Episode #42: The Next Big Focus: The Buyer Experience With Ross Rich

Ross Rich was part of an outdated industry running the same playbook from 30 years ago. A move across the country landed him at Stripe where he helped grow the business from a self-serve model of 250 employees to a sales-led organization with over 7,000 employees. He shares how much he learned at Stripe and what became obvious to him: the market was missing a customer-facing collaboration platform for B2B sales. More specifically, one that would build a repeatable sales motion for companies that were rapidly growing.

From there, he and his brother got the idea for Accord. They have a keen understanding about a salesperson’s point of view (including what they’re willing to do and what you’ll never get them to do) and they designed the platform accordingly to create transparency between a buyer and sales.

Listen in for this episode to hear more, including our favorite quote from the episode: “Buyers don’t know how to buy.”

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About Ross Rich

Ross Rich is the Co-Founder & CEO of Accord, a YCombinator alum, and proud Canadian 🇨🇦. Accord is a Customer Collaboration Platform for B2B sales, onboarding & success.

Before founding Accord, Ross spent 4+ years at Stripe where he helped scale the sales team from 3 to 500.

The Next Big Focus: The Buyer Experience With Ross Rich

How Differentiating The Buyer Experience Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Betsy, I am excited because Ross is our guest and he is an amazing individual. He’s got a phenomenal background, which our audience is going to read about. It blew my mind when he told us what he had done before. Now, he’s working on what I would call the buyer experience and automating the buyer experience. It’s a part of customer experience that we don’t talk about or most people don’t talk about. It’s a new field, I would say. I love what he dives into, what he goes into, how he talks about the buyer’s experience, why it’s so important, especially in a B2B environment and where it’s headed. He touches on that toward the end of the show where the buyer experience is going to become a significant point of differentiation and competition down the road.

Ross Rich is the CEO of Accord. It’s an awesome platform for engaging the buyer in the process. What struck me about this conversation was how much I learned from him in a very short amount of time. I feel like our audience will feel the same way after they read this episode. He has a very realistic view of being a tech entrepreneur and what that means when you’re trying to grow a company but also some good insights that he’s gained through his previous background. I found this to be an enlightening conversation. I know we say this all the time, but we could have talked for three more hours on this topic but also, we are very passionate about customers, which is why it’s such a great fit for what we talk about on this show. Without further ado, let’s meet Ross Rich.

Ross, let’s kick-off. Tell us your background. Start as far back as you want to and how you got to where you are now.

Before starting Accord, a company that I run, I spent about five years helping scale the sales team at Stripe. They’re a payments technology company. When I joined, there were about 200, 250 people. Now, they’re about 7,000. They’ve seen some incredible growth. I joined when they were looking for the first salespeople to figure out how to move from self-serve to more of a sales lead motion on top of that. That was an incredible experience going through figuring out how to sell to different types of customers and how to grow a sales organization that is incredibly, they would say at Stripe, they say users first. That’s one of their key first values.

I learned a lot about focusing on customers from there. Before that, a totally different world. I was in the music industry at Columbia Records in LA and then New York managing artists. Some of the artists that I worked with that you might know are Snoop Dogg, Calvin Harris, OMI, and others. That was a different universe than tech sales, payments, APIs and all that good stuff.

Now, I’ve been working with my brother on a company that we cofounded called Accord. It is a customer-facing collaboration platform for B2B sales onboarding success. Founders and sales leaders can build a more repeatable collaborative sales and onboarding process by sharing this shared customer workspace with your buyer to align on everything from next steps, milestones, timelines, etc. Hopefully, that’s a helpful, quick overview of myself. I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I have to ask. We’ve talked to a lot of CEOs that have transitioned from one career to another. That’s a pretty big leap. How did that happen to go from managing Snoop Dogg to tech sales?

There’s not a great answer to it. In terms of being super thoughtful, I think my idea after the music industry, one of the reasons why I left was the culture. For being in the creative space, it felt very bureaucratic and old school in terms of the structure. It’s an old industry and I think that comes with it. I was expecting it to be a lot more creative, new ideas and figuring out new distribution now that there are digital service providers, all this stuff. It was running the same playbook and basically letting these new entrants come in and take their lunch.

Buyer Experience: One of the first key values is not only figuring out how to sell the different types of customers, but also how to grow a sales organization.

It was funny because I’d been interested in not necessarily technology from a pure technical engineering perspective but how the world has been changing so quickly and new companies coming up and innovations. It felt like it wasn’t there at my seat in the music industry. I ended up following my brother to San Francisco because I was looking for a job in between.

I was thinking about going to go to law school and being more entrepreneurial and starting my own music management fund, etc., or organization. I was thinking about how do we work in this new world in the music industry and fell in love with my idea. I was like, “How do I get being one of the first salespeople at a technology company where you can see that world a bit and go to school?”

I somehow got a job at Stripe, this rocket ship company and instantly fell in love with it. From there, I was like, “There’s no chance of going back to school. I’m going to see this through.” I enjoyed my time there and it led me down this path. It wasn’t like, “I’m going to go into tech after because of this.” It was the superorganic path and I got lucky with the company I joined. I learned a ton there.

Tell us more about Accord. Clearly, that is your chance to be the creative entrepreneur that you want to be. Tell us what the impetus was, how you landed on this focus for software, what it does for customers and who your clients are?

It’s funny because when I reflect on it, two of the most challenging problems that I tried to solve at Stripe that I couldn’t crack led me to start Accord. Those two pieces were one, how do you help build a consistent, repeatable sales customer-facing motion at a company when it’s quickly scaling? We can never crack that nut.

Basically, as one of the first salespeople, top sales rep there, I was always asked to help break into figuring out this new type of product or segments like, “How do you teach the rest of the people now that we’re going to have dozens more in that role? Before you move on, what are all the intricacies and things that you learned from the dozens or hundreds of deals in that segment or that product that other people can accelerate their ramp time and learning?” I could never figure out how to do that super effectively.

Buyers don’t know how to buy.CLICK TO TWEET

We did a number of different things there. I tried to add the exit criteria and more things to Salesforce to be better supported along with the processed stuff. We wrote up a hundred different Google Docs, Sheets, PowerPoints and Confluence pages around the different stakeholders, questions to ask and all this stuff. I brought in sales trainers and got the classic laminates and all that stuff. We could never figure out like, “How do you get a sales rep to do something differently before they learn it and figure out themselves through all those repetitions?” Salespeople don’t go back to those resources. That’s not the way that they work.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not the way most people work. You’re more intuitive. You’re trying to get it done with the stuff that you’ve already learned before in your past, especially if you’re experienced. That was one part. The next was the bar for collaboration and transparency and mutual alignment in sales conversations. I felt like the bar was incredibly low. Always talk about every training, everything. Don’t talk about your product or your needs.

Understanding the customer and solving their problem together is the best way to close more, bigger deals, enjoy your job and all those positive things working with your customer felt like people would fall back on. It’s like pitching to someone versus working with someone. I found that using collaborative tools like shared Slack channels and creating mutual plans via Google Docs and Sheets was a great way of driving this alignment that I was trying to push as a best practice. After doing customer research, it is the best practice for the top sellers out there, but it’s not widely used. It’s not used by 9 out of 10 sales reps or customer success reps.

Those were the two big things that I wanted to crack with Accord. How do you build a more consistent repeatable process that is collaborative? Accord with a shared workspace does both. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have reps changing their behavior if it’s not something they’re putting in front of their customer because that’s the thing that reinforces it. You can’t have the right consistent process that doesn’t feel collaborative and mutual. That’s the impetus of figuring out those problems and learning from experience, iterating what’s the best way to work with customers to get the best outcome.

To me, that was hacking together these shared workspaces and communication channels so that the dozens of folks on their side and ours could work from the same page. You don’t have your close plan in Salesforce, for instance. It’s all internal. They don’t have their procurement team set of requirements that they’re keeping internal and not sharing with you. How do you put it in the open and say, “This is what we got? This is what you need. Let’s try to figure this out. If not, let’s get to no right away.” A lot of people are afraid of that way of working because it’s counter-intuitive in the world of sales. Hopefully, that ramble was helpful.

No, that was great. Do you focus on a particular industry or how are you going about your sales process?

Buyer Experience: The world has been changing so quickly with new companies coming up and innovations.

I don’t think it changes much per industry. I think it’s the same idea for how financial advisors work one-on-one with customers or real estate agents or large enterprise tech deployments. I’m a huge fan of crossing the chasm and the idea of working with innovators and early adopters, the early majority, etc. That’s what’s led us down the path of our first early market, which is the technology world. People who are excited about using technology to solve problems versus people who have the same problem, maybe even more of a problem, but are less so on the technology adoption curve.

We’re focused on high growth, VC-backed Series A or Series B companies. Maybe some earlier stage folks, seed round or even some later stage companies. Some of our larger partners are on their late alphabet rounds or public, but focused on folks that are early on in their technology adoption curve as well is the focus.

For the sales process, it tends to be more B2B. Is that what you said, just for clarification?

Yeah. All is the business side of things and not the consumer end.

I heard you say real estate. I was like, “How would that play out in real estate?” I was going through the process of selling now.

A great example is I’ve never purchased a house before. Imagine how great it would be if I was working with three potential agents. One of them shares an Accord or a shared workspace with me saying, “This is what the process usually looks like. This is how long it takes. This is how we’re going to work together. This is my team. Who’s going to be involved. You want to loop in your partner and other people?” That’s how I want to work with anyone. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a large enterprise purchase in the B2B world. It’s this best practice and how do you drive consistency and help uplevel folks that might not have learned those best practices before and provide a better experience for the buyer.

Part of seeing the future is taking all of the data points in what’s happening now and judging based on that.CLICK TO TWEET

I’m going through the process of selling my house. We should have had this interview a long time ago. I want to dive into something we talked about when we were prepping for this session. You’ve barely touched on it here, but I want to go deeper. When you look at the sales process, you’re touching on the customer experience in creating this powerful and positive transformational experience for people so they can make that decision faster? Take us through why that’s so important in the sales process.

A million reasons come to my head. I’ll start trying to name them. We talked about this. Buyers don’t necessarily know how to buy. It’s not a knock on buyers. It’s that you live that world of that certain type of transaction and you innately understand all of the decision-making criteria, the space, the solutions, the market and the process. We talk a lot about this internally at Accord. It’s the curse of knowledge. You’re assuming that your customer is even close to the realm of understanding to make this decision. Helping people understand how to buy is a great way of setting the right tone for the relationship.

Transparently sharing, “After doing these hundreds of times over the years for your type of business, for this type of transaction, this is what we recommend,” and giving it to them instead of what happens now. I don’t think this is on purpose. This is that curse of knowledge. We assume as a sales organization that people understand this. We say, “The next thing would be the deep dive. The next thing is this,” when you’re forgetting they don’t understand the whole process you’re bringing them through. It seems like they have their blinders on where, “We’re going to the demo and then we’re going to this conversation.”

How do you first help them understand what journey you’re going to even take them on and why? Let them participate in deciding how they’re going to do that is key because they’re going to do it themselves anyway. Why not be a part of that conversation and, again, help them through that because you don’t want to go through these next five steps to find out that it’s not the right fit for whatever reason based on their priorities, what the journey is, etc. A lot of people take that for granted. That is taking that expectation setting to all the different points of a sales process. It’s one of the roots of why this is so important.

That seems like such a competitive advantage. If they’re talking to several companies and you’re already engaging them and educating them and showing how focused you are on making this go well for them, that seems like a no-brainer to me and an incredible competitive advantage.

It seems like it lowers the risk of doing business with you if you’re using Accord. I’ve gone back to one of our previous episodes with Mark Smith. He’s a master in sales and he talks about the whole thing you have to focus on is lowering risk and what is more risky than being in the sales process and not knowing what that journey is? I’ve never even had anyone ever say what you said here, which is, “Buyers don’t know how to buy.” That, to me, is such a profound statement that we overlook. I’m thinking about my own business here like, “I’ve never thought about it that way before.”

Buyer Experience: Learn how to get a sales representative to do something differently before they really learn it and figure out themselves through all those repetitions.

It’s an insight that most great business comes from your customer saying it over and over in different ways. That’s been one of the keys. Hearing from different sellers and sales organizations, they’re so frustrated by their buyers. We don’t understand that they don’t have the knowledge we have and assume because it’s so basic to us in our industry. Doing this thing so many times, we forget where they’re coming from. It’s been interesting and maybe helpful. Maybe I got this insight because I dropped into the world of sales and technology from a different background. I can maybe see it through that lens of what it looks like from someone else instead of living it. It’s like, “How do you not know this?”

Tony and I wrote a book back in 2018. One of the things we talked about is what these things mean for an individual. You think about somebody that’s in sales, how much is riding on them doing it right and purchasing the right things and up the chain, how it’s viewed on how they do things. It seems to me it’s almost an insurance policy for that person that you’re having communication with. They’re bringing other people in, collaborating with you and how much better does it get through the process? You can share all that with your senior leadership team and say, “Here’s how we did this.” It seems like a big personal career advancement type opportunity as well.

I think you bring up the other dimension that I feel like is talked about but not fully understood is the social dynamics of that internal buying group. Most times, someone with a problem is the one looking for the solution, who isn’t necessarily the big decision-maker. Even if they are, you need a sign-off from a number of people. Folks are much more collaborative internally, especially with technology decisions or any decision. It’s not these silos. Every decision affects other groups of people, again this curse of knowledge. Sellers don’t deeply understand or empathize with the job of the buyer. They have a job on top of the thing that they’re doing. This is your full-time job selling. It is not their full-time job to buy anything. It’s a tool for them to solve their problems.

People discount when people get the ghosting of salespeople or unresponsiveness. In my personal opinion, the pace isn’t due to anything necessarily like you’re doing. It’s the stuff on their end that they need to do. If you don’t understand their process, if you’re not sharing yours and understand what their process is internally, there’s no way you’re going to be able to accelerate that. That is typically the best way to accelerate a sales process. It’s helping your buyer buy and understand what do they need to present. That’s what you said. It’s all the stuff that they need to do.

A tool like Accord helps you give them the stuff that they’re going to have to do on their end and somehow find these extra hours or two to put together to present to their team. Hopefully, it’s like, “You’ve done their job for them,” and that’s what we hear a lot of the time. It’s so hard herding all the cats internally. That’s why most of these projects don’t get done. It’s not necessarily the number of features you have or the price or whatever. It’s like, “Who has the time?” They get stuck in these little tasks that you can hopefully unlock from your customer if you understand what they’re doing on their end.

As Tony said, I wish we’d had this call a while back. I am working with a prospect and she needed help selling the customer advisory board up to the chain and getting budget approval. I think this whole process would have been a lot easier with something like Accord, but I was trying to help her build her case. We’ve iterated multiple times on a deck. Her leadership team came back and said, “Here’s some other information I’d like to have.”

From vendorship to partnership.CLICK TO TWEET

We put together a RACI matrix and all of those kinds of things that if I could have laid that out for her and said, “Here’s a path to help you achieve your goal of getting this approved in the budget and here’s how we’re going to go about it because I had this knowledge of best practices.” I can see where that would have been very peace-inducing for her because the whole time, she was like, “I don’t know.” She was new to the company. From somebody that’s also in sales, I can see what an advantage that would be to get that relationship built with that prospect.

The idea is to try to shift the way that you’re building this partnership and that’s why our whole brand is about from vendorship to partnership. How do you change the conversation and framing of everything from, “We’re selling you this thing,” to, “We’re trying to do this together”? It’s funny because we get a very divisive reaction to that. Some people are like, “This is how I want to work with my partners and how I want to sell, etc.” Some people are like, “Don’t pretend like it’s a partnership. You’re only trying to sell me this thing.” It’s so ingrained. Unfortunately, in the industry, when people hear of sales and of this stuff because that’s the way it’s been done for so long that even when you say you don’t want to do it that way, people are like, “We don’t even believe you. That’s not how it’s done.”

When we were doing our prep session, we were talking a little bit about while you’re in the B2B space, there’s also this B2B2C concept. Your clients might be B2C companies. How do you use your tools and help your team understand the needs of your customer’s customers or how do you help your clients understand the needs of their customer’s customers if they’re a B2B2C company?

It’s something that is an interesting dynamic of a core in terms of customers because we serve and we sell to sales teams, sales organizations, founders, etc. of these B2B organizations, but their customers who they’re selling to and sending these over to could look very different. We have people that sell exclusively to Fortune 50 companies and we have folks do dozens of onboardings a week and use Accord.

One of the ways that we help is because we’re working with all these different types of companies and everyone in our team has a pretty deep background in B2B sales and onboarding is trying to come up with these playbooks where at least it’s a starting point for them. It’s like, “If you sell to this type of company or this is your type of process, here’s something to start.”

People have trouble putting pen to paper in that first draft. Even if it’s like not even close, having that 20%, 30% start and you can start to think about, “What does it look like for my customers,” it is super helpful. I’m sure in your line of work, you see this as well. People have trouble getting started with it. They know it’s a problem, so I think that’s one of the ways and we should be doing much more for that. We’re even thinking about ways of having it live outside the product. Even earlier on in people’s buying experience for Accord, they can start to understand and think about adding value and what their process is like for their customers. That starting point, hopefully, is super helpful for our customers.

Buyer Experience: Using collaborative tools like shared slack channels and creating mutual plans via Google docs and sheets was a really great way of driving this alignment as a best practice.

Another thing is that even within a similar industry, a different size company or different persona you’re selling to, the process is going to look super different the way you’re going to frame it. It’s hard to both have that like prescriptive best practice and the flexibility to change based on the same industry and the same type of product but different persona you’re selling to. You’re going to want to frame it and walk them through the process, which is super different. Trying to walk that line of like, “Here are our best practices, but we want to work with you to figure out and better understand who you’re selling to and how to frame it.”

It’s a tricky problem. You want to build something very flexible, large, and scalable, but you also know you need to start being very specific. That’s been one of the most interesting business lessons. For me, that ties into customers. You want to solve something for everyone, but the only way to do that is to first focus on very specific problems and help a very small subset of customers do that, which is not, again, I feel how the human brain works. You think like, “You can solve everything,” versus very narrow and grow from there.

Ross, tell us a little bit about as the leader of your organization, you’re also responsible for your company’s culture. What is your philosophy on how you get your team aligned culturally with how you deal with your customers?

It starts from a hiring perspective. The first people you’re going to bring onto your team. A big learning for me is I’ve always thought you train people and teach them the way. A lot of people come in and it’s going to be even hard to change the way people look at it. You need to bring in people who have the same philosophy around working with customers. Not even the strongest culture can change that. I’m still figuring it out, to be honest. It’s a tough balance because you want to give people the space to make decisions, to make mistakes, to own their work, but you also want to set the bar in a certain way and have those adjustments.

It’s a mix of both sharing like, “This is our philosophy,” but also coming in on very specific things, as examples. Almost, not being a micromanager every second of every day, but coming in and being like, “This is what I mean by that.” The wording, we’re saying I. This needs to be we or this needs to be something very specific. It’s an interesting balance. I was reading Winston Churchill’s biography. He was a great example of both setting the philosophy for Britain and the UK and would come in on these super hilariously random things related to street signs on the road. He would write this detailed letter about it.

I think that’s a great example of like, “You set the tone, but you need to give people incredibly specific examples of it.” Hopefully, the combination of those two work. Before, I still don’t have a ton of leadership management experience, but I thought it was all about setting the tone and the culture like, “These are our themes.” I don’t think that works without showing your deep understanding of how you want to see things work. It’s a tough balancing act between the two.

It’s not businesses that are buying; it’s people.CLICK TO TWEET

The example you gave about saying we instead of I is such a nuanced thing and an important thing. Honestly, I remember exactly where I was when my boss, several years ago, told me that. It made such an impact. We were on a plane returning from a meeting and apparently, I needed that lesson. It sticks in my brain. Those things are important.

Going back to your point about how sometimes we make assumptions that the people we’re trying to work with understand the buying process. Making the assumption internally that your team knows what you mean when you talk about how you want to do things, that’s an important point about the leader providing that clarity on, “Do it in your own style, but here’s what we’re looking for as an outcome.” That’s a good insight.

Ross, I’m sitting here and thinking about the category that you’re in, which is, frankly, a new category. It didn’t exist before. I’m thinking about all these different technology products that are out there or will be coming to the market in the next three to five years. We know there’s going to be a lot of change. We don’t know what that’s going to be yet. What advice would you give to, let’s say, another entrepreneur that’s coming into creating a category or jumping into a very new category, around how should they get to know who their customer is so that they’re more successful right off the bat, so they don’t have this lag time in getting that category up and running?

It’s a very different playbook when you’re trying to do something more net new versus a much better solution for a problem. It’s a solution that’s been solved. For example, at Stripe, online payments, mobile payments have forever been a thing. It’s been awful, both for the end customer trying to check out as well as for the developers or team that need to integrate it, but that thing looked very similar. It’s not the solution that you’d implemented from the end customer developers, but there was a way to process it and it was awful. Whereas with the Accord, it’s a bit different because there aren’t already tools for this customer collaboration, shared workspace and driving consistency in the sales process.

It’s Laminins and Salesforce stages and internal documentation. It is very different than something like this. You need to understand the approach to building something that’s new. It’s a lot about education. It’s a lot about tying into, but I think we’ve organically come to which is like these concepts that people share. Again, this idea of from vendorship to partnership. That is a great way to summarize what we’re trying to do and it’s not necessarily the solution because you have to be able to say, “We have collaborative workspaces for buyers and sellers.”

That means nothing to anyone because it’s not a solution. You say, “Online payment checkup.” That’s already a thing and you do it 100 times better. People know those problems and you solve them. It’s funny that this is all consistent with what we’re saying about this curse of knowledge and people don’t understand. You’re going to assume because you live this thing that everyone sees it the way that you do.

Buyer Experience: Buyers don’t necessarily know how to buy, it’s not a knock on buyers, it’s that you live in that world of that certain type of transaction and you innately understand all of the decision-making criteria.

The cloud workspace solves this problem and everyone gets it. No, people aren’t in that world yet. They’re not thinking about it that way. I need to tie it something that a layman, someone that hasn’t thought about it a lot, understands and grasps that concept. That’s been big learning that I’d recommend for people trying to do something very new. How do you tie it back to something that people already get instead of focusing on the exciting new thing that you do? It’s very similar to sales. No one’s going to be excited about your features or functionality. They’re going to be excited about the problem you solve, so how do you back out of that? Which I think again is different than how you’d market and get off the ground with a much better way of doing something else that exists now.

I would think too that marketing would be a real key to this in terms of what are those search terms that a prospect would be searching on to ultimately find you this being a new thing. What’s that messaging for you? How do you speak about it? I’m sure you’ve had a lot of marketing discussions about this.

It’s very tricky because usually, you’re taking away market share and mindshare from existing things. It’s solutions and not only purely the problem side. You need to be probably more aggressive and build yourself for some things. You probably need to be more patient with some things because you can’t ever change the market. You can change people’s perception of the market, but you’re never creating a market. To put in the category creation term, you’re creating a category within an existing market. Another big learning that I’ve had is that the power of the market is like the ocean. You’re not going to be able to change that. You’re going to have to figure out how to play in it and position yourself.

From the outside, it always seemed like maybe something you can do a lot to change. You’re never going to change what’s happening in the market. You need to be super aware of the macro world that you’re playing in and figure out how you will fit in there. I don’t think that’s something that a lot of people talk about. Everyone wants to be like, “I created this thing. I built this market.” Markets aren’t built. You need to figure how to play within them.

I want to embroider on this because we did another interview and the topic of humility came up. It’s funny because it was very much along the same lines that you’re describing here. It’s like, “You’ve got to have humility from a perspective of, ‘I’m not going to create the market. I have to position myself in that place. I’m a small piece of a big thing.’” It’s having the confidence that, “We can do this. We’ve got a good solution for a problem that needs to be solved, but we’re not going to create a whole new space.” It’s fascinating to me because when you see a company and I’m not saying Stripe does this. Readers, don’t take this that way. I’m only using them as an example.

Stripe is huge. If you’re in online business now, you know what Stripe is. If you’re a consumer, you probably have an idea of what Stripe is. Stripe could be saying, “Look at how big we made this,” but that’s not how they started. They were a small piece of a very big market that they had to go after. I’m a historian. I love that you were reading Winston Churchill’s biography because it’s like we look back and we can tell history however we want to tell history. When you talk to people in the moment, it never looks the way the history books describe it.

You really need to understand the approach to building something that’s new.CLICK TO TWEET

I think that’s a good point that humility is super important. It gives you a different perspective on how to work with customers and how to position yourself for customers in the market and how people are going to see us, not how we are going to make them see us. That’s something I’m finding more that you can’t change. Early on, you’re going to have a lot of assumptions. We, as a team, came into the market with very deep expertise in sales and in this type of stuff and lived it and hacked together stuff for years.

We figured it out and worked on the problem, which I don’t think is very common for technology solutions, at least in the early days. Still, we didn’t have near the depth of understanding of the market before we brought a product into it and had a thousand sales conversations and a million no’s and people using it and testing it and hearing what they say. It’s inevitably going to be different.

There’s no way you’re going to nail it. Being open to those changes, I think, is one of the reasons why we’ve see some of the success we’ve had now. If we kept our heads down and said, “We were right,” from day one, with a million assumptions that we made and even being aware that those are assumptions. That’s another area that people think is like, “You hear about these famous entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and so on.” They had strong ideas and bets, but all of them did a good job of listening to the market and adjusting and being open to these data points, which is something that’s sexy and people don’t talk about it as much. It’s great to have this super smart person that saw the future, but part of seeking the future is taking all the data points in what’s happening now and judging based on that.

You’re talking about the humility in this interview that Tony and I did. We both hung onto this one thing he said and I posted it on LinkedIn. It was, “The customer is already on a journey. You want to deserve to be a part of it.” I thought that was so powerful and thinking back to what you said, you’re not going to change the market, but the goal is to deserve to be a part of it. I thought that was an interesting take on humility.

I think I need to take that back to our team., talking about category formation is if you’re going to waste a lot of time and calories thinking about generating demand. It’s like a marketing term, but you are trying to find people in that journey to consider you. You’re never trying to like, “I didn’t realize I had this problem at all and I’m not looking for a solution to it. I’m not willing to invest in it. Now, I’m going to.” That is going to be a high cost of acquisition, a very hard slog for you as a company. Maybe you are amazing marketers and salespeople and you can do that. That’s not the business I want to be in. I don’t want to be in a business where a lot of people are trying to solve this problem.

They have an idea generally of the right way of solving it. Maybe it’s through working more collaboratively and building repeatable processes like I’m inserting myself into you thinking about this already. Who are the people? When are they thinking about this? What are the types of companies? How do we put ourselves in there? Build from there and then I’m going to suddenly change everyone’s minds about this. That is going to be an incredibly hard inefficient task in the way of building a business then inserting yourself into finding where they hang out and when they’re thinking about that decision.

Buyer Experience: The ghosting of salespeople or like unresponsiveness or pace, isn’t usually due to anything necessarily you’re doing, it’s the stuff on their end that they need to do.

It’s like swimming upstream, otherwise. Ross, unfortunately, this time is flying by. One last thing we wanted to run by you on our show, we like to give a shout out to a non-profit or a charitable organization or a group that you think is doing great work and we highlight that. We wanted to give you the opportunity to let us know about an organization that you have a particular affinity for.

I’m thinking of an organization that I worked with when I was out in San Francisco for a number of years. Street Soccer USA is a great one. Coaching kids soccer and through the values of that, helping them with guidance and teaching some lessons. Shout out to Street Soccer USA.

Thank you. Tony, what final questions or comments do you have for Ross?

I could go down and ask another ten questions here. The biggest thing for me is if you were to look, let’s say, 3 to 5 years from now, where do you see the market moving to because of what you guys are doing at Accord? The competitor is going to come in and things are going to happen. If you had a crystal ball, what would that look like to you? In your mind, how will the market play out and how is this whole idea of the buyer experience going to play out over the next 3 to 5 years?

I think one of the macro trends that we see drive a lot of this is the B2C experience and the new expectations. People think that business and people are buying. In the day-to-day life, you’ve seen in the last few years, the instant, now transparent process with Amazon or Uber or Airbnb or all these things. You get so much more detail than phoning someone up. You have a million more options. You’re going to see that play out in the B2B world. You’re going to see a million more options for the same type of solutions as technology becomes ubiquitous. It’s going to be much more competitive even than it is now. People think it’s wildly competitive on the marketing and sales side now.

The power of the market is like the ocean and you’re not going to be able to change that. You’re going to have to figure out how to play in it and position yourself.CLICK TO TWEET

It’s not even close in a few years. One of the ways you’re going to be able to differentiate is going to be your brand. Similar to the B2C world, people spend much more money and buy. They become fans of the brand. You already see that with certain companies. That’s going to be the way the future and things like Accord or other much more transparent collaborative brand-building tools are going to be needed to stand out and be successful. That’s the big trend there. It’s going to be a buyer’s world before it was a seller’s world before there’s like one or two or three solutions in the market. It’s very clear how they differentiate from each other.

It’s going to be ubiquitous for a lot of these different types of solutions. Much more VC funding, many more startups, many more engineers and all this stuff. You’re going to have to separate yourself out from that buyer’s first experience and their brand. You already see a lot of this stuff play out with the rise of content and communities and all of this other stuff. That’s going to accelerate the next few years.

Ross, this has been a fascinating conversation and we will be watching you and Accord. I’m excited to see the success that I’m sure Tony and I agree. It’s yours for the taking because this is so key to how business will be done moving forward. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it and we will be talking to you again soon.

Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Betsy, my favorite line in this whole episode is, “Buyers don’t know how to buy.” I have never thought about it from that perspective before and literally, it’s an epiphany that’s still blowing my mind.

It comes back to what we talked about in this episode which was making assumptions. We all make assumptions that our buyers know exactly what the process is and how they are going to move things forward and a lot of times, they just don’t. Lesson number one is don’t make assumptions and two, I like his tag line, “From vendorship to partnership,” the more you can partner with them to help them through this buying process, that in itself becomes a competitive advantage because they see that you are a valuable partner already just in the process of selling.

I also thought it was interesting that he said some people think it’s total BS that they want to be partners because they’re like, “No. You only want to sell me something.” How they fight against that mentality but also, not everybody is your right customer. The right ones will not think that. They will say, “No, he is making a concerted effort to partner with me to help me figure this out and get through this buying process.” I think there was a lot of humanness to this conversation and how to interact at a human level and at a business level.

I love that he talked about the aspect, and we’ve talked about this since we wrote our book back in 2018, that it’s not businesses that are buying. It’s people that are buying. If we keep that front and center, we can successfully navigate the process and build relationships person to person, allowing us to do business then.

Even when we know that, it’s always good to be reminded that you are not selling to a business. You are selling to a person. Tony, as always, it’s a pleasure to do these interviews with you. I appreciate it. To our readers, thank you so much for joining us. If you have not yet subscribed to our show, please do. Hit the notification button so you can know when new episodes are coming out. We’re coming out with them fast and furious now, so we’d love to let you know when they get released. In the meantime, we will see you on the next episode of the show.

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