Edwin's Pearls of Wisdom

Edwin Abl

Edwin Abl

3 Top Tips

Keep your value prop and ICP fresh
Keep building momentum (with one eye on the long term)
Remember it’s all about the people

3 Mistakes to avoid

Not building scalable systems & processes
Unnecessarily pivoting to new markets or segments
Being too conservative on geo-expansion
From failing to build scalable systems and unnecessarily pivoting to new markets to refreshing your value proposition and maintaining momentum, experienced CMO and ScaleWise Coach Edwin Abl discusses three scale-up problems and three practical tips.
I’m Edwin Abl and I’m a ScaleWise Coach. I love the build phase and helping companies get to the next level. From leading revenue at two London scaleups in the Blenheim Chalcot portfolio, Hive Learning and Modulr, to running Appirio’s (sold for $500m) marketing, alliances and GTM in Europe, I've successfully managed almost every aspect of sales and marketing hands-on and have helped several companies take that challenging step from Series A to Series B. Here’s my 3x3.

3 Tips to embrace

Tip 1: Keep your value prop and ICP fresh

At Series A, you have some leeway to just crack on and try things, but at Series B you need to be absolutely clear on what you do – and for whom. Defining your value proposition should therefore be an ongoing process. Keep going back to it with a view to iterating. Structure the way you get feedback from your customers around what they’re thinking and the challenges you solve. The more clarity you have around the problems you solve and where you fit in the market, the easier you’ll find everything else.

The same is true with your Ideal Customer Profile. Your ICP is what makes your messaging sharp, concise and impactful – because it is specific. Always look to narrow your ICP down even further. Precision leads to confidence and a message that resonates.

Tip 2: Keep building momentum (with one eye on the long term)

At Series A, investors are looking for potential. For Series B, they want to see proven, consistent revenue growth. That’s why moving from Series A to B is the time to build a structured sales machine.

There are several different models for a predictable, repeatable sales process, but always be clear on what you want, then commit to it. If that means you bring in people that don’t directly create revenue, such as revenue operations, so be it. You won’t scale by solely adding salespeople to your business. You have to be smarter. Match your roles to your priorities and the resources you have at this present time. Think about the pipeline you’ll need to support your salespeople and make them successful. If your salespeople don’t have enough leads to keep them busy and productive, make sure you hire reps that are good at outbound selling or build an SDR team! You need a plan for creating a predictable, scalable pipeline - not just a sales-headcount-driven revenue model.

Tip 3: Remember it’s all about the people

With the best talent, a good product and the right systems and process in place, you’ve got a fantastic shot at being very successful. But, if you don’t get the people side of the business right, you’ll struggle with everything else. We’re in a world now that anyone can work for anyone anywhere. That means competition for talent is huge. You could have a great product and offer decent money, but you won’t attract the people you need to achieve your desired scale without that little something extra.

I believe the only way to do this is through vision, passion and people. Do whatever you can to build a cohesive, connected unit of people that believe in what they are doing. Get them excited and empowered by it. Invest in their development. This gets harder as your headcount grows, so get your culture clear from the start and continuously invest time, effort and energy in order to maintain it. I find that far too many CEOs talk a good game about ‘culture’, but few actually deliver on it and build sustainable, high-growth businesses. The ones that do care, succeed.

3 Mistakes to avoid

Mistake 1: Not building scalable systems & processes

I’ve seen many companies get to Series A with grit, determination and CEO-led sales. Unfortunately, they don’t achieve 10X levels and get to Series B that way. They need to put in world-class processes, structures and systems, but it’s a challenge to find the time when you’re selling and trying to hit ambitious targets.

The companies that succeed put the processes and systems in as if they’re already on $15M ARR. They build an integrated go-to-market function aligning marketing, sales and customer success. They consider how to harness automation to drive scale, even at an early stage. They try to fix issues before they arise and become harder to fix. When those companies start looking to raise the Series B and investors do their due diligence on processes (as they will), they are in a much better position.

Mistake 2: Unnecessarily pivoting to new markets or segments

Too many companies get ahead of themselves, believing they’ve figured it out and they’re on a path to success, when in reality it’s far too early. Then, they go and pivot to enterprise or expand to new geographies when they didn’t need to. Of course, it doesn’t work.

Make sure your GTM is well-aligned with your product. Before you pivot to enterprise, ensure you have an enterprise-grade product (or at least something that can be sold to enterprise once you figure out how). Far too many founders believe enterprise is a magic bullet because the deals are so much bigger. But, you have to do it at the right time.

The same goes for geographical expansion. Make sure you have the resources and structure in place to achieve success. Ignore the pressure to follow certain strategies for growth. Don’t follow the fads or just do something because everyone else is doing it. Instead, get advice from experts. Take time to really understand your Ideal Customer Profile, Total Addressable Market and accounts - your GTM. Align your focus carefully in stages, keeping your process in mind.

Mistake 3: Being too conservative on geo-expansion

On the other hand, you can often be too conservative, especially when it comes to expanding into other territories. You’ll hear people tell you that it’s too difficult, but in today’s digital global world, why shouldn’t you go and win business overseas and hit your growth targets that way?

In my experience, when we’ve just given it a go, we’ve found there’s not much difference in terms of playbooks. Once we start winning business, we build off that. So if you’ve built some traction in the UK, look at the Nordics and Benelux - similar sales markets with lower barriers to entry. You won’t have a brand presence, but you can still win deals by following similar processes to the UK market. Build solid foundations and plan carefully for broader geo-expansion. Often, you will need more resources on the ground. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Commit to it. Give it the right resources and support. Build the global business that investors want to see.

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