involved. We all want to get recognitions, but you actually realize the importance or the value when you hear people speak about other people on their team, and I think that’s a great example. What are you looking in colleagues or people that you want to work with?

Jessica: [16:04] What I’m looking in colleagues. I think it’s an interesting one because it’s usually – I think there’s often a discrepancy between what you think you’re looking and then what you actually want once you have the team in place. I think what I’m looking for in people, people who are very much focused on team playing and collaboration. I think people who tend to work on their own for themselves and for their own benefit usually are not the best contributors to the bigger picture that I was talking about. I like generally in people what I like in leaders, people who are humble enough, people who are not trying to step on other people’s toes to achieve something, and people who are generally passionate about what they do.

There’s so much energy that comes out of being passionate for what you do, and just the energy is contagious and really drives a team forward, so that’s what I’m looking for. I love exchanging ideas with people. I love when if I say I think we should do something in a certain way and then some of my colleagues are like actually, maybe we should see it from a different angle, and that’s when you start to talk and really flesh out your ideas. I really like that. I think there’s much more value in a collaboration and a strong supportive environment rather than just going ahead and doing what you think is right completely irrespective of the context.

Jan: [17:37] Awesome. Thanks for sharing, Jessica. Let’s go a bit into the marketing field right now because you are a great leader, you are passionate about leadership, but you’re also a brilliant marketer. What do you think marketers are doing not so good right now? Where are you like I want more of this and less of those things?

Jessica: [17:58] It’s a good question. I think the marketing landscape has actually changed a lot in the past two or three years. Up to that point the focus that I was observing in industry was very much on demand generation, paid channels, paid advertising. The problem with that – it’s very effective. You can get resource very quickly, but it’s very expensive unless you have a bottomless budget it’s not sustainable, and also, you’re basically trying to activate audiences that often have never heard of you or don’t really have a feeling of perception of credibility from you, so it’s – you’re spending a lot of money on demand generation and then it’s just – it’s not converting to anything.

What I have noticed in the past two to three years is really a shift towards two things. Number one, the focus on building the brand and really creating that credibility and authority and trust that people will need before they even consider buying anything from you. If you reach out to people through paid advertising and then they check your website and you’re not articulating properly what you’re offering, there’s not a lot of educating – educational content, then they’re not going to – they’re just going to go away and never come back. You will have spent a lot of money on demand generation for nothing, so I think there’s an increasing focus on building the brand and thought leadership and the content marketing function.

The other focus I’ve noticed particularly in the tech industry is the product marketing that is becoming stronger and stronger. Product marketing by itself is a very broad function. I’m not sure the title is actually right because it’s so much more broader than that, but the core of product marketing is very much to articulate the value proposition and define the right messaging for the right audiences. I think it’s really key because once again, if you have a great product and you have great marketing but you’re not able to articulate clearly what you’re offering, then it’s just not going to resonate with anyone. What I’ve noticed particularly is the organizations that do it very well are the ones that do not talk about themselves and their products, but they are the ones that talk about the impact that they’re going to make on you if you become a customer.

[20:20] For me, it’s the tipping point. If you can do that well, and instead of talking about yourself, you can achieve two things. One is talk about the value you’re bringing to your customers and the impact you’re going to have on them. Secondly, if you manage to get customers to talk about you rather than you talking about yourself. From an ambassador or an advocacy perspective, it’s even better, but it’s hard to achieve. In my opinion, the organizations that do it the best are the ones that achieve those two things.

Jan: [20:53] These are two points I actually also want to bring up because they are great learnings on the conference in Amsterdam. I love that you just gave me confirmation. I’m not completely wrong. I understood what others have also been saying, but how do you define this value? Because you’re so into your product, you love to pitch it, and you know all the functions, but how do you genuinely articulate the value that you bring in a simple message? How do you do that?

Jessica: [21:25] You touched on it, actually. You need to get out of just the perspective of focusing on your product and doing your pitch. You need to start talking to your customers. You need to talk to prospects because you can’t have the best outreach or the best marketing possible if your product is not the right fit for the market. It’s not going to go anywhere.

I think for me, the best way to really understand the value that you’re bringing, talk to your existing customers because they know better. Not only they know better, but also they will be able to articulate it to you in a language that is likely to be the same language your prospects might use and understand anyway.

For me, it’s the first thing. It needs to start from the customers and from the market. Really understand what their pain points are. What are they struggling with? Why did they even consider your product in the first place? What are the differences they see now they are using it? They will say that to you in their words, and their words is likely to be the words that the other prospects are going to understand.

It takes a while. I also think that the value proposition as such is not something that’s static. It’s something that needs to evolve in time, and that can be tailored to different audiences. For me, understanding the value is absolutely essential and you need to do that by talking to customers. Talk to industry experts and talk to market analysts and research how other organizations do it. It’s the best way to broaden your mind and not be so stocky in the pitch and in the product because your pitch makes a lot of sense to you. Does not necessarily make a lot of sense to the people you’re talking to.

Jan: [23:07] People like to speak about themselves and their own products and then the prospects are, “I don’t understand the first point.”

Jessica: [23:16] Yeah. That’s not what the prospects want to hear. They don’t want to hear you talk about yourself. They want to hear about how you’re going to solve the big problem they have right now. Also nowadays, I think there’s a lot of noise in there. Every day, you get prospective messages for a lot of vendors trying to sell you a lot of things.

You need to make the job of the decision-maker easier and really articulate, okay, that’s a product we have, but I’m going to tell you more about this is how I can really make a difference for you and solve all those friction points that you have because that will make a difference as opposed to all the emails they receive that say, “I have this great product. Do you have 15 minutes to talk to me?” No, you don’t. You never have 15 minutes.

Jan: [24:01] Exactly. Never ask about time. Cool. We are getting into really interesting topics here right now. But I just want to ask you personally because you said content is so important to you. How do you like to consume content and what do you say content that sticks and gives you value?

Jessica: [24:24] Good point. I think I like different types of content in different circumstances. I like to read a lot, so I always like a good whitepaper that’s research-based where that references a lot of different things. But that’s very personal to me. I know not everybody is like that. I think things like podcasts and video contents are very powerful because you can consume it very easily. I really like the smaller, shorter form content because I love whitepapers as long as I know that I can save it somewhere and then go and see it later and probably at different times. But sometimes you don’t have that. Having a shorter video or a shorter piece of written content or a podcast allows you to actually do that while you are doing something else or allows you to just get straight to the point more quicker.

For me, content is all about being educational. If the content ends up trying to sell you something obviously, it doesn’t work at all because you lose the credibility. For me, it’s all about providing informative and educational content first so that you’re building that relationship of trust, and credibility, and authority that people need. Three months, six months, a year later when it’s the right time for them to buy, they will come to you because they already feel like you’re credible and you know what you’re talking about.

Obviously, it means that it’s much harder to attribute back to revenue. It’s much harder to track what’s working, what’s not working. I really see the value in providing diverse content across multiple formats to really suit the way different people like to consume content, but always without the intention of trying to sell you something right now but more with the intention to communicate and educate you on things right now so that when it’s the right time for you, hopefully you’ll come back to us because you would trust that we know what we are talking about.

Jan: [26:20] Great stuff. You already went a bit into it because you get prospected a lot. I’m not sure. Are you someone who’s cleaning the inbox? How many unanswered messages do you have right now? Probably hundreds, thousands.

Jessica: [26:36] I do get a lot of prospective messages every day and I actually have a special folder for it. I have two folders. I have one for the messages where I feel like it’s not the right time, but I might need that later, so I put that in that folder. Then I have one for all the ones that I know I’m not going to need, but I just don’t want to delete it straight away. It’s quite a lot. That’s why I was saying before, there’s a lot of noise out there, so you need to stand out. If you just say the same things as everybody else, you’re not going to stand out at all.

[27:09] Once again, I think for me, the difference is all about bringing value. To give you an example, in the first folder are all the emails where people are not necessarily trying to sell something to me straight away, but I’m going to get a prospective message from someone saying, “I’ve seen from your profile that you like data. I came across that webinar. I thought it might be interesting to you.”

They share and that’s it. Okay, I’m going to put that because I see that in the signature, I see that it’s a copywriting service. I don’t need it right now, but you always need copywriting at some point. I’m going to save it. On the other hand, in the other folder, typically a couple of days ago, I received a message which was, “Hi, sir. I saw that you are VP of finance, whatever.” No, I’m not a sir, definitely not.

Jan: [27:54] You’re not a sir, yeah.

Jessica: [27:57] Yeah, there’s a lot of noise, but I think when done right, it can really resonate with the recipient.

Jan: [28:05] Awesome. I want to dig into this a bit deeper because what’s making the difference between making it into the good folder and making – not making it into the folder. Like you said already, it has to not be too pushy or it has to be like education. It has to add value to you.

Jessica: [28:25] Yeah, definitely. I don’t think there’s a black and white answer. What works for me does not necessarily work for everybody else. I can only answer from my perspective. I think a message that is not pushy goes in the first folder. A message where my name is right and they’ve done a little bit of research, at least it comes across as they’ve actually looked me up. They understand what I do and they are messaging me because they genuinely think that there could be some synergies there, that makes it in the first folder.

Also, I think if someone does that but then sends me a new message every two days, at some point, it’s just too much. If I think about realistically all the messages I’m getting every day, I would say 90% are all the same. It’s, “Hey, I saw that you’re VP of marketing at Userlane. We thought you might be interested. We have this amazing platform. Here is my Calendly. Can you book 15 minutes so I can talk to you about it?” “No, I don’t have 15 minutes and I don’t need your service right now.”

[29:31] Ninety percent is that. I would say there’s 10% of people who really do it well because they genuinely research what we do and they don’t try to get your time and attention just to talk about their product, but they’re actually asking questions. I’ve had a few messages, for instance, where they ask, are you experiencing this? Do you feel that you’re wasting time in doing this?

They’re genuinely trying to better understand what your challenges are to see if this could be a fit. That’s much more valuable to me. I think it’s all about building relationships. I think you and I are a good example. You reached out to me. I was working for another organization. We’ve been in touch for probably a year and a half now and I still haven’t bought anything from you.

[30:13] You’ve never really tried to push it and you’ve always tried to research exactly who my team members are, what kind of company I work for, what the market is. It’s all about building relationship. I know that if I ever need the type of solution that you offer, you’re the first one I’m going to come to because you’ve been smart enough to really try and understand what my situation is and how you could actually bring value to me and to my teams, and building that relationship.

Jan: [30:43] Awesome. Thanks a lot. I didn’t mean to get this into here, but yeah, I agree and I love that you share this because it’s very difficult for a lot of people. They get this form, and then apply it, and then they think it’s going to work. But it’s great that you specifically shared now what tips and tricks they are because I feel that we described not a situation like nope. We described the situation maybe. When are you actually taking a call and say like, that’s interesting? Because that also happens from time to time. It’s rarely because you’re very busy, but sometimes it happens, when you say, okay, not too bad.

Jessica: [31:28] It’s an interesting question because you’re right; sometimes it happens and I think it’s all about timing. I can give you a good example. I was looking for a copywriter a few months ago and I got a message on LinkedIn from someone who’s been in my network, someone who connected with me through LinkedIn without any intention a few months before that. Every quarter, he sends me a list of articles that he had written in my industry as a –just FYI, these are the type of articles I’ve been writing for my clients in this past quarter.

On the day when I was saying to my team, “Okay, we need a copywriter. I’m going to start looking on LinkedIn.” On that day, I received the message from that guy saying, “Hey, this is what I’ve been doing this past quarter.” I thought, great, I need a copywriter. I checked out some of the articles that he wrote. I liked the writing style. I validated that he understands that particular market and reached out to him.

[32:22] I think it’s all about timing and it’s very difficult. You can’t predict timing even when you have intent data inside. It’s very hard to predict timing. You’re always too early or too late. It’s all about timing and just reaching out to the right person at the right time. Difficult to predict.

Jan: [32:41] No, it’s fantastic. It’s good because it’s also on my slide for Amsterdam and I’m like, yeah, I’m not speaking about stuff that nobody cares about. I’m super stoked about it. The thing that I believe and the thing that I’ve seen in the market, you have to add value. It doesn’t matter when you add value because then they will come back to you, just like you’re just saying this copywriter. I was trying to book a meeting since day one with you. But he was clever enough or she was clever enough to be like, “Listen, I’m going to aim for the outcome. I’m not going to hunt Jessica down. I’m going to actually add value to her.” Awesome examples to that.

Jessica: [33:23] It works.

Jan: [33:26] Great. Time is running a bit. Two questions that I really like to ask and maybe then we make an Episode 2 or whatever. If you could change or implement or do something different the way you buy software right now, what would you change or what would you do?

Jessica: [33:51] From the prospect perspective?

Jan: [33:55] Yeah, or in general, when you are like, I need a new solution or I’m looking to buy a new software, because that happens sometimes. If you change the way you’re currently doing it, what would you do?

Jessica: [34:08] I think I like to do a lot of research before I even approach different vendors. I like to do my own research. What I find really frustrating, particularly for SaaS products is you usually talk to an SDR or BDR, but they don’t want to do the demo. They send you then to an account executive to do the demo.

I feel like I don’t have the time to have 20 meetings. If I could change something, it’s just so that in the sales motion, you would actually have someone who’s able to take things a bit further than just a demo and then it’s handed over to someone else. Also because usually, you build the relationship with the first person you’re in touch with. If you build the relationship with the SDR and they are convincing enough for you to continue the conversation, you don’t want to be handed over to someone else.

[34:57] Also sometimes I understand why. I completely understand the perspective from the sales. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why it’s been done that way. I also find that sometimes it’s actually better to be transparent on your pricing early on because otherwise, you’re wasting people time and it’s not offering a good experience. I find that often, the SDRs are not allowed to share that because you need to talk to an AE They need to better tailor the package to you completely understandable.

From the buyer perspective, if you want to talk to five or six different vendors, you cannot spend three or four meetings one hour each, if not more, with each of them. You really don’t have the time. It’s all about being able to get a quick understanding of what they offer, how much it would cost, how long the implementation would be. Quick enough so that within a few hours of meeting different vendors, you can actually shortlist already two or three. That’s what I will change. I find the old model of having several people involved at different stages and a little overlap between the two is difficult.

Jan: [36:02] Awesome. I think that’s great and it’s so true. You don’t want to get SDR-ed. Gartner just published a study that 33% of the modern buyer doesn’t want to speak to a salesperson, period.

Jessica: [36:16] No, you don’t.

Jan: [36:19] It’s true, right? You have done your research. You are educated. Give me the things I need to do my job. You want to make your own decision.

Jessica: [36:32] You want to be more to the point. I also think that the SDRs are much more capable than what we are expecting from them. I think a lot of the SDRs I’ve worked with personally would be very capable of doing a very complex demo and actually progressing the conversation further. It’s a shame not to leverage that.

Jan: [36:51] Awesome. Jessica, four minutes left, so last question because then we have to wrap it up. What are you excited about in the SaaS industry for the next couple of years?

Jessica: [37:05] There’s lots of things, but because of time, I’m going to give you only two things. Number one, historically, SaaS businesses came from the US. A lot of the startup were funded in the US. This past four to five years, there’s been an increasing number of startups from Europe that are funded here and supported here.

I think it’s an amazing way forward for the industry. I really, really like that. Also because I’ve spoken to a few CEOs from SaaS businesses across Europe lately and they really know what they’re talking about. They have a strong background and they are very entrepreneurial in their approach. It’s really good that this is now recognized and validated by the funding sector.

[37:50] Number two, increasingly, I’ve seen conversations around product-led growth. It’s not so much developing your business through marketing and sales, but actually developing a product that sells itself and that allows users to upgrade themselves. I really like that concept because I’ve always said that you can have the best marketing and sales in the world. If your product is not a good fit for the market, it’s not going to go anywhere. If you manage to get new customers, you’re not going to retain them if your product doesn’t meet their request.

It has to start from the product as well. You need to have a really robust product. I really like the concept of actually optimizing the product and the user journey and user experience within the product so that you can actually grow your user base directly from the product because it’s so amazing that people keep coming back and want to upgrade and upgrade and talk about it to their peers. That’s another trend that I’ve noticed that I’m really excited about. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Jan: [38:52] It’s so true. Thanks for summarizing. So nice. Jessica, thank you so much for your time.

Jessica: [39:00] It’s been a pleasure. It was very enjoyable.

Jan: [39:04] Cool.

Jessica: [39:04] I always enjoyed talking to you and really thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your series.

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