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CEOs x Coronavirus

Abby Sullivan Mar 3 2020

Today, Dave Kellogg talks CEOs and Coronavirus. What role should they play amid the madness? Then, we hear from Kyle Poyar over at OpenView on bringing sales into a self-service business. And finally, the evolution of B2B SaaS billing. What’s the next milestone disrupting the market?




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How should CEOs address Coronavirus?

Dave Kellogg, the consultant, advisor, and blogger with an expertise on enterprise software startups—author of the cleverly titled Kellblog—recently posted a piece on Coronavirus and its correlation to CEOs everywhere.

We know the internet is riddled with Coronavirus news, which is perhaps why we were so intrigued by Dave’s take—a refreshing look at the imperative role that C-suite execs can play in this worldwide epidemic. 

For CEOs, it’s a choice. You can get involved in global issues or you can ignore them. How you go about that, though, is entirely up to you.

Dave says he was heavily inspired by an article he found in Scientific American. And here's what he's encouraging:

    • Research how other companies are responding to the virus. This will ultimately help inform your own response, and trickle down to your org.
    • Call your fellow CEOs or Chief People Officers in your portfolio peer group, or peruse online and read documents. Dave suggests Coinbase’s four-tier response framework.
    • Take the pressure off live attendance. Tell employees they don’t have to come into the office if they don’t want to or they really don’t need to. (You could even see a spike in productivity because of it...)
    • Send an all-hands note letting your teams know you’re on top of this, perhaps with some links to practical, authoritative information. It’s all about that transparency.

For our ProfitWell crew, Patrick encourages a bottom line of comfort. We’re not, for the majority, in a state of panic citywide here in Boston, but if any of us are feeling as so, he pushes us to voice that. There’s a lot to consider with an outbreak of this sort: company travel, working in close proximity, susceptibility, personal health issues that expand beyond the virus itself.

And there are plenty more actionables on Dave’s list, in addition to this one we found useful. We’ve seen the tech and SaaS markets affected by the virus, but if we foster smart and healthy communities, the foundation of our operations—namely, our teams—will forge on. 

But we’re also keen to hear what you’re doing as a CEO, a founder, or a teammate during what feels like a time of mayhem. Can this be chalked up to hype? Or should we all be even stricter in our approach at maintaining health?

Send me your thoughts to and we’ll keep this conversation going.


Sales in a product-led initiative: feat. Kyle Poyar at OpenView

Kyle Poyar, VP of Marketing Strategy over at OpenView, shared his expertise with me on sales, particularly regarding his piece on the OV blog: Your Product Sells Itself. Now Hire Sales. Here’s some intel from our conversation.


Kyle, can you give us a quick rundown of your role with the OpenView team?

“OpenView is the expansion stage VC. We invest in business software companies as they’re scaling through the awkward teenage years of that expansion stage—but they’ve found product-market fit, they’ve found some customers, they’ve got a great product, and they’re really ready to 10x their customer base in their teens.

And I lead our function that works hand-in-hand with our portfolio leaders on growth strategies, whether they need help with pricing and packaging or their go-to market strategy, or optimizing conversion in their funnel, we like to be the first resource that they call for help.”


The particular resource we’re looking at here is all about sales in a product-led world. Why does the debate of sales vs. no sales exist? How can sales and product actually work together?

“As companies move towards more of a product-led world, they’re taking a lot of things that used to be done by people—whether that’s outbound, lead generation, doing in-depth demos of the product, a lot of qualification with customers—we’re taking a lot of that and turning it into the product. And part of that is: Users just want to kick the tires and start to see value from the products themselves and then ultimately purchase later on...

Patrick has written some great content around freemium strategies and how freemium is an acquisition strategy. So, I think there’s been this shift towards freemium models, free trials, and generally free products as part of this product-led growth movement. And folks look to companies like Atlassian, which famously had no sales people all the way up to a $5 billion valuation.

And I think ‘no sales’ sort of became to Atlassian what ‘no software’ was to Salesforce in, sort of, this rallying cry. But what I see with our portfolio companies is that it’s not this ‘sales vs. product’ dichotomy. Really, the two work hand-in-hand as a powerful combination. And when you can pair product and sales in the right way, you can drive really efficient growth.”


What have you seen in your research regarding other companies doing this that might stand out to our listeners?

“I looked at the public companies that have a self-service motion as part of their business—so companies like Zoom and Slack and Datadog (really, the companies that everyone in SaaS admires)—and I found that they’re actually hiring in sales faster than they’re hiring in the rest of their business. Slack, for instance, grew their sales headcount by 66% year over year, compared to 31% for other functions. And with SurveyMonkey it’s 43% vs. 16%.

And I think it’s something that folks might hear Stewart Butterfield from 2016 saying that he thought that their business could get away without having a sales team in any kind of traditional way, forever. I think fast forward to now, folks realize that it’s not an either/or, even with these really successful companies that have strong self-service motions. There is room for sales.”


At what stage of a company should teams consider this?

"I love to see companies start by really honing that self-service motion. And that requires a ton of discipline to really build product experiences that people can see value in quickly. It puts a lot of emphasis on having that right, scalable pricing model. So I love seeing self-service for the first million or couple million in ARR, but as you’re scaling, say, beyond five or beyond ten million is ARR, that’s when bringing in the right sales resources, paired with that self-service approach, is most effective.”


What are some of the challenges that could keep a company from establishing a sales motion?

“There is certainly a fear that with a product-led motion, you don’t have to pay sales compensation. Really the product is front and center in how you acquire customers. There is a risk, all of a sudden, with a sales-led motion you’re paying commissions on deals that otherwise would’ve converted on their own.

So what’s that real value of the sales rep and is the sales rep paying for their time? I think a couple other concerns are, one: Folks are worried about the product experience being diluted, where we’re creating a different kind of customer experience instead of leading with this really great, user-friendly experience, a ton of value. All of a sudden, starts looking sales-y and do customers get turned off by this different approach?

And I think, finally, some companies have struggled because they add in a sales motion to a self-service business, but they add a traditional sales motion and they bring in someone that has been a sales leader from a really enterprise-y company—and then that changes the DNA of a company. It influences the product roadmap towards larger companies with deeper pockets or with more complicated use cases. So I find that companies need to think about a different approach to what sales looks like in a product-led business.” 


Two days out: What's hot in billing?

In just two days, the Chargify crew goes live and beyond subscription—and they’re taking us with them. We know and love Chargify as the subscription billing platform built directly for B2B SaaS companies. And they know that the future of B2B SaaS is looking pretty good.

This Thursday, our very own Patrick Campbell will sit on a panel with fellow pros in the space, during a live stream, as Chargify unveils its product update that will flip subscription billing on its head.

We promised not to spill the beans before Chargify’s product announcement this week, but we can assure you: they’re good beans. 

The evolution of billing has clear and defined milestones, and new ideas periodically disrupt the market to create a world with better billing. And now, the Chargify crew says it’s time for a new milestone.

Here's a link to sign up, and, as promised, additional resources on B2B billing. See you there.

That’s it for your March 3 episode of Recur Now. Check back here tomorrow for more, and remember—this show is for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at, if you have news you want to spread or input on any topic we cover.

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By Abby Sullivan

Content Marketer

Subscription market insights you won't find anywhere else.