Empowering sales representatives to engage with customers through tailored sales journeys
Bill Butler is the founder and CEO of Journey Sales. The company’s flagship product, Smart Rooms, allows sales representatives to create, coordinate, and collaborate on personalized sales experiences for customers. Smart Rooms are built natively in Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management platform.
EDWIN WARFIELD: How have you grown and developed since founding a couple years ago?
BILL BUTLER: We’re just north of 30 employees now. 2016 was really our first full year in market. We’ve got clients that are small tech companies with four or five sales reps, to ones as large as Accenture with thousands of people that focus on customers. We really scan the gamut of size and really follow the types of companies that Salesforce.com has sold to, because we’ve built our product natively on Salesforce, so we only run on the Salesforce platform, and we’ve created some really unique integrations that makes it really easy for sales reps to work with. We’re continuing to leverage that relationship. There’s 150,000 companies that use Salesforce; we have a very small percentage of them now, but our goal is eventually capture every one of them.
Q. What kinds of companies gravitate towards the product?
A. As you can imagine with our background and network in tech, we have a lot of tech companies that use us. A lot of professional services companies use us, too. We’re seeing interest in the medical device area, pharmaceuticals; we’ve got customers in transportation; so in many cases, it’s any organization that has a contemplative selling process where multiple buyers and multiple sellers are involved—we’re a natural fit for all of them.
Financial Horizons has been one of our flagship case studies right now. They’re an insurance and financial services company based in Canada. They’ve got north of 3,000 agents and advisors in the network, and they resell products from a number of different financial services companies in Canada. Their challenge was really “How do we get the best information out to these agents on a consistent basis?” The traditional model of wholesaling was “we show up at lunchtime, we give presentations, and we move onto the next office here,” and a lot of times people do not attend those meeting, the information gets lost. Well, with the Smart Rooms, they’re able to now digitally connect and engage with all 3,000 of their agents and advisors, and are able to share with them relevant information from the appropriate insurance companies and carriers. It’s really transformed what they’ve done. When they spent the first year using Smart Rooms, they put some of the products on Smart Rooms and some of them they left off Smart Rooms. The ones that were on Smart Rooms grew north of 50% in terms of their revenue and production in a year, and the ones that didn’t grew just north of 1%. They saw a marked difference in revenue and production because, very simply, they were staying in front of the agents and advisors with the information that the agents and advisors needed to sell to their clients.
Q. Are there applications for marketing teams as well?
A. We’re emerging a strong partnership framework between the marketing automation vendors and what we do on the sales tech side. We always drew a very strong line that says “we’re on the sales side; we are really not on the marketing side,” because there was to some extent an overwhelming number of companies that were on the marketing tech side, but there really wasn’t as many on the sales tech side—not in the way that we engage with prospects, customers, and partners. But what you’re beginning to see is this is beginning to kind of work its way down, and we’re actually working our way a little bit into the marketing side and marketing’s trying to work their way into sales. So, there is some overlap that is beginning to occur here as you would expect in any kind of evolution of technology, but I think as purpose-built as these technologies are, we’re much more focused on sales and they’re much more focused on marketing and consolidation will eventually occur.
Q. How did you and co-founder Prit Kang finance the company in the beginning?
A. We started the company, both Prit and I kind of co-funded the company for a number of years together. Really, the whole idea behind it was “let’s try to get to some certain customer decision points here,” where we get customers live with the system, we’re getting their feedback, they’re getting value from it—and that would make it substantially easier, then, to go out to the network and raise money. I had a set of relationships with some great local Philadelphia-based investors like Newspring Capital and Dublin Capital. We had some connection back to Silicon Valley with Ray Lane as a private investor in the organization. And I was introduced to Mission OG along the way. Mission OG, I would say, is the premier incubator of technology companies in the Philadelphia area. I’d say they are unique in what they do, even through Silicon Valley and both New York- and Boston-based venture firms. They’re really, really good at what they do, they have got a great group of people, and they really led the investment. They work with us today on both the strategic and operating way to really help us, look at our blind spots at times, help open up the network, and add that extra extension that I think a management team needs at an early stage when you’re continuing to make changes along the way, you’re seeing variables in the market occur, and you’re looking for someone to bounce ideas off of and give some level of validation—and they’re tremendous at that.
Q. Are you planning on doing a Series B financing round?
A. We planned that for 2018. There’s a series of firms that have expressed interest in doing this with us—Salesforce Ventures being one of them that wants to take a position in the company in the series B round—so yes, we’re on track to do that, looking to grow, and I think at that point really beginning to kind of expand the growth of the company. We’ve got tremendous demand right now for what we have, so we have a unique opportunity where we can to some extent be selective in the clients that we are dealing with, but in the early stage that’s important. We just don’t want to get any client for clients’ sake; we’re trying to find customers that want to work with us, who really understand the vision of what we’re doing, who really want to give us feedback along the way and be a true partner. And we have been selective at that but also frankly able to do that.
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