SharpGrid Head of Sales Martin Lenc talked about what it is like to work for a fast-growing company in a phase of rapid global expansion, what sales has to do with sports or what is the key to success when working in a sales team.
I was into technology and attracted to consulting. I came to SharpGrid from a smaller consulting firm that focused on commercial real estate. It was quite conservative with a big emphasis on seniority, i.e. how experienced someone was. That's where I got a sense of analytics, communicating with clients, how to find solutions and so on.
Then one day in 2017, I noticed one of my friends changed the company she worked for from McKinsey to BizMachine on Linkedin, so I looked into what the company does and who is behind it. The combination of consultancy work and data and technology got me intrigued. I sent her a message, got invited to a job interview and eventually was hired after a three-round selection process.
The beginning was very interesting. We were helping clients with B2B sales using data solutions, and at the same time, as part of our consulting, we were looking for different data sources and figuring out how to best use them for our clients. Everyone was doing everything at the time, consulting on one side, and maybe applications or database scripts on the other.
As the BizMachine product evolved, we found that a lot of clients were more interested in information about HoReCa outlets than about the companies themselves. That’s how we laid the foundation for SharpGrid in 2019, which was spun off from BizMachine. Martin Nepraš, who knows FMCG like the back of his hand and knew the value of the data, was instrumental in this development.
At the beginning I was doing several roles at once, but over time I started to profile myself more into a client role, dealing with project delivery and so on, until I eventually got into the sales that I enjoy most of all. I'm actually competitive and I like to play sports, and sales has a lot to do with sports. You can compete, win, meet new companies or people and help them find new solutions. It's quite an exciting activity. And I also enjoy making money for the company.
Aside from data and consulting, I also love the on-trade industry itself. My friends and I even have our own bar, so I know it first hand.
With SharpGrid, we found a hole in the market and a way to solve previously unsolvable problems that clients needed help with. As a result, we have a very strong and unique position in the market. Plus, we figured it out and developed the whole idea of SharpGrid ourselves, so I naturally trust it and it makes for a better sale.
Our on-trade segment is interesting in itself, it's always changing and it's hard to grasp. We also have great company DNA. Our founders are extremely experienced people from Google and McKinsey, where they worked in top technology and consulting roles. The wider team has a huge technical and commercial background.
In general, at SharpGrid we maintain high quality standards towards our products and ourselves and measure success based on results, i.e. what we bring to the company. This is the only way we can have a high level of confidence.
Our clients are large and important players who supply products to HoReCa establishments. They include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kofola, Heineken, Asahi, Unilever, Makro, Jagermeister, Red Bull and many others.
They have two sources of revenue. First of all, retail, i.e. classic in-store sales. But this is already fairly well mapped with data and can be measured effectively. We supply the second part of the puzzle, i.e. data from on-trade establishments such as restaurants, bars, hotels, cafes and other places. The on-trade channel is quite "messy" and no one knows the ins and outs of it. This is exactly what SharpGrid wants to change.
We are currently in five European markets: Spain, Italy, Poland, Czechia and Slovakia. And we want to enter additional markets in Europe in the second half of 2022.
We help them determine what their potential market looks like. This means that we are able to tell, for example, a soda or beer manufacturer how many restaurants and other businesses they can potentially sell to, where those establishments are located and where it's worth sending their sales reps first, where the greatest sales potential is.
In addition to that, we can also assess the company’s position. That means figuring out how many of those outlets they already have their products and brands in, and helping them discover where they aren't yet and could be, or in which regions and types of establishments they are doing more or less well. That's how we help them spot potential business opportunities and measure their performance.
We have two products for this. Outlet Census is mainly used for targeting the right outlets, and Market Meter is a very advanced reporting tool with distribution, prices by brand, volume & value and product dominance. In summary, we can help clients see how big the market is for them, where the opportunities are, and how to go after them.
My day is a little different every time. It suits me that I have a lot of flexibility. Sometimes I work from home, sometimes from the office, sometimes half and half. I like to play around with it and make the most of my time. It's important to me that I can set it up and adjust it to suit myself.
I usually start the morning by communicating with clients, dealing with emails, checking in with colleagues and making my first coffee of the morning. At least twice a week we have a meeting with the team. I then spend part of the day meeting with existing and new clients and preparing for them. Other times I'm preparing proposals, contracts or approaching potential clients. It's not a dull job.
I'm in charge of our five-strong sales team operating in five markets, so it's key for me that everyone knows what to do and what to focus on that week. A significant part of my day is dedicated to just the team, helping to clear obstacles, resolve situations with clients or prioritise tasks.
There are four things.
First, it's about the team being happy and having everything they need to do their job well and efficiently. They also have to enjoy it, of course.
Secondly, it's about good and strong relationships with clients so that they can always turn to us and rely on us when they're dealing with a problem.
Thirdly, we need to generate profit. That's why we are looking at how we can renew existing collaborations and win new customers so that SharpGrid can grow.
And fourthly, I would like to mention the functioning of the sales-marketing-product axis. We all support, inspire and inform each other. This allows sales to pass on client input to the marketing and product department, which can then improve products to meet our clients' needs. Marketing in turn can produce truly relevant content and communicate our company and products towards the clients and prospects in the right way.
First and foremost, such a person should be results-oriented as we are a small company that is growing rapidly. Those who like to see the results of their work, give suggestions for improvement and participate in the growth will like it here.
Another prerequisite is a willingness to learn new things, to look for new solutions and approaches, in short to be open-minded.
It is also essential to be able to communicate well, which means being able to ask questions, but also to listen and adapt your communication to the other party, both internally within the company and externally to clients. One should be able to give and receive feedback, ask for help in a timely manner and be transparent at all times.
Martin is currently looking for a Client Consultant & Account Manager to join his team. Apply or recommend this opportunity to anyone who might be interested!
If you like the interview, stay tuned! We will introduce other team members on our blog soon.