Episode No:92

Creating Memorable Products for B2B Sales: Lessons from Nathan Offner

Nathan Offner

Co-Founder, Outboundless

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Ep#92: Creating Memorable Products for
B2B Sales: Lessons from Nathan Offner (Co-Founder, Outboundless)
Ep#92: Creating Memorable Products for B2B Sales: Lessons from Nathan Offner (Co-Founder, Outboundless)
  • Ep#92: Creating Memorable Products for B2B Sales: Lessons from Nathan Offner (Co-Founder, Outboundless)

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Hyperengage Podcast, our host Adil Saleh interviews Nathan Offner, co-founder of Outboundless, about his experiences in sales operations and the functions of his prospecting product and services. They discuss the journey of creating an effective outbound sales strategy, the importance of honesty in building a company, the criteria for finding an appropriate market fit, and the process of pivoting their product-based business to a more service-oriented model. Nathan also touches upon the importance of learning from past mistakes and adapting to the changing sales landscape.
Key Takeaways Time
Getting executive attention through creative prospecting. 2:30
Being honest builds trust. 6:47
Outsourcing instead of hiring employees. 8:13
Tailoring campaigns to each customer. 12:38
Pivoting from product to services. 23:40
Combining strengths with partners.
  • Outreach
  • Sendoso
  • Trello

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[00:00:02] Adil Saleh: Hey, greeting everybody. This is Adil from Hyperengage podcast. We spoke to a lot of prospecting products and services in the past. We spoke to team at outreach. We have like team leadership at Sendoso coming up later this month. We also have our own B2B product that's more of a digital cart platform. Also for the prospecting teams, that also kind of resonates, it goes in the same funnel. So today we have the co-founder of Outboundless, Nathan, with us. It's more of an outreaching and prospecting product and services. He himself has been someone that has done a lot of years serving its sales, operations and all. So thank you very much, Nathan, for taking the time. [00:00:56] Nathan Offner: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. Love that. [00:01:01] Adil Saleh: I was looking at your website and of course some of your team members and the kind of formation you have on the leadership board. I was thinking that, of course, it takes a great team, takes great leadership. It takes, of course, compatible experience across the board to ensure success in a platform such as this where you're serving customer facing teams. And you got to make sure that you are pretty right with your product fit and positioning and of course, a tech stack. So initially when you started Outboundless and with your prior experience, as I mentioned, how do you think it resonates and you being someone that is delivering value across the team? And how did you end up finding a product or service like Outboundless? [00:01:54] Nathan Offner: Yeah, no, basically what had happened is years ago I was working for and friends with and still friends with a brilliant individual. There are few people in this world who are as intelligent as this individual. And so I was very blessed to be able to be under his wing. And essentially we needed to get attention, right? No need to get into the service and all that stuff. Just we needed to get attention. And so the idea was, how do we do that? Especially if you're going to reach out to CEOs, they're extremely busy. It's very hard to pull them away from anything that they're doing unless you can bring serious amount of value. I mean, their time is worth thousands of dollars an hour, especially obviously, the bigger the organization. And so that's where it started. I was like, why don't I just send something through the mail? And I was still pretty new in essentially my journey when it comes to typical sales. And so I had an idea. Most people thought it was pretty crazy and to be frank, it was like the campaign I wanted to send. And so what I did, funny enough, after I had built it and I started doing well in the process of building, I started doing research. And actually, funny enough, I stumbled upon Stunneck's book, how to Get a Meet with Anyone. I was like, I knew I was right. Like it's totally going to. So basically it did it worked pretty darn well. Even though there were a multitude of deficits in the campaign, because it was still very new to me. It worked really well. Got about half the CEO's attention. This is companies ranging from about a few as small as, like, 20 million in revenue, up to 2 billion. And basically, you know, what would summarize how well it worked was there was a CEO of a technology company worth about 1.3 billion in revenue. And not only was he told us, not only was I the first salesperson that he had ever taken a meeting with, I was actually the first one that he'd ever responded to. So that was kind of like essentially the catalyst moving forward. [00:04:00] Adil Saleh: Right. [00:04:01] Nathan Offner: And I had done it here and there, but kind of pulled away for a little bit in the creative prospecting journey. But it was because of my friend Jamal Rhimer, who's absolutely brilliant, especially when it comes to large accounts. I don't know if you know much about him, but he does what's called mega deals, deals $50 million and larger for software. And he knew what I did. And we were talking and basically we're like, we should try to make a company out of it. So I was like, okay, cool. And it went from there. But it was a journey, though, trying to figure out what is appropriate across products and markets, essentially how these creative campaigns would be leveraged. And so that was a journey in itself. There's a lot. [00:04:48] Adil Saleh: But. [00:04:50] Nathan Offner: What am I missing, though, that would bring more value that you're curious about in the original question that you proposed? [00:05:01] Adil Saleh: Interesting, at the end of this, just like you work as partners, you have your own components that you're working on, you got your strongest suits, and you got to make sure you stick within it. And then you learn the art to be compatible to the other weakest points and avenues that you have alongside your leadership. So you mentioned Jamal. I know that when it comes to sales, when it comes to closing deals, there are a few names better than him. It's accomplished a lot. So now, talking about your leadership, you guys got together, started building home. Tell us a little more, a little more about how you thought about outboundless and how you structured it as a company, as an entity, how you set up the operating principles and all the ingredients across teams, customers, revenue growth, all of that compiling for a business. So how you guys set around. Just share a little story on that too. [00:06:09] Nathan Offner: Yeah. Okay. Even starting with the leadership, you've spoken to a lot of founders in the beginning and ones who are far beyond me in in this journey. Right. I'm still in a pretty juvenile stage. I've made tons of mistakes. You learn from them and you move on just to touch upon leadership. I think what's really important, especially with the individuals you work with, whether it's your own team or it's your customers. I've had some deep conversations about this recently. I think being extremely honest is a very integral and important part of the foundation of any company. And that's being honest. Not just, I think, with the people that you work with, because you're always recruiting, in a sense, right. You're building teams, even the vendors that you work with, right? And that kind of leads into the other part of your question, being honest and then trying to leave any type of ego at the door, which I think is easy because I've gotten my butt kicked so many times, although there's still moments. And so that honesty. People gravitate towards a lot more. Even building another team now, that's so important. And just being like, realistic. And with that, I think that being honest. You're talking about like when you're talking about customers briefly, to touch upon that. If you're not honest with your customers, at least to the best of your ability, because things change, right? You can't foresee everything. But even in the initial stages, I'll be very honest with, I don't know if we can do this or this might not be the best idea, and you give pushback and you try to serve them as best as you can. And I've failed there as well. I've dropped the ball with that. Be honest about it. And then that leads even to vendors. You're talking about scaling teams, right? The way I've done it is actually I don't have really any employees. I have either 1099 or just vendors. I outsource it. One of the things I realize is I don't care about is not trying to hire employees. I think that's a big thing. That part has to do with the honesty and the ego. I'm like, I don't care if I could have a company with five people making a few million dollars in revenue a year, I couldn't care less. I think especially in Silicon Valley, it becomes a thing where it's like ego lifting in the gym, almost. In a sense, if you could be somewhat analogous to that. [00:08:53] Adil Saleh: People come and people ask, how big is your team? Your team of ten? 5200. Oh, that's great. At the same time, these startups, just like you and a lot that we meet as well, like co founders and first time founders, they try to do more with less because they have like multiple hats that they wear every single day. They're doing all sorts of things, all the dirty work, all the nitty gritties, and they're just working. As for the first one year, I would say most of them that I remember, they're less than ten people. But again, as you mentioned, there's a lot that think that, okay, why should not we grow the team and rest? Like, there is a strategy that you can build around partnerships, just like you mentioned that you have partners that do the professional services we get to meet a lot. Like, they have limited team in house, but they have umbrella partners across different categories and then everybody makes money at. [00:09:52] Nathan Offner: The end of the day. Yeah, and that's the goal too. I think it's important to be as overly generous as you can. But then that's where I've made mistakes, too, is even with your customers. I care for my customers very much and you want to do great things for them, but you got to be careful at the same time because you don't want to get sucked into a time hole. And in the end, when you do that, you can let them down anyways, not intentionally. It's just you've now overloaded yourself. And that's one of the mistakes that I've made. But yeah, I think it's really important to be generous. And that includes like, for example, equity pay, the pay structure itself. I think that people should get bonuses. I told somebody, I was like, if you come up, for example, with your own campaign, I'll give you a revenue share off essentially the profits for that because I didn't come up with it. And I think that's really important because it also motivates people. The idea is not original to me. I'm just copying others who were better than me and did it before me. But they found much success in it. And I think that is a really smart way to do things. [00:11:06] Adil Saleh: Absolutely. Of course, doing it at a scale, it becomes harder. But again, at some point, if you have an ecosystem that you can build and you led a great baseline, this can go as big as you want. So now tell us a little bit about your customers. Like, I know that you're working with companies that are slightly above the startup ballpark. So what kind of customers do you have and what segment are you trying to penetrate in ever since today? And what kind of pivots are you planning on making? [00:11:43] Nathan Offner: Yeah, I've had a range of customers, really cool ones too. I've loved all my customers. They've had all sorts of different products to sell because the idea is just to, I guess, give context for anybody who's listening and not familiar. I mean, long story short, we basically create really cool products that help. They enable sales and marketing teams to get meetings with executives and key accounts, right. Primarily through creative outreach. And those campaigns are ones that are so, in a sense, cool and outlandish that they won't forget you even over a year later. And I've done that they come back because if they don't take a meeting with you now, they can come back. That executive will remember you a year or more later. So with that now, the idea is with the customers themselves. You're trying to figure out what will work for them and trying to create the right product that will work for them. And I've had ones that are in the space of where they're selling, for example, like legal software, selling one now, automation, then you have security software and it's all over the place. And that leads to, for example, trying to find that product market fit, which is why I've had to make the pivot so recently because there's a lot of lessons learned. But yeah, they're still all over the place and still figuring it out. But what I have realized is you need to take more nuanced approaches based on not only their product itself, but the executives that they reach out to. Like, I learned a big lesson with security executives, for example, as opposed to marketing executives, et cetera. So it's not a very precise and clear answer. It's just basically we're still for the most part figuring out and trying to adjust and refine. So where, yes, it's quite efficacious for a wide range of customers, but still being able to then take that framework and adjust it so it is more, in a sense, tailored to those specific use cases. [00:14:03] Adil Saleh: You're talking about the product or you want to tailor services that are done for you. You're talking about the product right. On the BDC side. [00:14:11] Nathan Offner: Yeah, even the products themselves. You can pick different products for different product of ours, for different customers who will have different products there. And then also then the executives that they want to reach out to. So it starts with picking a particular product in the beginning and then being able to tailor that. So it's tied in much better to basically, in a sense, their value proposition of what their product can do for their prospects and hopefully become customers. Right. And so that's really important because I think if you have I don't know if this is true across the landscape for anybody, right. But at least for us, and I think probably a lot of products, is if you really want to make it work out of box solutions can only take you so far and you're going to have more of a general audience, or I should say customer, as opposed to honing more in on the customers that are best for you and being able to tailor that, then you can start to figure it out. And that's why, for example, I wouldn't do outreach for a customer. I don't even sell them products for, for example, if they wanted to reach out to like SMBs. Right. It wouldn't make sense. That's why we go for basically we create products and then also, if they need it, help reach out to enterprises, some small, mostly all large, to break in. Right. I already somewhat knew that in the beginning, but then clarified that down the road that that's what makes the most sense and brings the most value that helps refine our customers, if that makes any sense. [00:15:53] Adil Saleh: And how do you see scalability into it? I know that of course it's going to be initially, it's more of a hands on experience with your customer. You got to make sure you understand their customer base, how they're doing, prospecting, how they're setting up campaigns, all of that. So once you do that, how does that process look like? I'm just trying to help our audience understand your onboarding to, let's say, take one segment, maybe recruitment, maybe real estate, maybe in personal brands like coaches, these kind of things. So could you just share one onboarding experience so our audience would definitely get their head around? [00:16:39] Nathan Offner: Yeah, and it's actually a lesson for anybody, to be frank, and we've had to more or less change it. If you accept anybody, that's a mistake. And that's part of the onboarding process, because, for example, if they don't have product market fit and we can clarify that, I won't sell them anything because unless they're completely aware of this and they know that, no, it's okay. My goal right now is I need to get attention, and then I need to get that attention so I can talk to people, so then I can help refine and then define that product market fit. Right. So that's part of the onboarding process is you need to understand essentially, do they have any type of process set up now in their sales? Because you can send somebody a Ferrari, right. It's not going to matter that you're not going to make a sale unless you bring value. And so that's part of the operating process in the beginning. Right. And then the idea is, okay, what essentially would work best for you guys in regard to the products that we have, and we only have a few, and I've kept that low for a reason right now is because I want things that are most effective. I don't want anybody to be overwhelmed with choice. And you want things to work, and you want them to work well. So with that onboarding process, yeah, we figure out what works for you. [00:18:14] Adil Saleh: And how long does it take? [00:18:15] Nathan Offner: Like, normally it's not terribly long. I mean, from start to finish, we're talking anywhere between the goal is to always get it in 14 business days. From start to finish, 14. But the reality is we usually always do it faster. But I think it's important also to have that buffer because you don't want to tell somebody a particular date that it's going to launch and then it's. [00:18:37] Adil Saleh: Going to so you got like, dedicated account managers post onboarding, or how does it all work? I'm sure it's not well self served. You got to make sure that you consistently review or strategize their prospecting process, how it's turning out, all of that. So do you have dedicated partners that ensure that? [00:19:00] Nathan Offner: Yeah, funny enough, somebody really wants to join the team that will actually help with that because I've been managing that a lot myself. And essentially you can just use simple project management tools to help with that process. And then that transparency as you're iterating for the product itself. To give that transparency to the customer is important. And I want to even prove that because I wouldn't call it perfect now. I mean, perfection is impossible, but it could be better, right? And so you can leverage, for example, simple project management tools, but then you have somebody who can interface more with the customers. And so through this iteration process, we figure out what they like and don't like as this product is being built, right? And this can apply to anything, especially once you reach software, as long as it's not a simple subscription, right? And you get more in the enterprise space where it needs something unique to them. It's kind of similar in that regard. And then once you do launch, the campaign process is still going. And so you try to stay in constant communication with them as much as you can so you can get that feedback. Because how are their SDRs doing? Or how is their Ae doing with the campaign? What sequence are they using? What messages do they use? They want to know, when am I supposed to call? Right? Because now you need to show them when a package, for example, has been delivered, because it's primarily all through direct mail again. So the tools I've used, stuff as simple as Google Sheets, Google Docs, but I want to upgrade that to that way there's more transparency with something like Trello, for example. And it's just to be it's, because it's very bespoke a lot of times when you get into the nuances, not so much the product itself, but once you refine it, there's a lot of phone calls too, right? And I want to be there for that. It's like, Go ahead, call me. Right? Let's figure out you have a question, how we can make this better. You can learn from me and all the mistakes I've made in life. Call me. Right? [00:21:02] Adil Saleh: It's all about learning from other people's mistake. You don't live long enough to make them yourself. So it's just about making sure you learn with other people's experiences and all of that. So now, having said all of that, how you guys as a business with Jamal, someone like Jamal that's working more on the growth side, where are you guys heading in terms of revenue? Like, recurring revenue annually, like, the valuation of the business, what kind of pivots you guys Are thinking of making or planning of making, if you are, which you said pre record that you are. So could you just briefly expand then, before we set you free? [00:21:46] Nathan Offner Yeah, the funny thing is, originally, and I think a lot of founders, especially anybody which will be a lot who are way beyond me, they're probably laughing at because they're like, I remember that stage. Oh, you child. In the beginning, I had an idea. I had an idea that essentially I wanted to create something that was like, for example, subscription service that was not realistic for this industry because in some ways a lot of it was supposed to be digital only, even though I always preferred direct mail digital only, right. Because I wanted to create that product that was ultimately scalable. The problem is when it comes to prospecting, the more scalable something is, generally, generally, then the less efficacious it is. So with that change, I also quickly realized some issues. And so I pivoted to really add some solid direct mail components in that that reduced scalability. But I figured out ways to make it easier to scale and you work on systems for that and also distribution and networks for that. But then as we were talking about, I realized with the customers I had and through this Iterative process, that they're going to need more help because you can have a really cool direct mail piece, right. But the reality is, and just like I say with the Ferrari, people aren't going to necessarily want to meet with you unless you can really articulate some type of value to them. And a lot of customers will struggle with this, especially because they often want something at scale and they're hoping that magic will happen. But the reality is, magic is not going to happen, especially in this current environment. Which is why I had realized that as much as I didn't want a service business, that I would have to integrate more of a service component into it. And so that was another Pivot just recently, right? And that's why a friend of mine who talked to me, he fills in that gap perfectly. So now there's essentially a new model. So the reality is, for something that and maybe it's not so inspirational, others who are creating products, it all started with the idea of a product that was extremely scalable, that you can treat it like SaaS and that you're going to have, for example, the dream of a larger multiple when you're like, eventually, I'm sure I'll sell this. If you take investment, of course they're going to want you to sell it. But the reality is it kept reducing that probability. And so now it comes down to a productized service. It's not a service, but a productized service. And so I think the final question, it comes down to like, okay, well, where do you want to go? One, I'm still figuring them out, but now it becomes like a productized agency in a sense. Again, not the original goal, but if you want a profitable business that's going to be effective, especially in the environment that we're entering, where so many companies are going to struggle to get meetings. Because not only has email just been oversaturated in the last couple of years, in general, even before that, AI is going to make basically everybody deaf to any of your outreach. Which is why I was like the bar is now higher and customers are going to struggle. So direct mail is going to be the way to go along with phone and they're going to need help. And so that's the decision. [00:25:19] Adil Saleh: Right. [00:25:19] Nathan Offner: May not have been your dream. [00:25:22] Adil Saleh: Yeah. You're trying to make this done for you, service more productized and make sure you have it streamlined in a way that it's sort of self serve purchasing and onboarding and all of that. And where you need on high ticket customers, where you need team, you will also build a team like your own customer success or account management teams, is it right? [00:25:47] Nathan Offner: Yeah, for the most part. Yeah. And just to add to that, essentially what it has evolved into in some ways I almost feel like it devolved into, but the way it evolved into was you can take it and run yourself. It's a product, you buy it, we'll build it, it's templated, take it, you run with it. The other is this is overly simplistic, but now the other is or because we're really freaking good at it, especially now that some other powers haven't been combined, we'll do it for you, basically to make it simple. Right. And it'll be much more effective. And then with that with the teams that you're talking about yeah. That's the growth stage now. And we're already bringing on other people who just want to join us. I think they're crazy, but they're wonderful people and they want to join us and like, no, we want to help. And then so now the team is getting bigger and it's entering into project management and customer basically customer success, in a sense, if you want to use that, or account managers because that way the customer service better, et cetera. [00:26:51] Adil Saleh: That makes sense. [00:26:53] Nathan Offner: Okay. [00:26:53] Adil Saleh: Nathan, it was a great time having you on today and it was really nice you being so genuinely open about your failures and things that you did wrong and then how you're trying to pivot smartly over time and trying to grow this business alongside with your smart leadership. So thank you very much for the time today. [00:27:15] Nathan Offner: Yeah, no, absolutely. I appreciate it. Thank you very much, Adil. [00:27:18] Adil Saleh: Have a good rest of your day. [00:27:20] Nathan Offner: Bye.

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