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Learnings from True University 2017

By callstats on June 30, 2017

Four people from our sales and marketing team attended True University (TrueU). TrueU is a two-day startup school fostering connection and entrepreneurial education across the True Venture’s portfolio, which we are a part of.

TrueU prepares participants to become better leaders, stronger teammates and more empathetic humans as they take part in workshops in areas including sales and marketing, leadership, culture, design, engineering and more. We tried to divide and conquer: there were four simultaneous talks happening every period, so each one of us attended a different one. This blog post highlights a few talks that we thought are worth sharing from the event. Enjoy!

The team at TrueU

The team at TrueU

Story telling

Every startup has a story! - Lesley Gold, CEO, SutherlandGold Group.

Lesley Gold is a master storyteller, she has an unmatched talent for taking in a company’s facts and circumstances, and crafting a story catalog that puts their key messaging into the hands of consumers. We learned from her that the brand does not create the story, but it’s the other way around.

Building your company story is easier to do if you work from things that you intrinsically know to be true from your own experience. It’s important to come up with a short (4-6 word) value statement of that your company wants to bring to the world. As per Lesley’s words: “We don’t root for perfect companies, we root for companies we connect with”.

Story architecture and how to create stories - Christina Wodtke, California College of Arts, Associate Professor.

Christina Wodtke trains companies to move from insight to execution as principal of her firm, Wodtke Consulting, and teaches the next generation of entrepreneurs at California College of the Arts and Stanford Continuing Education, as an Associate Professor.

To convince a person of something is best achieved through storytelling. The microstory consist of only one to three sentences and requires the three S’s – situation, struggle and solution to pitch your cause. The following paragraphs have been cited from Christina’s personal blog Eleganthack and you can read the full explanation of the microstory there.

The structure of the microstory by Christina Wodtke

The structure of the microstory by Christina Wodtke. Image from Eleganthack.


This is the set up. It should consist of only the most important facts about the story you are about to tell. You don’t need the full “what, what, why, when, how” of journalism. You do need to tell your audience what was the challenge you faced in enough detail so that they understand why what you did was difficult, yet worth doing.


Struggle provides the conflict, the drama and the answer to why this particular story is worth paying attention to. Humans used stories as a survival mechanism before they invented writing, to pass on knowledge. We’d tell stories of grandpa, who almost got eaten by a jaguar, almost got gored by a bull. Then he died because he didn’t inspect the mushrooms very closely. Now when we hear of a struggle, our brain says, “Pay attention! We might need this information later.”

Struggle should get the listener to ask, “what the heck are they going to do next?”


The solution is the answer to “what the heck are they going to do next?” It’s where you pop the bubble of tension you’ve been blowing up. Keep it short, and let it tease the audience into asking questions. An example of a solution: “When we did usability testing, we realized color-blind people weren’t seeing the button. Fixing that solved the mystery we saw in the A/B test results.”

Sales and business development

Scaling your world class sales development organization - Ralph Barsi, Senior Director, Global Demand Center, ServiceNow & Lars Nilsson, VP of Inside Sales, Cloudera.

“Recipe for creating a scalable sales pipeline and sales development organization.”

Dividing sales into sales development and quota carrying teams is the quickest way to grow from small to large in B2B technology sales. Sales development reps (SDRs) manage and research inbound leads, and if they have time they also do cold outreach.

The main job of SDRs is to book leads for appointments for quota based sales agents. Quota carrying sales reps should not have time to do outreach and booking appointments. The ideal ratio between SDRs and quota carrying sales reps is 1:1 but in reality the ratio is usually 1:3 or 1:4.

To make the SDR model work marketing and demand generation need to pour in leads to the top of the funnel. The leads are categorized on demographics and activity, for example, A-D level leads. This creates an “SLA” between marketing and sales:

  • Sales needs to react to fresh leads in a timely manner because marketing has made an investment.
  • Source, score and status of leads helps SDRs manage their time and efforts in the best possible way.

Lars and Ralph also shared some KPIs they use to monitor their SDR teams:

  • Number of leads at a given time*: 200-300 monthly leads is manageable.
  • Conversion of leads to appointment bookings to paying customer.
  • Monthly booked meetings: SDRs need to get 12-15 meetings per month. Conversion to paying customer does not play a role, however measure conversion rate to see if the SDRs do their homework well enough and book good leads for meetings.
  • Point system for leads: Cloudera is currently testing a point system for getting leads. Outbound team has a point system for getting leads. Director level or higher gets points, conversion also gives points. Never penalize SDRs, except if a meeting gets pushed back continuously as meetings need to happen in the next seven business days.

An SDR needs to talk the language and context of the specific lead to get an answer. To speak their language, tell what the lead did on your web pages, connect that to the lead’s possible problem, and use that as leverage to get an appointment. If you are selling to software developers, get an engineer to talk to a developer before moving the lead to an SDR. This might improve your conversion percentage for meeting bookings.

According to Ralph and Lars, good SDRs have a system, bad ones have goals. If your SDRs don’t have a career path, you will lose them as 80% of SDRs are promoted into quota carrying sales (either at your company or some other company). As a final note, they reminded us that if a product sells itself, an SDR team might not be needed.

Value-Based Pricing Lessons from 5,000 Companies - Patrick Campbell, CEO, Price Intelligently.

Patrick Campbell and team have analyzed the pricing strategies of more than 5000 companies and had very interesting insights from their work. These days companies are concentrating on integrations rather than customer retention, this leads to churn and subsequently the business to shut down. In his opinion, companies should focus on retention and monetization instead of acquisition as customer acquisition costs (CAC) surpass lifetime value (LTV) of the customers in most cases.

One interesting thought was the value of interviewing the customer, it can save significant development time (Patrick’s company saved 18 months of development time) as the issues faced by the customer is well understood during the interviews. The customer interview could be personal interviews or surveys. Instead of having long and time consuming surveys (more than 4 minutes), the surveys could try to highlight the most important feature and least important feature for the customer. An example is given below.

Least important Features Most important
X Feature 1  
  Feature 2  
  Feature 3 X

Connecting with customers

From 0 to Interviewing Customers (Well) in 90 minutes - Cindy Alvarez, Principal Design Researcher, Microsoft.

As the name says, Cindy Alvarez shared her research findings in this particular workshop about how to carry out customer interviews. Most of the companies go about giving the solution to the customer instead of creating a hypothesis. A good hypothesis template would include: belief, what needs to be solved, when does the problem occur, and what would the solution do.

The interviewer should concentrate on

  1. Current behaviour - What solves the problem today?
  2. Frustrations - What makes the customer experience worse?
  3. Constraints - What blocks people from choosing a solution?
  4. Decisions - How do people make decisions and who makes the decisions?

The workshop was quite useful in creating a set of questions we should be asking our customers and the session ended with some do’s and don’ts and a demo interview session. Some takeaways are given below.

  1. Keep the interview short
  2. Ask a question and keep quiet as silence might prompt the customer to elaborate on their answer
  3. Don’t ask yes or no questions
  4. Never argue with the interviewees’ experience

Cultivating Emotional Loyalty - Brad Olson, SVP of Member Experience, Peloton.

Brad works as an SVP of Member Experience at Peloton. They leverage cloud-based streaming video technology and a powerful, proprietary, immersive touchscreen to deliver world-class workouts. Customer relationships are built over a sense of trust. Here are a few helpful pointers from Brad’s talk:

  • Go where your customers go: build partnerships with like-minded brands.
  • Encourage good behaviour early: don’t squander the opportunity, when people sign-up they are the most engaged.
  • Focus on moments that matter: first experiences are the most important.
  • Make it personal: even in B2B sales, business people are people too! :)
  • Harness the power of community: build a community around your users so that they can support each other.

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