Scott Willson – Forbury
Sherif Hassan – Re-Leased
Greg Preston – Preston Rowe Paterson
Katrina Newcombie – Investa
Simon Hayes: (00:14)
[inaudible 00:00:14] everyone. The never ending challenge of startups and scale-ups is getting more customers. Who are they? Where are they? How do you get them interested? How do we close a sale? And on the other hand, the customers or the end users are grappling with their own challenges. Do we need new technology to change? Should we buy or build? Do we need to significantly change the way we do our workflows each day? Will we need to have a huge training effort to implement the new technology?
Simon Hayes: (00:46)
Hi, my name is Simon Hayes, and I’m the secretary of the PropTech Association. And it’s great to have you here for today’s panel discussion on the secrets to buying and selling PropTech in the commercial property space.
Simon Hayes: (00:59)
Before introducing our panellists, I’d especially like to thank our main sponsors, Stone & Chalk, who have made this event possible, and our foundation partners of Quarry Bank, Asher’s Lawyers, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia, PEXA, and Webbit. Now, most importantly, to introduce our panellists.
Simon Hayes: (01:19)
To share their experiences and provide great insights from a PropTech perspective, we have got two New Zealand companies making headway in Australia and overseas. The first of these PropTechs is Forbury, and we have Scott Wilson, who is the CEO, on the panel today. Hi, Scott.
Scott Willson: (01:38)
Good afternoon. How’s it going?
Simon Hayes: (01:39)
Good. And then, the second PropTech is Re-Leased, and we have Sherif Hassan who is the head of APEC. Hi, Sherif.
Sherif Hassan: (01:48)
Hey, thanks for having me.
Simon Hayes: (01:50)
And providing their valuable perspective from a customer or end user point of view, we have two very well-known and respected Australian companies. The first of these companies is Preston Rowe Paterson. We have Greg Preston, who is the chairman and managing director on the panel today. Hi, Greg.
Greg Preston: (02:09)
Hi, Simon. Thanks for having us.
Simon Hayes: (02:10)
Thank you. And the second company that needs no introduction is InVesta, and we have Katrina Newcombie, who is the National Head of Asset Services. Hi, Katrina.
Katrina Newcombie: (02:22)
Hi, [crosstalk 00:02:22].
Simon Hayes: (02:24)
Hi. So welcome everyone and thank you. And I should say, look, when we’re talking, if anyone wants to jump in and certainly has things to add, please do so. Please jump in at any time and interrupt me. That’s absolutely fine. So look, I really thought we’d just start with PropTech, and I thought we’d start with Scott. So Scott, let’s start with you and let’s find out some of Forbury’s secrets, shall we? Perhaps if you can provide, say, an elevator pitch for Forbury and then a quick overview of the company’s market, marketing and sales approach, target customers, and growth over the years.
Scott Willson: (03:01)
Yeah, sure. Hi, everyone. So Forbury is a commercial real estate appraisal evaluation software solution built for and validated by institutional investors in commercial real estate. So that’s meant investors and valuers, and that’s taken us over the last two decades to get to this point. So our software is used for capital transactions analysis for external evaluation instructions and sometimes asset management. We serve international markets. We began here in Australia, and we also have customers in Singapore, Japan, the UK, and elsewhere as well. So our target customers are really the owners of commercial real estate, particularly those engaged in the buying and selling of commercial real estate. So if you imagine a big due diligence exercise, maybe a group that’s looking to cover a whole heap of the market with a small group of people, our software is used by those groups.
Scott Willson: (03:53)
It’s also used by evaluators, where we’re seeing a very sophisticated set of requirements and a lot of need for an edge case analysis solution as well that can handle a lot of complexity. Our approach to sales and marketing is a reasonably new discipline for Forbury. We’ve been a product-minded engineering-led business since inception. So until recently, I would have characterised our sales and marketing approach as quite reactive, but that’s changing. And that has to because we’re approaching newer markets, and no one in these new markets knows who we are. And how could they? So right now, this is a big focus of this business, and in particular how we can scale the business as a result of that investment.
Scott Willson: (04:31)
So a bit of a sense on our growth story, we are growing around about 6% year on year, our user base. And to give you a sense on the size of the business, we’re processing around about half a million evaluations per year from around about 12,000 properties. We are operating in five times zones, three languages, and we are spread. I have hybrid office locations in seven different countries.
Simon Hayes: (04:54)
Oh, my goodness. That is fantastic. And say, when did you… So a good question would be is you started, you’ve transition into, say, this new sort of approach to marketing and sales because you have to. And sort of what were the triggers around that, just to go explore that for a little bit?
Scott Willson: (05:14)
Yeah, sure. So a big trigger has been we have invested heavily, I guess, in a product-centric business for a long time. And we have spent a lot of time refining and refining and scaling out that solution. So it’s meant a lot of money and a lot of effort, a lot of eyeballs, a lot of late nights, and the business spent on building out those edge case requirements, making the product faster, making the product simpler to use, handling more use cases. The flip end and really, I guess, the augmentation of a thousand marketing coach in the business is in response to the investment we’ve made to really start to, I guess, get us to a point where we feel confident putting the foot down.
Simon Hayes: (05:54)
And certainly, with that growth that you are having, say, in Australia and overseas, do you feel like… What sort of, do you think, you’d put down to the key factors for success that you’ve seen so far in your growth?
Scott Willson: (06:08)
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think there’s a lot of lessons. And I think if I look back on the time that I’ve spent in this business, there’s a lot of mistakes that I’ve made as well. I think what’s really important to understand, I guess, in terms of how I’ve played a role in it is I’ve been the one doing founder sales. And a big transition point for any PropTech or any startup, especially a SAS business, is getting to a point where other people in the business can sell the product or service rather than just the founder. It’s very important in the early days for the founder to be able to sell the product because if the founder can’t do it, who else can? Equally, you’re getting a lot of product feedback and intel in those early days as well.
Scott Willson: (06:50)
So look, I think one of the key lessons that has taken me a long time to get to is having that very intimate understanding of the problem that you’re solving and how your product solves it. So that’s the old adage: people don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. It took me a long time to learn this lesson. I was so eager to jump into demonstrations and present features, whereas now, it’s very much a benefits-focused pitch that we give.
Scott Willson: (07:19)
So during that founder stage of Forbury, I was pitching and really didn’t understand it. And I was so thrilled in the solution. I was eager to show and demonstrate the product. When I pitch Forbury now, and it’s usually for a slightly different purpose and audience, I usually don’t even get to the product. I’ll talk to stories about where we’ve come from as a business. I’ll talk to the customers, the customer segments that we help, the pain points we solve for them. And as quickly as possible, get a conversation going. Because until you actually understand who you’re talking to and what problems they have, it can be very difficult to present any option in front of them because it really comes down to if there’s a match, and if there’s a match for what you might present next.
Simon Hayes: (07:59)
Okay. That’s a great insight, thank you. Because it’s really, in one sense, coming back to that rule and the customer point of view and finding out what their problems are, as you said, with a quarter inch hole. It’s actually finding out their problem rather than actually pitching a solution, which they might not have a problem to. That’s what it sounds like, what you’ve learnt over the years. Well, I might move on.
Scott Willson: (08:24)
Simon Hayes: (08:24)
Sorry, go ahead. Sorry.
Scott Willson: (08:27)
Look, I think I’d just like to emphasise one other point there as well. What’s really important in that stage is about getting really, really good at discovery and not confusing this with the pitch as well. So if you get an inbound inquiry, or if you’re introduced to someone who might have a need for a product like yours, another mistake that’s commonly made is mixing up the pitch with discovery. So if you imagine a scenario where someone has reached out, they want to learn more about your product, and you’re interested in helping them solve that pain point they have. And you just know, or you’re just convinced that your product is right for them. You don’t need to ask any questions. You get straight to, “Here’s my killer app and here’s how it’s going to solve all your problems.”
Scott Willson: (09:06)
So what we… We don’t do that. What we do is we get obsessed about discovery. So who is this company that we’re talking to? What makes them unique? What’s special about their company? Who got in touch? Why did they get in touch? Did they use Forbury before? And if so, when? If they didn’t, how did they hear about us? Why now? Why is the timing important for them? And also, have they considered X, Y, and Z about how they might think about a solution or bringing on a solution like Forbury? So trying to get really good at recognising what’s the discovery and putting a big difference between that discovery point and the pitch itself is a really important one. And it’s a difficult skill for startups to learn. It certainly took us time to get to that point.
Simon Hayes: (09:49)
Good point. Yeah. That’s very good, great insight. Before going on to Sherif to divulge some of Re-Leased sales secrets, I wanted to explore the buying approach with Greg. Now, the reason why is that PRP has recently implemented Forbury into its workflow. And so I was interested in sort of exploring that and the reasons, the decisions around it. So… But before getting into that, could perhaps Greg, you could tell us a little bit about PRP, but also your use of technology and the implementation at Forbury?
Greg Preston: (10:32)
Thanks, Simon. We were a startup 30 years ago, so in the modern sense, it’s probably a little bit a while, some time ago that we actually got our business going. But we’ve now got 32 offices around Australia. Across all the SA class sectors too, we operate in terms of evaluation advisory of business, from every business through commercial, retail, industrial [inaudible 00:10:55] infrastructure, what [inaudible 00:10:56], what shipping ports and what not. [inaudible 00:10:58] And because of that, we do need to be fine with using the latest technology that’s available to us. And Forbury, by way of example, we’ve been doing our own [inaudible 00:11:15] cash flow type valuations for the business. We’ve kept our business offer before other businesses. And developing it ourselves and trying to augment and make what we had better, we invested a lot of money doing it. And when there’s a product like Forbury that’s specifically…
Greg Preston: (11:35)
It sort of got to a point where we were taking money out of [inaudible 00:11:41], not our core business, which is causing a real strain on actually building software to a point. We also had other applications that we used quite regularly. And we got a code runner on our to develop our product to do evaluations across all sectors. So [inaudible 00:12:04] software. It’s a [inaudible 00:12:08] inspection system. And we recently, as COVID hit last year, we partnered with Velocity, another [inaudible 00:12:15] company and were able to do evaluation, aggregation, etc, and developed a spacing app where we could inspect properties with COVID [inaudible 00:12:26] and photograph [inaudible 00:12:30]. So the onset of COVID sort of radically advanced a few things, which has been fabulous. And I think there’s a bit more coming in the PropTech area with things like that. But we also use other softwares because just… We need to be met up with the times all the time and [inaudible 00:12:52]. Yeah.
Simon Hayes: (12:54)
And did you… So just in terms of the process… And I appreciate, certainly, it was great insight into sort of your use of technology. And certainly, you’ve got the internal and the external process going in terms of looking and using and adapting as quickly as possible to the changing market. What would be… Yeah, in terms of, say, you can use Forbury as an example. What was the internal process and decision making that you have approached the use in purchasing Forbury or, say, other technologies that you are looking at, sort of just generally?
Greg Preston: (13:29)
Yeah. Forbury’s a good example. I mean, we were doing our own [inaudible 00:13:35], but it wasn’t keeping up with the advances that go with our products continually upgrading and [inaudible 00:13:42] just to a business like ours. In terms of revaluing assets, where the [inaudible 00:13:50] into the system, which is very sophisticated, in terms of dealing with some of the things we have to deal with day by day, like [inaudible 00:13:58] very complicated. In terms of [inaudible 00:14:04] Forbury, [inaudible 00:14:04]. So we got to a point where we were developing our own [inaudible 00:14:08] that Forbury had. And a lot of our clients, like the institutional property owners, [inaudible 00:14:15] all the rates and so on. [inaudible 00:14:22] or used the product because it’s very easy to share information. And the date upon which we rely to do what we do using the Forbury platform, so it’s become [inaudible 00:14:33] to us to stop the pathway we’ve been going down. So it’s a good investment, getting onto half a million dollars for us. But I don’t think I’ve had the full price in six years, and it just gets [inaudible 00:14:47].
Simon Hayes: (14:47)
Greg Preston: (14:47)
Simon Hayes: (14:50)
Well, that’s good.
Greg Preston: (14:50)
Simon Hayes: (14:51)
So I might move on just quickly to Sherif because I wanted to discuss Re-Leased. Hi, Sherif. Perhaps you can provide a quick elevator pitch for Re-Leased and then just a quick overview around the company’s marketing and sales approach, target customers, and growth of sales over the years.
Sherif Hassan: (15:11)
Sure, yeah. So Re-Lease is a Cloud based application dedicated to improving the operations of commercial property managers, whether it be a commercial agency or a landlord or an institution managing their portfolio in house. So we do this by centering around three key outcomes, business outcomes. So first of all. it’s dropping what we describe as the cost of management, or by streamlining the admin process for both property management and accounting functions by providing a central integrated system where it’s accessible for all stakeholders. So from the accounts team, to the property management team, to the management team, but also externally, with the tenants and the landlords. So all stakeholders involved with management of that lease have access to information as and when they need it.
Sherif Hassan: (15:54)
And we’ve also invested a lot of development and R&D into the actual user experience side, which we actually think is one of the biggest factors in our success. Secondly, aside from the efficiency gains, we’re invested in mitigating the actual risks of key lease events, access control to key users, centralising information, which is typically spread across spreadsheets or in people’s heads. And then they leave the business, information gets lost, and things get missed. And finally, it’s actually measuring and tracking and analysing the information about the property leases and team performance in a real time dashboard with live metrics. So what we really want to do is allow decision makers to have the information at a rate they’ve never had before. So really, live and flexible information that can be displayed in a number of ways to really allow for that data-led decision making, based on the performance.
Sherif Hassan: (16:48)
And also, we benchmark it across our release database. Because we’ve reached a critical mass of information about leases and a lot of the geographies that we operate in, we’re able to provide that third party neutral perspective on what’s happening across the market with regards to leases and lease terms, lease lengths, all these types of metrics. So with that, a bit about the company. We started very similar to Forbury. We started in New Zealand, probably a little bit later, back in 2013. Quickly extended across to Australia and the UK, and also across to the US now as well. So I think we have roughly about five or six hybrid offices, as Scott described them.
Sherif Hassan: (17:33)
And we are, I think… The latest figures, we are processing about $7 billion of rent per year across some 200,000 leases. So that’s where, really, we’re stepping more into that data space where we have access to a lot of information. And as… Coming into our own internal operations, because we’ve got those two key market segments being property management companies, but then landlords and institutional landlords or those who manage it in house, we’re able to offer that data back in a value add way.
Sherif Hassan: (18:10)
Our marketing and sales function has really developed as well over the time that we’ve been operating on the market. And I think it’s actually almost typical in New Zealand businesses that we focus a lot on getting the products right from very early on, and almost want to get it perfect before we scale up the marketing and sales operations. Whereas if you look at the kind of the American way to go, as soon as they’ve got an MVP, they’ve rolled out 50 salespeople, and they’re ready to go to market. So I think it’s a nice middle ground to that, and we’re really kind of developed that and made a lot of mistakes along the way in learning not only who our customers are, but who our salespeople are, who works in these types of positions and understanding what’s the best fit to go to their markets.
Sherif Hassan: (19:00)
So with how technology has gone now, we know that 60% of the actual buying process is done before they even get to us or even speak to us. So it’s about, first of all, having that really strong marketing engine that’s packaging, everything that… Any type of touchpoint they have with us in the marketplace tells a story and is leading them down the path which we want to offer. But it’s also about give, give, give before you can get. So whether it’s providing that value in terms of data, providing that value in terms of insights, and really demanding that time once you’ve earned that credibility. And we do that from both directions.
Sherif Hassan: (19:41)
So starting off, we were very much inbound driven. We relied a lot on, inn terms of our growth, I think we had very similar growth figures to Forbury.And that was really based on our integrations with other softwares and just our word of mouth in the market. But we realised, in the last couple of years, that for us to really achieve the goals and enter in the markets and really tackle some other competitors which might have been there for a long time. And we’re starting to become a little bit outdated. We’ve had to become very good from an outbound perspective and really being able to get in front of the people that we want to talk to as and when they want to be spoken to. And so there’s been a lot of trial and error in that respect. But we really kind of put it down to that give, give, give side of being able to offer that value first before asking for a coffee or a chat or really wanting to book a meeting from there.
Simon Hayes: (20:42)
And how… And look, I understand just from discussions with yourself and others that you certainly started targeting smaller clients or smaller owners, smaller agencies, and you’ve moved and are, obviously, now targeting the larger corporates or the larger owners. Is that sort of… What sort of… What things have you learned about transitioning, say, from the smaller segment of the market to the larger segment. Is there some insights there that you can offer?
Sherif Hassan: (21:13)
Yeah. I mean, I think, typically, as you’d expect when you are dealing with larger customers. there’s perhaps several layers of the decision process being made. They might be typically a little bit more… They might have someone dedicated to the procurement side and purchasing technology, so they might be a little bit more educated in that space in that process.That aside, I think, regardless of who you’re selling to, whether they’re small or big, the buyer… When you engage with a buyer, they don’t want to waste their time just as much as a salesperson doesn’t want to waste their time. And typically, for our customer base, it’s one of, if not the only technology decision they’ll be making in their year. So we really want to take the lead on that process with our best practise, but then have a very in depth discovery.
Sherif Hassan: (21:58)
I think discovery, as Scott nailed, is the number one piece for us in terms of spending time the best way, but also delivering the best outcome. So we’ve got a very, very in depth discovery conversation to understand what’s driving the decision, what factors are affecting the decision, what factors haven’t they considered based on our knowledge, and really understand that pain, the root pain, but also the peripheral effects of that pain as well. So it’s really what we want to do because not only is it so important to get that right, but actually understanding, are we the best fit to solve this problem? And figuring that out early on, and that’s where the partner relationships we have, for example, Forbury and with PWC, can allow us to focus on the buyer outcome. And then lets us spend more time helping those which we’re well positioned to help.
Simon Hayes: (22:44)
Yeah. Sure, sure. I might say hi to Katrina and certainly move on. She’s been waiting patiently, so thank you very much for that, Katrina. Hi. And look, I know that with your wealth of experience, you are no stranger to property management systems, that’s for sure. You certainly, with your background. And look, but instead of discussing, say, your experiences in that area, I’d really like to start with just more of a general question and your understanding of, say, how a large property companies like InVesta are thinking about and approaching technology. Yeah. So I’m asking this in the context of that I understand InVesta has developed its own technology and has also purchased technology externally from PropTechs. So if you just let us in on sort of that sort of understanding at the moment in a general sense, and then we can sort of dive into some more issues.
Katrina Newcombie: (23:40)
Yeah, sure. We do do a bit of both, and we always have. So the history of InVesta as one of Australia’s largest commercial property owners is that sometimes, there are not products in the market that suit what we need and what we want to do. So over history and the last decade, we’ve dabbled in sort of developing our own software, but not fully internalised. We’ve always had a partner.
Simon Hayes: (24:05)
Katrina Newcombie: (24:06)
So a lot of you would have seen things on LinkedIn and other social media platforms recently about some things that we’ve been doing with SparkBeyond. And that’s not us going out on our own. That was us saying, “Oh, we think we’ve got a bit of a pain point here.” And we’ve thrown a whole lot of resources at that pain point. And SparkBeyond have thrown their amazing data washing machine,` I call it, and we’ve come up with a product that has helped us to identify some sites, which will assist our capital transactions team. So a bit of a journey. A couple of lucky people got to go to Israel and have conversations with SparkBeyond. We’ve done some similar things with Willow. So Willow have put digital [inaudible 00:24:51] in a few of our assets. And through that journey, we’ve expanded what that digital [inaudible 00:24:56] looks like. We then developed with them an app that our tenants use, a data engagement app.
Katrina Newcombie: (25:02)
And Greg, being a tenant in one of our buildings, has probably seen insight. So very much backend is all Willow and their technology because we’re not IT people. We’re property people. But all of the way it looks at the front end, what we need in it, how it’s gonna work, that functionality is all our intel. So we really go into partnerships with people rather than saying, “We can do it ourselves.” And then if I look at an example given stocks on the phone and where we’ve gone with a smaller company, a couple of years ago we were using one of the big beefy softwares to run our capital transaction models to work out what we’re willing to pay for a site.
Katrina Newcombie: (25:42)
And it was clunky. It was hard. People were making mistakes. It was really difficult to change parameters. And one of the agents we were using at the time was using Forbury and said, “Forbury’s way easier. It’s simple. It gives you what you want. You can just get in there and tweak and play.” And we were introduced to Scott and his team, who then said, “Well, we’ll do this on a trial basis. It’s not going to cost us a whole lot of money to get our initial pack of five licences.” And I think, Scott, we might be at 15 or maybe even 20 now. We sort of keep growing.And we played around with it. And as we played around with it, we said, “Oh, actually, it’s not just useful for the [inaudible 00:26:23] trends team. This is useful for my asset managers to do leasing deal scenarios because it’s easy.Once they know how to use it, they can get in and change things really quickly.”
Katrina Newcombie: (26:32)
And Forbury, as Scott said, they engage with their customers. So the whole way along, it was, “What else could we do for you? What else would make this make sense to embed this in your business more?” And those conversations meant that Forbury actually put a lot of our suggestions in their development pipeline. And we were then able to use it more fully across the business. So I’m very much look at IT as a solution that anybody coming to us, it’s going to be a partnership because it’s rare for a company like InVesta to say, “Yes. This product, completely off the shelf, is going to work for me,” because it just doesn’t.We’ve got lots of different ways that we want things done, and when they’re good, bad, or indifferent. So we need to work with partners who are adaptable and can change and tweak things.
Simon Hayes: (27:18)
Good. Wow, that’s good. Thank you. Okay, and one of the… Definitely one of the questions would be in… Okay, I have a… I’m a PropTech. I have a solution, which I think would be potentially great. And I’m happy to work with InVesta. What would be the best way to approach someone like InVesta with my solution? Is it a knock on the door or…
Katrina Newcombie: (27:38)
Don’t do it in emails because I’m not going to respond. We get lots of PropTech companies. I mean, PropTech’s a buzz word at the moment. Lots of companies are out with all sorts of different products. And there would be no day go by that I don’t receive an email from somebody saying, “Have I got a product for you.” Well, they actually don’t know what I want, so they can’t tell me they’ve got the product for me. Having those intros, finding somebody that knows somebody at InVesta or that knows somebody who works with InVesta, whatever it might be. Our relationship with Forbury very much came from agents we were working with. It was several who said, “This is great. Use it.” We went and had played with it. We saw what they were doing. And we said, “Yeah, we think we like this.”
Katrina Newcombie: (28:24)
Generally, our relationships come through introductions. Occasionally, it will be that opportune conversation that happens at a conference, and people get talking, and they go, “Oh, maybe you can actually give us a solution here.” But generally, it’s knowing somebody, not just spamming with emails because you will not get a great fit doing that.
Simon Hayes: (28:43)
And it certainly will… It sounds like it’s certainly someone who’s actually using the product as well.
Katrina Newcombie: (28:46)
Simon Hayes: (28:48)
Who can then, obviously, can pass on the information and the experiences that they’ve had as well.
Katrina Newcombie: (28:53)
Yeah. It definitely helps.
Simon Hayes: (28:56)
And what about yourself, Greg? Would you have any insight into saying okay, well, someone’s got another great evaluation solution, whatever that may be? What would be the best way, you think, would be approaching PRP?
Greg Preston: (29:09)
Always usually agree on solving for things that are emerging, but a direct approach, I think, through knowing somebody that’s got something that they did that’s tied up in what we do. I mean, we’re always looking at what our competitors are doing, in terms of PropTech and IT as well, because it really draws efficiencies into our business and because it’s very process driven in some parts of it.
Greg Preston: (29:35)
And a lot of that comes from the people that are aggregating evaluation services for the banks. With our [inaudible 00:29:44] system, it’s got a lot of icons to it that pays into most of the banks for things like instructions. For evaluation, we’ll just come straight through the pipeline to us. But in terms of new things, we’re always on the lookout for things that will streamline our processes. So I mean, usually, direct contacts are the best way. But emails, popping up to do with new PropTech things, we’ll always have a look at them, just to see whether we can fit it in or it does marry up with what we’re trying to do, or gives us other ideas about how we might deal with things better. So it’s flexible, I think, is probably the answer. But we’re very keen to hear about new things that we might be able to invite.
Simon Hayes: (30:28)
Sure, sure. And I’ll flip it back to Scott, then. Just what about the… In terms of you’ve gone down the discovery channel with people, and you obviously identify people. People have either… Companies have either approached you. You’re going down the discovery channel. And then, obviously, the next point is moving on to, say, the sales pitch and moving people along that funnel, that sales funnel that everyone calls it. Yeah, what do you think are the key factors of getting to yes by a company? From a company, yeah.
Scott Willson: (31:04)
Sure, yeah. I think Sherif said it before. If you’ve got someone in your sales pipeline, 60% of the work’s done. And certainly, the way that Re-Leased and Forbury have evolved through word of mouth, primarily to begin with, anyway. A lot of their vision and that validation is kind of self selecting, as we were talking about earlier. So, I mean, getting to yes, I mean, it’s kind of understanding who your target buyer is, what their ideal customer profile looks like as well is important. If you’re a net sale process, and you’re talking to the junior who maybe doesn’t have the authority, or if you’re in a reasonably corporate procurement process that we were talking about before as well. If you have to complete an RFP, or if security is a focus for the company, you might have to fill out a security questionnaire, or maybe legal will have to review your terms. All of these things can take a long time. So it’s not so much getting a yes, it’s how quickly, sometimes, you can get to a yes.
Scott Willson: (32:06)
Scott Willson: (32:50)
But most of all, I think… I think we talked about it before. If you can get your buyers talking, and if you’ve got customers out there that are really happy with your product or service, they’re going to be big advocates for you. If you can get dialogue going between your ideal customer groups, and you’ve got several happy customers that can help really promote that, that’s crucial. It takes time because change takes time. But I think removing those barriers and looking at creative ways to help your customers complete their due diligence process is really important.
Simon Hayes: (33:20)
Okay. Very good. And what about Sherif? If you could add some insight to that, but in particular because I know Re-Leased have other competitive out there that are offering similar products. And no doubt, you would come… If a company was going out and looking for a product, such as a property management system, you would be potentially up against those other systems. How are your getting to yes, or what are your sort of… What do you think the process is there that’s sort of winning you the opportunities that are coming to you?
Sherif Hassan: (34:01)
Someone was going to do it in this call. I think, first of all, the process in terms of the… Software is a service. There’s a big stress on the service element of that. And being able to compete by being there as and when you need them. For example, we have our internal policy that if someone contacts us, we’re on the phone with them within five minutes. And that’s the kind of starting impression that we want to set right from the get go. But it’s really understanding that sales process and making sure… I mean, certainly for us, it’s very common for salespeople to have happy ears. You hear what you want to hear from the prospect and come to conclusions on that basis. But really having a rigorous process of where people are in the sales cycle and asking the right questions to understand that. Because the worst thing is the salesperson’s misaligned, and they’re pushing for a close when the buyer’s not ready or still doing their research and understanding that. So one of the key things that we want to do, initially in the sale cycle, is agreeing on a mutual timeline.
Sherif Hassan: (35:08)
That’s something that… The key milestones that are leading up to a decision that are great for both yourself and for the buyer. And well, there’s one trick that I like to use because a lot of the time, after the follow up, you come off a meeting, and things can go into the abyss. And it’s not that they’re not interested, but typically the buyers, this is not their one priority. Your one priority is selling software. Their priorities, it’s one of 100 things that they’re doing. So staying top of mind can be a challenge. But agreeing timeframes, agreeing follow up times, really scheduling it, but making it their own. So I typically, after the initial meeting, I send them an email. Rather than saying, “Hey, this is the timeline that we agreed on.” And the email gets read or sent to read directly from the start. I actually say, “Hey, I think we were wrong about this particular part of the timeline,” and get them to actually engage with it and say, “Oh, no. This should be this, or this should be that.”
Sherif Hassan: (35:58)
But really, like Scott said, getting to the yes is a matter of answering all the questions that you are the right fit. Then, it’s about working through the timeline. And all the way back to the discovery, it’s actually not just talking through the pain points, but really being able to quantify those pain points. And that can be a little tricky at first, but just asking, keep diving into those questions. So that when you know, you know exactly what problem you’re solving, but how much that problem is actually solving them. So it’s great. So by delaying this decision by three months, you’re actually costing yourself $40,000 in terms of missed opportunity time. So really getting to that detail and the discovery is going to serve you well, in terms of managing that process.
Simon Hayes: (36:38)
Right. Thank you. And what about… And I know with Re-Leased, you’ve been also developing many APIs with other applications that can plug in. Has this… Do you feel that’s helped sales, in terms of the opportunities that are coming to you?
Sherif Hassan: (36:56)
100%. I mean, it’s all about the connected Cloud load. And the fact that we are able to operate in this environment means that we can integrate it with other solutions that truly offer the best package for that. And then, the buyer will be able to pick and choose the solutions that work best for them. But we can focus on being the best commercial property management software, rather than trying to be a generalist and focus on a lot of different tools. So being able to be connected gives you the best shot of one, competing with, perhaps, outdated server-based solutions but also, really having that package and being focused on that from that client perspective.
Simon Hayes: (37:33)
Okay, that’s good. And what about you, Katrina in terms of… Would you think that that’s an advantage, or how would, say, approaching the purchasing decision around a company offering other APIs? Or is that a bit of something that you’re not really after?
Katrina Newcombie: (37:52)
That’s definitely something we’re after.
Simon Hayes: (37:56)
Katrina Newcombie: (37:56)
We’ve got lots of different systems that we use across our business. So the more they talk to each other, the less manual handling there is with data in between the systems, the less errors you have. So the more we can talk to each other and integrate systems, it is much easier for us to get what we need out of that product.
Simon Hayes: (38:17)
Katrina Newcombie: (38:18)
I would say it’s actually one of our number one priorities. If we’ve got standalone software that can’t talk to anything else, we’re kind of like, “Yeah, that’s great. But it won’t cut it for us.”
Simon Hayes: (38:30)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And what about yourself, Greg? Is that… Because it sounds like with the amount of data that goes back and forward in your day, no doubt, between systems, it must be must be highly useful.
Greg Preston: (38:39)
It’s critical sort of that we only record it once. And so [inaudible 00:38:45] everything we’re doing, just in what we’re doing with risk management’s significant. And the human error factor, if we try to record multiple data multiple times, which is the old way, it just doesn’t count these days. So whatever we capture goes into sort of a full briefing report. And then we will then replicate that into our reporting. And one of the other things with Forbury that we gravitated to was effective [inaudible 00:39:16] built into it. So it’s just slicing things around [inaudible 00:39:18]. Yeah, the key for us is linking systems, so we don’t have to multiply record data because it’s fraught with danger. Yeah.
Simon Hayes: (39:30)
And I wanted to sort of quickly jump in… Actually, before I jump to ask Scott another question, I’ve always wanted to ask an evaluator this. Do you think, Greg, do you ever think we’ll have a push button evaluation? Is it going to be that automated, or is there always going to be the need for an evaluator?
Greg Preston: (39:51)
There are a few things that sort of prevent automation. To be fair, one is… Look, it’s probably more… It’s moving that way, but in terms of some of the regulatory controls, we’re doing valuations through APA or the Prudential Regulatory Authority, they require evaluations to be [inaudible 00:40:11] something. So… And then on top of that, the condition of assets, so it’s all very well for data to be the key and the catch all. But you’ve still got to have somebody inspecting the assets and applying the valued ranges to it. Now, wind the clock forward 20 or 30 years, that may be different. But it’s not something that’s on our doorstep just yet.
Simon Hayes: (40:31)
Just yet. So there’s still [crosstalk 00:40:33]. So you shouldn’t deter anyone from going into evaluation, that’s for sure. It’ll still definitely be a need for it.
Greg Preston: (40:39)
It’s very busy at the moment.
Simon Hayes: (40:45)
Sorry, Scott. Come back to yourself. Just with… I understand that you’ve gone overseas, and probably, I’ll also sort of ask Sherif for a comment. But you’ve gone from New Zealand to Australia, and then now to overseas. You no doubt got companies that are operating overseas as well. Is there some sales challenges or some sales advantages or sort of sales insights that you’ve found to selling sort of the product overseas, as a difference to New Zealand or Australia? Sort of any insights on that?
Scott Willson: (41:19)
Yeah, I think…. I think it’s unique in every geography, that sales process. But there are some common threads. And I think what might help is a bit of a story about another mistake I’ve made in this area. I spent three months in Singapore a few years ago in a Forbury role. And I got two pitch opportunities in that three months, and this was because of the time I believed that I had a solution that could work. I had a product that I thought that there was a need for, but it didn’t matter what I had. The buying process in that market did not respond to discovery demos in the same way that I’d expected, rather change in those organisations that I would have pitched to is made gradually and often with trusted partners. So instead of that, I should have been using my time to, I guess, grow and try and foster relationships with potential resellers, instead of trying to work through discovery and pitching the product.
Scott Willson: (42:14)
When I actually target the UK, it’s completely different, again. And we’re not as naive to think that we have a one size fits all approach. But I think in each case, there are some common themes. When you go into a new market, no one, or at least very few people, are likely to have heard of you. You have no employment brands, so finding salespeople is hard. You cannot assume anything about what the product market fit might be like until you have talked to dozens, more likely 30 to 40 individuals, that are actually prepared to sit down, listen, and provide you honest feedback. And actually, more important than getting new customers in new markets is getting an honest account and description of where, how, why your product could be relevant for that market. So, yeah. Having learned by getting this wrong, I think there are some common themes there. But it is a big undertaking, and you should be prepared to transform everything you’ve done.
Simon Hayes: (43:10)
So certainly when you… Certainly, by the sounds of when you’re going overseas, you need to take time. There’s going to be time involved and don’t expect immediate results.
Scott Willson: (43:20)
That’s been my experience.
Simon Hayes: (43:21)
Yeah. And Sherif, as head of APAC, you must have a few good insights into this.
Sherif Hassan: (43:29)
Yeah, I’m actually probably in Scott’s Singapore position right now, except doing it from New Zealand. And, yeah. I think I’ve definitely learned very quickly that the reseller route is the way to go there. Thankfully, we have been able to partner up with institutions in New Zealand and learn from some of the previous projects or just technology companies that have gone into that space. But absolutely, the nuances that can affect whether or not the product could work in a particular region, especially in the region that might have other languages or cultural differences, are very unique and require a lot of research and understanding before you go into it. Very similarly, when we went into the UK, and now the US, our approach was put a few people on the ground there first, spend a lot of time talking to customers and figuring out the product market fit before going crazy with growth and setting big, ambitious targets there. So it’s been a very similar experience with Forbury.
Simon Hayes: (44:32)
Okay. Katrina, one last question before we sort of… We probably have to finish up soon. But just in terms of InVesta being, obviously, a large company and decision making process, sort of what are some of the steps likely that a PropTech would need to jump through with you? Sort of the red tape steps that are common that you would need to go through. Just as a bit of…
Katrina Newcombie: (44:56)
Simon Hayes: (44:56)
Katrina Newcombie: (44:58)
I won’t lie, there are a few red tape steps dealing with larger organisations. We’ve got multiple layers of approval. And depending on the size of the investment or product, it might need to go out board. And if it does go to the board, they don’t even meet every month. Sometimes, depending on what’s happening in the world, they might only meet quarterly. So things wait. Things take time. Scott, I think, made a comment before about you can get tied up in legals. That is true. We have particular requirements that we require in our service provision documents. And if they’re not there, it just keeps getting batted back. That can be frustrating for small companies that doesn’t have as deep of pockets as ours for legal bills. I get that. I would say patience and flexibility is the key there, and expecting that it will take time. Expecting that it will take multiple meetings. There will be multiple conversations, and you may have to deal with several different stakeholders before you actually nail the deal and get to documentation phase. So time and patience is right for everybody.
Simon Hayes: (46:04)
For everyone in the sales. And what about yourself, Greg? Anything that you’d like to add?
Greg Preston: (46:09)
We’re probably a little bit more nimble, being a private business and all. We can act pretty quickly if we find something that suits what we’re doing and so on. But I was just going to say something too. I have got to get back into a board meeting that I dived out of to do this. So I hope you don’t mind if I run.
Simon Hayes: (46:27)
Not at all. I was going to… It is time, so I was actually going to wrap up here anyways. So…
Greg Preston: (46:32)
Sorry about that.
Simon Hayes: (46:32)
I was just grabbing your last comment, and then I was going to say, look, I think that’s it, unless anyone else had anything to say. But that was going to be it. And I’m sure we could discuss this all day. Anyone want to add anything other than that? No? Okay, great.
Sherif Hassan: (46:50)
I appreciate it, guys.
Scott Willson: (46:53)
Thank you very much.
Katrina Newcombie: (46:54)
Thank you, everyone. Bye.
Simon Hayes: (46:55)
Thank you, Katrina and Sherif. Greg and Scott.
Greg Preston: (46:56)
Thanks [crosstalk 00:46:58]. Cheers, thank you.
Simon Hayes: (47:01)
Just before I go, I’d also like to thank the PropTech Association Committee, and especially Kylie Davis, our president, for their help with this event. We’ll be holding more webinars to do with PropTechs in the commercial property over the next few months, so please, stay tuned or follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook. And a very big thank you to Stone & Chalk for getting behind this event and their support of the PropTech industry. So thank you, everyone, for your time and have a great afternoon. Bye-bye.