Selling with a Noble Purpose – Jim Ward of BrainSell

Jim Ward, CEO of BrainSell

Jim Ward, the CEO of BrainSell, grew his company’s revenue from $4 million in 2014 to $7 million in 2017, a 75% increase, and to around $8.5 million in 2018.  

BrainSell is a provider of business strategy, best-of-class software and implementation services.  

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Jim shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:  

  • Providing clients with the leading edge technology that they use themselves.  
  • Investing significantly in an integrated marketing program across multiple channels.    
  • Selling with a noble purpose to become their client’s trusted consultant.  
  • Compensating all their employees on metrics that drive growth, with no upside cap.  

Computer generated transcript - BrainSell Interview (transcribed by Sonix)

Download the "Computer generated transcript - BrainSell Interview" audio file directly from here. It was automatically transcribed by below:

Malcolm Lui: Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint. Today we're speaking with Jim Ward, the CEO of BrainSell a provider of business strategy, best of class software and implementation services. Welcome to the call Jim.

Jim Ward: Thank you Malcolm. Nice to be here.

Malcolm Lui: Jim, you grew your company's revenue from $4 million dollars in 2014 to $7 million in 2017, a 75% increase, and in 2018 you hit around $8.5 million. Before we talk about how you grew your company so fast, can you briefly share what your company does beyond my quick intro and how your company differs from the competition?

What they do and how they differ

Jim Ward: Sure. So in the traditional sense Malcolm we're a value added reseller. And what that means is we have software solutions that we resell into the marketplace. Of course we vet all the software that we represent and then we provide the services to get the software up and running. So implementation services training data conversions all the things that get the software to run and we have multiple categories of business software we have four divisions here CRM marketing automation ERP or accounting software end business intelligence. But what I think one of the key factors that we have is we have a technology consultancy and we're a boutique consultancy. We will help folks with business process notation. We help them with vendor selection. We help them with really looking at their systems and how they work. So it could be an agile approach but we help them before they buy software because it offers not the silver bullet necessarily suffers really dumb to tell it what to do. And so the services I think are also a big differentiator for us. We go in and we do for example a business process notation. What we're doing for a company is identifying all their processes that we may be touching with the technology and we're identifying where we might get big impact on return investment or efficiency gains. The other area that we're very different. So sometimes we compete against the big boys like a center of the lake. And it's amazing how many times we win that is because we have you know very smart analysts who have been in the trenches. I like to say they fought hand-to-hand combat so they know the landscape the business concepts they know the technology that's very hard to find and single bodies. When you go to a large consulting houses none of our peer competitors have that. So when we go in we're able to compete against an essential we can be more cost effective if they're getting a higher quality consultant. That is a more effective cost as well for the client.

Malcolm Lui: Ok. Fantastic. Well what would you say were the three biggest drivers of your sales growth over the past four years when you grew from 4 million in 2014 to eight point five million just this past year.

Jim Ward: That's a great question I think it's certainly early on the and as we go back. I would say we go back to 2009 and I look back and I see Arthur on average 30 percent growth per year. But part of it is evolutionary. Right. So some of the software that we've represented such as CRM wasn't as commodities as it is today as an example. So part of that is just early adopters people being coming more interested in that kind of technology growth marketplace. But as for example that particular sector commodities is I think the things that have changed about us about us and our growth is our marketing capability. We put I put a lot of investment into marketing the ability to communicate in the marketplace and you know funny You make me think back in 2008 I read a book called inbound marketing by Dharma Sean Brian Halligan who are the founders of Hubspot and it was our aha moment for me. And we really focused on content early on. And today some of that content is still delivering unbelievable inbound leads. So that's been a big part of our growth which is our inbound programs and a heavy investment in marketing in general today.

Jim Ward: One of the biggest things that we focus on and I don't find really any of our peers doing that is was what's called Selling With Noble Purpose. And what that means to us is we want to we want all of our sales people if that's what you want to call them we want them to be able to articulate how the company that we're gonna do business with is going to be better by doing business with BrainSell.

Selling with a noble purpose

Jim Ward: So selling with a noble purpose. Think about that for a second. I want to I want my my account executives to go deep to understand how are we going to make that company better. We're not just going to sell them software we want to understand what can we how can we make them better. How can we create more efficiencies. How can we create a company that's gonna be more successful because I think if we do that for them then the natural output is growth and that's what we've found.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So you're it's almost like you're a trusted adviser of the company essentially

Jim Ward: Yeah I think that's what happened as a result of selling with noble purpose in the same way you treat employees were team members we don't. Well I don't even use the word employees team members. You want to treat you know you want treat your team members as if they were customers the better they do the happier customers are. It's that kind of circle that I find has caused our company to have a unique model that's allowed for the growth. The other part I'd say is also our compensation models are quite different. We really highly compensate. And it's behavioral compensation but it allows folks to realize their dreams and you're gonna probably find this funny but we have annual Dream meetings here and it's not about the company it's about the individuals dreams. So we just had our dream meeting and we sit around and we go around of some people are offsite site and they're in remote offices but we have video conferencing room and we want to really articulate their dreams too so that each of us by hearing them can help the other people achieve those dreams. That's been a big part two is helping us grow helping folks achieve their dreams that makes

Malcolm Lui: Ok.

Jim Ward: Us

Malcolm Lui: So yep. So. So from what I gather something there are four drivers and one evolutionary and I've been.

Jim Ward: Make

Malcolm Lui: Helping your clients the early adopters of technology it ends up helping them grow over time. And and you give an example of the CRM I imagine there must be other technology scene. Same thing

Jim Ward: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: Same thing to investing in your marketing. So you made a significant

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Investment in your marketing three selling with a noble purpose and a number for your compensation structure your behavioral compensation structure that allows people to achieve their individual dreams. Can you talk a little bit more about the evolutionary driver because it seems like there must certainly been some technologies that you thought look pretty good that be really helpful and it just kind of didn't work out as you had expected maybe standards change maybe the market move. How do you identify which technology to recommend to your clients

Jim Ward: Well well first of all that's been an evolution as well. Of in the beginning it was a little bit easier to figure out what technologies it was you know with the wild west so to speak and things were new. So it was pretty easy to figure out. And by the way I fell into this. I was doing other turnaround consulting but when I found for example in it CRM was not always called CRM was called salesforce automation but called contact management in the early days and I did this. It was just a hot market. People were very interested in that that application which is where I turned my focus from being a turnaround company to providing technology to companies

Malcolm Lui: What year was this when this concept of a CRM start getting really hot.

Jim Ward: Well I started the business 25 years ago this year. So you're getting me on my anniversary

Malcolm Lui: To 25 years ago is when the CRM concept started to get traction

Jim Ward: That's when I took on us into the consulting practice we took on was called Contact Management or Salesforce automation at the time.

Malcolm Lui: Ok.

Jim Ward: And that became it was just rapid growth for us. And it was

Malcolm Lui: Mike

Jim Ward: You know based on being a sort of new ish. And we were I guess opportunistic at that time.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So I imagine for the past 25 years there must've been some release one or two or several I.T. platforms that you thought made sense and that you recommended to your clients and it didn't quite pan out. So how did you make adjustments in software that you thought would be

Jim Ward: That

Malcolm Lui: Great. Just didn't work out.

Jim Ward: That has not going to stand out and I'm trying to think back to for right an example of that. Certainly have looked at applications or we've looked at different software and we've decided or you know put our toe in the water with a particular kind of application then we find out that oh gosh it isn't the right customer profile for us and we you know we we back off of that but everything we do here we've tried it first. And so we tend to know based on our own internal use that it's going to be effective. And so we vet it internally first and it wasn't because we were thinking about going to the market but that was because we needed it. We identified it we needed it then also we thought we had to bring it back. We got to get that into the portfolio. Others must need it.

Malcolm Lui: So do you always choose technology that's somewhat mature and been around for a while or would you consider something that's a bit newer and breaking ground.

Leading edge, not bleeding edge

Jim Ward: We go into new technologies as well but we're very careful. We do want to be bleeding edge. That's one of the things we want to be leading edge but not bleeding edge

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yes it's kind of a fine line between the two

Jim Ward: It is it is. So for example you know we're really spending some time now on artificial intelligence and we're doing a lot of research next week as an example we do what's called a jam session. So my my son's a musician and so I termed it the jam session. You know you can picture a bunch of musicians. CHAIRMAN Well I

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: Have invited external folks one who's a leading expert in the country on RPA which is a robotics process automation. We're bringing an analyst in who's an expert in a rather new style of design which instead of using we did warehouses as a caching capability. I'm not a deep technical guy but I'm a strategy guy. Have a sense I kind of have a sense for markets and where we might be able to help clients.

Malcolm Lui: You need

Jim Ward: And so in this session we just come in and we just whiteboard ideas we just jam that's all

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: That's all we do. And then we'll figure out do we have something here that we think can help the marketplace

Malcolm Lui: Right. So are you paying these guys to show up at your jam session

Jim Ward: Know

Malcolm Lui: Or are they equally getting something out

Jim Ward: No

Malcolm Lui: Of it.

Jim Ward: They all get something out of it and together would you know if we find something this selected group we find something we'll strategically work together

Malcolm Lui: Ok good. So is A.I. really what it's touted to be at this juncture it's still way too early for it to be really usable.

Jim Ward: Well A.I. and machine learning I do think it's still early. Certainly there are elements that are working but I think it's still a little bit bleeding edge. But I would say it's a heavy bet for us and it will be a heavy bet.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. You see that fact. Another person I interviewed he actually hired a service to help him with his calendar. Right in pain. Supposedly it's all automated and I went through their service to book the appointment. That interview with the other person and that's nice. It's like an individual right to have a name and so on. But you know they say it's completely automated but I really couldn't tell that I was working with a machine to get a booking. They were able to handle you know unusual changes to the calendar asking them to sell the zoom link is out of date can you replace it with this one. And it was seamless. And I don't know if there's a human element involved or is all automated but it was pretty nice.

Jim Ward: So I think there's a lot of confusion in the marketplace around it. I even I am confused at times. So a guy versus RPA robotics process automation where bots are used that could be RPA almost it almost sounds like a bot.

Malcolm Lui: Ok.

Jim Ward: Then there's a course machine learning you look at Google's A.I. product. They don't remember what the name is but the ability to make a reservation and it sounds just like a human being even understands dialects and accents. I don't know if you've seen that but that's it is it's coming along. There are certainly applications I've seen which are very convincing and so it's starting to really play a role in companies. And then there's some like you said it's I'm not quite sure it's fully baked

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah I mean I use it for transcription. Right. Having them convert my interviews into a transcript. I think once they get that nailed down then the A.I. is going to really take a huge growth

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Cause that's like that they'd give away when human stuff isn't really done by a human.

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: So

Jim Ward: Right. It's it's going to come and it's going to be evolutionary.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. For your second driver marketing capabilities. You say you do a lot of investment in marketing. I did a little did take a look at your your paper click and FCO exposure as well and you have some pretty decent FCO exposure. So it's good CSIRO and in my talk shows the equivalent value of that traffic. So companies do MCO but there's no dollar value right. Because though the keywords that they're focusing on really has no value it's too broad too generic and your particular case it you are focusing on some words keywords that have some dollar value

Jim Ward: Yeah. A lot of our CEOs non paid. It's organic. So we get I don't know the number today but quite a few inbound leads today based on how we go how we use our entire marketing keyword phrases and you know most recently we've hired a digital we hired a we recruited you know out of a digital agency specifically somebody who could come in and lead their digital programs for us. It's getting quite sophisticated. It's not as easy it was back in 2000 and you get a lot more competition for key words and phrases. So

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jim Ward: You have to use

Malcolm Lui: And Nelson

Jim Ward: Techniques

Malcolm Lui: And often times like for another company we did some work with they were getting some people opting in and so on. But none of them were the ones that can become potential clients right. There is probably just college kids looking to enter that industry so they are opting in to get the white papers and in the end the best practices that they can be ready for their interviews.

Jim Ward: Yeah

Malcolm Lui: So

Their current marketing efforts

Jim Ward: Yeah you know and then adding things you have to have sort of cross-functional technologies and again this is how we end up in the market bringing those stuff into portfolios like you know we've been in the marketing automation space for a while we were in it very very early understanding inbound marketing understanding HubSpot you know and then putting marketing automation together with integrated CRM. The ability to see well certainly again an IP addresses profiling that progresses the idea of being able to understand what pages you're looking at. Nurturing to those folks staying top of mind those are been a part and parcel of the growth in these marketing initiatives. And we continue to expand that. Right now we're looking at a lead forensics application so you know if somebody comes to your site you may not know you'll know the IP address but if they don't feel anything and you don't know who they are what lead forensic starts to do is it. It has a database of IP addresses you start to get the breadcrumb and then you can utilize other tools to sort of pollinate that and figure out who's calling in and then you can use account based marketing that's been a big part of our growth as well

Malcolm Lui: Right yeah I have that technology on my site too. And now yes there's some IP addresses that are kind of useless right. So the ones that are with the major in Internet service providers. Doesn't see any information obscene. They came from spectrum for example but even you know unless they're coming from a small company or someone have already had outreach with you know when I see someone from IBM visiting my Web site. That that to me isn't too useful.

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: There's just too many potential

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: People there.

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: I mean do you have tools too available to you that narrow that down much further. That makes a visit from someone from IBM useful

Jim Ward: No. So when you're using the example of an IBM you're right. The number of folks would be so large it would be very hard to lease with my what we have today would be very hard to circulate that data and figure out who to get to. I think it more fits though us because we tend to be mid-market and to the companies that we're focused on are going to be easier to find and map into so IBM tough

Malcolm Lui: Yeah definitely. So what's been your favorite channel marketing wise for Leeds whether it be inbound or outbound or you know or whatnot if you going to choose one and say for example you had starting over from scratch. What's the one marketing channel inbound or and or outbound that you would go with.

Jim Ward: You know you you can't I can't answer it that way unfortunately because today you have to use an integrated marketing approach. And there's so many dimensions that you have to utilize in order to get them effective marketing campaign. I would have said to you back in 2008 nine and eleven inbound was clearly rocking it for us right. It was. Well you know being able to get to that marketplace and we weren't competing against what HubSpot we call ninjas or phrases you can't win a fight with an engine right. So but there's still there's a lot of ninjas today. So you have to use a number of different approaches whether it be paper you know organic the pay click retargeting combined with webinars topic et webinars you you're being consistent with your content. There's no one thing. And then of course we have implemented here a predictable revenue team. So that is a outbound effort focused outbound effort based on our ideal customer profiles that they are the Spears what we call the spears. You know there are literally outbound so in addition to marketing you have people who are working outbound to ideal customer and they work with marketing and then there's nurture campaigns that are created in there to continue the conversation with folks educating top of funnel. It's tofu Mo food both to have a funnel middle of funnel bottom a funnel approach.

Malcolm Lui: Okay

Jim Ward: So we're we're angling for that too. You get to have dimensions your marketing that attract those parts of the funnel. So no one thing anymore that I can that I could go and say if I only had one

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay. Now you talked before you mentioned briefly ideal customer profile how many different avatars how many different personas do you have that you focus

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: On.

Their ideal customer profile

Jim Ward: So ideal customer profile for us is based on revenue size employee size. Currently we are working on buyer personas. That's what we call a rock. It's going to take us more than a quarter to get those done. And then we have those are based on each of the and they'll build. So what we have CRM Now let's say we have the accounting software they're going to be very different buyer personas and so it takes time and it's a reasonable lift. But those are the things we're doing now because we're gonna want to be able to talk to those buyer personas. But I'll give you an example. What we have found in the CRM world is a persona is going to surprise you you're going to think that it might be you know the the head of sales. Well it may be him or her too but you might find that. And what we have found is that this is gonna sound horrible but the persona that we've identified through some Google Analytics is it was a male 25 to 35 who is interested in business travel. And there were some other data around this because those are the these were the people who are filling in the forms for the head of sales.

Malcolm Lui: Right

Jim Ward: So we're going to want to do marketing to make sure we're getting those folks to fill in those forms.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Exactly. And if they see a better mousetrap that will save them time. They're going to say hey boss maybe

Jim Ward: That

Malcolm Lui: You check out this platform

Jim Ward: They're during the research on behalf of their leadership

Malcolm Lui: Yeah it's good stuff there. So I would've thought you might be. You might also be able to if you had the tracking in place slice and dice who your buyers are and from here on the paper click site. Right. Knowing what keywords you typed

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: In and maybe even on the organic side knowing what content has drawn has drawn demand

Jim Ward: Well sure you can do that and certainly with this with the social platforms LinkedIn Facebook even Instagram you can really go down in a very granular way identify who you believe your your buyer types. But this is where you find out that they may not be the right personas and that those analytics that we identified said oh gosh we're going after some of the wrong people.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah yeah. Well I thinking that you could actually if you had the systems in place and the tracking in place you would you know start with who your clients are. Right. And then work backwards and figure out what their journey was that brought them to

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: You. And then

Jim Ward: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: You can derive it that way

Jim Ward: That's part of the process for us right now.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Okay cool. For the next driver that you mentioned after marketing you talk about selling with a noble purpose. How did that come along that from day one twenty five years ago is this

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: Something that also was evolutionary

Jim Ward: I'd say it's more evolutionary you know prior when you before commoditization of some of these applications. You know CRM is pervasive. Salesforce is the big gorilla. There's plenty of other products out there but it's a bit of a commodity. So you have to go beyond somebody wanting to have CRM and I think too many people and I'd say most people are just reacting to what the client thinks they want as opposed to having your account executives act as a consultant and truly understanding what the impact is going to be how we're going to impact it forget about the brand and the product how we're going to impact the company how we're going to play that technology and then in your proposals you're speaking to that. So it becomes very clear to leadership that we're engaged and we truly understand their business and we're trying to provide them something that really in some cases we're able to provide the numbers the return on investment numbers in that proposal that makes the decision much easier and that's

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: Been evolutionary.

Malcolm Lui: Definitely and it was it was something that inspired me to do this or does something just evolve literally just evolve over time as you improve your processes.

Jim Ward: We read a ton of books. We go to a lot of conferences and hear speakers. And when something resonates that's our. We have these aha moments and we go man we got to do that.

Malcolm Lui: Right. You remember the aha moment that that that drove you led you to the noble purpose style

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Of selling

Jim Ward: I'm trying remember the author I want when misquoted but I believe it's Lisa McLeod and the book is selling with noble purpose and it's also leading with a noble purpose and we had heard her at a conference might want to check that name to make sure I'm accurate. I'm pretty sure that's correct. And that was one of our aha moments

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK the next driver that you had shared with me after selling within the wheel purpose was a driver number for behavioral compensation. Can you talk a little bit more about what behavioral compensation is

How they get talent as a smaller company

Jim Ward: Yeah. We as a smaller company in order to get appropriate talent I've always maintained everything has a compensation metric. So almost everybody here regardless of position has a metric and they're able to make more money buying things that will help the company progress and grow. I'm trying to think of who doesn't fit that model. Right now we don't have a single person that doesn't have a compensation metric that allows them to make

Malcolm Lui: Like

Jim Ward: More money. Chris you know you can look to sales and look at commissions and in our particular case we all our folks to not only receive commissions but I want them. I want to be engaged with the customer so I want them to be a part of an ongoing renewal in the cloud world's renewals. I want them to be engaged with that. We have customer success managers here. Now

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jim Ward: That's been an evolution for us to so if you will. Shortly you'll see on our website are the differentiators that are very very clear. So there's a whole journey we want to show folks how it helps them. So you could start from the front end where you've got no particular revenue you've got marketing and it brings the client through but and it talks about how we bring them through an implementation process and that's very process oriented and proven. And then it shows you where you move during mid project to the customer success manager you're being introduced to that customer success manager that person is there for their lifetime.

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: I mean it's not passing the client any money but what we want to do is we want to invest in our success going forward. My belief is that comes back we'll continue

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: To grow with them.

Malcolm Lui: Now is there a total comp potentially unlimited or is a cap

Jim Ward: No

Malcolm Lui: That

Jim Ward: No

Malcolm Lui: They

Jim Ward: Cap.

Malcolm Lui: Just essentially making

Jim Ward: You'd be shocked

Malcolm Lui: So I mean is it a lot of company to have a limit. You know especially in today's world unlimited compensation. Right. You earn as much as he sell but then over time they end up raising your quotas and keep your commission payout rate and so on. Right. So it's kind of like a moving target you know. So you know how hurry. How do you construct your compensation schemes that all make sense.

Jim Ward: So if you ever had done to you you know how much how disruptive it is how emotional and stressful it is. My opinion you don't want to touch compensation very often. You have to be consistent and or we have this discussion today. It's funny because there's a chance we might change a compensation model for our sales development arrests but I would only do that if I can create a win win by the change. Right so if I'm taking something and making a change by lowering the comp for example if we comp them in on an inbound lead the inbound lead has is easier for them versus having a call out and do account based marketing and really be proactive which has a higher value. But what I would do is instead of just dropping the compensation I would add higher on the other end. So they're getting something more. So I wanted to be an incentive I want them to be excited about that. That makes sense.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah it does. So how do you handle people who aren't client facing but they're essential for making things work your account. For

Jim Ward: That's

Malcolm Lui: Example

Jim Ward: A great example there. Yeah. So again we hired a CEO a little over a year ago and she's my she's the end of my Yang. She is the detailed Master of Finance. We put into place in this particular case because we have others who were making a lot of money who have directly relate to sales revenues et cetera. But we put in place bonus pool. And so the bonus pool is based on a number of criteria you know based on revenue attainment based on hitting certain profit numbers. And so they're all part of that bonus for anybody who's not compensated through a form of commission is in the bonus pool.

Malcolm Lui: I understand that if even someone an accountant who is not doing the job properly it's going to impact the company hence their their bonus pool can shrink.

Jim Ward: That's correct. So there are the

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: Behaviors is towards helping the company to improve. It's also based on. So we have some metrics for our somewhere. Our compensation is a bit of a bit of a secret but it is one of our unique aspects I haven't found anybody doing this. You know customer success managers have an element of how they have helped the client improve. So they're very invested in

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: The client. The I wanted to mention something else that I thought that was very interesting it slipped my mind. But it's a bonus pools. Yeah. Anyway. OK. Well we'll either come back to me

Malcolm Lui: Sure. So that total company then and can someone you know realistically speaking get any double work at your firm compared to working at a competitor just because of your compensation

Jim Ward: Absolutely.

Malcolm Lui: Scheme Yeah that's a good incentive. I mean sometimes rappers are working in a company gave stock options to me which is nice. I mean it's free but the stock options were very great big right. And technically five years 10 shares so instead there wasn't huge but. So again. But when you can double your total comp

Jim Ward: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Yet I can be more

Jim Ward: And

Malcolm Lui: Of

Jim Ward: We're consistently

Malcolm Lui: A

Jim Ward: Working

Malcolm Lui: Motivating

Jim Ward: On how

Malcolm Lui: Factor.

Right measurements to understand what to improve

Jim Ward: Do we make this better for our folks here. It's a consistent constant improvement. You and business I find you have to be in that mode constant improvement would you have yet to have the right measurements to understand what to improve

Malcolm Lui: Right. Exactly. So for 2019 compared to 2018 or you did about eight and a half million what are your targets for 2019

Jim Ward: It'll be approximate 20 percent growth is brings us into the 10 and I'll have in front of me 10 million fifty thousand but there's an A and

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: Then we back into that and we do a gap analysis all that's being done and we market to that and we sell to that number. But we hit the target and we exceeded that by 1 percent last year and and without stress have to I have to underscore that without stress

Malcolm Lui: Together we're on track all throughout the

Jim Ward: Yup

Malcolm Lui: Year.

Jim Ward: We're already and we're already out of the gate way ahead right now.

Malcolm Lui: Okay so you're gonna move the target up in

Jim Ward: No no we're doing something unique to this year so maybe this is part so we're letting. We don't. We do have we call our goals not quotas but we're letting the folks here decide what their goal should be. They review it. They look at the gap and we allow them to review it and come back to us with what they believe it would be. I believe if they own it they're the one that said it's more likely to achieve it. Right. So we did the same thing with our rocks we let them choose what rock for us is everybody gets assigned a rock which is some of it's going to take a quarter to do which is an improvement to the company. Everybody gets

Malcolm Lui: Could you share again what you mean by rock is not

Jim Ward: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: A Acronym

Jim Ward: So.

Malcolm Lui: I'm familiar

Jim Ward: Ok.

Malcolm Lui: With.

Jim Ward: So if you have an issue that's something you can take care of. Usually within a week to me a to do is take a couple of weeks but a rock is a bigger heavier lift. It's going to probably take it three months or a quarter of it. Those

Malcolm Lui: Okay

Jim Ward: Are the big things that really make changes in the company. And so we assign to every person. Everybody gets a rock and they have the they have they. Then though in this case we used to assign them out based on who we thought fit the particular rocks. This time we provided we had a series of rocks with credit and we let them choose first second third choices and we call this the game of rocks. And so you know for example what would be a rock here. This you know might be developing our MSP practice which is a referral practice working with managed service provider firms. So it'll take a quarter the build out. People get to choose if that was what they wanted to do. Again I believe if they choose it they're more likely to get it done and be successful at it. And I remember something else I was going to mention before we're an open book company. So my financials are completely open to our team. Another belief I have is that how can somebody help if your company isn't hitting target or if you're not growing in the right way. If you don't allow folks to see the books help you. And I never want to be corporate America. I don't want to have folks suddenly if the company were in trouble which it's not successful growing company but if it were in trouble I one of things that bothered me about corporate America is suddenly somebody getting the ax and getting let go. They had no idea that another company wasn't hitting numbers. I think people should know so they can help. I think people want to help. So being open book is only one piece of it. Then I realized hey if they can't read financial statements how can they. What does it matter. So now we have our accounting department doing workshops teaching every battery appeal. I don't read a balance sheet or cash flow. Everybody will have those. Yeah. So that's part of our is also part of our differentiator.

Malcolm Lui: Yep definitely. People like being engaged knowing the situation right.

Jim Ward: Yep.

Malcolm Lui: No one likes being caught by surprise.

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: So what do you see as the biggest rocks marketing and sales wise to get your 20 percent growth

Jim Ward: So that has already been planned out. But how I'll tell you how we approach it. So we need to treat marketing also as rocks. And Iraq is big. That could be a big content. I'll use an example. So maybe we're going to do something. And we have themes already the theme might then generate a big e-book. It's an example it's not a good example but an example. But that might be the rock content for the quarter from that we're going

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: To create a series of turkey slices off of that you know out of that big e-book you might have infographics slide shares blog content videos. So they become slices that you're moving along each week going through. And so you're following that plan. So that's what we consider marketing rocks. We

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: Already have in place for the year and it will continue it's a bit agile because what may what may not be working. You have to be ability to have the ability to be flexible pivot. And so

Malcolm Lui: Ok.

Jim Ward: We do run marketing a bit with a bit of an agile attitude.

Malcolm Lui: Ok. How about your sales rocks. Lots of rocks. Need to get moved on the sales side.

Their Sales Rocks

Jim Ward: Well so sales rocks will be of course they'll be numbers that folks will want to choose to help us hit the gap and then grow the company. But we don't really focus on a rock in that way we'll focus on you know programs we do a lot of training to help our folks become their knowledge to increase is

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jim Ward: An example we have book club book club as a way for us to continue to read and educate our own selves Build it build them become experts and help our clients. So we do that on

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jim Ward: A weekly basis and we gave a book club. We review these and each you know each part might have a different book. So self education will be a part of the sales rock. And I don't mean sales training because I don't need the kill training becomes less important when I'm becoming much more capable of helping a client. Right. So Chris the salesperson still needs to sell and how to make sure they bring a how to bring it to closure and convert. There are elements of added sales but having an education is the biggest part of it. And I think that is a huge differentiator. Huge differentiate the more you can the more we can provide information to our our clients and prospects the more likely we can help them be successful and the more like we're going to do business

Malcolm Lui: Right. OK so in terms of growing your business 20 percent how much of that can be coming from do more business with your current set of clients as opposed to finding

Jim Ward: That's

Malcolm Lui: Brand new clients.

Jim Ward: Also a great question. So we all know that the cost of acquiring a new logo is much higher than keeping an existing client. We know that but with customer success now being in place that's where they're working with client to make sure we're finding new opportunities within the existing clients. Think about it. We have right now. I think it was something like 6000 clients is an amazing number and they come they some of them maybe in the serum marketplace some maybe in the ERP some maybe in marketing automation. I do have multiple products. But if you think about that CRM clients they need to have invoicing. So there is an up sell cross-sell component. And I do believe a significant part comes from the up sell cross-sell but it's also finding what the client needs you know through serving. Understanding what they need for the upcoming year. Aligning with them. The other part of it will come from their growth us helping them grow and providing more services and and potentially more software potentially more software that allow them to grow

Malcolm Lui: Right. How about in terms of finding new clients.

Jim Ward: To

Malcolm Lui: What's

Jim Ward: The new

Malcolm Lui: Plan

Jim Ward: Logo

Malcolm Lui: There.

Jim Ward: Clients. That's also a big part of it. Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Up Before You Before You Go on you said new logo clients. Explain

Jim Ward: Sure.

Malcolm Lui: That acronym

Jim Ward: Well so existing client right where you're nurturing and you're building with the existing client base but a new logo is somebody we've not met. We're gonna bring them in as a brand new client

Malcolm Lui: Ok is that stand for anything those letters

Jim Ward: New logo.

Malcolm Lui: You say.

Jim Ward: Oh well

Malcolm Lui: Yeah

Jim Ward: So a logo. I see I see you don't understand. So a logo is just simply you know if you have a logo on your website that's your logo

Malcolm Lui: Yep

Jim Ward: Day ago.

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jim Ward: So you would be. You'd be a new

Malcolm Lui: I

Jim Ward: Logo.

Malcolm Lui: Get it.

Jim Ward: Are that and hopefully

Malcolm Lui: I understand

Jim Ward: Are your references

Malcolm Lui: The

Jim Ward: Will climb we can put your logo on our Web site

Malcolm Lui: All right. I got it. Okay. So can you explain how you go about finding a potential client who can be a new logo for

Jim Ward: Yelp

Malcolm Lui: Your Web site for

Jim Ward: Has

Malcolm Lui: Your

Jim Ward: To do

Malcolm Lui: Company.

How they find their ideal clients

Jim Ward: With Target marketing has to identify us knowing our deal customer profile and then simply using our integrated marketing programs to do to market to that group. Some of it is via the predictable revenue team which is an outbound effort. Some of it's through account based marketing where we're targeting certain companies that we believe we can help. And Chris it again like it's you know we run webinars. We have integrated things that we do blog content webinars that are relative to the blog. And where we're drawing folks and we might do lunch and learns or dinners and have speakers there's all kinds of things that we do. But it's very very integrated meaning that the topic runs through those turkey slices that I talked about. Does turkey slices against the big rock and that's how we achieve new logo for us.

Malcolm Lui: Okay so when you talk about your. You know you talk about some of the things that you do the webinars the lunch and learns and then you also mention how you have six thousand clients. So does that mean the average spend your clients and doing the math here really quick. Here is

Jim Ward: You can't do

Malcolm Lui: How

Jim Ward: The

Malcolm Lui: Much

Jim Ward: Math

Malcolm Lui: Is that.

Jim Ward: Way because though

Malcolm Lui: And

Jim Ward: They may

Malcolm Lui: Then

Jim Ward: Be

Malcolm Lui: I'm actually

Jim Ward: An existing client that is in our client list and may be active there's not always something happening. Right.

Malcolm Lui: Mike

Jim Ward: Or they could be in any annuity program whereby they have a cloud software there's an annuity to that

Malcolm Lui: Ok so the six thousand clients they might not all be paying you stuff

Jim Ward: Right

Malcolm Lui: Paying

Jim Ward: All the time.

Malcolm Lui: You right

Jim Ward: That's

Malcolm Lui: Now

Jim Ward: Correct.

Malcolm Lui: At this time not like they're on a subscription

Jim Ward: Right. Some some are

Malcolm Lui: Deal of some sort. OK

Jim Ward: Some are and some won't be some because some of them have perpetual licenses. I remember I go back 25 years when I thought it was perpetual licenses.

Malcolm Lui: Right

Jim Ward: Yes

Malcolm Lui: Way back then one time fee right

Jim Ward: Maintenance support. And so they're still in the they're still clients of ours that we gauge with. But it's not a consistent engagement nor is it annuity.

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah I got it. So so like is there any marketing channel that you guys don't use right now in your integrated marketing

Jim Ward: I'll come back to that if senators want to mention one other thing and that is

Malcolm Lui: Like.

Jim Ward: That I you know I also grew and I didn't mentioned this earlier organically and inorganically. So during the time since 2008 we've made 34 acquisitions. So that's 34 acquisitions we're typically buying other partners like us. And for example how do I get into the ERP. I bought into that. I didn't have that skill set I had to acquire. So not only we buy clients through acquisition. We brought skill sets. So I just want to make sure that was clear. Part of our growth over the

Malcolm Lui: Ok

Jim Ward: Years and the 30 percent growth. Remember back in 2008 with the recession when it hit had I just been in CRM we could have lost you know 30 percent of our business. We happen to have made an acquisition. So I'm also lucky to have been lucky. We made an acquisition and a fairly decent sized ERP partner which helped us grow 30 percent. So

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: Yeah any anyways you would ask a question and I I diverted Jack

Malcolm Lui: No trouble. And then it's kind of following up. Yes you can. You can kind of say that you might even like you. That one particular acquisition. But you know when you have like happen a year in year out I think you might have to say it might be a little bit more than just simply luck right.

Jim Ward: It might be I think hard work creates luck to some degree. So

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jim Ward: Yes I guess

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. Yeah I guess you want to be put yourself in the position where he can have favorable opportunities

Jim Ward: That's

Malcolm Lui: Presented

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: Up to right

Jim Ward: Yep.

Malcolm Lui: Now. I mean you know if I had a chance to acquire an ERP but I'm not ready to do it. Well I wasn't prepared for it so I wasn't

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: Fortunate enough fortunate

Jim Ward: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Enough

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: To acquire

Jim Ward: I think

Malcolm Lui: It.

Jim Ward: That I was referring to luck in that sentence that I was actively pursuing an acquisitions you know via direct mail at the time. And you know one of the direct mail pieces I received a call from I think the luck piece was who knew 2008 was gonna be what it was so the acquisition

Malcolm Lui: Right.

Jim Ward: Was real and it took hard work to get there. But by actually

Malcolm Lui: Yet

Jim Ward: Making that acquisition in the aspect that I could have lost a big piece of the business because of the recession we actually did better. That to me is I guess lucky I got lucky.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah.

Jim Ward: Based on the timing

Malcolm Lui: Right. I hear you. So go back to the question I had about your double integrated marketing. Is there any particular channel you're

Jim Ward: Mm

Malcolm Lui: Not

Jim Ward: Hmm

Malcolm Lui: Using that you think might

Jim Ward: Yep.

Malcolm Lui: Be worth looking into.

Jim Ward: For example radio. I've used it a few times in the past with really not great success. I'm really looking at it because I'm starting to think and I always think this way what's old is new. So you know e-mail marketing still very can be very successful. But if I sent you a letter today the likelihood of you opening that letter and reading it versus you reading an email is far likely far more likely so we're looking at even going back to direct response marketing

Malcolm Lui: Right. So you're doing e-mail marketing now and now you're thinking about maybe testing the water

Jim Ward: Direct

Malcolm Lui: To direct

Jim Ward: Mail you go back to that. We're looking at radio TV where it be an integrated again an innovated consistent message hitting various platforms

Malcolm Lui: Right. Yeah. One of the companies I interviewed on my first interview you see he actually gained a lot of other leads in business from his own AM radio show.

Jim Ward: Yeah can.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah and

Jim Ward: Yes

Malcolm Lui: Here

Their marketing to-do list

Jim Ward: We have. We have things on our marketing list. I mean the list is very long such as we call it brain summit. We're doing virtual trade shows we're doing. Gosh there's some things that are kind of out there that we're looking at the unique CEO roundtables that are virtual. Kind of like what you're doing today in a sense but things that we haven't really done in the past so they're playing things we haven't done and we're not using that you know a lot of B2B. You don't see a lot of folks in this market that we're in using radio for example. I think there might be a place where I mean I know you hear I'm hearing Oracle on the radio now I'm hearing a few other companies out there and certainly they have bigger marketing departments than I ever will have. You have to sometimes look at what the big guys are doing and see if they're becoming effective

Malcolm Lui: Yeah

Jim Ward: And tested.

Malcolm Lui: And tested right

Jim Ward: Yeah yeah.

Malcolm Lui: At the end of the day. So see what happens. Which is exactly what the other company and they can do. They tested it out small and SA gained traction so they scaled it up you know spent more money on airtime. You move to a more attractive time slot and just keep growing on itself. So I think now is a great channel for them. Three

Jim Ward: I

Malcolm Lui: Last

Jim Ward: Was

Malcolm Lui: Questions

Jim Ward: Going to have.

Malcolm Lui: For you.

Jim Ward: I'm just gonna have to get a jingle

Malcolm Lui: So

Jim Ward: Maybe Malcolm

Malcolm Lui: Jingo

Jim Ward: Maybe

Malcolm Lui: That's

Jim Ward: You can come

Malcolm Lui: That's

Jim Ward: Up with

Malcolm Lui: True.

Jim Ward: A jingle for me.

Malcolm Lui: Let me brainstorm that a little bit. And the reason why I'm say brainstorming is because I don't wanna embarrass myself by creating one on the spot. So but kind of along those lines. Which is not too different from my next question. Not a joke. But billboard message. Imagine it on a freeway in the Massachusetts area. That's on a weekend. Not much traffic. You were cruising along and most people only have six seconds to see a billboard and comprehend it digest it. What's your six second word message.

Jim Ward: Six second billboard message probably would be in I'm not sure would fit on a billboard but engineering smart growth with business savvy software and consulting services.

Malcolm Lui: You may need to get

Jim Ward: Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: A series of billboards

Jim Ward: By the way

Malcolm Lui: In succession

Jim Ward: By the way

Malcolm Lui: For that

Jim Ward: I didn't

Malcolm Lui: One.

Jim Ward: Just make that up that's on our attraction vision program episode I'm reading it now it just said it. But that is that's our niche statement. We're changing that because we really want it to be very client focused but that would be kind of completes what we're doing. The other one might be we've got this already down growth unleashed hashtag

Malcolm Lui: I want to

Jim Ward: Growth

Malcolm Lui: Get

Jim Ward: Unleashed.

Malcolm Lui: And I think. Yeah I think he could even work in your in your noble

Jim Ward: Right.

Malcolm Lui: Selling

Jim Ward: I

Malcolm Lui: As

Jim Ward: Agree.

Malcolm Lui: Well. You know that's not a common phrase and noble purpose right. You know I t with noble purpose noble

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Purpose. I

Jim Ward: Yes

Malcolm Lui: Write something like that so people would think about. What the heck is that. OK. Two last questions. One you kind of touched on this before. Maybe you can elaborate or map or summarize again. Who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to reach your teen

Jim Ward: So I. Our ideal clients tend to be in the mid-market although we've uniquely find ourselves in enterprise style businesses. We tend to find ourselves in the probably revenue so the client's revenue category is probably somewhere from 25 million to 500 million. And certainly it can be lower we have lower revenue clients. Typically the employee side is between 50 and. Well I think the sweet spot of probably 500 employees. We certainly go as high as 3000 but those are those are the general ideal customer profile reaching us. You could do that by going to our Web site number one w w w dot BrainSell and this is interesting. That's BRL eye and brain like in your head. S like in Sam e l l dot net brings out dot net or you can call us at 9 7 8 8 8 7 3 8 7 0. You can call me directly an extension to 0 1. I'm always happy to talk to folks

Malcolm Lui: All right. And did you want to hear. No you haven't pulled the number

Jim Ward: Oh

Malcolm Lui: From

Jim Ward: I'm

Malcolm Lui: Your

Jim Ward: Sorry.

Malcolm Lui: Website

Jim Ward: 9 7 8 8 8 7 3 8 7 0 extension 2 0 1. That's my personal

Malcolm Lui: All right. And that's.

Jim Ward: Number and Chris they can dial in and get into sales or support once they're in

Malcolm Lui: Okay now you didn't mention any particular verticals that you'd like to focus on in regards to ideal clients. Are you open to any vertical or there's some that

Jim Ward: We

Malcolm Lui: You prefer

Jim Ward: Tend to be

Malcolm Lui: More

Jim Ward: Very

Malcolm Lui: Than others

Jim Ward: Horizontal. We've worked with a number from from universities which we just have taken a very large contract with a very famous Massachusetts university that I can't mention by name out of contract

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: Or you know manufacturing distribution financial services we tend to play a lot in some health care as well. Those are some of the industries that we have we consistently work with. But we're all over the place. Yeah.

Malcolm Lui: Right is a particular industry that you wouldn't want to work with us. That's not a good fit. Just by the nature of their business it just doesn't lend

Jim Ward: Well

Malcolm Lui: Itself to the work

Jim Ward: Let's

Malcolm Lui: You do

More B2B focus than B2C

Jim Ward: That. We're not a b c company. We typically don't work B2C business to consumer. We're more business to business

Malcolm Lui: Okay.

Jim Ward: Although in our marketing world we don't say business business we say P2P. So it's still people to people but it's.

Malcolm Lui: Yes actually.

Jim Ward: So it tends to be a B2B horizontal play. I can't think of right now well you know I would say real estate agent we probably wouldn't build to help and we'd be candid and upfront about that.

Malcolm Lui: Sure. Explain why then real estate agents would be a good fit

Jim Ward: Typically they have all the tools that they need from in their vertical. And I just historically I found that when we've talked it's we just can't find a way to resist them. So it's a historical

Malcolm Lui: Right

Jim Ward: Understanding.

Malcolm Lui: Right. So even though they might have enough employees the revenue range might be right. Just

Jim Ward: And

Malcolm Lui: The nature of their business and the nature

Jim Ward: Having

Malcolm Lui: Of what you

Jim Ward: Said

Malcolm Lui: Do. Just

Jim Ward: That

Malcolm Lui: Not

Jim Ward: I

Malcolm Lui: A

Jim Ward: Say

Malcolm Lui: Good fit.

Jim Ward: Agency. Having said that we work with one of the largest holding firms I think it's called the holding firm not sure that owns a number of the agencies but we're working with corporate. So in that particular case although it's a you know a real estate play and also commercial Realtors we also do work with commercial real estate. That would be a different play but a smaller agency we probably have a tough time helping clients like that. I think it's also very very small businesses. We're not as effective for

Malcolm Lui: Right. Right. I can see that even on the BDC space I mean just the fact that the nature of what the CRM needs to do is gonna be different

Jim Ward: Yes.

Malcolm Lui: Right. When you want to track two million people as opposed to

Jim Ward: Exactly.

Malcolm Lui: 2000

Jim Ward: And it's not

Malcolm Lui: Right

Jim Ward: Something where we've got a history and I don't think we can be a super effective for that for B2C. Now

Malcolm Lui: Right. Tony get it. Thanks so much for sharing your insights and how you grew your business

Jim Ward: Oh

Malcolm Lui: So

Jim Ward: My

Malcolm Lui: Rapidly.

Jim Ward: Pleasure.

Malcolm Lui: Really

Jim Ward: Thanks

Malcolm Lui: Appreciate

Jim Ward: For having

Malcolm Lui: It.

Jim Ward: Me.

Malcolm Lui: Yeah. It's been a great conversation

Jim Ward: Me too.

Malcolm Lui: I have

Jim Ward: Thank.

Jim Ward: Enjoyed

Jim Ward: You.

Malcolm Lui: It

Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Jim Ward, the CEO of BrainSell, about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing high value sales companies or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit

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