I remember how we, in the summer of 2018, were both excited and nervous to have signed ILT, then one of our largest clients.
Alexandra Blomberg, today Commercial Director at ILT, and the team at ILT had just launched their new service, Polyglutt, in Sweden and had high ambitions. We loved the service - a digital tool helping school children develop their linguistic skills more effectively - and wanted to do our best to help ILT be successful.
Today, almost two and a half years later, they own 70% of the Swedish market, 20% of the Finnish market, and are growing at the same pace in both Norway, Germany and France.
Alexandra was also recently nominated for the "B2B Commercial Excellence Director of the Year" award by Prosales. The nomination goes to "organizations and individuals who are good role models and ambassadors for how to conduct modern sales and marketing work" and "represent modern leadership".
I wanted to have a call with Alexandra to understand what is behind both her nomination and their success, and hopefully inspire other clients too!
Focus on learning
According to Alexandra, one of the keys behind ILT's success and to her nomination is a strong focus on learning:
I like to learn from people who know more than me and try to surround myself with experts who can inspire and teach me new things that can help me reach our business goals."
In a sales and marketing role, there is a lot to learn today.
I believe that anything can be learned, so it's probably more important to find people with 'the right grit' and the willingness to learn, rather than the right skills."
Actually, even we at FunnelBud have noticed this about Alexandra. Working with ILT has helped several of our coworkers get closer to their full potential. I'll never forget the enthusiasm in Sheryll and Nikola, two of our project managers, when they presented everything they'd learned to our team after successfully launching the first version of ILT's fully automated NPS-surveys in SharpSpring.
High ambitions with everybody contributing
One of the secrets is to find the right people with the right "drive", and to inspire them:
Getting coworkers to realize what a cool journey we're on together and that they are an important part of that is one of the success factors," says Alexandra.
That includes creating a company culture where everybody knows what's expected of them, while also giving them the mandate to drive their own projects so they can get the speed up and become proactive.
To do this, you need ambitious but realistic goals, and make clear how everybody's work contributes:
Each country team have an overall business goal. We visualize the goals and make them come alive by discussing them in different contexts."
In a growing company, sometimes there will be turbulence. In such situations, the goals act as a clear compass and help create stability.
The goals are turned into tactical plans and activity plans. This gives each coworker a stable plan to follow, which is helpful in turbulent times and when something in your life makes you feel out of balance."
In this way, ILT creates a joint direction and a feeling that everybody contributes.
Important that sales and marketing collaborate
One of the most important keys to success, according to Alexandra, is that sales and marketing collaborate.
It is important to establish that sales cannot function effectively without marketing and vice versa."
Alexandra explains that this attitude is part of every coworker's mindset:
We talk about the integrated sales and marketing work even in the hiring process, so that every coworker knows the way we work and choose to work that way."
As we speak, ILT and FunnelBud are in the process of integrating SuperOffice, their CRM, so that ILT can get an even more accurate, and real-time, understanding of which marketing activities drive sales goals. We also aim to build features such as starting a marketing campaign when salespeople move deals to certain stages and measure the effects of this.
Being a company focused on sales also means things will move fast. Alexandra says that this requires a culture where it's OK that everything you do is not always perfect. That kind of culture is required if you want people to try new things:
To develop ideas, you need the courage to try something new. Often, that means you'll fail. It is important to communicate this in the team. We call this the 80/20 rule - a 20% failure rate is accepted in our teams, as long as the rest of the 80% is done correctly."
Instead, Alexandra says, they focus on the successes:
We try to cherish joint successes by lifting each others' work and giving each team member cudos for their ideas. That's when you create a feeling of 'WE' and get people's best effort."
Vendors and their role
The focus on learning also shines through the way Alexandra sees the relationship with vendors:
A vendor's role is to bring expert knowledge, and the interest in transferring it, otherwise we can't grow our own knowledge. So I want our vendors to be better than we are, and that they actively bring forward tips and ideas, and challenge our own thoughts in the constantly changing world."
An important consideration in selecting the best vendor is that customer success, and proactive support is included in the deal. For Alexandra, the collaboration is a long term partnership - so both companies win if the vendor focuses on helping the customer become successful, rather than on the limits and what is or is not included in the agreement.
Of course, we agree with this, because we believe that a customer buys solutions and a team of experts, not just a marketing automation software and consulting hours.
An example is the training of new personnel:
As a growing company, we hire new personnel regularly, and the vendor's capacity and interest in training this personnel are crucial because the vendor has key knowledge about our processes in the system."
In summary, what tips would you give other organizations who want to achieve similar results?
Build in a scalable way, and think big even at the start. Remove obstacles that hinder personnel from moving forward. Work with the mantra "learning by doing" and test your way forward. Solve things as they come, rather than waiting for an internal meeting. Dare to move things forward. Have high standards and expectations, but have fun along the way."
Thank you Alexandra for the fantastic tips, and congratulations on your nomination!