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On Sep 08 2019 / by Brody Nelson

Top takeaways from Southern SaaS 2019

As told by Parkable CTO Brody Nelson

Last week I attended the second ever Southern SaaS to learn more about the best current thinking on how to run a SaaS business.

As a fanboy of last year’s conference I went in with high expectations for this year’s event. Southern SaaS 2019 did not disappoint. It was a sold-out crowd, had world class speakers and plenty of SaaS insider nuggets were dished out.

So for those of you who couldn’t make it, here are my Southern SaaS top takeaways:

Marvin Liao from 500 Startups

The first speaker was Marvin Liao from 500 Startups, who delivered SaaS insights in his typically confrontational fashion. His takes were:

  1. Go deep with one customer profile from the beginning rather than trying to service the needs of multiple customer segments or profiles. In his view this approach accelerates the process of going from 0-10 customers and then 10-100.
  2. He also advocated for the Rule of Two: Hire two sales people at a time. The benefits of this approach are that Salespeople are inherently competitive, so they will intrinsically push each other to succeed. This also allows you to separate salesperson performance from sales process, as you have a larger sample size of what is working or not. With two it’s harder for a salesperson to blame the process or approach if someone else is succeeding using the same approach.
  3. Marvin also warned against hiring a VP of Sales from a large brand. It is vitally important that this employee has built something themselves, and that in one of their previous roles they were early in the company life cycle. Otherwise, they will have inherited a lot of processes that they will not necessarily know how to build from scratch themselves.
  4. In the early days, customer success is more important than sales. You need to figure out retention first before you try to scale your sales operation. A good way to do this is to incentivise employees to retain customers.

Georgia Robertson from Humanitix

Next up was Georgia Robertson from Kiwi startup Humanitix, which is redefining what it means to be a non-profit company. They are disrupting the ticketing industry by giving 100% of their ticketing fees to educational charities. What struck me was how disruptive it can be when you have feature-parity with your competitors but offer your customers services which have a social impact. Humanitix gives the event organiser the kudos for the positive social outcome, which acts as a compelling reason to choose them over a standard ticketing company.

Our own Toby Littin from Parkable

Toby Littin, my co-founder in Parkable, spoke about the mistakes we have made going from startup to scale-up. He shone the light on a big mistake I made while scoping our China project (quite embarrassing) and also spoke about how not all revenue is created equal - you need to focus on the revenue that is scalable and repeatable.

Matt Cameron from SaaSy Sales Management

The SaaS Sales theme was continued by Matt Cameron from SaaSy Sales Management, whose opening line made me laugh: “Salespeople weave the blanket of revenue that keeps you warm at night.” Matt’s view was that pipeline generation needs to lead headcount addition as it is inefficient to recruit salespeople if there are not enough qualified leads for them - regardless of what the resource plan dictates.

  • In Matt’s view, the time it takes to ramp new salespeople up to quota also depends on the average sales cycle length. For example, for an enterprise customer with a 3 to 5 month sales cycle, the average ramp time for a new salesperson is 4 months.
  • A rep selling to enterprise should have around 30 live opportunities in their pipe. Too many opportunities can be problematic too - at 60 opportunities each they will start to fail.
  • Sales meetings are an opportunity to align, inspire and coach. They should be energising, not just individuals reviewing the same numbers every week.

Kirsty Traill from Yext

Following on from the focus on sales, Kirsty Traill, VP of Client Advocacy at Yext, spoke very knowledgeably about having customer success conversations at the leadership level. In her view, brand is happening more and more off your website. Brand is now turning up in services such as search tools, staff communication, and video conferencing software, which means it is vitally important to develop a knowledge graph - which is everything that you know about your brand. This way you have a central place where you can control how your brand is expressed, leading to greater brand consistency and discoverability across new services which could potentially be voice or chat based. Kirsty referred to this as an “answers ready strategy.”

Justin Wilcox from Teaching Entrepreneurship

Finally Justin Wilcox from Teaching Entrepreneurship gave a great practical demonstration of how you can use a process called stream of consciousness usability testing to identify weak areas in your sales funnel and increase conversion. The process starts by finding someone unfamiliar with your product and coaching them to “share what they are feeling and thinking” as they go through the process of signing up. It's important to record everything as you go, so you are focussed on what the tester is saying and feeling and can dive in with follow up questions when the tester reveals something of interest.


Those are all the tips that resonated with me from the speakers that I saw. It was a great experience with a lot of lessons, so the last tip from me is to make sure you get tickets early for Southern SaaS 2020 as it will definitely sell out again!

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