“The Secret to SMB Sales” Accel Partner Andrei Brasoveanu and Doctolib Chief Development Officer Agnes Bazin (Video + Transcript)

The first step in success with SMB clients is to recognize that it’s not a one size fits all scenario. Companies need a specialized approach for SMB accounts, different than the tactics used for Enterprise. Andrei Brasoveanu will sit down for a conversation with Agnes Bazin Doctolib on how to create a targeted and effective sales process tailor-made for SMB.

Want to see more content like this? Join us at SaaStr Europa 2020.

Andrei Brasoveanu | Partner @ Accel

Agnes Bazin | Chief Development Officer @ Doctolib

FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Andrei B.: Hi, everyone. I’m Andre. I’m a partner at Accel, and I have the pleasure of being onstage with Agnes. She’s part of the founding team Doctolib, and the current chief development officer for the company. A bit about Doctolib for those of you who are not aware of the company, but I’m sure being in Paris here, and most of you would have heard of them. They’re the leading booking management platform for doctors. They were started in 2013 here in France, and have since grown into France and Germany. They currently work with 80,000 doctors growing at 3,000 per month, 1700 hospitals, 35 million strong patient community, 900 employees.

Andrei B.: As a bit of history, Accel, we’ve had the pleasure of supporting them from the early beginnings. We let their Series B of $20 million in 2015. Since then, the company has continued to grow tremendously, and have raised a total of $280 million, most recently passing the one billion valuation mark, and are fast approaching $100 million in recurring revenue.

Andrei B.: I’ll give you two Agnes to share a bit more about her role, Doctolib, and the topics for the day.

Agnes Bazin: Hello, everyone. Very happy to be there, and it’s my first time here at SaaStr. Yeah, maybe as an introduction, who of you have already booked an appointment through Doctolib? Okay, it’s not bad. I guess, other people are not from France, I hope so.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so I think it’s pretty straightforward what Doctolib does for patient. We are online booking solution for patients, and for doctors, what we do is that we have a full software for doctors that does booking management, patients CRM, doctor-to-doctor collaboration, and also recently launched a video conservation in France. This is the doctor side.

Agnes Bazin: Our mission overall is really to create the tools for hospitals and practice of the future, and on the patient side it’s to smooth patient access and the overall experience for patients. I’m very happy to talk about SMB sales today because if you think about it, healthcare is a very nice economic sector. There’s loads of things to do there because it’s very low digitalized. It’s 11% of GDP in France and even more in some other countries, and it’s highly fragmented.

Agnes Bazin: So, doctors basically sit in single or double or three people, maximum 10, practice. We knew from the beginning that we had to be excellent in SMB sales because basically there is no other way around it. Sometimes when we were working on our sales organization, we always told ourselves we have to be so good in sales that one day we can write a book about it. And so, today it’s not a book yet, but I think a talk here is already a good start.

Andrei B.: That’s fantastic. The topic of the day is secret to SMB sales. We thought we would organize the talk in four chapters in terms of the four core tenants of their strategy, which is organization, sales processes, sales operations, and people. I guess to start with on the organization side, can you tell us a bit about how sales are organized at Doctolib?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, sure. Maybe it’s easier to start with explaining how it works. We split our sales organization into four different teams. So, two teams cater to practices. It’s the field sales team and the inside sales team. And one team is catering to hospital. This is not SMB sale, so we will not talk about it today because it’s more like enterprise sales. And then we’ve got, of course, the sales sub-team, which is really global.

Agnes Bazin: This one is catering for both country. We’ve got France and Germany today, whereas the other teams field sales are more local based. That’s about the organization. I guess, the most interesting to tell you more today is about the field sales team, because this is how we started, basically. For the first two years we only had field sales. Yeah, in terms of structure, we went from five sales guys that were with the CEO, the founder at the beginning, to a 300-people sales organization today in 40 different cities in France and Germany.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so it’s a long way and a lot of things, and I think one interesting thing to share about that is when it’s field sales, basically it’s local, right? So, you’ve got to make sure that each business developer got a pipe of prospect that is not too scattered around so that he doesn’t spend the whole day in his car. So, you’ve got to split your territory between pools of 2,000, 3,000 prospect per person.

Agnes Bazin: The way we did it in France was pretty wild because we started with Paris, we became super strong in Paris, and then Accel came. We made a very nice Series B. We wanted to expand, and there we opened probably 10 different cities, and because we had competition there, anytime our competitor will open a very small city like, “Oh my God, they opened Besancon. We have to open Besancon as well.”

Agnes Bazin: So, we Besancon, Portes, Tours, all the smallest cities in France, and at one point we’ve got like 15 guys alone in some small cities and very junior in sales, so it was really difficult. The sales manager, they would travel every day to a different city, and they had like a round of 10 different cities that they would do just to see the guys every two weeks. It was one or two years that were pretty tough in terms management.

Agnes Bazin: And so, when we started in Germany, we did it a bit more wisely. I think the German geography helped a lot because Germany is not like France where it’s Paris and rest of the world. It’s more like four or five different big centers. So, in Germany we tried to stay very focused to make sure that we have people that are not alone but with teams, which is much easier in term of management and growing people and everything. I would say that was the main learning from building the sales organization that we had over the last years.

Andrei B.: So, this clearly has worked very well for you? How you decide on this model and go-to market strategy?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, it’s pretty straight forward. I mean if you think about the healthcare industry, what you have to take into account is that there is a huge sales pressure on doctors. The pharma industry got millions to pour to try to convince doctor to change their prescriptions. So, basically they tried everything, and then went as far as paying them some design furniture or inviting them for Congress in the French Polynesia.

Agnes Bazin: So, it was pretty well. We wouldn’t see how it was possible to convince a doctor with something less intense than at least face-to-face meeting. That’s why we started with field sales. And then after we started and we started to onboard the first customers, what came out is that if you want the customer to be happy, which is, of course, very key because we are free-of-engagement service, so the success factor of sale is not signing the contract, but it’s getting use age and having a happy customer.

Agnes Bazin: When we did that at the beginning, we really had to remove any physical barrier from having a happy doctor. It means sometimes fixing his Internet connection, or reorganizing something in the practice, or sometime help training each assistant one by one so that they’re happy using the product. So, it was really hardcore change management within each single practice.

Agnes Bazin: For example, I remember when I started in Germany, we were installing our first maybe tensed doctor in Germany. Unlucky enough he had a paper calendar. When you have a paper calendar it means you need to copy manually each single appointments in the Doctolib software. He had around 3000.

Agnes Bazin: So, what happened is that we started, and were like, “Okay, maybe we should show the assistant how to do it.” And then we realized they will not do it, so if we don’t do it they will let adopt Doctolib. They just left us the key of the practice, and we were the whole Saturday in their practice alone copying appointments. This is how it happens.

Agnes Bazin: Of course, no, we tried to get the assistants doing it, but sometime and very often we have some sales guys who do it. In the end I think this very strong service mindset that those field sales team had and these very strong proximity to customer is really what made the success of Doctolib in the early days.

Andrei B.: Those are amazing stories. Beyond the fast growth, how have you seen the organization develop over time, and the strategy?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so, of course, growth is a very spectacular thing on how the organization changed. But if I think about changing instructor, I think the main point was when we started inside sales. As I explained, we came from a very field model, and then at one point we decided to launch inside sales, because the most challenging part for us at the beginning was to get meetings. Because doctor wouldn’t meet you, so you got like 30 notes, 40 notes in a way. So, getting meetings was the most difficult activities. We said, “Okay, let’s launch inside sales, and they would just do calling all day, and get meetings for the field sales team.”

Agnes Bazin: So, we did that, but to do that we just got a very good sales guy from Paris, Laurent. And then after like one or two weeks, Laurent came to us and say, “Okay, but why can I sign the doctor? I want to sign the doctor. I don’t want to just take the appointment for the other guy.” He was super frustrated.

Agnes Bazin: And then they started to sign doctors successfully over the phone with distance. And then what we realized is that it works but only for certain segments. It works for simple organization with single doctors, mostly for nonmedical specialties like physio, psychologists, and everything where it’s easier to change things in the practice. Right now, we’ve got 70 people inside sales team, so it’s a big deal.

Andrei B.: Wow. Let’s just zoom in a bit on the sales process. In a few words, how would you summarize the secret source of your sales playbook?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, I knew that he was going to ask me that question. Yeah, I thought about it, and I think the three ingredients of our SMB sales secrets source are, first, a very strong entrepreneurial mindset. Second, consistently high volume of meetings. And third, constant, continuous improvement. These are really the tree points that made a success. I think everyone is talking about it, but people be first, people could be last, and nothing is going to be magic within the organization if you don’t have great people, and a great team spirit and mindset.

Agnes Bazin: For example, for me, it took me some time to realize that. I’m from Lyon basically. When I got back home, I talked to my parents’ doctor’s friend, and I ask them, “Okay, so do you know about Doctolib? What do you think?” They tell me, “Yeah, I’ve met the Jean-Baptiste. He’s such a great guy. He did that. He knows some of my friend.” Basically, I think it’s only thanks to having thousands and thousands of meeting every week with super nice, super entrepreneurial guys that doctors love, that we build such a huge trust on the French market that allows us today to have a majority of our sales coming through inbound.

Andrei B.: The sales have been clearly very effective. Can you talk a bit more about the funnel, and how you develop these leads through the various stages?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so about the funnel, there’s no big … Yeah, it’s pretty simple. Basically, it’s a very simple process like hunting. So, pretty straightforward. This is done by the sales to generate meetings, and as I told you, it was the most difficult thing at the beginning because doctor are so much asked for that they would not meet any commercial person. So, this is really the most difficult part.

Agnes Bazin: And then there is closing. This is the meeting, so either by distance or face-to-face, and the sales guy is taking care of it. And then we’ve got the training part. This is something specific. What I told you that a success factor for sales for us is not just signing the contract. It’s really having happy customer that has usage of our product. So, this is why the person himself is doing the training.

Agnes Bazin: Because if you’ve got someone who sells you a product and say, “Yeah, thank you, I sell you the product, but then okay, just talk to this guys for implementation,” it’s very tough in terms of trust. That’s why we always had the model where the salesperson was guaranteeing the success of the product, and this allows us to have a very good word of mouth effect.

Agnes Bazin: They were supported also by an onboarding team on the training part. And then the last part is farming, what we call. So, hunting, closing, training, and farming. Farming is done by customer success, and, of course, the goal is to remove as much as possible the contact from the sales team so that they can focus on more hunting. This is the overall sales process.

Agnes Bazin: Recently, I think about that again, and I think what is very important is that when you start a company, there’s one part where you need the CRM, so actually we did it straightaway. When you do that, you need to define very accurately the steps. So, okay, hunting, there’s maybe five or 10 sub-steps and process that you have to define in the CRM.

Agnes Bazin: This is super, super important, and we invested a huge amount of time to do it right, because as you grow, if you don’t put it right, you don’t have the right data to understand what you’re doing. When were like 10, 15, 30 people, we could take good decisions out of gut feeling and field observation, but as we grew at 300 people sales organization in France, and 100 people in Germany, no, we really need good data.

Agnes Bazin: What’s actually funny is that we had to rebuild our Salesforce from scratch three times. I can tell you, it’s quite painful because last year were so proud, because we had like two great Salesforce developers, and we got the best customized Salesforce in Paris. So, every time a new sales guy would join that we would say, “Wow, that’s such a cool Salesforce. You have the best dashboard. It’s fully customized.” People just loved it.

Agnes Bazin: And at one point, because of this process that it was not designed the right way so that we couldn’t understand really our business, we had to, we decided to just dump the whole thing and rebuild the whole scene from scratch. I think this describes pretty well a lot of stages through which we’ve been in the last few years where we didn’t hesitate to really dump everything and start again from scratch to always challenge ourself on what’s the best sales process and everything.

Andrei B.: It’s really good to hear some of the areas you’ve had stumbles in, and potentially things didn’t work out as expected. What steps have you taken to improve in those cases?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, I think I’ve been for five years at Doctolib, and it feels pretty much like 15 years or something like that, because we’ve gone through so many things. But most of the time in sales there are three options where it doesn’t work. The first option is that the wrong person is selling your product, people problem. Second option is that you are not selling your product in the right way, so it’s basically your sales script problem. And the third option is maybe that the product is wrong.

Agnes Bazin: But if you challenge always the product first then it’s not working, because you end up having each single sales explaining to you why they didn’t sale because the product is not right. So, you have to change the product, basically. And there, yeah, I’ve got loads of examples.

Agnes Bazin: So, for people I think everyone in the room who already tried to build a sales team would know what I’m talking about, but obviously you’ve got loads of wrong hires or people going wrong or things like this. There it’s very important to react fast and to have a good load of strong managers that can take back a region if somewhere is going wrong.

Agnes Bazin: If you don’t have enough good people in your overall organization, every time you’ve got a problem or a hole then basically you cannot do anything. What helped us is that we got a lot of really good and strong guys that whenever a region was going wrong, they would take it back in term of management, or they will do some kind of mentorship or things like this. So, this was really helpful for solving people problem.

Agnes Bazin: Then when it comes to, yeah, the way you sell, like script problem, this is also something where you need to always learn. That’s what I said, like continuous improvement. Every time you do sales meeting you have to get out of the sales meetings saying, “Okay, what can I improve in my script?” And there are many examples. For example, if you’ve got a young guy that’s coming to a GP in France and telling him how many new patient he will get, the GP would just go like, “Oh, my God, I already have so many new patients. I don’t want any additional.” He would just kick you away.

Agnes Bazin: Of course, these kinds of things, the more we got senior and senior to have different script by specialty, the more we train the team. This allowed us to really get back on conversion on certain specialty where we had really low conversion. This was made possible by one thing is that every Monday morning we’ve got a sales meeting, every Monday morning, 8:30. So, it’s really like quite a tradition. There we share, it’s basically sharing about results and then training.

Agnes Bazin: Every time we’ve got a new adjustment in the script we would share it there. So, if there’s a problem in the script that we spot the next Monday it’s solved, and 150 or 300 people in the organization are aware about it. That’s one point.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, the last kind of a challenge that you can run through is products. There, for example, like, I don’t know, psychologist. They were not so happy with Doctolib, and we couldn’t sell it pretty well. What we realized is that they always give series of appointments. So, if you go into a therapy, you will have like 12 appointments in a row. For them they had to click 10 time on Doctolib and create the appointment 12 times, so they thought it was not so much time saving as we told them.

Agnes Bazin: And so, this is something we realized, and then, of course, we release a new zero appointment feature. I must say that in the early days, especially when we started in Germany and you’re pretty new, it’s very important to have a quick reactivity of product. Of course, no, we grow bigger. We don’t do this anymore, or else our product roadmap will be not so good. But in the early days when you’re building the trust in the market, it’s very important as well.

Agnes Bazin: Overall, I think we did a lot of mistake, but we have a very open culture about it and anytime something goes wrong, what really matters is that you don’t wait to solve the problem and you have the right mechanism to be able to save the problem straight away.

Andrei B.: It’s very interesting. I keep thinking of the sales team at Doctolib was a very well oiled machine. You keep fine tuning over and over while still driving very fast. It’s quite impressive. Let’s spend a bit more time on sales operations. So, in three years you’ve built a sales team of 120 people, I believe, in 35 cities. It’s a very impressive organization. How do you manage to make sure you onboard all these folks, set them up for success, and build a homogeneous and repeatable process going forward?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so this is a big deal because, of course, some months we onboarded like 30% of the company. So, when it’s like this, if you want to make sure, yeah, you get your ways of working and knowledge that you need, the unit, it’s very tough. What we had from the beginning was what we call Doctolib Academy, where we basically onboard every new joiner. Every month there’s a Doctolib Academy where we onboard everyone, and we train everyone on all the possible best practices.

Agnes Bazin: So, we have anything you can think of, we train people on so that after two weeks all of the Doctolib Academy first they are highly motivated. The share our vision, they know how to work with other team because we do a lot of leave my life, go to customer success or go to tech, and things like this. And most important of all is that they have everything that they need to succeed as soon as possible.

Agnes Bazin: This is very important, and to give you some pretty extreme example, I think what is super, super important for sales op is to take nothing that is part of your success for granted. When I say nothing, it’s really nothing, like even the smallest detail. Some cool stories that we have is that we have this, what we call Sales Bible, where we put all the great insights and script and everything. Every knowledge is basically structured and transferable.

Agnes Bazin: In the Sales Bible we put crazy tips such as, yeah, for example, when you do a training with assistants, usually the assistants, it’s normal, it’s their daily job, and they are the ones where it’s the biggest change for them to adopt Doctolib. So, there’s the one you have to convince the most once you sign and during the training. And so what we realized, the one thing that worked well was bringing croissants to the assistance when you do the training.

Agnes Bazin: So, we wrote this in the Bible and then we had, it’s funny because when we studied in Germany it was in the Bible, and the Germans, when you write something they really do it, so we ended up with all the Germans buying loads of croissants. It was pretty cool, so yeah, we-

Andrei B.: Did you replace the croissants with something else, or?

Agnes Bazin: I think we boost the sales of croissant in Berlin pretty much during the first year, yeah, this kind of crazy tips, so I don’t know, I’ve got many examples, but for example, I know another thing is that when you’re talking to the doctor, you took so much time to meet him that when you meet him actually you’re willing to get his personal phone number, because else you’ve got the assistant gate-keeping.

Agnes Bazin: There, we’ve got some techniques to get the personal number of the doctor, which was like you take your business card out, and then you circle your name, your cell phone on it, so your personal cell phone. You say, “Hey, doctor, this is my personal cell phone. So, yeah, please reach out to directly on this one.” And then you leave a blank, and normally if the doctor is not to cold, he will answer with his cell phone as well.

Agnes Bazin: So, we’ve got some tips like this that we shared and trained each newbies we’ve on it so that we make sure that none of them has a chance to get out of a meeting without a personal number. These are only some small examples, but I think that overall what really matters is that nothing that makes it work should be taken for granted. Everything should be scaled, documented, and everything, and only focus on things that work, of course.

Andrei B.: So, you spoke about the Sales Bible and you mentioned best practices a lot. How would you strike the balance between standardizing these best practices and still allowing for that individual out-performance?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so that’s a good question. Of course, everything is documented and everything, so it doesn’t say that there’s no room at all for any type of creativity, and on the country. I think that there are different creativity or things that you can have. There is the first kind that it’s something when it happens the sales opting should be highly observing and being able to pinpoint those things or best practices that work to scale it to the whole organization.

Agnes Bazin: And there, we’ve got a very good example about, Vincent. He’s a sales manager in the east of France. One day he told us, “Okay, I’m not doing my Monday meeting myself anymore. It’s actually one of the guys in my team [Leningrad 00:25:20].” And so, at first we were like, “Okay, Vincent, but you know you’re the manager, you know better, so maybe you should lead your meeting yourself, right?”

Agnes Bazin: And then he told us, “No, no, look, Omegas are hardcore motivated because I’m investing into training them to become managers, and they are actually rolling captain of the team.” And so, every week he will have interim captain of the team, and he was rolling, so he made sure that all his team were really trained to become managers.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, actually it worked really well, so we scaled it to the entire sales organization afterwards. This was an example of best practice where our sales sub-team has a very strong link to the sales team, and it’s always like, I think most of the breast practice we get is actually from guys that are hardcore motivated and find some really cool ideas that we just speak and extend.

Agnes Bazin: Then there are some other type of things that people could do which are not replicable. I’ve got there another quite cool example, which is Steve. He’s one of the founders of Doctolib, a sales director in Paris, and he’s the only guy that can sell to a doctor without doing a demo of the calendar. Basically, it’s pretty impressive. He just walks in the practice, those sweet talking the doctor like, “Hey, I’ve seen your cousin last week, I like your new furniture,” and a lot of really cool things. And then after 15 minutes the doctor would say, “Okay, so when should we install Doctolib?” It’s like magic. He doesn’t even need to talk about the product.

Agnes Bazin: And then we’ve got a new joiner who was with Steve on the meeting and said, “Yeah, I saw Steve. He didn’t do a demo. Should we really do the demo?” And then we were like, “Okay, either you perform like him and you don’t do the demo, but else if you cannot perform like him, just stick to the script and what everyone. There basically, there’s a rule that if you over-perform, you can do whatever you want, but if you cannot prove superior performance, then you have to stick to the best practices that we’ve set up and shared and everything.

Agnes Bazin: I think having this mindset really leaves a lot of room for emulation, creativity. Yeah, and we always have a lot of cool surprise.

Andrei B.: So, at Accel we’re big believers in automation, and many software companies we see incorporate automation to deliver a better service. What are some ways Doctolib has incorporated automation, if at all?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so automation, basically the sales sub-team what we said is, we told them, “Okay, you will go with Daphne who is Biz Dev in Paris, and you will spend the whole day with her from when she wakes up to when she goes to bed, and think about always where you can save her time.” Because when you’ve got 200 people in your sales team, it’s really worse doing it.

Agnes Bazin: And so we came up with a lot of a cool innovations like maps that are automatically drawing the tour that you need to do to check your hot customers with Salesforce. We also made the expense process easier. We got cars for all those who need, so we got a lot of things like this, like small tasks that take time in the time they have for the sales team to be automated, or at least rationalized as much as possible.

Agnes Bazin: But this was a bit later on, we started to do automated reach out and call back of doctors and everything, but these, again, ask for a lot of maturity in your CRM and everything because it has to be done the right way. Because doctors are quite demanding targets, so if you send them unpersonalized email with the wrong timing, it would destroy more value than it adds.

Andrei B.: We still have a few minutes of our talk, so I think it’d be great to spend a bit of more time on people as they seem to be a key ingredient of the Doctolib magic. You have spent the first year at Doctolib, I believe, interviewing 20 candidates a week. And you single-handedly and individually interviewed the first 100 hires. What do you see as the secret of hiring great salespeople?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so for me there are really two things in the secrets of hiring sales. First thing is that sales recruitment is sales. And the second thing would be that when there’s a doubt, there is no doubt. About sales recruitment in sales, for me it’s so straightforward like recruitment organization is the same as the sales organization. Basically, you’ve got the same thing. You’ve got inbound and outbound leads, and then you’ve got to meet and assess the candidate, which is the same actually as a sales meeting. Yeah, and then you’ve got closing.

Agnes Bazin: So, it’s really straightforward. I build a 25-people recruitment team that were exactly like a sales organization. And then, of course, candidate experience. You have to make it magic for people, so our recruitment person they are the biggest salesperson in the company. If you meet Eliza, our head of recruitment for French, she’s so salesy. And we even hired quite some people from the sales team to work in the recruitment team.

Agnes Bazin: So, this is, I think, one thing that is pretty key, and also last thing that manners a lot is speed. If you’ve got applications in sales, you wait for 10 days to answer them, you can be sure that the only ones that would be left would be the bad ones because the other guys they can get no offers within 10 days, especially in quite tense market like Germany. In France, it’s also the case.

Agnes Bazin: And so what we really insisted in the recruitment team is that they are super, super reactive because good people find a lot of opportunities very fast. And especially in sales because a termination period are much shorter for sales because basically if you’re in sales, and you know that you will work for another companies, usually they don’t ask you to stay for the last three months. So, that’s what allowed us to hire like 10 to 15 or almost 20 in some months, new salespeople every month that we had a highly structured, very sales oriented recruitment organization.

Agnes Bazin: That was about the first part. About sales recruitment itself, it’s really a very, very similar job. And then about, yeah, assessment. I’m saying when there’s a doubt, there’s no doubt. So, of course, it’s true for any type of recruitment. There, I think what’s super important is that, of course, recruitment is the soft science. It’s impossible to have like a zero failure rate in recruitment. But it’s not because you cannot reach perfection that you shouldn’t structure it.

Agnes Bazin: So, we put a lot of effort into making it as rational as possible. When you have a doubt, you don’t have a doubt about, “Okay, maybe this is not the right guy. I don’t know, blah, blah, blah.” This is not possible. You have to say, “Okay, this is not the right guy, because I have the doubt that he can be excellent into hunting a doctor that tell him no two times already. We got really structured criteria like hunting capacity, like en passant. We’ve got like maybe five, six criteria with very accurate assessment method, and we will stick to that.

Agnes Bazin: I think in sales more than for any other type of population, what matters is that the track record doesn’t count at all. One of our best sales guy, he used to be a researcher. There’s really no link there in the background of the person, and what matters is only the behavior and soft skills.

Agnes Bazin: So, what we would do is role plays for each step of the recruitment process. For phone screen it’s like 15 minutes where we do a role play on trying to talk to a doctor avoiding the gate-keeping assistant. Small role play like this, you can directly see if the person is available to sweet talk an assistant or to try to go around it or not. And then, of course, we did the sales role plays. So, that was the thing, and then every time you’ve got a doubt there, you should just stop the recruitment process.

Andrei B.: So, many fast growing software companies, when they scale, they tend to have certain executives for certain stages. Let’s say you would have a VP sales for the zero to 50 million ARR stage and another VP sales for the 50 to 100 million ARR stage, and oftentimes it’s hard to see folks rescaling from one phase to the next. It’s more rare to see companies that promote from within and manage to build these executive layer from within the ranks. You’ve taken the latter approach, so can you talk a bit about that?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, so as surprising as it can be, I think that in France we build a 300-people say organization with zero executive hire. Hundreds of people were hired as individual business developers. So, it’s pretty amazing, but it’s true, actually. We didn’t do it in Germany because we wanted to go a bit faster, but it’s, I would say, 50-50.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, in France, what we did was quite amazing, so basically at the beginning there was the founders stand with 10 guys that were … I mean, our managing director today, [Arthur 00:35:02], he did two years of audit, and then he got really bored. And then he started, he was a connection from Stan, so then he started to be a sales guy with Stan, and going door to door meeting doctors. Today he’s managing director managing 300 people in France.

Agnes Bazin: So, we’ve got only carriage trucks like this, and we promoted hundreds of people. Basically, the whole entire sales organization is based on promotion, and their promotion is not easy, right? Because you want to promote that many people, but there’s always a right timing when you have to do this, and I think there are two criteria that matter.

Agnes Bazin: The first one is performance and the second one is mindset. Sometimes you promote someone that has a great performance but a bad mindset so you can be sure it doesn’t work. And then sometimes you promote someone who has a great mindset, very senior approach, but who doesn’t perform. And then again, it doesn’t work because he doesn’t get the respect and exemplarity of being a better salesperson than his team. So, if you’ve got both right, there’s no reason why it doesn’t work.

Agnes Bazin: I think it’s quite a miracle. I’m not sure we would be able to reproduce it in other countries as we did in France, but we really build this organization with only like hiring from Berlin and promoting people. I think that the chance that we have to be able to offer very nice career opportunities to each people joining the team allows us to our, first, motivated and better performing team. But also to have a turnover that is probably half of what it is in a classical sales organization.

Andrei B.: Wow. Being so deliberate about promoting people internally must have a very big impact on the culture. How do you make culture an asset for sales?

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, for us it’s a bit like cheating because our culture was really born for sales. I’m thinking about other company that have a tech culture, and then you have to do a switch. So, we have five value, which are service … It’s called SPAAH, and we have service, passion, attack, ambition, and humility.

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, of course, it’s pretty salesy. Attack is the sports attack and not the military attack. And, of course, it works because it’s combined to a very strong service mindset as I told you. For us, I think it’s great to have a culture and values, but what matters is to make it real and shared within the company. I think there, one thing was really key to the success is that our CEO and founder, Stan, he’s really leading by example.

Agnes Bazin: And so, for example, at the beginning I explained to you that we opened like 15 cities. So, he would spend one day alone with the guy. When he goes there, there are two options. Either the guy had enough meetings, so they would do meetings, meetings all day with no lunch break, like 15 meetings in the day. Or, if they had no meeting, they will go door-to-door for the whole day. The guys knew that they had to be prepared and wear sneakers because they would work like 20 kilometers during the day within the city.

Agnes Bazin: This is how he taught by example. And so, of course, then everyone knew that no one likes to get meetings, no one likes to get no, but this is the thing you have to do. And the leadership always led by example. Yeah, this helped a lot.

Andrei B.: That’s great. So, I believe we’re out of time, but I guess my key takeaways would be very much the magic around Doctolib, which is around the entrepreneurial mindset, the consistency and the culture around continuous improvement, and the fact that the magic is all in the people you’ve hired and continue to nurture. That’s great, so thanks so much, Agnes-

Agnes Bazin: Yeah, thank you, everyone.

Andrei B.: … for sharing this.

Published on August 8, 2019

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This