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Build What You Can't See

Mary Grothe April 28 2022

Meet Host, Mary Grothe

Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.


Don't Have Time to Listen, Read The Full Transcription.

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Mary Grothe: Hey everyone, this is Mary Grothe - Founder and CEO - and you're listening to the Revenue Radio® podcast brought to you by House of Revenue®. Each week, we'll talk about common revenue challenges and how to get past them, share real-world experiences, and get a glimpse into my life as a CEO scaling my own business. If you're a struggling entrepreneur, or just an entrepreneur looking to be inspired, this podcast is for you. I'll give you honest, unfiltered, and practical insights into growing your business and getting past your revenue plateau.

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In searching for inspiration for today, I picked up the book "Zero to One" by Peter Thiel. I didn't even get through the introduction. I was already so inspired. I will read a couple of sections to you and then tell you what was presented to me. The beginning of the book starts with, "Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page won't make a search engine, and the next Mark Zuckerberg won't create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them." That's what we'll talk about today.

Of course, it's easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from one to the next level, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from zero to one. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange. Until they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, American companies will fall in the future, no matter how big their profits remain today.

What happens when we've gained everything we had from the fine-tuning of the old lines of business that we've inherited? Unlikely as it sounds, the answer threatens to be far worse than the crisis of 2008. Today's best practices lead to dead ends. The best paths are new and untried. As an entrepreneur, I have known for years that one of my favorite things to do is to create a new concept, a new path, a new way of doing things, almost to a fault. It's quite difficult for me to do the same process repeatedly.

Having sold for a Fortune 1000 Company, I got frustrated. They kept asking us to hit a bigger number than we did the quarter or a year before. The market was changing. The landscape was changing but the product in the way that we were going to mark it wasn't changing. I was very young when I started that career. I was 22 as a sales assistant. When I went into sales, I knew nothing about the competitive landscape or the sales profession. I learned it that year. I was really eyes wide open to the opportunity and did exceptionally well.

After three years in a sales role, I became fatigued. I left a really great career because it became hard to sell the product and services. The competition had leapfrogged the company I was selling for. Everything was so archaic and outdated. The user interface was ancient. The technology wasn't there. The price hadn't gone down. Therefore I was in the market trying to sell a product that was more expensive and worse than the competition. There was no innovation on how to take it to market. No new verticals. In fact, they started to take them away.

One pathway to market was partnering with brokers, and insurance brokers have great relationships with small and medium-sized businesses. Well, they took that away. They said the reps couldn't partner with outside brokers anymore because the company I was selling for went into the business of insurance and health insurance. They wouldn't let us partner with outside brokers. It's like, "Man, if you're taking away every way that we can be creative and you're not doing your part to make this a product that people want. You're asking your sales team to be magicians and do the impossible."

I was frustrated when I left. I was burnt out. I went to work for a startup. It was one of my clients. Suddenly, I went from the rigid boundaries, gates, and boundaries of red tape corporate red tape to working with a startup with no rules. Everything was on the table. Sure we can do that. That's where I learned what it meant when someone says, "It's harder to turn a big ship. It's much easier to turn a small ship."

I fell in love with startups. Like a jet ski, you can go in many different directions to startups. I fell in love with that you can pivot, shift, and change at the drop of a hat. That meant I would lead sales and marketing, strategy, and execution. I could immediately take the feedback loop from the market, interpret it, and then implement changes.

It was life-giving to be with a startup. That fast-paced, high-energy, high-urgency side of me, pretty much all of me, found a home. That startup I worked for; we were able to scale it. We quadrupled the company's size in seven months. I have to do this again. That's when I started my first company. I remember meeting with startup entrepreneurs who were already so stuck. They're such an early stage. They had already dug themselves into these deep trenches with a go-to-market strategy or how they had designed their brand, product, or service.

The first thing I would do is come in and evaluate if this is even something people want to buy. There are a lot of visionary entrepreneurs that are very, very smart. They build a product or service that they think the market wants, but they don't do the testing to confirm the market wants it. They raise money, pour their life savings and their 401 K, mortgage, whatever, into making the company successful. They never had a product or service that anyone wanted to buy, so it's crazy, right? Yet, it's so common. Going from zero to one versus the one to whatever next level.

I can't believe I'm half a page into this book. I'm already fired up and inspired to bring my thoughts on this topic to you. I want to take a moment and explain what goes on in my brain. When I look at a business and its strategy, I see building blocks. I see a complete picture with a bunch of blocks. I look at all the variables and components of the business. I break it down to understand how it makes money, how it's constructed inside and out, how the product is product or service is created, how it's delivered, the supply chain for that, all the delivery methods and speed to delivery.

I have to look at all the data. I love math, which is funny because I can't do it without a calculator. It's hilarious. I can't do the simplest math or multiplication on the spot. I'm sure I could do it well if I'm forced to. I've learned to use the calculator and take some shortcuts in life. It's a lot easier. I love the data and love breaking down to the tiniest piece of granular data that I can to understand the actual inside and out of this company, what's happening internally, and in the external marketplace. Get all the data points from a competitive analysis standpoint and their customer.

Many companies get the voice of customer surveys. Go talk to your customers. They will tell you what they think about it, what's missing, or where you're winning. Being able to compile all that data is critical. I can visualize the whole company. I can close my eyes and see all the variables inside and out, like in building blocks. It's a very complex problem that I love staring at. I start challenging myself to solve it. I will take all those building blocks mentally, usually with a whiteboard. I will break them all apart. My goal is to put them back together to have better revenue infrastructure, more profitably, better product or service, go-to-market, and people in the right seats.

That is fun for me. In fact, that's life for me - going back to the drawing board and mapping out the vision. Literally, the whiteboard is my best friend. Reading the front page of this book, "Zero to One," really made me see that. The strategy here is to build what you can't see and build something people want. Why is that important? Two things, it has to be rooted in customer need, so that's based on what someone wants. Don't put yourself in a super-saturated market if you want a quick pathway to winning. Figure out your positioning out of the gate.

Build what you can't see. Innovate. Don't just build the same of what someone else or many people have already built, then just say yours is better. You have to do something better, not just say it. Be kind to your marketer. Differentiate. Find the positioning, Find the wedge between you in the competition, and create space for yourself in the market. That's where your positioning comes from.

I can't wait to read the rest of this book. I'm already inspired. I'll have to report back to you all when I get further into it. Here's what's present for me when I think about building something people can't see and building something people want. Do you know it can help tell the future leading indicators? Leading indicators will tell you what the lagging is going to be. Guess what people can't see the future, right?

When I first started working with a company, my desire was to dig as deep as possible, have all the numbers, data, infrastructure, competition, the customers' voices, interview employees, and get all the data points that I possibly could. Often, it's what I don't see. It's what's in between all of the data because they wouldn't have me there if it was going well. Let's be honest. If everything is going well, they may have built something already great that people want. If I'm being brought in, it's usually because the company can't figure out how to scale.

I look at all those variables and figure out what is not on the paper right now and what is not on the whiteboard? What has this company not done? What is the market not done? What have the competitors not done? Is the market asking for what the buyer is asking for? It goes back to the voice of the customer surveys, understanding and doing primary market research, getting the competitive landscape, and truly understanding the need in the market. What is not currently being addressed in the market?

It's also looking at leading indicators. Leading indicators can be a way to interpret the data and look at what it's telling you, not what you can see yet. Based on the data, where can this go? As for me, I like reconstructing packages, if you will. It's how a product or service is packaged before determining its marketing. What is the actual product or service? Do people like it? Do they get good results by using, consuming, taking part, and having it? That's really important. Hopefully, that's why you're in business.

It's shocking to realize that not every young early-stage company has an established feedback loop. I understand some companies are at such an early stage. They have five customers. But still, even if you have one customer, you should have a feedback loop. You should also have a customer advisory board. Whether they're customers or not, people in the market are your prospective buyer or your buyer. Early on, you should have a customer advisory board. You should have ideal customers sitting in a seat, giving you feedback and letting you into their world so that you can intimately understand what they want.

Think about focus groups, like the big toy companies out there. They do these unbelievable focus groups with groups of kids. They build many prototypes and then watch the kids play with them. They see what the kids want and ask the kids what would make it better. Why do you think that toy companies do so well? Why aren't you doing that in your business? Where's your advisory board?

Where are the tinkerers, the people who can play in your technology's sandbox and tell you what's missing? Where are the people that you want to offer a discounted option to be on your service to try it out, get the feedback loop, and understand if it's ready for market? Do you just create many things and then put them to market and be like, "Well, I really hope they like it." Whoa, scary. I wouldn't be doing that. Not on my watch, not with my money.

I look back to our company's humble beginnings, House of Revenue®, when it was Sales BQ®. Three brave CEOs allowed me to be their Fractional VP of Sales. I had an idea. That's all that it was, but I had to test it. I went to three brave CEOs that had sales problems. I said, "Look, pay me $3,000 a month, and I will work for you about 15 hours a week, maybe 20. I'm going to build up your sales department. I'm going to do this for two other companies at the same time. I'm going to figure out what this Fractional VP of Sales thing looks like."

When I entered the market four and a half years ago, I knew that there was just scratching the surface. There was another Fractional VP of Sales company out there, Sales Acceleration. Then there was another one I learned about later, Sales QB®, which was hilarious because we were Sales BQ®. I didn't know about those companies when I started.

When I got my foot in the door and started testing it out, I was like, "Okay, I think this thing has some legs." We do some market research and see what else is out there a little bit backward. I should have done the market research first, but it doesn't matter. We obviously hit the ground running and had great success with it. I just went for it. It was my hunch. I was like, "We got to test this."

While I was doing it, I was doing market research. I was starting to understand the market and the competitive landscape to see if there was really anyone doing it entirely like I was. I was in constant communication with my three early customers. I was trying to understand what they liked, didn't like, what else they wanted to see, or what they wanted to see less of. It's fine-tuning how they wanted it and understanding those success metrics. What needs to happen if we deem this a success for six months? Then, I can go back into it. It was an incredible journey for the first few months until I finally felt comfortable. I'm like, "Alright, we got something."

Some of the ways I made it different were by embedded coaching, training, and consulting in one service. I had found in the market some very prominent and talented sales trainers. All they did was training. There were some talented sales coaches out there. All they did was coaching, which is different than training. Then, of course, a massive industry in sales, recruiting, and sales consulting. I did not find somebody that did all, so I went on a mission. That's how we started to scale initially.

It was with a new fresh creative idea, doing it a different way. We were doing it in a way that we didn't see that the market was doing it. It was based on creating something new, but it was rooted in customer needs. This is what those people wanted. The price point was so low that we exploded with success. That's all we knew. It was priced too low, a waitlist to come on board. We just started raising prices. I never wasted a moment. I never wasted one sentence of customer feedback to iterate and improve.

It was a constant feedback loop. Every time we saw a better way to do something, we implemented it right away. We would sometimes have 10 substantial changes in a week or month. We moved at the speed of lightning. It was incredible how quickly we built the service offering to this company. I know it can take years for companies to create a mature product or service offering. I'm so proud that we could do that by 2020, just over two years in business. We were able to launch the entire model, which we've stayed with. There's been tweaks and changes. We've fine-tuned it, but we haven't changed the core of the offering or the marketing messaging.

We continue to win. We continue to flourish. We're always looking for fine-tuning in all of the steps of our process. The market is changing rapidly - new technologies, processes, methodologies, and ways of going to market. Our team just constantly challenges ourselves. Is there a better way? Is there a better way? Is there a better way? This is how we did it last year with another company? Shouldn't we consider doing something a little bit different and innovative? Yes. The answer is always yes.

As I close today, the main thought here is to build what you can't see. It's not that you can't take some elements of what you're seeing in other models. If you're building what you can already see, you're just copying someone else. Don't just carbon copy and want to find one piece, "Oh, we'll just do this one little part differently, or we'll just say we're better, faster, or better customer service."

If your website says you have world-class customer service, you should probably change that. I'm sure you've got 1000 competitors that say the same thing. That's not differentiation. Get to the core of the problem you solve, how it's innovative, how you're doing it, and no one else is. Build what you can't see. Make sure that it's rooted in customer needs. Build what people are willing to spend money on to address or fix a problem in their lives.

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Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you're interested in being on our show or want to learn more about how we can help you scale your company, connect with us at or with me Mary Grothe spelled G-R-O-T-H-E on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

Connect with House of Revenue® on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

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