By Ingvild Farstad, Community and Marketing Manager, Viking Venture
How House of Control reshaped its sales function due to Covid-19 and reached their all-time high sales record
There is no doubt that the last seven-eight months have been special and that Covid-19 has had a major impact on the world of business. In the initial phase it was all about making sure everyone was safe and healthy, then we went into a recovery phase and now we are thriving to get ready for the next normal.
It may be a long road to recovery for many businesses, but at the same time every crisis has a silver lining. We have worked from home, physical meetings have been replaced by virtual meetings and digitization has really hit the acceleration button. This has given companies the possibility to reshape their sales function by transitioning from field sales to inside sales.
One of our portfolio companies, House of Control have been a typical field sales company, and venturing out to potential customers have been their “winning” strategy. Their results have been strong, and they have felt that face-to-face meetings have been critical to sell. Then Covid-19 happened and things got turned upside down. We have had a chat with Christoffer Bergstrøm (in the picture above), VP Sales at House of Control, on how they took advantage of the crisis and successfully digitized their sales department and pivoted from field to inside sales.
In this article you will learn
- Lessons learned from reshaping the sales function at House of Control
- The importance of training your sales team
- The importance of a proper internal system to allow efficient interaction with customers
House of Control is the CFOs best friend. Its mission is to help the CFO and the ones responsible for the finance to gain complete control of all contracts, asset, obligations, reduce the risk associated with contract management and helping companies report correctly and efficiently in accordance with IFRS16 through our software solution – Complete Control.
Christoffer started his career at House of Control in January 2016. At that time, House of Control only had 20 employees compared to over 100 people today. He has been part of a great growth adventure the last four years and are now ready to be part of the listing of House of Control.
RESHAPING THE SALES FUNCTION BY TRANSITIONING FROM FIELD TO INSIDE SALES
House of Control have always been a typical field sales company. In fact, at one point you believed selling online was impossible and you did not want to go down that road. What went through your mind when Norway ‘shut down’ on March 12th, everything got turned upside down and ‘the House of Control-way’ was no longer possible?
– My first thought was that we were facing a huge challenge that no one has seen before, at least in our generation. We quickly realized that this situation would require a big shift for us, and that House of Control needed to completely reshape how we were selling our products and figure out how to adapt to the market as fast as possible. Fortunately, we are an organization that turns around quickly and are very adaptable. I have to give a big clap on the back for the work the organization have done.
What did you do then and how did you approach the new reality to find House of Controls silver lining in the midst of the crisis?
– There is a golden rule that says, “sell like your customer buy” – and that is what we are now doing. We turned the organization around from having 98 % face-to-face meetings to 100% online meetings. We also took a deep dive into our value proposition to really understand what value we bring to our customers. We wanted to make sure we pushed a product that actually helped our customers during a very uncertain time. We are very proud and grateful that Complete Control offers a product that aligns well in time of crisis. During times like these, companies are dependent on solutions that give answers to where they can make critical cost savings – this is House of Controls’ core business and offering. After two-three months with trying and failing we managed to turn the situation completely around and made all-time high sales record in June. This was due to an incredible effort by the team – just fantastic!
Golden Rule: Sell like your customer buy
You got your head above water, looked for alternatives and reached all-time high. What has been essential to be able to pivot from field sales to inside sales at House of Control?
– First, we had to change our mindset. We had to believe we could sell our products online and had to do some changes to our ‘sell story’ and make it more online friendly. In addition to this, it is crucial to have a proper internal system that allow your business to interact efficiently with your customers and potential customer. An example of that is digital signing in House of Control’s core product, Complete Control. This makes it smooth and easy for both the buy and sell side. Our customers can buy the products while being at his/her home office without accessing a printer or scanner, and the same is valid for the salesforce. It might not seem like a big thing, but it makes a big difference.
- Change of mindset
- Proper internal system to allow efficient interaction with customers
- Understand what has changed and make necessary changes to the ‘sell story’
What would you say is the biggest difference between fields sales and inside sales?
– The biggest differences between field sales and inside sales is the physical contact. I don’t think I speak only for myself when I say I miss meeting our customers in person, but with that said the new way of selling have made us extremely efficient. This is positive for us, but also the customers – it is a win-win situation. Now we can meet a customer in Tromsø and then jump right into a meeting in Kristiansand the next minute. It gives a flexibility that everyone gains from.
What has been you biggest challenges and how have you delt with them?
– Our biggest challenge has been to find and create a best practice for online meetings. In a physical sales meeting, it is easier to read the body language and signals that are critical. In every meeting we always ask the customer to turn their camera on. Sounds obvious, but this is often not the case. We have seen that using the camera is crucial and always work in split screen to see the customer throughout the whole meeting. Reading the body language and signals through a web camera is another ball game and takes practice so it has been important for us to train our sales teams.
Let’s talk about tools and training. Getting the right virtual tools is essential to communicate with the customers and each other. How much thought have you put into having the right virtual tools and what tools are you actually using?
– It has been essential for us to have good virtual tools, especially in times like these. At House of Control we use Teams to communicate with the customers and for internal use. This is a good fit for us and works perfect.
Was it just hit the download-the-tool-button and you were good to go or what have you done to help your sales organization manage and adjust to the new situation and new way of selling?
– Nothing happens by itself. We have done a lot of training with our sales teams. In the beginning we did a lot of training, both on the technical aspect with Teams and on “How to sell Complete Control in times of crisis”. We set up a system with daily follow-up of all the sales representative to understand the response and pulse of the market and to make needed adjustments to our pitch.
How about sales training? How do you run training sessions at House of Control?
– Sales training has always been very important at House of Control. We are a sales savvy organisation and take a lot of pride in how we operate. Recruiting is difficult and expensive so for us it is very important to maintain and develop our sales teams. This is also the reason we have launched ‘The HoC Academy’, which is developed by all the sales managers in the company. The content is based on all the great knowledge and experience from across all the markets we operate, which is set into a system.
Do you mind sharing your top 3 valuable learnings from the transition?
- Never lose sight of your goal, even though you’re in a storm so thick you can’t see exactly where you are going
- Have faith in the people around you. It is amazing how fast people shift their mindset if you give them tools to handle the situation
- Make sure you build a strong organization with great employees and management; it can handle everything
I just have one more question before we end our chat. Is remote selling as effective as selling in-person?
– Absolutely! You save money and time not travelling so much. I do believe though that the human being is a social creature and decisions is built with trust through personal contact. It will always be a balance between doing things online and face-to-face. That being said, we have learned a lot on how to make our sales processes more efficient by using virtual tools, and I think that is positive for us, and our customers.
The pandemic has certainly shaken up old structures and most companies have needed to find new ways of operating. From believing that face-to-face meetings was the only way to sell, House of Control quickly digitized their sales department by pivoting and reached all-time high in June by doing only online sales. A shift in mindset internally at House of Control and not the least their customers willingness to dive into digital solutions to move forward has been two important ingredients to this success.
House of Control & Viking Venture
Viking Venture invested in House of Control in 2016. The company has done a great job in building a scalable and international sales organization with specialized roles within lead generation, new sales (hunters) and customer success (farmers), which we believe is one of the key steps software companies must take to scale internationally.
House of Control’s sales organisation is highly specialized, illustrated in the picture above
We help Nordic software companies scale. That’s all we do.
Ingvild Farstad, Community and Marketing Manager, Viking Venture
Ingvild manages Viking’s software community, which offers a unique environment for our portfolio companies to exchange knowledge, ideas and experiences within the most important processes for software companies.