AMA: Sales Director @ Hubspot Asia, Romka Walkowiak
This AMA is an abridged recap from an episode of the APAC Marketers Roundtable podcast.
Romka Walkowiak is currently the South-East Asia Sales Director at HubSpot, a leading CRM platform that provides software and support to help businesses grow better all over the world.
In our podcast episode, Romka shared with us how she develops a go-to-market sales strategy from scratch from both a strategic and operational perspective.
Keep reading to learn from her experiences with:
- Running pilot tests to evaluate the viability of market expansion
- Building & localizing a go-to-market strategy for APAC
- Coaching cross-cultural teams in APAC
How do you come up with a regional sales strategy from scratch?
The fundamental principle is to have a mission & vision of a true north & how it fits into the global strategy. They must connect.
This is key as any go-to-market strategy needs a budget and organizations will prioritise and invest in plans that have a potential of progressing the global strategy.
Next, data is required to feed into your regional go-to-market strategy, specifically knowledge of your market and your customer. We can also leverage on what is happening in the other regions & carry over the learnings based on whatever is relevant for your markets.
Finally, organizational alignment around your execution: marketing, sales, post-sales, because at the end of the day, every single customer flows through the entire journey with us as an organization.
Growing a region is more than just acquisition. We want a wonderful customer experience end-to-end so that these customers will return when the time for renewal comes.
When you are gathering data, what are you looking for and how does that help you form your strategy?
If historical data is available, I first want to know:
1) How my region has been performing
2) What is working and what isn't
3) What are the trends?
This gives you a grounding on the state of the business at the moment.
Next, understand forward-looking data: what are the projections for the future?
These will shape how the go-to-market strategy will look like. However, this is just internal data, and internal data only shows part of the picture and has to be married with external data.
External data tells us about the microeconomics of the markets or segments and what are the projections of the region. To do that, sources such as IDC, CB Insights help.
However, what I will warn against is analysis paralysis!
Always keep your eyes on the north star to understand what is the problem you are trying to solve. Once you have enough answers to the problem, that is an indication that you have enough data available to shape your strategy.
How do companies test the viability of entering a market like APAC?
I’m a big fan of pilots - testing out new ideas by first, driving success in a smaller group and a contained environment. I once piloted a regional team across APAC for a specific segment of long tail, low value and high volume customers who were not getting the right level of attention in the sales team, ultimately leading to high churn rates.
To address this, we tested a team of just 2 full-time reps who were specifically going to look after a smaller group of customers in the particular segment. In this case, if things were to go bad, we would assimilate these reps into a different part of the business.
However, we saw was an increase in customer satisfaction to the segment of customers assigned to the 2 reps and the churn went down to the average of the business at that time.
There is always a risk in entering a new market.The more important thing is to track how we are progressing with the go-to-market and assess that in the shape of metrics aligned across the organization. Then, it becomes clear when is the moment to pull the plug and cut the losses.
Can you share a situation where the global go-to-market strategy has to be iterated for APAC?
In one of my previous organizations, we were trying to increase market penetration in India.
While there were a lot of learnings from other markets which were applied to India, what the team did not fully understand was how the customer consumes information and our product.
It turned out that the biggest roadblock was internet connectivity!
Initially, customers were receiving good marketing content and going through the sales process but they could not complete the sale because they knew that the product was not going to perform as it did in the other markets.
Therefore, working with the product teams, we developed a version of the product that had lower connectivity quality and it worked really well.
This was not an overnight process, and it goes to my earlier point about making sure the regional strategy is aligned with global. Attaining the buy-in of the product team was done through our global stakeholders.
We had to show the potential of the India market and how they can grow in the future. It also helped that India’s growth was aligned to the global mission, vision and growth strategy of the organization.
Are there differences in coaching sales reps from different cultures?
Always connect on a human level first, instead of figuring what technique works best in each region. The key is to approach conversations with positive intent, seek to understand first and build from there. In this context of coaching sales reps, it is one size fits one.
It should be about learning who the individual was, who the team as a unit was, because each team has its own dynamics and each individual will have their own motivations.
What should an ideal relationship between marketing and sales look like?
As a leader, when you've done the work of communicating the go-to-market strategy, a lot of things will fall into place. If teams are aligned, then they have a common purpose and do whatever they need to do within their own function to achieve the goal they had agreed upon.
Practically speaking, to operationalize this, there needs to be a common measurement of success, as closely linked to revenue as possible.
What also works well is a monthly or quarterly check-in between both functions, listening to feedback from each other and incorporating them into the next steps.
What is your framework for making career decisions? Is there a north star?
Firstly, there needs to be clarity of personal goals and priorities, which may change as life goes on.
Understanding your north star is important because all elements of your life are going to feed into this and your career is just a part of it.
Editors note: you may also be interested in this podcast featuring APAC marketing leaders and their career advice:
It is really tough to come up with a north star but engaging a coach and helping me through a self-discovery exercise did help me understand what I really want.
Do not rush this process and it should make you feel comfortable that it is what you really want. Once that was specified, the next step is to have a plan in place to execute towards that goal. This ensures we go closer to the goal we set and should have some type of success metrics defined to see how we are progressing.
That being said, it will be hard if you don’t know what goes into the plan to reach your goals. In this case, having a coach that you know is going to challenge you and pressure test your idea or a mentor in different industries or different areas you will need to develop more within your organization will be crucial to scope out your plan.
Romka Walkowiak is the Asia Sales Director for HubSpot, the CRM platform used by over 100,000 scaling businesses around the world. Prior to HubSpot, Romka was a sales leader at LinkedIn, RedHat and ServiceSource, where she built and led teams across EMEA, ANZ and APAC.
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