Operator Insights: Navigating the Path to Customer Loyalty, Dynamic Sales Teams, and Marketing Alignment

Operator Insights: Navigating the Path to Customer Loyalty, Dynamic Sales Teams, and Marketing Alignment

April 9th, 2024

We are lucky to meet and chat with accomplished individuals who have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. In this series we bring you the direct voices of operators in the trenches, allowing you to gain insights straight from the source. Whether you are looking for a boost to your Sales & Marketing, Finance, Operations & People, or a combination of all three, then read on and remember to subscribe to our newsletter so that you don’t miss out on future nuggets of wisdom!

Let’s dive in…

Say hello to Alexandra Chiaramonti

Alexandra is the VP & General Manager, EMEA at GoCardless—a leading Direct Debit provider that offers a trusted and widely-used payment method for recurring payments. They’re currently helping over 75,000 businesses get paid on time—which in reality translates to no late payments, stress, or hidden fees, just simple and secure direct bank payments.

We chatted with Alexandra to learn more about common struggles faced by companies, irrespective of whether they are startups or more established companies looking for the next phase of growth. There is a challenging path to navigate but with the right focus on identifying and nurturing your customer, getting and keeping talented salespeople, and ensuring an alignment with marketing then success is yours for the taking. If anyone knows about growing successful Fintech companies it is Alexandra whose experience spans over six years of supporting commercial international development at Criteo (the global commerce media company that enables marketers and media owners to drive better commerce outcomes) as well as her most recent role at GoCardless.


  • The art and science of selling are increasingly merging with the advancement of technology. Striking a balance between attracting and retaining talented salespeople, using AI to automate selected functions, and implementing a marketing strategy that not only builds credibility but extracts valuable customer insights from data is key.
    • Make sure your hiring strategy and compensation plans reflect your market fit—where your business is, what it needs right now, and what needs to be in place to enable growth.
  • As you focus on building your sales and marketing teams around customer success, a close relationship with the product teams is increasingly important. You need to be knowledgeable about what you are selling and listen to your customers so you can contribute to building a relevant product roadmap.
    • Use focus groups and collect data to help prioritize and get the features, functionality, and delivery dates your customers need.
  • Don’t forget the importance of great partners in creating more loyal customers - identify the partners you want (technical, commercial, delivery) and nurture them as you grow.

Partech asks and Alexandra answers:-

What have you learned about how to structure and build sales teams? What proportion is art vs. science?

Don’t start structuring or growing your sales team until you are clear on who you want them to target—what’s your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)—what the customers’ goals are and what is the message around the unique value you bring!

At each stage of growth, the structure and size of the sales team differed culminating in a greater focus on key account management concentrating on building strong customer relationships and understanding the customers’ whole business. To get as close to what is perfect for you, you need to know your market fit—what is best for your company at a point in time.

There are a range of factors when structuring and building sales teams but you need to always keep the focus on what value you add to the customer during any interaction and of course what structure your company currently can afford and support.

Today the art of selling is increasingly merged with science as advancements in technology constantly change the landscape. It is important to balance the human factor and touch with the smart use of AI and other sales tools to increase your reach and free up more time for your sales teams to spend in direct contact with customers—irrespective of whether this is one to two salespeople or a global network of salespeople.

A good salesperson needs to be personable and able to create trust but the customer insights from information automatically gleaned from the data held in their company enables the salesperson to add more value and make better decisions when approaching and talking to customers. This will lead to more loyal customers which means less customer churn and more repeat business. These insights will also indicate how and when your ICP has a new need or want allowing you to develop and expand your financial service offerings to promptly meet these needs.

You need to build trusted sales processes that can adapt as your sales team needs change and as the team grows—this includes ensuring marketing activity is aligned to create awareness and build credibility through enriched content that increases sales conversions and retention.

When I joined Criteo it was already established in Europe and the USA so we began looking at new locations and eventually, successfully launched in Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, and Australia. I helped expand Criteo’s advertiser business globally through key global accounts and expertise and ultimately led a global team that harmonized and managed the top global enterprise accounts which were present in 50+ countries across Europe, APAC, and the Americas. That said, my first sales experience was at Yahoo where in my 2.5 years there we underwent three rounds of structural changes from agency and independent organization structures to industry/vertical-based structures—which shows in reality nothing is ever perfect.

How does team structure feed into and impact compensation plans?

Driving efficiency and profitability starts with the right operating model, people, and retention strategies. The barriers to market entry for Fintech SaaS companies are still relatively low so the number of startups remains high.

In most cases, the risks and rewards of working in any startup are different from those in more established companies. You will want to attract talented salespeople, ideally with some experience and network in Fintech, who are comfortable dealing with a certain amount of ambiguity and can adapt. They will often be looking for excitement, be open and willing to work with founders, and carry out a wide range of tasks, and instead of larger base salaries, they will look for the chance to gain equity and impact the growth of the company. They’ll have entrepreneurial drive and will enjoy helping shape the culture of the company.

As the company grows you will want to consider different sales techniques and define roles within the sales cycle accordingly for example: a mix of hunters, farmers, SDRs (Sales Development Representatives), Account Managers, or roles around Customer Success. Each of these stages and roles requires complementary compensation packages.

You should determine base salaries and commission levels as part of your long-term strategy but may also want to consider introducing SPIFs (Sales Program Incentive Funds) which are temporary tactics/incentive programs used to boost revenue by offering gift cards, merchandise, experiences, or some other form of recognition to your salespeople for reaching certain specified targets or goals.

It’s good to keep in mind that a good comp plan drives good behaviors!

How do you approach customer loyalty and what techniques have you tried, tested, and would recommend for increasing retention and advocacy across sales and customer success?

When building customer loyalty, before looking at your internal functions, I want to highlight the importance of partnerships. At Criteo we managed to access almost every country in the world thanks to a global relationship with Google on the publisher side and on the advertiser side. We launched a campaign on the back of these partnerships and used it to show the power of our retargeting engine live during client meetings—a demo can be worth a thousand words and thousands of dollars in marketing and this wouldn't have been possible without strong partnerships.

As we all know closing a sale is expensive in time and money so it’s always better to retain customers. Make the most of new tools that provide a fantastic and simple way to keep users engaged with content based on intent: chatbots, AI-supported content based on industry trends, and industry insights. However, do not overlook the fact we need to bring these all together with our teams to continuously build customer loyalty. Having a joined-up structure between sales, marketing, and CS/Account management is key.

“I’ll always remember that one slide we never retired during my 6+ years at Criteo. We had one slide with a big number: 98! I often joked that we chose this number because we were a French company and we were really proud of winning the World Cup that year but 98 was the percentage of people coming to an e-commerce website without making a purchase. When you think about the money it costs to drive a new visit to a website - you'd better have a good strategy in place to reengage and eventually convert these 98% of prospects.”

You need to build an online and offline marketing machine to feed the top of your funnel by creating awareness, educating, and informing your customers to increase the credibility and trust associated with your brand through enriched content and engagement. However, there is a huge amount of value in advocacy where your clients sell your products on your behalf.

Very easy tips I’ve tried and that have worked include:

  • By default make sure every customer contract says you can use the name of the customer you sign on your website and all communications—most will keep it in.
  • Incentivize your hunters and farmers to get a client quote/event make sure it’s mentioned from the get-go.
  • Once you have strong testimonials use them even more so than your usual campaigns: at events, and on social media, you can have your clients speak for you.

Main takeaway

Ensure you have a defined ICP and clear view of what is being sold—only then build and put in place retention strategies for your sales teams who, along with aligned marketing and product teams and strategies can work with partners to create loyal and happy customers.

A bit about Partech.

Over 40 years, Partech has built a team of independent thinkers to drive forward the technology landscape. Today, the firm looks as unique as its approach, with a range of funds and a portfolio of 220 diverse businesses across sectors in 40 countries across four continents. The Partech team looks to challenge founders, working with them side-by-side to drive digital transformation forward.

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