Olivier L'Abbe, former SVP of Sales at G2 on his sales leadership playbook

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In this episode, Olivier L’Abbe of Metadata.io joins us to share his insights. Olivier draws on his experience as the former SVP of Sales at G2 Crowd, Fliptop, Glassdoor and his time in the banking industry. He shares lessons learned on sales, tips to get prospects and customers to engage with you, how to manage oneself effectively, and creating predictability in your business. Olivier's inspirations include Jacco van der Kooji from Winning By Design and Doug Campbell from Fliptop.

Outline of this Episode

[01:39] Early lessons from Olivier L'Abbe’s journey in his career

[04:46] Evaluating the core skills to learn in a job

[07:10] How Olivier is adjusting to working from home

[10:04] On making the transition from the banking industry

[15:34] Tips to get prospects or customers to engage with you

[17:35] How to manage oneself effectively in personal space and work

[21:22] Creating predictability in your business

Olivier's Inspirations

  • Doug Campbell from Fliptop

Connect with Olivier



Elias Rubel (00:02):

Hey there, all you cool cats and kittens and welcome back to another episode of best in SAS where each week we take you behind the scenes from conversations with some of Silicon Valley's best in the rightest operators and investors. Crack a beer, get comfortable and join us on our quest to find the patterns and playbooks that accelerate the sprint to 10 million of that good stuff, that repeatable stuff, that stuff we call a ARR.

Elias Rubel (00:32):

So today I'd like to welcome Olivie L’Abbe, former SVP of sales at G2 crowd and currently the president of metadata IO or he leads go to market strategy, customer success partnerships and sales. Olivier, welcome to the show.

Olivier L’Abbe (00:49):

Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Elias Rubel (00:51):

Absolutely. So I'm really excited to dig into your background. You have such a fabulous track record of leading, you know, high performance sales and growth teams. Some of those have resulted in acquisitions LinkedIn notably and you know, as you know, the purpose of the show is to dive into the patterns and playbooks that operators and investors who have been around the block many times around. Continue to put into play when they go onto their next new thing. And I think the timing is perfect here because you've just started fairly recently with metadata IO. And so I'd love to hear, you know, based on where you started in your career, what are those early lessons that you keep coming back to and you're going to implement a metadata.

Olivier L’Abbe (01:37):

Yeah, I wouldn't know. What's interesting is this time around, I've gone about it a little bit differently than I did the last couple of times. But at the end of the day, the playbook I'm always looking for is the first thing is understanding the business, right? So understanding, you know, the type of customers that their company currently has on board, and then seeing what those renewals are like. And understanding, you know, what is our ICP and how can we make sure that our customers are seeing value in the renewing and not only that, but they're spending more in revenue year over year. So that's the first thing is usually like understanding that second has to do with the team, right? Is understanding like who, who is currently there, who's doing really good in their role, and then where are the gaps.

Olivier L’Abbe (02:25):

And then once you identify the gaps in the talent, and usually I tend to join companies that are looking to start scaling rapidly. And so usually there's going to be more gaps the fill from a talent standpoint on the sales side. And so where, what do we have in place and then where do we need to look at, you know, recruiting and what does the ICP, we do this and when we're selling to marketers, but essentially what's your ICP ideal customer profile? We do the same on the sales side, right? So what are the types of individuals, and same with customer success. What are the types of individuals that fit or ICP for this company, not only from their experience standpoint, but from a culture standpoint.

Elias Rubel (03:09):

So ICP sounds really important and it's definitely a topic that comes up all the time. Given that this is something that you go to and almost always are tweaking when you first come into the business, how, how do you go about that?

Olivier L’Abbe (03:23):

Well, I usually try to just show up for, you know, 30, 60, 90 days and just evaluate what is going on before I start putting my stamp on, on the areas that I think needs to be addressed. But I can give you some overview of what I've done. It's a metadata. So when I came on board this was a little bit different than the last couple of startups. So we had one individual who had basically started as a BDR and scaled the business to two and a half million in AR turn meteoric turn sales rep turned director of growth. Person person's name's Logan. He's amazing. One of the best sales people I've ever worked with. And so he was a one man show essentially. And so we had to evaluate what are our Logan's skills, right? Where does he Excel at?

Olivier L’Abbe (04:14):

And then where, how do we, you know, and then our growth projections before COBIT were three X revenue. And now we're at two X revenue. So how are we going to get there with the resources that we have in place. And so just evaluating, you know what do we need help with? And for us, there was a couple of areas that we needed help with. One is generating meetings. And so, you know, we have the resources in place that have a business development team book meetings for us. But then to either, you know, wanted to implement a strategy around creating content. We are in a very busy space. So other data operates in MarTech and currently I think a lot I saw there was like 8,000 companies in MarTech. And so the very busy space, so having thought leadership and explaining what we do is really crucial here because we are competing [inaudible] for budgets with a lot of different companies. And most companies don't do the same thing, right? There's actually very few companies that do what we do. That said the budgets for marketing teams are limited. And so we need to be able to educate the customers and the prospects that are willing to engage with about not only how to do marketing better, but then also educate them about, you know, the value of using a platform like medicine.

Elias Rubel (05:34):

So first off, I just wanted to say huge fan of metadata. We use it at Matter Made all the time and roll it out for clients. It's a really powerful tool. So for anyone who hasn't already checked out metadata IO highly recommend it for all sorts of campaign goodness. I won't, I won't go full sales pitch on everyone, but just check it out. But, so I'm curious because it's really kind of, not to overuse the word, but it's very meta that, you know, you're, you're thinking about growing a company that provides a tool and a platform for people trying to grow their companies. So there's, there's a ton of dogfooding there, certainly. How are you thinking about that growth amidst our times right now?

Olivier L’Abbe (06:21):

Yeah, so we, we've, we've revised the plan. Obviously we were looking to hire a little bit more aggressively. And so we've, we've scaled back on that. And so now our plan is to basically, we've gone from one quarter carrier to five quarter carriers since I've been here and we feel that we can hit our targets with the five people that we have in sales this year to what we've done is essentially reduce the planning on the back half of the year when we were going to, you know, basically double the sales team. And we are just going to be focused right now, laser focus on execution with the five quarter carriers that we have. And the good thing is, you know, building companies now for a decade. And so I have a good group of people that I've worked with over the years and you know it was, I feel very fortunate to have the team to have a place because most of the people that are on the sales team, we've worked together two or three companies in the past together.

Elias Rubel (07:20):

I think there's so much to be said for having that high degree of confidence in the team that you've already worked with. It's like one less variable to worry about. So that's fantastic.

Olivier L’Abbe (07:32):

Especially now. I mean, you know, given that, you know, I'm trying to do a good job of leading the team as we adjust to working from home. I've always been a huge proponent of working in the office. Historically I've, I've hired a young inexperienced salespeople that had that drive and I, you know, I told them like, I can teach you how to close deals. I can teach you how to become an enterprise rep and close those million dollar deals, but I need you in the office everyday. And now that we are moving to, you know, working from home and adjusting to that, I think, you know, working with people that you've already worked with in the past that you already know, it makes it much easier. I think I would struggle a little bit and hiring brand new people and and, and trying to make them feel comfortable part of the culture. And then giving them the freedom to be successful in getting those resources. It seemed like it would be hard. So I feel pretty blessed that I have the team that we have in place right now.

Elias Rubel  (08:31):

Certainly. So I, I'm curious I mean working from home can very quickly and especially for the periods of time at this point, we're all working from home can become fairly low energy if you let it. And for such a, you know, sales is so high energy and needs to have that drive behind it. I'm curious what you have done or what you've tried to implement to, to maintain that level of connectedness, competition, energy. 

Olivier L’Abbe (08:59):

Yeah. Yep. One of the things that we've done is that we I get up early and some people are gonna think this time is a little crazy. But at 7:45 AM on the West coast, we do have some, some people that are in different time zones. We're pretty spread out sales team, about 7:45 AM the sales team gets on a zoom call and for 15 minutes we hang out. We talked about what went well yesterday you know, what's on our mind, and then we have like a motivational somebody on the team will take something that's was assigned every day and they share something that's, you know, inspires them. And then that's seven 45, eight and then eight o'clock. I do the same with the customer success team. So so we get on the phone and we just talk about what's on our mind, make sure like everybody is able to share and connect really early on in the day. It gets you ready for the day and then we go and take care of our customers.

Elias Rubel (10:01):

I love that. Setting the tone right away. So I'm curious, you, you started your career off in banking, right?

Olivier L’Abbe (10:12):

I did, yes. I I studied economics at UC Davis and then I wanted to become a financial advisor. And so I worked on Sango road and worked for Smith Barney, eventually acquired by Morgan Stanley. And then I worked for UBS, so I spent a couple of years in banking, realized that it was something I didn't want to do for the rest of my life. And I got out.

Elias Rubel (10:39):

Do you think that there, are there any lessons that you learned there or, or kind of fundamental fundamentals, I guess you could say that you've brought with you and carried through to your kind of current focus with driving growth?

Olivier L’Abbe (10:52):

Yeah, so I think one of them had to do with working hard. You know, I, I was really hungry. I really wanted to be successful. And in banking it's pretty even wealth management specifically, it's pretty hard, right? For 22 year olds to basically go and, you know, telemarket which is what I was doing. I was telemarketing people that I did my research on and I could see that had been successful in the past through the.com. But I came into banking, which is right after the crash. So a lot of people that look, I feel like they've been successful on paper. Actually, you know, after the stock market peg, you know, they weren't in a position to, to invest in. So as a 22 year old, it's really difficult job to convince 50 year olds to give you millions of dollars.

Olivier L’Abbe (11:39):

And I just like, I was telling marketing and at first people were hanging up on me and I was like, nah, I'm going to keep trying. Right. You know, I would do like 125 dials a day and I would get, yeah, I cranked it out in like two, it was just torture. And then maybe I'll get like five or six conversations. Wait, are they like beginning of our conversation? And then in the beginning I wasn't good and I was maybe stutter or stumble on words and people would just click click and I got to the point where I just didn't want people to hang up on me. So I got pretty good at getting them to like chat with me. And so that was definitely one of the best skillsets I ever received was the ability to jump on the phone, not knowing anything about this person and getting them to be open to having a quick conversation with you.

Olivier L’Abbe (12:29):

Just get that trust. And for me, there's tons of books I read about cell marketing, but for me it was like, how are you? And if you ask that question, depending on how they react, I could take that conversation a variety of ways. And if they said, good thing, I'm like, Oh perfect, this person is going to be nice and I can have a really decent conversation. But if they say I'm like, Oh shit. And then I can sense that you're busy, is that right? And then they'd be like, yes. I'm like, no problem. Can we reschedule for maybe two o'clock this afternoon? And I learned really quickly on based on how people would answer, how are you that I could pretty much have a good chance at getting them to, you know, engage with me.

Elias Rubel (13:10):

Wow, that's such a great kind of leading indicator in such a condensed period of time to know how a conversation is going to go. So is that, is that one of the stories that you kind of embed into your, you know, when you bring these junior sales reps in and you're, you're molding them into your liking, is that one of kind of the foundational pieces that you're, you're teaching them about how to handle calls or,

Olivier L’Abbe (13:31):

No, I wouldn't say it's a no foundation for me. It's like everyone has to figure out their own way to do things and that's one of the things that I try to do and hire people is I'll give them an overview of all of the different ways that I think are effective at breaking through the noise and getting prospects or customers to engage with you. And it really depends. G2 I was a huge fan of sending videos to prospects, right. Just send 20 to 32nd videos. G2 there's a product called buyer intent, but I was pretty involved in creating, based on my experiences working at Fliptop and basically tracking all the behavior companies and trying to explain buyer intent via email is way too confusing. And so what we would do is just 22nd videos and just pull up Google and then you can see the picture of the individual at the bottom and say, Hey, just want to let you know when you Google this and this and this.

Olivier L’Abbe (14:34):

We come up first I want to talk to you. How you can leverage that. And a marketer was like, Holy cow, you own our SEO. Yeah, I wouldn't talk to you. And if you've tried to explain those paragraphs via an email, no one would read it. But at video people are like, yeah, I'm going to click on it and I'm going to watch it. And we're going to book meetings that way. So what I try to do is just offer all of the different areas that I think can be useful to bring in through the noise and then engaging with customers and prospects and then let the person, the customer success manager figure out what works best for them. Everybody's got different styles and I don't want to force my style onto somebody else because I doesn't come off as authentic. And I think that in today's age, I think being authentic is what's most important. Because people can smell it when you know you're not

Elias Rubel (15:26):

Sure. Yeah. And I love that outbound is getting so much more creative these days with video and just kind of making it all that much more human. It's really nice to see.

Olivier L’Abbe (15:35):

It is, it is hard to do at scale. I got it. I feel it's really expensive as well because you have, you know, you have to hire the BDRs, you've got to train them, you've got to buy all the tech stack and then you know, hopefully it works well. But luckily there's so much data out there now you can figure out pretty quickly if it's working or not and then you can pivot accordingly

Elias Rubel (15:57):

For sure. So I'm a big believer in and sometimes our biggest failures become the biggest building blocks for our own growth and lessons learned and some of the playbooks that we take with us. I'm curious if there are any kind of glorious stories of things that you thought were going to work well that ended up bombing and that you may be turned into lessons learned or if, if that isn't how you learn, then if there's just an amazing success story as well we could, do we want to beach that that you've learned from and, and has become foundational for you?

Olivier L’Abbe (16:31):

Well, one of the things that I've kind of, I, as I mentioned to you early in the call is I started, you know, doing outbound. So outbound activities has always been what's most important to me. I'm like, I look at activity dashboards, which reps are generating the most meetings. And one of the things I've noticed, many of my top reps at G2 and I was there and they're like, you see like activities that have nothing to do is, you know, I've closed over a million dollars this year and you know I don't do the, you know, hundred dials a week that you request out of me. And so I've actually over time changed my philosophy on activity, but it's still something I think is important because it shows how much, you know, the rep is trying to grow the business itself. But I used to be pretty adamant that you needed to do X amount of dials and X amount of meetings a week and X amount of emails out to get to your number.

Olivier L’Abbe (17:29):

And because that's what I had learned when I worked at Paychex. And that was a job I had early in my career. It was very much focused on the metrics. And now I've found that it's not necessarily that way. So, even though it's something I think about all the time from a metric standpoint, I'm more open to letting reps figure it out themselves and focus on the areas that they, they feel they can do. Cause everyone's got that, you know, good salespeople, our customer success have their secret sauce and it's different for everybody. So you can't treat everyone the same way. So I've learned over time to not expect and be so rigid on on the metrics.

Elias Rubel (18:07):

That's a really good one. I'm curious, I mean that must take a lot of self control to give reps the space if they have kind of a different style that you might not really relate to, but you know, you're giving them the space and the trust to hit their number regardless. But it inherently is creating a gap of your, in your predictability and in your ability to model out kind of in your dashboards what things are looking like and forecasting. How do you make up for that or how do you kind of bridge the gap in your mind and in the way that you speak to your other peers and executives?

Olivier L’Abbe (18:43):

Yeah. One of the things I do when I manage people in the first meeting I have with them is I asked them, how do you like to be managed? I think that's crucial question that many leaders do not ask the people that work with. How do you, like everyone likes to be managed differently. So you know, in my case is things are going well. I want, you know, my boss to tell me you're doing a great job and if things are not going well, I want my boss to double down on that and say, are you doing outstanding? And let me figure it out. And usually I showed up to my one on ones with like, here's like 10 things I want to talk about during this one on one. So that's the way that I like to be managed, but everyone's different.

Olivier L’Abbe (19:26):

So I like to ask, you know, I'd like to ask the employees, how do you, like my kids are or how do you like to be managed? And then I then going into every one on one with that person. I remind myself to read the notes so that I can go into the the one-on-one, would that top of mind. And I think that makes the relationship so much better, right? Because at the end of the day, I, you know, I have an agenda. They have an agenda, but I'm going in thinking about how can I optimize our working relationship to get their success? Right? And the second thing I asked when it started relationship managing somebody is, you know, where do you want to be two to five years from now? Because my job as a leader is to get you to that next thing, even if it's not within our company. Even if it's, you know, if you decide to go take you know, your talent somewhere else at least I did my job to get you to that position where you got that opportunity to further your career. So those are the two things that I really think about. Every time I meet with my, you know, my reps or my managers during our one-on-one,

Elias Rubel (20:35):

I love those. All right, so this is my, my, the way I love to wrap these things up is to ask you, you know, we all have folks in our lives who have been influential or inspirational or even just peers who we look up to and think are doing fantastic work out there. Who are some of those people for you?

Olivier L’Abbe (20:55):

Yeah, there was a, I I was fortunate to work at glass door in the early days and I had a really good run there and one of the things, one of the reasons I left and that was looking to get into management, so I went to a small company called clifftop and the CEO of that company, Doug Campbell, John, give me, give me an opportunity to go in and basically help them figure out one how to sell the product and and to scale the team. And that was my first opportunity to delete a team. So Don Campbell, John giving him that opportunity. It was great. Really, really smart guy. After the flip top acquisition, he went to LinkedIn, they worked there for four years as the VP of product for sales navigator and now he just went to Salesforce as the VP of product for sales cloud.

Olivier L’Abbe (21:42):

So he's definitely one of them. And during that interview he also brought in this Mmm. Sales coach, Jocko, his company is called winning by design. And and then those two people have been very influential in my career because after getting hired that day, you know, things have been worked out pretty well so far. So that meeting I had with those two people really helped me out. And then who gave me the opportunity to I got to work really closely with over the course of four years and we had a really amazing run of G two and he's a really good leader that would basically, you know, come to our one-on-ones and say, how can I help? And basically just get out of the way and let me do my thing, which I really appreciate it. So those will be the ones that come to mind.

Elias Rubel (22:37):

Fantastic. Well, Olivia, I think you've you've certainly shared a ton of really actionable and insightful information, especially for, you know, aspiring sales leaders or sales leaders who are still finding their footing or even experienced sales leaders who are comparing notes and, and just looking for making this next year the best one that they can. So thank you for coming on the show and spending the time with me.

Olivier L’Abbe (23:01):

Yeah. Thanks for having me.